Disclaimer: 'The Pretender and its characters are the property of TNT and NBC Productions. I do not own them, nor do I own the song 'What Child is This'. I'm writing this story for entertainment purpose only. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's note: I wrote this story after season 3. I'm a huge Miss Parker/Jarod shipper, but this story didn't lend itself to be a true romantic one. It's more about the emotional bond they share.
English is not my native/first language. If you find an annoying writing error in this story, please email me (instead of mentioning it in a review) and I will correct it immediately. Thank you!
Memories to Cherish
The burning fire in the fire place cast a glow on every object in the cozy looking room. On the Christmas tree in the corner, decorated with colorful balls and a Christmas angel on top. On the dinner table, set with a white linen tablecloth, a grey runner, two candles, crystal, china and silver that sparkled by the light.
And on the figure sitting on the couch. Though the glow brought a soft radiance over her face, it could not smooth away the icy expression in the depths of her dark eyes and the sharp twist to her mouth. Her shoulders were slightly pulled up. Despite of the heat that was emitted by the fire, she felt cold, as cold as a person could be.
As a shiver ran down her spine, she promptly emptied her Scotch at a draught, letting a different source of warmth spread through her body. This was a nicer warmth, because this one made her forget. Forget everything she wanted to forget, every horrendous memory of her life.
It wasn't until she heard little children's voices outside her oak door that Miss Parker realized it was in vain. She could never forget. The song they were singing, made that very clear to her.
What Child is this who laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet
While Shepherds watch are keeping
Tears welled up as the memories flashed before her eyes. They caught her off guard, making her body wince as if it was in pain. And in fact it was, only this pain was much deeper and could not so easily be cured.
A whisper. That single word that still caused so much distress after all those years. Miss Parker closed her eyes in a moment of grief, shrinking for the memories, while an expression of intense sorrow came over her face. The memories were so painful, reminding her of what she'd lost and would never regain.
No, she could never forget, because everything reminded her of her mother and of her gruesome fate. A name, a book they'd read together, an event, a song… 'What Child is This.' That Christmas song was one of her mother's favorites. Miss Parker could still remember the times they spent sitting at the fireside, singing and eating roast chestnuts.
It was only because her mother loved Christmas that much, that Miss Parker had taken the effort to decorate her house. It was only to honor her mother's memory that she kept the Christmas spirit in her house alive. If it had been up to her, she had probably spent these days with the curtains closed and in bed. No one was going to miss her anyway.
Miss Parker stared at the little package in front of her on the table. It was still wrapped, although Christmas Eve was almost over. Debby had given it to her just before her father and she left the Centre to catch their plane. They were going skiing that holiday.
Her pretty little face radiated with pride as she came up to Miss Parker.
'I have something for you.'
Miss Parker turned around; her face betrayed surprise. 'For me?'
'Yes, for you.' Debby took out a small package from behind her back. 'I've wrapped it up myself.'
'It's beautiful, Debby,' Miss Parker said warmly, 'Thank you.'
The girl grinned from ear to ear. 'You can't open it until Christmas. You have to promise that.'
Miss Parker smiled, infected by Debby's enthusiasm. 'Of course I promise. I will give it a special place under my Christmas tree, okay?'
Instead of answering, Debby threw her arms around a bewildered Miss Parker. "Merry Christmas, Miss Parker. I hope you will have a wonderful time.'
Miss Parker, being slightly emotional by the gesture, only whispered: 'Merry Christmas to you too, Debby.' Then, after finding her composure again, she continued: 'And make sure that your father doesn't break his neck.'
Broots and Debby weren't the only ones leaving. Sydney was going to spend Christmas with his son. Their first Christmas together. Despite Centre's efforts to keep them separated, they had found each other and now nothing could keep them apart.
A smile curled upon her lips as she remembered his enthusiasm as well as his anticipation the day before he left to see his son.
'Already packed, Syd?' Miss Parker entered his room without knocking. She caught him staring at a picture taken at the school his son worked. It was his first picture of his son and him. A rare warm smile played at the corners of her mouth. 'You must be very excited.'
Sydney looked up to her. His eyes were watery by tears he'd tried to push back. It startled her.
'Syd, are you alright?'
He heaved a deep sigh to get his feelings under control again. 'Yes, I was just thinking. He's already an adult man and this is going to be our first Christmas together. Our first. I've missed all the previous ones. Such a major part of his life. And why?' His voice could not hide the grudge he had against the Centre for keeping him away from his son.
Miss Parker took the photo out of his hand and absent-mindedly stared at the man's face. 'He looks so much like you, Sydney. He has the same serious expression and the same light in his eyes. He's your son and no one will ever take that away from you. You have missed his past, but at least you are there for him now and in the future. That must count for something.'
The bitterness in his eyes disappeared, they became soft again. 'You are right. I should be happy with what I have.' He took hold of her hand and gave it a squeeze. ' Thank you for reminding me of that.'
'You're welcome." Miss Parker smiled again, relieved that Sydney had returned to his usual self. 'Enjoy your weekend Syd. I'll see you next week.'
'Miss Parker?' he asked before she could leave his room.
She turned around. 'Yes, Syd?'
'What are you going to do with Christmas?'
His question took her by surprise. She could not look him in the eyes, afraid that she would be unable to hide the truth from him. 'I'm going to spend it with my father of course.'
Her voice lacked confidence. She didn't need to look at Sydney; he could clearly 'read' the answer in the tone of her voice. He realized that she had no idea whether her father would be home or not.
Instead of pursuing the matter, and make things even harder for her, Sydney stood up and walked over to her. 'Merry Christmas, Miss Parker.' He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently kissed her on the forehead.
Miss Parker looked at him in surprise, then in an impulse wrapped her arms around him and embraced him briefly. 'Merry Christmas to you too, Sydney.'
Sydney had left as well. The Centre, already the coldest place in the entire world, had become unbearable to her and she had left earlier to go home. However, at home she didn't find the warmth she searched for either. The Christmas tree she had decorated the day before looked bare, the set table cheerless and the big red socks at the fireplace childish. The shine was taken off everything, as she didn't have someone to share it with. She was alone again this Christmas. Alone.
'The story of my life.'
Miss Parker pensively stared at the phone in her hand. 'Don't kill the messenger.' Ten minutes ago she certainly felt the tendency to kill though. Her father's secretary had called to tell her that her father was held up somewhere and was not going to make it on time to celebrate Christmas with her.
'He didn't even have the guts to tell me himself. He let his secretary call.'
At that moment squeezing the last breath out of the secretary's body did seem very appealing to her. Miss Parker tried to shake that thought off of her, but she couldn't help feeling that way. It wasn't the first time her father had let her down like that. Last Christmas he'd done it as well, calling her to say he couldn't make it. Now of all times she needed her father to be there for her, to fill the void her mother's death had left her.
The only bright spot of that Christmas was the present she'd received right after her father's call. Sadness and disappointment made place for surprise and delight as she opened the package and found a snow-white bunny in it. She'd known it was a gift of Jarod, and normally his presents had a reasonable annoying factor, but this one was an exception. The warm and fluffy fur of the bunny against her tear-stained cheek made her forget for a moment that she was alone. Jarod had managed to make that Christmas not such a disaster as she had expected it to be.
Miss Parker wondered where Jarod was on this special night. If he was alone just like she was or if he was celebrating Christmas with his newfound family. A twinge of jealousy surged through her.
'Even if he's not with his family, at least he has people who love him. That's more than I can say.'
Miss Parker stood up and walked to the fireplace. Her favorite photo of her mother and her was standing on the mantelpiece. She picked up the photo and tenderly traced her mother's features. Her eyes filled with tears.
"It's hard celebrating Christmas without the people you love, isn't it?" His dark voice suddenly came out of nowhere.
Miss Parker gave a visible start. She quickly put back the photo and turned around. "Jarod!"
Jarod in person stepped out of the shadow into the light of the fire. "Hello, Miss Parker."
Miss Parker peered around, looking for her gun.
"You left it in your bedroom, remember?"
She turned back to him, her eyes were flashing. "What the hell are you doing here, Jarod? Don't you ever get sick of playing games with me?"
"No. Just like you don't get sick of chasing me around and keeping me away from my family." He sighed. This conversation, predictably as it was, was not going into the right direction. "This is not what I came for."
"And that is?" she lashed out.
He stared at her. His look was piercing and, no matter how much she tried to deny it, it made her feel uncomfortable. Just when the silence became almost unbearable, Jarod answered softly: "I just wanted to make sure that you were alright, not alone tonight."
Miss Parker saw the compassion in his eyes, heard the sincerity in his voice. After everything the Centre had done to him, after everything she'd done to him, he still had the same compassion for her as when they were just children. His tender words confused her; they brought about conflicted feelings in her that she did not dare to define.
Shaking her head, desperately trying not to let her emotion show on her face, she said coldly: "What made you think that I would be alone tonight?"
"Because I knew your father would let you down again, just like he did last year."
She gasped. She did not know what made her more furious: Jarod spitting in her private life or Jarod knowing more about her father's intentions than she did. "My father had important business to attend to."
Jarod raised an eyebrow. "More important than his own daughter?"
Miss Parker shot him a withering glance. "No, of course not. He just had to…It was just…" She was searching desperately for words, fighting against the first signs of doubt. But the words died on her lips as she was unable to defend her father any longer. With a deep sigh she fell on her couch. "…more important than me."
Her voice was unusually soft, barely a whisper. Jarod heard it nevertheless. His heart wrenched at the defeated sound. He sat down next to her on the couch and shot her a sympathizing look. It wasn't until then that he realized how beautiful she looked. Her dark hair fell in curls on her shoulders. The black dress she was wearing went beyond his wildest dreams. It was tight, showing her slim figure, with thin spaghetti straps running over her back. He'd never seen her more beautiful than that night, but knowing that she had dressed up especially for her father, made him feel even more sorry for her.
"I know what it's like, Miss Parker, not to be able to spend the most important days with the people you love. In that way we're not so different."
Jarod gently placed his hand on hers. He felt her freeze, but she didn't withdraw her hand. Miss Parker was surprised at her reaction to his touch. Normally this would never have happened, but something about this night made everything different. She suddenly felt this need, this longing for someone who would fight her demons with her, who would chase away the loneliness that had become such a big part of her life. She just never thought that Jarod would be that person.
Then again, why wouldn't it be him? After all, Jarod had always been there for her. When her mother died he had tried to reach out to her, to comfort her. When Tommy died they had fought side by side to find the person responsible for his death. Unlike others, he had never tried to deceive her, never tried to do her harm.
Miss Parker looked up to him. Their eyes connected. Jarod's were filled with love and understanding. But also sadness. An emotion that had settled in his eyes after he'd escaped the Centre. He was sad for being alone, for being kept away from his family.
Miss Parker's eyes betrayed suspicion, but most of all bitterness and loneliness. Jarod knew that these feelings originated from her mother's death. He knew what a huge impact it had had on her life, both as a little girl as well as an adult woman. The sorrow was still so rough and Miss Parker had a long way to go to give that pain a special place in her heart.
In an impulse, in an attempt to take away that pain in her eyes, Jarod fingerly caressed her cheek and smoothed an errant strand of hair back from her face. "I wanted to give you something to make you see that we're not so different," he said softly. Out of his pocket he took a small package and handed it over to Miss Parker.
"For me?" Miss Parker asked slightly confused, still feeling the burning sensation of his hand on her cheek. Slowly she ripped off the packing paper. A sigh escaped her lips as she looked at the little statue Jarod had made for her. It was professionally cut out of wood, with the outmost precision: a little girl holding a bunny with a boy standing next to her. Miss Parker clearly recognized her and Jarod in the children sharing something very special. It was a scene of ages ago, one that Miss Parker had almost forgotten about.
Miss Parker was watching a couple of rabbits in a big hutch when all of a sudden Jarod walked into the room.
"You're Miss Parker, aren't you?"
A shy expression appeared in her eyes. She was obviously afraid of something or someone. "I didn't know anyone was here. Please, don't tell anyone I was here."
"No, wait!" Jarod called after her as Miss Parker ran to the door. He did not want to see her leave. "Why did you come?"
Her face lightened up. "My momma let me see the rabbits when I was here. I want one, but my father won't let me have pets at home."
"We've been studying them. They're three sets of twins. Now watch." Jarod pulled the handle and the partitions that separated the rabbits, went down. "They've never been together before, but somehow the ones that are genetically identical just seem to find each other."
And indeed. The white rabbits came together as well as the brown ones and the black ones. "Like something inside them draws them together. You see?" Jarod picked up one of the rabbits and placed it in the arms of little Miss Parker. "They're soft."
Miss Parker's whole face radiated with joy. Carefully so she wouldn't hurt the animal, she held the rabbit close to her. Just for a moment, because all of a sudden they both heard a door being slammed. Someone was coming their way!
Immediately Miss Parker gave the rabbit back to Jarod. She looked at him one more time - Jarod could see sheer panic in her eyes - then she ran away.
The face of the girl was an exact copy of hers so long ago. Her radiant smile and her eyes that sparkled with excitement made Miss Parker almost feel as if the girl was alive.
"Jarod, why…?" She looked up, only to find him not there. Jarod was gone. He'd disappeared into the night again, alone just like she was, looking for someone to love and to be loved. Jarod was right. They were so much the same. Just like those rabbits they were prisoners of their own lives, but something inside of them drew them together as if they knew they were the same. They both craved for love, but were held back by the Centre in finding their happiness.
Jarod had come to her that night to give her a token to remind her that no matter what the Centre did to them, despite of all the lies and deception, it would never be able to destroy the passion that filled both their hearts. Once they had been happy, together as children. Jarod had showed her that some memories were worth cherishing.
"Thank you Jarod," Miss Parker whispered.
She stared at the little figure in her hand. Slowly tears ran down her cheeks. She cried for the girl she thought she'd lost, but instead was only hidden deep in her heart, so very close, waiting to be released again. Maybe now the first step was taken.
I hope you enjoyed my story. Let me know what you think of it. Just remember that this is my first Pretender fanfic, so please be kind. I can take criticism, as long as it's serious and well founded. Thanks! - Karin -