"Virginia Reynolds, you better stop preaching this instant."

"Oh, Dell, you know I hate when you use my full name," Virginia was already walking away from her friend, her high pony tail swishing behind her.

Dell's long stride caught up easily and tugged on Virginia's sleeve, "Sorry, Vi, but you know I hate when you get like that."

"I don't get like anything, it's how I am. You know this, I don't know why you insist on trying to change my mind on it."

Dell smirked and smacked her friend's arm lightly, "Same reason you insist on trying to change my mind. There's a better life out there and I want you to experience it."

"Yes, but if you'd listen to me it wouldn't result in your mother disowning you."

"Yes, but I'd never forgive myself," she pretended to faint in the horror of it all and Virginia took the opportunity to push her into the grass.

"Seriously Dell, my mother would skin me, then disown me, and I really love living under a roof. I wasn't made to be a bum."

"Oh please," Dell was getting up, looking at the grass stain on her already grass-stained jeans. "Do you think I'd let you live on the streets? You could move in with mom and I."

"That's very sweet of you, but I'd prefer just avoid the situation."

"Okay…"

Virginia glanced over and saw that Dell was looking into the park they were passing. Torn between curiosity at why she let it drop so easily and glad that the argument had ended, Virginia searched for something else to talk about. "So you have a tournament next weekend?"

Dell slowly brought her eyes back to Virginia. "Yeah. I'm not competing, just cheering on the team and all that."

"Maybe I could come and cheer them on too?"

"Would your mother approve?" Dell winced as soon as she said it and saw Virginia stiffen, "I mean--"

"It's fine, you meant exactly what you said. And it's not like I'm not allowed out of the house, speaking of which, I'm home, bye." She turned and walked up her drive, leaving Dell to stand there, the word "Wait" hanging on her lips unspoken. Only once the door had closed did she move away, smacking her head with the palm of her hand.

"Don't beat yourself up, her mother is an uptight cunt." The others murmured agreement with Lighter.

"But I know how sensitive she is about it. And now she's going to be pissed and I could have gotten her out with us afterwards and having a good time."

"Don't know why you bother," Coppola chimed in, "her mom is more uptight than my entire family is, and I'm a preacher's kid."

"Yeah, well, I think your family gave up on you when they walked in on you jerking off to porn. Which was it, 'Substitute Math Teacher 5'?" Bookworm ducked but was unable to avoid Coppola's entire body as they began wrestling on the floor. Conversation continued as if the two weren't punching each other.

"Cope's right, why do you bother?"

"She's really a great person. I think she'd be fun to hang out." The words tasted dry in her mouth, but no one said anything, even though a few pierced brows rose.

The awkward moment was broken by Bookworm's peal of laughter as Coppola tickled him, stopping only when the kicking grew dangerously close to hurting. Bookworm laid on the floor gasping for breath. "Damn…you."

Coppola did a victory dance around the room, and Bookworm crawled back onto the couch beside Dell. His voice was soft enough so only Dell could hear as the others broke into conversation about what video games they'd bring to the party this weekend, "Invite her to the gathering this Saturday. It's at my place. Don't apologize or do anything stupid. Just invite her." And then he was leaning forward shouting, "Not that stupid game. THAT is not coming into my house!"

The voices continued around Dell as she half listened and half thought about what he had said.

Dell didn't have any classes with Virginia on Fridays, so she just slipped a note into her locker. She skipped lunch to study for a test and then was in class all day, so she didn't Virginia until the end of the day when she cornered Dell at her locker, "Avoiding me?"

"No, busy day. You coming?"

"I don't know. Have to talk to my mom. Will Worm's parents be there?"

Dell wanted to lie and say "yes, of course" but the look of hope on Virginia's face made her stop. "No, that's why we're going there. But it's just gonna be the Gang. Nothing ridiculous."

"Drinking?"

Dell shrugged, "Probably, but you don't have to, or anything."

Virginia looked like she was about to say something, but she either changed her mind or saw the pained expression on Dell's face. Instead she smiled demurely, "I'll see. No promises. But I'll try."

Dell smiled, "Thank you. Need a ride there? I have the car this weekend."

"No thanks, I'll take the bus. So what did you think of that Calc test?" It was difficult not to notice the sudden change of topic, but Dell let it go. She tried not to think about the possibility of later this weekend when they could be hanging out together…

"Worm!" Dell snapped, pushing the scrawny boy out of her way, "What the fuck were you thinking?"

She stalked into the kitchen, wiping the water off her face and toweling off her hair. Bookworm stood in the archway, "Okay, you need to chill. You look fine, it's just water, and if anything it gives you more of a carefree look. Or maybe," he moved in, leaning his chin on her shoulder, "You don't want look carefree. Maybe you want to look good and pure."

Her cheeks flushed the affirmation and he smirked, "Don't worry, I won't tell."

"I don't care if you do. Well, as long as you don't say anything to her. Though, if you tell Lighter it'd be as bad as telling her since he can't keep his mouth shut."

Bookworm purred, "Don't I know it."

Dell rolled her eyes and pushed him off her, "Pervert."

"Thank you." He bowed, then howled when the water balloon smashed on his back. Lighter and Dell high-fived while laughing and Bookworm just left the kitchen, dripping. The pair followed him out of the kitchen into the den, where Coppola and Linch were hooking up the gaming systems. Dell crashed on the couch, acutely aware of the cold wet shirt clinging to her body, the cold sweat on her palms and the flutter of her heart which was raising the blood to her cheeks. It was going to be a long night.

Everyone was in-depth in Mario Kart race (Bookworm was leading with Lighter in close second, then Linch and Coppola, who was cursing every turn), when the doorbell rang. Dell was in the air and up the stairs before the ring finished echoing through the house. She forced herself to stop in front of the door and shallow her breathing before she pulled open the door, drawing a smile as she saw Virginia standing there.

"Hey."

"Hey." They stood there, the cool air rushing over Dell's face for a moment before she had the sense to open the door further and invite Virginia in. "Everyone's down stairs. Go right in."

Virginia stopped at the top of the stairs and waited while Dell closed the door. Dell joined her at the top of the stairs and for a moment they hung in suspension. Then Virginia leaned forward and kissed Dell softly on the cheek. Then taking her hand, she lead Dell down into the den, where the sound of hoots and hollers greeted them.