Title: Love and War, 1/28

Author: Goddess Evie

Date: October 1, 2016

Category: JJHR, Adventure

Summary: Christmas in Prague doesn't go exactly as anybody planned.

Disclaimer: I do not own JQ. I make no money off this story. I am only using the characters for my own unique story.

Author's Notes: Before I say anything else: No, this is not the final installment of Red Headed Goddess. Sorry for those who were wanting that fic. It's not yet fully formed in my head, and if I tried to write it, it would end up complete trash. So please be patient with me. But I do have this new fic to debut for you guys. And here's the REALLY fun part: it's already fully written and mostly edited. So there won't be any update gaps (there shouldn't be any update gaps ~_^). I'll be updating Saturdays and Wednesdays. And by my calculations (if there are no delays) it should take 3.5 months to post the whole thing on that schedule, so the final chapter will be uploaded some time mid-January. I hope to do the same thing with RHG3, because I want that fic to be absolutely perfect for you guys. So give me time to brainstorm more, outline, write and edit (and no, no time frame there, sorry). In the meantime, enjoy this offering. I'm pretty proud of it and I hope you'll enjoy it.

Chapter 1

Jessie studied the city of Prague, with its blanket of glittering snow, through the windows of the Vaclav Havel airport. The morning sky was a brilliant blue over the white frosted city and Jessie could almost believe she'd traveled to some fairytale land with Prague castle standing tall in the midst of the historic architecture.

"I've forgotten how beautiful this city is," Estella commented.

Jessie smiled at her mom. "I'm glad you came. You needed a break from South America. And a little snow will be good for you."

Estella laughed. "We get plenty of snow in South America, thank you very much."

But it doesn't have Jonny.

And currently, Prague did.

Jessie pushed those thoughts and their implications away before they showed on her face.

"You'll love Prague during the Christmas season, though we're a little late," Estella said as they turned the corner to the security checkpoint.

Jessie's smile widened as she spotted her dad waiting on the other side. She looked around and beyond him, but he'd come alone. Still, after two weeks of not seeing Race, she had to stifle the urge to break into a run. She could tell the moment he caught sight of her. A smile lit up his face.

The moment she and Estella passed the checkpoint, Jessie quickened her pace until she was hugging her dad. He squeezed her as tightly as she squeezed him and her feet came off the ground.

"Ponchita, I missed you," he whispered in her ear.

"I missed you too, dad," Jessie replied.

Race set her back on her feet and released her enough to look at her.

"You had a good flight?" he asked.

"Not a bit of turbulence. Slept most of the way," Jessie answered.

He pulled her close again to press a kiss to her hair.

"You're such a worrywart," Jessie teased.

"I just worry when I'm not the one piloting," Race said.

He looked down into her green eyes with his steel blue ones and they shared a solemn look.

"That happened one time, dad," Jessie said softly.

"One time too many," Race replied just as softly.

Jessie hugged him again, cheek to his chest. She could feel the rumble as he spoke to her mom.

"Estella, I'm glad you could come," Race greeted civilly.

"President Stasny's invitation was an honor too good to resist," Estella answered just as civilly. Then her tone turned more playful. "And apparently I needed to get out of South America."

Jessie shared a smile with her mom.

"No better place to do that than Prague, I suppose," Race said, positioning Jessie by his side, arm still around her, as he turned away from the checkpoint. "Let's get your luggage. Everyone's excited to see you both."

Jessie's heart quickened at her dad's words and she took a deep breath to calm it again. Together the three headed through the crowds toward the luggage carousel.

"How was your Christmas?" Jessie asked her dad.

"Uneventful, just the way I like them," Race answered. "And a little lonely," he added, giving her another squeeze. "How was yours?"

"It was good. I'd forgotten how crazy about Christmas Abuelita is," Jessie joked.

"It's a good thing you came this year. Mama would have disowned me if you'd spent a fourth Christmas in America," Estella chimed in.

Jessie blushed with remorse. "I spent my entire stay apologizing to her."

"And being spoiled by her," Estella countered. "She really misses you."

"It was really good to see her and the rest of the family," Jessie assured her mom.

"And you promised to spend time with them this summer before heading off to college," Estella added.

Jessie looked at her mom with a grin. "Do you need me to promise to keep that promise?"

Estella shook her head. "No. I know you mean it."

A glimpse at her dad as they arrived at the carousel showed Race was smiling—genuinely smiling.

Maybe we can actually get through this visit without them fighting, she thought to herself.


Twenty minutes later they were exiting the airport with their luggage in tow. The crisp air invigorated Jessie as it hit her and brought color to her mom's cheeks. Around them, the foreign Czech language flew through the air, piquing Jessie's innate curiosity and love of languages.

"You packed light," Race commented, pulling Jessie's attention back to him.

"It's a short trip," Jessie reminded, her breath puffing out in a white fog as she spoke. "We'll only be here a couple of days."

"Where'd you stow all the Christmas presents your Abuelita spoiled you with?" Race asked.

"They're on their way to Maine," Jessie said. "We shipped them home. There was no way we were going to lug that haul all the way to Prague."

Race chuckled as he led the way to a town car with tinted windows and little Czech flags at the corners of the hood and trunk. The engine was still running to keep the interior warm. The driver stood next to the vehicle, his gloved hands folded in front of him.

"What's this?" Estella asked, sounding impressed.

"President Stasny insisted," Race explained. He winked at Jessie. "Apparently a national hero must ride in style."

"That was very kind of her," Estella said as the driver opened the door and waited for Jessie and Estella to enter.

Race helped the man load the bags into the trunk before joining mother and daughter in the backseat. The driver climbed behind the wheel and the vehicle pulled away from the curb, slushing in the snow thick on the street.

Jessie watched her dad in the sudden quiet of the car. He'd chosen the seat facing opposite Jessie and Estella. His gaze swung back and forth, watching the view beyond the side and rear windows.

"How did President Stasny convince you to take a driver?" Jessie asked her dad with a teasing smile.

Race's face contorted with exaggerated annoyance. "She's president of the whole country. It's hard to say no to her."

Jessie laughed, but a moment later she was checking the view herself, and not totally for the sites themselves.

"Well between the two of you, I certainly feel safe," Estella commented good-naturedly.

Jessie flashed her mother a smile before turning back to the window. She paid more attention to the scenery, her heart growing more fluttery as they approached Prague Castle where President Stasny awaited them.

And Dr. Quest. Hadji. Jonny.

Jonny.

Jessie had to fight to keep the smile off her face and her nerves at bay. She closed her eyes as she considered the way things had been developing between her and her best friend.

Jessie sighed as she leaned her head against her locker in the emptiness of an after school hallway. Five minutes ago she'd been sitting with Jonny and a group of their friends. But she couldn't stick around and watch another girl flirt with him. And even worse, watch him flirt back.

But mostly she couldn't handle the jealousy she felt. It was time to do something about it. Either she was going to have to somehow accept that Jonny didn't feel the same about her, or she was going to have to be honest with him.

But did Jonny feel the same way? If he did, wouldn't he have shown her? Wouldn't he have flirted with her the way he flirted so easily with all the other girls who batted their eyelashes at him?

But he'd been a little distant lately, not spending as much time with her. Almost avoiding her, it seemed.

Exhaling loudly, Jessie lifted her head and twirled the dial on her locker. She let her backpack fall from her shoulder and to the floor, then squatted down to rifle through her text books and binders as she considered what she would need for homework that night.

Maybe she should finally say yes to Brandon. He'd been getting pretty bold in his flirting. He'd even asked her out a couple of times. She'd given him excuses to be nice. But perhaps next time-

"Hey Jess, there you are."

Jessie looked up and swallowed. Jonny walked toward her down the tiled hallway.

"You left without saying anything. Everything okay?"

Jessie stood again and began shoving books into her locker while she tried to settle the butterflies in her stomach.

"Yeah, I just have a lot of homework I need to get done tonight." And I couldn't watch you and Melody fall all over each other.

Jonny leaned on his shoulder against the locker next to hers, watching her exchange books and notebooks. "Great. I was hoping you'd help me with my trig homework."

"Aren't you going over to Melody's this afternoon?" Jessie scolded herself for the coldness in her voice. Keep it under control, Bannon.

"I have no desire to spend the afternoon, or any afternoon, with Melody," Jonny groaned.

Jessie peeked at him. "She's really into you."

"And she's just like any other girl I've dated. And I'm sick of those girls," Jonny stated.

Jessie grabbed her winter coat from the hook slowly, closed her locker softly and swung her backpack up to her shoulder. She couldn't look at Jonny straight on. "How come you're suddenly so adverse to their company?"

Jonny shrugged, still leaning against the locker. "I'm tired of being nice to girls I have no interest in. Girls I've really just been wasting my time with. I mean, you're always telling me I'm too nice. So, I guess I'm finally taking your advice."

"Took you long enough," Jessie joked, finally turning away from her locker.

"And besides," he paused to catch her eye, hold it for a heartbeat like he was trying to make sure she got his message, "I've already got the most amazing girl in the world to spend my afternoons with. Why would I give that up?"

Jessie couldn't believe what she'd just heard. Nor could she believe her reaction to it: the silly smile, glancing at her feet, her reddened cheeks. She reigned herself in again, but when she looked up at Jonny he was smiling at her—a secret smile he'd never bestowed on any of those other girls. A smile just for her.

"So, Trig, huh?" she asked, adjusting her backpack and heading down the hallway.

Jonny fell into step beside her, slinging an arm around her shoulders and pulling her against him. "Yeah, the final in a couple of weeks is gonna be killer."