(You Should Listen To This As You Read: "Slow Hands" by Interpol. "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson. "Friend Of Mine" by The National. "You'll Find A Way" by Santogold. "Steppin' Stone" by The Monkees. "Make It Rain" by Tom Waits. "Devil You Know" by Pinback. "Our Town" by Willy Mason. "Destroy Everything You Touch" by Ladytron. "Paper Planes" by MIA.)

(Blood On Our Sneakers)
(Chapter 6)(Is That A Guitar Or A Machine Gun?)

Aberforth was full of smoke, hipsters and egotistical elitism — the toes of candy colored sneakers dancing to the musical irony of Hey Scenesters while simultaneously shunning other footwear for being the allegorical equivalent of beige. Their feet demanded respect and their dance moves requested you not to judge them for things they never learned how to do. This was the breeding ground for the underground and it was full capacity with modern day Madonnas and hopelessly cavalier revolutionaries with tight pants and time-bomb hands.

There was something eloquent about their desperation to find something to call their own. They seemed so convinced it was here, that it was waiting for them in this dank basement with cement floors and girls who moved like aspiring pole dancers with amateur hips. Their melodramatic movements swung through their bodies, spinning their veins around in a cyclonic whir of limbs and haphazard collisions.

The scene held no appeal for Jacklyn. She couldn't even bring herself to fake interest in their self-righteous suburban egotism — she possessed enough of that for all of them. It just wasn't as entertaining a trait in other people.

Tension was strung tight between her shoulder blades — she was the only person here not looking forward to seeing Conor play. There had to be something wrong with the intrinsic nature of the hoi polloi who filled this room for them to not only want to see the musical tragedy that was about to occur, but to be desperate for it.

"Conor!" Jacklyn jolted in surprise against the arm Holden had casually slung around her shoulders as a portly man — the club owner — slapped a beefy hand on Conor's back. He meant well by the gesture, but it still caused the thin rail of a boy to stumble against its weight. The man was built like a brick and Conor was all fragile limbs and eggshell emotions, "it's good to see you back here, kid. I was wondering how long it would take to convince you to do another show. We were all thinking we would never see you again. Where have you been?"

Conor's pale lips gave a little frown as he slouched under the attention. "I hadn't," he paused while searching for the right wording, "had anything to write about for a while." His discomfort was obvious from his pigeon-toed feet to his not-so-subtle refusal of eye contact.

This awkward behavior had been going on since before they'd even left Britt. He'd been quieter than the gentle hum of Galileo's car the entire drive there, sitting silent in the front seat as his back and forth expressions of indecisive smiles and hesitant frowns dueled for control of his mouth. Smith had attempted to pry into his emotional disarray, but to no avail. Conor seemed to have taken a vow of silence and had been completely uninterested in breaking it until now.

The man just laughed and walked away, mumbling something about over-dramatic teenagers and how Conor needed to grow a pair. As if following his exit cue, the group divided. Conor took off for the backstage area so fast it took everyone a moment to realize he had even left and Smith and Galileo wandered away to finish an earlier debate about the legitimacy of Pluto's planetary status or lack thereof.

Grinning down at Jacklyn, Holden pushed her forward with the arm he had slung around her shoulders, signaling that he was trying to lead her somewhere. "I want you to meet some friends of mine," he murmmered excitedly as they approached a group of four boys talking nearby. The smarmy one with dark hair and crooked teeth smirked briefly in acknowledgment as they moved nearer, but was too caught up in the story he was telling to say hello.

"—so they were pretty pissed off and demanded it back," his southern accent crackled with arrogance, rough and casual with an easy lilt of authority, "and we gave it back alright —gave them a fake and kept the real skull as a trophy."

Holden cocked an eyebrow and glanced behind him like he were paranoid the hipster kids with swinging hips were suddenly packing nunchuks and crossbows; Jacklyn thought she would find them all significantly more interesting if this were true.

"Thatcher—" Holden squinted at the group through the dim lighting as he spoke with a cryptically cautious voice, realizing he didn't recognize one of the guys, "there aren't any roses here."

The smarmy boy, Thatcher, smirked widely and gave Holden a reassuring pat on the shoulder before gesturing to the blond he had been telling the story to, "this is Mason. He's an old friend of mine visiting from the Carolinas," there was a sarcastically formal tone to his voice as he continued, "we were just regaling him with the innocent little tale of last year's heist."

As Thatcher waved away Holden's alarm, Jacklyn didn't even have time to think about all the things she found confusing about their exchange before she was thrown into the spotlight of the conversation. Skulls, roses and Holden's bizarre twitchiness slipped her mind as Thatcher threw an interested look at her, raising his eyebrows to imply that Mason wasn't the only person there in need of an introduction.

Jacklyn didn't know what to think of Thatcher. There was an air of entitlement around him that made her want to knock him down a few notches, but there was also something about him that told her he'd earned his arrogance and was someone to be respected.

Following Thatcher's gaze, Holden beamed proudly, "this—" he paused dramatically and gave her a half-hug with the arm he still had around her shoulders, "is the infamous Jacklyn Paquin: she-devil extraordinaire." A chain-reaction of electrified smiles appeared instantaneously on the faces in front of them, their expressions lighting up with a multitude of preconceived expectations.

"I'm Thatcher Galloway," he replied with a handshake and a grimy charm that implied how he could pull one over on you faster than anything. He possessed a kind of offhand slickness that came from being raised into oil money and manipulation and it was carefully controlled to indicate just a hint of polite superiority. "Please allow me to present Damien Haverfeld, Spiro Jacques and, of course, my aforementioned guest: Mason Jennings."

Spiro — a good-natured, but spastically over-excited pill popper — bounced on his ankles a few times before leaping forward a little too enthusiastically and wrangling Jacklyn into a hug. Stepping back, he grinned brightly and tried to blink his dilated pupils into submission. It only took a moment for him to realize the futility of such an endeavor and to abandon all hope of its completion. He understood the concept of impossible and realized that if you can't change something, your best plan of action is to accept and embrace it as it is.

Inhaling deeply while compulsively rubbing his palms across the fuzzy remains of his buzz cut, he spoke faster than the wind-whirl of a tornado, "I am so very excited about you! You," he clapped animatedly and smiled with his entire face until his eyes were so wide that Jacklyn could see the whites around the entirety of his iris, "are going to be so much fun!"

"Uh—" for once Jacklyn was unsure of what to do with herself and was even uncertain as to what was happening. She was used to guys thinking she was going to be fun, but seriously doubted Spiro was feeling that kind of excitement about her. Surely that would have been something she'd have noticed as he hugged her. Momentarily dumbstruck, she defaulted to the use of half-hearted innuendo, "—always."

Watching Spiro's twitchy reaction, the subtle quirk of Mason's lips was the only thing that prevented his deviously vacant expression from coming across as boredom. This one had curly fake-blond hair, but unlike Holden's untamed corkscrew-frizz, Mason's were soft, full and nonchalantly feminine. Jacklyn would have thought he were wearing a wig if it weren't for the thick undergrowth of brown roots.

There was something calculated and methodical about his disinterest that spoke volumes as to how he and Thatcher made perfect sense as childhood friends. She could already tell they had the same undertone of careful control within their personalities and it made it easy to picture them as a mischievous duo.

"Jacky here," Holden poked at her arm as if they might have forgotten which one she was, excitement rolling through his voice, "is a Renegade if I ever saw one! Aren't you, Jacky?"

Half-heartedly swatting away his prodding, she thought back to their conversation the night before and his declaration that she would make a good Renegade. "You're still on that, Holden?" Pulling an awkward face at him, she lifted a skeptical eyebrow and shrugged before quoting him, "sure. That definition is synonymous with my personality."

Smirking freely at the absolute glee her statement put on Holden's face, she continued to rattle off excerpts of their conversation to see just how ecstatic she could make him. "I'm a treacherously unconventional rebel and an allegiance abandoning yadda yadda with rock ribs and so forth."

Thatcher burst out laughing at her affirmation, a wicked grin stretched across his face as he locked eyes with her, "I can see that." The look he gave her next was like that of a warlord plotting the destiny of a new soldier and it let her know that he was aware of things she was still completely oblivious to.

It suddenly felt as though she'd done more than agree with Holden that she was a 'Renegade' — there was a sense that she'd just volunteered for something bigger than that. Whatever it was, she knew it was something she wouldn't have control over and that made her nervous.

She felt pathetic and vulnerable when she wasn't in control, it was why she went to such absurd lengths to keep it. It was easy for her to be the manipulative, cut-throat daughter of promiscuity as long as she was the one putting herself in that position, but she couldn't handle the idea of being subservient to anything or anyone other than herself. The very idea that Thatcher might have some mysterious position of power over her drove her crazy with a sudden urge to fight for freedom; it didn't matter that she wasn't even sure if there was anything there for her to be fighting against.

"Thatcher," Jacklyn picked up her wits and made a desperate grab at taking back the control she felt she'd just lost to the boys in front of her, "I don't know what you thi—"

It wasn't the confident click of high-heels on the cement floor that cut Jacklyn off, but rather the astonished expressions they caused on the faces in front of her. The dropped jaws and devious grins would have looked like something she would cause if it weren't for the fact that none of them were looking at her.

"Manhattan Cavanaugh," Holden lept forward in glee and wrapped the petite blonde newcomer up into his arms. Promptly setting her back down to the floor so he could get a better look at her, he grinned and nodded toward a large, ornate brass key she was wearing on a chain as a necklace, "is that the key to your heart?"

Flicking her eyes up to match his, Manhattan grinned like the devil and fingered the tarnished relic with intense fondness. "Yes," her voice was a modern twist on porcelain, carefully refined and beautiful, humming lightly with an undertone of laughter at what was clearly she and Holden's inside joke. Jacklyn felt unsettled by the amount of honesty and commitment she saturated her single-word answer with, as if it were a religious vow.

She looked simultaneously five and twenty-seven, innocently childlike features super-imposed onto the body of a sexual deviant. Obviously aware of her physical strengths, she dressed simply in stilettos, a slip-dress so short it barely qualified as a dress and nothing else — her slight curves as scandalously free as the sixties.

"You're back?" Damien spoke up for the first time, sounding absolutely thunderstruck at her sudden presence. With short brown hair and vividly pale skin, Damien looked diabolically innocent. He was a baby-faced brooder with Germanic cheekbones and soft eyebrows that seemed to wish they were caterpillars. Nodding his head in wary acknowledgment at her smile of confirmation, he was the kind of dangerously silent and emotionally detached type that grew up to own either a dozen cats or a dozen assault rifles.

He looked simultaneously savage and harmless and not at all the type to put his guard up for anyone in high-heels. Yet, there was an air of caution wrapped around his very bones and it tugged at Jacklyn's curiosity. These boys had an intense history with Manhattan, that much was certain, gazing at her as if she were a war memorial.

Spiro twitched somewhere in Jacklyn's peripheral vision before flailing forward and twisting his limbs around Manhattan in a disfigured hug of exhilaration. "Oh, Hattie! I missed you so very much! Never leave me again, I need you here!" He spun with her a bit and gave her an Eskimo kiss before letting go and patting the top of her head, "you're still wonder-tastic sparklebeams and sunshine glitter to me," he reassured her with a genuine grin that laughed silently at another inside joke.

Everyone burst out laughing at the greeting, the tension of the group dissolving with Spiro's 'wonder-tastic' greeting. Jacklyn felt relief that the attention of the boys had shifted from her and the Renegade conversation to whatever controversy this new girl seemed to carry with her. That relief lasted all of five seconds, cut short by the ear-splitting whine of the stage microphones wailing to life.

Dread and panic flooded her veins. She had forgotten why they were here, having allowed herself to be caught up in the annoyingly mysterious secrets of Holden and his Renegade theories. She had forgotten about Conor.

Pivoting roughly on the ball of her foot, she spun to cross her arms and scowl at the stage, to set fire to it with her abhorrence. Guitar, microphone, drums — she would smite them all with hellfire and damnation in one fell glare, an instrumental holocaust.

She imagined the flames licking their way up the neck of the guitar, strangling it into ashes and melting the strings like acid. For good measure, the remains would burn through the stage, the minions of Hell leaping from the pit below to devour the cinders, their infinite tongues restless as they sought out each particle that might cling to the crevices between their teeth.

Running wild, the demons would ravage the hipster crowd, their jaws playing bone-crush with these egocentric children of suburbia. Howling in triumph, they could demolish her as well, she wouldn't care so long as it prevented her from witnessing a repeat performance of Conor's musical tragedy.

The idea that she was being over-dramatic never crossed her mind.

Feeling a nudge at her right side, her thoughts broke back to reality as she turned to find Holden grinning wildly at her, inner laughter crinkling the corners of his eyes with mirth. "You look absolutely murderous, Jacky-darling," one side of his smile was much higher than the other and kept twitching as though he were trying to hide his joy.

Cocking her head in curiosity, Jacklyn tried to sort out what might have brought on his glee. He'd been thrilled when Manhattan had showed up, practically rejoicing as if she were a prodigal daughter returning home from some unspeakable ordeal, but this happiness was different.

Reaching to touch her arm in some kind of reassurance, he ran his thumb across the inner notch of her elbow. Grinning wider and leaning forward to whisper in her ear, the peroxide frizz of his stray curls played an awkward game of hop-scotch across her face. "You are," he paused and she could feel his forehead crease with thought against her temple, searching for words, "far more interesting than she is."

Her jaw spun to the floor, twisting violently off her face and flinging itself into a kamikaze trajectory aimed at the cement below. Holden thought Jacklyn was jealous.

She would have been overcome with ravenous laughter if it weren't for the completely ludicrous implications of that idea. Jealousy was a pathetic emotion that was decidedly beneath Jacklyn. There was no need for such a feeling in her emotional repertoire, anything she wanted she was conniving enough to find a way to have. She wasn't the sort of girl to pine over impossibility; she was the kind of girl to beat impossibility with a blunt object until it complied with her demands.

The idea that she would be jealous of Manhattan was simply ridiculous.

She was certainly more attractive than Jacklyn, possessing the allure of a girl who could charm a boy from five miles away with her back turned, but Jacklyn had found ways around that. There is no need for obvious beauty of that sort when you know how to con, threaten and blackmail your way into sex appeal — how to prey upon the mechanics of the male mind and seduce them with brute, shameless force.

Jacklyn could not even begin to comprehend the reasoning that led Holden to that contemptible conclusion, let alone why he would be so overcome with happiness from it. Maybe he just liked the idea of her being interested in his world, in his imaginary assemblage of code words and dictionary definitions.

She was actually intrigued by it, curious about the parts he refused to let her in on yet, but she was also terrified. Holden had a lot in common with the impulsive, devious, apocalypse creating aspects of her personality, only he could be subtle about his plotting from time to time. He knew how to unwind a plan slowly instead of attacking it all in one blunt moment, like Jacklyn. There was more happening than he was letting her in on, things that were obviously beyond her control — things that potentially had the ability to take control of her.

And that, allowing something to be bigger and more important than her, terrified Jacklyn. Control was all she really had and without it, she was sure to be helpless and pathetic.

Maybe then she really would be jealous of Manhattan.

Her face contorted into an unpleasant expression at these thoughts, focusing into an insulted glare towards Holden. Obviously misinterpreting it as a look of frustration that he was right in his assumption, he grinned wider, the flesh of his cheeks rounding out and folding around his dimples.

Holding her face in the palms of his hands and trying to playfully force the glare away from her features, he drummed his fingers against her jawbone, buzzing with excitement. "I have to go play with Conor now," he glanced at his shoes momentarily before looking sheepishly at her through his lion-man mane of chemically damaged hair. His mouth twitched with the beginnings of words he decided against, opting instead to smile and flee towards the stage with a wink.

Taking up residence behind the drum kit on stage, he tested the hollow percussive sounds against the thick atmosphere of Aberforth. Eyes and bodies locked onto him, hollering with shallow anticipation as Conor stepped out from backstage, wincing at the attention.

He faked a smile, wrapping his pale fingers around the neck of the guitar tightly enough that Jacklyn was able to hope it might strangle out any future sound. It was obvious that he didn't want to play any more than she wanted him to.

Taking a deep breath, he glanced back at Holden and nodded, cuing him into a dense beat that pounded rhythm into the air, drawing an almost unwilling sound out from Conor's guitar. The notes were shaky, but fluid, slightly resistant as he immersed himself in the hollow sounding strings.

His mouth hung open, stuttering with hesitance as he made eye contact with her, a strange moment of guilt passing though him. Shaking it away as quickly as it came, his voice uncurled from the hollow of his throat, spinning out a dustbowl drawl.

"The Jupiter smile of rebellion called me out to war," the depth of his voice sounded out of place coming from the auburn pale of his teenage body; This sound belonged to a crippled drunk hunched against the shelter of a dust-dry alleyway in mid July. It belonged to someone who'd seen the world and beat it into their bones with a brick, "named me The Anti-Astronaut and recast me in tape and tin foil," it wasn't supposed to belong to Conor.

Unstable and suddenly impatient, the music ricocheted off the ears of the crowd. "The sun won't set in space," he didn't stumble in shock or vocalize the previously silent stutter of nervousness, he was numb from the voice down, confessing his words in a breathtaking range of arresting falsettos and paralyzing drops. Each crescendo rose from behind his teeth with the graceless sound of sandpaper across fragile enamel, fearful of the inevitable moment his voice would snap and disintegrate, "it just starts interplanetary thumb wars."

Thumb wars.

The realization for Conor's awkwardness and reluctance dawned on Jacklyn as she remembered his earlier words to the club owner, telling him how he hadn't had anything to write about in a while. Now he had something — he had Jacklyn. The song was about her, it was about last night. "One, two — one, two, three, four."

His voice broke off from the count down, transitioning into a confident guitar melody intercut with hectically catchy drum patterns. Staring at her, chaotic copper hair in his eyes and pale lips slightly parted as if he were still whispering silent lyrics to her, his unapologetic eyes warned her that it wasn't over yet. He wouldn't allow it to be over yet.

What's more, Jacklyn realized 'it' was more than just a collection of songs.

"Jacklyn, was it?" Breaking away from Conor's stare and feeling as if this allowed him to win some unspoken debate and suddenly have the upper hand on her, Jacklyn turned to find Manhattan. "You look like you could use a drink," the wispy haired blonde smiled quietly at her, the corners of her mouth curling knowingly into themselves as she offered up the escape plan.

A drink sounded fantastic. Alcohol was made to block out things you wished didn't exist. Maybe if she started now, she'd be deaf come the moment Conor's voice broke into that helpless rasp of destruction from last night. Maybe his voice would cease to exist completely.

"Always," she replied quickly, greedily blocking out the performance on stage. Arching an eyebrow in intrigue, Jacklyn followed as Manhattan led the way to the bar. Looking for further distractions, she focused in on the soft clicks of their heels, attempting to convince herself they were louder than Conor's voice.

"I played ring-eyed 'round the roseless with the daughter of Narcissus, realigning vertebrae with plate tectonic hands," he braided his voice into the hum of the air, pulling nervous goosebumps from her skin and weaving them together. She wasn't sure what she'd do if his voice broke against itself again, but she knew it had the potential to be darastic and she knew it would be something she'd regret.

The reverb of the guitar reeled on itself, whirling to scintillate against the heavy drum beat, an infectiously light-handed contrast that had the sneakers of the scene kids dancing faster than they knew they could move. Gallileo howled out a wail of approval from the foot of the stage, he and Smith stomping and clapping to the beat as they flailed around haphazardly.

Still walking towards the bar, Manhattan's shoulder collided abruptly with that of a short, dark haired girl. The sudden interruption of tension was almost blinding, something not disimilar to hatred passing between them, automatically repelling their bodies several inches away from each other.

The girl looked Manhattan up and down, appraising her as if to confirm some thought of suspicion. "Status quo ante bellum (let's pretend this war didn't happen)," she all but growled with an attempt at false sincerity, a forced smile tense across her lips.

"Stercus accidit (shit happens)," Manhattan hissed in reply, her face disfigured into a despising sneer.

With that reply, the girl dropped any attempt at disguising her dislike for Manhattan. Her expression spoke freely of all the ways they detested each other, a scalding death glare focused like a cross-hair on the spot between Manhattan's eyes. She was willing the air between them to turn to bullets and do her bidding. Or perhaps, Jacklyn thought back to her own murderous glare from earlier, the girl was willing the minions of Hell to leap forth and devour her opponent.

Manhattan broke into a wild grin, taunting the girl with a burst of laughter. "If you want to hurt me so badly, Jane," her voice sunk into a low tone laced with smugness, "you should have taken your shot when you had the chance. No matter how much hate you throw at me with your eyes, it's not going to feel the same as a fist."

Conor's voice arced softly in the background, gathering up the tension of the moment and turning it back towards the crowd. Pulling her attention from the battle in front of her, Jacklyn's eyes locked back onto Conor. She identified with Jane, wishing once more that she could cause damage with nothing more than sheer willpower.

It wasn't just the fear of his unstable voice that had Jacklyn glaring anymore, it was his motivation. He wasn't just singing — he was singing about her. She had never been the kind of girl that wanted boys to write songs for her; That's the kind of thing guys do for girlfriends or ex-girlfriends. It implies relationships, feelings and intimacy, all things Jacklyn wanted nothing to do with. You don't write love songs about one night stands.

Did Conor think he was in love with her?

The air between them called out to Jacklyn, told her maybe willpower would be a strong enough ammunition this time. Just because Jane was too weak to forge bullets from her anger, didn't mean she would be so incompetent.

"The lullaby of her fisticuffs sang me endless ways to kill a man," his voice howled out, wrapping itself around the audience as it reached out for the final crescendo and fell back towards a drawling hush. Commanding reverence, the drawl possessed the lazy weariness of Tom Waits and the inflection of John Lennon, making every line he sang something worth listening to, something worth remembering.

Jacklyn's fingers curled into fists, her imagination demonstrating each of those endless ways to kill a man. Somehow she had a feeling Conor had been implying a different meaning than her rather literal interpretations, but that was irrelevant to her. Neither sentimentality nor romanticism were forces that held any sway with her opinions. Every phrase from his mouth was something she didn't want to hear, each word aimed at her anger like a bullet. 'Christ, Conor,' she mouthed at him, catching his eye, 'is that a guitar or a machine gun?'

The visible violence behind her glare seemed to gather Conor's lungs into her fists, wringing the air from them in one demoralizing moment. Every hipster in Aberforth halted and snapped to attention as his final line tore his vocal chords apart and colapsed beneath Jacklyn's anger, his voice curling into itself and the irony of his own words, "but if her fingerprints are fatal, there's no better way to die."

The irony wasn't lost on Jacklyn as she realized the vocal destruction she had been fearing had been caused by nothing more than her own paranoid hatred.

Conor stood at the microphone, mouth agape and staring off into space as Holden attempted to cover up the breakdown with a dizzying pattern of drum beats. Silently stuttering at the crowd, the speakers hissed as his fingers trembled against the guitar strings and the club manager shook his head helplessly, knowing his main act for that night had just been cut short.

"Not again," Manhattan sighed from just behind her, clicking her tongue in disapproval, "I thought he'd have gotten over this cripplingly melodramatic stage fright by now."

"This happen often?" Jacklyn queried, tearing her eyes away from him and looking for something to blame the destruction on that wasn't herself.

The girl practically snorted sarcastic laughter in reply, "I wouldn't even know how to explain his previous episodes. He's a helpless mess, that one — it'll probably take Holden at least an hour just to coax him out to the car. I think Galileo had to practically carry him out of the club last time."

Groaning, Jacklyn lolled her head back at the endless swan dive that was her night. "I wonder how long it would take me to walk back to Britt from here," she muttered at the ceiling beams. Five hours? Six? That didn't sound so bad compared to her alternative. One night of walking seemed perfectly acceptable when pitted against spending another moment witnessing Conor's devastation.

"Longer than it would take me to drive you there," Manhattan offered, shaking a gleaming set of car keys above her face. The clashing sound of metal was glorious and melodic in the din of Aberforth.

Snatching the keys, Jacklyn whooped with glee and pulled Manhattan towards the exit, too excited about the prospect of leaving to register the implications of her offer.

(Authors Note: So this took way too long to write — my sincere apologies. I haven't had a lot of time to write over the past several months, so this was often written just a couple words or sentences at a time. As a result, I'm posting this directly after finishing instead of waiting and doing a lot of re-editing. Instead I'll just do any fine tuning after posting, I feel like I've kept you all waiting long enough. Please let me know if you note any glaring mistakes or incoherency.

Unfortunately, the next chapter will probably also take a while to write, although it's a bit simpler in content so I'm hoping it may surprise me and I'll be able to just jot it right out. Then the chapter after next is where a lot of things will happen/come together and finally make sense. Also, for all of you who haven't figured out the romantic pairings in this yet, they will be more than clarified over the course of the next two chapters and we'll also start to really get into them with some kind of depth.

In the mean time, please please please let me know what you think is/will be happening. I've been dropping a lot of complex hints and I'm incredibly curious as to who is picking up on what! I want to hear your theories! All of them.

—A Perfect Sonnet)

(Review Responses)

(My Sweetheart the Drunk: I think it's interesting you imagined her with a tattoo before. I'd contemplated giving her one in the last version, but wanted one that really fit her - it wasn't something I wanted to add arbitrarily. I'm also glad to see someone supporting Conor as he doesn't seem to have anywhere near as much support this time around. I can't make any promises about Holden though, he tends to get a little out of my control.)

(Riley Hunter: No, Galileo is not gay. I think I must have confused you with the the girl of my dreams is probably God line of his. He was implying that 'God' is female there, not that he's gay. As to Galileo having a crush on Jacklyn, he pretty much summed this up at the end of the last chapter. He's hitting on her because she's there and female, not because he's genuinely interested in her.)

(GrannyP: I'm happy you think I'm somehow pulling off my 'unlikable' main character. She is pretty intense, but as long as she's entertaining then I'll feel like I've succeeded in some way.)

(The Midnights Sun: I agree, I think I would actually hate Jacklyn if I knew her in real life, but somehow I have so much fun imagining her. It's funny that you think you're the Jacklyn of your friends though, sometimes I wish I had her ridiculous capability to just do anything. I'm far too reserved to be a true Jacklyn though.)

(Second-Hand-Screamo: No, no, no! Please do tell me what you think is going to happen. More than anything, I'm actually very, very curious as to what people think I'm planning and how many of my hints they've picked up on and how many of my misleading tricks they've fallen for. I've actually been very sneaky, you see.)

(cls81690: 'Holden was just a hungover moron, but they get drunk and she says he's her equal.' I actually love that you picked up on that, even though it seems to have confused you. I was more trying to imply that by Holden being a drunken moron and Jacklyn and him being equals, that Jacklyn also = moron. Jacklyn =/= Mary Sue. I see what you mean about needing to flesh all that out though and 'll keep that in mind when I go back to expand on those chapters in version 3.0.)

(Sekhra: Yeah, I'm very aware that I'm episodic at the moment. I've been contemplating going back and fleshing out the inbetween spots, but have decided against it for the time being because that's how I ended up with more than a dozen completely unnecessary chapters in the first version. I'll certainly try to give everything a better sense of place for the time being though and eventually I aim to go back and expand a bit more.)

(gulistanlik: You have some verrry interesting theories there and unfortunately I can neither confirm nor deny any of them at the moment. Smith is a sweetie though and I can say that there have already been some very concrete indicators as to what his role in the story will be. Fear not, he'll be showing up more soon as well, even though he's been rather minor the past several chapters. You'll also be finding out who burned the tree down rather soon as well.)

(apocalypse09: Thank you! I definitely appreciate the compliments to my writing style. The idea that you would read my story for that and not the plot is somehow a great compliment, even though it may actually be a bit backhanded. I'm definitely aiming for something with my writing style, even though I'm not entirely sure what, so I'm glad you enjoy it.)

(Welcome To Meganlanddddd x3: Haha, yes, this story will indeed have 'some kind of couple in it.' If you haven't figured it out yet, you will over the course of the next two chapters.)

(l'heautontimoroumenos: So, the update didn't come terribly soon, but it did come! So I hope it still makes you happy, bceause yes, I would love to make some crazy french girl living in bangkok happy. That would be awesome.)

(Also Thanks To: Cookie Jar, msun, Leah, Angi, JadeDream, Piit, Kyra, .not, HisMistress, BabySamurai, under the bed, Green Eyed Angel and Agent Zabini)