AN: Well, a new story. Gah, I really need to work on finishing stuff I've already started. But anyways, this is my break from Changelings (the next chapter for that should be out sometime soon, I'm almost done but can't figure out where to leave it) Please read and review, and let me know what you think! Thanks!

Warnings: Shounen-ai, scary stuff, death.the usual. None of this is yet, of course.

And on to the story!

Perceptions

By Kendall Schmierer

Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted.
Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.
-Hans Margolius

Chapter one:

Vincent, California in early September was often described by those who lived there as Satan's personal frying pan. Those who lived in the town during the summer months were commonly referred to as Scrambled Eggs, because no one who wasn't a little bit scrambled in the head would even consider staying. Addison Fairchild watched the dusty town pass by dully as he pressed his forehead against the cracked window of the bus he rode in hopes that the glass would be somewhat cooler than the interior of the bus. He pulled back a moment later, however, as the glass proved to be the exact opposite.

Addison heaved a large sigh, wincing uncomfortably as the hot plastic seat covering stuck to the backs of his knees when he shifted, and wondered for the fifth time in as many minutes why he had ever chosen to attend Lexington University, which was just ten miles or so away from Vincent, California. Even more he wondered what had made him return to it for his second year after a summer vacationing in his home state of Oregon, which was blessedly cool in comparison.

I've got to be as scrambled as the rest of them, he thought, letting his head loll back against the back of the bus seat. That's the only answer for it. Addison looked out the window once more. The bus was an old one; its windows had cracked under the heat's pressure, creating intricate spidery trails that bounced and refracted the light pouring through the glass until he had to squint to even see though it. It was beautiful, but only served to make him hotter. He sighed again as the bus slowed to a stop at the bus station in Vincent, relieved he had finally reached his destination. He knew of several cafes that were air-conditioned as the bus was not, and he was looking forward to a cold drink in a way that bordered on insane in and of itself.

Addison eagerly filed off the bus along with its few other occupants, squinting and wishing for his sunglasses as he stepped out into the blinding sun. Moving to the side as those waiting at the station moved onto the bus, he dug through his backpack to find them, mentally going over his plan as he did so. First he would stop by Antonio's Café, his favorite Italian place because of its cheap prices and Italian Ices. It also had the added advantage of being less than a block away. There he could use the phone to call up one of his friends to pick him up and bring him back to the college campus. Addison had a feeling that if he spent one more moment on a bus, he could no longer be responsible for his actions. Happy with his plan, he slipped his now found sunglasses onto his nose.

It was then that he noticed a boy sitting on the ground in the meager shade of a bench. He was sitting in an awkward position, one knee up with his chin resting on it and one arm curled around it. The other arm clung loosely to a battered black messenger bag. The boy's eyes were closed; Addison stared for a long moment, marveling that anyone could manage to sleep in this kind of heat.

Finally the sound of the bus starting up behind him jerked him out of his daze. Glancing around and seeing no one else around, he hesitantly walked over to the kid, glancing over his shoulder as the bus began to move. Biting his lip, he nudged the boy carefully with one foot.

"Uh, kid?" he asked hesitantly. When the boy didn't reply, he leaned over to shake him by the shoulder lightly. "Hey, kid, I think your bus is leaving."

The boy stirred slowly, raising his chin and blinking sluggishly. "Hmm?" he murmured, first staring sleepily at Addison's hand on his shoulder, then up at Addison's face. Addison blinked back at him in surprise, staring at eyes that were a peculiar color of brown, so light it would have been more accurate to label them as amber. Idly he noticed a silver cross-shaped scar between the boy's thin eyebrows. He saw the exact moment when his words hit the boy; the strange colored eyes widened as he glanced around him frantically as if suddenly realizing where he was. The boy looked back at Addison, lips twisting in confusion. Addison sighed, raising one eyebrow.

"It went that way," he stated flatly, pointing over his shoulder in the direction of the bus, which was just reaching the corner to turn onto the main streets of the town.

The boy gave a light gasp as his eyes lit on the disappearing bus and rocketed to his feet, rudely pushing Addison onto his butt. He dodged past him without apology, yelling and waving him arms crazily as he chased after the bus. Addison glared after the kid and rubbed his bruised tailbone balefully. Muttering a few obscenities, he turned away, only to be confronted with a tattered black messenger bag that lay forgotten on the pavement. Growling, he jumped to his own feet and grabbed up the bag. "Wait!" he yelled after the boy, "You forgot your." he trailed off as he realized the boy had already disappeared out of sight. He groaned lightly, letting the arm holding the bag drop dejectedly to his side. ".bag." He finished the sentence quietly. He looked down in frustration. "Damn it!"

Addison stood there for a moment more, wondering what to do before the heat hit him once again, bringing with it a slight dizzy spell. Angrily, he wiped sweaty blue dyed bangs from his forehead and cursed again. With another sigh he set off towards Antonio's Café, deciding that it would be much more comfortable to figure out what to do next when he wasn't about to keel over from heat stroke. With the luck he was having that day, that's exactly what would happen.

__________

Addison nearly proclaimed Antonio a saint as he stepped in the wonderfully cool interior of Antonio's Café. The man never stinted on air conditioning in the summer, nor on heating in the winter when it grew nearly as cold as it was hot in the summer months. Because of this, along with good food and decent pricing, Antonio' café was nearly always crowded with business.

There were quite a few people in the small café now as Addison stepped inside it, many of them college students enjoying their last few days before fall sessions began. After calling his room mate, Jared (or J.R., as he preferred to be called), and cajoling him into picking him up, Addison sat himself at a table near the window, plopping the forgotten messenger bag into the seat across from him as a waitress with thick black shoulder length hair asked him for his order. He smiled up at her; he didn't recognize her, so she had obviously started working sometime over the summer. She looked a year or two younger than him, and her smile was shy as she waited for him to speak. The nametag on her apron read Sammy. "I'll have a strawberry Italian Ice, please," he said, already salivating in anticipation over the treat. J.R. claimed Addison had an obsessive addiction to the ices, and he wasn't arguing with his friend.

The waitress's smile turned apologetic. "It might be a little while," she cautioned him, gesturing to the rest of the tables, most of which were filled. "We're having a bit of a back up. We're restocking as we speak." Addison nodded, resisting the urge to groan, and ordered a large ice water for while he was waiting. The girl nodded and left to get him that.

After she had brought it and left again, Addison leaned his elbows on the tabletop and dropped his chin into his palms, closing his eyes to better enjoy the cold wafts of air that occasionally blew across him. Slowly though, almost as if his eyes were magnetized, they opened again and he found himself staring at the bag the boy at the bus station had left behind. It seemed to call to him, pleading to be opened.

No, that would just be your curiosity kicking in, the more practical side of his brain kicked in. Addison frowned pensively. Nah, he decided firmly, it's calling to me. "I shouldn't," he murmured, not sure if he was speaking to himself or the bag. "It would be like violating you." He shook his head slightly. "I know you want me to but." he paused a moment, grinning, then shook his head more forcefully. "Don't go looking at me like that!"

Behind him he heard a soft voice murmur "Sir?" with confusion. He ignored it, continuing his mock conversation.

"I do have some morals you know. Ethics. I can't just -- "

The voice behind him was louder this time. "Um.sir?" With a sigh of impatience, he turned to the speaker. It was the waitress again, a pitcher of ice water clutched to her chest as she stared at him with wide brown eyes.

"Yes?" he asked, thoroughly enjoying her confusion. He laced his fingers together under his chin and smiled up at her innocently. She gave him a wary look, as if not quite sure what to make of the situation.

"Are you aware that's a bag you're talking to?" she asked hesitantly. He grinned.

"Of course," he said, teasing her a bit. "Now could you please bring me a booster chair? The table's a little big for dear old Fred."

There was a long silence as the waitress stared at him incredulously and he smiled back at her. Finally he sighed and rolled his eyes. "I was kidding," he said flatly.

The girl sucked in one side of her cheek as if trying to suppress a smile. She ducked her head a bit, peeking out at him from behind thick black bangs. "That's good, sir," she said in her soft voice, "Otherwise you might have really started scaring the other customers." Addison smirked with delight. So she could take a joke after all. She held out the pitcher of water invitingly. "Would you like a refill?" He nodded. After filling his glass and promising to deliver his strawberry ice soon, she left again. He didn't notice her glancing surreptitiously over her shoulder at him, as his concentration was once more focused on the bag.

Well, I have to find out who it belongs to, one part of his mind whispered. The more cynical part replied back that it was just an excuse to satisfy his curiosity. The bag had been annoyingly heavy. After debating it several more moments, Addison stood swiftly, snatching the bag and bringing it over to his side of the table. "Screw ethics," he muttered, and unclasped the front flap of the bag.

The first thing he pulled out was books; they took up the majority of the space in the bag. That made sense: it was a college town, after all, though the kid had looked a little young to be attending Lexington University. Idly, he turned the books over to read their spines, and his eyebrows rose. "'A Medium's Guide to Protecting Yourself', '101 Protective Herbs and Stones', 'Histoire l'Occult'?" he murmured the names out loud, eyebrows quirking up just a bit higher with each title. "Oookay, I guess he's one of those people." The boy had been wearing black in spite of the heat, but he hadn't struck Addison as the morbid type.

Addison mentally smacked the thought away. Quit stereotyping, he admonished himself, setting the books on the table. Magic books don't equal morbid. Just look at Grandma Lynn.

In fact, those books wouldn't have been much out of place on his Grandmother Lynn's book shelf. As a child he had been intrigued by the strange books, spices and baubles that littered his grandmother's house and she had been happy to teach him about them. His favorite past time as a child had been listening to her spin tales about modern people with strange abilities, and other worlds where magic was more than just sleight of hand. His mother had tolerated it until he had come home one day raving on about auras and how he could see them. She had calmly sat him down and explained that it was nothing more than a minor defect in the way his eyes processed light and that there was nothing otherworldly about it. That night he had heard his mom and Grandma Lynn fighting downstairs, and soon after that the stories had stopped.

Addison mentally shook himself and focused back on the bag, which was still relatively heavy on his lap. Reaching in again, expecting to come across pens, pencils, and other miscellanea often toted around by students, he was once again surprised by what he pulled out.

Not books this time, but pendants, all hooked together on one long piece of twine, looking vaguely like the strings of key chains his little sister collected. He flicked the thing in bewilderment, setting off a tinkling metallic sound. Luck charms, he thought, perturbed. Many of them he recognized easily; a pale white rabbit's foot, a miniature iron horseshoe, a golden four-leaf clover, a tiny satchel with a minutely stitched prayer and sweet smelling herbs emanating from it. There was a pentagram, a cat's cradle and dream catcher, an ankh, and a silver cross as well. Others he wasn't so familiar with, but had a feeling amounted to the same thing as the others. A bronze coin with strange symbols on it and a hole in the middle, a thin jade amulet with kanji engraved on it, a vaguely Egyptian looking eye, and many others. The string glittered in the summer sun.

"Looks like someone is slightly paranoid," said a jovial voice to Addison's side. He jerked reflexively, dropping the good luck charms. They landed back in the bag, clinking quietly. He glared at the person who was busy occupying the chair the bag had sat in before.

"Christ, J.R. Don't sneak up on me like that," he snapped, placing a hand over his heart in an overly dramatic way. In spite of the jolt, a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

Jared Rivers, English major and Addison's room mate, was the kind of person who made you smile just by being there. Sprawling, long limbed, and with perpetually disheveled hair the color of the Sahara, he gave off the image of a lazy and amused lion. The metaphor fit him; he was fond of telling people that all that was needed to make him happy was 'a quick joke and a long Saturday morning spent in bed.' Preferably with someone else occupying said bed with him, as Addison had quickly found out. But in spite of J.R.'s rather promiscuous bed habits, he was a good room mate. The fact that he had come down to pick Addison up in spite of the tire melting heat proved it.

Now J.R. leaned over to nudge the books sitting on the tiny table with one finger and raised one amused eyebrow at Addison. "New hobby?" he asked curiously. "Does it go along with the new hairdo?" Addison shook his head, grinning easily at his friend. He grabbed a chunk of his hair and look up at the blue strands trapped between his fingers. In an effort to annoy his straight-laced mother, he had dyed his bangs electric blue. He had left the rest its original dirty blonde color; no need to give her a heart attack.

"Mom shock," he said shortly with a shrug. "And the books aren't mine." He quickly explained the bus stop incident. By that time the waitress had returned with his Ice and he took it eagerly from her, thanking her profusely. Blushing, she turned to J.R. and hesitantly asked if he would like anything. Addison buried a groan in his strawberry Ice as J.R. went into full flirt mode, smiling sweetly at the girl and fluttering his eyelashes.

"Well, Sammy," he drawled, letting his eyes linger on the nametag clasped to her right breast for far longer than was necessary, "If Addy here will be so kind as to share his Ice with me." Here Addison clutched the Styrofoam cup protectively to himself and growled warningly. J.R. smiled amiably back and ignored the growl. "I'll just have a coke." Nodding and looking vaguely uncomfortable under the attention, Sammy practically fled back to the kitchen. After watching her leave appreciatively, he turned back to Addison, smile still in place. "Well?" he asked, holding out a hand and beckoning for the Ice. "Aren't you going to give me some?"

"In your dreams, you letch," Addison mumbled through strawberry flavored ice paste. J.R.'s smile turned pleading.

"Oh come on, after I drove all the way down here just to pick you up?" he wheedled.

"It's only ten miles," Addison pointed out, but begrudgingly handed over the treat. J.R. smiled smugly and took a big bite, leaning back in his seat.

"So have you figured out who bus-chasing-pagan boy is yet?" he asked, gesturing to the books and bag with his plastic spoon. Addison shook his head.

"Can't find a wallet," he said, shrugging.

"Did you check the front pouch?"

Addison stared at his friend blankly, resisting the urge to let his head thunk down on the tabletop. "No." J.R. gave him a knowing look. "Would you believe me if I said I didn't think of that?" he said, looking shifty-eyed. His friend shook his head, taking another bite. "Well I didn't," he muttered, defending himself quietly. Instead of waiting for the sarcastic reply that was sure to come, he busied himself with unzipping the front part of the flap. Sure enough, there was a wallet tucked inside, along with some keys that were disappointingly devoid of any more good luck charms and the pens and pencils that he had been expecting before. He held up the wallet sheepishly.

J.R. exchanged the wallet for the Ice, opening eagerly in a way that said he was every bit as curious as Addison. Resolutely ignoring the coughed 'hypocrite' that came from Addison, he flipped it open.

Only to flip it shut again as Sammy came back with his coke. He waited until she left before opening it again and proclaiming, "Alright, let's see which nutcase's bag you stole."

"I didn't steal it," Addison said sulkily before taking a bit of the ice, but left it at that. His room mate was just teasing.

"Let's see," J.R. said, rifling through it. "Couple 'a pictures, a receipt or two, ooh, some money! Think he'd mind if I borrowed some?" He grinned unrepentantly at Addison's snort before turning back to the wallet. "No driver's license but.aha!" He pulled out a laminated card and brandished it at Addison. "Lexington University ID card. Looks like our little bus-stop sleeper will be a freshman this year at our dear school. Poor kid."

Addison set down his Ice cup and snatched the out held ID card to study. Sure enough, it was their school's ID, tinted blue to proclaim to all the world that it was a freshman's. When he got his own for this year, it would be green to show he was a sophomore. As a junior, J.R's was red, and seniors had an ugly yellow color that the school claimed was gold.

Addison focused on the name printed at the bottom underneath a picture of the boy he had seen earlier looking startled. "Charlemagne Montoyage," he read aloud, dredging up his year of high school French for pronunciation. He made a face. "Now that's a mouthful."

J.R. laughed. "No wonder the kid's sleeping at the bus station," he said. "I wouldn't want to spend another minute under the roof of parents who would name their kid after some dead conqueror."

"I'm surprised you even know who Charlemagne was," Addison quipped mildly. He continued before his room mate could reply. "Anyways, that gives us enough information to figure out how to get it to him. Most of the freshmen dorm in Caldwell Building." He handed the ID back and set about packing the books back into the bag, trying self-consciously to remember what order they had been in. He didn't particularly want this Charlemagne to know he had been peeking through his stuff.

"If he's even doing the rooming on campus thing," J.R. pointed out. "But we can deal with that later. Right now I want to enjoy my coke and air conditioning and your strawberry Ice."

Addison scowled as J.R. snatched the Styrofoam cup out of his hand. "Fine, but you're splitting the cost with me," he threatened. J.R. simply smiled.

"Consider this gas money."

___________

"I'm telling you, the blue-haired freak stole my bag!"

The bus driver glanced skeptically at the diminutive boy standing by the change box, looking thoroughly exasperated. At this point the bus driver was feeling fairly exasperated himself.

"Look kid, you could at least do me the service of coming up with a more believable lie. Blue haired freak? I wasn't born yesterday, ya know." The boy looked at him and mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like 'I can tell'.

"Look, I'm not lying Mr." the boy floundered but before the driver could supply a name, he continued with, "Mr. Bus Driver Man. It was hot so I dozed off and the next thing I know some guy with blue hair is shaking me awake and telling me the bus is leaving so I run after it but then I realize I forgot my bag so when I go back to get it it's gone and I just know Blue Hair took it!" The boy let his hands drop back to his sides and took a deep breath. The bus driver looked at him, impressed with the hurried and rambling explanation, complete with hand gestures. "And that's why I don't have the money to pay for a ride. Please, take mercy. It is hotter than Satan's tabasco burned mouth out there, and I really don't want to walk the ten miles to the college." The bus driver looked over the kid's shoulder at the disgruntled passengers still waiting out in the said Satan's mouth, and then sighed, relenting.

"Alright, alright. Just get on the damn bus already. You're making me late."

The boy gave him a grateful grin. "Thank you, thank you, thank you! I promise I'll pay double or something next time I get on."

"Whatever, kid, just move." The boy started, then throwing one last bashful smile over his shoulder, moved down the narrow isle to a seat near the back. Shaking his head, the driver received the money of the next passenger, muttering. "I swear, these college kids get crazier by the year."

__________

Charlemagne Montoyage was not in a good mood. Heat tended to do that to him, but the events of the past hour or so had definitely not helped. "Two days out and already bad luck is piling up like mud on boots," he muttered darkly to himself, shoving his hands into his shorts pockets and shuffling along across the campus to where the dorm rooms were. Shuffling was about he could manage; the heat smothered him like a wool blanket, weighing down his steps, and his throat felt like a tarantula was lodged there he was so thirsty. His energy had given out sometime after he realized the bus he was riding on was hotter than it was outside. "Stupid to wear black, too," he continued, looking woefully at his black tank top and shorts, both of which were sticking uncomfortably to his skin. "Last time I color coordinate with a bag that's just going to get stolen anyways."

He glanced up at the sound of a soft chuckle to his right, and saw a pretty girl a few years older than him smiling at him. "And here I thought only girls worried about color coordinating," she said, smiling coyly.

He blinked at her, but didn't respond. Instead he glanced around at the few other students plodding past them. One or two of them glanced at him curiously, but none of them noticed the pretty girl; it was as if she wasn't there. Suddenly weariness enwrapped him in a cloud of depression and he sighed heavily, wrapping a hand absently around the pendant that hung on a silver necklace around his neck and turning away.

"Just leave me alone," he said lowly, and started walking again, mustering up enough strength to move a little faster. After a few minutes, he slowed again and glanced over his shoulder, relaxing when he saw she hadn't followed him. Biting his lip, he walked the last few yards to Caldwell building, where his dorm room was. It wasn't until he got to his dorm door that he realized that in a fit of paranoia he had locked it before he had gone exploring. He groaned and banged his head against the wood door. The keys were in his bag along with his money and everything else.

He wanted to scream. He would have screamed too, if he hadn't bit down on his knuckle to stop it. Instead he stood there with his head against the door cursing quietly and damning himself for locking the door. So consumed was he with his quiet diatribe, he didn't hear the sound of the door unlocking, nor the movement of the knob as it turned.

As such, when the door opened under him he fell forwards with a squawk of surprise and landed in an ungraceful heap just inside the door.

Slowly he lifted his head up, eyes trailing up a pair of jean-clad legs. He couldn't see the face. With a groan, he put his hands underneath him and pulled himself up to his knees. "Oh. Right," he muttered, not bothering to stand up fully, resorting instead to crawling across the floor to the bed he had claimed as his. It wasn't as if he could embarrass himself further after all, might as well reap the benefits. He pulled himself up onto the bed. "I have a room mate. Spiffy."

He turned around, ready to face said room mate, but instead found himself staring in blank-eyed bewilderment.

The jean-clad legs belonged to an African American girl with curvy hips and curvier lips, her eyes twinkling merrily. Her hair, caught up in hundreds of tiny braids clinked softly as the silver beads on the ends moved when she cocked her head at him curiously. Surprised, he said the first thing that came to mind. Unfortunately for him, first thoughts are rarely if ever stellar examples of human intelligence.

"You're a girl."

The girl blinked in surprise and looked down at herself. "Uh, yes, last time I checked," she said in a droll voice. "And you're a boy, correct?"

It was his turn to blink. "Of course I am," he snapped, cheeks heating. Sheesh, just because a person's short, people automatically assume there's something feminine about them, he thought. The girl raised eyebrows and hands in a placating gesture.

"No need to get all sniffy about it, I was just teasing."

Sighing, he sat back down on the bed. "Sorry," he said. "Heat. Makes me cranky. So does being confused. Are you my room mate?"

He could have sworn she was leering at him as she winked. "Sure."

He gave her a dubious look. "I didn't think that they did co-ed dorming. Isn't that kinda."

"Scintillating? Exciting? Fun, fun, fun?" she suggestion, eyes still sparkling. He frowned.

"Irresponsible," he finished. The girl's smile turned into a pout.

"You know," she said, crossing her arms. "You're not as fun as they say you are."

He had been looking at the door idly, wondering how to get past her so he could see if he really did have a female room mate. At her statement though, he turned to look at her sharply.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, eyes narrowing on her as a suspicion began to form in his head. She looked flustered for a moment, then recovered.

"I mean that.I mean, aren't college boys supposed to be all about the booze and sex?" she asked. To his ears it came out rather weak.

He stood up slowly and came closer to her, peering at her suspiciously. "What's you name?" he asked. She looked a little nervous but tilted her chin defiantly.

"Pippin," she said, watching him as he circled her. "Like the hobbit, you know? My mom liked the Lord of the Rings. One of those loonies. Do you like Lord of the Rings?"

"No," he said shortly. "Have you ever been in a car accident?"

"Nope!" she said. Her smile was frozen in place. "Why?" He ignored the question.

"Alcohol poisoning?"

"Er.no."

He closed his eyes briefly, steeling himself. If he was right, then his next question wouldn't matter. If he wasn't.well, it was hardly the first time he had been called crazy. He stopped in front of her and stared her directly in the eyes.

"Pippin, are you--"

"Um, who are you talking to?"

Charlemagne yelped and spun around, heart pounding as he stared at the two strange boys in his doorway. Then his eyes narrowed. "You!" he said, pointing a finger at the foremost one. The one with blue bangs. The boy blinked, looking completely confused.

"Er, then my name's not Pippin," he said slowly. Charlemagne shook his head.

"I know that," he snapped, " I was talking to." he cut off mid sentence, turning to the girl. She smiled at him, but there was a distinctly sheepish look to it. He looked back at the two boys, then back at her. He was suddenly furious. "You are!" he hissed at her. She shrugged guiltily. Noticing the looks on the two boy's faces, he wisely shut his mouth and turned back to them. "I didn't mean that I was talking to you," he said to the blue-haired boy, gritting his teeth. "I meant that you're the one who took my bag."

Both of the boys, who looked to be a year or two older than him, were still looking unnerved. He didn't blame them. Still, the blue-banged one took a step into the room.

"Um, yeah. I didn't mean to take it," he said, then held the bag out in front of him like an offering. It looked none the worse for the kidnapping. "But I'm returning it now. You're Charlemagne Montoyage, right?"

He winced at the use of his full name. Behind him he heard Pippin repeating the name, ending with a 'wow'. He half turned to snap at her before remembering the two boys and turning back around. Now they were really giving him weird looks.

"Yeah, that's me. But I prefer 'Charm', if you don't mind." The boy behind Blue Hair muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'that's appropriate'. Charm frowned at the lion like boy. The boy simply smiled back.

"So Charm," he said, drawling his name and stepping forward. "Who were you talking to?"

Charm blinked at them, keeping his face neutral. "My imaginary friend Bozo," he deadpanned. "She's a five foot tall fink."

"I get the feeling that you're a bit disgruntled," said Pippin. This time he managed not to take his eyes off the two boys in front of him.

There was a moment of awkward silence. "I thought its name was Pippin?" said Blue Hair, scratching his head.

Lion Boy laughed, shaking his head. "Jesus, Addy, you really do pick the crazy ones," he said to Blue Hair. Charm narrowed his eyes, but then decided to play it up for all it was worth. Anything to get them out of there so he could ream Pippin.

"That's me," he said jovially, spreading his arms. "Crack-baby crazy. I could give you some real good recommendations for mental institutions, if you'd like."

Blue Hair winced. "J.R. didn't mean it like that," he said. "I just have this habit of meeting rather interesting individuals is all. My name is Addison Fairchild, by the way, and this is Jared Rivers."

"J.R.," said Lion Boy, looking somewhat contrite. Blue-haired Addison held out a hand. Charm took a deep breath, then reluctantly took the boy's hand.

For just a split second, Addison's gray eyes widened. They flickered to the spot where Charm knew Pippin was standing, and he frowned. Before he could open his mouth though, Charm dropped the hand. Addison blinked rapidly for a moment or two, staring hard at that place. Okay, weird, Charm thought. He didn't see her did he? Addison shook his head as if trying to clear it, the vestiges of a frown still on his face.

"Okay, well, nice meeting you," he said smiling brightly. "And welcome to the campus." He shoved the bag into Charm's hand. "Maybe we'll see you again." He turned to leave. J.R. looked a bit confused at his friend's abruptness, but seemed to shrug it off.

"Hmm.We'll leave you to get back to your talk with Bozo, then," he said, throwing a wink over his shoulder as he turned to leave. Charm bit his tongue, then smiled sweetly.

"Bye Jared. Oh, and let me know if you want to take me up on that offer. I know a real good two for one shrink deal," he intoned cheerfully. J.R. paused.

"Sure Charlemagne," he replied. "I'll let you know."

He closed the door behind them.

Charm turned to Pippin, brows lowered ominously. "You're dead," he stated.

Pippin looked shifty-eyed. "I can explain." He cut her off.

"You're dead, and I can see your spirit for all kinds of screwed up reasons, only no one else can so everyone will think I'm crazy. Am I right?"

She smiled at him and touched his nose lightly with one cold, insubstantial finger. "Bingo."

Charm let his legs fall out from under him, landing cross-legged on the floor.

"That was graceful," Pippin said, looking down at him. Charm glared up at her.

"It wasn't meant to be," he said irritably. "It was a flump. When you flump to the floor, it isn't supposed to be ballet."

Pippin shook her head and crouched next to him. "I didn't mean that, I meant that whole episode with the two guys. Two very cute guys, I might add."

"Oh," he said weakly, then dropped his head into his hands.

"Why didn't you just tell them the truth?" she asked.

"What was I supposed to say?" he snapped, suddenly angry. "That I was talking to the dead spirit of some black girl who, by the way, thinks you're hot?"

Pippin shrugged, unfazed. "Why not? Worked for the little kid in that movie, didn't it? And it's the truth." Charm dropped his head back into his hands, suddenly wanting to cry.

Yeah, he thought miserably, but I don't want it to be.

*~*~*~*~*

Well, that's the first chapter! I actually have the first four written, but two are very short. The fifth one is in the works. Please let me know what you think of this! You have no idea how happy you will make this poor college author! (well, if you write too, then you do know, but that means you should want to review more!) Love to all!

Kae