This is my first attempt at fan-fiction, so please, go easy on me! Thanks to those who proofread and gave me pointers and ideas on where to go. Any and all comments welcome at (please mention that it's in relation to the story or it won't get read). Hey, if I get enough positive feedback, I might do this again!

OK, here's the legal stuff--- "The Pretender" and all related characters belong to NBC and Pretender Productions "The X-Files" and all its characters belong to Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions



Agent Fox Mulder typed away at his keyboard, resigned to his boring detail, a punishment for once again going against his superiors. The work was tedious and monotonous, something his fertile mind couldn't handle too long without rebelling in some way. His partner, Dana Scully, was more accepting of the detail, her mind being of a more scientific bent than his own. Since he had been banned from the X-Files, he felt as if he were stagnating. He needed inspiration, a case deserving of his expertise. He looked at the information in front of him for one Jarod Ellis, applying for a position with the INS. The face staring back at him looked kind, but there was a hard edge there, warning not to push too hard. Then a flag blinked on the screen. The man's fingerprints were already on record but under a John Doe. Mulder clicked the mouse and the screen switched to show him that the fingerprints were from different, and somewhat questionable, crime scenes around the country ranging from a biological research lab to a Coast Guard base. It seemed that a man, acting as a vigilante, would corner the wrongdoer and punish him the way he had treated others. thought Mulder. This was just one man. This deserved investigation, even if it was for his own curiosity. The INS file showed him to be assigned to the San Diego office. He grabbed his jacket from his chair and paused at Scully's desk.

"Where are you going?" asked his partner, looking up from her computer.

"I'm off to follow-up on something."

"Are you sure it's not just a wild-goose chase so you can get away from your desk?" she questioned in a slightly teasing tone

"It's definitely not a wild-goose chase. It may even be an X-file. Cover for me."

His partner looked at his retreating back and sighed. "When don't I?"


Jarod watched as they led away his partner, a man who had used the innocence of refugees to line his own pockets. He had promised to get them green cards--for a price. The people had thought it part of the process and, wanting so desperately to be U.S. citizens, had done as he asked. They had been treated like cattle, herded into small cabins and left there for days. A small child had died from the heat, her young body left by the road as they were forced to trek in the hot sun.

He closed his notebook with finality. He had saved these families and countless others who would have followed, but he was no nearer to finding his own. He sighed. It was time to move on before Miss Parker tracked him down. He smiled at her persistence. It wouldn't be long before they figured out his clue. He stepped outside and squinted in the sun.

"Jarod Ellis?" asked a male voice.

Jarod turned and saw a man near to his own age in a dark suit. Federal agent. He knew just by looking. He nodded.

"I'm Special Agent Mulder," he said as he flashed his badge. "There are a few questions I'd like to ask you."

"About what?" he asked defensively.

"About yourself."

Jarod had heard about Mulder when he had done his stint with the FBI. He did things his own way. Said he believed in UFO's and other paranormal activities. The other agents called him "Spooky". Jarod knew the man was on his own crusade, trying to prove that there were other things out there, things beyond scientific explanation. This was a man who just might believe him. "Sure. C'mon."

**** "Miss Parker, I think we've found him," called Broots from his computer.

Miss Parker and Sydney walked over and looked at the screen. "Well?" she asked as she picked up the figurine of a killer whale.

"I can't believe how simple it was."

"Then why did it take you so long?"

Sydney came to Broots' defense. "With Jarod, you think to look for the complicated. He threw in something easy to confuse. Where is he, Broots?"

"The whale itself was the clue. Where can you find these and have easy access to them?" When no answer was forthcoming, he answered himself. "A water park or aquarium. The most famous of these--at least in my mind--is Sea World. As there are two--Orlando and San Diego--I cross-referenced with any incidents that might draw Jarod's attention."

"The short version, Broots."

"Yes, Miss Parker. San Diego."

"Now was that so hard? Get the jet ready. We're leaving."

**** Back in his rooms, Jarod tried to explain what he could to Mulder. "I was taken from my parents as a child because I displayed certain 'abilities'."

"Total immersion of yourself into a role or situation."

Jarod nodded. "I was raised in practical isolation by an organization in Delaware known as the Centre. I was forced to take part in simulations. I was told they were to benefit mankind, but some, I later learned, were used for just the opposite purpose."

"That's quite a story, Ellis--or whatever your name is. Sounds like some fanatical story you'd find in some paranoia-minded magazine." , he added to himself. "Do you have some proof of this 'Centre'?"

Jarod took out a silver Haliburton case, placed it on the desk, and opened it, revealing a monitor screen and a collection of small CD's. "Here, pick one. They're the Centre's digital simulations archives--DSAs--on me. They'll all back up what I told you."

Mulder selected a disc at random and placed it into the drive. Onscreen appeared a black and white video of a young boy being put through a rigorous session of some sort. In the bottom left-hand side, it read "Jarod. For Centre Use Only". He was crying out against something. Mulder turned up the volume and heard Jarod crying out about it being hard to breathe. A young man, possibly in his thirties, was monitoring the session, giving encouragement when necessary. When that disc was through, Mulder put on another, and then a third. Each contained a similar arrangement, just Jarod and Sydney. He could see where each simulation could have been beneficial, or just as easily detrimental. He sat back and rubbed his eyes.

Jarod looked at him from over on the bed. "Well?" he asked wearily. "Believe me now?"

"You were there for how long?"

"Close to 30 years."

"And now that you've escaped?"

"Now I help others where I can to make up for those simulations while searching for my family. I almost found them in Boston only to have to leave them when a team of sweepers from the Centre arrived on the scene."

"I guess you could say I'm on a similar quest myself. My sister was taken from our house when we were kids and I've been trying to find her ever since. I thought I had a couple of times, only to have it be a false lead." Mulder walked to the window. "Do you have any idea who runs the Centre? Is it privately owned or funded by the government? For such an organization to remain secret for so long a time, they must have some sort of cover. They may be tied in with the syndicate of men I'm fighting against." "I guess we're alike in that respect; both searching for our family and our past while keeping a few steps ahead of those who want to stop us."

Mulder grinned. "Battling against the odds, refusing to give up. At least I have a partner. You have no one."

"I have some help. Sometimes you find it in the strangest places."

"So, how do you do it?"

"It's just a very advanced game of pretend, one with lives usually hanging in the balance."

**** Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots arrived at the INS offices and showed a picture of Jarod. "Agent Ellis. He left the scene after the arrest. There was another man asking for him there. FBI, I think," another agent told them.

"Do you know where he might have gone?" asked Parker.

"No, not really. Jarod was rather secretive. Secretive, but brilliant. Never would have thought Rawson capable of something like this. Jarod asked to be partnered with him, too. It was as if he knew."

"Yeah, a regular psychic." Miss Parker looked around the room. "Where's his desk?"

"I don't think. . ."

"You just might live longer that way. His desk?"

The agent showed them to Jarod's desk. There was nothing personal on it but Broots did find a notebook in the top drawer. It was basically composed of articles from this last pretend. There was nothing else there aside from pens, pencils, and other office implements.

"He knew this would be the end and cleared out the desk knowing we would be here," said Sydney.

"Thanks, Syd. I never would have guessed." Miss Parker turned to the agent again. "Do you have his address on file?"

"I can't give out personal information on our agents without authorization."

"This is not a good time to develop a backbone," said Miss Parker coldly.

"But, I can't--" he stammered.

"Perhaps you can call your superior so we can explain," said Sydney in an attempt to defuse the tension.

The phone on Jarod's desk rang and the agent answered it. "Yes, they're here. Yes. Yes, whatever you say." He hung up the phone. "Excuse me." He came back a few minutes later with the address written on a slip of paper. Miss Parker grabbed it from his hand and stalked out of the office. Sydney thanked him and followed. Broots just shrugged and tagged along. The agent shook his head at the strange trio and wondered what Ellis had done to deserve such a posse.

**** "So now they're trying to get you back before anyone finds out about you," said Mulder. "I guess they're a little late."

"No offense, Mulder, but I don't think many would take you seriously, not enough to stop what the Centre's doing."

"True. Most people at the FBI think I'm a nutcase, anyway. Sometimes even Scully questions my theories."


"You heard about that, eh? Seems I won't be able to shake it."

"But a lot of what you've seen has been true, hasn't it? As long as you know it."

"I've never had enough proof but that won't stop me from trying to discover the truth."

Jarod closed the silver case that contained the sims he had stolen from the Centre upon his departure. "I hope you find your sister, Mulder. I've really enjoyed speaking freely about this with someone, but I have to go before Miss Parker arrives."

"That's the same one you grew up with?"

"We were both lonely kids and needed a friend. As we got older, her father became a stronger influence on her, placing a wedge between us. Soon I was nothing more than a guinea pig to her. She has to bring me in to please Daddy."

"That's tough." Mulder stood. "Thanks for the info on this place. I'll have to file it away where no one else can see it. You know how to contact me if you want any help or come across anything that might interest me."

"Got it right here." Jarod pointed at his head. "Thanks for listening." They shook hands and Mulder left.

Jarod tossed some clothes into a bag then checked the room to make sure that there was nothing left behind to betray his next stop. He shut the door behind him and walked out of the building. He was about a block down when he heard squealing breaks. He turned to see Miss Parker step out of a car, her gun drawn and aimed in his direction. He ran down the street, legs pumping as fast as they could. He turned a corner and found himself in a dead end with nowhere to hide.

He looked back to the mouth of the alley to see Miss Parker standing there, a smug look on her face. "Finally, Jarod. You've nowhere to go but back to the Centre with me."

Jarod looked to either side of the alley. There was a fire escape but there was no way he could reach it before Miss Parker shot him. He slowly put down his bag and raised his hands. What else could he do now?

"Federal agent! Put down the gun!"

"You don't want to make me mad, mister," she said without taking her eyes off Jarod.

"You drew a gun on a friend of mine, so I may have an advantage on you."

Miss Parker looked at Jarod, who grinned. "You don't know who this man is," she said as she placed her gun on the ground, never taking her icy glare off Mulder.

"Oh, yes, I do. An innocent man being chased for something beyond his control. Now, put down the gun!" Miss Parker did so, looking beyond the agent to Broots and Sydney. Both men were unarmed and wouldn't dare go against a federal agent.

Jarod picked up his bag, walked past Miss Parker and gave her a mock salute. He then thanked Mulder before disappearing into the crowd.

"Do you know what you've done?"

"I just helped a man enjoy another few days of freedom, Miss Parker." She cocked an eyebrow. "Oh, yes, I know who you are and where you work." He gave her a lopsided grin. "Let me make you a little proposition. You forget you saw Jarod here today and I'll forget to file my report on what I saw. Interesting viewing, those DSAs." He stepped closer and picked up her gun, still keeping her covered with his. He stood and returned her gaze, completely unfazed. He spoke in a voice only she could hear. "Shouldn't be such a hard thing. After all, you could just pretend you were that little girl he used to know. I'm sure she wouldn't mind if he got away." He backed away and threw her gun deep into the alley. "Have a nice day." He smiled as she bit back an expletive before turning on her heel to search the alley for her gun.

Mulder put away his gun. Walking back to his car, he took out a copy of the photograph Jarod had given him. It was the only tie Jarod had to his past--his mother. Mulder had offered to help locate her again through FBI channels. The Centre wouldn't be monitoring him. He had to get back to Washington. He wasn't sure how much longer Scully could cover for him. At least they couldn't put him on anything more boring than standard background checks.


The phone in Mr. Raines' office rang and he answered it on the third ring, placing it on the speaker-phone. "I was wondering when you'd call. It seems we have trouble. An FBI agent met and spoke with Jarod in San Diego. It seems he knew everything about the project."

The voice on the phone was one that would not have surprised Mulder at all. It belonged to the man without a name, the Cigarette Smoking Man (Cancer Man to his enemies). "It has to be Mulder. He was missing for some time yesterday. Enough time for him to have gone to San Diego."

"As long as he makes no connection between us," said Raines.

"All links have been destroyed," said the CSM.

"So he knows nothing of his sister, the one you told us about?"

"No, he still believes she was taken because of aliens." He laughed derisively. "Just tell him what he wants to hear regarding Samantha and he'll find his own theories."

"Now that Jarod has a friend in the FBI, one that knows about the Centre, we have to keep a closer watch on the both of them," Raines wheezed.

"Mulder's phone calls, mail, and e-mail are monitored so we'll know if he contacts you pretender--or the other way around. We just might be able to get both our birds with one stone."

"Good. Just keep him out of our way." Raines disconnected the call and sat back, musing on the coincidence of the situation.


A few months after his meeting with Jarod, Mulder had taken up his case to fill his spare time. Scully, used to his "normal" obsessions regarded this as strange behavior. There was nothing whatsoever unexplained about the leads he was following. Whenever she would ask, he just said in that enigmatic way of his that it was a years-old missing person's case that intrigued him. She was surprised that he wouldn't tell her any more than that. Usually he was a bit more forthcoming.

Mulder was in his apartment searching on the Internet for any ties to Jarod's family--or even Jarod himself--when there was a knock on the door. He rushed over and opened it to see Scully. "Hey, c'mon in." He went back to the computer and left her to close the door. "What brings you here, Scully?"

"I was opening my mail and found this in an envelope. Addressed to you and marked 'Urgent'." She held out an envelope.

Mulder took it from her and saw his name scrawled on the face of it. Curious, he opened it quickly only to smile once he saw the name at the bottom. "He was afraid my mail might be intercepted so sent it through you."

"Who? And how did he know about me?" She sat on the couch.

"My missing person. I told him about you and I guess he just looked up the address." He clicked the mouse a few more times. "Ah, there she is." He jotted down the name and address of the woman mentioned in the article onscreen.

"Mulder, please, will you fill me in on what you're doing? This can't be a simple missing person case, not when you know the supposedly missing person."

"His name is Jarod and he was abducted when he was a child. He has no idea of what his last name is or even where he was born. He only has a photo of his mother and knows he has a younger sister named Emily. He saw them briefly in Boston a few years ago before, um, circumstances intervened." He switched off the computer.

"So you volunteered to help him."

"Scully, he does so much for other people, yet has no one to help him." He went into the bedroom.

"And you thought that because of Samantha, you understand his need," Scully called after him.

"I guess you could say that. Have any plans for the weekend?"

"Not really, why?"

Mulder emerged from the bedroom with an overnight bag. "We're off to New York." He grabbed a jacket from the arm of the couch. "We'll stop at your place on the way to the airport so you can pack a bag." He was out the door and didn't hear his partner's long-suffering sigh.

**** Miss Parker sat back in her chair, files open but unread on her desk. She still couldn't get Jarod out of her mind, and that little smile of his just before he got away in San Diego. They hadn't come that close again since. All because of that damned FBI agent. She had Broots check out the Bureau's personnel files and learned a name: Fox Mulder. His files marked him as a good agent who had a problem following orders from superiors. He had been brought up in front of a disciplinary board on more than one occasion. Just the sort of man that would prove a useful ally for Jarod.

There was a knock on the door and Sydney entered at her brusque invitation. "Another package from Jarod arrived today," he said, handing over the slim package. "Marked 'Fragile'."

Parker briefly noted Jarod's block print before ripping the box open. Inside, cushioned by so much bubble wrap, was a small crystal Christmas tree ornament in the shape of an angel. "Oh, this is just wonderful," she remarked caustically.

"Seems he's sending you a message."

"Please, don't say that this is supposed to represent me."

Sydney merely shrugged.

There was another knock on the office door. "What now?"

It was Broots. "We have a definite location on Jarod," he blurted. "It seems he got caught on camera."

"It seems Boy Wonder is slipping," said Parker, feeling better than she had for some time. "How did you find out?"

"I was monitoring different locations that had the time of problem that Jarod likes, and, well, I saw him on the 6:00 news out of New York."

"Christmas in New York City. I know *just* the present to get."

Broots saw the angel dangling from her hand. "Nice ornament."

With a growl, Parker put it down on the desk. "C'mon, we're going now. We've got to get to Jarod before he realizes he was on TV."


Jarod watched from outside the police line as the news crews captured the scene as the men in blue took away one of their own. No more kids were going to die doing his dirty work. He looked at his watch and knew that Mulder would be arriving soon. Satisfied at a job well done, Jarod turned and walked away and blended into the crowd.

Back at his apartment, he got some leftovers out of the fridge and had just taken a mouthful of sweet and sour chicken when the phone rang. He quickly swallowed and answered. "Hello?"

"Jarod, it's Mulder. Scully and I just arrived. We're at the Iroquois on East 44th."

"Scully came too?"

"Since you sent the note through her, she felt she had the right. I only gave her an outline of what's been happening. I also might have a lead for you."

"All right. We'll meet at the ice rink at Rockefeller Center in half an hour." Jarod replaced the receiver and quickly packed his belongings, making sure to leave a welcoming present for Miss Parker. Sure that he had everything, he left yet another apartment.


There was a knock on Scully's door. After peering through the peephole, she opened it for Mulder who was dressed in jeans, a bulky sweater and a leather jacket. "Bring your skates, Scully. We're off to Rockefeller Center."

"I haven't skated since college." She had changed into more casual wear before leaving Washington, but Mulder had a hard time trying to remember the last time he'd seen her in jeans. "I take it this is where we're to meet the mysterious Jarod."

"He needs to blend in. I don't think even the people chasing him would open fire in a crowd. C'mon, grab your coat. He asked us to meet him in half an hour."

Scully grabbed her overcoat and followed Mulder to the elevator. "You need to tell me more about what's going on here, Mulder. How can you risk your already tenuous position for someone you've only met once before?"

"I'll let Jarod tell you his story and I'm sure once you've heard it, you'll want to help him, too." He stopped while they were in the elevator and didn't start up again until they were walking briskly along the Avenue of the Americas. "I don't know. Maybe I do feel some sort of kinship with him, both of us searching for family."

"Did you ever think he could be part of some plan to set you up?"

Mulder let out a short laugh. "I thought I was the one seeing plots everywhere? No, he's for real, I'm sure of that. Though I wouldn't put it past our cigarette smoking friend and his cronies to know about this whole thing."

Scully saw a street vendor. "I'm going to get a hot chocolate. Want anything?"

"No. I'll go on ahead." Scully nodded and Mulder continued on to the skating rink. He zipped up his jacket a little closer to his neck and began to scan the crowd for Jarod.


Miss Parker kicked open the door to the apartment and entered, her gun searching for its target. Unfortunately, the apartment was empty of human life except for the three who had just entered. Facing the door, nailed into the wall were three red felt stockings which each of their names spelled out in glitter.

Miss Parker merely sighed and went to search the rest of the rooms. Broots approached the stockings and took his down. Inside was a wrapped package. He smiled to think that Jarod would even contemplate getting him a gift. He opened it to find an antique silver frame with a picture of him and his daughter, Debbie. Before, the idea of Jarod watching him would have scared him to death, but now it seemed almost comforting--in a guardian angel sort of way. "Are you going to look at yours, Sydney?"

The psychiatrist wandered over from the kitchen and took down his own stocking. "A little heavy," he remarked before removing a wrapped rectangle. Curious as to what his one-time protégé had gotten him, Sydney unwrapped the gift. It was a volume of Milton's "Paradise Lost".

Parker had returned in time to see the present. "Just because it's Christmas, are you going to let him get away?" No response. "Good. Then look for clues. He could be anywhere in this city."

"He left one for you, Miss Parker," said Broots hesitantly. "Aren't you going to. . ?"

"If it'll make you get to work." She took down the stocking and reached her hand inside. "What the--?" she said in disgust as she pulled out her hand and opened it. Resting in her palm was a lump of coal. She tossed it back into the stocking before going into the kitchen to wash her hands. While drying them, a flash of color caught her eye and she pushed aside the newspapers on the table. Underneath was a full-color spread on the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Somehow, she knew that's where he was.

She rushed out into the other room to hear Sydney lecturing Broots on Jarod's current behavior. ". . .And so, as he feels we are the people closest to him at the moment, he gave us these presents."

"Well, I think I know where we can find this 'jolly old elf'." She tossed the magazine at Broots. "Let's go."

They grabbed a taxi away from its customer and headed for Midtown. Once there, they split up and searched the crowd for Jarod. However, it was someone else Parker spied. She came up behind Mulder and pressed her gun into his back. "Hello again, Mr. G-man," she said with a snarl.

Mulder turned and saw the vision that had been haunting him for months. "Miss Parker, isn't it? How nice to see you again. What brings you to New York? 'Les Miz'? 'Cats'?"

"I'm here because of Jarod, just like you. Where is he?"

Sorry, I haven't seen him since San Diego. I'm here to take in the sights, maybe even the Rockettes." She applied a little pressure to his arm and he grunted. "This isn't how I pictured our reunion," he remarked.

"Careful, Parker," said Sydney as he and Broots quickly approached. "You don't want to draw attention to yourself."

"Fine, we'll escort him somewhere nice and quiet." The four walked away.


Jarod arrived just in time to see Miss Parker find Mulder. He witnessed their exchange and then watched as they took him away. Obviously, she wasn't satisfied with his answers. Jarod cast his eyes about trying to locate Scully. He knew what she looked like after having hacked into the FBI personnel files. There she was. He approached her carefully. "Dana Scully?"

She turned and looked at the man who had called her by name. He was handsome, in a dark--and possibly dangerous--sort of way. "You must be Jarod, Mulder's friend. I won't even ask how you knew me."

"It's best left that way. I'm afraid Mulder's been taken by the people who are after me. He insulted Miss Parker last time we met, and she doesn't forget very easily."

Scully reached for her holster instinctively before realizing where she was. "Why would they take Mulder? And where?"

"The why is easy. To get to me. As for the where, I've no idea. Follow me and we can talk somewhere more private."

He took Scully to a quiet coffee-shop and found a quiet table in a corner. She finished her hot He took Scully to a quiet coffee-shop and found a quiet table in a corner. She finished her hot chocolate in an attempt to stay calm. "Okay, Jarod. I want you to fill me in on everything. Mulder said you have a very persuasive story."

Jarod told her just as much as he had told Mulder. He knew that Scully would need more, however, but was afraid for her safety should she learn too much. He said as much to her.

"You haven't given me much to go on, Jarod. I mean, a secret organization that kidnaps gifted children and keeps them virtual prisoners? I need more."

"Some of the sims I did were later used for federal purposes."

"Where are these--DSA's? You could just be spinning this tale to get me to help you."

"They have your partner."

"But I can't know for sure where you fit in until I can see for myself."

"I put them in a locker at a train station. That's why I was late." Scully looked at him, still unsure of his story. "Before we do anything else, we should find out how Mulder's doing."

Scully pulled out her cell phone, looking straight at Jarod as she dialed. The phone rang a number of times and Mulder answered, his voice faint. Guessing the others were listening she began. "Mulder, where are you? I've been calling your apartment all evening."

"I'm in New York, Scully. Following up a lead. I should be back to work on Monday. Was it important?"

"Skinner was looking for you. I might be able to put him off the scent for a few days, if you're lucky. Don't get into any trouble, okay?"

"You know me."

"Unfortunately, I do." She turned off the phone. "He sounds all right, but I think your friends were listening in."

"I'm sure they were." Jarod took out his own phone and began to dial.

"Who are you calling?"

"I'm going to get the ball rolling. They would, if they knew how to contact me. Hello, Sydney," he said into the phone. "I hope you're treating your guest well."

"Yes, we've convinced her to go a bit easy on him. He may be a little bruised, but he's none the worse for wear."

There was a muffled sound on the other end before he heard Miss Parker's voice. "Where are you, you little deviant?"

"Now, Miss Parker, that's not the tone of the season. No wonder you got coal."

"Now you listen to me, Jarod. I've got your friend here and he's in one piece--for now. The longer you make me wait. . ."

"There's no need to interrogate Mulder. He only knew the phone number to my apartment, and I know you've already been there." He glanced at Scully who had a look of disbelief on her face.

"I want you and the DSAs and then we'll let Mulder go." Parker was barely keeping her temper in check. "Grand Central Terminal by Central Information in--" there was a pause "an hour. None of your tricks, Jarod, or you'll lose a friend."

Jarod shut off the phone. "They want to trade Mulder for me and the DSAs."

"You knew their number? And you wonder why I'm having a hard time with this."

"I trust Sydney. Even though he works for the Centre, he doesn't share the same beliefs. He's helped me on a number of occasions. I think we have him to thank for Mulder's freedom from broken bones." He grinned. "Besides, what better way than to taunt them?"


Mulder tentatively touched the inside of his lip with his tongue and tasted blood. The look on her face while talking with Jarod was priceless. He certainly knew exactly what buttons to push. He thought back on Scully's phone call. It was to check on his condition, he knew that. He wondered how well she was getting along with Jarod--if at all. It took him some time to believe Jarod's story; he could only imagine Scully's reaction. He also hoped that Jarod had something up his sleeve when it came to this trade. He wouldn't want to be responsible for him getting caught again.

From his talk with Jarod, Mulder knew that he thought of Sydney as a father figure. After all, he was the man that taught him all the things a father would; the man he went to for advice. But what were Sydney's feelings towards Jarod? Did he love him like a son or was he just some part of a clinical study? Mulder liked to think the former. When Jarod called, Sydney didn't seem the least bit surprised.

He then looked at the other man, Broots. It was hard to guess his age due to a receding hairline; he could be anywhere from his late 30s to early 40s. He had "computer geek" written all over him. With Jarod doing much of his work and research on the net, it was only logical to have someone man the computer. He was also deathly afraid of Miss Parker. It was obvious in the way he acted and stuttered when she looked at him.

As for Miss Parker herself, she seemed very cold and unforgiving. She was out to get Jarod and she didn't care who got hurt along the way--he had the bruises to prove it. Based on what he had heard from Jarod, she had been a friend when they were two lonely kids growing up. She had even been his first kiss. After her mother's murder (Jarod had been told his father had been responsible), with no feminine touch, she became Daddy's girl, working to be the best in order to get his approval. Almost typical, really. Jarod said he had been gradually making her aware of the lies her father had been telling her, of what was really going on at the Centre. Should she believe her father or the man she had been taught to think of as nothing more than a lab rat?

Mulder attempted to stretch but was still in some pain from his "interrogation". He knew Sydney was his best bet. "Any chance of a bite to eat? Maybe some water?"

Miss Parker heard his request. "Why should we bother? You only have an hour to wait."

"It's not like I'm asking for a gourmet meal. Some crackers'll do me fine."

"After our last meeting you expect me to feed you?"

"You've more than made up for that," Mulder said as he gently touched his tender face.

Broots reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a packet of peanuts. "Um, here you go." He opened it and handed it to Mulder.

"Thanks, Broots." He shook a few into his hand then tossed them into his mouth. "Don't have any sunflower seeds in there, do you?" Broots shook his head. "Can't have everything, I guess."

"You'd better hope that Jarod keeps this appointment, G-man, or you just might be traveling with us."

"Do you think that wise, Miss Parker? He is a federal agent," said Sydney as he handed Mulder a glass of water.

"He knows about the Centre, Syd, and he's the type who'd talk. I'm sure Daddy can come up with a cover story."

"I don't think it will come to that," Sydney said assuredly. "Jarod won't let anything happen to a friend."

Mulder noticed the slight emotion that tinged his voice and knew he had to be from experience.


Parker and Mulder walked into Grand Central looking to all intents and purposes as a couple. They had touched up his face with makeup powder to cover the bruises. She had her arm wrapped tightly around his and, he knew, she could probably break it in one swift move. They headed for the main concourse and, if anyone was in hearing, she acted as if he were going away on a trip. Up close she whispered threats in his ear.

"It's no good threatening me, Miss Parker. When would I have had time to plan something?" he asked, a fake smile planted on his face.

"Just want you to know where things stand, G-man."

"There was never any doubt."

Sydney and Broots had wandered in on their own and were searching for any sign of Jarod. They soon walked over and joined Miss Parker. "He's not here, Sydney. Didn't you teach him how to tell time?"

"He already knew how." Sydney checked his watch against the clock above the information booth. "We're a little early, anyhow."

Mulder spotted Jarod as he approached from the 42nd Street entrance, case in hand. Mulder raised his eyebrows in question and Jarod gave him a subtle nod to make him aware that there was a plan.

Jarod strode right up to them. "Season's Greetings." Sydney smiled openly, Broots gave a nervous half-smile, while Miss Parker just glowered. "Get in any Christmas shopping?"

"I'm about to take home the ideal present right now." She loosened her hold on Mulder and reached for her gun."

"Not smart to wave a gun around in a public place, Miss Parker," admonished Mulder. "Unnecessary attention. Just the thing you want to avoid."

She glared at Mulder to warn him to keep his mouth shut. "Okay, Jarod, let's get this over with."

"Let's. Mulder walks out of here and once he's a sufficient distance away, I'll walk towards you. This is the way it goes or no deal. You chose the site, least I can do is choose how it goes."

"This isn't a duel, Jarod,"

"But it is, Sydney, a duel of wits. Do we have an agreement, Miss Parker?"


Scully was amazed at how quickly Jarod organized his plan. Could this be the way he had wanted it to go all along? She was still a little unsure of his motives, but if he could help rescue Mulder, she would wait until he did something to prove her suspicions.

When they walked into Grand Central, Jarod pointed out his pursuers to her. She nodded and they split up. She blended into the crowd and came around to the others from behind. She edged closer and listened to their exchange while pretending to study the schedule for the Metro North line. She watched out of the corner of her eye and it looked like Jarod was the one making all the calls. It was a strange trio he was meeting: two men and a woman. The woman could only be the Miss Parker Jarod had told her about.

She then examined Mulder. She could see some bruising on his face and his lip looked to have been cut. Other than that, he didn't look too unhappy with the woman's closeness.

"Do we have an agreement, Miss Parker?" she heard Jarod ask.

Parker reluctantly agreed and released Mulder and whispered something in his ear. Mulder must have found it amusing for he gave her one of his grins before walking towards Jarod. Mulder stopped and they exchanged words before Jarod urged him to continue on.

"Is that far enough?" demanded Miss Parker.

Jarod took a quick peek over his shoulder and saw that Mulder was far enough away to be safe. "That should be just fine." He walked towards the trio.

The speakers went down the list of recent arrivals and those soon to depart.

Parker grabbed the case from his hand and passed it to the younger of the two men. "Check it, Broots. We don't want to be the taken in by one of Jarod's tricks." She never took her eyes off Jarod who just stood there.

Broots opened the case and examined the discs. "All here, Miss. Parker." He closed the case and carried it by his side.

Scully knew her cue had come. She rushed past Broots, "accidentally" bumping into him, sending his case, and her own identical one, flying. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm usually not this clumsy. I just don't want to miss my train."

"Oh, that's all right. No damage done." Broots helped her stand. Parker and Sydney looked to see what was causing the disturbance. Jarod slipped away into the crowd.

She picked up her case--Jarod's case--and merged into the throngs heading for the lower level.

Parker realized Jarod had done it again and swore under her breath. It would take too long to check all the trains and they could easily miss him in the crowd. At least she had the DSAs. Unless. . . "Broots, check the case."


"Check. The. Case."

He did as he was told only to find an early edition of A Christmas Carol nestled inside some Styrofoam. He gulped and showed it to her.

"Another present," she said through gritted teeth.

"One with a message," added Sydney.

"Is Jarod taking on the responsibility of the three ghosts?" Parker asked sarcastically.

"No. I think he had help. I would guess he sees himself as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Mulder could be the Ghost of Christmas Present."

"And the third?" asked Broots.

"This is just a hunch, but that redhead who bumped into Broots was part of Jarod's plan. She could be Mulder's partner, the one who called his cell phone."

"Wonderful. Just wonderful." Another cold Christmas in Delaware and she didn't mean the temperature. She headed outside via the 45th Street exit. Silently, Sydney and Broots followed.


Scully caught up with Mulder at the Oyster Bar. "You all right?" she asked.

"I've been better." He took a swig of his drink. "Want anything?"

"No, thanks."

"Did Jarod get away?"

"I think so. We arranged a slight diversion." She told him. "I stowed the case in one of the lockers for him to retrieve later."

"You believed his story then? At least I got to slip him that address I found off the net."

"Definitely an interesting story, yes. It took me some time before I truly believed him." She was quiet for a moment. "He must have had information for you as well or he wouldn't have tried to arrange the meeting."

"At least he knows how to get in touch with me should he wish to try again." He finished his drink and left his money on the bar. "C'mon, Scully. I've had enough of the Big Apple for one day."

Smiling, she followed.


Jarod retrieved the key from the hiding place he had told Scully about then opened the locker and got the case. Scully had proved to be quite the actress. She and Mulder made an interesting team despite--or perhaps because of--their different views. The Powers That Be in the FBI had originally partnered them so she would "debunk" the X-Files and Mulder's theories. That plan had backfired and the two had jelled into a loyal team. He looked at the paper Mulder had given him at the exchange. Could this be his sister? He remembered that conspiracy paper that Mulder talked about and the three men who ran it: The Lone Gunmen. He'd wait a few days before attempting to contact him again. Maybe once he got settled with his new "pretend".

He headed for the trains and, ticket in hand, called Miss Parker.

"What?" she growled.

"It was lovely seeing you again, Miss Parker. Too bad we had to cut this trip short."

"Jarod." The venom in her voice could down an elephant. "Recruiting friends to help you now? Can't do it alone?"

"We all need friends to help, Miss Parker. We also need family. Especially at this time of year. Though, in your case, maybe you'd be better off without family."

"At least I have one to ignore."

"If the Centre hadn't taken me away, I'd be with my family now and not talking with you. There's no need to be mad at me. I'm a victim as much as you."

"Taking on the role of martyr now, Jarod? It's not very fitting."

"You've sacrificed your personal life to be what your father wants. You're more the martyr than I am, Miss Parker." With that he turned off the phone, leaving her something to think about. What she did with that knowledge was up to her. Hopefully, it would make more of a difference in her approach to life.

Whistling "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", he boarded the train.