THE LONG ROAD HOME
A/N: This is a project that has been on my mind for a long time, almost since I first started seriously writing Criminal Intent fanfics. Whether anyone will like the premise, I don't know, but the story is begging to be written. In order for it to seem plausible, though, I have to outlay some groundwork, specifically with regard to time lines.
This is a cross-over between two of my all-time favourite shows, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and The Pretender. For the purposes of this story, I've determined the following.
Jarod's age in The Pretender was never specified. Going by the opening credits, which states that Jarod was acquired by The Centre in 1963, and the images of him as a child in the premiere episode, I've judged him to be perhaps five years old at the time. Given that we know Bobby's birth date is August 11, 1961, this would make Jarod two to three years older than Bobby.
I estimate that Jarod was approximately 37 years old when he escaped The Centre in 1996. This story is set approximately 10 years after his escape...
Rating: T (for now)
Disclaimer: I do not own anything that is Law & Order-related, or anything that is Pretender-related. I only wish I did.
Blue Cove, Delaware
Young Miss Parker followed Jarod along the corridor, keeping one eye on each door that they passed, as though she expected the creepy Dr Raines to jump out them any moment, and demand to know what they thought they were doing. Jarod had told her about the new boy in the Centre, but that wasn’t the first she’d heard of him. She had heard Dr Raines talking to her father about ‘Bobby’, and how he was ‘even more brilliant than Jarod’.
She had even stated that to Jarod when he told her that he had finally met Bobby, curious to see how he’d react. To her surprise, Jarod had agreed, saying that Bobby was, indeed, a brilliant child. He was, however, also incredibly lonely and insecure, and desperately in need of friendly company to stave of the grim influence of Dr Raines.
And so she had agreed when Jarod offered to introduce her to the other boy. After all, she herself knew only too well the acute pain of loneliness.
They walked into another room that was much like Jarod’s, and Miss Parker found herself confronted by a child who looked about as old as them, although Jarod had told her that Bobby was a couple of years younger than them.
“Hi, Bobby,” Jarod greeted the child. “I brought someone to meet you. This is Miss Parker.”
Bobby looked up at her, and Miss Parker was suddenly struck by the depths in those dark brown eyes. She smiled at him, though she suddenly felt more than a little off-kilter. It was almost as though he was looking through her, rather than at her. It was as if he could see right into her soul.
“Hi, Bobby. Nice to meet you.”
“Hi,” Bobby answered softly. “Do you live here, too?”
She hesitated, then sat down on the bed next to him.
“No. My father is in charge. I just spend a lot of time here.”
Bobby stared intently at her.
“But you can leave whenever you want to.”
Miss Parker looked up at Jarod, who looked just as startled at the statement as she felt.
“Well… Yes, I guess so…”
A shadow fell across them, and they all looked up to see Dr Raines had appeared. He regarded the three children placidly, then looked to Bobby without acknowledging either Jarod or Miss Parker.
“Time to come with me, Bobby.”
Both children looked quickly at the younger boy, and neither one missed the distinct spark of fear that lit up his eyes. He stood up, though, resigned to whatever new misery Dr Raines had planned for him. Without a look at Jarod or Miss Parker, Bobby walked out of the room and disappeared around the corner. Raines started after him, then shot the two remaining children a threatening look.
“Don’t be still here when we come back.”
Then he was gone…
Parker looked up, startled out of her daydream by a voice that spoke almost directly into her ear. She looked around, glowering at the unfortunate soul who had interrupted her musings.
“Sydney. What do you want?”
There was more bite in her voice than she really intended to put there, but she hated being caught off-guard by anyone, and Sydney somehow managed to do it a little too often.
Sydney regarded her with mild interest.
“You looked as though you were remembering something.”
“As a matter of fact, I was, and I don’t care to share,” she shot back. “Now, if that’s all you’re here for…”
“Actually, I was sent to find you,” Sydney answered. “We’ve been summoned to a meeting with the Director.”
Parker blanched, her usual bitchiness evaporating in the space of a second.
“The Director? Do you know why?”
“I’m assuming it’s to do with Jarod.”
Parker groaned softly.
“I thought they’d accepted we’re not going to get him back. It’s been nearly ten years, for God’s sake.”
“I don’t know for absolute certain. I’m only assuming.”
She sighed, and shook her head.
“Well, I suppose we’d better get going. Wouldn’t want to keep the Director waiting, would we?”
Sydney watched with a grim smile as she strode past him.
“No,” he murmured as he followed. “We certainly wouldn’t.”
They arrived to find not only the Director waiting for them, but also Raines and Lyle.
“Madame Director,” Sydney greeted her formally. The women in charge of the Delaware branch of the Centre nodded in return.
“Thankyou for coming. Please, sit, all of you.”
“If this is about Jarod…” Lyle started to say, but a look from the Director cut him off short.
“No, this is not about Jarod. As you all know, eight years ago the Centre dealt with all the children that had been released from the Centre.”
“Killed them off, you mean,” Parker said coolly. The Director smiled her piranha-like smile at the other woman.
“If you want to put it like that, Miss Parker, then yes. There is, however, one still out there, and I’m not referring to Jarod.”
“Who?” Sydney asked, frowning. The Director nodded to her assistant, who handed a thin file to each of them. Parker opened hers, and started a little as she found herself confronted by the familiar face of the child she had only ever known as ‘Bobby’.
“You mean to say, he’s still alive?” Sydney asked in astonishment.
“Very much so,” Raines rasped. “Look at the next page.”
They all turned, and Lyle promptly choked.
“You’ve got to be kidding. He’s a cop now?”
“Not just a cop, Mr Lyle,” the Director replied quietly. “He’s a detective with the elite Major Case Squad in New York.”
“We want him back,” Raines stated bluntly, causing Lyle, Parker and Sydney all to look up in astonishment.
“You can’t be serious,” Sydney said finally. “Chasing after Jarod was one thing, but this man? He’s not just jumping from one Pretend to another, like Jarod does. He is a detective with the New York Police Department. We can’t simply walk in and take him back!”
The Director looked unsympathetic.
“The ‘how’ is not my problem, Doctor. That’s your problem. Robert Goren was far more brilliant than Jarod ever was. You know that. It’s clear that we aren’t going to be successful in our efforts to bring Jarod home. We do, however, have a strong chance of reacquiring Robert. Miss Parker and Mr Lyle, you will be leading this operation together. You’re to direct your full attention to it. We want Robert back within our keeping as soon as possible. We have many outstanding contracts to fulfil. It is vital that we reacquire him.”
“And if he can’t be… secured?” Sydney asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer. The Director didn’t hesitate.
“It’s catch or kill, Doctor. If he can’t be reacquired, then he’s to be killed. We cannot afford to have as big a liability as that loose in society, especially considering the high public profile that he has attained.”
Lyle nodded passively, and stood up.
“Consider it done. We’ll fly out to New York today. Parker? Are you coming?”
Parker glanced uneasily at Sydney, then rose up.
“I’m right behind you. Sydney?”
Sydney followed them out of the Director’s office, waiting until they were clear before speaking as casually as he could.
“I just need to finish a report. I’ll meet you at the airfield.”
Sydney sank into his chair in his office, his head in a spin. Chasing Jarod was one thing. Sydney had always suspected that Jarod would not be caught. If he ever returned to the Centre, it would be only because he wanted to return. But to go after someone who probably had no memory whatsoever of the time he’d spent in the confines of the Centre?
He remembered Bobby with almost painful clarity. The child had been quiet, shy, insecure… and brilliant beyond his years. As the Director had said, Bobby’s brilliance had even surpassed Jarod’s. The loss had been felt in all quarters when Bobby had gone.
Sydney frowned to himself. Had he been asked, he wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint the reasons, but he knew without a doubt that going after Bobby now would be a serious mistake. To attempt to take an adult who had his own life… and a successful career that was watched by people in high places… could only be bad news for the Centre. And then there was the detrimental effect to the man himself.
Sydney had no doubt that Raines had his grubby fingers pushed deep into this particular pie. After all, with the loss of both Kyle and the child who had been cloned with Jarod’s DNA, Raines had been desperate for some time now for a new test subject. Sydney wondered just what Raines had in mind for Bobby, and realised that he really didn’t want to know.
What he did know was that he was in no position to help Bobby in any way. All he could do was send a message to the one person he knew of who was.
Setting his jaw with grim determination, Sydney leaned forward in his chair, and began to rapidly type out an urgent message to Jarod.
Jarod opened up his laptop computer that evening, looking forward to the possibility of another email from his father. Circumstances dictated that he got to spend precious little time with his father, and so the emails they shared had become a great comfort to Jarod, a reassurance that he was doing all right.
As he waited for the computer to boot up, Jarod looked out of the cabin window at the scenery that surrounded his current location.
He was staying in a mountain cabin that belonged to a friend – one of many people that he’d helped over the years. They had recently offered the use of it to him, and he had accepted gladly. Sometimes, even a genius needed a break.
The computer finished booting up, and Jarod eagerly logged in to his email. Sure enough, there was one from his father. It was a long one, too, by the looks of it.
Jarod hesitated in opening it. There was a second email there, waiting for him. Not from his father, but from one who had been very much like a father to him during the years when he thought he’d had no father. It was an email from Sidney.
Feeling slightly unsettled, wondering why Sidney would be attempting to contact him, Jarod bypassed his father’s email, and opened the one from Sidney.
I am taking a tremendous risk in contacting you, but I believe intervention is warranted. I have just been made aware of a plan by The Centre to go after a new individual. This particular individual was a child of The Centre, as you were, but is one of the few children that Catherine Parker successfully helped to escape. You may remember him – his name was Bobby.
Jarod sucked in his breath sharply. Yes, he remembered Bobby; a child who was physically big for his age, but very quiet, shy and emotionally fragile… and about as brilliant as they came. Jarod recalled Raines had been in a foul mood for months after Bobby’s escape from The Centre. He himself had missed his friend. For five years, Bobby’s presence in The Centre had meant Jarod had a friend that he could truly relate to, someone that he could talk to about virtually anything, and not have to explain himself in simplified terms. That was something he had never found again.
He read on, his stomach twisting into knots.
I believe that Raines has been instrumental in this sudden push to reacquire Bobby for the Centre. I do not know what he is planning. I only know that the Director herself has set Miss Parker, Mr Lyle and I the task of tracking Bobby down and recapturing him.
I’m passing this information on to you, because I truly believe you are Bobby’s only chance to avoid whatever fate Raines has in store for him. Please believe me that this is no trick. He is going to need help, and I pray you are able to give it. No one else can help him, and I fear that I will not be in any way effective in diverting Miss Parker and Mr Lyle from their task.
I cannot provide any more information now, other than the following. God speed… and say hello to Bobby for me, when you find him.
Robert O Goren, New York City.
Jarod stared at the name, his heart pounding.
Robert O. Goren… Was this really his friend from so many years ago? There was one way to find out, Jarod hurried through to the bedroom to start packing.
It didn’t take Jarod long to track down the Robert O. Goren Sidney had referred to in his email. A few discreet inquiries pointed him quickly to the New York City Police, and from there it took him very little time to locate Detective Robert Goren, of the NYPD’s Major Case Squad.
Somehow, it didn’t surprise Jarod that this was the path Bobby had taken, although his very public profile told him that Bobby most likely had no conscious memory of his time in the Centre. If he did, Jarod was sure he would have chosen a more discreet career, one which did not see his face plastered all over the news on such a regular basis.
Jarod smiled to himself as he read through a recent newspaper article in the New York Public Library, and soon found what he was really after – a picture. There he was…
Jarod drew in a long breath. Yes, it was him, without a doubt. Nearly thirty-five years older, but the eyes… Even looking at a black and white photo on microfilm, Jarod recognised those eyes. They were the eyes of someone who had seen far more in their life than they had ever wanted to. They were the eyes of someone who had literally been to hell and back… and had survived.
Sitting back, Jarod became lost in his memories.
It was the crying that led him to the boy in the end. Sidney had told him another child had been taken in by the Centre, a child whose parents had cruelly abandoned him. Jarod has asked to meet him, but Sidney had gently told him to wait, that they needed to give the child time to adjust. Jarod had accepted this, if somewhat reluctantly, but the truth was he was eager for new company.
He liked Angelo, and young Miss Parker was okay, but neither was a substitute for a real friend. Jarod sincerely hoped that this new child would be just that – a friend.
In the end, he had gone looking for the newcomer, and had finally found him in another wing on the same floor. Jarod paused just outside the door of the room before walking around and looking in.
A child looked up at the sound of his voice, wiping quickly at his face.
“Who… Who are you?”
Jarod took a step closer.
“My name’s Jarod. What’s yours?”
“Bobby. Are you here for their program too?”
Jarod stared at him for a long moment, then walked in all the way and sat down on the bed next to the child.
“I live here, Bobby. So do you, now.”
Bobby stiffened next to him.
“No, I don’t. I’m going to go home soon. My dad said so.”
Sympathy filled Jarod’s face as he thought he understood what had happened.
“Sure,” Jarod said gently. “You’re right, you’ll probably be going home really soon.”
Bobby looked away, but not before Jarod saw a different truth in the child’s eyes, from the one he had just declared. He wasn’t going home anytime soon and, deep down, he knew it.
“How long have you been here?” Bobby asked softly.
“I’m not sure,” Jarod answered after a moment’s hesitation. “I think it’s been around three or four years. Time doesn’t mean much here.”
Even as he spoke, he saw Bobby flinch, as though in pain, and his heart went out to the other boy. After a moment’s hesitation, he put an arm gently around Bobby’s shoulders.
“It’ll be okay, Bobby. I’ll look after you. We can be like brothers, if you want.”
Bobby looked sideways at Jarod.
“I have an older brother. He… He doesn’t like me much. He said he doesn’t like it that I’m smarter than him.”
Jarod smiled reassuringly at him.
“That doesn’t matter here, Bobby. It’s a good thing that you’re smart. It’s something we’ve got in common.”
“I see you finally found each other.”
Both boys looked up as Sidney walked in, favouring them both with a warm smile.
“I’m sorry, Sidney,” Jarod apologised. “I know you told me to wait, but…”
“It’s all right, Jarod. I’m sure Bobby is probably grateful to have someone his own age to talk to. And perhaps you can help to reassure him that we only have his interests at heart.”
“Why are we here?” Bobby asked softly, staring at Sidney plaintively. “Why am I here?”
“Bobby, listen to me,” Sidney told him quietly. “Your father sent you with us so that we could look after you.”
“You mean, until Mom gets better?”
“No, Bobby. For good.”
Bobby sat frozen, and Jarod watched him in concern.
“He sent me away… Like… like Mom… Why did he send me away?”
Sidney reached across and took Bobby’s hand gently in his own.
“He does love you, Bobby. He loves you a great deal, and that’s why he agreed to let us take you. Your mother isn’t going to be getting better. Do you know what schizophrenia is?”
Bobby swallowed hard.
“It’s a degenerative illness of the mind,” Sidney explained. “That is what your mother has. Your father wants to be able to look after her, but he couldn’t do that and look after you and your brother as well. He didn’t want to lose you, but he understands this was the only option. You need to understand that too. Your father had a very difficult decision to make, and in the end he made the choice that would ensure you are all taken care of.”
“I’m never going home, am I?” Bobby asked in a trembling voice. Sidney looked at him with deep sympathy.
“Bobby, you are home.”
Jarod shook himself back to reality. He didn’t know what was crueller, that he had been told his parents were dead, or that Bobby had been told his father simply didn’t want to look after him. He sighed softly.
He had no idea how Bobby would react to him now, after so many years, but he supposed he was about to find out. Grimacing, he switched off the microfilm machine and headed for the library exit. Time to begin another pretend…
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