To Dance In An English Garden by Oriana Lemke
Summary: Something's pushed Jarod too far. Sequel to Paper Snowflakes.
Categories: Indefinite Timeline Characters: Jarod, Miss Parker, Sydney
Genres: General
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Enigma Lovers Series
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 9383 Read: 39365 Published: 09/07/05 Updated: 09/07/05

1. Part 1 by Oriana Lemke

2. Part 2 by Oriana Lemke

3. Part 3 by Oriana Lemke

4. Part 4 by Oriana Lemke

5. Part 5 by Oriana Lemke

6. Part 6 by Oriana Lemke

Part 1 by Oriana Lemke
Please notice this is part of a series..... here you see all part in the right order:

1) Paper Snowflakesnokia 6310 modem (the original, isn't a sequel)
2) To Dance In An English Garden
3) A Night To Remember
4) The Trick Is To Keep Breathing
5) Life In A Heartbeart
6) With Me (the last in the series)

*Disclaimer: I don't own "The Pretender" or any of its characters. Thanx for not suing! ~Oriana


~~~~~~~~~


To Dance In An English Garden
Part I
by Orinana



Miss Parker slammed the front door behind her, and immediately regretted the action as the noise increased her headache. Tossing her keys on the hallway table, she made a beeline for a glass and the cold bottle of vodka in the kitchen, a welcome treat after the blazing July sun outside.

With a moan she willingly curled up on the sofa, trying to mentally erase the entire day. She hadn't been sleeping well all week, and last night she'd only managed two hours. Lyle'd had the nerve to meet her right at the door to the Centre, and start in on his newest whining. They'd been bickering on and off all day, allowing just enough time for people to keep dropping paperwork off at her office. Around one, after taking her irritation out on Syd and Broots (more than usual) and downing enough aspirin to tranquilize an elephant, Parker decided it was time to go home before she killed someone (where was Brigitte when you needed her?).

Parker was just beginning to doze off when the cordless phone a few feet away began to ring. Much as she wanted to ignore it, the shrill ringing was killing her. Rubbing her temples, she walked over to the phone, picked it up and retreated back to the sofa before bothering to activate it.

"What?" she snapped.

An accented voice stuttered on the other end. "H-hullo? Um, you, you don't know me, b-but..."

Parker looked up to the ceiling and rolled her eyes. This lady was as much a stutterer as Broots. "If I don't know you, then how did you get this number? It's unlisted."

"I didn't--get your telephone number, that is...I mean, you were the first t-that..."

Parker was fed up with this. "I'm hanging up now--"

"No, wait! Please, it's very important." Parker hesitated just long enough for the other woman to continue. "There's a man here...he's not well. I believe you should know him—his name is Jarod."

Parker shot up, and ignored the shots of pain in her head, the other woman suddenly having her full attention. "Jarod? What is it? What's wrong with him?"

"Well, to be honest I don't know. None of us do. But his behavior...it has us all very concerned."

"Who's 'us'?"

"The other workers and I here at the Swan Inn of Lavenham."

Parker reached over for a pen and pad of paper, and quickly scribbled down the name. "I don't recognize the place. Which state is that?"

"State? Oh, you're mistaken. Lavenham is in England."

"England!" What the hell was Jarod doing in Europe?

"Y-yes miss. Eastern England, Essex County."

A thought came to Parker, and she asked urgently, "Did Jarod ask for you to call me?"

The Englishwoman replied a little guiltily, "Well, no, miss. If I've done anything wrong, I'm terribly sorry--"

"No," Parker quickly cut her off. "I'm appreciative, really. I was just wondering how you got my number, is all."

"Well, he left his cellular at his table after dinner last night. I went up this morning to give it to him along with his breakfast tray, and that's when I saw how bad he'd gotten."

"What do you mean?"

"He was pale, dark rings under his eyes. Seemed to be tremblin' a bit. Something told me to hang on to the phone. And then, later when I went to fetch his tray, I found it outside his door. Not a crumb of that food had been touched, miss. And I knocked on the door, to see if he needed anything else, but he didn't answer."

"Maybe he'd just gone out."

"No, miss. He hasn't left the inn since he arrived, two days ago. Anyhow, it got to me so much, I thought I'd try his speed dial, see if someone should come up here. And you're number one on his speed dial, so..."

"You were right to call. Listen, can you give me the inn number?"

"Of course. From the US you can dial 1-800-225-5843. Just ask for Mary, and I'll give you any help I can, miss."

"Okay, thank you. I'll call back in just a few minutes, all right?"

"Right, miss." Parker hung up, then reactivated the phone and dialed Sydney's number at the Centre. After two rings, he answered.

"Syd, it's me. We've got a problem..."

~~~~~~~~~

It had been a long and complicated trip, getting from Blue Cove to Lavenham. After driving to New York's JFK Airport, she'd flown overseas to England's Heathrow Airport, having to put up with some bratty kid kicking the back of her seat the whole way. From there, she'd had to catch the Heathrow Express to London, and find a cab to take her to the North Street Station. The train there took her to Colchester, then there was the connector to Sudbury. At Sudbury, she eventually found Beeston's Coaches, Ltd., which offered buses to Lavenham. Traveling from London to Lavenham alone took 2 1/2.

By the time she arrived at the Swan Inn, exhausted and irritable, Parker had decided that if Jarod wasn't on his death bed, she was going to put him there.

"May I help you?" a kindly man offered as she tossed her luggage down next to the front desk.

"I certainly hope so," she sighed. "I'm looking for an employee of yours, Mary James."

A petite woman with mousy brown hair approached the desk. "Miss Parker?"

"Mary?"

"Yes, miss. I'm glad you've arrived."

"Where is he?" Parker asked, looking around expectantly.

"Upstairs still."

"Still?" she echoed in disbelief. "You mean he hasn't left at all since we last spoke?"

"That's right."

"But it's been nearly 24 hours!"

Mary nodded. "I'll take you up to his room." She led the way up to the second level, explaining as they went, "The second-story bedrooms open onto a tiny cloistered garden, so he requested one of those." Stopping at a door, she turned to Parker. "Here it is. I'll go downstairs and see to your luggage, miss. I've reserved the room next door for you, so I'll just leave the door unlocked."

"Thank you, Mary."

"Yes, miss." Mary headed off down the stairs. Parker took a deep breath, then knocked. No answer. Feeling increasingly concerned, she gave another knock, longer and louder. Still no answer.

"Jarod? Are you there?" There was no reply, but she could sense that he was inside. Trying the door, she was surprised to find it unlocked. Jarod was not the careless type.

Slowly, she opened the door and walked inside, shutting it softly behind her. The room was quite large, but was in a sort of L-shape, so that she couldn't see anything but the bed in front of her. It wasn't until she turned the corner that Jarod came into sight. He sat, with his face only partially in view, in one of two wicker chairs set down near the balcony. His eyes were in the direction of the garden, but he seemed unfocused. Jarod was just a few feet from Parker, but it felt like he was a thousand miles away.

For a moment, it seemed as if she couldn't even breath. She understood now why Mary and the others had been so concerned. His shoulders were slumped, his hair was unkept, and it looked as if he hadn't changed in days.

It was his face that was the worst, though. His eyes, red and puffy, as though he'd been crying for hours on end, were hollow, completely lacking of that warm twinkle Parker had accepted as Jarod's signature. A thin stubble had begun on his chin.

"Oh, god...Jarod." Her voice was just above a whisper, and quivered. This person was nothing more than a shell of the man she knew. His troubled mind was tangible, making the air somehow seem thick.

At the sound of his name, he turned slightly in his chair. Jarod looked at her, but it was a moment before he actually focused, and really saw her. He didn't say anything, but his eyes began to water.
Part 2 by Oriana Lemke
*Disclaimer: I don't own "The Pretender" or any of its characters. Thanx for not suing! ~Oriana

~~~~~~~~~

To Dance In An English Garden
Part II
by Orinana



An exhausted Parker nodded off around 5:30, after fighting off sleep for hours. She woke up less than two hours later, her head snapping up. After a split moment to realize where she was, she looked up. Jarod wasn't in his bed. A thought came to her, and with sudden concern she looked over to the dresser, but the gun remained in the same spot it had been last she'd looked at it. It was only as she finally noticed a small breeze on her neck that Parker turned, finding Jarod back at the balcony, only this time he was actually standing out on it, looking down into the garden, again lost in his thoughts.

She noted, with great relief, that he was shaven, freshly dressed, and though still pale, looked a degree less dead. As she got up from the chair, Jarod turned and looked at her. She smiled a greeting, but froze as she saw his face. Cold, stony, a grin showing more malice than gentleness.

"So the great huntress awakes," he said in a mocking tone.

"J-Jarod, you're looking better."

A shadow passed over his face momentarily, and when he replied, his voice held a grim note. "What? Well enough to drag me back to the Centre."

Parker couldn't think of an answer to that, so simply ignored the statement. "Since you're clearly more coherent today, mind telling me just what the hell's going on?"

"And what makes you think I owe you any answers?" he snapped, grabbing his jacket and heading towards the door.

"Where are you going?" she asked worriedly. He was nowhere near strong enough to go off on his own.

He didn't reply, just slammed the door shut behind him. With an angry huff, and realizing that she almost preferred his earlier behavior, Parker reached for her own coat and cell phone, throwing the gun in a drawer as a second thought, and raced out after him. As she headed down the stairs, she could hear Jarod snap, "Watch where you're going!" then a door banging shut.

Throwing her jacket on, she reached the entrance and swung it open, then ran outside. After wincing for a moment in the sudden brightness of the early morning sun, she looked about her expectantly, but couldn't spot Jarod anywhere in the crowds of people heading about.

Heading back inside, she spotted Mary and cornered her. "Jarod just ran out of here. Do you know where he could've gone?"

"N-no, ma'am," she stuttered, wide-eyed. "Oh, wait! We have connections with the local gym. I told him when he arrived that our guests can work out there free of charge."

"Where is this place?" Parker demanded urgently.

"Just two blocks down, O'Malley's. You can't miss it."

"Thanks," she managed over her shoulder as she hurried outside. Pushing impatiently through chattering groups of early risers, ignoring their indignant calls, she reached O'Malley's Gym. Moving inside, she headed straight to the information desk.

"Good morning, ma'am," smiled the petite blonde behind the desk. "And how may I help you today?"

"There was a man, he would've come in here just a few minutes ago--Jarod?"

The clerk stared blankly at her for a moment, then her eyes brightened with recognition. "Oh, you must mean the dark-haired man. Yes, he flashed me his Swan Inn user's pass, then moved on to the locker room."

"And where would that be?"

She gave an uncomfortable laugh. "I'm afraid you can't go in there. It's the men's locker room."

"Watch me." Parker brushed impatiently past the blonde, spotted a sign announcing the appropriate locker room, and walked in without a second thought. The clerk did not pursue her.

Inside, a few surprised men gave yelps of surprise, some quickly reached for towels. She ignored them, looking down every row of lockers expectantly. Not spotting Jarod, she stopped in front of a sign-up clipboard, then ruffled through the sheets. A speedy and half-unclear signature was placed in the punching bags column. With a smile of satisfaction, she walked out, calling back, "As you were, boys."

The boxing room was the farthest area of the gym. Parker pushed open the heavy wooden door, and entered. She was greeted by the dull thuds of fists against pads. Sure enough, in the far left corner stood Jarod, black jacket on the floor, dark pants and t-shirt still on. She was surprised to see that he was taking on the large punching bag with bare hands, undoubtedly a painful choice. Also, it was rather dim in the room, the only light filtering in through a few windows near the top of one wall. She took one step inside, and led the door slowly slide shut behind her.

Jarod didn't once look up. Parker stood, near the door, for 20 minutes, watching him. There was a strength, a determined swiftness, in how his fists made continual contact with the bag, that reminded Parker of herself, whenever she headed to the shooting range to work through her demons.

She noted with concern that he was beginning to sweat. Deciding that enough was enough, she reached over and flicked up the ceiling light switches, then walked across the room to him.

"Imagine meeting you here," he muttered, giving the boxing bag another whack.

"Don't you think it's time you took a break?"

"No." Thud. Thud-thud.

"Jarod, I don't care how well you slept. Yesterday you were an absolute mess, and I'm willing to be you didn't even eat this morning. This isn't healthy."

A final punch at the bag, and he turned to look at her. Dark circles under his eyes only highlighted the grim, angry look in his eyes. "What? It'll be more impressive to daddy dearest and the others if you bring back a pretender who could put up more of a fight?"

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Now there is the real question."

She ignored his sarcastic tone, and pushed on. "Did something go wrong? Has something happened?"

Every muscle visibly tightened. Clenched fists at his side, he stalked past Parker, towards the door.

"Where are you going?" she demanded, hurrying to catch up.

"None of your damn business!"

"If you would just tell me where you're going--"

"Look!" he shouted, spinning around to face her. "I don't want you here! Why can't you get that?! Go away, Parker!" She stood, dumbfounded, as he slammed the door shut behind him.

After a moment, she picked up his jacket with a sigh, and walked resignedly back to the inn. An inquiry with Mary confirmed that Jarod had not returned.

Going upstairs, she went into his room, hoping to be there when he returned. After calling downstairs to order some room service, Parker walked out onto the balcony, and looked down into the garden. In one corner, on a marble bench, sat on older man, probably in his mid-40s, reading a book. The sight reminded her of someone, and she reached in her pocket for her cell phone.

When Sydney answered, she skipped the usual greetings. "Any news yet?"

"None yet, I'm afraid. If Jarod had any intention of sending us the usual package, he apparently never got around to it. And you and I both know that without those little clues, it's very near impossible to trace his steps."

"I know," she sighed. "Just hoping, I guess."

"So, are things any better on your side?" he asked hopefully.

"Better and worse, depending. Physically, he appears better, and sure as hell has built back up some of his strength. But psychologically..." she trailed off. "Who knows. Yesterday he was unimaginably depressed, and now he seems extremely angry at the world in general. But I can tell you this—one way or another, when he comes back, I'm getting some answers."

"It may be best not to provoke him," Sydney warned.

"Something bad's going on, Syd. If it's eating away at him this badly, it can't be healthy to hold it in."

"Jarod has always been one to handle things by himself."

"Yeah, but not by choice," she pointed out. "We had him locked up in a cement cell a good part of his life. You'd be a little self-reliant too. But this is different. I mean, clearly he isn't handling it well--last night, I had to keep calming him again and again, his nightmares were so bad."

"Really." There was a half-hidden tone of surprise in his voice.

"What is it?"

"I just find it interesting to learn that tactic still works."

"Huh?"

Sydney gave a reluctant sigh. "Nothing. I'll call if anything changes. And Parker, do keep in touch. Broots and I are both very concerned.

"Will do." She hung up, closed the balcony doors, and retreated to the bed. She was exhausted, but no way was she leaving this room until he came back. Using his bed, she'd be able to rest, and still know when he came back in.

****

Across the Atlantic Ocean, back in Blue Cove, Delaware, Sydney put down his own phone, and let his eyes wander to Jarod's Lego Empire State Building. From many years ago, a memory came back to him of one late night...

Young Jarod lie, trembling, in his bed. The security guards had called him in, the third time this week, because the small pretender's screaming had gotten so bad. Sydney entered Jarod's room -if it really could be called such- concerned, ready to help the child as before. The nightmares got worse every week, it seemed.

Try as he might, though, for the next 10 minutes, nothing he did could calm Jarod. Slowly, the boy started to wake up, whimpering, edging away from him.

"No, no! Stay away!" Jarod suddenly shrieked. He was still dreaming, the man realized. And seeing someone who had been there for most of the tests was not likely to calm the child.

An idea hit him; he leaned closer, and said softly, "Jarod, it's all right. Miss Parker is on her way down." The shrieking stopped, but Jarod was still shaking. "She's on her way," he assured. "Everything will be fine then." Eyes drooping, the child gave a small nod. "Miss Parker will be here soon." He laid back down, slowly, the hesitation easing out of his body. His muscles relaxed, his breathing slowly evened out. Within a few moments, young Jarod was in a peaceful slumber...
Part 3 by Oriana Lemke
*Disclaimer: I don't own "The Pretender" or any of its characters. Thanx for not suing! ~Oriana

~~~~~~~~~

To Dance In An English Garden
Part III
by Orinana



She was asleep. And no wonder, with the hell he'd put her through lately. Jarod stood uncertainly next to the bed, a war raging between the emotions inside of him, too close to the edge. Everything wrong, his whole world threatening to crash down around him, and all he could do was stare down at the woman before him.

Then, inside, anger once again gained the upper hand, and as he looked down at Parker, all he could see was the person she'd become, the person the Center and people like her father had created. A woman who had once been all too willing to trade his life for her freedom. Once, but now...?

Shaking his head, as if hoping to free himself of thoughts that would just lead to more confusion and mixed emotions -something he was nowhere near capable of handling right now- Jarod took a good hold of the quilt she lie on top of, and gave a forceful tug.

Parker woke up, quite suddenly, as she fell in an indignant heap on the floor at Jarod's feet.

"What the hell was that?" she demanded, her face reddening. Face blank, but eyes back to reflecting that same fiery anger, he tossed her body-length black jacket down to her.

"Get out."

"Forget it," she snapped, getting to her feet.

"Are you going to force me back there or not?!" he shouted fiercely. "You've got your precious gun--go ahead and do it!"

"No!" she yelled back vehemently.

"Then get the hell out!" he yelled, waving towards the door.

"Forget it," she replied, her voice low, simmering.

He didn't say anything, just spun around and moved out the door, leaving it wide open. Parker heard him throw open her own room's door, and eyes widening, she followed him.

He was muttering angrily, more to himself than her.

"Pointless, all of it. Nobody ever gives a damn. Not as if you can win. My own family's probably forgotten about me. All the innocence, lost. All for the sake of that god forsaken place." She listened, trying to absorb what he was saying. Jarod looked around quickly, saw that she hadn't unpacked, then zipped her luggage up and tossed it to her feet.

"So you want me to go," she said, her voice rising again. "If that's the way you want it..." She walked briskly back into his room, and whipped open the top drawer, withdrawing his gun just as Jarod entered. She turned to him, held it up for him to see. She was upset, too caught up in the moment to see how quickly what color that had returned to his face drained away. "...Then I'm taking this with me."

"It's amazing how expertly you handle those things," he bit, his tone spiteful. "You've learned quite well. Become the perfect Centre operative. You know, I'm almost glad Thomas is dead, so he never had to learn who you really are."

Parker's eyes widened in painful disbelief, as he continued, his voice filling with disgust. "And thank god Catherine isn't here. Imagine what your mother would think, if she could see what you've become--" his words were cut off as the sound of a powerful slap echoed through the room.

Parker looked down at her hand in shock, then up, her eyes watering. Jarod only stood, watching her knowingly, as if she'd behaved just as he had expected.

"The worse part," she managed after an eternal moment, "is that I don't know if you said that just to get rid me, or if you really meant it." He made no reply, just turned his back to her and walked to the balcony, and sat. No remark, no yelling. Silence.

At first, she could only stare at the back of his head, a mixed look of disbelief and incomprehension on her face.Then, she found her voice, and tried to ignore the one warm tear sliding down her cheek.

"Don't do this."

No reply.Another tear slid down, then another, as anger, sadness and hopelessness towards the man in front of her filled Parker.

"Fine, Jarod," she said, her voice a tone of controlled anger. "If that's the way you want it, then that's just fine. Okay, so maybe you have lost faith in yourself, in your family, in the good you've done. Maybe..." Her voice choked up. "Maybe you've even lost faith in me." She took a quick, deliberate stride forward towards him, and leaned forward so that her mouth was close to his ear. "But I am not giving up on you." Without another word, she stomped out, slamming the door behind her.
Part 4 by Oriana Lemke
*Disclaimer: I don't own "The Pretender" or any of its characters. Thanx for not suing! ~Oriana

~~~~~~~~~

To Dance In An English Garden
Part IV
by Orinana



They hadn't spoken in two days. Parker had purposely avoided him -not difficult, as he hardly left his room- in hopes of giving him space to figure things out. Obviously, pressing the matter hadn't worked. Still, she'd taken care of him, making sure that food was sent up to his room, and, more importantly, that unwelcome visits by concerned employees like Mary didn't happen.

As for Jarod, things had gotten worse. His issues weren't getting solved, only tangled up in his mind so badly that he wasn't sure what to think or feel or believe anymore. All he was sure of was anger, horrible anger towards everyone and everything that had led to this moment.

That night, the end of Parker's fourth day in England, she tossed about restlessly in her bed. Well past two, but even the three sleeping pills she'd taken were working. Damn things. Parker knew she should've brought her own doctor-prescribed ones along with her. Never trust over-the-counter.

Giving up on rest with a sigh, she got up, flicked on a lamp, and picked up the gun that sat on her bedside table, looking at it numbly. It was Jarod's. She hadn't even realized she still had it until she'd come back to her room that afternoon. As she looked down at it, muffled murmurs from the room next to her caught Parker's attention. Placing the gun on the bed, she leaned over and pressed an ear
against the wall. It was Jarod's voice, all right, but it seemed more like agitated moans than actual words. Concerned that something serious was wrong, she hopped off the bed, slipped into a bathrobe, and walked out of her own room.

His door was locked, but she'd gotten a key from Mary earlier, and so -after hearing another moan from inside- slid it into the lock, turned it, and pushed open the door.

Only the lights outside in the garden illuminated the room, but it was enough to spot him in bed, tossing and turning, as a scared whimpering continued to escape his mouth. She slid the door shut, relocked it, and hurried to his side.

Just as Parker reached Jarod, he gave a choked cry, and shot up in bed. She was at his side in a second, sitting on the middle of the bed, but not daring to touch him. For a moment, he just sat, shaking, staring at her. Then, without warning, he broke out into tears, falling against her, resting his head on her shoulder. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, held onto him for all she was worth, feeling her own eyes water as he continued to sob.

"Why won't you tell me what's wrong?" she whispered. His shaking increased, and his cries grew louder; she didn't say another word, just sat, holding him, brushing a comforting hand through his hair.

It was a long while before the cries stopped. For even longer he remained in her arms, silent tears falling, the trembling slow in stopping.

Parker tried not to move much; hell, she was afraid even breathing would break him, he seemed so fragile. Still, exhaustion -finally, the sleeping pills were taking effect-and leg cramps were forcing her to see that staying like this all night was not an option. He'd actually fallen asleep, cradled in her arms like a child. Reluctantly, she glanced over at the alarm clock, and frowned at the time glowing patiently: 4:34.

She considered lying him down on the bed, but stopped as soon as the first small whimper came from his lips. Parker looked around the room with a sigh. This wasn't the place to be right now. He'd experienced too many emotions in this small room--it'd given the place a sort of ominous feel.

An idea sparked in her mind. Biting her lip, praying she wouldn't regret it, Parker gave Jarod a gently shake.

"Jarod, wake up. I need to talk to you." His eyelids slowly parted, and he looked at her sleepily. "I have to go to my room, just for a moment."

"Please don't leave me." His voice was tiny, lost. She felt her throat tighten.

"I'll be right back. I promise." He lie back hesitantly on the bed. "I swear, I'm coming right back." His eyes closed. Silently, she left the room, returned to her own, and changed into fresh clothes as quickly as possible, then grabbed her jacket, cell phone and a set of keys, and walked back to Jarod's room.

He was asleep when she entered, and for once she wasn't happy to see him rest. This meant she'd have to wake him up again, to get him downstairs.

Actually, it didn't take much. Another gentle shake, and his eyes shot open. When he sat up, she wrapped an arm around his back to support him, and got Jarod to his feet. He was dressed in a black t-shirt and pants, and though it was hardly the appropriate attire for dinner with the queen, Parker figured it was fine for their destination. Slowly, she led an exhausted Jarod down the stairs and out a side door of the inn, and out into the parking lot into the car she'd rented.

After easing him into the passenger seat, where he promptly fell back asleep, Parker got behind the wheel, and started the car. Soon, they were leaving the town limits of Lavenham.

~~~~~~~~~

Jarod slowly came to, and looked around him groggily. After realizing that he was in a car, he turned to look at Parker with a sleepy, confused look. "Where are we?"

"About 70 miles from Lavenham," Parker replied, keeping her eyes on the road. She was still having trouble getting used to driving on the other side of the road. He stared at her for a moment, then realized she was serious. God, she looks tired, he thought. "Feel free to go back to sleep. We've got about 10 more miles to go."

"To?" he asked tiredly. She just smiled. Jarod didn't really think about it. He was too weary to think about anything right now--the last few days had been too draining. Soon, he'd nodded off again.

15 minutes later, Parker woke him up, and he looked around him expectantly, but couldn't see anything more than a bunch of hills and trees. "What are we doing here?"

"Come on." Not bothering to ask anything else, he slowly got out of the car, and followed her on a trail up a hill. He froze as they reached the top.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" He could only nod, as his fuzzy mind tried to grasp the picture before him: on the next hill, between them and the ocean, lie an expansive mass of ruins, just barely visible in the dim light before dawn. They walked on in silence, until they reached the mount. The highest point of the hill, and -after a short climb- the highest point of the crumbling stone towers. They sat, looking out into the coast.

"This is Hastings Castle," she finally said after a long, thoughtful silence. "The first Norman castle ever in England. It was built back in the 11th century." She looked over at him. "All of this was here long before either of us was born, and it'll still be standing long after we're both dead." She looked back to the ocean. "I was six when my mother first told me about this place, of how she'd come here when she was a little girl. I didn't come here until I was 20, on the anniversary of her death. You know, it's amazing how far away from everything this place seems. It's almost too easy to believe that the rest of the world doesn't even exist..." She turned a little, to face him, and he finally looked back at her. "This place has seen a lot--conquerors, battles. It's not unfamiliar with troubled minds..." He gave no reply. "Makes it a good place to bare your soul. I should know. It's age, the massiveness of it; it gives you sense of security. Makes you feel that your secrets are safe, no matter what."

Jarod's eyes moistened, and he averted them back to the ocean. Parker didn't say a word more, but waited for him to make the next move.
Part 5 by Oriana Lemke
*Disclaimer: I don't own "The Pretender" or any of its characters. Thanx for not suing! ~Oriana

~~~~~~~~~

To Dance In An English Garden
part V
by Orinana



They sat atop the stony ruins, silent, thoughtful, staring out into the ocean. Five minutes, ten, then fifteen ticked by, but Parker remained quiet, knowing Jarod would talk, in his own time.

He stared out to the horizon, where the tip of the sun would appear at any moment. Already the sky was filling with color, clouds reflecting red, orange, and a hundred colors in between. The shades of red reminded him of flames, leaping out towards him. Closing his eyes, Jarod forced the thought away. He knew the memories would come back to haunt him, again and again, but at that moment he just didn't have the strength to deal with them. He knew they would never go away, he understood that. All he wanted was to be able to look back on that time without completely breaking down.

This thought suddenly reminded him that Parker was still next to him, staring out to the ocean as quietly as ever. God, he wanted to tell her, he wanted to tell her so much. But he couldn't do that to her, couldn't give her another demon to bear, another reason to hate him...

Inhaling sharply at the thought, he stood abruptly, turned, and quickly climbed back down the ruins, shaking Parker from her reverie. Muttering, "What the hell?" she scurried down after him.

He was already in the hill's meadow, past the ruins, going at such a brisk step that she had to break into a light jog just to catch up with him. "Jarod, what is it? Where are you going?"

"Back to the car." Stupid question. Still, even though his voice wasn't cold, it'd regained that harsh edge. "I'll wait there until you've finished with your little field trip."

With an irritated frown, she finally caught up, stopping him with a pull of his arm. "Would you stop?"

"Let go," he demanded, finally turning to her.

"You know, this is getting real old, real fast."

"What are you talking about?"

"This. Your attitude, your character--everything's different. Everything could get better, if you would just tell me what's going on--"

"I'm fine," he snapped.

"The hell you are." Enough was enough. "You rant, you rave, you starve yourself, you have unbelievable nightmares—you are not fine. And if you don't feel like talking, well that's just too damn bad--I've got the car keys, and neither of us is leaving until this is cleared up."

"You can't stop me from leaving," he insisted, his voice rising.

"Watch me."

"Why are you doing this?!" His voice had reached yelling pitch. "An hour, a day, a week--nothing will change, I don't care how long you keep me here!"

"I can help you, if you'll just tell me--"

"Tell you what?! About all the people whose realities have been ripped apart by my meddling? How I'm responsible for the loss of innocent lives? What purpose would that serve--it won't take back what happened. All it will do is cause you more pain. I can't erase the past, but at least I can protect you!" His last shouted words echoed through the nearby woods.

"Don't hide this from me." Her voice was low, soft, determined. "Whatever happened, you can't handle it on your own. I'll be fine--it's you that I'm worried about."

He stared at her, guilty conscience fighting against overwhelmness. And then, finally, in a whisper barely audible, "I just want it to go away..."

Parker held her breath, waiting. His eyes slowly wandered to some point to the right of her, as his mind moved back to the beginning of it all. "I came across the file one night," he said vaguely. "Nathan Crawford...I didn't recognize the name, so I checked the Centre database, but there was just that one file on him...from your father's system. He'd pulled some political strings, gotten Crawford released from prison..."

"Why?"

"Your mother'd befriended a woman, Helena Price--very rich, lots of powerful connections. But more importantly, she was divorced with a little girl your age, and happier because of it. Helena began to visit her more and more, and they grew closer--and your mother began to get ideas. Your father saw what was happening, and wouldn't allow it. Crawford was an assassin, one of the best--in exchange for being released, Crawford took care of Helena."

"And my mother..."

"...had been reminded of the power your father had over her. Problem is, Crawford's not the kind of person that you control. Once the job was done, he disappeared...After finding out what he'd done to Helena, I finally thought to look at his criminal record, see what he'd been in for."

"Murder?"

"Child molestation," he whispered. "Three counts. I realized Crawford was probably still out there, so I did a nationwide search, tracked him down to Los Angeles, his newest residence."

"Oh, god..." Her mind tried to grasp it all, and as she realized that Daddy had knowingly freed a child molester, she felt physically ill. She gulped uneasily, but knew that she had to know the rest. "And then?"

"And then," he replied grimly, "I caught him."
Part 6 by Oriana Lemke
*Disclaimer: I don't own "The Pretender" or any of its characters. Thanx for not suing! ~Oriana

~~~~~~~~~

To Dance In An English Garden
part VI
by Oriana



"I posed as a new detective for the LAPD," Jarod continued, his voice still grim. "A child had gone missing in the area, second in a month fitting Crawford's type. It'd been a little over 24 hours, I thought there was still time...When I tracked him down, I found the little girl's doll in his basement, dirty and ripped...he ran off, but I caught him, held him in a warehouse. He wouldn't admit to doing it, just kept giving me this nauseating smile and politely telling me that I was mistaken." Jarod's voice was angrier, and his fists were clenched.

"He got to me, the little hints he'd drop...Finally, he let something slip--," his voice dropped, "--or so I thought, and I raced away, leaving him tied to a chair. I-I wasn't thinking, I just wanted to find that little girl...She was locked in the basement of an abandoned home. God, she was covered in cuts and bruises--all I could think of was getting her to a hospital..."

"Crawford escaped, didn't he?"

Jarod gave a weak nod. "Somehow managed to cut through the ropes, and slipped through an open window...And when I realized...I-I didn't know what to do, where to go first looking for him. Every available officer was scouring the city, but LA is such a big place...I was so sure I'd let him get away, allowed him to be free to hurt another child, that when a man called from this museum on the east side, saying he'd spotted Crawford, I got there as fast as I could...I knew I couldn't let him get away again."

"Why the museum?"

"I wasn't sure at first, but then I saw the elementary class there for a field trip. There were a couple of girls that fit his preference--he must've spotted them."

Parker paled. She was not liking where this was going.

"Four kids, three boys and one girl, all first-graders, had wandered off from the group, and he'd trapped them on an upper floor. By the time I'd reached the place, there was a hostage negotiation. The officers told me to wait, but I, I wouldn't listen...I was just so furious, at him, at myself, that I ran right in and up the stairs. I broke down the door to the room where they were being held, and we got into a fist fight. I knocked him unconscious...I turned to the kids, led them to the stairs and told them to go down to the police. Once I was sure they were outside, I went back to the room...There was a flight of stairs at the other end, I hadn't noticed them before--I could hear him running up them, so I chased after...The stairs led all the way up, past the fifth level, to the roof. I cornered him at one edge, we fought...and before I even realized what was happening, he'd fallen, five stories, to the concrete sidewalk..."

"The children saw?"

"No, thank god...they were with the police on the other side of the building. But as I stood there, looking down at him, I heard these shouts. Then, the alarms went off and I finally smelled the smoke."

"Oh no..."

"I went back down the stairs, saw the flames were coming from the room I'd just left."

"Crawford?"

"Yes. Who knows what he was thinking. I heard all these cries, and realized that people were trapped in the building. The smoke was so thick, I could barely breathe—it was terrifying, how fast that fire was spreading. I managed to find three, a group of the kids, and got them downstairs..." His eyes watered, and his voice began to choke up. "I tried to go back in, but officers held me back...By the time the firefighters arrived, there was no chance for anyone else. The building collapsed just before they arrived..."

"Jarod..." He was crying now, tears pouring down his face. She did the only thing she could think of: reach out, hug him, and comfort him. "It's not your fault. You didn't plan this...You can't blame yourself."

"Who else can I blame?!" he demanded hoarsely. "If I hadn't gone in there after him, there wouldn't have been five casualties. Five, Parker. Four students, and a tour guide. Four children, ripped from their parents, and a mother, whose two little girls will never see her again."

"It wasn't your fault," she insisted.

"I want to believe you," he whispered. "I want to believe you so much..."

"I know," she soothed, brushing a hand through his hair. "I know. And no matter how long it takes, I'll be right here, helping you. I promise."

He wrapped his arms around her, allowing himself to put down his defenses and rest his head on her shoulder, and sobbed, a sob of old pain and new-found relief.

And then it was daybreak, casting brilliant colors and warmth around them, as the sun rose above the ocean and ancient ruins.

~~~~~~~~~

Parker placed the last shirt into her suitcase, and closed it with a sigh. She'd put off packing all morning, then all afternoon, and even though it was nice to have the dreaded duty over with, there was a feeling of finality that she didn't like at all.

It'd been eleven days since that morning at the ruins. They'd gone back twice, packing a picnic and spending all day there, talking. For Jarod, it'd been a long and hard road back to normality -at least, all the normality that his lifestyle could allow for- and for them both there'd been a lot of emotional moments. Parker'd had a hard time dealing with what her father had done, but never shown it around Jarod. He'd had enough to deal with. Even now, he wasn't completely over it--Parker doubted he ever would be, but at least he could move on, accept the past.

A bellboy arrived to take her bags, and she followed him downstairs. Outside, streetlights came on as the stars appeared. She walked into the Garden Lounge, and spotted Jarod at the bar, slowly stirring his cappaccino.

"This seat taken?" she smiled, sitting down next to him. She ordered coffee from bartender, then turned her attention back to him. "My cab will be here in five minutes to take me to the train station."

"Sure you don't want me to go with you?"

"No," she said, looking fondly out past the open French doors to the small garden that his room had overlooked; the air was filled with soft classical music wafting from speakers hidden behind trees at each corner. "I'd rather say goodbye here."

He nodded, and put his spoon down. "It's gonna seem weird, going back to the real world after all of this."

"Yeah," she agreed cautiously. Slipping something from her jacket pocket, she added, "Jarod, are you sure that you're ready?"

"Have to go sooner or later, and the more time I spend here is less time spent helping others."

"Maybe...you could start off somewhere good; you know, where you'll be reminded about the happier side of reality?"

He gave her a confused glance. "What do you suggest?"

"A little time in the country." She revealed what was in her hand--a handheld tape recorder. She pressed play, and placed it on the bar.

>From the tape came a small, excited voice. "Hi, Jarod!"

He gave the recorder, then Parker, a surprised look.

"Samantha?"

The recording continued. "I'm so excited about your visit. Miss Parker says you aren't really decided yet, but I know you'll come. Hey, if you hurry, you can meet my new friend, Julia! Oh, and I've got so much stuff planned--we can ride the horses -I have a brown pony named Penny- and play in the river and you can check out my new treehouse and..." The hyper voice continued on.

Parker stopped the tape with a smile. "They've moved into this great country estate in Quebec," she explained. "Her parents were more than happy to have you come for a visit. And I figured, what better, than time with one of your successful pretends."

"Parker, I...Thank you."

"Hey, you've earned it." She glanced down at her watch. "I'd better make sure that all my bills were taken care of this morning. Back in a moment." She walked off.

Jarod watched her go with a thoughtful look, then spotted an old-fashioned jukebox behind the bar. "Excuse me," he called to the bartender, "but does that still work?"

Parker returned a moment later and, spotting Jarod out in the garden, joined him. He turned to her. "Dance with me?"
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