* * *
A/N: I'm taking a bit of liberty with the Dark Chi Warriors' powers in S3, but it's mostly for effect. Also, I've moved their base from some warehouse in San Francisco back to Daolon Wong's castle in Tibet.
* * *
"Get out of my sight," Daolon Wong hissed. "I don't want to see you three till morning."
Ratso trailed after Finn and Chow, out of the sorcerer's sanctum and then the old Tibetan castle itself. Another failure because of Jackie Chan. On Christmas Eve, too, and shouldn't Chan be resting with his family tonight? Maybe he didn't want to be with them on Christmas. Ratso knew he wouldn't be with his, even if this was a normal year.
The sledge-wielding Enforcer shook his head and kicked off from the ground. He needed to fly right now. Maybe visit Paris. The City of Lights ought to be pretty spectacular tonight. The others kicked off, too, and Chow took off without even saying good-bye.
Finn glanced at him. "Dude, we've got to visit Shannon."
It hit like a two-by-four between his eyes when Finn said her name. He missed her. A lot. "Yeah."
Chi flared around them and they raced towards San Francisco. The wind chill didn't really bother him like it should. 'A dark chi warrior never eats, never sleeps, and never stops' as Wong liked to remind them. Well, maybe his old ones didn't, but he had other things to do and other places to be. Working for Valmont had been pretty steady and only got weird in the last two years, but even then he hadn't had to mess with Santa. Well, okay, so he hadn't actually had to, but it was weird enough knowing that Wong had.
Finn curved down to race just above the ocean surface, kicking up an incredible spray of saltwater that evaporated against his chi. Ratso grinned and dove abruptly beneath the dark surface. It was slower going than in the air, but it was so much fun! His chi kept the water out and the air in and the sights were incredible.
But Finn would leave him behind again if he stayed down for too long.
He sighed and reluctantly angled back up towards the sky. Breaching the surface of the water created an almighty splash, and there was Finn a couple miles ahead of him. Ratso sped up, not quite near his limit. Hopefully Finn wouldn't decide he needed to go faster.
Land appeared on the horizon and grew and grew and grew. Finn pulled up to their normal cruising level a few miles from the coast. The Irishman had personally discovered how painful kicking up dirt with fast flight was. Ratso grinned a bit at the memory - Wong had looked so pissed when Finn wiped out in his herb garden.
Now they were turning north over the coast and Ratso did his best to dampen the chi flare and fly at the same time. Eventually, he gave up and tried to catch up with Finn again. Getting reported as a UFO was pretty embarrassing, but hitting the highway at this speed would be... bad.
Finn glanced at him as he raced up alongside. "Yo, dude, you coulda told me you wanted to go faster." With that, the Irishman kicked it into high gear, a sonic boom spreading out behind him and pressing at the barrier of Ratso's chi.
Finn's trail was easy to follow and he wasn't going that much faster than Ratso or the speed of sound, anyway. If Chow had pulled that stunt, though, the big Enforcer would have given up following immediately. No way he could catch a guy who out-raced SR-71s.
Very soon the city sprawled beneath them, thousands of lights that made the surrounding night darker. The chi flare vanished when he stopped and the wind whirled around them.
Man, the city was bright. Ratso let his eyes relax and the lights all fuzzed together into one big, brilliant mass. Shannon would have loved this.
Finn dropped without warning, so fast it had to be a controlled fall. "We're just going to see if she's all right."
Ratso belatedly dropped to match his friend. "An' what if she's not?"
"Then we'll make Chan fix it."
"Don't think he can," Ratso muttered. They hadn't even called in months. Too scared, maybe. None of them had their phones, anyways. Chan had filched his a couple years ago, and he really ought to see if he could get it back sometime. At least the archeologist didn't seem to have used it. Ratso certainly hadn't gotten any fees beyond the normal monthly bill.
He hadn't called in months. Shannon was so patient with him normally. There had to be limits. She probably hated him now.
He glanced surreptitiously at Finn. She wouldn't hate *him*. He was her brother. Finn had it lucky that way.
They floated through the city, wind tugging at Finn's hair. Shannon lived in a junky old apartment near the university. Cozy inside and near a lot of fun places. It bugged Finn, though. Too near the college nightlife, he said. She liked the nightlife, she said. Then they'd get to yelling about him and Finn's girls, and it really wasn't fun to be stuck in the middle.
Half a block from her apartment, Finn drifted to a stop. "You go look, dude."
Ratso glanced from the apartment to Finn and back again. No way he had to do this alone. He floated slowly towards the building, turning back to look at Finn often. C'mon, Finn, please. Not alone.
Fourth floor, end of the hall.
Hey, the light was on.
He peered in the window and it just about broke his heart.
Shannon was curled up in the big recliner next to the phone, crying into a pillow. Her red hair was done up in a messy ponytail, and he could see the remnants of dinner on the table. Turkey, cranberry sauce, homemade bread, mashed potatoes, and enough of the good stuff to feed a small army. She'd set four places, too.
Damn, damn, damn.
Every year, every year since Chow'd joined up with him and Finn, they'd had Christmas dinner with Shannon. A family dinner, Finn called it. It even made sense for Chow. If the little guy had family anywhere, he sure didn't talk about it. Ratso was used to being lost in the shuffle of his own family. It was a lot nicer to spend Christmas with the guys.
He rested his forehead against the glass and sighed. The world was too heavy. He just wanted to walk in there, pick her up, and cuddle her. Tell her that something came up and he was sorry he couldn't contact her earlier. Make her stop crying. It was Christmas Eve. Good people were supposed to get good things tonight.
Ratso flexed his large hands in a burst of anger that faded quickly but left a nasty thought embedded on the inside of his skull. Whoever said he was a good thing?
Something orange flitted up next to him- oh, it was Chow. Why did he have a kitten? What was he doing here?
Ratso awkwardly shifted away from the window as Chow sidled up to it. The smaller Enforcer grabbed hold of the frame with one hand, clutching the kitten in the other, and peered in the window from the side. The kitten mewled quietly. Chow must have squeezed it a little too much. He turned away from the window to glance up the street but kept a tight grip on the frame. "She looks like hell."
Ratso glanced back up the street, too. Okay, Finn was still hanging there. Maybe he'd known what to expect and just didn't want to see. "Yeah."
Chow glanced down at the kitten he was carrying. It was a cute little white thing with the bluest eyes Ratso had ever seen. It reminded him of the time Valmont was a cat. Except it wasn't purring. And it had a red tail. Valmont hadn't had a tail.
Chow let go of the frame without another word and spiraled up. He disappeared over the edge of the roof, leaving Ratso alone at the window. The ex-Italian Enforcer stared at the yellow light pouring into the night. Shannon really needed to get some curtains, he decided as he peered in again. Maybe he could get her some white ones. White went with everything, or at least that was Finn's argument about his clothes.
Oh, she'd stopped crying. That was nice, but rocking back and forth like that couldn't be too good. She looked... sniffly, too, like she'd burst into tears if she thought the wrong thing. Aw, man, he couldn't leave her like this. He raised a hand to knock on the window-
A car door slammed, startling him. He drew back from the window uncertainly as he heard footsteps on the back stairs. Who could be coming at this time of night? They were the only ones who had ever, ever done that, and Shannon yelled at them more than enough for it.
Shannon lifted her head at the loud rapping on her back door, looking confused for a moment. Then a glowing smile spread across her face, and she hastily scrubbed at her eyes and dashed for the door. Ratso pressed his face up against the window just as she opened it. Her back was to him, but the way she hugged the strange man standing there said everything. The glass muffled the way she said his name, but he could guess how happy she was.
Oh, God. She'd found somebody else. He shoved himself violently away from the window. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He hadn't even fucking called her and now she'd found somebody else, someone who was willing to drive out to her on Christmas Eve, and she was happy to see him, and it was all his fault. His breath came in too-rapid gasps-
"Breathe, Ratso. Breathe...." He had no idea where Chow had come from, but the smaller man's voice was oddly soothing. Just like Shannon's-
"Damn it, Ratso! Breathe! Just breathe, stop hyperventilating- Eeek!" Purple smoke engulfed the both of them, and then they were on the roof. Ratso sank to his knees and clutched at his stomach, trying not to dry heave. He really, really didn't like the way it felt like it was full of swirling cess that had to crawl out of his mouth or he'd die. Teleportation did nasty stuff to his system.
"That was close," Chow muttered. "Why'd they have to come over by the windows then?"
Finn poofed into existence a few feet away, scowling. "Dude, who the hell was that?"
"Andrew." Chow patted Ratso's shoulder comfortingly. "That's what your sister called him, anyway."
"That tells me zippo, Chow!" Finn growled and stalked over the edge of the roof. "No guys should be coming to her apartment this late. Especially on Christmas Eve."
"A weird, incestuous family."
"Some of us don't need to be reminded that Ratso's sleeping with my little sister." Finn crossed his arms and continued to stare over the edge. For a moment, the street lights made him look positively demonic. "God, I hate this."
"Then will you shut up?! Ratso was going to propose to her this year, you ass!"
"WHAT?!" Finn whirled and teleported at the same time, and Ratso cringed in sympathetic misery. That- Ugh. How the hell did Finn do that?
The Irishman roughly seized Chow by the weird collar-shirt-thing he wore, twisting it around his fist till he was almost choking the little guy. "When were you guys planning to tell me this?!"
"Finn..." Ratso stood up slowly, his stomach jarring around inside him when he moved too fast. "Put Chow down."
"Honestly, when did you guys plan to tell me this?" The Irishman reluctantly let go of Chow, and the smaller man straightened his collar-shirt-thing with a 'hmph' in Finn's direction.
"Right after I asked Shannon." Ratso raised a hand to stop the rant he knew was coming. Finn would never be happy no matter who Shannon married, but he was a lot freer with his opinion about his sister and his old friend than he was about any of Shannon's other boyfriends. Chow had made a really nasty suggestion about why once, but that was... well, icky. "You'd have just freaked out. Like you're doing now."
Finn closed his eyes briefly and took a few slow, deep breaths. "All right. So, who the hell is this Andrew dude?"
Ratso sighed mournfully and wished he had some pockets to jam his hands into. "Guess she got a new boyfriend."
"No way in hell. She loved you, dude."
Ratso blinked. He was pretty sure Chow blinked. They both stared at Finn in shock.
"Wow. You said that out loud."
"I meant to, Ratso."
"Finn, you admitted that Shannon loves him out loud."
"Well, she does!"
"... He did it again!" Chow grinned in delight.
"Hey, what happened to the kitten?" Ratso asked.
Finn and Chow both turned to stare at him. He'd just noticed the little critter was gone. He knew he was pretty slow, but they really didn't have to look at him like that.
"... I left it on the porch. That Andrew guy gave it to her." Chow gave him a strained sort of smile and nodded very slowly.
"Not that I understand what she sees in him or anything," Finn muttered.
"Shut up, Finn." Chow folded his arms and wandered over to the edge of the roof. "Ratso, you should call her."
"Guah?" Call her? Was Chow insane?
"He's right, dude. Find out who this Andrew guy is."
"Make sure she knows that the kitten was my gift."
"Buh?" Call her? When he hadn't called her in months?
"Chow, more important things here!"
"Oh, like some new fucktoy is really more important than that she doesn't know who gave her the kitten."
"Yes, a new guy is more important than the kitten! ... And where the hell did you get a kitten?"
"You're giving my sister stolen goods as a Christmas gift?"
"Well, I certainly couldn't buy it like this! Besides, you gave her that statue for her birthday!"
"It was her birthday! Not Christmas!"
"Dude, you don't give stolen goods as Christmas gifts!" Finn gestured emphatically as he tried to explain this to Chow again.
"It's not done!"
Ratso teleported away abruptly. He couldn't think with them arguing over stupid things that had more to do with the little bit of Catholicism that Finn still had buried in him than anything else. The two of them usually had at it on that subject once every couple of years. It was fun at first, but after the last five times, it was just old.
He looked around the flat roof he'd ended up on top of and sighed. Of course. The old man's antique shop. He couldn't get away from Jackie Chan even when he was trying to get away from someone else entirely.
The chill night air didn't really bother him like it should. He liked sitting out in the cold after a breakup; it really helped dull everything to an ache. Cold just kinda... wasn't there anymore, though. Part of being a Dark Chi Warrior, probably. He sighed mournfully and leaned against the wall.
The door opened suddenly and Chan stepped out. He yelped and dropped into a fighting stance, then glanced quickly about the roof. "What are you doing here?"
"Umm...." He stared at Chan. What was he doing here? He was- He frowned slightly and looked around the roof. Come to think of it, he wasn't really doing anything. "Nothing."
"... Then why are you on my roof?"
"None of your business, Chan." Definitely not any of the Chinese man's business. He folded his arms and growled angrily. It wasn't even Chow's or Finn's business. They shouldn't be butting into his relationship with Shannon. He didn't need their help to fix his problems. He just needed to talk to her!
.... Chow had suggested he call her.
Ratso teleported away instantly, leaving a confused Jackie Chan behind. There was an old phone booth downtown that never had anyone in it at this time of night. The prostitutes avoided it, the pushers avoided it, the homeless avoided it, and the cops avoided it. A few of the local gang members used it, but they knew better than to mess with him. He'd give Shannon a call, tell her that he was doing some dangerous work, and this was the first time he'd been able to call her.
Hopefully, she wouldn't yell at him when she broke up with him.
He felt horribly dizzy inside the booth. Oogh, teleporting was bad stuff. Lucky he didn't eat. He leaned miserably in one of the corners until the world stopped spinning.
The phone felt cold when he picked it up, but it quickly warmed as he stared at the number pad. It was Christmas Eve. She might not appreciate a phone call right now. Especially from him. Maybe he should let Finn-
He scowled and jabbed in her number. It was his problem, and he would fix it. Ratso cradled the phone against his ear and let it ring.
There was a click as someone picked up the phone. "Hello?" Shannon asked.
"Shannon? It's me-"
"Ratso! Oh, God, where have you been? I'd thought you'd died! I thought you'd died, and I got so messed up, and Andrew from the Psych department started treating me, and, oh my God, you're not dead!" Having said that, she burst into tears.
He gulped. "Shannon- Shannon, don't cry. Please, listen to me." Oh, man, this was worse than any yelling. Please stop crying. I can't handle it when you cry. "/Please/, Shannon. I need to tell you something." He choked slightly, trying not to cry himself. He loved her so much, and he just kept hurting her. He shouldn't stay with her, he should just leave her so she wouldn't cry-
But he wouldn't. He was selfish that way. "Shannon, I'm sorry."