Promises Kept

 

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And I will never see the sky the same way,
And I will learn to say good-bye to yesterday
And I will never cease to fly if held down,
And I will always reach too high…

-- Vanessa Carlton, "Twilight"

DFW International Airport
Dallas, Texas

"The plane," Morgan remarked with mock-disinterest, "has just landed."

Jarod picked up a napkin from the table and wiped the remainder of the chocolate ice cream from Gabriel's face, as Morgan waved over a waiter to pay their bill. After cleaning similar smears of strawberry from Raphael's cheeks, Jarod pushed the plates into the middle of the table and then lifted the two boys down from the raised chairs on which they sat. Looking around instinctively for his cane, he grinned at the remembrance that he no longer needed it, before swinging his leather jacket over his shoulders. Morgan, meanwhile, had paid for the drinks and ice creams. The group left the café and headed for the doors through which the passengers from the flight would appear.

Jordan and Merritt had begged to fly back first class, instead of going in one of Sebastian's jets, and Jarod and Morgan had finally agreed. It had been child's play to arrange for two of the men at Pele's Brisbane office to fly to America at company expense, with a short stopover in Melbourne on the way, to ensure that nothing went wrong during the flight. Pele staff that neither Jordan nor Merritt knew would meet the Australian men, and the young people would never need to know that they had been chaperoned, unless, of course, something went wrong. As there had been no messages received before or during the flight, it was assumed that nothing had.

The two boys were just beginning to get fidgety when the doors slid open and the first passengers exited. Jarod glimpsed the 'MEL' tag on someone's suitcase and knew that they would probably have been from the same flight, picking up Gabriel as Morgan took her baby brother in her arms, to prevent him being swept away in the rush.

"Daddy," Gabriel complained. "How come dey's takin' so long?"

Jarod grinned at the boy's impatience, trying to suppress his own. "Just a little longer, honey."

"It's takin' ages!" his son moaned.

Suddenly there was a yelp from Raphael, who wriggled frantically in Morgan's arms. She took a firmer hold of him, even as she began walking towards the end of the barrier. Jarod followed her in time to see the familiar face of his son, pushing a luggage trolley with one hand, the other around Merritt's back. The man couldn't help grinning, even as he hurried forward in time to see Merritt rush into Morgan's arms.

"Hey there, stranger," he remarked in Jordan's ear, seeing his son turn with a delighted grin.

"Hi, Dad!" Jordan's arms came around him in a firm hug, with care for Gabriel, who was looking a little pop-eyed when he was able to throw himself at his brother.

"Jo-den!" Gabriel beamed, placing an obviously wet kiss on his brother's cheek, which Jarod was pleased to see that his son didn't wipe away.

Jarod ushered the group out of the way of the people coming through the doors before he had the chance to greet Merritt. The young woman was now only an inch or two shorter than Morgan and was darkly tanned, as was Jordan, from her time in the Australian sun.

"It was a long flight," she complained, trying to smooth the hair Raphael's enthusiastic embrace had ruffled, while hanging on to him with the other arm as he cuddled her around the neck.

"Well, you would insist on taking a public plane," Jarod teased. "If you'd gone on the jet, it would have been direct -- and a lot quicker."

"First class was great," Jordan enthused, handing Gabriel to Morgan, as Jarod took charge of the luggage trolley on which the two cases and small cabin bags stood. "Real silver cutlery and china plates, and a proper bed!"

"As opposed to the flight you took over there," Morgan remarked lightly, "which had a real dining table and your own bedrooms."

Merritt giggled. "They were both great, just too long," she offered, her accent notably foreign and familiar to Jarod's ears. "Australia's great, but it's so far away!"

They exited the building, and a man standing beside a limousine, which stood by the main door, immediately opened the car's rear door, taking control of the trolley from Jarod and hefting the cases into the trunk as the travelers took their cabin bags. The group got into the car, which left the airport, heading for the Prometheus building, as the occupants began to talk about the previous few months.

Jarod looked Morgan, with Merritt beside her and Raphael in a booster seat, his face turned up to the young woman, his delight at her being back obvious in his eyes. Merritt kept her left arm around his waist, tightening it occasionally in a hug, and on one of these occasions Jarod saw the gold band on her forth finger, a small diamond gleaming in the dim light. He looked sharply at his elder son, who sat on the same seat, Gabriel between them, and could feel the happiness in Jordan's heart, tempered by his sadness over Jacob, but it was tolerable now, and Jordan could move on from that tragedy. It was obvious, however, that he would not have go on alone, and Jarod decided to remove any potential barriers that might stand in the way of their happiness.

"What did you bring me?" Gabriel demanded at this juncture, and Jordan grinned.

"Who said I brought you anything, little brother?"

"You promised!" the boy whined, and Jordan chuckled.

"I did promise, you're right," he agreed, hefting his bag onto the seat and opening it. Pulling out a gift, he put it on Gabriel's lap, taking out a similar one for Raphael.

The younger child eagerly ripped off the paper, turning the stuffed animal around to look at the face and turning confused eyes up to his brother.

"What is it?"

"It's a koala, Gabriel," Jordan explained. "Some people call it a koala bear, even though it isn't a member of the bear family." He pointed out the claws and the large, round ears. "It sits in trees all day, and eats leaves."

"What's mine?" Raphael asked Merritt, as he pulled the paper away from his brown toy, and she smiled.

"This is a kangaroo, Raffi," she explained. "It's got strong legs to jump, and a pouch to carry its babies in." She showed him the soft pouch, before reaching into the pocket of her jacket and pulling out her purse, extracting a photo. "See, that's me feeding the kangaroos that lived around the house where I was staying."

Raphael's blue eyes were wide as he looked at the photo. "Dey's big!" he proclaimed, and Merritt agreed, handing the photo to Morgan.

Jarod leaned over to speak quietly in his son's ear. "I hope you got something for every child."

Jordan nodded. "Eight different toys -- one each."

The older man smiled approbation, even as Gabriel eagerly reclaimed his brother's attention with demands to be told more about the koala.

* * * * * * * * *

Die Fakultat
Berlin, Germany

"Sir?"

Frederick Hohmann tapped lightly on the office door, glancing over his shoulder at Maria, who was sitting at her desk. "Have you talked to Herr Winston this morning?"

"No, sir," she answered readily. "But I don't usually see him 'till after nine, and it's only eight thirty now. He gets in earlier than I do, most days."

He nodded, placing his hand on the doorknob and, after a moment of hesitation, turning it. It was a thing he would never have dreamt of doing when the old Direktor was in power, but, thankfully, those days were now gone. When the silence from the office continued, he pushed the door wide, breath catching in his throat, his eyes widening as he saw the man draped across the desk.

"Is he there?" Maria's voice asked, and he felt her move to stand beside him. A choked cry forced itself out of her mouth as she took in the scene, turning horrified blue eyes up to him in his role as the authority figure present, and Frederick responded instantly.

Hurrying over to the desk, he placed two fingers on his boss's neck, although it was obvious from the dried blood on the floor that his death had taken place hours earlier.

"Call the infirmary," he ordered over his shoulder. "Get one of the doctors up here to confirm it."

Looking around the office, he saw that nothing was out of place, apart from the pages on the floor, which the force of Peter Winston's body hitting the desk could have caused. On instinct, he moved over to the filing cabinet, pulling out one of the drawers and flicking through the folders, seeing that the formerly thick file in which information about Lucian had been kept was empty. This only confirmed to the head of security that the depraved former head of the corporation was responsible. Taking out his cell phone, he arranged for increased security for the entrances, despite knowing that Lucian would probably have been gone for some time.

Two men from the infirmary appeared in the doorway, and Frederick left the room to go down to his own office and see what he could do to salvage the situation. The first and most important part, he knew, was a further tightening of security.

His deputy was waiting in his office when he arrived, and, from the look on his face, Frederick knew it was more bad news.

"Well, Christian?" he demanded impatiently. "What is it?"

Mr. Schwartz cleared his throat somewhat nervously. "It's Martin Delius."

Frederick's imagination leapt to Yuri and the abduction by Lucian, his head pounding as he tried not to imagine all the complications, but Christian Schwartz continued before he could utter them.

"We found his body in his cell this morning, sir. He was apparently murdered last night."

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Elizabeth strolled down the hallway, glancing through the small panes of glass in the doors to see into the rooms she passed, finally stopping outside one and knocking.

"Come in."

The room contained a series of desks, a class facing a whiteboard, on which were written various mathematical equations. The gray-haired teacher stood beside it, and smiled at the visitor.

"What can I do for you, Elizabeth?"

"I want to borrow Cam, if I can," the younger woman responded. There was an instant jeer from the back of the room, and she fixed the perpetrator with a look that would have melted steel. "You watch yourself," she told him sweetly, her eyes lighting briefly on a young woman in the second row of seats, before jumping back to the young man who had made the sound, "or I might let slip about a dream or two you had last night."

In the deathly silence that followed this threat, Cam dropped his pen into the pencil case and put it and the math textbook into his desk, a gleeful grin on his face as he stood and came over to the door.

"My husband said you hadn't done your homework," Elizabeth explained, after shutting the door. "And, as I wanted to talk to you anyway, I thought I'd save you a little embarrassment."

"You're a lifesaver," he told her gratefully.

"I try." She led the way into the lift and then up the residential floor. Trevor was already waiting in the new suite he and his wife shared when they arrived, and Cam curled up in an armchair while the adults sat on the sofa.

"What's up?" the young man queried.

Trevor's brown eyes met Cam's. "Dr. Sydney Ritter," he said calmly. "What do you think of him?"

"Well, he seems nice enough," Cam began cautiously, not entirely sure what Trevor meant.

"You're losing your touch," the psychic remarked drily. "Or else you're just being a smart ass. You know what I mean."

"What makes you think there's anything?" the young man demanded. "I mean, yes, I've picked up a few bits and pieces, but you obviously know something, too, or I wouldn't be in here getting the 3rd degree."

Elizabeth laughed, resting her hands on the arms Trevor had wrapped around her waist, before becoming serious as she spoke. "His dreams are full of his brother, who died a few years ago."

"And that's so unusual?" Cam challenged.

"Wait," the woman told him. "It's not that simple. The conversations they have go beyond what most people can manage with those who've died. It's as if Jacob is still alive."

"Jacob!" The young man was startled. "Was there any connection…?"

"It's possible there was, yes," Trevor agreed sternly. "But it has no relevance, so let's keep to the topic here, so you don't miss more of algebra than you have to."

Cam snorted. "All of it's fine by me." He relaxed back in the chair. "Dr. Ritter is a very perceptive and sensitive person, but like with his dreams, it's not like usual sensitivities. It's almost like he's empathic, but not quite. It's more -- general than that."

"Tastes, smells, sounds," Elizabeth agreed. "Anything that affects the senses."

"ESP," Trevor suggested, but his wife shook her head.

"I think it's too limited to be ESP," she argued. "As I understand ESP, it would allow the individual to know things he wouldn't be able to sense in the normal world. Sydney's dreams suggest he's able to sense things in unusual situations. He might be in a room, for instance, and know what's happening in another, without being able to directly see it." She studied the carpet for a moment, before she looked up again. "There was a time, a few years ago, when he was temporarily blind. If he had ESP, he should still have been able to 'see' things from that time, but his visual memory of the period, at least as far as his dreams show it, is blank."

"Well, that knocks that idea out," her husband remarked.

"Why don't you just ask him?" Cam proposed. "I mean, if you ask him straight out, he'll probably be so surprised at anyone noticing that he'll tell you."

Elizabeth glanced up at her husband and nodded. "He was planning to go back to Blue Cove this morning, I think, so you might want to talk to Sebastian now."

"I will." Trevor kissed Elizabeth's hair and then released her, standing up and stretching. He shot a grin at Cam. "Back to algebra, kiddo."

"Aw, man!" Cam got out of the chair but hesitated, scuffing at the floor with the toe of his sneaker. "Isn't there anything else you want to talk about?"

"No," Elizabeth told him firmly. "Now shoo. I promised I'd go and see Angelique before lunch, and it's nearly 11 now."

Cam moved laggingly to the door, seeing Trevor heading down the corridor, before reluctantly going down the hall to the stairs and jogging up them, back to his math class.

* * * * * * * * *

Blue Cove, Delaware

Broots flipped through the Supernova files and then sorted them into order, before slotting them into one of the filing cabinets that lined the walls. At a knock on the door of his office, he looked up and called for the person to enter. Warwick opened the door and closed it behind himself, approaching the desk and handing over a folder.

"This is the report about the treatment of the Supernova victims," Warwick stated. "We finished the last doses this morning."

"And how's it going?"

"Well." Warwick smiled in satisfaction. "At this stage, we're getting them to write reports on what Lucian had them do. That should be finished in a day or two."

"Good work," Broots stated approvingly, accepting the report. "I'll let you know if there's anything else I need from you."

Warwick nodded and left the office. Broots glanced through the pages, seeing that the antidote Jarod had created for Supernova had worked effectively on all those whom tests had proven had been given the drug. The reports from the Supernova victims would provide further ways to secure the Centre from any further attack, and Broots was working on a report to present to the Board for still more improvements.

The door of his office opened and Kim stepped inside, letting the door fall shut behind herself, as she approached the desk.

"How's it going?"

"Fine," he told her somewhat absentmindedly, turning to the computer and making several notes before looking back at her again. "Was there something you wanted?"

"I need a copy of Cox's will about Ammon House, so that I can hand it over to Father Kelly."

"Oh, right." He pulled out the filing cabinet drawer containing the papers pertaining to Ammon House and withdrew the relevant envelope, handing it to her. "This is the original. If you could copy it and bring it back to me, that'd be great."

"Sure thing." She took it, sent a brief grin in his direction and then left the office.

Broots stared after her for a moment before shaking his head slightly and refocusing on his work again. Morgan would be back the following day, and she would expect to see the report before it was submitted to the Board. He could talk to Kim later that night when she came home with him, as she had begun doing on a regular basis, even after Debbie had come back from staying with his brother, but for now Lazslo had to concentrate on his work.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

"If only Australia wasn't so far away," Jordan complained, and Jarod nodded in agreement from his prone position on the grass.

"You'll have to save up for another trip, some time in the future, for a honeymoon or something," he teased, seeing Merritt blush red and Jordan intently examine the ground of the custom-made park in which they were sitting. "And in the meantime," he suggested, seeing the young woman smother her third yawn in about ten minutes, "why don't you both go and unpack, and maybe have a nap, before dinner?"

"Sure." Jordan got out of the deckchair in which he had been sitting and waited until Merritt had hugged her mother before taking her hand and strolling back through the dappled light to the gray building that loomed behind them.

Jarod looked at the woman in the deckchair opposite. "That trip obviously achieved its aim."

"It sure did," she agreed. "And I'm glad Merritt was out of the way when Lucian took Yuri. I only wish we'd managed to keep hold of the sick bastard after we got Yuri back."

"No further sightings?" Jarod asked, reaching up to fill her glass from a jug of juice on the picnic table between them.

"Not yet." She sighed, accepting the glass and sipping the contents. "He's probably realized that just about every city has sweepers looking out for him. My guess is he'll probably flee the country, maybe to South America or somewhere."

"There aren't many places he could go," Jarod told her feelingly. "I should know."

"You hardly ever left the USA," she mused. "How come?"

He grinned. "A little thing called a passport, Morgan."

She cocked a skeptical eyebrow. "You forged how many fake IDs in six years?"

"True," he conceded. "Actually, it was really because I didn't want to lose track of what you were up to in Blue Cove. That's a major difference between Lucian and me. He has offices all over the world that he can visit or keep an eye on. I really only had the Centre. That meant I had to stay in the vicinity, so I knew where my trackers were."

Morgan nodded understandingly. "At least it's over now."

Jarod smiled wryly. "Want to know something weird? I actually kind of miss it."

She stared at him in amazement. "You… you miss it?"

"Sometimes, yes," he confessed. "I miss the variety and the tension. It's so quiet around here that there are some days I feel like I'll go insane if I don't do something. I guess," he sighed ruefully, "I just wasn't meant to live a normal life."

He glanced over at the playground equipment Sebastian had had put into the stretch of bare ground that had been converted into a ready-made park for the Seraphim and other residents to enjoy, before casting an eye at the woman who had slipped down to join him on the picnic blanket, thinking that, despite his feelings of impatience, this was as close as he was going to get to his own family, with Gabriel and Raphael playing on the swing nearby.

Morgan reached out to touch the back of her hand to his forehead, her expression concerned but her eyes dancing with laughter. "You're delirious, Jarod! I think we need to call the infirmary."

He chuckled, pulling up some grass and throwing it at her. "I never knew you were the anxious type, except where your -- our son's concerned, of course," he added.

She sighed, her good humor gone. "I really don't want to go back tonight." Reaching forward, she put the glass on the table and then rolled onto her stomach, folded her arms and rested her chin on them, her eyes following her son as the boys ran over to the sandpit. "I'd love to transfer the Seraphim to Blue Cove, just to have Gabriel near me."

"And Sebastian would probably have you shot or something," Jarod told her obligingly. "He was devastated when he first learned about Gideon, but nothing would separate them now."

"Oh, I know it's wishful thinking," she retorted. "And I also know that he's so happy here, it would be cruel to move him back, but I miss him so much."

"When Lucian's out of the way," Jarod suggested, "you could probably run the Centre from here. Make us a permanent partner and move here. Sydney would probably come here, too, to be near you, Angelo and his grandchildren."

"And you," she added quickly, before looking thoughtful. "Do you really think I could run it from here?"

"Sebastian runs all his companies from here, and he's got plenty," Jarod replied immediately. "He spends his morning in meetings, and then his afternoons are free to spend with his son, or that's what happens on most days. I don't see why it should be any different with you. The Centre has an office here in Dallas, and you could move the major hub down here, if you were worried about losing control, being so far away." He grinned. "I know Broots would love the idea. Ramona told me what he said when the three of you came down here, before Gabriel and the others were rescued."

She smiled. "I'm sure he'd be happy, as long as I transferred Kim with him."

"They're really serious about that, huh?"

"Absolutely." She nodded. "And even better, Debbie thinks Kim's great. If they ever take it further, and I'm pretty sure Broots wants to, she'd probably love to have Kim as a step-mom."

"I'm glad." Jarod looked solemn. "Debbie deserves that sort of stability in her life."

"Yes," Morgan agreed, "she does." She sighed and rolled over to look up at him. "I've sometimes wondered, if I'd never got to know Debbie properly, whether I would have bothered going to see Gabriel before I knew he was my son, and not just my brother. Would I have loved him as much as I do?"

Jarod smiled slightly. "I don't think your mother would have let you do anything else."

"But I might not have paid attention to what she was trying to tell me," she argued. "Debbie was the first person who made me realize that I didn't have to be whatever 'Daddy' wanted me to be."

"Thank God she did," Jarod responded fervently, getting to his feet as Gabriel came running over, his clothes caked in wet sand. "Gabriel Charles, look at you!"

"I can't, Daddy!" his son protested. "It's all in de back!"

He turned to expose the streaks of green on the new pale blue shirt that had been purchased for the welcome at the airport and Jarod rolled his eyes.

"I'm sure I never behaved like that." He looked down at the woman lying on the rug. "He must have got it from your side of the family."

She snorted. "Well, why doesn't the former precocious infant take his son off and change him into some harder-wearing clothes and I'll call Broots, just to check that everything's okay and whether I really need to go back there tonight."

Jarod brushed as much of the sand off his son as he could before chasing the boys towards the building. Morgan watched them for a moment, smiling, before taking out her cell phone.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

"What do you mean, Peter's dead?" the voice shrieked down the line, and Broots held the phone away from his ear until the receiver went silent.

"I only know what Christian from Berlin told me," he responded warily. "It seems Lucian shot him last night. And Delius is dead, too."

"Good riddance," Morgan spat. "He's no loss." She hesitated, her voice softening with grief. "But Peter… Oh, Broots. I can't believe it."

"I… I think you should come back up," Broots offered uncertainly. "Mr. Voorhees and Frederick Hohmann, the head of German security, want to talk to you as soon as possible."

"I'll be there in a few hours," she snapped. "And I want to see that report you're supposed to have for me about tightening our security."

"Y… yes, ma'am."

The dial tone sounded in his ear and he dropped the phone back into the cradle before turning to his computer. The file was already open on his monitor, and he typed in the last few words of his report before beginning to print it out. Kim's hands came down on his shoulders and he turned to look up at her.

"Do you want me to pick Debbie up from school for you?"

"Please." He flashed her a tense smile, before suddenly looking thoughtful. "She was supposed to go and have a final fitting for her dress for the dance today. I was going to take you along with us anyhow, because of how much she likes knowing what you think of her clothes."

Kim smiled. "I'll take her. She can show you the dress once it's finished."

"Thanks." He watched her leave the office and then picked up the pages that had been printed, checking that they were all there before putting them into a folder and setting it aside.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Sydney paused in the doorway of the playroom to see that Angelo was sitting on the floor, two of the Seraphim in his lap, listening eagerly as one of the caregivers read the children a story. The psychiatrist thought it was time to take Angelo back to Blue Cove, wanting to have his son at home with him, where he could take care of him. He couldn't leave Angelo here any longer. He had a duty of care for the son he had let be all but destroyed, only wishing that Catherine had trusted him with the secret of who the boy really was, so that he could have begun earlier. With a rueful sigh, knowing how little his son would want to leave, Sydney was about to enter the room when a hand gently tapped his shoulder and he turned to find the building's owner beside him, to whom Jarod had introduced him not long after he and Angelo had first arrived here.

"Dr. Ritter."

The older man nodded slightly, returning the Australian's handshake. "Mr. MacKenzie."

"Sebastian," the younger man corrected. "I wondered if I could have a word."

"Certainly."

Curious, Sydney accompanied Sebastian to the elevator, watching as the car descended to one of the lower floors, finding himself in a hall lined with offices when the doors opened. He was led to one of the largest, about halfway down, and entered to find several people sitting in one corner. Ramona and three other people sat on the sofa. Three armchairs stood vacant, and Sebastian waved Sydney to one of these, taking another himself. Just as he sat down, Sydney heard soft, familiar footsteps, turning in time to see Jarod enter the room.

"Hope I didn't miss anything," he stated, as he sat down in the last empty armchair.

"We were just about to start," Sebastian informed him. "I hadn't even gotten around to doing the introductions yet." He turned to Sydney. "Dr. Ritter -- "

"Sydney," the psychiatrist amended, and Sebastian nodded slightly in acknowledgement, waving at each of those seated in the circle.

"Sydney, these are Trevor, his wife Elizabeth, Ramona and Cam." He suddenly grinned. "I think you already know my most recently attained board member of Pele Enterprises."

"You could say that," Sydney agreed, smiling, as Jarod chuckled.

"We've got a proposal for you," Sebastian began, dispensing with formalities, and Sydney tensed immediately. "We've seen how happy your son is here, and we wondered if you'd consider letting him stay -- for good."

Sydney's immediate instinct was to refuse. He had felt guilty, ever since learning the truth about Angelo, that he had done nothing to protect the defenseless child, and after discovering that the empath was his son, that guilt had only magnified. This offer, it seemed to him, would be throwing off the responsibility he had only recently adopted of the care of his son, who was so incapable of taking care of himself in the unfamiliar scenarios that the world would present to him.

"You've done a lot for Angelo," the young man Sebastian had introduced as Cam remarked softly, to Sydney's surprise. "I doubt that you need to feel guilty about it."

Wary, Sydney glanced at Jarod, who nodded, as if understanding, but deftly steered the topic to a different area, shooting a quick glance at Elizabeth before returning his gaze to the psychiatrist. "Angelique's happier than I've seen her in some time," he remarked. "And I'm sure that a large part of that is due to Angelo being here."

There was a moment of silence, which Trevor broke.

"It's just possible, Sydney," he began thoughtfully, "that we might be able to do something for your son. I don't say that we can get him to the level Jarod described to us, when you were using the treatment he designed, but we might be able to improve his communication skills, and hopefully also his concentration."

"How?" the psychiatrist returned, opening skeptical. "The neural pathways that were restored by the treatment collapsed again when it wasn't completed."

"You've seen the result of those people who are skilled in the art of healing," Elizabeth reminded him quietly. "As Angelo's current state was caused by tissue damage, there's a likelihood that they might be able to do something about it. Of course, it's been so long that the damaged tissue has already healed itself, which is why it might not be completely successful. All we can do is give it a go."

Sydney considered for a moment. He had certainly seen the results of those healers' skills -- the condition of the man beside him was evidence of their abilities.

"Well, you could try," he offered doubtfully. "I don't suppose it could do any more harm."

Sebastian nodded at Trevor, who made a note on a writing pad that rested on his knee. Then the dark-skinned man's gaze swung around once more to the older man, resting on him thoughtfully.

"Have you ever considered, Sydney," Trevor remarked, "that Angelo's ability as an empath must have had a biological foundation? Nothing that Raines did would have caused it in him."

"What are you implying?" the psychiatrist asked promptly.

"Nothing we've found would lead us to the conclusion that Catherine Parker had any empathic or extra-sensory perceptive abilities," the younger man stated. "Her 'Inner Sense' had nothing to do with the physical senses, as such," Trevor's gaze intensified, "which leaves us with Angelo's father."

Sydney straightened in his seat. "What are you trying to suggest, Mr. McCarty?"

Sebastian instantly raised an eyebrow. "Just out of interest," he stated quietly, "how did you know that was Trevor's last name? Nobody's used it since we entered the room."

"It's written on…" Sydney's voice trailed off, his hand in the process of indicating the notepad that lay on Trevor's knee, and the surface of which was not visible from his seat.

Jarod reached over and tore off the sheet of paper, silently handing it to his mentor. On it, Sydney saw the words 'Trevor McCarty' and looked up again wordlessly.

There was a long pause before anyone spoke again.

"We believe it's a phenomenon called 'clairsentience,'" Trevor explained. "It means 'clear feeling' in French, and -- "

"I know what it means," Sydney replied sharply, his feeling of shock shattered by the assumption of ignorance. "I did grow up in France, you know."

Sebastian chuckled as Trevor was momentarily flummoxed, before managing to continue. "It's an extension of one or more of the senses. The clairsentient individual can feel things they wouldn't normally be able to, hearing things from further away than they would be able to do naturally, for example, or seeing things on the other side of closed doors or even just the other side of a room."

"Like when Jarod was coming before," Ramona interposed gently. "You heard it before the rest of us did."

"There's also an apparently stronger connection to the spirit world," Elizabeth put in. "It probably explains why your dreamed conversations with your brother are so much more real than those of others."

Sydney stared at her. "What do you know about my brother?"

She smiled slightly. "Sydney, everyone in this room, and most people in this building, have some sort of gift. You aren't alone."

The psychiatrist was immediately curious. Although his profession refuted the existence of 'gifts' such as these people claimed, he had had too much experience of the paranormal to dismiss it in the automatic way most of his professional colleagues did.

"You know we're not normal."

The sentence suddenly drifted into his mind, one that his brother had uttered decades earlier, and which he had automatically contradicted. They had been discussing unusual phenomenon, he recalled, after a lecture in which ESP and other phenomena had been presented and refuted by a lecturer in their psychiatry course.

"Of course we are," Sydney had insisted. "We've got two arms and two legs, like everyone else, don't we?"

Jacob chuckled, deep in his throat, as he hefted his bag over his shoulder, and then tapped the side of his head. "It's what in here that tells you whether you're normal or not. And I don't think any of the people here," he indicated the groups of people surrounding them, "know the sorts of things that we know."

Sydney blinked, refocusing on the group around him, seeing that Jarod had raised an eyebrow, as if waiting for him to comment, and the older man wondered briefly if he had ever discussed that conversation with his young prodigy. On consideration, he didn't believe that he had.

"We might be able to help you to hone that ability," Sebastian offered, "if you're interested."

Sydney met his gaze steadily, recovering his composure. "I've lived for almost 70 years with this in a basically latent state, Sebastian, if indeed it actually exists. I don't really want to become a highly tuned clairsentient at this stage. I've got enough to deal with, without it."

Sebastian nodded understandingly, nodding again at the other people in the room, who rose and quietly left it. Sydney looked at the page he still held, seeing the firmly inscribed handwriting, his eyes tracing the letters.

When he looked up again, only Jarod remained in the room, watching him, waiting for a reaction, and the older man raised an eyebrow interrogatively.

"How long have you known?"

"Since just after Morgan left." Jarod leaned back in his chair. "Sebastian and Trevor came to talk about it with me. But I've always wondered if there was something different about you."

"You're mocking me now," the psychiatrist replied sharply, and Jarod laughed, shaking his head.

"I wouldn't do that, Sydney. And I did always feel that way. But it wasn't something that I would've been able to pick up anyway. You're obviously receptive, rather than emitting your senses."

"You seem to have become quite an expert."

"I did a little research." He met the older man's gaze, a trace of humor in his dark eyes. "The way you taught me."

Sydney rolled his eyes. "I never taught you to research me!"

Jarod laughed. "I like to know what I'm talking about, as do you."

The psychiatrist stared at the paper in his hands again before slowly looking up. "I'm not going to tell Morgan about this."

The Pretender raised an eyebrow. "Why not? Do you think she won't understand?"

"It's a personal decision," Sydney snapped. "My decision."

"Of course it is," Jarod agreed quietly, standing and heading towards the door. "I just don't believe she'd be as surprised as you think."

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney, Australia

Lucian sat at the window of his hotel room, his newly purchased laptop open in front of him, a file sitting idle. After a moment, the screensaver started, and the screen went black, before words began to scroll across it.

The Centre. Die Fakultät. The Asian Station. The Pretoriat.

Other names followed these, and then Lucian idly watched as the sequence restarted, planning what he would do when he once more had control of his empire. There would be no Triumvirate this time. Everyone would answer to him, and only to him. The basic organizational structures had always been sound -- his father had had a good understanding of organization -- but the old Triumvirate had always believed it had too much power. When he took over, that would change.

Pushing the chair back further, basking in the sunlight that streamed in through the window, he shut his eyes and thought of his most recent glories. Killing Peter Winston had been fun, but more for the knowledge of how it would affect Morgan than anything else. Lucian, aware of their shared history, had not missed the strong feelings the dead man had had for his American counterpart, and, whether the feelings had been reciprocated or not, he had no doubt that the loss of a friend, for a woman who had had so few of those, would be painful. It would also, he hoped, increase her own feelings of concern about her personal security.

But taking care of Delius had been a piece of personal revenge he had anticipated for years. Part of his training had been done in Germany, at the old office in Potsdam, before the new building in Berlin had been completed, and Martin Delius had enjoyed his apparent superiority over both Cox and Lucian himself during those years.

The devastating realization on Delius' face of who 'Valentine' really was had been wonderful, and he had made sure the man's death was as slow as he dared to make it. Certainly, it would have been agony, and he smiled at the thought. In fact, the persona of Valentine had been useful, and had lasted for a long time. He thought back to how it had begun, the smile slowly fading from his face.

Lucian tossed the handful of dirt onto his father's grave, glanced at his mother's dry eyes, and knew. Though the Centre inquest revealed the death was due to natural causes, Lucian sensed that it had been doctored, or at least influenced to read as it did. He nodded to her as she prepared to walk away, still trim and beautiful despite her years. He had her dark hair and eyes, his father's deep voice, and now, an empire to run.

He recalled the last conversation he'd had with his father before he died. Hermann had told him about the Triumvirate's quashing of several of his most necessary projects because of the human cost, refusing to see the Big Picture and how the end result would benefit mankind. They had also been prying into some of the projects housed on the lower floors, and that was someplace they simply had no business.

It was time, then, for a change in management. Lucian had been doing his research and knew which of the other senior executives would follow the company line, and not be squeamish about what had to be done. They were men who had already proven themselves by bringing in valuable subjects like Jarod, Kyle and Damon. They could be counted on to treat the commodities as property and not get sentimental about what was done to them.

That kind of strength was necessary in an organization like The Centre. Lucian had that strength himself, and expected nothing less of those who would work under him. The faint-hearted would be swept away to make room for those with spines made of steel.

He smiled as he watched his mother retreating toward the black limousine. After he finished rearranging the board of directors, he'd have a little personal vengeance to ice the cake. He pulled the stack of sanction orders from the inner pocket of his black suit, checked the names against the faces as they departed the graveside, and began to plan how best to remove them from office.

It would be a pleasure to take care of that himself. And that new doctor he'd seen in the halls, the one with the abject love of road kill, whose hobby was taxidermy, would come in quite handy as well. Lucian meant to keep these trophies as a reminder of his power, in the secret room that was his father's legacy.

But first, he'd have to make the young doctor's acquaintance and feel him out, to see if he'd be interested in such an unusual, yet artistic undertaking. If not, such a junior scientist was surely expendable as well. And as long as he had signed sanctions in his pocket for the Triumvirate, no one would question a lowly sweeper who was just carrying out orders. What he did with the remains was his own business.

He glanced at the headstone standing guard over the open grave and read the epitaph. It was standard schmaltz, not good enough for a man of Hermann Bruce's stature. But the date caught his eye, and he chuckled. The date of his father's death was immortalized in stone, reminding him of the transfer of power. People might not remember that event once Lucian went underground, but he would carry the reminder with him always.

Hermann Bruce, born August 20, 1915, died February 14, 1985.

Valentine's day.

That would be a splendid new name for his covert identity.

"See ya, Dad," he murmured with a brief salute. "Mom will be here shortly."

On to Act II

 
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