Jarod walked with Emily into the playroom, seeing her eyes widen as she
looked around at the children.
"How many am I related to?" she asked softly.
"Three," he told her. "Gabriel, Uriel and Tempest."
He pointed out the two boys and a girl, who, with Angelique, Raphael,
Gideon and Dominique, were playing on the carousel in the middle of the
"Who's that?" his sister asked, pointing to a small girl who
was sitting in the corner, watching the others.
"That's Michaela," a red-haired woman told her as she came
up behind them. "I'm Helen. You must be Emily. I've heard Jarod talking
about you a lot."
"That's right." Emily watched her brother walk away to the
roundabout, but her eyes traveled back to the small girl on her own. "How
could you tell?"
"Something about the face." Helen laughed. "There's a
lot of similarities between you and your brother."
Smiling politely, Emily pointed unobtrusively at Michaela. "Why's
she sitting there like that?"
The older woman smiled sadly. "She's an electrokinetic, and she
threw a temper tantrum earlier. As with many of these children, such extremes
of emotion can cause problems with their skills, and she short-circuited
the fountain." Helen waved a hand at the water feature in the back
of the room, over which a workman was leaning to replace the pump. "It
frightened her, and now she's scared to touch anything in case it happens
Emily's eyes saddened. "Does that sort of thing happen often?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Helen admitted. "Particularly with
Gideon." She pointed out the chubby little boy. "He hasn't got
very good control over his skill yet -- he's Sebastian's son -- and any
sudden change in his mood can make him accidentally start fires."
She indicated a small bandage on the little pyrokinetic's arm, evidence
of his most recent accident.
Helen continued, explaining the skills of the eight former Centre children.
Just as she finished, a nurse appeared in the doorway and she excused
herself, leaving the other woman alone. Emily continued to watch Michaela,
saddened by the expression of unhappiness in those big brown eyes. A moment
later, as if the girl had picked up on her thoughts, the small head turned
in her direction.
Emily walked slowly forward, seeing the little girl cringe as if afraid
of being hit, obviously afraid of this new face, and she inwardly cursed
the training that had caused this in a child. However, the reassuring
smile never moved from Emily's face as she sat on the floor.
"Is you mad at me?" the little voice quavered.
"No, sweetie," Emily assured her. "Of course I'm not mad."
She reached out to gently brush back a lock of brown hair that fell into
Michaela's eyes. "Why don't you go and play with the others?"
Michaela's head violently shook from side to side, making the fine, wispy
hair fly around her face, a glint of terror in her eyes as tears filled
them and she curled tightly into a ball. Before she could protest, Emily
picked up the child, placing her onto her knee and wrapping her arms around
her. The little girl froze for a second before turning in the woman's
arms, burying her face in Emily's shoulder and beginning to sob.
"It gave you a nasty shock, didn't it, honey?" Emily soothed,
rubbing her hand on the child's back. "It was a very big fright for
such a little girl."
Slowly getting to her feet, she carried Michaela out of the playroom
into the elevator, riding it up to her brother's room and carrying the
child into the living area. Sitting on the sofa, she waited for the tears
to dry up, eventually only the occasional sob and hiccup shaking the small
body. Taking a tissue out of her pocket, she dried the small girl's face
and smoothed back the messy hair.
"Why don't we do something, just the two of us?" she suggested.
"What would you like to do?"
The girl looked around before pointing to a pile of children's jigsaw
puzzles, which were stacked in the corner of the room, and Emily smiled
sadly as she realized the child had picked a toy that she would be unlikely
to damage. But she refrained from commenting and carried the girl over
to the corner, sitting down and letting the girl settle into her lap before
they began to do the first puzzle.
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Broots glanced through the files about the last of the five Fakultät
subjects, having found nothing about the other four. He was surprised
to discover several files about Julia and read through them quickly. The
information made his eyes widen as he rapidly printed out the details,
sliding them in between two folders and then clearing his screen and all
trace of his search before hurrying to the office next door.
Morgan looked up as he entered and shut the door, removing the pages
and then sinking into the chair opposite.
"The Chairman knew," the technician exclaimed. "He knew
about Julia, but it doesn't seem like he had any idea of the others."
Nodding slowly, she read through the pages, arching an eyebrow as she
saw the detailed notes about the woman, including knowledge of her pregnancy.
"Interesting that he should be so well informed," she mused.
"I wonder who was passing that sort of information along."
"Sam was passing information on from here," Broots reminded
her. "What's to say we don't have the same thing going at the other
"Good point," she agreed. "And why don't I know about
Assuming this to be a hypothetical question, he ignored it and nodded
at the pages in her hand. "I guess the other question is why he knew
about her and not the others."
"That's easy," Morgan responded. "Julia must be very visible
in her position. Even Sydney knows about her. But the others could be
hidden down in the Experimental Floor that Sam told us about and nobody
would ever know they were there. After all, most people wouldn't know
that this place has 27 sub-levels. I'd imagine Delius came up with a way
that Julia could be still alive but the four others weren't. Maybe that
they died on the way to Germany or something."
He nodded before glancing at the pages she held again. "I think
that's the other stuff you wanted me to find."
Shuffling through the pages, she found the relevant one and placed it
on the desk, pushing aside the others, as her eyes made the necessary
jumps between the genetic information provided.
"It is," she breathed, reading the paragraph written in Cox's
small, neat hand.
Gathering the pages, she slid them into the bag she took to and from
work every day, dismissing the technician with a nod and trying to concentrate
once more on her work.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod stretched his legs out in front of him and picked up a book that
he had bought from a store early that morning when he had been out for
a walk, enjoying the sun that streamed onto the roof of the building as
Jordan, Jacob and Gabriel played nearby. The door behind him opened and
he cast a lazy eye in that direction, seeing Elizabeth stroll over to
stretch out on a nearby sun-lounge with a book in her own hand.
"Taking a break from saving the world?" she teased.
"Hey, it gets a little boring after a while." He grinned before
a thought occurred to him and he put the book aside. "I wanted to
ask -- do you know everything that anyone here dreams about?"
"Pretty much." She shrugged. "I'm not perfect, and if
I'm concentrating on removing nightmares from more than one person at
a time then sometimes I can let things slip with others. I'm getting better
at it, though."
The man nodded at the three young people playing a short distance away.
"So why did you let Jordan dream about Jacob?"
She smiled faintly. "He's been having that same dream every night
-- sometimes more than once -- since he came here. The same thing's happened
with Trevor a few times, and when it does I usually think there must be
a reason for it. I also couldn't see how it would be distressing for him.
He has terrible nightmares, and this seemed positively kind in comparison
to some of those."
He nodded slowly. "How about Jacob?"
The woman's eyes darkened and glinted angrily as her fingers tightened
around the book in her hand. "You don't want to know."
"No," he agreed, his eyes fixed sadly on the small boy's face.
"I probably don't."
"He won't have them anymore," a quiet voice stated from beside
him. "I promise, Jarod."
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Eve hardly heard the door open, and scarcely felt the needle enter her
arm. Nor did or could she care about it. The Halcyon gas had enhanced
Aurora to the extent that she felt herself floating on a bubble of pleasure,
one from which she couldn't bear to come down. The world seemed made of
bright, vibrant colors that, as Aurora trickled like a warm stream into
her arm, appeared to twist and dance in brilliant patterns. Shapes flashed
in and out, objects distorting, and she followed the best and brightest
with her eyes as they contorted into unrecognizable forms. She knew this
wasn't a normal side-affect of Aurora, suggesting another drug that added
to the wonders of her creation.
When she actually could be bothered trying to think, Eve could only wonder
that she'd never tried the drug on herself before, instead of wasting
it on other people. A tiny voice warned her that the person giving it
to her probably meant to harm her, but she quashed it easily, enjoying
the feeling of pleasure the drugs caused. That they made her unable to
move didn't seem to matter. It meant she didn't have to move or even think
about it, so she paid no attention, concentrating instead on the hazy
visions before her eyes, a dreamy smile on her lips as her eyelids drooped.
A dark shape bent over her, the details of which were unrecognizable,
and she lazily swiveled her eyes up in the direction of what she assumed
to be a face. As she tried to focus on it, however, it altered, becoming
a square, then an oblong and finally almost triangular. The thought of
anybody with a head that shape made her giggle silently, even as the man
standing beside her picked up her wrist to time her pulse. Satisfied,
he gave a nod and a trolley was wheeled into the room.
She barely even felt the several pairs of hands that lifted her out of
the chair and placed her on to it, covering her with a sheet and rolling
it out of the office. A dull click as the door of her office was locked
echoed in her head, emphasized by the Halcyon gas, and the wheels rolling
along the hall sounded like machinery, but she didn't care. The elevator
doors shut almost silently and there as no sound from the men who surrounded
the gurney, pushing it out of the elevator and bringing it up in front
of the room.
Valentine opened the door with a satisfied nod before handing skin-colored
patches to the men, who accepted them eagerly and quickly returned to
the elevator. Wordlessly, he pulled the trolley into the room, peeling
back the sheet and grinning down at the woman.
"Well, hello there, Eve, my dear soon-to-be drug addict. What a
pleasure it is to have you down in my domain, although not as pleasurable
as this is making you feel, right?"
The words boomed and echoed in her head, but she had no time to grasp
their meaning, almost immediately distracted by a flash of gold in front
of her face that swung from side to side several times, like a large pendulum,
and her eyes lazily followed the gleaming motion. Suddenly it was snatched
away and the dark shape beside her moved out of sight briefly, returning
in a moment with something white, which he tied around her unresisting
wrists, next wrapping it over her chest and then behind the trolley on
which she was lying. Eve never noticed the restraints, seeming to be constantly
in motion, appearing to float through waves of color and light.
Valentine stepped back, looking down at the woman, who was strapped firmly
to the trolley, and a vindictive smile curled his lips as he turned away
and sat down at the console.
* * * * * * * * *
The sunny day encouraged the group to choose a table outside, although
Jarod made sure that both Gabriel and Jacob kept their jackets on as they
sat down. There was an outbreak of giggling from Gabriel as he looked
at the pictures in the menu, and Jordan leaned over to tease the child
about his similarity to a pink-faced ice-cream clown. Jarod was glad to
see that his older son's relationship with the baby was rapidly improving
as he described the dishes to the silent boy who sat on his other side,
looking around with wide eyes.
After giving their orders to the waitress who hovered nearby, Jarod began
questioning Jordan about some of the work they had been studying in class,
to which the young man responded with a deep groan that made Gabriel giggle
again and Jacob look at him in astonishment.
Suddenly a pair of hands clapped over Jarod's eyes and a familiar, laughing
voice spoke in his ear.
"Hmm," Jarod remarked thoughtfully. "Well, you're too
young to be Sydney, too masculine to be Miss Parker, and too confident
to be Broots, so I figure it's nobody from the Centre."
He heard a woman's laugh from nearby and grinned.
"Although I'm not psychic," he continued, "I'd guess --
The hands lifted off his eyes and clapped him on the shoulder as he turned
to look up into the man's familiar blue eyes, now sparkling with amusement.
"Showoff," Alastair teased, walking around to shake Jordan's
hand. Meanwhile Jarod greeted the two blond females who waited nearby
before the two men dragged over another table so that the newcomers could
sit down, after which Jarod introduced Gabriel and Jacob.
"So what's going on?" the older man asked curiously. "Were
you guys just in town, or have you been following me?"
"Actually, we kind of need a favor," Rebecca told him somewhat
awkwardly. "It's Lyle."
"When isn't it?" Jarod retorted, with a wry grin at the man's
daughter. "What's the problem?"
Rebecca glanced at Gabriel, who was watching her out of big, brown eyes,
as if knowing that she would be talking about him. "Ever since the
Centre lost one of their biggest projects, there's been a lot more pressure
on the members of the Tower, particularly with the added fact that, should
Mr. Parker lose the Chairmanship, the domino effect will continue down
"So Lyle's increasing the pressure on his underlings to find the
rest of the Blue Files, to ensure he keeps his seat," Jarod finished,
gazing thoughtfully at the table for a moment before looking up at her.
"But how can I help?"
Alastair cocked an eyebrow in his direction before glancing around at
several men in black outfits with flame logos on their tops, who had been
waiting to see Jarod's reaction to the newcomers before they intervened,
several having sensed that they posed no threat.
"Well, either you've hired your own security force or else there's
some other group at work to keep you safe. This lot look kind of like
my brother and his friends."
"Granted," Jarod laughed, looking around as a waitress came
out with the ice creams for himself and the three boys. "Order something
for yourselves and then I'll take you along to Sanctuary."
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
The shot went in quickly and easily, and the woman smiled as the feeling
of happiness welled up inside her. Valentine capped the syringe and pocketed
it, returning to his seat and watching the material he had recorded that
"Why are you doing this?" she asked after a few moments.
"You don't care about that," he returned, his eyes fixed on
the screen. "All you care about now is being happy. I'll keep you
happy, as long as you don't ask questions."
Nodding in agreeing and not interested enough to press further, Eve glanced
at the clock hanging on the wall. She had spent so long watching the dancing
shapes in front of her, the sounds of her office creating an almost musical
accompaniment, that she no longer had any idea of what time it was. Sleep,
too, had come intermittently, with dreams full of light and happiness,
but even more so a sense of peace such as she had never known. Time had
passed so rapidly that she was unsure what day it was, but any curiosity
she may have felt instantly dissipated and she smiled at the happiness
she felt, putting her head back against the thin pillow of the gurney
and letting her eyes close. There was something missing this time, though.
It wasn't as good as it had been before.
"It's not the same," she murmured regretfully, although the
feeling of disappointment faded almost instantly.
Valentine glanced sharply over his shoulder. "What do you mean?"
"There's no colors," she told him, her eyes opening wide. "It
was so pretty."
An evil smile curled at the edges of Valentine's mouth as he realized
what she meant. Reaching under the desk, he pulled out the strongbox,
producing another long, silver capsule. Taking out a mask, he affixed
it to the top of the canister before placing the smooth rubber over her
face. Twisting the release valve, he was able to hear the gas hissing
into the mask.
"Breathe deeply," he ordered, "and then the colors will
Inhaling with a vague sense of desperation, Eve recognized the sweet
smell that she could faintly remember from her office, before the first
shot. Slowly, as the elastic of the gas mask was slipped behind her head
and Valentine returned to his chair, the mundane colors of the room began
to be enhanced, flickering as they strengthened. Objects began to dance
in front of her and she let out a small sigh of satisfaction before falling
* * * * * * * * *
Rebecca hesitated in the doorway of the playroom, her eyes running over
the many small faces, eight of which had turned in her direction as soon
as she had appeared. A pair of blue eyes lit up and a girl jumped to her
feet, running across the room and throwing herself at the woman.
"Mama!" Tempest shrieked in excitement, hugging her legs, as
the other children turned back to their games.
Rebecca picked up the girl, feeling the small hands tangle in her hair
as kisses dampened her face. The man beside her waved her over to where
a sofa and several armchairs stood on one corner of the room, watching
as the woman carefully sat down with the child in her lap. Her expression
filled with confusion and sadness, mixed with love, he could imagine what
she was feeling, meeting her daughter for the first time.
Sorrow tugged at Jarod's heart like a ton-weight as he watched them.
In all the time he had spent with this child since discovering the truth
about her parentage, he had never been able to stop himself from wondering
what sort of a father his brother might have made to this little girl
and whether the necessity of helping to shape her young life might have
been able to undo the years of brutal training which had turned Kyle into
He closed his eyes, picturing Kyle's initial trepidation at first meeting
her. Like Tempest's mother, he would be devastated by what the Centre
had done, using his genetic material to create this little girl. But he
would fall in love with her big blue eyes, her sweetly angelic little
face and those blond curls. Her infectious laughter would have him smiling
in no time, and the innocent that she was would help to heal his broken
Tempest would have been good for Kyle.
Had he lived.
Jarod took several deep breaths to control his emotions, looking up suddenly
as a young voice spoke.
"Unca Jawid," the girl exclaimed, reaching out a hand for the
man, the fingers of her other hand still tangled in her mother's hair.
Jarod looked up to see the knowing expression in Rebecca's eye and knew
she had guessed the subject of his thoughts. Sitting on the sofa beside
them, Tempest's little hand was able to grasp his leather jacket, struggling
to pull him closer to her, her baby head still resting possessively against
her mother's shoulder.
"This is something you can do for your brother -- that you've already
done," Rebecca murmured, stroking the girl's hair. "You freed
Tempest from the Centre before they could destroy her. Now, you can help
make her into the sort of person Kyle might have been, if Raines had never
gone near him."
Nodding, momentarily speechless, Jarod gently stroked the small, round
cheek, vowing inwardly that his niece would have every opportunity he
had already promised himself for his son. Jarod could see the fantasy
unfolding: Kyle walking Tempest in the park, teaching her to catch a Frisbee
or a baseball. He would bring home a puppy or kitten for her to play with
and love. And he would read her stories before he tucked her into bed
at night, kiss her little hurts away, and hold her in his arms when she
Kyle would have made a good father. But since he couldn't be there for
his daughter, Uncle Jarod would have to do. With any luck, Tempest wouldn't
feel her father's absence for a long, long time.
* * * * * * * * *
"So, who else is there?" Sebastian was demanding as Jarod opened
the door to the boardroom.
Alastair leaned back in his chair, eyeing the ceiling thoughtfully. "I
think I've told you about all the staff -- at least, all the ones who
were there when I left. As far as I know, there haven't been many new
employees hired, and nobody of any significance to you, except as far
as numbers go."
"But there are others," Trevor prompted gloomily. "It's
like the Centre; there are always subjects."
Nodding slowly, Alastair lowered his eyes to the table. "Yes,"
he admitted. "There are."
Ramona looked up from the notes she was making. "As many as the
"There isn't the room," he mused. "There's only three
levels underground in Berlin, and they don't keep subjects where people
can see them."
"Anyone I know?" Jarod asked as he sat down, Rebecca taking
a seat between him and Alastair, Tempest nestling happily in her mother's
lap and playing with a long lock of her hair.
Alastair considered briefly before looking at the Pretender. "Do
you remember Julia Becker?"
"Vaguely. Bed next to yours in 1975. Brown hair, brown eyes, very
sick. She provided me with the charcoal for drawing on the sheets,"
Jarod finished with a grin.
"And that's vaguely," Cam snorted, grinning.
Alastair nodded, his face serious and eyes sad. "You might remember
that Julia was classed as a pretender before the experiment, but not a
very successful one. When we were sick, she began to see things, the same
way Rebecca and I do." Alastair grinned weakly at his friend. "You
were projecting a lot during that time, buddy, and she picked up on most
Jarod raised an eyebrow, but remained silent, as Trevor tried not to
"After they dragged all five of us to Berlin," Alastair continued,
"they were very excited when they found out about it. She was trained
in her abilities, and, although she's not as advanced as either of us,"
he shot a glance at Rebecca, "they were very glad to have her."
"And where is she now?"
"Still there. When I got out three years ago, I suggested she come
with me. She refused to leave."
Jarod gave him an astonished look. "Why?"
"That's the point of my story, or part of it. Can you remember Joseph?"
"He was the healer, wasn't he? You fell out of bed when you were
trying to make trouble one day and he fixed your leg."
Ignoring the comment on his action, Alastair nodded. "Leiden had
heard about what was planned in Delaware and loved the idea of designer
kids so much that he decided to make his own. Of course, his methods weren't
quite as neat or controlled. There were a lot of rejects, kids who didn't
have the particular skill that he had been hoping for when he carried
out the insemination. That's why Berlin is so far behind the Centre. If
they don't get it right, they have to start over. But when it all began,
he didn't know there were going to be so many problems. He persuaded Delius
that Julia, his translator, would make an ideal candidate, so they artificially
"With her permission?" Sebastian demanded.
"Not exactly. Of course, she knew what they were going to do when
they took her into the room, drugged her and did the procedure, but there
wasn't much she could do. Even if she hadn't been the one to fall pregnant,
they'd have used her ova and simply found a surrogate mother. They're
as easy to get in Germany as they are here in America."
"So they got her pregnant, she gave birth, and refused to leave
with you because her baby would have had to stay behind," Jarod guessed.
"Exactly." Alastair nodded soberly. "But can you remember
what it was that gave her the abilities in the first place?
Jarod stared at him in horror. "They gave the baby meningitis as
"Close. They did think about it, but some bright spark thought maybe
the fever was what caused her abilities to develop, so they induced a
fever of 109 degrees Fahrenheit in little Peter and kept him there for
four days. In all that time, I might add, Julia wasn't allowed to see
Jarod abruptly got to his feet and began pacing the room, his eyes fixed
on the floor as the others around the table stared at Alastair in disbelief.
"Sounds like something Raines would have done."
"Then Raines was almost as bad as Leiden," Alastair remarked,
his eyes sparkling angrily. "Julia almost snapped at that time, even
though she knew what was going to happen."
"Which was?" Trevor inquired impatiently.
"I'm getting there. On the fifth day, they let his temperature return
to normal and were delighted to find that they'd 'manufactured' a psychic.
The healing abilities Peter inherited from his father had disappeared
along the wayside somewhere but they didn't care. They had their psychic.
And he's very successful too. He works with Clare and Michael -- you probably
remember them, too."
"Are they deaf, like Edna thought they'd be?" Jarod demanded,
suddenly remembering a vague conversation he had overheard during his
"Unfortunately, yes." Alastair stared at the floor for a moment
before lifting his head. "But it wasn't just Peter they tried the
new treatment on. They experimented that way on thirty children, all of
whom had a certain genetic trait that they believed was 'the one.' Peter
was the only one who survived."
Jarod muttered an expletive under his breath. "So every time they
want a psychic, they get Julia pregnant again?"
"I don't know about 'every time,' but she is pregnant again, yes."
Alastair glared at the tabletop as he exhaled slowly. "Delius planned
terrible recriminations for my escape against Clare, Michael and Joseph,
because he believed that they knew I was planning to leave. After some
persuasion, he agreed that, if he wouldn't do anything to them, she'd
let him experiment on her in any way he wanted."
"So she just has to put up with it?" Sumi demanded in shocked
tones. "Oh God, what monsters
"What else can she do?" Alastair shot back angrily. "Do
you know what he could do to her, would do to her, if she didn't agree?"
For a moment, he was unable to speak further, swallowing his urge to
throw up at the knowledge of what he knew Delius had done to unwilling
subjects. Glancing at his hands, seeing the scars that dotted them, all
results of experiments gone wrong, he slid them under the table. Alastair
wished for a long-sleeved top as he saw the eyes of the tall Australian
opposite travel from scar to scar on his arms. Similar marks on Sebastian's
skin made the psychic wonder briefly what had happened to the other man,
his curiosity sparked by the images of fire that flared in his mind, as
"Delius' plan, and one which Leiden loves, I might add, is for her
to have children every four years or so, and then, when the oldest are
ready to reproduce, he'll see if, by using siblings, he can get a psychic
child without having to risk them dying of fever."
Jarod refused to look at Sebastian as he spoke. "He could end up
with major problems. Down's Syndrome and the like."
"He's hoping that, by then, it'll be possible to genetically correct
things like that," Alastair stated in disgust.
"Another bastard playing God," Jarod remarked bitterly, returning
to his chair, a glare on his face. "And I thought Raines and Cox
were bad enough."
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
Morgan carried the plates back into the kitchen, returning to the living
room and curling up in the unoccupied corner of the sofa. Sydney was gazing
into the leaping flames in the fireplace, but at the silence, he turned.
"What is it?"
"Why didn't you ever tell me?"
He sighed deeply. "Would you have believed me, Morgan? And besides,
I never knew for certain. Catherine made a point of telling me that you
weren't mine. She even had a paternity test done, to prove it." The
man smiled faintly. "I did think about it sometimes, and wondered,
even hoped, but I also knew your mother went to Maine every year. I never
knew why she went, but I was never able to help wondering if there was
someone up there that she felt things for."
"Not the way she felt about you," his daughter assured him.
"She was happy up there because she could escape from the pressures
she was under here, but that was all."
Sydney's voice was suddenly soft. "Do you know, Morgan, I'm not
an envious person, but when I used to think about why she went up there,
I was closer to jealousy than at any other time in my life."
There was another prolonged silence before the woman spoke again.
"But why didn't she tell you? About me, I mean."
"I can only imagine that she didn't want me to feel pressured, or
to put me in any danger. After all, if her husband had found out
Yet another moment of silence that followed this before the woman spoke
"Will you tell me about it?"
Sydney smiled. "What did you want to know?"
"Everything," she admitted frankly, before coloring slightly.
"That is, everything you're willing to tell me."
He nodded, turning his gaze back to the fire, unable to talk about Catherine
when he was facing her, reminded of the woman he had loved every time
he saw her face. "It began on the 14th of February, 1959. That was,"
he exhaled slowly, "that was the first time he ever hit her. She
came to me; I'll never know why."
Morgan didn't need to hear any names to know who he was talking about.
It meant that assaults on her mother had started more than a decade before
she knew about them, and the rage she already felt at the man who claimed
her paternity swelled inside until she could hardly breathe. She couldn't
help wondering how many other times it had occurred and she hadn't known.
Only the soft, sorrowful voice of the man sitting beside her kept the
fury she felt from exploding.
"I never really thought about it being so wrong until later,"
he admitted. "The way he treated her, even at work, wasn't -- or
shouldn't have been --- the treatment that a wife deserved from the man
she was married to, and I was able to forget that they were married when
we were together. Not that we ever had long." He sighed ruefully,
staring at his hands, watching as the left trembled slightly, the way
it always did at the end of the day. "I don't know if you can imagine
how hard it was for me to see the way he behaved towards her, the days
that she would turn up to work trying to hide bruises and cuts, and to
hear her dismiss them as unimportant if I ever saw them." Sydney's
right hand clenched around the arm of the sofa. "Before we were together,
I could never show the way I felt, and after it was over, she tried to
hide it so I wouldn't see."
"That would have been worse," the woman remarked knowingly,
remembering her helplessness on the night she had heard her parents fighting
and seen Raines leaving the house.
"Yes," he agreed softly. "Yes, it was."
"Did she come to you often?" Morgan asked, becoming sufficiently
interested in the story to put away her anger for a moment.
"Sometimes," he admitted. "Mr. Parker occasionally spent
nights at the Centre, and, when he did, she would often come here. I think
Jacob knew something was going on, but he tried to turn a blind eye to
"Is that why you have some of her clothes at your house?"
"So you found those?" he asked with a smile. "Yes. People
who are trying to hide something find all sorts of ways to make sure that
nobody finds out, and your mother came up with the idea." He turned
to her for a moment. "You may not remember, but on occasion, when
things got too bad, she would come around at other times. That's why they
were still there, even after it was finished. She didn't want other people
to know that there was a problem and thought that, if she appeared in
the same clothes two days in a row then people might get suspicious."
He smiled fondly. "Your mother had the same love of clothing and
taste that you do."
She nodded slightly, leaning her head against the back of the sofa and
gazing at the man as he watched the flames dance in the fireplace and
illuminate the otherwise dark room. For a second, the scene blurred, but
she blinked to clear her vision, shifting on the sofa in an attempt to
"We were together for two months, until early April, 1959, when
she left for Maine. I didn't want her to go, but we both knew that any
change of her routine would make her husband suspicious, and neither of
us wanted to take that risk. We spent the last night sitting on the veranda,
watching the stars, and the next day she left."
"How did you know about Maine?" Morgan asked curiously. "Most
people thought that she went to visit my aunt."
"She told me," he admitted. "When she told me that --
that she just needed a chance to get away from her husband for a while
-- it made my actions somehow seem less wrong." Sydney began to gently
massage his left hand with his right as he continued to speak. "When
she came back from Maine, something was different. Of course, I know now
that Catherine had probably discovered she was pregnant, but at the time
I couldn't understand it. She told me that it wasn't fair on either of
us to continue the relationship -- that my life would be in danger if
her husband found out, and that she didn't know if she would be able to
hide it at work."
Morgan suddenly saw the reflection of her own life in that of her parents
and smiled at the thought as she wrapped her arms around a cushion, resting
her chin on it.
"I found out in May of that year that Catherine was pregnant. Mr.
Parker announced it at a meeting, and he was so proud when he told us
the news that I couldn't believe the baby could possibly be mine."
That was what I most loved about him. The words echoed inside
Morgan's head and there was a sudden feeling of warmth, as if her mother
was embracing her. She knew it to be true. Sydney was everything Catherine's
husband hadn't been: gentle and loving, modest and generous. The comparison
was so strong as to be almost painful.
"She came to see me later that day," the man continued, his
eyes seeing the scene in his office that day instead of the fire in front
of him. His lips twisted with emotion, and Sydney had to briefly close
his eyes before he felt able to continue. "I asked her if the baby
was mine, but she told me definitively that it wasn't, and I couldn't
argue when she seemed so sure."
"But," Morgan interrupted before her father could continue,
"apart from the fact that Momma was married, wasn't it unethical
for you to have an affair with a patient?"
Sighing, Sydney rose to his feet and walked over to the fire, leaning
on the mantel and staring into the flames. "Yes," he admitted
softly. "What we did was unethical, but circumstances made it difficult
to refuse to take your mother on. You see," he turned to look at
her, "your mother became my patient in January, 1960, soon after
you were born. As you know, when Catherine gave birth to you and your
brother, Raines took Angelo -- Timmy -- away, telling her that the baby
had died. The news absolutely devastated your mother. She was ecstatic
at having you, but the loss of your brother was excruciating for her.
She slid into a state that some people would have believed to be post-natal
depression, but with her history of manic depression, it was more likely
to have simply been a deeper stage of that."
"You never told me about him," she stated softly.
"I couldn't see it as my responsibility," Sydney responded.
"I never knew that he had survived and I thought it was your parents'
responsibility to tell you about it, not mine."
Morgan wrapped her arms more firmly around the cushion, nodding slowly.
Closing her eyes, she could see the DSA footage of the birth again, see
Raines making the call about transporting her brother to NuGenesis, and
Morgan could only imagine the pain her mother must have suffered at the
thought of losing a child.
"Mr. Parker came to me about a week after you were born," Sydney
reminisced. "He told me that he was worried about Catherine and wanted
to know if I would do what I could for her. Of course, I wasn't going
to refuse. I'd seen the change in your mother and was worried myself,
but I didn't want to take her on. What I felt for her, even so many months
after everything finished between us, meant that what I did was wrong.
But her husband was asking, and we both had to hope that he still had
no idea what had happened."
Sydney's eyes lifted from the carpet they had been examining to fix on
her as he returned to his seat on the sofa.
"We talked about it -- your mother and I -- and eventually decided
that the danger was too great for us not to. I felt it was the only way
to protect her from her husband's anger, and she admitted several years
later that she had felt the same way about me. We both know," he
continued in a low voice, "what the Chairman is capable of."
There was a momentary pause, which Morgan broke. "So what did you
"By getting her to focus on the child she still had, I hoped that
I could ease the pain of the one she had seemingly lost, and it worked."
The man smiled. "You became the most important thing in her life.
You always were. Nothing she ever did afterwards came anywhere near it."
He sighed deeply, feeling the tears brimming in his eyes at the memory
of those painful sessions when Catherine had been so depressed.
"I still loved her," he admitted. "I do today. But I knew
that things could never be the way they had been. We moved on, and, whether
I like it or not, that was probably the best thing that could have happened.
The danger increased with every passing year, and her death emphasized
that to me." He stopped, unable to continue for a moment, feeling
pain constricting his chest and throat. "After she died, I knew she
would have wanted me to do all I could to take care of her daughter. That's
what I've tried to do. But I could never tell you how precious you were
to me. Part of me always wished
dreamed, that you might
have been mine."
Sydney blinked the final tears out of his eyes, watching the flames leap
in the fireplace for several long minutes, and then turned his head to
look at his daughter. His lips curled into a smile when he saw that she
was clearly asleep. Standing, he made his way over to the closet and removed
a blanket, covering the woman with it and tucking a stray curl behind
her ear as he bent to gently kiss her hair. Collecting his cane and briefcase,
Sydney softly opened the door and left the house, memories of the first
woman he had loved assailing him as he wended his way home through the