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 Best You've Ever Had, #open!


Another scorcher. But then again, once you got into June, most days in Louisiana were oppressively hot and humid and today was no exception. Jack had spent the morning doing various activities related to his job - the early morning was spent replacing batteries in and testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in a house with a new baby, then he'd spent a considerable amount of time perusing the aisles of the hardware store, trying to dream up a concept that would fix his latest issue with his own house. The old house had good bones, but slowly and surely Jack was having to replace most of the more superficial aspects. The first floor half bath needed redone and it was next on the priority list, hopefully before the floor gave out and unsuspecting guests would fall through to the basement.

Once the thoughts of beginning that project became a distant memory due to lack of currency, Jack simply didn't feel like spending the next several hours scouring for work. There were always things that needed done around New Orleans, but occasionally they needed scouting. He'd picked up a couple shifts digging graves for the local cemetery, which felt weird and wasn't really his speed. There were always air conditioners that needed fixing, but he really didn't want to deal with cranky, sweaty homeowners.

So instead of all that, he drove his Jeep toward the nearby park and unpacked himself and his service dog. Gunner had been an absolute Godsend. At first Jack was wary and even a bit self conscious, carting his 80-lb German Shepherd around with him all the time, but Gunner had better manners than Jack. He usually sat very respectfully at Jack's feet or was heeled obediently next to Jack's left side. Gunner kept Jack focused on the present and really provided a much-needed structure to Jack's day. He couldn't lie in bed all morning - Gunner needed to go outside and be fed and walked. Along with Gunner's strict obedience came a huge work drive. The dog really needed a job, and giving the dog a job inadvertently gave Jack one as well. As they entered the park, Jack bent down to take Gunner's Service Dog vest off so the dog knew he was essentially off duty. Jack pulled a tennis ball from his pocket and watched his dog change persona immediately, focused intently on the ball that he then hurled across the park. Only too late did he realize he'd sent his giant dog sprinting toward someone who might be terrified of dogs, so he started toward them to hopefully de-escalate any sort of reaction about to take place. He knew Gunner wouldn't cause any problems, but the stranger probably didn't.

DIBS (i'll message u once i tag)
it was fucking hot in new orleans. cadence had not been gone that long, but somehow she had forgotten the heat that came through this city in the summer months. she had moved to new york while it was still pretty cold there, and when she left, it had really only just started to warm up. despite being a native to louisiana, the new york weather had spoiled her in the minimal amount of time that she had been gone. summers in new orleans were hot and humid as it was, but cadence was finding that being pregnant during the summer was not exactly a walk in the park. somehow, it seemed more hot and more humid than normal. maybe it was. maybe it was just global warming and everyone else was as miserable in the heat as she was, but cadence did not exactly make a habit of going up to people and saying "is it hot out or is it just me?"

at sixteen weeks pregnant, cadence was finally started to feel a little bit normal again. the morning sickness was finally over, and cadence was not sorry to see it go. it was almost ironic, though, considering two years ago cadence was voluntarily purging daily, sometimes twice daily. perhaps the awful morning sickness was some sort of karma for not taking care of her body. cadence did not know, but she was glad it was over-- especially with how her appetite had been going bezerk. the combination of foods her body craved should have been enough to make anyone sick, yet that seemed to be when her body was happiest.

case and point, right now she was walking through central park with milo, hot dog with relish on it in one hand, and a starbucks iced latte in the other. the hot dog was almost gone at this point, but the combo was still the combo. caffiene was apparently okay in moderation, and she had seriously cut back. the coffee in her hand was today's serving. even if she was eating it with a hot dog. as soon as the hot dog was gone, cadence bent down to release milo from his leash at their favorite spot in the park. no sooner had she done this, she saw a german sheppard bounding towards them with a man sprinting behind it. milo had become more protective of his owner recently-- it was like he knew. it was not aggressive, but he most certainly did not hesitate to put himself in between cadence and the other dog, almost as if to distract it from jumping on her. "i assume he belongs to you?" cadence chuckled as the sprinting man approached, not bothered at all by the presence of the other dog.



Seeing the retriever, just slightly smaller than Gunner, jump in front of his owner was, incident aside, a pretty funny scene to behold. If Gunner was in any way vicious he'd have torn that happy-looking goofy golden dog to shreds within seconds. Still, it was Louisiana, and this woman could easily be packing a handgun and whip it out at any moment. Jack realized maybe that was a little paranoid of him, assuming everyone carried a firearm, but it was the south and the majority of them did have a gun at their disposal. Luckily for everyone involved, Jack had stopped carrying his for fear he'd enter a PTSD flashback and cause problems. All his guns were loaded into one gun safe in his basement and all the ammunition was locked away in another. A rarity for the Cassidy house, but an unfortunate reality due to the circumstances.

"Yeah, he'd be mine," Jack huffed once he got close and Gunner pranced back to Jack's feet and dropped the ball. The dog really had an on/off switch when that service dog vest came off. "Wasn't sure if you'd be scared of him'er not," he explained his behavior, chasing after his pooch like he had. This dog had cost his family a lot of money, he couldn't repay them by letting the poor thing get hit by a car or stolen. Gunner had only been with him a short time but he was already part of the family. Fuck that, Gunner was Jack's entire family, since most days that went by he spent almost entirely alone. Jack bent down and picked up the tennis ball to give it a hurl in a different direction. "I see he'd've had his work cut out for him with your attack retriever," he chuckled some to himself, really sort of relying on the stereotype that golden retrievers were all silly and goofy and smiley. Normally Jack wasn't so talkative to strangers, but human interaction was sort of sacred these days, not something he got very often. Due to no fault other than his own. His desire to isolate himself in order to keep everyone safe was becoming a little excessive.

cadence had never carried a hand gun in her life. in fact, she had never even shot one. the closest she had come to a gun was a nerf gun or a laser gun at one of those laser tag places in the mall. quite frankly, guns scared cadence. she was afraid of what they could do to people, and one of her biggest fears was probably getting shot. if someone pointing a gun at her was something cadence could avoid for the rest of her life, then she would die happy.

once milo had assessed that the other dog was not a threat to he or cadence, he backed away and two two dogs began to sniff each other. "he's gorgeous." cadence cooed, because really, the german sheppard was an absolutely beautiful dog. not that milo was not also an absolutely beautiful dog, but german sheppards were just... really handsome dogs. then again, so was the german sheppard's owner. though cadence had always tended to notice how attracted members of the opposite sex were, now that she was pregnant she really noticed. she could literally count the colors in the eyes of the man standing in front of her. "i don't think i've ever met a dog i've been scared of." cadence chuckled. she was one of those people that when she saw a dog out in public, she went out of her way to say hello to the dog. not its owner. just the dog. she watched as the man threw the tennis ball, and both the german sheppard and milo tore after it. though milo did not have a shot in hell, the german sheppard was faster. "milo is a very good security guard, thank you very much." she joked, laughing again. milo was actually a terrible guard dog. he liked people too much.




Jack smiled proudly. Gunner certainly was a looker, that was for sure. He was also good at his job, but for the time being he wouldn't get into the fact that he was a service dog. "Thanks," he tried not to boast. He watched the dogs go about sniffing each other's ding dongs and buttholes, then go chasing off after the tennis ball like they'd been best friends for ten years. Jack nodded when she said she'd never been scared of dogs. He hadn't either, but these days you never knew. He was around the police station enough to know that not even police dogs in bulletproof harnesses were safe from the cruelty brought out by fear in some people. "Ya never know these days," he said with a shrug. "I'd be lost without him." There was emotion behind his voice, but maybe she wouldn't pick up on it. Most people would be lost without their dogs but Gunner was arguably one of the very sparse reasons Jack was still on this planet.

"I'm sure he is," Jack chuckled and held up both his hands in surrender. He was sure this woman's dog was vicious, totally vicious. And he proved it when they came running back and Gunner dropped the ball at Jack's feet. Milo was just a pace or two behind, and got distracted by sticking his nose in Jack's crotch. "Hey there big fella, maybe buy me dinner first," he laughed and stroked the golden's head a couple times. Gunner immediately got jealous and let out a bark, looking frantically between Jack and the tennis ball. "Platz." The german word for place, and Gunner knew that to mean lie down. He did so, and Jack threw the ball again, letting Milo get a decent head start after it. "Ok," he told Gunner who was immediately a blur in pursuit of the ball. "Nice day," he commented to the woman for lack of a better conversation starter, since he'd sort of taken over playing with her dog.

something cadence had always admired about dogs was their instincts. within thirty seconds of meeting a person, a dog was able generally able to tell who was a good person, and who was not. similarly, they were able to tell this in other dogs. milo and the german sheppard spent all of ten seconds intimately getting to know each other, and then suddenly all was fine and they were happy campers. sometimes, cadence wished she was able to read people as quickly as dogs could. if she had that instinct, perhaps she would have been able to tell that guys like david and christian were bad apples from the start. or maybe she would have been able to tell, but gave them the benefit of the doubt anyway because she wanted to. that seemed more like something she would do-- ignore her instincts and do what her heart said. she totally understood how this man felt about his dog, cadence felt the same way about milo. he had come into her life during one of the toughest times in her road to sobriety, and having him around was better than having any guy around. "milo is probably my best friend." cadence agreed.

cadence was apparently not the only breathing organism in their vicinity that found the man attractive, because cadence's dog was suddenly doing some investigating of his own. she knew dogs did this to everybody, but it was still incredibly amusing considering she probably would not mind if her nose was in this guy's crotch either. fuck, being pregnant was weird. cadence blinked once, twice, three times to push the thought from her head as she watched him pet milo. "milo, where are your manners?" she laughed. compared to the other dog, milo really did not have any, and that became clear the moment the dog started obeying his owner's commands in german. "damn, milo barely speaks english." her dog was not stupid, but he definitely was not well trained like the german sheppard obviously was. she watched as the two dogs took off, and it was silent for a moment. "cadence. mitchell." she figured she might as well introduce herself.




For the first time, Jack actually took a second to look at the woman. First he was struck by how gorgeous she was, like a goddamn super model. Once upon a time that was his type, the kind who look like she'd never touched the broad side of a cheeseburger with her nails always done and her hair perfectly wind blown. Second, he noticed she looked pregnant. He wasn't sure if she was or not, and he also wasn't sure if he was actually checking her out or not, but he had to shake himself out of it before he got himself any deeper into some bullshit.

Jack laughed some when she commented on Gunner's impeccable training. "I can't take any of the credit there," he admitted, "Gunner's a service dog." He removed the folded up vest from his back pocket to verify his dog's training. Jack had no idea how to train a dog and he'd had to go to a couple one-on-one classes with the coordinator for the service dog corporation to understand how to use Gunner's commands. "Jack Cassidy," he introduced, offering his hand for her to shake after he re-pocketed the vest and draped the leash over his shoulder. They were both lucky he'd washed up a little before resigning to the park for some play time, usually at any given moment he was covered in sweat and grime from the nature of his job. He watched Milo snatch the ball out of the air and come running back, Gunner in hot pursuit. Jack was damn sure he never wanted to be on the receiving end of a German Shepherd in hot pursuit.

Jack anticipated Milo dropping the ball for him, but unsurprisingly he went straight for Cadence and gave it to her. Gunner followed the ball and sat down deliberately next to her feet. His tail thumped heavily against the ground as he looked up at her expectantly, his deep brown eyes fixed on the bright yellow ball. "Eager little thing," he shook his head. Not much about Gunner was little, Jack.

If this guy had noticed that she was pregnant, he certainly had the sense to comment on it. Now that Cadence was showing, more and more people asked her how far along she was, and even more people felt the need to touch her. People she had never met before in her life felt the need to reach out and place their hands on her stomach, and it was probably her least favorite thing in the entire world. Though, on some level, Cadence was a little thankful that people were one hundred percent certain that she was pregnant as opposed to second guessing whether or not she was just fat. Though if this whole “touch me, I’m pregnant” thing kept happening, Cadence was going to start fucking with people-- telling them she was not pregnant when they asked how far along she was. That would be amusing as hell.

A look of clarification faded into Cadence’s features as she made the connection between Jack’s words and Gunnar’s obedience. That made so much sense. Of course, some people actually went to that length to train their dogs normally. Then, it occurred to Cadence that if Gunnar was a service dog, he was a working dog. ”Oh shit, is Gunnar technically working right now? Do we need to leave him alone?” Cadence wondered. She was not positive Gunnar was on the clock, since he was not wearing his vest, but one could never be too sure. Maybe Jack was embarrassed that he had a service dog or something. Thankfully, when Milo dropped the ball at Cadence’s feet, she was able to bend over and pick it up. ”Not sure how much long I’m going to be able to that move, buddy. You better start putting it in my hand.” She chuckled, talking to her dog more than she was talking to Jack. Cadence threw the ball with as much force as she could, watching both dogs tear after it. ”Sorry we commandeered your day in the park.” Cadence apologized with a laugh.




"No, no," he calmed her worries about having interrupted anything. Jack had been warned extensively about how people would continually try to break Gunner's focus. He had found that to be true and the warning to be completely warranted. No, Gunner wasn't technically as important to Jack's everyday functioning as, say, a seeing eye dog, but he was still doing his job - keeping Jack grounded was a full time obligation these days. "He worked all morning, he gets to just be a dog for a while." It was important they had a good balance of work and play even if Gunner was literally always painfully willing to please. Jack had also learned that was just a trait of his breed.

When she told her dog she wouldn't be bending over like that much longer, he settled on the fact that she was indeed pregnant. Not that it mattered, Jack wasn't going to comment on it or anything like that. It was absolutely none of his business. His eyes settled on both animals as they launched full speed toward where the ball was heading and Gunner took a flying leap to snatch it out of the air. Certainly was eager, no hesitation either. There was a lot he admired about his best friend but it wasn't often he just appreciated his dog's gorgeous physique. "Nah," Jack waved his hand dismissively. He felt no loyalty to the situation - he could walk away at any point without much guilt. He often worried Gunner was going to get tired of spending so much time with him. Of course that was a dumb thing to worry about. As much as Jack adored his dog, the dog adored Jack. Besides, it was nice to just have a conversation with someone. A person he didn't know, who didn't know his situation, who wouldn't ask him how he was doing or try to pry into what was going on inside that fucked up head of his. When he looked back at the dogs, they has somehow both wrapped their mouths around the ball and were bringing it back together. Jack laughed and shook his head. "Seems like they like each other." Maybe he'd unintentionally stumbled upon a four-legged best friend for Gunner.

relief washed through cadence when jack confirmed that his dog was not on the clock right now. cadence was exactly the type of person who went out of her way to say hello to dogs when she saw them on the street with their owners-- sometimes ignoring the owner completely. a lot of times, she would ask to pet the dog if she was not in a hurry to get somewhere, so she had become acutely aware of things like service animals when they were around. she knew the rules: you couldn't pet a working dog. you could say hello, but petting was off limits. "what do you and gunnar do?" she wondered, in an attempt to make conversation. jack had that look about him like he very well could be a cop. he had the right build, the right haircut. it was entirely possible. she wondered if maybe gunnar was like a drug dog or something.

at least jack was not bothered by the company, and cadence was thankful that gunnar did not seem to be either. it was oddly nice, spending time with a complete stranger who knew nothing about her other than her name and her dog's name. cadence had spent much of the last month since her return explaining to people what she had been up to-- explaining her pregnancy situation: how it happened, the fact that the father was not in the picture, how she intended to keep the child. this jack guy did not care about all that, because he did not know about it. for all jack knew, cadence was pregnant because she was in a relationship with somebody she loved, and not as a result of a faceless, nameless, one night stand. she nodded her head. "milo's not picky," she chuckled. "way too friendly for his own good, bless him."




When she asked the question, Jack realized he hadn't yet encountered it before and therefore had no idea how to answer it. He desperately wished he had some cool explanation and even considered stretching the truth a bit to say he was a bounty hunter - in his defense, he was a bounty hunter, he just hadn't exactly hunted any bounty in close to six months. But in the end, he decided to go for the brief version of the truth. "I'm ex-army," he began, since that was really the source of his PTSD, "turned local jack of all trades. Gunner keeps my head on straight." That was about as polite an explanation as anyone was going to get. He keeps me from blowing my brains out and forgetting to feed myself seemed a little harsh for a stranger, so he was content with his explanation. No need to go into the flashbacks that were really the reason he had Gunner.

When they arrived back over at their pair of owners, Jack reached down to grab the tennis ball out of their mouths. Gunner instinctively released, but Milo kept holding on. He laughed some and started playing a bit of tug of war with the golden who seemed to be having a bucket of fun. Gunner gave an impatient (or perhaps jealous) whine, and Jack gave him a half-second of eye contact to tell him to cool it. "That's good though," Jack stated with a shrug. Gunner was also friendly, but he had the typical German Shepherd demeanor that was intimidating to most people. He wasn't even comfortable saying the dog wouldn't hurt a fly because he was sure under the right circumstances Gunner wouldn't hesitate to protect him. "Don't have to worry about someone whipping out a gun and shooting him if he's running toward 'em," he explained a little further. The exact thing he'd been worried about when Gunner went running up to this woman he now knew as Cadence Mitchell. But it was true, chances were no one was going to bat an eye at an approaching goofy golden. Unfortunately the same could not be said for some of the more aggressive breeds.

ex-military was going to be cadence's next guess. a slight grin appeared on her face. "please tell me you have business cards that say 'jack of all trades' because if you don't, you really missed a prime marketing opportunity." somehow cadence doubted that he did, but it would be absolutely hilarious. cadence would certainly remember his business (whatever it was) if he did, and she suspected that other people probably would, too. "so what exactly does being a jack of all trades entail?" she wondered. cadence assumed he was some kind of handy man, but a lot of things could fall into such a broad category. she chose to ignore the part where jack said that gunnar kept his head on straight. it sounded like there was more of a story there, but cadence had known the man for twenty minutes. it was not her place to pry about such things.

cadence needed to sit down and right there in the grass seemed like a perfect place to do it. plus, cadence had a feeling she needed to enjoy being able to get up and down from the ground like this on her own while she still could. her eyes still on the dogs, cadence crossed her legs under her dress. "it's great until somebody decides to break into my house-- milo will think they're there to see him." she chuckled. jack's statement turned a little dark, and cadence wondered if something like that had happened to gunnar before. or if maybe it had happened to jack. "i think if someone ever hurt milo, i'll murder them myself." she admitted. milo and her horse, harley, were basically her furry children.




Jack laughed some at her next statement. He'd actually never even given a thought to getting business cards. Most of his job traffic came from word of mouth. That, and he was listed in the phone book under handyman services. One of his brothers had threatened to make him a website - hell, they could have made him one and Jack not know it. It wasn't like he knew enough about the internet to actually run it. "I don't but now I might have to," he admitted. He supposed Cadence probably had a fancy college education that afforded her the luxury of being so smart. He laughed again when she asked for clarification on his job title. "Plumbing, electrical, woodworking, any kind of fix it job or construction." Basically if there was something wrong with it and you wanted to pay someone to fix it, Jack would figure it out. He had to put bread on the table somehow.

He watched as she made herself comfortable in the grass and just kept playing with the dogs himself. He was wearing his work jeans, kind of worn with a splotch of paint here and there - if he were to sit in the grass they'd get all bunched and uncomfortable due to sweat. Even on the hottest of days, Jack wouldn't be found doing his handymanning in shorts. It just wasn't practical. "Better invest in a solid security system," he suggested, continuing to tug Milo around by the tennis ball. At one point, his jaw became slack and Jack pried the ball away. He gave a glance at Gunner and gave it another mighty hurl. Between Milo and Gunner, he was probably going to throw his shoulder out before they got tired of playing. He heard her words and decided he wasn't willing to find out if she meant them or not. Not that he had been planning to hurt anyone or anything of course. "Gotta protect what you love," he said, almost distantly. Jack had seen so much fucked up shit in this world to be able to trust too many people. "That's what's important after all." The dogs came sprinting back and Gunner was eager to place the ball next to Jack's toes. This time, Milo seemed to be feeling the heat a little bit under his thick coat. Jack just shook his head at his crazy dog and threw the ball for him again. Goddamn working breeds.

cadence did not think her college degree was all that fancy-- she had not gone to a fancy college. the fashion merchandising program at UNO was a great program, and cadence had wanted to stay in new orleans with cal. she could have gone to parsons or rhode island school of design or savannah college of art and design, but she had not had any desire to be far from cal whatsoever. going to UNO ended up being one of the best decisions cadence had ever made in her life, because it was a decision that lead her to jo jacobsen, and quite frankly, cadence could not imagine what her life would be like without jo in it. cadence was a better person because she knew jo, and the people she had met through jo. if cadence had gone somewhere else, her world would be so different that it would probably be upside down compared to now. "hey, if you need someone who makes paper, the woman i've used for invitations and stuff is amazing. i'm actually going to have her do my business cards next." cadence mentioned. maddie walker was a genius with paper, and cadence was happy to support local businesses. "i'll keep that in mind if my new townhouse ever needs something fixed. the townhouse isn't new - just new to me." knowing a handyman was definitely something that could be of use down the road.

"trust me, i already have." living alone made cadence nervous. not only that, but it made her a target. now that she did not live in an apartment building that had a code to get into, she felt like it was time to up the security. CFI was one of the first calls cadence made when she moved in. cadence saw her dog was panting, and she reached into her purse and pulled out what looked like a rubber ball. only, when she popped it open, it turned into a bowl, and cadence reached into her purse again for the plastic water bottle she knew was there. "milo, c'mere." cadence signaled as she poured water into the bowl. "gunnar is welcome to have some too." she offered.


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