“Oh, she’s starting to come to again, Jarod.”
Jarod smiled at her, the biggest smile she’d seen on him in a long time. “They are all here. Want to see them?” He moved out of her view for a little while. Miss Parker tried to pull herself up.
“No, no, no. It’s okay, Jarod’s bringing them to you.” Broots smiled. “You’re a mom now.”
“And a fine mother you will be,” Sydney said from her other side.
“But. Jarod. Glass.”
“Oh, well, when people start getting murdered in The Centre, we go into a different kind of drill, remember?” Broots reminded her. “You know how there’s a fire drill? Well, I made a new drill after Lyle’s trick called ‘get the hell out of the Centre’.” He chuckled. “Well, it’s a ‘Must leave’ kinda drill. I rang it. People figured it out.”
“No one is at The Centre anymore,” Sydney said. “If they are, they are hiding. That clone murdered more than the people in here assisting the birth I’m afraid.”
“And more,” Jarod said. “I don’t know who yet.” He handed her the first one.
“Which one are you?” She asked as she looked down at it.
“Onyssius,” Jarod said softly. “He has your eyes.”
“Oh, look at him.” His eyes were closed, and he wriggled. Not a lot, but enough to show he was there. He was there now, in the world. His arms so tiny, were trying to move around. She could feel the bottom of his feet too. “I bet you were the kicker, weren’t you?” Then, he opened his eyes.
Not her eyes. Her momma’s eyes. Her mother’s big, beautiful, gentle eyes looked at her.
Looked at her. So tiny. So fragile. How something so small even survived in the world, and could move and do that.
“I don’t get tired of it either,” Jarod said from the other side of her. She watched Jarod’s hands reach toward his. He held his finger out and Onyssius clamped it. “Or that.”
“And here is your little girl,” Sydney said as he held the second. Jarod helped her readjust Onyssius as he brought her over.
“Angel.” She smiled as she saw her. Just as wiggly, if not more. Her feet were kicking more in her blanket than her arms were moving. And her eyes?
///”Good Morning, Miss Parker.”///
She had Jarod’s eyes. Jarod’s soft, kind eyes. Seeing that look, in her own daughter.
“Oh, don’t cry, Miss Parker,” Broots assured her. “Everything’s okay.”
“Those are tears of joy,” Jarod said from beside her. “Those are good tears to have.”
She looked down at each of her twins, in each of her arms. Felt them in her embrace. Looked into their eyes.
Then she looked in front of her where Broots, Sydney, and Jarod were all staring at her.
“God, she’s got beautiful-“ Broots suddenly stopped like he’d been hurt.
“They’ve got all their shots, been rubbed down, checked over, everything,” Jarod said to her. “Healthy. Happy.”
“Angels.” Sydney looked toward Jarod.
Something funny there, but she couldn’t care less right now. She just wanted to stare at the little pieces of heaven in her arms. She felt a small kiss on her cheek, a congratulatory peck from Sydney. She looked back though at them as she felt a camera snapshot on her.
“You’re a new mother. You have to have pictures of the day everything changed,” Broots said with his camera.
She looked next to Broots. Sydney was all the way over there? Then that meant. Jarod kissed me? The congratulatory peck was from Jarod? She felt his hand grab hers. She looked toward him. His eyes were completely fixed on hers before he looked away toward their children.
“I did everything. They are healthy,” Jarod repeated again. “So, I’m . . . Sydney, how long will everyone stay away?”
“I don’t know, Jarod. For that emergency?” Sydney looked toward Broots. “What do you think?”
“Guidelines say until the leader calls it fine,” Broots said looking toward Miss Parker.
“Good.” She breathed deeply, but felt her body getting weak again.
“Sydney, get Onyssius,” Jarod said as he took Angel from her arm. “She’s going to need a lot more rest.” As soon as he said that, he noticed she was out again.
“Jarod,” Sydney said now that she was out comfortably again. “Are you sure about this? They were just born.”
“More than ever. The sooner I find this clone, the sooner he can’t threaten me or her, or anyone I’ve cared about anymore,” Jarod said. “If she wasn’t in the middle of birth.” He sighed. “He definitely has my genius.”
“Yeah. Um.” Broots moved closer to Jarod. “Here’s the, um, hit the Centre found of one of your identities.”
Jarod braced himself. Last time Hades turned Jarod Heart into a cold blooded murderer of two people he helped bring back together. He had given Kevin Bailey something to stop his heart. Now, someone else was hurt. By means of a ‘gift’.
Considering he was learning about seasons, Jarod already guessed it would be someone he helped at Christmas. Jarod took the paper readout, and his heart felt like it hit rock bottom.
“Broots, take Angel,” Sydney commanded. Broots did as was told as Jarod slumped forward. “Jarod?”
“Jarod Marley.” He knew it. He did not want to believe it. “He read all the foster children The Night Before Christmas before giving them . . . cake.” Fruitcake. “With . . .” Puffer fish. He almost tumbled out of the chair. “Seventeen children.”
“And one more. She, um, found a home,” Broots said, knowing he didn’t want to read the rest. “He hunted her down because she was the-“
“Her body was the crowning angel on the rooftop, I saw.” No.
/// “So, what you’re saying is that he had a spirit, a feeling, that made you feel good. Well, as long as you have that feeling, Christmas George is gonna be right here,” Jarod said, making the foster child feel better about the death of the homeless man she and the other children were fond of.
“So every time it’s Christmas, I can think about George and he’ll be here?” Angel had asked Jarod.
“Every time,” Jarod said to her.///
“Um.” Broots didn’t want to say anymore. “Did you see the letter part? It said um.”
“She doesn’t have to think about him anymore.” Jarod’s voice trembled as he closed his eyes, feeling himself losing it. Hades must have found her Christmas card too. Eighteen. Eighteen wonderful children with their whole lives ahead of him, were dead, by Jarod Marley. Killed in a similar way to how he handled Dr.Drake. On top of the girl Angel, he had pinned the identification card to her shirt.
“No lair’s been found yet,” Sydney said delicately.
“Didn’t need one,” Jarod said. “It’s obvious, he wanted to be right here, to tell me, right in the middle of-!” He ducked his head. His children were born. It should have been the happiest day of his life. His family, was there, and he marred it by making sure Jarod knew eighteen children died as a ‘gift’ to them.
“Jarod. Your children are not to blame for what he did,” Sydney said. “The blame is on him. Not you. Not them. Not Miss Parker.”
“And he got away again!” Jarod exploded. “I should have ran after him.”
“In The Centre? He probably had an escape route,” Sydney said. “Even if you had, Miss Parker was in the middle of delivery, Jarod. There was nothing that could be done.”
Jarod bit on his fist as he sat there. He rocked a couple of times and then went up to see his children. “It doesn’t matter what he gave as a ‘gift’,” he said bitterly. He touched Angel’s hand and Onyssius’, feeling them both grab onto his fingers. “I could never blame them.”
They both looked toward him, and started to kick their little feet. Together.
“They are in synch to each other,” Sydney said right beside Jarod. “It does happen between twins. It was one of The Centre’s . . .” he faded off.
“Specialties.” Jarod realized that a long time ago, but Sydney was just catching up to it. The Centre did a lot of work with twins, and the scrolls were calling for twin angels. Still, it didn’t make it any less special. “Greetings to you two as well,” Jarod smiled, feeling a little better inside. That was the magic of family.
He only had a little time left with them before he would have to go again. His next stop would be Africa, to check out the places in the recipe books he looked over with his dad and Gemini. He really didn’t want to though. “Broots.” He looked toward the computer man. “Take really, really good care of them while I’m gone?”
Broots nodded. “Yeah, I plan on it. Don’t worry, Jarod. I can show them pictures of you too if you want?”
“Yes, please. I’d really appreciate that.” He looked back toward the both of them and touched their moving feet. “We are all going to have a blast one day,” Jarod said to them. “I’m going to teach you about the whole world. You’ll learn about the good. The bad. The common daily things that everyone takes for granted.” He scooted up closer to them. “I’ll teach you about Pez, how to eat an Oreo cookie, Mister Potato Head. Silly Putty. Coconut Balls, and Ice Cream. There are so many things out there. You’ll see snow for the first time too. There’s so much out there! You’re going to have a ball with me.” He touched each of their noses. “Your daddy.”
He chuckled, saying that statement. “Your . . . daddy.” Then when he pulled his hands away, he saw something amazing. They each reached for each other’s hand. “Holding hands.”
“Wow, I-I didn’t know they could do that,” Broots said from across the room, seeing it. “That’s incredible. You’ve got really amazing kids, Jarod.”
“I do,” Jarod said watching them. “I have amazing kids. I have a new family forming.”
“I must be honest, Jarod,” Sydney said. “I was surprised with the way events turned. In the end, I hope you are happy with the decision you made.”
“More than happy. And even now, I’m going to be the best I can be.”
“But, this makes things even harder,” Broots said. “Now you’re Pretending. Visiting Africa. Coming to The Centre Saturdays and Sundays. And, visiting them too?”
“Don’t doubt him, Broots,” Sydney said to him. “I’m sure Jarod will manage just fine.”
Jarod just smiled and held up Onyssius, bringing him closer to him. So much to show you. We can go fishing. We can go camping. We can do anything together. We are father and son, and I will never let you go. Ever. He felt his son try to grip onto his jacket.
“Sydney, now-“ Sydney held his finger toward Broots, silencing him. He went ahead and slipped out of the room, bringing Broots behind him. They closed the door. “Give him time. Jarod is going to want to analyze them.”
“Analyze them?” Broots asked him. “He already checked their health. You mean, private time?”
“I mean both,” Sydney said as he placed his hands in his pockets. “Come, Broots.” He started to walk away. “Let’s get some more of these poor souls out of the way.”
“Okay, yeah, more fun moving dead bodies,” Broots complained.
Jarod felt Onyssius’ fingertip gently, then each one at a time, moving down his hand. As he held him, he studied the blanket he was in, the color of his eyes, the lines on his face, how wide he opened his mouth, how tight he squeezed, how much he kicked and the strength of it. Everything he could.
When he got a chance to himself he wanted to be able to close his eyes and remember him, feel him, in his arms again. Just like that. He rubbed his back for a few minutes and then placed him back down.
He picked up Angel. “A daughter. A daughter with Miss Parker.” He did everything just like before, memorizing every detail he could. “I bet you’ll be in fantastic little dresses. A whole wardrobe just for you. You won’t need them though, look at you. You’ll have a natural beauty all your own.” He never wanted to let her go either. “You got your mother’s hair color, I can see it slightly already at the top. I wonder if you’ll look as much as your mom as she did hers.” As he readjusted her to face him, she patted at his face. He smiled. Baby Michael used to do that and it lifted his heart. But when she did it?
It soared so high. “I don’t want to leave you.” He got up and looked at Onyssius. “Neither one of you.” But, life wasn’t that kind. As long as there was someone out there hurting those he cared for, he couldn’t be with them. “One day, I’ll be with you forever,” Jarod promised them as he put Angel down. “I’ll come as often as I can, but your daddy has things he has to do, and I can’t bring you with me to do them.” He took the blanket and swaddled her safely in it. “If I don’t help, people will end up hurt or worse.” He then took the other blanket and swaddled his son. “If I don’t leave to inspect Africa, then we’ll never be free to be out there together. So, we have to make some sacrifices.” Even though he didn’t want to.
He kissed Angel on top of her head, as well as Onyssius. “I’m your dad,” Jarod said. “Me. Remember me. Jarod.”
He heard his name and looked toward Miss Parker. He brought himself over toward her. “You should be sleeping.” He tested her by touching her in several places. “You’re dreaming? Of me?” He took her hand. “I do that too.” He stared back at her face. It was exhausted. He moved to kiss the top of her forehead as he had their children.
Once. Twice. Lingering. He placed a finger gently on her cheek and caressed it before letting go. He smiled at Sydney as he and Broots came back. “Make sure you bring them down to visit me?”
“We’ll find a way,” Sydney said.
“Sure. I mean, Christmas is just around the corner. We could decorate them as gifts? I mean, you know, in their bassinets?” Broots asked. “Not long enough to be without-“
“That’s fine, Mister Broots.” Jarod looked toward his newborns again. He really needed to get going, he doubted everyone would stay away the entire day. Most, but not the most dedicated. Someone always had to be there to make sure their ‘live subjects’ ate after all. “I’ll see you soon. Real, real soon.”