Two Moments,
One Breath

 

home / season five / episode nine / act IV

   
“This is it,” Lily announced, checking Jarod’s file. She and Jason looked up at the house before them, at the scattering of lights that were on.

“You sure you want to go through with this?” asked Jason in concern as they entered, pausing in the spacious foyer to check the list of names. Lily pointed at one, J. Barrows, on the third floor.

“He needs my help,” she stated confidently. Jason shrugged as they climbed the stairs. On the second floor landing, Jason paused.

“What’s that?” Jason asked, pointing to one of the apartment doors. It was covered with police tape, proclaiming it to be off limits. Lily sighed, closing her eyes tightly.

“I think… I think it’s Trevor’s apartment.” She sighed, opening her eyes. Lightly she ran back down the stairs, checking the name for apartment 2C. She jogged back up to where Jason was standing, a frown marring her delicate features.

“T. Jones,” she stated, breathing hard. Jason’s eyes widened.

“What sort of a man stays in the same house where the guy he feels responsible for committed suicide?” he asked gruffly.

“A confused one,” Lily stated. She led the way up the second flight of stairs, wandering down a narrow hall until she found the stairs leading to the attic. Outside Jarod’s door she listened, but heard nothing. She turned back, casting a glance at Jason, then took a deep breath and pounded on the door. She waited a few moments, then knocked again.

“Jarod? Are you in there? It’s Dr. Nixon, Lily, from the mission! I wanted to see if you were OK!” she yelled. There was no reply. She was just about to bang on the door once more when it opened slowly. Jarod stood in the doorway, looking weary.

“What do you want?” he demanded, leaning against the frame.

“We, that is, Dr. Fairfield and I, we were concerned about you,” Lily told Jarod. He looked over her shoulder, at where Jason gazed up at him broodingly. Then he stepped aside, allowing them both entry. Lily stopped in the middle of the large loft, noticing the lack of furniture. On the kitchen bench she saw an old towel, stained with fresh blood. She rounded on Jarod.

“The same arm? Or a different one?” she hissed, furious. Jason stepped back, watching the scene unfold. Jarod looked away.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered. Lily snatched up the towel and waved it at him. Jarod grabbed it off her, stuffing it in a drawer. He was caught off guard when Lily stepped forward, pushing up the sleeve of his black shirt on his right arm; the arm which had remained untouched when Lily had first seen him. There were now shallow cuts up and down his forearm.

“You just want the pain, don’t you Jarod, the blood is just messy, isn’t it?” she asked, glaring at him. Jarod wrenched his arm away from her, and Lily clenched her fists in frustration. “Why come to me to help you, if you have no intention of helping yourself?” she demanded. Jarod gathered an edge to his gaze.

“I could take you to court for breaking confidentiality, you know,” he muttered, casting a meaningful at their observer, Jason.

“I had good cause, Jarod. I can break privilege if I feel you are a danger to either yourself or others. At the moment, I’m not sure whether it’s one or both,” Lily said, her look hard. Jarod’s expression turned anguished, and she softened. “Talk to me, Jarod,” she pleaded. Jarod stared at her mistrustfully, and began to pace.

“What about him?” Jarod asked, cocking his head at Jason.

“He stays. It would be asking for trouble to stay alone with a distressed client. You’re smart, Jarod, I got that. Don’t make me justify the obvious.”

Jarod ran his hand through his hair, doubt whispering in his ear. He had an underlying fear that Lily was just here to cause him more pain, which was completely unfounded. An inner battle waged within him, but the pain and darkness threatening to consume him made his mind up for him.

“Make yourself comfortable,” he said wryly, waving at the bare room. With a thump he sat near the bed, resting his back against it. Lily chose to sit cross-legged opposite him, while Jason remained standing.

“I saw the police tape downstairs, Jarod. Was that Trevor’s apartment?” Lily asked gently. Jarod nodded in silence.

“Why are you staying here? Why torture yourself this way?” she asked.

“Rent control,” Jarod muttered, and chuckled. Lily was not amused.

“It can’t be nice to be reminded of your friend’s death every day, Jarod.”

Jarod twisted his fingers together. “You know, I was a psychiatrist once, and it’s overrated--”

“Stop procrastinating.” Lily interrupted. Jarod closed his mouth with a snap. He stared at his hands for a few moments.

“It’s my fault he’s dead. I stay here because I don’t want to forget that its my fault,” he said finally. Lily nodded, relieved they were finally making progress.

“You blame yourself for his death. That’s natural, you’re suffering from survivor syndrome. You feel guilty because he’s dead while you are still alive,” Lily said. Jarod shook his head impatiently.

“It’s my fault! I should have done more, I could have…” He trailed off, shifting uncomfortably.

“Guilt is a healthy emotion. It stops most people from doing bad things, or at least makes them repent. You are not suffering from guilt. You are shamed. Shame is an unhealthy emotion,” Lily stated decisively. She leaned forward, attempting to make eye contact with Jarod. “Why are you ashamed of yourself Jarod?” she asked softly. Jarod’s face flashed emotions, ranging from fear to fury, and he scrambled to his feet, pacing once more.

“What the hell do you know?” he yelled. Lily stood slowly. “A head shrinker, that’s what you are, drawing answers from the air!”

“Answer the question, Jarod!” Lily thundered. He whirled to face her, his face flushed with anger.

“I’m ashamed because I killed my lover,” he snarled. A moment passed, where Lily stared at him in stony silence.

“You’re a liar, Jarod,” she told him softly. She sat down, her back against the wall, watching as all the fight left the man in front of her. He sat down once more.

“Her name was Zoe,” he mumbled. Lily nodded for him to continue, inwardly pleased with the breakthrough.

“She was beautiful. Tanned skin and dark eyes and red hair, which had this kink to it. She was so carefree. Not the smartest girl… but smart when it came to people, you know?” he asked. Lily nodded, smiling. Jarod, having finally stopped fidgeting, stared down into his lap.

“I have… enemies. Enemies who would do anything to hurt me. That’s why I travel so much.” Jarod, his eyes bright, rubbed his hand across his jaw, turning his head and staring off into space. “They… they killed her,” Jarod explained, tears streaming down his face. “They killed her because they knew it would hurt me. They did it to get at me. It’s my fault she’s dead!” he choked out. Lily watched him in silence as the dam seemed to break, and Jarod buried his face in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Lily leaned forward, placing a consoling had on his back.

“People can be cruel, Jarod. You mustn’t blame yourself for something you couldn’t prevent,” she murmured soothingly. Jarod shook his head, his body shuddering with grief. “You can’t carry that guilt around forever Jarod, it will break you. You have to keep on with your life.”

“I have these dreams… Trevor and Zoe, or just Zoe, with her dead hands… I was thinking about Zoe when Trevor came to see me,” he said, raising his head. “It didn’t click, what he was saying. I was so preoccupied with my thoughts about her that I didn’t realize his intentions. I could have helped him, that night, but I ignored him. I was so consumed with my own needs that I ignored somebody else’s.”

Lily frowned, troubled by Jarod’s need to help others. He was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and seemed to think that he could save everyone if he only tried a bit harder.

“You’re right, Jarod, you could have saved him. Once. You could have stopped him from dying a few days ago, but the truth of the matter is, if he really wanted to die, you could not have helped him. People who are suicidal almost always make more than one attempt, Jarod, no matter what sort of help they receive.” Lily explained. Jarod looked up at her, his expression dubious.

“Jarod, you have to be prepared to deal with your grief. If you continue to bottle it up, I can’t help you. Nobody can.” Lily rose slowly, staring down at Jarod in sympathy. “Can I come back tomorrow, Jarod?” she asked gently. Jarod nodded slowly, and slowly Lily and the silent Jason withdrew. Lily cast one last look at Jarod as she closed the door behind her. He was staring reflectively at his hands, his shoulders slumped. Lily sighed, sharing a grimace with Jason as they headed out to his car.

“Did you notice he was always doing something with his hands when he got particularly upset? And his dreams…” Jason mused. “Do you remember that case I had a few years ago? Little Sarah Wilmington?” he asked. Lily nodded, not getting his point.

“Sure. Her dad would get drunk, beat the crap out of her mother and threaten the poor girl until she was scared senseless. You reported him and he got locked up. Why?” Lily asked, confused. Jason smile enigmatically, then turned to watch the scenery fly past.

“She used to draw me pictures of her family. Stick figures, they all were, she was only six, but she always used to draw her father with these big black hands… it’s what first made me realize what was wrong…” Jason said slowly. Lily’s eyes widened, and she looked at Jason in surprise.

“You think he’s been abused?” she asked. Jason shrugged.

“I think he’s suffered something… the hands, it always represents control…”

Lily focused her attention back on the road, saddened by her colleague's insight into Jarod’s psyche.

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod.

Jarod turned around. He was naked, the hard yellow rock hot beneath his bare feet. Zoe looked up at the blue sky, her arms stretched up to the heavens.

Save me, Jarod.

Jarod stepped up beside her, looking over her shoulder at the waves crashing below, a hundred foot drop.

Please Jarod, save me.

He braced his hands on Zoe’s ribs, holding her. He smelled her skin, kissed her neck. It felt natural that they were both naked, under the sun.

Jarod, please!

Jarod smiled, his hands sliding around to Zoe’s shoulder blades.

Jarod?

Jarod lifted Zoe’s cold hand, pressing a kiss to it. Then he pushed her off the cliff.

“Zoe!”

Jarod seemed to be making a habit of falling out of bed. He sat up, rubbing his side. He recalled the dream, and grimaced. He rose to his feet shakily, perching on the edge of his bed, then lowered his head to his hands and wept.

* * * * * * * * *

December 30

Contemplating her phone, Miss Parker couldn’t deny how nervous she was at the prospect of what she was about to do. Reluctantly she lifted it, hitting the power button then dialing slowly. Holding it to her ear she mentally calculated the differences in time zones. Early morning in the States would mean evening in Italy.

“La buona sera, questa č parlare di Michele.” Michele said into the phone. Miss Parker smiled tremulously.

“Hello, old friend,” she murmured.

“Ciao, amico anzian,” Michele said after a pause. Miss Parker sighed.

“Please don’t speak Italian, Michele, you know I’m getting rusty.”

“Then perhaps you should visit more,” Michele chided gently, in English. “Then it would not be a problem.” There was a moment of silence. “Why did you call?” Michele asked finally.

“I… I’ve been thinking. About old times.” She sighed. Michele chuckled, low in his throat.

“Ah, you are blushing, almost twenty years late, si?” he asked. Miss Parker laughed.

“Well, we did do a lot to blush about…” she murmured. “Do you remember the time Laura planted magazines full of men in Ricky Gellan’s room right before he had a party, so all his friends thought he had a secret?” Miss Parker asked, suddenly taken by the memory. Michele rumbled with laughter.

“You did things too, amico anziano. What was her name, Deanne? You convinced her to let you do her hair and she regretted it much.” Michele snorted.

“We won’t mention what you did to the Dean’s car,” Parker reminded him gently. There was a small, comfortable silence.

“Not so long between calls, next time, hmmm?” Michele said after a while. Miss Parker smiled sadly, tears in her eyes.

“Bye, Michele,” she murmured.

“Buona notte, il mio caro Parker.” Michele said softly, and Miss Parker ended the call.

Still smiling a fond smile, she reached into the bag beside her, pulling out the cheap frame she had bought in a drugstore. Opening up the back, she eased the photograph of Laura and her baby in, replacing the plywood backing when she was done. She studied it for a moment, then sat the framed picture on her coffee table. She stared at it for a moment, brushing the tears from her eyes, then gathered up the stack of papers beside her.

Miss Parker then re-read every letter her old friend Laura had ever sent her.

* * * * * * * * *

Lily tried her hardest not to run up the stairs, but her step was quicker than usual as she climbed the last steps up to Jarod’s floor. She gave Jason a quick smile, then knocked on the door. Surprised when it swung open at her touch. Hesitantly she stepped inside, Jason close behind her.

“Jarod?” she called. She looked around, expecting to find Jarod glowering at her in every corner. But the room was empty.

“Where could he be?” Lily cried in frustration. Jason turned around, taking note of details.

“Do you think he’s cleared out?” Lily asked fearfully. Jason regarded her sadly.

“His bag is here,” he said, motioning at the bed where Jarod’s bag rested. Lily chewed on her fingers with worry.

“Why would he leave the door open? Anyone could walk in here and take his stuff,” she muttered. Jason gazed at the door thoughtfully, then turned to look Lily directly in the eye.

“What if he didn’t care? If he’s not coming back, it doesn’t matter what happens to his stuff…” Jason said quietly. Lily squeezed her eyes shut.

“He’s ending it, isn’t he?”

* * * * * * * * *

Jonah Piedemonty, great-grandson of John Piedemonty and the latest of generations of Piedemonty’s to run Piedemonty’s Groceries, had no idea that, high up on the rooftop of his building, a man suffered. In fact, none of Piedemonty’s evening customers, or the stray businessman in the offices above, knew that high above them, a man had managed to find his way out onto the rooftop.

Jarod was cold; he had forgotten his jacket. Jarod was agonized. Jarod was five stories up and moving closer and closer to the edge.

Lily had told him that he had to deal with his grief, but Jarod didn’t want to. It hurt too much. Every time he closed his eyes he saw Trevor, hanging from a ceiling fan, his spine broken, or Zoe, her face full of recriminations, and sometimes he even saw Kyle, a gaping hole in his chest. The world was a great black hole of pain and Jarod was right in the middle. He felt like he had the Midas touch, except instead of things turning to gold, everything he touched, everything he loved, died. The Jarod touch, he thought.

Zoe had been beautiful, a free spirit. With his help she had finally been able to face the death of her twin. Jarod stepped up close to the edge, peering down to the street below. He had left her once, and the pain had been great, but he had left anyway. He had left again, and she had died. Murdered. Jarod climbed up onto the ledge, sitting down, his legs hanging over the side of the building.

Jarod had held his brother's hand while Kyle died, from a bullet that had been meant for him. Jarod closed his eyes, feeling the wind sway his body back and forth. He asked so much, Jarod realized. He demanded that people help him serve up his particular brand of justice, that they adhere to his rules, that they let him walk away when the time came. Zoe had let him walk away.

Opening his eyes, Jarod realized it had begun to snow, soft little flakes drifting down from the sky. Jarod stretched out his hand, catching several snowflakes in his hand, crushing them and letting the moisture seep off his fingertips. Snow drifted onto his face, his clothes, his head. Jarod began to cry, recognizing that, for the first time since he had escaped, he took no joy in the simple pleasure of snow. The cold wind chilled his tears on his cheeks.

Filled with despair, Jarod realized there was only one choice left to him. He closed his eyes, imagining Zoe laughing. He gripped his hands on the very corner of the ledge he was sitting on, Jarod raised his body to the sky, pushing his legs away from the edge, into empty space…

Then he opened his eyes, swung his knees up over the side of the ledge, rolling onto his side and away from the edge. He stood up, raising his face to the falling snow. He closed his eyes once more, and behind his eyelids he saw Zoe, smiling and laughing. Jarod smiled, opening his arms wide.

“Goodbye, Zoe,” he whispered.

When he finally headed back to the stairwell, Jarod wondered if Dr. Lily Nixon’s number would be listed in the phone book… he had some grief to deal with.

* * * * * * * * *

December 31

Outside the mission, standing by his car, Jarod smiled one last time at Lily. He captured her hand, then tugged her into a gentle hug. He had spent most of the day talking to her, and although exhausted from the emotional roller coaster of the last few days, he was feeling much better. Lily had ordered pizza, and he’d eaten his first decent meal for almost a week. Lily had admonished that part of his confusion was probably because of hunger.

“Thank you,” Jarod whispered in her ear. Lily drew back from his embrace, smiling up at him.

“You just make sure you keep eating properly, okay?” she chided gently. Jarod nodded.

“Three square meals a day,” he stated.

“Where will you go now?” Lily asked, just a tinge of concern entering her voice. Jarod shrugged.

“I thought I might drive to New York, spend the night there. After that…” Jarod shrugged again. “Who knows?” Lily nodded.

“If you ever need a friend, Jarod, you have my number,” she told him. Jarod waved her card in the air, then tucked it securely in his bag. They hugged once more.

“Goodbye, Jarod, and have a Happy New Year,” Lily whispered.

“You too, Lily. Do something fun, okay?” Jarod whispered back.

Finally Jarod stepped away, his expression sad but strong as he climbed in his rental. Securing his seat belt, Jarod flicked out his new cell. He dialed quickly, listening to the familiar ring tone.

“Sydney.” A comforting voice answered. Jarod smiled as he pulled away from the curb.

Watching until Jarod had driven out of sight, Lily tucked her arms around herself. Jason came outside to stand next to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. Lily gave him a quick smile as he led her back inside.

“Lily?”

“Yeah, Jason?”

“What are you doing tonight, around midnight? Bethy and I were going to watch the fireworks together, and I’m sure she’d love to have you…”

* * * * * * * * *

Miss Parker sighed in weariness, easing back against her couch. In her hands she held several photographs. The one of her mother holding her when she was a baby, the photo of her and Tommy on the swing, and finally, the picture of Laura holding her baby. She laid them out on the cushion beside her, smiling with nostalgia. All the people she had loved and lost, and for a moment she was sad that she didn’t have a picture of Faith. The memory would have to do.

When the phone rang, she knew it was Jarod. She retrieved the cordless and raised it to her ear, waiting for him to speak.

“Sometimes we just can’t hold onto things, can we Miss Parker?” he asked. In a motel room, Jarod was throwing away the remains of Chinese takeout. Three meals a day, like he had promised Lily. He turned on the television, but turned the volume down, watching the celebrations on the screen. The New Year was not far away.

“Sydney told me your friend died. I’m sorry.” Miss Parker murmured into the phone.

“He told me about Laura. I’m sorry.” Jarod said. Out of a grocery bag he took some antiseptic cream and a roll of gauze. Trapping the phone between his ear and his shoulder, he applied the cream to the cuts on his arm. They would heal nicely, leaving no scars.

“Seems Sydney knows more than he lets on.” Miss Parker gave a wry chuckle. She picked up the photograph of her mother.

“May we never take him for granted. I’ve found that is the worst thing of all.” Jarod sighed, wrapping gauze around one arm.

“Losing those we have taken for granted is far worse.”

“Would you go back, Miss Parker? Would you go back and change the way your life has been?” Jarod asked. Miss Parker tilted her head to one side.

“I don’t know. I’ve lost so much… but I’ve learned so much. I don’t think I could make that sort of decision if it was offered to me,” she reflected. Jarod finished binding his other arm, then pulled on a clean white shirt.

“Sometimes one decision is all it takes to change your life… or save it.” Jarod whispered.

“All it takes is a heartbeat,” Miss Parker whispered back. She picked up the photo of Laura, biting her lip. “A breath. A moment or two.”

Jarod sat down on his bed heavily, watching the television screen in silence. The countdown to the New Year had begun, the ball in Times Square sliding downwards. The last few seconds ticked over, and Jarod could hear fireworks as the year ended. He smiled grimly. He was determined that this year would be better than the last.

“Happy New Year, Miss Parker.”

“Happy New Year, Jarod.”

End of Episode
Two Moments, One Breath

Special Guest Stars

Jeffrey Donovan

as Kyle

Lisa Cerasoli

as Zoe

 
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