Chapter 9 – I Never… Except That One Time

After a huge meal, Caleb and Danni stood at the picnic table doing the dishes. He passed her a dish that she wiped automatically with a drying cloth while staring across the campsite to where Anson was sitting with Greg and Bianca. This was exactly what they did at home. It was almost like autopilot. Soon, Danni had a stack of dry dishes waiting to be put away and a map to an entire evening of romantic bliss with Anson planned out in her head. She sighed and threw the towel over her shoulder while Caleb scrubbed a particularly dirty pot.

“He’s pretty fantastic isn’t he? This is going to be the best year ever.” She tapped her brother on the arm.

“Danniella, come on. Aren’t you forgetting one very important part of this whole love scenario?”

“Hmmm?” Her forehead crinkled in confusion “What other side?”

“Anson’s feelings.”

“Right, well I’m not too worried. He’s obviously interested. Look at all the attention he’s given me.” She took the pot and started wiping it off.

“But what if he was interested in someone else? One of your other friends?”

“What do you mean? One of my other friends? They all know how I feel about him. None of them would ever betray me like that. I have dibs.” She started passing him the clean dishes to put back in the box. “Wait! Do you know something I don’t? Are you saying that someone is going to try to steal him from me?”

“Jesus, Danni, give it a rest. For them to steal him, he would have to be yours. Which, as a human person, he’s not.” Caleb shook his head and walked away from his sister.

This was so much worse than he had expected. It was going to end badly and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Knowing they had to wait until after dark to break into the beer, he grabbed a pop from the cooler and settled into a chair next to Zack and Blaine.

“God, what’s his problem?” Danni mumbled and snapped the lid of the cargo container closed.

“He’s a boy.” Kyle stepped up behind her. “They’re so damn complicated. Seriously, they say they can’t understand us, but they’re just as confusing!”

“No kidding. I don’t know why Caleb is being so fucking pissy. Of course Anson is interested in me. Jesus. And none of you guys would hurt me by going after something you know I want this badly.” Danni looked up expecting Kyle to sympathize with her, but instead found her staring sullenly at the ground. “What’s up, buddy?”

“I want to talk to Zack but he keeps avoiding me. Whenever I go near him, he finds someone else to talk to, somewhere else to be. Or he starts acting completely stupid and goofing around. I really thought that he might be interested in getting back together, but obviously I was misinformed.” She scratched underneath her eye, trying to look nonchalant as she wiped away a tear. “Fuck it. If he wants something, it’s his damn move.”

Kyle stood up and strode purposefully away from the table. She walked right out of the campsite, headed in the direction of the cantina. Danni thought about sending Zack after her, but figured that might make things worse. When Kyle was in one of her moods, she needed to be alone. If Zack went after her now, she would say something mean to him in order to protect her own feelings and then the rest of the evening would be spend dealing with their drama. Danni had other things she wanted to deal with this evening.

*****  *****  *****

“Hey Kyle, hang on.” Cordelia’s flip flops slapped against the pavement of the path. The tall girl hurried ahead of her. Cordelia sped up and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Kyle. Stop.” She breathed heavily. “You know how I hate to run.”

“Leave me…” Kyle spun around. “Oh, Cord, sorry, I was kind of in a daze.”

“I noticed.” She smiled as they slowed to a normal walking speed.

“I’m just so annoyed with Zack.” Kyle kicked a pebble down the path. “From talking to Blaine, I thought things were going to be different.”

“It’s still early. Do you want to have the getting back together talk in front of everyone?”

“Point taken.” They stepped up to the cantina and each bought an ice cream cone.

“So later, after it gets dark, accost him on the way to the cooler or something and drag him off and have the talk.” Cordelia settled herself at one of the picnic tables “And I wouldn’t discount Blaine’s intel. He usually knows what he’s talking about.”

“Oh yeah! I haven’t even asked about what happened with Anson.”

“He kissed me.” Her face flushed a deep red as she lowered her gaze to the table. “And then I kissed him.”

“Cord, that is so awesome! I told you! Didn’t I tell you?”

Cordelia just smiled, her gaze distance.

“You deserve to be happy, Cord.” Kyle reached out and squeezed her friend’s hand. “And I don’t just mean you deserve to be happy because of a boy.”

“This is so much bigger than a simple boy.” Cordi licked her ice cream “Danni is not simple. She’s my best friend. How can I do this to her? It’s a betrayal.”

“She has a crush, Cord. They’re not dating. They’ve never dated. You cannot call dibs on a person. They’ve barely even gotten a chance to get to know each other.”

“Cause Anson and I have had years to develop a long and lasting bond?” Cordelia smirked.

“Stop being so logical. Love isn’t logical.”

“How about we start with like isn’t logical? This isn’t love. Right now it’s more like oh-my-god-did-you-see-those-abs. Is that a category?”

“Yes, yes I did see them. And yes it totally a category.” Kyle grinned a big toothy smile.

“And thank you.”

“For what?”

“For dragging Danni back to the campsite so Anson could talk to me.”

“Oh that. No big thing. Just you know, credit me when you guys finally get married.” Kyle brushed her shoulder and smirked. “If your idea to talk to Zack tonight works, we’ll be even.” She threw her arm around Cordelia’s shoulders as they headed back towards their campsite.

*****  *****  *****

As dusk began to settle, everyone moved in closer to the fire. Because there were so many of them, they had to squeeze their chairs against one another in order to get any heat from the flames. Danni manoeuvred her chair in between Anson and Kyle, and twisted the top off her beer bottle with the sleeve of her hoodie. Cordelia sat across the fire talking with Rayne and Caleb. Danni couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but they seemed really into their discussion. Hands were flying everywhere, and every few seconds one of them threw their head back in laughter. Danni hadn’t seen Cordi this animated in a long time. Part of her felt glad for whatever force was pulling her friend out of her shell, even if it was just for an evening. Another part of her felt a twinge of annoyance.

For their entire friendship, Danni had been the alpha friend. Cordi had always followed; she was never the leader. She would sit beside Danni at parties, and would leave most of the decisions up to her. The only person she was closer to was her sister. This was their pattern, and Danni liked it. But today something was different. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was there. Cordelia had separated herself from Danni for most of the day. She hadn’t once asked Danni to make a decision for her. She and Kyle kept disappearing together and talking privately.

Danni didn’t know how to deal with the change. She knew she should to be happy that Cordelia was finally expressing herself, but she just couldn’t seem to push aside a growing jealousy. Danni looked up to see Cordelia watching her from across the fire, a big grin across her face. She was glowing in a way Danni had never seen before.

“You look lost in thought.” A voice to her left made her jump.

“Jesus! You startled me.” She turned towards Anson’s chair. “I suppose I was thinking a little harder than needed. Tonight’s about fun isn’t it?” Danni took a long swig of beer.

“Rock on, man!” Anson devil horned his fingers and stuck out his tongue. This was immediately followed by a little sarcastic grin. She smiled back and him and inched her hand over the side of her lawn chair. The heat from his skin radiated onto her fingers across the couple inches between their hands. “What can we do to get everyone into fun mode?”  Anson leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingered behind his head, effectively quashing her plans.

“Have you ever played ‘I Never’?” She twisted her legs underneath her body so she was leaning towards him. He looked at her and took a long drink from his bottle. “So that’s a yes?”

“That game has gotten me into some trouble.” Anson smiled a wide toothy grin.

“It’s a great way to learn the dirt on people.” Danni agreed.

“The perfect game to play if you want to learn stuff.”

“Exactly.”

“As the new guy, I may learn more than I want to know about some of you ‘eh?” Anson chuckled as he reached behind him into the cooler for another beer.

“It’s possible that some of us have secrets we’d rather not share right away. It’s all about controlling the questions.” Danni grinned and drained the rest of her bottle. “Hey, mofos.” She called out. “Anson would like to learn about his new friends, and I can’t think of a better way than playing I Never.” She announced as she made her way to the picnic table where the girls’ cooler of drinks was sitting.

“Dude, seriously?” Zack’s forehead crinkled. “That’s a dangerous way to get to know your new friends.”

“Let’s play, and then I’ll decide if I still want to be friends with you and all your dirty laundry.” Anson grinned.

“Um, and we get to learn if you’re bad ass enough to hang with us.” Danni laughed and headed back to her seat, two bottles in hand.

“You are questioning my bad assedness? Now we must play.” Anson twisted the lid off his beer.

“Can we take a bathroom break first?” Zack suggested, leaning forward in his chair. Anson waved a hand and all the girls got up and headed towards the washrooms.

Zack made no move until the girls were out of sight.

“I thought you wanted to take a piss.” Caleb looked towards him.

“Nope. I actually wanted to do a seat shuffle without being quite so obvious about it.” He grinned and stood up. “Greg, switch spots with me.”

“Ah, I understand.” Greg glanced towards the chair beside him that Kyle had vacated only minutes earlier.

“Sly Zack, very sly.” Caleb grinned, put Cordelia’s drink in the chair beside Anson, and took the seat next to that one.

“And since they’re chicks. I actually do still have time to piss.” Zack set his drink down and moved behind a tree on the edge of the campsite.

Anson glanced at the newly empty chair between him and Caleb. He raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think this is inviting trouble?”

“If she’s sitting right beside you, Danni is less likely to notice that you two keep making the googly eyes…”

“I do not have googly eyes!” Anson gasped indignantly

“Oh dude, you totally have googly eyes.” Greg laughed from his chair.

“Shit.” He took a long drink from his bottle. The sound of the girls giggling proceeded them around the corner. Everyone but Danni paused for a moment at the subtle alteration in seating. Rayne headed towards the chair beside Caleb, but was sidetracked by Bianca who redirected her to the beer cooler. Cordelia looked at Anson, who tilted his bottle towards the chair. She pulled a bottle from the cooler behind his seat and slid into the chair. Propping her feet onto a log in front of her, she draped her left hand just slightly over the edge of the arm. Anson’s bottle hand dangled over the edge of his chair, their fingers touching but out of Danni’s view.

“Who will begin?” Zack asked in an overly dramatic tone, tapping his fingers together in an evil fashion. “Cordelia, what about you?”

Danni sat back, waiting for Cordelia to pass her turn along. Cordi didn’t like I Never very much because she never got to drink. She had very little experience sexually, and somehow that’s where this game always seemed to end up.

“Alright.” She grinned. Danni looked over in surprise. “But remember, we start simple for a couple of rounds, so no mocking my starter question.” She paused for a moment, trying to think of something adequately boring. “I’ve never… worn pajamas.” A small chuckle and some head nods as everyone took a drink. The questions to move Caleb.

“I’ve never blown…” He paused

“And the game shifts into high gear…” Rayne laughed, but Caleb held up his hand.

“…off studying until the night before an exam.” Laughter erupted and everyone once again drank from their respective beverages. After a few rounds of mundane questions, Rayne shifted the tone of the game.

“I’ve never smoked pot.” Her lips twisted into a snide little grin and she looked around to see who joined her in the drinking. Most of the group raised their glasses, including Anson. Only Bianca and Blaine didn’t.

“Blaine? Seriously? You’ve never toked?” Anson raised an eyebrow.

“Oh dear god. Please no!” Zack shook his head, “Don’t get him started on the whole smoking thing. Hours of listening to how bad it is for you, and how smoking is smoking, no matter what, blah, blah, blah.” Zack grinned at Blaine as he took a puff from the cigarette dangling between his fingers. Blaine responded with a simple finger thrust into the air.

When the questions reached Cordelia, she chuckled from her seat. “Okay. Um…. Oh, I know. I’ve never eaten an entire box of double-stuff oreos after smoking up?” She looked around Anson, smiling widely at Danni.

“Bitch.” Danni laughed and took a drink.

“An entire box?” Anson looked towards her. “Did you vomit?”

“Almost.”

“Nice.”

“I need a drink.” Caleb pushed himself out of his chair, “Why don’t you go Anson, we’ll switch directions for a while.”

“Alright. Hmmm, I’ve never drank so much that I passed out under the bleachers on the football field only to be woken up completely naked the next morning by both the football coach and the principle.”  He aimed the statement directly at Zack.

“Hey, not just me buddy. Someone else has to drink too.” He looked pointedly at Caleb.

“Now this is a story I don’t know.” Danni leaned forward in my chair. “Spill, brother, spill.”

Caleb and Zack broke out in a tale of debauchery involving a 40 of whiskey, a strip club, a couple of fake ids, and a warm June night. For a while, the game was forgotten while everyone listened and laughed as the two acted out moments of the night. When Zack did his impersonation of the stripper they knew as Candise, Danni laughed so hard she choked on her beer.

“Zack that is a view of you I never want to see again!” She glanced at Kyle to see how she was taking the story and noticed that she was no longer sitting in her chair. A quick once over of the campsite and found her routing through the cooler, looking for her bottle of gin. She was the one person who refused to drink beer. She always had a bottle and mix with her when they went drinking. The smile on her face was wide and even from this distance her eyes were dancing.

“Okay,” Zack took his seat again. “That about sums up the parts of the night we can share in mixed company.” He grinned. He had noticed Kyle leave her chair the instant she stood up. Without breaking the stride of his story, Zack had followed her movements. He was curious to see how she would respond to the next question. “So, since I had to share that story, I think I get to ask the next question.” He cleared his throat. “Pardon the wording. I’ve never, been seriously attracted to someone sitting around this campfire, within the last month.”

Everyone, except Blaine, took a long swig from their drink. Eyes flickered to the people they were interested in. As the only one not preoccupied with their personal interests, Blaine was able to take in the entire scene. He had to wonder if the look exchanged between Rayne and Caleb was real interest, or a drunken moment of infatuation. Of course, his biggest concern involved the Cordelia-Anson-Danni triangle that had developed at the speed of light. He saw the disappointment on Danni’s face when she didn’t see Anson glancing back at her. For his part, Anson was very good at keeping his gaze on the fire in front of him as he drank from his bottle. Blaine caught Bianca’s eye from across the circle. She nodded.

“I guess it’s my turn.” She decided that it would be best to shift the topic a little bit. As she thought up a new question, Zack shook his bottle, realized it was empty and got up to get a new one. “Okay, I’ve never… been sexually attracted to one of my friend’s parents.”

Greg tipped his bottle to his mouth.

“Gross, dude!”

“That is fuckin nasty man.”

“Hello, have you seen Danni’s mom?” Greg laughed, as Bianca punched him in the arm.

Kyle took advantage of the distraction and slipped out of her chair. At the table, she slip her hand into Zack’s and pulled him away from the campsite.

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