Title: Steel Doors and Concrete Walls--Part 1/ Chapter 1

Author: BuffyAngel68

e-mail: vg68@msn.com

Rating: mild PG for a touch of violence and unlawful imprisonment (even if it is in a good cause.)

Category: AV/S

Spoilers: None, as it's original, except for the story that inspired it.(Immortal Quest at Pretender Adult Fan-Fic Archive) Tyvm DragonHeart for writing such a great jumping off point.

Summary: Continuation of Highlander/Pretender X-over. I wasn't all that happy with the author's sequel when I read it. My mind went off on another track entirely. Jarod discovers new information about Parker and gets tired of waiting......

Usual stuff.... characters don't belong to me, not making money, will return them to their owners in the condition I found them. Well.... kind of. You'll see.


Slumped in his computer chair, Broots sighed under his breath and continued the cycle of data searches that were his daily grind. Silently, he prayed for something to appear, no matter how insignificant or outdated, that might give them a new lead on Jarod, not because he really believed in everyone else's reasons for the chase anymore, (if he ever had), but because it might pull his mahogany haired superior out of her most recent "if there's a black cloud over my head, it rains on everybody" turn of mood.

Suddenly, the numbers and sentences scrolling down his screen vanished, only to be replaced moments later by a simplistic repeating image of two silhouettes fencing against a slowly drifting, multi-colored background and underscored with the words "For Your Eyes Only." Manna from heaven Broots thought, grinning. It could only be Jarod. He rejoiced that, finally, he had something for Miss Parker that was worth risking his life to tell her about.

"Miss Parker. Can... you come take a look at this?"

"If this isn't a national emergency, Broots, I swear what's left of your hair will be mine. Slowly. With tweezers. One... piece... at a time." she warned in a low growl as she moved to stand behind his chair.

As he knew was prudent, he kept his mouth shut and simply pointed at the screen.

"God I'm getting so sick of his games! He begs me to leave him alone, but he keeps teasing me with these moronic computer messages! The day I finally do catch Brainiac, I'm having both his hands cut off so he never does this to anyone else. What the hell is this.... supposed to...." Her words faltered and faded out as she took a second, harder look at the screen and finally absorbed its true meaning, one intended only for her.

"Miss Parker? Did you figure out something?"

Broots received his answer immediately as Parker snatched him from his chair by the back of his collar and propelled him towards the door.

"Out. You too, Sydney. Go find a German Shepard to psychoanalyze. This concerns a top secret project."

Reluctantly, both men moved out into the hallway.

"What's going on Sydney? She hasn't so much as cracked a smile in two weeks and now she's sitting in there staring at the screen and grinning like a nutcase."

"What was the message about?"

"It wasn't really a message. Just a real simple graphic and the words "For your eyes only." What is there in that that could possibly turn her mood around this fast?"

"I don't know. Let's just be grateful for the change, shall we, and give her some privacy. I trust that if it turns out to be anything we need to know, she'll tell us."


"Don't bitch, Daddy. You're the one who taught me that being a Parker means never having to explain yourself or your actions. I'm taking some time off. That's all anyone needs to know. You'll approve it or you'll get it approved. You always do."

Dredging a last puff from her cigarette, Miss Parker twisted it brutally into shreds in the ashtray, stood and prepared to make her usual "treading on the peons" exit. "Hopefully by that time I'll be at least two hours away from here, half-way through an ancient bottle of scotch and light years from any thoughts of my job or the depression factory this place has become lately." she intoned, vague contempt showing in her eyes and a rare trace of a genuine smile briefly gaining control of her mouth before she slid another cigarette between her lips.

Rising from his chair a moment later, her father moved slowly to her side, a forthcoming lecture evident in his expression as he ushered his daughter to the door.

"You do know you're on the verge of an official reprimand about those... things, don't you? Did you think noone noticed the way you deliberately light up around Doctor Raines? You crushed one out on his oxygen tank day before yesterday, for God sakes, and for the past week you've been tossing lit butts in his not so general direction every time you see him. I think you've forgotten that proper discretion is what's kept you and I breathing and free from mortal wounds this long."

Halting abruptly in her tracks, his daughter whirled on him, eyes blazing with an intensity he'd never witnessed before.

"Big Chief Gasping-For-Air can go tell horror stories to Darth Vader and the Emperor by a cozy campfire in hell. And as for you, I'd suggest you learn the difference between discretion and ignoring the guy with the hockey mask and the knife, before someone brings the hammer down on you like yo... like it came down on Mother and the Triumvirate decides it's no longer prudent for you to.... keep breathing."

Feeling her stress level drop several points, Parker said her goodbyes, dropped a perfunctory kiss near her father's cheek, wafted a significant cloud of smoke directly at a surveillance camera and took her leave.


"You... You're just going? You're leaving without notifying anyone? How is that even possible right now? The three of us are never out of sight of security anymore. Lately I get the feeling somebody's keeping count of how many hairs I lose every day."

"Just another difference between you and me Broots. I was learning how to cultivate influence and turn it to my advantage while you were figuring out which shoe went on which foot."

"You know, someday you and I will find time to go through that anger management course I'm always promising you, Miss Parker." Sydney remarked, smiling lightly.

"Thanks, a whole heap Syd, but I like my anger. I feed on my anger. Nothing more satisfying than reveling in a fit of pure rage and beating the hell out of someone who really deserves it."

Turning back to the computer, Broots tried to ignore the opening Parker had left him, but wasn't able to resist for long.

"If that's your idea of fun, I'd hate to be the guy showin' up at your door for a date."

Knowing something was coming, Broots was able to brace himself so that the hard slap Parker delivered to the back of his head wasn't quite as bad as it might have been. "Hey. It's fallin' out fast enough on its own. It doesn't need any help."

"You don't know how lucky you are I'm in a good mood. If this were a typical day you wouldn't have a head left. I'm out of here, Syd. Remember. Wherever you are when they come looking for me...."

"You're somewhere else."

"I can always count on you, Sydney."

"Wait. Why won't you, at least, tell us where you're going? What am I supposed to do if I need to get in touch with you?"

"The only thing you'll need to talk to me about is Jarod, and I doubt even he would be uncouth enough to interrupt the first vacation I've had in eight years. Besides. Even I'm not sure where this trip will lead me just yet, and I want it to stay that way for awhile."

"And you'll be back....."

"When I walk through the door." Parker shot over her shoulder as she strolled toward the elevator that would take her to the parking garage, her car and whatever lay ahead. A yard or two from the doors, a familiar, and despised, shudder racked her frame. Over the years she had learned how to hide it well, so the men watching her go noticed nothing but, perhaps, a tiny hesitation in her gait.

She punched the down button and stepped back, her system on the edge of overload. Incensed at herself, Parker viciously fought her terror and the self-hatred engendered by the mere presence of that emotion. She gazed down at her hands, watching them tremble for only a split second before she was able to bring them under control again.

All this she was, by now, able to conceal very easily from the outside world. Despite what, or who, her body and mind tried to tell her was waiting for her in the elevator, all anyone else would see was a strong, ultra-confident woman striding into the small steel box; a top Centre operative who often put the fear of God into others, but kept her own private horrors deeply buried.


{Finally,} Parker sighed, refocusing her sapphire eyes on the asphalt ahead as she expertly steered her car through a particularly challenging stretch of road, {finally I'm starting to wind down. It's taken three days but it's damn well been worth it. I really had no clue how badly I needed this. I can't wait to see how this trip turns out. Too bad I can't skip to the end of the book, but then I'd be depriving him of his fun. Can't very well do that.}

Reveling in the luxury of the convertible she had rented for the journey, Miss Parker sprinted down the South Carolina coastline, the trees she passed filtering the late morning sunlight into swiftly changing patterns on a paintjob nearly the exact shade of her hair. As usual, her speedometer read fifteen miles over the speed limit and, also as usual, she wasn't paying enough attention to care, perceiving things like cops and tickets to be only minor nuisances that were always handled by the Centre.

Despite her stated wishes when talking to her father earlier, the three bottles of vintage whiskey she carried remained sealed and secure in her bags, which were carefully stowed in the trunk.

As she slid a little further down in her seat, relishing the stillness and serenity settling deeper into her with every minute, she realized, to her great surprise, that she was only on her third cigarette in nearly as many hours of travel, confirming her long held suspicion that she really only smoked as a release valve for the pressures of her job.

Not for the first time in recent months, she let her mind drift through the many self-help and professional stop-smoking options she had heard of, been offered or actually tried, but quickly reminded herself that there were probably at least thirty people, if not more, who, though her frustration often tempted her sorely, she had not beaten to a pulp because she had had her no-filter best buddies to turn to. This understanding eventually drove all thought of not smoking out of her mind, as it always did.

Scanning the highway signs in the distance she quickly found the one she needed, slid the car into the correct lane with practiced ease and made her way toward Charleston airport.



"You're absolutely mad. I've always known that, I think, but you just confirmed it."

"Mad for her. Nothing wrong with that."

"Half a hundred people must have seen that message by now. How could you even think....."

"Methos. Drop it, okay? It's done. I guarantee she's the only one who saw it or ever will see it. He gave me the instructions on deleting anything so it can never be retrieved, and I gave them to her. Right now the message is buried in the ninth level of hell. We're perfectly safe and so is she."

"After what you told me about her, I'm a great deal more concerned about
us than her."

"You know damn well that those people would kill her like stepping on an
ant and give it less thought."

"Of course I do, but....."

"And you know me as well as anyone ever has."

"Sometimes I wonder."

"You know me." Macleod repeated with emphasis, waiting for the answer he wanted.

"Yes, of course."

"Then what makes you think I'd ever put her in danger?"

"I never said you would. It's her bosses that terrify me. Until I discovered that place I thought I'd seen the worst one mortal could do to another. Those people make Josef Mengele look like a bloody saint. And there is a point you seem to be, very conveniently, ignoring. She's one of them."

"She used to be. Jarod thinks he's finally getting to her. His theory is that once he destroyed a few of their lies for her, she started to see them for herself, without so much help from him."

"You're fooling yourself, mate. She lived that sickness from the time she could walk. It's all she knows. If she ever did accept the truth about what the Centre really is, what they do, she wouldn't have a leg to stand on. It'd be like bombing the foundation of a house. Everything collapses into a ten-foot hole. What if she can't climb out of that hole, Mac? What if every truth she learns is one more stick of.... TNT in the underpinnings of that young woman's emotional and psychological stability? If Jarod does succeed in completely pulling off her blindfold, that could be the match to the fuse."

"You never met her. How can you even guess at how strong she is? He knows her backwards, forwards and inside out, her breaking points included."

"Do you?"

"I only met her twice. Why would I?"

"If you're determined to help him with this insane con-game, you have to know her almost as well as he does. If I were you, I'd take that dossier he sent you, go in a quiet room and start studying."

"I looked it over. Trust me. I'm ready."

"No. You aren't. Knowing what to do and say is only half the tennis match. You have to understand what not to do and say. The wrong word at the wrong moment of extreme stress could unravel everything you're trying to accomplish, and do a thorough Humpty Dumpty on her as well. As I understand the point of this little exercise, it is not for this Miss Parker to end up drooling on herself in a nursing home somewhere."

Hefting the manila envelope containing the dossier, Macleod's expression darkened considerably. He paused for a moment, as the weight of what he held in his hands transformed into a heavier understanding of what he and Jarod were about to do, then turned and headed for his bedroom, tucking the papers under his arm as he went.

"If you don't see me by six, order dinner in. You're buying."

"Of course. What else? The man never picked up a check in his life. Why should he start now?"



"I'll take your bags ma'mm. This way please."

"Hold it. My bags don't go with anyone not in an airport uniform."

"Pardon me, ma'mm. I should have introduced myself. I'm Seth and my employer is the gentleman who owns that Lear right over there. I was sent to make sure you made it to the plane safely and provide you with whatever you might need while we're in flight."

Although her instincts were beginning to whisper warnings, she ignored them until they grew quiet, knowing she had let herself be drawn much too far into the game to beg off now, even had she wanted to.

"What about the...."

"Your car will be perfectly safe. It and the keys will be waiting for you when you return."

Growing more and more intrigued, but realizing that someone somewhere probably had a schedule to keep, Parker dug in her bag for her wallet, handed the young man a credit card and headed for the jet.

"That will cover all rental fees while I'm gone." she tossed lightly over her shoulder, slowing a little as the mystery man caught up to her and slipped the card back into her purse.

"That's alright, ma'mm. There won't be any. The car belongs to you now. My employer's been in contact with your rental agency. They were told that whatever automobile you chose to rent he would pay the agency the full blue book value of. The papers are waiting for you on the plane."

Abruptly, Miss Parker stopped dead in her tracks and waited for the porter to notice. After an additional step or two, he did.

"Is something the matter, ma'mm?"


"Do you enjoy the car, ma'mm?"

"Of course I enjoy the car." she responded after a brief pause.

"Then what more explanation do you really need? My employer merely wanted to compensate you for your gracious agreement to come on this trip."

Shaking her head slightly, Parker began walking again. Once on the plane and safely belted in, she searched for and found copies of the convertible's registration, insurance and title in a pocket on the aisle side of her seat. She looked them over carefully, noting the correct information in the correct places on each form.

Her instincts began to tug at her again, their voices quite loud now, and for the first time since she had received the message four days ago, she began to pay attention. Within moments however, she found herself fighting a series of deep yawns she couldn't stop. Assuming it was nothing but the natural effects of three days of hard driving, she surrendered to sleep less than twenty minutes later.


"My, you listen well. I've told you probably a hundred times now that I want nothing whatsoever to do with this preposterous..... whatever it is that you two are cooking up."

"It has to be you. I already explained that." the younger man mumbled, his attention focused on the meal he was preparing.

"Am I the only acquaintance of yours that this woman hasn't seen? No. Does it really, therefore, have to be me who risks a bullet in the back of the head picking this woman up at the airport? No."

"I never do anything without a good reason."

"And this time...."

"I actually have several. One; I would ask Joe but I don't want him involved in this if it isn't absolutely necessary, two; she loves a U.K. accent and three, she lands in forty-five minutes" Macleod responded, gently taste-testing the broth he was concocting, "so there isn't time to call anyone else."

Carefully cleaning his fingers, he tossed the car keys and his wallet to his friend. "Take one of the credit cards and rent a limo. Nothing too top-of-the-line but don't make me look like a skinflint either. There's a uniform in my closet and the map is on the bookcase on your way out. And don't even think of playing big spender on my money just to get back at me. I expect my car and my wallet back today, not three days from now like after the last fight we had!" Mac shouted towards the bedroom where Methos was retrieving the dark suit and hat necessary to play his part convincingly. As he passed the stove where Mac was working, Methos went into a creditable drag queen impression.

"Now, sweetie. You know I wasn't really mad at you. Shopping just makes me crazy. I lose all track of time when I'm trying to decide which pair of lace undies my teddy bear would like to see me in the most."

Kissing Macleod soundly on both cheeks he flounced out the door.



Just over six hours after she had first stepped onto a commercial jet in North Carolina, Parker was shaken awake, none too gently, by the touchdown and braking efforts of the Lear as it, and she, arrived at their destination. Slowly dragging herself upright from the position she'd slid into in sleep, she scrubbed her eyes with her palms briefly, grimaced as she stretched out the kinks and tried to push back the slight headache she'd developed, then reached for the window shade to get a first look at her new environment, but the plastic square wouldn't move. Bewildered, she tried several more times, before literally punching the call button above her seat, bringing her baggage handler\major domo to her side within minutes.

"We should be ready for you to disembark in just a few moments, ma'mm. Is there something you need before then?"

"To know where the hell I am. I..."

"Yes, ma'mm. I see your dilemma. The window shades are always kept locked down electronically for security reasons. This beauty has transported some very well known people who treasure the privacy we can provide. Even if the shades were operational, it wouldn't do you much good I'm afraid. This is a private airstrip, very nondescript; no landmarks or such things nearby." the man explained, cocking his head as if listening closely to something virtually silent.

"I believe we've stopped, ma'mm. If you'd like to gather your things, I'll head up front and assist the crew with the doors. By the time you get to your limousine, your luggage should already be there."

Her razor sharp mind now kicking back into gear, Parker considered voicing several of the million and one questions that were swiftly coalescing into an interrogation diagram in her head. Instead, knowing she usually got answers when she wanted them, she decided the potential for an amazing few days with her Scottish mystery man was more important, gathered her handbag with the car papers inside and strolled out the door of the plane.

As she drew closer to the waiting stretch limo, Parker slowed a bit, giving herself an extra moment or two to study the man positioned behind the already open rear door. She noticed nothing particularly unusual about him until she was within a step or two of the car. There she was forced to stop, her expression registering deep shock and confusion, as if she had suddenly been confronted with a wall she could feel and sense but not see. The man exuded an aura of power and wisdom that flowed from him like steam, the intensity of it almost enough to knock her flat. Her mind went numb, unable to provide her with a simple clear thought, never mind a reasonable explanation for what she was experiencing. Her legs following the lead of her brain, Parker began to back away, stopping only when she was certain she had gotten beyond the limo driver's bizarre sphere of influence. Turning away for a moment, she gathered her wits and calmed her breathing before facing the man again.

"What in the name of God are you?"

"Pardon? I'm afraid I don't understand. Are you alright? You're white as a sheet. There's a fully stocked bar in the limo if you...."

"Understand? Noone could possibly..... Why don't you go get in the driver's seat? I'm sure I can close the door myself."

"Are you sure, Miss Parker? If you're ill I should get you to a doctor....."

"I'm fine. Just go." she directed, not daring to move until he was safely on the other side of the car. "If I do happen to want something that isn't here, who do I ask for?"

"The name's Adam, miss. Just use the page feature on the car phone if you need anything." Methos responded as he slipped into the driver's position, his mind whirling with confusion over what had just occurred.

"All I need right now is a drink and a little peace and quiet. Later on might be a different story."

"Of course, miss. Sit back and enjoy the ride. The drive shouldn't even take an hour if I've figured it right. As long as no complications pop up, we should be there well before nightfall."

Quietly closing the window that separated the driver and passenger compartments, Methos started the engine and maneuvered the unwieldy vehicle out through the gate in the chain link fence and onto the highway, his thoughts still refusing to settle on anything but her reaction to his presence and the possible repercussions on what Mac and Jarod had planned. Feeling more and more ill at ease with what he had seen, he slipped his cell phone from his pocket and rapidly dialed Mac's private line.


"Prepare yourself, my friend. We need to have a long talk when I get back."

"You sound shook up. What happened? Is she...."

"She's right here. Everything's on schedule. Well... almost everything."

"Almost. Is this one of those times when I should be really afraid of that word?"

"I don't know yet, but I'd say it's a damn good wager. I'll see you soon."


"It's impossible. You know damn well it's impossible."

"Say it enough times and maybe you'll start to believe it. I'm telling you she knew." Methos repeated, pacing towards the windows that faced the street. "Admittedly, she had to get a lot closer than you or I would have, but the result was the same. I've seen it too many times not to recognize it when it's right in front of me." he insisted, turning to march back toward Macleod; running his hands through his hair, his face a clear study in brooding concern.

"She knows something odd happened. Nothing more. Relax, will you? Everything's been flawless so far. We got her to the house. Now Jarod and I take over. Nothing else to do."

"Yes. Well, I did my part, pal. I'm out of it. Matter of fact, I think I'll fly to Las Vegas and stay completely blotto until this thing is over."

"Have a good time. Stay in contact so I can let you know when she's on her way home."

As he gathered his own coat from the living room closet, Methos threw his friend a withering glare.

"If she ends up in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest- Part II" don't bother. This is one time I truly want to be wrong."

"You are. She'll be fine."

"I hope so, mate. You and Mr. Mensa hold that woman's mind in your hands. Don't drop it."



"I promise you that I don't know. She strolled in here, declared she was going on a vacation and refused to give me any details. Yes. I understand that, but.... Yes, of course the rest of the team is still working on..... No, I didn't fight her on it or order her not to go. Because I see her every day, and I know what the stress has been doing to her lately. When she begins to intentionally antagonize Raines, she needs time off. I agreed with her decision. Yes. I'll deliver the message when she returns."

Fighting an intense desire to throw the entire phone across the room, Mister Parker dropped the receiver softly into its cradle, bringing an end to the sixth call he'd received in four days demanding to know his daughter's whereabouts. He knew he had to find her soon, or he risked censure and she risked being placed firmly in Jarod's shoes. Rising quickly, he walked out to the elevators, intent on paying another visit to his daughter's two constant companions and determined that this trip would be more fruitful than the last one.



"Please come in, sir. I'm afraid there's been no news. Miss Parker hasn't been heard from since she drove out of the gates three days ago. Have a seat, won't you?"

"I understand that, Sydney. If there had been any sign, the calls I've been receiving would have stopped by now. What I want to hear about is the day she left. I want every detail of every moment she spent in this room before she came to see me that afternoon. Every detail, no matter how insignificant."

"I'm not sure what you mean, sir. It was a normal day." Sydney deferred, offering the older man a cigar, even going so far as to light it for him. "Perhaps she was a bit more subdued than usual. I've noticed she hasn't quite been herself of late."

"On the contrary. She's been more herself than usual. That's what has me worried."

"If I were forced to put a label on it, I'd say she's been mildly depressed. She's had good reason. The search for Jarod isn't going well and her mother's death has been preying on her mind much more than usual in the past few weeks. In my professional opinion, she took this trip at exactly the right time. The depression would only have worsened if she'd stayed."

"My daughter doesn't get depressed. She gets stronger; more determined. Walking away like this.... it isn't like her. I want to know where she went, Sydney."

"As I said, sir. Nothing at all unusual occurred the day she left. I'm afraid Miss Parker told us no more than she told you. I can only guess that she simply needed time away. We all do occasionally."

After staring intently at Sydney for several moments, the other man tapped a pile of ash off his cigar and rose from his chair.

"You know more than you're saying Sydney. If she isn't back within forty-eight hours, we'll talk again."

"What makes you think I'd keep anything from you?"

"You're a brilliant man. All brilliant men know enough to maintain some secrets."

"I care for your daughter as deeply as you do. I would never knowingly keep your chi...."

Suddenly flushed, Sydney silently acknowledged the words that had been about to leave his lips, and forced them back down his throat, painfully aware that Mister Parker knew perfectly well what he'd been about to say.

"We all do what we do knowingly, Sydney, even you. Regret is unproductive and so is sanctimonious wailing over things too far in the past to worry about. Focus on the present. Your job is not to sympathize with Jarod or the others. Your job is to comply with your orders and achieve results."

"And your job?"

"The future. I have a vested interest in the ultimate survival of the Centre and I will not let Jarod destroy everything that I and the others have sacrificed so much for. Forty-eight hours. Find her for me, Sydney."

Turning on his heel, the older man strolled out of the room, smoke trailing lazily behind him. Sydney watched him for several minutes before sliding open the center drawer of his desk and retrieving the journal he had begun not long after he had recovered his sight. Grabbing a pen from the same drawer, he began jotting notes to himself in an ancient language he read and wrote fluently, but that he was fairly sure noone staring at a security monitor would be able to decipher.

[ What about Catherine's sacrifice? Did she die for your ambition or for someone else's agenda? I wish I could believe any of us will ever discover all the answers that will let us sleep without benefit of nightmares. The Centre does some little good still, but I can't allow myself the luxury of ignoring the depth of corruption here any longer. The rot has set in, and I think I can see where this will all end. Surprise, Mr. Parker. I'm discovering my own vested interest. Jarod remaining on the outside may be the true key to bringing down our little corner of Hell. He must stay free. I must see to it. ]



In sharp contrast to Methos' deep concern for her welfare, Miss Parker, in just the few hours since her arrival at the house, had managed to push the incident at the airstrip completely from her head in favor of exploring her surroundings.

Now, after an excellent meal, and with the dregs of a superior bottle of red wine at her hip, she lazed by a low fire, top-quality headphones delivering her favorite Chopin sonata, her eternally on-guard body releasing the last of its tension into the pillows succoring her shoulders and low back.

For the last forty minutes or so she had been debating whether to add one more stick of wood to the fire, part of her wanting the moment to last, the fire to continue; the other part deeply enjoying the near hypnotic relaxation that often accompanies watching a fire die. In the end she chose to allow it to fall to embers while she drifted in and out of a pleasant, light stupor, her eyes following the perpetual ebb and flow of ruddy light among the coals with increasing effort.

Once he was certain her eyes had slid shut in true sleep and wouldn't open again easily, Jarod slipped out of the shadows and glided to her side. Silently moving the wine bottle a safe distance away, he knelt by her and drew a soft cloth from his pocket. Dampening it slightly with the liquid from the vial he carried with him, he gently pressed the fabric over her mouth and nose. Although she struggled vainly, the wine and her tranquil state betrayed her, as Jarod had hoped would happen. Her body unprepared to fight the chemical onslaught, Parker surrendered in mere seconds and tumbled into profound darkness.