disclaimer: jessie does not belong to me ( hb owns her ); michael, however, is all mine. the m & m commercial is not mine either.

author's note: this is a side story from 'the heart of darkness' story that I've written. for those of you who've read the story, well you can put this between the prologue and part one. for those of you who haven't read my story, well, it doesn't matter. all you need to know is that jessie was going out with some guy from school.



**************************************************************************** ****

Laughter in the Rain

by Akane-Rei

Jessie leaned against the tree and closed her eyes. She can feel the rays of the sun caressing the skin of her face, her arms, her legs. She stretched her arms and gave a yawn.

"Bored of me already?" asked a teasing voice above her.

She lazily opened her eyes and looked at the young man crouched before her. A slight breeze made her shiver as it rustled the leaves of the trees and playfully waved the tendrils of his hair.

She smiled at him slowly and replied, "Fishing, are we?"

Merriment sparkled in his gray eyes as he plopped down the grass beside her, facing her.

"Just checking," he said, his arm extending to touch her cheek tenderly. He grinned at her and continued, "I mean, here I am, providing an elaborate, homemade picnic for my significant other and what's the thanks I get? She yawns and falls asleep on me." He affected a hurt look on his face.

Jessie laughed and gently grazed her fist to his cheek in a mock punch.

"First of all," she said as she got up to her knees in order to face him more fully, "my source tells me that it was your dear, sweet mother who both prepared and suggested this little picnic."

His eyes widened as she smiled at him with devilment in her eyes.

"Who told you?!" he demanded indignantly.

She smirked. "Why, your sister ofcourse," she replied. "She likes me, you know."

He began sputtering so she held a finger to his mouth.

"I would gave guessed anyway," she said, "the minute I bit into that very tasty fried chicken. You, Michael, couldn't boil an egg if your life depended upon it."

"How would you --" Michael began only to stop when Jessie firmly pressed her fingers to his lips.

"I heard about your home ec project," she said in mock seriousness.

"Really?" he whispered. It had happened while she was in France and he had been hoping it wouldn't get back to her. He had taken the class mostly to try to impress her with his culinary skills, anyway. Only it didn't quite go well as planned.

She nodded her head in response to his question.

"That bad, huh?"

Jessie raised one of her brows and said, "Michael, half the home ec kitchen was destroyed."

"Hey!" he exclaimed, "half is a little too much . . ."

"They had to cancel the home ec cooking courses for the whole semester."

"There was only a couple of months left in the semester, any--"

"You weren't even really cooking."

"What do you mean I wasn't really c--"

"You were using the microwave and it exploded."

He looked at her directly in the eye and said with as much dignity as he could muster, "Your point being?"

She couldn't help it. A laugh escaped her lips.

He smiled at the sound and watched as her eyes danced at her mirth.

When her laughter eventually died down, she rested her arms on his shoulders and said, "What am I going to do to you?"

He grinned at her rakishly and said, "A woman appreciates a man who can make her laugh."

"Oh, yeah?" she asked.

"I heard it in that M & M commercial."

She was about to release another peal of laughter at the mental picture of a yellow and a red M & M trying to impress a green M & M with their non existent pecs when she felt his lips graze hers.

They stared at each other for what seemed like forever . . . he, waiting to see her response . . . she, wondering what to do next.

Finally, Jessie tilted her head and lowered it to brush her lips with his when both of them were startled out of their reverie by fat droplets of rain which soaked them immediately.

They stared disbelievingly at each other at first and then scrambled at their feet, trying to save the remnants of their picnic.

As they gathered their stuff, Michael looked up at the sky and scowled at the sun as it continued to shine innocently as if nothing out of the ordinary is occurring.

"You would think," he muttered to himself, "that if the sun is shining, then rain shouldn't be pouring."

"What was that?!" shouted Jessie, trying to make herself heard among the pitter patter of the rain.

"Nothing!" he replied back, the rain obscuring the sound of his voice.

When they finally had all their belongings in their arms, they looked at each other through the falling rain, grinned, and then made a mad dash to his car. The race was on.

Although Jessie was leading for several seconds, Michael wasn't the captain of the track team for nothing. He was just about to overtake her -- no mean feat considering the fact that the picnic basket he was carrying weighed quite a bit and the fact that Jessie herself was a good runner -- when he stumbled on the blanket Jessie was trailing behind her, therefore dragging her to the ground with him in the process.

Jessie stared in shock at him as she tried to assimilate the fact that she just landed on her bottom in a very undignified way while Michael striven to stand up from his current position without much luck. He kept slipping in the rain-slick grass.

After another failed attempt to get to his feet, he caught Jessie's eyes and the spark in them sent them both to gales of hilarity.

"You should have . . ." he wheezed, "You should have seen you face when you fell!"

"Oh, yeah?!" Jessie gasped. "What about . . . what about you . . . you klutz!" She doubled over with more laughter as he gave her an indignant glare. Clutching her sides, she ignored him for awhile and tried with all her might to stop laughing at the thought of the ridiculous picture they both made.

Michael stared at Jessie, finally controlling his own mirth.

Jessie caught his look and the laughter died in her lips.

Michael got up to his feet -- successfully this time -- and offered his hand to help her up.

Jessie took it, and together they walked towards the car, helping each other when one would slip.

The drive back to the Quest Compound was a comfortable silence between two people who felt no need for words to fill up the space between them.

Finally, as Michael helped Jessie out of the car and held an umbrella over her head, he said, "So much for the romantic picnic I had planned." He said this with a bit of sheepishness in his voice.

Jessie opened the door to the mansion and turned towards him. Her right hand caressed his cheek and she said softly, "I wouldn't have it any other way." She smiled. "I wouldn't change a thing."

With that, she kissed his lips, smiled again and entered the house.

Michael went back to his car with a foolish grin in his face while Jessie leaned against the door and closed her eyes.

"Hey, Jess, what happened to you?!"

She opened her eyes and saw Jonny staring at her unkempt appearance.

She smiled at him and said, "Why nothing. Nothing at all. I was just . . . I was just . . . laughing . . . laughing in the rain."

**************************************************************************** ****

Revised March 27, 2002

like it? hate it? tell me.