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Story Notes:
Thanks to mulitple beta's on this one: Onisius, KatieQ, Thunderchild, Terra, Manoline.


Author's Chapter Notes:
Thanks to my beta team you guys rock!
It was the third anniversary of his death and Parker could barely bring herself to get out of bed. She was so tired, tired of everything, and yet sleep eluded her almost every night now. It seemed harder and harder every day to find a reason to keep going.

Forcing her eyes open she went through the routine that would get her in the shower, some strong black coffee brewing. Then somehow she would find the strength to face yet another day at work, chasing Jarod who was ever elusive and getting nastier with his pranks. Perhaps he was as weary of their game as she was. When it had first started, although she would never admit it, even she could see the sense of humour behind it. Now however, it felt forced, like there was something darker driving him. Things had never been the same after Scotland, for either of them. She supposed it didn’t really matter though, not in the long run. The simple truth was she was getting weary of all of this, and her life was passing her by.

By the time she was out of the shower Parker had most of her emotional armour in place. Sipping the coffee, which was much stronger than she used to like it, she thought about how to get through another day and wondered why she bothered. Telling herself today was no different from any of the others really. There was the incessant troubles with her brother who took a perverse delight in torturing her with his presence, oh and don’t forget Sydney, who constantly tried to reach out to her. How she hated his inept interference and his platitudes that were straight from a damn Hallmark card. Maybe making fun of Broots would help to relieve the pressure and boredom. Yes, the day was just full of fun and satisfying moments.

Sitting herself down in front of her vanity mirror she started applying the makeup, the last chink in her formidable armour. Catching her breath as she caught the familiar checked pattern of the shirt poking out from the closet in the mirror, she stared at it for an indeterminate amount of time, shocked out of her reverie by the shrill of her phone.

"What!?" she snapped as she answered it, shaken by how lost she had just felt. She felt as if she was no longer certain of how she was, what she should feel. The gaping hole her father had left had affected her far more than she wanted to admit and if she wasn't 'Daddy's Angel', then who the hell was she? Parker liked to feel as if she was in control, although she was finally coming to understand what a farce that really was.

"Just not a morning person, are you Miss Parker?" Jarod asked, noticing her tone was even more snappy than usual. The moment he said it, he regretted it, not wanting to fight with her. Old habits were hard to break and he no longer had any concept of how to deal with her without their usual props, it seemed that was all that was left between them now and he needed to find a way to fix that somehow, and he wasn’t off to a very good start.

"Jarod," she said, tensing as she heard the familiar voice. "I should have known it would be you," she said with bitter irony. The gall of the bastard to ring on this day.

"Miss Parker, it isn't too late yet, that turning point is still there." Jarod told her softly. It was a sad day for him as well and he just felt the need to reach out, talk to her, try to share some of the pain. Of course, she wouldn’t see it like that, she would take this as some personal insult, as she always did.

"You need to get a new routine Monkey-Boy, that one is getting tired fast." The anger was welling in her now, crystallising at the thought of how vulnerable she was to him still, his taunts and barbs. Something had to give, that much was certain.

"This is not a routine Miss Parker," Jarod said gently, wishing somehow he could make her understand that he wasn’t trying to torture her. Why couldn’t she see that he just needed to talk to somebody? Was that so hard for her to comprehend, accept? Why couldn’t she see that he needed a friend, to reach out for some comfort? He had nobody else.

She wasn’t listening though as she stared at the reflection of that shirt, the pain of loss and emptiness almost overwhelming her. The stark realisation of what her life was was becoming harder and harder to hide from and it suddenly hit her with full force. She could hear Jarod's voice faintly, enough to hear the concern in it, but not enough to make out the words. She knew that this couldn’t go on the way it was any longer. Her eyes were glued to the reflection of the shirt and she accepted for the first time that he would not have wanted this for her, she embraced it.

Focusing back on the mirror, Parker looked at herself as if for the first time. What she saw wasn’t a reflection of her mother. She wasn’t her father and most certainly not her brother. Her family was like a millstone around her neck and nobody was going to save her if she didn’t save herself. She knew what she was going to have to do, the only question was whether she had the strength.

Hanging up the phone, cutting Jarod off in mid-sentence, she picked up the photo of her and her mother and touched the glass with her fingertips. "Momma," she breathed as a kind of peace descended upon her, an inner calm she had never felt before. For the first time she thought she might have understood why her mother had done what she had done, made the hard choices she had made.

Jarod was right about one thing, it was well past time to face that turning point and perhaps she finally had allowed herself to see the possibility of something to turn to.


*~*~*~*~*~*

Jarod stared at the phone in shock as he heard the dial tone. "Miss Parker?" he called stupidly, knowing she wasn’t there, but trying anyway. Usually he was the one to hang up on them, not the other way around. She hadn’t even tried to pump him for information about where he might be. He put the phone down in worry, something in her voice hadn’t been right and all the years he had called her, never once had the conversation gone like that, no matter how much he annoyed her.

Something was wrong and Jarod had no idea what it might be, something other than the fact it was the anniversary of her losing Thomas, although he guessed that was reason enough. Turning to his computer he decided it was time to call Sydney, see if he had noticed anything wrong with her, any aberrant behaviour. An excursion into the mainframe might reveal some clue as to what might be going on at the Centre to have so upset her.











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