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Unfinished Business

Summary: Jo and Parrish still needed to have that rendezvous.

Spoilers through: 5x09—Smarter Carter

After everything with ANDY and Carter and Fargo, Jo kind of just forgot about Parrish. Until the next day when she saw him approaching her in the rotunda. What was it he had said, that they would "rendezvous?" She did not like the sound of that.

She tried to think of a nice way to let him down. "Listen, Parrish—"

He cut her off by putting his finger to her lips again. Okay, so she definitely was not misreading that. He paused to gather his thoughts. "I know that this experience stirred up some feelings for you, and I've given it some thought. As Dr. Philip Boyce once said, 'A man either—"

Parrish was in turn cut off by the sound of someone clearing their throat. He looked behind her and pulled his hand away from her mouth. It was for the best because, though she managed a tight-lipped smile, Jo had really just been thinking about how much she wanted to break his stupid finger.

She realized what had caused Parrish's sudden withdrawal when she heard Zane's amused tone. "What's going on here?"

Parrish answered. "Lupo and I just had some unfinished business." To Jo, he said, "We'll talk later," and then he took his leave.

When she turned around to face Zane, he raised his eyebrows. "What kind of unfinished business do you have that requires him to put his hands on you?" He was still more amused than anything.

Jo really did not want to talk about it. Damn her and her total honesty policy. She started walking. "Things just got complicated when I was trying to keep him from finding out what you were up to."

"Yeah, good job with that, by the way."

Jo was about to sarcastically apologize for letting her real job get in the way, but Zane grabbed her arm and stopped her in place. "Wait, how complicated?"

He sounded worried now, like he was afraid there was actually a chance she would leave him for Parrish. Then again, he'd recently worried about her leaving him for Carter, so . . . This Zane was a little insecure; it was interesting. "I think I called him distracting and magnetic. I was just trying to divert his attention. I had to do something."

And Zane was back to amused. "Wow, Jo Lupo using her feminine wiles to get what she wants. I didn't think you were the type."

She hadn't either. "I didn't have a lot of time to think. I was trying to cover your ass. And it was almost working, if it hadn't been for ANDY going crazy."

Zane considered this. "So what does Parrish think is going to happen now?"

"I don't know." She really didn't. "He said we should keep things professional, at least at first. And he knows that you and I are together. Although I'm not sure how together he thinks we are since I was trying to get you fired."

"What?"

She sighed. Right, he didn't know about that either. "Not fired exactly, demoted. That's how I was diverting—I knew Fargo wasn't going to fire you; it was just a thing to keep Parrish busy while you were playing Frankenstein in Henry's garage. Speaking of which, why aren't you there working on that?"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" he teased. "Me out of the way so that you can have your little tryst with Parrish. I know how you operate, Lupo." He got more serious. "No, I've got to at least put in an appearance here. I'll get back to Holly soon."

Despite how embarrassing it was to have to explain the situation to Zane, his presence at GD that morning had actually benefited Jo. "Thanks for saving me from Parrish."

"No problem. What are you going to tell him?"

"Um . . ," It would probably be better if she figured that out. She took off walking again.

Zane followed her. "I would start with how you already have a boyfriend, and it'd be great if you could work in something about my sexual prowess."

"Yeah, I'm probably not going to say that second part." Think, think, think. "And it kind of makes it hard to say I don't want to get involved with anyone at work."

"You could probably just tell him the truth. I mean he and Fargo both know about Holly now. There's no need to keep up the charade."

He was right, but it seemed kind of rude to just say she was only pretending. And maybe it was partly what Zane said earlier; she did not want to be thought of as that kind of woman, one who uses her sexuality as a weapon. Ugh, it sounded even worse that way. "Or I could tell him that it would never work between us because . . ." She was grasping at straws here. "Because I think he still has feelings for Holly, and I'm not interested in playing second fiddle."

Zane immediately found fault with this. "So that would simultaneously encourage him to pursue Fargo's girlfriend and make him think that he has a shot with mine." After a second, he added, "Although, he definitely still has feelings for Holly."

Jo shook her head. "I'll figure something out."

"I assume your aversion to the truth is my influence, so I'm okay with it." Their paths were about to diverge, and he leaned in to give her a quick kiss goodbye. It ended up being not quite as quick as she expected; his lips lingered on hers at the end, just enough to kick up her pulse. When he pulled back, he said, "I'm sure whatever you come up with will be great."

Jo watched him head for Section 5 for a few seconds while she worked on controlling her breathing. If he had been trying to make a point with that kiss, the message was received. As she continued on to her office, she finally worked out what she could say to Parrish.

Parrish's second attempt at a rendezvous did not come until the end of the workday. He had probably actually been working on his projects all day, which was a refreshing change of pace in this facility. When he came into the office, Jo stopped him before he was close enough to touch her mouth again. "Please let me go first."

He inclined his head, which she took as an invitation to continue. So she launched into the speech she had prepared. "Obviously there's an attraction here, but we can never act on it."

"And why is that?" He came a few steps closer.

"Because I'm with Zane, and you, you still have feelings for Holly. What we have . . ." She forced herself to get the words out. "It's just physical. It would never work. That's why we agreed to keep it professional."

He nodded solemnly. "I understand. I think you're absolutely right."

There was something patronizing about his tone. Even though that was not at all unusual, it still gave Jo hope that maybe he had reached the same conclusion and that was where he was going with his quotes and lip-touching. He did not really look disappointed or hurt or anything. She came around the desk so that she could politely usher Parrish out. "I'm glad you agree."

"I'm still going to try to get your boyfriend fired." Then he quickly clarified, "Not because of you. Because he's a terrible choice."

Jo nodded and said, "I feel the same way," even though it was not true. There were definitely versions of Zane that would be a terrible choice for head of Section 5, but he was growing up. Again. It was just as interesting to watch the second time around. "But you know, if he succeeds in bringing back the woman Fargo loves, his job is going to be pretty secure." She realized it was probably not the best thing to say to Parrish. "Not that—You wouldn't sabotage that, would you?"

"No." Jo had a feeling she might have offended him with that. "Getting Holly back is much more important than . . . the rest of it."

She believed him, but she was still going to have a talk with Zane about security, just in case. "Okay, well, as long as you stay away from the Holly experiment, you do what you have to do."

"Do you still want to help?"

She knew she probably should stay involved, just to make sure Parrish did not do any real damage to Zane's career, but it was already complicated between them. And it would only get more complicated if she pretended to help the man to whom she claimed to have a physical attraction collect evidence to get her actual boyfriend fired. It was complicated to even try to parse that. She gave Parrish what she hoped was a pained look. "I don't think that would be wise at this point."

As much as it seemed like the wrong moment to make physical contact, she put her arm around his shoulder so that she could gently push him toward the door. And a little further, and a little further, until he was out of the office. "Goodbye, Dr. Parrish," she said as she let the door slide closed between them.

END

Author's Note: The quote Parrish was going to say was, "A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away." It's from the original unaired pilot of Star Trek: TOS. Not that I'm at all familiar with the show, but obviously, Parrish needs to make a Star Trek reference. (And I'm not judging Jo; she just didn't strike me as the type to flirt her way out of things.)