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Author's note: 'Precious Moments' is mainly told from Miss Parker's point of view. It's a rather dark story. Though it is a Miss Parker/Jarod romance they won't have many scenes together - until close to the end, that is. You've been warned...
By Miss Bit
The long corridors of the Centre seemed deserted as Miss Parker was walking aimlessly through the vast building. Actually she should have returned home a long while ago but there was nothing there that was attracting her.
Without haste she walked from one long floor to the other, lost in thought. Down here, where there were no windows, time began to lose its importance. The light was always the same - artificial, cold - so that there was neither day nor night.
Miss Parker decided to take the stairs instead of the lift when she returned to the first floor. The stairwell was as good as unused, looked as sterile as the rest of the Centre. There was rarely someone going to the trouble of climbing up or down the long flights of stairs.
She left the stairwell and entered the large entrance hall. When she saw that the moon had already risen she cast a look at her watch. Almost midnight. Time to go home.
But before she could leave the Centre there was something left for her to do. Quickening her pace by taking long, powerful strides she went to her office, picking up the folder that was lying on her desk. Her father had asked her for this report and she wanted to get it to his office so that he could read it first thing in the morning.
It didn't take her long to reach his office. When she got there she realized with some surprise that a narrow streak of light was coming from under the door, lighting the darker corridor. Miss Parker's eyes narrowed. Who on earth could be in her father's office at so late a time? And why would someone be in there? A quick gesture reassured her that her gun was at its usual place. She took the folder in her left hand and pushed the heavy door open.
Astonished, she looked at her father, who was sitting behind his desk in the dim light of a small lamp. He looked up and flashed her a smile.
"You appear to be surprised. Who else did you expect?"
She shook her head very slightly.
"I thought you had long gone home", she replied steadily. Then she let the door fall closed behind her and walked over to him.
"Hm, I had some more work to do", he explained, casting a look at several folders lying on his desk. Miss Parker inspected him worriedly. He didn't look good.
"Here, I wanted you to have the report you've asked me for", she said. Her father accepted the manila folder with a curt nod.
"I didn't expect you to finish it this soon", he said in a rather strange voice. Miss Parker tilted her head to the sight, smiling faintly.
"It's not that I had anything else to do", she remarked softly. She hadn't meant it as a reproach, still her father looked up, his eyes clouded with guilt. He reached out his hand to her. Miss Parker stepped up to him and took it.
"How is your shoulder?" her father wanted to know. She almost allowed herself to believe that there was genuine worry in his voice. Her gaze briefly swept to the sling she still had to wear, then she looked back to her father.
"Much better. Actually I hardly notice it anymore."
He nodded, but it seemed somewhat absently to her. His gaze was still resting on her, and he blinked a few times before he continued to speak.
"You're looking tired, love. Are you feeling well?"
Miss Parker looked at her father with a combination of astonishment and warmth. It had been a long time since they had shared an intimate moment like that without being interrupted by someone. Her father seemed to be in a strange mood this night, and in spite of all she had gone through because of him she was worried about him now. Whatever had happened and whatever he had done - he still was her father.
"I'm fine, Daddy. I'm just lacking a bit sleep, that's all." She peered at him more closely. He looked tired as well; right now he was looking much older than his age. Miss Parker noticed new lines in his face. There was an expression in his eyes she hadn't seen there in a long time. Not since her mother had died. "What about you?"
Her voice had a much warmer tone to it now. He squeezed her hand, and Miss Parker felt that she was experiencing one of the rare moments when she felt a bond with her father.
"I'm feeling well", he said softly, shutting his eyes for a moment. A muscle was briefly twitching in his face. When he looked at her again he smiled reassuringly. She knew it was a fake smile but she didn't take it amiss for he was only trying to calm her.
"Why don't you go home? You look as though you could use some rest. And I'm sure Brigitte would be glad to see more of you, especially now."
The sincerity of her words surprised Miss Parker herself. At every other time they would have sounded like a bad joke, letting her pain about the latest developments in her family flare up again, but at the moment they were an expression of her worry.
Once again the muscle in her father's cheek was twitching as he returned her gaze.
"Oh, I don't know. I think Brigitte is quite happy to have me out of the house. You know, pregnant women can be a bit... difficult at times."
His voice trailed off and he shrugged helplessly. Miss Parker stifled a sigh.
"Was it difficult with Mom as well?" she had asked before she could stop herself. With some surprise she noticed an unusual gleam that lit up his eyes for a few moments while he was remembering happier times.
"Oh no", he answered ardently, shaking his head. "Catherine was so happy and she shared her joy with me." He fell silent; his gaze became void for some time. "She never regarded her pregnancy as a burden."
Not for the first time Miss Parker had the feeling that Brigitte was but a poor substitute for her mother. She pushed the thought away and decided to change the subject. There was something she had wanted to mention to her father for some days now. This moment might be more favorable than the next morning.
"Daddy?" Gently, she freed her hand from his, putting it on his shoulder. "Can I talk to you?"
He returned from the world of his memories, giving her slight smile.
"Of course, Angel. What is it about?"
Miss Parker hesitated. He wouldn't like this.
"How is Jarod? Did he calm down a bit?"
"Mhm. Raines sedated him. But that's none of your worries anymore." Her father looked at her searchingly. "Jarod is now safely back in the arms of the Centre. Your task is accomplished." Sudden understanding gleamed in his eyes, and Miss Parker hurried to anticipate his next question.
"No, this isn't about our deal. I will continue to work for the Centre - for the moment." She paused briefly before going on. "I want to see him."
Her father reacted with refusal, just like she had expected him to. He frowned.
"Why that? You don't have to worry about him anymore. He's Raines' responsibility now."
This time she did allow herself a sigh.
"The last three years I spent exclusively chasing Jarod. He became a part of my life. In order to come to terms with my past I need to see him one more time, don't you understand?"
"No, I'm afraid I don't understand", her father replied thoughtfully. She was about to protest but with a gentle gesture of his hand he indicated to her that she should listen to him. "Just to think of all the lies he told you! But if it's so important to you..."
He turned away from her, switching on a small monitor that was standing on the far right of his desk. It took a moment for the picture to become clear but then Miss Parker recognized that it was the view from the surveillance camera in Jarod's room. She looked at her father, trying to hide her astonishment at his prompt reaction; he merely smiled at her.
Miss Parker returned her attention to the monitor. The room Jarod had been brought to was only dimly lit. He was lying on a bed, apparently unconscious. The pretender was probably sleeping, knocked out by some of Raines' experimental drugs. Sam had told her how Jarod had behaved like a ferocious animal when they had caught him. It had taken three of Raines' most powerful sweepers to hold Jarod still enough for one of the doctors to inject the sedative.
Miss Parker shook her head.
"What are you going to do with him? I can hardly imagine that he will ever work together with the Centre again", she voiced the one thought that had spun around in circles in her mind for the past few days.
Her father shrugged his shoulders.
"Jarod needs some time to readjust. And Raines will find some sort of motivation for him."
She didn't like the direction this conversation was turning to. It reminded her of the fact that Jarod was a prisoner here, someone who could be exploited mercilessly. And she had helped to get him back into his prison.
"I want to see him. In person", she said very gently.
Now her father was the one to sigh.
"He is dangerous. He attacked everyone he could reach. I don't want him to hurt you."
"Believe me, Daddy, I don't want him to, either. But I'm sure he won't attack me." She wasn't sure at all, but that was her problem, not her father's.
It was only after a long while that he answered her.
"All right, since you seem to have set your mind to it." His gaze briefly rested on her injured shoulder, and once again she had the feeling that he was mainly acting out of a feeling of guilt towards her - after all she had been hit by the bullet that had been meant for him. "But I want you to take someone with you for protection. Sam maybe and..."
"That won't be necessary", she declined his offer. "Just watch him. Right now - like that - he couldn't even pose a threat to Raines."
She smiled humorlessly. Then she remembered one more thing.
"There's something else I wanted to ask of you, Daddy."
"Sydney. Let him see Jarod again. I know that Raines kept him away from Jarod. But Sydney means a lot to Jarod. If there's someone who can persuade Jarod to work for the Centre again it's Sydney. And even if he doesn't succeed in persuading Jarod he'll still be able to calm him down. You can't keep him sedated forever."
Miss Parker watched as her father gave some thought to her suggestion.
"Raines won't like that. But that's not our problem, is it? Tell Sydney he can see Jarod tomorrow morning. If the meeting goes well I'll may be able to arrange further ones."
"Thank you, Daddy."
Genuinely relieved, she kissed him on the forehead. During the last months she had rarely felt a spontaneous surge of affection for him - and it had been even less frequent that she had shown it.
"Don't mention it, love", he replied gently. He rose and pulled her into a brief embrace. "And now we both should get on our way home."
"No, I want to see Jarod first."
"Mhm. The faster I get it over with the sooner I can concentrate on what is lying before me."
Her father nodded his approval. "Fine then. I'll arrange everything for you, then."
"Good night, Dad."
"Sleep well, dear."
He flashed her another smile when she left, but as she was going down the corridor she couldn't help but think that she would never share another moment as precious as that with her father.
She slowly walked over to the elevators. Before she went to meet Jarod she wanted to leave a short message in Sydney's office.
For the second time this evening she was taken by surprise as she reached Sydney's office. Miss Parker saw light in there as well. The door was ajar; she knocked softly.
"Ah, Miss Parker. Do come in."
She followed his invitation, feeling slightly worried. Like her father he was sitting behind his desk, staring blankly into the dimly lit room. A full bottle of whisky and a glass were standing in front of him.
"Is that your first bottle?" Miss Parker wanted to know. Sydney looked at her with a slight gleaming in his eyes.
He looked at her as though he wanted to dispute her understanding but then he merely nodded. Sydney knew what she had gone through during the past weeks and months.
"What are you still doing here, Miss Parker?"
She shrugged her shoulders ever so slightly, carefully avoiding to strain her barely healed wound.
"I had to take care of a thing or two", she explained nonchalantly. "Among other things I wanted to leave a note on your desk."
Sydney raised his eyebrows. "That's a trouble you don't have to go to anymore."
Miss Parker leaned against the door frame.
"You should leave the Centre and go home now. Have a nice long rest. I'm sure you'll be glad about having had one tomorrow morning."
His eyebrows climbed a bit higher.
"Why that? So that I can use all my energy on spending another futile day at the Centre?"
"Aw, Syd, whenever did you become so cynical? Besides, you shouldn't be so egotistical. There is someone here at the Centre who needs you, did you forget that?"
He snorted derisively. Miss Parker decided to finally tell him why she had come in the first place.
"You'll be allowed to meet Jarod tomorrow morning. If that's what you want."
Stunned, he stared at her, narrowing his eyes.
"I'd never make a joke about something as important to you as that, Sydney. I hope you know that", she anticipated his unspoken reproach. "My father is of the opinion that you might be able to bring Jarod to his senses."
Miss Parker smiled.
"Certainly, yes. He might be stubborn but he's not stupid. Come on, Syd. Believe it."
"I do, Miss Parker." His lips formed a tentative smile. "Tomorrow morning?"
"Mhm. Good night, Sydney."
She turned to leave his office. The joy in his eyes when she had told him the good news hadn't escaped her attention. Hopefully his joy was intense enough to help him overcome the fear he was apparently feeling as well.
Once again she turned to him, looking at him inquisitively.
"But what for, Sydney?"
She smiled her goodbye and then left his office. Now there was only Jarod left. Only.
On her way down to the sublevel where Jarod was held captive she took another glance at her watch. Twenty minutes past midnight. A new day had begun. With a little luck it might start as well as the last one had ended.
It took Miss Parker almost ten minutes to reach Jarod's room. Raines had played it safe, not only sedating Jarod but also incarcerating him as far below the surface as possible. This time the pretender shouldn't be able escape to escape as effortlessly.
In Miss Parker's eyes all these measures were futile. If Jarod really put his mind to it he would be able to escape again.
Reluctantly, she walked the last few yards. Raines' sweeper let her pass without any comment so that she could fully concentrate on her musings.
It wasn't as if she were looking forward to this meeting. Actually, she should be glad that Jarod was back at the Centre. Not only was she spared from his little presents now - she had also fulfilled her part of the deal with her father so that she could leave whenever she chose to. Theoretically. But she wasn't planning to leave before she had found Tommy's murderer.
She looked up. Sam stood before her, looking at her expectantly.
"Did my father send you?"
Her sweeper merely nodded.
"I thought as much. Okay, I want you to wait out here. You're not to come in - unless I'm calling you. And as long as I'm in there, everybody else is to stay out, got me?"
"Yes, Miss Parker."
Miss Parker took a deep breath, then she went through the door that Sam held open for her. When she had entered the room Sam closed the door behind her.
It was dark; darker than she had thought it to be after she had seen the pictures from the surveillance camera. She remained standing right in front of the door until her eyes had adjusted to the twilight.
Jarod was still lying on the bed, just like she had seen him a few minutes ago. Taking slow steps she walked over to him, stopping a few steps away from the bed.
'He behaved like a wild animal that's trapped in a corner. If there hadn't been three of us we couldn't have hold him. It wasn't until Mr. Raines had given him an injection that he calmed down a bit. However, he broke Willie three rips.'
Miss Parker made a face as she remembered the scene Sam had described to her. Sam had seemed very reluctant about telling her anything about it and had only started to do so when she had ordered him to.
Her sight improved with every moment that passed. She looked more closely at Jarod. He seemed to be exhausted, shattered. A few days at the Centre had been enough to ruin his physical health. A few days more and only God knew what might happen to Jarod's mind...
Slowly, she stepped closer to him. 'He attacked everyone within his reach.' As she thought about her father's words again she believed to have heard something like reluctant respect in his voice. Respect she had never got.
Absently, she watched the man who had haunted her for three years. A faint smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. He would definitely see it quite differently. But while she had hunted him he had got deeper and deeper into her mind, mercilessly dragging every hidden memory and secret into the open. Jarod had probably done it merely for self-protection - but was that really the only reason? Now it was too late for her to find out. Her father had been right: Jarod was no longer her problem.
Miss Parker debated if she should wake him up. Talking to her was surely the last thing he wanted to do right now. And what if he attacked her? No, she couldn't imagine that he would...
She never got the chance to finish her thought. Jarod's attack came with incredible speed and totally unexpected. He moved upwards, crashing into her and pushing her against the next wall.
The impact knocked the wind out of her, leaving her breathless. That was the only reason why she didn't yell with pain when her injured shoulder collided with the wall. To top it off, Jarod was holding both of her arms in a vice-like grip.
As sudden as he had attacked her he now loosened his grip on her shoulder, feeling the sling there. His grip was still strong enough to keep her under control, but at least the pain faded a bit.
"Miss Parker, what a... surprise", he said, his voice rough with exhaustion and strain. "What brought you here?"
She moaned with pain as he pressed her harder against the wall for a moment.
"I... don't know. Maybe... I like to... torture... myself", she got out. It wasn't only Jarod's tight grip that made her feel like something was tightening around her throat. She was afraid. He was standing too close to her so that she couldn't look into his eyes. His voice was her only indication for reading his mood. This wasn't the man who had escaped from the Centre three years ago. Miss Parker was facing the darker Jarod - the man she didn't know at all. He wasn't playing any mind games; he wasn't teasing. This was all about control and power.
Relieved, she noticed how he released his grip on her a bit. He made a small step back, but she was still trapped between him and the wall.
"You shouldn't have come here, Miss Parker", he replied after what had seemed an eternity to her, his voice containing a thoughtful undertone. "Didn't your father warn you about me?"
It was almost doing her good to hear the caustic derision in his voice.
"He did warn me. But I don't let anybody tell me what to do - not even him."
She sensed more than she saw how he tensed. Once again he got closer to her, pushing her harder against the wall again.
"Why are you here, Miss Parker?"
There it was again, this pressing tone she had heard from him so often during the last years. Unbidden thoughts left wide gaps in her iron-like self-control, suppressed emotions were unstoppably forcing their way out.
"You've hurt me, Jarod", she wheezed, and the slight trembling of her voice betrayed her inner turmoil. Almost immediately he let go of her, using his physical superiority to keep her under control instead.
Grateful, she took a deep breath, ignoring the vague pain that was still pulsating in her shoulder.
"I didn't mean this", she then said. Jarod tilted his head slightly to the side, watching her with his dark eyes, eventually shrugging his shoulders. This time he moved closer to her very slowly, close enough for her to be able to feel his heartbeat. His gaze bore into hers, shattering the last remains of her self-control.
"Miss Parker, Miss Parker."
She could feel his breath tickling her cheek as he was whispering into her ear. Something about his tone was strange to her, as if it didn't match this bizarre situation.
"You're confusing me", he continued softly. "I don't know if I should strangle you or..."
Though the situation she was in was quite dangerous she couldn't resist the temptation.
"Or what?" she whispered hoarsely.
His hands were closing around her throat, exerting not even the slightest pressure, turning the threatening gesture into a caress. After some endless seeming seconds his hands moved on, until he cupped her face in them.
Once again Jarod moved almost imperceptibly fast. He kissed her, roughly and hard, pressing her even harder against the wall.
An incomprehensibly intense feeling struck her like lightning so that she thought her heart had stopped beating for a second or two. She felt his muscular, tense body pressing so tightly against her own that it was taking her breath away as much as his lips did.
Once more she had the impression that something here was utterly wrong. Anger flared up in her, permeated by the cool voice of her instinct. Angered, using all of her strength, she pushed him away from her.
The gap that formed between them was but a few inches wide. Jarod laughed darkly, looking at her with an expression that bordered on amusement.
"Shy, Miss Parker?"
She wanted to hit him but he anticipated her intention, effortlessly keeping her from putting it into practice.
"Bastard!" she hissed angrily. There was something flashing up in his eyes and suddenly she realized that he was doing all this intentionally - to make her angry. She remembered something her hated brother had once said to her. 'You are beautiful when you're angry.'
His lips formed a humorless smile. He leaned in to her, his voice a barely audible whisper.
"Now that I've got you", he whispered, "I won't let you go just like this. How does it feel to be trapped?"
Miss Parker never got a chance to answer him. He pressed his lips hard on hers, so self-assured and demanding. Instead of the emotional chaos she had half expected to feel there was but a sudden emptiness in her head. Only a single thought was forming painstakingly slowly. 'Something is wrong here.'
She gave in to the pressure of his tongue against her lips, opening her mouth. What on earth was happening here?
It was wrong but it felt good. For a moment, just for a single moment, she gave in to her emotions, enjoying this grotesque pleasure. It was only much later that she realized that it had been this moment that had changed everything. Only by that she had finally been able to see the truth.
Her anger returned, multiplied by far. Now she knew what was wrong. Jarod was trying to gain control over her but he couldn't do it being himself. She was facing Jarod, the pretender. And that was a person she knew almost as well as the na´ve little boy he had been so many years ago - a boy that was still an important part of him.
Miss Parker decided to end it. Her tongue brushed against his lower lip, slowly, enticingly. He let down his guard for a moment, and she bit him - hard enough to make him back away.
This time she managed to push him further away from her. Before he got the chance to recover from her surprisingly strong push she lifted her right hand and hit him hard in the face. Once again she pushed him away from her so that he stumbled and fell backwards onto the bed.
"You darn bastard!" she hissed. Jarod rose but made no move towards her. He seemed to sense that she was seriously angered.
"What do you think you're doing here?" she continued. Effortlessly, she slipped back into her cold Centre role. "Did you plan to fall on me right in front of the cameras? And I let it happen, overwhelmed by your immense charm? Or doesn't it matter at all what I think about it? If that's what's become of you while you were out there - then it's really for the better that Raines put you away down here!"
She couldn't tell whether or not her words had any impact on him. The pretender simply stood there, staring at her, wiping some blood off his lip. Eventually he let his hand sink back to his side.
"Very moving, really." He darted out his tongue, licking his injured lip, making a lascivious gesture of it. "That's why you came here. That's what you've always wanted from me."
"Be careful, Jarod", she warned him, but he ignored her, captured in his own game.
"Now that Tommy's dead you need someone to replace him."
His words hit her harder than any blow could ever have. Her anger faded, making way for sickening hurt. The expression on his face changed and his wish to take back these last words was almost palpable to her. But it was irrevocably too late for that. He had abused his special talent to hurt her, hurt her more than anybody else ever could. A mere split second later the mask he had put on tonight was back on and there was no trace of regret left, not even in his eyes.
Miss Parker shut her mouth, her lips pressed firmly together. She didn't even find the strength to hurl all the things at him that were running through her mind and that could never hurt him the way his thoughtless words had hurt her.
Without a single word she turned and went to the door. After a loud knock Sam opened it for her almost immediately. Miss Parker went past him, not even wanting to cast a last look at Jarod. As far as she was concerned he could rot away down here.