Promises Kept

 

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25 Washington Ave.
Blue Cove, Delaware

Sydney pulled the car into the driveway and was about to open the car door when he felt the nape of his neck prickle, as if he was being watched. He knew that Nicholas was away, teaching, and that Michelle had said she was going shopping. Her car wasn't there, and he had seen no movement inside the house, so he assumed she was still out. Therefore, he was probably alone, or as alone as he ever was.

His hand had just touched the cool metal of the handle when he felt the prickling on the back of his neck intensify, looking around sharply. Something sparkled in the dim light, slowly solidifying into the familiar image of his brother, as he had appeared in the time before the accident, sitting on the passenger seat.

"They were right, you know," Jacob began. "We are different."

Sydney exhaled slowly, turning his gaze towards the front of the vehicle. "I never really wanted to believe what you said."

"You think I didn't know that?" Jacob chuckled. "You always wanted to be the same as everybody else. But we aren't, and you just have to accept that."

"Yes, I suppose I do," Sydney agreed. "And I think I have accepted it."

"But you won't work with it." His brother's head tilted to one side. "Even though you should."

"Don't you think I have enough to deal with?" Sydney snapped. "What with Morgan, Angelo and Nicholas, not to mention my grandchildren and your daughter." He looked sharply at the translucent image on the passenger seat. "Have you seen her?"

"Every day of her life, in my mind," Jacob smiled. "I always dreamt about Alexis and wondered what had happened to her. I hoped Catherine would have managed to save her. That's why I told her about us."

Sydney shot a sideways glance at his brother. "Did you know about Catherine and me?"

"Of course." Jacob grinned. "I even knew about Morgan and Timmy. In fact, I often wondered why you didn't question it further."

"It wasn't that I didn't want to," Sydney confessed, "but I saw no reason to doubt it. The test result she showed me…" He trailed off into silence. "Does Kim see you?"

"She doesn't know what she's looking for." Jacob's expression became somber. "Maybe, if she knew that, then she might."

"You want me to tell her?"

"Not right now. Maybe later." Jacob's fingers impatiently tapped his knee. "She's more involved in finding out about her mother than me. But it'll probably come. Eventually."

"I'm sure it will." Sydney smiled. "And whenever she's ready, I'll tell her about her father's legacy."

He opened the car door and got out, collecting his things from the trunk and looping his cane over his left arm while he unlocked the door and entered the house. His balance was better, although he still needed the cane for going up and down stairs. His left hand, too, was getting stronger. It was a positive sign, and, he privately admitted to himself, he had only been waiting to see if the healers had been able to help his son before asking for similar help himself, but that, of course, was now out of the question.

He sighed slightly as he closed the door and carried his things into the small room next to his and Michelle's bedroom that acted as a study. It had proved impossible to stay away from his work at the Centre, although he was less busy now that Yuri was down at Sanctuary. There were times when he considered moving down to Texas, but while Morgan continued to work in Blue Cove, he wanted to be close to her, and could travel down to see his son and grandchildren when he so desired without any problems. He acted as consultant on several of the more problematic projects at the Centre, and had some of his own, which was enough to keep him interested and busy without the burden of duty he had borne for so many years. Sydney now enjoyed his time at the Centre, which was a stark contrast to the way he had felt during the previous years.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Trevor nervously paced the empty lobby. He had left a message on his father's voicemail service, and had deliberately turned off his cell phone so that Patrick would be forced to leave a similar message, rather than actually speaking with him. The older man's voice had been non-committal when he had given the date and time he would arrive at the Prometheus Building. Trevor had tried to take comfort in the fact that he had at least said he was coming, and he knew his father would keep his word, but this wasn't an event he had ever imagined. Pride had stopped him from even addressing his father at his mother's funeral, and, as time went on, it seemed increasingly less likely that he could ever feel he belonged in his own family again. Those around him, here at Sanctuary, were like family, but there was still something missing, some sore part of his heart that he had believed wouldn't heal until he had a family of his own. But even after his marriage, it had continued to lurk there as a constant reminder of his past.

The heavy door swung open with its familiar creak, and, aware that he had the advantage of his eyes already being adjusted to the dim light, Trevor turned quickly. His father looked older than he had appeared at the burial, his black hair sprinkled with gray and his face more deeply lined. However, he retained his proud posture, head held high. Trevor took an involuntary step closer, remembering that, despite all their disagreements, this man was still his father, before forcing himself to wait and see how Patrick reacted.

"I'm so glad you called, son," the older man's voice offered, a little tentatively. "I've been trying to find you for some time."

"Why?" he blurted out involuntarily, and saw his father sigh.

"We were wrong, Trevor, your mother and I. We had no right to try to stop you from using your gift in any way you chose. We shouldn't have tried to make those decisions for you. They were yours, not ours."

The psychic felt his heart leap and a weight seemed to detach itself from his shoulders. Never, in his wildest dreams, had he imagined that he would hear those words.

"Your mother made me promise I'd tell you that one day," Patrick continued. "I was starting to believe I'd never have this opportunity."

"You never… said anything to me at the funeral," Trevor offered hesitantly.

"You didn't really give me a chance," his father reprimanded gently. "It was barely over before you were in your car and gone. I kept hoping you'd turn up at home afterwards, but you never did."

"I didn't think you'd want to see me." The young man remembered the morning that he had 'seen' his mother's death and the period of uncertainty that had followed it, before he had finally decided to go to the funeral.

"I'd just lost your mother, Trevor," Patrick reminded him. "You were all I had left." He took a step closer. "You still are."

"You never remarried?"

His father smiled faintly. "Wouldn't you have known if I had? After all, you knew about your mother, even though it was never in the papers."

Trevor's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "It wasn't?"

"Everyone in town knew about it. The only other person I wanted to tell was you, and I had no idea where you were, or which paper I should put it in, so I didn't put it in any. When you turned up, it only proved what your mother suspected would happen."

"She knew?"

Patrick sighed. "She knew she was dying, son, and that she wouldn't see you before she passed away. She also knew you'd be at the funeral, without being told about it. I think, towards the end, it took too much effort to ignore what she was being told, so she finally accepted it. One day, she told me that her greatest regret was that she wouldn't see you before she died. That was when I started trying to find you, but it was almost like you'd disappeared off the face of the earth." The older man swallowed hard. "There were times when I even believed that you must be dead."

Trevor thought guiltily of the credit cards in his wallet, taken out in the name the company, rather than in his own name. It hadn't been a conscious decision, being more convenient at the time, but he suddenly realized that part of the reason he had happily done so was to avoid being found by his parents.

"There were times when I thought about coming home," he suggested timidly. "But I was never sure if I'd be welcome."

His father's hands gently came to rest on his upper arms. "Trevor, you're our son. Of course we would have wanted you to come home. The day you left was the worst of my entire life, and even worse was the knowledge that I'd helped to drive you away. I think it was then that your mother and I really woke up to what we'd done, in trying to deny the thing that makes you so special."

Trevor stared at his father. "So you believe in it now?"

"I don't appear to have a choice," Patrick returned wryly. "Your grandmother spent virtually every day from the time you were four years old telling me I was a fool to doubt that it existed, and she warned that I could lose you forever if I kept behaving in that way. She was almost right. And your mother talked me into it, during the last days of her life." He shrugged. "I might be older, but I like to think I'm still flexible. I can't be skeptical of things that are right in front of my eyes, even if they contradict what I believed in for so many years."

The younger man sighed deeply in relief and pulled his father into his arms. Everything, even his anxiety about his wife, seemed easier to cope with now that this issue with his father had been resolved. Patrick's arms tightened around his back for a moment, and Trevor could feel his father inhale deeply as he straightened.

"I never thought I'd have the chance to hold you again, son."

"Neither did I," Trevor admitted with a smile. "But I'm glad we've got it."

Patrick smiled warmly in return, before his eyes roved around the lobby. "So what kind of place is this, anyway? You've got more security than Fort Knox."

The younger man chuckled. "You won't be able to be a skeptic here, Dad. We've got just about every kind of paranormal phenomenon going, apart from UFOs."

His father shot him an amused but dubious glance. "Tell me about it."

"I will." He waved at the elevators. "But first, I've got somebody I want you to meet."

* * * * * * * * *

Die Fakultat
Berlin, Germany

Frederick Hohmann sighed as he turned to the last bundle of files, retrieved from a safety deposit box in the Deutsche Bank in Berlin. Going through his predecessor's personal files, he had found the details, along with a list of those who were to have access to it, should anything happen to him. Frederick had been gratified to find his name heading the list. It meant Peter Winston had intended him to take over the position to which the new German board had unanimously voted him after the American's murder.

The files had been personal, about various staff members working in the offices, and one about Martin Delius. Frederick had enjoyed disposing of that one after they had destroyed the older man's body. Now there were only a few more, a thick bundle, bound tightly with an elastic band, and the man was startled to find a hand-written note tucked under the band.

'Don't show Morgan.'

The German arched an eyebrow, easing off the elastic and opening the first booklet on the desk, picking up the few slips of paper that escaped and drifted to the floor. The handwriting, he noted immediately, was that of Wolfram Leiden. Curious, he looked at the dates that headed each page, seeing that they had been written during the Second World War. Turning to his computer, the man opened Leiden's personnel file, bringing up his work during that period and eyeing the detail that linked him to Dachau concentration camp.

He didn't even change his name, Frederick thought. Why didn't he ever stand trial after the war, like many of his contemporaries had to?

Knowing that he would never have an answer for that question, but suspecting Hermann Bruce to have been involved, he turned back to the files, sharply drawing in his breath as he recognized a familiar name. His eyes ran down the details in Leiden's personnel details once more, seeing that the man had been responsible for experiments carried out on Sydney and Jacob Ritter, believing that the notes in front of him were those made during that terrible period.

He felt unable to continue going through those details, as if it were an invasion of privacy. They rightfully belonged to Sydney and his family. His eyes dwelled on Peter Winston's note, trying to understand the man's motives but unable to do so.

"I'm sorry, Peter," he murmured aloud, as he found a large envelope in his desk drawer and slid the files into it, addressing it to Morgan at the Centre, before hunting out the names of men that he trusted to courier it to her. "But she should have it, not me."

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

"Jarod?"

The Pretender turned from the scans he was reviewing to smile at the man in the doorway. "Hey, Trevor. Can I do something for you?"

The younger man's answering smile was full of pride. "I want you to meet my dad."

He stepped aside, and Jarod's eyes widened as he recognized the man in the doorway. "Patrick!"

The older man stared for a moment, before chuckling. "Nice to see you again, Jarod."

Trevor's jaw drooped slightly, his astonishment obvious, but the older man had already seen the scans on the screens and stepped into the room, his professionalism automatically taking over.

"What's this?"

Jarod's expression became serious. "This is the reason Trevor asked you to come here. We need your surgical skills."

Patrick looked doubtful. "Well, I haven't done it for a while."

"I happen to know that your instincts are still up to scratch," Jarod commented, a grin quirking the corners of his mouth, and the older man smiled acquiescence.

"Tell me what you want and I'll see what I can do."

Jarod stepped closer to the screens, seeing as Patrick did the same. "This is from Sebastian, one of the pyrokinetics."

The surgeon's brow creased slightly. "Pyrokinetic? You mean, like a fire-starter?"

"Exactly." Jarod pointed out the area of worst degeneration, before picking up a folder and taking out another scan, sliding it under the clip. "This is from Keely, his sister, and this one," he pointed at a third scan, "from his son, Gideon."

"Severe degeneration of the somatosensory cortex," Patrick murmured.

Jarod pointed out another scan. "This is from a hyper-empath, who has the ability to reflect and magnify a person's emotions."

Patrick arched an eyebrow, casting an amused look at his son. "I see what you mean, Trevor," he murmured, before taking a look at the image. "Moderate degeneration of the frontal lobe."

"Every condition shows different degeneration," Jarod explained, removing the images and replacing them with two others. "These are the scans of our healers."

The neurosurgeon's lips pursed. "Very severe lower parietal and somatosensory degeneration."

"Telekinetics," Jarod offered, putting up scans from Rebecca and her daughters, and keeping an interested eye on the older man, seeing his eyebrows rise.

"There's no central fissure," Patrick protested, stepping forward for a closer look. "Or at least, the tissue that filled the space has begun to degenerate, but it looks like the space would have been filled."

"That's what I thought," Jarod agreed. "To be honest, though, my concern is that the tissue of the frontal lobe has also begun to degenerate slightly." He took out a final sheet and slid it under the clip, stepping back without a word, casting an anxious glace at the psychic.

Patrick eyed the scan for a moment in silence, before leaning forward to examine it more closely. "The pons is almost completely degenerated," he stated quietly. "This person is about to lose the ability to co-ordinate the two sides of their body."

Trevor made a sound of protest in his throat and sat down heavily on a chair against the wall. The surgeon, after casting a concerned look at his son, inhaled deeply and turned to Jarod.

"What were you planning to do for these people?"

Jarod folded his arms across his chest and looked down at his feet for a moment, sighing deeply. "It's complicated," he finally admitted, looking up again, "and controversial."

Patrick's expression was immediately interested. "Tell me."

The Pretender drew the older man over to the table, sitting down as Patrick did and seeing Trevor pull a chair up to sit beside his father. Patrick placed a hand on his son's, and Jarod saw Trevor's fingers tighten around his father's.

"We're considering the possibility of injecting stem cells into the affected areas, in the hope they'll graft onto the degenerating tissue and grow into new brain tissue."

Patrick's lips pursed into a silent whistle of amazement as he sat back in the chair. "Controversial is an understatement, Jarod."

"I know." The man nodded. "The question is, with what you know of these types of operations, do you think it's possible?"

The older man rested his chin on his hands, looking down at the notes that were spread out on the table in front of him. "It's possible," he agreed hesitantly, and Jarod saw Trevor's eyes light up. "But it's going to be a very dangerous operation."

Jarod pulled a page out of his pocket, unfolded it and placed it in front of the surgeon, rising to put Joseph's scan back onto the screen. "This is a report of the man whose condition is most serious. It was his collapse that prompted the investigation."

Patrick studied the sheet, occasionally glancing up at the MRI results as if matching what he read to the areas of degeneration. "If we strike a nerve during the procedure," he stated slowly, "we run the risk of causing similar damage."

"That's the reason we wanted you involved," Jarod responded. "I don't have enough experience to reduce that risk in the way we do by having you here."

"There's a similar operation performed on epileptic children," Patrick mused. "Only, in that case, part of the brain is burnt away, to prevent seizures, rather than having something added to it. However, the technique would be much the same, until it came to releasing the cells."

"We're working on a new instrument that could be used during the surgery," Jarod explained. "It would be better able to release the cells into the right part of the brain than anything available on the market at the moment."

The older man raised an eyebrow as he looked up. "Who are you, Jarod? When we met, you said you weren't involved in medicine. But now…"

Jarod grinned faintly. "It's complicated," he confessed.

"Apparently." Patrick rose to his feet, tapping the sheet. "Let me examine this individual and then we can go into the possible procedure in more detail."

* * * * * * * * *

Patrick withdrew to where Jarod waited in the doorway, seeing that his son had disappeared.

"How many other people are in this state?"

"Two others were found to have small clots," the younger man told him softly, watching a nurse cover the semi-conscious man and check on the IV. "We've started them on medication to break the clots into smaller pieces and we'll keep an eye on them. The only other person with a similar level of degeneration is the one you commented on." He broke off, looking over the older man's shoulder, and Patrick turned to see his son approaching with a dark-haired woman. Trevor's expression was both nervous and full of pride, telling his father that this woman was very special to him and that he was anxious for his father's approval.

"Liz, this is my Dad, Patrick," Trevor announced. "Dad, this is Elizabeth," Patrick saw Trevor's eyes sparkle with barely suppressed laughter as he briefly paused, before continuing hurriedly, "my wife."

The older man stared at his son briefly in amazement before laughing, shaking his head as he bent forward to kiss Elizabeth's cheek.

"Well, it's certainly a real pleasure to meet you," he greeted her, sending an amazed look at his son over the woman's shoulder as he hugged her, seeing Trevor grin sheepishly as he dug his foot into the linoleum floor, a gesture he had used regularly as a boy.

"It's lovely to meet you, too," Elizabeth replied warmly. "I've heard so much about you."

"We should leave you to talk about the surgery," Trevor stated, after a couple of minutes of casual conversation, taking his wife's hand. "Wasn't Angelique wanting your help with something when I came to get you?"

"Yes, she was," the woman agreed, casting a farewell smile at her father-in-law before going down the hall with her husband.

"She looks like a nice person," Patrick mused, watching them leave.

"She is," Jarod agreed quietly. "Very nice. You couldn't want a better daughter-in-law." He sighed, turning to face the surgeon. "She's also the person with the severe degeneration of the pons that you noticed before." He exhaled slowly. "And to complicate matters, she's also pregnant."

Patrick felt something sink in his chest as he looked at the younger man, seeing the sorrow in his dark eyes, suddenly understanding his son's reaction when they had mentioned it earlier and how Trevor had managed to overcome his pride to call his father after so long.

"How soon can we start the operations?" Patrick demanded abruptly, aware that he could at least try to do something about this, that the more time he spent sitting around mourning the fact that his son's wife's condition was potentially so serious, the less chance he would have of correcting it. "How far along are you with the planning?"

Jarod drew him along to a room that had been set up for an office and sent a guard to get one of the other residents, who would also be assisting with the surgery, before they began to discuss the possible procedure.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Broots looked around the dank interior of SL-27, watching as electricians erected lights on poles every few hundred feet to light the passageways so that the sweepers could more clearly see the rooms they had been directed to clear out. He wished Jarod had never thought of this place again, let alone mentioned to Morgan that it should be cleared out in case anything of use was left to find. He could have handed the operation over to Warwick, or set up a group from among his underlings, but Lazslo had finally decided to head the project himself, so that he could report immediately if anything important was found.

The sheer size of the level had resulted in him calling in all unoccupied sweepers and cleaners to help, and the large group scattered into the numerous rooms nearby. Broots strolled along the dark passageway, eyeing the many doors, thinking what a difference permanent lighting made, before opening the construction blueprint that Jarod had stolen years earlier, comparing it to his current location.

The basic layout was the same as the upper levels, containing a series of rooms marked as being for scientific laboratories, sim labs and accommodation suites. There was also a plan for a normal access point from the elevators that serviced the 26 other sub-levels and those above ground. The shaft had been dug, but a brake had been put in after the fire that had destroyed the area, at the point where SL-26 stopped and the level below it began. Broots had already arranged for this shaft to be made accessible and the elevators to be reprogrammed to include the lowest level, rather than requiring access to be only through the sewer port.

Parts of old computers had been retrieved from other rooms and were being taken to boxes that had been lowered on thick ropes into the lower level. These were hoisted up, to be transferred to a room that had been set aside near the hub of SIS for Broots and others to scan through later, in case any new information could be found.

Lazslo wandered away from the rooms that were being searched, from the area in which records had shown that the fire had started, and in which Sydney had set the bomb, watching as more of the spotlights were retrieved from the upper level and attached to tortion barriers along the hall, to light the rooms. Slowly it became possible to see to the end of the distant corridor, and he eyed the shattered panes of glass in the various doors that would have allowed guards and overseers to watch their projects, unable to tell whether the whitened panes had been caused by the heat of the fire or the repercussions of the explosion.

But as the hours wore on and increasingly more of the hallways were lit, he found areas that were not so badly damaged, that showed signs of being cleaned up after the blazes, patches visible in the walls and doors. Looking up, he saw that the ceiling of the hall way still black, but guessed that the rest of the area had been cleaned for some reason.

Suddenly, something made him stop short, looking around, trying to pinpoint what had attracted his attention.

"Sam!" he called back his shoulder, and the sweeper, who had volunteered for the task, hurried to his side.

"Yes, sir?"

"Get some people to take a closer look into these rooms here."

A team was quickly gathered, and Broots joined them, allocating himself a sub-corridor that led off the main one and from which he believed he had heard the sounds. Then it came again, the faint sound of scratching, a murmur, perhaps even a muffled whimper.

A door stood ajar a few feet away and he inched towards it, holding his flashlight out in front of him like it could protect him. Sam appeared beside him, the sweeper drawing his gun and going into the room ahead of the technician. Through the open door, Broots could see the other man's eyes widen, his mouth dropping open slightly as he stared at something inside the room, and the head of SIS quickly followed him inside.

He found himself standing in an observation room, fully kitted out in some of the most modern equipment that the Centre used, and much of which was still on, including the microphone that had allowed the sounds to travel into the corridor.

It was the contents of the room being observed that had caused Sam's emotions, and which also caused Broots to stare in disbelief as his eyes adjusted to the dim light.

The room contained a thin pile of blankets in one corner, a bowl of water and an overflowing bowl of what was probably excrement. The stench, although it didn't pass through the wall, could be easily imagined, despite the fan that continued to pump fresh air into the room, and Lazslo gagged at the mere thought of it. On the opposite side of the room lay a pile of bones, all of which had been gnawed bare.

Directly opposite the window, on the floor of the room, lay a pile of hair. At least, that was what the two men believed it was, after a quick consultation.

That was, until it moved.

"Oh, God," Broots breathed, seeing dark eyes peering out of the mass of hair, looking around the room, and then a thin arm appear momentarily before it drew back again. "It's a child!"

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

"Daddy," a voice called, breaking into Jarod's consciousness. "Daddeee!"

The man became aware of hands drumming on wood and came to full alertness, sitting up in bed to see his son standing up and banging his hands on the bedhead. As soon as he realized that he had the man's attention, Gabriel held out both hands.

"Daddy," he called again, urgently.

"What is it?" his father demanded grumpily.

"Annie needs your help!"

"Now?" Jarod looked at the clock in disbelief. "It's three a.m.! Angelique will be asleep, baby, just like everyone else."

"No!" Gabriel protested, his bottom lip protruding, and, Jarod thought fleetingly, looking very like his mother. "She needs help now!"

Jarod sighed, realizing he would get no rest until he showed Gabriel that his cousin was sound asleep, getting out of bed and putting on his bathrobe and slippers, before picking his son up and carrying him into the living room. Jordan was standing in the dividing doorway, looking sleepily astonished.

"What's going on, Dad?"

"Your baby brother's having nightmares," Jarod returned sharply, not at all happy with this turn of events. "Go back to bed, son. You have an exam later today."

"Okay. Call if you need me."

Jarod carried Gabriel along to the elevator and got in, making a firm, if somewhat unreasonable, mental note to teach his son to read a clock and never to make ridiculous suggestions like this again before at least six a.m., and preferably seven. The car descended the few floors, and slid open to reveal a darkened hall, but the sounds of panting and muffled sobs were audible from the corner where the door led to the stairs. Jarod hurried in that direction and found his niece, tears in her eyes, struggling to reach the handle of the closed door. Putting Gabriel on the floor, he swept the blond girl into his arms.

"What is it, princess?" he asked in concern. "What's wrong?"

"Lizbet," she wailed, resting her head against his chest and sobbing. "She falled down de stairs!"

"Are you sure?" he demanded. "You weren't dreaming?"

"She hurted!" Angelique sobbed. "She crying!"

Jarod knew that Angelique was comfortable around Elizabeth, and because of that a strong bond had grown between them Although she would never have the powerful biological connection that Angelique had shared with Faith, the Australian woman was starting to take the place of a mother in this motherless child's life.

Picking up Gabriel in his free arm, Jarod pushed open the door to the stairwell, stepping into the dimly lit space and immediately hearing the sound of muffled sobbing from somewhere below him in the semi-darkness. Gabriel had put his arms around his playmate and was holding her while she swallowed her tears, as Jarod began descending the stairs as quickly as he could without losing his still somewhat tentative balance.

Finally, almost eight floors down, as he reached the bottom of a flight of stairs, he could see her lying on the floor below him, her head on her arms, sobbing almost hysterically, so upset that she didn't even hear him approach or put the two children on the floor, jumping violently as he slid an arm around her shoulders and supported her into a sitting position.

"What is it?" he asked gently, smoothing her hair, as he wondered how long she had been there, seeing the cousins waiting a short distance away, holding hands. "What's wrong?"

"It's starting," Elizabeth wept, clutching his robe, making no pretences of the joviality she usually demonstrated. "I fell -- just the last couple of steps -- but I can't even walk anymore! My feet went in two different directions, like they got conflicting reports from my brain, and I couldn't do a thing about it!" She buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing violently, her terror obvious.

"You don't know that," Jarod offered softly, knowing this was false hope, as he stroked her hair.

"I do!" she wailed. "I've never tripped over my own feet in my life. You can't be a gymnast if you do, and I never had any problem with that!"

Jarod silently admitted the truth of this to himself, suspecting that this was, in fact, the start of the deterioration that would eventually leave this lively, cheerful woman in the same state as the man lying in the infirmary upstairs. His eyes slid over to Angelique, aware that, without treatment, she, too, would eventually suffer the same fate. It was an horrendous thought, one his brain repelled instantly.

"I'm going to get a stretcher and have you taken up to the infirmary," he told her gently, eyeing the call switch by the door of the stairwell that led onto the fifth floor, and which would alert security to their predicament. "I want to check you over and make sure everything's okay."

He hoped the fall hadn't caused any problems to her developing baby, but it seemed that she had only tripped down a few steps, so he hoped there wouldn't be any problems. But Jarod could see why this was happening so quickly. Blood was flowing down to help the baby grow, as well as to try to repair the dying tissue in her brain, throwing her blood pressure into disarray. That would, no doubt, be a further cause of her fall, but just that, alone, wouldn't be enough for a person with usually perfect balance. There had to be another cause, and considering what the conclusion -- not just his own, but also Patrick's and Yuri's -- about her future had been, it was the anticipated result, horrifying as that seemed.

By the time the stretcher arrived, Trevor had appeared, but whether he had seen a vision of the fall or he had been called, Jarod didn't know and didn't bother to ask. The psychic was obviously panic-stricken, but controlling it in an attempt to hide his feelings from his wife. One of the nurses tried to take the children to the nursery as the group moved out of the stairwell to the elevator, but both protested loudly and vigorously. However, Jarod refused to let them stay, finally pacifying them with promises to come and tell them how Elizabeth was as soon as he could.

Patrick appeared in the infirmary several minutes later, automatically taking charge. Jarod took notes from the quiet directions that the surgeon gave. While Patrick had the woman sent for an ultrasound, to check the condition of the fetus, Jarod called in the head of nighttime security, requesting him to wake Sebastian and Keely and get them into individual beds, with psychics to watch over their dreams in the old way, just in case the medication that had been created failed when they were asleep. Guards were to be posted along the hallway to answer questions if people were roused by nightmares, as he fully expected them to be.

Sighing wearily, Jarod let his head droop as he turned to go back to bed, before remembering the two children waiting for him in the nursery. Taking the elevator to the relevant floor, he went into his son's room first, but Gabriel had already fallen asleep, clutching the teddy bear Morgan had given him when he was still only a baby at the Centre. Jarod lightly kissed his son's cheek before leaving the room with a farewell pat for Toto, who was curled up on his dog-bed in the corner.

When Jarod went into Angelique's room, however, he saw the girl sit up in bed immediately. She held out her hands to him and he went over to sit next to her, gathering her in his arms, rocking her gently.

"It's all right, Angelique," he assured her softly, despite knowing that it wasn't, and her blue eyes filled with tears as she looked up at him.

"Lizbet going like Mommy gone," she moaned, and he felt his heart ache at the little voice. A hand suddenly came to rest on his arm and Jarod saw that Angelo was also in the bedroom with them.

The empath sat down on the bed beside his old friend and Jarod eased the girl onto her father's lap, seeing the pain in her eyes fade by degrees, as if she realized that she wouldn't be alone, even if another woman to whom she had grown close lost her fight against this terrible, silent enemy. Jarod saw Angelique's head come to rest on her father's shoulder, snuggling close to him as an expression of responsibility appeared on the empath's face.

At this juncture, the door opened and Nancy looked inside, indicating for Jarod to come out to join her. In the hallway, Jarod found Namir, moving out into the playroom with the Israeli at his suggestion, so that their conversation wouldn't disturb any of the other children who might be still sleeping.

"I know what happened," Namir stated calmly. "I want to help."

"No!" Jarod exploded, the tension of the night being released in that one syllable. His voice was still full of anger when he continued. "I won't let you put yourself at so much risk. You know what happened to Joseph!"

The foreign man's dark eyes placidly regarded him. "My Lord gave me my ability to heal. If He so desires, He can take it away again." Namir inhaled deeply, his chin rising. "I want you to use me as your test. You will have to perform the operation on someone first, and I want to be that one."

Jarod's eyes widened slightly. "You could die as a result."

"I have thought of this," Namir told him. "But I have no children requiring my guidance as a father, and no family to mourn me when I go."

"What about Ramona?" Jarod hazarded, knowing that a bond had been growing between the two people ever since the man's arrival at Sanctuary.

"I have spoken to her of it," Namir replied evenly. "She understands, and wishes to be the second volunteer."

Jarod was silent. Everything the healer had said was true, but so far Jarod had managed to forget that the operation would have to be performed on a living human being, and that the potential risk of causing irreparable damage was very great. Jarod was only thankful that the responsibility was on someone else, for a change.

"I'll talk to Patrick about it," he offered, continuing quietly. "Thank you."

Namir gave him a beaming smile. "You will accept," he stated knowingly. "I am sure of it."

A hand tugged on Jarod's bathrobe and he looked down to find Angelique next to him, one hand still clutching that of her father, her blue eyes expectant.

"Can I see Lizbet, Unca Jarod?"

The man hesitated, but knew that refusing would only increase the girl's distress. "All right," he agreed eventually, picking her up. "Just for a moment."

Namir disappeared into the stairwell as they came out into the lobby, but Angelo followed Jarod into the elevator, through the infirmary and into the room where Elizabeth lay, Trevor leaning over the bed, gently stroking her cheek with the tips of his fingers. He looked up as they entered, his eyes full of the emotion he felt.

Elizabeth's gaze turned to them, and Jarod could see the painkillers had had an effect, but that she was still overwrought, wishing she wasn't pregnant so she could be given something to soothe her shattered nerves.

"You see, Angelique," he muttered. "She's all right."

The girl reached out, and, after some hesitation, Jarod put her on the bed, seeing her nestle close to the woman.

"Lizbet," she murmured, and the woman's right arm curled around her.

"Thank you, sweetheart," Elizabeth whispered, her voice strained. "Thank you for getting Jarod."

Nodding earnestly, the child picked up the woman's left hand, which lay across her stomach, and took it on her lap, stroking it gently. "Lizbet sleepy," she muttered quietly, and Jarod shot a sharp glance in the girl's direction, suddenly realizing what she was doing as he saw the concentration in her eyes.

He was torn between stopping her, to keep her from hurting herself, and letting her continue, to give the woman the rest that she needed. Even as he was about to pick Angelique up, however, he remembered that she could, and probably would, have continued the process, even once he had removed her from the room. It seemed better to let her finish what would hopefully be a less damaging procedure, because of its more positive effects.

Elizabeth suddenly yawned, closing her eyes and relaxing back against the pillow, and Jarod saw a satisfied smile appear on Angelique's face, even as she released the woman's hand and turned to Jarod, holding out her arms to be picked up. Jarod lifted her off the bed, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder. He turned to Trevor, who had watched the process silently, his hand resting on his wife's arm.

"I'll come back in a few hours," he told the psychic quietly. "Call me if you need anything."

The dark-skinned man nodded soberly, turning his attention back to his sleeping wife, and Jarod left the room, taking Angelo with him. In the lift lobby again, he looked at the girl in his arms.

"Where do you want to spend the rest of tonight, princess?"

She half-smiled, looking up at him. "'S nearly breakfast time, Unca Jarod."

He glanced at his watch, seeing that she was right and wondering how she knew. Noticing for the first time that he was still in his pajamas, he turned to Angelo.

"Will you go and bring Gabriel up to my room for me when he wakes up? Then, once I'm dressed, we can go down to breakfast together."

Nodding, the empath entered the stairs. He seemed to prefer them to the elevator, and Jarod had to wonder whether it had anything to do with his mother's faked death, even more than 30 years later. He got into the elevator when the car arrived, looking at Angelique as they ascended.

"Are you all right, sweetheart?"

She nodded soberly, resting her head against his chest. "Unca Jarod?" she asked softly.

"Yes, princess?"

"Is Lizbet gonna die, too?"

He lifted her so that she was on eye level with him. "I don't know, Angelique," he replied honestly.

Nodding again, she put her arms around his neck and hugged him, as the elevator doors opened and Jarod stepped out into the hallway, heading for his room.

* * * * * * * * *

The man's face was suddenly taut, his eyes flickering under closed lids, as the dream that hadn't come since the group returned after the battle made its presence felt. He moaned, trying to get away, clutching at his side, where a scar lay hidden under his pajama jacket…

SL-22

Michael Charles exited the stairwell minutes before the event and made his way to the elevator lobby. He heard the machinery whirring inside the shaft behind the closed doors, and knew she was on her way. In his pocket was his military pistol, loaded with blanks. In the other pocket was another pistol with live rounds, and in other pockets were more stashes of ammunition. He had his own escape routes chosen, some quick and direct in case things went wrong, others longer and more complicated, that would allow him to get away discreetly if all went well.

The doors opened, and he saw her there, her eyes wide and filled with fear. Her hands were trembling as she recognized him and stuck on the latex appliances that would simulate bullet wounds. Glancing at the empty corridor, she handed him a small squeeze bottle with a red liquid in it.

"Squeeze that on me," she ordered softly, her voice barely a whisper, and lifted her chin to allow him to aim at the artificial wounds.

Michael obeyed, and the finished product looked amazingly real. She stepped back into the elevator, popped a pill into her mouth and swallowed it, then tossed him her spare pistol, retrieved from her purse. She gave him the go-ahead, and he pulled both pistols.

"To make it look real," he promised. "Lie down."

She obeyed. He fired the military pistol once for effect so it would pass a forensics test, and shot a hole in the elevator with the other a second afterward. Dropping the pistol with the Circle of Fire insignia, he gave her a nod as he heard the screams and shouts, and took off toward the stairs as the doors began to close on her legs.

Just as he thought, someone in a security uniform burst out of the stairwell in anticipation of his retreat. It was a trap, as he suspected it might be. But he was sure Catherine's plea had been genuine. She had believed he would get away and get his sons -- he had seen that in her eyes. Which left her companion as the one who betrayed him.

Michael dashed down the corridor to another set of doors, these leading to a maintenance tunnel with a ladder that would take him a service elevator. He was fast, but not fast enough. Just as the doors closed on him, a shot rang out and hit him in the lower belly. He saw the man's face who pulled the trigger, and knew his suspicion had been correct. The man was the same one who had made the rendezvous with Catherine.

The major barely made it out to his bike, and from there, down the road and beyond. Oddly enough, there was no pursuit once he left the building, but that was a good thing. He had enough to do, just keeping his head and trying to stay conscious and on the motorcycle long enough to get to a hospital before he bled to death…

Michael gasped aloud, sitting upright in bed, his heart pounding in his ears, his back throbbing, hearing a chime ring through the room, and realized that it was only a dream. Telling himself that, over and over, struggling to believe it, he leaned forward, burying his face in his hands, trying to erase the memory, suddenly feeling gentle hands on his shoulders, and then his wife's face pressed against his back. Turning, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to him, holding her to convince himself of the reality of the current situation and wondering if he would ever really be able to forget…

Act V

 
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