Paul and Lauren's House
Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia
Jordan heard the car pull out of the driveway and looked at the baby
girl lying in her bassinette and staring around the room, dribbling down
her chin. He had offered to baby-sit while Paul and Lauren went out to
see a movie, but now they were gone, he realized that he had no idea what
to do with himself.
He knew that they often watched television, so he didn't feel guilty
about turning it on and putting in one of the baby girl's favorite Disney
videos, which he also enjoyed, until there was a squawk of protest from
the bassinette and Rachael began to howl. Instantly picking her up, he
rocked her, the way Lauren had shown him, but that only made her cry louder,
and Jordan stared at her in a mixture of confusion and horror. He knew
she couldn't be hungry, because she'd been fed just before her parents
had left, and changed just after that, for which Jordan had been very
"How did I ever think this would be easy?" he moaned, as he
offered her pacifiers and toys, to no avail. She fought vigorously against
his attempts to wrap her in her blanket, in case she was cold, and he
knew that she couldn't be hot because her skin wasn't overly warm. Her
cheeks weren't hot, so she wasn't teething, and he had already turned
off the TV, so it couldn't be too loud for her.
Finally, in desperation, as he was beginning to panic, he put Rachael
down on the sofa and took out his cell phone, hearing it ring several
times in his ear, before it was thankfully answered.
Jordan stuffed his finger into his other ear. "Dad, it's me."
"Jordan? Are you all right, son? What's going on?"
"I'm babysitting," he explained loudly, over the noise. "Rachael
started crying and I can't get her to stop."
There was a wry chuckle from the other end. "What have you done
to help her?"
He explained his actions, seeing that Rachael's face was now bright red,
her mouth a large, pink 'O' in the middle of it. "So now what do
I do?" he demanded.
"It sounds like she could have gas," his father responded,
amusement obvious in his voice. "Did Lauren show you how to burp
Jordan suddenly remembered Lauren and Paul sitting with Rachael against
their shoulders and patting her back after feeding her. He repeated this
to his father, who made an assenting noise.
"Cover your shoulder and back with a towel, though," he warned
his son. "Or you might have to change your clothes."
"Thanks, Dad." He disconnected the call and picked up a towel
that was draped over the back of a kitchen chair, realizing that that
was probably the reason it was there in the first place.
Holding Rachael up against his shoulder, he began to pat her back, hearing
hiccups and gurgles from her mouth as the crying miraculously and thankfully
stopped. He thought briefly that it was a lot easier to take care of children
of Gabriel's age than ones who were as helpless as Rachael, and wondered
what might have happened if his father hadn't come in when he and Merritt
had been kissing in Barrow.
He had been painfully naïve then, he knew. Taking care of Jacob
had helped him to mature, and, much as losing the child had hurt, he wouldn't
have wanted not to have that chance. The worst of the pain had gone now,
although Jordan was sure that a small part of his heart would always ache
for his son, but that was a part of life and he could accept it. A burp
from the baby made him grin as he felt the little hands clutch convulsively
at his black t-shirt. Eventually, Jordan knew, he would have a family
of his own, and he would know how to take care of his children. After
all, he had plenty of time to learn.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Jarod hung up the phone after Jordan's call, chuckling softly, and then
looked up in surprise as the door of his office banged back against the
wall, Morgan looking around it.
"We've found Yuri and Valentine. Bring your antidote."
Standing, Jarod grabbed his jacket and cane in one hand, and the case
containing the precious antidote and a syringe in another. He had been
keeping it handy for just this occurrence, knowing that the men couldn't
remain hidden forever. There seemed to be even more determination to find
them than there had been in the hunt for him, every one of those involved
aware of the risk the men represented to them.
Twenty minutes later, he was on a Centre jet and in the air, heading
for Vermont. Morgan was on the phone, taking notes from the Centre office
that had reported the sighting, and he watched her sketch a map on a piece
of paper, holding out a hand for the phone. After eyeing him briefly,
she handed it over, and he asked to have the directions repeated, quickly
adding depth and detail to the sketch and thinking that, whatever else
Morgan was, she wasn't an artist.
Handing the phone back, he let her finish the call while planning possible
ways to move in on the building without alerting the occupants.
"Sam!" he called, as she hung up, and the sweeper appeared
beside him almost immediately.
The Pretender handed over the map. "Say I was in this building,
and it was six months ago. How do you go about getting me out?"
Sam eyed the page for a moment, before putting it down again and outlining
the plan that Jarod had already predicted, one that was standard for sweepers,
and which he had seen deployed against himself on more than one occasion.
If a person knew what they were looking for, it was also quite easy to
avoid, as Jarod had managed many times.
"How about a little variation on the theme?" he suggested,
meeting Broots' eye, as the Head of SIS sat opposite him. "Have a
group secure this spot," he pointed out the weak area, "and
then go ahead with normal organization. That should increase the odds
of catching them both, alive." He arched an eyebrow in the former
technician's direction. "Mr. Broots, is that satisfactory?"
The balding man took the sketch and ran his eyes over the details. "It
sounds fine," he admitted quietly, before looking at Sam. "Do
"Yes, sir." Sam put out a hand for the drawing and, when he
received it, took it to explain it to the other sweepers that had been
brought with them. Morgan took her gun from its holster, checking that
it was loaded and that the safety worked smoothly, before ensuring that
she had handcuffs.
Jarod watched her silently, wondering if she had performed the same ritual
every time there had been a sighting of him. It certainly looked practiced,
as if each move was habitual, rather than a conscious motion. She looked
up suddenly and caught his eye, glancing down at the objects in her hands
and moving them away, out of sight.
"You get to see it from the other side now," she remarked quietly.
"That was the point of doing the sims," he returned acidly,
feeling increasingly less comfortable as the minutes passed. In an effort
to distract himself, he took out the folder he had picked up on his way
out of the office, and in which he had written notes about his antidote,
trying to simulate how it would affect Yuri, and whether it would even
work. Soon, he would know for sure.
* * * * * * * * *
The cream building looked almost gray with the dark clouds that loomed
above it, and Emily gave a shiver as cold wind cut through the clothing
she was wearing. She didn't want to be back here, but she had to give
Yuri the chance that she had promised her mother she would, and she felt
her heart beating faster at the thought of seeing him again.
The woman seated at the reception desk scrutinized her closely before
handing her a 'Visitor' tag and directing her to the elevators. Emily
made a quick decision to go up and see her brother first. She wanted to
talk with him about when their mother had said, and what he really thought
of Yuri, knowing that he would at least be honest.
Stepping out of the elevator, she found that the corridor was almost
empty, with only a few people in the rooms she passed, most of whom offered
a shy smile as she glanced into their offices. The door of Jarod's office,
when she reached it, was closed, but, knowing that he had to be there,
as he hadn't been at Sanctuary when she had been there, she knocked lightly
before opening it.
She immediately saw that the office was empty and wondered where he was.
Entering somewhat hesitantly, her eyes roamed across the desk, lighting
upon a memo that lay on top of a pile of folders and papers. Normally,
she wouldn't have read anyone's mail, but her eyes saw a familiar name
and all other thoughts fled her mind as she picked up the sheet.
It was a report from a Centre office in Washington D.C., stating that
neither Yuri nor someone named Lucian Bruce had been seen in the vicinity
and offering its resources to find them. Emily felt her heart stop, staring
blankly at the pages in her hand.
If they were looking for Yuri, that must mean he was no longer in the
Centre! All her doubts about him flooded back, increased by added skepticism
at his supposed remorse from months earlier.
The voice from the doorway made her start, and she turned quickly to
find a familiar, gray-haired man watching her from the doorway, his expression
of curiosity dissolving immediately into a warm smile.
"It's good to see you again, Emily."
She returned the smile, remembering now that she had seen Sydney in the
infirmary for hours at a time, particularly after Jarod had regained consciousness,
before she had left for Boston. They had spoken briefly, on a number of
occasions, and she had realized how deeply he cared about her brother.
"Jarod left about half an hour ago," his smile dimmed as his
eyes examined her face, "to bring Yuri back."
Emily's mouth opened slightly, but she closed it again, with no real
idea what she wanted to say. The man seemed to understand, because he
waved at the sofa and took a seat opposite.
"Do you know Yuri?" she finally managed to ask, and he nodded.
"I've been working with him since the takeover," the psychiatrist
replied thoughtfully. "He's a very caring and compassionate individual."
"Compassionate?" Emily couldn't prevent the skepticism in her
voice. "If you knew the sorts of things he'd done
"As 'The Executioner,' the way the media portrayed him? I already
know what he's done," Sydney stated quietly. "But did you ever
consider exactly why he targeted those he did? Each person who died at
his hands had direct links to the Centre, or to their highest-paying clients.
Clients who had used and twisted the results of work carried out by people
like your brother, prisoners who would never receive anything in return,
even, in many cases, positive feedback for work carried out well. Yuri
looked at the situation from the side he knew best -- his own -- and that
was his assessment of it. He became judge, jury
Sydney waited for a reaction, but Emily was determined to remain silent,
wanting to know about this, information that Yuri had never shared with
her, perhaps because he hadn't even realized it himself. Seeming to understand,
the psychiatrist continued.
"When Raines realized, in January 2000, that he could no longer
control Yuri and make him work, he ordered him to be dumped somewhere
out of town, drugged, injured and left to die in the freezing cold. Somehow,
Yuri managed to survive and decided that he would get revenge for the
25 years he had spent inside the Centre in the only way he knew how --
violently." Sydney's expression became softer. "He did what
any child does, demonstrating the skills he'd been taught over the years.
All he had ever known was violence and aggression, so that was what he
did to those he saw as owing him something for what they had done. I imagine
he believed that their continual need for answers and information from
the Centre was what had kept him trapped here for so long, probably not
realizing that, the moment he might have become extraneous, he would have
Emily suppressed a shudder at the calm way this was stated. The thought
that someone could so coolly sit there and suggest death, as easily as
they might have discussed ordering a meal, was evidence of the amount
of death this man had witnessed, and it further compounded her horror
of what the Centre had been. But she brought her heart back to the man
for whom she had such strong feelings, incorporating what she had been
told into what she already knew of him, before looking up again.
"Is he sorry for what he did?"
The psychiatrist remained silent for a moment, before finally answering.
"He's sorry for the fact that he lied to you, that he never trusted
you with the secret of who and what he was."
"But he's not sorry for killing those people?"
"He believes they deserved to die," Sydney replied evenly.
"We've talked about that. He did what he believed had to be done,
that the same law that had allowed him to be locked up in the Centre for
so many years would be too lenient with those who treated him that way.
Raines had taught him the lessons he needed to learn, to act the way he
did. Raines made him what he was. You changed him."
Sydney leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees and his fingers
linked together, studying her face thoughtfully. "Emily, I'd like
to show you some of the work Yuri did here. It may allow you to develop
a better knowledge of the side of him about which you know so little.
Yuri and I spoke about you several times, and one of his regrets was that
you would never truly understood what it was that drove him because you
would never know what kind of a person he was programmed to be."
She looked up eagerly, knowing that this was the real reason she had
made what now felt like a pilgrimage to this place, although she hadn't
realized it before.
"Yes," she agreed. "I would like to see that."
"It won't be pleasant for you," he warned, even as they stood
and left the office, Sydney closing the door. "Raines was a cruel,
harsh and exacting man. The work Yuri did would be considered by most
people as deeply disturbing."
"Is he still alive? Raines, I mean," she asked, suddenly nervous
of meeting him.
"No," he replied quickly, as if understanding her concern.
"He died several months ago."
She nodded, examining the floor of the hallway for the short distance
to another office. He waved her to the seat behind the desk, opening a
machine onto it and then taking out a box. Inside it lay several silver
disks, and he took out the first, sliding it into the machine and flicking
it on. Instantly, the screen lit up, and he reached out to turn off the
desk lamp. Night was falling, and the room was in near-darkness as Sydney
pulled up a stool beside the desk and sat on it. Emily turned her attention
to the screen, freezing and feeling tears fill her eyes, as she recognized
a very young Yuri's face.
* * * * * * * * *
Morgan watched as the sweepers deployed, in their usual order and in
the additional movement Jarod had suggested. The group was silent as they
approached the two-story abandoned building to which the local Centre
office had directed them. Surrounded by trees, Morgan knew Valentine --
Lucian -- would have considered it the perfect place to hide, but it also
made an ideal site for an ambush.
There was no movement from within, and the windows were made of reflective
glass, so she had no way of telling whether the occupants were aware of
their arrival. The group silently moved in, before suddenly attacking.
Out of the corner of her eye, Morgan saw Jarod flinch at the noise and
watched his hands tighten around the top of his cane as he sat on the
passenger seat with the car door open, his feet on the ground. Reaching
over, she put a hand on top of his, and saw him look up.
"Never again," she vowed softly.
He smiled wryly. "I know that, consciously," he responded.
"But my instincts haven't figured it out yet."
Curling her finger around his wrist, she could feel his heart racing
and that his muscles were taut in anticipation. Moving closer to him,
she rested a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. After a moment, he
reached up and took her hand, sliding his fingers between hers and holding
Morgan turned her attention back to the building, seeing as two shapes
slip out of the shadows at the right of the old factory, even as the sweepers
entered the building from all sides.
"So that's how you did it," she murmured, and he grinned weakly,
releasing his hold on her hand as he rose to his feet.
"Not too difficult, was it?"
Nodding thoughtfully, she heard the sounds of a struggle from the shadows
of the trees and then saw a group move forward, two men being firmly held
by numerous others. Both walked calmly, but Yuri's head hung down whereas
Lucian stared straight ahead, his eyes gleaming angrily.
"Jarod," he snarled, as he came in sight of the small group
around the car. "I should have seen your planning in all this."
"Most of it was the training of your sweepers, Lucian," Jarod
returned coolly, and Morgan could detect no signs of his earlier anxiety
in his voice. "All I did was improve it a little."
Morgan tossed a pair of handcuffs over to Sam, who clipped them on to
Lucian's wrists, and then the man was forced into the backseat of one
of the black sedans, another sweeper next to him.
"Not yet," Jarod warned softly, as Morgan prepared to put cuffs
on Yuri. "We don't know how he'll react to the drug, and if he has
a seizure or collapses, he could break something."
Stepping away again, she nodded and watched Jarod remove the cap from
the syringe, flicking it to remove any air bubbles. Sam stepped up beside
the man being held by six sweepers, and pulled his arm straight, pushing
up his sleeve and pressing down on the back of Yuri's hand to lift a vein.
Approaching the subdued man, Jarod smoothly slid the needle into the blood
vessel and pressed the plunger.
Removing the syringe, Jarod stepped back, starting to mentally time the
process. He had based the progress of his antidote on the Aurora model,
and knew that it would only take a few minutes for it to take effect.
From files Morgan had uncovered regarding the existence of more than one
personality under the influence of Supernova, Jarod surmised that, underneath
the drug, Yuri had always known what was happening. The artificial personality
would simply have prevented him from being able to react. As soon as the
constraints of Supernova were lifted, Jarod guessed that Yuri's own personality
would fight to take control.
Time seemed to pass slowly, and Jarod was starting to believe that his
drug had failed, when Yuri shook his head slightly, and then, despite
the weight on his shoulders, managed to straighten. He met Jarod's gaze
with an expression that the older Pretender read as an apology, and then
pulled his arms away from those who held him. Instantly, every gun was
drawn and trained on him, and two sweepers tried to grab his arms, but
Yuri merely held his wrists together, offering them to Morgan for the
handcuffs that dangled from her fingers.
She fastened them on with clicks that echoed sharply in the still, nighttime
air, nodding to the men to release their holds on him.
"Sam," she ordered, "get him back to the Centre. And as
The next words died on her tongue as she looked at the car in which the
fugitive had been sitting and saw the unconscious sweeper draped across
the back seat, a cut on the back of his head bleeding, and the other rear
"Find him," Morgan snapped, turning to her head of security.
"Broots, secure the area."
Nodding, he gave rapid directions and then pulled out his cell phone
to call the nearby offices for backup. Meanwhile, Jarod recapped the syringe
and replaced it in his pocket, at least glad that his treatment had been
effective. He was unable to help the way his heart beat faster at the
familiar sounds of a search being organized, and closed his eyes briefly
to try to force back his powerful urge to run. After a moment, he looked
up to find Yuri watching him and stepped over to the car in which the
cuffed man sat.
"It wasn't you, Yuri. We know that," Jarod responded evenly.
"It was the drug."
" his eyes dropped, "does Emily know?"
"I haven't told her," Jarod admitted. "But that doesn't
mean she hasn't found out in another way. I can ask her."
"No!" Yuri looked up again, his face working with emotion.
"Don't, unless she asks."
"Sure." Jarod nodded. He glanced at the sweeper who sat in
the back seat beside the handcuffed man. "Sam will take you back
to the Centre."
"And when you get there," Morgan moved up to stand beside Jarod,
"I'd like you to write a report on what you can remember doing while
you were with Valentine, as soon as you feel up to it. It might help us
to predict what he'll do next."
Yuri looked skeptical. "You'd trust me to tell you the truth?"
"We need all the information we can get," Morgan told him curtly,
before nodding to the driver as a third sweeper got into the front passenger
seat. "All right."
The car drove off at her word, and Jarod sighed deeply as he watched
it leave. "He has so much potential," he murmured sadly.
"And is so dangerous," Morgan added, turning to face him. Gently,
she reached out to touch his arm. "What do you want to do now?"
"Lie down and sleep," Jarod retorted with a faint grin. "But
that's probably a little unrealistic."
Morgan smiled as she supported him to the passenger door of her car.
"I'll drive you to Burlington and we can arrange for Sebastian's
plane to come get you."
Thankfully sitting down, and doing up his seatbelt after shutting the
door, Jarod watched Morgan get in behind the wheel and start the car,
pulling away from the building. "Don't forget Merritt and Jordan
will be home in ten days."
"They're flying in to Dallas, aren't they?"
"Uh huh." Jarod nodded as he reached into his pocket for the
painkillers he carried here, rubbing a sore spot on his thigh with his
other hand. "Merritt will be pretty unhappy if you're not there."
"Oh, I will be," Morgan vowed. "Broots will be in charge
of getting Lucian back, and although he'll report to me every few hours,
he can do that by phone. James Sun has a few deals underway, but he only
needs my okay when they're completed. Finances Section is managing fine,
as is Sciences, and they're both giving me weekly progress reports. And
now Yuri's back, that's one less problem to have to think about. How about
There was no response, and Morgan looked over in surprise, to see that
Jarod had already fallen asleep. His hands lay limply in his lap, the
pill he had been about to take visible in the palm of one hand and the
strip of tablets in the other. Pulling the car over to the side of the
road, and seeing that sweepers had already been deployed in the area,
she undid her seatbelt and reached over, gently lowering the seat a few
inches and supporting Jarod's head back against the headrest. Extracting
the tablet and bubble strip from his limp hands, she put them on the dashboard
and then reached into the back for a blanket that lay on the seat, unfolding
it and draping it over him, before sitting back and looking at him.
His expression was relaxed, but with dark shadows that suggested a lack
of sleep clearly visible under his eyes, and lines that betrayed the ongoing
pain of his injuries obvious around his mouth. She gently brushed the
hair off his face, lightly drawing the tips of her fingers down his cheek
and feeling the stubble that suggested the length of time it had been
since his last shave.
She still loved this man. He held a unique place in her heart that no
one, not even Thomas, had ever come close to invading. When the time was
right, she would ask if he was willing for them to try again, but she
knew he wasn't ready for that yet. Faith's loss was still hurting him
deeply, their conversation had shown her, but she would be patient. He
had waited for her for so many years, it was only fair that she should
now wait for him. And if his feelings for her had changed, then she would
have to deal with that as best she could. But that wasn't something she
would know until she asked.
Sighing deeply, she kissed the tip of her fingers and lightly touched
it to his parted lips, through which deep, regular breaths were coming,
before turning back to the steering wheel and starting the car up again,
getting back on the road and heading for Burlington.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Emily wept silently as Sydney removed the DSA from the machine, before
gently placing his arm around her shoulders.
"I'm sorry," he apologized softly. "But it's important
that you saw them."
I needed to understand," she agreed, swallowing a
sob. "I never knew -- really -- what it was like for him."
"I know," he told her. "It's impossible to imagine unless
you've lived in this environment, as Yuri has, and as your brother has.
Brothers," he corrected hurriedly.
like that?" she choked out.
"Kyle's training was somewhat different from Jarod's," the
man replied thoughtfully. "You've seen Raines at work now, so perhaps
you can imagine what Kyle went through at his hands."
Emily shuddered, feeling suddenly sick as she wiped the tears from her
"Do you understand now?" Sydney asked quietly. "This is
what Yuri was trying to protect you from having to learn about. This is
the side of you he didn't want you to have to discover, because he didn't
believe you could have dealt with it. Consider that, with so little experience
with emotions, he had no idea of what might happen when he got close to
you, in order to learn Jarod's location. He never saw the danger of love,
until it was too late. Then he did the only thing he could think of, to
Her chest and head ached, as did her throat, and she swallowed painfully.
Sydney stood up and moved over to a side table, on which stood a jug of
water and a glass. Returning to her side, he offered her the glass and
she accepted it thankfully, sipping at the cool liquid, her eyes fixed
on the blank screen, the images she had seen on it burnt into her brain.
A man in a dark suit appeared in the doorway and Sydney looked up.
"What is it, Sam?"
"Is this a bad time, sir?"
"Not at all." Sydney stood up. "What's happened?"
"I thought you should know, Yuri was brought back about ten minutes
ago. He's in the infirmary now, being checked over. But Valentine -- Lucian
"Thank you," the psychiatrist responded quietly. "I'll
come down in a few minutes."
When the man was gone, Sydney turned to Emily. "Would you like to
Emily's head was still resting in her hands, and he had to repeat the
question before it sank in. A moment passed before she looked up.
"Would he want to see me?"
Sydney sat down on the stool beside her. "You're the person he cares
most about," he responded quietly. "His first concern has always
been about you. Even now, he's probably wondering if you know he was out
of the Centre. Yuri doesn't care what anyone else thinks about him --
your opinion is the only one that matters. You matter more to him than
anybody else, with the possible exception of Michaela, his daughter."
She smiled faintly, almost bitterly. "I guess I don't have a choice
then, do I?"
He reached over and put a hand on hers. "If you're thinking of only
yourself, then yes, you have a choice. But if you're thinking of Yuri,
then I'm afraid the answer is no."
Her fingers tightened around his for a moment, wiping her eyes on her
handkerchief one last time and then replacing it in her pocket. When her
eyes met his again, her shoulders straightened and she nodded, her voice
"All right. I'm ready."
Sydney waved her out of the office, locking the door behind them both,
and they walked down the hall to the elevator.
"I'd prefer it if you let me speak to him first," the psychiatrist
proposed. "Then you can have some time with him."
"Thank you," she murmured, nervously studying her hands, which
were clasped in front of her. He reached out to touch her arm.
"Yuri will probably know, or at least guess, that you saw or read
something that made you change your mind about him," Sydney told
her. "He won't like it, either. Be ready for that. His intention
has always been to protect you from the kinds of things you've seen today,
and he'll worry about how it's affected you. That concern could possibly
display itself in anger. But don't worry, Emily," he urged. "Whatever
else Yuri is or does, he loves you, and he won't do anything to hurt you."
She offered a half-smile as the car stopped, and then the doors slid
open. She was startled to see guards every few paces along the hallway,
but they made no move to stop the two people as they entered the infirmary.
Several of the rooms, Emily saw, had occupants, but only one had its blinds
completely closed. Two guards stood outside the door, and Sydney turned
"Wait here. I'll come and tell you when to go in."
Nodding, she stepped back against the far wall, seeing Sydney say something
quietly to one of the suited men, who nodded, glancing at her briefly,
before resuming his examination of the hall.
"Well, Yuri," Sydney announced quietly as he entered, his words
clearly audible to those outside. "So you came back."
There was restrained movement inside the room, and one of the guards
looked over his shoulder before turning forwards again.
"I'm sorry, Sydney." His voice was low. "I didn't mean
"I'm aware of that." Sounds suggested that a chair was being
moved across linoleum, and Emily, unable to stop herself from peering
around the half-open door, saw Sydney sitting down beside a bed, the occupant
of which was not visible. "Tell me what happened."
"Miss Ritter told me to write a report about it."
"She wants the physical things, where you went and what was discussed,"
Sydney assured him, calmly. "I want to know what you felt. We know
how Supernova, the drug you were given, works, so I'm sure you must have
felt something over the past few days. Tell me about that."
There was the sound of a deep sigh, and then silence. After a moment,
Yuri's voice finally spoke. "All the time, I just kept wondering
what -- people would think of me. I mean, first I give myself up, and
then it probably looks like I'm exploiting some weakness in the new security
system, in order to escape at the first opportunity."
"You felt guilty?" Sydney suggested.
"At the idea I'd been betraying the trust that had been put in me,
by not having guards outside my room and stuff like that, yes." He
sighed again. "But at the same time, I knew what Valentine was like,
and I couldn't see what use he'd have for me. I kept expecting him to
kill me." His voice was slightly choked. "I just kept hoping
I'd have the chance to see -- someone -- one last time, before I died."
Emily felt her heart beat faster, believing she knew who he was talking
"Someone?" Sydney asked calmly. "Tell me who you mean
"Two people actually," Yuri amended, in a low voice.
"Do these people have names?" the psychiatrist prompted quietly,
and Yuri's voice was angry as he replied.
"You know who I mean, Sydney."
"I would still like to hear you say their names."
Michaela." Yuri's voice trembled, and Emily could
hear the tears in his words.
He exhaled deeply and slowly, and the woman realized that she had been
holding her breath, her hands clasped so tightly in front of her that
they hurt, her throat aching with tender compassion for his torn emotions
and damaged soul.
"We've talked about her quite a bit," Sydney suggested. "Have
your feelings for her changed after what's happened during the past few
I don't know." There was a pause. "It doesn't
matter," Yuri continued sharply. "I'm never going to see her
again, anyway. I don't deserve to. What does it matter how I feel about
"Just because you believe something will never happen doesn't mean
you can kill the emotions that are connected to it," Sydney replied.
"Personal experience?" Yuri suggested wryly.
"Yes," Sydney agreed. "I've lost two women I loved, one
to death and the other I believed I had lost forever. But that doesn't
mean my feelings for them faded. In fact, they only grew stronger. I believe
you feel the same way about Emily."
"What does it matter, even if I do?" he demanded. "I can't
expect her to forgive me for lying to her like that." There was a
pause. "Does she know?"
"That I left."
"You didn't leave," Sydney corrected. "You were taken.
It's a big difference, one that clears you of any responsibility, in this
case." He paused for a moment. "But the answer to your question
is yes, she does know."
There was another deep sigh, followed by a prolonged silence, before
Sydney spoke again.
"I'll be back in a few minutes, Yuri. Don't go anywhere."
The Pretender gave a short, mirthless laugh, and then Sydney appeared
in the doorway and came out into the hallway, drawing her a short distance
away so that their discussion wouldn't be overheard.
"Yes." Her head went up and she took a deep breath. He nodded,
smiling slightly, and then took a step away so that she could enter the
"Be honest," he urged quietly. "You both need that."
"I will," she promised, and then stepped into the doorway of
It was familiar to her from the long night of work that had followed
the takeover, now eight weeks earlier. A sink and a long bench were set
up to allow for emergency medical aid to be given as it was required,
and a curtain was half-drawn around the bed, blocking it from the view
of anyone passing in the corridor. Yuri lay on the flat bed, under a single
blanket, his head turned away from the door, but Emily saw him tense as
he obviously heard footsteps, and she wondered if he recognized them as
hers. A brief moment of silence was finally broken by his question.
"Do you think she still loves me, Sydney?"
Emily swallowed and then found her voice. "Yes," she offered
quietly, seeing him freeze. "I think she still loves you. I know
His head turned quickly, his expression one of almost comical dismay
at her appearance. "Emily!" he exclaimed in disbelief. "What
are you doing here?"
"I came to see you," she replied, stepping closer to the bed
and adding honestly, "I missed you."
"You shouldn't have come," he growled, turning away again.
"Why not?" she asked, sitting on the chair Sydney had occupied.
"Because -- you just shouldn't have!" he burst out, obviously
frustrated at not being able to come up with a good reason.
"Aren't you pleased to see me?" she prompted quietly.
"Ye --, I mean, no," he corrected hurriedly, his face flushing
a fiery red, as he raised himself on his elbows. Then, for the first time,
he looked at her properly, and his former expression faded to one of concern.
"You've been crying," he burst out.
saw some of your work," she admitted, and saw his
eyes flash furiously. "With Raines."
"Who showed you?" he demanded, his face flushing again. "You
didn't need to see that. I told you everything you had to know."
"No, you didn't," she contradicted at once. "You told
me what you thought I needed to know, to try to make me understand why
you did what you did. But you never told me why you became what you did,
from the innocent little boy brought to the Centre at the age of five
to what you are now. That's what I saw in that footage."
Yuri forced himself into a fully upright position, crossing his legs,
Indian-style, and wriggling back on the bed, as if to get further away
from her. Only the bolts holding it to the floor kept it from tipping
up and throwing him onto the ground.
"You didn't need to see those," he repeated quietly, staring
down at his hands, and Emily had the idea that he couldn't bear to meet
"But don't you get it?" she demanded, becoming frustrated at
his apparent inability to understand. "That was exactly what I needed
to see! I needed to see for myself what you went through, so I knew how
much of what you did was you, and how much of it was what Raines created!"
His breath hitched, his shoulders trembling, and Emily saw his eyes glisten,
but he closed them quickly so that she wouldn't see his tears. She wanted
to take him in her arms and let him cry on her shoulder, as he had done
for her, but was nervous of his reaction. Then she remembered the words
Sydney had uttered.
Whatever else Yuri is or does, he loves you, and he won't do anything
to hurt you.
Her head went up slightly and she rose from her seat, moving over to
the bed and sitting on the edge of it, only a few inches from Yuri. She
could see that he wanted to move back further, away from her, but there
was nowhere for him to go. Reaching out, she placed her hands over those
that lay in his lap, clenched into tight fists, and felt him shudder.
"Sometimes," she murmured, "I think you aren't that different
from the little boy who was brought to the Centre so many years ago."
Picking up one of his hands, she gently unclenched the fist, entwining
her fingers with his, lightly stroking the back of it with her other hand.
It stayed tense in her grasp for a second, before slowly relaxing, and
she looked up into his face, seeing that he was watching her. As soon
as she met his gaze, however, his eyes slid away to examine the floor.
"I'm glad you're okay," she whispered, "and that Lucian
didn't do anything to you. I wouldn't have wanted to lose you before I
had the chance to tell you that I forgive you."
He looked up at her, his eyes wide. "Y
you do?" he stammered.
"Now that I understand why you did it, yes," she agreed softly.
She longed to touch him in a more intimate way, but knew instinctively
that he wouldn't be able to deal with it, so she controlled the urge,
simply stroking his hand. "I never stopped loving you, Yuri,"
she assured him.
The pain was obvious in his eyes as she finished that sentence, and she
realized that it was the first time she had used his real name to his
face, apart from that terrible phone call after she had realized his true
him," he choked out, and, realizing that he
was talking about Paul Jennings, Emily shook her head, remembering what
her mother had said and knowing now how true it was.
"I love the man you are, not your name," she assured him. "I
love the man who risked his own life and freedom to help Jarod save me
from Lyle, whose wonderful sense of humor made me laugh, and who loved
me. Those things weren't Paul, Yuri; they were you."
She leaned forward and kissed his cheek, feeling him frozen to the spot,
but a stream of tears eased out from under his closed eyelids and slid
down his cheeks. Emily knew she was the only person who could move him
to this extent, and her heart warmed to him even more.
"I'd like to come back and see you again," she suggested softly.
"Maybe every day."
His fingers suddenly tightened around hers, his tears falling onto her
hands, and she saw his lips tremble. His index finger was lightly stroking
the back of her hand, and she leaned forward again, to softly kiss his
"I'll come back tomorrow," she assured him, gently easing her
hands out of his grasp, letting her right hand rest lightly on his shoulder.
"See you then, Yuri."
She retreated to the doorway, looking back over her shoulder to see that
he was still staring down at his hands, but she could see a tiny smile
curling his lips, a stray tear still clinging to his lashes.
Sydney's hand came to rest on her shoulder and she turned to him, letting
him draw her a short distance down the hall again. He was smiling, his
brown eyes glowing approbation.
"I'll arrange for you to get a pass," he told her quietly.
"And I know Jarod was using an apartment not far from here. You could
probably stay there."
She smiled. "Thank you, Sydney."
"Thank you," he replied promptly. "Would you like to wait
while I finish, or
"I think I should fly up to Boston and get my things," she
responded. "I need to tell Mama what happened, and Jarod, too."
"All right." He gently squeezed her shoulder. "I'll possibly
see you tomorrow, then."
Nodding, she watched him go back into the room, unable to hear what was
said, as he closed the door. Her heart lighter than it had been since
first learning Yuri's identity, she headed down the hall to the elevator,
pulling out her cell phone to call her older brother as she got into it.
* * * * * * * * *
Merritt watched the plane come in the land from her position on the roof
of the small building and hurried to the steps, running down them and
out into the arrival hall. The three people, one with a baby in her arms,
crossed the tarmac and, after a moment, entered the building. Jordan saw
her and hurried over, catching her in his arms and whirling her around,
to the amusement of Lauren, Paul and the other people in the terminal.
"I've missed you," he whispered in her ear, planting a quick
kiss on her cheek.
"It's only been eight weeks," she teased, hugging him back.
"And it'd be most unladylike for me to admit that I've missed you,
"Oh, sure," he chuckled, slipping an arm around her waist and
walking her back to where Lauren and Paul waited. "That's why you
called me every second day."
"And you called me every other one," she shot back, laughing.
He grinned, taking baby Rachael as Lauren offered her so that the woman
could check if she and Paul had enough money for a taxi to Cheltenham
train station, or whether they had to get more.
"By the way," he added, moving Rachael smoothly from his left
to his right arm, entwining his fingers with hers, "we have to go
shopping before we leave. I promised Gabriel a present, and we'll have
to get something for the others, as well, or there'll be tears."
Merritt grinned. "Great minds think alike. I promised Raffi the
same. We could do that tomorrow, and we can get whatever we need for that
little camping trip you promised me, too, if that's still going ahead."
Jordan's eyes glowed darkly with anticipation. "Oh, that's happening,
don't worry. In fact, we'll be starting on the first leg of that on Monday,
flying up to Uluru. Dad made me promise that we'd go see it."
"He was pretty impressed with it," Lauren told them, as the
group left the terminal and looked for the taxi rank. "And I think
you'll like it, too. We'll write a list of things you need tomorrow morning,
before you head into the city, and you can keep your eyes open."
"What's happening after we get to Uluru?" Merritt demanded,
as she and Jordan got into the back seat of the taxi, leaving Paul, Lauren
and Rachael to take a second one, so there would be room for the baby
"Well, it has to do with horses," he promised teasingly, seeing
her eyes light up in delight. "And a little peace and quiet for a
few days, before we fly home on Saturday."
* * * * * * * * *
Trevor walked towards Elizabeth's room, seeing Sumi slip out of the door,
burdened by a big box, and hurry down the hallway in the opposite direction.
She shot a sharp glance over her shoulder at him, and the sound of a muffled
giggle was audible, before another door further along the hall banged
He entered to find the floor and bed covered in boxes and open suitcases,
and his brow furrowed, instantly anxious.
"Just a sec." Her voice was muffled until she backed out of
the wardrobe, a pile of sweaters in her arms. They swayed dangerously
as she carried them over to the bed, but she was able to put them down
without them falling. Before she could go back for more, he grabbed her
arm, turning her to face him.
"What's going on?"
Her face was flushed and her hair was messy, numerous strands floating
loose. She impatiently brushed them back. Shrugging, she cast a glance
around the room.
"Isn't it obvious?"
His grasp tightened. "You're leaving?"
She looked down at his hands. "That hurts, Trev."
The man loosened his grip slightly, but not enough that she could break
away. "Talk to me," he insisted through clenched teeth. "What's
"I'm moving," she responded carelessly, glancing back over
her shoulder. "This room really isn't big enough."
"Where?" he snapped, and she looked up at him candidly. When
he met her gaze, Trevor saw the humorous twinkle in her eyes and slowly
relaxed his hold. Elizabeth reached up to kiss his cheek and then took
"I'll show you," she promised, slipping his arm around her
shoulders and sliding her own around his waist before guiding him out
of the room and down the hall.
At the far end, she halted in front of a door, opening it and leading
him inside. His arm tightened around her as he saw how many of her things
already decorated the walls in the living area of the apartment. Trevor's
eyes widened as he recognized his own Aubusson rug on the floor, but he
had no time to speak as she opened the first door, revealing a bedroom
containing a king-size bed and a door leading off it into a large walk-in
robe. Trevor turned to her with a question about the bathroom that, in
the other suites, led off the bedroom, but she kissed him again, silencing
The second door led to the bathroom, a larger one than most of the other
rooms contained, but a teasing remark about her vanity that he had been
going to make died on his lips as he saw a small plastic bath standing
in the larger one. His stunned silence continued as she opened the third
door to a room almost as large as the bedroom.
Sebastian and Namir stepped back from a crib they had obviously only
just finished setting up. A changing table stood in another corner, a
chest of drawers opposite, which Sumi and Ramona, the latter still in
a wheelchair, were decorating with brightly colored paints, the fumes
of which filled his nostrils, while Keely and her boyfriend, giggling
and whispering in each other's ears, were engaged in painting a decorative
border above the picture rail. Shocked, and unable to fully comprehend
it all, the psychic felt his wife slip into his arms. Looking down, he
saw the final piece of evidence in the coy expression of her eyes as she
looked up at him.
"Congratulations, Trevor," she stated softly, reaching up to
plant a gentle kiss at the corner of his mouth. "We're going to have
* * * * * * * * *
Northern Territory, Australia
The sky above was already the deep blue of late evening, dotted with
silver, when the two horses stopped under a tree and their riders dismounted.
Ahead of them, a clear patch of ground, broken occasionally by a clump
of trees or a slight hill, allowed a clear view of the last sliver of
the setting sun on the horizon. Jordan gathered a small pile of wood,
and, as John had taught him, set fire to it, scorning the matches in his
pocket and feeding it with increasingly larger pieces of wood until it
was well ablaze.
"You've been busy up here," Merritt remarked, as she removed
the packs and saddles from the horses and led the animals over to a convenient
"Hey, I had to do something with my time," Jordan joked as
he set up a makeshift fireplace and took the food out of the first pack.
"And how about you, Miss 'Blue Ribbon horse-rider?'"
"Pretty cool, huh?" Merritt led the watered horses to a spot
under a tree and tethered them so that they could graze without being
able to wander off. Sitting down beside the fire, she leaned back against
her pack and curled her legs up, watching the smoke drift into the evening
sky. "This is an amazing place."
"I know," Jordan agreed softly. "I don't know anywhere
like it on earth."
"You almost sound like you want to stay."
"I'm torn," the young man confessed. "I would like to,
but at the same time I want to see Dad and Gabriel and everyone else,
"I kind of feel the same," Merritt admitted. "But I want
to see Momma again. She promised to take me to Paris the next time she
goes. And there's Raffi, too." Sighing deeply, she gazed up at the
stars. "You know, I really miss him. I feel like we're so far away,
and every time we talked on the phone, he always sounded so happy to hear
from me that I almost felt guilty I wasn't there. I can't wait to see
him again, and just give him a big hug."
"I can imagine," Jordan agreed, beginning to lay the steaks
they had brought with them on a thin sheet of metal over the flames. "I
feel the same way about Gabriel. I told you about the time he called,
and he sounded so worried that I might stay here."
She smiled across the fire at him. "I guess we're both a little
"Only two more days," he said wonderingly. "Can you believe
how fast it's gone?"
"Not really." She picked up a stray twig and flicked it into
the fire. "But then everything seems to go so fast these days. There
are times when I just wish it'd all slow down so I could take a closer
He chuckled. "'Stop the world, I want to get off,' huh?"
"Something like that," she conceded, smiling. "But I want
to get back on it, too. I guess that'd be what I'd really worry about,
living somewhere like this: that I'd miss too much. We don't seem to have
that problem in Dallas."
"Sure beats Barrow," he murmured, lying on his back on the
"I liked Barrow!" she protested indignantly.
"I did, too," he agreed. "For the first 24 hours. And
while you were there."
"But you had Ethan there
and your grandfather
"It's not the same," he interrupted, rolling onto his stomach,
his face propped up on his hands, to meet her gaze. "They don't really
understand what I feel. There's only one person who does, who knows what
it's like to be exactly the same as someone else, but to try and have
to develop into a different person, to be forced to be a parent before
you've even had all the stuff that usually goes before it." He sighed,
making the flames between them dance. "I don't know what I'd do without
"Hey, I'm not going anywhere, you know," she protested.
"My worst nightmare is losing you," he murmured, feeling the
outline of the box in his pocket and glad that Paul and Lauren had accompanied
them on their shopping trip. Lauren had helped him choose the right one,
and Paul had briefly taken Merritt away so that she wouldn't know.
"Mine, too," she admitted softly. "I couldn't imagine
my life without you in it now."
Jordan felt something bound inside him, and knew he had been given the
answer before he even asked the question. Leaning on one hand, he reached
into his pocket and extracted the little box, getting up and walking around
the fire to sit beside her, the velvet rubbing against the palm of his
hand. She watched him wonderingly, turning so that she was facing him.
Her voice was only just audible above the crackling of the flames and
the tired sighs of the horses nearby.
"What is it?"
" He stopped, trying to choose the right words. "I
"I know," she smiled. "And that makes me so proud. I've
loved you ever since we first met."
"Enough to spend the rest of your life with me?" he blurted
Her eyebrows twitched in slight confusion, before she seemed to understand
what he meant, and smiled, leaning forward to kiss him softly.
"Yes," she whispered against his mouth.
Jordan pulled back slightly, flipping open the ring box with his thumb
and catching her left hand in a smooth motion. She sat, motionless, as
he slid the golden band onto her forth finger, the single, small diamond
reflecting the firelight. It had been all he could afford, from money
he had saved ever since his release from the Centre, when his grandfather
had begun giving him an allowance. She looked down at it for a moment,
before smiling at him.
"It's beautiful," she murmured. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." He slid an arm around her waist and pulled
her into his arms, kissing her more firmly, but she pulled away from him
slightly, her hands resting on his chest, his arms around her shoulders.
"Jordan," she began, "I meant what I said just now, about
marrying you, but I really don't want to rush into this. It
too much like being a grown-up, and I think I've still got a few years
yet of being a kid. I don't want to spoil that."
"I never meant we had to run off and get married tomorrow,"
he protested indignantly. "Just that I want to make sure of you,
so that I don't have worry about losing you anymore. But I don't want
to start a family or anything like that yet, either. I need to finish
my education and get a job, so I can give us something to live on."
"You're so old-fashioned," she teased, lying back so her head
rested on his knee and she could look up into his face and at the stars.
"Absolutely," he agreed with a grin, running his fingers through
the hair that lay across his lap like a blanket, watching her finger the
new ring on her hand. "But if you want to work, too, I won't stop
"I have to talk to Momma about that," she mused. "I've
got some ideas, but I bet she'll know the best places to go and people
to talk to."
"Probably," he agreed. "But, in the here and now, unless
you get up, we're going to have to have charcoal for dinner, instead of
Laughing, Merritt sat up, reaching into one of the rucksacks and pulling
out plastic plates and two sets of cutlery, her engagement ring sending
rainbows of light into the dark world around them.
* * * * * * * * *
Peter Winston never knew that this would be the last moment of his life.
Working late, trying to finish the report he was writing so that he could
file it away and go home, he looked up only briefly as the café
across the road turned off their lights and locked up. It was late. The
majority of the security teams would be leaving now, he thought idly,
hoping that he had remembered to buy enough TV dinners, the previous Thursday
night, that there would be one left for tonight. Then he turned back to
The door opened silently, slowly enough that no draught would disturb
the sheets of paper on the desk. The intruder wore a black, figure-hugging
outfit, and a ski mask that hid his facial features. His dark eyes glowed
with purpose, his fingers tighten around the gun in his hand, the safety
already off. He didn't want to give any warning of this. This man had
sufficient strength and, in a fight for his life, might just win. The
intruder could beat a woman, even one fighting to survive, and even one
who could, at her peak of health, have given heart-stopping electric shocks,
but he was less certain against a man with as much determination as this
The lights from the city outside cast shadows on the carpeted floor,
the various hues of the large neon signs muted by the thick, reflective
glass. The walls were glass from floor to ceiling, and, in a few hours,
would let in the early morning, eastern sunlight. By then, of course,
it would shine on a dramatically different scene from this one. Air conditioning
hummed softly and incessantly, and it helped to cover any sounds made
by the intruder. The computer monitor, too, played its part in blocking
out any sounds, either now, or those that would soon follow.
Slowly, the masked man raised the gun, aiming at a point on Peter Winston's
temple. Much as he enjoyed torture, this had to be quick. He had only
so long before his movements could be noticed, and he had no desire to
be caught again. The last time had been close enough, and they wouldn't
just handcuff him this time. He knew that only instant death would follow
his next capture.
His right index finger tightened around the trigger, the metal molded
against the palm of his hand, comfortable in his grasp. A gun was like
an old friend to him, and this one had seen him through many occasions
since the death of his mother, now more than 25 years past. His breath
hitched a little, and then his finger jerked.
The silencer did its intended work, whispering as the bullet left the
chamber, followed by the soft, dull thud of Peter Winston's body hitting
the desk. Several sheets of paper drifted lazily to the floor. Stepping
close to the dead man, the intruder peered at the pages, checking that
they were not relevant to him, even as he returned the gun to the holster
that hung at his waist, before reaching into his pocket to pull on his
leather gloves -- black, of course.
Moving over to the nearest filing cabinet, he pulled out the top drawer,
flipping through the clearly labeled files. The office was not so silent
now, a trickling of blood onto the scattered pages on the floor providing
a background noise to the murderer's search.
Finally, he found what he was seeking and smoothly extracted a file,
taking out its contents and folding them neatly, slipping them into his
pocket. After returning the folder to its correct place, he gently pushed
the drawer, watching it slide shut. Turning, he looked at the man lying
on the desk.
Peter Winston's blue eyes were wide, staring blindly. His head had fallen
forward onto the report he had been writing, the pen still clutched loosely
in his right hand. Blood oozed from two holes in his head, one at each
temple, and the bullet had created a hole through the desk and the floor.
It appeared death had been instantaneous.
"See, Dad," the black-clad man whispered to the empty office.
"I told you I could shoot."
Patting the gun at his waist fondly, he stepped over to the desk and
quietly extinguished the lamp. The office was still illuminated by the
neon signs, the red of a Coke sign opposite casting strange and ever-moving
shadows on the floor. A second later, a black shadow slipped across the
floor and opened the office door again. He paused briefly, his dark eyes
fixed on the dead man, before the door was pulled to, blocking out the
It shut with a soft click.
End of Movie
Circle of Fire