Author's Note: This could take place at potentially any point in the course of the series, though I'd like to think it's after Island of the Haunted. It contains no spoilers.
She calls Jarod from a little one-room number on a teeny tiny island a few miles off some South Pacific coast. She's been staying there 'for her health', or so they told her. She's fairly sure it's to keep her out of the way for a while. She wants to know what's going on. She asks, but the voice on the phone cuts a sharp question in answer. It's the game they've always played, and it's familiar, unlike the creaking floorboards of this little… beach resort.
She hangs up the phone. The trees behind the house rustle in the ocean breeze, and the wind whistles down the chimney like a ghost whenever there's a gust. There's a soft knock at the door, and she panics. She takes her gun with her and looks through the peeper. He's standing on the porch, looking directly at her. He doesn't smile or wave; he just waits until she opens the door.
"I thought you might like some company," he says as she steps aside to let him in.
"I'm fine, thanks," she sneers.
"It's going to storm," he comments. He holds up a paper bag. "I brought some instant cement. This place looks pretty leaky."
"What are you doing here?"
He sets the bag on the table. "Like I said, I thought you might like some company."
Truth be told, she hasn't seen another living soul in four days and, while it was nice at first, being totally alone on a private island got old pretty damn fast. "To do what? Watch idiotic movies and talk about 'the good old days'?"
"I've still got time to leave if you'd rather sit through a sea storm alone."
She pinches the bridge of her nose. "Whatever." It's just a stupid storm. She doesn't want to outright kick him out when he came here knowing that taking him back to the Centre is one of the two things that make up her entire life, but he doesn't need to know that she's actually relieved he's here. Ever since her mother's murder, anything that sounds like a gunshot is sure to wake her, and storms are the worst.
It's late, though, and that second glass of wine has made her a bit drowsy.
"Is it okay if I use your couch?" he asks, giving her that grateful smile that makes her want to kick a puppy.
"Fine." She waves a hand toward a small freestanding cupboard in the corner. "Blankets are in there."
"Thanks," he says to her back.
Parker walks into the bedroom, shuts the door, and climbs under the covers. She wonders if there's really going to be a storm, or if Jarod is just screwing with her head.
Someone's shouting and shaking her awake. She realises she's the one shouting, after a moment, and she sits up. She's sweating, and her hair is sticking to her forehead and her neck. Jarod's sitting on his knees next to her bed. She can hear the storm beating against the walls. Another crack of thunder startles her.
"It's okay," he says. "It's just a storm."
She's breathing heavily. "I was… it was a nightmare, that's all."
"I fixed a couple of leaks before the storm got really bad, but the rest of them will have to wait." He stands. "And the power's out, so I unplugged pretty much everything. I hope you weren't going to use your alarm in the morning."
She slumps back down to the pillow as he walks away.
She's pretty sure she didn't even fall asleep before the next loud thunderclap. Jarod shakes her awake again, and this time he doesn't say anything. He just sits there while she tries to calm her heart rate and not fall asleep again.
"I'm supposed to be taking you prisoner, and here you are saving me from my idiotic nightmares," she scoffs. She could really use a cigarette right now.
"They're not idiotic," he tells her almost immediately. " 'Troubled souls cannot escape nightmares.' "
"Waxing poetic there, Shakespeare?"
"I read it in a book."
She shifts as far as she can toward the wall. An invitation. "You tell a soul, yours will be troubled indeed."
He climbs up next to her, but he stays on top of the covers. They lay facing each other for a long while, but it's too dark to see except by the brief flashes of lightning that illuminate everything in lavender and periwinkle.
"There was a storm, a few weeks after I escaped," he says without preamble. "I hid in the basement all night."
"Afraid of a little rain?"
"I'd been in imaginary storms during my simulations, but the storm was always a factor. A variable. This was only a storm. No simulation, no other variables." He's silent for a beat and a half. "It was terrifying."
The storm rages outside. A flash of lightning tells them both that nobody's sleeping in this house.
"My mom," she says simply. He doesn't prompt her to elaborate, but eventually, she does. "Ever since her death, I've never been able to sleep through a thunderstorm. The claps wake me up."
"Like gunshots," he says.
She nods. He can't see her, but he hears her hair rustle against the pillow.
The lightning flashes again, and Jarod sees the little girl he used to know, the princess who dared to be friends with a prisoner. "Do you remember—"
"Yes," she interrupts before she can stop herself. It's true, of course—she hasn't forgotten any of it—but she kicks herself for not at least letting him finish his question.
They don't say anything more and, after a few hours, the storm passes and Parker falls asleep. When she wakes up, he's fixed whatever leaks were exposed by the storm, left her a short note to that point, and vanished. Down the beach, an engine backfires like a gunshot, and Parker thinks that maybe she's outgrowing this game.
The next time there's a storm, he calls her. She'll never admit it aloud, never tell another soul, but it's his voice that keeps her sane during those dark nights when the world is crashing in around her and she's not sure who she is. You run, I chase.