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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.

Thanks to Ra-chell! Her story 'Fire' gave me the idea for this one of mine.

THE ARABIAN PHOENIX part 1
By Stefi


Sydney's home

Sydney was lying in bed, sleeping in the middle of the night when the phone rang beside him, jerking him out of his sleep. The old man reached over to the beside table and felt around blindly for the lamp before switching it on and successfully blinding himself with the light. While Sydney's eyes were recovering from the light, he grabbed the ringing phone.
"This is Sydney."
"How are you, Syd?" Jarod's voice was always a joy to the shrink's ears, even if it was past midnight.
"Jarod! I was beginning to worry." Sydney said.
"And why? You know I can take care of myself, The Centre will never get its hands on me!" Jarod said a matter-of-factly.
Sydney smiled lightly. At least Jarod was in a good mood.
"Have you heard about Parker's house? It's all burned."
"How is she going?" Jarod asked gently.
"Oh, she wasn't at home. But everything was burnt. Gone. It wasn't possible to save anything." Sydney said sadly.
"You didn't answer me, Syd. How is she doing?" Jarod asked again.
Sydney still had in his mind Parker's eyes, blank and emotionless.
"Not good. Her home was.. everything, to her. The place where she grew up. It was full of memories for her, of her mother, Thomas. You know that as much as anyone."
Jarod knew it and feared the moment Parker would have reacted to her loss.
"Sydney. How is she doing?" He asked for the third time.
Sydney sighed, his protégé wasn't going to let it go. "On the outside, she's in her usual self.. "
"But.. ?" Jarod asked. He knew there was more to it than that.
"But every time I look at her, I feel like.. like I was unable to help her. She doesn't talk, you know her, she doesn't ask for help, but in a certain way, I always managed to reach her. This time, this time I failed. This time she keeps me away from her mind and I don't know what to do." This was likely the longest speech Sydney had ever made.
Jarod felt all his sorrow, through the phone and tried to comfort his mentor. "Never stop trying, Syd, she needs you, now more than ever."

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

The Centre.
Same Time.

Parker sat on the floor, a glass in her hand. Drinking wasn't the best thing to do. She felt dull and upset. Her gaze slid from the window to her desk, the computer on it, the filing-cabinets at her side..
Parker had always hated that place, but she didn't have anywhere else she could go. Not anymore.
"Why did they burn my house?" She asked herself. But she knew well the answer: the Centre wanted her focused on Jarod. The Centre thought she was too distracted with things that weren't her concern, like her mother's death.
Why she felt such need to dig around and find the truth? And Thomas? Why bothering to find his murderer?
Her job was to capture Jarod, and nothing else. Parker was the best, always has been. As long as she left her feelings out of it. Feelings are weakness and The Centre took great care in avoiding any weaknesses.
Her mother was weak, and Parker was weak too, because of her mother. No problem. Her mother vanished.
Thomas was another weakness, Parker thought even to leave, for him. No problem. Thomas was gone.
Her house, her home. All she had to tie her to her past, to her mother, to Tommy, to what she used to be. No problem. Her house was burnt down to ashes.
No more weaknesses. No more ties.
After all, they were right. Parker felt like she was drifting away, without anything and anybody to hold on. She could only rely on herself. There wasn't anything left.
The moonlight was reflected in the pictures on her desk. Her mother. Her father. Parker took the photos off the desk and stared at her mother's picture. She felt nothing inside as she looked at the picture.
No more ties. They made it. They took away her soul.
"No feelings, no weakness. Now I know what I have to do." Parker put out the pictures from the frames and ripped them.
"Daughter hurts.. " She didn't realize Angelo's closeness till he made his voice heard. Parker looked in his eyes and stayed silent. The strange man took the pictures' pieces slowly out of her hand and stared at his old friend "Daughter can heal.. "
"No, Angelo." She whispered. "Daughter is gone, like Mommy."
Angelo began to softly cry. "No! Daughter still here.. Mommy still here.. inside you.. " He said and held the torn pieces together, frightened from what he felt and saw in her heart.
"You're wrong, Angelo. She's gone. I try to find her but.. she's gone, Angelo." Parker turned her look away. "She's gone."
Angelo shook his head "No, Daughter, don't go.. " He cried and tried to touch her but he felt she wasn't reachable anymore "Don't go, stay Daughter, stay."
Parker didn't listen; Angelo's despair didn't touch her.
In the empty space of her mind, she saw the right thing to do and there wasn't any room for feelings.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

The Centre.
The Next Morning.

The next morning Sydney went at work as usual, trying to ignore his own disease. Those days weren't so happy, not that it was possible to be happy, in The Centre. But to face Parker was getting harder and harder. He felt useless and.. scared? Scared of a woman he knew since years! Sydney felt almost guilty for such feelings. But he couldn't help them because they were what he felt.
"Maybe today she will talk to me." He sighed as the elevator ran down to the SL-5. Just as Sydney stepped out of the elevator he saw Parker coming out of the tech room.
"Good morning, Miss Parker." Sydney said to her warmly.
Her gaze slid on him, "Sydney." She answered, with a light nod, but without stopping. Sydney noticed her clothes, the same ones she wore the day before, her eyes, black-ringed for loss of sleep.
"But Miss Parker.. you didn't sleep here, did you? Why didn't you go home?"
Parker pressed the button to call the elevator.
"I haven't a home anymore, remember?" She said with a voice lacking emotion.
"I thought your brother would have given you hospitality."
Parker smiled, but he didn't know why that smile sent a shiver down Sydney's spine.
"Yeah, my dear brother! And you thought I would accept?"
The elevator's doors closed, taking the woman from Sydney's sight. The shrink went in the tech room only to find Broots typing frantically on his keyboard.
"Good morning, Broots."
The tech jumped on his seat "My God, Sydney! Don't do that to me!" The nervous tech yelped when he finally returned to his seat.
"I only said 'good morning'" Syd stared at his friend. He looked more nervous than ever. And scared. Him too.
Welcome to the club!
"She asked you to do something, right?" Syd tried to talk calmly, but failed.
Broots had a strange laugh "Asked? Why, Sydney! She does NOT ask! She orders!"
Sydney nodded, his friend had a fair point. "And what did she order you to do?"
"To find everything about Jarod and give it to her. All files and DSA's. Everything!"
Sydney stared Broots. "Everything?!"
"Everything!"
"But.. but that's a sea of files!"
"Don't tell me that! Tell her!"


Sydney stroked his chin in thought "And what does she want to do with them? Did you ask her?"
"Do I look like I have a death wish?"
"No, of course, my friend. It's difficult talking to Parker, these days."
Broots nodded "Yeah, she's not herself. I feel sorry for her, her house, I can imagine how she feels but.. Sydney, you've seen her, she seems.. another person!" the poor geek tried to explain himself "She scares me. I know, I'm a rabbit, but I never thought before for a second that Parker would be.. dangerous, like Mr.. Parker or Raines. This time I.. I think so."
Sydney patted on Broots shoulder "I know, I know. I feel the same. I don't like to say this, but the truth is that Parker is capable of everything."
"This isn't like when Thomas died." added Broots "She suffered awfully, then. But this time, I don't understand, Syd, it's like there's no life anymore inside her."
"Daughter gone." a whisper came from behind them.
Sydney and Broots turned to see Angelo in a corner, his hands pressed on his chest, his eyes shining from tears.
The two men exchanged looks, then slowly they approached the Empath.
"What's happened, Angelo? Why are you crying?" asked Sydney with sweetness.
"Daughter gone." Angelo repeated.
"What have you there?" the tech asked, seeing something in Angelo's hands.
"Would you let me see, Angelo?" Sydney held out his hand and took what it seemed a picture, ripped and stuck together again. Again, the two men exchanged looks, both astonished.
"But it's.. " Broots gasped and Sydney, nodding, completed "Catherine Parker's picture, yes, that one Parker always kept on her desk."
The elder man addressed Angelo "Listen Angelo, did you rip this picture?" He knew well Angelo didn't do it, but Syd tried anyway to find another explanation that wasn't the one he feared the most.
Angelo shook his head and took the picture, caressing it.
"No more Daughter. No more Daughter." he whispered, choking and sniffing.
Broots looked Sydney with fear in his eyes "Syd, what it means? No more daughter? He means.. he doesn't mean.. like Timmy, right?"
Poor Broots wanted to be reassured, but when Sydney looked up to him, the tech saw his same fear.
"He means that Parker is lost. We can't help her anymore."

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Meanwhile, in Memphis

Jarod was ready to leave but chose to wait another day, it was still safe for him. He was thinking about Parker, he couldn't avoid it. Even if he never had a home, Jarod understood very well how it hurt to lose it. He wanted to talk to Parker, tell her how he was sorry, but she didn't answer the phone, and that worried him. That and what Syd said last time they talked.
"My God, they took everything away from her!" He sighed sadly. "Now what will happen?"

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

At the Centre

Parker was at her desk, reading and studying files, when her office doors opened.
"I didn't hear knocking." She said, without even looking up.
"Well, Angel, I thought to be always welcome in here" answered the voice of Mr Parker "and not needing permission to come and see my own daughter."
His daughter put her gaze on him, but nothing in it said she was glad to see him.
"You, maybe, can feel yourself welcomed, but surely not those two!" She pointed with her chin at Lyle and Raines, who stood beside her father.
The elder Parker felt the unusual need to justify himself.
"We wanted only see if you were.. okay, Angel."
"You saw me, now if you.. all of you" she corrected "leave me alone, I can do my job." And she went back to her files, without another look to her guests.
Mr Parker frowned lightly. Her daughter was always respectful toward him, and longing for his presence and attention. Now she seemed almost annoyed by him.
Lyle was glancing at his father, him too amazed, and amused, by Parker's attitude.
Raines made his voice heard for the first time stepping into the office
"When.. we see.. some good.. results, we'll.. leave you.. alone."
Parker lifted her head and stared her longtime enemy. In her eyes there was no hate or rage. Only an empty, blue look.
"You leave me alone, now." The tone was flat and absolutely non-threatening, and yet Raines took a step back. He was used to a Parker who hated him and hissed at him and threatened him, but not to this cold, inexpressive, DEAD woman.
"My Angel is right, Raines. How can she focus on her task, while we're all in her way? C'mon, let's go." Mr. Parker said and the trio left.
Outside of Parker's office, Lyle spoke for the first time.
"Dad, she looks.. not in her best shape."
Mr Parker shook his head. "What are you saying, Lyle? She looked really good to me, resolute and steady." He looked around them "It seems.. it has been a good idea.. " another look around ".. burning her house. Too many distractions, too many weaknesses! Now, she's again my little girl!" Mr. Parker smiled openly. "Resolute and steady!" He repeated.
Raines stared the elder man. "Do you think.. she can make it.. this time?"
"I'm sure!" Was Parker's statement. The two men went on to the elevator, as Lyle stayed slightly back. He wasn't persuaded by this stuff. Parker wasn't the same anymore, and this fact worried him.
Maybe burning her house had NOT been a good idea.
Maybe it had been the worst mistake they could have done.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Same Time.

Parker was again searching through folders, sheets and pictures, already forgetting about the visit from her father and the other two. She HAD to find Jarod!
A little voice, inside her, was still trying to make her settle down, but Parker wasn't listening. Everything had changed. Feelings had been her weakness for so many years..
"Where are you?" She whispered, staring an old Jarod's picture "Where are you, Wonderboy?"
The voice inside her heart became more and more faint, till it vanished.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

The Centre.
Later that Day.

"Bad mood, son?" Mr. Parker walked toward his own car in the parking lot, followed by Lyle. "Aren't you in a hurry to go home? It's been a long day."
"I was only thinking.. " answered the younger man ".. there's something wrong with her."
Mr. Parker made an amused face as he looked at his son "And since when do you worry about your sister?"
Lyle gave an annoyed gesture before responding.
"I'm not worried about her, but about US!" The puzzled look on his father's face made Lyle almost curse: how could be this man so stupid and blind? How could he not to be aware of the danger? "Dad," he tried again. "She isn't the Parker we used to know. She isn't the real Parker!"
"Wrong! That one" Mr. Parker pointed to the building where his daughter still inside. "That one IS the real Parker, A real Parker!" And with a pleased smile, the elder man got into his car and drove away.
Lyle stayed back, following the car with his gaze. Then, he looked back at the building, he had the feeling of an impending danger, but he didn't know why, and he didn't know how to make it understand to his father.
"Old fool!"

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Memphis.

Jarod was ready to leave. He examined with care the room: everything was settled for Parker's arrive, the only thing left to do was the arrangement of the red notebook. Jarod had a special idea for it that surely would have made Parker really angry.
For a second, he thought he was going too far, but everything was better than seeing her so..
Jarod shook his head. Better to make her angry, forcing her to run after him, shouting and threatening to kill him. Maybe, this way, she could heal.
He put the red notebook in the 'special' place he had in his mind and left, turning off the lights.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Meanwhile at the Centre.

Sydney saw the light filtering through under the door. He didn't know what to do.
'Never stop trying' Jarod said to him. But what you can do when the one you want to help refuses even to talk?
Sydney sighed and knocked lightly on the door. No answer.
He knocked again, this time entering the office.
"Miss Parker?" He called gently. She was sitting at her desk, staring at an empty space.
God, she looked so pale and tired. So lonely.
"Miss Parker." Syd called again. Slowly, the woman turned her head, blinking like she were waking from a dream.
"What." she whispered with a hoarse voice.
"I'm going home, Miss Parker. If you wish, I could give you hospitality."
She didn't react but just stared at him.
The old Belgian felt despair growing inside (How can I reach you?) He thought.
"You need to rest, Parker. To sleep. And maybe.. we could talk a little."
(Let me help you, please, let me help you)
"I have a job to do." She said with a low voice "And no time for resting"
"I know this, but I know too you'll do better tomorrow, if you'll just rest tonight." Sydney kept his voice calm and sweet, even if he felt like grabbing her shoulders and shaking her to try and knock some sense into her.
"I have no time." She repeated and before her old friend could talk again, Parker said "Goodnight, Sydney."
Sydney.
The man felt a pang in his heart. Sydney. Not Syd. Not Freud, or Dr Strangelove or any other weird and, in some way, caring nick she used to call him. Sydney.
"Goodnight, Miss Parker." The man drew back to the door, hoping for more words from her that were reassuring. But Parker said nothing, and Sydney left.
"Good doctor.. sad." Angelo's voice was coming from the dark vent.
"I know, Angelo" Parker answered, her gaze still focused on the door "But I can't do it otherwise." She turned her head toward the vent "I have no other way out, do you understand that?"
For a moment she seemed again a woman, made of flesh and bone, life and pain passed through her eyes, as she almost pleaded "Tell me you understand, Angelo. I have no other way out!"
The savant nodded slowly, with sadness and resignation in his blue eyes: he understood, he knew.
"No way out.. Angelo knows.. she.. inside you.. no way.. out."
The old Parker vanished. The new one stared at the pictures on her desk, as her mind worked frantically on her plan.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

The Next Morning.

Blue sky, warm sun, and a light breeze. It wasn't enough to make Sydney feel better. He had had the worst night possible, and that morning he felt.. like a bad feeling.
As he waited for the elevator, Sydney heard voices from his right side: Mr Parker and his daughter, Lyle, Raines, Willie, Sam and some other sweepers, all of them talking and arguing.
"Right on time, Syd." Lyle called "We have a lead!"
"It's a set-up!" exclaimed Parker "He isn't in Memphis!"
"Broots has checked. He's there!"
"Broots has found another lead, too!"
"Too weak to consider it!"
"STOP!" Mr Parker boomed "Angel, why do you think it's a set-up?"
"By now, we should know that Jarod is never where he send us. The second lead, right because it's so unlikely, it could be the right one!"
Lyle smirked "How is that your knowledge about Jarod's Modus Operandi hasn't been of any use, until now?"
Parker gave him a freezing look "Maybe because, till now, I didn't know what I was doing."
Mr. Parker intervened and talked with authority "Lyle, you'll go to Memphis-"
"And I'll take the other lead!" completed Parker, ready to go.
"-and you'll go with him!!" ordered her father.
Parker stared at him "I said I'll take the other lead." She said with a tone that didn't allow objections "After all we have two leads and two teams, why wasting time? Sydney! Sam! Get ready!" After she had given her orders, she turned her back on them, to return to her office.
Lyle glanced Mr. Parker, who was following his daughter with his gaze.
"Dad.. " The younger man began.
"Leave! Go to Memphis and catch him!"
"Okay, Dad! Don't worry, I'll catch him!"
Mr Parker and Raines stayed there, looking at each other "Your.. daughter.. seems.. a little .. too.. rebellious"
"Rebellious! Don't exaggerate! She's always in conflict with Lyle!" Mr Parker faked an indifference he didn't feel.
"I don't.. like.. her.. attitude.. nor.. her words."
"You worry too much, Raines! I know how to handle her!"
"Even.. now?" Parker frowned from Raines words.
"Sure. Now, more than before"
"I hope.. so for.. all our.. sakes".

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Same Time.

Parker walked in the tech room and asked to Broots "Have you checked the second lead?"
"Yes, Miss Parker, but.. " The man shook his head ".. there's nothing more.. I mean.. I'm not sure.. " Broots stared his keyboard, waiting for a rage bursting, that didn't come.
He glanced his boss: she was reading his notes and looked almost.. satisfied? Why did she have a light smile on her face?
"I'm sorry.. " He added but Parker patted him on the back.
"Never mind, Broots, I didn't expect anything more."
The tech looked up, puzzled by her reaction, but he hadn't the time to ask explanations because of Sam who came in "We're ready, Miss Parker."
"Yeah, I'm coming. Lyle is gone, right?"
"Yes ma'am"
Parker stayed still for a moment, as a devilish smile appeared on her lips.
"Too bad, Lyle" She muttered "I'll won't be there to see you with your hands in the shit. Literally." She went out with Sam, totally unaware of Broots' eyes on her.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Memphis.

Lyle was staring at the building from the sedan.
"That one?" He asked to a sweeper.
"Yes Sir." Lyle nodded, checking the outskirts "Get ready." He ordered.
As his sweepers ran around the building, the Chairman's son had an opened grin: Jarod was in trap!

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

The Centre, Miss Parker's office.

Broots knocked on the door, before entering. Then, remembering his boss was out, he went in, giving a look at his surroundings. It was stupid, but he felt so uncomfortable!
"Okay, don't act like a child." He warned himself "She's not even here!"
But he was nervous, so, putting on the desk his last reports, pictures and files slid down and fell all over the desk.
"Oh! Sorry!" The man blushed. Sorry to who? Broots sighed, why was he such a coward? He thought and began to pick up the sheets from the floor.
"What the hell did she want with all these pictures?" He muttered "And this one?" It seemed like a note, written in Miss Parker's calligraphy.
A few words that read were, 'Pink and green', underlined many times and then, 'Red notebook: Shit!'
Broots read again and again, but found no sense in those words. Pink and green?
Red notebook: shit?
The tech shook his head, Parker wasn't the kind of woman who took notes, just to waste time. If she had written those words, then they had some importance.
Hell! She underlined them!
Broots stared at the sheet, then he put it in his pants pocket. Why? He hadn't an answer, but.. he felt it was better doing so.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Somewhere else.

Parker stopped the car in an alley. Then, she checked her gun as Sydney gazed at her.
"Do you have any intention of using it?" He asked, worried.
"If I'll have to. C'mon, Sam!" They got out of the car and went inside the building.
No janitor. Good!
Parker took the stairs, with the other two following her to the second floor. She stopped and made sign to Syd and Sam to move silently. They approached the forth door, Sam on the right, Syd on the left and Parker in front of it.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Memphis.

Lyle waited some few seconds. His team was ready. He nodded and a sweeper kicked the door with strength. In a moment the room was full of men, their guns pointed on.. No one.
"Damn!" Muttered Lyle, entering the other room. Nothing. Or rather.. something. Something crazy! Lyle turned on himself, staring at the walls of the room.
"Lab Rat has got to be going mad!" He commented, addressing a sweeper who was stroking his head, him puzzled too.
"Mr. Lyle." Another one called from further inside the apartment "Come and have a look."
Lyle passed through the first room and then into the bathroom. He gave a look and sighed "How could my sister bear his tricks and games, for all these years?"

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Somewhere else.

The door burst open and Jarod, who was lying on the bed, found himself surrounded by three people, two of them armed.
"Jarod." Was Parker's greeting, her gun firmly pointed on his face.
"How did you find me?" He asked, searching a way out.
Parker smiled coldly "A little bird told me. Ready to go home?"
He didn't like her smile. In a second, Jarod found the only way for him to run away. Syd was on the right side, between Jarod and the window.
The pretender jumped from the bed, pushing aside his mentor, but a gunshot broke the window into fragments. Jarod turned to look at his huntress, shocked.
"Parker!" Sydney yelled. "What are you doing?"
"What I have to do." She shouted back, pointing the gun again on her prey "Jarod, stay away from that window or I swear you'll be my next target!" she warned him.
"Parker." The shrink tried to distract her "The Centre wants him ALIVE!"
"The Centre wants him BACK!" She retorted "Dead or alive, there's no difference for me!"
Sydney took a step back, as if he had received a slap in the face. Even Sam stared at his boss with a shocked look.
Jarod shook his head, slowly. It couldn't be! She was bluffing! There was ALWAYS a difference, for her!
He made a move toward the broken window.
"Jarod." She talked with a low, calm, yet threatening voice "I swear I'll shoot you."
Sydney put himself between the two of them "You can't do it, Parker!"
"Out of my way, Sydney!"
"You can't do it." He repeated, moving with the gun's movements "Jarod, run!"
But Jarod didn't run. He stayed still, his gaze on Parker: this woman was not his old friend nor his huntress. This one was.. he didn't know her!
(God! What have they done to you?) He thought sickeningly. This woman before him had no feeling!
Syd turned his head to his protégé "For God's sake! What are you waiting for? Run!"
"If he runs, then he'll be dead!" Was Parker's reply.
"Then" The old man said "You'll have to shoot me, first."
Parker stared at him for few seconds; then, with a light shrug, she aimed her weapon on Sydney.
"As you wish." She said and her finger began to squeeze the trigger.
"No!" Jarod held up his hands "No, Parker. Okay, you won."
"Jarod.. " Syd tried to speak.
"Syd, she's serious, don't you see it?" Then he talked to Parker "I'll come with you. There's no need to shoot, okay?"
"Great idea, Wonderboy! Sam!" The sweeper, who had been there, without knowing what to do, grabbed Jarod's arms, but almost with kindness. He felt upset, and it wasn't easy upsetting a man like him, but today.. Sam took away the pretender, as the other two followed them.
In the street, Parker gave a look around: no one seemed having noticed them.
Sydney grabbed her arm "Parker!"
She looked at his hand, then his face "Do you mind?" she said, freeing her arm.
Sydney couldn't believe it! "You've really lost your soul!" he almost shouted.
"You're badly informed, Sydney. I've nothing to lose. Even less, a soul." She said to him, looking him dead in the eye before getting into the sedan on the driver's side.
The shrink chose to sit in the back, beside Jarod. They exchanged sad, worried looks, as Parker was driving all of them back to the Centre.

End of part 1

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