Five Ways Miss Parker and Jarod Didn't Meet (and One That Can't Be Proven)

Summary: Jarod and Miss Parker met when they were children at the Centre... but what if they hadn't? Six first meetings that never happened.

Thanks to: Perri for editing/betaing, the other Horsechicks, and Christine and Sharron for betaing/feedback, and Cheryl for hammering out the initial ideas last year. Much appreciated. All mistakes are mine, of course.

Disclaimer: If they were mine, we'd get two more TNT movies.

Copyright: Christina K; July 2007

1. Meet Cute.

The alley where she finally caught up to him after a five-block chase was narrow and dumpster-lined, still wet with the rain from earlier in the day, and blocked by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. Jarod could have climbed it, but not without losing his pants, his dignity, and the silver DSA case that he'd rather cut off fingers than abandon.

"Drop it, genius. Dead end. Time to go home."

"The Centre's never going to be home." Jarod turned from contemplating the fence to give her a flat stare, then smiled suddenly. His photos didn't do him justice. In person, the dorky haircut and teenager's smile actually worked together. Something about the eyes... watchful. Calculating. They made the rest of him seem like a costume he'd temporarily donned to fool the unwary. "Ah. The celebrated Miss Parker. Isn't this a bit of a comedown from Corporate?"

Her trigger finger itched for a moment, and she glared at the target at the end of her gun barrel. "Keep it up. We can just add more time in an empty cell after your return to Blue Cove." She jerked the gun to the side, directing him toward her. "This way."

"Hmm. No." He folded his arms, and leaned back on the chain-link fence. Did he actually think that was a request? Maybe he was a lot more delusional than Sydney had thought.

"I will shoot you, if you give me a reason," Parker warned him. "And there's a Sweeper team less than two minutes behind me."

"I don't doubt that for a second." Jarod grinned at her, and on anyone else that look would be affectionate. From a total stranger who was more than a little psycho, it made her want to pistol-whip him. "But I wanted the chance to talk with you, former corporate slave to corporate drone, before I made my exit. So they might be a little late."

The hell?

"I can't imagine anything you could say that would possibly have any relevance or interest for me in this situation." Parker tightened her grip on her Sig. Where was Sam? Why wasn't he here yet? "You're an assignment, which is now over. Move. Now."

"You see, this is the difficulty of dealing with the Centre; all stick, no carrot," Jarod drawled, giving her a slow once-over. "Given a choice between being shot, and willingly walking back to the Centre's waiting arms... No matter how great the legs of my escort, I'll take the bullet and smile."

"Are you insane?" It just bubbled out of her without any planning. She'd punched men for less, for getting her this off-balance, never mind the combination of insult and innuendo. "Seriously. Do you know who I am?"

"Like I said: you're Miss Parker. Until four weeks ago, Corporate Liaison to the Tower. Now? Tasked with retrieval of one Pretender, the DSAs in his possession, and any projects completed in the interim," Jarod spat out. He'd definitely read the memo from the Director; Parker had just enough time to wonder how he'd gotten into the mainframe before he went on. "You like your scotch neat, your cigarettes unfiltered, your lingerie from Paris, and your lovers compliant. You're going to be Director of the Centre in five years if you can complete this assignment, and dead in three years if you can't."

She flicked the safety off her gun.

"And you don't take criticism well," Jarod added.

"Shut. Up." With a massive effort, she got her temper under control. "Why aren't Sam and the others here yet?"

He smirked, the sonuvabitch. "A small roadblock, shall we say. They'll be here in another five minutes."

If she shot him now, they could treat him for blood loss in those five minutes. On the other hand, she might have to actually touch him, and then she might kill him. "Fine. We'll just stand here until then. And if you say one more word—"

"Catherine Parker."

Soft voice, caring eyes, slipping in a sword to sever her spine. People would shell out good money to be executed by him. Her hands were shaking. "You're going to pay for that."

Even softer, more urgent, dark eyes focused completely on her. "She didn't commit suicide. I can prove it."

"You bastard." She had never loathed anyone in her life the way she loathed this man. Because she wanted to believe. They'd warned her, she'd seen the files, she'd known Jarod could simulate anyone, get inside their heads, but this, this was… Parker swallowed back bile, kept herself out of his reach, when every nerve ending demanded she grab him and beat him to death with her bare hands.

Control. Do not let him get to you. Do not let him make you doubt. "I'm not buying, Frankenstein. Nice try, though."

"It's okay, I'm donating." The smirk was back, and the eyes were measuring the effect his words had had on her. Looking for an opening. A weakness to be exploited. Damn her for almost believing, for 2.5 seconds, that he actually cared.

"Riiiiight." She matched his smirk, rolled her eyes, promising herself a cigarette as soon as she had the cuffs on him. And now she was going to be wondering how he'd found out her tobacco preferences. "Out of the goodness of your lab-rat heart. However did I earn this privilege?"

"You're the hound, Miss Parker. I'm just a hare trying to make it through another day." Jarod's grin had gotten a fraction wider. "Only I'm not going down a rabbit-hole."

Something was wrong here. He was way too confident. Four minutes had ticked by, and she still didn't hear Sam or the others approaching the entrance to the alley. "Why are you stalling?"

Jarod's grin belonged on a fourteen-year-old out skateboarding in the sunshine. "I'm not stalling. I'm waiting."


"My ride."

There was no way a car, or even a motorcycle, could make it down that alley past her. Nowhere to go but--

The sound of helicopter blades tipped her off. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me." How the hell had they known where to find him? Or had he planned to go down this dead-end alley, be picked up right here, the entire time? And which was worse?

Jarod shrugged. "I was serious about your mother, and the information I have. But I can't stick around while you try to make up your mind." A rope ladder was flung down from above, landing just to the left of him, barely ten feet away. "I'll be in touch."

"You aren't going anywhere."

"You can't shoot me," he said, maddeningly calm. "The Centre wants me alive."

The warning shot from her gun echoed in the alley, amplified by the narrow brick walls. "Preferably."

Jarod had ducked when she fired, and now straightened, finally losing the smirk, the calculation, and the goddamn confidence. He looked scared. Desperate, even.

It took everything she had, but she kept her voice level. Calm. Never let it be said she was a bad winner. "It's over, Jarod. Don't make this harder than it has to be."

Two seconds. Three. Both of them expressionless, frozen in place, the whip of helicopter blades stirring the air around them.

Then he lunged for the rope ladder, and Parker rushed forward to intercept him. The helicopter lifted upward smoothly, and he was already ten feet above her by the time she reached his position. "Jarod!"

She aimed upward and fired again, had the satisfaction of hearing him gasp and clutch the ladder closer— but he didn't even drop the damn DSA case, just hung on to the rope ladder with insane determination, looking downward with burning eyes as he rose into the sky.

Parker knelt down on the wet cement of the alley, and dragged two fingers through the red drops that had fallen to the ground.

At least she'd drawn blood too.