Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: Through the unaired finale "Requiem," which can be found on the Internet or as a radio play in the box DVD set.
Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: The six friends have found themselves back in our world, but the Realm is not an easy place to leave behind.
Author's Note: Originally written for Astolat for Yuletide 2010. Also, I've included a short list of music for suggested listening at the start of each chapter. With two exceptions, these songs were all made by the end of 1983, the year this story is set and the year the show began.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters presented in this work of non-profit fiction. All characters are the property of their individual owners. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Shadows of the Past
Chapter 1: After the End
The light of their own world was dizzying at first, different, almost blinding as the first chunks of rubble were lifted off the cars of the ride and hands reached down into the darkness to help them up.
"We've got another group of them over here!" someone called out, and Eric watched as first Bobby, then Sheila, Diana, Presto, and Hank were lifted from the car to cheers and applause.
As he saw each one pulled from the wreckage, he felt oddly calm. He didn't know what he'd expected to feel when he finally came home again, though he'd daydreamed about it often enough, but instead of wild elation, he found himself merely staring at the bottom of each pair of sneakers as they disappeared into the world above. Finally, it was his turn.
"Okay, son?" asked a rescue worker as Eric blinked in the sunlight. "You look like you're in pretty good shape."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Eric said, waving him off, but ambulances were already coming to take them away, making sure that the terrible accident of the Dungeons and Dragons ride caving in hadn't hurt any of them.
They were separated into individual vehicles to be sped off to the hospital, though Eric would have bet good money (and with a contented sigh he realized he really did have good money again) Sheila wouldn't let Bobby out of her sight. As the sound of the sirens whirled overhead, he tried to readjust and understand the viewpoint of the people around them.
"So… what happened?" Eric asked blandly from his gurney.
"Good question," said one of the paramedics. "Nobody knows. It's like that old ride just imploded in on itself. We already got one kid out along with her dog about an hour ago, and they're saying your car was the only other one in there when the roof collapsed."
Eric nodded, choosing to keep his mouth shut. So, Terry had been saved an hour ago. That was nearly two years ago in their time, but in this world time had barely moved at all. His head began to swim with the enormity of how much and how little had changed. Was he fifteen or eighteen now? He looked down at the shirt he'd forgotten he'd been wearing when they left, and for a moment he missed the feel of chainmail so much it felt like part of him had been scraped away.
"Must have been some scary scene in there," the paramedic said.
"Yeah," Eric said, watching the cars pass through the window. "Real scary."
As the ambulance drove in its place in the strange parade of screaming sirens taking them towards the hospital in little moving metal boxes, he realized for the first time just how much he really hated being alone.
A brief check-up later and the doctors declared all of the "victims" were unharmed and could go home. Eric drifted into the hospital lobby on instinct, and sure enough, he saw Bobby and Sheila being hugged by their parents as they walked out the doors and into the California sunshine. It was strange to see Bobby wearing something other than fur, he thought. He caught a glimpse of Hank ahead of them, his father with a manly yet protective arm around him. Presto wandered through the door that Eric had just come through, and his face lit up.
"Hey, Eric!" he said. "You okay?"
"Yeah," he said, then frowned. "You look a lot shorter without that hat."
"Ha ha," Presto said sarcastically, but Eric noticed he couldn't stop smiling. "Can you believe it? We're home! Really home!"
Eric nodded and was about to make a particularly witty remark about how amazing it was that Presto hadn't managed to mess it up at the last moment when he was nearly stampeded by three kids and two adults.
"Albert!" screamed the woman, who from her brownish red hair could only be Presto's mom. "Thank goodness you're alright! Did you break your glasses? Did you forget your inhaler?"
Eric looked on in amusement as Presto, who had gone up against Venger and Bogbeasts and Tiamat and a whole assortment of other horrible things, was treated like a kid in public. Yup, Eric thought, he'd have to razz him but good over this one later, but even as the thought came into his mind, Presto was spirited away by his family into the parking lot.
Eric waited. He sank down into one of the very uncomfortable chairs in the lobby and stared out the window, expecting his father to pull up any moment even though a little voice in the back of his mind said that he shouldn't hold his breath. The shadows lengthened, and he still waited. Finally, a nurse came into the lobby and peered around quizzically in that manner people have when they're searching for someone but don't actually know what the person looks like.
"Is there an Eric Montvault here?" she finally asked, and he walked over to her.
"Don't tell me," he said, getting loud, his most comforting defense mechanism. "Let me guess! Dad's not coming because the CEO of an oil company from a country I can't even pronounce is in town, and he has to squire him around to all the local strip joints, so he's sending the limo. How close am I?"
The nurse looked taken aback.
"We don't usually give private messages, but as your father has been such a generous donor…," she began, but Eric noticed she wasn't contradicting him.
"It's fine! Just… tell him I'd rather walk!" he said, storming out the door.
"Hey!" he heard behind him, and he spun around with an angry retort on his lips, but it died away as he saw Diana running towards him, a bandage on her arm. A man he assumed must be her father was watching with a concerned expression.
"Oh," he said, then kicked at an imaginary pebble on the ground. "It's you. What happened?"
"I just got a small cut from the way they pulled me out of the ride. No big deal," she said. "Your dad's not coming?"
"You heard that?" he asked, rubbing his neck sheepishly.
"Eric, I think Canada heard that," she said, giving him a grin. "You want a ride home?"
He was about to say no, but the word wouldn't come out. Instead, it just died on his lips, and he nodded mutely, trying to swallow an uncomfortable knot in his throat.
"Yeah," he said. "Thanks."
Eric followed Diana and her father to the parking lot, and even though he noticed their car had some rust on it, he held his tongue and got in the backseat. It was a strangely quiet ride, with Eric giving brief directions at cross streets until they pulled up in front of his stereotypically enormous house, complete with white columns, an in-ground pool with a high diving board, and a putting green.
"You live at South Fork?" Diana said, turning from the front seat to give him a raised eyebrow.
"Pretty much," Eric said, stooping to get out of the car, "in every sense, including the overblown drama. Thanks for the ride home."
"Don't mention it," Diana said, then paused as she took at the darkened windows. "Uh, you have your key, right?"
"Yeah, somewhere," he said, not really caring if he did and almost hoping he'd have to break in just to get out his aggression. "I'm fine."
"Okay," she said, but she still looked concerned. "See you around, then. We should all get together. Soon."
"Yeah, soon, because who wouldn't want to relive this nightmare over and over again," Eric said grimly, then walked up the driveway.
He heard the sound of their car pulling down the drive, and he patted his pocket to find that, yes, his keys were still in there. Something about that struck him as really bizarre, strange enough that he started to laugh, almost hysterically so. He opened the door, flipped on the perfectly normal, perfectly wonderful electric light switch, then flipped it on and off again a few times for good measure. Smiling like a loon, he headed immediately for the kitchen.
The sandwich he created would have made Dagwood cower in terror, and when a bag of chips, a container of dip, and a six-pack of Coke were added to the spread, Eric nodded in satisfaction and took his first bite. Two hours later, his belly was full and he had watched his fill of television that was completely free of any educational content. The house remained otherwise empty.
He went back to the kitchen, surprised to find that he was putting his own dishes in the dish washer without thinking twice about it. It wasn't until now that he noticed a note on the counter.
I'll be in Palm Springs at the spa for the next few days. Michael will be accompanying me. Have lobster ready when I return next Thursday.
Eric frowned. His mother and brother were both out of town for most of the week, and knowing his father's habits, Eric might as well be living alone. Well, except for Rita, but tomorrow was her day off.
He sighed then went upstairs to his bedroom. It seemed so foreign to him now that it was like it belonged to someone else. The bed, the TV with the Atari attached and the box overflowing with game cartridges, the overstuffed sofa, the huge closet filled with clothes that he couldn't help thinking looked strange—all of it felt unfamiliar. Still, the feel of silk pajamas and his 800 count Egyptian cotton sheets were heavenly, and as he lay down, he told himself he didn't have to worry about dragon attacks or Orc soldiers or even Dungeon Master popping out of nowhere with quests wrapped in riddles. He smiled and slept very soundly.
Sometime past one, Eric jolted awake with the instinct of someone who had been in battle for a long time. It took only seconds to realize that the noise had been his father coming home. His steps shuffled uncertainly up the stairs, past Eric's room, and down the hall. Judging by the amount of grumbling and how many times he bumped into things, Eric guessed it was a bourbon night—probably very expensive bourbon, but it still got him as drunk as the typical skid row bum. Well, he'd be having breakfast alone tomorrow morning before school. It wasn't anything new, he told himself as he turned into his pillow. He was just out of practice with it.