"I think that's the last box," Caitlyn said as she fell on Jason's couch. "Now all that's left is my clothes and a couple of pieces of furniture I refuse to put in storage."
Jason groaned but got up, pushing the Rubbermaid container toward what was now Caitlyn's room.
"You didn't have to do that, Jase. Really. Letting me move in with you is enough."
"Nonsense. It's nice to have someone besides Nate around. You actually talk to me."
Caitlyn snorted. "I'm sure your brother talks to you. But seriously. The sooner I get the last of my stuff in here, the sooner we can go to that diner across the street."
"All the more reason for me to help you, Caity."
"Fine. But anything happens to my coffee table, I will kill you," she said, pushing herself up off his couch and leaving the apartment. Jason followed her as she walked to the service elevator and picked up a big rolling suitcase. He caught sight of an old coffee table that was painted black, but had what was conceivably every color in the world dripped and splattered over it in acrylic paint.
"This the coffee table you were talking about?" he asked as he bent over to pick it up.
"Of course. Who else would do something like that to a table?" Caitlyn said as she struggled to pick up a second bag.
"Jackson Pollock on acid?"
Caitlyn raised a brow at him and yanked the bag forward. "You're paying for lunch."
"Don't I always? You never remember your wallet."
"And dessert!" she called down the hallway. "And if you know what's good for you, you'll stop getting yourself in trouble."
"Fine, fine," Jason said as he walked back down the hall to his (and now Caitlyn's) apartment. They weren't living together. They were roommates. Because Nate moved in with Ella, which made Caitlyn want to find somewhere else to live.
Jason had offered his place because Nate was no longer going to be there and he'd really appreciate the company.
It had nothing to do with the fact that he wanted to keep her from moving in with her boyfriend. None at all.
"Jason!" he heard Caitlyn whine over the barking of both dogs. He sped up and put down the table in the living room before he skidded down the hallway to where her room was. Caitlyn was standing there, her arms crossed as she glared at a Bassett hound and a Welsh corgi rolling around in a box of blankets.
"What's the problem?" he asked.
"Your Abby is a bad influence on my Charlie."
"Abby," he said, going and picking up the long-eared puppy, "Doesn't like it when boys pull her ears. Teach Charlie some manners."
"Well…maybe your dog shouldn't be such a flirt!"
Abby howled and wriggled in Jason's arms until he put her down next to Charlie. "Abby is not a flirt. Charlie is a Casanova. Now, do you want me to buy your burger or not?"
"Yes, yes, please!" Caitlyn said, tugging at Jason's arm. "I'll never call Abby a flirt again. Just get them out of that box. That's my handmade quilt and I don't want the dogs on it."
Jason whistled and both the dogs perked up. "Kitchen," he said, pointing at the door.
Both the dogs scrambled out of the box and ran for the door, Abby getting caught on her long ears and tripping into Charlie.
"We can put the gate up in the kitchen while we're gone so that the dogs don't get out," Jason said.
Caitlyn smiled. "Sounds good to me, Roomie."
"Off we go," Jason said, setting up the gate and the pointing at the door. Caitlyn put on a hoodie and grabbed her wristlet before she joined him in the elevator. "I expect you'll be getting your usual?" he asked.
"Double bacon cheddar burger with sautéed onions and avocado and spinach and tomato? With sweet potato fries? And a chocolate malt? Yep."
"What, we're not sharing the wing plate?" Jason asked.
"No, we are. And the fried green tomatoes and pickles plate."
"Somehow, I can't imagine Ella putting up with this as well as I do. And you lived with her for over a year."
"She made me eat a salad with it. And I had to get a small shake."
"We can have salads tonight," Jason said. "Right now we should party. And maybe go buy the dogs some food. And us some food for later."
Caitlyn smiled as he held the door to the diner open for her. "Right-o. What sort of stuff should we get?"
"Bread. Milk. Eggs. Bacon. Cheese. Deli meat," Jason paused and pulled out a crumpled list. "Coffee. Ground beef. Tortillas. Tomatoes. Lettuce. Onions—"
"Okay, okay. I get it. We need everything," Caitlyn said as she caught the waitress' eye.
"Yep. I have all my stuff written down, but if there's something you need, just add it to the bottom."
"Can do. After food," Caitlyn said, opening the menu.
"Dude. If you know what you're going to eat, why look at the menu?"
"Because I can. Also so we can agree on the kinds of wings and what else goes on the fried plate."
"Garlic parmesan, honey barbecue, mild buffalo and lemon pepper for the wings. Besides the tomatoes and the pickles, I think onion rings and zucchini." Jason looked over at her. "Agree?"
Caitlyn smiled. "I think this roomie thing is going to be fantastic."
"I think I'm going to need to add antacids to the grocery list."
"You think you might already eat like a slob because of your rock star life, but you're practically a vegan compared to me."
"I shudder to think how a vegan would react to you."
"Not well," Caitlyn said with a laugh.
After they finished their ridiculously large lunch and went to the grocery store, they came back to the apartment and flopped onto the couch.
"That was…exhausting…and probably the most fun I've ever had with anyone in a long time…" Caitlyn said as she stretched out across the sofa.
"What about your boyfriend?"
Caitlyn shrugged. "Andrew's been a little weird lately. Like, when I suggested that I move in with him he was all 'you sure you want to take that step with us' and shit like that. I mean, we have fun and stuff…but we don't stuff our faces and spend two and a half hours in the grocery store."
"So…even if I didn't offer you the extra room, you wouldn't have moved in with him?"
"Nah. I would have dragged my ass to the apartments near the dance studio. They're…inexpensive."
"And highly dangerous."
"I can defend myself."
"I'd rather you not have to defend yourself at all, Caity," Jason said honestly.
Caitlyn smiled up at him and gave him a quick hug. "Thanks, Jason. Really."
"No problem. Wanna take the dogs for a walk?" he asked. He wanted to keep spending as much time with her as he could.
"Nah. I'm beat. I'm going to unpack a little and sleep, I think. Besides, Charlie's probably just as worn out as I am. I have to get up early and reassure my stupid boyfriend that you have no hidden agenda for letting me live here. Although, really? If he was going to whine this much, he should have just let me move in with him."
"Oh…okay," Jason said, trying to hide his disappointment.
"Night, Jason. See you in the morning."
Jason sat there on the couch for a long moment as he listened to Caitlyn's music start up and he sighed.
Why was Caitlyn taken by a jerk who didn't want her to move in with him? If Caitlyn were his girlfriend, he'd have asked her to move in a long time ago.
Life wasn't fair for him.
"Dude, did you hear? Did Caitlyn tell you?" Shane asked when Jason walked into his brother's apartment the next day.
"Uh…what?" Jason asked slowly.
"Her boyfriend broke up with her," Shane said.
"The jerk who didn't want her to move in with him?"
"Yeah. Apparently…" Shane winced, looking as if he wasn't quite sure he wanted to continue.
"Apparently?" Jason said impatiently.
"Apparently, he's been cheating on her. For a while."
Jason blinked in confusion. "How long is a while?"
"The entire six months they've been dating?"
Jason's upper lip curled in distaste and he growled. "Yeah, Shane? I'm not going to be able to practice today. Tell Nate I'm sorry. I need to go do…something…anything…that won't make me kill that ass." He stood up and picked up his guitar.
"Call Mitchie and Ella so you know how to handle an upset Caitlyn," Shane said.
"Good idea. Thanks. See ya later." Jason left Shane's apartment and pulled out his phone as he walked out onto the street. "Hey, Mitchie? Um…I heard about Caitlyn…can you…can you tell me what kinds of things she likes when she's upset? Like food or movies or whatever?"
"Jason, for the love of god, don't make a move on her tonight. She just got dumped."
"I'm not going to make a move on her…I just thought that since she's my roommate-person-thing that she might appreciate that I care…Why? Do you think I should wait until tomorrow to make a move?"
"Jason. Listen to me," Mitchie said slowly. "I get that you like her. Really, I do. But you make a move on her right now, the day after she moves into your place and the day she got brutally dumped by her douchebag boyfriend? She will run."
"Mitchie. I honestly hadn't even thought of making a move until you said it. I just want to make her feel better. So please. Tell me her favorite foods to eat for when guys do dumb shit to her and what her favorite movie is for the same thing. I swear to you I will not make a move on her, even though I'd really, really like to."
"She likes the stuff from Ben's Pizzeria over on Eighth. Just go in there and tell them it's for Caitlyn and they'll know what to put together. Also, go to Amy's and get the chocolate cheesecake, the coconut cream pie and the honey ginger ice creams. And Caits really likes Miyazaki movies. Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns are her two favorites. She might want to take a bath when she gets home though, so hold off on just showing her all of that stuff until she's clean and de-stressed."
He frowned in thought for a moment before smiling. "Okay…I think I have a sort of idea…Call Caity for me and see if she's heading home? She said this morning before she left that she was having a light day, in terms of work…" Jason said, hailing a cab.
"Can do, Jase."
"Thanks, Mitchie. Really," Jason said with a smile.
Jason made it back to the apartment loaded down with Caitlyn's favorite three pizzas (white pizza with spinach, a meatball pizza with provolone, feta, garlic and onion and a margherita pizza)—all thin crust, the ice cream flavors Mitchie told him about, and the two Miyazaki movies. He even went down to the tea shop and got a gallon of the lemon-honey-ginger green tea she was addicted to.
He heard the water running in Caitlyn's bathroom and gently knocked on the door. The water paused.
"How long you think you're going to be in there?" he called.
"Maybe half an hour? I just put some deep-conditioning treatment in my hair and it needs to soak in."
"Okay. I um…I got us some food…and…some movies if you want…" he said hesitantly.
"What kind of movies?"
"It's a surprise. Take as long as you want though. I don't mind," Jason said.
"Okay, thanks. Be out in a little bit."
He turned and went out to the living room, where he pushed the two couches around and set them up across from each other, before setting up a huge fort with five blankets and two flat sheets. He also dragged out an air mattress and strung lights up in the ceiling of the fort. He stared at them when he was done, wondering if it might be overkill, when he heard Caitlyn's door open.
"I smell Ben's pizza…" she said, rubbing her hair with a towel. "I guess that means you heard about my break-up. You talked to Mitchie about it, didn't you?"
"Yeah," Jason admitted. "You don't hate me, do you?" he asked after a moment.
"Why would I hate you?" Caitlyn asked as she walked into the kitchen. "You bought my favorite pizzas…"
"And ice cream. Also that tea from that place in Chinatown."
Caitlyn turned to him with an accusing look in her eye. "Are you making a move on me?"
Jason shook his head violently back and forth. "No. No. I just want to make you feel better, that's all."
"No ulterior motives?" Caitlyn asked, a slice of pizza held halfway to her mouth. "I'm not eating this if it's tainted."
"None at all."
Caitlyn smiled and took a large bite. She moaned in happiness. "You got the white pizza with the goat cheese! Oh, Jase. You're my hero, you know that?"
Jason smiled at her weakly. "You want to go sit in the fort and watch the Miyazaki movies I got?"
Caitlyn stared at him. "You made a fort?"
He shrugged. "I was planning on it anyway?"
She smiled and picked up the pizza boxes and took the tea out of the fridge. "Grab some glasses and plates and I'll start up the movie?" she asked.
"Sure thing," Jason said, getting the glasses and plates form the cupboards and following her out to the living room.
She stood there, staring in wonder at the fort Jason had made.
"Wow, Jase…In addition to being my hero, you're magical as well."
He laughed. "I try."
They settled next to each other on the air mattress, and Jason pulled his laptop to him and slipped the first DVD inside. He noticed how Caitlyn had sort of leaned against his shoulder, her still-damp hair soaking into the sleeve of his shirt. He had to move away. He couldn't afford to concentrate on her hair, or how good she smelled or anything else like that that might cause him to do something really stupid.
Caitlyn sighed happily at the first sounds of the theme music and reached for another slice of pizza.
"This is beyond nice of you to do this for me, you know."
"Yeah…but I figure you deserve it."
She smiled at him and patted his knee. "Thank you. Really."
He sighed and moved to get another slice of pizza. Anything to get rid of Caitlyn's hand on his knee.
They finished the first movie and all three pizzas and as the credits rolled, Jason looked over at Caitlyn. "Feel like ice cream and another movie?"
"Duh," Caitlyn said, getting up and practically dancing back to the kitchen.
"Feeling better?" he asked, trying to avoid stepping on Abby and Charlie.
"Yes. But don't think you can weasel your way out of the ice cream and the second movie," Caitlyn said, grabbing the ice cream containers and a couple of spoons. She looked down at Charlie and Abby who were all but smiling up at her.
"They haven't brought down the fort tonight," Jason said. "Think they deserve a treat?" he asked, reaching for a canister with dog prints on it.
"They haven't brought down the fort yet," Caitlyn said. "But I guess one treat would be okay."
"Good," he said, smiling at her and throwing two tiny dog biscuits at the dogs. "They've been putting up with each other quite well, I think," he commented as Charlie and Abby happily flopped down onto the tile and chewed on the bone-shaped treats.
"They both climbed in my bed this morning to wake me up. By licking either side of my face. They've learned teamwork and it scares me," Caitlyn said, offering the pint of coconut cream pie ice cream to Jason.
"Nah…I uh…I bought myself three pints as well. Mint Oreo, Lemon Cheesecake, and Coffee Toffee."
Caitlyn gave him a blank look. "Wait, wait, wait. You bought six pints of designer ice cream? And three large gourmet pizzas? And the fancy tea from Chinatown?"
Jason smiled guiltily. "I just don't like it when you're upset, that's all."
Caitlyn put down the ice cream on the counter and threw her arms around Jason's shoulders. "I might have stated something similar earlier tonight, but…Jason…you are absolutely amazing, you know that?"
"Thanks for the compliment, Caity, but I think we should go watch The Cat Returns before the ice cream melts," Jason said. He really wanted to just keep hugging Caitlyn but that wouldn't be a good idea.
"Yes, of course," she said, pulling away from him. "Come on, canines," she said with a clap of her hands. Both dogs perked up and skittered towards the fort again.
"The dogs really are cute together," Jason commented as he and Caitlyn crawled back into the fort.
"Yeah. In spite of your dog being a flirt."
"I've told you. My dog is not a flirt. Yours is the flirt. Look at the way he's always tugging on Abby's ears. That's totally the equivalent of hair-pulling in the human world."
"Pfft. Let's just watch the movie," Caitlyn said. She pulled the fluffy down comforter around her shoulders and put a pillow in her lap as she leaned forward eagerly. "I love this one. Cary Elwes makes such a dapper cat."
"You are a weird, weird, child," Jason said, starting the movie.
"I am not a child. I'm twenty-five and a woman."
"Could have fooled me with how short you are."
Caitlyn snorted. "Be nice to me. I've had a hard day."
Jason bit his lip and put an arm around her shoulders. "Andrew's the biggest idiot in the world for what he did to you, I hope you know that."
"Yeah. I know. I just…I don't want to think about it right now…is that okay?" she asked, looking up at Jason.
"That's fine," Jason said, squeezing her shoulder quickly before dropping his arm. "We have a movie to watch anyway."
The movie was over, two of the six pints were gone, and the dogs were asleep.
As was Caitlyn.
She was curled up on her side, the blankets almost covering her completely as she snored.
Almost as loud as Shane.
Jason found it strangely endearing.
He smiled at her and picked up the pizza boxes and the ice cream containers before taking them out to the kitchen trash can. Then he returned to the fort and lay down on the air mattress, facing Caitlyn. Her snores had quieted some, and she looked peaceful as she continued sleeping. Jason softly brushed a strand of hair out of her face and smiled.
It was hopeless.
He was in love with Caitlyn and she was even less available to him now than she was yesterday.
But he could wait.
He was good at waiting.