Jared choked back a sob at seeing the girl in front of him like this. The machines made a soft whooshing sound as they pumped air into his sister’s lungs. The doctors had told him it was strange. The EEG machine indicated she still had brain activity, but the part controlling her lungs had evidently taken a hit. She hadn’t been able to breathe on her own since the surgery that saved her life.
Lilly Butler lay there peacefully, despite all the tubes running into her. Are you in there Lilly? The cost of keeping her alive must have been considerable and he wondered what the hospital guidelines were for keeping someone in this condition. After what would happen at the Blue Skies meeting, it was unlikely anything he set up with Steve’s money to make sure she was taken care of would be honored. More likely the fortune would be frozen by the government. So Lilly could be on a ticking clock following the mission.
Markov said he had an idea for how to help you. Was he lying? He made it sound like he needed me… my cells! Does he think he can use my healing ability to heal someone else? But powers usually stop working outside the body… dammit, I wish I knew what he was planning!
Jared had managed to resist the temptation to see his sister for a couple of days. It was long enough to plausibly acquire the knowledge of her condition as Steve, who was now paying a visit to the sister of his deceased friend. The tail May confirmed they had picked up should have no reason to suspect him of anything suspicious.
He wondered what it was exactly that had made them worthy of having their actions monitored. Whether it was something all applicants to Blue Skies had happen, or whether the manner in which they had apparently returned from the dead triggered more flags than they’d hoped. Tasha had attempted to spy on the agents while in animal form, but claimed she didn’t manage to figure anything out other than they were highly trained at sitting quietly and patiently watching for something to happen. Not that Jared trusted Tasha to tell them anything even if she learned something.
It was too late, regardless of the reason they were watching. May could easily get one of her bodies by them to get what she needed for the backup plan. And all Jared and Patrick had to do was not act too suspiciously until the Blue Skies meeting. Simple enough. Patrick was spending most of his time with his family, even hanging out with a few of his friends. Jared knew Patrick figured that, live or die, this was probably the last time he’d get to see any of them.
Jared had avoided seeing any of his old friends. He knew Steve well enough that he might be able to pull off acting like him, and part of him thought maybe he should try to, at least with their mutual friends. It would be nice to see them, one last time, but something held him back. ‘Hey, nice to see you again. Yeah, most of my loved ones are dead, how about yours? Glad you’re ok though. How about we grab a hamburger and I can lie to you for a while about where I’ve been the last few months?’
The prospect just wasn’t appealing to him, even though he knew it would probably make their observers less suspicious. It was easier playing up other parts of their cover story, like the loving relationship between Steve and Katherine. They made public displays of affection whenever they thought they might be being watched. They would often go for strolls around the grounds, him pushing her wheel chair leisurely down garden paths.
They’d sat on the bench next to the pond and watched the ducks splash around for hours each evening. It was nice to just relax for a while after spending almost all day every day training for the last several months. It was also nice to kiss her, though part of him was still disturbed to do it while she wore Katherine’s face. The first time she’d kissed him caught him by surprise. But he recovered quickly, not wanting to give away to their watchers that it was abnormal.
The kiss certainly didn’t feel fake to him and he quickly found himself stealing more from May as she lay in his arms on their bench. What little resistance he had left to falling for her was rapidly falling away.
“I think I might be falling in love with her, Lilly,” he whispered. “And we might all be dead in a few days. Doesn’t really seem fair.” He squeezed his sister’s hand, wondering if she could hear. He hoped not. Being aware while stuck like this seemed like the worst thing that could happen. It still made him feel a little better to talk to her though. “You’d like her. I hope, somehow, we all survive and you can meet her someday.”
He gave her a kiss on the forehead and left the hospital room, tears still in his eyes .