When Fiona returned from her run along the beach, Carter was already gone for the day.  He frequently took off on Sunday’s and Fiona never asked where he went.  That day in particular she knew that wherever he was, he was brooding and she didn’t want to crowd him if he wanted to be alone.

            Carter stomped back into the house that afternoon and merely raised his hand in a short wave before scowling off to his bedroom.  Fiona rolled her bottom lip between her teeth as she watched him slam his bedroom door.  Loud music started as soon as the door shut and she knew that he wasn’t done pouting just yet.  She shrugged and sighed softly, then continued picking up the rest of the house.  When the living room was completely dust free, Fiona tossed the dirty rag into the sink and pulled a Diet Dr. Pepper out of the refrigerator.  “You’re gonna owe me big time for this.  This place is spotless.”  She mumbled under her breath as she popped the top open on the can in her hand.

            Fiona set her Diet Dr. Pepper on the table and frowned at the wadded up piece of paper in the center by the silk flower arrangement.  She carefully unfolded it and wasn't surprised when she saw that it was the privacy statement; only there was a dark blue signature scrawled across the bottom section.

            With her bottom lip in her teeth she walked down the hall to Carter's room and knocked.  "Carter?"  She called through the door.

            "Yeah?"  He answered from the other side.

            Suddenly she didn't want to confront him about it.  Even though he signed it, that didn't bring JC or the moment back.  Carter probably only signed it out of frustration, hoping it would somehow give him the chance again, but knowing it wouldn't.  She folded the paper and sighed.  "Do you want Chinese?"  She asked instead.

            "I ate.  Thanks."  Carter's voice was muddled as it dipped lower at the end.

            Fiona turned to go then stopped and frowned at the closed door.  "Are you jerking off?"

            "If you don't go away Fi, I swear to God I'll tell you."

            "Jesus."  Fiona rolled her eyes and carried the paper back to the dining room where she lay it on his placement, folded neatly in half.  He'd see it when he sat down and know that she understood.  Words weren't always necessary in their relationship.

 

            She waited a few more minutes to see if Carter would emerge from his room, then when he didn't she left to go get Chinese food. Regardless of whether or not he ate already, it sounded good.  When she returned Carter was in the shower so she sat at the table alone and ate more than half of her meal before tucking the little white containers into the fridge for later.

            Fiona and Carter spent the rest of the evening in their separate rooms, each playing on their own computer and listening to their own music.  They didn't see each other again until the next morning as they left for work.  The signed privacy statement still sat on the dining room table, but it had been opened and laid face down in the center beside the empty candle holders.  Fiona didn't say anything; she just gave him a hug as he walked through the door and told him to have a good day at work.  He nodded without a word then crossed the street to his car.

 

            For the rest of the week Carter kept quiet and only smiled when they placed their order for Pizza Night Tuesday and the pizza delivery guy recognized him.  Any time Carter got hit on he smiled, even if the guy doing the flirting wasn't Carter's type.  He couldn't help it.  He blushed like a girl every time.

            By the time the weekend rolled around Fiona was desperate to get Carter out of the house so on Saturday night she dressed to go clubbing then cornered him in the kitchen.  "Carter, you -”  She stopped and looked at his wardrobe.  Loose fitting fatigue green cargo pants and a tight plain white shirt with his black boots could only mean one thing.  "You're going out?"

            "Yeah."

            "You have a date?"

            "Nope."  He sighed and ducked between her and the wall to leave the kitchen and head for the front door.

            "Well wait, where are we going?"

            "We?  No."

            "Carter..."

            "I'm going out alone."

            "You're going to leave me here all by myself?"  She turned from desperate to make him go out to desperate to tag along.

            "That's the general idea, yeah."

            "Carter, you have to let me go.  I'll die of boredom if you leave me here.  You've ignored me all week."  She threw that last jab in to try to give him a little guilt trip.

            "Are we going to have this conversation every weekend?  There are a dozen other gay bars you can go to in the city if you want to practice your voyeuristic skills."

            "And I've told you a dozen times, I'll go there without you, I don't care.  But I like going with you and Jamie."

            "Jamie's not going tonight."

            "What?  Why not?"

            "He's in San Diego visiting Jake."

            "I thought Jake lived in Reseda?"

            "Other Jake."

            "He has more than one Jake?"

            "Do we have to continue this conversation right now?  We can talk about Jamie's issues later."

            "Carter."  Fiona sighed and stepped into her slide on shoes.

            "What?"  He reached for his keys then checked his hair in the mirror by the door.

            "I'm your good luck charm."

            A laugh erupted from Carter's mouth before he could stop it.  "How do you figure?"

            "Did you or did you not bring a very, very, very sexy man home last Saturday night?"

            "Did I or did I not sleep alone last Saturday night?"

            "Hey, I can't help you there.  What you do with him once you get him home is your business.  But see?  I'm your good luck charm.  I went with you and you had the opportunity to score big time."

            "And do you see how that ended up?"

            "I was there when you met Brandon."

            "And what happened there?"

            "I was there when you met Steve."

            "And what happened there?"

            "I was there when you met Gage too.  See?  I'm a good luck charm."  She ignored his questions.

            "Fiona, I know you haven't completely forgotten the Gage incident."  Carter held the front door open, not quite believing that he was continuing the argument when the club was waiting.

            "Listen, your relationship issues aren’t my business.  The fact remains that when you bring me along I bring you good luck and you find boys."

            "What about all the times you don't come with me and I find boys?"

            "Flukes."  Fiona smiled, kissed his cheek, then stepped around him and pranced to the car.  "Just take me with you.  Sheesh, it's not the end of the world."

            "Fiona."  Carter sighed and locked the front door.  "If I hook - "

            "If you hook up I'll take a cab."  She nodded and rolled her eyes.

            "Because Jamie isn't here to drive your sorry self home."

            "I know, I know."

            "And you can't be mad."

            "I won't be mad if you hook up and ditch me at the club."

            "Promise?"

            "Have I ever been mad about that before?"  She asked innocently as Carter unlocked the car door.

            "Ha."

            "Okay, fine.  I promise I won't be mad.  Just tell me you're leaving or whatever so I'll know what's going on."

            "Fine."  Carter said softly.  He climbed in the driver's seat and they took off for The Edge again.  Fiona was right; he'd had good luck there.  And he wasn't one to jinx a good thing.

 

            They drove to the club where Carter grudgingly paid for both of their cover charges since she paid the week before, and lead them into the fog filled club.  "Thomas is here."  Carter said as they stopped just inside the door.

            "Thomas?"

            "The guy with the cats."

            "Cats?"

            "Remember?  He has like, nine cats?  I was sneezing for a week after that."

            "Oh yeah."  Fiona smiled.  "Where is he?  I don't think I ever met him."

            "Yeah you did."  Carter nodded toward the bar.  "Yellow shirt, cargo pants… awesome ass."

            "Ahhh."  She followed his gaze and nodded, "Very nice ass."

            "Uh huh."

            "Oh you did bring him over!  He tried to get you to drink that chai tea or whatever."

            Carter nodded, "Green tea.  Yuck."  He made a face then looked toward the dance floor.  "I'm gonna go dance.  Don't go getting into trouble, okay?"

            "I won't."  She smiled, and knew that he truly was concerned, no matter how cranky he tried to act.

            "I'm serious.  Jamie's not here to keep the freaky freakys away from you."

            "I can handle the freaky freakys."  Fiona shook her head and smiled.  "Go dance your little gay heart out.  I'm going to get a water and go upstairs."

            "Okay."  Carter nodded, then looked around once more.  "I'll come find you before I leave."

            "Deal."  She nodded, but kept her eyes on the dance floor.  "Have fun.  Be safe."

            "I will."  He smiled and bounced toward the dance floor, Fiona completely out of his mind as he went.

            Fiona went to the bar to order her drink and say hello to the bartender who was beginning to recognize her as a regular.  He didn't charge her for her drink and offered her a piece of gum as she twisted the cap off.  "No thanks."  She shook her head with a polite smile and tipped him two dollars before walking upstairs to her spot where she could take it all in without being in the middle of everything.

            For an hour she stood above the dance floor with a giddy smile on her face.  She talked to some of the guys who wandered up to the quieter area on the second floor, but mostly watched out for Carter and drooled over the hot guys in the group in the middle of the dance floor that she'd never be able to have.

            With a sigh she tossed her empty water bottle in the trash and began down the stairs just to exercise her legs a bit.  Fiona stood on the third step up to watch the dance floor from a different perspective. She spotted Carter and watched as he claimed his spot against the railing under the fog machine and went about sizing up the competition.  Countless men brushed by on their way upstairs but she barely noticed them and never said more than, "Sorry," as they squeezed by without really seeing her.

            It wasn't until she was ready to go back upstairs herself that she noticed the man headed straight for her.  It was JC, or someone who bore a striking resemblance.  As he stepped closer she could tell that it was him and he didn't exactly look happy.  To be truthful, he looked bored and more than a little miffed as he stepped up onto the first step.

            Never one to let an opportunity pass her by, Fiona reached out and touched his elbow as he made it to her step.  "Hey, wow… you... you're here."  Fiona smiled and was startled when he pulled away from her touch with a dirty look.

            "Excuse me?"

            "I'm sorry, hi.  I'm Fiona."  She extended her hand with a smile.  "I was here last weekend.  I uh, I hung out with Justin and Lance but… well I don't see them here tonight."

            "They're out of town." He looked past her and seemed distracted as he brought his foot up to continue to the second floor.

            "Ahh, okay."

            "See ya."  JC moved to take a step around her and make a hasty retreat.  Running into female fans at a gay bar was not on his list of things to do.

            "Well wait.  Hang on."  She grabbed his elbow and was honestly surprised when he whipped around and jerked his arm away.

            "What?"  He demanded in a tone too harsh for even an overzealous fan, which she was sure he thought she was.

            She paused for a second and when she saw him close his eyes and sigh, she knew he was ready to walk again.  "Carter is my room mate."  She said quickly.

            "What?"

            "Carter."  Fiona raised her eyebrow at him.  "Listen, I'm sure you can get all the play you want, but last weekend you went home with my best friend and I think he made a terrible mistake."

            "A mistake huh?  You don't know what you're talking about."  JC looked around for the exit, but the flashing lights and fog hid all the signs.

            "No, listen.  He wouldn't sign the thing and now I think if you ask him he might."

            "He might sign it huh?  Well I might not care."  JC never once looked at her, he just began to edge his way along the wall knowing he'd eventually come to a door or opening.

            "Can't you give him another chance?"  Fiona hated the fact that she sounded desperate, and hated even more that she made Carter sound that way.

            "Get a clue honey."  JC turned around and brought his nose within an inch of hers.  "Your friend is the least of my worries.  I don't come here to find 'play' for the night okay?  I come here to dance and have a good time.  I don't know what you think happened between your friend and I, but you're mistaken."

            "I live there asshole, I'm not mistaken.  All I'm saying is this.  He's signed the thing, it's at our house… he made a mistake."

            "I don't care."  He said slowly.

            "Fi!"  Carter called as he ran up behind her.  "Stop trying to find me dates, I swear… you're the most annoying hag ever." He frowned and tugged at her arm.

            "I'm not - "  Fiona started to defend herself but she stopped when she saw that Carter recognized who she was talking to.

            JC's eyes opened wider as he saw Carter, recognition flashed in his eyes as they grew darker.  "I… ahhh…" He managed.

            "Oh."  Carter's smile fell as he grabbed Fiona's elbow tighter.  "Come on Fi, leave him alone.  You wouldn't want to blow his cover." He added softly with a hint of sarcasm.

            "You're Carter?"  JC said.

            Carter rolled his eyes.  Anonymous sex was never his thing, and being forgotten that quickly even though they didn't have the sex was still a slap in the face.  "Yeah, nice to see you again."  His biting tone was sharp and made a point.  "I'm sorry if she's bugging you, she's half insane and half twelve."  Carter pulled at Fiona's arm to drag her back to the dance floor and as far away from JC as possible.

            "You signed it?" JC asked when they were three steps away.

            "Yes."  Fiona said, shaking loose from Carter's grip.  "It's at home on the kitchen table."

            "Fiona… please."  Carter lowered his voice and looked from her to JC.  "I've got this."

            She pursed her lips and glanced at JC quickly, not believing she'd approached him like she knew him or something.  "Okay."  She nodded, then walked away without another word.

 

            With only a small feeling of guilt, Fiona went upstairs to watch their interaction from above.  From her favorite corner she could lean on the railing and just see Carter and half of JC in the shadows.  The look on Carter's face was one she new well, frustration verging on anger and unacceptance.  Whatever he was saying wasn't pleasant.  Carter's lips stopped moving and he was still while JC took his turn to talk.  She of course could not hear what was said but when JC reached to touch Carter's elbow, Carter stepped back and crossed his arms.  Carter said one more thing quickly, then turned and stomped up the stairs directly across from Fiona.

            She looked down to where JC was and saw him lean back against the wall with his head down.  Happy endings were not on the menu that night.

 

            Two hours later Carter had managed to completely avoid Fiona and she was ready to leave.  She made a search of the club to find Carter, but when he wasn't in any of his usual spots she headed to the roof top patio to check there.  After another two passes of the dance floor, she decided that he'd left without telling her.  "Punk ass bitch.  See if I ever go clubbing with you again.  Just leave me in the club like that without telling me you're leaving."  She growled under her breath as she headed for the exit.  Fiona paused at the bouncer's desk to have them call her a cab then waited by the curb with her arms crossed.  She wasn't mad that he left without her, just that he hadn't told her he was leaving.  That always left her open to worry about him and usually it was for nothing.  He knew she hated that, and he'd be paying the price once she got a hold of him.

            She cursed Carter and all gay men on the ride back to her house, but she knew in the morning she'd have forgotten her anger and forgiven Carter.  The lights in the front of the house were off with the exception of the porch light.  The window to Carter's room on the left side of the house was illuminated with an almost bluish light while his favorite 'I'm getting some and you're not' music played.

            "Yeah, I guess you're making up for missing out on JC huh?  Enjoy the grudge fuck."  Fiona muttered under her breath as she unlocked the front door and went straight to her bedroom to block out any sounds that might come from his room across the hall.

            She changed into her pajamas quickly, then put her headphone over her ears and fell asleep almost immediately to the sound of Ashley Mc Isaac's Celtic tunes.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            The next morning Fiona was awakened by someone thumping around in the bathroom while turning the water on.  For five minutes she tried to tune the noise out, but it didn't work.  She was awake.  Fiona rubbed her eyes and mumbled something obscene about Carter being a high maintenance bitch who required making noise in the bathroom every morning.  She pulled herself from under the covers and waddled to the bathroom, trying to keep her bladder from exploding on the way.

            When she pushed the bathroom door open she was hit with a blast of steam coming from the fog filled shower.  The dark green and blue stripped shower curtain hid his body from view, which was a good thing since that was the last thing she needed to see first thing in the morning.  Fiona grumbled a, "G'morning" under her breath as she put the toilet seat down and went about her business.

            "I'm not gonna scald your ass by flushing, so when you get done… flush."  Fiona said loudly toward the dark shower curtain.

            The water shut off suddenly then there was no movement or sound save for the water dripping from the faucet into the tub.  "Hello?"  A voice that wasn't Carter's said from behind the curtain.

            "I ahhh… hi.  Who… who are you?"  She asked with her hand on the damp door handle.

            "I'm a friend of Carter's."  The voice said after a moments pause.  "You?"

            "I live here."  Fiona said with a frown.  Of all the times Carter brought someone home from a club, only once had they still been there in the morning; and that turned into a year long relationship that ended with the 'Gage incident' as Carter called it.

            "Fi!"  Carter's voice erupted into the hallway, "Don't go in th - "

            "Too late."  She said as she opened the bathroom door and smiled sweetly up at Carter with his disheveled hair and dry lips.

            "God, give him some privacy."  Carter pulled her out of the bathroom and shut the door.

            "Is that…?"  Fiona whispered as he dragged her toward her bedroom.  "Carter!"

            "Yes."  Carter whispered in response.  "Yes, it is.  But you can't know that.  You can't know that he was here and you can't know that he stayed."

            "But - "

            "No buts Fiona.  I'm serious."

            "I'm not gonna say anything."  She whispered as she rolled her eyes.

            "Fi…"  He gave her a warning look.

            "What?  I'm not."

            "Just go to your room and don't come out for like… until I come and get you."  He looked nervously over his shoulder.  "Just until he leaves."

            "This is my house."

            "I know."  He nodded.  "I'll owe you one."

            "You already owe me like… nine."

            "I'll buy you breakfast."

            "Okay."

            "Now go."  He pushed her into her room and shut the door behind her.  With his arm resting against the doorjamb he took a deep breath, then went back to the bathroom door and knocked softly.  "I'm sorry about that." He said loud enough to be heard through the door.

            The door opened slowly and JC stepped out.  "Is that the uh… girl from last night."

            "Fiona."  Carter nodded.

            "And she's…"

            "She's cool."  Carter nodded again and pulled the steaming JC into his room again.  "She's uh, going back to bed."

            "I should get going."  JC looked around the floor for his clothes and was surprised to see them folded on the foot of the bed.

            "Yeah."  Carter bit his lip and used every ounce of restraint he had to not throw JC on the bed and drag him back to the passion of the night before.  Instead, he cleared his throat and took a step toward the door to leave JC alone to get dressed.

            "Hey."  JC grabbed Carter's arm and pulled him around to face him.  Carter was painfully aware of the water running down JC's bare chest to the thin blue towel at his waist.  "Thanks."  JC lowered his mouth to Carter's and kissed him with the fresh minty breath from the borrowed toothpaste he'd swished in his mouth.  JC's hand went to Carter's hair and held his head in place as JC deepened the kiss and let his tongue leisurely stroll across Carter's.

            "You're welcome."  Carter managed to squeak when they pulled apart a minute later.

            "I have to go home." JC said after a short silence.

            "Of course."  Carter blushed and stepped out of the room.  There was coffee to be made and cold water to be splashed.  He busied himself making the Starbucks Blend snob coffee that Fiona had insisted upon, then poured a cup and stood at the kitchen door trying to look casual.  With butterflies dancing in his stomach, 'casual' was the last thing he felt.  Nervous and completely out of his league were right there on top, but casual?  Casual was buried somewhere around his bare feet.

            JC stepped out of the bedroom a minute later with his damp hair still dripping onto his shirt, which was clinging to his not-quite-dry chest.  "You didn't have to hurry."  Carter smiled and tried to laugh a little to show he wasn't nervous, but it didn't come out how he'd expected.  The smile was there but the laugh was almost a cackle.

            "No, I - " JC stopped and ran his hands through his hair.  "I've gotta go." He looked down at his heavy watch and frowned.  "Like an hour ago actually."

            "Coffee?"

            "Can't."  JC shook his head as he bent to pull his shoes on over his bare feet.  "I really have to go."

            "I can uh… I can put it in a cup for your car.  If you want.  I mean."  Carter stumbled back into the kitchen and pulled a spill proof silver mug out of the cupboard.  He poured the coffee into it then secured the lid.  "H-here."

            JC looked at the mug for a second, then took it slowly.  "Thanks."

            "No problem."

            "I'll…" JC paused and examined the mug as though he'd never seen one before.  "I'll call you."

            Carter flinched and he hoped it wasn't noticeable.  He'd heard that line dozens of times before.  "S-sure.  Okay."  He nodded with a soft sigh.

            JC noticed the pause and smiled.  "I will."  He took a step closer to the kitchen.  "You gave me your card last time and I still have it.  Besides, I've got to return your coffee cup."

            "You can keep it."  Carter looked down at his feet and shook his head.

            "Do you want me to keep it?"

            "If you want."  Carter shrugged and looked up with what he hoped was absolute ambivalence.

            "I'd like to return it when I'm done."  JC nodded.  "I'll call you.  But…"  He looked at his watch again and shook his head.  "I really am late."

            "Okay."

            "Okay."  The corner of JC's mouth turned up into an almost devilish grin.  "Bye." He leaned in and kissed Carter quickly before he swept out the door leaving Carter standing in the early morning sunlight, alone.

            "Bye."  Carter whispered as the front door swung shut and he brought his fingers to his lips.  "Wow..."

            "Can I come out now?"  Fiona called from her room when JC's car roared and pulled away from the curb.

            "Yes."  Carter shouted back as he walked around the couch and flopped down in the corner.

            Fiona's door burst open and she ran out to the front window to pull the curtains aside.  "He's gone?"

            "Yeah, he had to go."

            "Where?"

            "Home.  I guess.  I didn't quiz him."  Carter shrugged and smiled from ear to ear.

            "Damn."  Fiona sighed under her breath.  "I need coffee."  She shuffled into the kitchen and poured coffee into the mug that was already sitting out.  "Much better."  She said after she spruced it up and took a sip.

            "Glad to hear it."  Carter mumbled and dropped his arm over his head.  "Hey, are you going out to the Valley today?"

            "Don't change the subject.  Spill it."  Fiona said as she sat heavily on the couch beside Carter, careful not to spill her coffee.

            "Where's mine?"  He asked from under his arm.

            "In the pot still."  She gave him a disbelieving look of surprise and tilted her chin down a degree.  "I'm gonna bring you coffee when you won't even tell me what's going on here?"

            "Fi…"

            "Carter.  You had an Nsyncer in your room last night.  In our shower!"

            "Yes, I know.  But listen, you can't say anything about that."

            "Who would I tell?"

            "Should I list them in the order in which you'd tell them, or alphabetically?"

            "I'm not going to say anything."  Fiona sighed, then stood up and fetched Carter his coffee.  "Here."

            "Thank you."

            "Now talk."  She sat again, sipped her coffee and then smiled up at him.  "Start at the beginning.  Start from the moment I left you at the club."

            "Can't I just say that it all ended happily ever after?"

            "No."

            "Fiona… it's early."

            "It's after nine."  She argued.  "You have your coffee.  Talk."

            Carter sighed then sipped at his coffee, torturing Fiona with his patience.  "Okay fine.  We talked for a minute after you left and I basically told him where he could stick the privacy statement.  I mean, really.  That was so tacky, and I let him know so."

            "Uh huh."

            "Well he disagreed and tried to argue the same points you did last week."

            "Of course."  She smiled.

            "I decided I didn't need that so I went upstairs to get a drink and just kind of… you know, go away or whatever."  He took another drink of his coffee and smiled.  "Well I was upstairs and he came and found me like, a half hour later.  He said he went out to his car and tried to leave but he didn't want to go if I was still pissed off.  Which, you know, was probably to save his own ass because a scorned man has a big mouth."

            "Uh huh."

            "So I told him he didn't have to worry about me blabbing and that he could leave with a clear conscious."  Carter licked his lips and pulled his feet up onto the couch.  "Well he said he was sorry that we got off on the wrong foot and that he'd like to take me to get a coffee or something, just to get out of there."

            "Oh my!"

            "Yeah.  So I said I didn't want coffee but if he wanted to get out of there we could.  So we drove to Venice Beach and sat on the bleachers and talked for like, another hour or whatever.  He's really nice and he's totally shy.  More than you'd expect.  I mean, he seems so outgoing but he's really insecure I think."

            "You picked that up in an hour?"

            "I've got great people reading skills."

            Fiona ignored his comment and tried not to roll her eyes as she smiled, "Go on."

            "So anyway, it got late and I told him I needed to go home and he asked if we could try it again."

            "He sounds mighty girly."

            "Shut up."  Carter's foot came out and connected with her thigh as he blushed.  "He's not girly."  He said with a raised eyebrow.

            Fiona held up her hand and closed her eyes; "I don't want to hear it.  Leave the details out."

            He laughed softly and took another sip of his coffee, "So we came back here and then he left this morning."  He flitted his hand around to signify a bunch of details she didn't want to know.

            "Wow."

            "Yeah."

            "No… I mean really.  Wow.  You were mature about a relationship and it actually looks like it might be more than just a romp in the sack.  You had an actual conversation with the guy?"

            "I can have conversations." He sounded wounded as he frowned over the rim of his mug.

            "Yeah.  With me.  But you talked to him?"

            "Yes Fiona, weren't you paying attention?  We talked for a few hours.  He is amazing. Really."

            "Sounds like it."  She giggled like a little girl and finished her coffee.  "So are you going to see him again?"

            Carter smiled and blushed again as he stared at his cup.  He raised his shoulder in a half shrug as his eyes danced.  "I don't know."

            "You are.  You totally are.  You're gonna make him into your boyfriend."  She kicked at his leg again and laughed.  "Carter, you're the luckiest little shit in the whole wide world."

            "I know."

            "I mean.  Seriously.  One, he's gay.  Two, he's gay with you.  Three, he's gay with you and you like him.  How much luckier could you get?"

            "You're crass."  Carter stood up and took both of their mugs to the sink to rinse them out.  "For reals though, you can't say anything."

            "I won't."

            "And he may ask you to sign one of those things."

            "I'll have my pen ready."

            "And you can't bother him if he comes over again."

            "If he comes over, what are the chances that I'll actually see him?"

            "Okay, true."  Carter nodded and set the mugs on the drain board.  "But if you do."

            "I won't do anything to embarrass you or him or me."

            "Thank you."  He walked to the back of the couch and leaned down to kiss her cheek.  "Love you."

            "Love you too."

            "I'm going back to bed." He yawned and stepped into the hall.

            "Tired?"

            "Worn out."  He hiked up his sweat bottoms, then disappeared into his room with the door shut tight behind him.

            "Yeah, I'll bet."  Fiona snickered under her breath.  "Hey wait!  You said you'd buy me breakfast."  She shouted after him.

            "Make it lunch."  He said through his closed door.

            "Can we go to Rubio's?"

            "Sure."

            "Yes!"  She punched her fist in the air and giggled as she reached for the remote and turned the TV on.  She had a few hours to kill while Carter slept off the effects of the night before so she flipped to the cartoon network and burrowed into the corner of the couch as Darkwing Duck started.

 

            They went to lunch that afternoon, Carter's treat as promised, then they spent the rest of the day hanging around and doing yard work.  Carter was the one doing the work while Fiona pointed out weeds he missed or paths of grass that still needed to be trimmed.  She sat with her wide gardening hat on her head to shade her eyes and her painted toes tucked into a pair of flip flops.  Carter bent over the little flower bed in cut off cargo pants and a tank top, with the cordless phone clipped to his hip just in case someone called.

            The phone remained silent for the rest of the day, and didn’t ring again until after they'd showered and settled into their own rooms for the night.  Fiona heard him answer the phone, then heard another half hour of his muffled voice through the walls.  She drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face to the sound of Carter's laughter across the hall.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Monday morning saw both Fiona and Carter thrown back into the real world.  They left for work at the same time and waved as they passed each other going in opposite directions down the street.  Fiona spent the day catching up on all of the filing that had somehow accumulated over the weekend while listening to Jamie recount his weekend tryst with Jake.  They'd worked together since just after high school and Jamie had taken Fiona under his wing when she was new on the job.  As he trained her they became close friends and now the two of them along with Carter were almost inseparable.

            When five o'clock rolled around Fiona said goodbye to Jamie, then hopped in her car to hit the grocery store before going home.  She'd had to have plain toast that morning because the peanut butter was gone and they were running dangerously low on sugar cereals.

            After spending more than an hour at the store and waiting in line behind everyone else picking up groceries on their way home from work, she made it back to her house.  She growled to herself when she saw a car parked in the driveway, which was her parking spot. When Carter originally moved in he didn't have a car, so she took the driveway.  Then when he got a car he always parked it on the street.  That was their system.

            She parked across the street and hauled the three bags of groceries up the front walk and into the house.  "Carter, listen.  I've told you that if you're going to have friends park in the driveway I get to beat your ass."  Fiona flung her purse on the hook and tossed her keys across the table.  "Carter?"  She continued to the kitchen and dropped the bags of groceries.  "Dammit, Carter.  Get out here and let me yell at you like a normal person."  She shouted as she walked toward the hall to his room.

            "Um."  A male voice behind her spoke softly so not to startle her.  "C-carter is uh… well he's not here.  I didn't know that was your parking space though so I… I can um… move.  My car I mean."

            Fiona gasped at the first syllable and turned around to be faced with JC standing in front of the couch.  "Oh."  She blushed furiously and instinctively reached to straighten her hair.  "H-hi.  I didn't - where's Carter?"

            "He ran to the video store."  JC said softly.

            "Oh."  Fiona looked around the dark living room and frowned.  "What… what are you doing here?"

            "Carter uh… I had to return my cup.  The - your cup.  The coffee cup."  JC stuttered as he looked nervously around the small living room.

            "Oh."  Fiona's heart returned to a normal pace as she licked her lips and tried not to stare.  "Were you just sitting there in the dark?"

            "Uh huh." JC looked over his shoulder at the couch.  "It's quiet."

            "Yeah."  Fiona nodded and waved her hands around, flustered without knowing what to say.  "I'm sorry.  I just… I wasn't expecting to see you here.  In my house.  On my… on my couch."  She closed her eyes in embarrassment.  "See… you're JC Chasez."

            "Uh…"  He shoved his hands deep into his pockets.  "Yeah."

            "I'm sorry."

            "It's okay." He nodded with a shy smile, which did nothing to ease Fiona's nervousness.

            "Is this… I mean… should I get used to this?"

            JC pursed his lips and breathed through his nose for a moment as he thought about how to answer that.  He had intended to talk to Carter, but they got side tracked so he wasn't entirely sure how to answer Fiona.

            "Or is this a sort of fly by knight thing where you'll be around for a few days then gone?"  Fiona asked softly with an unaccusing tone.  "Which… which is fine.  We're… he's used to that and I'm sure he - well no.  I can't speak for him."

            "I think so."

            "You think so?"

            "I think you can or… should… get used to this."  JC smiled slowly.

            "Really?"

            "I don't wanna be gone in a day or two."  He shook his head and took a deep breath.  "But you know… I've gotta talk to Carter.  See where he is."

            Fiona smiled and nodded slightly, "Cool."

            "I'm sorry about your parking space."

            "It's okay."  She shook her head.  "I'd rather park my little Saturn on the street than your Mercedes or whatever."  JC nodded and looked up as the front door opened and Carter came rushing in with three bags in his hands.

            "Hey, I got the movies then I went to Vons and got some popcorn and wine and stuff.  It's not like, Crystal or whatever it is you famous folks like to - "  He stopped when he saw Fiona standing there facing JC.  "Oh hey Fi.  I didn't know you were going to be home."

            "Obviously."

            "Sorry."

            "It's okay."  She smiled and nodded.  "I'll just..." She pointed toward her room and took a few steps in that direction.  Being third wheel on one of Carter's dates wasn't her idea of a good night, even if the date was with JC.

            "Do you wanna watch movies with us?" JC asked, surprising them both.

            "Hmm?  Oh.  Oh no that's okay.  I've got work to do and stuff."  She smiled and pushed her door open.  "But thanks."

            "You're sure?"

            "I'm sure."  She nodded and winked at Carter.  "You guys have things to talk about, so I'll just let you be."

            "It was nice to meet you."  JC said politely, almost out of habit.

            "Yeah uh… yeah.  You too."  Fiona blushed and shut her door behind her.  Every teeny-bopperish cell in her body wanted to pick up her phone and call someone, anyone, and tell them that JC was in her living room, but she managed to control herself.  Instead she squealed into her pillow and pulled her journal out from under the stack of old school books beneath her nightstand.  She filled a page with her excitement then shook her head at how juvenile she sounded.  "Well at least it's out of my system."  She grumbled to herself before she reached for her reading book and got comfortable on the bed to settle in for yet another night alone in her room.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            By the time Fiona got up the next morning, Carter was already gone. He worked weird hours and she never could tell when he’d have to be at work.  She got ready and ate breakfast alone, then went to work and gossiped with Jamie for most of the day.  He’d spent half the night on the computer talking to a guy named Paul in Missouri and he couldn’t stop talking about him.

            Fiona listened politely and told him how unsafe she thought that was; people on the internet were rarely who they said they were.  “Yeah well, you can’t get crabs over the internet.”  Jamie shrugged with a sigh and changed the subject.

 

            At five thirty when Fiona walked through the front door, Carter was already home and on the phone talking to the pizza guy.  “Yeah, same as usual.  Okay.  Yeah.  Oooh, you’ll put extra pepperoni on there?  Awesome, you’re the best.  Thanks.  Okay.  All right.  Talk to you next week.  Bye.”  He laughed and hung up.  “That was Brett.  He knows our order by heart.”

            “Of course he does.”

            “He’s new though. He’s been there less than a month and he already knows our order.”

            “He learns quick.”  Fiona dropped her purse on the peg by the door and sat heavily at the dining room table.  “I’m starving, how long will it be?”

            “In the fifty seven years we’ve been ordering pizza from Papa John’s, how long does it take?”

            “Twenty minutes.”  She sighed and dropped her head in her arms.

            “Exactly.”

            “Ugh.  Do we have anything to eat here?”

            “You want to fill up on crap before pizza gets here?  Are you okay?”

            “I’m fine, I’m just hungry.  I didn’t have a big lunch.  Jamie kept talking.”

            “Jamie was talking so you couldn’t eat?”  Carter smiled and sat beside her.

            “He has to eat when he talks.  That’s his quirk.  Well he finished his subway sandwich so he started picking at my crust…”  Fiona raised her head and shrugged again.  “So…”

            Carter patted her back affectionately and said, “If you can tough it out for another twenty minutes, I’ll let you have the first slice.”

            “I love you.”

            “I know you do.”  Carter kissed her temple and stood up.  “Plates?”

            “Nah.”

            “Drink?”

            “Yes please.”

            Carter pulled two cans of soda out of the fridge and popped one open for her.  “Okay, here you go.  You wanna tell me about your day?”

            “No…. do you want to tell me about yours?”  Fiona smiled for the first time since she stepped in the front door.

            “Well, I worked.  That’s about it.”

            “You left early this morning.”

            “Yeah, I had to be there at six.  I hate that.  There’s no reason anyone needs me to do anything before seven in the morning, I mean really.  Half of America is still sleeping, why can’t I be?”

            “True.”

            “But that’s okay.  I get to come in late tomorrow.”

            “Awesome.”  Fiona nodded and they tripped into small talk as her stomach growled and they waited for the pizzas to arrive.

            When the food finally made it, Carter paid the delivery boy, flirted a little, then set the steaming hot boxes on the table with a stack of napkins.  “Okay kiddo.  Dig in.”

            Fiona seemed to come alive as the pizza box lid was raised and the scent floated through the air.  “Oh.  My.  God.”  She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.

            “Ditto.”  Carter laughed and opened the second box.

            “Yum.”  Fiona whispered, and lifted the first piece from the box.  She took a bite and smiled completely.  "So…?"  She looked up at Carter and met his eye as she chewed.

            "So what?"

            "So did you guys talk last night?"

            "Well, yeah.  I mean… we watched movies or whatever."

            "And…?"

            "And what?  Fiona you're doing it again.  I may be gay but I don't understand girl speak."

            Fiona frowned, he didn't look like he was intentionally hiding anything.  "Nevermind."

            "Okay."  Carter shrugged and picked up a steaming piece of pizza.

            "So you didn't talk about anything?"  Fiona asked a minute later.

            "We talked about the movies."  Carter sighed and set his dinner down.  "And about maybe going to see some show thing later this week.  I don't know."

            "Okay."

            "Were we supposed to talk about something else?"

            "No, I guess not."

            "Fiona?  You drive me absolutely mad darling."  Carter tried to sound pretentious with a fake English accent, but instead sounded like a bad impersonation of Austin Powers.

            "Yeah, well."  She shrugged and blushed as she took a second piece of pizza. If JC and Carter hadn't talked, then she needed to keep her mouth shut.  But she hoped Carter would tell her when they did finally have that discussion.

            "You know what I love?"  Carter asked as he took a bite of the pizza, a long string of cheese connecting his mouth to the slice.

            "What?"

            "Pizza Night Tuesdays.  I swear.  This is perfect."

            "Every family needs a tradition."  Fiona peeled a piece of pepperoni off her slice and popped it into her mouth.

            "Your dad was the best, I swear.  My family sure as hell never had Pizza Night Tuesday's."

            "Your family is weird."

            "I love pizza."  Carter said with a mouthful.

            "Me too."  Fiona smiled and helped herself to another piece.  For as long as she could remember, in their house Tuesday nights were always pizza nights.  No matter what was going on in their week, no matter how upset they were with anyone else, or what else was planned, they were almost always home and happy on Tuesdays.  Fiona could only remember missing a handful when she went on school trips or Girl Scout camping trips.  The traditions had been passed on to Carter when he moved in and when Fiona's father and his partner died, Fiona and Carter kept it up with themselves.

            After their pizza was devoured, Carter put what was left in the refrigerator and collapsed onto the couch to tune in to MTV.  "What happened last week?  I missed it."

            "Trishelle slept with Steve."

            "Again?"

            "Yeah."

            "She's a skank."

            "I know."  Fiona sat across from him on the couch as he flipped the channels to MTV.  They watched the last two weeks of "Real World" before the new episode came on.  Throughout the half hour Carter kept quiet and only critiqued the cast members when commercials were on.  Watching "Real World" was a tradition they had started on their own back during the first season in New York, and it was almost unconscious now that after pizza they'd watch the show then go to bed.  It was comfortable for both of them and they knew that they both needed that level of comfort in their lives.

            When the show was over Carter stretched and turned the TV off before heading to his room.  "G'night Fi."

            "Sweet dreams."  She said through a yawn as she stood up and folded the blanket over the back of the couch again.  After picking up a little, she went to her room and changed into her pajamas.  With all of her lights off, she sunk into her bed and frowned.  It wasn't that late but she felt exhausted as her body dissolved into the sheets and quilts around her.

            As Fiona lay in bed she heard Carter's phone ring across the hall.  She frowned and looked at the clock, calls after ten at night weren't common and usually weren't good news.  Quietly, she rolled over and strained her ears to listen.  She couldn't make out what he was saying, but she heard him laugh, then drop his voice and shuffle around.  Within a few minutes she heard his bedroom door open and his bare feet on the hardwood floor outside her door.

            "Fi?" He tapped lightly on her door in case she was sleeping.

            "Hmm?"

            "I'm going out for a bit.  I'll be back later."

            Fiona paused, she wanted to point out that he had to work in the morning, but she was sure he knew that.  "Okay.  Be careful."

            "I will."

            "Bye." She said softly.

            "Bye." He said back, and she could practically hear him smile.  Fiona pulled her blankets up to her ears and listened to Carter thump around in his room for another minute before leaving quietly through the front door.  She yawned again, then went to sleep.

 

            Early the next morning Fiona hit the 'snooze' button on her alarm for the third time before she heard Carter come home.  "Damn boy."  She grumbled softly as she rolled out of bed and stretched; she wanted to go find out about Carters night before he left for work.

            "Hey."  She said in her scratchy morning voice as she rubbed her eyes and walked into the kitchen.

            "Hey."  Carter replied back sounding more awake than he should have at that hour.  "Are you just now getting up?"

            "You just now getting home?"  She raised her eyebrow and continued past him to the kitchen.  She couldn't think coherently until she raised her blood sugar a few points.  For two full minutes she stared at the open refrigerator trying to make the images register in her mind.  After a short toss up between left over pizza and a half of a grapefruit, the pizza won.

            "That's what you're having for breakfast?"  Carter looked at the piece of cold pizza in Fiona's hand as she took a bite with the refrigerator door still open.

            "Uh huh."  She shut the door and sat at the table.

            "Fi."

            "What?  It's got bread, dairy and protein.  That's a damn good breakfast."

            "Do you want a beer with that too?"  He asked sarcastically.

            "Do we have any?"  Her eyes perked up at the mention.

            "Root beer maybe."

            "No thanks.  Can you get me a Dr. Pepper?"

            "Not for breakfast, no." Carter took the jug of orange juice out of the fridge and poured her a tall glass.

            "Ew, orange juice and pizza?  Gross man."  Fiona made a face and pushed the glass away.

            "Take it." Carter pushed it back, then went back to the kitchen to pour himself a bowl of cereal.

            "Are you going to be home tonight?"

            "I don't know yet."  Carter smiled and blushed.

            "Oh really?"  Fiona perked up as she chewed the cold pizza.

            "I went to see him last night."  He tried to stop the yawn that tugged at his jaw, but it slipped through with a smile.

            "I figured as much."

            "And he wants to see me again tonight."  Carter's feet bounced under the table.

            "Oh look at you."  Fiona smiled broadly and tried not to laugh.  "So."  She smiled and picked the pepperoni off her pizza to save for last.  "Does he snore?"  She smirked and laughed as Carter blushed.

            He swallowed what was in his mouth and shook his head.  "He purrs."

            "He purrs?"

            "Yeah.  It's not exactly snoring.  It's so soft you can like, barely hear it.  It rumbles like a purr."

            "Oh Carter hun, that's so girly."

            "He's not girly."  Carter shook his head.

            "Honey.  He purrs."

            "Not intentionally."  He tried to defend JC but Fiona just gave him a look.  "Hey, it's not his fault he purrs. It's sexy though.  Seriously.  I wish you could - "

            "Oh God don't say it.  I will so sneak into your room and listen one night."

            "Ha.  I think not."

            "Tape it for me."

            "I'll do no such thing."

            "Carter… you can't come out with 'he purrs it's so sexy' and then tell me I can't hear it."

            "Go to work."  He grinned and took a bite of his cereal.

            "Forget work.  I want details."

            "I've already said too much.  Seriously Fi, you don't want to be late."

            "What about you?"

            "I took today off.  I need rest."

            "Oh really?"  Fiona looked at him with a raised eyebrow.  "Don't tell me you have plans with Mr. Wonderful."  She reached over and tilted his chin up to look at her as he chewed.  "Carter…"

            "Okay.  I won't tell you I have plans with JC."

            "Wait.  Do you?"

            "You don't want me to tell you."

            "Yes I do."

            "Are you sure?"

            "Shit, you don't have to tell me.  I know you do."  Fiona rolled her eyes then took a bite of her crust.  "This sucks.  I have to work and you get to play with a rock star all day."

            "He's not a rock star and actually I'm not playing with him all day."

            "Uh huh."  She sighed and pouted as she stood up to get ready to go to work.  Carter was right, she was running late.

            "He's working this morning so I'm going sleep for a bit then go over to Horizons and see about enrolling in the C++ class."

            "But then after that?"

            "We'll see."  Carter looked up wistfully as he stirred his cereal with a dreamy smile.

            "You suck."  Fiona tried to sound grouchy but smiled instead.  "I'll see you later."

            "Have a good day at work sweetie."  Carter's voice dripped with sappiness normally found in 1950's family shows.

            "I will pumpkin.  Have a good day banging - "

            "Hey!"  Carter flung a placemat at her as she laughed and ducked.  "Be nice."

            "I am nice."  Fiona chuckled and disappeared into her room to get dressed for work.  The happy thoughts of Carter's day would undoubtedly carry her through her humdrum day at work, even if she couldn't tell Jamie what was going on.

            Carter sat at the kitchen table ignoring his cereal, too happy and anxious to eat any more.  A smile spread across his lips before he could stop it and his mind went back to JC.  Unconsciously he looked at his watch and counted down the hours until he could see him again.  Seven hours.  Seven hours wasn't long at all, but all eternity at the same time.

 

 

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Copyright 2003, Amy Lynn