Mr-Black-Bird: I apologize for the super-lateness of this chapter, but I had some serious ((serious)) writer's block, and was really, really hating the last chapter (as well as this one, coincidently). So I decided I just had to step back for a bit.

This chapter is dedicated to Calico Trayce and Ray-Anne, two wonderful reviewers who've sat through all my crap. I love you guys. (though bear in mind, I'm not too confidant of this chapter's quality.)

P.S. My spell-checker is broken and I have no clue how to fix it. I've done my best to check the spelling and grammar on my own, but please keep in mind that english has never been my strong point.

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Jessie

I wrapped myself up in a faux leopard-print coat and wondered if maybe I should steal a sip from the bottle of vodka Mom kept under the kitchen sink. I might as well get drunk; after all, I'd already gone through half-a-pack. Slowly destroying myself had never felt so good. Exhaling a stream of pale blue smoke, I finished a drawing of a girl in red and black marker along the leg of my jeans while the ash from my cigarette burned a hole through my comforter.

I was bored, and lonely. Mom was at the neighbors, playing bridge with some fat lady who always smelled like overripe fruit. Nerual was pissed at me, and rightly so – I'd broken one of the key rules of girldom and shunned my best friend for a guy, shameful! Now I was all alone on a Friday afternoon, having skipped the last two periods of school, and I felt like doing something wicked.

Too bad it's hard to get up to mischief when no-one will answer your calls, when I have no clue where Andy is, and I'm sick to my stomach of this woe-is-me attitude I've been stuck in for the past two-hours. I am grumpy, and bitchy, but sitting in this house chain-smoking isn't going to help. I need to go, I don't know where, but in ten seconds my boots are on my feet and I'm out the door; my CD player clasped tight in my hand.

***

Andy

B-Rinnng

Rinnng

B-Rinng

I didn't know if I should pick up the phone. What if it was the school calling, wondering where I was? Or mom? Did she notice I was still asleep before she left? It didn't matter much, all I could think of was what I would do if it was Brian is stupid, because he was at school, where I should be. Not too mention that it's not like we can't be friends anymore just because everytime I'm around him my insides clench.

Still though, I don't want to see him. That's what my brain is telling me, but the rest of my body is betrying that, urging me to call him, call him because I want to see him so sobad and for the life of me I can't (or don't want to) understand why.

I let the machine pick up the call, holding onto my ham and cheese sandwich like a prayer.

"Hey, it's Brian. I don't know if you're home but I had my spare block last, so I'm on my way over now, see you later."

I sat, wide-eyed through the whole message, even afer a short crackle and a beep told me the recording was finished. I didn't even notice that I'd squished my sandwich into oblivion and mayonnaise was dripping down my hand.

***

Jessie

My CD player was skipping, playing the same section of the same song no matter how many times I tried to fix it. I wished I had an MP3 player, (though I also didn't have a computer so I don't see how that would've helped). I pressed the stop button, giving up, and stuffed the player into my pocket with little difficulty.

I looked up a the sky, still just a mass of clouds. Even so, it was winter so the sun set early and I loved walking at night - even if my path couldn't be illuminated by the stars. I loved the way my feet echoed on the pavement and the streelights glowed through a soft haze, like the breath of ghosts. I loved the way the cool air stung my lungs and satisfyed me. I loved every single step I took over the cracked concrete until I turned the corner and found myelf hitting something solid.

"The fuck-?' a lone figure said, peering over the top of the box it was holding onto with oversized hands.

"Sorry." I felt a little embarrased "I wasn't watching where I was going." I tryed looking over the box, but whoever this person was, they were a good two heads taller than me and all I could see was their inky black hair.

"S'okay." The box was moved, shifted onto one arm and I saw now that the figure was a teenage boy. Ice-blue eyes stared out at me, so intense it was almost hard to look. Black hair was messy on his head and grew as thick and wild as grass. He spoke slowly, langoriously. But his carefree, relaxed state seemed forced, like any moment his muscles could tense ad he'd be gone, quick as a cat. I stared up at him and noticed that the box was full to the brim with books, a heavy burden - especially to carry with one hand as he was now.

"What'cha reading?" I couldn't help but ask, and all those childhood warnings to not talk to strangers were set aside, in the back of my mind.

"Books." He paused, looking me over as if he'd only just seen me. "Romance novels, mostly." He shifted his weight again and set the box on the ground so I could see inside. All the books were similar, silver and gold embossed covers featuring a women tipped back in a mans arms. The woman has long flowing hair and is wearing a beautiful dress, a bit of cleavage showing. The man is muscled and strong. I suddenly rememer my greenish-orangy hair, and the fact that I didn't put on any makeup before I left and find myself hoping that this stranger hasn't noticed.

I looked up at the boy, but he wasn't looking at me. Rather, he was staring at the sky, searching for stars that didn't exist. I cleared my throat.

"Harrlequins."

"Hmm?" He turned to me, as if he hadn't expected me to speak.

"Harrlequins. Women's erotica. That's what you're reading, my mother has tons of these." I kick the box with my toe, indicating it's contents.

He looked at me, head cocked to one side and his eyes looked like liquid glass. "Well unfotunatley, my mother doesn't. So I have to buy these." He bent and picked the box up again, balancing the burden against his shoulder. "Any more comments?"

"Um, wait. I'm sorry, I wasn't making fun of you, alright? I just had a bad day." I didn't know why, but for some reason I cared what this stranger thought of me, whether he liked me or not. I certainly didn't want him mad at me just because he liked reading nearly-porn women's novels.

He regarded at me again, his blue eyes suddenly soft.

"It's okay."

And he reached out with one hand, ruffled my hair, and then was gone. I stood there for a good two minutes, my breath making clouds in the air before I realized I hadn't asked his name.

***

Andy

This is the moment when I remember that I haven't brushed my teeth my yet, or combed my hair, and that maybe, skipping that before-bedtime shower last night wasn't such a good idea. This is when I realize that:

A) I live about 5 minutes away from the school so Brian's gonna be here any second.

B) I don't want Brian to see me looking the way only I do in the mornings. (Trust me - it's not pleasant)

C) The fact that I even care about how I look for him is really, really gay.

So I'm running around the house, toothbrush clamped tight in between my teeth, pulling on pants that smell - for the most part - clean, and trying to fix my unkempt main of soft blonde hair.

And then my doorknob turns, and I realize that yes, Mom did forget to lock it when she left and fuck, now I can't even pretend like I'm not home because Brian is standing there. His lips chapped from the cold and his eyes bright.

"Hey."

I still have my toothbrush in my mouth so my reply comes out garbled, my voice sounding almost like Yoda as I hop around on one foot, trying to pull on a sock that I probably shrunk by accident because Mom decided last week that I was old enough to start doing my own laundry.

"Umm, are you alright? Did I come at a bad time or something?" He's stepped through the doorway by now and is pulling off his boots, one foot at a time. I shake my head at him, trying to tell him that it's okay before I spit a mixture of paste and saliva into the sink and wash my mouth out.

He sees the toothbrush cluched in my hand and I guess everything comes together for him, he humms understanding and leans against the counter. He's already taken off his jacket and I can see a smooth expanse of his dark skin before his arms meet his T-shirt (red, with Smashing Pumpkins scrawled across in faded white lettering) He looks like some sort of distant greek god of... I dunno, something sexy. I look like I've just crawled out of bed - which is pretty damn close to the truth. For a moment I hate him and his smooth, sexy skin. Then I realize what I'm thinking and I hate myself.

***

Jessie

I wonder if I'm a stalker, or maybe just obsessive. I've been wandering around town in the dark for nearly an hour now, hoping that I'll bump into that guy again. I could say it's because I have one of his books that must've fallen out of his box. (It's titled "Forbidden Temptations" and has a women with firery red hair stoking the chest of a masked man on the cover). But the real reason why I want to see him so bad is because (and I hate to admit this) is because stuff like that, like bumping into a mysterious stranger, just doesn't happen to me. Ever. My life is as striaght-cut and predictable as they come, from Spaghetti for dinner on Wednesday to the time I'll wake up on a Sunday morning (8:30 am, sharp.) and part of me hates that. Part of me has always fantasized about something out-of-the-ordinary and by the age of twelve I realized that no, I would never discover some sort of hidden mutant power I had, I would never find a rabbit hole to another world and my life would be drab, drab, drab. After another hour or so it's nearly seven o' clock and I find mysef inside the Stop N' Shop on the corner of Third and Way, reaching for a pack of dye called "Midnight Blue" because I'm still thinking about those icy blue eyes and wishing, just this once, that tonight there would be stars.

***

Andy

I'm nervous, but I'm not sure why. Because Brian has been at my house hundreds, thousands of times. But tonight just seeing him on my couch, waiting for me to finish making nachos in the kitchen makes my heart thump so loud I'm scared he can hear it.

I must be getting sick, because now I'm noticing things about Brian that I never noticed before. Like how his jaw is dotted with black stubble the way mine will never be. How his eyes are hazel, but shot through with a bit of green, unlike my own dull brown. How all the sudden, he's the most amazing person I've ever met though I've been friends with him now for a little more than a year.

Fuck.

My hands are shaking the slightest bit as I carry the hot tray to the living room and set it gingerly on the table. I'm not supposed to eat in the living room. But there's a hockey game on and Brian refuses to wrench his eyes away from it. I just hope Mom will work late tonight, so I'll have time to vaccumn up the evidence.

Brian turns to me during a commercial. "Thanks." and puts a nacho in his mouth, cheeze stretches from the plate to the chip before breaking off. I smile at him and eat a bit myself, sneaking glances at Brian through the corner of my eye. I still can't understand how he could like sports so much. How he could get so excited over one game that he'd yell and shout and laugh, that he'd jump up and pull me into a strong hug whenever our team scored. Not that I was complaining. I was just never that into sports, which was odd to many, 'cause I guess it's considered to be a guy thing, but I've always found the games to be boring as hell. Still though, I'll sit through one for Brian, no problem.

"Hey Andy?"

"Yeah, what?" I'm suprised that he's even talking to me, the game could be back on any second. He looks down, as if suddenly fascinated with the faded print of the couch.

"What do you think of Jessie? Do you think she's hot?" He seems uncomfortable almost, shy.

I think for a moment.

"Well I think she's pretty enough, but I would never date her. I guess... I dunno, we've been friends since we were kids so it would feel weird if we dated. Like I was with my sister." I'm serveying him, wondering why he would ask me a question like that. I hoped to hell that he didn't like her. An image popped into my head of Brian holding Jessie's hand, of him kissing her, and all the sudden I started to feel annoyed.

"Oh.' Was his short reply. Just "oh." and for the rest of the night I found myself wondering if maybe Brian did like Jessie. And for some reason it made me so mad that my hands clenched into fists, and my smile was forced, and to Brian I hardly spoke a word.

***

Jessie

When my Mom saw the bathtub stained blue she was hardly suprised, this was becoming a regular occurance. So she just handed me a brush and a bottle of bleach and told me I'd better clean it before The Step-Dad saw.

So, of course, I didn't clean the tub. Let The Step-Thing see it, what's he gonna do about it anyway? Ground me? What a joke. When a parent grounds you, there's nothing keeping you in your house. There are no bars on the windows, no locks on the doors, and my Mother's shouting is hardly effective, and as easy to drone out as clicking the "play" button on my CD player.

A joke, that's what my parents were, I had a Mom who was so flaky she'd be just as good if I didn't have her at all. My Dad - my real Dad, went on a "bussiness trip" and then never came back, instead sending Mom a letter basically saying that they were through, that he'd never loved her, and had run away with his ski instructor (who was, by the way, a man.)

I leaned up against the living room table, allowing the hard, dark wood to dig painfully into my side. Fuck, I was restless. And through it all I couldn't get the sight of two crystal blue eyes out of my head.

I still had his book too, crammed under the side of my bed because I really didn't want Mom too find it. I hadn't read it, though I'd tried, I got only two pages in before I had to slam the book closed, my face burning.

It wasn't quite smut, (thank god) but it was such a mushily written, cliche novel that I had to hold back my laughter while reading. My midnight blue hair hung down in my eyes, and I blew the loose strands out of my face, captivated by the color. I reached forward to steal a sip from Mom's coffee, resting on the table.

Hot.

Oh Shit, that's hot.

Fuck.

I looked around for a piece of... something to wipe my burning mouth with. My hands closed around the novel, I wondered, would Stranger Guy be angry if I ripped out a page?

The book flipped open to the back, the cover tearing a little as it did so. Shit. So much for ripping out a page. I limply held the book, like a wounded bird, and pulled at the back cover. Maybe I could tape it? Then I noticed the number scrawled on the back.

Property of E.S. Call 778-240-9412 if found.

Jackpot.

"Eliza didn't know who the stranger was, all she knew was that she was captivated by him. He filled her every thought, every hope, every desire. She recalled the way his eyes had burned underneath his mask with a mysterious fierceness - like two stars."

***

Mr-Black-Bird: That's the end of this chapter for now, and I once again must apologize for the lateness of this chapter. I have a new story in the works that is actually based off true events, I am hoping to have the first chapter up shortly. Also, check out my one-shot about an AU Andy and Brian, titled "I Hardly Know Myself" It's already up!