Long Ride Home PART 4
Warnings: Fluff, None
Word Count 2940
Chris grasps the arm rest with a tight grip. He’s wondering if he’s made a horrible mistake by getting in the car with this woman. Emery Thomas drives as though she has a death wish, or is still angry to discover her online dating match is not some average guy on the street, and she’s decided to end them both in one horrific car crash. “You always drive this fast?” he asks, trying to keep his voice calm.
“This is nothing; and I drive very well, thank you. Have you not seen the rest of the traffic speeding around us? This is still rush hour, and I have to get home to West. She has a schedule, and she will eat the couch and have an accident if I’m too late.”
“Why such a tight schedule for a dog?” he asks the petite red headed woman.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it just kind of did. She’s my “baby,” and I guess being single, with nothing to focus on but my students and a dog, she got a little spoiled.”
Well, if that doesn’t make my life sound pathetic, I don’t know what does, she thinks dryly to herself.
“It was the same with East. I got him when I was still in school and mom helped train him, and then when I started working, I’d leave him with my best friend, Tara, for the weekends. When he got older, and I traveled so much, it was just better to leave him one place, so he stayed with her. But when I was home, in Boston, my world revolved around that dog; trips to the park, shopping at PetCo, playing catch. Have you ever been away from home and Skyped with your dog? That became my life on the road… God, I miss having a dog.”
“Gee, and I thought I sounded pathetic! You’re worse than I am… I’ve often thought about getting a cat, they are so much easier to take care of, and if you’re gone for a day or two, at least they can fend for themselves. We had one when I was little, and it was so loving and…”
“No, you cannot sell me on cats as being caring creatures. Don’t even try it.” Chris is still gripping the door handle. She quickly veers right to take the exit ramp and her cell phone slides across the dash, landing in his lap, just as it starts to ring. He just laughs as the Marvel theme begins to play, and hands the phone to her, wondering if she should really be talking and driving at the same time.
“Yea, Ma, what’s up?” she asks into the phone. He smiles to himself as her voice takes on a slight Southern drawl he hadn’t noticed before. She is still fully aware that the man she has fantasized about for years is sitting in her car. His scent is overwhelming and is making it hard for her to concentrate. She really doesn’t have time to talk to her mother right now.
“Uh, tomorrow? Yea, I guess I can try to be there…. Oh, I don’t know; I might have a date… No, I’m not bringing him…. Because it would be our first date. I’m not subjecting a man to our family on a first … Because I might want a second date…. Mother, have you met our family?” Emery can see out of the corner of her eye that Chris is biting back laughter at this. She knows that she will never live this down. She groans in frustration, causing his dick to stir. God, that is a sound he’d like to hear under different circumstances.
Emery continues answering her mother’s barrage of questions. “His name is Chris. No. You don’t know him…. No, Ma, it’s not Susan’s son… Ma, I don’t know. First date implies I don’t really know him yet… I don’t think he grew up in this area… Ma…”
Chris has turned sideways in the car seat now, and is just watching Emery go through her personal hell. He knows his mother would do the same to him. He can tell she’s trying not to give away that she is not alone in the car. Her red curls have fallen across her face, and he can’t see her eyes. He reaches over and tucks a piece of hair behind her ears, and she flashes him a sweet smile, as if to say thanks. He tells himself he had to do it; if she can’t see the road she could likely kill them, the way she drives. It has nothing to do with his aching need to touch her…
“God. Yes, Ma, if the date doesn’t work out tomorrow, maybe I’ll try a dating website. I’m sure they are full of liars-“ she glares pointedly at Chris- “and serial killers, but if it will get you off my back…,” Emery can see Chris out of the corner of her eye, biting back laughter so hard, tears are nearly streaming down his face. “No, Ma, do not ask that guy from church to take me out.” She shakes her head in disbelief. At this point, she would welcome a car accident, just to make this conversation with her mother stop.
“Ma, Ma, listen if I say I’ll be at the game, will you let me off the phone? I’m getting ready to pull in the driveway. Yes, I know. She’ll eat the couch. Yes, fine. I’ll be there, but I won’t stay long. Yea, I love you too.” Emery hangs up the phone, as she pulls in the driveway of a cute little house. After putting the car in park, she slumps forward and lets her head hit the steering wheel. “And that was my mother! You have one like that?” Emery asks from behind a curtain of red hair.
“Sounds like maybe they are the same kind! They could be lifelong friends,” Chris suggests with a smile. “So, where are you going tomorrow night that you don’t want to take me?”
“What makes you think you were the first date I was talking about?” Emery counters, with a cocky attitude.
“You told her his name was Chris…”
“Well, shit. I did, didn’t I? FML. Great,” she says as she starts to get out of the car.
“She doesn’t know you already are on a dating website?” Chris asks, as he follows her lead, and gets out of the car. He starts to get her things from the back seat, but she tells him it can wait till later.
Emery stares at him in disbelief. “Are you fucking kidding me? She’d call every day to check how many hits I had on my profile!”
Chris wonders this himself. He wonders how many others have decided they would like to get to know Ms. Emery Thomas better. But that thought passes quickly, as he realizes he wouldn’t be at her house with her now if things had worked out with her and someone else. He follows her to a side door on the garage.
“The guy from church? Susan’s son? Not interested in them?”
Emery rolls her eyes at Chris’s apparent jealousy. Emery opens the side door on the garage, and West rushes past them. She bounds over to the side yard, and Emery signals for Chris to turn away. “She’s a lady. She doesn’t want to be watched. Oh, damn. She ate the new pillow. Well, that’s not too bad,” she says, as she peers into the garage.
Chris has never seen a room like it. There are balls and chew toys everywhere, and green Astroturf covers part of the floor. A mural of what looks like a park is painted on one wall of the garage. There is a couch in the center of the room that has seen better days, and does look like the dog has eaten it, on more than one occasion. On the floor in front of the couch, there looks to be what may have been a pillow at one time. And in the corner of the room, a radio plays quiet music. “A room for the dog?”
“The landlord wouldn’t let me keep her in the house during the day, but said she could stay in the garage. West stays inside with me, when I am home, but yea, this is her space,” Emery says with great pride. She giggles when she hears Chris’s stomach growl.
He laughs too and puts his hand down on his stomach. “I kinda forgot I was hungry. Like an hour ago, when I first asked you!”
Emery looks at her watch, as West ambles back over to the pair. Chris kneels in front of the Dalmatian and puts his hand out for the dog to sniff him. “She needs a bit more freedom before I can close her back up and go out to eat… How do you feel about ordering in Chinese?”
As soon as she says it out loud, she wants to clamp her hand over her mouth. It’s Thursday! By Thursday, the interior of the house is a disaster. By the time Thursday rolls around, she is so tired from a long week of school; she can’t be bothered to keep the house clean. My god, if he comes into the house, she hopes there isn’t a trail of dirty clothes everywhere. She wasn’t planning on company tonight.
“You think too loudly. I promise I won’t look at any messes or think you are a horrible woman for having an unkempt house,” he looks up at her from his kneeling position. The dog nudges him, and he falls to the ground, happy to have the dog take so quickly to him.
Emery is stunned by this sight. West has never liked any of the men she has brought home. (That probably should have been a clue that they were all losers.) But honestly, she’s still a little distracted by the thought of Chris sitting on his knees, looking up at her with those baby blue eyes. MMMmmm… She is starting to think dangerous thoughts. Hell, I hope he can’t read that thought as easily as he read the thought about the house being clean, she thinks to herself.
While Chris wrestles with the dog, he can hide his laughter at her as though he is laughing at the dog. He’s never met a woman before that he can read so easily. First he can sense she’s worried about the house, and now he knows exactly what she was thinking about him kneeling before her. Damn, he was thinking the same thing. He wonders what that would be like, to be with this woman who has already proved to him in writing over the last few weeks that she is exactly what he has been looking for. He is pleased to realize he is having the same affect on her. “Chinese?” she asks again. “I have Sam Adams in the fridge? We can eat here?”
“Yea,” he starts to get up, just as she brings a towel over and bends down next to the dog.
“Here,” she says, as she hands him her phone. “Look up “Chinese Guy” and order what you want. They’ll know it’s my phone number and order my “usual” and get whatever you like.” She begins to rub the dog down, and cleans her paws, all while whispering sweet nothings to the dog.
“Chinese Guy? Isn’t that a bit racist?”
“You’re in the South, and you think that’s racist?! Yea,” she smiles, “but it is actually the name of the restaurant.” A boy from Boston would never understand the way of life down South… There are still times when she doesn’t always understand it herself.
“And your screen saver is Cap’s shield… Nice.” Chris shakes his head in disbelief as he steps back out of the garage, onto the driveway. She looks like a normal functioning adult, but really, she isn’t. He laughs as he thinks this.
His handler would have a field day if he knew he was at the house of a woman he met online who just happens to be a huge Captain America fan. His people tell him all the time to be careful of fans, and meeting random people. That’s why they always want to set him up with some young starlet instead, so there can be some type of control. They would have a shit fit if he knew he had an online dating profile. He’s tired of other people being in control of his life. When he falls in love, he wants it to be on his own terms. And this crazy woman makes him feel like he’s already giving away part of his heart.
He watches from the doorway as Emery continues to love and cuddle the dog. He’d always wanted a Dalmatian; thanks Disney. He finds the number to the restaurant and places his order, along with her “usual,” whatever that is. He learns from the server on the phone that she orders from there at least two nights a week and he arranges to pay for the food in advance of the delivery and sets up a payment to cover her restaurant expense for nearly a month. He feels like it is the least he can do, since maybe a famous guy wasn’t what she had in mind when she signed up for online dating, even if he did just happen to be the guy, or the character, she obviously has a crush on.
He’s always wondered about that. What makes grown women still have crushes on famous actors? Chris always thought it made sense for married women to carry a little torch- maybe they were unhappy with their husbands, or having a crush added a spark to their marriage, but why would a young, vibrant woman like Emery carry a crush? If she stepped foot out of her classroom long enough, she could obviously have any man she wanted.
West runs out the door past him, and bounds up the front steps to the house. Emery turns out the garage lights, and steps out to close and lock the door. “All good? Ready to go inside?”
She takes his hand and leads him towards the steps. Chris is stunned by the simple gesture. He didn’t expect her to create any kind of physical contact within such a short time, after rebuffing his kiss at the school.
“Sounds good,” he answered. “We can watch Netflix and chill?”
She drops his hand. And stops walking. Emery stares at him in disbelief, prompting him to ask, “Did I say something wrong? I’ve been out of the dating loop for so long, my brother, Scott, advised me that this is the latest phrase to ask someone out?”
“Your brother is gay! Don’t take dating advice from him unless you want to get smacked. “Watch Netflix and chill” basically means you want to fuck with the TV on as a decoy! The kids use it so their parents don’t realize what they are really up to down in the basement,” Emery explains.
“Oh, my god; I am so sorry… Unless that’s what you want to do?” Chris asks with a devilish grin.
Shit! She thinks to herself. There. He finally did it. He did the eyebrow thing with the head tilt. He has to know the affect that has on women… If he asks me again, I might just say yes! “No, Christopher. That is not what I have in mind tonight. Like I said on the phone, if you are just looking for a hook up, I’m not that girl.”
They both pause on the steps, both trying to catch their breath and wait it out. She waits to see what he will say or do. She’s a fan; she knows the stories. Random hookups seem to be his thing. She half expects him to call a cab to go back to his car. Please stay, please stay, she thinks. She says quietly to him, “Chris, you tried online dating for a reason. If you were looking for real, it probably doesn’t get any more real than I am. Yes, I have adored this idea of you for… years. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to get to know YOU first. I’m not just going to fall into bed with you because you’re Captain America. I really don’t know you. I know your characters. I have to know you, and you have to know me. I think that’s how things work in the real world.”
Chris sighs, and steps to her, his forehead touching hers. “Real. That’s what I’m looking for; that’s what I want. You’ll have to be patient with me, and teach me what real is like. That doesn’t mean Netflix doesn’t sound fun… Maybe?”
“Shut up, Evans… Not tonight.”
Chris notices the pumpkins on the porch, the only sign that Halloween is near. One was the Avengers “A,” which is very cool, and the SHIELD emblem on another. And they enter the house together.
Next Chapter Dinner and Dessert
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