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Disclaimer' The Pretender doesn't belong to me and neither do any of the characters… except for Morgan Parker. She's mine, all mine! Mwahahahaha! The story and situation are also property of my chocolate and Pez sodden imagination.

Clone Challenge. Okay, here's part one of my take on the clone challenge. I changed it a bit to suite myself--I'm saying that the clone of Miss Parker would also be slightly younger than Jarod's clone because Raines would want to keep the approximate age gap the same. Read on to find out what happens.

Nighttime Epiphanies 2/?
by BrightFeather

Rated' PG-13 (just to be safe)

Spoilers' IOTH

Miss Parker's Car

Miss Parker tapped her fingers on the steering wheel impatiently. She had been on the road, driving south, for hours and she wanted nothing more than to finally arrive at her destination. She was getting closer, she knew it, but she figured that she was still at least thirty minutes away. She had gotten a rental car in Dover and even bought a new cell phone and had her old number transferred to it just in case her idiot twin had decided to put a tracer on her phone.

She'd be damned if Raines and Lyle got their filthy hooks into Jarod when he was sick and unable to escape. He had been one of the few constants in her life and she knew what they had done to him the last time he'd been a prisoner of the Centre. If she had anything to say about it, there was no way that the ghoul and the cannibal would hurt someone that she cared about. Hell would freeze over first. She'd personally send them to Hell first.

She hated the idea of killing--she'd only ever thought that she'd done it once, but if anybody deserved to die it was Raines and Lyle. Jarod was hers. Hers to catch. Her best friend... despite everything. The devil and his angel couldn't have him. She would protect what was hers.

Parker sighed as she contemplated her relationship with Jarod. The only way to describe it was... complicated. They were best friends, enemies, huntress, prey, and had the beginnings of something more all at the same time. She flipped the dial on the radio to another station and continued to drive, lost in her own thoughts.

****

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
SL 26 Rm 210A
The Middle of the night.

The slight form of a young teenager stirred on the dingy mattress. "Momma," she murmured, dreaming. "Meagan," she whispered, still asleep. "My sister..." She woke up suddenly. 'Momma?'

'Yes, baby?'

'She's going to see him, isn't she?'

'Yes, honey. Your sister is on her way, and you can't let anyone know.'

'I won't, Momma. But I thought she hated him.'

'No, baby. Remember, Jarod is her best friend...'

'But Momma, there's something else there.'

'I know, baby. She can't admit it... or let herself remember. It's too dangerous for her to do that.'

'Why, Momma?'

'Morgan, if the people in charge of the Centre found out about how she really feels about Jarod, they'd most likely kill her like they did me.'

'But Momma, that's not *fair*!'

'No, baby, it's not.'

Morgan curled up on the thin, shabby mattress and pulled the flimsy, gray blanket over her head, hiding from the presence she could feel outside her room. For as long as she could remember, she had heard her mother's voice in her head, giving her the guidance that her caretakers didn't provide. Her mother had warned her about showing exactly how smart she really was and taught her to use the gifts she had inherited. She could always feel the presence of others outside her cell, and there were a few that she wanted kept far away from her.

A few years ago, she had overheard her guards calling them "Mr. Raines" and "Mr. Lyle". Lyle in particular made her uncomfortable--he kept giving her predatory looks. He looked at her as if she were... lunch. She had lived in this square 12x12 gray room for as long as she could remember, only making trips outside it to a SIM lab or to the Infirmary. Few people talked to her, and they were never anything but nice to her.

In the warm darkness under her blanket, she wished she could see the things that she overheard from other people's thoughts--sunshine, rain, snow. They all sounded so wonderful that she wanted to see them for herself. Morgan sighed and buried her face in the skimpy pillow. Her Mentor, Louise, would most likely be there in a few hours and she needed sleep.

'I love you, Momma' she sent sleepily.

Just like every night since she was small, she heard her mother's voice in her head, singing her to sleep.

****

Greenville, South Carolina
Jarod's Apartment

Jarod shivered and pulled the quilt on his bed closer to him. He hadn't felt this lousy in a long time. He knew he was probably running a fever and he should probably see a doctor, but he didn't think he should risk it. He coughed, trying to get rid of the phlegm that was starting to fill his lungs. Jarod curled up into a ball, attempting to get warm.

He hadn't been able to resist calling Miss Parker, a part of him wished that he hadn't hung up on her, but he couldn't afford to let her know that he was sick. She could catch up to him easily when he was feeling like this. He rubbed his aching head and wished that he weren't so alone. Once again, he wondered how he had ended up like this--alone, always alone.

Jarod closed his eyes and began to picture the one person who had once brought light into his dark existence. Her face was always lurking in the shadows of his consciousness, both the person she was and the person she had become. He'd loved her for years and was past the point of trying to deny it. Their time on the Island of Carthis had forced him to acknowledge it, at least to himself.

Jarod didn't dare to really tell her how he felt. He could imagine her reaction and he doubted that she'd even bother to draw her gun. She'd kick his ass for even thinking such a thing. His Parker was tough, with a sweet, softer side that she rarely let anyone see.

Jarod groaned softly, pulled his quilts up over his head, and began to slip closer to the sleep that his body so desperately craved. His eyes flew open as he heard someone pounding on the door. He sighed, pushed back the covers and dizzily stood up. After a moment to regain his balance, he made his way, weaving slightly, to the door.

Jarod fumbled with the lock and pulled it open. He was shocked to see Miss Parker standing in his doorway. "You're not taking me back," he said in a raspy voice.

"No, I'm not," she affirmed quietly. "You're sick. Let me in, Lab Rat. "I'm not chasing you... tonight."

Jarod thought about arguing with her, but his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool and he couldn't bring himself to do it. Standing there in his doorway was the little girl he used to know. He stepped away from the doorway and stumbled slightly. Jarod recovered his balance, but stood still swaying, near the door, his hand on the wall to support his weight.

Parker reached out and grabbed his arm. "Jarod, you're burning up. C'mon, let's get you in bed." She pulled his arm around her shoulders and, wrapping her arm around his waist, led him back over to the bed in the small loft. "Lay down," she ordered.

"Why are you doing this, Parker?" Jarod asked before beginning to cough.

Parker dropped to her knees beside the bed and covered him with the blankets, tucking them securely around him. "Maybe it's because I remember the little boy," she said softly, "who gave me my first kiss." She brushed his hair back from his face and dropped a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Go to sleep, Jarod," she said. Until Jarod was better, she wasn't going to listen to the Ice Queen in her anymore.

****

Sydney's House
Blue Cove, Delaware

Sydney groaned as his alarm went off. He shut it off, climbed out of bed and shuffled into the bathroom. A few minutes later he came out of the bathroom, grabbed his clothes, and got dressed. He left his bedroom and went downstairs, not bothering to make his bed. He wandered into the kitchen and started to make coffee. As the coffee was percolating, he dropped a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster.

He frowned as he noticed the light on the answering machine blinking. It was unusual for him to sleep heavily enough not to hear the phone ringing. What if he had been needed at the Centre? What if something had happened to Jarod, Parker, Broots, or Angelo? He hit the button and listened to the message. It was Parker.

She had been unusually quiet lately, but she had seemed to be dealing with Mr. Parker's death rather well. He was worried about her, but he couldn't do anything unless she came to him. He loved her as if she were his own daughter, but he couldn't tell her that. They worked for the Centre, after all. Neither one of them could afford the liability of the powers that be knowing the truth. He didn't want Raines or Lyle to use him against her or vice versa.

He wished that he could have done more to protect Parker... to protect both of them. He knew that he couldn't have prevented what happened to Angelo--he hadn't even known him when he was still Timmy. But Parker and Jarod were different. He should have been able to protect them. He should have been able to keep Jarod's SIMs from being able to be used for horrible things. He should have been able to protect Parker as well. He should have been able to do more for her than to comfort her after Catherine's death.

When he looked at Parker, he saw his Catherine all over again. A more defensive, slightly colder version of his Catherine, but his Cat all the same. There was a slight possibility that Parker really could be his little girl, but he wasn't sure, and he would probably never know. Catherine had told him at the time that her baby was Mr. Parker's, so he had no choice but to believe her. Instead, he had stood on the sidelines, watching Cat's little girl grow up, rarely daring to intervene.

Sydney sighed and stopped woolgathering. He had to hurry if he was to get to the Centre on time to deliver Parker's messages to Lyle and Raines. She was on shaky ground as it was, and he didn't want anything to happen to her.

****

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
SL 26 Rm 210A

Morgan woke up to the sound of the waking-bell and sighed. She pulled herself out of bed and carefully made it before heading to the bathroom. She came out a few minutes later and grabbed her brush from the small table that sat beside her bed. She ran it through her hair and sat down on the chair near the desk to wait for Louise, her mentor this month.

While everyone had treated her kindly, she had never had anyone to truly depend on. Her mentors switched every once in a while, so that she never knew who would be working with her each day. Her mother's voice in her head was her only constant.

'Momma?'

'Yes, baby?'

'Is my sister really going to come for me?'

'Morgan, sweetheart, your sister doesn't know about you yet, but she'd never leave you here for Raines to experiment on.'

'Will she love me, Momma? I've never had anybody love me except for you, and you're dead.' Morgan sent wistfully.

'Yes, she will, sweetie. It may take her a little while, and you may not get to see her often, but she will.'

'Why won't I get to see her often?' Morgan asked.

'Baby, your sister will want to protect you, so she'll have to send you away.'

Morgan heard someone at the door, so she reluctantly broke off her conversation with her mother to stand and greet her visitor.

****

Greenville, South Carolina
Jarod's Apartment

Jarod thrashed around in his bed, obviously having a nightmare. Miss Parker leaned over and began to rub his back in gentle circles. "Shhh. It's okay, Jarod. I'm here."

Slowly, he began to quiet. Parker put her hand on his forehead and recoiled. He was so hot! She had already searched his apartment for medical supplies, but had come up with nothing. She frowned and ran her hand through Jarod's sweat-soaked hair. She needed a thermometer and something to bring down his fever.

Parker leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "I'll be right back, Jarod," she whispered. "I need to go get you some medicine."

"Hurry back," he sighed, still asleep.

Parker pulled up his blankets and tucked them in around him securely. "Sleep well, my friend," she murmured. Parker grabbed her purse, and, after a few minutes, located Jarod's keys. She grabbed them and locked the door behind her as she left to find a pharmacy.

****