Rachel decided she liked him. It normally wasn't a decision to be made lightly like that, but he was very good looking and she wouldn't see him again. It wasn't a commitment, she thought as she ran the man's card. She could decide she liked someone for their looks any time she pleased.

She peeked up at him, he was looking off out the door at his dirty car. Rachel thought he looked like a John. A simple name guy. He had strong sort of jaw that was covered with days of growth and made his face look handsome, despite how the rest of his features seemed that they still needed to mature to his face. He was distracted, pulling at a strand of dirty blond hair while Rachel waited for the machine to accept his card.

"It's been declined," Rachel had to say.

"What? No, it can't have been," he laughed a little, sounding slightly crazed, and put his hands on the counter. His lips pursed a little; he looked like he was considering if it was worth telling the gas station attendant his life story. Rachel hoped he wouldn't as her patience was thin today and even being cute couldn't save him. "My uh, that's my last card. And, heh, y'see, I have to get all the way to Boston," he said.

"Well, you're not buying that drink there if you can't pay for it. I don't care if you have to get to Boston." Rachel said flatly. He got a little crazier looking, so she suggested, "Did you get gas with this card? Your bank could have put a hold on your account, or taken out more than enough to cover the gas.

"No," he huffed.

"This is the last gas station for about 100 miles," Rachel said. Most people got gas.

"I know, I know, I know. Okay. Well, I don't have the goddamn money to get that gas now do I?"

"No, sir. Are you going to buy your drink, or not?" Rachel said.

He was turning out to be a jerk, and Rachel told herself that was why it was okay to like people for their looks: that's all you liked them for. The man glared, then dug into his wallet. Rachel saw a California driver's licence and a picture of a happy couple at their wedding. A five slammed onto the counter.

"And put the rest of that to gas." the man sneered.

Rachel did so, he would barely be able to get a gallon. She was glad to see him go, go into the dusty parking lot, go into his fancy little BMW, go into the open road. The remainder of the day was completely uneventful, the rest of her customers were the regulars. At one, her shift was over.

As she stepped out into the oppressive heat, Rachel gazed into the distance. A lone figure was stumbling along the side of the road, towards the station. She had a feeling who it was, and it delighted her sadistic side when she saw the same man from earlier trudge into the parking lot.

His lip twitched like he was going to say something.

"Out of gas?" Rachel asked sweetly.

He stiffened and his chest swelled up like a bullfrog's. It looked like he was trying not to curse her out as his lips turned in on themselves. Rachel kept her face impassive, but inside, she was grinning. Karma must exist.

The man let all the air in his lungs out and he deflated. "You... do not know how quickly my life has unravelled," he said in a measured voice.

"No. I don't know anything about you," Rachel said. "Now, it's 105 degrees out, so I'd like to get into an air-conditioned building sometime soon."

"Oh... yeah, yeah, there's that town back there? There's a pay phone in there, huh?" the man had a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

"Yes. Some place," Rachel said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

She started walking along the side of the road toward the town. The man followed her like a dog follows its master. Rachel wondered what happened to this man: he couldn't afford gas, he obviously didn't have a cellphone, and his life "unravelled." She was used to strangers passing by, driving to some other state for a new start, but none of them got stuck in the middle of their new start. They always had someone there to pick them up.

When Rachel showed the guy the restaurant that had the pay phone, he looked like he was about to pass out. He was covered in sweat and his cheeks were red. Rachel watched him slink to the payphone. He dug deep in his pocket for change, then carefully pushed the coins into the slot.

She heard him whisper into the receiver. "Vic? Oh God, Vic, pick up your goddamn phone. Vic? Yeah, it's me. I'm stuck in bumfuck nowhere," he looked over and Rachel and said, "what's this place?" Rachel lowered her lids, raised her eyebrows and let him clutch the sticky black phone in terror for a few seconds before answering. "Yeah, it's in New Mexico. I dunno. Like, 100 miles from Albuquerque. Please, Vic, you gotta give me money or something. I don't have a cent to my name. I used it all to call you. They cut off my phone. I couldn't afford a plane ticket, so I drove. And now I can't buy a fuckin' cent of gas. Please Vic, I'm stuck here."

Rachel could hear the whine in his voice, the pleading, begging note. This man was poor and desperate. But he wasn't her problem. Rachel turned and started heading for the door. Her feet hurt, she had been standing since 7 am, and now she wanted to go home and sit. And sit and sit and sit.

"No, wait!" the man called out. Rachel groaned. She turned to face him; he was scared looking. "What's the nearest airport?" She told him and made to leave again, but he stopped her once more. "Can somebody take me?"

"I don't know! Ask someone else, I'm not a charity," Rachel spat.

"Rachel!" Rachel's face fell and in her peripheral vision, she saw a glob of pink. It was Kory. "This man is in need and you wilfully hold back hospitality?"

"Hospitality? He only wants to know if someone can take him to the airport."

"So we will find someone for him! You are so rude sometimes, Rachel," Kory said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"You will? Thanks!'" the man perked up upon hearing that.

"It is nothing. What is your name? I am Kory, and this is Rachel." Kory introduced herself.

"I'm Gar... field."

"Well, then, Gar... field! Do you need lodging? I recommend the local motel over the chain hotel... much friendlier! And with cleaner sheets, I assure you," Kory said brightly.

"Just... it's Gar. And I, I don't have any money. I'm poor as dirt," Gar started to say. His expression changed when he heard an unfamiliar voice coming from the phone. "Oh shit, oh SHIT!" He frantically searched his person for change, but he found none, and lost his connection to his friend Vic.

"We will find you another phone to use! Now stay here, I must get back to work... but I will help you, Gar." Kory said, then hurried back among the restaurant's tables.

Rachel used the exchange between her friend and the stranger to sneak off for the small house she rented with Kory. When she was finally home, she sat down on the couch, lit some incense, and put her feet up on the coffee table.

"Azarath... Metrion... Zinthos,"

Rachel was startled out of her meditative state by the door slamming. Her head started to ache; it always did when she was jerked out of meditation rudely. Kory had not tact sometimes.

"It smells like hippies in here," she heard a male voice remark. It sounded nothing like Dick's.

"Oh no, Rachel must have been meditating..." Kory's voice sounded hesitant.

"Yes, I was," Rachel said as she met Kory and Gar in the hallway. "What is he doing here?"

"Well, he had no money," Kory put her hands together and tapped her fingers to each other nervously. "So I thought that I would offer him lodging?"

"Where are we going to put him? There's only one bedroom." Rachel crossed her arms.

"Hey, I don't mind sleepin' on the floor, just sayin'," Gar said.

"See? He's a good guest," Kory said.

"...Fine," Rachel said. She went to the bedroom to finish meditating. The headache wouldn't get better otherwise.

Kory brought Gar to the kitchen. She sat him down at the spindly table and proceeded to raid the fridge for things she could feed Gar, since it was late in the afternoon and he had mentioned he was hungry at the restaurant. Kory found all the edible looking things she could.

"Uh... is all you have take out? I don't eat meat," Gar said, looking at the containers of pork fried rice, sandwiches, and lasagne before him.

"Oh, er, neither of us can cook well. I believe we might have a slice of the cheese pizza in here somewhere," Kory said and delved deeper into the recesses of the fridge.

Eventually, an edible (if not dried out) slice of pizza was found. Kory made sure that Gar had everything he needed before warming up something for her own dinner. They ate in silence for a while: Kory was not going to ask about the strange circumstances that led Gar to be stuck here.

The ringing phone startled them both. Kory leapt up to get it, but when she picked it up, Rachel had already gotten it, so she gingerly placed the phone back in it's cradle. Rachel would be mad if she thought that Kory was listening to her phone conversations.

"We still meeting tonight?"

"I'm too tired, Jason," Rachel sighed.

"So I can't come over?"

"...Kory brought home a 'guest.'" Rachel replied.

"Oh, you know I love being sneaky, dollface," Jason laughed.

"Not tonight." Rachel said firmly.

"But I'm already here,"

Rachel frowned, then set down the handset and got up. Outside her window was Jason, cell phone in his hand and smirk on his face. After debating with herself for a second, Rachel unlocked the window, pushing it open. Jason climbed in the room with an easy grace. He shut his cell phone with a snap.

Jason pulled off his jacket — the night had cooled down considerably — and stretched out on the bed, making himself quite at home. Rachel's frown deepened as she smacked him with a pillow.

"You're getting the bed dusty, asshole. I'm really not in the mood."

"Too bad, beautiful. I'm already here,"

Rachel groaned, but laid beside him. "You just said that, besides, I'm sick of Kory's charity cases."

"What's it this time... another wounded doggie?"

"Penniless hipster."


Rachel mhmed, then closed her eyes. She really was tired, and maybe it wasn't such a bad thing, having Jason over. He was decent company... even though Kory didn't think so. Nobody thought so. But Rachel knew that he wasn't as terrible as everyone said. Just like she hadn't been as terrible.

A while later, Kory went to the hall closet to get sheets and extra pillows for Gar. She passed the door that lead to the bedroom she had to share with Rachel. Rachel had been in there a long time. It was late at night now. Was her day at work that upsetting? Did she need to meditate that long?

Kory put the bedding on the floor and slowly opened the door. Better to just take a quick peek than knock on the door and possibly disturb her meditation.

"Get OUT!" Rachel shrieked as soon as the door was open.

Kory got a glimpse of tangled hands and other things before a pillow smacked her in the face. The door slammed shut and Kory was left standing there, stunned. She pushed her red hair back in place, picked up the pillow and put it with the others, then banged on the door.

"You said that he would not be over any more!" Kory yelled at the closed door.

Gar came into the hallway to see what the commotion was. He saw Kory standing there in obvious consternation, staring at the door.

"What's going on?"

"Oh... it is not my place, but I do not like him! He is a bad man," Kory whispered fiercely. "Rachel, I will come in there unless you come out!"

The door finally opened and Rachel stepped out; a man with dark hair and an easy going grin on his face followed her from the room. Gar wondered how he had gotten in the house, unless he was living here with them. But Kory said that he was a bad man.

"Finally giving up birdie, beautiful?" he asked Kory, looking over at Gar.

"He is a guest! Rachel, why is he here?" Kory said.

"He came over," Rachel said.

"At ease, Pinky. That worthless rock is still on your finger." the man laughed.

"I don't believe you are that skilled, Jason." Kory's voice was cold as her hand flew to her left hand. Gar noticed her twist what looked like an engagement ring nervously around.

"Oh, you don't believe me?" Jason got down on one knee before Rachel and pulled a ring out from his pocket. "Marry me, dollface."

"No," Rachel slapped his hands away.

Kory just gasped and let her hand fly to her ring finger again, where she felt the familiar weight of the ring. "That was not nice!"

Jason laughed, it wasn't a sort of laugh that made one want to laugh as well. It was a more gloating, superior laugh. Gar couldn't tell if he liked the man or not, he seemed like the type that was a blatant asshole that still managed to draw you in. His second thought was how an ice queen like Rachel could even have someone like him.

Kory sniffed and stuck her nose up in the air, marching down the hall to the kitchen. Gar stood there for a second, not sure what to do. He was obviously intruding on something personal between the two friends, which made him feel grotesquely out of place. Rachel was just eyeing Gar, looking distrustful.

"So, why're you one Pinky's charity cases?" Jason asked outright.

"Excuse me?" Gar bluffed, he wasn't quite sure what to make of either Jason or Rachel just yet.

"Why's she takin' you home like a wounded puppy?" Jason just grinned.

The man stuck his hands in his pocket, still grinning in that damned easy going way. Rachel rubbed her temples, as her headache had returned. Any time Jason confronted other people, this happened. He got under their skin and pushed them away with that stupid attitude.

"I didn't ask her to take me home... but I'm not going to refuse her hospitality," Gar said carefully.

"Ha, yeah, yuppie boy. I see your BMW parked outside. I didn't know you needed hospitality."

"Hey, man, you don't know my story. I don't know yours. Back off," Gar snapped at Jason.

He walked off, leaving Jason standing there next to Rachel, grinning like an idiot. As soon as Gar had vanished, the grin slipped off Jason's face to be replaced by a look of distaste. Rachel waited for him to say something, Jason was pretty vocal when it came to something he didn't like.

"Yuppie's got a stick up his ass. He needs to lighten up. He's got a place to stay,"

"Jesus Christ! Is that what this is about? You didn't pay rent?" Rachel gritted her teeth.

"Hey, Pulitz didn't come through. I nearly got my ass in jail for that and he owes me," Jason said.

Rachel felt her blood boil. Jason knew how she felt about that, yet he blatantly disregarded it!

"That is the last straw, Jason!" Rachel said, her voice louder than she meant it to be. "I got you a real job, when no one else would hire you, and for what? That's it, get out."

"Babe, that job sucks. It didn't give me enough to pay half of my rent, and you know, I gotta cover my ass and not tread on your good... sweet... kind-hearted nature,"

"Get. Out." Rachel spat.

Jason contemplated saying something, but he decided against it. Rachel wasn't very nice when she was pissed, and he knew the damage she could do. So he just shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal way and left the house, not paying Gar or Kory any attention.

Rachel stood tall until she heard the door slam, then she retreated to her room.

"Oh, she better..." Kory muttered.

Gar was back in the kitchen with her. He had tried not to hear the altercation but it was hard because their voices were both very loud. Kory had a pained look on her face the whole time until she heard Rachel tell Jason to beat it. Gar couldn't help but feel curious as to what the story behind all of that was.

"I'm sorry you had to hear that, Gar," Kory said.

Gar shrugged. "Hey, everyone has their problems."

"I know... Rachel has more than most," Kory's voice was diminutive and her eyes sad.

Gar just looked down into his soda can as Kory sighed. He definitely was intruding on something that wasn't his place.

"Thanks for letting me use your cell, Kory," Gar said. "Vic's gonna wire me money so I can buy a plane ticket. It should go through in a day or two."

"Oh, I am glad that you will be on your way, I wish you all the best, Garfield!" Kory said. "Please, make yourself at home, but try not to make too much noise. My shift is over at 4, so I should be home presently. Goodbye, Gar!"

"Thanks, Kory," Gar said.

He watched Kory leave, then set about looking around the house. There was a small joined kitchen and living room on one side of the house, and on the other side, a bedroom, bathroom and closet that held a washer and dryer. Either Kory or Rachel had a fine decorating taste, as the house was cosy feeling, despite how small it was. He could see a blatant division of taste on the pictures on the walls, though. Some were bright, cheery paintings of beautiful fields and burbling streams, some were bleak black and while photographs, that were astute but beautiful in their own way.

Gar wasn't sure where Rachel was, but she wasn't in the bathroom, so Gar grabbed a towel and went to shower. He felt better after showering, even though he smelled like "Madagascar vanilla and fig." After firmly wrapping the towel around his waist, he threw his clothes in the dryer for a few minutes in an attempt to freshen them up.

When he was fully dressed, he went to the kitchen. Rachel was sitting at the table, with a newspaper and a cup of tea in front of her. She didn't bother to look up when Gar came in the room, nor when he sat down. Gar sat there nervously for a few seconds, wondering what she would do, but she was quite intent on reading her newspaper, so Gar nervously made himself some toast.

The silence was hard and uncomfortable. Finally, Rachel spoke.

"I apologize for Jason last night... his behaviour was uncalled for."

"Oh, that's okay," Gar said, hating how his voice betrayed how out of place and uncomfortable he felt.

There was something about Rachel that made him feel nervous, now that he was in her house, her domain, and playing by her rules. She had an air about her that commanded respect. Even though she was a demure and petite woman, her eyes were cold and she held her head high.

"I... I'm sorry I was an asshole at the gas station. I know it's no excuse, but I've been having a really... bad time," Gar mumbled. "I, uh, I'm going through a nasty divorce. I didn't mean to take it out on you. I should know, because I've worked retail and I know how bad it can be—"

Rachel held up a hand to silence him. "Just forget it." She got up and left the table. Gar heard her walk to the living room, heard the the click of a lighter, heard the soft chant, and smelled the heady scent of incense. He guessed she was meditating.

Gar silently got up and watched Rachel from the kitchen. The cold and commanding aura was still present around her, but it was not flawless. There was a crack in it and that crack was named Jason. Gar still wondered how Rachel got around with him. Gar was a pretty good judge of character... well he thought he was and he had been proved horribly wrong, but he was sure that Jason wasn't a good person and that Rachel could do a lot better than him.

"I know you're watching me. Go away." Rachel said suddenly, startling Gar.

"I... sorry." Gar mumbled.

He turned back to the kitchen and finished his toast. Then he read the newspaper. Then he was stuck with nothing to do. Rachel was still meditating in the living room and the smell of the incense was starting to make him feel sick. Finally Rachel seemed to be finished as she got up and opened the window.

She sat down on the couch again and picked a book up off the coffee table, settling in for what looked like a long read. Gar decided he would leave her to her own devices. He left the house and walked toward town, unbuttoning his shirt and rolling up his sleeves to deal with the oppressive heat.

Gar stopped in the library, but the computers wouldn't let him on without a library card, so he gave up and decided to stop at the restaurant Kory worked at. He sat down at the counter and ordered an ice water, since that would be free and he didn't have money to pay otherwise.

"Gar, what are you doing here?" Kory asked when she spotted him.

"Uh... Rachel didn't seem to want me there," Gar muttered.

"She never seems to want anybody around her. But I've been her friend for long enough to know she will enjoy your company," Kory told him.

"If you say so... what's her deal anyway?" Gar couldn't help himself, the words slipped out of his mouth.

"She is... naturally a closed person." Kory said.

She sure wasn't being too closed last night from the sound of it, Gar found himself thinking. He shook it off as Kory went off to wait on tables. It was still early in the morning, so she didn't have very many customers, and most of them were retired men who had the whole morning to waste. This kept her coming back quite frequently to talk to Gar.

Gar genuinely enjoyed talking to Kory. He suspected they would have been friends if they lived in the same place. She was an interesting person, not as vapid as he originally thought her to be. Kory was an immigrant from a country in the east that he had trouble pronouncing. She said that she had come over in a time of great trouble from her country, but left it at that. Gar said he never would have guessed, her English was great. Kory just smiled and said that she had always had a talent with languages.

Kory talked quite a lot about her policeman fiancé, a kid named Dick. He was the son of some hot shot business man. Kory said that his father wasn't very happy with having a policeman as a son instead of someone who would take over the business, but she thought that being a policeman was very noble, even though she worried about him all the time.

"But of course, Dick doesn't like Jason very much," Kory said, then looked shocked, like she had said too much.

"I didn't either, he seemed like a sleaze," Gar confessed.

"He is! He is a thief and a liar. But Rachel insisted that he changed. She said that she got him a decent job. I don't know what strings she had to pull considering his record, and this is how he repays her... she bent over backwards for him, which is not like her at all..." Kory trailed off and looked saddened.

"How'd she even get together with him? I don't wanna stick my nose into business that's not mine, but it just seems... impossible," Gar said.

"I don't know myself. I suppose that I should trust her judgement... but, I..." Kory sighed and hurried off again to take an order.

After he finished talking to Kory, Gar left the restaurant to head back to the house. Kory told him that Rachel would just be leaving, since she had a night shift at the gas station. But when he got to the house, it sounded like she was still there, as he heard her voice, but then he heard a man's voice, Jason's voice!

"C'mon dollface, you know I was just joshin' ya. I paid the rent. I paid it."

"No, Jason, you didn't! If you didn't have the money yesterday, and you do today... well, I know how you got it! I don't know how I got involved with you. Just leave. We're through. We're through." Rachel was saying. Her voice was so cold, Gar could practically feel a chill.

"Don't do this to me Rachel, you keep me on a fuckin' string, on one day, off the next, I never know with you!" Jason said, his voice rising.

"This time, I'm goddamn serious."

Yes, go Rachel! Gar thought. Then things were silent. Much too silent. And Gar didn't see or hear anything to indicate that Jason left. He was starting to get a little worried. Independent ice queen that Rachel was, he couldn't just stand by idly if something was happening.

So he quietly crept down the hall. The bedroom was eerily silent. He was about to push the door open when he heard a crack and then a thud. That made him push the door open faster.

Rachel was standing against the wall, holding her hand. Jason was passed out on the floor with a rapidly reddening cheek and bleeding nose.

"Get out!" Rachel shrieked.

"I... no! What the hell was he doing?" Gar gasped.

Rachel glared at him, still holding her hand. Gar looked from her flushed face to the man lying on the ground the back at Rachel again. She was still glaring at him, her eyes screaming "go the hell away" But Gar was torn between trying to help her and obeying her wish.

"Get. The fuck. Out." Rachel hissed, her voice full of malice.

"No! What was he doing? I didn't like the slime, but why'd you need to punch him?" Gar slowly inched his way in the room.

Rachel was glaring him down with a spark in her eye that made him liken her to a wounded animal. Gar noticed her wrists were red as well as the knuckles of her hand.

"At least let me look at your hand," Gar offered, "and you're never going to see me again when I leave, so what does it matter what I know about you? It's not like I would repeat it. Whatever's going on with you, it can't be good to keep it all inside."

Gar stepped over the unconscious Jason and was closer to Rachel than he had originally dared to get. The closer he got, the more Rachel seemed to sag and deflate, the more vulnerable she seemed to grow. She thrust her wounded hand out. Gar took it.

He didn't know very much medically, but it didn't seem to be broken. Bruised at the worst. "You should probably ice it," Gar said.

Rachel wanted to snap at him that she could have deduced that much herself, but Gar was going out of his way to be kind. And he was right. He was going to be gone in a few days. She didn't know anyone on the east coast... it could hardly matter if he talked about her there.

"Thanks, Dr. McObvious," Rachel couldn't bite back the sarcasm.

Gar almost snorted in laughter but the presence of Jason behind him made him nervous. "What are you going to do about him?"

"Leave him. He'll leave."

"He won't press charges?"

"...No," Rachel said slowly, yanking her hand out of Gar's and quickly leaving the room.

Gar followed, feeling distinctly unsettled. Maybe he was biting off more than he could chew, Rachel seemed exceedingly complicated, along with her relationship with Jason. And he didn't really know a thing about her, save for the fact that she meditated and liked creepy pictures and apparently had poor taste in men.

Rachel went to the kitchen and pulled a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer to place on her bruised hand. Gar sat down across from her.

"Why're you so closed off? Not everyone's... him. Not everyone's gonna hurt you." Gar said, then immediately regretted it.

Rachel stiffened and pursed her lips tight. Her tiny hand clenched the bag of frozen vegetables. This man could... couldn't even begin to image all the hurt she had gone through!

"I... my own wife hurt me. I gave her everything. All my love, my heart, anything she wanted to make her happy and she betrayed me. Threw it... threw it back in my face." Gar drew a shaky breath. "But I can't close myself off. I learned a long time ago that if you close yourself off, you only let that hurt fester inside you. Your friends are always willing to be there for you, and if they're not, they're not really friends."

Rachel remained silent, eyeing Gar with a mix of anger and distrust. Gar swallowed and continued. He didn't know why he felt like he needed to pour out his life story to Rachel, but there was a gut feeling that told him to keep going.

"I didn't have a piss easy childhood. It was... really rough. And that kept me back for a long time. And then I met her... and she helped me a lot. I poured everything into her, and she just remained just as closed. She didn't tell me anything, and all the things she held inside destroyed her... destroyed us and our marriage.

"You can't just hide everything inside, Rachel. It'll eat it's way out eventually and it'll end up hurting everyone around you," Gar finished. He felt rather empty, like he had divulged everything inside him and left it lying there on the table for Rachel to dissect, even though he had be as vague as possible about what he had gone through. He had a feeling Rachel would have dissected him anyway.

"It is not easy for me to," Rachel said delicately.

"You just gotta try, y'know, step by step and it'll be easier. It doesn't mean you have to be an open book, but if something's weighing on your mind, just talk to someone," Gar said.

"That's what I was going to say," Rachel said sharply. "He was... going to take me right there. He has a sliding scale of decency... and a sense of entitlement. Sometimes, he can be sweet, but other times..."

"Why does he insist on staying with you?" Gar said.

Rachel sighed. She didn't want to talk to Gar about this. It was hard enough to talk to Kory about this. But Gar didn't seem to be outright judgemental like Kory could be with her strong convictions. She didn't know how long it would be until Jason woke up and serious shit could go down when he did.

"Maybe because I'm stable. He, um, gets his money questionably. But I work. And earn mine, and have a regular pay check that can bail him out when his questionable means don't go through."

"Then why do you take him back? You sound like you know what kind of person he is. Why do you put up with it?" Gar didn't mean to pry, but he couldn't believe that someone as obviously smart as Rachel would put up with that kind of shit from someone.

"She's not as emotionally stable as you might think, yuppie boy," a familiar male voice said. Both Gar and Rachel jumped, looking up to see Jason standing in the doorway. His face sported a magnificent bruise. "I'm not a jealous type, but I don't really think you should be talkin' dollface over there out of seeing me. She needs me. I'm the one who keeps her grounded."

"I don't think so," Rachel spat. "I've had enough of your bullshit."

"No need to bring out the claws Kitty," Jason raised his eyebrows. "But I can take a hint. See ya 'round, dollface."

Gar eyed Jason down as he left, relaxing only as he heard the door slam.

"Would've been nice if you'd taken the hint the first time around," Rachel muttered.

Then there was silence. Neither Gar or Rachel spoke. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence, but one that comes after a significant event, where one is reflecting upon what happened. Rachel got up and put the bag of vegetables back in the freezer, then flexed her hand tentatively. She winced a little.

"Would have punched the shit around sooner, if I knew it would get rid of him," Rachel remarked wryly.

Gar laughed a little bit.

Dear Garfield,

I hope you are doing well. Kory was quite glad you called to say you made it to Boston safely. She tends to worry much more than she should.

Anyways, I have some news for you. Pretend it's a surprise. Dick's presence on the eastern seaboard has been rather forcefully requested by his father, so Kory and I will be travelling up there with him. And staying there for a decently long stretch of time. So Kory and I are driving your car up. Do try to be home on the 8th, so we can drop it off, or else I will punch you as you know I can. I will not be friendly after driving for 3 straight days.



Gar had to chuckle at the last part. Life had been going well once he had flown to Boston. Vic graciously let Gar stay at his place, until Gar was able to secure a job and rent an apartment of his own. Now he was saving up money so he could be financially secure enough to return to college.

And on the 8th, Gar watched his BMW pull up into the complex's parking lot. A tall red head and a slender woman with raven hair exited the car. Gar left his apartment and ran down the stairs to the parking lot. Kory hugged him on sight, but Rachel merely shook his hand, which was at least more welcome than a punch.

She looked much better than she did when he had last saw her: her eyes were flashing not with anger and fear but with a spark of life, with a burning ember of will. Rachel then dropped the keys in Gar's hand.

"I am so glad to see you Garfield! I am glad that you are well!" Kory beamed.

"I as well," Rachel said.

"We have much to talk about! I am so excited that our friendship will be able to grow, with us living here now!" Kory said.

"Well, I'm really glad for you two. You really saved my ass in a tight spot." Gar said.

"What are friends for," Rachel said quietly, so only Gar heard her.

Gar offered her a small smile. He tried to say that that's what friends are for, to pick you up when you fall, to be there for you when you need to talk, to help you. But that was a lot to say in a smile.

He'd be able to let Rachel know all that, in time.

HOLEE SHIT. This is the longest one shot I've written. 11 ½ pages.

Originally inspired by the song 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes.

Anyways, Jason was at first Red X until I rememebed that Red X wasn't a blatant ass, then Malchior, then no one. Just a dime a dozen asshole, I guess.

And boy howdy do I feel everyone was out of character. So please, no crits. This was written at several different times over the course of about 6 months, so it varies greatly in writing style and overall decency.