Playing with the popcorn in her bowl, Morgan sighed as Cassidy and Jeremy laughed at the familiar scene on screen. Cass turned her head to look at Morgan, and then she paused the movie.
"Okay, what is up with you?"
Morgan glanced at her, startled. "What? Nothing, put the movie back on."
Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Please, it's not like we haven't Clue six hundred times. If there were other people here, I might be worried about annoying them, but it's just the three of us. What's bothering you?"
"Aside from the fact that you look like Rocky the morning after."
Morgan glared at Jeremy. "Thanks, Jer."
"Any time," he said with a sunny smile.
"Dean kissed me," Morgan said with another sigh.
Their eyes widened simultaneously. If she weren't so depressed and confused, Morgan might have laughed.
"You left that part out!" Cassidy said, just as Jeremy said, "When?"
Then, in sync again, they both frowned.
"I'm missing something."
"This is bad how?"
"It's a long story."
Jeremy glared at her, and Cassidy turned off the TV and then turned to face her, an expectant expression on her face.
"Spill," she said, and Morgan remembered how Dean had demanded that of her shortly before he'd kissed her. It didn't help her mood.
"I didn't tell you guys, but Adam tried to warn me weeks ago that Dean was only interested in getting into my pants."
"What?" Cassidy exclaimed, just as Jeremy said, "I don't believe that."
"I don't know what to believe. Before we kissed, he was pretty flirty, and I was confused, so I tried to keep him at arms' length, but he's always been polite and he's done nothing -- nothing -- to back up Adam's claim. But every time Adam sees us together, he gives me these concerned, disapproving looks. So there's gotta be some reason."
She rubbed her forehead in frustration, wincing as she hit a tender spot. Three days since The Incident, and her eye was still looking worse instead of better every time she passed a mirror.
"I don't understand," Jeremy said.
"Me either," Morgan replied.
"No, I don't get why you didn't tell us this!"
He sounded hurt, and Morgan shrugged. "Why? You guys would have told me to stay away from him and I'm sick of you worrying about me! And I didn't want to stay away from him! I like him! He just confuses the hell out of me."
"How?" Cassidy looked hurt too, but she seemed to be more interested in helping Morgan figure out what was up.
"He's been very sweet and very caring and just... wonderful. I don't know what the hell Adam's talking about. And then, he helped patch me up the other night when I got home, and one thing led to another, and he kissed me -- and it was an amazing kiss, by the way." She smiled at them, and they both smiled back, but hesitantly, waiting for the rest of the story.
"He ran," Morgan said with another shrug.
Cassidy raised an eyebrow.
"I mean it. I think he literally did run. We were kissing, and God knows where it would have led, and then he accidentally bumped my eye and I flinched, and it was like... whatever spell he was under, he snapped out of it. And he's been avoiding me. I can hear him in the backyard -- I know it's him, Adam never goes back there -- and I'm sure he's home, I see his truck and his motorcycle, but he's never out in the front yard. He was always out front before."
She sighed. "I like him, guys. Really like him. I don't know what to do."
Jeremy threw his arm around her and hugged her, and Cassidy rubbed her hand in sympathy.
"It really doesn't make sense for him to run like that if he's only interested in sex," Jeremy mused. "None of it makes any sense. I think you should go confront him."
Morgan glanced uncertainly at him. "I'm afraid to. I'm afraid to know the truth."
"I think Adam's full of crap," Cassidy said. "Nothing you've told me about Dean suggests he's trying to get you into bed."
"You'd think he would have tried more than a kiss by now if he were trying to get me to sleep with him, and like you said, Jer, he definitely wouldn't have run when he was succeeding so well! But still... why would Adam say that? And what's up with Dean? I guess I just don't know him very well."
"It'll work out, Mor," Cassidy told her, and Jeremy nodded.
"Yeah, or I'll go kick his ass."
Morgan had to smile at Jeremy's words. As much as she loved her friend, she knew Dean would wipe the floor with him.
"No problem! I'll defend my girls to the death, you know that. So, let's change the subject to something less gloomy and doomy. How's work going?"
Morgan groaned. "That's another thing. I hate my job."
Jeremy gasped dramatically. "Say it isn't so! Morgan Huston, the number one Disney fan, hates working for them? No!"
She smacked him. "They have me backstage on parade. Most boring job ever -- I don’t know anyone I'm working with, and they all stare and whisper and give me this fake sympathy. It's miserable. I can't wait until this stupid eye heals."
"Did they say how long you're stuck on that job?" Cassidy asked her, and Morgan shook her head.
"Until the bruise isn't visible, I'd imagine. Can't have a cast member onstage with anything as unseemly as a black eye, y'know. Tarnishes the Disney image."
Jeremy bit his lip. "Might be a while, Morgan. That's a bad shiner."
She sighed miserably. "I know."
Cassidy stuck her bottom lip out in an exaggerated pout. "Poor Morgan. Things'll get better, though. They always do, you know that. Give it some time."
Morgan laughed. The refrain was a familiar one. "Yeah, I know. Clue will cheer me up, I hope. Where were we?"
"One plus two plus one plus one," Jeremy said, and they all giggled as Cassidy turned the TV back on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cassidy was right, as usual, Morgan thought a few days later as she headed for work, which still sucked, but she was resigned to it now. If anything, it only reinforced the lesson of not jumping in between two guests. Not only did she get an incredibly unattractive black eye for her efforts, she also got the job from hell.
"Won't do it again," she muttered. "Let ‘em kill each other and let God and security sort them out."
Even if work sucked, though, other things had improved. Slightly.
Dean was no longer hiding from her. She hadn't had a chance to talk to him, but he'd been out front when she'd left for work the day after her talk with Cassidy and Jeremy, and he'd cautiously waved to her. When she'd waved back, his concerned expression had melted into a beautiful smile.
It had only confused her more, but at least he wasn't avoiding her anymore. She could handle confused -- it was nothing new where Dean was concerned -- as long as she got to occasionally see him. At least, that was what she kept telling herself. She almost had herself convinced, too.
Morgan glanced in the rearview mirror. "Few more days," she said. It was her new mantra. Her eye was healing -- aggravatingly slowly, but it was healing. A few more days and she could go back to her regular job.
She sighed as she pulled into the cast member lot. Work had rapidly become something to be endured, and she'd thought that had ended when she'd quit working for Carl. She couldn't wait to get back to Space Mountain. She couldn't wait for her life to be fun again.
At least the work part of it, she thought as she headed for the shuttle. The rest of it... that might take a bit longer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When Morgan got home from work that night, Dean's truck was parked in the driveway instead of in its usual spot in the garage. He was standing at the open tailgate, looking at something in the truck's bed. Her heart was fluttering again, and she wondered if she should approach him or just leave him be.
He'd given her a wave when she'd passed him, and she'd waved back. He wasn't avoiding her anymore, but she wasn't sure how close he was ever going to let himself get to her again.
"Well, I'm expecting bills. And my mailbox is right there. So I have a reason. And you gotta love rationalization..."
She walked to the end of the driveway, and Dean glanced up as she was reaching into her mailbox.
"Hi," she said nervously.
"Hey." He gave her a smile, and it was genuine, but he looked away extremely quickly.
There was a very awkward pause. Morgan passed the time by leafing through the envelopes she'd just pulled out of her mailbox. Not that there was anything interesting, but it was easier than watching him avoid her gaze. Just as she was getting ready to turn around and head inside, he cocked his head to one side and studied her.
"It looks better."
"What?" she asked as she looked back at him, perplexed.
"Your eye. It looks better."
"Yeah, a little."
"Good. I'm glad." He was friendly and open now, but not flirty as he'd once been. She didn't know how to react.
"Yeah, thanks." Desperate for some sort of deeper reaction from him, she nodded towards his truck. "What are you doing?"
"Your truck, those bricks."
"Blocks," he corrected absentmindedly, tapping one of the blocks with the notepad he held. "It's nothing special. I'm just arranging some samples for a particularly demanding customer."
Morgan nodded, and there was another awkward silence. She took a closer look at one of the envelopes she'd been staring at mindlessly. "Oh... this is Adam's. Is he home? I can give it to him."
"I'll give it to him."
When he took the envelope, his fingers brushed hers, and they both jumped. Dean pulled his hand away very quickly.
Morgan stifled a sigh. It was clear that was all she was going to get from him today. But at least he'd talked to her and hadn't gone running in the opposite direction. It was a beginning.
"Well, I should get inside. Guess I'll talk to you soon."
"Yep," he said with a nod, giving her another smile. It made her ache with longing as she turned and trudged towards her own house.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"I'm serious, Cassidy! It's driving me nuts! He's driving me nuts!" Morgan was pacing the living room as she talked on the phone, and she kept glancing out through the curtains at the yard next door. "And now I'm watching his front yard and pacing like a suspicious housewife. I'm a stalker! In my own house!"
Cassidy laughed. "I don't think it's quite that serious. But you're right; it's making you a little edgy. Why don't you talk to him?"
"I've tried. Whenever I see him, I try to start a conversation, but he stays on very broad, neutral, safe subjects," Morgan said with a sigh.
"Well, then you have to be the one to introduce the narrow, relevant, possibly dangerous, possibly rewarding subjects. I know you can do it -- you're the one who asked Rob to the movies the first time. I remember."
Morgan groaned. "That was a long, long time ago. And I knew he was interested -- he just wasn't brave enough to make the first move. This is different." She huffed in frustration and dismay and threw herself onto the couch. "This is ridiculous. It was one kiss -- a hell of a kiss, I'll admit. But it was one kiss and we're in our mid-twenties -- hell, he's in his late twenties. There should not be this much drama."
"It's because you're really interested in him, Morgan. Which is great, I'm glad you've found someone that could make you happy. I just wish you weren't having so many difficulties. And if he breaks your heart, I'll help Jeremy kick his ass."
"Thanks, Cass, but I think he'd actually have to talk to me for that to happen." Morgan sighed. "So we've established why I'm freaking out. Why's he?"
"That I don't know. You need to ask him."
She watched as the little white compact pulled into the adjacent driveway. "I can't ask him, but there is someone I can ask. I'll talk to you later, Cass. Adam's home."
Saying her goodbyes, she hung up before marching determinedly next door and rapping on Adam's front door. When there was no immediate answer, she knocked harder. After a moment, Adam opened it a crack and warily looked out.
"Oh, Morgan, hi," he said, opening it fully. "You don't have to pound on it, y'know. I thought it was the Gestapo or the Secret Service or something."
"We need to talk."
He looked surprised at her abruptness. "Okay. Come on in, then."
"I don't understand you, Adam." She dropped onto his couch, feeling the frustration and confusion boiling up inside her.
"Care to elaborate?"
"Before Dean moved in, you were all fired up for me to meet him, said he was a great guy, and I'd love him. And then, after he got here, you came over and gave me cryptic warnings, and now, every time he and I talk to each other, you're frowning at me! I don't get it!"
Adam sighed as he sat in the armchair beside her. "I... before he moved in, when he first called and we got to talking, I remembered the way he used to be, back when we were such good friends, and then he moved in, and... he's so different."
"High school was ten years ago for you and him, Adam. People change."
"Yeah, but I was hoping... he'd changed back, I guess. He and I used to be so tight, and he was such a great guy, and then he got in with the jocks and the cheerleaders and the A list crowd, and he was too cool for us poor, huddled masses. I was hoping once he'd gotten away from high school, he'd be Dean again."
"He is Dean. All grown up."
"Yeah." Adam didn't look pleased at that notion.
"So, what, you were expecting him to be a tenth grader at twenty seven?"
"I was expecting him to be a friend."
Morgan said nothing. Adam's idea of a friend was someone who would sit and listen to him whine about his life for hours, someone who would never complain about their own problems. She'd seen him go through several "friends" and that's why she'd wisely decided to stay at the perimeter of his life. Until now.
"He's got some strange stuff going on, Morgan," Adam said. "He's always by himself -- in his room, or off on that motorcycle or out at night, and I know he's not working. He's dedicated, but he's not that dedicated. And he's always making all these hushed phone calls, and I don't know what it's about."
That's why they're hushed, Morgan thought. Because he knows you're trying to listen to every word! The idea that Dean had something hidden and sinister going on was almost laughable, and she tried to remind herself that she really didn't know him all that well. That was why she was here, after all.
She remembered what Dean had said -- and it was almost funny, the wistful tone in Adam's voice matched the one she'd heard from Dean in his brief narrative.
"It's funny that you say you lost that friendship, because he says you stayed good friends, throughout school, even after you were both into your own thing."
Adam snorted. "His idea of good friends, maybe. Definitely not mine."
"But you had other friends, just like he did. I've heard you talk about them. I've even met some of them."
But they weren't the cool kids, Morgan finished for him. "So how does any of that lead to a warning to stay away from him?"
"I wasn't really warning you -- okay, maybe I was a little. But you're a good friend, Morgan, and I didn't want to see you become just another notch on the bedpost. Dean went through about a girlfriend a week back then."
"Back then," she repeated skeptically.
"Look, I told you something's weird with him. I don't want to see you get hurt or caught in anything strange, okay?"
So what we have here is a kid who was... maybe not rejected, but not dragged into the cool crowd with his best friend in high school, who is now someone who wants that friendship back exactly the way it was, and who's disappointed. So, jealousy? Adam is definitely the kind of guy to still be holding grudges over high school crap. He's not informed on every aspect of Dean's life and he can't handle that. And I'm beginning to see why Paul left. Okay, that was mean. Morgan's thoughts were racing, and she almost missed what Adam was saying.
"...know why you're so concerned all of a sudden."
She glared at him. "I'm not... I'm just trying to figure out what's going on here."
"Well, you already told him to leave you alone, didn't you? So what does it matter?"
Morgan blinked, startled. "What? What do you mean?"
Adam stared at her. "Well, you must have given him the brush-off; he hasn't been over there or anything, and he was all mopey for a few days, so I just figured you'd told him to go away or he'd given up. And lately he's been out and about and smiling again, so apparently he's back on the prowl."
Morgan was stunned, and more hurt than she wanted to admit. Before she could react, she heard the garage door rumble as it opened.
Dean was home, and she was torn between fleeing and staying to say hello. Adam said nothing, just watching her, and she sighed and sat back as the door from the garage to the house slammed. She could hear Dean toss his keys on the counter.
"Adam," Dean called. "You parked too far over again -- I don't care if my truck gets dinged, it's company property, but you're -- where are you?"
"Living room!" Adam replied.
"But you're gonna cry if -- " Dean stuck his head in the room. "Oh. Morgan, hi. Your eye's looking better, that's good."
"Yeah, it's feeling better. Doesn't hurt nearly as much," she said with a smile.
"I was getting ready to call you, actually," he said, returning the smile.
"You were?" she asked, hoping her voice was steady. She stared into his eyes, trying to read him, but he was as inscrutable as ever. At least he wasn't avoiding her gaze anymore.
"I'm thinking of making chicken tostadas for dinner. Want some?"
Morgan didn't know what to say. Was he trying to get back into her good graces, or was that just wishful thinking? Maybe he had moved on past her, and this was just a friendly overture. Maybe he was only asking to be polite, since she was already there.
She needed more time to figure out what was going on with him. Dinner would be good; she could observe him, maybe even get up the courage to ask him what the hell was going on.
Besides, he was an excellent cook, and she was starving. And all she had at home was the makings of a ham sandwich. Maybe even the makings of half a ham sandwich. The decision was made, then.
"That sounds great. Do you need any help?"
"Nope, it's easy. But you could keep me company."
"Sure," she replied, heading for the kitchen. Adam followed right on her heels -- definitely too close for comfort, and she felt like stopping just to see if he'd slam into her.
Conversation during the prep and the meal was light and full of laughter. All three of them were involved in an informal competition to see who could provide the "dumbest guest/customer" story and, not surprisingly, Morgan was winning.
"I haven't been working there long," she said with a laugh, "But you wouldn't believe some of the things I've been asked. Turn off the rain, turn down the heat... it's like people think they're in a bubble!"
"No way," Dean said in disbelief.
"I think they're just trying to get a reaction out of you," Adam said skeptically.
"Well, if that's the case, it works!" She grinned. "But no, I truly do think some of these people leave their brains at the gate."
"Well, Dean, your turn." Adam scooped the last of the ice cream out of his bowl.
"Mine aren't funny unless you know masonry. And even then -- not all that funny."
"I win then!" Morgan said, beaming, and the men laughed.
"Yes, you win," Dean told her, patting her hand mock-condescendingly. She would have stuck her tongue out at him, but she was too busy being surprised that he'd touched her.
There was a pause then, one of the comfortable kind, the kind that says that the meal's over and it's time to go home.
Morgan pushed her chair back from the table. "Well that was excellent -- as usual, Dean -- but I should be getting home. Thank you for dinner."
"I'll walk you," he said, and she glanced at him, still taken aback by what seemed to be his sudden change of heart.
"I'll go with," Adam said quickly.
"That's okay," Dean told him. "I think we'll be safe, but thanks. I'll be back in a bit."
They headed out the door, and Morgan did her best to ignore Adam's glare burning into her back. She wasn't even sure if Dean noticed it. It was a quiet walk; Morgan was building her courage.
When they got to her door, he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. She turned to him, and the uncertain look on his face tore at her. She wanted to reassure him, tell him that everything was okay, but she wasn't sure it was.
"Morgan, I -- "
"Don't," she told him. "If you're sorry about it, I don't want to hear it."
"Well, good. Because I'm not. Sorry, I mean. Not about... I'm sorry about the way I reacted."
She stared at him, and then she sighed and shook her head. "You confuse the hell out of me, Dean."
He gave her a wry smile. "Glad I'm not the only one."
"Are you seeing someone?" She really didn't mean for it to come out as jealous-harpy sounding as it did.
His eyes widened. "What? No!"
His reaction seemed very real, but she'd given up trying to read him. "I know it really isn't any of my business, but if you are, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me. I'd rather know the truth."
"No, I'm not... I'm just... I..." He sighed. "I'm making a mess of this, that's what I'm doing."
Morgan smiled. "You look very cute doing it though."
"Cute is not the look I'm going for," he said, scowling.
"Oh, it's a good look on you," she murmured as she hooked her fingers in the belt loops of his jeans and pulled him closer. "Very good..."
This time he made the sound of surprise as she kissed him, but he adjusted quickly. His mouth crushed hers, his tongue sweeping into her mouth to battle hers for dominance. She curled one hand around the back of his head, toying with the soft hair at the nape of his neck, and he moaned into the kiss, pinning her against her front door.
The long length of his body was pressed tightly against her, and she could feel his arousal and the heat of his body through his jeans. His hands were at her waist, gripping her tightly as he plundered her mouth, and those fingers she had dreamt about were teasing the sensitive skin just above her waistband. Wanting more, she slid her other hand down his back and cupped his ass, and a little tiny bit of her was shocked by her boldness.
Dean jumped and a sound almost like a growl rumbled up through his chest as he ground his hips against hers. Breathing was becoming difficult, but Morgan weighed it against the idea of ending the kiss, and she decided she didn't need air.
The headlights of a passing car briefly illuminated the front porch and they both froze as the light swept over them. Dean broke the kiss, trying to back away from her, but she grabbed his sweater, keeping him close.
"Are you going to run?" she asked, panting.
He gazed at her, his eyes nearly hidden in the darkness, but she could see them shine as he smiled. He reached out and gently tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, caressing her cheek.
"No," he said, his voice quiet but firm.
"Why did you run last time?"
He hesitated, taking her hand in his, staring down at her fingers as he played with them. She watched as his fingers skimmed over the birthstone ring she wore, the one that had been her mother's.
"Dean?" she asked after a moment.
"I was scared," he admitted, but that was all he said.
"And you're not scared now?" she prompted. She definitely was.
"A little," he said, and she frowned.
"This is kind of a sudden turnaround," Morgan told him. "Yesterday, you could barely look at me."
"I just needed some time to realize that it's a good kind of scared," he murmured, still staring at her hands. He glanced up, and even in the darkness, she could tell the intensity had returned to his gaze. "Good night, Morgan."
She studied him, held by his stare, confusion warring with happiness. Happiness won, and she smiled. She really hoped it didn't look as goofy as it felt.
"Good night," Morgan whispered back as he gave her hand one last squeeze and then turned and walked back across the lawn. She wrapped her arms around herself and watched him until he disappeared back into the house. She was shivering when she finally turned and went inside, but it was more from the loss of his warmth than from a chill in the air.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Morgan looked up from her book and out through the living room window as another car passed. When the car continued down the street, she sighed and tossed her book onto the table. It was merely an excuse, and she knew it. She'd brought it into the living room so she could stare out the window and see Dean when he got home.
Yawning, she rubbed at her eyes, grinning when she realized that she'd done so without pain. The bruising was finally gone, the pain was gone, and tomorrow, she could go back to Space Mountain.
"Finally," she muttered. If she never worked another parade shift, it would be too soon.
She stared out the window, lost in thought. It had been a week and a half since the night they'd talked -- and more -- on her porch. She'd been over to Dean's place three times for dinner, and he'd walked her home every time, ending their night with a searing kiss.
He hadn't pushed her for more, but the last time she'd almost invited him in, and she had a feeling if she had, he might have been cooking her breakfast the next morning.
Morgan shifted on the couch. The thought was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Rob was the only guy she'd ever been intimate with, and she and Dean... well... she wasn't even sure what she and Dean were. Were they dating? They'd never really gone anywhere that could really be called a date. Part of it was her crazy schedule, but that wasn't the whole reason, and she knew it.
"Well, if you were a normal girl, he could take you out to dinner," she muttered, resting her head on the back of the couch. Just the thought of it made her queasy.
She was so focused on trying to work things out in her head that she almost didn't register Dean's truck pulling into the driveway next door. The neighborhood was still and quiet in the early evening air, so she couldn't miss the frantic yapping that emanated from the cab as Dean opened the door.
Morgan's eyes widened. "What the hell?" she exclaimed, peering out the window.
"Quiet, you noisy little beast!" Dean said as he came around the front of the truck and reached into the passenger side. She gasped as he pulled out a squirming, yipping puppy of some kind.
"Oh my God!" she said, laughing. She couldn't stay inside, not when confronted with that bait, and she hurried through the front door. Dean looked up at her, and his half-annoyed, half-frantic look faded into a look of enormous relief when he saw her.
The puppy was wiggling crazily in Dean's arms, and it began barking even more energetically when she got closer. Its heritage wasn't immediately clear -- it was pretty dirty -- but it looked like some sort of terrier mix.
"Morgan, hi -- stop squirming!"
She laughed. "He's adorable!"
"He's a mess."
"Where'd you get him?"
"At work -- one of the lift drivers found him out in the yard between two rows of pallets, just sitting there, whimpering. Someone hit a dog a couple days ago out on the street in front of the plant, and I think she might have been his mother."
"Oh, how sad!" She felt instant empathy for the little dog.
Morgan watched as Dean looked down at the puppy, scratching him under the chin. He was obviously a dog person, and she found it endearing. How many other guys would rescue a puppy? she thought, and it only made her like him more.
"You gonna keep him? Oh, but you can't -- "
He shook his head. "Nope, can't. The puppy's cute, and I'd like to keep him, but there's just a bunch of reasons I can't. I'm not planning on staying here, don't know where I will be, and while I'm here, it's kinda rude to go, ‘Oh, by the way, I brought a dog home.' Besides, even if I did feel comfortable doing that, Adam's allergic. But I spoke with him on the phone, and he agreed to let me keep the puppy for tonight -- no one else could take him home for the night."
She'd stepped closer, and she was scratching the puppy's scruffy ears. He had calmed down and was wiggling in Dean's arms and making happy little puppy sounds. "So what are you going to do with him tomorrow?"
"I don't know. I'll probably keep him locked in the laundry room tonight -- he'd get to Adam, and I can't let him out anyway, he tore up the office in a matter of minutes. We named him Chaos. We had to keep him locked up out in the garbage enclosure."
Morgan ruffled the fur of his head, and he gave her a little doggy smile. "He's so little. He can't be that much trouble."
Dean laughed. "Would you like to keep him, then? Otherwise I'm going to have to take him to the animal shelter."
She stared at him. "You just told me you named him Chaos and he destroyed the office in minutes. Not exactly a sterling recommendation." He just shrugged, scratching the puppy under the chin. "Dean!" she said in protest. "I can't just take a puppy!"
They both stared back at her, and she felt her resolve melting. Chaos' big brown eyes were adorable, but they weren't nearly as effective as Dean's puppy dog expression. She realized that when he looked at her like that, she'd promise him anything, and that was a dangerous thought.
"Dean," she said warningly, but she knew she was lost. "Oh, all right. I suppose I could use a little chaos in my life," she finally said with a grin, taking the puppy from him.
Chaos yipped happily, and Dean laughed. "Are you sure? I really didn't mean to pressure you -- "
"Sure you did," she said, cuddling the puppy. "But it's okay. Maybe I need a little gentle pressure occasionally, you know? In order to make some changes in my life."
"I'll remember that," he said with a wicked gleam in his eye, and she flushed.
"I'm gonna go give Chaos here a bath."
"Shut the bathroom door," he warned. "Or you'll be chasing him all over the house."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Chaos! No! This way. This way!" Morgan fought the puppy, who was still adjusting to the leash. He hated it, but she wanted him to learn. He growled and twisted his head to bite at it, and she laughed and shook the leash and told him, "No!"
"Having trouble? Need some help?"
She peered into the dark garage. The door of Dean's truck was open, and in the light from the cab, she could see Dean leaning against the side of the truck, watching her. "No, we're doing just fine, thank you."
"Of course you are. I can see you have everything under control," Dean said with a laugh as Chaos danced around her in a circle and wrapped her in the leash.
"What are you doing in there, in the dark?"
"Getting something out of my truck. I was going back inside, but then I heard you fighting with him."
"Glad to know we're such great entertainment. We're not fighting -- Chaos! Stop!" She laughed as she unwound herself, brushing her bangs out of her eyes. "He's just trying to live up to his name. Why couldn't you have named him... Tranquility, or something?"
"Does he look like a Tranquility to you?" he asked, shutting the truck door and ambling down the driveway towards her.
She laughed and picked the puppy up. "No, I guess not. When she sees him this weekend, Cassidy's going to adore him. I'm going to have to fight to keep him. Her dogs would eat him for breakfast though; he's just a little guy."
"Cassidy?" he asked, scratching the puppy's head. "Hey, boy."
"My friend -- I know I've told you about her. She loves dogs. Has three."
He grinned. "Now I remember her."
"You know, I'd love for you to meet her -- and Jeremy and a couple of my other friends. We have a weekly movie night, and it's at my house this weekend. You should come -- you and Adam."
"I'd hate to intrude -- "
"No way. And, since it's your first time, you'd even get to pick the movies."
Dean smiled. "Sure. Sounds fun. I'll ask Adam."
"Just tell him Jeremy'll be there -- he'll be dragging you across the yard to get there."
Dean gave her an inquiring lift of his eyebrows, and she laughed and shook her head.
"Not a chance in hell as far as Jer's concerned," she said, and he grinned.
"You working tomorrow?" he asked.
"Yeah, morning shift at Space. Should be home by dinner time," she said promptingly.
Dean laughed. "Well, that was why I was asking. I'll expect you here, then."
"Yay!" she said happily, and he grinned at her enthusiasm. His smile softened, and he pulled her close and kissed her temple.
"Someone's gotta take care of you," he murmured, and she felt her whole body tremble at the notion. Chaos barked, and they drew apart.
"I should probably take him in," she said, and he nodded. "See you tomorrow," she added.
"Count on it," he said, smiling as he scratched Chaos behind the ear.
On to Chapter 7