V. All I Need

Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
I'm a dreamer, I'm a gypsy
I'm a river passing by
Got to run to keep up with me
I'm the sailor in the sky
And if I keep my heart open
If I wear it on my sleeve
No matter what life's throwing
Nothing's ever gonna get to me
Hey, hey, hey...

All I need is what I've got
My soul is free and I've got more than enough
I believe in love and I'll never stop
That's why all I need is what I've got...

Let it roll, roll, roll, right off my back
Let it flow, flow, flow, that's where I'm at
Let it roll, roll, roll, right off my back
Let it flow, flow, flow, that's where I'm at...

I'm working up to something
So don't drag me down with you
We're all looking for that one thing
It's gonna pull us through
And I don't keep my heart wide open
Even if it starts to bleed
And all the daggers that you're throwing

It's gonna bounce right off of me
Hey, hey, hey...
Because when I arrive
I,I'll bring the fire
Make you come alive,
I can take you higher
What this is? Forgot? I must now remind you
Let it rock, let it rock, let it rock

(Natasha)
Let it roll, roll, roll, right off my back
(Kevin)
Let it rock, let it rock, let it rock
(Natasha)
Let it roll, roll, roll, right off my back
(Kevin)
Let it rock, let it rock, let it rock

Oh yeah I release, and I set free
Giving fear inside my steer
And I give in, and I let out
Overthrowing any doubt
This is my sanctuary yeah...

All I need is what I've got
My soul is free and I've got more than enough
I believe in love and I'll never stop
That's why all I need is what I've got

Try and All I Need is the property of Natasha Bedingfield.

Sweeter is the property of Gavin DeGraw.

The cab crawls through the brightly lit thoroughfare, then the busy crosswalks in back to back traffic. It seems like every nearby vehicle is crowded into this particular part of Los Angeles, about two blocks from where she last saw Max. Saturday night partygoers fill the city blocks. Tourists go slow on the sidewalks so they can take in the sights. Normally, Naomi has no trouble being visible. But she can't bring herself to glance out into a sea of people or have them view her. Her mascara has trailed down her cheek. Her lips are chapped and begging for a touch-up. She didn't even want to think about how her hair looked. Her appearance is the opposite of when and how she'd like to be seen, much the same feeling during the dinner that threw her for a loop. All that prep for nothing special.

She's nothing special, according to Micah Miller, who wouldn't matter if he weren't the father of the guy she loved. Naomi has taken knocks before. Though she cared deeply for her sister, Jen managed a dig or two whenever she visited. Lord knows Guru Sona thought she was an airhead with a credit card. But the fact that Max's dad believed she was expendable was enough to almost completely shatter her. Naomi didn't expect him to approve of her outright, given the drama that accompanied their relationship in the past, but she did expect a second chance. A fuller chance.

Instead, she was sent away without a full stomach or a relieved heart. Was Mr. Miller telling the truth? Did Max have a better future without her or would he eventually want a different woman? She hasn't forgotten that Max had another type before her. He turned her down twice. Only she thought his tastes had changed. Hers definitely has, and she's certain she's done with the "Liams" and "Ethans" of the world. Max taught her that relationships should be mutual, built on trust and sensitivity. Maybe that's all he was supposed to do...to teach her that and leave. Naomi sniffles into a silk hankerchief then moans when she looks down at the wrinkles.

"You still haven't given me a destination," says the cabbie.

He's a reasonably nice-looking cabbie, though he's wearing a brown shirt that doesn't do any wonders for him.

"Where do you go when your heart gets stomped on more than Naomi Campbell stomps down a runway?" sighs Naomi.

"Your name's Naomi, too, huh?" says the cabbie. "I heard that boy calling you."

"Well, he won't call me anymore," sobs Naomi, blowing into her hankerchief. "Ewww. My nose is clogged."

"He sounded like he had something to tell you, miss," says the cabbie. "I'm no Dr. Phil, but I think you should hash it out before you go splitsville. Don't you have a few questions for him?"

"That's what started the meltdown...his dad's questions," explains Naomi.

"Alright, alright," says the cabbie, turning left. "I won't play therapist anymore. I'll just take you wherever you want to go."

"There is this one place," says Naomi. "I mean, I can't go home. Silver, Ivy, and Annie will grill me if I walk in there. At least if I drop by the beach, I'll be alone."

"Why is one of your friends named after a color?" asks the cabbie.

"Just drive, please," replies Naomi.

The taxi reaches the beach in under five minutes, with Naomi tipping the driver and walking towards the ocean in under two. To think, she and Max were just here, hopeful about the future, celebrating their past. Then, like a wave over a sandcastle, it all came crashing to the ground. She didn't even want to check if their initials were still carved in the sand. Besides, it might be impossible to find and read them without the aid of the Offshore's outside lights.

But the lights are on, notices Naomi. That's strange. She knew the hours pretty well. Ask her to identify the elements on the periodic table and she'd blank, but ask her the hours of various L.A. hotspots and she's golden. In any case, perhaps she can score a beer off Liam and get a ride home afterwards.

Naomi walks to the bar and knocks on the door. She almost turns the other way when she's invited in by Liam's sole employee.

"Sorry," says Naomi, Adrianna letting the door close behind her. "I thought Liam would be up."

"Liam hurt his foot so he can't be up at the bar," shares Adrianna.

"Oh, too bad," says Naomi. "Um, guess I'll go."

Adrianna tugs on her dress, scanning Naomi's face to read her expression.

"You've been crying," says Adrianna.

"No...no, I haven't," insists Naomi. "It's...it's...I was testing L'Oreal's new line and it made me teary."

"Naomi, I've seen you weep over your parents' divorce, Ethan cheating on you, and David Beckham not answering your fan mail," says Adrianna, evaluating her. "Tonight is right up there with those three. This...was a big cry."

Crossing her arms, Naomi shrugs. So what? It's not like Adrianna has friends to tell.

"Even if it was, I wouldn't confide in you," says Naomi as she brushes past Adrianna. "The way you treated Silver was despicable."

"That's what I think about myself...every day," says Adrianna softly.

Naomi lowers her arms. Is she pulling a fast one or is she really sincere? It has been awhile since the pill-switching catastrophe.

"Sometimes I compare myself to all the villains," continues Adrianna. "Maleficent, Scar, that mean Mulan guy, any bad kids that don't listen to Mary Poppins. And I am the worst. Okay, maybe I'm better than Jafar but not by much."

"Can you be a bad girl and get me a beer?" broaches Naomi.

"Sure!" says Adrianna chirpily.

Adrianna retrieves a brown bottle, uncaps it, and smiles.

"Remember when we skipped gym class like everyday?" says Adrianna.

"Natch," replies Naomi. "We should've gotten medals for that, and being fashionably truant when we did show."

Those were the days. The two of them had their own schedule, their own commitments. They usually involved shopping or boy-scouting...the kind of scouting without the badges. Of course all of that "scouting" was before...

Adrianna hands Naomi the bottle. Naomi takes a sip.

"This is root beer," says Naomi, clicking her tongue.

"That's a beer, though," says Adrianna. "The other kind's in the lock-up, and Liam's afraid I'll get lost in there without him so he won't give me a key yet."

"Fine," groans Naomi. "Do you have anything that'll drag me out of a deep depression?"

"Ice cream?" offers Adrianna.

"Gimme," says Naomi. "A lot."

Adrianna runs to fetch the ice cream. Naomi wonders about that girl sometimes. But is she going to have to worry about other girls soon? It seems as if she's the first girlfriend the Millers couldn't stand. She seriously doubts they've chased off other females Max dated. Naomi's not sure whether to feel distinct or like dirt.

Adrianna returns to present her with a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream, a few oddly-shaped sprinkles on the top.

"We didn't have toppings so I put some Nerds on there," says Adrianna.

"Thanks," says Naomi, hesitantly. "I like Nerds."

"Yeah," says Adrianna. "What's life without some Nerds?"

"Sucky," replies Naomi.

"These Nerds are too little to date," speaks up Adrianna after Naomi eats a couple bites. "Unlike brunettes with glasses."

"Navid doesn't wear glasses," says Naomi, swallowing a lump in her throat.

"You know who I'm talking about," says Adrianna.

Adrianna's about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Actually, she's always been this way, and her former bestie managed to hit it right on the nail nine times out of ten. Naomi's not going confessional on her but she'll release choice tiny tidbits to get the girl off her case.

"His parents detest me," shares Naomi.

"At least you were never knocked up," consoles Adrianna. "When Navid said he wanted to help me with my baby, I half expected them to burn me at the stake. And that's illegal in California...maybe."

"They want someone better for Max," says Naomi. "With a 4.0, who wears oxfords and cardigans."

"Stuff their cardigans!" insists Adrianna. "You and Max are ultra cute. When I was at prom, you know the one I shouldn't have been at since I wasn't a student, he looked proud of you and proud to be with you. "

"That was before graduation, before the history paper snafu," reminds Naomi.

"Max didn't ask you to do that," says Adrianna. "If they blame you for that, then they're like Jafar squared."

Naomi can't help but grin as she lifts her spoon.

"His parents aren't with you everyday," says Adrianna. "I mean, that would be creepy...and crowded. But the point is that Max is with you more and he's impressed."

As much as Adrianna has lied in the past few months, she's speaking the truth now. They haven't spent more than two hours with her and Max wouldn't have invited her in the first place if he didn't value her as a person. She has to make it up to him for not trusting that, trusting him.

"Thanks, Ade," says Naomi, sliding off the stool. "What do I owe you?"

"Maybe we can shop together in the future?" says Adrianna, then biting her lip.

"Deal," promises Naomi.

"Hey!" says a third voice. "This isn't Baskin Robbins."

Liam stumbles into the bar from the side door, agitated, limping on one foot and changing his mind mid-stride to the other. Naomi raises her eyebrows. Fake injury?

"Relax, el capitan," says Naomi. "I had a single bowl of cheap ice cream."

"I wasn't the captain," says Liam. "I was on a fishing boat. Honestly, Naomi, pay attention."

"Liam, you shouldn't be moving around," says Adrianna. "Go back and I'll make you a sundae."

"With chocolate sauce?" says Liam.

"With chocolate sauce," replies Adrianna. "Scoot scoot."

"Pretty soon they'll all want free ice cream," grumbles Liam, disappearing into the back room.

The girls laugh, Adrianna waving at Naomi as she exits. Naomi scrolls through her phone for Max's number. Hmmm, well, he hasn't called her. He may be waiting so they can talk face to face...or he doesn't care. Naomi rubs her forehead and dials the first number that happens to be on her screen. The phone rings.

"Hello?"

"Annie?" says Naomi. "Can I get a ride home?"

"Yeah," says Annie. "But what happened?"

Naomi lets her shoulders fall. "Everything."

II.

Liam leaves the door parted, its original position ever since they arrived at the Offshore following that destined-to-be-bad date. Only Liam helped the destiny of that date along by fake-injuring his foot. Was it the most moral moment of his life? No. But Dixon's so wrong for her that it's not funny. One, he's a B plus student. Well, both he and Adrianna were C-range students, so he can take his B-having self elsewhere. Two, Dixon uses coasters. Liam noticed that Adrianna used napkins when putting drinks on tables just like him. Point two for him. Third, and most important, Adrianna came to him and not Dixon for a fresh start. So Dixon shouldn't be trying to start anything with her or get fresh with her or breathe fresh air around her...and...and...what am I saying, thinks Liam, flopping onto his bed.

He cares about Annie. He proposed to Annie. Why is he even considering someone else, let alone an employee? This is his first business and wouldn't pursuing Adrianna completely muck it up? Adrianna relies on him for friendship and to be a good boss. But he's done other dumb stuff before that has worked out for the best. Buying the bar was chief among them. Maybe it is destiny that he bought the Offshore and that Adrianna came along for the ride. What to do? Should he risk a professional relationship if it means a new, exciting romantic relationship? As Ryan Lochte would say, jeah. He obviously can't censor his emotions if he's tailing her on dates.

And which leg to drag? He's completely forgotten which foot was supposed to be in pain. Thankfully, Adrianna hasn't caught wind of that fact. He should've "broken" his nose. He's only got one of them.

"Liam, your sundae's ready, and you get to have it on a Sunday," says Adrianna as she advances to his room.

Rising, Liam slips off his shirt, bunches the shirt, and throws it into his closet. He recalls she has a thang for his abs. Not a thing, but a thang. Adrianna's eyes bug out when she sees him shirtless. Like he thought, a thang.

"Uh...um, you don't want to get cold while you eat your ice cream," stammers Adrianna.

"I'm warm," says Liam. "Aren't you?"

"No, I tend to run cold," says Adrianna. "Whatever that means."

Adrianna reaches to give him the sundae, without looking directly at him. Liam smiles and starts to eat. An icy trail of liquid lines the area above his lips. Adrianna snickers.

"What?" says Liam blankly.

"You have a sauce moustache," explains Adrianna. "You look five right about now."

Liam wipes the sauce off his mouth with a piece of tissue paper. So much for the thang. He shouldn't have asked for the sauce.

"I'm sorry," says Adrianna. "I like working for you, moustache or not."

Sitting on the bed, Adrianna pats his right foot. Is that the foot? Okay, that'll be the foot, decides Liam. Liam scrunches towards her, eliciting a moan or two for effect.

"What if I had a beard?" kids Liam.

"That'd be fine, too," reassures Adrianna. "Liam, why did you come to the pier tonight?"

Liam searches for an answer to smooth her nerves, and his, since they're going about a mile a minute.

"To win you a giraffe?" says Liam, shrugging.

"I feel bad for Dixon," sighs Adrianna. "He was a fun date, but...more of a strange, friendly date. Probably cause he and Navid are so close."

"So you're not going out with him again?" says Liam, beginning to smile.

Adrianna almost catches the unintentional smile, but Liam catches himself before she can. He verbally chalks it up to getting the last of the chocolate sauce.

"No, I'm not ready to date," replies Adrianna finally. "If I was, it'd be with someone who could deal with my past. But there aren't many guys around here who could."

"I...I could," stammers Liam.

"Liam," waves off Adrianna, laughing and shaking her head, then realizing that he's serious, "Oh my gosh, Liam!"

"I could!" insists Liam.

"Dating you was not in the job description," says Adrianna as she stands speedily. "Plus you're still jonesin' for Annie."

"I'm jonesin' for you right now!" says Liam.

"Yeah, right now," says Adrianna. "Liam, you just want a warm body for your hot shirtless self...really hot shirtless self...I mean, wow...but...I won't be an Annie substitute!"

"That's not what I want," says Liam strongly. "I want an Adrianna original!"

"Well, you're not getting a glass of this Ade," proclaims Adrianna. "Keep your hands off my lemons. You're my boss so start acting like it."

"You'd don't believe in interoffice dating?" cries Liam.

"We're not in an office!" cries Adrianna.

"Interbar, then?" says Liam.

"No, I don't," replies Adrianna. "I guess I didn't have to pad my resume since you were interested in patting my butt!"

"Man, can't I just be into you for your personality and the way you dot the i in my name with an asterisk?" asks Liam.

Adrianna's mouth quivers. "You noticed that?"

"Yeah, and that you know eighty percent of the songs we play at the bar, that you have orange fingers when you come back from lunch since you feed the seagulls Cheetos during break, and that you eat alone because you don't think anyone else will eat with you," lists Liam.

"Liam," whispers Adrianna, hanging her head.

"I'm not looking for a body," says Liam. "I'm looking for somebody. Maybe you."

"You won't mean this tomorrow," says Adrianna tearfully. "We can't do this. You're my boss. We're friends. Why are you screwing this up? God, Liam!"

Without another word, Adrianna jumps up from the bed and runs out of the room. Great. He ruined the last good relationship in his life, and as it turns out, she isn't on the same wavelength. Or is she? She could've stayed on the date with Dixon and why flee in tears if there weren't some feelings underneath the anger? He has to know there's nothing before he gives up completely. Adrianna has to know that he's genuinely interested in her and he has to know if she's interested period.

"No more Mr. Nice Guy," says Liam aloud.

It all starts with a single step, and it looks like he won't have to fake it anymore.

III.

Max's legs stretch out across the staircase steps, the headlights of passing cars illuminating his dress pants. He's got identifying the neighborhood vehicles down to a science. The Wachovskis have a mini-van so the car sounds more guttural, harsh, as they shift gears towards their driveway. Ira and Patty Jacobs share a reliable Chevy, and you can hear their five kids from any foyer on the block. Their baby screamed and screamed until he was out of the car seat. That's kind of how Max would describe himself at the present moment, only he's screaming inside, and waiting.

Suddenly, there's a low rumble, headlights peering past the curtained windows of the Miller foyer. Every door unlocks at once, Micah's trademark. Melanie used to rush out until Micah chastised her for her impatience. He's about to see some impatience. The car doors close. Miriam's last, her heels nervously drumming in stride with her husband's shoes. Micah's keys jangle. The door opens. Miriam flips on the light. Max remains still.

"What did you say to her?" says Max clearly.

Micah unbuttons his coat, hangs a scarf on the hatstand. He starts to help Miriam out of her coat.

"What did you say to her?" repeats Max strongly.

"To whom are you referring?" asks Micah.

"Oh, Micah," breathes Miriam quietly. "It's too late for this."

"To my girlfriend!" cries Max, standing.

"What makes you think I said anything?" says Micah.

"Don't," says Max. "You were alone with her!"

"I merely told her the truth," says Micah. "Deep down, she knew it, and she didn't have any cause to argue with me. The most mature thing she's done is walk away tonight."

Max leaps off the stairs before Micah's finished, Miriam reaching to restrain him as Max stands inches from his father.

"I can't believe I cared about your approval!" exclaims Max.

"You didn't, which is how she got into this mess," says Micah sternly. "Is it the first time we've told you to leave the girl alone? She's finally done right by you, my boy. You'll eventually come to see that."

No. Naomi wouldn't believe that this was right, would she? He's the one that tried to bail on the dinner, not her. She was positive about the outcome, and continually positive about their relationship. She wouldn't walk off on her own accord. His father is lying through his teeth.

"Maybe you'll date a girl we can respect now," says Micah. "A girl that won't leave you out on a limb and complicate your life."

"Respect?" says Max. "Why would I date a girl you'd respect when I don't respect you?"

Micah frowns, so firmly that his cheeks shrink towards his neck. Max refuses to blink, to move.

"Max!" cries Miriam.

"Take that back," whispers Melanie, darting her eyes from her brother to her father.

"I have never steered you wrong!" cries Micah. "I have paid for your belongings, your education, your...how dare you disrespect me in my home! That little minx has made you go mad!"

"You're making me mad, and this isn't my home anymore!" shouts Max.

He runs up the stairs, hearing his father mumble furiously behind him, and two pairs of feet follow him. Max reaches for his phone, which he turned off while driving, when he was focusing, focusing on getting here and keeping his courage until his father arrived. He flips open a suitcase and starts to put in what he'll need. Shirts, pants, textbooks, toiletries. Maybe he wouldn't need the toiletries. A fresh toothbrush could mean a new start to a new life, without his father.

"Nobody's slept on this argument," says Miriam, halting Max so he can't reach the bathroom. "Let's talk in the morning."

"In the morning, I'll still be upset," says Max.

"You can't go," says Melanie, starting to cry. "You just came home from break...we barely get to see you..."

Her protests dissolve into a sob. Max drops his deoderant in order to hug her but doesn't get the chance.

"Look at you making your sister upset," says the last voice he feels like hearing from the hallway.

"Your expertise is making women cry, not mine," throws back Max, returning to his suitcase.

Melanie crouches to the bed, her mother wrapping her arms around her.

"Stop this nonsense and go to bed," insists Micah. "No girl is worth losing your family over. And if she doesn't send you back, she's definitely not worth it."

"Dad, you can't control me or Naomi or anyone else," says Max, locking his suitcase. "And as far as I'm concerned, I don't have a father."

Max exits the door, storming down the steps. He hates hearing his sister cry and his mother comforting her, but he relishes the silence he hears from his father. Unfortunately, it fails to last. He spies his father in the door as he loads the suitcase into his car.

"Maxwell Miller, you come here and apologize!" says Micah. "You're my son whether you like it or not."

"I don't like it," says Max, before climbing into his car. "And I won't be your son."

Slamming the car shut, Max pulls out, tires squealing, tears welling. He shuts his eyes briefly when he sees his father in the rear view mirror so that he can pretend he's not there, or that he ever was there, and so that he can pretend that he didn't see tears on his father's face too.

IV.

"Ooooh, my stomach," moans Adrianna.

Glancing at the gurgling part of her body, covered smartly by her glittery apron, Adrianna rolls her eyes. She couldn't eat her beloved oatmeal today. Her mother kept asking her if she had indigestion. She even suggested Adrianna stay in and not go to work. Work. Work that's become so much more than work. That dunderhead Liam.

"Better not be the butterflies," whispers Adrianna to her stomach.

What if they were butterflies? Alright, she's very fond of the hours she's spent around Liam, and she put her purple giraffe at th top of her stuffed animal heap. But that didn't mean she thought dating him was a good idea. He was almost engaged two months ago. That doesn't sound like boyfriend material. Plus, throughout her date with Dixon, she kept having Navid flashbacks. As charming as Dixon is, he's not Navid. Liam isn't Navid either. Should she have gotten the message that Navid was over her? Yes, but a heart doesn't hear as well as an ear. He can say he's into Silver until the cows come home, but he's still lodged in that annoying organ that won't listen.

She hopes Liam listened to her. Great guy, a better boss and friend than she probably deserved, but they can't go there. The job is the single highlight of her life, and she can't lose a friend due to some temporary butterflies. So I'm admitting they're butterflies, moans Adrianna inwardly. Fantastic.

Luckily, it's Monday evening, and the bar's busy. She's arriving a tad late to avoid being alone with Liam. It's just as well seeing as Liam would be interviewing possible waiters and waitresses in about ten minutes. Having the extra help would really help her out, now (apparently) in more ways than one. Maybe they'll distract Liam from whatever crazy notions he's got running around in his head.

Liam leans over the bar, almost as if he's been waiting for her. There's a single family at the rear table, going through her patented root beer floats.

"Hi," greets Adrianna, without eye contact.

"Hello," says Liam. "You're late."

"My Garfield alarm was acting up," says Adrianna. "Um, he hates Mondays."

"Well, Brianna's coming in for her interview at seven fifteen," says Liam. "Can you handle the tables?"

"That's my job," says Adrianna with a shrug.

Brianna? That's weird. She could've sworn the very first interview was with a guy named Frank. You don't forget a name like Frank.

"Gonna be a slow day, you think?" says Adrianna, joining him at the bar.

"No, I plan on moving fast," says Liam, staring ahead at the entrance.

"You can't move fast," says Adrianna pointedly. "Your foot."

"That's not what I meant," says Liam.

A busty blonde in a black miniskirt enters and waves at Liam. Liam grins, returning her wave. She approaches Liam and Adrianna. Her boobs bounce. So much boob, thinks Adrianna, paralyzed.

"Hiiiiii Liam!" greets the blonde. "Brianna Bushwick, at your service. My customers are always satisfied."

She winks at Liam, who flushes red. Adrianna's mouth drops.

"Why don't we go to that table in the back?" offers Liam, walking confidently to Brianna and showing her to the table.

Adrianna hits the top of the bar with her palm. His foot's fine...the faker! Plus, he's totally flirting with that flirt. Her eyes rest on the table occupied by Liam and Brianna, the music on the sound speaker filling the room.

You
Went to school and found out you're dumb
Maybe you just had too much fun
Fell in love and think it's the one

You're like an angel
Got me feeling like a devil
And I wanna give you something if
You promise that you won't tell

"So, do you have any experience?" asks Liam loudly.

"Oh, Liam," says Brianna, then giggling. "You're so bad. You know, I wasn't going to apply until I saw you. Is that...unprofessional?"

"Depends," says Liam, putting a hand on her knee. "Is this?"

Gripping the bar countertop hard, Adrianna can feel the wood touch her nailbeds. That little punk. This isn't a legit interview. He's putting on a show...for her.

"Do you have a problem with co-workers dating?" asks Liam, rubbing Brianna's knee. "Cause some of my staff is uptight about that."

"As long as we get to spend time together after hours, I'm good," says Brianna, massaging his chest.

"I'm a big believer in overtime," says Liam.

I just wanna take
Someone else's holiday
Sometimes the grass is greener
And someone else's sugar
Someone else's sugar
Sweeter

He grins widely and moves the hand on Brianna's knee higher. That's it. Now he's not only making himself look bad, but the entire establishment. Adrianna walks up to him and yanks him all the way to the supply closet.

"Excuse us," says Adrianna over her shoulder.

"Hey, we're in the middle of an interview!" cries Brianna after them.

Liam closes the door without the grin fading. Adrianna paces in front of him.

"And I thought I wasn't subtle!" cries Adrianna. "Brianna...which isn't that far off from Adrianna. You were clearly waiting for her. Your leg magically healed! You...you..."

He grins, the edges of his lips rising.

"Stop your smirking, smirker!" exclaims Adrianna.

"Did you like my questions?" asks Liam.

"No, I didn't!" replies Adrianna. "I'm assuming you used this jealousy method on Annie and it worked."

"Yep," says Liam, continuing to smirk.

"Well, we're two different people," reminds Adrianna. "So it's not going to work."

"Oh, it'll work," says Liam, then gesturing to himself. "Cause you kinda want this."

"You are the cockiest, most frustrating, unapologetic person in the entire world!" cries Adrianna.

"Date me," says Liam.

"No!" cries Adrianna. "I'm trying to insult you so you won't be into me anymore. Go with it."

"The more challenging it is, the more I'm intrigued," admits Liam. "Come on. One date? You wouldn't keep getting mad if there wasn't something here."

I'm a recommend
You take that body to the other end
I really like you but I can't be friends
Not with these hands of mine

Adrianna balls her fists, banging him lightly on the chest. Sure enough, that simply causes him to resume smirking. What a jerk! A jerk who managed to make her jealous. Well, it's not like she hasn't manipulated people a time or two, or more like twenty. Adrianna sighs into his chest, then grabs his shirt to bring her mouth closer to hers. She searches for his lips, find them, their cheeks contorting, her throat burning, her hands gripping his shoulders. Then her back meets the wall and it starts again. They only part mouths once a third voice, barely above a whisper, interjects.

"Did I get the job?"

They both turn to Brianna, standing awkwardly in the closet doorway.

"Guess not," says Brianna, throwing up her arms and leaving.

"Uhhh, I've gotta take orders," says Adrianna as she goes to the door, then pausing. "Um, wipe my lipstick off."

"Uh-huh," says Liam, watching her walk out with a final smirk.

V.

"Someone else's sugar is sweeter," sings Annie with the radio, swerving towards the mansion.

"Please...don't...sing," says Naomi, rubbing her temples. "Why are you so chipper?"

Annie does another quick swerve instead of answering her housemate. She would call her peppiest roommate. That said, Annie was amazingly sympathetic and kind to pick her up at this hour. She didn't badger Naomi for info and Naomi gave her the Cliffnotes version of the great Clark-Miller feud. Annie, of course, sided with Naomi but she also appeared to be distracted. What's more interesting than a dinner gone drastically wrong? Naomi doesn't have the energy to consider it.

"I have just the thing to cheer you up," says Annie, unlocking Naomi's car door.

She takes Naomi's arms from behind and leads her into the house. Well, the house looks the same...until she hears a series of grunts and small feet crossing the floor. What on earth? A rather large, hairy pig comes trotting into the room. He's almost as pink as her dress.

"What is this?" cries Naomi. "Green Acres?"

"This is Faulkner," explains Annie. "He's already bonded with Silver, Ivy, and Raj's new guinea pig."

"Guinea pig?" blanks Naomi.

"Yeah, he was mad we got a pig without his consent, so Ivy bought him a guinea pig," explains Annie.

"This is ridiculous!" says Naomi. "This isn't SmartPet."

"Petsmart, and you agreed to the pig," says Annie. "Kinda. Plus..."

Annie pushes Naomi to the kitchen. They peep into the room, where a blonde male in plaid and wearing cowboy boots, is polishing off a piece of jerky.

"Austin drove all the way from campus," says Annie, reddening slightly. "And the price wasn't too high. Isn't Austin cute?"

"He looks like a heel," says Naomi dismissively.

"I like heels," says Annie, smiling brightly.

"Have at him," encourages Naomi.

"Austin? We're back!" calls Annie.

"Howdy, ladies!" greets Austin. "Faulkner's right at home, but I bet showing him your pretty white Kansas pearlies had something to do with that, Ms. Wilson."

"Awww," says Annie, wriggling her nose.

Faulkner trots into the kitchen and starts sniffing the area under Annie's belt. Raj enters, grimacing.

"That hog's been sniffing people's private parts all night," says Raj. "That pig's a pervert."

"He's just saying hello, I reckon," says Austin.

"Reckon," says Raj, shaking his head. "Are we out of carrots? Tony Hawk's hungry."

The doorbell rings, thankfully interrupting feeding time and inappropriate sniffing.

"Thank goodness!" cries Naomi. "I get to exit this episode of Hee-Haw."

She certainly doesn't relish the thought of company, but anything's better than being around that walking cowboy stereotype and Annie's crotch-loving pig. Naomi stamps to the front door, throws it open to their other late night visitor.

"Max?" cries Naomi.

Armed with a suitcase, Max is in the same suit, now disheveled, that he wore at dinner. His features are fallen, his skin pale. This must be her doing. If she talked to him instead of jetting off, he wouldn't be in this state. Her conscience told her to go over his house but common sense told her that his father might be there too.

"Can I crash?" says Max after a deep breath.

"Yeah," says Naomi, leading him inside. "Always."

Max stares around the mansion haphazardly. He's out of it, more than on the beach, but appears more tired. Faulkner breaks into the calm, instantly going to sniff Max's thighs.

"Shoo," orders Naomi, pushing his nose away.

Faulkner squeals and licks Naomi's knee. Then, bored, he prances away.

"My apologies," says Naomi. "This place is becoming a petting zoo."

Max chuckles softly, the only indication that he's not totally off in outer space, which for Max you'd think would be a pleasant trip.

"Actually, apologies for tonight in general," says Naomi, standing in front of him. "Max, I was so upset, and I had so many thoughts go through my brain at once..."

"You don't have to explain," says Max. "Can we go upstairs and talk?"

"Let's go," says Naomi, holding his hand. "The Clark suite awaits."

They reach her bedroom, still overflowing with possible outfits and make-up bottles. She sweeps them off her spread. It's not like either of them needs constant reminders of tonight. Naomi wrests off her pumps and throws off the sheets. Max steps out of his dress shoes, not showing his face.

"He said you weren't good for me, didn't he?" says Max to her bedroom wall.

Naomi chokes back a few tears. The words hover in the air, like Micah Miller's speech is repeating itself.

"Yes," replies Naomi. "In several ways."

"I hate him," says Max, his fixed stare remaining on the wall while he drops to the bed.

"No, you don't," says Naomi as she snuggles next to him.

"I have to hate him," groans Max. "It's the only feeling that makes sense to me right now."

Naomi touches his neck, leading him to stare at her. She can detect many things in his eyes, with hate barely registering in them. Things must've gone awful after she ran, more terrible than she'd thought. If she wasn't so exhausted, she could offer him more than comfort.

"Let's be together tonight," whispers Naomi. "Let's not worry about what everyone else thinks."

"Can we do that?" says Max, brushing her bare shoulder with his lips.

"We can try," says Naomi.

She stands, closes her bedroom door, and flips on her sound system. Simple, soft music plays as she slips the straps of her dress to her elbows. The dress falls in one motion. Max sighs, takes in Naomi's black negligee, a secret she was saving if the dinner had gone differently and he ended up here. Well, he's here, under different circumstances. That's enough. He appraises her with a pained grin.

Don't throw it away just because it's broken
'Cause anything can mend
Don't call it a day just because the road's blocked
Doesn't mean we're at the end
If it's something you love, you don't leave it
If it's something you care for, you keep it

"Max, what's wrong?" says Naomi.

"Nothing," says Max quickly. "I'm...I'm tired."

Naomi kneels on the bedspread, gently parting the folds of Max's suit jacket. He reluctantly removes his glasses as he looks at the floor. Max leans in to kiss her as she doffs his jacket. Naomi stops the jacket from going past his elbows.

"Tell me," whispers Naomi. "Whatever it is."

Max's mouth shakes, tears running to and past his lips. Naomi holds his head to her chest.

It's never too far, it's never too late
To tell someone "you're the only one"
And even if it's hard, just never give by
If you love someone, then you try try try try

"I...I can't please everyone anymore," chokes out Max. "I'm...I'm just realizing that."

She hugs him tighter, wondering if it's the only hug he's gotten since they left each other, wondering if she'll have to dole out more as the days go by. That's when she realizes that she's part of what's tiring him out. He's been running around trying to please his parents...and her too.

"You can rest here," says Naomi softly.

"Naomi," says Max softly. "We have to talk. We have to..."

"No," interrupts Naomi, letting his head meet the sheets. "Rest, Max. Rest."