|All characters and the premise of Space, Above and Beyond are the property of Glenn Morgan and James Wong, and Hard Eight Pictures, Inc. and are use herein without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights remain with the owners, creators and gods of SAAB. The characters of Alan Gilmoore, Thresher and Ashley-Duke are the creation of the author.|
NC17 rated (m/m) NC
Alan Gilmoore squinted at the journal on the desk before him as he ran a hand over his noticeably thinning hair. He turned the book as though a different play of light would make the blurred print suddenly shift into focus. Damn, he missed his glasses. He hadn't realized how much he depended on them until breaking them six months earlier. He rubbed his burning eyes and stared out the window. It was early evening. The only time it was comfortable enough to permit much movement outside, but it was strangely quiet this evening. Nothing moving on the grounds at all. Strange, that.
Gilmoore stood slowly. His arthritis had been bothering him of late and the aspirin he took in ever increasing quantity seemed to have little effect. Age was a relentless, merciless adversary, he thought grimly. No point in hoping to breakup the boredom by going over to the infirmary, it was empty. His last patient had returned to his work detail earlier in the day. The infirmary would be just as empty as the house. Maybe a cup of tea would be in order.
He found himself staring fixedly at the enameled tea kettle. He had brewed many a cup of tea with this kettle, he thought fondly. Yes, sir. Many a cup of tea and many memorable conversations. He wondered for not the first time how it would all turn out.
"Dr. Gilmoore, sir? Please? Sir."
Gilmoore turned at the soft questioning voice. A dark haired young InVitro stood in the doorway, nervously shifting his weight from one foot to the next. Gilmoore struggled to remember his name.
"Timmy? It is Timmy, isn't it? What can I do for you."
"Please come, sir. I didn't know what to do. Mr. Thresher said not to call you, but I'm afraid. It's bad, real bad and I think he might die. Please come." The boy was practically wringing his hands, his dark eyes shadowed with fear.
"I'll be right behind you, Timmy. I just need to grab my bag." The young InVitro was halfway across the yard before Gilmoore had closed the door. He followed the boy through the maze of barracks that provided shelter for Corolis Mining's Indentured workforce. When they reached the last row of barracks next to the fence, the boy turned, staying close to the side of the structure. He glanced around the corner and in both directions to make sure they weren't being observed before rapping quickly at the door. There was the sound of a latch being lifted then the door opened a crack.
"Who is it?" The voice was high and boyish.
"It's me. I brought Doctor Gilmoore."
"Damn, Timmy. You'd better hope that Thresher doesn't get wind of this."
"What was I supposed to do? I couldn't just sit there and watch."
"Might I suggest that Thresher is less likely to know anything if we all go inside?" Gilmoore had no liking for the brutish overseer and made no excuses.
The door opened wider. "Yea, Ok. C'mon in."
Gilmoore and Timmy slipped quickly into the dim interior. As Gilmoore looked around the filthy interior, he was suddenly overcome with shame. He had complained of the boredom he found in his neat well furnished cottage. Lord only knew when this hovel had last seen a broom. What few furnishings there were covered with dust. A couple of metal drums were turned upside down to serve as tables or stools. A filthy mattress lay against one wall. Part of the flooring had been dug up in one of the corners. The circle of stones that ringed the bare area marked it as the site of the cook fire, although God only knew what the poor devils found to cook. The windows were so caked with dirt that little light found its' way inside. It was a cage. There were no bars, but on Omicron Draconis they weren't needed. Where would anyone escape to.
"Where is the patient?"
"He's back here. There wasn't much we could do. I don't think you can do much either."
"We'll see," Gilmoore replied as his followed the other young Tank into another room. In a far corner, on another foul mattress lay what he first thought to be a pile of soiled rags. When he drew close enough to see, nausea almost knocked him to his knees. His hand shook as he reached to stroke the grimy curls. "Tyrus, my God son. What have they done to you?" As carefully as he could, he pulled back the soiled rags they had used to cover the boy. In spite of his gentleness, McQueen whimpered at the slightest touch. The eyelashes lay in heavy crescents on the sunken cheeks. He hadn't seen the young InVitro for several weeks but that wasn't a cause for concern. That was the way it was with McQueen. He would be around and under foot every day for weeks, reading, questioning, just talking. Then he would disappear for several weeks. Only this time.......... Gilmoore removed the last of the rags, then barely got the window open before his stomach emptied itself. Dear God....dear God. He took a deep breath of the thin warm air and steadied himself. If there was a God...and if he was merciful.....McQueen would remain unconscious while he did what had to be done.
He forced himself to turn and place his fingers to the boy's throat. The pulse was thready and a little too fast, but it was there. He turned to Timmy. "What happened?"
Timmy looked terrified. "I....I....I was afraid. Mr. Thresher said he wasn't going to hurt me. He...he said I would like it. But there were some others and they said they didn't, that he hurt them bad. I told Mr. Thresher that I didn't want to, that I didn't like to be hurt. Then he grabbed me and he hurt my arm. Then he hit me. Then T.C. told Mr. Thresher to leave me alone. T.C. said Mr. Thresher didn't have the right to make me do something like that. Then Mr. Thresher got real mad, I've never seen him so mad. And he said T.C. was insub...insubb ...."
"Insubordinate?" Gilmoore furnished.
"Yea, in-sub-ord-i-nate. And dis-o-bed-ient and that he needed to be reminded of what he was. And these two big guys grabbed TC and held him down while Mr. Thresher whipped him." Tears were rolling down the boys cheeks. "He whipped him and whipped him and I didn't think Mr. Thresher was ever going to stop. I thought he was going to kill TC. TC tried to scream, but they stuffed a towel in his mouth and just kept beating him until he passed out. Then they threw water in his face and started in again. Only this time they stopped before he passed out and Mr. Thresher....he.....he.....did to TC what he wanted to do to me. And Mr. Thresher lied cause I could tell it hurt TC something awful. Then Mr. Thresher said I wasn't to tell anybody and I should leave TC and he would take care of everything. But I knew he wouldn't help TC so I brought him here but..." The boy sobbed, "I was too afraid to tell.... I was so afraid..and now TC is going to die."
"I'll be damned if he will!" Gilmoore patted Timmy on the head to show that the anger wasn't directed at him "Tyrus McQueen is not going to die at the hands of a pig like Thresher! Not if I have anything to say about it! I need help getting him to the infirmary. Can we count on some of the others?"
The other boy spoke up in his high clear voice. "I don't know. Most of them are too afraid of Mr. Thresher. I doubt it."
"Well, we'll have to do it ourselves then. I can count on you two, can't I?"
The two young InVitro's were less than enthusiastic in their agreement, but with their help, Gilmoore was able to get McQueen back to the infirmary. He dismissed the two terrified Tanks and returned to his charge. The slender, well muscled body was completely limp. Gilmoore lifted an eyelid. The boy had hemorrhaged into his eyes. He was in deep unconsciousness which was probably a good thing. What Gilmoore would have to do was not going to be comfortable and he was just as happy McQueen wouldn't suffer any more pain at his hands.
Gilmoore soaked several towels in warm water and gently draped them across McQueen's lacerated back to loosen the dried crusted blood. The boy groaned softly but didn't awaken. No matter how reassuring he would have found McQueen's voice, Gilmoore was glad the boy remained unaware. >From the looks of the wounds, they were several days old. Many of the gashes appeared to go clear to the bone, especially across the shoulders. Most were infected, A couple showed the characteristic red streaks of blood poisoning. Gilmoore felt his eyes sting with unshed tears. The boy had been beautiful. Even now, in spite of all the bad food, he still had the body of a young Adonis. But T. C. McQueen would carry these scars for the rest of his life. If he lived. If he lived.......As he rinsed the towels and reapplied them to McQueen's back, the thought echoed again and again in his mind. 'He could be my son, if he had lived. If he had lived'.
When they had brought his son up to be nursed, the child had shown no interest in the breast. The nurse had dismissed it saying that sometimes babies were slow, particularly if the birth had been a long one, as this one had. Later on, a different nurse, while changing his diaper, had remarked that the child appeared listless, his movements aimless and there seemed to be something wrong with his muscle tone. Gilmoore had asked a friend and colleague, a Pediatrician, to check the boy out without alarming his wife. The friend agreed, and Gilmoore returned to the surgery certain his son was in good hands. Then, as he was scrubbing for the Angioplasty, his friend had asked permission to run a few more tests. Gilmoore had readily agreed. It was better to be safe than sorry. When he was leaving the surgery, his friend was waiting. His son, his beautiful perfect son, was the victim of one of nature's cruelest, most ironic jokes. Everything about his son had developed normally, fingers, toes, glands, blood vessels, organs, all except one. While the brain stem, that part that controls the autonomic systems like pulse and respiration, had developed perfectly, the brain itself had not developed at all. The beautiful, perfectly shaped skull was empty. His child would continue to breathe, the tiny heart would continue to beat, the blood to circulate, but he would never be conscious. They could continue to feed him through tubes and he would continue to grow and to age. Finally, at some point, he would die never having really lived. There would be no bright eyed little boy to call him daddy. It was a rare condition whose causative agent had never been determined. Call it fate; call it bad luck. It was certain. It was final. Sorry.
Gilmoore shook his head and looked down at the still form on the cot. He had aged in the last few months or possibly it was the suffering and hopelessness they all faced. He was still beautiful, in spite of the bruises on his face. There were bruises on his chest too. And lower. Gilmoore felt the rage beginning to build in his chest. This was not just 20 lashes, he couldn't count the number of lacerations on the boy's back. This had nothing to do with discipline, this was an attempt to main and to cripple, maybe to kill. He blessed Timmy for finding the courage to take McQueen to the barracks. If he had remained with Thresher...... well, death would have been a blessing.
It was well past dark when he finally finished cleaning McQueen's wounds. He had cauterized the worst ones after debriding the lacerated back to remove all the necrotic tissue and pockets of infection. He thought the next thirty-six hours would tell the story. The boy would need all his InVitro enhancements if he was going to make it. Shock, neglect, infection, malnutrition, dehydration, exposure, blood loss. He had all the odds against him. But he also had something Thresher hadn't counted on. Gilmoore. And DR Alan Gilmoore refused to let this boy die. He had just finished laying a light layer of gauze over the mutilated back when he heard the soft whisper. "Help me die."
His throat tightened. "No, son. I won't let you die. You don't want that, Ty. You don't"
The blue eyes remained closed. Gilmoore placed a hand gently on the boy's forehead. It was hot and dry, the sign of a severe systemic infection. He quickly readied an intravenous line and hung an antibiotic drip beside the saline praying it would be effective against the poison raging through the young IV's system. They were still guessing about treatments and dosages where InVitros were concerned. Some antibiotics were totally useless, while others might as well be straight poison. The boy didn't move as he slid the canula into a vein and taped it in place. It wasn't until he reached to stroke McQueen's sunken cheek with his thumb and forefinger that the pain filled eyes opened.
He had to lean forward to catch the barely audible rasp. "Yes, Tyrus."
"Don't worry, sir. Thank you for trying, but it really is Ok. I don't want to live like this. I'm glad it's over."
"Listen to me, son. Just listen. At the end of your five years, you'll be done with this. You'll be free, your own man. You can go where you want, whenever you want. Isn't that worth fighting for? Living for? If you die, then they win and no one will know what is being done to InVitros out here. This will keep happening and Tanks will keep dying. Don't let that happen. You're better than they are, Ty. You were engineered to be better. They gave you a stronger constitution, higher metabolism, greater endurance and faster reflexes. Your senses are more acute than theirs. You cant let them beat you, make you lose hope. Your survival is their defeat. You have to defeat them." Gilmoore covered the boy's hand with his own and gave it a squeeze.
McQueen sighed raggedly and threaded his fingers through Gilmoore's. "It's just that it hurts so much and I'm so tired. I just want it to stop hurting......"
"I'll put something in the drip for the pain, son." Gilmoore reached for the analgesic solution and injected a bolus into the line. "But you've got to promise you'll fight, that you won't give up."
The boy's raspy breathing was already beginning to steady. "I'll try, Doc. For you, I'll try......." Before the last word was out of his mouth, Tyrus Cassius McQueen was asleep.
Gilmoore hung a new bag of saline and opened the line. The antibiotic bag was still half full and would probably last until mid afternoon. He brushed McQueen's forehead with the back of his hand. He had sat beside the young tank for most of the night, bathing his face as the infection and the antibiotics battled for control. The outcome was still uncertain, but Gilmoore had the impression that the antibiotics now had the advantage McQueen's breathing was easier, his skin not as dry as it had been the night before. His pulse was definitely stronger and his blood pressure was rising, but that could be from the volume of fluid flowing into the young Tank's body. Still, Gilmoore was cautiously optimistic that McQueen's body had gotten the upper hand and was on the mend. He wished he could be as certain about McQueen's psyche, his spirit. Would that part of the boy ever recover. Only time would tell.
A door slammed in the other office, startling Gilmoore from his thoughts. He got slowly to he feet, his joints stiff from sitting too long in one position and moved to see who it was. The doorknob was jerked from his hand as Thresher pushed past him and stalked over to McQueen's unconscious body. He stared down at the young Tank for several moments, his large hands opening and closing, his ruddy complexion growing more and more florid by the moment.
"I expected as much. Well, play time is over, Gilmoore. The next shift starts in half an hour. Sign his release and I'll take him with me now."
"I'll sign nothing, Thresher. This boy is not going anyplace with you. You damn near killed him!"
"Worried about your 'honey boy'?", Thresher sneered. "You can always find a new one. One Tank is the same as another. This one has a real attitude problem. Thanks to you, he has a tendency to get above himself and needs to be put in his place. I intend to make an example of him and you're not going to stop me. Get in my way Gilmoore, and I'll make you damned sorry."
"Thresher, that boy can't even stand, much less work. I'm not going to release him."
The overseer smiled evilly. "Fine. Don't. Makes no difference to me. It's not like you was a real doctor, is it. Anyway, he doesn't have to stand for long. Just long enough to make it to the punishment yard. Then we'll hook him up to the post and have done with him once and for all. If you're real nice, I'll let you come say goodbye to your sweetie. Have him ready by the time I get back. And, Gilmoore? Don't dope him up with your drugs too much. I want him to know what's coming."
Gilmoore felt numb. He knew the overseer would do it. The man was a sadistic butcher and Gilmoore was no match for him. He would bring a couple of guards and they would take McQueen, with or without Gilmoore's consent. The doctor had no power in the compound, the overseers had it all. He remembered McQueen's plea the night before. It might have been better for the boy if he had helped. His eyes went to the two bags hanging on the dripstand. Had anyone ever shown the boy the slightest bit of mercy.... mercy......
It must have been the combination of shock and overwork that did it, that led him to commit such an unspeakable act. As he listened numbly to his baby's prognosis his surroundings seemed to recede into the distance and fade away. He would not remember any of it until some months later, long after everything had fallen apart, long after everything that mattered had been lost forever. The physician in him had taken over in this too, just as it had taken over in his marriage and in every other facet of his life. He didn't remember walking into the nursery, didn't remember picking up his tiny, perfect newborn son in his arms and carrying him upstairs. Upstairs to the surgery that had become the central focus of his life. He certainly didn't remember placing his beautiful son on the table, picking up the scalpel and opening the tiny chest. Most of all, he didn't, wouldn't remember removing the tiny heart, still beating, placing it in the transport container and consigning it to Ste. Anthony's where another child, not his, never as beautiful as his, would now live on with his son's heart beating in her chest. All without even so much as looking in on his wife. He hadn't even thought about her until she barged into his office, hysterically demanding to know what he had done with their child. She had called him a monster. He was. She had called him an arrogant insensitive brute. He was. She had called him a murderer. He was. And when she was done, she had gathered her dignity and calmly thrown herself out of the window to the parking lot some 25 stories below. He hadn't felt a thing. He should have followed her.
The shout brought him back to himself and he gazed numbly down at the syringe in his hand. The boy would never wake up, he would just sink deeper and deeper into the welcoming dark. There would be no more pain, no hunger, no thirst. He would finally find the peace he sought.
"I know what you're thinking of, Gilmoore. But I'm not about to let you do it. I want that damn Tank to know what's coming, not to be zonked out on your damn drugs! He's going to feel every bit of it." Thresher snatched the filled syringe from Gilmoore's hand and turned to the door. "Oh, and speaking of feeling every bit of it. I just want you to know that I really enjoyed him the other night. Sweet and tender, just like I like them. Felt like you hardly used him at all. I really love it when they start moaning and that sweet little ass starts grinding around and around and..........."
A red haze formed in Gilmoore's mind and he suddenly found it hard to breathe. One hand flashed out to the instrument tray and blindly grabbed whatever it touched. With a strength he didn't know he possessed, Gilmoore grabbed Thresher by the shirtfront and wrestled him down on the next cot. Thresher started to laugh. As Gilmoore climbed astride the bigger man, Thresher only laughed louder and pointed to Gilmoore's raised hand.
"What the hell do you think you are going to do with that, old man?"
Gilmoore looked at his hand. He had picked up an insulin syrette, an empty insulin syrette. The needle was to short to inflict any real damage and Thresher knew it. Gilmoore looked down at the smiling, bigger man.
"I told you once, that if you ever put a hand on that boy, I would know it and I'd make you pay." Gilmoore grabbed a fistful of the younger man's hair, jerked his head to the side and sank the styrette into the side of his neck. Before Thresher could react, he backed off on the plunger to see the dark venous blood rise in the barrel, then pushed the plunger all the way in.
Thresher let out a roar and flung the doctor across the room. He plucked the styrette from his neck and threw it down as he stalked to where Gilmoore lay stunned. McQueen had been awakened by the struggle and began pulling out the intravenous lines. Thresher looked toward him and made kissing sounds. "You're all mine, honey boy. We're really going to have us a good time this time. Then I'm going to teach you your place once and for all. I was going to take it easy on you, just kill you. But now I'm having seconds thoughts. See, your sugar daddy here has just made me real mad. You can thank him for what is going to happen to you. What did you think sticking me with that empty needle would do, Gilmoore, you old fool."
Gilmoore rubbed his bruised shoulder as he got slowly to his feet. He glanced at the young InVitro. "Ty, stop that and lay still. Everything will be Ok." He looked by to Thresher. "The needle wasn't empty, Thresher." At the other's puzzled expression, he continued. "I told you I would make you pay, Thresher. The needle was full of air. Air, Thresher. An air bubble in a vein is bad news. More than that, it's a death sentence, with no reprieve and no pardon. But you're probably too stupid to know that, aren't you, Thresher? That's right. Breathe faster. Do you know what happens when that air bubble reaches your heart, Thresher?" Gilmoore snapped his fingers. "Lights out, Thresher. Permanently."
The younger man's eyes began to widen. "You're a doctor. You have to do something. You can't do something like this."
"Oh, but I already have, once. Oh, pardon me. It's twice now isn't it? There's nothing I can do. There's nothing anyone can do, except wait."
Thresher, eyes wide with fear, made a run for the door. Gilmoore tackled him around the knees, rolled him over and clapped a hand over his mouth. The younger man struggled wildly, attempting to dislodge Gilmoore's hand and call for help. Gilmoore hung on grimly. "That's right, Thresher. Struggle. Makes the heart beat faster. Means the air bubble will reach it faster. Do us all a favor. Keep it up." The overseer's struggles ceased abruptly. He looked around wildly. McQueen was sitting on the edge of the cot. There was no expression on his bruised face but the pale eyes glittered as they held Thresher's"
Suddenly, the overseer's body convulsed, his head whipping back as his body stiffened. Gilmoore held on desperately, his hand still covering Thresher's mouth. He winced as the overseer convulsed again, sinking his teeth into Gilmoore's hand. Then Thresher's body went limp, his eyes still open but unseeing. Gilmoore released his hold and struggled to his feet breathing heavily. After a moment, he knelt and wiped the tiny spot of blood from the overseer's neck then felt for a pulse. Then he stood and limped toward where McQueen still sat motionless.
"Here, son. Lay back down. No, not on your back. Let your back heal a little. Dammit, Ty. I told you not to pull out that line. Now I have to put it back in. I'll have to try the other arm, this one will be too sore now. Here, let's see. Be a quick stick. There. Now leave this one alone. You'll need a full course of antibiotics to kill out this infection. You feel a lot cooler though."
The clear blue eyes gazed into his and there was something in their depths Gilmoore had never seen before. It looked like wonder. "You can tell them I did it." the young InVitro whispered.
Gilmoore tousled the soft curls, remembering the many times over the past several years he had made the gesture. "Not necessary, Tyrus. Let me handle this and don't worry. Everything will be fine." He limped to the outer door and called out, "You, there. Find Murchison. Tell him I need to see him immediately. Hurry."
Within a few moments, the other overseer, Murchison was striding through the door. Slighter in build than his counterpart, the red haired Murchison was always the less sadistic of the two. Not that he balked at handing out punishment, he wouldn't have been working for Corolis Mining if that were the case, but he at least had the sense to know that an incapacitated InVitro didn't improve production statistics. He might beat the Tanks, but not to the point where they couldn't work. He stared down at the body on the floor, then looked back to Gilmoore. "Well?"
"He was in here to check on when McQueen would be released back to the mines. Then he just collapsed. Looks like a heart attack. I tried CPR but...... Well, you know the kind of equipment we have. It was hopeless."
Murchison knelt down to look at the body. He looked at both hands, the face, then unbutton the shirt and pulled it back. "Not a mark on the body. Looks like you're right, Doctor. I told him to watch his weight. He should have listened." He looked toward the cot. "When will he be released?"
Gilmoore shook his head. "Not for a while. His back is infected. He'll need a full course of antibiotics to cure that. It will be at least several weeks."
"Well, do the best you can and keep me posted." He motioned for two of the guards to remove the body. "Damn! I was hoping for a trip home. Now I'll have to wait for a new relief man. Take it easy, Gilmoore."
Gilmoore watched the small group cross the compound, then closed both outer and inner doors behind him. As he limped across the Infirmary, a soft voice from the cot whispered.
"Dr Gilmoore, Sir. Tell me about Earth."
Alan Gilmoore caught himself just before his head touched the desk. His watery eyes went to the chronometer. Almost noon and he was already tired. But then he was tired almost all the time now. Part of it was the medication, of course. It made him drowsy, then, just as it began to wear off to a point where he was able to work, it was time for another dose. But he was the first to admit that he wouldn't be able to function without it. The pain was almost constant now. Fortunately, it was at its' worst in the late evening and early morning hours. Times when a greater dosage wouldn't impact his work. Thank god for his new assistant. Ashley-Duke was a young man, idealistic, talented and enthusiastic. And he was kindly disposed toward his Tanks. His Tanks. Gilmoore smiled, then grimaced as the dry hacking cough racked his body. He had been loosing so much weight recently that none of his clothes fit him anymore and a strong wind would blow him away. Ashley-Duke was a quick study. That was a good thing. Gilmoore didn't think he had too much time left.
He pushed himself up from the desk with difficulty and turned toward the tiny kitchen only to stop short when he heard the unmistakable sound of someone pouring water. He smiled to himself. There was no need to ask who it was. He sank into one of the two armchairs next to the fireplace. He smiled again. The fireplace had never been lit, it was far too hot on Omicron Draconis to need the heat, but one didn't have a proper library/office without a fireplace to sit before. A cup of tea materialized on the table beside him, placed there by a slender, golden skinned hand. The hand was callused but elegant in its' corded strength. And Gilmoore had come to depend more and more on that strength in recent months. He glanced at the book that lay open on the other chair. He couldn't read the title clearly. "What is that you're reading now, Ty?"
"It's a book on the opening of the American frontier and the Indian Wars", Tyrus McQueen stretched his long legs out in front of him and turned the book upside down on his knee. "I like history. I like knowing how things came to be." He regarded Gilmoore levelly through intensely blue eyes. He was worried, Gilmoore realized. Over the years he had learned to read the young InVitro's moods and emotions through the changes in his eyes. Deep blue meant worry, gray meant anger or depression. He wondered if the boy had any idea how transparent he was.
Gilmoore sipped his tea and watched McQueen. "Have you thought of where you'll go when you go to Earth, Tyrus?"
"I was hoping you would be there to act as my guide, Doc."
Gilmoore sighed sadly. "No. You know I won't be returning to Earth, son. I won't be around to see you go, either. Another nine months and your debt is paid. You'll be a free man, son. I told you the day would come."
McQueen finished his tea and slipped a bookmark into the book. His eyes flickered toward the fireplace. When he looked up his eyes were filled with concern. "What will I do on Earth, Doc? All I know is mining, and there isn't much call for that on Earth. How will I fit in?"
Gilmoore closed his eyes. The pain was rising earlier and earlier each day and was harder and harder to hide. "Doc?" He opened his eyes to find McQueen leaning over him, a medicine cup of pink liquid held in his hand. "Here Doc. Drink this."
"It will make me sleepy, Tyrus, and I'm already half asleep as it is."
"Then you can sleep, Doc. Please. For me, please take it."
"Oh, all right. But I'd rather sit here and talk to you, Ty."
McQueen smiled. His face still glows when he smiles, Gilmoore thought in wonder. After all he has been through, his spirit has survived. In the two years since Thresher's death, he had not had one moment of guilt. He knew that was wrong, that he was a physician sworn to preserve life, but he didn't care. That monster had deserved to die. And his death had saved god only knows how many InVitro lives. And to Gilmoore, there was no difference in InVitro and Natural Born lives. No, there was no guilt, no regret. At least where Thresher was concerned. It had been a good trade, Thresher for McQueen. He found his eyes wandering over McQueen, over the body he had protected and cared for over these past four years. He was a truly beautiful man. Gilmoore found himself wondering at the partners the boy must have had in those years. He felt the heat rising in his face at the path his thoughts were taking.
"Ty, what do you think of Ashley-Duke? As a doctor, I mean. Tell me what you think."
"Well.....", the young InVitro considered for a moment, "he's not you, Doc. He doesn't have your......heart. He's good though. He cares, he's dedicated, he's committed. He just doesn't have your passion."
"Do you think he'll do well for your people after I'm gone?"
"Yea. But you'll be around for a long time yet, Doc."
"You will. You're just going to take it a little easier no...."
McQueen just stared at the older man. He knew. He had talked with the new doctor, and knew time was short. He just didn't want to acknowledge it. He wasn't quite sure what it was he was feeling. He just knew that he trusted this man like he had never trusted another living being. This man had protected him, guided him, and encouraged him. This man had killed for him. And this man had never asked anything in return except that he not give up. And he hadn't. And he would prove that Gilmoore's trust and confidence were not misplaced. Even if the older man wasn't around to see.
Good afternoon, Tyrus."
McQueen looked up into Ashley-Duke's hazel eyes and put his finger to his lips. "He's asleep", he whispered softly.
"Poor old guy", Ashley-Duke sighed. "He tries, he really does, but he's just about used up." He motioned for McQueen to follow him into the kitchen, then closed the door behind them. "The Cancer is just about everywhere now. The pain is increasing as well. His lungs are filling with fluid which makes it more difficult to breathe. He probably has two maybe three weeks at the most."
"I gave him some of the pain medication just before you came in. Was that Ok?"
"Yes. But that sort of illustrates the problem, Tyrus. He's having problems with his respiration. The medication represses his respiration even further. The pain is increasing so I keep increasing the medication. But Doc is losing weight and I should be adjusting the medication down to compensate for that. But I'm not. Do you understand, Tyrus. It's a common practice at the end like this."
"He's being gradually overdosed? Why are you telling me?"
"If we were on Earth, I would tell his family. And they would say something like 'keep him comfortable' which would mean they understand and agree. Keep him as free of pain as possible even if it shortens his life. He's terminal. It's all we can offer. But Doc has no family.
"I thought he had a son. I've heard him mention a son. Maybe you should tell him."
"His son was born with an acute birth defect. He was only two days old when he died. His organs were given up to donor banks. Doc signed over the rights to his DNA to the InVitro program. That probably explains why he is so close to the InVitro's here."
McQueen stared at the doctor intently. "You mean I could be...I mean my DNA could have....."
Ashley-Duke shook his head ruefully. "Doubtful, Tyrus. With the type of birth defect the baby had, the DNA would have been suspect. My guess is that they didn't want to further upset Doc, but they probably gave the contribution the deep six. I would have. But Doc....well I think that Doc would like to think that something of his son lives on. We all need our dreams, Tyrus. Now give me a hand and we'll put the Doc to bed."
Gilmoore blinked his eyes in the darkness. The darkness felt somehow.... fuzzy..warm...comforting. He didn't know what time it was. Time didn't mean much anymore. They kept him medicated most of the time and thought he didn't notice. But he did. He did. There were moments like this, in the early hours when it seemed as if the planet itself held its' breath, that everything seemed so clear. All the things he should have done. All the things he could have done were clear in his mind. It's too bad that hindsight is always 20 20. Too late now. Gilmoore had few regrets in his life. He regretted not kissing Mary Sue Albertson under the bleachers his Sophomore year in High School. He should have taken the chance. He regretted not buying that 35 foot schooner his fifth year of practice, but it was probably just as well. He had been too busy working to sail it.
Oddly enough, he didn't regret donating his son's organs. That act had made his son's life mean something. Because his son had been born, other children had lived or had a chance at a better life. The children that received his heart, his lungs, his kidneys and liver. The child that had received his corneas. He did regret not sharing with his wife. Had he talked with her, she would have felt the way he did. She would have understood. He hadn't given her that chance. He hadn't given her any chance. And he regretted not taking the time to say goodbye to his son. To stroke the soft hair, to hold the tiny hands, to hold him close one last time and ask his forgiveness. Too late now. Now it was too late for anything.
Here, in the early darkness of morning, there was no room for lies. In the beginning, he had looked at McQueen and tried to kid himself. The boy had been blonde, like his son, with the same blue eyes as his son's. He had even told himself that McQueen's smile reminded him of his father. But there was nothing of his son in McQueen, no matter how he might wish otherwise. He was surprised they even did him the courtesy of acknowledging the DNA contribution. He knew they had destroyed it. They would have had to. He would have. That kind of birth defect could have easily be caused by chromosomal damage. No one would take the risk. He had fooled himself for so long because he had wanted to. It didn't matter that McQueen was in no part his. But Gilmoore would have been more than proud if he had been. Tyrus would be Ok. And somehow Gilmoore knew the boy was going to be something special. He just had a feeling.
Gilmoore sighed and closed his eyes. If he had a favorite time of day here on Omicron Draconis, this was it. It was cool enough to just be comfortable. He started to roll to his side. His back got sore always lying in the same position. Hands reached to help him. Timmy smiled back and stuck a pillow at Gilmoore's back to keep him in position. The young InVitro came and stayed for an hour or so each day as did a couple of others. Timmy held a glass of water for Gilmoore as he drank, then proceeded to tell him the interesting stories of the day. After a while he was replaced by another young InVitro who was training to be an orderly. He would bathe and change Gilmoore and give him his evening meds. Ashley-Duke stopped in for a while. The doctor was fitting in nicely and Gilmoore felt the satisfaction of a job well done there. He had picked his replacement personally and his choice had been a good one. Then the doctor said goodnight and Gilmoore was alone. The pain seemed a long way away today. He felt a curious disconnection with his disease riddled body. He felt peaceful, content and comfortable. He felt as though he was almost.....floating....... His mind was clear. More clear than it had been in a long time. Usually the medication kept him "fuzzy". Not tonight.
The door opened slowly. Ty McQueen slipped through and pulled a chair to the side of the bed. He reached out to brush his hand over Gilmoore's silver hair. Their eyes locked and they both smiled as they remembered the many times Gilmoore had touched Ty's hair just that way. McQueen whispered softly "Would you like me to read to you?"
"No, Ty. Just talk to me. Tell me, what will you do when you go to Earth?"
"I'm going to travel, Doc. I want to see as much as I can. I want to go everywhere."
"And you be sure to take in the sights of North Beach, Ty. There's plenty there to interest a young man your age."
McQueen pushed back the chair and knelt at the side of the bed. He out to stroke the older man's cheek. "I know.", he whispered. Gilmoore's eyes widened. "Ty....."
"Shhhhhh", the young InVitro whispered as he leaned to press his lips to first one eyelid then the other. His tongue caught the tear drops he found there. "You once told me, that no one had the right to make me do this if I didn't want to." He smiled gently. "I want to do this." Then his mouth was on Gilmoore's, his tongue parting the older man's lips and slipping inside. Gilmoore's arms closed convulsively around the slender body. He could feel the ridges of scar tissue through the thin T-shirt. His hand found the umbilicus on the back of McQueen's neck and began to stroke it lightly. McQueen growled softly in his throat and trembled in Gilmoore's arms. Then he moved away slightly, removed his T-shirt and slid onto the bed with the older man.
Gilmoore place a restraining hand on the young InVitro's chest as McQueen bent to claim his lips again. Gilmoore shook his head. "Tyrus, I don't know if I can do this. I've never done anything like this I..I...just don't know....."
McQueen placed his finger across Gilmoore's lips. "Shhhhhh. It's ok, I understand. Trust me, Doc, this is for both of us." He turned the older man into his chest and wrapped his arms around him. "I just want to hold you. I don't want you to be alone. You've never asked anything of me. Let me do this for you."
McQueen began to stroke Gilmoore's face gently, smoothing the eyebrows, tracing the jawline and outlining his mouth before bending his head to replace his fingers with his lips. It was a gentle kiss, warm and sweet and Gilmoore found himself responding as naturally as if they were lovers of long standing. He placed another kiss on Gilmoore's forehead, his hands stroking down the older man's back and chest. McQueen leaned back, his back against the headboard, holding Gilmoore gathered in his arms.
"I'm going to go visit the Library of Congress, Doc and , yes, I will read something other than history. And I'm going to go to the Opera. I've heard you talk about it, now I want to see for myself. I'm going to see a Broadway play, I don't know which one. I'll have to see. And I want to see Alaska. I want to see where I was conceived." He continued to stroke Gilmoore's hair and back. The older man was beginning to drowse.
"And I'm going to go visit your home, Doc. I'm going to see San Francisco. I'm going to buy a bottle of California wine and a loaf of Sourdough French bread and I'm going to walk to the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm going to look out to sea, and I'm going to drink a toast to you, Doc." McQueens voice had softened to a barely audible whisper. He looked down at Gilmoore to find him sleeping.
It was full dark when Gilmoore awoke, he felt a little 'hazy', there in the darkness. He felt warm and comfortable. The arms wrapped around him kept him safe from harm. Nothing could hurt him here. He was happy here. He could relax. He had to relax. The soft voice was telling him to relax and he could trust the voice. All he had to do was go to sleep. Everything was all right.
Gilmoore floated up to consciousness like floating on a cloud. The arms and the voice were still there. Everything was Ok. He was safe. He knew he should know what the voice was saying but he couldn't make out the words. Maybe later.
Gilmoore opened his eyes and smiled. He understood. The pain was gone and he felt light and happy. He gazed up into the clear blue eyes and raised a trembling hand to tousle the blonde curls. He whispered "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."
McQueen tightened his arms around Gilmoore. "I'd forgive you anything, you know that."
"I know. I always knew. Goodbye, Son. I love you."
"I love you too. Goodbye....Daddy."
Next : The Jericho Chronicles: Anake
Previous : Part One
Edna Houston © 1996