I see them everywhere. Don't you? That's right. I've decided to succumb to the masses and finally allow myself to write a story for Freak-of-Spade's challenge. February. I fail at sexual kink. Sorry. Here's to confidence, though—raise glasses, all. And off we go, I suppose. Oh, god. Someone's going to arrest me for being an awful challenge follower. Here goes everything.

Rules were:Theme is 'faery tales'. Write a retelling/modern version/retelling with a twist of a faery tale. May be set at any time you wish, may be fantasy or non-fantasy. You may write a retelling of a really obscure faery tale, or an obscure version of a well-known faery tale, so long as you provide me with the title of the faery tale you're using.

MUSTs

Must be written in the past tense.

Must use the words: bell, candy, flicker, flutter, ash, heart, princess, secretly, seek, confession, blade, twist, never-ending and lust.

One character must say: "I don't love you. It's just that your mouth is very pretty.

MUST BE SLASH (surprisingly enough)

Must be written in the past tense.

Must feature a sexual kink of some kind. Oh yeah.

NO-WAYs

No 1st-person narrative.

No long, drawn-out, meaningful moment.

For the record, I chose The Little Mermaid to base this on. Very loose basing, mind you.

Somewhere Hiding Underneath

When the bell rang, everyone jumped from their seats and scrambled to exit the classroom—everyone, that is, except for Harper. He stumbled along like he always did, the odd-man-out in the world that was high school. He hated it there, at Lillian Lewis High. Everyone was the same—they all followed the rules set before them, and they all seemed pretty content with it, too. The never-ending torrents of rain outside the window did nothing to dampen their spirits, either; everyone was happy, all the time. Everyone except for Harper.

Speaking of the window—Harper paused, looking outside through the watery sheets of rain coming down in the cold but not frozen California February. There was a private school across the street. Everyone at Lillian Lewis High hated that private school. Only snobs and freaks went there, they said. They were something of rivals, Harper supposed. Though, to him, it didn't seem as though the students of Lewis City Prep knew the students of Lillian Lewis High existed.

He walked to the bus stop. His friends at Lillian Lewis were not going to be very happy about the fact that he'd applied to Lewis City Prep, and that he'd be there from Tuesday to Friday this week, so as to see if he liked it there. His father had been angry when he found out. "There's nothing wrong with the way things are at public school!" he'd shouted.

But Harper wanted so much more. During lunch, he'd secretly watch the students across the street, in their uniforms, eating their own lunch. They didn't spare the public school students a glance. There was one, though, who occasionally looked over, across the freeway to Lillian Lewis. His eyes never met Harper's, but Harper wanted desperately to know what would happen if they did. That private school boy was a prince, he was an adventurer. He believed in the public school—he looked at them almost as though he'd rather be there than at LCP. But Harper was going to be at LCP now. And maybe… just maybe… he'd get to talk to the ocean-blue-eyed boy who had the heart to spare LLHS a glance.

When Harper reached the bus stop, there were already two people standing there—both from LCP. One was a girl with long, beautiful brown hair and her knee-high socks, all her books held against her chest with her arms. The other was a boy, black haired and beautiful, with eyes the color of the ocean. He was The Boy. Harper swallowed and stood next to the girl.

Though Harper did not know the ocean-blue-eyed boy's name, everyone at LCP knew that it was Oliver. Oliver was juggling a hacky sack between both feet while standing at that bus stop. Harper watched the progress of it for awhile, until the hacky sack made a bad turn of off Oliver's foot and fell about three feet out into the busy street.

Oliver quickly scrambled to get it. He didn't see the bus coming. Without a second thought, Harper yanked Oliver out of the way. They fell backwards onto the sidewalk, Oliver hitting his head on the pavement. Harper looked up, frightened. Had Oliver's friends been watching? Did they see that Oliver had been saved by some psycho from the public school?

Tearing out a page of his notebook, he quickly scribbled, "I hope your head feels better," and folded it into Oliver's palm as he called an ambulance. After making sure that the ambulance had arrived and that Oliver was safely aboard it, Harper got onto the bus to go home. The girl who had also been at the bus stop followed.

She sat beside Harper. "Do I know you from somewhere?" He asked her.

She shook her head. "I'm Erica. I go to LCP?"

"Oh," he said. "I might be going there."

"Yeah?" she asked, surprised. Harper nodded. "Well," she continued, "that guy you saved—that's Oliver Sanford. Do you know him?"

"No," Harper admitted.

"Hmm," Erica said shortly. "If you don't know him, how can you like him so much?"

Harper's mouth went dry. "I don't."

"I saw you! You wrote a note to him—you care about him, don't you?"

"Not really."

"Well," Erica continued, her face sinisterly excited, "Maybe you've just got some weird lust thing for him. But if true love is what you seek," she teased, "I'll make you a deal. You write him notes and give them to me. I'll put them in his locker for you. If he figures out that it's you, and likes you back by the time your trial days at LCP are up, then you can have him, and you can come to my school and be Oliver Sanford's little fairy-tale-princess. If he doesn't like you back, then I get to tell him that I wrote him the notes, and that I saved him from being run over. And then you go back to where you came from. Deal?"

"Why should I make a deal with you? That's stupid."

"I know what he likes, what he doesn't like," she said darkly. "I know everything about him. I know where his locker is," she added. "Face it. Without me, you can't win him over."

"But with you, I could end up just being stabbed in the back," Harper pointed out.

Erica shrugged. "I'd rather be stabbed in the back than play it safe and not have a chance. Think about it, princess." And with that, she hopped off the bus.

The next Tuesday, Harper went to LCP instead of LLHS, earning glares from his friends and classmates across the way. The first person he recognized in the hall was Erica, who gave him a creepy smirk. "You're on," he told her, handing her the note he'd composed for her to give Oliver for him. "You are feeling better, aren't you?"

"Of course I'm on," she almost sang, pocketing it. "Now, run along like a good little boy."

He glared at her as he kept moving. He saw Oliver talking to some of his friends, tossing his hacky sack up and down in the air. Harper felt his heart flutter and his stomach twist at the sight. He scowled to himself—he wasn't here for this. He was here to be a part of something more.

During gym, Harper was on fire. He'd never been particularly good at sports, but today he was. He was so good, that Oliver Sanford and one of his friends, Max, commanded that he sit with them at lunch. So he did. They didn't say much to Harper, but Harper was okay with that—he'd never really liked talking anyway. What he did like, however, was the way Oliver's lips looked when forming certain words.

"This is for you," Erica told him on their bus ride home, dropping a piece of paper into his lap. "Oliver left it in his locker for the mysterious note writer."

"I'm feeling fine. Who are you? Thank you for saving me. Who are you?"

Harper smirked. He quickly wrote a note back, handing it to Erica. "Good. I'm no one. You're welcome. I'm no one."

"Witty," she said dryly, upon reading it.

"I thought so," he said.

"You know, there's something remarkably romantic about all this," she reflected. "I just wish I cared. You're too sweet, I think. You need to be darker."

"Not everyone can be like you," Harper teased her. "And you're actually sweet, too, deep down. You just don't know it yet."

"That's me," Erica sneered, "sweet as candy."

"Evil, boy-stealing candy," Harper mumbled as Erica exited the bus at her stop.

Wednesday's reply to Harper's note read "Why did you save me? Why do you write me notes? Are you in love with me? Who are you?"

And Harper's reply said, "Don't worry about my motives; I don't love you. It's just that your mouth is very pretty."

Erica sneered at that one. "'I don't love you. It's just that your mouth is very pretty?'" she quoted. "You're so weird, princess."

"I know," he said simply. He got another reply that same day. "You're strange. But I'm okay with strange. Have we met in person before? Besides the time that you saved me, I mean."

"Yes," Harper wrote. "A couple of times."

Erica rolled her eyes. "It's like you're expecting to lose," she said. "Don't you want him? Don't you want to beat me?"

Harper shrugged. "I suppose."

"Then you should be more specific—throw yourself at him. Send him roses. Give him a ring. Ring around the roses!"

"And you say I'm weird," Harper chuckled as she dashed down the hall to put his reply in Oliver's locker. "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down."

On Thursday, Harper was invited to sit with Oliver, Max, and the rest of their friends again. "Ooh, another note from your secret admirer, Oliver?" Max teased.

"Shut up," Oliver said, blushing.

"What do they mean, a couple of times?" Max asked, sounding confused.

"We've met in person a couple of times," Oliver clarified. "God. I wonder who they are…"

"Why do you keep saying 'they'?" one of Oliver's friends asked. "It is a girl, isn't it?"

"I don't know," Oliver admitted.

The friend made a face. "Would you keep writing him if it's a dude?"

"I… I don't know," Oliver said, still staring at the note, his brow furrowed.

"You're not… gay… are you?" the boy waited as Oliver folded the note neatly into his pocket.

"Come on, man," Max said with an encouraging shrug. "Confession time?"

Oliver sighed. "I'm… bisexual."

And in those two words, Harper finally felt that flicker of hope he'd been waiting for—he had a chance. He had a shot. He couldn't give up now, not knowing that there was a possibility that Oliver could actually like him.

But there was also a possibility that Oliver could like Erica. So Harper would have to work fast.

The reply from Oliver that day came quickly. "I was thinking about how you saved me. About how without you, I wouldn't be here still. Are you sure you don't love me?"

Harper didn't see the correlation between the thoughts, but he figured it didn't matter. Either way, what he had to do was tell the truth. "I might love you. But chances aren't high that you'd love me back."

Erica had the most demonic look on her face as she handed Harper Oliver's next reply. Harper didn't know why. Then he opened it. "I already love you back."

Friday came. The final day. Harper's last chance to make sure that Oliver knew it was him. But something was wrong. Oliver wasn't with his friends, outside the gym like he had been all week. Where was he?

Erica knew where Oliver was. He was blindfolded in a dark classroom, tied to a desk with a knife at his throat, the cold blade pressing incessantly against his skin. "Who are you?" Oliver croaked. "Why are you doing this?"

"Shh," Erica murmured in a gender-neutral voice, pressing the flat side of the knife harder against the back of Oliver's neck.

Slowly, she slid his pants down to his ankles. She herself was already unclothed. His arms were tied down with the rest of his body, but she gently took his hand and brought it to her breast. Oliver jumped back after the initial contact, but the back of his neck had been punctured by the blade, and he could feel the blood dripping down his back, staining his starched-white uniform shirt. "Ah ah ah," she cautioned. "Do as I say."

Oliver whimpered as the knife pressed harder against his skin. Erica sat on his lap, bringing herself closer to him. "W-who are—"

"Don't speak!" she commanded.

He quickly shut his mouth.

But the knife slid down from the back of his neck, around to the front, slicing across his collar bone and down his chest. He could feel its coldness through his button-down shirt, and he shuddered, willing the girl to stop with everything he had inside him.

Harper searched every room in the school. He knew Oliver had to be here somewhere—and then he froze. Of course. Erica had taken him. Erica had done something he'd never expect. She knew he'd be so preoccupied with this new world that he'd forget about his old one.

They were at Lillian Lewis High School. Harper knew it. He flew out of LCP and across the freeway, dodging cars without caring much about his safety: All that mattered was getting to Oliver. He entered the familiar building, knowing which classrooms were kept empty this time of day. The third empty classroom he burst into was not empty at all.

Erica jumped away from Oliver like a repelling magnet. Harper swiftly slapped her across the face and took her knife, pushing her to the ground. She tried to trip him up, but he would not fall. He cut through Oliver's bindings and pulled the other boy's pants up, buttoning them for him. Erica was still on the ground as Harper yelled for help.

The rest of that day was a blur. Harper knew that teachers had come, that the police had taken Erica away. She was crazy, they were saying. Her father had already called both schools because she hadn't taken any of her medications that morning. Harper should have seen this coming. But he was finding it hard to think at that moment—nothing was clear, nothing was making sense. He knew he rode in an ambulance with Oliver, and he knew that it was the second time this week that Oliver was going to the hospital.

But Oliver knew that it was the second time this week someone had saved his life. And as he lay in that hospital bed, his back and shoulder and chest bleeding and bandaged, he allowed his fingers to grip someone else's: His hero's. And Harper sat by Oliver's bed for the longest time as Oliver cried. "I'm so sorry I didn't find you sooner," Harper whispered listlessly.

"And here I was, thanking god you'd come at all. You saved me the first time, didn't you? And you wrote me the notes?"

"Yes," Harper admitted.

"I meant it, you know," Oliver said quietly. "When I said I was falling in love with you? Saving a person's life twice in one week kinda makes them get attached, I guess."

"I don't mind you being attached to me," Harper smiled, tightening his hold on Oliver's hand. "I don't know if you remember, but I fell in love with you first."

Wow. So, not as crappy as it could have been. But not that great, either. Eh, it was my first try writing a story that actually had to follow rules. So, yeah. Epic failure, įsí o no? It was different that what I normally do because I had actual rules to follow… ehh… so yeah.