Soul Splinters II by whashaza
Summary: J2.jpgThis is a sequel to Soul Splinters.
Categories: Indefinite Timeline Characters: All the characters
Genres: Angst, General
Warnings: Warning: Violence
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 17 Completed: Yes Word count: 55671 Read: 65185 Published: 09/03/06 Updated: 05/07/07

1. Pain by whashaza

2. Chapter 2 by whashaza

3. Decisions and plans by whashaza

4. Preparations by whashaza

5. Surprises by whashaza

6. The games we play by whashaza

7. The darkness that rules by whashaza

8. All you have ever offered us is pain. by whashaza

9. To learn by whashaza

10. Nightmares of reality by whashaza

11. Forgiven by whashaza

12. Choices by whashaza

13. Escape and Rescue by whashaza

14. Complications, threats and lies by whashaza

15. Burial by whashaza

16. Fading light by whashaza

17. To be free by whashaza

Pain by whashaza
Disclaimer: All characters and events in this story are fictitious, and any similarity to a real person, living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintended by the author. "The Pretender" is a protected trademark.


Soul Splinters II

By

Whashaza



Pain


Southwest Arizona – three months later


The sun had just poked its head over the mountains. Pink, red and purple stripes chased the night as it raced across the darkened land. Pushing the black shadows like a wave in front, it rushed like the breakwater towards another day. All was almost silence, the only noticeable difference the soft pat pat of running feet. Breaths were coming quick and fast, and he ran. He ran to get rid of the demons that chased him.

Let's play a game.


Sweat was pouring from his body, small streams of water that ran down his face to drop on the brown ground as he ran. His heart was pounding in beat with his steps, fast and sure. Ignoring the messages his body was screaming at him, he ran. He ran to get rid of the memories that chased him.

Tell me who you are.


His feet splashed through the creek, filling his shoes with water, the squishing that will bring blisters but a comfortable hurt. Muscles strained while he climbed the bank. He raced the dusk that chased the darkness of his soul.

You will obey.


Cresting the rise, he pushed harder, willing muscles to carry his weary body further. Tears were streaming from his face. He wasn't sure it was from the crisp morning air or his own silent terror. Gritting his teeth, he pushed still harder.

You belong to me.


NO! Panting in heavy gulps, he could no longer keep the pace. Stumbling, he fell. Hands and knees took the brunt, scraping off skin. Rolling to a standstill, his clothes covered in the dust, his body craved oxygen. He watched the sun rise fully, the light winning the fight for day and leaving his soul in splinters.

**************

The Centre


The hallways were dark. The only air that was permitted was circulated and washed through so many times that it had a rank taste to it when it was breathed in. Spots of yellow pools of light lay intermittently on the impersonal floor, the walls were painted a tasteless gray. No color was permitted this deep, only the desperate survived this far from the surface.

A soft sound started a slow revolution through the hallways to echo in the emptiness of the rooms except for one. Lifting a heavy head, he listened to the familiar oil-less squeak of dread. His memory was hazy, he wasn't sure of anything anymore except the mystery of pain. He had experienced it on so many levels that it had become his companion, a friend that fed his hate.

If only...


The thought vanished as soon as it was formed, a dream of nothingness. A hopeless settlement of fear filled his being when the door swung open. Scurrying into the darker shadows of his seamless existence, he glared his hatred for the other. When his screams followed the whispers of previous ones, he clung to one thought, and one thought only.

He will pay.


**************

West Coast


The sound of laughter drifted on the wind down the dune to where the man sat and watched the sunset of yet another day. A small smile settled on his face, turning only when a deep voice called across the shifting sands. The lighter, more feminine voice playfully promised more, before the deeper breathless laughter filled his ears. A soft plop sounded close by and he ignored it. He watched the rays settle over the sea, the dark red filtering through last, turning purple as the last yellow, sliver of the sun slid beneath the waves.

“Shouldn't you keep your exercises to a minimum till your leg is fully healed?”

Turning to the content man sitting next to him, he raised a white eyebrow in question, his smile canceling any sternness from his voice. The dark man smiled back at him, his teeth white against the darker backdrop of his tan he had managed to cultivate these last two months.

“I can be a physiotherapist too, if you want. Besides, what is a man supposed to do when he has a beautiful woman who hunts him tirelessly.”

“Give in?”

Turning at the voice, the older man watched as the woman seated herself next to the other. He was still amazed. She had changed, her strong will and drive softened by the love that shone from her eyes. The scars that both still carried was tempered by their friendship and for lack of a better word, deep intense love that had grown in the past few months. Jarod still had his nightmares and his emotional scarring from his time with Lyle was slowly eroding towards distant memories. Miss Parker seemed resilient as ever, her only reminder of Alex's captivity the scars left on her hands. Shooting the man who had held her in captivity for almost a month seemed to have been her floodgate, helping her to let go of what she had experienced. Smiling down at the two, he rose slowly.

“Jarod, lets go home.”

The two rose with him, laughing silently at some private joke they shared, before hooking into Sydney's arms on each side, leading him towards where their cozy cottage sat in the dunes.

**************

The Russell home – 20:00


The steam rose in white tendrils around his body, whisking his image in the mirror in a dream, hazy world. Ignoring all sensory input around him, he focused on the other. He couldn't face himself, no matter what he tried. His eyes could never settle on his own face long enough for him to say that he is free. One hand rose and traced the jagged scar across his pectoral muscle. His running had shaped his body, his lean form something that girls would definitely admire. Ignoring the sweat from the heated room that started to trace a path down his face, he gazed at his mirror's hands and wrists, the smooth, thicker skin of the scar tissue that had formed. He knew that Jarod had similar scars, but it brought no comfort. Watching the ghosts in the mirror, he tried to ignore the increasing crescendo of Lyle's taunts and demands that filtered through. Anger filled him, and in an effort to get rid of the images that were superimposing themselves over his, he watched as his fist connected to the painted glass. A shard pierced his knuckle, stuck at an angle. He ignored the pain, instead watching his broken image stare back at him.

“J, are you all right?”

Ignoring the worried voice from his mother, he continued to gaze at his split image. Reaching for it, he smeared his bloody hand over the scarred faces staring brokenly back.

Why me?


He tried desperately to block the emotions that filled the room, while he slid slowly down the wall. Hugging his knees, he lay his head on his arms. Rocking slightly, he continued to ride the panic attack that had engulfed all sense of who he is.

**************

The Russell home


“J?”

Margaret turned to her husband that came down the hall. Knocking again, she still couldn't hear anything from the other side of the door. Her voice was soft, worry interlaced in between the words as she felt compelled to be heard by the boy on the other side.

“J, can you hear me?”

“Honey, is everything ok?”

Turning gratefully to her husband, she allowed herself to be comforted by his arms. Jarod and Miss Parker had settled with Sydney on the west coast, not to far from where they had settled on an old vacant farm that no-one had seemed to want. They had settled in, and for the past three months had watched as J battled his demons without letting anyone understand why he wanted to do it alone. He was becoming more and more withdrawn. Jarod had tried to talk to him once, and she could well remember what had happened. His words had been shouted loud enough that she and Charles heard each word as it was uttered in anger.

“What don't you understand? It's your fault! Just...leave...me...alone!”


Jarod had the same haunted look that J had had. Whatever Lyle had done to the two, it seemed to have broken the bond from J's part. She could see the guilt eating away at Jarod, and she felt relief when Sydney came up with a suggestion that it might be better for both if they were apart for a while till they had both dealt with some aspect of what they had experienced.

“J, open the door.”

Charles tried the doorknob and found it locked. His worry increased ten fold when a sob escaped the door. Pushing with his full might, he broke the lock from the lintel. He didn't care about the damage, his only thought on his rocking son. Rushing forward, he noticed the blood splattered on the broken mirror. His son's leg was wet with the red liquid that had dripped from the cut in his hand. Gingerly pulling the splinter from the knuckle, he took the cloth from his wife. Winding it around the hand, he pulled his son into a tight embrace. Murmuring words of comfort, he waited as Margaret fetched the first aid kit.

“Dad, I'm sorry.”

Swallowing the tears that threatened to flow, he told his son that it's ok. He reassured him that things will work out; he should just give it time. He watched his wife take J's hand and gently unwrap the cloth. She cleaned the wound, bandaging the hand with gauze and a plaster. Thanking Margaret, he helped his son to his feet. Together they took the few steps towards J's room. He stayed till long after his son's sobs had turned into a grief-induced sleep. Wiping the dark hair from his face, he still tried to find a solution only to come to the conclusion that maybe this time they were out of their depth. They needed to seek professional help or they might soon loose J to the inner demons that haunted him.

**************

The Centre


They came for him at the depth of night, when all that walked the hallways were ancient memories of pain. Swifting his weight slightly, he allowed the sensation of his nightmares to carry his feet forward. He sensed a shift in alliances. Maybe, just maybe he would get out of this alive. He had not been out of the room since he had been forgotten there and there could only be one or two reasons for him to be moved now.

He counted the numbers as the lift sped upwards towards the top and fresh air. He had been dropped in the corner like a discarded dishrag, a nothing that was passed his sell by date. He smirked at this thought, his own memories of a childhood best forgotten.

But he had showed all of them.

Well, now he was back in that 'crummy shed' with the door padlocked from the outside. Maybe in life there was a certain degree of irony.

The ping of the door opening announced their arrival. He was unceremoniously picked up and dragged through the plush offices towards one that had once been his. He wondered if his blood would be washed away by morning. Probably, this was the Centre after all. He wasn't really interested in his own death, he had lived close to it for so long now that it had become a close companion. The double doors opened, and he was pulled into the chairman's office. He didn't bother lifting his head, knowing that either way it didn't matter any more.

He had lost.

**************

West coast


“Thanks dad. I'll hear what Sydney has to say about it.”

Jarod put the phone back on its base. Turning towards the psychiatrist, he said.

“It's J. He had another panic attack and this time he tried to drive his hand through the mirror in the bathroom.”

Nodding, Sydney allowed the Pretender to continue, knowing that there was more.

“My father wants to know if you could recommend anyone that has no Centre connections and will be able to work with him. He needs more help than we can give him.”

“I'll look into it. Jarod,” waiting for the other to turn back to him, Sydney asked, “how are you dealing with this?”

Jarod gave a snort, his normally open face closing all inner connections. Turning back to stare out the big bay windows, he watched the white foam splash against the darkness of the beach. He ignored all other feelings, instead focusing on those that he and J could not realize. If he did, he didn't think he would be able to handle the extra added guilt. He watched his slight reflection in the window before turning to where his mentor stood waiting patiently.

“I feel helpless, out of control. There is nothing that I can do that could make this any better for him.”
They talked well into the night with the low boom of the surf as audience.

**************

The Russell home

J stared at Lyle as he knelt by May Lin. He couldn't take his eyes of his captor's gloved hand as he tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, allowing his hand to linger on her cheek. Turning, he winked at J before opening his knife.


“No!”

Jerking awake, he felt his lungs constrict. Everything was in darkness, closing in on him. Trying to keep his thudding heart under control, he stretched a trembling hand towards his night light. The welcoming brightness lessened his fear a little. Using his shirt, he wiped the sweat from his brow. Leaning against the headboard, he gave a glance at the clock.

One thirty.

Great.

His hand hurt. He inspected the white plaster that closed the self inflicted wound. The last few hours was a sort of blur, he couldn't even recall why he had a new plaster stuck to his hand. He wasn't ready yet to deal with the emotions that came with his dream. He opened his drawer, rummaging underneath the notepads and pens that littered it. He felt the film of the packet and took it out. It took him five minutes before he got as far as downing one of the little white pills. The euphoria hit him full blast, sending him towards blessed silence and forgetfulness. Smiling slightly, he drifted into the blackness of deep sleep knowing that no further memories would mar his sleep.

**************

So, what do ya think? Drop me a review.
Chapter 2 by whashaza
Disclaimer: See chapter 1

Chapter 2


The Russell home

Reading the breakfast, Margaret watched her youngest son enter the room. His hair was long, creeping into his eyes. He failed to meet her gaze, instead seating himself quietly at the seat.

"J, how are you feeling?"

He mumbled a vague answer, instead focusing on the plate in front of him. He wasn't hungry and the egg and toast that stared back at him made him feel slightly queasy. Opening and closing his bandaged hand, he enjoyed the brief burn of pain.

He deserved it.

A hand on his shoulder startled him and he involuntarily looked up into the worried gaze of his father.

"J, what are you doing?"

"Nothing."

Looking down he noticed the blood that have slowly seeped through the plaster. It must have been the motion he had subjected to his hand. He watched almost in fascination as his father took his hand and started to redress the wound.

"J, look at me."

His eyes slowly rose, and met the gaze of his father. His eyes shifted down to his hand, trying to bring some normality into his actions.

"J, we need to talk. You need to see a specialist. We have asked Sydney to recommend someone."

Rising, he jerked his hand from his father's grip. He gave an angry look at his mother before shaking his head violently.

"No. I'm fine. I don't need to see anyone else."

Major watched his son grab his school bag, storming angrily out of the house. He turned towards his wife and wordlessly enfolded her in a comforting embrace; all the while telling himself that everything will work out and that soon they will be a happy family.

************

The Centre


The Centre was quiet this early in the morning. The only staff present were the early risers and those that came to the end of their night shift. Two people made their way through the corridors towards where the senior offices were located. The one or two staff members who saw them gave a curious glance before looking away. They ignored them, instead entering one of the offices. It had been refurnished, the smell still new that lingered in the air. The blond-haired man walked slowly around the room, a slight smile on his face. His hand touched the leather executive's chair, relishing in the feeling of power. He looked briefly at the other before he slowly slid into the seat. Both hands ran along the dark rosewood table, feeling the texture of money that had brought it to this room. He heard the door open and was aware that the other man was leaving. Leaning back into the softness of the chair, he enjoyed the feel of the leather beneath him.

He was back.

************

West coast


Flipping the pan, Jarod effortlessly slid another golden pancake on the growing pile sitting on the table. The windows were thrown open, allowing the cool morning ocean breeze to fill the room. The sun had risen a few hours ago, the morning promising to be perfect for some surfing later on. It was a pastime he had taken on, the exhilaration of the board on the crest helping him to forget all his fears and pain. It also helped with the strengthening exercises for his leg, molding the muscles that had atrophied under Lyle. Humming a new song he had heard on the radio, he finished setting the table.

"Parker!"

The master bedroom was awash in the morning light. The patio doors were thrown open, allowing the same breeze that wafted in the kitchen to enter the room. A body lay across the double bed, the dark hair spread on the pillows that was hugged close. The single sheet that covered her was enough to protect from the cool air, bringing comfort and a feeling of contentment. Taking a deep ocean filled breath, she kept her eyes close till the deep voice of Jarod carried through on the moving air and with it the smell of pancake and syrup. Groaning slightly, she decided that the offering of breakfast might be enough to placate her feelings of getting up so early. Rising, she pulled on a white silk gown before making her way to the kitchen. Sydney was already seated at the table, two pancakes stacked on his plate. Taking her seat, she noticed her own and then Jarod's. His was a mountain of four or five, the syrup dripping warmly down the sides.

"I see your metabolism is still intact." She commented dryly before dragging the coffee pot closer.

He smiled boyishly back at her, a naughty twinkle in his eyes. Taking a bucket of ice cream out of the freezer, he plopped a big scoop on his pile before offering the bucket to her and Sydney. She laughed at his pretended pouting when they declined the offer, her own eyes filled with happiness.

"Have you heard anything from your family?" she asked as she filled her glass with orange juice. She watched him take his seat, his features a bit more sombre.

"Yes, my dad phoned last night. J's nightmares and panic attacks are getting worse. He wants Sydney to suggest a psychiatrist that will be able to help him deal with his feelings."

Grabbing his hand, she squeezed it briefly, "I'm sorry, Jar. I'm sure we'll get someone that J will talk to." She looked at Sydney, and then back at Jarod.

"I'll phone some people I know this morning."

Allowing a small smile, Jarod nodded his thanks to Sydney. Shifting his worry for J temporarily to the background, he allowed the conversation and mutual jokes to pull him back from his feelings of guilt.

Sydney had helped him deal with it in a large measure, explaining again and again that Lyle was the one that had tortured them and that nothing he had done could have either prevented it or stopped it. Lyle would have found any excuse to exert his control and using J was one way of ensuring Jarod's cooperation as well as driving a wedge between them. In a way, their captor had succeeded. J wanted nothing to do with him. Every time he had tried to have a conversation with his younger self, he had been pushed away by angry words. J had given him a shiner the one time he had pushed to hard, prompting Sydney to suggest that they move to the coast while J dealt with his own dark memories.

Smiling at a remark from Parker, he shifted his thoughts back to the present, enjoying another day without the Centre looming close.

************

Red bridge High School


His right fist connected solidly against the other boy's jaw. His knuckles stung from the impact but he didn't allow that to deter him. Shifting his stance, he moved in closer to the reeling boy. Swinging his left fist, his put all his muscle behind it as it sunk into the soft flesh of the solar plexus. He was about to bring in another hit when he was pulled from the bleeding boy. Growling, he twisted, trying to get rid of the tight grip on his arms.

"Enough."

The dark voice brought him to his senses although his anger still simmered underneath the surface. Standing still he watched with satisfaction as the other boy was helped to his feet. He could see the red markings on the face of the boy he had hit, and it filled him with a sense of pride.

No one can touch him.

Smiling in mockery, he gave a wink to the fear-filled face before the boy was led away to the infirmary by one of the teachers. Turning, he kept his gaze on his feet before defiantly raising it to the PE teacher that had stopped the fight.
"What is wrong with you? You could have seriously hurt him."
His sweaty hair hung in his eyes, obscuring his vision slightly. Shrugging, he stared back at the older man. He saw the anger in the other man when he dismissed so casually the violence he had dispensed. His arm was grabbed and he was propelled towards the football field.

"Four laps. Now."

Smirking he started a slow jog. It wasn't as if he couldn’t do this in his sleep. He was rudely awakened when a push sent him stumbling. He glanced back and saw the teacher grinning on his heels. Narrowing his gaze he increased his pace. Again he was pushed. His anger and irritation was increasing and he ran faster. Another push. He nearly tumbled onto the grass before he got his feet under control. Running full pace, he raced around the field.

The teacher that pushed him was forgotten. He raced his memories and dark thoughts. He raced his feelings of helplessness and rage. He raced his fear until he ran out of breath. Stopping, he leaned on his knees, his breaths coming in high pitched wheeze. The white sneakers of the teacher filled his vision, his sweat dripping onto the turf.

"Take a shower. I want you on this field straight after school. Am I clear."

He thought about ignoring the command and then decided against it. It wasn't as if he had the greatest social life in the school. Nodding, he turned and silently made his way towards the showers.

************

The Russell home


"Thanks Paul."

Putting the phone on its cradle, Major Charles turned tiredly to his wife.

"J had another fight at school. One of the other boys had apparently been taunting him and he lashed out. The boy wasn't hurt much, more his pride and Paul said that he had punished J by sending him a few times around the field."

"What are we going to do if he doesn’t want to talk to anyone? It's eating him alive and there is nothing I can do to make him feel better."

Stepping towards Margaret, he gently hugged her close.

"I know. He doesn't want to deal with what happened and in the process he's hurting others."

They stood like that for a while, trying to understand why J was closing himself off from those around him. Kissing his wife, Charles led her towards the living room.

"Paul had suggested that he takes J in the afternoons. Maybe a physical outlet will help to release some of the anger and frustration. Let's hope that Sydney finds someone."

Seating themselves on the couch, they continued to talk about their son and trying to find ways to help him cope with his dark past.

************

West coast


He sat on his board behind the break line, watching the surf rush towards the beach. The sun was warm against his tanned back, the water cool against his hanging legs. Closing his eyes he drank in the rush of water and the boom where the white foam crashed against the rocks to the left of him. He felt his board and body bob in long amplitudes on the crest and fall of the water beneath him.

"You do know this is your fault…"

Swallowing, he opened his eyes. A distant look centered on them as unwanted thoughts tore through his mind. He wanted to help J but every time he thought about what had been done to the boy because he failed to obey Lyle, he felt his guilt increase. It wasn't fair that he had Sydney and Parker to help him over the worst of his nightmares. If it hadn't been for Sydney he didn't know how he would have survived. He was his sounding board, the one that helped him deal with his feelings of helplessness and guilt. Parker was his compass, helping to keep him steady. Between them he had managed to deal on one level with Lyle's torture while the boy the boy had furiously refused any help from Sydney, ignoring the psychiatrist's attempts to help him deal with his feelings and memories. Instead, he had closed himself off to all those around him, telling everyone repeatedly that he was fine. He didn't believe J but he couldn't force the boy to face what had happened. He had to give him time and allow J to come to that decision himself.

Leaning forward slightly, he dipped his hands in the water. The feel and texture calmed him, bringing a sense of peace. Ignoring Lyle's voice in his head, he started paddling towards the beach. Maybe catching a good wave in will help him forget all about his long gone captor. After all, Lyle is dead.

************

The Russell home


"Care to explain why you felt the need to beat up another kid."
"He asked for it," came the angry reply from J. His face was flushed from the afternoon's running, and he wanted nothing more than to have a shower and hit his bed. Now he had to deal with his father's anger at his actions.

"That is no reason to retaliate with violence. What did you do it?"

J couldn’t even bring himself as far as to feel sorry for the guy he fought with. "He asked for it," he repeated underneath his breath, looking at his shoes. He heard his dad sigh and then felt his heavy hand on his shoulder. Looking up, he briefly made contact with his father's concerned eyes before shifting them sideways and staring just over his shoulder.
The silence increased between them while J wrestled with his rebellious thoughts and the major waited for him to acknowledge what his actions did.

"J," the soft words shifted his eyes back to his father's and it held him fast, "you know that we love you, don't you?"

He was quiet for a moment, thinking about what those words meant to him. He wanted nothing more than to have a normal life with a normal family. He wanted those words to mean something to him, to bring him out of the morass he found himself stuck in. The more he tried to free himself, the deeper he was sinking, disappearing and he had no idea how to get out.

"J?"

Again the soft question, forcing him to focus his thoughts back on his dad. Tears started to flow and he leaned slightly towards his dad. His father took the invitation, smothering him in a tight hug. Relaxing, he allowed himself to be comforted.
They stood like that for a few minutes. Leading his son to the kitchen table, he took out the carton of milk from the fridge. Taking out the hot chocolate, he spooned in powder in two mugs. J was silent where he sat by the table. Pushing the mugs into the microwave, he warmed the milk before finishing the drink by placing a marshmallow in each.

"Thanks, dad."

Placing his hands around the mug, he enjoyed the warmth that crept through. He watched the marshmallow start it's slow dissolve, wondering if that was happening to him.

"I want you to talk to the Dr Brown. We have an appointment for Saturday morning at nine."

Holding his breath, Charles waited for the normal outburst that came with each suggestion that his son see someone. None came and he watched his son battle with some unseen enemy. His shoulders slumped and he wiped his eyes before giving a barely perceptive nod. He thanked God silently for his son's agreement, hoping that J would keep it. They talked about J's afternoon and everyday things till the mugs were empty and his son's eyes started to close. Gathering the mugs, he sent his son to bed while he cleaned the cups, hopeful that his son might be on the road to recovery.

************

J's room


He had a good shower, washing the sweat and grime from his body. He felt clean and he wondered if his agreement to see Dr Brown wasn't maybe a reason for it. He was tired, his body relaxed as he snuggled underneath the sheet. He didn't want his dad to worry and he wanted to have a good night's sleep for once. He looked over to his nightstand, at the drawer that held his answer. He had promised the last time that it would be only that once. He wrestled with his conscience; wanting the dead sleep the pills would provide against his intellect that he didn't need a crutch.

I'm just going to look at them, he thought while he opened the drawer. His hand trembled slightly when he took out the pack. He didn't want to wake his parent's again with his nightmares. He didn't want to relive his last days with Lyle when he was held in the warehouse. He didn't want to think about the girl and what Lyle did to her and to him.
He wanted to sleep
.
************

The Centre – next morning


"Here's the report you wanted, sir."

He looked up from the paperwork he was busy working on, thanking the technician for the report. The man didn't leave, instead shuffling nervously from foot to foot. Annoyed, he put his pen down and leaned back in his chair.

"Anything else?"

He lifted an eyebrow; his light blue eyes staring soullessly back at the nervous man before him.

"Sir, I want to point out that the search parameter in my report is based on old data and it might not produce the results that you wished for."

He fingered the file that the tech had dropped, pursuing his lips in thought.

"Why did you run it then?"

"I…I thought that any answer is better than none."

He picked up the folder and casually dumped it into his bin. Moving around his desk he walked up to the now sweating tech.

"How loyal are you to the Centre, Mr…"

"Mr Heath, Sir. Very …uhm …loyal, Sir."

"You are aware what the price of failure is?"

"Y…yes Sir."

"Then bring me an updated result by the end of the day."

Dismissing the trembling tech, he turned towards his big windows that overlooked the bay. He heard the tech open the door, and he stopped him with one last warning.

"Don't disappoint me, Mr Heath."

The tech's answer brought a slight smile. Allowing it linger, he continued to watch the surf break on the beach. It felt good to hear his designation again. It was meant to be that way, to be called by his title. He closed his eyes and imagined the shaky words again, only this time in the deep baritone of his nemesis.

"I'll get it done, Mr Lyle."

TBC

**********
Let me know what you think
Decisions and plans by whashaza
Disclaimer: See chapter 1

Decisions and plans


The Centre, Friday


The Centre was alive with people, even on a Friday evening. It had always amazed him the dedication that could be brought with fear. Fear and pain. Flexing his still recovering muscles, he stepped into the corridor leading to the tech room. He smiled at an Asian secretary that was moving down the hall towards the offices. His eyes devoured her and he wondered briefly if he should indulge. Dragging his gaze from her voluptuous body, he concentrated on the reason he had come down. Tugging at his glove, he entered the tech room with thoughts back on track. Only one thing mattered.

“Mr. Heath, have you set up the website like I told you.”

His cold, impersonal gaze settled on the tech that sat in front of his computer.

“Y...yes sir. We have received no hits so far, but as soon as there are any I...I'll let you know.”

“The email account is my eyes only?”

Swallowing, the tech nodded. Satisfied, Lyle left the room, whistling softly to himself. He hoped he didn't have to wait too long. He wanted what was rightfully his and nothing is going to prevent him from getting his property back. Nothing.

************

The Russell home, Saturday morning


"J, get your behind down here, this instance."

Rolling deeper into his bed, J tried to ignore the anger-filled shout from downstairs. His eyelids were heavy and he wanted nothing more than to sink back into oblivion.

"J!"

Sighing, he decided that his dad would not give up. Turning on his back, he placed his arm over his eyes. He could hear the heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. Grumbling that it's Saturday, he lifted the sheet and swung his feet off the bed. He quietly closed the drawer he noticed was open as his dad entered his room.

"Didn't you hear me?"

"I'm up, ok. Just relax." He replied obstinately, ignoring the look on his father's face.

"J, you will not address me in that manner. I'm your father and not one of your friends. Do you understand me?"

J looked up at his father's disappointed and angry voice. Apologizing, he rose and stepped towards his cupboard. His father stood waiting, and he gave a glance at the clock.

Eight thirty.

Then he remembered. He's supposed to meet the auspicious Dr Brown and by the look on his father's face, they should have left already. Grabbing a shirt and pants, he quickly dressed. Slipping his trainers on, he followed his dad downstairs towards the exit. He stopped when he saw Jarod waiting in the living room.

"What is he doing here?"

Exasperated, Major Charles turned and looked at the angry face of his son.

"I asked Jarod to come with us."

"No."

He ignored Jarod completely, instead focusing all his growing resentment at his father. Why did his dad have to bring him here? He didn't need any reminders of his not too recent past. If it hasn't been for Jarod, he would have never lived the nightmare he wanted to forget. This was all his fault.

"Dad, its fine. I'll stay with mom."

Jarod tried to ignore the guilt that burned like white fire inside him, consuming a part of his soul. He disregarded Lyle's taunts that told him that this was his fault, while he turned towards the kitchen where his mom was cleaning up.

"No. Jarod, I want you to come with us," turning from where his older son stood, he gave a stern, warning glance to his younger son, "J, get your butt in the car. Now."

He waited, hoping he had not gone too far with his younger son. He watched J wrestle with the command before reluctantly making his way out of the house. Placing his hand on Jarod's shoulder, he said, "I'm sorry, son. I had thought that things were a bit better."

Jarod gave a small smile, nodding his head in understanding. "I had hoped…" swallowing, he dropped his gaze. Shrugging, he started for the door. His dad's grip increased and he turned back at his dad.

"We'll get through this, Jarod. I promise. J just needs more time."

"I know."

Together they made their way out of the house, after saying goodbye to Margaret. J was kicking at small pebbles on the ground, scuffing his trainers. He ignored Jarod, instead getting in the backseat when his dad unlocked the doors. He stubbornly kept his mouth shut, ignoring his dad's questions. He stared out the window, not really seeing the scenery as it flashed by. Instead, the blur brought with it a flashback that left him numb and unfeeling. Closing his eyes, he wished for the little white pills laying in wait in his drawer.

Why couldn't he forget?

He tried to struggle but the sweepers held his arms in a powerful, bruising grip. They pulled him towards the door that held his fear. Moaning, he tried once more to stop them dragging him forward but he could just as well have tried to stop an avalanche. They stopped in front of the door, increasing their grip on his arms. Winching at the added pain, he let his body go limp in an effort to stop the inevitable. They held him for a second or two longer and then let him go. His knees struck the concrete hard, and with his hands bound behind his back, he was unable to stop his head from slamming against the floor. Turning slowly onto his side, he drew up his legs in an effort to try to protect his already bruised stomach. Instead of kicking him, the sweepers stood back and gave him an unimpeded view of Jarod in the viewing room. The pretender was looking straight at him. He watched as Lyle said something and his brother's face darkened. Jarod started to rise and another sweeper pushed him back in his seat. J couldn’t make out what was said, he was too far away to hear anything but he understood the meaning behind Lyle's body language and Jarod's. He could see Lyle smile, staring at him before directing his gaze back at Jarod. He spoke again, and Jarod shook his head. J bit his lip when he heard the door open. Fear paralyzed him, terror gripped his heart firmly and his muscles refused to respond. In stead, the sweepers dragged him inside and proceeded to strap him in.

His own screams mixed with those on the screens. Every time he closed his eyes, he would receive a violent blow from one of the sweepers. He was forced to endure another endless spiral of death and destruction and in the end; all he could do was weep uncontrollably while making loud promises that he would do anything as long as they stopped the recordings. The silence that followed was exquisite and he was so relieved that he followed the commands of the sweepers without question. He stumbled between them, out the door. Gazing from underneath his lashes at the viewing room as they walked past it, he saw his brother's bent head and Lyle's triumphant grin. He was shoved forward and as he stumbled, he promised himself that he would never forgive Jarod. He had been brought back to that room because of Jarod and nothing the other would do is ever going to make him forget that.

This was all his fault.

Turning from his dark thoughts, he noticed for the first time that they were slowing down. His dad turned into a driveway and brought the car to a halt. He got out, taking in his surroundings. The doctor's house was set against the backdrop of huge sandstone boulders that looked like it had been stacked one on the other. The house hugged the boulders; to him it looked like the inflow of nature into the reddish cement-like outer wall of the house. Grass surrounded the front of the house while trees brought shadows across the green carpet. He followed his dad and Jarod up to the front porch, impressed by what he saw. A man was waiting for them. He was tall with a little bit of rounding around the middle. His hair was mottled dark brown and gray and the green eyes danced with friendliness. He shook J's hand with a firm grip and gave him a friendly pat on the back and everyone went into the coolness of the house.
With a cold glass of coke in his hand, he seated himself on the divan in Dr Brown's study. He was alone, his dad and Jarod talking to Dr Brown first. Putting the frosted glass on the table, he stood up and browsed along the bookcase. The normal psychiatry books were evident but sitting next to a book on Freudian principals was Terry Pratchett. Intrigued, he pulled out the hardbound book. He had just started reading the first page when he heard the door open. Surprised, he dropped the book and turned a frightened gaze on the man that stood in the doorway. Embarrassed, he bent down to pick up the book and put it back.

"You can borrow it, if you want."

Smoothing the folded page, he mumbled his thanks and started to return it to its place next to Freud.

"It's quite funny, in actual fact. I think you might even enjoy it."

Confused, he kept hold of the book as he lifted his head and look at the Dr Brown. Deciding that taking the book might mean less conversation, he returned to his seat and placed it next to him. He was nervous, and shifted in his seat, waiting for the inevitable question he knew that would follow shortly. It was always the same, with his dad, Jarod and Sydney. They never did understand.

After a while, J frowned and looked from where his hand had been fiddling with the book to where Dr Brown seem to have fallen asleep in his chair. Annoyed, he wondered what kind of psychiatrist would agree to see a patient and then ignore him. Clearing his throat, he watched as Dr Brown opened one eye.

"Aren't you supposed to ask me questions and stuff?"

Shifting in his seat, he smiled inwardly. He had been told that the boy was intelligent and his father and brother had given him a brief overview of what the boy had experienced. That and Sydney's information had helped him to formulate a plan in working with him. Sitting straight, he drew a legal pad closer and sharpened a pencil. His hand hovered over the paper, as he said.

"If you know the questions, why don't you give me the answers then?"

"What kind of psychiatrist are you?"

He smiled and put the pencil down. He had the boy's attention.
"The kind that likes honesty from his patients. J, I know you're hurting but if you're not prepared to deal with it then I cannot help you. Do you want me to help you?"

He watched the boy drop his head and look at his fiddling hands. He waited patiently as J debated with himself about the validity of his question. He wanted J to ask for help. It was important that the boy acknowledge that something more was wrong than just bad memories. They sat in silence for five minutes before J looked up briefly and said softly, "Yes."

Not satisfied, Dr Brown purposefully ignored the soft word, and instead prompted J. "Sorry J, I couldn't hear what you said."

He watched as anger briefly flashed in the boy's eyes before J said more loudly. "I want you to help me."

He smiled an encouraging smile and rose from the desk. J eyed him warily as he stepped towards the boy. "Good, then this is our pact. Trust me with your memories. Whatever you say will stay between us and no one else. This will be your safe place and you can come visit anytime you need me. I expect only honesty from you even if it hurts. Agreed." Stretching out his hand, he waited.

J was surprised. This was not at all what he had expected. Taking a deep breath, he took the offered hand.

************

Unknown area


Lyle took a sip from a sports bottle as he surveyed the woodland clearing he stood in. The sun was high, the sky blue and he was enjoying the hike. Counting his steps across the clearing, he was pleased with his initial evaluation. He picked up his backpack that had been leaning against a red oak. Adjusting his straps, he continued up the trial, taking in his surroundings. The area was well clear of the normal tourist attractions and trials that are used over late summer. He had found it on a previous excursion and had used it more than once. There were enough mountain streams to take care of his liquid needs and food he generally packed. The nights were starting to get cold but that would not be a problem. A good sleeping back and fire will take care of any uncomfortable chill that might be in the air.

He stopped on a ridge overlooking a tucked away valley and took a deep breath of the clean mountain air. It had a pleasant musk odor to it and he enjoyed the freedom and vastness of the area around him. Closing his eyes briefly, he fantasized about what he was going to do when he had his property back. He had been planning this while he had been left alone in the darkness of his cell, his only companion the pain that had embraced him like a lover. Those months had allowed him to work out the details until all he waited for was the opportunity to use it.

He continued on the trail, stopping now and again to take in certain details. He left small markers against tree trunks and rocks as he walked up and down the mountain, meticulous in his planning. Finally satisfied, he made his way back to the small woodland clearing. He noticed the sun going down and he started to make camp.

He was pleased with his assessment. Now all he needed was his property.

************

West coast


Jarod dropped his jacket on the chair. He thought about going for a quick surf, wanting the calmness that the waves brought. J still ignored him. The whole trip had been a big mistake. He shouldn't have gone and the only reason why he got in the car was because his dad asked him to. Sydney had gone grocery shopping and Parker had gone to Broots to spend some time with Debbie. The house was silent except for the pounding of the surf against the beach. The only good thing was that J had spoken to Dr Brown and had agreed to see him regularly. Kicking his shoes from his feet, he allowed his body to fall onto the couch. Closing his eyes, he allowed the rhythmic pounding to lull him to sleep.

“Are you ready to do the sim, Jarod?”

Looking at Lyle, Jarod shook his head. He met Lyle's gaze defiantly, expecting to be punished for his denial. He hasn't seen J since he had recovered from his ordeal with Alex. Ignoring the little voice inside him that Lyle will find a way to use the boy, he stubbornly kept his eyes on his captor. The chairman's son motioned to the sweepers. They pulled him upright and dragged him after Lyle's receding back. They entered a side door that opened into a rectangular room. One side of the room had a viewing glass installed, the other side of the room bare except for one chair that sat in the middle. He could see an extensive sound and view system set up in that small room. The sweepers dumped him in a chair and stood silently behind him. He heard footsteps and J moan and watched as they dropped him in front of the door. There was nothing he could do to protect him as J's head connected with the concrete. Ignoring the hollow feeling in his stomach, he watched as the boy turned painfully slow onto his side. He met J's gaze and he could see that J was scared.

“Jarod, everything that happens to J from this point onward is your fault.”

His face darkened and he started to rise at Lyle's words. The sweepers grip was tight as he was pushed back into his chair. His leg hurt and he decided that there was nothing he could do to prevent what was coming next. Lyle wanted to prove a point, nothing more.

“Are you ready to do the sim, Jarod?”

He shook his head, hoping that J will someday forgive him. He sat numbly as the sweepers dragged J into the room and strapped him to the chair.

The sweepers held him in place as he fought to reach Lyle. He was screaming his anger and frustration at his captor, his tears flowing as J's screams intermingled with sobs reached his ears. Lyle just looked at him and smiled.

He finally relented, admitting defeat. His head hung and he whispered brokenly that he would do the Sim. He could feel Lyle's triumph at his surrender and the recordings were shut down. He listened to the commands of the sweepers and he winched at J's quiet sobs that now filled the room. They pushed his brother from view and he couldn’t find the strength to lift his head and look as J walked past the doorway. Pulled to his feet, he was dragged to the Sim lab, where he completed the simulation on how to murder a leading CEO of a rival organization successfully.


No!

Jerking awake, Jarod sat up on the couch. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he turned and dropped his feet on the floor. His ragged breathing slowly returned to normal and he heard a car draw up. Moving towards the door, he opened it on a surprised Parker. One look was all it took and she enfolded him in an embrace. He allowed his own tears of frustration to flow as his best friend held him.

Spent, he told her about this morning and J's unresponsiveness.

“I don't know if he will ever talk to me. I can't even forgive myself for what I had allowed.”

Seated again on the couch with a cup of coffee, he looked at Parker.

“Give it time. We'll get through this.” Taking his hand, she held it fast. He smiled at her, thanking her for her words. This was how Sydney found them, sitting on the couch listening to the surf, hands held tight.

************

The Russell home


J was surfing the net for a project he needed to do for school. He was bored, and wanted to read a bit before he went to sleep. Randomly selecting websites from google, he flicked through the pages quickly. He noticed a link that he haven't seen before, and on impulse decided to check it out. Clicking on the hyperlink, he waited for it to open.

He smiled while he scrolled through the page. A research group needed volunteers for its study. He liked the idea behind their thesis proposal and decided to sign up. The sight promised privacy and pseudonyms can be used. He completed the questionnaire quickly and sent it on its way. Shutting down his machine, he turned to his bed. Maybe tonight he will sleep without need of the little white pills that waited in his drawer.

Margaret woke with a start. She could here screams coming from down the hall. Grabbing her gown, she put it on as she hurried towards J’s bedroom. She knew Charles was right behind her, his presence strong. Her hand flicked the switch upwards, the light bright for the few seconds it took her eyes to adjust. She made her way to her son’s bed where J was thrashing in his sleep.

“J…J…come on, honey, wake up.”

Gently cooing, she took a swinging hand in her hand. Pulled from his nightmare, his confused eyes settled on her. Charles entered with a washcloth and she wiped the sweat from J’s face. He finally became aware of his surroundings. Taking in the worried features of his parents, he apologized softly for waking them.

“J, don’t worry. It’s why we are here. Do you want something to drink?”

He nodded at her question and watched his mother leave the room. He shuffled into a sitting position, using the headboard to lean his back against.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Shaking his head, he looked away from his dad. He wanted to forget the nightmare. His mom returned with some hot cocoa and he thanked her. Telling them that he was fine and that they should return to bed, he promised that he would wake them if he had another nightmare. Taking a sip of his cocoa, he watched his parents leave. Finally alone, he waited another minute just to make sure that one of them didn’t return before opening his drawer. He quickly downed one, suppressing the little voice telling him that he was becoming addicted. He explained to the voice that he could stop any time he wanted, but for now, he allowed the blackness of sleep to overcome his nightmares.

TBC

**********

Let me know what you think.
Preparations by whashaza
Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for all the reviews. Sorry it took so long, but the plot bunnies refused to move from their designated spots and create ideas. Also, RL had been a bit unkind of late but things are slowly moving back under control. Hope you like this and I’ll try and post the chaps to the other stories as soon as possible.


Preparations


The Centre – Monday morning


Lyle entered his office with a light step, relaxed from the weekend spent outdoors. He whistled a nonsensical song, happy with his preparations. He filled a tumbler with some scotch before sliding into his chair. He leaned in and punched a four-digit extension number.

"Did you find anything?” Lyle asked, turning the chair so that he stared out his windows.

“We have a hit on the site that has some potential. Do you want me to forward the information to you?”

“How much potential?” he asked, watching the surf break on the rocks.

“Ninety six percent probability. I’ll know more once I have received the second reply.”

Lyle smiled and brought the drink to his lips. He took a long sip, and then answered, “As soon as you know I want the information brought to me. Then I want you to delete all the files that relate to this search.”

“I don’t think I have access rights to do that. I’ll need a higher security profile to do it.”

“Don’t worry about it. You will have what you need.” He answered as he hung up the phone.


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The Russell home - Wednesday

The air was hazy, mist tendrils drifting between the darkened stumps of the trees. He could see his breath materialise in front of him. His breath drifted away from him, fleeting in its existence before it became part of the whole and escaped with the rest of the cold mist. Another breath escaped. It was as if part of his soul was scattering right in front of him, splitting into different directions. He became more aware of the lack of sound. The mist dimmed everything, even the sound of his heartbeat. He tried to focus into the trees around him, to find his way.

He was lost.

His heartbeat increased. Panic forced him to turn left then right in a vain attempt to find his way. How did he end up here, in the middle of nowhere? His blood turned ice cold when the soft sound of laughter drifted towards him on the cloud of mist. He took a step back and stumbled. His feet were entangled in roots that had grown over them. He jerked on the roots, trying to dislodge them, slicing his hands on the thorns that had somehow sprung up. The laughter was sinister, cold and without remorse. It filled him with fear.

The mist took form, materialising into something more solid in front of him. He swallowed, facing the spectre that had formed in front of him. He couldn’t move. His whole being was frozen by guilt as he stared at the face of the rancher who had helped him. A litany vibrated inside him, trying to explain that he was sorry. The blood still dripped from the gaping wound in the man’s chest. The dark maroon color he remembers, the pool of blood that had slowly spread from beneath Michael’s body.

His feet were free.

He turned away from the nightmare and ran. He darted past the tall columns of trees, trying to run from his guilt. The laughter followed, swift and sure behind him. He glanced behind him, trying to ignore the screaming face that wanted to swallow him whole. He ran faster, if that was possible at all, the trees now a blur. The cold tendrils of fingers brushed his body, bringing with it the coldness of death. He shut his eyes, held his breath and ran past the coldness. He couldn’t think past his terror, past the knowledge that he had killed the rancher.

It was his fault.

He stopped. Turned. Waited.

A tombstone stood in front of him. Reflecting of the moonlight, mist dancing on the ground. Edged into the stone was his name.

Alone.

Coward.

Death.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


J hurt. He was sitting on a rock, staring down the steep slope towards where the creek meandered through the red rock. Sweat still dripped down his body from the run. He had dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. One pill was not enough anymore to keep the nightmares at bay. The light increased, he could feel the heat of the new day on his back. A cramp in his left calf muscle reminded him painfully how hard he had pushed himself this time. He stood, stepped away from the precipice and stretched. The dull throbbing pain made him feel alive. He eased the calf muscle loose, before beginning a slow jog back down the mountain towards where there house sat. Hopefully he could get out of the house before his parents woke. At least then he wouldn’t need to answer questions.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The car swerved dangerously on the road before Jarod managed to bring it under control. He honked furiously to the slow moving Ford in front of him, barely giving the other driver the chance to move to the curve of the road before he blasted past. As he drove automatically, he remembered his father’s frantic voice on the phone.

“Jarod, J’s disappeared.”


His immediate thought had been the Centre, but if that had been the case, why would they only have taken J. He thought briefly about Lyle, but dismissed it immediately. His nemesis was dead, nothing would bring him back. The only logical conclusion he could draw was that J had decided to run away.

“He was not in his room when I woke. He usually went for a run in the mornings but he never returned.”


The conversation was still real, still there in the back of his mind. He had asked if J had not gone to school early but according to his dad that was not the case. He finally saw the turn-of to the tracks and took it at 40 miles an hour. He nearly skidded out of control, but once again managed to bring the car under control. He was angry at J for making his parents worry. He mind was still conjuring up ways of handling the situation when he spotted J’s blue sweater next to the tracks. He brought the car to a stop just in front of the boy, the dust clouds roiling around them as he got out and glared at J. J glared back equally hard, his hands in fists next to his side.

“What where you thinking, or better yet, you didn’t,” he growled, his own stance tight and full of unshed anger.

“Leave me alone,” J said, turning his back on his older brother. Jarod stepped towards the boy and grabbed him by the arm, pulling him around so that J could face him. He wasn’t prepared for the fist that connected solidly to his jaw. He reeled back from the blow, the car bringing his tottering to a standstill and providing some support. J had already turned and had started to walk away. Jarod felt his anger rise, and he used the car to push from and tackled J to the ground. He ignored the scrapping of skin from his elbows, instead focused on getting the wriggling body beneath him under control. His hands grabbed J’s writs, folding over the scars that marked his own. He pushed the boy’s arms over his head, pushing it into the ground. His body sat heavily on J’s abdomen, his stare into J’s cold eyes silently warning him to be still.

J fought the weight and grip of his brother for a full minute before he realised the futility of it all. He went limp, admitting defeat. He turned his head to the side, not acknowledging his brother that towered over him.

“How can you do that to our parents?”

He ignored the burning in his eyes, instead focusing on the pebble that was making indentations in his lower back. It was painful, but instead of letting his brother know, he relished in it. Pain made him alive; it was what defined his life since Lyle.

“J!...Dammit, answer me, why are you doing this?”

He slowly turned his dead eyes towards his brother, showing no emotions. He gathered saliva and then spit, watching with satisfaction as the projectile landed on Jarod’s chin. He brother looked at him with shock, silently letting J’s hands go and wiping at the spit. Jarod rose, grabbed him by his jacket and pushed him into the passenger seat. Without a word they drove back to the farmhouse, the silence deafening in the car. J wanted to say he was sorry, he regretted his action but he couldn’t get himself to open his mouth and say the words. It was as if he had been dumb-struck, all the more to see the hurt in his brother’s face.

They finally stopped in front of the house, his parents opening the door, waiting. He didn’t even look at his brother as he opened the door and left. He watched his father’s questioning face as Jarod drove off without a word. His face burned from shame, he could feel the heat waves rolling from his body. His dad’s face shifted back to his guilty stance, the now slowly rising anger asking questions that he had no answer to.

“Get in the house. Now.”

He nodded, walking past his dad, glancing at the worried look in his mother’s face. He made it to his room before he burst into tears, slamming the door behind him and locking it. He regretted the whole day, he regretted what he had done to Jarod, and he regretted the look on his father’s face.

He wished he was dead.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


West coast


“Jarod, what happened?”

Jarod smirked; eyeing the red mark on his jaw that he knew would turn black and blue in a day. He grabbed an ice pack from the freezer, gingerly pushing it against the now forming bruise.

“I think J has finally grown up. He hit me.”

Miss Parker stared at him incredulously, her gaze disbelievingly. “He did what?”

“He took his right fist and connected it to my jaw. And then proceeded to walk away. I tried to find out why he was doing this, but he ignored me and then, as if hitting me wasn’t enough, he spat in my face.” Jarod gave a short laugh, grimacing as he pushed the ice pack against his face. “And you know what made my day; he didn’t even have the gall to say his sorry. Not even one word.”

Jarod watched as Miss Parker grabbed her jacket. “Where do you think you’re going?”

She turned, her eyes angry as she gazed at Jarod. “J needs to be taught a lesson and I intend to do that. With or without your parent’s approval.”

“How do you plan on doing that? J is ignoring everyone, denying all who want to help him.”

Miss Parker groaned, throwing her jacket on the chair. “Fine, Jarod. But if that boy lifts one more hand to you, he will learn the hard way what you and his parents have done for him.”

Jarod nodded; there was nothing else to do. He was fed up with the way J acted. He felt guilty about his own actions but he knew that J needed to at some stage take responsibility for his own actions. He could only hope that some day J will learn to forgive him, too.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Dr Brown’s residence, Saturday morning


Dr Brown gave a good look at his patient. Dark smudges underneath J’s eyes told him that the boy was not sleeping well. J was not looking at him, instead focusing on the sleeve of the top he was wearing. His fingers was nervously plugging at the frayed edges, his feet shuffling again till with a guilty look he stopped them moving.

“J?” he waited until the dark eyes focused slowly on him. He could see all the emotions that the boy was trying to suppress rage inside, silent and deadly.

“Are you having trouble sleeping?”

The boy nodded, and then looked away. The psychiatrist noticed the increased tugging at the sleeve.

“J, don’t you want to take your top off. I’m sure that you have to be uncomfortable in this heat.”

J looked into the knowing eyes of Dr Brown. Slowly he took the top off, folding his arms against his chest after he had dropped the top on the sofa next to him. He was tired of fighting. His nightmares now included Jarod and even with the sleeping pills he couldn’t get more than an hour sleep in at any one time. He was falling asleep in class, jerking awake in fright when the teacher touched his arm. He could still remember the laughter of his class mates, increasing his anger even more. He had been suspended for a fortnight when he had chosen to show one of the class members what happened if he was made fun of. The voice of Dr Brown reminded him that he was not alone in the room. He unclenched his fists and leaned back into the softness of the sofa. He tried to pretend that everything was all right but when he looked up again, he knew that he had failed.

“Can I see your arms, J?”

Wordlessly he extended them. He didn’t need to look to see the ugly red scars that now criss-crossed his forearms. He self-consciously rubbed the lines, drawing his arms back to his chest again.

“When did you start doing this to yourself?”

J looked at the lines, seeing in his mind’s eye once again when his hand had drawn the razor blade across his arm and watched as the blood welled up from the cut. The pain had been bitter sweet, a sharpness that brought with it the knowledge that he deserved the pain, that the pain was his friend. It wasn’t the same as when Lyle had cut him, but for now it had to do.

“J, are you listening?”

He swallowed, and then nodded. He was tongue-tied, unable to express what was inside him.

“J, I want you to focus on me. Can you do that?”

J moved his eyes from his own cuts, looking at the concerned gaze of the psychiatrist.

“I want you to tell me when you had started to cut yourself?”

He finally managed to open his mouth, and he managed to croak out, “T…Thursday.”

Dr Brown breathed in, aware of how vulnerable J was at the moment. Something had happened that had driven J further from healing and he needed to find out what had happened.

“What happened on Wednesday?”

J couldn’t live with it anymore. He had no idea how to tell it, but it came out haltingly and with jumpstarts until he had told all. He ended up leaning into the psychiatrist, his arms pressed tight against his body as Dr Brown hugged J to himself. His body jerked with each sob, as he finally allowed his emotions to exit. He had no idea how long they sat like that, when he finally felt the arms loosen around him.

“Feeling better?”

He smiled, wiping at the tears that still clung to his face. “Good. Why don’t I make us some coffee and you can use the bathroom to clean up a bit.” J nodded, watching the psychiatrist leave.

Five minutes later he was again seated on the sofa, Dr Brown seated in his chair.

“J, you know what you have to do. It is going to be hard but you need to speak to your brother.”

J agreed, hoping that he would get a chance to speak to Jarod. He took another sip of the coffee, enjoying the smell and taste of the drink.

“Do you want to tell me about the nightmares that you had been having?”

J flinched as a flashback hit him. “I…I,” he looked down, wondering how he was going to explain that he had been responsible for the death of the rancher that had tried to help him. Dr Brown waited patiently, prodding every few minutes until J had managed to tell some of what had happened. Dr Brown looked at him, putting his now finished cup of java on the table in front of him.

“Sometimes people believe what they want to and not the truth because it makes it easier for them to deal with what they experienced.”

A surprised look centred on J’s face as he mulled the statement over.

“J, did you pull the trigger of the gun?”

“No, but…”

“I asked a simple question. The rancher may have lived longer if he had not chosen to pick you up, but it had been his choice. He knew the risks. This was not your fault, J. You were not the one that had pulled the trigger.”

J’s hands gripped the mug tight, his eyes glistening with unshed tears again.

“J…it was not your fault.”

He wasn’t even aware of the mug hitting the floor, as images flashed before his eyes again. Michael’s face when he had washed his feet morphed continuously with the dead face of the rancher when the pool of blood had slowly spread from beneath his body. And he remembered the voice of the Albino telling him that he would never escape the Centre. His body started to respond to the bile that rose. A bin was pushed under his nose and he let go, allowing the liquid to spill into the bin. He heaved again, emptying his stomach in the blue bin of the physiatrist.

A glass was pressed against his lips and he rinsed his mouth clean. He had no idea why but somehow he felt better. He knew that he still had a lot of issues to deal with but little by little he was going to win. He had finally come to the realisation that the Albino had been responsible for the rancher’s death on one level. He could only hope his unconscious understood. At least it will be hopefully be one nightmare less.


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West coast – late afternoon

Jarod enjoyed the feel of Parker’s hand in his as they sat and watched the sun set. His dad had phoned earlier after having spoken to Dr Brown. J was making progress, slowly. For now they had to keep all blades from the boy. His parents had been shocked when J had told them about the self mutilation he had put himself through. The psychiatrist had suggested that until J was strong enough, they had to remove any temptation of the boy to hurt himself again. J wanted to speak to him and they had agreed that they would have a chat tomorrow after lunch.

He turned his head from the setting sun to watch the play of light on his best friend’s face. Her dark hair framed her face, the sun’s last rays creating a halo around her. He stared, not wanting to believe how beautiful she looked at that moment. She turned, he gaze settling on him, frowning slightly at the look in his eyes.

“Something wrong, Jarod.”

He lifted his hand and softly stroked her cheek. He tucked in a stray hair, and then leaned in and kissed her so deep that he thought he was going to drown. He forgot about J and the problems of his family, his ignored his own demons and instead focused all his power he had on the woman next to him. She returned the kiss and when he finally broke away, he was breathless. Her whole being smiled back at him and he had never been more content than at that moment.

“I want to show you something.”

She followed his lead, her hand light in his as he stepped down towards the water. The surf was less violent, low tide calming the ocean for a little bit. He stepped into the water, ignoring the wetness as she followed.

“What is it, Jarod?”

He laughed, spinning her with him. The spray wet both of them, leaving glistening trails down her face. He stopped, holding her steady before kneeling down and pulling a box from his pocket. He looked up as he presented the ring in the surf, watching her face glow.

“I know that I may never be the perfect husband, but I was never so certain of one thing but this, Parker. I want you to be my wife. I want you to share my life with your’s for now and all eternity. I want to wake up next to you in the morning and watch you sleep at night. I want to grow old with you.”

Miss Parker could not believe it. She had never expected this, thinking that Jarod wanted to get everything under control before their friendship turned even more serious. Her answer was to bowl him over, and as they rolled in the breakwater she screamed her happiness for the whole world to hear.

“Yes!”


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Reviews are welcome. ALWAYS.
Surprises by whashaza
Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

For Julia: Because you asked so nicely.

Surprises

West coast – Sunday morning early

For the first time in a long time, Jarod slept through without being woken by nightmares. When he woke the next morning, he felt refreshed and rested. Smiling, he stretched and then placed his hands behind his head, remembering Parker’s face when he had presented the ring. Someone knocked softly on his door and he called for the person to enter.

It was Parker with a breakfast tray in her hands.

“Morning sleepyhead.”

“Hi.”

“Before you ask, I had Sydney to help me prepare the breakfast.”

Jarod smiled as he shifted into a seated position, his back against the headboard. “Parker, I will eat the grass of our front lawn if you laid it before me.”

She smiled, a lightness in her eyes that Jarod couldn’t recall noticing before. “What exactly are you implying, lab rat?”

“Nothing,” his face innocent, “Only that I would do anything you ask.”

Miss Parker placed the tray on the bed and slid in underneath the covers. Her head rested on his shoulder and she traced a finger down his chest before looking up with a naughty twinkle and said, “Anything?”

Jarod was acutely aware of the scent of her hair in his nostrils as well as the path her finger was tracing on his skin. Goosebumps formed on his skin and he had to swallow before replying, “Anything.”

She moved slightly upwards and gave him a kiss that held a lot of promise. He was disappointed as she turned away when he leaned in to deepen the kiss and she stopped him with a finger on his lips.

“First, we eat. Then…” His eyes widened as she whispered in his ear. He had never eaten so quickly in his life before.


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The Russell home

“Thank you, son,” Margaret said, smiling at J as he set the turkey on the table. J still had trouble sleeping but his mood had lightened considerably since his last session with Dr Brown. She could only pray that he would continue to heal and work through the damage that Lyle and the Centre had inflicted. She stepped closer and gave her youngest son a hug and was glad when he retuned it with a shy smile.

She heard car doors slam shut and turned, calling for Charles to go greet their guests. She had hoped that Jarod and co. would have arrived earlier so that her two sons could talk. Now they’ll have to do it after lunch. Her gaze slid over the table, making sure that everything had been set and was ready.

“Mom, I’m scared.”

She turned, aware of how difficult it must have been for J to even admit his fear. She smiled reassuringly, and cupped his left cheek with her hand. “Don’t worry, J. Jarod will not be angry.”

“But after what I did…”

Margaret pulled her son into another hug. “We all make mistakes, J. Jarod have already forgiven you. Trust me.”

He nodded and she wiped the hair from his eyes. They heard the dining room door open and she mouthed to him, “It will be fine,” before turning to greet the others.

“Hi J. How’s school.”

J felt immensely grateful at Miss Parker for greeting him first. He mumbled an answer, not really aware of what he was saying until he felt the presence of his older brother before him. He couldn’t even look him in the eye.

“We’ll talk after lunch, ok.”

He nodded. Sydney greeted him with a hug and he let it comfort him for a second.

They had all seated at the table when Jarod cleared his throat.

“I would like to make an announcement. This wonderful lady sitting next to me has agreed to marry me.”

Miss Parker couldn’t help but glow as everyone turned their attention to her and Jarod. Her ring was admired and words of encouragement and congratulations were voiced. Soon grace was said and then the atmosphere was filled with laughter and warmth as the meal was consumed.


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The Russell home

Jarod started to help his mother take the dishes to the kitchen when she stopped him and indicated to J who was fidgeting nervously on his seat. Jarod understood and so did the rest of the family as everyone started to busy themselves with clearing the dishes and moving towards the kitchen.

“J, do you want to go for a walk?”

J nodded and stood silently. Leading the way outside, he started to walk, not caring about the direction he took. They walked in silence for several minutes before Jarod gently took him by his arm and stopped him. J looked at his feet, not daring to lift his head.

“We need to talk about what happened, J?”

“I…” he cleared his throat, aware of the tears that had guiltily made their way to his eyes again. His emotions were so haywire the last few weeks that he didn’t trust himself not to burst into tears. Swallowing, he hoped not to embarrass himself in front of his brother, he continued, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

“I know, J but in the process you managed to hurt a lot of people that love you. Do you understand that?”

“Yes. I, I don’t …I mean, I just seem to do these things and then when it’s too late,” frustrated, he trailed to a stop. He lifted his gaze to meet the concerned one of his brother.

“J, what Lyle had done to us is wrong and what I allowed him to do to you is…unforgivable. But, what matters is that we move on. Lyle is dead and he can’t hurt us anymore except for what we allow him to in our minds.”

J turned away from his brother to stare at the hills that towered over them. He didn’t want to be reminded about what their dead captor had done to ensure cooperation. What he had done in the warehouse. Hugging himself, he was aware that Jarod was waiting for him to reply. He turned, his eyes hard as he replied heatedly, hoping to dull the memories with his anger.

“All this is your fault. If only you had given in…,” he stopped, snapping his mouth closed as he became aware of what he had uttered. He knew that Jarod would see what was behind the words, behind the fact that his hatred stemmed from his surrender to Lyle the second time he was taken to the room.

“Lyle had broken me before,” Jarod admitted quietly. “He told me that they had captured you and our father and that only one of you had survived. I had done things for him in order to find out who of you had survived. Lyle was very good at what he did.”

J stared, aware of the pain in his brother’s voice. “I didn’t know,” he whispered.

Jarod smiled sadly, glancing at the farmhouse. “Yeah well, it’s not something I talk about. Sydney doesn’t even know so I’ll appreciate it if you don’t tell anyone else this.”

J felt the anger drain from him as empathy for his brother filled him. “I won’t, I promise.” He paused, and then continued, “How do I make us better?”

Jarod smiled and pulled J into a hug, crushing him to his chest. “Live your life. That is they only way that we’ll beat Lyle and the Centre, by showing them that we can survive what they had done to us.”

J forgot about his pride, about not wanting to embarrass himself before his brother. He allowed the sorrow to well up and to fill his chest till it burst forth with a muffled sob. His brother’s arms only tightened and the strength behind those arms that surrounded him pulled him through his grief.

Jarod’s shirt was wet from J’s tears but he didn’t mind as his brother’s grip loosened slightly. “You ok?” he asked, keeping his voice quiet.

“Sorry.”

J stepped from him, wiping at his eyes. “It’s ok, J. We all need to let go sometimes. Believe me, it helps.”

J grinned, his eyes still bright from the tears. “I never figured you for the crying kind.”

Jarod returned the grin, giving his brother a light tap on his back. “Don’t believe that. It get’s really bad when I step into thorns.”

J laughed. It felt good to laugh. He hadn’t done that in a while and soon enough he and his brother was seated on the ground, giggling like girls over dumb jokes.

It was late afternoon when the two dusty brothers returned to the house, demanding ice-cream and hot chocolate. Parker only rolled her eyes when the ice-cream was smothered by the hot drink and then eaten with gusto.

Men.


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West coast

Jarod and Parker were seated on the beach. The stars were shining brightly, the moon full. The whole beach was bathed in the light.

“Will J be all right?”

“I believe so. It helps that he is talking but it will take time.”

“Jarod, if you ever want to talk about what my brother did…”

Jarod shifted, laying his head in her lap. He closed his eyes when she started to play with his hair.

“All I need is you.”


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The Russell home

J closed the book that Dr Brown had lent him. After the talk with his brother it had felt if an iron bar had lifted from his shoulders. He knew he still had a lot of issues to deal with but he felt up to it. He decided that he’ll go see Dr. Brown tomorrow after school. The sooner he dealt with his problems, the sooner he will shed the nightmare of the Centre and what Lyle had done.

He fell asleep with a smile on his face for the first time since his rescue from Lyle.


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Red bridge High School, Monday

“Come on, dude. Get in.”

J smiled as Pete who was keeping pace with his car next to him. “Naw, thanks. I’d rather walk.”

“It’s five miles. And besides,” he patted the car door, “this is a chick magnet.”

“I know.” Hefting his school bag, he increased his pace slightly.

“Ok man, just remember, if you don’t get a girl for the fall dance it will be your fault.”

J nodded and waved goodbye. He enjoyed the solitude of the walk and it helped him to clear his mind. Letting his mind wander, he enjoyed the slight breeze that cooled him down. He heard the crunch of wheels on the dirt road he had taken. He didn’t look up, thinking that Pete had come back to try and convince him to take a drive with him. He turned with a smile on his face and froze, terror welling up in his throat. A strange mix of fury and despair washed through J, his feet rooted to the ground.

“Get in.”

J continued to stare unbelievingly to the man in the car. He had thought him dead and although he was still very real in his nightmares, the idea had never crossed his mind that he would have survived.

“Do not let me ask you twice, Gemini.”

Lyle’s voice was soft and had a dangerous tone to it. J looked up and down the road, hoping for an escape. They were alone and suddenly he wished that he had taken Pete’s offer. His mouth was dry, his hands sweaty. He wanted desperately to run but he knew that Lyle would cut him off before he got too far. Slowly, he dropped his bag on the back seat before seating himself next to his captor.

“Put on your safety belt.”

Wordlessly he did as he was told. They drove in silence for twenty minutes before Lyle turned the car into a driveway of an old farmhouse. J could only sit numbly as the man brought the car to a standstill. He jerked in surprise when the click sounded when his seatbelt was released.

“Let’s go.”

J opened his door, stepping outside. His hand reached for his bag but a command from Lyle and he left it in the car. He walked around the back of the car and Lyle stepped up beside him. The older man grabbed him by the scruff of his neck in an obscene simulation of a friendly gesture.

“I’ve missed you.”

J swallowed, as they entered the house without Lyle loosening his grip on him. He kept his head down, aware of the indentations of the other man’s fingers on his neck. He was pushed into a couch with a command to stay put. He heard a cupboard door open and then Lyle asked him if he wanted coffee. J glanced up uncertainly, not willing to believe that this wasn’t some sort of trick. Lyle watched him out of his depthless eyes, his mouth a narrow, tight line, his body motionless. J nodded, not trusting himself to speak. His mouth was dry and tight, his muscles were in knots. Don’t panic, he told himself. Stay calm. He forced himself to breathe, slow and deep and regular, watching as Lyle prepared the coffee.

“You don’t seem to sleep well.”

Lyle’s suave voice floated through the stillness. He gave J a cup and the boy watched as the light from the window played across Lyle’s face, a friendly mask hiding the darkness underneath. Lyle moved to a chair across from J and seated himself.

“Why am I here?” he asked, and to his surprise, his voice was steady.

“I wanted to have a talk with you.”

“About what?”

Lyle’s smile was a twitch at the corners of his mouth, his gaze not leaving J’s as he took a sip from the cup. He tilted his head slightly and lifted an eyebrow, his voice soft and compelling.

“I see that you have added to your scars.”

Self-consciously J turned his arms so that the cuts were concealed from the Chairman’s son. He started to sip at the coffee in his hands and then stopped, his eyes meeting his captor’s. Deciding that it would be wiser not to drink in case it was drugged, he placed the warm cup on the floor next to the couch. Lyle studied him silently. Then he said, “I don’t need to drug the coffee. You’re already doing that to yourself.”

Lyle shifted slightly in the chair, his hand emerging from his pocket and throwing J a very familiar film packet. J looked at the little white pills he had become addicted too. His stomach clenched as he clutched the packet to his chest.

“It’s not what you think.” As soon as he said it, he wondered why he cared what Lyle thought.

“Really? And what am I suppose to think?”

J was aware that he was fully in Lyle’s control and that the man was coolly leading the conversation down a path he was not willing to go. Angry at himself for allowing the older man to dictate his thoughts, he threw the packet towards a corner of the room. On some distant plane he was aware that he had calculated the throw so that he knew exactly where it landed. His eyes drifted towards the corner before he could stop himself.

“It’s not what you think,” he stubbornly said again when he picked up the coffee and took a big gulp. The coffee burned its way down his throat but he didn’t care. At this stage he welcomed the pain. At least it made him feel alive.

“You are a lot like me, did you know that?” The suave voice was smooth and oddly comforting. “We both have learned how to understand pain and make it work to our advantage.”

J shook his head to deny what he was hearing, but Lyle brought his gloved hand up and pointed at J’s scars. “We have learned how to inflict pain and to enjoy the way it can be used to control other people’s actions.” Lyle nodded slightly, his eyes not leaving J’s. “It is time that you come to understand the truth of what that power means.”

Lyle paused, waiting for J to respond. But J had gone cold to the bone as he sensed what was coming, and he could only howl silently in denial.

“I can see in your eyes that you understand,” Lyle said, his voice softer still. “It is time to fulfil your destiny, Gemini.”

“No. You’re lying. I’m nothing like you.”

“When have I ever lied to you, Gemini?”

J was furious. He started to speak, then stopped, suddenly aware that he couldn’t recall any specific lies that the older man had told him. The lies were there, as sure as the sun that rose every morning, but he couldn’t seem to focus on them.

“If we are the same, then you would let me leave.”

Lyle shook his head, a smile settled on his face. “Not yet. You and I are first going to explore, discover and hopefully learn from each other. Then I will let you go.”

J shook his hand angrily. “I don’t’ want to talk or discover or any of that. There’s nothing to talk about.” He glared. “My parents will come looking for me if you try and hold me.”

“Do you really believe that?”

J glared, trying to ignore the doubt that Lyle’s words had created inside him.

“I am nothing like you,” he said dully.

Lyle’s gaze was flat and steady. “See it from where I’m sitting.”

“I don’t care. I’m not.”

Lyle rose and walked over to the window. He stared out at the mountains, distracted and distant. “I used to try and make the man I believed to be my father proud of me. Other people’s opinions mattered until I realised that you will be shaped by them as long as you allow that. The freedom that came when I finally realised that was immense.” He turned back to J. “If you are really truthful, you will ask yourself the question…How is it any different for you?”

“You hunted my family for years. You kept me and,” he nearly choked on saying his brother’s name, “Jarod prisoner, torturing us until we had nothing left. You made me believe that my father died. You made me hate…” he stopped, suddenly aware of what he had been saying and what he had been about to admit. That he had hated his own brother.

“The Centre created you, Gemini and therefore we are your family. You cannot escape that fact, Gemini. Even if you don’t want to admit it, you belong to me.”

J shook his head quickly. “No.”

Lyle stepped closer to the boy, his eyes hard as stone. “I wonder. Do you recall what happened the last time you and I talked?”

J swallowed. His memories were suddenly vividly real. The screams from May Lin as Lyle cut into her still haunted him even in daylight. And he remembered all too clearly his part in it. The seat next to him dipped. The cold of steel traced on his arms and he looked from where the knife was making patterns on his arms to focus on Lyle’s steel blue gaze. He shifted slightly, and Lyle’s gloved hand slid behind his head to rest once again on his neck.

“Tell me.”

His voice was soft, insistent. J dropped his gaze, watching as the knife traced one of the scars. He slightly shook his head, wanting to desperately be anywhere but here with Lyle. He gasped as the knife pushed in and broke skin.

“Tell me.”

“I…” He couldn’t. His body went taut with pain as Lyle increased his grip on his neck to hold him in place while his other hand holding the knife continued to cut into J’s arm.

“Tell me.”

The voice was dangerously quiet and controlled. J could feel the tears film on his eyes and then start to roll down his cheeks. He started to whisper, his voice so soft that Lyle leaned closer, his ear beside J’s mouth.

“I told you where to cut…the…girl.”

Lyle let him go. J watched as the man pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the blood from the blade. When he was finished, he offered the piece of cloth to J who took it without comment and pressed it against his still bleeding wound.

“See J, you are not so different from me.”

J didn’t reply. He was too tired emotionally to fight any longer. Lyle rose from the seat and returned a few seconds later with the packet of pills. He took one out and gave it to the boy. J took the offered pill and without a word swallowed it.

“Good boy,” Lyle said, using a deep voice and stroking J’s face with the back of his thumbless hand, “Obey my orders, Gemini, and we’ll both walk away from this with what we want.”

Lyle placed his hand over the boy’s heart where he knew his signature lay. He traced the scar through the thin t-shirt the boy wore, enjoying the feel of power he had over him. His voice was smooth and mocking when he said, “Remember, Gemini. You and I both know that you are a coward. Do as I say and your nightmares will disappear. Or else, I can introduce you to some new ones.”

J was never so glad when the pill started to work and he could escape to a world where he had never met Lyle. More importantly, a world where he didn’t need to think or feel.


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Reviews…ah, you know the rest.
The games we play by whashaza
Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for those who reviewed. It is greatly appreciated. Hope you like.


The games we play


The Russell farm


Lyle brought the car to a halt just outside the gate to the Russell farm. He lightly slapped J through the face until the boy moaned and his eyes fluttered open.

“You’re home.”

The boy looked confused. His eyes shifted from his captor to the house behind him. “What…” Why was his captor letting him go? Lyle smiled and leaned in. “We’ll start tomorrow after school. I’ll pick you up at the same place. Do not be late.”

J stared, his mind racing. He had a chance. Tell his parents, tell Jarod, tell anyone who will be prepared to listen. Lyle’s hand gripped his neck, bringing the boy still closer to his face. “You can tell your parents about me, if you want, Gemini. Just remember. I will find you again and I will put the gun in your hands and help you pull the trigger while your parents are kneeling in front of you. Do you understand?”

J’s mouth was dry as the image burned into his mind of what his captor threatened. He only managed a small nod of assent, wondering what he was going to do. He had no-one to talk too. Lyle leaned over his body, opening the door. He leaned back into his seat, waiting for J to exit.

“Your bag, Gemini. You still have homework to do.”

J slowly took his bag and stepped back. Lyle waved and then drove off. He stood there in the road for five minutes while he tried to get to terms with what had just happened. It was unreal. Did the whole afternoon just happen or is he slowly going insane. He turned his arm, seeing the new cut across the older ones. Someone called him and pulled from his thoughts he looked up to see his mother standing on the porch. Dusk had settled and the lights were on in the house. He waved, wondering how he was going to explain away the cut and where he had been the afternoon.

He closed his eyes briefly, settling his thoughts. He was going to have to pretend. There was no other way that he will be able to fool his parents. A deep breath later and he opened his eyes. He started towards the house and gave his mother a peck on her cheek.

“Sorry I’m late. I was at a friend’s house and we were working on a project for school.”

“Was that him that dropped you off?”

For a moment J faltered. What if his mother had seen Lyle? His stomach clenched and he felt bile rise at the image the man had painted so vividly a few minutes ago. He coughed, hiding his face and then managed to say, “Yes.”

“Who is he?”

J had to think quickly. Any name would do. It wasn’t as if he will ever bring the man home and say, ‘Mom, dad. I’d like you to meet my friend, Lyle.’ He smiled, saying, “His name is Bobby.”

“Maybe you should invite him Saturday for lunch.”

“No!” As soon as he said it, he knew that he had been too strong in his reply. “Uh, I mean, Bobby is grounded until the end of the month for, um, for taking his dad’s car without permission.”

Margaret smiled, “I hope he had asked his dad to bring you home.”

J nodded, grateful that his mom had believed his story. “I have some homework to finish. Is it ok if I eat in my room tonight?”

Margaret looked more closely at her youngest son. Something was wrong but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. J was avoiding her, his eyes everywhere but on her. He was also keeping his left arm from view. Suspicious, she stepped towards him.

“J, can I see your arm, please?”

For a moment J debated on ignoring his mother’s request before slowly extending his arm. She took it in her hands and turned it. Her fingers traced the new wound lightly.

“J, we need to talk about this.”

J looked away, staring into the surrounding darkness of the hills. He ached for a run. There, at least, he was the one in control. He knew how and when he could push his body to achieve his goals. There in the silence of the hills he didn’t need to think, didn’t need to pretend. He could just be himself without anyone breathing down his neck, without anyone demanding his obedience. He sighed, pulling his arm from his mother’s.

“It won’t happen again. I promise.”

The door opened and his father stood in the doorway. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” J said, holding the offending arm close to his body. He tried to brush past his father but was stopped when his father grabbed him.

“J?” he warned, glancing at Margaret before looking at his son. “What’s going on?”

“J had cut himself again.”

J’s face darkened with anger. He hated what Lyle was putting him through. He hated the fact that his mother couldn’t keep the cut a secret. Hell, he hated his life. Lyle is right. He is a coward. He felt his arm pulled out and stiffened when his father traced the new scar.

“Why are you doing this to yourself?”

“I don’t know, ok! I just do!” he screamed, finally able to get rid of the frustration and fear of what Lyle is forcing him to do. “Why do you care anyway? It’s not as if I’m your real son. You don't care about me, you only feel because I look like him. You're looking to replace the lost time you never had with Jarod with me. All I am is a clone of the real thing.”

“You don’t believe that.”

J dropped his bag, stepping away from his parents. “It’s true. Get real, dad. I don’t belong here, I don’t belong anywhere. I’m a freak of nature. All I need is a sticker that says Made in the Centre.”

On one level J knew that his words stung and hurt. That what he was doing was to protect himself. If his parents hated him, Lyle wouldn’t hurt them. What would be the point if they didn’t care? He couldn’t look at the shocked expressions of their faces anymore and he fled from his own terror.

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Lyle smiled. Things could not have gone better if he had scripted it. The boy was a satisfying distraction until his plans were in place for the real goal. He wanted to isolate Gemini from his family, break his defences until nothing was left. Then, while everyone’s focus was on him, he will step in and take what belonged to him.

He had stopped the car at a small outcropping and through night vision binoculars had watched the interaction between Gemini and his parents. He had followed the path the boy had taken when he had fled and satisfied that he could predicate the way the boy would go, he entered his car.

It was time for him to intervene and continue with the game he and J played.

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The Russell farm


Charles looked worriedly at his wife. Jarod, Sydney and Miss Parker were on their way to the farm. He didn’t understand why J had so much trouble adjusting or why the nightmares continued to haunt him. He had thought that they had had a breakthrough yesterday when J had mend his relationship with his brother. Now J seemed determined to break his relationship with his parents.

“Who was the boy who dropped him off?”

Margaret clenched her hands and leaned into her husband. “A friend from school. His name is Bobby.”

“Did you meet him before he left?”

His wife broke from his embrace to look into his eyes. Her own reflected his concern when she said, “No. J had said that Bobby was grounded so I guessed that his father had told him to go straight home.”

“I think that after we have J back here we should investigate a bit more closely. J is very fragile right now and I don’t want anyone to take advantage of our son.”

Margaret watched as her husband rose. Following his form as he made for the stairs, she frowned. “Charles, what are you going to do?”

Her husband looked guilty for a moment as he stood at the bottom of the stairs, his hand holding on the railing.

“Charles?”

She stood, moving towards him. “I’m sorry, Margaret. But I need to know that J is safe and if I have to take away his privacy by going through his things, then I will do it.”

Margaret gave him a nod of understanding. Nothing mattered anymore but making sure that J continued down a road of healing. Determined, she took her husband’s hand and said, “I’ll help.”

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“Let’s play a game, Gemini.”

J watched Lyle’s hand hypnotically as the man trailed it down the woman’s body.

“Let’s pretend that you are me.”

His eyes snapped from Lyle’s hands to meet the older man’s eyes who were studying him dispassionately, probing. A cruel half-smile had settled on the sociopath’s face. Using the woman’s body, Lyle pushed himself to his feet and stepped towards the boy. The blond man clasped the back of his neck and holding it firmly, he leaned in.

“Let’s pretend that you want some information that is vital to your ongoing health.”

J was deeply aware of how close Lyle was to him. He stared straight ahead while his captor’s breath was hot on the side of his face.

“Do you want to play?”

He pushed harder, his leg muscles straining as he tried to outrun Lyle’s voice.

He heard a whimper and his gaze shifted towards May Lin. She was conscious; her brown eyes full of pain and fear. J swallowed and then took a deep breath.

“No.”

Lyle’s face darkened with anger and he straightened. His hand lashed out, connecting solidly with the boy’s face. J could feel the blood welling up from a cut to his lip. Determined not to play Lyle’s sick game, he steeled himself for more abuse. Instead, the sociopath made his way towards the girl. She tried to move away from the man, her fear palpable in the tense atmosphere. Lyle warned her to stay still and with one look to the anger-filled eyes and she complied.

“Lyle, don’t…” J began, trying to reason with the man. If he could keep his captor’s attention on him, he hoped that he could save the girl at least some more pain. Instead, a demonic smile settled on Lyle’s face as he knelt by her body.

“Please…”


J ignored the burning in his chest. He ignored his screaming muscles and most of all; he ignored the oncoming lights of the cars as he continued blindly to run down the two-lane highway. All he saw was the scene that was playing it out in his memory.

Lyle’s fingers stopped at the top button of her shirt. The reality of what was happening must have sunk in, leaving the girl frozen in shock and fear. Slowly Lyle undid the first one, and then the second, the third until J couldn’t handle the panicked breaths coming from May Lin anymore and he called out, “I’ll play.”


He turned automatically from the highway onto a secondary dirt road. The moon was barely out but he didn’t need the light. He knew every dip and stone in the road as he raced the darkness of his soul.

“Good boy.” Lyle smirked as he moved from his position beside the girl towards where J was bound to the chair. Running his gloved hand through J’s hair, he gripped the short hairs at the back and pulled the boy’s head so that he was forced to look into Lyle’s hard eyes at an uncomfortable angle.

“Like all games, this one has rules.”

J couldn’t nod and he couldn’t answer. “Are you paying attention, Gemini? I wouldn’t want you to get it wrong and get penalised.”

He managed to give a weak acknowledgment to Lyle’s question. J listened with growing horror as Lyle explained slowly, making sure that J parroted his words. When he was finished, he patted J’s cheek before moving towards the girl once more.


It was quiet. The darkness surrounded him like velvet and he liked it. The soft sounds of his feet were the only beat he followed. It drove him to push harder and he was unaware of the slight crunch of wheels behind him.

May Lin screamed again and J struggled violently against the rope that bound him to the chair. All he managed was to rub his skin raw. Growling in anger, he intensified his struggles until the weakened foot on the left side gave way and he fell onto his side.

“You cannot escape, Gemini.” Lyle’s voiced remained eerily calm. “All you managed to do is to put yourself into a more uncomfortable position.” J stopped struggling. He felt sick and frightened for the girl and frustrated and angry at himself for allowing Lyle to manipulate him once again.

“Now choose.”

“I choose me.”

“That is not your choice. You are the one in control, now choose.” Turning the girl on her stomach, he warned her to stay still while he ripped the shirt from her back. J could only stare at the milky white skin and swallowed.

“Choose or I’ll be forced to continue,” Lyle warned. To J it didn’t look like the sociopath needed any incentive to continue but he wisely kept his mouth shut and didn’t voice it out loud. “Choose Gemini.” A note of impatience had crept in.

“I can’t choose.”

“A pity then,” Lyle said emotionlessly and turned his back on J while he moved his hand down her back until he touched her leg. She whimpered softly but otherwise stayed motionless. Lyle had shown both of them what happened if he was disobeyed.

“You’ll let her go if I answer.”

Lyle turned, watching J out of the corner of his eye. “You are the one in control, Gemini.” Lyle’s mocking tone provoked a sense of deep humiliation. J knew that he had been broken again. He noticed that Lyle promised nothing and J dropped his gaze. He concentrated on the small hole in the cement floor by his eyes.

“If I’m in control than let her go.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way. This is your last chance. Choose.”

J’s hands trembled and he blinked away the tears that were threatening to erupt when he answered Lyle’s question.

“Her left thumb. I choose her left thumb.”

J ran full force into the car that had appeared from nowhere. The wind escaped from his body with a loud whoosh and staggered backwards from the rebound until he collapsed onto his side. Black spots danced in front of his eyes as he tried to wheeze more air into his lungs. He heard a car door slam shut and then he managed to lift his eyes and make out the person who stood in front of him. His blood ran cold and he tried to back away from the menacing man before him.

“Don’t move.”

He stopped and then was yanked to his feet by his shirt. Lyle pushed him without a further word towards the car and J didn’t resist. Lyle was right. He was a coward. He stayed against the cooling metal of the car while Lyle opened the trunk.

“Get in.”

J didn’t even blink when the lid was slammed shut.

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The Russell farm


Lyle brought the car to a halt on the same outcrop he had watched the family from. He could see a car draw to a stop outside the house and when he used his binoculars he smiled. Jarod had arrived with his sister and the psychiatrist in tow. Whistling softly under his breath he walked around the car and opened the trunk. J’s dark eyes were staring up at him and he liked the fact that the boy was obedient when he told him to get out. Taking the boy towards the viewpoint, he pointed towards the house.

They could see small points of light moving away from the house and although J could hear the shouts from where he stood, he couldn’t make out the words. He didn’t need to; he could very well imagine that it was his name that was shouted. He could just make out the form of Sydney from the porch light that shown on the car and he watched as the psychiatrist drove off with Miss Parker. They were probably going to try and see if he wasn’t on the road, he surmised.

“I want you to go back.”

J turned and tried to make out Lyle’s features in the moonlight. “Why?”

Lyle smiled, giving J a knowing look. “Because I said so.”

J turned back to watch the points of light as it moved further away from the house. “I don’t want to go back. They don’t care about me.”

“Who are you trying to convince, Gemini. I can and will hurt your parents regardless of their feelings towards you.”

J didn’t answer, waiting for Lyle to continue.

“I want you to go back and apologise to your parents. You will explain to them in a sincere tone that you will not worry them again like that and that you will try to be a good son.”

“Why are you doing this? You have me, why give me a chance to tell my family about you,” J hissed.

“The game has not ended yet and until I say otherwise, you are still a participant.”

They stood in silence for five minutes until Lyle commanded J to leave. The boy didn’t look back once as he made his way towards one of the points of light that had been steadily moving towards their position.

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The Russell farm

J watched his brother place the first aid kit on the table. His was seated by the kitchen table, his arm stretched out on the surface. He kept his head down, not looking at any of his family members while Jarod started to clean the wound gently.

He heard his father’s footsteps and he tensed slightly. Something was thrown on the table and when he looked he felt his stomach drop.

“What are these, J?”

J swallowed, aware that Jarod’s hand had stilled. Apparently his father had kept that little titbit from his brother. Jarod stretched out a hand and took the film packet.

“I’m talking to you, young man. Now answer me.”

“It helps me to sleep.”

“How many of these were you taking a day,” Jarod asked, placing the packet back on the table.

“Two to three. It depends.”

“On what.” J could here the anger in his father’s voice and calmly he replied, “On how bad the nightmares are.” J didn’t like the thoughtful look that came over Sydney’s face.

“J, do you trust us?”

J closed his eyes. He wished his father could have asked anything but that. The question of trust was not towards them. It was his trust they needed to worry about.

“Yes.”

“Charles, can I speak to you for a moment.”

J knew that Sydney would suggest that he see Dr. Brown first thing tomorrow and he couldn’t because he had an appointment with Lyle and he didn’t want to be late. Taking his arm from Jarod, he mumbled that he was going to take a shower. Jarod gave him a brief hug and he tiredly accepted it. An idea crossed his mind briefly and he focused on it more fully.

He was about to turn and leave when his father stepped back into the room. He nodded his agreement when his dad told him that he will take him to see his psychiatrist in the morning.

Then he said the words Lyle had told him to, telling his father that he was really sorry and he had no idea why he had taken the pills. He heard them rumble from his body, the pitch just right and his sorrow evident but the meaning of his restitution was as empty to him as a bottomless well.

He was good at pretending, after-all Raines taught him well.

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The Russell farm


Jarod was the first to respond when a loud thump sounded from the upstairs bathroom. His father was right behind him when he encountered the locked door. Not even taking the time to knock, he broke the latch and stopped dead at the scene that was before him. J was seated in the shower, a broken piece of glass discarded next to his body. Red blood was steadily pumping out of his slit wrist. Bloodshot eyes stared dully from a pale face at Jarod.

The pretender rushed forward and grabbing a towel, he put pressure on the wound while yelling at his dad to call an ambulance.

“No. Please, don’t.”

J was barely coherent and he lashed out weakly at Jarod, trying to dislodge his brother’s hand from his wrist.

“This is not the answer, J. We’ll help you to get better, I promise.”

J didn’t answer, his head rolling to the side. When his father returned, they moved him towards the centre of the room so that they could elevate his legs to keep the blood flowing towards J’s major organs. Jarod increased the pressure on the wound, lifting the arm in the air. Professionally giving instructions to Sydney, the pair worked to get the blood stopped while J’s parents looked on.

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The Russell farm

Lyle followed the ambulance at a discreet distance. He had known that Gemini would try and take his own life. He had followed the reasoning through in his head when he had prepared his little speech for this afternoon, knowing that the boy would see it as the only way out of meeting with him again.

His plans were falling perfectly in place.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital


J groggily opened his eyes and looked around. His wrist hurt abdominally and he flexed his fingers to try and alleviate the pain.

“How’s the pain?”

He turned his head and saw his brother sitting on a chair by his side. He didn’t answer, instead turned and watched the doctors rush past his bed to another emergency. He stiffened when one of the doctors turned and he met Lyle’s blue gaze. Jarod must have sensed something for he stood and stared but all he saw was the retreating back of a doctor.

“J, what’s wrong.”

“Why did you save me?”

“Why do you want to kill yourself?”

J didn’t answer. Instead he closed his eyes and feigned sleep.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

“I’ve put J on suicide watch for the next few days. I’ll schedule to meet with him first thing in the morning.”

Major Charles nodded, thanking Dr. Brown for his effort and for coming out so late. He entered J’s private room, watching his two sons as they slept. Walking softly over, he shook Jarod slightly until his eldest son woke.

“Go home, Jarod. I’ll stay for the night.”

Jarod started to protest but his father was adamant and in the end he relented.

“I’ll come back tomorrow first thing.”

“Come at eleven. J is having a session with Dr. Brown and it will be pointless for you to wait here while he is gone.”

Jarod reluctantly agreed and encouraging his father that J will get better, he left after a hug. Major Charles turned to J, caressing his sleeping son’s hair away from his face.

“It will get better,” he promised silently.

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West coast

Jarod had awaken early and had decided that he needed the feel of the ocean against his skin to help calm his thoughts on what J had tried to do last night. Parker was meeting his mom so that they could get a few things for J’s stay in the hospital. Dr. Brown wanted to keep J in a controlled environment until he felt the boy had stabilised enough emotionally before he would recommend his release. His parents had agreed.

Kissing his fiancé goodbye, he greeted Sydney who had stepped outside before grabbing his board. An hour later he felt better. The waves had been good and feeling the board beneath him had helped him to focus his thoughts on finding ways of helping his younger brother. Humming to himself, Jarod placed his board in the garage before stepping through the open kitchen door. He wanted to talk to Sydney about a few of his ideas before he left for the hospital.

He froze for a second at what greeted his eyes. Sitting in a chair by the kitchen table was Sydney; his upper body slumped over the table. Blood had congealed on a head wound that looked nasty, prompting him to move over to check on his mentor. He failed to notice the other's presence and his first awareness came when his mouth and nose was crushed beneath a damp cloth. He struggled against the hold, trying to break free. A dark haze filled his eyesight and he became frantic in his efforts to break free. In his struggle he barely perceived the prick. His world spiralled into a darkening void and he went limp in the arms of his attacker.

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Should I continue? ;-) Let me know.
The darkness that rules by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for those that took the time to review. Just wondering…seeing that I didn’t get a lot of reviews…should I still continue?

The Darkness that Rules

St. Vincent’s Hospital

Lyle’s still alive.

J couldn’t focus on anything else. He was curled up on his side, watching the trees sway outside in the early morning breeze. His wrist hurt and reminded him painfully of his failure last night. Hearing footsteps enter his room, he closed his eyes, deepening his breathing. He was not yet ready to face whoever it was. He didn’t have the strength to explain his choices or the reasons why.

“I know you’re awake, Gemini.”

Panic surged into his heart as a gloved hand traced his attempt through the bandage.

“No-one will interrupt us. Now open your eyes.”

Too exhausted for disobedience, he did as he was instructed. Lyle’s eyes held the same cheerful mockery it had yesterday. Nothing has changed.

Everything has changed.

“Why are you here?” He croaked, his throat raw as if he had spent days screaming.

“I was worried. I thought we had an understanding, Gemini?”

J’s head swam. Turning his gaze from Lyle, he stared out the window to the colours that had changed from orange to blue as the day grew stronger. J heard Lyle sigh and then red hot pain lanced through his arm. His scream was muffled by the man’s other hand and he turned pain-filled eyes towards Lyle.

“Now that I have your attention, Gemini, we can continue. Do you think that your death would spare your parents theirs?”

Lyle’s words opened a void inside him. All hope fled towards the vacuum and left him utterly defeated. All love, hate, emotion and certainty sped into the vacuum leaving him empty and utterly devoid of anything. He didn’t have the strength to fight anymore and he fell into the void.

How could everything be so easily broken? He was lost and Lyle knew it.

“What part of who you are do you not understand?”

“I don’t…” He closed his eyes tiredly.

Tears gathered on his eyelashes and when he opened his eyes the tears ran silently down his cheeks. Lyle took his right hand and wiped one away. “I don’t understand anything anymore…Nothing makes sense to me anymore…” he whispered, barely recognising his own voice.

Lyle slowly seated himself by J. A small smile lingered on his face. “To understand your destiny will be hard. Learning is always a painful process.”

J turned his head away from the lingering hand, not willing to admit that the man had brought comfort.

“What…” licking his suddenly dry lips, he started again, “What is my destiny?”

Lyle leaned in closer to the boy, bringing his mouth to within a millimetre of J’s ear.

“Your destiny is to be a traitor.”

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

Major Charles frowned when he noticed the door to J’s room closed. Increasing his pace, he glanced at the nurse’s station. It was empty. He had not been gone for more than an hour and he had been assured that someone would look into his son’s room intermittently. It had been the only reason he had gone home to shower and get a fresh batch of clothes. Now he wondered if he hadn’t made a mistake.

Silently opening the door, he stared at the sheets. His concern increasing he called out for his son as he entered deeper into the room His relief was immense when he heard the sounds of water from the bathroom and he knocked, calling softly. The splashing stopped and then the tentative voice of his son answered.

“I…I’m fine, dad. I’ll be out soon.”

Something in J’s voice didn’t sound right. Remembering the previous evening and where they had found J, he tried to open the door only to find it locked.

“J, open the door.”

A minute later he heard the lock click and he opened the door, half afraid to find that his son had tried something again. His shoulders visible relaxed when J’s tense face met his.

“I…wasn’t going to…”

Charles nodded, not trusting himself to reply. His son’s eyes were dark and full of despair. He ached to take the hurt away and make him whole but he had no idea how. He did the only thing he could and brought his son into a hug.

“You do know that we love you,” he whispered strongly into his son’s hair, feeling J breathing against his chest. Alive. Not half dead with his blood pumping out onto the tiles.

“We’ll make it better. I promise.”

J barely responded. A knock sounded and he turned to see a nurse placing a tray by J’s bed. Thanking her for the breakfast, he gently guided his son towards the bed.

“Why don’t you have some breakfast and I’ll see if Dr Brown has arrived yet.”

“Dad.” He turned, looking at his son. “I’m sorry.”

The apology did nothing to lessen his fear for J’s physical and emotional well-being. In fact, it did the opposite. It increased his fear that J would try again and be successful. There was a brokenness in his voice that he had only heard once in his life before from his wife when Kyle had been kidnapped. The second kidnapping had broken her completely and it had taken Emily for her to start living again.

“Why don’t I stay until Dr Brown comes looking for us.”

There was no way that he was going to leave his son alone again.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

J was aware that his father had left quietly, leaving him alone with his thoughts and Dr Brown. He didn’t acknowledge the other man; instead he continued to gaze out the window.

“Do you want to go for a walk outside?”

The question caught him by surprise. It was not what he had expected, what he had prepared for. Not really caring, one way or the other, he shrugged listlessly.

You don’t belong.

He heard the chair move and then Dr Brown closed the blinds, effectively ending his view from the sun-dappled trees to light gray rows of plastic. He didn’t say anything but stood and placing his feet into slippers walked without a word out the room.

You’re a coward.

He walked till he found a bench. Leaning back, he closed his eyes, wondering at the life that was still going on around him.

Traitor.

“J, you need to tell me what you are thinking right now.”

“Why?”

He almost didn’t have the strength to even ask the question. To even care.

I’m an illusion. Not real. Not human.

“If you don’t care why, would it matter if you tell me?”

He laughed bitterly. Dr Brown had him there. Even Lyle couldn’t dispute that.

“Maybe it’s better if you don’t help me anymore.”

“Is that what you really want?”

J was silent for a long time. Despite what Lyle had said this morning, a small part of him was still raging against his choices. Still fighting.

“No.”

They sat in silence again until Dr Brown asked J softly, “If your brother had not been there, you would have died. Is that what you really wanted?”

J watched a small bird peck at the grass until with a chirp it flew off. “I long for death but even there no one is safe from me. So, for now I live. Whether in the end I choose death or not isn’t really the question you should ask me right now.”

“Then what is the question I should ask?”

“Can I be trusted?”

Dr Brown shifted, watching as a young woman walked past, pushing a wheelchair that had an elderly lady in it. He was deeply concerned by J’s attitude and words. They boy had given up and something had pushed him over the edge. He needed to get to the root if he was to be of any help to the boy.

“Why should you not be trusted?”

“Maybe you should ask Jarod that question. Then we can talk again.”

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West coast

Miss Parker brought the car to a halt outside their cottage. She had finally decided to take the trip out after her phone calls were unheeded. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end when she exited the car. Her danger sense was flaring badly and she wished she had her gun with her. Something wasn’t right. She made her way carefully around the house towards the backdoor. Everything was quiet. Too quiet.

She glanced through the open kitchen door. Leaning against the wall, she counted to ten while the image of Sydney slumped over the table flared in her mind. She hadn’t noticed anyone else but that didn’t mean that the attacker wasn’t still waiting inside. She briefly wondered where Jarod was, she haven’t seen him with Sydney. Praying that her fiancée was still alive, she moved back down the sidewall towards her bedroom.

Silently entering her room through the patio doors, she made directly for the safe built into her closet. When she found the door open and the empty safe glaring back at her, she swore for the first time since Alex. Glancing around the room, she finally decided that the umbrella will have to do. Taking her shoes off, she glided towards the bedroom door. Sliding down the wall, she slowly fingered the door open until she could see the hallway. Empty.

Taking a deep breath, she took her cell phone and changed the setting to silent. Placing it on the floor, she moved out the room, every sense alert for the slightest sound. Closing each door of the rooms she inspected, she moved down the hall towards the kitchen. Ten minutes later she had determined that it was only Sydney and she did were in the house. Moving with haste, she grabbed her phone from the bedroom and the first aid kit.

A sigh of relief left her when she felt the faint beat against her fingers. Flipping her phone open, she started dialling.

“Major Charles, I need an ambulance at my place. Sydney‘s been hurt.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll speak to you at the hospital.”

Closing the connection, she dialled a second number, knowing that the Major would do as she had asked.

“Broots, I need you to check the mainframe for any directive against us.”

“We did it yesterday. They were still in the dark regarding…”

“I don’t care what happened yesterday. I want you to do it now. Phone me when you’re done and then get Debbie and meet me at the hospital.”

She didn’t wait for his reply and she closed the phone.

The kitchen was a mess. She had stepped around a spot where flour had been spilled. Two footprints were edged into the white dust and going back to her room, she grabbed a camera. Placing the umbrella next to it, she took photos of the imprints. She could only deduce that whoever the attacker had been, had probably hit Sydney and had then waited for Jarod. Her fiancée had not waited to check if he was alone and when he had bent over Sydney, the attacker must have taken him from behind. From the scuff marks and broken cutlery, she could see that Jarod had not made it easy. But he had been taken.

She wondered if it really could have been the Centre. From experience, she knew that the Centre would have not just taken Jarod. They would have made sure that his whole family joined him as a means to control him. No. This was something different. Her brother came to mind but she dismissed it. He was dead. She had been there when he had been shot. And even if he had survived the Centre would have made sure he didn’t. Even while she thought this, she was flipping the phone open, and dialling the second number again.

“Check for anything on my brother.”

Leaving Broots still gulping air, she ended the call. It wouldn’t hurt just to make sure.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

She followed Sydney as far as she could before she was stopped by a nurse. Turning from watching him being wheeled deeper into the hallway, she stepped towards where Charles and Margaret were just arriving.

“Is he going to be all right?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where’s Jarod?” Margaret asked, watching Miss Parker. She didn’t like the taut lines that seemed to stretch across Miss Parker’s face.

“He wasn’t at home and from the mess I’m pretty sure that he has been kidnapped.”

“The Centre?” Charles asked, his mind already moving towards getting his family to safety.

“No, I don’t think so. I’m having Broots checking the mainframe but if it had been the Centre, I don’t think we would be standing here, speculating. We would be in a town car on our way to Blue Cove.”

“Who else would want to hurt Sydney and kidnap Jarod?” Charles asked white faced. Miss Parker didn’t miss the supportive arm that he put around Margaret nor his wife’s intake of breath. She had pushed her concern for what might be happening to Jarod to the background to deal with Sydney and for now, she needed to keep it there is she wanted to make a stab at finding Jarod. She needed to be the Ice Queen again.

“Jarod had made some enemies from the people he had brought to justice with his pretends. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of people that wouldn’t mind getting their hands on him.”

Charles nodded and pulled his wife closer. Having her next to him helped. “I don’t understand. We were careful. How could something like this happen and especially now?”

Something clicked in her mind. “Who’s with J?”

“Emily. She landed this morning and had volunteered to stay with him till we get back. You don’t think he might be in danger?”

“I don’t know. J’s actions of yesterday are not adding up. Why would he try to take his own life when it had seemed that he had been making progress? I think we need to have a talk with him.”

Taken aback by her change of topic, Major Charles stared. “What. Now?”

“The sooner, the better. If we are going to make decisions we need to have all information available. I just think that J might now what is going on?”

“Why do you think that?” Major Charles asked angrily, “J’s been having a hard time for a while now. It’s not as if yesterday was all that different except for last night.”

“Precisely,” she retorted, “Why suddenly decide to kill himself when he had never tried it before or even hinted at it. Think about it, Major. What happened with J in-between the time he had left for school and the time he had come home? I’ve asked around. No-one has seen him. Where did he go?”

Margaret looked at her husband. She could see him aging in front of her as the worry for Jarod and now the increased concern for the youngest son grew. “Charles, I agree with Miss Parker. I think we should ask J what happened yesterday.”

Major Charles nodded dejectedly. He didn’t want to dwell on what could possible have happened. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

When J looked at the trio that entered his room, he knew. He knew that they suspected something.

“He’s gone, isn’t he?”

“Who is, J?” Margaret asked, her stomach sinking at the knowing look in her son’s eyes.

“Jarod. That’s why you’re here.”

“How do you know that?” Miss Parker didn’t hide the suspicion while she stepped closer to the bed. Emily was staring wide mouthed at her parents, Miss Parker and J.

“What’s going on?” Emily asked, rising from her seat.

“Why don’t you tell us, J?”

“If I do you’re all dead. Do you want that, Miss Parker?”

“Who said that?” Miss Parker managed to utter, her eyes deepening with anger.

J shook his head, averting his eyes to stare at his hands. Miss Parker stepped towards the bed and he flinched when she grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her.

“Who?”

Their staring contest was interrupted by a harried Broots that chose to enter the room at that precise moment. Miss Parker turned her head when he spoke her name.

“Miss Parker. You were right. Y…your brother…he…he’s still…”

“Alive,” she finished, straightening from J’s guilty and fear filled face to look at Broots. “So he managed to fake his death, yet again. Why can’t he just do the right thing and die for once.”

Broots didn’t answer, instead started to explain that he had come across Lyle’s name in some obscure file that had been tucked away deep into the mainframe. It seems that Raines had wanted his own revenge and had denied the Triumvirate directive to terminate Lyle’s contract.

“So how did my brother managed to escape his keeper?”

“He…he didn’t. He was released by a new director that had replaced Mr. Raines. No-one has heard from Mr. Raines since then.”

Miss Parker turned back to J. “What did you tell my brother?”

J didn’t answer. She repeated her question, more heatedly. It was Margaret’s hand on her arm that stopped her from physically forcing an answer out of J.

“I think it’s better if we talk to J. Why don’t you go and see how Sydney is doing.”

Miss Parker wanted to protest, to tell Jarod’s mother that she wasn’t about leave her only answer to her fiancé and her brother’s whereabouts but sanity prevailed. She knew the stubborn streak of Jarod and it was just as strong in the boy. Turning on her heel, she stalked out the room, hoping that J’s parents can get him to talk. Otherwise, she will.

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Unknown area

Awareness came gradually. Slowly. He was laying on his side, the numbness on his left shoulder and hip telling him that he had been left in that position for a while. His nose was pressed against the ground, the dust clogging his nostrils uncomfortably. His hands were bound tightly behind his back. He could feel the rough texture of the rope rubbing against his skin. Similarly, he could feel the same tightness around his ankles. Fear left him frozen when he found that he couldn’t see anything until he moved his head slightly and felt the slick material pulled tight across his eyes, leaving him blind. Quelling his rising panic, he bit down on the rag that effectively gagged him. What amazed him was the lack of sound. Nothing penetrated in his drug-induced haze as he came more fully awake. It took him another minute before he felt the earplugs in his ears. Inwardly frowning, he tried to make sense of what had happened.

Sydney lying comatose…

Arms grabbing him from behind…

Could it be that the Centre had found them? Fear for his parents, his fiancé and the rest of the group coursed through him. They had been careful. Broots and he had checked regularly into the mainframe for any directives issued regarding the Centre’s search for them. The last time they had checked was yesterday and the Centre was still in the dark regarding their whereabouts. Could he and Broots have made a mistake?

Warm patches on his skin made his aware that he was shirtless and that he had to be somewhere outside. The heat was starting to make him uncomfortable and he shifted. Small pieces of stone dug painfully into his side but he ignored it. He tried to move his hands, testing the leeway of the ropes but there was none. The rope dug into his skin – his skin became slippery with blood – but they did not give. He stopped, lying still as sweat trickled down the side of his face. He needed to think, to try and find out why he had been taken and by whom.

Concentrating, he turned to his only senses that were left. A soft movement of air against his skin brought with it different smells that filled his nostrils. From the mix he knew that he had to be in a woodland area, that and the combination of warm and cold patches on his skin confirmed it. He didn’t want to think of how many areas across the States were forested and with no idea what time it was he didn’t even want to begin to speculate how far away from home he was.

He grunted, gritting his teeth when a boot sank into his ribs. He felt the ropes around his legs jerked roughly and then his legs were free. Not knowing what to expect next, he lay with his muscles tense. A hand grabbed him around his bicep, pulling him upright into a kneeling position. His lower body was ensconced in a pair of jeans; he could feel the material against his body. His had some kind of work or hiking shoe on, he thought, testing the weight. He tried to pull away from the touch, and was rewarded with a painful blow to his head. Breath left him as he stuck the ground. His head rung and blood ran down his cheek.

Once again he was pulled upright until he sat in a kneeling position on the uneven ground. He barely had time to compose himself when he felt something metallic slip around his neck. His skin was crawling with dread that had been building since he had waked. Blind and deaf, he had no way of protecting himself. He was scared, he had to admit it. He had never been this helpless.

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Reviews…pretty please…;-)

All you have ever offered us is pain. by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for the reviews. See, good reviewers get rewarded with a quick update. lol Just a warning, some scenes might be disturbing to sensitive readers.

All you had ever offered us is pain.

Unknown area

It had almost been too easy, Lyle thought. He had enjoyed his time with Gemini and the fun had almost forced him to stay longer and watch the boy spiral towards his own destruction. He had not thought that Gemini would have allowed himself to become so vulnerable but then again, what he had forced the boy to do at the warehouse must have really made an impression. Lyle grinned at the memory, flexing his leather clad hand.

Oh, it had been fun.

Breathing deeply the fresh mountain air, he returned his attention back towards the man kneeling in front of him. The sense of power he felt at having the pretender under his control was immense. The satisfaction was enormously gratifying and more so because he knew that Jarod hated not being in control.

This would be fun.

Circling his kneeling property, he took the time to admire the pretender's upper body. He was tanned a dark brown that was easy on the eye. The surfing had moulded his already well-developed muscles, toning them to an exceptional level. He grinned ferall when he noticed the increased discomfort that Jarod showed at staying in the kneeling position. Stepping forward, he enjoyed the fear that showed briefly on Jarod’s face when his hand made contact with flesh. Moving slowly, he clipped the leash onto the collar, enjoying the quickening of Jarod's breath that caressed his hand. Bending down, he pulled the pretender into a standing position. With the leash in one hand, he shoved Jarod forward.

The pretender stumbled, unsure of his footing. His muscles tensed into tight knots of fear while the uncertainty of where he was being led to increased with each step he took. Every time he slowed down, tentatively pushing one foot forward, he was pulled sharply forward. He would lose his balance, a barely controlled stumble preventing him from falling. Each time that happened, the collar around his neck would tighten, the prongs digging painfully into his flesh. He could do nothing but hope that he would still be alive when evening came.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

J was seated on his bed, sitting cross-legged while his parents stood at the foot-end. At his request, Emily had left. Dr Brown was seated discreetly in the corner, keeping an eye on the tense boy. J wasn’t looking at any of them.

“J, when you’re ready?” Dr Brown said softly. He didn’t miss the increased tension his words created. He was worried. He wasn’t sure that having J’s parents here was the right thing to do. But J had made that choice. J wiped his face discreetly and nodded. He glanced once at his father and then looked away.

“J, what did Lyle do?”

J flinched. His father’s voice was full of anger and in his mind it was directed at him. He was the one who had done everything wrong.

Traitor

Lyle’s voice continued to taunt him even though the man had left him this morning. After he told him exactly where to find Jarod. The fact that Lyle might have known beforehand didn’t register with J. His throat was tight and he felt like he couldn’t breath. Hugging himself in an effort to bring some comfort, he hunched inwards.

“Do…do you remember when I phoned you…from the warehouse,” he started brokenly, not opening his eyes or changing his position. He didn’t want to see the disappointment in his father’s eyes. “Lyle got the number…from me.” He whispered the last words, and after taking a deep breath, he continued, “I didn’t want to give it to him but he…he had this girl and he threatened to…to hurt her if I didn’t.”

“Son, it’s ok. We understand. You did the right thing to give him the number. It helped us to find you.”

J shook his head. “No. You don’t…understand. I…I did something…with him.”

Major Charles didn’t want to hear. He didn’t want to imagine what Lyle had forced his son to do or the abuse he must have received. It had been bad enough to carry the guilt of Jarod’s incarceration at the Centre. Margaret squeezed his hand in support and he drew strength from there.

“J, it’s not your fault. Lyle…”

J opened his eyes, staring with intensity at his dad that it was unsettling. “It is my fault. You don’t understand.”

Charles said nothing, meeting his son’s gaze unflinchingly. J looked away, shifting his eyes to stare out the window. He didn’t know if he had the strength to continue.

“Help me to understand, son. Please. We love you and we will always love you, not matter what.”

J swallowed visible, closing his eyes briefly. “I…,” he stopped, tears flowing freely, making twin paths down his cheeks and dripping unheeded on his shirt. Taking a shuddering breath, he wiped at the wetness. “I helped Lyle to…,” he trailed again to silence, gathering his waning courage.

Margaret and Charles didn’t move, seeming to sense that J would bolt and never speak about it again. The atmosphere was tense and filled with dread. J continued to wipe the tears, still staring out the window but he wasn’t in the room. He was reliving his nightmare with Lyle.

“Lyle…he had this game…he wanted me to play…and I did.” When J stopped for another breath, the silence was almost unbearable. He filled the stillness again in broken whispers, “I had to…choose,” he broke down, a load sob escaping before he managed to contain it. He took several big gulps of air before he felt sufficiently composed to continue. “I had to choose…where Lyle…would cut next. He started…at the hands…oh God…what have I done.” He dropped his head in hands, wiping his face, trying to get rid of the tears but they wouldn’t stop. He still didn’t look at anyone in the room. It was as if he could distance himself from who it was he was telling it too. “He…he cut her left thumb off first because I chose it.”

Margaret’s hand gripped her husband’s tightly, almost painfully while J continued. “I tried to…get the ropes…off but it was…too tight. Her screams are…still inside…my head.” He started to ramble, his thoughts jumping from one act to the next as he described them. “He promised he’ll let her go…and he did…in the end. After he had cut her…heart out…he…” J could feel the bile rising and he was unable to stop the reflex action. He grabbed the bin standing next to his bed, purging his body until only dry heaves remained. Wiping his mouth, he took a ragged breath. “He cut it…into strips…and he…” He couldn’t even say it. He remembered his disgust and horror and what Lyle had done. He can still see the gleam in the man’s eyes as he consumed the pieces of flesh. He shivered, drawing his knees up to his body, holding them tight.

His parents stepped around the bed and his father sat down beside J, pulling him closely against his chest. He was trying hard not to let the horror of what he had heard to show. He didn’t say a word as he held his son close, stroking his hair.

“He said that I’m a coward. That…that she…died because…I chose it. That I’m…just like him.”

Charles kissed his son on the head. “You can never be like Lyle, even if you tried, J. You are the bravest person I know. After what you had endured under Raines and then under Lyle, you chose to live, to continue. That takes courage, my son. And she died because Lyle killed her and nothing you could have done or said would have either prevented it or encouraged him to do it.”

J leaned against his father’s chest, feeling the strong hart beat. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to be comforted. A burden had been lifted and though he still carried the scars of his encounter, he knew that with time he would be all right. After a while, the Major broke the silence.

“What happened yesterday, J?”

J sighed, not wanting to break the contact he had. “Lyle picked me up…he said that if…if I told you about him…that he would kill you…in front of me. That…that he would make…me pull the trigger.”

“What did he want?” Charles asked as anger for Lyle’s manipulation rose. He would kill that son of a bitch slowly when he found him.

J didn’t answer. His muscles in his shoulder tensed further as he drew further into himself. He didn’t want to tell his dad about all the words that Lyle had used, all the things he had said so believably.

“Please don’t hate me.”

“Oh J…How could we ever do that. You’re our son.”

“I told Lyle where to find Jarod. I told him where my brother lived and I gave him up. All this is my fault. I’m a traitor. I’m nothing better than him.” J whispered. He wanted to leave the safety of his father’s arms; he wanted so desperately to run. He turned, eyeing his father’s face for any hint of disappointment or disgust. When he found none but compassion and love he said harshly, “Don’t you understand? I told Lyle…I told….”

“J, stop it. Lyle all ready knew where Jarod lived. He just wanted you to believe his lies. Think about it.”

“I still told him.”

Charles looked helplessly at his wife and then at Dr Brown. He didn’t know how to answer that statement. Dr Brown nodded and he accepted that the psychiatrist will work with J. They still needed to find out if J knew where Lyle would have gone and he didn’t want to ask J but he had no choice.

“J, did Lyle say anything about where he would take Jarod.”

J shook his head. “He took me took the old Lawson place. I don’t think he will still be there.”

Charles nodded when his wife left to tell Miss Parker. He stayed, hoping that now that J had opened his soul that his son was truly on his way to healing. He could only hope and pray that between them that they would be able to undo what Lyle had done.

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Unknown area

It had been a long, exhausting trek for Jarod, made more so because of the way he was secured. The rope cut into his wrists and his body cramped with every step he took. His discomfort might not have gone unnoticed but they went unrelieved. Jarod was fit but he was no match for what he was put through that day. When the breeze turned cool and the sun that had warmed his skin was less potent he could barely walk.

He was disorientated and fighting a losing battle not to show his fear. He stumbled forwards, trying not to pull too much on the leash. He was afraid that if he fell, his captor would not stop but will just drag his body after him. He tried to swallow but the saliva in his mouth had long ago dried up. He breathed a sigh of relief when a firm hand on his arm stopped his forward stumble and brought him to a halt.

His leg muscles trembled and it was all he could do not to collapse onto the ground. Sweat had dried on his body leaving an uncomfortable tingling. He tensed when the hand pushed down. His captor seemed to understand and the grip became a steadying hand. He was moved into a kneeling position again, a warning hand on his shoulder reminding him not to move. His throat was on fire where the prongs had dug in. His body craved water as he tried again to swallow. His lips were dry and cracked and bleeding. He pushed against the rag with his tongue, hoping to relieve some of his discomfort. It didn’t work, like all the times before he only increased his own discomfort.

He felt movement and then a hand removed the gag. Coughing, he moved his mouth to try and lessen the feeling of numbness. A spout was pushed against his lips and he gratefully took a sip. The water was low warm and tasted metallic but he had never drunk anything better. He took another gulp and then the spout was removed and he swallowed air.

Licking his lips, he whispered hoarsely, “Please,” leaning slightly forward to where he hoped the bottle was held. He had not meant to beg but his craving was so intense, he couldn’t ignore it. He needed more water. Instead the gag was replaced and he was filled with disappointment. Letting his head drop tiredly, he tried to ignore the tears that threatened to escape his closed lids. Shifting in the hope to abate his twitching leg muscles, he received a blow to his ribs. Hunching inwards, he tried to protect his body. He grunted as another blow landed before he was forced back into his previous position. He focused on what Parker would be doing; imaging her smile and feel of her body next to his as he tried to ignore the spasms that started to shoot through his leg muscles.

Gathering wood, Lyle kept an eye on the kneeling pretender. He had readied a circle of stones on one of his earlier excursions, the ground cleared and ready to become a new fire pit. Dumping the wood, he started to set the fire. He smiled when he noticed the goose bumps on Jarod's exposed chest. It was time the pretender learned to appreciate his creature comforts. He remembers gleefully the way Jarod had begged for more water. It was about time the pretender experienced the same things he did when he was held in the bowels of the Centre. It was only right.

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St. Vincent’s Hospital

“Nothing. He’s gone.”

Charles swore under his breath. Glancing at his son, making sure he was still asleep, he closed the door quietly.

“What about the Centre. Wouldn’t Lyle have taken Jarod there?”

“Broots had already searched the mainframe. It seems my brother has gone AWOL. He could be anywhere by now.”

“Is there nothing we can go on?”

“Wait. Miss…Parker, what about the hunting cabin where Lyle had taken the girl.”

She looked at Broots, remembering the reason why they had been looking into the cabin. It sounded feasible. Not a lot of people knew about it and especially the Centre. It was a place to start and who knows; maybe Lady Luck will be with them this time.

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Unknown area

Jarod tried to ignore his rumbling stomach. The last time he remembered eating was breakfast with Sydney and Parker. It seemed a lifetime ago. He was still kneeling. His leg muscles have now gone completely numb. A cramp shot up the leg that had been fractured by Lyle almost six months ago and he gasped. Shifting slightly, he tried to ease the cramp without moving too much out of position. His attention was drawn when he smelled smoke. His captor must have started a fire and he was grateful even for the little bit of warmth he could feel from where he sat. The evening temperature was steadily dropping, cooling his body down. Some time later he smelled the rich scent of stew and his mouth watered.

Lyle watched Jarod lean slightly towards the fire. He knew it was the scent wafting from the pot that held the other's attention. Taking his plate, he filled it with the stew. He ate every last bit, enjoying the meal and knowing that Jarod was craving for the food. Clearing his plates, he went down to the stream to wash his cutlery. He took his time, enjoying the coldness of the water, knowing that he was in control.

He returned, noticing that Jarod took a sharp intake of breath. He could see the pain lines etched across the pretender’s face. He knew what was coming and he watched intently, waiting patiently. A few minutes later Jarod shifted sideways, a low moan escaping while he stretched the cramping muscle. A thin smile graced Lyle’s features as he packed the plate away. He took out a small PCP pipe, hefting it in his hand. The pipe was ideal as a punishment tool because it would leave only superficial bruising. Stepping towards the pretender, he enjoyed the brief glimpse of fear that Jarod showed when he became aware of his presence. Lyle stood and watched for a minute as the pretender struggled to move back into a kneeling position before giving up and slumping down in defeat. Lyle stepped in.

A hand pushed on his neck, forcing him forward till his head touched the ground. He squirmed underneath the grip that held him in place until the first shock of the blow on his lower back forced a muffled scream from his lips. The pain exploded like a red hot poker, spreading fingers of burning heat across his back. A second and third blow followed the first one. Each a mind numbing pain that left him gasping for breath. By the fifth he had stopped moving, the blood thundering through his ears, his back a sea of pain. He didn’t have the strength to protest when he was jerked upwards by his hair. Breathing shallowly, he focused on Parker’s face that floated in his mind’s eye. He imagined her light touch on his hurt, kissing it away.

He was pulled backwards until his back met the unforgiving bark of a tree. Ropes were treaded around his elbows. He could only manage a whimper when the rope was jerked tight, pushing his burning back into the rough bark. His captor must have been satisfied, for he felt a last pat on his arm that made him winch and then his presence was gone.

Lyle rolled out his sleeping bag close to the dying fire. Throwing a glance at Jarod, he grinned. It might take a while but the pretender will learn to do as he is told. He was so looking forward to dispensing much needed retraining. But for now, he will enjoy teaching his property the consequences of disobedience

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Unknown area

It must have been the longest night of Jarod’s life. He had never been so cold or uncomfortable. Leaning his head against the tree, he ran simulations on ways to escape. Answers eluded him and he was too tired to continue. Shifting his body, he tried to find any kind of traction in the rope. Like all the hundreds of times previously, there was none. He had been pulled so tight against the tree that any kind of semi-movement only created more burn marks where the rope dug into his elbows. His back hurt, sending waves of pain as his muscles got no respite from being tied the way he was.

He was so tired.

His head slipped forward. He jerked awake, trying to determine where his captor was. Not sensing him didn’t decrease the tension with-in. Who was his captor and why was he being held. These questions came again and again, round and round in a circle. His breathing deepened, his head lolled forward. He finally succumbed to exhaustion, not caring anymore.

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Hope I still have readers…let me know what you think.

To learn by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for the reviews.

To learn

Unknown area

Lyle woke to the early-morning birds chatting away in the trees. Sitting up, he stretched. Looking towards where he had left the pretender, he smiled. The other must have spent an uncomfortable night. Exhaustion has finally overcome him because from where he sat it looked like Jarod was fast asleep. Going down to the stream, he washed his face before filling the coffee kettle. Rekindling the fire, he started to boil the water. He took a cup from his bag and threw some coffee powder and sugar in it.

Jarod jerked awake when the ropes were loosened around his elbows. He grimaced when the pins and needles followed the flow of blood down to his hands. It was painful but manageable. A hand gave a brief tap on his biceps and for a brief moment he failed to understand the signal. He was roughly grabbed and pushed into a kneeling position. His abused muscles protested violently and he felt the bile rise. Swallowing, he tried to compose himself. His nausea abated a bit and then his gag was removed.

He had never imagined how good coffee smelled. He waited with baited breath, not wanting the disappointment of not receiving any sustenance. The cup was pushed against his lips and he sipped. The warmth filled him, helping to dissipate the chill of the night. He was allowed to finish the coffee, careful to follow the subtle signals of the other’s hand on his neck. The gag was left off when his captor moved away. Not questioning, he hoped it would not be replaced.

Jarod stayed where he was. He lived in his own world, concentrating on what he and Parker would be doing. He imagined the early morning breeze that wafted through the open windows. He could feel her light touch on his arm, reminding him that ice cream was not recognised as breakfast. He heard Sydney’s laughter at his logic while she would firmly take the dessert and put it away again. He pretended his way into a shower, feeling the hot pellets of warm water hit his skin.

Lyle rummaged in his bag, keeping one eye on the pretender. It was time to deepen the pretender’s despair. He couldn’t reveal himself yet. If Jarod knew who his captor was, he would fight Lyle with all the knowledge he had and Lyle didn’t want that. He had debated this particular dilemma long and hard while he had been held in the bowels of the Centre as Raines’ plaything.

How to torment Jarod without saying a word?

And it had dawned on him one time when he had lain in the corner, shivering with a drug induced fever. He took out the cards he had carefully packed away and stepped towards the pretender.

Jarod will learn.


Somewhere in West Virginia

 

Miss Parker came dressed for the part. Her feet were encased in hiking shoes and she wore shirt and jeans. More importantly, her 9mm was in her hand and leading her inside the cabin. Behind her came the major, also armed and wanting Lyle dead.

She eyed the closed front door. Something didn’t sit right. She stopped Charles from touching the door handle.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t like this. My brother was never an idiot. Insane maybe but not an idiot.”

“He could have Jarod inside.”

She sighed and replied, “I know.” Pinching the bridge of her nose, she tried to think. Her headache was increasing with each passing minute, aware of what Lyle is capable of and the amount of time that he had Jarod.

She took her belt of and wrapped it around the door handle. Making sure they were standing out of the pathway, she slowly pulled the door open. A bang nearly deafened her and she watched part of the porch railing disintegrate under the barrage of shotgun pellets. Major Charles smiled nervously before glancing inside.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t came alone.”

Miss Parker nodded, following him inside. The smoking barrels indicated the shot gun and she followed the rope tied around the trigger towards where it had been tied to the door. “There could be more traps,” she warned, indicating that she would take the left side. Charles only grunted before moving right, his eyes searching the dim interior.

Five minutes later they met by the cooling shotgun.

“Nothing. And you?”

“My brother left me this,” Miss Parker replied, handing it over to the Major. He frowned. “Cold? What does he mean?”

“It means that we’re no closer to Jarod than when we were home. And Lyle wants us to look for him.”


Unknown area

 

Jarod was interrupted in his thoughts when he became aware of the presence of his captor. He tensed; his muscles in tight knots. A hand grabbed him by the neck and pushed down. He shuddered, tried to resist. His back protested and a moan left him involuntarily as the beating of last night ran vividly in is mind.

What did I do wrong?

His fear gave him strength and he managed to get back into an upright position. He didn’t end there. Surging upwards, using his aching leg muscles, he jerked his head backwards and was satisfied when he felt something soft crunch beneath him. A body brushed against his, nearly unbalancing his already precarious stand. Spreading his legs slightly, he could feel the warmth of his captor on the left side of his leg.

Now what?

Possibilities ran through his mind in instances. He could still smell the slightly acrid odour of the fire. The body by his foot was quiet. The metallic tang of blood was added to the other smells. Knowing that he had no idea how long his captor would be unconscious, he went down on his knees again. He turned, his fingers clumsily trying to tug at the man’s clothes. The warm breath shifted over his hand and he froze. For what seemed an eternity, he didn’t move until his thoughts shifted through all the possibilities and he realised that he must have shifted the body when he had grabbed the man’s shirt. A grim smile settled on his lips while he tried to get a better grip and continued awkwardly to search for any tool that might him to get rid of the ropes.

No such luck. He had to find another way. He shifted around again till his knees touched the body. The acrid smell of smoke filled his nostrils again and another idea formed. Rising slowly, he edged his way closer to the smell. His foot touched something and he stopped and knelt again. The warm glow was welcome on his chest. Turning, his hand touched the stones that marked the border.

Now came the hard part. Biting his lip, he could feel sweat start to form on his brow at the thought of what he was about to do. But he couldn’t see any other choice. Shifting backwards until he had himself in position, he finally settled. Telling himself that it would be brief, he shut his mind to the pain and plunged his hands into the fire pit.


Somewhere in West Virginia

 

“Broots, I want you to check the Centre archives. I want to know what mountains my brother visited when he went on his excursions.”

Miss Parker snapped the phone close and continued her pacing.

“Do you think Broots will find anything?”

Miss Parker didn’t answer. She needed Broots to find that information.


Unknown area

 

The pain was intense, almost paralysing. Every nerve in his body sizzled with the agony. He could smell burning flesh and then he jerked forward, a piece of wood between his fingers. He seared his skin around his wrists but he couldn’t stop. Couldn’t think past getting the ropes off. It took two excruciating minutes before he felt the rope fibres give. A sob of agony spilled from inside and he dropped the branch. Panting from the pain and fear that his time was running out, he gathered his remaining strength. He bunched his muscles and tried to burst the bindings. Blood, warm and sticky, ran down his hands. And with a jerk, his hands were free.

Trembling muscles protested as he brought his hands to the front. He grimaced, feeling blood well from where he had bit through his lip. Aware that he was still not free, he forced his hands upwards and tucked at the cloth that was tied over his eyes. His fingers slipped off the slick material and a groan of frustration left his lips. Forcing himself not to panic, he tried again, this time more slowly. He couldn’t get a grip on the front. Aware of his protesting and aching muscles, his fingers now sticky with his own blood, he reached behind at the knot and pushed upwards. It felt like he was squashing his eyeballs into his head but he continued until the cloth finally slid off.

He needed to see, it was a burning inside him but he kept his eyes closed, waiting for the dim red flaring to adjust. As he waited he removed the plugs, and the sound of wind rushing through leaves filled him with wonder. He could hear a stream nearby and the crackle of the wood expanding and dying in the fire. He could also hear the wet breathing of his captor and from the sound he guessed he had broken his nose.

Good.

Placing his hand over his eyes, he opened the slowly. Even in the darkness created by his hand, his eyes still burned and tears ran unchecked down his cheeks. He was running out of time. He had no idea how he knew, but he knew. Dropping his eyes, he opened his hand slightly and saw his dusty jeans. The light was still too bright but he had no choice anymore. Rising to his feet, he gave a quick look around. Everything was fuzzy. He couldn’t make out any detail but hazy browns, greens and blue.

His captor was still on his side, facing away from him. He could just make out the body and he needed to make his escape. Blinking away the tears, he turned away from the body and started towards the bag he had noticed. As long as he could hear the slightly nauseating wheeze from his former captor he would be all right.


St. Vincent’s Hospital

 

“This is all my fault. Don’t you understand?”

Dr Brown didn’t answer. He sat back and watched J tuck at the sleeves of his shirt. The boy was angry at himself for allowing Lyle to manipulate him. He was frightened for his brother and his fear extended to the belief that his family will reject him because of what he had done.

“It’s my fault,” came a second time, more softly.

“J, where do you see yourself in five years?”

J looked up, unsure. He was now fingering the bandage that covered his wrist. He looked down again, scratching at the edges. Dr Brown prompted him again and then waited. J sat like a statue, unmoving for a full minute before he shifted slightly.

“I don’t know.”

“I want you to think about it. If you could do anything, be anyplace, what would you like to do?”

J looked up, meeting Dr Brown’s eyes coldly. Dr Brown didn’t like the answer when he got it, but he did understand it.

That’s easy. I’ll kill Lyle.”


Unknown area

 

Jarod concentrated, trying to decipher between the colours. He still couldn’t make out any individual items. He glanced backwards, satisfied that the man was still out cold. Upending the bag in the end, he sorted between the items. The man had packed light, mostly foodstuffs, a hunting knife and three shirts. He took one and put it on, glad to feel material against his skin once again. He started to rise when he realised that the wheezing sound had changed position. He turned, knife in hand and was too late.

An indistinct blur rose and then pain exploded in his head. Instinctively, his knife hand lashed upwards, drawing a grunt and blood. A fist exploded against Jarod’s head and darkness edged into the corners of his already burning eyes. Stunned for a moment, he kept hold of the knife while he tried to make out where his foe was.

Lyle tried not to breath through his nose that continued to throb. Added to that was the stinging from his chest where the pretender had managed to cut him. It wasn’t deep but nevertheless bled freely. Watching the pretender carefully, he moved slightly and noticed that Jarod had difficulty focusing. He allowed a small smirk to centre on his face before his grabbed the pretender’s wrist. Jarod screamed, his face twisted in agony and Lyle continued to squeeze the burns until his captive had no choice but to let the knife go.

He let go of the hand and watched Jarod curl tight around his arm. The pretender went still and then launched himself at Lyle. He had expected as much and he was ready. His right fist sank into Jarod’s unprotected side but Jarod still managed to bring them both to the ground. An elbow smashed into Lyle’s face and agony increased ten fold when his nose shifted again. Grunting, Lyle rolled away and got to his feet, watching Jarod rise slowly. He was holding onto his side, turning it away from Lyle. The chairman’s son felt the blood gushing down his face from his broken nose, increasing his anger. The pretender will pay.

Jarod turned, warily watching the blob before him. Blinking, he tried to clear his vision and failed. He detected movement and lashed out with his foot. He made contact, feeling his foot sink into the stomach of his captor. The only problem was the hand that closed around his ankle and before he had time to think, he felt a jerk and he crashed forward. He rolled, getting to his knees when a hand crashed onto his head.

Lyle struck Jarod again and again – savage, vicious blows that began to bruise and batter skin and bone. Jarod’s face was smeared with blood. He was half-blind, stunned, could do little to halt the brutal attack. A vicious kick sent him reeling backward. He fell and lay unconscious.

Lyle panted, watching the pretender closely. Bringing his breathing under control, he opened and closed his hands. Pushing a foot under Jarod’s body, he flipped him over. Kneeling beside him, he grasped hold of Jarod’s chin and turned his face into the light. Touching his own nose gingerly, he took his hand away, looking at the blood.

I will not underestimate you again, Lyle promised the unconscious pretender silently. He rose and fetched the knife. Cutting the shirt from Jarod’s body, he turned the pretender over. Grabbing the rope he had used to tie Jarod to the tree, he proceeded to bind his hands tightly.


St. Vincent’s Hospital

 

“He shouldn’t be left alone.”

Margaret glanced towards the door that led her son’s bedroom. Her worry increased for J’s safety. “Do you think he’ll try again,” she asked fearfully. Dr Brown smiled and shook his head.

“No. I don’t believe so. What I do think is that your son might go after Lyle and for his mental health it would not be a good choice.”

“But J doesn’t even know where to look.”

“Your son is resourceful, Mrs Russell. I’m sure that he is more than capable of finding Lyle”

Margaret nodded and then thanked the doctor. A determined look settled on her face. J will stay put. She will make sure of it.


Unknown area

 

Consciousness forced itself onto Jarod. His mind drifted on a cloud of agony and weakness. Despair filled him when he became aware of the tightness around his eyes and the silence around him. His body hurt. A bone grated in his side. He remembered the fist sinking into his side, snapping his rib. He tasted blood and ran a tongue over his lips. He was thirsty, parched beyond belief. He couldn’t sense his captor and he lifted his head. Every movement was fraught with pain. He gagged; wretched and rolled away, aware that the likelihood of concussion was very real. Sweat rolled down his face and he suppressed an agonised cry when the rope shifted into his burns.

Slowly, gradually his memory of the fight returned. He had missed a vital chance to escape and he could only blame himself. At least he had the small satisfaction to know his captor was hurting although that would probably not bode well for him. His insides churned and he just managed to keep it down. He swallowed, aware of the breeze against his hot skin. Coldness filled him when a hand touched him, sliding beneath his shoulder. He mumbled a negative, his body tense. Strong hands supported him and eased him into a sitting position. A spout was pushed against his lips and he drank, wondering why he wasn’t being punished. When he had his fill the spout was removed. Jarod shivered, trying to make sense.

“Why are you doing this?”

He had not meant to ask. His answer came soon enough. A hand held him by neck and then the cold point of the knife edged into his skin. It didn’t break the skin but he could feel it gliding over his back.

You owe me

The hand dropped from his neck and the knife point disappeared. Jarod didn’t move, trying to decipher the meaning behind the words. Who hated him so much? The hand returned, this time straightening his fingers. Suddenly afraid, remembering Lyle’s effort once to cut of his thumb, he curled them tighter, ignoring the pain from his burns. He shook his head, feeling desperation cloud his mind.

Lyle was tiring of the game. Taking out his Zippo, he flicked the flame on and brought it to Jarod’s hands. The pretender moaned and then screamed. He watched the fingers spread open. Jarod was doubled over, gasping in pain. Grabbing the cards from earlier, he placed the first line underneath his fingers, helping him guide it over the raised areas. He had to run the first line three times before Jarod understood that what he was feeling was Braille. He smiled when Jarod’s breathless denial sounded.


Somewhere in West Virginia

 

Miss Parker threw the jeep around the corner, ignoring the sheer drop by her side. Charles was hanging on grimly, his hand white where he gripped the door handle.

“How long do you think it’ll take us?” he asked, his word jarred from his mouth by the potholes strewn across the road.

“Eight to ten hours,” she replied, shifting down to help brake as she went around another corner.

“If Broots is right,” the Major muttered under his breath and held on when the right front wheel spun briefly in a pothole the size of coffee table and then managed to grip the road again.

And if he survives her driving.


Unknown area

 

You should have heard your mother’s screams…

And he did. He couldn’t deny his senses. As his fingers were manoeuvred over the page, he sank deeper and deeper until he became part of the nightmare that was his life. The nightmares that he had buried deep within and had never shared.

Mom?”

His question hung in the air, visible between where he was held immobile to where his parents were huddled together. A menacing figure circled them, a hunter toying with its prey.

Don’t hurt them, you bastard!”

The figure grinned, white teeth showing while the rest of his face was obscured. A knife glinted in the moonlight and then plunged down into his mother’s arm. She screamed and his father shouted, grabbing for the attacker. He knocked his father down and dragged him towards the heater set in the wall. Cuffing him to the pipe, he returned to Jarod’s mother.

Stop it. Please. Don’t do this. You don’t have to do this.” Jarod wasn’t even aware of his pleading. He was jerking with all his strength against the bindings, unaware of the deep cuts he was inflicting on himself.

The figure ignored him and Jarod could do nothing but watch.


St. Vincent’s Hospital

 

J feigned sleep. Regulating his breathing was easy. He heard the door open and someone tiptoe into the room.

“How is he?”

He heard Broots’ whisper clearly. His mom’s reply was muffled and he had to remember to continue breathing deeply while he tried to listen.

“Sydney’s still in ICU. They can’t give me an answer on when his condition will improve.”

His mother must have shifted her face to his side for he could hear her reply this time.

“For Jarod’s sake I hope he recovers. I’ll look into him later. Is there any more news from Miss Parker?”

They’re on their way to one of Lyle’s sites in the Appalachian Region. They should reach it in eight hours.”

J smiled inwardly. He had a location. Well, part of a location anyway. Now all he needed to do is figure out a way of eluding his mother.


Unknown area

 

You’re brother tried again…and this time you weren’t there.

Sydney died of his wounds…you weren’t there to help him.

Sydney, his parents and J. He didn’t want to know the rest. It was lies. Nothing but lies constructed to break his defences. He was dimly aware that he was rocking, the words from his nursery song echoing in his head. Trying to bring comfort. Trying to tell him that this nightmare was not real.


Unknown area

 

He was cold when he finally came to his senses. He was tired, emotionally and physically. He shifted, moved into a kneeling position, keeping his head lowered submissively. He sensed his presence and waited.

Lyle was suspicious. He looked down at the kneeling pretender, head slumped in defeat. He had known that Jarod’s Achilles heel was his family but he had not thought Jarod would give in that easily or buy the lies he had spin. What he did think was plausible was that Jarod thought by being cooperative, his family would be spared. Lyle smiled, deciding that he would reward his captive. Despite his injuries he had received from Jarod, he was the one still in control and Jarod was still unaware of who he was. That reason alone kept him in a good mood.

It wasn’t long before the presence was gone and soon the smells of food drifted towards him. A spoon was pushed against his lips and he ate, careful to follow the signals. A questioning hand on his bicep and he understood.

Enough?

He nodded and the food was removed. He stayed where he was, kneeling while the flames of the fire warmed his chest. The burns on his hands and wrists were a blue fire in the coolness of the evening wind. His body hurt from all the cuts and bruises he had received in the fight but he ignored it all. He had finally calmed, shifting coldly through all his options. He needed to let his captor think he had won. He needed to gain his trust.

And then…then he will kill him.

It was the only way to keep his family safe.


So…what do ya think?

 

Nightmares of reality by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

A/N: This is a dark story, more so because of the way I’m addressing J’s emotional issues. I wanted to understand the psychology behind Lyle’s abuse of J and what it could do to him. Because of that reason, I chose not to go the easy way and let everything fall in place for him. This story is primarily about him, the healing of his soul and the rest of the characters are support cast if you will. I felt that Jarod and Miss Parker have survived the Centre and it’s dealings for thirty years and they’re not about to fall apart. Hope this brings some understanding to those who had questions.

Nightmares of reality

Unknown area

“They know.”

Lyle pinched the bridge of his nose gingerly. Everything was going so well.

“Mr Lyle, did you hear me?”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Six hours maybe.”

The silence lengthened as Lyle debated his options, glancing at the pretender. “I want you to monitor the traffic on the server. I want to know when they log on again. Trace them and then release the dummy data we had set up.”

“Ok, but what about the chairman?”

“What about him?”

“Well, uhm, he wants to know where you are.”

“Lie.” On that note he closed the connection. He had thought that Gemini would not have had the guts to speak out. It seems he had underestimated his psychological assessment of the boy. It didn’t matter. It was something he will rectify.

What did matter was that his play time with Jarod on this location was drawing to a close now that his sister was on the way. If he had to guess, he would be almost hundred percent certain that the Major will be with her. Perfect.

A sinister smile played on his lips when he looked at Jarod. He dropped the phone in his bag and rummaged in the front. He had no idea how, but Jarod had missed the front pocket and consequently a potential clue to his captor’s identity.

He hefted the camera in his hand as thoughts of Red Rock brought a smile to his face. It still sent shivers down his spine when Jarod had begged him not to cut of his thumb. He considered the act briefly, imagining his sister’s face when she was greeted by Jarod’s limb and then shook his head, mentally berating himself. Now was not the time but later his plans would accommodate such fantasies.

He walked over to where the pretender was still kneeling, waiting for his captive to become aware of his presence. He watched Jarod’s face, noticing the slight pulling of jaw muscles as the pretender unconsciously tensed. Lyle reached out and grabbed Jarod by his hair, pulling the head backwards and to the side. The pretender’s face was now in full view of the last light that was still escaping the setting sun, showing off the dried blood that covered most of the exposed areas around the blindfold. He had to pull his captive’s head twice into position, the second time with a backhanded blow to his face before Jarod understood that he was to stay as positioned. Satisfied, Lyle ignored the uncomfortable grimace from Jarod as he took aim with the camera. He took no more than a dozen, each time propping the pretender into a position he wanted. Finally satisfied with the photo’s he ignored the pretender and started to order the images until he was satisfied. Taking the cut shirt that Jarod had worn for so briefly, he wrapped them in it and placed it by the fire pit.

Dousing the remaining flames with water and then sand, he hefted the backpack. Taking one last look, he made sure he left nothing behind that would indicate his next location.


St. Vincent’s Hospital

 

J blinked in the bright light, shifting upwards against his pillows. He couldn’t believe it, he had actually fallen asleep. He looked at his mother and Dr Brown standing purposefully in the doorway and he frowned briefly before smoothing his face blank.

“What’s going on?”

Even as he asked it, his insides clenched for a brief moment, wondering if something had happened to Jarod. Swallowing his fear, he glanced out the window and noted the darkness that had descended. He turned his head back when his mother’s warm hand folded over his. She glanced at Dr Brown, waiting for the other man. J turned his gaze from his mother to the psychiatrist, waiting.

“J, what do say about going home?”

“Home?”

“It will be with some conditions. You will see me twice a day for the next week and I want you to continue to take the Valium. Your mother will give it to you just before you go to bed. I think it is in your best interest to be around some familiar surroundings.”

“Can I leave now, tonight?”

Dr Brown glanced at his watch and then at Margaret. He could see the eagerness in J’s face and something else he couldn’t quite put his finger on. “Well, it is a bit late but I’ll see what I can do.”


St. Vincent’s Hospital

 

“Margaret, a word,” Brown said as he pulled her to one side, keeping an eye on J sitting quietly in the wheelchair. He made sure he had full eye contact, emphasising the seriousness of his next words, “I think J is up to something.”

“I agree. I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“Maybe we should keep him here for the night,” he suggested, not liking the odds with J at home. Margaret shook her head. “No. J will know that we have anticipated him. Don’t worry. If I have to chain him to his bed, he will stay put. I won’t give him a chance to disappear.”

“Are you sure?”

She smiled briefly, tiredly. Her answer laying in the unspoken gesture and Dr Brown let her go. He decided to have a chat with J tomorrow about how he saw the role of his family in his life. Maybe a solution could be found there.


The Russell farm

 

“Mom, you don’t need to tuck me in. I’m too old.”

Margaret didn’t answer her son. She seated herself on the bed and absently ran her fingers through his hair, tucking a long strand that kept falling over his eyes away.

“I know what you’re planning.”

He kept his eyes averted and tucked at the duvet’s edge. “I’m not planning anything,” he replied sullenly. Margaret laughed and he looked up surprised.

“I’ve been a mother more years than you’ve been alive, J. Give me some credit at least.”

He didn’t know whether he should be angry or not at her response. Confused, he started speak and then stopped.

“J, we want to help but we can’t do that if you don’t allow us inside your life. Do you understand that?”

He nodded, knowing it was expected while he strengthened his decision to continue with his plans. She didn’t buy his silence or his acquisition. A soft hand settled on his cheek, turning his head so that he had no choice but to face her.

“Don’t do this. Let us fight this together, please.”

“You will never understand,” he whispered softly. “I’m not even real.”

Margaret took J’s hand and moved it onto his chest, just over his heart. “What do you feel?”

“Nothing,” he answered, trying to pull his hand from her grip. She didn’t let him, willing him with her whole being to understand. The silence lengthened until he couldn’t take it anymore and broke it harshly.

“What do you want from me?”

“The truth, J. I want to know what you feel.”

“Replicates don’t feel.”

“J, regardless of the way you came into this world, you are still a part of me and your father. Jarod has his own soul and you have yours. You might look alike but that is where it ends,” Margaret said, giving his hand a squeeze before placing it over his heart again, pushing down. She was determined that he will see. “What do you feel?”

J was afraid. The feelings inside him were confusing to say the least. He wanted to lash out at her and at the same time he wanted her to hold him in a tight hug and tell him that everything will be fine and that he’ll be able to go back to the way it was before Lyle. But he knew logically that it didn’t work that way. It made him angry and with no other direction he poured all of it out at his mother.

“Fine, if you so desperately want to know, why don’t you analyse how I felt when Lyle used me to play his sick games with that girl he tortured and murdered, making sure I took part in it. Where were you and dad and Jarod when he cut her up, when he…when he,” he closed his eyes tightly, willing the vivid images to go away and leave him alone. He felt the bile push upwards at the remembrance of blood and the smell of fear that pervaded the air. Her screams sounded in his ears, loud and pained. He heaved, trying to hold it in but it came in a rush that he couldn’t stop. The next instant his bin was pushed under his nose and a comforting hand was on his back, rubbing it in slow circles while he purged his body.

He wanted to ask her to stay when she stood up, not understanding why she was leaving. In his mind he thought he deserved this. He deserved his family’s rejection, he deserved the memories. Before these thoughts could settle long enough she was back with a cool cloth, wiping his mouth and face. Then a glass of water was pressed and he rinsed, spitting it into the bin.

“Thank you.”

For the second time that night he was surprised when he finally could face her again. She was crying. Thinking again that it was his fault for his words he started to apologise, not wanting the added guilt to know that he had made his mother cry. She stopped him by placing a finger on his lips.

“The day they took Jarod, they took away part of my soul. For months we searched for our son, hoping and praying that we would find him or that he would be returned and we would find him safely asleep in his bed. All kinds of scenarios will be running around in my head to what they could be doing to him, about how they could hurt him,” Margaret stopped, gazing at J but not really seeing him, her mind lost in her memories. “I felt guilty. I left the window open. I should have noticed the men before. I should have heard Jarod’s cries.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” J said softly, his eyes tearing in empathy for her. She smiled, nodded and then placed both her hands on J’s face, staring into his eyes.

“I know that now. It’s the same with what Lyle did to you. It wasn’t your fault.”

“But.”

Margaret shook her head, holding his gaze, not allowing him to retreat into the safety net he had created. “No, J. Lyle manipulated you. You need to start looking towards a future. Miss Parker and your father will bring your brother back to us. We need to be ready here, to help them if necessary.”

“Don’t you understand? I should be out there, helping them find Jarod.”

“Why, because you feel the need for vengeance. To have a chance to kill Lyle.”

J jerked his head out of her hands, bringing his legs up and hugged them. “I thought my sessions with Dr Brown were private.”

Margaret wasn’t fazed by his attitude. Instead she shifted so that she sat next to him. He reluctantly allowed her to pull him into an embrace but kept his body stiff to let her know that he was still angry.

“Dr Brown has not discussed your sessions with us, J. It’s not very difficult to see you’re hatred for Lyle nor is it to see that if given the chance to kill him, you will. The reason why is because I had that same hatred inside me for a long time against the Centre.”

“Then you’ll understand…”

“J, I will not allow you to go down that path. Hatred leads to bitterness and bitterness will lead to death. You will never find fulfilment in life, my son if you don’t let go.”

J still leaned against her but a note of disbelief has crept into his voice when he said, “So just let Lyle get away with murder, kidnapping, torture and whatever else his done in his life.”

“Lyle will get his due.”

“When?” J questioned angrily. Margaret didn’t reply and the answer dawned on him. “Miss Parker won’t let him go, will she?” He turned, watching his mother’s face. She just kissed the top of his head, pulling him tighter.

“Well, I’m glad.”

Sadness came over her face. She gave him one more hug and rose. “It’s time for you to go to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll talk further, ok.” She turned at the door, her hand on the switch when he called her back.

“Please stay till I’m asleep.”

She smiled and made her way back to him. He held onto her hand, placing it over his heart. His eyes closed and she stayed, watching her son sleep.


The Russell farm

 

A distant crash sounded, intruding into his consciousness. J mumbled, turning over to go back to sleep. Another muffled sound reached him and he wondered what his mom was doing in the kitchen and whether he shouldn’t help her. One eye opened and seeing the time he decided to rise.

Fifteen minutes later he made his way down the stairs feeling refreshed and clean. He had another session with Dr Brown this morning and he was actually looking forward to it.

“Mom, you want some help,” he asked loudly. When she didn’t answer he frowned. She was probably outside feeding the chickens or something. “Mom?” he called again, stepping towards the kitchen and the open door.

What he hadn’t expected was a hand to snake around his neck and cover his mouth. His head was twisted to the side and upwards at an uncomfortable position. He could feel the person’s body tight against his, keeping him immobile. The grip was tight and he jerked his hands upwards to loosen it. His head was shifted another millimetre in warning and he relaxed, knowing that it would be easy for the person to snap his neck.

“Good boy.”

J stiffened. Lyle’s breath was hot on his ear and he could feel the man move against his back. He tried to swallow, his mouth dry.

“You told.”

The accusation was hard and emotionless, increasing his fear. He was dragged into the living room and he saw his mother. She had been tied to a chair and gagged. A bruise was forming on her cheek. Lying against one wall was his brother. He was similarly gagged, his eyes closed. Blood covered most of his face and he could see ugly bruises on his exposed chest and back. He was tightly bound hand and foot and he couldn’t tell if Jarod was alive or not.

“I had thought that we had an understanding.”

He couldn’t answer even if he had the ability too. His muscles were weak, his palms sweaty. He could smell the fear and this time it was his, not a girl about to be cut into pieces.

“Do you remember our deal, Gemini?”

Lyle relaxed his hand slightly and he managed a nod. He didn’t look at his mother, his concentration on the window and the wide open spaces. He was shutting down, building his defences. It didn’t take a genius to know what Lyle was going to do.

“Do you want to play?”

In answer he bit Lyle’s hand. The metallic taste of blood burst into his mouth and Lyle jerked his hand away with profanity. Using the opportunity, he turned swiftly and threw his first punch. It connected solidly and Lyle hunched over with a loud whoosh. He brought his knee up, desperate to end the fight, his mind on some distant plane already mapping out his next moves.

Lyle was more street smart. He somehow avoided his knee and pulled his other leg from underneath him. He went down hard, his back smarting. He rolled, avoiding Lyle’s kicks. He ended up next to the couch and using it, he lunged at Lyle, bringing them both to the ground. He managed another punch, this time to the side of Lyle’s face before the older man managed to turn him around.

Frantic, he tried to buck him from his body, his hand just managing to grab Lyle’s hands. Lyle twisted his wrist and J lost his grip. He tried to stop the descending fist and only partially succeeded. It glanced of his jaw and smashed into the floor. Lyle swore loudly and dug his knees into his ribs, bringing grunts of pain from J. He could hear his mother’s screams through the gag and it willed him to try even harder.

His hand went to Lyle’s crotch and he grabbed. Lyle’s face went red and then white and he stumbled from J, holding onto his stricken area. Breathing hard, J rose and sprinted for the other man. When he saw the flash it was too late to stop. His momentum toppled them to the ground and he lay still, not moving. Lyle shifted beneath him, shoving him off him and onto his back. A pained gasp left him and he could feel a cold wetness start to spread down his side. His vision dimmed and then focused again on the ceiling. Lyle’s face swam into view. A knee planted against his shoulder and then he screamed in agony when the knife was ripped callously from his side. His hands went immediately to the area, pinching and holding tight. He could feel his blood pumping out the wound, coating his fingers in it.

“That was not a smart move, Gemini.”

He didn’t answer. Lyle rose slowly and it was with perverse pleasure that he noted the slightly hunched stance of the other man. It didn’t last long. Lyle grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the one wall. He stumbled, trying to keep his footing. He somehow got his feet back under him, trying to ignore the stabbing agony in his side. He didn’t need to look to see the trail of blood he was leaving. He made an attempt to catch himself when he tossed to the floor but the effort was in vain and he landed roughly. Curling into a foetal position, he tried to staunch the bleed by keeping pressure on the wound. Lyle’s voice came from a great distance and he tried to concentrate but the words slipped past his understanding. Fingers curled into his hair, lifting his head. He opened his eyes, blinked. Lyle’s face materialised again.

“Can you hear me, Gemini?”

He managed a weak affirmative.

“Try that again and your mother will get the same punishment. Do you understand?”

He glanced past Lyle to where his mother was sitting. He could see the fear in her eyes. His gaze moved back to Lyle and he gave another affirmative. Apparently satisfied, Lyle let him go and moved with a slight limp towards the kitchen. He came back a few minutes later with an ice pack pressed against his front.

It was that moment when Jarod’s eyes opened.


Unknown area

 

“Anything?”

Major Charles shook his head, his eyes continually scanning the surrounding woodland. Stepping cautiously over a dead branch, he watched the clearing for any sign of movement. He watched as Miss Parker entered the clearing. Lyle didn’t step out from any of the trees and after a few minutes he joined her at the fire pit.

Miss Parker was busily unwrapping material what looked suspiciously like a shirt to him. She gasped when the photos fell out.

“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch so slow he’ll be begging me to end it,” she managed to utter through clenched teeth. One by one, they could see Jarod’s abuse. It almost seemed like Lyle had taken pleasure in taking the photos from every angle to get the full extent of his injuries.

“So where’s Lyle?”

“Now that is the million dollar question. I wonder if my brother had a forewarning that we were coming. From the photo’s it certainly looks like it.”

Her ringing phone interrupted his speculation on possible sites. She answered her usual greeting.

“How’s the mountain air treating you, Sis?”

“Where are you?”

“Here and there. Did you like the photos?”

“You’re sick, Lyle. What do you want?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I want payback for all Jarod’s meddling in my affairs.”

“You brought it on yourself.”

“No. All this is his fault. He will pay and so will his family.”

Lyle hung up, leaving Miss Parker with the phone still pressed against her ear. The hairs on the back of her head stood up and a feeling of dread settled over her. She didn’t look at Major Charles when she dialled the number for their home. The dial tone sounded in her ear and her suspicions was confirmed.

“He’s at your place.”

Major Charles said nothing. He turned around and ran for the road, hearing her footsteps right behind him. They were on the other side of the continent and he knew that even if everything worked out, they were still twelve hours away from getting there.


The Russell farm

 

His first awareness was of pain. It soured around him, filled him till there was nothing left that didn’t ache, throb or burned. He remembers the prick and then the darkness that had descended. He could feel the softness of a carpet on his skin. He was somewhere inside a house. It took a moment later when he noticed that he could hear the harsh breathing of someone, the soft whimpers of someone else. Not hearing anything else, he opened his eyes.

“J?”

He could see his brother curled tight, his hand gripping his side. Jarod could see a trial of blood leading to his brother and concern flooded his senses. A pair of shoes entered his vision and he looked up. It was Lyle. Somehow he should have been surprised but he wasn’t.

“Hello Jarod.”

“What have you done with J?”

Lyle crouched at Jarod’s side and smiled evilly. “Let’s say a lesson in obedience that was sorely needed.”

Jarod pulled against his bonds, knowing it was useless. He looked at his brother, noting the sheen of sweat that covered his face, his pallor and the small breaths he was taking. Relaxing, he tried to reason with Lyle.

“Let me help him. If his wound is not looked after he could die.”

“You haven’t even said hi to your mother, Jarod. Where’s your manners.”

Jarod didn’t breathe. He looked around and had to turn slightly before he saw her. His face darkened in anger and he growled a warning to Lyle. His captor laughed and slapped him lightly in the face.

“Is that the thanks I get for allowing you your sight? Maybe I should return the blindfold.”

Jarod’s fists were clenched tight, his body tense. He took a deep breath and then apologised, knowing that it was what Lyle wanted to hear. He glanced at his mother again, trying to let her know that he was fine. Lyle grabbed him by the bicep, breaking his contact. From the subtle hints, he allowed Lyle to help him into a kneeling position.

Lyle’s gaze lingered over his injuries and Jarod didn’t like the way the man kept looking at J and his mother. Lyle took a knife from the table by one of the chairs and started to play with it.

“Please let me look at my brother?” Jarod pleaded softly, not taking his eyes of Lyle.

Lyle smiled slightly, his eyes thoughtful. “Everything in life has a price.”

Jarod pressed his lips together. He understood the game. “What do you want me to do?”

He wasn’t fooled for one minute by the innocent look on Lyle’s face when his captor said smoothly, “I want you to play a game.”

Jarod didn’t like the moan of protest that came from J or the look of horror on his mother’s face. “Not before I looked at my brother.”

“You’re in no position to demand anything, Jarod. All I want is a yes or no.”

Jarod looked at his brother again. “What are the rules?”

“It will be explained as we progress.”

Jarod gave a short bark of laughter. “No fair, Lyle. How do I know you won’t be making them up as we go along?”

Lyle’s eyes darkened. “Decide, yes or no?”


Let me know what you think. ;-)
Forgiven by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you to Julia for your reviews. This chapter is for you.

Forgiven

Russell Farm

“Decide, yes or no?”

Jarod glared at Lyle, shifting slightly. He glanced at J again, trying to weight his concern for his brother’s injury against Lyle’s demand. He could feel a muscle twitch in his jaw. He took a deep breath and before his mind had a chance to fully process what he was about to suggest, he said quietly, “Let them go and I will stay with you.”

He could hear his mother protest through the rag. He was watching Lyle, waiting for his words to sink in. Lyle stood up, his face a mask of indifference.

“Willingly?’

“Yes.”

A small smile showed fleetingly on Lyle’s face. He started towards J casually, the knife balanced in his hand.

“I don’t think I can trust you, Jarod.”

Desperation came through when he saw Lyle stop by J’s inert form. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

“Really? All I asked was a simple question and you have yet to answer it. So far you have not shown much cooperation.”

J made a small pained noise and then gasped, his face twisted in agony when Lyle pressed the toe of his shoe against his side.

“Don’t,” Jarod said, the word catching in his throat. “Leave him alone.”

Lyle increased the pressure. J made a garbled cry, strangling his scream. He curled tighter, his hands ineffectively trying to dislodge Lyle’s foot. White hot pain lanced through his side, spreading slowly outward, leaving him almost paralysed with it. Catching his breath, he tried to think. A small spasm jerked his muscles and then he started to tremble uncontrollably.

“Lyle, please.”

His brother’s voice came through distorted. The pressure on his side eased and then disappeared. He couldn’t decide which he preferred. With the foot gone, his side flared, almost pushing him over the edge. He could hear his brother’s defeated voice when he agreed to the game. He missed Lyle’s next words completely while he concentrated on not sliding over the edge to darkness and oblivion.

A hand grabbed his bicep and dragged him closer to where Jarod was still kneeling. He couldn’t help the cry when he was dropped unceremoniously in front of his brother. His eyes couldn’t focus. Time blurred and then strong hands wiped his damp hair from his forehead.

“J, can you hear me?”

He wanted to answer but he couldn’t. His throat was tight, making it more difficult to breath. “J, I want you to look at me, ok.” He tried to respond to the fear in his brother’s voice but his eyes just couldn’t register what he was seeing.

“It hurts…”

“I know, J. I want you to try and stay awake.”

He didn’t have the strength to nod. A hand gently coaxed his hands loose from the grip he had on his wound. He could feel his blood flow warm and sticky on his skin. He curled his fingers into the fibres of the carpet, tracing the texture. It was soft, almost silky. He noticed the traces of dark red that he left with each touch. His mother would be angry. He was messing up again. But still he couldn’t bring himself to stop touching it.

His muscles all tensed and a slight spasm assaulted his body when Jarod probed the area of his wound gently. His brother apologised and he didn’t acknowledge, closing his eyes tiredly. He didn’t want to fight anymore.

“J!”

His brother’s voice intruded. He opened his eyes, closed them again. “Tired,” he managed to utter, his words slurred. A hand slapped him lightly on his cheek. He opened his eyes again. He still couldn’t see anything.

“I want you to concentrate, J. You need to stay awake.”

His mouth was so dry that he couldn’t swallow. The reflex action brought further pain but he still managed to ask, “Why?”

Something warm splashed on his arm. Surprised, he shifted his gaze, trying to locate the source. His brother was crying. “S’ ok, I’ll try.” His brother nodded and he felt cool fingers against his wrist. He tried not to move but the shivers that now wracked his body didn’t make it any easier.

His brother will make it better. He trusted Jarod.

He wanted to be warm. He wanted to wake up where everything will be back to normal. He still has homework to do.

He didn’t want to die.

“Cold.”

Jarod could barely hear the softly whispered word. He felt helpless. Lyle seemed to enjoy watching him as J’s life was slowly slipping through his fingers. His fingers were coated in blood where he had been pressing against J’s wound. Oh God, he was losing him.

“How badly do you want to save your brother?”

“I’ll do anything,” Jarod answered, his voice raw with emotion.

Lyle smiled slowly. “The price for your brother’s life is Sydney. Will you be able to kill your surrogate father for your brother’s sake?”

“You’re sick. How can you ask me that?”

“Rule one. Never answer a question with another question. Next time, your mother loses a thumb. Now answer my question.”

“I don’t think J will survive long enough for me to kill Sydney.” He purposefully distanced himself. He needed to find an opportunity to get Lyle close enough. He needed to get them out of this situation.

“Sydney’s your choice?”

He kept Lyle’s gaze, didn’t break contact when he said, “Yes.”

Lyle stayed silent, scrutinising him. He didn’t flinch, didn’t back down. His captor reached a decision and stepped behind them. He glanced behind him, his fear increasing ten fold when the sociopath stooped by his mother and swiftly cut her loose. Lyle ordered her to get the first aid kit, warning her that her sons would be punished if she tried anything. She came back a few moments later, kneeling by J and giving the kit to Jarod.

“I need boiled water, soap and towels,” J said, glancing at his mom before looking to Lyle for permission. His captor indicated to his mother that she could fetch it, leaning against a chair where he could watch them without obstruction.

When she was back, Jarod proceeded to wash his hands and arms thoroughly with the water and soap. Finally satisfied, he softly apologised to J when he tore the shirt away from his wound, leaving the whole area exposed.

“Mom, I need you to clean the area for me with water and then alcohol.”

While his mom left J’s side to fetch some whiskey from the drinks cabinet, he set out the medical kit, trying to determine what he had to work with. It wasn’t much but it will have to do. There was no way that Lyle will allow J to go to a hospital. He had to do the best he could with the supplies he had.

When the area was clean, he placed a towel behind J and gently turned him onto his back. J’s breathing was fast and shallow, his eyes open and staring at Jarod.

“J, I’m sorry but this is going to hurt.”

“My fault.”

Jarod leaned closer, ignoring Lyle’s warning scowl. “It’s not. You need to fight. For mom and dad. For me.”

J shook his head slightly. “I…I was the one…who told Lyle.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Jarod was surprised when J grabbed his arm, pulling him closer. He could see J crying silently, the tears flowing freely. “Please…forgive me.”

“I love you J. You’re my family, a part of me. How can I not forgive you?”

He felt strength growing inside. Jarod had forgiven him and like a forest fire, it had burned him clean.

“I’m scared.”

Jarod bent over J’s wound. His mom gripped J’s one hand, her other shining the flashlight on the wound. “It will be all right, J. Just be strong,” his mother whispered to him. He tried not to flinch when Jarod gently opened the cut. He felt something cold slide into his side and he gasped slightly, not drawing another breath.

“J, you’re still with us.”

He squeezed his mom’s hand in answer. The next probe felt like liquid fire and he screamed. He could feel Jarod stop and his hand tightened painfully on his mother’s. Jarod started again when he nodded and he choked back his next cry and he wished he could just pass out.

The cold slid out of his side, became warm. J turned his head sideways, towards the door. An image wavered there, almost ghostly. He could feel himself sliding away and it wasn’t all that unpleasant. The image became easier to define until it coalesced into something tangible that he could see. He wasn’t aware of Jarod’s voice calling to him or his mother’s hand in his. He whispered, “Miss Parker?” then he sighed and everything went silent and numb.


East coast

 

Grimly, Major Charles swung the wheel as he avoided another pothole. He glanced at Miss Parker. She had the phone against her ear, talking rapidly to Broots. They were trying to organise a plane at a small airfield that was still another hour away.

“And?”

“He will let me know about the plane. Sydney’s still in ICU, still in a coma. They don’t know if he’ll wake up. Emily will stay with him.”

Charles nodded, skidding around a hair pin drive and barely keeping them on the road.

“How could we not see this coming?”

He was angry at himself for not predicting Lyle’s actions. Miss Parker lips tightened perceptively but she didn’t answer. They had all made mistakes. They had underestimated Lyle and she had only herself to blame.

She didn’t know if she could ever forgive herself if anything happened to Jarod or his family. If she could live with that knowledge.


Promise. Next chap will be longer. Let me know what you think.
Choices by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Alysa: Thanks. Your review definitely made me warm and fuzzy inside.

Choices

Russell Farm

“Hi.”

The woman smiled. Her eyes were soft and warm and he liked it. Her hair curled around her, cascading down her back. She reached out a hand and it was warm when it touched him.

“Hello J.”

“You look like her.”

She continued to smile and he felt safe and warm and without pain. He watched intently as she took a step closer. The air around her wavered and then settled again. It was almost like he was watching the heat waves distort the air on a hot summer’s day.

“Are you real?”

“For now. Turn around.”

He obeyed, not questioning. The living room was still there, just slightly distorted. He could see his body lying between his brother and mother. His eyes were closed, his skin sallow. Blood coated his side where Lyle had knifed him. He broke his gaze, looking at his own side and finding his skin unblemished. He looked back to the scene, watching as his mother filled his lungs with air. He saw his chest rise with the forced breath and then his brother placed his hands over his sternum, pushing down, counting. Five reps and then his mother’s turn again.

He looked towards Lyle and all he saw was a darkness that surrounded the man. His captor was watching the scene with interest, his gaze almost predatory. When she said his name, he turned and looked at her and felt at peace again.

“Is this a dream?”

“If you want.”

He glanced at the scene again. His brother was saying something to his body but he couldn’t make out the words. Somehow it didn’t matter so much.

“I wanted to tell him that I’m sorry for all my hatred.” He turned away, looking at her fully. “That I’ve forgiven him for what had happened to me at Donoterase.”

“He’ll understand.”

He took a step away from the scene and stopped. He turned back again. “How long do I have?”

“Not long.”

She held out her hand, inviting. He took it, felt it fold around his. His brother wiped at his eyes before continuing with the compressions. Lyle stepped towards the scene. The darkness followed him, curling around his body like a blanket. J didn’t want to leave.

“They need me.”

“Do you want to go back to the pain and hurt?”

He was silent as his thoughts turned inwards. He could see the road stretch out before him, his choice. One led to peace where he didn’t need to fight anymore, where he wouldn’t hurt anymore. The other was dark and uncertain. Did he want to continue?

“They need me.”

“Are you sure? I cannot protect you from Lyle if you go back.”

He smiled briefly and said, “I understand. This is my choice.”

She nodded and bent down, kissing him softly on his forehead. It felt soothing and he wasn’t afraid. “Go in peace, J.”

He watched her disappear. He gave her a last wave and then felt something tug at his consciousness. Gray surrounded him and then he felt the floor against this back. His body exhaled air when his brother pushed against his chest, the compressions almost at the end of the cycle.

Then he took his first breath in what felt like a lifetime. He sucked in the air in a great wheezing whistle, arching his back as the pain returned full force. Calm hands pushed him down and he started to cough. Each wracking spasm contracted and expanded his muscles and with it his knife wound. He had never known pain like that and for a brief moment he wondered if he had made the wrong choice.

“Come on J, deep breaths.”

His brother’s voice brought him back as he tried to follow the softly whispered words. The coughing finally ended and he didn’t move, absorbing the waves of intense throbbing that emanated from his side. A hand was softly stroking his. It had a calming effect and he felt himself slowly relax. He heard a voice singing softly a lullaby and he smiled inwardly. He wasn’t a kid anymore and yet the song was blanketing the pain until the intense ache subsided to bearable.

He finally managed to open his eyes.

“Welcome back.”

He looked at the grief ravaged face of his brother. He could trace each path the tears had tracked on Jarod’s face. His brother’s eyes were still moist and they were dark with emotion. He tried to say he was sorry but his voice wasn’t working. He shifted his head slightly, seeing Lyle looming over his mother.

“J, do you want some water?”

He wanted to say please but in the end just nodded, his mouth so dry he wondered if he would ever be able to parch his thirst. His mom left and returned a moment later. Jarod helped him lift his head and he took a small sip, feeling the coolness fill his mouth.

This time he managed to thank them. He wanted to sleep but he fought against the heaviness that pulled his lids down.

“Lyle, he needs a hospital. He needs professional care. Please.”

His brother’s voice was full of desperation and fear. He could almost hear the glee in Lyle’s voice when their captor denied Jarod.

“I trust you.”

He didn’t know why he said it but Jarod jerked, staring down at him. He didn’t flinch, didn’t turn away while he tried to convey his love for his brother in that one moment.

“I don’t know if I can do this, J. I…,” his brother swallowed and then as if remembering his mom continued, “…we might lose you.”

He smiled even though it was painful. “It’s ok. I trust you.”

Ever so slightly Jarod returned his smile and the faith he was putting in him. “This will hurt.”

“I know.”

“I’m sorry.”

There was nothing more to say. They both understood what needed to be done.


The Russell farm

 

“He’s stable for now,” Jarod said, leaning back and wiping his eyes tiredly.

Lyle glanced at his watch. “Good. Then he can be moved.”

Jarod rose swiftly, angrily. He ignored the gun Lyle suddenly extracted from somewhere and had pointed at him.

“I just spent the better part of an hour to get him to this point. To move J now could mean his death.”

“He trusts you,” Lyle replied mockingly, “I’m sure you’ll find a way to get him into the van.”

Jarod lunged at Lyle, his anger overcoming his common sense. He was prepared to choke Lyle’s life from his body, even if he had to do it with a bullet in him. Lyle easily sidestepped him and then pistol whipped him. He dropped to his knees and then his hands, bracing himself. He heard a small cry from his mother and he tried to rise. He dropped back to his knees, his head swimming.

“Just leave my family alone, Lyle. This is between us.”

“Oh no, Jarod. It doesn’t work that way. Your family stays with me.”

He stood more slowly and this time he managed to keep his equilibrium. Lyle had a painful grip on his mom’s wrist, his gun aimed at her temple.

“Do you want to try that again?”

He looked at his mom’s frightened gaze and managed to choke out, “No.”

“Good,” Lyle lowered the gun and then flung Margaret at Jarod. “You have a choice, Jarod.” Lyle said suavely. He pointed his gun at J’s outstretched body and continued, “Take Gemini to the van or…” he didn’t finish the statement, instead leaving it open, knowing that Jarod will fill in the blanks.

Lyle moved backwards as Jarod stooped besides J. He squeezed J’s shoulder while he slid his fingers along his brother’s wrist and felt for a pulse. It was steady but weak. “J, wake up,” Jarod encouraged with a soft whisper. J’s eyes remained tightly closed and Jarod touched his face. J’s head rolled to the side but otherwise didn’t respond. Jarod didn’t need to look at Lyle to know that their captor was getting impatient.

“J, I need to move you.”

“I don’t think I can walk,” J mumbled weakly.

“It’s ok. You can lean on me,” Jarod offered, helping his brother to sit. J couldn’t suppress the cry when he rose. He hunched, grabbing for his side. His brother’s arm snaked around his back, holding him tight against his own body.

“I don’t think I can do this. It hurts.”

“We’ll take it one step at a time.” Jarod grunted, his broken rib protesting as he took more of J’s weight. His brother was telling the truth. He was barely responsive. They stumbled towards the door and out. J’s breathing was harsh and too fast when they finally reached a nondescript delivery van. Lyle opened the back doors and Jarod help his brother inside, settling him on the floor. J was barely lucid. Jarod knelt by his side and touched his cheek. It was abnormally warm.

His mother climbed in, sitting on the other side of J. The doors closed and they were left in darkness, the only sound J’s laboured breathing.

“What do we do now?” Margaret asked when the van started moving.

“Mom, if you have a chance to escape, I want you to take it.”

“I’m not leaving you,” she argued firmly. “J needs both of us.”

“I can look after him. If you escape, it’s one less person I need to worry about,” Jarod said firmly, wanting her to see the logic. “I need you to make sure that Sydney is safe where Lyle can’t get to him.”

She didn’t reply, knowing that Jarod is right but she also knew that even if she did manage to escape, that Lyle will make Jarod pay for it. Her heart was being torn in two, the decision a hard one she had to make now. When an opportunity came, she wouldn’t have the luxury of hesitation that would come if she hasn’t made her mind up all ready.

“You would have a better chance of evading Lyle. You’ll be able to out-think him.”

“It wouldn’t work, Mom. J needs medical attention and I can give that to him. You have to do it,” Jarod said while he extended his hand, touching the panel. He traced the outline, finding the seam of the door. He sighed in frustration when he found no door handle. It had been too much to hope for anyway. Making sure he had contact with J, he leaned against the panel and closed his eyes, trying to think.

“When we stop, I’ll try and distract Lyle. I want you to run. Even if I manage to overpower him, I still want you to run. Don’t stop and don’t look back.”

“Jarod, don’t do this. He’s unstable. You have no idea what he’ll do if you don’t…”

“He’s going to torture you and then kill you in front of me. I’d rather not witness that.” He was surprised that his voice was steady when he said that. His emotions were flat, his inner turmoil kept carefully balanced.

“You don’t know that?”

Jarod was glad for the darkness. It kept everything hidden. The hopelessness he felt. The defeat that he couldn’t hide. The knowledge that Lyle was in control. That with J’s injury he was hobbled in his decisions and choices. He could no more leave his brother alone with Lyle then kill his brother. The outcome would be the same.

“He told me in great detail what he’s going to do to you and dad and…,” he had to swallow, keep his hold on his emotions tighter, “…miss Parker. Someone needs to let them know.”

“Don’t ask this of me, please. I can’t lose you and J again.”

“There’s no other way and you know it, Mom. Think about it. If Lyle can’t find you, he can’t use you against me. He’ll leave. You’ll be safe.”

“But you won’t be.”

“I’ve survived the Centre for thirty years. I’ll find a way for me and J to survive Lyle. We’ll escape, when J’s stronger or when there’s an opportunity for me to take on Lyle and win. Please don’t let me beg.”

The silence that followed after Jarod’s last words were heavy and it settled slowly between them. He waited, feeling the slight shudder when they left the tar road.

“Ok”

That was the last word spoken and nothing more was said between them for the rest of the drive.


The Russell farm

 

“They’re gone. We’re too late.”

She didn’t answer. They had entered the house cautiously, guns extended. Now they stood in the centre of the living room, trying not to look at the blood. There was too much blood to be healthy. They didn’t want to speculate on whose it was.

“Why is Lyle doing this?”

She didn’t answer the question. It was rhetoric. Lyle wanted payback, beyond that it didn’t have to make sense. She walked out the house, staring at the distant mountains. They were both tired, stretched to their limits. They had slept no more than an hour in the past twenty four hours. Her eyes were grainy, red and she knew without a doubt that if they didn’t rest, mistakes will be made.

“Where do you think he’s taken them?”

She rubbed the back of her neck tiredly, closing her eyes briefly. “I don’t think Lyle will go too far. This is a game and he wants us to play.”

“So do we wait till he contacts you again? We have no idea where he’ll take them.”

“I don’t know. Someone’s hurt.”

She didn’t say more, didn’t want to think that it could be Jarod’s blood drying inside. Major Charles turned and walked away and she didn’t follow, knowing he needed the time to be alone and think. Her phone rang and she looked at the caller id first before answering it.

“The Centre knows where we are.”

“Are you hundred percent certain, Broots?”

Dumb question. She didn’t reiterate, instead waited for his stumbling answer. “Y…yes. They’re sending three teams. ETA is four hours.”

What was her brother playing at? Why would he let the Centre know where they were? He was putting his own life in jeopardy and she had never known him to take risks like that without some reward.

“Broots, I want you to double check. See if you still have some friends left down in communications.”

“Ok, but it might take time. What are we going to do with Sydney if it’s true?”

“We’ll worry about it when the time comes.”


East coast

 

The moment he heard the key in the lock, Jarod prepared himself. The light had barely become a slid when he jack knifed his legs against the door. He heard a crunch and then a thud. He stopped the swinging door with his hand, blinking against the light. Lyle was already moving from his position on the ground, a gun in one hand. He didn’t wait but lunged himself forwards.

“Mom, now!”

He didn’t have time to even glance backwards to see if his mother was running. All his attention was on the writhing body beneath him and trying to keep Lyle’s gun hand busy. Lyle anticipated his move and shifted, jabbing upwards with his other hand. He managed to keep the scream bottled against the agony that now flared in his ribs.

Wasting no time in dealing with the pain, he kept hold of Lyle’s wrist. He was weak from the past few days. Jarod was fighting using solely instinct now. There was more at stake then just his life. Another punch to his ribs left him gasping for air and seeing stars.

“Give up, Jarod. You won’t win,” Lyle grunted. Jarod didn’t answer. His fingers were slipping on Lyle’s wrist, his strength almost gone. Taking a risk, he let one hand go.

Lyle grinned, tearing his gun hand free from Jarod’s remaining grip. He was bringing the weapon around, to push it into Jarod’s side when a fist came out of no-where and send him straight towards darkness.

Jarod breathed hard, slumping down over Lyle’s motionless form. Sweat was dripping down his face and the raw pain from his side nearly crippled him. Aware of time, aware of where he was, he pushed against Lyle and took the gun. He pointed it at Lyle’s head, his finger tightening on the trigger.

“Jarod?”

J’s voice was soft and weak. He turned his head, watching his brother slowly pushing himself into a sitting position.

“Will it be worth it…in the end?”

Jarod said nothing, the handle of the gun feeling rough against his skin. One bullet will end this nightmare for them. He had the power to end it.

“Jar?”

His brother had only used his name in that way once or twice. It brought pause to what he was preparing to do. He remembers Damon and how it had felt afterwards. There was better ways of dealing with Lyle.

“Why don’t we get out of here, J? Let the police handle Lyle.”

Making sure the safety was on; he slipped it in his waist belt. He ruffled Lyle’s clothes, finally finding the keys to the van.

He had to lean against the side of the van to keep himself from falling. He made it to the front and got in behind the wheel, inserting the key. Out of habit his eyes drifted to the gas meter and when he finally registered the reading he slumped over the wheel. Lyle must have been driving on air for the last few miles. There was no way that he would make it past the first mile before coming to a dead halt.

Lyle was still unconscious when he made it to the back of the van again. Turning the man on his stomach, he used his jacket to tie his hands. It wouldn’t hold for long but it would buy time. A slight bulge in Lyle’s top pocket caught his eyes. It was a cell phone and he flipped it open to be greeted by a mechanical voice stating that the signal was out of reach.

He’s head dropped. How could his luck be that bad? Gathering his remaining strength, he stood and went over to the back of the van.

“We need to walk.”


East coast

 

Margaret had no idea where she was. They were somewhere on the outskirts of a deserted town. The warehouse she had left had been a standalone. Huge open areas covered all sides and she had run for the nearest cover. She had stumbled on a service road and decided to take it, going towards where she could see broken down buildings. Her only hope was that she’d find a pay phone that would still be working.

She hated leaving Jarod and J. She wanted to turn back, make sure that they were ok but she didn’t. She was their hope. She needed to find help.

Her stubbornness set in and she continued her awkward jog.


East coast

 

It took Lyle the better part of an hour before he managed to loosen his hands. He ignored his throbbing head and nose. The door had impacted on his nose, breaking it again. He could feel the bone grate slightly when he touched it and his eyes darkened.

Jarod and his brother couldn’t have gotten that far. Gemini was seriously injured, in need of medical care. He doubted that the boy could walk without aide. Jarod was not that far off medical attention either.

He stood, stared at the ground and then smiled. It wasn’t going to be that hard to find them for as far as he could follow with his eyes, small splatters of blood made a straight line for the door. Gemini was bleeding and both pretenders were either too injured to notice or had failed to stem the boy’s bleeding.

He opened the cubby hole of the van and his fingers curled around the handle of his knife.

The hunt was on.


I enjoyed writing this. Did you enjoy reading it? Let me know.

 

Escape and Rescue by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you for all the reviews. Uhm, not a lot of reviews…does that mean I should stop or…

Escape and Rescue

Unknown area

J’s body was screaming for a stop, for any kind of relief from the mind numbing pain in his side. But that was not possible, not with Lyle behind them. He still doesn’t know why he had stopped Jarod from killing Lyle. It had been something he had dreamed about for a long while now. Something he had came to savour every time he had woken from a nightmare of that day in the warehouse. And he had actually told Jarod not to pull the trigger in so many words.

He wished his brother had not listened. If only…but now was not the time to dwell on what could have been. They had to look towards the future, towards freedom and a life without fear.

“You still with me?”

Jarod’s words interrupted his thoughts and his concentration slipped. He faltered, his feet tangling. Jarod’s grip kept him upright but his near fall pulled his side muscles and pain roared through him in waves of fire. He made no sound as he pushed the pain to the back of his mind. Mr. Raines had always taught him to move past his own discomforts.

“I’m ok,” he managed to choke out; ignoring the incredulous look his brother gave him. “Really.”

His brother gave him another -yeah right- look before letting it go. They continued on in silence, trying to put as much distance between them and Lyle as possible before the other man woke.

“Do you think Mom is ok?”

He hadn’t meant to ask but he needed the assurance even if it was a lie.

“I hope so,” Jarod’s answered quietly. “You want to rest?”

J shook his head. He didn’t think he’d have the strength to get up again if he lay down. They stopped when their feet stepped onto a service road that was covered in weed and debris. Jarod looked left and right before turning towards where he could see buildings not to far away.

“We should be safe there. I can make it difficult for Lyle to find us until help arrives.”

“How will…they know…where to find…us?” He was finding it more difficult to breath. He felt feverish and the pain was starting to creep up on him. He tried to banish it back to the dark recesses of his mind and failed.

“They will,” Jarod said distractedly, his gaze on the buildings. J didn’t point out the flaws in the answers. They were in an unknown town that looked seemingly deserted with a psychopath probably all ready on their trail. Belay that, a very pissed of psychopath bent on creating new horrors in their minds.

He wondered what he would do if Lyle managed to find them. Somehow he thought sorry just wouldn’t cut it.

“Stop it.”

J looked at Jarod in surprise to find his brother’s concerned gaze on him.

“I know what you’re thinking. Don’t.”

“Why? What…happens…if he finds…us? What…do we do…then?”

Jarod stopped and turned so that he could face J. He didn’t like the feverish glint in his brother’s eyes. His skin was too hot and dry to the touch.

“I’ll keep you safe, J. Please, believe me. I’ll keep you safe.”

J smiled and felt his lips crack. “You can…barely stand.”

Jarod chuckled. “Well, you’re not much better.” Jarod turned back to his brother’s side and they continued their trek.

“We’re two geniuses. I’m sure between us we can come up with a plan of staying out of Lyle’s clutches.”


Unknown area

Margaret felt her heart lurch when she finally noticed the cut phone line. Dropping the handle back on the handset, she turned and slowly slid down the wall. She had located two pay phones, both irreparable. She felt hopeless.

What if she couldn’t find help?

She had survived so long in the Centre’s shadow that it had now all become too much. Her heart was breaking. She had no idea whether her sons were safe and she could only imagine what Lyle would do to them. She felt tears form and slide silently down her cheeks.

She was so tired of fighting.

She finally wiped away the tears and slowly rose. Determination reset itself in her heart, keeping the pieces glued together. For her sons. She’ll keep on fighting for her sons.

Her eyes set on the next building and finding a phone. She had too. She was their hope.


The Russell farm

The dull buzzing in her ears didn’t want to go away. She tried to ignore it. Blessed silence cut the sound off and she sank back into the darkness of oblivion. It didn’t last. The buzzing sounded again. Irritated, she turned and woke abruptly when the solidness that had been underneath her, disappeared.

“What…”

Her eyes opened and she gazed with confusion at the wall. Her headache had not improved. She managed to put a steady hand on the chair she had fell asleep on and pushed herself to her knees. The buzzing sound finally registered as the shrill ring of her phone. She groaned when she looked at her watch.

She had slept no more than an hour and she could feel it. Her body was sluggish to respond and sleep clouded her mind. Wiping a hand across her face, she rose and made her way to the sink. Splashing cold water on her, she felt a little better. Enough to realise that her phone was still ringing.

“What?”

The answer lacked venom. She was too tired to make it into anything more than a greeting.

“Miss Parker, it’s me. Broots.”

It spoke volumes that she made no snide remark to his greeting. Her silence must have unnerved the tech, for he stammered through his next words. “The…the centre is really on th…their way.”

Damn her brother and his idiotic brain schemes.

“Do they know about us?”

“Lyle’s made a deal. H..he gets Jarod and we are…”

“Don’t bother continuing, Broots. I get the picture.” She didn’t have strength to deal with the Centre as well. She ignored the pounding in her head.

“Broots, meet us at the hospital. Get transfer papers for Sydney and an ambulance.”

“H…how…”

“You’re the computer genius. Figure it out.”

She cut him off. They didn’t have time anymore. She had to wake the major and then they had to make sure Sydney was safe before they can even think of looking for Jarod and the rest.

Damn her brother.


Unknown area

They made it to one of the buildings when J felt his chest constrict. He tried to take another breath and it didn’t come any easier than the previous one. Something was seriously wrong.

As J continued to lean on his brother, he tried to clear his mind. He could feel a strange coldness spread from his wound outwards. He knew his own body well enough to know that something had come loose inside. He reached out with his hand and touched something wet. When he withdrew his hand, his palm was crimson.

“J, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he managed to say, pushing his hand down his leg, away from Jarod’s gaze.

Jarod’s lips became thin lines as he pressed it together but he didn’t reply as they entered an apartment.

“Let me look.” His voice left no voice for argument and J allowed him to gently lower him to the floor. He closed his eyes in thankfulness when his trembling legs were finally allowed some respite even if it was only for a little while.

He could feel his strength fading as Jarod lifted the bandage. He heard his brother swear and blinked his eyes open in surprise.

“Is it that…bad?”

His brother avoided his gaze. He closed his eyes again. It was getting increasingly difficult to keep them open.

“J, I…I need to leave you here. Just for a few minutes.” He could hear the anguish in his brother’s voice but I found that he had no strength left to answer. As he slipped further into delirium, he felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him lightly.

“J, you need to stay awake.”

That’s funny, he though. All Jarod wants is for him to stay awake. He saw the air waver and once again he could see himself and his brother. He didn’t bother turning around when he felt her presence.

“I need just a little more time.”

“There’s not a lot left,” she said softly, sadly. He nodded, knowing that she was right.

“He needs me.”

His words echoed his previous one and he wondered if that would be enough. To be needed. Soft hands settled gently on his shoulders and he turned and buried his face in her chest. Sorrow welled up and he cried his regrets and loss into her shoulder until he was done.

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t know why he apologised but it felt good to do it.

She smiled a soft, sad smile. “It’s ok, J. Be strong.”

He sniffled and wiped his nose on his shirt.

“I’m proud of you.”

He looked up and saw her smile. “Why?”

“For not allowing Jarod to pull the trigger. It would have hurt him deep inside if he had.”

“I wished he had.”

“I know J but you still stopped him.”

“Who’s going to stop Lyle?”

She leaned in and pulled him closer so that he once again felt her peace. She spoke into his hair, “Don’t worry about Lyle.”

It wasn’t really an answer but it was enough.


Unknown area

Jarod tried to keep the panic at bay and failed miserably. He was frantically searching the rooms, trying to find any supplies that might help him deal with J’s wound. He was bleeding internally and he needed to re-stitch the wound. Tears were running unchecked down his face and he wiped at them now and again.

He finally broke down in some bathroom when he located a first aid kit. The sobs tore from his body in big gasps as he allowed the fear for his brother to surface. He had no idea if he could bring him back. If he could save him this time.

Why didn’t he stay by the van? He shouldn’t have left, should have watched Lyle. But he knew that if Lyle had a partner they would have been in even more danger. Spent, he pulled the first aid kit close to his chest and held it tight, almost hugging it. His own broken ribs protested but he ignored them as he made his way towards his brother. The loss of emotion had helped and he felt more awake and clear than he had in days.

He took a deep breath of relief when he knelt by his brother and felt a pulse. It was weak and erratic but it was there. The first aid kit he had found was better equipped than the one he had at his parent’s house. He cleaned the area quickly and then cut away the remaining stitches that had not torn. J whimpered softly when he parted the flesh to get a look inside.

Jarod apologised softly and then tuned everything out as he bent over his brother and hoped his skills were enough to pull J through this time.


East coast

“Dr Brown, I know you’re a head shrink but I need to know if you’ll be able to take care of Sydney when we leave.”

“Why the haste, Miss Parker?” he asked her. They were standing in the chapel, their whispers the only ones that filled the air.

“The Centre knows where we are. We need to move,” came the curt reply.

Dr Brown looked at her contemplatively and the silence stretched until he broke it. “I’ll be able to look after Sydney but we need to move him to another hospital or specialised clinic as soon as possible.”

“Agreed. The nurse wanted a physician’s signature for the release papers. Can you…”

He took it from her and they left the chapel and moved towards ICU. Moving Sydney now was not ideal but he knew enough about the Centre to understand the reason why. He gave the signed papers to the head nurse and nodded curtly his agreement when the papers were queried again. He could see that she wasn’t happy about moving Sydney but he couldn’t assail her fears.

Miss Parker’s phone rang and the glare the nurse threw her was enough to freeze boiling water. Miss Parker ignored the look and answered quickly.

“Two teams just stopped in front.”

She didn’t bother answering. She leaned in and whispered in his ear, “They’re here.”

Dr Brown nodded and an aura of haste entered his movements. “Claudia, can Sydney be moved now?” he asked hastily, glancing at the elevator doors and the light above them.

“Yes, the orderlies should be…hey!” she explained when he pushed her out of the way. Miss Parker grabbed one end of the bed and they started moving the bed, ignoring the still protesting nurse.

“Back elevators,” he said as they started moving. Miss Parker didn’t answer, only changed direction to show that she had heard.

“How do you know they won’t use it?”

He shook his head, even thought she couldn’t see him. “It’s used for deliveries. They shouldn’t know about it.”

Regardless, she drew her gun and held it ready at her side when she pushed the button. She watched Dr Brown glance at the light above the other doors way down the hall and understood his anxiousness.

“Come one…” she kept repeating like a mantra. She heard footsteps on the emergency next to her. Her hands were sweaty on the gun but she kept it ready. The door started to open when the ding sounded loudly next to her ear.

She didn’t have time to thank Lady Luck as they pushed Sydney into the elevator. The doors closed too slowly and just as a slit remained she heard a more distant ding.

They had made it. Just.

“He’s still stable.”

Guiltily, she glanced at Sydney. She had forgotten about him, her mind still on finding a clear way out.

“Broots has an ambulance waiting by the emergency doors.”

The doors opened by her side and she perused the immediate area. No black suits. Good. Helping Dr Brown to push Sydney’s bed, they manoeuvred it through the milling area towards the doors. A motion drew her attention and she looked towards it. Her eyes connected with the dark brown ones of Willie and held them for a moment. She saw him speak into a mike at his collar.

“Move. Now,” she growled just loud enough for the man behind her to hear as she increased her own speed.

She ignored the looks of doctors and medical personnel as they ran with the bed towards the doors. She thanked Broots when she saw the ambulance backing in and they slammed the bed into the back of the ambulance. Her gun was out and ready to use as she slammed the doors closed and ran for the driver’s door.

“Move over.”

Her words were sparse as Broots scrambled for the other side. She threw the gun at him and he fumbled before catching it by the barrel. She grinded it into first gear and spun the wheels as she tailgated before straightening for the entrance to the hospital. She watched Willie throw his hands in the air before earnestly beginning to shout into his mike.

She didn’t need to be a lip reader to know what he was saying.

“The safety is off, Broots. Don’t pull the damn trigger in the car.”

She saw the two black sedans racing her for the exit. In answer she pushed down on the gas and felt the power push the ambulance forward. It’s going to be close. Very.

“Broots, lower your window. I want you to aim the gun at the cars and then pull the trigger. The gun will recoil, so keep your hand steady. Aim for the body of the car.”

Broots paled but did as she asked. She heard the first loud report as the gun discharged. She could only hope that the tech could hit but she knew that even if he didn’t, it could by them the few milliseconds needed to win the race.

Another crack sounded and she watched as the front car swerved before straightening again. She smiled as she squeezed through the exit just in front of the others. She flicked the emergency switches.

“Broots, radio the police. Tell them there is a pair of black sedans chasing an ambulance with guns.”

Fifteen minutes later she let up on the gas when the two cars behind her were surrounded by police. It had been too close but they were still free. She switched the radio for the back and asked, “How’s Sydney doing?”

“Your driving didn’t help.”

She stayed silent and replaced the radio. She could hear from the strain in the doctor’s voice that things were not going well. She could only hope that the Major had better luck than they had.


East coast

Margaret sighed in relief when a dial tone sounded in her ear. She had found a phone that worked after the fifth one, or sixth – she wasn’t sure anymore. She pressed the familiar numbers and waited.

“Charles.”

“Thank God, Charles. It’s Margaret. I…Lyle…”

“We know. Are you hurt?”

“No…but J….Lyle cut him with a knife…he nearly died, Charles. I…”

“J’s still alive?”

“Yes…I think so. I left them with him…Jarod said to find you. You have to move Sydney to safety. Lyle wants Jarod to kill him.”

“He’s already being moved. Margaret, do you know where you are?”

She looked around her at the desolation. She couldn’t see any names or recognisable landmarks.

“I don’t know. It’s a deserted town. We drove a long time before we stopped here.”

Charles opened the local area map and started scanning the surrounding area to their farm. “Did you at any time leave the tar road?”

“Yes, I think about halfway through our journey.”

He scanned the lines as his finger travelled along the map. He could hear his wife’s tired breathing and it calmed it to know that she was at least safe for now. He found what he was looking for as his finger settled on the dimly printed name.

Foolsgate

No wonder it was a ghost town. “Margaret, you still there?” When she answered, he continued, “I know where you are. Stay close to the phone; I’ve got its number on mine. I’ll call you when Sydney’s safe. We’re on our way.”


East coast

Miss Parker answered on the second ring. She was 45 minutes from the clinic that will house Sydney. They had booked him in under a pseudonym. She could only pray that the Centre won’t do a deeper search of the local clinics and hospitals.

“Margaret’s safe. She just phoned me. It looks like Lyle drove them to a deserted town called Foolsgate. She escaped and has no idea whether Lyle still has Jarod or J.”

“The blood…”

“J’s. He’s seriously injured and Margaret told me that he nearly died.”

She was silent as she digested the information. She felt guilty for her relief for knowing it’s not Jarod’s.

“How long will it take us from the clinic to get there?”

“I don’t know. Best I can guess is an hour to two. Depends on the condition of the road.”


Unknown area

It had not been difficult to follow the trail. He entered the building warily, knowing that Jarod could have set traps. His fears were unfounded when he heard the soft rustle from an apartment close to the opening. A smile settled slowly when he took in the scene before him.

Jarod was busy stitching up Gemini’s side. His full concentration was on the boy and allowed Lyle to enter and take the gun from Jarod’s waistband. Jarod didn’t acknowledge his presence in any way. He continued to work silently on J. Lyle was content to watch, knowing he had the overhand. Jarod will pay later for his indiscretion at the warehouse.

“If he dies, it will be entirely your fault.”

Jarod finished his last stitch and slowly leaned back on his knees. “I wasn’t the one who knifed him in the stomach.”

He heard Lyle shift but he made no movement of his own except watch as J’s chest rose upwards.

“True, but that he deserved. If you hadn’t moved him, he will be recovering in his cell, not dying.”

Jarod met Lyle’s cold eyes angrily. He knew what the other was doing but he didn’t care. “I’ll never stop fighting you.”

Lyle laughed and it brought a chill to Jarod’s flesh. He didn’t like the sound or what it entailed. “Everyone has a breaking point, Jarod. Even you.”

“No!”

Lyle’s eyes darkened as he cleaned his fingers with his knife. So cliché but it never ceases to draw attention and fear. And he could see it trying to hide in Jarod’s eyes.

“Maybe Gemini can explain it to you someday…that’s if he survive the next hour.”

He could see Jarod swallow and he allowed another smirk to flash across his face. So predictable. So easy.

“I won’t allow you to touch him.”

Lyle rose from where he had been leaning against the wall and stepped towards the duo. “No? And how do you plan on stopping me?”

Jarod rose and stepped over J so that he was between the boy and Lyle. “You’ll have to kill me before I’ll allow you to touch him again.”

Lyle’s eyebrows rose as he said in a mocking tone, “Really?”

Jarod clenched his fists but stood his ground as the blond man stepped closer, his knife balanced in his hand. Jarod watched him closely and was ready when the knife lunged for his side. He managed blocked Lyle’s knife hand but was unable to prevent the punch to his already sore and bruised ribs. It dropped him to his knees but he used the pain as a way of fuelling his anger.

He rose swiftly, trying to come in under Lyle’s guard. He blocked another punch but it left his other side open for the blond man’s knife hand. He desperately started to pivot. The knife sliced into his arm, cutting deep into his muscle. He cried out in pain, grabbing his arm and pulling it close to his body. He could feel the blood welling up between his fingers and then start to drip towards the floor.

He didn’t move, standing hunched over as Lyle slowly circled him. His eyes followed the man as he tried to think past the numbness in his mind.

“Does that hurt?”

He didn’t reply, kept stubbornly quiet. Lyle tisked and shook his head. “Oh well, I’m sure Gemini will be ready to explain to me. You should have heard his screams…wait, you did.”

Jarod growled and lunged himself at Lyle. His fingers brushed the other man but his reactions were too slow. He landed on his side and curled into himself when Lyle kicked him. He could only watch as Lyle stepped over J and crouched beside the boy.

“Don’t hurt him.”

“Or what, Jarod? Who’s the one in control?”

Jarod swallowed his pride. His eyes couldn’t hide his fear for his brother when Lyle placed the knife over the newly stitched cut.

“You are.”

Lyle pressed slightly harder, his one eyebrow raised. Jarod watched the knife carefully as he stated again, “You are the one in control, Mr Lyle.” The knife rose and with it Lyle.

“How long before he can be safely moved?”

“I don’t know,” he replied sullenly. Lyle wasn’t impressed. “You’re a genius last time I checked, Jarod. Hazard a calculated guess.”

“Not soon. Not for a day at least if he is to survive.”

Lyle contemplated his statement while his blue eyes continued to roam over Jarod’s prone form.

“Very well, we’ll stay here for now. Any more escape attempts from you and I’ll make sure Gemini will get to know the real meaning of pain before I’ll release him from his misery. Are we clear?”

Jarod dropped his gaze and nodded. He heard Lyle move away before something clanked by his feet.

“Put them on.”

He did as he was told before tentatively moving closer to J. He seated himself by his brother and tended to his arm wound under the watchful gaze of their captor. He checked J’s breathing and pulse. It was still too weak for him to relax.

“Come on J. Don’t leave, please. Fight,” he whispered. He clasped his brother’s hand in his and held it, all the while wondering if it wouldn’t be better if his brother slipped away without being aware that they were back under Lyle’s control.


Reviews are always appreciated.
Complications, threats and lies by whashaza
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

I’ve been on hiatus for the past eight days with no internet access. I’m finally back in a world where the internet exits…;-D Happy holidays to all.

Complications, threats and lies

Foolsgate

Jarod lifted his eyes and glanced at Lyle when he heard felt the vibration against his pocket. He had forgotten about the phone. He shifted his body and extracted his hands from J. He glanced at their captor again. Lyle seemed unaware of the soft vibration coming from him. Grimacing - as if in pain - he hunched slightly forward.

“I’ll take that,” Lyle said conversationally, a menacing undercurrent flowing beneath his words. Lyle stepped closer, his hand extended. Jarod sighed and placed the still vibrating phone in Lyle’s hand. He answered brusquely when he saw the phone number, his gaze on Jarod and the boy.

“I did as you asked, Mr Lyle. The message came through a few minutes ago. Miss Parker had managed to escape with the psychiatrist.”

Lyle sneered inwardly. “Did you trace their next location?”

“The tracker is working fine. I’ll be able to give you the exact longitude and latitude once they stop.”

“Good. Send that information through as soon as you have it,” he ordered, aware that Jarod was listening closely. Let him. The pretender needed to learn that he was not the one in control anymore.

“Your transport should arrive in the next twenty minutes or so. I’ve also arranged for the equipment you wanted.”

“Send them to the closest empty building to the south of the warehouse. There had been a brief thought of escape before sanity had been enforced.” Jarod heard the smug satisfaction in Lyle’s voice. He kept his gaze on J’s fevered face, wondering how long Lyle had been planning this.

“The chairman is not happy. He thinks that you had a finger in helping Miss Parker and the others escape. He wants to speak to you.”

“Tell him I’m busy. I’ll speak to him as soon as it’s convenient.” He could still hear the other protesting when he shut the connection.

Jarod send him a hate-filled glare while he returned the phone to his pocket. “Tell me one thing,” Jarod said in a controlled voice, “Was what you did to J a mistake or part of your grant plan to get back at me?”

Lyle crouched on the other side of J, his hand wiping the boy’s hair away from his sweat covered forehead. Although the action seemed tender and caring, Jarod knew better. Lyle’s hand stilled, balanced.

“Does it matter?”

Jarod bristled with anger barely kept in check. He wanted nothing more than to slap Lyle’s hand away from J’s head. “Yes,” He managed to grind out through clenched teeth.

Lyle paused before answering, “You’ve always underestimated the lengths I’m prepared to go to make your life mine.”

“I’ll stay with you if you leave my family alone,” Jarod said quietly. He could feel his heart hammering against his ribs. This was the second time he had made the offer, hoping against hope that Lyle will take it.

“Why would I do that, Jarod? We both know what family means to you.”

Jarod followed Lyle’s hand as it travelled over J’s face and settled loosely on his throat. He didn’t move; his body tight with tension that started from a strangled knot somewhere in the middle of his stomach and travelled upwards from there.

“As long as you threaten me with them, I’ll fight you.”

“And they will be punished for your disobedience.”

Jarod tried to keep all emotion out of his face at the threat. He willed his hands to relax, trying to ease an air of confidence around himself. “You will regret it,” he promised in a controlled voice. Lyle’s hand tightened around J’s throat in defiance to the words that Jarod had uttered. The boy moaned softly and turned his head sideways. Jarod couldn’t continue to watch. He reached out and closed his hands lightly around Lyle’s wrist.

“He’s done nothing wrong.”

Lyle twisted his hand out of Jarod’s grip. J lay quiet between them; the only sound his intake of breath after the constriction. His eyes still closed, he shifted in semi conscious again while the two men continued their staring contest above him.

“That was not a smart thing to do,” Lyle hissed, his eyes almost opaque from anger.

“You keep on harping about my family, Mr Lyle,” Jarod retorted, making sure his voice didn’t rise above a whisper, “Killing J will not be helpful towards getting me to cooperate, now will it?”

Lyle stood up slowly, his every gesture screaming of control. “You misunderstood me, Jarod. I will and can kill Gemini when I so choose. His life belongs to me. I made him mine before you managed to rescue him.”

Jarod didn’t want to think on what Lyle meant. His anxiety rose but he kept his composure. “J doesn’t belong to you or the Centre.” Jarod said, emphasising the boy’s name for good measure. Not that it would make any difference to Lyle.

“He didn’t tell you what happened, did he?”

Jarod found that he was holding his breath and he reminded himself to keep breathing. Lyle was going to tell him, regardless of what he would say in return.

“Do you want the condensed version or the longer more detailed one?”

“What if I said none?”

Lyle simply smiled and shook his head. He glanced at his watch and then said, “I’ll make it the condensed one.” He paused, letting the words sink in before saying nonchalantly, “Quite simply, Gemini helped me to kill a girl.”

“No…,” Jarod trailed off, before his voice got stronger, “I don’t believe you.”

Lyle’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Maybe next time he’s awake, ask him. I don’t really have the time to go into greater detail right now.”

Jarod was about to protest further when he heard the unmistakable sound of a car engine from outside. It shut down and then car doors sounded. He heard voices and Lyle shouted, “In here.” Thirty seconds later two burly sweepers entered the room.

“Get the boy in the van,” Lyle instructed, giving Jarod a warning glance when he stood and stepped over the boy. He knew he couldn’t win but he had to try at least.

“You’ll kill him,” he stated, glaring at the men and Lyle in turn.

Lyle rolled his eyes and then addressed one of the sweepers, “Bring the stretcher.” He looked at Jarod and asked, “Will that suffice?”

Jarod had no choice but to nod. He directed the men as the loaded J onto the stretcher and started to follow. A hand curled familiarly around his bicep, bringing him to a halt. His muscles clenched but he stayed as commanded. One of the men came back and Lyle gave further instructions for them to wait by the car. Lyle waited for the door to close before he pushed the pretender to the centre of the room and commanded him to kneel.

Unnerved by the growing feeling of dread, Jarod waited too long before obeying. Lyle roughly shoved him down, his hand firm on Jarod’s shoulder. “It is time you’re reminded about your place, Jarod. I will not tolerate your earlier behaviour. I want you to apologise.”

When Jarod didn’t reply, Lyle leaned in to whisper in the pretender’s ear. “Apologise or I’ll leave Gemini here to rot.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, staring defiantly at Lyle.

His captor slowly extracted the knife, balancing it against his palm. “You’re not, but you will be.”


Private clinic

 

Miss Parker kissed Sydney’s on his forehead before straightening. She stepped back, allowing the doctor to continue with his assessment.

“He’s your father?”

She acknowledged the question. Sydney had been more of a father to her in any case than her own. She could see Dr Brown’s slightly raised eyebrows and she ignored them. She was prepared to kill to keep Sydney safe. Lying was the least of her worries.

“I’ll need to do a CAT-scan to verify the trauma area.”

“Do what you need to get him well, Doctor,” she replied calmly.

She stayed for a few minutes until Sydney was pushed out the room. Dr Brown had the same look on his face that Sydney had when she had a particular bad day at the Centre. She watched him open his mouth just as a soft knock sounded on the door.

Major Charles stood in the doorway, his gaze shifting from a rigid Miss Parker to Dr Brown leaning against the one wall.

“How is Sydney doing?” he asked Miss Parker, hoping to diffuse the tense atmosphere.

“Don’t know yet. I’m sure Dr Brown will let us know as soon as the tests are done,” Miss Parker stated with a warning glance at the psychiatrist. “We should be on our way.”

The Major waited for her to pass before he threw an apologetic look at the other man. Dr Brown just shrugged his shoulders in answer. He had to hurry to catch up to Miss Parker.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she snapped, increasing her pace. They exited the clinic in silence. The older man slid behind the steering wheel and watched as Miss Parker calmly checked her gun. She was interrupted by her phone.

“Hello sis,” came the suave voice of her brother.

“Twice in two days. I’m honoured,” she replied. She pressed the phone against her ear and slammed the cartridge into her gun. She cocked the gun, smiling grimly.

Lyle ignored the sound of a bullet slamming into the chamber. Ignoring Jarod’s laboured breathing, he wiped the knife on the pretender’s trousers before asking, “How’s Sydney?”

“Somewhere safe,” she replied. “If I were you I’d run because when I catch you…” she let her words trial of meaningfully.

“Your track record in that department is a little shaky.” Lyle replied mockingly. “So excuse my reluctance to believe in it.”

“Don’t worry, Lyle. I don’t plan on failing,” she said determinedly. “Why are you calling?”

Lyle crouched besides the pretender and trialled his finger through the blood on Jarod’s chest. Jarod stiffened under his touch and he smiled. “So….did Margaret manage to phone you yet?”

Miss Parker didn’t answer and the silence stretched before Lyle continued, “I’ll take that as a yes then. I guess she told you about Gemini.”

His tone of voice somehow made it into a question. Miss Parker leaned against the backrest of the seat and pinched her nose between her two fingers. There was a reason why Lyle was bringing J into the equation.

“If he dies, so do you.”

“Is that a promise?” Lyle asked, his voice dangerously low.

“No. It’s a fact. What do you want, Lyle,” she answered, her voice matching his.

“Hold on,” Lyle said. He could hear his sister swearing. He ignored the words and placed the phone against Jarod’s ear.

“Parker,” the pretender managed to utter. The swearing stopped. He could hear her breath through the static in his ear. He hated what he had to do but he had no choice. He could feel Lyle’s impatience at his stalling but he didn’t know how to say what he had been told.

“Jarod, are you all right?”

He almost smiled. All right was relative term where Lyle was concerned. “I’ll survive,” he said while he imagined the look of doubt on her face. She didn’t reply and the silence stretched to a full minute while he gathered his courage. Lyle traced one of the cuts on his back warningly. He sighed and then said evenly, “J’s dead.”

“What?” He could hear the disbelief in her voice and he willed her not to trust his words. Lyle’s fingers pressed slightly harder and he tried to keep the pain out of his voice. “I…I couldn’t save him. I’m sorry.”

“Is Lyle making you say this, Jarod?”

Jarod didn’t meet the icy gaze of his captor. “No. It’s the truth,” he allowed a catch in his voice. J’s life depended on making Parker believe him.

“Jarod?” The soft question held a note of desperation and uncertainty. He hated himself in that moment but it couldn’t be helped.

“I’m sorry.”

Lyle took they phone from Jarod’s ear and stepped away from him. “You still there, sis?”

“Yes,” she ground out, her teeth firmly gritted.

“I want the location of Margaret.”

“You’re insane if you think that we’ll give you that information,” she said, angered.

“I’m not in the mood to search for her and if I had to, I can promise that it won’t bode well for her when I do find her. So make it easy on every one, include lover boy, and just tell me.”

“When hell freezes over and you’re in it.”

Lyle took a deep breath before he allowed his phone hand to drop and hang by his side. He kneeled by the pretender and turned Jarod onto his stomach. The pretender’s breath hitched up a notch but he otherwise stayed quiet. Making sure his knee grinded into Jarod’s lower back, Lyle placed the phone by Jarod’s face. He could hear Parker’s voice shouting his name over the phone. He placed the tip of the knife just between Jarod’s shoulder blades. He felt the muscles tense even further.

“I want you to scream.”

Jarod couldn’t quite believe what he had heard. Miss Parker must have heard the words for the line went silent for a moment before she started to protest. He clenched his hands and bit his lip. He wasn’t going to give Lyle the pleasure. His breathing stopped as the first cut was made. He could feel the blood running down his back but he managed to keep the pain in check. Lyle stopped abruptly and Jarod opened his eyes in surprise. The pressure on his lower back lifted and then he was flipped angrily onto his back. The look in Lyle’s face scared him and then his hands was pulled over his head and pushed against the floor. A knee was placed against his arm before he could roll out of position. One of his fingers was separated and then the cool blade of the knife was placed against the warm flesh.

“Please, no,” he pleaded hoarsely. He could hear Parker calling his name and then Lyle’s. When the knife bit into the skin and then the muscle of his thumb, he couldn’t help the scream. It tore from deep inside and seemed to echo in his skull. Tears filled his eyes and he writhed in agony as Lyle continued to cut into his thumb. He had no pride left when the knife hit bone and he pleaded unashamedly, not caring that Parker was still online and hearing everything. Lyle pulled the knife away and grabbed the phone. Jarod curled into his bleeding hand and tried to control his breathing while the tears still ran unchecked down his cheeks.

“Margaret’s location,” Lyle breathed, his voice sending slow chills up and down Jarod’s spine. He could hear the defeat in her voice when she said, “We don’t know the exact location. It’s a payphone somewhere in a town called Foolsgate.”

“Not good enough,” Lyle replied with a dangerous glint in his eyes. Jarod tried to suppress a moan at the promise in the voice as he curled even tighter. His thumb pulsed in even strokes, sending a blue fire with each one.

“She doesn’t know where she is. We told her to stay by the phone until we arrived.” Her anxiety rose when Lyle stayed silent. “It’s the truth, Lyle.” She kept the rest of her words in check. Now was not the time to infuriate Lyle further.

“Give me the number.”

She rambled it off, ignoring the look the Major send her. Her grip tightened painfully on her cell when Lyle cautioned, “Don’t warn her Parker or Jarod will lose more than his thumb.”


Foolsgate

 

It had been nearly an hour when the phone finally rang. She stood in the doorway and listened to the ring while her eyes roamed the surrounding area. Nothing moved and she walked hurriedly to the box and lifted the phone from its handle.

“Charles?”

“I’m disappointed, Margaret. I thought you loved your sons more.”

Horror flooded her as she listened to the cool words spoken over the line. “H…how,” she stammered, unable to think past the knowledge that Lyle had the number. She turned in the box and eyed the surrounding area.

“A little birdie told me.”

She leaned her forehead against the stained and cracked glass. She took a deep breath and tried to work past the debilitating numbness in her mind.

“Margaret? Are you still there?” he asked with false concern.

“Yes, I’m still here.”

“Good. I don’t want to lose you again. It may be deadly to Gemini.”

She didn’t reply. She heard footsteps and turned. Lyle stood with his cell phone against his ear at the other end of the building. When he noticed her stare, he gave a small wave. His phone slid into a pocket as he stepped confidently closer until he stood in front of her.

“I’ve missed you.”

She slowly reset the phone on its handle while fear for Jarod and J gnawed at her mind. She willed her trembling hand to still when Lyle stepped out of her way. He showed the way with one hand and she stepped past him, her eyes on the trees in the distance. He fell in beside her, once hand resting lightly on her back, steering. They walked past the building and slipped into an alley she had not seen earlier. Her heart thudded in her throat as they stepped around overgrown grass and broken bottles.

“You shouldn’t have left,” he said calmly as they exited the alley and she noticed the black van in front of the building before them. “Jarod had to be punished.”

She willed her feet forward while his words ripped jagged chunks out of her heart. “You’re insane,” was all she could think of to say. Lyle only rolled his eyes at her words. “Who’s really sane in this world?”

“Bobby, don’t do this.”

He gripped her upper arm painfully, forcing her to face him as he brought them to a halt. “Don’t ever call me that,” he hissed, his face inches from her. She could see the anger smouldering in his blue orbs. “My name is Mr Lyle.”

“I knew your mother, Bobby. She would not have wanted you to be so twisted by Raines.”

Lyle looked at her before striking her with the back of his gloved hand. “You will not refer to Bobby or my mother again. If you do, I’ll make sure Jarod suffers.”

Margaret wiped at the small sliver of blood that dripped down from the cut in her lip. His grip was bruising on her arm but she refrained from showing that he was hurting her. “You cannot deny your birthright.”

“Who says I’m denying my Parker legacy. I was born to have everything.”

“By everything you mean the Centre.” Margaret replied, her gaze meeting Lyle’s unflinchingly.

“Yes,” Lyle replied seriously, “And your son will help me achieve it.”

“Jarod will never help you.”

“That’s where you are mistaken. To save you and Gemini, Jarod will sell his soul to me.”

Seemingly tired of the conversation, Lyle dragged Margaret to the van and opened the back doors. J was on a stretcher against one wall of the van. He didn’t look any different when she had last seen him. She gasped when she saw Jarod. He was curled against the opposite corner, his knees drawn towards his stomach. The parts of his upper torso she could see were covered in blood. Tears had made twin paths down the grime in his face. He was cradling what looked like his left hand against his chest. She started to move forward. The hand around her upper arm didn’t let go and she turned.

“You will be staying with me in the cab.”

She lashed out with her other hand against his chest in anger and when he didn’t let go, she kicked at his shin. He let go as his hand automatically dropped towards the area. “You bitch,” he uttered. She ignored his rumblings, instead focused on getting to Jarod. The click of a gun sounded, bringing her to an immediate halt. She turned her head and saw the barrel pointed directly towards J.

“Do that again and Gemini gets a bullet in his knee.” Fully aware that he had her attention, he continued, “I want you in the front cab now.” She acknowledged his command and gave her sons a longing glance before walking around the back and entering the passenger side. A sweeper was already behind the steering wheel. Lyle joined them shortly and she was sandwiched between the two men.

“Don’t worry, Margaret. As long as Jarod does as he is told, you and Gemini will be safe.”

She didn’t believe a word of it.


Private clinic

 

“Damn it, Parker. Did you have to tell him the location? He’ll use Margaret to control Jarod and us even further.”

Miss Parker spun from staring out the window to look at the Major. “Don’t tell me you didn’t hear Jarod’s screams. It’s still echoing in my mind. I had no choice.”

“So you gave in just like that,” Charles retorted angrily. “Without a second thought you gave her up.”

“I did what I had to. I will not apologise for it,” she explained while she pushed the car door open. The major followed suit and he grabbed her arm when he caught up with her.

“We’re not done, Parker.”

She looked down at his hand that was gripping her arm. “Tell me, Major,” she said softly, “what would you have done any differently?”

He studied her determined face, her eyes haunted with Jarod’s screams. It mirrored his own. He dropped his hand. “I don’t know,” he said eventually. “I hate this.” He blinked away the moisture from his eyes before it had time to form. Parker nodded and then turned away from him. He allowed her too take a few steps when he said, “I don’t believe what Jarod told you about J. He’s still alive.”

She paused mid-stride. She kept her back to him. “I believe Jarod. He wouldn’t lie about it.”

He wanted to walk over to her but held back. She needed to deal with this on her own way. “Think about it, Parker. If J had really died, why would Jarod tell us? The only way that Lyle could force him is for the boy to be still alive and to be used as leverage.”

She pivoted back around so that her gaze met the Major’s. “Fine. It sounds plausible but why would Lyle want us to believe J is dead?”

“To keep us focused away from what he is planning. On where he is going next.”

She was silent while she focused inwards and what she knew about her brother and Jarod. They had been going at this the wrong way. They had been chasing her brother’s tail. He had phoned twice to rub her face in it. Then the random facts she had been painstakingly tracing in her mind connected. She turned back to the clinic without a word.

“We need to leave.”

Charles caught up with her as she entered through the double doors. “Why?”

“The first thing Lyle asked me was how Sydney was doing. Remember what Margaret told us my brother wanted to do.”

“We can’t keep on moving Sydney. He needs medical care. More than we can give him.”

“I know,” Parker said, seeing the older man’s agitation. “My brother will always be one step ahead if we keep chasing him. So we change strategies. We allow him to come to us. We stop running.”

Major Charles looked at her as understanding dawned. The he returned her smile. “We have a lot of planning to do but it might just work.”

“Not might. Will. It will work.”


Reviews are always appreciated. ;-)

 

Burial by whashaza
Author's Notes:
I apologize for the delay in posting this chapter. Work had really been hectic and had left me with no time to write. I had decided to post this and hopefully the next part will be up within the next two weeks. I’m also working on my NCIS story and hope for something within the next week or so. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
 

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Burial

Unknown area

Margaret shuddered as Lyle gave a soft smile.

“Very good. I’ll be in touch.”

She didn't like the glint in his eye when he closed the phone and turned to her. She fidgeted, and then looked away, staring at the road that stretched out before them.

“Take the next turnoff to the right. There should be a car parked next to the road. Stop behind it.”

The sweeper acknowledged the command and then the silence continued until the van slowed and came to a halt behind a maroon sedan.

“Let’s go, Margaret,” Lyle said as he held the door open for her. She followed him to the back of the van and waited by his side as the sweeper opened the doors. It looked like J hasn’t moved at all. She started towards his unresponsive body and stopped when she saw Lyle shook his head lightly.

“Please, I…I just…I need to see if my son is still alive,” she pleaded softly; her gaze never leaving J’s body. Lyle seemed to consider her request, his head tilted at a slight angle, his eyes cold. She didn’t dare breath and at last after what felt like an hour he nodded.

She rushed forward and entered the van. Jarod shifted into a seated position, his eyes slits when he met her eyes. She could see the pain and fear etched into his face. He swallowed visibly before he whispered, “Did he hurt you?”

“No, I’m ok.”

She turned away, hiding her face as she reached out trembling fingers to gently caress J’s face. She desperately wanted him to stir, to show that he was aware of her but there was nothing. He remained still and quiet, the only indication that he was alive was the barely perceived movement of his chest.

“I love you J,” she said as she leaned forward and kissed her son’s forehead. “I’ll be back soon, I promise. Just hold on, ok. Please, just don’t give in.”

She wiped a stray tear away quickly when she climbed out. Jarod was pulled out by the sweeper and the doors were closed behind him.

“What are you doing? Where are you taking J?”

“Nothing that concerns you for the moment, Margaret.”

“He’s my son! I have a right to know.”

Lyle gave only a half smirk. “Really?”

She looked at Jarod quickly. He was barely lucid enough to follow the conversation, his head down and his body hunched over his hand that he was cradling.

“You listen to me, Bobby. I will…”

The sound of a loud slap followed and Jarod growled, lifting his head.

“I warned you, Margaret. Do you want me to release Gemini from his misery?” Lyle spat, his face livid with fury. He grabbed her arm and pulled her close until their faces were inches apart. She could hear Jarod struggling weakly against the grip of the sweeper.

“Lyle, no. Don’t.”

His eyes drifted from her to Jarod before it settled back on hers. “Do that again and I will put a bullet in Gemini’s head,” he hissed harshly. “Do you understand me, Margaret?”

“Yes.”

He scrutinised her face for another minute before he finally released her arm. She rubbed the area where his fingers had left bruises subconsciously as Lyle disappeared around the van. The sweeper released Jarod and he stumbled towards her.

“Mom?”

Jarod reached out and gently touched the bruised side of her face. She flinched a little but held still. Small blood smears trailed from Jarod’s fingers onto her skin.

“I’m okay. It’s not that serious,” she replied as she turned her attention to his hand that was still held protectively close to his body.

“Oh God,” she choked out, tears flooding her eyes when she finally got a look at Jarod’s left hand. Jarod grimaced and then turned away when his mother reached for the wounded limb.

“You have to get out of here,” he whispered desperately, keeping his eyes averted. “I can distract Lyle. You have to…”

She pulled at his arm, turning him so that he was forced to face her. His voice trailed to silence as she pulled his head against her shoulder and murmured small words of comfort. Jarod allowed a small sob to escape and then took a deep shuddering breath as he tried to bring his emotions under control. Despite their situation, he felt safe in her arms and it was with reluctance that he pushed away from her embrace when he heard Lyle’s footsteps. They turned, facing him as he came around the van, a tog bag in his hand.

He took out a shirt and tossed it at Jarod, commanding him to put it on. Jarod did so slowly, wondering what Lyle had planned. The blood, sweat and grime against his body quickly rubbed off on the shirt, leaving dirt and blood smears across it.

Lyle pulled a water bottle and a cloth from the bag and walked over to where they stood.

“Drink.”

Margaret took a sip and then passed the bottle to Jarod. He tasted the water and then started to gulp it down as the cool liquid slit down his throat. He had no idea he had been that parched. His headache subsided somewhat after the bottle was finished. Lyle lifted his other hand, an evil smile on his face.

“Are you going to fight me on this, Jarod?”

Jarod stepped protectively in front of his mother. He couldn’t move his gaze away from the cloth in the psychopath’s hand. If he was blind, he couldn’t protect his mother. He wouldn’t be able to see the blows coming.

“You won’t need it,” he stated, feeling his pulse quicken with each passing second. “I promise I won’t try to escape.”

Lyle shook his head, the smile still fixed on his face as he calmly stepped closer. Jarod retreated with the same measured pace, pushing his mom back with him.

“Please.”

“Sorry Jarod. But I can’t trust you yet. You understand that, don’t you?”

Jarod didn’t answer, instead glanced at the bleak surroundings. Nothing but arid land greeted his sight. A few straggling bushes clung to the soil and a small hill rose out of the land just to the west of them. Red rock against the light blue sky.

His shoulders slumped and he stopped. There was nowhere to run, even if he could, and he would never leave J behind. Lyle grinned, his eyes glistening as he closed the distance and slid the cloth over Jarod’s head. He could feel the smooth material as it closed over his eyes, bringing his world back to darkness. A hand closed familiarly around his bicep.

“We’re going for a walk, Jarod.”

The hollow pit in his stomach increased and he resisted when Lyle pushed him forward. His hand reached upward to pull the blindfold off. His hand stopped halfway when he heard a small painful gasp from his mother.

“I’ll do what you want, Lyle, just…just don’t hurt her, please.”

“One more attempt of resistance from you, Jarod and your mother will die.” He could hear the open malice in Lyle’s voice and he nodded wordlessly. He followed Lyle’s directions, stumbling his way forward. A soft hand closed around his other arm and he felt grateful to know that his mother was next to his side.

They continued their trek and it was around twenty minutes later that they came to a halt. Jarod was pushed into a kneeling position and he resisted the urge to fight, his thoughts on Lyle’s last promise. The cold steel closed around his wrist of his good hand and then pulled back. The other bracelet closed around his left ankle, leaving him kneeling in an awkward position. He couldn’t stand up even if he had wanted to. Only after he was secured did Lyle remove the blindfold.

He blinked against the fading light of dusk until he could finally make out his nemesis in front of him.

Avoiding eye contact with Lyle, he searched for his mother. She stood slightly to Lyle’s left and when he saw the oblong shaped casket to her left, he started to struggle.

“Don’t. You can’t do this, Lyle. I’ll do anything you want, just don’t do this. Please, don’t.”

He continued his struggles, feeling the blood slick against his wrist and ankle when the cuffs broke through his barely healed skin.

“She will be your incentive to follow through on your earlier promise. I don’t want a chance for you to mess things up.”

Jarod closed his eyes briefly, trying to get the image of Red Rock and the sheriff’s wife out of his mind. It didn’t work. The woman’s face morphed into his own mother’s and he remembered clearly how close he and Kyle had come to not saving her in time. He tried to think of a way out of this, to save his mother from getting into the coffin. Twin tears were starting their trek down.

“Leave her with the boy and hide them. If I don’t follow through or he doesn’t receive a phone call from you within an allotted time, he can do to them whatever you want.” His voice was urgent, low and the words stumbled from his mouth. “You don’t have to do this. There are too many variables that can go wrong.”

“No, Jarod. This way I’ll ensure that nothing will go wrong. It will help to keep your focus on what you’re supposed to do and away from finding ways to escape.” Lyle told him, stepping towards Margaret.

“Mom, run!”

His voice had an edge to it that Margaret had never heard before and she gave a frightened gaze that alternated between her son and Lyle’s.

“Run!”

Her frozen limbs suddenly exploded and she turned and bolted for the small hill that was almost directly in front of her. Long shadows cast across the ground in front of her as the sun slowly slid behind the horizon. She didn’t get far when his harsh voice interrupted her flight.

“Continue to run, Margaret and your son gets a bullet in his head.”

Margaret turned back slowly and her breath froze in her throat. Lyle had Jarod by the hair, the barrel of his gun pressed hard against her son’s temple.

“Get back here or he dies right now.”

She looked at Jarod’s face and saw in his eyes that he wanted her to run, to get away if possible. But she couldn’t do that. She couldn’t live with the knowledge that she would be responsible for his death.

She took a deep breath, gathering her courage and walked back to where the two men waited.

End Notes:
Reviews really welcome and I promise that the next chapter will be longer.
Fading light by whashaza
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you to all for your reviews.

 

 

Fading light

Unknown area

The darkness was so deep that he could see no light. He felt cold. He tried to wrap his arms around his body but it brought no comfort. The cold radiated from somewhere inside him, outwards until all he felt was numbness. He blinked against the darkness, his eyes tearing and yet there was nothing. He closed his eyes and leaned back. Though he could sense the leather against the shirt and the shirt against his back, he couldn’t seem to get his nerve endings to acknowledge the actual feel of it.

It was too cold. Too numb. Too much.

There was another presence. He knew that this presence was the reason for his non-feeling, for his numbness. He knew that its existence was defined by others, made into being until it had conformed. He wondered briefly if that was what was happening to him.

Too much.

He knew without knowing what the presence embodied. It moved closer and he felt his breath hitch a little as the beating in his chest increased by a fraction. He could move his arms and legs, but he stayed still. He would only watch and be silent. Be aware but be invisible. Be conscious but try not to think too much.

He jumped slightly when heat touched his face. He opened his eyes and the darkness receded until he was aware enough of who it was that was staring at him from across the vast distance that was nothing. He watched fascinated as the mouth opened and closed. Sound reached his ears an infinite time later and he nodded, not really aware of why.

Anything to go back to his state of bliss, of unawareness.

Before he could slip away again, a stinging sensation spread outward from his cheek, his head ricocheting of towards the side. A rush of feeling drowned the numbness until he became aware again and the hopelessness of his situation enforced itself back into his psyche.

He sighed and closed his eyes.

And awoke, sharply.

“I see you’re awake. Good. We’re nearly there.”

Jarod didn’t reply, instead continued to gaze out the window by his head. It was dark, the sky bright with starlight. The horizon’s backdrop of flatness was broken occasionally by small hills or rock outcroppings. It had the feel of an alien landscape; all that was missing was little green men and Miss Parker.

A slight smile settled briefly before it disappeared again, just as quickly. His breath was making small clouds of condensation on the window pane; his skin – where it touched the window – was numb with cold.

“Do you remember the plan?”

“Yes.”

He didn’t move, didn’t acknowledge his captor except for what was necessary. Lyle glanced at him briefly in irritation before turning his concentration back to the road in front of them.

Get in there, Margaret.”

No, I…please, Lyle,” Jarod pleaded.

He didn’t know what else to say anymore. His last words came out broken, his eyes dark and moist. Lyle smiled down at him and they both watched as his mother climbed shakily into the metal box. He had nothing more to give. His soul felt bruised and numb. He started to shiver uncontrollably.

Mom?”

Her smile quivered for a brief moment until she turned her eyes from him towards the sociopath. It disappeared, her eyes wide with fear, her nostrils flaring. He tried not to but it came as second nature as he started to sim his mother.

He began to scream his safe word frenziedly, over and over. The panic inside his chest didn’t want to let up and he started to hyperventilate. Lyle stalked over and he was aware again when his face impacted with the dirt.

All he could inhale was the smell of fresh, moist dirt that had been unearthed not too long ago. He snorted, trying to get the cloying feel of it out of his nostrils.

The clang as the lid closed echoed around him, through the hills and he started to sob uncontrollably. He wasn’t aware of the skin he had now completely scrubbed raw with his efforts to free himself. The tang of copper filled his nostrils as Lyle grunted and pushed the box into the hole. The dull thud as it hit bottom rang through the ground, vibrating through his bones.

The sound of dirt hitting metal felt like the stab of a knife into his body until with the last settling of dust, his hope had bled out, leaving a gaping hole of numbness.

The car slowed and turned into a side street that led towards bright lights and civilisation. Lyle brought the car to a halt in a darkened corner of the street, just before the entrance to the clinic. The man turned sideways in his seat and reached back. Jarod shifted as he put the blanket around the pretender, tucking him in against the seat and safety belt. The thumbless hand turned Jarod’s face towards him and he didn’t move it from his hold until the dark eyes settled slowly on his own.

“You better make this believable, Jarod. I would hate for your mother to run out of air, alone, afraid.”

His face had no emotion, his voice no inflection when Jarod answered, “I was born to pretend. Can you?”

Lyle gave a short burst of laughter and patted Jarod’s face lightly. “Very good, Jarod,” he said patronizingly, emulating Sydney. “Do you need more time or can we go. I don’t have to remind you that you have a twelve hour window.”

Jarod shrugged and as Lyle started the car and pulled away, he leaned his head back against the window, feeling the warming spot that had been numbed by the window before, cool again.

Jarod was leaning against the car, his tall body hunched inwards, as if to ward of blows. Satisfied that the pretender was not going to move from his position, Lyle turned away and dialled a very familiar number. The deep, sensual voice of his sister waved over the line and he smiled.

Hello Sis. Miss me?”

No. You’re not dead yet?”

He felt too good to be slighted by her sarcastic wit. He could his pretender’s questioning gaze on his back. Jarod was his and he had finally managed to break the man. No, he decided. Nothing his sister could say will take that feeling of triumph away from him.

I want you and Major Charles to meet me on the old Bauer farm in one hour. No guns.”

It will take us longer than that to get there.”

Steal a helicopter then. I don’t care. If you’re not there, I get to shoot Margaret or Gemini.”

He cut her off then, knowing that it would infuriate her further. Better for him. That way she wouldn’t think to clearly. He wanted her out of the way. Away from any chance of saving Jarod from doing what he is told.

Away from saving Sydney.

The door opened and he nearly fell out the car. The pressure of his safety belt was released and then he felt hands pull him from his seat. Jarod staggered and then Lyle was pulling his arm around his shoulders, helping him upright. He moaned, shifting his feet so that it looked like he was weaker than he was.

“We were hiking and we saw a coyote or something and then he fell. I…we finally got to my car. He’s really hurt. I don’t know if…,” Lyle’s continued to babble, sounding just like a concerned friend. He felt his back sink into softness and then a vision of light exploded into his right eye. He turned his head away sharply.

“What’s your friend’s name?”

“Bobby. Bobby Bowmen.”

“Any allergies?”

The voice was business like, as hands continued to prod his body. He felt suddenly nauseous, aware of what had to come later and as the burning started upwards towards his throat he heard Lyle say pistachios. Someone helped him upwards and sideways and then he was hanging over the bed, purging his stomach. Hands patted his back soothingly and after a short while when he fell composed enough, he allowed them to lean him back against the bed.

“Bobby, can you hear me?”

It took him a moment before he remembered that the name was his for now. He managed a nod as the pressure cuff around his arm tightened. He heard his blood pressure read out, and something about it being too low.

“Bobby, I need to check your ribs. If it hurts, tell me ok.”

He felt the shirt being cut away and then he heard a slight gasp from somewhere to his right.

“How far did he fall?”

Lyle answered the question and it almost sounded like the man was close to tears. He opened his eyes to slits. Lyle had a look of concern on his face, the very essence of what a friend would be like. He didn’t wonder any more how the man had been able to convince the authorities that his father had killed his best friend.

Fingers gently roved over his bruises and cuts and then he allowed consciousness to slip away.

He awoke some time later to stillness. He was clean, dressed in the usual hospital garb. Lyle was sitting by his side, a magazine in his lap.

“How you feeling? Want some ice chips?”

Jarod gave a small nod and then watched warily as the other man got up and moved towards the side table.

“Don’t disappoint me now, Jarod,” he whispered as a presence filled the doorway.

“Good, you’re awake Mr Bowman. I’m Dr Brennan and I’ve been assigned to your case. Nasty fall you had there.”

Jarod didn’t reply and turned his head away from Lyle, staring at the water stain on the wall to his right. He heard the woman order his captor out and it was with protest that Lyle left. He could feel the warning stare the other man left him with. He ignored it.

The door closed and he slowly slit upwards until he leaned against the headboard. Doctor Brennan started taking his vitals and he stayed quiet, answering only when it was expected. When she was done, she sat down on the bed and tilted her head slightly, her gaze sympathetic.

“Care to tell me why you have burn marks on your wrists?”

He pulled the blanket higher and looked at her in silence. “Tell me, Bobby, is that really your friend out there?”

“Yes.”

She smiled reassuringly. “You do know that whatever you tell me will be in confidence? There are a lot of things that don’t add up and unless you tell me what really happened to you, I will be forced to let the sheriff know about your case.”

“N…nothing happened,” his voice cracked and he had to swallow before he could continue, “I…we, there was….I just slipped and fell. That’s it. You have to believe me.”

He could see it in her eyes that he hadn’t convinced her at all. He knew she wasn’t going to let this go.

“I’m really tired.”

He watched her leave and Lyle re-enter the room. He had a duffel bag in his hand that he threw on the bed before locking the room.

“Get dressed.”

“It’s too soon. They’ll be watching this room.”

Lyle lifted an eyebrow, his head tilted slightly. “Really, Jarod? Or are you trying to put of the inevitable?”

“Just give it another thirty minutes. At least by then it should be easier to slip out.”

Lyle considered his request and for a moment he thought he had failed. But in the end his captor agreed.


Unknown area

 

J woke to darkness and for a moment he was disorientated. His hand reached out towards his bed light and instead of the switch he hit a solid metal wall. It took him another few minutes before he remembered the last day. The last thing he could recall was being in a room, with his brother holding his hand.

If that was the case and he was back what seems like the back of a utility van then it must mean that he and his brother was back under Lyle’s control.

He slowly sat up, feeling his side. The pain was manageable and he slowly slid forward until he met the doors. He was surprised to find the door unlocked and he opened it slowly until only a slit of moonlight entered the back. The smell of smoke wafted inside and he heard a soft shuffle before the point of a cigarette end glowed briefly. The guard was standing by the side of the van, facing the horizon.

J waited, counting under his breath until the guard turned and walked towards the front of the van, out of his sight. Very carefully he lowered himself out of the back, closing the door, making sure that no click sounded. His side gave a twinge and the muscles pulled when he lowered himself until he was under the van.

The feet of the guard appeared briefly in front of him. “No. Everything’s quiet.” A short pause followed and then the sweeper replied, “I can’t hear the generator from my position. Wait.”

J watched as the guard walked off into the veldt. He squirmed out from under the van and started to follow, careful to keep his distance and trying to stay out of sight in the sparse surroundings.

“It’s still running.”

He had no idea what the guard was on about until he took a tentative step closer and his ears picked up the very faint beat of a generator. Making himself small behind a straggly bush, he watched the man disappear back to the van.

His side still hurt but he felt better. Jarod must have done a miracle to the cut or else his sleep had done him good. He knew that he wasn’t out of it yet but at least it didn’t feel like he was dying. He hoped he wasn’t so disillusioned that he was ignoring his own peril by moving about. He just knew that he couldn’t wait for Lyle to start his games again.

The faint beat intrigued him and he decided to investigate. Moving stealthily closer, he kept an eye constantly on the lookout for the sweeper. The generator was loud, increasing his caution. One hand was holding on to his side, his breaths coming faster. Sweat had started to form on his forehead again. He knew it wasn’t a good sign but nothing less decided that anything was better than being with Lyle.

A clang sounded and he swore briefly when his foot connected with another object. He stopped and waited, holding his breath until he was satisfied that the sweeper had not heard. Crouching, he reached out and touched the object. It was a shovel. He frowned, wondering why someone would leave it out here in the middle of nowhere.

Another twinge sends flares out from his side. He tried to ignore it as best he could while he moved closer to the generator. It had pipes running from its side. He took one and gave a small tug. It pulled his muscles down his side and he gripped the cut, waiting until the red spots in front of his sight disappeared. His curiosity now thoroughly raised, he followed the snaking line until it disappeared into the ground. He gave it a smaller tug this time. It seemed to be attached to something.

He sat down, and looked at the stars while he contemplated the problem before him. He had two choices. Try and get as far away as possible though he had no idea the distance he could manage with his injury. His other choice was to try and figure out why there was a generator out here in the middle of nowhere with pipes attached that disappeared into the ground.

He had started to feel warm again. A small shiver went through his body and he suppressed it as best he could.

Running was not going to get him far.

He looked again at the pipes before staring into the distance towards the road. It was far enough for the sweeper not to notice him unless he flashed light. Satisfied, he took the shovel, and mindful of his wound, slowly started to uncover the recently disturbed ground.


Private clinic

 

They had somehow managed to enter Sydney’s room without notice. Jarod stared at his mentor, lying comatose in the bed. The lines around the older man’s eyes were less pronounced, his features peaceful.

“You can do this any way you want, Jarod. I don’t care how.”

He didn’t acknowledge Lyle. His hands were sweaty, his legs felt rubbery. Everything inside him was turning numb. He had no idea if he could do this in the end. Willingly take a life, a life that had influenced his own for so many years.

“Jarod.”

Lyle’s voice was impatient, a slight edge towards the end. Jarod still couldn’t move. His mouth felt dry. “I….I,” he started, his gaze not leaving his mentor’s face. Lyle snorted and took his phone out.

“Any problems?”

Lyle watched Jarod, his blue orbs observing everything. “The generator’s still running.” Jarod turned, his own now fixed on the other man. Lyle smiled evilly. Jarod took a deep breath and when Lyle started to give the command to stop the machine, he shook his head.

“Wait. Don’t, Lyle.”

“I’m waiting, Jarod.”

He swallowed, wiping his hands on the jeans he had been given earlier by Lyle. On legs that didn’t feel his own, he stepped closer to the bed. He smiled down at Sydney, aware of Lyle’s unrelenting gaze, the phone loosely held in his hand.

“I’m sorry, Sydney,” he whispered and he bent down, leaving a small kiss on the older man’s forehead. Feeling the warmth of life on his lips, he slowly reached out and took a pillow from a pile that had been put on a chair beside the bed.

Tears started to roll down as he brought the pillow closer and with a last imploring look at Lyle, that brought nothing, he pressed it against the man’s face that had been like a father to him for most of his life.


 

End Notes:
Reviews, please. ;-) Who lives….and who dies….
To be free by whashaza
Author's Notes:

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Thank you to all for your reviews.

 

 

To be free

Unknown area

“Visiting the sick?”

Lyle and Jarod both turned towards the voice as Parker closed the bathroom door behind her with audible thud. Jarod stared at her, his hands still pressing the pillow to Sydney’s face. He couldn’t believe that she had anticipated Lyle or the fact that she was in the room. Everything seemed distant, as if he was watching the scene unfold from afar, his body numb from the emotional rollercoaster he had had for the past week.

“Parker,” Lyle turned to her fully and smiled, “what are you doing here?”

She stepped towards Jarod and gently removed the pillow from his slack hands while keeping her gun expertly trained on Lyle.

“Stopping you from destroying any more lives.”

Lyle crossed his arms in front of him and tilted his head slightly. “You’re making a mistake.”

“I don’t think so,” his sister replied before releasing the safety on her gun.

She quickly stepped closer when she noticed the pretender swaying but was too late to stop him from collapsing beside Sydney’s bed. Warning Lyle not to try anything, she knelt next to the pretender, asking him what was wrong. Jarod shuddered before taking a deep, ragged breath. Pushing himself into a semi-sitting position, he glanced at Lyle.

“We…we have to find her,” his voice cracked as he uttered his next words, “Lyle….he’s buried her in the desert.”

She rose, keeping her concern for Jarod’s physical state bottled inside. Lyle was staring at her with clear blue eyes, a gaze she was familiar with.

“Where are they?”

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Lyle taunted, “but you have only about…” he glanced at his watch before mentally calculating, “…three hours left.”

His sister lashed out with her gun, connecting just below his right eye. A fresh cut appeared and Lyle reached up, wiping at the blood that had started to well up. Grimacing, he took out a handkerchief and pressed it against the cut.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Lyle sounded bored. “Now Jarod’s family will have to pay the price for your inability to follow simple directions.”

The menace was clear and Jarod used the linen to pull himself into a standing position.

“Parker, wait.”

The only reason that she didn’t shoot her brother was Jarod’s softly spoken words.

“If you let my family go…” he trailed off, wondering why he was once again trying to bargain with Lyle. It hasn’t worked previously.

“Jarod, don’t.”

Lyle grinned and stepped towards Jarod, ignoring his sister as she aimed her gun. “Take the gun from Parker and we’ll negotiate a release.”

Not giving Jarod time to process Lyle’s attempt at coercion, she lashed out with her gun and hit her brother savagely across the face. He crashed heavily sideways into the wall before he slid slowly down towards the floor.

“Reality check, Lyle. You’re not the one in control anymore.”

Jarod made a move to go towards Lyle and then looked hesitantly at her. She shook her head and he sagged back until he sat on Sydney’s bed, his whole demeanour one of defeat.

“You’ve just killed my mother, Parker.”

“I’ve never known you to give up so easily, Jarod.” Her voice was smooth and confident. “You’ve lived through thirty years of hell and he had you for five days.”

Silence followed briefly until Lyle let out a groan and shifted. “You really are a bitch, Parker,” Lyle said bitterly as he tenderly touched the emerging bruise on his jaw. “But you’re not the one in control, is she, Jarod?”

Jarod seemed to shrink into himself as he cradled his bandaged hand close to his chest. Lyle pushed himself upright against the wall, his gaze burning into Jarod’s form. “Have you ever seen a human being suffocate, Sis? It’s not an easy way to die.”

Jarod moaned and then locked eyes with her, pleading.

She broke the gaze deliberately and raised her gun, placing the muzzle directly to Lyle’s right shoulder.

“Where are they?”

Lyle shrugged. The gun pressed harder and she could see a thin line of sweat starting to form on her brother’s forehead.

“I won’t ask again.”

“If you kill me, Margaret dies.”

Jarod swallowed visibly and pushed himself into a trembling stance. Colour was slowly bleaching away from his features as the room started to spin. “Parker…” His voice faded as he reached out a hand.

She pulled the trigger.


“They’re on a side road of Route 15, just past the Harris farm.”

“On my way. Should be there in thirty.”

“Just be careful.”


He immediately stopped when he heard the clang as the shovel hit something metallic. He stood bent in the hole he had dug; his eyes roving the surrounding area, wondering how far sound travelled and whether the sweeper had heard him.

For a full five minutes he listened intently until the only sounds that filled his ears was the beating of his heart. Satisfied, he eyed the sky that had started to turn from cobalt blue to a lighter shade. It was nearing sunrise and he didn’t have a lot of time left.

Clearing the area with his hands, he managed to lift the lid.


“I know where they are.”

“Good. Take two teams. I don’t care what you do to Lyle, but I want the pretender and Miss Parker back.”

“If they resist…”

“As long as they’re alive.”

“Understood, Sir.


“He hasn’t been conscious since I found him at the beach house.”

Jarod nodded slowly. They both ignored Lyle, which was slumped against the wall, his hand pressed against a bleeding shoulder.

“Prognosis?”

Miss Parker tiredly pinched her nose. The gun in her other hand was getting heavy but she wasn’t about to let it go. Not with Lyle in the same room.

“The specialist said that with his age and the way he was struck…it’s not looking so good.”

Jarod sighed. Gently he touched Sydney’s forehead, wondering again how the Centre had managed to screw things up again. He somehow felt responsible for what Lyle had done to Sydney. To his mother. To J.

And if it hadn’t been for Parker, he would have…

He closed his eyes, trying to get the horror what he had almost done out of his mind. To purge it. He could feel the room start to tilt and had to swallow back his nausea. A soft hand on his arm brought him back and steadied him. He opened his eyes to look into hers. They were soft and filled with concern.

“You ok?”

He gave a half smile. “Yeah. Sorry.”

Her hand drifted whisper-soft down his arm until it met the bandage that started at his wrist and wrapped around his mutilated hand. He didn’t look down at where her fingers had stopped. He was concentrating all his attention on the features of her face, on the lines that had formed over the years, on her eyes and the way that her lips softened whenever she had allowed her compassion to emerge. He was seeing all of it and was startled when he noticed her eyes shining briefly with unshed tears before she turned his hand palm up.

“The Centre’s legacy,” he managed to say when he finally broke his gaze and looked down. Thumbless. Like Lyle, a mistake that he paid for.

“No. You survived, Jarod.” She looked up and met his eyes, holding him in her gaze, trying to make him understand. “You survived intact.”

He didn’t reply. He understood her sincerity and it almost broke something inside him. But he wouldn’t allow himself the luxury of that feeling until he knew that his mother and J were safe.

Until all of them was safe.

And the only way that would happen was if he destroyed the Centre.


Ignoring the tearing in his side, he managed to grab his mother as she slid down past him. His shirt was plastered to his side, held in place by his wound that had started bleeding about ten minutes ago.

“You ok?” he asked breathlessly, eying the dwindling night sky. She nodded and managed to get a foothold. He couldn’t prevent the sigh of relief when she let go of his hand and he had to stop himself mentally not to press it against his side.

Wiping the sweat away, he started upwards again. He found the place where his mother had slipped. Careful, he moved past and when he rolled onto the top of the small hill; his hand went immediately to his side and pinched.

“J?”

His mother’s whispered question brought him back and to their situation.

“I’m fine. We have to move.”

She started to question when he stopped her with an urging hand on her arm. He could see the white of her eyes when she heard the same thing he had.

The familiar beat of blades was starting to fill the air. Slowly sliding just over the crest, he looked east towards where the rising sun was just starting to show. The spec was a dark dot against the background and rapidly growing.


“What?”

“They know where you are. You have to get out of there.”

Broots’ panicked voice still sounded when the door towards the hall burst open and Willie entered with five men behind them, guns tracking towards where she and Jarod stood besides Sydney’s bed.

When silence met his statements, Broots whispered, “M…miss Parker?”

“They’re already here.”


Lyle smirked when Willie took her gun. A second later the smirk turned into surprise when one of the other sweepers lined up his gun and shot him through the head. Lyle deflated and Miss Parker didn’t twitch a muscle. It was hard to do anything with a gun pressed against her neck.

All the sweepers had silencers and in her experience, that had never bided well for the recipients. The hallway doors were closed, shutting them out again to the rest of the hospital, keeping the drama inside Sydney’s room.

Jarod was slammed against the wall and she heard his grunt of pain.

“He’s clean.”

“Where’s the Major?” It was Willie’s dark voice that sounded beside her. She started to turn and stopped when the gun pressure increased.

“A little out of your league, Willie. Marking territory in a bigger dog’s neighbourhood could get you killed.”

“Shut up, Parker.” A hand curled into her hair and yanked her head back. “Now where is he?”

She didn’t answer and was rewarded with another painful jerk.

“How did you find us?”

She could feel Willie smile and it sent warning shivers down her spine. This wasn’t good. Jarod was finally pushed into view, his face impassive but she could see the anger shimmering behind his eyes.

“I heard you got engaged, Miss Parker.”

Definitely not good.


“We’re on our way, Broots. Get the sheriff and wait for us.”

“Charles, what’s wrong?”

He leaned slightly forward to peer at the instrumentation of the helicopter before looking at his wife. “The Centre has found Jarod and Miss Parker and they’re holed up in Sydney’s room.”


When the door slammed open, he dived for Parker. The first shot hit something meaty and he wondered for one eternity long fraction of a second if Parker had been hit. She grunted when he slammed into her and Willie, sending all of them tumbling towards the floor. He hit the floor and pain shot through his shoulder.

He rolled away from the squirming bodies and managed to avoid a staggering sweeper with a bullet hole that was spurting blood. Willie grunted and when he turned he heard a gunshot from the mass that was Miss Parker and the dark sweeper.

Before he could start back towards them, he glimpsed a sweeper lining up towards him. He twisted, bringing the centre of his body out of line of the barrel. Felt the passing wind of the bullet. A second later the sweeper jerked and then sagged before collapsing.

He turned back to Parker, his hand cradled close to his body was throbbing and a small patch of red had started to stain the white of the bandage. He heard his dad’s voice but ignored it. His attention was on her form, draped over Willie’s.

“Parker?”

It was a breathless whisper, more a thought then something said out loud. Then Willie’s hand relaxed and she pushed away from the man beneath her, her hair wild and out of place, the gun nestled in her right hand. A wet patch of blood stained the front of her shirt and then he was kneeling beside her, looking for injuries.

“I’m fine, Jarod. It’s his blood.”

His legs felt like jelly when he heard those words and he clutched her into his arms, crushing her against his body.

“I…thought…” he started brokenly. She shushed him into silence and then a new pair of hands touched his hair and he looked up into his mother’s face.

A smile lit up and he pulled her into their embrace.


“The FBI has raided a company called the Centre today and had found numerous violations…”

Jarod turned down the volume and looked at Sydney’s comatose state. “We’re finally safe, Sydney. They’ve found Raines’ document and what he and the Centre had done to Kyle and the rest. The Triumvirate have been put on the watch list and if they ever put foot in this country, they will be apprehended.”

Sydney didn’t respond. Jarod leaned closer. The words he was going to say was for Sydney’s ears alone and long overdue.

“I forgive you, Sydney.”

For a brief moment after that a ghost of a smile tucked at Sydney’s lips. Then he sighed and as tears started to drip down Jarod’s cheeks, he slipped away.

He heard the door open behind him and then the Miss Parker’s arms surrounded him. He turned and buried his face in her chest and held tight as he grieved. Later, when all was calm again, did she say, “You’re Sydney’s legacy.”

Jarod smiled sadly and looked directly at her. He had his family. The Centre was gone. And he had Sydney’s training and caring and love that had kept him sane for thirty years inside that hell.

Tracing the soft lines of her face, he leaned in and gave a soft kiss. “Thank you.”

She frowned briefly. “For what?”

“For always having been my friend. You kept my soul intact.”

“And you did mine.”

He had nothing more to say and so he held her to him, feeling peace enfold them both. He was finally free of the Centre’s evil. And deep inside he knew that’s what Sydney had always wanted.

For him to be free.


 

 

End Notes:

Thank you for reading this far. This journey has surprised me a few times along the ride and I feel saddened that it’s finally done. Thank you to everyone who has taken time to leave reviews. It has definitely helped the journey along.

So, before we part…one last request: Let me know what you thought of the story by leaving a review. I would greatly appreciate that. Thank you.

The end.

This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=4595