Title: Jake & Chance &… Author: Alf A few notes on content. I found I’m almost as bad with sex scenes as I am with action scenes. There is a bedroom scene contained within, but I doubt it’ll offend (or, for that matter, tittilate) anyone who watches prime time TV.
Chance slammed the hood of the Jeep shut with a self- satisfied smirk. Several times in last few weeks, he and Jake had tried to make some headway on the vehicles waiting to be repaired. Each time they had started, however, something had interfered – emergency tows, a few SwatKat missions, or each of them just getting lazy. But today, they’d been hard at work for the last six hours, without so much as a break, and Chance was getting surprised how quickly they were getting through them. He jumped into the Jeep and drove it back into the lot, then hustled back into the garage.
“Next victim?” he roared.
Jake, who was slowly backing out a motorcycle he had just finished tuning up, grinned. “You’re not gonna believe it.”
Spreading his hands, Jake smiled. “That’s it.”
Chance’s eyes got wide. “What?! You don’t mean – ”
“I *do* mean. We’re done.”
“Aw-right!” Chance yelled.
Jake accepted the high-five from his partner. “I knew we’d do it one day…”
“And today’s the day.” A gleam appeared in Chance’s eyes. “Y’know what I think?” Jake shook his head, and Chance grinned. “Whaddaya say to a li’l vacation?”
The shadow of a frown played on Jake’s brow. “I’m not sure about *that*, buddy.”
“Aw, c’mon! We’ll never get a better opportunity than now! We got a clear garage, the bad guys are leavin’ us alone…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” interrupted Jake, putting his hand to his chin. “That’s kinda got me worried…”
“Worried?!” Chance narrowed his eyes. “You feelin’ all right?”
“Listen – we’ve been called out on two…no, three missions the last month an’ a half? And all o’ those’re easy! Heck, *Marc* coulda taken care of ’em. One shot and poof – down they went!”
“I know – that’s just the problem.”
Chance shook his head. “You’re losin’ me – you sayin’ you *want* them to cause some casualties before we rub ’em out?”
“No, no, no. But doesn’t that make you think? What do you think they’re up to?”
Trying to play him off, Chance said, “Who cares?”
Jake looked stubborn. “Me, and I’m asking you – what do you think they’re doing right now? Right this second?”
“Heck, I dunno – nothin’, I guess.”
“Nothing?” echoed Jake. “You think they’re taking time off? Visiting the family? Sunning themselves on some beach somewhere?”
“C’mon, Jake, does it matter?”
“Yes! As long as we’re callin’ ourselves guardians of the city, this kinda stuff matters.”
Chance sighed, then thought. “Well, what do *you* think they’re up to?”
“I’m not sure, either – but it’s probably something big… and not very nice.”
Rolling his eyes, Chance said, “Thanks, Jake. Always lookin’ on the bright side o’ stuff.”
“Just trying to be practical.”
“Look, usually we got monsters and baddies comin’ out our ears. Now, when we finally don’t, we can’t relax a little?”
“I didn’t say we couldn’t relax. I just don’t like the idea of puttin’ our guard down!” Jake shook his head and took a big breath. “Jeez, buddy, aren’t we supposed to be *happy* right about now?”
Chance stood still for a second, then gave a lopsided grin. “Yeah. Sorry.”
“Ditto.” They high-fived once more. “So what’s up for the rest of the day?”
“Well, I promised Benny I’d whup his tail at pool, if you wanna come kibitz.”
“Nah, I’ll pass – still gitta call the customers. Plus you know I’m still behind on my missiles.”
Jake gave a short laugh. “Yeah, as always. And now that we’re caught up, we may have time to paint the TurboKat.”
“I know, but God knows it needs it. I’ll take stock, you go play. Tell Benny hey.”
Chance took a large swig of his root beer, then wiped his lips on his sleeve. While watching Benny set up his shot, he smiled to himself. Dangit, he thought, I deserve this. We’ve worked our tails off for almost three years now, and it’s nice not to have somethin’ breathin’ down our necks. And if all this weren’t enough, Benny’s not playing very good today.
Muffing another relatively easy shot, Benny grumbled something rather impolite, then jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the table. “All yours. You’ll never get that eight ball in, though.”
Chance chalked his cue, then bent down over the table, scrutinizing the lie for a minute.
“You memorizing the table or something?” asked Benny, grinning.
“Gimme a second,” Chance said. Finally, he picked up his cue stick and tapped the far left corner. “This one,” he announced.
“Not *this* shot,” predicted Benny.
“You gotta have faith.”
“No, Chance, you gotta have talent!” Benny laughed rather scornfully. “If you make this one, next three rounds are on me.”
“Get yer wallet out.” Chance took extra time to ready the shot, and finally tapped the cue ball. It struck the eight ball, which caromed off of two of Benny’s balls, then crawled its way to the designated pocket, finally dropping in.
“Woo-hoo!” yelped Chance, throwing his arms wide. The tip of his cue stick hit a glass sitting on a table, spilling its remaining contents onto a female kat sitting there.
Chance froze, staring. “Oh, crud, I’m sorry.” He expected the woman would start screaming at him, and was surprised when she instead just stared at her soaked dress, then put her head in her hands and started crying. Chance looked over at Benny, who looked back and shrugged.
Pulling up a stool, Chance sat down next to her. “Lady, look, I’m sorry – really.” She continued to sit there with her head in her hands. Chance quickly glanced back up at Benny with a confused look. Hesitantly, he put his hand on her shoulder. She shrank from his touch initially, but didn’t pull away. “Are…are you OK?” The female kat slowly nodded, but didn’t take her hands off her face. “Could…could I buy you another drink or somethin’?”
Finally, the she-kat moved her hands away from her face. Wiping her eyes with the back of her wrist, she sniffed, “You don’t have to do that.”
“No, it’s cool. Besides – Benny here’s buyin’, anyway.”
Benny put a look of fake offense on his face. “Hey, now!”
“You said next three rounds, compadre. Cough up.” Chance put on a small smile, then slowly held out his hand. “Name’s Chance. Chance Furlong.”
Shyly, she took his hand. “Beverly Watson.”
“Hey-a. This’s Benny Rodriguez.” Benny half-saluted. “You sure you’re OK?”
“Oh. Yeah. It wasn’t…this,” Beverly said, picking up the glass. “It…just has not been a good day.”
Two kats walked up. “You guys gonna yabber or play?”
Chance glanced at Benny, who shook his head. “They way I’ve been playing? Forget it.”
Chance nodded, grabbed the cue stick close to the tip, and handed it to one of the kats standing in front of them. “All yours.”
“Thanks.” They began setting up for their game.
“Whatcha drinkin’?” Benny asked Beverly.
“Gin and tonic.”
“Regular for me,” added Chance.
“Duh.” Benny went to the bar to get the drinks.
Chance and Beverly sat in uncomfortable silence for a bit, watching the new pool players in order to avoid eye contact. Despite not looking directly at her, Chance sized her up. She was quite small – she only barely reached his chin. She was a tabby kat, and her dress was that odd variety that was probably chosen to keep her from standing out. Due to its sheer plainness, however, it probably had the opposite effect on most kats. She was also very quiet. Chance, who was more used to loud and boistrious she-kats, decided she wasn’t his type – but to be honest, he thought, since he had become a SwatKat three years back, he wasn’t sure he even *had* a type any more – his girlfriends had been few, and their relationships brief.
Finally, Chance said, “Um, sorry you’re havin’ such a cruddy day.”
Beverly looked startled. “It’s not your fault.”
“Well, yeah, I know, but I’m actually having a really good day – my first in a long time, y’know?”
“Well, what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothin’. But I feel all guilty having a great day when yours is going so cruddy.”
Beverly looked down at her lap. “Now I’m messing up your perfect day.”
Chance shook his head. “You’re not messing it up.”
Beverly glanced up for a second. “You…you sure?”
Grinning, he said, “Not at all.” Beverly ducked her head and smiled a bit. Chance went on. “You wanna tell me what’s wrong with yer day?” Her smile disappeared, and Chance quickly added, “You don’t hafta.”
Sighing, Beverly said, “Oh…it’s nothing, I guess. I… I was supposed to meet my boyfriend here.” Chance felt a very small twinge at the word “boyfriend”, but in the back of his mind, waved it away. Beverly went on. “But he didn’t show up.”
Chance tried to will himself into feeling more concern than he actually did. “Maybe he got held up somewhere. Didja call him?”
Beverly shook her head, and looked close to tears. “It really doesn’t matter.”
“Whadaya mean? Sure it matters.”
Taking a deep breath to steady herself, Beverly said, “He…he’s not the most reliable guy…” She tapered off, and tried to smile.
Chance frowned. “You thinkin’ he stood ya up?”
Shrugging in an attempt to appear non-chalant, Beverly said, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Well, that ain’t right.” Chance looked up as Benny came back to the table clumsily carrying their drinks. “Thanks. Listen, what were you and your…boyfriend gonna do? Just get some drinks?”
“N-no, we were going to see a movie, have dinner, you know…”
“Well…if you wanna,” Chance quickly interjected, hands held up, “I think Benny ‘n’ me chould make good on that – if you think us two can fill in for ‘im.”
“Wh-” Beverly sat with her mouth half-open, not knowing what to say.
Chance grinned, then turned to Benny. “You up for a night on the town?”
“Love to, amigo, but not all of us are caught up at work.”
Shrugging, Chance turned back to Beverly. “Well, it’s down to just me, I guess – but the offer’s still good.”
“If you’d rather not, that’s OK…”
“No, I do, it’s just…well, Peter isn’t…” Beverly waited for Chance to say something, but he didn’t. Finally, she said, “Well, Peter can look after himself for one night, I guess.” She smiled up at Chance.
“That’s th’ way, Beverly!”
Beverly smiled larger. “Just Bev.”
Laughing, Beverly opened the door to her apartment, and Chance followed her in. “You can’t be serious!” she giggled.
“Whadda ya mean?”
“No one with half a brain could’ve liked that movie.”
“Oh, c’mon, it weren’t *that* bad.”
“Oh, please! That guy couldn’t act at all! And even though he was a real jerk, the girl falls in love with him anyway.”
“Happens all the time.”
“Does not.” Bev sat down in a chair, and waved Chance towards the sofa.
“Well, it’s a movie. It don’t have to be realistic.”
Bev waved her hand. “Ah, it was awful.”
Chance glanced down at his feet. “Well, sorry you had such a rotten time.”
Bev’s voice softened considerably. “I didn’t say I had a rotten time. Not at all.”
For a minute, neither Chance nor Beverly spoke. Chance just sat looking at Beverly with a silly grin on his face. Finally, to break the silence, Beverly asked, “Would you like something to drink?”
“Sure.” Bev started to get up, but Chance jumped up first. “No, sit – I’ll get ’em. Where are they?”
“In the kitchen,” Bev pointed.
“Oh. Duh. Whatcha want?” Chance asked, halfway thru the kitchen door.
“Um, all right. One whatever comin’ up.” He grinned again and headed into the kitchen.
Bev leaned back in her chair, smiled, and shook her head. This was going much faster than she was used to. Usually she met someone, talked with them in a friendly way for several months, slowly getting to know them. But this one night with Chance was completely different. All the rules she had set for herself seemed to have been tossed out the window. Heck, Chance wasn’t even someone she’d normally date. He was…well, he was a mechanic, for heaven’s sake. Honestly, though, he was proving to be a refreshing change from the scholarly and businesskat types she normally dated. She drew a deep breath and finally faced the question that had been nagging at the back of her brain for the last hour or so – what if Chance wanted to spend the night?
She had only just begun considering the question when the front door to her apartment opened. In stepped a middle- sized dark brown kat who seemed to be in constant motion. He had loosened his tie but otherwise looked fresh from the office.
“Hey, babe. Sorry I couldn’t make it – something came up. Looks like the Fortinbras deal is back on.” He walked by her chair, kissing her on the forehead. He appeared not to notice her shrinking from his touch. “Hope you weren’t too lonely without me.” He grinned, then tossed himself on the sofa. “I’m starving – mind if I grab something outta your fridge?”
He looked up at Bev. “What? What is it?”
Chance re-entered the room, holding two glasses of creme soda. “Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I had…” Spotting Peter sprawled on the sofa, Chance stopped for a second, then quickly recovered himself. “Heya,” he said, deciding to play it cool.
Peter jumped to his feet, glared at Chance, then back at Bev. “Who is this?”
Bev didn’t – couldn’t – answer, so Chance interceded. “Chance. Chance Furlong.” He put the glasses down and walked over with his hand outstretched. Peter knocked it away with the back of his hand, and stormed over to Bev’s chair. Bev looked up, scared but defiant.
“You two-timing…” he yelled. “I leave you alone for one night…”
Chance didn’t want to hear anymore. He hadn’t known Bev for all that long, but he liked her enough to keep this sleazoid from yelling at her. He grabbed Peter’s shoulder and wheeled him back around to face him. “Listen, you… Peter, right? Lemme see if I got this right. You left Bev sitting at It’l Do waiting for you, right?”
Peter tried to free himself from Chance’s grasp, but failed. “Something came up at work, you…”
“Where ya working where they ain’t got no phones?” asked Chance sarcastically. “Or were you fresh outta dimes?”
“I was tied up with the guys…”
“And if I’ve got this right, this ain’t the first time this li’l scene’s taken place.”
“Listen, musclehead, my relationship with Bev isn’t your concern.”
“Yeah, well, I decided I kinda like her, and so I’m makin’ it my concern.” Chance finally released Peter, to his relief. He spun around to face Bev.
“Bev, kindly tell this…this freak to buzz off.”
Bev stood up. “No, Peter, I won’t. I’m tired of being treated like…like an afterthought.”
“Oh, come on, babe…”
“No, *you* come on. I’m sick of it all.”
“Bev, you can’t mean that.”
Chance put his hand back on Peter’s shoulder. “Sounds like you blew your chance, bub.” He started to lead him to the door, and his voice got almost kind. “Listen, lemme give you a bit of advice. No, really. I may not be the swiftest plane in formation, as my partner likes to say, but even *I* know how you gotta treat a girl. And your way ain’t it.” They had reached the door. Chance dropped his hands to his sides. “Look, I’m sorry.” And he actually sounded like he was. Peter stared at him for a spell, then walked out the door, slamming it behind him.
Chance looked at the closed door for a second, took a deep breath, then hesitantly turned around. He wasn’t sure how Bev had reacted to that. Bev was standing still in the middle of the living room, and Chance couldn’t figure out her expression. After a pause that seemed like forever, she reached over and picked up the two creme sodas that Chance had poured. She walked over and handed one to him, and held up hers in a toast. With a wry smile that was also rather sad, she said, “To a new start?”
Chance grinned back, took the glass from her, and clinked it against hers. After taking a sip, he looked down at her. She put her glass down, then unexpectedly, she put her arms around Chance and hugged him tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Hey, hey…” Chance said quietly. He put his hand under her chin, and tilted her head up to face him. “Hey, there, don’t cry.”
She shook her head slightly. “I’m sorry.”
Impulsively, Chance bent down and put his lips against hers. A few seconds later, Bev put her arms back around him and began kissing back with earnest. Chance felt his hormones kick into high gear. It’d been ages since he’d slept with someone – not since…Chance’s brain immediately blocked the rest of that thought.
They finally separated, and Bev looked up with a mischevious grin. “So…should we retire to the bedroom?”
Chance had an internal argument, with his upper half finally winning. “Nah, better not.”
Bev looked surprised, and a bit hurt. “Really?”
“Don’t think I ain’t tempted. It’s just…” Chance closed his eyes and shook his head. “This is so dumb.”
“I don’t wanna…’cause I *like* ya.”
“I know, I know. But…it’s like…I want to…to *know* you before…aw, heck!” Chance sat down with his head hanging down for a second, then looked back up at Bev. “You know, you make me wanna say ‘yes’ just so I won’t hafta explain.”
“Well, *there’s* a good reason.”
“I’m kidding. Look…Bev…” He had her sit next to him, and he looked earnestly at her. “You’re a great gal. And I wanna…get to know you better, y’know?” Bev nodded. “‘K, see, but I think if you ‘n’ me start off…humpin’, it might spoil things, y’know?” Bev again nodded, but more unsurely. “So, let’s…sorta save that. Somethin’ to look forward to, right?” She nodded, smiling. Chance smiled back, and let out his breath. “Whew. I ain’t so good at explainin’ stuff.”
“You were good at explaining that, Chance.”
“Well, if you get it, I guess I did.” Chance stood up, and helped Bev to her feet. “I better get back. You free for lunch tomorrow?”
“If I can get away…” Bev shook her head. “Forget that. I’ll get away somehow.”
“Heh. Already got you slackin’.”
Again, Bev hugged Chance unexpectedly. “Thanks,” she whispered.
Chance entered the garage quietly, and was surprised to see Jake asleep on the couch, the TV quietly on. He tried to shut it off, but Jake suddenly opened his eyes.
“Sorry,” said Chance.
“Mm. S’OK,” Jake sat up a bit stiffly and yawned. “What time is it?”
“What’s her name?”
“Bev,” Chance answered without thinking, then suddenly shot Jake a look. Jake just grinned. Chance growled, “I *hate* it when you do that.”
“You make it easy.” Jake jumped to his feet and tried to get some circulation into his legs by walking around. “Well, you came back the same night, so she must’ve said ‘no’.”
Chance busied himself with his jacket, and mumbled, “Nah, *I* did.”
Jake stopped. “Wait a second. Katsanova Chance turned down an offer to spend the night with a she-kat?”
Angrily, Chance said, “Yeah, s’what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothin’, buddy. I guess there’s a first time for everything. Everything OK?”
Chance smiled. “Yeah. Better’n OK.”
Jake stretched, then looked intently at Chance. “Sounds like an interesting night.”
“Yep. See what you miss?”
Chance rinsed his face, then sat up, staring at himself in the mirror. He gave himself a smirk, turned off the light, then began attempting to negotiate his way back to bed in the dark. He had almost made it, when his foot hit the bedside table leg. It didn’t really hurt, but he quietly yelped anyway.
“You OK?” asked Bev.
“Yeah. Just bein’ clumsy.” Chance lifted the covers and slid underneath them. “I always hate that part.”
“Cleanin’ up afterwards. Not that it ain’t worth it.” Chance grinned, and put his arms around Bev, who snuggled backwards against him.
“I don’t know – I always liked that part.”
“I get to watch as the guy tries to get back to bed,” Bev said, laughing quietly.
“Oh. Well, hope you enjoyed the show.”
“Oh, I did.” Bev snuggled closer to Chance.
“Everything OK?” asked Chance.
Bev stopped and glanced behind her. “What do you mean?”
“With me. Was I OK?”
Laughing again, Bev said, “Are you asking if it was good for me?”
Chance sheepishly said, “Well, most girls wouldn’t tell ya.”
“I’m not most girls. And you were great. You even waited for me.”
“Wasn’t I s’posed to?”
“Yeah, but you’d be surprised. Most guys wouldn’t.”
“Most guys are creeps.” Chance kissed the back of Bev’s head. “Or idiots.”
“Or both. Well, don’t worry about it. You were great.” Bev added, laughing, “Just like Judy said you’d be.”
“Oh, Judy at work says that mechanics make the best lovers. She said I should’ve jumped you the second I saw you.”
“Hm. Don’t know how’d they’da taken that at It’d Do.” Both Chance and Bev laughed.
“To be honest, Chance, I was wondering when you’d finally make your move. I was hoping nothing was wrong.”
“Oh, nothin’s wrong. Not at all.” Chance went on, slyly, “I s’pose I could make up for lost time.”
“Tomorrow?” asked Bev, just as slyly.
“Lotsa hours between now and tomorrow.” Chance moved his arms down Bev’s sides. “Are ya up for it?”
“I could…be persuaded.”
Chance slid up so that he was straddling Bev. “Let the persuasion begin.” Bending down, Chance planted a kiss on Bev’s lips. Bev responded, putting her arms around Chance, and slipping her tongue into Chance’s mouth. She drew circles on Chance’s back, then slid her hands lower, just as a loud piercing sound penetrated the room.
Chance rose up on his hands and knees, looked upwards, and gave a wordless roar. He tossed the covers off of them both and began to get dressed.
“Chance, what is it?”
“Emergency,” said Chance shortly. He tossed on his shirt, and began turning his pants back right-side-out.
“What kind of emergency?”
Chance found his pager and turned it off. “Dunno yet,” he said, truthfully enough. He tossed on his pants, threading his tail, then walked back over to the bed. “I’ll meet you for lunch tomorrow, ‘K?” He kissed Bev tenderly, then jumped out the door, before she could ask anything else.
Razor was first out of the plane, and he began shucking off his uniform, stifling a yawn. “Well, that was hardly worth it.”
T-Bone sulked next to him. “Tell me about it,” he growled.
“Sorry to break up your date.” Jake put his ratty t-shirt back on. “You *were* out with Bev, right?”
“I was with Bev, but we weren’t out.” He plopped his helmet onto its perch.
“Oh. Wait a minute. You don’t mean you were…” Jake paused significantly.
“We finished, but we were startin’ again.”
“Jeez. Sorry, Chance, had I known…”
“Nah, work first.” Chance held up his jeans. “I’m gettin’ a little tired of takin’ these off and puttin’ ’em on again, though.”
“Chance, I could’ve taken care of that thing myself.”
“Yeah, but you couldn’ta known that.” Chance tossed his jeans over his shoulder and started walking back to his room in his T-shirt and underwear. Jake followed along. “Besides, you remember last time what happened you ran a mission by yerself.”
“Oh, like I forgot.” Jake gave an internal shudder, then thought for a second. “You like her, don’t you?”
“I mean…it’s not like the others, is it?”
Chance stopped and thought. “No. No, it’s not.” He looked up at his partner. “What’re we gonna do?”
“I mean, I’ll have to tell her.”
“Tell her? You mean…” Jake tossed a thumb over his shoulder at the TurboKat.
“Chance, you gotta be kidding! You only met her what – three weeks ago?”
“Yeah, so? You jealous?”
“No!” Jake stopped and thought for a second. “I mean, yeah, of course I’m jealous. I ain’t found anybody for years. But that’s not what I’m talking about. You’ve gotta be sure before you tell her.”
“OK, then, *I’ve* gotta be sure before you tell her.”
“Oh, really? And how exactly is that gonna work?”
Jake threw his arms in the air. “I dunno, Chance, but maybe I could at least *meet* her before you let her on everything.”
Chance stopped short. “What?”
Jake went on, trying to smile. “Look, before you tell her everything, the least you could do is bring her home to meet your partner.”
“You met her.”
“Oh, right. ‘Jake, this here’s Bev’ before you slip out to dinner hardly counts as meeting.”
Chance walked into his room, tossing his jeans towards the closet. He rubbed his face and sighed. “You’re right. As always.”
“You…admitting I’m right? Geez, she’s changing you *good*!” Jake and Chance laughed, and Jake went on. “Listen, can she come to dinner next week?”
Chance shrugged. “Don’t see why not.”
“Cool. I’ll cook something good.”
“What if we get buzzed while she’s here?”
Jake suddenly frowned. “Ooh. Didn’t think of that.” He shrugged. “All right, then. We’ll go out. We’ll meet here first, though.”
“Promise me you’ll give her a fair shake.”
Looking a bit hurt, Jake said, “C’mon, Chance, you know better’n that.”
“I know, I know.” Chance looked down at his feet. “I just want this to work, that’s all.”
Jake stood uncomfortably, tugging occasionally at the collar of his one good shirt. Every minute or so, he unnecessarily peeked out the window of the garage.
“She’ll be here,” asserted Chance for the fourth time.
“Yeah, but when?”
“I don’t know. But she’ll be here.”
A few seconds later, they heard a car roll up into the parking lot. Chance stole a glance out the window. “That’s her.” They stepped out of the garage into the fading sunlight. Bev stopped her car and rolled down the window, as Chance leaned down to talk.
“Hey,” said Bev.
“Hey backatcha. You mind driving? It’ll be a tight squeeze in the pick-up.”
“No, that’s fine. Climb on in.”
Chance held the seat up for Jake, who slid into the back seat.
“Bev, good to see you again,” said Jake cordially.
“Likewise.” Bev gave Jake a smile, then turned her attention back to Chance, who was situating himself in front. “Where to?”
Jake offered, “Anyplace withuut a drive-thru window.”
Bev smiled. “How about Mexican? There’s that new place, Sanchez’s?”
“Fine by me.”
Bev drove the short distance, and the three walked in, There was a wait, so they settled themselves in the bar.
Chance asked, “Usuals all around?” Jake and Bev both nodded, and Chance flagged down the waiter. “One gin ‘n’ tonic, one lemon soda. You got Sheboygan Special?”
“One of those, too.”
The waiter nodded, and as he left, Bev turned to Jake. “You don’t drink, either?”
“Not since New Year’s a few years back.” Jake smiled and shook his head. “It took me an hour to figure out who owned the apartment I woke up in, another hour to figure out where it was, and three more hours to make it home.” Bev laughed, and Jake went on. “Since then, it’s pretty much been lemon soda.”
“Well, at least you figured out there was a problem. There’s a kat I work with – Frank – and it looks like he’ll be the last to figure it out.”
“Hittin’ the bottle pretty heavy?” Chance asked.
“Yeah – and we’re usually stuck picking up the slack. Like we don’t have enough stuff to do each day.”
They each accepted their drinks from the waiter, and Chance stood up. “Here’s to Jake, the best friend a kat could have, and Bev, best gal a kat could have.” They clinked glasses, and as they took their first sip, they heard Chance’s name called.
“Wow, quicker’n I thought. After you two.”
“See ya tomorrow.” Chance kissed Bev, then stepped out of the car next to Jake. They watched her drive off, then Chance spun around to look at Jake.
Jake half-smiled, then unlocked the door to the garage. “She’s… very nice.”
“I told ya.”
“Yeah.” Jake stepped in and headed towards the sofa. Chance stopped to lock the door, then sat across from Jake.
Jake’s smile became crooked. “Um…she’s not really your type, is she?”
Chance shook his head. “Yeah, so what?”
“Um…maybe I should get to know her a little better.”
“What? Why you say that?”
Suddenly, Jake got serious. “Chance, don’t get me wrong. She seems great. You’re right – she’s real nice.”
Chance bared his teeth. “There’s a ‘but’ comin’.”
“Yeah, here it is. Tell me about Frank.”
“Frank?” Chance stopped dead. “Who’s Frank?”
Jake shrugged. “I dunno. Some guy she works with.”
“Heck, Jake, I dunno anything about him. What does that matter?”
“Yeah, well, I know exactly one thing about him. He’s a drunk.”
“Yeah, so? What’s that gotta do with anything?”
“Nothing. That’s just it. Chance, Bev and I just met. I shouldn’t know this.” Chance didn’t say anything. “And do you remember when we talked about the news, and she told us about some friend of hers who dated that news guy? Remember what she said?”
“That he was no good in bed?”
“Well, yeah. But before she said that, she said to us, ‘Now don’t tell her I told you.’ Those words really *really* didn’t sit well with me.”
“You mean you think she’ll blab,” Chance growled.
“I don’t know, buddy. Maybe she won’t. But we gotta be really *really* sure about this before we head into this. ‘Cause there’s no backing out once we’re there.” Chance looked unconvinced, so Jake went on. “Look, buddy, think about it. Twice tonight she told me stuff she probably shouldn’t’ve. You – that makes sense – I mean, she knows you pretty well. But me? She just *met* me.”
Chance waved that aside. “She was nervous – meetin’ you ‘n’ all.”
“Yeah, maybe. But she’ll get nervous again sometime.” Jake leaned closer to Chance, and jerked a thumb back at the hangar. “Listen, you know as well as I do that this has *got* to stay a secret. We let Marc in on it ’cause…well, ’cause he made us. But we know he can keep it quiet.”
“Bev won’t talk.”
“Y’know, you’re probably right. She probably won’t talk. But I need to know for sure.” Chance jumped up and headed out. “Hey, where you goin’?”
“Out.” Chance walked into the hangar and slammed the door shut.
T-Bone, no matter how screwed up his brain got, never let it get the better of his piloting skills. He planted the TurboKat down near the edge of Chooser’s Cavern and shut down the engine. He unstrapped his helmet, but didn’t move for a minute. Finally, he sighed and climbed out of the cockpit.
Leaning against the landing gear, he looked back towards MegaKat City. It was more or less a blur, a building or two jutting out of the bright maze.
It’s not fair, he thought, kicking the wheel with his heel. It’s just not fair. I finally meet somebody special, and Jake doesn’t like her. Chance shook his head. No, wait, he likes her, he just doesn’t think we can trust her. Can *I* trust her? Of course I can. Well, I’m pretty sure I can.
What if I can’t trust her? What if she blabs? What then? It all comes out – Feral takes our plane away – we’ll prolly go on trial for something or other. But I’d still have Bev…and Jake. Or will I? Jake wouldn’t get it. He’d prolly never talk to me again.
She won’t blab. Not if I tell her right. Not if she knows how important it is. To us, and to the City. And Jake’s right. I don’t have to tell her right away. I’ll give it some time, and when we feel more comfortable together, then I’ll tell her. Then she’ll understand.
T-Bone jumped back into the cockpit, tossing his helmet back on. He smiled. Jake better stop bein’ right all the time. He’s startin’ to piss me off.
Chance gave a small wave to April, the receptionist at Virine Real Estate.
“Hey-a. Bev in?”
April smiled. “Yeah, unless she snuck out while I wasn’t looking. Got a lunch date?”
Chance smiled. “Hope so, ‘less she’s too busy.”
“She’s always busy, but she’ll make time for you. Go on back.”
“Thanks.” Chance wound his way around the cubicles, heading towards the back of the office. He could barely make out the top and back of Bev’s head sticking up past the partition, phone pressed up against her ear. As he got closer, he heard her talking.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have it ready by the end of the day. No, I think I’m headed out for lunch…yes, another lunch date… yes, the mechanic.”
Chance was about to say something when he heard himself being referenced, so he just stood silently.
“Well, yeah, he’s no Einstein, but he’s nice…and cute…oh, yeah, he’s that, too. Best ever…yes, better than Dirk.” Bev laughed, then laughed harder. “Trust me on this, Irma! You know I’m no liar. Besides, I don’t think I can get him to pose for any photos…yeah…well…no, I wouldn’t call it SERIOUS serious, but you never know…look, I better hit a stopping point on this listing or I’m screwed…yeah, I’ll let you know…see you, Irma.” Bev hung up the phone, did a half-stretch, then started typing. Chance stood silent for a minute, then cleared his throat. Bev spun around.
“Oh! Chance! I didn’t hear you creep up! Can you wait a second? I’ve gotta finish this up real quick.” Chance half- nodded, and Bev looked a bit concerned. “You OK?”
“Um…yeah. Listen, I gotta talk to ya.”
Bev froze for a second, then saved her work on the computer. She stood up and said, “I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
Chance sighed and ushered her to the door. They got into the truck, and Chance drove to the woods. Chance threw the truck in park, turned off the motor, then sat silently, staring straight ahead.
“Chance, what is it?”
Chance looked over at her briefly, then back out the windshield. “Um…I don’t know how to say this.” He turned back to face her. “And I dunno. Seems any way I put it, it’s not gonna work. You’re gonna hate me.”
Bev got agitated. “Chance, come on – what’s the problem?”
“Bev…I think I love you.”
Bev smiled a bit. “That’s a problem?”
“It’s a huge problem…” Chance hung his head. “…because I don’t think I can see you no more.” Bev didn’t say anything, so Chance went on. “I…ya gotta believe me, Bev, I can’t bear to hurt ya, but I know I’m gonna hurt you with this sooner or later…”
“Why?” Bev spun around in her seat. “Why can’t we see each other?”
Chance looked her square in the eye. “I can’t tell you that.”
“You can’t…? Come on, Chance – you can at *least* tell me why!”
“No.” Chance sighed and put his head in his hands. “I wish to God I could tell ya, but I can’t.”
Bev slammed her fist against the dashboard. “Why the *hell* can’t you tell me?”
“Bev, I’m tellin’ ya, I can’t tell you!”
“So what? It’s over? Just like that? ‘Sorry, Bev, don’t like the way it’s turning out’?”
“That ain’t it. It’s goin’ better’n I ever hoped. But it’s gotta stop.”
A tear rolled down Bev’s cheek. “This how you get your jollies, Chance? Hurting girls?”
“Ya think I’m enjoyin’ this? Bev, you don’t understand…”
“How *can* I understand? Everything looks like it’s going great, and now you say it’s over.”
“Bev, I love you – really. And I wish I could keep seein’ you…”
“What is this – some sort of fear of commitment or something? You fall in love with someone, then get scared and break up with them?”
Chance sighed. “Bev, it don’t matter. Any excuse’ll do. I’m scared to get close, I’m a creep…whatever. The fact is, we can’t see each other.” Chance looked out his window, avoiding her gaze. “Besides, it prolly wouldn’ta worked out. We’re too different – you’re this smart gal ‘n I’m this dumb mechanic…” Chance trailed off.
Bev wiped her eyes. “You really believe that?”
Chance continued to look away. “Not really. You hate me, don’t ya?”
“Shouldn’t I?” Bev started picking at the dashboard with her claw.
Heaving another sigh, Chance sort of shuddered. “Yeah, I guess.” He started the truck and backed out of the drive. They drove slowly in silence back downtown. Chance manuevered the truck in front of her office complex, then threw it in park. Turning to face Bev, he gave her a very crooked smile. “Take care of y’r’self, ‘K?”
Bev jumped out of the truck, closed the door, then spun around to face him. She looked as if she was about to speak, but then suddenly ran into the building.
Jake handed the kat a work order. “We’re pretty well caught up here, so we should probably have the ready in tomorrow. We’ll call you.” The kat thanked Jake, and left just as Chance walked in. Jake glanced up.
“Geez, Chance, you OK?”
Chance took a very unsteady deep breath. “Um, me ‘n’ Bev broke up.”
“Yeah, I told her…I told her we couldn’t see each other no more.”
“Chance, why’d you do that?” He waved Chance to the sofa.
“Cuz you were right.” Chance collapsed on the sofa, and rubbed his face with his hands. “She’d tell someone.”
“We didn’t know that. You could’ve told her later – y’know, once we were sure.”
“And what? Keep ditchin’ her everytime DarkKat came to town? That ain’t fair. Not to her, anyway.”
Jake sat next to Chance, and thought for a second. “No. No, I guess it isn’t.”
“Looks like I’m stuck with you ‘n’ the plane.”
Jake smiled a bit. “Not much of a deal, huh?”
Chance rubbed his face again. “See, Bev…but Bev and I…we had somethin’ goin’. Somethin’ I never had before. I ain’t ever gonna get that back again, am I?”
“I dunno, buddy. I just don’t know.” Jake put his hand on Chance’s shoulder. “Sorry. You gonna be OK?”
“I was so close, Jake. *This* close. So she talks a lot. That’s no problem with anyone else. With us, that’s the one thing that ain’t allowed.” Chance stood up, and violently kicked the edge of the sofa. “Life sucks.” He stormed off to his room, with Jake staring after him.
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