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Disclaimer: "The Pretender" characters and anything related to it are owned by
TNT, NBC and Steve & Craig. I'm just borrowing them for fun while we wait
for another movie and the DVD's. No profit is made from this story.
Author Note: This is my first fanfic story and I am drawing a blank for a summary. Just read it, review and have fun.
The autumn afternoon was clear but the cool breeze announced the change that was ahead. The trees were a magnificent tapestry of colors, from gold to all shades of orange and red. As he walked down the narrow trail leading to the cabin, he could hear life all around him, from birds up on the trees to small mammals scurrying in the tall grass in search of food and shelter. He stopped for a moment to take in the scenery around him. This was Sydney’s refuge. There was so much life and beauty all around, and yet he felt so cold and bereaved. It had been three months since he last spoke to Sydney and had heard about the accident. Since that day, life had become pointless, he stopped doing pretends to help others, he hardly ate and sleep was rare. In a dazed state, he remembered the events of that dreaded day as if they had just happened.
August 15th, 2002
I had decided to call Miss Parker at the usual and ungodly hour. The phone just kept ringing and for a moment I thought that maybe she was just being stubborn. I could already hear her famous “WHAT” in my head. When the answering machine picked up the call, an alarm inside me went off. Something was wrong. She never left the phone ring to that point.
Quickly I dialed her cell phone and an operator answered, stating that the number was no longer in service. Panic began to rise through me. I had to reach someone. Find out where she was or if something had happened. A thousand thoughts went through my mind. I told myself to stop, and quickly dialed Sydney’s home number. Awakening him at this hour was like a death sentence, but something inside me was telling me not to give up. Again, an answering machine answered. I quickly disconnected the call and dialed his cell phone. A very faint voice answered,
“This is Sydney”
“What is going on? Where is Miss Parker?”
“Sydney, has something happened? I called Parker at home and all I got is her answering machine, and her cell phone is out of service”
There was a long pause. Seconds seemed like hours.
“Sydney, are you still there?”
“Jarod, something has happen…. There was an accident… and “
“Is Miss Parker o.k.?” my voice was low and apprehensive.
Sydney’s voice was inaudible and full of grief.
“The doctors were not able to do anything. I am sorry Jarod. She is… gone.”
This is the first time that I remember, Sydney ending a call without saying goodbye. At that moment, it did not matter. I was speechless and all I could do was drop to my knees and weep.
Three days after the accident, still shaken and in denial, I watched the memorial service from a safe distance hidden behind an old oak tree. Many had attended the service. Mr. Raines, Mr. Lyle and Mr. Cox were the first ones there and the first ones to leave as well. Among the many secretaries and sweepers that attended, there where only three people that truly cared for her, Sydney, Mr. Broots, and Debbie. The pain of not being able to be at her side at that moment was tearing me apart, but the self preservation instinct held me back.
The cemetery grounds were again empty, after everyone had paid their respect and had said their final goodbyes. Holding a single white rose in my hand, I approached the freshly covered plot, where she now laid, and dropped to my knees. With a shaking hand, I placed the rose on top of her grave, reaching into my coat pocket I pulled out a photograph. It was a picture of Miss Parker and me on the first day we met, in the Sim lab. We were facing each other with our hands placed on a glass wall that separated us. That was the day she had captured my heart, and to this date, she still owned it. I just stared at the photo while new tears made trails down my face.
“Why Parker? Why did you forfeit the game now? You should have trusted me to help you.
You knew the consequences!” At that point, I was screaming at her and did not care if anyone could hear me. The pain was overwhelming.
The sun was starting to set, when I realized I had been sitting at her graveside for hours I placed my hand on the lose dirt covering her grave and made a promise to her and to myself. “I will make them pay for all the pain they have caused you. I am sorry I was not there when you needed me, and for not telling you how I really felt. I will never let that happen again.” Looking up to the sky, I whispered her name, the one she had told me in secret back when we were children. “I Love you and always will.” “Until we meet again.”
After placing a kiss with my hand on her tombstone, and putting the photograph next to the white rose, I stood and slowly walked away.
Jarod shook his head bringing himself out of the reverie of those painful memories once again. This was not the time to deal with this pain. He was here to deal with yet another person who was very important in his life. Someone he had considered and loved as a father for most of his life, and yet he was unsure about his mentor’s feelings for him. This would be his last chance to find out. He was tired of the game and it had already cost him dearly, by taking away the love of his life.
As he reached the cabin, he could see the smoke emerging from the chimney. Slowly he approached the front door and knocked. Receiving no answer after a few minutes, he looked through one of the windows. There was an inviting fire burning on the hearth, but no one was home. He was tempted to go inside and surprise his mentor on his return, but decided instead to go in search for him. He knew where he would find him. Jarod headed back on the trail toward a meadow where Sydney had laid his brother Jacob to rest.
As he approached, he could see the old man standing next to the cross that marked his brother’s final resting place. Sydney looked old and frail. He noticed that Sydney was leaning on a cane and his hair was almost all white. Finally, all the pain and sacrifices he had endured at the hands of the Centre had caught up and were weighing heavily on him.
Jarod slowly approached to avoid startling the old man.
“Do you still hear Jacob’s voice?” Jarod asked him in a tranquil and almost inaudible voice.
Sydney turned around with a bewildered look on his face.
“Jarod, what are you…. this is quite a surprise!”
His mentor immediately approached him with open arms to embrace his wandering protégé.
At first, Jarod was surprised at Sydney’s display of affection towards him, but he welcomed the embrace. It had been a long time since he had received a hug from a friend. He was starving for affection. The last three months had been horrible. He was deeply depressed and did not care about his own wellbeing anymore. He had remained in Delaware and was not even trying to hide from the Centre. His freedom seemed so trivial now. Jarod had an emaciated appearance; he was ghostly pale with dark sunken eyes.
Sydney looked at Jarod with deep concern. “Are you all right Jarod? You look very tired…. When was the last time you ate or slept?”
“I’m all right Sydney, and that is not important now. “
Sydney had immediately noticed his troubled state of mind and tried to humor him.
“Well, I think it is important, because if you faint on me right now, there is no way this old man will be able to carry you back to the cabin. Besides, it is starting to get too cold for me out here. It looks like we might have an early snow this year. Let’s go home, Jarod”
Sydney grabbed Jarod’s arm and guided him back to the trail that lead to the cabin.
Jarod did not complain and the two men strolled quietly back to the cabin. Once inside the cabin, Sydney asked Jarod to take a seat at the kitchen table while he prepared something warm to drink.
Jarod just sat at the table staring at his mentor.
Sydney approached the table holding two mugs of hot chocolate. “Here Jarod , it looks like you could use something warm “.
Apprehensive and curious as to why Jarod had come to see him, he proceeded to ask his protégé.
“Jarod, why are you here? Why are you taking this risk?”
Jarod had a determined but sad look in his eyes.
“Sydney, Now that Miss Parker is … gone. There is no reason for me to continue this cat and mouse game. She was one of the reasons I did not disappear right after I escaped. I tried to make her see the truth about the evil that was the Centre. To make her take that turning point that would set her free, but she did not trust me. I thought there was something more between us…. I was wrong.”
Sydney shook his head with a look of disbelief. “No Jarod, she did care a great deal about you, and that scared her terribly. Listen, she had experienced so much pain and loss in her life. She didn’t want to lose you as well. She knew what would of happen if the Centre ever found out about her true feelings for you. She was very clever and knew how to hide her true feelings from them and from you… but I saw through that ice mask. I recall, the time that Bartlett try to kill you, I saw the concern for you in her eyes. Sydney paused for a moment reminiscing. She was like her mother, full of compassion and strength.”
“I remember the first time the two of you met in the Sim lab. At that moment, I saw the connection you both shared. I guess you could say… It was destiny.”
There was a pause as Sydney tried to stop the tears that were threatening to fall.
Jarod stared at Sydney, disoriented while memories of his visit to Parker’s grave flashed before his eyes and tears began to pool in his eyes.
“It is too late now, Sydney… I can’t go on.”
“No Jarod it is not too late...You have to go on and find your family. She gave you that chance when she decided to stop the hunt. Don’t let her down.”
Sydney reached over and grabbing Jarod’s arm gave him a comforting squeeze.
Jarod just gave him a sad smile in return.
“Now, my boy I think you should get some rest while I prepare something to eat. Go to the guest room at the back and get some sleep. I will call you when dinner is ready.”
“But Sydney, I really need to talk to you.”
“We will talk later, after you get some rest. I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR EXCUSES.” With a stern voice and a determined look on his face, Sydney got up from his chair and directed Jarod out of the kitchen.
Somewhat shocked, Jarod complied with Sydney’s order. He knew his mentor was a stubborn and short-tempered man and now he did not have the strength to argue with him.
It was late in the evening when Jarod finally emerged from his long nap. It had been weeks since Jarod have had a good restful sleep. His body felt rejuvenated, but his mind was still clouded and tormented. He entered the family room and found Sydney reading by the fireplace.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” Jarod asked a little irritated.
“I tried, but you were sound sleep and I decided to let you rest. Go to the kitchen. I left some sandwiches for you in the refrigerator.”
Jarod turned and headed for the kitchen.
A short while later Jarod returned. He sat on a chair across from Sydney and just stared at the fire.
Sydney observed his protégé carefully. Jarod was deep in thought and appeared to be running a simulation in his mind.
Resembling lights at a railroad crossing, fragments of memories were flashing across Jarod’s mind. One minute, he was 10 years old back at the Centre and the next he was a grown man out on the world feeling liberated yet abandoned.
“Don’t you love me Sydney?”
“Being a father is more than giving life, is being there in the middle of the night when you’re sick or afraid or alone. And is teaching you how to ride a bike, how to catch a fish, how to tie a tie. Being a parent isn’t about the big moments is about the little ones.”
“Have you ever felt those things for anyone?”
“There was someone… a child”
“Jacob is all the family I have”
“I’ll be your family”
“Why did you let them do it? You’re the only person that I trusted. You were like a … You should have stopped them Sydney!”
“I couldn’t, I was a test subject myself. I asked Raines, rather I demanded, that you’d be left out of the drug testing and that they used me instead, and Raines agreed. Only when I came out of detox that I realized what had happen. He lied. “
“So you scarified yourself to protect me. Why didn’t you ever tell me that?”
“I never wanted you to feel obligated to stay here at the Centre if you had a chance to get away. I’m Sorry Jarod.”
“I won’t give up Sydney, I’ll never give up.”
“You’re not a monster Sydney, and you’re still my family”
“Tell me something, have you ever been fishing? Maybe will go someday…just you and me.”
“Take me outside Sydney, to see the real snow.”
“I been thinking, and I was wondering if you ever thought about what it would have been like to be my father?”
“That was never an option Jarod, so I never allowed myself to entertain such a notion.”
“Well, thank you Sydney, for your honesty anyway.”
Concern for Jarod’s sudden detachment from his surroundings, Sydney decided to interrupt his deep concentration. He approached the young man slowly and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Jarod, Jarod, are you all right?”
Jarod bolted out of his chair colliding with the old man, and almost sending him to the ground.
It took Jarod a few seconds to get a grasp on reality. He looked distressed and disoriented.
“I’m sorry Sydney… Are you all right?” Realizing what almost happened; Jarod quickly aided Sydney back to his chair.
“I’m fine Jarod, don’t worry… I am more concerned about you right now. Jarod you have been sitting there staring at the fire, completely unresponsive for about thirty minutes.”
“What’s going on Jarod? You told me earlier that you needed to talk to me.”
“Yes Sydney, we need to talk. As I told you earlier, I have decided to end the game but before I disappear, I need to know something… This is not going to be easy for me. You and Miss Parker have been the only family I’ve ever known, and now I have to leave it all behind.” Jarod’s voice was faint and distressed.
“No Jarod… You have your real family, and you deserve to find them and be happy. I am sure they have been looking for you all these years. They need you as much as you need them.”
Jarod’s voice was almost inaudible. “But what about you Sydney, don’t you need me?”
Sydney tried to disguise the shock, but he knew his eyes would show the truth he was desperately trying to hide. Instead, he tried to change the subject.
Do not concern yourself about this old man anymore Jarod. I’ll be O.K.; I’m an old tough bird, besides the Centre won’t bother with me anymore.”
Jarod sighed and looked at Sydney with determination. “No Sydney, I’m not talking about the Centre. They are the last thing on my mind right now!”
“Sydney, you cared for me for over thirty years. You taught me everything I know. You showed me the difference between good and evil and you made me the man I am today. You protected me from harm at the Centre and outside even after I escaped. However, you never gave me what I needed the most. Did you ever love me Sydney, or was I only you most valuable science experiment?” Jarod’s voice was filled with anguish and doubt.
Sydney was trying to avoid looking at Jarod directly. He knew he could not lie to him anymore. Staring at his hands, he began to speak nervously.
“I’m sorry Jarod… You know what would of happen if Mr. Raines learned about our emotional connection. He would have taken you away from me and destroyed you.”
“But Sydney, you never told me. I was just a child, I was all alone and scared. I needed you to tell me that you cared! “Jarod’s eyes were moist and his voice was almost a whisper.
“I’m sorry Jarod, I was just too afraid to lose you. Catherine had made me promise that I would care for her daughter, Angelo and you if anything should happen to her… Well, you know what happened. I needed to protect you all… Looks like I didn’t do such a good job.” Sydney felt consumed by guilt and sadness.
“Yes you did Sydney… You were more of a father to Miss Parker than her father ever was. Angelo feels very close to you and he knows you care. In addition, I have always seen you as my father and always will.”
With tears trailing down his cheeks, Sydney looked at Jarod. “I really don’t deserve you; after all I’ve done to you.”
“Sydney, you know I forgave you a long time ago. You were a victim of the Centre as much as I was.”
Sydney felt overwhelmed; he covered his face with both hands and began to weep. Seeing his mentor in such distress, Jarod tried to comfort him. He slowly approached Sydney and knelt in front of him, placing a hand on his knee.
“Sydney, I’m sorry…are you O.K.? I… didn’t mean to upset you this way.”
Sydney looked up and saw Jarod staring at him, eyes filled with worry and affection.
Sydney just started laughing with tears of joy and pulled Jarod into a hug. Jarod returned the hug affectionately with tears running down his face. This was the moment he had dreamed about and simmed ever since he was a child.
With a voice filled with fondness, Sydney finally said the words that Jarod had waited all his life to hear.
“I Love you son.”
After a few minutes, both men broke the embrace, with smiles and tearful eyes.
“Jarod, I think we both need some rest now. It has been a very long day, and tomorrow we need to discuss the plans for your future. My boy, this is the beginning of your new life.”
“Good night Sydney, sleep well”
“Good night Jarod”
Jarod was suddenly awake by the buzzing of the alarm clock. He blinked his eyes allowing them to adjust to the light in the room. He had been crying and his face was still moist with tears. Sitting on the bed, he looked disorientedly around the small room. The DSA player was paused with the image of two children facing each other with their hands on a glass wall. His unopened duffle bag laid by the door, and files of his latest pretend, a fatal car accident of a young woman, were scattered all over the bed.
He bolted out of his bed and noticed he had fallen asleep with his clothes on. Reality hit him like a freight train, but he had to be sure. Quickly he grabbed his leather jacket and searched for his cell phone. He dialed the first pre-programmed number and said a silent prayer.
After a couple of rings, he heard some clatter at the other end and a very irritated voice. “WHAT?”
Jarod just dropped to the chair and starter laughing with tears running down his face.
“That is the most beautiful greeting I have ever heard.”
“JAROD, What the hell do you want? It is five o’clock in the morning, and IS SATURDAY! I swear the next time I see you I’m going to put a bullet in your knee cap”. With that, she hanged up abruptly.
With a smile on his face, he dialed a second pre-programmed number. He knew it was early, but he could not wait.
An accented voice shrouded with sleep answered. “Hello, this is Sydney”
“Hello Sydney, I’m sorry to wake you up this early, but I needed to hear your voice.”
Sydney quickly sat up in bed and turned the light next to his bed. “Are you all right Jarod... you sound troubled.”
“I’m fine Sydney, I… I just need to talk to you… in person.”
“Sure Jarod, Just tell me when and where, and don’t worry I’ll come alone.”
“Thanks Sydney, I’ll be in touch soon.”
With that remark, the line went dead.
“One of these days I will have to teach that boy some phone conversation etiquette.”