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Disclaimer; I dont own them, never had and never will.
Authors note: Just another mention of the wonderful girls who have helped me with this story.
White snowflakes falling,
No sound to be heard.
Floating down slowly,
Like feathers of a bird.
Christmas, a season for joy, gifts and laughter, for rejoicing and life, a time for family.
That was a something Parker never really got to experience once her mother died. Family is a concept she was no longer familiar with. Family were people who show unconditional love toward one another; family is something you can turn to in your greatest hour of need; family’s who you can go cry your heart out to and laugh with as well. Family is something that can give you strength and courage, that always supports you when you need them the most. Everything that family stood for, Parker lacked.
‘Family’ for Parker meant death and destruction, pain and sadness, double-crossing and back stabbing, loneliness, control and tears. She had lost the only positive element of her demented family a long time ago, that one beacon of hope, from a time when she was still innocent and believed in the future, a time when ignorance had truly been bliss and trust had meaning. It had been lost to the things her family now represented; Hurt, pain, destruction, lies, broken promises and betrayal.
As the candles were lit and the wine poured, Parker stared at the photo in the antique silver frame of her mother and herself as a child, smiling, carefree… happy. A time now lost, a time when she used to love Christmas gone, a time when she used to believe in the gift of family long ago, replaced now by emptiness and isolation.
The lights were strung on the tree; the decorations hung with gentleness and care. The very few presents were delicately wrapped and lovingly placed under the tree. The scent of pine permeated the room as only this time of year could entice the senses. The entire room glowed magically from the tiny coloured lights and candles. It looked as if dreams could really come true in this room, as if the angel on the tree was glowing white, like she had seen in her dreams so many times as a child.
It was the only time of the year the summer house felt warm and inviting with the soft glowing lights, the only time Parker felt like the house was cosy and not the usual cold, dark, empty manor it normally was. It was all an illusion though, and she was still just as lonely as she always was, if not more so.
She still had the rabbit Jarod had sent to her, Parker never having been able to rid herself of the soft white creature that provided warmth and comfort in her solitude. It reminded her always, of a time less painful than now, of a time when she used to be happy and felt loved and didn’t feel like she needed to prove herself just to be accepted by her father, by her so-called ‘family’. It reminded her that someone still cared. Parker ever so carefully placed the photo frame back onto the mantle over the open fire that was filling the room with a soft warmth, taking the chill out of the winter air. Pulling the blanket tighter around her thin frame, wine in hand, Parker stood at the window and looked out.
It was snowing softly outside in the darkness, the starry sky hidden behind the soft clouds high above. Snowflakes were such marvellous things, each one uniquely individual, each one different from all the rest, just like she was. Parker was as different as anyone ever could be.
She used to love the beauty of the snow, used to love playing in it with her mother. Snow angels and snow men, sledding, skiing, dancing in circles as the snowflakes fell like feathers onto her face as she and her mother twirled beneath the sky. It was a time of laughter, love and safety.
It was a time that had long passed however, one that was now only etched into her memory. A period of her life that could be so easily erased, forgotten, lost as if it had never happened at all; as if her mother had never existed. Sometimes she wondered if it had ever been real, or just a figment of her imagination, cruelly brought to life for such a short time only in photos and DSA’s.
The loud ringing of the phone pulled Parker out of her thoughts, out of those memories so precious only to her.
Picking it up, Parker did not need three guesses to know who would be calling, disturbing her solitary night in her house. Her empty home no longer held joy, the house that she and her mother would spend the summer in, the home that used to hold such happy memories.
“What?” The word wasn’t barked in anger or hate like it usually was, it wasn’t bored or impatient like it so often could be. It was soft and sad, lonely and empty, defeated and quietly uttered.
The voice on the end didn’t sound much better than hers, though Parker did not know why she expected it to. It was the Christmas holidays, and just like her, Jarod had no family, no one to celebrate with, no reason to rejoice. They were more alike than she wanted to admit, at times like this it was hard to deny.
“I wonder Miss Parker, what it would be like to play in the snow with your children, with your parents, with family.” Jarod thought out loud as he sat outside on a rocking chair watching the glistening, unique snowflakes floating softly, silently, to the white covered ground.
Yet again he was alone for Christmas, for a holiday, with no one he loved, no one who loved him, to spend it with. Everywhere he turned there were children and their parents, friends and lovers who were singing and dancing, laughing merrily. They were purchasing gifts for each other and he could easily imagine the joy of gift giving when it was done in the spirit of Christmas. He thought of the few gifts he had given Parker and wondered what she had done with them, wondered what it would be like to receive a gift, given with love. What Jarod wouldn’t give to be one of those people just once in his life, to feel that kind of joy and warmth fill his whole being, to just be with someone he loved and have them love him back.
Always alone, always an outcast, always watching from the sidelines. To get even close to what everyone else had, what everyone else felt, Jarod had to pretend it, imagine it. He was so very tired of pretending to be like them, pretending to be someone whose life was everything Jarod had ever dreamt of, of pretending to be someone he could never be. He wondered if he would even know who he was if the pretending ever stopped, if he ever just gave up.
“Jarod,” Parker let out a heavy sigh, taking a sip of her cold wine. “Why don’t you become fast friends with some pathetic family and experience it with them?” Parker suggested in a tone much harsher than she intended.
The nerve of the man to call her this time of the year asking about family when he damn well knew what her family was like, knew what she had lost so long ago. He knew it simply because he was the one that couldn’t leave it well enough alone and had to go digging up the painful secrets and sending her on little treasure hunts to find them out.
Jarod’s face crumpled in pain at her remark, the pain and emptiness of not having his family always a very fresh and open wound. “Will this ever end Miss Parker?” Jarod whispered, his dark eyes as dark as the night was, looking out aimlessly at the falling snowflakes. He didn’t know what he expected from her, but he knew it was foolish to expect anything really. It was Christmas though, and he had been hoping. No matter what happened between them, what happened in his life, he could never stop hoping for more.
“The minute you haul your pathetic self back home genius.” Parker knew though that would never happen. The pretender would sooner die than let himself be taken back into the Centre, “I am sure it would be the perfect gift for your ‘Mummy’ to find when he returns in the New Year.” Parker had accused Sydney on more than one occasion of being Jarod’s ‘Mummy’, and she remembered a day not long after Jarod’s escape, that Sydney was either his ‘Mummy or scientist,’ but he couldn’t be both.
Glancing at the tree, Parker fought the little smile that threatened to show at the sight of the gift she had bought for Sydney. Even if she would never admit it out loud to herself nor to anyone else, Sydney had been more of a father to her than her own.
He had offered her comfort through the most devastating times of her life, support in all choices she made, guidance when Parker had needed it but could never admit to it. For all of those that had the older man in their life, Sydney had always been a rock to hold them down, a shoulder to cry on and a support beam in their most dire of times.
“That is not my home Miss Parker, no more than it is yours or Sydney’s. It will never be my home, I will never go back there.” Jarod said tiredly, exhausted from this game they always played. It scared Jarod more than he could ever think about at times, scared him to think for a moment that could have been his home, that it was the closest he’d come to having one. The Centre for all of his life had been the only place he knew, the only place he felt safe in, the only place that had wanted him. Early on in his life, the Centre had been his refuge, his world, his family. He knew they wanted him for all the wrong reasons, had wanted him only for the amount of money he could earn them. They had never wanted Jarod, never did they want just Jarod, only the pretender, their money maker, their problem solver. And yet, they still wanted him. It was more than Jarod had ever experienced before, it was the only thing he knew.
“Don’t you ever get tired of this? Don’t you ever just wish you could be like anyone else? A normal person, a person with a real family that loves you unconditionally for who you are, not who they want you to be or what you could do for them?” Jarod knew if he had only one wish he could make, it would be just that. To be a normal person, to be a faceless nobody that was out there in the world. To have his family, to have a warm home where they made him feel safe and wanted, loved for being just Jarod, not a pretender. As well as having people to love more than life itself.
“What I tire of genius, is you calling me at all insane hours of the night, of your pathetic little breadcrumbs, the wild goose chases you send me on across the whole damn country. Why don’t you tell me where you are? I’ll come get you, and you can finally spend a holiday with your real ‘family’, in the Centre, in your space.”
It was a nice euphemism; Jarod’s ‘space’ was and would always be a barren cell, no matter how much they prettied it up for him. It could have a pool, a vending machine filled with Twinkies and PEZ, a plasma screen TV the size of one entire wall. In the end though, no matter what they did to it, it was just simply a room with a locked door holding him in somewhere he did not want to be, caging him from the world. It was a prison.
The Centre didn’t seem to understand that. It didn’t matter to him when they took him from the small cell they had housed Jarod in as a child and put him in his apartment claming it was because of his good work. It didn’t matter the bed was bigger and softer, that the walls had colour, that the floor was carpeted, that he had a bathroom. It was all the same thing to Jarod. It was a cell.
“I’m tired of the game Miss Parker, I’m tired of being hunted like an animal. I’m tired of how you treat me, think of me, talk to me. I am tired of it all Miss Parker, so very tired.” Sometimes it was so bad all Jarod wanted to do was go to sleep and just not wake up anymore, to stop it all from hurting him, stop the aching in his soul. “You have a Merry Christmas Miss Parker and I hope this year, your father will spend it with you.” Despite everything, he understood why she yearned for a real relationship with the man that had ruined his life, and he couldn’t blame her, not really. He was her father after all and Jarod knew how important it was to know that you meant something to your father, knew why she strived for his approval.
Parker heard the exhaustion in Jarod’s voice, the misery, the defeat, something she had never heard from him before. It sounded very much like a final goodbye, like the last phone call she would ever receive from Jarod, day or night. And that worried Parker, on more than one level.
“Jarod, wait!” Parker called into the phone, there was more than a hint of desperation in her voice. She normally hid weakness very well from everyone, hid when she was hurting or upset. Parker thought she was good at it, which only served to annoy her more when Sydney or Jarod, even Broots picked her up on it.
This time though, Parker didn’t even bother to hide the desperation or mask it with hate or rage. It scared her to hear Jarod’s normally strong voice so defeated, sounding as if he had finally just given up. Jarod was not a quitter, not someone who just gave in after so long of struggling against the ties holding him back. However, she knew that even the almighty pretender must have a breaking point.
It was too late however, the line was dead, the silence was echoing in her ears. Jarod had not heard her call out to him, had not heard her plea, for once wanting him to stay on the phone to talk to her.
He was gone; Jarod was gone.