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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 suit 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 4/?
by BrightFeather

~*~*~*~

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
SL26 Rm 210A

Morgan wrapped her arms around her legs and laid her head on her knees. She was bored. She had been awake for hours, but nobody had come to collect her--she could only think that something big was going to happen. She sighed and began to play with her hair, braiding and unbraiding the waist-length locks.

The sweepers had delivered breakfast a while ago, but she wasn't hungry, so it sat, congealing into a hard, gluey mass on her tray. Briefly, she wondered if there was food in the world that tasted better, but the green nutritional supplement was just about all she had ever been given to eat.

Morgan sighed again. 'Momma?' she sent.

'Yes, baby?'

'Tell me a story about my sister?' she asked.

'Your sister is a very brave person, Morgan' Catherine began. 'She's a survivor--and you can't really separate her from Jarod because their pasts and futures are so intertwined.'

'Who's Jarod, Momma?' Morgan asked.

'Remember the best friend that they make her chase? That's Jarod.'

'Okay.'

'She and Jarod remember meeting for the first time when they were around ten tears old, but they really met before that--long before. They played together as babies--Margaret and I had *such* plans for our little ones! I hadn't seen Margaret and Major Charles for a few years before Jarod was taken, so I didn't recognize him when he got to the Centre. I think he was about five and your sister was four when they met again.'

'But Momma, four and five year olds are babies!'

Morgan could hear her mother's sigh. 'Baby, do you want to hear the rest of this story?'

'Yes, Momma'

'Okay then, I needed to talk to Sydney, but your sister had been clingy that day and refused to leave me, so I brought her along. I found Sydney in Jarod's room that morning and when my back was turned, Jarod and your sister had started playing together. I was so surprised! She'd never wanted to play with the other children at her babysitter's house, but she and Jarod were playing quietly together, lost in their own little world.' Morgan could hear a smile in her mother's mental voice.

' I kept talking to Sydney for a little while longer, and when both of us turned to look for the kids, they were curled up together on Jarod's bed, fast asleep.'

'Momma, that's so sweet,' Morgan said. 'But you said that my sister was brave, remember?'

'Baby, after I died, Mr. Parker used your sister for a project and he hurt her rather badly--all in the name of science and advancing his career. She never told anybody what the man who raised her did; not even Jarod knows the full extent of what he did to her. After I died, she only had Jarod--and Sydney, but he couldn't show it. Your sister survived, sweetie, and it took a lot of courage to do it. She and Jarod were inseparable back then--and after she was threatened into giving up the friendship, she started to pretend that she hated him to protect him.'

Morgan frowned. 'But she loves him, I've seen it inside her.'

' I know, baby. But she won't admit it; she's been denying it for the better part of 20 years. She knows that if she admits it, the Centre will hurt both of them, so she refuses to.'

'Wow,' was Morgan's response. 'I want to meet her.'

'You will, baby, you will.'

****

Greenville, South Carolina
Jarod's Apartment

Jarod woke slowly and yawned. He ached all over and still wasn't feeling very well, but he felt better than he had last night. He could have sworn that Parker had shown up to care for him, but it was probably just a dream brought on by his fever.

He opened his eyed and frowned in puzzlement. Long, dark hair was spread out over his quilt--and as the figure it belonged to stirred, he could see that it was Miss Parker. Slowly, as if he were afraid that she'd disappear, he put his hand gently on her head and began to stroke her hair. It must not have been a dream, he thought.

He had his best friend back. Quickly, he moved his hand as her gray eyes opened and looked at him. "Morning, Jarod," she said, her voice hoarse with sleep. She reached over, grabbed the thermometer, and held it out. "Open up," she demanded.

Jarod rolled his eyes and let her stick the device under his tongue, trying not to cough. While he was glad to have his best friend back, he wasn't sure he was ready to have Parker fussing over him like a mother hen. "Mph. Why are youmph doing this, Parker?" he asked around the thermometer.

"Because, I refuse to let Lyle and Raines get their filthy hands on you," Parker regarded him thoughtfully. "If I can help it, you're not going back there," she said determinedly. The thermometer beeped and she pulled it out of his mouth. 98.6. Normal.

"Why the change of heart?" he asked quietly. "Two months ago, you said it was still 'you run, I chase'." He interrupted himself with a fit of coughing.

Parker looked down at the bed and began to pluck at the yarn ties that held the quilt together. "Because..." she began softly. "You're mine, Jarod. I don't share, remember? I won't let them hurt you again; I refuse."

Jarod's face lit up as he tentatively reached for her hand. She was protecting him--just like she had when they were children. Parker was the only person whom he could ever remember standing up for him; and that had gotten her a one-way ticket to exile at boarding school. "Does this mean that if I asked you the same question that I asked two months ago, your answer would be different?" He covered her hand with his own and squeezed it gently.

Parker slipped her hand out from under his. "No, wonderboy. I don't have a death wish; but if you do, I'm certain I can arrange something."

"Parker," Jarod began, determined to be persistent. "If the Centre weren't in the picture, do you think that we might have a chance?"

Parker's face began to turn a dull, brick red. "I don't know," she admitted softly. "I care about you, Jarod; I always have," she said in a burst of honesty. "But there's so much history between us--and a lot of it isn't good. Hell, I'm not sure if anything other than friendship, if that, would work between us, pezhead."

"Parker--"

"Don't, Jarod," she said softly. "Just don't. Even if we both want it, the Centre would either kill us for trying it, or lock us in adjoining cells and use us to breed more pretenders for them--I won't let that happen."

"Do you think we could try being friends again?" he asked hesitantly. "I've missed you."

"I've missed you, too," she admitted quietly. "I never wanted to cut off our friendship, but I had to." Parker's face clouded over. "Daddy said he'd give you to Raines to play with if I continued to be your friend."

"Is that why you started becoming distant when you came back on your vacations?" he asked, pushing back the blankets and getting up on his knees.

"Why else, labrat?" she asked. "You were my best friend; my only friend. Cutting off our friendship was one of the hardest things I've ever done." Parker flipped her hair over her shoulders, agitated.

"You were protecting me--again," he said softly. Jarod reached out and pulled her into an embrace. Parker stiffened for a minute and then began to gradually relax.

Feeling uncomfortable, she wiggled out of his arms. "Back in bed, rat boy," she ordered. "I didn't stay up for half the night getting your fever down to have it come back--or do I have to go get my gun and shoot you to make you stay put?"

"I'll be good," Jarod grumbled, settling back down in the bed and pulling the blankets up. "Stay with me?" he asked, again. "I'll be good, I promise--the bed's plenty big enough; you can nap up here."

Parker hesitated, then shrugged mentally. She was safe with Jarod; she knew that. It wasn't like they'd never shared a bed before. Before their forced estrangement, she had found her way to Jarod's room more than once and slept in his arms, always leaving before Sydney showed up. She had felt safer with Jarod than she had felt in her own bedroom because she knew he would protect her; not hurt her like her father did. She kicked off her shoes and slid under the covers.

Jarod smiled and pulled her, unresisting, into his arms. Parker buried her face in his shoulder and began to relax. Being in his arms felt exactly like coming home.

****

The Centre
Raines's Office
Blue Cove, Delaware

Lyle settled himself comfortably in the chair and looked at Raines expectantly. Dear old dad had called him in with the lure of a particularly juicy assignment that was something along the lines of his specialty. He smiled in anticipation. "You said you had something for me, Dad?" he inquired, a bland look settling over his face.

"The time has come," Raines wheezed, "for Doppleganger to fulfill her purpose."

"You mean, it's time to--" Lyle trailed off.

Raines began to smile; it was a smile that sent chills down Lyle's spine--it was one he remembered well from his days as Raines's science project. "Yes--son." He picked up a file folder off his desk and handed it to Lyle. "Here are the parameters; just don't kill her."

"Yes, Father," Lyle answered. He smiled at the folder in his hand. He'd always wondered how Miss Parker would be in bed--she was the hottest babe he'd ever seen in spite of his predilection for Asian women. It was really too bad that she was his sister. Now that he had Doppleganger, it wouldn't be a problem. Morgan was just another Centre-created science project. And now she was his.

Raines drew in a rattling breath and exhaled. "Get started... Bobby."

Lyle's head snapped up and he looked at his father through narrowed eyes. Bobby was dead. It was rare that Raines called him that; and he knew why his father did it. Calling him by his old name was the fastest way to get under his skin--it had also become a trigger for his more violent acts after he had 'died'. "Yes, sir," he growled, pushing himself up out of the chair and stalking out the door.

Once outside, he took a deep breath to calm himself. It wouldn't do to show up at Doppleganger's cell upset. First he had to woo her, to win her trust, before he could begin his program. This particular carrot had been dangling in front of him for some time, even before the DNA test that had revealed Miss Parker to be his, he licked his lips in anticipation, sister. Doppleganger was a younger version of her; hidden in the bowels of the Centre for him to mold, to train, to have submit to his wishes and desires.

Lyle headed toward the elevator, entered it, and pushed the button for SL26. He needed to begin immediately. He knew that he had to show progress quickly unless he wanted one of Raines's punishments in the shed. He smiled as the elevator doors opened and he strode out into the corridor. He had a little clone-sister to talk to.

Lyle arrived in front of her sweeper-guarded door, knocked, and entered. "Hello, Morgan," he purred. "I'm going to be your new Mentor starting today. My name is Mr. Lyle."

Morgan shivered, climbed off the bed, pushed her long hair off her face, and turned to face him. He could see the fear in her eyes--good, if she feared him already, then breaking her would be easier.

"Hello, Mr. Lyle," she said softly.

Lyle smiled, showing his even white teeth to his new prey. He could see her struggle not to show her obvious fear at his presence. "When I come in each morning, Morgan, you will be ready to go. I want to see your bed made and you standing beside it---no more lazing about. It that clear?"

"Yes, Mr. Lyle," she whispered.

"Follow me," he said, smiling. He turned and headed towards the door. He stopped at the door and looked back; she hadn't followed him. He turned back to face her and sneered before he strode over and slapped her with as much strength as he could muster, almost knocking her to the ground. Her hand flew to her face, gingerly feeling around the area that was already beginning to puff up with the signs of a deep bruise, and a cut from the ring he wore on his hand.

"You will do as I say without hesitation; is that clear?" Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed her arm and dragged her toward the door, leaving bruises behind on her pale skin.

****