Mint on the Pillow

Author: Gillian Slater

Summary: On Valentine's Day, Miss Parker gets Jarod right where she wants him:- at gunpoint.

Disclaimer: They're mine, all mine! Mwah ha haaaaaa. Erm, no, actually these characters do not belong to me. I'm just playing with them. Please don't sue.

Part One - End of the Line

Weary beyond words, Miss Parker trudged towards the inviting glow from the lobby of the Majestic Hotel. With Jarod once again disappeared into the night, leaving her with nothing but impotent rage as usual, she'd phoned Sydney back at the Centre to rush the helicopter over and get her out of the hell that was Minneapolis in February. However, there were people higher up the chain of command who demanded all the Centre's available transport tonight, and she wasn't about to take a bus, so she would be staying here a second night after all. She began to regret being so snotty with the concierge yesterday.

As she stomped up the marble steps, the impeccably smart footman reached for the door but was stopped by an inhumanly loud sneeze.

"A-aaaaaa-CHOOOO!"

She glared at the man as he hastily pulled himself together and opened the door for her.

"Gesundheit," she said in deliberate monotone.

After the insufferably smug concierge had 'welcomed' her back with a painted smile, she took the elevator up to the 9th floor, and the sanctuary of a quiet, spacious room with a mini-bar.

She headed straight for the shower, feeling the need to wash off both the grime of the city and the shame of yet another dead-end in the search for Jarod.

Twenty minutes later, she reclined on the luxurious bed wearing an exquisite, silky hotel bathrobe. She felt clean, but still as miserable, and somehow it wasn't just today that was getting her down. She casually unwrapped one of the delicate little chocolate mints on each pillow and ate it. Of course, there were two; it was a double room. She noted how very depressing it was that she spent most of her nights in hotel rooms meant for two, never celebrating or sharing anything, just defeated and lonely.

Her melancholy musings were shrilly interrupted by the phone ringing. She let the thing whinge five or six times, considering just ignoring it. She was not in the mood to put on the 'efficient and icy' Parker tone at the moment. As the ringing continued she sighed and reluctantly picked up the phone.

"Parker," she answered blandly.

"Aw, why so down? Valentine's not your favourite holiday?"

"Jarod," she acknowledged dejectedly. Just the person she didn't want to talk to; she'd had quite enough of his taunting for one day, having endured the scrutiny of the bastard's 'clinical psychiatry students' all morning as she trawled his latest haunt for clues. First he humiliates me, now he wants to talk about Valentine's Day?

Jarod sat on the third step of the Majestic Hotel, a smile playing on his face as he looked out at the rain-drenched street.

"I just wanted to see if you got home alright," He smiled briefly at the doorman. "You didn't answer my question."

"Look, I'm really not in the mood for your shrink-games. I get enough of that from Sydney."

"Sorry, I'm guess I'm still in character. I do find this 'Saint Valentine' concept fascinating though, don't you?"

"Riveting." For once she didn't have to feign the biting sarcasm.

"A dead man who is supposed to represent lovers... It sounds fairly morbid, and yet on this one day people the world over are suddenly more concerned with relationships, with love--"

"Could you ponder the absurdity on your own time?" She snapped.

Jarod was silent. Miss Parker involuntarily held her breath, waiting for his philosophical response; he always had to have the last word.

"Love is absurd? That's cynical even for you. But I think--"

"Aaaa-ChOOO!" the doorman doubled over with the violent sneeze. Jarod's words were briefly masked by the noise.

Parker sat bolt upright. That sneeze was more distinctive than a goddamn fingerprint! He's outside!

"--could find happiness based upon a mythological naked baby with a bow and arrow is quite intriguing."

"To you perhaps..." she tried to keep her tone neutral as she leaped up and began to strap on her holster, "But I'm the first to admit I think all this romance frenzy is a bunch of commercial crap. If you don't get it, maybe your students could help." She held the phone in her teeth briefly as she pulled on her calf-length trench coat over the silky robe, hurrying to the elevator.

"Oh you met them, then. They're bright kids."

Parker covered the phone to mask the 'ping' as she reached the ground floor.

"Oh, I met your little Freuds alright. Sydney would be so proud." Her voice dripped with sarcasm, even though her mind was only half on the conversation as she crept through the long lobby, revolver at the ready.

About ten feet from the glass doors, she could make out his silhouette, sitting on the steps, phone to his ear. The bastard thought he was being so clever, sitting right under her nose. Well, for once she would burst his smug little bubble.

Silently she stepped out, glaring sternly at the doorman with one finger pressed emphatically to her lips. The robust man nodded, and then again he lurched with a violent sneeze.

"Aaaa-aaa-CHOOOO!"

"Gesundheit," she said coolly.

Jarod leaped to his feet and whirled around, dropping the phone, which clattered away. The familiar teasing smile on the Pretender's face was replaced by shock and disbelief; he'd been truly caught out, probably for the first time in his forward-planning, genius life.

Parker levelled the gun at him, her triumphant smile brilliant. "Happy Valentine's Day, Jarod."

End of Part One