A/N: Review and I'll probably write twice as faster… not cause I'd be evil, but just cause that's how it works. Although at the moment things have been a pretty hectic and I've been making icons like crazy… my lj is…or was… floating with them. And then there's whole applying to schools and stuff. Sigh. Anyway, forgive me that it's taken so goddamn long to get anything done, please? Oki, anyways, replies to reviews at the bottom.. just because.

When the Triumvirate says 'jump', you say 'on who'

by Syrai

Chapter 9 pretending to love me

Miss Parker had been lying awake in their shared bed for few hours now, but none of the questions her mind kept asking had been answered during that time. Instead, she kept rolling from one side to another, sweating and sighing every other minute as the amount of the questions only kept increasing. It was hot, but when she removed the sheets she got cold and no position whatsoever felt good enough for her to stay still for longer than few minutes. It was a wonder Jarod hadn't woken up yet - she had always assumed he was a light-sleeper who would open his eyes at any sound. Then again, he hadn't woken up when she had climbed on top of him either, now had he? That's because I was pretty damn careful and cause I'm damn good at what I do, she thought to herself… this was something different. Surely he should've woken up by now? Or maybe Jarod had just grown accustomed to her being there, accustomed to her body warmth; her smell next to him. Maybe it was an advantage created by their shared childhood? The realization made her stop fidgeting for a moment… it was weird what a calming effect one simple thought had. It meant he felt comfortable near her, didn't it? The smile appeared on its own.

But of course, it disappeared as quickly as it had come and so she paid no attention to it. Instead, she rolled to her left side, again, and only stared at Jarod's sleeping figure trying to figure out just exactly what was going to happen now. He was lying on his stomach, the back of his head towards her. The curtains that had been left open gave the room a dim lighting and so she could somewhat clearly see his body… had she ever seen him so peaceful, so relaxed?

Tearing her eyes off him and his naked back, she rolled over onto the other side to avoid looking at him.

Stupid Jarod.

She sighed and to get something else to think about gazed around the small room. They were at a motel. Again. It was a never-ending circle, truly and weird thing was it seemed to entertain Jarod for some reason. He could've at least rented a nicer place or book a room at some fancy hotel but no, it simply had to be a crappy kind of motel that he knew would drive her insane. No doubt that was his master plan, right? Men.

It had taken several hours and several arguments for them to decide what to do next… mainly because Major Charles felt nothing but suspiciousness towards her and her motives. He was convinced the woman had her own secret agenda, which of course was true and so, she couldn't really blamed the man, but still, for some reason she felt unbelievably insulted. She wasn't sure why, though. This man had once trusted her mother, but couldn't pay her the same courtesy and that sting a little, perhaps. If Charles had been the one to decide what to do with her, she would've probably been in handcuffs again and probably in the bottom of an ocean somewhere far away. Luckily, it hadn't been his decision to make and she had been saved. Emily, after talking with her for few hours, had come to the conclusion that Miss Parker was actually the kind of woman she could've liked and weirdly, she had felt the same. It was strange, but not that unexpected even though it wasn't something Parker liked admitting. Emily had a strong spirit and surprisingly intellectual mind, after all, and Parker knew better than well that girls like that had become rare.

She felt a little better just thinking about the young girl she had met earlier that day. Emily had told they should have stayed there instead of going to a motel, but being the kind of guy he was, Major Charles had refused and quite loudly, too. There was no way in hell he would've left his daughter near Miss Parker for longer period of time and so, Jarod had solved the issue by renting a motel room for the two. This way he could keep an eye on her, naturally, but she didn't really mind. At least she had some company… besides, there was still an order to follow… drawing both hands to hide her face, she closed her eyes making a sound that undoubtedly sounded like a whimper. That fucking order.

For a moment she wondered what would happen if she actually did chose to do something as stupid as ignore her father's order. She'd end up dead, wouldn't she? Yeah, well, that limited her options a lot, then.

Major Charles with his suspicious thoughts and the Centre and its stupid assignment weren't the only things that made her restless, though. No, part of her couldn't stop thinking about Ethan… where was that boy? Who was he? How was he connected to the Centre? How could he have been… Jarod's brother? She rose up only to turn around her pillow before pressing her head back down against the less warmer fabric. Nothing made sense and that's why they should've been out there, looking for him… and instead, they were sleeping? Or at least, trying. If she had behaved like this while chasing Jarod, she would've never gotten as close as she usually did. When you're trying to find someone, you don't eat, you don't sleep, you don't relax. You get the job done and everything else becomes after that. You get a goddamn ulcer too, fine, but that was besides the point.

Again, she rolled over, but this time she was surprised. Jarod had obviously woken up and was now looking straight at her with a wrinkled forehead.

Had she woken him up? Damn.

She wasn't sure what to say, but Jarod solved it for her pretty quickly. "Could you stop that already?" He asked with a neutral whisper. He wasn't amused, but neither was he frustrated or annoyed, either. He just sounded fully alarmed, as if he hadn't slept at all... She had been too deep in her thoughts to hear his movement… which annoyed her, as usual. Gods, being with Jared instead of hunting down the damned labrat in the old-fashioned mouse-cat way had really softened her up. Soon she wouldn't be able to hear a goddamn thunder storm even if she was walking through one!

"Stop what?" She asked, playing dumb both with her voice and her expression. It wasn't what she had intended to do, but the question had simply come out. Besides, what did it matter?

He gave her a knowing look before speaking. "Rolling and fidgeting and rolling and fidgeting and all that sighing. It's making me go insane."

Oh… that… She wasn't sure what it was that washed over her, but strangely enough, it felt like guilt. But why? She had nothing to feel guilty about… or maybe she did. A little. "I…"she cleared her throat to strengthen her voice, "I thought you were sleeping."

He chuckled softly and she could feel the bed vibrate slightly against her side. Instantly that little movement made her think of Thomas. Her whole body froze in seconds - gods, it really had been a long time since she had felt anything resembling that. Something so casual and normal, but yet so intimate. Sure, she had had things with guys here and there after Thomas's death but they had never been serious. Ever. They weren't about love, she had already decided to leave all those kinds of feelings for the type of girls that actually could handle them. Obviously, she couldn't. Or if she did, someone would fuck things up for her and she wasn't ready to make that mistake again. So, it was just her way of taking out the steam and trying to forget the shitty reality that kept waiting behind the closed doors. But the difference, which suddenly seemed to smack her face was that none of those guys had actually shared a bed with her and actually slept.

So, that didn't change anything. It doesn't.

She had spaced out again, but deciding it was better not ask, Jarod broke the silence. "Well, I was trying to, but you moving all the time really doesn't help."

"I'm sorry."

What? Miss Parker couldn't help but blink. Had she just willingly apologized to Jarod using the humble phrase she hardly ever said? Or little less meant, at that. Yep. She wasn't the only one surprised, but Jarod managed to hide his own feelings before Miss Parker could even think about sorting out her own thoughts. Something odd was happening to her, no doubt about that one and unlike one would've assumed, he wasn't going to pick on her about that. Parker, she was changing and he could see it. It had only taken few days, but the change was there and on top of that, it was easy to be seen, too. Well at least, it was easy for him to see it as it get popping out every once in awhile even though she did her best to keep it hidden. The way she had spoken for few days now, it had been softer, calmer somehow. The way she had looked at him, it had been more peaceful and definitely more trusting. She had always trusted Jarod on some level - he had never given her reason not to, but still it was different now. Simply the way she acted had been so much more natural and warmer although she still tried to fight it. He wasn't sure why and it bothered him. It was obvious Miss Parker had come to him for a reason and it wasn't just about her mother, but what the other reason was, he couldn't figure it out. If it had been the Centre trying to catch him, surely they would've done so already

... Something was not right, but what? What kind of stupid game was she playing this time?

"So, what happens now?" Parker asked suddenly interrupting his thoughts. She was clearly trying to escape the demons the silence brought and he knew it. He had been there many times in her place. The frown disappeared and he let out a deep breath. "I'm not sure. Tomorrow, we'll go to that address on Ethan's letters, ok?"

Parker nodded, pleased by the fact he had given her something else to think about. Ah right, going through the box filled with Ethan's stuff that Major Charles had dragged with him, they had found a letter written by Ethan. It was addressed to his parents, but obviously, it had never been sent. Fortunately, it did have an address on it that Jarod obviously planned to visit very soon. "I take it you mean the letter to his parents?" The question was unneeded, but she felt like saying something.

He nodded against the pillow with closed eyes. "Yeah."

"And by 'we' you mean…?" It wasn't that hard to tell he was tired and wanted nothing more but to sleep… so? She wasn't going to let it go right now. They were having a moment… of some sort… and she was going to use all the advantage it gave. She was insecure about her place, which was actually very common to her nowadays as Lyle had made it his life mission to ruin his sister's life, but it didn't mean she had to like it. No, she had to know where she stood. Was she going to be handcuffed to a bathtub, locked into the trunk or was he actually going to let her be part of this stupid little adventure that she had signed herself on? No matter what he decided, she would have to accept it, but still, she wanted to know it beforehand. Well, at least that would save them both from a lot of trouble and she would have time to come up with multiple excuses to throw at his face in the morning and he would in the end have no other choice but to give up. Ah, perfect plan.

"You and me," he murmured half-asleep with the kind of soft tone that made Parker's skin crawl… but in a good way, which made her nervous. Very nervous. How the hell could he - Jarod of all people, have this kind of effect on her, huh? You're just missing Thomas, that's all, she said to herself. That's all it had to be. She was missing Thomas, missing the intimacy their relationship had brought… missing someone to be there for her. Yes, that had to be the reason. She moved so that she was lying on her back, staring at the ceiling unsure about where she was supposed to look.

"Okay, just making sure."

Maybe she just needed to get laid, huh? That could've helped with the tension… The thought made her chuckle sarcastically in her mind as she realized what the words truly meant. That's why I'm here, isn't it?

Then why did she want to go and throw up?

"You know, you can tell me," Jarod said suddenly. She knew he was looking at her even without glancing at her side. It was a feeling she felt that told he had his eyes on her. It was the way her skin tickled… burnt.

Parker, she swallowed trying to calm down, which Jarod saw and made a mental note. Uh huh. She was definitely hiding something. "Tell you what?"

You could tell by the way she had spoken the words - too carefully. Jarod had always wanted to peek under the cold shell to see the real Parker he knew was hidden there somewhere, but now, as she was slowly breaking through, he realized it was far more thrilling he could have anticipated. The magic when it came to Parker was that you never quite knew where you were with her - Jarod, he was a pretender. He could always tell where he was with people. If he didn't know, he could get inside their minds, pretend to be them and understand what they were going through and eventually, he'd get there. He'd know. He could almost hear their thoughts, but with Parker, it was never that easy. There was a connection and yes, he felt like he understood her, but it wasn't because he could get inside her head. He couldn't. It was something else and he wasn't sure what… but he did want to find out what that something was.

It was the bond they had always shared, maybe.

"Why you're here, for starters," he answered finally. For a moment there, Parker had thought he had fallen asleep again, but the burning on her skin had told otherwise. "I know you're lying, it's not just about your mother but I don't-"

Enough. Enough of this. "Stop," she interrupted him coldly, "You don't want to know and you shouldn't." So that was what he wanted; her to spill out her most inner thoughts… her soul. She kept speaking even though she wasn't sure from where the words came. "It's got nothing to do with you… It's just that… Well, dad and Lyle are basically all the family I have left and besides Broots and Freud there…" The comment was followed by a cynical snort before her voice changed again, "you're… you're actually the only one I trust. All I've got left now." She paused wondering whether it was the truth or if it was something her mind had come up with to cover up… something. She didn't know. The hell with it. "But don't make a big deal out of it. To me you're still the same old labrat you were."

or are you?

"Wouldn't dream of." Still, somehow, he doubted it. There was an unseen line somewhere between them and Jarod was pretty sure one of them was about to cross it very, very soon. And as crazy as it sounded to him, he preferred it to be her so that she couldn't accuse him of anything later on. He'd wait. After all, patience was something he had never lacked in. Besides, watching her squirm was entertainment at its best, not that he would've enjoyed her insecure moments… or maybe he did. A little… a lot. It was just refreshing to see her reactions instead of listening to her biting insults on the phone. Her mouth had always been good when it came to lying, but her body spoke another language and his seemed to be fluent when it came to it.

Patience, however, was something Parker had never had. The silence to which Jarod had fallen was making her uneasy and she felt the need to say something; anything, to break the silence she felt to be awkward. "I want to know what happened to my mother and you're somehow connected to all this shit and if I have to stay here with you to dig through that pile, then that's what I'll do."

Funny, few weeks ago, he could've believed her. Now he didn't. "As charming as always."

"Just telling the truth," she barked back, finally turning her gaze to greet his eyes. Suddenly his eyes didn't look that tired anymore and she could've sworn he was laughing at her with his eyes. Sometimes she could've given anything to get inside his head, to hear what he was thinking. That was the thing she hated the most about him. How completely impossible it was for her to get a grip of his thoughts… he made it seem so easy. He always seemed to know what she would do and say next, but as much as she liked to think she knew Jarod better than anyone, every now and then she was forced to rethink it. Jarod was a mystery. Had always been and would probably always be… stupid labrat.

… Then why was she feeling sad about it? Argh! Get a grip, seriously.

"Do me a favor, Parker," Jarod spoke smiling, although she refused to meet both his eyes and his smile that she automatically knew would be there, "and sleep. You'll be less crankier tomorrow if you do, trust me. You always seem a lot nicer to handle when you've actually slept through the night."

She didn't have time to answer. By the time she actually had come up with a pathetic remark, he was already asleep or pretended to be if nothing else. So she growled at him, irritated as hell. Yep. Jarod was definitely making her lose her touch and she swore silently that she'd make him pay for that one. It was the 'how' part she had yet to figure out.

0000

It was the intense sound of someone's busy fingers hitting the keyboard that woke her up a few hours later that night. Grunting, she pulled the sheets to cover her head, but the annoying sound didn't seem to go anywhere and therefore, made it impossible for her to go back to sleep. After a few painful minutes of nothing else but the sound of typing ringing loudly in her ears, she threw the sheets off and sat up to see what the hell was going on.

It was Jarod, as expected, but unlike he was supposed to, he was sitting on the floor at the end of the bed with a laptop open in front of him. From that far away she couldn't see what he was writing, not even when she rose to her kneels to see better, but frankly, she wasn't that interested anyway. Still, she had to ask.

"What the fuck are you doing?" She snorted through gritted teeth, falling back down on the bed and closing her eyes as the soft pillow met with the back of her head. It felt… heavenly. Damned pretender - she had finally been able to actually sleep and he had to go and ruin it for her. So fucking typical. It always involved Jarod, be it a phone call or something else. Couldn't he have waited for the sun to come up this time?

He didn't answer.

The silence surprised her. Jarod liked to annoy her, they both knew that, but ignoring her wasn't one of those things he usually did. His specialty was witty word games and winning remarks, not the girly kind of silent treatment. "Jarod?"

Still nothing.

… Fine. God that man could be such a pain in the ass when he wanted to. Plus, she was cranky as hell for the unwanted wake up call. "Fuck you too," Parker spat with tensed jaw, but instead of ignoring him, she sat up once again and crawled to the end of the bed to see what was keeping the pretender too busy to even answer. She noticed he wasn't typing anymore… actually he just sat there staring at the screen in front of him. She couldn't see his face, but suddenly she sensed that something had clearly happened. But bad or good, that she didn't know.

Reaching down and landing a hand upon his shoulder without even intending to, she finally received a reaction. He looked over his shoulder and up to her. The consoling touch had probably surprised him as much as it had her given the way he was looking at her.

"Jarod?" She whispered and now something flashed in his eyes, almost as if he had been suddenly snapped out of some kind of trance.

"I… I did it," the pretender spoke with cut breaths.

Uh, what? Her head tilted to one side as she kept staring at him with a questioning face. Was she actually supposed to know what it was he had done or was the pretender just sleepwalking? That would've given her something to tease him about, for sure, but that probably wasn't the case, no was it? Letting that thought go, she instead focused on him and asked: "You did what? Stole another million from the Centre and gave it to charity as usual?" There was a smile on the corner of her mouth, but he failed to see it.

His mind was obviously on other things, she noted. What kind of discovery could possibly generate a reaction like this one out of him?

"I hacked into NuGenesis," he said. There was no reason to keep the said information to himself nor did he want to.

That was all it took for the smile to fade away. Drawing her hand back as if she had only now realized where it was, she found herself completely puzzled. That was supposed to be a good thing, wasn't it? Then why did he seem so… shocked? Was she reading him wrong? Was he simply disappointed because he had found nothing? No, that wasn't it.

"You did? Found anything?" Well, obviously he had, but the real question was, would he tell her?

"The AA8585 file…" His voice faded away and at first she wasn't sure if she should press on or let it go. As usual, the curiosity was too much for her and so she decided to go forward ignoring everything else. From what Parker had gathered, AA8585 was a sequence of letters and numbers that Emily had written down when she had sobered up from her slumber for a few passing minutes. Major Charles really didn't feel it necessary to share all the information with the Centre's little puppet, as he called her, and so Jarod had only explained a few things to make her feel a little less confused about, well, everything. "The numbers Emily gave you, right?"

"Yeah," he said with a nod, "It was a shipment of cryogenically frozen sperm that was shipped to The Centre."

Oh, gross. Her first reaction was to snort a disgusted ew into the air, but she withdraw the urge by reminding herself that it would probably ruin the little chance she had to pry. "Yes? And?"

He didn't speak at first, which made her want to lean down over his shoulder to see what it was that he was staring at so intensely. He really wasn't making it easy for her, huh? Okay, so she could jump and steal the laptop and you know, run into the bathroom, but that would probably erase all the progress she had made with him. Spying over his shoulder would with no doubts do the same… so, what was a girl to do? Hmm. Only one thing. Folding her arms to her chest and biting her lip, she took a deep breath to stay calm. All she had to do was ask… and be cool. Calm. Calm, Parker, be calm.

Asking couldn't be that difficult, right? Right. "Jarod," she started softly, "are you telling me or not? I mean, I can try and beat it out of you, but I think that's just not gonna work."

Parker was almost sure that she'd get a solid "no" for an answer, and so, when she heard him speak it took her by surprise. "It was my father's," he said. "Or that's what the records say." The words surprised her even more. The Centre really knew how to screw up others' lives, didn't they? Funny thing was, she had gotten so used to it by now that after a few seconds of thinking about it, his words didn't even seem that shocking anymore. She should've known something like this would come up. They had cloned Jarod once, so how was this any different? What were they after this time, huh?

"Those assholes…"

I second that, she thought sighing. They really were a bunch of greedy bitches who lived to cause pain and suffering. Yep, if anyone in the world had still doubted that this would definitely prove otherwise. So, it was obvious they had used Ethan for their own sick endgame… but what was it that they wanted? If they had intended to grow a pretender out of him, why was he out there, why did he have a family… why wasn't he locked up in a cage like Jarod and the others had been? What was so different about Ethan? Other than the fact he was obviously out of his mind?

Things sure looked different now… It meant that Ethan was… the thought hit her right there. Her gaze met the back of Jarod's head and she found herself wishing he'd turn around so that she could see his face. "So… this Ethan person really is your brother then?"

Now it was Jarod who sighed before slamming the laptop shut killing the dim light the computer monitor had offered and only massaged his temple with one hand to ease the pain. He had never been one to have killer migraines, but right now, it felt like he could easily get one any second. "I… I think so, yeah." It felt weird to say it, but it did make sense. It certainly explained why they had tried to get rid of Emily so brutally.

How had they done it? Jarod's mind was screaming for answers. How the hell had Ethan ended up living outside the Centre? What was his purpose?

"The Centre just knows how to stir things up, don't you think?" Parker snorted moving backwards on the bed until her back reached the metallic headboard. Leaning backwards against the cold metal, she reached to her side and lit the lamp on the nightstand illuminating her side of the bed.

What she really wanted to ask was if he was okay, but somehow it didn't seem appropriate… just wait a minute. Was she genuinely worried about his current state of mind? Was she, Miss Parker of all people, actually concerned of the well-being of… him? Great. Brilliant. Just fucking perfect. Like the guilt she felt for what she was supposed to do wasn't enough, now she had to feel sorry for him for all the other things the Centre had done, too? Where was higher powers when she needed them? Nowhere. Fucking nowhere.

"What I think is that… we should call Sidney." That was when he laid the laptop on the floor and actually turned around to face her. She observed his face to see if there was any hints that might have given away his thoughts, but as usual, there was none. Whatever Jarod was thinking was kept safe in the deep depths of his mind and it was already established that that was the one place she could never reach. The troubling part was that knowing it was actually disappointing.

"We should have that meeting." Parker had known he'd say it; she had known he'd want to meet him no matter what because Sidney had been like a father to him, but this way he actually had one reason more to do so. He climbed back to the bed without saying anything else and crawled under the covers. Once he was safely lying on his back once again, he placed his hands under his head and concentrated on staring at the ceiling as if there had been something highly fascinating there to watch. A pretender quirk, she decided simply.

A moment went by without neither saying anything. Parker spent that moment pondering whether or not she should continue the conversation or not whereas Jarod's mind couldn't pick a single thought to focus on. There were millions of questions flying around and no questions anywhere. "Yeah, I agree," she said carefully. "But we need to go meet Ethan's… parents first. That boy needs our help."

He shook his head slightly with a small sarcastic smile on his lips. "Since when have you cared about something like that?"

Okay, so he had just learned something disturbing, but did he have to turn into an asshole because of that? She tried her best to keep herself from saying anything too mean or evil by counting to ten. It was something her mother had taught her… and if 10 wasn't enough, there was plenty of numbers to go. It did feel a little comforting though; to know he was only human… he was feeling bad and he was taking it out on her. But then again, recognizing Jarod as a person instead of a simple labrat had its own problems too, which she had already discovered few days earlier. It made it impossible for her to decide on which side was she. His, theirs, her own? What was her own side anyway?

You're trying to get pregnant by Jarod so that you can show your brother you can be just as nasty as he can?

Yeah, what was her side exactly?

Something flickered in her eyes, as she pulled herself together again giving him the kind of cold look he had known to love and cherish. Ah, there she was, the old Miss Parker. "I might be cold-blooded bitch, Jarod, which you already knew, but I'm not completely heartless, which you also know. And that kid is in trouble and someone needs to take care of him and this thing. The faster we get him under control, the faster we can concentrate on the issue with my mother."

"Being a bit selfish, are you?" He spit back giving her a matching look - very cold one, that was. Why the hell did he sound so insulted? So sarcastic? Wasn't it her job to be bitchy and difficult and he was the one who laughed it off and joked around? Pretended all was fine and so on?

"It's the Parker in me, dear," she replied pulling her knees against her front and wrapping her arms around them ignoring the fact it exposed her legs to his view. Not that he was really looking anyway, he was staring at the ceiling again. She couldn't help but wonder if it was because he was trying to organize his thoughts out or if he was simply avoiding her eyes. Or her legs. Hmm, interesting thought to, because if that was the case, then she was actually progressing with her insane assignment. "Can't hide from what's inside, sweetie. The sooner we get this case closed, the sooner you'll get rid of me, ok?" It had sounded more icier than she had meant, but since she couldn't take it back, she shrugged it off.

"Whoever said I want to get rid of you?"

Huh? What?

Very, very slowly he turned to look at her meeting a pair of confused eyes. He looked mad and for the first time she really didn't know why. What had she done? And what was that supposed to mean? Of course he wanted to get rid of her. She chased, he ran and that was how the game was played. "Don't be stupid," she snorted, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable sitting there and not moving and so, to solve the issue, she tore her eyes off of his and laid back down on the bed turning her back on him. "Good night." And with that, without waiting for him to say anything back, she turned the lights off and closed her eyes.

Parker knew something had changed. She wasn't sure what or when, but something had. Jarod had let her see a side that she had never seen before - sure, he always did repeat he was a human being and had feelings, but for the first time ever, she had actually felt it. Scary.

When Miss Parker had been a little girl, Sidney had once told her to go easy on Jarod. At the time she hadn't really known what he meant… no, actually, she had. She knew perfectly well what the man had meant, but being Parker, she had denied it forcefully. Sidney had answered that by smiling mysteriously while adding that Jarod was a strong boy with a weak heart and that a girl such as Miss Parker shouldn't play around with it just because she was smart enough to know the boy cared for her.

The way he was behaving… could it be that the game she had played with him when they had been kids had actually affected him in ways she hadn't even considered to be possible?

What are you saying? That he's madly in love with you just because you once happened to like him and -

The thought was cropped short when she felt the mattress move along with him. He had turned on his side to see her better and was now supporting his head with his hand, elbow against the bed. He hadn't actually moved closer, but she could have sworn the space between them had gotten smaller.

"It's funny, cause according to you, Parker, that's all I am." His tone had changed and the seriousness in it actually managed to pause her breathing. She remembered dad always said that your best defense is strong offense, but for once, she didn't have anything with what to actually go. First of all, Jarod had already had one hell of a day to begin with and secondly… she didn't want to fight with him, which was weird, considering the fact fighting was how they had spent most of their time after Jarod's little escape.

"Stupid? Well yes, maybe you shouldn't always take my words so literally." Her eyes blinked open the minute she heard herself saying those words. It definitely wasn't what she had meant to say, but… well… the first step had to be taken at some point. At least, that's what she kept telling herself. That was why she was willing to play nice with him. The only reason. It had to be. It was one thing to act for him… but another to actually feel for him. Unfortunately option B didn't work with her job description and that was that.

His eyebrow rose. Partly because the respond had surprised him, and partly because it amused him a little. "Is that so?"

Parker was starting to freak out. Logically there was no reason for her to freak out, but no matter how many times she told herself she was being stupid, the feeling didn't go anywhere. So. This was it, wasn't it? The big first step that she had to take in order to get the job done…

"What time is it?"

And just like that she had chickened out. Shit! For someone who had been working for the Centre for way too long, backing out was not an option. Not anymore, anyway - so, what the hell was she doing? Parker couldn't answer the question.

"Why, are you trying to change the subject?" Jarod had moved closer. Parker could tell this, because she could feel his breath against the back of her head. What the hell was his problem? It was like she had crossed a borderline and stepped into a fucking alternative universe. Jarod didn't speak like that to her, not with that kind of tone and that was a fact she knew for sure. "Don't worry, still few hours until we gotta get up and get moving."

Oh, that was not what was worrying her. Something else was.

"I'm not sure what kind of spirit just took over your body, Jarod," she spat, "but it's freaking me out."

He laughed out loud and before she knew it, his hand suddenly grabbed the nape of her neck. It was a gentle touch and it stayed that way only because she was smart enough to realize what it was that he wanted. Within a minute he had already forced her to turn around without saying anything, but even then the hand stayed still. She moved her head slightly wondering if it was the weight that kept his hand underneath her neck. Nope, obviously it wasn't.

Parker couldn't speak. Was it due the hand underneath her or the fingers drawing circles against her skin, she wasn't sure, but she figured it probably had something to do with both. Ah yes, that and his eyes that were locked into hers. She could feel the panic raising its head somewhere inside her; had Jarod found out? Had Sidney told him why she was there?

It was the only reason she could think of. Jarod was angry, wasn't he? Why else would he have looked at her with that kind of determination in his eyes? Jarod wasn't a violent man, that much she knew, but who was she to say he couldn't become one? No, thinking along those lines wasn't helpful at all. Now, what she had to do was simply concentrate on coming up with an excuse. A credible one, too.

Oh, Sidney was a fucking dead man.

"Know what I like?" He finally spoke with a hint of amusement in his voice. What the fuck? He was amused? He was amused! Ah of course he was. He had figured out her big bad secret and won the big game. No wonder he was amused by her - once again, the great pretender had beaten her to it. The next she'd be simply dragged out of the bed, crammed into a box and shipped off to Africa. Fuck!

Fine. Then so be it. She'd swallow the humiliation after that, but not a moment before. "No," she spat, although her voice wasn't nearly as icy as intended to, "I really don't care to know either. Whatever it is, I won't like it."

"This." Why was he speaking so softly? Why couldn't he be a normal guy and be mad? She was good with handling angry men, she knew dozens of ways to hurt them, kill even, but this? Aha. He knew her too well… he knew her weak spots; he was trying to confuse her!

And that he did - with one smooth move, the fingers around her neck forced her body closer to him. Holy hell… Before she could react, he had already brought her close enough to kiss her. It wasn't the same kind of kiss they had shared before, but sweet and gentle… the kind that made her hands move onto his chest without her knowledge. She could feel his heartbeat, feel the rapid beats…

"I like this," he whispered when he finally broke the kiss pulling back. He stared deep into her eyes and she didn't have the power to look away. "When you're not Miss Parker."

"You really are stupid if you think that," she replied with a whisper that grew stronger and stronger as she fought to restore her inner balance, "I am Miss Parker. One kiss ain't gonna change that."

"You think only you know how to play this game, don't you? Well you're wrong. I can play it too, April. I'm a pretender, I can do anything."

She was struck by his words - well, not so much by the words, but by that one simple word… April… no one had called her that since… since her mother had died. And just like that, the tears came flooding down her cheeks and all along, he had known they'd come. He pulled her closer, capturing her into his arms, but she felt no need to resist. Against all reason, she only cling onto him with silent tears running down her face. At some point -he was too deep in his thoughts to notice when- she stopped crying. Still, she didn't move but rather, relaxed against him, which took Jarod by a surprise.

He had at least expected some violence, but nothing happened. He wondered if he should say something, but no words came out. What could he have possible said? He had no idea what had happened or what he was doing - or even what he really wanted. Jarod had never thought of himself as a fool, but at that moment he realized it was exactly what he was. What had he expected? That by changing his tactics and by kissing her, he could've somehow broken through her barrier? Okay, some sort of barrier breaking through had definitely taken place, but still… maybe he should've thought it a little bit further.

So, what now?

Finally she spoke, but not the words he had expected to hear. "Are you pretending to be in love with me?" she asked with such fragile voice that for a moment he wasn't sure what to say. It was as if the past had caught up with him and once again he was there, at the Centre with the young Miss Parker. Because of that image, it took a lot of effort for his brain to be able to remind him it was the Miss Parker there in his arms - not the young one, but the much older, much more cynical… much deadlier one. That woke him up to reality. One way or another, he would get to the bottom of this and find out what had really brought her to him.

"If I told you the way of my game, would it be fun then, huh?" He said the words with a smirk, but if she had still been looking into his eyes, she would've seen the confusion and pain saying the words brought. Pretending? No, he was pretty damn sure it had never been a pretend. She had always been too stupid to notice that.

While he was trying to figure out what to do next, all she could do was wonder how it had gotten so fucked up… just when had the roles been reversed? Who the fuck had given them the permission to do so, huh? No one.

Without warning him, she sat up and got up from the bed. "I need a shower." That was all she said before disappearing into the bathroom and leaving Jarod alone in the room.

Yep, things had definitely taken an interesting turn and she wasn't sure what worried her more… the fact it had… or the fact she had nothing against it.

0000

A/N: Ok , let's see… I hope you're still enjoying. I know both Parker and Jared seem a bit different, but hey… he's a guy. No genius-gene can change that and the fact we know he's loved Parker like since the year the world was created. MWUAHAHAHAHAHAH. And I don't think I even need to explain Parker - she's a total softie underneath it all, damnit. Anyway, we're getting somewhere, aren't we? Very Parker centric chapter because I'm evil that way. Just figured they need some quality time together, because… well… they just do! I know it's complicated with them and rather frustrating too, but everything just can't be that easy, right? Also, I could write a very long and somewhat logical (although, my logic usually differs from the logic of others, for some reason) rant as to why I chose April to be Miss Parker's birth name, but I'm too lazy to type it up. Throw a wild guess if you will and see if you can figure it out, mwuahaha. I dare you. If you feel like flaming me like some, I'm asking you to drop dead. Try again next week, I might be more open to that crap then.

Yes I know there's the whole 'reply to review' thing but I'm too lazy to go for that one right now (or ever, really), so:

Virago500: What gave you the impression that's what she'll do::wink, wink: Thank you, btw, for giving me my long waited 30th review!

Nancy: Oh, so many lovely questions! I can't wait to get to answer them, mwuahahahah!

Karone Evertree: :D Hee, thank you. I'm glad people haven't stoned me for bringing Zoey there::phew:

Sirus183: That's what I'm trying, hee. Thanks.

HuntingPeace: Yes, I'm interested in that too. Meh.

Nathou: Thank you! I'm happy to hear all that - loved your review!

Personally though, I must say: Most people seem to think Miss Parker could never go through with this kind of mission, but I've always seen her as someone that actually could. Why? She has lost her mother and Thomas and all she's been left with is her life at the Centre and her father. Miss Parker isn't a bad person, but yeah, I think she could try and get pregnant by Jarod because she wants to show her father that she could do it. Because it's her fighting against the inner demons and because she's grown up inside the Centre's walls where everything is twisted and different. And also because she's always played this game with Jarod, her chasing, he running and she's fucking tired of it. She wants to end it and she wants to be the winner, because that's the kind of person she is. She might hate her job, she might hate her father for all the secrets and things he's done (and made her do as well) and she might hate her brother, but it's still all she's got and I dunno, I dun see her as someone who could just go and leave it all behind like that. She needs a reason - Thomas WAS her reason, but isn't anymore. Miss Parker is a fighter and this is her battle. The question the fic is (hopefully) bringing out, is that whether she'll find the reason or not. And that's what we'll see. It's not about whether Miss Parker is the kind of person who could do something like this, but whether she's the kind of person who could choose not to. The keyword being 'choose', heh. Hope that made sense… at all. I just love to make my characters suffer and so happy endings are always questionable with me. You can never be sure.

So sorry for the long rant, heh!