Here is the second of the Runaway's stories. Sorry it took so long, but this one is a lot longer so enjoy!
Klara use to spend her days wishing she would never live to see another.
It was dark and all Klara knew was that she was in the no-man's land of waking and dreaming and in pain. The dull, deep, aching pain that made her want to fall completely asleep, but instead kept her awake…..almost.
Klara is running, fumbling really, through the streets of New York City. She's not sure where she is going or what sort of madness is compelling her to desperately try and find the wonder named Molly, but it's too late to take back the decision. Her husband is trapped in the room they share by a garden of roses that had sprung up when Klara couldn't take his hitting her, touching her even when she protested, degrading her any more. Molly and Karolina maybe sinners, but they had never even attempted to do those things to her. If being a good devout girl meant putting up with everything that her husband does to her forever than Klara didn't want to be good anymore.
The pain recedes eventually. The darkness never goes away though Klara feels the warmth of the sun on her skin. Roses whisper in her ear. Telling her to sleep, to rest, that she needs both, but Klara can't quiet manage either and stays in the land of waking sleep.
The first time Klara is on the streets of New York City of the 21st century is very similar and drastically different from the first time she was there in the 1800s. It similar because she is stunned at what she sees. Nothing could be so different from her family farm in Bern than the towering, shiny metal towers of New York, the strange people, and overwhelming sights. It's similar because Klara can't pick her jaw up off the floor or spinning wildly to see everything single thing that Molly insists on pointing out.
It's different because the people she is with find her awe of this new world unlike her who smacked her to make her stop gawking. It's different because not five minutes into her stay in the 21st century there is an invasion of people who look a lot like the shape-shifter called Xavin. Then Klara is trapped in a war as her saviors try to decide whether to run or fight. After more bloodshed than the young girl ever wanted to see, they decide to run.
The sun vanishes. Klara feels like she is trapped in an endless night. The roses stop whispering; too tired to do anything just like Klara is too tired to wake up.
The first thing she knows once the group of runaways is settled into their new home in Malibu is that she loves California. The sun, the breeze off the ocean, the clear air. All of it makes her feel light and contented. Klara is confused about a lot of things that she see, but the feeling of safety makes her ignore the confusion. It last until the Masjedians show up and try to take Karolina away from them. By the end of the fighting, Xavin tricks everyone and goes in Karolina's place to face the angry remains of the Majesdian people. Klara watch Karolina fold up into herself bit by bit after Xavin left. Hiding out in her room, barely talking to the others. It's only when there's a fight or some sort of action that the group NEEDS to take that she gets involved. Klara would love to help her, but she doesn't know how and stays by Molly's side.
The silence eats away at the young plant manipulator. How long has she been in the darkness? Days? Weeks? Years?
"Please," she begs silently. "Someone, anyone, talk to me. Let me know I'm not alone."
She then strains her ears and after eternity hears the faint singing of the grass. Never has the idle, nonsensical, murmurs of plants made her feel so much joy. The grass say nothing interesting, but they are talking. Klara listens to those noises so hard she thinks her ears are bleeding and she cries out, begging the small plant to talk with her. It does reluctantly and through the teachings of grass Klara learns to speak with all the plants around her. The darkness is still everywhere, but Klara is no longer alone and that is all that matters.
Time passes with amazing quickness after that. Soon Klara is fighting zombies, playing video games, not bothering to truly understand the world she has run to, and breaks the habit of praying she doesn't wake up in the morning. It's amazing, it's fun, it's not everything she'd dreamed for, but much more than good enough. All this comes to a screeching halt when her new family decides to throw a party they call a prom. A small plane crashes through the house. The Leapfrog is destroyed, the house in ruins, and confusion reigns.
"She can't be dead, she can't be dead, she can't be dead." Klara chants in her head until Nico confirms that Old Lace has truly died protecting her and the young girl can hold it together no longer. She lashes out, the plants exploding as they feel her pain and envelop the ruins of her home. Nico puts her to sleep with a sleep as the vines start to hurt those around her. By the time Klara wakes back up a man she doesn't recognize is offering them a roof over their heads. She wants to take the offer, but the others refuse. They will not be bound to anyone no matter how genuine his wish to help them is. The runaways take a new Leapfrog and drift around the West Coast for a while. Chase is not with them and it is only three weeks later that Molly insists that they need to look for him. He is found in a Los Angeles hospital, in a coma. The doctors tell them that he has been like that for three weeks since he was hit by a car. Nico refuses to leave his bedside and Klara hears her privately swear that she will never let another runaway just disappear ever again.
The sun returns and with it comes rain. Klara starts to feel whole again as the roses are talking, singing, whispering, again. The darkness doesn't seem so scary now; in fact it is comforting. It reminds her of the spring rain that fell in Bern. The kind that brings life and hope to the plants even though it casts a shadow over the land.
Klara admires Molly greatly. She still is much like the bouncing innocent girl that Klara first met all those years ago. They've gotten news that Xavin has been executed and even when Karolina starts to fall apart; Nico, Victor, and Chase all cry over the news while Klara hugs Molly and wish she could have taken his/her's place on that alien ship. Xavin might not has been the most loved runaway, but he/she had been a loyal friend. The one thing that no one had ever doubted was that the shape-shifter would stick by them no matter what and that was so precious to this group that he/she was mourned by all of them.
"Like a thick fog." Klara whispers to Molly. "I can barely breathe with this pain in the air."
"Then let's go for a swim!" The mutant responds and pulls her towards the beach. They spend the afternoon playing there and even though nothing is truly better Klara is breathing easier. It is after they come back that Chase says that he thinks he is starting to feel Old Lace again. The runaways don't hesitate to go looking for the dinosaur and Klara has never been so happier than when they found Old Lace alive in a old world with the help of the some Avengers.
The rain ends, but the ground is so wonderfully damp that Klara has no trouble spreading her roots, reaching out her branches, and unfolding her leaves. The sun eagerly baths her in light though it has a tendency to snip her branches when she spreads out too far.
The roses take to speaking with the sun on the most beautiful days. Klara cannot hear what the sun says, but she can guess from how the roses react.
The world is on fire. Invaders attempt to burn her home of Malibu to the ground. She fights so hard, calling on not just the roses to tear her enemies apart, but the grass and the trees and the seaweed. The world answers her call of rage and tries valiantly to stem the flood of blades, fire, and bodies. Her flesh is burning along with her roses, but the flood stops. To her undying disgust, Klara uses the blood to put out her flaming hands and goes off to find the others. It takes hours to do so and the first one she finds is Molly. Klara sways and falls to the ground.
"N-n-no." She gasps out. "Heavenly Father please let this not be." But it is. Molly is clutching Chase's corpse, Old Lace growling her grief as the rest of her family arrives. No one knows how to deal with this. Chase had been the walls of the group, the one that sheltered them, the one that had always had their back from the beginning. Everything feels wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG. The group fractures into two groups: one of Molly, Karolina, and herself; and the other Victor and Nico. The groups huddle together; crying, mourning, telling tales of the man that should never had died. It is only on the whim of hungry stomachs, that they see each other a week later. Nico looks at Karolina, Molly rubs Old Lace's snout, and Klara stares at Victor for guidance as they huddle around the kitchen table.
"We need to find a way to make money." Nico says after a moment. "The food is running out and we're broke."
"Maybe Uncle Hunter's offer is still open?" Klara asked. Everyone looks at the witch.
"He did give Chase a job when we were in a tight place before." Victor points out. Nico closes her eyes.
"Okay, I'll talk to him later today. See if I can take Chase's job." Victor insists on going with Nico and the others wait impatiently. Hunter does give Nico and Victor Chase's old job and they don't worry about food for a while.
The grass is annoyed. It had grown so high and now has been cut down. It whines that no one likes to see it grow high and all Klara can do is giggle at that while the roses scorn the grass for thinking it could take up it's space. Rain sprinkles down and the grass stops complaining. Everyone stops talking when it rains. Like a feast has just been presented to them and all anyone can do is eat. Klara drinks it in as well though she vaguely remembers a time when she drunk rain out of a glass.
"Was there something before this?" She asks the roses. "Something before the darkness?"
"Yes," They chatter. "You forgot, don't worry. Rest and heal just rest and heal." Klara thinks about this and falls asleep.
They have just celebrated Klara's birthday when Nico announces she is pregnant. Everyone is over joyed. Klara is bubbling with excitement for the first time in a long time. She has always wanted children and can't wait for the twin to be born. The plant manipulator is shocked to learned that Nico and Victor, the father, aren't going to get married. Nico insists that she is going to keep the children, but isn't ready to marry. Klara doesn't understand this, but remembering her own experience as a married woman she respects Nico decision not to.
The twins are absolutely adorable and are called Maria and Charlie though Molly calls them Uno and Dos. Klara spends the most time around them since she is the only one with any experience taking care of very young children. Klara's mother made her watch her aunt's babies when the woman was too busy with her older children and working to do so. She doesn't like sharing them with the new member of the group Cindy. The girl had run away from her evil parents and sought their protection. The runaways give it, but Cindy is too careless when handling the twins. The roses are the ones to alert Klara that Cindy is more than just careless. The plant manipulator arrives just in time to stop the girl from killing Maria and Charlie. Their battle is fierce, but it is Klara that goes down. Dying, she throws her last bit of power into creating a huge rose garden to protect the twins.
"Forget, forgot, I forgot, I…..must remember." Klara whispers to herself.
"Rest and heal, rest and heal." The roses whisper back.
"No, I must remember. Tell me." She demands. "Tell me what I am forgetting. Tell me of before the darkness." The roses reluctantly agree, but their tale is far to short for to be all of her past. Klara turns to the trees and the grass, but learns less. Frustrated she shuts out their voices and focuses on herself.
"I must remember. I must remember." She whispers as she tries to bring up the foggy memories.
Klara doesn't wake up until Nico casts a spell that forces her to fight once more. She is not the only one the now powerful and deadly witch has brought back. All the runaways that have died have appeared. Each hungry for a fight and burning with their own power.
The battle is fierce, worse then the invasion where they lost Chase. Klara is coated in blood by the time it is over, Karolina has used up all her power and is barely supporting a un-conscience Xavin, Molly is trying to drag herself out of the bodies of her enemies, Nico is out and being held by Victor who Klara realizes is dead because his body starts to fall apart as he holds the witch gently in his arms, Old Lace has wrapped herself around the bodies of Chase and a purple haired lady that Klara doesn't know whom are clutching each other as they turn back to bones, and there is a black boy that comes out of the house where Maria and Charlie and Karolina and Xavin's baby are hiding. He looks at everyone with a sad look on his face before becoming dust.
Hobbling towards Molly, Klara takes the mutant's hand and fails to help her pull herself out from the pile she is buried under.
"Ew, you're all slimy." Molly whines. Klara can feel tears come to her eyes and gives another weak pull.
"You never change do you?" She asks softly.
"Nope!" Molly replies and wiggles the last bit free. "Nobody can change Princess Powerful!" Laughing hard Klara hugs her old friend and rock despite the complaints.
"Remember, Remember, Remember." Klara chants softly and she does. She remembers her family and cruel husband. She remembers the runaways and how they became her new family. Each thing she remembers is recounted as a story to the roses. They find these tales boring, but listen all the same.
"And then Chase died. We all wept." Klara says brokenly, trying to pull together bits and pieces into one picture.
"You should rest and heal, rest and heal." The roses respond. It's how they always do when she ends a story.
"No, I'm going to remember." Klara snaps and starts again from the earliest thing she can remember. Building the tale of her life once more.
Klara doesn't know why she didn't go back to being dead like the rest of the runaways Nico brought back. Ideas are thrown around, but nobody really cares. They have her back and that is all that is important. Klara worries though about why a single red rose is now growing from her hair, but Molly tells her not to worry about it.
It's a different world she came back to. Victor has died in her absence and Xavin returned. Klara misses the cyborg, horribly. He took over Chase's place as a big brother after the blonde's death. She is happy to have Xavin back, but she will always have a hole in her heart over Victor's death. Nico is….dark now. Her grief has become as much a part of her as the Staff of One. The air of sharp calculation and distrust she levels at all who are not part of the family or close friends is enough to make Klara twist in worry. The only goodness Klara can see comes when Nico is playing with the twins, who she shows nothing, but pure mother's love. Xavin and Karolina have changed as well. Their child has made them grow, learn, strengthen. They approach teaching Anelle with eagerness, confusion, and love, but this is difficult for them. They don't know how to instill in the little baby girl all the morals they want to and they can't go by the same methods their parents used to raise them. Molly is the only member of the group that is still the same or at least that's what Klara thinks at first. Then she notices how Molly doesn't make stupid comments anymore or how she listens to what everyone says and is now the voice of reason for all. The voice of restraint. Klara can't help, but find this all strange, but deals with it like she has dealt with life before. Take it, absorb it, and then let the new reality of life become one with her. She has never been one to mope about how the past was better and she doesn't intend to start.
The roses have started to sing much to Klara's confusion. They've never sung before, but something has them all bursting with joy. Klara pulls herself out of her fragmented memories as realizes it is a new sun. One that plays with her leaves, dances through the grass, and climbs into her branches awkwardly, but with much enthusiasm. Klara can feel herself blooming from the attention, she had always loved children, while secretly wishing she could see what this young sun looked like. The feeling reminded her of Karolina.
"Karolina….." the plant-manipulator whispered. "She is like a sun, she tried to save me, but I refused at first, she is kind." Klara found that these memories were easier to grasp than the others. "Molly did too. Even when I rejected them." Klara turned her thoughts away from the new sun and back into the darkness, back into her memories.
Klara has never had to deal with a change so huge before as she watches the earth shrink into a tiny dot. The Children of the Damned, as the runaways are now called, have been forced to flee the planet, their home, because of Klara. Her true father was apparently an earth elemental. That had shocked Klara to her core, but was even worse is that there was a prophesy saying that one of his children would lead to his downfall. The Man, for Klara cannot truly think that he is her father, thought he had killed all of his children except he had missed Klara because she had been taken into the future by the runaways. The Man had only recently learned Klara was alive when Nico brought her back from whatever dead, half-living, sleeping state she had been in. The Man had spent a year carefully planning Klara's death and had just pulled it off yesterday.
"Red Rose," Molly called out, in a rare moment of seriousness. "Stop staring. It's not going to help."
But Molly's words can't make Klara move. They can't bring her out of remembering how The Man had gotten Xavin and Karolina killed. How he framed Klara herself for their murders and it was only by the stubborn faith of Molly that she was alive now. Klara couldn't stop from seeing a disturbingly calm Molly rip off The Man's head while Klara held him down.
"Red Rose!" Molly shouted, shaking Klara's shoulder. "You have to come out of it! The kids need you!"
Klara tears her eyes away from earth and looks at Molly. So many things she wants to say, to scream, to rage, but Molly is right. The twins and Anelle are crying for her, for their parents, for anyone and Klara is the only one that can answer their call as they hang onto Old Lace. Molly was never good at dealing with screaming children.
"You're right." Klara replied, pulling away from the window. Taking a step towards the children she paused. "Why are you calling me that?"
"That's your name now." Molly said sternly. "We can't use our real names anymore. We'll be tracked down, separated, and thrown in jail if people catch us." Klara nodded. The Man had managed to convince the world that she had killed Xavin and Karolina, and that she and Molly had just murdered him in cold blood for no reason. They could never go back home again.
"I like it." Red Rose replied before gently picking up Anelle, soon to be Sunfire, with one hand and petting Old Lace with the other.
Klara could feel the earth hum. It was a pleasant tune. One that made her want to hum back and grow. To spread out and cover the world with her branches, leaves, and roots. It seems like such a pleasant idea that Klara becomes highly annoyed when the old sun starts snipping back her branches.
"You are you doing that?" Klara asks, but receives no answer so she goes back to listening to the earth. Who's humming is becoming more and more song like. For once in a long time, Klara stops trying to remember and listens. The hum shifts into song then into words and Klara is suddenly wish she hadn't.
Sleep and heal, little flower girl
Sleep and heal,
The Green Man knows
About your growing roots
Sleep and heal, darling rose
The Green Man knows,
That his little rot is blooming
Sleep and heal, little flower girl
Sleep and heal
The Green Man knows
And he is coming
To kill you
Red Rose screams.
This could not be happening. All the blood couldn't possibly be coming from Molly, Bruiser's body.
"NO!" Shout Uno, Dos, and Sunfire. All together their voices shake the palace grounds. Molly pulls herself up and hands the Emperor the package that they had been paid to deliver. The package was an ancient medallion said to have belonged to a powerful ruler. The Children and the Damned had picked up the medallion with only a bit of trouble, but on the way to deliver it, they had been attacked by rebels seeking to use the power of the medallion to overthrow the Emperor. The Children of the Damned had fought tooth and nail to finish their job. Egged on by Bruiser, who refused to say why it was so important just that they HAD to get this job done. Now she had paid the price. Bleeding out with a smile on her face, Bruiser placed the medallion in the Emperor's hand.
"Job's done your Majesty!" She said and then collapsed. Red Rose raced over to her as the Emperor caught the mutant.
"Get the medallion!" A rebel cried out, one of dozens that had swarmed the palace in during this coup. Red Rose had just torn Bruiser out of the Emperor's arms when those words were uttered and for the first time ever Red Rose let loose her powers in an utter rage.
"DIE!" She screamed, every single plant, from every blade of grass to tree to shrub grew to monstrous heights and strangled, pierced, sliced, squeezed, and shredded the rebels. They didn't stop until Uno, Dos, and Sunfire came over to her and wrapped their arms around the grieving plant-manipulator.
"Hey Anelle," Molly gasped out. Sunfire, Anelle, hugged her arm tightly. "Take care of Old Lace." And with those last words the psychic connection to the dinosaur past from Molly to Anelle as the mutant breathed her last breath.
Red Rose cried so hard as she clutched the body of Bruiser. She didn't let go of it for a long time. Bruiser was the last of the original Children of the Damned, their leader, their parent for the kids, and best friend for Red Rose. The tears wouldn't' stop until after her funeral. The Emperor had been deeply moved by Bruiser's sacrifice and built a fine tomb for the mutant. He had also offered to give positions at his palace for the rest of the Children of the Damned, but all had refused. They couldn't bear to live in the place where Bruiser had died. He understood that so he promised to always have work for them.
'It's a great relief.' Red Rose decided as she took the helm of Leapfrog the Fourth. For the last year they had been struggling to get by, sometimes facing the very real threat of dying of hunger, thirst, or having the Leapfrog break down in the emptiness of space because they couldn't repair it.
Nobody will mention it directly, but it will weigh on Red Rose's shoulders for the rest of her life; that Bruiser's death brought them security and safety for the first time in years. For the first time, Red Rose doesn't have to push Sunfire and Uno and Dos to grow up faster than they should because she's not worried whether or not she will live another day.
Five years after Molly's death that will change. They are run into a boy. He doesn't have a name and the only piece of information they get out of him is that he is the first of his kind, of a new race of soldiers his planet is making. Red Rose takes one look at the boy that is constantly shifting from being rock to water to air to tree to fire to anything you can think of and names him Adam.
They meet him again, but this time Adam is trying to capture them. Red Rose in particular. His people want to figure out how she makes plants grown and shrink at her command so they can give that ability to their newly made soldiers. All of them are thrown into separate cells. Red Rose is kempt asleep by drugs so the first thing she knows after being captured is that someone is shaking her shoulder and trying to get her to wake up.
"Red Rose, Red Rose, please wake up." A male voice that is definitely not Dos's calls.
"Move aside." Sunfire snaps. "Klara,"
Red Rose jolts awake and realizes that she is wrapped in chains and her family plus Adam are standing around her.
"We need to get out of here FAST." Dos says and Red Rose nods. The chains are broken and they are running again. Running through the prison, the planet, space. Adam comes with them. It makes things stressful on the Leapfrog for a bit as Dos doesn't truly accept Adam at first because he did capture them and Sunfire grows jealous of Adam's ability to fluidly change shapes, something she has yet to master. Red Rose finds there is much to teach Adam as well. The well-trained soldier knows a lot about war, how to kill, and engineering.
"So that we could build and use weapons better." He explains when he easily comes up with a solution to fix the Leapfrog's power coils. An issue that had been plaguing the Children of the Damned for years.
He doesn't know about people, about life and culture and how to look at the universe in terms of how beautiful it is instead of how it can be used to harm others. This is what Red Rose teaches him. She taps into the same patience she used to teach Uno how to read, Sunfire how to do haggle, and Dos how to write. The process is slow, but bit by bit Red Rose can see Adam becoming more human and less soldier. Though he doesn't loose all of it, which helps now that his people are after them not just for Red Rose, but to get their soldier back. She can tell he has a crush on her, but does nothing. Red Rose thinks of him as another one of her family and knows deep down that she will never be with another man. The wounds from her marriage are healed, but they have not vanished and Red Rose is much more comfortable living her celibate life than she will ever be if she was with someone.
Klara tries to get the song out of her head. She fails. The whole earth is singing it, including the roses. The idea that someone is coming to kill her throws into disorder.
Who would want to do such a thing? Who is this Green Man? Why does he want her dead? These questions plague her over and over and over until Klara feels like she is going to die from worry. It is only with the return of the two suns that she feels any sort of the peace; they sooth her with their light and warmth. When even that doesn't help to ease all of her worry, she goes back to trying to remember her life. This time to see if she knows who the man is that the earth speaks of.
"Who are you?" She asks. Trying to remember if she had done anything to anyone to make them come after her personally and finds more than one candidate. The runaways have been working hard to keep Los Angeles free of super-villains. "Why are you coming to kill me?"
Red Rose knows that this will be her last stand.
"Come on Red Rose! Please! Klara!" Sunfire screams behind her. The Leapfrog has been damage and Adam is working as hard as he can repair it, but there isn't enough time before an army of lizard dog like beast crashed down on their heads. They are currently in a canyon where the only entrance to their spot is through a narrow valley, but that was far from where they were right now. Red Rose looked back at her family. Adam was staring at her, begging with his eyes for her to come over. Uno and Dos were holding hands the other carrying the Staff of One and the Book of Magic respectively. Sunfire was hovering off the ground and screaming for her as Old Lace echoed her mistress's plea for Red Rose to back.
"Take care of each other!" She shouted to them and ran for the entrance. The desert like planet they were on erupting with life as she went to meet the army of beasts. She prayed they listened to her for the growls of the beasts were making the ground shake. Red Rose met them with utter calm. She plugged the entrance, merging into the plants to strength her control over them. It worked for a while. Unable to use their vast numbers effectively the beasts tore more of each other apart than Red Rose before they actually managed to touch her. The last thing she saw was the Leapfrog taking off into space as the beasts tore her to pieces.
RISE, CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED, AND FIGHT ONCE MORE.
Klara's true eyes snapped open, her body lurched with in the roots she was covered in, and she became desperate to move. Breaking through the her tomb, Klara saw sunlight for the first time in years, but it didn't matter to her. She had to go. Had to fight. Her family was calling her.
Review please! Chase is up next!