So, I've had people emailing me to finish this story for a long time and I apologize that I've left it for so long. You've all been great and patient. With the recent heart-breaking news that Johnny Storm has been killed in the comic books I decided to break this out and dust it off as part of my grieving process. I'm sorry that it took Johnny's death for me to get this done, but it was really a great motivator. There will be one more chapter after this, a short epilogue, but this is the main ending. Hope you all enjoy it. Again, sorry.
Reed, Sue and Ben all shielded their eyes from the light that emitted from the massive energy transfer being forced between Johnny and Norrin. Down on the ground, Sue also covered her ears as the sound of Johnny's screaming assaulted the air for as long as the energy violently crackled and surged around the two.
When the sound stopped and the electric charge left the atmosphere around them, the team finally opened their eyes to see the transfer was complete. Exhausted, Norrin slowly fell to his knees on top of the Board, his skin now glowing slightly. Johnny was in much worse shape. As soon as the last scream left his throat and he was released from Norrin's grasp, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell back unconscious. The Board knew he was no longer its master and made no move to catch him so he plummeted towards the ground below.
"Johnny no!" Sue yelled, trying to summon the strength for another force field to catch him, but it was unnecessary. From the driver's seat of the Fantasticar Reed stretched himself down towards the ground and caught Johnny before he was even half-way to the ground.
"I got him!" Reed called out to assure Sue and Ben, then lowered himself more and placed Johnny gently on the ground. Sue and Ben rushed over to check on him while Reed and Norrin both came down slowly from the sky.
"Johnny? Johnny can you hear me?" Sue asked from her brother's side as she shook his shoulder lightly and placed a hand on his chest, then sighed in relief. "He's breathing."
"Matchstick? Come on, talk to …"
Before Ben could finish, Johnny's eyes flew open and his back arched off the ground as he gasped desperately as though choking in the open air and his hands clutched at the ground reaching for an escape from the pain surging through him that was clearly etched on his face. Sue jumped back and cringed. Norrin had warned them this would happen but seeing Johnny in such obvious agony still made her sick to her stomach.
"Johnny! Johnny calm down, it's okay, you're okay," Sue assured him, trying to hold him down and keep him from hurting himself.
"No," Johnny ground out between clenched teeth and wide eyes. "Ah! Sue … they're … still here. Pain … they never … felt it before. Scared them. They'll be … back. Ah god!"
Having the Power Cosmic ripped from his body had set off every nerve ending in Johnny's body, and at the same time that he felt like his body was tearing itself apart, he was also forced to fight for control of his own mind as the Gorgun were quickly recovering.
"We'll figure this out Johnny," Reed promised. "Just hold on."
"You hear that, stay with us Johnny!" Sue ordered, forcing her brother to look her in the eye. Despite the pain she saw reflected there she felt herself smiling to see the spark of her brother had returned in those eyes. "We're not gonna lose you again. You just have to fight these things, okay?"
"Can't. Sue … I can't," he answered tightly, still gasping but not as viciously. "Pain's fading … they're coming back. Don't let me … stay like this … trapped inside. Sue … Sue I'm sorry."
"No, don't, there's nothing …"
Johnny suddenly gripped her wrist tightly, cutting her off as he met her gaze. She saw fear in his eyes.
"Don't let me hurt you."
Sue shook her head, "It's not you Johnny."
And that statement was suddenly true. Johnny's head fell back and when he opened his eyes again all traces of their teammate had disappeared. Cold eyes stared back at them and offered no warning as Johnny's body ignited in flames where he lay. The Power Cosmic was gone but Johnny's own abilities were still frighteningly strong and they all backed away as the heat from his body threatened to scald them.
"No!" Sue yelled in frustration as she lost her brother again as quickly as she had gotten him back.
Then they all watched silently as the Gorgun slowly stood, gasping in pain and exhaustion that it had never experienced before.
"What have you done?" the creature demanded, confused and staring at Johnny's hands which were now orange fire instead of the white glow of the Power Cosmic.
"We took back what you stole," the Surfer replied, gliding down from the sky to stand with the team.
"Yeah, and there's one more thing we got left to collect," Ben added. "Now get the hell out of our friend before we rip you out of there!"
"No!" the Gorgun replied, backing away. "Even in this weakened state this body is capable of sustaining us. We cannot return to mere existence, to a void. We choose life."
Before the others could respond Norrin glided forward smoothly and grasped the Gorgun by Johnny's throat.
"Then you have also chosen death."
And without another word Norrin shot into the air, dragging the struggling Gorgun with him.
"Norrin, wait!" Sue pleaded but the Surfer was already high above them.
"Anyone know if this is part of the plan?" Ben asked, but the others just shrugged.
"Come on, maybe we can catch them," Reed offered, jumping back into the Fantasticar as Norrin and Johnny disappeared from sight.
A mile above the Earth and climbing fast, Norrin easily forced the Gorgun with him higher and higher into the atmosphere.
"Release us," the Gorgun demanded, fighting for freedom. "We will not relinquish this life. Your threats are useless."
"You ask for life, but you must also learn of death," Norrin explained. "The body you occupy cannot survive where I am taking you. Soon its functions will shut down, its organs will not operate and its energy will dissipate and never return. If you stay your fate will be the same. Rather than drift through the void, you will not exist at all. The choice is yours."
"No," the Gorgun pleaded, flames dimming as they gasped for breath in the thinning air.
"The body you are in is weakening already. Soon you will be nothing. And that nothing is eternal. You can die with this body or you can choose existence as before, travelling the void and space forever. In your original state you will exist forever," Norrin promised even as they climbed higher.
The Gorgun shook its head, flames extinguishing as they went higher, "That is not life."
"Yet that is your choice. This body belongs to another who does not wish to share it. Leave it or die with it."
Sue Storm never thought she would appreciate that her uniform was meant for outer space ever again, but as the Fantasticar followed Norrin high into the atmosphere she was grateful for the ultra warm material as the thin air was freezing this high up.
"Reed, can you see them?" she asked from the middle section, leaning forward to read his instruments.
"I'm following their radiation signature but we're not going to be able to go much higher safely," he answered.
"Hey look!" Ben pointed. Just barely visible high above them was the fading orange light of Johnny's flames.
"What's he doing?" Sue asked. "He'll kill him."
"Or them," Reed added. They couldn't go any higher without losing consciousness so Reed used the Fantasticar's cameras to zoom in and display what was happening on their monitors. They all watched as Norrin flew higher and Johnny's body weakened, his flames extinguishing as they rose. Then suddenly Johnny's body jerked and spasmed, stopping Norrin's ascent.
"Something's happening," Reed pointed out but they were all riveted to the screens in front of them.
With what looked like a terrible scream Johnny's body arched, his flames died and a black mist seemed to form around his body. The mist swirled, lost, for only a moment, and then there was an intense flash of light that whited out their screens and filled the sky above their heads, leaving them all blinking away dots from their vision.
"What happened?" Sue asked, covering her eyes and waiting for the dizziness from the lights to pass.
"I don't know. Maybe we should ask Norrin," Reed suggested softly, motioning in front of them. They all looked to see the Surfer flying back towards them with Johnny's limp body in his arms.
"No, no," Sue whispered as she watched him approach.
The glow of Norrin's skin was almost non-existent and his board swayed dangerously as he flew – a symbol of how exhausted he truly was. He met Sue's eyes as he lowered Johnny's body into the empty seat of the Fantasticar.
"The Gorgun are gone," Norrin reported, then looked down at Johnny as Sue placed a hand on his neck. "He is alive."
"Thank God," Sue sighed, hugging her brother's still form and shivering when she realized he was cold. Johnny hadn't been cold in over a year. "He's freezing. Reed, we have to get him home."
Reed nodded and turned them around. Norrin hovered, not moving, until Ben called back to him, "You coming Shiny Pants?"
Norrin nodded, appreciating the invitation, "I will follow."
It took twenty minutes to get back to the Baxter Building and in that time Johnny never stirred once. His head never lolled, his body never shifted and even his breathing was shallow and weak. It worried Sue that he was so still but she held him tight and remained grateful he was alive. They could deal with anything else that happened as long as he was alive and himself.
When they arrived at the Baxter Building the streets below were still crowded with people as far as the eye could see, with signs and posters thanking the Fantastic Four for saving the world again. The team paid them no mind however; it seemed like days ago now that they were fighting for the sun's survival and not their teammate's. Rushing down to the lab, Reed and Sue hooked Johnny up to every piece of diagnostic equipment they had, but the readouts were not encouraging.
Sue sighed as she looked at the readings, "It's like déjà vu."
"What's going on?" Ben asked, looking over her shoulder even though the information meant almost nothing to him.
"Johnny's body chemistry is incredibly unbalanced, similar to what we detected before but not nearly as extreme," Reed answered as he typed and read over the data. "His white blood count is incredibly low as is his glucose and lipoprotein, but his bicarbates are now extremely high."
"Is he gonna be okay?" Ben asked and was not encouraged when Reed hesitated before answering.
"Reed?" Sue pushed.
"If he is himself again, then barring any complications we should be able to stabilize and balance out his body chemistry, but it's going to take a lot of treatments and a lot of close observation. His protein and production levels in general are so low that we can't risk putting any strain on his body while we treat him," Reed warned them. "His body is giving off the results of someone who ran eight marathons dehydrated and without sleeping for a week. Every function has been pushed beyond capacity. I can't stress enough the need for rest."
"Okay, we'll let him rest. Where do we start?' Sue demanded, straightening and preparing herself for the long hours she was going to be spending with her brother. While Reed and Sue took care of Johnny downstairs, Ben got out of their way and went to the roof. He had a lot he could do – the whole world was looking for answers that only the team had, but for now he needed a few minutes of silence. It had been a long day for everyone. When he got to the roof he found Norrin Radd floating a few feet above the cement, looking down at the crowd below.
"Hey," Ben nodded to him and walked over to the railing to look for himself.
"Your team is much loved by this world," Norrin noted.
Looking down at the crowd Ben saw there was a mix of people in the streets, young and old, some with signs, most wearing blue in tribute to the team, but the most abundant and rabid people were the Johnny fans, screaming his name and begging him to come outside.
"Yeah, we do all right. It's mostly the kid though, really. People eat him up," Ben admitted, then shook his head. "This isn't going to help."
"Perhaps he has earned it," Norrin suggested.
Ben nodded, "Yeah, maybe he has."
To Be Concluded
Hope the wait was worth it. Sorry it's so short, just really wanted to get something posted for anyone else who is feeling the pain of Johnny's absence. Hopefully it won't take too long for Marvel to bring him back to life. *sigh*