DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. The Pretender and all related characters are copyright to Twentieth Century Television & MTM Productions.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well here it is! The very first fanfic I ever wrote, finally up on the web. I wrote this back in 2001, when I was a very big fan of the TV series 'The Pretender'. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this fic, so I finally decided to dust it off, edit out the really bad bits and post it for all to read. Hope you like it!
By Shadow's Mirror
The shot shattered the stillness of the night. Jarod stumbled to the mouth of the alley and lent against the wall, fear and anger coursing through him in equal measure as he caught his breath. Feeling the warm stickiness beneath his right hand, he looked down at where the black leather of his jacket sleeve gleamed slick and wet in the streetlight. His anger growing by the minute, Jarod cursed under his breath as he realized the full scope of the danger he was in. There was no other way. He would have to go back. Back to the place where a fate worse than death awaited him, or possibly, his one chance at survival. Fear and shock forced aside for the moment, Jarod allowed his anger free reign knowing the surge of adrenaline it granted him would be needed if he was to get through the night. Looking up at the rapidly approaching clouds, he cursed again and started on the long walk up the mountain. A few minutes later, the snow started to fall.
- - -
The door exploded inward followed closely by the barrel of a small automatic pistol that glided in a swift, smooth sweep of the room, on the same path as its handler's eyes.
Miss Parker moved quickly and efficiently as she searched the small cabin where, so her sources had informed her, Jarod had been staying while on his latest mission of mercy. It seemed the operative term was "had been" and Miss Parker was not happy about it. Her scowl was fierce as she finished her initial search. Slipping her gun back into her belt, she reached around to the back pocket of her tailored black jeans and pulled out the compact mobile phone attached there. Flipping it open she hit speed-dial and a few moments later heard Sydney's familiar greeting.
"It's me Syd, I'm at the cabin but of course your little protégé is nowhere in sight. He did leave us a present though. Another casebook, naturally. I'll take another look around then wrap it up. Syd, can you hear me? Syd? Oh for…." Miss Parker cursed as her phone erupted into a burst of static and then died on her. She glared at it, shook it a little and tried again but this time the signal didn't even get through. Frowning now, she shook her head and put it away. She did not have time to bother with it. She had a Pretender to find. Concentrating on the task at hand, Miss Parker began a second, and more thorough, sweep of the cabin. She never noticed when the snow began to fall.
Two hours later Miss Parker was in an even worse than usual mood. She had searched the cabin and found exactly what she had thought she would find. Nothing. At least, nothing except the red bound casebook she had come to expect on these occasions. Then she had noticed the trapdoor hidden in the floor of what passed for the kitchen. Obviously Jarod had known she would find it, she thought darkly, why else would he have rigged it with one of his childish little devices. This one had left her drenched from the fountain of water that hit her when she opened the trapdoor. Her favourite black cashmere sweater was probably ruined, she was wet and cold and as she started down the steps, she planned her revenge for when she had Jarod at her mercy.
A few minutes later all thoughts of revenge were ripped from her mind.
The small box stood on the table in the center of what was obviously a storm cellar. An envelope, yellowed with age, sat on the box. Her name and the address of the boarding school she had once attended was written in a childish hand she still recognized, although she had only seen it a few times and many years had passed since then.
She was shocked and dismayed to see her hand tremble as she picked the envelope up. Cursing herself for her weakness, what would her Daddy say if he saw it, she started to open it then reconsidered. She had learned to be careful of Jarod's surprises over the past two years.
Carefully lifting the box, Miss Parker went back up the stairs and into the cabin's main room. Setting the box on the low table in front of the fireplace, she paused for a moment then sighed as the cold from her wet sweater made itself known again.
Within the hour, Miss Parker was seated on the sofa behind the table. A cheerful fire burned in the fireplace and her sweater was drying over the grate before it. Physically, she was warm and comfortable; mentally she was in a state of agonized confusion.
The letters were stacked in front of her, bundled together in order of their dates which ranged from the day she had left the Center as a child to the day of Jarod's escape. Fifty-two letters a year, for over twenty years, each one dated a week apart and, judging from the five she had already read, each one containing Jarod's thoughts, hopes and dreams.
Except for one.
As she re-read that letter, Miss Parker's mind filled first with images from her past, and Jarod's. Then the visions changed and she saw the little boy with the sad eyes as he wrote his last, but also first, letter to the one whom had been his closest friend, and a little more besides.
The one who had never answered his past four letters.
The one who had told her Daddy about receiving them so that he could put a stop to it.
The one who had never even seen any of those letters before, despite the fact that they had obviously been opened and read.
As Miss Parker struggled to understand what had happened all those years before, the facts could not be denied. Jarod had sent four letters to her, which her father had somehow intercepted. Having been told never to write to her again, Jarod had complied. Outwardly. The fifth letter had never been sent, nor the other letters that followed. Jarod had written them, kept them, and now passed them on to the one that they had always been intended for.
Miss Parker felt a dampness on her cheek, raising one hand, she realized that she was crying. She sat there, shock slowly turning to simmering anger at what her father had done. Suddenly she started, her senses alerting her to a faint sound just outside the cabin.
Instantly she jumped to her feet, swept all the bundles of letters back into their box and hurried into the kitchen. After hiding the box in a cupboard, Miss Parker drew her gun and returned to the main room. Going to the window beside the front door, she shifted the curtain slightly to the side and peered out into the middle of a blizzard.
Although surprised at the turn the weather had taken, Miss Parker did not allow it to interfere with the job she had to do, and which she was guiltily aware she had not been doing. She looked out through the driving snow, then tensed as a familiar tingle ran up her spine. A frown formed on her brow as the feeling grew.
Jarod was out there.
She didn't see him, but she didn't have to. She knew he was there as surely as if he was standing in plain sight.
A sharp sound exploded beneath the window and she was moving before it even finished. She yanked the front door open and pointed the gun at the source of the sound, a can of soda that had burst open. Miss Parker's curse was short and not particularly sweet; she quickly cast her eyes around the area as she stepped back into the cabin. Even as she closed the door, the tingle grew into a certainty that he was watching her. Taking a deep breath, Miss Parker slowly turned around, the gun held tightly in her hands even though she knew she would not fire, could never fire.
Not at him.
Jarod stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the main room. His left hand was down at his side, his right held a .35 pointed directly at Miss Parker. For a long moment neither moved, each holding a gun on the other, each looking the other over, noting the changes that had occurred since last they had met face to face.
'He looks good' Miss Parker thought as she spoke. She swallowed against the sudden lump in her throat. A slight frown formed as she noticed something. Although he looked as relaxed and strong as ever, his face was almost as pale as the snow that covered him from head to toe. Also, although he had obviously been out in the blizzard, his outfit consisted of no more than the jacket and black jeans he usually favoured. Miss Parker's senses really kicked in though when she realized that the snow on his left sleeve was stained red.
Her voice was even and slightly husky. As always, hearing it brought a funny warm feeling to Jarod's chest. As her gaze roamed over him, he watched her beautiful eyes for the reactions that she could never quite hide from him. He wasn't disappointed. A flash of heat, quickly hidden, almost made him forget the pain that assaulted him. The expected frown was followed unexpectedly by a sudden glimpse of, surely not concern? As Miss Parker's eyes darted back to his, he read the determination in them and groaned inwardly as she tensed up preparing for action. Knowing that he had no hope of besting her in his condition, he attempted to distract her.
"Miss Parker, did you find the letters I left here for you?"
Miss Parker surprised him. The tension slipped from her and she actually smiled at him. Admittedly it had that sarcastic edge to it, but it was still a smile. Then, holding her gun steady on him, she moved closer. Jarod let her, wondering what she was up to. About two meters from him she stopped, her smile so close he could not help glancing at it. As he did, it seemed to lose its sarcastic edge, for a moment. When she started speaking it took a moment before the words registered.
"We can talk about that later Jarod, after I help you with your arm. You know, the one you've hurt."
Jarod's eyes darted back to hers in shock. Not only was her voice softer than usual, it was devoid of its usual sarcastic/bitter note and even seemed to have a trace of humour in it. Jarod wasn't used to being teased, he had only experienced it a few times in the past, mostly from the men he had worked with, rarely from women and never from her, before.
While he was still trying to adjust his thinking to fit this new situation, normally something that came as naturally as breathing to him, he recognized the look in her eyes and his world tilted again. Fear, not of him, for him. As their gazes locked, something passed between them, something neither had felt for many years, not since they had been children together. They hadn't understood it then and Jarod still didn't. It made him nervous, so much so that he glanced away. Miss Parker made her move.
Before he could react, she had moved close enough to him that his gun pressed into her. Firm enough to hold but not hurt, she grasped the wrist of his injured arm. Her eyes burned into his.
"We both know that I could win this one. One move and you would be mine."
Before Jarod could respond, Miss Parker moved her gun up between them, pressing it into his abdomen. Jarod tensed, swallowing nervously. He wasn't certain she wouldn't shoot him. Slowly Miss Parker pulled the gun away and put it back into her belt. Jarod began to breathe again. Mirroring her action, he lowered his gun and put it away. 'Let's see what she does now,' he thought. What she did was move the hand that still held his arm. She slowly released him and drew her hand back, brushing against his as she did. Jarod swallowed again. Miss Parker smiled slightly to herself and stepped back. Her voice was almost kind.
"The fire's warm, the sofa is comfortable and I know where the medical kit is." Raising one eyebrow she waited, her eyes daring him to obey.
He accepted the dare.
- - -
When she returned from the kitchen, Jarod had taken off his jacket and was in the process of taking off his shirt. He was facing the fire and Miss Parker took a moment to absorb the way his muscles moved across his broad back. Then he turned slightly and saw her. He tensed, his skin flushing from his chest up, as he quickly turned back to face the fire. Miss Parker had seen many men in far more compromising situations than that, but she couldn't remember any of them being embarrassed about it. She found it rather amusing and there was laughter in her eyes when she reached Jarod.
Then she saw his injured arm and the laughter faded.
The wound was a deep gouge that had obviously been made by a bullet, and long enough ago that the blood had already dried. As Miss Parker tended his arm, Jarod explained what had happened.
"I had everything set up. The guy was going to meet me and I was going to flash my badge, arrest him, handcuff him and leave him there with the stolen jewelry for the cops."
"Just like that."
Jarod ignored the sarcasm in her voice and nodded. "Just like that. Or it would have been like that if the guy hadn't had a partner, and if the partner hadn't had a gun. Ow! Hey that hurt!"
"Poor baby. So that's when you got shot. What about the bad guys?"
"The cops were just around the corner at the time, following a tip off."
"They heard the shot, caught them, searched them, found the jewelry, end of story."
"Uh huh, just like you knew there were two of them and they had a gun I suppose." Before Jarod could retaliate Miss Parker continued. "What about you, wouldn't the bad guys have mentioned you?"
"Not unless they wanted to have attempted murder added to their charges. The cops will assume that they had a falling out and the 'bad guys' will agree with them so they don't get charged with anything else."
"You have this all worked out don't you? So where exactly do I come in? And don't bother trying to tell me you were planning to come back here from the start because I know you weren't. I searched this place, remember."
During the conversation, one of the longest they had ever had, Jarod had done his best to ignore how close together they were sitting. He had even tried, with varying success, to ignore the feelings Miss Parker ignited in him each time she brushed against his skin. Now he closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to gather his thoughts enough to answer her. Normally he could answer this kind of thing with ease. If it had been a sim, he could have done it with no trouble at all. But this was life and Jarod was finding that sometimes life threw things into the equation that sims did not. Like feelings. Finally he gave up, opened his eyes and told her the truth.
"You're right. I left here yesterday afternoon knowing that I wouldn't be back. Knowing that by the time you got here and swept the place the blizzard that was on the way would be pretty close to hitting. Then I added the letters to keep you here. I knew you wouldn't be able to resist looking through them. I figured by the time you realized the storm was on its way it would have been too late for you to leave and that would have given me time to get away before the sweeper team started combing the area. When I was shot, I knew I couldn't go to the hospital because gunshot wounds have to be reported to the cops. There would have been questions and the Center would have found me. I didn't know anyone in town to go to. Except you. I figured I had a better chance with you than I did on my own." Jarod didn't add that he had hoped the letters might have coloured her reaction to his appearance, apparently they had, and he wasn't about to draw her attention to it.
Miss Parker finished bandaging his upper arm slowly, needing the time to think. She realized that Jarod thought her reaction to him was based on the letters. She was so busy trying not to smile that she almost missed Jarod's other omission. When she realized it, she froze then shifted her gaze to his eyes.
"Why couldn't you look after yourself? It wouldn't be the first time."
Jarod's eyes widened and he grew suddenly still. He tried to speak but no sound emerged. Miss Parker watched as his gentle eyes filled with confusion and surprise. She smiled slightly. Time to go in for the kill.
"Of course, it could be for the same reason I lowered my gun earlier. The same reason why I didn't shoot you when I had the chance. The same reason I won't take those handcuffs you mentioned before and use them on you." She lowered her voice to a whisper that Jarod had to lean closer to catch. "Perhaps. The same reason you came all this way in a blizzard, risking your life and your freedom. The same reason why I won't use my mobile the minute the storm clears. The same reason," her voice was now so soft that she was whispering in Jarod's ear, "why I won't turn you in. It has nothing to do with the letters Jarod, I've wanted this for a long time."
Backing of slightly, Miss Parker looked into his wide, shocked eyes and smiled. Lifting one hand, she gently ran it across his chest. He shivered beneath her touch, but didn't move away. She looked into his eyes, beautiful and confused and still so innocent, even after so many years of living at the Center.
"You didn't guess did you? I was always so careful; after all I couldn't let Sydney or Daddy guess how I felt. How I have always felt, Jarod. About you. Every time we came face to face, there was always something. A hurricane, a bank robbery, police, or someone else was with us, or knew we were together. But not this time, Jarod. As far as Sydney knows I've already left, and even if he realizes I'm stuck here, he thinks you are long gone."
Miss Parker paused to let that information sink in. She decided it was time he knew.
"When you went to that store, I was sure you had gone there to gain... well... experience. Then I found your book and there I was, right on the front cover. I couldn't believe it. I read it through, every word. When you called, it was all I could do to keep up the act. I wanted to tell you the truth, but I didn't know if Daddy still had my phone bugged. I couldn't risk it. Jarod, I know that right now it is impossible for us to be together. But I think, after all we have been through, all that we still have to go through before this is ended... we deserve…" Miss Parker hesitated as Jarod smiled at her.
"I think I know the reason you mentioned before," Jarod murmured. "We deserve a little peace. No chasing. No running. Just the two of us and maybe a little friendly conversation"
Miss Parker smiled at him. Not the slightly twisted, sarcastic smile she usually wore but an open, honest smile. In that moment, she looked very much like the little girl Jarod remembered. "Exactly."
- - -
For several hours, they sat together in front of the flickering fire, talking, laughing and sharing memories of a time long ago, as they carefully began to rekindle the friendship that fate had stolen from them. But eventually, their conversation slowed and they looked at each other and remembered that they were not old friends who had been reunited by chance. Already the blizzard that held them there was starting to blow itself out and Miss Parker's mobile would soon be working again. Jarod's arm began to hurt and they chuckled when they realized that they had been so caught up in the conversation that they had both completely forgotten about his injury. Their laughter covered their true feelings to an extent, but they both knew that their time together was coming to an end.
Finally it was Sydney that decided the matter. He called Miss Parker on her mobile to find out where she was.
It was time for Jarod to leave.
Miss Parker walked him to the door. They both knew there was no time to talk. Sydney had told Miss Parker that a helicopter was on its way, so Jarod had to be well out of sight before it arrived. But the hasty departure didn't really matter. They had both spoken more to each other that night than in all the years they had known each other. No more words were needed between them.
No more words... but there was something that Jarod suddenly realised he would regret if he didn't do it now, while he had the chance.
Following his instincts, he rested his hands lightly on her shoulders and leaned in close. She lifted her head to his and, for the first time in over twenty years, they kissed. Their lips moved against each other's lightly, re-learning what they had only begun to learn so long ago. They passed into unfamiliar territory without conscious thought. Then their lips parted and their world exploded with sensation.
Warmth, sweetness, heat and a taste that brought back memories she had long thought forgotten. Miss Parker drew back slightly, dazed. She had kissed so many, and been kissed back, but for the first time in her life, she realised that all but one of those kisses had lacked one very important thing.
They had not been from Jarod.
As they stood in the doorway, Jarod and Miss Parker looked into each other's eyes and knew they would never be the same again. They also knew that they would have to pretend to be, for each other's sake as well as their own. Too many lives depended on them. Sydney, Brootes, Angelo, they had to find a way to free them, and themselves. Only then could they have anything resembling the one thing they really wanted. A normal life together.
With nothing left to say or do, Jarod smiled at Miss Parker and turned away. He began to walk out the door and suddenly Miss Parker couldn't let him go without telling him the truth.
"Jarod, I love you. Whatever happens, remember that."
"I will. I love you too, Miss Parker. I always have."
Then the Pretender was gone and Miss Parker was alone again, standing in the doorway of the mountain cottage with a very happy smile curving her lips.