Yet another story has infested my brain. This one is associated with "Little Ace." For those of you who have read "Little Ace", ignore the last part of that story that's set in the present with Dark Ace in Cyclonis' citadel. I wasn't able to work that part in where it would make sense. I also want to point out that the title is a bit misleading. None of the canon characters die (can't say the same for any ocs, but that'll come in later) at least not physically anyway. It'll all make sense as the story progresses.
The title comes from the band, not the book. And if you haven't heard of either one then it doesn't really matter. I never heard of the book until I checked out the band's site and read their FAQ page. They didn't name the band after the book. So, anyway...
I've rated this story T, although the next chapter probably warrants an M rating. But we'll cross that proverbial bridge when we get to it.
As I Lay Dying
Chapter One: Forgotten Memories
They couldn't fathom why he was so driven to go there. There was nothing there for him. At least, that's what he had said. So they continued to wonder why his drive was so strong. What they didn't know was that, at that point, he was wondering the same thing himself. He didn't know where the drive was coming from. The truth was, he felt like he was being led there; that there was something that someone wanted him to know. Only…he had no idea what that something or who that someone could be.
It was getting close to midnight and the terra their course was set for was still five hours away. So, by no will of his Sky Knight's, Stork decided to make landfall—as it were—on the nearest terra, regardless of any Talons that may be there (which there probably wasn't). Aerrow wasn't happy with the Merb's decision, but Stork was the pilot (something about the Condor being his…or whatever) and the redhead was too tired to argue. Finn, Junko and Radarr had already found their way to slumberland and now that the Condor was safely nestled in a patch of undergrowth near an outcropping, Stork was headed there himself. Aerrow and Piper were now the only ones awake.
Aerrow sighed. The two were sitting across from each other at the table. The redhead's arms were folded and resting on the table. Piper noticed that the Sky Knight seemed to be staring into oblivion.
"You've been having those dreams again," she said.
"Yeah," he replied. "It's weird, Piper. In the dreams, I know exactly who it is. But as soon as I wake up…."
"Can you remember anything about him?"
"He's a teenager and he's always with a group of other teenagers. Kinda like us." He looked at Piper. "I see him so clearly in my dreams, but when I wake up, the images are completely gone. I try to remember…."
The dreams were putting a lot of undue stress on the teenager and Piper knew it. If only she could find a way to help him remember. She thought for a moment, trying to figure out some questions that may help him remember other details.
"Are you still little?"
"Yeah. Never any older than four."
"Do you remember anything else? Like what he does or something he says."
Aerrow rested his chin on his arms, thinking. "Whenever I see them, I run to him first," he said, raising his head slightly. "He's always the first one I hug. There's something that he calls me but I can't remember what it is. He always plays with me. And reads and sings to me. I love him, and I know he loves me. When he leaves, he always tells me that he loves me and he can't wait to see me again. But I can't remember his voice." He paused. "I always cry when he leaves."
"Do you think you could be related? Like an uncle or something?"
"I don't think so. Not by blood anyway." He groaned. "Man, why is this happening to me?"
"I don't know, Aerrow," said Piper, sympathetically. "I wish I had an answer."
Aerrow stood up, yawning. "I'm going to bed. See ya in the morning."
"Good night," she said to the Sky Knight as he walked through the doorway.
"Good night," he called back.
The navigator sighed. "I wish I could help you," she said to herself. "But I don't know what else to do."
Aerrow stood against the railing of his crib, his left arm hanging over the side, sucking on his pacifier and staring out the window. The boy began jumping up and down, squealing happily as his vibrant green eyes caught sight of the Condor heading towards his home. He may have only been sixteen months old, but the little redhead knew the Condor when he saw it. The toddler squealed louder when he saw a group of teenagers emerge from the Condor and walk across the lawn towards the front door. His eyes locked onto a raven-haired teen in blue. He was talking to a redheaded teen that looked just like the toddler. Or so the boy had been told. Far too many times for the sixteen month old's liking. What? Did they think he didn't get it? He really needed to work on his talking. It seemed as though the raven-haired one was the only one who ever gave him any credit.
When the group was out of view, the boy toddled over to the other end of his crib. Hearing footsteps coming towards his room, Aerrow began bouncing up and down.
"Where's my Little Ace?" The raven-haired teen poked his head around the doorframe.
Aerrow squealed with delight as Ace walked over to the crib. The toddler put his arms out for Ace to pick him up.
"What? You want me to pick you up or somethin'?" said Ace, leaning into the crib.
What was that word they always used? Oh, yeah.
"Duh!" the toddler replied, popping his pacifier out of his mouth (And immediately sticking it back in his mouth).
"I've taught you well," the teen said, picking the boy up. "Now, as I understand it," he continued, "you, mister, are supposed to be taking a nap."
"No," Aerrow replied.
"No? What do you mean 'no'?"
"Sing," the toddler said, pressing his pacifier against Ace's forehead and grinning.
"I think I've taught you a little too well." The boy giggled as they sat down in the rocking chair. "So, what should I sing?"
"Wayn come," Aerrow answered, nestling himself into Ace's arms.
"The teen smiled and kissed Aerrow on the forehead, "Alright."
"Hey." Ace looked up to see Rowan standing in the doorway. "I think you might need this," he said, handing Ace the toddler's bottle. He shook his head at them and walked out.
"Sing," Aerrow said again, taking his bottle.
"Shouldn't you be moving up to sippy-cups now?" Ace said. Aerrow shook his head 'no.' "Figures. I suppose I'm supposed to hold it for you." The boy nodded. "And I suppose you think you got me wrapped around your little finger." Aerrow grinned. "Of course, you do."
"Okay, okay." Ace started to rock and then began singing. "When the rain comes it seems that everyone has gone away. When the night falls you wonder if you shouldn't find someplace…to run and hide, escape the pain. But hiding's such a lonely thing to do.
"I can't stop the rain, from falling down on you again. I can't stop the rain, but I will hold you 'til it goes away."
Aerrow stared up at him as the teenager continued to sing.
"When the rain comes, you blame it on the things that you have done. When the storm fades, you know that rain must fall on everyone. So rest awhile, it'll be alright. No one loves you like I do.
"I can't stop the rain from falling down on you again. I can't stop the rain, but I will hold you 'til it hoes away."
The toddler's eyes began to droop as "his Ace" went into the final chorus.
"I can't stop the rain, from falling down on you again. I can't stop the rain, but I will hold you 'til it goes away." Ace hummed the melody as Aerrow's eyes closed. "When the rain comes, I will hold you."
As the toddler drifted off, Ace continued to softly rock. This kid thing wasn't so bad. But he was definitely waiting about ten years—give or take.
"What's our ETA, Stork?" Aerrow asked, a little anxiously.
"Two hours, give or take a few minutes," replied the Merb.
The Sky Knight groaned. Stork had tried to get out of bed and get the Condor moving before the redhead awoke, but for the first time—ever!—the Sky Knight was waking him up. It wasn't that Aerrow couldn't have moved the carrier out without Stork; it was just that the Merb was paranoid enough and movements from the Condor without him knowing about it before hand would, well…. Aerrow didn't really want to find out.
"Believe me," the Merb continued, staring at Aerrow, "if I could make the Condor go faster, I would." He returned his attention to the instruments, changing his tone. "If only to stop you from asking our ETA every fourteen minutes."
"Well, at least he's moved down from every six minutes," said Finn, in his usual non-helpful way. Stork glared at him. "What?"
Aerrow plopped down in a chair and laid his head on the table, sighing.
"You okay, dude?" asked Finn.
The redhead propped his elbows up on the table. "I don't know….It's just…."
"You had another one of those dreams last night, didn't you?" said the blond, taking a seat next to him.
"Yeah," the Sky Knight replied, soberly. "I wish I could remember."
Finn hung his head. There was something he had to tell his Sky Knight; but he didn't know how, or if Aerrow would even believe him. "Hey, Aerrow?"
"I'm going down to the hangar," Aerrow said, not hearing Finn. "Let me know when we get there."
Finn watched him walk off the bridge. He wanted to follow after him, but….
"If you have something to say to him, tell him," said Stork. "Don't stay here and annoy me."
"How does he do that?" said Finn, as he walked off the bridge.
When the door closed, Stork sighed. "Finally. Peace." A loud crash rattled through the Condor. Then he heard Piper yell,
"I don't care," the Merb said to himself. "It's nowhere near me."
Aerrow sat on the floor of the hangar, leaning against the wall. He didn't like bothering his friend's like this, but he had to know. If there was even the slightest chance that there was something there that could help him remember, he had to take it. Not remembering who these people were was bothersome enough and while the dreams themselves were more comforting than disquieting he had had one dream that stood on its own; a rather disturbing dream, one that terrified him.
It was dark. It would have been pitch black had it not been for the candles sitting on his dresser. He sat on the floor, flush against the wall, his knees pulled up close to his chest. His left elbow was resting on his same-side knee, forearm sticking straight up. There were numerous horizontal cuts up and down the inside of his arm, small, but releasing their share of blood. A long vertical cut ran down the side of his arm. The blood oozed down his arm, dripping onto his pants. His right forearm was resting on the other knee, a Bowie knife held loosely in his hand.
He stared blankly at the doorway, hoping no one would come round; yet at the same time, praying somebody would. He knew they knew what he did in his solitude; that which he found in the veil of night. But they never asked why. He wished they would. He had his reasons, many of which now lay dying somewhere deep within his soul. Oh, how he wished someone would ask him why he took a blade to his own flesh. Maybe then…maybe then, he would remember why.
Aerrow looked up. Finn was standing next to him, looking a little forlorn.
"Hey, Finn. What's wrong?"
The blond sat down in front of him. He sighed, unsure of where to begin. "This is gonna sound weird and I don't know if you'll even believe me."
"What is it?" asked Aerrow, acknowledging the seriousness in his sharpshooter's tone.
"It's about your dreams," said Finn, slowly.
"What about them?"
The blond racked his brain for the right words to use. "Please don't get mad at me for this, but I…." He trailed off.
Aerrow waited for him to continue, but when the sharpshooter's eyes kept darting around the hangar as if he were afraid to look his Sky Knight in the eyes, the redhead spoke.
"Finn." Aerrow laid his hand on his friend's shoulder. "I promise I won't get mad at you."
The blond took a deep breath and looked his friend in the eyes. "I know who it is."
"What? Who?" Aerrow looked at him perplexed. "What are you talking about?"
"In your dreams," Finn said, frustrated with himself. "That guy you keep talking about. The one who's always playing with you, sings to you and all that. The one you can't remember."
"I know who it is."
He knew Finn wasn't being facetious. The redhead could see right through Finn's pretentiousness—when there was any pr3etention to be had. However, that was not the case at the moment. Something was bothering the blond and he seemed to be afraid to tell Aerrow what that something was.
"Who is it?" Aerrow said, encouragingly. "You can tell me, Finn."
The sharpshooter was ready to speak when Stork's voice came over the intercom. "We're there."
Immediately forgetting that Finn was about to tell him something, the Sky Knight, with his mind racing, ran for the bridge, leaving his friend in mid-sentence.
"Wait! Aerrow it's—" Finn stood silently, hanging his head. "Dark Ace."
Though the old house hadn't been lived in for over ten years it looked as though it had just recently been built. But the Storm Hawks knew from experience that appearances can be deceiving, which was why Stork made it painfully obvious that he was not going to step foot off the Condor. And the Merb also made it a point to advise everyone else of how dangerous going into that house could be. Aside from there being various creatures lurking about that could be carrying various diseases, he warned, they could be crushed by falling debris. The rest of the squad just looked at him for a moment and then turned to leave, giving the pilot a "Sure, Stork" and a "We got it."
"Are you sure this place is even unlocked?" Finn said, dragging his feet.
"No one's lived here for over ten years," Piper returned. "I don't think locking the door is all that important."
"And even if it is," Aerrow added, "Junko can just knock the door down."
"That won't be necessary."
The group stopped and turned their attention from each other to a man leaning against the porch railing.
"Uh, hi," Aerrow said, dully.
Well, that was intelligent, Aerrow, he thought to himself.
"Who are you?" Finn asked, rather blatantly.
The man grinned, moving away from the railing. He appeared to be in his early thirties and judging by the way he was dressed, was probably a Sky Knight himself; or a member of a squadron. Or perhaps even (though the Storm Hawks hoped not) a Talon. However, his demeanor made the latter unlikely. But the Storm Hawks knew they still had to air on the side of caution.
"The name's Andrew," he said, walking towards them. "I suppose you could say I'm the caretaker of this place."
His black, spiky-hair stuck straight up on top and stuck out in back, much like Finn's. Stepping out from the shadows the sunlight caught his hair, revealing tinges of green, a stark contrast to his bright, crimson eyes. Along with his tall, slender frame, his overall appearance reminded all of them of their feared enemy, Dark Ace. It wasn't that the man actually looked like Dark Ace, but his similar build, facial shape and eyes gave him the air of the Talon commander.
"I'm Aerrow," the young Sky Knight said, extending his hand. "Leader of the Storm Hawks." He pointed back to his friends. "That's Piper, Junko and Finn. And this is Radarr." He pointed to the blue, furry creature on his shoulder. "Stork refused to leave the Condor."
"He's a little loopy," Finn said and immediately received an elbow in the gut from Piper.
Andrew chuckled. He looked at Aerrow and said, "So, what brings the Storm Hawks out here?"
"I don't really know," Aerrow replied, looking up at Andrew.
"Well, whatever the reason for your being here," the man said with a smile, "you're welcome to explore. Everything's unlocked. I'll be out here if you need anything."
He walked to the opposite end of the house as the group walked up onto the porch and into the house. Finn stopped while Aerrow and Piper walked in and watched the so-called caretaker move a couple apple boxes.
"What's wrong, Finn?" asked Junko, noticing the look on the blond's face.
"I'm not sure," he replied, "but there's something odd about that guy. Not anything bad, it's just…." He trailed off. "I don't know. Maybe it's just me."
"You two comin'?" Aerrow called out.
"Yeah, we're comin'," Finn called back. He glanced back at the man and sighed.
The two walked in through the entryway and into the living room where Aerrow and Piper were standing. (Radarr was running around sniffing everything.) Their footsteps echoed through the empty room.
"Check out the fireplace," Finn said, awestruck.
The fireplace was built into the end of the brown-brick wall dividing the living room and kitchen, allowing heat to escape from three sides.
Junko walked into the kitchen and looked out the door into the backyard. "Wow…. That's a big backyard. Hey, there's a swing set still out there."
Hearing the Wallop's comment, Aerrow walked into the kitchen and looked out the window. Staring at the swing set, an old memory of himself playing on the slide flashed through his mind. He vaguely recalled an older boy, a teenager most likely, being there with him. However, as with his dreams, he couldn't recall the teenager's face.
"Was that your swing set?" the Wallop asked.
"I think it was," the redhead replied, a little dazed by the fact he was even at his early childhood home. "I'm gonna go upstairs."
Piper walked down the hallway next to the stairs, peering into the rooms on both sides. The rooms were much bigger than she thought they would be. Of course, living on the Condor made the rooms seem absolutely massive.
Finn, with Radarr now on his shoulder, was still admiring the fireplace when he noticed Aerrow heading up the stairs. With Junko and Piper pre-occupied, he decided to follow his Sky Knight to the second floor.
"So, which room was yours?" asked Finn, as he and Radarr reached the top of the stairs.
"I think it was this one," Aerrow replied, peering into the first room on the left.
He walked into the room, eyes darting every which way, with Finn and Radarr following. Aerrow looked out the window. He had a perfect view of the Condor.
"Nice view," said Finn, now standing next to the redhead. "Bet you saw the Condor land every time they came by."
"Yeah…," Aerrow said, slowly.
Upon realizing what he had said, Finn turned to Aerrow saying, "Dude, I have no idea where that…." He trailed off, noticing that Aerrow wasn't paying attention. The sixteen year old was obviously in his own world. Radarr cocked his head to the side and chattered at Finn. The blond shrugged.
The Sky Knight turned away from the window and walked the length of the room, running his hand through the air, recalling his bedroom from memory—or perhaps a dream.
"In one of my dreams," Aerrow began, as if in a trance, "I'm in my crib, staring out the window. I'm supposed to be taking a nap, but I refuse to sleep. I'm waiting for someone. When he finally gets here, he picks me up out of my crib, talking to me. We go over to the rocking chair…." Aerrow walked to the other side of the window. "He holds me and starts rocking. Somebody brings up my bottle and then leaves. I tell him to sing. And when he gives me my bottle he starts to sing."
Finn watched as his friend relived a dream—and possibly a memory. The blond was intrigued by his Sky Knight's actions; he had never seen Aerrow so mellow and transfixed as he was. Finn began to fall into a trance himself as Aerrow began to sing.
"When the rain comes, it seems that everyone has gone away. When the night comes, you wonder if you shouldn't find someplace…to run and hide, escape the pain. But hiding's such a lonely thing to do.
"I can't stop the rain from falling down on you again. I can't stop the rain, but I will hold you 'til it goes away."
Aerrow began humming the song as he walked around the room, his hand moving through the air as if tracing invisible furniture.
"Is that the song he sang to you?" Finn asked, softly.
"Yeah, it is," Aerrow replied, giving Finn a half-smile. "It's one of my favorite songs."
They walked out of the bedroom and down to the end of the hallway. On the right, a white door was sitting half open.
"The attic," Aerrow said, opening the door completely. He began walking up the steps but stopped when he didn't hear any footsteps behind his. "You comin'?"
"Uh, yeah," said Finn, he and Radarr now following.
Reaching the top of the stairs, Aerrow felt a cool breath of air hit his face. Directly in front of him, sitting flush against the wall was an old mahogany trunk. The two teens walked over to the trunk, the floorboards creaking with every step they took.
"I wonder what's in this thing," Finn said, kneeling before the trunk alongside Aerrow.
"Exactly what I'm looking for," Aerrow replied, non-chalantly.
"And you know this…how?"
"I just do."
He lifted the trunk lid and peered inside. The trunk was full of photo albums, manila envelopes, posters and, what Finn thought, video tapes.
"Photo albums," Aerrow breathed, picking one up. Radarr hopped from Finn's shoulder to his.
He opened the album up to the first page. It was mostly filled with pictures of landscapes as well as the house. A few pages in he came to a photo of a small redheaded toddler standing in his crib, grinning. Finn started to laugh.
"Aerrow! Finn!" Piper called out.
Finn stood up and walked to the stairs. "We're in the attic!"
"Tell her to get Junko," Aerrow said. "We're taking the trunk with us."
The Sky Knight picked up another album. "Hey, Aerrow," Finn said as Aerrow flipped through the album.
"Yeah, what is it?"
Before the blond could answer, Aerrow continued with, "What was it you were going to tell me back in the hangar?"
"It's about that person you keep dreaming about. You know the one who always sings to you and all that."
"I know who it is."
Aerrow continued to flip through the album. "Who is it?"
"You're not gonna believe this and you probably won't like it, but it's…."
"Dark Ace." Aerrow breathed the name.
In an eight by ten photograph, with the Condor in the background, was a toddler version of himself and a teenage Dark Ace sitting on a skimmer.
Two men stood silently in front of a building, evidently awaiting the arrival of someone. One held a small box in his hands, tapping it with his thumbs. The other, taller and box-less, rocked back and forth on his heels, arms folded across his chest.
"Waiting for someone," a slightly nasal and rather annoying voice said from behind them.
"Is it difficult for you to not be annoying?" the box-less one said, turning to a man dressed in odd armor.
"Well, that was rude," the man said casually.
"Look, Birdbrain," the box-less one began.
"Stop." The one with the box put his hand in front of the other one. He turned his attention to the armored man. "We need you to deliver this to someone."
"And just who might the lucky recipient be?" the man said, taking the box. Reading the name on the box he said, "You're joking, right?" The other two stared at him. "Oh, you're serious." He stared back. "Do I have to?" They were now glaring. "Okay, fine. But I'm not delivering it right to him. That man's scary."
"Just go," the taller one said.
"Fine, fine," the man said, leaving.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" the taller one said.
"Sending the message?"
"No. Sending him to deliver it."
"Who else are we gonna get to do it?"
The story will pick back up with Aerrow and the gang in chapter three. The next chapter's sole focus will be on Dark Ace. Hopefully I'll have it up some time next week.
I hope you enjoyed it. Reviews are appreciated. Seriously, they are. (hint, hint)