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the lurker


That was all any of the post cards said. A single word. But the meaning of that one word left his heart frozen in fear. The first had been post marked Roanoke, Virginia, the second Elmsford, Indiana. They had been sent days apart. Then there had been nothing for two weeks. The third was from Fresno, California, and a week later there had been one from Union City, New Jersey, and one day later a card from Greenwich, Connecticut. The last one he had received came four days after that, and it was postmarked Easton, Pennsylvania.

There had not been another in over month. The worry was beginning to consume him. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, and he sure as hell couldn’t concentrate on any work at the Centre. Jarod had not made any further attempt to contact him.


Was Jarod in trouble? Had he gotten into some pretend from which he couldn’t extricate himself? What if he were hurt, or sick or worse.....? Sydney couldn’t go down that road. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had to get a grip. People were beginning to notice that something was wrong. It would not take certain people much longer to figure out what was behind his distress. Miss Parker was already suspicious since there had been no sign of Jarod in their searches for the past two months. He knew it was only a matter of time.

“You look like shit, Sydney.”

His time had just run out. Wearily he opened his eyes and looked at the tall brunette leaning on his desk in front of him, glaring. He smiled slightly at her in answer, causing her to straighten up and heave an overly large sigh of impatience.

“What the hell is going on? We haven’t seen hide nor hair of SuperBoy in almost two months, and you look like death on a cracker. What are you not telling me, Freud?”

Sydney looked down momentarily, thinking, then slowly, he focused his eyes to hers, knowing there would be no more hiding.

“He’s gone underground, Miss Parker.”

“No shit Sherlock, tell me something I don’t already know.”

“I mean, that’s it, it’s over. We’re not going to find him now.”

Parker scowled at him, “What the hell are you saying, Sydney?”

Syd leaned back in his chair, “He’s done with us, Miss Parker. For whatever reason, Jarod has put an end to the game.”

“Just like that, with no parting shot? No way....”

Parker looked into the tired brown eyes and for the first time, saw the worry, and more than that, she saw the dread of truth. A frown creased her brow.

“You’re serious.”

His voice was so soft, she had to strain to hear it, “Yes.”

She sat down in the chair across from him, “And you know this, how?”

Sydney heaved a sigh and then reached into his jacket pocket, extracting the six post cards, and handed them to her. She rifled through them quickly.

“Refuge, refuge, refuge......what the hell does this mean?”

“It means we’re done.”

“These are post marked starting almost two months ago. Why the hell did you keep these from me?”

“I wasn’t sure that they were from--”

“--Oh stop right there. You knew damned well who they were from, and I’m betting you know what they mean. Out with it.”

“I told you, it’s over.”

“That’s what ‘refuge’ means?”

“Yes. Jarod doesn’t want to play the game anymore, Miss Parker. And that’s that.”

She stared deeply into the intense eyes across from her; he believed what he was telling her to be true. For a moment, Parker felt an overwhelming sadness for Sydney, for a loss that she knew was profound to him. Her own sadness turned to pain and then very quickly to anger.

She stood up, her eyes on fire, “I don’t accept this. I won’t accept this. We’re not finished until Jarod has been returned to the Centre. If you’re throwing in the towel, then fine, I don’t really need you on the team.” She stalked to the door, then turned to glare, as she offered the final punch, “Frankly Sydney, you’ve been a liability all along; our chances of catching Jarod just increased exponentially.”

The tremendous hurt that flashed in his eyes registered in her mind immediately, but she managed to clear the door and get all the way down the corridor before she allowed herself to feel it. Parker stopped abruptly, and had to lean against the wall for support. Why had she voiced it? It wasn’t the total truth of what she thought, but then, there had been more than enough honesty in the statement to hurt.

She slammed her eyes shut. The look on his face had reminded her of the time she had, in anger, asked him what had made him ever think he could be of any comfort to her. In both cases she had spoken with venom out of pure cruelty, for the singular purpose of causing him pain. Or was it that she did it to garner his attention? At this moment in time, she wasn’t sure. It no longer mattered, the damage was done. There had been just enough truth in the statement to sting, and there was no going back now.

An ironic smile touched the edge of her lips. She had always done the very same thing to Jarod, even when they were children. The smile tugged harder at the corners of her mouth, and she shook her head as the realization hit her: Of course it was so, Jarod was just like him. And they were both annoying as hell.

She looked back down the hallway, toward his office. She could go back and apologize. She could go make sure he was all right. Her eyebrows narrowed as she considered her options. No way. It would be like admitting she had been wrong. And despite hurting him, her words hadn’t been entirely off base. Parker straightened up, tugged down on her jacket and headed toward the elevator. She had work to do.


The air in the jet felt colder than usual, and she shivered slightly. She looked over two seats to her right, to find that Broots was sound asleep, cuddled under a blanket. After a brief moment of consideration, Parker reached over and yanked the blanket off of him, and covered herself with it. He’d never miss it.

Despite the warmth of the blanket, she shivered again. She glanced over to her left, at the empty seat. Maybe she had made the wrong decision. Broots hadn’t received the lead until it had been almost too late for an intercept, she had had to make the call on the fly. And she had decided to cut Sydney loose. He was more emotionally involved than even she had suspected.

It wasn’t that she thought Sydney hadn’t tried to remain objective. Knowing him as an adult, she realized that his integrity would have caused him to purposefully attempt detachment for Jarod’s sake, as well as for the good of the project. However, she was also certain that he had been unsuccessful.

How he had maintained the fašade of scientific non-involvement for 30 years, she didn’t know, but she had never been completely taken in by it. Even when she was a little girl, she knew that he cared for Jarod. The only people who hadn’t figured it out were the upper echelons of Centre, and ironically, Jarod.

She closed her eyes, and allowed her head to fall back into the leather seat. She hoped she would find Jarod, not only for her own objectives, but because she feared what would become of Sydney if she did not.


The house was in darkness, as it had been every night for the past three weeks. But then, he had no need for light, anymore than he had need for company. He sat in the big leather chair in the corner, where he had been for several hours. He was motionless, and devoid of anything, except for the pain of loss. The tin container clutched in his hands was cold to the touch, but all he noticed was how heavy it was.

He felt so empty. This was what it felt like to lose a child. And he knew with certainty that Jarod was gone. There was a knot in his stomach that increased its tension for every moment that ticked by, and a hollowness in his chest that he had never imagined could exist. And there was pain. It was caught in his throat. No matter how many times he swallowed, nor how much he willed it to be gone, it persisted.

Why hadn’t he told Jarod how he really felt? He surmised that it probably would have been too little, too late, but now he would never have the chance. Jarod had disappeared, and Sydney knew in his heart that if Jarod did not want to be found, he wouldn’t be. He clutched the tin box to his chest, trying to stave off the wave of anguish he felt.

Tears had begun to sting his eyes, when he thought he heard something rustle in the shadows by the french doors; but it was just the wind. The pain of his heart was so profound, that he couldn’t utter a sound. There were just tears, rolling down his cheeks.

Footsteps. He looked toward the doors again, and saw a figure standing there. And Sydney didn’t care. Whomever it was could do whatever he wanted with him, it was of no consequence. The man walked slowly toward Sydney, and knelt down in front of him. In the moonlight pouring through the window, Sydney recognized the deep brown eyes and the little boy smile. But he couldn’t find his own voice, there were just tears.

A frown creased Jarod’s brow, and tenderly he reached up to wipe away a tear from Sydney’s face. He looked at the tin box, then up into his mentor’s eyes. Wordlessly, Jarod reached for the box, and gently pried it out of Syd’s hands. Sydney swallowed hard as he watched Jarod open it, knowing that the contents would shock him.

Jarod looked up sharply, “You kept all of it....”

His voice was barely a whisper, “Yes.”

Jarod carefully removed the origami bird, the plastic monkey, a red notebook, a hand carved statue and the old father’s day card that he thought Sydney had thrown away so many years before.

He looked at the man who had raised him in confusion, “I thought you said you never thought about what it would have been like to be my father.”

“I lied.”

“But why, Sydney? Why was feeling something for me so shameful?” Jarod’s own eyes filled with moisture, “I looked up to you, you were the only.....father I knew. I loved you, Sydney, and you threw me aside like an old shoe.”

Sydney looked away, the power of his own emotion was overwhelming him. “I tried so hard at first to stay detached. I knew that it would be better for you, certainly better for our project, and....”

“And the safest thing for you.”

Sydney looked into Jarod’s eyes, “Yes. But as time went on, it became a game of lies. If the Centre knew how.....attached I had become, they would have taken you away from me, and you would have gone to Mr. Raines. The more years that passed, the more protective I became, I lied to them daily, and in the process, to you, and ultimately, to myself. Whenever you asked me if I loved you--”

The truth dawned on Jarod, “--You actually never answered me. You always changed the subject.”

“Which was an answer in itself.”

Jarod set the tin box down and stood up. The two men just stared at each other for a moment, neither capable of saying a word.

Sydney finally broke the silence, “I thought you were gone forever after I received the post cards.”

“That was the plan.”

“So why are you here?”

“I didn’t have the stomach for it.”

“The heart you mean.”

“Maybe, Sydney.” Jarod smiled at his teacher, “I’ve been watching you, you know.”

“To see how I would react.”


“And what did you learn?”

Jarod knelt down once again, holding the arms of the chair with his hands, “Did you love me Sydney?”

Sydney’s voice was full of pain, still unable to voice the words, “Jarod.....”

He stood up, disappointed, “Maybe someday you’ll be able to say it.” Impulsively, Jarod leaned in and gently kissed Syd’s forehead, “Refuge......It’s always been you.”

Jarod turned and walked toward the door, but Sydney’s voice caused him to look back.

“Where will you go?”

“I’ll be around, Sydney. I still have unanswered questions.”

The meaning was not lost on Sydney. He watched Jarod walk out the door, and he picked up the tin box. It no longer felt as heavy, nor as cold.

His mouth formed silent words: I love you.


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