Previous chapters may be found at http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5369896/1/Legacy
Wildstar smiled at Jessica when she finally returned. It was an accomplishment for him to successfully entertain the child on his own.
“It’s time to get some sleep, sweet angel!” Jessica bent over the little girl and kissed her on the forehead. Little arms reached out for her and Jessica hugged the little girl tight. “Are you hurting?”
Wildstar sensed a strain in Jessica’s voice, as if something was weighing on her and draining her strength. He regarded her face in the dim light. It was pale, almost chalky. “Jessica...” She responded quickly with a terse shake of her head, implying the need for discretion in front of the child.
“Goodnight, Derek.” The little voice was a gentle whisper. Her dark brown eyes shimmered in the dim light. The walls around his heart crumbled like brittle stone. “Thank you for the story!”
“You’re welcome, little one. I’ll have another one for you next time!”
He watched with amusement as Jessica pulled back the covers, revealing pink pajamas dotted with teddy bears. “Arms under the covers!” The little girl obediently pressed her arms to her sides. Jessica straightened the IV tube leading to the little girls hand before she pulled the covers over her. She proceeded to tuck them around the tiny frame until the covers were tight around the tiny bundle. “All tucked in?” Jessica asked and the little girl nodded.
Wildstar smiled. It seemed getting ‘tucked in’ was a literal expression, as well as a figurative one.
She knelt at the child’s bedside and leaned in close to the little girl. “Will I see angels?” The little girl said softly to her.
Jessica smiled hesitantly as she brushed Megumi’s dark hair from her eyes. “Of course, but you have to shut your eyes.” Megumi quickly squeezed her eyes shut. “Are they shut tight?” The little girl nodded. Jessica took in a deep breath as she stroked the child’s cheek with her finger. Then, softly, she began to sing.
When all the clouds darken up the sky-way
There’s a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your window pane
Just a step beyond the rain
Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby
Wildstar quietly rose from his chair and left the enclosure, but he lingered close by, listening. He loved to hear her voice in the fullness of a melody. Even in the hushed tone of a lullaby, it was elegant and strong.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And a dream, the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true...
Wildstar’s eyes took in the details of the facility around him. The walls were cold and damp, like the cracked concrete floors. Paneling and insulation dangled haphazardly from the ceiling. Lighting was makeshift and scant. Wires were strung along paneling, wrapped around bed frames and hung from the paneling frames in the ceiling in an effort to keep them from underfoot. In this scene of deterioration however, there were patches of warmth. Hopeful signs, like candles burning in a distant window on a moonless night. Strategically placed space-heaters kept the cold and the dampness at bay. Iridescent lighting chased the shadows from dark corners. The light was strangely comforting and the room took on a warmth and a pleasantness which was obscured by its initial impression. They did the best they could with what they had. He suddenly sensed trembling in Jessica’s voice. He glanced at the pair through a fissure in the curtains. Megumi was fighting to stay awake. Her tiny head jerked once or twice before her chin settled against the blankets.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me
Somewhere over the rainbow
Birds fly over the rainbow
Then why, oh why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?
She attempted to walk softly, but he could hear her footsteps as she approached. When she joined him outside, there was an uneasiness about her. He couldn’t quite place it. When she finally spoke, her words were vacant of emotion. “I need you to do one more thing.” She walked past him and he followed. She stopped him with her hand against his chest before he entered the supply room with her. “Wait.”
Sounds emerged: Shuffling, rustling, the faint sound of glass clinking together. Wildstar waited patiently in his designated spot until Jessica finally returned. She took Wildstar’s hand in hers and pressed something small and cool into his palm. He held the item between his thumb and forefinger and drew it closer for examination. It was a small, glass vial with clear fluid inside.
“You have access to the Commander.”
“You give that to him. Only him. No intermediaries, no assistants or secretaries.”
“What is it? What do I tell him?” Wildstar inspected the label, but the words meant nothing to him.
“Of course! But...”
“He’ll know.” She pointed toward the door on the other side of the room. “It’s time for you to go. You can find your way out, can’t you?”
Wildstar nodded. “Yes. Jessica...”
“I have work to finish.” She turned from him and walked away.
“I still don’t understand this, Jessica!”
She paused and looked back at him. She whispered, “You don’t have to understand, but you do need to go!”
“Refugees? Is this what it’s all about? You should have come to me! I would have given you what you needed!”
“It’s not that easy...”
“Why not? Why can’t it be that easy?”
“Don’t you see?” Her whisper was harsh, and she glanced around her to see if she disturbed anyone. “I don’t have any answers for you. My father, or any of the other doctors who died, didn’t leave me any. I don’t understand why things are the way they are...” In that moment, she seemed very tired and she seemed to have no patience for his questions.
“Let me help Megumi in some way,” he whispered to Jessica. “I can help with the other children too.”
Jessica didn’t respond. She could hardly look at him. “If you want to help someone, get the vial to the Commander!” Again, she turned and walked away.
She finally whipped around and glared at him. “You can’t come back here! You can’t...” Wildstar knew the confusion on his face was evident to her. She raised a long arm and pointed to the stairwell door. “I’ve compromised far too much by bringing you here! You have to go!”
Wildstar hesitated, debating whether to continue the argument, but he could see she was wearing thin. She would only withdraw from him if he pursued her for answers. Silently, he turned and went to the way they came in. When he glanced over his shoulder, Jessica was also walking away. She didn’t look back.
His footsteps were the only sound and it was hollow and shallow, as if it lacked purpose, or harbored doubt, regarding his chosen direction. The dim light of dawn timidly pored through the solar tubes, illuminating the dilapidated structures around him. He stopped in the middle of the old service road, just before the tunnel. He looked back at the crumbling hospital building in the distance. Lights were obscured by blinds and covers shielding the windows. Only if you were searching for it, would you notice there was life.
‘Ridiculous!’ he thought. ‘This entire drama! All of this secrecy! Those people need more help than what Jessica can give!’ Perhaps he was in a position to get it for her. The crew of the Argo were heroes. They now had influence. What was the use in having such power if it couldn’t be put to good use?
Peter prepared him for her stubbornness, the savage way she clung to her distrust and independence. This time, she would have to swallow her pride and accept what he could offer. At the very least, for the sake of the children under her care.
He would tell her these things and she would accept them. He played out the scene in his mind as he turned and started back to the crumbling building. He would tell her she didn’t have a choice. He was going to help her whether she liked it or not. He crossed uncharted space, and he stood between Earth and her destruction at the hands of a relentless enemy. If he had to stand between Jessica and her pride to help those in her care, he would do what he had to.
He opened the stairwell door slowly, hoping to manage the creaking sound of hinges misaligned by the crumbling foundation. Jessica was not readily visible. He surmised, she was attending to a patient enclosed by privacy curtains.
He walked lightly, slowly, so his footsteps wouldn’t disrupt the silence. The utter stillness gave way to a faint sound, and Wildstar stopped in his tracks to trace its origin. It was intermittent and soft, but also unsettling to him.
Weeping, the echo of grief. Something inside him shifted and settled like a heavy weight. His legs were suddenly heavy and tired. It was a feeling he couldn’t fully grasp and he hesitated, but only briefly. He moved forward and followed the sound. It drew him to Megumi’s dark, secluded corner. He hesitated before the privacy curtains.
He finally pushed the curtains aside and found Jessica seated in the chair next to Megumi’s bed. Her head was bowed deep, her shoulders slumped, and her hands covered her face. “Jessica?” he whispered. Then his eyes fell upon the little girl’s tiny form.
Jessica gasped as she looked up at him. Her eyes were red, her cheeks flushed. It was the first color he had seen in the young girl’s face. Her sadness suddenly erupted into fury and her eyes flared with a familiar spark. She rose to her feet and lunged at him, shoving him hard through the curtains, away from the enclosure.
“I told you to go!” Her whisper was harsh, berating.
“These people need...”
“I said, no!” She suppressed her voice with clenched teeth. “It’s better for you! It’s better for them!”
“I’m bringing back help, whether you like it or not!”
“These people have been through enough! No one else comes here! No one!”
Wildstar hesitated. “What is it? What are you not telling me?”
Jessica turned from him. She briskly walked to the supply room. Wildstar followed her, but before he could enter behind her, he was slammed in the stomach with the old leather backpack. It was still full with ampules and vials, and they clinked together with the impact. Wildstar haphazardly caught the bag in his arms before it dropped to his feet.
“Take it! Take it and go! I’ll find a way to replace what I’ve used!”
“No, Jessica, this is not...”
“I won’t be in debt to you! I won’t owe you anything... especially answers!”
“Why do you fight me? Why do you fight me every inch of the way!”
“Because you can’t save everyone!”
“I’m just trying to help you!”
Jessica stepped in close to him. “You can’t help me! You can’t help them! No one can! Get it through your thick skull!” She hesitated and Wildstar watched her raise a hand to her forehead. It was trembling. A realization struck him. She fainted in Hardy’s arms. She was ill in the medevac. Wildstar assumed it was the stress of her brother’s rescue. He softened his voice. “You need to rest.”
She sighed with exhaustion and lowered her voice in response. “I can’t! This isn’t a hospital anymore, Derek... it’s a hospice. Do you understand the difference?”
Wildstar was silent. He heard the word ‘hospice’ before, in distant conversations, but it had no meaning to him.
Jessica paused, taking in a deep breath. He sensed she was bracing herself. Uneasiness pulled at him with gossamer threads. “People go to a hospital to live... they come here to die...”
Wildstar gasped softly. A sudden chill shot through him. He stepped back from Jessica, but he kept his eyes locked with hers. “Megumi?” he shouted over his shoulder. The long pause was filled with only Jessica’s hushed demands for his silence. “Megumi!” he shouted again and when there was no answer, he dropped the bag to his feet and turned away from Jessica. He rushed to the child’s enclosure with Jessica in pursuit. She grabbed at his arm, desperately urging him to stop.
He jerked free of her, with the ease adrenaline afforded. He ripped the privacy curtains out of his way, nearly pulling them from their rails and rushed to the child’s bedside. Bending over the tiny form, he touched her face with gentle fingers and urged her to wake up. When she failed to respond, he put his ear to her face. She wasn’t breathing! He grasped her tiny shoulders and shook the child gently. “Megumi! Megumi, answer me!” The shaking grew more insistent.
“Stop it!” Jessica grasped his arm and pulled at it. “Please... stop it!”
“She’s not breathing!” Wildstar jerked his arm from her, then turned on her. “Do something!” He took a step toward her, attempting to intimidate her with his towering stature. “Do something right now!”
“I... I can’t...”
“She was fine!”
“No, she wasn’t... ”
Wildstar took a step toward Jessica, but he hesitated when something cracked beneath his feet. He looked down. Syringes. They had fallen from Jessica’s lap when she lunged at him. They were empty...
Wildstar looked up very slowly, as if disbelief had struck him over the head and left him dumbfounded. “You... You did this?” Shock weakened his knees and his throat went dry.
Jessica didn’t answer. She seemed to sense the fury spooling within him. Hesitantly, she took a small step backwards. Her stare, her expression, was cold, emotionless. Her face was eerily serene.
“Tell me you didn’t do this!” Again, only silence. “The drugs you took from the Argo… This is what they’re for?” Jessica held her ground, but she averted her eyes. The apathy he sensed in her silence only fueled his anger. “Is this what they’re for?” He shouted, and her body jerked as if his words slapped her across the face. His voice echoed in the room and cries erupted from startled children.
She stood before him, staring down at his feet, wrapped in her stoic silence, as if it would shield her in some way. He could see this was not her first verbal onslaught. She seemed to understand how to dig in and weather the rage. If she could remain silent, without provocation, she might survive the storm. He stepped toward her again, leaning into her as if he might strike her. “What gives you the right?” His thoughts were coming so quickly he couldn’t verbalize them fast enough.
She lifted her hands to him. “Don’t... ” she whispered.
“This is a child!” He pointed forcefully to the small form beneath the covers. His eyes searched her face for a reaction. At least, some sign she understood the significance of his accusation.
Finally, her stoic demeanor yielded to his scrutiny and cracked like brittle glass. She seemed to hover on the jagged edge of tears, but she would not pacify him with useless words.
“What gives you the right!” He finally grabbed her by the arms, shaking her abruptly with each agonizing question. “Why? Why would you do this? Why would you do this now?” She opened her mouth as if she would speak, but nothing came forth. Instead she placed a trembling hand against his chest, attempting to steady herself. She pushed against him, weakly trying to put distance between them. “You used me...” Wildstar choked hard on his words as he swallowed back his tears.
The moment his rage broke with grief, Jessica looked up at him. A faint word escaped her. “No... ”
“I was a distraction for her... Is that it?” More silence. Was there nothing she would say to save herself? He suddenly released her and turned away from her, shaking his head. “Whatever this is... you made me a part of it! You...”
“You made yourself a part of it when you demanded I bring you here!”
“Damn you!” He turned back on her again as he hissed through clenched teeth. “Are you trying to teach me some sort of lesson? Are you punishing me? Please tell me there’s more to it than that!”
“Stop it!” Jessica closed her eyes briefly and shook her head. “It didn’t have anything to do with you... you were just... here!”
“I was convenient!”
“You were the best I could do! She deserved something genuine, something sincere! She deserved a prince... a hero... a damn fairy tale!
Wildstar stood straight, breathless from his attack. “You didn’t tell me! You didn’t warn me!”
“You’ll remember her! She deserves to be remembered!”
“I would have remembered her anyway!” Wildstar’s voice was a desperate whisper. He felt the hot sting of tears in his eyes. The anger within him was heat and pressure and it pushed against his insides. He wanted to push her off balance. He wanted to draw sorrow and regret from her like blood from a fresh cut. Without forethought, or even caution, he attacked what he knew was dearest to her. “Are you planning to take care of Peter, too?”
Jessica froze and nearly leveled him with her eyes. They were suddenly filled with a strange, icy darkness, and it sent chills through him. He knew, in that moment, he touched a nerve, so deep and so delicate, she had forgotten it was there.
“Get out!” She shouted, and forcefully pushed him away from her. Commotion erupted around them as more patients stirred.
Wildstar awkwardly caught himself before he fell backwards. “You stay away from him!”
“Stay away from this place!”
Wildstar had never been tempted to strike a woman, until that moment. His body was shivering as he tried to keep his emotions in check. He wanted to scream at her, shock her. He wanted her to feel what she had driven through him, but somehow, he resisted. He gathered his shattered grief, forced down his rage, and turned away from her. His fists clenched, his shoulders fixed, he stormed away.
Jessica followed him as he retreated to the stairwell door. “You can’t tell anyone about this place, about these people! Do you understand? Don’t come back here!” She called after him. He forcefully threw open the stairwell door and went through it. She stopped at the threshold, and he felt her watching him as he descended the stairs.
Before he disappeared under the next flight, he paused and finally looked up at the silhouette in the doorway. Her frail frame was a shadow darkened by the light behind her. It seemed fitting. In that moment, she was only hollow blackness, lacking in human emotion or expression. He launched his final barrage. “How many is this for you? Do you even remember? Do you even keep count?”
“Do you?” She swung the door shut. The walls shuddered as it slammed hard against its frame. Wildstar was suddenly alone in the inky darkness.
Jessica stood in silence, her fists clenched, and her body trembling with anger. For a moment, she could hear only the sound of her breath. She focused on it, desperately trying to stem her desire to appease her rage. A violent outburst would do her fine! A loud scream or a swift kick, if she could find something that wouldn’t break her foot. However, those under her care had been traumatized enough. Deep, steady breaths would have to do.
She slowly turned around, pushing the loose strands of her hair away from her forehead. She started to walk away from the door, but she suddenly froze and caught her breath. Her heart skipped a beat before it seemed to stop altogether. The pounding in her head went silent. Jefferson Hardy stood before her in complete and utter silence.
She knew immediately. She sensed it in his posture and in his expression. He heard everything. He saw everything. The confusion, the hurt, and the disappointment on his face were the proof.
The sudden realization of her discovery sent a chill through her body. It dropped into her stomach like hot, burning lead. Nausea rose within her. What could she say to him? She grasped silently for words... anything to take back that moment, to erase it from existence. She reached into the hollow blackness of her soul, searching for strength, but she was spent. Whatever was between them was crumbling and Jessica was powerless to stop it. She was getting used to the bitter taste of helplessness. Finally, she did the only thing she could do. She stared past him, almost through him, and forced herself to walk forward.
At the moment she was shoulder-to-shoulder with him, he finally spoke. “Jessica...”
She stopped and finally took in a deep breath because until that second, she had forgotten to breathe. “I tried to tell you...” she interrupted, as if the words were on the tip of her tongue.
“Yah’ didn’t trah hard enough!” he snapped.
Anger flooded back into her, renewing the strength in her trembling legs. “I don’t know what to say to you!” She met his eyes with an icy glare. She was her father’s disappointment. She would be her brother’s soon enough. She wouldn’t be Jefferson’s too. “I can’t be... what you want! I’m not who you left behind!” She felt the weight of judgment and betrayal in his presence. She swallowed hard, but her eyes never wavered. “So... you take that judgment you’re about to make and you leave this place!”
He shook his head slowly, then finally looked at the floor. “I cannot abide by this,” he spoke softly, as if to himself.
‘She clenched her fists, as her festering anger finally burst forth in her words. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to live with metastasizing cancer? Do you?”
Jefferson was silent. He wasn’t as easily provoked as Wildstar. When he met her eyes again, he spoke softly, but his words were hard enough to break her heart. “’Ah think ‘ah know a little sumthin’ about pain, Miss Jessica.”
Jessica released a long, trembling sigh and looked away from him. She closed her eyes, trying to shut out the look on his face, but it lingered in the darkness. “I know you do, Jefferson. I know…”
“Yah’ don’t know ‘nuthin! ‘Nuthin a’tall! There were days when ‘ah begged fah’ death!” She felt him staring down at her. “Yah’ could’ve spared me tha’ afta’math!”
“I know more than you think!” Jessica snapped.
“Why? Why did yah’ save me?”
Jessica suddenly met his eyes. “Because I could!”
“And tha’ woman with me? Frodo? Did yah…”
“Did I what, Jefferson?” Jessica turned to him with shock in her eyes. She waited for him to speak, but he wouldn’t say the words. “Oh, God!” She threw up her hands. “They took it from us!” Jessica’s voice cracked. “Everything we had to help these people... They took it to ensure the survival of a chosen few.” Jessica wanted to avert her eyes from his, but she couldn’t. Only he could stare into her, as if her soul was naked and raw before him. “It was in her bones, Jefferson... It was in her bones, and it was breaking them slowly.” A tear slipped down her cheek and she finally looked away, trying hard to hold back the rest. She caught the tear with the back of her hand. “You should go...” She started to walk away from him, but she hesitated when he spoke.
“The chosen few...” he said softly. “What did yah’ mean bah’ that?”
“You never got sick, did you?” She said softly, over her shoulder. “Even when your body was so severely compromised after your accident, you never suffered with radiation sickness.”
Jefferson’s attention was suddenly drawn by the sobs of a frightened child climbing out of a nearby bed. He quickly went to the child’s bedside. Jessica followed, but Jefferson reached the child first and he gently hoisted the sobbing little boy into his arms.
Jessica’s protective instincts urged her to take the little boy from Jefferson’s arms, but she hesitated. The young soldier held the boy with a confident, experienced demeanor. He patted Christopher’s back with a gentle hand and whispered something, which quieted the wailing into occasional sobs. The child pressed his tearful face against Jefferson’s broad shoulder, muffling his cries.
Jessica finally reached for the child, but Jefferson pulled away. “Ah’ have ‘em!” Before the question passed her lips, he seemed to read it in her eyes. “Ah’ had a whole herd of little cousins to look afta’ when ah’ was a young’n.” Christopher’s small hands desperately grasped fistfuls of Jefferson’s black uniform, which still bore the signs of fatigue and wear from the mission. He had not been home to change, much less, greet his family.
Jessica reached for the little boy again, and again Jefferson refused her advance. “Ah’ said I have ‘em!” He raised his voice to her and Christopher began to cry again. She took a step back, surprised and wounded by Jefferson’s firmness. “Yah’ right, Miss Jessica!” His whisper was harsh, almost venomous. “Ah’ don’t know yah’! Ah’ don’t know ya’ a‘tall! But, yah’ don’t know me eithah’! At least, not enough tah’ trust me!” The hurt in his eyes struck her hard. He turned sharply from her and walked away, fully engrossed in the consuming chore of calming a frightened child.
The distance grew between them, like a gaping chasm, eroded by weather and the vastness of time. Desperation and pride demanded she lash out at him. She wanted to scream at him, provoke him into an argument, because any words, even in conflict, were better than the silence that would remain. Logic prevailed over her thoughts and she turned away. Christopher needed him.
She imagined the wind; born from raging thermals on the naked surface of Earth, howling through the sharp, jagged edges of lifeless stone in that chasm between them. It would drown out any sound she might make to bring him back to her. She sensed, very soon, it would be far too wide to cross, and there would be no meeting in the middle.
To Be Continued
Chapter 15 – Resolution