DISCLAIMER and AUTHORS NOTE: Scrubs is owned by Bill Lawrence and the ABC Network (as of Season 8). I own nothing, except the references to My Trigger and the overall idea of this little pet project. You really don't have to know anything about My Trigger in order to read this, but for the people who have, it fits neatly into what the story has revealed so far. I'm not sure whether this will remain as a two-shot (as planned) or will morph into a small story of its own, but it's a considerable break from the chaos of writing MT Chapter XI. I'll try to get Part II up as soon as possible, probably after XI is finished. As for now, I hope you enjoy the first instalment of My Red Flag.
MY RED FLAG
n. red flag – a cue, warning or alert; a sign or signal that something is wrong.
Something's wrong. I can feel it. It's that dull ache of knowing that seeps into your bones and shakes you to your very core, almost like your mind is trying to prepare itself for a shock that has yet to come. I had always associated that sickening dread with being the most terrible feeling in the world, but that was before my Mom died. When she passed, there was no warning. No gut-wrenching feeling beforehand – no symptom or omen. It just happened. I hadn't felt that anything was wrong. I hadn't known that anything was wrong, at least until I received the phone call at the hospital. Her death changed many things, too many to name, and my reaction to that building sense of dread was one of them. I have learnt to accept it now, to see it for what it truly is. It's a forewarning; a natural sense; a human instinct – rooted so deep in our genetic make-up that we have no chance of ever understanding its origin. I used to feel it in dribs and draps. Now, it has become so constant that I feel like I am never without it.
Danger lurks around every corner, and there is always something wrong with somebody.
The only thing you can do is hope it's not somebody you care about.
Right now, I'm sitting with my back against the wall. My eyes are heavy and my body aches, but that's okay. The bone-deep exhaustion is another thing we've all had to get used to in this place, another constant. In some ways, it's worse than the dread, because the exhaustion can kill you. I've seen it kill. I've seen people lay their lives down for the taking, simply because they were too tired to go on. I'm always afraid I'll be the next person who moves too slowly, who doesn't run hard enough, who can't make it in time. I can't be next, not with everything I stand to lose. There's too much at stake to even consider being caught in the crossfire of this gruelling war...
Sometimes I consider what I would do if I had nothing to lose. Would I throw myself knee-deep into the fire? Would I betray everything I'd ever known and actively join the fight? I wouldn't have to hold back, to consider my life as important, because the only person I would be fighting for is myself. Would that be a better life for me? Would that be the path I'd choose if I were alone? Maybe it wouldn't be. Maybe I would let the snipers get me, let death be quick and painless – an end so much more appealing than the alternative. I've already lost one of my best friends to that alternative – to a life, sheltered from death, but in a cage that is in no way gilded. I will not lose anymore of my friends to that option, and I will not allow myself to be lost – after all, my life isn't my own to lose. Not anymore.
Instead, it is the life of the small child, unborn and alive and growing in my stomach. It is the life of my husband and my daughters. It is the life of my friends and my colleagues. They would not give up, so I won't either. As long as we have one another, it is easy to pretend that everything is alright.
Or, it would be, if it wasn't for this feeling.
I know I'm right, though I'd hoped that I wasn't. Something's wrong, and if there isn't, there will be. I can feel it – see it, almost – resting there, on the horizon, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal itself in all its breathtaking glory. I can only hope that it doesn't come for me or anyone else here.
I can only hope.
An unremarkable amount of time later, I feel a shuffle to my right that snaps me out of my stupor and sends me slamming back into the real world. I turn my head to see a mop of messy, auburn hair as the person hiding beneath it moves to sit next to me. For a long moment, we stare at each other, before my new arrival speaks.
"How's my favourite Godmom?"
The mouth that speaks those words lifts up at the corners, an expression so genuine that I am unable to keep the smile from crossing my own face as we sit there together. Jennifer Dylan Sullivan-Cox is a beautiful girl, just about to hit her teenage years like my Isabella. She is the epitome of both Perry and Jordan – her hair hangs loose around her shoulders, thick and curly like her father's, yet she stares out at me with dark eyes that are all her mother. While Jordan isn't at all known for her softness, the depth and emotion in those eyes are present in both mother and daughter. That same softness meets me now as I turn to answer her.
"I don't know – you should go ask her."
Jenny rolls her eyes, but there's a smile on her face. "Funny."
"I'm holding up okay." I reply, truthfully, because in this moment in time, I am okay. "And how are you, querida?"
Jenny's smile grows wider. "My idiot brother has just spent the last hour and a half discussing quantum physics to a group of human prunes." She shakes her head. "You know what really sucks? When your older brother is actually smarter than you. All of my friends' brother's don't know the difference between a cat and a dog."
I look at her in amusement. "And you actually want Jack to be like those boys?"
Jenny rolls her eyes again, one of her most trademark expressions.
"That's the thing that's getting to me. I'm not sure which one irritates me more – Jack's god complex, or those numbskulls out there."
We speak the last word in unison. Jenny stares at me for a moment before breaking into laughter. I join her after a moment, my own amusement coming mostly from her reaction.
When Jenny next lifts her eyes to mine, her expression is serious. Her eyes are wider now, looking almost worriedly at me. "Jack thinks he can do it, though, Aunt Carla. For real. He thinks he can find a way to stop all of this—" She motions to the empty corridor in front of us. "—from happening in the first place, by bending the space-time continuum or something. I laughed it off when he told me, but he looked so serious. Do you really think he can do it?"
Her words take me aback. A small frown spreads across my face as the answer is torn from me abruptly, without thought.
"I don't know."
I get a glimpse of the look that crosses her face right then – her expression undecipherable. The look is gone in the next moment, replaced by a wide smile that I recognise on the faces of every rebel family. It's an empty smile, a smile without hope, so contradictory to the brilliant beam that she had fixed me with so few minutes ago.
When she speaks, however, her words are hushed, soft and honest.
"I think he can. If anybody can do it, it's my idiot brother."
I don't say anything. I can't, not even if I want to.
Because that feeling? The feeling that something horrifying is about to happen?
It just increased. Tenfold.
Watching them fail is like watching an execution – all drugged up on anticipation, standing in a silence so loud that it feels like your ears are bleeding as they raise the gun to fire the kill shot. It ends with a bang, not a whimper. Then it all ends, regardless of whether you are the condemned, the executioner, or a simple bystander. One shot, and it's all over.
It took one child – one – to end the world as we know it.
It took one moment of weakness and one determined terrorist group for the government to fall. Forever.
It took one man, one impossible task, one mass gathering of rag-tag survivors and one hell of a long time to establish the rebellion.
It took one group, one endless night of planning and one fearless leader to formulate the infiltration.
And apparently all it takes is one bone-chilling feeling and the knowledge that that instinct hasn't been wrong yet to threaten everything we have ever worked for. Because in the end, despite how much I wish it isn't true, I am right. The feeling is right.
It takes one moment of miscalculation to turn our only hope into a bloodbath. It takes one moment of miscalculation to lose one of the most important people in my life.
It takes only one for the horror to begin.
I find him caved in on himself – his shoulders are hunched, shaking as he wraps his arms around himself as if that simple motion will keep the jagged hole that I know his heart has become intact. It won't, I know, and it doesn't. The tears still leak from his eyes, the heat still rises to his face and the pain still grips him like a vice.
By now, the news is all over the compound. I know. He knows I know. Perhaps that is why he won't look at me. Perhaps.
After a long moment, he speaks. Rather, he croaks. His voice, once loud, booming and full of life, is reduced to a mere echo of its former strength. He lifts his head, fixating his gaze somewhere over my left shoulder. His expression is vacant, and his blue eyes look dead. But it's the way he says the words, so imbued with emotion, that breaks my heart.
"They have him, Carla, they've got Perry."
A loud sob follows the words, the sound of a soul shattering under the weight of unimaginable agony.
TO BE CONTINUED...
AUTHORS NOTE II: Oh yes. I am that evil. You may proceed to tell me so, if you like. Comments are much appreciated, especially in regards to how far you want me to go with this.