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Practice Makes Perfect

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Gretchen stopped in her tracks when she realized the others weren’t following her anymore. When she turned around, she saw that they were all looking open-mouthed at the board above the entrance, which revealed that she’d taken them to a paintball palace for Sunday Funday.

They were all wearing various expressions of horror, but Gretchen could take them. It was her turn to plan Sunday Funday, and while usually she was all for doing the lazy thing, and for doing the let’s just drink thing, today they weren’t doing that. Or at least, not only that. She had a theme, goddammit. So they were all going to fucking enjoy her Dumb Dates for Romcom Dweebs.

“No fucking way,” Jimmy moaned. “I’m not going to be active today. Sunday is a day of rest.”

“Ewwww,” Lindsay exclaimed. “You bitch. I am not going to voluntarily let someone throw fucking paint at me. I look amazing today.” She waved at herself.

Gretchen had to admit Lindsay did look awesome. Motherhood looked good on her. Hah.

“People deserve to see me in all my glory,” Lindsay added, and looked pointedly to Edgar, expecting him to confirm her point.

Edgar frowned. “You think it’s a good idea to throw a combat veteran with PTSD symptoms into a situation where he has to violently confront other people?” He shook his head in disbelief.

Gretchen would normally probably agree with all of them. It was a typical hot L.A. day, she and Jimmy were both still hungover from last night, and getting paint into hard-to-wash places for fun was just idiotic. But fuck it, she had finally got out of her bad-brains funk, her doctor had prescribed her lovely meds that seemed to be working, because she was fucking happy at the moment, and she had a master plan to execute. So they’d all simply have to tough it out. She pulled her motivational aid from her bag, and immediately everybody’s eyes zoomed in on the bottles of Cuervo Gold.

“Winning team gets a bottle of booze each, losing team only gets one little bottle to share,” she said.

“I pick you!” Jimmy immediately called.

Edgar and Lindsay looked at each other. Edgar was still frowning, but Lindsay had her ‘Imma cut a bitch' face on. She grabbed Edgar by the elbow and marched into the venue.

“That booze is mine!” she yelled.



The white jumpsuit looked suspiciously attractive on Jimmy. He’d stolen a mimosa pitcher from the breakfast place, and was now guzzling down the last bit straight from the pitcher. His throat bobbed and for some reason that kind of turned her on. It was probably the mimosas, or maybe the meds. Technically she wasn’t supposed to drink when taking them, but let’s face it, that never was a real option.

As if anyone in L.A. taking anti-depressants quit drinking.

Meds or no meds, Jimmy gulping down stolen booze was now a turn-on, and she kind of wanted to bite his throat. And throw him down in the hay and fuck him right there.

Jimmy finished the pitcher and looked at her while wiping his mouth. “No,” he said vehemently. “We’re not doing anything here. I’ll get hay stuck up my arse. So, veto.”

“Awww, Jimmy. Still afraid of the butt stuff?” She smirked, and he glared back at her.

“I should have picked Edgar for my team,” he muttered. “What was I thinking, he’s a veteran, he would have been brilliant.”

“Relax, Jimmy. I’ve got a plan, that Cuervo is ours.” She pulled out the blueprints of the paintball terrain. She’d bribed the teenager manning the ticket booth yesterday, but if her master plan worked, it would be worth it.

Jimmy looked at the map in her hands and smiled.

“I love how you used plan on multiple levels there. I think my way with language must be rubbing off on you. Excellent, Gretchen. Excellent.”

Her stomach did the fluttering thing it always did when Jimmy said he loved something. She would never be one of those girls, she refused to be one of those girls, even. She was a fucking feminist now. She didn’t need a dude's love.

But fuck it, after the breakdown she had had, she deserved nice  things. And Jimmy telling her he loved her was a nice thing that made her feel good. So she fucking deserved to treat herself. Even if he only did it when he was drunk.

Everybody needed practice. She just needed to get him wasted.

They looked at the blueprints. Gretchen wasn’t really sure how to make sense of them, but she’d counted on Jimmy knowing what to do with them. He'd done so many different types of writing jobs. Surely he'd had to work with blueprints at least once?

“Well,” Jimmy said impatiently, “what do we do?”

Apparently she had assumed wrong. She just pointed at a random place on the map. “We’ll ambush them here. Kill them and earn our drinks.”

“For the record, I still object to having to earn our drinks, Sunday Funday shouldn’t be about actual doing.” He kissed her on the mouth. “But I do like it when you’re feisty.”

She grinned. Fucking meds, making her all soft inside.



The teenager who was explaining the rules was nagging on and on, but Gretchen wasn’t really listening. It was a giant field with obstacles, there were balloons filled with paint, and she was gonna mess up Lindsay’s hair, just for fun. How complicated could it be?

Edgar still looked like he could bolt at any minute, but Lindsay looked fierce, the zipper of her jumpsuit pulled down under her boobs, and the mandatory safety goggles somehow  flattering on her face. How did she even make that work?

Jimmy looked like a mad scientist, escaped from some kind of asylum. A hot mad scientist, but still. Gretchen herself  looked like a wholesome lab student. But Lindsay just looked hot, which obviously meant she deserved the balloon filled with blue paint that Gretchen threw at her,  that exploded right between her boobs, splattering paint all over.

Everybody, including the teenager, froze for a moment, stunned. Lindsay reached into her hair and looked at her blue-streaked fingers in horror.

Gretchen stepped back and grabbed Jimmy’s hand.

“A fine hit,” he said.

Lindsay looked up from her blue hand and hissed. Edgar handed her a balloon.

“Run, Jimmy. She’s going to kill us," Gretchen whispered.

“Us? You’re the one that threw paint at her boobs! Why am I being accused of this crime?” Jimmy objected, rather loudly, but he started to run anyway, pulling her along. They weren't very fast.

Lindsay screeched. “You are a dead bitch, Gretchen Cutler! I am going to murder you like those hot naked dudes killing each other on that TV show! There will be blood!”

They ran, hand-in-hand, to strategically retreat behind some painted barrels. Sometimes Gretchen didn’t even recognize herself. But fuck it, she was happy, so who cared?

Starting out by retreating turned out to be a fatal choice, because rather than doing the ambushing, they were sitting ducks for Lindsay's wrath and Edgar's strategical insight. Jimmy, unsurprisingly turned out to be useless. He spent most of the time hiding behind her, even though she was too short to be a functional shield. The few throws he managed to get in  all decidedly missed. His last balloon he managed to drop, paint exploding all over his shoes and ankles.

Meanwhile, Lindsay and Edgar were showering them with well-placed balloons, and soon Gretchen and Jimmy were covered in multi-colored paint. It's possible this wasn't her brightest idea.

She wasn't giving up, though; she could take Lindsay and Edgar, even with Jimmy cowering behind her.

"You are going down!" she yelled.

"We surrender!" Jimmy yelled, waving a once-white handkerchief.

"What!" Gretchen turned around.  She heard Lindsay coercing Edgar into dancing her trademarked dance of victory.

"Jimmy, you coward!"

He looked up at her pouting, and damn it, she had known what she was getting into when she started things with him. But he still deserved to have her last balloon smashed onto his head.



Edgar and Lindsay were loudly enjoying their bottles of Cuervo on top of the bales of hay they'd claimed as their fort of victory.

Gretchen and Jimmy were sharing their sole bottle at the bottom of the haystack.

"It was different in the movie," Gretchen lamented.

"Eh, movies are always fake," Jimmy said, taking another sip. Even covered in paint, his bobbing throat was still hot. He bumped his shoulder into hers. "Besides, in the movie they don't have alcohol to forget the paint."

She looked at him askance. "You saw 10 Things I Hate About You? You watch high school romcoms?"

"You did too!" Jimmy said in defense. "Besides, it's Shakespeare, of course I watched it." He slurred a little bit on the sh.

Gretchen took the bottle.

"You know, Gretchen," Jimmy said, laying his head on her shoulder. His hair was sticky with paint. "I don't hate ten things about you. I love the things I hate about you. I love you, Gretchen."

Gretchen smiled.

"I love you too, Jimmy."

Master plan successfully executed.