The Average of Deviance
Disclaimers & E-Mail: See Chapter 1.
My car was still parked outside the Gold Club, so Cassie drove me there; then we went our separate ways. The nice thing about being involved with a friend, she explained, was that you didn't necessarily have to be nice all the time.
"Give me a day," she said, as I walked around the car to say goodbye. "I don't want to get sick and tired of you yet."
"Right back atcha."
"My place tomorrow night?"
"Doesn't matter--it's for all night. Now go away, Devvy, before I have to kill you."
I laughed and tapped her car door, in lieu of a goodbye kiss. Then I just stood on the sidewalk and watched the BMW drive off, tires screeching. Cassie was unsafe at every speed--and that was just fine with me now.
Something ringing woke me for the second time that day. Pulling both pillows over my head, I went all the way under the covers. The alarm was set for 8 Saturday morning, which was still 12 hours away, and not even grizzly bears were getting me out of bed before then.
The ringing was followed by knocking, and the knocking was followed by more ringing. The grizzly bears were going to have to do better than that. Yawning, I burrowed all the way down to the foot of the bed.
Then a hideous sound outside began to rattle the bedroom window. It took about 10 seconds to identify it: William Shatner, singing "Mr. Tambourine Man." Flinging the covers in all directions, I shot out of bed and stormed to the window with murder in my heart.
To my confoundment, though, the monster on the lawn with the tape player wasn't Kurt or Jack, but Troy. He shut off the machine the instant he saw me and flashed his most winning smile--the one that made him look like Tom Cruise, the one he knew I couldn't resist. Muttering curses, I opened the window.
"Sorry," he called up. "Heather's idea."
"You'd better be here to apologize for a lot more than that."
"We are. Can we come in?"
I considered. "You. Not the tape."
"Wouldn't be caught dead with it. See you at the front door?"
I slammed the window shut and went down to let him and Heather in. Chip was with them, which was fine; so were a couple of pizzas, which was even better. They followed me to the kitchen like ducklings and settled around the table while I opened a bottle of wine.
"About this morning," Chip began.
"We're really sorry. It wasn't our idea. We wanted you to know that."
With the ghost of a smile, I handed him the first glass. "I know that. You wouldn't be here if you were guilty."
"We're sorry about last night, too," Heather added.
"Last night's another story. That, we'll need to talk about. But Cassie's not here, so it'll have to wait. In the meantime, who do I thank for the pizza?"
They all relaxed visibly. "See, I told you she wouldn't bite," Heather told the others.
"Bet she does, though," Troy said. "Bet if we asked Cassie..."
Heather smacked him on the arm, and he froze as he heard what he'd just said.
"Way to go, boy," Chip growled.
I leaned back against the counter and took a long draft of wine, rather enjoying their discomfort. It wasn't much, but even a little payback is payback.
Troy threw up his hands in disgust. "Dev, I'm sorry. Kurt gets contagious sometimes, you know?"
"Don't insult me with lame excuses. This has to be the only thing anyone's talked about all day. Why wouldn't you make jokes? Why stop now?"
Heather frowned slightly. "I don't like this. She almost sounds reasonable."
"Cass and I talked about it a little," I continued. "She thinks we can't expect much better. She's not even sure we deserve it, because if it had been anyone else, we'd have been making jokes too. What goes around, comes around, and it just came around, so we're going to have to live with it for a while."
"I really don't like this," Heather said, looking genuinely worried.
"Maybe she's just in a good mood," Troy suggested. "I heard she was in a good mood once, a couple of years before I started at the agency. It could happen again."
He followed that with another of those Tom Cruise smiles, so I gave up and smiled back.
"More relaxed now, are you?" he asked, encouraged. "Less tension today?"
"Troyyyyyy!" Heather wailed, as Chip punched him in the shoulder.
"Much less tension," I said, fighting to keep from laughing. "Thank you for asking. I'd always heard that it worked for that. Somebody ought to bottle it. They'd make a fortune."
"Yeah, and you'd handle the campaign," Heather grumbled.
I decided to give them one last tweak. "Why not? I've got firsthand knowledge of the product. You might even say I have...specialized knowledge."
"You've probably got lipstick in some really specialized places, too," Troy remarked.
Startled by a possibility that I'd never considered, even though I'd showered that morning, I started to check--and then scowled. They were all laughing like well-dressed hyenas. Chip, though, had the decency to look a little guilty about it.
"My bad," I growled. "Walked right into that one, didn't I?"
Heather finally got a grip. "Sorry. Really. I mean it. But God, it's just so hard not to do this."
"Never mind me. You'd better not even think about giving Cassie this kind of trouble. You are going over to apologize to her, too, aren't you?"
"Of course we are," Chip said.
"Is one of the pizzas for her?"
"Nope. She gets dessert."
That didn't seem fair. "What kind?"
"Turtle cheesecake. She loves it."
Definitely not fair. "Well, so do I. How about just one little..."
Heather snorted. "She said you'd try. She told me to smack you if you did."
"Won't kill her to share. If it's a whole...wait. When did she tell you that?"
"I stopped by her place right before I picked the guys up. When I called..."
"You called her, but you just dropped in here?"
"Well," Chip said, "it's like this. We figured you'd be in bed, and we figured you wouldn't want to get up, and we knew Cassie had that tape..."
Of course she did. How could I have forgotten? A few years ago, she'd ordered it from a Rhino Records catalog, on a whim. I hated it when she got whims. The day after the tape came, I was out of the office on a shoot, so she called my voice mail at least a dozen times to leave little samples. The Shatner had been bad, but Leonard Nimoy's "Proud Mary" had been unbelievable. Tina Turner really should've beamed him somewhere for that one.
"We are sorry about the song," Troy told me.
"No, you're not. But Cass is in trouble with me now for letting you have it."
Chip looked surprised. "You mean you two are still going to fight?"
"Of course we're still going to fight. We're still friends."
"That sounds so wrong somehow," Heather mused. "But for the two of you, it's perfect. Just like the two of you finally getting together is perfect."
Some wine went down the wrong way; Troy leaped up to whack me on the back, which I ignored. "What do you mean, 'perfect'?"
"Oh, cut it out," she said. "You and Cassie are made for each other. We all knew it ages ago. Why do you think we're having so much fun with this?"
"You knew it ages ago?" I repeated.
They exchanged tolerant little smirks. "It isn't rocket science," she explained. "There was always all this tension between you two, and you were always, always fighting with each other. What else could it be but love? You do love each other, Dev."
I shifted uncomfortably against the counter. She was right, and Cassie and I had already said the L word to each other, but I wasn't sure how I felt about having it out in public like this.
"My God," Troy said. "I believe you hit a nerve, Dr. McIntyre. The patient is fidgeting."
"I'm not fidgeting. I'm hungry. Are these pizzas for decoration, or what?"
Chip obediently opened a box and handed me a slice. But he ruined the nice gesture by winking.
"Maybe it's the word," Troy continued. "The associate creative director in charge of sex might not have a clue about love."
"Don't go there," I warned. "Dammit, Troy, I used to like you."
"You still do. And I like you, so I'm going to do you a favor. When are you seeing her again?"
"Tomorrow night. But what does that..."
"Good. Got just the thing." He reached for his wallet and dug out a business card. "Here you go. Ask for Jane, and tell her I sent you."
I turned the card over, expecting to find writing on the back, but it was blank. "I think you gave me the wrong card. This is from a florist shop."
"Sure is. Tell Jane you want a dozen long-stemmed white roses, no thorns, and my discount. White, Dev--not red. Everybody does red. White's more original. Besides, it stands for..."
"I am not sending her flowers," I told him.
Chip cleared his throat. "Well, no, you don't want to send them. You want to give them to her in person."
"Send, give--same difference. I'm not..."
"Trust me," Chip said earnestly.
I regarded him in silence.
"It's the first time after the first time," Heather said. "It's important."
"But this is Cassie we're talking about, dammit. If I lose my mind and take her flowers, she'll..."
"She'll ask who you are and what you've done with Dev," Heather said. "I know. She might even laugh, considering that it's you. But then she'll thank you, and I guarantee you'll like how."
Troy leaned over, interested. "Really?"
She shoved him back out of her space. "A dozen white roses," she told me. "Got that?"
Well, I had the card, anyway. For safekeeping, I put it in my pajama pocket. "I hope you don't give Cassie any crazy advice."
"She doesn't need it," she said. "Now, how about giving us some forks before the pizza gets cold?"
After they left, I went back to bed, but sleep was out of the question. So I just lay there, watching the ceiling fan and wondering what I'd gotten myself into now.
It had all happened so fast last night. There'd barely been time to react, let alone think. One minute, Cassie and I had been friends; one minute later, we'd been lovers, and what did that make us now? Were we dating? Were we experimenting? Was I really going to have to buy her roses?
The flowers themselves weren't the issue. If Cassie wanted roses--hell's fire, if she wanted a greenhouse's worth of them--I'd get them for her. The problem was that it was going to feel very guy. Did there really have to be a guy in this relationship? And if so, why would it have to be me? As girlie as Cass was, she could probably clean my clock any time she pleased. I didn't much like knowing that.
Scowling at the fan blades, I remembered something that Walt and Kurt had said about Connie the Barbarian.
"She's not really a girl," Walt had insisted. "Not even if you turn her over and look, like you do on a dog. So I don't see how she can be a lezzie."
Kurt had laughed. "Banging girls is a pretty good clue."
"But that's just it, Wheeler--the Barbarian's a guy. How can she be a dyke if she's a guy?"
"Well, what if whatever she's banging looks just like her? Wouldn't that be two dykes?"
"Exactly," Walt had said triumphantly. "Dykes are guys. So you've either got a girl and a guy, or you've got two guys. You see a lezzie in any of that?"
Kurt had whistled in wonder. "Teach me, master."
All right, they were lowlives. But so was I, because I'd laughed. Which made me every bit as bad as...
The phone rang.
"Damn," I said, but grabbed it. "Hello?"
There was brief silence at the other end, and then music started playing. Not just any music, but Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
I checked Caller ID and then collapsed in helpless, stupid laughter. Cassie was crazier than I was.
And just for that, the woman was going to get a few flowers.
(c) 1999, ROCFanKat
Continued - Part 3
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