A/N: This doesn't constitute my post-school-year comeback, such as it will be. It's a fic I was deeply involved in during the final episodes of Unnatural History, and that I kind of gave up on after the series was canceled. But I was going through old fics this weekend and found this one, and it made me laugh a lot so I decided to spend Sunday finishing it. I hope you also laugh.

Just wanna be clear that this is not a threesome fic. There's a lot of three-character silliness, and good, old-fashioned Jasper/Maggie, but that's about it. But if you stick around until the end, you might be rewarded with a tiny hint of girl/girl. :D

The Tortoise and the Smart Car

Jasper's ears were ringing, in that just-had-his-mind-blown-by-an-incredible-concert way. The crowd shoved past him on their way to the exit, each individual figure quickly obscuring as they faded into thick, smoky air. He kept his eyes focused on the one figure that mattered, the shiny, dark head of Maggie Winnock. His own head was spinning, adrenaline and over-stimulation and exhaustion making him jumpy and incapable of paying attention to anything for very long. Maggie would remember where he'd parked the car.

The head bobbed, ducked around a couple of people and Jasper locked his eyes on it, refused to blink as he squeezed between lingering fans. At one point he almost lost her, and he instinctively reached out to grab at her, the back of her shirt or something. But his fingertips grazed smooth leather and couldn't hang on. Leather, of all things. She was dressed like freaking Bono, black vest and faded jeans, which was so fangirl he could hardly believe it. He should have known she was secretly geekier than she pretended.

He followed her head until the crowd finally thinned enough for him to see her better. But she powered forward, a woman on a mission, headed straight for Row FF of the parking lot. Better than a homing pigeon.

"Hey, Bon-ette," he called after her. "Could you wait up just a second?"

"No," she said, sarcastic, but she slowed enough for him to catch up. "I don't want to be stuck in traffic all night."

It was like his ears had been stuffed with cotton. Nothing was loud and clear except the stupid ringing, and Maggie's voice was just a dull, throbbing pressure. He had a feeling he was overcompensating for that by screaming at her.

"You just fulfilled your lifelong dream of seeing U2 live, and all you can think about is traffic?"

At this her eyes got dewy and faraway, and she smiled. "That was amazing, wasn't it?"

Amazing wasn't strong enough to describe it, but there was no way he was going to tell her that. He'd fought like a hellcat not to have to go to this concert with her, but Henry only promised to replace the tickets if Jasper would actually use his, rather than hawking it on eBay. And Maggie had wanted to go so badly she'd almost nagged him to death. No way he was going to admit to her that she was right about U2 after she'd given him so much crap about it.

"Amazing enough," he said, "for a bunch of septuagenarians."

"Oh, get over yourself," she said. "Don't think I didn't see you crying during the encore."

"It was smoky in there!"

"Yeah. Whatever."

They walked forever, until he finally caught a glimpse of his red-and-silver baby. His fished around in his pocket for his keys, unlocked it, and hopped inside. Maggie immediately began insisting that he 'hurry up and get out of here,' which, in his giddy state, only made him move more slowly. It amused him to antagonize her, to take his time searching through his CD case, picking the perfect music for the ride home while she squawked at him, hands flailing.

"You're so immature! It's two hours from Baltimore to DC in the first place, and you're going to spend another hour just getting to the interstate!"

"Oh, Maggie. Can't we just enjoy this time together?"

She rolled her eyes, and he finally started the car and backed it out of the space. Okay, she had the right to be a little sarcastic about that. The ride up here had been awkward enough without Henry to keep things light. He'd made up for it by blasting Muse and thinking about other stuff, but now he didn't feel like blasting anything. He wasn't sure his ear drums were going to survive as it was.

They made it through the back half of the parking lot easily enough, but it wasn't long before they were caught up in the sea of concert-goers waiting to exit the vicinity. It was moving so slow that he had time to get out of the car and stand up, and see that the mass bottle-necked into single file line that ran all the way to the street. They really were going to be here forever.

"I told you to hurry," Maggie said. "Now we might as well apply for a mailbox."

He got situated in his seat again and sighed. "Wish I'd used the bathroom before we left."

"It's not like you don't have enough time. There are port-o-johns right over there."

She pointed to some tall, blue cubicles in the distance, and he eyed them with mixed emotions. The predominant one was disgust, but slowly getting louder was the complaining of his bladder. He was starting to regret those six Caff Monkeys.

"What if the line moves?" he said.

"I'll pull up."

"You're going to drive my car?"

"I think I can handle moving it in three-foot increments, Jasper."

It went against his better judgment to leave his car in anyone's hands, but he really, really needed to pee. And, besides, despite Maggie's interest in cars, she drove like a grandmother. Maybe it would be okay.

He waited until the line inched forward and stopped again, then he jumped out of his car and headed toward the johns. He glanced back long enough to see Maggie go around and get in the driver's seat.

He'd never realized that peeing in a pitch-black port-o-potty could be such a nightmare-inducing experience. But the fact that he was trapped in a tiny, rancid place, totally vulnerable for those long seconds while people shouted and milled around way too closely outside got quickly added to his list of "Worst Fears: Lived." He had to put it up there with nearly dying by bat flu, nearly dying by mass ninjas, and nearly dying by suffocation in a gangster jalopy. Six eliminated Caff Monkeys later, and he emerged from the john a shaken man.

Someone pushed past him to take his place, and he stared over most of the heads in the crowd to see that his car had only moved up three spaces. No damage, no jacking. Good deal.


A familiar female voice sent shivers down his spine. He turned to see a pale, heavily made-up face heading his way. Katya Cattleman. Oh, god.


He took an instinctive step back, but she slipped between people like a noxious vapor and soon was standing right in front of him, eyes piercing and horrifying.

"Fancy meeting you here," she said. "I didn't know you were a U2 fan."

"I'm not," he said, a phrase that, he had to admit, was quickly becoming a bald-faced lie. But then he stared at her, at the dark, vamp-y make-up and black hair, at all the metal in her ears, and wondered what the heck someone like her was doing at a gathering of Bono geeks. If he wasn't so terrified of her, he probably would have asked.

"Imagine," she said. "Abandoned by a jerk, but saved by a prince." She ran a hand up his forearm; he shook it loose as casually as possible.

"Who's a prince?"

"I came to this concert with a guy," she said. "I thought he was nice, but he put the moves on me in the parking lot. And then when I got out of the car to make a point, he just drove away. Can you believe it?"

It was difficult to drum up sympathy for a woman like Katya, who was the single scariest female he'd ever met and seemed fully capable of taking whatever she wanted, when she wanted it. But there was something excessively jerk-tastic about leaving a girl alone, two hours from home, in a random public place.

"That sucks," he said. He began heading back toward his car, with Katya hot on his heels. "But I'm not in a position to save you. My car only has two seats."

"Does that mean someone else is already in the second one?"

"That's what it means."



She fairly hissed with excitement. "I'm not afraid of a little competition, Jasper Bartlett."

"What are you going to do, push her out of the car?"

They were coming up on the passenger side, now, and either Maggie hadn't noticed, or she'd fallen asleep. She was still in the driver's side, and all of the sudden Katya had him up against his own car, back to the door. He flattened himself against the window.

"That's not what I meant. I'm talking about competition for your affections."


She pressed herself closer against him, until he was bent over like a backwards U, trying to get away. "A little friendly rivalry never hurt anyone. Maggie's a big girl."

"Oh. No," he said, finally catching on. "No, Maggie's not competing for anyth-"

But she only listened long enough to hear what she wanted, and her grin flashed eerily white in the darkness.

"Excellent. Let's go."

"But how are you expecting to-"

She opened his passenger door and shoved him inside, and when his feet were in the floorboard, she climbed in and sat on his lap. His nose was clogged by the smell of incense as she leaned against his chest and shut the door. Maggie gawked at them both.


"Hey, Mags. Careful, the line's moving."

Maggie's mouth opened and closed and she stared back and forth between them, then at the moving traffic, and when several horns honked behind her, she let the car roll forward.

"What are you doing here?" she said.

"Long story. The short story is, Jasper's a perfect gentleman."

Maggie's eyes cut his way, incredulous.

"Is that so hard to believe?" he said, shifting so that whatever was in Katya's back pocket would stop digging into his thigh. It was probably brass knuckles. Or a gun. "I can be chivalrous, you know."

Maggie snorted. "Are we taking her all the way to DC?"

Katya answered that one. "Thanks, that would be great. Line's moving."

It was moving, slowly but steadily. The congestion up front must have cleared up because they were able to roll along without stopping...at about five miles per hour. Still, making progress.

"Quick," Jasper said to Maggie. "Pull over long enough to trade places with me."

"Just so we can go to the back of the line again? Forget it."

"You're not driving all the way home," he said. And, more importantly, he wasn't going to ride bitch in his own car with this psycho woman in his lap. "Pull over."

"Make me."

"You want me to make you?" He tried to work himself out from under Katya to get at Maggie, or maybe just his steering wheel, but something telepathic seemed to pass between the girls and in a flash Katya had Jasper buckled up in his seat belt, her hands slipping around him like two quick snakes. Then she made herself "comfortable" by folding her knees and sitting back so that he couldn't reach the button to get himself free, which put most of her weight on his abdomen. It was a good thing he'd already peed.

"Katya! Maggie! Let me out of this car right now!"

Maggie pulled the car out onto the main street, following the mass of traffic. Oh, he was going to kill her. So dead. As soon as he got away from Katya.

"Relax, Jasper," Katya said. "You're wiggling all over the place."

Maggie smirked. "Yeah, Jasper. Keep doing that and she won't think you're a gentleman."

He couldn't believe he was being kidnapped in his own car. By girls. "Shut up. Look, there's a red light up there. Stop there so we can-"

But it turned green right on time, and Maggie kept cruising along the access road, a hundred cars in front of and behind her.


"What?" She took the on-ramp up onto the freeway, and by this point Jasper was very close to saying a lot of very dirty words.

"I'm not going to forget this, Winnock! I'm going to act like I've forgotten it, and then one day, when you think I don't remember anymore, I'm going to get you back for it. When you least expect it!"

She yawned. He stewed in his seat, trying to come up with a hundred ways to torture Maggie during the rest of the school year, trying not to think about fingers, with long, claw-like nails, massaging him above his knee. Maggie was definitely dead.


They made it ten whole miles before catastrophe struck.

Maggie gasped right before Jasper felt it, a huge ka-thunk that sent the car airborne for a second before it came down too hard. Something snapped in the back, and the right side was suddenly too low, metal dragging along asphalt. Jasper screamed, Katya screamed, and Maggie swung the car right, almost hard enough to roll them. They didn't roll, but instead scraped to a stop near an exit ramp as a semi blasted by. It was only then that Jasper realized he was still screaming, and he let the last one die. Then there was silence in the car except for Maggie's harsh breathing; her hands were still clamped around the wheel, knuckles white.

A dirty word finally worked its way out.

"What the hell did you do?" he yelled.

"It was a tortoise! A giant one!"

"And you risked our lives to save it?"

"I didn't save it! I hit it so we wouldn't die! Didn't you feel the crunch of turtle shell in your stupid little tin-can car?"

"Don't talk smack about my car! I love this car!"

"Guys!" Katya shouted, loud enough to cut through the argument. "Calm down and stop screaming at each other. Let's get out and see what's wrong."

Trucks rumbled by on the interstate while they inspected the back, the wind shear pulling at their clothes and hair. The back right wheel had halfway disappeared into the wheel well. He didn't know much about cars, but this didn't look like something they'd be able to fix with the spare tire.

Katya clung to him as semis blew by, and after a minute Maggie scooted out from under the car. She stood up and wiped her hands on her jeans, then handed Jasper back his penlight.

"The strut is bent, and the muffler is on the ground." She lowered the jack, then threw it into the trunk. "We're not going anywhere for a while."

"You couldn't just pull over," he said.

"Anyone could have hit that tortoise," she shot back. "You probably wouldn't even have seen it."

"I would have seen it, and I would have, you know..." He gestured outward with his left hand. "...changed lanes."

"Fine," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I broke your car, okay? Can we please move into the solution-finding phase of this problem now?"

"There's only one solution. I have to call my Dad and explain why I was not only not driving my own car, but also why there's an extra woman in it for no good reason. Three kids and only two seat belts? He's going to pop a blood vessel in his brain!"

"Well, there's no point in putting it off," she said. "You have to call him eventually, and we'll be sitting here until you do."

Irritated, Jasper snatched his phone from the car and speed dialed number two: the house. It rang five times before the machine picked up, so he hung up and tried again. No dice.

After that, he called Henry's cell. Dad had finally buckled down and forced Henry to carry one, after he'd gotten kidnapped or locked up or almost killed a dozen times in one semester. Henry, surprisingly, picked up after only one ring.

"How was the concert?" Henry said.

Jasper looked back over his shoulder to make sure Maggie wasn't paying attention, then whispered into the microphone.

"Totally..." He took a deep breath. "...epic."

"I know, they're awesome. Glad you're having fun."

"Yeah, well, now we're kind of broken down on the freeway. I called the house, but I can't find Dad...?"

"He's got some kind of emergency meeting tomorrow at seven. He flew out already."

Good god. Dad and his emergency meetings. Dad and his being out of town all the freaking time. For once, he wished the old man had stayed home.

He thanked Henry and hung up, then called Dad's cell, braced for the worst. Luckily, Dad was chill about the accident. And even the being stranded thing. Jasper didn't say anything about Katya.

"Based on your GPS signal, there's a motel about three hundred yards away."

He jogged toward the exit ramp, until a blue and orange sign appeared above the overpass. Qual-i-day Inn. Yeah, that sounded promising.

"I see it..."

"Can you walk down there? I'll call ahead and get you and Maggie two rooms. There's no point in sending someone after you tonight when we'll just have to come back for the car when I get home."

Jasper gaped, then glanced over at the girls where they were huddled near the car. They looked up, and he gave them what he hoped was a reassuring smile. A motel? Was he kidding? Dad was almost treating him like an adult. Pretty soon wiener dogs would start flying around and, like, singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and laying chocolate eggs filled with nougat and diamonds.

"Are you sure, Dad?"

"Yeah, it'll be fine. I trust you."

"And what about Maggie? She could be some kind of strumpet..."

Dad's voice suddenly sharpened. "What are you telling me, son?"

"Nothing. I'm kidding. I'm just...I'm kidding. I really can't see Colonel Winnock going for this, though."

"I'll talk to him. I'll give him my assurance that my son will be a perfect gentleman. And I won't be lying, will I?"

That word again. Gentleman. But the threat in Dad's voice was what Jasper heard the loudest.

"Of course not. You know me."

He hung up and headed back to the girls, who watched him approach with nervous eyes. Or maybe they were watching him with totally normal eyes, and it was only him that was nervous.

"Dad's not coming," he said. "He's sending us there, instead." He pointing at the cheap motel, and right then the "Qual-i-Day Inn" sign decided to flicker ominously. Maggie winced. Katya grinned.

"Tres bon."

"There's no way my dad-" Maggie began, but Jasper stopped her.

"Dad's going to explain everything to your father. As far as Mr. Cattleman goes..."

"There is no Mr. Cattleman," Katya said. "There's me and my mom, and Mom won't be waiting up for me. It'll be fine."

Maggie didn't look convinced that anything was "fine" about the motel or the situation. Jasper patted her on the shoulder.

"Just think of it as an adventure. It's safer than most of the stuff we do with Henry, anyway. And we'll be able to tell him later about how we braved the dangers of a creepy roadside motel. Maybe you can even put it on your college applications. 'Experience in the inner-city.'"

There it was. The You-Are-Not-Cute face.


"What do you mean there's only one room?" Jasper slapped the card key down on the desk, but his attempt at intimidating the burly man behind it were wasted. "I know my Dad ordered two..."

"In case you hadn't noticed, there was a huge concert in town. Your daddy's lucky we had a room at all. But if you don't want it..." He reached for the key, but Jasper snatched it back quickly.

"I guess I'll take it," he said. He had no idea what he was going to do with the girls, though. He had the worst feeling that he was going to end up back on the interstate, sleeping in his car. If Maggie had her way, that is. Did Dad know about this? He couldn't possibly.

"Smart boy." His voice changed, and Jasper could tell that he was giving the rest of his speech by rote. "There's a continental breakfast in the morning from five to eight. Check-out's at noon. And the pool is closed for the time being for cleaning."

Jasper scowled at the key. Five o'clock was only four hours from now. "Whatever."

"And make sure you and your friend keep it down. This isn't the first time I've had teenagers in my establishment, and I'm not stupid. No fireworks, beer, cigarettes, pot, coke, heroine, hookers, and be aware that if you watch the Pay-Per-View channels, it'll show up on your father-the-dean's credit card statement. Title and rating."

Insulted, Jasper turned around and skulked to the front door. But right before he pushed it open and went back outside to find the girls, he heard the desk man yell, "Tell your friend not to get in the pool unless he wants his skin to melt off!"

Jasper slowed but didn't stop as he pushed through the door. He. The guy at the desk said "he." Had Dad not mentioned that Maggie was female? Maybe he hadn't intentionally left that info out, but now that he thought about it it didn't seem like there was any chance a motel, even a crappy, run-down one like this, would allow a teenaged boy and girl to share a room if they weren't related.

This was so twisted.

Maggie and Katya were waiting just outside, and he broke the news to them as he led the way around the poorly lit building to room 117.

"One room?" Maggie said. "For all three of us?"

"It's one night. We'll have to live with it."

"You know, if I hadn't hit that tortoise myself I'd swear you were up to something."

"Thanks for assuming the worst about me, Mags. Maybe you hit it on purpose so you could get into my briefs." Then he gasped. "Murderer!"

She laughed. "As if I have any interest in the contents of your briefs."

Katya wrapped one of her claws around his bicep. "I'm interested."

He shuddered.

Room 117 was as impressive as the rest of the place. Despite what the desk jockey had said about cigarettes, there were burn marks in the carpet, and, weirdly, in one of the lamp shades. Everything smelled musty and damp and cheap. Jasper stared at the king-sized bed, thought of his two companions, and a sinking, crawly feeling began in the pit of his stomach.

"I'll take the floor," he said. "If I can have one of the pillows."

Katya still had a grip on his arm. "I wouldn't sleep on that, if I were you."

He was about to tell her that he knew exactly what she was doing, but Maggie surprised him.

"She's right. I'll bet the carpet is disgusting." She walked over to the bed and inspected the comforter, then tore it off and tossed it in the floor. Then she peeled back the top sheet and ran her hand along the bottom one. She gave it a sniff.

"Bleach and detergent. At least the sheets are clean."

"Been getting lessons from Henry?"

She smiled. "Maybe."

"So, where am I supposed to sleep?"

She contemplated the bed, hands coming up to rest on her hips. "I think we're going to have to be adults about this. It's big enough for the three of us."


"Well!" Katya clapped her hands. "I don't know about the two of you, but I'm ready to sleep!"

Jasper was not ready to sleep. At all. And it occurred to him that there was something wrong with him, that he wasn't thrilled at the thought of spending the night with a couple of girls. Well, okay, there was a part of him that just saw them as "female" and didn't care much about anything else, but his brain was fully cognizant of the fact that they were Margaret Winnock and Katya Cattleman. The irony was staggering.

His attention was pulled back into sharp focus when hands slid up his chest and fingers began to pluck at the top button of his shirt. Katya stood before him, teeth clamped down on a purple lip.

"Gah!" He jumped back, clutching at his clothes, but he ended up tripping and falling backwards onto the newly stripped bed. Only the sheets were below him. Katya was above him.

"Calm down," she said. "I'm just borrowing your shirt for pajamas. Couldn't help but notice you're wearing two."

He batted her away and sat up. "I can take it off myself!"

She bounced onto the bed beside him. "Okay."

There was something predatory about the way she watched him unbutton his shirt, and it made him feel like a piece of meat. A one-hundred-and-fifty-pound piece of meat.

"Listen, Katya, this attacking me thing is not the best way to get my attention."

Down to his t-shirt, he handed over the one he'd just taken off. She accepted it with a victorious smirk.

"Then enlighten me," she said. "What do I have to do to crack into that sexy brain of yours?"

"Well, I..." Whoa, wait. She thought his brain was sexy?

"He likes the hard-to-get types," Maggie said. "In fact, the less he sees you, the more he'll obsess about you. Right, Jasper?"

He nodded quickly, but Katya wasn't swallowing it.

"You won't get rid of me that easily, Maggie." She climbed up from the bed and sauntered toward the bathroom, waving the shirt at them both before disappearing inside. The bathroom door locked with a click, and Jasper exhaled.

"She's crazy," he hissed.

"If that's how you feel, then why did you volunteer to help her?" Maggie whispered back.

"I didn't voluntee- -look, Katya has been after me for years. She's tenacious. I couldn't have volunteered if I'd wanted to."

"She's a nice girl," Maggie said. "And you should be grateful that she's here. Otherwise you and I would be alone. And that would just be..." She trailed off, leaving all the things that "it" would be implied. As if it would obviously be horrible.

"I'm trying not to be insulted," he said.

"You should probably be a little insulted."

"Seriously, though, Katya is crazy. And I just know that in the middle of the night she's going to try some-" Suddenly, the answer to his problem revealed itself, and he grabbed Maggie by the shoulders in desperation. "Sleep between me and Katya."

She raised an offended eyebrow. "What am I, the human Berlin Wall?"

"Come on, Maggie. Can't you appreciate that I'm trying to protect my virgin innocence?"

"Right. Until Arianna Gish decides she wants it..."

Jasper pulled out his trump card, The Eyes. The great, big, puppy dog eyes that he hadn't had occasion to use since Mom left. "Please, Maggie..."

He batted them hugely, staring up at her through his eyebrows. He figured she was an animal lover, and, sure enough, her resolve crumpled almost immediately.

"I guess I don't care where I sleep. The middle's fine."

"Okay, good. Great. Let's already be in bed when she comes out so she has no choice but to sleep on the other side of you."


He waited for Maggie to get situated in the middle, then scooted in on her right and slipped under the sheets, still wearing his t-shirt and shorts. They were both sitting up, staring at the bathroom door, Maggie self-consciously holding the sheets up over her chest as if she wasn't fully dressed under there. He didn't like it. There was still too much space between them, and to his right, enough room that Katya might be able to exploit it. So he moved all the way to his edge of the bed, then put an arm around Maggie's waist to bring her closer.

"Don't let her in," he said. "Any chink in the armor and she'll stab me right through it."

When Katya emerged from the bathroom, she had Jasper's shirt on and not much else. It reached almost to her knees, but since she was carrying her clothes in her arms it meant that she was wearing his shirt and her underwear and that was it. Like a dress. Which was probably supposed to be really manly on his part, but he just wasn't feeling it. It's not like he'd offered it to her to be chivalrous. He'd practically been stripped without consent, and now the perp was sporting the stuff she'd stolen from him.

Katya glanced at the two of them with narrowed eyes, dropping her clothes in a pile on the dresser. Then, much to Jasper's dismay, she walked over to his side of the bed.

"Would you be a doll and move over? I can't sleep on the left side."

His mouth opened, but nothing came out. He had not seen that coming.

But Katya didn't wait for his response. She sat down beside him on the little three-inch ledge of mattress he'd left there and started shoving him over. She wasn't so strong that he couldn't have resisted her, except that her hand crept in dangerously close to his butt and all of the sudden he was moving over as if his life depended on it, nearly steamrolling Maggie in the process.

"Jasper! Would you watch where you're going?"

"I can't help it. She's going for the goods..."

"You know, this would probably be hilarious if it wasn't so..." She snatched her hand out from under him, and he realized that he'd sat on it. "...painful."

"Just be glad you're not me. Now I'm stuck in the middle."

"Yes. In bed with two girls. I can see how that must be horrible for you." She lay down beside him, and Katya followed suit. He finally sighed and slid down between them, wondering if he'd even survive to see tomorrow.

"Good night, guys," Maggie said.

"Mmmm..." was Katya's reply, and he felt her slip in a little closer, her body too warm against his and way too close for comfort. "Bonne nuit, mes amis."

Jasper just lay there, eyes wide. Waiting.


He waited so long that he actually fell asleep. That was mistake number one. He hadn't expected Katya to be patient now that she finally had him in bed with her. But patient she was, like a spider in its web lying in wait for a moth, or a grasshopper, or his face when he came home after dark in the summer. She waited through his nervous stage, and then his confused stage, and then his apathetic stage. Then he passed out, some time after two o'clock. He was just drifting into a deep, blissful sleep when he felt movement on the mattress beside him. He was slow to come back into consciousness, at least until a leg brushed his and a hand grazed up his arm.

"Hi," whispered Katya.

He started, tried to scoot away but Maggie was on his left and there was nowhere to go.

"Relax," she said. "I'm just stretching out."

"Is it necessary that you do that all up in my space?"

"Can I help it if I find you so comfortable?"

"Well, I find space to breathe comfortable. So if you don't mind..."

She laughed softly. "You act reluctant, but I know guys like you. You keep too much energy hidden inside, even from yourself. That's not healthy." Nails scratched his arm under his t-shirt, all the way to his shoulder. "You need to let it out. Release it."

"I don't know what kind of energy you're talking about, Katya."

Her mouth got close to his ear, and her whisper burned like dry ice. "Sexual energy."

"Yeah, okay..." He pushed her away, not too politely. That was going to far. It was none of Katya's business when or where he released his sexual energy. He certainly wasn't going to do it anywhere near her. "Listen, I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything, but..."

"Of course not," she said, and her fingers trailed across to his chest, then down his sternum and over his stomach. "You've spent too much of your life being a gentleman to do that. But sometimes it's okay to be just be a man."

"Cut it out." He shoved her hand away, but she shushed him.

"You don't want to wake up Maggie, do you?"

He didn't care. He was going to have to sleep in the tub if Katya didn't keep her hands to herself, and she'd probably just take that as an invitation to shower with him.

She reached for his chest again, and this time he grabbed her arm and shoved it off to make himself clear. But in his frustration he ended up with a hand firmly planted on a bare thigh, and Katya gasped and slipped an arm around his shoulders.

"That's it, Jasper. Release that energy..."

"No. I'm not releasing anything..."

He struggled to get free of her surprisingly strong grip, but she somehow got wrapped all around him and now he was even worse off than before.


"Oh, Jasper..."

He gritted his teeth and twisted an arm loose, but when his weight was off-balance she gave him a tug. Now he was on top of her, and livid because no matter what he did, she kept getting the upper hand.



Beside them, Maggie sat up and flipped on the light. She stared at them both with open disapproval, and now that it was bright enough he was able to see the scene they'd created. The sheets were twisted around them, and it looked like Katya was pinned on the bed beneath him. In reality, she had a death grip on him; even her leg had snaked free from the sheets and was wrapped around his waist. Jasper said the only thing he could think of in his own defense.

"I didn't do it!"

"I'm sorry," Maggie said, "but I have to put a stop to this. It's gone on long enough."

"What?" Jasper said. "I didn't do any-"

"Katya," she said, and Katya turned innocent, black-rimmed eyes on her.


"I'm going to have to ask you to get your paws off my man."

Katya's face blanked.

Jasper's mind blanked.

"What?" demanded Katya.

"What...?" began Jasper, but a sharp look from Maggie shut him up.

"Sorry, Jazz. I know you wanted to keep it a secret because of, um..." He saw her mentally scramble for something before coming out with, "...your college apps, but I can't just lie here and listen to this."

"Right..." he said, catching on. "Nor should you have to." Katya's grip was finally loosening, from what felt like shock more than anything, and he was able to sit up. "Sorry about that, Puppy."

Maggie's lips formed a tight line, and Jasper immediately regretted his choice of nickname. But it was the first thing that had come to him.

"What do college apps have to do with anything?" said Katya.

"Oh, you know," said Maggie. "Yale's pretty liberal. And I'm from a military family..."

"I don't buy it. If you're his girlfriend, then why didn't he lend you his shirt?"

"Because you took it."

"I'm talking about the other one. The one he's wearing."

"Well, duh..." said Maggie, which was not something she ever said, and meant that she was stalling. "I didn't want you to see his, um..." She glanced toward his chest. "...his manly pecs!"

Katya's eyes widened. Jasper's felt oddly dry.

"His pecs?" said Katya.

"That's right," said Maggie. "I didn't want you to get a look at his chest and be inspired to ink him up. I like him...you know. Au natural." She seemed to realize what she'd said and winced, but she quickly turned it into a brilliant smile, managing to pull off not-embarrassed with some credibility.

But Katya didn't seem very convinced. She'd sat up and crossed her arms, and now her eyes were darting back and forth between the two of them. Each time she looked at Jasper his insides shrank away, afraid to be seen by her x-ray vision.

"So," she said. "You two are dating."

Maggie's lips stayed closed, and Jasper got the weirdest feeling that she was trying to hold something in. But she gave a weak smile and nodded. "Mm-hm."

"I told you at the dance, Maggie. I'm not afraid of competition."

"You did, in fact, say that to me."

"But, at the time, all I knew was that you liked him. I didn't think it was reciprocal."

Surprised, Jasper glanced at Maggie, whose jaw had gone hard. Her smiles were getting more and more forced. "What would make you think I liked him?"

"Call it intuition."

Maggie spoke mechanically. "Guess I can't argue with that. Obviously, since we are dating, I have liked him for a very long time."

Katya leaned in toward them, and right before she spoke Jasper got chills of foreboding.

"Then kiss him."

"Ha," Maggie said, too quickly. "I don't think so..."

A triumphant smile broke out across Katya's face. Now, up until this point, Jasper had found it wisest to keep his mouth shut. Maggie seemed to have an upper hand on the argument, and he was content to let her try and protect him. But now she had faltered, looked frustrated with herself for losing, and he jumped in to try and help.

"She can't kiss me," he said.

"Why not?"

"She can't. Because..." Maggie shot him a look of pleading, and he fumbled around for something until the answer came to him in a burst of clear light. An epiphany. "It's part of our deal," he said. "She won't tell anyone we're dating, and I'm not allowed to kiss her within six hours of consuming meat."

Katya's lip curled, and Maggie gave him a genuine, grateful smile.

"Which, for Jasper," she said, "is, like, all the time."

"You know it. I love my meat."

She batted her eyelashes at him in mockery of a cute girl. "Even more than you love me?"

"Well, you know..." He scratched the back of his neck. "...not more than I love you. They're two very different kinds of love-"

"But one of those loves will kill you at a young age from heart disease and obesity."

He scoffed. "Does this look like the physique of a guy that will ever be obese?"

"She's right, though," Katya said. "You can get your protein from sources that are healthier and less cruel than animal exploitation."

Maggie stared at her. "You work in a leather shop."

"And you apparently patronize one." Katya reached past Jasper to pluck at Maggie's vest. "So I guess we're both hypocrites."

"This vest is pleather," Maggie said, and Jasper's brain added the three finger-snaps at the end. But something occurred to him, and, having occurred, he was powerless over his mouth.

"That could technically still be considered animal exploitation," he said. "Pleather is made from fossil fuels, and we all know where those come from..." Both girls turned to glare at him and his voice trailed off. "I'm just saying. Fossil fuels..."

"Fine," Maggie said. "I won't wear it. Instead, I'll wear cotton produced by underpaid child labor in undeveloped countries and sold at Abercrombie and Fitch."


"Give me your t-shirt," she said between her teeth. "Puppy."

It took him a minute to realize that she was serious. She held her hand out, demanding, one eyebrow cocked with annoyance. He crossed his arms protectively over his chest.

"But what about my manly pecs? Won't you be jealous if Katya sees them..."

"I'll get over it," Maggie said. "Now give it here. It's impossible to sleep in my dead-dinosaur vest, anyway."

"But, Puppy..."

She thrust her hand out again impatiently, and Jasper had no choice but work his way out of his t-shirt and pull it off over his head. He held it out to her, but she somehow failed to grab hold of it and it slipped past her hand and into her lap. She was staring at his chest, confused.

"Wow, Jasper," Katya said. "Have you been working out with Henry?"

"A little bit..." he said, still focused on Maggie. "What's wrong with you?"

Her eyes finally snapped up to his, and she grabbed the t-shirt. "Nothing. It's late. I'm going to go change into this."

He watched her hurry off to the bathroom, and was only pulled back to the present when he felt a long fingernail scratch down his chest.

"Maggie was right," Katya said, eyes alight with mischief. "I am totally inspired."

He gulped. Then, in desperation, called out toward the bathroom:

"Don't be gone long, Puppy!"


Maggie stepped out of the bathroom and walked to the bed with all the regal bearing of a queen with her scepter up her butt. She was a little taller than Katya, and Jasper's powder blue t-shirt fell to the top of her thighs. She caught him staring and gave him the stink eye, and he jerked his gaze away, focused on the peeling wallpaper beside the closet. But here, finally, was the emotion he'd been incapable of feeling at the sight of Katya in his too-large plaid shirt: pride. Machismo. He had to fight to keep himself from smirking at the thought of arrogant, feminist Maggie wearing his clothes. She noticed anyway.

"Don't even think about getting cocky," she said. "My dad's going to kill you if he hears about this."

Interesting that she was trying to intimidate one man by appealing to the higher power of another one. For once, Jasper kept a thought to himself.

"He'll have to find me, first. When it comes to hiding, I'm like a-"


He glared at her. "What? No, I was going to say-"

"A skink," Katya offered.

"I was going to say stealth operative."

"Doesn't matter what you are," Maggie said. "Daddy's a blood hound."

"Does that mean he can't climb trees?" he asked, hopeful, but Maggie just jabbed a thumb at him.

"Get out."

He obeyed, slipping out of the bed until she could crawl into it herself and sit in the middle.

"Hey-" began Katya, but Maggie silenced her with a glare.

"What's the problem? You're not on the left side, are you?"

She didn't wait for an answer; instead, she ordered Jasper back into the bed with her in between him and Katya.

"There," said Maggie. "Now we will all be perfectly comfortable and sleep soundly. There will be no more moving, complaining, seducing or fondling. Am I clear?"

"Sheesh," said Katya. "With rules like that, I might as well have called a cab."

Jasper turned off the light, then attempted, one more time, to get comfortable in a bed full of girls. It was easier, now, with Katya way on the other side, and yet he found that he was no longer all that tired. It was like a delayed reaction to the Caff Monkeys. Of course, there was also the fact that he was half-naked, and close to enough to Maggie that he was nervous about accidentally touching some part of her while he slept. But, other than that, he was just awake. As if his little nap had been enough to help him catch his third wind. And his mind kept drifting back to his car, broken and abandoned on the side of the freeway. Would they be able to fix what was wrong with it? Would Dad even be able to get it back to DC?

It felt like hours before he heard some evidence that either of the girls was asleep: slow, rhythmic breathing from Katya's side of the bed. But Maggie sighed, still awake. Jasper echoed with a sigh of his own.

"Can't sleep?"

"Nope. I keep thinking about the Smart."

Maggie snorted softly. "Leave it to you to be worried about a hunk of metal."

"Of course I'm worried about it. It's all alone in the middle of Baltimore where any freak could steal it. Or vandalize it. Or urinate on it."

"Yes, Jasper. I'm sure the bums and gangsters are lining up right now to pee on your car."

"Or break into it. What if they decide they want-" Then something horrible occurred to him, and he bolted upright in bed. "Oh, my god. I left my iPod in the glove box."

He started to climb out of bed, but Maggie grabbed his arm to stop him. "Calm down."

"I can't," he said. "I have to get it. There's like eight gigs of music on it-"

"More specifically, it has your episodes of Project Runway."

He shushed her, glanced over to where Katya lay. Katya snuffled softly in her sleep, then rolled away from them, still out. "Would you be careful what information you toss around in public?"

"Relax," she said, soothing. "No one's going to break into your car, and Katya doesn't care what a girl you are. In the morning, when it's light out, we'll go check on the Smart and you'll see that your iPod is right where you left it."

He took several deep breaths, let her put a hand on his chest and push him onto his back. His heart was pounding; God, he didn't know what he would do if someone messed with his car. Fury bubbled up in him at the very thought of it. "You should be worried about this, too. When the Smart's in the shop, my dad makes me drive the Tahoe. And that thing has a carbon footprint like Disneyland."

She lay down beside him and got herself re-situated. "I think I'm going to leave the 'obsessing about stuff that doesn't matter' to you. I'm too busy lamenting the fact that a piece of American history died tonight."

"What are you talking about?"

"The tortoise, Jameson."

"The tortoise?" He realized that she was serious and started to laugh. "Are you referring to that creature with the brain capacity of a speed bump?"

"There is no conclusive way to measure a chelonian's intelligence!" she said. "And that 'speed bump' had probably been around longer than our grandparents. It could have seen World War II, and the moon landing, and the assassination of JFK..."

"In person? Or do you think he watched it on TV?"

She exhaled, shakily. He assumed that she was trying to contain her anger, and was waiting for a punch on the arm when she finally lost the battle. But she surprised him by sniffing: a wet, vulnerable little sound that made him turn toward her in disbelief.

"Are you crying?"

"I'm releasing the emotional stress caused by the loss of a living, breathing relic of our country's past. In an appropriately-controlled manner."

"Uh-huh. Here on earth we call that crying."

She rolled to face him, whispering fiercely in the dark. "And doesn't he deserve a few tears shed? He survived floods, and storms, and blizzards, and the destruction of his natural habitat while human beings hurried by, oblivious to his existence. Certainly he must have been a noble, patient animal."

"Yeah," he said, seriously. "He was probably really adorable, too. With his great, big head and his itty-bitty tail..." Maggie sobbed once, softly, and he grinned to himself. Without thinking too much about it he reached for her with one arm, pulling her into a hug. He expected her to put up a fight, but she yielded with relative ease. "I'm just messing with you," he said.

"Yeah, whatever. I killed a cute old turtle and we both know it. Maybe tomorrow I'll take a trip to Antarctica and enjoy some penguin hunting."

"Ooh, and after that we can go down to the lake and pop off baby duckies."

Here, finally, was a punch on the arm. Even from this angle, she was able to knock a pretty hard knot on his bicep. He laughed through the pain. "Ow..."

"You're such a jerk."

She shook slightly, probably in an effort not to to cry in a less-than-controlled manner, and he felt the slightest twinge of guilt. Ribbing her was natural and comfortable, but maybe now wasn't the time. "Listen, Mags, I'm kidding. You said it yourself: the Smart is a tin can."

"But, at that velocity-"

"At that velocity you ran my car up against a rock with feet. And the car got the worst of it. I'm sure the tortoise just waited until it was over and crawled away."

"Only to be hit by a semi five seconds later."

"Come on, now. We're talking about the noble, patient animal that survived deforestation and presidential assassinations. You really think he was going to meet his demise while crossing the freeway?"

She pondered that for moment. "Maybe not. It's possible that he crosses that road every day."

"Leaving terror and destruction in his wake. We should sue."

She laughed, her breath washing over his bare skin, and he waited for her to pull away. The emotional outburst, such as it was, was over, and she didn't usually tolerate gestures of comfort from him in the first place so he figured she would escape from this one at the first opportunity.

But she stayed. For no good reason. And, all at once, he noticed a lot of little things that he'd missed before. Like the fact that her face was only an inch from his chest, enough space to be able to breathe, but no more. Like the way they had trapped one arm each between them when they'd rolled in toward each other, and the backs of their hands were mashed together, knuckles staggered, fingers almost kind of entwined. It was weird for Maggie to let herself get this close to someone, let alone be so relaxed about it, and he didn't know what to think. All he knew was that having her in his space was starting to pry open a door that he thought he'd closed a long time ago, back when he'd gotten the idea that she had a thing for Henry.



"For the record, I am sorry I broke the Smart."

"Pssh," he said, with more nonchalance than he felt. "Don't worry about it. It's just a car."

"Just a car? Your fuel-efficient baby?"

"Well, you know what I mean. Just a car, compared to, like..."

She looked up at him in the dark, and he could just make out her eyes, wide with disbelief. "Compared to what?"

"To...uh..." He stared at her, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, and finished lamely. "...a sultan's car."

She snorted and dropped her face, returning her forehead to his chest. If he'd had any doubts before, she'd made it perfectly clear: she wanted to be here more than she wanted to be on her own third of the bed. Tension coiled in his stomach, tighter and tighter with each passing second. He couldn't just lie here and do nothing. He had to say something or he was going to explode.



His left arm was still around her, no longer hugging so much as lounging, but when he moved his hand he felt long strands of silky hair at her back. "I have to tell you something. It's humiliating for me to admit this, so try not to die laughing when I'm done."


"The truth is..." He swallowed, slipped a strand of her hair between two fingers. "I actually really like U2."

His heart beat like a drum in his ears; he was self-conscious of the fact that she could probably feel every one against her face. Giving him away, but maybe also conveying things that he didn't have words for.

"It's mature of you to admit that," she said.

"I mean..." He had his fingers fully buried in her hair, now. There was something cathartic about the way it just ran through like water. "I've always thought Bono was smart, and, god, everyone knows he's gorgeous. But now that I've spent more time with him, I'm starting to realize that he's fun to be with. You know? It's nice to just...be with Bono."

She didn't look up at him, but she didn't tear herself away in disgust, either. But she tensed, her petite body going rigid beside him. "Doesn't that strike you as crazy, though? It would be psychotic to try to get into a relationship with Bono, of all people. I mean, after high school you're going all the way to Yale, and he's got...you know...his music career that he'll want to pursue. It would never, ever work, and even if it worked for a little while it would ultimately self-destruct and then you'd just both end up hating each other. So what's the point in even trying?"

She seemed to want an answer, but he wasn't still sure they were even talking about the same thing. "I think...maybe I should just kiss him and we'll see where it goes."

"You're not thinking at all, Jasper. Use your brain."

He didn't want to. His brain had already talked him out of the possibility of a relationship with "Bono" once, and impressed him as a pretty useless organ at the moment. So he worked a hand beneath Maggie's face and lifted her chin, and then rubbed his mouth across hers before he could wuss out a second time.

He anticipated the argument, and, sure enough, she pulled away before he even got started. "Wait. Wait. Don't do this. It's just going to open up a can of-"

He tried again. He barely recognized himself; it was not in his personality to be pushy with a girl, but he'd put everything on the line with the almost-kiss so he couldn't let himself give up with out a fight. This time he put his lips firmly against hers, and she gave him a full two seconds to worry about his technique before she reached up and shoved his face away. "-worms that we're never going to be able to put back, and I don't want to-"

Was it weird that he was encouraged by this? The fact that she was trying to reason with him, rather than choking him out? Encouraged enough that he plucked her hand away from his face and wrapped her fingers in his own, then leaned in and kissed her again. She tried to twist her fingers free but there wasn't much conviction in it, and after a long moment of making out with marble statue lips her mouth finally softened and she kissed him back.

Then she growled, a cornered, provoked animal, and rolled him onto his back. The next thing he knew his hands were pinned beside his head and she was on top of him. He was so shocked he couldn't even derive any pervy satisfaction from having her on his lap.

"What-" She cut him off with a long kiss, and he had to wait until she took a breath before trying again to get some answers. "What are you doing...?"

"What does it feel like?"

"Yeah, but-" She kissed him again, and this time she wouldn't let him finish. Then she brushed her lips over his earlobe, and he shivered when he thought he felt the hint of a tongue.

"Cognitive dissonance," she whispered. "The only way I'm going to be able to deal with this is if I convince myself that I'm in control of it. You got a problem with that?"

He shook his head.

"Want me to keep kissing you?"

He nodded.

"Alright, then." Her voice sent chills down his spine, far scarier than anything Katya was capable of, except that the fear it instilled in him was kind of awesome. "Jasper Bartlett, prepare to get what you've been asking for all year long."

He wasn't sure whether to expect a kiss or a purple nurple, but then a curtain of dark hair fell around him and Maggie's mouth descended on his. He'd unleashed...some kind of a monster...and...oh...oh, dear god...

He had no regrets.


He woke up feeling pleasantly stupid. Morning light was just starting to filter in through the thin curtains, too early to be animating again so he had to wonder if something had woken him up. He reached blindly for Maggie, but when he found nothing but cool sheets across the expanse of the bed he sat up and rubbed his eyes.

There she was, standing in front of the dresser beside Katya. They were both still wearing his shirts, Maggie in the light blue tee and Katya in the plaid, button up shirt, and they were facing away from him, talking quietly about something. Leave it to girls to stay up until and ungodly hour and still get up on time. But it gave him the freedom to check out Maggie's legs without her scrutiny, and marvel at how much of them he could see before the t-shirt got in the way. His hands had set up camp right there last night, in the iffy territory between shirt and knee, and it had never occurred to him to push his luck farther than that. He was too in awe of Maggie, and too scared of her, to try and rush things. But it didn't stop him from watching her and kind of wondering what he might find someday beyond the absolute barrier of the shirt.

"What are you looking at?"

The humorless voice jerked him out of his reverie, and his eyes darted to her face. She was glaring at him now, with no trace of the seductive lioness that had bruised his lips, and probably his neck, before curling up next to him and falling asleep. Well, okay, the lioness was still there, but now she didn't look seductive so much as hungry and pissed. But call him the stupidest wildebeest, because he apparently did not possess the level of self-preservation needed to come up with a good answer. All he managed was a grin, and he knew without having to see it that it was smarmy and arrogant and self-satisfied. He considered it a miracle when she finally gave up on looking annoyed and smiled back, bemused.

"Ça c'est répugnant," Katya said. "As if waking up to sounds of kissy-face all night wasn't enough."

"What did you expect?" Maggie wouldn't meet Jasper's gaze anymore. "I told you he and I were dating."

"I expected common decency. Maybe a little self-control."

"You're one to talk."

Katya ran her tongue over her teeth, offended. Jasper shivered.

"You probably think this is over, Mags, but it isn't. As far as I'm concerned, the competition just got fierce enough to be interesting."

"Bring it on, Cattleman."

Jasper winced. "Shouldn't you consult me before you tell people to bring things on?"

"Don't worry, Puppy. I'll protect you."

Katya smiled with sugary-sweetness. "Oh, Maggie. You've only begun to see what I'm capable of."

Maggie opened her mouth, possibly in preparation for another retort. But the sound of a key turning in the lock lurched the three of them into silence. The door cracked open and a head popped in, and Jasper froze when he realized he was staring into the eyes of his father.

"Jazz? Are you awa-"

Dad's eyes fell on the girls and his voice died. He slowly pushed the door open and stepped inside, looking from Jasper to Maggie to Katya in turns, his brow furrowing deeper and deeper into his skull. Jasper glanced down at his naked torso. Then at the women who were wearing his clothes, and, as far as Dad could tell, nothing else. He choked.

"Dad, wait," he said, his voice cracking in his effort to get through to the man before he formed his own opinions. "This isn't what it looks like..."

Dad's eyes met his, and Jasper sputtered to a stop. "And what, exactly, does it look like?"

"I..." He glanced at the girls, hoping for help, but getting none. "I have no idea. I mean, I have no experience with any kind of...so there's no way I would know about..." He finished with a weak laugh. Dad's lips pursed, and he slowly turned his gaze on the girls.

"Miss Winnock."

Maggie blanched. "Dean Bartlett, I..."

"Miss Cattleman. I'd ask what you're doing here, but I'm not sure I want to know."

Katya gazed at him thoughtfully, as though trying to decide how she was going to respond. Then her mouth curled into a smile, and terror sank deep into Jasper's gut.

"You probably don't," she said. She picked up her clothes from the counter and stuffed them under one arm, then walked over to Jasper's side of the bed. "I'm keeping your shirt, Jazz. As a memento. I know you won't mind." Then she leaned down, and before he could figure out what she was about to do she planted a kiss on his half-open mouth. "Thanks for a wild time."

He gaped, terrified into inaction, but Maggie made a sound of irritation and started toward Katya.

"Hey, wait just a minute-"

Katya turned and caught Maggie's wrist in one hand. With the other, she reached up and tucked a strand of loose hair behind Maggie's ear, fingers light and theatrical.

"And, Mags..." She gazed at her with simple affection, while Maggie stared back. "...I don't want you to worry. Last night will be our little secret."

Katya tilted Maggie's face down. Maggie's eyes widened. Then Katya captured her lips in a soft kiss. Maggie was obviously too shocked to pull away, which meant that the kiss went on for way longer than it should have. Jasper stared at them both, trying really, really hard to be disgusted. Or at least offended. It wasn't working.

"Mon Dieu," he whispered.

Katya made a show of pouting as she stepped away from Maggie. But there was a spark of victory in her eyes when she wiggled her fingers in a silent goodbye, and then she slipped past Dad and out the door.

The door clicked shut behind her. Dad's eyes narrowed. Maggie's eyes darted to Jasper in desperation, like she thought he might be able to fix this. He swallowed, then turned his brightest, most innocent grin on his father.

"So, Dad. Funny thing happened after the concert..."


Henry had met few tortoises in his life as old as this one. If it could talk, he knew it would have fascinating stories. Some harrowing, some beautiful. As it was, it had suffered a tiny fracture in its shell, but nothing that should cause it any permanent problems. He stroked the tortoise on the top of its head and offered him another piece of banana.

"Sorry about the crack," he said, "but, I promise, it was for a good cause. You're a hero."

The tortoise munched away slowly, unconcerned with heroism or good causes.

There was a rustle in the bushes, but Henry already knew who was coming. Patchouli, leather, petrolatum and artificial fragrances greeted his nose before Katya crawled in to his hiding space on her hands and knees. She was wearing her black jeans and Jasper's plaid shirt, and she gave him a nod that let him know her mission had been successful. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a fifty, and once she was sitting comfortably, Indian-style, he held out the money to her.

"Thanks for your help," he said. "I know it must have been hard for you, getting Jasper together with another girl."

Katya waved the money away. "I serve my own purposes, Henry. They might be together now..." She smiled, lost in her own thoughts. "...but Jasper is never going to be able to get the image of me out of his head. I made sure of that."

He glanced at her, worried. "What did you do?"

She grinned. "I made out with Maggie."


Now that she mentioned it, that was a...fairly...compelling image.

One that he was kind of sorry he'd missed out on.

The End

A/N2: Note of randomness, here: I was having a really, really hard time writing the kiss scene, and out of desperation I asked my husband if he would act it out with me so I could figure out the details. He kind of laughed and said, "I would, but I don't think I'd make a very convincing Maggie." I laughed, too, taking it as a joke, but then I realized that he was exactly right. I was writing in Jasper's POV, and never planned on acting out any part other than Jasper's. The recreation did not happen, my husband's masculinity was left intact, and I was forced to come to terms with the fact that my man knows me better than I know myself. I think I'm going to have to invest in a blow-up doll for future fics that I write in the male POV.

Also, here's the kind of help you get if you ask your husband to beta your fic for you:

"See this part where Jasper leans up against the 'fiberglass body' of the car? Smart Cars don't have any fiberglass."

Anyway, thanks for reading. Please review; I need it like Jasper needs Caff Monkey!