Perfect Part 1
Authors Note: This is part one of chapter four. The second half is giving me a lot of trouble and I'm worried that if I wait to post the whole chapter my wonderful readers wouldn't get anything new until Christmas. So here is part one. When part two is finally ready this chapter will be re-uploaded with the full chapter.
Chapter Four: Perfect Part 1
"Don't sweat it Sam, Cheryl's gonna be all over you tomorrow."
Sam fidgeted nervously as he walked beside Artie. Cheryl was one of two other students in the ninth grade that he was actually taller than, and she was beautiful. Chin length curly red hair, deep brown eyes, a melodic laugh, and a passionate personality. She played catcher on the JV softball team, was a member of the philosophy and film clubs, played Little Orphan Annie in the fall musical, and even with all of her extra-curricular activities had time to volunteer at the nearby animal shelter and still get straight A's. Sam was taking her to see Jerry Maguire tomorrow and nervous didn't even begin to describe how he felt about his impending first date.
"I dunno. She's so perfect, and I'm…" He trailed off knowing Artie would understand. Artie was attending Cuthbert's School for Higher Education on a scholarship and sometimes Sam thought the two of them were the only ones in the entire school who knew what it was like to come from a not so perfect family. The memories of moving from motel to motel and school to school were fading fast in Sam's mind, he'd only been nine when his father had been arrested, but meeting Artie and hearing him tell stories about his dysfunctional family had brought a lot of it back.
"No one's perfect, man. Listen, all you gotta do is lighten up, bat those big sappy eyes of yours and she'll be licking your hand like a dog. You keep it up for a few dates and she might even let you get to third base." Sam grabbed the soccer ball Artie had been bouncing on his knees as they walked and punted it down the street of a nearby neighborhood empty of traffic. Lesson learned. When it came to girls, Artie was just like Dean.
Artie colorfully swore at him in a mix of Spanish and English as he ran off to retrieve his ball. Artie fancied himself the next Claudio Suarez and swore he was going to be on a national team someday. Sam usually indulged his best friend's dream, helping him practice during the off season and analyzing soccer plays and strategies but the stress and excitement of his date with Cheryl and Dean coming into town gave him little sympathy for Artie as he watched him struggle to get his ball out from under a hefty SUV.
"Not cool man! This could've been stuck under there for forever!" Artie scowled at him as he waved his scuffed ball in front of Sam's face. Sam scowled back as they continued to walk toward Kensington and Park Street.
Artie let out a small chuckle. "Your brother's right, you really are a prissy bitch. Hey, isn't Dean coming into town tonight? Is he staying until New Year's? Maybe he can come with us to Alice's party?! That would be awesome! I haven't seen him since school started!" Sam had almost forgotten how well Dean and Artie had hit it off when they met in August at Cuthbert's New Student Beach Party.
Sam shook his head. "Dean's leaving the day after Christmas, he can't really afford to take more time off work."
Artie nodded in understanding and they walked in companionable silence until their paths diverged at the next corner. They got there just in time for Artie's bus and Sam had to hastily agree to call his friend after his date with Cheryl and promise to bring Dean along if they had a chance to meet up with him during Christmas Break. With one last wave Sam started strolling down Kensington towards the Pennington Estates. It was a good ten minute walk between the bus stop and the posh gated community. He stopped at the security building to remind the guards to let his brother's Impala in. He didn't want a repeat from last summer when Dean had been stuck outside the gates for a good two hours before climbing the fence. Security had chased him all the way to Rick and Melinda's house. Sam knew that only happened because Dean had let them see him but still, he'd rather avoid the situation all together by making sure the Impala made it through the iron gates.
His foster home was at the top of the hill and you could see the Santa Monica pier from any second story window on a clear day. Sam had thought he'd been transported into a fairytale when CPS dropped him here for the first time. His ten year old brain had thought it was a castle but it was actually quite modest compared to other homes in the area. It was still too big for three people and two dogs but Sam had gotten used to the open floor plans and he'd certainly never complain about the heated swimming pool.
Sam was unsurprised to find his foster mother, Melinda, in her bathroom, getting her hair and make-up ready. Rick was hosting a party downtown in celebration and promotion of the success of one of his new artists and Melinda had a habit of waiting to get dressed up until the very last minute. Sam had gotten home at four, the before party started at five, and it would take Melinda at least 45 minutes to get to the restaurant she was meeting Rick and his new music sensation.
"Sam!" Melinda cried excitedly when she saw him in the mirror. "Thank God! I'm late and I missed my appointment with the hairdresser because of a last minute client, can you hold this right here please?" Melinda exuberantly motioned for him to hold one of her black curls in place so she could pin it. "How were your midterms? Did you do well? Of course you did well, you always do well! Did you get a chance to talk to that Cheryl girl you're taking out tomorrow? I can't wait to meet her, Lydia, Dylan Grisby's mother, talks about how charming that girl is all the time! Are you sure you don't want me to drive you two to the theater? Oh, what am I saying! You're a teenager, of course you don't want me to drive you!" On and on it went. Melinda rambled as she pointed to where she wanted her hair bobby pinned and Sam couldn't bring himself to feel the slightest bit embarrassed that he was helping his foster mother, really the only mother he had ever known, do up her hair. When they'd finished Melinda stood up to perform a girlish twirl and Sam clapped and chuckled a little at her antics. He sometimes wondered how a woman so kind, gentle, and excitable had the reputation of a bull dog in the courtroom.
Sam walked Melinda to the front door, listening with half an ear to the instructions she left every time he was left home alone. "Rick and I won't be back until after midnight, emergency numbers are on the fridge, Mrs. Batters is next door if you need her, can you walk the dogs? I didn't have time to do it earlier so they need an extra long walk tonight. There are frozen pizzas for dinner, there are two of them so plenty enough for you and Dean whenever he gets here…Are you alright? You've been so quiet lately."
Sam smiled a little at her concern, shook his head and readied the lie on his tongue. "I'm fine, just nervous about Cheryl tomorrow." Melinda bent down to his height and Sam found himself staring into her brown orbs as they searched his own eyes, probing for any other worries and concerns he wasn't telling her. He knew she knew he had just lied. Sort of. He was nervous about Cheryl, but she wasn't the thing he was dreading about tomorrow.
"You can always tell me anything, you know that right?" Sam nodded his head and Melinda smiled before kissing his cheek and saying good bye. Sam had to bite his tongue to keep from saying 'See you later, mom!' Dean would never forgive him. Instead he smiled and waved, not trusting his himself to not say the dreaded "M" word.
The large house was uncomfortably silent after Melinda left and it was only Dora and Sherlock's barking that reminded him that he wasn't alone. Sam ran back up the stairs to change out of his Cuthbert uniform and into some shorts, a t-shirt, and his favorite sneakers. Dean wouldn't be here until seven so he had plenty of time for a run. He grabbed the leashes from the mudroom, fastened them to the two Labradors and soon they were out the door.
Cordelia stared at her reflection in the car's view mirror, admiring her beauty. Her hair was perfect, her make-up tastefully mature and her emerald cocktail dress flattered her figure in a way that made her look older than sixteen. She took a deep breath and practiced her most charming smile. She was going to turn heads tonight. She was Cordelia Chase and if those Hollywood hotshots didn't think she was worth their time it was their loss.
Her daddy had been invited to a party in honor of some singer she had never heard of. She planned to snap a picture or two with the guy in case he made it big, her mind was already picturing ways to use her future connections with the him to stay ahead of Harmony, the little vixen was becoming a little too comfortable in her newly elevated position as Cordette number two, but the true reason she had worked so hard to convince her father to bring her along was because of all the talent agents that were sure to be there.
It was touching really, that her parents wanted to keep her away from fame and becoming a celebrity too early. Child stars were so easily messed up and fragile, but she was sixteen now and if Cordelia waited any longer to tip her toes in the water she'd be twenty-one by the time she became a serious actress and there was no way she was waiting that long. It had taken her days to convince her father to bring her along as his plus one and her sense of accomplishment from doing well on her mid-term exams and bullying her dad had inflated her already high confidence.
Clasping her clutch in her right hand she stood up straight and followed her father into the galleria.
The room was crowded with about fifty guests and ten serving staff, all of whom were circling around the little white tables placed around the party room forming little pockets of minglers. Her father was already buttering up some of his business associates leaving Cordelia to fend for herself amongst all these strangers. She quickly bottled up her rage before it could flush her cheeks, she'd have to remember to yell at her father later for forgetting to make the rounds with her. In the corner of her eye she saw the guest of honor sitting alone awkwardly with a guitar case and far too underdressed in his converse and Radiohead t-shirt. A plan of approach formed in her head and she headed over to the bar to ask for two Sprites. Clutch under her shoulder and a cup in both hands she headed over to the guitarist's table.
"Is it alright if I sit here?" The young man, Cordelia would guess he was about nineteen, startled when she spoke.
"Oh, um, sure, if you want?" Cordelia sat down and catalogued the young musician. His jeans were a bit tattered, but clean, and a plaid shirt was wrapped around his waist. His accent wasn't SoCal and judging by his grunge she'd guess he was from Washington or Oregon. His shoulders were hunched in, closing himself off the way the nerds in Sunnydale did whenever she needed to use the computer lab, but his knees were facing towards her so he was receptive to her presence. She could definitely work with this, if only he were just a tiny bit more handsome.
Cordelia gave him her Best Friendly Smile and leaned a little forward. "You looked a little lonely. This your first party?"
He gave her a wry smile. "Is it that obvious?"
"A little." She pushed a cup toward him. "Here, you'll look more sociable if you've got a drink. It's just Sprite, nothing fancy."
"Thanks. I'm Jeremy, and uh, welcome to my party."
"Cordelia. So you're the guest of honor, huh?"
"Yeah, I just signed with Talmadge Records a couple weeks ago." Cordelia leaned back but scooted her chair slightly closer to Jeremy.
"So Jeremy, do you just play guitar or do you do other things?"
"Oh, I sing and play the piano too. I write my own songs but Rick, er, Mr. Talmadge thinks they need a bit of work so someone else will be writing my songs for a while. Hopefully just my first album." Cordelia calculatingly placed her manicured hand on Jeremy's forearm and cocked her head flirtatiously.
"Wow, so you're a bit of a renaissance man, you do a bit of everything!" Jeremy's cheeks flushed and he bowed his head, brushing his bangs down with his other hand. "Wha-what about you? Are you a musician, Cordelia?"
"Me? No, I'm an actress, but I suppose I could be a musician if I really wanted to." Cordelia lowered her eyes and started tracing circles along Jeremy's arm. "You're really lucky you know. You must have a great agent to have gotten a contract with Talmadge Records. I had to let mine go recently. She just wasn't getting me noticed enough."
"Yeah, Dan is pretty cool, it only took him a few weeks to get me signed. People say he's some kinda miracle worker." Jeremy looked down at his feet and blushed. Cordy had to hold back a smile, she knew just what he was going to say next. A little attention and flattery opened Jeremy up wide and now he would do almost anything to try and impress her. "I could, uh, introduce you, if you want? He's over there with Stacy and Mrs. Talmadge." Jeremy pointed to another table not too far away where a man and two women were mingling. The man she assumed to be Dan was average looking, a little on the short side and his hair was an absolute nightmare, but even with the distance between them she could tell his suit was expensive and well-tailored. The first woman was young, no more than ten years older than Cordelia and her blonde hair was done up in a classic bun. The second woman was beautiful. She wore a flattering navy evening gown that shimmered when she moved and her raven curls were pinned delicately around her head. Sapphire stones glimmered around her neck and for a second, just for a second, Cordelia was mesmerized.
"Mrs. Talmadge is the one with the black hair." Jeremy explained to her. "She's Rick's wife, I think she's some kind of lawyer. Stacy isn't exactly an agent, but Dan says she's got a talent for introducing the right people to each other and she gets a finder's fee in exchange. C'mon, I'll introduce you." Jeremy grabbed her hand and Cordelia just had time to grab her drink and clutch before she was excitedly tugged toward miracle worker Dan, the beautiful lawyer, and the blonde talent finder.
Dan saw the two of them heading toward the professional trio and motioned for them to sit down. Jeremy sat next to Dan and Cordelia next to Jeremy.
"Jeremy! The man of the hour! I didn't know you were bringing a date!" Jeremy's cheeks flushed and Cordelia found it almost cute.
"No, uh, we just met. Dan this is Cordelia uh…"
"Chase." She finished for him. "Cordelia Chase." Dan's eyes roamed all over her and Cordelia decided it was best to grin and bear it. She was used to people staring at her like she was candy.
"Dan Druthers, and these are Melinda Talmadge and Stacy Stackshaw." Cordelia turned her head to look at the two women and saw that Dan wasn't the only one eyeing her. Stacy was looking at her like an unopened Christmas present and a thrill of pleasure and excitement shot through her abdomen.
"Are you a model, Cordelia?" Stacy Stackshaw asked. Cordelia almost preened at the implications!
Cordelia had always known she was beautiful but even she didn't think her beauty would get her noticed this quickly. All she had to do was reel them in with her looks and ensnare them with her magnetic personality.
"I dabble, I'm more of an actress than anything."
"And what sort of productions have you acted in Cordelia." Melinda Talmadge asked. Cordelia could tell she was bored by the turn of the conversation and only asking to be polite. Some ridiculous part of her was disappointed this woman wasn't as interested in her as Dan Druthers and Stacy Stackshaw and she racked her brains for something interesting to capture her attention.
"I played Young Cosette several years ago here in LA, but most of my acting jobs have been in Sunnydale." Melinda's eyes instantly lit up and Cordelia was unsure of what she'd said to spark the instant enthusiasm, she hadn't even gotten to the interesting thing she was going to say.
"Sunnydale! Quite an interesting little town. I visited once several years ago, I had a client who lived there. Sorry Daniel, Stacy, you've just seen Cordelia Chase slip through your fingers. I know just the man to introduce you to." Melinda stood gracefully and floated to Cordelia's side of the table, linking their arms together and leading her away. Cordelia looked back to see Jeremy's stunned face at the speed the conversation had come and gone, Dan and Stacy just looked amused, as though Melinda Talmadge routinely took aspiring young girls she had just met under her belt. For all Cordelia knew, she did.
She stumbled and the room spun around her and everything was filtered in blue. Cordelia closed her eyes and reached out for something to steady herself.
"Cordelia! Cordelia, are you alright? Open your eyes honey, let me see."
When she opened her eyes the room was normal again, she was slumped against the bathroom wall and her Sprite had spilled all over the floor and her strappy shoes. Her toes felt wet and sticky but the embarrassment of her fainting spell postponed her outrage at her ruined shoes.
"Oh my God! What happened?" Comforting hands were placed on her shoulders and Cordelia looked up to find warm chocolate eyes.
"Don't you remember Cordelia? You said you weren't feeling well so I took you here to the bathroom and you fainted. You're not on one of those silly Don't-Eat-Anything diets are you? Those are really dangerous and not remotely effective. You really need to eat…" Cordelia listened as Melinda Talmadge babbled on and she slowly started to relax as her breathing evened out.
"I'm fine Melinda, don't worry. I'm just a little dehydrated, didn't drink enough fluids today, or something." Melinda was kind enough to help her clean the stick off her shoes and after Cordelia stated for the umpteenth time that she was feeling better Melinda took her back to the party and introduced her to at least ten new people before she had to rejoin her husband. Over the next two hours Cordelia collected five business cards, finally got her father to introduce her to his contacts and eventually managed to wind her way back over to Jeremy to get his picture and number. Besides her embarrassing fainting spell she'd had a very pleasant evening and as her father was driving them back home to Sunnydale she looked over her new contacts giddily paying extra attention to Melinda Talmadge's business card.
Wolfram & Hart
(760) xxx-xxxx EXT xxx
On the back was a small handwritten note.
Call my home anytime. I'd love to have you for coffee!
Sam absently traced the gilded W&H on Melinda's briefcase as he waited for the low rumble of the Impala to make it over the hill. He hadn't seen Dean in almost three months, high school had made his schedule busier than he was used to and it was difficult to juggle everything and make time for his brother. Dean had offered several times to drive the three hours between Sunnydale and the Talmadges' house in Pennington Estates but Rick and Melinda had nixed the idea. They didn't like the idea of his brother driving such a distance in heavy city traffic alone at night, and the two adults decided that if the two brothers were going to see each other at all, it would be for long visits, the phone would have to do in the interim. Sam could see their point, but it still was difficult to go so long without seeing his brother. He regretfully thought back to Thanksgiving the month before. The plan had been for Dean to spend the school break with them but Rick's sister had been diagnosed with stage two lung cancer and the three of them had had to fly to Denver at the last minute.
Both pizzas were baking in the oven and Sam had taken the time to set out several B-grade horror movies for Dean and him to watch. It had become something of a tradition whenever Dean came to visit to skewer the movie monsters and critique the hero's killing technique. Sometimes Dean would go on half-hour long tangents on how this or that was wrong, and how werewolves aren't actually hairy and Sam would quietly listen, sometimes putting in his two cents if he recognized a monster from dad's journal or one of the tomes Uncle Bobby or Pastor Jim had sent him to study from or practice translating.
The oven buzzed and Sam scampered to the kitchen, grabbing some hot pads he pulled the pizza trays out of the oven and placed them on the counter. The garage door sounded as he was cutting the second pizza and Sam couldn't help rolling his eyes. Of course Dean would get here just as the food was ready.
Sam managed to open the side door before Dean had a chance to knock and greeted Dean with a cheeky grin.
"By fifteen minutes!" Dean shouldered his way through the door, unceremoniously dropping his duffel by one of the dog crates. "Besides," Dean reached out with his free hand to ruffle Sam's hair. "I brought pie." Sam halfheartedly knocked Dean's hand away before running his fingers through his own hair, making sure Dean hadn't messed it up too badly.
The two of them moved into the kitchen and Dean immediately went for the pizza, not even pausing to shuck off dad's old jacket or to grab a plate.
"Ah! It's hot!" Sam rolled his eyes again.
"It just came out, Dean." His brother glowered at him for a moment before grabbing a plate from the cabinet, Sam grabbed a plate, a slice for himself and two cans of Coke before leading Dean to the media room.
They sat together for several minutes, quietly eating, both pretending that the awkwardness wasn't there, that it hadn't been three months since they'd last seen each other. Sure, they talked on the phone all the time but it was different in person, more intimate, more sibling like and it seemed to Sam that with every subsequent visit from Dean it took longer for their latent sibling bond to click into place.
"So…you still going out with that girl tomorrow?"
Sam looked down, slightly embarrassed. "Cheryl, and yeah, I'm taking her to see Jerry Maguire. You sure it's alright? I can always reschedule for when you're not here."
Dean stuffed his mouth with more pepperoni and shook his head. "Nah, I can get some last minute Christmas shopping done while you're making out in the theater." Sam was about to call Dean out on his lie when a blank look crossed his brother's face, as if he'd just had a sudden, horrifying thought.
"Sammy, you uh…you do know about the birds and the bees right?" Sam almost dropped his plate.
"Yes!" His voice did not just squeak, he'd just swallowed wrong. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, that's, um, been covered."
"Good, cause you're not getting the sex talk from me. It was bad enough going through it the first time." Sam let out a small chuckle.
"I can just imagine dad's version of the talk. 'Put the bullets in the clip for protection until you're ready to fire'."
Dean snorted and a suspicious glint appeared in his eye. "Dude, did you eavesdrop on me and dad all those years ago?"
Sam felt his face turn a bright red. "No!" Dean started to cackle.
"Dude, you did!" Sam threw a pillow at Dean's face.
"NO!…Did he really tell it like that?"
"Nah, dad's not really one for using metaphors." Sam made a face he knew Dean had long ago labeled Bitch Face Number Three.
"Can we move away from this conversation now?"
Dean shrugged his shoulders and for the first time that evening Sam's attention was drawn to the sewn up tear in dad's old leather jacket. He bit his lip, wondering if he should mention it but Dean noticed him staring before he could make a decision.
"Giant praying mantis."
"It liked to eat virgin high school students, Buffy and I took care of it last month."
"Why didn't you tell me on the phone?" Dean shrugged his shoulders again.
"I dunno, it never came up. So what kind of movies have we got tonight?" Dean shuffled to the table where the movies were laid out. "Wolf, Gremlins, Goonies…Nightmare Before Christmas? Seriously?"
"Cheryl said it was good."
Dean shook his head sadly. "Dude, you're not even dating yet and she's already got you whipped."
Authors Note 2: I just want to thank everyone who has reviewed, alerted, and favorited. Every little acknowledgment that people are enjoying my story keeps my writing momentum up. Fall semester is starting up in two weeks so it will be harder for me to find time to write this story but I fully intend to finish this story, however long it takes.