Okay, so . . . I feel like I'm totally copying here. This story is six pages long. For three of those pages, it is very much the same scene as in "Promise," which is the eleventh oneshot in Summing Up the Stars' collection of Storm Hawks oneshots called Know Why the Nightingale Sings. Credit to majority of the plot of this fic goes to her. I'd give further details on exactly what is hers, but I don't want to give away the plot. If you're interested, read my story and read hers. In fact, you should read her collection of oneshots, anyway. They're good!
And yes, I do have Summing Up the Stars' permission to post this. Thank you, Stars!
Disclaimer: I do not own Storm Hawks. They are property of Nerd Corps. And even the majority of the plot is not mine! It belongs in "Promise," a oneshot in Summing Up the Stars' Know Why the Nightingale Sings.
One by one they were thrown in the prison cell. Stork was thrown in first, since he's the one who didn't put up a struggle. Junko came in at spear point, and Finn was tossed in nonchalantly, landing uncomfortably on top of Stork. Stork groaned, but in light of the situation, he didn't give Finn a hard time about it.
Piper was shoved in roughly. She looked around, barely seeing the others' figures in the dim light of the open door. "Guys?"
"We're here," Finn groaned. He still hadn't gotten off of Stork, much to the Merb's discontent.
But not all of them were imprisoned yet. The figures of Talons appeared in the doorway, dragging a staggering boy with them. The light shining in only allowed for them to see Aerrow's silhouette as he was shoved to the floor just as the door closed.
Everyone stopped, very still. All that could be heard was Aerrow's heavy panting. Stork knew the foolish boy had probably exhausted himself by struggling to get away even after he was caught.
But as Aerrow's breathing slowed and calmed, he called into the darkness. "Everyone here?"
"Yeah, we're here, Aerrow," Junko answered. "Right?"
Finn had finally gotten off Stork. "I think I broke something!" he whined.
"Yeah," Stork groaned as he got up. "Me." The Merb grumbled inarticulately as he dusted himself off. Something about being doomed, which is exactly what the Merb was thinking.
"I'm here, Aerrow." Her voice was soft, gentle, and reassuring, as if trying to calm a frightened child.
"They . . . they took Radarr aside . . ." Junko answered, sounding frightened.
There was silence at first, a scared silence that filled the room. But then Aerrow finally said, "Then we'll find him. As soon as we get out of here." They all heard Aerrow groan and scuffing on the floor, as if the Sky Knight was getting to his feet. He still sounded very close to the door. His panting had dimmed but not slowed.
"We're trapped in a cell in a dungeon on some outside Cyclonian base," Piper said, beginning her assessment their situation. "We should probably search the walls, the door . . . look for any source of weakness in the prison."
There was more scuffling around the room, and then everyone heard a loud, "Ow!" from Junko.
"You okay, bud?" Finn asked.
"It's reinforced," Junko answered. "I can't punch through."
"Good luck finding 'weakness' in this cell," Stork grumbled. "We're doomed."
The group fell to about a half-second stillness, as if wondering how to proceed.
But then Aerrow's voice broke the stillness. "Why don't I just pick the lock?" He still sounded breathless.
"With what?" Piper asked. "They took our weapons and . . ." She stopped as if she heard something, and Stork pricked his ears forward. Everyone heard very distinctly the sound of something scraping against the lock. "Aerrow," Piper asked uneasily, "is that you?"
"Yes," Aerrow answered. "Like I said, I'm getting us out."
He continued fiddling with the lock while everyone else fell into a confused silence. Aerrow's tired breathing and the scraping of the lock were the only sounds. Then Piper asked, "What are you using? Did you hide a knife or something?"
Aerrow's response took way too long for everyone's comfort. "A bone," he said at last.
Of course it was a bone! Stork thought. "Great!" he exclaimed. "We're doomed! We'll be stuck in here forever and end up like that poor lost soul!"
"We're not doomed," Aerrow insisted firmly. "And what lost soul are you talking about?"
"The one whose bone you're using!"
No answer. The air vibrated with the others' confusion and fear. The only sounds were same scraping and heavy breathing.
No. Stork pricked his ears toward Aerrow again. Aerrow's breathing wasn't heavy with exhaustion. It was strained.
From there, it was easy to put two and two together.
"Aerrow," Stork asked hesitantly, "where are you hurt?"
Aerrow didn't answer. Instead he muttered, "Hard to pick a lock when you can't see . . ."
"Aerrow!" Piper exclaimed. Her voice was shrill with worry.
"It's just a scratch," Aerrow answered at last. "I'm fine."
No one spoke in response, but Stork heard Piper's soft steps, searching for Aerrow. Her steps stopped, and Stork could tell that she hadn't found him in the darkness. Or perhaps she realized she couldn't do anything to help him, anyway.
Finally Stork got the nerve to ask his next question. "Whose bone are you using?"
"How should I know?"
"What type of bone?"
"Part of a rib, I think. It's too dark to tell."
"Rib bone," Stork repeated. He started paling. "Aerrow, you didn't break off your own—"
"No," Aerrow answered immediately. His voice had the curtness of finality in it.
But Stork didn't let it drop. "Then what . . . ?"
Aerrow sighed, realizing Stork was going to draw the truth from him one way or another. "It was already broken."
Junko and Finn both gasped audibly. Stork felt like he was going to be sick.
"Aerrow, keep talking," Piper demanded, sounding frightened but determined. Stork realized she had been taking steps closer to him the entire time he'd been talking, guided in his direction by his voice.
But Aerrow was quiet except for his panting.
"Aerrow!" Piper yelled in frustration. "You're hurt!" She started moving again anyway, going toward his panting.
They heard a click. "Done," Aerrow said at last.
The door opened with a creak. A beam of light shed inside the cell, but only a line. Stork blinked in the light, his eyes slowly adjusting. Piper's slim form started moving toward the door again. Something blocked much of the light – a shadow of someone. Aerrow. "No guards," he said. The door opened further.
Piper had caught him at last, taking hold of his arm. Stork saw Aerrow's form was slumped against the wall for support. Piper's hands traveled up his arm to his side and began to search his torso, trying to find his injury.
Finn and Junko were already walking toward the open door and their leader, looking as if they wanted to help.
But Stork hung back. His Merb eyes were adjusting faster than everyone else's. He could see Aerrow's injury even before Piper touched the blood and gasped. His uniform was torn away from his side, and there was a bloodied bone jutting out at the base of his ribcage. One of its jagged ridges looked as if it could fit into the jagged edge of the bloodstained item he held in his hand. His side, and his hands, were covered in so much blood that the rest injury couldn't be seen. When Piper tried to observe the wound with her hands, Aerrow flinched away and hissed.
When the Sky Knight turned to them, Stork was just starting to distinguish color again. And Aerrow's skin was ashen. But his voice was strong as he said, "Time to go. You guys go ahead. I'm going to find Radarr."
Without realizing it, Stork was heading toward the huddled group.
"We'll go look for him together," Piper insisted, her voice shaking with tears. "And Junko will carry you."
Aerrow drew in a sharp breath, one of pain. "No," he said, his voice making it clear this was an order. "Go. Take out some Talons, put on their uniforms. You'll sneak out."
"No!" Piper exclaimed, tears falling from her face.
"Dude, we're not leaving you!" Finn said.
"I'll be right behind you," Aerrow answered in a reassuring tone. His voice left no room for argument.
Everyone was looking at him. Junko was starting to cry. But Stork could see what he was doing. And he decided to help. "We'll come back for you," he said.
Aerrow met his eyes, and he seemed to realize what Stork was helping him.
Finn and Junko stepped outside the door first, looking back worriedly.
Piper still held Aerrow's arm. Her tears sparkled in the light from the doorway, which seemed so bright next to the blackness they had just been in. She looked up at Aerrow's face and met his eyes. Stork knew the two read each other well; heck, they could finish each other's sentences! But did she know what Aerrow was doing? She had to.
Some silent message passed between her and Aerrow. Stork didn't know what it was, but whatever it was, Piper was at last willing to leave him. She backed away from him, still holding his hand until she was too far to reach it. Another flood of tears came when she stepped out and looked at Aerrow's face. Perhaps it was because his face was pale, and she could finally see it clearly in the light. Or perhaps it was because of what she knew he was doing.
Stork was the last one to step out. He only gave Aerrow a brief glance and a nod, before heading out. But Aerrow's voice stopped him. "Thank you," the Sky Knight whispered.
Stork nodded. He was looking at the others, who had already started down the hallway. He could not bring himself to look at Aerrow's ashen face. "You're not going to find Radarr." It was a statement, not a question.
"Radarr's an animal. They don't keep animals. They get rid of them."
"I know, Stork."
"And you're never getting out."
"No. You know Radarr and I are always together. Can't expect him to go to the Pearly Gates without me." He smiled at his own weak joke.
Stork bit his lip, wishing it didn't have to be this way.
"Stork? Stork, you'll make sure they don't come back here looking for me." It was a demand.
"Yeah, man," Stork agreed. He still couldn't force himself to walk away from the boy. "I wish I could trade places with you."
"I'm glad you can't. Who'd drive the Condor?"
"You're always the big hero," Stork grumbled in annoyance.
Aerrow just smiled at that. "Like you've always said, anyone who plays hero long enough is doomed."
"I know," Stork grumbled in response. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."
Stork looked down the hallway, where Piper was leading Finn and Junko, who probably all thought Stork was right behind them. They could all get away very easily. And Aerrow was making sure of it.
Stork hadn't realized he was still standing there. "Say hi to that annoying fur ball for me, will ya?" he said to Aerrow. "And don't go giving too many glory speeches to the angels."
Aerrow quietly chuckled, only to cough lightly, a trickle of blood coming out the side of his mouth. "Will do," he wheezed back.
Stork willed himself to leave the boy's side. No, not a boy . . . a man. A man, despite his youth.
Stork didn't look back, but he flicked an ear behind him when he heard the prison door close and lock shut. No footsteps followed.
Author's Notes: About the title: The definition of "swan song" is the last act, appearance, publication, or last words said by someone before their death. It's based on superstition that a dying swan sings.
The original version of this story, "Promise," was better, I think. I know for a fact it was a better representation of Stork. Again, I encourage you to go check it out and all the other oneshots in Know Why the Nightingale Sings. After you review, of course! Or maybe before. It might affect your review.