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>>reanimation — chapter one: alive::

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>>REANIMATION — CHAPTER ONE: ALIVE::

Ringshadow

Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.

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Falco sighed, crossing his arms over his chest and fighting the urge to shiver. He hated doctors, with a passion. Luckily the one examining him hadn't forced him to strip all the way, but he was still perched on an examination table, bare from the waist up, in what he was concerned was a refrigerator running just slightly warm.

At least he wasn't alone in this torment, he mused, kicking a foot and waiting for the doctor to get back with the results from his blood tests. Leon was a few rooms down, going through the same physical. If either had their choice, they'd be playing video games and eating nonstop, but High Command, as part of the contract for paying the team, was forcing them. So here he was, freezing to god damn death waiting for the doctor.

Things were rather strange currently. Wolf, healing from a bullet wound, was staying on the Great Fox, and so was Leon, at least until they splurged on bunk beds. Leon was pouting about it when no one else was around, because he was stuck sleeping alone. Falco kept himself from reacting, too confused and withdrawn to really bother. Since their return to Lylat, Leon had kept turning up the cards, showing him what they meant, how he knew it was them the cards insisted on. It always made Falco feel sick to his stomach.

The door slid open, and the doctor, a slender woman raccoon, came in, looking at her sheet. Seeming to ignore Falco's scowl, she started talking. "Well, it looks like the medbay in your ship got almost everything right, Mr. Lombardi…"

"Falco." He grumbled, wincing at the sound of his last name said with the honorific. It always made him look for his dad.

"You don't weigh nearly enough for your height, your body fat is low…" She flipped the sheet over. "And you're short some vitamin C. We also caught something like mild head trauma on the basic scan, but it looked old."

"Slipped and hit my head while I was stuck on that planet." He replied frankly. "Can I go now?"

"We're going to issue a special-diet order to your cruiser." She handed him a folded piece of paper. "So you can build muscle back up faster and keep healthy while doing it. Also, no heavy weight lifting for at least two months." Seeing his dismayed look, she sighed. "I don't care if you already are. STOP. Your muscles need recovery time."

"Fine, fine." He stood and pulled his shirt on, leaving it untucked, and followed her out of the room.

"What took you so long?" Leon asked, leaning on the wall across from the door, tail waving. The doctor took the sheet away from Falco, gave it to Leon after exchanging a nod, and went on her way.

"Don't get me started." He made a snatch for the paper, and failed. "Damn it! That's mine!"

"She gave it to me because she knows I'll hold you to it." Leon grinned, easily holding it out of Falco's long-armed reaches. "We talked before she went back in."

"So that's what took her so damn long." Falco set his hands on his hips and huffed, ignoring a pair of nurses watching this with interest. "You are a letch, I swear."

"You know I don't like girls. What, you don't like the idea of me taking care of you?"

"I, uh… but…"

The nurses started giggling, trying to hide knowing smiles, and Leon gave them a wide grin before waltzing down the hallway, leaving Falco to toss up his hands and chase after him.

"Must you embarrass me wherever we go?" Falco asked once they were outside, walking over to where their motorcycles were parked. Leon used a Suzuki, which didn't surprise Falco, but it looked strange parked next to his Harley.

"Look, hon, let's be realistic. You can't cook, I can, and we're both on special diets for three months. So I'll be taking care of us both for the time being." Seeing the pained look, Leon rolled his eyes. "Lighten up."

"You've made your point." He sighed, settling onto the Harley and turning the key, pulling on a pair of riding gloves. "Back to the Great Fox?"

"Yeah, if you want to eat. We have to buy a lot of groceries for your apartment."

"Bite me, not like I was there."

"Well, it looks like the money made its way into our account. Double paycheck, too." Peppy said, taking off his reading glasses and looking at Fox, who was sprawled in his command chair, staring at the ceiling. "Fox?"

"I heard. That's a good thing." He sighed. "How much is it?"

"We can make a payment on this boat…"

"I resent and resemble that remark." ROB said in a stiff voice, not stopping his diagnostic runs.

"… and still have enough to live on for a year maybe, as long as none of us splurge. It splits up to about 35 grand each. It'd be more, but we're splitting between six people instead of four."

"That's ok. I made the decision. I think Wolf and Leon will do well with us."

Peppy looked at him for a long moment, and smiled softly. "You forgive easily, you know that?"

"No. Not really. It has to be earned. It's been earned." He sighed again, spinning his chair slowly. "To think, they were never really against us in the first place."

"Money is a big drive, especially for people with lackluster morals. Pigma's a great example of that. Thing is, why in all hell did Wolf and Leon go to Venom in the first place?" Slippy asked, undoing various metal plates to work on one of the terminals.

"Wolf hated me once upon a time. I used to think that was his reason, but I don't know about that anymore. Leon I don't have a clue about. Hell, except for Falco making passing references to him, I didn't even know him until the war." Fox replied, rubbing his chin. "ROB, if aren't too busy, could you look up his Academy scores for us?"

ROB paused, lights flickering across his visor, then coming back to life. "There is no Leon Powalski registered at the Academy at any point in time. He never attended."

"Damn." Peppy frowned. "So where the hell did he learn to fly?"

"I get the idea we'd have to ask Falco." Slippy said, voice muffled as he was buried ribs-up in the computer terminal. "Wolf helps me a lot, and he doesn't seem to know much about Leon either. Just that he picked up an extensive knowledge of anatomy somewhere, and knows how to fight really dirty when it comes down to it."

"Well, he was in a gang opposing Falco's once." Fox frowned. "So the fighting makes sense. ROB…"

"I already ran through the Department of Education enrollment records." ROB replied, crossing his metal arms. "I can't find any reference to a Leon Powalski past the sixth grade. We have to assume he dropped out."

"Well, it looks like our mysterious copilot continues to be mysterious for now." Peppy said, pressing his fingertips together. "Want me to ask him about it, Fox?"

"If you like. It's not like I need his resume to keep him on the team, but I have to wonder just who taught him to fly like he does."

Wolf leaned outside the door, listening passively, not really feeling guilt about eavesdropping. Voices echoed in these metal corridors, so he could have heard them fairly clearly at the elevator, but he chose to hover instead, considering what he had heard. Leon a dropout? He couldn't see it, not with the brilliance-unto-genius that sparked behind Leon's eyes. He huffed and prowled silently back down the corridor, feet making foggy marks on the metal floor that faded quickly out. It wasn't easy on him currently to be living here, but there wasn't any alternative. The media was still having a field day about their pardons.

When he started paying attention again, he found himself in the launching bay of the Great Fox. Currently the huge doors were open, letting early fall winds in, ramps down to let ground vehicles out. He wandered between the haphazardly parked planes, stopping to look at the brand new ones, without insignias, no battlescars at all. Contract stipulation: replacement of ruined equipment, and the government had buckled to it and paid for the new planes. Fox had somehow goaded them into buying three, so now he and Leon had Arwings. ARWINGS. He had never dreamed he'd actually be able to fly one and call it his own.

Hearing an engine, he turned, and blinked when a car he didn't recognize came up the ramp easily, parking next to Fox's jeep. Since it was a blue Minicooper with a white top, the differences were rather startling, even more so when the perfectly matching owner got out, smoothing her outfit.

'I didn't know foxes came in blue.' Was Wolf's first thought, blinking. He was quickly noticed, and she strolled over, head tilted. "Um, hi. Do you have permission to be here?"

"I'm a friend of the guys." She replied. "My name is Krystal." She held out a hand, and he shook it, studying her. "Oh. My fur. My grandfather's a parrot, and my genetics rolled the lucky numbers. Makes it hard to buy clothing… You're Wolf O'Donnel, right?" When he nodded, she smiled. "Well! Glad to know Fox is his usual generous self. Where is the stud anyways?"

"With the exception of Falco and Leon, everyone's on the bridge." He replied. "I assume you know the way?"

"Sure, but you're more then welcome to walk with me." She gestured and he fell into step beside her, dismayed when he realized she was almost as tall as he was. "By the way, you look better with two eyes. You should keep it that way."

"… Ok. I will." He knew he sounded a little bewildered, turning a corner and waiting for the lift up to the bridge. "You from the Academy?"

"Used to be. I work with colonization efforts of DiamondSky Corporation right now. It's not a bad job, if you don't mind never being home." She rolled her eyes. "I swear to god I'm stuck single because of it. If you're going to kidnap your employees for over six months at a time, for god's sake don't enforce fraternization rules."

Wolf had to laugh a bit at that. "Is it that bad?"

"There's about a five percent churn rate within DiamondSky thanks to marriages between employees. They get married, and one drops out, or both drop and become freelancers. Makes everything kind of crazy."

They stepped onto the lift, twiddled their thumbs for a few seconds, and stepped back off, Wolf taking lead and stepping into the bridge. "Visitor for you guys."

"Krystal! When did you get back to this neck of the woods?" Fox's eyebrows shot upwards in surprise. Slippy, upon hearing her name, whacked his head on something inside the terminal and let off a most undignified squawk.

"A few days ago." She flopped in one of the empty chairs, long legs stretching out, not shy about the fact that she was wearing Daisy Dukes and tennis shoes without socks. "So, did Falco really get an extended camping trip?"

"Afraid so. Doesn't seem like any real damage was done. He's moody as all hell constantly now, though." Peppy replied, not at all bothered by her presence. Anymore, Slippy was the only one who got flustered around her, and he usually compensated by thinking up some busywork or hiding somewhere unfindable. "He and Leon are at the doctor's office. They should be back anytime now."

"That's cool. It'll be nice to talk to him. Leon will probably creep me out though."

"Eh, he's not creepy." Wolf replied, leaning against one of the idling terminals. "Some people think he is because of what he does, but he 's a pretty nice guy when not working."

"So torture is work now?"

"To the torturer."

She shrugged. "Still steady with Fara, Fox?"

"You know it." Fox smiled. "Over a year now."

Wolf watched Krystal's ears droop a bit at this, but they sprang back up almost immediately, obviously forced. Still, though, he understood. He was still a little jealous of Fara, because his affections hadn't worn off yet. He doubted they would for a while. Being alone, he mused, sucked more then anything else in the world.

"Look, all I'm saying is that you can knock off the pet names, ok?" Falco said, taking off his gloves and glaring at Leon, who was studying the new addition to the collection of vehicles.

"This looks so out of place."

"So does your crotch-rocket of a motorcycle. That's Krystal's car."

"Krystal?"

"Pretty girl, used to have the hots for Fox, now is just kind of a friend of ours. She's a colonization pilot or something when she's not hanging around us. Did you even hear my question?"

"This is a cute car."

"Dammit listen to me!" When he was rewarded finally with Leon looking at him, he huffed. "No pet names. Got me?"

"Aww. Why?"

"Because we aren't dating. We're friends, Leon. Your cards aside, nothing is really proving we're anything more yet. And until something happens, you can stop treating me like your boyfriend of several years." He set his hands on his hips, frowning.

"You aren't much fun."

"I'm having an identity crisis, so your idea of fun can go to hell for now." Leaving it at that, Falco stomped off in the direction of the bridge. Leon shrugged and followed along behind, whistling to himself. He had decided against sympathizing. Hell, he had known what he was since he was eight or so.

"Hey, Falco. Welcome back. What'd the doctor say?" Fox asked when Falco came in, exchanging words with Krystal.

"Nothing medbay didn't. Leon and I are both stuck on special diets for three months, and I'm being forced to quit lifting weights."

"Now, that's a sin." Krystal remarked.

"No kidding. I'll have to take up running or something. Anything going on?"

"Well, we got paid…"

"Groovy." Leon said, perching beside Wolf absently, figuring that sitting in Falco's lap would get him pitched across the room.

"We need some bank account information though." Peppy inserted, looking at Leon and Wolf. "Wolf, you already filled us in, but we don't know where to deposit your end of the change Leon."

"I don't deserve it."

"You're getting it anyway, so find an account number for ROB. You're on the team, you get paid."

"Speaking of such, do you guys have any jobs right now?" Krystal asked, shifting and tucking her feet under herself absently, stretching her arms above her head lazily.

'She has got to be doing that on purpose.' Wolf thought, looking away from her.

"No, we're on vacation for now. Recovery time, for a few of us." Fox replied. "Oh, Falco, check your voice mail. ROB got the alert that someone tried to call you."

Falco quirked an eyebrow at this, and started going through his pockets while the conversation continued, eventually finding his phone and flipping it open, accessing the voice mail and hitting playback. Only one message, from about an hour ago.

"Falco?! It's Vic. Mom gave me this number for emergencies, where are you?! I'm stranded outside your apartment. Could you please come get me or let me in?" The voice hit him like a slap to the eardrum, more mature then he remembered, but scared and desperate.

"What's wrong?" Leon asked, seeing Falco's expression radically change.

Falco quietly closed the phone. "My sister is at my apartment. I have to go get her."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"… I don't know yet." He left before any other questions were asked, almost sprinting for his motorcycle, grabbing his extra helmet from his room on the way down. Why was Vic at his apartment? She didn't have a car, let alone a license, and public transportation would have cost a fortune. Whatever the case, he knew he'd have to hurry, or be in for a verbal ass kicking.