Characters: JR, Jamie, Jonathon, Erin; JR/Erin; undertones of Jamie/Jonathon
Teaser: So, two Laverys and a Chandler and a Martin walk into a supermarket, right?
Notes: This is what happens when I decide to shove my favorite four characters into a vaguely romantic-comedy setting and see what happens… this is what happens. Also, this is fluff, with an extra fluffy center but, seeing as how things are going ugly for them before the get better in the Big Fic, I thought these four might need a break from the angst!Muse, hehee... Takes place the day before The Meatloaf Incident from 'Mad World'... Also, I hate this title, but it was the only thing that worked, yep...
Tales From The Aisle
"My romantic life is none of your business."
"Don't you mean, your nonexistent romantic life is none of my business?" Jonathon asked lightly, tapping a finger absently against a shelf as he studied the two brands, working out the numbers before snatching the cheaper one off the shelf and dropping it into the cart. "I mean, there isn't anything actually going on, right?"
Erin just gave him an ogle-eyed look of abject horror, apparently struck speechless at his questioning.
Not that he could blame her.
"I'm just curious," he explained, tugging the cart out of her limp hands and spinning it towards him before setting off in the opposite direction, keeping his pace slow as he heard her kick into motion and rush after him, sputtering furiously.
"This is why I hate going shopping with you."
"I have not the faintest clue what you're talking about."
"Just because you're bored, doesn't give you the right to come and hound me—"
"I am not bored, and I'm just trying to help my baby sister with her weekly errands—" Even before he could finish his sentence, Erin was giving him The Look, which he lightly brushed off with a cheeky grin, unbothered by it, shrugging. "Besides, I'm not worried about James' little evil plans, whatever they are."
"So now they're evil plans?"
"All of the pretty boy's plans are evil, more or less."
Erin gave him a slant-eyed look of suspicion, one eyebrow arched, but he just grinned a bit more, snatching a bottle of syrup off the shelf as they passed and tossing it into the cart. "You don't seem as worried as you've been the last week, calling me to express your concerns that he's going to blow himself up or… or something."
"Well, he's got your boss helping him with the evil plans, so—"
"Yep, heard them when they left this morning, and let me tell you, Jamie could never pull off being an evil genius. Chandler had to keep kicking him to shut him up before he said something." Catching sight of her wide-eyed look of horror— "It was pretty funny, especially when Chandler grabbed him by the shirt and just dragged him out to his car."
"But, but— but Mr. Chandler's involved?"
"I'd say he's the mastermind."
"This was my plan! Stop trying to ruin it!"
JR snorted, reaching past the big man to poke the second package with one finger, jerking his chin down at it. "This one's better, it'll cook better, and you're getting more for your buck." Noticing the dirty look Jamie was shooting at him, he rolled his eyes and flashed a sideways glance at the pack Jamie was holding. "That stuff isn't even fit to be sold."
"But it's cheaper."
"Yes, because it's worse."
"You always say cheaper is better!"
"Jesus, you didn't learn anything from either of our moms, did you?"
"You don't even cook!"
"Yes, I do!"
"No, you have the Chandler staff to cook for you!"
JR, having long since had enough, snatched the package of meat from Jamie's hands and dropped it back down into the case, shoving his own selection into his little brother's hold. "Actually, I cook most of my food, since I'm picky, remember?" When Jamie tried to grab his own selection back, JR smacked his hand hard, smirking when Jamie popped his wounded fingers into his mouth, glaring back childishly.
"That doesn't mean anything," Jamie muttered around his fingers, but JR just smirked a bit more. Spinning the bigger man, he shoved him in the direction of the cart, adding with a grin, "Don't you remember that time the cook made me a pizza and they put the wrong cheese on it?"
"And yet, I came to you for help."
"I could always call Jon—"
Jamie shot him a look before glancing down at the pack of meat that JR had selected, wrinkling his nose as he watched the lines of red shift slightly under the light. "It's all bloody." He looked up, a slightly green hint of color to his face. "Is it supposed to be that bloody?"
"Yes, Dr. Jamie, it's supposed to be that bloody, it's raw meat."
"Yeah, but… that bloody?"
"I hope I never depend on you for surgery, I swear to God—"
"It's just…" He hesitated, looking nauseous as the Chandler started pushing the cart, and finally started trailing along behind, one fist pressed against his stomach. "It's just, I'm going to be eating that, you know? And, I didn't realize it was going to be that bloody— Wait, I get to wear gloves when I make it, right?"
"Are you kidding, half the fun of making meatloaf is squishing it between your fingers while you're making it!"
"So… what do you think the evil plans are about?"
"Don't know, but James' is going out of his way to keep my nose out of it."
"Yeah, but, why?" Erin's attention had shifted from annoyance to a horrified kind of curiosity and he couldn't blame her, knowing she was probably envisioning the same thing he was— James possibly causing World War III and walking around the remains of Pine Valley, calling out for survivors while stuffing his face with Twinkies and frozen slushies.
It was, indeed, quite the visual.
"I don't know, but I'm not worried anymore, I think Chandler can handle evil plans."
Erin snorted slightly, but said nothing, brushing hair from her face as she stared without seeing through the shelves, brows furrowed in her own fretful thoughts. "Maybe… maybe… maybe it's some kind of present or… or something? Maybe… a birthday…?" she suggested finally, but he shook his head, turning a corner. "Nope, already checked and there's nothing."
"Exactly, I'm obsessed now, I have to know what the Hell they're planning, you know?"
"It's really hard to make meatloaf go wrong, right?"
"In my experience, it's damn near impossible." Leaving Jamie to watch the cart, JR scanned the shelves for several heartbeats before grabbing a bottle of ketchup, tossing it to the nervous looking young man standing a few feet away. "Simple, just squirt some on, it'll make it taste good."
"There's nothing that ketchup can't make taste good."
"Says the boy who used to eat it on his eggs?"
"Oh, shut up, Mr. 'I eat pickles in my Chewy Chocolate Chunks every morning'."
"That doesn't count!" Jamie hissed, blushing furiously as he darted several glances around them, looking horrifically embarrassed. "I was just… going through a phase, or something… leave me alone!" he added more feverishly, grabbing the cart and taking off, streaking around one corner and yelling out in horror when he went crashing into a startled looking Lavery.
Maybe JR was right, maybe he should have let JR handle this.
JR did interesting things to her sense of direction.
Plus, they weren't at the mansion or at the park or anywhere with Little Adam so she couldn't use the little boy as a shield and if he noticed anything off about the way she watched him in an unprofessional manner, he'd fire her— Erin spun as soon as he went darting into her line of vision, finding herself staring at long lines of canned vegetables and grabbed one up quickly, pretending like she was reading it.
Things needed to stay professional, especially now that Jon was snickering in her direction.
Yes, clearly, he knew too much to be allowed to survive.
"I thought you said Jon was going to be busy with Erin today?"
"Um, he is," Jamie muttered, having spun the cart quickly in an attempt to hide it behind his back, blanching when it only served to tear Jon's attention away from his sister and towards it, one eyebrow shooting up with wicked interest. "See, look, Erin, right there, reading that can upside down!"
With a jerk, the can was hastily slammed back down to the shelf as the redhead snapped her head over, looking slightly electrocuted as she offered a massive grin in JR's direction, blinking violently, hating that she had gotten so relaxed and was no longer relaxed because there was her boss, walking over and looking so very calm—
JR— Mr. Chandler was wearing jeans, damn it, it didn't help matters—
It was unhealthy, the things he did to her in jeans—
"You look you got electrocuted, Red."
"Just… shopping," she managed, taking a quick step back when he reached past her and grabbed the can she had been holding, blinking in surprise as he glanced over curiously. "I thought you hated peas. I mean, you're always picking them off your plate." Off her look, he grinned again, setting it back down. "You look like you're working on an evil plot."
"That would be you."
"Jamie and you, you're working on an evil plot so Jon used it as a reason to hound me—"
"No, that's Jamie's evil plot."
"So, you admit there's an evil plot?"
"With us, there's always an evil plot."
Erin wished, desperately, that she had the cart between them, but Jon had snatched it a second before, using it to block Jamie off before the younger man could flee, and the two men were now engaged in a desperate battle, shoulders crashing against each other and arms grappling madly as Jamie sought to protect whatever it was he had hidden in his own cart.
Little Adam would have worked, too; it was always easy to remember that he was her boss when she was holding the little boy, easy to remember the fact that she worked for him and while it may be okay to start a small and unsatisfying thing with the local PI, it would be much worse to start something with her boss.
Especially when she was so sure the end of it would break into little pieces if she tried to go for it.
Not that there was anything to start, of course.
"You look a bit freaked out."
Erin gave a nervous little laugh, wincing when there came the sound of a body hitting a shelf of Spam and the resulting yelp of "Hey, don't shove me into the fake meat, pretty boy!" rang through the aisle, with enough of a screech behind it to make both redhead and Chandler close their eyes and count to five for patience.
"That looks like meat—"
"No, it isn't—"
"Oh, my God, you're trying to kill me, aren't you?!"
"I'm trying to do something nice—"
"What, poison me?"
"I can cook!"
"Yeah, and I'm Martha Stewart!"
"Are you kidding me?! You are!"
JR had had enough.
Erin wasn't meeting his eyes, completely ignoring his attempts to share any kind of a glance, and the excitement he had felt when he had looked over and spotted her had quickly sputtered and died with a bitter hiss of disappointment. He couldn't honestly be that unattractive, could he?
To judge by the vaguely horrified look she kept flicking at him, he must have been.
With a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat, pride more wounded than he could possibly express in words, he strode over and grabbed both men, yanking them to their feet and snatching the meat away quickly, tossing it into the cart when he could. "And you two twerps call me immature, I swear to god—"
"He's trying to kill me!"
"I'm trying to do something nice!"
"Oh, like when you nearly got me killed with that egg?!"
Jamie blanched in panic, and then winced when he noticed the way both Erin and JR had snapped their heads in his direction, eyebrows shooting up into their hairlines. "It's none of your business," he muttered immediately, cramming his hands into his pockets, but Jon just grinned, jerking his head at the wounded-looking young Martin. "I gave him one egg and told him to cook it, scrambled, and I even buttered the pan and heated it up for him."
"It was on too high!"
"It wasn't even on, not when I left the room," he chuckled smugly, and when Jamie scowled and kicked one foot, Jon flashed a triumphant glance at his sister and her boss, arching his eyebrows right back at them. "I come back in and he's got flames flying from the stove while he's trying to work the fire extinguisher."
"He can't cook eggs?" Erin slowly murmured, eyes wide in a frightened kind of awe, and JR made a sudden noise, slapping a fist to his mouth and looking up at the ceiling, patently ignoring the wounded puppy glance his younger brother was casting in his direction. "I mean, Jon could cook eggs when he was… how old were you?"
"Four," he chirped, and Jamie sulked even more, rolling his eyes closed when Jon added, "Of course, I think you can handle simple beef, right? I mean, I know how much you like cows…"
It was an odd group that came to Nina's register— two men elbowing each other as they fought over a pack of meat, a stony-faced, nervous-looking little redhead who refused to look anyone in the eyes and a wounded looking man with a nice pair of jeans who snatched the meat from the other two men and tossed it onto the register as the redhead piled the rest of the contents of the two carts on there with the beef.
Nina had the sudden feeling that she was starring in some kind of romantic comedy, and wasn't quite sure what she was supposed to do. Finally, realizing that she was the cashier, she quickly started moving, scanning each item absently as she tuned her ears into the tense conversation between the two people in front of her, shooting glances at each other when they thought the other wasn't looking.
Romantic comedy, or they were both psycho killers and were preying on each other without realizing it.
"I told you I can handle this."
"They're my groceries—"
"But it's a new apartment and since you refuse to let me give you a gift—"
"That would be unprofessional," the woman squeaked and Nina cocked an eyebrow to herself, wondering if the way the redhead had been watching his ass would also count as unprofessional. "But I should give you a gift," he stated, and Nina grinned slightly, turning to hide it as she fiddled with the register to let them pretend they had privacy. "Because it's your apartment, and you get a gift."
"But it's… wrong…"
The man, he looked vaguely familiar but Nina couldn't place him, shot the redhead such a downright wounded glance that it took Nina everything she had not to run around from behind her station and wrap her arms around and sing him some kind of lullaby to make him feel better.
Clearly, this woman had no game, did she?
That, or she was seriously gay— No, couldn't be gay, she was staring at his ass again—
"I'm trying to do something nice for you, okay?"
"But… I can handle it…"
"I swear, if I'm not the most evil person in this town—"
"You're not evil!" she snapped immediately and Nina raised both eyebrows, sneaking a glance just as the redhead moved closer, setting a hand on his arm as he snapped his wallet open sullenly, looking even more wounded than he had before. "I just… I'm trying to pull off the whole independence thing and—"
"And what?" he asked intently, and Nina stopped pretending she wasn't listening, leaning towards the couple, and clearly they would be a couple eventually, clearly, to listen more closely to this strange little soap opera happening just two feet away. "I'm not Babe," the woman finally mumbled, shoulder slumped, "and I don't want you thinking I'm like her, that I'm just…"
"Just what?" he coaxed, and Nina bit the inside of her cheek, impressed by how stealthily he was moving towards her, leaning closer, clearly trying to initiate something, clearly! "I just…" She paused, swallowed, and dropped her hand as if it burned, making Nina want to yank off her name tag and throw it at her in frustration. "I just don't want you thinking you're easy cash to me… or… or anything like that."
"I don't think that…"
How the redhead couldn't realize what he was doing, Nina had no idea…
"No, I trust you."
Nina twitched when the silence stretched between them, and then twitched again, this time in excitement when the redhead suddenly flushed, apparently realizing how close they were standing. "And I don't want to betray that," she finally managed, looking heated, and Nina certainly couldn't blame her, the guy was undressing her with his eyes and from the looks of his look had just reached real skin—
"Would you two ring up the food already?! I'm sick of this place, come on!"
"James!" and the other man whacked him upside the head, looking horrified and gesturing furiously at the redhead with one hand as he continued to smack the other man around with a stuffed penguin, but it was no use. The redhead had grabbed her cart and taken off with a yell over her shoulder that she was wrong and he was right and she'd be at his car with his brother and hers.
Nina wanted to scream, but the guy looked no better, face stony as he passed her his card with a muttered and deeply dejected, "Here, do it, and be quick about it, would you?" She usually hated that mood, got it way too often, but damn if he didn't look like the kid who had come downstairs on Christmas morning and seen a hundred presents just to find out none of them were his.
She obeyed, handling it quickly and watching as he shoved the bags into the second cart and started off, muttering quietly as the two men followed behind, the tall one still gesturing in irritation and Nina winced, knowing the other guy—hadn't he stolen a kid a few years back, and didn't the other kill someone?—would be sleeping on the couch tonight.
At least those two seemed to be happy together, though, which meant there was hope for the other two…