Characters: Dee, Ryo, Mother Maria Lane, OCs
Word Count: 3663
Summary: Dee is determined to find the missing children and bring them safely home, no matter what it takes.
Written For: spook_me 2020, using FAKE, Evil Toys.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
A/N: Set after Like Like Love.
It was disgustingly damp, cold, and sticky inside the bear, or perhaps more accurately in the world that was reached through it, since wherever this place was it couldn’t possibly fit inside a toy bear. Hell, Dee himself shouldn’t even fit through the split in the bear’s middle and yet somehow he did.
His surroundings were dark and gloomy, partly obscured by drifting clouds of foul vapour; this was a place full of constantly moving shadows, only visible at all because the walls of the cavern he found himself in were smeared with putrid patches of phosphorescent slime, which were giving off an unhealthy greenish radiance.
Dee strained his eyes in the eerie, mist-shrouded dimness, noting with some alarm that his upper body seemed to be emerging from the slick, slimy surface of a seamless rock wall. He had a horrible feeling if he let himself be dragged all the way in he’d never get out again; the rock would solidify and he’d be trapped here forever, just like anyone else who’d gotten pulled in here against their will.
Turning his attention to the long, thin arm, which he was still clutching tightly with both hands, he followed it with his eyes to the body it was attached to, a mass of waxy, undulating flesh like a gigantic, loathsome maggot the size of a school bus. The thing was writhing desperately as it tried to pull itself free of him but he didn’t dare let go of it, tightening his grip instead, because if it was responsible for creating the portal between home and wherever this was then it might well be the only thing keeping it open.
Tearing his eyes away from the gross, disgusting grub, Dee peered deeper into the shadows, trying to make out what else might be lurking there.
“Josefina!” he shouted. “Emily!” Were the kids even still within earshot or had the thing attached to the arm taken them somewhere else? Had it eaten them? Was that why it was abducting children, as a food source? That didn’t bear thinking about; they had to still be alive or all of this was for nothing!
Staring around frantically, he could vaguely make out something pale huddling against the base of a wall some distance away to the left. Was it another grub or something else? It was small, and unmoving. His heart leapt; could it be one of the children?
“Josie? Miss Pigtails?” That was his nickname for Emily. “Where are ya?”
The pale lump against the wall stirred, what looked like a small foot poking out from under what could be a nightgown. A head lifted and turned, face blurry, pale and ghostly in the gloom.
“Dee?” The voice was small, but recognisable; it was Josefina.
“Yeah, kiddo, it’s me. I’ve come to take ya home. D’ya know where Emmy is?”
Josie shifted, revealing Emily huddled against her, and between them, another little girl, skin and bone dressed in ragged pink PJs with a pattern of ducks all over them.
That was unexpected; special offer, today only, three for the price of two! Dee swallowed back hysterical laughter before it could break free. He wanted out of here now, if not sooner; yesterday would be good. He took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself then wished he hadn’t; the air tasted rank.
“Okay, kids, I’m kinda holdin’ the door open here so I’m gonna need ya to come to me. Can ya do that?”
Biting her lip, Josie glanced fearfully at the grub.
“Don’t be scared, honey, ol’ lumpy there’s a bit tied up right now, I’m not lettin’ it get away from me. Just keep close to the wall, ‘kay?”
Josie nodded, but it was Emily who moved first, tugging the third little girl with her, eyes fixed on Dee as she sidled along by the wall. Josefina followed the other two, shrinking back from the flailing bulk of the monster that had abducted them, clearly not wanting any part of it to touch her. Dee couldn’t blame her, just the sight of it made his skin crawl; it he hadn’t felt he needed to keep hold of the arm he’d have let go of it long ago. He wasn’t sure his hands would ever be clean again; there wasn’t enough soap and hot water in the universe. He was going to need a very long, very hot shower after this, preferably with Ryo scrubbing his back.
As the three kids came within reach, Dee realised he had no idea what to do next. He only had two hands and both were currently occupied. He thought fast; one thing being a cop taught was how to think on your feet, or in any other position you found yourself in.
He spared a brief thought for Ryo on the other side of the portal, hoping his partner could keep holding on to him long enough to help get him and the kids back out. Fortunately, despite its bulk, their combined strength seemed to be more than the grub could overcome. Probably a big part of the reason it took kids instead of targeting adults was that they didn’t have the strength to fight back. He smiled reassuringly at the three small girls as a brilliant idea came to him. At least, he hoped it was brilliant and wouldn’t turn out to be a monumental mistake. Letting go of the ‘arm’ with one hand, he dug out his pocketknife and opened the blade with his teeth.
“Okay, I need you three to get hold of me and each other, and hang on tight as ya can. Got a feelin’ we’ll be headin’ outta here pretty fast. Grab my arms.”
The girls did as they were told, Emily and her new little friend clinging to his left arm, Josie on his right. The girls’ skin was cold and clammy, not surprising in this world of damp and chill. It was doubtful they’d have survived for very long here, even huddling together to conserve what little body heat they had; Dee had only been here a matter of minutes and already the chill was seeping into his bones, numbing him from the inside out.
“Hold on tight, kiddos; if this works we’re goin’ home!” With that, Dee slashed at the pale, scaly arm with his knife, opening a deep, bloodless gash, then kept hacking at it again and again as the grub thrashed harder than ever, until the pale, boneless flesh finally parted. It was like cutting through taut elastic; with the final slice Dee shot backwards through what should have been solid rock, dragging the kids with him. He was still gripping part of the arm with its now limp hand, hoping it would be enough to prevent the portal from closing until they were out otherwise it was gonna be a messy and very unpleasant death for all of them.
The warm air of the dorm room came as quite a shock as Dee emerged into it, but it was a welcome one, familiar and comforting, like a hug. As he struggled to reorient himself he caught a brief glimpse of Ryo’s face, flushed with effort, but that was all he could spare for his partner; he and the kids weren’t quite out of the woods yet and he crawled backwards on his knees as best he could, pulling with all his strength.
Ryo, having already released his death grip on Dee’s belt, clutched with cramped, aching fingers at the first small arms that emerged, doing what he could to help Dee pull the children back through the portal while still pinning Mister Bear down; Josefina came first, then Emily, then a third, unfamiliar child, frail and trembling. Gathering them all into his arms, Ryo fell back against Josefina’s bed as Dee dropped the severed hand he was still clutching into the portal, which snapped out of existence with an audible pop.
There was one final thing needing done, and with savage intensity Dee took his pocketknife to Mister Bear, ripping and shredding the greasy fabric, tearing out clumps of dirty straw stuffing and damp sawdust until the ugly thing was nothing but tatters and whatever spark of life it may once have had was gone.
One button eye fell to the floor, rolling over beside Ryo’s foot, and he nudged it away with the toe of his sneaker.
“Now can we get rid of it?” he asked as Dee slumped onto his ass, breathing hard, looking dazed and shaken.
“Uh huh,” Dee said, nodding. “I’m pretty much gonna insist on it, just shove all the bits in the bin, take it outside, and burn the hell outta the damned thing.” Trying not to touch anything he awkwardly got to his knees. “But first I really gotta wash my hands.” He rose shakily to his feet. “Are the kids okay?”
“As okay as they can be after everything they’ve been through, I guess,” Ryo said. “They’ll need warm baths, a hot drink, and something to eat.” He looked down at the three small bodies snuggled against him. “Where’d you find the extra one?”
“I didn’t, she was with Emily and Josie so I guess they found her. Looks like she might’a been there a while. God knows how she survived; that place was… not good.” There was a haunted look in Dee’s eyes.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?” Ryo looked at the little girl, huddled in his lap, shivering. She couldn’t have been more than three or four.
“She’s Millie,” Emily said. “Mister Bear took her from where she lived before. She didn’t like it there, but Mister Bear’s place was worst.”
“Well she’ll be safe here.”
Dee spun around so fast he almost fell over, his legs still weak and shaky, and his heart pounding. “Mother!” He hadn’t heard her come into the room.
The elderly nun smiled up at him. “What you did was very brave, Dee. Thank you. I don’t pretend to understand what just happened, but I don’t doubt you saved the lives of these children.”
“I just hope I didn’t leave any behind in that place, because I think I just destroyed the only means of gettin’ there.”
“You did what was necessary. If it means no more children will ever have to go through what these three have, then that’s all that matters. Now, why don’t you go and get cleaned up? I’ll take these three for a bath. Come along, dears.” Smiling gently, Mother held out her hands to Josie and Emily, who took them, scrambling to their feet, Millie still clinging tightly to Emily’s other hand. It didn’t look like she’d be letting go anytime soon. “A nice bath with lots of bubbles, clean clothes, then warm milk and cookies. How does that sound?”
Tentative smiles greeted her proposal as she led the children towards the dormitory door.
“I think I’m envious. Wouldn’t mind a hot bath myself,” Dee muttered, shambling in the other direction towards the small bathroom at the end of the dorm. No bathtub there, just a couple of toilets and washbasins, but all Dee needed was hot water, soap, and a towel; that would have to do him for the moment, there were still things to do.
When he came back into the dorm ten minutes later, stripped to the waist and drying himself with a pink towel decorated with white bunnies, Ryo was just sweeping up the last scraps of Mister Bear and depositing them in a plastic trash bin.
“You can add this for burnin’.” Dee dropped his shirt on the top. “Doubt I’d ever get the slime and the smell out. Same with the kids’ nightwear.”
“My jeans too.” Wrinkling his nose Ryo looked down at his legs, and the dark, greasy stains running from his knees to halfway down his shins from where he’d knelt on the bear. “I’d have taken them off already if I’d had something to change into.”
“Yeah, forgot to tell ya, I went by the apartment and picked us up a change of clothes while I was out earlier; figured we might need ‘em what with stayin’ here all night. I’ll go get ‘em soon as we’ve dealt with all this.”
“That would be good.”
Dee studied his lover carefully. “You okay, babe?”
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”
Brushing the question off with a shrug, Dee gave a lopsided smile. “I’ve dealt with weird shit before; you haven’t. So, how’re ya doin’?”
“I don’t honestly know. Everything I thought I knew…” Ryo trailed off, shaking his head. “I keep expecting to wake up and find all this was just a really bad dream, but it doesn’t feel like a dream. It’s too real.”
“Yeah, I know what ya mean.”
“Dee, what’re we going to tell Cavallo and Burnett? I mean, you got the kids back but they’ll never believe you went through some kind of portal into another world, or dimension, or something to rescue them. It sounds like the plot of a bad science fiction movie!”
“More like a horror movie if ya ask me.”
“Well, yes, but it’s still not the kind of explanation anyone can put in a report and not expect to be hauled away in a straitjacket.”
“Don’t worry about it. I recorded the footage from the spy cameras on the laptop; picture quality isn’t great, but it still shows that damned bear walkin’ by itself,” Dee told his partner. “They’re gonna have to accept the truth once they see that.”
“Maybe. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, and when that arm came out, and then you followed it into the bear…” Ryo looked at Dee helplessly. “I never believed in the supernatural, but now I’m not sure what to believe. It’s all just so crazy!”
“I know, and you didn’t see the half of it. C’mon, let’s take this,” Dee nudged the trash bin with the toe of his shoe, “outside and burn the contents before anyone shows up wantin’ to hang on to it for evidence. I’m not gonna be happy until there’s nothin’ left but ashes; don’t want to leave any chance for it to somehow come back to life.”
“Yeah, and then someone should probably scrub the floor, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Even so, it might be quite a while before the girls feel safe sleeping in here. They’re probably going to have nightmares; I’m pretty sure I will.”
“Join the club.” Dee smiled wryly. “Nightmares kinda go with the territory.”
Ryo smiled back. “You couldn’t have warned me about that before?”
“Darn, must’ve slipped my mind.”
“You must be getting old.” The good-natured teasing was helping to put Ryo back on a more even keel.
“Hey, no call for insults!!” Stooping, Dee snagged the trash bin and started towards the door. “Y’know, for the first time in a long time I’m wishin’ I hadn’t given up smokin’.”
Ryo fell into step beside his lover. “Feeling the need for something to take the edge off?” He could sympathise with that; he could use a stiff drink.
“Nah, nothin’ like that; I just would’a had my lighter with me. As it is, I’ll haveta see if Mother’s got any matches, and some kerosene or somethin’; I want to get a really good blaze goin’, make Mister Bear’s remains nice and toasty.” Dee dug his car keys from his pocket with his free hand and passed them to his lover. “Go get the bag from the trunk; I’ll see what else I can find for burnin’ while you get cleaned up and changed. Your pants look kinda gross with all that oily stuff soakin’ in.”
“Imagine how it feels.”
“I’m tryin’ not to, thanks. Grapplin’ with that arm was bad enough.”
“Not sure I could’ve done that.” Taking the keys, Ryo headed down the stairs, wondering if he could borrow a
scrubbing brush and strong disinfectant from Mother. He had no idea what he’d been kneeling in while keeping Mister Bear pinned down, and to be honest he didn’t want to know, he just wanted to get it off his skin.
Half an hour later, everyone was gathered outside, including the three rescued children, now bathed and dressed in clean, warm nightwear and wrapped in blankets, watching as Mister Bear’s remains burned in an old metal drum Dee had dragged up from the basement to serve as an incinerator. It was quite a merry blaze, although Dee wouldn’t have wanted to toast marshmallows over it. The greenish tinge to the flames was a bit off-putting, but at least there hadn’t been any difficulty getting the bear’s remains to burn, along with various contaminated articles of clothing.
Dee and Ryo stood side by side, Tammy between them, holding Dee’s hand.
“Is Mister Bear gone now?” the little girl asked.
“Yep, he’s gone, kiddo, and he’s never comin’ back. You’re safe now.” Dee looked around at the other children, smiling reassuringly. “You’re all safe.” Under his breath he prayed that he was right, and that there weren’t any other warped stuffed animals out there somewhere, waiting to take Mister Bear’s place as a portal into a world that shouldn’t exist.
A short distance away, Detectives Cavallo and Burnett stood watching; they’d viewed the footage Dee had recorded with the spy cameras, and had even examined the floor in the dormitory before one of the Sisters had given it a thorough scrubbing. Now, as the official investigators on the case, they were left with the problem of what to write in their reports. One thing was for sure; this case wasn’t going to make their reputations. Destroy them maybe, if word got out that the kidnappings were believed to be the work of an evil soft toy; they’d never live that down. In the morning they’d talk to their boss, show him the footage, let him decide what to do about it, and then hopefully they could put the case to bed. The kids were safe, the culprit was… deceased, end of story.
It would have been nice if they could have dismissed what they’d been shown as fake, but they’d talked to the rescued kids, to Laytner and Maclean, to Mother Maria Lane, and seen the same haunted look in all their eyes, the look of people who’d seen and experienced something they wished they could forget but probably never would.
Evil came in many forms, and cops had to witness a lot of it in the course of their work, but usually it was perpetrated by humans; this was something else, something that couldn’t be explained in any rational way. It still wasn’t clear where the unnatural teddy bear had come from, whether it had deliberately been inflicted on the orphanage, whether there was someone out there who could ultimately be held responsible. In the end, despite investigating the case to the best of their ability, the two detectives were left with more questions than answers. Cavallo had the feeling they weren’t the only ones.
At last the fire burned out, leaving nothing but some greasy ashes, and Mother Lane, along with her assistants, shooed the children back indoors and to bed for what was left of the night.
Dee and Ryo paused in front of the other detectives.
“Still wish we’d stayed out of it?” There was no heat in Dee’s words, just mild curiosity.
Cavallo shook his head. “Mostly I wish we had.”
“Been havin’ that same thought myself, but I couldn’t walk away, not with Mother and the kids involved.”
“I get that, but how’d you know what to do?”
“Didn’t.” Dee shrugged. “All we had to go on was one little girl’s nightmare. Hell, even my partner thought I was clutchin’ at straws. Can’t say I was sure he was wrong, but… I had a weird case once before, back in my uniform days; guess it made me willin’ to entertain all possibilities, no matter how crazy. Some things ya just gotta take on faith, and I got plenty of that.”
“That’s more than I do after tonight,” Cavallo admitted.
“I wouldn’t be too sure.” Dee slapped the other man on the shoulder. “You haven’t run screamin’ for the hills.”
“Not yet; there’s still time.”
“Good luck explainin’ all this to your boss; I think you’re gonna need it. I’m just really glad I don’t haveta write the report on this one.”
“Don’t remind me. Now I really might run for the hills.”
“Nah, I don’t think so; you’re too good a cop. Maybe we’ll see you guys around.”
Cavallo nodded. “Maybe I’ll even buy ya both a drink.”
“Now that’s an offer we wouldn’t turn down.”
As Cavallo and Burnett headed for their car, Dee followed, Ryo into the orphanage.
“You’re bein’ kinda quiet.”
“Still trying to wrap my head around everything. The past few hours have been…” Ryo trailed off, shaking his head.
“Weird? Bizarre? Crazy? Impossible? Unbelievable?”
“How about all of the above?”
“Yeah, guess that does just about cover it.” Dee stopped and pulled his lover into his arms. “Thank you.”
“Stickin’ with me through all the crazy, keepin’ me from gettin’ dragged all the way into that place. Never would’ve gotten out without ya.” Dee drew back a little. “How’re your hands?”
“Sore, a little bruised. I’ll live.”
“Glad to hear it. So will I, and the kids, thanks to you. You were our lifeline.”
“Told you before, I’ve always got your back, no matter what.”
“Yeah, I know; wouldn’t want anyone else. Love you, baby.”
“Love you too, Dee.”
They stood there for a long moment, arms around each other, until Ryo finally spoke again.
“I’m never going to look at teddy bears the same way again.”
Dee huffed a laugh. “I hear ya. Gimme human criminals every time; they’re a whole lot easier to handle.”