AN: If you want to know the point of canon divergence for this story, then you need to read "How Mitch Never Met Heather" from the "Things That Never Happened" collection. Otherwise, jump right in - you should catch on quickly enough. :)
Disclaimer: Jericho is not mine.
"If you ever get tired of those little kids hounding you with questions all day, then I'll make you a full time offer."
Heather laughed as she slid out from underneath the car she had been working on and reached for a rag to start taking a couple of layers of grease off of her hands.
"I'm already here evenings and Saturdays," she told the man standing beside her. "That's not even counting other times we see each other. If I stopped going to the school, you'd get sick of me."
"Not gonna happen," he informed her sliding into the driver's seat of the vehicle and starting it up on the first try. He gave her a questioning look after he listened to the sound of the engine for a few moments, and she shrugged her shoulders while she smiled. He shut it off and shook his head at her. "I have to keep you around if you are gonna keep going all car whisperer on me. 'Sides, you're good for business," he added in an undertone as he glanced toward the office where he had been talking on the phone before coming to check on her progress.
"I know that look," she said tilting her head to the side and examining his expression.
"It's nothin," he dismissed. "You still got that parent thing tonight?"
"It's not nothing," she ignored his attempt at deflection. She was starting to look a little bit miffed. "Who was it this time?"
"People are always going to talk, Heather." He sighed scribbling something down on the papers attached to a clipboard in what looked like an attempt to avoid eye contact with her. "I knew that when I came back here. I'm always gonna take a chance on running into one of Jonah's guys. There are always gonna be people who turn their heads so they don't have to look at me when we pass on the sidewalk. There's always gonna be Emily staring daggers at me like she's wishing that the ground would open up and swallow me whole." He looked back up at her and shook his head. "I never thought it would be otherwise."
"I can talk to Em," Heather offered.
"No!" Mitchell barked at her. "I don't want that. It's enough problems between the two of you because of me already."
"You were my friend first."
"Don't start that," he told her. "I'm not whining."
She raised an eyebrow and just looked at him.
"Okay," he admitted, "maybe I'm whining a little bit, but it's not a big thing. I don't mind. I got a past here. It's always gonna be there, but I'm starting to have a future so I figure that it all evens out." He grinned at her. "Besides, that puckered up expression that Gracie Leigh gives me over at the market every time I pick up groceries that makes it look like she's been sucking on a lemon is priceless."
"You like picking at people," she accused looking amused in spite of her tone.
"It's fun," he responded with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Or you're just damaged," Heather teased.
"I'll have you know that my state run psych profiles always came out more or less sane," he informed her wagging a finger in her direction.
"You keep telling yourself that," she snorted as she replied. "I think that last bit of finagling took care of it," she nodded her head in the direction of the car from where she had been washing her hands in a utility sink. "She just needed a little bit of motivation."
"It's a car, Heather," he told her leaning closer as if he was imparting some great secret. "Either the parts all work together or they don't. There's no motivation."
"Shoosh!" She exclaimed rushing over and running her hand gently over the front of the vehicle before ending with a few small pats as though she was attempting to soothe it. "You'll hurt her feelings, and I'll have to start all over again."
"And you worry about my psych profile," he quipped.
"You're just jealous that the cars like me better," she stuck her tongue out at him.
"I'm not jealous," he huffed. "You work your magic on the temperamental ones, and I get credit for running the best shop in town."
"You're the only shop in town right now," she reminded him.
"Doesn't stop some people from going elsewhere."
"Mitch . . .," he cut her off before she could finish the thought.
"I don't like this whole field trip idea."
"Like that wasn't an obvious change of subject," she glared at him before shaking her head and letting it pass. "I don't know why you're in such a bad mood about my field trip. It's a wonderful educational opportunity for . . .," he held up a hand to stop her.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure the little hellions are all salivating over a day of school that isn't a day at school," he muttered. "You know how I feel about that bus."
"It's always gotten us where we needed to go before," Heather answered as if that ought to be enough incentive to have a little faith in the bus in question continuing that trend.
"That bus is older than you are," he reminded her, "and they ain't never kept up the maintenance on it like they oughta. That engine is trouble. You're good at tinkering, but that monster is a little more than you need to be trying to tackle."
"Ah," she grinned at him, "you're worried about me."
"Shut it, Lisinski," he rolled his eyes at her. "Just don't go calling me when you're stranded on the side of the road tomorrow. I'm gonna be too far away to come play hero." She raised a questioning brow again, and he answered without her needing to verbalize the query.
"They finally figured out the mess up with those parts. I told them to leave them where they are, and I would come get them myself."
"Do I want to know where they ended up?" She looked genuinely afraid of what the answer might be.
"I'm gonna be making a six hour round trip," he admitted looking like he was none too pleased with the fact.
"Tell me about it," he mumbled, "but I'm not giving them another chance to muck up the shipping. At least I know where they are right now." He gave her somewhat disheveled appearance a once over. "You planning on conversing with parents looking like that?"
"That would make for an interesting conversation starter," she told him gathering up a bag and heading for the door. "Drive careful."
"Don't misplace any of the rugrats."