Caroline and the Big Hangover
"Mornin' Caroline!" Annie chirped, strolling confidently through the door.
Caroline never removed her eyes from the panel in front of her as she replied distantly, "Morning... Annie..."
She grabbed an apple off the counter and tore a chunk out of it before making her way over to her friend. "Listen, Care, I'm sorry about earlier. I had no idea you were just gonna burst in like that."
"Hey, it's alright. I probably should've knocked, but seeing as how nobody else seems to show the courtesy of knocking before they enter a room, I figured it would be okay if I did it too," she replied bitterly.
Annie smirked slightly, sensing that what Caroline saw in her apartment was already getting to her. "Well, nevertheless, I'm sorry. And so's Richie."
"Mm-hmm," she mumbled. "So where is Richard?"
"Oh." Annie smiled, like the cat that ate the canary. "He's in the shower."
"Ahh. And is he even planning on showing up for work today? Because right now, he's about an hour and a half late."
"Oh, don't worry, Care. He said he'd be over as quick as he could. But... after last night, he said he kinda needed the hot water to soothe his muscles." For good measure, she added, "He's pretty sore."
Caroline chuckled grimly. "I'll just bet he is." She sighed. "Look, Annie, I don't mean to be rude, but I kind of have a lot of work to do, and since my assistant is currently taking his sweet-ass time in the shower, I need to work doubly hard. So, if you don't mind..." She gestured to the door with a sweep of her hand.
"Oh, sure!" she exclaimed good-naturedly, pretending to miss Caroline's sarcastic, rude tone of voice. "Sure, I understand. Don't worry, I'm outta here. I'll talk to ya later!"
"Whatever," Caroline grumbled to herself.
Annie grinned widely and strode out the door, shutting it behind her. She smiled at Richard, who was waiting in the hall. He stared expectantly at her. "So?"
Annie laughed. "Oh, she's pretty pissed!"
She smacked his arm lightly. "No, come on, this is good! This means it's already getting to her! It won't take a whole lot more to drive her over the edge!"
He sighed. "Fine."
Then, she reached out to touch his arm -- something that startled him, but he didn't shy away, instead meeting her eyes as she told him, "Trust me, Richie. Stick with this? And the payoff'll be huge."
"And when Caroline finds out this was all a ruse, and that I effectively lied to her? How well do you think that's going to go over?"
"She doesn't have to know."
"I can't keep it from her."
Annie appeared to be stumped by this, her hand slipping from his arm. "Well... we'll... we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, I guess. For now," she shoved him, "get in there! And act like yourself. Y'know, like nothing's different and like it doesn't even matter."
"And make that face you always make, like you're constipated, or passing a kidney stone."
Richard glared at her before going into Caroline's apartment and playing his part. "Morning, Caroline. Sorry I'm late."
Without turning around from her spot at the desk, Caroline distantly replied, "Let's just get to work, okay? We have a lot to do."
He felt her silently fuming for the next two hours. He cringed every time she'd press too hard on the paper with her pen and a rip would fill the silence; his head throbbed every time she huffed exasperatedly -- she claimed it was from writer's block, but he knew better.
Just before lunchtime rolled around, Richard looked up at her, deciding to try a tactic that would appeal to her: kindness. "Caroline, you seem upset about something. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Nope," she snapped, and scribbled on her paper furiously.
He ventured further. "You just... appear to be a little tense."
"Well, we can't all release tension as easily as you and Annie do," she quipped, and Richard's eyebrows flew up.
Being kind obviously wasn't getting through to her, so he mimicked her demeanor. "Look, if you have something to say to me, Caroline, why don't you just get it off your chest so we can get some work done."
"Y'know, how dare you accuse me of holding up our productivity!" she suddenly raised her voice. "I am not the one that spent the better part of the morning lolling around naked in Annie's bed and shower!"
"That's what this is about?" Of course it was.
"Of course it is, Richard. You are my assistant. And as such, I expect you to show up for work on time when we have a deadline. Not five minutes late, not twenty minutes late, or... like today... not ninety minutes late." She spouted off all this without looking away from the panel, and finally she set the pen down to look up at him, her expression hard. "Do I make myself clear?"
Richard nodded silently, unsure of what to follow up with. He'd never seen Caroline like this. Sure, he'd seen her ticked off when it was getting close to her wedding and Annie flaked on her maid of honor duties; he'd seen her miffed when the drycleaner put too much starch in her favorite shirt; he'd seen her peeved when she got short-changed at the supermarket; he'd even seen her irked when Del once ate the rest of the casserole she'd been saving for her dinner. But he'd never seen her furious. This was a whole new Caroline, and... frankly, Richard feared for his life a little.
Luckily that was when Annie decided to make another appearance. "Hey guys!"
Caroline grumbled a greeting, not looking up from her panels, while Richard nodded cordially. Behind Caroline's back, he saw Annie gesturing and mouthing things -- he was unsure exactly what she was getting at, but she seemed to be signaling he should start another performance. Glancing down at the panels, he asked, "So, uh... Annie. Since it's getting close to lunch, do you have any plans?" One glimpse at Caroline and her jaw was tensing.
"Why, Richie?" Annie teased in a lilting tone, heading for the coffee maker. "Couldn't get enough and now you want a nooner?"
They both glanced at Caroline now to note her ears were pinking. "Actually," Richard replied, "I was thinking we could head to Remo's. In fact, let's go right now!" he rushed into the kitchen and first grabbed Annie's hand; then, he tugged her with him quickly to the door, where he grabbed his coat. "Y'know, official first date and all - we'll see you at one-thirty, Caroline!" They just barely heard her grumbled reply before the door slammed behind them.
Annie laughed as they got on the elevator. "What the hell, Richie? You gotta work on your acting skills a little. That was a sorry excuse for a performance."
Richard sighed and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. "What did I get myself into? This isn't going to work, Annie! She is so mad already."
"Good! That means we won't have to keep it up as long. Come on!" she grabbed his arm, "What is the big deal?"
"Other than the fact that I'm lying to my best friend and the woman that I--" he stopped himself just in time and looked up at Annie to see her quirking her eyebrow, and he finished lamely, "--work with."
Annie folded her arms across her chest, "Uh-huh," sarcasm heavily laden in her tone. "Well Richie, all I can tell you is, if she's the woman you," she made air quotes, "'work with,'" then dropped her hands to her sides, "and if you really 'work with' her that deeply, then you should say something. But since you won't, we now have to resort to petty trickery and lying."
Richard just sighed again and stepped off the elevator when they reached the lobby. Annie fell into step beside him and they walked to Remo's. Halfway there, Richard finally spoke again. "I just have never lied to her. I never could, I mean she digs so deeply into my life there's no way I'd be able to ever hide anything from her anyway!"
Annie touched his arm sympathetically. "That's because she likes ya, Richard. And not in a 'gee I'm glad he's my buddy' kind of way." She adored Caroline and she secretly didn't mind Richard, but... God, the two of them were clueless idiots sometimes. They had more repressed desires and unresolved tension than some of the most well-known cinematic and television couples. In Annie's mind, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had nothing on Richard Karinsky and Caroline Duffy.
"What do you mean?" Richard asked, nervously.
Annie rolled her eyes and dropped her hand from his arm. "Do I always have to spell it out for you two numbskulls? Look Richie, I know you think you wouldn't have a chance with Caroline, because, well," she chuffed and gestured to him, "it's you."
Richard rolled his eyes and turned to head back, but Annie grabbed his elbow and swung him around again, forcing him to keep walking with her. "But listen. Ever since she called off her wedding to Del and you ran off to Paris, things changed for her. That whole frickin' summer she couldn't stop talking about you, always wondering where you'd gone and why you never said goodbye. I've never seen her so broken up as she was when she came back from finding your place empty."
Richard glanced up at her, expression unreadable and voice soft. "Really?" There was a hint of hope in his tone that Annie latched onto.
"Yeah. God, after her and Del broke up, she barely shed a tear. When she came back from your place that next morning, she was inconsolable, Richie. All the ice cream and cheesy movies in the world couldn't cheer her up." As an afterthought, she added, "Took her two weeks to quit talkin' about that kiss, too."
Annie smiled. This was going to be a very informative lunch for Richard.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I am enjoying writing CitC again. But, I unfortunately can't promise that updates will be speedy with this fic. I'm going to be trying my hardest, but I'm writing for about five other fandoms simultaneously! Hehehe. My muse is a flighty little thing :)
Hope you enjoyed this chapter!
Hope you enjoyed this chapter!