Part 3/Chapter 1


"Hello. You awake?"

"You didn't actually think I'd be able to sleep did you?"

"I was hoping. No worries. I've got mild sedatives if you need them. Strawberry as per your request." he said, handing her the soy shake then digging into his satchel for the stethoscope and the blood pressure cuff.

"Get those things away from me."

"It's this or the I.V. Take your choice."

The ugly glare she gave him told him her decision. "I thought you might. Drink your dinner. I'll be done here in a minute. Hmmm. Better than it was earlier. By tomorrow morning you should be nearly back to normal." he informed her, stowing his equipment again and moving to his chair at the table. "Now. Feel like answering that question we never got to before?"

"Which was?"

"You're stalling."

Another nasty look shot his way, but she answered.

"I was my fathers' administrative assistant at Corporate."

"Fascinating, but what did you do?"

"A million and one little things he didn't have the time or patience to deal with; scheduling, banking, personal shopping."

"What are your degrees in again?"

"Poli. Sci., Business Management and Accounting plus Masters Certificates in Theoretical Math, Chemistry and International Finance."

"Dare I say the F word?"

"Not if you want to stay conscious."

"I didn't mean that one. You were a flunky. All that knowledge and what were you doing with it; running your legs to bloody stumps doing the garbage he couldn't be bothered with while he played "Lord of All I Survey" and arranged the abduction of more innocent children."

The intense death ray scowl she shot Methos said he was putting her feet too close to the fire, but he didn't back off completely. "Don't look at me in that tone of voice, girl. If you didn't know then, you do now."

"Whatever did or didn't happen wasn't his choice. His word isn't law at the Centre. He.... we all take our orders from someone higher up."

"Yes, yes. I know. Tower and Triumvirate. It can't last. I know you understand that. All that power and influence and weight... anything that top heavy can't help but collapse in on itself, flattening everyone underneath in the process. Then the PTB's will pick themselves out of the rubble, cluck their tongues at the carnage and stroll off to do it again somewhere else."

"Smug and arrogant is easy when you have not the slightest clue what you're talking about."

"Don't I? Go on. Tell me you haven't been hearing the creaking in the walls and seeing stress cracks in the ceiling for months now."

"You're an idiot."

"And you're the most evasive person I've ever attempted a conversation with. Answer the question for once."

Glaring at her hands, Parker was silent at first, trying to ignore Sydney's words ringing in her head, echoing the sentiment Methos had just confronted her with.

"Sydney's been saying the same thing for a while. Never when a camera or a mike could pick him up and never that bluntly, but.... he has said it. He's yet to convince me."

"Why not? I can see that you agree with us, in part at least."

"The place is my life. It's all I've ever known. I can't just accept.... Damn. I don't know why."

Rising, Methos walked to the cot and crouched beside Parker, setting her cup on the floor. As he talked, he held her hands lightly.

"The life of a human being isn't supposed to revolve around a building, love. Without people who care about you and something, or someone, outside yourself that *you* genuinely care about, where are you?"

"What the hell good are people and caring? You trust, you put yourself on the line and what do you get for it? Kicked in the head, yet again. It's not worth it. Not anymore." she responded, turning away from his eyes.

Reaching up a hand to her face, he turned her head back and held her chin gently but firmly.

"Listen carefully, alright? I'm going to reveal a fact of life that most of us learned as children, those allowed to *be* children that is. Are you hearing me?"

Parker nodded. "Good. Here it is. Not everyone who loves you will leave you, noone you've lost left because they wanted to and it has never, ever been your fault."

Realizing that the audacity of his words should have aroused near-homicidal rage within her, Parker reached once again for the anger she fed off, the only one of her emotions she had always been in full touch with. The result was the same as before. Suddenly knowing she was about to cry, Parker twisted her whole body away from Methos and tightly squeezed her eyes shut, as if that would contain the tears.

"What is it?"

"What do you think?! Why did you do this to me? You screwed me up worse than he did!"

"Tell me what I did. Help me understand."

"That stupid visualization! If you don't fix it, I'm going to go crazy, shred that door with my fingers, hunt the three of you down and kill you all in different ways!"

"I told you, I didn't shut it off, I can't make it work again."

"You don't understand. I need.... my anger. I can't connect with it. My mind keeps telling me that I should be ripping you apart right now, but I can't get angry!"

"Then tell your mind to bloody well shut up. Rage is the last thing you need at the moment. What you need is to get quiet and serene for a while and that'll never happen with all this turmoil going on in your head. When will you learn to just let it go? Once your mind clams up, you'll be able to hear what your heart is saying, and trust me, it's a message you need to get." Methos told her, rising to his full height. "You get some sleep. I'll be checking on you through the night."

The attack from behind a moment later wasn't totally unexpected. When she'd spoken of being unable to touch her anger, the tone of pure desperation in her voice had told him she'd do anything to change the situation. Turning around, he allowed her to back him against the door, his hands at his sides, his voice and expression deliberately neutral.

"You're wasting your time. I won't fight you and even if I did it wouldn't gain you what you want. Hurting me won't make your pain go away, but you do what you have to."

For the next twenty minutes, Methos did nothing while Parker beat him into near unconsciousness, inflicting new bruises and lacerations faster than the ones she'd already inflicted could heal. The assault continued until Macleod happened to look at the monitor, grabbed Jarod and came to the rescue, Duncan pulling Parker away while Jarod walked Methos out of the cell, supporting most of his weight, and shut the door.

As they moved down the hall Methos recovered somewhat and began to walk instead of stumbling.

"Are you insane? What were you thinking?"

"I'll heal. She had to see.... that her anger is.... owww! is useless to her.... unless she points in the right direction.... and that she won't get back in touch with it.... until she does... I think she broke my cheekbone."

Lowering the other slowly to the sofa, Jarod dropped beside him, probing gently at his face.

"Feels like it. It's healing already though. So. Is she ready for the last stage?"

"Almost. One more session and her head'll be where I want it. I've got her thinking about her father. Next it's her mother, then we throw the immersion at her. "

"It has to work. I can't let her keep on like she is. The cigarettes, the booze.... she's been trying to kill herself and she doesn't know it."

"Yeah. The ulcer as well, exacerbated by the alcohol and the pent up fury. That's come the closest to doing her in from what you've said."

"Absolutely." Jarod responded sadly, rising and wandering toward a window. "She's so strong, so capable. It seems strange to think that to save my life, I have to do the one thing she's not willing or able to do."

"Which would be?" Methos asked.

"Save herself."

Silently admitting the irony Jarod had pointed out, Methos stood, walked to his friend and watched the sun set with him, an arm around his shoulder, his heart, he suddenly realized, firmly in Jarod's back pocket.

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

The following morning, Jarod nearly leaped into the kitchen, ready to get on with the day and was immediately disappointed by Methos, who, delighting in playing big brother, insisted he sit and eat.

"But...."

"No. Time enough for all things Parker after breakfast. Sit and get started on your porridge. The steak and scrambled aren't quite ready."

Seating himself, Jarod looked at the bowl in front of him with obvious distaste and pushed it a few inches away.

"It's alright. I'll wait."

"Trust me. This is like nothing they ever fed you in that seaside insane asylum. Give it a shot before you toss it overboard."

Reluctantly, Jarod retrieved the bowl and dipped his spoon as shallowly into the contents as he could. His first tentative sip surprised him greatly and within a few minutes the bowl was clean.

"How did you do that? I never knew porridge could taste good!"

"A little cognac in the milk and fresh apple and honey added just before serving. Nothing to it."

"More?"

"With the steak and eggs? Sorry. I forgot I was talking to the original bottomless pit. Sure. Come and get it."

"What are the apples soaking in?"

"More cognac, some lemon juice and ice water. Keeps them from browning and flavors them at the same time."

"Another cooking lesson. Don't you two ever get enough?" Macleod chuckled as he entered and sat down to his own meal.

"Never." Jarod responded happily. "Learning expands your brain capacity. The more you learn, the more you're able to learn."

"Is that so? Then why can't he learn when to stop needling me and avoid a boot to the head?"

"I'd have to want to learn Mac, and annoying you is one of the few sources of pure enjoyment left in my life."

Gazing from one to the other and back, Jarod grinned.

"You two have the most unusual, backwards friendship I think I've ever seen." he commented.

Twisting the shaker with Parker's breakfast in it back and forth, Methos grinned at the words.

"Sometimes. Doesn't mean we wouldn't put it on the line for each other anytime, anywhere."

"We have done. Many times."

"Yeah. We have haven't we." Methos echoed, his expression softening in a way he rarely allowed it to anymore in front of anyone but Macleod. Walking past Duncan, he bent, whispered into his friend's ear then strolled out the door.

Refilling his bowl, Jarod served himself from the frying pan and joined Macleod at the table, a confused smile playing around his lips.

"Do you mind if I ask?"

"It wasn't important. Just a reminder of something I already knew."

"Oh." Jarod replied, smiling brightly as he looked up. "It's still nice to hear once in a while."

"Yeah. Yeah, it is."

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


"Morning, sunshine. We up yet?"

When Parker didn't respond, he rushed to where she sat, knees to her chest, on the bed.

"Are you alright? Talk to me."

"I'm fine. You look a lot better than you should."

"Most of the damage is under fabric at the moment. I could barely crawl out of bed this morning. Breakfast?"

Quietly accepting the shaker from his hand she popped the top off and sipped at it, studying his eyes.

"Answer a question."

"If I can."

"Why?"

"I'm not the one you're really pissed at. I was trying to show you that taking it out on me, or any other innocent bystander for that matter, won't get you anywhere."

"I've been through this a million and one times. I'm angry with my mother for dying and my father for not loving me enough and sending me away. How close am I?"

"Keep going. You'll get there."

This earned him a raised eyebrow.

"Novel approach. It'll get you about as far as anything else, but at least you show some originality."

Pacing back and forth in front of Parker, Methos studied her carefully, trying to read beyond her outward expression of boredom and her ever-present lets-get-on-with-it-shall-we attitude.

"It's there you know. You've buried it about ten miles down, but it is there. It's part of what's eating you alive from the inside out."

Parker fought not to let his taunt reach her, tried not to even look at him, but it was only seconds before her exasperation took over.

"What? Just say it, will you? What have I buried so deep even I don't know it's there? Hmmm?"

Abruptly stopping the pattern he'd been walking, Methos locked her eyes to his, waiting until he had her full attention, then he responded.

"Everything. Near enough, anyway."

Turning toward the table he dropped into his usual chair, crossed his legs, folded his hands and waited for her to move the conversation forward. Eventually, she did.

"Love-15. Your point." she acknowledged, her voice low and dripping menace. "Everything means...."

"Just that. Who you really are, who you could have been, your spirit, a large chunk of your conscience and your heart all got trash-compacted into this neat little square. You dumped it in a hole, threw in the first shovel full of dirt and walked away, telling yourself it was best for everyone. Anything you were leaving behind you'd never need again anyway, so no big deal. Right?"

"Right."

"Wrong. See, the thing about burying vital parts of yourself is that you bury them alive. Can't get around it. You bury anything alive you've almost got a dead bang guarantee it'll go zombie on you. Whatever you get rid of like that is bound to show up on your doorstep demanding payback, and trust me sweetheart, bitch doesn't even half describe what you'll find when you open the door."

"Your concern moves me, but my secrets and I are status-quo at the moment. Thanks for the free analysis, though."

"I have to disagree."

"Oh, do you really?"

"Afraid so. You didn't think you only buried positive stuff did you? Under that is the compost heap and the nasty emotional garbage we all try to screen out or, if it's putrid enough, bury as deep as we can manage and pretend it doesn't exist. In your case it's mostly made up of feelings you either can't face or can't make fit your world view jigsaw puzzle."

"How dare you presume to know me...."

"No presuming about it. I've seen a hundred like you, some better some far worse. I don't have to presume. You aren't just angry with Catherine. Somewhere in there is a tiny crumb of hate you reserve just for her. Leaving you wasn't bad enough; she left you with him and a secret you didn't know what to do with. You only knew you couldn't let him find out. Then there's the trip. She'd never broken a promise to you before that day.
Suddenly, she's gone and so is the flight to Europe. Oh, and we mustn't forget the final dash of salt she threw in your eyes. She had the audacity to die right in front of you, leaving you with her murder branded on your memory for the rest of your life. Didn't even possess the decency to die in private, did she? Talk about gall...."

When Parker came him for him this time, Methos was ready. Grasping her forearms to prevent the loss of his eyes to her fingernails, he held her off solidly but spoke to her in soothing tones in deference to the tears he could see her trying to suppress. "It's okay. You're allowed here. Cry all you want. Noone's going to slice you to ribbons for it."

"Son of a..... the minute you let me go I'll kill you....."

"Didn't work yesterday and it won't work now. You don't want to hurt me or yourself anymore. Don't see me. See the one you really want to talk to."

"Shut up! Let... me.... go!"

Tearing out of Methos' grip, Parker stumbled back to the cot and slumped down facing away from him, her body shaking almost invisibly as she tried to rein in the sobs that threatened to shake her to pieces.

Walking to her, he placed one hand in the center of her shoulders. When she didn't shake him off, he slid that hand back and forth, comforting her the best he could.

"You need to say it, love. You have to tell her how much you hurt, get rid of the pain and the darkness once and for all. Take back the soul that place and those people have stolen from you. It's already so ill and so damaged.... If you let them keep it you'll never be whole. Take it back before they destroy it forever."

Her trembling subsiding, Parker stood and moved away from Methos' touch. Knowing it was time to let her be, he grabbed her empty cup and left the room.

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

"I still say Jarod should have the extra few hours."

"She needs the isolation. The more time we give her to contemplate her navel, the better."

"Alright. Put it this way. He deserves the time. He's been way beyond patient and forgiving."

Considering for a moment, Methos made a partial concession.

"Alright, but not all of it. A half-hour more than what he asked for and that's it. I want her to get worried about what's going on out here. Let her wonder whether we just left her. It'll make her all the more grateful to see Jarod when he does show up."

His face expressing worry of its own, Macleod shook his head slightly and walked away.

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

BLUE COVE:

"I told you last night what I think and I'll say it again. It'll never work! Raines' nose is already in the wind. If I spit on the sidewalk, he's gonna know!"

"I swear to you, you will be safe. It's the only way to save your life."

"But me? And Jarod? I mean.... he's.... Jarod."

"You're afraid of him? I don't understand. You know Jarod is a good, kind man...."

"Not anymore I don't. Every bad guy he's taken down over the last few months has been hurt a little worse. He keeps takin' it closer to the edge. Don't try and tell me you haven't noticed Syd. I know you have. I was there the last time. A quarter-inch closer with that saw and that timber foreman would have spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Jarod almost cut his legs off, Sydney. As it is he left him with a couple ugly wounds that'll take months and maybe some skin grafts to get them to heal. So, yeah. He scares me."

"But he will heal, and in the federal penitentiary where he belongs. Jarod would never have gone that far, Broots. I know him. He's a stable personality. He follows predictable paths to his goals and takes predictable steps along those paths."

"Did you predict him shanghaiing miss Parker?"

"No, of course not, but there were other factors involved...."

"Enough excuses, Syd. He's not a little boy anymore. You can't explain away every wrong thing he does and you can't save him from himself if he decides to self-destruct... He's been in the world for a while now. He knows the rules. What if my vision wasn't of the Centre after all?" Broots theorized. "What if he's gonna end up in a looney bin for real instead of playing like he did before, and my going to be with him is what puts him there?"

Rising from his chair, Sydney moved to sit beside Broots on the couch.

"Listen. Part of the reason I went back to the Centre yesterday was to e-mail Jarod. He knows what happened to you.... and I told him about your first vision."

"You what? Damn it, Sydney that was the last thing he needed to hear! With Miss Parker and his own emotional stuff tangling up his feet he doesn't need mine too."

"It's the only way. I couldn't ask him to shelter you without knowing what he was getting into. This will have to happen soon. If Raines were to discover your abilities and how you acquired them he would never stop until you were back in the Centre under his control. This may be the only way I can get you clear of the fall-out from what I've done. I won't let my best friend be destroyed."

Squashing the rage he was so unaccustomed to feeling, Broots rose to his feet abruptly.

"Too late, Syd. Lyle set me up for that five years ago. I'm gonna go talk to Terri some more. Even if she doesn't know the whole story, she's good at makin' me feel like less of a freak. You want us to go in the bedroom so we won't bug you?"

"No, no. Stay out here. I want to be close by in case of.... whatever."

"Whatever, huh? Nice, safe substitute word. You meant to say 'in case another vision drags me into hell and I can't get back on my own.' "

"You know, you don't have to let this become a demon out to destroy you, Chris. You could do so much good with your gift. You could save lives."

"Gift? No. If it was a gift I could refuse it or return it or exchange it for something I really wanted. No, this is more like herpes. It goes away, then it comes back and there's no cure."

"I wish you could see the truth of what you've been given. An evil source doesn't always produce an evil product. Look at Raines and Angelo."

"Bad example, Syd. Really bad. Angelo may not be evil but they've messed him up so bad he'll never leave the Centre again. They could tell him he's free to go, show him the open door and all he'd do is squint at the sun and run back inside. Even if he wasn't Raines' pet.... he's still a prisoner."

To this argument, Sydney had no rebuttal.

"Should I tell Jarod you're coming?" Sydney inquired as Broots moved off again.

The answer took a long time, but eventually Broots responded.

"If it means Debbie and I can be together and safe.... yeah. I'll do it."

"Good. You've made the right choice."

"My only choice."

"You're right, unfortunately. I wish there was another way."

"Me too. See you... whenever I get up."

"If you need an aspirin...."

"You'll hear about it. I think it's getting better."

"Find peace, my friend."

As the bedroom door clicked shut, Sydney drew a deep, slow breath, released it and let his gaze fall, coming to rest on a drawer in the base of the coffee table. Leaning down to open it, he slid out a Bible and sat back again, hefting it in his hands as if testing the weight. What he was really considering was the ultimate cost of trying to reestablish a faith he had long ago abandoned in favor of science and the surety it provided. Letting the book fall open on his lap, he turned the frangible pages gently until he found what he was searching for.

Laying one hand over the page that held the Twenty-Third Psalm, he began to recite it softly in French. When he finished, he spoke what he remembered of the Lord's Prayer then composed a personal missive to what he had once believed was only empty sky. Having no other source of protection and guidance to turn to, Sydney prayed from the depths of his soul, hoping against hope that the heavens were not as barren as he had convinced himself they must be so many years before when he had first walked through the doors of the Centre.

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

"What do you mean have I seen him? Where is he?"

"I don't know sir. I checked the west wing personally and I'm in contact with three other men who've checked east, north and south. They had no success either. We will go floor by floor of course, in case he's down on one of the sub-levels, but.... he appears to have vanished."

"Vanished. I'm beginning to despise that word. If I didn't know better I'd think the command staff of this complex were all training to be magicians! Start the sub-level search immediately. Check everywhere even vaguely large enough for him to hide in. You did check to make sure his car is still here?"

"Yes. Of course we..."

The young security officer stopped himself, a concerned look on his face.

"What?"

"Well.... it was a distance verification, Doctor Raines, sir. Noone has looked to be sure Mister Parker isn't in the car."

"Well do it you imbecile! He could be hurt or ill! Go now! Report what you find only to me. Is that clearly understood?"

"Yes sir, Doctor Raines, sir." the officer replied before running off, speaking rapidly into his two-way radio.

Around a corner not ten feet from where Raines had stood just moments before, Mister Parker waited until the squeak of the oxygen tank's wheels had faded out completely before peering out into the corridor. He had spent all morning avoiding the men sent to look for him as he moved around the Centre, collecting pieces he had scattered in a hundred different hiding places all over every level of the building.

Now that he had them together again, the trick was getting them, and himself, to the safety of his office, just a few terrifying feet of open ground away. Making absolutely sure noone was approaching, he rushed across the hall, his steps echoing and the computer disks and DSA's in his pocket rattling so loudly he was sure everyone in the complex could hear.

As he entered, he flicked on the lights then touched a concealed button just beneath the switch that sent the cameras in his office into a feedback loop of his creation. It showed him going about normal tasks and moving around the office, while he finished his real morning's work in private. Striding to his desk, he sat and punched in the code that opened his left hand desk drawer, placed the material he'd gathered inside it, closed it again and changed the code.

He knew too well that any Centre executive insisting on secured drawers or file cabinets was required to submit copies of the keys or electronic codes to the Tower, and half a dozen others, and resubmit when they were changed.
Only he could now open this Pandora's box. He could only pray he would never be questioned on it. His single strand lifeline was now in that drawer and he didn't intend to see it break.

No matter what happened, the information the disks contained would keep him alive and in his position for as long as he wanted to stay, but only if he could maintain the secret of their existence and location. He had gone on his gathering mission this morning after finally admitting to himself that the periods of blankness and lost hours were happening much more often lately, and that he could no longer be totally sure of his ability to keep any of his secrets.

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

SEACOUVER

"You're absolutely sure we should wait so long?"

"I told you, she has to stew. Let her go a little crazy." Methos reassured him.

"Lunch is all set."

"Great. I'll go get Jarod. I want to see what he's been doing with the stereo up there anyway."

"Look, don't bug him. Just bring him to lunch. It's his project. Let it stay that way."

"You know what he's up to don't you?"

"Not really. I have some small idea. He wouldn't talk about it."

"So?"

"I said it's his business. I'm not prying and don't you either."

Knowing Macleod well enough to back off well in advance of a blow up, Methos smoothly shifted subjects.

"You still in this with me tonight? Eleventh hour, mate."

"I'm in. I don't like it anymore, but I'm in. I see more humanity in her now. If she were still the ice queen.... it maybe wouldn't put my back up so much to hurt her like we're going to."

"Hurt to heal. This was your idea, if you remember right. Only good one you've had in a long while too..."

"Forget it. You can't insult me into a good mood this time."

"Who said anything about cheering you up? Your good ideas are very few and far between and you've never had a great one. And let's not even approach your I.Q....."

Despite the thundercloud looming over his head, Duncan finally smiled, gently wrapping his hands around Methos' neck from behind and shaking him a bit.

"Fine. I'll lighten up a little. I know it's for the greater good."

"Now you're getting it. On second thought, why don't you go rouse Jarod? I think I'll put a salad together."

"Make it Greek. It'll go well with the lamb chops."

Heading for the stairs, Mac stopped and called Methos back. "Hey. Did you mean it.... what you said in the kitchen this morning?"

"Wouldn't have said it otherwise."

"Hmm. Okay."

"And what exactly does "Hmm. Okay" mean?"

Moving back to Methos' side, Duncan whispered in his ear, then turned back to the stairs.

"Ditto? What the hell is ditto?"

"The movie's in the rack in the T.V. room. I'll throw it in the VCR for you when all this is over."

"What movie?"

"Ghost, you Hollywood-magic deprived little twit. We'll be right down."

As he neared Jarod's room, Macleod could vaguely detect a heavy bassline pumping from the small stereo Jarod had bought himself not long before. Peeking in, he found the other man sitting on the floor, one leg tucked close to him, the other stretched out, and headphones pressed to his ears with both hands. So as not to scare him Duncan stepped into the room and into Jarod's field of vision and waited to be noticed.

"Duncan. I'm so glad you're here." he enthused, pulling off the headphones and remotely stopping the music. "Explain this to me." he said, handing the Scot the jewel case for the CD he was currently listening to.

"Metallica? Sorry, son. As far as I'm concerned, there is no explanation for heavy metal, and no excuse either."

"I don't mean that. Explain how they know."

"Know what? How to blow their fans eardrums apart?"

All he got was a reproachful look this time. "Alright, alright. What are you asking me?"

"Take out the paper inside the cover and look... here it is. Look at the lyric for "Until it Sleeps".

Removing and unfolding the paper insert, Macleod found the song and began to read pieces of the lyric out loud.

"Rip me open, but beware, there's things inside without a care.... the dirt still stains me.... hold me 'till it sleeps. Jarod....."

"Just tell me how they know what I'm feeling. There's this negative charge building up inside me. It doesn't seem like it could possibly be that easy.... that if I just had someone to hold me.... all the pain and the anger.... and the fear would just go to sleep."

Crossing the room, Duncan crouched by Jarod, laying a hand on his shoulder to soften the blow of his words.

"It isn't easy, Jarod. They don't really know anything. It's just a song."

"No. I don't believe it. It's more than that. Sydney was always so reserved. I know he wanted to care for me, treat me like his son, but he couldn't let himself. If he'd shown the slightest sign of losing his objectivity, they would have...."

"I know. Doctor oxygen. Go on."

"I didn't understand. Not then anyway. It's taken me all this time away from the Centre to gain perspective on... on our relationship. Sydney was doing the kindest thing he could.... by not caring."

"He made them happy and kept you from a worse hell than the one you were already in."

"He didn't see my life like that, but you're right. When I was still little, I must have climbed into his lap a thousand times. He put me down, he yelled, he even spanked me. I wouldn't stop. I couldn't. Finally he stopped coming to see me. The only person I saw for an entire week was the guard who brought my meals. After that.... I understood. I never tried to get close to him again. When he realized, years later, that I was still emotionally attached to him, he shut that down too, and.... I lost something. I don't know if I'll ever get it back, Duncan."

"Jarod. C'mon man." he implored, gesturing with the insert, "This is just words on paper...."

Growling, Jarod pulled away from Macleod and leapt to his feet.

"I'm sorry. I was wrong to ask. I thought you'd understand... that you could help me understand." he seethed, venting a crumb of his inner torment by fiercely lobbing the headphones at the far wall. "There's something wrong inside me.... Something unbalanced and.... and violent keeps pushing aside my rational thoughts and my control when I get angry. I end up doing more.... going further than I mean to. This last time.... I realized what I was about to do just before I cut a man's legs off at the knees with an industrial saw. I could have killed him.... or left him in a wheelchair for life."

In his frustration, Jarod stalked to the window and pounded the glass once with the palms of his hands. From his position several feet away, Macleod felt, more than heard, the window frame rattle, a vivid reminder of Jarod's strength. Moving to stand behind Jarod, he began to press and roll his fingers and the heels of his hands into his friend's shoulders, hoping to calm him and soothe his skyrocketing tension.

"Did you do it?"

"No, but...."

"Uh-uh. No qualifiers. Did you step over? Is the line at your heels or isn't it?"

"No."

"Then do something before it's too late. Once you make the choice to leave the nursery.... there's no turning around. Some things you can't go back and make better. You have to decide whether to walk into the darkness on your own ticket, or fight it every time it tries to drag you back in...."

Feeling Jarod's muscles suddenly go rigid under his hands, Macleod opened his mouth to ask what was wrong but had no time to even form the first word. In a blur of motion Jarod tightened his hand into a fist and slammed it through the glass pane it had been resting on, showering the planting below with shards of glass and drops of his blood.

"Jarod! What the... Here. Come sit down." Macleod told him, leading him to a chair and wrapping a piece torn from his shirt around the injured hand to try and stop the bleeding. "Was that really necessary, hmmm? You could have gone down and hit the punching bag, you silly bugger. Jarod. Are you hearing me? Bloody great. Not a sign of life."

Wondering what could possibly be taking so long, Methos started up the stairs just in time to hear the glass shatter. Racing into the room, he stared wonderingly at the two men at the desk then swept in to take over Jarod's care.

"Looks like he put it straight through. Told you he was strong." Methos commented, lifting Jarod's injured hand as gently as he could. The movement pulled Jarod out of his shock stupor with a full voice scream. "Good. You're back." Methos greeted him, wincing and wishing he'd had a free hand to protect his ear. "Relax, alright? You're not hurt badly. A broken bone or two, maybe, but otherwise you're just fine."

"It hurts...."

"I know. Lord, he's got cuts halfway up the forearm. I have to really examine the hand, Jarod. Be tough here, okay? Not too bad. Feels like you busted your index finger.... and the knuckle on the ring finger. Could have been loads worse. I'll go get my bag. You try and stay calm and still. Don't go moving that hand around."

Macleod waited until Methos left to question Jarod.

"Alright. Feel like telling me what happened?"

"I don't know." Jarod replied, sounding uncannily like a small child, frightened more than hurt and worried he'll be punished for an accident that wasn't his fault.

"You're not sure why you did it or you can't remember doing it?"

"I don't remember. Tape's been edited. Those few seconds are gone."

"We were talking and you suddenly tensed up; way up. Then you put your fist through the window."

"I did what?"

"Turn just your head, not your body, and look over where we were standing."

Seeing the shattered pane of glass, Jarod's heart flooded with guilt and remorse.

"I... I'm so sorry, Duncan. I'll pay for it. I swear I will."

"None of that. Glass is fixable. You, I'm getting worried about. Between what you were saying earlier about not always being in control and hurting yourself like this...."

"I can't stop. You know that. Too many people need me."

"Whatever happened to you needing you? Besides. Boris and Natasha have come to rely on your stings as a surefire method of finding you. Take it away from them for a while. Take a break, stay here. Let the two of us help you work through some things."

"No. You've had enough of other peoples' problems and mental scorched earth stuff lately. I'll stay, but...."

Jarod censored his next words as Methos reentered the room, carrying his medical bag and Jarod's laptop.

"Your 'puter was ringing." he said by way of explanation. Setting it down on the desk next to Jarod's good hand, he sat again and began to work on the other. "I'm going to have to set the breaks so brace yourself. Starting in now...."

As Methos straightened the broken fingers, Jarod found Duncan's shoulder and gripped it ferociously. "Good. Strong boy. I'm almost done. Let me splint these and clean up the cuts and we can all go down for lunch."

Leaning his head back, Jarod began to slow his breathing and heart rate, trying to calm himself and clear his mind. The result of the attempt was a question.

"Duncan?"

"Yeah."

"Who are those two people you mentioned?"

"People?"

"Boris and Natasha."

Chuckling, Duncan neatened Jarod's hair a little as he answered.

"I'll show you after lunch. I think you'll recognize them."

"Oh. That would be.... great.... " he replied, hissing through his teeth, but not complaining as Methos disinfected multiple scrapes and cuts. Never one to be a coward about pain, he, nevertheless, decided to begin a meditation to take his mind a short distance away from the stinging and the irritation.

Taking advantage of Jarod's inattention Methos shot a look of deep concern at Duncan, who held his friends eyes for a moment, returning the worry, then turned and gazed at the broken window, wondering how he could ever have believed it was peace Jarod sought when he stared into the night.

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