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ANOTHER WARNING: In other words, this fic is rated *****NC-17***** for a DARN GOOD REASON. If you haven't already moved on to the next message, you should probably be ashamed of yourself. I know I am but when has that ever stopped me?
A FURTHER WARNING: The following takes place on a farm. Therefore, please refer to and heed my dearest Mandy's previous warning about a certain synonym for the word ROOSTER!
A FINAL WARNING: If you were born before 4/10/85 then I'll see you at my next fic, you whippersnapper!
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Jarod and Miss Parker are not my own. I am borrowing solely for the purpose of getting them l..., ahem, solely for use in a piece of fiction for which I have not, and will not ever, receive monetary compensation. If you sue me over this, guys, then it will all have to come out in open court. You cannot possibly want that.
The character of Grace Wilhelmena Babcock is my own, inspired by and in tribute to someone very dear to me who, even though she departed this world over a decade ago, is always with me. She is in no small way responsible for my wacky, adventurous side and I have a feeling she'd get a real kick out of this.
Billie, Part 1
"Oh, God," Parker groaned as she climbed out of the comfort of her air-conditioned sedan into the oppressive noontime heat of a stifling mid-August day. "Deliver me from the set of `Hee-Haw.'"
A rooster scurried by a tad too close for comfort causing her to jump back, banging her hip against the car door. "Perfect," she spat through clenched teeth. "Here I am again, in hell!"
Too bad hell doesn't have a rewards program like the big hotel chains, she mused as she straightened her stance and strode up the walkway toward the door of the farmhouse. She'd have earned a free trip to Tahiti by now.
"Hello!" she called through the screen door and an elderly, but spry looking, woman appeared after a few minutes. Peering through the screen she gasped and brought a hand up to her mouth.
"Good Lord! You look just like..."
"Her, I know," Parker completed wearily. It was an old refrain that had ceased to cause the flutter of excitement it once had.
"Why, dear, please come in out of the ghastly heat," the old woman offered as she pushed open the screen door. "My, my, Catherine's little girl. Dear, sweet, Catherine: may God rest her soul," she continued as Parker followed her into the house.
"Let's hope so," Parker muttered under her breath, looking around as her geriatric hostess led her into the parlor.
She motioned toward a pretty, if prehistoric, loveseat for Parker to take a seat then sat down in an equally ancient looking armchair adjacent to it. Looking into Parker's eyes, she sighed and commented,
"I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever come. I feared I'd meet my maker before you made it out here."
"I couldn't have come any sooner. I've only just found out about...this place...you."
"Hmmm...funny..." the woman said with a quick nod then glanced anxiously out the window. Parker followed her gaze toward a barn off in the distance.
"Is something wrong?" Parker inquired warily, wondering if she'd made a monumental blunder, failed to adequately cover her tracks back at the office.
"Well, my dear, that very much depends on you and..." She glanced out the window again, just in time to see a figure emerge from the barn. This time Parker hopped up and paced over to the window. She looked out, blinking a few times to adjust to the near- blinding glare of the sun, then her eyes grew wide.
"You son-of-bitch!" she growled before charging past her rattled hostess and stalking angrily out of the house.
"Oh dear," the old woman whispered to herself. "I'd better put out some refreshments."
* * * *
Stony silence and an icy glare; he on one side of the circa 1950s chrome kitchen table with the formica top - probably the most state-of-the-art item in the house - and she on the other. Neither had spoken a word since their minor `altercation' outside but the daggers were flying back and forth nevertheless. They'd never needed many words to communicate.
Their hostess nervously, and remarkably swiftly given her age, moved about the kitchen as she set out a meal for her disappointingly adversarial guests: a pitcher of iced tea, ham salad sandwiches on her homemade bread, and a luscious-smelling, if she did say so herself, fruit salad, garnished with coconut, no less. For dessert she would put out a very special treat. The occasion certainly called for it. Margaret's boy had already demonstrated a love of sweets and couldn't seem to get enough of her baked goods; hopefully Catherine's baby would permit herself a small indulgence, although, by the looks of her, she probably rarely ingested any real food, just that crap the city folk eat that looks and smells like something destined for the mulch pile.
When she finished setting the food out in front of them, she glanced ruefully at one then the other, then sighed, silently backing away to take her seat on a stool at the large wooden counter, where she set about shucking peas for dinner.
After a time, Parker shifted in her seat and remarked caustically, "One of the `Village People,' I presume? I didn't realize they'd added `farmerboy' to the act." Jarod was wearing a pair of overalls, under which he was shirtless. And his exposed skin, stretched over annoyingly taught muscle, was unnervingly tanned.
He glowered. "I am tired of having a gun shoved in my face, Parker, particularly your gun." She wasn't wearing any makeup for some reason, probably because of the heat, and he could see the delicate, faint freckles that dotted her nose. And, even though he'd known of their existence, their sudden reemergence made him uneasy for some reason.
"And I'm tired of your incessant meddling in my life! And I'm even MORE tired of your unhealthy obsession with MY DEAD MOTHER!"
"YOUR mother! What does this have to do with YOUR..."
They both glanced over at the woman silently shucking peas. With her back to them, they could not detect the enigmatic smile now gracing her lips.
"When did you get here?" she asked tersely, crossing her arms.
"Day before yesterday," he replied.
"AND?" she demanded.
"And what?" he shot back, annoyed.
"I want to know EVERYTHING, Jarod. I have a right to..."
"HA! That's rich, you talking about rights."
"It is both immoral and cruel for you to withhold information about my mother."
"Again..." He sneered. "That's just plain ironic coming out of your mouth."
"You fucking son-of-bitch!" she yelled, bolting upright into a standing position, leaning forward to place her palms flat on the tabletop, and glaring at him menacingly. He didn't flinch a muscle but simply glared back at her.
"That'll be quite enough, thank you!" the old woman chided thunderously, surprising them both. In unison, they looked over to find that she had swung around to face them. Parker unconsciously sank back into her seat.
"Jarod doesn't know anything because I haven't told him anything. And I won't tell him, or you, a blessed thing until I'm good and ready to. I'm 93 years old and, if I can exercise a little patience at my age, then the two of you sure as heck ought to be able to. Now simmer down and eat your lunch!"
With that, she maneuvered back around and rededicated her attention to the task at hand. Parker and Jarod exchanged a fleeting look then set about sheepishly dishing out their meal, which they consumed in grudging silence as each stole the occasional surreptitious peek at the other.
* * * *
"WHAT?" Parker bellowed incredulously as Jarod looked on uneasily. He was none too happy himself.
"You heard me, young lady. I've got my bridge club today," the old woman explained as she untied and slipped off her apron, meticulously folding it then laying it on the stool she'd just vacated. "Cora is on her way over here right now to pick me up and I have every intention of going. One must keep up an active social life, my dear, keeps one young. I'll be back in plenty of time to finish preparing dinner. Now Jarod." She turned to her attention to her other guest. "Please be a dear and go down to the root cellar and bring up some of that lovely sweet corn. Oh, and show Miss Parker where her room is." She paused a moment, a nascent smile playing across her lips. "It's the one right across from yours."
Parker shot Jarod a withering glare and he quickly looked away, coloring slightly. He was worried, her freckles weighing heavily on his mind ever since the moment he'd set eyes on them.
"Listen, old lady," Parker warned, "if you think I'm really going to hang around here all day and..."
"Parker," Jarod interrupted.
"Shut up!" she snapped back.
Their hostess heaved a heavy sigh and shook her head. "It really doesn't pay to get so worked up in this heat. You'll either stay or go; it's your choice. But the only way you'll get what you've come for is to join us for dinner and stay the night. I refuse to be badgered and I won't be intimidated. Just ask Jarod." He nodded resignedly in assent.
"Now I recommend the two of you stay put and enjoy...my stars, I almost forgot!" She walked over to a cupboard and produced a plate piled high with her most delicious confection.
"Dessert!" she announced with a broad smile as she set the plate down on the table. "Enjoy! See you in a few hours, kids!"
When they heard the car drive off, Parker launched out of her chair and began pacing like a caged tiger. Jarod remained seated in a relaxed position, his arms folded across his chest, but his eyes tracked her every move. The mood she was in, he was thankful her gun now resided atop a rather large manure pile, where he had angrily tossed it during their initial encounter.
"I don't' fucking believe this!" she snarled.
"Why don't you sit down, Parker. It's too damned hot to pace."
"You think I'm just going to sit here and..."
"You have a better idea?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do. She'll be gone for hours, right? Why not search the place?"
He chuckled. She stopped pacing right in front of him, folded her arms and asked, "Something I say funny, rat boy?"
"Do you HONESTLY think that hasn't occurred to me? I spent the entire night before last going through the whole place, attic to root cellar, not to mention the barn and the other out buildings. And, when she was preparing breakfast yesterday morning, I went through her room...thoroughly. I have a feeling whatever is to be learned here is locked securely in the mind of Miss Grace Wilhelmena Babcock." He tapped on his temple for emphasis.
"And I'm just supposed to take your word for it?" she challenged, leaning forward slightly.
"Would I still be here if I'd found anything?" he asked with a smirk.
"Splendid!" she barked, then turned away from him and resumed her pacing.
He shrugged then pulled the plate bearing their dessert toward him. "I do believe Billie is a force to be reckoned with," he remarked with a sigh. "Good cook, though," he added before picking up one of the small, aromatic squares and biting into it.
"Mmmm..." he hummed as he chewed. "Very good!"
Parker glanced over at him in disgust then glanced heavenward before retaking her seat across the table from him.
"You really should try one," he chirped. "They are very tasty...spicey...I think you'll like `em." He popped the rest of the square into his mouth and grabbed another.
She watched with contempt for a time but found her eyes increasingly drawn to the plate. Whatever they were, they did smell damn good. Jarod noticed and had to hide his smile.
"Come on, just one," he tempted. "Might as well. You heard her; we're not getting what we came for until she's good and ready." He pushed the plate toward her.
Parker grudgingly snapped up a piece and cast him a sarcastically sweet grin before biting into it. "Oh my God!" she blurted before she could stop herself. "This is so good, it's almost better than..."
Their eyes met for an instant but both averted them quickly. Jarod cleared his throat and Parker flushed slightly.
"Well," he announced as he stood, reaching over to grab another square of Billie's addictively delicious creation. "I think I'll go down to the root cellar. When I get back I'll show you to your room."
"Not on your life, lab rat," she replied as she stood. "I'm not letting you out of my sight for a second."
"Whatever," he sighed before popping the square into his mouth and turning to exit the room. Parker followed closely behind him, snatching up another square of her own on the way out of the kitchen.
* * * *
A basket of corn at their feet, Jarod and Parker sat side by side on Billie's front porch, both staring blankly into the distance.
"Sure is hot today," he commented amiably.
"Sure is," she replied, equally amiably.
He blinked for the first time in what seemed like ages and turned to her. "You look pretty today, Miss Parker. I like the way you look without all that makeup. You don't need it." He had not the slightest intention of saying so and only realized he had when he heard the words leaving his lips.
"Thanks, Jarod. Nice tan," she responded good-naturedly then wondered where the hell his comment, or hers for that matter, had come from.
"Something funny..." he started but didn't complete the thought.
"Yeah, funny." she affirmed with a slow nod. A couple of beats later, she started to giggle. The sound caught him completely off-guard and he stared at her for a time, gap-jawed, until he, too, began to giggle.
"What are we laughing at?" he finally managed to inquire.
"I have absolutely no idea," she replied as she fought to catch her breath.
"Something funny." he repeated.
"Yeah, I know, you already..." Her eyes grew wide as it dawned on her. She shook her head slowly then announced matter-of- factly, "We're stoned, Jarod."
"What?" he looked at her incredulously.
"We're stoned. The crazy old bat must be using Alice B. Toklas's recipe. Haven't enjoyed that particular treat since my college days and, to her credit, Billie's are much better than I remember, which is probably why it's just dawning on me. Well that and that fact that I'M STONED."
"Yup, there's a special ingredient in there, cannabis sativa."
"I can't believe she drugged us!" he exclaimed, wide- eyed. "We have to do something!"
"Like?" She asked with a sigh as she leaned back on her elbows and closed her eyes.
Looking over at her, his eyes roamed slowly across her reclining form. "Like... like... I don't know."
"Frankly, I'm not feeling terribly ambitious right now. We'll deal with her later, when she gets home. Neither of us is in any condition to drive so we might as well wait it out here," Parker replied in a relaxed tone, her eyes still closed.
"Will you be alright?" Jarod asked as he leaned over her slightly, fixating on those delicate freckles of hers, just a few perfectly adorning her nose. One... two... three... four...
"I'll be fine and so will you. Just sit back and enjoy the buzz, Jarod."
He flopped on his back next to her and stared up at the porch roof. "They're wiggling," he observed after a time.
"The beams.... up there." He pointed up at the porch roof.
"Maybe you should close your eyes," she advised.
He didn't close his eyes, deciding instead to turn his head and look at her. A wave of guilt washed over him and he reached into his pocket.
"Hey," he said, propping himself up on his side to face her. "What do you think this opens?" He held a key up and she opened her eyes to look at it.
"Where did you get that?" She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Found it yesterday, along with another photograph of my mother. Now I have two," he responded proudly.
"And when were you planning to tell me about this?" she inquired, sounding more amused than accusatory.
"Never," he replied wanly. "I didn't think it was any of your business."
"MY mother is MY business, Jarod."
"I didn't know YOUR mother had anything to do with this until YOU showed up here."
"You are SO full of shit, Jarod," she commented without anger but with a faint smile before taking the key from him and looking at it.
"A small chest of some kind or maybe a jewelry box?" She casually pondered the item as she held it up in front her eyes before closing her hand tightly around it.
"I'll take that back now, thank you."
"Like hell you will," she teased. "You have demonstrated that you're an untrustworthy little shit so I think I'll hold on to this for safe keeping."
"Parker, I'm not kidding." He cautioned as he endeavored, rather unsuccessfully, to suppress a smile.
"No way, Jose!" she quipped with a chuckle.
"I'm warning you!"
"Warn away, Wonderboy, you're not getting it back!"
"That's what you think!"
Jarod pounced on her and thus ensued a relatively low- intensity game of keep away, Parker managing to stay a step ahead of Jarod as he attempted to free the item in question from her tightly clenched fist. To do so she fell back on her greater experience with functioning in an impaired state as well as her childhood recollections of where he was ticklish. She eventually managed to slip the key down the top of her blouse, positioning it in a most strategic location. Jarod froze and she took the opportunity to shake him off and stand.
"I knew it!" she taunted. "You're not man enough to go after it!"
Looking up at her he swallowed hard, then replied determinedly,
"You wanna bet?"
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