Zeia: Well, here it is... Phoenix's and my baby. ^____^o We're so proud!

Z: I admit... I came up with this on a spur one night whilst eating supper and staring off into space--and when I suddenly grinned and said "Aha" under my breath, I earned weird looks. But... I didn't want to write it alone. No, I wanted to write it with my dear friend Phoenix. And so, we put our brains together, and so we have...

*~*

Street-Wise Love

Chapter One: Somber Rain

~*~

Kody Johansen was currently residing on a bench outside the public library, full red lips curled up into a smirk, legs spread and arms hanging off his thighs. He sat in the middle, and three of his usual gang surrounded him. One was playing with a yoyo, another smacking gum loudly, one dozing off. Kody happened to be watching the pigeons.



They were bored.



School had gotten out an hour ago, and here they were, with nothing to do. It was Wednesday afternoon, so maybe that was understandable. They didn't go to Church--more than half Kody's gang didn't believe in God--and Kody didn't have to work that day at the nearby Burger King. At first it was Thank. You. God. Now it was Please. Let. Me. Come. In.



Kody's gang was pretty popular around the city--not popular as in good, but popular as in with quite a bad reputation. They couldn't stand being famous, but that's what they were. But as a plus, they were feared, so that made it bearable. Yes, they were the ones that tee-pee'd your house, egged your car, tore up your lawn in the middle of the night, and it didn't have to be Halloween. They smoked, and they, excluding Kody, did pot and drank. Kody was just a smoker, which he only did so under a lot of stress. Sometimes, however, it was just because he had nothing else to do. Now was one of those times. But, alas, he had no cigarrettes on him or money to go get any. Damn.



Girls fawned over Kody. He found it annoying to be playing basketball or street hockey or even wrestling and someone had their eyes boring into your back, practically gouging a hole. If he had /wanted/ to be distracted, he would have certainly told them so. But girls found him hot, so what the hey. He preferred to remain single for now, however--his relationships just never quite worked out.



Kody was a goth.



That was the only way to place it. Other than the old, worn cross he had around his neck on thickly-thronged black thread as a makeshift necklace hidden under his shirt, nothing about him said innocence. Kody took good care of his health, especially his appearance. At first, it had taken hours, now it only took a few minutes. Just grab super gel and a comb and take his chin-length black hair that had tendencies to frame his face up and spike it. His blue highlights accentuated the look, topping the pointy hair. He wore a spiked necklace over his other one, fingerless gloves, fishnet shirts either under or over black tee-shirts or tanktops, old army boots, huge black baggy pants with tons of chains and zippers, and three earrings in his left ear. He wanted an eyebrow piercing, but didn't quite have the money for it yet. All this and the chains covering his wrists and arms and what not all over him gave him quite an intimidating appearance. That, and because he walked around with his headphones on, metal music screaming out of the headphones, and slammed people's lockers shut, shoved people into the lockers themselves, stuck people's heads down toilets, stole their lunch money, was a disturbance in class...Yes, tormenting people made life somewhat good.



It was the eyes the girls apparently fell for, however. Quoting a random girl, "Your eyes are like ... like ... this really dark, /dark/ blue, I could drown in them for /hours/." His response? "That's not humanly possible. Get a life."



"Dude! Kody, look, man!"



Kody glanced up, then followed the direction his friend was pointing his finger in. Someone was walking up the library steps, hauling a huge bookbag, shuffling his feet.



Kody's smirk widened into a grin. "Well, look who's here for our /convenience/."



"It's that kid," the other boy provided for the two that didn't know. "You know, that one that's got the highest grades in school."



Kody snarled. "Stupid punk, if you ask me. What a nerd. He probably doesn't even know what sex is. No social life at all." Kody stood, popping the knuckles on his left hand, then smirked again, folding his arms over his chest. "Well, I reckon we're about to give him one."



"And in a bad way," another barked, laughing.



"I'll go by myself." Kody waved a hand behind him.



"Awww," came the groan of the other three. "What the fuck, man? No fair!"



"Haven't done anything this week while you lot have. Don't wanna ruin my reputation, now do I?" He smirked over his shoulder.



"Suppose not," they echoed, albeit reluctantly.



"Good." He sat back down. "Now we'll just wait for him to get out of the library."



*~*

Tanner Binks yawned, hauling his too-large bookbag over his shoulder, then shuffled his way through the entrance, sleeves of his light jacket falling over his hands, thin, wire-rimmed glasses slipping down his nose. He sulked for a minute, stuck, then sighed, trying to fix everything at once. Normally, this would have been easy, except the bookbag was weighing him down, and as soon as he got off a certain angle, it tugged backward, knocking him over.



"CHU!" he let out with a startled gasp.



There was an uproar of laughter behind him. Most of it was loud, outrageous and a bit over-exaggerated guffaws, but there was the silky, deep laughter of only one person, and it was all-too realistic, which was perhaps what ruffled Tanner's feathers the most.



Standing up indignantly, hauling his bookbag over his shoulder, Tanner squared his shoulders, this time only fixing his glasses, and calmly opened the door. He wouldn't give them the benefit of his anger.



/Don't look at them. Just don't look at them. That's what they want. They want a reaction./



Tanner let a smile curl up on his lips, then walked into the library.



He was immediately engulfed in the slightly cold haven of the place he liked being in the most. Bookshelves upon bookshelves lined the walls, stacked with tons of books. Some were new, some old, some were small, most were thick towards the back. The ceiling was high overhead, the walls were painted a comfortable light brown, and there were comfy chairs, couches, and tables with lamps and wooden chairs stacked around the room. There was an upstairs to the library, as well, and even more books resided up there.



Tanner felt like he was at home here.



"TANNER!"



"Chu!" he let out again, gasping as he was glomped. "...Hello, Jessie..."



"Hee!" Jessica Jones snuggled him, inhaling deeply, and was latched on in a death grip. She had long, chestnut brown hair with natural red highlights, chestnut brown eyes with inner tinges of green encircling them, and freckles scattered across a heart-shaped face. She was his height, five foot six, and pretty much as cheerful as he usually was. One of his two best friends...One of his two only friends...



The other calmly greeted him, laughing a little from behind the desk. Her name was Natalie Plowden. She was an inch shorter than them, with long, raven black hair pulled back into a tight braid, freckles like Jessie, and gray-green eyes. Slim, pretty, the boys were constantly after her.



"Tan~ner!" Jessie cheered, not letting go. "How'd your day go?"



Tanner smiled, patting her head. "Other than falling over outside the library, perfectly fine, thank you."



Natalie smiled apologetically, leaning over the desk and clasping her hands atop it. "You're not needed today. Mrs. Jenkins says she just needs us. She has to leave early."



"She says we're enough to handle," Jessie chirped. "Still trying to find out if that's an insult or not."



"Eh..." Tanner only continued smiling, deciding that he wouldn't comment on that, and chuckled a little.

~*~

Kody watched as a few minutes later, Tanner walked back outside. Tanner examined the sky a minute, shielding his eyes with his hand, then smiled, shifting his bookbag further up on his shoulder, and jogged down the steps. He shook his head, hair moving back and forth, then let his smile widen into a grin and headed down the sidewalk.



Kody smirked, waiting until Tanner had disappeared around the corner, then stood, told his friends he'd be right back, and followed the nerd.



Tanner was heading through the slums towards the richer part of town. That was immediately something Kody Johansen didn't like. The first was nerds. The second was /rich/ nerds. Little stuck-up snobs they were with nasal voices and snorts when they laughed. They thought they were better than all the others, smart, a reason Kody liked to pummel the shit out of the little fuckers. The fags--he taught them.



Kody got the impression that Binks knew he was following him. It was because Binks was walking so calmly, but there was a slight tremble to his shoulders. He shook the feeling off. It was probably because Binks was a bit afraid of someone jumping him randomly. The little punk didn't know how right he was.



The shadows began closing in the further they went into the slums. Trash cans with overflooding shit falling out of them were appearing more and more frequently, as well as wasted condoms as they hit the night club area. Broken beer bottles, graffetti all over the walls from gangs--Kody was proud to note that he and his gang had done a few--water sloshed out on the street and curling slowly around plastic crap and whatnot into the drainers.



Above, dark rain clouds were coming in. It'd start raining any moment. Perfect--an advantage. It was easier for Kody to jump people when the other people couldn't hear his footsteps. Kody had to begin walking softly because his footsteps were echoing around him, but the thunder was mostly drowning the sound out.



Finally, as the Binks kid began turning into a dead-end alley--punk had probably miscalculated--Kody took this as his move. He slunk around in the shadows until Binks stopped, eyeing the chained fence, but before Binks could turn around to head back in the opposite direction, Kody rammed into the boy, slamming him against the hard, coarse, brick wall.



"Well, lookie who's wandered onto my turf," Kody snarled, leering. He had the boy pinned by his shoulders so he couldn't move, and stepped on one of his feet, causing the boy to wince.



The kid's bookbag fell onto the ground with a thunk and a few books slid out.



Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled up above. Rain began to come down in a light drizzle.



Binks looked up slowly, glasses dangling by a leg on his ear, and let out a soft sigh. He opened his eyes slowly.



Kody immediately froze.



Looking back on it, he didn't know why, or even how, he just knew that he was ... entranced ... by the other's eyes.



They were a deep, emerald green, and rimmed by gold, as well as flecked with it. It gave the eyes a bright, molten look, but somehow made him look dark. They were set into a small, heart-shaped face, and light brown hair that seemed to shine in the light fell down around it, framing it, jagged from his chin in a slant to the collar of his jacket. Slightly pointed chin, pert, rounded nose.



"What do you want?" Binks asked softly, voice not too high, but not too low, and turned his head to the side, closing his eyes again. His glasses fell, clattering to the ground, but Kody didn't notice.



No, he was... fascinated ...



"If it's money you want, I have some in my pocket." Binks bit his bottom lip. The comment about money didn't even affect Kody. Kody was too busy watching pearly white teeth move over a petal pink lip.



As the first drop of rain finally became more than a drizzle and spattered on Kody's nose, it knocked him back into reality. He decided he didn't like reality as it made him stagger back with a dizzying affect, making him realize that he had been staring like this at another /boy/.



But Binks was so... pretty ...



/AGH!/ Kody thought with disgust. /What the Hell is wrong with me!?/



"Go," he choked out, afraid to say anything else, and fell back against the opposite wall.



Startled, Binks looked up, green eyes unfocused by lack of his glasses.



"FUCKING GO!" Kody shouted, then brought his wrists up to his eyes as he squeezed them shut.



He heard Binks shove his glasses hastily on his nose, stuff his things back into his bookbag, sling it over his shoulder, and hurry off quickly. Once Kody was sure the boy was gone, he slid slowly down the wall, keeping his wrists firmly to his eyes, trying to vanish the green eyes that had somehow been burned into his mind.



"...Fucking..." he muttered as rain began falling down in a pour, immediately soaking him. His spiky hair was sloshed down, falling into his eyes, framing his face. Irritated, he reached up, taking a deep, shaky breath, and wiped the bangs away from his forehead.



Annoyed with himself, he stood to his full height of six foot one, and dusted himself off as best he could--it was kinda hard with the rain. Straightening his clothing, he folded his arms over his chest, bowed his head, shivering a little as the water hit his arms through the fishnet, stinging them, and began shuffling home.



*~*

"I'm home, Mom," Kody called as he stepped into his sad excuse of a house. It was in what was generically known as the 'wrong side of the tracks'. Although, in this city, there were no train tracks. It didn't matter, the title stuck. And Kody was a punk of the 'wrong side'. The house, little more than a shack, stank of smoke, drugs, alcohol, and sex. Kody hated this place.



"Mom?" He looked around. "Must be out getting more booze. Bitch." He slammed the door shut and stalked to his room, where he fell on his worn-out bed and put a pillow over his head. He didn't care if he soaked the bed through.



He hated his life. He hated every day of it. He wanted to die, if the scars on his wrist meant anything.



He closed his eyes, letting out a soft sigh, and curled around one of the other battered pillows. But did anyone care? No, of course not. He was the school bully. It was obvious his life sucked shit, but no... Still no one cared.



He lay silent for a while, listening to the rain pouring outside, but then the anger at his mom and the whore she was left his mind to be replaced by something comforting as he sought for it. Problem was, that comfort came in green-gold eyes.



Kody rolled over onto his back, letting out a frustrated sigh, and folded his arms stubbornly over his chest, nose wrinkling in disgust with himself as he glowered up at the ceiling. Stupid boy. Stupid rain. Stupid mother. Stupid life. Stupid school. Stupid fates. Stupid everything.



"I hate...my life..." he gritted out, as if this would make him feel better. "And now...I'm...thinking about a freakin' /boy/ for Chrissake!" he yelled. He smacked himself over the head, then winced. "Ow...Damnit! This is so /completely/ wrong. I know what it is. I'll just go to sleep. Then I won't have to think about the Binks kid's eyes or my fucking mother when she comes home."



He closed his eyes, blocking out all of his thoughts, though the green-gold eyes went with some difficulty, and let the rain fill the silence of his mind, soothing him to sleep like it had always done when he was a child.



He was walking through a field of wildflowers.



For some reason, it was silent. Even as a gentle breeze came by, rustling the grass and the flowers and the trees far off in the distance, nothing could be heard. He tried listening to his heavy breathing, as if he had been running--his heart was pounding madly in his ribcage and sweat trickled down his brow--but no, that was silent, too.



He was happy. Why, he didn't know. He hadn't been happy in quite a long time. But his heart was soaring, europhia was filling him, running through his veins like blood, and he even let out a wheezy laugh--or at least he thought it was a laugh. He could feel it escaping his lungs, then his lips, but no sound bubbled forth.



"....Kody...." a voice called, piercing through the silence, the only sound heard.



He whirled. Oh.... He was looking for the owner of that voice. He remembered it now!



Panic filled him. How could he have forgotten!?



"....Ko~dy...."



His hands curled at his sides, and then as he felt something slightly coarse, but still somehow soft press against his left palm, he looked down to realize he was holding a bundle of the wildflowers. He lifted them to his nose, inhaling deeply, eyes fluttering closed.



The wind whipped by again. He realized that his hair was down completely, and that he was in nothing but a pair of white robes. Why, he didn't understand. Even his earrings were gone. Nothing was left.



"Kody!" came the voice, filled with panic, more insistent. "Kody, I can't hear you anymore! Kody! I can't find you!" Desperation. "/Kody/!"



He cried out for the other, and a strangled name escaped his lips, but he couldn't make it out admist the pounding of his heart. He began to run, feeling lost without the owner of that voice, knowing that he had to reach it, had to find it, had to feel safe and secure again, had to make them feel safe, feel secure.



He didn't get very far, however.



Suddenly, the flower fields were crumbling away, spreading out from his feet and in a sort of spiral like the ocean withdrawing from a beach, and yet at the same time, its movements were like sand being spread across the desert.



Above, the sky, which had been so blue and cheerful moments before, now became gray, murky, covered with a thin sheen of clouds, the sun peering through them weakly, then disappearing entirely, but it still wasn't quite yet night.



He gasped, whirling around, running forward a bit, then to the left, then to the right. Nothing. This barren sand in a field with grass just barely peaking through spread out for as far as he could see, and no matter how hard he ran, no matter how fast, it wasn't leaving him. It was still there. And the sand even seemed to be shifting, moving, on harsh gusts that still had no sound, until that was all that he could see beneath his feet.



"/Ko~dy/!" came the desperate cry again.



"I'm trying!" he shouted back just as desperately, skidding to a stop and throwing his hands out to his sides, sand flying up around him. "I'm trying to find you! Where are you!?"



He looked down in frustration as only the deafening silence greeted him just in time to see the flowers slowly crumble away like dust, or the ash on a cigarrette being released, and then they were gone.



Now everything was in shades of gray.



Tears stung the backs of his eyes.



"KO~DY!!!"



And that's when he saw it.



A huge shape was flying overhead--he could see its shadow on the ground, certainly massive in all proportions, and quite long. When he looked up, he could barely make it out, it was so blurred. But he could see a tail, wings, and a large snout. And someone was riding it... Someone was riding the dragon.



"Ko~dy!"



"Hey, wait! WAIT!" he cried, running after it, heart hammering against his ribcage in excitement. "Come back!"



The voice was growing fainter and fainter as the dragon flew by, disappearing into the horizon. "Kooo~dddddyyy!"



He threw back his head and arms, arching, and yelled as loud as he could, "WAAAAA~IIIIIITTTTTTTT!"



Kody woke with a cold sweat bathing his body. He shivered and sat upright, pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head vigorously to clear the dream away. Absently he touched his left breast, then left his hand drop. A car was driving away and the front door opened and closed.



Great. That meant the mother of the year was home.



Kody didn't feel like dealing with her right now, so he rolled over and pretended to be asleep as she stepped in to check on him. The rancid stench of beer and pot invaded his room as she came and went. Kody sighed.



~*~

Tanner Binks tossed his bookbag on the bed and stretched, now lighter by about fifty pounds. He smiled slightly and adjusted his large glasses. No one was home. He hadn't expected anyone to be. He unzipped the canvas bag and pulled out a large book labeled 'Chemistry 101' and plopped it upon his richly-finished wooden desk. It paid somewhat to have a successful lawyer for a father. He plundered around some more and pulled out a notebook full of crisp, clean paper, and two sharpened pencils. He arranged everything just so before he plopped down to work.



He opened the book to the chapter and picked up a pencil. It hovered over the paper for a full five minutes before it fell back to the desk.



Tanner sat back and pulled off his wire-rimmed glasses and absently polished them on his shirt hem. He couldn't concentrate. Full red lips and stormy blue eyes haunted his mind. He stared at the book again, as if it had answers before taking up his phone and punching in some numbers.



"Moshi, moshi!" a feminine voice chirped.



Tanner smiled, eyes crinkling as he leaned back in his chair. "Hey, Jessie."



"Oh," came the mock depressed sigh. "It's just /you/."



Tanner's lips twisted into a smirk. "Yes, I know," he replied, putting on a rich, snobby accent. "I'm just so great that you're unbearably jealous. Stand back and admire me while you can before I'm whisked away to the more famous people, dahling," he drawled.



"Well, fuck you, too," she replied good-naturedly.



"Aw, honey, you know I'm not into women," he said with a wistful, exaggerated sigh.



"Too right, too right," she agreed. "Hey, Tanner," she said suddenly.



"Mmm?" Best to let Jessie speak about all she wanted, then start on his own personal problems. Yes, it was a type of ... agreement. Unspoken, but it worked nonetheless.



"I found some hot guys earlier!"



"As a matter of fact..." Tanner paused for effect. "I did, too."



"Ohhhhh?" He could almost /hear/ Jessica wiggling her eyebrows. He just certainly knew she was. "Since when!?"



"Since ah..." Tanner cleared his throat lightly. It was now or never. He took a deep breath--/here goes nothing/--then let it out all in a rush. "Since this afternoon on the way home."



"Ooh! Describe, describe!" she chirped.



He giggled a little. "Dreamy eyes. They're a stormy blue, like the deepest parts of the ocean," he recited, as if reading from a romance novel--you wouldn't /believe/ how much he had stacked on shelves in his huge closet--but it was coming... from somewhere within him. He could admit to himself that he hadn't felt this captivated by somebody in a long, long time. "And...His hair...It's like obsidian. The color, I mean," he added hastily before Jessica could slip in a teasing comment. "And he's so..." Tanner smiled wistfully. "He's so /gorgeous/."



"Mmm, sounds dreamy," Jessica agreed. "And?"



"And......." He sighed again, shouldering the phone and taking off his glasses, rubbing them once more absentmindedly on the hem of his shirt--old habits die hard. "Hm...He's...Well..." He tried the light-hearted, cheerful, casual approach. "He's Kody Johansen."



"NANI!?" came the immediate screech from the girl who had grown up with a Japanese mother and American father. "/Excuse/ me!?"



Tanner chuckled weakly, but his heart wasn't really in it. In fact, seconds later it became dry, then died in his throat. He replaced his glasses, then picked up a pencil, idly rolling it around his notebook.



He heard Jessica inhale a deep breath, then slowly let it out. "Okay, let me get this straight... Are we talking about /the/ Kody Johansen?"



"That depends on your definition," he replied immediately. "I mean, if you get technical, there are several Kody Johansen's somewhere in this world, so when you say 'the Kody Johansen' you really have to be more specific."



"Oh, don't be a smart-ass, Tanner," she snapped.



He sighed. "Sorry. Was I rambling again?"



"Quite obviously." She snorted derisively.



He grinned wryly, then crossed his legs, placing his hand on his ankle, and stared up at the ceiling. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "Anyway, yes, I openly admit, it was Kody Johansen."



"You're suicidal."



"No." Tanner's lips curled up into a wistful smile. "I do believe I have a crush."



"How'd this happen, anyway?" He could imagine Jessie pacing her room by now, ranting in her mind, and if she wasn't on the phone with him, she'd be mumbling under her breath.



"He jumped me in an alleway on the way home," Tanner replied casually, staring at the pencil on the desk.



"Oh, /that's/ so romantic," she replied, voice dripping with sarcasm, voice like venom, then added, "Hey, and what have I told you about going down the slums to home!?"



"Ummm..." He pursed his lips, raising his eyebrows. "Don't?"



"That's damn straight! And now look what's happened, you could've--"



"But I didn't," Tanner cut in before she could go off on a ramble that could literally take for hours. "I mean..." He hastened to explain as she paused, eyes no doubt narrowing suspiciously--he knew his Jessie-chan well, he thought with a bright smile, "He jumped me but...that's just it," he finished lamely.



"That's just it?" Jessica huffed. "He jumped you and that's just it!?"



"Yes." Tanner nodded, as well. "He jumped me, stared at me, then staggered away and told me to go away. So I did. Pretty quickly, too, I must say--I /am/ lugging around a fifty-ton bookbag, after all."



Jessica heaved a sigh, then was silent for a few moments. Finally, she spoke, albeit stiffly, "Look, Tan-man, I have to go," she announced, calling him by the nick-name she had given him years ago, "Talk to me tomorrow, okay? Then we'll get straight down to business about ... well ... /this/. Call Natalie."



"Okay."



"Um..." She sighed. "Good luck tonight... And, ah... Love you," she said softly.



He smiled. "Love you, too, Jessie. Goodnight."



"Ja."



'Click'.



The dial tone rang in his ears.



Coughing, he quickly punched in a few more numbers, then placed the phone back to his ear.



"Hello," came a drawl, "This is the Plowden Residence."



Tanner winced. He remembered Natalie's rich, snooty mother. She didn't like him very much, either. Then again, she didn't like much of anybody, even her husband, but apparently she felt particularly murderous whenever she saw Tanner, like a mother hawk. Considering Tanner had gone out with Natalie, but it hadn't worked out--for obvious reasons. That, and he had also gone out with Jessie, and Mrs. Plowden didn't like Jessie too much, either, so that only made matters worse. Why go out with her daughter's best friend and then her daughter? Mrs. Plowden /really/ loathed him. Plus, he had his suspicions that she knew something was up with him.



Oh, she had no idea.



"Hello," he returned politely, "May I please speak with Natalie?"



A pause. She was probably trying to discern who was on the other end of the phone line. "....Hold on a minute."



He waited a few moments, and then a dull voice said "I've got it" with a deep sigh, and then finally, "Hello?"



"Hey, Nattie," he said cheerfully.



"Oh, hey, Tanner," she chirped. "Sup?"



He smiled. "Ah... I just got off the phone with Jessie..."



"Oh?" He could almost see her in his mind, standing there and blinking.



"Yes... I hope you take this a lot better than she did, but ..." He cleared his throat, then made himself comfortable. "Well..." And he proceeded to tell her exactly what he had told Jessica, starting off with the fact that he had met a new boy that day, and how dreamy he was. When Natalie agreed and began to question if he knew whom this dream-boy was, Tanner helpfully supplied the information, if not a bit hesitantly. When he was finished, there was a long moment of silence.



"Tanner?"



"Yes?"



"Don't move."



"....Why?"



"Because I'll be right over and I'm going to kill you." All of this was said in an amazingly calm voice. Tanner wasn't fooled.



"Well, I've... gotta go! Yeah. Dad's calling me. I'll be right there, Dad!!"



"Oh, don't you dare hang up on me."



"Eep." Tanner swallowed hard and took a deep breath to steady himself. And they wondered why he was gay. Women were just too scarey! "Natalie, look it's fine. He didn't hurt me-"



"That's not the point."



"... It isn't?"



"No. The point is you're going to stay away from him."



"But--"



"No buts Tanner, but yours if you don't listen to me! He's trouble, do you hear? He'll hurt you. Physically, emotionally... You stay away from him."



"He won't hurt me."



"You don't know that."



"Yes, I do."



"How? Because he let you go once? He could be playing with you, or or or... I don't know! Just don't go near him." There was a pause. "What? Now? But--!! Oh, fine. I've gotta go. The wicked witch of westside wants the phone. Listen to my advice, Tanner, I'm just trying to look out for you." There was a click and Tanner was left alone to his thoughts once again.



He sighed and picked up his pencil. But he didn't do his homework. He doodled on his paper, the first time ever he skipped his work. He drew a face. A face with stormy eyes, full lips, and ebony hair.



And then, quite suddenly, he was gripping his pencil like he did a paintbrush. Studying the paper closely, he brought the pencil out in great, long strokes, then shaded a little with it. After a few moments of drawing something he saw only in his mind, inspired as if he had never been before, he stuck his tongue into his cheek, eyes narrowing behind his glasses.



He could hear the tick-tock of his expensive clock on his dresser, but even after a few moments, that was drowned out. He could hear the roar of a great, massive, beautiful creature in his mind, and that deep, silky laughter he had heard earlier outside of the library when he had fallen. Stormy eyes crossed his vision, and then he was erasing, sketching all over again, concentrating so hard. The picture had to be right, it had to be perfect, it couldn't be anything less, that just wasn't required, if it was it would be /nothing/, absolutely /nothing/.



At last, Tanner sat back and examined his work.



An Eastern dragon peered back up from the paper at him, eyes resembling a certain boy's, mane raven, scales that would have been the same stormy color of the eyes. It was looking as if it was crawling up something, claws curled in, eyes narrowed and looking over its shoulder, and it looked as if it was about ready to come off the page, alive, but at the same time, it was just a drawing.



An absolutely breath-taking drawing.



And it reminded him of Kody.