With his mind at an abyss, Andre found the day went by rather quickly. In no time at all he was walking up to the North tower after his grueling science class, the last class of his day, without including the activities he did – flute, band, etc.

In December, they were going to start gym. It was a requirement to learn how to swim, in order to obtain graduation. Andre was and wasn't looking forward to it. But that was a long way off. It was October, thus, he wasn't focused on that right now.

Lucien was in their dormitory, lying down on his bed, his arm jutting out from the side of his bunker. Andre sighed, and climbed up the ladder, and then sat down on the corner of Lucien's mattress.

He wouldn't have woken the boy up under normal circumstances but he had to leave soon, in order not to be late for the meeting. His roommate stirred at the motion.

"Hmmm?"

"Lucien, I'm not going to be at flute practice today, there's a band meeting."

Lucien yawned in response to this information. He didn't have his glasses on. He looked a lot different without them on, his face appearing more narrow, less childish. Andre thought he looked better.

Awakening, the young man sat up, opening his eyes, appearing groggy.

"Eh? Andre?" He mumbled, and rubbed his eyes.

Andre chuckled. "I'm not going to be at flute practice."

"You told me," Lucien mumbled. "already."

Ah yeah. I did. "And I'm not going to be at dinner, so you don't have to make as much."

Lucien blinked, now in a state of semi-awareness. He brushed his hair from his face, his slender arms moving awkwardly to achieve the motion. "Why not?"

Uuum. "Because Clovis is taking me to hang out with a few girls. I'll tell you later."

"Mmm – okay." Lucien stretched, and then abruptly flopped back down onto his mattress, a light moan escaping him. Andre shook his head, and sat up, edging his foot onto the ladder. Stupid. I should have taken my shoes off. He climbed back down carefully until he reached the bottom, which wasn't that far.

Andre left the room as quietly as possible, unsure if Lucien had already fallen back into sleep. He closed the door behind him, remembering that he didn't need his flute for the meeting.

-

About half the band was actually at the meeting, which was to be expected. The students were all rather busy and having a random meeting and not giving the musicians a decent amount of notice was not an intelligent move on the teacher's part.

Fahst was there, and Andre ignored his presence. The German had a piece of paper with him and occasionally was reading it, and then folding it, to open it up, and read it again. Clovis was there too, still sitting next to Avian on the other side of the room, and they were talking amongst themselves. Probably about what we're going to do. Andre was starting to feel nervous about crossing the field into the Girl's school. It was a crappy sort of adrenalin, one that made him feel nauseated. He wasn't looking forward to it.

Clovis said something, and Avian turned to glance at Andre.

Andre forced a smile, and she smiled back, and then spun around to speak with Clovis again.

Madam Provost burst into the room, all smiles. She walked to the center of the room, and the majority of the conversations ended.

"Good afternoon, my young musicians!"

There was a light 'good afternoon' in reply. If they hadn't said it, she would have made them. They'd learned that at the beginning of the year, or for the more experienced students, the year before.

"I know everyone couldn't make it," She said with a quick glimpse around the room. "But tomorrow I'll mention it again. For those of you who are new, we put on an enormous concert for the school in March, and your parents are also invited to attend." There was some murmuring. "If you remember, I talked about it a bit last month, in our first practice. Today I'm going to explain it more thoroughly. We will be playing about three pieces, and each piece is around 15 minutes in length and 13 pages long. Now, I know this may seem difficult, but I've done it every year at this school, and-" Andre began to block out what Madam Provost was saying around this point. It wasn't that she was boring, it was just that he knew about the procedure. He had been in the band last year. And the year before. He knew exactly how it was going to work.

"The first chairs each play their own short solo piece, at the beginning, as an opening. It is to be memorized, and it's a piece of your choice, but can't be something you've played before. You also need to get it approved by me before you play it, since I don't want it to be something too different from the concert's theme." She paused. Andre wondered when this woman breathed. "Fahst, I know you're the only new first chair here."

Andre's heart clenched and he looked to see the boy's reaction. Fahst had looked up, his back tensed, posture showing that he'd been startled out of his stupor. Andre couldn't see his face, since he was sitting about three rows behind him.

Madam Provost was grinning.

He's her favorite student, Andre thought. No question about that.

"Have you ever played in front of a huge audience before?"

Fahst seemed to stumble on a response. "Uum.. No, not… that big. I mean, I've played for people before, but never for a large audience…"

Her smile stretched, eyes alight with the promise of a challenge. "Well, this will be a good experience for you. But tell me if you think you'll be too nervous to do it. Some students get stage fright and I have to figure out something else for them."

Fahst took a deep breath. "I can do it, I think."

Madam Provost chuckled. "You think? Be more confident."

It was becoming increasingly obvious how much Fahst loathed being the center of attention. Most eyes of the class were fixated on him, especially the girls. Andre glanced around the room, observing. Beatrice was watching Fahst like he was an object she wanted to possess, and another girl Andre had noticed staring at Fahst over the course of last month looked infatuated as she listened to him. Andre didn't know this girl's name, but she played the trumpet. She had thick bangs and hair down to her shoulders, a rich brown color that was stereotypical of French girls. She wore glasses that hid her eyes more then accented them, though her face was still rather attractive. Mignon. She was quiet, and seemed shy.

Andre ignored it. The teacher. The girls. Clovis in the corner, trying to catch his attention. He tapped his fingers on the desk instead, waiting for Madam Provost to be done with her escapade. He was trying to get his mind on other things, attempting to look forward to the afternoon that lay ahead of him, instead of what he'd been thinking of last night and the days before. Fahst and he were not friends. They were hardly acquaintances. His life should not be of a concern to him. There was nothing to be done, nothing to be said, and the reactions he had been feeling, yesterday evening and today – they shouldn't have ever existed. He was wondering in a circle of his own emotions, in a silly maze that was so simple a small child could escape it, with the exit door blinking in bright, bold letters right before him, its color reflecting off the sheen of his eyes. It was as if he'd been given a very simple math problem, but for some reason, was at a loss on how to solve it, despite knowing the procedure.

When the meeting was over, Clovis and Avian walked up to his desk just as he was beginning to stand. They both looked excited.

Despite his own worry, Andre was glad he had something to distract himself with, a piece of normalcy to blind himself with, even if it was mischievous.

"This'll be fun." Avian said, with a naughty looking grin on her face. Clovis shushed her quickly, bobbing his head towards Madam Provost, and Avian covered her mouth to contain her giggles.

"So you got her all excited now?" Andre said, pointing to Avian.

"Her? I have a name," Avian responded stiffly, before Clovis could. "And you know what it is."

Andre bowed his head apologetically. "Sorry. I'm just nervous, I guess."

"Well don't be," She whispered, her tone soft and kind.

"Common, let's get out of here," Clovis said, and lead them both out of the room.

-

-

Fahst had stayed after to speak with the band instructor.

"I don't know if I can do a solo piece," He admitted, honestly, his voice in a shamed rush of slurred words. He hadn't wanted to say it in front of the class, the embarrassment keeping him hushed. "How big is going this concert going to be?" His voice was hesitant and weary. It was hard to picture himself playing in front of hundreds of people, on a stage, with nothing but his violin to hold on to. It made his heart throb with anguish, his throat lock as his lungs expanded in fright.

Madam Provost's countenance was disappointed with this information, but Fahst cared little about her opinion. She then tapped her fingers to her chin as she pondered. "Well, the whole school sees it, and then a lot of parents come, plus the teachers. Well over 500 people-"

500? Fahst felt his heart swell, the color rush out of his cheeks.

Madam Provost's eyes warmed, and she put her hand on his shoulder. Fahst didn't move, despite his instant rebuking of it and urge to shift away or even leave. What is with teachers and putting their hands on me? First Monsieur Johnson, now her –

"Your mom said to me you wanted to be a concert violinist. It would be in your best interest to do this, to get the experience."

She – what? Fahst felt something he hadn't felt in awhile, although it was dull – anger. He didn't want people to know what he wanted to do with his life. The more people knew about him, the more of a hassle they became. He calmed himself before his reaction appeared on his face.

She was a teacher. A band instructor, specifically. If he really did wish to become a concert violinist, he would be dealing with band instructors his whole life. Better get used to it now, he mused.

And she was right. Despite his fears, if that was what he wanted with his life – he was going to have to learn how to perform and control his emotions in front of large audiences. It would be nerve wracking, frightening, and he might make mistakes, falter or even blank out on stage, but it was better to make them now instead of later.

"I believe you can do it," She said, her voice admiring and supple. Her hand slid from his shoulder, retreating, and he relaxed. She continued on, attempting to encourage him. "You don't have to play a difficult piece, it'll be short. If you need help, I can help you too."

"Alright…" He agreed, his intonation quiet. "thank you." He added meekly.

"I'll bring you some music you might be interested in playing tomorrow if you'd like some suggestions."

"Yeah, that would be good," He agreed, and decided now it was best to leave. He still had his sheet of paper he'd been fiddling with – it was an outline for a project that was to be due in history class. He'd folded it up earlier and had put it in his pocket.

Somewhat relieved to be out of there, Fahst exited through the doorway, intent on going to his room to have a nap. That nightmare had really disrupted his sleep last night and he wanted to sleep a little before –

"Um, Fahst?"

A small voice said from the corner; it was tiny and feminine, caked in timidity and shyness. Fahst turned to see where it was coming from. A girl was standing in the corner of the hall, hanging her head so her face was hidden by her bangs, hugging herself, as if trying to hold the pieces of her body together.

Made curious and slightly uneasy by this spectacle, Fahst responded, "Yes?"

The girl looked up. Her features were soft, her skin pale, lips wan, and her eyes a shade of oak that matched her hair. She had oval-shaped glasses on with large black frames that made her eyes appear larger and more owlish then they probably were. But overall, Fahst's reaction was that she was pretty, and the school uniform accented the careful curves of her body well, her skirt hanging from off her hips to flow down to her legs halfway and then cut there, revealing her dark stockings and the shape of her delicate legs and her small feet, then the shining shoes that covered them.

The girl fidgeted with her hands, and looked down at them, her face flushed a lovely scarlet. Fahst waited a bit, and wondered what she wanted to say to him. Although he was socially inept, it had now become obvious she was embarrassed to speak to him – probably because of a crush. He swallowed; feeling discomforted by the unasked-for affection.

Cute, but…

"I – um – " She cleared her throat. "I wanted to know – " She looked up at him, since she was a few inches shorter then himself – most people were - her face was still rosy with warmth, her eyes glazed over with awe. Girls are so small, Fahst thought, and a strange mixture of depression and admiration brewed within him. So delicate.

Like porcelain, he mused, in the back of his mind, with forlornness. Her eyes were glistening in the light. He didn't interrupt her.

"Will you – " She gathered up her courage, and then blurted, "Take me to the dance?"

Damn. Guilt filled his body instantly. He'd suspected it, but had been hoping it wasn't the question she was going to ask. And she must really want to go with me. Girls never ask boys, he wondered in grief.

She was staring up at him, hopeful.

He braced himself for her reaction. "I'm not going to the dance," Her face fell instantly at this news. Miserably. Like a piece of glass that had once been perfect, only to fall and crack, scattering on a hardwood floor. She looked like she wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out. Quickly, he said, "I'm sorry. I just have -- sometime to do that day," he tried to explain.

"I would say yes if I didn't." It was the truth. He had no interest in girls right now, but if it would give her some happiness, he would've gone with her. At least she had had the courage to ask.

She was hanging her head, the picturesque of rejection. She mumbled, her voice heart broken, "You don't have to lie… if you don't want to go with me…" Before he could say anything more, she fled down the hallway, escaping his explanation in a whirlwind of anguish and dejection.

Fahst stood there, the continuity of what had just happened hitting him like a brick in the stomach.

Fuck, he thought, truly feeling bad for the torment he'd just caused an innocent female classmate.

It wasn't a lie though that he couldn't attend the dance. He had an appointment with the school councilor that day.

Fahst didn't really want to go to the dance, anyway - being around the noise and the people… the concept of it made him strangely unhappy, in a way that drained all his emotions out of his body like an enormous suction, leaving him with a rancid taste in his mouth.

Still, he felt bad for what he'd just caused.

I'll try and talk to her tomorrow, he resolved.

Fahst kept his gait leisure as he made his way to the north tower, ignoring the obvious stares and the occasional whispers that followed him. He pushed the girl – he didn't even know her name, of course – of course – out of his mind. Right now he was looking forward to maybe practicing his violin a bit, and a nice, long rest before dinner. He wondered if Lamont knew the girl's name – he'd ask and see if he did.

-

"Shhh."

"Don't tell me to shh!" Andre hissed, in low desperation. Clovis bit his lower lip to keep from smiling, chuckling in his throat, making an odd noise as he did. Andre elbowed him, which only made him chuckle more.

They were standing behind the bleachers. Clovis had sprinted across to them, leading the way, and Andre had soon followed, feeling something like an idiot – like one of those moronic criminals that left traces of their crime everywhere. They were well hidden, in the shadow of seats and blended into the dark grass. The night kept them blanketed in its hue– they had decided to wait until it had fallen, which had been a smart move. Now they were waiting for a man to stop patrolling the grounds – Andre presumed the man to be a teacher. It was hard to see the features of his face since they were quite far apart.

Clovis was close to Andre, his body leaning towards him, their shoulders touching each other. Andre could hear his friend's breath and visualize it, the white puffs of fog each time his warm breath made contact with the chilled air, before he inhaled once more. Ande could also sense his friend's heart beat, in junction with his own, the both of them jittery with bewilderment and the cold, even in their thick woolen sweaters. They were doused in black, and Clovis, being the darker-skinned one, was more suited and better hidden, but Andre could still make out the outline of his friend's body, the glisten of his eyes, introverted and focused, like a panther waiting to strike. Andre curled his fingers inward and brought the sleeves of his sweater further down, so they came over his palms - to keep them warm. His cheeks were flushed red, and his ears were beginning to pound and tingle from the bitter temperature.

This is fun, Andre couldn't help but admit to himself, as he watched the teacher move back and forth in what seemed to be boredom; like a vulture stalking about, waiting for an uncertain animal to cross the street and be the next road kill, its next meal. Andre's heart accelerated with the prospect of being seen, and he peered from behind the bleaches, gaze narrowed at the man. He exhaled in pallid smoke, and drew back, his heart tied in knots like some sort of pretzel gone wrong. I'm having fun. He thought, happy with this revelation, the adrenalin that made his fingers go white.

"Stupid bastard," Clovis whispered, voice hushed and threatening, his Arabian eyes focused on the man in the distance. "Go back inside."

"Clovis, be quiet," Andre shushed him.

They rested in the dark, merging with the tranquility that surrounded them – the occasional exhale of the wind, the filtering gust through the dead tree branches, the tough bark scratching against the wind and making it howl in a low, beatific moan that was melodious to Andre's ears. He liked the sound of the breeze, all around him, its cold embrace ruffling through his clothing and into his hair, its lips painfully cold and yet somehow refreshing. His ears had gone a strawberry red and his cheeks were beginning to change hues along with the tip of his nose. He sniffled, keeping quiet.

They both waited.

The night was young and placid, like the surface of a serene lake, only occasionally broken by ripples and a passing fish. Andre was getting colder; his flesh that was exposed was freezing with the wind's touch, and yet his body was warm and balmy underneath his thick cotton sweater. He felt Clovis shudder besides him – his friend was wearing the same thing as himself and yet he seemed more prone to being chilled.

Finally, the teacher left. They waited for him to completely cross the field and go back inside, the man too far away for either of them to hear his footsteps. The back lights were shut off, and the world went swiftly darker, the only illumination left being the pinned crescent moon hanging in the sky.

"Alright, let's go," His voice was still a muted whisper. Clovis took a hold of the hem of Andre's sweater and pulled him along, probably so they would not lose each other. Andre stumbled at first, his legs numb from the position he'd been sitting in, and he shook his legs out as Clovis tugged him along urgently.

They walked across the back of the school, their shoes crunching the grass beneath them until they found a safe haven on the side of the building, the two of them leaning against the brick wall, panting hurriedly, not so much from the effort as from the invigorating challenge.

Andre squinted and could make out the girl's campus now, about a mile away from where they both stood. It would be a long walk.

"Let's go," Clovis said, his figure translucent in the onyx shadows enveloping him, like a quilt. Andre nodded even though his friend couldn't see, Clovis's fingers still clinging to his sweater. Clovis pulled him ahead, their saunter brisk. Andre intermittently stumbled, the numbness still dulling his feet and legs. He felt his toes tingle in his socks.

"I can't believe I'm doing all this." Clovis's voice cracked the silence. In the moonlight, Andre could make out Clovis's face and the white stream that was expelled whenever he exhaled and spoke. "For a girl I hardly know. Damn, it's cold."

"…I can't believe you are either, to be honest," Andre responded, and honestly. He supposed Clovis was more in love with the thrill then with Racquel. But he was friends with Avian, too, and they were doing this to hang out with her as well. She wanted them to come.

They were almost there, the building growing in height and size as they approached it. All the lights were out.

They made a sharp turn as they went around it to the girl's dormitories on the other side. They stopped, hiding behind the campus's north wall, waiting to see if anyone was outside.

It was completely clear.

We got lucky, Andre thought. Those old nuns would beat us with their sticks if we were caught. Andre recalled dimly doing this often for Celine, but he usually did it in daylight. She would wrap him up in some kind of nun clothing and pull him along, and hide him in her room, giggling because no one had stopped them, everyone they crossed assumed he was a girl or a teacher. At the time, he'd been shorter and he could more easily pass off as female.

Andre presumed Clovis knew which little house it was among the others, and he did. Most of the dormitories had their lights on, so they avoided passing windows. Clovis turned right towards the end of the tiny village, close to the woods, to a two-story dormitory that was similar to the others but stood out because of its location.

They strode up to the door in relief, Clovis still guiding Andre along.

Clovis shivered and rubbed his hands together as he stood on the porch, blowing into his cupped palms, and then chaffing them together again, before knocking lightly.

The door instantly opened and Andre stepped back.

A warm golden light spilled outside and Andre could now see how flushed Clovis's face was from the cold. His own was probably similar. He cupped his ears, which each felt like oddly shaped ice cubes, and his fingers felt like lead had been injected into them even though he had drawn the ends of his sleeve over his hands to keep his digits warm.

Avian poked her head out, grinning.

"You made it," She said happily, and then her countenance fell, as she glanced between the two boys. "You look awfully cold," she said. "Sorry, I didn't know it was going to be this cold tonight - We already have dinner on the table."

She opened the door fully, gesturing with her hand hurriedly for them to come inside. They both stepped in, and Andre instantly felt the warmth of the furnace surrounding him. Avian shut the door quickly once they were, and turned right down the hallway to lead them to the dining room.

The home was small, but quaint, cute and feminine, the walls of the corridor were painted baby blue, leaving it chirpy. Andre felt a bit out of place – he served no real purpose being here, but at least now he could feel the warmth returning to his body.

They made it to the dining room, where more chairs had been pulled up. The other girls were already sitting down and chatting lightheartedly as they ate – they were having clams and rice.

They were five girls, including Avian. Andre recognized which was Racquel instantly – she was sitting at the end of the table, silent, prodding at her rice. As soon as she caught sight of himself and Clovis, she stopped, watching them, blue eyes round, luminescent and observant. She then went back to what she was doing, pushing rice in between her lips. She is pretty, He thought, and turned to see if Clovis noticed.

"Hey, everyone! This is the guy I've been telling you about, Clovis," Avian announced proudly, pointing to Clovis with both her index fingers. He smiled, and shrugged helplessly. "And this is Andre, his friend," She said, gesturing towards Andre.

Andre waved awkwardly, and then let his hand flop down at his side, feeling embarrassed.

"Hello," All the girls greeted, although not quite at once. There was a brunette with long, sleek hair and dark, intriguing eyes – Andre thought she was rather attractive, her face holding an almost seductive quality to it. She wore an eye shadow that was a shade of red that complimented her alluring gaze. The other two girls were also brunettes. One had short hair, shoulder length and had a rounded face with chestnut eyes. The last girl had elongated, curly hair that was almost black, and she sported a warm tan that was almost Clovis's shade of skin. Her eyes were olive.

"Go ahead, sit down," Avian said.

"Thanks Avian," Clovis responded, and Avian hugged him happily, kissing him on the cheek in a flirty greeting before skirting away to the kitchen. Clovis shook his head, grinning at her before he took a seat, purposely besides Racquel, seemingly innocent. Racquel looked aghast at this, and stared down at her plate as if she were trying to melt it with her vision.

Andre sat besides Clovis, which turned out to also be next to the pretty girl with the long brown hair. She smiled at him and he returned the gesture a little uneasily.

Avian brought their plates back, filled with open, steaming clams, rice, and broccoli with melted butter. Food, yay, Andre thought.

They began eating, both Clovis and Andre saying their 'thank yous' before doing so.

The food was very good, and Andre liked it especially since he hadn't had clams in awhile.

Everyone began talking, about one thing or another, Clovis and Avian mainly guiding the conversations while the other girls gave in their various inputs. Racquel remained quiet. Andre remained silent through most of the conversations as well, not feeling it was his place to speak in any of them.

Somewhere halfway between the meal, the girl next to him asked – Andre was not too good with names – "So, what do you think Andre?" He voice was docile and pretty, but somehow lightly demanding, as if she wanted to include him.

"Eh?" He said, looking up, having just stuffed rice into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed. Clovis chuckled.

"We're talking about if it's better for girls to be housewives or to have more independence," Clovis summarized, and then darted a smile at Racquel, who had just glanced up at him.

"Uum." Andre poked his clams, "I think it's better for girls to just choose. I've met girls before who would want to be housewives," Andre said, in all honestly, and briefly recalled a girl he'd known who had been like that. He always thought girls like that were weird. Why on earth would they want to be restricted to a kitchen? Unless they were Lucien. But Lucien's a boy, Andre thought, sipping his apple juice.

"But do you think its better when girls are independent?" The long haired girl said, smiling, her lipstick highlighted by the kitchen's illumination.

Andre brushed a stray strand of his hair back. "Yeah, I do." Clovis and he had discussed things like this before, and they both thought the concept of housewives was kind of dull. "Girls who are more independent are usually smarter," He said, wishing the girl next to him would not ask him for his opinion so he could be silent in peace.

"You like intelligent girls?"

Andre shrugged. "I like intelligent people," He said, and went back to eating his rice.

"Celine wasn't that intelligent," Clovis said, matter of fact-ly, turning towards Andre as if suddenly registering his response. He waved his hand in a twirled gesture. "Not to be mean, but she's not."

Andre gave Clovis a stern look. "I never liked Celine like that." He stuffed broccoli into his mouth. Clovis went back to focusing on Racquel, who was still not looking up from her plate.

"Who's Celine?" Pretty girl asked, with some interest.

Andre swallowed his food again before answering, briefly wondering why he was suddenly the topic of conversation. "She was my girlfriend. She's just a friend now," he replied, and then found it a bit strange that Celine had come up into the conversation at all when he'd just been thinking about her moments ago, out in the cold. And today, when Lamont – did he ever ask her? He wanted to know, but he blocked the question out. He wouldn't know until tomorrow.

The girl with the curly hair asked, "You dated her even though you didn't like her?" sounding perked by this information.

Why am I getting asked this? Andre thought, rapidly feeling like he was in the middle of a spotlight, between all these girls. They were making him edgy. Especially the pretty one besides him who seemed a little enraptured by everything he was saying. He took a breath before responding, feeling somewhat annoyed the girl with the curly hair was already assuming things about him. "I was with her because I didn't have the heart to say no to her. We were really good friends. I thought I could learn to like her that way," he explained, embarrassed about giving that piece of personal information out. He kind of wanted to leave.

The boy's campus was safer, less gossipy.

He finished the meal before anyone else – likely in due to the fact he wasn't talking, and also because he wanted to finish quickly and go. "Where do I put this?" Andre gestured, holding up his mostly barren plate to Avian.

"Just put it in the kitchen sink," She said, smiling at him.

"I can wash it if you want," He offered. Avian shook her head.

"No, it's fine. Just put it in the sink."

Andre stood up, gathering his other dishes. "Ok," He said, and left for the kitchen to put his dishes away, feeling some of the girl's eyes on him as he fled.

He felt his ears reddening in the darkness of the kitchen. Girls, he mused, and covered them with his palms, trying to rub the redness off them and the burning feeling gathering in his cheeks. I shouldn't have said anything about Celine he mused. But Clovis was the one to bring her up. He lingered in the kitchen for longer then what was necessarily, feeling more comfortable by himself.

The light in the kitchen turned on, pretty girl interrupting him to put her own dish and glass into the sink. He knew she had said her name, but he'd completely forgotten it.

"We take turns washing dishes," she said as she set them down, her voice low like the night, her face smiling in a way Andre thought was awfully coy. Her lips looked like they had been lightly glittered, and Andre realized dimly she had lipstick on. He nodded simply.

She crossed her arms beneath her chest, causing her breasts squish together.

Andre swallowed and looked aside immediately, shuffling his feet. Shuffle shuffle.

"Racquel really likes your friend, you know," She whispered. Andre looked back at her. She smiled.

"Does she?" He inquired. With the way Racquel acted, it was certainly true, but what was the extent of said liking?

She nodded in an almost giddy way. "She has classes with him, and she sometimes goes on about him with us. She stopped doing it because Avian liked him too, but now," She grinned, her front teeth showing in-between her mouth, all of them white and nicely aligned. A pretty smile. "I think it's exciting. I can see why. He's really attractive, and I think he seems like a good person," She concluded.

Andre swallowed. "Yeah," he said meekly. Well, that was good. Good for Clovis that was. Why is she talking to me? He thought, out of oblivion. "Well, um, I'm going back to the dining room." He walked around her, nearly brushing against her body as he did. She was practically emitting sexual energy, whether it was on purpose or his own foolish imagination. He didn't know.

He just wanted to get away from her. She made him uncomfortable.

He felt better back in the dining room. Clovis and Racquel were actually talking now – he'd gotten her to speak. Lovely. Andre sat down at the table and waited for their conversation to end (it was apparently about which classes they liked and the ones they had together) before he said anything.

"Are we going to go now?" Andre said hopefully, but not wanting to seem too eager to leave.

"You two are staying, it's too cold out," Avian said instantly. Andre paled. What?

Clovis nodded. "Yeah, I think it's better if we try to leave in the early morning. It would be easier."

Andre glared, angered that his friend was agreeing. "It's going to be just as cold in the morning." I would not have come if I had known that, he thought miserably.

"Yeah but, a lot of the doors might be locked. It's pretty late," Clovis said, and looked at his watch. "It's almost 10."

"Are you serious? It's that late?" Andre clutched Clovis's arm so he could see his watch for himself. It was true, to his dismay.

Avian was giggling. "Our couch in the living room turns into a bed. You'll have enough room. We have extra blankets and pillows, and we have extra tooth brushes and other things. It'll be fine," she assured.

I don't want to stay here, he mused desolately. But he also wasn't going to leave without Clovis.

It was frightening to cross that dark field alone, with the enormous stalking trees, their silhouettes cast across his body, and the cold wind chilling him to his bones and blood, the blackened, half frozen grass crunching beneath his feet and his breath and heart beat the only sounds to comfort him.

The mere thought of it made his spine crawl.

-

Avian had the bed set up with some minor difficulties. Andre hoped it wouldn't collapse. It didn't look too old, but still. Both he and Clovis had just finished brushing their teeth and were standing awkwardly, the two of them wanting to help but not sure how.

"There !" she said joyously when it was upright. She turned towards the two males behind her. "Now I just need to get blankets," She darted off, moving in between them before disappearing into the corridor.

Clovis sat down, and then let himself fall back, exhaling in relief and closing his eyes.

I wish we didn't have class tomorrow, Andre pondered, and an image of Fahst flashed in his brain momentarily.

He shoved it out and sat next to his friend.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know we were going to end up spending the night."

Andre shook his head. "It's fine… " He lay down besides Clovis. "As long as we're not sleeping in one of the girl's rooms."

Clovis laughed. "Of course not." His laugh was slurred and dim, blurring into his words, falling into each other like dominos – and expressing how exhausted he was. He sat up, his body lean and melted into the colors surrounding him, his spine poking slightly out through his shirt. They'd both removed their sweaters from earlier.

Andre watched him, then turned aside, closing his eyes.

"I'm going to ask her," Clovis breathed. "Right now." He stood up, as if filled with a sudden exuberance.

Andre nodded. "Good luck," He mumbled with sincerity, into his pillow. You probably don't need it.

Andre lay in the dark, by himself for awhile, before realizing he needed to remove his shoes. He sat up, taking one off then the other, undoing each lace throughout his cloudy stupor, and then shaking his feet so his shoes would flop down onto the wooden flooring below, making a dull 'clank' when they did. He peeled off his socks, stuffed each sock into their appropriate shoe, and then undid his tie, folding it once it was off. He then fumbled with the buttons of his shirt, taking a gracious amount of leisure in popping each one out. He rolled it off his shoulders and then folded it as well, and left everything in a neat little pile next to the bed. Organized.

Pleased that he'd had enough sense to do at least that, Andre sank on the mattress, the bed kissing up against the angles and crevices of his back. He hummed in his throat inaudibly. Feels good, at least.

He felt himself beginning to fall asleep when Avian returned. He opened his eyes, staring up at her.

She was leaning over the bed, watching him, two rolls of blankets held beneath her arms. The girl with the curly hair was carrying three pillows.

"Sorry to wake you," She whispered, and set one blanket down so she could unfurl the other. She then set it over him. He watched it flutter down and then cover his body up to his chin. He yawned, and sat up.

"Here," Said the curly haired girl, handing Andre the pillows. He set one down where Clovis was going to sleep, one in between them, and then one on the side of the bed he'd be sleeping on. Avian uncurled the other blanket and lay that too down on the bed, moving to the other side to straighten it.

"Merci," Andre said drowsily.

"No problem," Said Avian, and the two left.

Andre pulled the covers over himself and curled up, resting his cheek to his pillow. It was supple and silken, a texture that was heavenly to his drained body.

Clovis returned soon – Andre wasn't quite sure when, and when he opened his glazed eyes, he saw that the lights were out.

"What'd she say?" He whispered.

"She said yes," Clovis said, happiness in his voice, and the space next to Andre sank with the addition of weight. Andre then felt Clovis's arms wrap around him – he made a light groan of protest as his friend dragged him towards him – towards his side of the bed with a hug. "Thanks for coming here with me."

"Mmmf," Andre mumbled. Clovis had a hard grip. Clovis ruffled his hair and Andre weakly protested "stopit— Clovis, I'm tired – "

"Okay, okay," Clovis said, letting go. Andre wondered if his friend was going to start tickling him. That always happened when they were in the same bed together. Fortunately, Andre was too tired to care at the moment.

He yawned, mumbling, "What else did she say?"

Clovis sniggered, in a charmed, bemused way. "She said 'are you serious?' when I asked, and then when I nodded her eyes lit up and she said 'yes!' "

"Yeah," Andre knew Clovis was taking off his shoes as he had done moments – minutes – ago. "That all?" He mumbled.

"She asked if I was serious about three times, but yeah, that's basically it," Clovis summarized.

"Mmpm," Andre made a meager attempt of creating a logical response, allowing his body to relax each tendon and muscle, from the center of his neck to the small of his back to the very tips of each of his toes.

He felt himself sinking, sinking away into the warm comfort of slumber, as close as he could possibly come to oblivion. He heard a voice whisper a tender word in the distance, and with it he slept.