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Author’s Note: In honor of the day, I’d originally planned to write something just brimming with those plot point thingies that people will go on about. Alas, life intervened to put the kibosh on that so here’s a brief sequel to a previous exercise in mindless smut, “At Times Like This,” which I’d always sort of intended to do anyway. If you prefer your reading material without any discernable social value, or just want to refresh your memory, you may find that one here too.
Anyhoo… Happy Anniversary, Everyone!
Wish I could say I remember where I was when it premiered; only I never made a deliberate attempt to watch an episode of tP until a quiet Saturday evening in October… 2000 and, boy, was I puzzled. So, were it not for TNT, I’d have never gotten to know my beloved Miss Parker, which would have made my life much less interesting and this fandom (slightly) less smutty…;-)
Nutritional Information: This fic is 99% plot free but is fortified with 200% of the recommended daily allowance of gooey shippy-ness. This one’s more or less clean – save the occasional reference and bizarre metaphor – and nobody is more surprised than I am.
The weather, like everything else on this stinking planet, usually conspires against me. My first (and second; there wasn’t a third) attempt at a romantic picnic date: monsoon. That long-awaited ski vacation: heat wave. A relaxing sail: dead calm. That is, until about 3:00 p.m. today when the weather became my best friend. What began as a soaking rain soon turned to sleet and is now a heavy, wind-driven snow, turning the State of Delaware into a skating rink in the process. When it became apparent that not even the Centre could successfully bribe or threaten any sane pilot to fly in this weather - nor locate a sufficiently insane backup – I bid Syd and Broots farewell and got the hell out of there.
Which is why, instead of spending tonight in some antiseptic airport hotel with sheets bleached so stiff that the mere act of turning over results in skinned elbows, I’m in my own kitchen steeping a mug of Earl Grey. And wearing pajamas; my favorite pair. And it’s all of 7:00 p.m. And I’ve already eaten something – off ceramic instead of out of plastic or Styrofoam. And the nor’easter isn’t predicted to move out until late tomorrow, stalled by high-pressure systems to the north and east. And Briar Road, the bobsled run that some lunatic decided to slap a street name on 100 years ago, will be virtually impassible by now. And I should have something like the next 12 hours mercifully, blissfully to myself. And this is as good as life gets… for me anyway.
Tea’s ready so I toss the bag into the sink then turn to leave the kitchen. In celebration of my good fortune I’ve built a fire and look forward to basking the evening away. I get as far as the doorway when I’m stopped dead in my tracks, completely forgetting the mug of scalding liquid in my hand and barely registering the sound of it shattering at my feet.
You have got to be kidding me.
He’s stopped too, giving me a shy, slightly guilty smile. Smiling while I have a heart attack; what a guy. With considerable effort since all the blood has drained from my brain to pool at the pit of my stomach, I take in his appearance. He’s barefoot, in a white, long-sleeve thermal shirt (could it be the same one… from Ocee’s?) and jeans that appear sodden up to the knees. His hair is wet too and he has a towel – one of MY towels – draped around his neck. He’s speaking now, I think, saying something about hanging his stuff in the shower stall so he won’t drip everywhere. And he’s begun moving toward me and I’m still frozen to the spot, struck dumb because I cannot fucking believe this.
My eyes follow him as he crouches in front of me but I can’t for the life of me… oh yeah, the former mug of tea; now shards and brown liquid seeping into my polished American Cherry floor boards. He collects the pieces of ceramic, piling them at his side then pulls the towel off his neck to mop up the tea. Just as I wonder if I’ve popped an artery because I still haven’t managed a syllable, something catches my eye. I fixate, driving away any unspoken question, demand or protestation. Reaching out to touch the object of my fascination, to confirm what my eyes are telling me, I finally find my voice.
“Jarod, your hair is frozen.”
He looks up at me in that way that only he can – every single emotion connecting every single thing that has ever passed between us pouring from his eyeballs. It would be unbearable except, as eyeballs go, his are real easy to look at. I don’t know what’s coming next but, whatever it is, it can’t possibly be good.
“I’ve missed you.”
And there, ladies and gentlemen, are three of the most ridiculous words ever spoken in the thousand-or-so-year history of the English language, and by a genius no less. It’s as ridiculous as sending a valentine to woman who makes her living hunting you like an animal, or entertaining carnal thoughts in an old lady’s parlor during a killer storm while being stalked by homicidal monks, or manually pleasuring one another in a darkened warehouse under a hail of gunfire. Well, maybe not *that* ridiculous.
If I’d needed any further evidence that I was truly a self-destructive dumbass, that night in the warehouse would have been it. In the days, weeks and months that followed, I kept hoping he’d taunt me about it. That way, I could have convinced myself (or at least tried) that it didn’t mean anything. Just two busy, horny people taking a moment from a gun battle to bring each other off; perhaps a bit unseemly but more or less trivial. But there’s nothing trivial about Jarod risking his life to save mine and we’ve never spoken a word about it since, the event present only in the pauses of our telephone conversations, the yearning silences.
We’re standing toe to toe now. He’s gathered the broken mug into the towel, holding the bundle at his side. I recall the first time he ever looked at me this way, a lifetime ago, and ponder all the women out there who have never had anyone look at them this way and, in a rare moment for me, find myself pitying those women. Women with ordinary lives, elevating to mate whoever it is they happen to be dating when they deem the time right for nesting. They may not bear scars from bullet wounds but they’ve never had his eyes on them either. Not like this; scorching, etching his soul on theirs.
He grins, one might say triumphantly, and declares, “I had to abandon the car even earlier than I’d planned. I regret to inform you that you are well and truly snowed in, Miss Parker.”
For one irrational moment I wonder if he’s somehow engineered this once, maybe twice, in a lifetime weather event. Apparently reading my thoughts, his smile evolves into a smirk and he remarks, “Not even *I* am that good. But I am one hell of a meteorologist, which certainly helps when you’re trying to plan an evening.” Shrugging he adds, “Call it a lucky break.”
My stomach does a summersault. Well, obviously, he’s here with the intention of staying the night but until now, I hadn’t consciously acknowledged that fact. And I’d be willing to bet my annuity that he’s not thinking marathon game of chess. Not that I can honestly be insulted by his audacity; we’d definitely “broken the ice” in the warehouse and it was I, Mistress of All That Will Eventually Kill Me, who had made the first move.
I smile back. This – him, me, us – constitutes the worst idea ever but, damn it, I haven’t even gotten one lousy kiss from the son-of-a-bitch. Well, not in a very long time…
* * * *
The fire is dying and if I had any inclination to move I might do something about it. But it’s still throwing enough light to be able to look at him so I don’t bother. Besides, I’m too busy staring at that perfect little indention beneath his lower lip. It is superlative, one of my favorite spots. One of the classics, anyway; I’ve just spent the last several hours discovering a whole bunch of new favorites. It’s still dark, the wind howling outside, and what a lovely sound. Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.
He’s dozing. I’m grinning. He’s lucky I didn’t kill him. I could go another six, seven hours easy. Suffice it to say, it’s been a while. I turn away from him, gazing into the fire as I ponder the reputation I’ve gained over the years – the operative word being “gained” not “earned.” Miss Parker: double scotch in one hand; boy toy in the other. I guess it never occurred to anyone that, more often than not, I’m at work a solid 16 hours of any 24-hour period. Or that the only members of the opposite sex I see regularly are Sydney and Broots. Or that, so far, I’ve managed to survive, which if you ask me is hard enough with your wits about you; I can’t imagine having gotten this far by going to work every day with a raging hangover. Guess nobody ever thought of that; never bothered to do the math. Well, fuck ‘em all.
Yeah, it’s been a while. There hasn’t been anyone since… and it’s been lonely. Sometimes I hate my queen-size bed, feeling it mock me at the end of a long, difficult day. And I’m glad we never made it up there tonight. Curled up against him, I know the nights are going to be even longer and lonelier from now on. The bed will feel ten times emptier and one hundred times colder. But enough of that; he’s here now, so back to that spot below his lip.
I lean over him to press a chaste kiss to that superlative little spot and he wakes up immediately, drawing me back to his lips when I begin to move away. I am almost disappointed. He’s mine, if only for now, and I want to explore every inch, to nibble like it’s Easter Morning and he’s a 6-foot-tall, 170-pound solid chocolate bunny. Wonder how he’d take it if I got out my handcuffs? No, it’s too soon for that; leave it for another time.
Already thinking in terms of a future we can’t possibly have… swell. Because this doesn’t change anything: he still runs; I still chase. And, until a few hours ago, I was assuming that fact would keep him away. Jarod’s such an all-or-nothing kind of guy that I never would have imagined he’d settle for a few stolen moments. But settling he is; settling me into position on his body with that naughty twinkle in his eye that makes me so crazy that I can barely breathe. It is all I can do to sigh and thank God that I’d been mistaken.