Not With a Bang,
But a Whimper


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Gabriel's Rooms

Miss Parker strode out of the elevator, her body quivering with anticipation. She had so much to hold back now, so much that she couldn’t say, but Gabriel would know. The door opened and she stepped inside, ignoring Penfield’s warning glare.

“Is he awake?” Miss Parker asked softly.

“He knew you were coming,” the nurse replied tightly. “It’s way past his naptime, but there’s no getting that child to sleep now.”

Parker grinned, and pushed past the woman into the toddler’s private bedroom. Gabriel was running through the room, his dark eyes glassy with joy he could not contain. As soon as she was through the door, he changed course with a squeal of delight and careened toward her. She dropped down to her knees and held out her arms to him.

“Mine!” he chortled, racing toward her. “Mine! Mine!”

“Yes, sweetheart,” she echoed, her throat closing up around the words. “Look how you’ve grown! My goodness, no more diapers? What a big boy you are now.”

Gabriel crashed into her, throwing his chubby arms around her neck. He held her close. He wriggled against her, rubbing his face against her neck and cheek, turning himself completely around in her embrace, rubbing his whole body against her, and embracing her again tightly.

“It’s okay, honey,” she promised him. “I’m here for you all day, if you want.”

“I want Mine,” he shouted, and snuggled against her neck, fingers tangling in her hair.

Parker cuddled and kissed him, picked him up and danced around the room with him in her arms.

This is my son, she told herself, unable to say the words aloud. This is my baby, mine and Jarod’s. He knows how I feel, all the things I can’t say to him because the walls have ears and eyes.

Tears began to stream down her cheeks.

So this is what it feels like to be a mother.

Parker held him tightly and wept, and Gabriel joined into her tears. His little hands stroked through her hair, touched her face, held onto her neck. His sobs of joy and relief turned into hiccups and sniffles.

“Mine,” he whispered, his voice barely audible.

“Yes,” she told him tearfully. “I’m yours. And you’re mine. I missed you so much, Gabriel!”

She wanted to hear him call her something else. How she wanted him to call her that other endearment from across the green lawn of a park in the sunshine. How she wanted to hear him say it at night, before she tucked him into bed, or when he was hurt and needed her to comfort him. She was his mommy, but she could not teach him that word, not yet.

Not until Gabriel was free of this place forever.

Can’t think about that right now, she reminded herself.

“Let’s sit in the rocking chair and read a book,” she suggested.

“Mine stay wif me?” he asked softly, playing with her hair, rubbing it against his cheek.

“Yes, honey,” she promised with a kiss. “You’ll have your nap in my arms today. Okay? Are you tired?”

Gabriel’s only answer was to cling to her as she took her seat in the rocker, his face wedged firmly up underneath his mother’s chin. Clutching fistfuls of her hair, he drifted off to sleep as she read him his favorite story. This time, she did not disentangle his grip as she had so many other times on previous visits to his nursery. This time, she wanted to feel that pull, the heavy warmth against her body, the sweet baby breath heating the skin against her neck.

“Sweet little angel,” she whispered, rocking gently in the quiet room, holding her baby. Somewhere deep inside herself, Morgan had always known Gabriel belonged to her. She’d had time now to digest the news of his parentage, setting things in motion to get her back to this place. There was so much she wanted to tell him, but none of it could be put into words.

From the beginning he was not like other children to her. Somehow, she had always been more tolerant of his noises, messes and energy than she had been with other children. Where anyone else’s toddler would set off her worst temper, this one was a delight. She felt that familiar sensation of belonging more strongly now that she knew the truth of Gabriel’s origins, and recognized it as part of her gift, part of the inner sense she had inherited from her mother. And this time she held onto it, focused on it, felt its strength.

And could feel her mother firmly tethered to the other end.

She smiled, and closed her eyes. “Mama,” she whispered.

Right here, my love, came the echo of that familiar voice. Right where I’ve always been. Congratulations, Morgan. Now you truly understand how I felt about you. How I will always feel…

Parker said nothing. She held Gabriel close, and began to sing softly, an old familiar tune that she barely remembered from childhood. She tried to ignore the quiet little thought niggling at her consciousness, the image of a sad face with dark hair and warm brown eyes. Jarod had bought her this moment of peace, possibly with his life. Quietly, she pushed that image away. She wanted nothing to disturb the baby, including her own disquiet. Gabriel needed this rest, and so did she.

There would be time to help Jarod later.

She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet fragrance of child, ignoring the warm saliva now trickling down her neck and into the collar of her Armani suit. There were more important things than a spotless appearance. To Morgan Parker, the most important thing in the world was right there in her arms.

* * * * * * * * *

Gabriel's Nursery
Observation Room

Cox stood silently in the near darkness watching the woman and child, a clipboard held close to his chest, arms folded across it. His cold blue eyes did not blink as they took note of the tender interaction. When the child fell asleep, he pressed the button that would turn off the intercom, so he could no longer hear what went on in the room. The woman could not see through the mirrored glass panel, but Cox was sure she knew she was being watched.

He glanced to one side and saw that Ms. Penfield was busying herself with picking up toys and straightening the baby’s room, keeping tabs as she had been ordered.

“I’m not so sure this is a good idea,” Cox said without turning around, aware that the person who had just entered the room was the Chairman himself. “She may not fully recognize the attachment she has to the child, but she knows it’s there. And if she ever suspected that he’s her own son…”

“Nonsense,” Parker challenged in a low growl. “She doesn’t know a thing. And socializing with Gabriel makes a wonderful carrot. She’d do anything I wanted, if she thought for a minute I’d take away her visiting privileges again.” He chuckled softly. “And look what it got me this time - she concentrated more fully on her work, and brought Jarod back to us.”

Cox saw that the man was fairly beaming with pride.

“Then think of what it may do to the boy,” Cox reminded him. “He feels the connection with her. Undoubtedly, he doesn’t have the experience to know what it is, but he feels possessiveness toward her that he doesn’t toward anyone else. Deep down, he recognizes that she belongs to him, and I suspect he will also share that same link with his father.”

Parker’s eyes met Cox’s with a frigid glare. “Watch it, doctor.”

Cox smirked. “While you may have engineered this project and may thereby consider yourself his father, sir, you did not produce the biological material, as we both know. And when Jarod begins working with the Seraphim as their teacher, Gabriel may well exhibit the same possessiveness with him that he does with his mother. The two of them combined may exert undue influence over him.”

The Chairman’s chest puffed out. He pursed his lips in thought. “We’ll deal with that when it happens. Besides, even if we told Jarod that Gabriel’s his son, under Aurora he won’t really care. Wonderful drug, that.”

Cox turned back to the glass. “You put a lot of stock in that chemical, Mr. Parker. I hope it lives up to its reputation over the long term.”

“I have every confidence that it will, Cox. And you let me be the judge of what’s best for Gabriel. He’s mine, after all.”

Cox said nothing more, but continued to watch the old man out of the corner of his eye until Parker left. The doctor hit the intercom button again, and listened to the woman singing softly to the toddler in her arms while she rubbed his back. This was going to be a problem, he was sure of it. But as long as Mr. Parker was in charge, there wasn’t much he could do about it. He punched the button off again, and left to return to his duties.

* * * * * * * * *

French Quarter Hotel
Downtown Toronto
Ontario, Canada

Ethan sat straight up. He rubbed his eyes, trying to focus on something in the dark room. He listened, struggling to remember what it was that had wakened him.

He and Dr. Goetz had traveled lately to Canada, as close as they dared come to the United States. His treatment had progressed well, though he knew it would take a lifetime to come to terms with what Raines had done to him. He was more comfortable with the voices now, but they had been relatively quiet since he went on the run, and for the first time in his life, he began to feel at peace.

The respite had given him time to pull himself together, to deal with his suicidal thoughts and the depression that had almost killed him the previous year. He was grateful to Dr. Goetz for pulling him through, for devoting every moment of her time to him while they traveled together. But now the voices had returned.

There was someplace he needed to go, but he couldn’t get a clear picture of it. Something to do with Jarod, but he wasn’t sure what it was just yet. He closed his eyes, took a deep, cleansing breath, and crossed his legs beneath the blanket, preparing to meditate as Dr. Goetz had taught him, to tap into that place deep inside himself where the voices emanated from.

He summoned up a memory of Jarod’s face, as he recalled it the last time he had seen his brother. Jarod had been worried about him then. Now it was the other way around.

Flashes of his brother fighting for his life. Small pains and great fear. Warmth flooding his system, and pleasure. Artificial pleasure that made him ill.

Ethan’s eyes popped open. He didn’t understand all of it, but he knew what it meant. He could feel Jarod’s terror. His brother was back in the Centre.

The covers were hastily turned back, and Ethan leaped out of bed, looking for his clothes. He reached for the lamp and flicked it on, momentarily blinded by the light, and dressed quickly. Shortly after that, he was packing his bag, getting ready to leave.

Dr. Goetz. He needed to tell her what was happening. Suitcase in hand, he checked the travel clock on the bedside table. It was just after five a.m. Everyone in the hotel would still be sleeping, including his shrink.

It couldn’t be helped. He combed his hair to waste another couple of minutes, give her a little more time to sleep, but once he was finished and ready to go, he moved to the common door that separated his room from hers. He knocked sharply, calling her through the door.

“What is it, Ethan?” Dr. Goetz called. “I’m coming.”

Ethan waited for her to open the door. She took in his state of readiness and the suitcase in his hand in an instant. She looked surprised. Then she looked worried.

“Where are you going?”

“Someplace I have to go. There's something I have to do.”

He could see the shock on her face. “I’ll pack my bags. Want to tell me about it?”

“You can’t come with me this time. I have to do it by myself.”

“What? Why do you want to do that? You remember what Jarod said-“

“Yes. I know. But I think it’s time for your sabbatical to be over,” he told her. “It’s not dangerous, where I’m going. I promise.”

Dr. Goetz seemed to wilt a little. She nodded. With a sigh, she said, “You’re special, Ethan. You changed my view of the world, and it’s been very exciting, working with you.” She smiled, wistfulness in the corners of her mouth and her sleepy eyes. “I guess I just wasn’t ready to hear it yet. You are stable enough to function on your own. But we should still keep in touch. You’re not ready to be completely on your own for a little while longer.”

He nodded. He could feel her reluctance to leave him, her affection for him, and her fear. “I’ll be careful,” he assured her.

Her eyes were sad as she took his free hand. She gave him a fond squeeze. “I’ll pay for the rooms in the morning, and then book a flight home. You’ve got Jarod’s credit card, so you have money. How long do you think this mission will take?”

“A week, maybe. I’ll meet you at your office when I’m done.”

She smiled warmly, stroked his cheek fondly, and waited for him to go.

Something cold settled in the pit of Ethan’s stomach, and squeezed. He could see his brother’s face, feel the tears fading away as the alien pleasure settled firmly inside him. He was dizzy, and almost lost his footing, standing still as he was. He shook the sensation from him, and caught the doctor's worried glance.

"It's my brother," he explained. "I have to go find him. Something's wrong."

But he knew where Jarod was. There was no finding him. There was only going there, to save him.

You can't. Not now, the voice he recognized as his mother's told him. This is what he needs to do, where he needs to be. For the children. He gave himself up for them.

“I'll be all right,” he promised thickly. “And I'll join you soon.”

She nodded, and he headed down the hallway, listening to the voices that would guide him to where he needed to be. West, he knew. Back into America. But that was all he could see at the moment.

* * * * * * * * *

Downtown Dallas, Texas

“Come on, love. Just a little farther now.” The man with the shockingly platinum hair eased his arm around his girlfriend, propelling her across the parking lot with him.

“Why Dallas?” Mimi whined. “It’s so hot here! Why can’t we just stay in one place for a while?”

“Because we need someplace safe, and I know just the spot,” he promised. “You’ll meet lots of very nice people. You’ll like them.” He turned away, looking for security cameras, and mumbled under his breath, “The accommodations are a little posh for me, but it’ll do. For a while, anyway.”

He led her toward the huge concrete tower, devoid of signs of life, not a single window showing except at the very top. Once upon a time it had been used for grain storage, but its derelict exterior was intentional, hiding its true purpose - and its residents -- from the world. He dragged her toward the only door into the facility, where people in uniform greeted them at a reception desk. They waved him through as if they had been expecting him, and they passed through the nondescript lobby to the huge steel elevator beyond the checkpoint.

“I wasn’t sure they’d let me in without a bit of a row, but apparently I’m still welcome,” he told her, punching the button for the first floor. The doors slid open after a short rise, and there were people about, dressed in black jumpsuits with white turtlenecks, emblazoned with a flame-red logo. The uniformed men and women offered a smile or a nod, sometimes even a wave of greeting as the couple strolled through what appeared to be busy offices, well lit and decorated with plenty of scenic pictures to account for the lack of windows. “Good. They’re expecting us, just as they should be.”

“Who’s expecting us? And where are we going? What is this place?”

“It’s been a long time since I was part of all this,” he admitted. “Didn’t think I’d ever be back. But now that I’ve got a reason…” He led her toward what looked like a conference room down the way past several cubicles.

The black double doors were adorned with a stylized flame-red logo that extended onto the wall above and to the right of the door. In the middle of the red fire were the words Prometheus Productions in yellow.

Mimi read the name as they moved toward it. “Isn’t that a movie studio?”

He grinned and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Right-o, love. They do a lot of film work locally at Las Colinas Studios and in Hollywood as well. Big budget action films mostly, but they’re still considered upstarts, despite how well they’ve done at the box office over the last two years. They seem to always know what the public wants.” He chuckled. “You’re about to meet the owner.”

She hurried in front of him, smiling now, eager to get on with this latest adventure. “Who is he? How did you meet him? Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”

He smiled. “Calm down, pet. This will be our refuge from the world outside for a while. I wasn't sure I'd be welcome anymore, but apparently they seem to think I'm still worth something to them.” Pulling her into a quick embrace, which she squirmed out of almost immediately, he made eye contact. “We call this place Sanctuary.”

Two minutes later, they stepped into the conference room, elegantly appointed with several rows of wide, plush seats around a large metal table topped with marble. A handful of people dressed in black suits, jackets emblazoned with the flaming logo, were gathered at the table, apparently waiting for them to arrive.

A young woman with long black hair came forward to meet them. “Sebastian says you should visit more often,” she told him. Holding out her hand toward Mimi, she added, “I’m Ramona, Sebastian McKenzie’s personal assistant. If you need anything while you’re with us, I’m usually the one to ask.”

Mimi’s smile spread from ear to ear. “Ohmigod, I can’t believe this! Isn’t he the guy that nobody knows what he looks like? And I’m going to meet him?”

Her companion squeezed her hand. “You’ll be safe here, love,” he promised. “And I’ll be able to sleep, knowing you’re all right.” He leaned close and kissed her cheek, making her smile and giggle softly. “There’s my pretty,” he teased. “Come on. Let’s go meet the recluse, and all the others he keeps hidden away from the world.”

Ramona gestured them into chairs at the middle of the table.

Mimi whispered in his ear after he had settled into his seat. “Studio people?”

He grinned. “They work for him, yeah. But they got their jobs because they’re special. Different. They needed him, and he needs them.”

“Special, like how?”

His dark brows twitched together in thought as he sought the words to help her understand. “Most of them are outcasts. Mutations. Evolved humans. Whatever you want to call us. People who aren’t like the rest of humanity.” He shrugged. “We all find our way to Sebastian, sooner or later.”

Mimi frowned. “Am I special? I thought I was just broken.”

He rounded on her, his eyes flashing with warning, and he shook his finger at her. “Don’t you ever talk like that, Mimi. You’re not broken, just different.” He felt that spark of anger disappear, and behind it was the warmth of the affection he felt for her. He put his arm around her, oblivious to the others watching them, breathing in the fragrance of her hair. “You can be however you want to be here, because everyone will be good to you. Neither of us will have to be frightened that someone might hurt you, when your judgment isn’t… well, good.”

She nodded, trust implicit in her expression as he pulled away. “Will they like me?”

“How could they not?” It had been a long time, and he had thought he didn’t belong with the rest of them, but discovering Mimi made it all too apparent that this was indeed where he needed to be… with her by his side. He could be content now, as long as he had her with him.

Sanctuary was at last the home for which he had been searching for so long, and for once he was glad to be back. He turned to the people seated around them and smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Mimi Roberts. Mimi, this is everyone."

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker's Office

She looked up when she heard movement, and hardly recognized Sydney as he slouched into the chair across from hers. His face was as impassive as ever, but his eyes revealed clearly the wounded soul inside him. “Sydney, what’s-“

“How could you?” the older man whispered. “How could you betray Jarod so completely?”

She stiffened. “I had a job to do. You know that.”

“But I thought… after what you learned about Eclipse… that you finally understood him. What changed? You brought him here and turned your back on him.”

Parker considered. She knew that her new office was clean of surveillance devices, but she wasn’t sure she could trust him with the truth. If he knew about Gabriel, it could get him - or both of them - killed if he let it slip to the wrong person, or in the wrong place. He might even inadvertently tip off what he knew by how he behaved, and still endanger them. That was a risk she couldn’t take, for both their sakes.

Sydney had kept secrets from her before. Now it was his turn to be in the dark, for his own protection.

“I didn’t have a choice, Sydney,” she said tightly. “I don’t want him to be here. God knows, this is the last place I’d wish him to be, but that’s the way it is. I can’t tell you anything more than that.”

He seemed to wilt a little more, almost slumping in the chair, clearly emotionally drained. “I can’t accept that, Miss Parker.” He glanced around. “I can’t believe you’d trade Jarod for a promotion and a bigger office.”

She leaned toward him, trying to project as much sympathy as she could, without giving too much away. “You’re right. I would never do that.”

“Then why?” That last word was almost a wail of anguish.

Parker swallowed. “Because that’s the way it had to be, Sydney. None of us had a choice.”

The psychiatrist sat silently in the chair for a moment, head down. When he spoke again, his voice was a mere whisper. “Can you get me in to see him?”

She felt his pain, like a knife in her heart. But there was nothing she could do about it. “No, Sydney. I can’t.”

He lifted his chin and met her eyes, tears glistening against the brown irises. “All right, then.” He rose and walked out of her office, stiff with hurt and defeated pride.

“I’m sorry, Sydney,” she breathed. “God, I’m so sorry. For all of us.”

On to Act III

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