Cobwebs of the Past
A Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers story by Morgan Kohl
Chip glanced over the side of the Rangerwing, almost giving himself vertigo as he stared down at the city of tiny lights below him. He may have been a brilliant detective, but among the Rangers, he wasn't the best pilot. He only had a vague idea of where he was going anyway, and he hoped he hadn't gotten himself _completely_ lost. The pictures from his dream still burned in his brain like the afterimage you get from staring into a lightbulb. He could see his friends so clearly, almost feel their fear. He would not let himself let them down.
He suddenly realized he was humming a tune, even patting the side of the plane in time. He thought about it, and when he realized what it was, the appropriateness of the lyrics to his situation startled him. He sang along with the sound of Tom Petty's voice in his head:
"Now I'm runnin' down a dream,
Never would come to me.
Workin' on a mystery,
Goin' wherever it leads.
Runnin' down a dream..."
Eventually, Chip reached his first, and hopefully last, destination. He settled the Rangerwing down on the roof of a party store, mentally thanking Gadget for providing the plane with vertical-take-off-and-landing engines. He'd always had a devil of a time landing the Rangerplane, what with those dang suction cups.
Chip took a length of rope from his jacket and scaled down the back wall of the store to the street. He found himself in a dark, dank, grimy alley. The kind of alley that gave all the other alleys a bad name. He knew this was a place where a good percentage of the animal world's minor lowlifes, thugs, goons and stooges congregated to look for work from brainier crooks, or just have a good time getting themselves completely hammered. Every brick in every wall reeked of shady characters and dirty deals. This was where Chip hoped his target would be. He'd observed his objective many times in this alley, and it didn't surprise him in the least. Chip had tracked his quarry for months in anticipation of this day. He hoped he could find him in time.
Without warning, an intense wave of emotion blasted into Chip. He leaned against a wall and gritted his teeth as he felt himself suddenly on the verge of tears. His memories took him back to the night the Rangers had first encountered the villainous Victoria, and more specifically, to the heart-wrenching recollection of his childhood that was also stirred up that long, hard night. How he had finally, after years of denial and self-loathing, been able to come to terms with the death of his boyhood crush, Marie Sunslope.
It was such a dumb prank in retrospect. He couldn't believe he'd been stupid enough to think of it in the first place. Couldn't believe he'd been so stupid as to not realize how dangerous it was. He could still hear her scream as she fell to her much-too-early death. Still feel the dull, bloody thump in his chest as he realized the golden-haired chipmunk was dead.
Everyone else accepted it as just a terrible, terrible accident. But not Chip. He had carried the blame for her passing all his life. It had weighed on his heart for decades. Even though all the others, even Marie's parents, had forgiven him, Chip was never able to forgive himself.
But a literal brush with death on one of their most epic cases had changed his entire world. He still wasn't sure of the how; it all seemed so surreal in hindsight, like an all-too-real dream. It couldnÕt have really happened, could it? Yet *somehow* he'd found himself holding a folded note that said, in what was unmistakably Marie's handwriting; "I forgive you". He could hardly believe it, even though he wanted to so badly...
Chip looked up at the sky, at the half-full moon that hung directly above him. A few tears that didn't know which emotion they belonged to rolled down his cheeks. He took off his fedora and held it to his heart. "I don't know where you are tonight, Marie," he softly whispered to the heavens, "but I hope you're happy. And maybe, after a long time, maybe we could meet up again. Somewhere beyond this life. Catch up on old times again." He paused for a moment, a shadow falling over him as a cloud floated over the moon. "I've said it so many times, but I'm so sorry. I'd go back to that day and save you in a heartbeat. I would have even traded my life for yours, Marie. I am still so sorry..."
Chip reminded himself that the real world needed him now. He had a job to do. He adjusted his jacket, replaced his hat and took one last, quick look back up at the moon. "Goodnight, Marie."
Every crack in every building had been exploited by somebody. There were more bars and discreet meeting places up and down the alley than Chip could count. He didn't see a single soul as he strode defiantly down the middle of the alley. At least not directly. But he could feel them. All around him, watching him with their yellow eyes from a hundred darkened hiding places. Chip knew where he wanted to go, but he couldn't seem to find it. Every place looked the same here.
A chill breeze suddenly washed through the moonlit alley, wrapping itself around Chip for a split second like a blanket made of ice. The wind formed a single word in his ear. A faded feminine voice that said "...chip..."
He spun around in the direction of the sound, eyes wide in surprise, heart fluttering like a caged bird. There, he saw a fleeting image. It didn't register in his mind until it was already gone. But Chip had seen, or had thought he'd seen, a slender female chipmunk in a yellow dress the color of dandelions, surrounded by a cloud of snow-blue mist. She was pointing across the alley behind him. And she was smiling.
It was her. Not as he'd known her, but all grown up now. But it was her.
Chip stood like a statue, frozen still as the cool concrete beneath his feet, lit in cobalt blue by the moon above. Had it been real? The fur on his back was standing on end and a shiver went up his spine. Had he been thinking about her hard enough to manifest a hallucination? Or had she indeed appeared to him from the afterlife to ease his worries once more?
"Well," he said to himself, "I've already had *one* vision tonight..."
Chip looked around and realized that the direction the specter had been pointing to was exactly where he'd been headed; a seedy rodent/insect tavern that catered mostly to the very bottom rungs of the underworld hierarchy. Light poured through the open door out into the alley, reflecting off the little pools of rainwater everywhere. Chip crept silently closer and peered around the doorway. There was his quarry, seated in plain view, right at the bar.
Chip turned around, looking back into the darkness that now didn't seem so bleak. Forces he didn't understand were at work this night. He was grateful they were on his side. He smiled to himself and felt his eyes moisten. "Thanks, Marie," he said softly.
The sound of a glass smashing on the floor of the bar behind him brought Chip's mind back to the task at hand again. Dale and Foxglove's lives were in danger. He took a deep breath and steeled himself, getting his 'tough guy' face on. He swaggered through the doorway like a wild west sheriff searching a saloon for a wanted outlaw.
Conversations stopped, drinks spilled and bloodshot eyes widened in terror at the sight of a Rescue Ranger, the LEADER no less, entering the nefarious establishment. A few patrons clutched at their hearts. But Chip had eyes for one man only. The others, scum as they were, just weren't important enough to bother with at the moment. His gaze told them this. A stone cold stare that said 'stay out of my way if you want to live to see the sunrise. I have business here and I'm not in the mood to be interrupted'.
The determined Ranger took something from his pocket, did something with it under his jacket, and strode up to the bar. The bartender looked up from the glass he'd dropped, took one look at him and paled. Chip tapped his prey on the shoulder, and before they had time to react, he shoved a chloroform-soaked sponge into their face. He didn't have time to waste on anything less direct.
As the struggles weakened under his grip, Chip snarled "Sorry to disturb your evening, but my friends are in mortal danger and you're going to help me save their lives, aren't you?"
They didn't respond.
And not a soul moved to stop him when Chip dragged him off his stool, across the floor and out into the night.
* * *
The water was now a little more than an inch away from the metal screen. Dale had, at most, five minutes to live.
His eyes and Foxglove's were locked inseparably onto one another's. Both pairs were red from tears. Neither could bring themselves to say a word.
Dale had never been so scared in his life. Never before had he felt this close to dying. Sure, he'd had plenty of close shaves before; he was a Rescue Ranger after all. But he'd never really believed he would ever die, until tonight. Only his lover's beautiful, caring face was keeping him from breaking down in terrified panic.
Foxglove pressed her wingtips to the glass, wishing with all her might that they would somehow bleed through the glass to reach him. If only to touch him one last time. That was the worst part of Victoria's horribly cruel plan. That they couldn't touch. She knew being a hero was dangerous work, and sometimes when the others had been out solving mysteries and stopping bad guys, she had hung on her perch at home, unable to sleep, worrying if this night when they returned, would Dale still be with them? Would some unseen villain take her Cutie's life? Or would she be with him when he died? She could see him clearly in her imagination; sacrificing himself to save the day, and she would cradle him in her wings as he took his last breath. Sometimes she wondered how she herself would die, and envisioned the same scenario of dying in her lover's embrace. She knew she wouldn't fear her passing as long as Dale was there to guide her into the beyond.
But none of that was to be. She would hang here and watch him expire in complete helplessness. The closest she would come to him being with her would be the water that had drowned him as it spilled into her enclosure and drowned her as well. She would not resist it. She would lie down in the farthest corner, never looking up at his body as it floated lifelessly above her, and let the water take her away.
For the first time in her life, Foxglove felt a sudden anger at herself for not learning as much magic as she could from Winnifred when she'd had the chance. Maybe one of _those_ spells could have helped her now.
Dale saw her expression, and saw the hopelessness on her lovely features. Watched her as she gave up. He couldn't let that happen. He took a deep breath and gathered his strength. "...Foxglove?" Dale began haltingly, knowing these could very well be his last words.
"Yes darling?" she replied softly.
"I've got something I need to tell you, and I need you to listen real close, sweetiepie."
She nodded earnestly. "Oh, of course, Cutie! What is it?" She gazed into his eyes, as if looking for a nourishment she was starving for.
He found himself smiling, realizing what a privilege it was just to be able to look upon someone who was so beautiful to him, both inside and out. He spoke;
'Foxy, listen. Now, I know I don't usually do this, but I gotta get serious for a moment. We *can't* let her win. Victoria wants to turn you into the bitter, mean old poop that she is. We can't let that happen! You've always been my sunshine, my laughter, my chocolate cupcake! Don't let her turn you into her. And Foxy, I need you to promise me something. Two things, really."
"Anything, my darling!" she told him, with all the sincerity she possessed.
"If I do die... And you do too, sweetheart... Promise me you won't spend your last moments getting mad at Victoria. She's not worth it. She won't even care anyway. You're too good a person to waste any of yourself on dumb, useless stuff like hate. Spend that time thinking of all the good times we've had. All the time we spent together, havin' fun and being in love.
"And don't be afraid, Foxy. Just think that when you go, I'll be right there waiting for you on the other side. Right there. And the first thing I'll do is give you a great big hug. And then we can see whatÕs in store for us next, together. Side by side. You and me, my sweet batty, and everything is gonna be okay."
She blinked away tears, but at the same time she was smiling with all her heart at such a wonderful thought.
"I'll probably be going away soon. And when I do, I want the last thing I ever see in this world to be your smile. That beautiful, beautiful smile of yours that I love so much and makes my heart feel like nothing bad could ever happen in the whole world. Can you do that for me, Foxy?"
Foxglove saw through his dark, caring eyes to his soul and felt his love for her inside her heart. She pressed herself to the glass and kissed it with a burning passion, almost believing it was really him. She remembered every wonderful, happy, funny, sweet memory that they had ever shared together. It was easy to smile then. "Oh yes, Sweetheart! I promise! Of course I'll smile for you!" And to prove it, she did. A smile that radiated peace, serenity and joy. And as she smiled, she thought to herself that maybe things weren't as bad as they seemed, even if they really were as bad as they seemed.
The sight of that smile, that magical, miraculous smile, filled Dale's heart with courage. Things would turn out okay. As long as that smile existed in the world, even in the midst of their darkest hour, Dale knew nothing bad could ever happen to them. He was certain of it. And even if this was to be the end of his life, he had no doubts that it was definitely not the end of their love.
They smiled at each other for a while. In those moments, they truly felt that no matter what was to happen to them next, their love for one another could make it all okay.
Foxy found a little bit of a tune in her mind, and she sang it for Dale in her sweet, gentle voice. It came, oddly enough, from the Beach Boys:
"Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up,
In the morning when the day is new,
After having spent the day together,
Hold each other close the whole night through...
You know it seems the more we talk about it,
It only makes it worse to live without it.
But let's talk about it.
'Cause wouldn't it be nice..."
Dale chuckled at the poignancy of the simple lyrics. He felt his heart lighten from the sound of Foxy's soft, golden singing voice. He responded in turn with a little light Aerosmith:
"I don't wanna close my eyes, I don't wanna fall asleep,
'Cause I'd miss you baby,
And I don't wanna miss a thing.
And even when I dream of you, the sweetest dream would never do.
I'd still miss you, Foxy,
And I don't wanna miss a thing.
I don't wanna miss one smile
I don't wanna miss one kiss.
I just wanna be with you right here with you, just like this.
I just wanna hold you close,
Feel your heart so close to mine,
And just stay here in this moment, for all the rest of time..."
In the original song, some of the lyrics were almost screamed out, but as he already had to stretch to keep his mouth above the water, Dale sung it softly, like a lullabye, and let the song softly fade out at the end. Dale felt the water slowly creep up over his head, and found it easier to just let himself go under so he could still look into the face of his beloved bat.
Continuing their musical farewell, Foxglove took one last look at Dale, and held it, never taking her eyes off his for a heartbeat as she sang her goodbye to him. Her quiet voice was filled with both love and longing:
"Tonight I'm tangled in my blanket of clouds,
Things just won't do without you, matter of fact,
I'm on your back..."
Dale smiled softly, recognizing the song. It was by Foo Fighters, and it had played at the very end of the X-Files movie, one of his all-time favorites. He remembered sitting under the projector window in the darkened theater, holding Foxy in his arms as she trembled in fright. And then how they'd both felt as the last song played over the credits. Such a soft, sweet little song. The vocals almost a whisper, the words a declaration of unending unity. He and Foxglove had smiled upon hearing the lyrics and had enjoyed a long, slow kiss.
"I'm on your back...
I'm on your back."
Dale remembered all the times when Foxy had literally been on his back, holding him tightly in her gentle footclaws as she flew with him through the park on warm summer evenings, both of them revelling in the feel of the wind splashing against their bodies...
"If you walk out on me now...
Walking after you.
If you walk out on me now...
Walking after you..."
Dale felt his heart in his throat. The words Foxy sang had originally been a call to a lover who had lost their love and was literally walking out, the singer telling them that he loved them enough that he would follow even if they did leave. But now, those same words had a new meaning. He _was_ leaving her, in a way. Not by choice, of course. But he was going away nonetheless. He could feel it. And Foxglove was letting him know that her love was strong enough that she would follow him wherever he would be taken. She was telling him that their love would not be broken, not even by death.
"Another heart is cracked,
I'm on your back..."
Dale realized he hadn't been able to breathe for quite a long time now...
"I can not be without you, matter of fact,
I'm on your back...
Woah-oh-ohhh-oh, I'm on your back..."
A _very_ long time...
"If you walk out on me,
Walking after you.
If you walk out on me...
I'm walking after you...
If you walk out on me...
Foxglove's song quietly ended.
And so did Dale.
Her smile was the last thing he saw.
Foxglove put her face in her wings and began to softly weep...
* * *
...But then suddenly a whole lot of things happened all at once...
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