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Saving Jay
[Image: images-1.jpeg][Image: attachment.php?aid=23]

“I skipped breakfast to make it here. You don’t mind?”

They’d left the city behind when Doctor Diaz swung the car into a drive-through and parked up. He’d been mostly quiet during the journey (ever since a brief and furious text communication on his wallet, actually), offering just a few pleasantries that Cay let flutter over her head. Her insides were all squirming so she didn’t mind that the adults paid her little mind, and she was equally glad of a chance to stretch her legs -- once she’d pleaded with her best doe eyes for the privilege. Half of her was desperate to race as fast as possible to wherever Jay was, while the other half was terrified of what they might find.

She sat on the hot curb to drink the shake Diaz brought her (she wasn’t hungry), watching the doctor and the pastor from the corner of her eye as they loitered by the car. Convinced he was suitably distracted, she pulled the wallet from her pocket and shot a quick message to Natalie.

Where the hell did you go?? I’m okay, and I know what I’m doing, I promise. I don’t think evil assassins stop for a late breakfast. I even got Jay some pie.

Raul Diaz leaned against the car and watched the girl typing away on her phone. Probably he should have concocted some pretext for taking it off her, but he probably should have sedated her too, just in case. Her abilities were dangerous, a poison that should have killed her by now, and yet Cayli Carpenter had survived the Sickness for so long he’d been convinced it meant something. That theory was lost to dust now, and he did not even know what cured her in the end. 

Opal might be curious; such specimens were difficult to come by, least of all with the sort of parental support the Carpenters were willing to give. But of course that was not why he had been tasked with bringing her to the research facility.

Diaz might have stretched the truth about Jay Carpenter’s predicament, but the man was beyond doubt a complete psycho. Andres had never deserved the meaty mess left of his body, and Diaz never blamed Zacarías for the vengeance that burned in his heart. Family was a debt that must be paid. His jaw tensed. Discomfort sank the pit of his stomach, threatening a shake to his hands as he retrieved a cigarette packet from his suit pocket. He offered one to Jensen before he put them away and lit up.

“She’s a sweet kid,” he said. “I remember my daughter at that age.” The brief smile on his face faded as those memories surged. Sacrifice for science was the noble endeavour he’d built on that grave; a vow to rid the world of such heartache as his family endured the day she writhed and screamed and died in his helpless arms. Everything precious burned in pursuit. He exhaled a trail of wreathing smoke, glancing at where a gold band once circled his finger.

He’d sold his soul more times than he could count in an effort to right his world, and never found peace. He understood why Zacarías wanted to do it. But as he watched the kid’s bowed head, her fair hair aglow in the shimmering sun -- the perfect picture of health; as he recalled how many times he had sat by her hospital bed and squeezed her small hand while the fear filled up her eyes, and he waited for a last breath that never came… knowledge of the hell he would drag her to sat uneasy.

Signs farther along the highway told them their destination. Jensen knew the area. He drove these highways himself, and a mental image of every hospital in the region populated his mind’s map. They passed exits that he hoped would be their detour. When finally the majority of likely turns were ignored, his growing anxiety seized the Gift to his control. A sign far in the distance told him what he feared. They were leaving the metro. They’d been on the road quite a while. 

He was grateful for breakfast. Cayli’s demands were enough to detour even the most hardened of hearts, and the doctor yielded in the end. A few moments alone between them was surprising. The normally chatty Jensen fell easily into conversation. “My children are still young. I have no idea if they are destined to the same fate that took so many other innocent souls. I am so sorry for yours.” He replied, knowing that if either of his boys were in Cayli’s place, he would move heaven and earth to save them, which was why he owed so much to Cayli. The past-tense with which Diaz described his child struck sadness between them. So many children that died from the sickness, and Jensen had no idea why some survived and others perished. He himself was one of the lucky ones, though it was possible he would succumb eventually. In the meantime, he could do nothing to make up for the hurts he inflicted upon Gabriel and Malachi, and it was unknown if their relationship would ever be healed, but he could save another child. 

He took a breath and spoke on faith, “You don’t need to do this, doctor. Whatever is obligating you to your course of action, we can undo it. I understand that when we are desperate, we make decisions that are so easy to justify at the time.” He turned to Diaz with a gaze that said he was trying to reach into the depths of darkness stirring in his soul, “All can still be made right. I can help you. Let the poor child go on with her life. What if she was your child? You would not have doomed yours to the same fate.” He didn’t describe it plainly, but the tone that deadened Diaz’s expression meant he understood what was implied. They climbed back into the vehicle soon after without any further detours. Jensen quickly updated Natalie with their status.

At his side, Cayli was a marble statue of serenity not unlike the expression sometimes draping Natalie with chill emptiness. She was a strong woman, but he did not want whatever frayed the edges of her soul so badly that it retracted deep inside to be Cayli’s future. When life and death hung in the balance, the problems Jensen wrestled with seemed miniscule. He longed vaguely for the anonymity of his motorcycle helmet. 

A distant smile flickered his expression as he leaned toward Cayli. The story was for her alone despite the close proximity of riders in the van. “When I was your age, I was saving money to buy an old motorcycle and fix it up. We lived in the country, and even though I didn’t have a license, I would ride it around anyway,” he realized he had her attention. It was a distracting story not unlike the kind that he would tell a patient awaiting surgery who was scared to death just waiting around for it to start. 

He showed her some pictures from his wallet. A young Jensen posing on a motorbike. “I talked my folks into letting me race at 18. There’s Jessika in the background,” he pointed her out standing on the edge of a dirt-track alongside other spectators. She had a big smile on her face. Jensen did too, but his focus was the bike more than anything. Maybe she’d seen one of them tucked away in the garage.  Stories flowed like water. He was a natural storyteller.

A change in direction grabbed both their attention. A small town rolled around them and quiet filled the van once again.

“A motorcycle? Get out.” Her mom would probably blush embarrassment for the amount of incredulity in Cay’s voice then. But she beamed bright as she leaned in to look at the pictures. Had the pastor really just admitted to driving without a licence? The distraction scooped her up somewhere pleasant. Jensen seemed pretty ancient, even though he was probably not far off Jay’s age, but the story shaved years. He looked happy in the past. “Will you teach me to ride?” she pleaded hopefully. “When this is all over?”

Jensen kept her occupied the rest of the journey; in fact Cayli didn’t pay much attention to the world beyond the car until they reached a town, when her nose pressed close to the window, confusion spreading like someone spilled icewater in her chest. This didn’t look right. This didn’t look right at all. The squat building was surrounded by fencing. A few men with guns peppered the perimeter, and as they rolled past a guard post a bored soldier glanced at Diaz and his ID before they continued through. Cayli’s mouth stuck dry when they entered the building, and she glanced at Jensen for reassurance. It didn’t look much like a hospital inside, though neither was it as dated as the rest of the neighborhood suggested. It wasn’t where she expected the doctor to take her, though, that was for sure. The wide entrance hall felt more like a school.

“Doctor Diaz, can I see my brother before we start the tests?” She thought her ribcage might burst from the pressure inside, her heart a jack hammer. Fear pinched worry to her brow as she tried to put some context to her surroundings. She’d played the scenario of their arrival in her head a hundred times on the journey south, but she’d never realised she would feel so scared. “I just need to see he’s okay. He is here, right? I just need to see him please.”

“Of course, Cayli, of course.” Diaz squeezed her shoulder gently, and smiled the kind smile that did make her feel somewhat better. But there was a sheen of sweat on his brow too, and something slithering behind his gaze that stole him a thousand miles away. He was distracted. Cayli breathed deep as he spotted a woman in a lab coat coming towards them. Diaz made a gesture that bid her to wait while he strode to meet her. She did not look happy, and his knuckles were almost white over the handle of his briefcase. They huddled some distance away, voices low.

Cayli looked up at Jensen, worried as the doctor left them standing there. The pastor wouldn’t let anything happen to her, she was sure of that, and remembering his promise sparked a familiar bolster of bravery. Jay was here. And she was going to find him. Steeling herself, she pulled the power around her, catching the barest muffle of Diaz’s low voice. "We’re scientists, not murderers. I need to speak with him.”

Her eyes widened. The doctor returned, pressing his hand against the back of her shoulder. Cay’s feet shuffled in the direction he led, uncertain if he meant to fulfill the promise to show her to her brother, or something more sinister. She swallowed dryly, peering wide-eyed into every doorway (all closed). A frown pierced her brow as she caught sight of a trio of children intersecting a hallway ahead, just a moment before she was steered into a room. Laboratory equipment surrounded them. Cayli blinked.

“Just wait here.” Doctor Diaz’s smile was perfunctory. When he closed the door softly behind him, she was sure she heard a lock click in place. There was a panel on the wall; far more high-tech than the system she had broken into at the casino. Her blue eyes bounced to Jensen a moment before she tried the handle. Nothing.

She stood back. Fear swirled in her guts, but it was sheer determination holding her young face rigid. “We have to find my brother,” she said to Jensen. Saying it aloud fortified her. She’d already asked nicely, and the doctor had looked more rattled than in control of the situation. Jay wouldn’t wait for fate to snap him up. Nor would Cay.

She ignored the lab equipment and the worrying question of what the hell it all meant. Instead she arched her neck and searched the ceiling. They had to have alarms in here, right? The power flooded in as she chewed her lip, casting her thoughts back to those lessons on the grounds of the James’ mansion. Mostly the exercises were benign, but Natalie never stopped her pawing all through that app. Some of the complexities of the things she'd done in Africa made Cay dizzy.

A fire would trip the alarms and release all the doors. The patients, or whoever else was here, would have to be trooped outside to safety, and that would include Jay. But the threat had to be real, and it had to be done quickly. That was a lot of pressure. The power squished through her grip, tangling red threads that didn’t quite want to go where she urged them. Frustration edged her rush. She knew she could do this! But it was surprise more than victory that witnessed the giant ball of flame burst into tremulous life. As the net of her control began to snake free she realised she should have warned Jensen.

“It’s me!” she gasped, just as something snapped. The force knocked her back. Smoke roared a thick sheet, and the power ripped loose. An alarm blared shrilly and Cay clapped her hands over her ears, flinching. The lock released with a whoosh just as something sparked and crackled amongst the equipment on the far of the room. She grabbed blindly for Jensen and burst from the room, sleeve pressed up against her nose. “We need to find him, let’s go!”

It was instinct that gripped Cayli’s hand in his own. He stroked her knuckles when his tongue was lost for words, but the connection held like an anchor. He’d not leave her side. The Gift rolled within his limbs, but he did not act on it. Everything was heightened as a side-effect. All the tension within sharpened thorns in his skin, yet somehow his footfalls were true and steady. Truth be told, he was terrified.

But he refused to let Cayli see it. 

He smiled for her when she looked to him for comfort. You’re safe with me here, his eyes whispered. He prayed the promise would hold in the end. The building throbbed with an energy he’d never sensed before, as though the very walls were about to burst from tension leeched into the mortar. The doctors convened, voices low, and he heard every doubt-filled word Diaz shared. The ‘him’ mentioned chilled his own heart as it implied someone to whom they all answered. Jensen did not want to know who that was.

They were holed in a room brimming with machinery that dizzied Jensen just to comprehend them all when a chill of sudden a/c iced his skin. A crackle snapped his ears and he gasped as orange and red flared their faces. A moment later, Cayli snatched his hand and they ran to the hall. “Cayli!” he cried and looked over his shoulder, but before the Gift could contain the fires, she pulled him toward the search.

written with @Jensen James

Messages In This Thread
Saving Jay - by Natalie Grey - 05-07-2019, 08:58 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 05-08-2019, 01:00 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Natalie Grey - 05-08-2019, 05:38 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Lawrence Monday - 05-14-2019, 12:14 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Lawrence Monday - 05-14-2019, 02:57 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jensen James - 05-14-2019, 08:02 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 05-25-2019, 02:24 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Natalie Grey - 05-30-2019, 03:45 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 06-12-2019, 12:55 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Lawrence Monday - 06-18-2019, 12:07 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jensen James - 06-20-2019, 11:50 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 06-23-2019, 02:23 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Natalie Grey - 06-30-2019, 05:11 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 07-09-2019, 12:57 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Natalie Grey - 07-11-2019, 03:27 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 08-10-2019, 02:38 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Natalie Grey - 08-11-2019, 05:11 PM
RE: Saving Jay - by Jay Carpenter - 08-13-2019, 12:06 AM
RE: Saving Jay - by Lawrence Monday - 09-07-2019, 11:25 PM

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