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Thanks for reading this little side project of mine. I started this series for two reasons:
1) To give my muse a kick in the ass, and
2) To try to answer some of the questions that plague me every time I see "Dragon House" (and a whole host of other eps).
Hope you enjoy!
A VERY special thanks goes out to Manoline for betaing this!
January 2, 1959, Detroit General Hospital
“Deep breaths, Margaret. You’re almost there.” The midwife’s voice was infuriatingly calm. Margaret Leary did her best to ignore the woman as another contraction ripped through her tired body.
“Okay Margaret, it’s almost over. Push.” The doctor was just as collected as the midwife, and both of them were far too nonchalant in Margaret’s opinion. Pain stabbed through her again. In the back of her mind, Margaret reflected that it was just as well expectant fathers weren’t allowed in the birthing room. The NuGenesis fertility treatments that had led to all of this had been her husband’s idea, after all. She had a few choice words for her dear Charles. All of which she would probably regret later. The doctor’s voice cut through her musing. “The baby’s head is crowning.”
The young mother couldn’t help but cry out as the baby reached delivery. She gasped for breath and clenched her fists. She could feel her nails dig into her palms even through the thin sheets she’d somehow tangled them in. She gave one last push and new life slid out of her. She collapsed back in the bed, exhausted, but didn’t relax just yet. Her eyes locked on the doctor as he stood, a small, very red form cradled in his hands. For a bare instant, it seemed like the world held its breath. Then a soft squawk announced the arrival of Margaret’s first child. Her sweaty face broke into a smile even as the squawking quickly rose in volume.
A smiling midwife took the child from the doctor and wrapped it in a clean white blanket. “Congratulations. It’s a boy.” She said, raising her voice to be heard over the growing vocalizations of Margaret’s son.
“Jarod.” Margaret gasped, “My Jarod.” The older woman held the bundle before Margaret’s awestruck eyes, but did not yet lower the child into her waiting arms. Margaret’s job was not yet finished.
“Here comes the second one.” The doctor’s cool voice brought Margaret’s attention back to the task at hand. As she began another excruciating push, the midwife returned to stand behind the doctor. “Here it comes.”
There were no words for the pain that followed. For a first time mother, delivering two babies in as many minutes was the epitome of torture. She strained, gasped, and screamed as the sensation repeated itself. The doctor lifted another small red form. “Another boy,” he said, but Margaret heard concern in his voice. From her vantage point, Margaret couldn’t see much, but the baby hadn’t cried yet, and she hadn’t seen him move.
The doctor and the midwife turned. Seconds stretched like hours as they tried to rub life into Margaret’s second born. The new mother held her breath. Finally, a soft squeal joined Jarod’s louder squawk, and a smiling doctor turned and placed a small but wiggling bundle in Margaret’s arms. The woman gasped, unexpectedly overwhelmed.
“Kyle.” She whispered the child’s name like a prayer and placed a soft kiss on his damp, fuzzy head. The baby snuggled into her arms, clearly craving warmth. The midwife came to Margaret’s other side and gently lowered Jarod to lie beside his twin in their mother’s arms. Jarod was bigger and livelier than his brother, but as Margaret pulled him close he ceased his squalling and cuddled up to sleep.
As the doctor and the midwife bustled around, cleaning up, Margaret felt her eyelids begin to droop. The midwife smiled and checked to make sure the boys weren’t in danger of falling. When she was satisfied that they were secure—their mother’s arms supported by the bedrails—she left Margaret to her peaceful stupor. It was finally over; the long struggle to conceive had yielded twin miracles, now warm in Margaret’s arms. As the boys curled close, instinctively seeking the warmth of each other, Margaret leaned her head back and let sleep claim her too.
By the time the midwife let Major Charles in to see his family, all three were fast asleep.
January 3, 1959Detroit General Hospital
Major Charles cradled Jarod in his arms as if he were the most precious thing in the world as he followed a nurse down the hall to the nursery. Margaret was being kept overnight for observation. The doctors assured her it was standard procedure—nothing to worry about—but they also insisted on taking the boys to the nursery so she could rest. The nurse led the way into the neonatal ward, pushing the door open with her shoulder so as not to disturb Kyle as he slept in her arms. She walked briskly to the nearest incubator, lowered the infant into it, and turned to see Charles still frozen in the doorway.
“Need a minute, ‘Dad’?” she asked brightly. Not trusting himself to speak, Charles merely nodded. The young woman smiled and headed for the door. “Take as much time as you need.” She advised.
The door closed behind Major Charles with a snap that only sounded loud in his ears. He jerked slightly then closed his eyes. Opening them, he looked down to inspect the tiny life in his arms. Jarod—his first born, his immortality—slept peacefully, unaware of his father’s turmoil. Charles walked to the second incubator with heavy steps. He planted a soft kiss on his child’s forehead and whispered, “I love you, son.” No more words, for now. Words would come later, when he could understand.
After lowering Jarod into his incubator, Charles approached his other son as one might come before an altar or a shrine. Awe and fear mingled in equal portions. Charles looked down at Kyle and swallowed a lump in his throat. He was so small—a mere six pounds to his brother’s robust nine and a half. Kyle’s eyes were closed, but he was not yet asleep. A tiny fist waved in the air. Charles stood there and reflected on the miracle of his sons’ conception and the terrible price he had to pay for it. He was assaulted by a memory so fresh and palpable that it still brought tears to his eyes.
“Major Leary. Thank you for meeting with us on such short notice.”
“My pleasure, Doctor. Have the test results come back?”
“They have, and I’m afraid I have mixed news for you.”
“The extent of your war injuries makes natural conception all but impossible in your current state, nor is invitro fertilization an option due to a rare enzyme imbalance in your genetic material.”
“Isn’t ‘mixed news’ supposed to mean some of it is good?”
“My apologies, sir, I know this news can be difficult to take.”
“Get to the point, please! Can you help us conceive or not?”
“I was getting to that. There are options. An experimental surgery has proven quite effective in reversing your form of sterility. Coupled with fertility drugs for your wife, we could offer you about an eighty percent chance of conception within a year.”
“Well why didn't you say so before? Schedule me for this surgery.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple, Mr. Leary—“
“My apologies. The procedure is very new, Major. Only two doctors in the country are certified to perform it and neither one of them is part of the staff here at NuGenesis. We could arrange for you to have the operation, but the cost would be in the hundreds of thousands.”
“Hundreds of thousands! For one operation?”
“Yes, Major. I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do if cost is prohibitive. You are out of alternative options.”
“I . . . Doctor, I was shot down in Korea. My injuries were so bad I couldn’t work for several years. Hell, that’s why I’m here to begin with. Margaret and I are still trying to get back on our feet. It’ll be hard enough just supporting the baby—“
“Then maybe you should put off this decision until you are better off financially.”
“No! No. We want a baby.” Charles looked down at his hands, “We want a child.”
The inseminologist looked up sharply. Charles would remember that look forever. The man’s voice was low, “Then there might be a way . . .”
Over a year had passed since that fateful meeting, far from Margaret’s eyes. Despite ample time for soul searching, Charles had never expected it to be this hard.
“Kyle,” he whispered, “Hey son.” The veteran leaned his forearms on the glass top of the incubator. His voice was a tortured rasp. “Kyle, I love you very much. I’ll never stop loving you. But . . . after tonight I won’t see you anymore.” The man’s voice broke, but he swallowed the pain. It didn’t matter that his son couldn’t understand him—that he would never remember—Charles needed to say this. He owed it to Kyle to say this. “Son, I wanted so badly to have a baby that I did a terrible thing. I agreed to . . .” He couldn’t say the rest, so instead he cleared his throat and tried to regain his composure. “Tonight some doctors are going to come and take you away. It’s alright, they work for an adoption agency—the same agency that helped us have you. They said—“Charles swiped away an unwanted tear, his voice rising slightly, “They said they’d put you with loving parents—adoptive parents; that you’d never want for anything; that you’d have everything your mother and I can’t give you. It was the only way we could afford to have the conception.” Charles stopped as he realized what he’d said. How could he have ever agreed to this? What madness had made him believe that he could trade lives like currency?
The man was weeping freely now. He forced himself to continue, “Your mother doesn’t know. She’d never agree, and she wanted a baby so bad . . .” He couldn’t say the rest. Instead, he reached into his pocket and drew out what until yesterday had been his most prized possession. “The Distinguished Flying Cross. I won it in Korea when I got injured. It’s yours, now.” He tried to memorize the child’s face; the tiny snub of a nose, the delicate tracery of veins in the eyelids . . . “You won’t remember me . . . but I want you to have a little piece of your old dad with you. No matter what happens. I love you, Kyle. Go, and be a better man than me.”
At his father’s last words, Kyle opened his eyes for the first time. Charles’s breath caught. The baby’s eyes were blue, sparklingly clear, and very deep. Charles had heard somewhere that infants couldn’t see faces until they were a few weeks old. Nonetheless, he could have sworn that Kyle met his eyes. Reaching down, the major tucked the little medal on its striped ribbon into the front of Kyle’s onesie. Before he could pull away, the baby reached out and grabbed his thumb, clutching it with that miraculous strength newborns have. The baby pulled his father’s thumb to his face and tucked the man’s thumb in his toothless mouth. Closing those extraordinary eyes, Kyle let out a huge yawn as his grip relaxed and he drifted off to sleep.
Charles stepped back and watched the boys, fast asleep in their incubators. He took a deep breath and willed his hands to stop shaking. Surely it would not add to his damnation to play God one more time. In his confession to the infant, he’d omitted only one detail; it wasn’t Kyle the agency wanted. Silently, Charles lifted the clipboard at the foot of Jarod’s crib and set it atop Kyle’s bed instead. After a pause, he repeated the process with Kyle’s chart.
Major Charles left the ward feeling a hundred years older than he had when he’d entered it. In the dim nursery, the boys slept on, unaware that for the next few hours each bore his brother’s name.
January 4, 1959, Detroit General Hospital
Margaret stared numbly at the still, limp figure in the nurse’s arms. She could make no response as her world crashed down around her. Beside her, Charles cried “Oh, God!” and clutched her shoulder tightly.
The nurse’s voice was gentle, but detached, “Sudden Infant Death is a terrible shock for any parent. I’m sorry there was nothing we could do.” The woman moved to pull the sheet off the infant’s face, “Would you like to—““No! Please, no.” Charles interrupted, “Please just . . . oh God, my son!” he collapsed, sobs wracking his wiry frame. Margaret couldn’t have known that the man’s tears were not for a dead child, but for his own wounded, guilt-ridden soul and for the son who would grow up never knowing his true father. Margaret just stared as the tragedy slowly wrote its story in the depths her heart. Every emotion she was feeling was reflected in her green eyes. Her son, precious baby Kyle who had barely made it into life, was gone.
“Margaret?” Charles’s voice was soft; broken, “Say something, sweetheart.”
Margaret looked up at him, her eyes already bearing the haunted look they would hold for the rest of her life. Her voice was a hoarse whisper, “Where’s Jarod?”
Confusion flickered across Charles’s brown eyes. “Dear, is this really the time for—“
“Where’s my son? BRING ME MY SON!!!” Everyone in the room was taken aback at her vehemence. A candy striper all but ran out the door in the direction of the nursery. Only when the girl was gone did Margaret turn to her husband and allow the terrible pressure growing in her chest to explode out of her in a sob that was almost a keen. It was the saddest, most heart wrenching sound in the world; a mother in mourning. She poured out all her love and all her pain in a cry that seemed unending. Charles cradled her to his chest and rocked her as if she were no more than a child herself. She could feel the wet drops falling on the top of her head and knew he was weeping as well.
She had nearly wept herself dry when the girl returned carrying another small bundle. Margaret wept all over again when she saw that this one was stirring. Moving carefully, as if afraid the tragedy might infect her, the teenage candy striper placed Jarod in his mother’s arms. Silent tears now streaming down her face, Margaret pulled Jarod close as he let out his trademark “gah.” Her heart lightened at the sound, and a slow smile broke through the tears. Margaret could never have imagined that joy and pain could mingle in such equal measures. She adjusted herself until the child’s head rested on her shoulder.
Her little Kyle, precious to her even before he breathed air, was gone forever. Her heart wanted to break, but she called on the strength only mothers can know to hold it together. She needed her heart in one piece. She needed it for the sake of her surviving child. Kyle was gone, but Jarod was here. And she would never let him go.
January 7, 1959, The Centre, Blue Cove Delaware
Mr. Parker’s face was expressionless as he studied the small identification bracelet in his hand. It was a tiny circlet, barely bigger around than his thumb, bearing only the letters DGH, K. Leary. K. Leary.
Mr. Parker’s voice started low, then grew in intensity, “All our planning. All our preparation. Thousands in research. And it’s all shot to hell because some sweepers never learned how to read?!!!”
The man he addressed didn’t flinch. Dr. William Raines was more than used to this type of outburst. “It is a regrettable turn of events. We’ll never know what happened. Perhaps the sweepers simply grabbed the first baby they saw with the name ‘Leary.’ Perhaps the cribs were inadvertently mislabeled. It’s even possible that the boys’ father betrayed us in hopes of keeping his first-born. The sweepers responsible have been dealt with, and I don’t foresee such sloppiness reoccurring for some time.”
Mr. Parker didn’t respond, and Raines knew that his silence was more dangerous than any tirade. Raines continued, “Besides, you can hardly call this a loss. The boy’s blood has been tested, and he bears the same gene we looked for in his brother. I don’t see what difference it makes that this one was called Kyle when he could just as easily have been called Jarod—“
“It makes every difference!” Mr. Parker puffed slightly, growing red in the face before regaining control. “The plans were laid out like that for a reason, Raines. It was supposed to be clean. There was supposed to be no trace of Centre involvement. That’s what the deal with Leary was all about. Now, we’ll have to resort to more drastic measures. We need that boy. That boy is everything . . .”
“Listen to reason, please Mr. Parker!” Raines’s voice dripped with disdain, but he chose his words carefully, “We have done well in this enterprise. We have a perfectly good subject with which to initialize the Pretender Project. When he turns two, we can begin testing and training him. Give the boy a few years. See how the project goes. If you are unsatisfied with the results, we will simply send another team to collect his twin.” Raines took a long draw on his cigarette and resisted the urge to blow smoke in Mr. Parker’s face. “Simple, clean, and not a trace of Centre involvement.”
Mr. Parker studied Raines for a moment, his blue eyes squinting. Finally, he nodded slowly, “Fine, Raines, we’ll do this your way for now. Besides, If we took Jarod now, things would get messy. There would be an investigation and we can’t allow any suspicion to fall on NuGenesis. It could all lead right back here! Have that boy placed with one of the nannies on SL-3. I’m sure we’ll find some use for him.”
Raines read the dismissal in Mr. Parker’s voice and spun on heel. As he left the Chairman’s office, he allowed his lips to curl in a twisted smile. This was working out better than expected. It appeared that Mr. Parker was all but discarding the younger twin. And Raines excelled at finding uses for discarded things.