Jarod finished the lullaby and tucked the covers more closely around
Jacob's small body, gently smoothing his hair, as two thin arms came
up to drowsily embrace him.
"Will Jordan come soon?"
"In a while," Jarod promised the boy softly. "You go
to sleep now and in the morning you can play with him, okay?"
"Uh huh." Jacob's dark head nodded once on the pillow, snuggling
down for his first night in a proper bed, and he obediently closed his
eyes. Jarod straightened up and retreated to the doorway, feeling his
throat tighten as he looked down at the child, the innocence of the
small face, marred by the numerous bruises that revealed moments in
which Cox had lost control of his temper and had taken it out on this
blameless human being.
Turning, he almost closed the bedroom door, knowing that a small nightlight
he had borrowed from the nursery would be sufficient to illuminate the
room. Silently he nodded to his sister, who sat on the sofa, reading,
before entering his own apartment.
Through the half-open door to his bedroom, Jarod could see the small
bed in which his baby son slept. The child was draped across the mattress
in his sleep, providing a startling contrast to the scene Jarod had
imagined when Jordan had described the scene in Cox's basement, and
the man felt a renewed sense of gratitude that Gabriel was free from
the life he might have had to live at the Centre, able to retain his
innocence and confidence, instead of being as full of fear as Jacob
had become in his six years of life. Walking into the bedroom, he pulled
up the blanket that had been pushed down to the end of the bed by the
small feet and lovingly spread it over his son. Gabriel moved slightly
in his sleep, but relaxed when Jarod gently rubbed a hand against the
middle of his back.
Turning, Jarod found Jordan and Yuri in the doorway. He came out into
the living room to join them, closing the door after himself, seeing
that Jordan was already holding all the research material he had gathered
about Jacob. The pure agony that had been in Jordan's eyes when he had
fled the room was still there, but it was accompanied by an obvious
"What is it?"
"Can we start this now?" Jordan's hand rapped impatiently
on the paperwork he held. "I mean, the sooner we get it done, the
better, right?" The young man's voice was crisp, words tumbling
out in a stream, his eyes pleading, trying to cope with what had happened
in the only way he knew how -- by working.
Jarod hesitated. It wasn't that he didn't want to help the child. But
he already felt drained from the work he had done earlier that evening,
as well as the lack of sleep from the night before and the tension of
rescuing his sister. Jordan, too, despite the short nap he had had,
also already looked exhausted. Having intended to arrange a program
the next day, Jarod wavered now, but yielded when he saw the pleading
expression in Jordan's eyes.
"All right, son." He took a sheet of notepaper out of his
pocket, handing it over. "This is what I came up with. Go see what's
in Sebastian's lab."
Grabbing the page, Jordan ran out of the room. Jarod could hear his
feet pounding down the hall and then a door slam as he obviously decided
to use the stairs before the man turned to Yuri.
"Did you tell him?" he asked in a low voice.
"Some," Yuri admitted. "And some I didn't."
Nodding, Jarod was about to follow his son out of the room when Yuri
grabbed his arm.
"Jordan wants me to help with Jacob's treatment," the man
began hesitantly. "But I won't, if you don't want me to."
"You helped with his conception," Jarod replied, seeing the
man flinch at the accusation, although it hadn't been intended as such,
as they left the room, headed for the laboratory. "You probably
know more about what's needed than I do." In the hallway, however,
out of earshot of his sister, he stopped and turned to the younger Pretender.
"I want to thank you," he added, "for your help today.
I could never have saved Emily on my own."
Without waiting for a response, aware that one wouldn't be forthcoming,
Jarod turned and led the way down the hall to the elevator, hearing
the silence behind him before Yuri recovered enough to follow him.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod turned from the whiteboard on which they had been making notes
about Jacob's diet and exercise to see the door open. Sebastian poked
his head around it.
"Have you got a few minutes? We need to talk."
"Sure." Jarod capped the pen and threw it to Yuri. "We're
close to being done here anyway. At least for now."
As soon as the door closed behind them, Yuri turned to Jordan. "I
want to ask you a favor."
"What is it?"
Yuri tossed the pen from hand to hand, his dark eyes boring into Jordan's.
"Don't tell Emily what I said to you before, about being the same
as you and being from the Centre. I'd rather tell her that myself."
The young man's brow furrowed. "How come? I mean, it's not like
she has no idea of what went on there or anything."
"I know that," Yuri snapped, continuing in a gentler tone.
"I just don't feel ready to tell her all that yet. Maybe later,
when we've been together for longer, but I don't want her to have that
sort of burden yet." The expression in his eyes changed, suddenly
seeming to beg for understanding. "Do you get what I mean?"
"Yeah." Jordan nodded, glancing at Yuri's hands, which, white-knuckled,
had suddenly tightened around the pen. "Yeah, I understand. Sure,
if you don't want me to, I won't say anything, but I think she'd understand.
She's pretty cool."
"She's a lot of other things too," the older man added, turning
back to the board, firmly steering the conversation back to the original
* * * * * * * * *
Ms. Hart cast a hunted look around before entering the building, slipping
the key silently into the lock and turning it to enter the apartment.
With practice born of long experience, and paranoia from the same cause,
she had kept her eyes open during the journey, during which she had
criss-crossed the continent, finally believing that she was safe, after
so long with no sign.
Shutting the door, she discarded her hat and coat on the bed before
walking over to turn on a small heater in the corner of the room. Her
single bag of belongings stood in one corner and she placed a small
bag of groceries she had purchased beside it. Sitting down in the chair
and turning on the television, she sat back and began to flick channels
in the hope of finding something that would take her mind off her current
* * * * * * * * *
Elizabeth came out of her room into the dark corridor, seeing a glow
from under one of the doors further along it, and wandered in that direction.
Reaching the doorway, she heard the measured pacing from inside, unsurprised
to find that she was outside Jarod's room. Pushing open the door without
knocking, to avoid waking the sleeping inhabitant, and stepping inside,
she saw the door to the bedroom standing half-open and wandered in that
direction. Stopping while still out of sight, she watched as he paced
the length of the room, halting at the bed in which Gabriel lay, sound
asleep, and watching him for a moment, before turning and beginning
his return lap. The woman couldn't help thinking that this had been
going on since everyone else had retired to bed.
"Can't sleep?" she suggested, leaning against the doorjamb,
her arms folded across her chest.
"Not usually," Jarod admitted with a shrug, turning towards
the woman, obviously unsurprised at her appearance. "Not one of
the things on my 'Top 10 Most Favorite Ways To Spend A Night.'"
She smiled, stepping into the room. "What do you do, then?"
He shrugged again, turning away and walking over to the small bed in
the corner, leaning on the raised side to stare down into the sleeping
face of his son.
"What frightens you so much about sleep?" Elizabeth asked
softly, walking over to stand behind him. "The same thing Sebastian
used to fear?"
"Used to?" He spun around to stare at her. "What
do you mean by that?"
"Let me show you." She led the way to the room further down
the hall, silently opening the door, seeing the envy in Jarod's eyes
as he gazed at the pyrokinetic and his wife. Placing a hand on his arm,
she drew him back and closed the door. "I can help you, Jarod,"
"No," he muttered, turning to head back to his room, shoulders
slumped. "There's only one thing that could ever help me like that."
His hands clenched into fists as he forced down the longing for the
drug once again.
"Will you at least let me try?" Elizabeth followed him into
the room, sitting beside him on the bed. "Please, Jarod."
"How much do you know?" he growled.
"Everything." She spread her hands in a gesture of demonstration.
"What you went through at the Centre, the experiment Lyle and Raines
performed, Kodiak Brown, how much Sydney means to you." Elizabeth
dimpled at him. "People don't have many secrets in their sleep."
His eyes glinted angrily as he glared at her, but he remained silent
and Elizabeth could tell that he was weakening. Finally, with an exhausted
sigh, Jarod yielded, running one hand through his hair as he trudged
around to the side of the bed, lying down on it and staring blankly
up at the ceiling. She sat beside him, placing a gentle hand on each
of the fists that lay clenched at his sides, as if he was going to physically
fight the demons that haunted him as soon as he closed his eyes.
"Trust me, Jarod," she whispered, reaching up to gently stroke
the side of his face as his eyelids slid together. There was a brief
struggle before he yielded, the frown he had worn since she had appeared
in his room slowly fading.
"Daddy," a small voice plaintively stated, and Elizabeth
turned to see the small boy sitting up in bed, his dark brown hair on
end. Going over, she picked up the baby, returning to the bedside to
pull the blankets over the sleeping man.
"It's all right, Gabriel," she murmured in the boy's ear.
"Daddy's okay. He's sleeping."
"Sleep wiv Daddy?" the boy suggested hopefully, and the woman
"Would you like that, honey?"
He nodded eagerly, reaching out to the man with both hands. Elizabeth
moved closer to the bed, pausing as the man rolled onto his side, sinking
deeper into sleep, before gently placing the baby in his father's arms.
Gabriel curled up, snuggling close to the man, so that his head was
pressed against Jarod's chin. With a satisfied sigh, the child closed
Placing a hand briefly on the boy's head after covering them both warmly,
Elizabeth turned away and left the room. She would know if Jarod moved
during the night and could return the little boy to his own bed if his
father showed signs of becoming restive, but she knew that the experience
of waking up with his son in his arms would be one Jarod would carry
with him for a long time.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
The door opened and the man entered the room, closing it firmly behind
him before taking the vacant seat on the other side of the desk and
looking over at the two men opposite him.
"What's the plan?"
"We have to find those children." Cox folded his arms. "It's
vital that they be found - and quickly. If not, everything is at stake."
The man opposite couldn't help grinning, lounging in his seat. "You
sound just like our beloved Chairman," Valentine remarked. "But
no doubt you want my help."
"Why else would you be here?" the third man asked coolly.
"Or did you think we were going to broadcast our intentions to
the entire building?"
"At almost one o'clock in the morning, there aren't all that many
who would hear you," Valentine remarked with a grin. "But
I do get your point. Still, there could be a problem or two to go along
"When isn't there?" Cox stated bitterly. "Did you have
anything specific in mind?"
"Two 'specifics' actually."
Fenigor raised an eyebrow. "And they are?"
"First, and somewhat ironically, Eve." Valentine reached
into the pocket of his shirt and pulled out a folded sheet of paper,
tossing it across the desk. "It's a request," he obligingly
told the other two men before they had the chance to they read it. "A
request for assistance. As well as that, there's the implied suggestion
that we work together. At least, that's how I understand it."
Cox looked up, a look of curiosity on his face. "I'm afraid I
don't see the problem. You reject the offer - life goes on."
"For some," Valentine laughed. "Eve has a rather nice
little plan. She wants my assistance in one specific area -- to get
rid of you two. Then she, Mr. Parker and I have a lovely time taking
charge of the place and running it according to the way she feels it
ought to be run. Oh, yes, and there's wedding plans in there somewhere
too, as far as I can make out." He laughed. "Three wives.
That should be enough to make anybody suspicious."
"Particularly when they all die untimely deaths," Cox chuckled,
eyeing the man opposite. "That is your idea, isn't it? I
saw a similar expression on your face before I left South Africa and
poor dear Mutumbo copped it."
"But before we get to that, let me guess," Fenigor commented
dryly, waving the sheet of paper at the sweeper. "Eve's using the
disappearance of the children as further leverage to get rid of both
"Pretty much, yes," Valentine agreed cheerfully. "She's
worried that her road to the chairmanship of the Triumvirate is blocked
by the two of you, particularly since Jarod escaped again."
"So she should be worried." Cox rested his elbows on the
table and entwined his fingers, his eyes firmly fixed on the man opposite.
"What's the other problem?"
"I found a file that Broots made for Miss Parker just after Jarod
escaped again, which has almost every available detail about all of
the Files -- Red, Blue and Yellow. I'm not sure precisely why she got
him to create the dossiers but they're very extensive."
Fenigor grinned. "Just like her mother, she always was one for
wanting answers. I can't say that comes as such a huge surprise to me."
Cox shot a glance at the man beside him. "I'd wonder what she's
doing with them, why she wants that information exactly." His lips
thinned. "She may be planning to use the influence she has with
her father to cut me out of a seat on the Triumvirate."
"So what do you want me to do?" Valentine queried. "Tear
the files apart?"
"No," Cox replied thoughtfully. "No, just keep a firm
eye on her. Let me know what she gets up to, as soon as she does."
"No problem," Valentine smirked. "It will be a pleasure."
"I'm sure it will," the other man grinned.
"Should I do the same for Eve?"
Cox was about to agree when Fenigor stopped him. "I suspect Eve
will be more of a danger than Miss Parker."
Cox eyed the man beside him. "Why do you say that?"
"Eve knows more about what's going on here - at all levels. Miss
Parker has the security details, of course, but that's as far as it
goes. Eve's information is more in-depth - thus more dangerous. The
fact that's she so close to the Chairman is also a concern." The
older man leaned back in the black padded leather chair. "I can
really only foresee a single way to remove that danger."
"Quite." Fenigor turned to Valentine. "What's your price?"
"Protection," the man responded seriously. "Your protection.
As you said, Eve is very close to the Chairman and if he found that
I was responsible for anything happening to her, my future might be
as limited as hers."
"That's a very good point," Cox commented. "What's your
"A scapegoat." The man smirked. "Yuri. We've already
got indications that he's wiping out people who are supporting the Centre.
Maybe it's time he was seen to strike a little closer to home. For a
person as paranoid as the Chairman is rapidly becoming, this could be
the final straw
"And then the way is cleared for us even further," Cox finished.
"I like it a lot. Very well, Valentine, we will both provide you
with a nice, watertight alibi for the time that you will be disposing
of our colleague, Eve."
"And the pleasure," Valentine assured them as he rose to
his feet, hiding a grin at the success of his plan and pocketing the
'request' he had earlier forged, "will be all mine."
* * * * * * * * *
Yuri silently opened the door of the first room, seeing the man lying
in bed, his face peaceful, with the small boy curled up in his arms.
The sound of deep breathing filled the room, and Yuri shut the door
as noiselessly as he had opened it, slipping through the dividing door
between the living rooms and opening Jordan's bedroom door.
His eyes traveled immediately to the mattress in the corner, brow furrowing
when he saw that it was empty. Shooting a quick glance around the room,
he finally saw the small, dark hump on the bed, Jacob curled up against
Jordan's legs. As the man watched, Jordan stretched down a hand, despite
being still sound asleep, to touch the small weight on his feet.
Feeling something painful twist inside him at the sight, Yuri turned
away, pulling the door almost shut after him and leaving the apartment.
His feet carried him quickly along the hallway, but at the doorway of
the room Emily had been assigned for the night, he paused, looking in
through the partly open doorway to where she lay, also sleeping. Then
his eyes traveled along to the room he had been allocated. He didn't
want to go in there.
He knew Jarod hadn't been deliberately vindictive during the discussion
about possible treatment for Jacob, but every word the older Pretender
had said about the child's condition seemed to sink into Yuri's heart,
making it difficult to breathe. He leaned against the wall, trying to
identify the emotion, but it wasn't until he remembered adopting Jarod's
personality traits that he could put a name to it.
So this was what guilt really felt like.
It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before, with a sudden, suffocating
pain Yuri thought he could never rid himself of. He felt anger bubble
up in him like an old friend, rage at the way his results had been used
in such a devastating manner. Suddenly he wanted to strike out, and
instinctively avoided the door he stood beside, making his way down
the hall to the stairs and running down them, choosing to stop at a
random level. By chance, he found himself stepping through a door into
a large room filled with punching bags and weights, padded mats scattered
on the floor.
Yuri looked down at the clothing he wore, knowing it wasn't ideal and
would restrict his movement a little, but right now he didn't care,
not even bothering to warm up as he struck out at a punching bag with
all his might. A memory of his urge to leave a permanent mark on Lyle
for taking Emily boiled up in him again, along with Jarod's refusal
to allow him to hurt anyone, and the force of his punches and kicks
doubled, leaving him breathless but still unable to shake the weight
on his soul. Closing his eyes, letting his instinct tell him where the
bag was, he expended every ounce of energy, ignoring the tears that
slid out from between his closed eyelids.
* * * * * * * * *
25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware
It was still dark when Morgan opened her eyes, remembering immediately
where she was and all that had happened the day before. Faint sounds
suggested that the other occupant of the house was up, and, pulling
on the bathrobe, which had somehow draped itself over the end of the
bed, although she had a vague memory of letting it fall to the floor
before she crawled between the sheets, she slid her feet into her slippers
as she got up and made her way down the stairs.
Her father sat at the kitchen table, an open shoebox on the table beside
him and sheets of paper scattered around it.
"Did you sleep at all?" she queried, somewhat surprised to
see him fully dressed.
"For a while." Sydney half-turned, smiling. As she placed
her hand on his shoulder, he covered it with his own, squeezing gently.
"How did you sleep?"
"Fine." She sat down beside him and poured some herself some
"I was going to wake you soon anyway," the man told her.
"I want to get to the Centre early, so I can check on Angelo. Kim's
coming at seven to pick me up."
Morgan leaned her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her fingers
as the rich, Colombian beverage filled the kitchen with its fragrance.
"Do you think Angelo knows?"
"I don't think we have any way of knowing what your brother really
understands," the psychiatrist replied thoughtfully. "But
I'd say it's possible."
She nodded slowly, suddenly turning to him. "Were you planning
to tell anyone?"
"Do you really think that would be wise?" Sydney placed his
mug on the table. "After all, thanks in part to the assumed connection
you have with the Chairman, you hold a powerful position which allows
you to see and know a great deal about what really goes on. If it were
revealed that you aren't who most people believe you to be, your whole
future, to say nothing of your life, could be in jeopardy." The
man smiled, reaching over to gently squeeze her hand. "Besides,
Morgan, just because nobody else knows, that doesn't change the fact,
"Of course not," she agreed softly. "I'd just like other
people to know, that's all. That I'm not one of them. It already sets
me on edge when they call me 'Parker.' I can't wait for the day when
I can be called by my real name."
"We didn't set the rules of the life we live by," Sydney
responded thoughtfully. "But unless we play along, we run the risk
of losing, and we can't afford for that to happen." He lifted her
fingers to his lips, hiding the fact that they were trembling. "I
don't want to lose you like we lost your mother." Reaching forward,
he brushed the backs of his fingers down her cheek. "But I'm looking
forward to that day too, Morgan. I'm so proud of you. I always was,
even before I knew the truth."
His daughter smiled and leaned over to gently kiss her father's cheek
before leaving the kitchen to get dressed.
* * * * * * * * *
The man felt hands shaking him as a weight was removed from his chest
and forced himself to roll over, away from them. He was still tired
and hoped that whoever it was would leave him alone for another hour
"Jarod, wake up," a familiar voice stated in his ear as hands
shook him even more vigorously. "It's important."
"It's always important," he grumbled, opening one eye to
glare at his sister as he rolled onto his back. "One day it won't
be, and I'll be able to sleep in like normal people."
"You're not normal," she reminded him absent-mindedly, sitting
down on the bed beside him, her nephew in her arms. "It really
is important, Jarod. Paul's gone."
It took the Pretender several seconds to remember who 'Paul' was, but
as soon as he did, he lay back against the pillow with a groan.
"I was hoping for World War Three," he complained. "Something
Gabriel climbed out of Emily's arms and onto Jarod's pillow, playing
with his hair and giggling as the man tried to gently bat him away.
"This is important," the woman protested, ignoring both the
boy and her brother's actions. "I know he goes off sometimes, but
never without saying goodbye."
"Did he write a note or something?"
"Not to me."
"Check my computer," he told her obligingly, closing his
eyes again as she stood up and walked over to the table, starting up
"What's the password?"
"S-Y-D-N-E-Y," he responded, picking up his son and placing
him on his chest, beginning to play a game of peek-a-boo. "Well?"
he asked after a moment of silence from his sister. "Anything?"
"He said he got a lead on a story. He'll call once he's got some
answers." She turned in the chair to look at him. "Why did
he send this to you and not me?"
Jarod shrugged, sitting up with Gabriel in his arms. "No idea.
You'll have to ask him that when he calls you." He smiled. "Don't
worry, Em. He can take care of himself."
She eyed him skeptically but didn't have a chance to comment, looking
around as the bedroom door opened and Jordan stuck his head around it.
"Are you awake?"
"No, son," Jarod remarked sarcastically. "I'm only awake
when I've got my eyes closed, didn't you know?"
The young man grinned, pushing the door wider and waving Jacob into
the room. The child held back until Jordan lifted him onto the bed,
greeting Jarod with a hug and then curling up in the young man's arms
as Jordan also sat on the mattress. Jacob immediately began asking Jordan
questions about objects in the room as Jarod looked down at Gabriel,
seeing the confused expression on the baby face.
"What is it?" he whispered in his son's ear.
Gabriel gazed up at him in bewilderment before pointing at Jordan and
Jacob. "Free daddies?"
Sighing, Jarod looked up in time to see Jordan's eyes flash, knowing
that he had heard, although Gabriel has spoken softly.
"No," he stated, avoiding the complicated explanation. "This
"It's time for breakfast," Jordan said suddenly, glancing
at his watch, before picking up Jacob. "We'll meet you down there,
"Sure." Jarod watched the two boys leave, noticing that that
his sister had also gone, and picked up Gabriel from the end of the
bed, heading for the bathroom and a shower and shave.
* * * * * * * * *
25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware
Returning to the kitchen, half an hour later, Morgan found it empty.
The box sat on the table, a note lying on top of it, informing her that
he would see her at work. It was unsigned, underlining to her that he
was suffering a similar dilemma to one that had struck her. How would
they address each other? Of course, their working salutations wouldn't
change, but outside those hours? It was no doubt something that would
have to be addressed, but it wasn't a question she could answer on her
own, so she turned her attention to the shoebox, aware that Sydney wouldn't
have left it there if he hadn't wanted her to look at it.
Taking off the lid, Morgan looked at the photo that lay on top, inhaling
sharply as she lifted out the frame, gazing down at the image of her
mother and a man she had to assume was Sydney, with a baby held in the
woman's arms. She couldn't help eyeing his stance, noting that he kept
a small distance between himself and her mother, his arms held firmly
at his sides. Standing the frame on the table, she looked again into
the box, finding a number of letters, banded with ribbon.
She placed these to one side, surprised at the number in the box, considering
that she knew their affair had only lasted for a few months. Briefly,
she wondered what had ended it, before pushing aside the thought and
peering into the box again. The last object it contained was another
photo, but this was almost painfully different from the first. Her mother
was in Sydney's arms, looking up into his face, the love she felt for
him clearly visible in her eyes. Morgan placed the picture flat on the
table, gazing down at the two people and imagining how difficult it
must have been for Sydney during the years that had passed, with only
this to remind him of all that might have been.