Summary: The Ducks wrap up their first school year at Eden Hall with the yearly marriage project. Seven of the players are more on the verge of divorce than others, though, when the whole project starts to get completely out of hand.
Dedication: I was going to say none, but I have to dedicate it to Kristine (nygoldfish54) and Sam (trulyforgotten9) as I wouldn't have become a better writer without their help.
Disclaimer: The Mighty Ducks belong to Disney. I own Fred, Kate and Daniel. Lex belongs to nygoldfish54. (Lex was originally not in this story, but Kristine suggested I'd use her, and I just couldn't pass that up...)
Chapter 10: What I Like About You
Connie, Luis, Guy, Jesse and Mindy arrived at the Banks’ mansion a bit late. Mindy, who was driving them in her car, had gotten lost on the way into Minneapolis where they were supposed to pick up Jesse. She parked a bit away from the entrance so nothing would happen to her car while they were gone. “Wow, not bad,” Mindy said as they all stepped out of the car and took a look at the house.
“Gee, approval from the head cheerleader. Must be impressive,” Jesse said amusedly.
Mindy flashed a grin. “If you weren’t Guy’s friend, you’d get my approval too.”
“Hey!” Guy objected indignantly. “I’m a good friend.”
Connie laughed. “Yeah, Guy. C’mon, let’s go find Adam and Charlie,” she suggested, grabbing Jesse’s arm and dragging him up to the house.
“What did she mean by that?” Guy asked Luis.
“She was teasing you,” Luis pointed out, rolling his eyes.
“As was I,” Mindy smiled, grabbing Luis’ hand. “I’m gonna go see where Cindy and the other girls are, all right? You’ll manage without me?”
“I’ll try my very best,” he grinned, kissing her on the cheek.
“You come find me later,” she said demandingly, letting go of his hand as she began walking up the stairs to the front door. “See ya, Guy.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Guy muttered, folding his arms together.
Luis laughed. “Ah, come on, she wasn’t serious.”
“Do you think Daniel’s here?” Guy asked immediately.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Luis moaned, leaving him behind as he walked up the driveway.
“What?” Guy exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air.
Adam couldn’t be more grateful that his entire family was 1200 miles away at that point. Despite his many protests against using his grandparents’ 100-year-old Victorian mansion as the official venue for the end-of-year bash, nobody had paid him the least attention.
He was straight-out refusing to help with anything at all. He was sitting on the sink in the kitchen while watching the rest of his teammates run around to get drinks out of the fridge and put up chips into bowls. Instead of screaming at them with disapproval, he’d resorted to sulking, trying to look like he didn’t care at all what they were doing. So what if Jesse was stacking hundreds of paper cups to use for the punch Goldberg was mixing? So what if Portman locked Dinky into the library? So what if he’d gotten bitten in the process (Adam had smirked at this, but only to himself, of course)? So what if Averman was feeding popcorn to Mrs. Banks’ rare and highly valuable tropical fish in the aquarium out in the living room? Adam didn’t care. He was through caring about all the expensive ornaments that were liable to be broken by the next morning. He wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow if people would be fornicating on his grandfather’s precious oriental rug in the study (Adam sort of hoped that wouldn’t happen, though).
“Mindy mocked me,” Guy announced. Adam looked up to find Guy standing in front of him. Their sulky expressions were almost identical.
“She should be begging for my approval,” Guy decided, leaning against the counter opposite the sink. “Have you seen Daniel DeRienzo?”
“Why don’t you ask the horde of people out there?” Adam asked, nodding in the direction of the living room, from which heavy rock music was blasting from the stereo. Connie came walking in through the revolving door to the kitchen, allowing Adam to get a glimpse of the chaos she was leaving. He decided that it was time to start drinking and grabbed one of the Jell-O shots Julie had brought with her. “Have you seen Charlie?”
“Nope, sorry. I think he’s helping Portman decorating the porch.”
“No, you’re kidding,” Adam whimpered, quickly swiping another shot. “What’s wrong with the porch?”
Guy shrugged, surveying the tray with Jell-O to decide which one he wanted most. “Portman said it’s too dark, people might not see it from the road.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Adam sputtered, choking in the progress.
“Well, they’re putting up lights now, so don’t worry about it – why is your eye twitching?” Guy asked worriedly.
Charlie was deliberately staying out of Adam’s way, knowing full well that his friend was more than a little pissed off at him at the moment. However, while skulking around out on the porch for a while with Portman, Kate had showed up with Fred, Daniel and some girl Charlie only recognized from class. Daniel had quickly scurried back inside when he noticed that Portman was there, but Charlie managed to convince Fred to stay and help out with putting up the lights since Fred was a bit taller than he was.
Portman seemed to want to scurry off too, once Kate started asking questions about the most proper way to handle a hammer. Charlie didn’t realize until ten minutes later that she was drunk. Not really too interested in the damn powered lights and their entangled cords, Charlie sat down next to Kate on the steps to talk to her for a while. “I’m first hammer assistant,” Kate explained firmly, holding the hammer Fred had used a while ago. “Without me, nothing would ever get done.” Fred snorted silently, but Kate ignored him.
Charlie opened his mouth to make some idle small talk with the hyper redhead. He wasn’t particularly interested in being anything other than her friend, even if the thought of snogging her senseless had occurred to him both once and twice – she was after all a very pretty cheerleader and he wasn’t more than human.
He had only just finished that thought when a bunch of people came walking up the driveway, passing him and Kate on their way to the door. After a quick glance in their direction, Charlie noticed that Linda was one of the girls in the crowd. She was walking next to a guy Charlie knew from school, and he had his arm draped around her shoulders. Charlie snapped his head around to watch them walk the rest of the way up the stairs, and tried desperately to hear what they were saying, but Kate was talking too fervently and Portman was hammering too loud that he was unable to hear anything at all.
That familiar jolt of… whatever it was, flared up inside of him again. A look of utter shock settled on his face and his mouth fell open. What was Linda doing with some guy that wasn’t… him!
He threw an angry look at Kate, blaming her for losing his chance of overhearing what Linda had said to that other guy. Kate, unaware that anything at all was happening around her, was still talking happily, not noticing the expression on Charlie’s face. Realizing he was still gaping, Charlie regained his posture and sat up straight. All previous thoughts he’d had concerning Kate McKinley was fading away. She wasn’t really that bad. Yes, she was actually quite charming, in her own sort of way. The annoyance he’d felt toward her was slowly turning into intrigue. “Have you had a chance to look around yet?” Charlie interrupted Kate’s rant, craning his neck to look in through the window to see if he could spot Linda.
“Just a little bit,” Kate nodded, waving the hammer around so carelessly that Fred decided to take it back and hand it to the other girl instead. Kate seemed confused for a second, until she figured out where the hammer had disappeared to. “Err, anyway… Who lives here again?”
“Banksie,” Charlie said, tilting his head to the side. “He’s mad right now, so you probably shouldn’t talk to him.”
“Oh, nonsense and humbug,” Kate laughed dismissively. “Everyone wants to talk to me! I’m a very nice girl! Fred, tell him.”
“Yes, Kate, you’re a very nice girl,” Fred muttered monotonously, glaring at her. “Shut up, will you?”
Kate gasped. “The nerve! Anyway,” she continued, turning back to Charlie. “Who’s Banksie?”
“I can’t work under these conditions!” Portman exclaimed out of nowhere, marching over to the door and violently pulling it open to go inside.
“Well, the lights are up,” Fred shrugged indifferently. “Kate, you scared off Portman.”
“Nuh-uh, did not,” Kate said loudly, getting up. “Did I? Oh, I better go apologize. Come, Charlie.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him along.
Fred held up the door for them, watching them as they disappeared into the crowd of people in the drawing room that was across the hallway from the slightly smaller living room. “Disturbing image, that.”
“Kate dating Charlie?” Lex smiled, walking passed him.
“A drunk Kate coming on to Charlie,” Fred grinned, following her as she made her way through the living room while taking her jacket off.
“Ah, yes. Scary thought,” Lex nodded, looking around to get familiar with the place. Fred stood still, suddenly feeling lost, now knowing what to say to keep her interest. Lex moved to face him. “Let’s go see if there’s anything left to drink, all right?”
“Umm, yes,” Fred replied, again trailing her when she headed for the table where Fulton was putting up more bottles of Sprite. “Better watch out for that dog, too.”
“There’s a dog?” Lex asked, smiling. She took one of the paper cups that were stacked next to the punch bowl and handed it to him. “Here, hold this. Hey, what’s in the punch?”
Fulton turned to her. “Tequila, lots of sugar, pineapple and papaya – and a bottle of Mr. Banks’ champagne. We found it in the basement,” he smirked contentedly, opening one of the Sprite bottles. “I’m sure it’s awesome.”
“Oh, evil,” Lex said, stirring in the bowl with the ladle, until deciding against tasting it. “We better mix our own drinks, Fred. You never know what’s really in this.”
“What, you don’t trust our ability to mix something as easy as punch?” Portman asked from behind her, grabbing a handful of chips from the bowl next to the punch.
“I’m definitely not tasting it if you were in charge of mixing this together,” Lex concluded, reaching for a bottle of vodka. “It’s safer this way.”
“Hey, I take offence to that,” Portman said with mock huffiness, putting his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sure I can make you something you’ll like.”
Lex raised an eyebrow, shrugging off his arm. “If you don’t behave, I’ll call Kate over,” she said.
Portman flinched back. “What? She’s here?” he whimpered, quickly retreating to the drawing room.
Lex grinned devilishly and continued to search the table for something to make a good drink out of. “Is there any rum? We could make piña coladas.”
“There’s no coconut milk,” Fred pointed out, moving out of the way when Fulton left to get more snacks. “Mix it with the apple juice. We’ll put some Sprite in it, it’ll be fine.”
Lex laughed, pouring some vodka into the bottom of the cup she was holding. “That sounds a little bit suspicious, but you’re the expert,” she said, shrugging. “I’m not gonna get completely wasted after only one drink, am I?”
“Well, the fact that you’re still standing after tasting one of those Jell-O shots is a good sign,” Fred grinned, handing her the bottle of Sprite. “We could always go investigate the kitchen and see if there’s some coconut milk lying around somewhere.”
“Maybe we should just bring the Sprite and the vodka along, in case we get sidetracked and won’t find our way back again,” Lex suggested, quickly grabbing the bottles from the table. “Sounds good?”
“Sounds brilliant,” Fred nodded, looking around to see if anyone was watching them. “Let’s investigate outside first, okay? Maybe we’ll run into that dog.”
Connie walked up the stairs to the second floor, caring a small bowl filled with water. Even if Dinky was a complete monster, he still deserved to get some refreshments. Luckily, she’d talked Jesse out of pouring whiskey into Dinky’s water before she went upstairs.
The loud music from the living room seemed oddly distant once she reached the hall. Stopping briefly to look in the hallway mirror, checking to see if her top was still creased, she heard a sound coming from around the corner. Connie decided to go check it out; she figured it wouldn’t be too good if people were walking around upstairs. Many of the most valuable things they’d hidden before the party were stored in a couple of the rooms.
It wasn’t someone trying to steal Mrs. Banks silverware, though (Connie assumed), as she ran into Guy, who was sitting on the floor up against the wall outside the library. He was writing on a notepad, and Dinky’s distant, never-ending barking could be heard through the door. “Hey there,” she said to get Guy’s attention. He seemed to be too wrapped up into his writing to notice anyone at all.
Guy jumped with surprise when he heard her voice and quickly hid the notepad behind his back, reflexively throwing his pen away. It bounced off the wall in front of him and rolled back over the floor to his hand. “Err, hi.”
“Smooth,” she said amusedly, glancing at him suspiciously. “What are you up to? Why aren’t you downstairs?”
“You’re not badgering Dinky, are you?” she asked, frowning. “He sounds a bit agitated.”
“Not at all,” Guy said innocently. He had been pouring out a lot of his drink under the door for Dinky to drink, hoping that the dog would eventually pass out. “I was just, uh, finishing a project.”
“The marriage project?” Connie asked curiously, sitting down next to him, ignoring Dinky’s snarling. “That’s so… uncharacteristically you.”
Guy grinned widely. “Ah, never mind. Don’t worry ‘bout it. What’re you doing here?”
“Thought I’d bring Dinky some water,” Connie explained, putting down the bowl between them. “You’re not planning to do anything to Daniel, are you?”
As usual, Guy was surprised how well she knew him. “Eh, don’t worry. Nothing like that,” he said. It was partly true. His plan didn’t involve Daniel directly – it would hardly be Guy’s fault if Daniel was effected by it in the end.
“You know,” she said slowly, taking his hand in hers, playing with his fingers. “You, uh, promised you wouldn’t follow him around anymore, Guy.”
Guy nodded fervently. “Of course. I know. I won’t.” Stalking wasn’t part of the plan anymore, after all. “I’m just a bit concerned, is all.”
“He is a huge jerk,” Connie admitted. “But I can deal with it myself. No need to be vengeful. He’s just as first class asshole. I can deal with those. I grew up with you guys, didn’t I?”
“Ha, ha,” Guy said, rolling his eyes. “That’s the second malicious thing someone’s said to me today.”
“Aww,” Connie laughed, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. “You know I’m just kidding. So, do you wanna help me dump this at Dinky and go downstairs again? You’re not half as drunk as I expected you to be by now.”
“Well, Dinky’s gotten more than he bargained for,” Guy explained, and without giving Connie a chance to start lecturing him, he leaned over and kissed her gently, wrapping his arm around her waist. Connie giggled against his lips, moving her hand to cup the back of his head. Leaning into her even more, they both feel to the floor with a thud.
“Very graceful,” Connie laughed, rubbing her head where it had met with the hard floor.
Guy shrugged, kissing her again when he didn’t hear her complain. They stayed like that for a while until Guy accidentally kicked the bowl with water, having it all spill out on the floor and over their shoes and his pants. “Oh, no,” Connie whined, rolling over on him to keep her skirt from getting wet. “Look what you did.”
“I did? You’re partly responsible too,” Guy told her, as they struggled to get up on their feet. “Why is Dinky oddly quiet?”
Connie turned to look at the door Dinky was behind. “Dinky? You there? You all right, little guy?”
“He’s so small. Maybe he drowned?” Guy suggested, silently wishing it to be true.
Connie hurried over to open the door, but found that it was locked. “Oh, damn. Portman must’ve taken the key with him when he locked the door. Dammit! You think he’s all right?”
“Probably a bit drunk by now-”
“Dinky! Do you think Dinky is all right?”
“I’m sure he’s just scheming, or saving his voice or something,” Guy said tiredly, not giving a rat’s ass about Dinky and his whereabouts.
Connie twirled around, heading back down the hallway. “I better find Portman. If we kill Dinky, we’re screwed,” she shouted. “Dinky, don’t die!”
Guy heard her run down the stairs and fell to his knees, speaking into the crack under the door. “Go towards the light, Dinky. Don’t be afraid. Go towards the light.”
Credits & References
+ What I Like About You is a song by the Ramones.