Disclaimer: As always, I don't own them and so on and so on… no money-making intended… don't sue.
Author's Note: This is the sequel to 'Smokescreen'. I suggest you read that one first.
Author's Note II: I know I said something about two weeks - idealisticgoal but sadly not manageable. Sorry for the delay. I'll make up for that with chapter length. Andnow here's the sequel! Happy reading.
x x x x x x x
„Are you sure you have to leave already?" Carol asked for the hundredth time.
Jarod looked at her and drew her into an embrace. "My dear Carol, we've been through this before. I don't want the Centre to get on my tail and suddenly turn up on your doorstep. I promise we'll visit every now and then. Jay is very fond of you but I feel he wants to be close to me now. You did a great job in taking care of him and I can't tell you how much we appreciate it, but I think it's time to get going once more and leave the two of you to your own world."
"I'm gonna miss you," Carol sighed into the direction of the boy that had been living with them for so long.
"I'm gonna miss you too, Carol," Jay said sadly when he came up behind his brother.
Carol untangled herself from Jarod and drew Jay into a tight hug in his place. Jay let himself be embraced willingly and encircled the woman.
"The house will be silent without you," Carol whispered.
"Hey come on, let's face it. You're glad to get that obstinate and difficult teenager out of your hair," Jay grinned, trying to lighten her mood. He leaned back slightly to look at her.
"Don't ever think that, young man," Carol said sternly, her features taking any sharpness out of the words.
Jay's features softened. "Thank you for being there for me, Carol. Thank you and I'm sorry that I was being an idiot for such a long time."
Carol drew her hand through his hair. "You're welcome. You always are. Come back here whenever you can, my boy."
Jay swallowed the lump in this throat and fought back tears, when he had himself under control he nodded. "Thank you," he turned towards Marc, who stood next to his wife, his hand on her shoulder in a comforting gesture.
"Thank you, Marc," Jay said and extended his hand. Marc ignored the outstretched hand and drew Jay into a hug instead. Jay relaxed into the older man's chest.
"Just keep being who you really are; that nice, decent young man I've gotten to know and like. You're a great young man. Continue that way," he drew away put his hand on Jay's shoulder. "Take care of yourself and your brother out there," he nodded into Jarod's direction.
Jay nodded once again. "I will."
Jarod took a step forward and extended his hand to Marc who shook it firmly. "Thank you for taking care of him."
Marc and Carol both smiled. "Anytime," Marc said. "Stay safe and away from the Centre. Be careful."
"We will," Jarod nodded and grinned. "I have enough experience with them. We'll be ok."
Marc nodded. "I know. Keep him safe."
"I will," Jarod replied earnestly.
"Our door is always open for you. Whenever you're somewhere close, just come over," Carol said tearfully.
Jarod and Jay both nodded and the turned towards Jarod's car. They both waved at the couple that stood in front of the small house.
And then they were on their way.
x x x x x x x
It was only three days after they had come back from their climbing trip that they left Carol and Marc's household.
Even though he knew no one knew where he was Jarod had started to get edgy. The luxury of staying in one place for long periods was something he had yet to embrace.
Jay had to do only a minimal amount of begging before Jarod agreed to take Jay along. In fact he was glad to have one member of his family around even though it was also more dangerous. Dangerous or not he knew Jay was dependant on him at the moment. The boy depended on the constant affection from one of his 'real' family members; something Jarod didn't want to deprive him of.
It was also nice not to travel alone for a change.
The ride had been made in companionable silence or in easy conversation.
"Say, what about the Centre? Do you still keep in contact with them?" Jay asked suddenly.
Jarod grinned and shot his younger self a look. "Yes, I do, but I haven't made contact for a while." He frowned. "Maybe I should place a call. They might be worried."
"Sydney or Miss Parker?"
Jarod shot his brother a questioning stare. "You know Miss Parker?"
Jay's features softened. "Yeah, I do. She came the day before you rescued me."
When Jay didn't give anymore information, Jarod looked at him again. "Go on," he pressed.
Jay smiled shyly. "She wanted to get me out of there."
Jarod blinked. "She what?"
"She came to me and asked me if I wanted to go with her, that she would get me out of the Centre. She told me that she had known someone just like me," Jay looked meaningfully at Jarod, "and that she had seen the pain and sorrow in his eyes but that she had looked away and that she couldn't look away any longer. Raines intervened before we could leave," Jay shuddered when the picture of Raines popped up in front of his mind's eye.
Jarod sat at the wheel, speechless. Miss Parker had tried to get Jay out of the Centre? That was definitely new.
"Time after time you surprise me, Miss Parker," he mumbled under his breath.
"What did you say?"
Jarod turned towards the teen again. "I said that Miss Parker still has it in her to surprise me. Tell me more about your encounter."
Jay smiled and started to tell his brother from his first encounter with the stunningly beautiful woman.
x x x x x x x
She tiredly walked into her house and threw her jacket away. It had been another fruitless day in the pursuit of Jarod. They hadn't gotten a solid hint as to his whereabouts in over a month. It was getting more and more frustrating and Raines did nothing but add up to that frustration by breathing down her neck when ever he could.
And her brother… she rolled her eyes. He was trying to prove that he was better at finding Jarod but he had yet to show any success. Lyle was dividing his time between praising himself, trying to find Jarod himself, and spying on his sister's team to get any hints from them.
She scoffed and walked over to the liquor cabinet to pour herself a drink. Despite knowing that it would probably upset her ulcer, she needed a small amount of alcohol, needed to let it burn its way down into her stomach and clean her soul on the way.
These days working in the Centre got harder with every passing second.
Knowing there was really nothing holding her here any longer - but at the same time everything was - felt strange and somehow scary.
It wasn't her father who made her stay, it wasn't even her little brother who was a permanent inmate of the Centre much to her despise.
And yet she was tied irrevocably to that damn place; tied to it because of who she was and what she knew and what it would mean to be on the run from that corporation.
She shook her head and sank into the soft cushions of the couch, the glass still in her hand and her eyes closed.
"What will your ulcer say about that?" a soft voice purred behind her.
She groaned but didn't turn around. "I don't think it will be pleased but that doesn't matter," she paused and then turned. "What do you want, Jarod?"
He stepped out of the shadows and smiled at her. "Do I always have to want something?"
She rolled her eyes. "Where have you been the last few weeks?"
"Did you miss me?"
It took her some composure not to answer the question with a 'yes' and that surprised her. She quickly shook off her shock. "Do you always have to answer a question with another question?"
Jarod chuckled. "Sydney was my mentor, remember?"
She shook her head and chuckled as well. "I thought it seemed familiar."
Jarod tilted his head at the picture that enfolded itself in front of him. First, Miss Parker hadn't even tried to aim her gun at him and then she seemed to relax and she even smiled. 'Fascinating', Jarod thought. 'She really has it in her to surprise me time after time.'
"I never thanked you for what you did for Jay, did I?" he asked even though he knew the answer.
Miss Parker looked at him with a questioning expression. She quirked an eyebrow. "Jay? Thank me?"
"Sorry, I mean the boy… Gemini," Jarod clarified.
"He chose Jay as a name?" she asked and relaxed back in her seat.
Jarod nodded and walked around the couch. He sat down in the easy chair opposite to where Miss Parker was seated. He still kept an eye on his surroundings even though he didn't think she would try anything.
"Is that why you didn't make contact?"
"Yes, it is," Jarod confirmed.
She watched him closely for a few seconds. "He's with you, isn't he?"
A flicker of suspicion raced through Jarod's eyes but then he relaxed and nodded. From his demeanour she could easily tell that he wasn't about to offer any more information.
"Why did you come here tonight?" Miss Parker asked.
"I wanted to thank you for what you did for Jay," Jarod said evenly.
She raised the eyebrow again. "What did I do?"
"You tried to get him out of the Centre," Jarod replied.
"Did he say that?"
He smiled. "Yes, he did," Jarod paused. "Thank you, Miss Parker." He then got up from his seat and walked around the couch once more. On his way, he put a hand on her shoulder for a brief moment. It was gone so fast that she wondered if it had even been there.
She didn't try to stop him from leaving her house; she knew it would have been futile.
"Oh, Miss Parker," Jarod said, as if remembering something before he vanished again.
She turned her head around and looked at him.
"You never looked away. Don't be so hard on yourself."
x x x x x x x
„You're late!" Jay observed when Jarod slipped into the apartment.
"I know," Jarod smiled apologetically.
Jay grinned at his brother's expression. "I take it went well?"
"Better than I had hoped," Jarod nodded.
"That's good. And you don't have any bullet holes?" the boy chuckled.
"No and I don't think that I will get any in the near future. At least not out of her gun," Jarod snickered back.
"I would like to meet her again one day."
Jarod nodded. "You certainly will some day; maybe sooner than we might think."
"So, what are we up to now you've had the meeting with your very own private huntress?" Jay asked lightly.
Jarod quirked an eyebrow. "I don't know. Make a suggestion."
"Going further north? I read there are some very nice climbing areas."
Jarod laughed loudly. "Canada?"
"Why not?" Jay grinned.
"Ok, you're right. Maybe we're up for a real time-out. That way we have some time to think about where we should go from there," Jarod nodded and drew a hand through the boy's hair, tussling it.
"Hey," the young man squealed not really annoyed but the outburst made Jarod chuckle nonetheless.
To be continued…
So, what do you think? Gimme a review, please.