by Shug

What a SHIT day.

Cassady trudges up the grassy hill as quick as possible without breaking into a run. She doesn't carry a purse, so her smokes are in the car. And right now, that's all she wants. To just sit, breathe, inhale some smoke, and hopefully drive back the slight throbs behind her eyes before they become a full blown headache.

Cause that just SUCKED.

Hardcore sucked.

She acted casual, didn't want to get the kids all riled up. But it was eating at her for a couple weeks before today even.

Leaving sucked.

Granted, getting up in the mornings and going in on sunny days and being forced to wear pants was a pain in the ass. Sort of like today, she thinks as she drags a hand across her forehead. Pushing the hair out of her eyes, she's unable to escape the oppressive heat of the day. Still walking briskly, she fumbles with her keys and drops them to the ground. Cursing, she kicks them before bothering to pick them up.

Behind her she hears her name being called and recognizes the voice. JESUS, won't this dick ever give UP? Like the surly kids and late night call ins to work extra shifts aren't enough, she's got to run a gauntlet around HIM now too?

Can't she even get just a little understanding of what's going on here? A little *appreciation* for her situation if not even sympathy? Oh hell no, that'd be entirely too much to ask. The kids are going to *miss* her, that's for sure. *They'd* probably thank her if they thought about it. But from the staff - nothing.

So she pretends she doesn't hear him, hopes he'll notice how fast she's moving and back the fuck off. Let her drive off in the cool air conditioning of her car before she starts to lose it.

No such luck. She glances over her shoulder and sees him double timing it up the hill after her just as she reaches her car. Starts fiddling to get the key in the lock, willing to put the cigarette on hold for a few seconds if she can get it started and drive off and leave him and the shitty paycheck of this job behind in a cloud of dust.

Just get the hell AWAY from there. FAST.

Because she doesn't want to leave.

HIM she wants to leave, but not here. Pants, shitty pay, surly kids, and unappreciated double-shifts aside, she got really fucking ATTACHED here. Not to the job, or the staff, or the climate. But to the kids.

They all hugged her and a couple got teary and she never NEVER expected to cave so bad and fall so hard for a bunch of castoff kids. It was WORK experience dammit.

But she's been dreading this last day. Having to turn her back and walk away from them. The guilt chews her up.

"Cassady, wait up," she hears from behind as she gets the door open. NOT dreading ditching this asshole though. *He* started in on her two weeks ago too. Instead of calling her at home to fill in a shift, he had the nerve to call and ask her OUT? And to not stop even after she turned him down? Jesus.

She avoided a scene back inside when she said her goodbyes, but all that tension is knotted right between her shoulders and starting to pulse harder through her brain. Just a smoke and a quick, graceful escape, is that really, REALLY too much to ask? No one really noticing how hard this is for her, how she'd rather be staying. Just to not upset anyone else with how sad she feels about this. That's really not too much to expect now is it? Standing outside the car, leaning across the seat, she reaches in and grabs the pack, shakes one out and roots around for her lighter. As she's bent over, she feels his hand upon the base of her spine as he says her name again.

Apparently it IS too much to ask that her fucking co-worker keep his hands to himself. Furious, she swats his hand away and backs out of the car. Pulls the cigarette from her mouth and glares at him. "Bob! What? What do you want?"

She watches him shrink back a little, nearly reduced to stuttering in his sheepish reply. "I, uh, I just wanted to say goodbye."

"Ok, Bye. Bob." She takes a step forward, sparks the lighter and takes a drag on the smoke. Tries to push him out of the way so she can get back inside her car and drive off.

"Well, I was wondering, would you like to go to dinner tonight?"

She stares at him flatly. Five rejections already. He's asked her out four times and had his dipshit friend ask her out for him once. Each time, NO. Persistence does NOT get a gold star in her book on this one. He *ought* to be grateful she's been so cool about it, cause by the third time she *wanted* to get really snotty and just crush him. But she kept her cool, for the good of where she works, for the overall peace. And he can't even realize *that* and have a little appreciation and courtesy to back the FUCK off. "No, Bob. I don't want to go to dinner. I have to go."

"Well, maybe I could call you and we could see a movie?"

That's IT. Her pulse surges and she bites her tongue to keep from spitting a colorful string of profanities at him. Merely because she's afraid that if she freaks out he'll try to console her. And FUCK that. She kicks the door of the car closed and then takes a breath and measures her voice. "Look, Bob. No I don't want to go to a movie with you, ok? I don't think it would be appropriate to date a co-worker, especially in this environment."

"But, you're not a co-worker anymore."


"I'm coming BACK!" She yells and opens the car door. Pushes past him and slides into the seat. Fumbling with the keys again, she drops the fresh cigarette on her lap. "Fuck!" She swats it harshly with her hand, sending it flying to the floorboards where she stomps it out.

"Are you ok?"

"Fine," she snaps. "I'm fine, and I'm coming back. I'll be her on some weekends," she explains as she turns the motor over.

Bob takes a step back and his eyes light up. "Good! I'll see you soon then. Maybe we can get together when you're home," he offers and closes the door for her and walks away.

Oooooh, that FUCKER. FUCKER FUCKER.. Blood boiling at his brush off of her brush off of him, she rolls down the window and yells out. "I can close my own doors!" Swiftly, she hitches the latch, opens the door and slams it shut again.

What the FUCK was that? Even more pissed now, at herself. For trying to be nice and not just letting him HAVE it.

For saying something as lame and retarded as the door thing. What the hell? 'I can close my own doors'? WHAT does that mean?

Pissed, she opens the door and slams it again. There. THAT'S what it means. Opens and slams it again. Huh!

Slams it again. Feeling better, she exhales roughly and reaches for the pack of smokes and shakes it. Empty.

She opens the door and slams it shut again.

::And FREEZE::


"Yo, what the fuck's goin on now?"

"Have to pull over, see that "Weigh Station" light flashing? Shouldn't take too long."

Alvarez mumbles under his breath and squirms in his seat. Plunks himself against the door, curling into it and raising his hand to his mouth, tilting his head and resting against the glass and on his fist. Pouting. He sighs as his left leg starts to rapidly bounce up and down with nervous energy.

What a pain in the ass man. What an even bigger pain in the ass that he thinks it's a pain in the ass. More fuckin waiting and shit.

More being cooped up in this little cab. And if he gets out and walks around, so what the fuck good is THAT really anyhow? He ain't getting nowhere. Just wandering around. Aimless.

Like he has been the past four fuckin months.

Maybe it's the heat, he thinks as he shifts again as the truck slows and rolls to a stop. Makin him all edgy and tense and shit. Climbing the walls over nothing at all.

He *oughta* be happy. OUT. Out of Oz. Has been for four months now. And that cold sucked. Freezing his ass off all over the place, couldn't steal enough clothes to keep warm. Now he's got less to carry, less to *physically* haul around at least. Even if those other weights never seem to lighten or lift. He winces at that. Yeah it's better out HERE.

Better than those four concrete walls of Oz locking him in, suffocating him with reminders of all the shit he's done. Better being in danger of getting caught and sent back to Oz, cause that's still a few steps away from BEING in Oz and within El Cid's murderous grasp.

Yeah it's better being out. Not FORCED to be locked up and alone and shit. But worse, now, he *feels* more alone cause he can't blame it on the fucking prison or the warden or Cid or whoever. Cause the reality is, he moves around at will. But yet he's still confined to certain ways: begging rides, staying low. And yeah he can talk to whoever he wants, sees people all the time. But most of 'em are assholes and he don't wanna talk to 'em no more after five minutes with 'em, and he's trapped in little fucking space, stuck listening to them babble on.

And even worse than that, most people don't even wanna look at *him*. Let alone talk to him. Or, even better, LISTEN to him. And if someone does wanna listen to him, he ain't got DICK to say to them. What the hell is he s'posed to say huh? Tell them what's been up for the past couple years?

Can't even safely tell anyone his *name* man.

He'll tell 'em Miguel, sometimes. Sometimes he lies about that too. But not a single person he's seen since The Mole has even known him as Miguel Alvarez. Let alone know HIM.

He leers over as the driver opens his door and announces his plans to take a piss, wonders if the guy would still be willing to haul his ass around the highways of Pennsylvania if he DID start talking to him. Yeah, sure, tell him all about blind Rivera and dead Ricardo, how slick he was to escape Oz on the tail of some old fart known as the Mole.

Shit. Maybe he could ply some sympathy from him cause of his dead kid. *If* he didn't tell him how that was his doing too.

Just so fuckin aggravating, the whole thing of it. Being OUT and free and yet - not. Not at all. Still no one to talk to. No one who looks at him, no one listens. No one, no one ever touches him.

It's like isolation all out in the open. No longer alone.

Just lonely.

And hot.

And boring. Can't even remember the last time he had a good time. In Oz, out of Oz. All alone, can't have a good time. Can't be Miguel Alvarez. Boring.

And sick of being cooped up inside a tiny little fuckin truck. When he's moving he wants to rest, and when he's not moving he's antsy and wants to GO. Even the riding around is a big fat lie. He's outside on wide open roads and moving fast down the highway, but he's inside a cramped little space and *not* moving at all. Except to restlessly pick at his own fingers and fidget with loose strings from the cheap-ass clothes he's got to wear.

It's crazy. It twitches through his blood, the craziness of it. Sets his teeth on edge and makes his stomach twist all up.

So, sick of sitting, he throws open the door and jumps down to stretch his legs. Figures he'll take a leak too, then brace himself for sitting perfectly still as he hurtles along at 70 MPH going as fast as he can to nowhere at all.

The heavy air hits him in the face and he spits on the ground as he slams the door closed behind him and walks to the small building. Slides his hand up and down along his arm, feeling gamy and grungy from the heat already. Not hot. Not sweaty. Just *damp* and warm all over.

Annoying. Near whisper itches across his skin as he paces toward the bathroom and kicks through the door. He brushes past his ride on the way in. The guy informs it won't be much longer, hurry it up.

Once past him, Miguel rolls his eyes and routinely drops the zipper on his pants. As soon as his dick is in his hand he knows he doesn't have to pee. But he stands there anyhow, tries willing it to happen. Cause he'll just get even more annoyed if he doesn't now and then makes the guy stop in an hour when he does have too.

He shakes it a little, tilts his head back and speaks to himself, "Ahhh, c'mon man."


He wants to laugh at how retarded it is, slides his hand up and down a little, ignores the tingles starting to shiver across his skin down there. Then he does laugh. But still nothing.

Nothing except another trucker pushing through the door and eyeing him up as he stands against the urinal, dick in his hand, not peeing, shaking it around a little. 'Ahhh, gimme a BREAK' he thinks. KNOWS what it looked like. Then the thought hits him as he looks down at his own penis again, notices that it's trying to get hard. So. Ok. LET it.

He doesn't bother zipping up, just saunters over to the single stall with a door and pushes through it as he starts to stroke himself. Doesn't really CARE if the other dude would watch anyhow, fuck it, it's his fault anyhow, made him think about doing it in the first place. But one just does NOT masturbate oneself at a urinal of a truck stop -- if one doesn't wish to either: get the shit kicked out of oneself, or perhaps end up having to suck off a line of greasy truckers lined up from here to toll booth ninety-five.

He leans back against the door to close it and immediately hits a quick, practiced rhythm. Nothing fancy, just right to make that itching annoyance in his veins go POP and start carrying spiky pleasure instead. His dick starts to throb really good in his hand, fully hard and heated, getting more sensitive with every stroke. Like a faraway echo he hears a urinal flush and the door to the hall bang closed again.

Closing his eyes, his teeth grind together as his muscles in the rest of his body start to tense. Images start to flash behind his eyes, hot chicks just flitting by, all in various states of undress. Redheads and blondes, all different looking, all nameless and mostly faceless - pretty much nothing more than a parade with only one thing in common. Big tits on 'em all.

Oooooh, yeah. Whole cock tingling, stutter breathing, he fists himself furiously, ignoring the distant slam of the door again. It didn't break his stroke, only mildly distracted him. Nearly recovered already and back to concentrating on the pulsing pleasure, he imagines it's not his hand, but a close up pair of those tits he's sliding his dick between, when a voice breaks through.

"Hey, kid, whosit? You in here?"

Opening one eye, he stifles a grunt and keeps stroking, fast and hard, feeling how close he is, so *close* to that intense high.

"Hey, Mike? Nah, Miguel, you in here?"

The words cut through the fog of his daydream and he slams his free hand against the thin metal door. Swallowing thickly, not willing to interrupt his stroke, trying to get back to that high of just a few seconds ago he answers brief. "Yeah, here."

Loudly, "Huh?"

"Said I'm HERE." Fully distracted now, but still hard and pulsing, Miguel keeps pumping his fist. The edge of the high is gone, but he knows he can get it back, a knot of tension in his lower spine screams for it. He closes his eyes again and holds his breath a few seconds, stroking roughly.

Just as the plateau's being hit and moved UP, the voice comes through again, "Well, we gotta get goin."

Nearly growling, Miguel answers to just shut him UP. "Yeah, yeah, be right there." Then he keeps stroking away, trying to jack it up high again and just GET there already. Cause he is NOT walking out of here with his dick raging like this and he knows he's close. Jesus, he can FEEL how close he is, it's right THERE, all just TIED up and ready to get *intense.* And he couldn't stop it even if he *wanted* to now, his hand is just working on autopilot, just slap, slap, *slap*ing away cause it HAS to.

"Are you, are you ok? What're you doing in there? We gotta get going now."


Strokestrokestroke, "Ok," he grunts and strokes some more. Suddenly the liquid heat sizzles through him and he speeds up again. Getting so *close*. Pumppumppumppump.

"Hey, are you all RIGHT?"

Miguel grunts in frustration as his blood surges all over, distracting again from the feeling in his cock. "FINE! I'm fuckin FINE," he snaps. His hand stops moving up and down and roughly squeezes around himself. "I'm trying to fuckin jerk off in here, if you'd shut the fuck up I could finish already and we could GO. All RIGHT?"

Clearly, he hears the door close again and thinks to himself, 'Good. Fuck 'im.' Figures the guy's gonna ditch him here. That makes him laugh. Really, what's he gonna do, wait in the driver's seat and ask Miguel if his orgasm was up to par as he climbs back in? He slides his hand again, slowly starts to rock back into a rhythm, still a little miffed at being stopped short. Out loud, to no one, he speaks.

"Pretty sad fuckin day when you wish you was in prison just so's you could get some peace to jack off."

And then he goes back to work on himself.

* * *

Cassady walks in the door and carelessly drops her keys on the table as her mom starts to babble at her about her day. She lets the words wash over her, barely taking them in and listening.

She sighs heavily and straightens her back, trying to pull herself together enough to not snap at her mother. 'Only a couple more weeks' she tells herself. But that sends another pang of guilt to her gut. It's not bad enough she turned around and walked away on all those kids who tried to cling to her earlier today. But next she has to pack up her shit and leave her mom behind again too. And the worst part of it, that part that makes her really squirm inside, is that right now, she's looking forward to that.

Cause, c'mon, let's face it, she's her *mom*. And she loves her and hates leaving her all alone. Cassady knows she depends on her for company, that's why she can't even wait a beat and let her get in the door before she starts going off about what she did today. Where she shopped, who she gossiped about, who gossiped about her, ect. Cass knows she's lonely without her.

But Cassady also just finished a 45 minute drive through the city in rush hour traffic after leaving a minimum wage job where she had to fight to keep off a crying jag. Because even though she can't stand Bob and a plethora of other obnoxious co-workers, she also can't stand the thought of all her kids missing her and not seeing them and fussing over them and checking on them every day. And now she's being talked *at* instead of speaking *with* and she'd really like to snap at her mom and tell her to just shut the fuck up for five minutes.

But she can't do THAT, cause then the guilt pangs would just get even worse and her mood would spiral down, cause one just *doesn't* tell one's mother to shut the fuck up, no matter how bad one's day was.

And then her mom's prattling off her messages, and that's just great, MORE shit from more people she really doesn't want to deal with right now.

Except, wait a second, what was THAT one?

"Huh? Say that again, Mom," she calls out to the other room.

"Jackie. Jackie called and said to be ready by seven tonight."

Cassady walks into the kitchen where her mom's throwing a salad together and glances over at the clock on the microwave. 5:52 PM. "What'd she say? How come?"

"I left the message on the machine, I think she said something about having those tickets for a show tonight or something."

"She did NOT!" Cassady's pulse surges and the dreary mood suddenly breaks at the thought. "The Chili Peppers show?"

"I don't know honey, check the machine. I'm pretty sure that's what she said."

"For tonight? She said she had tickets for a show TONIGHT, you're sure?"

"Check the machine!"

She's already punching the buttons and hears a message from Bob. "Hello Cassady, this is Bob and I just wanted to wish you." DELETE. She hits the button and moves to the next one, making sure before she allows herself to get really hopeful.

"Dude," the smoky voice greets. "I *got* them. You love me or what man? I'll be there at seven to get you cause we gotta haul ass to the amphitheater. Plan on staying out all night too, we got another stop to make in the city with that broadcaster's awards thing going on, I'm gonna find that Sportscaster fuck and rip him good, the insufferable bastard. Later."


Author interjection. Again.

There I am. Yes that's me. Jackie. My name is not Jackie. I do often lie and TELL people my name is Jackie though. It used to be Stella, til that name was taken over by someone else. Anyhow. Ok, overshare, nevermind. ANYHOW, here's the point. I appeared in this story, will continue to. I don't have a smoky voice. I have a smoke *damaged* voice perhaps. But, you know, this is a Mary Sue, so I'm gonna do it up for myself now too. I, heretofore known as "Jackie", will from here on out be some bizarre non- me entity. I will be charming and wonderful. I will probably give myself all the witty lines.

Anyhow, major point here. Only the name Miguel Alvarez remains recognizable because he's a work of fiction. Other than him, all names and places have been changed. Because even though this is a work of fiction, there uh, may be certain non-essential details that may have actually happened in some universe at some time involving some of the non- Miguel characters.

So yes, basically, names have been changed to protect the GUILTY. Fuck the innocent. We'll leave their names the same.

--End Author/Jack Interjection --

Miguel saunters along the highway, half-assed hitching and half walking. The early evening sun's burning hot on his shoulders, but the oppressive heat from earlier seems to be broken. Still warm and muggy, he sniffs as he turns around for a line of cars and holds out his thumb. They all pass him by but he just shrugs, turns back around, hitches up his pants, rolls his shoulders and treks forward. Waiting for someone who DIDN'T bust him masturbating at a roadside weigh station to pick him up.

Further up ahead he notices a car seem to slow, then realizes it's a long line of cars pulling to a stop about a mile from the next exit. He saw the sign for the amphitheater a little way back, figures out there's some *event* going on up there.

Bored, maybe even a little curious, he picks up his pace and struts more quickly to find out what's going on. Figures with his luck either Celine Dion or the Backstreet Boys are playing a sold out show, either chicks over 40 or chicks under 15 could be swarming around him before he knows it. Swell.

But as he waltzes up the line of cars, he takes sidelong glances inside and realizes that's not the case. Young enough crowd, not too young. Sorta grungy lookin. But hey, he's sorta grungy lookin from hoofin along the road for the past couple hours in the afternoon sun too. Which pretty much means, he sorta fits in here.

Ain't *that* something different, he thinks as his pace picks up even more, winding through the line of cars and following the off ramp toward a smaller road which leads to a large dusty parking lot.

He can hear the music coming out of car windows. It's not Celine Dion. Or the Backstreet Boys. This could actually turn out to be a pretty cool place to hang out for a while he decides. Ain't got a ticket, but there's always dudes partying in parking lots, selling beer, lots of times much better than beer too. And chicks. Holy SHIT.

He's been noticing 'em as he's been walking along. Suddenly he's not only un-soured on the heat, but damn near elated about it. Chicks with minimal clothing on.


Right fuckin on man.

He spots an open Jeep with four of 'em in it up ahead and squints his eyes a bit to make out the view a little better. As he focuses on them he slinks forward, he starts to pick out the conversation going on.

"Look, I say we say *fuck* this line of cars man, we gotta get in there."

"WHY are in such a rush, Jackie, the show doesn't start for another hour and there'll be an opening band. And you don't even LIKE the Chili Peppers."

Aha, so that's who it is, huh? Alright, that's agreeable enough. Miguel scans the girls in the car, eyes flitting over them all and back for a second look on the passenger, a little blond girl.

The driver turns around and looks at him, points at him as he keeps walking up the line. "Hey," is all she says, so he keeps shuffling along, not really certain if she's actually addressing him or not.

"YO!" She says louder, "c'mere a minute."

Miguel takes a look behind him, making certain she's talking to him, trying to still look cool and casual, and walks over to the idling car. Tongue set on the corner of his mouth, he simply stands there and holds up his hands, palms up, silently asking *what?*

"Hey man, do me a favor, huh? I'll give you a beer if you'll walk over that way a little and see if you think my Jeep can cut through that field and get through."

Miguel looks over his shoulder, already certain the car can easily pull through it, then back at the driver of the car. Then he glances around the car again, eyes settling briefly on the blond right next to him. He nods once, slightly, but she doesn't look over at him. And, what the FUCK, he's standing RIGHT there, she can't even LOOK at him for a second? So he rests his hand on the top of the door, shuffles his feet and prolongs his stay. "What kind a beer?"

"Labatt. Blue. Ok?"

He shrugs. "Gimme two."

"Two beers? You want two beers to just walk about 15 feet and make sure there's no logs or shit I have to drive over?"

Miguel shrugs. "If ain't no big deal, you know, how come like, you don't go do it?"

He watches her slowly cock a brow over her sunglasses and answer flatly. "Cause I'm *driving* here."

"Nah you ain't. You're just sittin there, no drivin involved in that. How come none of them go?" Finally, the blond next to him looks over at him and without even thinking he grins and winks at her. He watches close, sees her eyes, mentally logs them as blue, scans the rest of her face quickly, tucking it away for future reference no matter what else goes down here. Her eyes avert quickly, he knows she meant to look away right away, or down. Shy, he thinks. But she doesn't. They flit right back and land on his face again, and that sends a subtle thrum down deep in his gut.

::Author Interjection::

Ok. Now, we've *all* been here. And if you haven't ever been here, I highly recommend being here sometime. I don't mean in a dusty parking lot in the middle of summer. Though, frankly, if you have a case of Labatt Blue and are on your way to see a good show, there's really nothing wrong with being *there* either.

But the *there* or *here* that I'm talking about is much smaller, or bigger really, than that. It's that LOOK.

You know the look. That look that *just* crosses the line over friendliness and acknowledging someone's presence. It's not quite the *flirt* look either. That quick eye-lock then look away adult peekaboo thing people do.

It's that OTHER look. The look when people don't know each other that well, or even at all. But somehow, they get a little brave and they bother to linger, and allow the other person to linger. To look each other RIGHT in the eye for a couple of seconds.

It's TINY man. Oughta be nothing. But it's not. Sometimes there's enough electricity passing between those looks to light a city block. Cause it's not intended. And for as much as we do look AT people, we rarely ever try to look INTO them. And that's what that look feels like.


And then of course, you HAVE to look away otherwise you'll spontaneously combust on the spot and there won't be anymore looking or sparking or any of the other good stuff later. The good stuff that that LOOK pretty much implies.

Oh, yeah, and that's me driving :) There I am again.


And, Game On, he thinks. Cause Miguel knows he's master of The Look. He catches her eyes, and keeps his gaze steady enough to hold hers, intense enough so that she knows he's holding her there. And yet, soft enough so that it's not a stare down either. Softly, he inhales slow and deep, letting her know that at that second, she's ALL there is in his world. He lets all periphery fall away, knows he could spook her in a split second if he goes too far. But she's not wavering. So he weighs his options, and allows his tongue to slip out ever so slightly between his lips.

She inhales noticeably, so he fights the swimming in his head, pulls his tongue back in, and gently blinks. A slow one, lowering his lashes, dipping his head just slightly as a slight grin tugs at the corners of his mouth. Still slowly, he pulls his sight back up, raises his lids and peers at her again through upraised eyes.

He feels the cold on his arm, turns his eyes to the distraction, and hears the other chick at the same time. "Here's a Blue, go check that, huh? None of them wanna go."

Grabbing the bottle, he blinks rapidly a couple times and takes a step back, clearing his throat. "Uh, yeah, yeah," he answers sort of dumbly and turns around and ambles off toward the field. He twists the cap and chugs at the beer. Ice cold, wet as hell, he keeps swallowing large mouthfuls to get himself back fully into himself. Sharply, he turns around, snaps his fingers, points and yells out, "Don't go nowhere, I want that second one."

He smirks to himself as he looks around, makes sure there's no ditches or rocks too big to cause them to blow a tire or crack an oil pan while he's really reflecting on the subtle flirting that just went down. Smug, he knows it was only about three seconds - TOPS. Don't mean nothing, one stupid puppy look passed with that chick.

But it doesn't matter what he *thinks*. It's how it made him *feel*. His pulse is quick, can't chug the beer fast enough to quench his thirst. He's just - UP. Damn if that's not something better than crack too. Even MORE addictive. Cause all he wants, ALL he wants in the world right now, is another cold beer and to catch that chick's eye again.

So he looks around, determines it's cool all the way to the perimeter of the parking lot, takes another long swig, then forces himself to not run back to the Jeep.

He saunters up, holds out his hand and gets it filled with another cold one as he drags his eyes up and down the blond again. "Yeah it's clear man, no problem goin through there."

"Alright, we're goin in, this line can suck dick."

As she starts turning the wheel and pulling forward, the blond riding shotgun questions her, "Why are you in such a RUSH to get in there?"

Miguel stands and simply watches as the exchange goes down.

"Cause we gotta get in there and find tickets, Cass."

*Bing* - Miguel makes a mental note of that as he twists the cap off the fresh one.

"Wait a minute," Cassady stops her. "I thought you said we *have* tickets."

"Well, I might have lied about that a little. But we can GET tickets, don't sweat it, really."

"How? Huh? HOW are we going to get tickets? It's sold out."

"Uh," she nods at Miguel. "You got any extra tickets? I'll buy 'em from you."

Miguel shakes his head, "Nah, huh uh."

"C'mon, you sure? Ditch your friends, hang with us, we'll give you all the beer you want, Cassy here'll keep you company, we're fun. I'll pay you good for the extras."

Miguel starts a little at that, but shakes his head again, thoroughly amused. "Nah, really, I was um," he drags his tongue across his lips, stalling. Trying to think of something to say so that he doesn't have to tell them how he got here and why he got here that way. "I'm s'posed to meet some people but I can't find 'em, they got my ticket."

"So you need a ticket too?"

"Uh, yeah," he says.

"You gonna help me look? I'll give you beer."

He shrugs and nods.

"Get in, move over Cass, let him slide in."

So Cassady scootches over, and Miguel hops in, one leg still out the door as the car starts to pull off the road and through the grass.

His leg is smashed right against Cassady's, he hears the chicks in the back talking away, discussing the ticket situation. He shifts in the seat, raises his arm and drops it behind Cassady, seemingly to make more room, not minding the closer contact. She's wearing shorts, he can feel the warmth of her skin even through the thin material of his pants. They jostle next to each other a few times as the Jeep moves over the rough terrain as he does his best to keep a smile from spreading to a leer across his face. 'If they only knew' he thinks.

Figures it's a chance to finally speak to the chick, so he goes with the current topic. "So how's she gonna get tickets? Ain't you a little pissed off 'bout all this now?"

"No, huh-uh," Cassady says absently. "Jack can get 'em. If she says she wants them, she'll get them."

"What if she can't?"

"She can."

"But, what if she can't?"

"Uh, then we have a cooler full of beer and that's fine by me," she smiles.

"Huh." He says. Run out of conversation already. Finally, someone he wants to talk to, someone willing to talk to him, and he can't think of a single goddamn thing to say. Swell. "Cassady's a nice name," he says. "I'm Miguel."

She grins at him, and he feels really stupid again.

So Jackie pulls the Jeep back up on the road and starts meandering through the crowded lot. Looking over at Cassady, then to the back, then to Miguel she says, "Listen, if you see a scalper let me know, alright?"

"You're gonna pay a scalper for tickets?" Miguel asks.

Jackie just silently chews on her bottom lip and doesn't answer as she turns the car up another row.

Cassady leans into him and whispers, "She *hates* scalpers."

"Oh," is all he can say again. Then he sees a guy up ahead, off to the left, walking through a thin crowd, displaying a bunch of tickets fanned out in his hand. "Yo, there's one, don't know how much he wants though."

"K. Cass, you wanna drive or nab?"


She looks to the backseat and asks the girls back there, "You guys gonna help me with this?" They shake their heads no and one reaches for another beer. She sighs. "Ok, you, what's your name?"

Cassady answers for him. "Miguel."

Jackie nods and keeps the car moving forward slowly, passing by the guy with the tickets as she speaks. "Miguel. Jackie."

"Yeah, I, uh, I got that."

"That's Kristin and Kristin back there." They wave at him briefly and continue their own conversation. He gives them a quick once over, cute girls too. But he's no dummy either. He made the initial spark already and flippin around ain't gonna get him nowhere. Well, most of the time. *Some* chicks dig it, feed off the competition and shit. But it doesn't really matter anyhow, cause he already DID have that spark, and *that's* what he's after again. And that spark wasn't with them, it was with that *really* cute little blond sitting right there who talked to him, and looked him in the eye, and.

His thoughts are interrupted. "You gonna help me? I'll give you one of the tickets. And more beer."

He just shrugs. "What do you want me do?"

"When I say, just follow me. That's it, just follow me."

He nods as she pulls up a little further, then throws the car in park and slides out. Cassady moves over, Miguel watches as she pulls her legs over the gear shift and wiggles into the seat.

Reluctantly, he gets out of the car and Jackie points the way. She weaves them up a row, walking in the same direction as the scalper guy, parallel, but separated by a row of cars. "Ok, all you gotta do is follow me, got it? Just keep RIGHT behind me. Then, when I say so, you run, and I mean RUN in the other direction. Go up a couple rows of cars, then run back to the Jeep, ok?"

Miguel just shrugs, he's already figured out what she's gonna do. Doesn't really give a fuck. He takes a look around, ain't even any rent-a-cops around to bother noticing anyhow. The gravel of the parking lot crunches lightly under his feet. So, what the fuck. Sure, he'd have rather hung back there, don't really *want* to do this shit, but he figures he does this and helps them out a little, it's an easy in, can hang out with them more if he wants then. Can *flirt* more with the one of them if he wants. Maybe even.

"Come on." He's hit lightly on the shoulder and watches as Jackie takes off jogging in front of him so he kicks it up and takes off too.

She moves between a few cars and then starts running up the open row right toward the scalper as Miguel stays close on her heels. As she passes him, she reaches out and snatches the collection of tickets displayed in his hand and takes off like a bat out of hell running. Miguel brushes past the guy too as he throws it in high gear.

Running interference. He knows it. The guy won't be sure which one of 'em grabbed the tickets. He figures the chick in front of him is hoping *he'll* get chased instead of her. Then it occurs to him. She's probably gonna shake off the scalper, *and* Miguel, then hitch it back to the Jeep and dust them both.


He sees her look over her shoulder and yell at him to split up, so he takes a glance back, and sure enough the guy is already running after them.

"Shit," he mutters, lungs already starting to labor from the run. He considers just tailing her. Then he thinks about just stopping and popping the dude in the mouth, laying him out flat and ending this chase. But then he figures it could turn into a fight, and then fights draw crowds, and sometimes a cop happens to show up and fuck *that*. So he takes his chances, skids slightly on the gravel as he turns, and ducks between a row of cars in the opposite direction as the girl in front of him and keeps on running.

As he weaves between the row of cars he looks back again and sees the guy stop for a second to decide, then run after the girl instead of him. So he slows back down a little, ending the sprint but still jogging along and starts to move in the direction back to the Jeep. Picks up the pace again in hopes of catching up to them before they skate out on his ass.

Nervous, Cassady keeps driving up the row slowly, she and the Kristins craning their necks around on the lookout. Reaching down, she flips a smoke out of her pack and lights it up. As she inhales, Kristin alerts her, "Here she is!"

The other Kristin points behind her, "And here comes the guy, SHIT!"

"SHIT!" Cassady puffs out a cloud of smoke. "What do I do?"

"I don't know, I don't know. Wait for her then GO."

"Don't worry," Kristin 1 soothes, "he's way far behind her, I don't think he sees her, he's looking around, you have plenty of time."

Jackie bolts up to the Jeep and fumbles her way into the passenger seat, yelling before she even has the door closed, "Go, Go, GO!"

Cassady starts to slowly pull away, "What about the guy?"

"He's *coming*, did he see me get in here? GO!" Jackie yells as she ducks down in the seat.

Grudgingly hitting the gas more, she explains, "No, the *other* guy, Miguel, where's he at?"

"Oh fuck him man, we gotta GO."

"No we can't just LEAVE him like that?"

"Why NOT? Oh SHIT, you think he's hot, don't you?"

Kristin shouts from the back, "Jack, stay DOWN, I think the guy just saw you!"

Cassady answers, "No, I don't know. Maybe he's a little cute, so what?"

The other Kristin yells, "Ahh, fuck! Here he comes!"

"Oh Jesus. Ok, we'll *find* him again," Jackie assures Cassady. "I promise, but we have to GO!"

Cassady cranes her neck around quickly, catches sight of Miguel running up behind the Jeep from the other direction, so she slows down a bit and to check the scalper's position, hoping he didn't see Jackie dive into the car and that she can wait a few more seconds.

Suddenly, she hears him yell out as he nears the car. "BITCH!"

Still ducked down, Jackie smacks her leg. "What the fuck are you waiting for, GO!"

The Kristins echo her from the backseat, yelling at her to hit the gas.

"I AM! Just, I AM!" She cranes her neck around again, sees Miguel close, then hears the guy nearly upon her.

"Gimme my tickets back BITCH!"

She turns back to face him just in time to catch him reaching in for her. Her foot slips off the gas pedal as she moves to duck away from him, hears Jackie yelling at her again, "MOVE IT!" Then she feels her reaching across her, grabbing back at the guy, flailing around Cassady to try and knock his hands away.

Quickly, she gets her one foot on the brake, the other on the gas pedal. Car still rolling slowly forward, Jackie reaches in front of her to swat at the guy who's calling them "crazy bitches."

Cassady raises her hand and flicks her lit cigarette at the guy.

He ducks from one of Jackie's slaps. As he does, the cigarette zings past him and splats on Miguel's shoulder. He yelps from the sting as he grabs the other guy by the collar. A small explosion of glowing embers and black ashes cascade down to the ground as Miguel punches the guy once. He connects sharply with his jaw, pushes him aside, and fluidly hops into the back seat. He, the Kristins, and Jackie all yelling in unison. "GO!"

So she does.

Loose gravel kicks up as she hits the pedal, weaves around pedestrians, and takes off down the long aisle. "What the hell were you DOING?" Jackie questions her.

Cassady jumps right back on her, turning it around. "What about YOU? Miss, I *have* tickets to the show, you could have gotten us killed by that guy!"

"Oh, he wasn't gonna kill us. Slap us around maybe, a little," she laughs.

"What if he had a gun, huh?"

"He *didn't* have a gun, Cass, relax."

"But what if he did?"

"Well I'd hope you'd actually DRIVE away next time a dude's chasing me, he wouldn't have come close to us if you'd have left."

She looks over at her, completely unwilling to say why she was lingering. "Well, those better be good seats. All that shit for lawn would suck."

"I think they are good."

"How many you get?" Kristin asks.

"Uh," Jackie flips through the tickets before answering. "Not enough to give any away for free, we're covered though."

"So you do this shit all the time or what?" Miguel questions.

"Not all the time."

"Yeah, seemed like you knew what you was doin. Don't you feel bad about it or nothin - stealin and shit?"

Cassady sighs and rolls her eyes as she turns up another aisle, still looking for a place to park. She's heard it all before, and here it comes again. To her surprise, Jackie turns around and keeps it short.

"No, I don't feel bad. Scalpers are scum. Fuck 'em."

Cassady's eyes flit to the rear-view mirror, catching Miguel's reaction of a slight nod and a shrug. Kristin 2 points toward a space up ahead, so she pulls in and kills the engine. As everyone piles out, she looks apologetically at Miguel's shoulder. Intentionally not looking him in the face, she points, hands him a beer, and mumbles a sincere apology.

"'Salright," he shrugs again. "It don't hurt, didn't really burn me."

She nods and grabs a beer for herself as Jackie calls her away.

On the other side of the car, Jackie speaks quietly, but with an unmistakable note of taunting. "So Cass, having a good time?"

"Shut up."

"Awww. Come on now, you dig him huh?"

Cassady peeks over at him and shoves the subtle thrill back down before answering with a shrug. Jackie simply stares at her, and she tries to think of something neutral to say. "Don't you think he sort of looks like John Frusciante?"

Jackie uncaps a beer and hands it to her, still not answering. And well shit, what the hell does she want her to say? What the hell COULD she say? It's stupid. It's already stupid and silly to *her* even. What the fuck? She cracks. "Yeah, he's kind of cute."

Jackie nods and grins. "Yeah he is. So you wanna hang with him for a while then? Is that cool by you?" She calls the Kristins over then, hands them their tickets, tells them to make sure and meet up back here after the show in case they get separated.

"Here," she shoves a couple tickets toward Cassady. "Hang out with him for the show, he earned it anyhow, punching that guy out like that."

Cassady laughs a little. "You noticed that huh?"

Laughing, "Hell yeah. I was trying to ditch him you know."

"I figured you were. You're such a bitch."

"Oh, come on, Cass, gimme a break. I didn't know you had a *thing* already."

"I do NOT have a thing."

"Oh. You have a thing."

Cassady glances over at him again, *knows* she has a thing going. "There is no thing. And even if there WAS a thing, so what?"

"So have a good time! I think he has a thing too."

"Think so?"

Jackie nods.

Cassady shakes her head a little, swallows hard. "Yeah, well, what's the point anyhow?"

"Um, to have some FUN Cassady."

"I'm not like that."

"You mean you're not like *me*."

"No, I didn't mean it like that, just, that, it's not *me*."

"It's not YOU only because you don't think it's you. Look, I don't care, do or don't do whatever you want. Just go hang out with him for a while. Enjoy the show."

"Well," Cassady hedges, already convinced to just go with it for a while. "What are you going to do?"

"Um, well, I'll drive us back, so you guys can drink up this beer, in there, whatever. I want to make sure that scalper dude doesn't find us parked here and fuck with the car."

"So just meet you back here after the show?"

"Yeah that works. Remember, I wanna go to the Sheraton."

Cassady chokes on her drink a little. "You are NOT serious about that."

"I *so* am. I know he's going to be there with that broadcasting thing going on."

"You're going to go all the way back downtown just to yell at some sports commentator?"

"Hell YES. You KNOW how I feel about him, he's like a, a ."


"No. YES! Yes, it's like that! SOMEONE has to yell at this guy."

"So you're determined it's going to be you?"

"Fuck yes. Hey, hey, we can get rooms there, you can bring your new toy along."

Cassady blushes hard. "Shut UP! I will NOT do that." She watches as Jackie cocks a brow and looks over at Miguel. Cause she will *not* do that, wrap him up, take him home, and just let him jump all over her. She's had boyfriends before, but that's different. This would just be sleazy. One just does not randomly go around picking up guys in parking lots and then letting those guys sleep with oneself. Cassady's eyes follow Jackie's, watch as Miguel takes a gulp of beer, licks his lips afterward.

Then he leans one arm back against the Jeep. One bare arm. One bare arm with a smooth shoulder. A smooth shoulder that leads down to a sharply cut triceps. A triceps that has a pattern of inked designs along it. A pattern in the shape of a cross, which points down, down to his corded forearm. She can see the tendons in that forearm move as he drums his fingers along the sweating beer bottle.

Cassady repeats herself. "I *won't*."




Perhaps it need be noted, that all the while Miguel's doing these decidedly mundane, and yet somehow sensual little things, the reason Cassady can get such a clear view of all his little chiseled muscles is because on this particular hot summer day he's wearing pants and a plain old wifebeater.

Yes that's right.

It's almost timeless, isn't it? I mean, come on now. It's a little bit sceevy, we even *call* them by their scummy little name: wifebeaters. Not exactly the most *pleasant* connotation.

They really *shouldn't* be sexy looking, now should they? Sort of trailer-park. Or ghetto.

And yet.

Yes, yes, it's that *and yet* part, isn't it? Maybe it IS the whole *bad* image that goes with them. Maybe it's the way they just PERFECTLY hug the skin, revealing the collarbones, and shoulders. And just the littlest hint of pec from the sides.

Something so workman-like about them. And sweaty. Uh huh.

Sweaty. And animal.

So Stanley Kowalski.

I mean, let's face it. Did Cassady ever really stand a chance here?


"We're ditching him as soon as the show's over."


"I'm serious Jack."


"Well, ok."

"Ok. Then.Go now." She shoves her lightly on the shoulder to send her away, whispering a few final words. "And don't do anything *I* wouldn't do."

Self-conscious, Cassady moves over to Miguel, grabs a couple more beers, and suggests they head in to the show. Butterflies in her stomach, she starts to walk on, staring at the ground, averting his gaze, but hyper-aware of his presence moving closely beside her.

"Hey, you grab the tickets from your friend?" He asks.

"Yeah, yeah, I have them." She hesitates, overthinks the question as she doubts herself. Still not looking at him, she continues. "Oh, um, do you want yours? You can go, um, try and find your other friends inside if you want."

"Nah," he answers quick and places a hand loosely on her elbow. "Not unless you're trying to ditch me too," he leans forward, dips his head and grins at her.

She catches sight of his crooked smile, dark eyes flashing at her. She can't help but smile back as she looks away again and laughs. "You knew she was trying to lose you huh?"

Miguel releases her arm, takes a swig and nods. "Yeah I don't think she likes me much man. It's ok, like, if you wanna go with your other friends I'm cool, you know, you don't gotta give me a ticket or nothin."

"No, I didn't mean that, I just thought maybe you'd want to go hang out with your friends instead."

He shakes his head, "Nah. I uh, I don't where they are. 'Sides, they'd prob'ly have shit beer anyhow."

She glances at him and nods, keeps walking as she wracks her brain for something to say. Feels like a moron. This tongue- tied puppy shit is just NOT her, but something about this whole thing, about *him* is throwing her a little off. It was *nothing* she thinks to cool herself down. Just a dumb little look, just treat him like any guy. Yeah, she thinks, so he's a little good looking, alright, even sort of sexy. She steals a quick glance over at him, his shoulders carried high as he moves fluidly along, almost cat-like in his walk. But it's not like he's all over her anyhow. Not like he's.

"And, really, truth be told and all," Miguel interrupts her thoughts and winks coyly at her. "I'd rather hang with you. Take a beautiful girl like you over a couple a guys any day."

.flirting with her.

The butterflies in her stomach leap to her throat, and as she looks away, she slips on the loose gravel, throwing her off balance, making her breathing hitch. Quick and firm, Miguel grabs her elbow again and steadies her. "Ya alright?" He asks, hand still in place. His thumb rubs up and down, once, gently stroking the back of her arm before he lets go.

She catches his eye, knows for a *fact* that if it was assbitch Bob who just pulled that move she'd jerk her arm away, glower at him, and snap at him that she was just fine. But she just looks at Miguel from lowered brows and quietly says, "Thanks."

"Good save, didn't spill any beer."

"Yeah, hey, you wanna go in after we finish these, I think they have Guinness in there."

"Guinness?" Miguel whistles. "Now that's some serious beer. You Irish, huh *Cassady*?"

"Hundred percent," she answers.

"Yeah, I bet you're smart too then."


"I knew this Irish dude and he was really fuckin smart. Really tricky too, you know? Like, if he'd a wanted to ditch me he woulda already," he smiles again.

"I am *not* trying to ditch you. Even Jackie said you deserved the ticket for punching that guy out."

"Oh, you liked that, huh?"

"Uh, it wasn't bad," she grins up him.

"Yeah, I got a move or two," he says cockily. "Want me do it again? Like, if that shit impresses you I'll find someone else, knock them out too."

Laughing, "No, really, that's not necessary."

"You sure, you know? I don't mind, just say the word."

"No, that'd really be above and beyond."

"Not impressive anymore, maybe getting a little freaky then."

"Yeah, something like that."

"Alright, I won't be kickin no more ass then. 'Less you ask, of course."

"Of course."

"You know, I didn't really do that shit to get a ticket anyhow."

"Oh no?"

"Nah, I just figured it'd be uh, like, my best chance to hang out with you some more."

Cassady averts her eyes and smiles. More from him being such a cheesehead than the flattery. God, he works it hardline, doesn't he? It's almost pathetic and obnoxious at the same time. *Almost*, she thinks as she tries to steal another look at him. He looks away, so she lingers and checks him out quickly again. It *ought* to be annoying her, but instead it's turning her kneecaps into jello.

Not squishy enough to play back though, she simply nods and directs them towards the gate to go inside.


Or, more appropriately put here, cutting time. Cause you don't *really* need a play-by-play of the show, right? Right. We've all been there. And if you haven't, I highly suggest you try it sometime. CD's are great, but there's just really *nothing* comparable to catching a band live. (If they're good. If they suck live, such as say *cough* Bob Dylan *cough* well...)

But you know what I mean. There's a *crackle* there. Electricity and excitement. And the music is a little rawer, a little louder. The bass reverbs through your whole *body* at times, you can feel the pound of drums in your guts, thudding in your chest. And maybe you drink a little, or maybe smoke a little. Maybe Cassady and Miguel found some Guinness. And maybe the only thing that's expected in there is that one does what one *wants* to do. There AREN'T any expectations. So if you wanna mosh or dance or whatever it takes to feel ALIVE and *feel* the music, you do.

And maybe at one point, when things are still at a *buzz* but a little more sedate, Miguel slides his hand across the back of Cassady's neck. And so perhaps she leans a little closer next to him. So in return, then he could move his hand down her back, rest it at the base of her spine.

And then his thumb strokes again, just like it did against her arm. So she can feel the warmth of his hand there, the gentle and reassuring weight of it, reminding her of his whole presence. She swallows thickly and concentrates on it, cause she's hyper aware of that area anyhow. He's not obnoxious enough to move lower, instead his fingers feather over that area again, the exact center of her body. And her shirt is short enough that he can slide his fingers under the bottom hem of it, so that it's bare skin he strokes his fingers across.

She wonders if he can feel the slight puffiness of the skin, how it's still upraised from a six month old tattoo there, considers backing away, but holds perfectly still instead, allowing his fingers to dance over the black inked design. She realizes he *can* feel it, because he's tracing around the cross with his thumb, seemingly exploring it to figure out what it is.

She looks over at him, inches a little closer, and when he looks back at her, the look in his eye is completely unmistakable. Lust. He's not smiling, he's not grinning or flirting. Her heart skips a little, because she knows he's going to lean down and kiss her -- if she holds still and allows it. It's clear that's all he's waiting for, that silent little acknowledgement.

Her head races with the thought. All she has to do is back up an *inch*. Just look away.

But she doesn't *want* to look away. She wonders if HER face looks like his, showing him how she *wants* him to go for it right then. And yet, how she *doesn't* want him to go for it, because if he goes for it, maybe she'll want him to go for *more* too. Maybe he'll expect to go for more. And that's already been decided that it's NOT going to happen. So it's better to cut this off *right now*. Stop it before lips get involved. A hand is already involved, in fact it strokes lightly across the base of her spine again. But if lips get involved, that could lead to entire *mouths* being involved. And then a tongue. And then maybe *more* hands.

And if MORE hands get involved, then surely breath will be involved. As his hand strokes again, she realizes skin is already involved, cause that *look* on his face, probably met by the same look on her face, plus that thumb of his stroking across the skin of her back just sent goosebumps up her arms. Raised the hair on her arms up with them and the slight shiver. And FUCK, that's just his one *hand* - on her BACK no less. And if that thumb tracing hidden outlines back there is causing her to get all sorts of skin and breath involved, what damage *could* he do with his lips, and possibly even teeth. And tongue.

So yes, yes, at that point, to avoid any further shivers, one must back away, not let oneself be kissed like that. Possibly even groped. At a concert. With people all around. With a strange guy. Whose last name one doesn't even know. Who punched someone out earlier. And who got one standing right here with a different sort of look.

And then the thought: But it's just a hand on my *back*. That's all. And just a *look*. And so what if it's just a *kiss*. One kiss, what's wrong with me, I want to kiss him too. So she stands still, or maybe she even leans a little bit closer. And he leans closer too. So close, she can feel him breathe, a soft exhale against her lips. She closes her eyes, and ...

And some random drunk guy stumbles into them.

Comes staggering along and before Miguel can actually lay lips on hers, he stumbles into them, knocking them off balance and, well, *really* breaking apart the whole moment.

So, maybe at that point Cass catches her balance and maybe as the drunk guy mumbles something and staggers into her *again* she kicks him in the shin to send him on his way. Not because he really pissed her off by interrupting, hell no, but just because, well, because annoying drunks deserve to take a shin-hit every once in a while.

But, that would about sum up the experience of nearly any live show anyhow, now wouldn't it? (with the possible exception of Celine Dion, where you'd likely find nearly half the people who got dragged there by their mushy mate crippled-drunk and stumbling so everyone cuts them slack and doesn't shin-kick them out of mutual sympathy. Or a Bob Dylan show, which ends within forty-five minutes so there isn't time to get stagger-drunk anyhow.) So we'll skip ahead to the post-show report.


Speaking of annoying drunks --

Cassady and Miguel walk out after the show, finding their way back to where the Jeep was parked. The whole time, her thinking, what *now*? Does she hand him another beer, slap him on the shoulder, thank him for the company, and then tell him to get lost? Or does she maybe give him a sweet little kiss on the cheek, since she's past the point of thinking he'd like that and relatively certain he'd like a whole lot more than that? Or does she actually give him a kiss, a real one. See what that's like, *if* she likes it - cause she's relatively certain that she will. But on the off chance she *won't* - well, then it'd be pretty easy to ditch his doe-eyed ass in the parking lot and still go home feeling pretty good cause she sure didn't make him any promises. Or lead him on.

She's pretty sure *he's* going to go on her cue anyhow. Cause he hasn't even looked around at all, like he's searching for another ride or his other friends, let alone *mentioned* them. Maybe he's just assuming he can hook up with her, and well, he'd better think again on *that* one, that'd just be so *BOB* of him and all. No no, if he thinks she's going to just automatically drag his ass along, like he's hooked her already or something, he can forget about THAT right quick and then fester on it as his feet pound the pavement. Yeah, dammit - what exactly IS he thinking, just *insinuating* himself into going home with them like that? Oh he is *so* getting ditched now and she won't feel the least bit bad about it.

Clearing his throat, Miguel lights a smoke and breaks the weird silence. "I uh, I just figured I'd get you back to the car, make sure you was ok and all, you know. Then I'll take off, don't wanna piss off your friend no more."

Oh. Yeah, RIGHT. He's *angling* for an invitation, that's what he's doing. Fuck him, she thinks. And says, "No it's cool, she won't be pissed. You can hang out, have another beer at least."

"Yeah?" He noticeably brightens. "Well I thought you was in a rush to get somewhere else and all."

"Well, you could come, I mean, with us, if you want to." She wishes she could kick herself even as she says it, not even sure where the FUCK it's coming from.

He shoves his free hand in his pocket and keeps walking, grinning again. "Yeah? I'd like that. Ain't got nothin better to do anyhow."

"Well, I wasn't sure if you'd want to find your friends," she says.

""Nah, I could, you know, find them. But, that ain't somethin *better* to do," he says as he squints his eyes at her and drags on his smoke.

"Ahh, I figured you'd want to find them, they'd probably be up for going to a bar, getting a little crazy after the show."

"Yeah, they prob'ly would. Like I said, that ain't somethin better to do though."

"Yeah, well, might be boring with us, I think Jackie just wants to stalk this sportscaster," Cassady says grinning back at him, rolling her eyes. "You could go somewhere else, find some hot chicks with your friends."

"Like I said, that ain't something better to do." Miguel repeats and playfully nudges her as he walks along, cat that ate the canary look on his face. "'Sides," he says, then switches to Spanish to finish his thought, "/I already got the one I want right here, and you're plenty hot./" Glances over at her, repeating himself. "Muy caliente."

Not sure if she wants to be flattered by the compliment, or insulted by his presumption, she settles on a mild balance of the two. If he'd have said it in English, she'd have laughed for sure. So she answers him sharply, in Spanish, "Chingate. You don't *have* me yet. And...well...gracias."

"Shit," he coughs. "You uh, you speak Spanish, huh? I thought you was Irish man."

"I am, that doesn't mean I can't speak Spanish."

"Yeah, guess not. Shit, see, you *are* smart, I knew it, you know. I didn't mean it like that though, it just, you know, came out wrong is all. And, de nada, I meant it."

"Yeah, well, shut up while you're ahead."

He cocks a brow at her, nudging her again. "So I'm still ahead huh?"

"Quickly losing ground."

"Quickly, huh? You sure about that?"

"*Very* quickly."

He hits his cigarette, and says nothing more as they get to the car. Find Jackie asleep on the backseat. Cassady shakes her a couple times to wake her up as she looks down at the emptied cooler. "Shit," she mutters. "I think she's passed out cold." She shakes her a couple more times, til she sits up straight and blinks awake.

"You ok?" Cassady asks her warily.

"Yeah, fine. Where's the Kristins?"

Cassady looks around, no sign of the two anywhere yet. "I don't know, we didn't run into them inside, the show just let out."

"Oh," she says and rubs her eyes. "Hey, how was the show?"

"You didn't go in?"

"No, I, well, I just hung out here."

"And drank all the beer and passed out," she says. Looks up and sees Miguel wisely backed off, shuffling his feet, head down.

"I did NOT drink all the beer. I told you I'd drive, I'm *fine*."


"Yeah, I just got tired and was sleeping. Jeez, Cassy, cut me some slack huh?"

"Then how come you didn't go into the show?" She presses. Simply because she DOES know Jackie, too well. And she's been drinking all night, cause she trusted Jackie to drive her. She's not drunk, but knows she shouldn't be driving either. And she knows that the Kristins are probably in the same shape if not worse. Charming.


"Cause why? I don't want you driving us around the city if you're all wasted."

"I'm not drunk! I didn't have anything to drink."

"Then why'd you stay out here?"

"Cause I only *got* four tickets from that guy so I gave 'em to you guys," Jackie answers haughtily.

Cassady shrinks a little, frowning as a guilty pang hits her. Assuming she'd been all irresponsible and screwed them over when she'd actually done something really - well, nice. "Oh, well, you didn't have to do that."

"Pffft, I don't care, they're not my thing anyhow. Was it a good show though?"

"Yeah, really good."

"Did Flea get naked?"

Cassady laughs, "Yeah he did, they ALL did."


"So you weren't out here drinking the whole time?"

"Nope," she says and looks over at Miguel, who's walking toward the front of the car to the treeline and weeds.

"Gotta empty out some of this beer," he winks.

"Well, where'd the beer all go?" Cassady asks again, wanting to make sure.

"Oh, OH, hey, watch it up there," Jackie shouts to him.

Just then Cassady hears the loud hiss from a van parked a couple rows over from them and looks back into the car, sees several empty balloons strewn across the floor of the Jeep. "Jackie, what'd you do?"

"The fuck?" Miguel calls out from in the thick grass. "Aww, man, that's wicked and I stepped in it."

Jackie slumps sheepishly, chewing on a fingernail. So Cassady presses again as the hissing starts again. Looking from the van and then back to Jackie she knows already. "You didn't." She just grins foolishly back at her, so she forces her on. "What'd you do, you ass?"

"Well I got *bored*, Cass," she explains. "I wasn't drinking, I just traded them beer for balloons."

"And you did whip-its till you puked. Did you have fun?"

Jackie looks at her from lowered brows. "As a matter of fact, yes. And that wasn't me that got sick, it was someone else."

"You didn't get sick from them? You're telling me you quit while you were still fine?"

"Well, I, I mighta fished out a little, but that wasn't me that got sick, some other chick who was hanging out here did that. So what man? I can drive, I'm fine."

"You're just, just.ALL the beer you traded away?"

"Yeah," she says, sheepish again. "I didn't fish for a long time."

"Fuckin ether addict, you're gonna be brain dead by the time you're forty if you don't watch it."

"Yes, *Mom*. So what's *his* deal?" She nods into the weeds.

Cassady grins this time, trying to hedge. "He's ok."

"Yeah? He gonna come with us?"

Cassady shrugs.

"Yeah, he's coming with us," she smiles. "You GO girl, do it up, have fun."

"Yeah, well, I'm not going to do HIM up, he's just going to hang out for a while," she says adamantly.

Jackie smirks at her, which grates on her. Like Jackie knows *her* better than she knows herself. "Ok, listen," Jackie says sweetly, "will you come with me after I take the Kristins home then? They don't wanna go."

"Why do you need *me* to go?"

"Oooh, here they come," Jackie nods over her shoulder. "And whoo, do they look crushed, guess they had fun."

Cassady looks over her shoulder and sees the two short blonds walking their way over and agrees with her. Feels Miguel slide back up next to her. Close, not too forward either though.

"Just, please, Cass, come with me? I *really* wanna meet this guy."

"So you can yell at him?"

"He's *biased* Cassady! It pisses me off! And those anecdotes of his - GOD!"

"So what're you gonna steal from him," Miguel asks sarcastically.

"Yeah, um, wipe your feet off before you get in my car, ok?" Jackie snarks at him til he takes a step away, then looks back to Cassady with her best puppy dog look. "Please. I just don't wanna go in there alone. I already got us rooms and everything in case it's fun and we wanna hang out. Then you can go do," she looks over at Miguel for emphasis, "or *not* do whatever you want."

"Oh," Cassady rolls her eyes, acts like it's a hassle. When in actuality, she has nothing else better to do. Knows that Jackie knows she doesn't really mind either. "Alriiight. If you buy me another beer."

"Ok, Kristin, don't fall asleep cause I don't know how to get to your house."

"I won't fall asleep."

"It's ok," the other Kristin answers. "I know where to go."

"You're from Detroit, how the hell do you know where to go?"

"I know where to go, don't worry."

"I won't fall asleep," Kristin says.

As they all pile into the car, Miguel gets himself seated squished next to Cassady in the front seat again, she knows he's hoping for a couple more cheap thrills of her rubbing against him on bumps and turns. She hides a smile, naughtily sort of looking forward to *doing* it too.

* * *

Random scenes from the ride:

The two Kristins giddy and giggling in the backseat. Miguel listening in and wondering about it.

"John is *hot*, he looked so good tonight, the sweet baby, so pained and beautiful and alive, just all about the music again. It was so good to see that."

"Keidis could ease his pain, that's all he really needs."

"Oh right ON, he's off the heroin, all he needs is some serious love and you know it's Anthony who should be giving it to him."

Miguel cocks a brow and Cassady's leg slides against his as he keeps eavesdropping, trying to grab their words before the wind steals them away.

"They are so slashy, always getting naked like that together. I'd have died to have seen it when Keidis was making out with him."

"WHEN was he making out with him?"

"Couple months ago - ONSTAGE."

"See! SEE! Poor probecito just *needs* some of that love."

"Yeah, without the sock next time," Kristin giggles.

Then they quiet down and Miguel can't catch what they're saying anymore. He turns his head and lets the wind hit his face more squarely. Suddenly aware of how even though he's all squished in a car again, he doesn't feel all antsy. Hasn't felt that way all night in fact. But specifically *now* - right when he should be having that feeling of being cooped up, he doesn't. He can *breathe* here. It's not that weird stagnant feeling of a car. He's *actually* outside and can feel the movement.

Even though he's not really trying to get *away* right now.

* * *

"Kristin," Jackie calls to the backseat.

"She's asleep," the other Kristin answers.

"Which way do I go now to get her home?"

"Ok, just, go through the tunnels, and then over the bridge."

Jackie looks over her shoulder. "Kristin, this city is surrounded by *three* rivers. There's over a hundred bridges, which one?"

"You know, the one, the one after the tunnels."

"Which tunnels?"

"Uhh, um," she shakes Kristin awake.

* * *

"You," Jackie says.

"Me?" Miguel asks.



"Yeah, Miguel. Look, I can't stand this guy, but you don't have to punch him out, ok?"

* * *

The two Kristins dropped off safe at home, Jackie drags the willing Cassady and Miguel into the lobby of the Sheraton. Her eyes go wide as she scans the large sunken bar in the atrium of the hotel.

He's actually *there*. Sitting there like nothing, chatting with some other lesser known local TV "personalities".

"He's here," she grabs Cassady's arm.

"I see that. You aren't going to cause a scene, are you?"

"No. No no no."

"Hey," Miguel says, "I know that dude, he's."

"Yeah," Cassady says.



"And she hates him that bad?" He whispers to Cassady.

"Yes, he's biased," Jackie answers. "Drives me crazy. It's his job to report, not to *cheer*."

"Well, what do you want to do?" Cassady asks her. "We're here now."

"Um, let's go over and get some drinks, you guys can do that, right?"

Miguel and Cassady nod, so they sit down, light smokes, order beers. And shots.

Miguel slugs back his shot and winces a little from it. "So, lemme get this straight, you can't stand this guy cause he plays favorites when he's calling the game, is that it?"

"No," Cassady laughs. "She can't stand him cause he always roots *against* the team she likes."

"Ok, shut up," Jackie says and orders another shot and beer. "I'm gonna go over there."

"Oh, you so are *not* going over there," Cassady says.

"Yes I am. He's only talking to one person right now."

"What are you going to say?"

"I'm going to tell him how annoying he IS, that's what."

"Ok, go ahead then."

Jackie does her shot, takes a drag off her smoke, crushes it out, picks up her beer, and straightens her back.

Cassady and Miguel silently watch as she strides over and stands next to the Sportscaster. When he turns and looks at her, they can hear her from across the bar.

"Hi, I think you're the best sports announcer *ever*," she gushes and offers to buy him another drink.

Miguel's jaw drops and Cassady smiles smugly, muttering under her breath, "I knew it. I *knew* it. That ass."

"I don't fuckin believe her man. Maybe she's just like, being all polite and shit before she gets all mean."

"No," Cassady answers him, unconsciously leaning in to him. "She's serious. He drives her crazy cause she likes him so much."

"You're serious?"

"Oh yeah, she's in heaven right now I think."

"I don't know man," Miguel licks his lips. "I think your friend might be a little 'off' or somethin."

"Yeah, well, she does her own thing, that's all."

"Yeah that's cool, She's just, you know, sorta bitchy about her thing."

"What's that?"

"Well, like, I mean, crazy's ok and all, sometimes, but she's just sort of."

Sharply: "Sort of *what*?"

Miguel shrugs, trying to backpedal, "Nah, nothing," he says, babbling, still not knowing when to just shut up. "She just comes off sort of, well, like a bitch. Like a bitch."

Cassady bristles and sits up straight. "Yeah, well, that *bitch* thought I should hook up with you. Maybe you are right and she's crazy and I shouldn't listen to *her*."

Speechless, Miguel knows he could have just *totally* fucked himself. Wrong turn on that one amigo, he sulks quietly to himself for a second. Absently pulls on the label of the beer bottle with his fingers, fussing it around in his grip. Decides to babble himself right back out of it. "Well, I just, like, I didn't mean that, came out wrong is all, you know. I just don't know her like you is all, I guess. But she's cool and all."

He sees her look out the corner of her eye at him, so he leans closer again. "That was nice and all, her givin me the ticket. She just don't act sweet, like you. I just figured she didn't like me or something is all."

Cassady lights a smoke and eases up. "She's just fuckin with you. That's how she is. If she didn't like you, you wouldn't *be* here."

"I wouldn't huh? I thought I was here cause *you* liked me."

"I like you as long as you don't rag my friends," Cassady teases him.

Miguel inches closer, hovering low, glances across the bar. "Look at her over there, they're leaving - *together*. I think she's actually gettin somewhere with him man. I actually really sort of like her now that I think about it. The crazy bitch."

Cass laughs and nudges his shoulder, "Well, then I like you just fine." She caves more. "I'm sorry, *I* sounded like a bitch there. I just had a bad day, I guess I'm still tense from it."

His brown eyes go wide and earnest. "Yeah, you did? Is that somethin you wanna talk about?"

She can't tell if he's sincere or just trying to kiss ass still. Either way, doesn't matter. She shrugs. "No, it's ok. Thanks, but, I'd rather just forget about it right now."

Miguel pushes back from the bar and turns his body toward Cass. Adjusting his legs, one foot hitches onto the footrest and the other splays widely on the floor. Picking at the frayed label a few more times then smoothing it back against the dewy glass of the bottle, he circles the neck of the bottle with his fingers and lifts it to his mouth. Eyeing her, he drinks in her blonde hair as the bottle taps against his slightly overlapped front teeth.

He swallows. Three, four gulps. Sets the bottle back on the marble bar, smoothing away a condensation ring before looking back to her.

Time to make the move.

It's gotta be done. He wants to do it anyhow. His jaw clenches briefly as a doubt whispers through his temple. Another moment. That's all this is. No one ends up blind, no one ends up dead. But there's no guarantee either. May not all be right.

Next to him, she exhales a long plume of smoke over the bartender's head and yawns a bit as she crushes the cigarette out in the glass ashtray. Bored. Or tired.

Miguel's eyes flutter briefly to the guy behind the bar. All dressed up, white shirt, red bow tie, looking all classy and businesslike. But Miguel knows he knows. He's standing back there seemingly minding his own business, but he knows what time it is and sees these two dancing around each other. Flirting, talking. And he'll know.

Probably seen it at least a thousand times too. Miguel wonders what the odds are: how many times the people hook up, how many times the guy falls flat. How many times a chick tries to work it and ends up short.

Same old game, nothing new. He licks his lips and thinks it over, considers blowing it off all together. Hell, whole day was a bonus. Got a break from the road, stayed away from the radar of the fuzz, got some brews, some decent company. Got to hang out with a pretty girl for a while. Why's he always gotta push it huh? Why's he supposed to? Why's it gonna make him feel like an ass if that board-up-his-ass-bitch of a bartender sees him crash right here?


Yeah that's right. Cause. It's how it is.

He slugs again on the bottle, draining it down and setting his gaze firmly back on the girl next to him.

Cassady feels his eyes on her again, suddenly relieved that he might finally be making a move. She thought about going for it first but backed off a little. Make him do some work, she'd been sending enough signals. It's not supposed to work that way for a reason anyhow, right? Right. Fighting off a grin, knowing the time's finally here, she takes another swig of her beer. The wetness cuts the tension in her throat, prompting her to look over at him and ever so slightly turn her shoulders toward him.

She sets the bottle down and gives him a sidelong glance, still not sure how she'll react. But she raises her lashes to meet his gaze, wishing he'd just give it a try already.

That's enough to let him know. Just enough confidence in that look. He's not going to get shot down. Probably.

And if he doesn't try, he'll never know. Supposed to try, expected to try, sure. But mostly, right now, with those blue eyes and those great curves and that seemingly soft hair all in front of him, he can imagine, *almost* feel the warmth of her body, and he wants to try.

She scootches forward on her chair and turns toward him more, draping one arm over the bar.

Releasing his beer bottle, he lays his arm next to hers. With the lightest touch, heavy lidded eyes still locked with hers, barely making contact, he strokes her wrist with his index finger.

The feathering touch sends a hint of a tingle up her arm. Smiling, she blinks and looks down to break the gaze. She raises her thumb slightly and watches, connecting the visual and feeling as his finger reacts and circles up, tracing around the invitation. As his finger gently weaves to the sensitive underside, she turns her hand over, exposing the palm of her hand.

Slowly, still feathery, he tickles and drags his finger along the lines of her palm. Pulling it along the length of her fingers, dragging his nail down between them. Marking invisible patterns as he explores every area, hitting every available nerve. Always concentrating on keeping it just a tease of touch.

With a hint of nail, he spirals around her palm, dipping up and down, and it sends an involuntary tiny shiver between her shoulders. When he moves up her wrist again, the tickle lingers in her palm even though he's moved on. Smile gone, suddenly aware of her own shallow breaths, she dares to catch his eye again and places her hand on his knee.

His thigh contracts immediately at the touch. Warmth and pressure, it quickens his stomach. As she pushes her hand up, the mild current in his body starts to focus in his cock. Clearing his throat, he concentrates to speak. "So, you tired?" He asks.

"No," she answers, willing herself to keep her eyes on his. "I uh, I have a key though, a room here to stay when I wanna go to sleep."

"You wan' another beer?"

Swallowing thickly she answers, "No," and slides her hand higher up his leg.

"You uh," his voice cracks as her hand slides even higher. He glances over at the bartender, who's aggressively pushing a glass up and down on the brush in the sink. "You want me walk you upstairs?"

She answers by sliding off her chair and standing between his legs. Breaking their gaze, she waves to the bartender and orders another round. She wedges her body close to his, keeping her one hand planted on his warm thigh. Head bubbling, she has a cursory thought about what her mother would think of her behaving like this, in public no less, and immediately dismisses it. When the bartender sets the bottles in front of her, she releases his leg and scrawls her name across the paper to sign the bill. Closing one eye to more clearly read the numbers, she gives up attempting accurate math and adds a couple dollars to the total.

She lifts the bottles off the bar and meets his eyes again. Leaning even closer, she places one of the bottles between his legs, quickly and firmly pressing it into his crotch.

Miguel's back straightens and he sucks in his breath with the jolt of contact. The coolness of the glass sinks into his inner thighs and the pressure on his hardening cock sends silvery threads up his spine. She leans her face next to his and he lets his eyes drift closed. There's nothing to see, just feel. Feel the cool pressure between his legs, the warmth of her shoulder pressed against his. A silky lock of her hair falling and tickling on his nose, against his lips. And her breath; warm and moist in his ear.

"I want you to walk me upstairs, yes." She sighs softly.

It sends another subtle thrill up his back. Shifting in his seat, he reaches around her waist. His fingers push up her shirt slightly, stroking lightly around the cross at the base of her spine. He threads the fingers of his other hand through her hair and pushes it back off her face, over her ear, giving him access. Lowly, voice vibrating, he whispers back. "Right now?"

She nods once as she shifts her legs, unable to deny the heat building there. Presses the bottle against him before lifting it up and taking a sip. Disentangling herself from his arms she takes a step back and grasps his hand, urging him up.

Miguel weaves his fingers through hers, tugging down on his pants as he rolls his shoulders, grabs the other beer, and saunters behind her. He tries to wipe a smirk from his mouth, but as they pass around the bar he gives in and shoots a wry grin over his shoulder, correct in his thinking that the bartender's watching as they move out.

As they hit the elevators, he takes the lead, punching the button and looking up at the glowing lights above the door. He presses it again as Cassady stands close, one arm curled and holding the bottle to her chest, the other wrapped around his waist; one hand snaking down his hip, across his ass. His muscles tense as she grazes over them and he presses the button again, twice, quickly.

He licks his lips and bends to her ear, whispering low. "I wanna kiss you."

She turns to face him and looks up into his gleaming eyes, expecting him to lean in and go for her.

Before he can, the elevator doors open.

A peal of familiar laughter from inside the car breaks their mood and they turn their sight toward the intrusion. Jackie's standing at the door, continuing to giggle. The smell wafts out and hits their noses next. And The Sportscaster, tie undone, shirt unbuttoned, is standing next to her, arm in arm. Smoking a blunt.

It's pinched between his thumb and index finger as he takes a drag. Holding it in, he snorts once, and speaks with a tight throat. "So then Hack, instead of doubling back around, he cuts *across* the diamond, right over the pitcher's mound, running from third to first." He and Jackie start to laugh at the anecdote, a cloud of smoke puffing from his mouth as he exhales, and he looks up and sees Miguel and Cassady outside the door.

Slackjawed, they simply stare in disbelief as The Sportscaster wipes a tear from his eye. "Oh, pardon me, going up?" He inquires, as Jackie shoots them a look, clearly telling them to back off.

Miguel shakes his head. "Nah, huh uh. No, uh, thanks," he stutters and takes a step back.

Cassady moves with him, edging away and shaking her head. Looking up at Miguel briefly, she turns back to them, waving her hand, shaking them off. "We'll take the stairs, thanks."

Hurriedly, they push through the crash door leading to the stairs as they break into giggles of their own. Hand covering his mouth as he laughs, Miguel takes a few steps up the stairs as he cackles. "What the *fuck* was that man?"

Cassady shakes her head, "That's breaking several laws at once is what that is."

"Yo man, that shit's just *wrong*."

"I know. I know," she says, catching her breath.

Raising a brow, settling back again, Miguel slides next to her again. "Guess I am stuck walking you up now."

"Stuck huh? Yeah, well, if it's too much trouble, you don't have to," she teases.

"I don't know man, you know, that's a lot o' stairs and all," he glances up at them and slides his arm around her waist.

"Oh, you don't have to walk up them if you don't want. I'll be fine."

"Yeah, um, but I still wanna kiss you," he says and leans close.

She draws back slightly, feeling behind her and climbing up the first step. "But you can't do that unless you walk up the stairs."

"Is that how it is huh? You want me to walk up them stairs like that," he grins and takes a step up.

She turns and slowly takes a couple more steps. "I don't want you doing anything you don't want to do, nope."

He follows, edging up behind her. "Well but I wanna kiss you, so I guess I gotta. You wanna kiss me, or like, is this just some way of making me get exercise?"

She takes another step up then turns back around to him, waits for him to step up to her again. When he's close, close enough that she can smell the beer on his breath, feel the heat of his body again, she answers, whispering mouth to mouth. "Kiss you? Miguel, I want to fuck you." Then she turns and sprints up the stairs.

Dumbstruck, his jaw goes slack and his hand releases the bottle he was clutching. Glass on cement, it doesn't shatter but foam pours out of it. The words echo through his head for a few seconds, resonating and mixing with the liquor, a heated reminder of the aching pulse in his crotch. Without a glance at the spilled beer at his feet he takes off. Taking the steps two at a time, he follows hotly. "Yeah, I wanna walk up these steps. RUN up these fucking stairs, man, bet your ass I wanna."

Legs starting to burn, lungs laboring, he catches her on the fourth floor landing and roughly wraps an arm around her waist, her back pressed against his chest. Lifting her off her feet, he swings her around. Chin over her shoulder he pants in her ear as he lets her get her footing again. "I came up the stairs. Now what?"

It sends a shudder through her. Breathless, her chest rises and falls. She places a hand over his around her waist and tilts her head back. His mouth meets hers.

Slicked lips, wet and warm, sliding over each other. A slight clank of teeth. Moist breath, and then a suckle. A linger. More wet, and then a slide of tongue, slipping across a lip.

Entering in. Tasting.

Beer, salt. Smoke. Coppery sweet. Oh so warm.

Sucking again.

Another breath. No, a sigh. A dizzying sigh.

Still clutching the cold bottle, her other hand moves over his, feeling the angles of his knuckles, the bone in his wrist. The sinews of his forearm contracting as he slides lower.

His free hand snakes across her throat, his mouth follows. Kissing away from her mouth, he sucks on the side of her neck, getting her to arch back into him. Warm, and soft, and tight, all at the same time. Suddenly, he adds teeth as his hand dives between her legs and gives a squeeze.

Reeling, her knees weaken. Her slackened body presses back against him even more. His erection presses against her hip, her knuckles whiten around the beer bottle. His hand at her neck snakes lower as she leans into the insistent sucking at her neck. It's like an electric current moving through her torso, from his mouth sucking to his hand firmly between her legs. The subtle volts passing in a mainline between the two points, hitting her spine on the way down, warming her then circling back up just as he sucks and squeezes again.

He wanders his hand down more, under her shirt, finding the edge of her bra with his fingertips. Lifts his mouth from her neck to take a look at her face. Eyes closed, mouth open, her whole body pressed against him. Ample breasts rising and falling as his hand between her legs makes her subtly squirm into him.

"Yeah, you like that, huh?" He taunts as he squeezes between her legs again and pulls her back against him. Drives his pelvis into her hip, the friction on his cock making him weak. He undulates again, slips his hand under bra. Running his fingers down across her nipple, he catches the nub and squeezes with both hands. One on smooth, soft flesh, the other trapped as she grinds her legs together and sighs.

Inhaling, he takes in her smell; some stale smoke, some pungent beer. A little sweet shampoo, some warm perfume. A hint of salty sweat. And all woman. *Girl*. Soft and curvy. Long hair and smaller bones. Sweet. *Girl.* Good.

Better. Better than he remembered.

So much sweeter than he expected.

"Yeah, baby, *I* like that," he growls to her and rubs against her again, squeezing and sighing, a slippery kiss to finish it off.

Nearly too much for her, she pulls away, breaking his holds on her. Turning around to face him she takes a gulp of beer and passes the bottle to him. As he raises it to his mouth she presses into him. Waits for him to drink then leans up for another kiss. Sliding a hand up his shirt, she feels across his stomach, hot and moist, hard muscles knotting under her hand. She slides down under the waistband of his pants. Sighing against his neck as he takes another pull on the bottle, no underwear in her way, she catches hold of his erection.

Fully hard, it's hot against her palm. She releases it and listens as he moans above her. With a single finger, she traces a line from the base to the top. Swirls across the head, then back down again. His head drops lower, nuzzling against her face, slight stubble scratching against her cheek, as he groans and wraps his arms around her waist again. "You like that?" She asks.

He mumbles something, she doesn't know what. So she tongues his mouth as she takes hold of him again. She can feel it pulsing and slides gently a couple times. Hot and dry; gentle, annoying pressure.

"Yeah, stroke me," he says and pulls her closer, shocks starting to move through him now. Unwittingly, he begins to gently rock, pumping into her hand. Tension starts to knot in the small of his back as he slurs out to her. "C'mon baby, stroke it good, get a rhythm goin there."

Miguel releases her waist with one hand and slides it down across his own stomach. Curling into her more, still rocking his hips, he places it over her hand. He adjusts her pace, sliding their hands up and down more quickly, squeezing a little more strongly.

Feeling his intensifying heat, his hitched breath as he pants against her neck, she backs up a little, still not releasing him but slowing the stroking, not allowing him to guide her anymore. "You want that?" She asks, waiting for him to come back down a little.

His eyes slowly open, dark lashes parting as he stares her down. She moves her hand down again, refusing to break his look. "You want that?" She smoothes her hand along his length again, then pulls it of his pants. Taking a step back, she leans against the landing door. "Or do you want this?"

Tongue between his lips, a crooked grin breaks across his face as he pumps himself a couple more times. She takes in the sharp angles of his face like that - - his square jaw, slightly offset, thicker bottom lip all puffy and slick, cocked brow challenging her. His cheeks dimple as the grin widens and he moves toward her, pulling his hand from his pants.

"I want this," he says and slides next to her. "Yo, definitely this." He sucks on her lips and smoothes his hand across her stomach.

"Then come on, *this* is going to the room," she says and pushes back against the door.

He's on her the whole way, pressed tight against her back and sucking on her neck as she fiddles with key card. When she gets the door opened he pushes behind her and they stagger in. Miguel turns her around to face him and presses her against the door. Leaning close, heavy breath, his eyes scan hers.

It's not a nod, not spoken out loud. Not a blink, or a sigh. But it's there. Nearly imperceptible, he picks up the "yes".

His mouth moves onto hers. Kissing her, lips and breath only. Then Cassady moves her hands, setting them on his sides and pulling him closer. That's enough to set him off again.

His tongue slides out and he takes her mouth. His hands start clutching and roaming, hers move under his shirt and push it up.

Hands on skin, throbbing pulses, moist hot breath. His shirt off, her nails rake over a nipple. His knee between her legs, mouth sucking her shoulder. Her legs wrapping around his waist, him lifting her and moving her around, nearly throwing her on the bed, climbing on top of her.

Her shirt off, one hand of his under her bra as he tongues her mouth again. In and out, sliding his tongue, fucking her mouth the way his cock aches to get inside her. More twisting. Zippers, a couple buttons. Wiggling and squirming as clothes and shoes drop carelessly to the floor.

Until there's nothing. Just skin on skin, head to toe. Bare against each other, pressed up close, curves and angles, muscles and soft flesh. Miguel moans, a deep rumble in the back of his throat as he slides one leg between hers and pushes outward against her knee. Opening her up for him.

Bodies burning, minds misty, she grabs hold of him, hot and hard. Her heart thuds hard and quick as his hand goes down too. Splitting her apart, his breath catches at how wet and ready she is.

Suddenly, her thoughts go pop. She releases him and squirms under him. "A skin, a condom," she pants.

"Uhhh," he groans, not really hearing her, sliding his hand again.

"Stop," she pushes on his shoulders and wiggles to sit up.

Sharply, "*What*?"

"A condom, we need one."

"Nah, man," he presses on her shoulder, trying to make her lean back again. "We're alright, I'm ok, really."

"No, no, huh-uh."

"Oh, fuckin, come ON. Let's *do* this already."

"Not like this, no." She wiggles further away.

Flopping onto his back, he bangs his head into the pillow. "You got one, fine, get it. I'll fuckin wear it, whatever."

"I don't have one."

"You don't have one?"


Snippy, "Why the fuck not?"

Sharply, she answers. "Why don't -you-?"

Too much pressure everywhere, Miguel grabs hold of his penis and looks at her. He pulls his hand slow and hard down the shaft. "Ok, so, just, like, gimme a blow job."

"Oh fuck you."

"Hey I'm fuckin tryin to fuck here, you know, you're the one puttin' it off." He starts to pump, fighting himself to keep from starting a rhythm. Meeting her gaze, he tries again. "C'mon baby, suck me off and I'll eat you." He waggles his tongue at her as he strokes himself again.

"I'm not doing shit until we have some protection."

"Gimme a fuckin break man, don't I look healthy to you?" He slides his hand again and flashes his eyes at her, suddenly aware of how she's watching him. "Yeah, look at my cock, looks good, don't it?"

Despite herself, she watches as he keeps slowly pulling on it. A hot flush hits her cheeks as she notices that he's watching her watch him. She turns away. "Fine, if you wanna lay there and jerk off instead of *fucking* go right ahead."

"FUCK." He releases himself and gets up, mumbling as he picks his pants up off the floor. "Fine I'll go. I'll go get one. Ain't fuckin never gonna fuckin come, all this stop and start *shit*."

"Um, if you're going to be an asshole like this, don't bother coming back, ok?"

As he pulls his pants on, he stops to look at her. "I'm an asshole? Is that it?"

"You're acting like one right now, yeah."

Defiant: "I'm bein an asshole."

She looks up at him and leans back on the bed again. Wrapping her arms around a pillow and slithering her torso against it, she looks up at him. He's watching her. "You're being an asshole, yes."

Sheepishly, very quiet, "Sorry." He blinks and zips up, hurriedly pulling his sneakers back on. He slouches toward the door as he pulls his shirt over his head, then stops and turns back around, going to the bed. "I'm takin a key, be right back." He slips the plastic card into his front pocket. Leans down and kisses her quickly before going back to the door.

When the door closes behind him Cassady exhales a whoosh of air and slumps back into the bed.

So Miguel ducks through the hall, rushing in every way. Inside, outside, the *itch* coursing through his heated blood, his skin yearning for it: touch. Just thinking about it in the elevator, he licks his lips and a shiver shakes him. Bone deep, something even stronger than the ghosts he's used to whispering through his skull, actual, physical touch. *Reality*.


He *had* it, and it was so much sweeter than he could have even tried to remember. And he can have it back again. He shifts his weight, restless and bubbling. All he did, all the corners he painted himself into. All the things he wanted and didn't want and had to do and didn't want to do - all his decisions and actions that he's regretted over the past couple years seem to recede a little with this little promise.

Even the past month, wondering why he bothered. Still feeling trapped, painted into a corner he didn't really pick, but knew he'd walked into anyhow. Escape.

For what?


That's just a word, a concept. A state of mind. It ain't something real, and what's the fuckin point of freedom when it's exactly the opposite but just a prison without any bars - a world of options with really no choices.

But *this* is what it's about. Something he actually *wants*.

Not a concept, but the actual reality. The reality of someone looking at him and seeing more than his mistakes and crimes, seeing Miguel instead of 97A413. Someone touching him, not cause they feel sorry for him, or cause they're trying to Cassk his ass. But cause she wants to touch him. She wants *him*.

And she's not a memory, an illusion behind his eyes as his own hand gets him off. Her breath, it's so soft and warm, tickling in his ear. Her hands roamed over his body, *all* over it. And the way she *felt*. His eyes close as he groans low to himself just thinking about it, dying to get back to it. *Inside* all that warmth and softness.

The doors ding open and he strides through the lobby, directly into the men's room down there, feels around in his pockets for cash and realizes he'll need some change for the machine. Which he doesn't see.

Ahhh, shit.

Rubbing his hand across his mouth he wracks his brain, grins smugly as he pushes out the door and weaves through the lobby and back toward the island bar. Sees it's cleared out, but the bartender's still there washing glasses.

And talking to Cassady's weird pain-in-the-ass friend.

He shakes his head and goes over anyhow, it's late, nowhere close around that he's aware of, just suck it up and do it man. He's sort of actually ENJOYING it as he walks over in fact. Leave NO doubt in the dude's mind about how far he got, that's sorta a perk. And fuck, her friend, Jackie? Yeah, she'll probably be annoyed by it too. Heh.

He saunters up, leans down and waits a second. "Yo," he says to get his attention.

"We're closed," the bartender absently calls over his shoulder.

"Yeah I just got a question man." He watches as Jackie walks away with an armful of bottled beers and a smirk thrown over her shoulder.

The bartender wearily strides over to him. "What can I help you with?"

And, well, yeah, that's the difference in a classy place, Miguel figures, even though they still got attitude they GOTTA deal with your ass.

And that's also exactly what throws him off a little - it's one thing to walk in a corner drugstore and pick up the condiments with your amigos around. Which he rarely did *anyhow* - which is actually one of the first bricks in his road that he built to right here today. Cause maybe if Maritza wasn't knocked up and he wasn't feeling all freaked about that he wouldn't have acted like a jackass and gone all macho on that old dude, and then he wouldn't have had to slice himself up, and then he still probably wouldn't have *cared* or realized how cool it is to have someone touch him that he hasn't fucked over or disappointed or hurt. And of course, there'd be no Rivera and Ricardo and he'd have never crossed paths with El Cid and without HIS death threats he'd have never bothered leaving Oz, cause maybe he'd have been paroled anyhow, but he wasn't. And then he wouldn't have even been in this valley. And if he'd been getting ANY he wouldn't have wanted to ditch out on his ride so's he could whack off (again without a condom, but wouldn't that be a bit over-safe?) in peace and then he wouldn't have ever met *this* hot chick. And if she wasn't all demanding he'd be just fine with going bareback in her, would prefer it in fact, but he'll give in cause if it's that or nothing he's not taking the nothing. So just *think* of how good it actually is, and how much trouble one stupid fucking Trojan could've saved him in the first place, and yet how he wouldn't be feeling like THIS right *now*.

Course, none of this is so much a line of thought to him as it is a *flash* cause right now isn't so much about making up for the past as it is about being right *now*. So --

"Um, yeah," Miguel stutters, not sure if there's a classy way to ask the question or not. He fidgets a second, leans down closer and lowers his voice. "Uh, I was wondering, if like, you'd know where I could get some, or buy some, I need to get.Is there anywhere near here..." *stop being a babbling jack-off Miguelito, you're cool, you're *getting* some, and she's HOT. "Condoms. Where can I find some condoms?"

The bartender just blinks at him for a second, then slides a beer in front of him. "That's from your friend who just left."

"Uh, thanks," he says.

"Sundry shop, down the hall, make a left," the guys instructs.

Miguel picks up the bottle and starts to back away, "Yeah, thanks man."

"Better hurry."


"Busy night, I just sent your friend there too, they don't stock a lot in there."

Miguel nods and moves away, thinking, *FUCK*.

As he bounds down the hall and gets to the door, he nearly runs right into Jackie, with her armful of beer, a fresh pack of smokes, and brand new, shiny, three-pack of condoms. "It was their last one," she says.


"Yeah, go check, last one, guess there's lots of people feeling amorous tonight," she says with a smile and starts to stroll off.

He looks back and forth from her to the store, then chases after her.

"I'll, hey, um, how about kickin down there," he asks.

Jackie halts and looks to the sky. "Ummmm, uh, No."

"Aww, come on man, you got a three pack there. I'll buy it off you even."

"Ummm. No," she says and starts to walk away like some sort of poster child for all the best human vices.

"They really all out in there?"

"Yeah, yeah they are."

"Well, you know anywhere else close I can go?"

"Right now, where we are, we're on a little piece of land right between three rivers. So unless you're a damn good swimmer, nope, nothing's close."

"Well, can I take your car?"

She just laughs at him and keeps moving to the elevator.

"Look. Ok. Please. Just one. ONE, you ain't gonna use all of 'em," he says.

"How the hell do you know what I'm gonna use?"

"Well, cause that dude's old and all."

She nods at him, "Uh huh, and you're young, you'll have other chances. Call Cassady tomorrow, I think she's free."

"I ain't GOT til tomorrow, man," he says, nearly pleading.

"Why? You dying or something?"

"No," he answers.

"You shipping out with the Navy?"

"No," he says, shifting his feet. KNOWING she's just loving fucking with him now. He KNEW she didn't like him.

"What, you on the run from the *law*?"

He works to not bristle at that, gives her a simple, "No," again.

"Well you can cuddle tonight, cuddling's very nice, very underrated."

"Ok, so. You don't like me, but."

"I don't dislike you," she cuts him off. "I just *like* fucking with you for some reason."

His jaw clenches. "What about *her*, Cassady, you like fucking with her too?"

She laughs at him and punches the button for the elevator. "No, I'm not fucking with her."

"Yeah, well, *she'd* appreciate it if you'd gimme one of them, sell me one of 'em, whatever."

"She would huh?" The elevator doors open and she gets in and hits the button. "Then how come she's not the one down here trying to get one?"


Six beers: (to chuckle over later) - 20 dollars.
Three pack of Trojans (at the overpriced hotel sundry shop) - 16.50.
The look on Miguel's face as he realizes he's fucked - priceless.

Some things in life, like inflicting non-damaging festering humiliation upon an arrogant hottie like Miguel, money just can't buy. But for everything else, there's Mastercard.

--End Jackie Bitchery --

The doors close as Miguel stands there fuming and brooding.

He makes the routine stop back at the shop to make sure she wasn't lying to him about that, asks the clerk there if there's anywhere close he can go find some. Once he's thoroughly resigned to the fact though, to the bitter defeat, he takes a slug of beer and begins to slink upstairs again.

For her part, as she waits upstairs, Cassady slides under the covers and settles in. Not even *close* to being sleepy though. She should be sleepy. She lies still for a few seconds to get a read on her own body, finally feeling just how buzzed she is. Wonders if that's not a big reason why she's naked under the covers and waiting for a guy whose last name she still doesn't know to return.

To fuck him.


She snuggles down further and pulls the covers up to her chin. It's just so, so, *something*. Something she's not used to, not sure she wants to get used to. Not like she wants to be *married* to have sex. Not even like she's trying to snag a boyfriend. But it's also just not so, well, casual for her. Generally.

But she *does* like him. A lot.

She likes the way he walks, the way he moves. And that's something more than just physical, isn't it? She reasons. Yeah he's *hot* - but his eyes. It's like, strange or something. Like when he looks at her he wants her to see him. Things he's letting her see, letting her in.

And doesn't *that* sound sappy as shit. Like you can really tell what someone's like by looking in their eyes. Because he looked in hers, so does that mean he knows *her*? Of course not. But, sort of. He knew she liked him from looking at her reactions. He read her right the whole way, almost like he knew she was wavering and didn't push. Or did push. Or did whatever he did.

What DID he do?

She wonders if it's him, or if it's* her*. She glances out the window into the inky dark. Sitting up, she pulls the blanket off the bed and goes to look at the view of the river and the lights twinkling below. Wonders which river it is below. If it's the weird one that runs south to north.

They aren't *supposed* to do that, most rivers run north to south. But this one does what it wants to do, almost like it had a choice and said, "fuck it, I like this better."

Maybe that's all she's doing right now.

For a change.

She could stop this. So what if he thinks she's a tease. She lays her forehead against the glass and wonders. A phantom tingle on her neck makes her smile.

*That's* what he did. His eyes cut through her, but his hands sent shivers up her spine. His tongue quickened her stomach with longing. An appetite for more. Shifting her legs, she wishes he'd get back already, knowing she won't change her mind.

Because it's one thing to want something, but entirely another to enjoy it so much when you've got it. And right or wrong, whether it makes her good or bad, she knows she was enjoying it.

Loving it

A knock on the door brings her back a little, sets the fever off again. As she's wondering why he's not using the key, she hears Jackie's voice through the door. "Cass, open up, it's me."

Pulling the blanket close she clicks the lock and opens the door halfway, peering out at her as Jackie hands her a beer. "Here, have a couple," she hands her another.

"What the fuck, man, I'm sort of *busy* here," Cassady says but grins.

"Ahh, save it, I know he's not here right now."

"He downstairs?"

"Yeah, here," she tosses a box past her and onto the bed. "You're gonna need those."

"Ok, thanks," she grins. "How long is he gonna be?"

Jackie laughs, "I don't know man, he thinks he's screwed."

"Are you fucking with him?"

"Oh hell yeah, I can't help it man. Good pick Cass, he's just so cute, really. Something about him just screams to be ragged on too. He takes it well too, gonna bite back before long though."

"You need a smoke or something?"

"No no, I'm good, I gotta get going. Oooh, you have ice in there? I could use some ice for these."

"Huh, uh, don't have any. What are *you* doing, where's The Sportscaster? Don't you want one of those?"

"Nah, he's gone. I'm gonna watch some tv and crash. But hey, I had fun, thanks for coming with me."

"Really, no problem, thanks right back."

"Yeah. Uh, you *are* gonna need those, right?"

Cassady looks down at the blanket around her and gestures. "Now get out of here before he's back." She watches her scamper back down the hall, checks for Miguel, and sees Jackie leave her room again. "What are you *doing*?"

"Ice," she waves the bucket. "Want some?"

She shakes her head and closes the door, goes and flops back on the bed. Waiting.

As Miguel drags through the long corridor he sees Jackie dropping ice cubes and entering her room. He's moving slow, trying to come up with *something* to say to get himself some action anyhow. Realizes how greedy he's being, *would* be heaven to just call it quits right now anyhow. But fuck that. He knows he'll start kissing her again, and then he'll want to do more than kiss.

"Excuse me, sir," a voice interrupts him.

He turns around, looks as miserable as he feels. Security. Swell. "Yeah."

"Sorry to bother you, but we had reports of someone smoking, uh, something in the elevator."

"Wasn't me man," he says defensively.

"Um, did you happen to see anything?"

Suddenly, a thought pops in his head. Snapping his fingers, he nods his head. "Yeah, know what? I went for ice earlier, and thought I smelled *marijuana* coming from that room up there." He points down the hall and nods his head.

"Really? You sure about that?"

Putting on his best concerned face, Miguel nods once. "Yeah, yeah, pretty sure, it was strong man, the smell. Pretty strong."

"Ok, thanks sir. Have a good evening."

Miguel turns before his smirk eats his face and pulls out the room key.

A hushed scrape of wood on carpet as the door moves open. Slowly.

His head hung low, he hears Cassady greet him.

"You get some?" She asks.

Dragging his eyes from the floor over to the bed where she's laying, he starts dying inside. It's dim light in the room, she's sprawled under a sheet, lying on her side, but he can see the curve of her hip, a bare shoulder.

Fuckity, fucking, fucker, FUCK.

He sighs heavily. "No."

"That's good," she says. Was going to drag it out longer but his slumped shoulders killed her. Turned her on a little too, but that puppy dog look was too much. "Cause we'd have too many then."

She tosses the box to him, watches as it registers.

"Where'd you get these?"

"The Condom Faery. Yeah, she stopped by right after you left. Apparently we've been very good to get all these."

It registers with him what he'd just done out in the hall then. "The Condom Faery huh? Maybe the Fuck Faery, how 'bout that one? Aww, shit, I think ." his voice trails off. Too late now. He grins anyhow, wasn't a *cop* man, just security, fuck it.


"Nothin," he answers, grinning, a laugh threatening to break through.


"Ok. So, like," he smirks but paces. "I mighta done somethin, I thought your friend was bein a bitch you know, and I was a little pissed off, so I..."

"What'd you do?"

Flopping onto the bed next to her, he tells her about the mall cop outside just now, and laughter bubbles out of her. Trying to pull her face into a serious look, she reassures him. "Don't worry about it, it's funny."

"Well ain't she gonna be all pissed off if she figures it out?"

"Hell no! She might even actually *like* you for doing it, she'll laugh."

"What if they hassle her or some shit?"

"Oh, I'm sure they will, but come on, it's hotel security, not the FBI, Miguel. Trust me, Jackie can handle a third-shirt security guard. She'll laugh."

"Well, long as you ain't mad about it..."

"I'm not mad," she coyly cuts him off.

"How are you doin?" He flirts back and inches closer.

She answers with a kiss. Leans in, hesitates for only a second, closes her eyes, and kisses him. Miguel parts his mouth and slips his tongue out almost immediately. Just a hint at first, but rapidly going deeper. *Finally*

*If Boxes Could Talk*
(or, the individual stories of three prophylactics contained in one box)


"UUUUHHHH...uhhhhh...uh," he groans, more with despair than anything else. A soft *whoomp* of the pillow as he throws his head back on it.

"It's, it's ok. Really. It's ok," she reassures him. "It happens. I guess. I mean, I've heard. I's ok." Doesn't really know what else to say. Just wonders if she still has to consider herself sleazy for just being *willing* to fuck a guy whose last name she doesn't know. Even if he couldn't really, um, get the job done. Cause, really, technically, she was fucking *around*, but certainly, CERTAINLY didn't fuck him. Of that she's sure. Not even close.



After about forty minutes of embarrassed apologies (from him), much heated and restless flopping around in frustration (from her), brooding (naturally, from him), and plenty of excuses (from both of them, cause she's just very kind and understanding like that), the beers being sucked down along with a couple more smokes, and separate showers (him, to collect his thoughts, try and get back on the horse and NOT be so over,um,*anxious* this time, and her, to basically waste some time) this is where it stands.

He's kissing and rubbing all over her again. And she's just enjoying it for what it is, cause it feels good, pleasant, if not exactly the *hot* and intense sort. But making out is never bad. And he's damn good at that. She wonders what he'd *be* like. Like earlier, she hadn't really paid attention, wished she could have at least seen his face.

But it happened so *fast* - she never thought of it, like he just got so excited and when she was finished getting the rubber on, she stroked him a couple times and he just SPILLED from the whole thing of it.

So she opens her eyes a couple times now and checks him out, with his heavy lidded eyes, soft moans going through her ears, figures he probably would have been good. Holds a faint hope maybe he'll get it together again, *keep* it together this time. Closing her eyes again, he climbs on top of her more, rolls her over and slides his hand between her legs, starts stroking her there.

Shy, she tries to wiggle away demurely, but he's insistent and firm, so she lets him. Before long, little waves of heat oscillate up her spine, carrying the fever right to her brain.

Unwittingly, she starts undulating into it, just letting the feelings intensify. Until she realizes she's *loving* it, she catches herself biting into his shoulder, making noises even as he sucks on her neck and keeps stroking away. She's startled at first, tries to catch her breath and stop herself.

Cause giving it up is one thing, but *wallowing* in it, reveling in it, that's entirely another.

But *he* keeps panting, and as she gives one last try at backing away, he moves against her again, his hand still going at her, mouth sucking at her neck, length of his body pressed against her. And against her thigh, she *feels* him - his hardness. So as he writhes and moves his hips against her, she lets herself go again, gets into it right with him. Rocks back and forth as she fumbles with one hand, gets hold of another little packet and starts tearing at it with her teeth.

Spits the corner away, hears him mumble in her ear, "Huh uh, you first this time."

She nuzzles into his neck as his shoulder moves up and down, proof of the work his hand is doing. He keeps talking to her, moist in her ear, sultry encouragements, "You're so hot baby, just let it go, c'mon. So *hot*."

Cassady curls into him more, neck and back taut with the tension, doesn't even realize how hard her fingers start to dig into his shoulders. And Miguel keeps panting away, as it gets *really* intense for her. Nudges his cheek against hers, kissing along her jawline, as he rubs against her some more, whispers to her in Spanish, "I wanna *see* you, show me, do it, this one's *yours*."

She blushes hot with that. Shudders overtake her, carrying the jagged waves all through her limbs, the hazy buzz to her head. When she can't take it anymore, she pushes him away, unknotting, relaxing, and catching her breath.

He won't go far though, basically just pulls his hand away and licks it off a little, then pulls something out of her hand. Realizing what it was, coming back to herself, she watches as he starts to unroll it over himself, instinctually reaches out to help.

Miguel moans low, a vibration in the back of his throat, then turns his heavy eyes back to her. "You ready? You want more?"

She nods at him, still breathing hard, heart just slowing down.

"You sure?" He asks, cocky. "You want this?"

Again, she nods and reaches for him, pulls him to her for another kiss. Tongues meeting, a slight clash of teeth, and she reaches down for him again, tries to pull him into her.

He halts her. "You want *me*?"

"Uh huh," she answers, still reaching for him, stroking him, pulling him toward her.

"You want me? Tell me. Say it," he says.

"Yes," she pants, arm around his waist, trying to get him wedged next to her.

"Say it all," he pleads. Pants it in her ear. "I want you so bad, *Cassady*. I want you *now*. Say it, say you want me."

Obliging, anything, she pulls him close and gives it up. "I want you. I *really* want you."

He moves closer, slides between her legs, presses the hardness right against her. Between kisses, still arrogant, "Again, say it again," he instructs. "Tell me what you want."

"I want this, I want *you*," she says. Directly in his ear, strongly, "La deseo. *Now*."

He presses and rolls into her, uses his body to move her down on her back. He grabs one of her hands in his, twines their fingers together, feels her still pulling on his waist, urging him in. Moving his hips, he gets himself aligned just right, sucks in a breath, and moves slow.

Wants to feel it the *whole* way. Warmth, feeling *so* good, it's ALL there is. Just THAT, as he keeps going, buried deep, his heart thudding against her chest, and all feeling centered *there* - mind totally obliterated.

All the way in, he shudders an exhale and melts down into her, holds still. Bites his lip, waiting a second, recovering, just locking it all away in some part of him to be able to call upon again. Realizes how tightly he's squeezing her hand, but just as he starts to ease his grip, *she* moves.

Pulls her knees up and twines her legs around his waist, and it rocks him. The action, the sensation it sends through his cock, subtly through his body. Wants *more* of that.

So he starts. Starts small, just with his hips at first, slight in and out, back and forth. Heats up quick though as she moves against him, pushing into him. He moves up onto his elbows for leverage, starts to go harder, deeper, more power to his thrusts.

Opening his eyes, he gazes down at her, sees her concentrating on him too, that sends quivers up his spine as his breathing goes shallow and quick. He tries to stay at each plateau, savor it while still feeling the *itch* and drive to keep kicking it up higher, get it just a little more intense. When she reaches up and drags a hand down his chest, razing her nails against his skin, lingering along a nipple, he reciprocates the same.

He kneels up, careful to not interrupt the stroke he's set, bends his mouth to her chest, kissing her neck, swirling along it, settling over an already hardened nipple and sucking. Still thrusting into her, he works it with his teeth, then sucks again. Sucks as he keeps pumping into her, the feeling getting stronger for him. Sucks even harder on the nub until she yelps in response, her fingers twining through his hair and pulling him up.

He knows he'll lose it soon if he keeps going like this, so he pulls her up to him for a wet kiss, silently encourages her to take control. So he flops back, pulls her on top of him, leans back and lets *her* set the pace. Loves the shocks running through him as she trembles and rocks back and forth above him.

They move like that, roll around and switch off an on to keep it high, keep it good, but not let it get *there*.

Finally, tired and ready, he settles her back again and decides to go for it. "You want it? You ready?" He hisses in her ear.

She nods against him so he drives deep, making her go breathless beneath him. He loves it. "You like that?" He thrusts again, hard and forceful, "Say my name, Cassady," he commands as he pulls away.

"Miguel," she pants and he drives in again, forcing a short gasp from her.

"Say it again,"

"Miguel," she obeys, stuttering as he goes deep.

"Migu-EL!" He hits it hard as she says it, sets the rhythm.

It's driving him crazy, all of it. She just keeps saying his name, and he keeps going in as she does, quicker, harder. Speeding it up so that he's thrusting and she's saying his name with every pant.

"Miguel," a hard thrust, "uh! Miguel, UH!"

'Til she goes wordless under him, only making *noise* as he shoves into her. He's burning up, sparking so intense he knows it's going to be soon. "I'm close," he growls in her ear. "I'm close, you close? So close, baby, so good, you're so hot," he babbles.

"Miguel," is all she says, he knows it's all she *can* say, and ooooh, that thought, her *squeezing* tight around him.

"Cassy," he answers and strokes, "I'm so close," rocking in. "Cassady," he strokes, "I'm gonna come." Strokes again, says her name, strokes, bends his head, grits his teeth, and drives in again.

He feels her trembling, her fingers deep in his slick skin. Slitting his eyes, he checks her out and it sets him over. He explodes into her as she spasms around him. The rush thunders up his spine, an exquisite silvery fevered high in his skin, his blood - seemingly his bones.

He slumps and pants as it starts to mellow out, still slightly jerking, almost reflexively, her contractions around him so good, drawing him out so hard it's nearly painful.

Her grip on him loosens and softens, and weak all through, he nuzzles down into her, cozying into the reassuring warmth of their wet bodies slicked together even as he starts to slip out of her. Lays there for a while, no idea how long. Feels her hands in his hair again, gently stroking him, another hand gliding up and down up his back. He knows he did good.

She wiggles a little under him. He gets the hint and moves to her side. Runs his tongue through his dry mouth and tries to form words again. "Guess that's sorta heavy," he slurs lazily. Content as she still snuggles against him. With some effort, he reaches down and strips the used skin off himself. Sticky, getting cold, he sighs, knows he has to get up. Get up, clean up, cover up.

Cassady raises her head, groggy, but getting cold. She lifts herself up, but Miguel presses her back down. "'Salright," he pats her shoulder, "I got it." And heaves himself up. Notices for the first time that they're upside down on the bed. He smirks. Grabs the pillows, hands her one, pulls a blanket off the floor and tosses it over her.

She's impressed with that. Even more impressed when he comes back from the bathroom and hands her a glass of water. Really impressed as he slides under the cover with a washcloth and gently smoothes it across her, cleaning her off. So impressed, she drops the remaining water and glass onto the floor as he settles next to her, gently rubs his nose against hers and gives her a soft kiss. He smoothes a few stray strands of hair off her face, rubs his thumb across the bridge of her nose, across her lips.

Sleepy, she fights it for a few seconds, fluttering her eyes open to look at him again. It's useless as his thumb strokes again though, she closes her eyes and drifts off.

Miguel holds her close as he dozes. Never minded cuddling, never really loved it either. Just did it, rolled away, and found his own space to sleep in peace. But the rise and fall of her breath is good to him. If he's really still, he thinks he can feel her heartbeat against him too. Considers the possibility it might really just be *his* he feels. Doesn't care. Just knows that she's warm, and soft, and alive, and sweet next to him, against him. Presence. A good one.


He don't know what wakes him up. He'd rather go back to sleep. Almost does. It's still dark out, figures he'd have plenty of peaceful hours. And she's still curled into him.

But that starts the questions going. Cause what's he supposed to do? Huh? Wake up, say thanks, give her a smirk, and then take off? No. That'd suck. Sucks *worse* to do this, just up and leave her. But it's easier.

Cause if she's *awake* - there's expectations.


Maybe he could get a phone number, at least her whole name. But what good would that do? Huh? He's supposed to tell her his name? Come up with more lies about why he don't have a phone? Why he doesn't have an address? Or just evade it all, just see her and offer nothing and walk away? Yeah. Right.

And if he DID get her number, wouldn't he wanna call it sometime? Wouldn't he get all bored and hyper and horny and lonely and do it? And what would that do?

No, these are the rules.

Rules *he* made. He's not in Oz, these aren't the rules of Em City. These are the ground rules he wrote by leaving Oz. Every choice he made, every thing he did, all that was expected that he fulfilled put him *here*. And by getting his freedom, he's strangled nearly every option available.

So he gets up.

Routinely pulls on his clothes, then roots around a little. Pulls out a pen and some of the hotel stationery. He sits there tapping the pen against the paper, fidgets with the corners of the paper, trying to come up with something. Sees a postcard laying there and fills that out instead as he stifles a chuckle.

Looks again at the paper, then his eye catches the unused condom on the floor, so he shuffles over and retrieves it. Glances over and sees her watching him. Busted.

She rubs her eyes and speaks hoarsely, moving her tongue around against her teeth. "You leaving, huh?"

Averting her gaze, he rubs his stomach as he gets her another glass of water. Comes back over and hands it to her, sits down next to her. "Yeah, um, I gotta, well, you know, it's just..."

"It's cool," she cuts him off and gulps again.

He never knows when to shut up. "Well, I'd like to stay. Longer. A little. A little longer," he whispers as he lays down again and pulls her close.

"You don't have to, you can go. Really."

"You want me to go?"

"I didn't say that, just, you *can* go. If you want, if you have to, I understand that, trust me, I do."

"Well, I don't wanna," he whispers as he reaches under the covers and strokes his hand down her back. "But, well, I think I should. I mean, I sorta have to and all."

She nods and meets his gaze with a slight grin. "What's your name?" He asks her.

"You *better* know my name," she taunts. "Didn't say it as much as I said yours, but you *better* know it."

"Cassady," he laughs. "I know that much. Cassady," says louder and nudges into her. Louder: "Cassady, *Cassady*, uh, *CASSADY*, UH," he keeps repeating more loudly and grunting, smirking smugly as he does.

She smacks him lightly, a laugh bubbling out of her as she does. "Fuck you, you making *fun* of me?"

"Nah, I'm just evening it up," he says.

"I wasn't keeping score."

Still grinning, he pulls the last condom out and sets it on her hip, still wrapped up. "Two down, one to go, 'ats the score."

She looks at him, he's looking at her, she *wants* to go for it, but as she just shifts herself a little, she's tired, soreness all through her muscles. "I think it's gonna stay that way too," she admits.

"Yeah, me too, man. Worn *out* over here. Tell you what, *Cassady*, you keep that, alright? You keep that, and I'm gonna find you someday and we'll put it to good use."

Smirking, unable to resist needling a little: "Yeah? Don't we need *two* then? Cause I know that first one didn't do me much good."

"Ouch!" He looks down shyly and protests. "That was harsh man. Harsh. You know, I think I redeemed myself from that."

She snorts and rolls over, hides a smile, but leans back into him, pressing her back against his chest as he spoons around her.

"Huh? Didn't I? C'mon, baby, if we're keepin score here I think we're both at two, ain't we now?"

Sleepy, she decides to let him have the tie and nods. Knows she's going to fall back asleep. Knows that he'll be gone when she gets up. Which is so much easier than her having to leave him.

Miguel waits until her breathing deepens, then lets himself go lightly under for a while too. When he wakes again, he glances to the window and sees the sky still dark but no longer pitch black. He putters for a few minutes, making sure he has all his stuff, which is almost nothing anyhow. With every move, his back and legs, even his arms try to recoil from the stiffness.

He loves it.

Sets down at the table again and scrawls a few words across the paper, dropping it on the bed near her. She's laying on her side, one hand peeked out, palm up, above the covers. Gently, he leans down and presses a soft kiss there, grins as her fingers wiggle a little as he moves away. So he runs his finger across her palm, tickling it, making her hand curl up even more. Whispers in her ear, "Alvarez. Just in case you cared, ever wanted to look for me. But, shit, you won't find me, I don't think. I dunno. Tell your friend she guessed right last night, that'll explain like, why I'm not getting your number or nothin. Cause I *want* to, you know, I wanna call you maybe, or something, but," he stops.

Her breathing's still deep, he's certain she's sleeping. How *lame*, he thinks. But, well, no one to know it's lame. So he leans close again, still whispering.

"Alvarez. Miguel Alvarez. Bye Cassady."

And then he goes.

Stops briefly in the lobby to drop the postcard in the mailbox there, stifling a laugh as he does it. Cause he's unaware that El Cid's already dead, stabbed in the neck by Rebadow back in Em City. So he unwittingly laughs in a dead man's face, taunting him that *he's* out and free, sending sunny greetings from the city of Pittsburgh.

Mostly funny because, for the first time since he left, he feels like he's got something to brag about. Rubbing a hand against his stomach, tongue at the corner of his mouth, he shivers a little as he pushes through the front doors and out into the misty morning. Lets the lonely cool of dawn settle deep into his skin as he walks on, still grinning a little.

He's not just surviving. Miguel Alvarez is still alive.

Cassady wakes up to knocking at the door, rubs her eyes and squints from the light. As she walks to the door her knees are weak and her legs whine in protest to movement. Fiddles with the lock and pulls the door open.

"Oh, so you didn't get busted after all, huh?"

Jackie frowns at her. "What a fucker, you know what a pain in the ass that was?"

Cassady chuckles as she pushes past her and perches herself in a chair. Lights a smoke and looks back over at her expectantly. "Well?"

"Well, what," Cassady answers, flopping herself on the bed with a groan.

"So'd you have fun?"

"Yeah," she grins back.

"He's gone huh?"

Cassady nods. "Yeah, it's cool though." She blinks and concentrates. *Certain* she wasn't dreaming. Like she'd pulled in and out of sleep, swam to the surface, then right back down, but heard a few words as she was up. Wracks her brain to remember it. Nothing.

"So come on, tell me about it," Jackie prods again.

Annoyed, "What, you want me tell you every single thing that went down?"

Shrugging, "*Everything*, no. But I wanna know if *he* went down."

Cassady wings a pillow at her as she laughs. "Shut UP."

Jackie giggles with her a second, then asks, "Seriously, you're cool? You had a good time? That's all that matters."

"Yeah," Cassady sighs.

"Think he'll call you?"

"No. I didn't give him my number. Or my name even."

"Wow, woman, that's not like you. Did he ask?" Cassady nods a yes, smiles and looks at the ceiling. "Wasn't he any good? You don't want to see him again?"

"Yeah, I guess I would."

"Do you have his number?"


"Hey now, what's that, maybe he left it for you," she says, pointing to the paper on the floor.

Cassady picks it up and grins as she reads it.

"So at least now you know he's not illiterate or anything," Jackie digs. "What's it say? Does he profess his undying love for you in it?"

Cassady passes it over to her, satisfied herself. "It just says 'Thanks'."

Laughing: "No, it says 'thank you - for a real good time'. Oh my God, Cass, you're such a slut," she taunts.

"Oooh, *fuck* you!

"Haa, I *can't* fuck you, I have your number already. And you know my name. Too much intimacy there for *you* apparently."

A bell dings in Cassady's head, sudden clarity. Certain she's not imagining it now. "I know his name. Yeah. Miguel. Miguel *Alvarez*."


Uh, you want a wrap up for me to explain it all? Give the moral of the story?

Not gonna happen.

Why? Cause I don't *want* to.