"What you mean, I gotta come back?" The client, Aaron Malkerson, leaned threateningly over the desk. Laura backed up until she hit the wall behind her, but Morgan stood her ground.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Malkerson, but there was a bit of a scheduling mix-up. We're so sorry for the inconvenience, but Mr. Levitt is downtown all day, deposing clients and witnesses. We're going to have to reschedule your appointment."
Morgan was trying desperately to hide her exasperation. Laura had made the appointment for Malkerson last Thursday, when Morgan had been at her interview, and the temp had been looking at the wrong page. She'd told him this Monday, but she'd written it on the schedule for next Monday. If she'd looked at the right week, Morgan thought, she'd have seen that Carl's downtown all week!
"We can reschedule for next week at this time," Laura said tentatively.
"What? Look, bitch, you the one who fucked this up?" Malkerson snarled, shaking the papers at Laura. "This thing's gotta be done by Wednesday, and you know how many buses I gotta take to get up here to do this? You think I can just get in the Escalade and cruise on up here, or what?"
Laura's eyes widened, and she looked as if she were trying not to cry. Morgan actually began to feel a little bit sorry for her.
"Mr. Malkerson, I know there's been a mistake, and again, I do apologize for that, but I really would appreciate it if you wouldn't talk to either of us like that, okay? Let me look at your paperwork, and we'll figure out a way to work this out."
He thrust the papers at her, and she took them and studied them. The deadline was clearly marked as this Wednesday, and she frowned. It wasn't like Carl to cut things so close. She felt a pang of guilt as she realized that part of it was the confusion of her departure.
She had no time to keep his schedule committed to memory; she was too busy trying to teach Laura everything she knew. Laura still had no idea of what his schedule was like -- nor, it seemed, did she have the inclination to try and learn -- and Carl was only good for remembering about twenty four hours worth of appointments.
"Let me call Mr. Levitt and see what can be done." Morgan glanced at her watch and stifled her sigh of relief as she realized she might be able to catch him between depositions. She glanced at Laura as she picked up the phone; the temp was shaking, her eyes focused on the ground at her feet. "Laura, why don't you go take your break, all right?"
Laura nodded and rushed out of the office as the phone began ringing in Morgan's ear.
"Carl, it's Morgan. We have a little bit of a problem."
He groaned. "What'd she do now?"
"Mr. Malkerson is here. His appointment was accidentally scheduled for today instead of next Monday, and the paperwork he needs filed is due this Wednesday, so rescheduling for next week is out of the question." She carefully avoided mention of who was to blame for the mistake -- not that there was a need to say it. Carl knew damn well whose fault it was.
"What? Crap!" There was a pause, and then he came back, his voice annoyed. "Look, ask Aaron to wait, I can be up there in twenty minutes; the arbiter postponed my next deposition until this afternoon anyway. Dammit, there goes my lunch break."
"Okay, I'll let him know. See you in a little bit." Morgan hung up and turned to Malkerson, who was looming menacingly over the desk again. With one glare from her, he backed off. Slightly. "Mr. Levitt will be here in twenty minutes to meet with you," she told him. "He's very sorry about the mix-up."
Malkerson scowled and dropped into one of the visitor's chairs. "Whatever."
The silence in the office stretched out until Morgan's jaw and back were tight from the tension. Laura had still not returned to the office by the time Carl arrived, and Morgan was beginning to lose any brief sympathy she'd had for the girl.
Carl came bustling in. "Mr. Malkerson, I'm so sorry for the mix-up and the delay. Why don't you go have a seat in the conference room, and I'll be right with you, okay?" Without waiting for a reply, he turned to Morgan. "Where's Laura?"
"She's on her break," Morgan said tightly. "I sent her on it right before I called you."
His eyebrows shot up in surprise. "And she's still gone?" He sighed. "Why don't you go see if you can go find her -- the office should be okay for a few minutes with no one up front."
He stalked to the conference room after his client, and Morgan reluctantly began searching for the wayward temp. She checked the building's break area, the restroom, and the roof before finally finding Laura out behind the building's back entrance, frantically smoking a cigarette. There were butts littering the ground around her. Morgan glanced with irritation at the ash bin not three feet away.
"You could at least throw them away instead of littering all over the place," she said, and Laura jumped.
"Is he gone?" she asked Morgan, and Morgan shook her head.
"He's in the conference room with Carl. His paperwork won't take long, though. It's okay, you know," she said, trying to console Laura. "Mistakes happen sometimes."
Now that she wasn't threatened by his presence, Laura's terror had begun to transform into rage. "He called me a bitch!" she spat, throwing down yet another cigarette butt. Morgan stepped on it to extinguish it as Laura added, "I don't have to take that!"
Well, if the label fits... Morgan sighed. "Look, this job isn't easy. Carl doesn't always take on the most civilized clients. You'll be called names, and leered at, maybe even groped -- though I'm hoping Carl will put a stop to that -- so if you can't handle it, you'd better leave."
Laura defiantly peered up at her through heavily mascaraed eyelashes. "Well, if you can handle it, I'm sure I'll be able to."
Whatever, bitch, Morgan thought, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. "Come on, we can't leave the office unattended."
Malkerson was already leaving by the time they both returned to the office. He came out of the conference room, glared at them both, and slouched out of the office without saying another word.
Carl came out and glanced from Morgan to Laura and back again before going into his office and shutting the door. After a moment, Morgan followed him and knocked softly on the polished wood.
"It's Morgan," she said quietly, and he mumbled for her to come in.
He was sitting in his desk chair, both elbows on the desk, his head in his hands. He briefly looked up at her entrance before hiding his face in his hands again.
"You okay?" she asked, re-closing the door behind her.
"No," he muttered. "Morgan, you can't -- this is crazy, I don't know what's going on with my clients, I have no idea where to find anything -- this place is going to fall apart without you. It already is! I've taken you for granted, and you've never said a word."
"You'll be fine, Carl -- and part of what happened this morning is my mistake. I didn't check Laura's work when I got back last Thursday -- if I had, none of this would have happened; everything would have been fine."
"And who's going to check her work next week?" Carl countered, and his expression suddenly grew pleading, his tone wheedling. "Come on, Morgan, I don't suppose you could stay another -- "
"I can't, Carl," she broke in. "I've thought about that, believe me. But I've already accepted another position."
He stared at her in shock. She had thought about staying another week, just to help him get the office in order, and if she hadn't had anything lined up, she might have done it. But she was scheduled to train this weekend, and if all went well, she was expecting to begin at the park next week, so staying on to help Carl was impossible.
"You're serious," he said finally. He looked as if he'd been punched in the gut.
"I am. I'm sorry."
After a moment, he nodded. "Okay," he said, weakly gesturing to his door. "Why don't you take your lunch, Morgan? Now's a good time, before I have to go back downtown."
When he nodded again, she turned and headed back towards the door.
"We'll be fine without you," he said with determination, and she stopped short but didn't turn around. He was trying to convince himself, she knew, and he wasn't just talking about while she took her lunch.
After a moment, Morgan sighed and said, "I hope so, Carl," and walked out.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When she got back from lunch, Laura was nowhere to be seen -- again -- and Carl was sitting at her desk, scribbling notes on a legal pad. He looked up at her entrance.
"Hi," he said, "Have a good lunch?"
"It was okay -- where's Laura?"
He looked sheepish, and alarms began to go off in her head. "She's gone," he said.
"Gone?" she repeated, and he nodded. "What do you mean gone?"
"I sent her back to the agency."
"What? Carl -- "
"Come on, Morgan, you and I both know she didn't have the knowledge or the attitude for this job. It was only a matter of time." He was looking down at his notes, avoiding her gaze.
"So why didn't you send her back last Tuesday? Or Wednesday? Carl, I just spent a week training her!" She dropped into the visitor's chair on this side of the desk and ducked her head, forcing him to look her in the eye.
"I didn't think you were actually going to leave!" His expression somehow managed to be both bold and ashamed.
"I told you I was -- I can't believe -- didn't you believe me?"
"I didn't want to, Morgan, but this morning you gave me no choice." He slammed his pen down onto her desk. "Look, it's done, okay? We both know she would have quit in a couple weeks anyway -- this gives you a few days to train someone new. The agency will be sending someone either this afternoon or tomorrow."
"Carl, I can't train someone in four days."
"You were doing good with Laura," he argued, and Morgan snorted in disbelief. "Well, as well as can be expected, since she didn't want to listen to you."
"I will teach her -- whoever she is -- as much as I can in four days. But don't expect me to come in early and leave late just because you were too stubborn to fix this last week."
Carl set his jaw, his dark eyes blazing. "I am still your employer," he said quietly.
She raised her own chin, returning his glare. "You're right. You are. And if you'd like to let me go today, because of my insubordination, I'd certainly understand."
It was a threat, and they both knew it. She already had another job lined up, and if she left right now, it would cause a serious amount of damage, none of which would affect her. He'd been acting like a child about her departure, and things had now come to a head.
The standoff continued for a minute before Carl finally backed down. "Okay. It'll be okay -- I asked them to send me someone with a little more experience this time, so four days should be plenty of time to teach whoever it is the basics. Now, I have to get back downtown, so I will see you tomorrow morning. If the agency sends someone this afternoon, give me a call on my cell phone and let me know whether or not you'll think they'll work."
He stalked out, leaving her no chance to reply.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
By Wednesday evening, Morgan was exhausted. Monday afternoon, the agency had sent over a very nice, extremely intelligent, stern looking, older woman named Audrey, who'd been a secretary in her youth. Now that her youngest child was in college, she was going back to work to give herself something to do. Morgan would have been afraid for her among the lowlifes and thugs Carl typically represented, but something about her told Morgan that Audrey could take care of herself.
"I've studied martial arts," Audrey had mentioned in the midst of one conversation, and Morgan had been relieved, but not surprised.
Despite her words to the contrary, Morgan had come in early and stayed late to help Audrey, and now she could barely make it home, yawning every thirty seconds or so. She knew she'd be wrecked by Friday, and the idea of getting up at three in the morning on Saturday for training made her want to weep.
She was staring blankly into the refrigerator, trying to decide what to make for dinner, when there was a knock on her front door. Her brow knitted in fatigued confusion as she continued staring at the shelves of food. When the knock came again, she finally shook herself out of her fugue and went to the door.
Adam was on the step, and she smiled tiredly. "Hey, Adam, what's up?"
"Saw you come home and I was wondering if you wanted to come over for dinner. Dean cooked some pasta -- way too much -- and we were wondering if you'd like to help us eat it."
"He cooks too?" she said with a smile.
Adam's smile faded, and he stepped inside without asking, pushing her aside a little and closing the door.
"Look, that's another reason I wanted to talk to you. I noticed him over here this weekend, and he spends a lot of time staring in this direction."
"He does?" Morgan couldn't help it -- her smile widened.
Adam scowled at her. "I know I don't have to warn you about him -- you're a smart girl, and I'm sure you're just flirting for the fun of it. But back in school, Dean had a reputation as a hell of a player, and I don't want anybody to get hurt."
She raised an eyebrow. "School? That was a while ago, Adam. I'm sure we've all changed a lot since then."
He glanced around cagily. "Hmm. I don't know about him. People don't change that much." When she stared at him for elaboration, he shrugged. "I have my reasons for my doubts, okay? I just don't want anyone to get hurt. He turns on that charm, and people get flattened by it."
Morgan stared at him, perplexed. Dean hadn't been anything but sweet to her -- not to mention a little shy, which only deepened her confusion. She wouldn't have been surprised to find out that a guy as good looking as Dean was a bit of a rogue, but she'd seen nothing in his actions or his demeanor to support it. In fact, he seemed to spend a lot of time at home, by himself. And if he was that much of a womanizer, how could Adam disapprove and still be friends with him?
It was too much to process in her worn out state. There was one thing she could ask about, though. "If you came over to warn me about Dean, why invite me over to dinner with him first?"
"Can't I invite you to dinner? It's my house! I do consider you a friend, too, you know, and we rarely get to talk anymore."
She shook her head to clear it. "Of course. I'd love to, Adam, but I'm not sure I'd be good company tonight."
He eyed her critically. "You do look exhausted."
She rolled her eyes. "Thanks."
The memory of Dean bumblingly telling her she looked a little tired on Sunday night came back to her, and she smiled, but it faded into a frown as she thought about what Adam had just told her. She definitely didn't want to see Dean now, if she looked as bad as Adam said she did. But she was so tired, and cooking anything was not a pleasant prospect.
"Come on, come have dinner with us -- you probably shouldn't be in the kitchen right now anyway," he said with a laugh, knowing of her lack of cooking skills. "It might be dangerous."
"Shut up," she said, following him out the door and across the lawn.
Dean briefly stuck his head out of the kitchen and nodded politely to Morgan as they entered.
She stared mindlessly at Adam's TV while dinner was finishing cooking, and Adam wisely left her alone to her thoughts while he set the table.
Dinner started quietly enough as they sat around the table. When she asked Dean how his day had gone, his face darkened as he growled something about spineless customers and idiotic truck drivers with an attitude who couldn't find their ass with both hands, a map, and turn by turn directions.
Morgan and Adam glanced uneasily at each other and went back to their food.
"I'm sorry," Dean said with a sigh. "I just had a tough day. I'm still learning how to leave the stress at the office. It would probably help if they didn't call me on my cell phone after office hours, but what can you do? I hope your day was better than mine."
She smiled. "It was okay. Just very tiring. I'm training someone to take my place, and even though this one is a lot more capable than the last person they sent, it's a lot to do in a few days."
"How's Carl taking it?" Adam asked, tearing off a hunk of garlic bread.
She laughed softly as she reached for her wineglass. "Better than he was before, but still not well. This is very good, by the way," she told Dean, gesturing to her plate.
"Thank you. You told me all about your new job," Dean said, "But I don't think I know what you do now. I think Adam mentioned office work."
"I work for an attorney," she told him, and she smiled as he made a face. "Carl's one of the good guys -- he needs lessons on how to choose the right clients, but he's all right."
"He needs to tell his slimeball clients to keep their hands off," Adam added darkly, and Morgan glanced at him. She hadn't mentioned Valish to him, so he must have been talking about the other times it had happened, when she had mentioned it. In private. Not at the dinner table, in front of his really cute friend.
Dean looked confused. "What do you mean?"
Morgan tried not to be annoyed at Adam for bringing it up. "Some of Carl's clients have roaming hands, that's all."
Now he looked alarmed. "They've touched you? Does your boss know?"
"He is not unaware of the situation," Morgan said wryly.
"And he doesn't say anything?"
She shrugged. "That's one of the reasons I'm leaving. But I think Audrey -- the new secretary replacing me -- will probably browbeat him into saying something if anything happens. If anything happens -- she's in her early sixties, and she looks like a schoolmarm. Plus, she knows tae kwon do -- she can take care of herself."
Morgan glanced at Dean's face -- his expression was stormy, his eyes dark, and she was surprised by his anger. Nothing Adam had said earlier made any sense to her, but she couldn't ignore it -- why would he say something unless he truly was worried for her? She shook off her doubts.
"I'm okay," she said, placing a hand on his arm. The muscles were taut under her fingers. She smiled weakly. "It's just a pinch here and there. Idiotic customers, you know how it goes."
"Mine don't grope me," he grumbled, but at the realization that she could see his anger, he calmed down. There was an awkward pause, during which Morgan removed her hand from his arm, which only made things more awkward.
Finally, Adam said, "Well, my day sucked too. The girl I hired last week missed a day of work today because she had to do a group study or something for her AP exams -- Jan wanted me to tell her to come anyway, but I'm not going to screw up her chances to get into a good school, especially during our slow season. And of course, it turned out to be the busiest day we had in months!"
Morgan and Dean made sympathetic noises as they continued eating. Adam managed a small comic book and gaming store in the local mall, having started as a stockroom boy when he'd been a teenager. The owners, a couple named Harry and Jan Ryerson, loved him and pretty much gave him free reign over the shop.
"And then Devon -- you remember Devon?" he interrupted himself to ask, and Morgan nodded. Devon had been the boyfriend right before Paul. "Devon called me -- at work, no less! Just to see how I was doing, he said. And by the way, do you have three hundred dollars I can borrow? What the fuck ever, Devon. But still no word from Paul." Adam sighed unhappily.
Morgan looked down at her plate, avoiding his gaze. Paul was somewhere in South America with a handsome ethnobotanist, and she was sure Adam was the last person on his mind.
"And then the bank called to tell me the house note was late again -- it was only two days late, but late is late, so of course there's gonna be a huge finance charge. They're freaking vultures, I tell you, Morgan, you're so lucky your house is paid off."
Morgan blinked, feeling like she'd been slapped. The awkward pause returned, more vicious than ever.
"I am so sorry, Morgan," Adam said in a hushed tone, after a moment. "That was completely and totally insensitive of me."
She looked up to see him staring apologetically at her. Dean's fork hovered over his plate as he glanced from Morgan to Adam. He seemed aware that something was going on, but it was clear he had no idea what it was.
"It's okay, Adam, I know you didn't mean it like that," she said smoothly, trying to pretend that his words hadn't affected her, and hoping they could just move on.
"It just slipped out! You know I would never -- "
"Adam! It's okay. I know," Morgan said stiffly, but one look at Dean's confused face and she knew swiftly moving on wasn't an option.
She took a deep, shaky breath and turned to Dean, who'd lowered his fork and was staring at her in concern. "My house was paid off after the deaths of my parents and my older brother, about three years ago."
His dark eyes flooded with sadness and sympathy. "I'm so sorry. Adam mentioned there had been... a car accident, I think."
Morgan smiled mirthlessly, glancing at Adam, who still looked crestfallen. "I suppose you could put it that way. My parents and brother were out to dinner, and a drunk driver came up over the curb and into the front of the restaurant. My parents were killed instantly. My brother lived -- if you could call it that -- for three days."
Staring down into her plate again, she fought back the tears that still came with the memories. "I didn't go with them because I had class that night. It was my brother's birthday. We all had... a disagreement about it."
When she was sure the tears would remain at bay, she glanced up. "I don't much care for restaurants anymore," she said after a moment, her voice shaky.
Adam was the one staring into his plate now, and Dean was staring at her, his dark eyes wide and haunted, his mouth slightly open.
"I'm so sorry, Morgan," he whispered again. His hand, resting on the table, twitched slightly, as if he longed to reach out and console her somehow but didn't know if it would be welcome.
Aching for a comforting touch, she shrugged and cleared her throat. "Thank you. Well, now that I've ruined dinner, I should probably get going."
They both made sounds of protest, and she shook her head. "No, it's okay. I'm pretty tired, I should go anyway."
"Let us walk you home, at least," Dean argued, and Adam nodded his head.
"I think I'll be safe on the long walk home," she said, touched and more than a little amused.
"You never know, there could be dangerous fiends abroad tonight," Dean said seriously, and she couldn't help but smile. He looked insanely proud of himself for making her smile, and again she thought of Adam's words and was confused.
"I think I'm looking at them," she said, and they both looked wounded. "Come on, then."
The grief and the memories were still churning in her, but she was aware enough of her surroundings to realize she was walking between two very handsome men, and that there were plenty of people who'd love to be in her shoes at the moment.
At the door, she turned and thanked them both. Dean reached out and gently touched her hand with his.
"Any time," he said softly.
The small gesture touched her more than anything had in a long time, and she did her best to ignore Adam's frown as she smiled at them both. Bidding them good night, she turned and went inside.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Thursday passed uneventfully, if busily, and her last day arrived. To thank her for all her hard work during the week, Audrey proposed taking Morgan out to lunch. Morgan refused, but Audrey, thinking she was merely being polite by refusing, continued to press her.
Morgan's nerves were already shot -- though she was glad to be leaving, she knew she would miss her colleagues. Audrey's unrelenting insistence and the idea of having to eat in an unfamiliar restaurant sent her anxiety into overdrive.
"How many times do I have to say no?" she snapped, and then, unable to bear the hurt look on Audrey's face, she stormed out of the office.
Morgan stared at herself in the bathroom mirror. She was exhausted, and under the unflattering fluorescent lights, she looked awful. Her dark brown hair, normally shiny even when it was up in a bun as it was now, looked drab, and her eyes looked dull. Her skin was sallow. She thought of Dean, and how handsome he always looked, even when he was tired, or angry -- especially angry, there was an intensity about him that drew her inexorably to him -- and of the little half-smile he always seemed to have on his face whenever he talked to her.
She wondered why, wondered about him, about his sincerity, about the things Adam had said about him, and Adam's evasiveness. She didn't really know him, she'd only talked to him a few times, and yet, she couldn't help the strange flutterings she felt whenever she thought of him.
"Oh, boy," she muttered. "You've got too much on your plate right now to be falling for anyone, especially a guy who might only be trying to get into your pants!"
She tried to remind herself of that fact, but it only made the flutterings grow. She sighed, brushed her bangs off her forehead, and returned to the office.
Audrey was staring at the surface of the reception desk when Morgan came back in, and Morgan sighed.
"Look, Audrey, I'm sorry," she began, but the older woman cut her off.
"No, no, honey, it's okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push," she said, and there was sympathy in her eyes that hadn't been there before. Morgan glanced at Carl, who was watching her nervously, and she wondered how much he'd told Audrey.
"We're compromising," he said lightly. "I'll order in Chinese."
Morgan smiled. "That sounds great," she told him sincerely. It did sound great. A million times greater than trying to force down food in a restaurant setting.
The door banged open, and Holly came in. "Oh, good, you didn't go anywhere for lunch!" she exclaimed. She lowered her voice unconsciously, though who she was trying to keep from hearing, Morgan didn't know, since Carl was standing right there. "I skipped my last two classes to come spend the afternoon with you."
Audrey gasped and Carl said, "Holly!"
The girl rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. It's PE and Computer Skills. The first I don't care about, and the second I can make up in fifteen minutes!"
Lunch was pleasant, and Morgan spent most of the afternoon watching over Audrey as she answered phones and made appointments and dealt with clients, but she was a quick learner, and there were no problems. Holly filed, but the three women spent most of the time just talking as Morgan cleared out the last of her personal belongings.
Sadness was creeping in, but she was used to keeping that at bay, and she tried to keep things light.
When five o'clock came, Holly gave her a tight hug, and when she pulled away, Morgan could see tears in her eyes. "You take care of yourself, okay, Mor?"
"You too, Holly. And you have my cell number, so you call me if you ever need anything, okay?"
When the girl nodded, Morgan turned to Audrey. "That goes for you too. If you ever need to know where anything is or anything like that -- Carl isn't likely to be able to help you -- just give me a call, okay?"
"We'll be fine, dear."
She turned to see Carl standing at the door of his office. When she reached for his hand, he pulled her into a hug. She hugged him back, blinking quickly to keep her tears away.
"Thank you for everything. I know things have been rough lately, and I acted like a child, but I have always appreciated everything you've done for me. You take care of yourself, and I wish you the best of luck."
"You too, Carl."
"I hope you'll never need it, but you call me if you ever need my help."
She laughed. "I hope I never do either, but if I do, you'd be the first person I'd call."
Picking up the box of her personal belongings, she headed out the office door for the last time.
Morgan managed to hold herself together until she was about halfway home. When things got too blurry to see, she pulled over and had herself a good cry.
The sadness was about more than leaving Carl and Holly, people she considered closer than mere coworkers. It felt as if she were cutting another tie to the happy, stable life she'd had before her world had fallen apart three years ago. The past suddenly seemed to be slipping away from her at an alarming rate.
"Oh, God," she moaned, struggling to compose herself. "I can't... c-can't breathe."
Breathing as best she could through her tears, she waited for the sobbing to subside. Once it had, and she was dealing only with the occasional hitching breath, she wiped her face with a tissue and finished the drive home.
There was something on her front door, and she was sure it hadn't been there in the morning. She rolled her eyes at the thought of yet another advertising circular. At least she hadn't been home to be disturbed by a solicitor.
Setting the box of stuff from the office on the kitchen table, she headed for the door. The object fell as she opened the door, and she barely managed to catch it. It was a pinkish yellow rosebud from the bush one of Adam's exes had planted in their backyard -- she recognized it immediately, since she'd always thought those roses were particularly beautiful. There was a note attached.
Just wanted to wish you good luck tomorrow,
Adam and Dean
Morgan smiled. She knew what Adam's handwriting looked like, and that wasn't it. She clutched the rose, breathing in the scent of it as she went to find her mother's favorite afghan. She planned to curl up in it, call Cassidy, and have a long talk about everything and nothing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Let myself in. Sorry I'm late," Morgan said as she came into the living room of the Garcia home, receiving indignant shushes from Diego, Zach, and some guy she didn't recognize, who was cuddled up with Jeremy. She glanced at the TV and groaned when she saw Adam Sandler on the screen in a football uniform.
"The Waterboy again?" she whined.
"It's a classic!" Diego argued.
"Sure it is."
"How'd it go?" Cass asked, glaring at Diego when he shushed her too. She smacked him on the back of the head as she got up and headed towards the kitchen. Morgan followed her, and Jeremy excused himself, disentangling himself from his date to make his way towards them.
They grabbed sodas from the fridge and went into the spare bedroom. Cassidy took the armchair while Jeremy hopped up on the bed. Morgan moved much more slowly, leaning tiredly on Jeremy's shoulder.
"You look wrecked," he told her.
She laughed. "Thanks! Everyone's telling me I look tired these days."
"Lotta change going on," Cass observed, and Morgan nodded, taking a sip of her soda.
"Looks good," she said, glancing up at Jeremy's hair, which was newly spiked and tipped light blonde.
He shrugged. "Thanks. Needed a change."
"New boy?" she laughed, knowing that was Jeremy's usual reason for a change of appearance. "He's a hottie."
"So how'd it go at work?" he asked, skillfully evading her question and observation.
"Day started off great," she said obligingly, acknowledging his evasive maneuver with a wry smile. "Woke up fifteen minutes late so I was rushing around and freaking out and then on my way to the park I realized I was out of gas. So I stop to fill up, and of course, I get the damn pump that clicks off after every gallon."
"I hate that!" Jeremy exclaimed.
"I know," Morgan agreed. "And why does it always happen when you're in a hurry? And of course the second one didn't work until I held it down. So I'm nervously dancing around, holding the stupid thing on so it will work, and I'm thinking, ‘Great. This is a perfect start to my day and my new career.'"
Cassidy patted her hand consolingly, and Morgan laughed. "Thanks. I finally get to the park and I'm still nervous as hell, and I'm showing my brand spanking new ID to the gate guards in the parking lot and I'm thinking they're gonna tell me I don't belong there and get the hell out, but they didn't. So I made it to Costuming -- "
"Costuming? You're in a costume?"
Jeremy's face was entirely too amused, and Morgan socked him lightly in the stomach. "No ‘uniforms' at Disneyland. Everyone wears costumes."
"Oh." He looked put out.
"Nice to see you'd like me humiliated."
"What are best friends for? So is your ‘costume' made up of bright primary colors?"
"I work Space Mountain. You know what they wear there."
"Oh, those are no fun."
"Hello, I wanna hear the rest of the story. Shut up, Jer."
"So I finally found Space Mountain from the back -- Disneyland looks very different from backstage, especially at four a.m., and I got there right at four thirty. The guy I was training with -- Micah -- he didn't get there until four forty five, and by then Matt was a little annoyed. Micah said he couldn't find us." She grinned in triumph. "So I was the good student from the start."
"Oh, he's my trainer."
"Is he cute?" Jeremy inevitably asked, and Morgan considered the question. "You have to think about it?" he asked her when the pause lengthened.
"Well, yeah. I wasn't ogling him -- he was teaching me things I need to know for my job. Which is weird, ‘cause he's younger than us. I mean, yeah, Carl isn't that much older than I am, but Matt's a couple years younger. But yes, to answer your question, he's cute."
"Cuter than Dean?" Cassidy asked, her eyes twinkling.
"No," Morgan replied instantly, her face flushing.
"That was quick!" Jeremy said. "I think I definitely need to see Dean now -- you've both been talking about him for days."
"To see Dean, you'll probably have to see Adam," Morgan warned, and Jeremy groaned. He disliked Adam intensely. Morgan had been worried when she'd first gotten to know Adam that he and Jeremy would hit it off, and she'd never get rid of Adam. But she hadn't given her friend enough credit, and he'd be horrified now if she told him she'd worried about that.
"Never mind, then," he said hastily.
"Well, hopefully if you and Dean hit it off, then Adam won't be around as much," Cassidy said, and Morgan stared at her.
"I think you're jumping the gun just a little. We've barely even talked." She didn't mention Adam's warning to her -- she still didn't know what to think about it -- and she didn't mention the previous night's rose. She didn't know what to think about that either. But it was resting in a bud vase on her nightstand, and just the thought of it brought a smile to her face.
"We'll see," Cassidy said, grinning as she saw Morgan's smile. "So was it hard today?"
"Wasn't really hard, just a lot to remember. And I'm a little afraid -- I don't want to be responsible for any accident -- especially one that hurts people, you know? That was one of the reasons I was iffy about doing attractions to begin with. What if I screw up and someone gets hurt because I didn't know what I was doing?"
Jeremy threw his arm around her and squeezed her. "You're smart. You'll be okay, and I give you a week before you're the best at what you do there."
"Absolutely," Cassidy agreed. "I don't think you'll have any problems. But if you're unsure of something, definitely ask!"
"Thanks, guys. And I will."
"What are you guys doing in here?" Diego said, poking his head into the room. "You aren't going to watch the movie?"
"Not like we haven't seen that one half a dozen times," Cass told him.
"It's over now, we're picking another one -- Patrick's wondering where you went," he told Jeremy.
"We were hearing about Morgan's day."
"Was it a good one?" Diego asked Morgan.
She shrugged. "I think so. I still have a job."
"We'll let you pick the next movie, in honor of your new job," Diego said with a laugh.
She grinned. "I'll have to take a rain check on that. I just wanted to stop by and say hi to everybody; I have to get home, another early morning tomorrow." She turned to Jeremy. "Who's this Patrick anyway? Do I know him?"
Jeremy shook his head. "Met him at a party a couple weeks ago. Friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, you know? We're not really serious, so I probably shouldn't leave him at the mercy of my friends. God knows what you'd tell him."
Cassidy cackled evilly and hurried out of the room, and Jeremy yelled, "Cass! Wait! No!"
He sighed and hurried after her. Morgan looked at Diego, shaking her head as she followed the pair of them.
"They're nuts," she told him.
"They're your friends."
"You married one of them!" she shot back, and he laughed.
Cassidy, Jeremy, Patrick, Zach, and his fiancée Mandy were having a lively argument over which movie to watch next when Morgan and Diego walked back into the living room.
She shouted her goodbyes over the din, and they all stopped the spirited debate to say bye to her.
"Call me!" Cassidy told her, and Jeremy said, "Say hi to Dean for me."
"He'll appreciate it," Diego said with a smirk.
Morgan rolled her eyes. "Good night, everyone."
She could hear the argument heating up again as the door shut behind her, and she laughed as she made her way to her car.
On to Chapter 4