Jarod finds Miss Parker in a situation that brings back painful memories from the past for them both
Categories: Season 4 Characters:
Jarod, Miss Parker, Original Character, Zoe
1. Part 1 by Nicky
2. Part 2 by Nicky
3. Part 3 by Nicky
Disclaimer - Not my characters. I'm just using them for some fun. They'll be returned when I'm done. Tears of Yesterday - Part 1
Jarod stumbles through the front door, his legs and lungs both burning from the intense workout he subjected himself to. Pretends like his last one always left him desperate for some sort of catharsis. A release of the pressure that had built up during the pretend. So he ran. He ran and he ran until his legs couldn't carry him anymore. He ran until all of the anguish he picked up from the pretend seeped out with each drop of sweat. He ran until he was himself again. But this time, he couldn't run far enough. There was no escape from this last pretend. Because it reached deep inside of him and grabbed a hold of a pain that was already present. A pain he was trying to forget.
His aching muscles cried out for a hot, steamy shower and he eagerly relented. The warm spray gently massaged his body, easing some of the tension, but not enough. He was still wound up tight. He knew that eventually the pain would dissipate or that something else would come up and he'd forget about it. So until that time, he just had to keep himself busy to keep from going crazy. He picks up the phone and dials a number that's become very familiar to him.
"Hello?" a woman answers.
"Hi ZoŽ," Jarod greets.
"Jarod," she says excitedly. "I was wondering when you'd be done with your latest thingy."
"It's a pretend," he chuckles at her phrasing of his 'job'. It was hard explaining to her the things that he could do. But she seemed to accept it, along with the little time they got to spend together. "And yes, I'm done."
"It was pretty bad, huh," she guesses. "You sound exhausted. Worn out."
"It was. And I am," he confesses. "I could use a break. You want to meet somewhere?"
"Jarod, you know you're always welcome here."
"I know that, ZoŽ. But I can't bring that kind of trouble on you. After Lyle got to you that last time, we need to be more careful. Meeting at your place would be too dangerous," he insists. "How about we meet in paradise."
"Ooh, sounds heavenly," she giggles. "What do you have in mind."
"Barbados. Warm. Tropical. Beaches that go on forever. With water as blue as . . ." he ends off suddenly, ashamed that he was about to compare the beach to Miss Parker's eyes. He remembers first hearing about the beaches in the Caribbean. He was 14 years old. Miss Parker had been gone for about 2 weeks and he was beginning to worry about her. But she came back, happy and tanned, excitedly telling him about the cruise her father took her on. She told him about the endless beaches with the heavenly blue water. He could only imagine the water, but in his mind it only paled in comparison to her eyes. The first trip he ever made to the Caribbean after he escaped, he realized he was right. The water had nothing on her eyes.
"Water as blue as what, Jarod?" she asks him.
"Actually, I'll let you tell me, ZoŽ when we get there," he smiles, trying to shove the image of his huntress from his mind. "So, will you meet me?"
"Of course I will, Jarod," she agrees. "I'll see you soon."
They hang up the phone and Jarod busies himself to making the arrangements. This was just the type of diversion he needed. He just hoped that this trip would help him forget for a while.
"Sweetheart, I think it's a wonderful idea," Mr. Parker's voice booms. "You and Carson should get away."
"You don't mind that I'm taking a vacation with him?" Miss Parker eyes her father curiously, wondering why he was making this so easy for her.
"Angel, Carson is just the kind of man I've always wanted for you. I think a vacation would be nice for you both."
"See, Parker. I told you it would be no problem," Carson said, kissing her hand gently. "So, what do you say?"
"Okay," she tells him. "I'll go away with you."
"Wonderful," her father grins. "Well, I have to go. Leave you two lovebirds alone." He stands to leave.
"Actually, I have to be going, too," Carson announces. "I'll walk out with you, Mr. Parker." He kisses Miss Parker good night before leaving with her father.
Miss Parker sits in the silence after they're gone, wondering if she was ready for this step with Carson. She met Carson Stone three months ago. She was instantly attracted to him. He was tall with dark hair and chocolate eyes that she couldn't resist. He was very charming and swept her off her feet. She knows that she doesn't love him. And she knows that she never will. But he makes her happy enough. And her father approves of him. At least she won't have to worry about finding him on her front porch with a bullet through his brain. She sighs and shakes herself before standing up. If she was going on this trip, she had much to do.
"Barbados?" Miss Parker comments dryly when they land.
"You sound disappointed," Carson pouts.
"It's not that," she quickly says. "I love it here. I came here a long time ago when I was younger. But I haven't been back." Or couldn't come back, she thinks to herself. When she was about 12 or 13, her father brought her on a trip out here. For two weeks she played in the sun, frolicked on the beach, and had a good time. She couldn't wait to get back to the Centre to tell Jarod all about it. And when she did, she was rewarded by the look on his face when she described it all. She vowed that day that she wouldn't come back unless she could bring him.
"Well, how about we get settled into the beach house and then go out for some dinner and dancing," he suggests.
"Sounds good," she says with a forced smile. Generally she enjoyed Carson's company. But lately, little things were starting to rub her the wrong way. As if some kind of radar on the inside of her was going off warning her about this guy. And it was a little disconcerting how well he got along with her father.
Miss Parker pushes those thoughts out of her mind and follows Carson to the car. They arrive at the beach house and unpack. She dresses for dinner and two hours later, they're at the restaurant. That's when things start to go bad.
"ZoŽ, will you hurry up? I'm hungry," Jarod calls out to his companion. She'd been in the bathroom for almost an hour now, trying to get ready for dinner. "My friend will only be able to hold our reservation for so long."
"Okay, I'm coming," she says, stepping through the door. She pauses and lets him take in the sight of her, making a little turn for him to see it all.
"Wow," Jarod says breathlessly. "You look great. Definitely worth the wait."
"Thank you," she blushes. "Let's get going." She takes his hand and they leave the hotel. The restaurant is just down the beach, so they walk, enjoying the setting sun on the way.
"Jarod," the host says when they arrive at the restaurant twenty minutes later. "I'm so glad you could make it. We almost had to give away your table to this one angry couple. I told them they had to wait, but the guy just got angry and tried to rough me up a bit. Luckily his lovely companion was just as scary as he was. She barked at him until he backed down."
"Jameel, that's awful," Jarod sympathizes. "We didn't mean to cause you any trouble. But I'm glad we still have a table. ZoŽ and I are starved." Both men look appreciatingly at ZoŽ and smile at her.
"Right this way." The host leads Jarod and ZoŽ through the crowded restaurant to a quiet table by the back deck. "How is this?"
"This will be lovely. Thanks." Jarod says with a smile. He helps ZoŽ into her seat and they sit to enjoy the evening.
Miss Parker watches as Carson orders yet another drink. They were forced to wait at the bar until a table became available. Carson hadn't had the foresight to make reservations. She wanted to just go to another restaurant, but he insisted on staying, saying that this was the best in the area. After attempting to bully the host, they were banished to the bar.
"Slow down on the drinks, Carson," she suggests. "We may be here awhile."
"You're one to talk," he slurs. "You've had a few yourself."
The drinks were fairly heavy on the rum. By the time she realized it, she had a pretty nice buzz going. But she's slowed down. Carson is still going and is starting to get drunk.
"You don't want to cause another scene, do you? They may throw us out this time," she warns him. She couldn't believe how he erupted at the host earlier. If she hadn't yelled at him to back off, he probably would have put the poor man in the hospital. Carson had been angry with her interfering. And he was becoming nastier with each drink he took.
"I caused the scene?" he asks, raising his voice some. He leans over until he's right in her face. "I wasn't the one to cause the scene. We should have been able to get a table. These island people should be happy that people like us are frequenting their establishments instead of making them stay in the back and cook for us."
"You racist pig," she gasps, pushing him away from her. "I'm leaving now. And I don't ever want to hear from you again," she yells, causing a few of the patrons to look her way. She gets up to leave, but Carson grabs her arm, squeezing it tightly.
"No Parker. You can't walk away from this. I own you," Carson sneers.
"Get your hands off of me," she says icily. She reaches back for her gun, but realizes that she didn't have it on her. She was on vacation. She was supposed to be having fun. But this evening was starting to not be so fun. In fact, it was going from bad to worse. Before she could blink, she feels the sting of his free hand across her face. She attempts to fight back, but the alcohol in her system left her a step behind him. He had punched her several times before she finally delivered a blow, knocking him back a step. He stumbles and hits his head against the bar as he goes down, rendering him unconscious.
"Jarod, did you see that?" ZoŽ asks in shock. "I can't believe it. That guy just hit his date. She fought him back and he fell and hit his head."
"They were fighting?" Jarod turns and looks at the situation at the bar and sees a crowd already surrounding the area. A waitress was putting ice on the woman's face and several of the men were trying to rouse the unconscious man on the floor. After the unsuccessful attempts, they ask if anyone's a doctor.
"ZoŽ, see if you can get the woman out of here," Jarod says, turning back to the perky red head. "I'm going to go . . . take care of her date." His eyes cloud over with something dark. And even though he had every intention of making sure the man was okay health wise, he also planned on making sure the man never had the inclination to hit another woman again.
He pushes his way through the crowd, a path being made for him when he tells them he's a doctor. He finds the man on the floor, just starting to come around. He looks around wildly, a little nervous at suddenly being the center of attention.
"Sir, are you alright?" Jarod asks.
"Yeah. I think so. Just had a bit too much to drink. Fell off the stool," he covers.
"Can you tell me your name?" Jarod lifts the man's eyelids, checking to see if his pupils were dilated.
"Carson. Carson Stone. I was here with a woman. Did you see where she went?"
Jarod grits his teeth, trying hard to hold in his contempt for this man. But it was hard. He just couldn't understand why a man would ever do something like that to a woman. But at least the woman had fought back in this case. His last pretend was so disturbing because of the number of women he met who couldn't fight back. They couldn't stand up for themselves. Even more shocking was no matter how much he tried to help, the women ended up back with their abusive mates. That wouldn't happen in this case. He'd make sure of it.
"Actually, I think she's in the restroom freshening up," Jarod tells him. "Why don't you go out on the back deck and wait for her. Get some fresh air."
"That's a good idea. Thanks man," Carson says gratefully.
Jarod's phony smile disappears as the man walks out the door. All he had to do now was get the woman out of here and then he'd come back to take care of her violent date.
"ZoŽ," he whispers through the restroom door, knocking lightly on it. "Is everything alright?"
"We'll be out in a minute," ZoŽ says, poking her head through the door.
"Tell her that the coast is clear. She can get out of here without him seeing her."
"I don't think it's going to be that easy. She's determined to face him. I think she's really going to hurt him. She keeps on mentioning something about her gun," ZoŽ tells him.
"Miss, I don't think killing him is going to solve . . . " Jarod's thoughts freeze when the bathroom door opens, revealing the woman standing inside with ZoŽ. Three fist size bruises were situated around her face, starting to discolor her porcelain skin. One bruise was around her mouth. The others were around her eyes. Jarod locks on the woman's eyes, seeing straight into the one that wasn't swollen shut. He never thought he'd see her like that again.
"He did that to you?" he gasps, slowly lifting a shaking hand to touch the one unbruised area on her face. He fights to hold in the tears, but they break loose, streaming wildly down his face.
Miss Parker just stands there while a myriad of emotions race through her head. Disbelief at actually running into Jarod while on her vacation. After all the attempts at catching him, she just happens to meet up with him by chance. There's also shame, at having him see her like this. Grief over watching his forgotten torment return. And comfort from his presence. Her own tears start to flow at the gentleness of his touch and the sympathy in his eyes.
"It looks a lot worse than it is," she tells him, trying to give him a reassuring smile. But it's too late. She can see that something dark has overcome him. His eyes were filled with vengeance. It was like something in him just snapped.
"I'm going to kill him," he growls.
"Jarod," ZoŽ calls out to him. She was shocked at the transformation that took place right before her eyes. First he was crying over this woman's injuries. She knew he was sensitive about things like that, so it wasn't so strange. But all of a sudden, anger took over. And she actually believed he would kill that man. "Jarod come back," she calls again. But he's already gone out to the deck to get Carson.
"We have to stop him," Miss Parker pleads desperately. She knew the look in Jarod's eyes, too. She could see he was out for blood. But only she and Jarod knew the real reason why. She grabs ZoŽ's hand and they take off after Jarod. When they get out to the deck, the men are gone. "Where did they go?"
"Out on the beach," ZoŽ screams. Jarod was on top of Carson, throwing endless punches before finally wrapping his hands around his throat. He begins to squeeze, not letting up when the man begins to struggle for breath.
"Jarod," ZoŽ yells. "Stop. Don't kill him." The women continue to run until they reach Jarod and Carson. "Jarod," she yells one last time, but with no effect. It was like he didn't even hear her.
"Stop this, Jarod," Miss Parker pleads, grabbing his hand. Jarod stops squeezing just as Carson loses consciousness. He looks down at what he's done and breaks down in sobs. Miss Parker pulls him off of Carson and embraces him. Cradling him in her arms, she runs one hand through his hair and the other up and down his back.
"I'm sorry," he sobs. "I'm so sorry."
"He's alive," ZoŽ announces after checking for a pulse. "He's just unconscious." Sirens blare in the distance and they realize that someone had alerted the authorities. ZoŽ looks at the two people clinging so tightly that they almost seemed like one person. She wondered who this woman was that could affect Jarod so deeply in such a short period of time. He's never opened up to ZoŽ that much.
"Jarod, look at me," Miss Parker orders, lifting his head up to meet her eyes. "I'm fine. See for yourself. I'm okay."
"He hurt you," Jarod whimpers. "I wanted to kill him. I can't take it when anyone hurts you, Miss Parker." Jarod's tears start again as he falls back into her arms. This time, her own tears mix along with his.
ZoŽ watches the whole scene in shock. It becomes clear to her that Jarod not only knew this woman, but that he cared very deeply for her. And by the way she was holding him, she cared for him as well. ZoŽ suddenly felt out of place.
The ambulance finally arrives and tends to Carson. They take one look at Miss Parker's face and insist she goes along with them.
"I'm not going anywhere without him," she insists.
"Go ahead. I'll ride along with him in the other ambulance," ZoŽ assures her.
Miss Parker reluctantly releases Jarod from her embrace and goes with the paramedics. Another team swoops in on Jarod and begin treating him for shock. Miss Parker keeps his eye contact for as long as she can until her ambulance zooms down the beach. She sends up a prayer, begging God to help Jarod through this one more time.
At the hospital, the doctors treat Carson and Miss Parker while the police question them. Carson's taken away to jail when the whole story about his assault comes out and Miss Parker is told she's free to go. She goes to the admission's desk and attempts to track down Jarod, which is a difficult task since he has no last name. She was about to get agitated when ZoŽ bounces down the hall.
"Miss Parker?" she asks tentatively. "Jarod's down here. He's been asking for you."
Miss Parker glares one last time at the nurse at the desk before hurrying to where ZoŽ was pointing. The women quietly walk in the room and stand by Jarod's bed. The doctors had to sedate him and he was still sleeping. Miss Parker brushes a lock of hair out of his eyes, lightly grazing her fingers across his forehead.
"How long have you two known each other," ZoŽ finally asks, breaking the silence.
"All our lives almost," Miss Parker tells her. She pulls a chair close to the bed and sits down. She takes Jarod's hand in her own, not wanting to lose contact.
"Jarod was locked away when he was younger. So that means you must know him from that horrible place," ZoŽ concludes. "Are you the one he keeps on running from?" ZoŽ casts an accusatory glare in her direction. Miss Parker can only nod her head in shame.
"I think you should leave," ZoŽ orders. Miss Parker stares in defiance for a moment before ZoŽ becomes more forceful. "Now, Miss Parker. I know about you people. I don't think you want me calling the police, do you?"
Miss Parker sighs in resignation. The truth was, she's done nothing but hurt Jarod. He seems to have found someone who can make him happy. Someone who can look after him. ZoŽ was right. She shouldn't even be there. She didn't belong. Miss Parker looks one last time at Jarod and kisses his forehead before heeding ZoŽ's wishes and leaving. She manages to wait until she got outside the room before the tears fall.
Jarod's agitation wakes ZoŽ, who was sleeping uncomfortably in the chair next to him. He's flailing in the bed and she's afraid he's going to hurt himself. Suddenly, he sits straight up and his eyes pop open.
"Miss Parker," he gasps, over and over. "Miss Parker, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he sobs.
"Jarod, wake up," ZoŽ shakes him. "It's okay. You're okay."
Jarod opens his eyes and sees ZoŽ smiling down at him. He scans the room looking for someone else.
"Is she here?" Jarod asks her, his sad face looking like a little boy who lost his favorite blankie.
"Jarod, I told her she shouldn't be here," ZoŽ tells him. "I sent her away."
"I can understand that. But I need to see her," he begs.
"ZoŽ, please," he begs.
ZoŽ just stomps off in a huff, going out in the hall to try to find the doctor who treated Miss Parker in the emergency room. Maybe he'd know how to contact her. She didn't expect on running into Miss Parker in the hallway, however.
"You're still here," ZoŽ snaps. "Well, that's good because he wants to see you. And against my better judgment, I told him I'd come get you. Don't you hurt him," ZoŽ warns.
Miss Parker walks around the protective woman and goes into the room. ZoŽ follows her in and stands by the door, ready to toss Miss Parker out if necessary.
"Jarod, are you alright?" Miss Parker asks with much concern.
"I'm better. Now that I know you're okay. I can't believe I let him hurt you. I always let them hurt you," he blames himself.
"Don't do this, Jarod," she gently scolds. "None of it was your fault. Carson was the one who hurt me. You had nothing to do with it."
"Thomas was a nice guy. I knew he'd never hurt you. I thought you two could be happy. But you ended up hurt anyway."
"But I was happy, Jarod. And you made that possible by sending Thomas to me. When we love somebody, we run the risk of losing them. When are you going to realize that you're not to blame for what the Centre does? You weren't responsible for my getting shot. You almost lost everything trying to help me. I even stopped blaming you for Mama's death. You helped me survive that. You were the one there for me everyday."
"I should have known about Carson. I should have been able to stop him. You shouldn't have been hurt like that. Not again," he says with a few tears starting to fall. "Not like before."
"Jarod, that wasn't your fault, either. And you couldn't stop it. You were just a little boy." She cups his cheek, wiping away the tears as they fell.
"But it's like you said, Miss Parker. I was the one who helped you survive that place after your mother died. I should have been able to protect you from those sweepers. If I hadn't tried to run away . . ."
"Stop, Jarod," she says, putting her finger to his lips. "Those sweepers may have caught me helping you escape. But it wasn't your fault that they beat me. You were beaten pretty badly as well if I remember correctly. You *were* trying to protect me."
"Do you know what it was like for me when you came out of that bathroom last night? It was like we were kids again. The bruises were the same. And I felt the same anger and hatred rise up in me. I just wanted to punish whoever had hurt you like that. I almost killed a man, Miss Parker." Jarod sits up in the bed and pulls Miss Parker into his arms. They sit together, holding each other for a while. Crying silent tears of a past hurt that they desperately needed to let go. Miss Parker looks across the room and sees a dejected ZoŽ still standing by the door. She remembers her vow from the previous night to allow Jarod to be happy.
Jarod groans in protest when Miss Parker pulls herself from his arms. Inwardly, she lets out the same protest, but had to be strong on the outside.
"Jarod, it's time we got over this. It's time we healed," she told him. "I think ZoŽ can help you. She cares a lot about you." She leans down and captures his lips with hers for a repeat performance of that innocent kiss they shared two decades prior. She forces herself to stop the kiss before she was tempted to go further.
"Take care of him," she begs ZoŽ as she walks past the woman. "He's one of a kind." She pauses when she reaches the door and turns back to look at him one last time. "Be happy my friend," she whispers before finally leaving. 'Be happy, my love' she cries to herself as she runs from the hospital.
Miss Parker sits out on the beach, staring out at the water as the sun sets. She retrieved her things from Carson's beach house and found a hotel to stay at the rest of her trip. She tried hard not to think about Jarod, but it was difficult. It's been five days since she said good-bye. She knew she'd eventually catch up with him one day, but she had no real intentions of trying to take him back to the Centre. Not anymore.
The sun is finally laid to rest and she can practically hear the sizzle and it dips into the water out on the horizon. A sadness comes over her as she realizes this marks the end of her journey there. She was leaving to go back to Blue Cove in the morning, and hopefully leaving behind an era of painful memories.
"I once heard of a beautiful sunset before," a deep voice from behind her rings out. "The reality still doesn't compare to how that little girl saw it."
"Jarod?" she gasps, turning around to come face to face with the man.
"You see, I had never seen a sunset before that day. And the way she described it to me, it seemed like the most amazing sight I could imagine. She said that one day, the man of her dreams would kiss her, just as the sun kissed the ocean and she'd know they'd be together forever. That very day after she left, I promised myself that I'd find her a sunset just as she described. Then I'd take her into my arms and make her dreams come true."
"Jarod, those were just the childish ramblings of kids. We've grown up since th . . " She's stopped by the force of his mouth meeting her own. Shock and disbelief soon melt away to passion as she begins to kiss him back. Her hands clasp behind his neck, pulling him closer to her until there's not an inch of her body not touching his.
Slowly, he pulls away, peeling his face from hers, but still making eye contact. He stares deep into her eyes and realizes for the first time ever that there's love there. The same love he knows is reflected in his own eyes.
"Now we have to be together forever, Miss Parker," he gasps, still trying to catch his breath from the kiss before.
"Forever's a long time, Jarod," she says with a smile. "Think you can put up with me for that long?"
He finds her mouth again and gives her another sweet kiss, his gentleness bringing tears to her eyes.
"Forever and longer," he promises. "My heart belongs to you - and only you - for always."
"I love you," she whispers, more sure of that than she'd ever been of anything in her entire life. She'd never been able to say those words. Not even with Thomas until it was too late. But that's because it's never been so right. Not how it is with Jarod. "I've always loved you. And I always will."
They seal their vows with a kiss, the sunset no longer marking the end of a sad journey, but the beginning of a happy one.
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Disclaimer: The characters Miss Parker, Sydney, Jarod, Broots etc. and the fictional Centre, are all property of MTM, TNT and NBC Productions and used without permission. I'm not making any money out of this and no infringement is intended. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Tears of Yesterday - Book II
Miss Parker stretches languorously on the bed, relieving her back from the joyous ache of a well rested night. A contented sigh next escapes her lips as she slowly opens her eyes. She looks around the room and smiles at her ruffled companion, still asleep on the couch. His hair has grown a little longer than he usually wears it, causing a tendril to fall stubbornly into his face. In his sleep, he keeps swatting at the rebellious lock of hair only for it to fall back in his face. He looks so peaceful in sleep. Like a child almost.
She gently eases from the bed and tips across the floor until she's just in front of him. She takes another moment to stare at him, remembering the beautiful words he uttered to her last night on the beach.
*My heart belongs to you - and only you - for always.*
He promised her he'd love her forever. And she believed him. She was able to utter the same words to him in return. And she meant them. More than she's meant anything in her life. She truly loved Jarod. And realized that she always had. She smiles once more at his sleeping form, eager to gaze into his gorgeous brown eyes.
"Jarod. Time to rise and shine," she whispers into his ear.
His eyes ease open and she watches in wonder as his face lights up in recognition of his location. And then flushes in embarrassment.
"I guess I fell asleep," he says shyly, pulling himself to an upright position, the blanket falling down around his waist. He takes the time to stretch his own stiff limbs, the muscles in his bare chest rippling with the exertion.
"You didn't have to stay on the couch," she tells him, using all her will power to keep her hands from stroking his chest. "The bed was plenty big enough for both of us."
"I didn't want to rush this," he says. "I know in my heart that this is right - us finally being together. But it's too soon. After ZoŽ and what's his name."
"Carson," she shudders in disgust. "The biggest mistake of my life. I can't believe he had the nerve to lay his hands on me. He's lucky I didn't have my gun."
"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you from him," Jarod sulks. He lowers his head in shame, unable to make eye contact with her.
"Jarod, we talked about this last week at the hospital. You are not to blame. Not for what Carson did to me or for what those sweepers did all those years ago." She takes both sides of his face into her hands and gently raises his head until she's looking into his eyes. "You have to get past it."
"I almost killed him," he whispers, resting his forehead against her. "All I could focus on was squeezing the life out of him. And I would have if you didn't stop me. When you grabbed my hands, you touched something deep inside me. I felt connected to you, almost like we were one person."
"I felt it too." She gives him a light kiss and strokes his cheek.
"It felt like my mind shattered. Between the pretend I had worked on before and seeing you walk out that bathroom with your bruised face, I just fell apart," he admits. "I guess being a genius doesn't exempt me from that kind of pain. I just shut down. I remember you holding me, but after that, I woke up in the hospital and you weren't there."
"Jarod, you scared me to death. You had a look in your eyes I'd never seen before. There was so much turmoil and anguish. You almost killed Carson and that almost killed your spirit. And you're right. You *did* just shut down. That's why they took you to the hospital," she explains.
"You made it better," he says, pulling her into his arms. "Just having you with me began to heal me. I don't know what I would have done if you weren't there."
"Jarod if I wasn't there, none of that would have happened. I left you at that hospital because I realized that. ZoŽ was better for you. She'd take care of you. She'd never hurt you . . . . " Her words are cut off by his lips pressing against hers. For a few brief moments, they stay connected enjoying the sweet contact.
"Who's trying to take the blame now?" he chuckles. "Let's just say that we're even and leave it at that, okay?"
"But Jarod . . . "
"No buts," he interrupts again. "ZoŽ is a sweet and wonderful person. And I'm sorry I hurt her. But you're wrong, Parker. She may have been good for me, but you're better. She may have been able to take care of me, but not like you can. And even if she managed to do all that, there's no way I'd ever be able to love her like I love you."
"I like hearing that," she smiles, hugging him tightly.
"What? I love you?" He grins at her when she nods to the affirmative. "Well get used to hearing it. I love you, Parker. I love you . . . I love you . . . I love you." He punctuates each 'I love you' with a kiss to a different part of her face until he runs out of spots and ends up locked on her mouth.
"Mmmm," she moans her approval. "And I love doing that."
"Kissing me? Well, you should get used to that, too. I plan on doing that in every proper place I can think of." He winks at her before burying his face in her neck, nibbling along her collarbone.
"Ooh, just the proper places? What about the improper ones?" she giggles, enjoying the playful turn of the conversation.
"All in due time, my dear," he promises before reaching for the top button to her pajamas top. He's a bit surprised when her hand reaches on top of his, stilling his actions.
"I'm sorry," she apologizes when she notices the hurt and confused look in his eyes.
"No, I'm sorry. I wake up talking about how we should take this slow, and now here I am feeling you up like some hormonal teenager," he berates himself. He untangles himself from her arms and puts some distance between them.
"Jarod, it's not you," she promises, scooting back closer. "I want you as much as you want me. It's just that sometimes . . . Carson wasn't . . . very gentle," she mumbles. But Jarod hears any way and starts to get angry again.
"Parker, did he ever . . . "
"Rape me?" She sort of shakes her head and nods it at the same time. "I never said no to him or stopped him. But I never really said yes, either. I just let him do what he wanted. It was like high school all over again. He kept on pressuring me so much that I finally got fed up and just gave in about a month after we started dating. I remember that I cried when he left that first time and being glad he didn't stay the whole night. I guess after awhile, I just got used to letting him have sex with me. That's all it ever was."
"Did he always hurt you?" Jarod asks in a small voice and Miss Parker can see the guilt rising up in him again. She was suddenly sorry she even brought it up.
"Jarod, it's fine. Really. Forget I said anything," she insists. "I'm just a little cranky. I'm not really feeling all that well and . . ."
"What's wrong?" he asks, suddenly very concerned. "Have you had your follow up visit with the doctor since the incident last week?"
"I never went back," she admits quietly.
"Parker . . ."
"I know what you're going to say," she stops him. "But hanging around the hospital with you and ZoŽ wasn't at the top of my to do list last week. I was trying to forget about you and that whole awful day. And really, I wasn't hurt that badly. I didn't think it was necessary to go back."
"You had a head injury, Parker. They really shouldn't have released you without some observation," he scolds her.
"I got hit a couple of times, Jarod. I'd hardly call that a *head* injury."
"What are you symptoms? Headache? Blurred vision? Dizziness? Nausea?"
"Mostly the dizziness and nausea and a little bit of a headache." She watches the little worry line deepen in his forehead as he slips into doctor mode.
"Any kind of head trauma is potentially serious. You could have a concussion or something. Follow my finger," he orders her as he moves it back and forth in front of her face.
"That's not really helping me," she groans, barely able to hold back the wave of nausea that suddenly strikes. In a flash, she's up off the couch and into the bathroom, emptying the contents of her stomach into the toilet. She feels Jarod's presence behind her and would almost prefer to leave her head buried in the toilet rather than face him. But the mess she made almost makes her gag again and she decides that facing Jarod was the lesser of two evils. She flushes the toilet and turns around and is surprised to see concern on his face instead of smugness.
"Here," he says, holding out a wet washcloth so that she can clean up a bit. Then he helps her stand so that she can rinse her mouth out in the sink. She gets her toothbrush and thoroughly brushes her teeth. When she's done, he leads her back into the bedroom and sits her down on the bed, kneeling in front of her.
"Now will you go back to the doctor?" he pleads with her.
"Alright," she relents. "But I'm sure he's going to tell me I'm fine."
"I hope you're right," he sighs. He goes to the drawer and pulls out something for her to wear. "Do you want me to take you?"
"I'm fine, Jarod," she insists. "I'll go to the hospital since you're not going to let this go, but I'm going alone."
"And what am I going to do in the mean time?" he pouts.
"Go back to your hotel and get packed. Daddy's expecting me back today, so I'll probably be leaving after I get back from the hospital. I can meet you at your hotel and we can leave for the airport together."
"Back to Blue Cove. Back to the real world." He slumps dejectedly onto the bed. "Back to you chasing me and me running. Just like before."
"Not *just* like before. When I chase you now," she starts, leaning over to give him a quick kiss. "I'll make it worth your while if you let me catch you from time to time," she promises seductively before capturing his lips once again.
He folds her into his arms and lays back, pulling her on top of him. His hands glide up her back and into her hair. He grasps the back of her head and brings her even closer to deepen the kiss. Before long, he reaches the point where his lungs are burning desperately for air and he releases her.
"Don't try to distract me, woman," he gasps, watching with rapt attention as she licks her swollen lips and lazily blinks her heavy eyes. "You're not getting out of going to the hospital and I have to go pack." Despite his words, he almost groans in disappointment as she peels her soft, warm body from his own. He stands up and steps into his shoes. "Meet you at my hotel?"
"Yeah," she smiles. "I'll see you later."
He flashes her a smile in return and blows her a kiss before walking out the room. His effect on her was dizzying and she has to sit, her wobbly knees too weak to support her any longer. It's been a long time since a man's made her feel like that. She reaches up and rubs her lips, still tingling from his kiss, and smiles what she knows is a big goofy grin. A long time indeed. She laughs at herself and goes to get dress. She still had to go to the doctor before she was able to meet up again with Jarod. Although, she already knew without a doubt what her diagnosis was - she had been bitten by the love bug.
Jarod paces nervously around the lobby of the hotel, his head snapping almost violently every time the door opened. He was waiting for Miss Parker. Much like he had been for the past six hours. Waiting for her to come like she promised. But with each passing minute, he realized more and more that that promise was one she had broken.
Jarod picks up his one bag and heads out the door. He had mastered the art of packing light, this trip being no exception. It was a nuisance never having things convenient, but it usually ended up working out for the best. Especially if he needed to move quickly. And this was one of those times. He hails a cab and instructs the driver to take him to the hospital. He doubted she was still there, but at least it was a place to start. At the hospital, he easily finds the doctor who saw her.
"Dr. West," he greets the older gentleman who was also his doctor the week prior.
"Jarod. I didn't think I'd be seeing you again this soon. How are you?" the doctor asks.
"Fine. Just fine. You do good work," Jarod smiles. "I'm actually here looking for a woman. Tall. Brunette. Beautiful."
"Ah, the lovely Miss Parker. She was here. But that was earlier today. She's been gone awhile."
"That's what I was afraid of. Dr. West, was she okay? I just don't understand why she'd run off," Jarod sighs.
"You know I can't answer that. Doctor-patient confidentiality."
"What if I told you I were her doctor?" Jarod tries. "Then I could just look at her chart."
"Jarod," the doctor says, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I can't help you. Even if I could, she had me seal her records and she took them with her. If you want to find out what was in them, you're going to have to ask her yourself."
"Thank you anyway, Doctor." Jarod shakes the man's hand and turns to leave. A few short hours ago, he was on top of the world. And now he was holding his freshly broken heart in his hands. There was only one person who could tell him what was going on. He just had to get to her before it was too late. If she closed herself off to him again, it was no telling how long it would be before she let him back in - if ever.
Miss Parker drops her bags at the door and kicks it closed behind her. She looks around and winces at her home away from home. The office she spent so much time and money decorating. She couldn't go to her house. She knew Jarod would find her there eventually. But even he wouldn't have the nerve to show up here at the Centre. And since she couldn't face him, she was just going to stay here to avoid him.
Of all the twists and turns in life, she wonders to herself why hers had to take this one. Why, just when she was figuring out who she really was, did this obstacle land in her way. For one brief night, she was as happy as she had ever been. Jarod found her on the beach, just when she had given up hope of ever having that joy. He told her he loved her and then they went back to her hotel. They talked for hours, mostly catching up with the little unknown details about each other's lives. Then they fell asleep. She took the bed, he took the couch.
The next morning brought trouble. This morning actually. Just twelve short hours ago, she was in Jarod's arms. Then one trip to the doctor changed her entire life. It's not like things would be any different had she not gone. What was wrong with her then would still be wrong with her now. But at least she and Jarod would have had more time. Now, time wasn't what she had much of. It wouldn't be long before people would know. She wouldn't be able to keep her secret long.
"Miss Parker," a voice from her desk buzzes, scaring her a bit. It was her assistant. "Your father would like to see you."
"Dalton, tell him I just got in. I'm kind of tired and was about to go home," she says, barely holding in a yawn.
"Sorry, Miss Parker. He insisted."
Grumbling to herself, Miss Parker gets up to go meet with her father, stopping by the mirror to make sure she looked her usual cold self, her mask of protection against the evils out there. Satisfied that her reflection showed what most people considered 'the Ice Queen', she makes her way to her father's office.
"Well, well, well. Look who's back," a smug voice calls as she passes.
"Lyle," she growls. "What do you want? I'm kind of busy."
"Going to see Dad? Me too. We can walk together," he grins.
"Oh joy," she says as she rolls her eyes. "So, what's this pow wow all about? Surely not a welcome home party for me."
"Party? You mean some sort of celebration in honor of one of his own children? We must be thinking about different Mr. Parkers," Lyle laughs. Surprisingly, Miss Parker laughs along with him.
"Not exactly father of the year, is he?" Miss Parker adds, still laughing. For a moment, it felt kind of good to be able to share a laugh with Lyle. It beats all the other times when he practically made her cry. But like all good moments, this one comes to an end.
"Oh," Lyle sighs, sounding a little disappointed. "I guess we're here. After you." He holds the door open and she walks into their father's office ahead of him. He wasn't paying much attention and almost crashes into her when she stops abruptly in her path, shocked at the sight before her.
"Angel, you're back," her father says. "Look who's been here waiting on you."
Still shocked at actually seeing him again, Miss Parker could hardly speak. But she forced the words out anyway.
"Carson," she gasps. A mixture of anger and fear course through her body. She didn't know whether to go for her gun or run as far way as she can.
"Angel, what's wrong?" Carson asks, inciting the anger inside Miss Parker.
"Don't call me that," she warns through clenched teeth. Her fists are in tight balls at her side and any minute she knows she's going to give in to the anger.
"I don't think we've ever met," Lyle butts in, not wanting to see Miss Parker fall apart as she seems she's about to do. At least not before he finds out who this guy is. "Carson, I believe it was? I'm Lyle, the often forgotten son."
Carson half-heartedly shakes Lyle's hand, unable to keep his gaze from Miss Parker. Lyle steps back, feeling a little neglected at the moment. Something about this guy was unsettling. Usually anyone who could shake his sister up this much was number one on his list. But something was telling Lyle that something big was going on.
"Listen, Carson told me about the trouble you two had with Jarod in Barbados," her father starts.
"Jarod?" she asks, stunned to hear that her father knew about the 'trouble' in Barbados as well as Jarod being there.
"Yeah, Carson said he was the one who assaulted the two of you, almost killing Carson in the process," Mr. Parker explains.
"I'm a little confused here. The last time I saw Carson was a week ago at the hospital after the . . . incident. I was under the impression that he was being detained for awhile. How did he get here before me? Besides, I wasn't even aware he knew who Jarod was." Miss Parker looks at her father, expecting answers. But the older man starts to get flustered trying to come up with an explanation.
"I can explain it all to you tonight at dinner," Carson says, saving Mr. Parker. "Why don't we get out of here?"
Carson reaches out for Miss Parker and she flinches at his motion. She retreats slightly, until she's standing just behind Lyle. Lyle notices how she unconsciously placed him between herself and this Carson guy. He also noticed the healing bruises on her face and puts two and two together. He knows for sure this guy was no good.
"Actually, we just made plans," Lyle says. "Isn't that right, Sis?"
Her face instantly relaxes and she flashes him a grateful, but shaky smile.
"Sorry, Carson. Lyle and I are going to dinner tonight," she says, confirming Lyle's story. "But I'm sure I'll be seeing you around. You and my father seem to be awfully chummy." She shoots them both accusing glares before turning on her heel and storming out of the office. Lyle is just a few steps behind her. She doesn't stop until she reaches the car garage. Only then does she remember that her car was still at home.
"We can take mine," Lyle says. He walks towards his car, aiming the remote at it to unlock the door. They both slide inside and pull away from the Centre in complete silence that lasts the whole trip back to his place.
Leading her inside his apartment, he goes to the kitchen to put on some coffee while she excuses herself to the restroom to wash up a bit. When she finishes, he's at the table with two steaming mugs.
"Have a seat," he nods to the chair opposite him. She complies and takes a sip from the mug. Her hands are shaking beyond her control, but the warm coffee seems to calm her a bit.
"You want something stronger? Maybe some Bailey's to add to the coffee?" he asks with some concern.
"No thank you," she declines. Alcohol wouldn't help her right now. Even though a good, stiff drink would calm her nerves, it definitely wasn't what she needed given her situation.
"You want to tell me what's up with Loverboy? Looks like he worked you over pretty good."
"Well, apparently, we ran into Jarod and he assaulted us," she says mockingly, repeating her father's version of the events.
"Um hm. So what really happened? Because I know for a fact that Jarod would rather die than lay a finger on you." He almost laughs out loud at the look she shoots him. "Don't look at me like that. I may not be a genius, but I'm not dumb, either. I know how much he cares."
"Okay, you're right. Jarod didn't assault us. Well, not me anyway. He practically killed Carson," she tells him.
"For doing that to you?" Lyle points at the bruises on her face. "Who is this Carson guy anyway? How did you get mixed up with him?"
"Just some guy," she sighs. "At least, that's what I used to think. Something tells me there's a lot more to him than meets the eye. And Daddy absolutely adores him. Something's not right." She lets out a huge yawn, despite the coffee. It had been a long day and her fatigue was catching up with her.
"You're dead on your feet," he comments. "Why don't you go to bed? You can have the guest room down the hall."
"I don't want to impose," she says.
"It's no problem. Actually, it's saving me from having to take you all the way to your place," he tries to play it off.
"Thanks," she says, halting as if she were about to say something else. But she stops herself in time. As nice as Lyle was being, she didn't think she could trust him. Especially not with a secret as big as she was keeping.
"What? It looked like you were about to say something else."
"Just good night," she says. "I think I'm going to go to bed now." She smiles a bit uneasily at him before heading towards the guest room.
He watches until she's down the hall and into the room. No one would ever accuse him and Miss Parker of having the typical brother/sister relationship. In fact, it's been said that they take the notion of sibling rivalry to a new level. But for some reason, they always seem to manage a truce of some sorts when there was a common enemy. And this Carson was the enemy they shared.
Lyle knew she was tired and needed the rest. But he could have just as easily called a cab or taken her home. What he didn't want to admit was how worried he was about her. She was tough, but this man was dangerous if he was able to beat her the way he did. Lyle didn't want her going home alone where he could get to her again. He didn't often fight his sister's battles, but he knew this was one she wasn't going to be able to win alone. Especially with their father involved. She was going to need help. She was going to need him. And he was going to be there. Not only for her, but for himself as well. Whatever this guy was plotting with their father, it couldn't be good for Lyle.
Hyatt Regency Hotel
6 weeks later
Miss Parker falls backwards onto the hotel bed, fighting a losing battle with a pair of pants that refused to button. She tried everything, even holding her breath and attempting to hold her stomach in. Nothing worked. With a sigh of defeat, she rises to search her suitcase for something else suitable to wear. She's holding up a skirt that had a more generous cut when a knock sounds at the door.
"I'll be there in a minute," she yells, stepping into the skirt. The skirt was a slightly bigger size than the pants and it buttoned with ease. She reaches the door and opens it for an impatient Lyle.
"What's taking you so long?" he asks in a huff.
"Why are you in such a rush?" she snaps back. "We already know from the landlord that Jarod is long gone." She says that with mixed emotions. Although she lived each day with the fear that Jarod might some day be caught, she was kind of hoping to get at least a glimpse of him. It's been six long weeks since she's seem him last. And even though that was all her fault - leaving him in Barbados without so much as a word - she missed him terribly and ached to see him. Her attention is turned back to Lyle when he lets out a concerned sigh, feeling a bit uncomfortable as he studies her intently.
"Are you okay?" Lyle's tone is much softer and gentler. "I know you haven't been feeling all that well these past few weeks." Lyle would know this because they had been spending a surprisingly great deal of time with each other. He couldn't seem to let her out of his sight with Carson around. And they had been getting along surprisingly well, considering how much they hated each other before. But Miss Parker seemed to need Lyle. And Lyle seemed to need to be needed. He liked playing the role of protective brother.
"I'm fine," she smiles, although his kindness makes her want to cry. Something she finds herself doing at the drop of a hat these days. "Just having a slight wardrobe crisis."
"I think you look great. Don't take this the wrong way, but you look like you've put on a few pounds," he says. But he instantly regrets it when her eyes pop wide open and get kind of glassy, like she's about to cry. "No, it looks good you. You were too skinny. I meant it in a good way." That doesn't seem to help any, so he tries something else.
"Listen, I can do this by myself for now. How about you meet me there later? I'll go and check the place out," Lyle offers. "Chances are, we're just going to find a bunch of meaningless clues anyway. No sense in both of us wasting our time. And if I need you, I'll call."
"That would be nice," she says, visibly relieved. She didn't think she looked any different, but Lyle has noticed. And the truth was, she still wasn't feeling her best. Even though she felt a lot better than she had felt in weeks, she was still kind of tired. A little more rest would do her some good.
"Alright then. I'll see you later. Take care of yourself," he says before walking out the door.
Miss Parker stands there for a minute, still a bit taken aback by this newfound relationship with her brother. He's been so caring and it seems genuine. The only thing he seems to want is to be rid of Carson. And since she wants the same thing, she can't complain. Unfortunately, it's not going to be that easy in her case. She was stuck with Carson for life, she feared. Placing a hand on her abdomen, she looks down and sighs wistfully.
"Jarod, why couldn't it have been you?" she whispers. A lone tear makes it's escape and she angrily wipes it away. She didn't have time for wallowing. Wallowing didn't change this nightmare she called her life. She starts to walk back to the bedroom. A knocking at the door stops her in her tracks.
"Decided to wait after all?" she asks when she opens the door, assuming that Lyle is back. But she's not expecting the person standing in front of her.
"Actually . . . I got tired of waiting."
Miss Parker is stunned, unable to do more than open and close her mouth a few times before one word finally makes it to the surface.
Jarod pushes his way into the hotel room, locking the door behind him. There was much to be discussed and he didn't want any interruptions.
Miss Parker is still in the same spot by the door, trying to process this sudden turn of events.
"Jarod," she says again. "Wh - what are you doing here?" She makes her feet move and they carry her into the living room to stand in front of Jarod.
"I know my being here is a big shock to you," he says nastily. "Especially since you went through all that trouble to get the cops after me for beating up you and that loser boyfriend of yours."
"Carson is not my boyfriend," she denies vehemently. "And I didn't sic the cops on you. That was all Daddy and Carson. They had done it before I even got back to Blue Cove."
"After you deserted me in Barbados, you mean," he accuses. "Parker I trusted you. And I waited for you. But you never came back. Why didn't you just tell me you didn't want anything to do with me? I would have been a much better way to trample on my heart than sneaking out of town. I would have gotten the picture."
"Jarod, it wasn't like that," she cries, practically cursing at herself for the tears she can't seem to control.
"Then tell me what it was like," he yells. "Tell me what happened between the hotel and the hospital to make you decide you didn't want to be with me."
"Let's not do this," she begs, turning her back so he won't see her heart breaking. "I want to you go, Jarod."
"Parker, I'm not leaving. Not until I get some answers."
She figured he'd say that. Which made her next action that much harder. Taking a deep breath, she went the table to pick up her cell phone. Dialing a number, she keeps her back to Jarod, unable to look at him, knowing she was about to betray him.
"It's me," she says when Lyle answers. "Send the sweeper team back to the hotel. I just got a call from the front desk that Jarod's been spotted lurking around here."
She hangs up the phone and sits it back on the coffee table. Without saying anything more, she walks straight back to her room, closing the door behind her. She's not surprised to hear the front door to her hotel room closing a few moments later. She did what she had to do. Jarod couldn't find out the truth. He was getting too close, asking the right questions. And she knew she wouldn't be able to lie to him. She's never lied to him. So she pushed him away instead because she knew it was for the best. But knowing that doesn't stop the sobs from taking over her body.
Mr. Parker's office
Mr. Parker isn't paying attention when he walks into his office and doesn't notice the door slightly ajar. And he doesn't notice the person sitting behind his desk in his chair until the last moment.
"Carson. This is a nice surprise," he says to the occupant of his office. "Tell me you've got the news I've been waiting to hear."
Carson smiles and holds up a folder. He waves it gaily in the air and watches Mr. Parker form his own grin.
"Everything's going according to the plan," Carson says. "But, it happened a lot sooner than we expected, so we're a bit behind. She was able to hide it for a while."
"Good. Good. That means we won't have to wait as long," Mr. Parker thinks out loud. "Are your people ready?"
"Not quite. There are a few last preparations that need to be taken care of," Carson admits. "I'd say two weeks at the most, though."
"That's perfect. She and that poor excuse of a son of mine are in Raleigh following up a lead on Jarod. We can proceed after she returns whenever you're ready."
"Will Lyle be a problem? They've been spending a lot of time together. I'd hate for him to be in the way," Carson says, rolling his eyes at the thought of Lyle.
"If he is, then just remove him," Mr. Parker coldly orders. "Lyle is of no consequence. Do with him as you see fit."
"Well, I thank you, Mr. Parker," Carson grins. "It's been good doing business with you." He stands up and shakes the older man's hand.
"This will be our last meeting. I don't think we need any further contact." Mr. Parker gives him a warning glare. "And I trust this . . . transaction . . . will be kept in the strictest of confidence."
"Don't worry. We both have just as much to lose if word gets out." Carson nods at the older man and walks out the door. Things were working out on both ends. Hopefully when this was all over, both men would have what they ultimately desired.
Mr. Parker sits at his desk and opens the folder Carson left. He flips through until he finds the sheet with the blurred image. Though not discernible to the untrained eye, Mr. Parker knew its importance. He got goose bumps thinking about how he literally was holding the key to his future in his hands.
2 weeks later
Miss Parker drags her tired body into her house. She hasn't spent much time there for the past two weeks since she's seen Jarod trying to avoid the call she knew she'd get from him. She knew he'd be angry for the stunt she pulled at the hotel in Raleigh. But she couldn't stand having him that close and not being able to touch him. She had to do something and that was the only thing she could think of.
The really strange thing is how Carson has been conspicuously missing since Raleigh. She and Lyle left to follow up a tip on Jarod and when they returned, Carson wasn't lurking around like he has been since they started dating almost six months ago. As creepy as it was to have him constantly around, it was even creepier to have him suddenly gone.
She sinks into her couch, kicking her shoes off and lifting her swollen feet up onto the coffee table. She knows she should eat something, but she was so exhausted. She'd probably fall asleep in the middle of her meal. She leans her head against the back of the sofa and lets her eyes drift shut. She'd rest for a few minutes and then get up to eat.
An hour later, the ringing phone wakes her from her deep sleep. She picks it up and grumbles a drowsy greeting into it.
"Kind of early for you, isn't it Parker? I thought you usually kept later hours," the voice on the other end taunts. It was Jarod. She had been so careful letting her voice mail screen her calls to avoid talking to him. But now she had no choice. Even then, she can't make any words come out of her mouth.
"This is rich. *You're* giving *me* the silent treatment. Believe me, I'm the one who should be mad. Parker, you called the sweepers on me," he yells after her silence becomes too much.
"I know," she sighs. "It was the last thing I ever wanted to do Jarod. But you wouldn't leave. You were there and you shouldn't have been. So close I could almost touch you. And you wouldn't leave."
"Why couldn't I be there, Parker?" His voice is calmer now. He just wants to know what's making her run from him. "I thought you loved me."
"Jarod I *do* love you," she says before she could stop herself.
"Then why are you pushing me away?"
"Jarod, let's not do this tonight. Please," she begs. Silent tears start to drift down her face and once again she curses the situation that she's in. Her emotions were out of control.
"Why not, Parker? You've been running for 2 months and I don't even know why. I just want to know what happened. Did I do something? Did you suddenly realize that I wasn't worthy? What, Parker? Tell me and I can fix it."
His desperate voice just makes her cry even harder. She was the one not worthy. Not him. She didn't deserve someone like him. He was so good. Honorable. She was tainted. Used goods. And she now had more baggage than he should have to deal with.
"It's not you, Jarod. It's me," she tries to explain. "Something came up. A problem I have to deal with on my own. You don't deserve to get dragged into my mess."
"Tell me the problem and we can deal with it together," he implores with her. "Parker, when I said I loved you, I meant it. And I meant that I loved everything about you - including your problems. If something's bothering you, then it bothers me too. And just because you run from me doesn't mean that I stop worrying."
"Jarod . . ."
"No. Let me finish," he interrupts. "For the past two months, I've been wondering what's going on with you. I've been wondering why we weren't together. We waited so long, Parker. We've been through so much. Whatever this is, we can get over this too. But we have to do it together."
"I'm afraid," she whispers. "I'm afraid that this is something even you can't handle. And then you'll end up leaving me anyway."
"Just tell me, Parker." He listens to her breath on the other end of the line, hoping she'll finally open up to him.
"Jarod," she sighs, almost in a whisper. "Just do me one favor first and I'll tell you everything." She gently rubs her stomach, waiting on his response.
"Anything," he eagerly replies.
"Just tell me that you love me. That way if you feel differently after what I tell you, then I'll have that to keep with me."
"Parker, I love you. Forever and longer. My heart belongs to you - and only you - for always. I promised you that. Do you remember?" he asks.
"You said that to me that night on the beach," she smiles, remembering. Keeping it in a place close to her heart so that she'll remember it.
"I meant every word. Forever and longer. Nothing you tell me will change that," he promises.
"That remains to be seen, but here it goes." She takes a deep breath and tries to decide how to start her tale.
"Just start at the beginning," he gently suggests, as if he were reading her mind. "I left you at the hotel to go pack. You were on your way to the doctor. What happened there?"
"He gave me some pretty shocking news, Jarod. He told me that . . ." She pauses when she hears the doorbell. "Oh, hold on. Someone's at my door." She sets the phone on the table, relieved at the brief reprieve, but still a little nervous at telling him the rest.
Jarod sighs in frustration. They were finally getting somewhere before the interruption. Whatever she had to tell him was terrifying her. He just hopes that when she gets back to the phone, she'll continue on with the story.
A loud scream from Miss Parker's end catches his attention. All of his senses are on alert and he put the phone closer to his ear to try to hear what was going on.
"Parker?" he yells. "Parker are you there?"
He hears another scream followed by a gunshot and his heart suddenly drops into his stomach. He doesn't know what's going on. But he knows that there's trouble. Keeping the phone on, he jumps into his shoes and runs out of his latest lair.
"Parker," he yells one more time. But all he hears is silence. He suddenly was very afraid of what he was going to find when he got to her place. But that didn't stop him from going. He had to get there. Not five minutes ago, he promised to be there for her. And he wasn't going to let her down now.
An hour later, Jarod pulls in front of Miss Parker's house and jumps out the car. He doesn't even remember if he turned off the car or not. That didn't matter. Only she did.
"Parker," he yells, running towards the house. "Talk to me, Parker. Are you here?"
He runs into the house, noting with fear that the door was pulled from the hinge. He stops in the middle of the living room, and looks around, trying to find a clue about what happened.
"She's not here," a voice says, startling him. He turns around and is surprised to see a shaken Lyle sitting at the foot of the stairs.
"You," Jarod growls, running over to the man. He grabs him around collar and holds him up against the wall. "Where is she?"
"I don't know. She was gone when I got here," Lyle swears.
Jarod releases his grip and takes a step back. He looks at the man standing before him and can see that he's just as upset. That seemed to be the final straw for Jarod. If Lyle was to blame, Jarod could focus on anger. But this was just a man concerned about his sister. Just as hopeless as he was. His grief momentarily takes over him and he lets out a pained cry into his hands.
"I was on the phone with her," Jarod says. "Someone came to the door. Then all I heard was her screaming. After a gunshot, everything went quiet. I came right over. But that was an hour ago. What are you doing here?"
"I don't know," Lyle admits. "I don't know how to explain this. It's going to sound crazy. But I . . . I heard her."
"You heard her?" Jarod asks.
"Yeah. I told you it was going to sound crazy. I heard her calling to me just as clear as if she were in the same room. She sounded like she needed help. She sounded terrified," he sighs before continuing. "It was almost like a dream, but at the same time it was so real. I rushed right over here to see if she was alright."
"I heard a gunshot. But there's no blood. So she's probably alive," Jarod says with some hope. "Who would take her, though? And why?"
"It's that guy, Carson. I know it is. He hurt her before," Lyle says. "I wish you had killed him when you had the chance."
"You know about that?"
"She told me that he knocked her around one day. Used her face as a punching bag. And that you had attacked him. I saw her bruises, Jarod. I would have done the same thing myself," Lyle assures him.
"What else do you know about this guy?" Jarod asks, trying to gather enough information to get inside this guy's head. He didn't have time to grieve. He had to find Miss Parker.
"Not much. She's been avoiding him like the plague since Barbados. Spending a lot of time with me. But we haven't been able to figure out why Carson's still hanging around. Or why he suddenly seems to be our father's new best friend."
Jarod walks around the room, trying to get a feel for what happened. But he had a hard time getting past the overwhelming sense of loss.
"She's alright . . . isn't she?" Lyle asks, sounding much like a little boy. "I mean, if he had wanted to kill her, he would have left her body here. Wouldn't he?"
"That's what I'm hoping," Jarod sighs. "If he wanted her dead, he would have killed her right after Barbados. But for some reason, he wants her alive. And I think it has something to do with why she left me two months ago."
"So, just start at the beginning and work up to this point in time," Lyle suggests.
Jarod looks around the room again, contemplating Lyle's words. The beginning of this whole thing was Barbados - the trip to the doctor that sent her fleeing. She said that the doctor had given her shocking news. He suddenly gets an idea. He rushes over to the far wall and pulls back the oil painting of Catherine Parker.
"There's a safe back here," he tells Lyle. "Maybe she put them in there," he mumbles to himself.
Jarod gives a little cheer of victory when his hands pull out a thin folder that's been sealed shut. He rips through the tape, stopping for a moment to explain to a confused Lyle his theory.
"She went to the doctor in Barbados. That was the last I saw her. She was about to tell me tonight what she's been keeping a secret before . . . Anyway, I remembered how the doctor told me that she took her records with her. I figured they'd be around here someplace."
"So, what do they say?" Lyle asks, getting excited at their first real clue.
Jarod's silent for a while, skimming through the medical file. The small file starts off with her initial visit to the emergency room for her injuries from Carson.
"Okay, a couple of facial bruises they cleaned up," Jarod starts. "Her lip was split and needed stitches, which she refused. They did manage to take some blood, although she was being pretty stubborn about that as well." Both men let out a small chuckle at her typical behavior.
"The tests came back two days later, but they couldn't reach her with the results. It was only when she went back to the hospital later that week were they able to tell her . . . " Jarod freezes. He can't believe what was in the chart. But now that he knows, he can see why she would run. But she was running from the wrong person. Carson was who she needed to steer clear from.
"What did the tests say?" Lyle asks, begging to be clued in. He was getting worried. Jarod had turned pale and his knuckles where white from grasping the folder too hard.
"She's . . . pregnant," Jarod reveals. The file falls from his hand and onto the floor. Jarod follows suit, sinking down onto his now unsupportive knees. "She was having that lunatic's baby and now he must know about it. That's probably why he took her."
"She's going to have a baby," Lyle says, just as stunned by the news. "But why did she keep it a secret?"
"She thought I wouldn't handle the news well. She thought I'd stop loving her," Jarod admits, not even caring that he was spilling his guts to Lyle.
"Does this change things? Do you feel any differently because she's carrying another man's child?" Lyle asks bluntly. "Because, I'm going to find her. Whether or not you help is up to you."
"Lyle, I've loved Miss Parker for as long as I've known her. Nothing's going to change that."
"That's what I thought," Lyle smiles. "So let's do this. Let's go find my sister." The two men shake hands, sealing their unlikely alliance. But they knew they would have to work together if they were going to bring home the woman they both loved.
Miss Parker groggily blinks her heavy eyes. She's confused at her unfamiliar surroundings. Sitting up, a sharp pain shoots through her head. She moves her hand to her head and notices a bump on the back. Suddenly, it all comes back to her memory. Everything that happened that lead her here. Unfortunately, she didn't know where 'here' was.
She gets up to investigate, peeking through doors and opening closets. She's in a suite of rooms, kind of like a small apartment. There was a bathroom, a bedroom, kitchen and living room. The only difference was that there were no exits. She couldn't see any outer doors or windows. The walls were white and sterile, but no matter how the room was dressed up, she knew this was no ordinary room. It was a lab of some sorts. And she had a bad feeling that she was the lab rat.
The last thing she remembered was talking on the phone with Jarod. Jarod! Heard the whole thing. He'd be worried sick about her. She sinks onto the bed falling back in despair. She tries hard to hold in the tears that were inevitable. She was lost and she was scared. She had no idea what was going on, and that terrified her. But what was actually breaking her heart was knowing that Jarod had to sit helplessly by while she was abducted.
She remembers two men showing up at the door while she was talking to Jarod. They barged in and tried to grab her. She managed to grab her gun and fire off a shot, but it didn't make a difference. They grabbed her anyway and knocked her out. That's how she got the bump on her head. She lifts her hand up again to feel the bump, but a sharp pain in her arm stops her. Looking down, she notices a small mark where a needle might have gone. They must have drugged her. She gasps, putting her hand on her stomach and is only slightly comforted at the small bump still there. Whatever they'd given her, she prays didn't hurt the baby. Suddenly, the reality of her situation overcomes her and she can no longer hold in the tears. They come out in violent sobs that leave her body shaking.
"You need to calm down, Ma'am," a light voice calls from above her. Miss Parker rolls on her back and sees a woman in a uniform standing over her. "This stress isn't good for the baby."
"My baby?" Miss Parker sniffs. "My baby's okay?"
"Of course, Ma'am," the woman smiles. "Your husband has you here to keep you and the child safe."
"Husband?" Miss Parker is confused.
"Yes, Ma'am. Your husband, Dr. Stone. He's . . . "
"Thank you, Nurse Lyreen," a deep voice calls from the door. Miss Parker looks up and sees Carson standing there. Her blood starts to boil, realizing that he was behind this whole thing. Which means her father was involved as well. "I'll explain things to her."
"Very well, Doctor." The nurse pats Miss Parker on her hand and smiles kindly before leaving.
"Carson, what's going on?" Miss Parker yells. "You had me kidnapped and brought here?"
"Calm down, Sweetheart. I'm sure the nurse told you this stress wasn't good for the baby," he smirks.
"You know about my baby?" Miss Parker protectively covers her stomach with both hands. She looks away, unable to stand the predatory gleam in his eyes.
"I think you mean *our* baby." Carson laughs when he sees the shocked expression on her face. "That's right, my love. I know you were afraid to tell me, but I'm fine with it. It was about time we started a family."
"We're not a family, Carson. And we're not going to be one. This is *my* child," she snaps. "Why did you tell that nurse I was your wife? What am I doing here anyway? And while we're on that subject, where exactly is here?" The questions roll off her tongue as fast as she can think of them. Her ungrateful tone starts to annoy the man.
"I warned you when we took that little trip to Barbados," he growls, his face suddenly growing hard and cruel. "You belong to me. I can do with you as I please. You disappointed me when you seemed to forget that. And it may take awhile, but I'll eventually forgive your for your indiscretion with the man who tried to kill me."
"Jarod was trying to protect me. He does that, you know. So you better watch out. He will find me. And I won't stop him from killing you this time," she growl back, not showing any fear.
"I'm not worried," he says smugly. "He won't find you. Not until it's too late anyway."
As if on some kind of cue, two large orderlies come into the room and stand on either side of her bed. They grab her and hold her down while Carson prepares an injection. Her struggles are useless. The men are too big and they pull out straps to bind her to the bed. Soon she feels the prick of the needle in her arm.
"What did you give me?" she cries, starting to feel a little groggy.
"Just a little something to make you rest. Believe me, you don't want to be awake during the first treatment," he warns.
"What . . . treatment?" Her words are slurring now and it's becoming harder to keep her eyes open. "Don't hurt . . . baby. Please. Not my baby." She finally drifts off to sleep. Carson instructs the orderlies to release her restraints. The nurse enters the room again, this time with an IV for Miss Parker. She expertly inserts the end into her hand and starts the fluid drip.
"The first dose is in, Doctor. Is there anything else?"
"That'll be all, Nurse. She should sleep until the next morning," Carson says, dismissing her. The orderlies and nurse leave the room, leaving Carson alone with Miss Parker.
"You had to make things difficult, didn't you, Parker?" He strokes her hair obsessively, wanting desperately to be with her right then and there. But that wasn't on the agenda. It was fun while it lasted. She let him do whatever he wanted to her without much struggle. Sure, she didn't participate much, but he didn't care. He just wanted her body. And now that he's accomplished the first part of his goal, he couldn't jeopardize it in anyway. His lustful urges can wait a few more months. Because if his plan worked, that's how long it'll be before all his hard work paid off. He could wait. It would be worth it. Because she belonged to him. Like it or not, she was his for good.
2 weeks later
Jarod waits impatiently outside the apartment building in his car. It's long past the end of the work day, and he begins to wonder how long he would have to stay there. His patience is rewarded when in the next few minutes, he sees a car pull into the designated spot. Waiting a few minutes to make sure no one was following, he goes up to the building and slips inside.
"Were you followed?" Jarod asks once inside.
"I don't think so." Lyle turns around and hands Jarod a disk. Jarod sets up his laptop on the kitchen table. "That's the download from Broots like you asked."
Jarod inserts the disk and types in some commands, frowning when nothing important initially shows up. He tries hard to keep his emotions under control, but it was hard. Miss Parker has been missing for two weeks, and no one seems to care. No one except for Lyle, Broots and Sydney. Everyone else at the Centre, including her father, seems to act as if she never even existed.
"Nothing," Jarod sighs. "Your father has been really careful. He's covered his tracks well."
"How can a person just disappear without a trace? A pregnant woman at that. She's got to be somewhere." Lyle and Jarod exchange knowing looks. They only hope that she's somewhere. Because the other alternative is too horrible to imagine right now. But, the longer she's gone, her being dead seems to be the more likely scenario.
"I have a feeling that we're missing something," Jarod says, frustrated at the lack of progress. "Something's that's right in front of us."
"Let's start with what we know," Lyle suggests. "We know that my father and Carson Stone has something to do with this."
"But we can't find Carson," Jarod interjects. "It's like he just disappeared too. So more than likely, he's with your sister. Find him, we should find her."
"What else can we do to find him? There's no information available about him - not officially or otherwise."
"That in itself may be a clue," Jarod says, deep in thought. "I have no information about me. Neither does Miss Parker. You. Sydney. Most Centre employees. You seeing a pattern here?"
"You think he works for the Centre?"
"No. There aren't any Centre records about him either. But he may work for a place similar to the Centre," Jarod guesses.
"Research facility. Medical Lab. Places of that nature. Quite possibly . . . ."
"Wait," Lyle interrupts. "Did you say a medical lab?" He goes to his safe and pulls out all the research they've been doing for the past two weeks. He flips through pages and pages of documents until he finds the one he's looking for.
"What do you have?" Jarod asks.
"My father's Centre expense account transactions. He made several large payments to Black Hill Medical and Genetic Research Authority, dating back about 6 months. That's about the time Carson and my sister started dating."
Jarod furiously starts typing into the computer, connecting to the internet to try to find anything about this organization. He's not surprised when he doesn't find any matches. There's wasn't anything on the internet about the Centre either. His failure to find information about this research facility only encouraged him. He was starting to get the feeling they were finally looking in the right place.
10 weeks later
Nurse Lyreen keeps herself busy in the kitchen preparing Miss Parker's meal. She tried to avoid looking at the woman if she could. She seemed so sad and despondent. Nothing could break her from the depression she's settled into.
She watches Miss Parker waddle slowly to the sofa and ease her bulging mass onto the seat. Almost simultaneously, one hand moves to wipe away a tear that always seemed to be present, while the other gently rubbed her stomach.
"How long have I been here?" Miss Parker asks quietly. The nurse is startled, expecting the usual quiet visit. Her young patient rarely spoke.
"A little over 2 months," the nurse tells her. "Ten weeks to be exact. That's how long your treatments were supposed to last."
"Treatments," Miss Parker snorts with obvious doubt. "Is that what Carson is calling this? What is he doing to me anyway?"
"Mrs. Stone . . ." the nurse starts to explain.
"And stop calling me that," Miss Parker yells. "The name is Parker. Miss Parker. I don't care what he tells you. That man is not my husband. He's keeping me here against my will and you're perpetuating that."
"Miss Parker, I can't really get into it," the nurse mumbles. She hastens her motions to quickly get the breakfast to her patient. She didn't want to answer questions that shouldn't even be asked.
"Just tell me," Miss Parker pleads. "You won't even have to say much. I'll guess and you tell me if I'm right or wrong. Now, these treatments obviously have something to do with the baby." She pauses and watches the nurse hesitantly nod her head.
"I'm put to sleep and when I wake up, I have an fresh needle mark in my arm. So you're giving me some kind of drug." The nurse nods again and Miss Parker continues. "I'm going to guess it's a growth hormone or something. I seemed to have expanded quite a bit since I've been here. I've never been pregnant before, but I look and feel practically full term." She looks down at her huge belly and cringes slightly as the active child shifts and pinches a nerve.
"When you got here, you were approximately 20 weeks along. That's halfway through your pregnancy. And tomorrow will be your last treatment. The baby's ready now," the nurse says surreptitiously, lowering her voice so no one could overhear.
"What do you mean ready? Are you trying to tell me that I've gone through the last 20 weeks of my pregnancy in half the time? Are you trying to tell me that this baby will be born tomorrow?" Miss Parker asks incredulously.
"I have to go," the nurse whispers. "I've said too much."
"What's going to happen to my baby?" Miss Parker asks frantically.
The nurse doesn't answer. She just looks at Miss Parker sympathetically before practically running out the door.
Miss Parker sits in shock for a few minutes. There was no doubt in her mind the baby was ready. Even though she was only technically about six and a half months along, she looked and felt like she was full term. She wonders briefly how a drug like this could benefit Carson. She wonders what role in this whole thing her father played. She didn't know much more about what's going on than what she told the nurse. But the one thing she knew for certain was that she had to get out of there. They were going to take her baby tomorrow. And she couldn't let that happen.
"Jarod!" Lyle yells excitedly, not even caring about the precautions they've taken over the past few months to keep their alliance a secret. He runs into the apartment, only taking the requisite amount of time to ensure the door was closed and locked before rushing into the living room.
"Jarod," he calls again, waking the man up from his nap on the couch. "Wake up. I think I've got it."
"Got what?" Jarod yawns. As he sits up, a stack of papers from a file he was reviewing scatters to the floor.
"I think I know where she is."
Jarod perks up instantly when he hears this news.
"You've found her?" he asks Lyle.
"Not exactly. But I think I've found where she might be." He hands Jarod an article, but can't wait for the man to read it. He rattles off a summary of what it says. "This article is about an annual convention held in Canada by the private medical sector to help solicit funds. It mentions how this year, many of clinics and research facilities seem to be focused on the mysteries of pregnancy and childbirth."
"So if we're going with our assumptions about Carson working for a place like this, it's possible that he, or a representative from whatever facility he's with, was at this conference. Based on those bank records, your father wasn't paying him enough to support an entire facility. So they'd need funding from somewhere else."
"Not just possible," Lyle grins. "It's definite he was there." Lyle points to the picture with the article. A black circle was drawn around an area in the top right.
"What am I looking at?"
"It's hard to see on here. But I had Broots enlarge and digitally enhanced just that area of the photo." He hands Jarod the other picture and waits for his reaction.
"That's Carson," Jarod gasps. "He looks a little different with the blonde hair, but that's him."
"And every one attending had to register and give a name and address of a legitimate clinic or medical research facility," Lyle adds.
"We already know that your father was making those payments to Black Hill Medical and Genetic Research Authority. We checked them out and didn't find anything."
"It doesn't matter. They're not on the list anyway," Lyle tells him. "There is, however, a place called CarMed Tech. They're on the edge of a breakthrough in the gene enhancement and manipulation frontier. And, as it turns out, they're a subsidiary of Black Hill Medical and Genetic Research Authority."
Jarod stands up and starts to pace, trying hard to process all the information Lyle's brought to him. Miss Parker was within their grasps now. He could feel it.
"I think this is it," Jarod admits. "I think we've found her."
He starts to pace a little faster. His mind was already running through a basic SIM of the situation. He had to come up with a way to get in and get her out safely.
"Lyle, tell me what you know so far. I need a little more information. I can't quite get a clear picture of the whole puzzle here," Jarod says. "Tell me about this gene manipulation thing they're working on."
"There's not much," Lyle sighs. "But from what I can tell, this company was the leader a few years back in the attempts to manipulate and enhance DNA in unborn fetuses."
"For the purpose of creating 'designer' babies," Jarod realizes. He's worked at a facility like that himself during the course of his pretends. "I thought those attempts failed. They may have been successful in enhancing a particular gene, but that usually adversely affected a different gene. Most times, the children wouldn't even survive. For that very reason, it's incredibly difficult to get funding for those projects."
"Well, it's been rumored that CarMed was on the brink of eliminating all of the side effects. Not only that, but through use of a growth hormone, they were able to dramatically reduce the gestational period."
"I can't believe this," Jarod mutters, almost to himself. "It's all so clear now. It all makes sense."
"To you maybe, but how about bringing it home to us non-genius types," Lyle laughs.
"CarMed Tech is run by Carson Stone. He may just be the administrator, but I think he may be a little more involved. Possibly a doctor. He found a way to successfully manipulate and enhance fetal DNA. Unfortunately, he had no money to complete his research. And no suitable test subject. Your father helped him out on both counts."
Jarod closes his eyes and concentrates even harder on the scenario running through his mind. Now that all the pieces where there, it took no time at all for his mind to assemble them.
"Your father is looking for the future of the Centre. I've been more difficult to recapture than they thought. And for some reason, I don't think there have been an overabundance of natural born pretenders in the past few years. So he needs another pretender. And if he can't find one, he'll make one.
"He funded Carson's project and even supplied him with a guinea pig - your sister. The pretender genes are already there in her, just dormant. She's the perfect subject. And I think all he wants in return is the baby."
"You know, I think you're exactly right. During one of our last board meetings, my father was actually pushing for ending the search for you and investing in the future. I can only guess that this is what he meant," Lyle comments. "But what about Carson? What does he get out of all this?"
"Fame. Notoriety. Once his process is proven successful, he'll be rich and famous. But I personally think that all Carson wants in return is your sister."
"You don't think he'll give her up?" Lyle asks.
"I doubt that," Jarod shakes his head. "That means we're going to have to go get her. Before it's too late."
Miss Parker wakes the next morning after a restless night of sleep. She had fallen asleep shortly after dinner. The stress the baby was putting on her body caused her to tire more quickly than usual. Generally she welcomed the sleep. It was a way to block out the nightmare she seemed to be living. But this morning, she curses silently as she sees the time on the clock. She didn't have the time to waste sleeping. She needed to come up with a way of escape.
"What are we going to do, Little One?" she mumbles out loud while she rubs her stomach. "Your daddy wants to take you away from me, but I'm not going to let him. No one's going to hurt you," she promises.
She slowly lifts her awkward body from the bed. Slowly is just about the only way she can do things these days. Which didn't give her very many escape options. She goes about her normal routine. She eats breakfast, gets dressed, and waits on Carson and the orderlies to administer her treatment. Day after day, this routine was the same.
Except for today. After spending hours going over possible escape scenarios, Miss Parker realizes that Carson's past due. Mid afternoon rolls around and still no treatment. Then she remembers Nurse Lyreen's words from last night.
*'. . .tomorrow will be your last treatment. The baby's ready . . .'*
This last treatment apparently wasn't like the others. Or else Carson would have been in by now to give it to her. This must be what the nurse was talking about. This last treatment must be when they're going to take the baby. Tears spring to her eyes as she realizes that there's no hope. Getting out would be impossible. And any minute now, they'd be coming for her baby. The only thing she could do now was pray. Pray, and do all she could to make this as difficult for them as she possibly can.
"What time is it now?" Lyle asks impatiently, sounding much like a small child on a long car trip.
"It's 20 minutes after the last time you asked that question," Jarod sighs with frustration. They'd been sitting outside of CarMed for most of the afternoon now, waiting on the appointed time for them to enter. Once they got inside, it was going to be like searching for a needle in a haystack. They had no idea where Miss Parker would be. So they decided to go in when things were going to be a bit confused anyway, around shift change time.
"If she's in there, she has to be in a room without a camera," Broots says, sticking his head from the back of the van. They brought the computer techie with them to help bypass security if necessary. "I've hacked into their video surveillance and have access to all of their cameras. None of them show her."
"That doesn't help us much," Lyle scowls.
"Actually, it does," Jarod interrupts. "At least we know where NOT to look for her. That could save us some time."
The men fall silent again, watching the building from afar. Finally about another hour later, they start to see movement from the exit doors. A few slackers trying to tip off early. But there would be more to follow.
"I think this is it," Jarod says. "It's time for a shift change. This is our chance to get inside, hopefully unnoticed. Broots, we're going closer. Wait until there's a lot of activity in the hallway and then loop the video on the security cameras. Let us know when it's safe to go in."
Jarod and Lyle recheck the listening device in their ear. It would be their only link to Broots in the van.
"Ready?" Lyle asks Jarod, who nods his reply.
"Let's do this."
Miss Parker goes on alert when she hears the keypad outside the door being activated. She hated that the room was soundproof. She couldn't hear when anyone was approaching down the hall. The door opening was the only warning she ever received. But today, she was waiting for them. They weren't going to take her baby without a fight.
She was standing between the sofa and the end table, her hands resting on a lamp. If anything, she could use it as a weapon to delay the inevitable. Maybe even possibly escape. The door opens slowly and Carson steps inside the room. He's holding a case of medical supplies in one hand and an ominous looking needle in the other.
"Parker," Carson says, sounding somewhat surprised. He wasn't prepared to see the woman in her confrontational mode. "What are you doing up and about? You should be resting."
"You can just put that needle away, Carson," she growls. "You're not taking my baby."
"Oh darn. The surprise has been ruined," he laughs. "Who told? Never mind. It must have been Nurse Lyreen. I always knew she had a big mouth." He walks towards her, setting the supplies on the table by to door to free his hands.
"Don't come any closer," she warns, lifting the lamp over her head.
"You don't want to do that, Parker."
"Back away, Carson," she warns again. "I will hurt you. That's a promise."
"Oh no, Parker. You're going to be the one feeling pain. Now, you're going to have that baby. Nothing you can do will stop that. How painful the experience is will be up to you. Cooperate with me, and I'll make sure you have some relief during the delivery. Otherwise, that baby's coming the hard way."
As usual as if they've been cued somehow, the two large orderlies make their appearance. Refusing to give up, Miss Parker throws the lamp at the biggest one, who falls unconscious into the doorway when the lamp makes contact with his head. She decides to make a run for it but gets just to the other side of the couch when she's caught by the other orderly. He drags her kicking and screaming into the bedroom where all the other treatments have taken place. With Carson's help, he's able to get her strapped down.
"I warned you," Carson yells, wiping flecks of blood where Miss Parker managed to scratch him. "Now we're going to have to do this the hard way. He storms back into the living room and returns moments later with the syringe. She screams as he stabs the needle mercilessly into her arm.
She struggles for a few minutes while Carson stands over her grinning. Eventually, she just degenerates into tears when she realizes there's really nothing else to do for her baby. Carson was intent on taking it, and she didn't know how to stop him. A chill runs through her thinking about the kind of life her baby would have to endure.
"She's calming down now," Carson tells the orderly. "Stay with her for awhile and then you can leave. I'll be back when the labor starts." Carson walks out the door, jumping over the body of the still unconscious orderly.
After Carson leaves, the orderly paces impatiently around the suite, glancing at his watch every few minutes. Finally after about an hour, Miss Parker looks at the clock to see why he's so antsy. She realizes that it's past shift change time. He must be ready to go home. A renewed feeling of hope washes over her as she decides to use this to her advantage.
"Hey," she calls to him. "Are you going to leave me strapped in here all night? I've got about 8 pounds of baby pressing on my bladder and unless you want to clean up a big mess, I suggest you let me go to the bathroom."
The orderly looks confused for a moment. The doctor didn't say anything about unstrapping her. But he also knew what a 9 month pregnant woman was like when she had to use the bathroom. He figures he better let her go. He unstraps her hands and then her feet, escorting her to the bathroom. Once she's inside, he hears the lock snick and decides she's secure for now.
After about a minute, his attention is grabbed by a light murmuring by the front door. Running up front, he sees that the other orderly was coming too.
"You alright, O'Riley?" he asks him.
"I think so," O'Riley says. He tries to sit up, but the dizziness overcomes him. "What happened?"
"Take it slow, man. You'll pass right back out," the first orderly warns him. "You got hit in the head with the lamp by the pregnant woman."
"She got good aim," he chuckles, wincing when pain shoots through his head.
"I said you need to take it easy. You're going to be hurting for. ." He stops midsentence when he feels a prick in his neck.
"Don't move," Miss Parker growls into his ear. She moves the needle in deeper to make sure she had his attention. "Right now, I have a needle full of air in your jugular. You so much as breathe funny, you'll be dead before you hit the floor."
She glares at the other orderly, warning him with her eyes to stay where he is.
"Are you guys armed?" she asks.
"Just with stun guns," O'Riley answers.
"Take yours out and slide it over her to me," she orders him. Once the stun gun is in reach, she zaps the orderly she's holding and lets his body fall on top of O'Riley. She zaps O'Riley and watches as his eyes clinch in pain before his body is still again.
She's stunned for a moment, not quite believing that she could be free. A sharp pain to her side kicks her into motion. The contractions were starting. She had to get out of there. Breathing through the pain, it finally subsides and she's able to stand. She peeks out the door and sees the hall is empty. Not knowing which way to go, she picks and arbitrary direction and moves quickly. She can only hope she picked the right way.
Broots keeps a careful eye on all the monitors. The evening shift change was just about over and it was almost time for him to take control of the security cameras. One last employee makes her way down the hall. As soon as she was out of the shot, he would start the looping sequence to give Jarod and Lyle time to sneak in undetected.
The woman looks up and quickly looks back down when she notices the camera. But she's not fast enough for Broots. He saw her face. It belonged to Miss Parker.
"J - J - Jarod," he stutters into the microphone. "I see her. It's Miss Parker. Coming down the hall."
"What?" Jarod asks, completely shocked. Leave it to Miss Parker to rescue herself. "Where is she?"
"She's actually heading towards the exit where you and Lyle are now. She should . . . uh oh."
"Uh oh, what, Broots?"
"Trouble," he moans. "I didn't get a change to loop the video yet. That means she was spotted by security. Some guards are coming for her. And they're led by Carson. By the looks of it, they're going to intercept her before she gets to the exit."
"Forget looping the video, Broots. We have to go in now. Just pull the van up to where we are. Hopefully we can get to her and get her out of there."
Miss Parker gets about halfway down the hall when she sees the exit. She had no idea where she was, but she knew that if she could just get outside, she could eventually make her way to help. She picks up the pace as fast as her huge belly would allow. Suddenly, the door opens, and she looks around to find something to duck behind. Not finding a suitable hiding place, she gets into a defensive position, preparing herself to fight if necessary.
"Parker," the voice from the door yells.
She looks up and tears of relief spring to her eyes.
"Jarod," she whispers, not wanting to believe her eyes. She pushes herself off the wall she was leaning against and starts to waddle towards him. Unfortunately, another contraction hits at that moment, temporarily taking her breath way. She has to stop and focus on not letting the pain over take her.
"What's happening with her? Why did she stop?" Lyle asks in a panic. "She could make it if she hurried. The guards are still a little ways off."
"I don't think she can," Jarod realizes. "She's going to need help. Come on."
Taking a few deep breaths, Lyle and Jarod dash down the hall to where Miss Parker is, each man coming to stop on either side of her.
"Parker, are you okay?" Jarod asks.
"Contraction," she grunts through her teeth.
"Contraction? Just how far along are you, Sis?"
The contraction finally passes and she's able to fully stand up. Both men stare at her in wide-eyed amazement.
"Parker, you're huge!" Lyle exclaims, earning a not so nice glare from the woman. "I mean . . . what I meant to say was that you're . . . "
"Beautiful," Jarod finishes for him with a dreamy smile. "You look beautiful." He moves one arm around her waist and rubs her stomach with his free hand. "Now how about we get you out of here?"
"We should probably hurry. I think I hear the guards coming," Lyle warns. He peeks around the corner, spotting the armed men in the distance. "If we're going to go, we need to go now."
"Can you walk?" Jarod asks her.
"Right now I can. If another contraction doesn't hit, I should be fine," she tells him. She grabs his hand and they walk to the corner where Lyle is.
"Broots, where are you?" Jarod whispers into his microphone.
"I'm pulling up right outside," the man replies. "What's taking you guys so long?"
"We'll be right there," Jarod says before signing off. He turns to Miss Parker to see if she's ready. "We just have to go to the end of the hall to the exit door. Then down some stairs, and Broots will be waiting with the van. You ready?"
"You guys get going. I'll send the gas down the hall," Lyle suggests. "On the count of 3 . . . 2 . . . "
When he gets to one, Jarod and Miss Parker move as quickly as she can waddle down the hall towards the door. Seeing the two cross the path, Carson and the guards quicken their pace. Lyle waits until the guards get a little closer and throws the canisters of tear gas towards them. Holding his breath, he follows Jarod and Miss Parker.
They get outside and Miss Parker stops abruptly at the openness of the vast world. She looks around, momentarily stunned in her tracks. She grabs onto Jarod and he can feel her trembling.
"Another contraction?" he asks, concerned when she stops.
"It's been months," she whispers, trying to hold back her tears. "I haven't been outside since I've been here. It's just all a little overwhelming. I'm okay." She tries to smile to reassure him.
"We've just got to get down these stairs and into the van, okay?" He gives her his own reassuring smile and squeezes her hand for extra comfort. By this time, Lyle's caught up with them and he grabs onto her other hand and helps Jarod coax her down the stairs. They get to the van and pull off just as a few guards manage to make it outside.
"You did it," Broots laughs with surprise. "You guys actually pulled it off."
"*We* did it, Broots. Your help was instrumental to this operation," Jarod corrects him. He pulls a trembling Miss Parker into his arms and tries to comfort her. But he knows it's going to be awhile before she's gotten over this ordeal.
"I'm so sorry," she cries. "I never knew."
"Shh. It's okay," he soothes her.
"No, it's not, Jarod. I was locked in that place for months. They experimented on me and my baby. I can't believe that for years, I tried to inflict that same kind of punishment on you. I chased you and tried to catch you and almost locked you up in a place just like that."
"Parker, it's okay. Really. You don't need to worry about any of that right now. You're out. You're free. And we're going somewhere for you to have this baby," he promises. "It's going to be alright."
"I don't deserve you, Jarod."
He silences her with a kiss.
"Shh. I thought we had a deal. Remember? No one's to blame. We'll call it even and leave it at that," he says, repeating his words from Barbados all those months ago.
"I love you," she whispers, leaning in for another kiss. She barely touches his lips when the van suddenly stops.
"Why are we stopping?" she panics. "We have to get farther away."
"Don't worry, we will," Jarod assures her. "We're just going to split up. They saw the van at the facility. Broots and Lyle's going to drive it as a diversion. We're going in the other direction in another car. I have a place already set up for you to give birth."
"You thought of everything," she smiles up at him, taking his hand to help her out of the van. "All of you. I can't believe you came to rescue me."
"And you didn't even need rescuing," Lyle laughs. "Looks like you were doing just fine on your own."
"I'll always need you," she says to him, almost in a whisper. Dropping Jarod's hand, she pulls Lyle into a hug, catching him off guard momentarily. "Thank you. Thank you for coming to my rescue."
"Yeah, well I figured I owed you," Lyle smiles. "I've been a pretty lousy brother up until now." He pulls back and wipes away the lone tear dripping down her cheek. "But from now on, I'll have your back, Sis."
"That's comforting . . . I think," she giggles. "But you'll have to share the job with someone else who's filled that role for the past few years." She looks over at Broots and opens her arms to him.
"Me?" Broots looks around incredulously, as if she were talking to someone else.
"Broots, you really are a moron," she laughs. "But my you're my *lovable* moron." She pulls him to her and places a kiss on his cheek. His face instantly reddens.
"Parker, we need to go," Jarod gently tells her.
"Okay," she agrees, giving Lyle one last hug. "You two take care of each other."
"And you take care of that little niece or nephew of mine," Lyle makes her promise. He then turns to Jarod and sticks out his hand, which the other man gladly accepts. "Jarod, take care of my sister."
They all say their final good-byes and go their separate ways, knowing that no matter where the road takes them, it will always lead back to each other. They were a family now - joined at the heart. And nothing was going to be able to keep them apart.
Mr. Parker's Office
"How could you let this happen?" the old man screams into the phone. He listens without really listening to the excuse Carson was giving to him on the other line. Basically, his daughter was gone. And she left before they were able to get the baby. All of his plans for the future were down the drain.
"I hope you realize this makes our deal null and void now," he growls into the other line when he hears Carson stop talking. "You won't be getting your last payment."
"Mr. Parker. Don't be too hasty," Carson interjects. "All hope is not lost."
"How can you say that? The very thing I've been paying for is gone. This baby was going to be the key to my future here, Carson. And now, it's gone. Do you have some kind of plan for getting it back?"
"We wait," Carson says simply. "We wait and let them come running back to us."
"What are you saying?" Mr. Parker asks. "What if they don't?"
"They will," Carson assures him, a calculating grin spreading across his face. "They need us. And when they figure that out, they'll be back."
Title - Tears of Yesterday III~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Author - Nicky (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating - PG-13
Category - JMPR, MP/L, MSR
Spoilers: Pretender Season 4, X-Files Season 8 Finale
Summary - Jarod and Miss Parker make some unexpected friends and discover some unexpected ties.
Disclaimer: The characters Miss Parker, Sydney, Jarod, Broots etc. and the fictional Centre, are all property of MTM, TNT and NBC Productions and used without permission. Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox. I'm not making any money out of this and no infringement is intended.
Tears of Yesterday - Book III
Driving down the dark highway, Jarod is tempted to pull over with every contraction. But Miss Parker insists they keep driving. They were less than an hour away from their destination. She could wait that long.
Too soon after the last one for Jarod's own piece of mind, another strong contraction attacks, eliciting a long, low groan from Miss Parker. He takes her hand and breathes with her, feeling helpless to do anything else.
"They're getting longer," he says in a shaky voice after the last one subsides. "And closer together."
"But they're still 10 minutes apart. I've got plenty of time," she assures him, trying to make herself believe it. But she wasn't entirely sure. Nothing about the pregnancy was typical. She didn't expect the birth to be either.
"Well, can I do anything to help?" he asks.
"Talk to me. Tell me about where we're going," she says.
"We're going to this little town in Rhode Island called Quonochontaug. I have a little house there that I've set up for you to give birth. I got plenty of supplies. I just hope I can get you there in time," he worries.
"I'm fine, Jarod," she smiles.
Three contractions later, though, she wasn't so sure anymore she was okay. One thing she did know for sure was that the birth definitely wasn't going to be typical. Her contractions were now abnormally long and brutal for this stage in her labor.
"Jarod, pull over," she manages through clenched teeth. "I need to use the bathroom."
"Now? We're 10 minutes from the house."
"Now!" she screams, to emphasize her point.
He finds a grocery store and pulls into the parking lot. He helps her out the car and into the store. A nice red haired lady at the door directs them to the rear of the store to the restrooms.
Five minutes later, she's still in there and he starts to worry. He hadn't seen anyone come in or go out in that time period, so he assumed she was alone. He could go in, but he felt uncomfortable invading the ladies room.
"Parker," he knocks on the door. "Are you alright in there?" He doesn't get an answer from her and makes up his mind to go in, ladies room or not.
"Excuse me, Sir." Jarod turns around and sees the woman from before. "Is your wife alright? I can go in a check on her if you'd like. I'm a doctor."
He eyes her warily for a second before hearing a groan from the bathroom.
"Yes," he agrees. "That would be great. Thanks."
The woman gives him a gentle smile before going into the restroom.
"Hello," she calls, searching the stalls for Miss Parker. "Your husband asked me to come check on you. Are you alright?"
Another groan sounds from the last stall and enables the woman finds Miss Parker.
"Are you okay, Miss?" she asks again.
"My water broke," Miss Parker sobs.
"How far apart are your contractions?" the woman asks.
"Between 5 and 10 minutes. But they're long and hard, so it's difficult to tell."
"Alright, we need to get you to a hospital . . ."
"No," Miss Parker interrupts. "No hospitals. Please," she begs, a fresh set of tears forming in her eyes.
"Hold on a second," the woman sighs. "I'm going to get your husband."
She gets up and runs back out to where Jarod is waiting not so patiently.
"The name's Jarod," he smiles uneasily. "Is she alright?"
"Her water broke. She needs to get to a hospital immediately, but she refuses."
"No hospitals," Jarod insists just as vehemently as Miss Parker did. "I have someplace. I just need to get her back to the car."
"Listen, I can understand your fear. But you're going to need help," the woman says. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a badge. "My name's Dana Scully. I'm with the FBI." She allows Jarod to take the badge and examine it before taking it back and placing it in her pocket again. "I know it's hard to trust people. And you two are obviously running from someone. I know what's that like. Let me help."
Jarod's biting his lip, trying to make his decision when Miss Parker makes it for him. She's managed to get herself up and out the door of the bathroom before collapsing back against it.
"We can trust her," Miss Parker says. "I heard it in here." She lifts her hand up to her head and smiles, comforted by her mom's presence.
"Your Inner Sense?" Jarod asks. She just smiles and nods.
Jarod grabs her on one side, Dana Scully takes the other side and they lead her back to the car. After getting her settled in the back seat, Jarod takes the driver's seat and gets the car moving again.
"Sometimes I can hear her so clearly. Like before in the bathroom. She said we can trust Dana."
"What's your 'inner sense'?" Dana asks, a little shocked that the woman knew her name. She was still in the bathroom when she introduced herself to Jarod. She couldn't have heard her.
"It's kind of hard to explain without sounding like a lunatic," Miss Parker laughs.
"Don't worry. I don't downright dismiss crazy ideas too much any more. Working for 8 years with my husband broke me of that habit," Dana smiles.
"How much further?" Miss Parker suddenly groans, in the grips of another contraction.
"A few more minutes, Honey," he promises. "It's just the next street over."
"That's my street as well. What's the address? I can tell my husband to meet us there," Dana offers. Jarod hands her the slip of paper the address is on and turns his eyes back to the road. He increases his speed to help get them there faster.
After several seemingly impossibly long minutes, he finally pulls up to a house. A strange man was standing out front, but Dana assured them it was her husband.
Miss Parker was in between contractions, so getting into the house wasn't too difficult. Dana takes her to the birthing room Jarod set up and helps to get her settled, leaving the two men to get acquainted.
Dana's husband was holding a baby carrier that held a sleeping baby. He gently puts the child down on the coffee table and sticks his hand out to introduce himself.
"I'm Jarod," Jarod says, shaking the man's proffered hand.
"Fox Mulder," the man says.
"Fox Mulder? *The* Fox Mulder?" Jarod asks, almost awe struck.
"I see my reputation precedes me," Mulder jokes. "I hope everything you've heard has been good."
"Who *hasn't* heard of the FBI's Agent Fox Mulder," Jarod says.
"Well, it's just Mulder now. The FBI finally got tired of me and my crazy theories."
"It's their loss," Jarod sympathizes. "From what I read about you, you were one of the greatest criminal profilers. And that's a tough job to have."
"Is that what you do?" Mulder asks.
"From time to time," Jarod admits, evoking a strange look from Mulder. "I've changed jobs a few times," is all he says by way of an explanation.
"Jarod. Was there a last name that goes with that?"
"To tell you the truth, your guess would be as good as mine," he smiles sadly. "It's just Jarod."
Once again, Mulder gives Jarod the strange look and Jarod just chuckles to himself. He seemed to have the reaction on people.
"How are you doing, Parker?" Dana asks, checking to see that the fetal monitor is hooked up properly. Obstetrics isn't her specialty, but she's doing the best she can with her limited med school knowledge.
"A little better. Now that we're here to safety, I can relax some. But honestly, I'm actually kind of scared," she sighs. "More like terrified. Of having to do this. Of what happens after I do this. Of what I might be having."
"What do you mean *what* you might be having?" Dana asks with wide eyes. "You mean like whether it's a boy or girl, right?" She prays silently to herself that she hasn't stumbled upon another alien birth. She was up here with Mulder and the baby to get away from all of that.
"Not exactly," Miss Parker says. She looks at Dana long and hard and has a feeling that she can truly trust her with the whole truth. "For the past few months, I've been held captive at this clinic or medical lab or something. This doctor, whom I had the unfortunate luck in dating, decides to impregnate me to use me as part of his sick experiment. He gave me injections. Treatments, he would call them. Along with growth hormones for the baby. I ended up going through the last 5 months or so of my pregnancy in only half the time. So, when this baby comes out, I'm not really sure what to expect."
"At least you know yours will be human," Dana mumbles to herself.
"Something tells me there's a pretty wild story behind that comment," Miss Parker says, curious as to what the other woman meant. But her curiosity is put on hold by another contraction.
"You want me to get Jarod?" Dana asks, after the contraction is over. Miss Parker just nods, still trying to catch her breath. Dana goes to the door to call the men in.
"Parker, are you alright?" Jarod asks her, going immediately to her side.
"I will be," she smiles. "Now that you're here."
"This is a pretty good setup, Jarod," Dana compliments. "How did you know which instruments you'd need? Where did you get them from?"
"My last job," he says without really thinking.
"You were a doctor?" she asks.
"I thought you were a criminal profiler," Mulder adds.
"Yes to both of you," he says, glaring at Miss Parker as she tries to stifle a laugh. Most times it wasn't easy explaining to others what he can do. "But not an OB/GYN, so I'm afraid I have to wing it. How about you, Dana. What type of doctor are you?"
"Forensic pathologist," she admits. "So if your patients were alive, you're already more qualified than me to do this. I've delivered a baby once, but I pretty much just stood there and caught what came out. I gave birth myself two months ago, though. So it's pretty fresh in my mind."
"Jarod, are you . . . prepared to deliver this baby?" Miss Parker asks him, trying to delicately phrase the question without spooking their new friends too much.
"Well, I've never delivered a baby before," he admits. "But, when setting all this up, I managed to run a SIM on the entire process."
"Okay, then I trust you," she sighs in relief. "I know you can do anything you set your mind to."
"A SIM?" Mulder asks.
"A simulation. I can sort of . . . imagine myself doing things," he tries to explain. "Once I get in the mindset, I can do or become just about anything."
"You're a pretender," Mulder exclaims excitedly. "I've run across research on people like you, but I just assumed you all were just particularly brilliant. Almost beyond geniuses."
"A pretender?" Dana asks.
"A genius who can do or become anything," Miss Parker explains before cringing again. "But right now I need you to become a doctor, Jarod. This baby is coming. I need to push."
A brief flash of panic crosses his face at her cries. But soon, Dr. Jarod takes over and he moves to action. He goes to the sink and starts to wash up, barking orders over his shoulder.
"Dana, you should scrub up as well. I'm going to need you to assist me during and after the birth. Mulder, I'm going to need you to coach Parker since I can't do it."
"Hey Scully, looks like I'm going to finally put what we learned in those Lamaze classes to good use," Mulder smiles.
"Alright then," Jarod says, slipping his hands into a pair of gloves. "Let's have us a baby."
"That's it, Parker. Breathe," Mulder gently coaches. "You're doing great."
"You are, Honey," Jarod adds. "I'm so proud of you."
"Baby's heart rate is dropping and Parker's blood pressure is still rising," Dana whispers into Jarod's ear.
"What?" Miss Parker asks. "Is something wrong with the baby?"
"Don't worry about that. This delivery has been tough on the both of you. I think he's a little anxious to get out. So we're going to oblige him and get him out of there as soon as we can."
"Her," Parker says through her panting breaths. "You said . . . him but it's a . . . her. Ahhhh . . ." she screams, her pain taking on a new twist.
At the same time, the fetal monitor starts beeping uncontrollably. Dana turns the sound off and looks back at Jarod shaking her head.
"Listen to me, Parker. You've got to push now! Push," he yells. "That's it. Keep going." The head emerges with a bluish tint causing Dana to gasp in shock.
"What's wrong," Parker cries.
"Nothing," Jarod says quickly. "The head's out. I just need you to give me one more push. Can you do that, Honey?"
Miss Parker bears down and with last push, the rest of the baby slips out into Jarod's hands.
"Parker, you did it," he tells her before handing the silent baby to Dana. "And you were right. It's a girl. A beautiful girl."
"Let me see her," Miss Parker whispers.
"Not yet," he says, trying to come up with an excuse. "We need to get her all cleaned up first." He manages to hold in his tears so she won't see his worrying.
She nods her head and leans it back, allowing her eyes to drift shut. She was so tired and the room was so silent, she could almost fall asleep. But something at the back of her mind was bothering her, keeping her from the exhausted slumber.
"She's quiet," she mumbles. "Too quiet. Jarod, why isn't she crying?"
"Come on, Baby Girl," he pleads with the baby. "Breathe." He continues to vigorously massage the tiny chest while Dana provided intermittent blasts of oxygen.
"Jarod, why isn't she crying?" Miss Parker asks again, this time her voice laced with tears.
"Because she's not breathing," he finally confesses to her. "What's her name, Parker?"
"Serena. That's what she told me. Like when Ethan told my mom," she cries.
"Call to her. Make her live, Parker."
"What?" she asks, confused at his request.
"Just call her, Parker. We don't have much time," Jarod yells frantically. "Let her know you're waiting for her."
"Serena," she calls through her tears. "It's me. I'm your . . . I'm your Mommy, Sweetheart. Breathe for me, baby. Please. I'm ready to meet you. Please do this. I know you can. Just breathe."
"Come on, Serena," Jarod begs. "It's time for you to live, Princess."
"Quiet a second," Dana says, hushing them. She adjusts the stethoscope and listens carefully. "I got a heartbeat!"
"That's my girl," Jarod smiles, letting out a huge sigh of relief.
The little girl starts to lose the blue hue and turns a healthy shade of pink. After a few more puffs of air from Dana, she starts flailing her little limbs about. Finally, she opens her mouth and lets out her first scream, tears streaming down her face. But she wasn't the only one crying. In fact, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.
"She's gorgeous," Jarod whispers, kissing Miss Parker lightly on the lips. "She has your nose. And your eyes. And definitely your big mouth. My ears are still ringing from all that crying," he says with a laugh.
"Funny," she laughs along with him before turning back to her baby, watching her nurse for a moment. "She really is beautiful, isn't she?" She turns nervously to Jarod and asks him what she fears most. "You don't think anything's wrong with her, do you? I mean, you don't think that Carson's 'treatments' had an adverse effect?"
"She seems perfectly healthy and normal, Parker," he assures her. "But we took some blood samples just to be sure. Mulder's going to have some friends look over the results just to be sure."
The baby detaches herself from Miss Parker's breast and yawns sleepily. Miss Parker cleans her up and burps her before the child can drift off to sleep.
"Do you mind if I . . can I . . . hold her?" Jarod asks shyly.
For a moment, Miss Parker feels her heart breaking. This was the man she loved most in the world. This was the man who had the place in her dreams as the father of children. It seemed unfair that Carson stole that opportunity from him. But as she places the baby in his arms, she can see that he already loves her. He would never hold her paternity over her head.
"You two seem to get along," she says with a smile. "I think she likes you."
"She better," he smiles back. "I'm going to be around for a long time. If that's alright with you, of course," he adds quickly.
"You mean it?" she whispers, her eyes starting to tear up. "I know she's not yours, but . . . "
"That doesn't matter," he interrupts. He looks into her eyes and she can see that he honestly means it. "I love you. And I love her because I love you. Because she's a part of you." He leans over to kiss her, assuring her of his love.
Out in the living room, Dana was feeding her own baby. Not only did it give her son his much needed nourishment, it was also a time for her to sit back and unwind. And with a day as stressful as she had, she was glad her baby was there.
"What do you think the story is with those two?" Mulder asks out of the blue.
"I'm not really sure," she sighs. "They seem nice. Although they're obviously running from something. I'm glad I was able to help. They didn't want to trust me at first, but . . ."
"But what, Scully?"
"She mentioned something kind of strange," Scully admits and has to hold back her smile at the obvious pleasure that statement brought to her husband. Even though he didn't work on the X-Files anymore, he was constantly on the look out for strange and unusual stories.
"Strange how?" he asks with a grin.
"Well, she said that some voice from inside her told her that I could be trusted."
"That's not so strange," he interrupts. "A lot of people go with their gut instincts."
"No, it was more than that. She knew my name before I ever told her," Scully says. "And you heard her after the baby was born. She told Jarod that the baby let her know what her name was. That the same thing happened with her mother. Jarod called it her inner sense, but they never had the chance to explain it to me."
"Well, that does sound kind of strange," he agrees, his eyes lighting up again.
"Oh no you don't," she warns.
"What?" he asks innocently.
"You leave that woman alone. She just had a baby, Mulder. She doesn't need you asking her a bunch of questions."
"But Scully . . . " he whines, sticking out his bottom lip in that sexy little pout of his that Scully was defenseless against. Heaven help her when the baby was old enough to pick up that little habit from his father.
"Here. Change William." She walks across the room and hands Mulder the baby. She knew if she stayed in that room with Mulder any longer, she'd be tempted to relent and let him satisfy his curiosity. "I'm going to go check on Parker and Serena."
He sticks his lip out even farther and she just turns away, rolling her eyes. Yes, Heaven help her indeed when sweet little William is able to manipulate her like that. The little boy is going to be spoiled rotten.
Jarod and Miss Parker hear a knock at the door and break from their kiss.
"Come in," Jarod calls, taking the now sleeping Serena over to the bassinet.
"It's just me," Scully says while entering the room. She walks next to Jarod and peeks at the baby. "I wanted to see how you all were doing."
"Well besides feeling like I just had a baby, I'm doing great," Miss Parker laughs.
"Yeah, the soreness is going to last awhile. But it's all worth it in the end. She really is beautiful, Parker."
"Thanks, Dana. What about your baby? I thought I heard a cry earlier."
"He was just a little hungry. Mulder's out there changing him now," she says.
"Did I hear my name in here?" Mulder asks, poking his head into the room. Scully gives him warning look, silently letting him know that he better behave, but doesn't say anything.
"Come on in and let me formerly introduce you," Jarod invites. Mulder looks at Scully with a smug grin and comes inside, handing her William. "Miss Parker - Fox Mulder. Fox Mulder - Miss Parker."
"Nice to meet you," she says. "You were a great coach, by the way."
"Thanks," he smiles. "I wasn't there for Scully when she had Will. I'm glad I finally got to use all of that Lamaze training."
"Mulder. Scully. You guys go by your last names?" Jarod asks.
"We used to work together at the FBI. She was my partner, but couldn't keep her hands off me," Mulder says, wagging his eyebrows at Scully. She just rolls her eyes at him again. He truly was in rare form this evening.
"Mulder is sensitive about his first name," Scully teases. "So I always called him Mulder. He always called me Scully. I guess an eight year habit is pretty hard to break."
"What about you, Parker? Jarod doesn't seem to have a last name. Do you have a first one?" Mulder asks.
"I do," she blushes. "But I think that Jarod's about the only person alive that knows it. I don't really like my first name."
"That's funny," Mulder says looking at her strangely. "I knew a little girl like that once. You actually remind me of her a little."
"First love, Mulder?" Scully laughs.
"No, nothing like that at all. I actually spent most of the time running from her. She kept trying to catch me so she could kiss me," he smiles before turning back to Miss Parker, staring at her intently as if her were trying to solve a puzzle.
"What? Why are you just staring at me?" she asks, getting kind of self conscious.
"You ever been to Maine, Parker?" he asks finally. "There's an inn up there run by a guy named Ben . . . "
"Did you say Ben? Ben Miller?" Miss Parker sits up abruptly in the bed, cringing a bit at the pain the motion causes.
"That's the guy. You know the place!" Mulder says excitedly. "Kitty? Is that you?"
"Fox! Fox Mulder. I thought the name sounded familiar," Miss Parker smiles. "I can't believe it's you. Oh, and to set the record straight, Dana, I was not trying to kiss him. It was a dare. Me and Sami Ann were trying to see who could annoy you the most. How is your sister anyway, Fox?" The room grows solemnly silent and Miss Parker can tell she said the wrong thing.
"She's gone, Kitty. She was taken not long after that trip. I just recently discovered that she died a few years later," Mulder informs her. "Dad was killed a few years ago and Mom passed away last year."
"Oh, Fox, I'm so sorry to hear that." She grabs onto his hand and gives it a gentle squeeze.
"Thanks, Kitty," he says, giving her a sad smile. "You know, you look just like her. Your mom. It's awful what happened to her."
Another sad silence envelopes the room, and for awhile, nothing can be heard but everyone's breathing.
"So, Parker," Jarod says, breaking the silence, trying to change the sad subject. "What's with the name Kitty?
"I don't really remember," she says, pondering the past. "It's what Sami Ann would call me."
"Uncle Ben used to call your mom Cat," Mulder adds, not noticing Jarod and Miss Parker's surprise at his relation to the innkeeper. "Short for Catherine, right? And he would call you Baby Cat. Samantha was like six I think, and she was adamant that a baby cat was only supposed to be called a kitten. So instead of Baby Cat, she called her Kitty. I guess the name stuck."
"Ben's your uncle, Mulder?" Jarod asks, seeing that Miss Parker is shocked beyond words.
"Yeah. He was married to my mom's sister Pamela. Aunt Pam died before I was born, but Uncle Ben stayed close with the family. We'd go up to his inn sometimes," Mulder explains. "Losing Aunt Pam wrecked him. There was always a sadness surrounding him. It was like he was incomplete. Kitty, your mom changed all of that. She made him whole again."
"So they *did* have an affair," Miss Parker says shakily.
"We never really knew. They were close, but no one but them really knew the true nature of their . . . relationship."
"Is he my . . . do you know if he . . . " She pauses, biting her lip trying to hold in her tears.
"If he's your father?" Mulder asks the question she's stumbling over. "I wish I knew, but I don't. I do know that he loved you like you were his daughter. I guess that's all that really matters where family is concerned. I have so little family now. I'd be honored to have you in mine . . . Cousin Kitty." He looks at her and both of them break into a fit of giggles.
"You can call me cousin on one condition, Fox," she says when the laughter dies down. "You *have* to stop calling me Kitty."
"If you stop calling me Fox, then we have a deal," he smiles.
The morning sun streams through the bedroom window, waking Jarod from a deep sleep. He moves his arm across the bed, reaching for Miss Parker. His eyes pop open when all he encounters are cold sheets.
"Parker," he gasps, sitting up straight in the bed. He's visibly relieved when he spots her across the room in the rocking chair holding the baby. He yawns and rises from the bed, moving over next to them.
"Good morning, Princess," he whispers, kissing the baby on the forehead. He raises a bit and gives Miss Parker a kiss on the lips. "And good morning to you, Sunshine. What are you doing up? She's asleep. You should be getting your rest."
"She's so amazing, Jarod," she sighs. "I couldn't let go of her. I need this time with her." She looks down at the baby and Jarod notices the intensity of her gaze, as if she were trying to memorize the features of the tiny child.
"Parker, we're going to have forever with her," he says, trying to calm what he assumes are new mother nerves. "But you need your rest if you're going to be able to take care of her properly." He reaches out and tries to grab the child, but Miss Parker's grasp is too tight.
"Not just yet," she pleads. "A few more minutes and then you can . . . take her." Her attempts to hold back her tears are unsuccessful.
"Parker, you're scaring me," Jarod says. He looks into her eyes and notices for the first time the paleness of her skin. She was shaking a little, a slight shiver running through her body. Yet a thin sheen of perspiration coated her face. Her eyes were glassy and shallow, dark circles punctuating them. He gasps in surprise at her appearance.
"I'm sick," she admits. "There's a lot of bleeding and it won't stop. I need to go to the hospital."
"Why didn't you say so, sooner. Let's go." He finds his shoes and slips into them and grabs a t-shirt from off the dresser. He turns and finds that she hasn't moved. Her tears were flowing in a steady stream down her face.
"They're going to find me there. I can't stop that. But I won't let them find her. Or you."
"Then we'll leave her with Mulder and Scully," he suggests. "They can watch out for her. Protect her."
"You have to watch out for her and protect her, Jarod," she insists. "I don't want to drag them into this any deeper than they already are. If they have her, then they'll be in danger. You'll be able to take her and disappear so that no one will be able to find her."
"Including you," he realizes. "You want me to take her away from her mother? That's just what *they* did to me. I won't let her live without you."
"And I won't let her grow up in that place like we had to," she snaps. The force of her words drains the little strength she had left and she begins to sway. In an instant, he's by her side, scooping up the baby and laying her in her bassinet. Once his arms are free, he lifts Miss Parker effortlessly and moves her to the bed. He notices the dark blood staining her gown.
"You're tired and weak," he cries, the tears freely falling. "We have to get you some help."
"I'm not delirious, Jarod," she whispers. "I know what needs to be done. You have to take her. Take her as far away from here as you can."
A knock on the front door startles them both. Jarod goes to get it.
"Is Parker alright?" Scully asks. She has William bundled up against her chest and Mulder's behind her. "She called and asked us to come over."
"She's back here," he grumbles, leading them back to the room. "She's sick and she won't let me take her to a hospital."
"I said I would go," Miss Parker says weakly. "I know I need to go. But you have to take Serena and keep her safe. Promise me, Jarod. I'm not leaving until you promise. I'll sit here and bleed to death if I have to. I don't want my daughter anywhere near the Centre. And that's where she'll end up if they find her."
"They who?" Mulder asks.
"Very dangerous people," Jarod says. "People who would poke and prod and experiment on her in cruel ways. It's a life no child should know. It's the life I lived."
"They're going to find me at the hospital, Jarod. I'm not going to be able to hide from them. But you can. Please. Don't sentence her to the life we had," she begs.
"Parker, I don't want to leave you," Jarod cries, the tears starting anew. He falls to his knees by the bed and buries his head and Miss Parker's chest. She's strangely calm, soothingly running her fingers through his hair while he cried.
"I know," she whispers. "I don't want you to leave, either. But you have to. You have to take care of her for me. I've trusted you with my heart and my love. Now I'm trusting you with my sweetest possession. She's the best of me, Jarod. And you have to protect her."
"With my life," he agrees finally, sniffing as he lifts his head to look at her. "I won't let anything happen to her."
"I love you," she whispers, leaning forward to meet his lips with her own.
"I love you, too," he whispers back after breaking the kiss. One more look passes between them before he rises to go get the baby. He stops to give Miss Parker one last chance to hold her, but he sees that she's turned her head away. She said her good-bye earlier. She couldn't handle it again.
"Take care of her," he sobs, turning to Mulder and Scully.
"You know I will, Jarod," Mulder assures him. "She's family."
"And Mulder's fiercely protective of his family," Scully adds. "We'll make sure she's alright. We promise."
Their assurances calm him. He takes a deep breath and stands tall, knowing he must be strong for them all. With one last look at his love, he grabs the diaper bag she must have packed earlier and heads out the door. He promises himself and the precious cargo he now holds in his hands that this separation will not be forever. One day, hopefully very soon, they would all be together again.
Mr. Parker's office
Mr. Parker is sitting at his desk when the doors fly open. His flustered assistant is standing beside a smug Carson while she apologizes profusely.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Parker. I told him you weren't to be disturbed, but . . ."
"That's alright, Caroline," the old man says. "Mr. Stone is just the man I wanted to see. I'm hoping he has good news for me on a certain investment I made."
The two men look at the assistant until she gets the hint to leave them alone, closing the doors behind her.
"Based on that cocky grin on your face, I assume you have good news for me. At least, you better," Mr. Parker warns. This man had no idea who he was dealing with. The Centre had ways of making people disappear. Carson was about one mistake away from being one of those people.
"Your daughter has been found," Carson spits out, the excitement about to overwhelm him. "I had started the delivery procedure before she escaped. I knew it was only a matter of hours before hard labor set in. She couldn't have gotten far. We limited our search to hospitals within a 300 mile radius. She was finally found this morning at a hospital in Providence."
"Rhode Island?" Mr. Parker asks with a bit of surprise. "She made it all the way to Rhode Island? She had to have had some help. Did the hospital say anything about who brought her in? And what about the baby? Did the hospital mention anything about the baby?"
"So far there's no word on the baby. But I figure if you find your daughter, you'll find the baby."
"Hopefully," Mr. Parker says absentmindedly. "This situation needs to be handled delicately. No one was aware of our arrangement, Carson. To them, you were just my daughter's boyfriend. Nobody knew the real reason behind your interest in her. No one knew about the baby. So I'm not sure who to send to clean up this mess. A regular cleaner team would bring too much attention. Unless . . . "
"Lyle. I'll send Lyle to retrieve her. I'll tell him this is a family matter and that he needs to be discrete. He's been unsuccessful capturing Jarod, but this shouldn't be too difficult. She's in the hospital. She can't really get too far."
"And Lyle can be trusted?" Carson asks dubiously.
"Absolutely not," Mr. Parker says resolutely. "That boy is a greedy opportunist who would just as soon kill me for a little bit of power or money. But, he seems to have developed a soft spot where his sister is concerned. And he actually appeared to be genuinely worried about her these past few months she's been gone. I think he can be trusted to retrieve her and bring her back to us. That's all I can trust him to do."
"Well, then," Carson says, standing up to leave. "I guess that's all. I'll be waiting to hear from you on Lyle's progress. I've only begun my work with your daughter. And I can't wait until she sees what I have in store for her."
Mr. Parker waves the man off, burying his head back into his paper work, not caring what he just said. His daughter was being used for this man's sick medical experiments and he could care less. That baby was the guarantee to his future. That's all he cared about. Anything else was just a distraction.
Roger Williams Medical Center
Providence, Rhode Island
Lyle stops at the information desk of the hospital, waiting somewhat patiently for the admission's nurse to finish with the person in front of him in line. He tried to conceal his worry from his father, but the more he thinks about why he's here, the more he wonders what went wrong. When they left Carson's medical facility, Jarod was supposed to be taking Miss Parker somewhere safe to have the baby. The fact that she's now in the hospital with no sign of Jarod was disconcerting.
"Can I help you, Sir?" the nurse asks, finally addressing him.
"Yes," he mutters, reaching into his pocket. He pulls out a picture and hands it to her. "I'm looking for this woman. My sister. Have you seen her?"
The nurse takes the picture and barely glances at it. Lyle notices that she's staring more at him than the picture.
"Just a minute, please." She turns to make a phone call that he can't hear. A few moments later, she turns back to him and returns the picture. "Sir, someone will be with you shortly."
"Is she here? Do you know her?" he asks, getting more impatient with her stalling game.
"Sir, I said someone will be with you shortly," the nurse says, this time in a harsher tone. Lyle could see that she meant business and decided not to push her.
He didn't have to wait long, however. Just after he finds himself a seat, he sees a petite red head looking over in his direction. The nurse was pointing him out and nodding her head. This must be the person to see.
"Hello. My name is Special Agent Dana Scully," she introduces herself. "May I ask your interest in this woman you're searching for?"
"My interest?" he asks, a bit insulted. "She's my sister. That's my interest. Now I really wish somebody would tell me something about what's going on here. Where is Parker? Where is my sister?"
"Sir, yelling is not going to help," Scully says calmly, trying to quiet the now upset Lyle. His distress seemed authentic. But she didn't really know what to believe. Parker never said anything to her about a brother.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make a scene," he apologizes. "Now that you know what I want with her, maybe you can tell me the FBI's interest in my sister."
"Why don't you come with me," Scully suggests quietly, looking around at all the people surrounding them. She leads him down the hall and to an elevator. They ride up in silence, each studying the other, trying to figure out motives. When they reach their floor, she leads him down another hallway and stop in front of a door guarded by a tall guy with dark hair.
"Mulder," she calls to him. "This man is claiming that he's Parker's brother."
"Really?" he asks incredulously. "I don't remember her mentioning a brother. How do we know you're for real?"
"Well, I don't remember her mentioning the two of you, either," Lyle snaps back. "How do I know that *you're* for real?"
"Good point," Mulder says with a grin. "Why don't we ask her." Mulder steps aside and Lyle can see a baby seat on the floor next to him.
"Is that her baby?" he asks with a surprised smile, stepping towards the baby. He's stopped by two guns pointing towards his chest.
"Don't take another step," the woman growls.
"Put your hands up and walk into the room," the man adds. Lyle has no choice but to obey them. He pushes the door open and gasps at the sight before him. Miss Parker was laying pale and unconscious on the bed.
"Sis," he gasps. Forgetting the two people holding guns on him, he runs to her bedside, lifting her still hand into his own. "What happened to her?"
He looks at Miss Parker's mysterious new friends and plead with them for answers. They look back and forth at each other, as if they were holding a silent conversation. After a few moments of silence, the woman finally speaks.
"She had some difficulties during and after her delivery," she tells him. She has a sympathetic look in her eye, as if she believes Lyle's story.
"What kind of . . . difficulties?" he manages to ask. Feeling a bit weak, he sinks into the closest chair to the bed without letting go of Miss Parker's hand. "What about the baby?"
"She didn't fully deliver the placenta and was losing a lot of blood. She needed a transfusion, but her doctors seem hopeful that she'll recover. And the baby's fine. She's safe," Scully tells him with a smile.
"She? I have a niece?" he smiles. A beautiful baby girl who will probably look like her mother and grandmother. He looks around the room and sees the baby seat next in Mulder's lap. "Is that her?"
"No, this is our little guy," Mulder says, holding him a little closer to his chest. He still doesn't quite trust that Lyle is who he says he is.
"Then where is she? You said that she was safe," Lyle says with some concern, wondering where his niece could be. He sees another look pass between Mulder and Scully and realizes what's going on. "Jarod has her, doesn't he? There's no other reason why he wouldn't be here."
"They left earlier," Scully says after sharing one more glance with Mulder. "Parker wouldn't let us bring her to the hospital until they did. She's convinced some people will be coming for her and she wanted to keep the baby safe."
"She's right," Lyle sighs.
"I think we've answered enough of your questions," Mulder says. "How about you answer some of ours. Starting with a name. Who are you?"
"My name is Lyle," he says.
"And is that a first or last name?" Mulder asks sarcastically. "You people only seem to have one or the other."
"Mulder," Scully says, throwing him a warning glare. "I'm sorry, Lyle. Please continue."
Lyle's is about to start again when he feels movement under his hand.
She squeezes his hand and blinks her eyes a few times. Looking around the room, her eyes land on Mulder and Scully.
"Serena," she moans.
"Shh. Have a sip of water," Scully offers her. "How are you feeling?"
"Where's Jarod? Where's my baby?"
"You sent them away, remember?" Mulder reminds her.
"It's a good thing, too. Look who Dad sent to bring you home?" Lyle adds, a relieved grin pasted on his face.
"Lyle! What are you doing here?" A small smile breaks across her face and she pulls his hand closer to her chest.
"Dad sent me," he tells her. "And he hinted that he wanted this kept quiet. Whatever this deal is that he made with Carson, he doesn't want word getting out. Not even to me. He just said this was a 'private family matter'. He doesn't think anyone knows about the baby - including me."
"That's why no sweeper team," she groans, trying to lift herself up on the bed.
"Stay still, Parker," Scully orders. "You need to lay down for a little longer, at least until your blood pressure has stabilized."
"Is she really going to be okay?" Lyle asks.
"Well, she's awake now. And not nearly as pale as she was before. As soon as the doctor checks her vitals, we'll know more."
"So, Parker. Are you going to introduce us or what? Who's this mysterious brother you kept secret from us?" Mulder teases her.
"Oh, Mulder, I'm so sorry," Miss Parker blushes. "Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, this is my brother Lyle. We're twins."
"Twins? How? When? I don't understand. He wasn't . . . " Mulder stutters.
"No, he never came to the inn with us. We just found each other," she explains. "Within the past few years. And even then, we just recently started a relationship. Right around the time I found out I was pregnant. Anyway, Mom never knew about him. She was told he died at birth."
"What inn?" Lyle wonders.
"An inn run by a man named Ben Miller. My uncle," Mulder explains.
"The man whom our mother had a very close relationship with," Miss Parker continues. "Every spring, she would take a sabbatical of sorts up to Maine to stay at that inn. Every year in April," she hints, hoping he'll catch on. She doesn't really know how to tell him this.
"Our birthday is in January," Lyle slowly realizes. His eyes widen when he does math in his head, catching on to what she's trying to say. "So it's possible that this guy Ben Miller . . . "
"Could be our father."
Lyle sits in shock for a few minutes, not able to say anything. To say that the thought that Mr. Parker wasn't his father never crossed his mind would be a lie. He's even wished it on several occasions. But now that it might be true, he wasn't sure how that made him feel.
"Wow," he finally utters. "That's . . . wow." Words fail him and he just sits back in his chair processing it all.
"Parker looks tired," Scully says, breaking the tense silence in the room. "Why don't you let her get some rest. You two boys go get to know each other better. I'm going to stay, feed William, and then catch up."
"How about you tell me more about these people who are after Parker," Mulder suggests after catching the look from his wife that warned him not to even think about going against her on this. "And just how it is the two of you got mixed up with them in the first place."
"That is a long, twisted, and complicated story. But I'll do my best to explain it," Lyle says.
"Alright then. After you." Mulder holds the door open for Lyle and then follows him out the room.
The two head to the waiting room down the hall and sit down to begin a long, overdue conversation. They each get a cup of coffee sit at at table. Mulder just stares at him, trying to use his profiling skills on Lyle but can't get a clear picture. He eyes Lyle warily, still not able to bring himself to trust him. With Parker, it was easy to trust her. They had known each other as kids. But this guy was different. It was like he had something to hide. And Mulder was determined to find out what that was.
"Didn't your mother ever teach it was rude to stare?" Lyle asks, breaking the silence. "Why don't you just take a picture. It'll last longer."
"I'm just trying to figure you out, Lyle," Mulder smirks. "I'm trying to see what makes you tick. But you seem to have something to hide."
"We all have something to hide, Mulder."
"Why do I get the feeling that you have more to hide than most people?" he asks.
"Why do *I* get the feeling you're not going to let this go?"
"Because I'm not," Mulder shrugs. "I don't back down from a mystery. Especially where family - which it seems you are - is concerned. You, Dear Cousin, are the biggest mystery I've encountered in awhile. So why don't you start from the beginning and tell me all about this dangerous place and these dangerous people that you and Parker are involved with."
"It's a pretty strange story. I'm not sure you're going to believe it."
"Try me. I'm really . . . open . . . to strange ideas," Mulder smirks.
"Okay. But don't say I didn't warn you."
Miss Parker tries to hold in her tears as she enviously watches Scully nurse William. She's only been away from Serena for less than a day, but it already felt like a life time. It was like there was a huge, gaping hole where her heart should be.
"I'm sorry," Scully says, realizing she was upsetting Miss Parker. "I should go do this somewhere else."
"No," Miss Parker insists. "It's okay. Really. I just miss Jarod and Serena. I had such a little time with her. And Jarod and I . . . " She stops midsentence, letting out a deep sigh and turning to gaze out the window.
"What is it with you two?" Scully is curious. "You seem really close. Have you known each other long?"
"Just about all our lives. But like Lyle said, that's a long, twisted, and complicated story," she sighs again. "So much that involves the Centre is twisted and complicated."
"What's the Centre?"
"Home, unfortunately. For me, Jarod and Lyle. When Jarod was just a boy, probably only 4 or 5, he was taken from his family and brought the Centre. It was because of his genius ability to do anything. Become anyone."
"You guys were saying he was a pretender," Scully remembers.
"He had the natural ability," Miss Parker nods, continuing on with her story. "But he had to be taught to do the things he can do now. Jarod was in that place for most of his life. He only escaped about 5 years ago. And I was the person assigned to bring him home."
"Home? It sounded more like prison. Why would you chase him to take him back there?" Scully asks.
"Jarod wasn't the only child at the Centre. There were so many others. After awhile, my mother got tired of looking the other way with what she knew was going on at that place. She decided to rescue the children. That decision got her killed. For the longest time I blamed Jarod for that. He was my best friend. My first love. My soul mate, really. But somehow they twisted that all around and I ended up hating him. After my mother died, all I had was my father. I would have done anything for his attention. Eventually, I became him. That little girl I used to be, the girl who Jarod loved and who loved him back, died the day my father sent me away to boarding school. I guess being with Jarod at the Centre kept me human. But without him, I became the monster my father wanted me to be."
"So, you and Jarod grew up together at that Centre place," Scully says, trying to clarify things in her head. "He was a prisoner and you were there with your parents. After your mom died, your father was your only real role model. He sent you away, and when you came back, you were the daughter he wanted you to be."
"I was cold, cruel and heartless. I pretended that Jarod was nothing more than a lab rat. Just some science experiment gone bad. Eventually, he escaped the Centre. And I hated him even more for leaving me alone in that place. I was sent to hunt him down. Quitting wasn't an option. Even if I wanted to get away from that place, I couldn't. Not without bringing Jarod in first." Miss Parker stops to wipe the tear dripping down her face. She looks out the window, afraid to look at her friend and see harsh judgment on her face.
"Dana, you don't have to pretend not to be horrified by my actions. They're inexcusable. I tormented Jarod for years and pretended I didn't love him anymore. But I fell in love with him when I was 11 years old. And no matter how much I tried to kill that love, it wouldn't stay buried. I can only be grateful that Jarod found a way to reach me before it was too late. He forgave me. He gave our love another chance."
"How is it that a place like that can exist? Hasn't the government . . . " Scully starts before being interrupted by Miss Parker's sarcastic laugh.
"The government? Are you kidding me? They're one of our biggest clients," she explains. "Let me tell you why they're so desperate to get Jarod back. Remember how he said he had performed a simulation of the birthing process? That's what Jarod does. He can take a little information on a topic and then perform a simulation of the entire process. Information like that can be very helpful for certain organizations. Jarod found out the Centre was using the results of his simulations and selling them to the highest bidder. Often times, those SIMs were used to hurt people. That's when he ran away. Listen, Dana. I know you work for the FBI and all, but the government is shady. There are stacks of DSA's of old SIMs Jarod performed that bear more than a slight resemblance to certain tragic events in the recent history of this country."
"No, I believe you," Scully nods. "Just because I work for the government doesn't mean I trust them. Mulder and I have been hurt too many times by them in the past. The government is responsible for most of the pain in both of our lives."
"Then why work for them?"
"Answers," Scully sighs. "There are too many questions that we need answers to. For most his life, Mulder has been searching for the truth to what happened to Samantha all those years ago. I joined him on that quest about 8 or 9 years ago as his partner in the FBI. I was taken myself a few years later. So his quest ended up becoming my quest as well."
"Have you two been together for that long?" Miss Parker asks.
"You mean romantically? No. At least, I don't think so. It's hard to know when it is I fell in love with Mulder. Maybe that first day I met him. Maybe not until later."
"Well, *something* happened with you two within the past year," Miss Parker smiles, nodding her head towards the now sleeping baby in Scully's arms. "He's gorgeous. He looks just like Fox, but with your hair and eyes."
"Thank you. He's our little miracle. I was told I could never have children. Needless to say, I was surprised to hear the news."
"What about Fox? Was he just as surprised?"
"He . . . he wasn't there when I found out," Scully says slowly, trying to find the words to explain. She pauses for a moment as the memories overcome her. "He was taken as well. It happened the same day I found out about William."
"I'm sorry," Miss Parker apologizes. "We don't have to talk about this."
"It was a hard time. So much happened that we both just want to forget." Scully takes a deep breath and manages to hold off her tears. The pain was too fresh. She just couldn't get into it right now.
"So, you think the guys are getting along?" Miss Parker asks to change the subject.
"I'm not sure," Scully grimaces. "Mulder had that look in his eyes like he had a case to solve. He's probably interrogating Lyle as we speak."
"Well, Lyle . . . let's just say he doesn't play well with others," Miss Parker says. "I was shocked to see him and Jarod working together to get me from that place. Lyle and Jarod have never gotten along and I didn't think I'd see the day when they would. To tell you the truth, Lyle and I have never gotten along either."
"Really? That's surprising. He seemed genuinely concerned for your safety. I thought you two were close. What happened to cause the rift between you two?" Scully is confused when Miss Parker bursts into a fit of laughter.
"I'm sorry," she says through the tears now streaming down her face. She takes a deep breath to stifle the giggles. "The idea of something causing a 'rift' between Lyle and I is hysterical. We have NEVER gotten along. There wasn't anything between us to cause a 'rift'. In fact, if there was a rift, that would have been the only thing between us. The only connection I ever had with him was a piece of paper saying that our DNA matches."
"Things are different now. Things changed a few months ago. Carson came into our lives and we saw him as a threat. And we kind of bonded over that. It seemed like the sensible thing to work together instead of against each other. And it was amazing to see that we could work together if necessary. Personally, I would love to have a close relationship with him, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully trust him."
"He's that bad?" Scully asks curiously.
"Worse. I used to think that Lyle was pure evil. He still might be. Except for where I'm concerned. I don't think he'll ever hurt me or Serena. But I can't say he feels the same way about Jarod."
"A lot of bad blood between them?"
"A lot of blood, period. There's been a few times when Jarod has been recaptured. And somehow Lyle gets his hands on him and thinks it'll be fun to torture him. Stop his heart and bring him back from death. Lock him in a cage. Drug him. Things like that. One time was about two years ago. Jarod had finally found his father, after searching since he escaped. They were about to leave when some sweepers showed up. Bullets started flying and I got shot. Jarod gave up his freedom and his chance to be with his family to come and save me. That's when he got caught. Of course, Lyle might have been a little pissed about the thumb thing . . . "
"A thumb? All that over a thumb? What gives you people that kind of right?" Mulder asks angrily. "You held that man captive against his will for his entire life. And when he escapes, you do everything in your power to bring him back just to torture him. He had just saved your sister's life, Lyle. How could you take him back?"
"I warned you this wouldn't be a nice story," Lyle smirks.
Mulder can't believe this guy. It was almost as if he were bragging about all his evil doings.
"Listen, I can't say I'm proud of my life, but that's what it is. My life. It's the person that I am. I can't help that. My job is to get Jarod back to the Centre and use him in ways that benefit us all. Besides, a man is more attached to his thumb than you realize. Jarod was responsible for that. He led the Tanakas to me."
Mulder shakes his head. Just hearing about the Centre has his mind reeling. It was a wonder how this place could operate so far outside the law. But it didn't surprise him to hear that the government was involved with that place. It just surprised him how the government could buy the ideas of one man and use them to hurt others. No wonder Jarod ran away from that place the first chance he got.
"It's a wonder you two were able to work together to rescue Parker," Mulder remarks. "Torture is not an easy thing to forget." Mulder grinds his teeth, trying to hold in his wrath. He has too recent memories of his own torture.
"Well, the torture is probably the least of the reasons why he hates me. I'd guess the top of that list would be the fact that I killed his brother," Lyle mentions nonchalantly.
"You killed his brother? It was an accident, right? Please tell me you didn't kill the man's brother on purpose," Mulder begs.
"It wasn't an accident. Lyle's intention that day was murder," Miss Parker says. "No, wait. Now that I think about it, shooting Kyle was an accident."
Scully lets out a sigh of relief. She didn't want to believe someone could care so much about his sister as Lyle obviously does, and then do such horrible things.
"He wasn't trying to shoot Kyle. Kyle just got in the way. He was actually trying to kill me."
"You were trying to kill your own sister?" Mulder asks. That was the final straw. He didn't like to judge people, but he has officially concluded that this guy was a maniac. He was certifiable.
"Actually, not *really* kill her. She was my hostage. I was trying to get to Jarod. But in all fairness, I didn't know she was my sister at the time. Besides, she started it. She was sent to assassinate me earlier that year."
"Parker!" Scully gasps. "You shot your own brother?"
"I had the gun on him and realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't kill in cold blood. And I wasn't going to do it," she claims. "And did I mention I didn't know he was my brother at the time? Anyway, it turned out to be self defense. He was walking away when all of a sudden he turned around and pulled a gun on me. He was about to shoot me, so I shot him first. Or so I thought. They found a headless body in the river, but it apparently wasn't his. I don't know how he got away, but later we discovered that he had faked his own death before the same way - killing his best friend and then making people believe the headless body was his own."
Mulder rolls his eyes. This guy was a nutcase. Him and his whole family. How could someone have such a split in their personalities. It was obvious that he cared about Parker. But at the same time, he didn't seem to have any value for the human life. Mulder would guess that he was abused or tortured while growing up. A psychopath isn't born - he's made. And someone had to make Lyle. Mulder just prays for Parker's sake that she can help unmake him.
Scully paces back and forth across the waiting room floor, trying to lull William to sleep.
"All I'm saying is that maybe we should keep an eye on this guy," Mulder says, reaching into the baby bag for the pacifier. "Family or not, Lyle is nuts. And Parker's not far behind him."
"Mulder," she says in that warning tone again.
"No, don't give me that 'Mulder'. Did you hear some of those stories?" Mulder asks. "The sad thing is that he sounded proud. He wasn't remorseful at all. Scully, he killed Jarod's brother. And that was after he left a pregnant woman buried in the middle of the desert."
"Okay, I'll admit that he has some problems," Scully concedes. "But according to Parker, he didn't have the best of childhoods. His adoptive mother was insane and his adoptive father was abusive. It's hard for a person to overcome a beginning like that."
"I guess," Mulder sighs. "But it's a good thing he wasn't talking to you. I think he actually confessed to a few unsolved crimes we worked on. I was tempted to arrest him. Lucky for him, I don't have that authority anymore."
"I think Parker can handle Lyle," Scully tells him, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. She hands him the sleeping baby and watches as he gently places William in the baby seat. "We just need to make sure she stays safe while she's here in the hospital so that she can get back to Jarod and Serena as soon as possible."
"All I can say is that it must be love with those two," Mulder says, shaking his head in disbelief. "The Centre sounds horrible. And add some torture a la Lyle and it sounds unbearable. I can't believe that Parker has spent most of the past few years hunting him like he was some kind of animal just to take him back to that place. But despite all that, he still loves her."
"I don't think he ever stopped," Scully muses. "It's sweet, really. You never forget your first love. No matter what she's done, he's always been there for her. And now, she's starting to appreciate that. I don't think he has to worry about her taking him back to the Centre anymore."
"You know, it's kind of refreshing," Mulder laughs. "They actually make our relationship seem normal."
"Mulder, we're hardly normal," she laughs before planting another kiss on his lips. "And I wouldn't have it any other way."
"You really are one in five billion, Scully. I love you."
"I love you too, Mulder."
Mr. Parker's office
Mr. Parker grimaces as he flips through the newspaper. The story on the first page of the regional section was disturbing and actually gave him chest pains when he first encountered it. His daughter has apparently been a busy little bee.
The phone starts to ring, his private line. He could only assume it was Carson based on the news he just read. The man was more than likely in jail or on the run. Somehow the FBI got tipped off to his clinic and orchestrated a raid on the place. He could only assume the source was his daughter or Jarod. Several doctors, nurses, and orderlies were taken into custody, but the article made no mention of Carson. The man would have to be found. And disposed of before he decided to tell his little story. He had men out looking for him now.
"Parker," he says gruffly into the phone after the tenth annoying ring.
"Dad. It's Lyle."
"Son. I'm surprised to hear from you. I was expecting to see you here soon with your sister."
"Yeah, there was a bit of a problem there," Lyle says. "The FBI has been hanging around. They were asking me a lot of questions about Carson and a baby. Parker didn't have a baby, did she? Is that why she was gone all those months?"
Lyle looks over to Parker who was listening on the other extension. He rolls his eyes playfully, not believing that his father was buying his little innocent act.
"Is there a baby there?" Mr. Parker asks, trying to be nonchalant about it.
Miss Parker looks at Lyle and shakes her head furiously, trying to silently plead with him not to tell their father anything about the baby.
"I haven't seen a baby. I just got here," he lies. "You really think she would run off and have a baby? Why wouldn't she let Carson know?"
"Don't worry about that," Mr. Parker says. He was disappointed to hear that there was no baby. "Why don't you work on getting her home. We'll get the truth out of her by whatever means are necessary."
"I'm not sure how easy that'll be," Lyle says, trying to quickly come up with an excuse. His father's words scared him a little. For some reason, this baby was of the utmost importance. He knew that if Parker went back to the Centre, there was no telling what their father would do to her.
"Why not? Let me talk to her and tell her that it's time to come home," his father orders.
"You can't. She's, uhm . . . in a coma. Yeah, a coma. She's been that way since I got here. I haven't had a chance to speak with her. Her doctors say that they hope she'll be out by the end of the week. If not, they're going to transfer her to a different ward. I figure during the transfer, things would be more confused. I could sneak her out then."
"What?" Mr. Parker says distractedly. Someone had come in and handed him a piece of paper with news he'd been waiting on. "End of the week? That's good. We don't want to arouse any suspicion, do we? Let her stay and when they transfer her, then take that opportunity to take her. Make sure she's still unconscious, it'll be easier for you. Do whatever you have to do to ensure that. I'll have one of our staff physicians prepare a list of drugs for you."
"You want me to drug her?" Lyle asks incredulously. Miss Parker sits stunned on the bed, any respect she had left for her father now gone.
"You need to do whatever is necessary, Lyle. It's imperative we get your sister back here quickly and discretely. She needs to remain unconscious because I need you to be somewhere else right now." He holds up the piece of paper and smiles an evil smirk. "I have a loose end I need you to tie up."
Lyle hangs up the phone and catches Miss Parker's worried glare on him.
"What do you think he meant about loose ends?" she asks, not sure she really wants the answer.
"I don't think it had anything to do with you," he says to assure her. "He thinks you're in a coma. But he expects you back at the Centre by the end of the week."
"She can't go," Mulder says from the door. He had just stepped inside and neither of them heard him. "You can't be seriously thinking of taking her back there."
"Of course not," Lyle tells him. "You think I'm nuts or something?"
"The thought *did* cross my mind," Mulder tells him, crossing his arms across his chest in a definitive confrontational gesture.
"You and me both," Miss Parker says with a giggle. "And pretty much everyone else in society.
"Yeah, you're laughing now, Miss 'I have to chase my boyfriend across the country and drag him back in handcuffs. You know, you really should get some therapy about those domineering impulses," he shoots back, bringing a blush to her cheeks.
"Well, at least I don't . . "
"Alright. All of you," Scully interrupts with a motherly tone. "That's enough of that."
"Just what I was about to say, Honey," Mulder chimes in.
"I meant you, too, Mulder," she says with her hand on her hip. "You started it all."
"But Scully," he whines. She gives him a glare and he immediately shuts up.
"Anyway, Lyle. What were you saying about the Centre," Scully asks him, getting back to the earlier topic of conversation.
"I just talked with our father. He expects to see Parker soon, but I bought us a few days. At least until the end of the week. He thinks she's here in a coma. In the mean time, he needs me to do something for him. Something about loose ends that need tying."
"Loose ends?" Mulder is curious.
"My guess it has a little something to do with the raid on CarMed that Parker says you guys were responsible for. I'm sure he wasn't too happy to hear about that," Lyle hypothesizes. "Anyway, while he's busy with all that, I figure we can get Parker someplace safe as soon as her doctors say she can move. Then I'll go see what my father needs from me."
"That sounds like a plan," Mulder agrees. "We can take her up to Maine with Uncle Ben. She'll be safe there."
"Sounds good," Parker says. "When can I get out of here?"
"That depends on how you're feeling," Scully tells her. "Your doctors think that the worst is over. Of course, you shouldn't push yourself. But if you feel you can travel, then it's up to you. Your doctors shouldn't have a problem with you leaving if I assure them you'll have around the clock medical care."
"If it's up to me, then I say we get out of here." Parker gently swings her legs over the side of the bed with a slight wince and lets them dangle towards the floor. Both men make a move towards her to help her, but she holds them off with her infamous icy glare.
Lyle smirks in recognition of the look of determination that crosses her face. It was the look that inspired he both admired and feared. It was the look of one didn't let anything stop her from achieving her goal. The Centre better be ware. Miss Parker was back. And this time she had a family to fight for.
The gentle, rhythmic rumbling of the car engine lulls Miss Parker into an easy sleep. The trip to Maine seemed long and endless, so she found it easier to sleep through it. She was sore from giving birth and sore from not nursing her daughter and was starting to get cranky. Sleep seemed to be the best solution for every body. Hours later, though it seemed like just minutes to her, the car slows to a stop and she hears the doors opening.
"Parker. We're here," Mulder says, shaking her lightly.
Miss Parker wants to curl up under her blanket and sleep some more, but Mulder's words finally register in her brain and she reluctantly gets up. At least she could find a bed in one of the rooms and sleep for the next week.
"I'm a little stiff," she winces as she sits up. "Can someone help me?"
Lyle and Scully help her get out of the car while Mulder goes to greet the older man walking towards them.
"Hi, Uncle Ben." Mulder hugs the older man warmly before pulling away to look at Miss Parker and the others approach them. "I hope you have room enough in the inn."
"Always for you, Fox. You and your friends are . . . " Ben trails off when he finally notices who was walking his way. He has to literally shake himself to remind himself that this was not Catherine Parker, alive and well and walking towards him. This was the daughter he met those years ago. But she looked so much like her mother this time. There was a glow about her that wasn't there the last time.
"Miss Parker," he smiles. "It's good to see you again."
"Ben. It's good to be here again," she says returning his smile. She reaches up to hug him warmly. "But as I recall, that's 'Little Cat' to you."
They share a knowing smile and hug one more time. The last time they met, she didn't seem to remember him. But now, things have changed. He knew that she remembered the time she spent at the end when she was just a girl. The one and only time she ever came up with her mother.
"Welcome back, Little Cat. Welcome back."
"Uncle Ben, you remember my wife, Dana."
"Dana," Ben nods. "Yes, I remember. We met at Teena's funeral last year. I didn't get much of a chance to speak to you, Fox. But I'm really sorry about your mother."
"Thank you," he nods somberly.
"And I didn't know you two were married. You said that you worked together. And who is this little guy?" He smiles at William, tickling his small bare feet.
"We weren't married then," Mulder explains. "In fact, we've just recently gotten married. About a month ago. And this is William, our son."
"Newlyweds! How sweet. I'll have to give you my best room," he says with a wink. He looks around the crowd, realizing there was one other person he hadn't met. But looking into his eyes told him all he needed to know. They were Catherine's eyes. The shock sent him back a step.
"Ben, this is Lyle," Miss Parker says gently when she notices the old man's reaction. "He's my brother. We're twins."
"Catherine said that you . . . we thought that . . ." he stutters.
"She was told that I was stillborn," Lyle says. "I was taken away from her at birth."
"Dana, Fox. Can you help me inside? We can give Lyle and Ben a few minutes," Miss Parker suggests after a long, uncomfortable silence.
"Most people come up during the weekends," Ben manages to say, his shock still evident. He forces himself to look away from Lyle and addresses the rest of them. "You all will have pretty much the whole place to yourselves."
"How about the cabins?" Mulder asks. He looks at Scully and Parker and explains that they're a bit more secluded than the rooms in the main inn and will offer more safety.
"Closed for maintenance. Sorry. There is one open, however. The man staying there says he may be checking out today," Ben says.
"Scully, why don't you take Parker to the lobby and get her settled. I'll go see if the guy is going to be leaving today or not," Mulder offers. "It's no use letting her get into a room, only to have to move again."
"That makes sense," Scully agrees. She turns to lead Parker towards the main inn, but sees that the woman is busy looking at her brother. From the stories she told about Lyle, emotional confrontations weren't exactly his cup of tea. She probably was worried about his reactions to meeting Ben. But what was about to happen was inevitable. The two men had to meet eventually. Now was as good as time as any. Scully just hopes that Parker's not caught in whatever fallout that's produced.
Lyle watches Scully lead Miss Parker towards the inn before finally turning to face the man next to him. The man who could very well be his father.
"So, Parker tells me that you and my mother were close," he says to break the ice.
"Yes," the older man says with a nod, barely able to push out the words racing through his mind. All he can do is stare at the young man before him. The man who could very likely be his son. The man who more than likely *was* his son.
"I never got to know her. Parker and I just recently found out about each other. Just within the past few years." Lyle realizes he's making idle chit chat, but he's the only one doing any talking. Ben still couldn't stop staring. "Are you okay?" he finally asks the older man. "It's just, you keep on staring."
"I'm sorry," Ben apologizes. "You have her eyes, you know. But you look . . . exactly like I did when I was your age." The man looks down and suddenly starts walking towards the inn, leaving Lyle standing in shock.
Lyle finally shakes himself from his stupor and follows the old man towards the building. He watches Ben stop and sit down in one of the chairs on the porch. Probably a thinking chair - some place for him to gather his thoughts. Lyle follows him to the porch and sits in the chair next to him. He picks up a wood figurine from the table between them.
"I used to do this too," Lyle tells him, rotating the object between his fingers. "When I was younger. One day I picked up a piece of wood and a knife. The next thing I knew, I had whittled a little bird for my mom. Pretty soon, she had a whole collection. My dad used to throw them at her when he got mad, so I stopped making them because he used them to hurt her. Would you mind?" He finds an unmarked piece of wood and shows it to Ben.
"Be my guest." Ben offers him a knife. Then he picks up his own piece of wood. The two men sit in silence, yet bonding in a way that neither of them expected.
"How's this?" Scully asks Miss Parker when they reach the inside of the building. In the lobby, a comfortable sofa was on the wall opposite the door.
"Perfect," Miss Parker groans as she sinks down onto it. She didn't care if it was as hard as a rock. She just wanted a place to rest.
"Maybe we shouldn't have left the hospital so soon."
"I'm fine," Miss Parker insists. "Just sore still. And tired."
"You need to rest," Scully tells her, coming to sit next to her. "You've been through an ordeal."
"There's just one thing I need," Miss Parker sighs, smiling down at William as he sits in Scully's arms. "I need my family back. I need Jarod and Serena. Only then will I be truly fine. I feel her, you know. Like she's so close by. But I can't ever find her. It hurts so much to feel her, but not to be able to touch her. You know what I'm saying?"
"I do," Scully nods. "But as painful as that is, it would probably be even scarier if you stopped feeling her. My mother said this same thing to Mulder once. About a year after Mulder and I started working together, I disappeared. My mother told him that she had dreams about it. But as awful as the dreams were, she somehow knew it would be worse if she stopped having them. So that connection you have with Serena is a good thing. Yes, it hurts to not be with her. But as long as you can sense her, then you know she's safe. And if she's safe, then Jarod's safe."
"Thanks, Dana," Parker says through her tears. "That helps a lot." She throws her arms around the woman in an uncharacteristic display of affection on both their parts. As they pull away, the door creaks open. Mulder sticks his head inside.
"I have good news and bad news, Parker," he says with a cryptic little smile on his face.
"Okay, give me the bad news first," she cringes.
"The bad news is that the guy has decided to stick around for a few more days."
"That's okay," she sighs. "I really wanted one of the cabins, but a room will be just as . . . "
"Don't you want to hear the good news," a voice from behind the door asks. Mulder pushes it all the way open to reveal the person standing next to him.
"Jarod," Miss Parker squeals in delight, trying to run to him, but unable to stand up quick enough.
"No, stay there. We'll come to you," he smiles. He turns around and pulls a stroller into the inn, wheeling it over to the sofa where Miss Parker was sitting.
"What are you doing here?" she asks, grabbing his hand with one of her own, and reaching into the stroller to pull back the blanket with her other one. "I thought we decided that you . . . "
"No," he interrupts her. "*You* decided that. But in this past day or two, I've come up with my own decision." He reaches into the stroller and lifts the baby out, gently placing her in Miss Parker's quivering arms.
"And what's that?"
"That we can't live like this. Serena and I cannot be apart from you. No matter what, we have to stay together. We can keep each other safe," he whispers, unbidden tears fighting to break free. He takes a deep breath and leans in to kiss her, his lips urgently tugging at hers. A little cry from the wiggling bundle draws their attention.
"Sorry, Baby," Miss Parker says, smiling down at Serena. "Mommy's just ignoring you. How are you, my love? I missed you so much."
"We missed you, too," Jarod squeaks in a tiny, baby voice, causing Miss Parker to laugh. They both coo over Serena and don't even notice when Mulder and Scully slip out of the room. Not that it mattered at the moment. The only thing that mattered was that they were together again. All other worries could wait until later.
Lyle sits on the porch, looking out into the darkness surrounding him. The forest was strangely calming to him. In the distance, he can hear all the many sounds of nature blending together to play a nocturnal symphony. With only the light of the moon, he can see the land that stretches for miles around.
"It's really beautiful out here," Mulder says, interrupting his silence. Lyle motions for the man to sit down next to him. Mulder waits patiently, sensing Lyle's need to talk.
"I don't know what to think about all this," Lyle admits.
"Everything," he sighs. "Six months ago, I was comfortable with myself. Or the persona I had taken on for my entire life. I only had to worry about myself and how I was going to succeed. I was feared and hated. And that made me feel powerful. I had no relationships at all, but I didn't care. Other people were just too needy. And I didn't have what it took to deal with that. Emotions were for the weak. I didn't want to be weak."
"What changed that?" Mulder gently asks him.
"Parker. She was the only person I actually feared. She was . . . scary, for lack of a better work. She was intense and cool under all circumstances. She was fearless. But one day, I saw her cringe. I saw a man who had done something to her to actually make her afraid of him. Then I looked at her - really looked at her - and saw what he had done to her. And I don't know what happened, but something inside me made me want to protect her. I knew she didn't need my help. She never has. But at that moment, I just couldn't believe she would let somebody . . . beat her and for him to still be standing. I think her gun is the only thing she may love more than Jarod," he says with a smile.
"You're used to her being able to take care of herself. When you saw the bruises of her confrontation with this man, both physical and emotional, you realized that maybe she wasn't superwoman after all. You felt needed for once. It was a new high. A new thrill," Mulder analyzes.
"It was," Lyle nods emphatically, surprised that Mulder was able to understand what he was trying to say. "I had never felt as if anyone needed me before. And I liked that feeling. It was the first time when doing something for someone else gave me a rush like that."
"From what you tell me, you and Parker always had a volatile and highly passionate relationship. Even if the only emotion was hate, that was at least something. That was a connection. But this situation helped you connect with her in a more loving way."
"Is that what this feeling is?" Lyle laughs. "Loving. Caring. Those are foreign concepts to me. Things I never cared about."
"That's not entirely true," Mulder disagrees. "You said that everything you have done, you did for yourself. But I think acceptance by your father, or the man you thought was your father, was a big influence as well. You saw that acceptance as a form of love."
Lyle just grins at this, taking a moment to let it sink in.
"You're a smart guy, Fox Mulder," he says after a while.
"And you're not as bad as you think you are, Lyle."
"What if I am?" he whispers. "What if I can't be the kind of guy they expect. Parker has Jarod now. I can't live up to him. And what about Ben? What if I'm nothing but a disappointment to him?"
"Nobody's perfect and they don't expect you to be either. Listen, I understand how you're feeling," Mulder assures him. "I didn't exactly have the best childhood, either. My father was hardly candidate for father of the year. I was worried about the kind of father I'd be for William. But all I can do is love him with all my heart. That's all he needs from me. And that's the same with you. Love Parker. Love Ben. And let them love you in return. Everything else will work out on its own."
"Follow my heart and it'll tell me where to go?" Lyle asks dubiously.
"It sounds trite, but it's good advice."
"Even if it's telling me to do as my father asks and kill Carson? That is the one order that I won't mind following," he growls. "That man ruined my sister's life. And he should pay."
"The Centre ruined her life, too. And yours and Jarod's. Why don't you make the Centre pay? Make your father pay? But bring them to justice, Lyle. Don't make this turn this into revenge. You won't do Parker or Ben any good if you're in jail."
"I didn't think of that," he mutters dejectedly. "You see what I mean? I'm going to let them down. And they'll hate me."
"This is new for you. It's a whole new way of life. A whole new way of thinking. But what's important to note is that you consider other people's reactions now. You care about how they see your actions. That's a force that drives us all in one form or another. You're more human than you think, Lyle," Mulder reassures him. "Listen, I'm not saying you're going to be saint of the year all of a sudden. But you've obviously changed for the better. And that's a start."
"But what do I do about Carson? My father? The Centre?"
"I don't know. But whatever you decide, you don't have to do it alone. You have family now. I'll help you."
"You would do that?" Lyle asks incredulously? "For me? Why?"
"Like I said. We're family, Lyle. I'll always be behind you as long as what you're doing is right. Think about that." He stands and pats the man on the shoulder before heading up the path towards the cabin.
"Wait," Lyle calls after him. "If you're serious about helping, then I think I may have an idea."
The sound of a baby's cry seeps through Scully's sleep muddled brain. She reaches her hand across the bed without even opening her eyes. She remembered laying in the bed with William. But when her hand hits nothing, she's immediately awake. She looks across the room into the crib and sees that it's empty. Panic grips her heart as she wonders where her son is.
"Mulder," she calls out, rising from the bed and making her way to the door. She opens the door and steps out into the living room, calling for him again.
"He's not here," Jarod mumbles to her. He was sitting on the floor with the handle end of a pacifier in his mouth, baby powder in one hand, and trying to open a pack of diapers with the other. A screaming William was laying on the floor between his legs. Just next to him, Miss Parker sat in a similar position, Serena angrily kicking her legs in the air.
"Let me get him," Scully says, trying to hold back a laugh at the sight. She bends down and scoops up the howling infant into her arms, gently calming him in a way that only she can. "I can't believe Mulder left you two alone with two small babies."
"Oh, it was fine. For awhile, anyway," Miss Parker says, blowing a bit of hair from her eye. "But Serena decided she wanted to start screaming. And William decided he wanted to join her. I guess they got a little excited because now they both need new diapers."
"I'm sorry. You should have woken me," Scully apologizes. "I should be the one taking care of you, Parker. Not the other way around."
"Don't worry about it, Dana. I'm feeling so much better than I did in the hospital."
"Knock knock. Is everyone decent?" Mulder sticks his head into the cabin and looks around. He takes one looks at Scully's face and has the feeling he should turn back around and come back later. He holds the door open for Lyle and lets him enter first.
"By all means. Come in, Mulder," she says coolly. She walks over and hands the baby to him. "William was crying for you."
"Sorry," he says, putting on the innocent puppy dog face that usually melted her anger. "Hey, Buddy. Were you giving Uncle Jarod and Aunt Parker a hard time?"
"They certainly are loud," Lyle frowns, plugging his ears to block out the babies' cries. "Do they do that a lot?"
"What? Cry? Lyle, it's what all babies do," Miss Parker laughs. Jarod helps her finish changing Serena's diaper and then lifts the baby into his arms. Miss Parker struggles to raise herself to a standing position and then takes the baby from him. "Right now, it's lunch time. So you boys make nice while I go feed her."
"I'll come too," Scully says, taking William from Mulder. "I'm sure this little guy could use a snack."
Mulder waits until the door to the bedroom closes before turning to face Jarod. Lyle does the same and Jarod starts to feel a little self conscious at their sudden attention.
"What?" he asks.
"We came up with a plan," Mulder tells him.
Jarod looks from Mulder to Lyle and then back to Mulder again, wondering what the two of them managed to cook up.
"Something tells me that Parker and Dana won't like it very much," Jarod says.
"They won't," Lyle sighs. "They won't like it at all. But it's something that must be done. And it must be done now - before it's too late.
Miss Parker paces around the living room, hiding the wince that should accompany each step. She was still sore, but she needed to think. And pacing helped her to think.
"Honey, you should sit down," Jarod suggests. But he instantly shuts his mouth when she shoots an icy glare his way.
"Sit down? You think I should just sit here and let you all go blazing in there and play the heroes?" she says through tightly clenched teeth.
"You didn't even consult us on this," Scully adds, her anger rivaling Miss Parker's. "You just made the plans and figured we'd be content to just sit here and play the good little wives."
"If it makes you feel any better, I'm not going either," Jarod says. But once again, he's given the glare and decides to just stop talking.
"For obvious reasons, Jarod can't go into the Centre with us. And Parker, you know that you can't go either. For some reason, our father wants you and Serena. This will be my chance to find out why. You need to be as far away from that place as you can," Lyle pleads with her to understand.
"I don't like this, Lyle," she says. "I can fight my own battles."
"I know you can. Parker, you are the strongest person I know. But this just isn't your battle anymore. It's also mine."
"But . . . " she starts.
"I'll stick with the plan. I promise. I find out whatever it is Dad wanted me to do, turn over that information to the Feds that Mulder called, and then get Broots to start the download. We'll be in and out within an hour," he assures her.
"Why is it you have to go, Mulder?" Scully asks. "Wouldn't it be easier if I went, since I'm still active with the bureau?"
"Scully, you're needed here. William needs you," Mulder says.
"Don't start that sexist crap with me, Fox Mulder . . . "
"I'm not being sexist," he interjects. "Parker also needs you and your medical expertise. You promised the doctors you'd keep an eye on her. What would I do if there were a medical emergency? You're better equipped to deal with it."
"Arghhh!!" Scully growls in frustration before storming out the house. Miss Parker follows suit and stomps into the bedroom.
"Are they going to be alright?" Lyle asks, suddenly very afraid to cross the two women. He thought his sister was scary. But he sees now that Scully was running a close second.
"Parker's fine. She knows that we're right," Jarod sighs. "She just needs to cool off. Mulder, what about Dana?"
"She's not happy," he frowns. "I'm going to go talk to her. And hope she doesn't have her gun. She's a remarkable shot, even when angry," he chuckles slightly, raising a hand to an old scar on his shoulder. Lyle and Jarod look at each other, puzzled at the private joke. Mulder gives them a 'pray for me' look and goes outside to calm his irate wife.
"Scully . . . "
"Don't start with me, Mulder. I thought the days of you ditching me were over. But as soon as an adventure drops in your lap, you're off and running," she accuses.
"It's not like that." He gently puts a hand on her shoulder and turns her around to face him.
"Then what is it like?"
"It's Lyle. He has issues with trust as you can probably imagine. I think he's just barely beginning to trust me. He's trying to change, Scully, and do the right thing. And I promised to be there for him," Mulder explains.
"I guess I can understand that," she sighs, finally beginning to understand him. "I just wish you had spoken with us about this first. Instead of waiting for Parker and I to leave the room for 10 minutes. But, I suppose the plan is solid. So long as you stick with it," she admonishes him, giving him a peek at the arched eyebrow.
"Don't worry, Honey. You know me," he smiles.
"That's what I'm afraid of." She falls into his arms, rolling her eyes at how much of a pushover she's become.
"Parker," Lyle calls through the closed bedroom door. He knew she was angry about being excluded from the plan, but it was something that had to be done. And if she was honest with herself, she'd realize she wasn't up to participating anyway.
"Go away, Lyle," she says.
"I am. That's what I came to tell you." He leans his head up against the door and is surprised when it opens, causing him to fall forward into the room. "It's time for us to go. I just wanted to say good-bye."
She looks down at her feet and nods her head.
"I know. And I understand why I can't be a part of this. And that's what makes me angry. Being limited. Having to depend on others."
"But look at what you've gotten out of the deal," he tells her, peeking into the crib at Serena. "You have a beautiful little girl, Parker. Who's going to want to depend on you for the rest of her life. You owe it to her to be there. Blazing into the Centre with Mulder and me won't guarantee that. She deserves more than what you, me, and Jarod had."
"I know that," she says emphatically. "I do, Lyle. I realize that. She's the most important thing to me. I'd do anything for her. And that includes facing our father at the Centre. That includes hunting her father down and giving him exactly what he deserves."
"But you don't have to. I'm going to take care of Dad. And I'm going to take care of Carson. He's not her father, anyway. Not in the sense that counts. Her father is sitting right out there in the living room. The man that loves her and her mother with everything he has. The man who's giving up everything to keep you two safe."
"What do you mean?" she gasps.
"All these years, Parker. You don't think Jarod's had the power to shut that place down a thousand times over? But he hasn't. And why is that? Because that's the only place he can go for answers. Answers to questions haunting you both all your lives. You've gotten your answers, Parker. But what about Jarod? What about *his* mother? The truth about *his* family? They're still locked inside the Centre. But for you and Serena, he's given up the chance of ever finding those answers. He's the one who gave us the information we needed to take that place down for good."
"Jarod did that?" A tear streams down her face and she hastily wipes it away.
"He said that you and Serena were his family now. That you two were all that mattered." Lyle moves next to her and tentatively places his arm around her shoulder. "Listen, Sis. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I just want you to realize how lucky you are. You have things I never realized I always wanted."
She looks up at him and smiles before pulling him into a hug.
"You'll have it one day," she whispers to him, kissing him on the cheek. "You deserve this kind of happiness too."
"Well, I'm not so sure about that. Happiness might be a bit much," he chuckles. "But as long as you're happy, that'll be reward enough for me."
"Don't give up on it, Lyle. You never know what the future will bring," she says with a cryptic smile. "I'm sure your happiness is just around the corner."
"What makes you say that?"
"Let's just say . . . it's something a little birdie told me." She gives him a full fledged smile, amused at his obvious confusion. She knew he had the gift like she did. But it was just a matter of him listening to the voices.
'One day he'll hear,' a voice whispers to her. 'And then he'll understand.'
Mulder walks down the long hallway of the mysterious building known as the Centre. He follows Lyle as he stalks the corridors with an arrogant confidence that made everyone they passed cower in fear. The only sound he could hear the entire trip was the ominous clicking of Lyle's shoes against the floor. After a seemingly endless trip, they find their way to a dark room - lab is more like it, since it's too wide and spread out to be an office - with several computers lining the wall.
"Broots," Lyle calls out to the man hunched over a computer.
"Lyle," Broots says, seeming surprised. "You're back. Your father said you were out searching for Jarod. Which is kind of odd seeing as how we hadn't had any leads." Broots gazes uneasily at Mulder, wondering who the man was.
"Is this room secure?" Lyle asks.
"Yeah. I've rerouted all the cameras and I scan for bugs on a daily basis," Broots says almost proudly. He gives Mulder a funny look when the man appears to be holding back a laugh. "Anything funny, Mr . . "
"Sorry," Lyle apologizes, realizing that Mulder's presence was still unexplained. "Broots, this is Fox Mulder. Mulder, this is Broots."
"Nice to meet you, Broots," Mulder says, shaking the man's hand. "And I didn't mean to laugh before. It's just you remind me of some friends of mine. They're also a bit on the . . . overcautious side. Some might even say 'paranoid'."
"Well, paranoia is the key to survival around here, Mr. Mulder." Broots turns back to Lyle. "Any luck finding what you were looking for?"
"No need for the secrecy, Broots. Mulder's on our side," Lyle laughs.
"Why doesn't that comfort me very much?" Broots mumbles. "And why do I get the feeling that you're not down here for just a nice chat?"
"That's because you're a brilliant guy, Broots," Lyle mutters sarcastically.
"Oh gee. Thanks for the compliment. Okay, what is it? What do I have to do, Lyle? Who's files do I have to hack into?" Broots cringes, afraid of what Lyle's about to ask. Miss Parker always had him hacking into someplace he would never dream of going. He had no reason to believe that Lyle wasn't the same way.
"I need some information, Broots. But it could be dangerous," Lyle warns.
"Tell me what it is and I'll tell you if I can do it," Broots manages to say with a surprisingly steady voice.
"I need you to download the names and any information on all the children the Centre has acquired throughout the years. Information including the parents, so that they can be returned, and the person responsible for . . . acquiring them, so that they can be held accountable."
"But Lyle, it's possible that you . . . "
"I realize that, Broots. But I don't plan on sticking around to get caught. Mulder's going to take the information to the FBI, and that'll be enough to start an investigation of this place. After you do that, take this and run this executable." He gives Broots a disk and watches the man eye it warily.
"A little application Jarod came up with," Mulder explains. "It's a virus, of sorts. It'll work it's way through the Centre mainframe and release chunks of information to the world wide web."
"All the Centre's dirty laundry will be aired," Lyle continues. "Minus any mention of certain people, of course."
Broots is visibly relieved. Although he doesn't think he's taken part in anything illegal, he wasn't sure what records the Centre could have on him.
"The program parses out files with any mention of Jarod, Miss Parker, you, me, and Sydney and downloads them to a separate location. Basically the Centre is going down, Broots. And there won't be a thing they can do to stop it."
"I can't believe it," Broots says, shaking his head. "This is really going to happen."
"It's really going to happen," Lyle assures him, looking at his watch. "But I have to meet with my father first. Hopefully he'll have the information on Carson that I need to get him out of our hair as well. While I'm gone, you need to tell Sydney to get Angelo and your daughter and take them to a safe location that Mulder will tell you about. Then, start the first download. When that's done, I should be done with my father. Activate the virus and we'll need to get out of here as soon as possible to avoid getting arrested."
"Is that all? Are you sure you don't want me to stand on my head and paint a Monet while I'm at it?" Broots asks, rolling his eyes.
"As interesting as that would be, Broots, no. But I'll take a rain check," Lyle laughs. "You've got 45 minutes. I should be back by then. Fellas, good luck." He turns on his heel and walks out the door, pausing briefly outside to gather his wits. Just a little while longer and it'll all be over, he tells himself. This will be one last meeting with is father before the man is out of his life for good. Lyle should be ecstatic. But for some reason, he just feels as if his life is about to be irrevocably changed.
He starts down the hallway towards the elevator that will take him to his father's office. He usually preferred the stairs, but today the elevator seemed to be calling to him. He steps inside and his eyes fall on the small hole in the wall. His hands seem to go to the hole of their own accord, circling the small diameter several times. In this elevator was the last time anyone who loved her ever saw his mother. It never really made much of an impact on him before. But today, he can practically hear the gunshot and the screams. He shuts his eyes and can almost see the scene in his mind. Only, he's seeing it from Miss Parker's point of view from when she was a child. A chill settles through him and he has to shake himself back to the present. Opening his eyes, he sees that the elevator has arrived at his floor.
He steps out and continues towards his father's office, stopping briefly at the empty secretary's desk. He waits a few moments to see if maybe she went to get coffee, but no one ever returns. He finally lets himself into his father's office and sits in the big, leather chair behind the desk.
Lyle glances at his watch and realizes that he doesn't have the time to wait for his father. Broots and Mulder would be done with the downloads soon and it would be time to activate the virus. He needed to find the information on Carson that he suspects his father has.
Outside the office, Lyle can hear that the secretary has returned. That added an extra challenge - searching his father's office without making any noise to draw attention to himself. He carefully moves around the files and stacks of paper littering the desk top. Most of the paperwork was just memos and reminders, but a torn piece of yellow legal paper catches his eye. He scans the paper and realizes this is what he's looking for. It has Carson's name and an address. And in the corner underlined three times is a code or password of some kind. Lyle's curiosity gets the best of him and he takes a few more moments to try to decipher what the word meant. He looks around the office and a filing cabinet catches his eye. Moving quietly across the room, he reaches for the first drawer before he gets a strong feeling not to. It was almost like a light wind breathing into his ear that his answers would not be found there. Instead, he reaches for the second to the last drawer.
All the files in this drawer were labeled in a similar fashion to the code word, so he figures he's in the right place. After a few short minutes of looking, he finds a corresponding file. Not wanting to spend an extra minute in there, he tucks the file into the back waist band of his pants and walks towards the door. He takes a deep breath to calm himself back down and prepares to encounter the secretary.
"Caroline," he calls out to her. She jumps, startled by the surprise.
"Mr. Lyle, sir. I didn't realize you were in there. Your father was called to a meeting."
"I was supposed to be meeting with him today, myself," Lyle says, easing his way down the hall. "But I have some other things to take care of. Let him know I dropped by, won't you? Thanks. You're a doll." He flashes her his usually cocky grin and saunters back to the elevator, trying not to look too suspicious.
The trip back to the lab seemed to take even longer. He didn't want to open the file in the hall, but he was dying to know what was in it. He was getting that strange feeling again - the feeling that something big was about to happen.
"Of course something big is about to happen," Broots whispers, pulling the man inside the room. He looks around outside the hall to make sure nobody was lurking around before slamming and locking the door.
Lyle looks at him strangely before realizing he must have expressed his thoughts out loud.
"How's it going down here?" he asks.
"Right on plan," Mulder smiles. "How about you?"
"Perfectly. My father wasn't even in there, so I didn't have to face him. I got the information on Carson . . . and then some." Lyle pulls out the file and starts flipping through it.
"Well, Sydney is on his way to Maine with Debbie and Angelo as we speak. Mulder said that Jarod and Miss Parker would be expecting them. The downloads are just about done. As soon as this last CD is burned, we can activate the . . . Lyle, are you even listening?" In the midst of his rambling, Broots happened to glance over at Lyle and noticed a panic stricken look on his face. Maybe not panic. It was a look more of horror and revulsion.
"Lyle?" Mulder calls to him, also noticing the man's strange behavior. "What is it?"
"I can't believe this," Lyle mumbles. The file shakes in his trembling hands. "It's too much. How could he . . ."
"Lyle, what are you talking about? Talk to me," Mulder insists. Lyle's behavior was starting to frighten him.
"I have to go get something," Lyle says, still in a daze. "Start the virus and get out of here. We don't have anymore time to waste. If I don't meet you out front, go on without me." He closes the file and hands it to Mulder before storming out the door.
"Where are you going?" Broots calls to him. "Lyle . . . "
"We need to get out of here," Mulder tells him. He looks at the file in his hands and sees the slip of paper with the location of Carson paper clipped to the front. "We got what we came for. Let's start the virus like Lyle said and then get out of here. We don't want to be caught in here all the excitement starts." Mulder carefully packs away the CD's and the file Lyle gave him into the bag he brought and slings it over his shoulder.
"Alright. Done," Broots says, after typing in the long sequence of commands Jarod programmed to make it virtually impossible for anyone to accidentally set this thing off. "Are you sure we can't wait for Lyle?"
"No. We have to get out of here," Mulder insists. "Let's go."
The men walk out in the hall and hear the first strings of murmurings started. The virus seems to be having some effect already. By the time they reach the front doors, the place is blazing with activity. And if they listened closely, they could hear sirens in the distance.
Mulder pauses by the doors momentarily, hoping Lyle would have caught up with them. Looking through the mass of people now crowding the hallways, he sighs in disappointment not seeing Lyle.
"I think I see him," Broots says, standing on his toes, straining to see over the heads of the crowd. Both men are visibly relieved.
"I thought I told you to go," Lyle says angrily. "You two have got to get out now. But you've got to do me a favor."
He looks down at his side and the other men let their gaze follow.
"You have to take him with you." He bends down and reaches for a little boy, placing him in Broots' arms.
"Baby Parker?" Broots asks, looking at the little boy in his arms. "I thought we decided on leaving your brother here."
"Change of plans," Lyle sighs. "Take him to Parker and give her the file. She'll know what it all means."
"Wait. Where are you going?" Mulder asks as Lyle turns away.
"I can't be seen with you. It'll only put us all in danger. Trust me. I'll find you." He looks sadly at the little boy and gently strokes his hair once before running back into the crowd.
Mulder and Broots stand there stunned, watching him disappear back into the Centre.
"We have to go," Mulder says, nudging Broots.
They run to where the car is parked up the road, about half a mile from the Centre. They pull off just as the authorities reach the Centre. In the rear view window, they can see the sea of officers rushing the building dragging out whoever was inside. For the first time in his life, Broots finds himself praying for Lyle's safety. Because for whatever the reason, Lyle sacrificed his freedom for this child. And anyone who would do that, at least in Broots' opinion, deserved a little mercy.
"Am I doing this right, Miss Parker?"
Miss Parker looks over at the girl next to her with a sleeping Serena in her arms. She didn't really hear what the girl said. Her mind was steady wondering how much longer Lyle and the others would be.
"You're doing just fine, Debbie," Jarod assures the girl, noticing Miss Parker's distraction. "Why don't we take her back in the room and change her diaper?"
"That would be fun," Debbie giggles. She lets Jarod take Serena and they go into the room.
"I'm sure they're going to be fine, Parker," Scully says after the others leave.
"I hope you're right," Miss Parker whispers, standing up to go over to the window. She pulls the curtain open and peeks outside. "I just have this feeling that . . . I don't know. I don't want to jinx anything."
"I've had plenty of practice over the years worrying about Mulder. He has a tendency to get himself into trouble," Scully laughs. "So I can sense if he's in any danger. Somehow, I usually know. But right now, I'm feeling like he's fine. Him and Lyle promised to stay together, so I'm sure they're both fine."
Scully stands at the window next to Miss Parker and stares out the other side. Down the road, she can see a cloud of dust being stirred up. A few minutes later, she can see the cause of that disturbance - a car coming down the road. Her face lights up with a relieved smile.
"Speak of the little devils," she says, smiling at Miss Parker. "I think they're coming now."
The women step outside on the porch and wait for the approaching car to stop. Mulder gets out first and runs to Scully, gathering her in his arms and giving her a big kiss. Broots steps out next and stands next to the car, unable to meet Miss Parker's eye.
"Where is he?" she says, realizing that something was wrong.
"There were some extenuating circumstances," Mulder starts, nodding at Broots, signaling him to bring the baby inside. "Why don't we go inside and I'll explain everything to you."
"Fox, where's my brother? Why isn't Lyle with you?"
"We have your brother, Parker." Mulder puts his hand on her shoulder and turns her towards the car. "Just not the brother you were expecting."
They all look towards the car where Broots has just freed Baby Parker from his seatbelt.
"It's my baby brother," she says, confused. She smiles at the little boy and he comes running into her arms, giving her sloppy kisses all over her face. "I thought he was going to stay . . . "
"We thought so too," Broots interrupts her. "But at the last minute, Lyle took off to get him. And told us to bring him to you. He was reading that file he found in your father's office when he got all weird."
They all go inside. Mulder gives Parker the file and then goes to pick up William from his baby seat, cradling the little boy tightly against his chest.
"That's the file he was reading," Broots explains as Miss Parker starts to read it. "He had the file and we were about to leave. But he just kind of zones out and says . . . "
"I can't believe this," Miss Parker gasps.
"Actually, yeah. That's exactly what he said," Broots says.
"No," she shakes her head. "I really can't believe my father would do this."
"Parker, what is it?" Scully asks her. Miss Parker just stares at the file, unmoving. "Mulder, go get Jarod." She tries to call to Miss Parker again, but the woman still doesn't respond.
Broots takes the file from her hands and begins to scan it himself to find out what's so shocking in it.
"What's going on out here?" Jarod asks, running from the room. Scully takes Serena from him and he goes to sit on the sofa next to Miss Parker. "Parker? Are you okay? What's Baby Parker doing here?"
"Lyle sent him," she manages to say.
"Sent him? I don't understand. Where *is* Lyle?" Jarod looks up to Mulder and Broots for the answer to that question. Or any of the questions floating around for that matter.
"We were about to leave," Broots starts, explaining the story again. "Lyle was reading this file. He freaks out and goes to get the baby. When he meets up with us, he tells us to take the baby and that we have to split up to keep everybody safe. If he hadn't gone back, then we all would have made it back here together. Going back for the baby threw off our timing. But he felt he had to go back. He risked his safety for the baby."
"He did? Why?" Jarod asks.
"Because Serena wasn't the only experiment my father was working on. In fact, she wasn't even the original intent of the . . . project." Miss Parker spits the word out as if it were lukewarm soup.
"This started a few years back with Brigitte," Broots continues for her, summarizing what he had just read in the file. "Mr. Parker knew that she and Lyle were having an affair. He made her an offer she couldn't refuse. He promised her great power at the Centre in exchange for one thing. She would have to agree to have Lyle's child."
"So what you're saying is that . . ."
"Baby Parker doesn't belong to my father. He belongs to Lyle. He was just an experiment, just like Serena." Miss Parker lowers her head and cries, the thought too horrible for her to even comprehend. Her father has done some terrible things. But using his children to create new test subjects for him to steal was above and beyond.
"It's okay, Honey," Jarod says in a soothing tone. "They're here with us now. They're safe. Your father can no longer get to them. Lyle made sure of that. We're all going to be alright. And wherever Lyle is, I'm sure he's going to be alright, too." He kisses her on the forehead and pulls her in his arms.
He nods at Broots, Mulder and Scully as they gather all the children to take them to the main house where Ben, Angelo, and Sydney are. Things didn't turn out exactly as they planned, but all things seemed to have worked out anyway. It would take awhile before life was normal, but it would only be a matter of time. All the tears she was crying now were purging all the pains from the past - making way for nothing but joy in the future.
1 Week Later
Jarod and Miss Parker stand on the porch, watching Mulder pack the trunk of the car. Scully comes out the cabin with William and the last of their bags.
"Are you guys sure you don't want to come with us?" she offers. "Mulder and I just got this huge house right outside of DC. There's plenty room for you all."
"Thanks, but we're going to stay here for awhile. Wait to see if . . . you know . . .this is the last place . . . he'll know to look for us here."
"Yeah," Miss Parker nods. "I want to be here when he returns."
"I understand," Scully smiles. She leans over to give them all hugs before joining Mulder by the car.
"Well, Kitty. It's been a real adventure," Mulder laughs. He pulls Miss Parker into a tight hug, making sure not to squish Serena. He gives her a kiss on the cheek before turning to shake Jarod's hand. "Jarod, it's been good meeting you. Take care of my cousin, alright?"
"Don't write us off completely," Jarod says. "We may show up on your doorstep one of these days. We might decide to just stop the car, get out and lead a normal life."
Mulder and Scully exchange secret looks, his words having special meaning to them.
"Jarod, let me give you some words of advice based on personal experience." Mulder pauses for a moment to gather his thoughts. "Normalcy - much like beauty - is in the eye of the beholder. Your life is your life. Live it the way that will make you happy." He turns to Scully and sees a big, pleased grin plastered on her face.
"You ready, Mulder?"
"Let's go, G-woman," he says with a smile, causing Scully to smile with him.
They wave good-bye one last time before getting in the car and heading for home.
"I'm going to miss them," Miss Parker says with a sigh, shifting Serena up to her shoulder. She goes to sit on the swing on the porch, leaving room for Jarod and Baby Parker. "Family is nice. It's comforting to know we're not on our own."
"Lyle knows the same thing, too. He knows we're here waiting on him. And he knows his son is here. He risked his life for him. I don't think he plans on letting him down now."
"I hope you're right," she says, looking up into the night sky.
"It's getting late. How about we get these little ones to bed?"
"Can you manage them both by yourself?" she asks. "I think I want to sit out here for a little bit longer."
"Sure," he smiles. He leans over to kiss her and then lifts Serena from her lap.
"Andrew, Honey," she calls to Baby Parker. "Go with Jarod. He's going to help you get to bed."
The little boy nods and takes Jarod's free hand, following him into the house. Miss Parker looks at them and smiles as they disappear through the door. Jarod was so good with kids. She couldn't wait until they had more.
'Slow down there, Parker,' she warns herself. 'You don't even know for sure that he wants to be a family. Especially with you and another man's child.'
"Please want that too, Jarod," she begs aloud to the dark night. Almost as if she were making a wish on the stars.
"I'm sure he wants whatever you want." A voice from the darkness startles her.
"Lyle?" she questions the darkness. "Is that you?"
"The one and only," he chuckles slightly. "I guess that's a good thing, though. What would this world be like with more than one of me running around?"
He steps up on the porch and is surprised by the force of her body crashing into his own. She holds him tightly, hugging him with all her might.
"Where have you been? It's been a week, Lyle. I was worried sick."
"They would have been looking for me. If I stayed with Mulder and Broots, we all would have been caught. We stayed too long."
"Because of the baby. Because of your son."
"That's so crazy. My son," he laughs a joyless laugh. "I have a son. And I didn't even know it. Yet one more thing our father took from us."
"Don't let him take anymore from us. Let's live our life now," she begs him. "You owe it to yourself, you owe it to me, and you owe it to that little boy in there."
"What if I screw up somehow? Parker, he'd be better off not even knowing I exist."
"I don't believe that. And I don't think you do either. Lyle, you risked your life for him. In ten minutes, you learned to love him so completely that you'd give your life for him. He could do a lot worse than someone like you in his life. Give yourself a chance. Give love a chance."
"That's oddly similar to the advice Mulder gave me," he laughs.
"Then I say you go with it," she challenges him. "Don't let the Centre or our father take up anymore of our lives. Go in there to your son, Lyle. Let him get to know you. Love him, and he'll love you back."
She smiles at him and holds out her hand, silently pleading with him to take it. He's hesitant for a few seconds, but then steps up to her and accepts her offering. She clasps his hand closely and gently pulls him into the house - into a new life with his child.
Miss Parker sits on the porch the next morning, watching Jarod and Lyle play with the kids. She's constantly amazed at how quickly they both have adapted to fatherhood. And she was even more amazed at how completely the children loved them. Serena was barely two weeks old, but it was obvious how much she adored Jarod. He already had her spoiled rotten.
Jarod spots her spying on them and leaves Lyle and Andrew by themselves. He walks up the porch where Miss Parker is and sits next to her, setting the baby seat on the ground between them.
"They're good together," Jarod says, nodding his head towards Lyle and Andrew.
"You sound surprised," she teases him.
"And you're not?"
"Maybe a little. We Parkers tend to get what we want once we set our minds to it." She smiles at him and gives him a quick kiss. She curls up in his arms and enjoys the warm sun for a few silent minutes.
"I think we should move on," she says. "Go someplace where we can get settled and start our life."
They swing in silence for a few more minutes while he contemplates what she just said and how he's going to answer her.
"Maybe we should drive south for awhile," he suggests. "I hear DC is really nice this time of year."
She smiles. It's just what she was thinking.
"It would be nice for Serena to grow up with her cousins. She'll be near William. And I'm sure we could convince Lyle settle somewhere nearby with Andrew."
"Cousins are nice. But so are brothers and sisters," he says, smiling at her. "Maybe she could get some of those eventually? Maybe after me and her mom get married?"
"She'd like brothers and sisters," Miss Parker says, her heart filling with joy at his proposal. She was ecstatic to know for sure that he wanted what she wanted - a family. "And she'd love to have a father."
"And what about you?"
"I already love her father," she smiles and then reaches up to capture his lips with her own. "Marrying him would be my pleasure." She pulls him closer again and attacks his mouth, almost viciously this time.
"I love you, Parker," he says with all seriousness. "More than anything in this world. You and Serena are my life. I promised you forever. This is just the beginning."
"Jarod, my heart belongs to you - and only you - forever and for always," she says, echoing his words from so long ago. From the night on the beach that changed both their lives.
"Forever and for always," he whispers. They meet again in another kiss, sealing their vows.
She knew he couldn't promise there wouldn't be any more tears. And she knew he couldn't promise there wouldn't be anymore pain. But he could offer her his heart. And all the joy it contained. And that was all she really needed.
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