Authors Notes: - Hate me or love me but, new story.

Fish out of Water

Despite being spring break the weather was decidedly unspring like. The sky was clear and the sun was shinning but a cold wind was blowing. Hannah was eager to leave behind the dull still cold mountain air for the stifling heat of Los Vegas. She didn't mind snow, having been born and raised in Flagstaff Arizona she was no stranger to it, but after an unseasonably cold winter she wasn't going to miss the white stuff when it finally melted. The brief respite the desert offered her was one of the many reasons she'd agreed to tag along with her sister and her friends on their road trip.

Only she'd made sure to bring enough batteries to power the strip, after all, she needed to juice to keep all her gadgets going. She'd packed her PSP, a Japanese import since she'd been too impatient to wait for it's American released, a Gameboy DS, Gameboy SP (a must since the DS didn't play older Gameboy Games), Nokia N-Gage (a technological flop but the most interesting phone she could get in America), the new slim PS2 with portable LCD screen so she could both play games on the road and watch DVDs, not to mention her battery devouring CD player and IPod. Her games, music and DVDs alone took up one of her bags, the larger of the two even. Clothes she could wash and wear again, but running out of games to play was a crime. Hannah's sister Shannon however couldn't understand her sisters insistence on bringing along all her 'toys' as she called them. They'd reached a compromise however; she'd left her X-Box and Gamecube at home.

Something thumped behind her and the whole Van she was leaning against bounced slightly. Hannah stepped away and glanced back. Crawling around its interior like a monkey was one of her traveling companions: Adam. For a brief moment she got a priceless view of his fancy (silk perhaps?) boxers when his too loose jeans slid down his slender butt. He only paused for a moment to right his pants before he continued crawling over the seats, but the moment he popped out of the van his pants threatened to fall once again. Grumbling to himself he hiked his shirt up, revealing a perfect six pack, and tightened his belt a few notches. Hannah made sure to look back to her DS before he noticed her staring. She hoped if he did look her way he'd just assume her flushed features were due to the chilly wind.

"Ok, I got all the shit packed away." Adam announced, turning towards the house.

"Good, and it only took us, what, five hours to get ready?" A reply came from within the wide open front door. A moment later Luis came out carrying a cooler, full of beer Hannah assumed with a bored eye roll.

Luis was Shannon's boyfriend and the classic all-around jock. He had big shoulders and a muscular torso that he liked to show off by wearing shirts that were at least a size too small. Every time he moved the world got an unobscured view of his muscles rippling, even at the smallest effort. He had a strong jaw, but very delicate, almost boyish features. Coupled with his full lips, sparkling blue eyes and bright curly red hair he looked more cute than handsome. To combat his unruly red locks he'd gelled it up into spikes, like the quills on a hedgehog. Hannah thought it only made him looked ridiculous, but her sister never complained.

"Now, is anyone forgetting anything else?" Luis asked as he shoved the cooler into the van, he shot a brief glare in the direction of Adam who feigned innocence.

"I'm pretty sure I've got everything this time."

They had all planned to meet at five in the morning so that they could get going just after dawn, a kink had been thrown into their plans when Adam realized he'd forgotten his cell phone. After a frantic search of his bag, which had been under everyone else's, he still couldn't find it. So they'd been forced to turn back just to fetch it. Since he'd shoved everything out of place he had to pack it all back away, not a fun task.

"Good, now where are the others?" Luis asked, looking around the driveway. He only briefly looked at Hannah, his expression not changing. She suddenly felt like a lawn gnome, noticed but not important enough to pay attention to.

"Des and Shannon are inside… I don't know, doing girl stuff," Adam shrugged. "And I have no idea where Ben's gotten himself off to."

"Ben!" Luis hollered, his deep voice carrying easily in the still mountain air. "Get your butt out here!"

Hannah heard the sound of crunching snow behind her and only briefly looked up from her game of Final Fantasy Tactics to see who it was. She wasn't surprised to see the permanently awkward Ben come trudging up looking lost and confused. That morning was the first time she'd ever met him and she'd already filed him away under dork, which coming from her wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but the title suited him a little too well.

He wasn't short for a guy but he was the smallest of the dynamic trio. His slight frame and girlish features made him look like he was still waiting for puberty to hit, when he spoke though it became clear that he was in fact all grown up.

"Sorry guys…" Ben whispered, his light but masculine voice almost inaudible.

"Where'd you run off to?" Luis asked, glancing down at Ben's show covered tennis shoes.

"I uh… just…" Ben stammered, glancing back towards the woods he'd just walked out of.

"Saw something shinny and chased after it?" Adam teased him with a grin.

Ben shrugged and didn't argue but also didn't put forth another theory. Luis turned away from him, content with the proffered reason. "Hey ladies!" he yelled towards the still open front door. "Let's get moving!"

A moment later the tall blond shape Shannon popped out of the front door. In Hannah's mind she could almost hear the accompanying cheese pop song playing while the wind blew back her sister's hair in slow motion. To say her sister was the prettier of the two of them would be beyond an understatement. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Luis' and Ben's faces light up at the sight of her. Hannah rolled her eyes and snorted in disgust, sending a puff of steam into the air.

Shannon bound over to Luis and wrapped her arms around his neck. The two shared a prolonged kiss before slowly pulling apart. She grinned up into his face and winked. "Sorry, just had to touch up my makeup."

"Alright…" Luis said with an appeased smile.

Destiny, or Des as she preferred to be called, came out a moment later. She locked the door behind herself, with her own set of keys to Adam's house and joined the rest of them on the sloping driveway. Despite being Adam's girlfriend she didn't attempt any public displays of affection and only gave her boyfriend a cursory glance. She shoved the keys into her jean pockets and nodded to Luis. "I'm good to go."

"I hope no one needs to use the bathroom because I swear to god I'm not pulling over for anything." Luis announced as he walked around the nose of the giant white van towards the drivers seat.

"How about breakfast?" Adam asked, rubbing his slender belly. "After all, I don't think any of us has had anything to eat all morning."

His suggestion reminded Hannah that she hadn't in fact eaten anything that morning. Her stomach growled in protest and she stubbornly ignored it in favor of winning her current battle.

"For the love of-" Luis started to complain, dropping his head back in frustration.

"Not all of us run on pure sunshine and joy like you." Des teased him with a smirk. "How about we stop by Denny's and grab a quick bite."

"Mmmm, processed omelets." Adam moaned with exaggerated glee.

"Alright fine, since you're all apparently so weak we can get some breakfast." Luis reluctantly said as he climbed into the driver's seat.

"Woohoo!" Adam cried out joyfully, bouncing into the passenger's seat.

"Hey!" Shannon protested, glaring at him. "I was going to sit there!"

"I called shot gun." Adam declared smugly.

"So you rather sit next to Luis than me?" Des said in a mocking hurt tone which quickly turned mocking. "You know, I always suspected you two were more than just friends…"

Adam glared through the window at her and finally sulked out of the front seat, holding the door open for Shannon. She smiled with obvious pleasure and sat down. He closed the door and climbed into the back, pouting out the window. Des sat down next to him and rubbed his leg. "It's ok, you can sit with your boyfriend on the way back." He stuck his tongue out at her and went back to glowering out the window.

Ben got into the remaining bench seat in the back. While the van originally could seat fifteen the back seat had been taken out so they could have room to fit all their things and in between Hannah's gaming gear and Des' wardrobe it was necessary. Hannah reluctantly sat down next to Ben. It wasn't as though she disliked him or anything, in fact his ineptitude only endeared her to him. She was more upset because she knew the two of them were along in the trip as an elaborate excuse to hook them up. He looked just as thrilled as she did with all that was going on, which won him a few more points.

"Ok, we'll eat breakfast and hit the road right after, ok?" Luis said, looking at them in the rearview mirror.

"Aye, aye captain." Adam said, saluting his friend.

"Good." Luis nodded in satisfaction and pulled out of the driveway.

An hour and numerous pancakes later and they were on the road again. Now that they weren't going to have any stops Ben contently listened to his cd while playing games on his Gameboy SP. Occasionally he'd glance enviously towards Hannah and her IPod and PSP. She was sitting less than a foot away from him but it could have been a mile for all she'd care. He also suspected that Shannon had convinced her to come along so that he'd have someone to hang around with. Considering he was the eternal third wheel he was just surprised they hadn't tried to hook him up with someone else before. The only thing he was curious about was the bribery method Shannon had to have used to get her younger sister to tag along. So far she'd acted as if it was torture just having to be in the same car with them. Not that he could blame her, he considered Adam his best friend but even he tired to his antics.

"God I can't wait to get to Vegas." Adam said for the forth time in the past hour. "Gambling, hookers, beer, hookers, stripers, hookers."

Des rolled her eyes and playfully smacked her boyfriend upside the head. "You better not be playing around with any hookers if you know what's good for you."

Adam rubbed his head then nuzzled into her shoulder like an overly eager puppy. "Aww, you know I'm only joking."

"Of course you are." Des bemoaned. "You've never been serious for a moment in your whole life!"

"I have so," he said curtly, pulling back and regarding her with a perfectly serious look. "There was that one time… at my grandmother's funeral."

"That was my grandmother's funeral." Luis cut in. "You still got both your grandmothers, in fact you just got off the phone with Nana Greenly this morning!"

"Oh yeah…" Adam fell silent for a moment, considering this bit of information carefully, then quickly added: "But I was serious."

"Right up until we left the church." Luis said rolling his eyes. "Then you instantly suggested we go get drunk to: 'drown our sorrows'."

Ben tried to tune out their playful argument and briefly looked away from the gentle glow of the tiny SP screen and stared out the window. Birches and evergreens flashed by him, a seemingly endless forest. He knew that they'd be in the desert soon enough, it wasn't like Los Vegas was that far from them. Hannah shifted beside him and he glanced towards her. She fidgeted in her seat for a moment then unbuckled herself and turned around, shuffling around the luggage behind them.

On her own merits she was kind of cute, but with a sister like Shannon she was nothing but a candle before the sun. Shannon's features veritably glowed while Hannah's were dull. Her sister had the body of a swimsuit model, while her figure was hidden under a burnt orange fake vintage t-shirt and baggy jeans. Outside of being polar opposites in the looks department they also had completely different personalities. Hannah was defiantly less outgoing and more sarcastic than her former cheerleader sister.

Hannah flopped back down into her seat and switched from the PSP to a DS. She put in a tiny cartage and began playing on the touch screen. The music was turned off and he'd have to lean over her shoulder to see what she was playing. With a sigh he turned back to his suddenly inadequate seeming SP and continued playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. It was the only portable system he had and outside of a handful of games it would have to keep him occupied on the trip. He did bring a few books but those would go pretty fast. Being forced to seek entertainment out of the confines of his room wasn't a pleasant prospect for him. He was firmly set on spending the entire spring break locked away in his hotel room, avoiding and ignoring their drunken revelry.

"Shit man, we're not going to get their till midnight at his rate." Luis complained, hitting the steering wheel.

"If you get tired I can take over for you." Adam offered, hugging the back of Luis' seat.

"And let you drive my baby?" he snorted. "No way."

"You know, if it was an actual nice car-" Adam started to say but Luis cut him off.

"This is a nice car! It runs great, doesn't have many miles on it and gets excellent gas mileage."

Adam laughed. "Listen to yourself! You sound like an old republican!"

"I swear to god I will pull over and beat you to death if you say something like that again." Luis said, pointing over his shoulder at his friend who only cackled with mirth.

"That's just cold." Hannah suddenly piped up from the back, the others reacted as if they'd forgotten she was even there. "Calling a democrat the r-word." She clucked her tongue in disappointment and briefly looked up from her game to meet Adam's startled eyes.

"She's right." Adam sighed heavily, patting his friend's shoulder. "I'm sorry man, I didn't mean it."

"Better not have." Luis quipped, fighting back a smile.

"Always bickering over the strangest things." Des said rolling her eyes. She leaned forward and grabbed the back of Shannon's seat. "Got any mags hiding up there?"

"Yep," she replied riffling through her backpack. "I brought Cosmo, Entertainment, Time, Newsweek and Vogue."

"Pass me back Vogue." Des said, holding out her hand.

"Ok." Shannon handed her the magazine and pulled out Time for herself.

"What am I going to do?" Adam lamented.

"Entertain you're self." Des said with a dismissive wave.

"Feh." He said flopping back in his seat, arms folded petulantly over his chest.

Luis rolled his eyes with a wide smile and turned up the radio.

After several hours of trying to engage anyone and everyone in the van in some form of dialog or another and fidgeting for the better part of those hours Adam curled up in Des' lap and went to sleep. She contently continued reading Entertainment, after having run out of articles in Vogue, and stroked his curly black hair. Up front Luis was yawning but keeping his eyes steadfastly on the road while Shannon stared out the window at the landscape, her eyes distant.

The sun had just finished setting and Ben was already bored with his games. It was too dark in the van to read so he joined Shannon in listlessly staring out the window. Having moved past the forests and into scrublands the scenery was decidedly less interesting. Hannah however was still embroiled in one of her many games and had completely shut out everyone and everything else. Outside of occasionally cussing softly under her breath and shifting to a more comfortable position even Ben found it easy to forget she was there.

Luis yawn again, this time a big prolonged one. It wasn't late but he wasn't used to driving for long periods of time. Despite being a decently sized city Flagstaff was still a lot smaller than other cities. Getting from end to end of the city was a fairly short easy drive. The darkness and isolation of the road didn't help with his weary mind. Cars were few and far between but when the occasionally bit of oncoming traffic went by their bright headlights gave him a little adrenaline rush that helped keep him at least somewhat alert. At least that had been the case earlier in the evening. He glanced at the radio and was surprised to see it was already ten at night. A little surprised to see how late it was he looked around the cab of his van. Shannon was almost asleep and he could hear Adam snoring into Des' belly. Des wasn't much better off and was slumped against the armrest, drifting in and out of sleep. He could tell by the soft glow coming from the far back that Hannah was sleep awake. In the rearview mirror he could see Ben, completely alert but bored looking gazing listlessly out the window.

He felt bad for the guy. Having been the fifth wheel of their group since freshman year he'd also looked out of place. Luis hadn't been too keen on the idea of trying to hook Ben up with Hannah but it was a good excuse for him to not feel guilty about abandoning him while the rest of them went out partying. He always felt bad about leaving Ben behind, the same kind of guilt he felt leaving his dog home alone. Ben even gave them the same kind of sad puppy look every time they left him behind. He had however expected Hannah and him to hit it off a little better but the two had barely exchanged two glanced since being introduced.

A light on the road pulled his attention from thoughts of playing cupid. He stared blankly straight ahead as the light became even brighter. A twinge of panic in his gut was the first indicator that something wasn't right. The light didn't look like it belonged to a car or even semi, it was an unwavering blinding glow, and he was getting closer to it. Thoughts of UFOs, anal probes and aliens popped into his head. Before he realized it they were almost on top of it.

"Shit!" He shouted, slamming on the breaks. The van's wheel's screamed on the asphalt and all around the vehicle he could hear metal parts protesting at suddenly being forced to come to a spot after speeding along at eighty miles an hour.

His shout started to wake the sleeping people and snapped the other two out of their respective reverie. Then the lurching of the van cause them to fully realize that something was going on. Shannon sat upright and looked ahead into the light. She screamed and threw up her arms in panic. Luis tried to turn the wheel but it didn't respond in time and they kept careening at the glowing obstruction, inertia carrying them forward fast enough that there was no way they'd stop in time. The light only grew brighter and filled their vision, engulfing them…