Chelsea rubbed her eyes, but sure enough the little black parrot was still lazily sunbathing on her roof. She picked up her pace. This was getting weird…
She looked around to see if she could find Denny, but he wasn't in sight. Her gaze shifted to the roof again. Popper was still there. She felt she should probably get him down.
"Hey Popper! Get down here!" she called up to him. He blinked in startled surprise. "Popper! Come here!" she repeated. Looking offended, the bird turned his beak up, ruffled his feathers, and settled back. "Hey!" Chelsea exclaimed, feeling snubbed. With a huff, she scrutinized the side of the house. It was no good. If Popper didn't come on his own will, there was little chance she'd be able to climb to retrieve him. There were no handholds.
"Hey Popper! I'm going to get Denny!" she yelled up to the bird. He peeked at her through one eye but otherwise ignored her. "Stupid featherbrain," Chelsea muttered under her breath. With that she lurched down the road, clutching her injured side.
Along the way she met Lanna, who immediately rushed to help her. "Ohmigod are you hurt? Do you need a doctor? I know CPR!" she babbled in concern. Chelsea couldn't help but smile.
"No Lanna I'm fine, just took a rough fall. Actually, I'm looking for Denny-"
"So you do need CPR!" Lanna gasped, "I knew it!"
"No!" Chelsea sputtered, retreating from Lanna's inspection, "His bird's on my roof."
Lanna backed off with renewed interest. "Again?" she asked incredulously.
Chelsea chuckled, "Well, technically no. Last time he was in the henhouse."
Lanna tilted her head knowingly. "Think he's telling the bird to do that so he can spend more time with you?" she insinuated.
Chelsea's eyes widened. "Of course not! And if he did, I doubt Popper would listen anyway," she denied, shaking her head, "Denny's probably worried sick. Do you know where he is?"
Lanna smiled dreamily. "Probably being all hunky pulling fish out of the water," she replied. Chelsea's eyes narrowed. Playfully, Lanna gave her a nudge. "Oh come on now, I know he's yours. I can still look, though, can't I?" she teased.
Chelsea blew out a controlled sigh. Did Denny really belong to her? Probably not. She had no right to be angry… "I better go find him," Chelsea asserted. She gave Lanna a playful nudge back, joking, "I better go look for him." Lanna giggled and waved her off.
"Careful with that injury of yours!" she called merrily, "I wanna hear all about your CPR later."
Chelsea winced and smiled at the same time.
Finally, she ran into Denny on his way to Chen's shop. Just as predicted, he seemed very concerned. "Denny!" Chelsea cried, rushing up to him.
"You know where he is?" Denny immediately answered anxiously. Chelsea nodded wryly, and Denny blew out a sigh. "Thank the Harvest Goddess!" he breathed, "I thought he might still be in the store and got stuck when the door closed, but where is he?"
Chelsea paused, feeling suddenly very awkward. "On my roof," she informed him. Denny slapped his forehead.
"Should have known he'd be on your farm. I'm starting to think he likes you better," Denny groaned.
"Nah. But he won't get down," Chelsea pointed out, "We'll need a ladder."
At that moment, Vaughn interjected, "I think I could help with that."
The cowboy cut out a dark figure against the cheery green island backdrop. Denny bristled, and Chelsea stepped back uncomfortably. "I have my own ladder, thanks," Denny dismissed, fixing Vaughn with an angry glare.
"Mine's closer; it's just out back," Vaughn retorted smoothly, motioning toward Mirabelle's shop behind them. He looked at Chelsea, his eyes soft and somewhat pleading. She relaxed.
"We'd appreciate it, thanks," she accepted. Vaughn nodded and gruffly turned away. Denny was glared at his receding back as if he wanted to kill him.
"Denny, calm down," Chelsea demanded in a hushed tone, "He's helping out."
"You were crying. It was unforgivable," Denny insisted lowly.
"It wasn't his fault," Chelsea whispered back.
They quieted as Vaughn rounded the shop with the ladder. "Got it," he huffed under its weight, nodding acknowledgement to Chelsea. She smiled and let him lead the way. Denny snickered, but followed them towards Chelsea's ranch.
Vaughn grunted as he let the ladder fall against the side of the house. He made a move to climb it, but Denny grabbed his arm. "It's my bird," he almost growled.
"It's my ladder," Vaughn argued, brushing off the hand.
"You've done enough," Denny contended angrily. Vaughn caught his gaze and held it. Neither was about to back down.
"I have more experience with animals," Vaughn asserted, grabbing a rung on the ladder.
"Popper's my bird! I can deal with him, better than you can," Denny shot back, shouldering Vaughn over so he could grab the ladder as well.
"Why does he keep getting lost then?" Vaughn disputed coolly, reaching for the next rung. His eyes were liquid fire.
"Wha-?! Like an animal never wanders off on you!" Denny objected hotly, joining Vaughn on the higher rung.
"Oh for crying out loud!" she exclaimed, pushing her way between the two men, "I'll climb the ladder myself."
Denny and Vaughn blubbered their objections, but Chelsea ignored them and ascended to the roof. Up there Popper was curled up with his head down. He seemed rather sheepish.
Chelsea snorted. "What'd you expect? A welcoming party?" she asked the bird scathingly. He hung his head even lower and averted his eyes. Chelsea felt a pang of guilt. "Aw don't be like that…" Suddenly her foot slipped and she landed hard on her injured side. The protruding shingles dug into her skin, and she gasped for breath.
Down below, Vaughn and Denny scrambled to reach her. Chelsea moaned and sat up, waving them off. "I'm… okay," she wheezed. They didn't listen. Within seconds they were both standing over her, appearing very concerned.
"Let me look at it," Vaughn offered, stooping down to her side. He reached for her shirt but Chelsea grasped its hem firmly, her heart fluttering in her chest. She never let anyone see the scar…
"Chelsea, you know I won't hurt you," Vaughn continued softly. Denny snorted, crouching down next to him.
"It's okay Chels, you don't have to show him if you don't want to," he reassured her, glaring at Vaughn.
Vaughn shook his head. "I just want to make sure you're okay," he persisted, placing a hand over the one Chelsea had clutched to her side. She bit her lip and examined the shingles beneath her. Vaughn lifted her chin with a gentle finger. "Trust me," he whispered.
Chelsea gave a shuddering breath, but lifted the fabric to expose her side.
The men gave a collective gasp. Chelsea's eyes began to tear up, and she quickly yanked the shirt back down. Denny pulled her into a tight hug.
Vaughn tipped his hat over his eyes. "I didn't know…" he murmured. Chelsea hiccupped. Denny rubbed her back.
"It's okay, Vaughn," Chelsea accepted, reaching out an arm to him. He took her hand, hesitantly. Denny was perturbed, but he let it be for the moment.
From the roof Vaughn surveyed the farmland. Catching sight of the fireplace in her backyard, he gasped, "You aren't still using that, are you?"
Chelsea looked up to see what he was talking about. "Well, yes. There's nothing else I can do," she replied heavily.
"I'll cook for you then," Vaughn asserted.
Denny did a double take. "Wait. You're saying you don't have a kitchen?" he asked. Chelsea looked down. Denny pulled them both to their feet. "Why didn't you tell me, Chels? I'll cook for you," he offered belligerently.
Chelsea put her hands up. "Neither of you has to cook for me, guys. I'm perfectly fine with the fireplace out back-"
"No, it wouldn't be right," Vaughn maintained.
"When would you ever have time? I'll do it," Denny contested.
"I offered first," Vaughn pointed out.
"Oh? Are we in kindergarten now?" Denny shot back.
"I'm fine guys, really," Chelsea cut in. They ignored her.
"What kind of argument is that?" Vaughn scoffed.
"I'm the better cook anyways," Denny retorted.
"Oh really? Says who?" Vaughn bickered.
"Enough already! You can both cook for me!" Chelsea interrupted. They both blinked at her, wide-eyed. "Geez," she complained, heading for the ladder, "How about Denny makes breakfast and Vaughn makes dinner?"
Hey guys I'm back! At least, I hope so '^,^ my life is busy... Please don't give up on me... I'm still trying...
So the story behind the story: I've had people suggest a contest, thus, this was born! It shall be a food fight! Lol. Unfortunately neither actually knows how to cook... why'd Vaughn even offer in the first place XP he's such a sillyface.