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Building a Better Mousetrap

Title: Building a Better Mousetrap
Fandom: The Pretender/7 Days/X-Files
Genre Crossover
Word Count 6288
Summary Jarod gets into a little trouble and calls on a two-man calvalry
Follows Trust Someone and 7 Days to Pretend
Author's Note This was originally posted on FanFiction.Net in July 2002. It came in second in the Best Crossover category of the 2002 Pretender FanFic awards. It is post-series for all shows. More to follow!



Mulder spent more time now surfing the net than was healthy. The majority of it was research. Just because the Bureau had fired him, that didn't mean his search for the truth was over. And after all that research, he needed a little time to relax.

It was as he was visiting one of these sites that the notice came through that he had email. Expecting it to be from one of his contacts, or even Scully, he was pleased to see that it was from a friend he hadn't heard from recently.

Sorry to hear about the job. I guess they finally got sick of your antics. Doggett doesn't sound like the maverick you were. I have a favor to ask of you. I'm expecting trouble and may need your help getting out. Not to sound too theatrical, but should anything happen to me, another email will be sent with more information. I know I can depend on you.
Jarod


The only trouble Jarod could be expecting would be in the form of the delectable Miss Parker. He had last seen her that Christmas in New York three years ago. He grinned at the memory.

In his last few emails, Jarod had hinted that Miss Parker had experienced a few personal bombshells of her own and that her resolve was showing signs of weakening.

Even though he didn't want anything to happen to Jarod, Mulder knew he could do with a little excitement to break the monotony.

*********************************

Frank Parker shut the door to his room and sighed as he attempted to isolate himself as much as he could. Thanks to Bradley's intervention, the cameras had been removed, but there was still that nagging feeling of being on exhibition.

He walked to the fridge, pulled out a beer then collapsed into the chair by the computer. It was time to chat with a few buddies and see what was happening outside the perimeters of the base. He signed on and saw he had mail, surprisingly from the only person outside the base that knew of the existence of Backstep. The man had secrets of his own that Frank had yet to find, even with all the help of the NSA archives. All he did know was that the man was being chased by a stunner named Miss Parker. What a kisser.

How are things with you and Olga? Knowing what you do about her should give you an edge. Depending on what time it is there, I hope this reaches you. I have a favor to ask of you. I'm expecting trouble and may need your help getting out. Not to sound too theatrical, but should anything happen to me, another email will be sent with more information. I know I can depend on you.
Jarod


Frank reread the mail. When Jarod said trouble, he meant trouble. He hoped nothing needing Backstep would occur before he had a chance to help. After what had happened in Seattle, it was the least he could do.

******************************************************

During the flight to Bellvue Nebraska, Jarod wondered if he had made the right decision, following this lead that promised to shed light on his family and their connection to the Centre. The sociopathic Alex started him thinking on why the Centre so desperately wanted him back. Following that, he had received a photo of his mother with Catherine Parker.

Yes, there was a chance that the Centre was setting this-or perhaps just one of the many factions within-but if he didn't even try, he would always wonder. At least he had made provisions. He smiled at the thought of his two-man calvary. Despite their disparate backgrounds and approach, each was resourceful. He then wondered what Mulder would do if he found out Frank's real job.

He then settled back into his seat and began planning his options.

****************************************************

Miss Parker stared in disbelief at the building in front of her. "It seems Wonder Boy has fallen on hard times," she muttered. It was a small cottage that would have been quaint had the roof not been falling in or the whitewash flaking off. She wished she had brought Sam along. This looked like too much of a trap for her to be alone. Her inner sense, however, the voices in her head that sometimes acted as a guide, told her to go ahead, but be wary.

The message had arrived that Jarod had been seen here and that was enough for her. Sydney and Broots wanted to join her, of course, but she made them stay to run interference for Lyle and her father-or the man she had thought was her father.

She had come to expect that kind of taunting from Jarod, but not Alex, a man she hadn't even known existed. Like Jarod, he had been a pretender, but unlike Jarod, he had no scruples or morals. He had been out for revenge, pure and simple.

She slowly approached the door, gun drawn. She cautiously opened it and pointed her automatic into the shadows. She couldn't see anyone, but she knew he was there. "C'mon out, Jarod. We can finally end this."

"I was wondering when you would show up."

"You were lucky it was me and not Lyle."

She stepped into the room and saw Jarod's eyes widen as he looked over her shoulder. He started forward and she threatened with the gun. "Don't move."

"We can't let the door-" It slammed. "Close."

"Oh, please. You've given yourself a back door like you always do." She walked to the door to open it. It refused to budge."

"If I had created this, there would be." She heard him fumbling in the dark. "I think someone wants us both out of the way." He lit a candle and held it under his face like a counselor trying to scare campers.

"Lyle," she stated. "Or Raines." She turned to Jarod. "You would be a feather in their cap and me, well, they'd discredit me somehow to get me out of the way."

"Whoever it was did a good job. This is sealed tight."

"Maybe they're just confident that we won't get out."

"You sound like you have something planned."

"I might," he smiled. "I might."

***********************************************************

Mulder stared at his computer. "Jarod," he moaned. He memorized his friend's instructions, made reservations, packed an overnight bag, and then headed for the airport. He remembered while waiting in line to call Scully.

"Scully."

"Scully, it's me. I need to ask a favor."

"Mulder, please, between work and the pregnancy, I'm frazzled."

"I'm going out of town and I just want you to check the fish."

"Oh. What are you chasing now?"

"I got an email from Jarod. He needs my help."

Scully was quiet and Mulder knew she was probably remembering New York. "All right. I'll stop by tomorrow after work. And, Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"Take care of yourself and Jarod."

*************************************************************

Having just completed a rather draining Backstep, Frank knew he had some time coming to him. Now if he could just persuade Bradley to let him go to Kansas City. He needed to get Olga on his side. He tracked her down to her private rooms where she had her nose deep in a book-as usual. He knocked and entered when she called. When she looked up, it seemed to Frank that she was pleased to see him.

"Mr. Parker, what can I do for you? It's not an emergency, is it?"

"I need you to help me get some time off."

"That shouldn't be a problem."

"To Nebraska."

"That might be a problem. Why do you want to go there?"

"Jarod."

Olga was quiet for a moment as she remembered her time with him in Seattle. "I'll see what I can do."

Olga was as good as her word. Despite protest from Ramsey, Bradley agreed to let him go provided he kept his cell phone with him at all times. Upon landing in Kansas City, Frank recalled Jarod's instructions and hailed a taxi for the hotel. When the cab stopped, Frank discovered he had a little competition when a clean-cut man reached for the door as well. "I think this one's mine," he said.

"Sorry. You go ahead. There'll be another one along soon."

An Ivy Leaguer. "Where are you headed? No reason we can't share if we're going the same way."

"The White House Inn."

"Me too. I'm here to visit a friend. You?"

"Same." He held out his hand. "Fox Mulder."

"Frank Parker."

They spent the rest of the trip engaged in small talk and Frank learned that Mulder had recently been fired from a job in D.C. As Mulder spoke, Frank watched him carefully. He could easily be one of the men after Jarod.

When they reached the hotel, they split the fare and walked inside. "It was nice meeting you, Frank," Mulder said as he grasped Frank's hand in a firm shake. "As we're in the same hotel, I'm sure we'll bump into each other again."

"I'm sure," Frank agreed.

*************************************************************

After checking into his room, Mulder pulled out his phone and dialed a number back east. Normally, he wouldn't have bothered, but meeting someone named Parker near where Jarod was automatically made him suspicious.

After a few rings, the phone was answered. "Lone Gunmen."

"Beyers, it's me. You can stop monitoring."

"Mulder. Haven't heard from you in some time. What have you been doing?"

"I've been taking it easy. Nothing has intrigued me for awhile."

"You mean you haven't been spending your free time with Scully?"

"Down, Frohike. Our free time just doesn't seem to coincide much these days."

"What's happened to make you call us?" questioned Langley, the third member of the group.

"I'm out in Nebraska to help a friend and I've come across someone I want you to look up."

"Okay," said Beyers. "Give me all you can."

"Name of Frank Parker, about 5'6", brown hair and eyes, late twenties, probably from the northeast, if that helps."

"And how do you know that?" asked Langley.

"His accent. I'm tempted to say Philadelphia area."

"Should take a few minutes to run it down," said Frohike. "So, how's Scully?"

"Fine when I talked to her this morning. Still trying to find an inroads?"

"She might need help when the baby comes."

"You three as babysitters. Scully would really have to be desperate."

"Please, don't even think it," said Langley.

"Okay, I think we've got your guy. You sure know how to pick 'em."

"Why? What is it?"

"Parker, Frank B is ex-CIA and Special Ops."

Mulder sighed. Leave it to Jarod. "At least he's ex-CIA. What happened?"

"He suffered a breakdown during a mission to Central America where he experienced 'violent paranoid tendencies'. He was remanded to a psychiatric institution on Hansen Island."

"A crazy, ex-CIA agent. Wonderful."

"That's not all. It seems he's now with the NSA, some project out of Nevada codenamed Backstep."

"That sounds so familiar. Let me know if you come up with anything else on it."

*******************************************************************

Jarod leaned back against the wall and tried to picture the aggravation on Miss Parker's face. She was not one who saw patience as a strength. She wasn't one who would bait a trap and wait hours for a result. Her father, on the other hand, waited months for his triumphant return to the Centre. Lyle bided his time for his return as well. And Raines made everyone believe that he had found religion so he wouldn't be suspected of anything. So it fit that they would be able to wait to come check the trap. Jarod only hoped that Frank and Mulder would realize they were on the same side in time.

*****************************************************************

Frank sat back on his bed and thought on the information Hooter had given him on his fellow taxi passenger. Fox Mulder had been dismissed by the FBI just this spring after he wrongfully took part in a case that was not his. It seemed his superiors were just waiting for an excuse like that to get rid of him. He had been known for tackling cases with a paranormal bent, and was a strong believer in aliens and cover-up conspiracies. This earned the nickname "Spooky". He went to school at Oxford and graduated with honors from his class at Quantico so the man was no slouch. He would definitely need to be wary.

Frank checked his watch. Might as well check it out now. He pushed himself up from the bed, and headed down to reception to arrange for a rental.

******************************************************************

Miss Parker sighed in frustration. Sartre had said that Hell was other people. Her Hell was being stuck with Jarod and not being able to do anything about it. Raines-or Lyle-had also managed to block her cell phone, her lifeline to Broots and Sydney at the Centre.

One thing she did realize about being trapped with Jarod was that it made her rather contemplative. If it had been with Lyle, she wouldn't be held responsible for her
actions. She tried to pierce the shadows, but even though her eyes had adjusted, she still couldn't see him. She could just imagine him resting back against the wall, which angered her even more, the fact that he could relax in her presence. To top this humiliation, she needed to answer the call of nature. She moved around in an attempt to ease the agony, but it didn't work.

Jarod turned on the flashlight and pointed the beam to a door at the back of the room. "It's through there. Don't waste your energy trying to find a way out. There isn't one."

"Thanks." She took the light and headed to the doorway. He was taking this too calmly. She turned around and confronted him with this.

He smiled. "Sometimes you just have to believe, Miss Parker."

*************************************************************

From the field across the road, Mulder looked at the unassuming house through his binoculars. There had to be more to it or there wouldn't be any reason for Jarod to need his help. He only hoped that the men from the Centre-Sweepers, Jarod called them-hadn't taken him away already. He also hoped that they didn't come when he was alone. There would be nothing he could do against a group of armed men. He could always follow them and wait for a better moment.

He saw a cloud of dust approaching from the opposite direction and peered through the binoculars once more. It was a late model tan sedan with Nebraska plates. Most likely a rental. It pulled off to the side some distance from the house. Mulder sprinted across the road and crept around the house to the back in the hopes of surprising whoever was in the car.

He walked slowly around the house and pulled out his gun as he reached the corner. He peered around and soon found himself looking down the barrel of a gun.

"Put it down and on your knees, hands on your head," said the man from the taxi.

Mulder did so and watched as the man picked up his gun and tucked into his jacket pocket. "Thought you were here to visit a friend."

"Funny, I thought the same about you." He looked at the house. "Guess your friend has moved."

"No doubt taken by your associates to Delaware. I should have known once I heard the name Parker. Just my luck you're the Parker I get, not her."

The other man lowered his gun. "Leggy lady with an attitude?" Mulder nodded. "Your friend named Jarod?"

"He sent for you as well?" He looked about the destitute farm. "Then he has to be here somewhere."

***************************************************************

Frank holstered his gun. "I didn't spot anything on the other side. The windows are all shuttered as well."

"Yours was the first vehicle I've seen since I got here. Jarod must still be here."

"Or they've already taken him."

"We won't worry about that just yet. My guess is that the house is doubling as a cell, one made that Jarod can't get out of."

"All doors, windows, and chimneys closed off." Frank stared at the fields behind the house where he could see something that might have once been a barn. "But what about from underneath?"

"I'm sure Jarod would have thought of that by now...unless it appears there's no way out from his angle."

"All these houses have cellars for tornado shelters. We just have to find the way in."

Mulder looked back along the way he came. "No cellar door here. What about your side?"

The two walked back and spotted an indentation along the foundation that could be a cellar door. Frank slowly walked along and waved Mulder over once he reached it. "This looks like it."

"But why did they leave this alone?" questioned Mulder.

"Must be they thought it either too hidden to bother with it or they have the inside door sealed."

"Could be a back-up trap as well."

"In that case," said Frank, "you go first."

Mulder gave him an annoyed look but went first anyway. The beam of light from his flashlight showed an unused cellar, a thick layer of dust everywhere except for two sets of footprints. Mulder pointed them out to Frank and the two men cautiously followed them to a set of wooden steps. Frank cast his light to the top revealing a thick metal sheet riveted over the door.

"Now we know why they didn't bother with the outside door," said Frank. He turned back to see Mulder staring up at the ceiling. "What now?"

"The ceiling's wood. This being a farm, I'm sure we can find something to cut through it."

Frank smiled. I'm beginning to like this guy.

***************************************************************************

Miss Parker rested back against the wall, breathing slowly to conserve air. It was beginning to get close and stale and she didn't know how much longer she could take it. She looked over at Jarod who was asleep. How had he come to trust her enough to sleep? Any further thoughts on the subject ended the moment she heard a scraping sound. She wasn't nervous when she had at least some control of the situation, but she was now literally in the dark and on unfamiliar territory.

The scraping turned into pounding. She pulled out her gun and grabbed Jarod's flashlight before setting off after the sound. She crept slowly towards the back of the house to what she guessed had been the dining room. She cast the light about and saw a hole in the floor. It was obviously new, the source of the noise, but no one from the Centre would need it-they had the key to the front door after all. She aimed her gun at the hole, just waiting for target practice.

****************************************************************************

After taking turns working on breaking through the ceiling, Mulder was the one to finally make it large enough to fit through. He pulled himself up and was blinded by a light in his eyes.

"Well, well," said a sneering feminine voice, "If it isn't Mr. G-Man."

"Hello again, Miss Parker. You and Jarod getting in some quality bonding time?"

"Not by choice, I can assure you. Now stand up and move away from the hole."

Mulder complied. "You have lost none of your charm, Miss Parker. My friend and I did not come here to be held at gunpoint by you, however."

"Friend?" She looked back at the hole just as another man was climbing out. "Not you too?"

"Miss me?" Frank asked, a grin splitting his face.

"What is this? A damn convention?"

"I asked for their help," said Jarod from the doorway.

"Jarod." Mulder walked over and shook his hand. "What's going on?"

"It seems that someone at the Centre wants both Miss Parker and me out of the way."

"Or at least just out of it," commented Miss Parker.

"Any ideas?"

"A few."

"Let's get out of this tomb and talk in some fresh air," said Frank from his sitting position at the hole. "Who knows when whoever set this up will come to check."

"Cuckoo's Nest is right," said Miss Parker. "Sweepers could be here at any minute." Frank jumped down into the cellar and reached up to help her down. "Watch where you put your hands if you want to keep them."

"Yes, ma'am."

Mulder and Jarod looked at each other. "You next," they said in near unison.

"One of us had better get down there to keep an eye on those two," said Mulder. "Not that I have any control over either of them."

"I don't think any of us are on Miss Parker's good list," commented Jarod.

"Good point," said Mulder as he went through the hole. Both Parkers were arguing over who would take point. "We don't have time for this!"

Jarod followed him down. "We're each used to being the leader so we all have to make adjustments to working as a group." He looked specifically at Miss Parker.

"We have to pool our resources."

"To what purpose?" Mulder asked. "We know you want to stop the Centre, bring its activities out into the open, but at this point, what can we do? Do we set our own trap for whoever comes to get you and work from there?"

"Since we know they'll be here, and we have a trap already started, I say we make a few adjustments."

Mulder smiled. "Sounds good to me."

*************************************************************

Jarod grinned. This could be fun. "All right. Now we take stock of what we have and what we need before heading into town."

"I'll take the barn," said Miss Parker. "Give me a chance to be away from you stooges."

"I'll go with you," said Mulder.

"I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."

"You don't need to tell me. I just think that we should stay in pairs."

"You just think I'm going to run off. Go on, say it." She glared at the three of them.

"Miss Parker, you can't blame us for thinking that," said Jarod. "You might not intend to, but a call to Sydney or Broots could be traced."

"Fine."

Jarod watched the two of them walk off and shook his head. "You start on that side, OK, Frank?"

"Sure." He walked over to the dust-covered workbench under a narrow window. "I'd love to be a fly on that wall."

"Mulder was beat up the last time he and Miss Parker were together. Unlike your cozy interrogation."

"Yeah, that was fun. Except for that brother of hers. Don't need to see him again."

"You just might. He could be the one behind this."

"I'd hate to witness that family reunion."

Jarod wondered if Frank would ever take part in one of those reunions-if he even wanted to. There was a slight chance that he could be related to the Parkers. After all, Delaware was rather close to Philadelphia. Somehow, he would just have to get a DNA sample from Frank to run a check against Mr. Parker's.

He walked over to Frank. "There's none of the electronic equipment I need, so we'll have to go into town for the rest. What about you?"

"Well, we can repair the hole easily enough and make a few surprises. I wonder if Mulder and Parker have had any better luck."

*****************************************************************************

The minute Miss Parker stepped through the doorway of the barn, her nose was assaulted by the odor of mildew and stale hay. "Ugh. Just look at this place."

"You volunteered," reminded Mulder as he walked in behind her.

"If it weren't for Jarod, I wouldn't be in this mess at all."

"The way I heard it, if it hadn't been for the Centre kidnapping Jarod in the first place..."

"Don't even go there, G-Man. You don't want to anger me any more than I already am."

"All right. Let's just look and see what we can find for this trap." He went off to study the rusting machinery.

Parker watched him walk away and wondered how the hell she had gotten into this mess. Jarod. That was the easy answer. That, and her family's insistence in getting the lab rat back to his cage. As for who wanted them dead, there was no doubt in her mind that it was either Lyle or Raines-possibly both working together.

She knew they had teamed up in the past. She also knew that her father would never kill her and that he wanted Jarod back alive.

Now it seemed that she and Jarod had to work together to solve this problem. The fact that he had enlisted two government agents who knew of the Centre made her job even more difficult.

"You just going to stand there, Miss Parker, or are you going to join in the fun?"

Shaken from her thoughts, she glowered at the man. How could he be so cheerful about this ordeal? At least she wasn't with the other one. There was something about his personality. It wasn't just his childish humor or sarcasm, it was as if it were in their nature to argue.

She made her way to investigate one of the stalls only to see moldy grain in the manger and a trough of stagnant water. She then moved to the tack room where there were only pieces of dried-out leather. "This is a waste of time."

"A couple of these motors still work if there's a need for them. You never know what Jarod will come up with." He looked at her scowling face. "Then again, maybe you do."

"Let's see what the others have come up with." She strode across the yard to the cellar leaving Mulder to follow in her wake. Why was it that all three men seemed to know just what to say to annoy her?

*************************************************************************

Frank saw the others come back empty-handed. "Nothing?"

"Aside from an engine or two, nothing worthwhile," answered Mulder. "You?"

"Enough to repair the hole and set up some booby traps, but other than that..."

"We all get to go to town," said Jarod.

"All? But shouldn't someone stay here to keep an eye on things? Start fixing the house?" Frank asked.

"You thought of it, you stay," Mulder said, volunteering him.

"Unfortunately, he can't," put in Jarod. "Lyle knows him."

"But he doesn't know me," said Mulder slowly.

"There's that Harvard education at work," taunted Miss Parker.

Jarod looked at Frank. "You'll drive?"

"Sure." He looked at Miss Parker. "Will you be my navigator?"

She groaned. "No, thank you. I'd rather sit in the back where I can keep an eye on the both of you."

"I'd be honored to have you in the back seat," remarked Frank with a lecherous grin.

"Oh, grow up." She walked out to the car.

"I don't know why people keep telling me that."

"Maybe they're just envious of your ability to enjoy yourself so completely," offered Jarod.

"Could be."

Jarod handed a slip of paper to Mulder. "This is my cell number. Call us if anything happens."

"Will do."

"If they come too close, just take off and we'll make other plans."

"I know when to make a strategic withdrawal."

"I just need to easy my conscience regarding it."

"Just go get what you need. Like Miss Parker, I know how to take care of myself."

"Take it easy, buddy," Frank said as he waved good-bye and walked outside, Jarod following. "Somehow, I think he's getting the better deal," he said, seeing Parker
leaning against the car.

"She's going through a lot of turmoil, Frank, so don't push too much."

"I'll try. Sometimes if I see an opening, I just have to take it."

"Well, try to control yourself."

They drove into town and Jarod found almost all he needed. For the remainder, Frank used his NSA ID to get them onto the airbase and the last few pieces. Once this was accomplished, they rushed back to the farm to help Mulder and set the plan into action.

**************************************************************************

Mulder wiped the sweat from his brow as he surveyed his handiwork. He normally wasn't one for DIY, but knowing this would have a positive outcome made it more worthwhile. He heard a car approaching so he jumped in the cellar and headed for the door, gun drawn.

"If that's how you greet friends, I'd hate to be one of those Sweepers," commented Frank dryly.

"You could have at least given some warning."

"Smells like you've been busy," commented Parker as she waved her hand in front of her nose.

"I'd love to see you perform an honest day's work. Oh, wait, do you even use that word?"

"Which one, 'honest' or 'work'?" asked Frank, joining in the fun.

"Don't even start with me about honesty!" shouted Parker. "I've been lied to all my life by the man I thought was my father! I don't need to hear any of this from you!" She stormed outside.

"I did warn you not to go too far," said Jarod, setting down his cardboard box of equipment. "So, what did you get done?"

Mulder climbed through the hole and began to point out what he'd done. "I weakened a few support beans here, some creative plumbing, and my pièce de résistance." He motioned to two mounds of cloth on the floor.

"Those aren't going to fool the Centre," said Jarod.

"In this light, you just need to lure them away from the front door. Besides, I found this," he said as he held up a miniature tape recorder. "We record your breathing so it'll see like you both passed out."

"Good idea."

"What did you get?"

"We found the right equipment that will enable us to change the frequency to the door by remote once they get in," Frank answered.

"Thus completing the trap." Mulder watched as Jarod began to examine the door and go through his box of components. He knew he would need to work uninterrupted. "C'mon, Frank, help me clean up."

"What? But Jarod-"

"Needs to work in quiet." Mulder pushed Frank into the kitchen so there would be no trace of tampering.

******************************************************************

Parker found an old wooden bench at the side of the house. After dusting it off, she sat back and thought on the mess that was her life. Her parents. Lyle. Ethan. She didn't know whose family tree was more twisted, hers or Jarod's.

She pulled out her phone and stared at it, sorely tempted to call Sydney. No matter how much she complained about his playing Psychiatrist with her and dredging up painful memories, it still helped sometimes. But Jarod was right. All Sydney's phone calls would be monitored, especially when she was out after Jarod.

Lyle thought she had become too soft when it came to Jarod. She couldn't deny it either. She was beginning to doubt the Centre's purpose and methods. The fact that it was Jarod who was telling her the secrets seemed to ease the blow somewhat. When this Cat and Mouse first started, she had refused to listen. Now she knew that he had never lied to her. He always left something to point her in the way of the truth, leaving her to find it herself.

Then she heard them, the voices that spoke to her, her Inner Sense. She opened her eyes and searched the road but there was no car. She stood and rushed inside.

Frank was standing under the hole. "They're coming," she told him.

He called up to Jarod and Mulder. "Guys, they're coming! Get a move on!"

Mulder stuck his head through the hole. "Where are they? How much time do we have?"

Parker was almost embarrassed to tell them the truth. They wouldn't understand. But it would be less embarrassing than rushing for no immediate reason. "I didn't actually see them," she said in a low voice.

"What do you mean, you didn't see them? How do you know they're coming?"

She heard Jarod's voice. "If she said they're coming, believe her." He passed the box down to Frank. "How much time do you think we have?"

"Twenty minutes, half hour tops."

"Right. That should give us time to add the final touches and set ourselves up where we can watch the fun."

Once the floor was nailed into place, Jarod had Frank move his car down the road where Mulder's was already hidden. With this done, they went back to the barn where they set up the surveillance equipment so they could see the results of their work. It wasn't long before they heard the cars.

****************************************************************************

Lyle sat back in his seat, not showing his eagerness in front of Willie and the others. This would cement his position in the Centre and his ability to carry on the Parker legacy, unlike "dear old sis". She would now suffer due to her association with Jarod. He'd see to that.

They slowly approached the farmhouse. If it hadn't been for the two cars-presumably Jarod's and Parker's-he would have thought it deserted. The shutters he had arranged were all in place, signs of a successful trap. He allowed himself a smile. "Let's go get 'em."

He strode up to the door and used a remote to release the metal shutters. Willie had his gun out to cover him, just as a precaution. There was no way the two of them would work together to find a way out. Parker was just too stubborn. That was one of the reasons he had let her hear about this location.

He opened the door and blinked as his eyes adjusted. In the far corner, he could see the outline of two bodies on the floor. They had passed out from lack of oxygen. He rubbed his hands together in elation. He motioned the Sweepers to pick up the bodies. The men walked over and, on closer inspection, saw that they were only rags.

At that moment, the shutters all slammed back into place. Lyle tried the remote but it didn't work. "Damn!" He was caught in his own trap.

*****************************************************************************

In the barn, the builder of the improved mousetrap laughed at their "test subjects".

"You are recording this, right?" asked Mulder.

"Every second," replied Jarod.

"I could use a copy of this," said Miss Parker. "Never know when having possession of it could come in handy."

"What about making things a bit more challenging?" suggested Frank.

"Go on," said Jarod.

Frank pushed a button on a separate control box, switching on the water supply inside the house. With no exit, it began to flood. Lyle and the Sweepers redoubled their efforts in an attempt to get out.

"Nice job, caulking the floor," Frank said to Jarod.

"Mulder's plumbing gave me the idea."

Miss Parker ignored them and thoroughly enjoyed her twin's predicament. "This has made being with you three worth it," she said with a smirk.

"Thank you, I think," said Frank.

"I'd recommend that we all take the soonest flights out of here possible," said Jarod. "I set the shutters on a timer. They'll open in a couple of hours."

"Why couldn't you just let him drown?"

"Then the Centre would have won, Miss Parker," said Jarod as he closed his laptop.

"Well this broke up the monotony," said Mulder.

"Monotony in the FBI, how unusual," commented Parker.

"Oh, you didn't hear? I was canned. Seems I was too uncontrollable for the confines of bureaucracy. Call me anytime, Jarod."

"Give my regards to Scully."

"Sure thing. Frank." Mulder left the barn to head back to D.C.

Frank looked after him. "Nice guy." He turned back to Jarod. "Same goes for me. You know how much I want to get out of...work."

"Thanks for your help, Frank. Keep in touch."

"You got it." He stopped in front of Miss Parker. "Look, I'm sorry about before. Jarod explained, and, well..."

"It's ok. You forced me to think on things. Don't do it again."

Frank saluted with a grin and walked out.

"Forced you to think, hm?" Jarod stopped in front of her and made to brush some stray hairs from her shoulder. "What about?"

"My life. The Centre. You."

"Any answers?"

"Not really. Just some clarification." She pushed his hand away. "Once we live this place, our truce is over. Next time I see you, I will bring you back."

"Despite the photo of our mothers together? You know your mother wanted to get me out and that she wanted you to continue her plan."

"Whatever that is." She strode towards the door. "No, Jarod. Don't even try to bring my mother into this now. I need more answers without complicating what I already do know." She strode out the door.

Jarod opened his hand and looked at the strands of hair resting in his palm. These, along with what he had taken when Frank wasn't looking would provide him with the items needed for the DNA testing.

***********************************************************************

A week after her return from Nebraska, Parker was curled up on her couch sipping wine when the phone rang. "What?"

"Did Lyle's suit ever dry?"

"Let's just say it set him back a few rungs on the corporate ladder. But I'm sure you already heard from Sydney on this."

"True, I did. There was something else I wanted to tell you."

She heard the hesitance in his voice, something rare in Jarod. Whenever they spoke, he was either taunting or lonely. Never this. Then she just knew why he was calling. Whether it was a guess or her Inner Sense, she couldn't tell. "Frank. He's my brother, isn't he?"

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