Title - Perfect Strangers
Author - Candy
Disclaimer - I own nothing that is recognized.
Rating - PG-13
Characters - Candice Michelle and Jeff Hardy
Summary - With a little help from a friend, Candice gets the Christmas present she'd always wanted.

Christmas Eve will find me ;;

where the love light gleams

"Oh God… c'mon.." I mumbled, my body trembling with a bitter nervousness as I
pounded on the steering wheel of my brand new Ford Explorer, "I can't be late.."

My eyes immediately flew to the little clock above the radio, and I could feel the
massive lump crawling up my throat. My plane was leaving in 10 minutes, and I was
still stuck in traffic.

But no matter how many times I hit my steering wheel or let mumbles of curses slip
past my lips, deep down inside I knew being in this situation was mostly my fault. I
had been hanging around the house all day, playing music and wrapping Christmas
presents, letting time fly around me as if I had no care in the world.

In all truth, I only had 2 hours until I should've started packing and getting to
the airport.

I waited 2 and a half.

So here I was on Christmas Eve, anxious and nervous and scared, the hundreds of
people around me in situations like my own.

And among the hundreds, I was only one.

After a minute of almost complete standstill, traffic finally started moving slowly.
It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. And in 5 minutes, I finally made it
to the airport.

Of course, the only parking space I could find seemed miles away from the airport
itself, and I managed to drench my black dress pants in the slushy snow as I ran
through the parking lot.

So much for looking nice.

But it didn't matter anymore. Not as long as I got to my plane on time.

When I pushed my way through the doors of the airport, people were everywhere,
screaming, crying, talking. All the noise was the last thing I needed, my mind was
already screaming at me enough.

Figuring my flight had already been called long before, I ran through the hoards of
many people desperately, pulling out my ticket as I reached the gate.

My heart was pounding a million times a second, my hand still shaking as I handed
the lady my ticket.

"I'm sorry ma'am, the gate closed a few minutes ago."

I froze, my heart stopping as I raised my head to look at her. No .. she had to be
joking.

"What?"

She handed me back my ticket, a warm look of sympathy etched into her elderly
features, "I'm sorry, miss. But there's nothing I can do for you,"

I just looked at her, a look of pure shock keeping my mouth hanging wide open.

This can't be happening.

"b-but isn't there another flight? I mean, can't I-"

"That was the last direct flight to North Carolina leaving today," She spoke softly,
giving my hand a gentle pat. I knew she could tell I was upset, she was just trying
to be nice.. "I'm almost positive the rest of our flights are booked solid, its
always hell on Christmas eve."

I shook my head, the stinging tears already forming burning patches of wetness in
the corners of my eyes. "Please, my name is Candice Michelle, I'm from right here in
Wisconsin, and I'm willing to do anything.."

I trailed off as I watched the lady before me shake her head, gathering up her items.

"But.. But Jeff, he's waiting for me.." My mind was just as distant as my words as I
spoke, but I was still speaking anyhow.

"I know hon, I'm sorry.. But there's nothing anyone can do."

And with that, she walked away. Leaving me there, tears rolling slowly down my
cheeks as my heart tore into pieces.

My legs, numb, sore, and wet, managed to drag me back across the lobby before I
collapsed into a chair away from everyone else, my head buried into my hands.

Jeff and I had made plans many weeks ago for this Christmas. I would fly down to
North Carolina, and the two of us would spend our first Christmas together, opening
presents and sleeping among the glow of the fireplace.

But instead, I'd be spending it alone. Something that was entirely my fault.

Oh God… what had I done?

I cried harshly, mentally killing myself, each sob another knife to my heart. And
each one I fully deserved.

"Excuse me, miss? You okay?"

I heard a gruff, male voice from somewhere around me. I didn't know if they were
talking to me or not, and personally I didn't care. I ruined my Christmas selfishly,
nothing could make me feel better anymore.

"Ma'am?"

I finally managed to pick my head up, and when I finally did, I caught a glimpse at
the person above me. It was a middle-aged man, probably in his 50's, wearing a dark
green jacket with red gloves. His features were warm and gentle, and his crystal
blue eyes suggested that he was rather concerned.

"Oh, I'm sorry.." I shook my head to clear the cobwebs, wiping the tears from my
flushed cheeks. "I'm fine, I just missed my flight, that's all."

"Just missed your flight?" He repeated, amusement in his voice. "Sweetie, people
don't cry like you are when they miss their flight." Taking a seat next to me, he
folded his hands in his lap, looking at me warmly with his eyes, hidden beneath
snowy eyebrows. "Now, do you wanna tell me what's really wrong?"

Digging a tissue from my pocket, I toyed with it in my hands until it was finally
shredded into little bits and pieces, a soft silence between us.

Could I tell him what I was so upset about? Sure, I could. But do I normally express
my feelings to complete strangers? No… but screw it.

"I met this guy around a year ago," I began slowly, a lump in my throat as I spoke,
trying my hardest not to crumple into pieces. "Everyone said it wouldn't last, and I
guess I can't blame them for saying that.. I'm not exactly the best girlfriend
material… But Jeff knew that from the beginning, and he's always loved me anyway.."

I bit my lip, a bitter hatred of myself taking over as more tears rolled down my
cheeks, bringing my make-up with them. But still, the stranger next to me didn't say
a word, and I went on.

"At first, it was just a fling. But then as each day went by I found myself falling
even more in love with him.. And I couldn't explain it to anyone."

He nodded, stroking his beard as if he was analyzing what I told him. "But you're
still together, correct?"

"Correct," I nodded solemnly, rolling the little pieces of tissue between my fingers
and flicking them to the ground.

"Well if you're still together, then what's wrong?"

Running my fingers through my dark, tangled mess of hair, I turned to look at him,
offering him a weak smile. "A few weeks ago, we made plans for today. I was going to
fly down to his place in North Carolina and we'd spend Christmas eve together, then
in the morning we were going to get together with his friends and family…. It'd be
our first Christmas together…"

A stinging silence fell all around and in-between us, and I could feel it hit my
heart as I once again covered my face with my hands to fight back the tears.

"And you missed your flight." He spoke softly, matter-of-factly.

"..I missed my flight.." I shook my head, letting it fall in defeat once again. "And
it's all my fault.. I knew I had to leave, but I waited.. and now I'm sitting here
all alone.."

"Well," He cocked his head to the side, offering a humorous smile to lighten the
dense mood. "I'm here, aren't I?"

I glanced at him sideways, inwardly groaning to myself. Was he joking, or what? "But
I have no idea who you are."

He sighed, the smile still lingering on his elderly face. Slipping off his glove, he
reached his hand out to me, "The name's Kris."

At first, I just looked at him, mentally battling with myself. So far, he'd been
nice enough, not asking me questions that were too private. But I still didn't know
who in the hell he was. For all I knew, he could've been just some horny old man.

Sighing to myself, I shook his hand, a bland smile on my face. "Candice." I mumbled.

"Well, it's been wonderful meeting you, Candice." He said as he stood from his seat
next to me, and as he did, I released a long, silent breath of relief. Finally, I
could just go home, call Jeff, and find my way around spending the next to days
completely alone..

"But I suppose you don't have anything to do for the rest of the day, do ya?"

I blinked rapidly, staring up into his elderly face quizzically. "Uh, no.. Why?"

"Well, either do I. So why don't we take a walk downtown to a coffee shop or
something? I'm sure there are a few places open yet,"

At first, I had fallen completely silent. My head spinning as I tried to form
coherent thoughts and words. Here I was, alone in an airport with nothing to do for
the next 2 days, talking to an elderly man I barley knew. And now, he was inviting
me downtown for coffee?

At first, I had thought of turning him down nicely, making up some excuse he
probably wouldn't have believed anyway. But as I looked back up at him, his hand
outstretched in my direction with a smile on his gentle face, I decided better of
it.

And I don't even like coffee.

Over an hour later, after a short stop at a coffee shop and a partially comical
experience after running through a busy street, I found myself warming up to Kris in
more ways than I had originally expected.

I had told him about growing up in Wisconsin, my family, ending up with the WWE, and
even a few little bits and pieces of stories I hadn't really told anyone else.

And in return, he briefly skimmed over his life now and his wife, whom he seemed to
adore more than anything else in the world. But mostly, asked questions and laughed
and nodded along with everything I was telling him.

"So, tell me about this man you were flying to see.. Jeff, was his name?"

I nodded, wincing as I took a small sip of the coffee he had insisted he buy me.
"Yepp, Jeff Hardy. Met him when I first started traveling with the WWE.."

I smiled distantly, burying my face into the steam pouring from the top of my cup of
coffee as I trailed off..

"..so, is that all?"

"Hm?" I lifted my head up to look at him, then released a small laugh when I
realized I had left him hanging. "Sorry, I lost myself there for a moment."

He grinned softly, lifting his head back to glance at the gathering clouds. "It's
alright.. But tell me about this Jeff guy, what's he like?"

If only he knew, I thought to myself as I felt my heart do its never-ending
flip-flops at the simple mention of Jeff's name. "He's..different," I laughed,
looking down at the snow as each flake made it's destined landing upon the ground.
"He has purple hair, tattoos, and as many piercing as I do."

I released an inner smile when I listened to the dead silence that fell between us.
I figured that was the reaction I'd get out of him, which is why I said it in the
first place.

"Sounds like a great guy," He finally managed to suffice, along with a shrug of his
shoulders.

"Oh, he is.." I agreed, my mind drifting off to areas only the snowflakes knew. "He
writes songs, poems, and he draws and paints too.. Half the time I don't know what
he's thinking or how he thought of it, but its just amazing to watch him.. to be
around him… And oh, he's an amazing wrestler. The way he moves.. A lot of the time
he seems so angry and aggressive…but I've never met another man as sweet and gentle
as he is.."

As I let my mind flutter abound, dancing through the distance around me, I realized
something. I had managed to let myself fall head over heels in love with a man I had
originally hooked up with to get rid of my lonely nights in the hotels. He had
purple hair and dressed like a punk, but there was a mysterious era of him that made
me just lust for him all the more.

It didn't take long for me to seduce him, he was loving enough to accept the small
piece of my heart I so willingly handed to him. But as nights went on, I found
myself giving him everything I had, and in the end, I didn't even want it back.

I remember so clearly the first time we made love. I had had one too many drinks
when I was out with the girls, and when I came home to him my mind was totally
floating away.

But Jeff wouldn't let himself take advantage of me like that. No, instead, he laid
me down, gave me something to drink, and coaxed me until I was able to relax.

And by the time I had everything together again, we made the most beautiful, perfect
love I'd ever had in my life.

And it was that very night I realized that for the first time ever, I was in love.

But something still lingered inside of me that forced me to keep that simple,
complicated fact a secret. I've never told Jeff that I love him, and to this very
day it still eats me alive.

Granted, I've told everyone else that I love him. But my words always manage to fall
on deaf ears.

Candice doesn't let men into her heart, just her bedroom.

Jeff Hardy deserves much better than that, they'd say. Jeff Hardy doesn't need a
woman that goes through men like she goes through lipstick. Jeff needs a woman
that'll love him for everything he is…

But I do.

Oh, I do…

"You okay, honey?"

"Huh?" My reverie shattered, disappearing into the nothingness around me. I blinked
a few times to get my eyes to focus, wiping the tears I hadn't realized began to
fall. "I'm sorry, my mind traveled off for a sec.."

He nodded solemnly, taking my hand gently as he brushed my hair away from my flushed
face. "You wanna talk about it?"

I looked back up at him, his image still not completely in focus due to my
heartbroken tears. "If you don't mind.."

Kris smiled, patting my back as he led me guardian-like across the street and
towards the city park. "Not at all, honey. Not at all."

A short while later, I was curled up into a park bench, the perfect stranger that
had so willingly brought me under his wing sitting next to me, humming softly as he
waited for me to gather myself.

I took a deep breath, hugging my knees even tighter against me, then turned to him.
"Prepare yourself, this might take a while."

He smiled his smile I had gotten to adore so quickly, and nodded in encouragement.
"We have all the time in the world, Candice. You just talk your heart out."

"Okay.." I began, my eyes locked on the endless sky above me. The thick mass of
clouds had long since covered up the sun, leaving the snowflakes to fall slowly,
softly. Behind the clouds, the sun was obviously on it's path to setting. But my
guess was that there was still enough daytime remaining. "Honestly, I'm not the most
devoted woman out there.. To tell you the truth, there are probably hookers that are
more devoted than I am." I shook my head, almost laughing pathetically at myself.
"And everyone knows it, too.

"..And it's true. It's a title that over the years I've built myself, but I've never
really regretted it. I mean, I'm not the kind of person that falls in love easily.
Before Jeff, I'd never been in love at all. I just thought that love wasn't cut out
for me, you know? So I could screw all the men I wanted, none of it really mattered.
We'd each get our kicks, they'd leave in the morning, and that was that."

I took another deep breath, then glanced sideways to catch a glimpse of Kris. He
still sat patiently, eyeing me intently as he waited for me to go on. And so I did.

"When I first started traveling with the WWE, I just thought it was a short-time
deal. I was in a contest that I eventually ended up losing, so I thought that was
that. But then someone called and asked me if I wanted to sign a contract. I thought
it'd be fun, so I did.

"I didn't realize that it'd be such hard work. I just figured, hey, I'll fly from
place to place with a bunch of my co-workers, show up every week on TV, and that's
that. But God.. I was so wrong in thinking that. It was so simple at first, but as
things went on, I got so damn lonely.. And I wasn't used to it at all.

"I was used to finding men left and right, then I'd either go to their place or
they'd come to mine. It was as simple, and plus, I'd have someone to spend the night
with, whoever they were.

"You see.. When I was a little girl, my mom always used to let me sleep with her
when my daddy was gone working. I guess I'd grown used to the feeling of someone
there at night, and it's been with me ever since.."

I paused for a moment, letting the thickness of my words sink in. I knew he was
analyzing what I had told him. He probably thought I was some kind of whore now,
which was fine with me. I was more than used to it.

"After I while, I just told myself I was going to have to live with it.." I
continued, picking at the plastic, foamy cup of coffee I held in my hands. "But as
nights went on, it was torturing me. I became so desperate.. that I decided I'd have
to find someone, or else I'd have to leave the company. And that's when I met
Jeff.."

I trailed off, burying my face into my free hand as I felt a rosy blush set fire to
my cheeks, my laugh muffled. "I was walking down the hall, analyzing every man my
eyes caught a glimpse of. But somehow, I managed to find something wrong with each
and every one of them. Too short, too hairy, too muscular.. the list when on. And
then when I had my head turned while I was looking at someone else, I didn't see
Jeff walking towards me and apparently, he was too caught up in his writings to see
me either. We ran right into each other."

I laughed, biting my lip to calm down the bubbly happiness that was filling my each
and every nerve.

"Of course, we both laughed and apologized, but then I just completely froze as I
analyzed him. He was a good height, not too muscular, and I just melted when he
smiled. Granted, he had green hair, but it wasn't really what he looked like that
totally had me going .. It was this mysterious, secretive era about him that just
totally set fire to everything inside me. It was like as if he had this huge story
to tell..but he couldn't say it with words, ya know?"

I leaned my head back, my eyes once again fixated on the falling snow as I tried to
recall what happened.

"God, I wanted him so badly… I was killing me not to have him. So later that night,
I invited him over to talk, and a week later, we were officially a couple.

"So many people were pissed off at first. Here Jeff was, this gentle, handsome man
that everyone loved, hooking up with the company whore. He's never admitted it, but
I know people say things to him.. They all think he deserves better, which makes me
feel like total shit.. But no matter what people say nor how many times they say it,
he's never let it get to him, and he's never let it get past to me, either.."

I smiled weakly, the corners of my lips trembling as I buried my face once again,
that familiar, sunken feeling crawling steadily up my spine.

"I guess we've lasted much longer than anyone had originally anticipated, myself
included, so I guess after a while people just learned to accept us, whether they
liked it or not. ..but early into our relationship, fuck, I'd get so many evil
glares and rude comments I could've cried.. I guess they just thought I was using
Jeff for sex, but that's such a stupid lie… Sure, in the beginning it would've been
nice to have that, but it wasn't what I was out for.

"All I wanted was someone to be with me, love me even without me having to love them
back.

..but I fell in love with Jeff anyway.."

Kris smiled at me warmly, bringing his hands from his pockets to settle on his lap.
"So, you're saying you just wanted the company? Nothing more?"

"Exactly," I began again, taking in a deep breath. "The first week went by of our
official coupling, but we hadn't done anything past kissing. God, I still cannot
describe how much I wanted that man.. I used to watch him, and everything he did
seemed like a gesture planned just to drive me insane. Like how he'd casually walk
around the hotel room after his shower in nothing but a towel, or the way he'd rip
his shirt off and throw it at me when we'd play those stupid, childish chasing
games.."

"At first, I started thinking that maybe he didn't want me like that, or I thought
maybe he thought I wanted to wait. So I started dropping major hints left and right,
but he'd always just say to me 'I know, baby. Just slow down.' I didn't know what
the hell he ever meant by that, but after a while it pissed me off.

"So one night, just to 'get back at him' I went out drinking with the girls. I guess
I ended up having a little bit more than I should've, 'cause I can't really remember
much of what happened. ..but I do remember when I stumbled into the hotel room. Jeff
had been watching a movie, waiting for me to come home.

"And even though I was drunk off my ass and he had to take care of me, not once did
he get angry or yell. After a short time passed, I was finally okay.. and he just
looked at me so softly as I laid beneath him, and after bringing himself even closer
to me he said 'Is this what you want?'"

I tilted my head back, letting the snow fall upon me as I closed my eyes, whisking
myself away into the distant memory.

"..I've never made love like I did that night. He was so gentle, so loving.. Brought
out passions and sensations inside me that I didn't realize I could have.. and it
was all so real..

My smile never faded as I continued, not caring if anyone was listening anymore.
Just talking about all this for once was making it feel more alive than I've ever
felt it before. "..I fell in love with Jeff that night, but I've never told him. I'd
never felt like I did for Jeff for any other man.. So when I finally realized it
that night, I guess I just got scared, ya know? Here I was, hooked up with my
complete opposite for the companionship, and falling head over heels in love with
him.."

I sighed, having nothing and everything more to say at the same time. My emotions
were going crazy inside me, one minute I was happy, giddy, the next I was upset and
on the verge of tears. But no matter how happy or upset I was, I couldn't help but
notice the amazing pressure relief, pinpointing my heart.

I'd never told anyone what I just told this stranger that just happened to slip his
way into my life. Sure, I had tried to tell Torrie and Lillian and Maria and all the
rest that I was in love, and that I'd never felt so happy before in my life. But
they'd always just smile and nod, and I could tell inside they didn't believe a
single word I was saying.

I couldn't even tell my best friends what it was really like between the passionate
and tangled sheets of mine and Jeff's relationship, but here I was with this
complete stranger, spilling my heart out.

It seemed so completely and utterly wrong. But somehow, it felt so right.

"Thanks," I smiled, turning and looking at the elderly man next to me. "..for
letting me talk to you when I'm sure you had better things to do. This is probably
the best and only Christmas present I'll be getting this year.."

Releasing a hearty chuckle, he patted my knee gently, "Oh, honey, I wouldn't be too
sure about that."

I looked at him quizzically, the slight smirk I wore matching his. "What do you mean
by that?"

He shrugged, then stood from his seat on the bench, brushing the snow that had
fallen onto his coat and pants. "Well, it's going to be getting late soon and I
better head home. Would you like to walk with me?"

I felt my heart sink inside me, landing at the pit of my stomach. I knew that he
wouldn't stay with me the whole night, but it felt as if I had just met him, and
there was still so much more I could say..

"Sure," I mumbled weakly, a small, sad smile in my face. I took his hand and he
helped me up, and once again we went off walking side by side through the snowy
wonderland.

Darkness was falling quickly, I realized, but there was still a small amount of
sunlight left. But the idea of the day ending was somewhat comforting. One less day
to deal with myself, drowning on my own lonesome.

The once lively conversation between Kris and I had slowed dramatically, with short
- but still comfortable - pauses between. He talked about his dog for a little
while, but that just brought us to all the pets that Jeff had, and once again our
conversation slipped back on the topic of Jeff, myself, and our questionable love.

I watched as he nodded and smiled right along with everything comical word or story
I told him. It was comforting to have his company around, which only made it all the
more upsetting that he was leaving, and I'd probably never see him again.

But what this stranger had given me this Christmas was more than anything I could've
asked for. I'm not quite sure where mine and Jeff's relationship would've gone if I
hadn't let all my feelings out into the open, instead of just keeping them bottled
up inside me for fear of what Jeff might say.

He had convinced me to tell Jeff that I loved him and exactly how I felt about him,
and that it was okay to shout it from the rooftops without a care in the world.

I owed him everything, he was the most perfect stranger I'd ever met.

As we walked, yet another silence lingering between us, I heard a faint, Christmas
jingle meet my ears. At first, I had no idea what it was. Then my silent questions
were answered when Kris pulled a cell phone from his coat pocket.

"Why hello! ..you're in town? Really? ..Well I'll be damned.. Okay, sure.. I have a
friend with me if you don't mind.. Alrighty then, hold tight, we'll see you soon.."

Turning off his phone and stuffing it back into his pocket, Kris smiled at me
gingerly. "Change of plans, sweetie. A good friend of mine is in town, he's waiting
for us by the park on Capital. Would you like to meet him with me?"

I smiled softly, but inside, I was exploding with happiness. "That's right by my
house, I'd love to go."

And with that, we turned around and headed in a totally different direction, the
silence still lingering, but I couldn't help but notice the smile that refused to
melt from Kris's face.

"What are you so happy about?" I asked, "Is this guy and old friend?"

His eyes, wrinkled at the corners, looked up at the disappearing sunlight. "Oh, we
go way back. I haven't seen him in the longest time, I'm sure you'll get to like
him."

I nodded, and began to hum a small Christmas song, but I was quickly cut off by more
od Kris's words.

"Oh, incase I forget later on, Merry Christmas."

I grinned, "Merry Christmas to you too.. but why would you forget?"

"Oh," He sighed, stuffing his glove-clad hands into the depths of his pockets. "When
a lot is going on, my memory tends to slip a bit. And concidering I have a lot to do
tonight, I thought I'd wish you a Merry Christmas before it totally left my mind,"

The complete silence was back, but I could feel the thick happiness as it settled
between us. I had no idea why I was so damn excited, but I didn't care, as long as
Kris was with me keeping me company, I was okay.

As we rounded the last corner, I could see the park and a dark form as it stood next
to a baby evergreen tree, seemingly on his cell phone.

But as we walked closer, I found myself quickening my pace, and my heart was no
different.

That silent, medium-sized form was all to familiar…

And when I finally made it to where I was only a few yards away from the park, my
heart froze completely inside me, and it wasn't because of the quickly settling
chill..

"..Jeff?"

He turned around suddenly, taking his phone from his ear, lifting his purple
baseball cap to get a better look at me. But before he could get a good enough look,
I sprinted across the street, and he caught me in his arms.

He held me tightly against him, his sweatshirt thin, but his body so perfectly warm
and comforting.

Lifting my head up to get a better look at him, I brushed his hair away from his
beautiful face. "Why are you- How'd you..?"

But before I could sputter out anything more, my words were cut off by the familiar
pressure of Jeff's perfect lips against mine.

My body numbed beneath him.

We kissed feverishly, passionately, the temperature between us rising despite the
shrill and bitter coldness in the air. I leaned into him, tossing off his hat to
tangle my fingers through his colorful strands of hair. His hands found their way
beneath my fleece sweater to settle on my waist, wrapping his arms around me.

As we pulled away slowly, I took his face into my hands, and after another soft,
passionate kiss I whispered gently, "I love you."

Jeff fell silent, and I felt my heart drop to the depths of the bitter chill when I
realized I let it slip so early.

But despite my burning tears and soft frown, the young Hardy broke out into a hearty
laughter, bringing me in for another beautiful, wonderful kiss.

"Where've you been all my life, stranger?"