Whoa, I'm back! This story's a bit longer, but I like it so far. I'm a little skeptical on where it starts, but I think it's okay. Read and tell me whatcha think.

Alex sighed, twisting her summer sun-kissed blond locks absently on her finger. She, Nicole, Mandy, and Trisha lounged around one of the school library's Goodwill-reject tables, seated on the sun porch. Light poured in through the bay windows, falling on her like a warm wave, and Alex had to admit it beat the Lit crypt/classroom.

Nicole had practically dragged her out of Lit, only stopping to bat her does-eyes at silver painted Mr. Goldman, giving him a coy smile and earning them both a pass for the entire period. To get ahead on some outside reading, supposedly. Alex had hesitated, feeling Mr. Goldman's wrinkled face studying her, then grabbed her library card out of her binder and followed. Now, she realized she was the only one of the four who'd brought one.

"We need to go shopping tomorrow," Nicole stated matter-of-factly. Trisha, being the new girl and desperately trying to claw her way to Nicole's favor, agreed readily.

Mandy bit her lip and shook her head. "I can't," she wilted under Nicole's leer, and hurriedly explained. "Remember last week, when I borrowed my parent's car for me and Dan's date?"

She said this smugly, because Dan was an upper crust cut from the social elite of Jackson-Daniels High, on the football team and thus coveted by the clear majority of the female population. A known player, too, but everyone pretended to ignore that part, labeling him charming instead. Nicole rolled her eyes.

"Well, after our date, we got it on in the backseat." She smiled wickedly in Nicole's direction. "Best hour of my life."

Trisha's bluebird eyes were the size of plates, staring at Mandy in awe. Mandy, pleased with the attention, got ready to hash out the dirty details. Alex tried to swallow back her discomfort.

"Will you get to the point already?" Nicole snapped, and Alex felt the temperature in the whole school drop twenty degrees, despite the sunlight the four were bathed in.

"Dan's not the sharpest shooter, and he left a stain on the seat. That, and the fact that I was home late, made my parents put it all together. They flipped out," Mandy replied heatedly, and continued ranting.

Alex sighed again, softly, and tapped her library card against her bottom lip, her gaze slipping out the window to the school's fields. A gym class was stumbling around outside, dogged by the sharp whip of Mrs. Gyerson's whistle, running laps. Most of them were jogging slowly in a clump, laughing and chatting until the next shrill barks of the whistle slapped their heels. Alex watched as a girl untangled herself from the group, pulling her dark chocolate hair into a ponytail and flicking the bangs out of her eyes, and Alex watched as all the boys in the group tripped over each other while they admired the girl's backside. She rolled her eyes.

The girl stopped and kneeled to tie her shoe and her eyes found Alex's, shooting her a smile and a wave. Alex turned back to Mandy in time to hear her declare disdainfully that her parents had grounded her for two weeks devoid of any social life whatsoever. Alex looked back out the window and watched the girl straighten up and rejoin her group, ponytail bobbing.

"Ugh, that is so gay!" Trisha told Mandy sympathetically.

Alex tightened her jaw and stood up. To the three sets of questioning stares, she said simply, "I'm going to look at the books." It was the first thing she'd said, but none of them seemed to notice.

"What a nerd…" She heard Mandy mutter, and Nicole shot something back, but she was already out of earshot.

The bookcases loomed like gigantic dominos, and Alex navigated her way carefully to the fiction section. She chose a random aisle and scanned the titles, feeling her nerves calm as she mentally checked off all the ones she'd read.

Her eyes stopped at the 'V's and she knelt to shimmy out a colorful book. She examined it for a moment.

"Kurt Vonnegut?" A surprised voice floated above her.

She stood up and turned around. A sandy-haired boy in a Fallout Boy T-shirt was looking at her like she'd grown another head. When she quirked her eyebrows challengingly, he ran a hand through his disheveled locks, messing them up further. Alex noticed his ears were double pierced.

"What about him?" She asked slowly, her previous dour mood returning. "I've read Slaughterhouse-Five and liked it."

He stared wide-eyed at her for a minute. "Um, I just never would have guessed you read much, I mean considering…" He waved a hand towards the sun porch, where Mandy and Trisha's giggling pierced the quiet and echoed across the library.

Alex felt frustration bubble up inside her, but she just closed her eyes and replied evenly, "Yeah, I read. I might be the only one in the group that does, though."

"Probably." The guy nodded and offered her a small smile. "Slaughterhouse-Five was great, wasn't it? You'll like Cat's Cradle too. End of the world, sarcastic goodness."

Alex let out a strained chuckle. "Just my type of book."

The guy grinned and shifted in his flip-flops. "Hey, my name's Adam," he said, and raked a hand through his hair again. "You'll have to tell me how you like the book. It's one that really makes you think."

She gave him a smile. "I'll do that. I'm Alex, by the way."

"I know. You, uh, sit next to me in PreCalc," he supplied to her surprised look.

"Adam!" A girl yells, appearing a second later and bumping shoulders with him. "Found a book yet?"

The girl pushed her glasses to the bridge of her nose and shook her short, magenta-striped out of her face. It was then that she registered Alex and the book in her hand.

"Whoa, I'm surprised you even know where the library is. And you have a book! Is Hell freezing over?" She craned her head to see the title, Adam shrinking next to her. "Vonnegut? Is that the picture book version?"

"Lily…" Adam protested weakly.

Alex grit her teeth but held her tongue. Her knuckles whitened from her grip on her book.

"I'd suggest you shut your plus sized mouth and slink right back to the rock you crawled out from under, Geekazoid." Nicole drawled from behind Alex, crossing her arms and glaring.

"Or what, Queen Wanna-Bee? You'll chuck your laxatives at me? Scaaaary!" Lily glared right back at Nicole, despite being quite a few inches shorter.

A small crowd was forming around the two arguing girls, chanting and issuing various obscene cat-calls. Mandy and Trisha twittered excitedly next to Alex, who was standing at Nicole's side, eyes flitting from one girl to the other. She put her hand on Nicole's shoulder, only to have it shrugged off.

"I'd take Ken and his plastic balls with you, Geekazoid, before I kick both your freak asses," Nicole challenged threateningly. She stepped forward, and the crowd's chants swelled.

Lily spat back a nasty retort, and Alex was about to kick both their asses, but she heard her name and spun around instead. There was the girl from Gyerson's gym class, giving her a small smile. Mandy and Trisha immediately fawned over her.

"Hey," she greeted Alex, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

"Aren't you supposed to be in gym?" Alex asked, exasperated, trying to keep one eye on Nicole and Lily's impending fight.

"You know Lindsay West?" Mandy's mouth was practically hanging off her face. "She's like, the most popular girl in the whole school!"

"I like your gym shorts, Lindsay!" Trisha butted in, squealing when Lindsay gave her a brief half-grin.

"I came in to get a drink. I saw you in here."

"I figured, hence the wave." Mandy and Trisha watched their verbal ping pong with wide eyes, happily basking in Lindsay's presence.

"So, how've you been?" Lindsay asked, ignoring Alex's clipped tone. A handful of guys waved to her, and she waved back.

"I'm fine. Are we done?" Alex didn't bother disguising the anger that seeped into her voice.

Someone shouted a 'Go Nicole, babe! Take down that freak!' Alex's eyes landed on Dan just as Adam's did. She watched as he stepped forward angrily, crowd parting, and promptly told Dan where he could shove it. Dan's smirk fell, and the two traded punches. At the same time, Lily took a step forward and shoved Nicole. Suddenly, the library was deathly quiet, everyone holding their breath for the inevitable bitch-slap from one fight and the next uppercut from the other.

"What is your freaking problem?" Lindsay exclaimed, voice echoing in the silence, tearing Alex's focus from anyone else. She took a step closer to Alex, directly in front of her. "Are you incapable of even having a civil conversation now?"

Nicole's hand met Lily's face in a mighty slap that would buckle even Mohammed Ali's knees. Dan shoved Adam hard into a bookcase.

Alex glared at Lindsay. "Like you really want to have a conversation. For the past three years, all you've wanted is for people to sing your praises and kiss the damn ground you walk on."

Nicole and Lily were now in the middle of a shrieking cat fight, shoving and pulling each other's hair. In the background, the library doors swept open and closed, faint footsteps thudding closer. Dan swore vehemently as Adam socked him in his chiseled jaw.

Lindsay pulled a sarcastic smile. "Just because my friends actually like me and aren't shy about telling me so doesn't make me a stuck up bitch. Unlike you."

"Stuck up? I'm not the one who thinks giving a friend you up and abandoned years ago a smile is going to make things all better, Lindsay," Alex growled softly, acutely aware that Lindsay had her trapped between a bookcase and one icy bitch. How had she gotten into this mess? "I don't want to be your friend. I don't want to skip classes with you, I don't want to come over for dinner and listen to your dad's stories, I don't want to go to the movies and sneak into some M-rated show with you, and I definitely don't want to have a freaking conversation with you," she hissed, locking eyes with Lindsay. "Now let me go."

Lindsay just glared back at her, eyes dark and unreadable. A little ways away, Lily had managed to slap Nicole back, albeit slightly weaker than the other girl's had been, and just in time for the principal and the librarian to enjoy.

The principal simply stood there a moment, shock creasing her normally motherly face as she surveyed the scene before her.

"I-I called you as soon as I saw them, Principal Halman," the librarian stuttered, nervously shaking the crumbs out of his beard.

"What in the world is going on here? Ms. Johnson, Ms. McCallies? Mr. Fredricks, Mr. Parklin?"

Nicole and Lily broke apart. Lily shuffled her feet sheepishly, and Nicole just crossed her arms without a word. With one last curse, Dan and Adam did the same.

Principal Halman's harsh gaze found Lindsay and Alex. "Ms. West, get off Ms. Raison immediately!"

Lindsay gave Alex one last glare before stepping away from her, Alex returning it before following suit.

"This is a school, for goodness sake, not a madhouse! Fighting will not be tolerated on the premises! You six, follow me to my office. Now!" she barked. Protest bubbled in Alex's throat as they all followed the stout woman out of the library and down the halls flanked by the curious stares of other students, and she felt Lindsay's eyes on her, but she just kept trudging ahead.

"Um, actually, Principal Halman, Alex and I weren't fighting," Lindsay piped up.

"It's true, ma'am. We weren't fighting." Alex added before she could stop herself.

The others looked at the two with a mix of incredulousness and disbelief. "You know her?" Dan whispered to Lindsay, and she simply nodded.

Principal Halman held open her office door, ushering them inside without a word. She gave them a stern, 'yeah-right' stare. "Then just what were you doing pinning her against a bookshelf, Ms. West?"

Dan snickered, but Lily and Nicole wacked him before he could open his mouth, then glared at each other.

Alex put considerable distance between her and Lindsay. "We, uh, we weren't fighting…yet, Principal." She could feel Lindsay's eyes staring daggers at her from across the room.

A throat cleared, and they all turned to face Mr. Bynes, Principal Halman's secretary, a young man in a stylish gray-green sweater. At his side stood a girl their age, hands in the pockets of her leather jacket (Alex couldn't tell if it was real leather or not). She regarded them all with a cool stare, ignoring Dan's low appreciative whistle at her crimson red tank top that hugged all the right places. Her caramel raccooned eyes lingered on Lindsay and Alex, and her lips twisted into a smirk.

"This young lady was caught red-handed just as she was about to give the entrance hall a second coating," Mr. Bynes informed the principal, holding up a can of spray paint.

"Fights, attempted vandalism, what next this Monday?" Principal Halman moaned, sinking into the chair behind her militantly orderly desk. Her secretary's brows shot up as her glanced at the gathering of sophomores. Alex gave him a tight grin. "Can you kids say detention? Because it's where you're going to be at least every other day until second term! All of you!"

They groaned.

"What about sports?" Dan protested smoothly. Principal Halman just stared at him.

"Actually, I have a better idea," Mr. Bynes jumped in, looking around at them all sympathetically. "It's almost the end of September, and we still have only a few volunteers for the JD Ledger, barely enough to print a comic strip, let alone an entire article."

"Oh no," Nicole murmured. "No, no, no…"

Mr. Bynes ignored her. "Let alone do anything with a video camera. What if they join the Journalism Club?"

"Community service. A brilliant idea, Mr. Bynes," Principal Halman agreed with a large, slightly sinister smile.

"No, nuh-uh, no it's not!" Nicole protested, horror-stricken. "Everyone knows that club is the equivalent of social suicide!"

"Equivalent, wow, now that's a big word. Surprised you didn't choke on it." Lily sniped straight-faced, not facing Nicole. Adam was uncomfortably squished between them, looking miserable as the two began bickering again.

Lindsay leaned against the principal's desk. "With all due respect, Principal Halman, what about all of our other afterschool activities? Journalism Club doesn't exactly leave much time for them," she pleaded.

"And I have a job," Leather Jacket Girl said, suddenly standing next to Alex. Alex glanced at her, giving her a once over. The girl cocked a brow at her.

"Football," Dan chimed in with a proud smirk.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the verdict. You all." She pointed to each of them humorlessly. "Are joining the Journalism Club. For the rest of the year." At their protest, she went on, "It's a fairly light task, so I will not hear any complaining. You're getting off lucky not getting detention. Now, this club is to be your first priority. If it conflicts with your schedules, do some juggling and work it out. But Journalism comes first. Do you understand?"

Adam and Lily agreed without hesitation, then Alex. Dan nodded with a devious curve of his lips, and Lindsay sighed before giving in too. All eyes turned to a pale Nicole.

Nicole glanced from Dan and Lindsay to Adam and Lily, then to Alex and Leather Jacket Girl. She closed her eyes and grimaced as she said, "Alright, fine. But I get to work with Dan and Lindsay. And Alex," she conceded.

"Good. And listen, our newspaper is to be top quality. You'll have free reign, but we'll be able to tell if you're not taking it seriously by your writing. And," Principal Halman shared a look with Mr. Bynes, "I'll have Mr. Bynes check in with you all. He'll be your supervisor, so bring your ideas and questions to him. Understood?"

Everyone nodded. Alex heard Nicole mutter under her breath.

"Well then, your first meeting is tomorrow. Every one of you better put away your various disagreements before then," she warned. "You may go back to your classes now."

They all filed out into the hall and stood in their cliques: Dan and Lindsay with Nicole leeching onto them both, Lily and Adam, and Alex standing a little ways from Nicole, arms folded over her chest. Leather Jacket Girl was off to her side. Dan sauntered over to her and stretched out his hand. "Hey, the name's Dan. I don't think we've met."

She looked him up and down. "Kate," she replied coolly, ignoring his hand. He took it back slowly and ran it along his chin, smirk ever in place.

"So," Adam said, glancing around the group. "Journalism Club, huh?"

"Only because you and the Geekazoid over there couldn't keep your hands to yourselves," Nicole sniffed disdainfully. Both Adam and Lily's gazes hardened.

"You two," Adam jerked his thumb at Nicole and Alex, "had your fair share of rumble time too. Even you." He said to Lindsay.

"I just wanted to talk," Lindsay retorted, glaring at Alex.

"Well," Kate puts her hands on her hips, tossing her long fawn-hued bangs out of her eyes and sharing a look with Alex. "There's gonna be one hell of newspaper this year."

Alex chuckles. "For sure."

With one last glower, they all go their separate ways.