Let Me Set the Record Straight

Note: I think this is the shortest time it's taken for me to update – and I've thrown something else up as well, using a few of the same characters from here in another perspective – the foundation of the story for Jareth and Leanelle. (Cleo's got a bit of a mention – and will come in more in the second chapter, if he's a deal breaker. Rina, unfortunately, is absent.)

Play List:
What Is Love? – NeverShoutNever
You and Me - Lifehouse

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
Marina
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Seven weeks without contact. Two months without his curly (but gorgeous) blonde head poking into the back room of the bar – not even his presence in the facility. No knock on my door. Not his number on my caller ID and it goes without saying there weren't any messages.

Maybe I'd been expecting him to call – running back to me for my help. I hope that doesn't sound conceited. It's just what I expect from Cleodonis Alexander. The only time he wants me is when he needs something.

But he hasn't come calling.

I'd given up hope, actually – if hoping was what I'd been doing – whenever the ball dropped. I was sitting at home, Tatanya – my roommate – having gone out for the night. She wouldn't be back until morning. I was sprawled over the couch, listening as heavy sheets of rain fell, battering loudly against the windows, hammering the metal fire escape. I'd turned music on – the first radio station I could pick up, and the television was on an infomercial channel, muted. Usually it was a night Tanya and I would go out together, but I think I drove her away with my dull mood.

There was a knock on the door, and I jumped up reflexively to answer it without even bothering to peek at who it was beforehand. Stupid me. I pulled the door open, not sure what I was expecting – but found myself looking right at the person I'd been thinking about most – Cleo. I stood there for a moment, taking him in while I attempted to think of something to say. Nothing was coming. His wild curls were pulled back into a ponytail, leaving a few spiraling locks hanging in front of his eyes and tickling his cheeks. His bright blue eyes were focused on me, hands shoved deep in the pockets of his dark jeans. He was the one to speak first. "Hey."

I frowned. Hey? Was that all I got? What was I supposed to reply with? Hey? It was the only thing that came to mind. "Hi." I bit my lower lip, taking a step back. "You want to come in?"

He paused, but nodded, stepping past me as I moved out of his way. He didn't sit down, but stood just by the couch, watching as some idiot waved around an all-absorbent towel covered in coffee stains. "I know you're probably still mad at me," he sighed, running a hand over the top of his head, "but Mochelle has been asking for you. A lot." He licked his lips, and I took a moment to dwell on that. She'd been asking for me? It made me feel bad – I could have been helping if I hadn't thrown a fit and walked out. "And I," he sighed. "I need you to do something for me."

Ah, right back to my old logic. In this case, however, I was more willing to help. Cleo's an alright guy, if you can get past his womanizing tendencies and flamboyant nature. And at the moment, I'm interested in helping his little girl which, in turn, is helping him. "What do you need?" He turned his head, lips pressed together. The relief wasn't showing on his face yet, so I knew there must be more. Something that I probably wasn't going to like. "Cleo?"

He cleared his throat, shoving his hands back into his pockets. "The guardian ad litem showed up today. Tiffany-something or other. And I need her to be happy with what's going on. And she'd not – at all. Spotted Rio and thinks I'm shacked up or something, annoyed that she's not enrolled in school yet, and probably thinks that Chelly's got some kind of anti-social complex because she wouldn't talk to her."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. She wants her to have a mother figure." I blinked. I didn't need to ask where he was going with this. I knew. "So I need you to-"

"Alright."

"What?" He turned to face me fully, lips parted in an open mouthed frown of confusion, blond brows knitted as he looked down at me.

"Alright." I repeated, separating the syllables carefully. "As in 'yeah', 'sure', 'okay', 'I'll do it'." His eyes widened, and he took a step forward – but I held a hand out to stop him, taking a step back before he could entrap me in a bear hug. "I'm not doing this for you." I clarified, trying to keep my stern frown on under the pressure of his relieved grin. "I'm doing it for Chelly." It didn't seem to matter. He closed in anyhow, enfolding me in his arms, and I didn't have the heart to struggle against him, or to remember that I didn't want him touching me.

A hug was okay, I supposed, no harm done. In fact, I returned the gesture, sliding my arms comfortably around his waist and pressing a kiss to his cheek. He burrowed his face against my shoulder, his fair curls tickling my neck, and sighed. I didn't need to see him to know that his eyes were closed – though I would give a few pennies for his thoughts, which were probably contaminated with something dirty. Shameless. This, however, didn't stop me from laying a hand on the back of his head, threading my fingers through his loose curls. Cleodonis fell perfectly in line with the philosophy that men are like big babies, and channel best through physicality – like having his head scratched or back rubbed. Finally, he tilted his head, his cheek resting against my shoulder so he could speak coherently. "Thanks, Rina."

"Yeah," I muttered. "You're welcome." There wasn't much else I could do. "So – what's going to happen?"

He pulled back, sliding his hands down my arms before he let go altogether, distancing himself from my by a step or two. "Now we …. Uh, try to look convincing? I'll need you there whenever the guardian comes to visit – she'll want to talk to you." He turned his head, pretending once again to look at the television and give me a short sideways glance. "She might show up around here since I sort of already told her-"

"You told her without asking me," I scowled, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Rina, what would you have done? If I can't convince her I'm a good parent, then they'll put Chelly somewhere else!"

"I wouldn't have claimed a boyfriend I wasn't in possession of!" I huffed, glaring at him. There was no sense in staying mad, though, so I skipped on ahead. "What are they going to do with her if they find you unfit?"

"My parents will gain custody, and I get visitation rights."

"That's not so bad."

"My parents live in Georgia and visitation has to be settled on in court. And we haven't even factored Mariah in because she's unreachable."

I frowned. "Oh. Well then …"

He shrugged his shoulders, turning to face me fully again. "Anyway, we're doing this so that doesn't happen. We're uh, entertaining the headmistress of a preschool tomorrow. So if you'd come over-"

"A preschool with a headmistress?" I raised an eyebrow.

"Jareth found it." Ah, that would explain a lot. I nodded, permitting him to continue. "Anyway, she's coming over for dinner, and it would probably look more realistic if you were there." He paused, batting a curl from his eyes. "I was going to come up here soon to apologize anyway – I can't get Mochelle to shut up about you. 'Where's Rina?' all the time – and Rio's on my case too. Says we should just kiss and make up." He rolled his eyes.

I smiled slightly, envisioning Cleo attempting to reason with a four-year-old. There wasn't a chance in hell he could survive her all by himself. Good thing he had Leanelle and Jareth. And now, I guess, he could say he had me – even though I'm not all that sure I'd be much more help. "Guess she's right - can't stay mad forever. I'd have to pretend I like you anyway."

"Right," he allowed himself a smile at that one. "I do have to go now, I promised Chelly I'd tuck her in and read her a story tonight … So we'll see you tomorrow around … six?"

"Yeah, tomorrow. That's perfect."

He nodded, turning back toward the door while I followed him before he paused, hand on the knob. "Marina," he said softly, tone questioning. I frowned. He didn't call me Marina. Only Rina.

"Yes?"

He didn't reply, but turned around to look down at me again, laying his free hand on my arm to lean his head down to mine, pressing his lips against mine. A soft kiss, not like the forceful battle of tongues we'd had back at the club. He tilted his head the slightest bit to the side, biting gently at my upper lip, coaxing it to part from my lower, and I found myself stepping closer as he forced his tongue past my teeth and curled his arm more tightly around me. He tasted like mint, and my brain was leaving me – there weren't reasons any more to justify why I shouldn't be kissing him.

So I wasn't happy when he stopped. I frowned, leaning forward with him as he pulled back. "Cleo …"

"I need to go, really." He tucked a loose wave of my black hair behind my ear, leaning his head down to press a kiss to my cheek. "We'll see you tomorrow. Night, darlin'."