An Unending Promise

Chapter 7: Reality Welcomes You

Kori frowned as she found herself facing a long, darkened hallway. She felt light and somewhat disconnected. A shiver ran down her spine. Oh please don't tell me I've died. She began to walk the hall's great length, eyes roaming the halls for signs of any lurking trouble. Another shiver. If this is a dream, it definitely has the makings of a nightmare.

Kori soon came upon a lighted doorway, tension clenching her stomach as she peered around the corner. She was surprised to see the inside was that of a child's room. Toys, books and dolls were strewn about the carpeting. Two figures were perched upon a twin sized bed, more specifically the figures were a six year old version of herself and her father.

Dad…Kori fought to swallow the lump in her throat as she hastily brushed a tear from her cheek. There he was, healthy, comforting, and alive. He was reading Beauty and the Beast,one of Kori's favorite stories from childhood, her six-year old self snuggled into his side.

" 'I love you,' Belle whispered just as the last petal fell from the wilting rose." Hearing her father's voice, so warm, comforting and strong, all the while learning to accept that this was a mere memory for the fact was that her father had actually just died felt so surreal to Kori. She kept her breathing low and even, her body absolutely still for she feared that if she inhaled too loudly or moved even an inch, her memory would vanish as quickly as water slipping through fingers.

" 'The strangest thing began to happen,'" the memory of her father continued. " 'The Beast began to change! Large swirls of magic surround--" He cut off, his voice strangled by a horrific gurgling noise. Kori's past image vanishing, her present, real self was forced to watch as her father's eyes rolled in the back of his head, red orbs instead of white.

He thrashed, choking. Kori screamed as blood seemed to pour from every opening on her father's surface. As she watched him lay dying, smoke began to billow in, washing down the walls. Flames soon licking up the place.

Kori forced herself to calm down. This is just a dream Kor, only a dream. But why do I feel so hot like this is real? She screamed again when the flames swallowed her father and he vanished into the ether.

The flames remained, spreading until they became a massive wall. Kori began to back away, only to hit a wall herself. This dream must be designed by my fears, she deduced warily as the flames came even closer. Come on Kori! Fight back!

She barely managed to get a weak shower of emerald sparks to pour from her fingertips when the beginnings of a face's silhouette filtered in through the flames. It was a sinister visage, the eyes speaking of malicious deeds and held the promise of pain. The mouth cracked open, nearly splitting the face, sharp teeth leering at her. A voice, with a haunting baritone timbre rang out. "He had to die. He was a necessary sacrifice."

Only one word ran through her mind. Slade. The man responsible for her father's death.

Kori snapped.

The sweet fire of rage and the tantalizing flavor of desire for vengeance swept through her and just like last time, Kori welcomed it. Her body tensed, ready to spring, emerald light exploding across her vision. A snarl ripped through her throat as she leaped toward the face, arms outstretched, fingers curled, determined to find a neck.

Kori became focused on playing a very lethal game of cat and mouse. Search and destroy her father's murderer, slowly and painfully. She summoned the green fire to her fists, ready to pummel the flames that held Slade's face when a desperate voice cried out to her.

"Kori, stop! Please, stop!"

Why should I? She growled.

"Kori! Stop it! Stop! Calm down! You don't want to do this!"

Kori looked at the flames, still poised to attack. She worked to think rationally. The voice, which was decidedly a young male's, was begging her to cease her attack against Slade. She frowned, still thinking.

That voice...Richard? What was he doing here? Wait...the hospital. The hospital! She was there as a patient, because of the fire at the arena! This...this was just a dream. How could she have been so stupid to lose hindsight of that?

The more she rationalized about what was happening, the easier it was for Kori to relax her stance. Calm suffused and eased her tense muscles. Her eyes fell closed as she took deep, calming breaths, not noticing the flames dissipating.

Richard's voice returned. "Good girl Kori," he praised in a gentle tone. "Now come on back. Wake up Kori, you don't belong in the realm of dreams."

Kori frowned. Wake up? After all that? You make it sound so easy Richard. She remembered the slight fear that tinged his voice not a few seconds ago. Okay, Kori, you can do this, she coached herself. Just let go of fantasy and take a hold of reality. Now, open your eyes…

Kori groaned when the feeling of weight and pain returned to her nerves. She shifted, trying to get comfortable, only realizing that she could hardly move at all. "What the…?" She muttered.

"Hey." Kori turned toward the water logged sound. Richard was standing next to her bed, a weak smile on his face, relief flooding his cerulean eyes. He briefly brushed his fingers through her bangs, before reaching down to grasp her hand. "You're awake."

She inwardly frowned at the quiet of his voice before replying, "I heard. I don't know how, I thought I was in a deep, unconscious state." Her uncertainty turned into irritation as she wriggled, "Richard, why am I bound to the bed?" Concern turned into worry as worry radiated from her best friend.

Richard bit his lip. "I don't know how to explain it well, but one minute you were resting, fighting off a fever, when the next thing everyone knew, you were tossing and turning, screaming something about Slade. I'm guessing that your desire to avenge your father's murder helped your subconscious create a 'semi-physical' manifestation of Slade. From there your rage took over and you went ballistic."

Richard became grim. "Kori, you-you flew up from the bed," when the word "flew" passed from his lips, she knew he meant literally. "A-and started choking an orderly. You were squeezing the life out of him."

Kori felt the numbing sensation that had touched her when she learned of her father's death wash over her. She stared at the ceiling, only the sound of "oh", quietly uttered, escaping her lips. Silence reigned throughout the room for a few moments before Kori asked, "Was I sedated? How long have I been fighting the fever?" She eyed Richard's clothes with slightly accusing eyes, not appreciating her lack of freedom.

"You'd been coming in and out of a feverish daze for about three days," Richard responded. "The attack was about two hours ago." He smiled reassuringly. "You weren't sedated. I don't know how, but," Richard hesitated, blushing. "When I told you to calm down, you did. That was when you heard me while unconscious. It happened once before, before you had started fighting the fever. You had gone into a frenzy then too."

Kori didn't say anything for a moment, processing what Richard had told her before letting out a short, weak laugh. "Oh dear, it seems that I'll be needing to rely on you as my emotional bodyguard."

Richard returned the grin. "Isn't that the job description of best friend?"

Kori nodded, then frowned. "Uh, Richard? How did you get in the first time? I really can't imagine the doctors being so lax about letting friends and family into the room under such circumstances."

"Like hell I'd let them stop me from trying to help you," Richard replied firmly. "Danger be damned."

Kori laughed, the smile quickly fading when she realized her curiosity hadn't been satiated. "Richard…" She began hesitantly. "Do you have any idea what's become of the rest of my family?"

Equally hesitant, Richard refused to look Kori in the eye as he carefully chose his words. "Koma and Ryan are staying at your aunt's place. She brings them by as often as possible. Koma pretty much went into catatonic shock when she found out what had happened to you and your parents. She'll be glad to see you're awake and stable," he added hastily when he caught the stricken look on Kori's face.

"Ryan doesn't understand what's going on, he just knows his mother and sister are in the hospital healing from their 'big boo-boos'." He couldn't help the grin that had worked onto his face when thinking about the child's innocence. He became serious once more.

"Your dad was cremated. It was all they could do with his body after the autopsy. They're waiting for you to get out of the hospital before having the funeral."

Kori fought back tears as she nodded. "And what of my mom?"

Richard sighed, "Her condition isn't fatal, however she's slipped into a coma."

Kori nodded again. She let her hair sweep forward to give her some privacy as she wept briefly. Once she had regained her composure, she looked up at Richard and smiling sheepishly asked, "Can we get someone in here to free me?"

Within moments Dr. Roth arrived, a teenage girl who looked to be her replica in tow.

"Hey Raven," Richard greeted the girl who responded with a curt nod, the bewildered look in her eyes not going unnoticed by both Richard and Kori. Her mother went over to Kori and began to unbuckle the straps that were binding the girl down.

"It's good to see you stable, both mentally and physically," Dr. Roth told Kori.

Kori grinned, "It feels good to be sitting up." Her smile wavered. "What happened to that orderly?"

"He's fine," the doctor replied. "He was shaken for a while, but will be alright."

Kori bit her lip, considering her next question. "Is it…is it all right for me to go see my mom?"

Dr. Roth nodded. "Yes, I believe that will be fine." She turned to Richard. "Can you escort Miss Anders to see her mother, Mr. Grayson? I would do it, but I have other patients to attend to."

"No problem, Dr. Roth." Richard replied.

The physician turned to Raven. "Will you go with them as well, Raven?"

The girl nodded. "Sure, mom."

Kori arched an eyebrow. She turned to Richard who was helping her out of bed, keeping a firm arm around her waist preventing her from swaying and mouthed, "Mom?"

"Yes, I'm Dr. Roth's daughter." Kori jumped at the sound of Raven's voice. "Raven Roth. Nice to meet you Kori. How are you doing?"

Kori swallowed. "Considering all that's been going on these past few days, I'm going to have to question you about your definition of 'how I am doing.' I've lost my home, my father was murdered, my mother is in a coma and thanks to these 'superpowers' of mine, I nearly killed an employee in this hospital!" She leaned against Richard, burying her face in his shoulder.

Raven's voice was surprisingly soothing. "I know, I've heard and seen what's happened to you. But you don't need to worry. Did my mother tell you about this group of teenagers that were also affected by Slazocosine?"

Kori nodded, her head still against Richard's shoulder.

"I'm one of those teenagers. The others are waiting to meet you. We're one big support group and along with your friend Richard, we'll be able to help you."

"I don't want help," Kori said, her voice muffled. "I want justice!"

"I know," Raven replied. "We all do. But right now, let's go see your mom."

As the teenagers walked through the hospital's halls, Kori felt Richard slip his hand into hers and gripped it comfortingly. She noticed something was off about his skin. Holding up his hand, she noticed it was wrapped in cloth bandages. She frowned. "What happened?"

Richard blushed. "When you were being affected by the green fire the first time, I reached through the flames and grabbed your hand to calm you down."

Kori stroked his bandaged hand and murmured, "I'm sorry." She gripped his hand, " I will learn to control this. You will never be hurt by me again." Inwardly, she sighed. When I awoke, I didn't expect this. Reality certainly welcomes you.

Thanks goes to Emily Snow15 for inspiration on this chapter and ThSamurai for letting me use the chapter title oh so long ago.