Six Months Earlier
General Michael Holden sat anxiously on the couch in his living room, his eyes darting to the stairs at every little sound. Closing his eyes, he couldn't help but wonder if things would ever return to normal.
At the sound of the phone ringing, he looked quickly at his watch and cursed. He was not up to dealing with a problem on post now. Not with what was happening in his own home. Not at this hour.
However, he couldn't shirk his duty, especially not when he couldn't call on his XO to handle whatever the problem was.
Rising, he mentally cursed himself. Truth was he knew that Joan was more than capable of taking care of whatever crisis might have arisen, he was just in protective mode and didn't want the pregnant woman to have to get out of bed, even if he had called her husband in a panic to come to his house and take care of his own wife.
Picking up the phone he exhaled and tried to pull himself together: "General Holden," he said in a tone that would broach no arguments.
"Michael, its Denise. I just wanted to let you know that Emmilynn has finally fallen asleep," the other voice told him softly, the click of a door in the background letting him know that his wife's best friend had just checked on his daughter.
"Thank god someone has," he said tiredly.
"How is Claudia Joy?" Denise asked concern evident in her tone.
"Roland hasn't come down," he admitted as he crossed the room and sat back down on the couch. "I can only be thankful that he was willing to come so quickly, especially since he's no longer working for the infirmary."
Denise chuckled slightly at that: "once a doctor, always a doctor. Besides he's a friend first."
"Well, thank god for that. Claudia Joy was not going to let me take her over. . .God Denise, what the hell is happening to my family?"
Sitting down on her own couch, in her own hom,e the brunette let out a breath: "Michael, you've all been thrown a horrible ordeal. It's going to take time."
"Time," he spit out the word. "How much time? How long before my wife stops having nightmares that make no sense? Till she stops dreaming about people she doesn't even know? Calling out for them?"
"I can't answer that," Denise admitted as she curled her legs under her.
"I wish someone could," Michael remarked as he heard a door close upstairs. "Denise, I have to go. I think Roland's coming down now."
"OK, let me know if you need anything. If I can't do it Rox or Pam will."
"Thanks. I'll remember that," he said as he stood and turned to watch the black man walk down the stairs as he disconnected the call. "How is she?"
Roland stopped in front of Michael and looked at the man critically, trying to come up with the best way to tell his wife's boss and the husband of one of his best friends the conclusion he had come to. "Maybe we should sit down. . ."
"Roland, how. Is. My. Wife?" he spit out.
Inhaling as he looked slightly away, Roland Burton tried to remind himself that Michael was a man used to having his orders followed and not waiting for answers. Looking back at the General he answered with the easiest fact: "I gave her a mild sedative. She should be able to get some sleep tonight."
"What aren't you telling me?"
"You're sure you don't want to sit?"
"What I want is to get back to my wife. To tell her truthfully that everything will be ok when she's shaking with fear from yet another nightmare!" he answered in frustration.
"I don't know if you can do that," Roland admitted as he took a seat and looked up at Michael. "I can't say for sure what's happening to Claudia Joy, but I have some suspicions."
"Which are?" Michael asked worriedly.
"Her nightmares are a complication of separate memories. Two separate events. The only thing is. . . and this is the part that. . . that makes things more difficult. . . in the older memory she's not responding to the name Claudia Joy."
"I don't understand. Why wouldn't she respond to her own name?"
"Because in that memory she isn't Claudia Joy. Her name is Jenny," Roland answered as professionally as possible.
"That's. . . that's impossible."
"Michael, I don't think it is.
I mean, I have to check her records further. . . but. . . did you know that she had gaps in her memories from before the. . ."
"The bombing?" Michael finished for him as he slumped into a nearby chair. "Yeah. I knew. Claudia Joy was in a bad car accident before we met. She suffered a head injury," he clarified. "She lost all memories from before than. Her family filled them in for her. Showed her movies. . . pictures. . ." he shook his head. "They were so overprotective of her because of it. Its one of the reasons her father was so opposed to my marrying her," he added.
"Do you know if the pictures-- movies-- did they show just her or other people too?"
"They showed her with her family! Who else?"
Roland leaned back as he tried to take that in: "that makes it more difficult too, but there are people who look like other people out there. Even ones they aren't related to," he said, more to himself than the man across from him.
"What you're saying isn't possible! How the hell could she not be Claudia Joy? Her family would've known. . . noticed something was different about her!"
"Like those families whose daughters were switched after the car wreck a couple of years ago did?" Roland shot back.
"They figured it out."
"Yeah, because the surviving girl finally convinced the other one's parents that she was their daughter. Think about it, Michael, if Claudia Joy couldn't remember anything and they were that desperate to have their daughter be the one who survived. . ."
Michael deflated as he took in that information: "if their was any hope that Amanda survived. . . if she had been burned so bad. . . if it had been difficult to make the identification. . . if they came to me after I watched her. . . told me it had been a mistake. . . I think I would've clung to that hope. . . made myself believe it," he admitted as tears fell unheeded down his cheeks.
"We'll need to look into things. I'll combine the information I have and what Claudia Joy remembers from her dreams and do an internet search. . . but one thing that bothers me is that in her memory she's not hurt in a car accident."
"It's probably the reason it came back-- if it is a real memory."
"She remembers being on a jet ski as it exploded," Roland said with as little feeling as he could.
"Jesus. . ."
"Michael, we have to be very careful with her right now. Whether these are real memories or not, they are affecting her."
"Do you? Are you prepared for what we could be unleashing here?"
Michael rose tiredly and looked at the stairwell: "I'm not ready for anything.Nnot anymore. I just want her to get better. I want my wife back. . . my family back. . . I'll do whatever it takes to get that. To help her get better. Deal with whatever she has to."
Roland nodded as he rose: "I'll see what I can piece together. Tell Claudia Joy I'll be back tomorrow afternoon to talk to her some more."
"For what? This is what friends do," he said as he shook Michael's hand. "Go on up to her. I can show myself out."
"Is she even going to know I'm there?"
"On some level I'm sure she will. She said she feels safer when you're there," Roland admitted, wanting to give the man something to hold onto. "That she knows you'll do whatever you can to keep her safe."
"But it's never enough, is it?" Michael asked sadly, then brushed off any comment Roland might have had as he moved quietly towards the stairs, shoulders slumped under the weight he was carrying on them.
Silently, Roland crossed to the door and let himself out, closing the door behind him he tried to remind himself that there was only so much he could do to help piece together their lives.
Most of the work they would have to do on their own.
Pulling on his lightweight jacket, he tried to shake away the feeling that they might not be strong enough to get through this as a family. . .
Greg Nelson bounded over to where his wife lay at the feet of one of their best friends, his brother-in-laws close behind him. "Angie, how. . ." he started then stopped at the look his friend gave him.
On the other side of her, Jake Martin took position as a SWAT team started to enter the room. "Christ," he couldn't help but mutter as he shrugged out of his dinner jacket and used it to apply pressure to one of the wounds. "We need to get her to the hospital."
"I know that, Jake," Angie remarked. "The damage. . . and in her condition. . ." she said, not realizing her slip.
"What condition?" Greg demanded. "Angie was there something wrong with her before this happened? Is that why she took this chance?"
"Greg, I can't answer your questions and help her right now," Angie told him as her son came over to them.
"Mom, let me take over," Frankie said softly.
"No, Frankie. . ." she started to protest.
"This way you can answer their questions. Dad will have people in here soon. He'll want to know you're safe. He's going to take this hard and need you. You can help when you get to the hospital," he replied rationally.
Shaking her head, she ascended and allowed a concerned Adrian to help her to her feet. "Angie, answer me. Was Jenny sick before this?" Greg demanded.
"No, Greg. She wasn't. . . sick," Angie hedged.
"Thank god. . . I mean, this is bad enough without complications," Tad remarked.
"Did she say anything?" Greg asked. "I mean. . . did she. . . I should've stayed put. . . I could've reached her. . . let her know that she'd be ok. That I wouldn't leave her. That someone wouldn't make her disappear this time."
"Greg. . . don't," Angie sighed.
"She did say something," Tad prodded.
"Was she afraid?" Greg asked softly.
"It. . . it didn't really make any sense," Angie confessed as the four of them were moved out of the way by arriving paramedics.
"What? What did she say?" Greg pushed, a tremor in his voice. "Please, Angie. I have to know."
"She asked me to tell someone named Michael that she was sorry," Angie admitted.
"We don't know any Michaels," Greg cried.
"I know that. . . Greg, she was in a lot of pain. . . she probably didn't even know what she was saying," she tried to reassure as she put a hand on his arm.
But Tad didn't miss the look in her eyes. Even more than that he didn't miss the way his younger half brother had tensed and took a step back. What really got him thinking there was something going on was when the man started to walk away.
Sparing his best friend's wife and brother-in-law a concerned look, Tad moved to follow his brother to a quiet corner, frowning when the black man took out his cell phone: "now I know you're not callous enough to call Mama and tell her this over the phone, so what are you up to?"
Adrian glared at Tad: "Let it go Tad."
"You're calling this Michael fellow, aren't you? Is he how you found Jenny? Is he the one who kept her from us all this time?" the older man demanded.
"No. I'm not calling Michael," Adrian told him. "And how many times do you have to be told that the father of the woman Jenny thought she was arranged the switch? He was a powerful judge and didn't want to loose his daughter so he replaced her. You know that. We've told you that time and time again."
"Yeah, well, there are a lot of things she hasn't told us. Like about this Michael. And you, little brother, know who he is."
"Yeah. I do. And I don't think he deserves to hear about this on the news. Him or any of the friends that she left behind."
Tad scoffed at that: "she left them for a reason. Came back here. No one forced her to. Why should any of us care what they think? How they found out? They didn't care about what happened to us all these years!"
"These people didn't know. When Jenny needed help putting the pieces together they helped her do it. If it weren't for them and their support she wouldn't be here."
"You're not calling them," Tad said grabbing for the phone.
Adrian quickly blocked him, almost pushing him to the floor. "You are not telling me what to do when it comes to this, Thaddeus."
"You don't know Jenny. Not the way I do. You don't have that kind of say. She doesn't want them in her life right now," he argued as he righted himself, ready to fight.
"Then why were her words about Michael, Tad?" Adrian asked. "The words that might be her last weren't about you. Greg. Angie. Opal. They were about him. The life she left behind."
Tad glared at his brother: "they will not be her last words."
"I hope not. I pray not. But I'm going to honor her request. I'm going to call a mutual friend. The guy who put her in touch with me to begin with him and ask him to relay the message, because right now I have the feeling she is going to need all the support and all the love she can get.
You, big brother, are just going to have deal with the fact that you're not in control and that the picture perfect family that you and Greg want to create for her doesn't exist.
Not anymore," Adrian retorted as he pushed past Tad, who for once, was at a loss for words.