Title: Red and White
Pairing: York and Zach
Summary: Tragedies can tear a person apart. They can also bring two halves of a person together.
Darkness. Only darkness. And before that…only red. So much red. So much black. I feel like I'm drowning in it. I can't find the light. Where is it? Where is the light?
I can't remember what happened. All I see when I open my eyes is black. All that I see when I close them is red. Blood? Why can't I remember what happened?
Someone is calling me. But who is it? It can't be Mom. She's…she's in a better place than the one she left. Why did she leave me? Now I have no one. I want the light to come back. But she took it with her. And now I'll never see either again.
It can't be Dad either. He's the one who…well, he's in a different place now, too. Why, Dad? Why would you take Mom and then leave without saying goodbye? Without even trying to explain why you did that? Dad, I miss the light. Please bring it back.
Zach, can you hear me?
My legs want to move, but I'm too afraid. At least in the dark I'm safe. Nothing can reach me here, even though it is lonely. If I go back to the red, I don't know what will happen. Is this a trick?
Zach…don't be afraid.
I open one eye and look around. There is no red. I can only see the door of the closet where I escaped to. A smell hits my nose. It reminds me of metal, like when I licked the back of the spoon after I finished eating. But it makes my stomach churn.
Close your eyes.
I obey without thinking. But I don't return to the darkness. Instead, I am in a strange room. The floor is made of red leaves. When I look out, all I see are trees. Am I outside? What happened to the darkness?
Curiosity is beginning to replace my fear. I stick out my right foot and touch the leaves. They feel real, like I am in the middle of a forest. But I still don't know where I am exactly. If I open my eyes, will I see the closet door again? Or will I be in some other, more dangerous place?
The voice sounds like its closer. It also sounds…childlike. In fact, it sounds like me. It can't be mine though. I haven't used it since I found my parents. This is so strange. I draw my foot back up underneath me since I still don't know what is happening.
Zach, use the door.
I can't tell where the voice is coming from. Its all around me, right next to me, far away from me. It doesn't make any sense.
Come on, Zach.
"Where are you?" I finally find my voice, but its more like a whisper.
Do you like to play games, Zach?
Let's play a game. Then you won't be so frightened. How about Hide and Seek? If you can find me, I will make all the pain go away.
"Pain? What pain?" My body feels fine. I'm just scared. Nothing here makes sense.
I promise that you will never see the red or the darkness again if you find me. And I promise that nothing will hurt you while you're looking. Does that sound ok?
Something about the voice is calming, kind of like Mom's when she knew I needed comfort. "Ok," I say without realizing it. My body seems to stand up on its own. I feel solid and yet I feel weightless. Maybe I'm dreaming. But it all seems so real. And I can still feel the leaves beneath my feet.
A door. There is a single door across the room from me, where the trees start to form. Around it is a lot of smoke. Maybe there is a fire behind it. Or maybe it's a storm cloud and the other side will bring rain. It is still the only way out. I need to be strong. Its just a game, right? And if I'm dreaming, then nothing can really hurt me. So I walk towards the door and open it.
I think I walked through a mirror. As the door shuts behind me, I can see that this room is exactly the same as the last one. What is happening? I open the next door. It is the same thing. This game isn't very fun.
You are doing great, Zach. Keep going. You are getting warmer.
I'm not sure if the voice is making fun of me or encouraging me. But there aren't many places to go. I open the next door. Nothing. I open the door after that.
This room is different. There is a small mat in the center of the leaf carpet. On it, there is a doll of some kind. When I pick it up, the fear I had before comes back. This doll looks like a man…a man I've seen before. But I can't remember where. It seems like I met him a while ago.
The voice is right in front of me. I look up. There is another little boy who looks just like me. Where did he come from? And why does he look like me? He's wearing the same pajamas, has the same color eyes, and even his hair looks like mine. But it's a different color; a chocolate shade as opposed to my sunshine. That's what Mom used to say, that my head was like a little sun that brought light into every room. No, I can't cry now. Haven't I cried enough?
I feel a hand on my shoulder. The other boy kneels in front of me and looks into my face. Now that he's closer, I can see something else. It scares me. Across his forehead is a streak of blood. It looks like someone took a knife and swung it by his face. The cut starts above his eye and ends by the tip of his ear.
"Are you okay?" I ask him.
Shouldn't you ask the same thing about yourself?
He points down towards the mat. Its now a mirror. This time, I cannot keep myself from crying out. I have the same mark on my face. Trying to wipe it away only makes the blood flow more. And it stings. The tears come now. I can't help but cry. What is going on? I just want things back to the way they used to be.
Zach, don't cry. I will make it better.
The other boy gently wipes away the blood on my face as I keep crying. But his touch doesn't sting. Its soothing, like drinking hot chocolate after a long day of playing in the snow. The warmth spreads to the rest of my body. Soon, I stop crying. There is no blood on my face anymore, even though I can still see a mark in the mirror. The other boy doesn't have any blood on him, either. I wonder where it all went.
"Who…who are you?" I finally ask him.
My name is York.
"How did you know my name?"
I am a part of you, Zach. I live inside of your head. I know everything about you.
I don't understand. "Then we're inside of me? Right now?"
Yes. I called you here to protect you. If you open your eyes, I'm afraid that I won't be able to protect you anymore. What happened to your parents will drive you mad if you go back. I can make sure that it doesn't happen that way.
I don't know why I trust him. But I do. Maybe its because he looks so similar that he has to be a part of me, just like he said. Maybe its because of what happened and I just need someone to trust. Or maybe there is no reason. Maybe I just do.
He holds out his hand to help me up and I take it. Around us, the room changes. Everything becomes white. The floor looks like water. When I move my feet, ripples form around them. There is something familiar about this room. If only I could remember what it was.
Zach, do you like this place?
"Yes. But there is no color. And there are no toys to play with."
This is true. But if you had a choice - to go back out there and lose me or stay in here and be my friend forever - which would you pick?
I'm confused again. Neither of them sound like very much fun. I would rather not go crazy, and I really don't like the idea of being confined to a single room my whole life. I'm just a kid. "Is there another way, York?"
Would you like a cookie? He holds out one of my favorites, chocolate chip. I forget where I am for a second. It smells like the ones Mom used to make. I take it, my mouth watering. But I won't eat it until I get some answers. He seems to sense that.
Zach, what I'm about to tell you won't make a lot of sense. I promise you, though, that I am a friend. I'm on your side. And I will do whatever it takes to protect you from all this. Do you trust me?
Good. This incident with your parents is not the first time this has happened. Nor will it be the last. There is another world beyond ours. The people there look like us and act like us. They have seen our world and want to be a part of it. But they cannot survive here without a certain tree to give them life. The problem for us is that humans cannot survive while the tree is here.
A tree? I remembered something as I ate the cookie. Mom…she was holding a tree of some kind when Dad shot her. She held it close to her stomach. Was there another tree there? It seemed like there was. I can't remember.
One of their kind has been trying to plant those trees in our world anyway. It is hard to make them sprout, but they thrive once the process has been started. You've seen these trees, haven't you?
"I think my mom had one. I'm having trouble remembering it though, or why she had one in the first place."
That man from the other world gave her one. She didn't want it, but the man made her take it. You see, these trees need two people from our world to grow. They need a woman to sprout from, and they need a man that she is attached to. More specifically, they need the man's love for the woman to thrive. If the growing process is stopped in any way, the trees will not grow.
My stomach suddenly hurts. Why was he telling me all this? It is horrible. I don't understand. I don't think I want to understand anymore.
Zach. The other boy is very close to me now. I can almost see myself in his eyes. Zach, you must be strong. You did a very brave thing when that bad man chose your parents to grow his trees. I know it is hard to hear. You need to understand what has happened so we can protect you now.
Yes. I will do what I can and I need you to help me. Together, we can fix what happened. Together, we will make sure this bad man is stopped.
"York, what did I do?" All I can remember is the red and the closet door when I opened my eyes. And the tree, but that seems to be a very distant memory. It seems wrong to remember that.
Zach, you were a very brave boy. Your father would have been proud. That man from the other world didn't know about you. He didn't know that your mother, the woman who would give life to his tree, had already given life to you. Because of that, his tree would never reach adulthood. It would grow a little, and then it would wither and die. But if you died, too, then your life would go back into the tree. That's why he cut your face. He wanted to kill you, but I sent you to the red room instead.
"He wants to kill me?" I realized that I was shouting. I was more scared than I had been before. Someone was after me. "York, what do I do?"
Relax, Zach. As long as you are in this room with me, he cannot touch you. Already his tree is dying. By the time he finds us, it will be too late. Police are already on their way to your house. That man will have to leave soon.
My head feels full, like I could fall asleep at any moment. Sleep…that sounded good right now. Maybe if I fell asleep, I could forget about all of this tragedy. And when I woke up, Mom would be right there, smiling at me. There would be no trees, no blood, and no alien men.
He's still close to me, one hand on my right shoulder. Even after what he told me, I feel a special bond with him. I feel like he's my brother, my best friend. I should find this odd. I've only known him for…how long? I don't know how much time has past. Yet I feel comfortable with him. He wants to help me. I trust him.
Zach, are you ready to be brave again?
Yes. I wanted to be brave like my dad. He spent his entire life bringing down bad guys and keeping other people safe. I know he would have wanted me to do the same, even if the first person I saved was myself. "Yes. What do I need to do?"
Zach, you are only a little boy. I want you to experience the world like every other little boy. But this man will not allow us to. So I have an idea, if you are ready to hear it.
"What do you think we should do?" I repeated. I'm feeling a little excited. Its kind of like an adventure, like another game we can play together. Me and York.
The only way to protect you is to hide you here, in the white and the red rooms. If you stay here, that man cannot find you. I will make sure that he can't get in here no matter what he tries to do. I will also make sure that you can see what is happening in the world. That way, you will stay safe and still be able to experience things that you would have anyway. It will be lonely, but I will stay with you. No matter what happens, I will always be right here when you need me.
"But…how will we do this?"
Simple. I will take your place. I will be Francis York Morgan. The differences won't be noticed by anyone.
"York, how will you stay with me if I'm here and you're out there? I don't want to be alone."
You won't be, Zach. I will talk to you, and you will be able to hear me and talk back to me. When I sleep, I will come and visit you just like I am now.
"How long will I have to stay here?"
As long as we are unable to find the other world man. He has lived a long time, Zach. He will return. And he will be looking for you. He has never been stopped before. When we are ready, when we have the power to finally bring him down, we will stop him. Then you can come out of the rooms.
That sounded like a long time to me. "Do you think that will be forever?"
York smiled at me. The warmth I felt earlier came back. No. Not even he can live forever. Don't worry, Zach. I promise that we will bring him down. Together. Just trust me.
"I do. York?"
"Why do you want to help me?"
Because you and I are the same. To harm you would be to harm myself. And besides, he said, still grinning, I like you. You don't know it, but you have been the best friend a boy could ever ask for. You let me live here, inside of you. Now I want to return the favor.
It seemed like there was no other choice. I knew what I had to do, but I hesitated.
Zach, what is it?
"Well…If you live as me, can I ask you a favor?"
Of course, Zach.
"I want this to be over as quick as possible. But I also want to honor my parents. So when we…um, I mean, you grow up…can you be a cop?"
York laughed. It was the kind that made everyone who could hear it smile and laugh as well. I felt a little foolish for asking it suddenly. With that laugh, I knew what the answer would be.
What other job could we possibly have? Not only will we be cops, but we will be the greatest cops that ever lived!
He turned and looked towards one of the doors. It is time. Are you ready?
I nodded. The time had come to stop playing games and be serious. It was what Dad would have wanted me to do. "So is this goodbye?"
No, Zach. This is a 'see you in a minute' moment.
"Okay. Well, good luck out there. Oh, and York?" I asked as he turned to leave the white room. He looked back at me. "Thank you. For saving me."
Same to you.
I watched him leave. It suddenly felt very lonely. There were no sounds, no pictures, no anything. York had said he would keep me connected to the real world. But how?
I blinked and everything changed. The walls and the floor had turned into giant screens. I was watching something from above. A little boy with chocolate brown hair was huddled in a closet, motionless. Two cops ran into the house, surveying the scene. One of them opened the door to find the boy. He didn't move.
"Jesus Christ…Bobby, get over here! We have a survivor!" The other cop ran over, speechless. "This must be Agent Morgan's son, Francis."
"So it is," the other said. "Lets get him out of here. And make sure he doesn't see what happened. I imagine he's had enough trauma for an entire lifetime." The second officer picked York up and carried him out of the house. I couldn't see where my parents were. The images followed my friend instead.
They put him in a police car and laid him across the back seat. York must have closed his eyes because the pictures all disappeared. What happened to them? Did they know that the boy they found wasn't really me?
York was back. Even though he was only gone for a minute, I ran over and hugged him. It was good to have him back. He laughed. "You were right. That wasn't very long."
When I am asleep, I will be back here to play with you. But I will have to go back through that door when it is time to wake up. It will lock behind me so that you cannot leave and that man cannot get you.
"How come I could see everything that was going on?"
I told you that I would not keep you from experiencing the world with me. You will be able to see more than me when you are in this room. Back in the other door, in the red room, you will be able to sort through everything that you see. It will help us become great cops when we grow up.
I nodded. A part of me was still sad. I didn't want things to end up like this. But I also wanted to make sure that this bad man was punished for what he did to my parents. It would be a long time living in these two rooms. A long and very lonely time.
Don't be sad, Zach. Let's play a game instead. I will be asleep for a while. The body is very tired. How about Cops and Robbers?
My fear was gone immediately. I put my hands together like Dad had shown me, making the shape of his gun with my fingers. "You've got nowhere to run, villain! Surrender!"
York laughed and threw his hands up in the air. You have to catch me, Agent Francis Zach Morgan!
I was soon lost in the game. York and I ran back and forth between the red and white rooms, moving from one game to the next, never feeling tired or hungry or sad. I knew that this was going to be my life for many years now. But I couldn't think about that. I need to focus. York and I were partners now. We had a bad guy to catch and plenty of time to think of a way to do it.
I knew that York wouldn't let me down.