A/N - Thanks for supporting our little experiment with the funny. It's been a blast for us, too. Enjoy the last chapter.

- J & B

Disclaimer: It depresses me to write these. Perhaps if one of us marries Josh, without signing some sort of prenup, we can claim at least associated 'ownership' to these characters. Alas, that's not going to happen. Sigh....

The Chinos - Chapter Six

I dread walking into the house. Last night when we returned home, Seth and Summer thought they were being smooth but I know that they had some weird sort of 'Chino conference' with Sandy and Kirsten after I went to bed. I wouldn't even think of going into the kitchen if I wasn't starving.

I half-expected to find Seth leaning over me when I woke up this morning, he kept trying to smell my breath to see if I was drinking. As if I could sneak a drink with his smothering presence.

The phone rings as I'm putting my backpack over my shoulder to face the firing squad. It's damn early so it must be important.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Ryan."

"Teresa, hey, what's going on? Are you all right?"

"Yeah, are you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Kirsten called me last night. She said you were upset…."

"They're overreacting." Great, they're bringing in the exes, alerting people across the state to my imaginary breakdown. Seriously, I'm going out after school and getting them a puppy…or a rabbit…anything to eat up all of their suffocating attention.

"What happened?"

"Nothing, Teresa. It was just a blind date. They're always painful."

"But Kirsten called me, Ry, it must have been something."

I don't want to tell Teresa what that girl said. She shouldn't have to hear things like that. It's too soon. I sit down on the bed. But I have to tell her something. She shouldn't be worrying about me. She has better things to worry about now.

"I got busted, Teresa."

"Busted?"

"In a broom closet. With a girl…."

Teresa laughs. "What?"

"At school."

"Ryan, what the hell?"

She's laughing and I remember how great it is to hear her laugh. I close my eyes and lie down on the bed.

"Ryan, you have got to tell me this story."

"If you'll stop laughing I'll tell you all about Kimmie…."

"Her name is Kimmie?" I hear her put the phone down as she laughs hysterically. It's going to be a long morning.

"Okay, sorry, Ryan. I'm sorry…what happened?"

"So the dean busts us and she calls Sandy and Kirsten…."

"Ouch…they were pissed, right?"

"Yeah. See, a few days ago, they decided to have the safe sex talk with me…."

"A little late on that, Ryan. About five years late."

"Yeah, tell me about it. But then, Sandy buys me all these kinky condoms…."

"What? Mr. Cohen bought you condoms?"

"Yeah. So it wasn't exactly the best time for me to get busted humping a random girl in a closet during class."

"Guess not," she laughs. "Damn, Ry, things are pretty weird for you out there, aren't they?"

"Yeah. Twilight zone kind of weird. But they're worried about me. And my habits."

"Your habits? I guess I shouldn't tell them that it wasn't the first time you've been alone in a closet with a girl, then, right?" she teases.

"Stop it. That was a long time ago, Teresa." I'd almost forgotten about that. God, we were kids back then.

"They're sweet. But that's not why Kirsten called me, is it?"

"I have no control over those people." It's true. They're nuts.

"What's going on?"

"Teresa, you of all people --"

"You're fine."

"I'm fine. I'm not upset, I'm not going to walk off a bridge or anything…."

"But you might find some random chick to fuck in the backseat of the Rover, right?"

"Who told you that?"

"Got you! I knew it!" She's enjoying this way too much. I wonder if she's working for Summer to torture me.

"Teresa, what…."

"I'm sorry," she giggles. I'd forgotten she could giggle. "It's just strange that the Cohens are all worried about your sex life."

"Tell me about it. What should I do?"

"Stay out of the closet, Ryan."

"I'm not in the closet."

"What about Seth?"

"What?"

"Sorry. Obscure reference. Are you okay, Ryan?"

"Yeah. I really am."

"And I believe you."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I'm better. But you're late for school. They've probably got a counselor waiting for you in the house."

"Thanks for the support, Teresa."

She laughs. "Keep it in your pants, Ryan."

The dial tone is a relief. I don't get up off the bed immediately. It was good to talk to her. She's one of the few constants in my life, she's always been there for me.

"Chino! Oh God, Cohen, he's catatonic!" Summer's shrill voice shatters my peace.

Maybe I can use this. I don't move.

"Get up, Chino! Get up!" Summer is bouncing on the bed now, panicked.

"Ryan? Oh God, it's finally happened," Seth whispers. I feel his hand against my forehead. I can barely contain my smile. But it's so worth it.

"This is all your fault! I told you we shouldn't have left him all alone out here!" I hear Summer's hand make contact with Seth's skin.

"Ow, Summer…it's not my fault he wouldn't sleep in my room last night…."

"Does he usually sleep in your room?" Summer retorts.

"No." I hear her slap him again. "Summer…."

"Go get your parents, tell them he's taking brooding to a dangerously high level."

"Are you sure he's not just asleep?" Seth asks. He starts to shake me. "Ryan? Ryan? Wake up."

Ow. Jesus. Is this how he normally wakes people up?

"Oh God, he's lost it," Summer whispers. I hear another slap.

"Dammit, Summer, how is hitting me going to bring him back?" Seth yells in a high pitched voice.

"Well, what are we supposed to do?" Summer snaps.

It's silent and I probably should open my eyes to see what's going on. Too much quiet from these two is dangerous. I've tortured them long enough, and as I'm about to open my eyes, I feel soft lips pressed against mine.

I taste coconut as I pull away. My eyes shoot open to see Summer leaning over me, her eyelids clenched tightly as if she's in pain.

"Summer?" Seth is pale and stricken.

Thank God it was Summer….

"I had to try something, Seth," Summer says, flushed.

"I was just fucking with you both, but Summer…." I can't believe she kissed me.

"They always wake up when you kiss them, don't you know anything?" Summer looks to her boyfriend.

"But you've been tainted…you've been infected with the Chino love," Seth whispers. I think he's going to cry. Maybe I'll go put on the pants to cheer him up. Sadly, I'd be more comfortable with him staring at my ass than crying in my room.

"I don't see what all the fuss is about," she remarks. "Cohen's a much better kisser…."

"Really?" Seth squeaks. He seems pleased. I feel inadequate all of a sudden. Seth's a better kisser than me? Blasphemy. I wasn't trying. Not that that matters….

"This is just…." I don't know how my joke got so out of control.

"Weird," Seth and Summer say in unison.

"Guys, what's going on? You're all going to be late for school," Sandy announces. I think all three of us jump at his voice. Kirsten hasn't come near the poolhouse in the past few days. I think she's scared…or scarred.

"Nothing," Summer responds. "It's Chino's fault."

"Yep. It's all my fault," I respond as I get to my feet. Sandy looks at me with worried eyes but we're late so I don't have time to placate him. They're really worried about me. It's strange. They're worrying about me when I'm totally fine. I wonder if they always worry.

---------------

I make it through school relatively unscathed. Summer and Seth finally seem to accept that I'm fine, not suicidal or desolate, but fine. I'm waiting for the couple by the Range Rover in the parking lot.

"Hey, stud."

"Kimmie." I turn to face her.

"You okay?"

"Yeah. You?" What the hell is she talking about.

"I'm grounded, but I've been grounded since I got here." She smiles, walks up closer and leans against the SUV beside me. "Ah, such fond memories of this vehicle." She runs a hand over the side panel of the Rover. Her bright red nail polish contrasts the shiny black…stop. Don't fall into her little sex trap.

"Kimmie, this…."

"You can't break up with me, we're not dating." She grins, leaning over and kissing me on the lips. She tastes good.

"Wait, stop." I put my hands on her shoulders and push her away gently.

"You don't want to play?"

"I can't play with you anymore…." God, does that sound as stupid as I think it does?

What the hell are we? Six?

Kimmie purses her lips, disappointed. "But I thought we were friends…."

"We are, but not like that. I can't keep doing this with you." I won't look at her lips. Her twinkling eyes. Her curves…God, I'm pathetic.

"It's all in fun, stud." She smiles again. "I don't understand why you keep saying no to me." Her fingers tug at the hemline of my shirt. I can't stop watching as her hand slips under my shirt and her warm fingers start to caress my skin. This isn't illegal. I mean, we're just two friends who enjoy touching each other…inappropriately…in a parking lot. I'm delusional.

"Step away from him, whore!" Summer's voice brings me back to reality. She's running across the parking lot in her platform shoes. Seth's struggling to keep up.

"What are you, his watchdog?" Kimmie doesn't move, she winks at me. She's enjoying this entirely too much.

"What are you, whore of the month?" Summer snaps. "Leave Chino alone…you had your chance."

"Come on, Sum, you're the one that hooked us up in the first place," Kimmie pouts. She pinches me underneath my shirt. I gasp. Seth glares at me, disgusted. He must think I'm getting off or something…. This is just so wrong.

I open my mouth to respond but Seth shakes his head at me, warning me not to interrupt. I guess he'll get his catfight after all.

"Don't call me Sum, and I wanted you guys to go out, not just fuck!" Summer retorts.

"We're just having fun, he doesn't mind…." Kimmie points to me with her free hand, looking angrily at Summer. She's even hotter when she's angry.

"Of course he doesn't mind, he's a man, but he's done with you." Summer glares at me.

She abruptly pulls Kimmie several steps back, away from me. Seth comes to my side.

"She's pissed."

"I swear, Seth, I was just waiting by the truck…."

"I believe you, man. But you suck."

"What?" Now he's mad, too?

"You have this weird sex vibe going on, it's like you can't control it. So it's okay. It's not your fault that the girls can't keep their hands off you."

"At least you're not blaming it on the pants anymore."

He shoves me and I shove him back. When we glance up, Summer and Kimmie are standing beside us.

Summer pokes Kimmie in the side. I thought my glare was bad, but Summer's glare is notorious.

"So, I'm sorry, Ryan. I won't try to seduce you anymore," Kimmie says reluctantly, rolling her eyes, like it's been rehearsed.

"What?" This is funny. Summer's tamed Kimmie?

"Summer says that we should just be friends," Kimmie holds out her hand as if to shake it. One thing we haven't done is shake hands.

I take her hand and shake it.

"Good. No more random sex." Summer nods, satisfied.

Kimmie catches me off balance as she pulls me toward her and kisses me deeply. When I open my eyes, she's sprinting across the parking lot. "Fuck you, Summer!" She laughs, one hand clutching her purse, the other waving in the air, middle finger extended.

Seth is holding Summer back, keeping her from chasing down the taller girl.

"Stay away from Chino!" Summer yells.

"Summer, relax," I try to calm her. "I had it all under control."

"Control? You have no control. You have zero self control, Chino, or else I wouldn't have to chase your groupies away," Summer says. "Get your hands off me." She shakes off Seth's restraining grip.

"Summer, you don't have to patrol him. Ryan's made it this far without our help, I'm sure he'll be okay," Seth says.

"Yeah, he'll do okay if he wants a string of one night stands to last forever. Don't you want your brother to be happy?"

"Well, if Kimmie makes him happy, then --"

"Shut up! You're not helping," Summer accuses, cutting him off with a whack of her purse.

"Ow! What the hell! Do you have a brick in there or something? You little raging…."

I take a couple of steps back to let them argue. Seth's backpack is beside mine on the pavement and I open it and pull out his phone. I dial the number I memorized the other night.

"Sal's Restaurant."

"Can I speak to Mary, please?"

"Hold please."

I hear the unmistakable sound of Summer's hand connecting with Seth's flesh and a slight yelp of pain. Ah, true love.

"This is Mary."

"Mary. It's Ryan. From the --"

"I know who you are. I'm glad you called."

"Yeah. Me, too. So. Do you want to hang out some time?"

She's quiet. "Hang out?"

"Like…go out?"

"You're really bad at this."

"So I've been told. There's a reason I never do this on my own."

"Why don't you meet me at the restaurant around seven?"

"Sounds good. I might have to bring my…posse with me. They don't trust me."

"Your 'posse'? I guess that's okay. The whole reason we have to meet at the restaurant is so my Dad can supervise. He's protective."

"Yeah, so is my 'posse'. So. I'll see you tonight?"

"Yeah. Looking forward to it."

I close the phone and find Seth and Summer staring at me.

"Did you just make a date?" Seth asks.

"Maybe."

"Chino!" Summer slaps my arm.

"God, woman. We need to get you restraints or something."

---------

"So, Ryan. You and Seth are brothers?" Mary asks.

Ouch. Real conversation already? I haven't even had a chance to look at the menu yet…not that it matters, I think I know the entire thing by heart. Still, she's caught me off guard. I don't know if I'm ready for this. It's definitely a change.

"Not exactly. I live with his family."

"It's a long story," Seth adds.

"Definitely too long for the first date," Summer nods.

"Now I'm really interested," Mary smiles, looking to me. Seth and Summer are unusually silent.

She's so nice but it's all about to be over now. I should write a book on how to end a date in ten sentences or less. I could make money.

"Seth's dad is my lawyer. I got arrested last year and my mom kicked me out. They took me in." I look up from the table expecting to see disgust on her face but it looks like she's amused. I'm amusing? Huh. Must be the pants.

"Ryan's from Chino and it's, like, hell there, so there was nothing to do except get arrested," Seth says quickly. So now he decides to talk.

Mary looks at him like he's insane. She looks at him the way I always look at him. I'm suddenly inexplicably drawn to her.

"Seth wasn't impressed with Chino. He doesn't get out of Newport that often."

"So, what'd you do?" she asks. I hope she's not one of those girls who gets off on dating 'dangerous' guys. Those girls almost always need a defender and I'm tired of settling fights. I haven't taken a punch in weeks and it's actually been quite nice.

"Ryan?"

Oops, too long reflecting. "Stole a car."

"His brother stole a car," Summer amends. "Chino was just there."

"You have your own little defense team," Mary grins. She has a great smile. Great teeth.

"Apparently."

"So why do you guys have to chaperone Ryan?" Mary directs her attention to my 'defense team'.

"Chino's antisocial," Summer answers immediately. "He had a harsh summer and we want him to get out more. He's a little new to the 'dating' game."

"What about you? What's your story?" I try to ignore the curious stares from the restaurant's roaming staff.

"Born and raised in Southern Cali. I dropped out of school to help out my dad here in the restaurant." She lowers her voice. "He feels really guilty because I spend so much time working here but he hates all the friends I've made." She glances at me with a shy smile.

"He seems to like you, though."

I return her smile. It's nice to be able to flirt with her without Summer kicking me in the shins every five minutes. Maybe I'll have time for the bruises to fade.

This is going to be all right. Mary's…normal. Such a pleasant change.

------------------------

"This is the longest date yet," Seth remarks suddenly, a flicker of panic in his eyes.

"We've never made it past dinner before," Summer adds, looking stunned.

"We don't have a plan for this," Seth murmurs.

"I'd say they didn't have much faith in you if I hadn't seen your last few dates," Mary laughs.

"Chino's too good for those girls," Summer says. Wow. Is that a compliment from Summer?

"Hey, what about me?" Seth is, of course, insecure.

"You're mine. They're insignificant to us," Summer shrugs. He kisses her cheek with a smile.

"Everything okay?" Mary's father is beside our table, his hands nervously stuffed in his pockets.

"Fine, Dad," Mary sighs, blushing.

He holds out his hand and I shake it. "Have her home by midnight."

"Sure…of course…." I'm bad with the parents. I guess it depends on the parents, though. Jimmy liked me, Julie hated me. Eva…I guess Eva liked me. Kimmie's mom…better left unexplored.

"Uh oh, your dad set off the 'brood'," Seth says, glancing at Mary.

I roll my eyes at the couple. "I'm beginning to think I'd be better off without paranoid chaperones."

"Oh no, you'd like that wouldn't you? So you could ruin this perfect date with a romp in the Rover?" Summer grins. I think she's evil. If this was a TV show, I'd have to stake her. I'd stake her lots.

Mary isn't offended. She reaches over and takes my hand. "This is nice."

"Yeah. It's nice."

"Aww." Seth's grinning widely.

"We should take a picture," Summer says.

"No," Mary and I both say.

"Just kidding, God…." Summer smiles.

"So, what now?" Seth asks.

"Let's go back to your house. We can show Mary to the Cohens…." Summer suggests.

My God, she's not a puppy….

"You can show me to who?" Mary questions.

"My parents. They're cool, they won't bother us. But that way, we can have some private time," Seth starts.

"But Mary and Ryan can't have private time," Summer says suddenly.

I roll my eyes. "They think I can't control myself," I whisper to Mary.

"It takes two," she smiles. "What about me? You think I can control myself?"

"I don't know…"

Summer clears her throat. "You guys are too close."

I lean back with a sigh.

"Are you paying her to keep you celibate?" Mary asks.

"If so, it's not enough," Seth mutters.

"Come on guys, it's our first date…."

"Which doesn't mean anything to you," Summer reminds me.

"It all comes back to Kimmie," Seth nods, thoughtfully.

"Guys, stop it," I groan. "Let's just pay and get out of here."

"You're going to leave all the blinds open in the poolhouse," Summer says as I put the money on the table.

"Poolhouse?" Mary asks, following us to the door.

"I live in a poolhouse."

"Your pool has a house?"

-----------------

"Sandy, Kirsten, this is Mary."

"It's so nice to meet you," Kirsten extends her hand with a smile. Sandy follows suit, sporting that goofy expression he gets when he doesn't really know what to say.

"Nice to meet you both, as well." Mary sounds nervous, and I can't help but notice her eyes have been wandering in awe since we entered the gates of the subdivision. I felt the same way the first time I came here.

"Is there any way I could use your bathroom?" She meets my gaze with wide, questioning eyes.

"Sure." I place a hand on her shoulder and guide her down the hall, gesturing to the door.

"Thanks," she whispers, disappearing behind the door.

When I walk back out, Seth, Summer, Sandy and Kirsten are lined up behind the counter, each one is giving me a different look. Seth gives me the thumbs up, nodding and smiling. Summer has her head tilted, as if daring me to disobey her orders. Kirsten's smiling exuberantly. And Sandy…well, Sandy looks goofy.

"She's nice," Kirsten breaks the silence.

"Yeah." Sandy smiles broadly, nodding enthusiastically to show how much he agrees with his wife.

"You gonna show her the poolhouse?" Seth asks, not without receiving the glare-of-death from his girlfriend.

"Uh…I guess so."

"Be a gentleman, Ryan," Sandy says kindly, but I can read between the lines. I nod back at him.

"And…just…stay off your bed," Kirsten adds, her face flushing as she turns to meet my eyes.

"And no brooding," Summer continues the string of warnings.

"And for God's sake, man, don't bring out those pants," Seth finishes seriously.

I hear Mary's heals clicking on the tiles as she reenters the kitchen.

I turn to smile at her. "Want to see our pool's house?" I tease.

She nods, significantly shyer in front of the parents.

I wrap my arm around her waist and guide her to the doors.

"Ryan…." Summer's voice interrupts our exit. She smiles but doesn't finish her sentence.

"I got it guys…. Thanks."

All four observers smile as Mary steps outside in front of me.

"Just keep it in your chino's, Chino," Summer squeaks in the warning before I shut the door behind us.

"What was that?" Mary asks.

"Nothing," I answer, pulling her closer as we approach the poolhouse. "They're just obsessed with my pants."

-Fin-