Jarod awoke with a start, not knowing where he was, which was par for the course. Too many dingy hotel rooms, too many abandoned buildings. They all blurred into each other and they were all the same. The only thing that changed was the weather, and he barely cared or marvelled at that anymore either. He rarely knew where he was, sometimes he couldn't even remember which state he was in. It didn't matter, as long as he could get lost in a sea of unfamiliar faces where nobody knew what he was, what he had done. Never Delaware though.
His head hurt and so did the rest of his body. As his vision came more or less into focus, the first thing he became aware of was a pair of familiar cold blue eyes, staring at him through a wall of bars. So it hadn't been a dream at all. He had been caught. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, tramping down the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him and dropped his aching head back down on the pillow, his first hint that something was off as pillows were a luxury and he doubted he had many gold stars on his card right now. Putting an arm over his eyes he tried to remember how to breathe. Breathing was essential after all and concentrating on that was all he had during some of the worst times.
"You really done it this time Genius!" the voice drawled, and Jarod frowned in slow dawning recognition.
Jarod had expected the owner of the voice to be Lyle, they were his all too familiar blue eyes after all. Squinting, trying to shut out the worst of the bright light, his eyes confirmed that the voice was indeed Parker's. The blue eyes, so very much like her twin's, were still staring at him as he dropped his arm assessed his settings more thoroughly. This wasn't a sub-level cell, it looked more like a county sheriff's cell. "Miss Parker," he said neutrally. There was no memory at all of how he came to be here, the only thing he did remember from last night was the dream in the forest where Lyle had caught up to him, it had been so very real that he was a little concerned this was the dream.
She looked as beautiful as ever, immaculately dressed, her skirt far too short, although she was wearing a long jacket that nearly reached all the way down to the floor. Her face was unreadable to him and he wisely kept his mouth shut for the moment, not understanding what had happened, or what her intentions. She seemed to be alone and once he would have taken that as a good sign. The memory of their last encounter in the real world hit him so hard, it actually rocked him, and he almost fell back. God, he had been so stupid, so certain she would let him slip away. The sting of the dart in his back was still the most painful memory he had, despite a thousand worse pains being inflicted on his since. That was the one that he relived the most.
Parker looked at Jarod, hardly able to believe what she was seeing. He looked awful. Unshaven, filthy, long hair that didn't look like it had seen a comb in quite a while, and the most surprising of all, a little flabby. Jarod had always been in incredible shape, and even when she was pissed at him, which was nearly always, it was hard not to admire his physique, the sheer physicality of the man. He stunk of booze and his eyes, normally such a soft warm brown, that often twinkle with amusement, were bloodshot and dull. It was easy to understand his poor physical condition in the Centre, when the abuse and mistreatment was constant, but to allow himself to come to this… if she had not seen it with her own eyes she wouldn't believe it. Even seeing him now, she was finding it hard to accept.
When it appeared that he had nothing more to say, she sighed, and turned around to talk to the sheriff, who was hovering behind her. Every moment they lingered, the more at risk they were and she needed to get moving.
The Sheriff watched the interaction and it was clear his prisoner knew the marshal, and he wondered just what was going on here. Something was definitely off, she didn't look or dress or behave like any federal agent he had ever met. She looked more like she should be working the streets at night in that getup. If her prisoner ran, he had no clue how she was supposed to pursue in those 6 inch heels.
Her paperwork was in order however, and he had no reason to deny the transfer of custody. He wasn't sure if he was worried that she might be hurt, as the prisoner had been pretty out of control last night. Despite that, he didn't think that he was a bad man, and for the life of him he couldn't explain why. Perhaps it was because of the damage he had seen and he couldn't help but feel sympathy for what the poor bastard must have been through. He was a little worried that she might be a threat to the prisoner. His uneasiness about this entire situation made him reluctant to hand custody over, at least not to her.
"What's the problem?" Parker demanded, snapping her fingers impatiently when the hokey Sheriff hadn't yet made any move.
"Well Ma'am, I would be happier if you had some backup. It took 4 men last night to bring him down, and he broke one of their arms. I guess its not rightly my place to know why the Marshal Service wants him, or who he is…" he shook his head unhappily. "But it is my guess that he served, and judging by…" he glanced a little guiltily over at Jarod and lowered his voice, "he was a POW. You know it ain't right, the way our Vets are treated," he said soflty. "We tried not to hurt him, it was just a drunk and disorderly call, when we realised, but my deputies have a right to defend themselves too."
For a drunk, the man had put up a hell of a fight, and he seemed pretty capable too. The sheriff was about to order the prisoner tasered as he heard one of his Deputies scream and he heard the arm break, just like a twig snapping. It was then that all the fight seemed to leave the man, and the sheriff didn't think it was the alcohol, there was a strange look on his face, something he could only think of as abject terror and then he seemed to just submit like it was all he had ever intended to do in the first place. After that there hadn't been any resistance or so much as a peep out of him. When they had rolled him over and cuffed him, his shirt had hiked up and even in the pale moonlight the damage to the man's back was clear. When they got him back to the station and took some identification photos, he thought he might be sick as he saw the extent of the damage and any resentment he had about his deputy dissolved instantly. Whoever he was, he was clearly carrying around a lot of demons, darker than the Sheriff wanted to think about.
He took the pen and scribbled his name on the official transfer papers, although he wasn't happy about it. He had no idea who this guy was, what he had done or why the Feebs would want him, but he felt sorry for him, clearly the guy had had a really bad time of it. Part of him had just wanted to let him go, open the cell door and wish him luck.
It took a supreme effort of will for Parker not to snap back at the Sheriff who seemed to be a bit dim-witted and slow, nor react to the fact that Jarod had broken a law enforcement officers arm. It was just not something that Jarod would have ever done. Not to mention drinking enough to get himself arrested. Then again, Jarod wasn't a cold blooded murdered either, or so she had believed. Was he trying to get caught?
"Something like that," she nodded curtly, just wanting to move this along now.
Parker watched as the Sheriff instructed Jarod to face the wall, get on his knees, interlace his fingers behind his head and cross his ankles. This might be a one–horse town, but this guy wasn't taking any chances and was impressively professional. What really surprised her though was how compliant Jarod was. The other thought that struck her, which was very disturbing, was just how graceful he had gone to his knees, how fluid and natural the movement had been. How practiced. It made her shiver to think about how much he had fought, what price he had paid to reach this point.
Jarod offered no protest or resistance whatsoever, and she had been bracing for him to make a break for it the moment the Sheriff opened the cell door. Her hand was creeping towards the tranquilizer gun when he went to cuff Jarod, with the cuffs that she had provided. She was sure he would go ballistic, remembering that day in the Sim Lab, the last day she had seen him, and how out of control he was, how desperately he had fought. Instead, Jarod barely moved, nor indicated that he gave a damn. Acceptance.
Jarod had served, she supposed, and he certainly didn't deserve what they had given him, she could admit that now, if only to herself. Keeping her mask in place, showing none of the surprise or despair she was feeling, she now just needed to be out of here before someone else came along.
The story she had fed the Sheriff about returning to Indiana with her escaped prisoner, seemed enough to satisfy the man. She had embellished it just enough to hint that he was in Witsec, reluctantly. Others would be looking for him, and that she would consider it a professional courtesy if he didn't give them an accurate physical description of herself. There was no doubt Lyle and his goons would be aware of Jarod's arrest sooner rather than later, and she didn't want them knowing Parker got there first. Let them chase a false lead in Indiana. They would most likely wave around a photo of Major Charles, and if the Sheriff had half a brain he would confirm that was who took custody. It was thin, but for now it was all she had.
As the Sheriff guided Jarod out of the cell, Parker collected the envelop of his possessions, which didn't seem like much, and readied herself in case the Genius decided to make a break for it. There was no desire to actually hurt the Pretender, but she wasn't about to let him slip away either and she doubted he would be very receptive to talking given everything that had happened. There wasn't much chance he would believe her either. A bitter smile briefly formed as she realised the irony of the role reversals.
Jarod had finally managed to shake off the dream, and was assessing the situation he had found himself in. With absolute no memory of what happened last night, he assumed that he had probably made a nuisance of himself, it wouldn't have been the first time. His mug shot and physical condition must have sent up a flag and the race was on and it looked like Parker got to him first. It was probably just as well, as no doubt Lyle would still be royally pissed that Jarod had shot off nearly half his ear. When it had come to firing, he just couldn't bring himself to kill Lyle, despite everything. Really, he had wanted to, intended to, which is what he had been trying to convince himself of for the last week or so. That particular decision had been moved into the too hard column, just another thing in a long line of things that he didn't want to think about. After failing to make the kill shot on Lyle, and Cox never seeming to leave the Centre, Jarod had had enough, and decided to leave Delaware, never to return. Looks like that lasted about a week and a half, and he would be on his way back 'home' in short order. Seemed there wasn't much he could do right these days. Maybe his Pretenderness had run out.
Resisting now was pointless, if Parker really was alone, then he would be smarter to wait until she got away from help, so he went along without protest. When the Sheriff handed him over to her, he felt a firm grip when she took his arm, but it didn't crush or hurt. He could see the disapproval in her eyes, although she wasn't saying anything, and Jarod decided not to either, just let her lead him out to a non-descript car, which wasn't her usual style at all. Nothing about this felt right. Where was Sam? Sydney? Had alliances at the Centre fractured? Jarod had no clue what was going on with any of them anymore.
"Get in," she ordered, opening the front passenger door for him and waited while he climbed awkwardly in. "Give me any trouble and it will be the trunk," she huffed, surprised at how placidly he obeyed, and without any whining. After slamming the door to hide her growing concern, she moved around to the driver's side, slid into the seat and reached over to do up his seatbelt. Her body briefly came in contact with his as she leant over and she felt him flinch, or perhaps even recoil. He said nothing, however and gave no other reaction. With the doors now locked, including the child lock, she was certain he wasn't going anywhere for now, she gunned the engine and sped off, not wanting to admit to herself how unsettled this was making her.
"Federal credentials?" Jarod asked once they were on the road, his voice flat and only mildly curious. Watching the world speed by wasn't doing much to help his headache, or his queasy stomach, but he didn't want to miss any of it. It was likely today would be the last day he ever saw it. Jarod understood and had accepted the fact that if they ever took him back, he wouldn't have the fortitude or will to fight them again.
"Taking that right out of your playbook," Parker shot back, wondering where the barrage of questions and whines were. She had known Jarod to be many things, but quiet wasn't one of them. This was a golden opportunity for Boy Wonder to start in on her, but he seemed completely disinclined and even more disconcerting, completely uninterested in his current predicament. Parker couldn't be sure if that was an act or he just didn't care anymore. Was he playing possum? He hadn't asked, or demanded, to be let out of the cuffs and it didn't even look like he was fidgeting to try and pick them. Nothing about him seemed like Jarod at all.
Jarod just grunted a non-committal response, not really caring why she had done what she had done. Local LEO's would be no protection against the Centre, so there was zero point in pleading his case, most especially when Parker had brought legitimate appearing papers. The last time he had seen Parker, she had put a gun to his throat and he doubted she had forgiven anything he had said in the interim, and he certainly had not forgotten what she had said and done to him. There really wasn't anything more to say and he was content to just look at the view until they arrived at wherever she was taking him, most likely an airfield.
The silence grew and Parker became more worried about it. After half an hour, she could barely stand it any longer and cast sideways glances at Jarod, but he didn't seem to notice, or he pretended not to. There were no smart-arse comments about her driving, no questions about where they were going, no arguments to try and convince her to let him go. It was freaking her out. She didn't expect them to go back to how it used to be, they had both said and done things that couldn't be taken back. She wasn't expecting this cold stranger though. Jarod was still, well Jarod, wasn't he? He had to be. There was no way she could accept the alternative.
When Jarod finally did speak, she relaxed just a little.
"I need the bathroom," he said simply, not turning his head away from the window.
So, this was his move, finally. It was almost a relief. This was so unlike Jarod, so unnatural to their dynamic that it was getting harder to deny she was truly afraid. Parker turned to look at him, expecting to see something of the old Jarod, but he was still facing away from her looking out the window and she couldn't read him. That too was disconcerting as Jarod usually wore every emotion on his face, and in his voice when they were together. Another piece in their puzzle had changed, and it was unsettling to say the least. They both knew this dance well, the way they verbally fenced with each other, often hurting, but rarely drawing blood. After a moment of hesitation, she nodded. "Okay," she agreed. "I will find somewhere to pull over. If you try any…"
"You will put a bullet in my knee," Jarod deadpanned, but there was no mischievous tone or hint of a smile.
Parker raised an eyebrow at that, remembering a very different time when they had been completely different people, and she knew those days, those people were long gone. This was a back–country road, and she doubted there would be any rest stops, so she kept her eye out for a reasonably secluded area that she could get off the road. When he said nothing more, she sighed internally, finding that she missed the smart-arse comments. Did part of her want him to try something? She did enjoy the way he tested her, although she didn't enjoy the way he bested her so frequently, and this was one time when she was going to win, but there was no pleasure or satisfaction in it for her.
It didn't take long for her to find a suitable place to pull over, and her initial thought of making him squirm just a little, seemed awful now. The game they had always played with each other was over, and she missed it. The car came to a stop and she turned off the engine, pocketing the keys before getting out and moving over to open Jarod's door, and then helped him out of the car.
Surprised that she wasn't threatening him with her gun, Jarod looked around and stretched a little as best he could. His body was sore, he was dehydrated and hungry. There was still no memory of what he did last night and he guessed that it didn't really matter. The dream seemed more real than this right now. Some days it was hard to tell the difference between reality and nightmares. Some days he felt like the reality was a dream and he was still back there living the nightmare, just waiting to awaken alone in that empty cell, with nothing to look forward to, except a visit from his tormentor, whom he had stupidly convinced himself was a friend and ally. When Parker made no move to uncuff him, he looked at her. Even a Pretender couldn't manage what was required here.
"A little help?" he asked and looked down at the front of his jeans. Asking for help, begging, came naturally these days.
"What?" she barked, shaking her head, taking a step back. "In your dreams Jarod," she said, trying to sound cool and detached.
Her reaction brought a wry smile to his face as he watched her, perhaps even catching a glimpse of the old Parker under the carefully constructed façade that she had grown into.
Parker watched him, trying to assess if he might present a physical threat to her. He had ruthlessly killed Raines and she didn't know for sure if he had deliberately missed in ending Lyle too, or that it was some kind of message, that he was coming and this was just the beginning. Perhaps he just didn't have the stones. Whatever it had been, Lyle was going out of his mind, certain Jarod was back to kill him. When he had been informed, after they patched up what was left of his ear, that his car had been found in the Centre lobby, compacted into a neat little cube of scrap metal, with the personalised vanity plate left intact on top of the package, he had completely lost the plot. Seemed Jarod hadn't lost his sense of humour entirely after all.
Jarod was returning her scrutiny, without giving any clue as to what he might be thinking, Parker decided to just let it all play out and she moved behind him, reaching down to the cuffs, wincing at the lines she saw around his wrists. She undid one, and still holding the cuff, pulled his arm around in front, and without looking him in the face, locked his hands together in front of him, and then stepped away without a word. Being this close to him was hard, it was stirring up all kinds of memories she didn't want to admit were there, let alone have to face and deal with them. At various times she had hated him and pitied him and once…
All of that was in the past now and she knew what she had to do. The present was what she was concerned with, digging up the past had been his thing, not hers. It didn't matter what Jarod thought, she had set her course of action and that was that.
Jarod watched wordlessly as she moved away, giving him some privacy, which was an unexpected, but welcome, consideration. This was the first time he had seen her since his meltdown in the Sim Lab and he was totally unprepared for the onslaught of mixed emotions that he was experiencing now. It was so much easier when he resented and blamed her. Despite everything he had once believed, hate came easily now, and it was empowering. This was something he had never understood before. He wanted that clarity back.
Even though they had not really spoken during the car, she seemed different somehow, almost as if she didn't know how to handle things either. Jarod had been wrong about so much, could he have been wrong about her as well? Lyle had tricked and manipulated him so thoroughly. Jarod understood even less about himself these days than he ever had, and he didn't trust his own judgement anymore. There was only one thing he knew for certain, and that was he had been monumentally stupid. Could they have threatened Sydney and Parker into what they had done? Jarod didn't know and it was making his headache worse. There were so many questions, and like always, no answers. It was safer not to think about it.
Taking a step closer to the bushes, he undid his jeans and relieved himself with a heavy sigh. Running had briefly crossed his mind, but what was the point really? Parker had proved previously she wasn't squeamish about shooting him, and the truth was, he just didn't have any more running left in him. There was nowhere to go, nothing for him out here. The dream of the previous night was weighing heavily on him and what scared him the most was the overwhelming sense of relief he had felt when he had been caught. No, he wasn't going to run, he wasn't going to fight. The simple and inescapable truth was that there was no outrunning destiny, no changing the story. Sydney had been right the entire time and he didn't even have the energy left to hate him for it.
Doing his jeans up, Jarod looked around and there was nowhere to wash his hands, and so he wiped them on his jeans leg as best he could, looking sourly at the metal bracelets around his wrists. It had been a long time since he had been restrained and he didn't like it any more now than he had then.
Parker was waiting by the car and he could tell by her body language that she was wishing she had a cigarette. She had made no calls which had surprised him also, and she didn't seem to be in any rush to get him wherever they were going. The whole situation was kind of surreal. Jarod looked at her for a moment, not caring if he was caught staring. She looked as beautiful as ever, strong and confident, cold. The same old Miss Parker. There were also subtle differences too, and he didn't trust himself to know what they might mean. Her voice seemed gentler than he could ever remember it, and she seemed far more patient than she had ever been. She hadn't even called him a name or insulted him the way she always did. There had also been no reproach about what he had said during their last confrontation. He still believed she was more to blame, and she would blame him as she did for everything. Reason or logic had never really been her default position. Anger was.
Jarod had only the vaguest idea about what she had been doing after she had been taken off the case, and he hadn't cared enough to find out. Whatever it was, it was clear she was still unhappy and he supposed she always would be. She had won, and it was never going to be enough. That wasn't entirely her fault, and he didn't blame her, not really. Deep down he knew she had no choice in what had followed. If anything, he had blamed himself, for misjudging everything so badly. She had said it herself, it's just how the damn story goes, and he was so wilfully blind that he couldn't see it. Jarod had always believed Parker to be the one that was blind, she who would not see, but now he realised he had been no different, perhaps worse.
Feeling eyes on her, Parker looked at Jarod to find him openly staring at her and she stared back, almost as a challenge, although her heart wasn't in it. He didn't just look awful and out of condition, he looked defeated, smaller somehow. Diminished. There was none of the swagger or cocky confidence that was so damn annoying and kind of attractive at the same time. What surprised her the most was the silence. It scared her more than she was willing to admit. Arguments and endless whining was the norm for Jarod, always had been. What she saw now, and didn't want to admit, was the ghost of what Gem might have turned into if Jarod and the Major hadn't rescued him.
That terrified her. She loved Gem, it was simple and pure and she wanted to protect him. He was Jarod, and yet he wasn't, and it hurt her head to think about it, what it meant, so she didn't, or at least tried not to.
Spending so much time with Gem had been such a gift, and she had come to an understanding of Jarod in a way she never had before. It had caused her to question why it had been so easy for her to dismiss Jarod out of her life, never questioning whether he belonged in the Centre or what it might have been like for him. Introspection was not really Parker's thing, and she didn't like this, nor did she want to dwell too much on it. It was what it was, and there was no changing what had been done. The only thing now was to move forward and do what she could.
Watching silently as he trudged back to the car, it struck her again at just how broken he was, and she didn't think he was pretending either. From what she understood there had been precious little of that since he had been rescued. The man before her didn't look like he could organise a change of clothes, let alone the precision murder of Raines and she began to wonder if maybe Freud had it all wrong. Perhaps he had missed killing Lyle because he couldn't make the shot after all. Christ, she didn't know what to think.
"Get in the car," she said, hating how tired she sounded. Just seeing him like this hurt her more than she wanted to admit and she didn't want him seeing that either.
Jarod got into the car without any argument, too tired to really care much about anything. He was grateful that his hands were at least cuffed in front of him now, which was far more comfortable. He didn't know if that was an oversight by Parker, or that she had taken a long hard look and seen that he wasn't any danger or threat. He didn't know if that made him feel better or worse.
Parker's attitude was puzzling, and he was even a little disappointed that she didn't seem to want to engage in their usual parrying. When she got in behind the wheel and leant over and did his seatbelt up, he caught a very strong whiff of her perfume and he closed his eyes, breathed deeply of it and tried to remember how that smell used to give him such pleasure. A ghost of a smile came to his face and when he opened his eyes again, Parker was looking at him strangely, although she didn't seem angry. Their eyes locked for a moment and something unspoken seemed to pass between them and then she started the car without a word, breaking the contact, the moment dying. Jarod was left wondering what it meant, or if it meant anything at all.
They drove for another hour in silence and Parker was half tempted to call Sydney and to have him head shrink Jarod for a bit to find out what the hell was going on with him. The shell of a man sitting next to her didn't seem like Jarod at all, and although she knew some of what had happened, hell she had been a part of it, she never really wanted to believe that he wouldn't just bounce back like he always had. Making a decision, she pulled off the road without slowing down, into a dodgy looking take away place, practically careening into the drive through, where she barked an order for some burgers and fries.
Jarod made no comment about her suicidal driving, just gripped the door handle to steady himself. When he realised what she was doing though, he smiled a little, and said nothing as she ordered, not imagining Parker eating anything this unhealthy. When she handed them over without a word or caustic remark, he took them with surprise and found himself having to blink back tears. The simple act of kindness, however begrudging it appeared, was somehow more threatening to his state of mind than insults and threats would have been. It had been a very long time since he had seen any real kindness.
"Thank you," he said simply, not trusting himself to say anything else, and then shoved in a mouthful of deliciously salty and greasy fries. There was nothing better for a hangover, it hadn't taken him long to discover, than greasy food.
Parker was about to snort something and saw the look on his face and just gave him a tight smile in return. "Just don't make a mess," she said, more because she felt compelled to say something than because she cared about any mess. It was a rental after all.
Jarod gave her a little smiled and continued to wolf down the food as she pulled back onto the road. It had been a little awkward with the cuffs, but he made no complaint, guessing Parker was being as generous as she could, and he didn't want to push his luck. It appeared that they weren't in any rush to get back, and that suited him just fine. Having something in his stomach went a long way to making him feel more human again and he wiped his greasy fingers on the napkins and took in a little more of his surroundings. "That was really good," he said, crushing up the rubbish into a neat little ball.
"Hmm," Parker snorted, doubting there was anything of any nutritional value in that meal. "What the hell were you thinking?" she finally asked him, unable to stand it anymore.
"That I was hungry?" he said, a little confused.
"Letting yourself get arrested!" she only just managed to stop herself yelling at him.
"Oh that," Jarod shrugged. "I don't remember," he answered honestly.
Parker couldn't believe his attitude at all. There was nothing in this man that she recognised from the Jarod she had chased for so many years. "Did you want to get caught?" she asked him, wondering if he was somehow scheming, although what his end game could possibly be was beyond her. What she needed to do was talk to Sydney, see if he could make any sense of this.
Jarod looked at her and then raised an eyebrow, "What do you think?"
"I think you're a basket short of a picnic," she snorted, but smiled a little at his confused expression, the familiar tilt of his head. That was a Jarod she could recognize.
"Yeah, well," Jarod shrugged again, more interested in the scenery than in conversation. There was nothing to say to Parker that hadn't already been said, she had made her allegiances all too clear and had chosen sides. He supposed he had too.
There had been no choice other than to come to terms with that as best he could, and he had no desire to pick over old wounds, not anymore. Usually when he opened his mouth, all he ever managed to do was aggravate her, so this was a more prudent course of action. His belly was full, his head was feeling better and it was nice and warm in the car. The countryside was pretty and he intended to enjoy it. Wherever they were going, she seemed to be taking the long route and that suited him just fine.
When Jarod didn't respond, Parker quit trying and just concentrated on the road. She was still a few hours out from the safe house they had organised and once there she could talk to Sydney and they could decide what to do next. Sydney could deal with his sulking or personal identity crises or whatever the hell it was. Boy Wonder seemed to have zero interest in much of anything, and she wondered just how much he knew about what had happened, or if he even cared. She had risked everything to help get him out and the very least he could do was show some gratitude. As she drove she became more and more resentful of his attitude and about half an hour later it became too much and she slammed her foot on the brake and slid over onto the shoulder of the road with a screech. "You selfish son of a bitch!" she screamed, watching the shock on his face at their abrupt stop.
Jarod braced himself, the abrupt change in velocity snapping him out of his reverie and he looked at her in shock.
"Is this about Raines?" he asked flatly.
This was the Parker he knew, this was the Parker he had expected and knew how to deal with. This was the Parker that had finally replaced his stupid idiotic fantasies about the little girl that had given him his first kiss, taught him to be bold even when he was scared, showed him how to have fun.
His Parker had died, not on the day that she had shot him in the back, had still hadn't quite been ready to accept that particular truth. No, she had died on the day she had condemned him to hell with a gun in his throat, and then turned her back on him as if he was nothing. He had just been too stubborn and too stupid to accept it before then. There wasn't much that he trusted in his own judgement any longer, he had been shown repeatedly just how truly stupid and gullible he was, but he could trust this was the real Parker before him now.
Parker blinked in surprise at his emotionless response, it was the last thing she was expecting. Before she even knew she intended to ask it was out of her mouth.
"Did you kill him?"
Part of her didn't think Jarod was capable of such a calculated act, not even against Raines. He had to deny it, Jarod was capable of many things, but not that. Even though she was glad the old wheezing ghoul was dead, and perhaps a little sorry it wasn't by her own hand, deep down she believed Jarod was… well still Jarod.
Looking steadily at her for a long moment, her blue eyes so familiar that it gave him the chills and took every ounce of effort to fight off the flashback that he could feel was about to assault him. They came with less frequency now, but they still left him feeling weak and shattered and completely useless. When he was certain he had managed to regain control of himself, he looked at her and nodded.
There was no need to lie about it and he could see by the quickly covered shock on her face that she had not been expecting that answer. What he didn't know was whether it was the fact that he had admitted it, or committed it, that most surprised her. It didn't really matter he supposed.
They had all crossed lines none of them could return from. Retribution was coming either way and this wasn't going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things. The only regret he did have was that he hadn't finished off Lyle too, and he still didn't really understand why he had missed, and he didn't want to think too much on that, which is how he ended up so drunk that he had no memory of any fight with the police or how he came to wake up in a cell. He didn't doubt for one second though, judging by how stiff and sore he was, that what the Sheriff had told Parker was true.
There was no way to tell what was going on in Jarod's head, but clearly something had just happened. Wonder Boy had spaced out for a moment and then seemed to come back to himself, or the shell that he was now schlepping around in. Deep down she had known Jarod had killed Raines, and she wasn't about to shed a single tear over his death, genetics be damned. It scared her though that he seemed so casual about it. His method too was of grave concern. Was it a message for Sydney? A warning? Or a gift, like a cat that brings in a dead mouse? She remembered every accusation he had slung at her, and Sydney on that last day and she knew Sydney had watched the DSA's repeatedly, although she had never looked at them. Did he feel about Sydney now the same way he did about Raines, Cox and Lyle? Is that what he thought of her?
Jarod was all about compassion, helping people saving the little guy that nobody else cared about, blah blah blah. This wasn't Jarod at all, this man was like a complete stranger and the gravity of what had happened to him hit her with such force for a moment she couldn't breathe. It felt like it had actual physical force and she had to stop herself from gasping, or screaming. Seeing him like this, so up close, so damaged, there was no way to deny what she supposed she had always known and refused to acknowledge. Jarod had been broken.
Without thinking, reacting purely on instinct she reached out and took his cuffed hands in her own and although he stiffened a little, he didn't pull away from her. She looked up at him, raw emotion surging through her, and waited until he looked up too. With unshed tears shimmering in her eyes, she whispered.