AN: June is twenty-six. Also, though reading it is not necessary to understand this, this story is in continuity with Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Thanks to Kodra for beta reading and providing immeasurable help in getting Jeff's voice right. Written for Kodra as part of a shortfic challenge. He requested a story of June reacting to a member of her family being harmed in some way by magical beings. All feedback, including constructive criticism, welcome and appreciated. Enjoy.
Jeff the leprechaun winced at the sounds of crashing and screaming around him as he huddled protectively over the squirming, burbling bundle of blankets in his arms. He could've told the over-amped, way psychotic Kermitian firesloths that declared on his doorstep they planned liberate a quart of his blood for their way uncool dark ritual they were headed for Painsville, but they were obviously totally baked crazies, as they had already bagged said squirming bundle before they came to get him to use as their host vessel. And they'd smashed him in the head with a pipe before they carted him off, too, which kinda cut the conversation short anyway. Totally lame.
He looked down at the black curly hair and big green eyes with a baby attached, and even though he had totally embraced peace and love in the 1960s, decided he couldn't really blame Junebug for laying a righteous beatdown on all involved. And besides, being the Te Xuan Ze kind of gave her a karmic get out of jail free card, seeing as the job came with more harsh baggage than all of the Dead's groupies combined. Still, she was being awfully vicious about the whole thing, and he was starting to get some seriously bad vibes. At least everyone was still breathing, as far as he could tell; big pointy ears were good for something, after all.
A particularly rank antelope snake—the very same cat that went ape on his head with the pipe, came sailing through the air, leaving a not insubstantial dent in the far wall. Jeff grinned down at those big blue eyes. "That's one jive turkey that won't be flapping his wings for a while, eh Christy-cat?" She burbled and tugged his beard. "Right on."
It wasn't much longer before all the noise stopped (well, there was plenty of groaning, and Junebug was panting pretty hard, but Jeff didn't think that really counted), and the leprechaun decided he had better look up and scope out the scene.
He kinda wished he'd kept making faces at the squirt.
The place was totally thrashed, walls cracked, floors dented, ceiling crumbling. Jeff was surprised it hadn't caved. But that was nothing next to the mess of twitching bodies slung across the floor. He was pretty sure nobody's arms and legs and tentacles were supposed to bend that way, and unless Junebug had gotten dipped in a giant tye-dye vat, she was wearing a little bit of everybody's innards on her outers. Her eyes burned in her sockets as she jerked her head around, and he was pretty sure she was still looking for somebody to pound.
Jeff held Christy-cat a little tighter. He'd told those sloths they were risking some totally radical Te Xuan Ze action, but he never thought she could be so hardcore. Finally she seemed to decide there wasn't anything left upon which to deliver a wicked beating. She started walking towards them, her eyes so big and round and wild if Jeff didn't know her better he'd wonder if she hadn't partook in some recreational herbage. He gulped.
She blinked at him, and he relaxed as she seemed to come a little bit back to herself as she ran across the room. "J-Jeff?" she asked, falling to her knees in front of him and sounding more like the spunky little firecracker he'd met fifteen years ago than she had in a long, long time. "What are you doing here?" she half-mumbled, and Jeff didn't bother answering. Her eyes were fixed on the bundle in his arms and he doubted she would've heard him. At least she had found her mellow again. She reached out for Christy-cat, but suddenly stopped, staring at her hands. He had to admit they were pretty groady, but that was kinda a given after she had just gone all Cleopatra Jones. He unwrapped one of the blankets around Christy-cat and pushed it into her hands, deciding not to say anything quite yet.
After a moment of furious hand and forearm scrubbing, Junebug set the blanket aside and put out her hands again and smiled, and Jeff passed the baby over. Everyone's favorite Te Xuan Ze was a pretty tough cookie, so he didn't say anything about the way her arms quivered just a bit, or how her eyes were suddenly misty. Jeff wanted to look away. This was pretty heavy stuff, and Junebug deserved her privacy. At the same time he was mesmerized. Like watching clouds after having some of Ellen's brownies.
"Hey, Christy," she cooed, kissing her forehead. "Mommy's here. We-we're going to go home now, just as soon as I do a little banishing. H-how does that sound?" Christy-cat giggled and reached up with plump little human baby arms, grabbing a handful of pink hair. Her mother grinned like the Cheshire Cat.
Jeff decided it was finally okay to speak, but before he could open his mouth, Junebug's pants started singing. "Link! He come to town. Come to save the Princess Zelda…"
With a start (and before Jeff could ask when her pants were possessed by a singing demon), she shifted Christy-cat to one arm and dug in her pocket, pulling out a phone. Oh, Jeff thought. I guess that makes sense, too.
June brought the phone to her ear. "Hey, Jody," she smiled, "I found her. She's fine." June said this quickly, then listened for a moment and laughed at whatever Squeaky said. "Tugging on my hair and gurgling, at the moment." Another pause. "No, I don't know what they were up to." She narrowed her eyes and frowned. "They nabbed Jeff, too, though. … Yeah, that Jeff. Maybe he knows. If he doesn't, I'll certainly be sure to … ask … someone before I banish them. … Of course I'm going to banish them. … Can we talk about what happened later? They definitely won't be trying it again, if that's what you're wondering." Her eyes narrowed. "I don't think any of them will be standing for at least a month, anyway. … Yeah, I did go easy on them."
Jeff winced. He loved Squeaky, but she definitely had a temper. When she and Junebug were riled up at the same time, bad things happened. Not that he could blame either of them for being spectacularly cheesed off right now.
"So," June said after another bit of listening, "has the doctor been out to see you yet? I swear if those doctors made you sit in the waiting room all this time with no word – oh," Junebug gulped, and Jeff was suddenly getting some bad vibes again, "what did he say?"
She listened and Jeff watched as she got increasingly pale, tightening her grip on Christy-cat, and the leprechaun started to think maybe he hadn't gotten the whole story on this hullabaloo, which harshed his reforming mellow all over again. Wasn't tonight foul enough already?
"…What?" Junebug breathed. "They had to put her on a ventilator?" She was starting to shake again, and Jeff couldn't think of anything else to do but watch the one arm holding her baby and make sure the little human didn't take any surprise tumbles. "Oh, God. Mom…"
Now, it was true Jeff was a little spacey, and he wasn't gonna deny it, but he was no idiot. Firesloths and antelope snakes were serious baddage, but there was no way Junebug wouldn't have tarred and feathered them if they had tried to lift Christy-cat when she was around. It sounded like Squeaky was just fine, and besides, they would've bagged her too if she'd been there so she couldn't call for help, but human babies were too little and squishy to be left to chill by their lonesome. That meant she had to be staying with someone, and he didn't know what a ventilator was, but doctors fixed banged up humans, so … Oh. The sloths had talked about "a small nuisance" that got in their way when they nabbed Christy-Cat. Jeff had thought they meant the pooch, but Junebug and Squeak hardly ever asked him to keep her by himself. They usually asked Junebug's mom—Oh, man. Uncool uncool uncool!
Christy-cat's little face was twisted up in a tiny frown, and she started to wail a little. The noise must've shaken Junebug out of her funk, 'cause she shook her head like there was water stuck in her ears and took a deep breath, sending an entirely too forced smile at her baby that quieted the little one down nicely. "…Yeah, Jody, I'm still here," she said slowly. "Yeah … you know she gets upset when she sees one of us looking … Oh God, I can't believe this."
"Junebug?" Jeff finally spoke, because she was turning green now and even if she wasn't about to drop Christy-cat that wasn't a healthy shade for humans at all. "Are you okay in there?" But she wasn't. Something had gone bad topsy-turvy on the other end of the phone and there were tears in Junebug's eyes and she looked afraid.
He wasn't sure what he had said, but she tensed up for a moment and when she blinked some of the anger from earlier was back in her eyes. He started to worry, but then she started to speak and sounded much, much steadier than she had before, and Jeff reminded himself that she had a really hard time not harshing her own mellow when the universe was tossing curveballs, but always knew how to pull her mind back to center, even when it was scattered to the four corners of Europa.
"Alright," she breathed, "Jody? Jody, don't cry. It'll be alright. I'm going back to the house to clean up, cause I kind of look like something a cat barfed up. … No, I don't want you to meet me there. One of us should be at the hospital, especially since Ray Ray and Ashley are still an hour away. … Okay. Are Roger and Ophelia still there with you? … Great, okay. See if one of them can get the number for Orchid Bay International's Information Desk. Dad keeps his cell off when he's flying, and Dennis blew his up with a transmographying spell. At least this way they'll be paged almost as soon as they come off the plane, and they can get a taxi to the hospital. … Right. I'll see you in twenty minutes, tops. … I'm bringing Christy, that's what. You think I'm letting her out of my sight after this? Besides, she needs to see you too. … Yes, I know the rules about bringing babies into hospitals." She smirked at whatever Squeaky said. "Do you really think I care right now? They can try to stop me, if they want." She smiled tightly, and Jeff thought it was the best expression he'd seen on her since she got there. "I didn't think you would mind."
Squeaky said something else, and Junebug's eyes lit up. "See you soon. … I love you, too. Bye." She hung up and turned to Jeff, her face falling back into a misty frown. He realized he must have looked confused, because then she said, in a wavering voice, "My mom's … they had to put her on a special machine to help her breathe." She blinked, and shook her head again. "…Oh God…"
"Oh," Jeff said, because he had been afraid of something like that once he realized where Christy-Cat had to have been before she got brought here, and couldn't really think of anything else. Then he took one look at Junebug's wide, reddening peepers, brimming with tears, and realized he couldn't leave her alone, at least not until she got to Squeaky. "I could go with you," he said, and when she raised a curious eyebrow he quickly added, "someone should watch Christy-Cat while you clean up, Junebug."
She blinked, then nodded. "Y-Yeah. Thanks, Jeff." She stood and offered him a hand, pulling him up afterwards, then hesitated before pushing Christy-Cat in his direction. "Hold her while I banish these bastards?"
Jeff took the baby carefully, pleased when she almost immediately went back to playing with his beard. Over her head he saw June put on a serious face and pull a banishing stone from her pocket as she turned towards the mass of twitching demons. A few of them even looked afraid now that they knew what was coming, but Jeff couldn't manage to sympathize. He had warned them all just before they hit him with the pipe. It wasn't his fault they didn't listen.
Junebug raised the blue stone over her head and it started to glow as she put an evil smirk onto her face. "Alright, boys and girls. Before I send you all off to Never-Gonna-See-You-Again Land, let's have a little chat about just what you thought you were doing with my baby. I'm in a hurry, so make it quick."
The antelope snake whimpered, but he really shouldn't have been surprised. Bad karma always caught up with you.