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Title: The Winter Rose

The Winter Rose
by Cathy Fisher

Rating: G
Warnings: Maybe a little sappiness. Okay, a lot of sappiness.
Comments: Many thanks to Adalia for reading this over for me. This was written in response to Danielle's Valentine Challenge. This is for you, Danielle. Happy Valentine's Day.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in this story except Brian. I am just playing around with them. This is my first attempt at writing romance, so beware the sap meter.

ZZZThe Winter RoseZZZ

A sudden gust of wind whirled through a park where children were playing, enjoying the unusually mild afternoon. Although it never got extremely cold in this part of California, February was usually colder than this. The weather had been unseasonably warm, though, for the past two weeks.

The wind blew through the mostly bare branches of the trees, loosening some of last year's dead leaves and carrying them along in a whirlwind of motion.

Kelly shivered as the breeze reached her where she sat on her back porch. Several of the leaves settled beside her on the porch swing and she absentmindedly brushed them off. She could hear the children's laughter from the park about a block away and she
briefly considered walking down there to watch them. She loved to watch the children playing. Kids were much easier to deal with than adults.

Shaking her head, she picked up the box of take-out she had ordered for her dinner. Hardly the romantic dinner for two she had envisioned, she thought as she stirred the Chinese food around in the box. She hadn't felt like cooking and, as the Chinese restaurant was practically the only place to eat in town, she had gone there and ordered something. She eyed the rice concoction doubtfully. She didn't remember what it was called. It looked like stir-fry of some kind, but it was seasoned strangely. The rice appeared to have been cooked in a lot of grease and spicy seasonings. There were also chunks of carrot, broccoli and chicken. Picking up the plastic chopsticks that had been provided, she sifted through the rice and ate the pieces of chicken before shoving the box aside.

Rocking slightly on the porch swing, she thought about going inside and watching TV but quickly discarded the idea. The reception in this little valley was so horrible that she never got anything but reruns of professional wrestling matches. She wrinkled her nose
at the thought. That hadn't deterred Brian, however. He loved wrestling and watched it whenever he could.

The thought of Brian made her sad. She remembered how he had come into her life, about five months ago now. He had brought her his pet mouse, Rosalind, which had escaped her cage and gotten caught in a mousetrap. Fortunately, only the tail had been seriously damaged; so, Rosalind escaped with only an amputated tail. Brian had begun to hang around her office and eventually they began to go out on dates. He was the first man she had let into her life since…

She shook her head. It was as pointless to think about HM as it was to think about Brian. Murdock lived in LA and now Brian was moving to some place called Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan. Brian had told her gently but firmly that there was no point in trying to maintain a long distance relationship – much as she had told HM.

Tears stung her eyes. Now she understood the expression of hurt she had seen in the pilot's eyes. He had agreed with her, but now, as she looked back on it, there had been a look of silent pleading in his eyes when she had left for the final time.

Wiping her eyes, she quickly stood up and began to walk briskly through the small garden. All of her flowers were dead or hibernating. 'Much like my relationships,' she thought bitterly. Hands in her jacket pockets she kicked at the dead leaves cluttering the sidewalk. She stopped as her eyes caught a small spot of color.

Hurrying over to her roses, she crouched down and brushed the dead leaves aside to reveal a tiny rose, its red petals and delicate stem rising out of the mud in miniature perfection. A winter rose. The weather must have been so mild that the bush decided it had enough energy to put out one bloom. Gently she brushed her fingers against the crimson flower.

Suddenly another gust of wind hit her squarely on the back. With a cry of surprise, she lost her balance and flung her hands forward to catch her fall, her knees grinding into the muddy earth. Regaining her balance, she wiped her muddy hands on her jeans and surveyed with dismay the damage that she had caused with her fall.

The rose's delicate stem had bent, causing the bud to dip down and touch the ground. With a moan of disappointment, she straightened the flower, vainly trying to get it to stand upright again. Failing at that, she got up and went inside for a pair of scissors. Returning to the broken bloom, she carefully snipped the stem just below the break.

Twirling the flower gently between her fingers, she slowly got up and returned to the kitchen. Rummaging through her cupboards, she found a vase small enough for the single rose. As she placed the flower in the fresh water, she marveled at its beauty.

She was glad that she hadn't destroyed the bloom in her fall. That was just as beautiful as ever, ready to brighten her house much as it had brightened the dead garden. She wished her relationships were as easily salvaged. Brian had run off to Canada and probably just as quickly forgotten her. Murdock…Well, Murdock was a different story.

Looking up at the clock on the wall, her eyes trailed to the calendar below it. February 14. Valentine's Day. She had circled the date back when she thought Brian might actually be the One.

She tried to picture Brian in her mind. He had been tall and skinny. He had loved animals and had had a refreshing sense of humor that had drawn her out of her self-imposed shell. But even as she drew the picture in her mind, it kept trying to change. Blonde hair became brown covered with a blue baseball cap. Sparkling blue eyes became soulful brown with just a hint of crazy laughter. She realized why she had liked Brian so much. He reminded her of another man who had never left her heart, even when she had forced him out of her mind.

Running one finger over the petals, she gazed at it thoughtfully. Just because the stem was broken didn't mean that the feelings weren't still there, just as beautiful as ever.

Shaking her head angrily she reminded herself that she had left him. She couldn't just waltz back into his life and expect everything to be the same as before. What if he didn't want her anymore? What if he had found someone else? After all, it had been her choice to end the relationship and everyone knows that a flower with a broken stem dies quickly.

But would she ever forgive herself if she didn't find out? Would she always be looking for the Brians in the world who tried but just couldn't be the one her heart really wanted. Slowly she drew the rose out of the vase and held it close to her. Her bloom was still alive. Did she dare risk finding out that his was dead?

Standing up, she grabbed her car keys and headed for the front door. She knew that she was setting herself up for another broken heart, but if there was any possibility, she had to find out.


"Billy…Billy, come here." When the nurse opened the door for Kelly, she saw Murdock stretched out underneath the bed as if he were searching for something.

"Billy, if you don't come here, I won't give you any snacks for a month."

"Captain Murdock?" the nurse asked loudly over the pilot's threats. There was a bang and yelp of pain from underneath the bed and the skinny Texan rolled out and gazed up at the nurse reprovingly.

"You shouldn't sneak up on people like that."

"I'm sorry, Captain, but you have a visitor," the nurse said with a slight smile. Although visiting hours were technically over, the young woman had been so desperate to see Captain Murdock that she had decided to make an exception. After all, it was Valentine's Day and the Captain so rarely got visitors.

"I do?" he asked eagerly, scrambling to his feet. "Who is it?"

Kelly edged slowly into the room with her hands behind her back and her head down. She heard Murdock's slight gasp of surprise and dared to take a peek at his face. It was white and his lips were slightly parted in shock.

"Kelly," he managed to get out. The nurse smiled and left the room, leaving the door cracked behind her.

"I know I should have called before I came, but I needed to see you and…" She stopped; her voice was shaking more than she would have liked. He didn't say a word, just moved a few steps closer, his eyes moving up and down as he examined her. She hated it when he did that. It always made her wonder what he was seeing that she had managed to hide from the rest of the

Pulling the rose from behind her back she haltingly explained, "I found this in my garden this afternoon and I…well, I thought of you, and…I know you like roses…Oh," she cried dropping her hands in frustration. "This is silly. I'm just wasting your time. I should never have come."

Before she could turn and leave, he stepped forward and gripped her arms with a gentle but unbreakable hold. "Why did you come? I don't think it was to show me a rose." His voice was quiet, without a trace of his normal craziness. There was a look in her eyes that made her tremble. It was an intensity like nothing she had ever seen before.

"I guess I hoped…I…I missed you." Quickly she looked down, her face flaming, and tried to pull away, but he held her tight. When she stopped moving, he raised one hand to her chin and tilted it up until he could look into her eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'll understand if you don't want to have anything to do with me anymore, but…" she was cut off as his mouth
came down upon hers.

At first, she stiffened in surprise, but then she relaxed into the embrace, feeling the hungry passion in the kiss, much like the first time he had kissed. It ended entirely too soon to suit her, but when her eyes met his, she felt the tears come again.

"I missed you, too," he said hoarsely, trying to absorb as much of her as he could with his eyes. Suddenly, a wild light entered his eyes and he grinned. "Hey, the night is still young, my fair damsel. What say you we skip this joint and go have some fun?" he asked teasingly, moving smoothly from a crisp British accent to a thick Texan drawl.

"You can do that? What if the nurses…I mean they won't let you go, will they?" she asked hesitantly. She was never entirely sure what Murdock's place at the hospital was. He certainly didn't act very much like the other inmates.

"Sure they will," He replied with a devilish grin. "You just have to know how to ask them. Now here's what I want you to do…"

As he began to outline his plan, Kelly smiled at the familiar enthusiasm. It felt as if a part of her that had been empty was now being filled. A part of her that had been broken was now healed. Wonderingly, she looked at the rose with the broken stem still clutched in her fingers. She felt like she had come home.

The End


The Winter Rose by Cathy Fisher



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