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"Fresh" - Muntz #4 (Muntz/OC Romance)

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"Fresh" - Muntz #4 (Muntz/OC Romance)

Postby karly05 » Sat May 22, 2010 2:31 am

Well, if you've read this far, you know what's coming. I'm going to call this a PG-13, just to be safe. What actually happens here just rates a PG, I think, but there are references to Birds and Bees and a Trophy Case and, well, Charles and Dorothy are neither one naive about where this could end up.

I'm going to do one more story after this, which will bring us back around to the origin of the photo Carl found in Muntz's mirror in "Back," then I think that's going to be it. (No promises, but that's all for now, at least.)

Oh, and this one is really long, so I'm splitting it into two posts, although it's all one continuous story. So, without further ado...


“Fresh” – an Up Fanfic – Muntz #4

You are cordially invited to a private reception in honor of Miss Dorothy Radebaugh and her successful redesign of the Muntz A113 Aero-engine Propeller Hub. Noted Explorer C. F. Muntz will also recount adventures from his recent expedition to the Yucatan Peninsula. 7:00 pm, The Lair. Refreshments provided.

It had been an ordinary Monday at Muntz Industries until she had found this note in her lunch kit.
Gus had seen her reading it, and asked, off-handedly, “Whatcha got, Dorothy?”
“The Kid’s back from Mexico,” she answered him without hesitation. “He wants me to come down after work so he can ‘recount his adventures.’ Apparently, he also knows how the propeller hub is coming along, so I’m sure to hear ‘I told you so,’” she noted, with a fond chuckle.
“Dorothy,” Gus ventured, shifting on his feet, “I know you and Charles have gotten pretty chummy since you’ve been here.”
She looked up at her supervisor in surprise. Dorothy had made no secret of her occasional chats with Charles Muntz. The Kid was a fixture around his grandfather’s company, and was always ready to talk to anyone who would listen to him. “Is that all right? I mean – I’ve been down to his workshop a few times. We talk about projects we’re working on, the airship he’s designing… If that’s something I shouldn’t be doing--”
“No, no,” he assured her hastily. “You’re welcome to talk to anyone you want here. I just wanted to give you a friendly piece of advice.” Again, the man seemed uncertain as to how to proceed. “You might want to watch out for yourself around Charles. The Kid thinks he’s Valentino. If he ever gets too fresh with you, don’t be afraid to slap him down.”
Dorothy couldn’t contain a laugh at this absurd notion. “Don’t worry, Gus. The Kid’s never fresh with me. I’m just the Lady Engineer.”

At 7:00 pm on the dot, Dorothy went down the basement stairs to Charles Muntz’s Lair. The door was halfway open, but she knocked on it as a formality. Charlie was at the kitchen cabinet, standing over the hot plate in his rolled-up shirt sleeves. “What’s the password?” he called out, without turning around.
“I didn’t know there was one,” she answered.
“Right the first time,” he grinned at her over his shoulder. “Come on in.”
“How was Mexico?” she asked.
“Great. I’ll tell you all about it over supper. Oh, and shut the door,” he waved a spatula at her. “I don’t want the rabble wandering in.”
Dorothy did as he commanded, and came to see what he was up to. “What are you cooking?”
“Fried plantain,” he declared, with enthusiasm. “It’s delicious, you’ll love it. Help yourself to some mango and papaya,” he nodded at a plate of sliced fruit at his elbow.
“Where’s Gelly?” she asked, looking around the room for the dog as she sampled the mango. “Mm, this is good.”
“Magellan,” Charles informed her, with an assumed air of severity, “is in the dog house. Figuratively, that is,” he flashed her the smile again. “I had to leave him at home; he wouldn’t stay out of the fruit.” When Dorothy took a second glance at the mango still in her hand, he laughed at her. “Don’t worry, what’s left is fine.”
“Poor Magellan,” she finished it off, and reached for a wedge of papaya. “I even brought him some dog biscuits.” She set a small paper bag on the counter, and confided, “I’ve been keeping a box in my drawer, for emergencies.”
“I noticed that,” he regarded her with a twinkle in his eyes. “When I dropped off your invitation. And don’t feel too sorry for him. I’m sure Mrs. Nesbit is feeding him steak off my mother’s best china, even as we speak.”
Dorothy was wandering toward the refrigerator as he said this. “Mind if I grab a Dr. Pepper?”
“Help yourself,” he said, although she wasn’t waiting for his permission. “But you should know, we’ll be drinking something much better than Dr. Pepper with supper.”
Curious, Dorothy looked at him, and got a secretive smirk in return. He tapped a toe against the cupboard door and invited, “Take a look.”
Setting her drink on the countertop, she opened the door and knelt to look inside. An old metal pail stood, full of ice, and in the ice sat a bottle. Dorothy took hold of the neck and turned it so she could read the label. Eyes wide in shock, she looked up at Charles, who was eagerly anticipating her reaction. Her voice came out as a horrified whisper. “Champagne?!” Surely not. He had to be pulling her leg. But he was looking more than usually satisfied with himself as she shut the door and asked, still in a lowered voice, “Where on earth did you get champagne?”
“France.”
Dorothy sighed and shook her head skeptically at this answer. Gus had warned her to take the Kid’s stories with a grain of salt.
“It’s the truth,” he insisted, looking put out by her disbelief. “Uncle Bart and I made the Grand Tour of Europe when I was seventeen. We brought back Supplies,” he confided, with a wink.
“Charlie Muntz, you do like to live dangerously.”
Suddenly serious, he faced her with a worried frown. “You’re not going to rat on me, are you?”
“Don’t worry,” she assured him. “I won’t call the cops on you.”
“Oh, I can handle the cops,” he brushed this off. “Just don’t tell my mother.” The frown vanished as he guffawed at his own wit. Dorothy was already accustomed to Charles’ tendency to laugh at his own jokes. It was a vain and ridiculous quirk of his, but somehow she always found it irresistable, and ended up chuckling along with him.
She helped herself to another slice of mango and asked, “So, who else is invited to this party?”
“Oh, it’s just us. I don’t have enough plantain to go around,” he cracked, then explained: “I wanted to tell you about Mexico, and hear about how the propeller hub turned out. The invitation was a bit overdone,” he admitted, “but I thought it sounded better than, I’m back, come down.” Turning the plantain one more time, he said, “Take down a couple of plates for this. And there’s chicken salad in the refrigerator. Mrs. Nesbit’s Secret Recipe, with cashews and pineapple.” He gave her a thumbs up in endorsement of this treat.

Between the two of them, they plated up their suppers of chicken salad and fried plantain. Charles had the leaves up on the little side-table, and in short order they had it covered with their dishes, the fruit plate, a pair of champagne glasses, and Dorothy’s soda bottle. Heading back toward the kitchenette, Charles gave a nod at the old Morris chair and said, “Have a seat.” She hardly needed the invitation, as the chair had already become her “spot,” and she settled into it out of habit. Odd, thought Dorothy, that she was already falling into habits here, although this was only her fourth – or was it fifth? – trip down to the Lair.
“I understand the propeller hub was a big success,” he said.
“So far, so good,” she acknowledged. “We’re still working on the engine, so there’s no prototype yet, but your grandfather gave the idea his seal of approval.”
“So I heard.” He brought the ice bucket out of the cupboard. “You should be proud. Grandpa’s a tough critic.”
“Well, he did have a couple of good suggestions to improve it,” she clarified. “Gus and I have been working on them.”
“Only a couple?” Charles marveled. “Half the time, he ends up tearing the whole project to pieces and rebuilding it, himself. This definitely calls for champagne.” He hefted the bottle.
Dorothy could feel herself blushing at her own audacity, but she couldn’t resist adding: “You’ll never guess what he said. I heard this second hand from Gus, of course,” she admitted. “But reportedly, he likes my initiative.”
The Kid crowed with delight. “I told you so!” He pointed at her with the corkscrew. “What did I tell you? I told you so!” Turning back to the sink, he uncorked the champagne with a pop and let it foam a bit. “Initiative, Dorothy, initiative!” he lapsed into his George Muntz impression. “Ever tasted this before?” he asked, carrying the opened bottle to the table, along with the bucket of ice, which he set on the floor.
“Champagne?” She shook her head. “I’ve never tasted anything alcoholic at all. Not that I’m a Temperance Crusader or anything, it’s just that there’s this little thing called Prohibition…” There was no reason for her to feel awkward, or to make excuses for her lack of experience, but watching Charlie deftly wield the bottle suddenly made him seem much less of a Kid, and made her feel much more of one.
“You’d better go easy on this, then,” he advised, half-filling both glasses. “And you probably won’t like it at first. Dr. Pepper is unusual. Champagne is… challenging.” Handing her one of the glasses, he raised his own in salute. “To you, Miss Radebaugh, and the first triumph of your career with Muntz Industries. May there be many more.”
“Thank you, Mr. Muntz,” she touched her glass to his. She could tell that he was waiting to see her take the first sip.
“You’re welcome to say that the bubbles tickle your nose,” he invited, sitting down opposite her, on the side of the bed. “Everyone does, the first time.”
“Well, they do, but I wasn’t going to say it,” she replied. “I don’t want you to think I’m a complete hayseed.” She ventured a taste, and winced a little. To her relief, he didn’t burst out laughing at her.
“It’s all right,” he reassured her. “Just go slow, and give it a chance. Try the plantain.”
She set down her glass and gave this new adventure a shot. “Mmmm, oh, my…” was her immediate response.
Charles beamed with satisfaction. “What did I tell you?”
“This is great,” she took a bigger bite the second time. “I didn’t know you could cook.”
“A man has to survive in the wild. It’s even better grilled with fish,” he indicated the plantain. “But I haven’t worked out how to grill over the hot plate, and I didn’t think Grandpa would appreciate it if I set fire to the building.”
“I suspect not. Tell Mrs. Nesbit her chicken salad is good, too.” Dorothy took another stab at the champagne. She was better prepared for it this time, but still couldn’t handle more than a sip. “So, tell me all about the Yucatan.”
“Fantastic!” he said. “Uncle Bart has an old friend who’s an archaeologist. He’s been working on an excavation there for a few years, and he invited us down for a month. I brought back a few artifacts, and a stack of photographs. You’ve never been to the Yucatan.” Charles didn’t phrase this as a question, but he observed her as if waiting for an answer, while he took a drink of his champagne.
“No,” she obliged him, spearing another piece of mango from the fruit plate.
“They have these pools of water, called cenotes. They’re sinkholes, formed in the limestone. I found one not too far from camp. I’ll show you the photos after we finish this, but they don’t do it justice; you’d have to see it for yourself to understand.”
Dorothy washed down the mango with a mouthful of champagne. She wouldn’t have said it was growing on her, but it was less of a shock with each taste.
Charles went on. “It extended back into a small cave at one end, and the other end had a few ledges to negotiate to get down to the water level. Bit treacherous,” he acknowledged, with an off-hand wave of his fork, “but nothing I couldn’t handle. I got in the habit of hiking out there every morning for a swim. You can’t imagine how beautiful it is. The water is so clear, you can see everything, the fish, your toes…” He laughed with pure delight at this, eyes shining. Dorothy wondered why she had never noticed before now that his eyes were really more green than blue. “There are dragonflies, and butterflies this big,” he spread his fingers, “and birds in the trees, just splashes of red and gold between the leaves. You’d swear you were the only human being on earth. It’s wonderful.”
“It sounds wonderful,” she acknowledged, downing the last of her plantain.
“The jungle can be a dangerous place, though,” he warned, with a teasing half-smile. “You’ll never guess what I ran into out there one day.”
“What?” she took the bait.
“I’d gone for my usual morning swim, and I was just climbing out of the water. The sunlight was creeping down the rocks by then, and I was shaking myself off,” he gave a toss of his head by way of example, “when suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw… Oh, here,” he broke off the story, using his knife and fork to move the last chunk of fried plantain from his plate to hers, “why don’t you finish this?”
Plantain was the last thing she’d been thinking of, and she looked down at it in bafflement.
“Go on,” he insisted. “I’ve had my fill. So, I was standing there, dripping wet, not a care in the world, when I spotted it, up on the ledge,” he raised a finger to indicate an imaginary point above her head. “A jaguar, as long as you are tall, not including the tail. I don’t know how long he’d had his eye on me, but he had me in his sights now, and he was ready to spring. I’d brought my rifle along, of course – never go into the wild unarmed – but it was leaning against a tree, a couple of yards out of reach. I had no more than a moment to react. Dashed for the tree, grabbed the gun and turned to face him. The beast was already lunging for me; it was all I could do to get off one shot. Bang!” Dorothy jumped as he smacked the table. “Dropped the gun and dove into the water; otherwise, he would have fallen on me.” Charles sat back, picking up his champagne glass. Exhaling deeply, he took a drink, while Dorothy waited on the edge of her seat. “Brought him down with that one shot,” he concluded. “If I’d hesitated for an instant, I’d be dead.”
“Oh, my,” she breathed. She could feel her cheeks tingling. Suddenly, champagne seemed like a good idea, and she took a longer drink than she’d intended.
“My sentiments exactly,” Charlie grinned at her, digging back into his chicken salad. “So, any excitement going on around here?” he asked, nonchalantly.

Dorothy was speechless. It wasn’t just Charles’ narrow escape from the jaguar that had her blood racing, it was the sudden, involuntary image of him emerging from the water, fresh from his morning swim, and… how on earth had that gotten into her head, and why was she having such a hard time shaking it out? The glass in her hand was empty, and Charles reached for the bottle.
“No!” she protested abruptly, suspecting the champagne was at least partly to blame, then she declined more politely, “No more for me. I think I’d better stick with Dr. Pepper. Thank you,” she added, still feeling a bit ungracious.
Far from being offended, he said, “You’re wise to know your limit,” then refilled his own glass before relenquishing the bottle. “The fellows still treating you all right?”
“We’re getting used to each other. Harrigan still gets his digs in,” she noted, with a chuckle, “but I think he’s mostly just annoyed because he has to watch his language now that I’m around.”
“Dear old Slow-Burn Harrigan,” said Charles, with an indulgent smile. “If you want to get his goat, I can give you some pointers. I’ve been pestering him since I was six.”
“Oh, I don’t mind him,” Dorothy brushed this off. “It’s nothing personal; he’s a grump to everyone.”
“Well, if anyone gives you any trouble here, you know where to come,” he reminded her, puffing himself up a bit. “I’ll settle his hash.”
“Thank you, Charles,” Dorothy declined this offer, “but I’m not aware of anyone’s hash that needs settling right now.”
“Just keep it in mind.” Polishing off a piece of papaya, he waved his fork in her general direction and said, “There’s a stack of photos on the desk. Bring them over, and you can have a look while I finish this,” he indicated the remains of his supper.
Dorothy picked up her plate and champagne glass and carried them to the kitchenette before circling back to the desk to collect his photos. She was heading for the chair when Charles hastily gulped down a mouthful of chicken salad to say, “Sit here.” His left hand patted a spot beside him. “That way, I can narrate.” He flashed a grin at this remark, but there was nothing suggestive about it, and Dorothy felt only one foolish moment of awkwardness as she sat down on the edge of the bed. Charles looked to see what was on top of the stack in her hands, and said, “Oh, there we are.” The photo showed him standing with two men, both about twenty years his senior. “That’s Uncle Bart, in the Panama hat, and the other one’s Rosey.”
“Rosey?” Dorothy questioned.
“Our host. Harold Montrose, but we all call him Rosey. Because of his looks.” Harold Montrose, despite his age and otherwise rugged appearance, had a cherubic smile and curling hair. “He’s been working on this site off and on for about five years now.” He motioned for her to proceed to the next photo. “And here we are again, with the whole crew.” Another half dozen men had joined the three of them, and Charles pointed them out. “Keene, Franklin, Lamb, Thatcher, and Edwards, and that’s Rios, our native. Pleasant enough fellow, but his English isn’t very good, and his Spanish… heh, well, it’s not what they speak in Spain. The others are used to him, though, and Uncle Bart can converse with anyone – he’s something of a linguist, you know. I’m fluent in the basics, of course,” Charles informed her. “French, German, Latin… what’s next?”
Dorothy and Charles looked through several more photos, as he described the stone structures that Montrose and company had so far reclaimed from the dense growth. “Here’s the main pyramid. Climbed to the top of that one; remarkable view over the jungle.” Having finished his supper, he pushed his plate away and moved closer to her. She was vaguely aware of him planting his hand on the bed, somewhere behind her back, as he leaned in to see what she was holding. His enthusiasm over the view was justified by his subsequent shots, and they lingered over these as he pointed out landmarks within the dig site and beyond.
Finally, Dorothy uncovered a photo that made him exclaim, “A-ha! There’s the one I’ve been waiting for!”
It was Charles, rifle in hand, posed in triumph over the vanquished jaguar. He had put on his trousers, but that was all, and Dorothy found herself confronted with the reality of her only-too-recent imaginings. Whatever she or anyone else called him, Charles Muntz was not a Kid. He was a confident young man with an athletic physique that made her wonder why he’d even needed the gun, since he looked as if he could have wrestled the jaguar into submission just as easily.
“I have to admit, that was the highlight of the trip,” he said, reaching over to hold one edge of the photo, the better to admire it. “Brought back the head; I’m having it mounted. You can see the size of him; what did I tell you? You can’t imagine the thrill of suddenly finding yourself face to face with something like that. Lightning reflexes, Dorothy, lucky I have them, or I wouldn’t be here. This was taken back at the camp, of course; I’ve got the cenote photos here somewhere.”
He finally relinquished his hold and let her move the jaguar photo to the bottom of the stack. Beneath it was the other photo he’d been looking for. “Here it is. My swimming hole,” he grinned. “I took this from a ledge above the cave end.” Even in black and white, he had managed to capture some hint of the cenote’s beauty. The gleaming surface of the water, the rock ledges, the lush plants, everything combined to create the sense of a secret paradise teeming with life.
“Are those butterflies?” she asked, noting the light-colored flecks scattered like overgrown snowflakes through the scene.
“Some of them are. These,” he directed her attention to the flora, “are orchids. They grow wild; you’ve never seen so many. At the top of the cliff, that’s the spot where my jaguar was lurking,” he pointed it out. “And that’s exactly where I was standing when I shot him. He came down in one leap to that rock, then sprang at me,” he traced the path with a finger.
Dorothy thought for a moment that he was going to insist on showing her that photo of himself as the Mighty Hunter again, but instead he proceeded to more photos of the cenote, including some closer views of the native wildlife. Dorothy was amazed by the exotic birds, the sheer numbers of the butterflies, and the delicate shapes of the orchids.
“I have to admit, Charlie, I’ve never seen anything like this. I can understand why you love it so.” Studying one of his shots, her eye was caught by a small, furry animal with a long, bushy tail, hidden among the trees, and she gave a little laugh. “Is that a squirrel?”
That was when it happened.
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karly05
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Postby karly05 » Sat May 22, 2010 2:59 am

"Fresh" - continued

The sensation came out of nowhere: the warmth of his breath on her skin, the tip of his nose against her cheek, the touch of his lips against her jaw, all in such rapid succession that he had retreated almost before she knew what he had done. Pulling back in surprise, she turned to face him. She felt her cheeks dimpling of their own accord as the blood rushed to them. “Charlie Muntz! Where did that come from!?”
His eyes were gleaming, burning straight into hers, and for an instant, he had looked nearly as surprised as she felt, but now he bared his teeth in a hungry grin, and said, “Right here. Want another?” He wasn’t waiting for an answer. The arm that had been lurking behind her now snared her in its grasp, and he went in for the kill, hitting his target cleanly on the first shot. If that kiss on the cheek had been a surprise, the heat of his lips against hers was a shock. Her first instinct was to freeze, her second instinct was to melt, and before she knew it, her lips were falling into step with his, like dance partners in a ballroom. Relaxing into his embrace, Dorothy allowed Charles to lead her in this intimate waltz. Gradually, the tempo of his kisses slowed, and his lips strayed to her cheek, her jaw, her neck…
“You’ve done this before,” she murmured, regaining her breath.
He drew back just enough to look at her. The gleam was still in his eyes, but this time it was definitely infused with surprise as he marveled: “So have you!”
His declaration startled her back to reality, and in a sudden burst of resistance, she pushed him off. “I have no idea what just happened here,” she scooted away from him, trying to regain some dignity, “but I do not want you thinking that I’m--”
“Magnificent?” he suggested, interrupting her. “Too late!” Lunging like the infamous Yucatan Jaguar, he caught her in both arms this time and pulled her against him. He was all muscle and hot breath, and when she turned her face away, he simply went for her neck, exploring the curve where it met her shoulder, which only made matters worse – and better, she sighed.
“Charlie, stop that…” She had a hand between them, and pressed her palm against his chest, but at this point of contact, her instincts betrayed her and her fingers curled inward as if to grapple him and hold him there. “I mean it, this is crazy,” she insisted, as much to herself as to him. “We can’t do this…” His only response was to growl softly and nuzzle her ear, which did nothing to strengthen her resolve. She was losing the battle, her senses were deserting her in surrender to him, when, in one final flash of inspiration, she snapped: “Charlie, down!

The command stunned them both. She felt his arms relax and withdraw, and, when her vision cleared, she saw him sitting bolt upright, staring at her in amazement. Tidying herself with trembling hands, she scrambled to her feet, and immediately trod on something. “Oh, look what you made me do,” she scolded, spotting his photos scattered on the grizzly bear rug.
Charles burst out in gales of laughter. “Dorothy, you really are magnificent…”
From the corner of her eye, she saw him reach out, and quickly stepped back, raising a hand toward him. “Stay!”
“Don’t worry, I’m just collecting my photos.” He knelt on the rug to gather them up. “You are brilliant,” he was still chuckling as he shook a finger at her. “You know me too well.”
She stood at the far edge of the rug, arms folded. “Charles, we need to talk about what just happened here.”
He dismissed this idea with a wave of his hand. “Oh, now, don’t get hysterical, nobody got hurt. A little excitement gets the blood flowing.”
“I am not hysterical.” It was true; she was surprisingly calm, all things considered. “I’m serious.”
Charles rose and set the stack of photos on the table. “All right, I confess,” he smiled, taking a careful step toward her. “I’ve never been able to resist a beautiful woman.”
Dorothy gave him a wry look. “I said talk about it, not joke about it.”
To her surprise, he looked genuinely hurt by this. “You think I’m joking?” He pointed at the spot where they had just been sitting. “You think that was joking?”
“I think maybe you’ve had too much champagne,” she speculated. “Maybe we both have.”
“Phah, that was nothing,” he dismissed this excuse. “And it’s a little late to play Innocent Iowa Farm Girl with me.” He took another step toward her, but she held her ground. “I’m not the only one who enjoyed that.”
“That’s not the point--”
“A-ha!” Charles seized on this lack of argument from her. “You admit it!” He was smiling again, as he continued his advance on her – although, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to touch her.
Dorothy looked him straight in the eyes and tried to sound firm as she said, “Charles, I have no idea what brought this on, but it needs to stop right now. Whatever it is you’re thinking…”
“Do you have any idea what color your eyes are?” he interrupted her. He was practically standing on her toes.
“They’re hazel,” she stammered, thrown by the question.
“No, they’re not,” he gazed down at her in fascination, one hand hovering near, but not quite touching, her cheek. “They’re green. Dark, jungle green, but only around the outside. Inside, they’re golden brown, almost amber, and the colors run together, like this.” He interlaced his fingers to illustrate.
“I know,” she said, although she’d never thought of them in quite such poetic terms. “That’s what ‘hazel’ means.”
“Of course it does.” Whether or not he had known this, or was covering for his ignorance, she couldn’t guess. “But I’ve never seen anything like them. They’re beautiful.”
He was looking at her with such intensity, she felt her resolve melting again. She tried to regain herself by laughing him off. “You are a master of flattery, Mr. Muntz, I’ll give you that.”
“It’s not flattery!” His hands flew to her shoulders and stopped her from turning away. “Dorothy, you are a remarkable woman. That’s not flattery,” he repeated. “And that,” with a nod toward the bed, “was not joking. For either of us.”
Dorothy sighed. It was too hard to argue when he was gazing at her like that. He held her by the arms; his grip was firm and insistent, but to her surprise, he didn’t resist when she took him by the wrists and removed herself from his grasp. “Charlie… If we sit down again, can you keep your hands to yourself long enough to let me explain something to you?”
The devilish flash in his eyes was not at all helpful as he cracked, “If this is about the Birds and the Bees, don’t bother. Why do you think I call this my Lair?”
The words knocked her back on her heels. “Is that what this is about?” she demanded, recoiling from him in a rush of hurt and embarrassment. “You lured me down here so you could add me to your trophy case?!”
“No!” he appeared stunned by this accusation. “I wasn’t even thinking about that. I’ve never thought about you that way at all, until tonight, but… well…” Flustered, he fumbled for words, and came up with: “You were sitting right there, and you smelled good.”
This confession threw Dorothy for another loop. Gone was the confident Lothario, and Charles Muntz now seemed like nothing more than a clumsy puppy who had found himself at the wrong end of a rolled-up newspaper. She should have given him a good swat, but she didn’t have the heart.

“Charlie…” This is a really bad idea, the much-too-small voice inside her warned, but she ignored it, and pointed at the edge of the bed. “Sit.”
He started to obey, then paused and deferred to her. “After you.”
Dorothy and Charles resettled themselves beside each other, but this time swapping places and leaving a couple of feet of space between them. Avoiding his eyes for her own good, she could still tell that he was watching her intently. She hoped she wasn’t completely insane for trusting him.
“I’m going to tell you something,” she began. “And you have to promise me that you will not repeat this to anyone. I’m serious,” she allowed herself to meet his gaze. “It’s nobody’s business, and I don’t want to talk about it. Can I trust you?”
He raised a hand and pledged, “To the ends of the earth.”
Gathering her thoughts, she turned her face away again, and began, “When I was eighteen, I made the biggest mistake of my life. I got married.”
She didn’t see his immediate reaction, but she felt the bed shift as he sprang to his feet and backed away, and looked up to find him regarding her in shock. “Dorothy, I swear I had no idea,” he blurted. “I never would have touched you if I’d known you were married. I do have some principles,” he informed her, a bit defensively.
“It’s all right,” she hastened to reassure him, “I’m not married now.” This wasn’t going quite as she had intended, and with a deep breath, she finished her confession. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I’m divorced.” From the corner of her eye, she awaited his next reaction.
To her surprise, he gave a great sigh of relief, and a smile spread across his face as he exhaled. “Oh, good.”
“Good?” she challenged this response.
“I mean – that’s too bad.” He made an attempt to look sympathetic as he sat back down. “So, what happened?” She wasn’t prepared for his blithely inquisitive tone, and her bafflement must have shown, because now he fumed a bit as he said, “Well, what am I supposed to say?”
“You’re supposed to be appalled.” She couldn’t believe she was having to explain this to him. “I left my husband. I’m a scandalous divorcee.”
Charlie sighed and grumbled. “It’s the twentieth century, Dorothy. You’re not the only one.”
“Well, maybe not in California,” she conceded this point to him. “But, in Iowa, it was a big deal. My mother still refuses to talk about it. Grandpa gave me the money for the lawyer,” she told him. “If it weren’t for him, I’d probably still be stuck with the rat.”
“So, he was a rat?” Charles prodded.
“A big rat,” Dorothy informed him. “As in, ‘running around behind my back with another woman’ rat. And that was just the last straw. We were married for nearly three years, and he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – hold a job for more than a few months at the most.” She hadn’t meant to spill the whole story, but now that she had an audience, it just came pouring out. “I worked, and paid the bills, and put food on the table, and he spent whatever I didn’t hold on to. Oh, I know, it was my own stupid fault for marrying him in the first place, and it was my ‘duty’ to put up with it. But, once I found out about her, that was it. I was not going to put up with that.”
“Good for you,” said Charles, with a snap that said he meant it. “Showing him the door. He didn’t deserve you.”
Touched by this, she softened. “Thank you, Charles. It means a lot, to hear you say that.”
“Want me to take care of him for you?” he suggested, with another display of hash-settling bravado. “Hunt him down, teach him a lesson.”
“No, don’t bother,” she shook her head, amused by the offer. “He’s not worth it. Besides, I don’t even want to know where he is now. Do you want to know how glad I was to be rid of him? I had my name legally changed back from Wilson to Radebaugh. A name no one can spell or pronouce, but at least it’s mine and I can be proud of it.”
“So, is that the only problem?” he asked. “You’re divorced, and you thought I’d be appalled? Because I’m not.” Charlie slid a little closer to her. “If you want to know the truth, it makes you all the more fascinating.”
He was using those eyes and that smile on her, and she stood up again, for her own good. “No, that’s not the only problem!”
“What else, then?” he demanded in exasperation.
“For a start, I happen to like my job.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” he challenged.
“I don’t think necking in the basement with the boss’s grandson is a smart career move,” she explained. “Gus respects me, everyone here has been more than fair to me, there aren’t a lot of companies that would even give me a chance at something like this, and I am not going to let you wreck this for me.”
“Why would I wreck this for you?” This accusation brought him to his feet, as well. “I want you working here. I need your propeller hubs for the Spirit of Adventure. Darn it, Dorothy, I’m not out to get you fired.”
“Charlie, that’s not up to you.”
“Of course it is!” he argued. “I’m Charles F. Muntz, and if anyone dares to say a word against you, he’ll have me to deal with.”
He declared this with chest and chin thrust out in heroic fashion, still determined to have it out with someone for her honor, and Dorothy had to struggle to supress a smile at this dramatic display. His earnest defiance reminded her of her other objection, though, and she said, “There’s another problem, too, Charlie. You’re nineteen.”
“Oh, now you’re just making up excuses,” he waved this off. “Why should that be a problem?”
“Because I’m twenty-five. And I know, as a lady, I’m not supposed to admit to that, but it's the truth."
"Should I be appalled by that, too?”
“No, but I am. You’re so young, I feel as if I’m leading you astray, or something.”
Charles scoffed at this. “You can’t lead a man where he’s already gone. I know they still call me the Kid around here,” he grumbled. “And I know that’s how they’ve got you thinking of me. But I’m not a Kid, Dorothy. Certainly not when it comes to this.”
Any lingering thought she had of resisting him melted away as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her again. She knew she should have done the ladylike thing, given him a good slap in the face and walked out, but where was the fun in that? Much nicer just to get a good grip on his shoulders and let him go at her until her head was spinning. When they parted, he gave a surprised laugh at the look on her face and caught her as she staggered against him. “Careful, there! Maybe you did have too much champagne. You’d better sit down.” One arm around her, he led her back to the bed. At this point, she hesitated.
“No, Charlie, I like you, but this is all happening much too quickly…”
“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t take advantage,” he promised. “Just sit down before you fall down.” He got her turned around and seated, and parked himself beside her. “Want to hear something funny? I like you, too.”
“And why is that funny?” she challenged, not knowing whether she should be amused or offended.
“Because I can count the number of people I genuinely like on my hands. Maybe even one hand. That’s what makes this so interesting. I suppose I do have a ‘Trophy Case,’ as you put it,” he conceded. “Figuratively, at least. But, you’re not going into it, because I like you too much. Not that you aren’t welcome to stay,” he hinted, sliding an arm around her waist.
“Don’t think it’s not tempting,” she confessed. “But… no, Charlie. Not yet. I don’t know if it’s the champagne, or you, or my own stupidity, but I need to clear my head before this goes any farther. I think it’s high time I said good night and went home.”
“All right.” His willingness to accept this surprised her, but he laid a finger on the tip of her nose and added, “I’m not giving up on you, though.” Charles leaned in and kissed her cheek, just as he’d done to start all of this. “And I think you’ll find I can be very persistent.”

***
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Postby gleefan1 » Sat May 22, 2010 1:43 pm

WOW!.
This took me at least a 60 mins to finish!.
You are very talented i have to say, even more than me!.
Im just working on a wearwolf love story about secrets and all that, it's for my english homework.
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Postby karly05 » Sat May 29, 2010 11:19 am

Thanks for your comments. :) Yep, it is a long'un; thanks for wading through it.
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Postby cirquedunedwol » Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:56 pm

Dude, I've just read the story so far and I am in awe I tell you. AWE. I want more, please give me more?

Charles/Dorothy FTW <3
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Postby karly05 » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:23 am

cirquedunedwol wrote:Charles/Dorothy FTW <3


This totally made my day. :D Thanks for reading!

There will be the promised Story #5 (no guarantee of how soon), but I haven't quite decided what else I'm doing after that.

By the by, though - and I am not at all offended by this - but for whatever it's worth, I'm not a dude. :wink: (Unless we're talking about some "Crush the Turtle" usage, where anyone and everyone is "Dude." 8) )
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Postby cirquedunedwol » Tue Jun 15, 2010 2:06 am

karly05 wrote:
By the by, though - and I am not at all offended by this - but for whatever it's worth, I'm not a dude. :wink: (Unless we're talking about some "Crush the Turtle" usage, where anyone and everyone is "Dude." 8) )


Hee, I am more on the Crush usage myself, <3 My tutor calls everyone man, and I think it's rubbed off on me.

And for the record, I'm not a dude either XD and I'm still excited for the next post! ^^
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Postby Leirin » Wed Sep 08, 2010 7:35 pm

Just dropped by to say I've always been a big fan of this fic series Karly, your writing is fantastic.
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Postby karly05 » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:45 pm

Thanks, Leirin! :D I'm still planning a 5th installment... one of these days...
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