So the Gavin/Katie saga continues! This story is about James, Katie's brother who tried to beat up Gavin at the Thanksgiving disaster. It is also a stand-alone story, and while I think I might have one other oneshot, I don't know if it will evolve quite as much as the Gavin/Katie stories. I told y'all I'm suffering from writer's block, and for that reason I'm not crazy about how this turned out. If you absolutely cannot stand it I'll take it down and wait until I'm inspired for the repost. It's up to you! I don't own Drew Barrymore, Indiana Jones, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, McDonald's, The Twilight Zone, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Post Its, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Frankenstein, or Dancing With The Stars. Though I would really like to. Not. :) Oh, and the story starts out from James's POV, and moves on to Hannalynn's. If y'all would like me to bold the POVs or something so you can tell a difference go ahead and message me, but I'll only do it if a couple of people ask, because I think it's annoying. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy!

I work as a bank teller at a drive through window. Yes. Those rows of parked cars with the large suction tubes, and the mechanical voice that say "Have a nice day," in this incredibly bored-sounding tone that kind of makes you want to scream and drive your car into the bank. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, one of the peculiarities of my job is that I get to see the customer but s/he can't see me. Because I get their driver's license, you know? Not that I look. Because I'm trustworthy, and I don't do weird, creepy stuff like that. Right.

So once upon a time, a week or two after school let out, there was this girl at the suction-tube thingy. Skilled as I am, I'm all "Hi, how can I help you today?" just the way I've been trained (yes, I know my skills are astounding, try and contain yourselves). And, unfortunately for me, she responds in this incredibly hot voice. Well, okay, it wasn't exactly hot, but it was all warm and friendly and it kind of made me feel nervous and excited and scared in a completely manly way.

Except, I'm her bank teller, so for all she knows I'm a sixty year old man with a fetish for animal prints. She has no idea that her hot voice is really attractive, and that I kind of have to meet her now. She doesn't even know I'm a guy.

So you can see my dilemma. The girl of my dreams, possibly THE ONE, possibly the girl I'm meant to be with forever and ever until we both have false teeth and have to live off of pudding and condensed milk, might possibly think I'm a woman. Because she's never seen me.

Although, come to think of it, I've never seen her either and...CRAP. Has she been sitting there the whole time I've been thinking all this, wondering if the teller-guy (or girl) is going into cardiac arrest? In some desperate attempt to make my prolonged silence normal, I grab the microphone and exclaim in this really awkward voice,


Oh, and my voice cracks like a prepubescent teen.


I'm vaguely contemplating throwing myself out in front of her car, so that I end my pitiful existence and may never be inflicted upon the human race ever again when she responds, her voice crackling in all of it's hot glory through the audio system, "Um... what? Sorry, I didn't catch all that."

Oh, how the angels sing when she opens her mouth. I bet she looks like Drew Barrymore.

"Yeah, ha ha (cue nervous chuckle), that was my fault. I, uh, pressed the wrong button."

A pause while I hold my breath, waiting for her reaction. And then..."There's a fast forward button?" Yes, my love. Fast forward to my heart.

"Um...yeah." Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap I wish there was a rewind button. Then I could be all cool and suave and have my hot voice perfected and say something like what Indiana Jones would say. Except I'm just not awesome like that.

"Why?" Such a simple word, and yet so beautiful. It's like she kissed my soul. But...crap. She's actually waiting for an answer (amazing as she is, I can't think she's that bright. I mean, really, a fast forward button? Maybe she's as stunned by me as I am by her. Maybe she's waiting on pins and needles to hear my response, maybe...crap. If she's holding her breath, she's probably unconscious by now.)

"Er, in case, um..." Think, James, think. "In case the person at the window is stoned!"


Why would my brain do that to me? Why does that make any sense at all? What the hell is my problem?

"Wow. I, uh, I didn't know you guys prepared for that kind of thing."

"Well it's like...handicap access. They're thinking about making pot legal now, so we're just trying to stay a step ahead."

Stop. Talking. NOW. Just shut up, before this gets any worse.

"What if they're drunk?" Please, future wife, I can't marry you if you think I need to be medicated. Or put in jail.

"That's why the driveways are curved." Okay, I definitely did NOT tell my mouth to say that. Maybe I have a disorder. Maybe my central nervous system is all screwed up, and I'll be unable to be employed by state facilities without an exam to prove my competence...wait, I have to do that anyway.


She thinks I need to be committed. We're going to have to get a divorce before we're even married.

This is so not what Indiana Jones would do.

I'm making my perfunctory trip to the bank. I do it every Saturday. Yes, it's sad that I have a schedule for these things, but I go shopping on Sundays, so it only makes sense to know my budget before then. And I do my laundry on Tuesdays, so I need change for that, and... well, there really isn't any way to justify it. I need a life. Badly.

Anyway. Until last week I went to the library in the mornings and the bank in the afternoons (...shut up) but then they started this book club and I really wanted to join, except it's in the afternoons, so I had to change my schedule (again, shut up). So now I go in the mornings.

Except...I'm starting to think they put the weird people in charge on Saturday mornings. First I have to wait like five minutes before the guy says anything, and then when he actually does talk it's in this odd, squeaky rush like he's having some sort of episode.

Then he says he pressed the fast forward button. Um, yeah, ok. Poor guy is probably a little slow. Maybe new. Definitely needs somebody to build up his confidence. So I play along.

Only...Pot? Really? That's what you're going to go with? Although I guess it almost kind of makes sense...if their brain is processing things really slow...normal speed would be super slow and fast would be normal? Maybe?

Except I don't think we have potheads in a town this size. The reverend would come and lecture you until you confessed.

But okay, he's making an effort. At this point, it's actually kind of interesting. So I encourage him.

Uh-huh. Curved. Okay, the fast forward button was a stretch, but this is just bad. The thought process is...drunk people can't walk in a straight line? So they think they're driving straight when the driveway is curved? What?

Maybe he needs some coffee. I should offer to bring him some. Only...

He kind of freaks me out.

Still, I have to get some money, that's the whole reason I'm here.

"Well, I want to make a withdrawal." That's it, speak slowly and clearly.

"Oh, good." Why is that good? Next thing you know, he'll be telling me to spend more money so I can support the economy and help smokers get more rights. So that they can buy decorative ash trays. For handicap access.

"I mean...I need your ID." Yes, you do. Good bank teller.

"Yeah, and I need the canister." Because, you know, I'm not walking inside to hand it to you. Sorry.


A few moments later the little canister thing is air-whooshed to my station. How exciting! I like the air canister thing. It reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know, with the glass elevator? And it shoots into the air and breaks through the ceiling? And they can see for miles and miles? It would be a fun amusement park ride...shut up!

So I slip in my ID with the little slip that has my information on it. I have a notepad, my wallet and a pen ready, just in case he sends it right back out, but I think he's going into shock again.

Maybe I need to switch banks.

Way to fail. I forgot the entirety of my job. Seriously. The vacuum and the canister are pretty much the only things I mess with. And I forgot them. Now she thinks I'm completely brain-dead. There is no way to redeem myself from this.

But at least I have her ID! I quickly unstop the Grail that I hold in my hands and slip out the Driver's License that has probably the most significance to me ever, except maybe my own.

And she does not disappoint. I mean, not really. It's not like I got a clear picture from her voice.

I think I even know her, a little. Wasn't she that one girl from tennis who couldn't seem to hit the ball? I mean, no hand-eye coordination. At all. Not like I'm one to talk, or anything. Coach Randy still can't hear my name without screaming and diving for cover (although that's a bit much, I mean, he had Katie, how bad could I be?). So, she went to school with me. Not surprising; it's a small town. Now, what is your name...

Hannalynn. Hannalynn? I can't remember...I don't think you went by Hannalynn. But then again, I can't remember much about you. I don't think you talked that much.

Five foot, nine inches. Good grief, you're tall. Blonde hair, blue eyes. What are you still doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Organ donor, of course you are. Won't you please give me your heart? Okay, that was a little gruesome. Not the most effective pick-up line...


I jump a foot in the air and shriek in an incredibly masculine way. My boss, this beast of a woman named Maxine, is glaring at me in a way I can only describe as wicked. Yeesh.

"Keep it moving, Mr. Thompson." Yes ma'am, Mrs. Ice-Queen, ma'am.

Okay. So in goes the money, in goes the licence, in goes my number...Yeah, like she'd call. I'm the weird pothead with an animal print fetish. And I'm a sixty year old woman. I'm a weird sixty year old female pothead with an animal print fetish. I'm never going to have a girlfriend.

Into the lovely vacuum compartment and away goes my heart. But she has to come back, right? I mean, she wouldn't just come once and then never come back. Would she?

Although, it is just a bank. Why would she have some sort of special emotional attachment to her bank?

What on earth do I do now?

"Have a nice day," the voice emanating from the intercom system sounds strangely forlorn. I sigh. Poor guy is definitely having a rough day.

"Yeah, thanks, you too!" I inject a much cheeriness as possible into that one statement and push the car into drive. That's the last time I think about His Most Esteemed Randomness until the next Saturday morning.

I drive up to the window, press the button, and hear the same bored-sounding murmur that started the visit last time. Great. I've got the weird guy.

"Um, hello. I'd like to make a withdrawal?" The moment I start speaking there's some sort of explosion on the other side of the line, and I hear a lot of spluttering and coughing. "Hello?"

Dry, hacking wheezes are the only answers that greet me as whoever he is obviously tries to regain his composure. After a few moments he's able to string an almost coherent sentence together. I really don't want to reply, it appears to make him rather unsettled. So instead I just accept the canister that's been air-whooshed to my station and put in the required articles. One, two, three and all should be well. If my aid doesn't collapse first.

There's almost complete silence as the other component of our little team counts out the money and sends it back. I'm just about ready to return it, emptied, when a voice crackles over the intercom. "Would you like a sucker?"

A sucker. Because I'm eight? Oh, well, I kind of do want one. Candy makes my world go 'round. Still, what if he spikes it or something? But...sugar...

In the end, the demand for sweets triumphs over common sense and I nod, before realizing he can't see me and blushing furiously. "Um, okay, what flavors do you have?" This isn't a McDonald's drive through, Lynn, try and control yourself.

Luckily my invisible bank fairy seems happy to help. "Well, there's strawberry, and watermelon, and cherry, and grape, and orange, and-"

"Grape's fine, thank you." I feel bad for interrupting him, but he sounded as though he could go on a while. Isn't there a line of other customers..? A quick glance over my shoulder tells me that no, there isn't. I guess that makes sense. It's a very, very small town, and most of the customers are friends with the people that work here, so they'd rather stop inside for a chat than just drive through. Still, it seems weird that I'm the only one...

"Alright, if you send it back through, I'll hook you up with a high-quality grape lollipop, as requested. This batch isn't even a full year old." I'm not expecting the joke, and I stare for a full minute at the speaker. He certainly doesn't sound mentally handicapped. He actually sounds quite a bit like any other guy. Then what was with all that nonsense..?

"Um, Ms. Brady?"

Oh! Blushing anew, the color bright against my pale skin(damn my Swedish heritage), I press the button that sends the container flying over my head and into the adjoining building. Well, this has been fun. Now I can go hide in the library for several hours and try and forget that happened. I gnaw nervously at my lower lip. The tables have turned, and I am definitely the freak, now. I suppose I should be used to it, at this point, but I thought I'd grown out of that awkward stage after graduation. I suppose I haven't.

"Alright, you should be all set. Have a good day, Ms. Brady." I correct him automatically, unthinkingly. "Hannalynn; you can call me Hannalynn."

"Hannalynn." I don't know how he does it, but when he says my name, repeating it slowly,

softly, and almost luxuriously, I'm not just blushing, I'm flushed all up my neck and ears. Even my toes are heating up. What a strange allergy. And it makes me wonder. That's certainly not a normal reaction when someone says your name, and if I am the freak, here, as suspected, maybe he's been behaving completely normally the whole time and I'm acting strange. Like in The Twilight Zone. Good grief, I think I'm thinking too much.

"Um, yeah, good job, you know, with the pronunciation, most people don't get that, thank you, um, for the sucker, and the money. Um. Bye."

He says something appropriately polite and considerate, and I empty the contents of the plastic cylinder into the passenger seat, shove it back into it's cavernous home, and speed away. That was just awkward. I'm still moving in high-speed-escape mode when at a stoplight I look over at the upended contents. That grape sucker is sitting on top, mocking me, and attached to it is one of those post-it tabs that has been wrapped around it's base like a banner or flag. Huh. Suddenly curious I lean over and pick it up, holding it so close to my nose I'm almost cross-eyed and pushing my glasses to the top of my head.

In the bent, uneven scrawl of a guy's impatient hand, there is the following message: "To Ms. Hannalynn Brady; One grape sucker, as promised. Have a great day, Hannalynn. Knock 'em dead."

I blink, my eyes suddenly suspiciously glossy. What a sweet thing to do! Never mind that I've no great challenges to overcome today; it's the thought that counts, and I really appreciate it. I'm torn from my reverie as several loud honks come from behind me. So shocked am I that I almost lose hold of my tiny note, and scramble for it in midair, flailing my arms about like a lunatic until I've got it securely in hand.

Totally unable to be annoyed, I even overcome my initial reaction to mutter impolite things under my breath. Today's going to be a good day, I can tell.

Well. That was...different.

Okay, so I haven't actually decided whether that was a good or bad experience. I mean, obviously it was better from last time, but a recreation of the Mayonnaise Incident would have been better than last time.

Oh, man, the Mayonnaise Incident.

I shudder visibly and lean against the counter of my cluttered station, still totally lost in my thoughts about Hannalynn. What a nice name. Weird, obviously, but in a nice way. I'm so used to Katies and Bills and Teds, it's cool that there are still original names out there. Of course, something like Apple would be a little strange, but there you go. That's the price you pay for creativity.

I wonder what she thinks about me. I hope she's figured out I'm a guy by now...unless she thinks I'm just a woman with a really deep voice oh merciful heavens she thinks I'm a lesbian.

I groan and sink to the ground, slowly beating my head against the wall. Why me why me why me... No, I couldn't have just meta girl in the supermarket or the laundromat or the video store, for pete's sake, I had to go and get a crush on a girl who does not realize I'm a man.

"What did I ever do to deserve this?!" I wail piteously, throwing my hands in the air with a dramatic sigh.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon pokes her head around the corner, sending me an icy stare. "Mr. Thompson? How do you propose to serve the customers on the floor?"

Totally against my will a few rather inappropriate images flash through my head and I choke on my own tongue.

Maxine gives a disgusted snort and shakes her head, muttering a contemptuous "Pull yourself together, Mr. Thompson," before she slithers out the door.

That woman wants to kill me.

I straighten and pull myself up into a standing position. Let's approach this in a reasonable manner; I shall make a tally.

With a determined glint in my eye I snatch a Post It from Maxine's hidden stash under her swivel chair (serves the beasty right) and click the end of my favorite pen, holding it triumphantly poised above the paper. Alright. Here we go.

1. Prolonged silence, -1

2. Prepubescent seizure, -1

3. The entirety of the pothead conversation, -1

4. Forgetting the canister thing, -1

5. Choking on my coffee the moment I realize it's her, -1

Yeesh, this is depressing. Moving on...

5. Getting her ID (it counts no matter what you say!!!)+1

6. Getting her name (from her personally)+1

7. Offering the sucker+1

8. The note on the sucker (I am not splitting hairs, they count as two separate incidences)+1

Of course, that last one could go either way, if she thinks I'm a freakazoid like I expect she does. But I still get a point for the sucker thing, because grape is my favorite flavor too. Anyway. I might be able to tie it up and equalize the two sides if I don't do anything stupid next Saturday. I better start training now...

For the next week I imagine every possible conversation I can have with her, from the worst scenario (she gets a restraining order and moves in with Brad Pitt) to the best (we make out on the floor of my station, just to spite Maxine, and then the she-devil gets hit by a bus). You can guess which one I'm aiming for.

By the time Saturday morning arrives, I am pumped. I'm ready. I'm about to have the most romantic conversation of my life, and nothing is going to spoil it. Except, I see her driving up (I even like her car) and I sort of start to hyperventilate. It is for that reason that, the moment she presses the intercom button, I blurt out...


I stare at the speaker blankly for a few minutes, trying to make some sense out of what he just said. old lesbian? Why would he feel the need to clarify that, of all the points he could make? I can only ponder this for a moment, because then he's talking again.

"I mean-CRAP, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, I was only trying to tell you that I'm not weird and I don't want to assault you, except, you know, you have this really hot voice and OH SHIT I JUST NEED TO STOP TALKING wait, I'm sorry for swearing, I don't usually but this is very stressful because now you're going to move in with Brad Pitt and I hate Brad Pitt with the passion of a thousand burning hells, crap, I did it again I'll just shut up there's a bank transfer form in here if you want to come in after I leave I promise I won't bother you, I cannot believe I'm such an idiot, please don't call the police I swear I'm not crazy..."

Strangely enough, the one thing that stands out about this rush of information is that he thinks I'm going to move in with Brad Pitt.

"Isn't he still married to Angelina Jolie?" I ask after a moment, mind diverted by the celebrity gossip which I swear I never pay attention to.

"...who?" He sound absolutely miserable, and I can't help the grin that flashes across my face. What a drama queen.

"Brad Pitt."

"Well, yeah," He sounds stunned, like he would have though I'd have driven away hours ago. "But, you know, I kind of thought he'd kick her out. He's a racist who wants blonde children."

"I...see?" I'm trying really hard not to laugh, but it's coming out anyway. "Are you think...I'm going to have...Brad Pitt's babies?"

He tries to interrupt, but I keep going, laughing so hard my glasses are fogging up. "And I'm going to have his babies...because he's a racist...who wants blonde children?"

I give up trying to hold a coherent conversation at this point, because I'm guffawing in this completely embarrassing way that doesn't quite make up for the fact that he thought I thought he was a lesbian, and now he wants me to have a racist Brad Pitt's kids.

There's a moment of awkward silence on his part, and then he starts laughing, too, hesitantly at first, and then as loudly and raucously as me. We laugh like that for several minutes, caught in that paradox where just when you think you've gotten ahold of yourself, the other person will start anew, and you'll totally lose it again.

"Why," he finally gasps out, "why on earth aren't you getting as far away from here as possible? Don't you think I'm insane?"

I smirk and force the mad giggles back down my throat. "Oh, definitely, certifiable, in fact I'm thinking of putting you in contact with a really good therapist-"

"Do you know from personal experience?"

That sends us both into highly undignified wheezing again, and somehow I end up sitting and talking to that lunatic for a hour and a half. I know, not a good sign, but I can't help it. All of his strange behavior warrants an explanation, and while I don't feel like he's excusing everything (he never does come right out and say what the heck the 'hot voice' comment was about), most of it makes almost-sense in that half-crazy way most awkward situations do.

And, in that same half-crazy way, he became one of my best friends. In the next few weeks I'd stop and talk to him every Saturday. His name is James, I learned, and he's working at the bank during the summer to try and pay back the loans he took from his parents to go to college out-of-state. "It's a tradition," he explained. His sister had gotten a scholarship that covered almost everything, but she still payed back what she owed. Now he was doing the same. "It's the only way parents with seven kids won't go bankrupt." As an only child, the idea that there were people in the world who even had seven kids amazed me. Maybe that was why I enjoyed listening to his stories about his chaotic home life. Or maybe it was just him.

I didn't really analyze our weird relationship. Not with my parents, who seemed to take it for granted that my errands took longer than theirs, and certainly not to him. I never went inside to see him, and we never exchanged numbers or anything. It seemed like it was one thing to have a friend who you'd never officially met, but quite another to have a boyfriend-

But that's stupid anyway. For goodness sakes, Lynn! I liked him, had for a while, though I couldn't for the life of me figure out why, but there was no reason to think he'd feel the same way, I mean, we met at the bank. The only place I can think of that's worse for a budding romance would be a shoe store.

So we just met and gabbed, same time, same place, like clockwork. And then mid-July I volunteered to be a counselor at the youth camp my church sponsored. The camp was three weeks, so I'd get back literally days before I had to leave for college again, and I didn't know what to do about it.

Was I really supposed to leave and never see him again? What in the world were we doing?

"So, um, yeah, I'll be leaving tomorrow."

I blink at my half of the intercom system, totally stunned. She was leaving. 'Well, of course she's leaving, you idiot, did you expect the summer to last forever?' I scowl and try to ignore the angry little voice in my head. 'You should just run out there right now and tell her you're crazy about her, no two ways about it. Maybe then she'll reject you and you can stop mooning over some girl you have absolutely no chance with-'

"James?" Busted. Why does she have to be so smart? It makes it really hard to trick her into thinking I'm not a total idiot.

"Sorry, Frankenstein is yelling at me again. What did you say?" That's it, James, play it cool. Except, normally a comment like that would make her laugh. I hope I haven't hurt her feelings.

"... it was nothing, I guess. Just, I'm not going to be in town for a few weeks." Crap, I so did. What do I do now? I can't let her leave if she's mad at me.

"Oh." Alright, quick, what is the correct response to that? Do I beg her to stay? To take me with her? Do I dive in front of her car? How do I make up for being a pitiful excuse for a human being?

"I'll see you when you get back, then, yeah?" Like it's going to matter. I'll have wasted away into a lovesick shell by that point. The little voice is horribly ashamed of me: 'Good grief, man, would you grow a pair, already? You're letting yourself get all bent out of shape for a girl.'

"Um, I guess, yeah. School starts in about a month, though, so I have to get back." But she's an amazing girl. She's funny and smart, with this totally crazy sense of humor that I love, and a very strong appreciation for the absurd. She's beautiful and sweet and charming, and I challenge Brad Pitt or anyone else to take her way from me, damn it!

"Right, yeah, of course, well, um, have a good day, Hannalynn." Just say it, it's not that bad. The worse that'll happen is you'll get your heart broken. You'll recover.

"You too, James." What if I don't?

I am suffering from the depths of a depression I am unlikely to recuperate from. My best friend and favorite imaginary-make out buddy is gone, and I am left diversion-less in the clutches of the Wicked Witch of the West. I hate that woman. Maxine herself shows no sympathy to my plight, and actually tells me to stop drooling and get back to work. When I die she'll be sorry...or thrilled. It's hard to say which.

At any rate, the lack of Hannalynn yumminess is slowly but surely making me lose my mind. I hadn't realized how much I needed that time with her every week to unwind. Now I think of hundreds of things every day that I need to tell her, or ask her, or just get her opinion on. They may actually have to lock me up because somehow, surrounded by people, I'm lonely.

I miss her.

I've been counting down the days in my mind. I'm pretty much decided: I have to tell her about the obsession with her hot voice that's been steadily growing ever since the conversation about pot. We have the weirdest freaking relationship. Anyway, it's a Thursday, which is a day I work out front instead of at the drive-through window, and I know she got home yesterday. This is worse than when she was unreachable, because now I know that she's in town, but I have no hope of seeing her. I cannot imagine waiting another tedious, boring, and utterly dreadful day...

I've just forced another fake, over-polite smile on my face for an elderly customer when I overhear this guy Andrew laughing with one of the other tellers.

"Dude, there was this chick at the window asking for James. She just pressed the button and started talking. That's insane, huh?"


I'm turning, ready to go out and chase down her car myself if I have to, when I hear this gloriously familiar voice at the desk, "No, um, that's okay, I was just..."

And then I'm standing in front of her, grinning so wide it hurts, and I wonder if she knows it's me?

This one really, really good-looking guy's face is all lit up and he nudges the blonde (her name tag says Karen) out of the way. Not exactly gently.

"Hey," In some irrational way I know it's him. And the weird thing is, it's not just his voice I recognize. It's his laugh lines and his freckles and his messy hair which he always complains about but never does anything with.

"Hey." I feel myself visibly relax, all the tightness in my face and shoulders gone just because I get to talk to him again.

"So," his voice is light and mock-serious, his eyes dancing, "deposit or withdrawal?"

I bite my lip and smile sheepishly. "Definitely withdrawals."

"Is that right?" He leans forward across the counter, and it's really weird how I'm mesmerized by his forearms. I know this voice, I know this man, and yet this is the first time I've ever seen him.

"Me, too."

I flush, my entire body turning bright red, and he beams at me in this really uncomfortable way. Not bad uncomfortable, but the butterflies in my stomach just decided to play limbo and jump rope with my heart strings.

Suddenly I feel exorbitantly shy. I don't talk to guys that often, especially not ones that are this gorgeous. I can't quite make my mouth work so I just stare at my feet for a moment, thinking how at least in the car I wasn't the unattractive one in our odd pair.

Maybe this whole thing was better when I didn't have to look at him, because that is proving quite distracting.

I squeak and jump backward as he suddenly vaults over the counter, but I don't get very far before he wraps his arms around me in a bone-crushing embrace. "You have no idea how much I've missed you, you crazy girl!"

And just like that first time I start to laugh, hugging him tight, because his voice is the same.

We stay like that a moment, locked around one another, before a grating bellow from the back makes me jerk backward in alarm. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, James's hold on my waist prevents even the most limited movement. He completely disregards the woman for a second and kisses the side of my neck. "Don't you even think about it, young lady. You aren't going anywhere." Oh. That makes the butterflies juggle while trying to ride a unicycle across a tightrope.

"MR. THOMPSON!" An angry woman with jiggling jowls is stomping towards us, and I flush brighter as she points a finger directly at my face. "You and your associate can disgrace yourselves all you want outside business hours, but right now this is totally inexcusable. Do you hear me, James? I'll be telling your mother about this!"

But James is ignoring her. "Oh, shove it, Maxine," he exclaims, and then he pulls me gently towards the door. "I quit!"

We're outside before I can catch my breath enough to speak. "Oh for goodness sakes, James, you can't just-"

But I'm starting to think that Mr. Thompson can do whatever the hell he likes, because instead of letting me finish, he kisses me.

"Um." I return eloquently.

"Sorry!" He immediately blurts out. "I shouldn't have done that, it's just I've missed you so much and I think I might be in love with you and you act like I'm going to attack you or something!" I start to reply but he only takes a breath and keeps going. "And I know you're shy, but you're killing me here, I mean you never talked to anybody when we took tennis together and I bet you don't even remember that you beautiful little idiot, you're making me lose my mind. It was worse when you were gone but I still can't think straight what on earth have you done to me?"

I stare at him for a moment, totally nonplused. He actually seems rather disturbed by his lack of sanity. You'd think he'd be used to it by now.

"Well say something, will you?" He looks anxious and sweet and my good friends the butterflies start holding an insect rendition of Dancing With the Stars.

"Um." I repeat again, and he rolls his eyes. "Hannalynn, you have got to help me out here. Move in with Brad Pitt if you've gotta', but you sure as hell better explain yourself to me, first." He's so agitated that I can't help but grin, and the sight seems to calm him down a little.

"I don't want to move in with Brad Pitt." Okay, yes, not quite a declaration of love, but I think it does the job. I'm a bit newer at this than James.

"Oh," He sighs, "well, that's good. I don't really like him."

"I thought you hated him with the passion of a thousand burning hells." I tease him gently, watching as he blushes ever so slightly. Awww...

He shrugs, his arms coming to wrap around me again. "Something like that."

I think he may be about to kiss me again, so I lean back and stare at him for a moment. "What are you going to do, now that you don't have a job?"

James brings up his hands to comb gently through my hair and he smirks, saying "Well, I thought I might hang out with this girl I'm kind of crazy about."

"Yeah?" I murmur, memorizing his crooked eyebrows and the way his nose bends unnaturally to the left. He's amazing, and crazy, and I am absolutely never going to let him live that Brad Pitt thing down.

"Yeah. I'll tell you how it works out." He leans down until our noses are almost touching, and I have just enough time to mumble a response before he kisses me again.

"You do that."