Title: Steel Doors and Concrete Walls: Part 2- Chapter 1

Author: BuffyAngel68

e-mail:vg68@msn.com

Rating: Mild PG for a touch of violence and unlawful imprisonment (even if it is in a good cause.

Spoilers: None, as its original, except for the story that inspired it (Immortal Quest at the Pretender Adult Fan-Fic archive) Tyvm Dragonheart for writing such a great jumping off point.

Summary: Wasn't all that happy with the author's sequel when I read it. My mind went off on another track entirely. Jarod discovers new information about Parker and gets tired of waiting......

Feedback: Please, please, please do! First-timers need all the praise and criticism they can get their tired little fingers on. Usual stuff.... characters, except for Abbot Michael, Major Hilliard, and Terri Simonson, don't belong to me, not making money, will return them to their owners in the condition I found them. Well.... you'll see.

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"Alright. The truth this time. What did you really do to her?"

"Cut the comedy, Methos. If this is making us nervous.... Hey, Jarod. Don't. I know what you're thinking and it isn't time yet. Give her space to work through this on her own terms."

Jarod, just a step or two from the hallway that led to the cell, halted, hesitated, then turned and walked back into the kitchen, refusing to look at the monitor again.

Fascinated, and more than a little concerned, the other two watched for a few more minutes as Parker moved slowly around the cell, dragging the quilt from the bed behind her, her free hand, the thumb extended, occasionally straying toward her mouth or running through her hair.

"I need an answer, Mac. What did you do?"

"I didn't cause this!"

"She's done a twenty-six year age regression, man! You're the one who's been working with her. What did you do?"

"I.... Damn. It must have...."

"Mac...."

"I took her through a series of regressions. You know the type of thing; focus on the inner child, answer questions about the image. I was using the monosyllable technique."

"And?"

"She actually had a breakthrough, of sorts. At first she took the observer perspective, but.... I pushed. She slipped into first person at the end. I.... I swear.... I don't know....."

"Wait. Look."

To his great relief, Macleod watched Parker shake her head several times, gaze at the quilt and throw it back onto the bed. Looking at Methos, he found the same emotion reflected back at him.

"Transitory episode. Thank God."

"Oh, I will. For the rest of my life. Gladly, loud and often." Macleod responded, sounding as if he sincerely meant it.

"She probably doesn't even know anything changed. Go see if the food is ready, will you?"

"While you're...."

"Go. I'll take over here."

"Wait a minute...."

Methos whirled from the monitor to face his friend, his expression irate, leaning towards truly furious.

"You knew she was fragile, Mac. You were fully aware that she was a handle with extreme care. You pushed her anyway. Go check on dinner."

"She was ready."

"Did that little performance say *ready* to you?" Methos growled back. "Don't push your luck any further, highlander. Get.... into.... the kitchen."

"We're short on time. I did what had to be done."

"And your rush to judgment could have left her with a four year old's psyche in an adult's body for the rest of her life! Get out of my sight!"

Jarod's voice behind them swung both men to face the kitchen door.

"Lunch is ready."

"I'll go fix a tray." Macleod offered, vanishing into the kitchen as Jarod approached the monitor. Methos stole a quick glance at him, noting that the stone-face mask behind which the younger man still hid a great deal of his fear and anger had, once again, dropped into place.

"Is she alright?"

"Yeah. Fine. She shook it off fairly quickly. That's a real good sign."

"I told you she's strong. it isn't his fault, you know. I keep telling him stories about how easily the Centre has found me in the past. I think it's made him too conscious of how little time we have to execute this.... rescue mission."

"Mission improbable is more like it. I'm beginning to wonder if you weren't right before. Even the best surgeon can't sew up a wound if the tissue is too delicate to hold stitches. What happened tonight says she isn't as strong as you might like to believe."

"There are very few things I delude myself about anymore, Methos."

"I didn't mean that and you know it. As hard as she sells that "heart of steel and cement" act, anyone would buy it. It isn't the reality. She was betrayed as deeply as a child can be; just like you were. You play happy-go-lucky and super-vigilante, she plays Sherman tank. It's the same act, and it won't work for either of you much longer. You both need all your memories to be whole."

"Both of us. You said that before, and you still haven't explained it."

"I'm not sure how to. Helping you will be a world and a half away from helping her. What you went through is so different. I haven't got it all worked out yet. Trust me, though; I will. I can give you back what you've lost if you give me a chance."

Jarod didn't answer. He stared into the space above the monitor,
his camouflage expression showing no sign of slipping. "Can I ask you a totally unrelated question?"

"Go ahead."

"How do you see your role in all this?"

"Planner, I suppose. The one to welcome her home; give her comfort and a safe place until she feels like going back to her life."

"But her life is capturing you."

"I know."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hello again."

When Parker flinched and practically ran to the other side of the room, Methos merely grinned and held his ground and the tray until she decided to speak to him.

"Put it down and get out."

"I'd prefer to stay if you don't mind. I promise to respect your comfort zone."

"There is none with you."

"At the airport it seemed to be about five feet. The far side of the table should do." he speculated, placing the tray on the bed and moving away. "Go ahead. You have to eat." he encouraged, shoving the rolling chair toward the bed before taking his chosen seat. Enticed by the aroma of the food, but aware that if he affected her as the other had she would want nothing to do with it, Parker moved slowly to the bed, conscious of her body's reactions all the way. When the status quo remained that way, she placed the tray on the chair, dropped to the bed and cut and sampled a bite of the salmon on the plate.

"Not disgusting. Let me guess. Major brains-coming-out-his-butt made it."

"Yes. Jarod did cook it. You don't hate him. I'd wager the world on that. You don't seem to like him much, though. Funny, that. He said you two were great friends as kids."

"He wasn't a fugitive from his job, it wasn't my job to get him back. He refuses to accept his commitments and it's made my life a living nightmare. I should admire him for it?"

"His job. His commitments. I thought you knew the real story of how he ended up in the Centre."

"When it's my ass on the line, I can't afford to know anything except what I'm supposed to know. Lately, my ass has been very much on the line."

"You and Jarod were close once, though."

Gazing up from her meal only briefly, Parker considered then responded.

"Once."

"Spend a lot of time at the Centre as a girl did you?"

"My father was very important to me. So was what he did for a living. I wanted to be with him. I was there three, maybe four afternoons a week. After my mother.... after she passed away, I suppose I got too busy with school, friends, sports..."

"I see. Field hockey?" Methos asked, chuckling.

"Good guess."

"Not really. You and the game share the same personality trait."

"Which would be?"

"The always pleasant "high energy, hair-trigger pistol, kill 'em all and sort 'em out later, piss me off and everybody bleeds" trait. Also, I couldn't quite see you as a cheerleader."

Parker gave a low, dark snicker.

"If it hadn't been a felony...."

"You would have torn the skinny, perky little freaks of nature limb from limb? I felt the same way. Not about cheerleaders, mind. In certain ways I was all for them. The rugby team, now. They were a different story. Smug, ego-driven, testosterone-addicted Neanderthals with one working brain cell, and that on the verge of collapse. I could have quite happily wrapped them all in petrol-bombs, lit the fuse and watched them blow sky-high."

Setting aside the plate and tray, Parker laid the sole of her shoe against the edge of the chair seat and sent it gliding back toward the table.

"Reminds me of your predecessor. Tall, dark and unbearably arrogant."

"My apologies. He was trying to help." Methos explained, standing. "That's what this is for, you know. Helping you, showing you options. Road not taken and all that."

"Why?" Parker asked, moving away as Methos came around the table to collect the tray.

"You've been on one path all your life, love; the one you were placed on. You never got to choose. You got blinders while the rest of us got hang-gliders. Think on Robert Frost before you hit the pillow tonight: 'I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-...."

"I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.'"

"Good. Very nice recitation skills. Try that voice a little more often. I guarantee you more cooperation and a lot more smiles."

Pulling a small package from his pocket, Methos tossed it on the bed. "Dessert. I can't get Jarod or my "predecessor" to give them up. See you tomorrow. Sleep well."

"Wait. Adam, isn't it?"

"Right."

"Mind if I use it?"

"Go ahead. Just remember that names have great power. Some cultures believe that just speaking a person's name gives control over the owner to the listener. Who knows your name for instance? Just something else to think about. Bye. Dinner at six sharp."

Once he'd gone, Parker walked to the bed, picked up the small plastic package of red licorice and, to her great surprise, fell sideways onto the thin mattress, laughing until the tears dripped off her jaw and soaked the crumpled quilt beneath her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"She seems to be alright now."

"Better."

"She likes the candy. She's laughing."

"Look again."

"What?"

"It's been, what.... six, seven minutes now? She hasn't stopped yet. She can't. You wait. This will turn into a crying jag, but not until she's almost exhausted herself. Twisted, corrupted emotions never straighten themselves out easily. The process hurts like hell. Not everyone who tries it makes it to the other side."

Glancing at Methos, Jarod threw him a thoroughly disappointed look.

"I don't work or live well with a lot of negativity."

"How about truth? I'm being realistic, son. You and Mac didn't think of everything. Speaking of Mac, I'd better go find him."

Before he found the strength to overrule his pride, Jarod allowed his friend to get almost to the stairs to the upper level, the honesty of what Methos was trying to get through to him still warring with the peace and harmony he wanted to be able to give Parker without her having to walk through her own personal hell for it.

"I'm.... I understand what you said. Look. Don't let his mistake destroy what you and Macleod have.... your friendship. He did his best. He helped her, even if it doesn't look like it at the moment."

"I know."

"We can't fail."

"Then let's start planning. Give me a few private moments with Mac then meet us in the kitchen. We'll talk while we eat."

"Alright. Twenty minutes?"

"Perfect."

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Long after dinner that evening, Methos and Macleod remained at the table, plates pushed aside as they discussed their differences relating to the last few days of the plan, their conversation carefully attended by Jarod.

"You act like I don't know the time-table here, Mac. I'm as aware of it as you are. This schedule will work and it will only take me two more days, plus one for the final immersion treatment."

"It could take longer. Thanks to me she's gun-shy and closer to her breaking point than she should be."

"No way. Jarod was right. It wasn't anything you did. She did have a minor breakthrough. She just broke through going in the wrong direction. She'll be alright. We have to be really careful."

"I want back in on the sessions."

"Evening one tomorrow. No sooner. I have to sneak you back into her good graces first."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that hopefully she'll have stopped calling you tall, dark and unbearably arrogant by then."

The description caused Jarod, on his third serving of Boston Cream Pie, to burst out laughing, providently covering his mouth with his fork-free hand in time to prevent pie fragments from decorating his companions and half the length of the table.

"Good catch." Methos chuckled. "Three pieces is enough, by the way. You'll be bouncing off the walls and you sleep little enough as it is."

"I'll be fine. I metabolize sugar faster than other people."

"Yeah?" Macleod mused, "Must have something to do with increased brain activity."

"I think so. I'm pretty physically active, too, so that helps."

"Look." Methos interjected, sliding Jarod's plate towards himself, "Quit helping him rationalize, would you? His metabolism has nothing to do with making himself sick OD-ing on dessert. No more tonight, mejo." he pronounced, rising to carry the plate to the trash and then the sink.

Jarod watched it go a little sadly, his face sliding into a genuine childlike disappointment reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh on being informed the honey supply had run out.

"And I always thought I'd enjoy having a father."

"I didn't say no burgers or chips or ice cream or whatever. Just try and devote a little of that amazing brain to learning moderation, alright?" Methos advised, ruffling Jarod's hair lightly as he returned to his seat at the table.

"It's not my fault. Calculus, philosophy; those I understand. I only lose perspective when I try to juxtapose the concept of too much with the concept of pepperoni and mushroom pizza."

"We've noticed." the other two chorused in unison.

"Can we get back to what we were discussing before you two got off on a nutrition science tangent? What do you think of the schedule, Mac?"

"It seems perfect on paper. It's real tight, though. No room for repairs if we make a major blunder."

"Then we can't. That's what tonight is for. Minimize errors and fix them before we make them."

"I'm game for a couple more hours. After that I'll have to drag myself to bed."

"That's okay. I'll be up." Jarod offered.

Methos' only response was a reprise of the fatherly "What was that again?" scowl.

"You said it yourself. I don't need much sleep. It's nothing I can change. I've tried a hundred times or more and nothing works. I'm not like the rest of the world. I've learned to accept that; use it to my advantage."

"How?" Methos asked, his expression actively interested, "I've had five thousand years and I still haven't got the knack."

"Sydney. I suppose he knew the day would come when my sense of morality would develop beyond the point where I'd still follow orders blindly. He understood that I'd end up in the world one way or another, so he taught me not to hate what made me special, showed me how to embrace that difference and make it an essential part of me; something I could cherish secretly. I kept that secret most of my life. I was afraid they'd steal that the way they'd stolen everything else. That acceptance of myself is what allows me to get by out here."

"Out here? You still think of the world that way?" Macleod asked, stunned anew, as he always seemed to be, at the depths of his soul that his tortured young friend was willing to expose to people he'd only known a short while.

"I can't think any other way." Jarod explained, gazing not at his friends but out the kitchen window into the night, as if the darkness gave him a strength lighted rooms and compassionate faces did not. "I can't just surgically remove the part of me that is the Centre. They invaded too many places.... too much of me is tainted.... polluted, contaminated.... I'm afraid if I tried to remove it, wash away all of them, their influence.... I'd die. There'd be too little left of the real me to survive."

Methos, not expecting such an admission from Jarod, found himself having to rein in his first reaction, knowing Macleod would never let him live down even one tear caught slipping down his cheek.

A quick glance at his good friend excusing himself from the table, head diverted from Methos' sight line, told him his worries were unnecessary. Instead of joining Mac at the sink doing dishes, Methos reached across the table, grasped Jarod's hands and held them tightly between his own.

"They never touched the real you. Never. I know. If I thought.... Some of the things I've done have left scars, on my mind if not my body, but they never came close to damaging what I am. I wouldn't be here today if they had."

Seeing Jarod wasn't getting what he was trying to say, Methos pulled him to his feet and dragged him into the living room to stand in front of a mirror that hung just to the left of the kitchen door.

Placing a hand on either side of Jarod's head to prevent him from turning away from the lesson, Methos drew a deep breath and continued. "You look in your own eyes for a minute. I want you to stop looking at the blood they dipped your hands in and the poison they injected into your heart and your head. For one minute, I want you to see what I see. Your soul; your exquisitely beautiful, gentle, touched by the hand of the Almighty, soul."

When Jarod tried to pull away, Methos held him tighter. "No. This is all that matters. You knowing that your soul is clean is all that counts."

"You don't understand. You don't know.... what I've done can't be...."

"What makes you think I don't know? I haven't told you even the smallest fraction of the things I've done. I wasn't a child, either, and I wasn't locked up, or having my arm twisted. The stains on my hands are mine Jarod; for all time. You can give yours back if you'll just decide you want to."

"You're not listening. I don't want them to go away. I can't give up my...."

"Your what? Your motivation for seeking vengeance for your pain and anguish over and over? You're not doing it for the same reasons as when you started, son. You know that. Look in your heart. No, look in your eyes. You'll see it's the truth. The truth is always in the eyes."

"Not in mine...." Jarod growled, finally pulling free and stalking away to drop into a large chair several feet from the mirror, his face buried in his arms.

Moving to crouch at Jarod's feet Methos kept pushing, though with less force.

"Why won't you even look into your own eyes? What nasty thing do you expect to see? What is it you're so afraid you'll find?"

Head up now, his dark orbs finding a new window and plumbing the depths of the night once again, Jarod took several shallow breaths then one or two deeper ones, as if trying to gain some measure of control he found difficult to achieve, before he was able to answer.

"Nothing. I know that someday.... I'll look in a mirror.... and find nothing. I will have become the.... soulless, sociopathic freak they bred me to be."

Reaching up to his friend's cheek, Methos gently swiped a tear away then pulled Jarod's head around to show him.

"Nothing is without a soul. Nothing and noone.... not one creature on this earth can take your soul from you. This.... this right here is your evidence. You can feel, you can regret.... you can cry."

"And when I can't?"

Lifting himself into the oversized chair with Jarod, Methos grasped his friends face again, feeling tears of his own threatening to start.

"You stop this, now. You're letting them win. These are their thoughts; their twisted, depraved, malignant thoughts. You give those thoughts back, you hear? You've no claim to them. Don't you dare let them win...."

With his last few words, Methos pulled Jarod's head into his chest and wrapped his arms easily around him, absorbing the younger man's sobs and supporting his shaking body. Not until several minutes later did he realize Macleod was perched on the arm of the chair, patting, soothing and offering his own measure of comfort.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLUE COVE:

"Syd. Sydney. God, Syd, please wake up!"

"Broots? What is it? Are you.... why am I asking. Of course you aren't. Your back I presume?"

"Yeah. I didn't wanna wake you, but...."

"It's alright. Tell me." Sydney encouraged, sitting up.

"It hurts. It's so bad. I went to sleep on my side, like you said I should. I must have turned onto my back in the night sometime. Can you...."

"Of course. Come lie down and I'll see what I can learn."

Broots crawled back to his air mattress, wincing with every motion that jarred his already painful lower back. Sydney followed closely, dropping easily to the floor to sit cross-legged by the edge of the makeshift bed. After only a few moments of examination, Sydney knew he could do nothing.

"I'm sorry. The swellings gotten worse and it's caused a misalignment of the spine. It's the emergency room, I'm afraid."

"No! No, way! You're my doctor. Noone else!"

"You don't have a choice. A small misalignment can only become a larger one, and the large ones become lifelong disabilities. I'll bring the car around. You take all the time you need to dress and such and I'll meet you at the front door."

"No! Syd, stop! You don't understand.... Let me explain. Please, come back and sit. It's kind of a long story."

Intrigued, Sydney returned and dropped back into his previous position.

"Around five years ago, I had a wipe-out on my Harley. I busted up my right side pretty good. When I realized I'd broken a couple ribs, I dragged myself to Blue Cove Hospital. If I'd known what I do now, I would have taped 'em up myself and lived with it.
I mean.... how was I supposed to know the Centre runs the whole place? They gave me a painkiller.... except it wasn't. I didn't find that out for two weeks. They called me down to the infirmary, and kept me for three days. Whatever it was they shot me up with, it didn't do what it supposed to, and they wanted to know why."

Before Sydney spoke, he massaged his chest several times, trying to loosen the heaviness on his heart, even though he knew it was emotional, and not anything he could remove.

"What was it meant to do?"

"Send me into convulsions, they said; make it look like I had some kind of seizure disorder. Anyway, they let me go when the three days was up, but they warned me that I could develop.... what was it.... temporary globe.... no. That's not right."

"Temporal lobe epilepsy."

"Yeah! That's right. Epilepsy I get, but what do the other words mean?"

"The temporal lobe is the front portion of the brain, just behind the forehead. Temporal lobe epilepsy isn't like the more common episodic form. In temporal lobe, the sufferer experiences ultra-real hallucinations. They totally believe what they're seeing. I've even read of some patients with uncontrolled TLE severely injuring or killing themselves trying to escape illusions created by their own minds."

"Great. The way I'm going, I should just walk into Raines' office, tell him what I really think of him and the Centre and let Willy tear my head off and roll it down an elevator shaft."

"Why have you never mentioned this motorcycle accident before?"

"It never came up. Do you really think I'm gonna end up jumping in front of a bus to get away from a nonexistent fifty-foot rat?"

"I wouldn't worry about developing either type of epilepsy my friend. That sounds distinctly like a false front to me; something intended to send you running back to the Centre medical research teams at the slightest sign of anything unusual. Just stay alert to your body's signals. The drug may not cause a seizure disorder, but it will undoubtedly have some.... strange effects."

"But... but R&D is working on half a million different projects, most of them beyond top-secret. I could have...."

"Precisely. You could have received anything. As I said, be aware. Just don't let whatever occurs panic you into doing something.... reckless."

"Like walking back into the Centre's hands?"

"Yes. Like that. Stay here. I have a friend who's an excellent chiropractor. I just hope she likes me well enough to drag herself out of bed at this hour. By the way; in the morning I expect to hear all about you and motorcycles."

"Help me get a few more hours of pain free sleep and you've got a deal."

A short time later, Sydney returned carrying two objects in his left hand and a cherry wood box in the other. Kneeling by the bed, he laid everything on the floor and began to rub his friend's shoulders, hoping to soothe him through what was to come.

"Terri can't get here until morning. She had a suggestion, but it will require a great deal of you. If you can't handle it, I'll understand, but...."

"Go on. What is it?"

"Her suggestion was to give you a shot, a combination of Demerol and liquid acetaminophen. "

"Are you nuts?! You want to stick a needle in my back?"

"It's the best option I have. I'll place the injection above the bruises. You shouldn't feel any pain for the next eight hours or more. Then we can both get some sleep."

"The other option is...."

"Acupuncture. It means fifteen or twenty extremely thin needles inserted in strategic points in your back and legs...."

"Great bedside manner. I don't want either choice, but I didn't hear any option C."

"You don't trust me. I understand that. After what they did to you at the hospital...."

"It isn't you, Syd. Believe me. I trust you more than anyone in my life. Just go ahead and give me the shot, okay?"

Gratitude for his friend's admission stealing his voice momentarily, Sydney had to swallow before he could speak.

"Alright. You must lie perfectly still. This won't take long I promise."

Only a few minutes later, Sydney had finished his task and Broots opened eyes and fists he had clenched tightly shut.

"Done. How are you feeling? You should already be losing sensation below the injection site."

"I am. The pain's fading. Thank God and thank you, Syd."

"I'm just glad I was here. Get some sleep."

"Okay. sounds good." Broots replied, already drifting away into drug-induced sleep, his eyes slipping nearly closed, then popping open again as some part of his conscious mind fought against the unnatural sensations caused in him by the chemicals.

As the medication finally began to turn the tide of the war, his eyes snapped open for one last moment, but that moment would be one he would never be able to quite erase from his memory, as much as that would later become his fondest wish. What his brain told him he saw in that final flash of awareness that momentous night, he tried to dismiss, in rational morning light, as a side effect of the painkiller, though time would show him how wrong it can be to toss aside visions too easily.

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