——

4. hamdon's powers hither come

——

Dedicated to my first anonymous reviewer, Charlie (Woe, for FictionPress Document Manager was born to annihilate all e-mail addresses within its realm), for a great positive review that helped to usher this chapter into being.
Dedicated secondly to May47, who took the time to review again, giving love and relevant observations that I'll remember for a long, long time.
Also for belinda-b, who recently Fav-ed unworthy me. Thank you for the honor.
And, as always, a super-duper-size thank you to the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Dr. Pepper 14 for constant mental support, wacky inspiration, and a simply colossal review that kicked me into the most Delight-full high I have ever, ever had. I—completely—worship—you.
To every reviewer and everyone who ever gave River Seasons a glance, I hereby decree that I love you all as much a billion (damn) New York States, quote Landon McKennick. Thank you so much for your reading.

TO ALL READERS: SerialXLain's Heading for the Sun has officially wrenched my heart out. If I log on to FictionPress right now and just look at the title I will start bawling my head off—again. Zetsuai My Desperate Love, Man's Best Friend, Of Unangels and the Soulless, and Scars are also fabulous (for different reasons), but I think I will always love Heading for the Sun best. (Yes, SerialXLain is astoundingly prolific and in charge of it. I haven't even read all of her stuff yet!)
Slash lovers, abandon ye this chapter and read Heading for the Sun. Abandon ye this chapter and read Heading for the Sun. Abandon ye this chapter and read Heading for the Sun.
I may start putting up Barney songs instead of chapters if you don't read. (The quality would be just about the same, actually. Meh. Same thing over and over and over again…) SerialXLain is on my Favorite Authors list, and Heading for the Sun is on my Favorite Stories list. Please, I beg of you, just go read!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: It would help if you had some power pop going in the background while you read the first part of this story. Power pop. Anybody's power pop will do, just so long as it's loud and electric and—erm, adolescent. You know, high-schooly. (Yeah, I'm pretty dumb.)
By the way, I could really use some information on high school football. High school sports. Now. Before the next update. Soon. Anytime. Do I sound desperate?

——

White (whīt, wīt): n.Abbr. wh.Color. The achromatic color of maximum lightness; the color of objects that reflect nearly all light of all visible wavelengths; the complement or antagonist of black, the other extreme of the neutral gray series. Although typically a response to maximum stimulation of the retina, the perception of white appears always to depend on contrast. (American Heritage Talking Dictionary, © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
Blue (bloo): n.Abbr. bl. Color. The hue of that portion of the visible spectrum lying between green and indigo, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 450 to 490 nanometers; any of a group of colors that may vary in lightness and saturation, whose hue is that of a clear daytime sky; one of the additive or light primaries; one of the psychological primary hues. (American Heritage Talking Dictionary, © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
Red (rĕd): n. Color. The hue of the long-wave end of the visible spectrum, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 630 to 750 nanometers; any of a group of colors that may vary in lightness and saturation and whose hue resembles that of blood; one of the additive or light primaries; one of the psychological primary hues. A pigment or dye having a red hue. Something that has a red hue. (American Heritage Talking Dictionary, © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Monday morning, 7:40. Wayne Anderton and Ian Forrest were lounging by the main gate of Hamdon Regional High School, watching students pour up the asphalt from their respective buses. Stephanie Kuhn, Landon McKennick Version Femme. Gabriel Hessler, piercing addict. Noel Madison, red-haired science geek. Boozer Mark Delaney. Damien Nichols from the rugby team. Clyde Heller from the lacrosse team. Ray Torres, singing White Zombie like the janitor's cleaning brushes and keeping time with his dumb neck. Crazy little Bret Norman with his armload of file folders, sporting a ghoulish T-shirt and the pouty Evan Lang. Kimberly Ashton, another of McKennick's old ones and not coping well. Scott Bennick from the basketball team. Nothing Guy Ryan Adams, walking the forty minutes it took to get from Jackson Hayes to school. Elisha Wright, cheerleading bitch.

"Same old shit crowd," remarked Ian lightly.

"Always is."

"Yeah."

Daniel Henshaw drove up in his SUV, parked, and got out with Cheryl Markowitz. At the gate he whispered something to the girl and kissed the corner of her mouth lightly. She nodded, going on by herself.

The hockey captain turned to the two boys with a grin. "Missed you guys."

"Yea-ah, how's it going, man?" drawled Wayne, lazily flinging an arm over the tall, muscular boy's shoulders.

"Cool. You?"

"Right now, nah, I'm fucking bored, but who cares when we're doing inspection for Mikey, huh?"

"Shut up," laughed Daniel. "Hey, Forrest."

"Uh-huh," said Ian, slapping palms with him. "Looking shit good there, Hockey Boy."

"You too, Captain. It's cool out here, right?"

"Yep," said Wayne. "Just the last couple of cars and we're through."

"Okay."

Eric Wickner ambled past them with a languid grin, a black felt hunting cap perched crookedly atop his messy hair. Standing next to the Wickners's limo was a man in a black suit and tie, staring after the druggie with an anxious look. Daniel shook his head.

"I gotta go catch up with Cher. See you guys around later."

"Yeah, take it easy, man."

"You too, buddy."

Daniel quickly walked off and disappeared through the school doors. Over the next five minutes the rest of the gang emerged as well. John and Vance came jogging up together like they always did for a couple months into semester. Cohen and Brennan arrived on the 310 with Neely. Jason drove up in his flashy Mercedes-Benz dressed like some fashion model. Kayden had abandoned his hideous truck and was sharing Chris's Camry. Adrien was chauffeured much like Eric, minus the anxiety of the driver. David would be in England until Thursday. Each member passed a brief, friendly greeting to the two boys before wandering on to his first period classroom.

A dinted powder blue Honda Civic came into the parking lot, closely followed by Landon McKennick's zooming silver BMW. The owner of the Civic got out first and approached the gates, the two boys in the BMW taking it slower.

"Woo-hoo, will you just look who's coming?"

"Uh-huh."

Anderton shifted. "Heard Fields got it yesterday, huh?"

"Bitch cried like for an hour at Mike's," said Ian, laughing.

"No shit." Wayne snorted. "And?"

Forrest's smirk deepened. "Neely's working on it."

"He wants the bitch?"

"Nah. S'fucking Sex God McKennick's, that's why."

"Yeah huh. I love this part." Anderton's narrow eyes gazed insolently at the foremost newcomer, a pale, slim boy in a close-fitting black leather trench coat. "Long time no see, Godfather. What's up with your whore guy? He looking like goddamn shit 'cause he's got Retard with him, huh?"

The boy's lips curled into a quiet smile. He shook a few strands of platinum blond hair out of his lashes and looked up at Wayne, deep, dark eyes glinting coolly. The 101 was unloading next to the threesome, one of its passengers Darren Reed. The boy's earphones were shrieking as loud as the dark purple swelling over his left eye. He stopped for a moment but the platinum blond motioned him on with a slight motion of his hand.

"Oh man oh man, but is Retard looking fucked up or what?" choked Ian.

Jeremy had caught sight of them and immediately buried his face in Landon's shoulder, shaking. The taller boy gripped onto Jeremy's arms with his teeth gritted. Forrest intercepted the two and pulled Jeremy's face towards him, cocking his head to one side.

"Well, hello there, sweetheart. How's your girlfriend? Been hearing from her lately, hmm? Care to share? Wish I had a sexy bitch in my ears like you, honey."

Jeremy whimpered, tears welling up fast in his panicked smoky eyes. "Shera."

The trench coat boy caught sight of the leonine glare in Landon's gaze and shook his head vaguely. The brown-haired boy's jaw squared as he rammed Forrest out of the way with his shoulder and half carried Jeremy off. Ian staggered from the contact but soon righted himself with a sneer.

"Dumb crazy shithead."

Blake Cameron's fist crashed without warning into Forrest's exposed neck. The lacrosse captain hit the ground on his backside, coughing violently. Blake's eyes looked down at him with a lethal glitter.

"Shut your fuck."

The low, controlled murmur sent an involuntary shudder down Ian's spine. Wayne watched their black clad nemesis turn silently away and disappear through the school doors before helping his friend up.

"Shit, that was interesting," said Forrest, wincing.

"Huh, yeah. Fucking bastard's got a pretty good fist."

"Fucking tell me about it. Been missing that all summer, Christ."

"How much longer've we got left?"

"Couple minutes, I guess," said Ian. He was massaging the side of his neck. "Last bus."

"Yep."

Anderton's eyes slid sideways toward the 407 that had just pulled up as he lit himself a cigarette.

"Coach is gunna kill you for that," smirked Ian.

"Like I give hell."

The bus doors opened, letting out more of the usual bunch. Amanda Brooks, the bulimia girl, looking like she'd thrown up a table that morning. Tad Mayhew, yawning like a dope. Jon O'Connor, needle thin and sneering. Six foot one Rachel Tebbins, flabbier and scowling. Shaun Farrell, checking his damn lipstick in a fucking hand mirror.

Suddenly the smoke breezing from Anderton's mouth twirled itself around a low whistle. "Ho—ly mother of God. What've we got here?"

——

With all the bad things I've been hearing about Hamdon, I'm surprised that it has such nice buses. This particular one I'm sitting in right now looks like it came out of Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood and I'm not kidding. I mean, it's really clean! Squeaky, almost. But enough about buses. I'll start by introducing the first interesting-looking person riding with me, okay?
There's this really odd boy a little bit in front of me to my right. He's kind of medium in height, I think, though I really can't tell for sure because he's sitting down. Practically every part on him that didn't grow there naturally is black: black tee, black shirt, black jeans, black shoes, (black socks?), black backpack. He even has black hair and eyes (just the pupils, of course)! He doesn't seem to have whitened his face with anything (he doesn't have to, he's as white as Julia Roberts's teeth as it is), but he does have black lipstick and eyeliner on. Well, this guy isn't of the Glendale type, that's for sure. I have this feeling he's probably not any type at all, just trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that, anything that interests him. He looks like a Goth, I guess, but he doesn't have the brooding, other-worldly look that usually pops up in my mind when I think of that word. He's not wearing leather, and his hair isn't long, either. He actually has these rather round cheeks with really high, pointy cheekbones. The face comes off as kind of innocent, actually, but I saw him smile at the driver in a shockingly devilish way when he got on a stop ago, so he's probably got that streak somewhere in him. Something tells me that he can be awfully silly and comical just for the fun of it, too. Oh, and he's got a little black tattoo on the back of his neck, some sort of Celtic knot. He just caught me staring at him right now! Oops, he's grinning that way again, this time at me. I smiled back at him. I guess he thinks it's funny. He's laughing. Not like he thinks I'm a ridiculous little dope, but like he's really amused. I just noticed that he has a nice nose. Or rather, he has a cute nose. It's a thin and long and little bit nubby at the tip. That nubby part only made his expression impish when he was laughing, but he has his eyes fixed on his lap quietly now and his side profile looks kind of thoughtful and cute. It sounds weird, but he feels nice. I wonder what his name is. Maybe I'll find out later.
Sorry about bungling the 'r.' I hate it when that happens, but I'm not well versed in bus-time writing, and we just hit a really big speed bump. Yech. We must be getting closer to the school. Maybe if I keep the pen a little closer to the paper I'll be all right. Well, obviously not. There's the school over there. It looks pretty normal. But then, pretty much everything does. We're pulling up now. I hate wobbly writing. So sorry about this. I'll write again later, okay? It'll be my turn to get off soon. There's a girl with strawberry blonde hair looking at me like she thinks I'm crazy. Oh, and there's a guy over there, same expression. Isn't this awfully fun?

——

"Hey, kid."

Kyle wet his suddenly cracked lips as he looked up at the unbelievably tall boy holding on to his left shoulder. There was another unbelievably tall boy looming to his right. "Umm, hi!" he said, and offered a hesitant smile to both sides. 'That was so dumb. But why in the world do they have—gate guards?'

"Hey there yourself," said Lefty. "And who'd you be?"

The blond's face relaxed. "Oh, is that why you stopped me?"

"Yeah. Now, would you mind spitting it out?"

"Nope," said the boy, smiling genuinely this time. "I'm Kyle West, and I just moved here last Saturday. It's nice to meet you."

Lefty's mouth curled in a way that Kyle didn't really like. "Uh-huh. And you'd be a freshie?"

Kyle laughed and shook his head.

"I'm guessing the best you can get is soph, little guy." Lefty had a frown around the corners of his mouth.

"Yep, that's what you guess and I'm a senior," said Kyle in a singsong sort of way.

Lefty raised an eyebrow, scanning the blond over. "Senior, huh? You sure don't look it, kid."

"I know. It's my height, I guess."

"And that fucking goofy smile plastered on your mouth," muttered Lefty to himself. "And the shit kiddy way you talk."

Kyle pretended he hadn't heard and succeeded like he usually did. 'Now this is really fun.'

Lefty scrutinized him for a few more seconds. He then held out his hand. "I'm Wayne Anderton."

"Hi," said Kyle. He shook the offered hand and smiled wider.

"Ian Forrest," said Righty, speaking for the first time. He had extremely odd pale eyes. "Pleasure to meet you, Kyle."

"You too." The blond glanced down at his plain black leather watch and frowned. "I'm sorry, but could I please go on now? I have to find my Biology classroom before eight, and it's 7:50 now already, so…"

"So you're that kind, huh? We haven't had one in a while." Wayne shared a devious smirk with Ian. "But sure, kid, we're not stopping you." The baseball player swept out his arms and took a bow. "Welcome to Hamdon, the 99.9 percent criminally legal ground. And have a pleasant ride."

Kyle's lower lip darkened slightly for a moment before he smiled again, though less brightly than before. "Thanks. I'll remember that."

"No problem. See you around, kid."

"Yeah, I guess."

——

"Mr. McKennick."

Landon smirked at his Calculus teacher. He hated Horvich, especially the way he always pronounced 'McKennick' like a sniveling halfway between an exclamation point and a question mark. It was worth coming in to class just for the fun of turning the man off, though. And man, was he turned off.

Landon kept the laugh that was spiraling in his throat obvious as he plunked down beside Ryan, making the quiet, dark-haired boy glance up briefly. Landon grinned at his friend as he took out textbook and paper. Ryan started looking at his jeans again, tightly clenching and unclenching his hands with both palms turned up. Landon's forehead creased.

"Ry, you okay?"

Still the clenching and unclenching. Ryan's fingers were straining, stark white. Landon reached out and touched the boy's shoulder.

"Hey, man."

The corner of Ryan's mouth twitched. "Where's Jeremy?"

"Darren took him to Trig."

"Don't get how he keeps up with that shit," Ryan muttered. "I just…"

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

Ryan's lip twitched differently. "Landon, please."

His brown-haired friend was silent for a moment. "Okay, man. If you say."

"Yeah." The word came out a shaky whisper. "Yeah."

"Hey, you know I'm…"

"Today we will focus on…"

Ryan immediately flipped his notebook open and started writing. The black-eyed boy's arm was unconsciously raised a fraction above the paper, putting its entire weight on Ryan's wrist and the right side of his writing hand. Landon bit back a frustrated sigh. Ryan stiffened, shook more of his short hair over his eyes.

'Fucking damn you, Ryan Adams.'

——

Kyle exited Room 104 with a sigh of relief. Mrs. Anderson was actually pretty nice, and the day's lesson hadn't drowned his head. That probably wouldn't last long. He had always managed to scrape through Bio with fairly decent grades, but as for understanding it… Nun, nun, nun. He just couldn't seem to remember anything when it came to the math and science stuff. At least not for very long. Taking an AP class in Biology was unavoidable if he didn't want to get lazy with the subject, though, so there was pretty much nothing to be done.

He quickly slipped his way through the milling students in the hallway to his locker, which incidentally didn't have a lock yet. When he arrived in front of the locker door that morning, he had found a note on it that advertised a few lines of very businesslike script.

We will try our utmost to procure you a functioning lock within the week. Until we do, please keep your valuables with you at all times. The school will not be responsible for any inopportune losses. Thank you for your cooperation.

The note was still crinkled up inside his pocket. Kyle grinned as he took out the things he needed for English period. He wasn't carrying much worth stealing, anyway; no cell phone, no MP3 player, no gameboy…not enough money worth mentioning.And the only thing he really cared about, his scribble book, was lodged safely inside his backpack. So…

A rather violent make-out session from a nearby couple banged through the lockers. Kyle rolled his eyes. The girl's denim mini was riding up her thigh as though possessed by avian aspirations, and the boy was busy grinding himself senseless into her. A teacher coming out of the bathroom stared at the two blankly for a few seconds before shaking his head and shambling away. Kyle's nose wrinkled as he watched trickles of saliva drip down to the floor, oddly light and transparent against the shadowy contours of the two faces and the sounds of humid breathing.

'Ethan always did say French kissing looked like two people trying to eat each other…'

"Hey."

Kyle turned around. He was staring up into a pair of weirdly hooded, light brown eyes that belonged to yet another one of the numerous male poles stalking all over the school. This pole in particular had his hands in his pockets and was leaning against the lockers in an evasively careless sort of way. "Um, yes?"

"You're Kyle, right? The new kid."

The small blond's gaze faltered, confused. "Yes, but…"

"Hey, hey, it's all cool, man. Wayne and Ian are buddies of mine. You remember them from the gate this morning, don't you?"

Kyle nodded.

"Sure you do." The boy reached out to shake Kyle's hand. "My name's Mike, Mike Neely, basketball captain for the Hamdon varsity team. And yes, Mike is short for Michael."

"Right—hi," said Kyle, and then laughed a little. "I'm really starting to sound like a broken record now. Practically all I've done today is say hi since I got through the gates."

Mike nodded, evidently trying to come off as sympathetic and only becoming more disturbing. "Mmm."

Kyle felt the other boy's hooded gaze intensify. Mike Neely's eyes had no focal point; they simply looked at whatever they pleased when they pleased. It was weird, and he felt like some sort of paper that was being graded optically. Up and down. Sideways. Again up and down. Again sideways. Kyle barely managed to stop himself from squirming.

"Ummm, yes, so…so, um, is there anything, um, in particular—that you have to tell me? I'm kind of—on my way to English right now, you know, um…"

"Mmm-hmm."

'I wonder what in the world that means?' "Erm—okay. I'll, um, see you later—then."

"Mmm-hmm."

Kyle hoisted his navy-colored Jansport backpack onto his shoulder and walked away. But he could still feel Mike Neely's strange hooded eyes on him, still see the tall basketball captain leaning against the lockers in that casually threatening stance. And he could swear that he felt a cool smile too. He shook himself and moved his feet a little faster.

——

-hey cohen

-yeah

-we have bait male

-interesting

-its simple this time

-mmm

-room 313 hallway

-will do see you later captain

-uhhuh

Neely snapped his cell shut and headed for second period.

——

"Hey you."

Ryan stood looking down at the floor, feet brushing against each other. His hands dug into the rough fabric of the backpack that they held.

"I said hey, Adams."

The speaker shoved the dark-haired boy into the lockers and forcibly aligned their eyes. Ryan moved his chin a little against the hand holding up his head, but looked back down at his feet without jerking away. Brendan Fuller of the Hamdon swim team smirked at his temporary prisoner.

"Fucking cutting freak fag."

A dull flush rose in Ryan's cheeks.

"What, you don't like that, huh? Too bad, Adams, 'cause you're booked."

Ryan hung his head, looking confused, but took the crumpled piece of paper Brendan held out.

"It's not mine, faggot."

Ryan nodded. Averted his gaze again. Fuller leered, bit into the dark-haired boy's mouth with a swift, harsh kiss and jogged away. Ryan stared blankly at the note in his hand for a while, then slowly unfolded it.

Gym after school.

Ryan ran his thumb softly over the words. There was nothing in his eyes. Only black.

——

"Excuse me, sir."

The disheveled man in the classroom looked up from the papers on his desk. "Well, hello there, little guy. You're pretty early. And would you be another one of those Hamdonites that march into my classroom to the beat of 'Mr. Henney, I hate English'?"

Kyle's lips made a thin, serious smile. "Mr. Henney, I'm afraid English is my favorite subject. And I've never been any good at marching."

"Apparently." The dark circles under the teacher's eyes lightened a little. "Thank God for that. I'm Alan Henney, and you would be the new student from N.Y., am I right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Mmm. I'm sorry I can't promise you enthusiastic classmates, since English is the bane of all proper Hamdonites—but here they come. Why don't you go find yourself a seat? I suggest somewhere around the far right-hand corner, where the D's sit."

Kyle looked confused. "The D's, sir?"

"Delinquents. Trust me, they're better than the jocks, even if most of them do drugs."

Kyle's eyes widened, but he started looking for a place to sit without saying anything else. Most of the seats had become occupied in a matter of seconds,filled largely withsleepy-eyed students. Kyle almost laughed at one particularly enthusiastic yawner, when he noticed a boy watching him intently from the far right-hand corner of the room. The boy had a faint smirk on his pale face, which was framed by careless locks of silvery hair that made his dark eyes look startlingly deep. The boy put a long, slender finger to his lips, took what was apparently his bag off the seat in front of him and tapped the worn wood. Kyle nodded gratefully and sat down.

There was another boy already sitting in the seat next to his, and Kyle gave him a friendly grin as he took out his English text and notebook. This boy was rather small by the apparent Hamdon male standard of six feet, but he still had a couple inches on the blond. He was staring innocently at Kyle with oddly clear gray eyes.

"You're very pretty."

Kyle laughed. "Thank you. I think you're very pretty too."

The boy frowned a little. "You're nice. But Landon says I shouldn't go around calling people pretty just because I think so."

"Why not?"

"He says it makes me look crazy. I guess he's right. He's right most of the time. He takes care of me, and Blake too. But I forget what he tells me sometimes, and that's bad."

Kyle ran a thumb over his bottom lip thoughtfully. "You really like Landon, don't you?"

The boy smiled. "Mmm."

There was a silver bracelet around the boy's wrist, the kind that little kids wore just in case they got lost. Kyle looked at the tag on it.

"Jeremy Hamilton," he read, running his finger over the etched letters. "Jeremy. It sounds just like you."

"Really?"

"Mmm-hmm. It's nice. I like it."

"What's your name?"

"Kyle."

Jeremy blinked, then smiled. "Can I write that on my hand?"

"Sure you can, if you want."

Jeremy gave a vigorous nod. "Um-hm."

"Okay, go right ahead, then."

Jeremy took a thick marker from his pencil case and wrote K Y L E on his palm. The two boys grinned at each other. Suddenly Jeremy frowned again.

"You think I'm stupid, don't you?"

"I don't think anybody's stupid," said Kyle softly.

"Everybody says I'm stupid."

"How would they know?"

"I dunno. They just know. They know a lot. They know I'm stupid. And I'm crazy too. That's why Landon gets mad at me sometimes. Blake never gets mad at me, though."

There was a rather loud shuffling noise behind them.

"Blake doesn't shout at me. But I like Landon anyways. So it's okay."

Kyle smiled and blew on Jeremy's palm to make the letters dry completely.

"I have to make an Applebunny for you when I go home. I'm running out of colors, but I'll make one for you."

"Okay. Tell me tomorrow if you make one by then."

"Mmm."

Mr. Henney stood up as the last student came into the classroom. "All right, Hamdon scholars, welcome back to what you hate the best…"

Jeremy giggled and scooted closer to Kyle, resting his head on the smaller boy's shoulder.

——

Flack.

Landon glanced up from his Chemistry workbook. There was a piece of paper fluttering on the edge of his desk. He decided to ignore it. Heck, probably wasn't even important in hell, anyway.

Supply the pH of an HBr solution formed from 7 ml of 13m HBr and 14 ml of 1 M HBr.

But then again, this fucking goddamn problem wasn't important either. It was stupid as shit. Who wanted to do goddamn memory warm-up for Chem even before lunch?

Flack.

The boy puckered up his lips, eyeing the notes for a moment. He slid his gaze left. Rob Cohen was staring back at him steadily from his usual seat by the window. Landon reached out. Both notes said the same thing.

Hallway 1-B before third period. Neely's got a deal.

A slow smirk twisted Landon's mouth. Now that was interesting.

Supply the pH of an HBr solution formed from 7 ml of 13m HBr and 14 ml of 1 M HBr.

"Fuck this shit," he muttered.

From the front of the room, Schneider looked at him and sighed. "Mr. McKennick, could you please…"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever."

"Thank you."

——

"So what's the fucking deal, shithead?"

The basketball captain tilted his head, neck muscles flexing. "Shush." He carefully tapped his lips with a long, powerful forefinger. "Have some damn patience, McKennick, for God's sake. You just got here. There's no hurry."

"You tell me the god-fucking deal, Neely, or I leave."

Mike smiled. "So take a breath. You can cuss better that way."

"Fucking son of a bitch," Landon snarled.

"Maybe. If I were you, that is." Mike paused. "You and I aren't that different after all, McKennick. Things might've turned out a little better if we'd ever taken the time to think about that, don't you think?"

"Fucking intellectual, Neely. We'll always hate each other like hell-fucking shit. What's up your goddamn ass?"

"You, dickhead," said Mike coolly. "It's always been you."

"What the fuck about me?"

Neely's surprisingly sensuous eyelashes drifted halfway down. "Impatient little rabbit, aren't you, McKennick?"

"Shut up, motherfucker!"

"Then I won't be able to tell you what this is about. And we can't have that, can we?" Mike grinned. "I hear you broke up with Terica Fields."

Landon's forehead darkened. "Shut up."

"You know I won't," said Mike, laughing. "Everybody at Hamdon knows you're good, McKennick. But just how good are you? Hmm? That's what I'm wondering."

"You daring me, fucker?" Landon's eyes had narrowed into cattish almonds.

Mike inclined his head in assent. "Obviously, since we'd all like to know."

"Spit it."

"You see that kid over there? Small one, blond hair."

Landon's eyes trailed down the hall, where Room 313 was emptying. Stupid Henney's class always did finish late… He shrugged.

"Follow my eyes, dumbass. Black hoodie. Blue jeans."

The brown-haired boy's gaze suddenly latched onto an unfamiliar small figure in the Hamdon crowd.

"Yeah, that one," said Neely quietly.

"What in hell about that one?"

"Name's Kyle West. He's new."

Landon snorted. "Fucking so?"

The basketball captain's smile had taken on a faint, sadistic shadow that Landon remembered seeing around the corners of Neely's mouth since they had both been in tenth grade. "Get him…and keep him until graduation."

"What the FUCK?!"

"Quit the panic attack, McKennick. You know the Hamdon rule." Mike cast the gold blazing in Landon's eyes a brief, cool glance and looked down at his fingernails. "What's your record high, McKennick, hmm? How long've you actually stayed with a girl? Two months, maybe three?"

"It's none of your fucking business how long I want…"

"Oh, but maybe it's not about what you want, McKennick. Maybe…"

Landon suddenly crumpled the front of Neely's shirt and shoved him against the wall. "What's your shit, Neely, huh? Huh? You goddamn…"

"I've been thinking, McKennick." Mike kept his gaze veiled. "Why's it your bitches never stay, huh? See, that gets us all thinking some pretty damn weird things about you, you know."

"Cut the shit and tell me what in fucking Christ do you want?"

"Like I said, get the kid and keep him until graduation. Keep him like its real, that is."

"If I do it—I'm not saying I will, fuck you—what're the rules?"

Neely shook his head lightly. "There aren't any. You do it and I can't promise you anything. You're risking what you've got to lose. We got our history, man. Gotta live up to that, don't we?"

"Then that's no shit-fucking reason in hell for me to go fag, you fucking asshole."

"Who the fuck says I'm talking to your reason, huh? It never made you do shit. I'm not dumb, McKennick. We've been going at this too long."

"What in fuck makes you think I'll do your shit?" asked Landon sneeringly.

"Because."

"What, you motherfucking bastard?"

"Because you've got that goddamn status of yours to keep, McKennick. I think you told me once you're not afraid of anything, hm? That, and because you're trying to prove you're fucking not like somebody."

The burning golden gleam in Landon's eyes faltered. "W-what the hell?"

Mike smiled.

Landon looked down and scuffled his Nikes against the floor. "How—how far d'you want me to go with the kid?"

Neely's smile widened. "As far as it goes, pal. 'Til grad day. Or, say, prom night. That's better, isn't it? Then you can ditch him." The basketball captain leaned closer to Landon's ear and whispered, "Prove you're not a fucking faggot, huh?"

Landon stiffened. "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about."

"That's fine. So you'll do it?"

A short pause. "I'll do it."

"Good. Shake hands on that."

The two boys' hands met in vise grip. Both stared straight into each other's eyes, Landon defiantly, Neely with a strange glint that was half triumph and half something unreadable…

"Catch you later, McKennick."

"Yeah."

——

"Hi, I'm Shaun Farrell and I have multiple personality disorder."

Kyle choked. "I beg your pardon?"

"Hi, I'm Shaun Farrell and I have multiple personality disorder. You're not diagramming that in your head, are you? You kind of got me scared there a minute. And 'I beg your pardon?' isn't exactly part of the Hamdon phrases, you know." Shaun paused for a moment, slapped his forehead. "Of course you don't know, how dumb of me. You're new, for Christ's sake. But that's all fine and okay. We would normally say 'What the fuck?' or something—Hamdon-ish of that sort."

"Oh."

"Oops. You're going to give me a lecture on clean language now, right?" Shaun looked rather embarrassed.

"Wouldn't dream of it," said Kyle, giggling as he leaned inside his locker. "The kids at my old school didn't use much bad language. Yours is kind of interesting, actually."

Shaun's jaw dropped. "Wha-at?!"

"You're missing two words," came from the locker.

"Okay, okay, forget it. Let's do something different. Sheesh." Shaun scratched beneath his ear absently. "D'you know what multiple personality disorder is?"

"Mmm-hmm." Kyle was fumbling around for the packet of lemon candies that he had taken out of his backpack that morning.

"All right, what is it?"

"It's a psychological state where your personality is an apple pie divided into an anonymous number of parts, and you eat each pie slice like you're doing takes for a director who believes in spontaneity and assortment. Kind of, I mean. Oh, here it is."

Shaun clucked and shook his head. "You're making me love my fucking dictionary, stupid."

"And you're denying yourself the liberty to laugh, wise one," returned Kyle, tossing Shaun a candy.

The Goth boy chuckled. "Not anymore, I'm not, but I forfeit anyway."

"Both of us. Cheers to the lemon candies." Kyle licked an unwrapped sweet experimentally, grinned his approval, and popped the whole thing in his mouth.

"You carry a whole fucking package of these things with you all the time?"

"Hey, don't insult my lemon candies!" said Kyle, jabbing fiercely at Shaun's arm.

"Ow-w. Stop being a damn bitch, will you?"

There was a half pout on Kyle's lips. "Don't—insult—my—lemon—candies."

"All right, all right. Holy Jesus. But seriously, do you?"

The blond looked down at his feet. "I like candies."

"Sweet tooth, huh?"

"No. I don't really like cake or that kind of stuff, but candies, yes. And, um, gummy bears. And gummy worms. And gummy letters. And…"

"Okay, I get the idea. Okay. Lay off with the gummies."

Stephanie Kuhn flipped past the two boys, her front showing off an amazing bounce despite the fact that she was wearing really tight leather. Kyle continued sucking contemplatively on his lemon candy, making Shaun cock his left eyebrow and clear his throat.

"Eh, I'm gunna ask you something."

"Okay."

Shaun's tongue flicked over his lips. "Oh shit, this is awkward. All right, here goes. What do you think of that guy over there? Yech, no, not that one, THAT one. Over there."

Kyle carefully followed the diagonal line of Shaun's protruding chin and noticed a boy standing near the hallway intersection. He was looking down at his feet. "The really tall guy with the brown hair? The one in the plaid shirt?"

"Yep, red plaid shirt, white tee, jeans. That one."

"Sorry, but what what do I think of him?" Kyle sounded distinctly puzzled.

The Goth fidgeted. "Erm, what do you think of his—em, looks?"

"His looks?" asked the smaller boy, eyes widening.

Shaun nodded earnestly. "Uh-huh."

"But why…"

"Ah, just shut up and answer the question, will you?" Kyle's new friend had flushed a deep red. "And no, s'not because I have a damned crush on him or any god-awful shit like that."

"Okay. You're sure about the last part, right?"

"Yep, dead sure. Hell, he's—never mind what he is—but it's just fucking unnatural, okay?"

Kyle's expression morphed into a mischievous grin. "Well, why not?"

The Goth boy shuddered. "Holy shit, no. Me with Landon McKennick? Hell, no. Oh God, you're friggin' me out of my motherfucking pants. Just answer the god-fucking question and forget I asked it. Go on now. Play nice."

Kyle blinked down at the floor for a minute before slowly turning his gaze back to Landon, who still had his gaze lowered. A slender little guy with long brown hair stopped on his way past and poked the tall boy playfully in the ribs. Laughing as he pretended to bat the other boy away, Landon looked up. A brief blush dusted across Kyle's delicate cheekbones. He began signing his name over and over on his jeans with his index finger—Kyle West Kyle West Kyle West Kyle West—still staring when the slim boy walked on and Landon, left alone, rested his head against the wall with a soft grin on his perfect mouth. Shaun fidgeted.

"Hel-looo? West-ern front, do you read? Hel-lo-oh?"

The blond laughed hesitantly and dropped his gaze, shaking his head. "He's good-looking."

"Eh, how good-looking? I mean that as in 'how much.'"

Kyle bit his lip. "It's okay for me to tell you this, right?"

"Yeah. I, uh, hope. Nah, just kidding. Yeah, you can."

"He's very good-looking," was the quick answer.

Shaun treated the blond's side to a gentle prod. "Very?"

"Very."

A more pointed prod. "Just very?"

"Umm… Very very."

"So that type goes for you, huh? Athletic build, cutely gorgeous looks, blah blah blah, so on and so forth?"

"Um—yes."

"Oh my God, you're blushing."

The blond turned even redder. Even his eyelids, which the Goth could see perfectly due to the fact that Kyle wouldn't stop gaze-dissecting the floor, had flushed pink. Shaun groaned, drawing a hand over his eyes.

"God damn it all."

"Why?"

The Goth boy sighed and mussed up his hair. A tuft of it stuck up in the middle, making him look absurdly serious. "Look, you're from New York, right? I dunno if it's different over there, but at Hamdon it goes like this. And you gotta listen to this carefully, okay?" The tuft quivered.

Kyle nodded.

"At Hamdon, you can fuck all the guys you want, so long as you're not gay. Preferably not bi either, but definitely not gay."

Kyle's eyes took on an odd sheen, and he smiled. "Keep it straight, huh?"

"Yeah, exactly." Shaun sounded relieved. "We are the Hamdon Rods, for Christ's sake."

The blond nodded like he was doing it to himself. "So that's the missing .1 percent."

"You got it. Simple, right?"

Kyle's grin came out a little strained. "What if I'm gay?"

"Eh-ehm—uhm—point taken."

"Mmm-hmm."

"Yep. Now that could be a problem, you know."

"Mmm-hmm."

"Yep."

The blond's mouth lines softened as he pushed a few bothersome wisps of hair out of his eyes. "I kind of like traveling upstream, anyway. You don't have to worry about me."

Shaun sniffed and drew his eyebrows together in a would-be menacing glower. "I'll worry all I want to if I want to, Kyle West. I don't give a damn flying fuck about whether you want me to or not. So there. Besides, you're the size of a peanut, so you need a big, scary, tough guy like me to look after you. Come on, we're off to the cafeteria."

Smiling, Kyle followed his right-hand sleeve, which Shaun had arrested. But halfway down the hall he stopped. "I forgot to tell you something." He managed to repress a teasing grin.

The Goth's eyes widened. "Yi—ikes. What, what? Out with it. You're not a girl that had the sex change shebang some while ago and then suddenly realized these days you want to be a girl after all, are you? Huh? Huh? Plee-ee-ease say no. Please?"

Kyle chortled. "Nooo."

"Then what?"

"I like butterscotch candies better than lemon. They're my favorite." The blond's lips were twitching violently.

"Oka-a-ay. Why…does that give me the creeps?"

Kyle dissolved in a fit of giggles. "Butterscotch; made to haunt you."

"Whatever, Peanut," said Shaun, rolling his eyes. "By the way, what did you write about me on the bus?"

"Hmm. Now that will haunt you."

"Ah, shaddup. S'not like it's important or anything, yeah? But seriously, what did you write?"

"You really want to know?"

"Uh-huh. Kind of."

"That you have a cute nose and a wicked grin."

"Ehhh—thanks. We'll—we'll leave it—at that."

——

Kyle scribbled across his notebook. World History, his second favorite subject. Mr. Walters droned quite a bit, but he seemed to be okay. Oops, he would have to write a little faster.

The door thudded abruptly. All the students looked up as it opened, ushering into the classroom the platinum blond boy who had been staring at Kyle in English. Walters stopped in the middle of a sentence and turned around. He looked like he was trying to hold back a groan.

"Good day, Mr. Cameron. Do you have an excuse for being—twenty-five minutes and seventeen seconds late to our class, Mr. Cameron?"

Mr. Cameron's eyes drifted half shut, almost like he was meditating on his feet. "No."

Walters sighed heavily and waved his hand. "Very well, Mr. Cameron. That will be all. Please take your seat."

The boy smiled, inclined his head at the teacher, and stood calmly surveying the room for an empty place. He finally moved towards Kyle and sat down in the seat next to him. The small blond had an almost fascinated look on his face.

"Hi."

Blake looked at him sideways. "Jeremy's new friend, right?"

"Yes."

"Uh-huh. He says you smell nice."

The blond suddenly grinned. "What's your first name?"

Blake's right eyebrow quirked. "Hell."

"Really?"

"Fuck, yeah. It means nice little boys like you should stop talking to me."

Kyle laughed softly. "All right, then." He picked up his pen and started taking notes again.

It was at least fifteen minutes later when the boy shifted as if he had something to say. Kyle looked at him.

"How come your eyes are so fucking blue?"

Kyle's eyes widened. "Mine?"

"Well, what do you think?" the boy snorted. "Nah, forget I said shit."

The blond smiled. "My dad had eyes like this," he said, turning his gaze back to his paper.

"Don't hurt Jer," said Cameron suddenly. He had his eyes closed and his arms crossed.

Kyle nodded anyway. "I won't. I like him."

"He's a little fucking weird, but…"

The small blond's expression was serious. "There's nothing wrong with him."

"Mmph."

——

Sender: Kyle West
Recipient: Chad Everick
Subject: Your Letter Is Click Friendly and Rated PG-15

I just got back from school. Yes, school, which would be Hamdon. It is pretty rotten, I guess, but I mean that in an interesting way. It has a whole load of students, but they're all very quiet. They just walk around the hallways and don't talk much (even though you're allowed a lot of time to get from class to class.) And it's funny, but everybody here seems a lot more human than the kids back at Glendale. Sure, the Glendale students were nice (which is a very nice word). But they were just nice and pretty much nothing else. All the Hamdon kids have incredibly potty mouths, 90 percent of them own the best dirty cool attitudes I've ever seen, and practically all of them had clothed sex in the hallway at least once today (yes, clothed, so I'm not going against the rating). And a few carry drugs like it's breakfast cereal. To quote Dani, yelza. The really amazing thing is that all the teachers know, the principal knows, the parents know, and still no one stops them. It's like they're too tired to do anything at all. That's the whole Hamdon atmosphere as far as I can see. Jadedness. Even the students are jaded. Jaded—and wickedly gorgeous.
Okay, Chad, before you start teasing my temper out of my ears—they really are wickedly gorgeous. (But you can't have pictures. I am not turning stalker.) I'm talking about the boys, of course, since the girls don't do much except scare me with their height and, erm, fronts. Seriously, they have fronts that would make even you freak out. So preserve me. The boys, on the other hand… A couple of them look like they come to school from manga books (which isn't half bad), but most of them are really handsome in the more down-to-earth kind of way that I like. You know, in a way that you can reach out and touch. (Will you stop wiggling your eyebrows suggestively?) There's this one guy I saw in the hallway after second period, and he's…really hot. (It's no use pretending to puke on your keyboard, Chad. You know me and I know you.) He looks like the guy that you see for a while when you start installing/updating iTunes. You know, the guy with the dark hair that's standing next to this girl in a mint green jacket? Well, Landon (hallway boy) has almost exactly that kind of feel to him, except he's got lighter hair and eyes (brown), a bigger physique. Maybe a bit darker atmosphere, too. He's also got an incredible smile, the kind that makes you go all hot and blushing and ridiculous and bubbly warm inside… But I'll stop there—for the sake of your keyboard.
I made friends with a boy named Shaun Farrell today (yes, he's cute, and no, I am not going out with him, though I think he must be bi at least), and he's going to introduce me to his friends tomorrow. I think it'll be fun, since Shaun comes from a group that's supposed to be problematic even at Hamdon. Today he just showed me around the school and gave me snippets of information. It was pretty enlightening to know that Table 7 of Hamdon's cafeteria is reserved for those who are guilty of the Unspeakable. I dare you to guess what the Unspeakable is. Yeah, it's being like me. Exciting, isn't it? Hamdon seems to be pretty passionately homophobic (or so Shaun says), but in a really odd way. You can do whatever you want as long as you don't mean it. It's only when you mean it that you get it, and not in a 'You fag' kind of way. Shaun wouldn't elaborate. Don't worry, Chad, I'll probably be all right. After all, I've never looked screamingly gay…have I?
Whatever you think, Biology homework beckons. I miss you and Dani a lot. She's doing okay, right? I'll write again soon. Wish me luck with the Bio. (And no, I am not telling you how my classes went. That's boring stuff.)

Kyle

——

"Abstinence not sitting well with your shitty ass, huh?"

Landon glared up at Blake from the bed. He snatched the bottle of Sunny Delight that the platinum blond was offhandedly rolling back and forth over his upheld palm and screwed the cap off. "Shut up and fuck yourself."

Blake threw himself down in half reclining position on a gigantic, sagging green beanbag with a smirk. "No way in damn hell I'm getting laid just because you're fucking not, McKennick. Get shit real, will you?"

The glare seethed. "I am shit real, you fucking son of a bitch!"

"Oh, so you call getting yourself wound up in a goddamn stupid gay guy seduction bet jam being shit real." The platinum blond was snorting as he cracked open a can of Dr. Pepper.

"Yeah, so keep your motherfucking nose out of it!"

"I've never fucked anybody with my nose, McKennick. Don't plan on it, either." Blake stopped with the can halfway to his lips. "Damn Norman," he muttered.

"Hell, whatever, just SHUT YOUR GODDAMNED MOUTH!"

"You ask me, you're fucking allergic to being shit real, pal."

Landon sighed and covered his eyes with one arm. "I said shut up."

"Done screaming your sexy voice out now?"

"Shut up."

Blake shook his head, smiling, and drank some Dr. Pepper. "You're really fucking rotten."

"Will you just leave me the goddamn alone?"

"I'm a fucking son of a bitch, McKennick. So no."

Landon got up and gulped down half of the Sunny Delight. "Stop smiling at me, bastard."

"What's you fucking damn problem, huh?" Blake cocked his gaze to one side. "Huh, what?"

Landon flopped back down on the bed. "The damn kid looks like he won't even know what a fucking wet dream is."

Blake snorted, slowly turning the Dr. Pepper can between his fingers. "Uh-uh."

"What?"

"He's got it behind his eyes, McKennick."

"Fuck it, Cameron, you bastard. You haven't even seen a goddamn hair of him, for Christ's sake."

"Yeah? Then how do I just happen to know he's got fucking pretty hair, huh? I must be turning into Hamilton, my God."

"Lay off on Jer… He's got pretty hair?"

Blake's slender eyebrows arched. "Hamilton? Fuck no. He gets shit in it, you dumbass."

"Damn fuck you. Where'd you see the new kid?"

"I've got goddamn English and World History with him, idiot."

"So?"

"So what?"

"Fuck, Blake, I don't even know if the damn kid's gay or…"

"He's gay." Cameron's brow had furrowed.

"Huh?"

"What, you want me to say he's a fag or something? Fucking grow up, McKennick."

"How do you know he's gay?"

"I don't know."

"What?!"

"Think whatever you like, McKennick."

"So you think it's worth it?"

"I'm not thinking shit. You're not turning the goddamn bet in that shit-ass Neely's face, anyway. So go ahead. Do your fucking thing. Unleash hell."

Landon shook his head, almost smiling. "At your signal, huh?"

"If you fucking want." Blake brought his empty can to eyelevel and frowned at it. "I need some more of this stuff."

"What in hell is it with you and Dr. P?"

Cameron flicked a few strands of stray hair coolly out of his eyes. "Gets me high."

"Yeah, and?"

"That's the whole fucking point, you goddamn dumbass."

"Whatever, pal," said Landon, laughing.

Blake raised the can. "And here's nothing to your bet."

——

The floor of the gym was icy. Ryan shivered and pulled his fuzzy slate blue hoodie closer to his chest. The boy's fingers kept fiddling with the zipper that dangled beneath his chin, pushing it back and forth in time to the ticking of the second hand on the huge clock above the doors.

'July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is written—Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams…et cetera. 1918, Fritz Haber wins the Nobel Prize for synthetic methods of ammonia production. He later rearranges his priorities to the method invention of chemical murder. 1099, the Crusaders conquer Jerusalem. 1793, Marie Antoinette walks to the guillotine by will of the Revolutionary Tribunal. 1914, Sarajevo, Archduke Franz Ferdinand sponsors World War I by showing natural human reactions to a bullet shot. In the next century he gets a namesake band that Landon likes. I like…I like…'

"You cold, hmm?"

Ryan shivered harder as a pair of warm arms circled him from behind. He could feel the heat from the other person's body seep through the back of his hoodie. The chill inside him clenched, knotted, hardened to his gut.

"Sorry I kept you waiting, baby. I missed you."

'Whoever you are.'

A hot mouth began trailing wet kisses down the side of his neck, and Ryan twisted away for a moment to unzip the hoodie and throw it away. Again the shivering as he was left wearing only a thin white T-shirt, but this time it might have been because the unnamed person had suddenly grabbed hold of Ryan's forearms and pulled him flush against his chest. Ryan groaned softly as his tee rode up and the other's licks and kisses became almost desperate. He leaned back a little into the caresses, his gaze drifting hazily over to the tall mirrors on gym walls opposite to him.

Inside the iridescent glass was fluorescent light, concrete gray, two boys; two boys, both on the ground, one sitting cross-legged and the other sitting behind him with his legs spread wide apart. The boy behind had smooth, tanned skin and ice chocolate eyes that threw off a flushed glow even in his reflection. Ryan's eyes closed as he recognized the boy's face.

Jason Maverick.

'You. You always keep coming back, Maverick. You're Hamdon's hottest jock and you keep coming back. You're not even on the football team, but you keep coming back. I'm not going to ask you why. Maybe something else. Your hair's wet. I can feel it on my neck. Have you started practicing at the pool already? No, I don't think I'll ask you that either. I… 1212, unnumbered children march for Deus Vult. Unnumbered children for Deus Vult. Deus VultDeus vult.'

The toned swimmer's hands were wandering distractedly all across his cold stomach. Ryan let him yank the tee over his head, then turned to take off Jason's tight black Calvin Klein shirt. Jason gasped softly as Ryan's icy fingertips brushed his hardened nipples and lightly over his back. He pushed Ryan down on the floor, swallowing the boy's chilled shudder hungrily in his mouth. Both of them were panting through frantic kisses as jeans and boxers were stripped and flung away. Jason's hand strayed down to Ryan's inner thigh, but the dark-haired boy stopped him with another blistering kiss, instead turned over on his hands and knees. Maverick began fumbling around in his abandoned jeans. There was the sound of a cap coming off, a short pause, then Ryan's low hiss at the coldness spread around his opening guided by Jason's quickly scissoring fingers. Maverick was one of the very few Hamdon jocks that bothered to use lube. He had forgotten. Foil ripping. Tickling one of his bare toes. A pause. The swimmer suddenly rammed into him, and Ryan groaned softly as their two bodies began to slam against each other.

He had trouble remembering things. But it had always been like this. He knew that much. The cold, hard floor wrenching across his knees and into his palms with every thrust, the silence, the ragged, mismatched panting, the dull slap of flesh within flesh, the lust-fired lips carving their red mark on his neck, the blessed, cursed numbness… Those had always been there. Always in his ears, in his heart, in the mirror.

In the mirror. Blur. Colors. Images.

Blond hair that gave off a soft glimmer in the pale light of the bulbs overhead. Full red lips slightly parted, breathing with his. Strange gray eyes, watching like an ocean before rain. He had never seen those things in the mirror before. Never before.

Maybe he had just forgotten again.


Writing Music

Title — Times of Much Thinking and Little Inspiration (Winterbridge)
Dedication — Durn Durn, I'm So Silly Happy! (Winterbridge)
To All Readers/Important Notice — DIY off-key humming (Winterbridge)
First Part
— Spit It Out (Brendan Benson)
Second Part — The Body Burns (Devendra Banhart)
Third Part — Sk8ter Boi (Avril Lavigne)
Fourth Part — Get In Or Get Out (Hot Hot Heat) / Spiralling (Antony and the Johnsons)
Fifth Part, Sixth Part — Hole (65daysofstatic)
Seventh Part — Spiralling (Antony and the Johnsons)
Eighth Part — Innocence (dawntreader) / Ebudae (Enya)
Ninth Part, Tenth Part — King of the Mountain (Kate Bush) / The Power Is On (The Go Team!)
Eleventh Part — Need More Time (Epoxies) / Closer (Matt Pond PA)
Twelfth Part — High and Dry (Radiohead)
Thirteenth Part — Which Way (Debian)
Fourteenth Part — Talk Show Host (Radiohead)
Fifteenth Part — Reduction Theory (Citadel of the Stars) / Virgin Mary (Antony and the Johnsons)

Review Replies

Charlie (Why is FictionPress Document Manager being so mean to your e-mail address? I think it's interesting. Myeh, bad Document Manager) — It's always great to have a new reader. I grinned so hard while reading your review that my jaw still hurts big time. But that's okay. Hey, I'm flying! Who cares if my jaw aches or not? Certainly I don't. I'm so euphoric that Mom just asked me whether I drank all the root beer we bought yesterday. (Don't know what it is with me and root beer. I just get—well—high after I have it. That is so not normal, right?)
Thank you for taking the time to pay attention to each character. I'm really happy about it because they all mean a lot to me. It's really weird, but I almost cried when I read the part about you typing the character names into Word and printing them out. That was just the best, and you're great! Sorry if the many characters confused you like they seem to have confused everybody.
I'm hugely relieved to hear that you find my writing style interesting. (Also glad to hear that the opening sentence of Chapter One grabbed your attention.) Personally, my writing style reminds me of a dehydrated cucumber. (Yuck.) Just the same pattern over and over and over again. As for the 'engaging' dialogue, well, if the dialogue in my stories isn't at least acceptable I'm doomed. Almost everything is dialogue. (whimper) I just have much less difficulty coming up with dialogue than description. Thank you so much for saying that you'll stick with my story. I still feel like I've swallowed a can of deliciously fizzy soda pop!
Don't feel bad if you can't exactly pinpoint what you like about the story. That happens to me too a lot of times, and I actually think you expressed your likes perfectly! Really, they were quite helpful. So another bi-i-ig thank you for that.
I just wish that I could know who exactly you are on this site, but if you don't want me to, I will by all means respect that. Or maybe you haven't joined FictionPress yet, who knows?
Anyway, I just want you to know that you helped me so much with starting this chapter. I was somehow having a lot of trouble with the beginning part, but you and Brendan Benson combined assassinated my laziness completely. Can I say that I love you? Because I really, really do. Thank you heaps and heaps and heaps, and I hope to able to read something of your own someday soon. I'm sure you're fantastic at writing too, since the diction of your review was great! Bye!
May47 — (staring at the screen, dumbstruck) You reviewed again. You—reviewed—again. Again. I can't believe this! You—you lovely person you, you have just totally made my day! And the review was so nice, too!
Thank you so very much for everything you said, especially for pointing out what you didn't like. I love it when people do that. It really helps me, because I'm just this pretty dumb kid who's writhing to write, so you can imagine that what comes out of me is, well, mediocre to say the least. I totally agree with your comment about Kyle being flat. He is pretty flat, I know, all the more so compared to the other characters, who are—eh—hot and—and sexy (blushing furiously)—and, well, hot (eh, I already said that). (Actually, Kyle isn't supposed to be hot and sexy, so maybe I didn't screw up that badly…) The others also seem a lot more complex and tormented (?), don't they? (By the way, I'm so glad you like Landon at least a little. I was afraid that I'd turned him into a darn brat.) I'm really trying to work on Kyle right now. It's just—not working very well. Wah. Anyway, I think it's because he's a pretty personal character, meaning that he acts and thinks a lot like I do. And I kind of have trouble being honest about myself on paper, which just proves what a crappy writer I am. Miff.
Oh my God, I just realized that you're going to hate me for making boring little Kyle the main character of the plot! Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn. Well, even if you do hate me I'd deserve it. Chapter Three was pretty awful stuff. You're very right in saying that it was something that I had to write due to the plot but didn't really like. Right now, though, I have no idea how to fix it, so it'll just have to stay that way until the sky falls down and I get an imagination. (Heh, fat chance.)
As for the Post-Its around the mirror, well, that's just something I do because I'm always forgetting important stuff, but more because that particular talent of mine doesn't sit too well with my mother. (glances at mirror) I really should take some of the more embarrassing notes off today. Wait just a sec. I never put up that underwear shopping Post-It. This is proof of an invasion, my friend! An invasion…in my mom's handwriting. Yech. When Mommy is in the scene, forget all retribution. Just focus on survival. But I digress.
There was some more Jeremy in this chapter. I love that kid. He reminds me of a beautiful little plushie doll. I really, really hope that Chapter Four didn't disappoint you too badly or anything. Even if you did hate it and decide to stop reading this, thanks so much for everything. (You know, Jeremy has a very serious crush on you. He thinks you've got a gorgeous heart. Isn't that just awesome?)
Dr. Pepper 14 — Nora loves me (?), I love Nora, Nora loves me (?), I love Nora, I LOVE NORA!! Yeah, yeah, yeah!! Nora is the greatest, Nora is the best, Nora, Nora, Nora!! Everybody loves Nora! I LOVE NORA!! Nora LOVES me! Okay, so I'm just hoping she loves me, but anyway, I KNOW I love her!!
So that was a teeny little sound clip (er, written sound clip) of me after reading your review. I was so hyper that Mom got majorly pissed and Tyler now thinks that he can lecture his crazy older sister whenever he likes. But I don't care. Who would after getting such a beautiful present? You, Nora, are just plain damn amazing. You should receive the Grand Prize in reviewing or something, honestly! The review for Chapter Three was so incredibly long and funny and w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l. I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and it just simply would not end! It was almost the length of a whole page of reviews, my God. I sat in front of my desk and savored it for ages. Honestly, I read it over like seven times at least! How can you say that I give good reviews when yours are so totally awesome? I mean, they rock! Yes, I loved it. Truly, madly, deeply. (Heh.) But I love you more. Yesh, definitely more. More truly, more madly, more deeply. (Heh heh.) I don't think I'll be able to answer the whole review here, though. This is just a gloss-over. I promise to e-mail you later on the things I missed, okay?
First of all, you really can't imagine how relieved I am that you think Kyle is a cutie. That was the effect I was aiming at when I was writing him, but the results didn't come out very well and I got a teensy bit depressed. But if you like him, I'm content, although I really have to work on developing him a lot more in the future. Yes, Kyle is the polar opposite of my delicious (eh hem) delinquents, so we'll see how it unfolds. You must be seriously psychic or something, though. You knew the main slash relationship was going to be Landon and Kyle! (Yes, Nora, I said main. Wunnerful, don't you think? I'm sure you'll be able to guess the second one too!) As for gay boy fun between Landon and Blake, you're right, that would be really…hot…cool…whatever. (Oh God, I think I blush too easily.) But how to go about it I'm quite sure I don't know. Maybe in an evil little one-shot, hmm? I'd feel like I was betraying Kyle, though. I wonder if that's a wise risk to take. Oh well. Anyway, thank you very, very much for liking Kyle. (He's blushing again right next to me. I swear he blushes as well as I do.)
And the chapter made you like Landon? Really, really really? Well, then whee for me! (And I'll say that again, even if it sounds kind of dumb.) See, that was really why I wrote the chapter in the first place. I had to develop his character a little somehow, and I decided it might not be a bad idea to take a peek into his family life early on in the story. Plus showing that he's not really just the totally disgusting playboy type. It just didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped. And the action—well, that's coming. Just…not that soon. I definitely agree with you on letting the characters take their time. Anyway, Landon is very grateful for your comments. He's also excited that you like Sunny D. He sends you a virtual six-pack of Dr. Pepper. (And yes, Blake liking Dr. Pepper is all for you!) By the way, Blake will most definitely be your virtual boyfriend…at least until we get further into the story. (But more of that when it comes.)
You suggested Kansas for the Hamdon location. I will definitely consider that. But the problem is, I know absolutely nothing about Kansas except for its name and the fact that it is has been the 34th U.S. state since 1861, and that it had this big hullabaloo regarding slave freedom…I think. Kansas always makes me think of camels, too. Yeah, I have no idea why. I'll decide on something eventually. I guess I have to make a choice scenery-wise between plains or mountains first. Maybe I'll just go berserk and plant Hamdon in Seattle. Then I wouldn't have to worry about rain at least. (Heh. It's important for the state to have some rain.)
Nora, you know what? You always make me want to write. I really want to write chapters for you. All I have to do is think about you waiting for a new chapter (I hope) and I immediately want to run to my laptop. (My mom isn't too happy with that.) So, I don't think I'd be able to survive without you now. I had these awful nightmares last night. One was where you didn't find my story and I was left without reviews. That was pretty depressing and made me wake up pouting. When I fell asleep again, I dreamed that you had found my story but absolutely hated it—you know, flames and all. And that was so damn sad. Myeepy myeep. (I know. I have really abnormal dreams.)
Is there anything in this story that you'd like to see, other than what's already in it? If there is, please, please tell me and I will by all means take it into consideration. And of course, the wackier the better. Thanks so much for everything. Thank you as much as the hotness of ten Blakes. I don't deserve you. I really, really don't. So I'll just send you a big bunch of much love through the screen and hope it gets to Florida all right. Bye, with more much love!

P.S. 1. So you like Nirvana and Incubus. I've never listened to either of them. Eh, nobody reading this is going to believe that I've never listened to Nirvana, but it's true. And I hadn't the faintest idea that a band called Incubus existed. (Now I feel really dumb.) And since my parents specifically order me not to spend money on 'trashy music,' which translates into all of popular music, I'm not quite sure how I can find some of their stuff to listen to. (That's why I have absolutely no popular music CD's. Everything I listen to is in the format of MP3 files and radio podcasts. Now you know why my musical interests are so awfully spontaneous and sometimes low-grade.) Oh well. It's all very sad. (And of course I want to hear more about the bands you like. I'm sorely in need of good bands to listen to.)
P.S. 2. You got John McKennick's age pretty accurately. He's around 36.
P.S. 3. I'm so sorry for not updating sooner. I took some time finishing and getting the whole thing to read a little less like crap. Maybe it reads like crap anyway. I don't know. Feel free to bash me on anything stupid or horrible I did! I actually meant to finish this chapter tomorrow, but I woke up in the middle of my sleep with this terribly stern voice in my head saying, "Nora's waiting," and that freaked me out so much I wrote like berserko at two o'clock in the morning, proofread in thirty minutes, and am now posting. I feel good, though. Very good. You always kick ass in the best ways. Thanks so much!

Author's Corner

Clap your hands, say yeah (with all due respect to the N.Y./Philly band).Dana has reached Chapter Four and Plot Revelation.
But plot is awfully cliché. Meh. Blame the abysmal creativity level of my stupid brain. And okay, the bet scene was terrible. Unconvincing. I'm afraid Ryan is too complex a character for my stupidity to pull off. I'm afraid Jason got out of control. I'm afraid…
The chapter was also impossibly late. I am so sorry about that. There was more school stuff for me to get just horridly wrong, too. I'm a dumb little homeschooler, though, and I wouldn't know even if I really screwed something up. So feel absolutely free to point out anything that doesn't sit well with you. Even little stuff. I will fix. My solemn oath on that. Furthermore, if you will be so generous as to give me your course schedules, I will love you forever. If you give me samples of your textbooks, I will worship you forever. If you give me samples of bummer test questions and what exactly you hate most about each course, I will love-worship you forever. (This is the only part of homeschooling that I hate. The stupidity.)
And so now we have the Hamdon jocks on the scene. They're not that bad—er, are they? (Neely, you bad, bad boy. You're dirty. But you're also rather cool, which is why you're not dead yet.) I guess May47 will probably hate Ian for being mean to Jeremy, though. I can't say I like him much either, sniveling, foxy chap that he is. Yeh. But I actually like some of the jocks, and if I don't manage to make you like at least one of them, I'm going to have serious problems with the story. (crosses fingers) All that comes later, thank God. NO, it's got to be in the next chapter! Ack! Have we progressed that much already? Now, what'm I going to do? Write, I guess. (How profound.) Oh, actually, I can afford to postpone that until Chapter Seven.(Whew.) I have to.
Shaun was a bit different here than from the first chapter, wasn't he? Well, he jumps around like that. I'm actually scared to read this chapter as a whole. All I'm doing basically is spewing crap at everybody. I'm so sorry about this. I'll—fix it—somehow. And I really didn't want to show Ryan like that so early on, but considering what has to come after this, it was unavoidable. I'm so sorry if it was bad. I really suck at writing sexy stuff. Really. But hey, people, we had at least some action out here! (Seriously, though, what did you think of Ryan?)
The next chapter will be, ehm—constructive, let's just say. Yeah. Or so I hope. Yeah. Relationship beginnings. Yeah. And—I don't know what and. Yeah. (Getting terribly disjointed out here.) Oh God, how am I going to write it? (Gotta let the characters spool themselves, gotta let them spool themselves…) Don't worry, it's just an unplanned panic attack. I hope… I really need a Blake to talk to, eh? But there isn't a single one to be got. How sad.
Bye until next time. Happy writing to you!

P.S. 1. Would you believe it? All I had to do was listen to Brendan Benson's Spit It Out once and Part One of the chapter came out spitting out beneath my fingers. Gotta love that guy. Power pop is the general Hamdon flavor, okay? Part Three needed a little kick from Avril Lavigne (and that's Avril Lavigne, though with nothing against her), which means that I was really desperate. Yikes.
P.S. 2. I actually liked Mr. Rogers's Neighborhood (that is how you spell it, right?) when I was little. A lot. I still don't hate it. It kind of makes me feel safe. Is that bad?
P.S. 3. I guess everybody reading this will come to the conclusion that I have locker obsession. Three locker scenes in this chapter alone. Hmm. Well, I sort of do have locker obsession. Aw, come on, guys, I've never had one! They're cool as long as you don't really have to deal with them…I think.