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Disclaimer: The characters Miss Parker, Sydney, Jarod, Broots etc. and the fictional Centre, are all property of MTM and NBC Productions and used without permission. I'm not making any money out of this and no infringement is intended.



CURE-ALL
Part 1

by StarsingerSaathi






Miss Parker strode into the shabby motel room, a scowl of frustration already set on her lips. "Gone. As usual." She stated this flatly, to the peeling paint and the roaches that (she was sure) were scuttling underneath the bed. She had made it quite clear that no one was to come into the room with her, and the sweepers were wary enough of the looks she'd shot at them earlier to obey. She took a long moment to take in the less-than-hospitable conditions that probably reminded Jarod of his childhood at the Centre. No wonder he'd left so quickly. Then again, he always left quickly.

A glint caught her gaze, reflecting from something metallic sitting beside the sink in the even more revolting bathroom. She moved closer to get a look at it, knowing full well that anything Jarod left behind was never meant to go unnoticed. It was one of those metal briefcases - and it was very old, considering that it was about as corroded and banged-up as the bare pipes it was leaning against. Miss Parker reached the doorway and flicked the light switch.

Bad idea. The thought flashed through her mind a moment before the briefcase burst open harmlessly, letting loose a shower of confetti and colorful streamers. She stood perfectly still, her expression dangerously close to rage, as Broots rushed past her to check the device. She tested herself, making sure nothing had been hurt. But, then again, that wasn't Jarod's style.

"Um, Miss Parker." Broots turned to her with a poorly hidden smile, handing her an open envelope. She reached inside, and withdrew a small slip of paper. She read it, then smiled in a venomous form of humor and crumpled up the message. A long, purplish streamer drifted from her shoulders as she strode out to find a sweeper to harass.

"What does it say?" Sydney asked, entering soon enough to see her discard the paper. He picked it up and glanced at it quickly. Soon after, he began laughing quietly.

It read, "Happy Birthday, Miss Parker

--- J"

* * * * *

"I suppose that I should give Lyle the next chance we get, angel." Mr. Parker stated, giving his young wife a thoughtful look. "I love my little girl, but she hasn't been working well since that boy's death."

"Oh, yes," Brigitte answered, smiling in sympathy at him. "She just isn't doing the family name justice."

"How would you know anything about my family name?" Miss Parker snapped, having caught enough of the conversation to rekindle her fury. She'd also heard her father's comment about her not working well, and she needed to bury her hurt in some searing, cleansing anger. "You've only just acquired it."

"Now, sweetheart." Mr. Parker said, coming forward to kiss his daughter on the cheek. He really didn't know what she'd heard, but he did know that he'd better tread lightly. His daughter held up a hand, and he stopped in his tracks, realizing that Brigitte was wrong. Miss Parker really did live up to his name, with an iron will and temper to match his own.

But she still needed to shape up.

"Now, sweetheart," he repeated, this time in a gentler tone, "Are you sure you don't want to take some time off?"

"Daddy," she said, imbuing that normally sweet endearment with as much venom as she could muster, "I don't need to recover from Thomas' death." God, it hurt to say that name. She ignored the fresh ache tearing at her insides. "I do need to get back to work. I and no one else will catch Jarod. Send Lyle back to his Asian Brides catalogs." She left, leaving that sentence hanging in the air behind her.

* * * * *

"No, I don't have a confirmation. They just said that they needed all help they could find, and that I needed to get my ass down here as soon as possible!" Jarod was shouting to be heard over the sound of the engine, hoping the helicopter pilot would fall for the few ID's he'd had time to forge.

"All right!" The pilot gestured for Jarod to climb in the nearly full compartment. "You do know what a risk you're taking, going to southern Mexico during the outbreak?"

"Why do you think I'm going?"

* * * * *

"Well, you're cranky tonight. And I thought you'd like my little impromptu surprise party. Too bad I couldn't be there to see your expression." Miss Parker sat up straight in her bed, her fingers gripping the phone in silent anger. Jarod. How dare he. "I'll bet it was priceless," he continued.

"You son of a bitch." she managed to whisper. She was sick of these little games, of feeling continually humiliated in front of family and colleagues.

"Well." Jarod said, after a longish pause. "I wouldn't know about that, would I?" He hung up, while a million other curses for him built up in her throat. They faded only after she realized her retort had stung him.

Almost as badly as her father's statement had hurt her this morning. {{"I love my little girl, but she's just not working well since that boy's death."}} She turned over on her side, letting the receiver drop to the floor. She really didn't want any more calls tonight.

"God damn it." She swore into the darkness, realizing that she wasn't going to get any more sleep tonight. Brigitte's words had cut into her, too, much as Miss Parker had tried to ignore the comment about "living up to the family name". Well, if Brigitte wasn't careful, she might just have to leave in order to escape the full significance of that name: loss.

Miss Parker raked her fingers through her tousled hair, cursing again. Loss. Complete and total loss of everything with any meaning, until everything meant nothing at all. She herself had nearly escaped her family's shadow, finding love, life.

She shook herself. No. She would not allow her mind to go there again. Ever. Thomas' death - his murder, she corrected - was in the past, and she was a Parker.

She would go on with her life, damn it. No matter how much it hurt.

But in the depths of the inky black night, she could allow the barriers, the walls, to ease a bit. She could cry now, if not for her fate, then for Thomas'.

***

Three Weeks Later

"Where the hell is Jarod?" Miss Parker spat into the usually quiet office.

"I believe you, dear sister, were hired to figure that out for us," Lyle replied smoothly. He smiled sweetly over the table at her. She sent him a vicious look.

"No funny gifts, no mysterious e-mails, no trinkets to remind us of his presence - or lack thereof." She listed, holding her brother's gaze. "He's gone. Completely."

"Well, maybe he's finally letting go of us. his surrogate family," Lyle suggested. Noting the look in Sydney's eyes, he added, "It's unfortunate, but a likely possibility."

"Or he's bored with our little melodramas and wants to go meddle in someone else's life for a change," Miss Parker shot back.

"No," Sydney broke into the tension. "He's up to something, and doesn't want us to try anything yet. He'll contact us when he wants to."

"Um." a tentative voice said from the door.

"Yes, Broots?" Miss Parker didn't even have to turn to identify the source.

"I just got an e-mail."

"From Jarod?" Sydney was on his feet, reaching for the printout.

"No. From a girl named. Nova."

"Nova?" Lyle asked, peering over the older man's shoulder as he skimmed the message. "What kind of a name is that?"

"A screen name, you fool," Miss Parker muttered around a cigarette as she lit up. That done, she reached up behind her and snatched the printout from Sydney.

"Jarod needs our help?" She smiled in a way that made even Lyle's insides twist in apprehension. "Oh, this is going to be good." She flipped through the two additional pages. "What the hell.?"

"As far as I can tell it's a list of supplies-"

"No shit," Miss Parker interrupted.

"Um. Medical supplies for a highly contagious disease..."

"A disease, which, 'when left untreated, causes brain damage, blindness, memory loss, and, in most cases, death'," Lyle read from the printout. "So, that's why Jarod is asking us for help. It's in the Centre's best interests to."

Broots nodded. "On the, uh, last page, there's the names of some contacts in the CDC who, apparently, owe Jarod a favor. Nova said that they can get someone out to the site - Jarod's hospital in Mexico - without any questions asked."

"And does she give the coordinates of Jarod's little hell-hole?" Miss Parker rose from her chair and paced, suddenly full of energy. Broots coughed as her path brought her - and her cigarette smoke - past him. He waited until the table separated her and himself, knowing Miss Parker wouldn't like his answer.

"No."

"What?" She stubbed her cigarette out violently on the arm of Lyle's chair. "How in the hell are we going to help out, let alone capture, genius boy?"

"Nova says he'll contact someone he trusts with the information." All eyes turned to Sydney.

"Have you checked your e-mail recently, Syd?" Miss Parker asked in a dangerously sweet tone.

"Yes," he replied, a bit upset at their automatic assumption. "I have."

"And.?" Lyle prodded in an equally pleasant manner. Sydney met the younger man's eyes squarely.

"Nothing from Jarod." Sydney stated firmly, his voice allowing for no argument.

"All right, Sydney. Tell me when you get the coordinates." Lyle said, leaving quickly. Probably to tell Daddy, Miss Parker thought irritably. Always was the company man.

"Broots," she said as soon as her brother was out of earshot, "You get those supplies. I don't care how, just so long as they're ready by the end of the day tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Broots choked. "Miss Parker, that's not enough time."

"Yes, it is." He noted her steely gaze, and decided he'd better get his rear in gear. Miss Parker turned to Sydney, handing him the last page of the printout. "You contact these people. Tell them that I'm going to need to leave within the next forty-eight hours."

"You can't be serious," Sydney protested, realizing that she meant to go by herself.

"Oh, please, Sydney. Of course I'm serious. Even my jokes are deadpan." She strode off to go arrange for that leave of absence her father had offered her. Sydney smiled at her parting words, and then went to make some phone calls.

* * * * *

"Oh, honey, don't think for an instant that I'm going to allow you to go chasing Jarod into a hot zone."

"That's your answer, Daddy?" Miss Parker shot a dagger like glare at Lyle and Brigitte, who obviously had gotten to her father first. They, however, were completely oblivious, he engrossed in smoothing a leather glove over his four-fingered hand, and she busy filing her nails. Miss Parker turned back to her father.

"Fine. Don't give me my time off. But don't think that you, the bottle-blonde on your desk, or that thumbless bastard over there can stop me from going anyway."

Before her father could react, she was out the door.

* * * * *

Jarod sat, hunched over his computer screen, watching a computer program run. He waited, patiently, praying that he had found and sent enough information for the doctors in the states to find a cure for the deadly illness. Not only would many villages die without treatment, but so would Jarod.

He was infected. The thin sheen of sweat and ruddy pallor he had developed after the first week he originally attributed to the heat. Going from January in Chicago (definitely not the best place to be in the dead of winter, he'd decided) to the tropics was bound to have affected his metabolism somehow. Then, he found that wiping the supposed sweat away actually wiped a pinkish - which meant bloody - moisture away. On further examination, the flush that had crept across his face was actually tiny, broken capillaries. The telltale coloration darkened to a purplish, mottled bruising at his temples.

The day he finally figured it out, he'd buried the last of his colleagues, and a small child he'd attempted to save using a serum of his own making. The child had died, the intended cure actually a catalyst for the brain fever. Jarod had nearly gone mad, knowing that his genius had been the death of an innocent - someone that he was supposed to protect.

After staring around at the one-room hospital that had been overfull a week before, and was now hauntingly empty, he finally resorted to asking for help. "Nova" - actually a sixty-some-odd hacker in Missouri - had obliged by sending the Centre an e-mail for him, so they wouldn't have an immediate fix on his location. Now all he had to do was find an actual cure for the Centre to send down for him and the rest of the CDC-affiliated volunteers. If the other volunteers hadn't already died.

Jarod began to sway slightly on his stool, watching with dulling eyes as the computer screen seemed to grow dimmer, save for the little red 'low battery' warning in the lower right corner. The file took ten more minutes to finish, but by that time, he had fallen to the floor, unconscious.

Per his previous instructions, however, his e-mail activated, sending details of the cure and his precise location to a far-off recipient. The person receiving this, however, was not Sydney, but someone he probably wouldn't have contacted at any other time. In fact, they were the last person he would ask for help in any other situation. But this time, they were the only one determined, fearless, and healthy enough for him to trust.

* * * * *

Two minutes later, in Blue Cove, Delaware, Miss Parker stared at her computer screen, for once in a very good mood. The e-mail was short and to the point:

"See attached file for cure. Bring 2000+ doses with you. Please.

16? 33' N

95?35' W

AgonEDa, Mexico.

--- J."

It was an obvious decision whether or not to go down and get Jarod, but as to that massive quantity of medicine. She picked up her phone and dialed Sydney's office. "Syd. When's my flight? And where can we pick up 2000 or so doses of a serum by then?"

She was on her way via helicopter by the next evening.











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