Put It in Drive

"It's that time of day again, Mrs. McPherson," I call, locking my car and waving cheerfully at the woman who's watering her flowers on the porch.

"Not a problem, dear," she replies, waving her watering can at me and sloshing water all over the porch. "Come pick it up whenever you want."

I tip an imaginary hat toward her and then set off down the street, in the direction of my house.

When my feet finally carry me up to my small home, dark and lonely in comparison to the bright lights and rowdy noise emanating from every open window and door at Jasper's place, I don't even bat an eyelash at the Hummer parked along the curb out front. And I just roll my eyes at the BMW blocking my driveway.

I don't really mind having to park my car around the block anymore. When Jasper first moved in next door to me, it did get on my nerves that he threw weekly parties so massive that I couldn't even get to my own driveway. After a long, hard day at work, I just want to go home, eat dinner, and sleep, you know? But when Jasper arrived, a half-block walk got added to my evening routine.

It's nice, now, sometimes. A relaxing evening stroll.

I know what you're thinking- why not just tell Jasper and his gas-guzzling friends to get their vehicles off of my property? Well, I've tried. Believe me, I've tried. But when resistance is futile, you just have to accept it.

Jasper's a good guy, but his friends...aren't. And I suppose I could complain to the city about the cars that always block my driveway and my whole entire street, but it's not worth it.

I need the exercise, anyway.

Not that I'm fat, you know.

But let's just say that I huffed and puffed the first couple of times I had to make this, ahem, trek.

This time, I'm feeling much less asthmatic.

Through my house's walls I can hear the low rumble of bass turned up too high in Jasper's house, but I try to cover it up by turning on the fan in my bathroom and playing some music really loudly. That combined with the shower running turns the unpleasant thudding into a dull thump in the background.

I'm not into the party scene and I never will be. I'll go out to bars with my friends, and I've been to a couple of clubs, but that's all by force. If my social life was up to me- and when it's left up to me, it involves no socializing at all- I'd spend every night at home with a homemade meal and my TV.

My TV and I are pretty much married. Call me a stereotypical American but I can't stop watching this shit.

And tonight Supernatural is on, so I'm excited. But that's not for another three-ish hours, so I guess I'll just go watch some Food Network after my shower.

I shower quickly and then toss on some cozy warm pajama pants, drying my dark red hair with my towel and then dropping it in the corner of my room. My house may be a little big for me, but I don't want to live in a sketchy apartment and I like being able to dump shit in random rooms and walk around shirtless.

I saunter into the kitchen, throwing on a pot of water to boil for pasta and then grabbing a couple of cookies out of the pantry. I do dinner and dessert in reverse order. That's just how I roll.

Tonight, however, someone interrupts my attempts at having cookies and watching Iron Chef America. My doorbell rings, overpowering the bass from next door that's starting to wear on my eardrums. I might need to take something for my headache. Ugh.

I drag myself to the door, throwing on a hoodie as I go so that I'm somewhat decent for whoever's decided to come visit me. With my luck, it's probably one of Jasper's friends asking if he can just park in my garage.

I yank open the door as I zip up the hoodie, but when I see Jasper himself on my porch, I pause in my task.

Why is he here? Isn't he afraid his friends will, like, burn down his house in his momentary absence?

Jasper smiles awkwardly at me, and when all I do is gape at him, he says, "Hey."

More blank staring from me. Although not necessarily at his face. I do let my traitorous eyes dart down to get an eyeful of the bit of exposed chest his top two buttons are treating me to.

He shifts from foot to foot and continues, "Um, I was wondering if maybe you'd like to come over to my place? I'm having a party."

"No shit," I can't stop myself from saying, only feeling a little bad when a blush spreads up Jasper's neck and he runs a hand nervously through his hair.

"Well, would you want to come over?" he asks. He genuinely looks like he wants to. Mostly because he's staring at me like I'm some sort of delicious dish he's planning on serving to all of his guests.

I would blame that on the fact that I'm wearing low-riding pajama pants and an unzipped hoodie with nothing underneath. His eyes have been straying, too.

Pervert.

Of course, I think that just as I sneak another glance at his exposed skin.

He's gorgeous, there's absolutely no denying.

"No thanks," I say flatly, trying to ignore the flash of disappointment in his eyes.

"Why not?" His voice is on the verge of being whiny, but not kindergartener level whining. "You haven't been over to my house since I moved in. Not even just dropping into a party for a couple minutes."

I sigh and reach for the doorknob in the hopes that he'll see and get the idea that I want him to drop it.

"If I haven't come over to any of your previous parties, that should be a good sign that I don't want to come to this one, right?" I reply, my voice blunt and harsh but he's asking for it. Persistent jerk.

Jasper looks surprised and definitely hurt, but he just sighs and scuffs his shoe on the edge of my porch mat. "Okay. Fine. Never mind." He doesn't look back up at me. He just shoves his hands in his pockets and turns around, cutting across my lawn so he can get back to his party.

I feel pretty guilty, but I push my feelings aside and go into the kitchen again so I can throw pasta into the pot.

Time for some Iron Chef America to get my belly rumbling.

The weekend flies by, a monotonous cycle of eating, sleeping, and watching TV, punctuated by a visit from my parents and an awkward run-in with Jasper on Saturday morning when we both go down to get our mail at the same time.

I stumble out of my house every morning except Sundays to get the mail, wearing pajama pants and fuzzy slippers that I'm pretty are meant for women. Jasper never gets his mail until the afternoon, so seeing him at the curb is unusual and kind of uncomfortable, considering I bitchily blew him off the night before.

But he just gives me this long-suffering gaze and then tromps back into his house.

I wonder if he honestly wanted me at his party that much. Ugh. If he wanted me to come over then why wait until now to invite me?
Blah.

But soon the weekend is over and it's back to the same boring cycle, hosting at the local Spanish restaurant and then night classes as I work toward my master's degree.

When Friday morning rolls around, though, the cycle breaks, in the form of me puking and spiking a fever of some ridiculous level that should probably mean I'm dead. But I'm alive. Barely.

After calling in sick for work, if only because I doubt they want me puking on the menus, I collapse in my bed and sleep.

A lot.

Forever.

All day.

Sleep.

This is fucking godly.

Except for the part where I puke. Again.

And again.

By about five o'clock, my growling stomach forces me out of bed, even though I know that if I eat something my stomach will probably just jump ship out of my throat and leave me to die.

With that encouraging thought, I fumble around in the pantry for a can of plain chicken broth.

Nothing.

I don't have any soup.

What the hell? What else does one eat while partially dead?

Irritated, I turn to the box of tissues on the counter and reach for one while I think of a backup dinner plan. I could just make a smoothie or something, but I don't have any fresh fruit.

When I toss away the soiled tissue in my hand, I reach for another, feeling a sneeze coming on. But there aren't any tissues left.

I sneeze into the crook of my arm and stomp down the hall and into the bathroom, where I keep a spare few boxes of tissues. After rummaging under the sink and then ripping apart the hall closet, though, I find no tissues.

Fuck.

Well, I feel like I'm about to go six feet under, but I need food and I definitely cannot deal with blowing my nose in paper towels and toilet paper all night. Another glance under the sink tells me that I'm out of toilet paper, too.

This blows.

With an annoyed sigh, I throw on my hoodie, a pair of flip-flops, and grab my car keys. I look like a bum- I'm sick, wearing raggy clothes, and I've got five o'clock shadow worse than any guy I know- but I have to venture into the outside world. AKA the grocery store down the road.

When I walk outside, though, I'm met with a dilemma.

It's Friday, and you know what that means- the weekly Jasper house party, commonly referred to as The Plot to Disrupt Riley's Life in Thirty-Thousand Different Ways.

One of those thirty-thousand ways?

By inviting so many people, they have to park in front of my driveway.

And usually this isn't a problem. But today? My car is actually in my driveway. Blocked in.

As I stand on the porch, cold and way too feverish all at once, my nose persistently dripping even as I wipe it repeatedly on my now-soiled sleeve, and my stomach churning yet uncomfortably empty all at once, I make up my mind.

I am done with this.

This is my fucking house, dammit! Jasper doesn't have the right to block my driveway, let alone all of his stupid friends! They don't even live here!

So I storm across the lawn and jump the hedge between our yards, runny nose and all.

I let myself into Jasper's house, because the door is partially open and I always see people coming and going without any formalities, anyway.

The party isn't what I expected- I was anticipating something like from back in high school, all flashing lights and red cups and slutty girls on a dance floor and bad rap music that pounds through your whole body. The pounding music is there, but instead all I see are people my age, dressed up all fancy and chatting with each other in the somewhat dim light as they sip wine and trendy-looking drinks. It's all really stylish and classy.

It's a little bit of a shock, and I can't help but feel out of place all of a sudden. I was expecting such a writhing mass of people that me and my hoodie and pajamas would go unnoticed. Instead, I look kind of like a hobo who went psycho and broke into a rich person's party.

Um.

I push past my awkwardness and instead open my mouth so I can yell, "JASPER!"

Everyone turns to stare at me even more, if that's possible, and then Jasper appears before me quick as can be.

"Riley?" he says, a smile flashing briefly across his face before he stops dead in his tracks. Probably because I look fuckin' homicidal.

"Hi, Jasper," I say tightly. "Can you do me a favor?"

He's starting to look terrified, but he nods all the same. "What-"

"TELL YOUR ASSHOLE FRIENDS TO STOP PARKING THEIR FUCKING CARS IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE!" I scream, and like a scene from a movie someone pauses the music. The suddenly stifling silence starts to close in on me, and I feel like my ears are under intense pressure, but I ignore it and instead glare at Jasper, panting rather heavily from my outburst.

"I- um, I...," Jasper says lamely, looking frantically around at his friends. "What...?"

I can feel a wave of nausea hitting, but I continue to yell at him. "I'm sick and I stayed home from work and all I want is to go to the store and get some soup and a fucking box of Kleenex, but I CAN'T FUCKING MOVE MY CAR because your fucking friends always park in front of my driveway."

I kind of wish someone would cheer for me- I can totally picture my friend Leanne throwing her hands in the air and shouting, "Preach, Riley!" but that won't happen because everyone here is just gawking at the awkward, sick neighbor who's got a big of a rage problem and a love for the word "fuck".

"Shit, Riley," Jasper quietly says, looking a little horrorstruck. "I, yeah, of course I can find whoever's car it is. Um-," he glances around at his overcrowded house and says, "Who parked in front of the driveway next door?"

No one in the nearby vicinity answers, and I just sigh, the air catching in my dry throat. "Forget it," I say hoarsely. I grab a box of tissues off of the table in the hallway and back toward the door. "You know what, just keep having your fucking parties. Just keep it all away from me. I'm sick and tired of not being able to sleep at night because all I can hear is your stupid music and I'm through with having to park my car in front of Mrs. McPherson's house because I can't get to my own driveway. So keep partying, by all means, but fuck if you aren't the least considerate neighbor I've ever had."

My voice gets deadly quiet at the end of my speech, and the thundering quiet in the house just adds to it in an unpleasant way. Feeling both vehement and embarrassed, I turn around and leave the house, tissues in hand.

Looks like I'll either be starving tonight or eating something that I'll puke up later.

I'm glad today is Saturday. If I had to deal with going to work today, I might seriously puke on those menus.

Instead, I'll have to settle for puking in my toilet. And the trashcan. And every other surface in my house. And any surface that I miss? Well, it doesn't have to feel left out, because I'll just sneeze on it.

This is the life.

I yawn and stretch like a housecat, falling back onto the couch and clicking idly through the different shows I have recorded. I still have last night's Supernatural to watch, since I was too pissed and sick after my episode in Jasper's house to even think about watching TV. So I press play, but then the doorbell rings.

Groans escape me like all of the germs I keep sneezing everywhere, but I haul my ass to the door and open it.

No one's there.

But on the doorstep is a plastic bag from Safeway containing a few cans of Campbell's soup and a Kleenex box. Curious, I pick up the bag, and that's when I see a note stapled to it.

Riley,

Sorry about last night. I shouldn't have let my friends keep parking in front of your house. This is to make up for it. I hope you like plain old chicken noodle. Feel better.

- Jasper

I can't help but feel a strange fluttering sensation in my stomach that certainly isn't the urge to start barfing again.

Even though I'm pissed at Jasper- well, more pissed at his friends, really- this is oddly sweet. And I do love chicken noodle.

I pad back inside my house and grab my can opener.

Ah, Fridays. How I look forward to the joys of your evenings.

If I had an eHarmony page, I know exactly what I'd put on it. My name is Riley and I enjoy long walks down my block and drowning out club music with my shower.

I am such a catch.

I contemplated going to see Jasper after I got better last weekend, to thank him for the soup and the tissues and apologize for being a bitch at his party. But when I did get up the nerve to walk across the lawn, his car was gone.

So I just chickened out altogether and have been avoiding him ever since.

I park my car in front of Mrs. McPherson's as usual, this time taking a few minutes to walk up to her door and drop off the desserts I decided to bring home from the restaurant. She thanks me and kisses me on the cheek, leaving me with the usual "come get your car whenever".

But tonight, as I approach my house, something is distinctly off.

Make that several things.

No music.

And...no cars.

No cars?!

Sweet baby Jesus, my driveway is free and unblocked!

Hallelujah!

I go bounding back down the street and hop back into my car, waving at a very puzzled Mrs. McPherson who watches as I gleefully speed around the corner and zip into my driveway. I do a little victory dance on the lawn, and I prance into my house.

Wow. I never noticed how quiet it is in here on Friday nights.

Eerie.

I set about my usual evening routine, but by the time I'm through several episodes of Ace of Cakes I can't help but feel like something's missing.

Oh, right. The thudding music I usually have to defeat with my TV.

You know, this really doesn't feel right. And not just because it's too quiet.

Jasper has never once failed to have a Friday night party. Never.

So why is his house so dead tonight?

I debate for a moment before groaning at myself and my guilt and hopping off of the couch. The only footwear in sight are my fuzzy slippers, so I reluctantly put them on and make my merry way next door.

Ding dong.

About twenty seconds go past and then I hear the sound of the deadbolt unlocking. A moment later, Jasper appears in the doorway, sweatpants slung low over his hips and a black wifebeater clinging to his torso. I can't stop my tongue from darting out to wet my lips, although I do manage to stop my eyes from devouring him.

"Hey, Riley," he says, sounding surprised.

"I never, um, thanked you for the soup," I blurt, at a total loss as to what else I should say.

Jasper raises an eyebrow and manages a small, confused smile. "Um, you're welcome?" he replies, running a hand through his dark hair. "Look, I'm really sorry about my friends always blocking your house. I know you've asked me about it a while ago but I shouldn't have brushed it off. I get why you were mad."

In all honesty, I'm still mad that he let that keep happening, and I'm feeling really vindictive and everything, but I can't help it when I say, "It's okay."

Jasper doesn't look convinced, but he manages a bigger smile this time. "So did you just come to thank me for the soup?" he asks, the smile fading into something slightly wistful. It tugs at my heartstrings and I can't help but feel like he wishes I had come over for some other reason.

I wish I had, too. I feel like I should've had a plan before coming over here.

"Um...," I wrack my brain for a further conversation starter. "No party tonight?" I lamely reply.

Jasper's pitiful smile is quickly wiped off of his face by a weary sigh and a bitter shake of his head.

"Why bother?" he says, shrugging one bare shoulder. Mmm, his skin looks really delicious. "It's always the exact same thing, the exact same people...there's no reason anymore."

"There always seemed to be a reason before." I cross my arms and look at him expectantly.

"Riley, I-," he looks down, swallowing hard. "Look, the main reason I kept having parties was because I was hoping that eventually you'd show up." He glances back up to gauge my reaction, giving me a meaningful look.

My jaw drops and I start to blush, which clashes with my hair. I mean, I kind of got that Jasper might at least be shallowly attracted to me, what with the way he kept checking me out and shit for the past two or so years, but I didn't think he was actually into me.

Not to mention it's kind of stupid to hope that your next-door neighbor will show up at your party. Just walk twenty feet to the right and you're there and you can ask him out or have your wicked way with him.

"We're neighbors, dude," I point out. "You don't have to throw parties to get my attention."

Jasper looks like he's been totally flat-out rejected. He bites his lip and says softly, "We've been neighbors for two years. If I was ever going to get you to notice me it would've happened already. And once I apparently missed that boat, I got kind of...desperate."

My throat catches in my throat and I feel kind of warm and fuzzy and excited. Has he really liked me for that long? And he seriously has been trying this hard to get me to notice him?

I think I'm in love. Or very, very powerful like.

Jasper still looks like a wounded puppy, though, so I guess I should stop him from feeling like shit.

"For the record?" I say, smiling at him in the hopes that he'll stop looking so rejected. It doesn't do much, though, and he just looks hollowly back at me, so I continue, "I like simple. Simple and quiet. You don't have to do anything big to impress me."

Jasper's eyes widen and he starts to look hopeful again, but when all I do is take a step back from the porch, he frantically says, "Is that it? No 'I like you too, Jasper' or 'stay away from me, you creep', just 'I like simple'? What the hell do you want me to do?"

I feel like a tease, but I can't give in that easily. "You made my Friday nights hell, Jasper," I say with a wink. "You can't win me over that easily. No matter how cute you are."

"But-"

He still looks panicked and rejected and he probably feels like I just walked away for good, so I casually say, "You know, I really like homemade dinners."

And with that, I saunter back over to my house. Too bad my seductive walk is kind of demeaned by my fuzzy slippers.

"Coming over tonight, Ry?"

I laugh into the phone and say, "Y'know, babe, you're right next door and I can see you through the window. You don't really need to call."

I can see Jasper roll his eyes as he balances the phone between his head and his shoulder, stirring something in a pot on the stove.

"I do have manners," he replies. "I can't just barge in whenever I want, can I?"

"I didn't seem to be complaining last night," I purr, muffling a giggle when I see him nearly drop his spoon. I drop the window shade and walk over to my front door, sliding on my slippers and then heading out into the front yard.

"Y'know," Jasper says, still on the phone with me, "I just saw you leave your house. So if you're trying to come over here and get a sneak peek at dinner, you're not getting it."

"Maybe I can get a sneak peek at your body instead?" I murmur, arriving at his front door and knocking once. The phone connection goes dead, and then the door swings open and there stands my gorgeous new boyfriend.

"That can be arranged," he says, picking up where the phone conversation left off. He tugs me into the house, pulling the door shut and then gently shoving me up against it, leaning down to devour my lips. I hitch a leg up around his waist and drape my arms around his shoulders, opening up to him and loving the way his tongue strokes across mine in my mouth.

"You're fuckin' perfect," he mumbles against my lips.

I crush my mouth to his again and nip at his lower lip, breathing, "You too."

He tugs on the collar of my shirt and starts to walk backwards, and I get the idea, following him as we stumble our way to the bedroom. But of course, the world can't let me get laid, no. The doorbell rings far before we lose our shirts.

"Ugh," Jasper groans, disentangling himself from me. "I should get that." We hear a suspicious sound from the kitchen, though, and he yelps, "Shit! The stove is still on!"

I laugh and climb off his lap, tangling my fingers in his hair and kissing him softly. "You get the stove, I'll get the door."

We walk back down the hall and Jasper darts into the kitchen to clean up any mess that may have occurred, and I open the front door.

Oh, shit. It's two of Jasper's friends.

The both look surprised to see me. Whether it's because they recognize me as the sick, raging guy who showed up a few weeks ago and stole Jasper's Kleenex or because they're surprised that Jasper has company (with a post-makeout appearance, might I add), I don't know.

"Um, is Jasper here?" the girl asks. "He hasn't told anyone about a party in a couple weeks and we just wanted to check up on him."

"Oh, everything's fine," I say, smiling. "But no more parties until further notice, okay? Run along, you two."

The two of them look confused beyond belief and more than a little insulted, but I could care less when I wave goodbye to them and shut the door on their shocked faces.

"Who was that?" Jasper asks, walking out of the kitchen and wiping his hands on his jeans.

"No one, Jas," I reply, grinning wickedly at him. "Now, where were we?"

Jasper gets this hungry gleam in his eyes and wastes no time in picking me up. I wrap my legs around his waist and laugh as he carries me at lightning speed into the bedroom. We fall into the bed in a tangle of limbs and overexcited kisses and I can't even see because my hair is in my eyes but that's okay.

I know Jasper's here, and if it weren't for those stupid cars blocking my driveway, I probably wouldn't have him.

I also wouldn't have struck up a friendship with Mrs. McPherson, but that's beside the point.

A/N: Happy birthday Emily! HA. You didn't even know I was writing you anything, did you? Well, neither did I.

To everyone else, I wrote this literally in about eight hours so it's a little rough. But I'm actually happy with how it wound up.

Thanks for reading! View and review,

Ryette.