Yes, yes. Late, sorry, busy, blah, whatever. Read on!


The wind was cold on Jude's skin, ruffling his hair; it raised wave after wave of goosebumps. He pulled his blazer closer around his stomach, wishing St Thaddeus's made their uniform from something slightly sturdier. A few loose fallen leaves danced across the bare pavement ahead, circling each other like birds in flight.

Dom looked over at him and laughed, cocking his cigarette between two fingers. "Cold?"

"Mmmm." Jude didn't want to answer that. He didn't want to seem weak. But he was freezing. He was sure his lips were turning blue.

The street was empty. It was mid-afternoon, and yet the sun was almost gone, the sky shot with orange and grey. Darkness came earlier these days, with winter approaching. But Jude had been to parts of the country where, for ten months of the year, days began and ended in darkness, so he wasn't fussed by it.

The detention, he reflected, had been pretty boring- an hour's sojourn in a white-walled room with about four other students, all of whom had taken one look at Mal and decided to mind their own business. The only lively part, in fact, had been when Dom skidded in, a mere five minutes late, and bowed graciously to the teacher in charge before settling in and playing with his fingernails for fifty minutes, like a preening peacock.

They weren't allowed to talk. Jude didn't mind, though. He liked the opportunity to get his work done without his mum bursting in all the time with some new idea or other. He couldn't bring himself to get a lock on his door at home, although he knew he should. She'd be so hurt.

He took a breath of cold air- gulped it, more like- and shivered, slightly.

"You ARE cold," said Dom, languidly. The smoke blew away from his smile. "You're a bad liar."

"Technically I didn't lie." Jude was feeling slightly testy. He wasn't at all sure he was meant to be doing this. It was a long way from the school to his house- a distance he wouldn't have contemplated walking, normally. At least halfway across the suburbs. But Dom had said he was going this way, so-

So here they were. Walking side by side down an empty street, towards Jude's house. Jude breathed air onto his hands to keep them warm, attempting to distract himself from how very alone they were. Mal had certainly been surprised when they'd set off together, but she hadn't said anything. Just given Dom a look which Jude couldn't read, her purple hair tumbling around her head in the breeze, and gotten on her bus.

Thank God Korin wasn't picking her up, Jude thought. If he saw me setting off with Dom- He didn't finish the thought. He didn't need to.

"It happens not to be my fault that your residence lies ridiculously far away from any convenient public transport." Dom's face was hidden for a brief second as the wind took his hair and lifted it around his face in waves. He'd untied it from its ponytail. It really was amazingly long.

"I could have caught a bus to the park." Jude rubbed his hands on one another, experimentally, but it didn't help much. "And then walked." He wondered why he hadn't. Maybe Dom had just been more persuasive than he seemed. Jude had never walked home with anybody before, anyway.

"But this is so much healthier. You're getting fresh air and exercise." Dom's voice shook slightly with laughter.

You're finding my death from exposure to the elements amusing, thought Jude, looking at him take another drag on the cigarette. You odd creature. Are you even human?

"How are you not cold?" he asked, acutely aware of how peevishly it came out.

Dom gestured with the cigarette. "Warm smoke," he said. "Fills my lungs with hot tarry goodness."

"Yuck." Jude didn't realise he'd said it aloud, but Dom laughed- a short one, like a bark. It seemed to echo across the empty streets. A car flashed past, its headlights on.

"It's my body, Julian Actually," he said carelessly. "I can fuck around with it as much as I want."

"OK." Jude didn't really want to argue. Arguing with Dom was Korin's job, not his. He looked over at the houses around him. All neat, brick ones, with pretty curtains, calm spreads of lawn. All normal. He was tempted to sigh, but he didn't want to engulf his insides with the cold air again.

There was silence for a little bit. Jude had to walk a little fast to keep pace with Dom's long strides. Bloody hell, he was tall. Made Jude feel very small. In more ways than one.

Then Dom said, "So?"

Jude looked over at him, questioningly. Dom met his gaze with a calm one of his own. Then he snorted, apparently amused by Jude's cluelessness.

"Your freshly impaled heart. So? How fares that?"

"Oh." Jude suddenly felt colder than ever. "It- I don't know. I haven't talked to him or anything."

"And you think that you makes you a coward. Right?"

Jude blinked. Then he blinked again.

How did he know that? he thought, deeply unnerved. He hated the feeling that Dom somehow knew the way his mind was working- well, no, he didn't HATE it. It just- kind of caught him off guard.

Dom's smile broadened slightly. He flicked at Jude's jaw with a finger, and Jude clamped it shut, suddenly painfully aware that it had been hanging loose in amazement. He blushed. Dom laughed again, and shrugged. "You're not a coward," he said, simply. "I know how this works. He walks into a room, you turn into a statue-" he gestured faintly.

"Something like that." Jude wound his arms around himself a little tighter. And it makes me feel like an idiot. But I guess it's better than collapsing into a blushing, simpering mess. I'm pretty good at shutting stuff out and being as blank-faced as possible.

"Everybody does it," said Dom dismissively.

Jude looked at him. "Do you?"

He hadn't meant it to be an invasive question, but Dom just looked at him, and then took another drag on his cigarette without answering. Jude bit his lip and glanced away. He didn't want this. He just wanted to feel comfortable around Dom, but it seemed that he was always treading on hidden ground, avoiding obstacles he couldn't see. He wondered if he should apologise, but he knew Dom wouldn't like that. So he just shut up and wondered if he was ever going to get this friend thing right.

Eventually, though, Dom did speak, and his voice was quiet and relaxed, without a trace of offence.

"You ever hear of Pygmalion?"

Jude looked up at him stupidly. "The play?" he asked, puzzled. Dom shook his head. Long curls loosed themselves around his cheeks; the wind was from behind them, now, enveloping him in black tendrils.

"The Greek myth," he said, scratching the part of his forearm with the tattoo on it absently with long, black-nailed fingers. "An artist called Pygmalion loved a statue he'd made, and then it became real." He shot Jude a smile through the tumbling strands of his hair. "Seems appropriate."

"I suppose. I'd be in trouble if that happened, though. If I came to life. I'd stuff it up somehow." Jude looked down at his feet.

"Perhaps you would." Dom's voice was calm. He didn't look at Jude, simply gazed straight ahead.

"I mean-" Jude felt as if all the worries, the stupid little flitting panics, that had gripped his heart were suddenly bunched in his throat, forcing themselves out. Maybe Dom would laugh at him, but he didn't care, he laughed at himself enough anyway. "It's hard as it is. I'm around him every day and I can't do anything, and he just makes it difficult to concentrate or- or function normally, I guess. And it's only going to get more difficult now." He rubbed one hand on the other for warmth, thinking.

"Why's that?"

Jude cast him a confused look, then mentally slapped himself in the head. Of course. He doesn't know. Just because your thoughts have been orbiting the reality of it for a week doesn't mean everybody else knows about it, you idiot.

"He's been assigned as my maths tutor," he said, attempting to put his tremendous uncertainty and stress about that particular situation in the fabric of the sentence.

There was a brief silence while they just looked at each other. Then Dom burst out laughing. He flicked the still-smouldering butt of the cigarette into a flower bed and looked at Jude sideways. "Is he, now. How very convenient!"

Jude blinked at him. "No, it's not. Really." He moved his hands in a futile attempt to make it clear how very inconvenient it was, failed, and sighed. "Dom, it's me, and him, in a small room, for hours at a time. What if I- what if he- I mean, I have no idea what I'm doing, how am I going to do this?"

He heard his voice ring out against the house they were passing. It sounded plaintive, and very confused. Dom made a comforting noise.

"Slow down," he said, and his voice was low and serious. "No need to panic. Just figure out how you're going to act beforehand, and try to stick to that plan."

"Oh, sure." Jude was always at his most sarcastic when he was feeling extremely pressured. "Nothing simpler."

Dom snorted. "Sorry. I do see the futility of that advice, in hindsight." He pushed some of his hair to the side of his face, and added, flatly, "Do you want to seduce him?"

"-What?" Jude couldn't believe he'd just asked that, completely baldly. But when he looked at him to see if he were joking, all he met was the perfectly sincere- well, as sincere as they ever got- gaze of Dom's black eyes. "No!" he said, acutely aware that the hesitation while he'd been too shocked to speak made it sound like a lie.

Dom shrugged.

"Suit yourself. I wouldn't blame you, you know. He is extremely attractive, if you like that type." He flashed Jude a rather evil grin.

"Yes. He is. Um, Dom?"

"Yes, sweet?"

Jude blinked for a moment at this tag, but decided, uneasily, that he wasn't going to take any notice of it. It had certainly been thrown out without any apparent thought on Dom's part.

"Why- I mean- you really seem to hate him." He was unsure of how to phrase it and he didn't want it to come out wrong, but he couldn't figure out a way to formulate what he was thinking, so he let the sentence fall and didn't pick it up again.

"Don't throw that word around." Dom didn't appear to be fussed, however. "Hate. Too strong for people like you, Julian. Leave that to your leprechaunic loverboy."

"Dom, please," Jude said, pleadingly.

"All right, all right." There was a brief pause while Dom seemed to collect his thoughts. Then he spoke, twisting some stray strands out of his eyes. "I do not, as you say, 'hate' him. I take care not to hate anybody; it wastes energy. He certainly spares no affection for me, but that isn't my concern. And the rest of it is none of your business, but I'm sure he'll find some way of inserting a truncated version of it into his attempts to teach you algebra."

Jude looked up at him, trying to read his face- he couldn't get any meaning out of his voice, it was too blank, eerily so- but he was looking up at the houses beside them, and the lights and shadows falling from them distorted his expression so that Jude couldn't tell what it was.

"I don't understand." He seemed to be hearing his own voice from very far away.

Dom looked down at him, and his face broke into a grin against the backing light. Somehow Jude didn't find this very comforting. Dom's grins rarely were.

"You don't think he's going to use this as some way of binding you to him?" He pushed some hair away from his face again, looked up at the houses. "He's scared, Julian. He's absolutely petrified about what I might do to you."

Jude stayed a few steps behind, biting his lip, thinking about this. Then he said, "Dom?"

"Mmm?" The boy turned, slightly.

"What might you do to me?"

They stood there for a few seconds, staring at each other across the shadows on the pavement. Then Dom cocked his head on one side. "Are you scared of me, Jude?" he asked, quietly.

They were very alone. But Jude felt braver than his shaking hands betrayed.

"You didn't answer my question," he persisted.

He waited while Dom looked at him- through him, so it seemed.

Then the boy laughed, and tossed his hair like a wild colt. "Ask your tutor," he said, and this time Jude wasn't imagining the bitterness in his voice, hovering above the words like a mirage. "I'm sure he will be perfectly willing to lay it out for you in graphic detail. Educate you, as it were."

"I'm asking you." Jude's voice was quiet, and he was growing cold, but he didn't really care. Suddenly he wanted answers. "I'm not going to believe everything he tells me just because I like him."

"You surprise me," said Dom, simply.

"You underestimate me," shot Jude back. Christ, why did everybody believe he was some sort of fresh-faced ripe-for-brain-washing dolt? He'd been there. He'd had his nose broken three times in the one semester, in a school in another state. He wasn't new to mind games, he just got tired of playing them really, really fast.

Dom just looked at him. He seemed, ever so slightly, shocked. But his face relaxed. "We'll see," he said. "Keep walking, Jude. You're never going to get home before morning at this rate."

Still slightly fuming, Jude started forwards again, refusing to look at Dom. The boy walked beside him for a few minutes in silence, then said, suddenly, "He'll say I'm trying to corrupt you."

"Are you?" Jude kept his voice as cold as his skin currently felt. He was exhausted, and his feet hurt, and he wasn't in the mood to be polite.

"I didn't deserve that," observed Dom, mildly.

"I know." Jude sighed. Suddenly he felt like a child. "I'm sorry."

"You're forgiven." Dom's voice was light. "I'm used to it. It's interesting, isn't it?"

"What?" Jude looked up.

"How he wants to protect you." Dom was gazing at him, and his gaze was- thoughtful. Almost questioning.

"He must really not trust you," said Jude, in agreement. But Dom was laughing, and shaking his head.

"You misheard me, Jude," and suddenly he put a finger to Jude's forehead. His hand was surprisingly warm. "I said it was interesting how he wants to protect you. Noble though you may think him, Korin doesn't bother to place walls around every new friend I make. This is a new thing for him."

Jude blushed a deep, almost painful red.

"Maybe he just thinks I can't deal with you," he whispered, because he couldn't get his voice any stronger than that. Dom removed his hand.

"Maybe." He looked up at the house they were passing. "This is you, isn't it?"

"Oh- yeah, it is. That was a long walk." Jude opened the gate. "Where do you have to go?"

"Nowhere." Dom shrugged. "Home."

He grinned as Jude's jaw dropped.

"But- you said you had business in this part of town!" he said, confused.

Dom looked at him, and half-smiled. "I did. And now I've taken care of it. See you tomorrow, Julian Actually."

And he left, stalking off into the darkness, whistling.

Jude simply blinked after him.

He walked miles out of his way, at night, just because he wanted to talk to me.

Fucking HELL.

Korin's right.

He's totally batshit insane.


"Urgh. I hate Wednesdays."

Alex turned his head as he pulled his bags out of the car's boot, to see whether the nonchalant sentence had raised anything in Conrad. It felt, sometimes, like he was fishing in unknown waters, casting deeper and deeper in the hope of catching something, anything.

Well, it failed this time. Conrad nodded to acknowledge that he'd heard, but Alex could tell he hadn't absorbed it.

"Here." He proffered the boy's bag. Was tempted to drop it, to see if some annoyance, some life, came to that mask, but resisted the temptation. Conrad took it and looped it over his thin back, easily.


Better than nothing.

"You've done the history essay?" They walked towards class together- god, the wind was bitter this morning. Alex wound the car keys around his fingers carelessly, letting them come closer and closer to leaving his grip and then snatching for them. He loved doing this- dexterous, physical tricks. They took his mind off you-know-what. Skateboarding, basketball, whatever. It was his freedom, it cleared his mind.

"Mmm. You're getting good at that." Conrad gestured at his fingers, which were still twirling, lazily. Alex promptly, out of shock, fumbled. The keys dropped, and splayed with a tinkle on the ground.

Cursing, he bent to pick them up- all the better for hiding his reddened face. Conrad was laughing, though, very quietly, which sent a shot of balming whiteness after the burn of the humiliation in Alex's stomach, and healed it completely.

"I take that back," he said, and there was a shade of affection in his deep, neutral voice.

"Oh, hush." Alex kept his voice brisk. He straightened and held the keys to the light. "You did that on purpose."

"What, with my mysterious telekinetic powers?" Conrad's eyes were deeply amused now.

"Yes." Alex wagged a finger. "I'm onto your secret, my friend. You and your voodoo hocus-pocus."

"You're forgetting the ESP," reminded Conrad, and one half of his mouth was smiling. "I can read minds, too."

"Well, there's only one thing to do, isn't there?" Alex affected a resigned sigh. "We're just going to have to sell you for medical experiments."

"Really? Damn, and I was hoping to be a circus exhibit."

Alex snorted with laughter and twirled the keys around his fingers again. "Watch it, or you will be."


It was a different voice, from behind him. Alex's mind must have been working slowly this morning, because he didn't recognise its bearer until he turned. And then he had difficulty stopping himself from rolling his eyes. Dom.

"Hi," said Conrad. Deep within Alex something was surprised at this. He guessed he was just used to being the first to do everything in this equation. "Hey," he offered, of his own accord. Not looking at Conrad, carefully attempting to look careless. He hated having to be on guard against somebody else as well as against himself. One day it was going to break him.

Dom's shirt was unbuttoned. How was he not cold?

"This would be yours, yes?" His fingernails were black. Something glittered between them. A key?

Alex looked down at his keychain automatically. It was twisted in the palm of his hand. His house key was missing.

"Oh," he said, looking up again. "Yeah. Thanks." He held out his hand for it.

Dom's grin widened. He didn't move.

Great, thought Alex, realising, and repressing a surge of anger. I should have known. Another headfuck. It's not his way to make anything simple.

"Finders keepers is, I believe, the usual rule." Dom flicked the key over his fingers, dizzyingly fast. He was better than Alex would ever be. His eyes never left Alex's face.

Alex struggled to keep calm. "I don't see what you could do with it. You don't even know what it unlocks."

The wind rose slightly, making a tendril of hair drift over Dom's wicked, gleaming eyes. "I could make a few guesses," he said, sweetly. "House. Car. Locker. Chastity belt."

Alex hoped to heaven that he'd imagined his eyes flickering towards Conrad when he said the last one. He thought he had- the tendril in his eyes made it difficult to see- but it didn't stop his cheeks flushing. His voice remained steady, nonetheless.

"I thought the point of a chastity belt was that it remained locked. But you wouldn't know much about that, would you, Dom?"

He was tempted, very strongly, to look over at Conrad, to see the expression of approval, but it was a weak impulse, nothing more. He could fight this battle on his own. Dom, at least, appeared to be amused by the riposte. Amusement was good- it meant that he might unbend. Alex couldn't win by directly insulting him, so he had to play the verbal duck and dodge, much as he hated thinking on the same level as Dom.

Playing the game, after all, implied that there were rules. With Dom, there were none.

"You're improving," said Dom, lightly. The key flickered between his fingers again. "A month or two ago, you simply would have grunted and thrown some gutter-words at me. You appear to be moving towards civilisation. Congratulations."

"Thank you." Alex wasn't going to rise to that. It was too true. "My key, please."

"Oh, and you were doing so well!" Dom's voice dripped with disappointment. "Civilised people don't demand, Alex. You really should have better manners. I've a mind to keep a hold of this until you learn them." He lifted the key to the light, examining its different angles. Alex watched, temporarily lost for words in his frustration.

Then there came a voice- quiet, and steady, but insistent- from his side.

"Give me the key, please, Dom."

A hand moved forwards, palm upwards, brushing his aside slightly. White, and thin. Conrad's eyes were determined, and utterly focussed on the key. For a moment, Alex felt that he and Dom were united in their astonishment.

Then Dom's face shifted. He appeared to realise that the borders had changed. Alex expected him to banter with Conrad, too. Let him try. Let him see how his words just hit and slide right off.

But he didn't.

"Certainly," he said, quietly. And put the key in Conrad's palm. "Since you asked so nicely."

"Thanks." Conrad appeared totally unconcerned by this turn of events. Alex couldn't say he shared the same reaction- he felt as if his jaw were an inch from the floor.


He realised, suddenly, that Conrad was proffering the key to him, with perfectly cool eyes. He wanted- he felt as if he wanted- to throw it from him bodily, but he didn't want to insult Conrad, so he took it. Just took it, like a dumb puppet or something. The surface of Conrad's palm was cold.

"Thanks," he said, and felt as if his throat were suddenly scraped free of moisture.

"You're welcome." And Conrad gave him a smile, an easy one, a quirk at the corner of his mouth. "See you inside, I'm freezing."

And he turned and walked off. Alex resisted the temptation to gape after him. He simply focussed his attentions on rethreading the key onto the keyring, letting the warmth of the smile settle and spread within him.

"The question is," oh, great, Dom was still talking- well, Alex was just going to ignore him on the pretext of fiddling with the key, "whether you would have taken the key if I had followed my first impulse, and kissed it before giving it to Conrad."

The image of this was suddenly so bright within Alex's mind that he wasn't able to convince himself it hadn't happened. Damn Dom. Damn him with every Chinese curse that Alex had ever heard. He had to concentrate extraordinarily hard to keep his fingers from shaking, and to thread the key without pause.

"The question is," he responded, and was amazed at how calm his voice was, "whether he would have taken it if you had."

He turned and looked at Dom with an eyebrow raised, now unable to use the keys as a pretext to avoid eye contact. But Dom simply smiled aggravatingly.

"Are you so sure he wouldn't?" he asked.

"Conrad isn't- I don't attempt to know what he would or wouldn't do," Alex responded hotly, stumbling slightly over the words.

"Don't you? You surprise me." Dom cocked his head on one side.

"I am not interested in surprising you," said Alex. He infused his voice with as much frigidity as possible, to try and freeze out any shaking syllable that might betray him.

"My apologies, then. I must have been confusing you with Jude." The black eyes twinkled. Alex heard himself breathe in sharply; he didn't really know why. "He seems quite keen on proving me wrong about him. Isn't he sweet? I do love having him tag along. Like a blonde puppy."

"I'm sure." Alex's voice was abrupt. He was past his breaking point now. "Jude's a nice guy, Dom, why can't you leave him alone?"

"Whatever for?" Dom smiled again, bearing his teeth. There was a little danger in it, this time. Careful, it said. "Or, more accurately, who's going to stop me?"

"I am," said Alex, immediately, and then regretted it. He hadn't ever wanted to get himself into this position- was he insane? Saying he'd stop Dom or something? He wasn't fucking Superman.

But he'd known what he was doing, hadn't he? He'd gotten Alex into this spot.

For one instant, he was flooded with the most intense hatred he'd ever felt in his life for the black-haired boy standing before him.

"No," said Dom. "You're not."

And his voice was amused, but it was also hard-edged. It bore the strength of somebody stating a fact.

"Aren't I?" Alex could feel himself mimicking Dom, and felt foolish, but pursued it anyway. "And why not?"

Dom looked at him. He smiled, very simply.

"Because, if you try, Conrad will be told about those dreams you've been having."

Alex went- white.

He felt as if his mind had frozen over. Things just stopped working. His heart was a distant beat, somewhere far off.

Dom's smile didn't falter. He simply observed him.

Alex wanted to say something, wanted to deny it, wanted to get himself out of the net that was closing on him, but- what could he say now? The seconds were ticking away, the mistake had been made. It was too late. He could see freedom slipping away from him. He was Dom's, now.

Every curse that he had turned upon Dom, he now turned upon himself. For feeling this way in the first place.

"Oh, don't worry." Dom's hand was on his shoulder, now, suddenly. His voice was impossibly light. He didn't seem in the least aware of what he'd just done, but Alex knew he knew. He still felt faintly disembodied, and didn't even move away from the touch, as he would have done if he'd been feeling normal. "Jude is perfectly safe, Alex. He's a sweet little thing, but he's not enough of a challenge for me. You have my word that I won't touch a hair on his angelic little head. All right?"

"All- all right."

It seemed to be the only thing to say.

Dom nodded. Every movement he committed, now, seemed cruel, every word gave Alex pain. He was acutely aware of just how much power he had relinquished. He would give anything to keep Conrad blissfully innocent, anything at all. And he had a sense, a hopeless knowledge, that that was exactly what Dom was going to wring from him in return for keeping the secret.

"I'm so glad we had this little chat." Dom smiled.

And he was gone.

Alex was left in his wake. He ran a hand slowly along the back of his neck, underneath the collar of his shirt, feeling the scar which ran along the top of a shoulder blade. He'd fallen during a skateboard trick almost a year ago, and landed on a piece of glass. Conrad had picked it out for him with his fingernails, and made him laugh until he forgot the pain. He still had the glass somewhere.

I am a mass of scars, he thought, quietly, and the thought echoed. Being cut to pieces from the inside out.

He sighed. One last sigh. And began the long walk to class.


And so Dom plays his trump card, and Alex is blackmailed. Told you Dom was a devil. I am quite seriously amazed that so many people seem to genuinely like him as a character. Yes, he's attractive, but he's also blatantly amoral. (No, he doesn't even qualify as 'immoral', because that would imply that he knows what a moral actually IS.) If you give him your heart he's going to put out his cigarette on it, I'm warning you.

Serial Code A- I don't think all mothers have the scary protective thing going on, but I know mine does. I suspect that if I ever have kids I'll probably be the same. And occasionally that stuffing-Alex-and-Conrad-in-a-closet urge hits me, too, but it's too early in the story yet. As it is, Alex would just be stupidly embarrassed, and Conrad wouldn't notice or really care. Jude and Korin are quite adorable too but I agree with you on the stupidly sickening cuteness of Alex and Conrad, but I can't make any promises that I'm going to get them together… And Ingrid's your favourite character? Sweet. She's brilliant, I love her, but most people, um, don't.

Hallo456- Yes, Dom and Korin do have a history. And it's complex and awesome and I will have much fun gradually revealing it. Muahahaha. Jude is coming out of his shell a bit, isn't he? I wonder if he would have had the guts to ask Dom the questions he does now a few chapters ago.

Skeptic Critic- OK, Dom has now committed his first act of villainy, do you still like him? Stupid question. And no, I'm not telling you about my plans on keeping characters alive, so keep those sprinkles to yourself. Same goes for couplings. Save the begging for- I don't know, some other more important thing, I guess.

Oppanielsarim- Yes, I encourage praying for couplings. It won't do anything at all, but it appeals to my agnostic sense of humour, so I encourage it.

Slowlydancingtothestars- 'Hum' doesn't tell me very much. Did you like it?

FamousOneLiners- It loves you, too. It's going to come and marry you in your sleep.

Mysterious Double- Actually, people do banter like the characters in my story do, if they've had a lot of practise. It's something that requires years of refining, but it is possible.

Marie- Yes, Jude totally does need to grow a backbone.

Mage Dudette- Is college good? I might be going to one next year. Cue panicking about cooking and cleaning for self. Don't fuss about the chopping off of your YKWIM review, I was kind of amused by your brief synopsis anyway (I don't want to know what you did to the kettle). Guitar playing is fun, but guitar players are not all they're cracked up to be, in case you're buying into the hype. Trust me on this. I actually got two mildly abusive reviews to YKWIM asking me to put the review responses somewhere else, but stuff them, I like having mini-conversations.

Green Eyes- Bad luck about whatever mother issues you seem to have. Yay for leaving school!

Midnights Scream- It's only 12 chapters in, I can't think about an ending yet!

Rinna- I still find it funny that you and your mother come up with plot points that haven't even occurred to me, and I'm writing the damn thing. I'm highly tempted by the store idea; I was already going to do something similar.

See, Korin dating Ingrid would be amusing but generic. Like Alex said, it'd just be the golden couple getting together. And I hate golden couples. So if I did make that happen, I'd have to put a twist on it somehow. Yes, I'm being insinuating, but it's late and I'm feeling sadistic.

The clique thing- one clique member on the committee each- came from how things were done at my extraordinarily clique-driven private girl's school. The groups were so well-defined that organising things by clique representative was the easiest way of getting things done. Remember, though, my school was extraordinarily small. I was one of only two girls who floated freely from clique to clique. The other was the Head Girl, hence some of our issues. Some.

And gloves are good. Noor got mittens today which detach and become fingerless gloves. They be awesome. (Cold! Very! Gah!)

OK, I am going to go somewhere and attempt to warm myself up whilst not feeling like a fat bowl of lard (I have no idea how I'm going to achieve that but anyway). Enjoy!