Hello there!

Been a bit of time since I uploaded a new chapter. Blame that on a combination of work, homework and other personal matters. Forgive the delay here.

Hope you guys enjoy the next chapter! Thanks for reading!


Chapter Five: Lunch Break

The sun rested overhead directly above the campus, signaling the midway point of the busy campus day. The area outside of the cafeteria building acted as a central hub for the students that traveled to and from their classes for the day. Several pathways that spanned through different areas of the campus all met in a large circle that was marked with the university's logo: A single paw print with "Upperton" in the center of the paw.

Around the circle were several benches that went around the entire area. On one of these benches, Kim sat with her pile of books on her lap. She looked around the hub, searching all around for any glimpse of Monique for their lunch meet up.

"Come on, Mo," Kim muttered. "I'm starvin' here."

Kim checked the time on her cell phone, which read 12:50. Usually, Monique would give Kim as heads up if she were running late or had a last-minute change of plans. Kim scrolled her phone's contact list for Monique's number, clicking on the desired entry and holding the phone to her ear as the call dialed out.

"Hey, you've reached Monique. I can't get to my phone right now..."

Kim groaned as she hung the call up on her phone. Monique usually responded to Kim's calls or texts rather quickly, so she was a bit curious in why she hadn't heard back from her yet. She closed her phone placed it back in her right front pocket.

"Heads up!"

Kim heard the tiny voice's warning and quickly looked up, noticing a small, oblong object heading her way. She quickly leaned to her left as it zoomed past her and landed in some small shrubbery behind her. After watching the unidentified flying object make its crash landing, she turned back towards the area of the pathway where she thought the object had come from.

What Kim saw coming her way was a young, slender, blonde-haired girl who sported a green "Upperton" hoodie and jeans. The girl waved her hand at Kim to signify that she was the one to whom the ball belonged to.

"Hey!" the girl called out. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Kim responded, placing her books to the right of where she was sitting and rising to meet the girl as she approached. "What was that, anyways?"

"Oh, that was our football," the blonde replied as she arrived to Kim's position. "Sorry about that."

"It's no big," Kim replied with a smile. "But I'd certainly tell your boyfriend to chill out a little bit with his throws."

The blonde let out a chuckle. "My boyfriend wishes he had a throw like that," she grinned.

Kim raised a brow to the girl, giving her another look over as she processed that last statement. "Wait, that was you who threw that?"

"Yup!" the blonde replied perkily. "However, you can blame him for not catching that last pass."

Kim let out a chuckle to the girl's response, but was still a bit stunned at the revelation that the girl in front of her was responsible for the errant throw. "Is your boyfriend on the football team?" she asked.

The blonde shook her head. "Nope, he's just a student here. We're both sophomores." After presenting that fact to Kim, she extended her hand out to her. "I'm Michelle Benson."

Kim extended her hand out to Michelle, giving it a quick shake. "Kim Possible, it's my first semester here."

"You're Kim Possible?" Michelle excitedly asked. "I've heard so much about you! All of my friends were talking about you coming here over the summer!"

"A lot of people were," Kim smiled. "You would almost think nothing else happened here on campus."

"Well," Michelle drew out. "That's partly true. Things just aren't particularly exciting around here. Don't get me wrong, we're not boring by any stretch. There's a lot of fun events that happen here. But our sports teams? Not so much."

"That's what my boyfriend had mentioned," Kim nodded. "He said that there was a lot of work to be done with the football team."

"Oh, he's on the football team?" Michelle inquired.

"Yeah, Ron Stoppable," Kim answered. "He's a running back for the team."

"Ron Stoppable is your boyfriend?" Michelle prodded.

Kim was a little surprised at the reaction she got from mentioning her relationship with Ron, hesitating for a second before she responded. "Uh, yeah. He is."

"Oh wow!" Michelle enthusiastically exclaimed. "You're pretty lucky."

"Lucky?" Kim responded, puzzled by Michelle's statement. "I'm not sure what you're getting at."

"Well, Ron's in line to be the next big thing here on campus after Rodney Tate leaves," Michelle explained. "There's a lot of hype around campus about what he could do to get the team back to the conference championships again."

"He's played two games," Kim responded. "I highly doubt that the campus could come to that kind of conclusion after only two games.

Michelle froze for a second, figuring that Kim would respond differently to her praise of Ron. "Oh, well…" Michelle trailed off. "I suppose you're right. He's still got a lot of time to prove that."

"He does," Kim answered quickly and flatly, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

Sensing the conversation was heading downhill quickly, Michelle peered over Kim's shoulder towards the shrubbery that her ball had landed in. "My ball fell over there, right?"

Kim stepped aside to let Michelle retrieve her ball. "Yeah, it fell in over here." Kim pointed the tip of the ball that was stuck out from the brush to her.

"Thanks," Michelle grinned, walking towards the brush. "So, have you pledged with anyone?"

"Yeah, I have," Kim responded. "Kappa Phi Omega."

"Nice," Michelle commented as she reached in to retrieve the ball. "I pledged with Sigma Omega. Hey, have you signed up for the Powderpuff Bowl?"

"Powderpuff Bowl?" Kim asked.

"Yeah, that's the annual campus sorority football game," Michelle explained as she lifted the ball from the brush and tucked it under her right arm. "There's two teams made up of members from all the sororities here on campus. We play after the last football game before we go on Thanksgiving break."

"Never heard of it up until now," Kim said. "But that's not really my thing. Not particularly into football."

"That's a shame," Michelle remarked. "I think you'd have a blast, though." Michelle then thought for a second, perking up as an idea came across her mind, "Hey! Why don't you at least come to the meeting tonight? You'd meet a bunch of the other girls here on campus."

"Like I said," Kim quickly responded, "I'm not really into football that much."

"Don't worry!" Michelle replied. "You don't have to commit to the event if you come to the meeting. I'm just offering you an opportunity to come and meet some of the other sorority members here. Promise."

"Well…" Kim hesitated, thinking about Michelle's offer for a moment. "I don't know. I'd really like to come and all but…"

"We'll be there!" a voice interrupted.

Kim turned and noticed Monique walking up to her, grinning from ear to ear and placing her arm around Kim's shoulders. "Of course, I hope that invitation is also open for a sorority sister of Ms. Possible's," Monique added.

"Of course!" Michelle excitedly responded. "The more girls we get to come, the better!"

"That sounds great," Monique said. "Mark us down, we'll be there!"

Kim didn't even have the chance to interject into Michelle and Monique's conversation, she instead gave her friend a disapproving glare as she was now talked into attending the meeting that night.

"Great!" Michelle gushed. "It's at six tonight over at the recreation hall. You both know where that is?"

"Yeah, I'm familiar with it," Monique answered. "Anything we need to bring?"

"Nope, just come and meet some of the other girls," Michelle said. "However, I don't think I caught your name."

"Monique," Monique extended her hand out to Michelle, introducing herself.

"Monique, great!" Michelle said as she gave Monique's hand a quick shake. "I'll see you both tonight!" she said as she started to walk from the two.

"See ya!" Monique said, focusing her attention back to less than thrilled Kim. "Looks like we've got plans for tonight."

Kim broke away from Monique's grasp around her shoulder, a look of disbelief on her face as she started to speak. "What was that all about?" Kim snipped. "Why did you do that?"

"Chill," Monique calmly replied. "I just figured that it wouldn't hurt to get to know some of the other girls around here on campus. Why are you acting like I just volunteered you to scrub the entire cafeteria down with a toothbrush?"

"Because I really didn't want to go," Kim shot back. "I had little to no interest on what that whole thing was all about."

"You heard her," Monique responded. "She said you didn't have to commit to the event. She was just trying to have you come and be social. Is it really that much of a big deal?"

"Wait," Kim said. "How long were you listening to our conversation?"

"I got up here as she was digging in that brush behind you for something," Monique explained. "I was just over here to the side, actually. Surprised you didn't see me."

"Sorry," Kim shrugged. "She was just getting a bit personal with me there for a second. I was a bit focused on what she was talking about."

"Which was?" Monique asked.

"Just…" Kim started, but stopped herself before she could say exactly what had got her into a defensive mindset. "…it got a bit personal. That's it."

"She was talking about Ron, wasn't she?" Monique asked, a grin on her face letting Kim know exactly where she was getting at.

"It was personal, Monique," Kim shot back.

"See? This is what happens when you're on an empty stomach," Monique said, pointing at Kim. "You get grouchy. I think we need to stop with all the chit-chat and get us some grub."

"Yeah," Kim sighed, gathering her books from the bench and tucking them in her right arm. "Maybe that's what's wrong."

"I take it Ron's already inside?" Monique asked, starting to walk towards the cafeteria.

"No," Kim shook her head, following closely behind Monique. "I actually haven't even seen him yet. I told him we were going to be here around this time. Perhaps practice ran late?"

"Could have," Monique responded.

Kim and Monique both walked down the pathway towards the entrance of the cafeteria, Monique opening the glass door entrance of the building and allowing Kim to enter first, Monique following close behind. The spacious cafeteria of the university housed campus-ran and franchised eateries that the students could frequent at almost any time during the school week. The lunch rush was certainly at its peak, with long lines and packed tables full of students and faculty looking to catch a quick bite before continuing their busy days.

"Girl, I am starving," Monique said, rubbing her stomach with her free hand.

"I hear that," Kim agreed, peering around the cafeteria at the choices she had for her lunch. "It's just the matter of what I'm in the mood for right now."

"I could totally do fried rice right now at Panda-Monium," Monique commented.

"Oooh," Kim cooed. "Chicken fried rice sounds delish right now."

"I'll second that!" came a voice from behind her.

Kim turned around, looking as Ron walked towards the two. "In fact, I think I'll buy this round of lunch for the two lovely ladies that are standing right here in front of me." He then produced his wallet from his jeans, pulling out the campus meal card from one of the card slots.

"Such a gentleman you are, Mr. Stoppable," Kim remarked, walking up to him and placing her free right hand around Ron's right side of his waist.

"Shh, not so loud," Ron replied in a jokingly hushed tone, wrapping his hands around Kim's waist. "I don't want too many people knowing about that!"

Kim giggled, leaning in and giving her boyfriend a peck on the lips. "I thought you were going to meet us outside."

"Actually, I was just a few steps behind you two. Saw you both talking before you went in and tried to get the door for you both," Ron explained.

"I see," Kim remarked. "So, how was practice?"

"Well," Ron began, feeling a bit uneased at the events from the morning's practice session. "It was...practicey? Is that a word? Because if it is, that's what I'm going with."

"Pretty sure it's not," Kim smirked. "But I'll take that as a sign that things went well."

Ron faked a grin to Kim, wanting to not set off a round of questioning over practice. He didn't know how he would be able to explain to Kim what he experienced.

"Hey," Monique chimed. "How about you two grab the grub, and I'll try and find us a table in this sea of madness?"

"That's a plan," Kim responded. "Chicken or shrimp?"

"Shrimp," Monique responded. "And tell them not to skimp on it this time, too!" Monique then pointed to Ron. "Moreso for the fact that this guy is paying."

"Oh, I see what it is," Ron responded in a mock tone of outrage. "Gonna have me tell them to pile the shrimp sky high on an inch of rice? I see what your game is, Monique."

"Hey," Monique responded with a grin. "Don't be flashin' that meal card around me. All you're going to get is trouble."

Ron chuckled, placing his arm around Kim. "Alright, I'll tell them not to skimp on the shrimp. But only this time, as long as the next round is on you."

"Deal," Monique smiled. "Alright, let me go find us a spot. I'll wave you guys down when I see you get out of line. Oh, let me take those, Kim." Monique pointed to Kim's books, offering her other hand out to take them from her.

"Thanks," Kim replied, handing her stack of books into Monique's hands, who turned and walked into the large seating area for an opening for the three of them.

Kim turned her attention back to Ron, leaning into her boyfriend a little with a relaxed sigh. "So, what's the occasion?"

"Occasion?" Ron replied, seeming a bit off-guard from Kim's question. "No occasion, just felt like buying lunch this time around."

Kim raised a brow to Ron's response. "The only time you do something that nice is when you've either screwed something up or had bad news to share with me."

Ron started to walk towards the line for Panda-Monium with Kim walking alongside. Part of him wanted to tell Kim what had actually happened at practice that morning. At the same time, he didn't want her to know that he felt like he was letting her down.

"Well," Ron started, removing his arm from around Kim and placing his hands in his pockets. "Things could be going a bit better."

"Rough practice?" Kim asked.

"I guess," Ron shrugged. "Just having some problems getting the new system down."

Kim tilted her head onto Ron's shoulder, taking hold of his arm as they made their way into line. "Don't worry about it. You're going to do fine. It's just going to take a little time to get adjusted," she soothingly replied

Ron looked down at Kim, grinning. "Yeah. There's still a lot of time left for that, I suppose."

The two locked eyes for a moment. All the questions, all the doubts, all of the drama they both were going through seemed to disappear when they were with each other. Even if behind their smiles, everything was far from perfect.

It was almost if they had to wear masks every time they were together.


Fwoosh!

A stream of water jetted from the faucet of the sink in the back area of Bueno Nacho's kitchen area, gushing on top of a blackened blob that sat inside of a yellow cardboard box. Mike and Laura stood above the sink, waving their hands in front of their faces from the smoky odor that met them from the burned appetizer sitting below them.

Mike turned the faucet off, looking down to make sure the quick blast from the faucet did its job in extinguishing one of the latest kitchen disasters from the young day shift cooks. He placed both of his hands on the sides of the sink, bending down and examining the now soggy box and its contents.

"What is it?" Laura asked, trying to glance around Mike's left shoulder into the sink.

Mike stayed silent as he took his right hand from the side of the sink and reached into it. He hovered his hand above the blob first, trying to judge if the food was cooled down enough to examine it. After feeling no heat reaching to the palm of his hand, he reached down a bit further and plucked a piece off of the blackened pile, starting to raise it up to view it from a closer perspective. The triangular shape of the piece that Mike had grabbed immediately came to his attention.

"How…" he began to say, turning the piece around to view it from all angles.

Mike looked back down at the blob once again, taking his right index finger and poking it into the center. After wiggling his finger around for a moment, he pulled his finger up and out of the blob. Upon doing so, he watched as his finger exited from the blob and had now been covered in a dark orange substance that coagulated around his digit.

Mike studied the color that now covered his finger, bringing it up to his nose to try if he could distinguish any smell that came from the blob. He sniffed a few times, confirming the mental conclusion that he had come to after inspecting the piece he picked out. He peered over to Laura, looking to see if she could add anything to the detective work Mike was now in charge of.

"What?" Laura shrugged with a hint of irritation in her voice. "What are you looking at me for?"

Mike quickly deducted that Laura was not going to play Watson to his Holmes in this mystery. He stood up and turned around at the trio of cooks that stood together and watched the entire process that Mike went through with either a dumbfounded look or a mask of indifference on their faces.

"How in the hell…" Mike started, grabbing a rag that rested on the side of the sink and wiping the substance off of his finger. "…do you burn nachos?"

The cooks looked at each other for a moment, each looking to see if the other could give an explanation to the end result of their last order to Mike. Instead of explaining their actions, each of the cooks covered their mouths in a futile attempt to hide their snickering from Mike.

"Yeah, I'm glad this is funny to you guys," Mike responded, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "What if something else would've caught fire because of your guys' carelessness? Then what?"

"Chill out, boss," one of the cooks replied, handing Mike a slip of paper that he held in his left hand. "We just did what we were told."

Mike cocked a brow to the young cook, who still had a wide grin on his face as he handed Mike the paper. Mike snatched the slip from the cook's hand, recognizing the Bueno Nacho watermark on the back of it. He flipped it over to the appropriate side to read the printout properly:

"1 – MOLTEN NACHO BASKET

SPECIAL"

Mike looked back over to Laura. "Special?" he said. "What was the special for on this?"

"The customer requested to me to make it as hot as we could," Laura replied. "I just figured these nimrods would just flood the thing with the Diablo Sauce."

Mike looked back once again over to the cooks, each of them grinning from ear to ear. He slammed the slip down on the side of the sink, stepping towards the troublesome trio as he spoke in a low, yet forceful tone.

"Listen here, you little smart-asses," he began. "The little comedy troupe act you're putting on here is just going to get you all a one-way ticket to the unemployment line. I'm not going to put up with this bullshit…"

"Mike?" Laura attempted to interrupt his rant against the cooks, looking out towards the serving area.

"…that you all think is funny. Because that's not what I consider this little incident here. There's nothing funny about what you little dicks do around here…"

"Mike?" Laura spoke up a bit louder, tugging on his left sleeve.

"…you bring down service in the middle of the damn lunch rush, I'm always having to get on all three of you to do something around here…"

"Mike!" Laura pulled on his sleeve even harder, almost as if she were trying to pull the sleeve off of his shirt. This finally caught the attention of Mike, who whipped around to face Laura.

"WHAT?" Mike shouted, his face becoming slightly red from the dressing down he was giving to the three cooks.

Laura was taken back from Mike's tone, practically frozen from the response that she got. She attempted to respond to him, but couldn't utter a word out as she opened her mouth. Instead, she turned her body towards the service counter of the restaurant and pointed to a tall, skinny, dark-haired male sporting a light-blue button-up polo and khaki pants entering the restaurant.

"Chuck's here," Laura finally spoke.

The "Chuck" that Laura spoke of just so happened to be a district manager for Bueno Nacho, often dropping in on stores to observe if the standards and practices of the franchise were properly being met by each franchisee.

"I thought he was just here last week," Laura commented.

"He was," Mike replied, seeming surprised at Chuck's visit. "I have no idea why he's back. Everything was up to code when he did his inspections."

"Maybe it's not about an inspection," Laura theorized. "Maybe it's about something else."

"Or someone else," chimed one of the cooks, his reply causing Mike to turn back and glare at him. In response, the cook just smirked back at Mike. Before Mike could verbally retort to the cook, Laura snapped her fingers next to Mike's left ear, causing him to wince slightly as he turned back to her.

"Cut the macho act," Laura said sternly. "Get over there and see why he's here. He came all the way out here for a reason."

Mike turned his head quickly back to the cooks, letting out a quick sigh and returning his focus back to Laura. "You're right," he nodded. "Just keep an eye out on these guys while I see what's up."

Laura nodded to Mike's request as she took her left hand and gently gave him a shove towards the front of the store, causing him to skid slightly as he began to walk from the group in the back. As he walked, he took a second to check to see if his nametag was straightened.

"Mike McCage!" bellowed Chuck as he walked towards the counter to meet Mike. "How are ya, buddy?" Chuck extended his hand out to Mike as he finished his enthusiastic greeting.

Mike reached out and shook Chuck's hand, grinning a bit to hide the uneasiness he felt due to Chuck's unannounced appearance. "Doing good, Chuck."

"Good to hear," Chuck replied. "How's things going with the store?"

"Going good," Mike said. "We're really catching fire here." Mike's eyes widened a bit as he finished his sentence, realizing the personal choice of words probably wasn't the best even if Chuck was unaware of the recent problems. "In terms of sales, that is."

"Great to hear!" Chuck beamed. "You guys have done quite the job of turning this place around."

"Couldn't do it without the staff here," Mike replied. "The guys here work hard and do their best around here."

You are a bold-faced liar, Mike McCage.

"Good," Chuck said. "Well, that's partially the reason why I stopped in today."

Uh oh.

Mike gulped, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Oh? Are we doing some more hiring for the holidays or something?"

"No," Chuck shook his head. "It has to do with you, actually." He then looked outside of the restaurant towards the outdoor picnic area in front of the restaurant. "You have a few minutes to chat outside?"

Mike started to get a bad vibe from Chuck's request, wondering if the unemployment line was in his future. "Uh, yeah. I've got a couple of minutes to spare, unless we get busy again."

"No problem," Chuck returned with a pat on Mike's back. "This won't take long, anyways."

Mike led the way out of the restaurant, holding the door as Chuck followed him out into the crisp autumn air. They walked towards the right side of the entrance where one of a handful of picnic benches were set.

"Weather's been halfway decent here lately," Mike commented, scooting himself into the side of one of the picnic benches and sitting down near the center of the bench.

"That it has," Chuck replied, securing his seat on the opposite side of Mike. "The season is changing."

Mike decided to follow on Chuck's thought. "Let me guess, that's not the only thing that's going to be changing around here. Right?"

Chuck looked at Mike for a second, then let out a small chuckle. "Well, I guess I don't have to beat around the bush with you."

Mike nodded. "Well, you were just here last week. I had to imagine that your visit here had something to do with either me or my staff."

Chuck folded his hands in front of him on the table. "Well, you're right. I came here to talk with you about your status with the company."

Mike was anticipating the worst.

"You've been the day manager here at this store for almost two years now," Chuck began. "You've done quite well since taking over managerial duties since Howard left. You've hired responsible employees…"

Questionable.

"...you've came in and helped us out when we needed you without complaining…"

I complained about it when you weren't here.

"…I've never received a complaint about you from customers or staff…"

They're called bribes, Chuck.

"…and the quality of the product has been very consistent, according to our customers."

Don't look in the garbage can in the back.

"Well, I'm glad to hear I'm getting these high marks," Mike said. "However, it sounds as if you're setting me up for something."

"I am," Chuck replied. "I came here to tell you that you are no longer going to be working at this location."

Mike stared at Chuck for a second after he finished his last sentence with a dozen thoughts running through his mind and the tranquil sounds of the autumn afternoon echoing in his ears. After all of the years of service to the company, he was being let go? Just like that?

"Someone who has done such a great job with the company..." Chuck began, ending what seemed to be an eternity of silence to Mike. "…deserves the opportunity to head their own location."

Mike raised his brow to Chuck, wondering if he had heard what he thought he had heard come from his boss' mouth. "You're giving me my own location?"

"Sure am," Chuck grinned. "You deserve the opportunity."

Mike's tension from the discussion seemed to go away, letting his guard down from the termination he thought was coming from Chuck at the beginning of the conversation.

"Well," Mike began. "I certainly appreciate the consideration and everything. I really do. But I really don't feel like relocating anywhere or having to make a long drive to a new…"

"Not going to be a problem," Chuck interrupted. "Your new location isn't particularly too far from this one."

"I hope you're not sending me to 582," Mike groaned. "I told you I'm not comfortable with going up there."

"No, 582 is still under construction," Chuck replied. "…again."

"Still?" Mike chuckled. "You mean 'Wonder Woman'…" Mike emphasized the name with the addition of finger quotes as he said it. "…hasn't lent her assistance towards rebuilding 582?"

"Well, the one you call 'Wonder Woman'…" Chuck began. "Just might happen to be one of your future customers at your new location, Mike."

Mike's expression went from a jovial one to a disbelieving gaze to his boss. "You're seriously not going to put me at the new location at Upperton University are you?"

"That's exactly what I'd like to do," Chuck replied.

"Chuck, no," Mike refused, waving his hand across his body to emphasize his dissatisfaction with his new assignment. "I deal enough with the college crowd as is at this location. I don't want to have to deal with that kind of customer base eight hours a day."

"But that's the customer base that accounts for a significant percentage of the sales here," Chuck explained. "This location will more than likely take a hit when we open the campus location up, but it can be made up for with the projections we have for the university location."

"I thought Amber was next in line for a promotion?" Mike asked.

"Amber just went on maternity leave," Chuck responded. "But yes, Amber was next in line for a promotion with the company."

"So, I'm a last resort?" Mike shot back, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"I never said you were a last resort, Mike," Chuck stated. "But you're the only one I can think of within the district that would know what to do over there."

"Chuck, listen," Mike began. "I appreciate you thinking of me for this promotion. I really do. But I'm just not interested, considering the factors that you've stated."

"Mike, I'm in a tough spot here," Chuck began to beg. "This thing opens next week and I don't have a manager in line. If you don't like it there, I'll have Amber take over once she gets back from her leave."

"Chuck, I'm sorry," Mike said, starting to stand from the bench. "I'm not interested in the position." Mike then extended his hand out to Chuck.

Chuck looked at Mike's hand, still sitting on the other side of the bench. He looked up at Mike, a bit confused on why Mike wouldn't take his offer. His eyes darted from side to side for a second, trying to figure out what he was going to do next.

"Mike, I need someone at that location on Monday," Chuck explained. "I just need you to fill in for only a few months. This isn't a permanent position or anything."

"Sorry," Mike responded, feeling a bit sorry for Chuck's situation. "It's just not something I'm interested in."

Defeated, Chuck slowly brought his hand up and shook Mike's hand. Mike stepped over the bench of the picnic table and began to make his way back towards the entrance of the restaurant. Chuck stood up, watching Mike starting to make his way back. He slid along the table and reached the end, stepping out and taking a few steps towards Mike's pathway. Chuck sighed, sticking his hands in his pockets and trying to figure out what to do next.

Then, desperation mode kicked in.

"Three weeks paid vacation," Chuck called out to Mike.

Mike's hand gripped the entrance handle to the door, but he didn't pull on it. Chuck's new offer froze Mike right in front of the entryway of the restaurant. .He looked up and stared directly into his faint reflection in the glass door in front of him. He saw Chuck slowly make his way up towards the entryway out of the side of his reflection.

"No questions asked, no restrictions, whenever you want to take it," Chuck said, trying to sell the added bonus to taking the position.

Mike turned his head back to Chuck, knowing he was now in a position to negotiate his terms in moving to the new location. "Well, Chuck," he started. "You sure don't give up when you want something done, do you?"

"I'm in a rough spot," Chuck shrugged. "I just really need your help right now, Mike. Everyone else has said the same thing you have."

"So, I am a last resort?" Mike asked, his tone changing to one that knew what the answer to his question was going to be.

"Yeah," Chuck sighed, hanging his head. "You're kind of my last hope here."

Mike looked at the ground, shaking his head and letting out a small chuckle. "Well, Chuck," Mike began. "Tell you what. If you can give me two weeks paid vacation and a raise…" he hesitated, letting out a sigh before he finished. "Then fine, I'll go over there and man the ship."

Chuck raised his head, his eyes widened as he heard Mike's verbal commitment. "Really?" he asked excitedly. "You'll really do it?"

"Two weeks and a raise, Chuck," Mike said, extending his hand out to him. "If you shake on that, then we've got a deal."

Chuck's mouth busted out into a wide grin, reaching out quickly to shake Mike's hand.

"You've got a deal," Chuck responded happily.

The door opened to the office of Coach Davich, a hand reaching inside the doorway and flipping a light on to illuminate the room.

"I tell ya, Mitch," Coach Davich began, pushing the door open with his body and entering the room. The room was decorated with Upperton knick-knacks, photos and framed newspaper articles from Coach Davich's previous successes. "We're not ready for these guys on Saturday."

Following him was a middle-aged man with dark hair, light skin and a large binder tucked beneath his left arm. "We've got a bit of time, Dad," replied Mitch, Coach Davich's son and offensive coordinator.

Coach Davich walked over to his desk that was positioned towards the back wall of the room. "All the time in the world can't straighten out the mess we've got, son," he said.

"Well," Mitch started, taking a seat at one of the two chairs that sat in front of the Coach's desk. "What exactly do we need to put the most focus into?"

"Witchcraft," Coach Davich joked, bending down towards the mini-fridge positioned just behind his desk against the wall and pulling the door open. "Voodoo is even acceptable at this point. Our offense is a complete joke out there. You saw what happened on Saturday." He grabbed a can of diet cola and a brown paper bag from the fridge, closing the door with his right foot as he stood back up. "I don't know what the hell Tate's problem is."

"Tate's problem is Tate," Mitch quickly replied. "Dad, he's not respecting the play call out there. There were at least four audibles that he called last game that didn't need to be called. He's trying to run this offense on his own and he doesn't know what he's doing."

"He knows what he's doing," Coach Davich said, defending Rodney. "None of these other guys know what the hell to do when he switches the play up."

"He's causing unnecessary chaos," Mitch retorted. "The plays I called were perfectly acceptable for the situations we were put in. There was no reason for him to call as many audibles as he did."

"He's doing his best out there," Coach Davich shot back, placing the items he held in his hands down on the desk as he lowered into his seat. "If he's changing your calls so much, then you're obviously not calling the right plays."

"You know what, Dad," Mitch leaned towards his desk, becoming irritated at his father's stubbornness. "I went through this all of last season, too. You haven't defended me once since I took this job, which I took because Anthony wouldn't put up with the same crap I'm going through right now"

"Anthony was here before I even started," Coach Davich replied. "He had got so used to failure around here that his departure was inevitable." He popped the top off of his soda, lifting it up and taking a sip before he continued. "Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember holding a gun to your head and telling you to come and join me here"

"I know, Dad," Mitch replied, trying to calm down a bit. "And I appreciate everything you've done for me. But I'm just getting really frustrated with this whole situation. You have to give me the benefit of the doubt sometimes."

"I don't have to give you anything," Coach Davich sternly retorted. "I didn't get anything in my playing days, nor when I started coaching. Everything you get, you earn on your own. Just because you're my son doesn't mean that I'm going to give you any special treatment."

"Then what am I supposed to do?" Mitch asked. "Why am I even here? If Rodney is going to have the final say here, there's not even a need for me to be on this staff."

"Mitch," Coach Davich sighed. "You know why I'm in this situation." He paused, running his right hand through his hair before continuing. "You know what I had to do to get Rodney here."

"I'm fully aware of what you had to do, Dad," Mitch replied, looking off to the side as he spoke.

"Then you know the repercussions of what would happen if someone were to find out," Coach Davich said. "I promised Rodney a lot when he came here. In the same regard, I also sacrificed a lot."

Both men sat in silence for a second, only the ticking of the wall clock in Coach Davich's office could be heard as they both searched for what could be said next in a sensitive matter.

"Dad, if he ratted on you he would be screwed, too," Mitch spoke in a low tone.

"He wouldn't rat on me," Coach Davich replied. "His parents would. All they would have to do is go to the local media and make something up on how I wasn't giving them the money I promised them." He then reached out and held up one of the local publications to his son. "And at this point, the local media isn't particularly fond of me. They would have a field day with it."

Mitch nodded his understanding to the matter, but at the same time couldn't help but to feel sorry for his father. He knew his father's desire to win got the best of him at times. But in this situation, he had gone just a bit too far in his quest to be the best.

"Did you do the same thing with this Stoppable kid?" Mitch inquired.

"No," Coach Davich shook his head. "That kid made the decision to come here on his own. Hopefully, once Tate gets out of here, I can start fresh with him."

"You might need the help of a psychiatrist first before you even begin to work on him," Mitch commented. "What the hell happened during practice today? I totally missed it."

"I have no clue," Coach Davich shrugged. "I tried to motivate the kid. Next thing I know, he's charging my linebacker with the intent of a mad man."

"What did you say to motivate him?" Mitch asked.

"Well," Coach Davich began, opening the brown bag to his left side before he continued. "I told him that he needed to protect Rodney like he was someone that he really cared about. I didn't see any harm in that."

"Well, he almost tore into the guy!" Mitch exclaimed. "He obviously took your advice a bit more seriously than you were anticipating."

"How was I supposed to know that was going to happen?" Coach Davich countered. "I'm not a damn mind-reader, Mitch. The kid obviously has some issues that need to be ironed out before we put him back in the running back fold."

"You mean you're taking him off of the depth chart?" Mitch asked.

"I am, for at least the time being," Coach Davich replied, reaching into the brown bag and removing a sandwich that was enclosed in a small plastic bag along with an apple. "However, I want to give the kid a few shots on what he can do, though. So, I'm going to move him to our special teams and let him return a few punts for us."

"Okay," Mitch agreed. "We'll get him situated there after we figure out what's going on with him."

"Don't bother," Coach Davich scoffed, removing his sandwich from the bag. "Whatever issues the kid has, we can deal with that once we get him primed to take over for running back duties. And at this rate…" He stopped, taking a bite out of the sandwich he just unwrapped. "...that's probably not going to happen until next season, at the earliest."

"Dad," Mitch began. "If there was one thing Mom always told me, it was to not talk with your mouth full." Mitch smiled after he finished his motherly words of wisdom to his father.

"Your mother says lots of things, son," Coach Davich grinned. "Doesn't mean I have to listen to her."

Both men let out a chuckle at that last comment. Even through the hassles of running a collegiate football team, there was always the one brief moment during the day that they could have a quick bonding moment. A brief moment of sanity, to say the least.

"Alright," Coach Davich began. "Break out the playbook and let's get the game plan set for Saturday while we're here..."