Author's second note: Wow, and this thing is finished a little over 48 hours after the first chapter! Success! =D I guess I really wanted Orenda to see it before she went away, so that kinda spurred me on. This chapter is not nearly as long as the last chapter, thank goodness. Back to the normal chapter size for this fanfic, it seems. The next chapter should be around this size, too. I wonder how long before that one's done . . . I've been waiting to get to these scenes for a long time, which is why wrote this chapter so fast. Especially the last scene--I had a ton of different versions to it, and then this one came out. It's slightly different than I thought it would be, but it works well, and so I don't mind that much. At either rate, now that I've finished this chapter, I should probably work on my website some more. Like getting screen captures and the like. Well, if I can get screen captures with my graphics card. Then again, my parents want to make me do scholarships. *Sighs* We'll have to see, though.
Author's third note: Even though I finished this 48 hours after the last chapter, I delayed releasing this one because I wanted to get everyone a chance to be on the same page... I didn't want anyone to have to deal with 17 new pages of text at once. So I gave people a chance to read chapter three first before I put this one on the internet. The only exception to this was Orenda, because she's my beta-reader for this fanfic and I really wanted it beta-read before she left. =P Thanks Orenda! And thanks to Lily C. again, for helping me out with Cammy's reactions and medical condition! (Of course, she helped me a really long time ago, so she probably doesn't remember the conversation. Or maybe she does. Lol.) At any rate, let's end these long author notes and get on to the fanfic! Enjoy!
"What's all this about, Wildwing?" Mallory was the first to arrive and Wildwing looked over to her.
"I'll explain as soon as Grin gets here and Duke comes back from leading Klegghorn out," Wildwing answered and Mallory sucked in an angry breath.
"What?? Klegghorn was here?" her frown grew worse and Wildwing frowned back at her.
"He wasn't here to accuse us of anything. In fact, we owe him our thanks." Wildwing sighed, shaking his head. "He's still helping us, even."
Mallory blinked in confusion and Wildwing smiled softly to her, "I'll explain it in a few."
"You'd better," she gave him a suspicious look, crossing her arms impatiently.
Wildwing regarded her and barely suppressed a chuckle at Mallory's expression. She glared at him and he looked away, hoping that the others would be there shortly. Mallory wasn't the waiting type.
Duke stopped in front of the hidden exit and Klegghorn smiled slightly, causing his companion to blink, "What is it?"
"Ah, nothing--just thinking of a memory," Klegghorn shook his head. "At least I'm not getting locked out this time."
"Ack, don't remind me. That was embarrassing." Duke winced, punching in the code.
"You and me both," Klegghorn replied as the door opened with a hiss. "I'll be back as soon as possible. Hopefully I will be able to time it before the kid wakes up. He'll probably appreciate a full set of clothing on him."
Duke nodded in response, remaining silent. His thoughts were already drifting back to the boy and he sighed, shaking his head sadly. Klegghorn nodded quietly in understanding.
"Don't worry, I know the way from here.. See you." Klegghorn left immediately afterwards, knowing he wouldn't get a responsive from the meditative Duke.
The mallard sighed as he watched Klegghorn walk away, closing the door as soon as the police captain was out of sight. He turned around and started walking back, wondering how everything seemed to change so fast. Now that there was a child in the Pond, they'd have to work around him. All six of them couldn't go on a mission, anymore. At least, not until Phil could be trusted with the child. If Phil could ever be trusted. The horrors he could wreck to that poor child's mind . . . .
Duke shook his head at that thought, then focused his mind back onto what Wildwing was obviously going to tell the others, wondering how they would take the news. The idea of Mallory taking care of the kid brought a smile to his face. That would be a sight to see.
Wildwing smiled to Grin when his teammate came into view, "Well, all we have to do is wait for Duke."
"What about Nosedive and Tanya?" Mallory asked. "Aren't they coming too?"
"They're already in the Infirmary. They're well aware of the situation. Duke already knows as well, but I'd like it if he was here to help explain it with me." Wildwing replied and Mallory muttered.
"He'd better get here fast, then," Mallory frowned. "I don't like waiting."
"We all know that, sweetheart," Duke stated, walking up to the others, grinning to Mallory as she fixed a glare at him.
Wildwing rolled his eyes. "Knock it off you two. The reason why I called you all here is because we have a new situat-"
"-Just cut to the chase," Mallory growled impatiently.
Wildwing sighed and shook his head, "Okay, then. We have a duckling in the Pond. One of ours."
Mallory's beak dropped open and she stared at Wildwing, all impatience quickly forgotten, "A-Are you s-serious . . ?"
"I'm quite serious. He was . . . very weak, so we immediately took him into the Infirmary after Klegghorn found him," Wildwing sighed softly, then continued. "He was in pretty bad shape."
"Is the little one better now?" Grin asked, concern, and shock, expressed on his face.
"And what's his name? How old is he?" Mallory added quickly, dropping her hands to her sides.
"For the most part, he is," Wildwing answered Grin's question first, "Although . . . He hit his head on the way down from the dimensional gateway and got a concussion. He'll be out the rest of the night, so we don't know his name yet. Tanya says he's about five or six years old, however. We did, uhm, nearly lose him, however . . . "
"L-Lost him?" Mallory's eyes widened. "How?!"
"Blood loss," Wildwing answered shortly. "Nosedive's blood type matched and we were able to give him enough real blood that Tanya could supplement it with synthetics."
"A-Anything else?" Mallory asked softly, knowing that Wildwing was holding something back.
"He has scars--claw marks," Duke spoke up, and Mallory turned her wide eyes to him. "They're pretty bad. He's goin' ta take some time ta recover."
Her surprise quickly turned to answer and she growled, clutching her fists, "Those bastards! I'll-"
"-Help us take care of him," Wildwing interrupted her beginning tirade. "He's going to need love and care. Not anger. Is that clear?"
"S-Sorry Wildwing, i-it's just that . . . " She shook her head angrily, gritting her teeth. "He's only a kid!"
"Well, then be angry somewhere else, but not near him. You could scare him if he sees you angry." Wildwing stated and Mallory sighed, finally giving in, relaxing her fists. "That's better."
Grin placed a hand on her shoulder, "You can help him more with love than with hate. The Saurians that did this are out of our reach. He, however, is now within our reach. It is our duty to help him in every way possible."
Mallory nodded softly, humbled, "R-Right."
"May we see the little one?" Grin asked and Wildwing nodded quietly, pushing the button to open the infirmary doors.
Tanya and Nosedive looked up as the others entered, Nosedive smiling weakly to Wildwing, "Hey, big bro'."
Mallory and Grin walked up to the child, but most of the damage was hidden by the bandages, so they could only guess at the extent of his injuries. Tanya waited until Duke and Wildwing had joined them before speaking.
"There is more that you need to know. The child was raped--more than once." only Nosedive didn't show surprise; he knew from before.
The rest, however . . . .
"S-Stars, w-what didn't happen to him??" Wildwing asked in alarm, new to the information. "It sounds like they did everything to him!"
"Besides the claw marks and the . . " Tanya shook her head sadly, trailing off for a moment before continuing, "he wasn't tortured physically in any other fashion. Although he's malnourished, he's not dehydrated. They at least gave him enough water to live on, mostly likely because they were afraid he'd die too fast if they didn't."
Mallory forced back the oath on the tip of her tongue and took a deep breath, controlling her anger. She couldn't risk scaring the child, even if he was unconscious. Loud enough noises could possibly wake him up and if she started, she knew she would never stop until it was too late. It was better to let him rest and recover.
"Poor kid, he looks like hell," Mallory shook her head, sighing softly. "Are you sure he'll make it?"
"Physically, yes," Tanya replied. "Mentally? That remains to be seen."
"Through our strength, he shall grow stronger," Grin stated quietly and Nosedive cracked a tiny smile.
"Yeah, that's the plan," Nosedive looked up to Wildwing, " . . . Isn't it?"
Wildwing chuckled softly, nodding. "Of course."
"He looks like such a gentle child," Mallory commented, reaching up a hand to stroke the boy's hair. "I wonder what his name is. . . "
"We should know tomorrow, if all goes well," Tanya smiled softly to her teammate; even Mallory couldn't help but care for the child, and that was a good sign. "All we can do now is wait for Klegghorn to get back with the clothes I've asked him for. That way, the child can wake up without feeling so threatened."
The others agreed and began to discuss the shifts they would take in watching the child during the night.
A couple of hours later, Klegghorn commed the others, asking for someone to lead him back to the Infirmary. Duke volunteered and returned shortly with Klegghorn, splitting a number of shopping bags between the two of them. The others curiously watched them as they put the bags down on a nearby bio-bed, wondering what the police officer had bought to clothe the boy.
"You can look through the other items later, but I thought this would be appropriate for him to wear," Klegghorn stated, rooting in one of his bags. "Since he's going to be living with you and all . . .Ah, here it is."
He pulled out a pair of silk pyjamas and Nosedive let out a snort of laughter as the others chuckled.
Duke shook his head, chuckling, "Cute, Klegghorn, cute. But did you really have to get him a set of PJs with our logo on it?"
Klegghorn smirked and handed them to Tanya, as well as a pair of underwear. "I've already washed them, so feel free to put them on him."
"Thanks," Tanya nodded to him, then looked to everyone. "Turn around so I can dress him. Even though he's unconscious, he probably would want some privacy when I put on his underwear."
The others didn't argue with her point and a minute later, she told them it was okay for them to look back. She had also, in that amount of time, transferred the boy over from being on a bio-bed to being on a medical cot she had devised not too long ago. It didn't have as many instruments as the bio-beds did, but it was more comfortable for the child. They would be constantly monitoring the boy, so the lesser amount of equipment didn't pose too much of a problem; at the worst, they would just transfer him back onto a bio-bed to get a more detailed reading.
The others didn't complain, silently agreeing with Tanya's decision, and Tanya called over the youngest of her fellow teammates. Delicately, Nosedive helped Tanya put the rest of the clothes on the child, before they laid the child back down on his side. The clothing seemed to make him look even smaller than he already was, hanging loosely in many places.
"He'll grow into them as he gains his weight back, which I'll have to monitor carefully," Tanya stated, noticing the softened look in her companions' eyes.
"There's one thing missing," Mallory half-frowned in puzzlement; something wasn't right.
Klegghorn went searching in the bags again at Mallory's comment and pulled out a purple plush kitten. He straightened up and walked over to the others, gently placing it in between the child's arms. A small smile crossed his face when the boy unconsciously wrapped his arms a little tighter around the stuffed animal.
"Much better," Duke smiled in approval. "Now he doesn't look so lost anymore."
Tanya tucked a blanket around the boy, putting his head on a pillow, "And he'll walk up feeling safe for a change. Or at least, I hope he will."
Wildwing sighed, "I just wish we could make things . . . more like home."
"Well, while he's sleeping, I'm going to reprogram some of the toys that play music," Tanya stated, smiling slyly. "I have some music from Puckworld I brought with me, a number of them everyday children's songs, ones that any child would know. I'll program the melodies from those songs into the toys so that they play them instead of human children songs."
"Sounds good. What else?" Wildwing prompted.
Tanya sighed, "I'm afraid there's not much else I can do to remind him of Puckworld. Even if I could do more, anything more might make him sad. We don't want to remind him too much of the past. We'll have a crying duckling on our hands if we overdo it. We want to avoid antagonizing im in any way, shape, or form. That means anyone with him will have to move slowly and talk quietly, constantly reassuring him. And absolutely no yelling. That'll quickly throw him into fear mode and it might be hard to get him to trust any of us, then."
"Anything else we should do?" Mallory questioned and Tanya nodded.
"Maybe it's best if Grin doesn't come around him for a while and possibly Wildwing too," Tanya added gently and Wildwing looked at her in confusion.
"Why?" Wildwing looked to Tanya in worry. "Why me and Grin?"
"Our size," Grin explained simply, as if it was obvious. "We're big and he is not. We could easily overpower him and do what we please with him."
"But we wouldn't!" Wildwing's eyes went wide.
"That matters not. He sees us as big in his eyes. And big people are threats." Grin stated grimly and Wildwing sighed, nodding.
"Poor kid, but Grin's got a point. You don't mind taking care of him without me for a little while, do you, baby bro'?" Wildwing asked, glancing to his brother.
Nosedive shook his head, stroking the boy's hair. "Tanya'll take care of me. And once he trusts me, he'll learn how to trust you very quickly. I mean, you're my big brother and all, aren't you?"
Wildwing smiled, "I am? I didn't know . . . "
The reply from Nosedive came as a towel promptly thrown into Wildwing's face.
It was Tanya's shift when the boy finally awoke. She was stroking his hair softly when he flinched and turned his head, squeezing his eyes tightly against the overhead lights, which had been previously dimmed down. Tanya turned them down just a little bit more and continued stroking the child's hair.
She smiled softly as the child pressed into her hand and she chuckled softly.
The child froze at the sound of the chuckle, peeping softly in fear, and Tanya stiffened in response to his. Shushing him quietly, she went back to gently stroking his hair. His eyes flashed open in alarm and he fixed his eyes on her, but she continued her movement.
He didn't move, watching Tanya silently with his pale blue eyes, not sure what to make of her. She continued her slow, gentle movement, afraid that she might scare the child if she looked directly at him. Slowly, however, he began to shake and started to peep in fear. Even a gentle smoothing down of his hair was too much for him.
Tanya sighed softly, bringing her movement to a stop. The child immediately took it as an opportunity to scoot away from her, clutching his stuffed animal close. She sighed, stood up, pretending to ignore the child's loud peep of distress, and gently walked away to the other side of the room. He wasn't quite ready to deal with her yet and Tanya respected that. She decided to let him observe her a while before trying to approach him again. That would give him the chance to realize that she wouldn't harm him.
She walked over to the music-stick player she had brought from Puckworld, pushing small metal slivers into each slot. Each sliver was a little bit thicker than a human's finger nail and about wide and as long as half a human child's littlest finger, but were practically unbreakable and resistant to extreme heat and cold. Every one of the slivers contained a different song and the player was able to hold about five hundred of them in total. The slots were open on both sides except on the far ends of the rows, allowing for a single music-stick to be up to one-hundred songs thick, although Tanya had none of these, and so none were included. Tanya smiled softly as she slid the last music-stick into its slot and turned it on. It began to play from slot one and a gentle, soothing song began to wafer through the air, sung by a motherly voice. It was her favorite when she was a little duckling, so it was only fitting that she played it first now.
As the music began to play, the boy let out an silent, nearly inaudible gasp. She smiled at that--he recognized the song. Now if only he would recognize that she intended him no harm.
Tanya began to sing softly in unison with the song, working on one of the toys she was modifying. She listened for more movement as she worked, not really attempting to look anymore than busy. All was quiet except for her singing and the music coming from the music-stick player. And so it continued until about the tenth song.
Another sound drifted through the air--the soft, gentle sound of crying. Tanya's eyes softened, but she continued to pretend to work, until the crying grew much louder and peeps entered the mix. She stopped singing and closed her eyes, listening to the child as she debated with herself on what to do. Eventually the heart-broken, tired sobs of the boy became too much for her to bear and she stood up again, walking gently back over to him.
He had curled up in himself, clutching his new plush toy close. His body shook with his sobs, but not with fear. He had realized, but he didn't dare hope. The child knew he was free at long last. But he couldn't understand how or why. Tears drew wet streaks across his face as he squeezed his eyes closed, and Tanya sat down next to him, letting him cry for a little longer before she reached over to him.
The duckling looked up to her when she started to stroke his hair up again, letting his sobs slowly die away until he was only peeping silently. She smiled to him lovingly, turning her hand to gently wipe away his tears with the back of her index finger. He began to shy away, but then thought better of it and let her do as she wished. His eyes looked up into her, silently pleading with her.
"You're free," Tanya whispered quietly, answering his unspoken question. "You're safe now."
He stared at her in disbelief, and she smiled softly, cupping his cheek in her hand; her smile widened when he leaned into her touch, and she repeated her words, "You're free. You're safe. Don't worry, little one."
The boy didn't move from his position and he looked up at her, eyes still wide in surprise. He stared at her for a minute, maybe two, perfectly still and motionless. She began to grow worried and her eyes softened even more.
A deep-throated sob was all the warning Tanya had before the duckling exploded into action, jumping up and wrapping his arms around her waist tightly. He then buried his face into her lap and began to cry softly, too tired to cry as hard as before. She let out a gasp of surprise, although her eyes quickly took on their gentle gaze once more.
Tanya stroked his hair gently, making sure not to aggravate his injuries any further as she shifted her position slightly to make them both more comfortable. His grip, weak from lack of muscle, relaxed over time as the gentle sobs died away. He looked up to her once more and she smiled to him.
"I'll hold you if you want me to," Tanya gently whispered, still stroking his hair. "But be careful; you're very injured, and I don't want you to hurt yourself worse."
The child nodded quietly and grabbed his stuffed kitten by one of its forelegs, gently clambering onto Tanya's lap, letting his legs dangle off the edge of her lap as he got comfortable. He settled down after a minute and rested his head against her chest, snuggling into her softly. Smiling even more, Tanya gently wrapped her arms around the child as he wrapped his arms around his stuffed animal.
Together, the two of them sat unmoving from their spot for many minutes, neither daring to speak, as if they were afraid the moment would be shattered, and it would be revealed to be nothing more than a dream. The child shifted in Tanya's arms after a while, going still once more after he got more comfortable. She decided to break the silence.
"I-I'm Tanya Vanderflock, but you can call me Taunny if you wish. What's your name?" She smiled softly down to him and he looked up to her in surprise.
"I'm C..Camden G-Glosshart," the boy replied, still looking up to her, "B-But I l-like b-being called C..Cammy.."
Tanya blinked, then smiled, nuzzling his beak tenderly with her own, "Then Cammy it is."
-Glosshart? He's Commander Glosshart's son? I didn't know he had a child this little.- Tanya shook her head; she'd worry about it later when she relayed the information to Wildwing.
Camden looked down quickly to his stomach, then up to Tanya again, "Taunny?"
"Was is it, honey?" Tanya asked, nuzzling the duckling's beak once more.
"I'm hungry," his eyes grew pleading again. "C-Can I..I have s-something to eat?"
Her eyes softened and she nodded gently, "Of course you can have something to eat."
Tanya gently lifted the boy off her lap and placed him down onto the bed. Standing up, she stroked his cheek gently. Smiling, she walked over to the counter, grabbing a small container of pre-mixed newborn duckling food from out of the newly installed countertop fridge. Tanya had prepared for everything at the start of the mission, to the best of her ability, trying to make sure they were ready for any situation they would find in the Master Tower. One such situation was the finding of orphan newborn ducklings--they were considered a delicacy among certain groups of Saurians. Their mother's milk was supplemented by semi-solids right from the start, and if their mother died, the father or remaining relatives would turn to relying on semi-solids and formula.
She had no use for the formula, so she kept it in its dry state. However, she knew that Camden would be able to keep down the food and so she had prepared some. If he wasn't able to keep even that down, there was little chance of him surviving at all. But he was hungry and that was a good sign, a very good sign.
Tanya stuck the food in the microwave, heating it up on a little before pulling it out again. Filling a glass of water and grabbing two syringes, she walked back over to Camden's side and sat down next to him. She couldn't help but notice how eagerly he watched her. Ah, he really was hungry.
"How about if you just sit here and I feed you?" Tanya smiled gently to the boy. "That way, you can save your energy in getting better."
"A-Am I going to g..get better . . ?" Camden asked, looking up to her with hope in his eyes.
The sight of renewed hope in the child brought tears to Tanya's eyes, but she withheld them, "Yes, you will, Cammy. That's why you gotta eat."
"S-Syringes?" Camden blinked, attention diverted, looking to the device in Tanya's hand. "But I'm n-not a n..newborn . . . "
"But you're weak and this is the easiest way. You'll only have to swallow," she explained, hiding her surprise that he knew its name, "And you'll have to eat newborn food for a little while until your stomach gets better. Now open up."
"O-Okay," Camden obediently opened his beak and Tanya filled the first syringe with water, slowly emptying it until it was empty.
She did the same with a small bite of food, using the other syringe. And so the process went on, until all of the food and water were spent. Camden looked to the glass and container in shock when he realized they were empty.
"B-But I-I'm s..still hungry!" he looked up to Tanya, eyes shining with tears. "W-Why d..did you stop..?"
"You're stomach's weak, sweety," Tanya's eyes softened and she tried hard not to give into him. "If I fed you more, you'd get sick . . . "
"I-I d..don't w-want to g..get sick," Camden's voice dropped to a whisper and Tanya started to stroke his hair.
"I know you don't," Tanya reassured him. "So you should lay down and get some sleep. You're going to be sleepy soon because you've eaten."
"B-But-" Camden hesitated, then clung to Tanya, starting to shake. "I-I d..don't wanna g-go back to s-sleep!"
Tanya sighed, her eyes saddening, "Cammy-"
"Y-You'll d-disappear!" he exclaimed fearfully, clinging to her tightly. "I-I d..don't wanna l-lose you!"
"I promise I won't disappear," Tanya replied soothingly, stroking his hair some more. "I'm going to stay with you. If you lay down, I'll lay down next to you. That way, you'll wake up if I move away. Is that okay with you?"
Camden thought for a moment, then nodded softly, "Y-Yeah . . . Can y-you keep the m..music on? I-I like it . . . "
"Okay," Tanya smiled in relief, "I'll go tend these dishes. You just get all nice and comfortable, okay?"
He nodded again and slowly let go of her, watching her intently as she walked over to the counter and deposited the dishes on it. The duckling wasn't going to let her out of his sight. Camden had already lost too many people and he wasn't losing another.
She smiled to him as she turned around and walked back to his side, "You haven't laid down yet."
He watched her for a moment, then laid down slowly, wrapping his arms around his plush toy once more. After he made room for Tanya, she laid down next to him and gave him a warm smile, gently wrapping an arm around his hip as not to hurt him. Camden watched Tanya for a few minutes, before deciding that she'd keep her promise. The child yawned softly, then slowly closed his eyes, settling down next to Tanya, snuggled up against her.
She listened softly as his breaths evened out and he fell into slumber once more. Tanya couldn't help but smile. Not only had she managed to gain his trust, but she had managed to give him food and water as well. And now Camden was getting more of the sleep he sorely needed. A good start for only just waking for the first time.
Those hurdles were passed, bringing them to more tricky ones. She'd have to introduce him to the others and teach him how to be happy once more. And, once he was recovered on sleep, he'd most likely start having terrible nightmares. How were they going to deal with those? This was only the first leg of Cammy's journey back to health and well-being.
Tanya nuzzled Camden's forehead softly and closed her eyes, resting her head on his pillow as well. She was relieved by the knowledge that he still had the will to survive. Perhaps his innocence gave him a shield of protection that kept him from understanding the terrible things that had happened to him. Maybe, if he had been older, he wouldn't have survived.
But here he was, snuggled up against her. He was safe and sound . . . And he knew it. He knew that he would be okay and that she would take care of him. Camden trusted her. Tanya found that thought comforting. After all he had been through, he could still trust. He indeed really was a fighter. A little champion in his own right. Because he had won against the Saurians, just like Nosedive, Wildwing, and Duke. Especially like Nosedive, the youngest Mighty Duck being the closest in age.
She found her thoughts drifting off, but she didn't fight it. The entire night had been sleepless for her, although she pretended to get rest. Worry had kept her awake, had kept her from seeking the solace of sleep. Only she truly understood what he had been through, or at least, she understood it better than the others. And because she had treated so many of his wounds, she had felt responsible for his welfare. If he had died . . . .
No, she wouldn't think about that. Tanya sighed softly, pulling Camden a little closer. Sleep came to her quickly, now that she at least knew that the child survived the journey to Earth. And she would make sure that he'd survive the recovery.
Promising herself this, Tanya let herself succumb to sleep, falling into bittersweet dreams.
*End of Chapter Four*