So, here we go... last chapter! Thanks to those that have taken the time to leave comments, I do love knowing what you enjoy - it feeds the muse!
Matt's in a coma and hours from death... can the ARC team save his life?
The mood was sombre as the last of the equipment was packed away and they began to get into the vehicles ready for the short drive back to the ARC. No-one spoke, each lost in their own thoughts. Could they have saved Matt's life if they'd done more or acted quicker? Abby could already see Becker blaming himself because that's just what Becker did. He carried the weight of Sarah's death around his neck the whole time, and now he would be adding Matt's to it. There would be little anyone could say to him that would change that, not even the video message that would still be sitting in his email inbox.
"I should stay and make sure the area is clear," Abby said.
"I'll help," Connor said.
"Matt's dying! You may not get a chance to say your goodbyes if you don't go now."
"We'll both do what we have to do here. It'll be done quicker with the two of us and then we'll both get back to the ARC in time to …" Connor stopped. He couldn't bring himself to say it. This wasn't happening.
Abby nodded for Becker to leave them, and told him to tell Matt to hang in there. Becker acknowledged the request silently and then left with the rest of the team with a screech of tires. After they'd gone, Connor began to pace around by the anomaly site, looking for signs of any creatures that had been missed. He couldn't make eye contact with Abby, knowing he'd see the pain in her eyes and that it would tear him apart too. If only they had more time. He was certain he was right about what was happening to Matt, and Matt had been too. They were so close to a solution; Matt's grandmother was already at the ARC and probably tending to him, his grandfather was probably only a computer click away and yet that was too far without more time. Then, even if they did locate Samuel Anderson and get him to the ARC to meet Marie, there was still the problem of the grandparents on his mother's side of the family.
Abby was also avoiding Connor's gaze. She was talking to the two soldiers that Becker had stationed at the locking device and ensuring they knew how to operate it and what to do if it failed. She needed these few minutes to prepare herself for what she was going to find when she got back to the ARC. She wished she'd listened to Connor on that first night instead of just dismissing his thoughts and concentrating on the conventional theory that medicine would help Matt.
She approached the anomaly and noticed some pieces of shrubbery scattered on the ground. She knelt down to examine them and realised they must have been dragged through by the creatures as they didn't match anything else growing in the surrounding area. Instinctively, she plucked off a few pieces to put away in her bag, thinking about the joint project proposal she and Matt had put together that hadn't been presented yet and probably wouldn't ever see the light of day now.
After asking the soldiers to unlock the anomaly, she and Connor pushed the remaining greenery back through and then locked the anomaly again. She then took Connor's hand and finally made eye contact with him.
"I think we're done here," she said softly. "We need to go. At least we have the chance to say goodbye to Matt, we didn't with the others. Maybe it will help make it a bit easier?"
As they turned to get into Connor's car, there was a loud crack and a yell of pain. Abby's hand went straight to her pocket to reach for her EMD, but then she remembered Becker had taken them all back with him. Connor puffed out his chest and moved forward, motioning for Abby to stay behind him as he crept towards where the sound had come from. Tumbling out of the bushes was a man, cursing himself and trying to detangle from the thorns and vines.
"Who the hell are you?" Connor demanded to know. "How long have you been spying on us?"
The man sat up the best he could and raised both his hands in the air. "I'm sorry. I've been watching those things ever since that day when the dinosaurs all came through." Connor and Abby exchanged looks of horror. So much for the tight security Becker's men were supposed to have set up. "It's not what you think. Those creatures scare me and I wouldn't want to be anywhere near them if it wasn't for my research."
"Research?" Connor exploded and tried to haul the man to his feet. His mind was spinning with visions of New Dawn all over again and the thought terrified him.
"Connor, let the man speak." Abby intervened, trying to calm Connor down. He released the man reluctantly and waited for him to speak. When they got a better look at him, he seemed oddly familiar. It could be a slightly older, unkempt version of Matt standing there.
"My name's Sam Anderson. I work for the Hancock Foundation, doing research into rare and endangered plants. When I saw those … things… a few months ago, I wondered if there would be some way of bringing back plant life from prehistoric eras to help save the species that are dying out."
Abby felt her heart leap. There was still hope. It was one hell of a long shot and a huge risk – taking a civilian into the ARC was unheard of until recently, yet they'd allowed Dr Leaver in because of her connection to Matt. She looked at Connor, he was thinking the same as her.
"Sam. We do research too. I think you might be interested in what we do." Abby said, flashing him her government ID badge. "Do you have a couple of hours? We can take you there now."
Sam nodded enthusiastically and moments later was getting into the back of Connor's car.
Emily was sat on the edge of Matt's bed, his hand held between both of hers and pressed against her lips. She was making no effort to hide her tears from the rest of the gathered team. Jess had a comforting arm around Emily's shoulders, trying her best to keep her composure but failing, whilst Becker stood behind the both of them. He was holding it together, but only just.
Lester was keeping a respectful distance in the corner of the room and doing his best to maintain a professional composure. He had witnessed the team all rallying together before, and sometimes he envied them. Other times he simply looked on like a proud, or occasionally disapproving, father. Losing another member of the team just when things seemed to finally be going smoothly was going to be a devastating blow to everyone. Somehow he would have to remain distant in order to keep them from completely falling apart.
Tom Reardon turned to Marie and asked if there was anything else they could do. She shook her head. "Maybe it's just best to let him spend his remaining moments with his friends." Tom nodded, and after doing one final check on the IV line that was attached to Matt's wrist he moved away. Marie turned to follow him, again lamenting the fact that another perfectly healthy man under her care was about to die.
"Are we too late?" Connor burst in through the door, holding Abby's hand and practically dragging her into the room.
"No," Lester said simply.
Connor and Abby ran to Matt's side, Connor pushing Abby forward and circling his arm around her waist. They forgot for a moment that they had someone else with them, and Sam hovered in the doorway, not sure what he should do. He cleared his throat and Connor glanced back. "Tom, this is Sam. We met him out at the anomaly just now. I'll explain all later, but can you take him and Marie up to mine and Abby's office and make them some coffee?"
Tom smiled and nodded, ushering the two guests out of the room. Connor glanced at Matt, hoping that the fact that two of his grandparents had just met was enough to save him. It wasn't. If anything, the heart monitor seemed to be beeping less frequently. Matt was slipping away.
Emily let out an anguished sob that cut through everyone's hearts. Even Becker was no longer able to contain his emotions and a tear began to fall down his cheek. Abby couldn't look at Matt, it was too much for her, so she turned to Connor and buried her face against his chest, soaking his t-shirt with her tears. Connor stroked her back and folded his arms around her, feeling her grief overwhelm her. He would stay strong for once, take care of Abby and hold her as long as she needed him to. He would take her home and hold her through the night and do what he could to ease the pain.
"Matt?" Emily's voice sounded strange. She leaned forward and everyone looked up. Matt's eyes were open and he was looking around the room, trying to focus. "Matt?... someone call Dr Reardon!"
Lester disappeared as Matt moved his head and the trace of a smile spread across his face. The heart monitor beeped with a strong steady pulse and the room was filled with a new hope.
Tom was at the bedside almost immediately and everyone moved aside to allow him to examine Matt. He shone a light in his eyes and Matt squinted, trying to turn his face away. "Sorry," Tom smiled. "How are you feeling?"
"Weird," Matt replied.
Emily kissed Matt's cheek and wiped her tears from her face. "We thought we'd lost you!"
"Don't get rid of me that easily," Matt breathed, swallowing and trying to lick his dry, cracked lips. Emily fell onto his chest, wanting to hug him and whispering that it was a miracle. Tom allowed her to remain for a moment, then said that he needed to do more checks to make sure Matt was OK. She nodded and moved away, smiling at the doctor and then at the gathered friends.
They waited as Tom took Matt's temperature and checked the readings on the heart monitor. When he said that there was no sign of fever, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. It seemed Matt was out of danger, at least for the time being. Each wished Matt well and then left to go about their usual business, wondering what had suddenly brought Matt back from the brink of death. Perhaps it was the cocktail of drugs that Tom had been administering or maybe just the sheer strength of the love everyone had for Matt that he'd clung on to and used to drag himself back. They'd never really know for certain, but it didn't matter now if he was getting better.
Abby and Connor left the ARC in silence, holding hands. Was is a pure coincidence that Matt suddenly recovered only minutes after they'd introduced Samuel and Marie to each other, or had Connor been right from the start? It seemed that Amy's parents must already be together somewhere, and sometime in the next 30 years their daughter would meet Samuel and Marie's son. It would be nice to see how that panned out, just out of a romantic curiosity more than anything.
The important thing was, Matt was getting better and he wasn't about to be wiped from existence.
(two months later)
Matt hesitated for a moment at the door, knowing that there would likely be chaos on the other side. He couldn't put this off though, he at least owed her this after everything she and Connor had done to save his life. He wouldn't be standing here now if it wasn't for their efforts and they at least deserved a little pay back. He knew just how lucky he'd been. There'd been two further deaths that they were aware of, bringing the total to nine. They never knew what happened to the other ten, but chances were they'd either already died or they were also like Matt and their grandparents and parents were together in this new world.
It had only taken him three days to get back up to full strength. His miraculous recovery was as much a mystery to the doctors as the illness itself had been, but when Abby introduced him to the new lab assistant she'd taken on to help with the joint menagerie and botanical research it all fell into place. It didn't take a genius to work out who Sam Anderson was; the guy had several mannerisms that Gideon had had. Matt had so many questions, but held back from asking them. Sam shouldn't know too much about his future, and it would probably send him running for the hills if anyone suggested that the doctor he'd just started dating was the mother of his children. Better to leave those kind of things to fate.
What had intrigued him though was his mother's parents. Abby and Connor had told him that they hadn't had time to even start looking for their details, and when Matt had recovered there seemed no point. Matt was curious to know who they were though and decided he'd look for them. Maybe he'd even go and visit, just once. Everyone should know something about their heritage. He'd expected it to be a long search and had prepared to put in many hours. He'd even thought about asking Connor or Jess for help with browsing the birth and marriage registers since he didn't have a clue where to start, but in the end, the search was over as soon as it had begun. That was why he was now stood on Abby's doorstep.
Jess answered the door. She was dressed in her red wine coloured bridesmaid dress but shoeless. "Matt? What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at the church doing whatever it is that ushers do?"
"I have plenty of time, Jess. I just wanted to have a word with Abby before the whirlwind of the day carries her off. Can I come in?"
"Of course. I'll call her, she's just having her veil fixed into her hair." Jess motioned for Matt to come in and he stood waiting nervously in the hallway. Moments later, Abby appeared. He gasped. She looked amazing! Head to toe in ivory silk, she seemed to shimmer as she moved. Her face was glowing and he didn't think he'd ever seen anyone look happier.
"I'm sorry to call around only hours before your wedding, but this couldn't wait. I need you to be able to take this in whilst your mind is still relatively clear." He pulled out a small box and felt his cheeks burn. "Is there somewhere private that we can talk?"
Abby led him through to Connor's study, the only room in the flat that wasn't filled with something to do with the wedding. "This sounds serious. Is everything OK?"
"Oh, everything is fine," Matt smiled. "This is for you and Connor." He handed her the box and he watched nervously as she opened it. She pulled out the contents; a gold wedding band on a leather cord. It was incredibly familiar.
"Is this Connor's? How did you…" Abby was confused. It couldn't be Connor's. They'd had it altered to fit her, and right now it should be in Becker's possession ready to be handed to the vicar at the appropriate point in the service.
"It was amongst my father's possessions," Matt began. "It belonged to my mother, Amy." He reached into the pocket of his suit jacket and found two pieces of paper which he handed to Abby. "I'd been within a whisker of dying and suddenly had a second chance at life. I decided to find out where I'd come from and who my mother was since she died when I was only a small child. I printed these out from the files my father had on his personal computer chip."
Abby unfolded the first piece of paper. It was a copy of a marriage certificate. As she read it, she gasped and then looked at Matt. "Is this real?" she said quietly.
Matt nodded. "My mother was called Amelia Temple." They exchanged looks as Abby began to realise the implications of what Matt was telling her. It was crazy and yet… This explained why Matt had recovered after only putting Gideon's parents together; Amy's parents were already a couple.
"You should look at the other piece of paper too," Matt said. He watched as she unfolded it. "Amelia's parents, Connor James Temple and Abigail Sarah Temple… just in case there was any doubt." Matt laughed, then waited as the final piece of the tale clicked into place.
"Amelia's birth date… it's only seven months away!"
"Yeah. Which means you're already pregnant. Congratulations!"
Abby blinked at the certificate, almost disbelieving what she was seeing. She did suspect that she could be pregnant, but the last few weeks had been so hectic with getting the project up and running and wedding preparations she'd pushed the thought to one side and decided to leave seeing Tom about it until after the wedding. She pressed the ring back into Matt's hand and folded his fingers around it. "It's yours," she said. "We must have given it to Amy, and now it belongs to you."
Matt pulled the cord over his head and let the ring hang down his neck, hidden behind his shirt. He'd always longed for something that he could connect to the mother he'd never known, and now he not only had something that belonged to her, he had discovered family. It was an odd feeling, knowing that the woman in front of him was his own flesh and blood and that his mother was alive and he'd be able to get to know her.
He heard Jess calling from the next room and he realised he had already taken too much of Abby's time. In less than three hours she would be Mrs Temple, and he had to leave her to get ready for the biggest day of her life. He muttered a hurried goodbye and left, but before he'd got to the gate at the bottom of the path, Abby was calling him back.
"Come and give your Gran a hug on her wedding day!" she laughed. It sounded so ridiculous but he couldn't help smiling back. He practically ran back up the path and folded his arms around Abby. It didn't feel ridiculous at all.
Today, a new chapter was beginning, and for once it was for happy reasons.