I didn't want to post this so soon because of the other stuff I've got up, but the deadline for the ficathon challenge's end of this month, so I guess I've got no other choice. It's probabli -

gonna be a pretty short fic anyway - long chapters but less chapters. Reviews are appreciated!


Challenge #: 20
Genre: Romance
Rating: Doesn't matter.
Likes: Coincidences, a guy that has a mind you can't figure out, the extraordinary in the ordinary
Dislikes: cliched characters, a typical high school scene
Words/phrases to use: "Nothing's pure. And I don't mean that subjectively on a whim, but after thorough thought and examination. Nothing's pure. Nothing. And you know everything's not pure, yet everything is.", "I hope you're searching for some sacred star in space." , "Does a flower or a vine, crawling up the arm of a tree, think it's killing itself?"








Rent was the last to arrive.

He came in with a bag swinging from hand and JJ crawled out his cardboard box at the entry. He peered over the edge and let out an outrageous laugh. It sent Rose into a fit of giggles and she carried on talking:

"And she said," she toed carpet; her nails glinted pink, "that I'm wasting my life." She let out a shriek of laughter and fell sidelong off the sofa, so that she was sprawled across carpet. A puff of smoke wafted over her and she turned around to face it, lay down, looking up at ash circle through air. "That stuff stinks."

"Shut-up." Parker breathed out a heavier puff, this time closer -not close enough to touch her, though. Rose's mood swings weren't something to meddle with.


"Break through the glass. Just smash through the fucking glass and they won't clue into -"

"They'll -no, didn't you listen to Rent? We have to wait for Rent. Rent's going to ring us -"

"And why don't you just shut the fuck -"

"It's ringing!" JJ shoved her. "The phone's ringing."

Sirens wailed in the distance.


"Oh." She frowned and crawled up, leaned on her elbows. "Where's Rent?" She bent over again, then began to claw at carpet. "I'm on curfew, so -"

Rent didn't bother to make his presence known. JJ would mention it eventually. But until then - he carelessly swung the bag, kept to the corner where shadows stretched over him like hands hiding him from the light; three lanterns, brimming with heat, sat atop a table near the wall. They offered the warmth, an amber glow, to the room, and JJ peered out over his cardboard box, watched Rent.

Rent gave him the finger and Rose lay on the floor, rolled over again, talked to Parker; "And last time I didn't get home by curfew -I mean, I used to be able to get away with it, but now -"

"Things have changed," Rent stepped out from the shadows, "right?"

She watched him, ever nonchalant. "Batman returns."

Parker shoved his cigarette into an ash tray, scuffed it out. "You sure took your time." He adjusted his shirt collar, slipped something out his pocket and proceeded to spray it over his shirt, along the edge of his blazer, and Rose watched, nose wrinkling.

She sat up, smoothed over her skirt, and Rent finally let light touch him. Mostly, though, he focused it on the bag. It swung. "I've got a bunch of dead chickens in this one. Wrung their necks and, snap, all dead." He clicked his fingers, as if in demonstration.

JJ peered out from the box. "It's warm in here," he told them. "Better than that sofa."

"What's in the bag?" said Rose. Part of her, an excited part, which only a few days ago had been scuffed out, was suddenly set alight with anticipation; part of her knew what was in the bag.

Parker didn't bother to skirt around the subject. "Is it the money?"

Now JJ stepped out the box. "Can't be the money," he said. "We lost the money, remember. They got it back, and -"

"I know that," hissed Parker. "I fucking know, okay?" He reached in his pocket for another cigarette, couldn't find a pack, then bit words out from beneath his teeth. "You didn't go back, did you?"

Fear lined his words and Rose crushed the cigarette pack beneath her bum, wiggled a little. Hopefully it wouldn't make her skirt dirty. Cigarette ashes -it would look far too suspicious. Her mother would never let her go if she found that.

Rent shrugged. "Define, 'go back'."

Rose wrung her plaits, one on each side, then folded her hands on her lap. "Which means it is the money, right?"

Rent tipped over the bag. Green fluttered out in a pile -like autumn leaves drifting downwards in a never-ending spiral.

"You're an idiot."

"A clever idiot," Rent corrected. He bent down after completely emptying out the bag. Notes sprayed the floor in piles of lush green -and who ever thought that paper could look so beautiful? Fire from three lanterns smashed against its edges and the others came closer. Parker languidly assembled himself beside Rent, kept the interest to a minimum, whereas the other two made no effort to hide their glee.

"Only -" Rose hesitated and picked up a note. She pressed it between her fingers, fifty pounds, and folded it over, slid it into her jacket pocket. Green blended in with crimson -tailored velvet - and she clicked her heels. "How did you get hold of it? After that night, anyway, I would expect -" She stopped herself, paused after realising that she was rambling. Asking too many questions. It wouldn't do.

JJ didn't possess the same control. Maybe the bluntness was advantageous? "Didn't the police get hold of you? Or stop you, or - or -"

Incessant questioning lowered him in their estimation. Or, at least, it made him appear needy. Rose knew she'd touched the surface but had retreated soon after. The game was dangerous, had been set in motion, and someone had to come out the winner.

(and if you talk too much, you can't ever even dream of winning, darling)

"If they'd done any of that," Rent easily replied. "Then I wouldn't have the money here right now, would I?"

"How he got it," Parker finally spoke up, tight lipped, "isn't really of much importance. What matters…" he rounded on Rent. "Is whether he was seen or not. Because, by god, if as soon as we walk out here we come face to face with a whole load of policemen, it's your head in the noose. None of us are taking the fall for this and if you try to plead otherwise, I'll be the one to take you down, personally."

Rose fiddled with a plait, bare knees deep in notes. "Blindfold him, strap both arms behind his back and you still wouldn't be able to take Rent down, honey."

"Says his fuck buddy."

"Says the whore you'll never have," she hissed back.

"Ladies," Rent interjected, held out his hands, "please. This isn't the time to squabble."

"Lady," Parker corrected.

"You're squabbling like a pair of thirteen year old girls. So yes, currently, you are acting like a lady."

Rose cut through, voice slightly quiet. "You say it as if it's a bad thing."

"For a fellow guy -yes, sweetheart, it should be."

"Can we please just get back to the point?" JJ's voice blared out over the beginnings of an argument.

"The point." Rent watched his words, contemplated. "There isn't exactly a point to this conversation. We're not looking for a point, we're looking for a solution. Or, at least, a problem which needs a solution."

Parker sifted him a quizzical look. Already, he was growing tired from the lack of cigarettes. Fumes. A soft dash of nicotine and the inhalation. Rent didn't bother to continue speaking and Rose fiddled with one of the notes, scraped at the edges with her nails. A silence had fallen and they all grew uncomfortable. All apart from Rent, that was, for Rent had no need for conversation -after all, they were the ones who wanted an answer. It just lay between the three of them as to who would ask the question.

The obvious candidate spoke up. "What's the problem?" JJ shifted on his feet, regarded Rent straight on, then faltered at the pierce of blue eyes.

"No." Rose didn't like the way it had been phrased but now that JJ had taken the initiative, nothing would be thought of her input. "There is no problem, right? We have the money. The job's done, and -" Hesitation. "We have it and all we need to do is split it and then never mention again. That'd work."

Rent moved through the room, took in the walls, the table and a single vase of roses set precariously atop a shelf. It was blue. He took out a rose and brought it beneath his nose, breathed it in.

"If you say so." He touched a petal with his thumb and Rose frowned. The nonchalance meant he didn't like the answer.

"You don't think it's a good idea." Parker decided to state the obvious.

"I think it's boring."

"Splitting the money?"


"Then…" Parker's adjusted his collar because standing up and doing nothing felt far too awkward. "What do you suggest?"

"A game." Rent gently ripped out a petal. It was a pearl of red. He cut his nail through it. "Everyone likes a good game. And now that we're done with the adrenaline of actually stealing the money, I'm terribly bored." He dropped the rose, crushed it beneath his foot and made to one of the boxes. Then he turned it over and sat atop it, hands in his lap. Hair fell before his eyes.

Rose was done admiring the money. She began to fold up notes, sift them back into the bag. It wouldn't do to lose anything, not after all that they went through to get hold of it all. "A game sounds good," she said. "I was thinking about the money last night, actually." They silently listened. "I was thinking that, if it had worked -stealing the money, that is - this was, of course, before I knew it had actually worked, what would we do next? I mean, all the planning and the action and, well, that was the real thrill in it, not the actual reward, it was actually getting the reward. Do you understand what I mean?"

Parker and JJ nodded. They understood. Rent smirked under the shadows of his hair.

"Now that we have the money," Parker said, "is it really worth falling back into something normal and letting everything become a part of the past?" He quickly went back to working on his cuff after speaking.

It was rhetorical. Nevertheless, JJ decided to answer. "If we carry on stealing, though, we'll probably get caught."

"Who said anything about stealing?" Everyone looked to Rent. His face was still shadowed. "My game's got nothing to do with stealing. Not unless you decide to make it that way."

Rose was only half way through the notes. She decided she'd grown bored and instead stretched out her legs and began to undo one of her plaits. "Not unless you decide to make it that way," she repeated, then a grin spread across her face and she bent forward, one plait undone so that a mass of wavy brown hair touched the floor. Paws clawed carpet. "Does this mean that we get free reign? Like -oh, Rent, tell me what the game's about! You can't carry on leading us on like this. I'm really too tired to guess and mother's expecting me back soon. I don't want to leave without knowing otherwise I shan't sleep a wink and then that hag Mrs. Raymond'll go on about how girls these days don't get enough sleep and the evils of using makeup to cover up those terrible shadows and, oh!" She clutched her throat dramatically and fell to the floor, "I'll die if she gives me another one of those lectures." Splayed across the carpet, she watched him, waiting for an answer. Parker watched her.

"I'll tell you."

They hadn't expected him to give in so easily. Three pairs of eyes fell to him, obviously shocked. To shock them had been his intention.

"Tell us the plan?" JJ proffered.

"Yeah." Rent smirked, looked up at all three of them. "Someone get me a bottle." He made his way toward Rose, sat down before her, and she hastily got to her knees. "An empty one," he added as JJ reached into the bag.

Parker tossed him a quizzical look, one which he chose to ignore, then he seated himself beside Rose so that they formed an odd triangular shape. Rent kept a space clear in the middle and JJ sat down, completed it, though the angles just weren't right. Rent thought this but he didn't bother to say. They wouldn't get it.

He considered as to how he should start. The others waited. "Prizes," he said. "They have to be won, don't they? They don't just fall into your hands because if they did, then they'd be gifts. There's no hard work involved in procuring a gift." His gaze flittered to JJ. "We worked hard to get our money, didn't we?"

JJ nodded. Not because he agreed but because he wanted Rent to continue. Though, he probably would have agreed anyway if he had thought about it but all he wanted was the plan, and that involved listening and not thinking for himself. Merely taking in whatever Rent said.

"Does that make it a prize, JJ, or a gift?"

"A prize."

"Exactly. And a prize is given to a winner. In a real game, there can only ever be one winner."

Parker pushed off his glasses in a show of nonchalance, then proceeded to clean them. "There are four of us, Rent. Therefore, there can hardly be one winner."

"But what if we did something, played a game, to make it so that there was one winner?"

"Like spin the bottle?" He shot a sceptical look at the bottle in Rent's hands. Rent balanced it, amused.

Rose spoke up, "Parker, do you ever shut-up? Let him finish. I have curfew!" She went pink with frustration and Parker went quiet. He didn't want to make her dislike him any more than she already did.

And Rent didn't need her to fight his battles. "No, Rose. If he's got something to say, let him say it."

"I've got nothing to say."

"Then don't talk."

Parker went quiet.

"Spin the bottle forms a part of it," said Rent. "But only a very small part."

"Which is why we have this bottle?" said JJ.

"Yes. Now -" Rent considered. "I'm going to tell you the full thing tomorrow. But before I do, I need to know something."

They waited.

"Are you willing to do anything for this money?" he asked. "Are you willing to risk everything, even your lives, to play this game?"

A silence fell. Rose spoke up, confidently, "What's a good game without any risks? If there aren't any risks, then it's not really a game. And we risked our lives to steal the money." She remembered lights, wailing sirens and black balaclavas. "That's what made it so exciting and after that I just want…more. More of that excitement, I mean."

"I'm willing," said Parker, almost immediately after Rose had finished. Rent was, obviously, not scared. To say no would mean that he was scared and then that would make Rent the stronger one. He wasn't going to let that happen again.

They all looked to JJ. He shrugged. "I guess so…"

"Tonight, I want each of you to pick a person. Any person who lives in this town. You can pick them through the yellow pages, you can pick someone you know - you can pick them any old how as long as they live in this town. Then you note down their name and where they live. That's it. Tomorrow, we meet down the alleyway near Turner's shop straight after school: five o' clock, which'll give everyone a chance to get something to eat beforehand."

They were irritated at having not been told yet but knew they'd get no further answer. Rose broke the tension with a squeal, "It's past curfew! Oh my god, my mum's going to eat me."

Both plaits undone she got up and ran out the door. They watched amusedly after.


Parker leaned against the wall. Sun-light drifted across golden hair, caught the rims of his spectacles and he pushed them off and began to clean one of the lenses. A group of girls walked past and he didn't even have to look up to know that they were watching. He was sophistication. Debonair charms, intellect, money to boot and good looks to top it all off. They should have been staring. The others would have left by now but Parker wanted to be late, just to show that he didn't care. To show that Rent had no hold on him whatsoever.

His phone began to ring. Parker languidly flipped it out, "Hello?"

"Parker," she purred. "I'm sitting on the wall across from you, right now." He looked up, pushed his glasses back on her and a pair of long legs folded themselves over one another beneath her school skirt. Rose shot him a grin. "These heels," she said, "are a pain to walk in. You'll give me a ride to the alley, right? I'd hate to be late."

A familiar pang bounded through his chest - a necessity to please, to do anything, because she was talking to him, she wanted something from him again. And it felt good.

"Sure," all plans of being late quickly faded. "Cross the road and we'll walk to my car. I'll drive you."

"Okay!" she chirped, and he flipped his phone shut.


Rent was walking down the path, hands dug into the pockets of his blazer. Cars slipped past along the side - it was nearly five o' clock, so many people would be getting back from work. Would he be one of those people in ten years' time?

Not if you play your cards right.

A newsagent's was tucked around the corner of the street. He stopped for a moment to look at the headline splayed in the window:


The media were really losing their touch. What an unimaginative headline… He didn't want to read the story because a simple news story could never cover the brilliance of that night. No chance. So Rent kept walking.

A voice called him from behind, "Hey!"

He kept walking.

"Hey, you! Rent Chandler!"

Bored, he stopped and turned around. A girl hurriedly approached him, an envelope in hand. He quirked an eyebrow and she carried on speaking. "I'm so happy to have run into you. I mean - wow, I thought I'd have to do this myself, but…You're friends with Parker, right? Or, at least, you hang out with Parker. Tall Parker, the one with the blond hair and the, the -" She made a flurry of hand gestures, waved the envelope around. "Well, you used to be friends with Parker. And I guess you still are, to an extent, though that little thing with Rose Danley probably messed that up a little. But you've probably worked that out. I hope you have. It'd be shame if you haven't. Oh!" She bit her bottom lip. "Damn, I wasn't meant to say that."

"I'm going to leave now."

"No!" She grabbed his sleeve and Rent gave her a look. She quickly let go, shuffled her feet. "My friend. She's really shy and she wanted to give Parker this letter…" She regarded him head on. "It'll be really awkward for me to do it, because I don't really know Parker. He's in my science class, but I guess that's just about it and we barely ever talk. Well…he borrowed my ruler a few months ago and he never gave it back and I guess he had to ask to borrow my ruler to have borrowed it, so we have talked before, to an extent. But asking for a ruler isn't really talking, is it?" She paused. "Could you ask him for my ruler back when you give him the letter?" She handed it to him. "My name's Helen. Ask him if he can give Helen her ruler back."

Rent didn't take his eyes off of her, knowing that it would make her uncomfortable. It did and she scratched the back of her neck, shifted her feet, and waited. He took the envelope and looked at it, then back at her.

"You're fit," he stated. "Want to have sex with me?"

She froze.

"You could call your friend, too," he carried on. "We could make it a threesome. I've never tried one of those but life's all about experimentation, right?" He waited and she didn't speak. A few tendrils of blond hair crept out a messy bun and he slipped his finger around one, coiled it. "Lost for words?"

"I don't know what I'm meant to say to that."

He tugged. "You're meant to say sure, Rent. Let's fuck each other's brains out," he hissed, then let go of the lock of hair. "Then I say fuck you, bitch, I've got better things to do with my time than deliver your friend's letter. You shouldn't go around acting as if you know everyone and you can ask them favours just because we're part of a 'school community'. Not everyone's that nice." He gave her back the letter.

She took it from him, then suddenly seemed to have the gumption to look him in the eye. "You're a creep."

"Lachrymose," he stated. "It means to contain tears. Or the containment of tears." He cocked his head to the side. "I think you're about to cry. Want me to take you somewhere no one's going to see? I've got somewhere to be, so I don't want to make a scene along such a busy road. It'll waste my time."

She turned on her heel and left. Not that he really cared. He wasn't going to do Parker favours and he wasn't going to run errands for him like some sort of maid servant. The mere request had been an insult to him. To have accepted it would have been beyond pathetic.

He turned to leave. Then someone shoved him into the wall. For a moment, Rent was caught off guard and the impact hurt his back slightly. Not for long, though. He grabbed one of her flailing arms and dragged her into the nearest alleyway. Helen shrieked but the path was busy. No one bothered to stop and soon enough they were alone, the alley deserted. Their footsteps echoed along graffiti splayed walls and a splash when she stepped into a puddle.

"Let me go, you creep."

"You started this, bitch." He shoved her against the wall, pressed one hand on either side of her head and looked down at her. "Were you trying to hurt me," he whispered and his words breathed through air. Heavy, like smoke, "Helen?"

"I hate you."

"We just met. You sure form opinions fast. I don't like people who are so quick to judge."

She mustered up some courage, seemed to say the first thing that came to mind, "Then the feeling's mutual."

"The dislike for the judgemental?"

"The dislike for one another."

He smirked. "But I don't dislike you." One hand slid down the wall. Slow. Tedious. He let it coil around a tendril of hair and she flinched, seemed to want to pull away but there was no where to pull away to. "You remind me of snow," he said and came closer, so that there was almost no distance between them. "White. Pure. And then a touch of gold." He tugged at the tendril, causing her face to fall forward with the force, then pressed his lips against her forehead for a moment, kissed it gently, and pulled away.

She was flushed and the look she gave him - it was as if she were a puppy and he'd just kicked her half to death. It amused him.

"Now leave," he said, moving away, "before I do something nasty."

He could see that she wanted to hurt him. He'd seen that look far too many times not to recognise it, but she was weighing out her options, putting logic before basic human instinct. To hurt him wouldn't help anything because he was stronger - he would win and she would once again be put into a vulnerable situation. If she just left as it was, there would be no further confrontation.

And she was scared, scared about what he was capable of doing.

I'm capable of a lot more than murder, honey.

So she decided to take a hold of her dignity and leave without a further word. Rent leaned against the wall, watched after, then looked to his watch. Ten past five. He began walking, through the alleyway, down the path. He took his time. He was late, again. Oh well. It wasn't as if they weren't used to it by now. Though, this time, he had actually intended to be early. Or on time, anyway. It was best to just pretend that lateness had been the intention in the first place. To let them know that he got sidetracked would lead to questions. He had enough of those to answer as it was.

The roads were becoming emptier, sparse. People were entering their homes and the rush was nearly over. The area grew more abandoned, the streets more worn out, decrepit, and a single black car rolled across the empty road. Then it stopped right beside him. The door was flung open, a lithe hand wrenched out and caught hold of his arm, then grabbed him and pulled him in with a force.

Lips crushed against his and Rent was caught off guard for a moment, then he responded. The point of her toes caught the handle of door and pulled it shut, her hands wrestling through his hair as she dragged him further in. Rose pulled away, gasping, and Rent crawled on top of her, her hair in a sprawl across the seat of the car. She grabbed his tie, pulled him down and his hands slipped under her skirt, touched white skin beneath. Someone moaned and her leg pulled up, pressed against his thigh. She arched her neck back and he kissed the skin, then she wrapped both legs around his waist to pull him closer. Her skirt hitched up and Rent spoke up between pants;

"Isn't this Parker's car?"

"The driver won't tell."

He let his lips roam down her neck, touch the top of her collar where a few buttons of the school shirt lay undone. He began to undo the rest and her hand stopped him.

"Not here."

"I thought you said the driver wouldn't tell."

Rose let her leg push against his again. She kicked off her shoe and her toes rubbed against his ankle. "He won't. But we'll be there in a moment and Parker's going to catch up eventually. I told him -" He bit at her neck and she let out a whimper, "I told him," she repeated. "That I was finding it really awkward in the same car as him. What with the history we share and all."

Rent pulled away. "You made him walk." She smirked and he bent down, whispered into her ear, "You're such a bitch."

"Your bitch."

He kissed the skin beneath it. "I think we're nearly there." The car was slowing down. Rent pulled away, slipped off her and Rose began to smooth out her skirt, then she opened up her bag and pulled out her mirror. The hair was slightly dishevelled and she smoothed it down. They stepped out the car and JJ was already there, waiting.

He probably didn't notice the flush of her cheeks and, if he did, he didn't bother to comment on it. "I brought the bottle again."

"Good." Rent undid his tie, took it off and folded it into his bag. Neatly.

They all waited in silence and Parker showed up about ten minutes later, flushed from running so much. The car had gone by now; Parker had given the driver explicit directions to do so. As for how he was going to get home, there was always the bus.

Rent didn't bother sparing him a glance. Instead, he began to walk further toward the alley - to somewhere where they wouldn't be seen. They sat down eventually and JJ handed Rent the bottle, then they formed an oddly shaped diamond around it.

"I have the name," said Parker, taking a scrunched up piece of paper out his pocket. "And the address. Here."

"Don't show it to me," Rent replied, then gave them all glances. "Don't show anyone what's on your paper, just shove them all in here." He pulled a small black jar out his bag.

Parker gave it a look. "This reminds me of one of those kid's games. Like -"

"Pass the parcel!" squealed Rose, then tossed her paper into the jar. "I love that game."

It was nothing like pass the parcel but he wasn't going to bother correcting her. It would be making an issue out of it. "Yeah."

"It's nothing like pass the parcel," said JJ.

Rose frowned. "I still love that game."

"Now we spin the bottle," said Rent. "Only -" He paused. "Before we do this, I'm going to ask you all again: are you all willing to do anything for this? No backing out. Because if anyone backs out, game over - but as soon as you start, there's no turning back."

Rose flitted a hand through the air. "We went through this yesterday. Now let's do the next bit!"

Rent waited. No one else said anything, which he took for affirmation. A moment, and then he span the bottle. It cut across the floor, ricocheted, and shattered air around it. Then stopped. JJ. Rent held the jar before him.

"Pick a paper."

He did.

"Show no one."

JJ nodded, opened it up and wrinkled up his nose. "So…" he hesitated. "What do I do with this?"

Rent smirked, closed the jar, and picked up the bottle. "You have one week. If anyone figures out who's on your paper, you get caught, or you don't manage to do it by midnight one week from now, you immediately forfeit."

JJ paused to consider. "What do I have to do in a week, though?"

"Kill the person on your piece of paper."

Everyone went silent.

It stretched for a few moments and then Rose decided to speak. A hint of euphoria touched the edges of her words, "And when you forfeit," she began, "what's the forfeit?"

"Simple." Rent put the jar back into his bag, zipped it up, and stood. "You have to kill yourself."