25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware
The flames were leaping in the fireplace, warming the formerly cold room,
by the time Sydney returned, carrying a teapot, with two mugs dangling
from his fingers. His fingers shook slightly as he lit the small candle
and placed it in the holder, putting the teapot gently on top. Leaving
the room again briefly, Sydney returned with a small jug of milk, which
he placed on the table, before sitting down and nodding at a large easy-chair.
"Take a seat, Morgan."
She smiled. "It's wonderful, the way you obey directions."
His eyes danced as he poured the steaming beverage into the mugs. "Well,
I have to, don't I? You are my boss."
Accepting the mug he offered, Morgan slipped off her shoes and tucked
her bare feet beneath her, staring into the fire, a movement that seemed
so natural, she simply couldn't help herself. Feeling herself to be under
scrutiny, she looked up at the man. Surprised at the expression of sadness
in Sydney's eyes, she raised an eyebrow.
"What is it?"
"Nothing important." He placed the mug on the table before
opening the briefcase that lay on the sofa beside him. "But this
Extracting a manila folder, the man took out a color photograph of a
girl with a man in his mid-forties standing beside her, his arm protectively
around her shoulders.
"You know them both," he stated flatly as he handed it to her.
"Merritt," the woman murmured, gazing down at the face.
"Perhaps more commonly known to the world as Kendra Evans,"
Sydney commented. "But do you know who Mr. Raines or Mr. Parker would
have considered her to be?"
Morgan raised her eyes to meet those of the man who watched her, keeping
her voice calm. "Yes," she stated evenly. "She's me."
The man raised an eyebrow, surprised at the use of the present tense.
"Is she still alive?"
The words stopped in her throat, habitual caution preventing her from
speaking. When she remained silent, Sydney leaned forward slightly.
"Was she the person you visited at the end of last year, when you
said that you had things to do and wouldn't tell me what they were?"
Several moments of silence passed, as Morgan examined the carpet, before
he spoke again, choosing his words carefully.
"We had an agreement, Miss Parker."
Looking up sharply at the name, she knew at once how deliberate his statement
had been, and nodded slowly.
"Yes," she agreed. "She is still alive, and I was visiting
her. We keep in intermittent contact."
Placing the picture on the sofa, Morgan stood up and walked to the window,
staring blankly out at the white palings of the veranda that gleamed dimly
in the increasing gloom. Suddenly, however, she turned.
"What do you know, Sydney?"
He exhaled slowly. "I think you ought to sit down before I tell
She eyed him in silence for a moment, before slowly making her way back
to the easy-chair and resuming her seat, legs curled up under her and
her chin resting on the palm of one hand as she scrutinized him.
"What is it?"
"Morgan, Kendra -- Merritt, if that's what you know her better as
-- wasn't cloned from you."
A denial rose quickly to the tip of her tongue, but died just as rapidly
at the expression in the man's eyes. Somehow, even before he said it,
she knew the truth, and it was as if a knife had sunk deep in her heart
at his next words. Her mouth opened and closed without making any noise
as her eyes filled and she looked up to meet the sympathetic gaze of the
"Merritt is the clone of your mother, Catherine Parker."
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod sank back against the sofa cushions, staring blankly at the details
on the screen, which he and Yuri had uncovered in a sequence of private
messages between Cox and an unknown person at Donoterase.
"Maybe you'll believe that I'm right now," Yuri growled
as he paced the length of the room. "If they can create a child with
an already limited life-expectancy and subject him to a life that will
still further inhibit his chances of seeing his next birthday
"They did everything they could to keep him alive," Jarod murmured
almost inaudibly, but Yuri heard it, turning to stare at the other Pretender.
"What are you talking about?"
"This." Turning the machine, Jarod pointed at a series of numerical
and alphabetic sequences and offered a notepad on which he had been scribbling.
"This is a regime of drugs and a diet that Jacob was given, to keep
him alive for as long they could and in the best heath possible, considering
his likely problems."
"What are they?" Yuri demanded.
"I don't know," the older Pretender confessed. "The names
and doses are there, but not the contents of the drugs, and I'd be willing
to bet that Cox destroyed them as soon as he found out Jacob was missing,
so there's no point going back to Blue Cove to find out. And even if we
did, I'm guessing he'd tighten security so much that, although it might
be possible to get in, getting out again wouldn't be feasible."
"So what do we do?"
Jarod concealed his surprise at the use of the term 'we' and gave the
question the attention it deserved. "I guess we'll have to replicate
the conditions as well as we can, excluding the drug program he was given,
although maybe we can come up with some alternatives, to keep him in the
best possible health."
Yuri met Jarod's eye. "How long do you think he's got?"
Shrugging, Jarod stood up. "We'll do an examination and find out
as much as we can from it. Once we know that, we'll know best what to
Nodding in agreement, Yuri followed the older man out of the room.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Angelo crept into the dark corner of the room. All the lights on the
level were turned off, apart from the small ones that allowed the security
cameras to keep filming, but he knew that they weren't bothering about
him or what he was up to. Scrabbling about in the dust, he found the picture
that he had dropped the day before. Brushing it clean, Angelo clutched
it to his chest and scurried back across the empty passageway to the room
where the bed stood.
Sydney had made the bed up for him, allowing him to forsake the other
rooms that had been set up for his use when they first had begun sealing
up the vents. Only a very few people came to disturb him here. Sydney,
of course, and also Charles, who brought in the meals that he occasionally
ate. Knowing himself to be safe, Angelo had begun scattering his belongings
in odd corners or cupboards that had been left untouched after the children
His mind flew to one in particular. The One. The one that felt like him,
or part of him, but also a bit like Faith. She wasn't so unhappy anymore.
Not so scared. The people around her were no longer as quiet as they had
once been, but their emotions were more positive now, and so not as frightening
to her. Angelo was pleased about this, but he still missed her.
Curling up on the bed she had slept in, squashing himself into it despite
the bed rails, he picked up the photo and held it so that the dim light
fell on it. Sydney had decided to leave on a light in the room, so that
anyone who came to check on the empath could see him easily. That was
fine by Angelo. It meant he could see his treasures more easily, and this
had become one of the most valuable since he had found it in his sister's
The three figures in the photo smiled at the camera, their brown hair
dusted with white flakes that also lay on the puffy parkas they were.
The two males wore identical grins, and Angelo smiled at the expressions
of delight in their eyes at their surroundings of cold snow, before he
turned his gaze to the girl in the picture.
Her hair was long, dark brown, but her eyes shone piercingly blue, emphasized
by the blue of her parka.
Angelo's smile became tender as he rolled onto his side, curling into
a fetal position, his left arm wrapped around his stomach as his right
hand clutched the picture. Placing it gently on the pillow, he lay his
head next to it, keeping the index finger of his right hand on the image
of the girl. A faint smile curled his lips as he closed his eyes.
"Momma," Angelo murmured softly to himself. "Momma."
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod sat in the absolute darkness of the living area of his windowless
apartment. Jordan's rooms were next door, with the living areas adjoined,
and most of the time they kept the door connecting them open, allowing
more interaction between them when they were at home. But this time, Jarod
had closed the door before he began working on the problem he and Yuri
had discussed earlier. For hours he had sat with the notes and figures,
with the information he had downloaded from all the various electronic
sources that the Centre yielded to his tireless searches, until he had
some semblance of starting point for correcting the problem Jacob's unique
It was an unsolvable problem, at least in the time frame that lay before
them. If he had a year, even six months, he might be able to come up with
all the answers. But they didn't have that long. His gentle but thorough
medical examination of Jacob confirmed that.
When Yuri left Jarod's rooms to go and find Emily, he had asked the younger
man to turn off the lights, and Jarod had sat there in the darkness, alone,
and thinking. For Jordan's sake, he had tried to hold back on his emotions,
knowing the boy would sense his disquiet, and come seeking him. That was
impossible, and he did not look up when the door opened and Jordan's tall
frame filled the doorway, backlit from the room beyond.
"What is it, Dad?" he asked softly. Distantly, he could hear
Emily's laughter, with Jacob's giggle and a deep chortle from Yuri accompanying
it in the background.
"Come in, son. And close the door. You can turn on a light, if you
"I know my way around."
The door closed, and shortly he felt the boy's hand brushing against
his shoulder, feeling his way blindly in the inky darkness to the sofa.
A moment later, Jarod felt Jordan's weight settle on the floor at his
"You're hurting," Jordan said simply.
A painful lump swelled in Jarod's throat and tears sprang to his eyes,
but he couldn't let them go. He needed to be strong, because Jordan wouldn't
be. He forced the ache in his heart away, and tried to bring up the problem
in intellectual terms. Take the emotion out of it, and it wouldn't hurt
But this was his son, not a patient in a clinic. The boy needed gentleness,
and compassion. He needed love and comfort. "Come here, Jordan,"
Jarod ordered softly, parting his knees and reaching forward between them.
"I need to hold you."
Without hesitation, the youth complied. He scooted close, and tucked
his head beneath Jarod's chin, curling up against his chest and letting
his father's arms fold around him. For a long time, Jarod just sat there,
feeling this boy, this child of his body, in his embrace.
"Tell me," Jordan prompted at last, gently.
"It's Jacob, honey."
"I know. I can feel that much inside you. But what's wrong? What
is it that you don't want to tell me about him?"
"You asked me, when we first started looking into Echo, why my impressions
of the dreams we were having weren't as strong as yours." Jarod squeezed
his eyes shut against the darkness, and a tear slipped down his cheek
and fell onto his son. "That's because
he isn't me, Jordan.
He's you." He drew a ragged breath and tightened his hold on the
boy. "That's why you could sense him so much more clearly than me."
There was an instant where the young man in his arms was motionless,
and Jarod knew the shock he must be feeling. Then Jordan's chest rose
and fell quickly, too quickly, followed by a soft choking sound. Jordan
turned in his arms and put his arms around his father's neck. He buried
his face against Jarod's throat; hot, silent tears streaming down his
skin onto his chest. And then he began to sob, softly to keep from alerting
the child in the next apartment.
"Why, Daddy?" he sniffed, his heart utterly broken. "Why?"
Jarod felt the boy's agony slicing into him, and knew that was a question
he couldn't answer. He held onto his son, and wept quietly with him in
the darkness of their new home.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
There was a smug look on the woman's face as she raised her head from
the paperwork she was reading at the knock on her door.
The sweeper strolled nonchalantly into the room, sitting down in the
chair with care for the suit he wore.
"What is it?" he demanded somewhat impatiently.
Eve smiled, closing a folder and pushing it over the table towards him.
"I know your dirty little secret, Mr. Valentine," she
remarked with a sneer.
"Congratulations, Dr. Lovecraft," Valentine commented, both
his face and the tone of his voice expressionless. His eyes, however,
gleamed with an unpleasantly hard light, but Eve, having spent increasingly
more time with people who expressed no emotion through these normally
highly informative organs due to the influence of Aurora, failed to look
and thus missed the peculiar light in them. "Might I ask what you
propose to do about it?"
"On what you offer to keep me from broadcasting the information."
Valentine reflected for a second, wondering as he did so whether this
woman was truly stupid or simply playing the role well, and also imagining
how pleasant it would be when he came to have his revenge for the threat.
"What would you consider to be appropriate?" he queried eventually.
"I'll let you know," she replied coolly. "And, in the
meantime, I'd be interested to know exactly what it is you do so often
down in SL-26."
"Been following me?" he asked in surprised tones, raising an
"Something like that." Eve folded her arms. "I'll give
you 24 hours, Valentine. If I don't hear all about it in that time, I'll
be handing my information over to the Chairman."
The sweeper rose to his feet, nodding slightly as he replaced the folder
on the desk. "In that case, I can assure you that you'll hear all
Turning, Valentine left the office, already planning a way to get around
the problem that had just been presented to him.
* * * * * * * * *
"Where's Emily?" Major Charles demanded as Jarod appeared in
"Putting Jacob to bed," his son answered. "He trusts her
enough to let her do that now."
"Good." The older man ran a hand through his hair before turning
to face his son. "What are we going to do with this kid, Jarod?"
"That's something I need to talk to you about," Jarod admitted.
Jarod sat on the sofa, Jordan curled up beside him and the other two
men seated themselves in the armchairs. A moment of silence passed before
Jarod began, one arm lying around the young man's shoulders, Jordan's
head resting on his arm as he talked.
"I told you who this boy is," he began, feeling Jordan tense.
"What I haven't told you yet is that Cox had a program of drugs to
keep Jacob alive, and relatively healthy. There's no way we can know what
these drugs were, or what they contained. No doubt, they were matched
to his needs from the day of his conception. While we could recreate some
of them, it'd be a physical impossibility to know for sure that they were
"So what do we do?" his father interrupted. "Give him
whatever you come up with and hope it helps?"
"That's one option," Jarod replied slowly. "The other
is to return Jacob to Cox."
Major Charles' jaw sagged slightly at the suggestion, and Jordan stared
at his father, his eyes revealing his feeling of disbelief.
"It would keep Jacob alive for longer," Jarod explained hurriedly.
"And probably keep him in a healthier state, as well."
"Until Cox beats him to death," Major Charles growled. "That
isn't an option, son."
Nodding, Jarod looked down at the notepad on his lap, containing his
calculations of the boy's projected lifespan. It wasn't good.
"I'll see what I can create, to try and give him the best possible
chance of some sort of a life, for
A sob from the boy sitting next to him cut him off, and Jarod looked
down to see that Jordan was in tears. He pulled him closer, feeling Jordan
clutch the front of his shirt.
The words were choked out, and Jarod dropped the notepad, taking the
boy into his arms. "I don't know," he admitted honestly. "Not
for sure. But I can't guarantee it'll be very long. Maybe only a few months
Tearing himself away, tears streaming down his face, Jordan fled to the
door, flinging it open and running frantically down the hall. Yuri was
on his feet in a moment, following him out the door, and Jarod would have
gone also, but his father put a restraining hand on his arm, with the
notepad in his other hand, having caught it as his son had let it fall.
"Tell me what I need to know, Jarod."
Sinking back onto the sofa, the Pretender looked up to meet his father's
eye. "Why, Dad?"
"I have to know," the man responded. "The boy will be
staying with us, after all."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that's what you want?"
Major Charles' tones were full of anger, but Jarod knew it was directed
at the situation rather than at him. "What choice do I have?"
The two men turned at the female voice from the doorway to find Emily
watching them. Jarod stood up and crossed the room to her.
"What is it?"
"Jacob wants you to go in and say goodnight." She smiled sadly
at him. "I was singing Mom's lullaby to him, but he says you do it
Nodding slowly, Jarod pulled his sister into his arms for a moment, before
going into the room where the third generation of himself waited.
* * * * * * * * *
The observation deck on the top of the tall concrete tower looked out
over the city of Dallas, gleaming with lights in the darkness. Jordan
clutched at the chest-high railing, trying to hang onto what was left
of his wits. He could hardly breathe, the wind ruffling his hair and cooling
his hot skin. He felt ill, knowing what the Centre had done, what Cox
had done to him, to his father, and to that helpless little boy downstairs.
He could see the man's blue eyes, as they had bored into him over the
dinner table, that night a year ago in Grace Valley, and he saw again
the intensity of them as they forced him onto the floor of the bathroom,
a hand pressed firmly over his mouth. Then into his memory slipped the
entrance of his father, the dark eyes gleaming with fury, as he knocked
the scientist away. Unable to suppress a shudder, Jordan tried to block
out the memory of that scene, focusing on the third pair of identical
eyes he had been presented with that day, remembering the joy in them
as Jacob's taste-buds had reacted to the new flavors he had tasted, and
the delight in them as water had trickled down his face in a warm stream.
But thinking about that brought all Jordan's pain back to the fore, and
he felt something twist agonizingly inside him.
"How could they?" he moaned, closing his eyes and pressing
his forehead against the cold metal bars of the barrier.
"Jordan?" called a voice from the doorway. "Are you okay?"
"Hell, no!" he snapped, rounding on Yuri as he stepped onto
the deck. "What do you think?"
Instantly sorry for his enraged outburst, he hung his head and started
"Don't," the man ordered. "You don't need to do that with
me. I know how you feel."
Jordan glanced up at him. He didn't know much about this stranger, except
that he was Emily's boyfriend. But this was a personal matter, and Paul
Jennings wasn't family.
"How could you?" Jordan shot back. "Nobody's ever made
a clone of you, have they, Paul?"
The man shrugged and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his black jeans.
"I don't know. Raines probably has one stashed away somewhere. Or
at least, they've got my DNA on ice, so they could if they wanted to."
Jordan jerked around to stare at him, shocked by the revelation. "You're
from there, too?"
"Yeah, kid. I'm a pretender, just like you and your dad. Maybe a
little different." He eyed the boy solemnly for a moment. "So
yeah, I do know exactly how you feel."
Jordan nodded, understanding. Then he turned away, needing solitude to
gather his thoughts together and make some sense of the future he was
facing. There wasn't enough time. He didn't think he could do what needed
to be done.
"You're stronger than you think you are," the other man told
him, as if reading his mind. "You'll get through this, because you
have your family to help you bear the burden. And if anybody can solve
the problem of how to treat Jacob, it'll be your dad. I'll help, too,
if he wants. I was in on some of the preliminary work on this project,
anyway. I just didn't know what it was about at the time." He shrugged
again, and turned to look out over the glittering city. "Not that
I'd have had any choice about working on it, if I hadn't wanted to participate."
Jordan looked up into his face and saw the cold, hard glint in his eyes
as he stared off into the distance.
"What did they do to you?" he asked softly.
The other man looked at him, and Jordan shifted back a step, afraid for
an instant of what he saw there.
"You don't want to know, son," Yuri told him. "But be
thankful it'll never happen to you."
Jordan swallowed the lump in his throat, and nodded. He watched the rage
in those brown eyes fade into sorrow, and the man offered him a sad smile.
He clapped Jordan on the shoulder warmly.
"We'll help him, Jordan. I promise you that. Even if Jacob doesn't
have very long, he'll know he's loved. He'll know what happiness is. And
those will be the best gifts you could ever give him. Trust me on that."
Jordan recognized the truth and wisdom in those words, and resolved instantly
to make the sentiment come true. He would grant every wish Jacob had,
shower him with love and attention, to the best of his ability. Everything
he wanted for himself could wait. The only thing that mattered now was
that little boy.
"Thanks, Paul," he said softly. "I can see why Emily likes
you so much. You care about people."
That brought a broad grin to the man's face, and a sparkle of surprise
to his eyes. "Gee, you really think so?" he asked softly, a
note of wonder in his voice. "Wow. That's pretty cool, huh?"
Jordan had to smile. They were all a strange lot, reacting in the most
unusual ways to the simplest observations. But he thought he might learn
to like this guy, and wanted to get to know him better.
"I'd be grateful if you'd help my dad with Jacob's treatment,"
he said hesitantly.
Yuri gave him a theatrical bow. "It would be my honor, Jordan."
"Then let's go back down and see what we need to do to get started."
Yuri put his arm around the youth's shoulders, and walked him back to
the foyer and the elevators that would take them back downstairs.
* * * * * * * * *
25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware
With the rain drumming on the roof above her head, Morgan slipped into
the white terry-towel bathrobe that Sydney had loaned her. Her damp hair
hung down her back, and she absent-mindedly twisted a stray curl around
her finger as she strolled into the bedroom Sydney had offered her for
the night. Normally, she wouldn't have bothered to accept his offer. After
all, it wasn't that far to her house. But something inside told her to
stay, a thing she had listened to with increasing attention during the
past few months.
Sitting on the bed, Morgan gazed down at the photo in her hands. This
girl was her mother. Or at least, she shared the same genetic make-up
as her mother. Morgan was surprised at how little that fact hurt now.
At first, it had seemed overwhelming, as had the rage at what the man
commonly recognized as her father had done to the woman who had been his
wife. But, as the hours had passed and she and Sydney had discussed it,
the pain had faded to virtually nothing and was replaced by a feeling
She knew in what light Jarod regarded the boy they had created from him.
But the place that Merritt was to hold in her life was a puzzle to which
Morgan had not yet found the solution. They would have to discuss it,
and that discussion was one that would have to occur soon. It wasn't fair
on the girl to have so little understanding about their situation. Morgan
was aware of what Jarod had said to Merritt, but that hadn't been enough.
And it also wasn't enough for her.
How would she now regard the girl?
As a daughter?
A -- her heart almost stopped. A mother?
Was that fair -- to either of them?
The image of her mother rose to the front of Morgan's mind, and the woman
blinked back the tears that filled her eyes. Turning away, her eye was
caught by the clothes that hung over the back of a chair in the corner.
A bag containing a complete change of clothes stood beside the chair.
She had carried that bag in the trunk of her car ever since being put
onto the pursuit for the occasions when she had had to leave the Centre
without the chance to go home.
Standing, she opened the bag on the bed and took out the clothes inside,
removing several of the coat hangars from the wardrobe and draping the
garments onto them. Pushing aside the plastic-covered items, she made
a space for her clothes. Lifting them to hang them on the rail, a top
slipped from her fingers, catching on the covering of the neighboring
clothes and ripping open the black plastic before sliding down to the
floor. Picking it up and hanging it on the rail, the pattern of the material
caught Morgan's eye, the cloth just visible through the hole, and she
It was a floral design, one that would have been fashionable thirty years
or so previously. The fabric itself was also appropriate for that time
period, and Morgan had her doubts that either Sydney or Jacob would have
worn such designs. Trying to take down the garment, she found that three
of them were banded together at the top of the coat hangar, and she carried
the lot over to the bed.
Tape sealed the bottom of the plastic, and she carefully undid it, finding
her hands suddenly full of long skirts as they fell out of the makeshift
bag. Morgan took a step back and stared at the fabric, her eyes widening.
She knew those patterns as intimately as if she had worn them herself.
Lunging at the bed, she tore the plastic up its length, revealing the
smart cut in the style of the suits and dresses that her mother had worn
to the Centre every day.
The breath caught in Morgan's throat as she turned back to the wardrobe,
quickly locating a box on the floor of it and tearing off the lid. Inside,
wrapped in tissue paper, nestled two pairs of shoes. Taking them out,
Morgan turned them in the light, matching them to the three outfits that
lay on the bed. Sinking onto the bed, she gathered the material in her
hands, stroking the pattern and lowering her face to rest briefly in the
silky fabric, breathing in the familiar scent of Catherine's signature
perfume, which still faintly clung to the clothes, before letting the
bundle drop onto her lap.
Only one person could solve the problem of how outfits belonging to her
mother were hanging in the closet, and he was sitting in the living room.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
At a soft knock on the door, Cox looked up from the papers he was feeding
into the shredder.
"I got your message." The man entered and sat down. "What
"He's gone," Cox admitted, sitting down also. "And whoever
took him has also hacked into the notes we made up that would keep him
"That was only the names and dosages," Fenigor responded. "Considering
the work it took to get us that far, I can't see them managing to create
the right amounts and strengths while the boy's still alive."
"I know that," Cox snapped. "And, as the only person who
knows what they contained is you, I'm not worried about myself."
"And if they can get past the blocks that our friend put in to cover
my identity, I'll be surprised," Fenigor put in.
"Don't destroy the details, then," Cox stated abruptly. "We
might want to try again."
"Maybe we could try a girl again this time," the older man
suggested with a chuckle. "After all, as the Evans girl was such
Cox eyed him. "And did you make sure to keep
"Of course," Fenigor interrupted. "I've got everything
I might need, so we could try as often as we wanted, to get it right."
"Well," the other man stated snidely, "I've got the room
"Or there's all those lovely empty rooms down on SL-17," Fenigor
Cox's brow darkened into a glare. "I've started to work on a solution
to that," he growled. "And the third member of our partnership
to work on that little glitch should be here any minute."
* * * * * * * * *
25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware
Sydney lowered himself into the armchair, gazing out through the window
to where lightning was illuminating the world outside. The fire still
burned dimly in front of him, creating a warmth that was pleasant provided
one sat quite close to the fireplace itself. For a brief moment, as a
feeling of pain tugged at his heart, he could almost imagine that she
was here again, sitting, as she so often had, in the other chair, her
shoes on the floor in front of her, her legs curled underneath her body,
and her damp hair hanging down her back as she rested her chin in the
palm of her hand and gazed dreamily into the fireplace.
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
Catherine's eyes were full of determination as she looked up at him,
softening at the look of pain in his, but still unwavering from the decision
she had reached to end their affair.
"It's not fair. Not to either of us."
He wanted to take her in his arms again, but forced himself to keep
his hands in the pockets of his jacket, his fingers balling into fists.
"We can't keep up any sort of façade in that place, not
when it's this deep. It
it's not right, Sydney."
"What do you want to happen?" he asked softly.
"I want it to be the way it was before," she conceded almost
tearfully. "I want somebody I can talk to whenever I have something
to say, and I want that person to be you."
Nodding, Sydney exhaled slowly, refusing to meet her eye so that she
wouldn't see the pain he couldn't conceal. Reaching up, she gently stroked
his cheek with the backs of her fingers, brushing his lips with hers one
final time before tearing herself away.
He turned at the sound, a part of his mind still caught in the past,
and barely able to stop the word that almost escaped his lips.
She nodded as if he had confirmed something and walked over to him, sitting
down in front of the fire at his feet, looking up into his face, her voice
"Did you love my mother, Sydney?'
A few seconds of silence passed before he spoke.
"And did she love you?"
A faint smile tugged at the corners of the man's mouth, a faraway look
appearing in his eyes.
"I believe she did, yes."
" the words seemed to choke her, but she forced
them out. "Did it go
"Yes," Sydney confessed in barely audible tones. "Yes,
The pounding was audible, in spite of howling wind and the driving
snow that had compelled Jacob to spend the night at the Centre. Placing
the coffee mug down on the table, Sydney got to his feet and hurried to
open the door, his eyes widening at the sight of the woman standing on
the doorstep. Her fingers were blue as she clutched the thin fabric of
her jacket around her shoulders, and Sydney seized her arm, pulling her
into the house and shutting the door.
"Catherine! What on earth
Weeping, the woman sank into his arms, and he hurried her into the
living room. Helping her over to the sofa, he sat beside her, taking off
the jacket he hadn't bothered to remove since returning from work and
slipping it around her shoulders after helping her off with the snow-soaked
suit-coat she wore.
"What happened, Catherine?"
She looked up, her eyes still full of tears, and for the first time
he noticed the redness on her jaw, turning her head gently to see the
finger-marks that extended down her neck.
"Who was it?" he asked. "Who did this?"
The expression in her eyes gave him his answer, but, as Sydney was
about to stand up and get some ice to prevent the swelling, Catherine
placed a hand on his cheek, gently pulling him towards her and kissing
him. Drawing back momentarily, Sydney saw the expectation in the woman's
blue eyes as she waited for his response.
The admiration and secret affection he'd had for her for so long flared,
and he was powerless to resist. Wordlessly, she had asked for comfort,
for this. And he would deny her nothing she needed
As a log in the fire collapsed, Sydney blinked several times, looking
down to find that Morgan had moved closer, sitting so that she was almost
touching his knee. He was about to place a hand on her hair, a movement
that seemed so natural he didn't know what stopped him, only that a feeling
of a restraint kept his hands in his lap.
"Sydney." She looked up at him. "Can I
I want to ask you something."
She didn't even know why she was bothering to phrase the question. Everything,
both inside her and in this situation, confirmed it. Still, she had to
hear his answer.
"Are you my father?"
His eyes widening, Sydney stared at her in disbelief. He'd known it might
have been possible, of course. The timing of their affair suggested it,
but Catherine had only ever spoken to him about it twice, first when she
had so categorically denied the possibility of it, and the second time
when she had shown him proof in the paternity test. Her certainty had
convinced him that her surviving baby wasn't his. But if Morgan was asking
him now then she must have proof that the Chairman wasn't her father,
and that would mean
"I don't know," Sydney murmured almost automatically, feeling
torn at the pain in her eyes at his uncertainty. "I never
As she turned to gaze into the fire, the expression on her face one of
disappointment, Sydney inhaled deeply, reaching out to touch her hair.
At the gentle pressure, Morgan turned back to find his eyes glistening
as he watched her.
"I can't say definitely," he began softly. "Your mother
did tell me that you weren't, but I think it does have to be considered
as a possibility, Morgan. If you know for sure that Mr. Parker isn't your
biological father, then it's very likely to be me." He smiled, gently
brushing her cheek with the backs of fingers. "And if it should prove
that I am, then you should know that you not only had a mother who loved
you, but a father who loves you too."
Morgan rested her head on his knee as a feeling of relief welled up in
her, tears glistening in her eyes and sliding down her cheeks, her fingers
clutching at the hand he slipped into hers, as her father gently stroked
her hair with his other hand, feeling that she had finally come home.
End of Episode