Epilogue:

1 WEEK LATER:

"You sure you've had enough time now, love?"

"Yes, Duncan. I'm fine. The foot is healing, the rest of me will eventually follow and Broots needs you."

"Yes. He does. I'll go get himself off the couch in the T.V. room, then. Be right with you."

Jarod entered just then, speaking low to Macleod as they passed.

"Don't hurry."

"Gotcha, mate."

"Jarod. What's that?" Molly greeted him, referring to the blue silk wrapped package he held in his hands.

"For you."

"I can't. If I go back with anything brand new and shiny hanging around my neck or off my ears...."

"It isn't jewelry. Just... open it."

Still wary, Parker cautiously slid the ribbon off and peeled away the wrapping which revealed itself to be a silk scarf, imprinted everywhere with the Chinese symbol for peace. The box contained two disks, one large, one small.

"The CD's for the car. The DSA.... is for now. Or whenever else you feel like it."

Having only gained two days distance from the images that went with the audio she'd heard in the immersion cell, Parker pushed the smaller disk back at Jarod.

"What's on it?"

"Not that. I would never.... I promised you'd never have to see that again."

"Yeah, I will, but it's alright. I've had half the truth in my head for so long, the whole thing feels better.... even when it hurts. Answer the question."

"I promise, it's a good memory. The player is over there on the table. Go push it in. Please?"

As she hauled herself to the couch, dropped her crutches and lowered herself onto the cushion, Jarod moved just close enough to lay a hand on her shoulder, trying to maintain the physical, and emotional, distance he knew he would need in order to be able to let her go.

As the disk slid into place and the images faded into clarity before her, Parker gasped audibly. Jarod had not lied. It was a good memory, and one noone could ever make her surrender.

%%%%He's a striking young man, but in his eyes you can see he doesn't know that. He knows only what he is told, and he has never been told what a beautiful child he is, or what a handsome man he will grow up to be. When the strange creature walks toward him from the other side of the glass partition, he is stunned. He has seen pictures and anatomy texts but this is a radical departure....%%%%

"You're.... you're a girl."

%%%%The only response from the young woman before him is a swift nod.%%%%

"I'm Jarod. What's your name?"

%%%%This question results in the girl whipping a tense glance over her left shoulder at a shadowy figure watching from a doorway behind her. Receiving a negative response, she returns her gaze to the boy, places her hand on the glass exactly where his lies and provides the only answer she can before she is beckoned away.%%%%

"Miss Parker."

%%%%Her eyes gleaming with curiosity, but also with fear, she races back to the shadow in the door, leaving poor Jarod speechless, transported by a rapidly fading palm-print on the other side of the glass.%%%%

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

Stretched the length of the T.V. room sofa, his head sunk deeply into a pile of pillows, Methos watched the end credits of Ghost slide up the screen, then gazed down at Macleod, who was sitting on the floor and leaning back against the couch, knees drawn up to his chest.

"Ditto. I get it now."

"Thought you might."

"Great movie. That last part.... spectacular. You feel like rousin' yourself for Mass Sunday?"

Grinning broadly, Macleod spoke to what Methos hadn't said.

"Scared me into straight into confession the first time I saw it. If we're back, yeah, why not? So? Any comment?"

A gentle smile tugging at his lips, Methos pushed up to a sitting position. Swinging his legs down, he placed one foot on either side of Macleod, grasped his friend's temples and tilted the others' head back until their eyes met.

"Ditto to you too, Mac."

Before any emotional overflow could betray him, Duncan rose to his feet and suggested they go and check on Jarod and Parker. Methos, also understanding what had not been said, followed without speaking further.

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

"I'm sorry. I didn't want to make you cry."

"No. You're such a big part of me, Jarod, of my heart and my memories.... How could I have denied that for so long.... while I clung to.... and idolized.... and excused the man who lied to me and used me over and over and over."

"I did the same thing. They made sure I thought Sydney was all I had, the only one left who would take care of me. Even after I escaped, I kept running to him for advice, calling just to know he was still there to pick up a phone."

"And now he may not be."

"He isn't dead. I'd know. Part of me will go with him when he.... It doesn't change my decision."

Reading him again, Parker spoke without thinking it through.

"You're cutting off contact."

Jarod nodded sadly.

"I have to. I should have done it a long time ago, but I wasn't strong enough until now." he responded, retrieving the disk and closing the player. "I wanted to e-mail, but I couldn't be sure who'd get it.... if he didn't."

Moving close to his side, Parker lowered her chin onto his shoulder, intending to try and comfort him, but a scar on the nape of his neck pulled her attention there.

"What is this, Jarod?" she asked, stroking a finger over the mark.

"What?"

"This surgical scar. You're telling me you had no idea this was back here?"

"No. Noone ever mentioned it before. What are you saying?"

"I'm not sure. It's old... and very small. It could be something else...."

"Turn around."

Just as Duncan and Methos strolled back into the room, Jarod found a similar scar at the base of Parkers' neck.

"So? Anything?"

"Yes. The same mark." he told her quietly.

When she faced him again, he saw distinct fear in her blue eyes.

"What does this mean, Jarod? I don't...."

"It changes nothing. Broots still needs help, you still need to get back to work."

"But..."

"No. I'll look into this. You remember what we said?"

"Sydney's office, Monday, two weeks."

"Right. I'll call you then. Get going. She's ready, guys. Her bags are in the car."

"Jarod...."

"Go. If you don't do it now....."

Silently, her expression shining with repressed fears and trust that he
would discover the answers if they were anywhere to be found, Parker turned and followed Duncan and Methos out the door.

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

CHARLESTON AIRPORT

"See you in Blue Cove in three days, love." Duncan told Parker as she slipped into the backseat of her car. When he realized her hand was trembling, he grasped it tightly. "Go on, then. I hate to see you do it, but if you can't convince me, you're dead meat when you walk back in there. Show me."

Staring straight ahead, Parker shut her eyes and took several deep breaths. The change in her over the next several minutes would have astonished anyone who watched it happen. The haughtiness slipped back into her expression and the ice back into her eyes. When she slipped her sunglasses back on and pulled her hand abruptly out of his grip, he believed. "Bloody hell. You told me on the plane, but I didn't think...."

Keeping her "pissed off cobra" smile in place, she looked up, slid the glasses half way down and gave him the note of reassurance he needed.

"In the immortal words of John Lennon, 'Pauly. It's only me'. Three days."

"Yeah. 'Till then." he responded as he walked back to the plane backwards, watching her car until it vanished up the highway. When he stumbled on the edge of the stairs to the Lear, unable to see them, Methos, sitting on the fourth step waiting for him, saved him from a nasty fall and dragged him up into the plane, laughing like a madman.

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

A few miles down the highway, Parker handed the driver the CD Jarod had given her and asked him to slip it into the player. As the first song began, she noticed a small piece of paper folded up in the jewel case, pulled it out and opened it.

Missy,

They're all for you. Every song. I didn't dare try to say these things before you left, so....
Anyway. I think you already knew most of this, but I decided you should hear it from them.
Always yours,
Jarod.


When she finally tuned in to the words pouring from the speakers behind her head the composure she'd managed to hold together up until that point crumbled. Tears slipping slowly down her cheeks, she fumbled for a tissue in her purse and elsewhere, but could find nothing suitable, and so, decided to let them flow, the songs Jarod had chosen for her filling, then overflowing, her heart...

* You've got such a pretty smile, it's a shame the things you hide behind it...

let 'em go, give it up for a while, let 'em free and we will both go find it....

Step away then, from the edge... Come back away, come back away.... I am here and I will be forever... Trust me and don't keep that on the inside... I know the feeling of alone.... *


* I know you haven't made your mind up yet, but I would never do you wrong.

I knew it from the moment that we met. There's no doubt in my mind where you belong... *

* Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again, it's so far out of sight.
I really need someone to talk to, and nobody else, knows how to comfort me tonight. Snow is cold, rain is wet, chills my soul right down to the marrow... *


* Stones would play, inside her head, and where they lay, she made her bed....
and she would ache for love and get but stones. *


* It's a long way, baby, in the wrong direction,

there's a few more bruises, if that's the way you insist on heading....

Take this moment Mary Jane and be selfish. Worry not about the cars that go by.

Cause all that matters Mary Jane is your freedom, so keep warm my dear, keep dry.... *


* I was the first one to really know your name, you were the first one for me,
oh, everyone knew but me,

You were the first one to ever let me down, and I was just the last to know.... *


* Trust is a tightrope we all have to walk, baby don't be afraid, I won't let you fall.

You can count on the sun to rise, and the stars to come out at night, as long as there's air to breathe, you'll always be loved by me.... *


* When winter comes in summer, when there's no more forever...

Sure you've heard these words before, and I know it's hard for you to trust them once more...

a broken heart is scared of breakin' again... you gotta believe me, I'll never leave you, you'll never cry unless I am there, and I will always be there... you will always have all my love...

when the stars all decide to stop shining... when lies become the truth... that's when I'll stop loving you... every day of my life... *

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

THREE DAYS LATER: A MOTEL OUTSIDE BLUE COVE

"You have to go."

"I know. Don't want to, but...."

"Hey. Broots is more important." Parker reminded Duncan distractedly as she scowled at herself in the lopsided mirror in his hotel room.

"Stop that. What kind of a look is that for a stunningly beautiful woman to give herself?"

"Please." she growled, producing an even more disgusted glare. "I hardly think...."

Stepping between Parker and the mirror, Macleod grasped her chin firmly and brought her eyes up to meet his.

"Hasn't anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?"

"Noone who didn't want something out of it."

"C'mon...."

"My mother."

"Since then there's been noone." Duncan said as he crouched in front of the woman perched on the end of the bed. He'd considered phrasing it as a question, but was forced to admit that, as far as she was concerned, he was stating fact.

"Only Jarod. He kept sending me things, a painting, a stained glass piece he'd made... he saw what I couldn't.... can't."

"I can. Someday... I'll make you see it too. You are, truly, beautiful, in every imaginable way...."

"Mac. I'm sorry, mate, but we have to move out and she has to get to the Centre."

"I know. What is your problem?"

Methos continued scratching under the collar and inside the sleeves of the cassock he wore.

"These modern fabrics are.... argghhh... my problem! Linen never did this to me!"

Rising, after a final smile for Parker, Mac strode to where Methos stood and grabbed his hands.

"Yes. Well, you can't go into the abbey acting as if you lost your flea collar. Cut it out."

"I'll.... try. Damnable rayon and nylon... and all the other "ons"! Urrrr!" he growled, giving in to a last furious round of scratching before settling down and trying to deal with it. With the help of her crutches, Parker also stood, straightened her clothes gave Duncan a swift one-armed embrace and led the way out to the parking lot and their cars.

"I'll see you in a couple months then?"

"If I can get away. After this little escapade, they'll be keeping an eye on me for a while."

"That's how we'll leave it then. I'll talk to you soon."

"Good luck. Take good care of Broots and Debbie and tell him I'll miss him."

"We will." Methos told her, giving her a quick hug of his own. "Stay safe, sweetheart. Safeguard the little one."

"I promise. Missy will be alright."

"You will call when you're ready to...."

"I said I would. Get going you two. Time's short."

As Parker moved away and struggled into the passenger seat of the car, Duncan slipped the hood of his cassock up over his head, turned to lock the door to the room and fumbled with getting the keys into his pants pocket under the ankle length robe, distracting himself from the sight of Melissa and the convertible driving away. Methos watched in his stead.

"Okay. She's off."

"I hate this. I promised myself.... after Tessa, I swore.... never again. My heart won't take it..."

"I've sworn up and down a million times, but I know it will happen again. You don't choose love, Mac. Even if she was one of us, you still might lose her. She's taking the chance going back there. You can take the chance and really let her in. If a heart could never break..."

"I know. Where's the romance in that? Let's go meet this Mister Broots, shall we?" Duncan suggested with forced brightness as he climbed into the sedan they'd rented at the airport.

"We shall. On to more adventures?"

"Misadventures, old friend."

"Let's go knock some windmills flat on their arses, eh?"

"Yeah. Let's."

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END (For Now.... New series coming up soon....)