"You won't take her!"

Those four words were all it took, because they had deigned – perhaps long ago – that they would have her, one way or another, because, without the backing of James Parker, there was no-one to protect her anymore, there was no-one who could. Her father was dead, and if this man was her real father, then it meant nothing, because he might have started out as a Parker, but even that, he'd failed miserably at because he'd only ever been Jonathan Parker's illegitimate child with one of the foreign maids, and that was just... frowned upon, and most certainly not good enough.

He'd interfered for too long, already. He'd always been the one interfering, they realised. It was always him. In Catherine's plan, with her fake twin, with just about anything that had to do with the girl. Yet, they couldn't say why. It was plain to see that he wasn't the girl's father – all he was was a liar. But perhaps he'd secretly envied his brother for winning Catherine's affections, or some such of that nature. After all, he'd not even flinched when he'd 'taken care of her,' as though to say, Well, I'm sorry that you trusted me, but that was your own bad luck, wasn't it. I don't know why you did, mind, you'd always overlooked me in the past. He'd been indifferent to his own wife, after all, yet, somehow, Catherine had trusted him enough to bring him into her plan. Silly girl.

Now her daughter would be theirs.

The M.E. stood perfectly still, staring for a moment, before rushing to attend to her Director. How disappointing, too, that she didn't so much as spare them a glare (or a secret smile). She'd hated him almost from the moment she'd set eyes on him, as they'd heard it – she ought have been paying them a compliment, not the cold shoulder. Or she might just have been so delighted that they'd finally got up the courage to shoot the pain in the ass, she mightn't have wanted to miss a second of him bleeding to death.

A second glance told them that, no, she'd chosen to cover her own ass, and make like she really wanted to help as opposed to watch with a gleeful spark in her eye as he bled to death. He should have been glad, they'd been nice. He hadn't been nearly as nice to his wife, and she'd been damn cute, according to sources.

Surprisingly, there was no funny looks out of the fake brother, either. Instead, he said, "She's not an Empath. Trust me, I'd know."

"You'd know?"

"Yes, I'm an Empath."

As if they hadn't known that. "A Class Five." Yes, well, what was that? The Triumvirate had recently changed the Empath classing system to range from One to Eleven, and, in the light of that, a Five was laughable, yet, he was still only a Five. He was nothing special. They might have shot him, too.

"What do you want?"

Why bother replying to that.

"Is it Jarod?"

A grand leap of intuition there, Empath.

"I'll... I'll try harder."

"You've had fourteen years to try harder," the Tower official replied coldly. He was starting to lose patience.

"I... I'll take the upgrades. She's no good to you. I could take them, I know I could. She's not an Empath, despite... I won't make any trouble. Not anymore. I'll stop all of it..."

The Tower official nodded. "Take her to the Renewal Wing," he told Reston, who complied at once, drawing a glance – at last – from Fulton: Where are you taking her? But, fair enough, she was unconscious, the drug they'd given her had worked its magic, and to the Renewal Wing it was.

"I have your word she will be unharmed?" Lyle asked, surprising them – for once – by sounding quite normal, and disconcertingly serious. He was quite mad, though, they'd heard it often enough, and not just a bit of a player – a damn lot of one. Still, he must have been going for the brotherly concern card, the Tower official could only guess, wondering, for a brief second, just how hard his little Empath side must have been working to pull that one off: Wow, real human... well, something.

"You have nothing," the Tower official replied, his tone of voice sterile and sharp, bringing to mind a kitchen knife, "except what we have been so kind as to afford you. If you are serious about your offer, then you will belong to us."

"We all belong to someone, don't we?"

Narrowing his eyes, the Tower official made it clear. "We don't give guarantees. That is for you to do, not us."

"Typical," Lyle replied calmly enough. "Well, in that case, yeah, fine." He spared a momentary glance in Fulton and Raines's direction, and quickly returned his attention to the Tower contingency. In particular, one of the women.

"You might want to offer the old guy some assistance. You wouldn't want him dying. Cox... I'm not sure he's quite ready yet to take on Directorship. Give him some time... He'll get there. But right now, no."

Nobody moved.

"Aren't you the Healer?" Lyle asked. "Or... am I wrong?" He glanced at the Tower official. "Jane's awfully quiet today, Jack, you don't think she's... just a little mad at you, do you? You might've asked her to cover her ears and look away before you went and shot someone right in front of her."

Jack shot a sharp look at Jane, who didn't even blink.

"It is Jane, isn't it? Or is it Lucille? Well, guess what Lucy, I'm an Empath, and sometimes we Empaths get feelings about things. And right now... Well, I guess that's none of your business really."

"What are you talking about?" Jack snapped angrily.

"Sarah hasn't any children and, as you know, James is dead... and, I'm not really a Parker, after all... But he is. Ergo, if the Tower wants to keep up their little show of, Oh, the Centre was founded by some guy called Parker from some creepy, wee island off the coast of Nova... no, it's Scotland, isn't it? crap, then it would be so lovely if you didn't waste half of the Goddamn family whilst you were about it! Don't you think? Because our rivals are going to have a lot of bloody respect for someone who might as well have fallen off the back of some truck for all the relation they have to the original founder of this company. I mean, that is a story you're interested in keeping, isn't it? You wouldn't want them all knowing that the Tower are really the ones behind all of the company's muyimportante decisions, would you? Because, ah, I'm not sure they'd be too happy about all of the witch burnings you guys supported back in the day – given that some of those guys were probably some of their relatives, ya know."

With a scowl, Jack shot a look at Jane. "Go!"

"She's not a pet dog," Lyle told him, with a frown, "she's a person." To Jane, he said, "If you would please, Jane."


When he woke, Fulton was there to say, "You're an idiot." He didn't even need to say anything to get her to go on – as usual. "Now they've taken the lunatic."

He sat up. "And I should have let them have M- Miss Parker, then? I should've just said, 'Here you go, fellas, she's all yours. Feel free to royally fuck her up like you did with her brother.'" He laughed. "Oh, I don't think so."

"The Tower didn't make Lyle into a lunatic, he did that himself! It's something he seems very proficient at – one of the few things, mind you! Well, with just the right amount of help from good old daddy, of course," she said, winking at him.

He sighed, looking away from her to the wall where, of course, there was no window. They were eight floors underground, after all. So, no windows. "Her real brother," he elaborated finally. "Not... not Robert."

"Excuse me? Psycho boy isn't her real brother?" Somehow, Fulton managed to inject a note of humour in there, along with a mega dose of You're a fucking liar and I Goddamn know it!

"No. He isn't."

"Hmm..." She made a face. "I never liked that name. Robert. It's pretentious."

"Yes, well, I guess now's not the time to tell you that Robert's my middle name, then, is it?" Raines replied.

Fulton laughed. "It's perfect," she told him, falsely kitschy, Oh, how cute!

"And I suppose he's gone with them, then? Robert."

"Oh yes."

"As bright as he ever was, I must say," Raines replied dully.

"Well, you know as well as anyone, he's disgustingly and excessively in love with Miss Parker. I suppose he thinks it was a very romantic gesture, or some bullshit like that."

"Or perhaps he really just wanted sister? Something like, if I act like I'm her brother, maybe it'll mean I really am. I always thought he bought into it too easily."

"He wanted a sister but then he acted like a fucking bastard to her?" Fulton said.

"And she was the world's best sister, too – yes, I know. Because we all know how she was that!" He laughed. "Does it even matter now? Be happy. We're rid of him now. Now, if the Sweepers don't get any ideas about shooting Jarod, I think we should be reasonably safe." He made a face, suddenly.

"Awfully kind of them, wasn't it? To have their Healer fix you up like that," Fulton said in a completely falsely cute tone of voice.

"Awfully," Raines replied darkly. "If you don't mind, I'd rather like a moment alone to my thoughts, doctor."

She stood up, glaring. "They're gone now," she added. "Be a darl and fucking drop dead, you old bastard!" Her piece said, she turned and stormed out.

"I do so appreciate your honesty, my dear," Raines called out after her.

She slammed the door loudly behind her. Fuck you!

He smiled.


Disclaimer I don't own the Pretender or any of its characters.