Caroline & The Treasure Hunt

Caroline & The Treasure Hunt

Rated 'PG'

By: Jana~

~~Disclaimer~~

*****~*****

--"Ummm... Caroline... you're going to hate me... but..." Richard said to himself, practicing what he would say when she walked in... "I lost Salty." He shook his head and smacked the palm of his hand against his forehead, sighing deeply... "Something less... dramatic... like: Caroline... Salty took a trip into the city without my permission. UGH! She's gonna kill me!" He continued to pace nervously till Caroline walked through the door.

*Of course Annie is with her!* Richard thought to himself when he saw Annie following close behind Caroline... *It's like she's permanently attached!* Richard had jumped ever so slightly when they entered, but it was enough for both Annie and Caroline to notice...

"Hi Richie... what's up?" Annie asked, a sly grin on her face. She didn't know what his problem was, but it was obviously something... *I haven't seen him this flustered since I found that love letter he wrote to Caroline...*

"Nothing..." Richard replied distantly, then turned his attention to Caroline... "Can I talk to you for a minute? Alone..."

"Alone? Hmmm... must be something important... if he wants me to leave..." Annie tormented... "Something he has 'strong, strong feelings' about no doubt..."

"Don't you have somewhere to be? Like... not here?" Richard snapped at Annie, glaring at her...

"No. But I do have better things to do..." Annie said as she walked towards the door... "See 'ya Caroline..."

"Bye Annie..." Caroline replied, then turned to Richard... "What's going on?"

"Well... I don't quite know how to say this..." Richard started anxiously... "You see... ummm... well, it's about Salty..."

"What about her?"

"She kinda got... loose..."

"Loose?"

"Yeah... she got out... the door..."

"What?!"

"I'm sorry Caroline... I opened the door cause I heard a noise in the hall... and she ran out..." Richard apologized sincerely.

"Well, did you look for her?"

"Look for her?" That thought hadn't occurred to him...

"Yeah! Did you look for her?"

"Well, no..." Richard reluctantly admitted. Just then Charlie came skating through the door...

"Hey! Here for the 'Get Well' card sketches..." he announced as he struggled to keep from running into Richard.

"Over there Charlie..." Caroline replied, pointing towards the bar.

"Thanks. Hey, can I ask you a question?" Charlie asked...

"Now is not a good time Charlie." Richard interjected, exasperated...

"Richard!" Caroline scolded... "Go ahead Charlie. What's your question?"

"Ok... have you ever had your clothes talk to you?"

"Oh, God..." Richard mumbled, walking away and into the kitchen...

"Have my clothes ever talked to me??" Caroline asked, making sure she heard the question right...

"Yeah..."

"No. Are your clothes talking to you Charlie?"

"Well, not these clothes... but I was at the store looking to buy a new shirt... and the clothes talked to me..."

"And what did they say?"

"They said 'Pick me! Pick me!'..."

Caroline couldn't help but chuckle.

"Charlie... it was probably just some kid hiding in the clothes rack saying it..." Richard ventured a guess.

"Some kid?" Charlie asked... "Wow! Some kid wanted me to pick him? I've never had a kid before! I bet a kid would be a great playmate for my iguana! I'm gonna go back and see if the kid is still there!" Charlie announced excitedly, skating towards the door...

"No, Charlie. Charlie! That's not what he meant..." Caroline called after him...

"Caroline! Just let him go. If we hear in the news that some lunatic on skates tried to BUY a kid at the store, we'll go bail him out and explain the story..." Richard said as he sipped his coffee.

"I'll worry about Charlie later. C'mon..."

"C'mon to where?"

"To look for Salty! You're helping!" Caroline barked as she grabbed a flashlight.

"Helping... look for her?"

"Yeah! Helping look for her! You're the one that let her out!"

"Are you gonna keep throwing that back in my face?"

"KEEP throwing?? Richard! It just happened!"

"Fine, fine... I'll help you look for her..."

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

"Salty? Come here Salty... you shedding flea factory..." Richard called out, hoping Salty would just come out of hiding so he could go home.

"Whatcha doin?" Annie asked when she spotted Richard in the lobby of the building.

"Mowing the lawn..." he replied sarcastically.

"Doesn't look like you're mowing the lawn. Looks like you're looking for something..."

"If you knew then why did you ask?"

"Cause I don't know WHAT you're looking for..."

"Salty..."

"What?" Annie asked, irritating Richard...

"I'm looking for Salty."

"She got out?"

"No, I'm playing a game of hide-and-seek with her... YES, she got out!"

"Sheeesh! You don't have to yell! Does Caroline know?"

"Yes. That's what I had to talk to her about earlier. And speaking of earlier... I'll thank you to stop dropping hints about that letter I wrote!"

"But it's so much fun to torture you with it!" Annie smirked... "Did you try the roof?" she added seriously...

"Well, I've thought of throwing you off the roof... but I would have to get you up there first. Are you volunteering?"

"Bite me! I meant did you check for Salty on the roof?"

"Not yet..."

"Well, you should. She likes going to the roof..."

"Maybe Caroline has... I'm not sure. We split up..."

"You split up?! I didn't even know you were dating!" Annie exclaimed mellow-dramatically.

"Would you just shut up! Why don't you go find something else to do with your loose tongue... like stick it some guys mouth..." Richard quipped angrily.

"Oh! That reminds me! I have a date tonight!" Annie suddenly remembered...

"Of course you do. Maybe now you can stay out of my business..."

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--"Any sign of her?" Caroline asked as Richard approached her...

"No. I'm sorry..."

"I've had her since she was a baby... both her and her brother, Pepper. He ran away too..." Caroline said, tears falling down her cheeks. Richard resisted the urge to hug her...

"I'm so sorry. Maybe we could put up flyers or something..."

"Yeah... I guess..."

"Or we could keep looking..." Richard suggested...

"You would help me keep looking?"

"All night if you want..."

"But I thought you hated Salty..."

"Yeah, well, she has her place in the balance of things. If she wasn't here, you might want to dress me up in funny hats when you're blocked..." Richard joked. Caroline smiled weakly, then hugged him, causing him to wince.

"Sorry..." Caroline apologized. She didn't know exactly why, but he seemed to do that every time she touched him, she just assumed it was his nature. Still, it kind of bothered her... but she kept those feelings to herself.

"Ok, well... where should we look next?" Richard quickly changed the subject.

"Well, she likes going to the roof..."

"Ok... to the roof then..."

"You sound like a super-hero when you say that..." Caroline chuckled...

"Oh, yeah... that's me... 'Super Painter'..." Richard shot back sarcastically... "Able to paint tall buildings with a single bound..."

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--"Hey Richard... come here..." Caroline called out...

"Did you find her?" Richard asked, approaching her.

"No, but I found something..."

"What?"

"I don't know yet..." Caroline said as she pulled an old wood box into view.

"Looks like a box..."

"Duh! Really?!"

"What's so interesting about a box?"

"Well, for starters, it looks really old. And... what's it doing here?"

"Who knows... who cares..."

"I do..."

"You would..." Richard cracked, mostly under his breath, but Caroline still heard him...

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"It's just... you have this way about you..."

"Excuse me? I have 'this way about me'??"

"Well, yeah... I mean you... you..."

"Yes?" Caroline smirked as she watched him squirm...

"You just find the weirdest things interesting..."

"Shhh..."

"What?"

"Shhh... I thought I heard something..." Caroline and Richard listened intently... then they heard it again... "It sounded like a meow. It sounded like Salty!" Caroline exclaimed excitedly. She walked over to where the sound was coming from, Richard right behind her. "Salty?"

"Beast?" Richard called, soliciting a smack from Caroline. "Ouch!"

"Salty?" They heard the meow again... "She's down there! In the vent!"

"Oh, great... ok... move Caroline... let me look..." Richard reached in and immediately pulled his hand out... "Ouch!"

"What?"

"She scratched me!"

"I'm sorry... let me see..." Caroline nudged Richard out of the way and approached the vent...

"Oh, I'm fine by the way..." Richard snipped sarcastically. Caroline ignored him...

"Come here Salty girl..." After a few moments, Salty climbed out and jumped into Caroline's arms. "Oh, Salty... thank God! I thought I lost you! You scared me!"

"Well, happy ending... going home now..."

"Freeze!"

"What??"

"You're not going anywhere!" Caroline replied sternly.

"I'm not?"

"No. You're not..."

"Why?"

"I still need your help..."

"With?"

"That box. I can get Salty, you get the box..."

"Oh, joy... another thing to add to my job description... pack mule..." Richard joked sarcastically.

"Well, you're stubborn and ornery like one!" Caroline quipped.

"Ha ha, very funny..."

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--"Hurry up! This thing isn't light!" Richard snapped, struggling with the box.
Caroline opened the door and Richard hurried in and dropped the box to the floor... "There. Bye..."

"You're going?" Caroline asked in a slightly hurt tone...

"Oddly enough that's what I meant when I said 'Bye'..."

"Do you have to go?"

"No. Bye..." Richard replied as he walked towards the door...

"Fine. It's just... with almost losing Salty today... I was kinda hoping for some company..." Caroline whimpered, trying to put Richard on a guilt trip. Richard stopped at the door. He knew what she was doing... and it was working...

"Fine..." Richard hung his coat up on the hook... "Just for the record... how long are you going to use the 'you lost Salty' guilt trip to get what you want from me?"

"I don't know yet. For a while..."

"I thought so..."

"Now, let's open this box and see what's inside!"

"Wee... what fun..." he said very unenthusiastically.

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--"Wow, Richard look at this!" Caroline said excitedly, pulling an old piece of paper from the old wood box.

"Ugh... if I must..."

"Oh, cut it out! This is exciting!"

"That's not the adjective I would use to describe this..." Richard replied dryly.

"I don't want to know the adjective you would use to describe this..." Caroline quipped, an amused smile on her face. "Look!"

"What? What is it?"

"It looks like a map..."

"A map? A map to what?"

"I'm not sure... it looks... like..." Caroline trailed off as she examined her find.

"Like...?" Richard asked, encouraging her to continue.

"Like... a treasure map!"

"Oh please! Caroline... a treasure map?? As in 'X marks the spot'?"

"I know what you're thinking..."

"What? What am I thinking?"

"You're thinking I'm crazy!"

"I'm not thinking you're crazy..." Richard said confidently... "I've KNOWN you're crazy for quite some time now..." he added under his breath.

"Shut up. I'm just telling you what it looks like..."

"It's not a treasure map..." Richard scoffed.

"Fine Richard... it's not a treasure map..." Caroline was obviously perturbed, and her annoyance didn't escape Richard's attention. He sighed heavily and shook his head...

"I'm sorry Caroline..." Richard apologized, mostly for the sake of peace.

"It's ok Richard... I know you don't have any sense of adventure... or an imagination... or a personality..." Caroline insulted, then smiled mischievously. She turned her attention back to the paper. "We have to do this!"

"Do what?"

"Follow the map..."

"What?! You can't be serious!"

"Yes, I can... and I am!"

"Caroline... you are NOT dragging me out on a 'treasure hunt'!"

"Please?"

"No."

"Please?" Caroline whined...

"No!"

"I don't suppose I could use the 'you lost Salty' guilt trip on this..." Caroline inquired, looking pitiful for effect. Richard rolled his eyes and sighed.

"Well, if you do... it's the last time you can..." Richard bargained.

"Deal!"

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--"I think were supposed to go left HERE, then go to the end of the street..." Caroline argued, pointing at the map.

"No, I don't think so! I think were supposed to go to the end of THIS street and turn left, then go to the end of THAT street." Richard snapped, his irritation obvious.

"No... cause look..." Caroline leaned towards him and followed the trail that they had taken with her finger on the map.

*Stop it Richard!* Richard chastised himself for the reaction her being so close brought out in him. He forced himself to look at the map, to see the point she was trying to make, but it was proving difficult.

"Do you see?" Caroline asked, interrupting Richard's silent concentration...

"Yeah... we'll try it your way... ok?" He just wanted some distance between them so he could breathe again...

"Ok... and if that doesn't work, we'll come back and try it your way..."

"Oh, goody."

"Oh, hush!"

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--"See? I told you my way was right!" Caroline bragged.

"Yeah, yeah. Let's just get this over with... ok?"

"Fine. It says to go 'up 3 paces'... so, probably means go up to the 3rd floor..."

"Ok, so, where's the elevator?"

"No elevator... stairs..."

"Oh, this just gets better and better..."

--They climbed the 3 flights of stairs, Richard complaining the whole way up...

"Caroline... this is the roof!" he announced as they opened the door at the end of the staircase...

"I can see that Richard. Now, it says take 20 paces..."

"Fine... so do that then..." Richard snapped. Caroline took the 20 paces and ended up in front of a vent. She reached inside and felt something wedged in, just out of sight...

"Richard! Look! I found something!"

"You're kidding!"

"No, I'm not!"

Richard approached her and looked over her shoulder as she pulled out an old box, one not unlike the one they had found the map in. Caroline opened it with some difficulty and pulled out an envelope. The envelope seemed much newer then the box and the map, still, Caroline was fascinated. She opened the envelope and pulled out a small piece of paper. She just stared at it for a moment, then started reading it out loud...

"Dear Caroline, I don't know what I'm really writing, so please, bear with me. I know I'm probably violating several rules of etiquette by telling you this right before your wedding..."

"Oh, I'm gonna KILL Annie!" Richard blurted out as he realized what Caroline had found. It was the letter he had written to her before he left for Paris. He started pacing as Caroline continued to read...

"But I have feelings... strong feelings for you. I want to be with you. I want to share your laughter and wipe away your tears. If you feel the same way, and if I have any chance at all with you, come to Remo's as soon as you can. You may not recognize me, because if you walk through that door, I'll have a smile on my face previously unseen by anyone. If you're not there by seven, I'll know your answer is no."

The letter was signed 'Richard', but she didn't read that part. She continued staring at the letter, not knowing what to do or say next. She finally turned around and looked at him. The look on his face showed a combination of emotions she had never seen on him before... like fear, and he looked like he might be ill... "Richard... what--... is this--... did you--... how--..." she stammered... no one thought staying long enough in her head to make a coherent sentence.

"Annie did this. She is the only person who knows... about the letter..." Richard said nervously.

"I don't understand..."

"Yes you do." Richard replied softly. Caroline just looked at him for a moment, contemplating that simple statement.

"You wrote this letter..."

"Yes."

"To me..."

"Yes."

"While I was engaged to Del?"

Richard shut his eyes tightly... "Yes."

"This is why you went to Paris! This is why you kissed me at Remo's! This is the letter you were talking about when you came back to New York!" Caroline exclaimed, everything starting to make sense, like pieces of a puzzle falling into place.

"Yes to all..."

"I don't get one thing though..."

"What?"

"How did it get here? What's with the map? And the treasure hunt..."

"Annie." Richard answered simply.

"Annie? What does she have to do with this?"

"She found the letter and has been holding it over my head... torturing me with it..."

"Why?"

"Why does Annie do anything? Please don't ask me to analyze her too closely... I'll have nightmares..."

"But... why would she do this?"

"I don't know..."

"How did she know we'd find the box?"

"I don't know..."

"How did she know we'd even go on the hunt?"

"Cause she knows you!" Richard quipped, smiling at Caroline. She returned the smile, then just stared at him for a moment...

"What happens now?" Caroline asked nervously.

"You tell me..."

*****~*~*~*~*~*****

--As Richard and Caroline stepped off the elevator, Annie was walking out of Caroline's loft...

"Oh, hey guys..." Annie said innocently.

"You are so dead!" Richard announced, taking a menacing step closer to her.

"What? Why?"

"Caroline and I just got back from your little treasure hunt!"

"Oh!" Annie couldn't help but laugh.

"That wasn't very nice Annie!" Caroline scolded.

"Oh, c'mon! It's funny!" They didn't look amused... "Well, if you were me you would be laughing!" she added, chuckling to herself.

"You really should've let Richard tell me about his feelings in his own time..."

"Caroline... he wasn't going to tell you any time soon! I just forced his hand a little..."

"Something you had no right to do!" Richard interjected angrily.

"You know... if she had seen the note when you left it for her in the first place... all of this wouldn't be an issue! You wrote her the letter! You wanted her to know how you feel! Now she knows! Get off my back!"

"Something you've said to the many nameless men parading through your bedroom I'm sure..." Richard shot back sarcastically.

"Well, I don't know about a parade, but it's been compared to a 3-ring circus before!" she announced proudly.

"And what were you? The bearded lady?" Richard quipped.

"You're the only sideshow freak around here!" Annie snapped back...

"Ok, that's enough you two!" Caroline interrupted.

"I'm outta here... See ya Caroline. Bye freakshow..." Annie exclaimed as she walked towards her apartment with the half-gallon container of ice cream she had pilfered. Richard just sighed, saving his comeback for a later time. Caroline walked into her loft and Richard followed...

"What a day, huh?" Caroline asked as she kicked off her shoes and headed into the kitchen.

"Yeah..." Richard replied softly.

"You alright?"

"Yeah..."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. I mean, I wish I could've told you about the letter in my own way and in my own time... but I'm no stranger to disappointment..."

"I'm sorry..."

"It's not your fault Caroline..." Richard assured her...

"I know..."

"Are you disappointed?"

"Why would I be disappointed?" she asked, confused...

"Cause the treasure ended up being a letter from me and not anything of worth..."

"Richard..." Caroline approached him and put her arms around his neck... "This was worth more to me then all the gold in the world." she said softly, then kissed him lovingly.

"Do you know what this means?" Richard asked in a whisper...

"What?"

"This means Annie can live..." Richard said with a smile.

"Sarcastic to the last..." Caroline chuckled, slapping him playfully. "Let's get some work done..."

"Good idea..."

"Then maybe later we can go scuba diving..." Richard just looked at her with a horrified expression on his face... "Just kidding! That expression on your face was priceless though!"

"Yeah, having a coronary tends to bring out odd expressions on one's face..." Richard quipped as he regained his nonchalant facade. A slight smile crossed his lips and Caroline knew that nothing would be the same between them ever again.

THE END