You know intervention when you see one. It's just a matter of deciding whether it's good or bad and whether or not you have to punch it in the face.


IV. ENTER CONFLICT, STAGE RIGHT

It had been two hours of nonstop writing and counting, memorizing and solving, arguing and yelling. Where did that leave her? Well, at least it proved her to be supremely dedicated to several crafts in need of polishing. But dedication! That was what mattered. And where was the Devil while she agonized over problems, frantically flipping between the pages for those formulas that seemed to elude her when she needed them the most? Oh, he had climbed out of her window and into his room once again, playing his stupid drums and occasional guitar.

Sometimes even at the same time.

Halley bit at at the eraser end of her pencil, staring blankly at her textbook, when realization dawned on her. Pushing her papers and book aside, she scrambled over to her window and stuck her head out, listening to the racket that ricocheted between the two houses, entering and permeating its vibrating sounds throughout her room.

His light was on, smoke was wafting out, and oh did she want to sock him one.

"Declan!" she screeched.

The noise came to an abrupt halt. Without waiting for a response, she removed her glasses and slammed them on her desk. Fuming, she maneuvered herself out the window, grunting as she leaned against the other house and attempting to climb like that Monkey Boy, as she ranted away.

"First, you have the gall to accept my father's request. Really? You know that if I needed the help, the last person I would have wanted to get it from was you. Almost eighteen years, and it hasn't sunk into your head that you are the most incorrigible boy I have ever met, even if the entire female population seems to dote and drool over you –

--

– but that's not the point! Point is, I let you come into my house and my room, only so you can insult me when I really try. I do, you know, you insufferable ass. And what do I get for it? Ugh. What kind of teacher are you? Making me do work while you play rock star –

Noah quietly picked at the guitar, adjusting the strings for a higher sound, as Jesse gazed at the window from his seat with amusement. It seemed the girl was talking more to herself, now that she was on a full-fledged tirade. He chuckled to himself. He hadn't realized Linley herself lived next door, and he was surprised to discover that she seemed to be invulnerable to whatever charm Jesse supposedly exuded. This was the first time she had loudly made herself known.

– when you're supposed to be helping! Not that I needed any help but – Jesus Christ! You and your spider legs. What are you, a frog? Normal people use doors and you use windows. Of all the – ugh. As if you're even good at it!"

Jesse laughed, ushering Noah to fill in for him.

--

"Not good at what?"

Halley noticed the distinction. That certainly was not Declan, and she felt her ears warm and her cheeks flush. Great. Make a fool out of yourself, Halley. Your first impressions are impeccable, as always! She shook her head, finding herself in quite the predicament, precariously balancing herself between the small space. She felt like a gorilla, her hands hanging firmly from his sill, while she – barely! – tiptoed precariously from her own. And she was sure primates were much more agile than this.

She looked up, ready to apologize, when she felt her face go white.

Freckles!

"Freckles?"

Oh, yeah. Good going. Say that aloud, why don't you.

"Need a hand?" Freckles asked her, nonchalantly. He was much, oh, cooler in person. Not amazing, but colder. Something about him was a little more intense than what she took him for in class.

"Mon Dieu."

"At least your French sighs are decent."

Halley felt her eye twitch – but only slightly. She adjusted her weight from one foot to another, staring at him as she did so. "What makes you say that?"

"Your school repertoire might have something to do with it." And that being said, he moved away from the window, only to be replaced by Declan. She balked at his boldness, her mouth opening and closing like a drying fish, and wow, she wasn't sure who she wanted to hurt more. She did, however, know one thing: the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Oh, wait. Not that. Birds of a feather flock together. Yep, that's the one. Nevertheless, the both of them needed a good beating.

Despite Declan's occasional gentlemanly gestures, he sure surrounded himself with a questionable crowd. Did osmosis not apply in the anthropological world of men and women? Probably not. Jesse Declan was a unique breed of ass.

He peered down at her, looking smug.

"Nice view from here."

"You know, you're not as chivalrous as you make yourself out to be," she snapped.

He looked briefly affronted before saying, "Well, it looks like you're more in need of that chivalry about now than I do."

Her eyes flashed, and reaching up, she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt – how she was able to, she would figure it out later – and yanked him down, nearly pulling him out of his window.

"Listen here, Declan. I didn't want your help in the first place, but you've managed to convince my dad that I need you. I am not your pity piece of work, nor am I particularly happy with the deal you proposed to me which, by the way, is null and void as of tonight. You are absolutely, positively fired – unless you bring your sorry self down here and tutor me properly!"

She breathed heavily and stared at him with such intensity that it almost took him aback. Almost. It was rare that she was fired up by anything, but he found it quite admirable. And slightly adorable, minus the dragon ire and proverbial bared fangs – not that she had any, but she sent the message rather well.

"Okay, okay," he conceded. "I'll be down there in a minute. Let me just kick Noah out and we can continue, all right?"

Halley released him. "Thank you."

Adjusting herself, and clumsily at that, she was able to move so that she crawled back inside her room without a hitch. Jesse stared until she disappeared, finally withdrawing and sharing a look with his friend.

"She's passionate." Noah offered.

Jesse rubbed the back of his neck. "Better passionate than not at all, right?"

"Yeah." Noah paused. Devilishly, "So are we heading down there?"

They both laughed, gathering their things and readying themselves at the edge of his window.