Crossroads

 

home / season six / episode fifteen / act III

   

Miss Parker's home

Morgan was tired, and desperately needed some sleep. For more hours than she cared to remember, she had been on her feet at the hospital, sitting by Sydney's bedside whenever possible and waiting for more information on his condition. Exhaustion had driven her home for some rest, but as soon as she was refreshed, she'd be back in Dover to stand watch over her friend.

The moment she came in the front door, she knew she was not alone. Instinctively drawing her pistol, she stalked from room to room, looking for the invader. She found the woman lying on her bed, curled up beneath an old, threadbare coat.

"Faith! What are you doing here?"

Her adopted sister yawned. "It's good to see you, too," she replied with a wry smile. Pushing up to a sitting position, she explained. "I knew you would eventually come back here. I came to ask about Sydney -- what happened, and how is he?"

"He's had a stroke, but he's holding his own." Morgan sighed, and put her hand to her head. "I won't ask how you knew."

"Angelo told me -- but I had to see you, to make sure you were all right."

"I'm holding up."

"And Angelo? How is he?"

Parker shrugged. "I haven't seen him for a while. He's probably worried about Sydney, but as far as I know he's fine."

"That's good." Faith eyed the other woman uncertainly. "Have you heard from Jarod?"

The brunette shook her head. "I've been trying to reach him, to tell him about Sydney. Usually he's at least one step ahead of me on these things, but I haven't been able to get in touch with him. I've left messages, and he hasn't responded. I'm starting to get worried."

Faith nodded in agreement. "Something's definitely wrong. I can feel it."

Sudden realization dawned in Morgan's eyes. "That must be why Sydney was looking for the file. I'll bet he talked to Jarod about it."

Faith frowned. "What file?"

Morgan sighed, and sat down wearily on the bed. "An experiment the Centre ran on Jarod the October before he escaped," she said softly. "I wish I could show you the DSA of what they did to him. It was brutal." She started to explain, but stopped when Faith put her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide.

"I knew something was happening to him back then, but I didn't know what," the empath told her. "Night after night, I could feel his terror, his struggle to get away from whoever was hurting him. Then, he would just -- disappear from my radar. I couldn't find him, anywhere. After a minute or two, he'd reappear. It was the same cycle, over and over. Then it just stopped."

Morgan held her breath for a moment, eyeing the other woman. Then she nodded. "Sydney came back, and they couldn't torture Jarod any more without him knowing about it, without word traveling through him to the Triumvirate, who might be concerned about their precious cash cow. And Jarod didn't remember any of it himself." She sighed, and smoothed back her hair wearily with both hands. "I'm sure his mind just blocked it out. Something that traumatic…"

Faith was staring at the floor. "That's where it started," she whispered. "The crack in the wall I built around Eclipse in Jarod's mind… that's when it happened." She sighed and glanced at her trembling hands. "I thought it was my fault somehow, but… if they had left him alone, it might have held up, even now. He might never have known… might not have become the way he is now." She sniffed back tears. "God, Morgan, he's so torn up inside! I can feel it…" With a touch of embarrassment, she looked away and collected herself, pasting on an expressionless mask that hid her own emotional upheaval.

"Sydney and I saw him a few days ago. He was in pretty bad shape then."

Faith nodded. "He's in serious trouble. I've got to go to him." She stood up. "He needs to know about that file. And he needs to see Sydney."

Morgan knew she was right, but couldn't help feeling powerless to aid her. "Yes. He'll want to see Sydney. But how can you find him, if he won't answer his messages?"

Faith smiled sadly and patted her chest. "I just follow the pain," she answered slowly. "I always know when he's hurting. No matter how far apart we are, the connection between us has always been there, ever since Eclipse. When I… when I helped him that time, it was like I left a part of me with him, and took part of him with me. I think maybe we'll always have that between us, whether we want it or not."

Silence stretched between them for a moment.

She could see it then, in Faith's haunted eyes. She felt it tugging at her heart. "You want there to be a connection, don't you?" Morgan asked softly.

Faith lowered her gaze. "What I want doesn't matter. What is, is." She sighed and took a few steps away, head down, thinking. "Lyle will be hanging around like the vulture he is, waiting for an opening. He'll probably have sweepers stationed at key points, keeping watch for Jarod. We'll need a distraction." She lifted her chin. "I can provide that."

Parker heard the logic in her suggestion, but couldn't help the fear wrapping itself around her own heart. Faith could get caught, setting the bait for a trap. "What if they catch you?"

Faith offered a fragile smile, something dark glittering in her eyes. "I can take care of myself. I've already proven that."

Parker reached for her, met her halfway in an embrace that expressed their mutual affection for each other. "Then I guess it's up to you to find Jarod and get him here. The rest…" She hesitated, drew back and met Faith's steady gaze. "This connection -- do you have one with Lyle, too?"

Faith drew back slightly, turned her face away as the terrible memories stabbed at her consciousness. "It's different… not as strong… but it's there."

"What happened between you and him during Retrieval?"

Stepping suddenly backward, Faith felt her insides curdle as the images seared through her. She struggled to swallow, to push them back in that dark place where she kept them. "If…" She heard how thick and choked her voice was, and struggled to clear it. "If you had seen what I saw in his soul, you wouldn't ask me that."

Morgan nodded. "I guessed as much." She leaned closed, kissed Faith's cheek, and led the way through the living room, and out the front door. She glanced around at the landscape, then stepped aside so Faith could leave. "It's clear. And you were never here."

"Take care of Sydney," Faith ordered gently.

"I will. Be careful."

"You, too." Faith darted out the doorway, disappearing into the trees at a fast jog.

Morgan knew her sister would be taking an enormous risk, leading the pack of Centre dogs on a false trail, taking them away from the hospital. She thought about the mysterious connection Faith had mentioned, and marveled at the strength of will she seemed to possess when it came to Jarod. That strength was there for herself and Angelo as well. She didn't doubt that. But there was something about Jarod….

She stepped back into her house, locked the door, and prepared to go to bed and get some rest.

* * * * * * * * *

Kane Motel
Room 6

Jarod made his way back to the motel room. It felt as though he had walked a thousand miles over the last couple of days, covering most of the town, but without any real progress. He felt no closer to understanding the person he'd become than before all this started. Identity was more than just a name… but he didn't have a clue to who Jarod really was.

He could be anyone he wanted. Had been, over the years. But underneath it all, the man traveling in his footsteps had become a stranger.

The bed called out to him, but he resisted its siren song, at least for the moment. It had been days since he'd had any real sleep, and he didn't want to slide off into psychosis from lack of it. He was already dangerously close to that, but he needed just a little more time, a little more thought, before he gave himself up to the nightmares.

Stripping off his clothes, he left them on the bathroom floor and stepped under the hot spray of the shower, hoping it would revive him. The water felt cold at first, before his skin decided on the proper temperature, but that one instant was reminder enough to get the undercurrent flowing. He tried to ignore it, tried to dodge the images, flinching as they came at him, but he was weak. He was tired, and they won.

He leaned forward against the wall, his forearms and palms against the cold ceramic tiles. He closed his eyes and tried to brace himself.

"What is this?" he had asked Raines the first time.

"Nothing you have to worry about, Jarod. Just lie down and it'll all be over soon."

"In a heartbeat," promised Lyle with a grin.

He had seen the gauges on the machine, noted the temperature and pressure ranges, and felt the first twinge of fear. He was barely dressed, and it was chilly in the room. The floor was cold beneath his bare feet. He was still a little drowsy from having been awakened in the middle of the night.

But that machine was meant to get very cold, indeed. Too cold.

He felt the prick of a needle in his arm, and flinched away from the shot Raines had tried to give him.

"What's in that?" he demanded, edging toward panic. His eyes flew to the vial sitting on a nearby surgical tray, and he knew instantly what it was.

He turned and ran toward the door, his heart thundering in his chest now. Sweepers came out of nowhere and tackled him, dragging him back, pinning him down to the floor. The needle slid in with expert precision.

"Nooooooo!" he screamed, fighting now for his life, knowing it was futile.

They had killed him.

And then they turned on the cold…

He felt as if every muscle in his body had been turned to liquid. Staggering out of the shower stall, he struggled to remain upright, though his knees made no promises. His insides quivered with remembered terror as he tried desperately to quash the awful memories and think of something else. Anything else, but that.

With trembling hands, he reached for a towel and dried off his face. Then, hauling out his shaving gear as he recited a series of mathematical formulae meant to hold his attention, he quickly scraped away the day's growth, cleaned the razor and packed it back into the kit. Still dripping, he stepped back into the room, intending to finish drying off, have some of the coffee he'd brought back with him, and get dressed again. Instead, he found someone standing in the middle of the room.

"Took you long enough to find me," the man told him.

* * * * * * * * *

Dover Hospital
Dover, Delaware

Lyle was in a foul mood when he arrived at the hospital. He had spoken to Cox, assuming the man he privately nicknamed "Dr. Death" would be eager to have another chance to practice his skills. Instead, Cox had turned him down flat. Sydney is a resource, he'd said in that measured voice of his. He's very good at keeping the Seraphim caregivers in line. In Cox's eyes, it made no sense to eliminate a resource while it was still useful.

Usefulness, Lyle reasoned, was in the eyes of the beholder. Whatever Sydney had taken from his office would be discovered eventually, but he wanted to avoid any inquisitions into his private roster of projects until he was ready to unveil them himself. And past deeds, if that was what the old man had been looking into, were best buried in the past.

That left the solution to the problem up to him. Lyle knew his way around the Centre labs well enough to find the drug lockup and help himself to whatever he wanted, with no one the wiser. He loaded a powerful cardiac drug into a syringe different from the ones he used to deliver his own medication, and packed it into the kit he kept in his breast pocket. The drug would quickly and efficiently stop Sydney's heart, yet be virtually undetectable in a toxicology screen during an inevitable autopsy. All he had to do was disconnect Sydney from his monitoring devices, deliver the drug and wait the appropriate amount of time to make sure he couldn't be brought back before connecting the body back up to its monitors, and that particular problem would be solved.

Simple, really.

Until he got to the hospital and found where the Belgian was being kept. The ICU would be particularly difficult to get into without being noticed, so he appropriated a disposable gown and some latex gloves, and headed for the door. Stationed outside it was one of the Centre's new sweepers, a woman he had seen in the halls on occasion, following at Sydney's heels like a trained puppy.

She eyed him as he approached, but confident the translucent gown and mask he had borrowed would hide his identity, he ignored her and headed straight for the door to the ICU room.

The woman stepped directly in his path.

"Excuse me, Mr. Lyle, but you can't go in there," she told him coolly.

How she had recognized him, he didn't know. Then he glanced down at his left hand, and the empty thumb in the latex glove. He sighed. "What's your name?" he demanded, running his gaze up and down her Centre security uniform as he slid the mask down.

"Kim, sir."

"Well, Kim, since you obviously know who I am, you know you can't keep me out if I want to visit my esteemed colleague." He glared at her, the barely suppressed anger in his eyes offsetting his cold smile.

"On the authority of the director of SIS," she shot back without batting an eyelash, "I can, sir. You may not enter. I have my orders, and until Miss Parker tells me differently, I will carry them out, sir."

He backed off the hostility, and tried charm instead, warming up his smile. "Look, I work with Sydney, Kim. He and I are old pals, and I just want to spend a couple minutes with him, see how he's doing."

"You can check with the nurse at the front desk for a report," she told him formally. "But you can't go in."

Rage boiled up and consumed the attempt at urbanity. He stepped close, nose to nose with her, staring intently into her calm brown eyes. "Get out of my way," he ordered. "You don't want me to have to hurt you."

Something brushed lightly against his crotch, and instinctively he flinched back. Her knee had come up just enough to touch him there, just enough to get his attention.

"I should remind you, sir, that I'm conversant in seven different styles of martial arts," she told him coolly, her voice barely above a whisper, meant for his ears only. "I know of at least four ways to rip your face off and hand it back to you with very little effort on my part." She cocked her head. "Did you know your face would peel right off?" When he didn't answer, she shrugged and then straightened to attention. "I will drop you where you stand if you try to go into that room, until Miss Parker says otherwise. Do you understand, sir?"

Lyle's insides went cold as he stared into her eyes. "Oh, yes, Kim. I understand perfectly."

"I'm very sorry, Mr. Lyle, but I have my instructions."

He turned and stalked off down the corridor. He would keep an eye on that one, and plan something very special for her later on, as a gift for her loyalty to her boss. But first, he would go back to the drawing board, and try to figure another way around her, to get to Sydney, before any further damage was done to his career. Things were going well for him right now, and it wouldn't do to have that old man or any other mess things up.

* * * * * * * * *

Kane Motel
Room 6

Jarod recognized the man's face from somewhere back in his memory, but was too tired to place exactly who the guy was. He reached into the bathroom and grabbed for his towel, wrapping it around his waist and tucking it into place so it wouldn't fall off, before addressing his visitor. "Who are you?"

The man grinned, his bright blue eyes gleaming with amusement. "Don't recognize me, buddy?" he teased. "Why, I'm your closest companion. We've been together for… damn, when was that? I dunno. A long time. Only you can't seem to see me. You just keep looking away."

There was something unpleasantly familiar about his mannerisms, his voice. Jarod reached way back into his memory, recalling the image moving on grainy film, something recorded. He'd never met this man in person… or had he?

For an instant, he envisioned his visitor with wrinkles on his face, decades older, grinning back at him from behind an impregnable cage door -- and suddenly Jarod knew. The man before him was his model for the Eclipse simulation: Kodiak Brown.

"You're not real," the Pretender said softly. He shook his head, but the vision persisted. There was no way Kodiak Brown could be there in the room with him, thirty-odd years old and free as a bird. The real Brown had been imprisoned at that age decades ago. That was where Jarod had seen the footage of him, from interviews after his incarceration. He had studied this man in depth, prior to the simulation. Prior to the drugs. Before he went into Hell and became him.

"Well, yes and no," Kodiak replied flippantly. "Yes, I am a real person. I do exist, in that maximum security facility in Peltier Island, right where you left me. But am I here, now? Only in your mind, my friend. And that's exactly why we need to talk."

"I need to sleep," said Jarod aloud. "That's all." He dropped the towel, no longer concerned for his modesty, and reached for his clothes.

"I could've done a lot with a body like that," Kodiak observed. "You've got a good six inches of height on me, probably as much more in reach, maybe another 40 pounds of muscle. Yes, siree, I could've done a lot with that." He snorted softly, an unpleasantly malicious sound. "And the women would have loved it! But then, they always did love what I could do."

"I know what you did," Jarod snapped. He shook his head, willing the apparition to go away. He shouldn't be talking to it. It wasn't really there.

He turned around, and the other man was standing right in front of him, almost right in his face.

"I can still help you, if you'll let me," Kodiak offered, his voice soft, almost seductive. "I can make you truly powerful, if you just let me out."

"You're staying in prison," Jarod promised, and stepped aside as he headed back for the bathroom to pick up his dirty clothes.

Kodiak chuckled. "Oh, I wasn't talking about getting out of there." He stood in the bathroom doorway and poked Jarod in the chest when he tried to step out. He grinned. "I was talking about you letting me out of here. Right in here."

Jarod looked down at his chest, at the man's finger jabbed against his sternum. He could feel it, as real as if the man was solid muscle and bone. But worse than that was the fact that he could feel it inside his body as well, his heart answering with a yearning pull of recognition.

He was afraid. He raised his eyes to those chilling blue ones, that brightly inviting smile, and knew that this was what he had always feared. This was the darkness calling to him, the evil that he had not been able to escape when Faith brought him back from Eclipse.

His moment of truth had finally come.

* * * * * * * * *

Route 219 North

Faith didn't feel the wind in her hair. She barely noticed the speed as she zoomed down the highway. Somewhere in her consciousness, she felt the surge of excitement as a highway patrol officer caught sight of her speeding car and started up after her.

"Not this one," she said aloud, glancing in the rearview mirror as the Mars lights flashed at her. "This one's going somewhere important. Got to let it go."

The patrol car dropped back, and after another moment, the lights turned off. She watched it pull back off the highway, and almost smiled. It was easy, getting out of trouble like that. It was almost fun, except for the pull she felt in her soul, leading her onward.

Jarod was afraid, and so was she. She hadn't felt anything like this for a long time, and wasn't sure exactly what was happening to him. Something inside him was changing, coming forward, getting stronger, and she didn't know if that was good or bad. But the urgency in his soul commanded her, and she pushed the gas pedal down to the floor, demanding all the beat-up old car could give her. She glanced at the gas gauge, and hoped she had enough to get her there.

If not, she'd make somebody stop and drive her right to him before she let them go.

Sometimes, she told herself, being different was a good thing. The connection she shared with Jarod was like that. She just hoped she arrived in time.


* * * * * * * * *

Dover Hospital
Intensive Care Unit

Miss Parker smiled when she saw him open his eyes. She leaned over the bed and laid her hand on his right arm, stroking it gently. "Hey, there. How do you feel?"

His lips moved, working to form words, but it took a while to get them out. "Like… a truck… hit me."

Her grin broadened. "Not your usual erudite phrasing, but I get the picture. Do you need something for the pain? I can call a nurse."

He didn't smile at her tease. Instead of responding, he turned away and glanced down his left side. His hand was curled into a tightly flexed claw.

She watched him struggle to relax it, panting with effort. "Hey, just relax, okay? It's going to take some time, but you'll be all right," she assured him. "Dr. Behr's a good guy. He really knows his stuff." She winked at him. "I checked him out."

"Can't lift my arm," he wheezed, then coughed a little.

Morgan pulled a tissue from a nearby box and blotted his brow with it carefully. "Just relax, Sydney. That's an order. You've had a stroke, and you don't want to push yourself right now."

He stopped fighting instantly, and stared at her, surprise in his eyes. "Stroke? How bad?"

"Bad enough." She smiled warmly. "You really scared me, you know? So you do whatever the doctor says, and get well. For me, and for Kim. She's right outside, watching your ass when I can't be here."

His face fell. "Kim… Is she all right?"

Miss Parker nodded. "Scared, just like me. Broots, too. He's holding down the fort for me, but I'm staying here till you're out of the woods."

"Want to see her." He struggled to sit up.

She held his shoulder down against the mattress and cautioned him to be still, then reached for the bed controls and raised the head to a more upright position. "Hold on, there, cowboy. She's taking a break for the moment. She needs to eat and sleep, too. They're planning to move you to a regular room, and I'll have her come in to visit you after that happens. Okay?"

He nodded, and lay still, staring down at his arm. "When can I… go home?"

"When the doctor says you can. You're going to have to be patient, Sydney. Let people take care of you for a change."

Tears glistened in his eyes and were blinked hastily away. "I'm old," he said gruffly. "I've gotten… so damned… old lately."

She read the crossness correctly, understanding that he wasn't angry. He was depressed. An event like this made people think in ways they often avoided, emotions rising to the surface. Sydney was getting older, but his general health was good. He would have to make some adjustments in his lifestyle to prevent more such occurrences, but he was hardly finished. There was still a great deal for him to do, great good he could accomplish…

Morgan remembered the box, and lifted it out from under the bed to balance it on the bed rail. "Broots found this in your office during Lockdown. I thought you might like to have it close, maybe help me figure out a safe place to keep it, till you get back on your feet."

"Found it where?" He eyed the box, and slowly lifted his right hand, entwined with intravenous tubes, to touch it reverently before letting it fall back against the blankets.

"On your desk," she answered quickly. "We both knew you wouldn't leave something like this out in the open, so it must have been someone else, maybe Angelo--"

"Angelo. Yes." He almost smiled. "He knows all the secrets."

She set the metal box onto the bed beside him, where he could touch it without the effort of moving his arm. Lifting the lid, she took out the Father's Day card and pretended to examine it, where he had a good view of it as well. "This isn't the sort of thing an objective professional keeps in the records," she mused thoughtfully. "In fact, it looks a little wrinkled, like it might have been thrown away."

He gazed up at her from beneath his gray brows suspiciously, but said nothing.

Smiling as she lifted out the origami figure of Onysius, she flapped the wings a little. "This is actually a pretty complicated piece. It's certainly too pretty to throw away." She pulled out another item and commented on it.

"Stop," he ordered gently. "It was wrong to keep them."

She laid her hand over his, and gave it a squeeze. "No, Sydney. It wasn't wrong. It was exactly the right thing to do, and you know it. Don't you?"

He held onto her fingers lightly. His eyes filled as he looked at his treasures, and he smiled. "Yes. I only wish…"

"…you could have told him," she finished for him. "Maybe, one day, you can."

* * * * * * * * *

Kane, Pennsylvania

"You're not real!" Jarod shouted. He shoved at the hallucination, dashed past him and ran out the door of the motel. Down the street and across the railroad tracks he ran, needing to get as far away as his legs could carry him.

But his body had reached its limit, and his knees were getting wobbly, threatening to collapse. He slowed to a jog as he reached Evergreen Park in the center of town, then finally to a staggering walk. Shadows were long in here, and he stepped off the path, heading blindly into the trees. Trunks stood close together, the branches high up forming a canopy over him like living lace, all but blotting out what was left of the setting sun.

"I'll be here, wherever you go, Jarod. You can't run away from yourself," Kodiak advised casually, leaning against a nearby pine, from which the park drew its name.

Jarod whipped around to face him, panting and perspiring, dancing on the verge of panic. "Leave me alone!" he wailed. "I don't want to be like you. I don't want to be you. I want to be me, just me, just Jarod!"

Kodiak seemed as fresh as ever, and strong. He shook his head. "Boy, you just don't get it, do you? For a genius, you sure are slow." He sauntered closer. "You can't be you if you don't know who the hell you are, now can you?"

Jarod's knees gave way, and he fell on them. "No," he murmured, bowing his head in defeat. "But I don't want to be you. Not you… Please."

The specter got down on his haunches and patted Jarod's shoulder paternally. "You know, it's just sad, begging like that. You begged Raines, and he didn't listen. Don't you think it's time you learned to stand up for yourself and fight back? Wouldn't you love to just stick it to them--" He stood up swiftly, punching the air with his fist as his voice deepened into a passionate shout. "--like they stuck it to you?"

"No." Jarod held his head in his hands, bending over to touch his forearms to the grass. The smell of rich earth filled his nostrils. Hot tears stung his weary eyes. "No. I don't want to hurt people."

"Oh, come on!" Kodiak shot back impatiently. "Look at what you do when people piss you off. You scared a surgeon right into a heart attack making him think a drunk was gonna operate on him--"

"He didn't really have a heart attack," Jarod argued, unable to look up at his accuser.

"But he did have a heart condition, and that wonderful little cocktail you gave him in his drinking water could certainly have done some real damage to his old ticker, now, couldn't it? You knew the risk, and you were willing to take it. You know why? Because you wanted him to feel that fear. You wanted him to know who had the power. You wanted all of them to know who had the power." Kodiak bent down close to his ear. "You did. You loved it. And do you know where that power came from, Jarod, old buddy?" His voice dropped to a gleeful whisper. "It came from me!"

"No, noooooo!" Jarod shook his head, trying to dislodge the apparition.

Kodiak was laughing now. "Yeah, you know it. You know I'm right. I'm the backbone in your pathetic, pansy little soul, genius. I'm what makes you strong. I pull the strings." He shoved Jarod backward with his foot, onto his back. "And I think it's damn well time we admitted it. Don't you?"

Jarod couldn't move, couldn't think. All he wanted was for this new torture to stop. He wanted to rest, but Kodiak wouldn't let him. He let his head fall back against the ground and closed his eyes. Maybe it was time to stop fighting. Maybe….

"Jarod?"

The sound of that familiar voice made him open his eyes again. He was alone in this part of the park, off the beaten track, where no one could see him. The trees kept his voice from traveling, so no one had heard him screaming. Yet, there she was.

Faith had arrived.

On to Act IV

 
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