Protective Custody


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Die Fakultät
Berlin, Germany
8pm CET
Monday 13th May 2002

Julia waited until she had carefully shut the door behind her before sinking down onto her bed and letting her eyes fill with tears. There was a constant pressure on her chest, which had begun on the day that her son was taken from her, and which had only increased as time went on and she heard nothing about him. It was now a continual weight, making it difficult to draw breath and left her feeling listless. Every morning, when she awoke and felt it there, it was hard to convince herself to get out of bed. Even the threat of what she knew the Herr Direktor would do to her was barely sufficient to make her move.

And yet her son was happy. He had made friends with his stepbrothers and cousins, as well as the other children, and he delighted in the new games they taught him. He also had his mother's gift for languages and was confidently using the few English words he had been taught. But she knew there were times when he missed her, and it was hard for her not to break down in tears herself, every time she glimpsed him crying himself to sleep under the quilt she had made, the only thing that linked him to his life in Germany, and to her. The people at Sanctuary had wanted to take it away, to be washed and, on one occasion, mended, but he had refused, clearly terrified that they wouldn't give it back, and so it remained on his bed.

It was she who truly had nothing. Another person slept in Peter's room, and Joseph's had been converted into a storeroom. Clare and Michael were now given so many simulations that they had no time to talk to her anymore. Her own workload had also been increased, with the head of Security also demanding her assistance on the few occasions when Herr Delius was out of the building. The nights were the only times that she had to herself.

A knock on her door made her wipe the tears off her cheeks and stand up hurriedly as she called for the person to enter. Herr Winston stepped into the room and carefully closed the door behind himself.

"I'm sorry to disturb you," he stated quietly, in his native language. "But this arrived today and it's been the first opportunity I've had to give it to you."

He held out an envelope and she accepted it with trembling hands, easing it open and pulling out the sheet inside. Unfolding it, she saw that it was a picture of her son, painted with the firm, sure brushstrokes of a skilled artist. The words 'I miss you Mommy' and 'Love Peter' were written in a large, untidy hand along the top and bottom of the sheet, and the picture was signed by someone called Keely. Julia sank back onto her bed, unable to help the tears that flowed from her eyes and down her face.

A soft click made her look up sharply to see the door had closed after the man. As she returned her eyes to the painting, she noticed a dot of color on the floor and realized that she had dropped the envelope. The color that had attracted her attention was a large, lopsided heart drawn on the inside flap, and she touched the bright red object with a shaking finger, biting her bottom lip to stop it from trembling. The longing for her son increased, until she pushed away the page and lay on the bed, sobbing frantically into her pillow.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas
1:30pm CST
Monday 13th May 2002

Mr. Sun dropped a pile of papers onto the table in front of the Australian and sat down in the chair behind him. Sebastian couldn't help chuckling at the satisfaction on his face.

"If the wind changes, you'll be stuck like that."

"I'd just love the chance to tell Parker that every time he sends me here to try and persuade you to give him back the kids, he's giving me the chance to pass on such useful information." The man grinned, the dimples in his cheeks almost making his green eyes close. "It's almost too easy, really."

"Don't get complacent," Trevor warned as he read through one of the sheets. "We're too close for it all to go wrong now."

"It won't," Sun vowed, before laughing again. "You should have heard Sydney in the Chairman's office. He sounded like getting the kids back was the main aim of his life."

"I'm still not sure I trust him. He's the only person we don't really know about," Sebastian stated thoughtfully. "He doesn't have a motive for being on our side…"

"Except for his relationship with Jarod," the Centre employee interrupted. "Have you seen them together? It's just like father and son, only closer."

"The same 'father' who held him in the Centre for 33 years," Trevor remarked icily. "I don't know how much we could trust him if he was alone."

"I don't think he ever will be," Sun responded. "Somehow, I can't see Miss Parker ever letting him come without her."

"Good." Sebastian nodded in satisfaction and then pulled the pile of papers over the table toward himself, spreading them out so that he could see the progress of numerous projects that were underway. Trevor brought up a screen on which they had already been keeping note of many of these, and they began to compare the results.

* * * * * * * * *

2pm CST
Monday 13th May 2002

Jordan carried Jacob out of the elevator, followed, a short distance behind, by Jarod and Sydney. The noise increased as soon as they opened the door to the playroom, and Jarod laughed as a ball hit the wall next to the psychiatrist's head. The Pretender caught it in a neat swipe worthy of a major league shortstop.

"You have to watch yourself in here," he warned the older man, his mood lighter than it had been an hour earlier, as he tossed the ball back to his niece. Tempest accepted it with a dimpled grin and continued with the game.

Sydney eyed the numerous children in the room. "These aren't just the Seraphim?"

"Not unless they multiplied when we weren't looking," Jarod agreed with a grin, steering the man over to the sofa in the corner. "Some of the children were already here, a few are children of the people Sebastian's gathered around himself and others were brought here because of their own skills." He pointed to a dark-haired little boy, playing in a corner with Raphael. "That's Peter. He's from Germany."

The psychiatrist turned, his eyes curious. "Sam told us about him, I think. His father's a healer?"

"Joseph, yes." Jarod smiled. "He and Peter managed to escape a week ago. They're both still trying to adjust." The Pretender felt a small hand tugging at his jacket and looked down into a pair of blue eyes, placing Angelique on his lap with a smile and brushing a strand of blond hair off her face. "Hi, sweetie."

She hugged him gently, but her eyes quickly swiveled around to the man beside him, and Jarod wondered for a second exactly what emotions she had picked up from the psychiatrist. However, even as he was about to perform an introduction, the older man spoke.

"This would be Angelique," Sydney stated softly, leaning forward slightly, his face expressionless. "I've heard a lot about you from your Daddy, Angelique."

Her blue eyes widened. "You knows my Angel?"

Sydney shot a sly look at the man beside him before nodding in agreement. "Yes, I know him very well. In fact, I probably know him almost as well as you do."

Jarod couldn't help raising a skeptical eyebrow at this, although he couldn't deny that the girl on his lap was no longer tense with anxiety. In fact, her body was wriggling with anticipation as her eyes lit up in sudden understanding.

"Angel telled me 'bout you," she suddenly said, her voice full of suppressed excitement, bouncing on Jarod's knee. "You's Gran'pa!"

The Pretender's jaw dropped and he stared at the psychiatrist in utter disbelief. Ignoring this, the older man picked up the little girl, placing her on his own lap and gently returning the enthusiastic hug she gave him. Before Jarod could demand the explanation he was preparing, another child's voice shrieked and then a small body hurled itself at Sydney's legs.

"Gam'pa!" Gabriel yelped in delight, squeezing tightly, as Jarod rose to his feet in bewilderment, looking around to meet Morgan's amused eyes. He opened his mouth to ask a question, saw the smug look in her eyes and shook his head.

"I don't think I want to know."

"Well, that's got to be a first for you," she retorted, passing him to sit down on the sofa beside her father. Jarod watched as she picked up their son, introducing Gabriel to the psychiatrist, before moving towards the middle of the room, hearing Morgan call the other six children to her, one at a time, to be introduced to Sydney.

Turning his attention to other parts of the room, he saw Jacob sidle over to the table where Peter was trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle. Jacob's body was slowly falling apart, but his mind was still sharp, and Jordan had begun teaching him German so that he could converse with this new friend. Their discussions were still of the simplest variety, but Jacob was teaching Peter English, and the foreign child was now enthusiastically repeating words as Jarod listened.

"What do you think, Dad?"

Jarod turned to find Jordan beside him and passed an arm around the young man's shoulders, a task made slightly difficult by the fact that his son was now almost exactly the same height.

"You're doing a wonderful job with him, Jordan," the man stated encouragingly. "He's much more confident than he was, and he's happy. They're the most important things."

"He's not any better," Jordan confessed, his eyes filling, and Jarod gently guided him over to the other side of the room, sitting beside him on the floor and feeling his son's head come to rest on his shoulder. "Everything I try, it just doesn't seem to do any good."

"I know it's hard," Jarod murmured, stroking the young man's hair. "But you're doing the best you can, son. We always knew this would be difficult -- an almost impossible fight. We just don't have the time to get it right."

"But he doesn't seem to mind, that's the worst part," Jordan choked out, between sobs. "He goes through so much pain every day, and yet he's never grumpy or complaining. He just sits there and tells me 'it's not so bad today,' even when he can hardly breathe." His arms passed around Jarod's stomach and he squeezed tightly, his voice a faint wail. "It's not fair, Daddy!"

"I know, Jordan," the man soothed, feeling his son's agony flash through him like a searing of his soul. "It's hard for me, too, being up there and knowing what you're going through down here and that I can't be here to help you. And I can only imagine how difficult it must be, trying to be so cheerful around him all the time." He gently squeezed the boy's shoulder. "I'm very proud of you, son. There wouldn't be many people who could go through something like this as well as you have. It's comforting to me, to know that I can leave him in your capable hands." The man gently brushed the tears off Jordan's face. "I just hate the thought of how it affects you inside."

"W-when he looks at me, and w-when he smiles," the young man stammered, the fight for control obvious in his eyes, "then I can almost forget what's coming."

"Do that, son," Jarod whispered lovingly. "Don't think about it -- not yet. Enjoy the moment. Show him how much you love him, and know that I feel exactly the same way about you."

Jordan gave up his struggle and turned his face to Jarod's shoulder, weeping silently. The man's eyes glistened also as he held his son close, watching the delight and satisfaction on the small boy's face as he fitted a piece into the jigsaw.

* * * * * * * * *

Vancouver, Washington
3pm EST
Tuesday 14th May 2002

Broots felt Debbie's hand slip into his and turned his head to smile at her. She'd been doing that a lot lately, and it was nice to think that she wasn't embarrassed about being seen with her father. After Miss Parker had received notification to travel to Texas, knowing that she would be gone for most of that day and possibly the next, she had allowed him time off, trusting his guarantee that his team could handle any emergencies. After a quick call to make sure Debbie was free, he had come up to see her.

It also meant that he could keep his promise to take her to buy her first pair of shoes with proper heels, to match the dress that was being made for her school dance in six weeks' time. It was at times like these that he wished she still had a mother who actually cared about her. Miss Parker was always commenting negatively on his taste and had insisted that he use the free time she was giving him to also buy a few more decent shirts. The new ones he had purchased were an improvement, she had said cuttingly, but he had worn them so often that she was beginning to see their patterns in her sleep. She wanted more.

"Lazslo!" exclaimed a familiar voice from behind them. "Fancy meeting you here."

He turned to find Kim standing behind them and stared at her in a second in astonishment before he remembered to speak.

"Kim! What are you doing here?"

"This is the first place I lived, after moving to America from Africa, five years ago," she told him, looking around with a satisfied smile. "I still have a few friends here, and Sydney gave me the day off while he went to Texas, so I thought I'd come up and spend it here. How about you?"

He explained his purpose, feeling his daughter's eyes on him, an expectant expression in them. He couldn't help gulping slightly. He wanted his daughter to like this woman. He could even feel his brow beginning to bead with sweat as he introduced them.

"This is my daughter, Debbie. Debbie, this is Kim. She works with me."

The woman offered her hand to the girl with a smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I've heard a lot about you from your Dad." She eyed the girl critically. "You know, I think I recognize that style of jacket. Doesn't Miss Parker have one just like it?"

Debbie beamed. "Yeah, she does," the girl admitted shyly. "She helped me pick this one."

"She did a great job," Kim enthused. "It's looks wonderful, but then she always has great taste in clothes, doesn't she?"

Nodding, Debbie's eyes ran up and down Kim's red dress, which clung to her figure and yet was also light and flowing enough not to be mistaken for a gown. Broots had already noticed and had felt a bead of sweat begin to trickle down the back of his neck at the low cut of it.

"That's the same color as my dance dress," Debbie told Kim eagerly, pulling the photo out of her pocket to show the woman. "That's what it's going to look like when it's done."

"Wow, it's great," the woman responded enthusiastically. "And are you buying all the etceteras for it today?"

"Shoes," Debbie told her, before leaning forward to whisper, "and maybe, if I can persuade Dad, a nice necklace or something too."

Kim grinned at Broots, who had heard, but was pretending he hadn't, before whispering back, "I bet we can convince him together. Or maybe I can lend you some of mine."

"Hey, that'd be cool!" the girl beamed. Her eye was caught by a shoe shop and she raced over to the window as Kim and Broots followed.

"Mind if I tag along?" the woman asked. "I wasn't really doing anything special and it'd be nice to have company. My friend's working until seven."

"That'd be good," the man responded, relieved. "I think this could do with a woman's touch."

Kim grinned and then stepped forward to admire a pair of shoes at which Debbie was staring with a look of longing on her face. As she bent down to get a closer look, the low-cut back of her dress meant that Broots could easily see the line of color along the small of her back and he stared at it for a second, before hoping frantically that Debbie wouldn't notice. She had been bugging him for ages to be allowed to get a tattoo, and so far he had stood firm in his refusal, although they had eventually compromised on pierced ears. It was, however, still a bone of contention and he hoped that his daughter wouldn't see this, even as he moved over to join them at the window.

"How about those?"

Broots' eyes widened as he saw the price tag beside the pair Debbie had pointed out, but Kim was eyeing them and it was suddenly obvious to the man that her opinion would mean more to Debbie than his.

"Hmm, I'm not sure," the woman stated thoughtfully. "It's really hard to buy red shoes that will be a perfect match for your dress, unless you've got the material with you. It might be better this time to buy black ones, just to be safe. Then," she laughed, "when you're rich and famous, you can get a shoemaker and a dressmaker to come to your house and make exactly what you ask for."

Debbie giggled at this, turning away from the red shoes without a murmur. The woman pointed out a pair of black ones, about half the price, and walked with the girl into the shop to try them on. Broots followed, watching as Kim dealt crisply with the shop assistant and seeing as she and his daughter giggled while trying on the shoes, relieved that they seemed to be getting along.

At the second shop, his daughter fell in love with a different pair of black shoes, and he could feel another trickle of sweat down his back at the price, but Kim calmly had them put aside and then drew the girl out of the store.

"Let me show you a little trick I know," she told the girl, who was beginning to look disappointed, and led her around the corner, down a small, quiet alley. At the end, she halted at a window and pointed. There, in the corner, was an almost identical pair, at a much cheaper price, and the man was able to relax as Debbie's mood immediately improved. The shoes were tried on, found to be a perfect fit and purchased, Kim making sure, though, that Broots' opinion was consulted first.

The girl was almost dancing along the street, with Broots and Kim following, when she stopped in front of another store and turned to her father with a pleading look on her face. He could guess which it was even before they reached it and suddenly wished that they didn't have anyone else with them. He could probably have withstood his daughter's pleading on his own, but not when she had an ally.

"Please, Daddy!" Debbie was begging as soon as they drew level with the store.

"Oh, was this one of the etceteras?" Kim asked, laughing, and Debbie turned to her.

"I've wanted one for ages!" she exclaimed. "Ever since we went to Paris! And Daddy keeps on saying no."

"So what makes you think I'll change my mind now?" the man began, in an attempt at sternness, one that he knew instinctively was doomed to fail this time.

"What's wrong with a tattoo?" Kim asked in surprise, and Broots groaned inwardly. Debbie's eyes were wide at the prospect of assistance.

"Do you have one?" she asked in awe-struck tones.

"I sure do," the woman told her, turning and pulling down the back of her dress. In the mirror of the shop window, as she looked over her shoulder, she could see the multi-colored animal that crawled along her lower back.

"What is it?" Debbie asked in hushed tones.

"A chameleon," Kim responded. "It's a personal symbol for me."

"That's so cool!" the girl exclaimed. "It looks so real."

"Only the real ones look good," Kim told her, pointing to a rack in the tattooist's window, showing a range of delicate butterfly pictures. Then she pointed at a variety of cartoon characters, which looked gaudy by comparison. "See what I mean?"

"Uh huh." Debbie's eyes were wide as she turned to her father. "Please, Daddy! Can't I have one for the dance?"

"I'd like to see you getting it back off after the dance," the man grumbled, knowing that he was losing ground fast, and Kim laughed.

"Come on, Lazslo, it's not that bad. And she'll take good care of it, so it won't get infected. This is one of the better places, too." The woman pointed to a sign in the window, signifying that it was officially recognized. "Tell you what, I'll make sure she doesn't choose anything too outrageous and you can go do a little shopping on your own." Her eyes traveled pointedly over his shirt. "Just like you were told to."

Debbie giggled again, her hand already on the doorknob, and Broots rolled his eyes, even as he turned away, knowing this was battle he could never win. And he also had to consider, although he would never admit this to his daughter, that seeing Kim with a tattoo had played a significant role in lessening his dislike of them.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas
Midnight CST
Monday 13th May 2002

Elizabeth walked down the hallway, unsurprised at the number of rooms that were still lit, and in which the occupants were still awake. The children had been particularly difficult to settle tonight, and she had had to induce sleep in a number herself. Now, only Gabriel remained awake, and she stopped outside the door of the room that had been given to Miss Parker, listening to the low hum of voices in there, broken only occasionally by the drowsy interruptions from the small boy, as Faith and her adopted sister were able to spend some meaningful time together.

At another door, she entered the room, finding the living area empty but the bedroom door ajar. As she appeared, a tall figure was framed in the bathroom doorway, his toothbrush in his hand, but he recognized her, despite the dim light, and sent a shy smile in her direction. The woman knelt down beside the small bed, listening to Jordan gargle, and stroked the hair of the sleeping boy, keeping the demons in his young mind at bay, if only for that one night. But there were fewer than there had been since she had last seen them, and always, at the end, came a tall figure with dark hair and flashing brown eyes to rescue the terrified child from whatever torments beset him; a figure the boy addressed adoringly as "Daddy."

"Doing your nightly rounds?" Jordan asked in a teasing voice, and she smiled.

"Doing your Dad a favor," she responded, turning back the covers and watching as he climbed in between the sheets. "You need a night of solid sleep, too, or you'll never be able to keep yourself going."

"You sound like a mom," he remarked, unable to suppress a yawn.

"Maybe one day I will be," she suggested softly. "I'm not as old as I look."

"Then you must only be about 15," the young man stated drowsily. "'Cos you don't look that much older than 20."

"Thank you, Jordan," Elizabeth smiled, smoothing his hair and tucking the blankets more closely around him. "Sweet dreams."

"Uh huh." He gave another massive yawn and snuggled down beneath the covers, rolling onto his side and nestling into the pillow. "You too."

The last words were almost inaudible and he was asleep before she even turned away from the bed. Closing the door behind her, she paused at the open door that separated Jarod's apartment from Jordan's and nodded to let him know that his son was asleep, seeing the man's answering smile as he continued his conversation with Sydney, learning about the man's relationship with Catherine Parker. Elizabeth returned to the hallway in time to see Faith coming out of her sister's room and walked with the empath down the hall to her room.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
9am EST
Tuesday 14th May 2002

Mr. Parker watched as Sydney entered the office, taking a seat opposite and extracting a sheaf of paper from a folder he carried.

"I made a report on each child," he told the Chairman. "I gave each one an examination and spent time watching them play. I will say," he admitted, "that MacKenzie is continuing with quite a lot of the classes they did here, or at least projects with similar objectives."

The man's blue eyes sparkled angrily. "And the caregivers?"

"Several are still working with the children -- those of Angelique and Tempest, for instance - and the others are doing work around the building. They're all surviving their Aurora addiction, though. Whenever we get the children back, we'll probably have some or all of them too."

"And you still believe the children will be useful to us once they're brought back?"

"They're learning to work as a team, relying on each other as much as their caregivers for comfort if something happens," Sydney responded thoughtfully. "They might have lost a few of the more detailed skills, but I'm not really sure because I never worked with them personally."

"No, that was a mistake," Parker mused. "If we'd known what was going to happen…"

"Then, with all due respect, you probably would never have created Aurora in the first place," the psychiatrist interrupted softly. "That played the largest role in all this. Without it, MacKenzie would never have had the chance to arrange for the abduction."

"Possibly," the Chairman mused for a moment, before picking up the pile of pages from the desk and dropping them into his tray. "Thank you, Sydney. I may need you to go down to Texas again on a few occasions in the future. It's going to take time before we have everything in place to get the children back."

The man rose, nodding in agreement. "I understand, Mr. Parker. But, as you know, sir, it's not so easy for me to get around these days." He cast a demonstrative glance at his cane. "It might be useful if I could have someone with me."

"Yes, yes," his boss responded impatiently. "Of course. I'll let you know a little in advance each time, so you can organize something."

"Thank you, sir." The psychiatrist nodded and went to the door. As he opened it, the Chairman could see his heads of the Corporate and Security sector waiting outside and, noting the scowl on the woman's face, sighed deeply before waving them in.

* * * * * * * * *

Trader Vic's Campground and Emporium
Rural Blue Cove
4pm EST
Tuesday 14th May 2002

Jarod returned to his trailer, feeling somehow empty, the way he always did after one of his visits to Sanctuary. As he sat in front of his computer, he made an inner vow to go down there at least once a week. His son needed support, and the plan could go ahead without him for one night. He also wanted to be there when Jacob began to fail, and he'd told Joseph to call him, no matter what day or time it was. Briefly, he eyed the blond beard and wig lying on his bed, but they were distinctly heating things to wear, so he decided to remain without them for a little longer.

The machine started up its usual program and he checked whether he had any new messages. One sat in his box, but the sender was unknown and he gazed at it thoughtfully. Being so small, he dismissed any risk of viruses almost automatically and opened it. The message was short.

Meet me in Jackson's Barn, Carney's Point, New Jersey, on Tuesday, 14th May at midnight. Bring a photo of the oldest of the Seraphim.

Jarod sat back in his chair, staring thoughtfully at the screen. He felt instinctively that this was not from any of the people employed by the Centre. It was too obvious for that. And the request for the photo seemed to discount any suggestion of it being a threat. That made it more likely to be from one of children's parents, and, as Jarod pocketed his cell phone and wallet, preparatory for his trip to New Jersey, he wondered exactly what they wanted.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas
6pm CST
Tuesday 14th May 2002

Jordan let himself softly into the room, knowing that Jacob would be awake from his nap now. He usually used the spare time for something he enjoyed, like being down in his greenhouse. Jacob couldn't be taken down there. The air was too difficult for him to breathe, so Jordan neglected his beloved plants to spend time with the boy.

"Hi, Daddy," a soft voice greeted him from the corner, and he stepped over to the bed, sitting on the edge of the air-filled mattress, seeing Jacob giggle as the bed bulged underneath him.

"How'd you sleep, Jake?" Jordan knew better than to ask how the boy was, as this question was invariably answered in the same non-committal way. The child was, so far, more honest about his sleep.

"In bits," the child responded thoughtfully. "I had lots of dreams." His small brow furrowed. "It's funny; I didn't have any last night."

The young man decided not to bother with explanations. They tired the child, who had numerous questions he wanted answered, questions Jordan sometimes found very difficult to find a solution to.

"What do you want to do now, squirt?"

Jacob's arms tightened around his teddy-bear as he considered this question, before his eyes suddenly brightened. "Can we go to the playroom? Peter and I were doing a big puzzle and Helen promised to leave it for us to finish."

"Sure we can." Jordan pulled back the covers, helping the child sit up on the edge of the bed, and got the clothes that were draped over the back of a chair that stood nearby.

As he helped the boy to don them, he took note of the new bruises that had appeared, knowing it was time to take the child back to Joseph for another session of treatment. All of Jacob's clothes were loose-fitting and none put any pressure on his body when they were being pulled on, with buttons and studs around the waist and neck-holes. Jordan had designed the clothes and helped Rebecca to make them.

The stroller stood by the door, but before Jordan could put Jacob in it, the child looked up at him out of hopeful eyes. "Will you carry me?"

"Piggyback?" Jordan suggested, knowing that Jacob loved this mode of transport, and the child giggled as he nodded. The young man bent down beside the bed so that his son could climb on, and then ran carefully down the hallway to the elevator, making sure not to bump the fragile body.

Peter looked up in delight as Jacob was put down on the seat beside him. "Help?" he asked in his limited English, beaming as Jacob nodded, reaching for a piece. Jordan smiled as they discussed the proper location for the bit, occasionally turning to him when they got stuck over a word.

"Can I help, Jo-din?"

Jordan looked down to find Gabriel standing beside him, and pulled the boy up onto his lap. "Not this time, Gabe, okay? They want to finish it themselves. But maybe the next time they start one, they'll let you help."

The child nodded wisely, looking at the brightly colored farmyard picture on the box, and Jordan saw with relief that he didn't try to interfere as the other boys tried to fit a piece into a place that was obviously wrong. Gabriel was a lot sturdier than either Jacob or Peter and Jordan didn't want the weaker boys hurt if the younger child tried to push them aside in his enthusiasm.

"Dey speaks funny," the little boy pronounced flatly, after a brief period of listening to the gabbled conversation opposite, his big brown eyes, full of curiosity, swinging up to meet those of his older brother. "What's dey saying?"

"They're talking in another language, kiddo," Jordan explained. "It's called German." He pulled an atlas off the nearby shelf and opened it to show a map of Europe, pointing out the German-speaking areas. "That's the main language in all those places and here," he pointed at Berlin, "is where Peter and his dad came from."

Gabriel studied the map intently, and Jordan knew that he would recognize any of the major cities on it, if asked about them again. He pointed at various countries, and Jordan told him something about each and the language they spoke, providing a sentence or two in as many languages and dialects as he knew. The child repeated them after him, struggling to get his tongue around some of the more complicated pronunciations.

There was a lot of laughter over some of Gabriel's struggles, and it attracted the attention of the other Seraphim. The group gathered around, and Jordan suddenly found that he was conducting an inadvertent language class. Dominique was the standout student, managing to get her little tongue around some of the more convoluted sentences, and the child beamed at the praise she received from Jordan and the caregivers.

On to Act III

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