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DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Pretender. NBC does. This is independent fan fic and not intended as infringement on anyone's copyright.

SPECIAL thanks to Danielle :-) for editing and her encouragement. Many thanks to Paula H. and Nicolette who urge me not to toss this no matter how tempting it was to do so.



FLEA MARKET FINDS
by Ra-Chell

Slowly I pull the black night gown over my head and toss it on the hamper. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I stretch out my hand running the fingers under the warm water of the shower. Stepping in, the water caresses my body with warmth and the faint glow of the rising sun creeps through the window. In a moment it will spill forth lighting the room like a warm smile. I can remember the day Thomas put the window in above the shower.

"Why don't we put a window here." He had measured the distance with his hands to show me. "It'll let the morning light in Parker. It'll be great. It's just the right angle to catch the first rays. You'll see."

And he was right. Now it's like his smile every morning. Looking up the glow intensifies, lighting a small vase made of clear blue glass sitting on the window sill holding a single sprig of coleus . Flowers seem so dead lately when I take them to Thomas. The deep lush green and dark burgundy leaves of the coleus which caught my eye yesterday reminded me of the plaid shirts he wore and for some reason a living plant seemed more appropriate. As I placed it on his resting spot one small sprig broke off, as if Thomas was giving part of it back to me.

The vase too was from Thomas, bought on one of our excursions together to the flea market. In his search for the right materials for his fix-its he went there often but I had never been. Pulling me along row after dusty row of vendors selling old and used items, furniture, jewelry, glassware and everything imaginable, I soon found myself caught up in his excitement. This once a week circus had an air of it's own. The crowd an ambience of expectation and Thomas with a boyish grin would dig through the piles of odds and ends. He had pulled the small vase out of one and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. He bought it, tucked it in his shirt pocket for safe keeping as we lugged his finds back to the car.

And today is flea market day. Stepping out of the shower my mind is made up. I have to go even if it's alone. At least for a few minutes. A quick call to the Centre telling them I'll be late no longer gets a reaction. I've been late a lot since Thomas...left. Dressed in jeans and one of Thomas's shirts I'm out the door, heading for his old haunt.

* * *

The air is fragrant with the faint smell of dust and the perfume of things that have aged with time. Breathing in deeply the scents fill my nostrils as I make my way through the crowd. Suddenly there's a familiar sight. A man with dark hair wearing a black jacket kneels on the ground, his back to me, his strong hands lightly stroking a stuffed toy.

"What's wrong Jarod? Don't have a past of your own so you buy one." The words so bitter slip out before I can stop them.

"Well, at least you have one Miss Parker." His words are as sharp as mine. He remains where he is, not turning to look at me.

Slowly I kneel beside him and look at his face. There is anger and yes...even a little pain. For a pretender he's not so hard to read.
Regretting my words I reach out and take the teddy bear from his hands, gently running my fingers across it's worn fur.

"Sometimes I wonder who these things belonged to. I try to imagine what the person was like who owned them." My voice has softened and so does the look on his face. "Thank you Jarod for all you did for Thomas..." I can't finish but he knows.

"You're welcome." His voice now more relaxed.

"So tell me, do you come here often?" I ask.

"Now if I told you that Miss Parker you would have sweepers here every Sunday."

"Well it might not be bad for business as far as the vendors are concerned." I give a small laugh as I return the toy. "Besides, we waste enough time looking for you."

He smiles slightly and places the bear back. "Yes you do."

Standing up at the same time the mood has lighten. "So what do you think the people were like who owned all these treasures?" I ask, not wanting to break this fragile truce.

"I can see a man in his youth sent off to war." He brushes his hand across a ugly green foot locker. "Here, you can see all the places he was. This old World War II foot locker probably saw as much action as Bennie."

"Who?"

"Argyle's father. Just someone I've met in my travels." He doesn't say more and I don't ask. Today Jarod's not on my list of 'things to do'.

Not to be out done I pick up a heavy yellow tea pot with dark stains in the bottom, a small chip on the spout. "Someone who loved to entertain close friends. Maybe a wife, a mother. Someone whose friends would gather at her home and discuss life over tea. I see warmth, friendship, a woman who cared."

He takes long strides towards another vendor's space pointing at something I can't see. Following him through the crowd he slows so I can catch up.

"A small boy who imagined he could go any where he wanted." He now holds a beaten metal truck with red paint in his hands and I smile. Grasping a faded quilt from the space next to it I hold it tenderly and answer.

"Yes and when he was sick his mother would let him play with his truck in bed. He would run it over the hills and valleys created by his body under the quilt and..."

"And he would pretend the the hills and valleys were a world where he was safe and loved."

I'm surprised at his words. I can remember that feeling of being safe and loved when I was sick as a child and how Mom cared for me but Jarod? He never had that. "Yes." I answer softly and from the look on his face I know he's satisfied with his observation. He was right.

We move on and start again. Giving owners and histories to a variety of old objects, their imperfections lending them a character of their own. All to soon we come to the end and the last vendor. Jarod reaches his hand under a pile of yellowing linens and pulls out something made of blue glass.

"And this?" he quizzes me.

"A vase." I answer taking it from his hand. It's the same as the one Thomas bought me. Once it could have been a perfume bottle with a elegant stopper but today..."It's just a small vase Jarod. How much?" I ask the vendor.

"Hmmm, Ten dollars for that one miss." The sleepy vendor replies with a yawn.

"I'll give you four."

"I'll go eight." He answers rubbing his hand across his unshaven chin.

"Five." I counter.

"Seven, that's as low as I can go."

I pause and look the vase over before putting it down on top of the linens. It's not a question of money. I want it and I'll get it but Thomas taught me well. With a hard look at it once more I sigh and make another offer as I shrug my shoulders. "What would you say to six?" I can see him mulling it over in his mind as I turn to leave. "Take it or leave it." I prod. He slyly grins and holds out his grimy hand.

"You got a deal miss." Suddenly panic sweeps over me, my money is in the car.

"Jarod, would you mind?" He looks surprised but pulls out his wallet and pays for it.

"I'd say thank you but we both know your source of income." I whisper as we leave.

"Remind me never to play poker with you." He answers and we both smile.

"Well I'm late for work. It seems we have a lost pretender who's been spotted in Florida and I wouldn't want him to get away." A silent look of understanding is exchanged.

"No you wouldn't want that." He answers and we walk the rest of the way without speaking.

As we reach my car he pauses with a small smile playing on his lips. "It's amazing what you find at flea markets isn't it Miss Parker?"

"Yes Jarod it is. Almost as amazing as *who* you find."

***

Back at the Centre I place the small vase on the desk. It doesn't match the decor but it's warmth is undeniable. And Jarod is right, it is amazing what you find at flea markets.




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