Okay, I got the idea for this story years ago and have fiddled with it ever since. I was inspired by some other fics I read but unfortunately I couldn't find them again in order to give recognition. I thnk I made this different enough from any other story of a similar kind. I hope so anyway. I tried not to steal anything.
I should say that my knowledge of the Fantastic Four is strictly movieverse with some odd snippets gleaned from the internet. My characters are as true to the movie as I could get them.
There is one more part. It is finished and will be posted shortly. I just wanted to get a feel for how the story was recieved.
I own nothing. Just some pocket dragons that don't come into play here.
"Remember, Johnny. Remember," Reed whispers into Johnny's ear.
"Reed, what are you talking about?" Johnny tries to twist so he can see the scientist, but the strap around his chest prevents him. He looks down at himself, confusion evident in his blue eyes. He doesn't remember being strapped down.
"You'll see, Johnny. Just remember everything, and you'll see." Reed shifts to a set of controls just outside Johnny's vision.
"What are you doing? We have to get out! He's coming. Reed, he's…"
"I know, but it's too late. I'm sorry I don't have time to explain, but this is our last chance to set things right. It's up to you. I'm sorry but it has to be you."
"Reed, they'll… Can't lose you, too." Though the anguish in Johnny's voice cuts him to the core, Reed pauses only a moment before returning to the controls. Sounds from the other side of the laboratory door bode ill for both of them.
Johnny struggles weakly to free himself, but injury and exhaustion overpower him. When Reed is finally ready, he stands over Johnny, clasps his hand, and stares him straight in the eyes.
"I've been working on this as a backup plan for years. I'm sorry, but I wasn't sure I could ever get it to work and didn't want to give you false hope. Now it's our only chance, but you have to go alone. I have to stay and make sure they can't follow."
"No. Johnny, listen. We don't have much time. I need you to know how honored I am to have you as a friend and brother. I love you, Johnny Storm. Remember me." Reed checks the wound and prays his plan will include at least some healing.
"Reed, please…" Johnny calls out, straining to reach for his friend. Reed's downward gaze is sad, but determined. Slowly, he reaches into his pocket, pulls a metal string out, and reverently places it around Johnny's neck.
"Remember. Just remember." Reed Richards places a gentle kiss on Johnny's forehead, stretches one arm to the controls, and flips the switch. If Johnny was going to say anything else, the words are lost as pressure begins to build in his chest.
His back arches. His mouth opens wordlessly. Reed holds his gaze; one hand reaches out, but stops just short of actual touch. The pressure increases, and soon Johnny's vision begins to gray.
Sound is muted. Soon he can hear nothing. For as long as he can, Johnny looks straight back at Reed, memorizing him once more. Reed looks so much older to him than his 80-plus years.
When the pressure becomes so intense he's sure he'll burst, he loses sight as well as sound.
Then he is falling.
He is cold.
The uncomfortable thought enters his mind unbidden. He can't remember the last time he was cold.
This probably has something to do with being the Human Torch. It's hard to get cold when you can command fire. Nonetheless, he is cold. Why?
Slowly, his mind scans his other senses: grit under his cheek, light shining through his eyelids, water rushing close by, wind whistling through leaves.
Wait, he is outside? But he's inside with Reed. Isn't he?
His eyes snap open as recent events flood his consciousness. Galvanized into action, he attempts to gain his feet, Reed's name bursting from his lips, but he only collapses in a painful coughing fit. He lies half submerged in water, waiting until he can breathe without too much agony before carefully sitting up.
He squints at his surroundings, frowning. They are familiar. He isn't sure why, but at least now he has the answer to the troubling question of why he is cold. He has been lying in the bend of a swift, ice-cold river. He notices dark stains in the sand beneath him.
Blood loss. As his mind makes the connection, he looks down, expecting to see the eight-inch gash in his suit. He blinks. There is a gash there and definite blood stains. That much makes sense. The damage is not, however, as extensive as he remembers. He'd been hurt pretty badly by the time he'd stumbled back to Reed, exposing their last remaining hideout. Gingerly, he pokes his fingers through the fabric, wincing from contact with the warm tender skin just beginning to heal. The cut is barely half as long as it once was.
"What is this?" he murmurs, shivering slightly as he struggles to stand and escape the heat-leaching water. "Reed, what have you done?" He runs one hand through his hair, not entirely surprised when he finds the hairline sooner than he should.
"A mirror. I need a mirror." With this declaration he takes his first halting step away from the river, then a second, and a third. He is forced to pause when his side begins to burn from the exertion, but at least the movement doesn't start the wound bleeding again.
Even more slowly, he scrambles up the bank and heads into the woods, toward a path he can see ahead of him. It is obviously well traveled, something which can mean trouble. Being out in the open, injured and confused, is dangerous for anyone, but doubly so for one of the final two members of the Fantastic Four. Doom has eyes everywhere.
He is not sure what Reed has done to him, not sure if his sudden appearance in this light-filled forest means he is beyond reach. He is starting to formulate a few theories, though. A couple are downright absurd, but one or two might be speculation in the right direction. However, he will wait until he has more information before concluding anything. He has always been the most impulsive member of the group, but time and experience has taught him the importance of thinking at least a little before leaping.
As soon as he reaches the path, he pauses, scrutinizing his surroundings more closely and trying to figure out why it is so familiar. He glances both ways down the path, trying to pinpoint what exactly is bothering him.
Besides everything, he thinks despondently, randomly choosing a direction and shuffling forward.
"So what did you do?"
"What do you think? I decked him."
What? Johnny stops dead at the sound of two voices, both young. They sound too happy and carefree to be any of Doom's people. Then again, they sound too happy and carefree not to be some of Doom's people. The implications of what he is hearing lends more credence to one of his more practical theories, as far as any of them are practical.
He is just realizing he should get off the path and out of sight when the unknown people round the corner. All three of them freeze for a few comical seconds before speaking at once.
"Oh. My. God."
"No way man."
Johnny stares at two young men, the older appearing to be just shy of twenty. They share the same light brown eyes and curly black hair and are wearing identical expressions of shock. Brothers. Johnny tries to think of something to say, even as he searches for the strength to flee.
"You're the Human Torch. I can't tell you how much I've wanted to meet you," the younger of the two gushes, rushing forward before Johnny can react and grasping his hand, pumping it vigorously. Johnny manages to smile tightly and not groan as the violent motion yanks at his side. The kid is still talking, but Johnny is too busy staying upright to hear what he's saying.
"Yo Scott, back off," the older one speaks up, interrupting his brother in mid flow.
"Huh? What, Luke?" Scott sputters, not releasing his grip on Johnny's hand. Luke peers straight at Johnny. He doesn't bother to speak, just disentangles their hands. He places one arm around the Torch's waist and the freed arm across his own shoulders.
"You're hurt, Mr. Torch, and we don't live that far from here. We'll get you fixed up and back to the rest of the Fantastic Four before dinner."
"Oh my God, you are hurt," Scott blurts when he recovers from his brother's interruption. He begins to lead them back in the direction from which they just came, heedlessly ignoring the half-formed protests coming from Johnny.
Before Johnny really knows what is going on, the brothers are leading him into a small, cozy house at the end of a rather long driveway with no neighbors in sight. They bring him to a full-sized bathroom and immediately get to work: setting out clothes, a towel, and the first aid kit; starting the shower; and placing a glass of water next to some pain meds. It's all laid out before Johnny is properly aware.
Luke insists on checking the wound before letting Johnny step into the shower. Already, it is steaming up the room, and the warmth is a relief. Johnny still hasn't recovered from his dunk in the river and the blood loss. Luke gently eases off the top half of his suit, revealing scattered scrapes and bruises, the stomach wound, and two simple rings on a sturdy metal chain.
"Well, despite all the blood, it looks like it's already healed over enough that we won't have to cover it when you shower. Just be careful. Would you like us to call the rest of the group while you get cleaned up?" Luke finishes his examination and looks up, tilting his head in consideration and thoughtfully not mentioning the rings. Johnny blinks, then processes what has been said and shakes his head emphatically.
"No, I'll call later. I wasn't supposed to be out and about with this injury..." He lets the sentence hang, hoping that the two will fill in the blanks on their own. He needs them to get out so he can take stock of his situation and see if he can get a better idea about what is happening.
"Okay. We'll be in the living room. Take your time and get warmed up. You're still shivering." With that, they leave, closing the door behind them. Johnny blinks again. He hadn't realized how noticeably he was shivering. Ah well, nothing to be done about it now. Shaky with more than cold, he gingerly strips off the remainder of his suit and slips beneath the blessedly hot water.
He sighs, head down, just letting the water caress him. He soaks up the warmth his body is too weak to supply on its own. His fingers curl protectively around the rings: Sue and Reed's wedding rings. Reed had worn Sue's ring on a chain after… after the worst came to pass. He would never have taken it off unless he knew he wouldn't need it. And to give Johnny his own ring as well…
Eventually, the water begins to cool, and he is able to drag himself away from that line of thinking. Cautiously, he cleans himself off, steps out, dries himself off, and slips on the sweatpants that have been left for him.
The steam has fogged up the window, but Johnny is okay with that. First, he opens the first aid kit and takes care of the scrapes that are still there, smaller than they should be, but still there. Tugging on his t-shirt, he picks up his suit, wincing to see it still streaked with blood. He turns on the faucet and rinses out the dark stains in the sink. By the time he is done, the steam has faded from the mirror, and Johnny gets his first good look at himself since waking up.
He braces against the sink with one hand, the other rising to his face. His fingers brush the white line marring his forehead and interrupting his hairline. He is relieved to see it in a way, but shocked at its appearance. Where before it had crossed from beside his right eye to the top of his head, leaving a three-inch bald line, now it starts above his eye and comes to an end only an inch or so into his hairline.
He can still remember when it occurred, can still feel the metal slice through skin, into bone, can still recall how close he came to dying if not for Reed. He remembers the look on his sister's face and the gruff worry in Ben's tone when he woke up two days later.
The four of them had celebrated his recovery, an all out celebration that had them in stitches by the end. It is the last time Johnny can recall being truly happy, the last time he smiled and meant it.
The presence of this scar means he isn't going crazy. It also bolsters one of his crazy theories. His young face, the diminished scar; it all implies Reed's sent him back in time, maybe back to before he received the wound.
The brothers' questions lend even more credibility to this theory, if time travel can be a credible theory. They have asked about getting in touch with the rest of the Fantastic Four.
With his sister.
"Hey, are you okay in there?" Luke asks through the door, concerned at the length of time Johnny has spent in the bathroom. Clearing his throat, Johnny calls out that he is great and will be right out; he just needs a minute more.
He folds up his suit and heads into the living room where the two boys have prepared a simple meal for him. He is touched by the kind gesture, the likes of which he has not experienced for longer than he cares to admit.
"Thanks for all this. I don't want to trouble you."
"Oh, it's no problem, Mister Torch, no problem at all," Scott says enthusiastically, as he watches Johnny commence with the soup. Uncomfortable under their scrutiny, Johnny grasps for a way to distract himself.
"Um, I don't suppose you have today's paper by any chance."
"Of course we do. Would you like to see it?"
"I think that's why he asked, Scott. Why don't you go fetch it. It's on the table." Scott scurries quickly into the other room and is back before Johnny has managed another sip of soup.
"Thanks," Johnny says as he takes the paper, opening it up on his lap and immediately searching out the date. Not that he needs confirmation. But it is there nonetheless, in bold black and white: Monday, Nov. 23, 2011.
"Something wrong?" Scott questions softly. Johnny tears his gaze from the date and shakes his head, giving a small smile.
"Sorry, just thinking." They accept that, and Johnny goes back to the paper. He means to see which paper it is so he can better pinpoint his location, but the picture attached to the front page story catches his attention first.
It shows a building in ruins, flames reaching to the sky. A dark-haired man, watching from a safe distance, stands alone among a group of frightened children. Maybe the effects of Reed's machine or the images triggered by his earlier reflection in the mirror have made him vulnerable, but suddenly a memory, no longer fact, overcomes him.
The picture on the page shifts in his head to another scene, another building. This building is not on fire, but it is broken and on the verge of collapse as he hastens to rescue the children trapped inside.
"Don't worry, I got you," Johnny speaks softly, maintaining his firm, yet gentle, grip on the little boy. He spares one glance for his sister, her hands up as she concentrates on holding the force field steady. She is bracing the building to give Johnny the time he needs to get the last of the kids outside to Reed, who waits with the children they have already rescued.
"That's it. We're almost there." The boy, who can't be more than eight, clings to his arm, trembling even more than the building around them. They are only twenty feet from the opening where Reed stands surrounded by the nine other children. Johnny feels it is twenty feet too far.
"Reed, little help here," Johnny calls to his brother-in-law. Seconds later, two arms extend through the hole and hover. Speaking calm reassurances, Johnny lifts the boy and places him carefully into the waiting hands.
"Ben back?" The question breaks free without his approval.
"No, but he found the two boys and is headed back now." Reed's voice, clear and firm, reaches him almost immediately. Johnny nods once before slipping back into the ruined building.
"Sue, I need to make one more sweep," he shouts as he picks his way through the debris. Sue turns towards him and nods weakly; blood drips steadily from her nose.
He moves as quickly as he can, double-checking the rooms that used to belong to the foster home. Finding them empty, he returns to his sister and gives the all clear.
He is nearly at her side when another explosion rips through the building. He hears his sister cry out as it flings him to the ground. He covers his head and forces himself to wait until no more debris is falling before he struggles to his knees. He immediately looks toward his sister. She has ended up on her knees as well, one slender hand splayed out on the floor beneath her, one trembling hand still focusing the force field above.
Her eyes seek his, find them, capture them. He knows.
"NO!" he shouts and pushes to his feet. She can't. He won't let her. He takes the first step toward her. Her lips part, and he reads the message he cannot hear. One more step. Only three more, and he will be at her side, and...
She sweeps her upper arm in a wide downward arc. Johnny feels his feet leave the ground and his back strike the outer wall.
"Sue." The sound expels from him when he hits. The brief moment of disorientation is all that is needed for hands to wrap firmly around him and pull. The last image he has is his sister prone on the floor as the building finally collapses completely.
"SUE!" he shouts again, struggling at last as the dust begins to rise. He screams until he is hoarse, oblivious to the terrified, wide-eyed children as he fights to race back into the building. Strong arms quiver as they clutch him close. Even though tears stream without check down Reed's face, his voice never joins Johnny's.