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Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, no infringement is intended & no money is being made.

A/N: This is a response to Beca's Christmas Challenge. Thanks must go to Nancy for betaing. Feedback will be treasured forever

Home For Christmas

24 December, 19h49
The Centre, Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker walked into the main conference room, an unlit cigarette dangling from her fingers. The fact that she was almost twenty minutes late didn't bother her in the least; this was the last place she wanted to be. If she'd stuck to her normal Christmas Eve tradition, she would be at home now, drowning her sorrows after her father's last-minute cancellation. This year someone had thought it would be a good idea to have a Christmas bash. Why they had chosen Christmas Eve instead of earlier in the month was anybody's guess.

A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room, decorated with red and gold tinsel. A buffet table stood alongside it, covered with red and green tablecloths. Whoever had set up had placed the bar on the opposite end of the room. Keeping with the theme of red and green, Parker's invitation had informed her that the dress code was red and/or green formal wear.

Parker was wearing a black dress.

Casting her eyes around the room, she failed to see her father. Though it had been his idea to attend, she wasn't surprised that he was absent.

Catching Broots waving at her from a corner of the room, she lit the cigarette and took a step in his direction only to be stopped by the person she assumed was responsible for the evening.

"I'm sorry, Miss Parker, this is a no smoking area," the woman said.

Parker exhaled slowly, then dropped the cigarette on carpet and ground it out with the heel of her shoe. Walking away, she heard the woman mumbling something and heard the words 'chairman's daughter' and 'bitch.'

"Miss Parker, you look… wow," was all Broots could manage to say.

Parker smiled, a thin-lipped smile conveying her displeasure at being there.

"I'm surprised you came, Parker," Sydney said, his smile a genuine one. "We weren't sure you were going to make it."

"I'm beginning to wish I hadn't," she replied. "What are you doing here, Broots? Shouldn't you be with Debbie?"

"I wasn't going to come but there was this party that Debbie really wanted to go to and I didn't want to be home alone."

"Have I missed anything exciting?" Parker asked. As she expected, both men shook their heads. She excused herself to get a drink and ran into her brother on the way.

"Hey, merry Christmas, Sis!"


"So, did you give Santa your wish list?" he asked, slurring a little.

Parker grinned, amused that he couldn't hold his liquor. "Yes, of course. I said I wanted to be an only child again. What did yours say? 'Dear Santa, please can I have a new thumb?'"

"You know, Sis, that's not very nice."

Parker raised an eyebrow, then stepped past him and smiled sweetly at the barman. "Scotch," she said. "A double."

"Me too," Lyle stumbled up to the bar.

"No more for him," Parker said.

"Aw, don't be a spoilsport." He lurched forward and spilled the remainder of his current drink on Parker's chest. "Oh. Oops. Sorry."

She glared at him, then grabbed a few napkins to clean herself up. A stern look in the barman's direction was enough to keep him from commenting. Satisfied that she was presentable, she took her drink and returned to her friends.

"Someone remind me what the point of all this is?" A look of distress crossed her face as Brigitte sauntered in their direction.

"Merry Christmas, love," the blonde greeted. Neither Parker, Sydney nor Broots had any idea to whom she was talking.

"You look really good tonight, Mr. Broots," Brigitte continued.

Broots' eyes widened and he swallowed nervously. "Uh, thanks, I think. You do, too."

Parker and Sydney gaped as Brigitte leaned forward and kissed Broots full on the mouth, her hands planted on each of his cheeks to prevent his escape. When she finally pulled away, a full minute later, she smiled and said, "Mistletoe."

As she walked away, Broots grabbed Parker's drink and took a swig as if to rinse his mouth. He pulled a face then wiped his lips. Parker burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?" he demanded.

"There's no mistletoe!" She pointed above them. "She kissed you and there was no mistletoe!"

Broots scowled. "It's not that funny."

Parker bit her lip. It was no use. The giggles kept coming. "I'm… sorry…."

"Parker, were you drinking before you got here?" Sydney asked, an amused smile on his face.

"No, it's just that this whole thing is so… absurd. Lyle's drunk, Brigitte kissed Broots… if my father shows up as Santa Claus then I'll know this is the 'Twilight Zone'…." Her grin faded as Saint Nick chose that moment to enter the room. It was not her father though, but someone from Corporate. She groaned at his "Ho, ho, ho."

"You've got to be kidding."

Ignoring the 'No Smoking' rule, she lit another cigarette; glad to see that the hostess was preoccupied with Santa. Tendrils of smoke slowly wafted up to the ceiling.

Seconds later the sprinkler system kicked in.

Chaos ensued as everyone was drenched with water. Parker guiltily dropped the cigarette and snuffed it. Amidst the shrieks and yells, she turned to her companions and smiled.

"Well, I'm going to call it a night, boys. It's been… entertaining." She slipped quietly out of the room, humming a half-remembered Christmas carol under her breath.

When Broots and Sydney left the conference room a short while later, Parker was waiting for them in the hallway. Her only dry item of clothing was her coat that she'd fetched from her office.

"Something wrong, Parker?" Sydney asked.

"I had a thought," she said, not quite sure why she was feeling so generous. "What are your plans for tomorrow?"

"Well, I was gonna spend the day at home with Debbie."

"You, Syd?"

The older man shrugged.

Parker smiled. "Well, the holiday mood must be catchy. I have a whole turkey at home and I'm sure as hell not going to eat it by myself."

"Uh, are you inviting us for lunch, Miss Parker?" Broots asked, a little confused at her roundabout way of invitation.

"Twelve o'clock, Broots. Don't be late."

And with that she breezed down the hallway, leaving two somewhat puzzled, if not pleased, men in her wake.


A highway just outside Delaware

Jarod sang along to the radio, tapping his fingers on his steering wheel to the beat of the song. He glanced down at the gift-wrapped box on the passenger seat and smiled.

She's going to kill me for waking her, he thought, but even that was not enough to put a damper on his spirits.

As much as he wanted to get there quickly, he forced himself to drive carefully. It would be no good if he killed himself on the road.

The tune on the radio changed to "I'll be home for Christmas."

Jarod grinned. How appropriate.


25 December
Miss Parker's house

Jarod quietly let himself into the house and almost tripped over the white rabbit he'd given her when he'd first escaped. He cursed, then smiled when he recalled that she'd warned him she let the rabbit run around at night.

'My little guard dog,' she'd said fondly. Until then, he'd had no idea that she'd kept the rabbit. That was when he knew for certain that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

Reaching her bedroom, he stared down at her for a moment then slowly climbed onto the bed.

"Merry Christmas," he whispered in her ear.

"Mmm…" she groaned sleepily. "I was expecting a phone call."

"Yeah, well, it's Christmas."

"Yeah. Merry Christmas." She rolled over, intending to go back to sleep.

"No, no. Wake up, Miss Parker," Jarod cajoled. "I have a present for you."

"Later," she pleaded.


"Jarod, if you don't let me sleep I'll call in a sweeper team, I swear."

Well, so much for the holiday cheer. Jarod decided to try a different tactic. Lying next to her, he nuzzled her neck, then caressed a tender spot behind her ear with his thumb, knowing that was her weak spot.

"It better be good," she grumbled, sitting up.

"Oh, it is." Jarod smiled and handed her the tiny box.

She tore off the wrapping and opened it.

And gasped.

"Oh, Jarod… wow. It's beautiful. I- Wow."



"Oh, almost forgot." He held up a sprig of mistletoe and leaned in to kiss her. "So?" he asked again when he pulled back.

She smiled, then put a hand in front of her mouth to stifle a yawn. "Sure, if it fits." Slipping the ring onto her left hand, she tilted her head. "Well, what do you know…."

Jarod grinned. "Good. G'nite." He lay back down and patted the pillow.

"Merry Christmas," Parker said, snuggling against him.



"Parker… wakey-wakey…."

"Uh-uh," she complained.

"Parker, it's Christmas!"

"I know."

"Aw, come on…it's my first Christmas with… family," Jarod trailed off.

Parker opened her eyes, smiling. "Family," she repeated. "Okay, so what did you want to do?"

He sounded exactly like a little boy as he said, "Build a snowman!"

A half-hour later the two of them were outside in the snow. Midway through a snowball fight, Parker stopped and dropped her 'weapon.'


"I didn't think you'd come so I invited Syd and Broots for lunch. Umm, I could cancel… I mean, I'm sure they thought I was drunk when I suggested it."

"Parker, it's fine. Let them come. I want you to have a good Christmas."

"I am having a good Christmas."

"It'll be okay." He threw another snowball, catching her by surprise. "It'll be nice to see Sydney again."

Parker chewed on her bottom lip. "Jarod, they don't know about us… that we've been seeing each other." She held up her mittened left hand. "Or this."

"What's your point?"

Parker smirked and threw an icy missile, hitting Jarod square in the chest. "So are we going to build that snowman or not?"



"Parker!" Jarod called from downstairs. "Hey, Parker!"

She turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, wrapping herself in a towel. "What?" she called back.

There was silence and then a gentle knock at the door. "Can I come in?"

"Sure. What's wrong?"

"You don't have Christmas lights on your Christmas tree," he pouted.

"They're in the attic."

"So why-"

"They don't work. I keep meaning to get new ones, but…." She shrugged.

Jarod eyed her appreciatively and gestured to the towel. "Is that all you've got on?"

"I just got out the shower. What do you think?"

He grinned.

"How's the turkey?" she asked, walking past him into the bedroom.

"It's cooking… say, we've still got plenty of time before we have to be ready," he hinted.


"You haven't given me my present yet." He tugged at her towel, then scowled when she smacked his hand away.

"Who says I got you anything?"

"I wasn't talking about an actual gift, Parker," he said sulkily.

She laughed and hugged him. "I know. I'm just teasing."

When he kissed her she almost gave in and let him have his way, but they were interrupted by the phone. It was Broots, calling to confirm that she had in fact invited them and they weren't going to be chased away when they arrived.

"I'm going to look for your lights. Maybe I can fix them," Jarod mouthed.

She nodded and shooed him away. "Yes, Broots… no, Broots… I did mean it… I'll see you at twelve… okay… bye."

Ten minutes later Jarod rushed into her room, the lights forgotten. "Look what I found! A Santa suit!"

"I have a Santa suit in my attic?" Parker was as surprised as he was.

"Yeah. Can I wear it?"

"Isn't it dirty?"

"Nope, it's wrapped in plastic."

Even as a child, Parker had never been able to resist Jarod's smile. "If you must." She laughed.

"Thanks." He saw the dress she intended wearing lying on the bed. "Parker, it's Christmas. You can't wear black."

"Says who?"

"Says me." He opened her closet and rifled through it until he found what he was looking for. "You should wear this one."

"Do I smell something burning?" she asked to change the subject. It worked. Jarod dashed away to rescue the turkey.



Parker joined Jarod in the kitchen, wearing the red dress he had picked out. She decided the look he gave her was worth giving in.

"You're staring," she said.

He gulped. "Yeah, you know… I changed my mind. Call them and cancel."

Parker laughed. "Don't joke, Jarod. I'm wondering if this is such a good idea… telling them about us. How safe is it?"

Jarod took her hands in his. "We'll only tell them as much as you want to tell them. We can say we just called a Christmas truce, if you like."

She took a deep breath. "We'll tell them everything."

"I'm going to change. Can I trust you to keep things under control here?"

"Of course!"

"Where's the fire extinguisher?"

"Jarod!" She pretended offense and he stole a quick kiss. Parker poured herself a drink and nibbled on the salad while waiting.

"It's not fair. How do you manage to make a Santa suit look good?" she complained when he came back downstairs.

Jarod shrugged, then took the beard off. "It itches." He pulled out a chair and sat down, patting his lap. "Come tell Santa what you want for Christmas?"

Parker sat on his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Have you been a good girl, Miss Parker?" Jarod asked.

She shook her head, tracing his lips with her fingertips. "Doesn't matter anyway. I have everything I want right here."

Once again their kiss was interrupted, this time by the beeping of the oven timer. Parker hopped off Jarod's lap and handed him the oven gloves.

"Make yourself useful. I need to finish setting the table."

He gave a mock salute. "Yes, ma'am."

Parker picked up the tray of glasses and carried it through to the dining room. While she was upstairs fetching the Christmas crackers, the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" Jarod called.

"No, wait-" Parker stopped at the top of the stairs to see Jarod with his hand on the doorknob.

"Merry Christmas."

"J-Jarod!" Broots stammered. "What are you-? Uh, merry Christmas. You remember Debbie?"

"Of course. Merry Christmas, Debbie."

"Merry Christmas. Did you know your snowman doesn't have a nose?"

"He did this morning. I guess it must have fallen off. Please, make yourselves at home."

"Jarod, uh, where is Miss Parker?" Broots asked, his confusion apparent.

"Right here, Broots." She handed the box of crackers to Jarod. "Can I take your coat?"

Silently, he handed her his coat then followed Debbie into the living room. The doorbell rang again. This time Parker beat Jarod there.

"Sydney! Merry Christmas."

"And to you, Parker. You seem more cheerful than you were last night," he observed.

"It must be the company," Jarod's voice boomed from the kitchen door.

Parker sighed. She'd wanted to give Sydney some warning that Jarod was there. Sydney looked just as confused as Broots had.

"Jarod! What a pleasant surprise. Is this why Parker invited us over?"

"No, she wasn't expecting me. Maybe she's getting soft in her old age," he chuckled.

"What? In the kitchen, now!"

He shot Sydney a helpless look as Parker propelled him inside, closing the door.

"Don't be mad, Parker. I was kidding."

"I'm not mad, I'm just… there's no turning back, is there?"

"I'm almost done in here. Why don't you serve drinks in the meantime? I think they might need them."

Parker laughed, relaxing. "Nice thinking."

At the door she stopped and looked back over her shoulder. She was struck by how normal everything felt. She smiled, then pushed the door open.

Both Broots and Sydney were dying of curiosity. What puzzled them most was that Parker actually seemed glad that Jarod was there. They knew better than to push her for information, though.

Debbie had no such qualms. "I didn't know you knew Jarod," she said casually.

"We've been friends since we were kids." Parker sipped her wine.

She's hiding something, Sydney thought. Is it possible…? No, I'm hoping for too much.

Just then Jarod appeared in the doorway. "Lunch is ready," he announced.

Parker jumped up. As she neared Jarod, Debbie started giggling.

"You look… you look like Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus," she sputtered.

Parker looked at Jarod in his red Santa suit, then stared down at her own red dress. Debbie was right. They looked like a younger, attractive version of Santa and his wife. Parker took Jarod's hand and squeezed it lightly.

"Uh, before we eat we have something to share with you. Jarod and I have, uh, well we've been seeing each other for a while now."

It was Debbie who caught the glint of light that reflected off the diamond on Parker's hand.

"That is so cool," she gasped. "So are you, like, engaged?"

Broots dropped his glass. It shattered when it hit the floor. Sydney's shock was less evident. He leaned back in his chair and looked from Parker to Jarod, then back again.

Parker glanced at Jarod for some clue as to what to say. He smiled, leaving the decision up to her. She took a deep breath.

"Syd, Broots… I know this is all very surprising-" she began, only to be interrupted by Sydney who had recovered his wits.

"Not really, Parker. Broots, I believe you owe me twenty dollars."

Broots scowled. "You had an unfair advantage. You've known them their whole lives."

"You had a bet going?" Parker asked, her turn to be shocked.

Both Sydney and Broots had the grace to look ashamed.

"Well?" Parker demanded, elbowing Jarod in the ribs to stop him from chuckling.

"Well, we both knew you'd end up together. I mean, it's obvious that you're, uh, you know, crazy about each other. We just didn't know when. Syd said it would be within the next year. Yeah, well, anyway…." Broots trailed off, obviously uncomfortable under Parker's gaze.

"Told you there was nothing to worry about," Jarod whispered in Parker's ear. She smiled and pulled him into a hug.

Sydney smiled happily. He held out his arm for Debbie and took her through to the dining room. Broots followed, looking over his shoulder every few steps to be sure that his eyes weren't deceiving him. He, too, was happy that Parker had found love. He hoped that life at work was going to be more pleasant now.

Jarod looked up, grinning and then kissed Parker. He'd put mistletoe up all over the house as an excuse to steal kisses.

"They're waiting for us," Parker murmured.

"Well, Mrs. Claus, I think we'd better see to our guests then," Jarod said.

They smiled at each other then, arm in arm, went to join the others. It was the best Christmas either of them could remember having because, for the first time in a long time, they were spending it with family.



The following things had to appear or be talked about: Mistletoe, the rabbit from "Not Even A Mouse", a snowman without a nose, a wish list to Santa, a botched Centre Christmas bash, Christmas lights that don't work, a kiss for Broots from the person you would least expect, the song "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and someone calling Jarod and Parker "Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus."

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