A/N: As always, I don't own any of the characters in the series John Doe. Furthermore, this story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, place or thing is purely coincidental.
Together Too Soon
Chapter 1 – Beginnings
The Vatican, Rome
It had been a rough year for The Church. Not since 1509 had it been necessary to elect two Popes in a single year. Pope Paul VI had died earlier in the year and his successor, John Paul, now John Paul I, had barely begun leading when he suddenly died.
They'd attributed his death to natural causes. Some, however, believed His Holiness had received a terrifying vision. Luckily, his hastily elected successor, calling himself John Paul II had so far been free of any visions.
That, however, was farthest from Cardinal Stellini's mind that day. What worried him most was the message that had arrived some three days before from the United States. Stellini had put off opening it, fearful as to its contents. He had finally said a prayer and opened it. The message was short, but to the point.
Two have been found.
So, it had begun. The revelation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, given to three children at Fatima, Portugal sixty years before was finally coming to pass. Cardinal Stellini crossed himself.
Taking out a sheet of paper, Stellini wrote a quick reply: You must separate them at all costs. If the third has not been found, then we are safe for now.
He sealed the letter and called for his personal secretary, ordering him to send it at once, but through normal mail. Complying, his secretary hurried away.
With that completed, Stellini opened another folder on his desk. This one was from the Pope himself. It seemed His Holiness wanted to discuss plans for a world tour, hopefully visiting his native Poland along the way.
"Perhaps the revelation won't come to pass in His Holiness' lifetime," he thought aloud.
Ten years later
He was tired. Flexing the muscles in his toes was proving a chore. On top of that, his head was killing him. The doctors in his hometown of Dodge, Idaho, couldn't determine the exact cause and had recommended going to Boise for further tests. However, the preliminary results were pointing to cancer.
Michael was only thirteen years old.
He was relatively bright for a boy his age. Schoolwork was a breeze and teachers had been begging his parents for years to let him advance a few grades, let him further test his mind. Each time, though, his parents had refused. Their only reason was they preferred their boy to lead a normal life and not be ridiculed for his smarts, as they knew he would be.
Michael didn't seem to care. He was quite popular amongst his classmates and loved helping them when they needed it. He even played sports, which he was equally good at. He played baseball, mostly, and was already being hailed as the next Babe Ruth by the townspeople. He'd said he'd rather be like Pete Rose, though and get more hits than anyone. The town could care less. They'd one day be famous. "Birthplace of Michael Redding," the sign would one day say. "All-time hit king."
And suddenly the headaches had started. They were mild at first so Michael just ignored them. They'd only kept getting worse, though, and soon he found it hard to concentrate. Finally, he'd told his parents.
Now here he was, laid up in some hospital in Boise, far from his friends, unable to move and with a head that felt ready to explode.
Please, God, make the pain stop.
He heard whispered voices. The doctor had come to tell his parents what they'd found out. He could hear his father protest something and his mother cry. Fear surged through him. He knew it was bad.
The doctor left and his parents came over to his side. He could still hear his mother sobbing.
His father spoke first. "Son. Son, the doctor just told us the results of your test. He said you have a brain tumor. Now what that is, is a growth of cells…"
"I know what a tumor is, Dad," Michael cut him off. "Are they going to have to operate?"
His dad tried to phrase it the best he could. "Yes. And there's a chance you won't be the same afterwards, if you survive."
He could hear the stress in his dad's voice. Beside him, his mother started to cry heavily.
So this is it? I'm going to die.
"I guess we have no other choice, then," he said finally.
It took place the next morning. His parents had assured him the best neurosurgeon in the country had been flown in to perform the operation. It didn't calm him any, but he wouldn't let it show. The last thing he remembered was his dad telling him they'd play catch as soon as he came home.
The operation lasted 20 agonizing hours. Michael's parents hadn't slept through any of them. By the time the doctor came out, they were getting rather on edge.
"How is he, Doc?" his dad asked. "Is he alive?"
"Yes. Michael pulled through the operation quite well, in fact."
They could see the look of worry on his face.
"But, the tumor was quite deep, pressing against his optic nerve. Now, he will be blind in that eye for the rest of his life and it's quite possible he'll lose sight in the other eye as well."
"There's something else, isn't there?" his dad asked, hearing the stress in his voice.
"Unfortunately, yes. It's likely Michael will have permanent memory loss. His short term memory will be unaffected and he'll be able to remember things he learns, but everything he's learned since birth could be lost."
Michael's mother started to cry at this.
"My baby! Oh my baby!" she bawled.
Michael's father did his best to calm her down, but she was way too upset. He finally asked if they could give her a sedative and the doctor ordered it. When she was calmed, he asked if he could see his son.
"All right, but he is still out of it," the doctor warned.
Michael had been given a private recovery room, based on his condition. A nurse was checking his vitals as the two men walked in. She quickly left, closing the door behind her.
Michael's dad looked at his son. His entire head was bandaged, as were both eyes. He couldn't see it, but his left eye was swollen shut from the operation.
"So he will live, Doc?" he asked.
"Yes, but he'll never be the same. And if his memory survives, it'll only serve to drive him mad, she he be blind in the other eye. His IQ is too high to contemplate a life without sight, especially at his age."
"What can we do? I don't think my wife will be able to live with our son like this."
"Well, I may be able to help you there. I know of a place in Washington. It's near Seattle in a little place called Northam. It's called the Seneca Institute."
"What, some kind of nut house? Now look, I don't want my boy put away with a bunch of crazies."
"On the contrary, Mr. Redding, it's a place where people of great intellect go when they need a break. They'll be able to take care of him, on that you have my word."
His dad considered it for a moment. He wanted the best for his boy, even if he never remembered him.
"Ok, Doc," he finally said. "Make the arrangements.
She wrote the letter carefully and with as little emotion as possible. She'd been contemplating what to write for some time now, trying best to avoid stupid reasons for running away. She'd even though about not going through with it and staying home. But after what her father had tried to do the night before, she felt she had not other choice but to run.
Theresa was fifteen years old.
She was a rather shy girl, not uncommon for her age. However, she was very compassionate and caring. At school, her friends could always count on her for support. They'd all reached that point where everyday could be an emotional hell, yet Theresa was always calm. She never mentioned her home life, however, and it was well she didn't. It wasn't the most glamorous life, after all.
Her father had worked for the local factory all his life. He'd been an outstanding employee, never missing a day of work. Yet one day they suddenly laid him off with no real explanation, other than the need to cut losses.
He didn't take it very well. At first, he'd drowned his depression with alcohol, but even that didn't help. Soon he started abusing her mother and, before long, her and her two sisters. She'd endured it as best she could, sometimes stepping between her father and sisters. She never told anyone, though, for fear her dad would kill them all.
Then, instead of hitting her, he tried to touch her. Luckily her mom caught him and they'd fought. Theresa had listened to them all night. The yelling, the hitting. She'd made her decision then.
She put the finishing touches on her letter. She told her mom to try and get out as well and she told her sisters not to worry, that she'd come back for them when she got some money. Satisfied, she placed the letter in an envelope and placed it on the dresser. Taking her small bag of clothes, she quietly made her way out the door.
She didn't know where she'd go, only that it would be away from her old life. Thus, she began walking west, not caring where she'd end up. After three days, she reached the Interstate.
By now, she was terribly hungry and went searching for a place to eat. The highway stretched out for miles and she could see nothing but trees. Determined, she trudged on.
After an hour of walking, an eighteen-wheeler stopped. Cautious, Theresa walked up to the passenger side. The door opened and a man looked down at her.
"You know it's dangerous to be walking along the highway like that," he told her. "Where you headed anyway?"
"West," she told him. "Away from here."
"Well, why don't you hop in and I'll give you a ride up to the next diner."
She was reluctant to do so. She'd heard stories of truckers before. Stories of rape and murder. But he had said he would take her to a diner. Her stomach finally gave in to her mind and she got in.
The driver seemed nice, almost fatherly. Better than her own father, she noticed. At least he had a job.
"Don't you think your parents will be worrying about you?" he asked.
"What makes you think I'm running from my parents?"
"You travel long enough and you tend to notice these things," he told her. "So why you running? You seem like a normal girl to me."
"It's a long story. I'd rather not talk about it."
"Fair enough," he said. "By the way, my name's Digger. Don't ask."
"I'm Theresa," she told him.