I'm the one driving her home, naturally.  I wouldn't let her drive if Donner offered me the rest of the money from his (probably short-lived) career.  I happen to like living, thank you.

"I should do this!" Kat said, out of nowhere, pointing to the radio.

"Do what?"  She's a girl, I'm a guy:  we can't read each other's minds.

"THIS!"

Oh.  "What, start a band?"

"No, install car stereo.  Yeah, start a band!"

This isn't so bad…besides the fact that I'm being paid to do it.  She actually looks kinda…

WHOA.  PATRICK, SHUT UP.

"My father would loooove that," she sighed.  We pulled up in front of her house.

"You know, you don't strike me as the type that would ask your father for permission."

Miss Snappish comes into being again.  "Oh, so now you think you know me?"

"I'm getting there."  Not saying I don't want to, either.  She's…interesting.  Yes.  That's absolutely it.  An interesting person.  Not attractive in any other way whatsoever.  Just…interesting.

Patrick, you're a damn liar.

I am not.  Are you sure you didn't have a drink?

Kat laughed a bit.  "The only thing people know about me is that I'm 'scary'."

She doesn't look in the least scary; she actually looks kinda pretty.

Hey, I can admit a girl's pretty without liking her in THAT way, can't I?  I think Buffy's hot, and I don't intend on marrying her, okay?

"Yeah, well, I'm no picnic myself."  State trooper, the duck, that thing Cameron's friend mentioned with my not having liver, my tendencies to hack open frogs with more than a little bit of violence…

She's looking at me…and not with eyes narrowed in that evil glare she likes to give.  Just…looking.  It's scaring me.

"Ah…so…what's up with your dad—he a pain in the ass?"

"No."  She withdrew.  "He just wants me to be someone I'm not."  And, in this extremely cheer-leadery, fake, ditzy voice:  "Bianca!"

"Ah, Bianca…"  Thank God she isn't.  "No offense…I mean, I know everyone 'digs' your sister…but, um…she's…without."

I think she honestly appreciated that:  she smiled, honestly smiled, not some sarcastic grin.  Seems like she's more real when she's smashed.

"You know…you're not as vile as I thought you were."

Leave it to her to sneak a small form of abuse into an admission.  I laugh…and she leans towards me…eyes closed, everything.  She genuinely wants me to kiss her.  And, dear Jesus, the only thing I can feel is relief.

Okay, shut up, subconscious.  Move.  Preferably to Japan.  I don't care if she's smashed; I want to kiss her.

Ohhhh, wait.  She is smashed.  Not good timing.  Not when she's drunk like this.  No.  I'm halfway decent, in spite of what I want you to think, and I don't want her doing anything she wouldn't when she'd be sober.

I never figured it would take an effort to pull away from Katarina Stratford, but it does.  Damn.

"Maybe we should do this another time."

Oh, how I wish I didn't have to say that.  And how I wish I'd said something else, at the sight of that glare.  I don't know how I offended her, but I guess I must have—she got out, slammed the door, and headed for the house.  Shit.

I hate this, I think as I change cars, leaving her keys on the seat—no one's gonna steal that trash heap.  I'm starting to actually like the girl, and fate chooses that moment to make my big mouth and her temperament clash.  Damn.  I want to get flaming drunk.

Only thing I could think of:  I cornered Mickey early Monday morning.

"Look, Kat's pissed at me."

"Wha—But she was doing fine at the party!"

"Yeah, I know."  Jesus, I blew it, didn't I?  "I just…look, talk to her friend about me, see if she's as pissed as I think she is."

He let out a deep breath.  "The one who's obsessed with Shakespeare?"

"The very one."

"Does this library carry any books on him?"

I handed him my Lit book.  "Here.  Find a good quote."  And walked away.  I'm not going to Lit class today—first, it means I'd see Kat, and I don't want to see her when I don't know what she thinks about me—isn't that pathetic?—and secondly, I've got a meeting with Perky.  That counselor is whacked-out.  But she's a good excuse.

I got to talk to Cameron during gym class, and he's not exactly happy about the situation, though I wonder why—just Friday, he was terribly depressed about Bianca.

"What did you do to her?"

"I didn't do anything; she would've been too drunk to remember it."  At least that's what I thought.  She definitely remembered that I didn't kiss her…and I hate to admit this, but I wish I had.  Then she'd possibly remember me in a good way…

"But the plan was working!" he insisted.

"What do you care?  I thought you wanted out!"

And instead of looking…well, anything but self-satisfied, he looks self-satisfied.  "Yeah—well, I did, but that was till she kissed me."

I can't help but grin.  Go, Cameron!  It's about time someone ditched Donner—and I'm happy for you, too.  "Where?"

"In the car," he grinned sheepishly. 

This is where the sidekick rushed over, getting trampled by the track team while he's at it.  Brilliant.

"Okay—I got the scoop."

Deep breather.  You'll be okay.  It's not fatal, remember that, whatever the news is.

"What'd she say?"  Thank God, Cameron asked that.  I don't want to be TOO eager.

WAIT!!  Patrick, this is KAT STRATFORD!!  You're being PAID to take her out, all right?  Jesus, get over yourself!

"'Hates him with the fire of a thousand suns.'  That's a direct quote."

I feel sick.  And I want to get flaming drunk.  Again.

"Thanks, Marvin.  That's very comforting."

Cameron's trying to say something positive, but he needs more practice.  "Well…you know, she could just need a day to cool off."

I'm about to agree, but just then, a large volleyball makes a beeline for our heads, and it's only by throwing myself backwards that it doesn't kick me.  Looking out at the field, I see Kat's glare.  Of course, she launched it.

"Maybe two," I correct.  And very probably more.

Donner stopped me in the hall, trying to talk to me about taking Kat to the prom.  Oh, perfect timing, imbecile, really.

He handed me two hundred.  "Here.  This should take care of the flowers, the limo, the tux, everything.  Just make sure she gets to the prom"

I guess taking the money was sort of mechanical, but then something exploded.  I want to take Kat, yes, but I don't want to be paid for doing it; don't want to think that I'm only doing this because I have to.  No. 

"You know, I'm sick of playing your little game."  I shoved the money back at him.  Thank God, I've finally said it.

"Are you sick of, say…three hundred?"

Oh, damn him.  I can't say no to that.  Hell, what's the possibility Kat would find out?  Zero, am I right?  Besides, it wouldn't kill me to have three hundred dollars in exchange for something I'd do anyway. 

I hate myself.  If Kat ever decides to quit hating me, I'll start to wonder about her sanity.