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Story Notes:

I'm pleased this story was snagged and archived, because the place it was is no more, and somtime in the past decade I'm pretty sure I've lost any copy I had.  Or it's on 3.5" floppy, which is basically the same thing.

That said, I was about 16 when I wrote this.  I can't bear to look, for fear of the typos and errors and whatever my prose at that time looked like, so if you are reading this, please don't hold me too responsible for what is, essentially, just a piece of my history. 

Author's Chapter Notes:
btw, any comments, raves, or flames will reach me if ya send them to: of course, the latter i'll give to Cupid- he and Jarod can figure out how to put it to use :>

The single word echoed harshly inside the small room. It was a declaration to the world, but directed at the woman facing him.

"I will never go back."

It fell on deaf ears. The world wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do anything, and the gun never wavered.

"Correction. You will go back. I happen to be in a good mood today, so how about a choice? You can return alive, or I can mail in your coffin. Choose door number one, and get the further option of healthy, bruised, or maimed." The voice was as cool at the metal gun had been a moment earlier. Before the warning shot that is.

"Door number two."

"Bruised it is then."

He shook his head softly, never breaking eye contact. "No. Dead."



The single word echoed harshly inside the small room. It was a declaration to the world, but directed at the woman facing him.

"Please? Not even for me?" She looked up imploringly. Already it had been an hour since the subject was broached. Other venues open to her in coercion had failed.

"I won’t go back."

The flat deadness of his voice made it sound so final. Claire didn’t know what to think, say, or do. Not for a minute had she thought he would willingly return to the hospital. But the hope had always been there that he would go. Would let him take her. Would come up with some reason he wanted to be there...

"It’s not me that wants you to. Trust me Trevor." Still pleading, her look caught him full on. "The other doctors on the board…they want some tests to be run now, and then they’ll let you back out."

"When?" Harshly guttural, his voice scared her. "Next week? Next month? Next year sometime? I won’t. You can’t make me go."

There was fear in his eyes, a deep, hurting child like fear. So suddenly his mood could change. She longed to comfort him. To hold him in her arms and soothe away his hurt.

But he wasn’t a child, and she couldn’t.

"Trevor. I can’t stop them. Either you come with me, or they take you…by any means necessary." As quickly as before, his demeanor changed. He was again an adult, now resigned. Claire hurt for him, knowing it was her voice, her words, which left him no option but to give in.

"Care to help me pack? Basic necessities only. Toothbrush, toothpaste, jewelers saw and condoms…" His own smile was sickly. It’s no wonder hers didn’t even exist.


Miss Parker recovered quickly. "Dead huh? Looks like today isn’t your lucky one. Table center wants their food alive."

"So they can make the kill?"

Deep and gravelly, his voice dragged guilt and pain across her nerves. Fighting, she managed to stay in control. Impersonal. That was how they taught you to be at the center.

"I’m only the delivery girl. Whatever they do to you is up to them."

"And if it were up to you?"

"It will be more fun to march you back than to Fed ex you." She tried to grin wickedly, secretly hoping he would overlook her sidestepping of what he had really asked her. While every pore oozed with the desire to punish him, to humiliate him, nothing in her truly wanted his death. And life at the center could be the equivalent thereof.

Confusion spread over his expressive face.

"Why?" He looked at her. In his eyes she could see the hurt child he kept buried.

"Why take you back? I-"

"No." Shaking his head vigorously, his eyes squeezed shut. When they opened again his face was once again a mask. "Why chase me? Whey keep me from finding my past…our past?"

By the last words he had reverted to a habitual attitude of serene omniscience, cloaking a driving energy of…some primal emotion.

Knowing Miss Parker as he did, Jarod didn’t wait for her to reply aloud. If she did, it would only be more half-truths and center talk.

"I found some information I thought you’d want to see-"

The words shot out of her mouth before she knew they wanted out. They came out cold and deadly, but they both knew she was playing into his hands. "About my mother?"

"No." He didn't like to disappoint her. A fleeting moment of sympathy washed across his features, too briefly for her to register. "It's about one of the children she was trying to save." A blink was the only response. "The data is in my case. Just hit play." He motioned over to the far wall, knowing just how much prodding she'd need.


He was being very quiet. Any quiet was very quiet for him, but this was quiet for a normal person… Claire glanced over several times before they had gotten halfway there. Each time she saw only a quarter profile, the high forehead resting against the glass.

She had done her best, arguing that putting him back now, even for the briefest of times, could undo all she had accomplished. Conceivably, it would add even more problems to be sorted. But the panel was adamant. He had been out for a year now, and they needed to review his mental status before they could, in good conscience, let him remain outside. If he was well enough to operate in the world, then 'a few tests shouldn't bother him, now should they?'

They could. As she looked from one face to the next, Claire saw not a few nodding in sympathy.

At the next red light, she took the opportunity to scrutinize Trevor. Head sagging, the slump of his shoulders looked a product of defeat. Past his head, the world was filled with the glitter of gold. However bright the sun can shine or the city glow, it can't reflect into the blank face of hopelessness.

His eyes were sunken darkly, something she had noticed earlier when she picked him up. Jaw slack, his cheeks muscles were deflated, no hint of his perpetual grin anywhere. Afraid he would start to drool, she was even more afraid that if he didn't snap out of it, they would decide to keep him in the hospital.

"Trevor." First a whisper, then louder. "Trevor. TREVOR!" Shaking his shoulder gently, she glanced at the light. Still red. Odd how at any other time she would be cursing the long lights. Resorting to more drastic measures, she pinched him, hard.

He tried to shrug her off, then shook his head blearily as a dozen cars started honking in some wildly spontaneous tune. Apparently the light had changed.

"Trevor, hey. Talk to me." Pressing the gas pedal, most of the noise quit. A few cars honked another time or two, for good measure, but even they quit as another light came into site, and another potential time-waste came into their heads.

"Why?" Hardly more than a whisper, it was the cry of the trodden soul.

"Why do I have to take you back to the hospital? I told you, they just-"

"No." No louder, his voice had acquired a firm backing. "Why do you try and 'cure' me? Why don't you just believe, and let me complete my work?"

Like the parallel he didn't know he had, Trevor didn't wait for her to respond. "I started that dream log you know." Pausing, he stared again out window, now with a wistful expression. "I was thinking. I may never get out of this place." He followed that line with a bark of bitter laughter. "Anyway, if they totally vege-tize me, it's in my top dresser drawer."

He finally glanced over, meeting her eyes. "It'll give you something to psychoanalyze. Who knows, you may learn something." Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him relax a bit, like he had just gotten something off his heart. Something of his old demeanor had returned, because the next moment he continued on, sounding exactly like his own self. "It has the added bonus of being portable. Fits neatly in a car, office, gym bag, great for some late bedtime reading…"

"Tre-vor." Claire smiled in spite of herself. Maybe he'd be all right after all.


"Jesus." No matter how many times she heard the same sort of story, Miss Parker didn't think she'd ever get used to the Centre's cruelties.

Almost unconsciously, she began to read softly aloud.

"…While not displaying the overall pretender qualities at an exceptional level, the subject does appear to be more advanced in empathetic abilities. On several occasions he has mapped out a subjects life on the basis of a glimpse, a word, or in a few cases, a photograph. His abilities are thus similar to those of Angelo, except that his are natural, and he lacks the quality of becoming the person at any level. The subject's interpersonal relation skills are in general extraordinary for his age. He has been observed making friends with all other subjects and personal he had encountered. Otherwise willing, he has an absurd fascination with Graeco-Roman mythology. His learning on the subject has, so far, proved to be almost complete, further proof of advanced intellectual skills. Steps are underway to remove his reliance on the myths…"

"Shit." She blinked back a tear, not even wanting to imagine what those steps were.

"Skip to the next file." Handcuffed wrists resting lightly on his knees, Jarod sat otherwise silently, watching.

'…subject not responding to treatment. The therapy instead appears to have driven him further into his own mind, making the mythological figures and events even more real. Mr. Raines advises stepping up on the power. Mr. Fenigore, however, advises a new approach, a method akin to what an average psychologist would utilize. He hopes the subjects relatively young age and nature will aid him in trusting…'

"My god… will it never stop?" Tears she could no longer contain bled into her voice and streaked down her cheeks.

Jarod just looked at her, mirroring the emotions of horror and anger. A small inclination of his head moved her to flip open the next file. This one was dated a year later.

'Earlier this month the subject was given free range of the library in the hopes that he would find a new subject to become obsessed with. Psychology would be preferable, but it is his choice we would like to study. From the first day he gravitated towards the romance section. Quickly exhausting those, he moved on, focusing on the relationship between lovers, love itself, and the concept of true love. We are advised that this is the normal reaction for a teenager, which raises some concerns over advanced aging. The obsession with Graeco-Roman mythology has, however, resurfaced. Often he is observed reading ancient texts in the original language, this is something that requires looking into, and there is no record of how or when he picked up the dialects…

…He refuses to talk openly about himself, but from passing comments it has been deduced that Eros, also known as Cupid, (Greek and Roman names for the god of love) is the main fascination. This tendency to be quite expressive on any topic but that of himself has lead some to believe that he has pushed his true nature back into his subconscious. Any attempt to cross this barrier is met with resistance, sometimes becoming anger, sometimes sadness, and often a feeling of being 'lost'…'

This time she only glanced briefly at Jarod before hitting the mouse.

'Subject has been released. No progress has been made in quite some time, and no real usefulness was found for his talents, which have appeared, at least, to diminish extensively over the years. Normal security protocol has been preformed. We have full confidence he will soon no longer wish to be in the vicinity of so many strangers, and will spend his life either in a mental institution, or as a recluse, thereby diminishing potential impact on society. Status yellow. No Centre contact is allowed, without Triumverant approval.'

Noticing the label, Miss Parker spoke openly. "But this was only written last year! Why would they let him go? Where is he?"

"That's what I want to know." Grimacing, he looked down at the handcuffs, then caught her eyes in a steady gaze. "His name is Trevor. In spite of the good doctors expectations he is proving quite sociable. All we have to do is go and see him, and find out whey he was released."

"What's the catch wonder boy?" Something didn't feel right.

A shadow crept into the lines of his brow. "It would seem the Centre's meddling has, not surprisingly… 'Reconnected a few wires'"

"What exactly are you talking about here? The guy barks like a dog whenever you say radish?"

"No, not exactly. He… seems to believe he IS Cupid."

"You've got to be kidding."


"2923… 2924… 2925…" Trevor tried to focus on the numbers. To train every cell, every synapse on hearing them, picturing them…

"2926… 2927… 2928…" It wasn't working. It hadn't worked after 17. There are only so many times you can picture a lime green number in pink poka dot hot pants and a chefs hat before it gets really old.

"2929… 2930… 2931…" How many times had his mind wandered? How many times was the counting broken by thoughts of… the unthinkable?

"2932… 2933… 2934…" She… she couldn't have. Wouldn't have. It was only temporary. Only some tests, just a few. But… but it was the silence, the blackness of it all. How it sent him back in time…

"2935… 2936… 2937…" The way it crept in, reminiscent of the nothingness terror of The Never-ending Story. That's what this was, never-ending. Each moment pulled, stretched as long as a rubber band, awaiting the snap when the elastic finally gave in…

The room reeked. Bleach crept everywhere, even cleansing his memory of the outside…

He'd been in a room like this…

If they would just let him out. It was the action he missed, he needed. The rhythms of anything other than his own ragged breath and the mild blood staggering throughout his veins.

They let him out last time…

Why was he still in here? His eyes squeezed shut against the pain. Before, he hadn't really had people, but books…

God. Where was Claire? She promised…

"Dinner." Two syllables, heavy as the food would be in his stomach.

…The same thing every day. Same salad, same bread, same bowl full of pills…

He was blind.

"Lights out."

What number came next? Did it matter? You have to count towards something. That was the one thing he had learned. Otherwise one is just as good as any other. Ordering them served no purpose.


"Dr. Allen?" Jacqueline tentatively poked her head around the door. Claire was worrying about Trevor, she knew. 'Call hospital' and 'See Trevor' was penned on the calendar. But the Bismarks had had an emergency, and Chris Barkley's mother had died…

Claire wouldn't, couldn't bring herself to mark through the appointment to see Trevor. But slowly the clock had spun, the day filled with other things.

"Jacqueline… what is it?" Eyes pleading. No more.

"Well, I called the hospital…"


"Yeah, um…" The door protested softly under her weight. "They were kinda vague, but they did say he is… unresponsive… and that it might be beneficial if you went down to… see if there's anything you can do."

A minute later and the faintly rotating chair was the only movement in her office.


Every spare moment had been spent pouring over every scrap of information she had on Trevor: every note, every transcript, every memory.

Possible clues were scarce. The most telling was the original report from when he was first admitted.

Buried in the stacks of physical inspections were a few scrawled pencil notations.

'Patient agitated to extreme. Straight jacket deemed advisable.'

A few hours later, another.

'Subdued. Refuses to make eye contact. No visible response to external stimuli.'

The next morning, however, a different hand had neatly penned it's own observations.

'Confused, but sociable. Recommend full socialization rights.'

Something must have happened during the night. But no further written record existed until his psyche evaluation later that day.


"Broots… BROOTS!" Recapturing the attention of her personal computer nerd, she whipped around the face the man still crouched nest to the glowing screen.

The rat in his lair. Surrounded by clutter, the loft was dank, air stale from years of smoke puffed among the ruins of creations without genius. Ironic really. Finally the room had the genius it was made for, but he wouldn't be creating anything.

"…Just check… No. Yes, Sydney's fine. He might know something… Have it by 6."

"A bit harsh."

She could picture him as a rat, especially now. A disgusting rodent, sitting on its haunches just staring. With a self satisfied grin, mocking you, just begging to be brutally trapped…

Then the illusion was gone and for a moment she saw him as frighteningly human. As a man, ruggedly handsome, subdued among failure, and yet serene, compassionate, hopeful and… gentle.

"Nice way to talk to the person who gets to decide how you go back." Not missing his involuntary wince, Miss Parker regretted the words and the tone, but it was too late to stop them. Nor was she going to apologize.

"I told you already. I'm not going back." The resolve on his face frightened her. Fighting back a gulp, she recalled various ways he had punished those whom he caught doing harm to others.

"Mm hmm," The frosty note sliced the silence. "Well then. We can discuss that in a moment. First I want to know everything you do about this Trevor, and how my… my mother was trying to help him."

"Your mother wanted to get him out as much as she wanted to save me. I know she'd want you to help him now. I know you want to help him." The meaningful glance gained no visible reply.

"Come with me… to find out." He stood up and held out his hand. A definitely uncuffed hand.

"DAMMIT Jarod!" Pulling her gun she aimed a few centimeters about his ear. "What the… hell! Shit!" The rattle of the useless gun bouncing off the wall echoed for a moment, and all was silent.


"If you let me go now I'll try not to kill you." The sudden sound from the passenger seat almost threw them off the road. He didn't like having her so close, but there was no way he would put her in the back, where he couldn't keep an eye on her every movement.

They were almost to Chicago. He could let her out any time now. Should let her out.

"You need a shave."

Suddenly feeling the days of stubble along his jaw, he pulled his hand away. Jarod glanced over, catching a glint of… laughter?… in her eyes before she turned back to her brooding.


"Excuse me? Miss? Uh… Jamie?" Claire leaned over the desk, reading the name off the girl's nametag. The desk nurses here acted just as busy as those did in the ER. That had to be one of the great mysteries. The handful of people quietly sitting in the lobby was a distinct contrast to the multitudes swarming in the ER bay. There crowds pulsed like a punctured artery. The reasons for their visit produced a permanent stench of death and injury behind the coating of disinfectant. Here the pervading smell was bleach, accentuating the sense of grief and despair. More striking, perhaps, was the quiet, as if even a loud breath would shatter the lives of those behind the door.

"One moment please."

The girl, probably an intern from a nearby college, didn't even look up.

Too tired to argue, Claire began a nervous tattoo on the desk, taking a little comfort in the sharp clicks of her nail as they defied the rule of silence. She had never noticed before, but the psyche ward was gray. Even the people here had a grayish cast.

A thin man sat in one corner next to a perfect fan of magazines. He could be handsome, but what looked like months or years of despair clouded his eyes and doodled over his brow. Sagging and defeated, he looked old, and Claire was shocked when two boys, perhaps three and four, jumped into his lap calling 'daddy'.

The central table held crayons and two coloring books. In each, the joyous outlines of children playing and dashing princes were filled with blacks, blues, and limp silver gray. The faces were left the pale lifeless shade of paper.

Facing away a girl cowered, no older than the one behind the desk. She was dressed like most young people: designer jeans frayed about the edges, a ski vest over a red baseball shirt, several bright bracelets tangled on her forearms. But her curled hair was flat, and any makeup she might have been wearing was gone now, washed away by her tears.

Claire couldn't stand the thought of having to sit down. To become one of them.

An old woman, as wrinkled and soft as paper gets when you crumple it for a long time, sat quiet and neat. When her eyes connected with Claire's, they told their own story of suffering and loss.

Except for the man with the children, no one looked at anyone else. The only commonality besides grief was the clock, which they all watched. Beneath the muffled sobs and the too quiet chattering of the children, the seconds could be heard, reclaiming moments promised long ago.

Marching ever onward, the minute hand returned home, standing straight and tall. The second hand paused too, before falling over and down.

"5 O'clock visiting hours."

She turned towards the speaker. A motherly figure, she smiled, embracing the room wordlessly, filling it with hope. Magically, the grayness of the room shifted to glinting silver.

Everyone else managed a grateful smile, nodding in response to her whispered encouragement as they filed past.

When Claire didn't move, the motherly figure smiled sympathetically, and led her to a chair.

"Come now. What can be as bad as that? Tell ol' Bessy all about it."

Through a haze, she looked up, forcing a polite laugh. "No, it's… okay. I'm a… a doctor. Claire Allen." A distant memory of civility moved her to stick out her hand, which was enveloped with tender support. "I'm here to check on… a patient of mine. Trevor Hale. I wanted to… see what you all knew before going back there."

Bessy looked down, smiling inwardly. She'd seen a lot in her forty years of nursing, and this Trevor Hale wasn't just a patient. No matter how Claire might tell herself otherwise.

"Well honey, I haven't heard anything about him. Let's just go over to the desk and see if Jamie knows anything okay?"

The soft fabric rose instantly to its former shape as the nurse got up. Claire followed, calmer for the brief time spent with someone who had nothing to fear.

"He came in yesterday?"

"Yes, about five… they wanted time to get him settled before any tests today…" Panic gripped her again, harshly now, as Bessy continued to search for a file. Despite recent automation, the mental wing of the hospital was set enough in its ways to keep written files on every patient at the desk.

"Jamie… dear? Have you seen the file Mr. Hale? He came in yesterday afternoon."

The girl finally looked up from the screen. "Hale? Let's see… Yeah, a man came by earlier, picked it up. Said he was Hale's doctor and he needed it…"

Claire spoke up, wondering whom it had been. "No, I'm his doctor."

"Um, okay," She chomped her gum a bit louder. "Sorry, but he said he was, and he had ID and everything…"

"Hmm…" Bessy frowned, not quite understanding why he would say he was Hale's doctor if he wasn't. "Do you know who it was then?"

"Nope. At least… I've never seen him before. Too bad though, he's kinda cute. Weird though."

Somewhat comforted by knowing who it wasn't, the fact that strangers were looking at Trevor bothered her. She had signed in and was through the door before she remembered the last thing Jamie had said. Sticking her head back through she addressed the figure once more enthralled by the computer.

"Hey Jamie? What was weird about that man who came in earlier?

"Oh." She looked up from the screen. Wow. He must really have impressed her. "He just looked really… intense I guess. And he kept playing with this glove… smoothing it ya know? That was the weirdest part," Wrinkling her nose as she remembered, she realigned her fingers over the keys. "He only wore the one."


"Dammit." She pitched the useless phone into the depths of the alley. Dammit. Even the damn phone was against her. No sound issued from the cluttered alley. It must have landed in an open dumpster. Where it belonged. Dammit. The thing didn't even have the nerve to smash open, scattering its mechanical goddamn guts to the mercy of the night.

"Really god damn funny Jarod." The only one there to hear her glanced up from his tattered nest, then reclined again when he saw she was talking to herself.

He thought he was so smart, always getting her to investigate, and always being one step ahead. Shoot. It was unnerving. Like being on a scavenger hunt, where each clue led to another, hidden so that the only way you cold find it was by solving the puzzle before. And after that another clue, and another puzzle. Except Jarod was putting them in place as she was searching for it. If only she could catch up, find the spot first. Then this endless game would cease. She would win and the prize would finally be hers.

Miss Parker was closer than ever, here, now. She knew where he was, what he was going to do. Trevor might be the key to both of their pasts. She would question him… though if the Centre let him go… there might not be much left to question. The shiver wracked her body, electrifying each nerve into awareness. The Centre had dealt with Fenigore and Raines…

Jarod must be a fool to give her everything she needed, right up front. Maybe the thrill of the game, the chase, had palled, and he needed to push her that much closer to the next clue to keep it exciting.

"Well well Jarod. Getting bored, or only sloppy?"

Whatever it was, when she reached his next hiding place, she'd come out with much more than another taunt.


"My god, Miss Parker! Where have you been? The Triumverant has been asking for you every few hours!"

Broots opened his mouth to speak, but Sydney shushed him with a finger.

"Chicago? But why...? We can be there in a few hours." Covering the mouthpiece, out of habit more than anything, he whispered for Broots to get them plane tickets to Chicago. Now. "We'll stop by your house to get you some clothes. Is there anything else you'll need?" He listened for a moment, then spoke again, now even more hushed, as if that could make a difference to anyone listening in. "Look, Miss Parker, Lyle… is also in Chicago." Pulling the phone away from his ear, he continued. "No, he's there on Centre business, at least that's what he said. Something about a hospital and an old acquaintance I think. He really was very vague, you know how he is."

"He didn't say who. Why? Do you…"

"We'll see you soon then. Just Be Careful!"

"Broots," Carefully replacing the phone in the cradle, Sydney spoke. "Pack a bag and get whatever files Miss Parker asked you for earlier. You can fill me in on the way. Time is of the essence!" He spoke with characteristic urgency. Seeing Broots gaping at the phone, but not moving, he made a flicking motion with his finger. "Hurry up man! When do we leave?"

"Uh-oh! Um, there's a flight leaving in- uh," Trying to glance at his watch, he wound up twisting it about before he could read the time. "Forty-five minutes. Is that okay?" He was acting fidgety even for Broots. Sid wished he could ask him what it was that was scaring him so, but there would be time for that later. Right now they needed to grab the duffel Miss Parker had instructed him to get from her office, and then catch the plane. Until they were settled in their seats, he would have to wonder what, exactly, was transpiring.


He was dreaming. The face was back, watching… always watching through the viewing window in the door. He'd never met the person connected with the face. He didn't know his height, his posture, his dress, his name. Only those eyes, cold as his heart must be.

Trevor knew nothing but to be afraid. The man was younger than… the others, but connected to them. Whenever he came something bad would happen… eventually. He had only wait… Waiting, waiting. That was his life.

The man at the door was cruel. He knew that too. He didn't need to see anything but those eyes to know. The man killed those he couldn't love… he couldn't love anymore. That was sad. Not being able to love. But he used it- welded it was his greatest weapon…

What now? What new torture awaited him later today? Tomorrow? Next week?

But… no. Where was he? Not…

A spasm shot through him, shaking the blur from his mind. Now wasn't then, and he wasn't dreaming. Claire- she was supposed to protect him.

Why had she let the man find him?

No, she didn't know about the man at the door.

What did the man want now?


Except for that one shudder, he hadn't moved but to clench the sheet a little tighter. Perspiration beaded on his forehead, mixing with bitter tears and tracking faster down his temples, soaking the hairs and pillow at his neck.


The halls twisted wickedly, like a demented clown-filled funhouse. In her experience any funhouse centered on clowns would be anything but fun. It was those eyes. They peered, stared and gaped out at you from clever masks, mocking with their smiles and painted faces…

The feeling was the same now. Eyes followed her as she hurried past, concerned only with Trevor, but not unaware of her surroundings. His surroundings.

She wondered how he must feel, locked up again after a year of living… normally. Or as normally as a man like Trevor could live.

Normal suddenly felt like death to her.

Only a few times had he been willingly alone. Once had been after faced with the prospect of mortality. No one saw him all day. Another time was after the death of a friend. He hadn't been himself then. Grief stricken, he had let her see deeper into himself than ever before, and the sight of a tear slipping unnoticed down his cheek touched her. It was a mark of anguish rare itself in the male half of the population, and in Trevor a seeming contradiction to his character. Almost she had been brought to tears herself.

And now he was all alone. Claire had to admit that even he couldn't amuse himself forever in isolation from everything. He could remain enraptured by the simplest thing, true. But even so, his solitary occupation depended on others existing around him.

Passed the open rooms and through more swinging doors lay the isolation hallway. Lightly padded, they were there for all patients, meant to be used for short periods of rest. Lacking ornament, for many the rooms meant a calming break. She could only guess what it would mean to Trevor.


"Miss Parker!" This time the greeting was face to face. "Here's your bag." He leaned closer. "What was in it that couldn't be checked?"

Miss Parker leaned in further still. "Nothing… that I know of. Broots-" She looked the man up and down. It would remain a question in her mind why the unspoken center dress code never applied to the computer geeks. "Did you get them?"

Broots would never understand how she could talk so much without parting her teeth.

"Um- yea. I had some problems getting-" A hard look cut of his words completely. Another brought them back, quieter. "Getting into the files. They were all put within the original memory- uh, generally the center updates the system and drags files-"

"Get to the point."

"Oh-uh, right. You see?" She didn't. "There's got to be something the Centre wants to keep hidden about this. There's no way a person can find this stuff without deliberately searching for it!"

"And to search for it, you need to know about it. And everyone who worked his case will be old enough to stay quiet." Filled in en-route, Sydney had been as shocked as Parker. Many years ago he had worked briefly with a boy interested in mythology: that was where he had learned most of what he knew now. It was eerie, he hadn't thought of the boy since.

"That's just it. Not everyone is that old. When I was searching I-" Another sharp look from Miss Parker dropped the decibel level again. "I came across some notes mentioning-" Breaking off he checked the terminal of the airport, as if the man he was about to speak of could be there, waiting to come up behind him at the worst possibly moment.

He was.

"Lyle." Mild surprise was expressed. She was feeling somewhat more than that, but with her brother it was better to keep on the safe side with revealing emotions. Putting a bit more glare into her smile than normal, she picked him out where he lounged against the wall near some pay phones, cell phone firmly pressed to his ear.

He didn't look up.

Scowling even harder, Miss Parker set off to him, heels clicking so harshly on the tiled floor that several bystanders winced visibly and shied back.

When she was close enough to slap him she stopped with a clack that resounded like a gunshot. Still he took his own time, whispering something into the phone, then snapping it closed and slowly pushing the antennae back in with one gloved fingertip. That done, he deemed to look up and take notice of her.

"Sis!" Easily mistaken for jovial recognition, a perceptive listener would be able to hear a hiss of malice and the shadow of secret agendas. "How… unexpected to see you here. I heard you were… unavoidably detained." It wasn't a question, but one eyebrow slipped up, dragging the corner of his mouth into a weird sneer.

"Mmm." Smiling back, no trace of amusement resided anywhere near her eyes. "I was- chasing a lead. But apparently you're one step ahead."

"Wha- Jarod is here?" His first instinctive flare of surprise betrayed him. She reflected that at least he wasn't stupid enough to take the bait she had offered, and said he was there for Jarod. Times like this, she could believe he really was her brother, and not just of birth.

"Mmm hmm. You didn't know? I had thought that's why you were here. But if its not Jarod…" Damn, she was showing teeth. White, glinting, jagged bits of enamel, which could sink into his jugular, ripping, tearing… But she was a Centre operative, more worried about her chase than…

"Centre business" He replied quickly, safely. "Nothing that need concern you. You've got enough on your plate already trying to carry out that little task…"

She only smiled. Neither was biting.

Lyle, at least, was worried. Jarod, here? It had to be a coincidence. It had never been before though, and with the Genius… It was entirely too possible Jarod not only knew why he was there, but had come to Chicago for the same purpose. Or rather, the same man.

It wasn't fair. Everything was airtight. There was no way Jarod could know. Even Angelo was not in a position to know his plans. His grin faltered. His twin's widened.

The silence lengthened until he was forced to speak. "If you will excuse me, I have somewhere to be."

"Certainly." She spoke through clenched teeth, but didn't move. She was so close he'd have to push past her. Allowing just enough time for him to breathe again, she grabbed his arm and hissed directly into his ear, careful to spit a bit. "As long as you're in this city, I expect to know where you are. Comprende? The Centre may not take to kindly if Jarod escaped again because you… couldn't be reached."

The last was said with such venom that he feared for his ear. When she released his arm he wiped at the spit with a deadpan expression and left, a bit faster than even he could justify as just being late.

"Now Sydney, we'd better get set up. Rent us a car. Broots, we need to look at those files first but I want to go see Trevor later today." Sydney nodded and walked off.

"But Miss Parker! Um, it's late now, after four. It'll take loner than that to check into a hotel and look at the…the information. He'll be working tomorrow anyway, we can go there or even see him at home…" He gulped in response to the predatory gleam in her eye.

"Then we'll go tomorrow, pay a little house call first thing. Move!" The command brought several worried glances from the now relaxed crowd. It did, however, accomplish its purpose. Broots scurried off.


It struck her again: the cold, stark walls, as impersonal as a new computer. How a life, vital as Trevor's, would be trapped, then leached out; a Venus fly trap digesting its victim.

She had tricked him into staying once. For a friend. And the door really did need a key to open it. But it was also a test. A test he passed, staying. Except for a moment, when he first tried to leave. Right then, he was trapped: at her mercy. Through the exasperation in his voice she heard a hint of fear.

He had stayed. That, at least, was encouraging. In the end, he had stayed, and seemed not to suffer.

There were also people then. Maybe just the unconscious form of a hapless Don Quixote, but still a body to watch over. Now he really was locked up, as she had been the one who turned the key, regardless of the board.

She almost passed the door before realizing it was there. A door like the others: heavy, gray, and locked.

An orderly was in the room across the hall. The door open, she could watch him changing the sheets.

Fingering the handle, Claire rested her head against the solid frame. Truth be told she didn't want to go in there; didn't want to see him in case…

Hearing the orderly moving behind her she gathered up her professionalism and peeked through the window cut in the door. Something inside her was sure she'd catch him looking at her. Then she'd walk in and he'd say something smart, maybe "window shopping?" or "why didn't you tell me I was on display? I would have posed. Go out and we'll start over."

He wasn't looking at her. His eyes were closed, but it didn't look like a good sleep, if that's what it was. Pale under his dark coloring, he looked almost… There was something about the way he grasped the sheet, and she could see his chest moving jerkily even from where she stood.

Three fingernails tattooed on the glass, but he still didn't look up. At the noise she got the impression of the skin around his eyes tightening, and his fingers clenching tighter on the material.

A swishing behind her broke the stillness so suddenly that she jumped reflexively, her hand pressed to her heart.

"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you." The voice was gentle, supplemented by the ghost of a smile.

"Oh, no problem. I'm just- I never noticed how creepy these halls can be…."

Another smile, this one less ancient. "You've been standing here awhile. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I was just… I'm going in now." With the reassuring presence near her she slid her key card and pushed open the door.


"This is it? Jarod had- I've seen all this."

"Yea, well- anything I could find Jarod would definitely be able to get. But like I-I was trying to tell you earlier-"

Miss Parker came across one file Jarod either didn't have. Didn't have, or wanted her to get for herself.


Broots echoed the name a moment later, as if it would summon the evil incarnate. He couldn't keep his eyes from showing the whites and flitting about the hotel room as if he really had appeared.

"He, uh, is mentioned in a later file. One of those updates. Really all it says is that he was somehow involved… No, no notes on what… Do-Do you think that’s why he's here?" Even though Broots was perfectly capable of classifying people into 'good' or 'bad', he still had a childish problem with putting people under the 'bad' heading. Forget 'evil'.

"I wouldn't put it past him."

"But after all this time…?"

"Broots." Expelling all the air in her lungs, she hoped the fresh air would bring with it some clarity. "We don't know why he's here, if he's been here before, or… or anything really. Just go to bed…Yours… and we'll do something tomorrow… It's too late for this."

'Too late' in this case meant a bit closer to one than midnight. Sydney had excused himself a few minutes before; Broots stayed behind to get some reassurance.

Once he was gone, she took a hot shower. A fairly short one, due to the hour, but hot as it came and refreshing nonetheless.

Stepping out to the silence of an otherwise empty, high scale hotel room, the way to her duffel was lit by the small bedside lamp, the shades being drawn against the night. At least she had the foresight to keep some clothes in her office. Smiling sleepily she mentally applauded her packing skills. Some comfy boxers and a silk tank top would be heaven after all that time in a suit and hose.

Then the phone rang.

Out of habit she picked up her cell, but it was the old spin-dial issuing the noise.

"What." Comfort dulled her usually sharp demand.

"You know, it's really very interesting how you can never seem to answer the phone in a civil manner. Does this somehow have anything to do with an inordinate number of salesmen calling you?"

"Jarod." The beginnings of a migraine loomed.

"You also have a fascination with stating the obvious. Who are you telling? There isn't anyone there…"

She could just picture him grinning at her.

"And you know this… how? Practicing your peeping-tom skills?"

Biting. He winced.

"No. I just heard Broots leave a while ago."

"You…" The phone had done a *nanny nanny boo-boo*. Or rather, it may as well have done because that's the look it was receiving. "How did you get this number?"

"Front desk. Nice girl, her name's Courtney. Did you know the main difference between a hotel and a motel is parking?"

"Where are you?"

He could hear her eyes slitting and teeth baring.

"Room 215."

She started. "In this hotel?" She was 213. Getting up she walked over to look at the connecting door, 215 obligingly stenciled neatly onto its surface.

Broots and Sydney were down the hall, too far to call without letting Jarod get away. Hell, she was probably too far away to keep him from escaping. Times like these she wished she lived with sweepers under the pillow.

"Hello?" He was beginning to wonder if she had decided he wasn't worth it, and had gone to bed.

Swiping her gun off the bedside table, Miss Parker tried the door. Locked.

At least she was awake and listening. Leaning back on a stack of pillows Jarod contemplated the doorknob. A moment ago her hand had rested on the other end.

"Now, now, Miss Parker. Put the gun down and I'll open the door so we can chat."

"What gun." It took a moment for her voice to come back with a reply. When it did though it was cool and in control.

Deep within the façade, he hoped she really did have the gun. It was almost a sure bet…

The phone was silent. She hoped he hadn't decided to ignore her, or leave. No- the silence had a gentle rhythm. In and out, in and out.

Having no real desire to take the offensive, Miss Parker played it his way.

Crawling back over the bed she lay down, resting the phone under the pillow. On closer examination of her weapon she sighed and put the useless gun on the table. Recently she had been going through so many guns… As she picked up the phone again she wondered when he had snuck in to dismantle it. Probably when they had gone down for dinner.

From now on, that hunk of metal wasn't leaving her side. Or at least her waistband. In her hand would be good too.

Trying to keep absolutely silent she retrieved the phone and put it near her ear, tilting it so the mouthpiece couldn't catch her shallow breaths. Only a dozen feet away, Jarod wasn't taking the same tact. His hypnotic breathing came through audibly.

Listening to him breath affected her in a way she missed. A way from her teens. Trying to picture what he was doing *right now* was a game she played for years… once upon a time. Now it came back, and he appeared in her mind eye sleeping peacefully. Or maybe staring through the wall, all masculine muscle…-

Leaning back she took the next step. With a faintly click the phone was returned to its cradle.

Next door, Jarod heard the click with some surprise, then gaped at the earpiece as the dial tone rudely cut in. This time he had misjudged her. Rising soundlessly he crossed the plush navy carpet and pressed himself to the door, listening for her listening for him. Hearing nothing he took a step back and knocked so softly he wasn't sure if she would be able to hear.

"Miss Parker."

He may have made a fool of her before, many times before, but tonight she was calling the shots. Rolling onto her side she smiled at the wooden door.

The doorknob rattled once, pale gold reflecting the feeble lamp like the twinkle of a star. Her own star, so close, yet so far.

Another sort of rattle began. With a start she realized he was picking the lock, and she was wearing- Diving under the covers she was chastely covered before the door fell silent again.

It didn't open.

"Shoot." Cursing to the world in general she figured he had left, leaving some clue behind in a now otherwise unoccupied room.

In case he was still there she called to him. The soft reply startled her so that her heart skipped a beat. That was how sure she had been that he was already blocks away.

"Why are you still here?"

It took so long for him to answer she feared he had left. The voice before could have been the wind, carrying the notes of moonlight through an open window.

"I… found something today." The silence was back, but this time it was full of the promise of more.

"About what?"

Another pause, even longer. Then the answer came so softly that it almost didn't make it through the barrier. "I don't know."

There was something in his voice, a quality, that was almost childish, angelic. The same quality Angelo possessed. It pulled at her heartstrings to hear.

The two faces of Miss Parker argued. The softer side was edging out the Centre persona, but the latter was stubborn. They came to an uneasy truce. Either way, she and Jarod would need to be on the same side of the door.

"Why don't you tell me about it?"

"Don't know… where to begin."

"How about," She grabbed her robe from the back of a mahogany chair and cinched it around her narrow waist. "By opening the door."

When there was no reply at all she crossed the room and gripped the doorknob herself.


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