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Season of Hope

(c) BrightFeather, 2003

Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine! But Steve and Craig, you two can have my chocolate Santa for them! My thanks to Lady Niko for looking at this.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Parker stared at a picture of herself and her mother by a Christmas tree and sighed. It had been a long time since she'd really had anyone to celebrate the holiday with. Most holidays had been spent working--trying to forget the loneliness that was her constant companion. The return of Jarod's friendship into her life had helped immensely, but he was probably spending Christmas with his family.

Parker had considered attempting to find solace in a bottle of well-aged scotch, but as time marched on, the prospect of getting smashed became less and less appealing. Broots and Debbie had left for their annual trip to his parents' house, Sydney was spending the time with Nicholas and Michelle, and Raines had moved her brother somewhere where she had yet to find him.

There was no way in hell she'd ever spend it with Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, and since the man she had called "Daddy" all her life was dead, that left her alone on the one holiday that families spent together. Parker put the picture down, wandered over to the couch, and curled up on it. Since her father's little skydiving excursion into the Atlantic, she and Jarod had slowly begun to rebuild their friendship. The best she could hope for was a call from him, her best friend. Maybe in a few days, he'd drop by so that she could give him his present, too.

Parker picked up her cordless phone and settled it in her lap, hoping for a call. "C'mon, Jarod," she whispered. "Call me--just so I know you're okay somewhere." Her fingers plucked at the blanket. Raines had sent sweeper teams after Jarod and his family, and the scuttlebutt was that they were getting close.

Parker's face lit up when the phone rang. She answered it as quickly as she could. "What?" she said, hoping for her best friend.

"Why hello, Parker--Merry Christmas."

She smiled in relief as his familiar voice came on the line. "Jarod," she acknowledged. "How's your family?"

"They were fine the last time I heard from them--we split up over the holidays to avoid sweepers."

"I'm sorry, Jarod," she said finally.

"Look outside your French doors, Parker," Jarod's voice rumbled softly.

Parker got up, walked across the room, and peered out the frost-covered panes. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw who was standing outside her door. "Jarod," she breathed. She opened the door and motioned him inside.

He came inside quickly, and she pulled him up to the fire. "It's *freezing* out there--why didn't you just let yourself in? I know you've done it before."

Jarod shivered, and let her take his coat. "We're pretty much starting over as best friends, Parker--I didn't want to ruin it if you had someone here for Christmas."

Parker reached for his hand and pulled him closer to the fire. "You know that chasing and making damn sure that we don't catch you takes up most of my time."

Jarod sat down on the rug and gently tugged her down with him. "I wish you didn't have to do that," he offered.

Parker stared down at their still-clasped hands. "I don't... not really." She looked up at him and smiled tentatively. "It just makes me feel better. I know you can take care of yourself, pezhead, but you *are* my best friend, and I don't want Dr. Mengele and Son to get their hands on you again."

"They won't," he promised. Jarod smiled crookedly. "If I could convince you to run away from home with me, then I'd never have to come near Blue Cove again."

"If we could find my little brother, I might agree," she countered.

Jarod chuckled, and pulled her closer for a hug. Parker leaned into him, marveling at how natural it felt to just touch him."I'll find him for you, Parker--we'll get him out, then disappear." Jarod tucked her head underneath his chin and held her.

Parker sighed in content. She hadn't felt this good in a long time. Jarod's arms felt safe; they felt like... home. "I missed you," she whispered.

"I missed you, too," he said. Throwing caution to the winds, he leaned down and captured her lips with his.

Parker stiffened at first, then relaxed into the kiss. It wasn't what she thought kissing a grown-up Jarod would be like. The kiss was soft,and sweet. It was full of love for her, with a hint of passion simmering underneath. She sighed, and stroked his tongue with hers. After all the waiting, after all the time that she'd denied her feelings, she just didn't feel like resisting anymore.

The kiss ended slowly, and they stared at each other, amazed that it had finally gotten that far. "I love you, Melissa," he said hoarsely.

She brought her hand up to his face and caressed his cheek, feeling the day long stubble. "This isn't a good idea, Jarod," she choked out, "but I love you, too."

Parker kissed him. It was a kiss full of promise--a promise of a future where they could be together, and that there would be no more Christmases spent alone.

And so it was on that cold, dark, Christmas Eve, that two lonely people came together, that loneliness might be banished forever in the season of hope.

End.