Hostile Takeover

"I'm never going to like you, Kendall," he says, "but I'm pretty sure that together we can rule the world." (Cassidy, Kendall, and the Phoenix Land Trust)

Season 2, somewhere between "My Mother, the Fiend" and "Plan B." Because these two are just way too fun together.

Disclaimer: Ain't mine.

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"I'm never going to like you, Kendall," he says one day, looking at her steadily over the papers spread out on the table between them. "But I'm pretty sure that together we can rule the world."

She isn't quite sure whether he's joking or serious and that's just one more entry on the list of Freaky Things About the Younger One that she's been compiling mentally since she met the Casablancas boys. Dick can be summed up in four words: sex, surfing, beer, and food (probably in that order, too), and she's never had anything but eye rolls for Dick Jr.

But Beaver, the one who looks like a little mama's boy, surprises her every day. One moment he's a bashful little boy and the next he's a cutthroat businessman who's going to make more money than his dad ever dreamed of (and considering that she married Big D because he was the best-looking and richest guy she could find, that's saying something). She figures that if she sticks with Beaver, she won't ever have to worry about money—it's a bonus that he won't care who she sleeps with because he doesn't look at her like that (he's one of the only people she's ever met that doesn't, and sometimes she thinks he's the only one who ever sees the real her. He must be gay or something).

Besides, he actually isn't too bad. He buys her a latte at the Hut without her even asking and he doesn't leer at her like Dick Jr. does (like she'd ever sleep with him, even if he wasn't her stepson; the kid probably has more STDs than a public toilet). He cooks dinner, too, once they have to let the cook go (being poor sucks; she'd forgotten that) and, though he laughs at her pink-streaked cashmere sweater, he (re)teaches her how to do her laundry (and laughs at her as she cusses the whole time—it's been a long time since she's done this). He does his homework and is home at a reasonable hour, so she doesn't have to worry about being a "mom" to him (not that she would, but it's nice not having to deal with everyone shoving guilt onto her shoulders), and he's the one who looks after Dick Jr., dragging his brother up the stairs and getting him into his bed (lying on his side, so he won't choke on his vomit) when the Older One is passed out drunk.

One night she trails after him to the supermarket (it's the first time she's been in one since she married Big Dick, and she keeps having these weird flashbacks to her younger years, the ones she tries to forget about). She keeps picking out things and putting them in the cart, and he keeps taking them back out again because they can't afford them. Luckily, no one they know would bother to shop here (they have people to do that for them, or they shop at the fancy organic food store up the road), so she doesn't have to worry about being seen at some place so mundane with her stepson.

After the first few weeks with the Phoenix Land Trust, neither one of them can continue to underestimate the other. The kid is smart—smarter than his dad, maybe the smartest person she's ever met. And he realizes pretty early on that she will do (just about) anything for money (even she has standards, though, no matter what Logan says). He has no idea about her real skills and mental capacity (being a roper in a long con takes more brains than you would think), but she sometimes studies him thoughtfully. He seems all goody-two shoes, but he might make a good criminal mastermind, a good partner, if she could convince him.

Their conversations, though, are patronizing—her tone reminds him that no matter how smart he is, he's still a little boy, in her eyes and the eyes of the world. And his tone screams, no matter what, you're always going to be a slut, Kendall. And they both know it's all true, even if it isn't at all.

One day she tramps out to the pool, and he's lying flat on his back on a chaise, with his pale little boy's body roasting in the sun. She saunters over to him on her high heels and looks down at him, seeing that he's been staring straight up into the sky, despite the unrelenting sun. He doesn't blink, not even when her shadow falls across him.

That staring—that's what he does instead of crying (she's never noticed things like that about people, and it's…weird. She wishes she didn't now).

She shrugs and lies down on a chaise not too far away, but not too close either, sliding on her sunglasses and stretching her body out to make sure she tans evenly. "You're going to get what you deserve if you get burnt—you have no base. Or if a bird poops right in your eye," she says, closing her own underneath the sunglasses.

He doesn't say anything, not for a long time, and she's just about to pull out her iPod, because she can hear birds singing and the water lapping in the pool, and that's just unnatural.

But he finally speaks, so neutrally that even she can hear the lack of emotion. "What's the worst thing you've ever done?"

She shifts a little. "What kind of question is that?" She doesn't like thinking of the things she does that way—right and wrong. She never has.

"A pretty straightforward one."

She taps her nails on the armrest. She needs to schedule a manicure. Tomorrow. Her nails are looking ragged.

"I slept with this one guy…." She trails off, but he doesn't laugh, so she continues. "There was this kid in high school who was totally in love with me. He was a year younger and would follow me around school and stare at me and write these songs for me." She isn't sure why she's telling him this; she hasn't ever talked about this before. "He was totally geeky and ugly and had really bad acne. I made fun of him and stuff, but he never went away." Strange that after all these years she doesn't think about the cons and the fraud and all the stolen money. Doesn't think about standing by while Cormac shot all those people. Doesn't even think about not talking to her parents for years.

"He had this really hot older brother, though. So I slept with him. The brother, I mean. At their house when I was sure Geek Boy would be there." She remembers his name, though she would never admit it. Jamie. "He heard us. Saw me walk out of his brother's room." She adjusts her swimsuit. "I guess that was pretty bad." Jamie had always looked at and talked to her like she was perfect, an angel. Well, she wasn't. And she proved it.

"I guess," he agrees in that same flat voice.

"But he left me alone after that. So it was worth it. Even if his brother was lousy in the sack." She'd never seen anyone look as crushed as Jamie did when she walked out that door and looked him dead in the eyes. But she didn't care. She still doesn't.

He snorts, and that's it. "What's the worst thing you've ever done, Beaver Cleaver?"

He's quit correcting her when she uses that name. It's like he doesn't think it's worth it anymore. He waves his hand instead. "Oh, I killed a bunch of people. Raped a girl. You know, the usual."

She laughs out loud at the ridiculousness of that. But her laugh trails off when he doesn't join her. "Seriously, though," she says.

"Well, I got my own dad caught for real estate fraud."

She sits straight up at that, almost forgetting to grab hold of the bikini top she'd untied so she wouldn't get tan lines. The girl he's always running around with may just be his beard, but she doesn't want to take a chance. "What? That was you?"

He looks over at her for the first time, and he smirks a little bit, and it doesn't look weird on his features like she would have thought. If she thought about stuff like that. "Well, I got Veronica Mars to do the dirty work for me. She thought she was just finding out who you were cheating with, though. Oh, she figured that out, too. Logan? I wouldn't have thought he'd be experienced enough for you."

Big Dick is who knows how many thousands of miles away, so it's not like the prenup matters now. She's not getting any money off him anyways. But this kid doesn't really care, and he needs her as much as she needs him, no matter how much they both might hate it. "He's convenient."

"Sure."

"Why?" she jeers. "Can you think of someone with more experience and money?"

"I really try not to think about that, Kendall."

"About what? Sex? Is that what this is about? What about that girlfriend of yours? She's a little chubby, but she actually really likes you—"

"Shut up, Kendall."

"She looks at you like a lovesick puppy. It's kind of disgusting, but you could totally get her into bed—you always can with the ones who look at you like that—"

"Shut up, Kendall."

"I can give her some tips if you want. First times are pretty awkward—I mean, mine wasn't, but I hear most people's are, and—"

"Shut the hell up, Kendall!"

His voice is so angry and his tone so final that she doesn't even think of disobeying and her mind flutters irrationally back to his earlier words. You know, the usual.

"Sor-ry. I was just trying to help."

"Well, you can't. And if you say anything to her beyond hello or goodbye or offering her a soda…" His stony voice trails off, and she realizes for the first time why he's so good at the real estate thing. Maybe she could convince him to consider the conman's life.

He stands abruptly and shoves his feet into his flip-flops. "There's a meeting of the Phoenix Land Trust tonight at the Hut. 8:00. Be there." His eyes flicker over her. "And try to wear something that won't embarrass the family even more."

She rolls her eyes, but before he turns to go, she catches a glimpse of his eyes and instead of the carefully schooled blankness she's used to seeing there, she sees dozens of emotions she isn't comfortable naming (actually, she isn't sure she knows the names for most of them) dueling for prominence.

She flips over onto her stomach and lays out for another hour, but she doesn't enjoy it like she usually does.

She goes out and buys a business suit and wears it to the meeting—a skirt and jacket, black (her best color, not that there's any color she doesn't look fabulous in) with pink pinstripes. She looks pretty damn hot in it; if she'd known that, she would have bought one long before this. His mouth twitches when he sees her and she knows he appreciates her little joke.

Then he pulls out a bunch of papers and, for the first time, explains exactly what it is that they're doing and how it will make them money. His tone is still mocking, but underneath it all, it's like he expects her to actually understand. And she does.

No. Neither one of them underestimates the other.

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