And to Think It All Started with a Baseball by Sammi M.
After the little Q & A session in the Break Room, Robyn had rejoined them as they set off for their tour of the facilities. The beginning hadn't been that bad she'd really enjoyed the new additions and she could easily appreciate the need for them. But, the closer they journeyed toward the older sections, the more agitated she felt.
She'd wanted to say something to her family, but Blair and Naomi seemed to be enjoying themselves and she couldn't bring herself to disrupt that. *This is for them; they need this,* she kept reminding herself. *I can do this.*
But, as they stopped in her brother's old room, she'd realised this might be too much.
It was exactly how she remembered it, and, though there was another small face peering from the bed with a smile, she couldn't stop seeing Blair there helpless and hurting, waiting at death's door. It had taken everything within her to keep her heartbeat under control so as not to alert Jim to her distress, but, as soon as she saw the Nursery, all control left.
Becky happily opened the door to a large room filled with toys and beds. "And this is where the younger members of our patients' families stay during certain times when it's not good for them to be in the rooms. There are Nurseries like this on each ward floor and we have permanent staff to monitor the young ones at all times. If you'll follow me in, I can show you what it looks like from the inside." One by one, the group entered until it was just Becky and Schuyler on the outside. "Schuy? You coming in?"
She couldn't help it as her heart raced. "I " Schuy shook her head and started backing away. "I'm not re-ready for-for this. I'll catch you guys in a bit."
"Schuy!" The older woman was ready to follow the girl as she hurried down the hall, but the steadying hand of her friend stopped her. "She remembers."
"Of course, she remembers. She's a Sandburg; they're into remarkable things. It was short-sighted of us to think she wouldn't. Just because she was young when it happened doesn't mean her mind didn't store it."
Sad eyes turned toward the other woman. "She still hates me. I see it in her eyes."
"She doesn't hate you she never did. She knows you only did what you did because you thought it was for the best. How were you supposed to know you were really wrong and you were hurting more than helping? It was just hard for her to deal with that as a child and being here probably brought everything back up. Things are probably pretty confused in her head and you're just in there somewhere. Don't worry about it; it'll all clear up eventually." Robyn grabbed the much shorter woman and dragged her into the room not noticing the two men who had been listening to their conversation or their differing reactions.
Schuyler had listened to the lack of sounds on the other side of the door and quietly let herself into the room. She released the sob she'd been holding and slumped against the stripped bed. Before she could stop it, her mind wandered.
~ @ ~They thought she was sleeping, but she could hear them as if they were standing right above her. Blair had told her she was special and could see and hear things that no one else could. Sometimes, before he got sick, he'd test her to see what she saw and heard and he was always proud of her.
He always watched out for her so that her eyes wouldn't go dark and make her head hurt and he seemed to know when the sounds would be too much and told her to cover her ears or he'd do it. Her Blair always took good care of her cause that's what Big Brothers did.
But, he'd been too sick for so long that they didn't go places where her ears or eyes would hurt. They never left the hospital anymore because he didn't have any strength and he wasn't getting better. Their mother would try to hide when she'd been crying, but, just as Blair could sense when she'd been crying, she could *see* the dried tears. It made her afraid.
No one told her he was dying, but she knew. She knew in the whispers they made outside of his room and the sad looks they sent in her and her mother's directions. She also knew by the way they kept her away.
No matter how much she begged and pleaded and threw tantrums, they wouldn't let her see him for very long those last few weeks. She tried to tell them she could help him, but they wouldn't listen. Becky and Dr. Robyn and her mommy would just shake their sad heads and smile their sad smiles and pat her hairless head and tell her it would only make her scared to see him so sick. And she would cry because she knew she was more scared *not* seeing him because she knew deep down she could help him. Just like she had before.
As she listened to the two women talk in the office, a pain shot through her little heart.
"He's not getting any better, Robbie. This last round seems to have made him worse rather than better. I almost wish Naomi had gone for the bone-marrow even with the risks."
"I know. Sometimes that's the way these things work out." She released a tired sigh. "I know how close you've gotten to him and I wish there was more I could do."
"I just want to take the hurt away, you know. I want him to go back to looking like that picture Naomi has of him before he got sick. I want to see him play and laugh and sing like she remembers. Is that selfish of me?"
"Not hardly." She paused and Schuy could just make out the sound of a hand moving through air and patting another hand. "Look, we'll just keep doing the best we can and hope it'll be enough. It's all we can do."
"Am I doing what's right by keeping Schuyler away from her brother?"
"Depends on your reasons for doing it?"
"Since you're the medical half of this team, I suppose I can't say for medical reasons, huh?"
"Nope. They live on site and Naomi assures me they follow our infection policy. Schuy really doesn't play with the other kids so that's not a problem and she's been healthier than us since they've been here."
She could hear the woman walking around the room. "I really don't know why I keep them apart. I keep telling myself it's for her protection, but They're so close and it's like they feel what the other does. I mean, you remember when that cart hit her. She was crying and we couldn't get her to tell us where she was hurting and Blair told us like he knew how it felt." Restless hands pushed their way through long hair. "I don't want to take the chance that seeing him like this could damage her. Naomi deserves to have at least one unscathed child after all of this."
"Naomi deserves to have *both* her children after all this, but it just might not be possible. And, if what you say is true, keeping her out of that room isn't going to stop her feeling him drift away."
"So, you think I should let her out?"
"I think you should follow your heart because, ultimately, it's the one you're going to have to answer to."
"Goodness! Is it possible for you to answer with a straight yes or no? I'm dying here!"
"No, you're not and, yes, I can."
"Oh, you are going to regret that the next time you come in after a 48-hour shift and you need me to keep the music down." A chair was pulled out. "Come on. The least you can do is help me undo some of the mess I've made."
~ @ ~The noise startled Schuy as she found herself on the bed. When her eyes opened, a face from her nightmares smiled down at her and she raised up fighting. "No!"
Jim barely managed to step back before the small fist impacted with his face and his smile vanished as the girl struggled to get away from him. At first, as he tried to control the wild flailings, he couldn't understand why she was attacking him, but then he knew. "It's okay, Precious. It's Jim. I'm not going to hurt you. *Nobody's* gonna hurt you." He held her closer and gently stroked the long curly hair. "It's okay. Big Brother's got you and he'll keep the monsters away."
"I'm right here, Precious. I've got you."
Confused eyes looked up at him as he loosened his hold enough to see hers. "But, one of them was here with Becky and Ro-Robyn."
"Becky and Robyn are still in the Nursery telling wild stories about your antics with one of the sitters you tortured." He hesitated not knowing how to say the next part. "No one else has been in this room except you and me since you entered. I monitored it."
She pulled away and sat up. "Great, so on top of childhood anxiety from long repressed memories, I'm also suffering a breakdown and hallucinating." Catching his surprised look. "Blair told you Naomi loved therapy. Did you think he was the only one she put on those couches?"
The older man chose to ignore the sarcastic cover and went straight to the heart of the matter. "What happened at the Nursery? Why didn't you want to go in?"
Schuy rolled her eyes and hopped off the bed. "Can't a woman have some privacy with her own neuroses?"
"Cut the crap, Sandburg. I'm not buying the act. I want to know what's going on in that pretty little head of yours and I want to know now. So, either you tell me while you're standing or you tell me across my knee."
"You know, I really hate when you get butch. You don't do it with Blair, so why am I the lucky one?" As he took a menacing step toward her, she held up her hands in surrender. "Okay. Okay, fine. No need to get rough. I just thought I should keep at least *one* thing from my childhood to myself."
"You're stalling and I'm running out of patience."
"Fine." Looking him in the eye. "I hate this place. I hate the sounds. I hate the smells. I hate the feelings I get now that I'm here." She lowered her eyes to the floor for control. "There have only been two times in my life when I've felt completely out of control. You're a pretty smart man, so you can probably figure out one of them, and if you know me the way you think, you'll know this place played a big part in the other.
"Even with my senses coming back schizoid and the stuff with Harrison or Lloyd or whatever the hell he called himself that week, I knew you guys were there and you'd do everything in your power to make things right.
"When we were here, I didn't have that. Naomi was focused on helping Blair get better like she was supposed to be and Blair was focused on just making it through the day and I was scared I was gonna loose the one person in the world I was connected to." She turned to look out the window. "And to top it all off, some person who thought she knew best wouldn't let me help even though I knew I could."
Jim joined her and watched some of the children play. "How could you help him when none of the treatments could?"
"You sound just like they did back then. 'We know you want to help him, Schuyler, but there's nothing you can do to make this feel better' and 'You're a sweetie for wanting to help, but some things are just out of little sister's hands.' It was so patronising of course, I didn't know that back then. I just thought they didn't understand."
"I still don't. How did you think you could help him?"
Her eyes flashed, "I didn't *think*; I *knew*. Ask Becky or Robyn or Naomi or even Blair and they'll tell you his pain disappeared when they left me with him." Stopping his objection before he could utter it. "And, no, he wasn't keeping it from me so as not to upset me. Blair's never been able to hide his physical pain from me no more than *we* can hide emotional pain from him. I felt his pain and I felt when it left. We had this bond we still do and it allowed me to help him. Even being a little kid, I could do more for his pain than the medicines, but they wouldn't let me. Those last two weeks could have been completely avoided if they'd just let me do what I knew I could instead of locking me in that damn Nursery."
"Locking you? They locked you in there?"
"Not the way you're thinking." Taking a deep breath. "Before they realised my 'potential', I broke out of the Nursery a couple of times and went looking for my 'Brair'. Once they knew what I was capable of, the workers started coming up with ingenious ways to keep me in place. Well, it would hold me for a couple of days, but eventually I'd be back where I wanted no matter what part of the hospital he was in. Finally, Becky decided it was getting to be too much and too dangerous and she authorised a key lock be added and that I be locked in with whatever personnel was working the Nursery."
The Sentinel fought the smile that threatened to take over his face. "So, you've always had a penchant for getting past security measures."
"In a legal manner, yes. I come by it naturally; it's in my blood."
Sobering as he returned to the subject, "And this is why Becky thinks you hate her."
"I don't hate her. I just have a natural animosity towards her." Schuyler sighed. "No, seriously, I don't hate her; I'm just uncomfortable around her." Remembering. "You know, the only reason she let me go to him that last time was she thought he wasn't going to make it through the night. When I finally snuggled up to him, he was so cold and I almost couldn't reach him. It took all of that night and most of that next morning to find him and I was so scared he wouldn't want to come back, but he did want to he just didn't have the strength on his own.
"It took us a while, but we finally got him to the point where he could make it."
Jim shook his head and gave her a disbelieving look. "You don't honestly believe *you* brought on his remission?"
"*You* don't honestly believe there's a such thing as a person with five heightened senses who goes around protecting a city?"
"But that's completely different! What you're talking about is some kid's fantasy. 'I made my brother all better.' Real life doesn't work that way."
"Believe what you like, but ask them. Ask them what they saw the day he started getting better. Ask Blair what he felt. You might be surprised by their answers." Her eyes begged him to understand. "Why does it have to be so hard to believe this? You and he have a bond that allows for some unexplainable things, so why can't the same be said for us?"
The older man shook his head as he pulled her close. "I'm not saying there isn't something between you; I'm just saying I don't know what it is." Hugging her. "In my world, before Blair, things were very black and white. Once he erupted into my life, I had to adjust to a different way of seeing things. I did it, but I still held on to my belief of how things happened and what was possible. You and your belief have totally thrown me again and it's going to take me a while to get used to it, but I'm not saying I won't try."
She hugged him back. "I guess that's a start." Pulling away and giving him a puzzled look. "I just thought of something. What brought you in here?"
"Why'd you come after me?"
"I noticed you weren't your usual self since we'd been here and I decided to keep an eye out for you. When you bolted at the Nursery, I waited until everyone's attention was on the presentation and headed after you."
Schuyler focused her grey eyes onto his light-blue ones. "Before, in the front foyer, you promised to watch out for me and told me not to worry and you called me Little Sis."
The older man was stunned. He knew he hadn't said that out loud. There was no way the girl could know but she did. Jim refused to accept any more weird stuff from the Sandburg Zone, so he ignored the phrase and returned to a safer topic, "They've left the Nursery. If we hustle, we should be able to catch up with them in the next hall." He checked her vitals and reassured himself she was fine. "Are you ready to join them again?"
She took several deep breaths and centred herself. "I suppose." She gifted him with a wan smile and turned towards the door. "No better time than now to return to one of my nightmares. You know, sometimes, life can really suck."
"Now where have I heard that before?"
~ @ ~Becky stood in the door of Blair's room with Robyn holding a subdued Schuyler. "Naomi, we thought you guys might need some time for yourselves."
Naomi's face showered them with a grateful smile as her heart broke. *This is it. They think he's not going to make it, so they're giving us our chance to say goodbye. No!!! It can't end like this! I can't allow it! I won't allow it! But what can I do to stop it?* "Thanks, guys." She reached for her youngest who almost leaped into her arms. "I really appreciate everything you've done for us."
Robyn leaned over and hugged the shorter woman. "I wish we'd been able to do more."
"You did everything you could; I can't ask for more than that." She held out her hand to Becky as the doctor released her. "Blair couldn't have asked for better people to care for him."
"Don't worry about any interruptions. We have you on the non-disturbance list." The young counsellor tried to smile. "I'll be the only one . checking in on you ."
"Thanks again." The door closed and Naomi nuzzled the little girl in her arms as she turned back to the bed where the still figure slept. She barely contained the sobs that threatened to overtake her as she registered the almost imperceptible rise and fall of the small chest. "Schuy, we're gonna have to be extra quiet because Blair needs his rest. He's got a long journey ahead of him and he needs all the sleep he can get."
The tiny lip quibbled. "Blair's gonna leave?"
"He doesn't want to, but he has to."
"I don't want Blair to leave. He's mine and I'm his. He told me so."
Naomi couldn't stop the tears that flowed like rivers down her cheeks. "If this was up to him, he wouldn't think of leaving us, but it's out of his control."
The little eyes that were so much like Kael's nearly ripped her mother to shreds. "'M tired, Mama. I want to sleep close to Blair he's cold."
For maybe two seconds, the mother in her fought against putting the four-year-old in a position where she might "feel" her beloved brother's death, but one look in those grey eyes had her laying the tiny body near the other. Her voice choked, "There you go, My Sweet One. Make sure you hold him tight to keep out the chill."
It took everything in her not to break down when she saw the smaller child wrap her arms or as much as she could around him and shiver at the coldness flowing off of him. As she sat back dreading the night ahead, her mind took the last picture of her children together.
~ @ ~Jim pulled the sleeping Schuyler closer. Once they had rejoined the rest of the group, he'd kept her near him and when he noticed her getting sleepy, he'd lifted her in his arms and told her to rest. Naomi had dropped back to walk with them and he had asked her to tell him about that last night. "So, then what happened?"
"Everyone was shocked to see how much better he looked the next morning. They hadn't said anything, but he was supposed to be gone. Instead, his colour was coming back and his breathing wasn't so laboured and he wasn't cold to the touch. They tried to pull Schuy away from him so they could take samples, but they couldn't pry them apart. Finally, Robyn demanded they work around them and they finished up." She stopped to look out the window. "About two or so, something woke me and I thought it was one of the staff, but, when I started to turn, my eyes latched on to the most beautiful blue eyes."
"But, you yourself said he was at death's door. Are you trying to tell me he was suddenly all better?"
She shook her head. "Oh, no. He wasn't anywhere close, but I hadn't seen those eyes in almost three days. I moved to his side and started caressing his forehead and he gave me the tiniest of smiles. He was still so weak and when his eyes closed again, I almost panicked. I'd heard the saying 'a turn for the better before the worst' all my life and I kept expecting him to take his last breath every minute after that. Even after they declared him in remission and we had long since left the Centre, I still expected it." She turned wet eyes to the man. "I still do."
He wished his hands were free to comfort his friend's mother, but he realised it wasn't necessary when she pulled on that never-ending source of strength she had and stood taller. "What about Schuyler?"
"That seemed to be the big question for the next few days. As Blair continued to astound everyone, Schuy wouldn't or couldn't wake up. We tried everything, but none of it worked. Robyn was preparing to find her a bed when Blair told us we couldn't move her away from him for too long because she was still helping him."
"Helping him how?"
"I have no idea, but Becky sort of followed his lead and managed to talk her friend into letting things stand. She finally woke up about five days after he did."
Jim looked down at the young woman in his arms and puzzled over what he had just heard. "Do you think she ?"
"I've thought about that last night long and hard. For weeks, it was so heavy on my mind. Finally, I had to admit I didn't know." Looking deep into his eyes for his soul. "I wanted to say so badly that it was the treatment that saved him, but there was always this little voice that wouldn't go away that kept asking, "what if?". I didn't have any answers then and I still don't. I've always known there was something between them, but I never pushed enough to "
"There you two are. We were getting worried when you didn't catch up. Is everything okay?" Becky couldn't hide her concern.
"We're fine. I was just regaling Jim with old stories."
"That's good." She glanced at the man holding the youngest Sandburg. "Carrying her around has got to be tiring."
"Nah, she barely weighs anything. I've moved some of her brother's books that weigh more than she does."
"Still, I'd feel better if we let her sleep in one of the guest rooms. I wouldn't want you to be too tired to enjoy some of the other festivities." Not thinking, the woman reached over and gently shook the sleeping girl. "Schuy, we're going to move you to a room where you'll be a lot more comfortable."
The grey eyes sprang open with such intensity it startled the older woman. "No, I can't leave him! He needs me. I have to stay! Don't make me go away again. I can't leave him again."
As the girl held tighter to the fabric of Jim's shirt, he quietly whispered to her. "Nobody's gonna take you away. You're fine right where you are. Just relax, Baby. I've got you now."
Both women could only stand and stare at the little scene as the rest of the group who'd come running at the girl's cry joined them. The detective gently swayed as he soothed his charge and kept her facing the opposite direction until she was better.
Robyn pulled her friend off to the side and demanded, "What happened?"
"I don't know. One minute, she was quiet in his arms and I was trying to awaken her so we could put her in a room and the next, she was screaming about not taking her away again." Becky sighed. "Seems like we just can't get away from this past."
"Maybe that's why we're all here for this weekend. Not just to say goodbye to the cancer, but also to let go of the past."
Becky gave her friend a grateful smile and nudged her a bit, "So, now you're the wise one."
"Was there really ever any doubt?"
Simon had moved to his best detective's side as soon as he had determined there wasn't a threat to either of them. He was amazed at the closeness between the two. *What is it with this man and people named Sandburg?* "Is everything okay?"
Soft, drowsy eyes greeted him, "I'm fine, Simon. Just a bad dream that spilled over. Sorry."
"Not a problem as long as nothing's wrong." He glanced at his friend. "You want me to carry her a bit? I'm sure your arms are probably tired."
Jim shook his head and placed a soft kiss on the sleepy head. "That's not necessary, Simon. Like I was trying to tell Becky, she doesn't weigh much and this isn't bothering me. In fact, it's probably for the best I keep her close. She hasn't been having the best reactions around here and this is easier for me to monitor her."
"Okay, but if you start feeling the slightest bit tired, you'll let me know?"
"Yeah, I promise."
As they rejoined the rest of the group for the continuation of the tour, neither of them noticed the frowning look directed at the girl in Jim's arms. If they had, neither would have believed who it came from.