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Careful What You Ask For, You Don't Know 'til You Try

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“It’s a beautiful evening at The Red Pony and continual soirée. Yes, Walt, Cady is here,” Henry answers, and the subject of this conversation wrinkles her nose in indignation. Henry rolls his eyes in response and says, quietly into the phone. “Yes, I know.”


Henry taps his boot, and Cady takes a long, slow pull of her beer.


“Goodbye, Walt.” He’s smiling at her curious, annoyed expression when he hangs up the phone.


“Checking up on me, huh?” Cady asks, with feigned wide-eyed innocence. She’s not a bad actress, her words only slur a little on the edges. The flush of her cheeks, however, gives her away.


“I hope you are not planning to leave anytime soon,” Henry avoids answering with deadpan precision, and holds his hand out for her keys.


So she stays, and stays, slowly but steadily drinking the night away. Slightly intoxicated, she pours out her woes to Henry. It’s a tradition, really, even if this level of alcohol consumption is new.


She laments Durant’s small-town lack of privacy, and its negative effect on the already small dating pool, rather than any of the reasons she’s actually sitting in his bar and drinking away her troubles and her wages.


“Henry, why would he lie to me?” she asked him in the back room when they were getting ready for the Tuesday lunch rush. He had no answers to give, and more than a little of his own guilt, so he let her cry on his shoulder and said nothing.


Branch Connally, of course, merits his own special mention.


“What was I thinking?” groans Cady, after the tale of how she let him (and the pizza guy) take her home, drunk, and kissed him on her lawn and let him into her house.


Henry shrugs judiciously, rather than risk falling on the wrong side of patronizing or glib. Cady, drunk or not, knows a cop-out when she sees one, and she laughs.


When Henry announces “last call!” she is there, still. Has been since her shift ended, some hours, or more, ago. He doesn’t wait for her answer, but slides another beer across the counter.


She smiles and says, “looks like I won’t be driving myself home tonight,” as if this last beer alone will be to blame.


“You will not,” Henry says, in his matter of fact way, and starts calling what passes for a taxi service in Durant - the friends and family of his inebriated customers.


She’s still there when Henry has finished up his calls and passed out several sets of keys. She half expects him to call her father, or perhaps even Vic - the three of them seem thick as thieves these days - but he goes about cleaning up without so much as a word.


The Red Pony empties in trickles and curses, until it’s just her, still sitting at the bar, and Henry, standing behind it, half-done with the nightly clean-up. She doesn’t look at the time.


“Would you like to go home?” he asks her, at last.


“Okay,” she agrees, thinking she’d rather stay here.


They walk to Henry’s truck in a heavy, but not uncomfortable, silence. She may be too drunk to drive but she is certainly not too drunk to walk solo - a lesson well-learned not so very long ago.


Cady lets him open the passenger side door for her, not because it’s heavy, and sticks, but because he always has. He doesn’t offer his hand to help her in, or hang around to shut the door behind her. She does not need tucking in.


It’s no great distance from The Red Pony to her house, but the silence stretches the miles thinner and thinner, until she feels the need to fill it with something.


“You know, I had such a crush on you when I was a girl,” she says, inexplicably, as the light from another truck beams through the windshield.


“You would be surprised at how often I’ve heard that,” Henry manages to say with a straight face.


“Well, you are very handsome,” she concedes with mock-seriousness. Still, heat creeps up the back of her neck at the admission.


“It is a pity you have such poor taste in men,” Henry says dryly. He may be teasing, but he’s not wrong. It would probably hurt to hear such plain truth from anyone else, but this is Henry, and he has long been her confidant in so many things.


“I do, don’t I?” she agrees, thinking of the subtle lie of the past tense. Her face feels like it’s burning, like it should be lit up like a signal fire. If Henry notices, he does not say.


“I believe this is your stop,” Henry announces, pulling into her driveway. Knowing she’s awkwardly avoiding her father, he offers, “if you need a ride to pick up your car in the morning, just let me know.”


“Thanks,” Cady says distantly, trying to remember where she put her keys. There’s one hidden in the garden, of course, but it’s embarrassing to admit to losing your keys.


She’s fishing in her purse for them when Henry opens the door.


“Were you looking for these?” he asks, keys dangling from his hand, mouth curled into a teasing smile.


Cady braces her hands, one on his shoulder and one on the door frame, and leans out of Henry’s truck to kiss him.


For a moment, Henry forgets to breathe, and his hands settle, out of habit, on her waist. His heart does not skip a beat, not even from shock. Cady leans into him, and he steps back, still holding her steady.


She takes the keys from his hand and steps out of the truck, letting her hair fall forward to hide her face.


For once, Henry is at a loss. His best friend’s daughter just kissed him, and he cannot think of a single word to say, much less what he should do.


He walks Cady to her door in uneasy silence.


Flustered and embarrassed as hell, Cady fumbles with the keys a moment, trying to get them into the lock.


“It’s okay,” Henry says quietly, with a gentle touch on the back of her arm. She may not be intoxicated, but she is not sober, and he is. This can - and should - wait until tomorrow. If she doesn’t want to forget it happened at all.


The key slides into the lock, and Cady turns slightly towards him.

“Henry,” she says nervously, “would you like to come in?”