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Flip of a Coin

 

By FoxStar

 

The animal yipped in alarm as a bullet sliced past it, grazing its side.  A trickle of blood began to seep through its fur, matting the silvery coat.

“I’ve had it, Fox!”  The woman snarled, re-cocking her gun.  “You’ve lied to me for the last time!”

“Is it wrong… to want a life besides work?”

The whisper only aggravated the woman more.  “You are under my orders!  If I tell you that running into those ducks isn’t an option, you are not to do it!”

“He didn’t catch me.”  The fox argued, its voice getting softer from the pain.

“I don’t CARE!”  The woman raged.

The small fox gave what could have passed for a sad smile.  “No.  You don’t.”  She replied softly, turning and nimbly running away, leaving a few spots of blood behind.

Her attacker cursed, firing a few shots after the retreating animal, then gave up.

Fox kept running, trying to head towards the Pond.  The drake yesterday had seemed kind… maybe he would take pity on her now.

Humans!  She was tired to death of them!  Ever since she had been abandoned by her parents to Earth at the age of five, she had wanted to see her own kind again.  Being that close to a duck yesterday, and having to keep silent had hurt more than the wound she was currently bleeding from.  She had been trying to live among humans for years now, and all she dreamed about was finding some of her own kind.

Elusive and the others wouldn’t let her leave them for long though… from now on, she was going to be a hunted fugitive.

The pain finally took over her will, and she staggered to a halt by the glass front doors of the ice arena, curling up into a ball and resting her head on her paws.

Maybe someone would come… and if not, at least she would be close to her kind when she died.

Minutes passed by, and the inky fog that had been descending over her brain finally took her.

 

Despite it being practice time, his mind wasn’t on it

Something had been bothering him ever since yesterday.  That person couldn’t have disappeared as quickly as they did.

And none of the zoos were missing any animals, much less a fox.

Duke scowled thoughtfully.  It didn’t make much sense, that was for sure.

Maybe if he went over the area one more time…

He hesitated.  It wasn’t like he was going to find anything new… but something was nagging at him to go check it out again.

The former thief sighed, got up, and headed for the front doors, instead of the locker room like his teammates.

He started to push open the door, then started as he heard a tiny whimper, and looked down.

Curled in front of the door was the same silver fox he had seen yesterday.

And this time, the silver coat was matted with blood.

Duke quickly pushed open the other door, and knelt down by the fox’s side, careful not to touch it.

An angry streak of raw flesh showed through the fur, indicating someone had shot… and almost missed.

He paused, thinking.  The animal was probably wild, and with an injury like that, it probably wouldn’t live anyway.

But he could end it’s misery…

Duke swallowed, feeling vaguely uncomfortable as he drew his saber.  It was a pretty little creature, and there was no point in it suffering… but he really didn’t like the idea of killing it either.

The blade rang as he popped it, and the fox twitched slightly, lifting its head a bit and shaking it, as though trying to clear it.

It glanced up at Duke, then the sword, and its eyes widened.

The fox made a keening noise, sounding eerily like a frightened child, and Duke winced.  He was a bit cynical perhaps, but not heartless.

And he knew what it was like to be in pain…

He sighed, sheathed the blade, and tentatively reached out to touch the creature’s head.

It looked up at him with almost a scared expression, but didn’t snap or try to bite.

“I was just tryin’ to put ya out of your misery.”  He explained, not quite sure why he was defending himself to a fox.  “I guess I can try ta patch ya up, but I can’t make any bets on if you’ll make it or not.  It looks like the flip of a coin’s gonna decide whether you live or die… you don’t look too good.”

The little fox pushed itself up shakily, and he picked it up as gently as he could, shutting the front door behind him, and taking the stairs to different elevator, hoping to avoid any questions.

The team all though he was odd enough without them seeing this softer side of him…

 

Duke set the fox down on the waist-high table in his room that served as a workbench for his occasional projects, and went to raid the first-aid kid Tanya had insisted everyone keep in their rooms.

He’d have to thank her later…

The little fox stayed still while he slipped on a pair of rubber gloves, and he started trying to sterilize the wound, ready to pull back if the fox decided to bite.

After a few moments though, he relaxed.  Somehow, the animal seemed to understand what he was doing, and stayed still, occasionally whimpering softly.

The former thief frowned, trying to figure out how he was going to stop the bleeding with a first aid kit, and his own very limited knowledge of medicine.

Have to get it clean, and get it shut somehow… It isn’t deep or anything, but it took enough skin off that it’s bleeding like crazy…

He located a couple of what Tanya had called ‘butterfly’ bandages, tried to close a bit of the gash, and wrapped some gauze all the way around the fox’s body to hold in the blood.

“If whoever shot at ya nicked an artery, that bandage ain’t gonna help.”  He informed his ‘patient’.

The fox blinked at him, its eyes still cloudy, and tried to get up.

“No… lay still.”  Duke ordered, gently pressing it back down on the table.  “You’ll make it bleed more… and I think you’ve done too much ‘a that as it is.”

The fox yawned at him, and settled its head on its paws.

“I’m boring ya, huh?”  The ex-thief chuckled wryly.  “Some thanks.”

“Thank you.”

He whirled around, but the fox was still curled up, looking innocuous enough.

“Hello?”

No answer.

“Great.”  Duke muttered, pitching out the rubber gloves.  “I’m hearin’ things.  I thought that fox said something.  I must be - ”

“Perfectly sane.”  A tired, somewhat frightened woman’s voice interrupted him.  “I haven’t got the energy to explain right now… but please don’t tell anyone I’m here.”

Duke sat down with a thump! on a nearby sofa, staring at the little silver fox who had just lifted its head to talk to him.

In plain English.

“I can’t be drunk; I haven’t touched the stuff for three years now!”  The master thief insisted to no one in particular.

A weak chuckle answered him.  “You aren’t drunk.  I’m just a bit out of the ordinary, that’s all.”

Duke continued to stare at his guest, trying to process the idea that he was having an intelligent conversation with an animal.

“Thank you for not putting me out of my misery.”

He paled, realizing he had been about to kill what appeared to be a sentient creature.  “I’m sorry… I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay.”  The female voice whispered.

The former thief got up, fetched a towel from the bathroom, and spread it over the little fox where it lay.  “Get some rest, okay?  Once you’re healed, I’d kinda like ta know how a fox learned how ta talk…” he kidded, trying to make a joke as he noticed red beginning to seep through the bandage again.

The creature seemed to be drowsy now, it’s eyes half-shut and unfocused.

Duke cursed quietly.  He’d have felt bad enough about losing an animal, but now it appeared the silver-coloured fox was quite a bit more than that.

And he was still losing her… at least, he assumed it was a her.  It sounded like one, but, then again, he had very little idea what a lady fox should sound like…

“It’s not like I ‘kin stroll into the nearest library an’ ask for their expert wizard on mythical animals…”  He mumbled, trying to think – and it hit him.  “Actually, I suppose I could…” he grinned.  “I’m just in the wrong dimension for it…”

The fox stirred, but didn’t open its eyes.

“Trouble is, how am I gonna get there?”

The answer popped into his head a moment later, and he headed for the door.  “Be right back.”  Duke told his ‘patient’ as the door slid open.  “Have ta go borrow an amulet…”

 

The safe was no problem for someone of Duke’s talents… and besides, he knew the password anyway.

The ‘souvenir cabinet’, as he’d come to think of it, only held a few objects so far – all of them too dangerous to leave lying around, and one in particular – was magic.

Duke tucked the small green gem into a shoulder pouch, and hit the button to close the safe and retract it into the floor.

The noise of a door sliding open caught his attention, and he turned to see Mallory staring at him.

“Somethin’ the matter, sweetheart?”  He asked, trying to hide his annoyance at her untimely arrival.

“Were you in the missions safe?”

He almost winced at the sharp note in her voice.  Oh, great

“Nah.  Just checkin’ somethin’ on Drake 1.”  Duke replied, and stepped into the elevator before she could ask any more questions.

Mallory glanced after him, then frowned and hit the safe button.

It rose up out of the floor, opened… and she growled as she spotted the empty space where Asteroth’s amulet had been.

“I don’t believe him!”  She grabbed her com-link, absolutely furious that she had trusted him for an instant.

“Wildwing?  Get the others.  I just ran into Duke, and he’s got the amulet…”

 

Duke jogged into his room, locking the door behind him.  “Sorry lady, but we’re gonna have ta leave in a hurry.  I ran into someone when I borrowed this, an’ there’s no way that girl’s gonna leave well enough alone.  She’s gonna bring the team after me, and you haven’t got enough time left for long explanations…”

The silver fox raised its head weakly.  The towel was turning red now, and a small trickle of blood was running over the tabletop.

I wonder how much blood a fox can lose before it kills ‘em?

Duke picked her up gently, wrapped the towel around her more, and took the amulet out, clutching it in a fist.  “I wish…”

Wait.  You’re making this too hard.

“…I wish that you would heal!”

A small glow radiated from the gem, and the fox yelped in surprise.

“It’s gone.”

He glanced down at the animal he held, and it stared up at him, violet eyes wide with surprise.  “The pain’s gone.”  The fox repeated.  “How?”

“With this.”  Duke answered, setting the gem down on his workbench.  “It’s a magical object we got from an evil sorcerer…”

The fox moaned softly, and he stared, realizing she was bleeding again.  “…it depends on whether you have the amulet!  The magic fades as soon as you no longer have it.”  Duke growled, realizing what was happening.  “So this isn’t a permanent fix…”

Someone pounded on the door, and he started.

“Duke?  Open the door!”

He ignored Wildwing’s order.  “Heal.”  He commanded quietly, touching the gem again, and the fox’s whimpering stopped.

Duke grabbed the amulet, and tried to picture the alternate dimension Anaheim.  “Take me to the Prince Regent of Anaheim.”  He ordered.

The fox’s eyes widened at his words, and the duo vanished into a tunnel of purplish light, just as the door burst open.

“Gone.  He’s already gone.”  Mallory spat, furious.

“Take it easy, Mallory.  I’m sure Duke had a good reason for taking it.”  Wildwing commented.  “We’ll just have to wait until he gets back to find out what it is.”

“Unless he takes it back to Asteroth.”  The red-head muttered.

Wildwing looked uneasy, but remained silent.

 

Fox and Elusive are copyright me, FoxStar, 2003.  Duke, Wildwing, and Mallory are copyright Disney.  *considers that fact*  Huh.  They can have Mallory...  >:)