Jim and Sandburg once again found themselves seated in the doctor's office, listening as the man gave them more bad news. He stood in front of a lighted board on the wall, the chest X-rays displayed on the panel.
"See here and here." He pointed to two small spots on the lungs. "We'll have to biopsy one of the masses to be sure, but if they are cancerous... well, I don't hold much hope for a young boy to fight myeloma and lung cancer." He paused, the lines in his face more pronounced suddenly, and made his way back to the desk. "I admit to being somewhat at a loss here as to how such a young boy could come down with two cancers that show up mainly in older people. Has he been exposed to anything toxic during his life? Chemicals? Radiation? How about his mother? Was she exposed to anything during her pregnancy with Blair? Where is she? If I can get a medical history on both you and Blair's mother, that will help a great deal."
Sandburg swallowed hard, looking quickly at Jim. "Uh... She's not around and I have no idea where she might be," he obfuscated.
The doctor nodded, his face grim. "Well, it'll make little difference I suppose. We do need to talk about a course of treatment. For the lung masses, if they are cancerous, surgery would probably be our best option at the moment. The masses look relatively compact, which means we caught it early. That's good news. As for the myeloma, generally chemotherapy is done, but stem cell transplants are also a possibility, if we can find a donor."
"I'm a perfect match," Sandburg blurted, jumping at the chance to help little Blair. He winced a second later, realizing what he'd just said, and looked guiltily at Jim.
"We'll test you for sure, Mr. Sandburg," the doctor said, obviously mistaking Blair's statement for hopefulness, "but generally siblings are the best bet. Blair is an only child, correct?"
Sandburg nodded. "Yes."
The doctor released a despondent sigh. "There's some more bad news, I'm afraid."
Sandburg stiffened. How can there possibly be MORE bad news? "What?"
"I got the results of the bone marrow test back and we took more X-rays of Blair. I'm afraid the news isn't good. The same arm that we X-rayed two days ago has taken a dramatic turn for the worse." He walked back over to the light board and placed another X-ray up. "See these here? The 'potholes' I told you about earlier? This is Blair's original X-ray. You can clearly see the fracture here. Notice the size and number of the potholes -- not all that pronounced." He then put a second X-ray next to the first. "This is the same arm. You can still see the break here, but it's been set. Now look at these here and here and here. You see the difference?"
"My God," Sandburg whispered. "Two days?"
The doctor nodded. "I'm sorry, Mr. Sandburg, but based on this information, I don't give your son much chance of survival. I have never seen such an incredible progression of this disease before now."
"How long?" Jim croaked.
The doctor shook his head. "I can't say for sure. If it keeps progressing at this rate and we can't do a stem cell transplant soon, I'd estimate a few days."
Sandburg knew he was a perfect match for Blair, but he couldn't tell the doctor how he knew, so he agreed to be typed that day -- then he and Jim took Blair back home. Jimmy sat in the back with little Blair and, every so often, Sandburg would look in the rearview mirror at the two boys. He could see the guilt and pain in Jimmy's eyes. Blair, on the other hand, just looked pale and tired.
He was pale before, we just didn't really pay much attention to the signs. He remembered now the way little Blair would rub his wrist or back for almost no reason, as though he were an old man instead of a seven year-old boy. Then there was the bruising. We should have seen it. We should have taken him into get checked sooner, Sandburg admonished himself silently.
Part of him knew, though, that even if they had acted sooner, the results would most likely have been the same. He's got cancers that are usually found in older people. What does that say? It says they screwed up at that damn camp. They grew him up in a lab and didn't care that they'd be creating a human being... a little boy that would suffer terribly if something went wrong. And it did go wrong. So very wrong. His vision blurred, but he quickly pushed back the tears. He was an anthropologist, not a geneticist, but he had read the Dolly article when the news first came out. Then he'd done some research on the web. He'd done enough research to know that cloning carried great risks and, out of 277 tries, Dolly had been the only one to survive. The others had been too defective to be viable. Sandburg glanced in the rearview mirror again at the two boys. Poor kid. Little Blair had managed to hover just on the fence of genetics -- viable enough to survive and make it this far, but his cells obviously carried fatal defects and now his body was turning against itself, the once orderly collection of cells disintegrating into chaos.
A small voice from the back interrupted his thoughts. "Can we go to the beach?" little Blair inquired softly, almost timidly. "I've always wanted to see the beach."
Sandburg glanced at Jim, reading the pain in the older man's eyes. "Sure, Blair," he said. Whatever the kid wanted. Little Blair might not have much life left, but, damnit, whatever little of it he did have left would not go to waste.
Jimmy and Blair ran into the surf, laughing, a sound that warmed Jim's heart. It was so good to see them being children. Little Blair seemed to be feeling better, moving sluggish, but obviously possessed of so much more energy now that they were outdoors and away from the hospital. His arm hung straight in the brace, but it didn't seem to be bothering him as he stooped down and picked up a sea shell. He studied it quickly, intensely, then pocketed it and resumed his play with the surf, jumping over the waves as they reached out for him.
It's too cold, Jim thought. Granted, it was May and relatively warm outside, but the northern Pacific ocean was like ice. He glanced over at Sandburg, seeing the man hug his jacket close, then looked back at little Blair. The boy was shivering, that much was visible to Sentinel eyes, but he seemed otherwise oblivious to the temperature. He's having too much fun to notice. That was fine with Jim. He couldn't let the kid get too wet or cold, though, because of his susceptibility to infection.
But what does it matter? There's not much the doctors can do for him, so why shouldn't he just be allowed to enjoy the time he has left without limits?
They got home a little past six in the evening. This time, little Blair had zonked out in the car on the way home, so Jim carried him up to the third floor, walking into the loft when Sandburg opened the door and carrying the child into the lower bedroom. Jimmy followed close behind the Sentinel and Sandburg opened the refrigerator with a weary sigh and withdrew two beers.
Jim came out of the bedroom alone, and Sandburg looked inquiringly at the detective as he handed him a beer. "It's too early for Jimmy to be tired. Don't tell me he's in bed."
"He's not going to sleep, but he wanted to stay in there with Blair. I gave him one of your novels to read."
Sandburg nodded, walking over to the French doors and closing them quietly. Then he returned to the kitchen, reached under the sink, and pulled out the rectangular white noise generator. He placed it squarely on the table and flicked on the power switch.
"We need to talk," he whispered, waving Jim over to the couch.
"I know," the Sentinel agreed, taking up the armchair as Sandburg lowered himself onto the sofa.
"Those two have been together for three years," Blair continued. "They were born together, Jim. They don't know life without one another. They've shared a room, gone to school together... done everything together. I don't even know if they've really been out of one another's presence for more than five minutes at a time."
Jim nodded, his expression grave.
"If..." Sandburg's voice caught, and he looked away quickly. "When Blair dies, Jimmy's going to have some hard times. More so than anybody else would in a similar situation." He looked back at Jim. "Jimmy's never known life without Blair. Children aren't real good at conceptualizing drastic change. Jimmy may know in his head that Blair is dying, but I don't think he's anywhere near prepared for it. I don't think he knows how to prepare for it. In fact, I don't think he's able to. Not having Blair around isn't in his sphere of comprehension because his life has been so closely interwoven with Blair's from the moment of birth."
"I know," Jim whispered. "Blair's death will devastate him." He looked pointedly at Sandburg. "I know how he'll feel."
Sandburg swallowed hard and shook his head. "No, Jim, not quite," he corrected, his voice strained. "You had over thirty years of life without me in it, Jim. I'm a relatively recent addition to your world. Jimmy has never known life without Blair. Blair has been his only friend -- his brother -- for as long as he can remember. Something like that can't just be ripped away without causing major damage to a person."
"So what do you think we can do about it?"
Blair sighed deeply. "I don't know, Jim. He can't exactly talk to a therapist candidly about it. He can't mention the Sentinel stuff, and he sure as hell can't tell a psychiatrist that he's a clone... not if we want to keep even an iota of a normal life for him."
"So what can we do?" Jim asked again.
Blair shrugged. "God, Jim, I don't know," he said miserably, leaning forward and rubbing his hands over his face. "Maybe we should start separating the two. Little by little. Get Jimmy used to being separated from Blair. Desensitize him." He looked up at Jim. "What do you think?"
Jim shrugged one shoulder and ran his hand through his short hair. "I guess so, Chief. You're the psych minor. I'm doing all I can preparing myself for this."
Blair closed his eyes and sagged against the sofa back. "I know, Jim. Me too."
Blair fought back tears. How the hell could anyone prepare for the death of a beloved child? He bit the inside of his cheek to hold back the well of emotion. To know that little Blair was due for a painful, slow death... well, relatively slow, anyway... God, how the hell was anyone supposed to prepare for that? And all we can do is stand by and watch. If only there were a way for him to trade places with the kid, he'd do it in a heartbeat. Anything to spare the child that kind of pain. It's not fair. He doesn't deserve this. Damn those bastards. How the hell could anyone be willing to subject a child to this kind of suffering just to further their own shallow ambitions?
A soft whimper woke Jim from his sleep. He opened his eyes and rolled onto his back, draping his arm over the back of the couch and pulling himself into a sitting position. The whimper escalated to a sharp cry and then a full-fledged scream, and Jim leapt off the couch in a panic, hurrying into the lower room.
In the darkness, he saw little Blair curled on the bed in Jimmy's arms, writhing in obvious pain. His eyes were clenched shut, his cheeks wet, and he had his face pressed into Jimmy's small chest as he screamed. Out in the living room, frantic footsteps pounded down the stairs.
God. "What is it, Blair?" he asked, dropping down next to the bed. "What's the matter, baby? Huh?"
"What?! What's wrong?" Sandburg's voice asked, and Jim glanced back quickly to see his roommate standing in the doorway, his hair messed from sleep.
"He's hurting!" Jimmy cried. "Do something, please! He needs his pills. On the fridge." He looked back down at Blair, rocking his friend back and forth. "Shhh, Blair, please don't cry. Big Jim will get your pills and then you'll be okay. Shhh."
Jim's heart felt like it was being ripped apart. "Here, let me take him," he said, his voice rough with emotion. He slid his arms under the small figure and Jimmy reluctantly released his hold. Little Blair immediately shifted in Jim's arms, struggling against the invisible pain. His face twisted with agony, his screams slicing through Jim's chest like hot knives. "Get dressed. We're taking him to the hospital."
Little Blair lay in the hospital bed, his face as white as the sheet that covered him. The heartmonitor beeped steadily to the rhythm of his heart and an IV bag hanging by the side of the bed dripped nutrients into his bloodstream. Jimmy sat in the chair next to the bed, his feet dangling above the floor. His chin rested on the mattress near little Blair's waist, and he kept his hands wrapped around the fingers of his friend's good arm.
He was vaguely aware of Jim and Sandburg in the room with him, but most of his attention was focused on the sounds of life in his friend: the soft woosh of air sweeping in and out of his lungs and the steady thump-thump of his heart. It was weird seeing him so sleepy and still all the time. He missed playing with his friend, joking around with him.
We shouldn't have left the camp. You were okay at the camp. They would know what to do. But the camp was gone now and going back was no longer an option.
Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. He'd never really noticed the sound before, but now that it was echoed by the heartmonitor he couldn't help but notice it. The sound had just always been there before, kind of like breathing. You do it all the time, but you're not really aware of it... until you stop doing it. Then your lungs start to burn and you really want to breathe again. Blair's heartbeat was a little like that.
What was really weird is that he heard a slightly different version of that same heartbeat coming from the man sitting behind him. Sandburg. Blair. Not my Blair, but a different Blair. He has the same heart, though, I guess. Same cells. Same genes. But not the same.
A pressure in his bladder caused him to fidget in his chair. A hand came down on his shoulder and a deep voice spoke. "Come on, Jimmy, let's take a break."
"No," he sighed, playing with Blair's still fingers. Please be okay, Blair.
"Come on, Jimmy," Jim insisted again, this time tugging at his arm. "We'll be right back, but I think you need to take a bathroom break."
Jimmy allowed himself to pulled from the chair. Numbly, he followed along as Jim guided him out of the room, but his eyes didn't leave the pale figure on the bed until he was in the hallway and his sight became blocked by the wall.
Sandburg rose from his chair, rubbing the back of his neck to work out the kinks. Little Blair lay in the bed in front of him, still and pale. They'd hooked the kid up to an IV, put him on morphine, and run some more tests. Somehow, the cancer had progressed -- even faster than before, almost as though it was gaining greater momentum with each passing second.
He's too young to die.
The squeak of a rubber shoe against tile cause him to turn around. He saw a flash of white before a harsh puff of pungent air hit him in the face, stealing his breath and sending him into darkness.
Doctor Jones gently lowered Sandburg to the ground, taking a moment to study the young man's face. "Sorry," he whispered. This man is what that little boy in the bed would have grown up to become -- more or less -- if only he had been given the chance.
Rising to his feet, he pulled the syringe out of his pocket, then looked up at the boy in the bed. He flinched when he saw the blue eyes staring drowsily at him.
"Doctor Jones?" the small voice inquired weakly.
Jones smiled and moved to the side of the bed. "Yeah. How are you feeling, Blair?"
"Not good... Are you gonna take me back?"
Jones swallowed. "No, Blair, I'm not taking you back." He took Blair's good arm in his hand and stretched it out along the bed, then felt for the vein. "I'm just going to make it so that you don't feel anymore pain."
Blair swallowed. "Am I gonna die, Doctor Jones?"
Jones stiffened. "Yeah, Blair." He looked at the boy, then raised his hand to caress the child's cheek. "I'm sorry. Please forgive me, Blair," he whispered. "You should never have been born." Tears stung his eyes, blurring his vision, and he wiped quickly at them. "This'll just sting for a moment," he said, then quickly raised the needle and plunged it into the vein in Blair's arm.
"Wait..." Little Blair's whisper-soft voice cut through Jones like a knife as he emptied the vial into the boy's bloodstream. "Jimmy..."
"You should never have been born.... This'll just sting for a moment."
Oh God, no. Jim swooped Jimmy into his arms and took off at a run toward the room. He skidded to a halt inside the doorway and practically dropped Jimmy to the floor as he registered several things at once.
The machines near little Blair's bedside were screaming, alarms going off everywhere. Sandburg lay crumpled on the tile floor, unconscious. A man in a white lab jacket stood next to the bed, an empty syringe held limply in his right hand.
He hesitated for only a moment, unsure what to do first. His hearing picked up the steady heartbeat of his partner at the same time it registered the lack of one in little Blair. The intruder stood calmly, apparently resigned to being caught. He dropped the empty syringe to the floor, offering no resistance when Jim lunged forward and slammed him into the wall.
"What did you give him?!" Jim demanded, shaking the man.
"Something to send him on his way," the man whispered, his eyes wet. "I'm sorry, Detective. There was nothing that could be done for him. All you or this hospital were doing was prolonging his misery."
A rush of bodies entered the room and a shrill cry broke the air.
Jim spun around to see two nurses struggling to pull little Jimmy off the bed so the doctor's could gain access to the patient. Jimmy's hands were wrapped in fists around Blair's hospital gown, refusing to let go as the nurses tried to pull him off.
"NOOO! Wake up, Blair! Wake up!" Jimmy cried, tears streaming down his cheeks and falling in fat drops on little Blair's face and chest.
Jim released the intruder and moved quickly over to the nurses. "Let him go!" Ellison barked and they complied instantly. Jimmy fell on top of Blair, pressing his ear against the dead child's chest.
Trying to find the heartbeat, Jim realized with a strong pang in his chest. He remembered doing something similar himself at the fountain as he'd stood numbly over Sandburg's limp form. But there had been no heartbeat then, just like there wasn't one now.
"Blair, come on, Blair," Jimmy cried, lifting his head from the chest and shaking his friend. "Wake up! Wake up!" His cries grew more frantic, and Jim reached forward, wrapping strong arms around the young Sentinel.
"No! Let me go!" Jimmy cried, his fists clenching around Blair's hospital gown again, tugging at the limp boy as he was pulled away from the bed. Hands reached down and pried Jimmy's fingers open, then released him as Jim staggered back with the struggling boy.
"You make him better!" Jimmy yelled at the man in the white coat. "You make him better, Doctor Jones! You make him better!"
So that's Doctor Jones, Jim realized distantly as he tightened his grip on Jimmy. Jones took a step back, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Jimmy. He's gone."
"NO!" Jimmy kicked wildly at the man, even though he was several feet away.
"Stop it, Jimmy," Ellison whispered into the boy's ear. "Calm down. Shhhh. Calm down."
"No! He told Blair he shouldn't have been born! He said he shouldn't have been born!" Jimmy cried, and Ellison felt the child's hot tears drop onto his arms and hands.
Jim closed his eyes and slid down the wall, bringing Jimmy to the floor. "Shhhh. I know, Jimmy. I know." A flash of anger erupted in his chest as he listened to Jimmy's powerful sobs and felt the tremors coursing through the small body. What the hell kind of a man tells a dying boy he should have never been born?
Dimly, Jim heard the doctor announce the time of death. He opened his eyes and saw them converge on Sandburg's limp form. Another explosion of anger washed through him at the sight of his unconscious partner. He wanted nothing more right now than to feel his hand wrapped around Dr. Jones' scrawny neck.
"Vital's strong," the doctor stated as he took Sandburg's pulse.
Sandburg groaned, and Jim released a breath of relief, watching the young man stir. The doctor helped Sandburg into a sitting position, then continued his examination, checking Sandburg's pupils and reflexes. The anthropologist seemed a bit groggy, but otherwise all right. Then his eyes drifted up to little Blair in the bed, and Jim saw the horror of realization darken Sandburg's face.
"No. Awww, no," Sandburg choked, tears springing in his eyes. He looked at Jim, guilt etched on his face.
Jim shook his head. No, Chief, don't go there. This was not your fault.
Sandburg pulled away from the doctor and crawled somewhat awkwardly over to Jim, his eyes wet and miserable as they swept over Jimmy's sobbing figure. The boy lifted his head, then struggled forward toward Sandburg. Sensing the mutual need, Jim released his hold on the boy, barely able to contain his own tears as Jimmy fell into Sandburg's waiting arms and pressed his ear against the grad student's chest, the child's tortured sobs the only sound in the now-silent room.
Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
But hold this mem'ry bittersweet
Until we meet
Sandburg stood outside the interrogation room, watching as Jim questioned Dr. Jones. Simon stood silently in the corner of the interrogation room, observing the exchange, presumably there in case Jim lost his cool. Blair had waged a silent internal battle about whether or not to observe the interrogation with Jimmy or stay somewhere else and wait for the report later, but the only place he could stay and wait was the bullpen and he figured Jimmy could listen into the interrogation from there if he wanted, anyway. Besides, he so very much wanted to hear first-hand what this guy had to say. Most importantly, would what happened to little Blair also happen to Jimmy?
So he stood now outside the room, peering in through the one-way mirror as he held Jimmy in his arms. The boy hadn't uttered a sound since the hospital, his fists so tightly clenched around the material of Blair's shirt that Sandburg doubted anybody would be able to pry the kid away -- even if he'd let them.
The silence was beginning to worry him, though. He'd tried several times to get a response out of the boy, but with no success. Jimmy's eyes remained opened, staring blankly into space as though he'd zoned, and Blair wondered if perhaps the kid had zoned on his heartbeat. After all, Jim had told Blair that his heartbeat sounded quite similar to little Blair's heartbeat, the difference being mainly between the adult and child rhythms.
"You paid the twenty-thousand to the hospital?" Jim growled, pressing his palms onto the table as he glared at the man.
It was amazing that Simon had allowed Jim to question the guy, but, really, there were only two people who could do the interrogation: Jim and Simon. Since Jim had the advantage of Sentinel senses, he'd convinced Simon to let him question Blair's murderer. That was another reason Sandburg kept watch -- to help make sure that Jim didn't disembowel the guy. Talk about a Due Process violation.
"Yes," Dr. Jones answered.
"It was money I had accumulated through my work at the camp. I won't be needing it, anymore."
"Damn right you won't," Jim barked, slamming one palm down on the table. Dr. Jones didn't even flinch. "Not where you're going."
"Why'd you kill him? To protect your little experiment?" Jim spat the word out.
"No." Dr. Jones' voice broke, and he looked away, glancing at the mirror. "I put him out of his misery." He turned his gaze back to Ellison. "What you don't understand, Detective -- what no one at that hospital understood -- is that the cloning and acceleration processes left Blair extremely prone to cancers, premature aging, and other diseases. He --"
"What do you mean by the 'acceleration' process?"
"Development and growth acceleration using an artificial protein related to bcl2 and other cell proliferation factors. You see, Detective, our cells are subject to all kinds of controls. There are things that tell the cell to stop growing or to die and then there are things that promote cell growth and proliferation. That's how cancer works. Genes that produce proteins which limit cell growth and death get mutated or shut off and that leads to cancer. There are oncogenes and tumor suppresser genes and all kinds of proteins in our cell that regulate cell proliferation. When the regulatory balance gets out of whack, the cells grow, often de-differentiate, use resources and eventually just take over and kill the host. We tinkered with those regulatory balances to speed up development and growth while experimenting with various modified proteins to inhibit the development of cancer. We had some success in mice, and then we tried it on humans. You see, the director wanted a Sentinel and Guide, but he didn't want to wait twenty or so years for the pair. As is evident by Jimmy and Blair, we managed to increase the development and growth rates by over one hundred percent. A side effect of that appears to be increased neural plasticity. They learn faster. Soak up information faster than normal children their age. But they are only three years old, Detective."
Jim's eyes burned fire. "Why clone Sandburg?"
"Simple. A Sentinel needs a Guide. We were actually way ahead of Sandburg in that department. You see, the director had his eye on you ever since you came back from Peru. He'd been searching for a Sentinel for many years, trying to validate his theory that modern day Sentinels could be used as elite soldiers and mercenaries. He'd make billions if he were able to produce such soldiers on demand. You know, the horror stories every one hears about cloning? The ridiculous fears that Hollywood preys on? Well, turns out they're not so ridiculous -- not when there are madman running around wanting to make something of themselves. Anyway, the director knew about the Sentinel-Guide relationship, but his research had led him to believe that not just anyone could guide a Sentinel. Think about it, Detective. Our genes determine our height, hair color, talents, and overall intelligence. Whatever makes a person a good Guide will likely be found in his genes, not his environment or upbringing. The director didn't want to risk the millions of dollars that would be poured into the project on a chance that, even if he cloned a Sentinel, he wouldn't find a Guide and then the Sentinel would be virtually useless. That day Mr. Sandburg pushed you under the garbage truck was the day the director decided that Blair Sandburg was your Guide." Jones grunted, looking away. "But no one in the scientific community would be involved with such a project. The director --"
"Harrison Carter?" Jim asked.
Jones shook his head. "No, that was just an alias. I don't know his real name, but, anyway, he managed to secure some funding. Not even I knew where it all came from. Some of it we got from fraudulent grants, but the rest was all very shady. Probably foreign black market sources, I'm guessing."
"You said the scientific community wouldn't touch the cloning project. Why did you?"
Dr. Jones dropped his gaze to the table. "The oldest reason in the book, Detective. Love. Grief. When you check my background, you'll find out that I had a daughter. She was eight years old, and she died ten years ago of leukemia. It was right after she died that the director approached me with a way to bring her back. At first, it was all legit stuff. I mean, I didn't know what he was ultimately planning and he offered me a LOT of money. Two and half million dollars a year and my own lab. How could I turn down such an offer? I had no idea that Dr. Wilmut would end up cloning Dolly and let the world in on the possibilities. After that, we were in so deep and we had accomplished so much, there was no turning back. You and Sandburg had already been cloned and you both seemed healthy and perfectly viable."
"Why all the training and schooling?"
"We're not barbarians, Detective." Jones looked up at the harsh huff of air Jim expelled. "Besides, the very best soldiers and mercenaries have to often work independently and make split-second decisions. Stupid soldiers end up dead soldiers."
Blair closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, cradling Jimmy against his chest. Damn, his arms were really getting tired. He slid down to the floor to give his body a rest and ease the strain in his arms. Jimmy didn't move, didn't make a sound.
Feeling an instinctive need to keep the young Sentinel safe, Blair held Jimmy a little closer. They were going to use you as a hired killer. It turned his stomach. What kind of men could bring two children into the world as slaves?
"So why are you doing this now? A little late, don't you think, Doctor?" Jim asked.
Blair opened his eyes to see Jones with his head in his hands. "Yes, too late. I... uh... After three years of working with these kids, I got attached to them. I couldn't let Blair suffer in that hospital knowing it was all my fault."
Blair felt the tears surface in his eyes and the room swam through the haze of wetness. He clung a little tighter to Jimmy, feeling the boy's heartbeat against his own.
"Will what happened to Blair happen to Jimmy?" Ellison asked, his voice rough.
Jones shrugged. "I don't know, Detective. I honestly don't know."
Jim unlocked the loft door and motioned for Sandburg to carry his bundle inside. Blair tried to muster a grateful smile, but he just didn't have the energy. Instead, he carried Jimmy inside, hesitating a moment to decide what to do. Should he try to put Jimmy to bed? Would the kid let go of him? Or should he just stay with the young Sentinel out on the couch and try to coax him out of this weird zone?
He opted for the couch. He didn't want to leave Jimmy until the kid looked like he was at least partially aware of his surroundings. Sinking into the cushions, he adjusted the child on his lap, then lowered his mouth to Jimmy's ear and began to talk softly.
"Jimmy, can you hear me?"
"Come on, Jimmy, give me a sign here. I need you to answer me. Can you do that? Can you nod and let me know that you hear me?"
Still no answer. Sandburg felt the knot of worry tighten in his stomach, but he kept up his soothing litany of words. Nearly an hour passed and he still hadn't gotten a response. Jim had taken up residence in the armchair, observing his efforts in silence. Finally, Sandburg looked up at the Sentinel.
"Jim, I think I'm gonna need your help here."
Jim was out of the chair and at his side in a heartbeat. "What can I do?"
"Take him away from me," Blair instructed, a slight tremble in his voice. "If he's zoned on my heartbeat, I want to remove that. Cover it with the white noise generator. Let's hope that brings him around."
Jim nodded and gently reached out to wrap his arms around the boy. He pulled back firmly, coaxing Jimmy away from Sandburg, but the child's fists remained clenched tight around Sandburg's shirt. Blair covered the small hands with his own and pried the fingers open.
Jimmy remained stiff as Ellison pulled him away from Sandburg, never even blinking an eye.
"Lay him down on the couch," Sandburg instructed, rising to his feet and retrieving the white noise generator from the cabinet. With a flick of his hand, he turned on the power, glancing at Jimmy.
At first, the little boy showed no signs of coming out of his zone, but then his eyelids blinked -- once at first, then rapidly. His breathing quickened and he gasped, sitting up suddenly and looking around, his eyes wild.
"Easy there, Junior," Jim said, placing a hand on Jimmy's shoulder.
Jimmy shrugged off the touch and leapt off the couch. Sandburg watched him carefully, rooted to his position near the kitchen table. Jimmy spun around, shaking visibly, then he disappeared into the bedroom. Blair waved Jim toward the room and the Sentinel complied instantly, stopping to stand just inside the doorway. He glanced back at Blair, his eyes pinched with pain, then looked back into the room.
Finally, Sandburg couldn't stand it anymore. He moved to stand behind Jim, peering over the Sentinel's shoulder. A fist clamped over his heart when he saw Jimmy curled up into a tight ball on little Blair's side of the bed.
Simon slammed the phone down and rubbed his temples. Damn, this case was a nightmare. They were holding Jones on murder charges, but how far could they take this case? To court? And have it all come out that Ellison is a Sentinel and that Jimmy is actually a clone?
His eye caught the small white stone displayed on the edge of the bookcase shelf and, with an unexpectedness that stole his breath, little Blair's words came back to him. "It's so you won't be mad anymore. The little card at the store said that whoever has that stone will get whatever the stone says."
Awww, hell. Why'd he have to go think about it? He pulled his glasses off and tossed them on the desk, then rubbed his eyes hard as though he could erase the pain itself. He rose quickly from the chair, replaced his glasses, and grabbed his coat. It was time to go check up on Ellison, Sandburg, and their young charge.
Uh-oh, Simon thought as he knocked on the door. He knew Jim and Blair were home because he'd seen both the Volvo and the truck parked outside, but the Sentinel hadn't opened the door yet. I actually got to knock. He didn't think that was a good sign.
Straining his ears, he heard footsteps shuffle across the wood floor, then the chain jangled and the door swung inward to reveal a grim-faced Sandburg.
"Hello, Simon," Blair sighed, void of his usual enthusiasm.
Simon walked into the loft and Blair closed the door behind him. "You doing okay, Blair?" he asked the young man.
A small shrug, then a shake of the head was Sandburg's response. Simon patted the young man on the shoulder. God, it must be hard to watch someone literally of your flesh and blood die... especially a child.
The captain looked around the loft. "Where's Jim?"
Blair jerked his head toward the lower room. "In there with Jimmy."
"Has the boy said anything yet?" Simon knew the kid hadn't spoken a word since the hospital.
Blair shook his head. "No. We finally got him to come out of the zone, but then he just went into the room and curled up on the bed. I suggested Jim read to him... You know, just to keep the kid company. A voice. He shouldn't be alone."
Simon nodded. "Why didn't you read to him?" Earlier at the station, Blair and Jimmy had been inseparable -- closer than conjoined twins.
Blair glanced at the French doors to his room. "I think Jimmy zoned on my heartbeat," he said softly, looking back at the captain. "Jim told me the other day that my heartbeat sounded a lot like little Blair's. I mean, we have the same heart, right? Just different sizes. So, I think Jimmy needed that sound. Kind of like a security blanket. It's just always been there for him, and I think when Blair died he grabbed onto the next best thing."
"You," Simon finished.
Blair nodded. "Yeah." He took a deep breath. "I don't want to risk that happening again, so I'm trying to keep my distance from Jimmy and use the white noise generator to mask the sound of my heartbeat. He's going to have to get used to not having little Blair around.... not having that heartbeat to listen to."
Simon studied the young man critically. Sandburg looked like he hadn't slept in awhile. Dark circles hung beneath red-tinged eyes and he sported a day's worth of growth on his jaw.
"How are you doing, Sandburg? Really."
Blair swallowed and dropped his gaze to the floor. "I don't know yet, Simon," he whispered so softly that Simon had to strain to hear him.
Jim appeared in the doorway of Blair's room, his face lined with fatigue. "Hey, Captain," he said, leaning against the doorjamb.
"Hello, Jim," Simon replied. "I just stopped by to see how you three were doing."
Jim managed a small smile, but it ended up just highlighting the sorrow in his eyes. "Thanks," he said, obviously avoiding the implied question in Simon's statement that would have required him to say how he was actually doing.
"Do you need anything?" Simon asked quickly, suddenly feeling awkward. "Groceries? Supplies? I can make a run to the store."
Jim shook his head. "No, sir. We're okay for now. Thank you."
Simon nodded. "Uh, okay, then. I guess I'll be going now. Call me if you need anything... and, uh, you two take all the time you need. Okay?"
Jim nodded. "Thank you, sir."
A Coyote howled and Jimmy jerked. Had he fallen asleep? What was that noise? He strained his sensitive ears, but all he heard was the hum of the white noise generator, the muffled sounds of traffic on the street below, and a television rambling softly a few doors down.
He slid out of bed and shuffled silently into the living room, barely glancing at Sandburg laid sprawled on the couch beneath the afghan. He thought he heard the lonely howl of the Coyote again, but it sounded faint and distant... or maybe it was just a car horn.
Opening the balcony doors, he stepped outside, his eyes drifting over the myriad lights of the city night. He had no idea how long he stood there, lost in the vastness, but a hand on his shoulder pulled him out of the cold and steered him back into his room. He didn't look up. It was either Jim or Blair... Blair, he decided, from the smell of the man's shampoo. Herbal and fruity. He tried to listen to the painfully familiar beat of Blair's heart, but the hum of the white noise generator interfered with his focus.
He was pushed gently back into bed, then the covers slid up to his chest and a warm hand touched his forehead.
"It's okay, Jimmy," Blair whispered, leaning down and brushing his lips against Jimmy's temple. "Sleep now."
They hadn't yet decided what to do with the body. Considering the circumstances, Jim and Blair agreed that cremation would probably be better all around, but to both of them that felt painfully close to destroying the evidence - as though little Blair had been something they wanted to deny ever existed; and that was so very far from the truth. They wanted to remember him and to tell others about him, but telling others the truth would not be the smartest move.
So, eventually, they decided on cremation. Jim suggested purchasing a plot at the cemetery, anyway... something that would stay long after they were gone and remind people that the little boy had once existed. The tombstone, they decided, would read: Blair -- Little Wolf. 1996-1999. They would scatter some of the ashes on the grave and the rest would be spread over the ocean. Typical, perhaps, but it had been little Blair's last true moment of happy childhood.
So it was with heavy hearts that the three figures stood on the shore staring out into the blue endlessness. Jimmy stood between the two men, a sapling dwarfed by two redwoods. The waves pounded against the shore, then withdrew almost timidly as though recognizing the solemn mood.
Sandburg handed the urn to Jimmy. For several seconds, the boy did nothing but stare into the ocean. Then he raised his arms and wrapped small hands around the brass container. He stared at it, seeming to study every inch of its surface. A shadow crossed over his eyes and he heaved the urn angrily into the ocean, then spun on his heels and ran away from the water as fast as his legs could carry him.
And he still hadn't said a word.
A lonely howl pierced the night silence and Jimmy opened his eyes, his pupils growing larger to compensate for the lack of light. Remnants of a dream danced just out of conscious reach but left him with a pain in his chest.
I left him on the beach all alone.
He swallowed, sitting up in bed and peering out the window that led to the fire escape. "...on a quiet night the song of the 'Little Wolf' may still be heard."
The howl sounded louder, as though the creature were right next to him. He felt himself being pulled into that hollow, lonely sound. Quietly, he slid out of bed, feeling a tug in his chest as though a hand gripped his heart.
Jimmy opened the windows and slipped into the night.
Sandburg woke to the faint hum of the white noise generator. With a yawn, he pushed himself off the couch and headed to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. The phone rang, and he snatched it up quickly.
"It's Simon. Is Jim there?"
"Wake him up."
Blair stopped breathing. "What happened?"
"Jones was found dead in his cell earlier this morning. He hung himself."
Blair wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but this wasn't it. "I'll get Jim," he managed. He detoured on his way to the stairs and stuck his head into the lower room to check on Jimmy...
Oh no. He dropped the phone and looked up to Jim's room, hurrying up the stairs and hoping he'd find the child nestled securely in Jim's bed. Instead, he saw only the Sentinel.
Jim opened his eyes and rolled on his side to look at Blair. "What is it?"
"He's gone," Blair croaked, his throat tight.
The sun touched the horizon, spilling golden light onto the quiet ocean. Jimmy stood in the sand and let the waves caress his ankles. He stretched his senses -- searching, listening. The crash of the waves mixed with a faint, tortured howl.
I'm coming, Blair.
Slowly, Jimmy walked forward into the eager embrace of the ocean.
Jim's keen eyesight saw it first, and he pressed down hard on the accelerator, skidding the truck to a halt just at the sandline.
"Oh God, no," Sandburg choked softly.
The two men ran from the truck, dropping next to the small, wet figure laying limp at the edge of the ocean waters. Jim swept the small body into his arms and carried it out of the water, walking several feet before collapsing to his knees on the sand. Automatically, he extended his senses -- searching, hoping -- but he found only silence and the angry crashing of the waves against the shore.
One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Three-one-thousand, he counted, doing the compressions to force Jimmy's heart to beat. He got up to fifteen, then covered the boy's mouth with his own and forced air into the sluggish lungs.
Sometime later a hand on his arm pulled him back. "Enough, Jim. He's dead," Sandburg's voice trembled from behind.
Numb, Jim sat back hard on his tailbone, then looked up at Blair. Tears wet the young man's cheek, his blue eyes bright with grief.
Blair pulled Jim back, but it took all his strength to do so. Enough was enough. "Enough, Jim. He's dead." He clamped down on a sob, his heart twisting when Jim turned to look at him. The pain on the Sentinel's face was more than any person should have to bare.
Blair pulled his eyes away from Jim, drawn to the nearly identical pair staring blankly up at him from the corpse. Jimmy. Blair shivered. Jim's eyes. Staring up at him. Dead. For a moment, it seemed as though he were actully looking at Jim -- into the cold, dead eyes of his best friend.
Tears clouded Blair's vision and he staggered back, falling to his knees in the sand. "God, no. Oh God, please no." Strong arms wrapped around him, and he looked up into an older pair of eyes. The sob escaped and he leaned forward into Jim's embrace, wrapping his arms tight around the Sentinel and holding on for all he was worth.
It was one of the saddest sights Blair had ever seen. Two tombstones, side-by-side, with no graves. Jim stood beside him, silent and stiff. They stayed that way for several minutes, then the Sentinel draped an arm across Blair's shoulders and turned away with him.
"You okay?" Jim asked.
Blair leaned into his friend. "No. You?"
He looked up to see the redness in Jim's eyes and wrapped an arm around the Sentinel's waist. He resisted the urge to look back at the tombstones. Jimmy and Blair had been in their lives for only a few days, but they had taught them so much in that time. "Soulmates," Blair whispered, surprising himself. He hadn't meant to say the word out loud.
Jim's arm tightened around Blair's shoulders, pulling him closer. "Yeah," the Sentinel sighed. "I'm glad."
Fly, fly do not fear
Don't waste a breath, don't shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don't wait for me
Above the universe you'll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won't forget
I've been wanting to write a "hard science" story for awhile, but I just couldn't think up an appropriate topic other than cloning that would work well in the Sentinel universe. Unfortunately, I despise pop-culture cloning stories. *grin* I really do. I just can't stand to see Hollywood preying on and profiting from society's concerns about cloning. Instead of serious, rational discussion, we get doomsday prophecies about resurrecting Hitler or government conspiracies to clone armies of perfect soldiers. Could those nightmares happen? Yeah, but they don't keep me up at night. There are more probable nightmares that we should be worrying about. The great majority of the scientific community is against human cloning (to create a duplicate, living organism). I suppose, as one scientist said, "If it can be done, someone will eventually do it." However, cloning itself is not an evil. Like many things in this world, cloning can be bad or good, depending on how it is used. There are a great many more applications to this science than just making copies of organisms.
So, here I am writing a cloning story. It took me a while because I wanted to write something that would be interesting to readers (and, alas, that does require a bit of conspiracy), but that would also be scientifically realistic. So here you go: a cloning story from a scientist-turned-lawyer. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to e-mail me. Like all scientists, I absolutely love to talk about science... and, unlike lawyers, I don't charge $300 an hour. *grin*
I would be so very happy to hear from you! So please, send me an
Lyrics from the song Fly by Celine Dion