Buttercups and Daffodils by Ashley, admin

1. Part 1 by Ashley

2. Part 2 by Ashley

Part 1 by Ashley
Authors Note: I wrote this after spending several hours taking an English Final and while listening to Puppy Song By Harry Nilsson. I guess that I need to write a story that I’d like instead of that boring stuff they put on tests. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that I found the perfect work to describe the MP/J relationship! “Anomalous”, meaning strange and difficult to identify or classify, seems to fit them perfectly. All works used in this piece have been cited within the document. I take no credit for them.




Buttercups and Daffodils
part 1

By: ~*Ashley*~





~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Miss Parker’s House
9:00PM


Miss Parker burst through her front door and threw her jacket and briefcase onto her sofa. It had been a long day at the Centre. Daddy had not been pleased at her continued lack of results, as usual. Lyle had made a point to be meaner than usual, she assumed to compensate for his and Cox’s failures. Even Sydney would not stop pestering her about any phone calls she had received from Jarod. There had been none, of course, but his concern for his protégé had only added to his feeling of urgency.

Moving to the kitchen, Parker got out one of her many bottles of scotch. This day was one of those ones that demanded a stiff drink before she would be able to fall asleep. Well, as close to sleep as her nightmares would allow her.

“A nice warm bath is exactly what I need.” She thought to herself. She filled her oversized tub up with warm water and bubbles. When it was full enough, she crawled in and relaxed.

Not even the heat of the water seemed to take away the chill that had overcome her since she had begun working at the Centre. How many years had it been? There was too many for her to remember. She laughed at herself to think that she once had believed that working at the Centre was a temporary arrangement. When she was still low-level security the prospect of being one of *them* had seemed unfeasible. If anything, growing up at the Centre had taught her how evil it, and the people who ran it, were. She would not be one of *them*. Even the best-intentioned plans go awry. Now she was head of the Pretender Relocation Team, fast on her way up the corporate ladder.

She sighed and got out of the bath. Wrapping herself in a plush terrycloth towel, she shuffled into her bedroom to slip into her comfortable pajamas. The bed looked so inviting. She could feel the weight of fatigue threatening to close her eyes.

She finally settled herself into her bed, and securely wrapped herself in her comforter. She was about to enter the dream world when the piercing ring of the phone startled her to full awareness.

“What?” She demanded of the caller wearily.

“Did you find any new information about the picture of my mother and yours?”

“Jarod.” She relaxed back in her bed, ready for another one of their late night talks, “Figures.”

“Nice to talk to you too.” He joked.

“Nothing has come up. I had Broots search the Centre Data Annex for any reference to our mothers knowing each other, but nothing came up.” She wanted to get straight to business and then to sleep. A day at the Centre demanded that the person be prepared to handle whatever curveballs it threw at them.

“How do you think that they knew each other?” He asked timidly.

“I have no idea.”

“Guess.”

“Maybe they tried to get us out together.”

“Before your mother was ‘killed’ in the elevator?”

“Well, it makes sense that she would have outside help. The Centre is not something that you’d want to take on alone.”

“I suppose.” He considered that idea for a moment.

“Are you still there?”

“Um, yeah… Miss Parker?”

“What?” She could barely keep the yawn out of her voice.

“I’m sorry.”

“Huh?” He had her full attention. “Sorry for what?”

“Your mother, if I hadn’t been at the Centre…”

“Wait a sec!” She stopped him, suddenly angry, “You are NOT going to do this guilt thing again! What happened was not your fault, and if it were, then it would be my fault too. She was trying to get both of us out.”

“Still, I should have…”

“No. My mother’s entire life will NOT be defined by *you*.”

Jarod couldn’t understand why she was being so cruel. He had only been trying to be nice, “What is the matter with you?”

“The matter with *me*? I’m not the one who thinks that every bad thing that has ever happened or ever will happen is his fault. You need to get a grip on reality pal.”

“What? I am realistic. If anyone needs to get a grip on reality it is you! You are the one who deludes herself into thinking that the Centre is actually good! You are the one who obediently obeys Daddy Dearest. You are the one who refuses to admit that you should leave. You know that it was what your mother would have wanted; yet you refuse to do it. Why Miss Parker? You are not afraid are you?”

“I think that you are the one who should be afraid rat boy! How would you know what my mother wanted? You don’t even have a mother, just some old pictures of a red-haired woman and a close encounter with a stranger.”

“How dare you!” The venom in his voice reflected that she had struck a cord with him.

Her wicked smile momentarily vanished as she considered the harsh things she was telling him. It quickly reappeared when she reassured herself that he was only getting what he deserved.

“What’s the matter Boy Wonder? You can dish it but you can’t deal?”

“Why do I even try?” Jarod rhetorically demanded.

“I don’t know. Maybe you should just stop and keep your big nose out of my business!”

“Fine!” He agreed.

“Fine!” She echoed.

Within a split second the sound of a dial tone was the only sound that emitted from her receiver. She slammed down the phone on its base and cursed to herself.

“God damn you Jarod!”

He always had a way of getting to her when she had finally been able to relax. Now, inevitably, she would be unable to rest. This would be another long night of thinking about Jarod to add to her record.

She pushed herself up from her bed and sauntered into the kitchen, again pouring herself a glass of scotch. She took it out to the living room and situated herself on her couch, clutching a throw pillow. Why did he always get to her like this? She should have known better than to get into a quarrel with him. It always ended with her feeling horrible about the malicious things she had said.

Perhaps she had gone too far this time. Never before had she been so vindictive about his family. That was a subject that she, even on her worst of days, had never made light of. She understood how much not ever knowing them had hurt him; she too had felt the pain of losing family, of searching for them or the answers about them. She never meant to hurt him. It just all seemed to come out. As soon as he said that remark about her mother she just snapped. Her mother was as touchy a matter as his family.

She hoped with all of her might that he would call back. She yearned to explain what she had said. She hoped that he would understand that she didn’t mean to cause him sorrow.

The fear that he wouldn’t forgive her this time was ever-present in her mind. She had gone too far, they both had. Her guilt, shame, anger, and sorrow all combined to create a depressing swirl of emotions in her heart.

Clutching her glass she let out a muffled sob. Why did things have to be this way between them? Couldn’t it just be like it used to be? Back when they were friends, when they were…who knows what they were? All that she knew was that they were together and happy. That used to be all that counted in her life. Was it too late to say she was sorry?



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
New York City
Jarod and Ethan’s Apartment


Jarod slammed down his telephone and began to pace around his bedroom. How dare she say those things about his family? What did she know anyway? Why did he even care? These and many more questions ricocheted around in his head.

He knew that he should not have presumed to have insight into the motivations of her mother, but he only had wanted to make peace between them. He had thought that maybe if she would stop blaming him for the death of her mother (as he was sure she did) they would be friends again. They could pick up their relationship where they had left off.

It was stupid. He knew that. For being the smartest man in the world sometimes he came up with some wild ones. Still, he couldn’t quench his childhood need for her friendship. The familiarity and closeness of their anomalous alliance was a source of strength for them both as children. Sometimes he needed that again. To be able to talk to some one like he had been able to talk to her when they were young was alluring. Sometimes it seemed that she was the only one that he could really talk to about things. Sydney was always a trustworthy confidant, but there were some things that he couldn’t tell his mentor.

Jarod considered calling her back, then thought better of it. She may have gone to sleep already, and he knew how infrequent that was for her and didn’t want to wake her. Nevertheless, he needed to explain himself to her. Maybe he could email her…but it could be intercepted. Then a ludicrous idea hit him. What about snail mail? The US Postal Service was still operating, and, as far as he knew, email hadn’t totally taken over yet. He could write her an old fashion letter and mail it to her house.

He searched his desk for a piece of paper and an envelope. He found one stashed in the bottom drawer along with a couple pens. They perfectly suited his purpose.

He seated himself at the desk and began to scrawl furiously. Within about fifteen minutes he had it signed, sealed, and ready to deliver.

Being careful not to wake Ethan, who slept in the room next to his, he exited the apartment. He flew down the flights of stairs. Once outside he scanned the area for a mailbox. Coincidently there was one right across the street.

He smiled at his luck and left the security of the alcove of the entrance to the building. He didn’t even contemplate that it might not be a good idea to go out at that time of night in that neighborhood. That maybe a rival gang to the gang he had recently infiltrated could be in the area. All that he could think of was her and how sorry he was for the things he had said, and how much he wished that he had never called her in the first place; perhaps he could have saved her the pain of arguing about her mother and his family.

He didn’t see the blue van that hurriedly pulled around the block, or the gun barrels that pointed out the top of its tinted windows. The van reached him before he was even able to get to the edge of the sidewalk. With the bang of two shots he was down. He was only aware of a pain coursing through his body. His mind raced with thoughts that you wouldn’t think a man laying on the sidewalk bleeding to death would have. You’d think that his life would flash before his eyes, or something cliché like that. Instead he only had one thought: Parker would be mad at him if he didn’t get her the letter, how could he make sure that it got to her. He didn’t like her being mad at him.

As the dark night became even darker in his eyes as darkly clothed figure bent over him.

“Oh no, no, no, no!” The figure whispered. She was one of the Centre’s field agents. She had spotted Jarod that morning and was observing him until a sweeper team could be arranged and sent up to capture the missing pretender. She had never anticipated that some one else would get to him before they could.

She bent down and placed two shaky fingers on his neck, searching for a pulse. When she found none she stepped back in shock. Observing that no one else was around, she turned on her heels and ran for the nearest phone booth, the next block over, to call 911 and inform her superiors of what had transpired.

Around the same time that she ran to the phone booth, Ethan exited the apartment building. Upon seeing the crumpled form of his brother, he ran to his side. Blood was gushing from wounds on Jarod’s chest. His once black t-shirt was now a crimson color.

Ethan removed Jarod’s jacket and shirt in hopes of being able to further inspect the wounds. He then used the shirt to create a makeshift bandage around Jarod’s chest. He prayed that his brother would be all right, but there was really no way he could tell. He lacked the pretending skills that Jarod possessed, and therefore could make no diagnosis. He wracked his brain for a solution to this dilemma. He couldn’t take Jarod to a hospital. That would be too dangerous. The only thing he could do was call Jarod’s clone, Josh, Emily, and Charles; and hope that the boy had the same skills as Jarod.

He took his cell out of his pocket and hit the speed dial.

“Hello?” Came the groggy voice of the Major.

“Dad? This is Ethan.”

“Ethan? What is wrong?”

“It’s Jarod. He’s been shot. I don’t know if he is ok. I don’t know what to do!” Ethan hurriedly informed him.

“Everything will be all right. We’re on our way.”




~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The Centre
The Next Day


Miss Parker stormed through the corridors of the Centre. Her hangover from the overindulgence the night before and the uneasy feeling she was having made her a force to reckoned with, even worse than usual. Every person she passed in the halls cowered in her shadow. The occupants of the elevator huddled into a corner in hopes of avoiding her wrath.

The weird thing was the other kind of looks she was getting. It seemed to be sympathy, although why they would feel sympathetic towards her was beyond her comprehension.

Their strange behavior shook her confidence, but only slightly. She strolled purposefully into the Sim Lab, only somewhat prepared for the day of chasing Jarod before her.

The thought of Jarod still sent a wave of regret through her heart. He never called back, or emailed her, or anything. She was beginning to worry about him. Usually they repaired whatever fights they got into quickly, neither able to withstand the tense silence for long. It only added to her uneasy feeling.

That feeling was duplicated a thousand times when she saw who waited for her in the lab. Gathered around a table were Sydney and Broots, as expected. With them were three characters not commonly found in this area of the Centre. Mr. Parker stood with his arms crossed glaring at a clock. Raines was rasping for breath, a sadistic smile on his pruned face. Lyle hovered over the table, occasionally picking up a picture or file.

“Angel, you are here.” Mr. Parker was the first to notice her. He uncrossed his arms and nervously shoved them into his pockets, not exactly something that he usually did.

Parker suspiciously joined them. She attempted to get a look at whatever was on the table, but the group blocked her view.

“Oh, I get it. I’m five minutes late to work and now you are excluding me from the chase. Well, for your information I had a really bad night and I am not in the mood for your games.”

“Miss Parker, please.” Sydney warned.

She turned to return his warning with a snide remark when she noticed how tired he looked.

“Are you all right Syd?”

“I’m afraid not Miss Parker.”

Parker turned to her father, “What is going on?”

“Uh, um…Raines?”

Mr. Raines looked at Mr. Parker and then at the angry Miss Parker. He surely didn’t want to be the one to tell her. “Perhaps Mr. Lyle should explain.”

Lyle, being the uncaring monster that he is, was only thrilled to get to be the one to deliver the news. “It seems that our pretender, Jarod, has checked out.”

“Of where? Did you send out a team?” Parker couldn’t understand the big deal. So Jarod had checked out all ready, they had come too late a million times before.

Lyle chuckled, “No I mean that he *Checked out*. Kicked the bucket. Croaked.”

“Huh?”

“He’s DEAD.” Lyle became impatient and spit out the news.

Parker looked at the faces of those around her. They all seemed to believe this lie. It was obviously a lie. There was no way that Jarod could be dead.

“You’re lying.” She voiced her thoughts.

“Maybe you should sit down…” Sydney started.

“No, I want to know what you are talking about. Jarod isn’t dead, I just talked to him last night.”

For the latter part of her comment she got a suspiciously raised eyebrow from Lyle, which she ignored.

“It has been confirmed.” Her father interjected.

“No.”

“One of our own field agents saw the body.” He continued.

“No.”

He took a deep breath, “We have proof.”

“Where?” She challenged him.

Finally they moved away from the table. She approached it and looked at its gruesome contents. There were pictures of a blood-covered sidewalk. Jarod’s staple leather jacket lay next to the pool of blood. She felt ready to throw up. This was too much.

As if he had sensed her distress, Sydney placed a chair behind her, which she fell into.

“What happened?” She softly questioned.

Sydney knelt beside the chair and took Parker’s hand, “At around eleven o’clock last night Jarod was spotted by an agent who had been keepings tabs on him exit his apartment building. She reported that he paused a moment, then when he found what he was looking for he headed across the street towards a mailbox. She described his demeanor as being anxious, distracted, even depressed. That apparently was enough to keep him from seeing a blue van that was headed for him. As it passed him several shots were fired, then it sped away. Jarod went down immediately. The agent went to see if he was still alive, but she found no pulse or any other signs of life."

"She just left him there?" Parker demanded. While the statement seemed to be a Parker-like thing to say, she said it so timidly that Sydney considered yelling "gotcha" and pretending that the whole thing had been one sick joke.

"It wasn't like that. She went to call 911. When she returned his body was gone. All that was left was a lot of blood, his jacket, and a letter. We think that Ethan took him."

She was silent. There was no emotional outburst. There was no yelling or hysterical crying. There was just one lone woman in deep denial. The agent had described Jarod as "anxious, distracted, and depressed"? She knew that only one thing could have caused him to lose focus like that. It was their fight. But why would he be out there in a dangerous neighborhood in the middle of the night?

"Well, what was he doing out there in the middle of the night?"

"He was mailing a letter."

"To whom?"

Sydney stood up. This would be the hard part; if you could imagine something harder than telling Parker that Jarod was dead. He picked up an envelope from the table and handed it to her.

She turned it over in her hands. It was stained by splatters of blood. The address was partially obscured, but she could make out that it was to her. So that was why he didn't call.

"God damn you Jarod! The one night you decide to *not* call me in the middle of the night and opt for a kinder method of communication!" Parker yelled at no one in general.

"We waited for you before we opened it." Mr. Parker informed her.

With shaking hands Parker examined the seal. "Does anyone have a knife?"

Lyle took a Swiss Army knife out of his pocket and handed it to her. (Figures he’d be carrying a weapon.)

Gingerly she opened the letter and took it out of its protective casing. She gently unfolded it in her hands, glad that it had not also been stained by blood.

“Dear Parker…” She began to read to herself.


Dear Parker,
Why do we continue to play this game day after day? I am tired of it, despite what you think mind games are not my style. I don’t care who is wrong or right anymore. I just want us to be able to have a ‘normal’ conversation some time. I don’t want the rude remarks, or the tantalizing clues; I just want to be able to talk to you like we used to. Do you remember that? We used to talk all the time. You were always the only one who could understand me. When did we become enemies? Can you not stand me because you blame me for the death of your mother? That was all that I was trying to tell you. I am sorry. I just thought that maybe, just maybe, if you could forgive me, it could be like it used to be between us. Before whatever happened to us happened. I don’t even remember exactly what happened. You’d think that I would remember something like that, but I guess that it is just another one of the precious memories that are forever lost in the annals of my mind. I’m not asking you to be my best friend all of a sudden, and this should in no way affect your job. I know that you have to catch me, well, you don’t *have* to…but that is an argument for another day. Just…think about it. I’ve got all the time in the world, and you know that I won’t give up until I get an answer. Even if I get an answer and I don’t like it, I probably won’t give up. I haven’t yet. You know me. I’ll be waiting.
Always,
J.



Parker gently refolded the letter and placed it back into the envelope. Of course she wanted to be friends again, that was all that she had ever wanted. She couldn’t believe that he thought that she blamed him for her mother. That wasn’t why she hated him. She couldn’t actually remember at that moment why it was that she hated him, but she knew in her heart that whatever reason she had been telling herself all of those years was a sham.

The night before she had been worried that it would be too late to say that she was sorry. Now it struck her that she had been only too right. If Jarod truly were dead then she would never be able to tell him that she was sorry. She would never be able to tell him anything ever again. There was still so much to say.

“I…I can’t accept this. I need to know. I need to be certain.” Parker practically was pleading with her father.

Mr. Parker looked down on his broken hearted daughter. She looked so small and sad sitting in that chair, clutching the letter like it was her lifeline. In actuality it probably was like a lifeline to her. It was her one last connection to him. “What do you want me to do?”

“You don’t have to do anything. I want to go to New York City and find him.”

“Angel, he’s dead.”

“There has to be some evidence left. Something to prove that this is for real.”

“I don’t think…”

“Daddy! Please!” Parker jumped up from her seat.

Mr. Parker looked her in the eyes. He wasn’t sure if this was the best way for her to handle this, but he also knew that she had made up her mind and that she would go with or without his consent. “Fine, but you have to take Sydney along with you.”

“Fine. It’s settled. We’ll leave as soon as the jet is fueled up.” Parker replied with much more confidence than she felt.

Then she turned and left the room. It was a struggle to keep her pace steady, to not bolt out of the room and as far away from those images as humanly possible.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Once Parker was out of earshot Lyle spoke the thought that he had been contemplating the entire time, “I didn’t expect her to act like this. Shouldn’t she have been happy that the chase is finally over?”

Mr. Parker looked at his son, “You don’t understand.”

“Understand what? I thought that she hated that freak. Now she’s acting like the grieving widow? Why on earth would she care?”

Mr. Parker slammed his fist on the table, sending picture scattering to the floor. “Because we made her care!”

“Made her care?” Sydney’s accented voice spoke up.

He hung his head. They weren’t going to give this up until he explained, that was clear. “Mr. Broots, please leave us.”

Broots obediently left the room. They never let him hear the good stuff.

“Come with me, to where the walls have less ears.” Mr. Parker gestured to Sydney’s office.

In the office Sydney, Mr. Parker, Lyle, and Mr. Raines gathered in a small circle. Mr. Parker was concerned about the wrong people hearing what he was about to confess, but it wasn’t like it was a secret, it was triumvirate approved after all.

“Sydney, do you remember the experiment where we introduced Jarod to my daughter?”

“Yes, it was to gage his reaction to the opposite sex.”

“Did you ever wonder why they used the chairman’s daughter? It’s not like we would have trouble finding another child.”

“I simple assumed that is was because she was there at the time.”

Mr. Parker shook his head, “Actually, it was because of something that Catherine had commented to me. She had said that when she first met Jarod she had a feeling that there was something about him that would forever intertwine him in our lives. Then, when Angel asked her about the little boy who was working with Sydney, she said that she realized what that feeling was. She knew that there was something between them. They hadn’t even met, yet she was so sure. The experiment wasn’t about attraction, it was about connection.”

“What kind of connection?”

“Soul mate, I believe, is the term used.”

“Jarod and Parker?”

“Yes, the results we received were far beyond what we had expected. From this we had the chance to discover the meaning to one of the greatest mysteries, love. We allowed them to meet again, and while they didn’t know that we knew, they continued to meet under our observation. They got very close. Eventually Catherine rose up against this experiment. She said that it was wrong to toy with their emotions like we were doing. We had created situations to see how they would react…she didn’t approve.”

“Why wasn’t I informed of this? I was, after all, head of the Pretender Project.”

“It was need-to-know. You didn’t. After Catherine…died…she began to rely on him for support more and more. It began to distract him. That was when we decided to put our experimentation on hold. The work that he did on the Sims was far more important than our side project. I sent her away to boarding school, but she still managed to sneak in to see him on her breaks. Nothing could stop her. I guess that we hadn’t anticipated how strong their connection would be.”

“Then why aren’t they together now?”

“They would have been, if we had allowed it. They were about nineteen years old when it happened. By that time Jarod had begun to figure out that we were never going to let him go. She had been gone to college, and it had been harder than when she was at school for her to see him. One visit they made secret plans to be together. They schemed to run away, and they did. They waited for a dark night and then they disappeared into the darkness. We had no idea that it was coming. For obvious reasons we began an extensive search. They were only gone a little over a week when we found them in a little beachside community. They had let down their guard and tried to contact you. They couldn’t however, you were sent to consult on another project in California so that you wouldn’t find out, and we intercepted and traced the call.”

“I remember that consult. It was about some savant case, if memory serves me.”

“Quite right. We brought them back to the Centre, however the damage had already been done. They had tasted freedom, and were not about to let it go. That was when Mr. Raines,” He gestured to the prune, “introduced us to a memory eradication method he had developed.”

“You can’t brainwash Jarod.”

“No, but you can create mental barriers within his mind. It was the only way that we could get them to cooperate again. We replaced the memories of their time together with fabricated memories of a falling out that never really happened. We created their mutual hate and then reinforced it by allowing them to meet one last time. Their reciprocal hostility convinced the other that they truly hated each other. It was rather brilliant and ironic all at the same time.”

“How could you? You had to have known what it would do to them!”

“There were unexpected results, but they all worked to our advantage. She became emotionally closed off, thus focused on her duty to the Centre. He delved into his work, and made us more money that ever before. When he ran away, again, it was only natural that we would have her catch him. In a poetically ironic way she would be the one who would best be able to track him, she had once been the one running with him. The idea was right, but as you can see, she has been unsuccessful. The problem that we are dealing with now is that the buried feelings are starting to resurface. That letter and her reaction are only further proof.”

“They are falling in love again?”

“In a way, yes. Although they technically never stopped being in love. We just buried the emotion.”

“Why are you telling us this now?”

“Why not? He is dead. It’s been confirmed. I just want you, Sydney, to understand what she is going through when you go to NYC. I want you to keep her from falling apart. Being in an overly emotional state can jeopardize the success of our treatment. Memories may resurface, and I want you to handle the results.”

“I always knew that she had other…loyalties.” Lyle sneered.

“Her *loyalties* are with her family and the Centre, they always have been. Don’t forget that.”

“But for how long, there is the possibility that she will remember everything.” Raines sniveled.

“You personally guaranteed…!”

“We did not foresee this occurrence.”

“You better keep an eye on the situation then.”

“Yes sir.”

All of a sudden the phone on Sydney’s desk rang, “Your plane will be ready in an hour.”

“Thank you Gracie.” Sydney replied.

“I must pack soon.”

“Fine, then this meeting is over. And if I hear that any of you,” He stared pointedly at Sydney, “breathe a word of any of this to *anyone* I can not promise that there will not be an unfortunate accident.”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Miss Parker’s House
Same time



Parker looked around her room, making sure that she had packed everything that she would need for the trip. When she was certain she zipped up her suitcase and set it by the front entrance.

She looked over to her bedside table. On it sat her phone. She never knew that looking at such a common object could make her feel so depressed. The reason why, of course, was because the last time that she had talked to Jarod had been on that phone. They had fought. It had been horrible, as usual. It grieved her to think that the last thing she had ever said to Jarod had been in anger.

“No.” She told herself, “We’re not even sure that he is really dead.”

Still, as the hours of being in denial passed, her ability to delude herself decreased. Even the river in Egypt ended at some point.

She thought about what her life would be like without Jarod in it. Certainly her life would be different without the chase, and she would get more sleep without him calling her in the middle of the night; but oddly she had accepted that as the price that she had to pay to have him in her life. She enjoyed those little things, although she would have kissed Broots before she admitted that to him.

There had always been the hope that things could someday be different. Maybe the Centre would have changed their mind about needing Jarod. They might have just let him go, thus freeing her too from her obligation. Then, if they were free from the Centre’s grasp, maybe they could…

It was useless to think such things now. If he honestly were dead, there would be no chance for such things to come true.

Why did it hurt so much? They hated each other. That was obvious. Then why did the thought of life without him make her want to die too, just so that they could be together? She should be happy. Now the Centre wouldn’t need her to chase him down. She could return to the Corporate, or even better, maybe they would let her go. She just couldn’t find a reason to be happy with freedom if she didn’t have him to share it with.

God she missed him. His beautiful, goofy smile; the sound of his voice; His soul searching eyes; Talking to him; Just sitting in a comfortable silence with him. Everything about him. At that moment she would have given anything to have him call her up and tell her how she is blind to the truth about the Centre, and bait her with some tidbit of information. Just to know that he was safe, and alive.

Parker poured herself a glass of scotch from a new bottle. It was another of those occasions Jarod kept giving her to get drunk as a skunk. She would have downed the entire bottle if she didn’t know that she had a plane to catch. She managed to suppress her desire to drown her sorrows in a bottle of her friend Jack Daniels or one of his contemporaries. For him, she had to be sure. Then, god forbid it should be true, she would drink until her heart’s content…or rather until her heart didn’t know the difference.

The death of her mother, Catherine Parker, as she remembered it, didn’t make her feel so empty as she felt when she reflected on what her life would be like if it were true. It made her feel all alone. It made her feel heartbroken in a way not even Tommy had made her feel. It was devastation; that was the only word for it.

She took up the pillow from the floor where she had thrown it that morning after crying into it all night and placed it back on the couch. Then she moved to her stereo and turned on the radio, hoping to get the local weather. She didn’t want to have to endure a turbulent flight on top of everything.

She couldn’t have chosen a worse time to turn on the radio. The melodic tunes of a song emitted from the speakers.


Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
And now it's too late to hold you
'Cause you've flown away
So far away

Never had I imagined
Living without your smile
Feeling and knowing you hear me
It keeps me alive
Alive

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Darling, I never showed you
Assumed you'd always be there
I took your presence for granted
But I always cared
And I miss the love we shared

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Although the sun will never shine the same
I'll always look to a brighter day
Lord I know when I lay me down to sleep
You will always listen as I pray

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

And I know you're shining down on me from Heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say


“Never had I imagined, living without your smile”
It was true that she never did think about what it would be like without him. She always just assumed that good old Jarod would always be fine. He did have a super human genius, after all. Nothing could defeat him. He had survived so much in his life, how could he make such a foolish mistake. A mistake that cost him his life?

“Darling, I never showed you; assumed you'd always be there; I took your presence for granted; but I always cared.”
Why did that line seem to strike a particular cord with her? What hadn’t she told him? Caring for Jarod had never been an option…She froze. Nobody seemed to think that caring for Jarod was an option. Hadn’t he confided to her that Sydney had told him the same thing? She remembered that Father’s Day. He had been so devastated to think that Sydney hated him. Was that the way that she made him feel?

“And I know eventually we'll be together; One sweet day.”
Parker wasn’t sure that she could wait that long. Then again, when you work at the Centre, who knows how long you have. She was morbidly comforted with the thought that there was always the chance that they’d be together again soon.

Together again? Again? When had they ever been together? She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something that she was forgetting, something very important.

She closed her eyes and could hear the sound of waves crashing on a beach mingling with a hearty laughter. It was a laughter that she had not heard in years. It was Jarod laughing like she hadn’t heard him laugh in ages. He wasn’t mocking or being smart…it was the kind of innocently blissful laugh he had when they were young. It sounded so real.

Then she could feel his arms wrap around her in a welcomed embrace.

“I love you.” The apparition whispered in ear.

“That was One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey! Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen we’ve got more of your favorite hits coming up!” The overzealous radio announcer jolted her from her reverie.

Parker jumped a little and glanced at her watch. The plane would be ready by now. She’d have to leave soon if she didn’t want Sydney to worry about her. It’s not as if he didn’t have enough to worry about already.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Centre Jet
Over Pennsylvania



Sydney and Miss Parker sat side by side in the Centre’s private jet. They had not spoken a word to each other, each lost in their own worlds. Obviously their thoughts were focused on one man. They were on their way to find the truth; about Jarod, about his death, about everything.

Eventually Parker broke the silence, “We’ll find him.”

“Excuse me?”

Parker turned in her seat to look him in the face. They both looked like hell. Sydney seemed to have aged a hundred years since they heard the news. She wondered if he had been at the Centre all night long. She knew that Sydney’s devotion to his charge was total. Jarod was like a son to him, whether he would admit it to him or not. This had to be grieving him.

“I said that we will find Jarod.”

“I certainly hope so.”

There was a moment of silence before Sydney spoke again, “Penny for you thoughts.”

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing.”

“Really Miss Parker, I’ve known you since you were little, you can trust me.”

She looked at him closely, considering his preposition. She came to the conclusion that he was right. Of all people, save Jarod, Syd was the one she could talk to. And if she didn’t talk to someone soon, she felt she would go insane.

“I was just remembering Jarod as a child. Remember that time he and I took the bunnies out of their cage and let them run free in the halls of the Centre?”

“Oh yes, I believe that I was the one who had to go find them.” Sydney gave her a faint smile. “You two thought that is was so funny. I was fuming mad, but my little partners in crime just giggled. When you were like that I couldn’t stay angry for very long.”

“Do you remember the sleep-overs we’d have? When Daddy would work late, after mom died, and I would be stuck at the Centre until all hours of the night. You would let Jarod stay up with me, and we would tell scary stories until my father decided to make an appearance. It wasn’t very hard to come up with scary stories, Jarod generally just told me what he had done that day. We used to talk a lot. Remember that? We would hide in the shadows so that no one could find us and we would just talk for hours.”

“Ummm.” He thought about adding his own memories, but it seemed that she just needed someone to listen to her for now.

“We will find him. I promise you that we will find him…dead or alive.” Parker whispered the latter part, as if afraid that voicing it out loud would all of a sudden make it come true.

Sydney tightly closed his eyes. Then an idea struck him, “Do you ever wonder what life would have been like without the Centre?”

“Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if we had ‘normal’ lives.”

“Where do you think you would be, right now, if the Centre had never existed?”

“I guess that I would have a different job. I don’t think that many other institutions would require my particular skills.” She smiled, “I don’t know where I would be other than that. Maybe I would have a family of my own, maybe not. I’d like to think that I would.”

“Do you think that you would have turned out to be a different person?”

Parker was a little taken aback by the directness of the question. She deliberated whether or not to get mad at him for asking, but she thought better of that. “I guess so. I know that I would have been a lot more happy.”

“Do you think that we would have known the people that we know now?”

“You mean Jarod? Of course we would know Jarod. I couldn’t imagine life without him. It would be different though. Without the Centre to make things so messed up we probably would be…well, it would be different.”

Sydney nodded his head. She understood what she was referring to. With the caring way that she was talking about Jarod, he wondered if she was starting to remember.

“What do you think he would have been, as a permanent profession?”

“A doctor.” Parker replied so surely that Sydney wondered if she really did know what he would have been. Could he have told her in their time together? Or had it been something that he had told her after?

“How do you know?”

“I just know.”

Sydney looked at her. She was obviously terribly distressed over the situation. His conscience urged him to tell her the truth about she and Jarod. She had no idea how much he meant to her. And now, if he was gone, she may never know.

He opened is mouth to tell her when a second thought struck him. What if Jarod was dead? This information would only hurt her more. He wasn’t sure that her psyche could handle such a blow.

Sydney simply reached over and took her hand. She hesitated at first, and then she remembered another time that Sydney had been there for her. Without him she doubted that she could have survived, then or now. She reassuringly squeezed his hand, sensing that he needed the supportive contact as much as she did.

The look in her eyes was one that tore Sydney up inside. She looked so lost, and so alone. For her sake, and his, they had better find Jarod alive and well.




~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
New York City
Jarod and Ethan’s Apartment


Parker and Sydney got out of the cab. Sydney paid the cabbie while Parker looked around the scene. Remnants of police tape still hung from the building and surrounding objects. Parker glanced over at the cursed mailbox. There it sat innocently unaware of all the trouble it had caused.

“Over here Parker.” Sydney called from in front of the building.

She started on her way to meet him, they had to inspect Jarod’s apartment, when she came to a quick halt. There, in the middle of the sidewalk, was a brown-red stain. It was blood. It was Jarod’s blood. The circular mark was so large; there must have been massive blood loss.

The sight brought back her queasy feeling. This was much, much worse than the pictures let on. She began to wonder how anyone could have survived such an injury.

“Parker?” Sydney asked from right beside her. She hadn’t even noticed him come to stand by her.

“Lets go in, NOW!” She commanded in her strongest voice. It didn’t betray for a second the horrible feeling of loss in her heart.

Sydney faithfully followed her to the elevator. He waited as she punched the button for the fourth floor. To say that he was concerned about her was an understatement.

When the doors opened they exited onto the floor and began to search for apartment 42.

“May I help you?” A kindly elderly woman asked Parker and Sydney as she passed them in the hall.

“Do you know this man?” Parker flashed a picture of Jarod at the woman.

She took out her reading glasses and positioned them on her face to get a better look at the photo. “Oh yes. That is Jarod. He and his brother lived in that apartment right over there. He was some sort of undercover agent; he said that he couldn’t tell me exactly what he did, for my own safety. It is terrible what happened to him. He was such a wonderful young man.”

“What else did he tell you?”

“Nothing specific. Every time I asked him a question he would be very vague, but that was all right. I enjoyed his company. Not many people come to visit an old lady like me, but every evening he would come over and just talk to me. Sometimes we talked, sometimes he told me the wildest stories about a secret organization that was hunting a man and about his adventures. He had a vivid imagination.”

Parker smiled, that was Jarod for you. He couldn’t resist helping the downtrodden and demoralized. “Did you see what happened that night?”

The old woman looked sadly at Parker, “Yes. My apartment is right on the front side of the building. I was watching the stars with the new telescope that Jarod gave me, he said that it was my escape from the restrictions of my arthritis; I can’t go out often because of it. Anyway, I was looking out my window when I saw him leave the building. It was pretty late, and I wondered what he could be doing. Then a blue van came careening around the block, shots were fired, and he fell to the ground. I saw a woman go to help him, so I went to call 911. When I came back he and the woman were gone. I ran over to his apartment to tell his brother what had happened, but he wasn’t there either.”

Parker sighed; they already knew all of this.

“Thank you Mam.” Sydney cordially expressed his gratitude.

They walked over to Jarod’s apartment, and when the woman was out of site Parker picked the lock on the door.

The apartment was small, she could see four doors leading away from what she assumed was the living room. Despite it’s unfavorable location, it was neat and well decorated. The walls were painted a beautiful shade of blue. “His favorite color.” Parker remembered. The sofa was covered with papers from his pretend, although his DSA case was blatantly missing. The mantle over the fireplace was adorned with pictures of his family. She picked up his unfinished red notebook as Sydney shut the door behind them. There was nothing in it that would tell them anything about where he had gone.

“I’ll take one bedroom, you take the other.” Sydney offered to Parker. She was thankful for his direction at a time when she was having trouble reminding her self to breathe.

Parker chose the room closest to her, and new from the second she walked in whose room it was. It was saturated with Jarod’s personality. Everything was so…him. Everything from the desk covered by frame full of family pictures, to the perfectly made bed. She noted that the bed had not been slept in. He must have been as bothered by their argument as she was. The only thing out of place was his cell, which was thrown down on the desk. She picked it up and looked at the preset numbers. Number one – MP, Number two – Sydney, Number three – Ethan…she looked for more, but there were none. He knew better than to leave the numbers on there that she didn’t already know.

Always cautious. She frowned and the thought. It wasn’t fair to him. A fresh wave of guilt ran through her. He shouldn’t have had to live like this. Her frown lightened when she considered how adulterous her thoughts had been over the past day. The Centre would kill her on sight if they had any idea.

Reluctantly she left his room. She wanted to just crawl up in the blankets that she was sure must still hold his presence, but she remembered that Sydney was just in the other room and she didn’t want to have to explain herself.

“Anything?” She asked Sydney.

“Nothing out of the ordinary. You?”

“His bed wasn’t slept in, and he left his cell phone, but that is it. Call a cleaner team and have them take all of this stuff back to the Centre. Maybe our technicians can find a needle in this haystack.”

“You look tired, are you okay?”

“No I am not Syd. There was nothing here to indicate that he is still…Syd, there is no reason to believe that he is still alive!” Her voice cracked.

Sydney held her in a fatherly embrace, “Do you want to sit down for a minute?”

“I just want to go home.”

“The jet is waiting. We can go, I am sure that you would like a chance to get some rest.”

Parker nodded and numbly followed him out of the apartment. She took one look back at the pictures of Major Charles and the boy, Ethan, Emily, Kyle, and his mother. Then she noticed another picture in the back. She went over to them and picked it up. It was a frame from one of his DSAs of a young Jarod and a young Miss Parker playing together. They looked so happy. She quickly put the picture, frame and all, in her pocket and ran to catch up with Sydney.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The Centre
The Next Day



“Miss Parker, w…what are you doing here?” Broots questioned from her office door.

She lifted her head up from where she had been sleeping on her desk. She had decided not to go home last night after all. It would be too hard. She was sure that she would wake up every hour in the night anyway waiting for his call, a call that would never come again. Tears began to form in her eyes, but she blinked them away before Broots could notice.

“I guess that I fell asleep. Did you deliver my report about my findings in New York to Daddy?”

“Um, ah, yes. He asked me to give this to you.”

He handed her a memo. It was an order to refocus the goal of her search. The object of the quest was no longer Jarod, but his family, and specifically the boy.

“What is this?” Parker demanded, never missing a beat.

“The t…t… triumvirate issued this order as soon as the news of, well you know, r…reached them.”

Parker flew from her chair and stomped to Sydney’s office. He was calmly sitting there as she had expected, probably thinking about what had happened.

“Did you see this Sydney? This just happened yesterday and now they want us to go chase down his family! Like nothing at all happened!” Parker ranted to Sydney, but he seemed unaffected by their disregard.

As if she hadn’t said a word Sydney announced, “I want to hold a memorial for him.”

Parker took a deep breath, “What?”

“He deserves a memorial at least. After all that we have done to him, it’s the least that we can do.”

“You’re giving up?”

Now it was Sydney’s turn to become agitated, “Face it Parker! He’s gone forever! No amount of searching will ever change that. I just want to give him one last show of respect.”

Parker didn’t notice the memo she had been holding in her hand flutter to the floor, “When?”

“The day after tomorrow. I’ve already arranged for a priest to be there and a tombstone to be placed in honor of him. I’m planning on having a coffin full of mementos buried on the plot, since, well, you know. ”

This time no amount of blinking could stop the tears from falling, “Where?”

“The Blue Cove cemetery. I thought, well, I was wondering if…would you like to give his eulogy? You and he used to be so close, I thought that it might be good for you.”

“Absolutely.” Parker didn’t hesitate for a second. She understood Sydney’s need to give something back to him. “I think that I am going to take the rest of the day off Syd. I think that you should too.”

Parker didn’t wait for his response before she left. It was impossible to stay in the place where he grew up for any longer. She would take her chances with her own house.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Miss Parker’s House
The Next Night



Parker paced the room, occasionally looking at the blank paper that sat on her desk and the picture she had taken from his apartment. She had put off writing the eulogy all yesterday. Instead she had sat in her mother’s studio alternating between crying and laughing as she remembered her past with Jarod and considered her future without him. She had also taken the next day off. She could not bring herself to go back to that place.

Now she had to write it. The memorial would be the next morning. The problem was that she didn’t know what to say about him. There was so many good things about him that she couldn’t give him justice, and she didn’t want to sugar coat his life. It hadn’t been easy and he deserved to be remembered for all the evil he had overcome as well as all of the good he had done. How could she properly express that? She danced with the idea of just having Sydney give the eulogy, but then decided that Sydney had been right. She had to do this, for him and herself. She would just have to find a way to express the intricate dance he preformed between good and evil every day of his life.

Dance. As she mulled over the word she was struck with a flash of her and Jarod dancing. They were in a living room of some house that she didn’t recognize. They were laughing. The music seemed familiar. Then it hit her; that song was Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra. It had been her mother’s favorite song.

When she and Jarod had been about twelve years old she had brought into the Centre her record player. Jarod had been fascinated by it. He had never seen such a thing. He had begged her to play something on it. She decided that she would play her mother’s favorite song for him. He loved it, just as she had thought he would. The music was perfect to dance to, she had told him. He didn’t understand what she meant by dance. Parker had been only mildly surprised to find out that he didn’t know how to dance. She offered to teach him. They found an abandoned room and set up the player. She taught him how to dance, the same way that her mother had taught her. Save a few hurt toes, they had a wonderful time. It was one of the best memories of her childhood.

She couldn’t tell whether the flash was the distorted memory of that day or the remnants of a dream. Whatever it was, it seemed so real. Just as her vision of him telling her that he loved her had seemed so real. It scared her that she wasn’t able to determine the difference between a dream and a memory any more.

Despite her confusion, the memory of teaching Jarod how to dance inspired her. She sat down at her desk with renewed inspiration and a determination to write a speech that would make him proud.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Blue Cove Cemetery
The Next Morning




Miss Parker’s heart sped up as they approached the cemetery. She was suddenly very glad that she had accepted Broot’s offer to drive her to the memorial. Her mind had drifted so many times during the short trip that she was sure that she would have crashed the car had she been driving it.

As the plot came into view Parker was shocked by the number of people paying their last respects to Jarod. Some of them she recognized as people Jarod had helped on a pretend. Other faces were not quite familiar to her, they must have been from pretends that they had missed. Even Centre employees had shown up. To her dismay Lyle, Cox, Raines, and Willie could be counted among them. Lone figures dressed in black were stationed around the area. Some mingled with the crowd, others stood watch. She recognized them as sweepers.

She departed the car, leaving Broots to go find Sydney and approached her father. When he caught sight of her he gave her a reassuring smile.

“Angel, this plan was perfect!”

“Plan?”

”Yes, your plan to hold a memorial in hopes of luring out any members of Jarod’s family. Your idea to post the announcement on the Internet was a stroke of brilliance. We’ll surely get them now.”

Miss Parker noticed her father’s expression. It advised her to go along with the cover, for her own sake. “Thank you Daddy. I knew that you would like it.”

He nodded and took her arm, leading her away from the rest of the Centre cronies. “I’m sorry that they are here, but the triumvirate wasn’t pleased with this show of respect towards one of their projects. I had to cover for you so I told them that is was all an elaborate trap.”

“You’re not mad about this?” Parker was confused. The Mr. Parker she thought that she knew would never allow such a public display of emotions.

“Lets just say that I understand why this is hard for you.”

Rather that arguing she accepted that he was only doing something nice for her. She was too tired to ponder his motives. “Thank you again Daddy. I think that I’ll go find Sydney now.”

She left her father’s company in hopes of finding Sydney. She had not seen him since he had asked her to write the eulogy. Between absorbing all that had happened and writing, she had neglected to check up on him. She hoped that he had been okay.

Parker wove her way through the crowds, but couldn’t find him. A few people offered her their condolences, they either remembered her as a friend of Jarod’s or Jarod had told them about her. She was surprised how many of them Jarod had told about her. None of the people seemed to realize that she was his hunter; they assumed that she was a friend of his.

“Miss Parker?”

Parker turned around and came face to face with a red-haired woman. “Yes?”

“Hi, my name is Zoe. I’ve heard so much about you. I had to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too. Thank you for coming.” She generically replied. It was the same thing she had said to all of the other mourners. Parker was about to walk away again when Zoe stopped her.

“This was really nice of you to do, considering that you and Jarod haven’t exactly been on good terms for the last, what was it, twenty years?”

“You should really thank Sydney, this was all his doing.”

“I’ve already spoken to Sydney. I think that he is having a hard time accepting that Jarod is gone. I think that we all are.” She wiped tears from her eyes, “But that it is hardest for him, seeing that he did raise Jarod after all.”

“How exactly did you know Jarod?”

“Oh, he didn’t tell you about me? I should have figured he wouldn’t. I met Jarod while running from my obsessed ex-boyfriend. We were…involved for a while, but it didn’t work out.”

Immediately Parker was put on the defensive, “Really? Well I’m sorry to hear that. I really should go find Syd.”

The green-eyed monster had reared its ugly head. Parker could feel the jealousy rising in her stomach. This woman had gotten to be with him, why hadn’t she?

“You’re not going to ask me why it didn’t work out?”

“I don’t think that I really want to know.”

“It was you.”

Parker froze, “Excuse me?”

“He wouldn’t admit it, but there was always someone else. He could never reconcile his feelings for the other person with his feelings for me. In the end whatever we had wasn’t strong enough to overcome his feelings for her.”

”How do you know it was me?”

“It was just the way that his eyes would light up when he talked about you. Or the way he always had some little Parker anecdote. I just knew, call it woman’s intuition.”

Parker could not believe what she was hearing. Here is this woman telling her that Jarod had feelings for her at his funeral! She could not believe that this woman would do that to her.

“Why are you telling me this?”

”Because he never got to. From what I understood you thought that you and he were enemies and you believed that he hated you. I didn’t want you to have to live with that belief just because he didn’t get to tell you before he died. He truly did love you.”

“I’m sorry, I…I have to go.” Parker left Zoe standing there. She couldn’t hear any more of what she had to say.

She wished with all of her heart that Jarod did love her, but what good would that do her now? He was gone forever. The only comfort that Zoe’s words had brought her was the knowledge that maybe the mess of feelings she had been having weren’t unrequited.

“Miss Parker? Are you alright?” Sydney interrupted her thoughts.

“I’m fine Syd. How are you? I’m so sorry that I haven’t been around.” Miss Parker hugged him.

“I’m doing well. I understand why you have been preoccupied. You have your own grief to deal with.”

“Please, all be seated.” The priest’s voices sounded over the loudspeaker so that all could hear him.

The entire crowd moved to the white chairs that had been placed in front of the tomb stone. A podium was situated to the left of the marker. To the right of the marker was an open casket. It had been Sydney’s idea that instead of burring Jarod, they burry things that symbolize him. Each person who knew him was allowed to put something in. Parker had placed in the casket the picture of she and Jarod. Sydney had put in a tie, although she didn’t quite understand why. She just accepted that it had some special meaning to Sydney and Jarod.

Sydney and Parker sat side by side in the front row. She only half listened to what the priest had to say. She was aware that he talked about the wonderful life he had had. That angered her. How could this stranger know what his life had been like? She was only too happy to be called to give the eulogy, anything to keep that man from pretending he knew Jarod anymore.

Parker stood behind the podium and looked to Sydney for support. She placed her note cards down in front of her, although there was no need. She knew what she wanted to say by heart.

“I would like to start by thanking all of you for coming. Jarod treasured his friends almost as much as he treasured his family.” Parker looked at the faces in the crowd, each expectantly looking at her. It was as if they expected her words to magically bring him back to life.

“It will never been said that Jarod’s life was an easy one. He led a dangerous dance between good and evil. As a child he was taken from those he loved, his life was turned upside down. He was brought to a place that no child should ever have nightmares about. Yet he thrived. Under the guidance of a compassionate mentor and father figure, he became the caring giving man that we all knew and loved. He dedicated his life to helping those who had suffered misfortunes. But fate can be cruel sometimes. Despite all of his good work, he never achieved his greatest goal. He never reunited his family or had the time to have one of his own. Still, the unfortunate occurrences of his life did not make him bitter. He loved his life. He never took anything for granted. I suppose that a benefit of his unhappy childhood, if any, was that he learned to cherish life. It is a horrible injustice that his was stolen away from him so soon.” Parker paused to catch her breath. This was very hard on her. A knot had begun to form in her stomach as she talked of all that he had been forced to endure.

“I first met Jarod as a child. He was always a source of comfort to me during the hardest times of my life. Jarod was my best friend. We would talk for hours about nothing and everything. He always listened to all that I had to say with rapt attention. Even then he was a selfless child. He loved all who he knew. It didn’t matter to him if you were ‘normal’ or not, he treated everyone with the same respect. He had an unquenchable curiosity. As I recall, that curiosity got us both in trouble a few times.” Parker smiled faintly, “Jarod loved many people, even if few people had the bravery to let him know that they loved him too. I just hope that wherever he is right now he is happy. I hope that he has finally found what he spent a lifetime searching for. I hope that he has found his refuge at last.”



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Blue Cove Cemetery
Later That Day 5:30pm



Parker had stayed at the cemetery all day long. The crowds lingered until five that evening. She stayed all day long because she realized that this would probably be her last chance to say goodbye to him, and she didn’t want to have to do it with all of those people there. It wouldn’t have been right.

The casket full of memories had been buried earlier, a fresh mound of earth covered where there had earlier been a six foot hole in the ground. The podium had been removed, and the tombstone had been set in place.

She knelt down on the freshly covered plot so that she could read the inscription on the marble marker.


Jarod
1960-2001
To Laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better
Whether by a healthy child, a garden patch,
Or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because
You have lived. This is to have succeeded.



Parker traced over the letters of his name with one hand. One of the greatest tragedies of all was that they still were not sure of his name or birthday. They had considered inscribing “Jarod Russell” on the grave marker, but had decided against it. After all, no matter what his name was, he would always be just Jarod in the hearts and minds of all who knew him.

The poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson had been Miss Parker’s idea. She had read it once in a book, and it reminded her of him. It perfectly described his life. His lack of results in his life’s search should not be considered a failure, the good he did along that search was the true success of his life.

“Why Jarod? Why did you have to leave me so soon? I still have so much I need to say.” Parker’s words could barely be heard above her heart wrenching sobs. These were the tears of a woman who had lost everything good in her life. Everyone she loved had been taken from her; her mother’s life, Timmy’s mind, Faith’s life, Tommy’s life, and now they had taken her one source of strength and love. They had taken Jarod away from her.

She lay crying by his grave for another hour, each minute seeming to take an eternity. Finally, as the sun began to set she stood up and straightened her jacket. This location for his grave had been perfect. It was atop a hill, which overlooked the setting sun. Had Parker not been ripped of any caring she had left about the beauty in life, she would have found the sight breathtaking.

She called for a cab to come pick her up; she had let Broots leave hours before. There was one last thing that she had to do before she could leave. She picked up a bouquet of buttercups and daffodils and laid them on the mound of earth. She knew that the arrangement of bright yellow flowers was odd, but she had not chosen them for how they would look. She placed them there for their meaning. The daffodil symbolized unrequited love. In a way it was for their future that would never be. Now they would never be able to share their love. The buttercups symbolized memories of childhood. It was her way of telling him that she too remembered the little boy who gave her her first kiss.

“I love you Jarod, always and forever.” Parker informed the setting sun. She hoped that somewhere he was looking down on her, and could hear what she was saying.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The Catskill Mountains
New York State
A Cabin




Ethan paced the front porch of a cabin nestled safely in the confines of the Catskill Mountains. It was a safe house that Jarod had set up for them months before incase there was an emergency. This was definitely an emergency.

Ethan was tired of doing nothing day after day. He was beginning to grow wrestles with this waiting game they seemed to be playing with fate. Each day all occupants of the cabin held their breath. No one knew what to expect.

Soon he became tired of the view from the porch too. He decided to go inside and see how everyone was doing. Not that he expected them to be any different from when he left. Time seemed to be frozen.

He made his way to the bedroom in the back of the cabin. There, Charles and Josh sat by the bedside of his now unconscious brother. The man lying in the bed had tubes and machines hooked up to him; creating an orchestra of electronic beeps, whirls, and hums. The heart monitor registered a steady, but weak, rhythm.

“Any changes?” Ethan spoke up, startling Charles and Josh.

“No, he hasn’t changed since you brought him hear a couple days ago.” Josh responded sadly.

Ethan had made the right decision to call the Major and Josh. Luckily, Josh did have the training required to handle the situation, and what he didn’t know he read about. Ethan just couldn’t understand why his brother wasn’t getting better or waking up.

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, “Why don’t you two go get something to eat. I’ll stay with him for now.”

Charles looked at Josh, “I guess that we should, we have to keep up our strength for him. Come on Josh.”

When they were gone Ethan took Charles’ seat next to the bed. “Come on Jarod. You have to wake up. We need you.”




~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Miss Parker’s House
One Week Later



Parker sat on the window seat in her mother’s studio. The view of the beautifully twinkling stars was just out the window, but Parker wasn’t looking at the stars. She was concentrating on the paper in her hand. She read Jarod’s letter over and over again. She memorized every word and studied his script. It was the last communication she had with him. The last thing he had ever told her.

She had been like this all week. She had taken a month off. Strangely, Mr. Parker had not protested or demanded to know why she was so upset over a project that she needed time off. He had just solemnly accepted her request and told her to take as much time as she needed.

Oddly enough he didn’t let Sydney take that kind of time off. He had been given a week, which would have ended today. Parker had asked her father to give him more time, Jarod had been his life for so long, but her father had refused. He said that Sydney needed to refocus his attention on capturing Jarod’s family.

That made her sick to no end. The man just died, and they already wanted to go after that which he held most precious.

Her about-face in attitude had scared her at first. She had gone, in a little over a week, from being the loyal ice queen to being a champion of everything she had been raised to abhor. The ice queen façade had never been real anyway. Jarod had known that. He had tried numerous times to get her to admit that to herself. Ironically, when she finally was ready to admit what she knew to be true but had been hiding for years, he was gone.

No amount of remembering or reading his letter could fill the empty void that she felt in her heart. Every night she still woke up at odd hours reaching for the phone that never rang. Then, as she had done early that night and every other, she would cry herself to sleep.

Life had taken on regularity in that aspect. The routine was all that she had left. The only way that she continued to function was by looking only to the next step, never any further. Breathe in, breathe out. Put one foot in front of the other. If she dared to look too far ahead, she was only confronted with the realization that there was nothing there. All of her secret hopes and dreams for the future had died that day in New York City.

She felt so foolish. She had wasted, thrown away, the most precious gift ever given to her. Even as a child she had known how special her relationship with him was. She had taken full advantage of it then. It seemed that rather than gain knowledge as she matured, it simply diminished.

There had been a time when she would not have hesitated to tell him how she felt. Yet now, as an adult, she had avoided any kind of confrontation with him at all for over five years.

When she was only ten, she had the nerve to follow her heart. Parker smiled at the memory. She had wanted to kiss him, and she did. Not one to wait around for anything, she had taken it upon herself to kiss him. Of course she had been afraid of what his reaction might be, but it was worth the risk. She had given him some incredibly lame line, which he fell for hook line and sinker. Then she just did it. It was only any innocent brush of lips, but it was the start of something much larger than either of them separately. It had been the beginning of them together.

Their first real kiss didn’t occur until years later. They had been talking in the shadows, as per their custom, when he leaned over and kissed her gently on the lips. He pulled away and smiled that huge grin of his, the one she loved so much. Then she, always the instigator, kissed him back. The second kiss was much more passionate than the first. It was their first real kiss. It was magic. The electricity that a simple touch between the two could convey was amplified by the contact. She had never found a man who could kiss like that again.

Parker laughed at herself for no reason. She was certain that she must have been going insane. What else could explain this week? She was sure that she would wake up at any time in an institution for the insane, and would find that this whole experience had been nothing but the imaginings of a mental patient. Either that, or she was going to be a patient soon. How much longer could she go on like this?



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The Catskill Mountains
New York State
A Cabin
Same Day




Ethan sat beside Jarod with Josh, as they had done every day for almost two weeks. They had finally convinced Charles to take a nap in his own bed. The emotional trial the old man was enduring would surely take it’s toll if they did not watch out for him.

“Ethan?”

“Hmm?”

“What if he dies?”

Ethan looked at Josh. It was something that he too had been asking himself for quite some time now. It was a question that none of them want to face, but all indications pointed to the distinct possibility that that was a question that might one day have to be answered.

He sighed, “I don’t know…”

Then, their conversation was interrupted by an irregular beep of the brain function monitor. It showed increased activity in his brain.

“I’ll go get dad.” Josh ran out of the room to retrieve his father.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



Jarod was vaguely aware that he was not alone, wherever he was. Everything hurt, and it was really dark. He tried to open his eyes or speak for a few minutes, but nothing happened. He could faintly hear someone moaning, he assumed that it was himself, but everything seemed so disconnected.

He tried to remember where he was. What did he remember last? He did remember a fight with Parker. She was yelling at him, and he at her. He remembered something else about her too. A beach house. He and she laughing and walking along the pristine shores. Wait a minute, he thought to himself, that never happened. He thought very hard about what happened after the phone call. He could remember something about writing a letter, about going outside…to mail it perhaps. Then there was a van, shots rang out. He could practically feel the bullets enter his chest. One thought raced through his mind, Parker. He had to talk to Parker.

He attempted to voice his thought, but it only came out as a mixture of jumbles.

“It’s okay son. We’re right here.”

The voice sounded familiar to Jarod. It sounded like his father, Major Charles. What was he doing there? Whatever had happened must have been pretty bad to take his father out of hiding.

“P…P…” Jarod tried his best to construct the words.

“What is it son?”

Jarod thought of her face, he needed to see her; he needed to tell her something. He couldn’t quite remember what, but it seemed important. He tried to open his eyes again. They felt tremendously heavy, but his desire to see her was to great to keep them closed. He had to somehow tell his father what he wanted.

“Dad, I think that he is trying to open his eyes.” Josh observed.

All were delighted when he succeeded. Jarod looked around the room taking in the familiar faces. Ethan, Josh, and Charles were gathered by his bedside.

“Parker.” Was all that Jarod said before he let his eyes close again, and exhaustion to win him over.

The trio looked confusedly at each other. Jarod had been unconscious for over a week, then he woke up all of a sudden and said one word. “Parker.” That was the name of the woman who was chasing him, wasn’t it?

“Ethan, do you know how to contact Miss Parker?”

“Yes, she gave me an email address incase of an emergency. Why?”

“We have to call her.”

“I don’t think that would be such a good idea.” Charles warned. “She is one of them.”

“Jarod wants to see her. It must be important.”

“He has been unconscious for almost a week, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

The Major and Josh stopped their conversation long enough to ask Ethan his opinion on the situation.

“I think that we should call her. Josh is right, Jarod wouldn’t ask for her unless it was important.”

Charles was still less than convinced. He did not want to endanger his sons by inviting the enemy over. Miss Parker had been hunting him and his sons for as long as Jarod had been free. He was doubtful that she could be trusted enough to be brought to their location, yet they would be unable to move Jarod.

“Dad,” Josh put a reassuring hand on his father’s shoulder, “I met her once. I saw something in her eyes when she spoke of him. We can trust her.”

He looked over at Jarod, then back to Ethan and Josh. He sure hoped that they knew what they were doing.



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The Centre



Sydney sat in his office chair gazing absentmindedly at the wall. He wasn’t really thinking of the wall, he was thinking of Jarod. The memorial had a wonderful turnout. There were many people who had loved Jarod. The news of his death had spread rapidly amongst those he had helped.

It wasn’t the same around the Centre without Jarod’s calls and presents. Everyone could sense the empty hole his absence left in the Centre. Even after he had run away, he remained an integral part of the Centre. Now, it was as if that part was missing. No one knew quite how to deal with it. Even the people who were in no way connection to the hunt for the pretender could feel his absence.

No one felt it more that Sydney. The Centre had given his a grossly inadequate amount of time to recover from this devastating loss. Jarod had been a son to him, yet he had been expected to simply brush off his death. That had been impossible; he had simply hidden it under his cool professional exterior. You don’t last long at the Centre if you aren’t extremely proficient at that particular skill.

Miss Parker had been a source of constant worry for the psychologist. Mr. Parker’s revelation about the true nature of the experiment had been quite a shock to him. Sydney understood what it was like to lose those you love. He had lost the love of his life, Michelle, once. The problem was that Sydney wasn’t sure that Parker would be able to cope with another loss. She had already endured so many that he doubted that she had the resources to survive another. And this one was worse than the rest. This time, a part of her died too. At least when Michelle left, Sydney had people to support him. Who did Parker have? Jarod had always been her rock. Sydney was unsure that he, with all of his good intentions, would be a suitable substitute for him in Parker’s time of need.

Sighing, Sydney moved his chair from facing the wall to facing his desk. He decided to take one last jaunt into Jarod’s ‘Refuge’ account, to make sure that he hadn’t left anything important in there.

He was surprised to see one message labeled “Miss Parker, Urgent”. Miss Parker was not at work, she wouldn’t be for quite some time, so he decided to save her the trouble and open it himself.


Miss Parker,
You must come quickly to the attached address. This concerns a matter of great importance to yourself and me; Jarod. I trust that you will come alone. Hurry.
Ethan


Sydney was intrigued. Why did Ethan want to see Parker so desperately, and what did this have to do with Jarod? Sydney closed his eyes for a moment. He was unsure whether or not to tell her about this, it could only further upset her. Then again, since when did it become his choice what she knew and what she didn’t? He would visit her immediately.




~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Miss Parker’s House



When Sydney had knocked on her door, there had been no reply. Concerned for her well-being he had entered anyway and found her curled up in a little ball in her mother’s studio, fast asleep. Reluctantly he woke her.

“Syd?” She groggily asked.

“Yes Miss Parker. It’s me. I need to speak to you.”

“Oh.” She looked at her watch. “I must have fallen asleep.”

Sydney looked at her tear stained face, and at the letter clutched in her hand. She had not simply fallen asleep, it was more like she had passed out from emotional exhaustion.

“I found this in the Refuge account. It‘s for you.”

She took the printout of the email from him and read it over. “I gave Ethan the address to that secure account a while ago incase he need to contact me due to some emergency.”

“Do you know why he would email you about Jarod.”

“No.” She thought for a moment, and then quietly guessed, “Maybe he just wanted to let me know where Jarod is buried.”

Sydney looked sadly at her. She did not need this reminder of his death right now. “What are you going to do?”

“I am going to go to this address. Ethan said that it was important.”

Sydney nodded in acquiescence. “Do you want me to go with you?”

She look relieved, he had read her mind, “Would you? I’ll call my father and tell him that you need more time off. He won’t argue, for some reason he is being very compliant with my requests lately.”

As predicted, Mr. Parker did not argue with his daughter’s request. He simply wished her the best and told her he hoped they would feel better soon.

Rather than take the Centre jet, which would be too obvious for their secret meeting, they booked two seats on a commercial flight and were on their way to New York once again.




~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The Catskill Mountains
New York State
A Cabin




Miss Parker and Sydney, because they had booked last minute seats, had to wait until early in the morning to take off. It was the next day by the time they reached New York. Then they had to rent a car and make the long drive deep into the mountains. They arrived at the cabin around ten in the morning.

Charles had been watching for Parker to arrive since the email had been sent from a window in the living room. Now, as he watched the car pull into their long driveway, his apprehension about letting her know their location increased. He silently watched her get out of the car. He was dismayed to see that someone else was with her. He recognized the man as Sydney, the man who had raised Jarod.

Angrily Charles greeted the two at the door. “I thought that we told you to come alone!”

Parker was a little taken aback. “If this concerns Jarod, then Sydney has as much a right to be here as I.” She calmly informed him. Had this been any other occasion, she would have bitten his head off for snapping at her; but the ice queen was too tired to care about his tone.

“It’s all right Dad.” Ethan assured his father, “Let them come in.”

Charles opened the door and stood out of their way. At that same moment Josh came bounding into the room.

“They’re here. That was fast.” Josh joked. He was in a very good mood, his brother had improved since the previous night, even enough to speak and joke with him. It was a major turnaround from his comatose-like state of the past couple days.

The second Parker caught sight of Jarod’s clone she could feel the knot raising in her throat. He looked exactly like Jarod had when they were children. He even was wearing a similar smile. Similar because, though they had the same face, no one could smile like Jarod. She could barely suppress a small cry as Josh approached her.

“What is wrong?” He asked her. He did not understand why she was so sad to see him. He was even more shocked when she turned around, buried her head in Sydney’s chest and started to cry.

Parker had tried very hard not to adversely react, for Josh’s sake, but the sight of him had been too much.

Ethan ushered them into the living room so that Parker could sit down.

“I’m sorry.” She attempted to explain, “You just look so much like him…and I miss him so much…”

“Jarod?” Charles asked her. He was as confused as everyone else. The only person who seemed to know what was going on was Sydney. “Why do you miss him? Isn’t it your job to chase the poor stooge down?”

Parker was horrified by Jarod’s own father’s disrespect of his dead son. Jarod was dead, and here was the family he devoted his life to searching for calling him names!

“Major, please.” Sydney urged the man not to be so callous. Parker was having a hard enough time with the situation.

Parker wiped the tears from her face, “Why is it that you wanted me to come here?”

“He wants to see you. He woke up yesterday and asked for you.” Ethan explained.

“Who?”

“Jarod.”

Parker was shocked, didn’t they know that Jarod was dead. Hadn’t they taken his body after he had been shot? “You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

Parker took a deep breath, “Jarod is dead.”

Ethan, Josh, and Charles looked strangely at her. Jarod wasn’t dead; he was resting right in the other room.

“What?”

“Jarod was killed in a drive by shooting eight days ago.”

Ethan knelt down by his sister and took her hand. That explained why she was acting so strangely. She was mourning. “Jarod isn’t dead. I found him shot, yes. But I called Dad and Josh and they came and took care of him. He is all right. He is here with us.”

Parker held on even more tightly to Ethan’s hand. Her greatest dream was coming true. Could he possibly have just told her that Jarod was not only alive, but that he was there with them? A smile appeared through her tears, “He’s alive?” She was almost hesitant to ask; afraid that they had been kidding or that she had misunderstood.

“Yes, and he has been asking to see you. That is why I contacted you.”

“He was in pretty rough shape when he got here, but we fixed him up well.” Josh proudly explained, “He had suffered severe blood loss, but the bullets missed any major organs. He was unconscious due to the trauma his body endured for most of the time he was here, but he is awake now.”

“Can we see him?” Sydney asked, cautiously eyeing Charles for signs of disapproval.

Charles nodded. From the way that those two were behaving, he could tell that they cared deeply for his eldest son. He wouldn’t stand in their way. Of course, he would be keeping an eye on them just the same, but he wouldn’t be openly hostile.

Josh led the way to a small room towards the back of the cabin. The pretty blue décor was hidden amongst various medical equipments. Most of the machines had been disconnected from the man lying in the bed.

Parker rushed over to the bedside, taking in the sight of the man she had believed she would never see again. She took his hand in hers and held it tightly, as if it were the only thing keeping them together. She noticed that he looked pale and tired, but it wasn’t as bad as she had expected. When they had told her that he was alive she had visualized that she would find him in a much worse state, but he wasn’t even on a respirator.

An intense feeling of relief and joy cascaded through her body. Jarod was alive, and while a little worse for the wear, he was on the mend. She lay her head down on the bed next to him, relishing in their closeness.

As if he could feel her there, he opened his tired eyes, “Parker?”

She looked up, a gigantic smile on her face, “You got that right, Wonder Boy.”

“Parker, I am so sorry about everything that I said…”

“Shhh, it’s okay. That is ancient history. I am just glad that you are all right.”

Jarod was a little confused, “Who are you and what did you do with Miss Parker?”

When she giggled Jarod concluded, “Now I *know* that you aren’t Miss Parker. If Miss Parker was here she’d be ringing my neck, not holding my hand.”

Parker realized how absolutely absurd this must seem to him. Last he knew she hated him. “Let’s just say that Miss Parker has had a wakeup call. She finally realized what you have been trying to tell her for years now. We both want the same thing,” She leaned in closer so that the others in the room couldn’t hear, “Someone to love, someone to love us.” She pulled back in time to catch the bemused expression on his face, “It just took me a little longer to realize who that was.”

Finally catching on to what she was telling him he smiled, as best he could, at her. After five years of trying to make her see what was right in front of her, could he have gotten through to her? “What happened to you?”

“I guess that I just had to lose what meant most to me to find out how much it meant to me. I’m sorry…about everything.”

Jarod reached up and lovingly brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. It was something that he had always wanted to do, but had never before dared. He couldn’t believe that here she was telling him everything he wanted to hear, well, almost everything. Butterflies had invaded his stomach, and warmth had invaded his heart. “I had the strangest dream.”

“Really? What was it about?” She asked softly.

“We were at this beach house, we were so happy. It seemed so real.”

Parker’s breath caught, “I had the same dream, only it wasn’t like a dream. It seemed more like a memory.”

“Or a premonition?” He joked with her.

Parker smiled, she was too happy to put too much thought into it.

In the background, standing next to Charles, Sydney shifted uncomfortably. So she had remembered, and so had he. At least that was all that they remembered. It could have been worse. Right now he wasn’t very concerned about it. Maybe it would be good for them to know now. “I am very glad that you are all right, Jarod.”

Jarod tore his gaze away from Parker when he heard the familiar Belgium accent. “Sydney.”

Sydney broke away from the small crowd and gave his protégé a hug. “We were very worried about you.” He said emphasizing ‘very’ the same way that he always did.

Jarod could feel his eyes getting heavy again. The exhilaration his visitors had brought him was slowly wearing off.

Sydney noticed his fatigue, “Maybe we should let him get some rest. We can all chew his ear off later.”

Everyone exited the room, but Parker hung back. She was reluctant to leave him.

“Chew my ear off? Should I be scared?”

Parker let out a soft laugh. It lasted only a moment, “I thought that I had lost you forever. I thought that I would never see you again.”

He looked thoughtfully into her eyes, “Will you stay with me?” He too wasn’t ready to let her go. He was afraid that if he did, she would change her mind or go back to the way she was before. He couldn’t stand for her to be closed off again.

“I’m not going anywhere.” She pulled up a chair next to his bed so that her lower body could sit in the chair, and her upper body could be on the bed next to him. “I promise that I will never let it get like that between us again.”

Shortly he was in his happy dreamland again. She just lay there watching him sleep. The steady rhythm of his breathing confirmed that he indeed was real, and not just some apparition from a dream of her own.

For so long Parker had been unhappy. Eventually happiness had become so foreign that it scared her. She wasn’t scared to be happy anymore. Jarod’s close call had taught her a lesson she would never forget. She would make sure that he was well aware of just how much she was in love with him. It may be a mistake, but it would be worth making.




There were nights when the wind was so cold
That my body froze in bed
If I just listened to it
Right outside the window

There were days when the sun was so cruel
That all the tears turned to dust
And I just knew my eyes were
Drying up forever

I finished crying in the instant that you left
And I can't remember where or when or how
And I banished every memory you and I had ever made

But when you touch me like this
And you hold me like that
I just have to admit
That it's all coming back to me

When I touch you like this
And I hold you like that
It's so hard to believe but
It's all coming back to me
(It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now)

There were moments of gold
And there were flashes of light
There were things I'd never do again
But then they'd always seemed right
There were nights of endless pleasure
It was more than any laws allow
Baby Baby

If I kiss you like this
And if you whisper like that
It was lost long ago
But it's all coming back to me
If you want me like this
And if you need me like that
It was dead long ago
But it's all coming back to me
It's so hard to resist
And it's all coming back to me
I can barely recall
But it's all coming back to me now
But it's all coming back

There were those empty threats and hollow lies
And whenever you tried to hurt me
I just hurt you even worse
And so much deeper

There were hours that just went on for days
When alone at last we'd count up all the chances
That were lost to us forever

But you were history with the slamming of the door
And I made myself so strong again somehow
And I never wasted any of my time on you since then

But if I touch you like this
And if you kiss me like that
It was so long ago
But it's all coming back to me
If you touch me like this
And if I kiss you like that
It was gone with the wind
But it's all coming back to me
(It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now)

There were moments of gold
And there were flashes of light
There were things we'd never do again
But then they'd always seemed right
There were nights of endless pleasure
It was more than all your laws allow
Baby, Baby, Baby

When you touch me like this
And when you hold me like that
It was gone with the wind
But it's all coming back to me
When you see me like this
And when I see you like that
Then we see what we want to see
All coming back to me
The flesh and the fantasies
All coming back to me
I can barely recall
But it's all coming back to me now

If you forgive me all this
If I forgive you all that
We forgive and forget
And it's all coming back to me
When you see me like this
And when I see you like that
We see just what we want to see
All coming back to me
The flesh and the fantasies
All coming back to me
I can barely recall but it's all coming back to me now

(It's all coming back to me now)
And when you kiss me like this
(It's all coming back to me now)
And when I touch you like that
(It's all coming back to me now)
If you do it like this
(It's all coming back to me now)
And if we...



To be continued…
Part 2 by Ashley
Disclaimer: *Sigh*, I don’t own The Pretender or any of the characters that are herein mentioned (except maybe Penny). The song is Strangers In the Night by Frank Sinatra, but don’t worry it is only in one scene for those of you who hate song fics.



Buttercups and Daffodils
part 2

By: ~*Ashley*~





::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
1979



Jarod stood, his back to her, looking at the rising sun. The view was as incredible as it had been every night of their stay. It was breathtaking; golden rays bounced off the capping waves of the roaring ocean. The steady rumble of water soothed the tense watcher, who was enjoying the scene. Having grown up near the ocean himself, one would think that he would be used to the majestic body of water, but such was not the case. He had been kept the mere distance of a wall from its beauty, knowing it was out there, but never being permitted to see it. Naturally, the first chance he got he had to see it for himself. Its vast quantities of the salty life-giving substance amazed him. Such a thing could surely destroy a civilization as well as it could provide it with the food and energy needed to sustain its people.

“It’s striking, isn’t it?” Miss Parker wrapped her arms around his waist.

“I’ll never get used to it.”

Smiling, she turned him around to face her. She had expected to see him as at ease as herself, but was greeted with the face of a man at conflict, “What is wrong?”

“Sydney, I didn’t say goodbye, he must be so worried.”

“Is that all?” She asked with relief, “Why don’t you call him?”

“Oh the phone? They might have it bugged.”

“Of course on the phone, and they call you a genius. Simply call him at home.”

“What would I do without you?” He kissed her on the lips.

She smiled, knowing that he would be completely lost without her, and that it worked both ways.

He let out a hearty laughter, and gathered her in an embrace. Bending his head down so that it was right next to her ear, he whispered, “I love you.”

After a few minutes he disentangled himself from her arms, walked over to the phone, and picked up the receiver. He nervously glanced back at her and absorbed the strength her presence afforded him. He dialed the number of his old mentor. It rang once, then twice, then three times.

“I don’t think he is home.” He silently mouthed to his companion.

Disappointed, he hung up the phone after five rings.

“You can try again tomorrow.” She attempted to comfort him.

“You’re right. For now lets just enjoy being here, together.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::



The day had passed quickly. They had spent the daylight hours enjoying each other’s company. Walking hand-in-hand along the pristine shores of the ocean, eating lunch at the diner on the pier, gathering colorful shells, the day was perfect.

Now as the sun they had watched rise only a short while ago sank beneath the horizon, they sat in each other’s arms on the wicker loveseat. The shells that had been gathered earlier that day were lined up on the coffee table in front of them, a pleasant reminder of the day’s joy.

She smiled and moved towards the record player stationed in the corner of the living room. Placing the needle on the edge of the record, she merrily let it begin to play. Taking advantage of the brief pause before the music, she moved the wicker coffee table to the side of the sofa, leaving a generous empty space in the middle of the floor.

“What are you doing?” He questioned, amused.

She quickly pressed a single finger to his lips, to silence him. “Listen.”

It was then that the record player began playing the rich tunes of the song they had danced to as children. Her mother had enrolled her in dance lessons as a child, and she had only been too eager to share her new passion with her best friend.


Strangers in the night exchanging glances
Wond’ring in the night
What were the Chances we’d be sharing love
Before the night was through.

Expertly, he swept her up in his arms and began to twirl her around the room. He stared intently into her eyes; reveling in the look of complete love and adoration she was giving him at that moment. She too was taken aback by the intense love he openly showed her, and shocked by how vulnerable she herself had become with just a look and a dance.

Something in your eyes was so inviting,
Something in your smile was so exciting,
Something in my heart,
Told me I must have you.



Since running away to this picturesque community by the shore of the Atlantic Ocean she had been happy, truly happy, in a way she hadn’t been in a long time. She would never have guessed that they would end up like this someday, completely in a love and together at last. It was only too good to be true.


Strangers in the night, two lonely people
We were strangers in the night
Up to the moment
When we said our first hello.
Little did we know
Love was just a glance away,
A warm embracing dance away.


Lost in their moment the real world seemed to vanish from view. They forgot that they were being chased by a very determined organization bent on their capture. They forgot their traumatic childhoods. They even forgot the sacrifices they had endured to be together. Only then, when they were truly happy, did all hell break loose.

It started as the rumbling sound of tires on the crushed rock in front of their beach house. Then massive fists began banging with all of their might against the doors and windows. With little effort, the intruders defeated the deadbolt and gained entry. An infantry of well-dressed hunters surrounded them as they stood together in the middle of their dance.

“Time to go home.” The biggest one of them shouted.

Whispering into her ear, so that the sweepers could not hear he reassured her, “This isn’t over. We will be together. I love you.”

Before she had a chance to return the sentiment he was ushering her to the back exit, which it appeared the brutes didn’t have covered. She ran outside and onto the porch; expecting that he had followed her, she was shocked to find herself alone under the moonlight.

Never one to give up without a fight, he struggled to distract the sweepers long enough for her to get away.

“Come and get me boys. Forget the girl, you know it’s me you want.”

One sweeper charged at him with all the rage he could muster. He easily avoided the charge with a calculated move to his right. The sweeper continued headfirst into the wall and slid down it, knocked out.

“One down, fifty to go.” Jarod smiled menacingly.

Realizing that they would not be able to catch the clever man by sheer force, they got into their predetermined positions to carry out the planned attack they had practiced in anticipation of being met by such a worthy adversary.

Like ballet dancers performing an intricate dance, they surrounded Jarod. Their obviously well rehearsed plan caught him off guard. He could tell that he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Thinking of his love, he conjured up all of the courage he could and braced himself for attack. One sweeper came at him; again he knocked him out with a skillful jab and a swift kick. Another snuck up behind him, and before he could properly recover, they were upon him again. Unable to take on so many large men at one time, he struggled under their strength as they pushed him to the ground. Holding down his arms they injected him with a sedative. After fighting the strong dose for as long as he could, he finally succumbed to its effects and drifted into a world of darkness.

Outside, Miss Parker was having even less luck. Sweepers had quickly surrounded the back exit as soon as they had seen her move towards it, and once she was outside they had her where they wanted her. She was subdued and they administered another injection. Her last thought as she blacked out, was that for all his good intentions it was over, and they would never be together again. “I love you too, Jarod.”

In the background the ironic last verse of their song repeated itself over and over again, the record player had been damaged in the fight.


Ever since that night we’ve been together.
Lovers at first sight, in love forever.
It turned out so right,
For strangers in the night.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Present
(One week after MP’s arrival at the Cabin)


The mountains surrounding the rustic cabin teemed with life on this particular morning. As the dawn sun rose, the inhabitants, both of land and air began their soothing songs. Chirping, tweeting, and twittering echoed off of the valley walls. As the rays reached the dew soaked greenery below the humid, musty smell that could only be found when one was truly in the boonies swirled through the air. The soft light poured through the sparkling windows, playing fleeting shadows on the faces of the sleeping people. Each person lost in his or her own blissful dream worlds. Not a soul was disturbed by unpleasant thoughts or feelings on this rare morning.

The mood was such when a weary-eyed traveler pulled her car into the gravel driveway. Carefully closing the car door she approached the slumbering house. From the porch she could glimpse the sun rising over the trees. She recalled her father telling her once that this was always her mother’s favorite time of day. He said that it had been her habit to, after checking on her sleeping babes, to sit on the steps in front of their little house enjoying the light. Her mother always told her that the rising of that burning orb signified not only the start of a brand new day, but the chance to make all of your dreams come true. The sun’s second chances had burned away the darkness surrounding the misfortunes of her life far more times than should be necessary in her young lifetime. It was in times like this that she craved her mother’s guidance more than any other. It had been years since her mother’s wise words had graced her ears.

This weary-eyed traveler was only too happy to go inside the secluded mountain cabin and make her way to the warm bed she knew to be awaiting her. Having stayed in this home before, she remembered which room had been designated as her own and headed in that direction. Only thoughts of much needed sleep crossed her mind as she passed one door. Upon seeing the second, she poked her head through the crack and observed that her wounded brother appeared to be on the mend and sleeping like a baby. She was glad to see him at rest, as she was very familiar with the nightmares that usually plagued his dreamland. Then she shuffled to the third door, her own. Without as much as a quick look at her surroundings she sat on the edge of her bed and began to remove the shoes from her tired feet.

“Hmm.” Moaned a sleepy voice from beside her.

She stared down in shock at the raven-haired woman in her bed. Her muffled gasp awoke the lightly slumbering woman, for she bolted straight up in the bed and began feeling for the weapon she was accustomed to sleeping beside. Not finding it, she chose to use her second strongest weapon: her words.

“Who the hell are you?”

Rejuvenated by this startling encounter she smiled, “My name is Emily. You must be Miss Parker.”

Parker eyed her intruder cautiously, “How would you know that?”

“Oh, Jarod has told me all about you.” Emily replied casually.

Parker raised her eyebrow, “Jarod told his sister all about me?” she thought to herself. She was more intrigued with what he had said about her than with what Emily was doing on her bed, however she chose to inquire about the latter first.

“What are you doing in here?”

Emily cast her an amused look, “This is my room.”

“Oh, “ Parker hesitated. She debated whether to tell this woman to get the heck out of her room, as was her first instinct, or be polite, as she was a guest here. “Um, they told me that it would be all right for me to sleep in here.” She followed the wary path.

“Of course it’s all right. We can always share.”

This concept was quite foreign to Parker. She was raised as an only child, and never had to share a thing in her life. However, the confidence of this quirky young woman beside her assured her that it would not be a problem. The room had two twin beds after all.

Emily was only slightly fazed by the knowledge that this was the woman in charge of tearing apart her family. From the way that Jarod had described it, her domineering father had forced the task on her. The only thing that was bothering her was exactly why this woman was at the cabin with her family. Wouldn’t being there with them without having called the Centre be considered traitorous?

Not wanting to offend Miss Parker, but dieing to know what was going on, Emily decided to ask the woman, “Why are you here?”

Parker blinked once, in an effort to wake herself completely and considered how to explain this to Emily. “Sydney and I received an email from Ethan asking us to come about a week ago, apparently Jarod had asked for us, so we came as quickly as we could.”

“Why would Jarod ask for you? He knows how dangerous that would be for his family.”

Defensively, Parker replied, “He was concerned about something that we had said before the shooting and wanted to talk to me about it.” Parker went silent for a moment remembering the horrors of the past week. “We thought that he was dead.”

“That must have been awful.” Emily put a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“It was…” Parker faded away, not quite feeling comfortable talking about this with a virtual stranger. Even though everything her father had ever taught her warned against it, she decided to confide in Emily anyway. “I thought that I would never see him again.”

“But he is getting better now, isn’t he?”

Parker smiled happily, “Yes, from what I have seen he has improved greatly. When we first arrived he was practically bedridden, now he is able to walk around.”

Emily smiled back at her, “Good old Jarod. He can’t do anything at a normal pace.”

“Yeah.” Parker got up from the bed and turned to Emily, “I guess, since I am already awake, I’ll go take a shower and watch the sunrise. You go ahead and go to sleep, you look exhausted.”

“Thanks.” Emily called after Parker as she left for the bathroom.

Before she would let the darkness overcome her, Emily considered the situation between her brother and Parker. It was certainly complicated, to say the least. They both had been forced to endure so much, both separately and together, yet they had triumphed over every obstacle. Nothing could stop them from fulfilling their destinies, whatever they might be.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Two Hours Later



When Jarod woke up he went down stairs to get something to eat. On his way to the kitchen he found Parker sitting on the front steps gazing off at the risen sun. She looked so beautiful to him, sitting there in the soft light, unaware of anything around her. Peace seemed to create an aura around her.

“Good morning.”

She turned around to see him standing above her, “Morning Jarod.”

“May I join you?”

“Sure.” She patted the empty space beside her on the step.

He sat a respectful distance from her, studying the sky and enjoying their companionable silence.

“Parker?”

“Hmm?”

“What happened?”

“What do you mean?” She asked quizzically.

“What happened to bring about this drastic change in attitude? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but you seem so…”

“Happy? That’s because I am. After the fight I felt so guilty; I was sure that I went too far, we both went too far. When they told me that you were dead I wouldn’t believe them. To think that you had died not only not knowing how I feel about you, but also believing that I hated you was too much for me. I couldn’t imagine a life without you. Whether I like to admit it or not, you are my everything. I know that it’s been a long time since we were friends, but nothing has changed in the way I feel about you. When I saw that you were here, alive, I promised myself that I would never forget the lesson almost losing you taught me. You are my someone to care about, and when I finally realized that I felt relieved of the burden hiding that from you had put on me. I’m happy because I have you.”

“Well, “ He said wiping a tear from her face, “I’m glad that you feel that way, because after saying that, you are stuck with me.”

She let out a breathy laugh and hugged him tightly, enjoying just being close to him.

“How long can you stay here?” Jarod asked her, bringing her back to reality.

“Daddy gave me a month off before I came here, but realistically I can only stay another couple days before he notices that I left Blue Cove and sends the cavalry after me.”

“Oh.” Jarod said disappointedly. “Well, I am surprised that he gave you any time off at all.”

“I know. Daddy has been acting strangely since you ‘died’. At first I thought that it was just him being caring, but I am starting to wonder if there is something more behind it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. Nothing that has anything to do with the Centre is just as it seems.”

“I guess so.” She looked off into the forest, “How will Major Charles feel about my staying here?”

“I think that he is accepting the idea. By now it must be obvious how much you mean to all of us. Really I am more concerned with how he and Sydney are getting along. He seems to act kind of cold towards him.”

“It sounds like he is jealous of Sydney.”

“Why would he be jealous of Sydney?”

Parker rolled her eyes. Sometimes Jarod was pretty dense. “Did you know that Emily is here?”

Jarod stood up, “Where?” He asked anxiously.

“She was really tired when she arrived, she is sleeping in my room right now.”

“Oh.” He said disappointed.

Deciding to distract him from his want to see his sister she announced, “I’m hungry.”

“Then lets go get something to eat.”

“Good idea Wonder Boy.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Living Room



Sydney and Charles sat in the living room talking at the same time Parker and Jarod were outside talking. The ruckus of Jarod and Parker getting up had awoken them.

“Jarod seems to be getting better quickly.” Charles observed.

“Yes, he always did seem to recover from things more quickly than average children. I think that it has something to do with the Pretender gene.”

Unknowingly Sydney had brought up a point that was very touchy for the Major: Jarod’s childhood. Despite viewing most of the DSAs and asking endless questions, he still felt that he was missing a big part of Jarod. He, on previous occasions, had tried to understand that Sydney knew things about his son that he did not, but seeing them together brought out a jealous streak in him he wasn’t even aware of.

“You and Jarod are quite close.”

“Yes, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I know what it feels like to find out that another man raised your son. You feel like you missed a huge part of his life, and in a way you did, but you have to have faith that he will always be your son.”

“You have a son?”

“His name is Nicholas. I didn’t even know that I had a son until a couple years ago. To protect him from the Centre his mother left me and ran away with Nicholas without even telling me that he existed. It was hard knowing that I had missed so much of his life, but now we are working on making up for lost time. It’s never too late to be a father.”

“I think that Jarod, Nicholas and I should start a club.” Parker walked into the room followed by Jarod, “We all were raised thinking our fathers were someone else.”

“Not me, I knew.” Jarod corrected her.

“Yeah, but he was a father to you just the same…” Parker stopped when Jarod gave her that don’t-go-there look.

“When is Emily coming down?” Jarod changed the subject.

“I don’t know.” Parker admitted, “But she was pretty tired. She’ll probably sleep the day away.”

Charles looked towards the stairs, “Emily is here? How is she?”

“I don’t know. Parker is the only on who talked to her.”

All eyes turned to Parker, “She seemed fine to me. We really didn’t talk much.”

“Well, we can all talk to her more when she gets up.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
5:30 PM



Later that day after everyone, save Emily, was up; Sydney scrutinized Jarod and Parker as they joked. To him, it was so obvious that there was something between the two. Apparently Parker had finally had an epiphany and realized what Sydney had known since they were children. He could not help but feel guilty that he hadn’t told them yet about the experiment and their time together that had been erased from their memories. The longer he waited the more he was reluctant to tell them. They looked so happy, and it seemed that they were going to find their way together with or without knowledge of their past time together. He debated with himself the pros and cons of telling them. Or maybe it was just that he was scared that they wouldn’t forgive him when they found out that he had known without telling him.

“No way, grilled cheese is way better than peanut butter and jelly.” Jarod argued with Parker.

“No, you are way off. PB&J beats grilled cheese anytime.” Parker countered.

Realizing the stupidity of the argument both erupted in a giddy laughter. Neither saw Emily bound down the stairs and into the living room, a smile on her face.

“If you ask me, I think that you both are insane.”

“Emily! You’re up.” Jarod jumped up to hug his sister. “How are you?”

“I’m better now that I am with my family. You look like you are getting better too.” She observed happily.

“Yup. So, tell us about where you have been, what you have been doing.”

“I will, I promise. But first can I say hello to the rest of my family?”

“Of course, I forgot.” Jarod left the room to gather the others.

After reunions with Charles, Josh, and Ethan, and an introduction to Sydney, Emily was finally ready to recount her experiences.

“Where have you been?” Josh asked his sister. “You’ve been gone for way too long. We missed you.”

“I missed you too.” She smiled at him; “I’ve been all over the continent following leads on Mom.”

“Did you find anything?” Charles asked, not really daring to hope that she had.

“No, I had several good leads, but they all turned up empty.”

“That’s alright, Emily.” Jarod attempted to lighten the mood, “We’ll find her.”

“Yeah.” Ethan added, “Josh and I cooked dinner. I was just about to tell you to come and get it when Emily woke up.”

“Uh oh, the boys cooked.” Emily joked.

“I know. This is going to be interesting.” Parker agreed.

“At least Parker didn’t cook.” Jarod added, knowing full well that there was a distinct possibility that that little comment could get him killed.

“Well, my food at least doesn’t contain 99.9 percent sugar.” She playfully punched him in the gut.

Smiling and continuing to taunt each other about their cooking prowess they lead the way into the dining room.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::



At the table, Major Charles and Sydney sat at the heads. On one side were Ethan, Jarod, and Josh. On the other were Emily and Parker. As it turned out, the meal wasn’t as bad as the girls initially supposed that it would be. Everyone complimented Ethan and Josh on their wonderful job. Even Parker admitted it was good.

Emily and Parker were involved deeply in a discussion about their favorite books when Parker decided that she would like another roll. Reaching out to the center of the table where a basket of biscuits were located, she reached for one. Instead of touching the warm surface of a biscuit, she was surprised to find her hand touching that of another. She looked up in surprise just in time to find Jarod staring back at her equally shocked.

It was not the surprise of not touching the rolls that caused the pair such shock, but rather it was the intense feeling that their touch gave them. It was similar to the sensation of electricity they had experienced with their first touch as children.

Hazel eyes meeting blue, the pair stared for what seemed like an eternity. Both relived the feelings that accompanied the all too familiar, yet long missed, touch.

Soon others at the table noticed the bizarre exchange. Their connection was as noticeable as it would be, had it been visible.

Josh, sitting beside Jarod was confused. “What on earth is going on with those two?” He wondered to himself. All of a sudden he was overcome with the urge to sneeze. He failed in attempting to do so silently.

With a great “aachoo!” All eyes turned from Miss Parker and Jarod and were focused on him. The spell that had overcome the table was broken, leaving all to wonder exactly what had transpired.

For their part, Jarod and Parker avoided each other’s gaze for the rest of the dinner, each lost in their own thoughts.

Sydney observed their embarrassed avoidance of each other. He looked on with a knowing attitude, like he had seen something like that before. For all the others knew, perhaps he had.

The others at the table ate in a tense silence, wondering what was going on, but not daring to ask.

Finally all had finished eating and the table was cleared off.

“Who is going to do all of these dishes?” Charles asked.

“I will.” Both Parker and Jarod answered at the same time, then resumed their mutual averting of the eyes.

“Great. Lets leave these two to get started.”

Everyone left for the living room to watch some TV or to talk, leaving Jarod and Parker alone.

“Um, I’ll wash, you dry.” Jarod stated uneasily.

Donning a frilly pink apron, Jarod took his place by the sink and began to fill it up with water and dish soap.

Parker couldn’t help but let out a small giggle at the sight of him, “Nice apron. Pink frills really look great on you.” Her giggle erupted into a full-fledged laugh.

“You think this is funny?” He looked at her, amusement sparkling in his eyes. “How would you like to wear this?” He asked holding up a handful of dish soap bubbles from the sink.

“You wouldn’t dare.” She challenged.

Never one to shy away from a challenge he advanced on her, bubbles in hand.

“Jarod…”She warned, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

With one quick movement the bubbles were all over her face. “Why? What are you going to do?”

“Well, I am going to kick your butt for one thing.” She responded moving away from him.

“You and what army?”

Cleverly, while she had made it appear that she was moving away from him, she was really just moving closer to the sink, “This army!” She yelled, spraying bubbles in his face.

Laughing, he wiped his eyes clear. “That’s it! This is war!”

Soon bubbles were flying everywhere; some ended up on the walls, cupboards, and the floor, but most on the two laughing people.

“What is going on in here?” Major Charles dashed through the kitchen door in time to catch them mid bubble throwing.

“Um, nothing. Everything is fine.” Jarod answered with the most innocent looking face he could compose.

“We were just, um, doing the dishes.” Parker said fluttering her eyelashes like a charming southern belle.

Upon seeing this, Jarod was overcome with another bout of laughter. She soon joined him, and they were laughing so hard that the two were practically rolling all over the bubble-covered floor.

“Uh huh, okay. I’ll let you get back to ‘work’.” Charles smiled at them. It was good to see his son having so much fun, it seemed the tension at dinner had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. He closed the door behind him and hesitated a moment, sure enough the bubble war resumed as soon as he was out of sight. “Kids.” He muttered to himself.

Back in the living room, the rest of the crew awaited his report. “They aren’t killing each other in there are they?”

“It depends on the outcome of the war. I am sure that Jarod would settle for a treaty, but her, I’m not sure.” Charles informed them, only serving to confuse them further.

“War?”


::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Later that Evening


Seeing Josh starting to yawn, Charles decided that it would probably be best for all to turn in for the night. “I think that it is time for bed, Josh.”

“Aw Dad. Do I have to? I am really not…” He yawned, “…Tired.”

“Yes, son. Or you will be exhausted tomorrow.”

“I think that it is time for me to turn in too.” Sydney backed the Major up.

Then, Parker remembered that she lacked a room, “Emily, is it okay if I share a room with you?”

“Sure, Parker. It’ll be a girls-only sleepover. That is, unless there is someone else you would rather share a room with.” Emily gave her a not so discreet wink.

Jarod, who was listening to the conversation with the others, added a curious, “Who?”

“No one, Jarod.” Parker blushed slightly.

“I don’t get it. Did I miss something?”

“Goodnight, Jarod.” Parker said leaving the room to avoid further questioning.

“Come on, tell me…please?”

“Nope.”

“Fine then, goodnight.” He replied, pretending to pout.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Emily/Parker’s Room



Both Emily and Parker lay in their beds, unable to get to sleep. Each had their own concerns, and the day had definitely given them enough to think about.

“Miss Parker?” Emily whispered to the twin bed next to her.

“Yeah.”

“Are you asleep?”

“Yes, I am.” Parker answered sarcastically.

“Are you still mad at me about that thing in the living room? I said that I was sorry.”

“Of course not. It was a joke. I just have a lot on my mind, that’s all.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“You just did.”

Ignoring the remark, Emily continued, “What is going on with you and my brother?”

“I don’t really know. It is so complicated that at times I don’t even understand it myself. While he was gone, I allowed myself to look at him in a way I hadn’t in years. I didn’t dismiss all the things that annoyed me about him; rather I took them in context with all the things that made him so wonderful. Sometimes it seems like we never stopped being friends, that we never became enemies. It seems like it was just a story someone told me. I keep waiting for my happy ending, but what if it never comes?” Parker answered honestly, glad to be able to talk to someone.

“You have to give it time. Just a week ago you thought that he was dead, remember?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“You REALLY love him?”

“I really do.”

“Then everything will be fine. I predict a happily ever after in your future.” She concluded in her very best Madame Fortuneteller voice.

“I hope so, Emily.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Later That Night
1:00 AM




A rumbling sound awoke Jarod. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he became aware that he was not in his own room any longer. He appeared to be laying on the couch in some living room. As he adjusted his weight on the uncomfortable wicker furniture, the rumbling noise increased. Soon it was joined by the sound of someone banging on the door so hard that it broke the deadbolt that normally held it securely in place.

The next thing that he knew, he was surrounded by men dressed in black suits, “Time to go home.” One of the biggest of the men shouted threateningly, then advanced on the confused man.

With a flash of light, Jarod now stood on a porch overlooking an ocean. Before him two more darkly dressed men were holding down a struggling woman. In the darkness of the night, her face was obscured by shadows but the unmistakable voice of Miss Parker mumbled, “I love you too, Jarod.” As she succumbed to the effects of what appeared to be a sedative.

Jarod bolted up in his bed and looked around his dark room panting. He was no longer in the living room. It was just a dream. Pushing aside his covers, he got out of his bed and made his way down the stairs to the kitchen to get a drink.

Opening the door to the kitchen, he was startled to see that someone else was already down there. “Parker? What are you doing up?” He asked her.

“I had a bad dream, I wanted to get a drink of water. Why are you up so late?”

“Same reason. Want to tell me about it?”

She paused studying her glass, “It was the strangest thing. I woke up in the living room of this beach house, the same living room from my other dream. Soon after it was invaded by what could only be sweepers. You were there. You told me that it wasn’t over, that we would be together, and that you…you loved me. The next thing that I knew, I was watching them hold you down and give you a shot of something.”

Looking up, she saw an expression of disbelief on Jarod’s face. “What is it?”

“I had the same dream, only I was the one watching you being held down and *you* told *me* that you loved me.”

“Why would we have the same dream?”

“Maybe it wasn’t a dream.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we have both had the same dream before about this place, now to have another similar dream about it of sweepers capturing not only me, but you…maybe it was a memory.”

“What?” She asked incredulously, “You mean to say that it could be some sort of repressed memory about a time when you and I were captured by sweepers? Why would sweepers be after us? Were we on the run?”

“Perhaps, the only problem is that you and I never ran away.”

“Or did we?” Parker mused.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Next Morning



Sydney quietly made his way down the stairs to the kitchen in hopes of grabbing a cup of coffee. He had been unable to sleep the night before, he had been sure that he had heard voices from the kitchen.

As he rounded the corner to the living room, through which he had to go to get to the kitchen, he was surprised to find Miss Parker and Jarod asleep on the couch together. He then concluded that the voices he heard must have been theirs. He stood there for a moment observing how right and happy they looked together.

He finally moved towards the kitchen and made himself a pot of coffee.

“Sydney, what are you doing up so early?” Jarod asked as he came into the kitchen followed by Miss Parker.

“Did I wake you?” Sydney asked as he handed the pair a steaming cup of coffee.

“No, I smelled the coffee and when I got up to get some I woke Jarod.” Parker explained.

“Hmm, why were you sleeping on the couch?”

“We both had the same nightmare, it was uncanny.” She explained, sipping her beverage.

“Sydney?”

“Yes?”

“I know that this is going to sound bizarre, but, have we ever run away together from the Centre?”

Sydney didn’t even notice his mug slip from his hand and come crashing to the floor, “You remember.” It wasn’t a question.

“Remember what? Tell us Sydney, we have a right to know.” Jarod demanded.

He sighed and found a towel to wipe up the mess, “When you were about nineteen you had begun to figure out that the Centre was not going to just let you go. Parker had been at college, and her absence had been very hard for the both of you. The summer she got back from her freshman year you ran away. Apparently you were gone a little over a week when you tried to call me. I was away on a consult, I didn’t even know you had gone missing, and the call was intercepted by the Centre and traced. They located you in a small beachside community and brought you back. They used Mr. Raine’s ‘memory eradication method’ to erase the memories of your time away from the Centre and to create a mutual hate between you that would prevent you from running away again.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Mr. Parker told me himself. When you ‘died’ he was very concerned that the emotional blow would cause Miss Parker to begin to remember, and he did not want that to happen. He asked me to keep an eye on her to make sure that the memories stayed hidden.”

“Why didn’t you tell me when you found out?” Miss Parker asked him accusingly.

“Because I was afraid of what that knowledge would do to you, you were already barely keeping it together as it was.”

“Then why didn’t you tell us after we found out that Jarod wasn’t really dead?”

“I have no excuse for that. I can only assure you that I had both yours and Jarod’s best interests at heart.”

“How could they do that to us? They twisted our feelings into those of hate. I knew that there had to be an explanation why I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason you and I stopped being friends.”

“There is more. Do you remember the experiment where you first met Jarod?”

“Of course.”

“That was more than a sexuality experiment. Your mother, Catherine, had mentioned to Mr. Parker that she sensed that there was something between the two of you before you had even met. Mr. Parker seized the opportunity to create an experiment that would follow you through your lives and follow the development of your relationship. He said that the experiment was about ‘connection’.”

“They have been manipulating our relationship from the beginning?” Jarod asked in disbelief.

“I am afraid so, I am sorry Jarod.” Sydney apologized.

“It’s alright, thank you for telling us the truth, better late than never I suppose.”

“Well, now I guess that I know why Daddy was being so nice to me after we thought that Jarod had died. That SOB, he went too far this time.” Parker ran from the room.

Jarod followed after her. “What is it Parker?” He asked when he saw the tears streaming down her face.

“What right do they think they have to keep messing with our lives? Look at how much time together we have lost.”

He took her hand in one of his and with the other wiped away her tears, “Then we can’t waste a minute, can we.”

She looked down at their intermingled hands. “Jarod, I want you to know that…I…I love you, I’ve loved you since the day we first met.”

Lifting her face to look at him with his free hand he smiled, “I love you too. I have never loved anyone as much as I love you, and no one has ever loved me the way that you do. We have been through so much together. My heart tells me that we are meant to be.”




::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
That Afternoon



Parker sat by Jarod on the couch of the living room, thinking about everything that had happened to them. She felt a relief at the knowledge that her feelings were finally out in the open and that he loved her too, but she couldn’t help but worry that it wouldn’t last. It was the same feeling that she had gotten back at the beach house before she was sedated. There were still so many things that could go wrong. She was very afraid that after spending a large amount of time with her, he would realize that she had changed and decide that it was not for the better. It had been so long since that week at the beach. So many things had happened, and the best things hadn’t even occurred until the past two weeks. In those weeks she had realized her feelings for Jarod, told him, and had them reciprocated.

She loved to watch him with his family. He seemed happier than she had seen him in so very long. He was inches away from completing family he had always dreamed of. Now it seemed, he had incorporated her into that dream. It amazed her that someone would actually want her, and her emotional baggage, the way that he did.

The perfect life seemed, for the first time in her life, possible. She knew that now that they were together, no external force could ever tear them apart. They could be together until the end of time and finally get to live the life that they had started that week by the ocean all of those years ago. They could have their perfect little yellow house with the white picket fence, the golden retriever, and the 2.4 kids

For all the Centre knew, Jarod had died that fateful day in New York City. He was finally free from the chase that had held him as captive as the Centre walls for the past five years. He had the chance to live a normal life, and to never have to look over his shoulder again.

Suddenly a new fear struck her. She had promised to stay at the Centre until Jarod was captured. While they could not expect her to capture Jarod now that he was ‘dead’, she knew that they would simply change the agreement to the capture of his family. If she disappeared, she knew that the Centre would hunt her down; she was just another experiment to them.

If she stayed with Jarod, he would be hunted as well, whether the Centre realized that they were still chasing him or not. Perhaps they could live some semblance of the perfect life, but always lurking in the shadows would be the danger, the fear, of being found.

Her hand snuck over to Jarod’s and firmly took a hold of it, causing him to look over at her. He gently squeezed her hand and gave her a reassuring smile, as if he sensed her worry. She gazed back at him a moment, before breaking into a supportive, yet not overly enthusiastic smile, “Do you realize that you are finally truly and completely free of the Centre?”

His smile turned into a frown, “Not completely. They still have my heart under their control.”

Parker couldn’t help but be swept off her feet by his devotion. For a moment all of her doubts disappeared, he seemed so sure. Unfortunately, soon her insecure side once again voiced her doubts.

“You know that soon they will start to wonder where I am and send a team after me. I could unintentionally lead them right to you.”

“What are you saying?” He asked, confused.

“I’m saying that maybe I should go back. I have a score to settle with a certain adoring father. I could protect you and your family from the inside until it is safe for me to leave without alerting them and we can all disappear forever.” She struggled to make him see her point.

He stared at her as if she had said the most ludicrous thing he had ever heard, “If they ever found out where you were…it would be too dangerous.”

“You know that I can’t stay. I’ll have to leave sooner or later, and I’d rather it be on my own terms than be dragged back in cuffs.”

He shook his head. His mind understood the logic of her reasoning, but he was afraid of what would happen if she went back. There was always the possibility that the Centre could find out that she had betrayed them. They could use her as bait to lure their escapees back, or simply kill her. Then again, if she went back, they would maintain the upper hand through their knowledge of his existence and they would gain valuable inside help. No matter what he thought, she would never be able to let this go until her issues with her father had been resolved.

Seeing that he was lost in thought, she waved her hand in front of his face to gain his attention, “Stop worrying. I’m not going anywhere right now. Right now, it’s just you and me.”

Now back in reality, he conceded, “You’re right. Lets not think about this today.”

Smiling to herself, she let her head rest on his shoulder and moved his arm so that it was around her. “Sounds good to me. There’s always tomorrow.”

As soon as her face was out of his range of view, her smile altered into a grimace of worry. She knew that they only way they would be safe would be for her to return to the Centre until it would be safe for her to leave forever and that to truly be able to move on, she would need some kind of closure with her father.

She didn’t understand why Jarod refused to see her point. Of course he must have been concerned about her betrayal being discovered, but he knew that she was quite capable of taking care of herself. He would never agree to let her return behind enemy lines, but since when did she ask permission? She knew what had to be done and, before she let herself drift to sleep in his arms, she was resolved to do what she knew to be right. He would understand in the end.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Tomorrow



“What are you doing?” Emily asked, sitting up in her bed watching Miss Parker busily scurry around the room. After watching her throw her belongings in a suitcase, she drew a conclusion, “You’re leaving.”

“Shhh!” Parker warned her, “You’ll wake up the others.”

“Where are you going?”

Parker sighed and stopped what she was doing, “I am going back to the Centre.”

Shocked, Emily gasped, “Why?”

“Because I have some things that I need to take care of.”

“Does Jarod know about this?”

“No, I’m a big girl. I can make decisions for myself.”

“He wouldn’t like this.”

”I know. Why do you think I am sneaking out this early in the morning? He’ll understand why I have to leave, someday.”

“Are you coming back?”

“Of course. I am not about to give up the best thing in my life over this. I’ll only be gone as long as it takes me to take care of my father and to ensure that none of us will ever again be bothered by the Centre.”

“You aren’t going to say goodbye?”

Parker zipped up her suitcase, “I can’t. He’d try to stop me. I’ll talk to him when he calls, as I am sure he will.”

Picking up her luggage, Parker headed out of the bedroom and down the stairs to the front entrance.

What she had not anticipated was that Jarod, the chronic insomniac, would be up at this early hour. As she descended the last step, he emerged from around the corner. Seeing her heading for the door, bags in hand, he immediately called after her.

“Where are you going?”

“Isn’t that the question of the day. I am going back to Blue Cove.”

“I thought that we decided that you weren’t going to go back there.”

“No, Jarod.” She turned to him, “ *You* decided that I wouldn’t be going back there.”

“I thought that you were happy here.”

“That has nothing to do with it. You and I both know that I want to stay, but I can’t until I can do so without having to worry about the Centre on my tail.”

“Yes you can.” He pleaded as he realized that she was serious. “It’s easy, just stay. Everything will work out without you having to go back into danger.”

Parker took a step backwards toward the door. Everything inside of her screamed that she should stay. It would be as easy as he had said; she could simply set down her bags and run back into his waiting arms but, by leaving him, she would guarantee his safety; she would give him his chance to live a normal life. He would never have to look over his shoulder again.

Not so long ago she would have sacrificed her life for one more moment with him, yet now she stood poised to leave him to protect his life. She was about to willingly break her own heart and his.

“I’m sorry Jarod, but I have to leave.” She closed the distance between herself and the door. At that moment she knew that if she lived to be a hundred years old, she’d never be as happy as she had been during her time with him.

“I can’t go back to the way things were. Parker, I love you.” Salty tears cascaded down his drawn features as he begged her to stay.

Taking the brass doorknob in her hand, she pulled the door open. In a way that movement symbolized her decision and sealed her fate. “It’s only for awhile. We’ll be together again soon, and then it will be forever. I love you.”

Before he could say anything more, she forced herself to walk out the door and down the steps to into the pouring rain. The dismal weather suited the occasion. Mini rivers of rain ran through the gravel and mud of the driveway, but as far as Jarod was concerned they were impassible moats.

He stood just outside the door, water mingling with his tears as he watched her climb into the driver’s seat of her rented Taurus.

Parker focused all of her attention on the task of turning her car around and easing it down the rocky dirt road to the main street. She would not allow herself to look back, but she instinctively could feel Jarod blindly making his way down to the middle of the driveway. She could see him, in her mind’s eye, struggle to follow her car halfway to the road as his boots got stuck in the muck with every step. Her heart could hear him calling our her name, even though he must have known that she would not be able to hear him over the roar of the thunder.

There he stood, soaked to the bone at the end of the driveway, watching her car disappear around the corner. He was unaware of how long he stood in the downpour before numbly trudging his way back to the cabin. Each step he took only served to signify the growing distance between himself and Parker, both emotionally and physically.

Once inside the cabin he stood just within the limits of the doorframe, unable to comprehend what had just transpired. Eventually he moved from the doorway to his bedroom. Not even bothering to rid of his saturated clothing or shoes, he climbed into bed and curled himself into a protective ball. Nothing like that mattered to him anymore. The only thing that he registered was that his love had just driven away in a rented Taurus, and along with her, all of his hopes and dreams. He could only hope that she knew what she was doing.




::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware




Parker’s heartbeat quickened as she stood outside of her father’s office trying to collect herself. She knew that once she was in there, there was no getting out. Not easily anyway. For the first time since she drove away from the cabin only hours ago, she began to doubt her decision. Maybe her choice had been too hastily made. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to face her mendacious father, knowing what he had done to her. Could she look him in the eye with the knowledge that he had lied to her, taken away her happiness? His deceit had been far reaching and long going. It would be one of the greatest challenges in her life not to whip out her gun and shoot him right then and there. She hoped that she was up to the challenge.

Taking a deep breath, she grasped the handles on the doors in front of her. With one fluid motion, she threw them to the side and took a stride into the room.

“Angel, you’re back.” Mr. Parker said, unable to suppress a note of surprise in his voice.

“Well, there is no reason to waste time counting our toes when we have fugitives to catch.” She informed him confidently.

Mr. Parker appraised his daughter. She stood, hands on hips, ready to go back at it. Her usual short skirt and blouse were impeccable as usual, and bordering on dangerously revealing. The look on her face was no nonsense all business, not betraying a hint of the woman he had seen fall apart due to the lab rat’s death. Miss Parker was back in full force. He was glad to see that Jarod’s demise had no lasting complications.

“I’m glad that you’re back.” Mr. Parker embraced his daughter.

Miss Parker barely hugged him back, unable to stand being so close to the man she now considered to be a monster. Keeping in character, she gave him a dry smile, “I don’t know what came over me before. You have my guarantee that it won’t ever happen again.”

“That’s my girl.” He would have to remember to inform Mr. Raines that his memory eradication method had been successful after all.

“Where are Lyle and the Wheezer Geezer? Have them send me a report on the events of the chase during my…absence. I want a full update immediately.”

“Of course Angel, I’ll have my secretary inform them at once.”

“Thank you Daddy.” She replied frostily, and then she turned and strode self-assuredly out of the room.




::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Tech Room



“I want that information now, Mr. Broots!” Lyle screamed at the cowering man. “You may have been allowed to slack off under the supervision of my incompetent sister, but you are working for me now.”

“Glad to hear you missed me.” Miss Parker glared at her little brother from the doorway.

Foot in mouth, Lyle flashed her the most charming smile he could muster. “Sis, I thought you wouldn’t be back for another couple weeks.”

“You think? Since when?” She snapped. “I’m back now Lyle, so why don’t you go eat your secretary or something and stop scaring my technician.”

“Whatever you say.” He held up his hands, “Welcome back.”

As he walked away he could only think that he would have to find out who let her back in the building and have them taken care of. He had assumed that the whole New York thing had permanently decommissioned his dearest sister, but she appeared to be her witchy old self again.

As far as Broots was concerned, he never thought he would be so happy to see her in his life. “M-miss Parker, b-b-boy am I glad you’ve returned.”

“I wish that I could say the same.” She sighed.

“Aren’t you happy to come back to work?”

“Oh yeah, thrilled.” She cynically snapped.

Rather than press the issue, he decided to move to a safer topic, “Have you heard from Sydney? No one had seen or heard from him since he took that time off. Actually, no one had seen or heard from you either until just now.”

“As if it’s any of your business, I was out of town. Sydney, I believe, is visiting some family up north.” It was true that Sydney was visiting family, she just wasn’t going to tell him whose.

“Oh.”

“Broots, I need something from you.” She sat on the edge of his desk.

Gulping uncomfortably he questioned, “W-What do you want me to do?”

Miss Parker positioned her body so that it was facing away from the security camera she knew to be hidden inconspicuously in the clock above the door and bent down close to his ear so that he could hear her whisper, “Meet me at my house tonight after Debbie goes to sleep. Make sure that no one follows you.”

He nodded as she stood up and straightened out her jacket. “I’ll be in my office reading the update on the search for the boy.”

“Yes Miss Parker.” Broots tried to focus on his task, but even after she had retreated to her office he could see the urgency in her eyes. Something was going on, and the something was big.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Cabin



“Jarod? Are you going to come out of there?” Emily asked as quietly as she could through Jarod’s heavy bedroom door.

“I just want to be left alone for a while.” Emily relaxed, this was the first thing that she had heard from her brother since Miss Parker had left hours ago.

“Can I come in?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“No.”

“Pretty please?”

“I said no!”

“With sugar on top?”

“Argh, Fine. I don’t care.”

Emily smiled triumphantly. The annoying little sister bit worked every time. She knew that she had no right to pry into his business, but as his sister she was very concerned about how he would deal with this. She knew that he needed to talk to someone who would explain this to him the way Miss Parker saw it and make him realize that she had only good intentions.

She carefully opened the door and entered. Jarod sat, his back to her, staring out the window at nothing in particular. “How could she just leave me?”

Emily went to his side and put a hand on his arm, “You don’t understand. She didn’t leave you. She just has some things to take care of before she can be with you.”

“She felt she had to sneak away in the night, that doesn’t exactly sound like a healthy relationship to me.”

“Well, you wouldn’t listen to her.”

“So you’re on her side.”

Exasperated, Emily threw her hands into the air, “There are no sides, Jarod. This isn’t about you and her. This is about her and them.”

“If she had let me, I could have helped her.”

“This is something that she needs to do alone. Imagine being told that the father you would have sacrificed your life for regards you as no more than a possession to be used for profit. She wants to be able to be with you and not have him haunting her for the rest of her life.”

“Don’t you think that I know that? I assumed that this would be something we could deal with together, but apparently she doesn’t trust me enough to even tell me about it.”

“Stop acting like a petulant child and listen to me! There is no way that you could have changed her mind.”

“What can I do then?”

“Be supportive for crying out loud. I don’t know what kind of hero trip you are on right now, but you aren’t going to be the one in tights this time. Let her know that you are behind her on this, and that you’ll be waiting for her to come home.”

Jarod slouched down in his chair, resting his chin on his chest and considering her words. His little sister’s common sense seemed to be more useful than all of his genius. Reason overcame him for the fist time since Parker had left. He raised his head slowly, somewhat embarrassed. “You don’t think that it’s too late for that, do you?”

“This world is full of second chances, Jarod. I’m sure that she’ll give you yours.”

Jarod stood and went over to the mirror above his dresser, “How did you ever become so smart?”

“It’s in the genes.” She smiled.

“Look at me,” Jarod caught a glimpse of his tear streaked reflection, “I better get cleaned up before I go down stairs, I don’t want to worry anyone.”

Nodding, Emily backed out of the room. “One last thing. Call her. She’s waiting.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Centre
Miss Parker’s Office




Ring Ring.

Parker was seriously considering swearing of phones for life. She pushed away the unnecessarily lengthy report and grabbed the receiver.

“What?!”

In a tone no louder than a whisper, the unnamed caller rattled off a series of numbers, “9035768.” And then hung up the phone on her. The voice was unrecognizable to her, the pitch too soft to identify, but she had a feeling that the caller intended for it to be that way. She didn’t need her inner sense to tell who that mystery caller was. Undoubtedly Jarod had given her the numbers. The only problem, she didn’t know what they meant.

The need to be discreet in contacting her was obvious. At the Centre you never could tell if your phone was being tapped, and if they overheard Jarod calling, any temporary protection that his ‘death’ afforded would be lost. It was surprising that he had contacted her at all, even if they didn’t realize whom the caller was, there would be risk involved.

“He must want to talk to me about something.” She reasoned to herself. “But why did he hang up?”

At the moment the answer became apparent, 9035768 could be interpreted as 903-5768…a phone number. He must have wanted her to call him back on a secure line.

She glanced at the clock, it was only three o’clock, but that didn’t really matter. As the chairman’s daughter she could virtually come and go as she pleased without anyone challenging her. She had some work to do once she got home anyway.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Miss Parker’s House
3:30 PM

As soon as she was in the door she grabbed her phone and was dialing the number.

“903-5768” She repeated to herself. It had been to risky to write the number down, so she had memorized it.

“Hello?” A light feminine voice answered the phone.

“Hey Em, is Jarod there?”

“He sure is.”

“Has he calmed down any?”

“We had a little talk, I think that he is beginning to understand now. He has been waiting for you to call.”

“Can I talk to him?”

“Yeah, he’s right here trying to get the phone away from me…”

Miss Parker could hear a rustle of clothing and a “Hey!” before another voice came on the phone.

“Parker?”

“Jarod.”

“I’m glad that you called back.” He said with a hint of relief. “I am so sorry about the way I reacted, it’s just that I am so worried that you might be in danger…I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“I’m sorry that I just ran off like that. I should have tried to explain it to you better.” She smiled, “You know, we apologize way too much.”

“I agree. So we’re ok?”

“Better than ever.”

“I miss you.”

“I miss you too, but I’ll be back before you know it.”

“Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“Cross my heart.”

“I have to go, Sydney is taking my fishing.”

“Sure, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Great. I love you.”

“Love you too…wow, it feels great to finally be able to say that.”

“I know. So, until later.”

“Right, bye.”

“Bye.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Miss Parker’s House
11:00 PM



Miss Parker poured herself a drink from one of her ever-present bottles of scotch. The plan was formulated and, assuming that Broots would come through for her, it would go down in three days time. It hadn’t taken long for her to decide how best to handle the situation. This was something that she had to prepare against during her time in Centre security, so she was well aware of how to perpetrate her plan.

It would consist of three steps. First would be the information gathering. That would be where Broots would come in. She needed to know every dirty little secret that the Centre had shoved in its closets. The identities of every key member of the Centre, the Triumvirate and her father included, would need to be collected and evidence as to what exactly their crime was. Ironically, the Centre’s highly efficient record keeping methods would make this as easy as simply locating the files.

Second, she would present this evidence to the proper authorities. Undoubtedly the government was in cahoots with the Centre, but only the highest officials would be aware of this, and they would not dare protect the Centre after the media discovered all she had to show them. A proper investigation would be conducted and the Centre would be closed. The African Centre would be unable to sustain itself without the resources of its parent and original institution, the one located in Blue Cove, and it would soon go under. The Centre would be gone, and without the Triumvirate, there would be no risk that it could return.

Lastly would be the inexplicable disappearance of Broots, Sydney, Angelo, Jarod, and herself. There was no doubt in her mind that after all the evidence and DSAs and the authorities would find the testimony of Jarod would be useless. She also was unwilling to risk that charges could be brought against Sydney for his role in Jarod’s imprisonment. Everyone would be free to live lives free from the grip of the Centre at last.

She was mulling over the details of her plan when Broot’s timid knock could be heard at her door. She checked to be sure it was him and then opened the door. “Come in quickly. Did anyone see you?”

“I don’t think so.” He looked around her living room nervously.

“Good, I’ll explain this to you quickly. Sydney isn’t visiting his family up north, he is up north with Jarod and Jarod’s family.”

“Up ‘north’?” Broots asked confusedly pointing towards heaven.

Parker rolled her eyes, “No moron, up north as in New York.”

“You mean Jarod is alive?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” She laughed, “I’m pretty sure.”

“Oh my god!”

“I know. Anyway, the abridged version is that I’m in love with Jarod, betrayed by my father, about to bring down the Centre, and planning on ending this nightmare once and for all.”

If Broots was shocked before, now he was having a heart attack. “W-What are you t-talking about? In LOVE with JAROD? You want to b-bring down the C-Centre?”

“Yes, and I need your help to do it.”

“If they find out that I had anything to do with your crazy plan…I have a daughter to think about.”

“I know Broots, but I need you. All you have to do is get me the information and let me do the rest. You are the only one I can trust who has the expertise to do this.”

“What about Jarod? If you are on his side now why doesn’t he help you? Don’t you think that he could do a better job than I could anyway?”

“I’m not going to tell him about this. He may not show it but I know he is still recovering from the shooting and he would never agree to help me put myself in as much danger as I need to pull this off. He already got his panties in a bunch just about my returning.”

Broots closed his eyes and sat down on her couch. He really didn’t want to hear about Jarod’s panties. “When?”

“Tomorrow we collect the information, the day after I go to the authorities, the next day the Centre goes down.”

She let him absorb the information she had just foisted on him while she went to get a folder out of her bedroom.

“This is for you.” She handed him a manila envelope.

He opened it carefully, not sure what to expect to be in it. Inside he discovered papers. After reading them over he looked up, “New identities for me and Debbie?”

“Yes,” She explained, “After we do this you are going to have to disappear. I am the only one who knows what your new identity is.”

“How did you make these? They look so real.”

“Lets just say that after having to examine all of Jarod’s false identities, I picked up on some of his tricks.”

“Oh.”

“So are you in?”

He ran a hand through his hair (or what hair was left on his head), and looked up at her. On his face was a determination that she had never seen in him before. “All of the years I have loyally served the Centre I have observed the atrocities they have committed, yet I never said a word. I saw the unspeakable inhumanity that resides within its walls and I told myself that it was all for the good of science. I can’t lie to myself anymore. We both know that this has been coming a long time, and you couldn’t keep me from helping out all that I can. I am in.”

Miss Parker had never been prouder of her techie than she was at that moment. “Thank you Broots. We start tomorrow as soon as we get into work.”

“I’ll be there early.” He stood up to leave, “You and Jarod, huh?”

“Me and Jarod.”

“I knew that there was something more there than you let on. Congratulations.” He hung his head so that she could not see his face, but she knew that there would be a look of disappointment on it, it was no secret that he had a crush on her.

“Hey, Broots?”

“Yeah?”

“You’ll always be my Puff Daddy.”

He smiled, wondering how she could have possibly found out about that dream he had of the two of them together. When she let her guard down, like she had tonight, she really was a kind person; he could see why Jarod loved her so much. He was honestly happy for them.

“See ya tomorrow.” With a chuckle he closed the door behind him and headed home.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Cabin
3:45 PM



“So, how is Parker?” Sydney asked as he cast out again on to the picturesque lake.

By his side, Jarod was putting another worm on his hook. “She’s fine, although I have a feeling that she has something up her sleeve. I just hope it doesn’t get her into trouble.”

“She can handle herself.”

“I probably know that better than anyone.” Jarod agreed with a smile.

The day was beautiful. The sky a striking blue, the sort of blue that reminded Jarod of Parker’s eyes. There was not a cloud in site and the water was as tranquil as sheet of glass.

Sydney had approached Jarod at lunch that day about going fishing together. Jarod remembered the day that he had asked Sydney to go fishing with him someday. He was surprised that his mentor even remembered, and was touched that he would think of it. It was the sort of father-son thing that they had never been allowed to do at the Centre.

“Thank you for doing this for me.” Jarod said as he reeled in another trout.

“I wanted to do this. We don’t get to spend much time together anymore.”

“Yeah, with me running from you and all.” Jarod replied with good-humored sarcasm.

“Good point. I’m just sorry that we couldn’t have done something like this all those years ago.”

Jarod understood the message that Sydney was trying to get across. This was his way of apologizing for not allowing himself to think of Jarod as a son when he was a child. It was his way of accepting the Father’s Day card.

“Sydney, I want to you know, that despite of everything, well, I never really blamed you for anything that happened to me. You always protected me the best that you could, thank you.”

Sydney smiled, that was all he had ever wanted to hear. To know that he had been forgiven.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Centre
6:30 AM
The Next Day




”Psst, Broots, Over here.” Miss Parker called from the shadows of the techroom. She handed him a case of zip disks. “Put all of the information you find on these disks. Don’t leave anything out.”

“Sure thing, Miss Parker.”

“Make sure to cover your tracks, and be careful. Is Debbie at her Aunt Sue’s house?”

“Yes, my sister picked her up today. I didn’t want her to be in danger if anything went wrong.”

“Good. I’ll get everything I have the clearance for and put it on the disks I have in my office. Try to act like nothing is going on.”

“No problem.”

“Meet me at my place tonight and we’ll pool our information.”

Just then they could hear footsteps coming. Broots turned his head to see that it was just an intern walking by, when he looked back, she was gone.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Centre
That Afternoon



Parker sighed in frustration. She had not been able to find anything dating any further back than the eighties. She had not anticipated that the records from before the new system was installed would not have been entered also. There was surely enough evildoings in the past twenty plus years to ensure that justice would be done, but she wanted EVERYTHING to be revealed.

“Daughter, angry.” Came a voice from the air vent behind Miss Parker’s desk.

“Yes, Angelo. I am angry.”

“Angelo help. Follow Angelo.”

Angelo stuck a handmade tool through the grate and loosened the screws. He pushed the grate to the side and gestured for her to follow him. “Angelo help. Follow Angelo.”

Parker wasn’t sure that she should follow him. What could he possibly do to help her that would require her to crawl around the ventilation system? Then again, Angelo often knew about things that she didn’t. Maybe he wanted to show her where she could find the missing files.

“Coming.” She climbed into the small space and followed him as he scooted from corner to corner.

Eventually she could feel a slight downward slope and reasoned that he was taking her into the sublevels.

They came out in an empty, dark corridor. It smelled of must, like no one had been in there for ages.

“Follow Angelo.” He again gestured for her to follow him towards a double door.

“SL-28, RM 03, Archives.” Read a plaque outside of the doors.

The doors were locked, but she easily picked them with a hairpin. Inside looked like a giant library. File cabinets lined the walls along with bookshelves and old computers.

“Jackpot.” Parker exclaimed as she picked up what appeared to be an original expense report. Angelo had led her right to the files that were never supposed to exist. The true accounts of what really went on within these walls.

“Get bad men.” Angelo informed her.

“I will, thanks to you, I will.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Miss Parker’s House
9:00 PM



“A whole room of incriminating files?” Broots asked incredulously.

“Just sitting there waiting for us to come get them.” Parker confirmed.

“How are we going to get them out of there?”

“We don’t. The FBI does when they conduct their raid. We just tell them where to find them.”

“Here are the files. That’s all I could get. I even left the ones about Jarod in there.”

“Good, they won’t ever find him anyway. I’d say we’re ready.”

“You are really going to do this? After tomorrow there is no turning back.”

“I know. This is it. Tomorrow I go to the authorities and let them deal with this.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Miss Parker’s House
10:30 PM




“Hello?”

“Did I wake you?” Parker asked as she adjusted the sheets around her body.

“Nope, you know me. I never sleep.” Jarod responded. “How was your day?”

“Better than I expected.”

“Oh really? How do you mean?” Jarod was suspicious and she knew it.

“Lets just say that my plan is going better than I expected.”

“You have a plan? Care to fill me in?”

“Sorry hun, not yet.”

She could imagine that he smiled over the phone, “Hun? That’s new.”

“I’m just in a good mood.”

“Oh, well, I just want you to know that whatever it is that you are planning, I’m behind you.”

“I know Jarod. Thanks.”



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
FBI Delaware Field Office
The Next Day




“May I help you miss?” Asked the young secretary from behind her desk. She tried not to look intimidated by Parker, but it was obvious that between the icy glare she was receiving and the faint outline of a 9mm under her tailored suit, she had every right to be.

“I have some information that I believe your agents would be very interested in seeing.” Parker patted the brief case by her side.

“Um, alright miss. You name is?”

“That isn’t important.”

“Um, ok, please wait a moment.”

Parker began to pace the lobby of the office while she waited for the secretary to return. In Parker’s mind she was taking way too long.

“Agent Penny will see you.” She finally returned, “Down that hall, third door on the left.”

Parker gathered her things from a nearby chair and followed the directions to Agent Penny’s office.

“Come in.” A strong voice resounded when Parker knocked on the door.

She entered with as much confidence as she had every time she entered her father’s office. “I have some information I think that you would be interested in seeing.”

“About a case?” He asked.

“About a place. Have you ever heard of an institution called the Centre?”

At the mention of that name the agent jumped from his desk and closed the door. “Be careful how loudly you say that name.”

“So you have heard of it.”

“I’m in charge of the case.”

“Case?” Parker asked confused. She wasn’t aware of any case.

Agent Penny decided that he needed to know more information before he could reveal any more to this woman. “What is you name?”

“That isn’t important.”

“It is to me and unless you tell me, I suggest you leave.”

Stuck between a rock and a hard spot, Parker conceded, “Miss Parker.”

“You are a Parker?” He asked in amazement. “Miss Parker…the chairman’s daughter?”

Now it was Parker’s turn to be surprised, “You’ve heard of me.”

“It’s my job to know who you people are. If your father sent you, you can tell him that there is no way in hell I am backing off this.”

“My father did not send me. He is not aware that I am even here.”

“Then why are you her?”

“I have some information.”

“About?”

“The Centre. But first you have to tell me what is going on.” She turned the tables on him.

As she had done before, he decided that the best course of action would be to just come clean. “For the past two years I have been in charge of an investigation into a corporation known only as the Centre. They are rumored to have their hand in everything, from every racket imaginable to fringe scientific research. It’s said that they even kidnap children so that they can perform sick experiments on them. Needless to say that Washington was very interested in this, they sent me to check it out. I’ve been gathering evidence trying to make a case, but they are very good at hiding what they do. I don’t have even close to enough evidence to take them to court.”

“Then you are going to love me. I have all the evidence that you need and more.” From her briefcase Parker produced twenty zip disks. “These are the records of everything that has gone on in the Centre in the past twenty years. All of the torrid little details that aren’t on any official tax return or file. And, there is more where this came from. They have entire rooms of files that aren’t on the computers.”

“Why are you giving these to me? How do I know that this isn’t a set up?”

“Look at them for yourself. I just want them to be stopped so that the nightmare I have lived my entire life can end. So that they can’t take any more children from their parents and so that the children that have already been taken can be free again.”

“And your father?”

“He has never cared for me as anything other than one of his twisted experiments. I don’t care what you do to him.”

“If this is for real, we are going to have to act quickly before they notice that these have been copied.”

“I’d guess that you still have twenty-four to forty-eight hours to make your move. Is that enough time to assemble a team?”

“A team? You’ve really thought this out, haven’t you?”

“You can’t underestimate the Centre, unless you have a death wish.”

“I’ll call Washington and have them examine these. If they agree we’ll go in as soon as we can get the manpower up here. I don’t want to give them the change to flee. For now, you should go back to your work and try to act as normal as possible. If the chairman’s daughter suddenly disappears it could raise questions we don’t need right now.”

“I agree.” She shook his hand. “It was nice doing business with you.”

“I should be thanking you.”

“I’m just finishing what my mother tried to do thirty years ago.” Miss Parker suddenly realized that this, what she was doing now, was what her mother had been referring to on the DSA. This was her work, to save the children.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Cabin
That Night




Jarod tossed and turned in his bed, unable to sleep. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right with Parker. She had seemed fine on the phone, although she was vague about her ‘plan’. He couldn’t help but wonder if she wouldn’t tell him what it was because she knew that he wouldn’t like it.

He could call her, but he didn’t want to wake her up if she was already asleep. A visit could be possible, if he was very careful not to let anyone know.

Normally he wouldn’t have thought of going to check up on her, but this time he had a feeling that she was in danger. There was no way that he would sit back and let whatever was going to happen, happen.

Quietly he got out of bed and packed some of his belongings into a duffle bag.

He scribbled a note, “Gone to Blue Cove. Will call in the morning. –J” and left it on the table by the telephone.

Ethan’s car was the closest one to the cabin, and still had the keys in it. Jarod hoped that his brother wouldn’t mind that he was going to borrow it, but because it was for Parker he doubted that Ethan would mind.

As Parker had already done, he drove down the long driveway and towards the road that would lead him back to the place he despised most in the world.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Centre
The Next Morning




Passing by Broot’s desk, Miss Parker took notice that he wasn’t there. The night before he had left to meet Debbie and to begin the life that awaited them. Their farewell had been not been tearful, rather full of hopes for the future and promises to keep in contact. She had assured him that she would write him an email about how it went with the Centre and thanked him for all of his help.

On some level she would miss not having him around to pick on. Maybe she wasn’t always the nicest to him, but he was always a friend to her and she appreciated that. She also respected him for the way he loved Debbie. It was possible that she would miss Debbie even more than her techie. She and Debbie had grown close over the years.

As she entered her office she was surprised to find Lyle sitting in her chair waiting for her.

“What do you want Lyle?” She snapped.

“Dad wants to see you.” Lyle grinned.

Parker could feel her heart constricting in fear, yet she maintained her mask of cool calmness. “Fine.”

“He wants to see you now.” Lyle insisted.

“I’ll be up in a minute.”

“Don’t take too long.” He called as he walked away.

Once she was alone she allowed her self to sink into her chair. She couldn’t stop wondering if he had found out about her betrayal. There had to be some reason behind Lyle’s insane smirk.

Her inner sense was going off like a fire alarm, but she headed towards the elevator anyway. It was ironic that she was riding to her death in the very elevator that her mother staged her own death in.

She didn’t knock when she got to her father’s door, she never did. She just waltzed in and made her presence known.

“You wanted to see me Daddy?” She asked innocently.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
Miss Parker’s House



Jarod pulled Ethan’s car into the brushes beside Miss Parker’s house and out of view of the road. He noticed that he car wasn’t parked in the driveway, but decided to check out her house anyway.

He entered the security code that he had memorized long ago and let himself in. Sitting on the couch in front of him sat Angelo quietly doing a puzzle on the coffee table.

“Angelo? What are you doing here?” He asked, taken aback. For her to be harboring Angelo, something big indeed must be going down.

“Angelo wait for Daughter. Daughter take Angelo far away.” Angelo responded after he had given his old friend a hug.

“Why is Miss Parker going to take you far away?”

“Daughter make Centre go away.”

“Go away? Like go away for good, as in take down the Centre.”

Angelo nodded excitedly.

“By herself?”

“FBI help Daughter. Jarod help Daughter?”

“Yes Angelo, I am going to help Miss Parker.” Jarod informed him, “Stay here until either I or Miss Parker come to get you. Okay? If anyone else comes here I want you to hide.”

“Okay.” Angelo replied.

Jarod just hoped that he had really understood. “Good Angelo. I’ll be right back. I’m going to go help Parker.”

Angelo nodded, “Bye.”

Jarod ran out the door, making sure to secure it behind him, and sped off in his car towards the Centre. He hoped that he wouldn’t be too late.



::::::::::::::* ::::::::::::::
The Centre



“You wanted to see me Daddy?”

“Yes, Angel. I’m afraid that your brother has discovered some disturbing information that I would like you to clear up for us.”

“What kind of information?” She asked, although she already knew.

Lyle stepped forward, “A surveillance team we had staking out the Delaware field office reported seeing you, or someone who fit your description enter the building with a briefcase in hand, and exit a half and hour later with nothing. Care to explain?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Your goons mistook someone else for me.” She rolled her eyes, “You need to better train them. Now are you done wasting my time? I have lab rats to catch.”

“Not so fast. This sure looks like you to me. Don’t you think so dad?” Lyle handed them both a copy of a picture, probably taken by the sweepers who were watching the building.

“This is from the back Lyle. It could be anyone. Is that the best you’ve got?”

“Well…” He began, however he stopped as he heard the sound of approaching sirens. “Dad, you better come and see this.”

Mr. Parker joined Lyle by the picture window. An entire squad of police cars were pulling up to the Centre, and another fleet of FBI issue Ford Taurus’s were following close behind.

Mr. Parker turned towards his daughter, fury in his eyes, “You did this! Do you WANT the Centre to be closed down? After all that it has done for you?”

“After all that it has done TO me. Do you really think that I don’t know about your little experiment involving a certain pretender and me? We were bound to find out sooner or later. This place is going down and you are going down with it.”

If possible, the fury in Mr. Parker’s eyes increased tenfold. He plodded over to his desk and removed a revolver from a locked drawer.

“I always knew that you were too much like your mother for your own good. I tried to raise you the right way, to be a Parker, but it is apparent that I’ve failed. Oh well, I know when to cut my losses.”

With a steady hand he raised the gun so that it was even with Miss Parker’s head.

Parker felt a strange serenity come over her. This was it. The end. She was at peace with herself. Whether she died now or not the Centre was going down. She only had one regret, “Tell him I love him.”

“Who?” Lyle asked, the first interruption he had dared since their father had produced the revolver.

“Me.” Jarod leaped down from an air vent behind Miss Parker, a gun in hand.

“You’re alive!” Lyle asked astonished.

“So it seems, Mr. Lyle. It is so good to see you again.”

“You are with him?” Mr. Parker asked his daughter in disgust.

“Yes.” Miss Parker moved away from her father and closer to Jarod, pulling her own gun out of her holster as she did so.

“I can’t believe this.” Lyle said, although no one was paying much attention to him anymore.

“I should just pull the trigger now for all you have done to me.” Parker said trembling.

Jarod looked over at her. She stood poised to kill her own father. Not that he could really blame her.

“You don’t have the guts to touch me, you’re a weakling. Just like your mother was. I’m just sorry I didn’t have Raines dispose of her sooner.”

That was the last straw for Miss Parker. A tear in her eye for the father she always wanted but never had, she pulled the trigger and unloaded a bullet directly into her father’s chest.

Without so much as a scream of pain the old man fell to the ground, a pool of blood forming around him.

Jarod went over to the body to check for a pulse. He felt a mixture of relief and sorrow when he found none. Relief that now it could finally end, sorrow that Miss Parker had to kill her own father to end it.

From the sidelines Lyle stood in greater shock than before. Without a word he set his gun on the floor and back away, hands in the air.

“FBI, everyone freeze!” Agent Penny burst into the room followed by a group of ten agents. “I heard gunfire. Is everyone alright?”

“He’s not doing to well.” Lyle pointed out.

“Who are you?”

“That is Lyle.” Parker explained, “And this is Jarod.”

“The boy from the DSAs?”

“The one and only.”

“Alright.” Agent Penny directed some agents toward the fallen Mr. Parker and sent others to arrest Lyle.

“It’s nice to meet you Jarod. I’m sorry that we couldn’t get here thirty years ago.” Agent Penny shook Jarod’s hand.

“Better late than never.” He replied.

“Lets get out of here.” Parker said quietly, looking over at the man she just killed.

“Sure, Angelo is waiting for us anyway.” Jarod took her hand and led her out of the office.

All around them Agents and Police Officers were arresting Centre employees and commandeering files and folders. She could see a team coming out of the Tower Elevator, three men in tow. From another elevator boxes and cabinets of files were being carted to awaiting trucks. It was really happening.

Hand in hand Jarod and Miss Parker walked out the front door of the place that had held them both captive for so long. Neither looked back as they began the first leg of their new life, free and together.





Author’s Note: So, what did you think? Does it deserve an epilogue? I know it is not exactly one of my best, but I am having a fanfiction slump. I didn’t initially intend to write one of those end-of-the-Centre stories…it just sort of happened. I hope that you liked the extra dignity I gave Miss Parker after the mess I made her last time. I even gave poor neglected Broots a role


This story archived at http://www.pretendercentre.com/missingpieces/viewstory.php?sid=4381