I have finally finished this chapter. I don't know but this one was really hard to write for me. As the title pretty much says it, this chapter deals with Stork. I found it far easier to imagine how Aerrow would deal with the news but I was at a loss of what to with Stork, since on one hand he is pretty much a very paranoid merb, who doesn't seem to know the definition of the word optimism but on the other hand he also happens to be the oldest of the Storm Hawks, who might react to such news with a bit more tact (maybe).

I hope I did well. Tell me what you think of it.

Chapter Twelve - Stork

"You knew since the first time I came to see you, didn't you?" Starling asked as she after standing in front of the iron bars of the cell finally decided to sit down. She slumped a bit, pointedly ignoring the shifting Talon behind her. Instead she focused on the Merb in front of her.

"Well, I wasn't really sure at first but I found it quite suspicious that he allowed you to see us," Stork said before succumbing into a fit of loud coughs.

"Are you…are you okay?" Starling tried to reach out to him but her tied hands wouldn't fit through the small space between the bars.

"Damn," he rasped after a particularly violent cough, "I must have gotten the flu or something. This is not good, this is not good…if it doesn't get medically treated…it will with a high probability lead to a certain and painful death…I need to get out of here, I need bed rest and medicine, especially some expectorant…," then their gazes met and he with another cough continued with a raspy voice, "uh…anyway…your explanation that you made an agreement with him only fuelled my suspicions."

Starling didn't say anything for a while, being far more concerned for Stork's health at the moment than her own matters. He did look a bit sick but his condition didn't seem to be as bad as Aerrow's, who was suffering mentally more. She couldn't shake the guilty feeling off that this was partially her fault, too.

And after having seen Junko, who -despite being a bit dirty- looked like he could rip out trees twice his size if he would have been given the opportunity, made Aerrow and Stork appear to be much frailer in her eyes. She nevertheless was happy to see the wallop in good health.

"It was the way he looked at you."


Stork's eyes narrowed in remembrance.

"He never looked at us even once after you began to talk with us," he said, the tone of his voice becoming deeper and more ominous, making her apprehensive. "His eyes were always on you, they never left you. The way he looked…watched you…it was downright creepy as if he wanted to grab--" he stopped suddenly and sighed, his right eye started to twitch.

"As if he wanted to grab…," Starling repeated, trying to coax him to continue, although she could already guess where the sentence was leading.

"Ah…anyway, how are the others?" he asked, the twitching becoming more pronounced.

Starling blinked dumbly for a few seconds, thrown a bit off guard by the very quick and sudden change of the subject.

"I have only seen Aerrow and Junko so far and they seem to be doing fine…considering the circumstances."

"I see. That's good to hear."

The dejection in his voice did not escape Starling; it was as if he was already expecting some bad news to follow and it made her feel only worse having to confirm it.

"But I'm worried about Aerrow."

"Why? Has something happened?" he asked grimly and sighed heavily.

"It's just that he's started to blame himself for the whole ordeal, for not being able to protect you all…and me," she explained and averted her eyes unable to look at the Merb anymore.

Stork heaved another sigh. "I hope he'll not get a severe depression…I mean…uh…he's Aerrow…he has a strong will, he'll manage eventually…somehow," he stuttered.

"Do you know how artificial this has sounded coming out of your mouth?" she asked confusedly, raising her eyebrows questioningly at his abrupt mood shift.

"Excuse me for trying not to turn every conversation about a bleak topic even bleaker for your sake," he said and huffed indignantly, crossing his arms and turning his head to the side with another huff.

"What do you…," she trailed off before realization finally dawned on her. "You …you were trying to cheer me up!?" she exclaimed disbelievingly.

"Why do you sound so incredulous?" he grumbled, still not meeting her wide eyed gaze. "I thought I might at least attempt to boost the mood a bit since you…well you know…but as it turns out it sounds artificial and tacked on when I try it."

Starling felt the corners of her lips twist slightly upwards. She couldn't help but feel oddly touched that Stork of all people would try to cheer her up. Her smile grew, when she realized that he was trying hard to act against his almost natural urge to comment on everything with as much pessimism as possible. That would also explain the sudden and unexpected changes in topics.

She let out a little laugh surprising herself and making Stork look at her again.

"Thank you, Stork. I appreciate it."

He responded with a smile of his own. "You're welcome."

Oh and if you're wondering about the shortness of Junko's part, I will elaborate on him in later chapters...