Disclaimer: The Pretender belongs to Craig Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell.
Author's Note: I have been absent from the tP fandom too long. Thank goodness for the Season 1 DVD set. ;) I had always felt Broots had a thing for Miss Parker early on, but the show didn't really touch on that till Season 3. So, here's a Season 1 fic exploring that and other ideas.
Summary: Broots swore he would have nothing else to do with the "Rescued" children after discovering they had all been dying of mysterious and unexplainable illnesses. Unfortunately, he "stumbles" upon something out of the ordinary and Miss Parker is willing to risk everything to investigate. (Season 1, post Unhappy Landings, Allusions to Season 3, Risque Business; Season 4, Inner Sense) Broots/Miss Parker
Mr. Raines encompassed all the horrible elements that his nightmares were made of. Darkness. Immorality. Hopelessness. Raines was the main reason Broots didn't sleep at night; he spent countless hours watching his little girl sleep. Broots never claimed to be a brave man, but nothing would ever keep him from watching over his daughter and protecting her. Raines was like the Boogie Man; hiding in his daughter's closet waiting for the opportune moment to leap out and scare her senseless. Yes, Mr. Raines was evil. Broots was convinced of that.
If this man had the power to frighten him so, then why was Broots digging through documents he knew he shouldn't be?
He had found a note on his desk written in a scrawl so insufferable, he had a hard time making out the message. After a few minutes of squinting, he made out the words: Server ASL33 needs repair. Usually Judy in the computer lab next to his checked up on the servers, but when he went in search of her, she was out to lunch. How convenient. After reading the note again, he managed to make out his name written across the top. Whoever wanted the server fixed specifically wanted him to do it.
Server ASL33 needs repair.
His eyes simply couldn't make out the last word. He would never know who was sending him down to Sub Level 9.
He anxiously watched the numbers light up one by one indicating which floor he was on. SL- 9 came faster than he wanted it to. He walked the long, misty corridor until he reached the very end. After pushing through heavy, metal double doors, he was met with rows and rows of computer servers stacked hide and wide. They held all the secrets that people like Mr. Raines wanted to stay hidden, or so he fantasized.
A man like him dreamed of one day hacking into the mainframe and taking everything. He imagined the rush of exposing The Centre for what it really was would be unbelievable, but alas the risks were greater than the reward. Not to mention, a certain genius named Jarod would've probably taken this course of action a long time ago if these computer servers held all the secrets. So Broots would ignore his fantasy of becoming the greatest computer hacker in the world. He would meander through his job like the good techie he was and repair the damaged server on Sub Level 9. He was never meant to be a hero.
Broots checked the different rows and quickly deduced where Server ASL33 was located. When he got there, he soon saw there was absolutely nothing wrong with the server. Every little green and orange light that indicated it was working was lit. A manila folder greeted him instead, tucked between two pieces of computer equipment. The tab read "Rescued".
Rescued? Oh no. No. No. No.
Broots had swore to himself and Miss Parker he was done with the Rescued children. They were all dead. He liked the idea of breathing.
The folder was resting there staring back up at him expectantly and he tried to avoid it's powerful hold on him. He nervously glanced around and whispered, "Is anyone there?" A noise in the air ducts met his question causing him to jump in fear. He repeated a little louder this time, "Hello? Anyone there?" Broots froze trying to listen, but the sound ceased. He was all alone.
His gaze fell on the folder again. A few more nervy glances over his shoulders and he picked up the folder and bolted. A strong part of him just wanted to leave it there, but his heart wouldn't let him.
Broots remembered the look in her eyes when she had asked for his help. Unbeknownst to her, he could occasionally see the torment of working at The Centre eating away at her. Solid ice walls were the protective barrier around her soul, doing the best they could to keep her together, but he knew she was slowly unraveling.
The "Rescued" children that her mother had tried to protect all those years ago had somehow begun to melt those icy walls. Miss Parker was human after all. Yes, she was human and Broots wanted nothing more than to provide comfort. Just once, he wanted to take her hand in his and say "It'll be alright." She needed that kind of attention whether she wanted to admit it or not. She needed someone like him, but the fact remained she would never want someone like him. Yet, he remembered the look in her eyes when she asked for his help and he couldn't refuse his heart. He took that folder because he had some foolish notion that she would be grateful for his assistance. Maybe she would be grateful to have a friend like him, always watching her back. Always willing to help.
Unlike the executive suites on the upper floors of The Centre, the bathrooms on his floor reeked of urine and bleach. He had locked himself in a stall trying to accustom himself to the horrid combination of odors. He lowered the toilet seat and then sat down to read. His fingers seemed to lock up on him as he flipped through the pages. His knuckles ached. His fingertips were sweaty. These documents described an unthinkable act. A cover-up. It concerned the woman Miss Parker went to see only to find out she had passed away. Darra Landers.
They were memos only a few sentences long, but the instructions were very clear. Broots recognized HTML dispersed throughout the text indicating these were directly downloaded from an outside source. These memos were undoubtedly email messages outlining orders to rid the Centre of any garbage cluttering their shelves. Specifically files on children who used to be subjects at The Centre. The names of these children were all in the "Rescued" folder Miss Parker gave to him. These same children were relatively young men and women who died under mysterious circumstances within the last 6 months.
Poor Darra Landers. She was the only one mentioned in the memos more than once indicating only one inevitable solution. She was a specific target. She must've been the key to something important, but to what? He wanted to read on, but nausea took him. How could this place be so vile and unforgiving? How could they murder these innocent people?
A toilet flushed and Broots nearly jumped out of his skin. When did someone come in? He never heard anyone else enter the bathroom. That meant he wasn't alone and he couldn't risk being caught with such highly dangerous documents. He organized the papers and shoved them back in the folder. Then he stood up, flushed his toilet and opened the stall door cautiously. A short guy was washing his hands. Suspenders, shiny black shoes and a red tie. Broots knew who it was and realized he was safe. He tucked the folder under his arm, walked over to a sink and cut on the water. He squawked, "He-Hey, George."
George turned to face Broots and stared at him through thick lenses,"Broots! Hey, haven't seen you in the cafeteria in a while. Got sick of the Special Surprise Meatloaf?"
"Uh, well, my boss keeps me busy," Broots muttered, then fumbled with the towel dispenser. He tore the thin paper and then dried his hands. "Uh, there's just. . .uh, not a lot of time to socialize, you know? I get even less time to eat."
"Oh, right. The 'special' project that you can't talk about," George rolled his eyes. He waved his goodbyes and smiled, "You always were one for theatrics, Broots!"
"If you only knew," Broots muttered, waiting a few minutes before exiting the bathroom himself. Broots used to be George. An innocent. A lab technician just trying to make ends meet and provide for his daughter. Then word got out the Chairman was looking to promote one of them. To help with a very special project that required the best mind in the business. There was also rumor they would be paired with the Chairman's daughter. That excited the male candidates more than the women. All in all, they were all zealous, trying to guess who would be the chosen one. They picked Broots. Why didn't they pick George?
Once back at his desk, Broots shoved the folder in a drawer refusing to hold it any longer. He wasn't sure what to do now, but he knew his hands had been stained. He eyes were burned with the text he had just read. Darra Landers was murdered. Why? To keep certain people from knowing the truth. What truth? Now that, Broots did not know. It was something Miss Parker desperately searched for and constantly came up just short of finding out.
Should he tell Miss Parker about this folder? It was bad enough Raines caught him disconnecting from the network. That meant they were watching him a little more closely. Would it be wise to once again risk his neck over something he nearly lost everything for? Something that wouldn't change his life or effect him in any way? He remembered the look in her eyes when she asked him for help. Yes, he would risk his life again. His heart would never let him say no.
He took a deep breath and tried to think rationally about this. Someone set him up. Someone wanted him to find that folder. He grabbed his coffee mug and sipped on the cold contents within needing the comfort of caffeine in an effort to calm himself. Who would want him to find it? Why him?
A hand skirted his shoulder and he bounded out of his chair in surprise. His cold coffee spilled all over the front of his shirt causing him to screech at the sudden chill. He swatted at the mess and stared incredulously at the woman standing next to him. He whispered in a hushed tone, "You have got to stop doing that!"
"I was trying to be discreet," Miss Parker replied quietly, her words still having some bite through the soft tone. She puffed her cigarette and viewed the coffee stain on his shirt with disgust. She rolled her eyes and remarked, "'Trying' being the key word there."
"Well, I . . ., " Broots stammered. He couldn't find any words to describe his discontent. Parker had this way about her that caused every function in his brain to shut down. He lost the power of speech, common sense, and courage. As much as he wanted to yell his frustration over the spilled coffee, he merely let his arms dangle at his sides. He was putty in her hands. He shrugged and asked politely, "Did you need something?"
Parker's eyes lit up sending him cold daggers as she grumbled, "You left a note on my desk saying I should see you."
"I did? Me?" Broots faltered slightly, his eyebrows rising so high they appeared to disappear into his thinning hairline.
"Yes, you did," Parker said slowly, this time her voice inquisitive. Curious. She reached into the breast pocket of her suit jacket and revealed a note. She shoved it at him and laughed lightly, "I have to say, your handwriting could use some improvement."
Broots's hands trembled as he viewed the same scribble that was on his note. Whoever wanted him to find that folder also wanted Parker to see it as well.
Urgent. See me about rescued.
The computer techie gulped after reading it. He tried to crack his neck, but nothing alleviated the tension he was feeling. "Uh, well, I got a note too, Miss Parker." He reached over to his desk and held it up. She inspected both notes and noticed the similar markings on each. "It said I needed to repair a server on Sub Level 9. Instead I found something else."
"Well, let's see it. I don't have all day," Parker snapped.
"I don't know if I should," Broots hissed strongly. "You may be willing to risk life and limb, but I'm not sure I am willing to let you."
He wasn't exactly sure where that came from, but she was less than pleased with his attempts at being protective and chauvinistic. Parker approached him until her face was mere millimeters from his. Cigarette smoke filtered out of her nostrils and past her slightly parted lips, the nicotine smell nearly choking him. She growled, "Did I just hear you correctly?"
Broots gulped, not ready to back down just yet. "You heard me, Miss Parker."
She flashed a brilliant, yet wicked smile full of teeth. It could've been a sign of how impressed she was with his boldness. It also could've been a sign of how much pleasure she would have in firing a bullet in his ass. Her eyes remained cold and unfeeling. Not once did they blink. They stared deep into his just daring him to speak again. He could feel himself shrinking, a shiver tickling his spine. After a few moments of this intolerable eye contest, she asked smartly, "You gonna show me what you found now, Broots?"
"Uh, yeah," Broots relented and quickly escaped her potent stare. He fished the folder out of his desk drawer. She snatched it from his hands before he had time to think. He stood there, waiting on her reaction. He knew she wouldn't just let this go. He knew she would want to investigate. He sneaked a peek at her and noticed the change immediately. The stiffness in her shoulders was gone. Her eyes were incredibly cheerless and tempestuous all at the same time. He rubbed the back of his neck and coughed. "I read most of them. Darra Landers . . .she was. . ."
"Murdered," Parker finished gravely, flipping through the memos. "None of these are signed. Can we find out who sent them?"
"I thought about it," Broots admitted. "Unfortunately, I wouldn't know where to start looking."
"Then figure out a way," Parker ordered threateningly. Her eyes were still scanning the memos when she paused. It was an insightful pause. It only made him feel more ill at ease. Her tone was gentle, but her words demanded attention, "On second thought, follow me."
She began to walk away leaving him slightly bemused. She wanted his help. He could see the look in her eyes when she was given proof of Darra Landers murder. As much as he wanted to stay within the safety of his cubicle, his heart wouldn't let him. He grabbed his coat and rushed after her despite his misgivings. As he followed he began to ask himself for the umpteenth time in the last year, why didn't The Centre pick George for this job?
The fabric in The Centre issue car immediately took in her scent. Not even the pine fragrance car freshener hanging from the rearview mirror could drown out her perfume. He fiddled with the seatbelt as he watched the scenery fly by. He wanted to focus on anything that didn't involve taking in deep breaths of the intoxicating, sweet smell.
He remembered the first day he had been assigned to work with her. Assigned to help track Jarod. He was naive. Most definitely lovesick. She was just as guileless, not realizing the depths of Jarod's knowledge. He wanted desperately to impress her, but as time wore on, he let his fantasy morph into illusion. His illusion into reality. His reality was that she would never see him in that way. Never want anything more than a passing relationship.
A bump in the road broke him from his thoughts. Broots didn't really know where they were going, but he didn't have the courage to ask. There was just something about her that made him lose any shred of dignity.
Their journey ended at a small, yet elegant home. As they pulled into the driveway, he noticed the porch lights were the only illumination. Judging by the garden work and lack of light, he deduced that whoever lived here rarely got out. A stray cat crept across the lawn. It's yellow eyes stared at him briefly before bounding away in a frightened manner. He smirked. Maybe the tabby had already met Miss Parker.
Parker cut the engine, then leaned back in her seat. She appeared to be apprehensive. Unsure. Well, she wasn't the only one feeling unsure. Broots had no idea what to say or do next. Where were they? He bravely turned to look at her, but she wouldn't look at him. He wasn't sure how much time had passed before she said stiffly, "This is my home. We just need to pick up a few things, so don't get comfortable."
Before he could respond, she exited the vehicle. This was her home? Well, that explained the lack of lights in the house and the inattentiveness that was obvious in the garden. Working for The Centre gave one no time to indulge in the simple pleasures in life. Broots opened his side of the car and slid out. He followed her to the front door and waited for her to unlock it. He gave her a genuine smile and complimented, "This is a very nice home, Miss Parker."
"Well, take a picture because you'll never see it again," she spat at him before stepping inside. He sighed before entering himself. She had already disappeared to some other part of the house leaving him in the foyer alone. He heard movement upstairs, but was wise enough to just stay where he stood. It was perceptible that Parker didn't invite many people into her home. He didn't want to overstep any boundaries by snooping.
After a few moments, however, he grew curious. This was Miss Parker's home. He took brave steps further into the house, his hands shoved deeply into his coat pockets. With every step, the smell of her grew stronger. The furniture in the living room was graceful, just like their owner. Candles, potted plants, crystal ware and oriental rugs. The only thing that gave this room less dignity was the pile of cigarette butts on the coffee table. A few bottles of alcohol strewn about in random places. One near the fireplace. One tucked between two pillows on the couch. It was then he pinpointed that faint aroma he occasionally noticed was mixed in with her perfume. The one he couldn't quite place. It wasn't nicotine.
It was alcohol.
He imagined the taste was permanently etched onto her lips. He felt the need to chastise her for such behavior, but he knew the reasons behind it. All too often he found himself drinking one too many beers when he got home. The only thing that kept him from becoming a complete drunk was his daughter. Unfortunately, Miss Parker didn't have that kind of crutch in her life.
He turned around at the placid sound of her voice. She had changed clothing. Still a very sleek pant suit, but her shoes almost had a non-existent heel. The entire outfit appeared to be more comfortable and unstrained. Her hair was pinned up off her neck, shaping her face beautifully. It was a nice look for her. It suddenly occurred to him he hadn't spoken yet and was stupefied once again by her beauty. He was staring at her like a buffoon. "Yes, Miss Parker?"
"Take your jacket off, Broots," she ordered, walking past him towards her kitchen. He saw her slap the folder of memos down on the table. She then found a cigarette from somewhere on the counter. She probably had secret stashes all over this house.
Broots rocked on his feet for a moment, still keeping his hands in his pockets. He craned his head to the side out of nervousness and stuttered, "But. . .you said don't get comfortable. I thought. . ."
"Relax. We're not at The Centre," Parker sneered, while expertly lighting a cigarette that rested between her lips.
"Okay," Broots mumbled, quickly shedding the article of clothing and dropping it on the couch. He walked into the kitchen where she motioned for him to sit down.
"Read that," she pointed with a wiry finger. Her nail clicking against the hard surface of the table as she tapped the selected memo sitting before him.
Broots shot one more nervous glance in her direction before reading what was in front of him. His eyes scanned the words. This memo was much longer than the others, nearly a page. It was going on about Darra Landers. How her gift was so unique, but not as unique as Jarod's. That she was valuable, but expendable. Her genius was going to be no one else's if she didn't come back to The Centre. Then his soul took a blow when he read what was next. The order was to kill her if she refused. It was obvious what her decision had been. They knew about her scheduled surgery, replaced real doctors with Centre personnel and they killed her. He gulped slightly and tried to loosen the collar on his shirt. The memo wasn't finished.
The next order was to preserve her. Mummification. They wanted the ability to extract DNA in the future, just in case something happened to the Centre. Broots pushed the memo away, not able to finish. After a few moments of silence, he muttered, "Bastards."
"I'm glad to see this upsets you too, Broots," Parker said listlessly, smoke wafting out of her nose and up towards the ceiling. An ashtray on the table was her next stop as she put the nicotine stick out. She leaned on the table, bending down close enough to his ear and whispered hauntingly, "She's buried in the same cemetery as my mother."
Shivers and tingles ran down his cold spine quickly as he sat back and stared at her incredulously. What was she suggesting? He whispered back, "You want to dig her up?"
"That would be the ideal solution, wouldn't it?" Parker almost laughed, taking a seat in the empty chair next to him. "We inform her family, dig her up and have her body secretly moved to another location. Bury her somewhere safe. A place where she could truly rest in peace."
He could tell Parker was resisting the urge to light up another cigarette. He could tell this information was weighing heavily on her mind. In a way, she was leading them in the right direction. They couldn't undo Darra's death, but they could improve upon her afterlife. Possibly cremate her and spread her ashes into an ocean. They would never have her DNA ever again. Broots twiddled his thumbs as he thought aloud, "Even if we could move Darra, the Centre most definitely has her DNA already on file."
"I think we're missing the bigger picture here, Broots," Parker droned on, her eyes now shut in frustration. "What we're not asking is why? Why do they want her DNA?"
"Why?" Broots repeated. He let his mouth hang open in stunned silence. He was still naive, wasn't he? They both were. Then another thought hit him. He stared at Parker with fearful eyes.
Parker smiled wickedly. She was reading his mind as she said, "I know, Broots. If they have her DNA, who else do they have?"
To be continued. . .