I have this habit of putting my foot in my mouth, but at least I didn't grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth.
Cautiously, Parker glanced towards his bedroom door, worrying that his parents would overhear their conversation. If he wanted to keep Tessa safe then he had to keep her away from them, now that he knew they were involved in the whole conspiracy—not that he could ever tell her as much.
That didn’t stop his ever curious mind from wondering where her information had come from. Was she involved too, was this some test? Alex and the others had warned of the monitors, whom Parker assumed had to be his parents, but maybe she’d been planted too. She had sort of popped up out of nowhere, seemed to have singled him out..
No, that was crazy. Nobody could have faked the connection they shared. Could they?
Don’t trust anybody.
Sam’s advice ran through his mind and left him increasingly anxious, desperately trying to think of a way to throw her off of his trail.
"Y-yeah, sure. Is he a.. friend of yours, this Alex?"
Maybe he could fish for his own information. Whether she was a plant or as oblivious as he hoped, that way he could determine how much she knew and what he could do to prevent her discovering anything more.
Parker was lying to her, she could feel it in her gut. Just like she had felt in her gut that afternoon she arrived home from school, when Charlie had told her that her mother had gone on a trip for a little while. At least when Charlie had lied to her face, it was to protect her from being hurt, like any good father would do. What was Parker’s excuse? What was he trying to protect her from, if there was anything she needed protecting from? His lies just made her drive to find the answers she was searching for even stronger. It had always been that way. Lies didn’t steer her of course, they pushed her further along the right path.
Tessa let out a huff, this whole getting lied to bullshit was really starting to get on her last nerve. No matter what the reason was, you always told the people you cared about the truth. Now, her and Parker might not have been as close as she would have liked him to be but they had become friends over the last few weeks and she had begun to feel like there was a connection there. One as strong as the one she had with Felix.
"No, he’s not a friend of mine, he’s.." God, how was she going to break this to him? And how was he going to take it? Tessa had stressed over and over again about what would be the best way to break the news to him, but she hadn’t once thought about how he would react to the news until now. Would he even believe her, or would he just laugh at her and think she was just trying to be ironic?
"He’s your clone."
Everything I do is unfabulous. I’m the most normal person. I love walking everywhere and going to hole-in-the-wall places, like nail shops, because they do the best job. And I go to vintage stores rather than high-end boutiques, because I like to dress different from other people.
Parker’s own face drained of colour when she asked about Alex, swallowing against the sudden dry patch that formed in his throat.
His heart rate had elevated, jaw quivering as he racked his brain for a reply, stammering in lieu of one. This was exactly why he did the science and not the lying, undercover part. That was down to the others. The other him’s.
And she knew about them.
But how? Had they been seen, had he left something for her to find? He’d been so careful not to leave a trail in his research, for fear of exactly this.
"I, uh.. A-Alex Hendrix? No. No, it uhm, doesn’t ring a bell."
That didn’t even sound convincing to himself, there was no way she’d buy it. But neither could he admit to it, not only for the sake of protecting himself and the others but her, too.
Things went too deep and too dark to ever consider letting her get into them. She was barely on the periphery and even that was enough to frighten him. He had to deny it all, keep her as far from it all as possible.
Even if it meant sabotaging everything between them.
Any shred of hope she once had that this had all been a big misunderstanding on her part was just torn away from her, lit on fire and left to watch burn away. Parker really was a clone, Charlie had really lied to her and she really was going to have to tell him of what she had learned. God, why did she have to be such a Nancy Drew? Why couldn’t she have ignore that nagging feeling in her stomach that Charlie had been hiding something big from her, that the investigation he was working on wasn’t another run of the mill scum bag cheating on his wife.
Next time she got that nagging and pinching feeling again, she promised herself right there and then that she would ignore it. Except, she felt that feeling again now. She couldn’t explain it, but she always sort of just knew when somebody was lying to her. And right now her stomach was telling her that Parker was lying, but then again that could just be the nauseousness she felt.
"You’d tell me if you did though, right?" She had to follow her gut instinct, even if that meant breaking the promise she just made herself. She had relied on it too much in the past to turn her back on it now. "Parker, promise me you would tell me if you did know this Alex guy. This is important. This could change everything."
He felt an odd sense of pride in the way she referenced Star Wars, admittedly one of his favourite movies. It was no wonder that she called him ‘geek monkey’, the way he could talk endlessly about it had probably long since reinforced the ‘geek’ part.
Still, unlike most, she used the term with something of affection, in a way that brought a redness to the tips of his ears—his tell-tale sigh of bashful embarrassment.
Now however wasn’t the time for those sorts of thoughts, not when she was so clearly upset about something. Honestly she looked a little ill and he had to wonder if maybe he ought to have directed her to the bathroom rather than his room.
Moving to stand opposite from her where she perched on his bed, he leant back against his desk.
"W-Well, actually, that whole plot was kind of obvious, if you knew.. Actually, never mind, that’s not important."
It only occurred to him know how little he seemed to know about her. He knew her favourite bands, sure, tad bits of her life but nothing very personal. That made it all the more difficult to gauge what was troubling her. The only other option then seemed to be to ask outright.
If Tessa hadn’t been on the verge of being sick, she might have been able to manage a laugh at how quickly he had almost gone into Star Wars babbling mode. But the truth of the matter was that what she had learned about Parker had made her feel to nauseous to be able to find his fanboy ways as adorable as she normally would. It was one of the things she admired about him the most as well, how he got so easily lost in this world of science fiction. Just the way she so easily got lost in her music and her father’s investigations.
They were both passionate people, and that was another thing Tessa admired about him because she honestly couldn’t think of another 09’er who got as passionate as he did about anything other than ridding his or her face of a pimple. That’s when it hit Tessa — What if the one thing that she thought made him stand out among the other 09’ers wasn’t something that made him individual any more. What if the other Clone’s she had found reports on in her father’s office were just as passionate as he was?
What if he was just a default setting and nothing about him was real?
That thought made Tessa shudder, she didn’t like the idea Parker just being a body of codes and simulations. He was real, he was the real deal. He wasn’t the clone of another person, they were all a clone of him. They had to be.
"Have you, uhm," Tessa paused, trying to dig back through her memory to remember some or even one of the name’s she had seen in the list of possible Parker clones on her Dad’s office desk. "Do you know a Alex Hendrix?" It was a shot in the dark, Tessa knew that but maybe he had a better explanation for all of this. Maybe what she had seen in Charlie’s office had all been her imagination and Parker just came from a long line of twins.
He couldn’t help but to chuckle at the nickname she’d coined for him, hand reaching up to rub the back of his neck almost sheepishly.
However, as he stepped aside to let her over the threshold, he also couldn’t help noting the apparent unease to her posture. Tension radiated from her and immediately inspired concern within himself.
From behind his lenses, Parker’s gaze narrowed somewhat, his brow creased as he took her in curiously. Had something happened, had someone upset her? Evidently she had reasons for coming to his door beyond a simple social visit.
After checking his doting mother hadn’t lingered nearby, he gave a brief nod before gesturing towards the stairs, shutting the door and leading her to his room.
Once there he made quick work of shutting over his laptop screen, out of nothing but precaution. While he doubted she’d understand any of the equations (not for calling her stupid but purely because he was still getting his own head around them) but it wasn’t something he wanted seen by any other eyes but his. Not yet, not until he was certain.
The science had to be right.
That was for another time though, right now his focus was to be on her, turning to face her once he’d shut that door too.
"Is everything okay? You seem a little.. shaken, maybe."
Tessa couldn’t help but feel joyed and also kind of guilty for being the reason behind his smile and chuckle. It made being able to deliver the news she had for him all that more difficult. One minute she was making him laugh and smile, the next she would be pulling the rug out from under his feet, so to speak.
How could she do that to him?
No, Tessa couldn’t afford to think like that. If she started to second guess herself any more than she already was then she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from turning back down the stairs and running out the door. Shutting any shadow of a doubt out of her head, Tessa continued to follow Parker up the rest of the stairs and along to his bedroom, somewhere in the back of her head, she had thought about him leading her to his bedroom. Only the circumstances in her head where completely different to what they were now.
Damn it, Felix was right. She really did think about kissing him from time to time and now really wasn’t the time or place to have this revelation.
Shutting yet again, more distractions out of her head, Tessa sat herself down on the edge of his bed. It was a relief to be off of her feet, because all of the anxiety that had built up in the pit of her stomach was starting to make her feel light headed. There was no doubt in her mind that she probably looked like she’d seen a ghost right now, the colour having almost all drained out of her cheeks.
"I have something I need to tell you, something you deserve to know but it’s all kinds of messed up. Like, Darth Vader being Luke’s father levels of messed up."
Tessa found it almost funny that she used Star Wars as a reference, maybe Parker would soon too have his own Clone Wars.
Fingers tapped diligently over the keyboard, eyes following the combination each tap left on the screen. He’d been sat hunched over the laptop for, if the ache of his back was anything to judge by, hours now.
As much was evidenced by the few discarded energy drinks and empty snack packets that littered the desk, along with notepads with barely legible scribbles on resting atop open textbooks.
To any unsuspecting individual it would appear to be nothing more than a student studying. In reality, however, his research went far beyond likes of the homework or test preparations.
Only was his flow broken when his ‘mother’ called up the stairs to him, informing him that he had a visitor.
With a pinch of his brow, he briefly wondered who said visitor could be before coming to decide it could only be one person, Tessa. He might have lived in their area but he was far from friends with the other “09’ers” as she called them.
After stretching out his limbs once he’d risen, he all but bounded down the stairs, greeting her with a gleeful grin. Even in spite of the grim topic waiting back upstairs, she managed to put a smile on his face.
"Hey, stranger. Long time no see."
As Tessa waited for Parker to make his appearance, she couldn’t help but wonder if what she was doing was the right thing. He needed to know the truth, that much she was sure. But did he need to know it right now? This wasn’t exactly something you could spring on somebody when showing up unannounced, especially not when his mother was home. Surely what she had to tell him would warrant him to bring up questions of some shape or form.
It would be easy for her to just duck out and now and avoid shattering his world, his mother hadn’t bothered to shout up to him who the friend was exactly at the door and maybe he hadn’t put the pieces together. After all, she was in the “09’ers” area, and Tessa was the last person you would expect to see around here. Parker knew that, she was sure of that. She hadn’t exactly buried her true feelings towards them, or the assumptions she made about all of them when they first met.
Tessa still hadn’t reached a verdict on if this was or wasn’t a good idea after all, when the sound of his voice registered with her ears. She cast her eyes in his direction, and instantly felt calmer upon seeing the smile on his face. It was contagious, and she too felt her lips spreading into a thin smile.
"Hey yourself, Geek Monkey." She was surprised at how calm she sounded, on the inside she felt like tidal waves were crashing against a a bed of rocks at the bottom of a cliff side. There was still tell tale signs that she wasn’t as calm and relaxed as she came across, like how she had tugged her sleeves over her hands and gripped the material between her fingers as tight as she could.
"Is there somewhere we could go to talk?"
The air had been exactly what Tessa needed to make her head stop spinning after the confrontation with her father. She wasn’t anywhere near ready to hearing his side of the story, and she had made him well aware of that when she stormed out of his office and slammed the door shut behind her. She had half expected him to follow her, but sans for the one missed call and voice mail, he had left her alone to cool down.
That was probably for the best as well, Tessa was known for running her mouth when she got heated up and as angry and confused she was by what her father had done, she didn’t want to go saying something she would ultimately regret. Yet when it came to wanting to run over to Parker’s house to tell him what she had discovered, she wasn’t thinking about the consequences. They weren’t what mattered, or at least if they didn’t, they didn’t outweigh how badly she thought Parker deserved the truth.
She’d want to know if there was another one of her running around the streets.
Tessa finally summoned up the courage to knock on his front door, apart of her hoped his mother would answer and say he wasn’t home. At least then that would give her more time to figure out how exactly she was going to tell him. After all, it wasn’t something you could slip into conversation in between discussing next weeks Algebra pop quiz.
Hands in his pockets, Charlie strolled down the length of the hallway to his office, his head ducked forward in thought. He’d settled another case but it hadn’t instilled him with the edge of satisfaction that it used to do. It made sense of course, it was a mediocre case at best; yet another suspicious wife looking to catch an unsuspecting, unfaithful husband. Certainly nothing like the challenge he faced now. It was enough to leave anybody feeling out of sorts.
Firstly, he was still getting his head around the concept of human cloning even being possible. And secondly, perhaps most importantly, to him at least, how was he supposed to tell—
He paused in the doorway of his office upon seeing her there, hovering by his desk. Pawing through his files, no doubt.
"What are you..?"
His voice trailed off as dreaded realisation dawned upon him exactly which files she had. Wide brown eyes sought hers imploringly, stepping further into the office and letting the door clink shut behind him. “Let me explain.”
This was crazy, beyond crazy, actually. Tessa couldn’t believe what she was reading, a part of her didn’t want to believe it but the evidence and facts were literally laid out right in front of her.
Clones. Actual human clones were real.. and she had a big ol’ crush on one.
This was all too much for Tessa, she felt like she was in the middle of a Sci-Fi movie. First clones, what next? Aliens and Spacemen? Not that she would complain if the spaceman happened to look a lot like Matt Smith and fly a blue box.
The thought sounded in her head as she found herself derailing from what she should be focusing on — The files.
The files on Parker.
Sprawled out across her father’s desk.
Tessa let out a groan as she sunk down into the chair behind the desk, she wasn’t sure what was causing the lull throbbing in her head more; the fact that Clone’s existed or that the one person she thought would never keep a secret from her had, her —
Tessa rose from the seat quickly, collecting the pieces of paper together on the desk before he could have the chance to hide them away and deny that what she had read wasn’t true.
As much as she wished it wasn’t.
"What is there to explain? You’re crazy!"
You didn’t deny you had though.