She stepped inside, moved to a corner as far away from Dick as she could get and prayed the elevator would get them to their floor post haste. Dick was doing a stellar job of ignoring her, so they were on the same wavelength.
She didn't want to come at all, but Veronica had forgotten one of her books at Wallace's dorm room. Since Mac was a college student, the bribe – er, promise – of pizza succeeded in getting her to bring her friend the book in question.
She's going to owe me big time for this now. Way more than a couple slices of pizza. Can things get any more uncomfortable than riding in the elevator with Dick Casablancas?
She tried not to think on what he'd said that night at her dorm. That she'd just been Cassidy's beard, but seeing Dick always brought those memories straight to the forefront.
Focus on Bronson.
Those were good thoughts. Even if they hadn't gotten past the idea stage. Just the fact she'd taken the step was huge in her mind. It meant she was really and truly moving on. Dick glanced over his shoulder at her.
"No, I'm not making faces at you. Though it might be an improvement."
"I can't believe they let people like you in here."
"I'm just bringing Veronica a book."
"That's good, because I'd have to talk with Logan if he was going to start letting you hang around."
"As if I'd want to."
"As if you wouldn't."
She rolled her eyes. Did he really think she was impressed by a penthouse suite? Did he know nothing about her at all? Evidently.
The elevator stopped suddenly and the lights flickered.
"Uh oh," she murmured.
There was complete silence. Dick just stood there, in the way of the emergency phone. as it happened. So, either she'd have to shove him out of the way to use it or she'd have to civilly suggest he do it. She could do civil, couldn't she?
"I'll give it a minute and then use the phone," he said, as if reading her mind. Maybe there were brains under the sun-bleached hair after all.
"It's been longer than a minute." It had been closer to five. She was trying to be patient, but she really didn't want to be in close proximity to him for any longer than she had to.
"Uh, yeah, you don't think I know how to tell time?"
"I was beginning to wonder."
He opened the metal compartment that housed the phone.
"What do you mean, nothing?"
"Just what I said. Nothing." He held the phone to her. "Here you try it."
She took the few steps needed to grab the phone. She clicked on the lever, hung it up, and picked it back up again. Sure enough. Nothing.
"I'll be damned," she said. If she had tools she might be able to fix it, but she hadn't been planning on hotwiring an elevator's emergency phone tonight.
"So, I guess we're stuck here then, huh?"
"It would seem so," she said, exasperated. "Do you have a cell?"
"Yeah, but it doesn't work in the elevators for some reason."
"Great," she said with a roll of her eyes. "Maybe you could try it, just in case."
He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. "No reception." He held the phone out for her to examine. As if she didn't believe him. She didn't think he'd lie about something like that. Not when it meant having to spend any more time with her than necessary.
Having decided that there was in fact nothing to be done from their end, Mac took a seat on the elevator floor. Dick had already done so a few minutes ago. She exhaled sharply, blowing her bangs out of her eyes with a soft sigh.
"So, what did Ronnie forget?"
Mac pulled the textbook out of her bag and showed it to him. Dick rolled his eyes.
"Figures she'd take a class like that."
Mac smirked at that.
"She wouldn't be Veronica if she didn't."
"You have a key to her apartment?"
"No, and I wouldn't drive to her apartment anyway. She left it in Wallace's room. His RA let me in."
"You can do that?"
"I'm sure she asked Wallace for proof of some sort."
"Well, right, of course."
He wasn't paying attention to the conversation anymore. That much was obvious as he thumbed through the textbook, eventually tossing it aside. It actually took him longer than Mac gave him credit for. She figured the table of contents page would be too deep for him.
"This is crap. Why does she take these classes?"
"I don't know. I suppose because it's what she wants to do."
"Well, yeah, but why. I mean, she could do anything."
Mac raised a brow at that. "Maybe because she likes it."
"I just don't get it. I mean, she's hot. She's annoying as hell. That's just Ronnie. And I mean, Logan's totally over the moon with her. She doesn't need to work if she snags him."
"I don't think she's looking to snag anybody. Not everyone's looking to get married instead of an education at college."
"I'm sure as hell not looking for marriage."
He wasn't big on the education aspect either. "That's probably a good thing," Mac said dryly. Dick married? There was a scary thought.
"What are you looking for?"
"Huh?" The question startled her. Realizing what he was probably asking, she answered honestly. "To get out of Neptune."
"You don't like it here?"
He shrugged, lowering his head to look at his hands grazing the elevator floor on either side of him.
"If I move, if I leave, I sometimes wonder if I'll forget him."
She didn't need to ask who the him in question was. Could he see the irony in the fact she was the person he said that to? She doubted it.
"I don't think so. I mean, he's your brother. Your memories aren't in Neptune."
"Yeah, but." He looked up at her, his shaggy bangs making him look like a little kid instead of an adult just then. "I suppose that's why you want out."
"Part of it. I'm just ready to get out. I never really belonged here anyway."
That was an understatement. There were times, though she tried not to think about it often, she wondered what her life would be like if she'd had Madison's life. She wouldn't be like Madison, she knew that much. She'd have a sister she could talk to about stuff and who would understand her.
"Yeah, you seem like a corporate person."
She smiled at that. He thought that? "Thank you."
"I'm not sure I meant it as a compliment."
"I'm taking it as one."
"That's what you want? An office job, being somebody's toady, clock in at nine, clock out at five?"
"Well, I'd like to start my own business, but until I do that I'll do what I have to. Not all of us have trust funds."
He snorted at that. Evidently, though, he had no quick or witty comeback because he grew quiet again.
"Do you miss him?" Again, he startled her with his question. This was a side of Dick she wondered if anyone, even Logan, had seen. She wasn't sure she'd known Dick could be serious let alone think about what anyone else thought.
"I try not to, but yeah. I mean, I liked him. I might have loved him, I'm not sure. I don't have a lot of experience where love is concerned."
"You're not the only one. At least you have parents that give a shit."
She couldn't argue with him on that.
"No word from your dad?"
"No, and I'm sure I won't. He's gone. Our Mom," he shrugged. "She's wherever, doing whatever with her new family. The one that doesn't include me."
"You have Logan, he cares. Veronica, too, in her own way. And me."
"You don't care."
"I do. It's just so hard. I see you and I see him, I think of him, I'm reminded," she cut herself off. She tried not to think of that night, the betrayal she'd felt. She was getting past it, slowly.
"Yeah," he said simply, and she was grateful he didn't make her finish. "I'm reminded, too."
"Have you been to the cemetery?"
"Why would I do that?"
She shrugged and then reached for Veronica's book, sliding it back into her bag. "Maybe it would make you feel better."
"He's not there. It's just a hole in the ground."
"You could try it. Some people find it cathartic."
She smirked at that. "Helpful. You know, healing."
"Why didn't you just say that?"
"Have you gone?"
"Nope, but he wasn't my brother."
He was quiet for a while, Mac assumed they were done with the heart to heart. So, she turned her mind to other things. Thoughts of what she could be doing instead of sitting here with Dick. Just what Veronica would owe her for this. This went way, way beyond pizza.
"I was drunk."
"Huh?" She looked at him intently, not sure what he was saying. Did he blame himself for Cassidy's death?
"That night, at your dorm. I said," he shrugged, met her gaze and looked away. "Well, you know what I said. It wasn't true."
She felt tears stinging her eyes. She glanced at the ceiling above her. Oh God, she would not cry in front of him. She would not let him see how those words had cut to the quick, wounding her almost more than anything Cassidy himself had done. She was able, sometimes, to separate the Cassidy she knew from the sociopath that had done horrible things. She liked to remember the sweet Cassidy. To think that he had been sweet to her, good to her as an act was a horrible affront to her self-esteem.
It shouldn't matter, it shouldn't make her feel better. Why did she care that he hadn't really just been using her? It did, though. She hoped, however slight, that she'd made some sort of a difference to him.
"I wonder sometimes if I ever knew him. I never knew what happened."
"I don't think anyone did. It's not your fault," she added quickly, sensing where this was going now.
"You think Ronnie agrees with you?"
"Veronica?" She wasn't sure what Veronica had to do with anything.
"Yeah, it's because of me her court testimony at Logan's dad's trial was called into question."
"Because of you?"
"I pushed Beaver into the room with her! It was in good fun. I wanted him to get laid. I figured it would loosen him up. That was his problem, he was so uptight all of the time. I had no idea. And Ronnie was so obviously looking for a good time."
"She'd been drugged!"
"I know that. Now. I didn't then. I was drunk. We were all drunk. It was a party. She was single, and, all right, the butt of a lot of jokes. She had balls showing up. So, I picked her, yeah, on purpose."
"I don't think Veronica thinks it's your fault. You didn't make Cassidy do anything, Dick."
His eyes met hers again, searching for sincerity perhaps. She was sincere. No one made Cassidy Casablancas do anything. He could have gotten help. He could have done any number of things. He chose the path he took.
In the blink of an eye the elevator came to life. Mac stood with a grateful sigh, taking her bag with her as she did. She knew this was the end of the friendly conversation. It would be back to sarcastic Dick in no time at all.
"Here, give this to Veronica, will you? Tell her I'll collect the pizza later," she said, handing Dick the book when the doors opened on his floor.
"You sure?" He looked genuinely perplexed. And maybe even a little concerned. No, she couldn't possibly be seeing that emotion reflected in Dick's eyes.
"I can go to my room."
"It's not you, really. Good night, Dick."
She knew she was no longer alone. She knew who it was, too, invading her time here. Her personal space. She felt hands on her shoulders as he sat behind her, his legs extending next to hers. He was so much taller and bulkier than his brother.
"I thought I might find you here." His voice was soft, really little more than a whisper. It seemed appropriate given where they were. What was more, he sounded sincere. He hadn't come to ridicule or fight.
It hadn't taken him as long to come as she thought it would. She knew he would. She'd planted the seed for both of them. She just assumed it would take him a day or two to think it through. Evidently, he was looking for healing, too.
His hands at her shoulders slid around her waist. She should have pulled away, should have been offended but she found it incredibly comforting just then. They were the two people Cassidy had probably inadvertently hurt most. He hadn't meant to, she knew that. She believed he had not set out with the intention to hurt her. Or Dick.
Instead, she rested her head against his shoulder. She'd stopped along the way and bought a yellow rose to set on the marker. She wasn't sure why, it just seemed like the thing to do. It was the only thing on the marker. No one visited, no one left remembrances. There was some graffiti. She'd come back and clean it up later. Maybe Dick would help her. It wouldn't hurt to ask. She didn't plan on being in Neptune forever, and she certainly wasn't going to stay just to take care of someone's grave.
"I wonder what he'd say," Dick murmured against her ear.
"Seeing us here like this?"
"I think he'd be happy."
It was a logical question. "Because we cared for him and I think he cared for us. And us being here means we're beginning to move on. We'll get over the shock, the hurt, and we'll remember the better times. The laughter, the fun, the quiet moments. And being here together means we won't let his memory fade."
"Maybe you're right."
"What did you tell Logan?"
"Just that I had something to do."
"Mm," she murmured.
Neither spoke again for quite some time. They seemed content just to sit and let the peacefulness of the cemetery perform its magic. She had come expecting something, to feel a connection to him. She didn't feel much of anything, but she did feel the restraints she'd placed around her heart begin to loosen. Her soul felt a little lighter. Her mind was more at peace.
It was Dick who broke the silence, the spell.
"I don't suppose pizza is part of the healing process."
"It could be. I don't want to go back there, though."
"You don't have to. I'm not a complete cheapskate." She quirked a brow at that. "Okay, I've perfected mooching, I admit, but I've got enough money to splurge on pizza. And you missed out on dinner, which by the way. Veronica thought I scared you off, so you owe me for subjecting me to yet another one of the infamous Ronnie stare downs."
She laughed, shifted to a kneeling position. She adjusted the rose and stood. "I guess, since you put it like that. I've been on the receiving end of those a time or two myself. They are traumatic."
"See, that's what I try to tell Logan but he just laughs. I think he's immune."
"He might just be," Mac said with a laugh. She glanced at Dick who fell into step beside her. She wasn't sure what to make of him, of this.
"So, Cindy," he said, clapping his hands and rubbing them together.
"Don't call me Cindy."
"Oh, that's right, you prefer the non-gender specific Mac. Now to important stuff."
"Mushrooms or green peppers?"
She laughed, tucking some hair behind her ear. "Both, of course."
He draped an arm over her shoulders as they walked toward the exit. "Ohh, daring, living on the edge, I like that."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com