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Return from Darkness

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Return from Darkness

Return from Darkness
A UFO/Raven Crossover

Prologue

He was aware of darkness, of someone calling his name, desperation in the voice. But it was quiet here, peaceful, so peaceful... He really didn't want to open his eyes, so he didn't.

He was aware of people pulling at him, of being moved from one place to another, of light on the other side of his eyelids. They were still too heavy to lift, so he left them down and dreamed his parents, of his first sweetheat, of revenge, blood and steel. Then he dreamed of death and a friend who had been told to betray him.

A warm friendly voice, matter of fact and female though unfamiliar wandered into his borderline awareness. He wished it would go away. He wanted to hear the voices in his dreams. A slight frown marred the skin between his eyebrows at that thought; no he wanted to hear some of the voices in his dreams, the others could go away with the friendly female one.

"Well, Mr. Raven - Jonathan, I hope you're listening. Your friend Ski is worried about you. You know the longer you're unconscious, the harder it will be to come back. The doctors around here are saying severe vegetative state, but I don't think so. I think you're taking a vacation."

He wanted to argue with that voice, but he couldn't seem to muster the strength to open his eyes, to open his lips, to push air past his vocal chords and tell her anything. The voice moved away to be replaced with the familiar sounds of his darkness. The murmur of the machines monitoring his vital signs, the steady click of the IV monitor, these were the parameters of his existence. He gave himself up to the darkness, the dreams, the regrets
that colored his silence.

"Dammit, Jonathan - you can't do this. Just gimme a sign you can hear me. Please. Tell me you're in there. Janis and the kids sent you cards. That punk kid Lucas and his momma stopped in to see you." A long silence punctuated with sighs. "Aw, come on, Jon - you can't go out like this. You can't. A bullet in the brain, a sword cut, a bomb, but not like this, not - Jonathan, wake up. Please?"

There were soft, indistinct murmurs as heavy footsteps move away. He wanted to open his eyes then, to reassure the man begging him to come back that it was all right. He wanted to tell his friend he was tired, he was content - only that wasn't true. He wasn't content. He still had things to do. He sank back into the dreams of other times other places other dangers.

 

Comas and Patients

Dr. Elena Marie Sameniego stood next to the bed of her newest patient and shook her head. Johnathan Raven had been in a coma for two and a half months. Three days after surgery, when his friend didn’t look to be waking up any time soon, Herman Jablonski, had called her and asked if she would come take a look at him. He argued that she was the best, that she came highly recommended and his friend deserved the best. She could hear the guilt in his voice as he spoke, skirting the issue of how and why Johnathan Raven was in a coma. After much thought and discussion with the residents of her recovering patients in the group home she monitored, she agreed to come take a look at the potential patient. Once in Hawaii, both the patient and the state had convinced her that packing up, household and all, and moving halfway across the world was a good idea.

She looked down into the still, pale face with its faint pattern of freckles. As with many coma patients, there was no one indicator of what caused the patient’s refusal to return to consciousness. Brain activity was good. The man dreamed, as was obvious on the monitor attached to his head by long lead wires. Yet he remained comatose, unable or unwilling to return to the world of his friends.

She referred to his charts yet again, knowing that nothing had changed, but hoping she would see some relation, some causal factor that had as yet escaped her. Damage: head trauma caused by a blunt instrument. Well, that was succinct enough. According to Herman, they had been in a fight connected with his security business. The patient had taken a graze from a bullet along one side of his head, and then, when he shook off that damage, had been taken a hit squarely in the back of the head. Herman, also engaged in defending his life, had not seen the actual weapon.

She checked the x-rays again and shook her head. The hairline fracture in his skull was already healing nicely. The vertebrae were all in place and the soft tissue damage was negligible. Yet here he lay, comatose, unresponsive, uncaring, while the world went on without him.

She frowned at the man. "Is that what you want, Jonathan?” she said softly, “ For the world to go on with out you? Do you want leave all of us behind? Are you tired of living and taking this as an easy way out? How hard you are on your friends, Jonathan. Ski will never forgive himself if you don't wake up, you know that, don't you? Yes, I suspect you do."

Ski. The name connected with his dreams. He rmembered Herman Jablonski, big, bluff, hearty and a master of all the skills it took to make a Special Forces operative. They were... he was Black Ops. He supported the Agency's men in the field. He took a liking to the scrawny, black haired, entirely too intense young Raven, sensing that the young man, while a master of assassination arts, was in desperate need of someone human in his life. Seldom had the big man been more correct.

Jonathan drifted on fevered phantom dreams. Southeast Asia. The flu. All he'd wanted then was to find a place to die. In the middle of a most important mission he was almost incapable of holding his head up. He hated himself. He had never failed on a mission. Never.

In all of this was Ski. There were vague visions of the concern on the man's face. God, he was hot. He was burning up from the inside out. Ski forced water down his throat that stayed just long enough to cramp his belly and come back up. Somehow, Ski had dragged his sorry ass through three days of the worst case of Asian Flu anyone had ever survived. Dehydrated and weakened, he awakened to a wet, rainy world of green jungle again. Something in Ski's look told him he'd spilled his guts in delirium. Something else in that look told him he could trust this man with his secrets as well as his life. A friend. God help him, he had a friend.

He sighed, stretched and opened his eyes closing them again immediately. The lights in the room were bright and hurt his eyes. Where the hell was he? The last thing he remembered was - getting hit with a truck in the back of the head.

Someone breezed into the room. Papers rattled. A voice like warm sunshine with a touch of Spanish accent flowed over him, asking him how he felt. He knew an incredible desire to put a face to that voice. He opened his eyes again and made an indecipherable noise. Hmm, volume control and vocalization seemed to be off line.

"Well, well. Mr. Raven. Nice to see those eyes open under their own power. I told Herman you'd be back."

"Herman?" he mouthed uncertainly.

Her response was a warm, rich chuckle. "Herman. You call him Ski, don't you. OK, don't try to talk yet. Let's get some of this stuff off of you." Within a remarkably short time, she had removed most of the monitor pads from his body. "There. That should be a bit more comfortable."

"What - " again, movement, but no sound.

"You've been in a coma for five weeks. I'm Dr. Elena Samaniego. Coma patients are my speciality."

"Coma - ?" He looked confused, although his voice tried to cooperate a bit more. It creaked in his throat.

"Coma." Her cell phone rang. She checked the number and excused her self to take the call. Although she stepped out of the room to answer the phone, he could hear bits and pieces as she calmed someone named Allen.

"It's OK. Just clean it up and don't let her try to make another one. Or, at least put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and not in the sink. - Yes, I know I did. If you don't try new things on your own, you don't get any better, do you? - It's all right. Tell her I'm not angry and tell Zach not to be too hard on her. I'll see you tonite."

"Kids?" he managed to creak out as she returned to his bedside.

"Patients." That got a curious look that she answered with a grin. "I'll tell you about it sometime. For now, my concern is you."

Allen dropped the telephone into it's cradle and looked around at the five others. "She said she's not angry."

One of the two women sighed with relief. "It's supposed to be tempered glass," she pointed out aggrievedly.

The other woman, shoving her thick blonde hair out of her face, gave a laughing scowl in her direction. "That doesn't mean that if you cook a cake in it and then plunge it into cold water it won't shatter."

"I noticed. I won't do that again."

"You're all right?" a new voice asked from the doorway.

All heads turned to the fair haired man who spoke. He was not as tall as Allen and was built along finer lines. White blond hair framed a relatively unlined face. Piercing blue eyes looked them over, ascertaining that they were indeed all right. They seemed to respond to his almost military bearing.

"I'm fine, " the younger, dark haired woman assured him. "It startled me when it went, but that's all. No slivers." She held up her hands and displayed both sides with a smile.

"Good." He nodded his approval. He couldn’t remember why, but all of them seemed to find his approval a good thing so he gave it as often as he could. "Dr. Sam said to clean up the mess?"

Allen nodded his agreement.

"Then do so. I have a painting to finish." He turned and went back into the conservatory where the light was at its best at the moment.

The two women headed back into the kitchen. The younger, dark haired one looked at the cake sitting on the cooling rack. "Well, at least I got the cake out before I shattered the pan," she said with a grin.

"Elenor -" the other started with a shake of her head.

"Yes, Morgana?"

They both laughed.

Jonathan's first instinct was to get out of bed and out of the hospital. His second instinct was to lie back down and see if his head would quit spinning. He blinked at the lights overhead and tried to remember just what had gotten him here. There had been a firefight. Dark figures wrapped in night -- he took a deep breath and tried it a little less poetic. He and Ski had -- had -- what had they been doing? He frowned. He was not used to having his thoughts be quite so disorganized.

"What's the last thing you remember?" There was that sunlit voice again. He opened his eyes and realized he must have fallen asleep. Dr. Sameniego was at his bedside smiling at him encouragingly.

"Firefight."

"Good. Ski says that's the last thing you should recall, unless you came to consciousness during the ambulance ride or prior to surgery."

"Surgery?"

She referred to the chart. "Says they peeled part of your scalp free to make certain there weren't any missed bone slivers going anywhere. Fracture was clean. They cleaned the area, sutured the scalp back in place and you should have a full head of hair within a reasonable time."

"Good." His voice was still cutting out on him periodically.

"Most coma patients have a problem with borderline dehydration when they wake up. You're very lucky, you know."

"I am?"

"Two and a half months is borderline for coming back."

"Two and a half -------- months." That took its own sweet time to sink in and take a grip. Two and a half months of silence. Two and a half months of -- urk. "How's Ski?"

"Immensely relieved. As are your friends."

"My -- friends."

She picked up a pile of cards and handed them to him. Dori. Janis and the kids at the orphanage. Lucas and his mother. Osato -------- Osato?????? He opened that one and read the elegant Japanese calligraphy inside.

"Torn between hope that you never awaken, that I may consider my revenge complete upon you and the stupid bear you befriend, and the hope that you will awaken that I may eventually take your life with my own hands. Osato."

His eyebrows rose over the words. Not exactly a get well card, but the sentiments were honest. There were almost two dozen other cards from people he had helped during his time in Hawaii. He shook his head, not quite knowing what to make of it.

He looked up into Dr. Sameniego golden toned face. Her generous mouth curved in a smile. He found himself attracted to that smile and the way her long, narrow eyes crinkled at the corners. He took her in, the tall, limber, very female body clad in khaki trousers and a white button down shirt under the ubiquitous white doctor's lab coat. Her golden hair was pulled back with a claw clip just below the nape of her neck. Tendrils escaped to create a sun-touched frame for her lightly tanned face. Her eyebrows were slightly darker, their curve echoing the long curve of her eyelids. Which brought him back to her mouth and a rising desire to kiss her.

"You're definitely awake."

"What?"

She laughed. He wondered if she sang. He quickly roped in his libido and curiosity and tried to be a more model patient. Two and a half months. That was a long time to be still. She prescribed a course of physical therapy. He agreed. By her estimation, with luck he would be back in his own home within a couple of weeks. By his own, he would be home much sooner.

Dr. Sam drove to her new home, a mansion on the outskirts of Honolulu. She parked in the drive and stopped to look at the entirely out of place looking stone edifice. It was an English mid Eighteenth century mansion moved wholesale into the lush tropical greenery of Hawaii. It looked -- smug. She laughed and went in.

Inside her patients greeted her. They all looked remarkably fit and healthy for people who had been in comas for ten long years. She greeted them each by name. Vladislau and Simon were the last to greet her; they were working on something that looked oddly computer oriented. The others were ignoring them, as usual. Zachary showed her the painting he'd completed, although from his look he wasn't entirely satisfied with it.

"Not enough color?"

She got a flash of grin for that. "No. I'm not certain what I find incomplete about it. But I will eventually figure it out and fix it."

"I'm sure you will."

She went to her room and changed into her favorite loose silk pants and tunic, running a brush through the tangle of her hair as best she could. She made a face at her mirror image and pulled her hair back into another clip before going downstairs for dinner.

Dinner was always formal, unless they ate outside. She sat at one end of the table, Zachary at the other, with the rest ranged between them. Allen was always at Zach's right hand, although neither of them could tell her why. 'It just feels right?' they had both told her, bewildered looks on their faces. That generally put Morgana on his left, Elenor next to Allen, Vladislau next to Morgana and Simon, frequently seeming the odd man out, forgetting to come in to dinner at all.

Dr. Sam frowned as she thought about the two men, one obviously younger than the other, working on whatever they were putting together this time. Vladislau's sleek, straight dark hair was beginning to streak with gray. Simon's was longer, fuller, and still completely dark from root to tip. Yet there was intensity about both of them -- about all of them, she thought. And after eighteen months, she was no closer to solving the mystery of their identities than she had been when she walked into the coma ward three years earlier. John Doe times four, Jane times two. Someday she would have an answer. For now, she would have dinner.

Jonathan, for so long still, found he had a hard time falling asleep. He made the effort to locate the controls for his bed and maneuvered it into a more upright position. He'd been moved to a private room. Ski had brought some books and magazines, but they were on the nightstand and it seemed too far away to try to find something. He calmed his breathing and tried to focus past his worries and misgivings. He closed his eyes and, although he could not assume the full lotus posture of meditation he favored, cleared his mind and sank into meditation.

A slight frown pulled his dark eyebrows together as he tried to center down, to become tranquil. Flickers of darkness intruded. Ninja warriors followed him in dark stone corridors. Smoke obscured his sight. He felt the weight of his ninjato in his hand and glanced down at the blade. It reflected red in the half light. Blood. A shaky breath. He knew this place, his personal hell. There were dead men behind him and wounded living ones trailing him.

He struggled for calm, for blank darkness, for an end to the blood flowing through his life. He let his head fall back against the pillows and tears trace down his cheeks. Tonight was not a good night for meditation. He let himself feel sorrow. He let the knowledge of his parents' death flow through him as he had never before done. He let the bone crushing hurt of their deaths be felt. Something tight that had lived within him for a very long time, loosened. The white hot anger that had driven him to vengeance had long ago been sated in blood, but he had never allowed the time for grief, real grief to be felt.

Now, like a cleansing flood, it washed through and over him. He felt the fear and terror and ultimate abandonment of his twelve year old self. Alone in a foreign country, he had stifled his feelings, had channeled them into the mold his teacher set for him. He had never questioned that mold. He had never once questioned how he handled his feelings, he had shut them away, ignored them, destroyed them. Or so he thought. Now he could see he had only boxed them up. He let the hurt and fear out, felt it, understood it, wept for his loss as the child Jonathan never had. How much it hurt losing them. How very much it twisted his very soul to know he had lost them and never mourned them. Would they have understood the vengeance he exacted on the Black Dragons, their murderers? He suspected his mother would not. His father? Perhaps he would understand, but would he have condoned it?

He sighed and wiped his face on the sheet. He didn't have an answer for that question. He would never have an answer. He took several deep breaths and released them, letting the calm flow through him. He felt shaken, as though he had worked strenuously for many hours. He drifted into a light doze, the half light between true sleep and being awake. He was aware of the gentle night noises of the hospital around him. His recent memories brought him the gilded face of his doctor. Her smile was warming. He let himself drift on memories for a while.

As he fell into a deeper dream state, his visuals changed. Darkness encroached on the sunlight. He looked around, trying to get his bearings. Dreams of blood and death were normal for him, yet this was different. No dark forms in traditional ninja clothing swarmed through this dream. The smoke was thick, acrid like an electrical fire. He moved to where the smoke seemed lighter. He could hear a strange sort of whirring noise moving above him. He almost grinned. The sound was strangely like one he'd heard in a movie Ski was watching. Some science fiction thing with menacing aliens and space ships. Without thinking, he looked up. There, whirling in place above the smoke was a conical silvery -- UFO.

A red beam shot out of the thing, striking the ground nearby. He heard the energy strike, heard voices cry out in pain. He moved toward the sounds, ignoring the insanity of the hovering alien craft. He moved forward in a half crouch, pulling his head under the smoke layer. He could make out other forms moving about. A sound made him turn and straighten. He found himself staring into the murky green faceplate of a brightly suited alien. He knew it was alien, not from the green, not from the garish orange-red and silver trimmed spacesuit, not even from the dead white eyes staring at him from within the silver helmet; he just had this gut feeling that what he faced was not human; not Earth human. Instinct and reflexes pulled his arm back and drove his hand forward in a breaking strike against the faceplate. The clear surface cracked under the impact, then broke, leaking green fluid.

Jonathan awoke with a start. He looked around his darkened room wildly, then relaxed. Damn. He was going to have to talk to Ski about not watching horror movies when he was around.

At the mansion on the outskirts of Honolulu, Dr. Sam was shaking Vladislau to awaken him. The nightmare that had him in its grasp seemed tenacious. Suddenly, his eyes flew open, terror and knowledge warring in their depths. Then he focused on Dr. Sam and looked confused.

"You were dreaming."

"Was I?" he asked softly. For a moment, he almost had the pieces. Then, they were gone, like smoke in the wind. "I'm sorry."

"It's all right. You were distressed, very distressed. Do you remember anything?" But she already knew the answer from the almost forlorn look on his fine boned face.

He shook his head. "I'm sorry -- " he mumbled again, knowing there was nothing to apologize for, yet bereft in his knowledge that just for a moment upon awakening, he had held a part of the puzzle that would answer all their questions.

She cupped his chin in her hand and pulled his face up to look at her. "It's all right. Sooner or later, the dreams will answer your questions. I'm sure of it. You all have bad nights. One of you will remember when you awaken."

He nodded his agreement of her evaluation. "I believe you are right," he agreed, his voice soft, his gaze distant. "I just hope it is soon enough."

Dr. Sam did not let him see how this comment disturbed her. She saw him comfortably settled and went back to her own room. If she was aware of Zachary standing quietly in the shadows watching, she did not let him know it.

A world away, on a deserted, fog shrouded beach in England, a man stood on the drop off above the sand and stared into the fog. He had been standing there for some time when a second figure solidified out of the cold, gray damp and came to stand beside him. For a few silent minutes, he ignored her.

"Canute discovered that even being king of the Britons did not give him the power to turn back the tide when it came in," she observed conversationally.

"At least he knew where it was coming from."

She nodded, her wildly curling hair bobbing around her head. "Yeah. Out there." She gestured to the fog. You could just hear the soft susurration of the waves flowing in and out at the edge of the beach a hundred feet away. "Somewhere."

"Trying to make me feel better?"

She chuckled. "Yes."

He looked around at her. After all these years, it was still startling to find her head on a level with his own. He reached out for her, pulling her into his arms and burying his face in the soft mass of her hair. He trembled as her arms went around him.

"It's all right," she murmured into his ear.

"No, it's not," came the usual strained response.

"Mmm. Not living up to your predecessor?" she asked mildly.

"No."

There was such a world of pain in that response. She wondered if his predecessor had felt the same, as if no matter how much you gave, how hard you worked, it was never quite enough. She held him in silence for a while until he pulled back a little. Arms still around her ample form, he looked into the hazel eyes with wonder. He still wasn't sure why she loved him, why she stood with him. His eyes dropped from her clear gaze. How could she look him in the face that way? Never flinching, never letting her disgust at the sight of him surface. He made to pull away and found she wasn't letting go just yet.

"You're an idiot," she told him lovingly.

"How so?"

She reached up and touched the ravaged side of his face, the side that had taken the brunt of an alien energy burst, the skin crisping, blistering, melting away from the bone. "You keep thinking this makes a difference in how I love you. You keep thinking that it makes a difference in how your people see you. It does, but not the way you think. You survived, Paul. You held people together when there looked to be no hope of surviving, much less pulling anything functional out of a major defeat. You've kept things going and progressing for ten years."

"They're not coming back," he broke in suddenly.

"Why not?" She knew this had been preying on his mind ever since he'd gotten the first call saying the sleepers were stirring.

He met her calm gaze again. "It's been 18 months, MayBelle. Nothing. They're gone."

"And how frequently did you tell me this while they were in coma?"

"This is -- it isn't different, is it?"

"No. Look, from what you've told me, you didn't expect them to come out of the induced comas, not after the first few days. You believed you'd destroyed them by letting them take the chance with an experimental drug. And we keep telling you that you had nothing to do with it."

"I could have stopped them."

"And how many of them would be dead, instead of hazy, legend figures for those who are left? Live legends are better than dead heroes, any day. Give them time."

"Time. God, that's all I ever ask for -------"

"And we get it," she pointed out softly. "Harlington-Straker has risen from the ashes of the terrorist attack that burned the studio to the ground ten years ago. You've successfully turned it into a profit maker, you've allied with my studio, you've managed to guide what was left of a demoralized organization and get it back on its feet and you've done all this with only the shadows of the legends to back you up."

He smiled at that, a lopsided grimace of sorts. "At least I didn't have to work with Henderson to put things back together. I still think someone in his office was in on that attack."

"Well, that is all over and done with. H-S is a shining star in the indie constellations and, except for getting MoonBase back online, you've rebuilt the organization quite well. And financially you're on better footing than your predecessor ever was."

"Not his fault. He did a damn fine job -- in spite of Henderson and the AstroPhysical Committee."

"I thought you liked General Henderson," she jibed softly, with a grin that took the sting out of the words.

"I thought I wanted command, to take the fight to the opposition -- I thought a lot of stupid things for a long time."

"See, I am a good influence," she told him with a laugh.

"Yes, you are," he agreed softly. He pulled her into his arms again and held her tight.

"Breathing. Good idea."

They both chuckled as he loosened his grip.

"Harridan."

"Playboy."

"Bitch."

"Womanizer."

"Not these days."

"I've noticed a fall off in starlets. Your rep is slipping." She pulled him into a good, long, loving kiss that left them both on the breathless side. "You know something, big fella."

"What?"

"It's cold out here. Shall we go back now?"