DISCLAIMER – Disclaimed!!
STORY - Set as an Alternate Ending to the episode "The Box", where, instead of following the Others, Eric stays on Earth, unaware that Venger stays too…
Written for the LJ fanfic challenge Fanfic 100: prompt #90 home.
RATING – R (for violence)
THANKS – to Dannilicious and Scribbles :)
The Art of Revenge
The small car of the ride slowly pulled away, carrying the others back to the Realm, and Eric felt only the smallest pang of fear. They had struggled for so long to get back, he wasn't going to throw it all away! They could go back if they wanted to, it was their choice, and a little bit of peer pressure was nothing compared to the pull of home.
There was nothing, nothing, that would convince him to go back.
But still, as he watched, there was a cold, uncomfortable feeling inside that he couldn't shake. It wasn't fear. It wasn't loneliness. It might have been guilt or shame, but if it was, all the more reason to ignore it.
The car entered the tunnel, the dull lights of the park glinting on it one last time, and that was that. They were gone, with the shadow of the Arch-Mage following them.
They were gone.
An unexpected pang of anger shot through the ex-Cavalier. They'd gone without him! How dare they just abandon him like that! It wasn't as if he'd done anything wrong. He just wanted to go home so very badly, even if that wasn't what it looked like on the outside. He wanted to go home, and see his Mom and Dad, and find out if they had missed him this time.
His anger simmering just below the surface, Eric turned away from the ill-fated ride, and stomped through the empty park and out into the real world on his way home.
The mansion was completely empty when he returned to it. No surprise there. His Mom and Dad were rarely in in the evening. But still he'd hoped they might have changed their plans, just this once.
He was used to coming home to a dark, lifeless house. Well, he had been before his little sojourn in the Realm!
A memory flickered, the thought of the five other people he'd journeyed with, and who he'd come to count as friends. But he pushed the memory away. He didn't want to think about them and how they were doing back in the Realm, without him.
He wanted some pizza.
Then a bath.
Then a lovely long sleep in his own, king-sized bed.
And tomorrow, he might just managed to stay in bed for the whole day.
He went straight to the kitchen.
The staff were off too, but he knew they well enough to know that there would still be a decent meal in the fridge.
Pizza… cola… ice cream… he could just take his pick.
He chucked his now useless Shield into the corner and concentrated on the food. He had no patience to heat up the pizza, so he ate it cold. Cold pizza was as close to heaven as you could get, anyway. The taste took his breath away. Sometimes, if they were lucky, the Hat conjured something decent up, but it had never tasted quite right, not the way he remembered, anyway. But this, this was perfect. This was worth coming home to. This was worth abandoning his friends for.
The thought made him suddenly shudder, as a cold chill raced up his spine.
Desperate to get rid of the image, and the associations, he pulled off his armour and dumped it somewhere, not caring when it landed, or what the staff would think the next morning. They were paid not to think about things like this!
His parents would be furious if they knew he was wandering around their house in his underwear, it wasn't the sort of behaviour they approved of, but he didn't care. He could do what he liked. They weren't in, anyway!
A bath was what he wanted next. A nice, long, hot bath top wash away all the traces of what he'd been through.
He walked slowly through the house, nibbling on the final piece of pizza, and turning on as many lights as possible, to remind himself that he was home again. He went up the spiral stairs to the first landing, and to his own private bathroom.
It was just as he remembered, except now it was immaculately clean. There were new towels on the rail by the bath, there were new packets of soap on the windowsill. The golden taps glinted and the bath smelled of fresh pine cleaner. It was just how it should be. He reached over to turn the hot tap on, anticipating the luxurious warmth of the bath.
Eric had a single more moment of complacent bliss before his whole world stopped, and he realised his total stupidity.
Then there was a slight noise behind him.
Though he hadn't been expecting anything, he still reacted at lightning speed, turning round and instinctively lifting his right arm, as if there was a Shield there.
The Arch-Mage was standing in the doorway.
Eric swayed and almost fainted. He wished he had managed to pass out.
They stood in silence for just a moment; it seemed like a hundred years, Eric had no idea. He was frozen to the ground in shock.
The Arch-Mage did nothing but stare at him.
'I-I-I saw you…' Eric stammered at last. 'You went into the tunnel… you followed them…'
Panic was almost suffocating him. Venger couldn't be here. It just wasn't allowed. It just wasn't. He couldn't be here.
Venger raised his eyebrow and gave a slight smirk, gazing over the former Cavalier. Suddenly Eric was acutely aware of his nakedness, and how easy it would to die. He had no way to protect himself. He wished he could pick up the towel from the rail, but he still couldn't move.
'The doorway was closed,' the Arch-Mage relied calmly, still smiling at him. 'The other Young Ones sealed the Box before I could return.'
'S-s-so you're trapped?' Oh, God this was getting worse!
Venger gave a contemptuous snort. But there was still that look on his face, cold and merciless, and Eric knew what was going to happen. There was no way out. The realisation suddenly strengthened him. There was no need to worry about the future now.
'There are many, many ways through the world back to the Realm,' said Venger. 'This is only a delay.'
'Well, hadn't you better get going?'
His bravado amazed him. It was one thing to recognise death, another to wilfully court it!
Venger smiled more widely.
'I have considered many ways to kill you, Cavalier,' he said. 'And I wish I had more time.' He fixed his venomous gaze on Eric, sucking him in so he couldn't turn away. But the resolve didn't leave him. Venger wanted him crawling on the ground, begging for life. But he was damned if he would give that evil man the satisfaction! 'Be thankful, then Cavalier, that I will kill you quickly.'
Eric barely blinked before there was a flash of gleaming metal, and a long, sickle knife slashed across his body and face.
Pain was everywhere. In spite of himself, he screamed as he collapsed to the floor. There was pain like he had never imaging covered his body.
It felt like the knife had sliced all the way through his cheek and cut his tongue. He could hardly speak. He couldn't feel his legs any more, everything was blinded by searing, stinging pain. He couldn't think. He couldn't breathe.
His eyes were closed, and it took him a minute to pluck up the courage to open them and look at what his killer had done.
When he did, he wished he hadn't.
He could see blood everywhere, thick and red, and flowing. He could see the white of bone as well, and the thin knots of muscle that had held him together. He looked down to his hand, held across his abdomen, and knew that if he removed it, his insides would start flowing out, just like his blood.
But, and he thought this was strange, he didn't feel any panic, or fear. Not even as he watched his own blood flowing over the bathroom floor.
He didn't feel anything but a smug kind of anger.
Venger could do anything he liked. But he wasn't going to have the last laugh. Not this time. Not if it took the very last ounce of his energy.
He forced himself to sneer.
'Thought… you… said… "kill me quickly",' he managed to slur. But too his horror, Venger smirked back, and raised his hand, forming his magic into another glittering blade.
'But, Cavalier, I am.'
The boy was on the ground, life leaking out of him. Adding to his numerous wounds held no interest. Well, no real interest. While it might be amusing to slowly turn the Cavalier inside out, something else was now occupying Venger's mind.
Knowing that the boy was dead, the Arch-Mage was thinking about the other Young Ones. He knew little, it was true. But he knew their names, their real names, and not their titles, and he knew that this world was a place of honour and loyalty, reward and punishment. How could it have produced those Young Ones otherwise?
Time was the key now. If he was fast enough at getting back to the Realm, they would never know what had taken place here, at least not until they returned.
The Arch-Mage looked around, a plan forming in his mind. A chance to make sure that what little knowledge he had of the Young Ones, and their world, should be put to good use.
It had long been obvious why the old man had chosen these particular children. Pure of Heart, they had been steadily working there way through portals doing Dungeonmaster's dirty work. It was obvious what he wanted. He wanted them to go to the Cenotaph. He wanted the return of his son.
Maybe they would do it. Certainly they were capable enough.
And it crossed Venger's mind that that particular deed should not go unrewarded.
Hank could hardly believe it. They were home.
THEY WERE HOME!
They had done what they were sent there to do. Venger was freed from the Evil-No-Name's hold. And the portal that Dungeonmaster had promised had taken them right back to the Amusement Park. They were home!
He looked at his four friends, grinning inanely. There were no words that could explain what they were feeling. They hugged and laughed and cried for a long time. But the pull of their families was too much.
Sheila and Bobby were the first to leave, as the Barbarian was desperate to see his mom and dad. Diana and Presto walked with him back to the entrance, then they were gone too.
Alone, without the others, Hank suddenly felt the overwhelming need to see his house and his Mom.
He drove as fast as he dared, excitement building with every passing street. The familiarity grew all the time, as if he hadn't been away. He ran the last few blocks.
Suddenly he slid to a halt.
That was his house. But there was a police car outside.
His heart turned to lead, but fear drove him on. Perhaps something had happened to her while he'd been away.
In spite of everything he'd been through, he sprinted up his drive and burst into the hall.
His Mom was standing there, looking white and shaken, but that didn't matter, just seeing her was beyond wonderful. Overwhelmed, he rushed forward into her arms.
He wasn't listening. Nothing else mattered. He was back, he recognised the feel of his Mom and she hugged him back, her smell, and the atmosphere of his house. It was so familiar, but so different. It was wonderful.
Suddenly he felt a hand on his arm.
'You'll need to come with me,' said a low, male voice.
Hank didn't move, but within the happiness, something frightening was building, small at first, but now growing.
'Officer, there must be a mistake,' his Mom was saying. 'Hank would never do something like that.'
Hank forced himself to look round. The Officer was well over six foot, and looking at him with restrained revulsion.
'Wh-what's going on?' he asked. 'Why do I need…?'
The Officer was looking doubtfully at Hank's clothes, and he realised he must look so strange in his Ranger outfit.
'It's a boy, from school, Hank,' said his Mom quietly. 'Eric Montgomery.'
That name! That was the last name he wanted to hear tonight! Eric could be dead for all he cared after betraying them all like that! He was sick just at the very thought of that traitor! A slight sneer crossed his face.
But the Officer tightened his grip on Hank's arm.
'What's going on?'
But the policeman pulled him closer, a look of disgust plain on his face.
'I hope you have a good explanation of where you've been, son, and I mean good! What was done to that boy was just… vile…'
For the second time on the same number of minute, Hank's blood turned cold.
'What do you mean?' he whispered.
'Knifed, ripped apart, and left to die. By his friends. His mother found him. Blood everyehere.'
Oh my God!
'But you don't know Hank is involved,' insisted his Mom, starting cry. 'You don't know…'
The officer nodded, slowly.
'Seems he had enough life in him to write names, in his own blood. Your name.' Hank was frozen in shock, trying to understand what had happened. There could only be one explanation: Venger, the very man he'd just saved, he must have done this the night Eric had left them.
All the time they didn't know. All the time they'd hated him for leaving, and he'd been dead.
The Officer pulled handcuffs from his belt.
'You'll need to come with me.'