Chapter Two: Commercial For Levi

"Dude, I think it's totally unfair that he did that to you! I mean… no one should have that inflicted on them!"

I sighed and flicked the page of my book. We'd been listening to James work himself into an outrage on my behalf for the past half hour. I looked up and shared an exasperated glance with Kit. She went back to examining herself in a compact mirror and I went back to reading, neither of us really interested in our friend's ranting, but James continued nevertheless.

"How long do you have to do it for anyway?!" he suddenly demanded.

I looked up again. "Huh? …Oh, uhm I don't know. 'Til he gets the hang of things round here, I guess…"

James pointed a plastic dinner fork in my direction. "Yeah, well you better hope he catches on quick, because otherwise you're stuck with a friggin' queen following you around –"

"Oh. My. God!" Kit slammed her mirror shut and turned on the brunet. Obviously, her patience had just expired. "Shut up! Seriously, just shut up! If I have to listen to you spouting derogatory comments for another second I'm going to hit you where it hurts!"

James's mouth snapped shut in mid-comment.

"What's wrong with you anyway?" Kit went on, her temper still irritated. "So what if he's gay? If you don't like it, just ignore it – but shut the fuck up about it!"

James sneered but kept silent, moodily stabbing at his salad with the plastic fork. He did tend to sulk when he didn't get his way. Kit stared at him a moment longer, probably hoping he'd start up again and give her the excuse to hurt him. Not that she's violent or anything…

I was about to go back to my reading yet again – a Physics text book, from which I'd read the same line four times in the past few minutes, I'd been distracted so often – when a quiet voice interrupted me.

"Harper, isn't it?"

I sighed, realising I was never going to get any work done (to this day I don't have a clue about star density) and turned around towards the source of the voice.

And promptly froze.

Amber eyes regarded me lazily over the rims of rose coloured glasses, hooded by the dark make-up he wore. He raised a pierced eyebrow when I remained silently staring at him, tilting his head so that his fringe moved to conceal one eye.

"Isn't it?" he asked again.

"I… What? …Oh! Uhm, yeah. Harper, yeah."

The eyebrow lowered slowly and one corner of his mouth curled up into a smirk. I blushed, realising I probably sounded like an idiot. "Uhm… So, you need help with something?"

"Yeah," he admitted, jerking his chin upwards in reluctant affirmation. "Where's the English block?"

I was about to try and explain it to him, but changed my mind. Our school was a pretty big place, and easy to get lost in if you weren't used to it. "I'll show you," I told him.

He nodded again wordlessly as I picked up my text book and shoved it into my rucksack. I happened to glance up at my friends. Kit didn't seem concerned one way or the other, having returned to examining her mirror, but James was openly glaring at the other boy. I looked up at Lucca, wondering how he took to the obvious hostility, but his eyes merely passed over James without interest, returning to me in silent question.

"I'll see you guys later," I muttered, standing up from the bench.

James grunted, his eyes never leaving Lucca. His attitude surprised me; I'd never seen him… actively dislike someone before. James just wasn't that type of person. He'd forgive anyone almost anything.

Apparently his only exception was being gay.

I sighed, side-stepped the table and bench and began walking. I heard Lucca's booted footsteps behind me, and he quickly caught up. I watched him from the corner of my eye. He was taller than me by a head, and probably thinner too. He reached up a hand and flicked the long strands of black hair over his shoulder, revealing at least five silver loops piercing the shell of his ear, all with a small red gem attached to them. He was incredibly effeminate, I couldn't help thinking.

"You're friend's homophobic?"

His soft voice came out of nowhere, surprising me out of my thoughts. I started, realising that I'd been too busy staring at him to notice where I'd gone and having to look around.

"He's a very strict Christian," I said in explanation.

"Are you?"

"Christian? Uhm, I guess so, but not –"

"Homophobic."

"Oh." I blushed again. "No, not really."

"Good," was all he said in response. I wondered did he ever speak louder than a murmur. He didn't seem shy, just… not bothered. As if he didn't want to waste energy on speaking or interaction. That was how he'd struck me earlier in class. We'd spent an hour in silence, though not a minute of it seemed to faze him.

We passed through one of the school's mini courtyards, slowing to a stop as I pointed out the door in front of us. "That's the main entrance. I have this class next, too, so if you need anything else…"

He nodded, studying the group of classrooms through half-lidded eyes. I couldn't tell if he was actually wearing lipstick or if his lips were just naturally that colour… Then it occurred to me that I was staring at him again, and I looked away.

"Are we supposed to go in now?"

"No, wait until break's finished, then we go in."

He sighed and moved to stand under the shade, near the wall. He hooked his thumbs into the belt he wore and braced himself with one foot against the wall. In the shadow, his pale skin seemed even brighter white against the dark background. I could even see the small triangles of flesh on his legs, where the red criss-crossed cords held together his jeans.

"You don't have to hang around here."

I shrugged, not moving. "Got nowhere else to be."

"You do." Somehow, the way he said it didn't sound like an argument, just a statement. I shrugged again, shifting uncomfortably.

There was a window opposite me, and I caught sight of my reflection directly next to him. And sighed. Whether or not people approved of him, they had to admit he was an impressive sight. Then you got me; scrawny little emo boy in clothes too big for him and decidedly average looks. I glared at my reflection. My hair was black, cut shorter at the back and spiked up slightly. In the front, an 'emo fringe' covered one eye and half my face. I had a freckle high on my cheekbone that I hated, and a scar through one of my eyebrows. No piercings except for a silver stud in one ear.

He coughed pointedly. "Did the window do something to you? Because that's an empty classroom you're glaring into."

"What? …Oh, no, I…" Oh, crap. I was blushing again. What was it about this guy that continuously made me feel like an idiot?

He smirked again, arching his back against the wall slightly and reaching up to adjust his glasses. "You're a strange kid."

I gaped. This coming from him??

My sentiments must have shown on my expression, as he laughed quietly at me, lifting a slim shoulder in a shrug. "Well, you are."

"Whatever…"

"So how long is it 'til class starts?"

I glanced down at my watch just as the bell rand, signalling the end of break. "Uhm, now, I guess."

---

English was one of my favourite classes, mostly because I was good at it, unlike most of my other classes. I wrote at home in my spare time, as often as I could, so I always did well with tasks such as creative writing.

I'd later come to realise that English was also one of Lucca's favourites, but it didn't seem so at the time. He didn't seem to put any effort or concentration into what he was doing, and when I mentioned it to him, he told me he'd finish the work off at home. I didn't believe him at the time, of course.

Other than that brief interaction, we also spent this class in silence too, while everyone else around us chatted amiably. I sat and scribbled into my workbook and he daydreamed, staring into space with his chin resting in his palm. Occasionally, however, I'd feel him staring at me, and when I looked up he made no effort whatsoever to conceal it. Just blinked slowly at me.

After what felt like forever, the second bell went, ending the lesson. I stood up, gathering my things. "So, what class do you have next?"

"Nothing."

"Free period?"

He shook his head, hair falling over his shoulder. "No, I'm just not going. It's Maths, it's worth skipping."

I raised an eyebrow, then conceded he had a point. We exited the room along with everybody else, and he didn't speak again until we were outside.

"Do you smoke?"

I nodded.

"Good," he murmured. "No one should ever smoke alone. C'mon." With that, he backtracked and slipped around the side of the English block, out of sight. I blinked, then hurriedly followed him.

When I turned the corner, he was already lighting up, standing with his back to the wall as he had done earlier. I approached slowly, and he looked at me without turning his head.

"Do you mind cutting class?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Nah, I've done it often enough before now." That was true enough. Usually, though, it was me and Kit hiding out somewhere to avoid classes and teachers that we hated.

He took a drag from the cigarette, then looked down at it while he held the smoke in his lungs. After a while, he breathed out. "This is my last one. Share if you like."

He held it out and I took it without thinking. I examined it quickly, taking note that there were no lipstick marks on it and realising that the colour on his lips was actually natural. Shrugging it off, I did the same as he had, feeling a buzz of nicotine go through me. I hadn't smoked in ages, and it felt really good.

Yet again, we didn't speak much after that. The cigarette was passed back and forth a couple more times before it was gone and he flicked it to the ground.

Then, out of nowhere, he said again, "You're a strange kid."

I frowned. "Why?"

He didn't answer me directly, but paused and waited almost a minute. Then, "I won't tell them you came here with me."

"Who? Teachers?"

He shook his head, reaching up to lower his glasses further down his nose, peering over them at me with those odd amber eyes. "No. I meant your little homophobic friend. Or anyone, for that matter."

I stared at him, blinking mutely. I felt the urge to apologise on behalf of James. "Uhm…"

"You know you'll be ridiculed, right?" He cut me off, uninterested in whatever I had to say. "You probably shouldn't be caught hanging around me. They'll probably think I'm molesting you." His eyes were absolutely emotionless, like chips of real amber. "That, or they'll think you're gay too…"

I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. I was hardly gonna come out with, "Yeah, well about that…" But what else was I supposed to say? In truth, I really didn't mind being around him. His company was weird, but that was probably why I liked it. He barely spoke, but when he did it was because he actually had something to say, unlike most of my friends who chattered on for the hell of it. Like James, for example. And – okay, sue me – he was nice to look at. Hell, he was fucking gorgeous to look at.

He was different. I liked him for it.

"So?" I finally said in answer to his warnings.

Oh, that shocked him. For the first time, I think I caught him off guard. He looked at me sharply, dark eyebrow raised in surprise. "You did understand what I just said, right?" he drawled slowly.

I frowned. "I'm not stupid, contrary to popular belief."

He regarded me wordlessly for a moment longer, then smirked. "Well alright then, hun. But I get to say, 'I told you so' when it happens."

He didn't seem to be taking me very seriously, and I wondered if he thought I'd have changed my mind by tomorrow. It didn't occur to me to think he might not want me around, but I've always been that way. These things never occur to me.

I stayed with him for another half hour, until the bell rang again and we headed for separate classrooms. It was as I was heading for Science that I began to worry what James would have to say about the whole thing…

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Sakuri: Again, tell me what ya think. Review, people!