Title: Waffles in Idaho
Author: A.j.
Rating: R, for language.
Notes: Done for Julie Fortune for the August Pretenderficathon over on LJ. I got a much better story in return, but this one isn't too bad. ;)


"This is fucking ridiculous."

He smiles softly, enjoying the sun on his face and the cool grass underneath him. It is May and the winter has been long and hard. He cuts the metaphor for his life off at the base and lazily looks over at his companion.

She's glaring at the sky like it stole her last bottle of scotch.

"Cloud-watching has been proven to be very relaxing, Ms. Parker. I see a monkey."

"You're insane and I'm not doing this willingly."

He smirked. Jarod had never really made lists of wishes for birthdays or the like. Even if he had, he knows this situation wouldn't have been on that list. Which is a shame as the reality is so, so entertaining.

"How DID you annoy the Dudleys so much that they staked you out?"

Prone and annoyed, Parker didn't deign to look at him. Absently, Jarod thought that if any birds flew past just then, they might just fall out of the sky. Looks killing and all that.

He turned back to consider the vast blue above him. It was lovely. Truly stunning. Idaho's view of open sky and large tracts of open land were both reasons he kept a semi-permanent base in the state. One Parker had, somehow, gotten very close to finding. Luckily, she'd apparently run in to one of his little 'security' measures. If one could call a clan of slightly addled militia members a security measure.

Jarod did. Lena made really excellent apple cobbler, after all.

"You know I don't have anywhere to be today, right? That cloud looks like a bunny. Or a truck." Jarod pursed his lips and squinted at the sky.

"I fucking hate you."

He chuffed, letting the grin that had been threatening break happily across his face. "You really are annoyed. Generally you don't start throwing 'fuck' around until day three."

Parker shifted, as best she could in her bindings. Even pissed and ready to rip the stakes out of the ground, she was beautiful. He stared a little closer. There was something different though, this time. Something unexpected.

Mentally he did a quick tally and blinked.

"What's wrong?" She sounded more annoyed, but her face had shifted. She could always do that. Could always tell.

He rolled over and stared at her. "It's been ten years, Parker."

She blinked then narrowed her eyes at him. "Yes, Jarod, I have wrinkles. It happens."

"That's not what I meant and you know it." She was really, really too good at reading his mind.

She groaned and smacked her head on the ground. She was actually staked out in a rather nice place. It was a little meadow about three miles due west of his bunker. In the distance a small brook babbled happily to itself, and on a good day, elk came to frolic. Basically it was a place so bucolic, Parker would normally have threatened to puke. It was oddly comforting to know how she was going to react to a certain set of circumstances.

"You are such a fucking liar, Jarod! And stop thinking about how pretty this place is. It's a fucking meadow in the middle of fucking nowhere and you are going to be a bastard and leave me out here for a few more hours for Broots to find so his little pathetic day will be made and he will feel better and I'll have sore wrists. I'm not the only one who's gotten predictable in the last ten years."

He smirked at her.

She glared.

"Happy anniversary?" He offered, giving her his most innocent and guileless smile.

For a few stupefied seconds it looked like she was going haul off and smack him. It would have been a trick, tied down as she was, but if Jarod could think of anyone capable of just about anything, Parker's face would have been the first to flash before his eyes. Instead, she leaned back and started to laugh.

"I've said it before, and I know I'll say it again. You're certifiable."

He grinned at the side of her head before settling back to cloud watch some more. It really was a pretty day. He could smell summer coming on the breeze. Flowers were poking their way up through the grasses. He'd seen a patch of crocuses two hills over before he'd heard her screaming to blue heaven.

They'd been a rather lovely shade of purple.

Sappily, they'd made him think of Parker.

"So what did you do to piss the Dudley's off so much?"

"I owned a Lexus."


She shrugged. Or tried to. "It's probably disassembled and up on eBay at this point."

"They are efficient like that."

"Where did you find them anyway? I swear, Bubba and Bubbette would feel right at home in upper Appalacia. Are you sure they're not related?"

He snorted. "Are you sure you want to talk about creepy siblings?"

She rolled her eyes but remained silent.

He shifted his feet and stuck his arms under his head. Above him, a castle floated by. When he'd first left the Centre he'd spent an entire week doing nothing but trying to see patterns in the sky. It had been during one of his earlier cases. Possibly one of the few he'd fit in before Parker and her goons had gotten too close. He'd helped a little girl and her mother pull one over on their slumlord in the apartment building he'd holed up in.

He and the little girl – April would be eighteen this year and not so little anymore – had spent two of the prettier days naming the zoo animals they'd seen in the clouds. Distantly he wonders if she remembers those days as well as he does. If they meant anything to her now. Ten years later.

Okay, he wasn't over that yet.

He sighed.

"Are you ever going to untie me?" She sounded almost relaxed now, if cranky. Really, it was only when Parker didn't sound cranky that you had to worry. It was a default mental state for the woman.

He risked a peek and couldn't help but smile at her. Genuinely. It had been a long time since that had happened. It felt good. Really, really good.

He hummed. "I don't know. This is a good look for you."

"Christ, I should have known you were into bondage."

"Want to get waffles after I let you up?" Parker blinked and turned her head to eye him. He raised an eyebrow and wagged his pocketknife at her.

"You buying or making?"

"You just gave a tentative yes to having waffles with me." His eyes narrowed. "There's a sweeper team nearby isn't there?"

She smirked at him, raising her own eyebrow and showing just the hint of teeth. It was an expression that unnerved him almost as much as it turned him on. Not for the first – or probably last – time, he wondered how she'd managed to turn him into such a masochist. Because a childhood and adulthood spent under the tender mercies of the Centre had only nominally prepared him for ten years of Parker.

The worst part, he thought, as he rolled over and reached to cut the nylon chord securing her ankles, was that he wouldn't trade this for anything.

"Fine, but if they bust into the IHOP to handcuff my ass, make sure they do it after I finish the strawberries and whipped cream waffles. They're fortifying."