I am so bad about updates!! -begs forgiveness-

For those who asked, ATV stands for All Terrain Vehicle. Those four-wheeled things that crazy people ride around in, which flip over way too many times. It'll make sense, there's a hint in this chapter.

myhiddenstory: Your threats shall not sway me!! Bring on the muffins!!

FamousOneLiners: Cooper wasn't annoyed, he really was trying to hint at things. And we'll find out why Elliot dislikes Josh...eventually.

cracksinthepavement: Mmmm yes it is. Maybe he was writing snarky comments all over the photos?

Thanks to Kohaku Cho, myhiddenstory, punkturnedwriter, FamousOneLiners, Kasandra, KayOrine, and cracksinthepavement!

Enjoy:

Robot Hearts
Chapter Five: Ride of Your Life

He had to be kidding me.

Josh's rapid footsteps echoed in the empty hall behind me as I headed out to the parking lot. "Brannon, wait," he called. I ignored him.

"Wait," he said again, and now he was right behind me.

"What do you want?" I had one hand on the double doors. So did he, sliding deftly between myself and the outside.

"A ride," he answered smoothly.

"The ride of your life." Shit. I was only supposed to imitate him in my mind. Josh raised his eyebrows. "You have got to be kidding me," I said, "as you have treated me like utter crap beneath your feet for six years, and now you're asking for a fucking ride home."

He suddenly dropped his arrogant countenance. Ran a hand through his mousy hair. "Look," he said, "I'm sorry. Sorry about the ATV and how I acted, and anything else I've done to make you hate me."

I let that sink in. He sounded pretty sincere. It's been long enough. "Fine," I relented. "Just don't make a habit of it."

---

I really want to know what I smoked.

Why the hell is Josh sitting in my car? Why is there an enormously awkward silence between us? Why is it being punctured by static and giddy voices and for GOD'S SAKE STOP CHANGING THE CHANNEL!!

The wholesome voice of Shania Twain filled the emptiness, and Josh was giving me an odd stare. "'Sup?" I then realized I was gripping the steering wheel with unnecessary force, knuckles turning white.

"Turn that off," I demanded. He complied.

"Something the matter?"

As if you care, I almost said, then remembered I was trying to be civil. "Headache."

"You shouldn't be driving then."

"You can walk."

"We're there anyways." He got out.

It only occured to me hours later that Josh didn't ask how I knew where he lived.

---

I was home, and alone, as Dad was still at work and Mom had gone out shopping. I took three aspirins and collapsed on my bed, burying my face beneath the comforter. It felt like the room was spinning me around, like a bad amusement park ride. Hope I'm not getting sick...

I don't know how long it takes me to fall asleep. Cooper shakes me awake, and pulls me out the window, and we're flying in the direction of the middle school. I like flying, it's a light-as-a-feather sensation, especially at the navel, which could be mistaken for minor airsickness. We sail over green trees and suburban housetops before landing on the roof of the school.

The entire time, he hasn't let go of my hand, but as soon as my feet touch the gravel on the roof, he disappears, and I know somehow that Adeline's got ahold of him. I turn my attention to a figure on the opposite side of the roof, sitting on the pipes, pitching pebbles at nearby birds.

It's Josh. Such a bad ass, I think, he's a real bad ass.

Yeah, he's a bad ass...and then I notice the object at his feet. Ohh....the ATV...

He stands, and in one quick, fluid motion, flings it over the edge of the roof.

I forced myself awake.

Five-oh-twelve by the looks of the digits on my alarm clock. Swiping at my bleary eyes, I leaned out of the bed to grab the red yearbook from sixth grade. There was a black and white section of that year's robotics team. I had to sneer at the irony. We looked like a football team, minus the muscle, hands clapped around each other's shoulders. Josh and I were front and center, grinning at the camera like a couple of morons.

It seemed so long ago...

Fuck that, I told myself. It was long ago.

We're different now, I thought, tossing the yearbook aside. It slid under the bookshelf. Come tomorrow, we'd carry along like any other day. He'll go on being wonderful Josh to his friends, prancing around the lacrosse field, and I'll be banging my head against a brick wall. He'll ignore me as usual.

Nothing will have changed.