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36. Long Live the King

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I woke up and stretched out. There wasn’t much that was new or interesting that I could tell immediately after getting up. I looked around. Nothing was different. I was in the same place

I was when I went to sleep. I got up and walked around. I should probably go and check in on people. The family would be around. It was a bit too quiet to get excited.

I walked slowly, looking around to get the feel of my surroundings. It was a new day. Serkis was pacing around, bouncing the baby – Layne was passed out on the couch. Sylum was probably off at work – Grey would have things to do. Poor Layne, I couldn’t help but laugh. He had no idea what was going on or how to deal with it. Serkis smiled at me when she caught my eye as I edged into the room. The kid was calm, sedate. Serkis was cut out for this a little better than she cared to think. It was funny in a really weird way.

“Good morning, kid,” she said. She motioned over to the kitchen. “Coffee’s hot.”

“Is it any good?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I made it myself.”

I laughed. Course it was good. She could make the world’s best coffee, and she could do it with half of nothing. That girl had all kinds of talent. It really was something else. I went off and got myself a cup, filling Serkis’ as well. I brought it back with me and sat down in a chair near the couch. Layne was still out cold.

“Isn’t he something?” Serkis asked. I put her cup on the table for her as she nodded her thanks. I laughed. He had this childish quality to him when he slept. It was something worth watching, saving, knowing. I didn’t have a camera or paper to sketch on. She was right though – it definitely was something.

“Yeah. He looks so…”

“Exhausted. But he looks peaceful and all that other stuff too. He always looks like that.”

“Always?”

She smiled. “Yeah. No matter what.”

I smiled back at her. “You would know.”

She laughed, still bouncing the baby. “Yeah, I would, wouldn’t I?” The child was calmer now, sedate, probably fed and taken care of. Serkis was happy enough. She kept at it for a while longer. “Want to hold him?”

“Sure,” I replied, shrugging. I put my cup down and held my arms out for him, which she handed over carefully. I cradled him in my arms, just as she showed me, careful of his head, making sure he was all right. It was…there’s something about holding a child that small, that young, that…innocent. Something that none of us were anymore. Not even me.

Serkis took her cup and collapsed next to Layne. She’d been up awhile – it was obvious. She just barely brushed up against him when his eyes fluttered open a little. He wrapped an arm around her, she curled up closer to him, and he went right back to sleep. He came out of a state of unconscious peace just to be with her. Serkis was all smiles.

“Now this is a family,” she whispered, taking a few more sips of coffee before resting her head on Layne. I held onto the kid until she dozed off, until Sylum came home.

He walked in, took a look at the scene and laughed. I shushed him as much as I could.           “What’s so funny anyway, Mr. Bishop?”

“The kid with a kid.”

“I’m eighteen years old. I’m barely still a kid.”

He roughed up my hair as he walked by, taking the baby from me. “A kid nonetheless.” He turned his attention to the baby. “And how’s our young prince?”

“He’s hardly a prince, but I’ll grant that he is young.”

Sylum laughed. “So when did those two quit?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. They needed the rest – I wasn’t going to stop them.”

He nodded and walked around a little with the baby. My mind was wandering through the ironic beauty of the moment. “How’s Pandora?”

“She’s good. Grey’s with her. She’ll be coming home today.”

“Today?”

“Yeah. Hospitals don’t like people hanging around anymore. I’ll be relocating you all to her place in a little while…or whenever those two wake up. I really hate to have to disturb them. They look so…”

“Cute?”

He laughed. “You can only get away with that when they’re both out cold, you know that, right? Otherwise, they’d kill you.” He glanced over at them. “I almost thought they’d wake up special to kill you.”

I laughed. “They can’t kill me. Family, remember?”

Sylum laughed hard, smiling at the baby. “That never stopped them before, now, did it?”

He was right, but I let it pass. We had more important things to be worrying about. I got up, stretched, yawned, finished my coffee and looked around.

“So, now what?”

Sylum stopped to think about it. “Your stuff should be in the room there. Change…if you want to get an early start on things, take my car, go down to the hospital and spend time with Pandora. Grey’s got enough to do. When they’re ready to let her out, drive her home. Hopefully we’ll be set up there already. If these two ever wake up.”

“Let them sleep. They’ll need it.” I got up and went off to change, shower, and go back to the hospital. Sylum had told me to take his car. That meant he wanted me to take his squad car. He knew that nobody would stop me. But just in case, I was directed to take his hat and coat. They were all types of big on me, but he hoped that driving, nobody would stop me. And he was right. Nobody did.

I got up to the hospital, gave my name, and jogged over to the elevator. I was feeling better, I don’t know why. Just…better. A new start I guess. A new day. Just…the typical clean slate. Layne would take Doyle’s place. Take Vagrant’s place. I got to my floor and jogged down the hall to Pandora’s room. Grey was sitting beside the bed, dozing off. Pandora was halfway awake herself. I held my arms out as I came in.

“Congratulations on a brand new bouncing baby girl. Sorry I forgot the flowers.”

Pandora smiled at my attempt. “Flowers aren’t necessary. Drugs would’ve been nice though, lots of them. Kill the pain.”

I laughed – she was joking. I couldn’t understand what she’d been through and I couldn’t pretend to try. And she knew I wasn’t going to. Grey laughed a few minutes after the fact – he was definitely tired. I patted him on the back.

“Go on, go do what you have to and go home. Sleep is good.”

He muttered something in response, nodded, and left. I took his seat at Pandora’s side. She looked over at me.

“So when are they letting me out of this hole?”

“A few hours.”

“They sure get rid of them quick these days.”

“Yeah…”

“So what’s the latest?”

I was confused. “Nobody’s told you?”

“Told me…what? Grey was halfway conscious the whole time he was here and Serkis said she didn’t want to stress me out. I’ll be dealing with it when I get home anyway, might as well just tell me.”

“Requiem had her son right before you. She was in a room down the hall.”

“Was?”

“She’s dead.”

Pandora sighed and tried to lay back a bit. “Again?”

“No. Really dead this time. Layne killed her.”

“And the kid?”

“Grey took it. It’s at Sylum’s as we speak, with Serkis and Layne.”

“The Ransom boy. And my Merrick daughter.”

“Yes.”

“They should have left him. Or killed him.”

“They figured that by taking him themselves, they would undo the damage that would have been done otherwise. It had nowhere else to go.”

Pandora sighed again. “Vagrant just so happens to be dead too?”

“Yeah. Serkis.”

“I should have known. I’d rather appreciate it if you people would kindly inform me to the goings-on of the family here on in. Okay?”

“Well…they’re moving in with you…”

She all but fell out of the bed. “Excuse me?”

“Serkis and Layne. Sylum’s bringing them over to settle in. They should be there when we get there. And they’ll raise…Rev and they’ll help you raise….?”

“Maven.”

“Right. That’s close to…”

Pandora nodded. “My father’s name. I know.”

And we sat in silence for a little bit. Pandora was staring off into space. I wasn’t sure what to say to comfort her.

“I’m sorry for being short with you. I know you’ve gone through a lot lately. I’m just…I’ll get better. It’s a hard time right now, that’s all. I’m just paranoid. I’m sorry to take it out on you. You’re just doing as you were told.”

“Yeah.”

Her words sank in. As I was told. Did I do anything that I wasn’t told? Did I have a free mind, spirit, or soul? Was I independent at all? Would I ever be free? The questions got to me for a while. As I sat there going over them in my mind, a doctor came in. He checked the machines, her charts, everything that he’d need to write down to release her. He looked at me and at Pandora.

“Should I let your…sister…take the baby?”

Pandora nodded her consent before I could correct the doctor. She got up to change as I was led off to collect the child. It was the same size as Rev, not that I was surprised, but it was different. Whether it was because it was a girl, or because it was Pandora’s…there was just something different about it. I held her more carefully, closer, watchful in all directions. She

seemed more fragile. Weaker. I can’t explain it. Or maybe I just felt frailer in this place. My strength had been lowered since leaving my salvation. My safe haven.

I met up with Pandora in the wheelchair on her way down – I carefully passed her daughter into her arms. The child was a mirror image of herself, with very little of Doyle’s presence. When it grew older it might carry more traits of its father, but for right now I was glad. It was Pandora’s. She was a good kid and this would be a good kid. No matter what.

We got out of the hospital, everything signed out legal and proper, and she was helped into the car. I put the coat and hat back on for the drive. She couldn’t help but laugh at me. I laughed a bit myself. The child was quiet the entire time. Peaceful.

“I heard about the fiasco a bit yesterday. After things settled down. Let me guess, the fire drill – that was you?”

I nodded as I was driving, careful of other cars, taking my turns slower, being sure to signal well in advance.  It took us twice as long to get to Pandora’s as it normally would. I was out of the car and around to her side before she could even consider moving. It wasn’t until after the door slammed shut and I turned around that I realized that Sylum, Serkis, and Layne were standing there waiting for us. Not one of them smoking. For the kids. The real kids.

Rev was cradled in Serkis’ arms. Pandora came over and nodded her greeting, starting the way in and upstairs. The usual congratulations would be held off until we got in, comfortable, settled. It took awhile to get there, but everything was set up, as promised. They really did a great job of it too.

Pandora was moved into her father’s room – a crib had been set up in there with her for her daughter. Her old room was set up for Layne and Serkis with a crib set up in there for Rev. It was decided that they’d keep things separate for awhile, and if things changed along the way, they’d put the kids in their own room, Serkis would stay with Pandora and Layne would take the couch. They had plans and backup plans. They had everything you’d need to raise multiple kids for months at a time. They really had put a lot of effort into this. And they’d actually pulled it off. I was all types of proud. This was my family. Always.

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