The hallway was empty as Jarod slowly steered the chair along it, headed
for the last door before the turn that would lead to the elevator. It
was closed, and he reluctantly reached up to open it, a moment of hesitation
passing before he finally pushed it open and guided the chair inside,
turning on the light as he passed the switch.
It was almost totally empty. The bed had been stripped, the covers piled
at the foot and pillow at the head, both smooth and ready for a new occupant.
The screen along one wall was black and seemed to absorb the light from
the room. The lamp beside the bed, and that on the desk, were off, only
the overhead light allowing him to see the space. His eyes slowly traveled
the length of it, halting briefly at the open door leading to the bathroom.
This wasn't an apartment, like his own, because they had all been full
when Faith had arrived at the Centre. Now, of course, he thought bitterly,
there were many standing empty, their occupants having lost their lives
during or after the battle, as Faith had.
Awkwardly managing to close the door behind himself, Jarod felt agony
twist in his chest. It was a devastatingly familiar sensation, and he
hated that fact. His life seemed made up of so much loss that he had to
wonder how even Faith been able to keep his spirit alive. Surely, it would
have been easier to let go. But there were his sons, his family, who would
have found his death so hard to cope with. The loss of Jacob had been
a bitter blow, but his own death might have torn the group apart, just
at a time when they would have needed each other most.
A box stood in the corner, containing the few possessions to which Faith
had laid claim. On top of it lay a gold rectangle, which reflected the
light from the ceiling and into his eyes. Going over, he picked up the
plaque, seeing the name engraved in it and running his fingers over the
five letters. It had been made before Faith's identity and family had
been established, and there hadn't been time to change it. Jarod had sent
the envelope containing the photos and letters to Morgan, along with the
other personal possessions that had been in Faith's trailer. They belonged
rightly to Faith's family and not to him. Beside, he didn't want them.
Thoughts of Faith were hard enough to deal with, as it was.
Suddenly, a painfully vivid memory of her flashed into his mind, and
Jarod could see her, as if she was standing in front of him, her blond
hair hanging down her back, blue eyes shining happily, as they had been
in his dream. A lump formed in his throat, but it dissolved quickly into
hot tears that slid down his face, and Jarod placed his arms on the box,
put his face down on them and allowed himself to weep, bitterly and unrestrainedly.
Faith was dead because she had, as she always did, put his needs before
her own. He had made the mistake of allowing Lyle to pull the trigger,
his instinct for self-preservation taking over, failing to remember that
his armor would have protected him from the knife that madman had wielded.
If only he had remembered, Lyle would never have had the chance to shoot
him, Faith would still be alive -- and he wouldn't feel the guilt settling
on his chest, as it was now, weighing him down. He might, even now, have
been planning a future with the woman who had always been there for him,
instead of having to mourn her. The regrets piled up, and he moaned aloud
as he rested his head in his hands and leaned his elbows on the box, seeing
that his tears had blistered the thick cardboard.
A steady stream of warm tears dripped from between his fingers, falling
onto his lap and soaking through his black jeans. It was then, and for
the first time, that he noticed a hand gently stroking his hair and looked
up sharply into a familiar pair of brown eyes.
"Mom," he whispered hoarsely, and she bent down to lightly
kiss his forehead.
"It's all right, my baby," Margaret assured him softly, pulling
up the chair from the workstation and sitting on it, easing him into her
arms. "Go ahead and grieve. It's important for you to mourn. She
meant so much to you; I know that. I could see it."
He rested his head against her shoulder, feeling her arms around him
and not trying to stop the tears flowing down his cheeks. He had already
known what she had told him, but it was important for him to have it corroborated
by someone else. Jarod's arms worked their way around his mother's back
and he clung to her, knowing that, because of Faith, she would now be
able to be there for him, whenever he needed her.
Gratitude for everything Faith had ever done for him swelled in his chest,
and it was, somewhat inextricably, even able to ease some of the pain
in his heart for her loss. He had understood that side of her -- that
it was important to her, as it was to him, to help people, except that
her focus was always on him, whereas his was on the world around him.
He felt guilty for the debt he owed, but knew that it had always been
her choice, and Jarod hoped that his love, even for such a short time,
had been able to give her something meaningful and worthwhile in return.
Not that he would ever stop loving her, but he had a suspicion it would
eventually become a love borne of gratitude, rather than the love that
had, for such a short time, been so overwhelming and powerful, which would
eventually triumph. His knowledge of human nature told him that such powerful
emotions couldn't last forever. In a way, that was comforting. It meant
that his grief, also, would, one day, lessen.
"Mom," he looked up again, his voice raspy with tears, "how
did you know?"
She smiled, smoothing his hair and kissing his cheek, before reaching
down to trace something on his t-shirt, and Jarod recognized it as a heart.
He reached up and pressed her hand flat against his chest, stroking the
back of it with the tips of his fingers.
"Mothers always know when their children need them, baby,"
she assured him lovingly.
He smiled through his tears, reaching up to pull her closer to him, hearing
her heart beating in his ear as he rested his head against her chest.
Her arms were warm around him, one hand gently stroking his hair and smoothing
over his back. The other was wrapped around him, warm and comforting,
and he closed his eyes, letting tears ease out from beneath his lids to
slip down his cheeks. He could grieve properly this time, with people
around to keep him from going too far, to stop him from letting his guilt
and emotion take too much of a toll, as had happened after Zoe's death,
and that was something else for which he could be grateful.
"Daddy?" a little voice suddenly asked, and Jarod and his mother
looked around to find Gabriel in the doorway, wearing his pajamas, bunny
slippers and white bathrobe, the sash messily tangled around his waist,
his brown hair standing on end.
"You should be having a nap," Margaret scolded lightly, getting
up and going over to pick up the boy, carrying him back to where Jarod
was sitting. The man took his son, and Gabriel snuggled in under the blanket
over Jarod's legs, looking up at his father out of anxious eyes.
"Daddy sad," he protested, his bottom lip quivering. "Daddy
miss Auntie Fay."
"Yes, honey," the man agreed, his voice trembling, feeling
his mother's arm around his shoulders again. "I do."
He wrapped his arms around the warm body on his lap, knowing this was
what Faith would have used to make him fight to continue living -- the
knowledge that both his sons still needed him, and would continue to need
him for as long as he lived.
"I glad you's here, Daddy," Gabriel sighed against his father's
chest. "I an' Jo-den."
"I'm glad I'm here, too, sweetie," Jarod admitted, and knew
this was true. Faith's loss was hard to cope with, but he couldn't bear
to think of leaving his sons alone. He had missed so much of their lives
already -- it was unthinkable that he might have missed the rest. Jarod
vowed to remember this feeling, knowing it would help him through some
of the hardest times still to come.
* * * * * * * * *
Fort Worth International Airport
The jet pulled to a stop and the door opened, letting in a gust of hot,
diesel-scented air. Alastair offered Julia his arm for support, and, as
two men in black outfits with flame logos on their shirts appeared in
the doorway to collect their bags, the two psychics made their way off
the jet. Julia gasped as the early fall heat hit them, tightening her
hold on the man's arm, the weather in Berlin having failed to prepare
her for such extreme temperatures.
A large black car stood nearby, a blond woman struggling to control a
little boy, who was jumping up and down with excitement, and at the sight
of whom Julia's eyes filled with tears. The moment her feet were on the
ground, Peter broke from Rebecca's hold and threw himself at his mother.
"Mommy!" he yelped, grabbing her so tightly around the legs
that, except for the arm Alastair put around her back, she would have
fallen. She bent down to pick him up, sobbing with the sheer relief of
holding him again. He clutched her around the neck, breathing warmly into
her face and planting kisses on her cheeks and forehead. "Mommy never
go 'way 'gain," he ordered.
"Never again, my baby," she vowed breathlessly, feeling pain
tug at her side, where the broken ribs were still repairing themselves.
"Never ever again."
Alastair's hand on her shoulder helped her straighten up and then gently
propelled her over to where the blond woman was waiting.
"Julia, this is Rebecca," he stated. "Sweetheart, this
Julia felt the woman's lips gently brush her cheek as warm arms embraced
her. "I'm delighted to meet you at last," Rebecca greeted her.
"Alastair's told me so much about you, and the children have been
longing for your arrival."
Feeling herself tremble, Julia could only just manage an almost inaudible
'hello.' Alastair seemed to realize her feelings, because he steered the
group to the car, settling Julia in the seat facing the front, with Peter
on her lap, and sitting opposite, Rebecca beside him, his arm draped loosely
around her shoulders.
"Is everything ready at Sanctuary?"
"Down to the most minute detail," Rebecca laughed. "And
we've had a heck of a time with Uriel and Raphael this morning."
Her blue eyes danced. "I understand their caregivers are planning
to go on strike if they don't calm down."
Alastair's hearty laughter rang through the vehicle. "I wish I'd
seen it," he remarked fervently.
Julia felt pressure against her stomach and looked down to find that
her son's ear was pressed to her bulge.
"What are you doing, baby?" she asked curiously, in a soft
"I want to hear her talk," he explained, looking up and beaming.
"'Cos I know what she looks like, but I hasn't heard her voice yet."
"What does she look like?" his mother queried. "Tell me."
"She's pretty," he told her. "Like you, Mommy."
The woman blinked the tears out of her eyes as she gently pulled her
son close, almost unable to believe that she was finally back with him.
Her thoughts dwelled briefly on her other son, who was waiting for her
at the place she had viewed so often in her mind but never expected to
"Uriel was going to come," Rebecca explained, as if she had
read Julia's thoughts. "But we didn't want you to be too overwhelmed.
When we arrive, the children will be having their naps, so you can have
some time to recover from the flight before you meet them."
Forcing herself to smile, Julia nodded slightly and murmured her thanks.
She was tired -- more tired than she could ever remember being in her
life before. All the new experiences, when added to her continued weakness
as a result of her injuries and long period of fasting, had overwhelmed
her. Peter scrambled up into her arms and rested his head against her
shoulder, looking out of the window and pointing out interesting features
of the landscape as she leaned her head against the headrest, gently stroking
her swollen belly.
* * * * * * * * *
Plane over Australia
Lauren heard the sound of muffled sobbing beside her and opened her eyes,
looking over to see Jordan with his face buried in one of the pillows
that had been provided. Reaching across, she placed a hand on his shoulder,
feeling him tense immediately as she began to smooth his ruffled hair.
"It's okay, Jordan," she murmured into his ear. "You're
allowed to be upset."
He looked up at her out of red-rimmed eyes, unable to prevent a sniff
that's what Dad said, too," he admitted.
Extracting a clean tissue from her pocket, Lauren gently pushed it into
his hand before raising the armrest between them, sliding her arm around
his shoulders and drawing him slightly towards her.
"Did anyone ever tell you that I had a sister?" she asked,
unsurprised when the young man shook his head. "Susie and I were
twins. She was born 20 minutes after me. When we were twelve, she drowned
in the pool in the back garden of our old house in the city."
did it hurt?" Jordan asked slowly.
"It still does," she confessed, gently stroking Jordan's hair.
"I loved my sister like crazy. We were identical twins, and knew
everything there was to know about each other. When she died, I went through
'survivor's guilt' because I was away from home on a school camp when
she died and I had a premonition that it was happening. I just couldn't
get to a phone quickly enough." Her arm tightened slightly around
Jordan's shoulders. "Maybe it's not quite the same as the way you
feel about Jacob, but I do understand what you're going through, and if
you ever want to talk, I'm always an available pair of ears."
"Thanks." Jordan leaned his head against her shoulder, swallowing
the lump in his throat as he looked out through the small window to see
lights flashing below them and stars glowing brightly in the sky while
Rachael gurgled cheerfully in her seat in front of them.
* * * * * * * * *
When Julia entered the building, her son clinging to one hand and Alastair
supporting the other, she saw a man standing in the foyer, his teeth shining
white in his dark face as he hurried over.
<"Julia,"> he greeted her, with a kiss on her
cheek, stumbling a little over his German. <"It's lovely to
see you again.">
"Trevor," she murmured quietly, remembering when the tall man
had come to Germany to discuss the possibility of buying into some of
Die Fakultät's concerns. In 25 years of work, he was one of only
a few people who had recognized her as a person, treating her accordingly,
even seeming to have sympathy for her. "It's good to see you, too."
He gently tucked her hand around his arm, guiding her over to the elevator,
after putting Peter on his shoulders. This seemed to be a familiar game,
because the boy pretended to use the man's hair to steer, giggling and
expertly ducking under doorframes. The sounds brought a faint smile to
Julia's face, making her think sadly, at the same time, that she had never
heard her son laugh in his life before.
"Let's go up to your room," he suggested gently. "My wife's
there, waiting for you. She's a nurse, and she's going to be in charge
of you for a few days, until you've recovered a little."
"For month now, yes." He smiled proudly, flashing his wedding
ring, before reverting to his former topic. "She and Rebecca will
look after you until you're back to your usual strength, and," Trevor
added, with a grin, "you've had a chance to get over that shyness."
He winked. "It's certainly very different from the Julia I remember.
Quiet, maybe, but not shy."
"That was a long time ago," she reminded him softly, as the
elevator descended. "I knew what I had to do then."
"You'll learn what to do out here, in this big world, too,"
he assured her, sliding an arm around her shoulders and squeezing gently.
"Not everyone could have done what you did for so long, and if you
learned how to keep alive in that place then the world should present
you with no problems at all."
Trevor guided her into a room, the size of which almost took her breath
away. After her little cell at Die Fakultät, this seemed to go on
forever. A bed was tucked away in one corner, so invitingly turned back
that it made her ache with tiredness just to look at it. A screen ran
the length of one wall, the picture showing a beach scene, with blue sky,
where the waves lapped gently up on the sand. A large wardrobe stood opposite,
and Julia wondered vaguely what was in it, as it was too big to hold her
clothes. An oversized armchair stood in another corner, in which a dark-haired
woman was sitting, her brown eyes dancing with suppressed laughter. When
the trio appeared, she rose to her feet and came over.
"So this is Julia," she greeted the woman. "The one we've
heard about for weeks! It's wonderful to have the chance to finally meet
you." She slid a supportive arm around Julia's waist, her voice gentle.
"My name's Elizabeth. We're delighted you've come."
Julia heard the accent but was too tired to work out where it came from.
Elizabeth nodded at her husband, who quietly left the room, silencing
Peter's protest and taking the boy with him.
"Let's get you out of these clothes and into something more comfortable,"
she directed, guiding the exhausted woman over to the bed and seating
her on it. Going over to the wardrobe, she took out a long nightgown and
returned to the bedside, gently helping Julia with her clothes and sliding
on the garment.
see to my son," Julia murmured in mild protest,
starting to rise, feeling the world spin as she did so, but the nurse
shook her head, supporting her back onto the bed.
"For now, you have to get strong for your daughter. We'll take care
of your other children, and you can see them either later today or tomorrow."
She released the tight band with which Julia's hair was tied up on top
of her head, taking up a soft brush that lay on the bedside table and
beginning to brush it smooth. Julia looked up in mute protest, and Elizabeth
placed a hand on her shoulder, both as a comfort and a gentle restraint.
"We're going to take care of you," she promised, "just
as we've taken care of your children since they were freed. You'll have
to learn to trust the rest of us, like you trust Alastair."
Elizabeth gently did up the ribbon at the neckline of the soft nightgown,
tucking a stray strand of hair in behind the psychic's ear.
"Now, you're going to have a good sleep, and when you wake up, you
can have something to eat and then see your children. All right?"
Nodding wearily, too exhausted to argue, Julia waited until the bed had
been turned back further and felt Elizabeth's arms supporting her as she
stretched out on it. A gentle hand stroked her hair and she sighed at
the softness of her pillow as her head touched it, feeling the warm blankets
tucked closely around her. The lights gradually dimmed until the objects
in the room faded away into the blackness and she let herself relax with
another quiet sigh.
* * * * * * * * *
Alexander's eyes had been wide from the moment they had left the Centre,
and, although Jarod, exhausted by so much travel, having flown up to Blue
Cove only that morning, had slept, Sydney had spent the flight watching
the young man and chuckling inwardly at the variety of expressions on
his face and his constant barrage of questions.
The car in which they were traveling pulled up in front of the large
building, and, as the other two occupants got out, a group of men approached
the vehicle with a wheelchair. Rebuffing their aid, Jarod got into it
himself, and Sydney hid a grin at the resignation on their faces, having
obviously been in the situation more than once in recent times.
"Where are we?" a voice hissed in his ear, and Sydney turned
with a smile.
"This is Sanctuary, Alexander," he responded calmly. "This
is the place Jarod told you about two days ago. We would have brought
you here sooner, but Jarod was seeing his son and friends of his family
off, so we waited until today."
it's big," the young Pretender offered hesitantly.
"Yes, it is," Jarod agreed, coming up to them and obviously
overhearing this. "But I think you'll be happy here. There are other
people of your age for you to get to know, and a special surprise for
Alexander's brow furrowed at the oblique reference, but he meekly followed
the other men into the building, watching, from a short distance, as Jarod
greeted the woman sitting at a desk in the middle of a huge area. He turned
with a booklet on his lap and came back to where Sydney and Alexander
"Your room's ready and waiting." He waved at the elevator.
"Shall we go?"
There was silence in the car as it ascended, and Jarod checked a detail
on the booklet before he turned the chair to the right as they exited
the elevator, eventually stopping outside a particular room and opening
"This is yours, Alexander," he announced, leading the way inside,
the chair making it difficult for him to move back so that the young man
could enter first.
The room contained a large bed and a workspace, as well as bookshelves
and the screen that all rooms at Sanctuary had. Jarod rolled the chair
over to the corner in which the workspace stood, turning to watch Alexander
look around the room. The young man closely examined every object in it,
studying the screen longest, his eyes widening as he watched cars driving
along the Dallas streets. Hesitantly, he entered the bathroom through
the partly open door.
Sydney came over to where Jarod was sitting and glanced at the booklet.
"A welcome basket," the Pretender laughed, opening it. "Details
of all the different rooms here, as well as floor plans, and a map of
Dallas, in case he wants to go out. Also a list of phone numbers, if he
"He'll never dare to use the phone," the psychiatrist affirmed.
Jarod's jaw set, revealing his determination. "That's what he's
here to learn -- that he can do what he wants." He saw the young
man exit the bathroom and smiled. "You remember that surprise I mentioned?"
Alexander nodded eagerly, and Jarod waved at a door on the far side of
"Take a look in there."
Curious, Sydney followed him across the room, looking over his shoulder
as Alexander opened the door and hearing the gasp of amazement that escaped
the young man as he looked inside.
The room was a laboratory, complete with shiny new equipment and jars
of various chemicals, labels sporting the chemical symbols. It took a
moment before Alexander seemed able to move, and then he slowly turned,
his eyes glassy with excitement, but also hesitant.
who is this for?"
"It's for you, Alexander," Jarod told him warmly. "All
for you. This is where you can do your own experiments. It's possible
that other people might want you to work with them in the general labs,
but when you want to do things on your own, this is where you can do them.
If you need anything else, you can ask and someone will bring them for
you." He suddenly chuckled. "All we ask is that you don't blow
the place up." Waving at the door, Jarod led the way towards it.
"Now, let's go and see the man who gave you all this, okay?"
Sydney saw Alexander hesitate immediately, his eyes widening with fear,
this time, not curiosity.
I'd rather not," he murmured, taking a half-step away.
"Maybe you wouldn't," Jarod stated bracingly. "But it's
good manners to thank people when they give you presents." He waited
for a second. "Come on, Alexander. Sebastian's waiting."
Automatically obeying, Alexander walked to the door, casting a pleading
glance over his shoulder at the older man but still going out of the room.
Smiling faintly, Sydney cast another look around the laboratory before
closing the door and leaving the room, heading down the hall to Jarod's
own room to await the return of his former student there.
* * * * * * * * *
Auckland, New Zealand
Lucian had never actually been to this particular office, but he had
been in constant contact with the staff for years, ever since taking over
from his father. They weren't involved in the same sort of study that
branches like the Centre and Die Fakultät did, but they had a substantial
work force he could manipulate, and that was the reason for his visit.
Vials of Aurora and Supernova nestled in his jacket pocket, along with
syringes, as he went up the few steps of the unimpressive building.
After flashing his real identity card, which provoked no reaction from
the secretary, he was shown to a seat as the woman entered the office
of the Director to announce the visitor. A moment later, she came out,
and, saying that her boss would be ready in a moment, gathered papers
from one of the drawers in her desk, leaving the office.
Gradually, things became more silent, and Lucian began to relax as he
looked around the office with a feeling of satisfaction. He could take
over this place without anybody else knowing, until the time was right.
It would be pleasant to be in charge, for a change, directly giving rather
than receiving the orders. A blustery spring wind had been howling around
the building, but, as it died down, a voice from the inner office became
audible. The words caught his attention.
"I'm sure it's him, Jock," the man said. "I just sent
you the footage we taped from the front desk. I can hold him here, or
do whatever you want with him, as soon as you're sure. We've got enough
muscle to hold him, and a nice little cell already waiting. You or Morgan
can send a group over
Lucian tensed for a second, before suddenly realizing exactly what the
conversation meant, as he leapt up from his chair. He briefly considered
killing the man who was making the phone call but, even as he approached
the door, he could see a number of guards inside the office. He had no
chance against all of them, and he couldn't let them see him, or he would
never get out.
The hallway outside the office was empty, as were all the other offices
he passed, and he thought idly that the secretary had warned people to
get out so he couldn't use them as hostages to gain control. Anger flared
up in him, as he ran down the two flights of stairs to the lobby, at the
way he was being preempted, wondering if there was anywhere safe left
for him. The main lobby was also empty and he ran through it, his heart
pounding loudly in his ears, expecting at any moment to be stopped. But
no one came and he managed to get to his car. He could get to the airport
and dump it before they found out that he was out of the building. Accelerator
pedal flat to the floor, he burned his way out of the carpark.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"What's this, Broots?" Morgan demanded, tapping the folder
that lay on her desk.
"Well, you remember that you asked me formulate a list of all Centre
properties in North America? That's it."
Nodding, she opened the beige booklet, but her eyes widened as she saw
the name that headed the list. "What does Ammon House have to do
with the Centre?"
"Cox left everything to the Centre in his will," the head of
Security explained. "Jarod sent Cox the property deed for the house,
and he went there to look at it, and killed himself."
"And wasn't that just devastating," Morgan retorted drily.
Memories of the night she had spent in the house filtered into her mind,
and it was with difficulty that she suppressed a shudder. "And so
we got it? Then it's going on the market tomorrow."
"Don't," he protested at once, and she shot him a glare.
"And why not?"
Broots reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper, which
he unfolded and handed to her. "It's a copy of Gordon Woods's will,"
he explained. "It says that, if the house is ever sold, the ghosts
that haunt it will come and seek vengeance on the person who actually
decides to sell. I checked the records, and it's only ever been passed
down through family members."
"So what?" Morgan retorted immediately. "It must have
been sold at least once, because Jarod bought it to give to Cox."
"Not according to what I found out," the man responded. "I
called the solicitors who are in charge of the place and they said Jarod
had supplied them with information proving that Cox was actually a distant
relative of Gordon Woods. They gave him the property deed and he handed
it on to Cox. That means the house still hasn't been sold, only handed
down, like the original will said it should be."
She nodded slowly, as she scanned it, finding that Broots was right,
before looking up again. "So do you have any ideas?"
"Uh, not really," he confessed, awkwardly scratching his head.
"But Kim made a few suggestions when we talked about it."
"So you two sit up at nights telling each other ghost stories?"
Without waiting for a response, she pressed a button on her intercom.
"Send Kim Walker in here immediately."
Broots remained seated while Morgan looked through the rest of the objects
on the list before she handed it back to him. "Check the security
on all of them. Rate them according to importance and then work out the
best way to keep them safe."
"Yes, ma'am," he agreed.
The door of the office opened as he was writing the details down, and
Kim entered. "You wanted to see me, Miss Ritter?"
"Yes." Morgan waved at a chair, thinking that it was difficult
to know how to treat Kim sometimes, considering their biological relationship.
"Did Broots tell you his little ghost story?"
"He sure did," the sweeper agreed, grinning, as she sat down.
"Sounds like fun. What will you do with it?"
"That's what I want you to figure out," her cousin told her
firmly. "I want to know everything there is to know about the place.
Once we know that, we might have a better idea what, if any, use we can
make of it." She pushed the copy of the will over the desk. "Personally,
I'd like to get it off our hands as quickly as possible."
Kim looked up sharply from her examination of the document, and Morgan
saw the same light of intelligence in her eyes that was so often in Sydney's,
and probably, she thought, also in her own. "So you won't just ignore
this and sell it?"
The older woman hesitated for a moment, before turning to Broots. "Do
you want to be part of this little ghost-busting expedition, or will you
fill up your schedule to avoid it, like you did last time?"
He opened his mouth immediately, but no words came out and he shut it,
however the reluctance in his eyes told her what she needed to know.
"Fine, then don't bother. Kim can do it. You can go back to work."
Broots almost ran out of the office, and Morgan turned to the younger
woman, whose eyes rested curiously on her, obviously waiting for a response
to her question, her previously official stance having relaxed a little,
as soon as the man left.
"I spent a night there," Morgan confessed. "I had experiences
that made me think twice about the supernatural. Your uncle did, too,
and although I haven't spoken to Jarod about it, I believe he had to reconsider
a few long-held beliefs as well."
"So you'll take the threat seriously?"
"Not as it stands, but I don't know what might happen if we do choose
to ignore it." She leaned back in her chair. "As I said, I want
you to find out everything you can about the property. Do you believe
in the supernatural?"
"Definitely," Kim affirmed eagerly. "I used to do séances
and things all the time when I was little. It was heaps of fun."
"Well, no séances this time," the older woman ordered.
"In fact, you're not to go into the house at all. Find out how to
exorcise that ghost, or at least get it to calm down a little so that
we can use the property for something constructive. And I'll welcome any
"But I can't go in?" Kim asked, her tone revealing her disappointment.
"No. Not that I think Cox was coerced into doing himself in, but
just in case he was, I'd rather not lose someone from my own side -- and
family," she added, seeing Kim smile slightly. "When we know
it's safe, then you can do what you want, but until then, you can't go
onto the property at all. Clear?"
"Yes, Miss Ritter," she agreed, standing. "Was that all?"
Nodding, Morgan dismissed her, trying to force aside the memory of her
mother's accusing eyes from her visions in the house and concentrate on
her work again.
* * * * * * * * *
Julia stared blankly at the cream-colored ceiling for a moment in bewilderment,
seeing a circle of light that she assumed was cast by a lamp she could
vaguely remember seeing on her bedside table, before remembering fully
where she was. Remaining still, almost too comfortable to sit up, she
felt the sheets and warm blankets that covered her, a far cry from the
old covers she used to have, as was the soft pillow supporting her head.
A movement from the baby growing inside her, a gentle kick that she thought
was agreement at the improvement in their conditions, made Julia lift
a hand to rub her distended belly as she smiled faintly.
"Mommy?" asked a small voice from beside the bed, and she turned
her head to see Peter there, his face brightening when he saw that she
was awake. "Can I get in, too?"
She offered a hand, and felt him snuggle down beside her, letting a tear
slip down her face at the feel of his little body against hers.
"Becca said she'd be back soon," her son explained, cuddling
her around the neck. "She went to check on Andy's homework."
"Who's Andy?" Julia asked curiously.
"'Andy' is what the children call my daughter," a quiet voice
explained from the doorway, and then Rebecca appeared in Julia's line
of vision. "Her name's Andromeda, but that's a bit of a mouthful
for the little ones." She picked up a remote control that hung from
the head of the bed. "This is a device to control your bed. You can
raise the head to any angle you like." After a demonstration, she
left the bed a comfortable angle and then went to answer a soft knock
on the door.
Julia used the time to look around the room. The screen now showed a
view of a rainforest, green leaves dripping water and strange calls providing
a musical background cacophony. Several walls had pictures of landscapes,
and one bore framed photos of her children. These hung over her bed, and
she examined them for a moment, until a sound made her refocus on the
blond woman standing next to the bed.
Rebecca placed a tray onto a stand, which she wheeled over the bed, and
Julia saw a number of small serves of things that she couldn't identify
by sight, but all of which tasted delicious. A sip of aromatic tea warmed
her to her toes, and she deeply inhaled the steam that rose from the hot
"The doctor ordered six small meals for you each day, instead of
three normal ones, to counteract malnutrition," Rebecca explained,
as she removed the tray, once the other woman had finished. "And,
if you're hungry, you can always have something else. You're staying in
bed for the rest of today, but you might be able to get up for a short
She offered a warm, damp cloth and towel to let Julia wash her face,
lifting the energetic boy off the bed and placing him on the floor, despite
his protests. Taking back the washing things, she returned them to the
small bathroom that was visible through a partly open door and then went
to the wardrobe, producing a soft, quilted jacket.
"This will keep you warm while you're sitting up," she explained,
helping the woman into it. "The last thing you'll want now is a cold."
Suddenly, muffled high-pitched voices became audible outside the room,
and Julia lifted her head sharply, feeling her pulse race. Rebecca noticed
the change and laughed.
"It sounds like the cavalry's arrived," she remarked, going
over to the door and opening it. "Okay," she told the people
outside, "you can come in, but not too loud, okay?"
The arrival of the five people into the virtually silent room had the
effect of an explosion, and Julia was unable to help cringing back into
the pillow a little. The three adults hesitated in the doorway, although
Julia met Joseph's gaze with a relieved smile, as their son ran to him,
but the two other boys scrambled up onto the bed immediately. Joseph stepped
up to the bedside, Peter hanging around his neck, and placed his hands
on the boys' shoulders to restrain them.
"Slow down," he warned them, and Julia's eyes widened in surprise
at hearing him speak English.
Uriel plumped down on the foot of the bed and gazed mournfully at the
woman. "Mommy hurted," he protested, his bottom lip protruding
and beginning to tremble. "De bad man hurted Mommy."
Every motherly instinct Julia had ever felt rushed to the fore at the
small voice and swamped her nervousness. She opened her arms and he scrambled
eagerly into them.
"No, baby," she assured the little boy. "I'm not hurt
now. The bad man won't hurt me ever again, I promise."
He snuffled thickly and hugged her tightly around the neck, nodding.
Julia looked down at the boy who still sat near her feet, seeing the disappointed
expression on his face, and held out a hand to him.
"And this is my other little boy?" she suggested, smiling.
"Is this my Raphael?"
The child crept slightly closer. "You's not my mommy," he offered
"No, sweetie, that's right," she agreed gently, thinking sadly
of what she knew of Catherine Parker and how much she would have loved
this child, who had his mother's blue eyes and his father's sensitive
mouth. "But you're the brother of my sons, so that makes you my little
half-son. I can be your aunty, if you'd like that better." Julia
avoided the use of the word 'stepmother,' aware of the connotations it
would have for children who had been taught the classic fairytales, as
"I's got a aunty," Raphael stated.
Julia smiled faintly. "You're a very lucky boy," she assured
him. "You've got a big family who love you very much, and soon you'll
have a sister, too."
Uriel had wriggled into a comfortable spot beside her and was leaning
against her shoulder, his eyes fixed on his small playmate, but when Julia
said this, his gaze swung around to her face.
"When's she coming, Mommy?"
"Soon, baby," she promised. "You'll be able to hold her
in just a few weeks."
"What's her name?"
Julia cuddled him closer, meeting Joseph's gaze with a smile. "We'll
choose that together, okay?"
Raphael's forlorn expression had still not completely disappeared when
she looked back at him, and she released a hand from around Uriel, holding
it out to him again.
"Come here, honey," she prompted, seeing that he was almost
within arms reach. "You can call me whatever you want," she
told him gently. "But I'd like you to think of yourself as belonging
to this family."
Hope flowered in his blue eyes and he snuggled into her arms, even going
so far as to burrow under the covers with her. Peter beamed at her from
his father's arms, and she was pleased that there didn't appear to be
any jealousy among the three half-brothers.
When this was settled, Rebecca moved forward from the corner to which
she had retreated, and indicated Ethan, who still sat in a wheelchair.
"This is Uriel's father."
"Ethan, I know," Julia stated, smiling again, her shyness still
held at bay. "We've been in contact." Her eyes swung around
to the other man who, also wheelchair-bound, had been watching her, a
thoughtful expression on his face. "Prodigy," she greeted him.
"Do you know who I am now?"
"My Berlin informant," Jarod exclaimed in a tone of realization,
before suddenly laughing. "And my charcoal provider."
Joseph laughed also. "I was going to mention it before," he
told his friend, "but there hasn't been an appropriate moment."
As Jarod and Joseph began explaining the situation to Rebecca and Ethan,
Julia felt a gentle tug on the sleeve of her bed-jacket and looked down
to find Raphael's blue eyes turned up to her face.
"What is it, precious?" she asked gently.
"She says I can call you Mommy, if I want to," he explained
earnestly, and she was momentarily confused, before remembering the information
she had read about this gifted youngster. Brushing the hair out of his
eyes, she smiled.
"Is that what you want to call me?"
"Not sure," he responded shortly, thoughtfully sucking the
first two fingers on his left hand, "'cos of Merritt."
"Who's Merritt, baby?"
"Merritt's my Momma, too, but young," he told her, and she
could see frustration working on his face at her inability to understand.
"Like Jordan," he offered.
Julia looked up helplessly to find that Jarod had moved his chair near
the bed. <"Who's Merritt?"> she asked in rapid
Russian, so that none of her children would understand and hoping that
<"Merritt is Catherine Parker's clone,"> Jarod
told her gloomily, and she felt her eyes widening in horror.
he wouldn't," she protested, returning abruptly
to English. "He
he wasn't supposed to be ready for it yet."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "What do you know?" he demanded sharply.
"He -- Herr Doktor Raines -- when he came to Germany several years
ago," she began somewhat uncertainly, "he was planning it, but
he discussed it with Frau Berkstresser, and the Herr Direktor had been
working on cl -- on it, and told them it was still many years away."
Tears filled her eyes. "He can't have done it," she reiterated
desperately. "He can't!"
Joseph placed Peter on the floor and sat on the side of the bed, slipping
his arm around Julia's shoulders. Julia looked up to see him raise an
eyebrow in Jarod's direction, the meaning of which the Pretender clearly
understood, because his expression became deeply thoughtful.
"What is it?" she demanded at once. "Tell me!"
There was a long moment of silence, before Joseph nodded and Jarod exhaled
a long breath.
"Raines had already done it by the time he was talking to Delius
about it," Jarod told her. "Jordan was the first, in the mid
'80s. Merritt was the second, only a few months later. As far as we know,
they were the only two Centre sanctioned projects to survive. It's possible,"
he concluded, "that there are others we don't know about. There are
projects we haven't had a chance to look at yet."
Julia stared blankly at the bed. Although she had never been in the laboratory
when the man who would eventually be the director of Die Fakultät
had been experimenting, her intimate knowledge of his mind meant that
she had seen the stages as if she had been watching it all unfold before
her eyes. She had seen, in her mind's eye, the numerous corpses, the distorted
stillbirths and the women who had died after giving birth. There had been
700 failures before Frau Berkstresser had finally called a halt to the
project, and the conclusion had eventually been drawn that cloning was
an impossible dream. To learn that it had been successfully achieved in
America decades before the experiments that, for days, had left her feeling
physically sick recalled some of those feelings now.
Rebecca collected the three boys from the bed and escorted them to the
door after assuring them that they could see their mother again the following
day. They waved cheerfully from the doorway and then scampered down the
hall. Julia could vaguely hear their voices chattering as they got into
the elevator. But Jarod immediately reclaimed her attention.
"How did you know about it?" he asked quietly.
She swallowed the urge to throw up. "When they collected ova from
me to make Peter, they also took many others, and the Herr Direktor was
using them for the cloning process."
Julia saw the color fade from Joseph's face and his hand free clenched
into a fist in his pocket, as he made an articulate sound of protest in
his throat. His arm tightened around her shoulders, and she reached up
to gently squeeze his hand.
Jarod reached into his pocket and took out a photo, showing it to her.
"This is Jordan," he stated soberly, and she looked down to
see a young man who was a healthier version of the young man with whom
she had shared a sickroom during the meningitis experiment. The realization
of what, or rather who he was struck her, and she looked at the Pretender
sadly, but as Jarod was getting another photo out of his pocket, the expression
went unseen. "And this is Merritt," he told her, as he handed
her a second picture. "They're down in Australia right now, but you'll
be able to meet them when they get back."
Something in his eyes warned her against any further questions, and,
even as she gave back the photos, Rebecca reappeared in the doorway.
"Julia needs to rest," she told the three men. "This conversation
can be continued later, when she's stronger, but for now, she needs to
She was right, Julia realized, as they quietly left the room and Rebecca
straightened the covers of the bed, lowering its head slightly. But something
warm seemed to envelop her, and, she realized suddenly, that it was the
knowledge her children were safe and close by which was proving such a
comfort. Even as she began to drowse off against the soft pillow, their
little faces still danced in her imagination, and she fell asleep smiling.
* * * * * * * * *
Taylor Family Property
Yarragon, Victoria, Australia
"So what do you want to do?"
"Separate them, for a few weeks," Lauren stated firmly. "Merritt's
thrilled by everything she sees that's different from the way it is in
the States, but Jordan's still caught up in Jacob's death and can't concentrate
on anything else yet. If we keep them apart for a bit, that will give
them things to talk about when they do chat and also let them take things
in at their own pace."
"Where?" Steve demanded, placing his mug on the coffee table,
around which they were sitting, while their guests napped upstairs. "It's
not like when Jarod was here. If you take Jordan up to the Territory,
they'll spot pretty quickly that he's not a doctor. There aren't many
things he could get away with, and if you leave him on his own all the
time, he'll mope. Same problem if Mark takes him to his farm."
Lauren exchanged knowing glances with Paul as her husband sat on the
armrest of her chair and slid his arm around her shoulders. "We already
talked about that. He couldn't get away with being a 'qualified' anything,
but he could always be a trainee -- either pilot or mechanic. That'll
give him something to do with both his hands and his mind, especially
if he hasn't done it before."
"Good thinking." Mark gave his sister an approving look. "And
Peta laughed. "Did you see that girl's face when she saw the horses?
We'll never get her off them for the whole time she's here."
Lauren grinned at her mother. "Just like having another daughter,
"It's good practice for when Rachael grows up," the older woman
told her serenely. "And don't change the subject, Lauren."
"Okay, okay." She glanced at her father. "In that okay
with you, Dad?"
"Fine," Bill told her. "When do you have to report to
"Tomorrow evening." Lauren looked up at Paul. "We'll fly
out tomorrow mid-morning."
"What are you going to with about Rachael?" Peta asked, trying
to hide her obvious hope. "Or will you leave her down here with us?"
Paul laughed. "Not exactly," he choked, even as the others
in the room laughed with him. "There was a lot of competition before
I flew down about who was going to take care of her while the two of us
were out of the base. I understand that they tried a raffle, but Pete
Tingay was accused of rigging it. They finally settled on a rotation system.
But she'll be very well cared for, don't worry."
* * * * * * * * *
The persistent knocking woke Elizabeth, and she pulled herself upright
in bed, brushing the dark curls out of her eyes as she switched on her
The door opened and the woman stepped inside, the small figure of her
charge motionless in her arms. Another child followed at her heels.
"It's Angelique," Nancy offered tentatively, her tone suggesting
that she hoped Elizabeth would understand. "She
Nodding slightly, Elizabeth slipped out of bed and crossed the cool floorboards
to the door, taking the girl in her arms and seeing the concern in the
eyes of the child's caregiver.
"Give me a little time," she promised. "I'll do everything
I can." The woman bent down until she was on eye-level with Gabriel,
who stared at her, wide-eyed. "You give her a little kiss and cuddle
so that she knows how much you love her, okay, sweetie?"
Gabriel's arms immediately encircled his playmate's small shoulders,
his pink lips planting a kiss on Angelique's forehead, before looking
back at the Australian woman.
"Good boy," Elizabeth stated approvingly. "Now you go
and play with your friends and don't worry about Angelique, okay? She'll
be all right."
His eyes studied her face for a moment before nodding and taking the
hand Nancy offered, going down the hall, with only a backward glance when
they reached the elevator. Elizabeth retreated to the sanctuary of her
room and closed the door, looking down at the red-rimmed eyes of the girl
Upon their return to Sanctuary, Rebecca had described the scene in the
playroom during the takeover to a select group, including herself. Angelique
had managed to numb the pain of Gabriel and Uriel when they believed that
their fathers were going to die, and had even managed to stay composed
as her mother had died, but since then she had gradually withdrawn into
herself, until she was as non-responsive as she had been when Gabriel
had first been introduced to the other Seraphim, almost two years earlier.
In the past few days, she had even refused to eat or speak. Elizabeth
hoped that she could do something to help this child as she brushed back
the blond hair and wiped away the traces of tears on the small, thin cheeks.
"Why did you want me, baby?" she murmured softly in the child's
ear, walking over to a pile of big cushions on the floor and curling up
on them, Angelique held close in her arms.
flat," Angelique sniffed. "Everybody hurts."
"Including you, don't you?" the woman suggested lovingly. "You
miss your Mummy."
The child's eyes filled with tears and she sobbed piteously, turning
her face in to Elizabeth's neck and nodding.
"There's nothing wrong with missing somebody," the woman assured
her. "Everybody loves their Mummies and miss them when they're gone.
I miss mine, too, and my Daddy." She stroked the girl's blond hair.
"They're in the same place as your Mummy is. And they're happy, too,
just like Faith."
"Mommy hurting still?"
"Not as much as she used to," Elizabeth promised softly, finding
it somehow comforting to share her religious creed with this child. "But
it hurts her to see you cry. That makes her sad. And when you're happy,
she's happy too."
The child sat up straighter immediately, wiping her eyes with her little
hands, but they filled once more with tears as she looked up at Elizabeth.
"Miss Mommy," she murmured tearfully. "Wants my Mommy
"She always is, Angelique," the woman explained gently. "Just
like she always was. Remember how you named your doll after Faith because
you knew, deep down, that she was special to you? Well," she continued,
as the girl nodded hesitantly, "now she's more with you than she
ever was before. She's in here," Elizabeth gently tapped the girl's
chest, "and you get to carry her with you every single day for the
rest of your life. She'll know everything you do, and all you feel, and
what you dream about at night."
Angelique nestled closer to the woman, as if comforted by her reassurances,
and gently touched the place Elizabeth had just indicated. Reaching out,
she then pressed a gentle finger against the same place on the woman's
"Is your Mommy and Daddy dere?"
"Yes, they are," Elizabeth stated softly. "They always
have been, ever since they left earth to be happy together in Heaven."
"When did dey go?"
"A long time ago." The woman smiled faintly. "My Mummy
got a horrible illness called cancer and nobody could make her better.
After she died, my Daddy was so sad that his heart broke and he died just
a few days later."
"An' you was alone," the child sniffed, throwing her arms around
the woman's neck as if trying to comfort her.
"No, sweetheart. Then I had them with me, so I was never alone again."
Her smile became a little watery as she remembered those painful weeks
following the joint funeral, at which she had been the only mourner. "When
I went to bed at night, I'd close my eyes and tell them all about what
I'd been doing all day."
"Was you happy?"
"Not for a while," Elizabeth responded hesitantly but honestly,
knowing Angelique would probably pick up on any lies. "I still missed
them, talking to them, being cuddled by them, but I slowly got used to
it." She brushed back the blond hair from Angelique's face and kissed
her forehead. "But you won't be alone. You've got your Angel, and
Gabriel, and all your other friends."
"I'm not going anywhere," Elizabeth promised solemnly. "And
you know what else, which makes your Mummy really special?"
The girl hesitantly shook her head.
"Your Mummy died to save someone else's life, like Tempest's Daddy
did. That makes them very special people. They're heroes."
"That's right," Elizabeth agreed. "Your mummy loved Jarod
so much that she gave him the most important thing she had -- her life.
And she knew he'd look after you as much as he looks after his own children.
He will, too. I promise he will."
Angelique swallowed hard several times before looking at the woman again.
"B'fore you commed back, I seed Mommy at night. I doesn't now."
"I know, sweetheart," the woman told her gently. "I took
the dreams away because I thought they might be too hard for you. They
would hurt you. I didn't want you to hurt."
"I wants to see Mommy," Angelique pouted, fat tears rolling
down her cheeks. "Wants to talk wif my Mommy."
Elizabeth brushed away the salty drops, giving the child a comforting
hug. "If you want that, baby, then I'll let you see her sometimes,
okay? But you might not remember them when you wake up. We don't remember
all the dreams we have. You'll just have to trust me."
Angelique's small head nodded slowly, her blue eyes meeting Elizabeth's
brown ones, measuring the amount of truth in what she was being told.
"Now?" she asked finally, in a small voice, with a faint hiccup.
Elizabeth stretched out on the cushions, lying the child down at the
same time and wrapping her arms around the small body. Angelique snuggled
close to her, lying against her chest, blue eyes fixed on the face above
"Close your eyes, honey," Elizabeth soothed gently. "Close
them and imagine your Mummy giving you a big hug."
The heavy eyelids fell, pale lashes showing against the dark shadows
that ringed the girl's eyes, and she hiccupped one final time before falling
silent. The woman began to softly hum a lullaby that she had heard Faith
singing to her daughter once, and which the hyper-empath had learned from
Jarod, stroking the blond hair away from the girl's face, her mind busily
constructing a collage of memories of the girl's mother.
Elizabeth planned to try something that she had never attempted before,
namely to influence the dreams that the child had.
It made sense to her that, if she could remove bad dreams, surely she
could insert good ones to replace them. Her choice of material was limited,
but she finally constructed a series of images that she hoped would be
comforting for Angelique. By reversing the way in which she removed the
negative images and nightmares, she inserted the positive dream into the
girl's sleeping mind and, crossing her fingers, hoped that it would work.