Walking into a Life called Cliché
the March Hare

Chapter Two
...Timing...

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"Scott! Wait up!" Scott looked back over his shoulder and saw Laurel jogging to catch up with him.

"Hey lover, how are you this morning?" he asked in his ironically deep and scratchy voice as she caught up, slinging an arm over her shoulder.

She groaned. "Sometimes I wonder why I even need to walk. It's dangerous and you stub your toes. I'm just going to replace my feet with wheels. That's it, that's the only solution."

"Oh Laurel my girl, you're a special one my dear. Wheels! That's precious." He pulled her tight in a one armed hug. She came barely to his shoulder, the top of her head just scraping even with the bony protrusion. "So where's Sher today?" he asked, looking back to see if the bus was coming.

"Oh she had something she had to do with Geoff. I'm not quite sure, she didn't really give any specifics. Why? Interested?" she elbowed him playfully in the ribs.

Scott, unaffected by the jibe just smiled. "There's only one girl for me!" He pecked Laurel on the cheek and began to tickle her.

"Ah!" she screamed laughing. "Holy crap Scott, even your fingers are thin and bony!" She batted them away. "You're such a scarecrow! No there's got to be something better. Skeleton! You're a skeleton, with a little bit of skin stretched over top! Why aren't you on the basketball team?"

"Laurel you've asked me that every day since we reached puberty, and I'll give you the same answer. Just because I'm tall doesn't mean that I can play basketball. No matter what, I'm like one of those dancing men whose limbs get all tangled." He flopped around dramatically for her amusement.

"Ahaha, that never gets any less funny," she sighed, breathing deeply.

They both turned at the rumbling of the bus pulling up beside them. "After you my lady," Scott moved aside, flourishing with his gangly arm, overlarge hazel eyes crinkled at the edges as he smiled.

"Thank you m'boy," Laurel laughed climbing on, struggling not to cringe at the decibel of noise a bus full of high school kids creates. Scott folded himself into the seat beside her as the bus pulled away from the corner. "So, what do you say are the odds for Dave being at school today?" Laurel asked, looking out the window.

"Hmm, well it's Monday and he just got back from vacation, and he hasn't seen anyone since he left, so I say…. Who am I kidding? I don't know how to work odds! My guess is he won't be in before noon."

Laurel chuckled, "I concur, my friend. I concur." She turned and ruffled his dark dirty blonde hair. "I also concur that you should let your hair grow."

"Laurel you have no one to concur with, get your English straight, and you know that I look like a MOP when I grow my hair. You have pictures. Don't deny it. Plus I like my hair short. Requires neither frequent washes, nor a brush!" he grinned cheekily, showing off his teeth in his large mouth. "Speaking of such, how about you and Geoff?" he elbowed her, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

"Oh get over yourself Scott, and cut it out. You'll be the first to know if I'm ever interested in any other boy but you."

"So does that mean you're in to girls now? 'Cause that's cool too," he laughed as Laurel hit him in the arm.

"I am not. Cut it out. I hate it when you go away with Dave. You come back like a freak."

"I do not I'm like this all the time! And you love it." He pulled her close and hugged her tightly and seriously, the joking feeling was gone between them.

"So what if you only grow half of it out?" Laurel asked after a moment of silence, bringing back the silly atmosphere of before.

With an amused growl and a shake of his head Scott ignored her and launched into a random topic about whether or not an orange could be an orange if it wasn't orange. Their banter kept up until they reached school and piled off the bus amidst the shouting and shoving of the kids around them.

"Ugh Scott why don't you have a car? You don't even fit on the bus, that should be reason enough for you to validate getting one." She looked at him as they walked, "I forgot how much of a goof-trap you are, dancing skeleton man."

Scott looked like a character made up out of mismatched parts. His long stick-like body was out of sorts with his round face, large eyes and mouth, but yet he exuded something that drew all eyes to his inner self, a sense of confidence and nonchalance that made people forget that he wasn't the definition of traditionally handsome. Girls at school sighed over him, boys at school wanted to be like him, and through it all he managed to remain a grounded, serious yet relaxed and goofy boy.

"Um Laurel, why don't you have a car? You're the one who loathes the bus, that should be enough reason for you to validate getting one. Plus I like to watch the social workings of people's minds. Practice makes perfect!"

"Yeah whatever you goof-trap. Note to self, never see Scott the psychiatrist when I have mental issues. He'll only make them worse." Laurel piggy-backed her way into the courtyard laughing, a very pleasant way to start the day.

"Hey Koala-Man!"

James instinctively looked around him for the owner of the voice, a charming grin coming over his face when he spotted the owner's head bobbing above everyone else's. "Hey Scott, it's good to see you." James pulled him in to a hug after shaking his hand, he wasn't a boy to worry about showing his affection for his friends, and Scott hugged him tightly back.

"It's good to see you too man. Really good. So how've things been? Am I going to have to kill myself to catch up?"

They began to push through the crowd once more. "Nah not really, um Calculus and Biology, yeah not too much going on there, we've been doing a lot of review actually, and- Scott do I really have to go over all of this right now? How about we get together tonight?"

Scott laughed as they made their way into the cafeteria. "Sure James. Is it just me or is it more packed in here than usual?"

"I have no idea. Have you forgotten that the crowds part for me?" He made a frame with his fingers, "James Denner star of the basketball team, terribly handsome and basically an all around great guy!"

"You can say all of that again," a random female voice sighed from somewhere around them.

Scott laughed as James began to blush. "All of that and yet it seems that you can't handle your popularity. Tsk, tsk my friend. Come on, buck up! It's time for lunch!"

James shook his head and followed him to a table in the far corner of the caf where the others were already established and beginning to chow down. By the time James reached them Scott had already told the table about James' admirer and one of his fellow players from a table had already caught hold of it.

James just shrugged good-naturedly as his friends began to tease him. "What can I say? I'm hot stuff! Speaking of which, has anyone seen Dave today? And what about Sher and Geoff? Where are they today?"

"They had something to do James," Laurel murmured from behind her book.

"Okay, okay, there's no need to be rude about it."

"Sorry," she said sheepishly. "I'm just a little- I'm just- ugh. I'm going back to Mr. Darcy, that's what. Goodbye." And she stuck her nose back in her book. Scott sat down beside her and started to whisper in her ear as everyone faded in to silence or conversation.

James stared at his food set out in front of him for a few moments. He had always been a little jealous of Scott and Laurel's relationship. They had always had someone around to talk to, to believe in, to yell at, and most importantly to share a piece of themselves with. He had tried that himself once and been deeply hurt not to mention humiliated.

Contrary to the belief held by some he hadn't become the star basketball player to prove anything to himself –or to anyone else. He had been brought up to believe that if you were enjoyed something you should pursue it no matter what, and he enjoyed basketball, the fact that he was good at it was a bonus. He loved playing basketball, not the attention gained from it.

Those close to him knew that he made light of his star status because it was all he could do to deal with it. He didn't like the spotlight but he wasn't prepared to play down his skills or to treat anyone unequally, which made him the best choice for team captain; an amazing player and someone with a gentle and realistic touch in the area of high school politics.

"Hey James?" Shauna was waving her hand in front of his face and smiling to brightly. "I've been talking to you for, like, the past 5 minutes and you've totally just been staring, like, right through me!" She huffed and slumped back into her chair pouting.

James sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "What is it Shauna? I'm listening now," he said monotonously.

"Okay well I was talking to Larissa, like, in Spanish 'cause Ms. Monroe wasn't saying anything worthwhile, like she ever does," she perked right back up gesturing along to her pointless story with her fork. "But so, like, anyways she was telling me about Tyler and how…" her voice faded off as James caught sight of Laurel smiling grudgingly at Scott, and over their shoulders, Sherice's face pressed tightly against Geoff's chest as they hugged tightly before entering the cafeteria. Sherice's worried face brightened as he draped an arm around her and whispered in her ear, steering her towards the table.

Sherice caught sight of James' face as she came toward the table and wondered at the glazed look in his eyes that followed her as Shauna babbled inanely on beside him. He suddenly realized Sherice was looking at him and shook himself, plastering on a goofy grin. "Hey Sherice, how was your morning off?"

He scrunched up his face and scratched his nose. On a horse it would have been called a Roman nose, on a human it would have been called large and awkward, but on James, who carried it without a care in the world, it could only be described as strong; fitting right in on his long face and gangly yet graceful body.

Sherice laughed. "Oh it went great. You know, breakfast in Paris and then tea in the Alps, then back for lunch at Grove High School!" She smiled genuinely.

James found himself thinking that he would enjoy having Sherice to share his life with, not only his friend but something more. He frowned and shook his head, dislodging the thought as well, wondering at his wandering mind. As if Sherice would date him, even without Shauna fawning at his side.

Thinking of her he turned to nod in her general direction to pretend he'd been listening but found she was instead babbling at Geoff across the table who had looking politely interested down to an art.

"You should really work on your multi-tasking," came a low voice in his ear.

He jumped a little turning to face Sherice. "What do you mean?" he asked innocently. "I was multi-tasking perfectly fine. It just so happened that none of my tasks had to do with," here he lowered his voice, "Shauna." He made a face as Sherice flopped on to his lap.

She shot right back up again. "Zippy-doodle bops! I forgot my lunch! I'll be right back! Save my spot!" She winked jokingly back over her shoulder at James as she shot out the door.

He sighed and mentally kicked himself. 'If you enjoy something, pursue it Denner!' he thought to himself, and remembered a saying his dad liked to share with him after every new girlfriend. "Son," he would say, placing a mug of tea before him, "a good and lasting relationship is based on friendship. A friendship never turns out well if it is a result of a failed relationship." James never argued. The proof of his father's wisdom was played out time and time again. 'A relationship is based on friendship Denner, and a friendship takes time and energy. If you enjoy something, pursue it!' He smiled sadly to himself once more, then with a deep breath jumped in to the conversation his friends were having without him.

A relationship is based on friendship. Friendship takes time. There was plenty of time.

Sherice went racing through the halls to her locker, mentally kicking herself for forgetting her lunch and wondering what was on James' mind, deciding to ask him about it when she got back.

She sighed as her locker came in to view. It locker was always dodgy and never seemed to open without a lot of kicking punching and pounding. "This is going to be a trial," she murmured under her breath which hitched as another shooting pain shot through her shoulder. "Holy cracker-jack barrel!" she said through her teeth, trying to hold her shoulder as still as possible until the pains passed.

She continued to her locker cursing doctors under her breath. She had convinced Geoff to take her to the local health clinic today where she didn't need an appointment to check it out. She didn't want her parents to know, not that they would ask questions, they wouldn't which was part of the problem. Geoff hadn't asked any questions either, but for a different reason.

The health nurse had poked a few random areas and claimed she was perfectly healthy, but Sherice had insisted that she see the doctor as well because she was pretty sure that the amount of pain she was feeling was not healthy. The doctor had pronounced the same diagnosis as the nurse: perfectly fine, and sent her home without a second thought, except to maybe close up early after their second and final patient.

Sherice shook her head at the memory and spun her combination, praying fervently for the locker to open smoothly…no such luck.

"Stupid. Smelly. Ugly. Useless. Stinky. Crappy. Stubborn. Demented. Dented. Unloved. Unwanted. Germ-filled. Rat-infested. Junky. Locker!" Sherice punctuated every word with a kick or hit, the sounds of skin on metal echoing through the hall with her words. "Argh!" With one final brutal kick, the locker sprung open to show all her magnetic devices which were once on the door, on the floor. She just glared as she grabbed her brown paper bag from the shelf.

Shutting the door with another slam she turned and headed back to the cafeteria, not noticing the person walking behind her. Another stabbing pain ran through her shoulder and up in to her neck. She paused squeezing her eyes shut and fighting off a wave of dizziness, intending to stay still until it passed but the figure ran into her from behind, not realizing that she had stopped.

"Oh wow I'm really sor-" he began.

Sherice cut him off "Holy Jesus Christ Bananas!!!" she yelled. "You DUMB NUT!! I'm pretty damn sure that the hallway is big enough for two people to walk in without colliding with one another! You're not that massive that you need to bash people out of the way to be comfortable in you're personal bubble! Holy Mary, mother of JEBUS!!!! Oh ow, ow, ow!" Sherice mumbled as she looked down at her shoulder. It didn't seem any different but the stabbing pains had now become a non-stop surge of agony. She tucked her arm close to her and turned back to the guy before her.

"Here's your lunch. Are you okay?" He had noticed how gingerly she was moving, trying not to jar her shoulder.

"Am I okay? Do I look okay? Is there a reason you were walking so closely behind me? The hall is practically empty! Holy mackerel," she faded off having begun to gesture but being hit with another wave of painful dizziness.

"Here let me help you to the nurse's office. You aren't moving your arm, come on it's not far."

"I know where it is thank you!" she spat looking him in the eye for the first time. She might have gasped if she had been able. The eyes looking back at here were an amazing mix between forest green and every blue under the sky, flecks of different shades made dizzying patterns in them and she forced herself to look away and speak. "Look how about you just frolic off and leave me alone capische buck-o? You can just continue on your merry way, I know when I've been hurt thank you. You've been so much help that I think I can manage much better on my own from here."

He looked at her frowning, and she noticed that his dark hair fell into his eyes without him noticing and seemed to bring out his eyes even more. He was looking at her shoulder as if it was a puzzle and she turned away from him, blocking it from view. He shrugged and brought his eyes back to her face. "Are you sure?" he asked, seeming genuinely concerned.

"Yes, I am sure!" she spat back dismissively, purposely not looking him in the eye, looking anywhere else but.

"Well in that case, I guess I'll be continuing on my way then." But instead of moving on he stayed still, observing her once more.

Sherice huffed, aggravated, and said "You know what? Don't worry about it. I'll go." She spun on her heel and took off towards the cafeteria at a brisk pace, muttering under her breath.

She made a bee-line for the cafeteria table intending to talk to James but noticed belatedly that he was gone and in his spot was Geoff, having moved to make room for Jake. She slumped into the seat beside her brother, hissing sharply when she jolted her shoulder.

Geoff turned to her with a concerned eyebrow cocked. "Are you okay Sweets?"

"Oh yeah, nothing to worry about Love. Do you have my sweater still by the way?" He was scrutinizing her shoulder, thinking that it somehow looked wrong.

"What? Oh yeah I still have it, here." He pulled it off of his lap and handed it to her. She swung it messily over her shoulders one handed, successfully hiding her shoulder from view. "You sure you're okay Sherice?" Geoff lowered his voice and she did the same.

"Yes I am sure Geoff. Cut it out, when or if there's anything wrong you'll be the first I tell. Now enough!" She said angrily, finally opening her lunch and tearing in.

"Okay, I was just wonder-"

"Well don't okay Geoff, just back off. Just-"

"Not now," he said finishing her sentence gruffly. She sighed, knowing she had ticked him off. She chose it ignore it for the moment. Laurel asked her a question from down the table and they began to chat about the English homework, Geoff joining in soon as well.

Sherice was munching happily on her turkey sandwich some time later when she heard a familiar infectious laugh coming from the food line. She looked up and spotted a familiar gangly form topped by vibrantly orange hair weaving its way through the crowd.

Sherice watched him make his way through the crowd, smiling at people here and there, shouting a greeting to those farther away, and at his side, a suspiciously familiar figure who Sherice couldn't put her finger on. She watched them walk and began a comparison in her head, noticing the slight and major differences between the two: One red-headed and buzz-cut, the other dark brown and more shaggy, about the same height, towering above everyone but not nearly as impressive as Scott's six foot ten inches; one laughing and loud, the other quiet and ponderous. She was noticing smaller things as they reached the table. James walked with a bounce in his step, not only an extension of his personality but of his basketball habits as well. The guy beside him walked with more of a glide to his step, and a steady pace, seeming to flow where as James was more sharp edges, turning sharply at every change of direction.

"Soccer or dance," Sherice said when they got to the table addressing the newcomer.

He looked up, and once more she would have gasped if she had been the type of girl to allow herself that reaction. Instead she contented herself with poking herself in her face with her spoonful of yogurt.

He laughed, "Soccer, although I did take dance for about a day in the first grade."

James flopped into a seat laughing at Sherice's yogurt mishap and handing her a napkin. "Yeah right, like you even lasted the day," he shot at the dark-haired guy beside him. "More like a half-hour."

"Yeah well if I remember correctly Koala-man, I only went because someone asked me so that he wouldn't look like a sissy." He made a face at James.

James just shrugged, digging into his mac and cheese. "Well it's just too bad that I get all the girls man. They just love a man with a feminine side and if ballet isn't directly related to women I don't know what is."

"Childbirth," Sherice stated calmly.

The boy across from her burst out laughing spitting chewed French fries into his cafeteria tray as James' smug look slipped quickly off his face.

"Oh ew! Chewy potato!" Sherice whined, flicking a piece off her lunch bag. She looked up at the boy, furrowing her brow and wondering why he seemed to look familiar, other than for having run into her in the hallway earlier. "Do I know you from somewhere?" she asked.

He looked at her like she had just escaped from the zoo, his eyes flicking to her shoulder. "Um-"

"I mean like from other than today," she clarified.

"Oh man! Sorry Sher! I totally forgot that you two haven't met yet. This is Dave, who just got back from vacation with Scott, and who can't be bothered to come to school before noon," he joked.

Dave struggled to smile. "You know I was busy this morning James," he got out between compressed lips.

James' grin slipped as he raised his brows. "Today?" he began. "I mean, yeah I know. Dave Masters is a busy man!"

"Nice to meet you Dave, I'm Sherice in case James never gets around to it."

"I was getting there!" James stated offended, from around a mouthful of mac and cheese.

She was about to offer Dave her hand when Geoff moved to get up, hitting her shoulder. She inhaled sharply, praying that he wouldn't notice. He didn't, or at least he pretended not to. Dave watched her reaction curiously from across the table.

"See you later Sweets," he said bending down and kissing her offered cheek. "We'll talk later," he said without any thought of being argued against.

Sherice sighed, "Okay Love, see you after school!" Geoff said a quick good-bye to the others and headed over to another table for the remainder of lunch.

Dave studied him quizzically as he left, wondering who he was and what his relationship was to the girl across from him.

Sherice got up soon after, claiming she had homework to finish up, but Shauna had started up another inane story so Jake and Ben leapt to their feet as well, thankful for an excuse to leave.

"See you all after school! Bye James!" Sherice ruffled his hair as she passed and he spun his head, trying to bite her.

"Wanna go for coffee later?" He asked as she was leaving.

"We'll see, all this homework…" she let it hang melodramatically and James let his head crash into the table before him as Shauna blabbered on about someone called Lucy and her terrible fashion faux-pas.

A/N: Okay so reviews would be great, let me know what you think pretty please?