Elaborate Lives,
Blood Ties

 

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Holiday Inn
Newark, New York

Morgan accepted the keys for the adjoining bedrooms and picked up her bag. Sydney waited until they were inside the elevator and the doors had closed before he spoke.

"Somehow I doubt that Jarod is anywhere nearby."

"Oh, really?" Folding her arms across her chest, she leaned against wall of the car. "What makes you say that?"

"Well, in all the years we've been working together, you never checked into the hotel first," he told her with a knowing smile. "I can't help you cover up later unless you tell me the truth about why we're here, Morgan."

She couldn't help laughing. "You're right. Jarod isn't here. As far as I know, he's on the other side of the country."

"So why are we here?"

"Merritt," she admitted as the elevator stopped. The conversation ceased until they were in one of their rooms. When they were safely inside, Morgan continued. "I need to talk to her again, now I know who she really is. And I also thought that, maybe, we could make sure of the relationship between us, too."

Sydney cocked an eyebrow, accepting the mug she placed in front of him. "You're planning to do a paternity test?"

"Well, not personally," she remarked laughingly, sipping the hot coffee as rain hurled itself against the window outside. "And it's not that I doubt what you said. I just want to make sure this time."

He nodded understandingly, gazing at his daughter's profile as she stared blindly at the wall. After a long moment of silence, she reached into her bag and took out the paperwork on Uriel. Sydney watched her silently as she began to look through it again.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

The Chairman put down the phone, glaring at the folder that lay on the desk in front of him. For a reason that he couldn't quite put his finger on, it didn't all add up. The biological samples that had been found at the murder scene certainly provided a culprit, but that seemed too simple. In all his recent attacks on Centre-related organizations or individuals, Yuri had never been so careless as to leave anything that could be genetically tested to prove his identity.

His concern was sufficient to make him look around for another suspect, and he had fallen back on a man he believed had committed at least one murder, the result of which shook the Triumvirate to its core. Although there had never been definitive proof that Valentine was responsible for the death of Mutumbo, Parker had always suspected it, and his son's decision to add the man to his own personal staff had, at the time, left the older Parker feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

The incident when Valentine had refused to complete the work Parker had allocated him and the rejected sanction both still weighed heavily on the Chairman. His investigation into the sweeper had turned up nothing that would provide him with such security, but Parker was still cautious of trying it again. His position as head of the Triumvirate was stable, but his mental health wasn't; it was important that that fact never got out or he stood to lose everything.

The knock on his door distracted his attention from his thoughts and he looked up as the two men he had called walked into his office. At Parker's direction they took seats opposite and looked up, their expressions expectant. The Chairman tossed the packet of photos over the desk at them.

"I'll assume you know what's happened. I want to know what you've heard."

"Only the gossip that's been going around the Centre all day," Fenigor commented calmly. "It's being said Yuri got careless and laid a nice little trail."

"And you think he'd be that stupid?" Parker shot back.

"We all make mistakes," Cox drawled. "Even the best of us."

"Not him," the Chairman snarled. "And Yuri would have no reason to go after Eve. Those two had no contact during his entire time here."

"Parker, we've got no way of understanding Yuri's motives, as you're well aware," Fenigor replied evenly. "Most people seem to believe that he wants to kill Triumvirate members, and," he added with a sly look at the Chairman, "Eve was only second in line after yourself."

"That's not good enough," Parker told him. "And I'm looking for a culprit elsewhere. I want to know what you two can tell me about Valentine."

The two men exchanged rapid glances. Who would have guessed that Parker would be so quick? But they had already laid their plans for this and the two began providing the alibi that had been promised.

* * * * * * * * *

Die Fakultat
Berlin, Germany

The man crept down the darkened hallway, slipping into an inset doorway as a guard passed him, and then continuing, hearing his heart pounding loudly in his ears and feeling the sweat making his hands slippery. Stopping at the relevant room, he punched in the code and silently swung the heavy door open, entering and removing one of the soft shoes he wore. Using that to prevent the door from locking on the inside, he made his way silently to the bed in which the room's occupant lay.

Joseph's heart ached as he watched the child sleep. The boy lay on his side, curled up into a ball, and the healer reached out a tentative hand, gently touching the hair that was as dark as his own. A lump formed in his throat and almost choked him, knowing what had been done to him, to both of them. He knew she was pregnant again, and supposed that, like this boy, that child would also be his. The man only wished that he could tell Julia he knew, so he could share the burden of what had been done.

The boy began to sob softly in his sleep, twitching on the bed as a dream that had no place in his young mind began to take hold. Joseph instinctively drew back, avoiding a flailing arm Peter flung out as he fought the demons in his dreams. When the boy was somewhat calmer, Joseph stroked the thin cheek with a gentle finger, murmuring softly under his breath.

Without warning, strong hands attached themselves to his arms and shoulders, one clapped over his mouth, dragging the man away from the bed. Instinct made him fight briefly, but Joseph knew that not only could he never win against so many, it would also go against him if it was reported. Finding his feet as the men stopped to close and lock the door, one guard retrieving his shoe and throwing it at him, Joseph caught the flimsy object before lowering his head and staring down at the floor, grateful, at least, that the child had slept through his father's ignominious removal from the room.

Dragged up three flights of stairs, he was pushed into an office, the brightness of which made him blink. Still studying the floor, he saw a dark-haired man walk in and seat himself behind the desk.

"I've had to call Winston about this," the man began almost apologetically, waving the gray-suited men out of the room. "Normally I wouldn't bother, but with both Delius and Leiden away from the office for the weekend, it's too risky for us not to."

Nodding slightly in acknowledgement, Joseph remained silent, his eyes still fixed on the floor. For a moment, the head of nighttime security watched the healer, finally waving at a chair.

"Sit down, Joseph. I'm not going to bite."

"Thank you, I… I prefer to stand," the man responded in muted tones.

"What's going on, Frederick?" Peter Winston demanded as he entered the office, doing up his tie. "What's the emergency?"

"Sorry for calling you," the other man returned, "but I thought you'd want to sort this yourself. One of the security teams found Joseph's room empty and he was discovered in the boy's room."

"Ah." Understanding dawning in his eyes, Peter Winston looked at the healer before turning back to his second-in-command. "Thanks. I'll take it from here."

"Yes, sir." Frederick gathered up his reports from the desk and left the office. When he was gone, Winston placed a gentle hand on Joseph's arm, steering him over to a corner of the office where several armchairs and a sofa stood, forcibly seating the man in one chair and taking the other one himself, his face void of expression and his hands folded in his lap.

"How long have you known?" he inquired calmly.

Joseph felt himself beginning to panic and tried to force it back. He'd been prepared for whatever punishment that the Herr Direktor deemed appropriate, ready to have black eyes for a week, not be able to stomach food for days, even never to be either permitted nor physically able to look at his son again, but not for this. Joseph had heard rumors that, if Peter Winston asked a question, he already knew the answer. The man's tone confirmed this to the terrified healer.

"When did the report appear in your room?" Winston prompted. "It went missing from the archives three days ago. Is that when you found out about the boy being your son?"

"Yes, sir," he murmured, aware that admitting it would be better than either a denial or silence.

"He's a good-looking, intelligent boy," Peter mused. "You should be proud of him."

"He's not mine," the other man offered cautiously. "He belongs to the Herr Direktor."

"Unfortunately," Winston returned somewhat bitterly. "Although I'm not sure that would stand up in a court of law."

Not understanding the phrase, Joseph stayed silent, shifting somewhat uncomfortably in the seat, unused to something so soft. After a moment of consideration, Peter Winston looked up with a smile.

"I can't do a lot for you, Joseph, because usually, when I'm here, so are they. But perhaps tonight I can do you one small favor." His lips pursed slightly in thought for a moment. "Or maybe two.

Standing, he pressed a buzzer on his desk. A moment later, the door opened.

"Yes, Mr. Winston?"

"Get project number 865 out of bed and bring him in here. Escort project 642 here too, regardless of what she's doing."

"Yes, sir."

The door closed again, but Joseph barely heard it. He could only imagine that this man intended to punish him in front of both his son and the child's mother, and the thought was absolute agony to him. Twisting the limp shoe in his hands, Joseph swallowed the lump in his throat, feeling that the other occupant of the office was watching him, noticing how violently his hands were shaking. Several minutes later, the door was opened and a boy ushered in, blinking sleepily in the bright lights. He clung tightly to the hand of the woman beside him, her demeanor outwardly as calm as she could make it, and the guard was dismissed.

Peter Winston picked up the child and took him over to the corner, sitting on the sofa with the boy on his knee as Julia silently watched, suppressing her anxiety and wondering what was going to happen now. Winston smoothed the messy hair and smiled into the small face, nodding towards the other man.

"Who's that, Peter?"

The boy, awake in an instant, gazed at the man for a second, his mother's warnings ringing in his ears. He cast a surreptitious glance up at the woman, who shook her head slightly, before turning back to the man who held him. "Joseph," he replied carefully.

"Did your Mommy tell you to call him that?" the head of security suggested, casting a sympathetic look in the woman's direction, eyeing the bruising around her neck and a large lump above her right eye, as the child nodded slowly.

Peter Winston lowered his voice slightly, bringing his mouth closer to the boy's ear. "What would you like to call him, just tonight, as a special treat?"

The boy's eyes were sad as he gazed at the man sitting in the other chair, his shoulders bent. He glanced at his mother again, who, by this time, had developed some understanding of where the situation was going and nodded. The child's eyes brimmed as he looked back at his father.

"Daddy," he whispered tearfully.

The blond man smiled, setting the boy on the floor, and gave him a gentle push in the direction of the other man. "Go on, Peter," he urged. "Only for tonight."

After a backward glance at his mother for confirmation, the child approached his father. The head of security stood up and placed a gentle hand on the woman's arm before going over to lock the door of the office. Turning back, he saw that Joseph had hesitantly reached out to the child, but, before his hand made actual contact, the healer snatched it back, staring from Peter to Julia as if unable to recognize them. Winston walked over and picked up the boy, placing him on the man's knee.

"This is your son, Joseph," he urged gently, seeing the tears glistening in the other man's eyes. "It might be the only time for a while that you can show how you feel about him. I can't give you long, but I can give you something to hold on to, something to remember in the hardest times. And one day, maybe all this will be over, and you can make a real home for him together."

The tears slid down Joseph's face as he clutched the boy to him, feeling the small arms wrapping themselves around his neck and the multitude of damp kisses that adorned his cheeks and neck. For a moment, the man buried his face in the boy's shoulder before looking up at the woman who stood beside him. As their eyes met, Julia sank to her knees beside the chair, feeling Joseph's arm pass around her shoulders as she wiped the tears from his face with a gentle hand, stroking their son's hair with the other. Peter Winston straightened up and watched the tender scene for a moment, before turning to his desk and trying to concentrate on his work.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

Lyle walked into the office after his brief visit to Donoterase, picking up the envelope from the flat surface, slitting the top and letting the eight photos slide out onto the desk. Sinking into the chair, he took up the first, eyeing the corpse that lay in a bloodied heap on the floor of a room, the huge wounds on her torso showing her long, slow death with the murder weapon clearly visible: a large blood-covered butcher's knife lay on the floor next to the dead woman's body.

"Messy, isn't it, Boss?"

Looking up, Lyle saw Valentine leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded over his chest, and picked up a photo, waving it in his direction.

"So why did I get these works of art?"

"Maybe whoever killed Eve thought you should see them. You probably ought to see this too." Valentine took a DSA from his pocket; one that he had found months earlier in Miss Parker's office. Walking over to the desk, he set up the player he carried in his other hand. Stepping back, Valentine again crossed his arms, eyes gleaming as he watched Lyle's reaction to the revelations contained in the DSA.

Lyle silently watched the short interview, his eyes widening only briefly at the proof of his father's infidelity. Knowing that Valentine had shown him the DSA to see his reaction, he firmly cleared his face of expression before watching the rest of the disk. After it finished, he took it out and slipped it into his jacket pocket, giving Valentine a curt nod.

"So what do we know about Eve's death? Any clues on the killer?"

"Well, the cleaner team should put in a report tomorrow morning." Valentine leaned forward and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "But the word going around SIS is that the killer could be close. Really close. Maybe even close enough to touch."

Nodding again, Lyle watched the man strolling out of the office. As soon as the door had shut, he pulled the disk from his pocket, inserting it once more into the DSA player and then starting it up. One line caught his attention.

"There's a couple in Kansas already waiting."

Casting his mind back, Lyle recalled a conversation with his father from almost two years earlier.

"You were supposed to go to Kansas, to a couple I trusted to raise you. Raines was responsible for putting you in that nuthouse."

Kansas?

Lyle's eyes narrowed and he held a short war within himself as to the authenticity of this DSA. He'd been told, from the time even before being brought to the Centre, that Mr. Parker himself had been the cause of him being sent to the two nutcases who had raised him. But that had been a fabrication designed to get his cooperation, from a man who had only ever told the truth when it suited him, and lied when he pleased. A gut feeling told him that his suspicions were right, that this DSA was accurate, that he was the subject of their discussion and that he was not Catherine Parker's son, although he had always known this to be the case.

But if he was Eve's son instead…

He sank back in the chair, staring blankly at the DSA that he had frozen on the final scene on the disk, that of his father and real mother happily embracing. His swap of the lab results several years earlier had gone undetected and had given him what he wanted at the time - a place where he would be safe from any repercussions by unhappy former partners, such as the Yakuza. It had also given him undreamt-of power. This disk proved that not only was he really a Parker, and so a natural heir to his father, but that his supposed twin sister was not, and that would put her way out of the running for the Chairmanship, which he had feared having to compete with her to gain.

The photos on his desk caught his eye once more, and he picked them up, gazing thoughtfully at the dead woman's face. He knew very little about Eve. Of course, she had always been in the background at the Centre, and he had sometimes seen her leaving his father's office, but he had little work in the labs and so they had rarely met. There was, of course, the time he had offered to work with her, in the hope that she might be able to find a cure or a stabilizer for Kronos I. But that had come to nothing, which was no surprise when he had found out about her tampering with his medication.

Eyeing her features, Lyle wondered if she had known about their relationship. If she had, would she still have tried to kill him, or would she have acted differently. Perhaps -- lovingly? Might she have become the mother he'd always wanted, if only she understood the connection between them?

Shaking his head, Lyle refocused on his former train of thought. He would get Valentine to run a check as soon as he had the report about Eve's death to find out who was responsible. Not from any filial loyalty, but the fact that knowing the killer's identity could keep him ahead of a possible plot on his own life…

"Maybe even close enough to touch."

The words slid back into his mind and he sat bolt upright, staring at the desk surface. Their time spent together in Asia had taught him that Valentine often meant more than he was willing to say, but in this case just that one phrase had been enough. The report, Lyle was aware as he got to his feet and began to gather his things before heading home, would provide definitive evidence of a culprit for Eve's death, but that wouldn't be the real killer.

He had just walked out the door.

* * * * * * * * *

DFW International Airport
Dallas, Texas

A car waited at the door of the airport when Ethan exited the building, and Jarod stood beside it, eagerly scanning the crowd. His eyes lit up at the familiar face and he leapt forward, catching his brother in a hug.

"It's great to see you," he greeted the man enthusiastically. "We should have gotten together earlier in the year." He hustled his brother into the car, which slid smoothly away from the curb as soon as the door was shut, Trevor at the wheel.

"Where is he?" Ethan asked in muted tones, looking around the car somewhat nervously, casting a wary glance at the young man seated opposite them.

"The place we're going to," Jarod told him. "I didn't want to expose Uriel to any more excitement than meeting his father."

Ethan pressed his hands together to try and prevent them from trembling, feeling sick at the word that his brother had just uttered, forgetting his concern about the stranger in the greater anxiety of his new role in life. Father. How could he be a father? He knew nothing about it and was only just able to take care of himself. Waves of depression still swept over him occasionally, and, although he was getting better at shaking them off, it was unbearable for Ethan to imagine having to show something like that to any child, let alone his own.

Surprised at his silence, Jarod glanced at Cam. The young man made a gesture attempting to explain the emotions he had detected and the Pretender nodded slowly, slipping an arm around Ethan's shoulders and squeezing gently.

"It'll be okay," he urged quietly. "We'll make it okay."

"I… I don't know how to do this," Ethan admitted unevenly.

"None of us do," Jarod reminded him. "It's instinct, little brother. You've got plenty of that, and, if you should be about to make a huge mistake, I think she'd stop you before it happened."

"Are you sure?" His brother's eyes were full of fear as he looked up, and Jarod hurried to provide as much comfort as he could.

"I don't know about the voices," he reminded the man. "I don't know what you hear, what she tells you. But I do know that you want to do the right thing for your son, the same way I do." He smiled at the younger man. "We'll learn together, okay? We'll get the experts who already work with the kids to teach us what they know, and we'll know more than them, because we'll understand more about our sons than they do."

Nodding, but not really convinced, Ethan turned his head to look out of the window, staring out as the massive airport flashed past, giving way to open country with the view of the city skyline hazy in the distance.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

"You wanted to see me, Dad?"

Mr. Parker eyed the younger man as he strolled into the office and sat down. "I've got a new job for you. Top priority. No excuses."

"You want me to find Yuri?"

"Exactly." The Chairman pushed a folder over the desk. "That information will get you started. I'll give you more as you need it, if you do."

"I've already got a high priority project," the younger Parker reminded his father. "You've said all along that Faith was the most important thing."

"Yuri ranks alongside Faith, except that I want Faith brought back alive."

I don't, Lyle thought to himself. But I'm not telling you that.

"You know, Dad, I got those photos, too." Lyle nodded towards the pile visible on the Chairman's desk. "Any idea why I they might have been sent to me, since I hardly knew Eve?"

"Yuri presumably wants to show how dangerous he is. Your sister got them as well."

Doubletalk, Lyle thought bitterly. Just like my supposed 'sister' got for years. Strange to think that I can almost empathize with her.

"There would haven't been another reason then?" Lyle prodded. "She wouldn't have a connection to me in some other way?"

"Look, son, if I thought there was anything more you needed to know, I'd tell you." The older man looked down at his paperwork. "But now I have things to do and so, no doubt, do you."

At this dismissal, Lyle nodded, getting to his feet and walking as casually out through the doorway as he had entered it. When he was gone, Mr. Parker took out the report that the cleaner team had submitted from the scene of Eve's murder. Opening it, Parker reread the conclusion.

According to what they found, there hadn't been only one killer.

All of the signs suggested there were two.

Two names provided as determined by DNA tests on evidence collected.

Yuri.

And Lyle.

* * * * * * * * *

Prometheus Building
Dallas, Texas

Jarod walked with his half-brother into a room close to the nursery, and in which a boy had clearly been playing with a pile of building blocks. However, Uriel was already on his feet as they entered, his blue eyes fixed eagerly on the door and an expression of fervent anticipation on his face. As the younger man stepped nervously into the room, the boy gave an excited squeal and, his arms stretched wide, ran to him, bumping into his legs and squeezing with all his might. Jarod laughed, placing a hand on the younger man's shoulder to steady him, and then, after giving his brother a reassuring pat on the arm, and despite the look of concern Ethan shot him, left the room, closing the door behind him and walking to the nursery where his own son waited.

"Daddeee!" Uriel shrieked breathlessly. "Daddydaddydaddydaddydaddy!"

Feeling somewhat breathless himself, Ethan hesitated for a second before sitting down on the floor. Instantly, Uriel was in his lap, exploring the pockets of his shirt and pulling on his buttons. The man's arms curled loosely around the boy, as if afraid that holding him too hard would cause his son to break. Uriel continued to gabble eagerly for several moments before falling silent and looking up at his father.

"Mommy come, too?" he suggested hopefully.

Ethan was suddenly reminded of the end of the first phone call, when he had clearly heard Julia struck, before shaking his head.

"No," he stated slowly. "Mommy didn't come."

"Mommy hurted," the boy whimpered, his bottom lip protruding and beginning to tremble. "De bad man hurted Mommy."

Looking around helplessly and finding himself alone, Ethan realized that he was going to have to deal with this situation himself. A phrase Dr. Goetz had uttered returned to his mind with stunning clarity as he looked down into the child's face.

You have a good heart and a good mind, Ethan. You just need some confidence.

This would be his test, the man suddenly realized. His future with his son depended on it, and he also remembered the flame of protectiveness that had developed in him when first learning about this child. It rose again now, as tears appeared in Uriel's eyes, and Ethan wrapped his arms more firmly around the boy as his shoulders went back and his chin rose slightly.

"Mommy's okay, Uriel," he promised solemnly. "I talked to her and she's okay."

The boy's blue eyes looked up at him candidly, brimming with tears that had not yet fallen. Ethan nodded encouragingly.

"Really. Honest." He forced a smile. "You don't want me to have to tell her you were crying when she calls me again, do you?"

"Uh uh."

The boy's head shook vigorously from side to side as the lip receded and the tears vanished as if by magic.

"That's better," Ethan encouraged, astonishing at his own daring. "Now, what would you like us to do?"

"Daddy stay wif me?" Uriel proposed gleefully, beaming as Ethan nodded. Scrambling up out of the man's lap, he waited until his father was standing up before reaching out for his hand. Ethan nervously offered his fingers, finding himself pulled in the direction of the blocks, following his son across to the corner of the room and sitting down in front of the pile.

On to Act III

 
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