With much thanks to Dusty, the Twilight-hating beta queen.
May I humbly suggest, dear reader, that you first read 'My Mistake' to get a feel for these characters.
Grabbing a shovel
It was a 1973 Cadillac Sedan de Ville that carried the two young men to their destination. It still had its original paint, Cadillac black, with white leather interior and chrome fixtures. There was enough room inside for a dozen normal sized teenagers to ride around town. Not comfortably, mind you, and most wouldn't be belted into place, but it could and had been done.
The pair rode in relative silence, with the radio insistently broadcasting the sound of Eddie Vedder's voice. The younger of the two sat on the passenger side, staring almost angrily out the window. She had won another argument with him, convincing him that they needed a date that was just the two of them. His best friend was out of town, and there was no reason for the friend to know that the two of them would be meeting. Worse yet, the driver of the vehicle was his best friend's brother, and he knew that the brother would be gleefully updating his younger sibling when he returned.
"You know, John, nobody's forcing you to meet her," the driver's voice interrupted his brooding.
"Thanks for the reminder, Will," he snapped in response.
"Fine, then tell me again why I'm taking you to meet my brother's girlfriend."
He sighed. Of course, he was right, there was no good reason for it in his own mind, but he'd been unable to tear his mind away from the memory of the lingering kiss he'd shared with Michelle the month before at the end of another evening.
"Because, I'm paying you," John responded. "Gas money, plus an extra twenty to not bother me overmuch. I'd really appreciate it if you didn't tell Mike about it as well."
"I imagine you would," Will smirked, "but you're not paying me nearly enough to keep that one to myself."
John sighed again. His lack of willpower amazed him sometimes. He knew the kind of trouble Michelle would cause in his life. Talking to her on the phone for the last couple weeks had pretty much solidified that idea in his mind. He had the good sense to know that what he was doing was wrong, just as wrong as kissing her had been after the disastrous date. Still, there was something about her...
There were several things. She was beautifully shaped, athletic, and intelligent, as the phone conversations over the course of the last couple weeks had revealed. She could be persuasive, too, he thought, recalling the conversation from the evening before.
"I want to meet with you tomorrow night," Michelle demanded when he answered the phone.
"Hi, Red," John responded dully. "Good to hear your voice, and how was your day?"
"Yeah, yeah, great. I'm serious."
"Sure," John replied sarcastically. "I'll take my best friend's girl out while he's off at a competition for the weekend. That sounds very much like me."
"Great, so... sevenish?"
"No, dammit," he responded, getting irritated with her. "I shouldn't even be talking to you."
"And yet, you are. Look, he's out of town for the weekend, and that means no fun for me. You're his friend, you're obligated to show me a good time in his place."
"Like hell," John said, near yelling. "You want to go and have fun this weekend, go out with your girlfriends. You know, the prudish little man-hating ones that told you to stay away from me."
"What's your problem?" she asked, ignoring the dig at her friends. "Is taking me out such a bad thing?"
"I'm sure taking you out on my terms is a great thing, but it's not my thing, because you're not my thing. Me taking you out would be a bigger mistake than kissing you after that movie last month."
"Oh, so is actually dating me rock bottom for you?" she asked, slightly perturbed.
"No, I hit rock bottom weeks ago. Dating you is like grabbing a shovel."
Her frustrated noise was heard through the phone from across the room. John felt his dog staring in his direction. "I think I'm winning," he whispered to the black lab. The dog thumped his long tail against the floor in response.
It was silent on the line for a full minute before he heard her voice again. "Let's change the rules," she said cryptically.
"What'd you have in mind?" he asked.
"What if I were your thing? What if it was just for one night?"
He closed his eyes in thought, smirking at her innocence. "The answer is still no. Because I know better. Because he's my best friend. Because you're his girl. Because... Because there's a million other things wrong with me taking you out, no matter how you change the rules."
"Fine, I'll break up with him tonight."
"No deal," he replied. "You don't get to do that to him. Not on my account, no matter what you offer me."
"I'm not offering you anything," she sneered. "I want to go out, you're unattached and don't have anything better to do, so you're taking me out."
"Stop me if you've heard this one. NO!" he yelled into the phone.
"But... What if I weren't "his" girl? What then?"
His jaw clenched while he thought for a moment. "Not right now or not ever?" he asked.
"Would that make a difference?"
"Yes," he replied. "Not ever makes you fair game. Not right now means that I have to respect my friend by not taking out his ex. But that's not the case, since you're not an ex for the moment."
"What if I said I'd rather be with you?" she asked.
He closed his eyes and counted mentally. She was tempting him with something that she shouldn't. And he was interested. Mike's girl. Mike's girl. Just keep telling myself...
"I want to go out tomorrow, with you," she said softly. "I'll even say that it's not because I think you should feel obligated to take care of me while your friend is out of town, but because I want to be with you."
Silence followed her plea, from both sides.
His own words were failing him. He groped around for a good and logical argument, something that might sway her where the previous one had not. He was coming up empty, even in his own mind. Why not? Maybe it wouldn't hurt.
"Just one night," she continued in the same soft tone when he was quite too long. "Let me find out if I chose right the first time or if I let my friends cloud my judgment too much."
"Your friends are right," he mused.
"Can you let me be the judge of that, John? Can you let me decide what's right for me? Can you take me out and show me what it means to be yours? Can you keep me from being alone tomorrow night?"
He briefly pondered 30 pieces of silver before discarding the notion. This would not be a betrayal on the same level. A betrayal of the friendship, yes, and the boundaries of good taste as well, but he felt he could live with it.
His resigned sigh spoke volumes to her. "Seven then?" she asked hopefully.
"Make it seven thirty," he answered. "We're not going anywhere special, just for a drive. Where do you want to meet?"
John shook his head, trying to clear away the memory of his own weakness. "She's got a way with words, you know, Will?" he asked rhetorically.
"Are we going to make a habit of this? You going out behind my brother's back, or things like that?"
"No," John answered with more hope in his voice than what would be convincing. "This isn't really something I wanted to do in the first place. But, look at it this way. Getting out for a drive beats the hell out of sitting around watching Doctor Who reruns with your dad, or blowing 20 bucks on a Super NES rental, which we can do tomorrow night anyway when Mike's back in town."
"Are you chipping in on the rental?"
"Why, you've got other plans for what I'm paying you?"
Will pondered his answer for a moment before replying. "I might, but if you're sharing in the use, you might as well share in the cost."
John rolled his eyes. But, it was that very attitude that he had counted on to get a ride for his 'date' that evening. There was money involved, and Will would take care of him.
At 7:25 that evening, the immense car pulled into a parking space at the school the twosome had met and attended three years prior. She had wanted to meet somewhere away from her home, because her parents didn't like her going about with strange guys. What excuse she gave, John had no idea, but he was certain it had worked when he saw her walking toward them. He got out of the car and met her at one of the open grassy areas.
She was wearing the familiar school letterman's jacket with gold sleeves and kelly green trim. He was about to ask her what she had lettered in, when he spotted the band logo on it. It was Mike's jacket.
He closed his eyes and counted to ten quickly, drawing in a single, labored breath as he did. When he opened his eyes again, she was within a few feet of him. "You're losing points, Red," he said flatly.
"What, the jacket?" she asked pushing it out by the pockets. "There's a chill in the air, and I was walking, this jacket was handy."
He continued to glare, not speaking to her.
"You could always lend me yours," she suggested, touching her fingers to the two J's embroidered into the left side of his blue jacket.
"I've got an even better way to keep you warm," he responded with a hint of a smile, stepping closer to her as he did.
She stared up into his eyes as he wrapped his right arm around her waist, under the jacket, pulling her close and beside him. Her eyes got a bit wide as he leaned down, crossing the front of her body until his head was level with her stomach. With his left arm, he hooked her behind her knees, lifted and cradled her against his chest, getting a squeak of surprise as his reward. She hooked her left arm behind his neck, clinging to him as well as possible under the circumstances.
"Now," he near whispered to her, his breath right at her ear, "you don't have to walk; you just have to keep warm."
She struggled with the idea of speaking, his sudden dramatic action being so much more than she had expected, or was used to from other guys she had dated. She was surprised again when he started walking back to the car, moving with the kind of grace that suggested he was completely unaware of her extra weight in his arms.
She wished she could say the same. Not entirely against her will, she was intensely aware of him. Her head was pressed against his chest, her nose gathering the full bouquet of masculine teenager. She found it quite pleasant, along with the feeling of his chest moving in and out with his breathing. She looked up slightly at him and noted the muscle in his jaw twitching. With her right hand, she reached out to touch the muscle, but yanked her hand back as soon as she made contact.
It was at that moment that he set her back on her feet. She looked up at him, wondering if she'd done something wrong by touching, but then she noticed that he had carried her back to the parking space.
"Hey, Michelle," they both heard Will call from the driver's seat. She walked around to the window, sporting a dazzling smile. She leaned in and gave him a light peck on the cheek.
"Thank you, for making this possible," she said with a flirtatious gleam in her eyes.
Will felt his cheeks grow warm, both at the contact and the attention. "Um, yeah, sure," he muttered, not entirely sure where to look, so he stared at the white leather wrapped steering wheel.
John watched the exchange with a smirk. Good to know that it wasn't just him that lost his good sense when she decided to be charming. He walked past her, opening the door to the back seat and gestured inside. She climbed in, grabbing his hand as she did. "You are sitting next to me, right?" she asked batting her eyes at him.
"Of course," he answered, sliding in smoothly and shutting the door in the same motion. He slid all the way to the middle of the large bench seat, nudging her with his hip as he did, finding that there was not enough legroom for him behind Will's seat. John buckled the lap belt in a practiced motion, and looked to Michelle to make sure she was doing the same. Instead, she was still staring at him.
"What?" he asked. "We're going now, and you need to buckle up. Did you want to sit here," he gestured at the space he was occupying, "or did you want to sit up front? There's more than enough room up there for all three of us."
"Here's good," she replied answering both questions at once. She looked to each side of her with some confusion. "Um… Would you help me buckle?" she shyly requested.
He took a moment to consider the idea. Helpless wasn't going to score her any points either, he thought. "You have worn a seat belt before, haven't you?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Of course I have, but not in this car. I just thought it might save us some time if you did it, since you are oh so familiar with the inner workings of this car."
She was appealing to his vanity. That, it turned out, would always work in her favor. He considered how he would carry out the request for a moment, before unbuckling himself and turning to the task. He leaned into her body, his face coming dangerously close to hers, before moving to her right side. He grabbed the belt with his right hand and pulled a fair length out. He started to lean away from her to match the belt to the buckle, but paused for a moment, eying her neck in the dark vehicle. She was pale enough that her skin nearly glowed at him from this distance. He wanted to take a bite, but held himself back, content to merely drag his teeth lightly over the surface of her flesh.
She jerked back against the seat, staring wide eyed at him, their faces at the same level. He smiled lightly, and she heard the click of the belt snapping into place. He sat back and casually refastened his own, feeling her eyes still upon him as he did. "We're in, Will," he told his friend in the front. "Take it away."