It was two nights before the aliens came, and it was late, and Cade was in his pajamas.

"Cade?" Gigi said. Gigi was trying to sound lovely and endearing and beautiful and whole all in just one word. Because Cade was the soulful boy she called past midnight on a broken-record Friday night. Saturday morning. Whatever.

She was scared. Because he might say no. Because Cade was really angry with her again.

"Gigi?"

"Cade, can you come pick me up?" Cade had never stayed mad at her for this long. And if he didn't pick her up, she would have to wait until the party was over to stay with Angie, the hostess. And she couldn't wait until the party was over. She couldn't stay here. Even if it weren't for Nick. Because Gigi had never been able to stay inside that long, and sometimes she went a little stircrazy, and sometimes she got a little hysterical. And Cade had the best pot in town.

Long sigh. "Shit."

Shoulders slump. She bites her lip. "Cade?"

.

It all started 200 days ago. From then on, it was really a ticking time bomb. He tried to resist, but he should've known it was futile. Hell, she was Gigi Wrightman, and he was just Caden Evans. Nobody. Certainly not anyone who could resist a girl like Gigi, though he tried. Valiantly, in his opinion. Because she was– Gigi. She was pretty, and tall, and blonde. It didn't matter that she wasn't as bone-skinny as Sammie, or as well-endowed as Anna Marie, because she carried herself– sort of special. Nothing halfway, you know?

It's hard to describe. You just had to know her.

. 200 days before the aliens

"Hi!"

Cade turned his head very slowly. And tried not to bite the head off whoever was talking to him. Because it wasn't yet eight in the morning. And he'd only had two cups of coffee. And he had a math test second period. And– well, it wasn't yet eight in the morning.

He didn't dignify the bright blur (tall and thin, yellow hair and pink dress, so there were just these... colors. Colors everywhere, man) with a response.

"I'm Gigi. Well, Georgette Wrightman, but, God, who names their daughter Georgette anymore, anyway?"

That was how she'd introduced herself, five days ago. New girl at their school. Army brat, if the school rumor mill was anything to go by. Daddy's girl. No mother to speak of. No, before you start wondering just what kind of a person Cade is– he didn't ask to know any of this. People just couldn't seem to help themselves from sharing with him. He had no idea why.

"Cade, right?" Gigi continued. Brightly.

Cade grunted. Not a yes or no. She could take that as she pleased.

She took it as a yes.

"So, I was thinking," was it very hard?, he thought bitterly, "that you seem like a really nice guy, and... maybe we could coffee or something sometime. You know, like a date."

You seem like a really nice guy. He was wrong. She wasn't normal dumb. She wasn't even stereotypical blonde dumb. She was otherworldly dumb. With this in mind, he snapped, "Hm. That's a tough one. How about when the aliens come. And, you know, steal my brain. To eat it. Then, maybe."

And he left her gaping at him (like a fish, he thought), as he grabbed his bag and walked away.

. 193 days before the aliens

It was God-awful early. Cold, too. And the heater in Cade's ancient Corolla was busted (again), and he couldn't feel his fucking fingers or toes, and his black hair was fucking frozen (seriously, there was ice in it), and he'd stepped on what he thought was a sheet of ice while crossing the parking lot, but it gave way to a puddle half a foot deep.

Cade was out for blood.

He stomped into his first period class, ready to dissect the hell out of whatever poor, defenseless animal was placed before him.

"Cade, hi!"

That animal, it appeared, was Gigi. Cade growled something inarticulate in response. Battle cries, of course. Very tired battle cries.

"How are you? You look exhausted."

Cade raised one eyebrow. "I am."

"Oh." Apparently, she couldn't think of anything to say to that. "Well, I'm a little behind in AP Biology, because I never really finished regular bio, so I was talking to Mr. Wheaton, and he said you're one of the top students, and I was wondering if maybe pretty please you would tutor me?"

"No."

. 182 days before the aliens

Gigi's long blonde hair always looked as if it had spent the day being tousled by sun and wind and sand. Her eyes were a muddy brown and her nose was a little too big. The second toe on her right foot was crooked and she had a scar on her bellybutton from where her piercing had gotten infected. She liked badly written mysteries and would never, ever understand what Ron Paul was talking about. She was not perfect.

Cade didn't know these things. But he knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he was perfectly justified in responding to Andrew's query about why Cade didn't just hook up with Gigi and get it over with. Because Cade had standards. He might not be able to define them, and, well, maybe no one else could define them, either, but he had them. So when Andrew just kept at him, Cade snapped. "Dude. She's not the fucking Messiah or Angelina Jolie or anything."

Andrew got very still and very quiet, and jerked his head forward. Cade turned around. Gigi was walking toward them. Of course.

"Hi, Cade. Hi, Andrew."

"Hey, Gigi. What's up?" Andrew said.

Cade remained silent.

"Um, nothing really. I was just wondering, Cade, if maybe you'd be my lab partner? Kendra's tutoring me, but I'm still not really–"

"No."

"Oh." There's a silence after that. "Um, Andrew– God, well..."

"I'd love to!"

. 174 days before the aliens

Cade couldn't figure it out. He was bright enough, and he just didn't understand why she wouldn't leave him alone.

He said no. He'd said no and been clear and said no again, and she still was always there, asking him for help in bio. Sitting next to him in Latin. Asking for some of his chips at lunch. Calling him at night, asking him if, maybe, he could meet her early tomorrow to review for that history test.

It didn't seem to matter how many times he said no.

It didn't seem to matter that he was rude, and short-tempered, and would never loan her his sweatshirt if she were cold.

But the problem wasn't just that Gigi wouldn't leave him alone. No, it was that Cade was beginning not to mind. He wouldn't say he was exactly looking forward to the lemon-and-jasmine smell that floated around her (especially around her hair), but... there were worse things than lemon. Or jasmine, for that matter. And while he wasn't dying for a sip of her skinny vanilla latte at some God-awful, unheard-of-early sort of time, the sugar didn't kill him. And... he was reluctantly starting to admit that maybe (just maybe) her high-pitched comments were not always completely inane. Occasionally even appreciated.

Very occasionally.

And Cade couldn't figure out why his little world, his world of four (Cade's mother, Cade's dog, Andrew, and, of course, Cade himself) might be struggling to open up for a fifth person.

. 160 days before the aliens

It was lunch.

It was sunny outside, but the wind kept the students in jackets and scarves. Girls like Gigi pulled back their long hair to keep it from getting tangled. Girls like Nellie, another girl Cade was reluctant to call his friend, had short hair and didn't care about the wind. Nellie would face into it, in fact, so it would blow the bangs she was trying to grow out away from her face.

That was how she was positioned now, back rigidly straight and hands on her knees. Cade was beside her, slouched over and nibbling cautiously on his sandwich. Gigi kept trying to place her legs over his, and he kept pushing them off, and glaring at her. But she would just laugh and try again.

Andrew wasn't there. He hadn't been there quite a bit, lately.

"Gigi, cut it the fuck out."

"Shut up."

"Oh, that was witty and biting," Nellie muttered. Nellie wasn't Gigi's number one fan, and she had no idea why the blonde was always hanging around.

But Gigi just laughed again, playfully moving her suede-boot-covered foot up Cade's leg.

Cade tried not to jump as Gigi suddenly stared over his shoulder, intent on something just behind him.

"Hi," she said, softly.

"Hey," whoever was standing behind Cade replied. Cade twisted his head to an uncomfortable angle and caught sight of a red letterman's jacket and hair that rivaled Gigi's.

"Nick, right?" Gigi asked.

"Yeah. You're Gigi. We're, uh, we're in the same math class." Nick said.

"Oh, yeah. You sit front and left, right?" Gigi stood up and walked around Cade. He swivelled around to watch her walk away with Nick, as he said something witty and biting about their teacher.

Cade was not in the same math class as Gigi and Nick.

He bit into his sandwich with much more ferocity than before. Nellie scoffed.

"Perfect," she said. "They'll be perfect together."

Cade grumbled something in agreement. It wasn't long before Gigi returned, her cheeks pink and her smile bashful. She collapsed gracelessly against the oak tree, and offered the two of them a huge grin.

"Nick asked me out for this Friday."

There was a pause. Nellie muttered something under her breath, and Gigi continued to stare at Cade, her big, brown eyes shiny from the wind.

"I'm sorry I just left like that. God, I didn't mean to be rude, you know that, right? Ooh, maybe you two could double with us!"

Simultaneously, Nellie and Cade both said, "No."

. 140 days before the aliens

It was the third Friday night in a row that Cade had no date. He just... he hadn't felt like– well, honestly, he didn't have to justify himself. And now it was late (almost midnight), and he had nothing to do, and he couldn't seem to grasp the energy to make himself get out of bed. He wasn't tired enough to sleep, though. He never went to bed so early, and, clearly, having absolutely nothing to do wasn't enough to fool his body comatose.

He was actually (pathetically) grateful when his phone rang.

He didn't recognize the number, but flipped it open just the same. "Hello?"

"Cade?" Her voice sounded like–

"Yeah?" He sounded threatening, but she still said–

"Can you come pick me up? It's, um, it's Gigi."

"No. I have shit to do."

"Please." She sounded so desperate, and she never sounded desperate. In control, bubbly and optimistic to the point of nausea, but certainly not desperate. "I'm at Waverly and Pine."

He didn't know what possessed him to do what he did next, say what he said next. But the words were tumbling out of his mouth, and he couldn't stop them: "Be there in fifteen."

Cade was there in twelve. He stopped his car (the sort where the doors didn't match the body) and stepped out onto a quiet, suburban street. Much like the one he lived on. It took a moment, but he spotted Gigi, sitting quietly across from him, staring at her feet in fascination.

"Gigi. C'mere," he ordered. There was a moment as she looked up, stared at him, then ran across the street. She didn't throw her arms around his neck or start sobbing (though her eyes looked a bit red-rimmed), but just opened the passenger-side door and sat down.

Cade rolled his eyes and followed suit. "Where do you live?"

"Oh. Can I– can we go to your house?" Christ, she sounded pathetic. She never sounded pathetic.

"Uh..."

"Sorry. It's too late, I get it. Just, please, um." She was flustered, and she was looking down at her hands like she couldn't figure out what exactly was going on.

"It's not too late."

"Your parents won't mind?" she asked, hopefully, finally looking up at him. Cade tried not to sigh and jerked his hands through his hair before turning on the car.

"Mom's out of town. Your parents won't mind?"

She shook her head and he smoothly pulled away, ignoring the whining of the engine. "I told my dad I was sleeping at a friend's."

"You are not sleeping over."

"I know." She smiled at him and leaned over slightly, and Cade thought she was going to kiss him. He kept facing straight ahead, eyes on the road, and Gigi fell back into her seat, gnawing on her lower lip. They stayed silent as they drove to Cade's house. They stayed silent as they exited the car, and they stayed silent as they walked through the dark house up to Cade's room.

"You have any pot?" Gigi asked. Cade nodded.

"Go through the bathroom window onto the roof. I'll meet you there in a minute. That way it won't make my room smell," he explained, at her questioning look. Make his room smell and possibly (maybe) make his mother notice. Gigi darted out of his room as he opened his closet and removed his stash and paper. Set it on the dresser and rolled. Tried not to wonder how she climbed out his window in her tiny little black dress.

It was several minutes before he joined her, several minutes before he felt able to climb onto the roof with joint and lighter and sit with her. Like they were... friends, or something.

Yeah. Something.

Cade took the joint, lit, and inhaled deeply before passing it to Gigi. She just stared at it, for a moment, stared at it like it was an alien coming for her brains but then the moment passed and she took a hit.

"Thanks, Cade," she said.

He shrugged. "Fuckever."

He didn't ask her why she'd needed him to pick her up.

She didn't ask why he'd taken her to his home. She just lay down, back pressed flat against the cool tiles of the slanted roof, and stared at the stars.

"I think I might like to be an astronaut," she said. "God, just look at them. There– there has to be more out there, you know?"

Cade lay back, too, so he missed her looking at him and smiling.

"Lemme guess," he said, and it was an effort to keep his tone snarky. "You believe in God. We were created, and we have a purpose. And you go to church every Sunday, and–"

"No," she whispered. "I wish I did. That's– that's why–"

Cade wanted to look at her, see more than the bits of blonde hair blowing around his peripheral vision, but he stared at the sky. Stared until the blackness was dancing with spots and all the stars seemed to be moving.

It had to be the pot talking.

"There just has to be more than this."

"Yeah," he said, and he could feel her stiffen. It wasn't long before Gigi got up, slowly, handing him back the blunt, and climbed delicately over his legs (he didn't look up her dress; it was too dark).

"Bye, Cade."

He didn't know where she slept that night.

. 134 days before the aliens

"Hey, Cade, wait up."

Cade turned, and saw Andrew's curly red hair bouncing towards him, against the tide of students exiting the building. He was a bit surprised. He hadn't seen Andrew around much lately (Andrew was too wrapped up in applying to colleges and trying to be a bit more popular before they graduated; Cade was not).

"Won't believe what I heard." Andrew panted.

Cade allowed Andrew to catch his breath before continuing to his locker, where he had left his history textbook. "Will I care?"

"You should," Andrew said.

That's certainly no guarantee, Cade thought. "What is it?"

"Gigi broke up with Nick."

Cade stopped– just for a second– then started twirling the combination on his lock. "So?"

"So–! So, it's Nick. Girls don't dump him. And now... she's free." Andrew seemed very excited about this.

"Okay," said Cade. He felt... like he didn't care, all that much. Despite what Andrew thought. Good for Gigi. Nick was an asshole.

"She caught him cheating on her at a party last Friday. He got her to wait the whole week before it was official. That man is officially my idol."

"Good for Gigi," was all Cade would say on the matter.

. 133 days before the aliens

"So," Gigi said, conversationally. "I'm getting back together with Nick."

"Idiot," Nellie muttered. She stood, wiped off her jeans, and walked away. Gigi watched her go with a puzzled frown.

"Why?" Cade asked. He didn't have to ask, but her explanation was inevitable. So he might as well speed this whole little process up.

Gigi looked distant. Brown eyes far away and wide mouth lax. "He said sorry, and he really seemed like he meant it."

Cade looked at her. Studying the freckles that he could make into constellations and the golden hair that everyone loved and the slender body, posture stiff and defensive, permanently wrapped in clothes that had antique lace and hand-stitched embroidery. "The dick cheated on you, but he said sorry, so you took him back?"

Gigi suddenly turned her face to him, and gave him a brilliant smile that revealed a slightly crooked left canine. "Cade," she said, then bit her lip. "Yeah, yeah I did."

. 101 days before the aliens

It's Sunday morning, and Gigi and Cade were sprawled across his roof. He was wearing his Northface; she was wrapped in the ancient quilt that had been sitting on the top shelf of his closet for as long as he could remember.

Gigi was pouting, because they'd finished the joint they'd been sharing. She'd been here since 6:43 a.m., when she'd pounded on the door until Cade's dog started barking so loudly it woke Cade up. His mother wasn't home, so it didn't matter that he had a teenage girl coming to visit him before the sun rose on a Sunday morning. She and Nick had broken up the night before. Cade didn't know where she'd spent the night.

And he wouldn't make her pancakes, no matter how many times she asked.

"Let's go in," Cade said, hoping his teeth weren't chattering too badly. He adjusted his ski cap, pulling it tighter over his ears. "I need a haircut," he muttered.

Gigi shook her head very seriously, reaching out to tug a lock of dark hair that had escaped from below his hat. "Your hair is perfect," she said. "Okay."

"Okay, what?" Cade sounded annoyed. He felt all confused and jumbled, and he wouldn't have moved at all except this shivering business was taking too much energy.

She laughed, and her white teeth looked so bright in the winter air. "Okay, let's go inside."

"Good," Cade huffed, hurrying as much as his body would allow to clamber in the window. He turned and held out his arms to steady her as she climbed in after him.

But Gigi made it all the way in, and she didn't move. She kept holding his cold hands in her own, even colder hands, and he stared at her. And they stood there, in the tiny, little bathroom, where there was a bit of mildew in the shower and his clothes from the day before balled up in a corner. Gigi was staring very hard, and Cade was having difficulty meeting her eyes. But he kept looking at her, and watching her wide eyes as she leaned closer (then they began to shut– her eyes, that is). And she was kissing him, and her lips were cold, and her hands were cold, and he couldn't move his cold hands from her cold hands or shut the window to stop the wind from getting in. He was barely aware of her kissing him until she pulled away, eyes downcast, mouth open and face flushed.

. 95 days before the aliens

Cade was waiting by his car.

He had been waiting by his car for nearly twenty minutes (and checking his watch nearly every thirty-two seconds).

Finally, he thought, as Gigi flounced over to him, scarf and hair streaming out behind her.

"Sorry to make you wait," she said, and her words were clipped. She seemed very tense.

Cade shrugged. "Just get in, yeah?" He was tense, too. After all, he'd had two tests today, and he had a feeling he hadn't done too well on either of them.

Gigi pursed her lips. "Actually, I just wanted to tell you that Nick and I are, well– um, we're back together. So, I won't need you to give me a lift home anymore. Guess you'll be pretty grateful about that, hm?"

"Thrilled," Cade snapped. "Next time, just let me know in class so I don't freeze my ass off waiting for you."

Gigi looked hurt. Cade told himself that he didn't care as he unlocked his car, got in, and drove away.

. 73 days before the aliens

"Cade, you never listen," Nellie complained.

"Yeah, I do," he grumbled, not really sure why he was arguing. If he won, then people would think he wanted to talk to them. He could be listening to music, alone. Or with a girl.

Not that he'd done that, lately.

"Really? So what do I want to do with my life?"

"Fuck if I care." Gigi wants to be an astronaut. Not that I give a fuck.

"Caden? Caden Evans?"

Cade and Nellie both turned and faced the newcomer with matching blank stares. It was Nick.

"So?" Cade asked, rather than saying, "It's Cade."

"You're friends with Gigi." It wasn't a question.

Cade nodded, feeling apprehensive (but he couldn't for the life of him say why).

"Listen." Nick paused. "Don't– she hangs around with you a lot."

Cade made a face. "We're friends. Or something."

Nick looked unhappy, and Cade didn't like being shorter than someone. Especially someone who looked like a Calvin Klein model. "Honestly, it's that something I'm worried about. There's not– uh, you're not–"

Cade grinned. Using his most innocent voice, he asked, "Not what? What're you talking about?"

"You're not fucking her are you?" Nick said.

Cade tensed. That asshole– Nick the Dick, hey, that was pretty good. "No, I'm not fucking her," he said tightly.

Nick frowned. "You want to though, don't you?"

Cade blinked. "Uh, no. I'm good, thanks."

"Just stay away from her a bit, yeah?" And with that, Nick spun around and did a runway walk away. Cade shook his head and turned back to Nellie. She was giving him an appraising look, with a question painted through her eyebrows that Cade didn't like at all.

"What were we talking about?"

. 64 days before the aliens

Cade liked watching people. He would watch Andrew, drifting away. Funny Andrew, trying to be... the opposite of a redhead. Laidback and unemotional (like Cade).

Nellie was more interesting. Equally typical, in Cade's mind, and equally surprising. She spoke in a monotone and never wore the same T-shirt twice. She spoke her mind, but wasn't aggressive about it. She was smart, but didn't seem to care. There was a mysterious boyfriend, who didn't go to their school, who she would mention occasionally. The boyfriend was a surprise, but the wistful look she got in her eyes when she talked about him made Cade–

Jealous.

Wait, no. That's wrong. Entirely wrong. Nauseous. Stupid Nellie and her stupid boyfriend made Cade nauseous.

But now? Now Cade was watching Gigi. She was bopping her head like a twelve-year-old, with one earphone attached to Cade's iPod in as she scrolled through his music. Gigi didn't look wistful with Nick. She wore her clothes more than once, and they weren't sensible, they were fanciful. Like fairies and– uh, other shit. Gigi didn't always seem to belong this world.

Gigi was too deeply rooted in her stereotypical role to ever survive out of high school.

"You know, Cade," she began conversationally, making Cade start, "Oz really likes you."

"Oz?"

Gigi nodded. She wouldn't look at him. Her eyebrows weren't curved, but angled. Like checkmarks, upside-down ones, or cat's ears. They were almost as light as her hair. "Short, skinny, blonde. In bio."

"Oh." Cade thought that was plenty. Gigi didn't seem to agree.

"You really ought to take her out." Her nose was the most freckled part of her face. It was a bit too big, but it was completely straight and as pale as the rest of her skin. And it fit, somehow. And he could see the big dipper by her right eyebrow.

"Why?"

Gigi sighed, and her lips would purse and they were always covered in some fruity-smelling gloss, and she turned off his iPod. Fiddling with the wire, she said, "You haven't had a girlfriend in months. Come on, we're only young once, right?"

"You think I should go out with her?" Cade couldn't seem to look at Gigi anymore, either. He didn't know why. It was just– there was this funny tang in his mouth. Like a hangover on his tongue.

"Yeah. You'd be great together." Long, slender fingers. Fingernails painted pink, never chipped, always shiny. Little scratches all over because she did everything with her hands.

Cade shrugged. "Okay, then."

. 51 days before the aliens

"God, Cade, you can be such an ass sometimes."

"I'm not the only one."

"I'm a bitch, occasionally, not an ass."

"Wasn't talking about you."

"Oh, my God. Is this about Nick again?"

"I think it was about me being an ass."

"Oh, right." Pause. "How could you dump Oz like that? She really liked you."

"Wasn't working out."

"What do you mean it wasn't working out? It hasn't even been two weeks."

"I could just tell."

"You can't tell before two weeks."

"Says the girl with the most stable relationship in school."

"At least I'm trying to be nor–"

"What?"

"Nothing."

"To be normal. That's what you were going to say, isn't it?"

"So what? It's not a crime, Cade. And– hey, this isn't about me."

"'Course not."

"Cade– I just– be happy, please?"

"You mean normal."

"No, I don't! Don't– don't tell me– what I mean. I mean happy."

"It just wasn't right."

. 48 days before the aliens

"I have a question."

It's a statement, and Cade forced his eyes open. It's before 8. Before AP Bio, and Gigi's avoiding Andrew because he's been oddly touchy-feely lately.

"What is it?" Cade grumbled.

She took a deep breath, and said (blushing deeply), "Do you like me, Cade?"

He sat up a bit straighter. "Well, I'm not sure it matters," he said cautiously. "I think you've permanently attached yourself to my side, like a friend-fungus."

Gigi shook her head. "No. I don't– I don't mean like that. Do you– um. Yeah."

Cade raised his eyebrows. "Do I... what?"

Don't smirk. Don't smirk.

She frowned at him. "Do you like me like me?"

Cade pretended to ponder for a moment. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, why not?" Gigi was always so cheerful. Cade felt badly for a brief moment.

"Do you," he lowered his voice, and looked around suspiciously, "like me like me?"

"Cade!" Gigi said loudly enough that several people in their vicinity stopped talking to look at the two of them.

He smiled sweetly at her– or as sweetly as he could manage. "What?"

"God," she huffed, and stomped back over to Andrew. She didn't look up from her notebook for the rest of the class.

. 32 days before the aliens

Cade felt guilty, and it was all her fucking fault. No, not Oz, the girl standing in front of him, blue eyes wide and sad. Gigi.

"I'm sorry," he said, and it was the first time he'd said that to a girl.

He didn't do it because of Gigi, or because of what she'd said, or anything. It was just... it just seemed right. Fitting.

Oz nodded, and kept looking at him with a truly guilt-inducing pout on her face.

"We good?" he asked, and Oz bit her lip, looking away. They ought to be good, by all sense. So what if she'd liked him? They barely went out for two weeks. Only made out a handful of times. Nothing serious.

Why'd she have to make it such a big deal?

"Why," she started, and her voice was as soft and light as he remembered it being the last time they'd spoken, "Why didn't it work out?"

Cade didn't groan out loud, and he felt proud of his self-restraint. "It just wasn't right."

"But..." Oz looked so confused. "But it's high school, since when does it– since when do you, of all people think it has to..." She trailed off, suddenly thoughtful.

Cade frowned. Girl thinking equals bad.

"It's because you like Gigi, isn't it." It wasn't a question.

Cade shook his head quickly. "No– no, we're just, you know, friends. Just fucking friends. I don't mean– we're just friends. Not fucking." That was it, after all. Wasn't it? He and Gigi, they were just friends. Good friends, he could even grudgingly admit. Or not so grudgingly. And, sure, he knew more about her than anyone other than his dog, but that didn't mean anything. They just... got along. Like– a shark and that fish thing that sticks to it, like a parasite. And, yeah, maybe he'd occasionally noticed that she had nice legs, but they were– they were, uh, too pale. It wasn't like... it wasn't like he– it– it–

Oz laughed, but it sounded bitter. "That's why you just said more to me than you did during our entire relationship." Cade didn't correct her, didn't say it wasn't a relationship.

He just said, "No."

"God, you are stubborn, aren't you?" Oz smiled gently at him, and placed a hand on his arm. "Listen, you're... well, you were right. We– we weren't right together. That's it. But... you could be happy, you know? Because I think she probably likes you, too."

"I don't like Gigi that way. Why the fuck does everyone keep accusing me of that?" Cade grumbled. Because, like it or not, she'd wormed her way into his life. And he couldn't fuck that up by, well, fucking.

Oz laughed again, happier this time. "Because you blaze with her for free and pick her up after her break-ups?"

Cade's eyes narrowed, and his head felt fuzzy. "How did you know that?"

"Everyone knows it." Oz replied, tossing back her hair and looking completely convinced. "Why do you think so many girls are crazy about you? You're... ungettable. And now..." She sighed. "Just, listen. Don't be an idiot, okay?"

Cade nodded. "I'm sorry, Oz. Really."

She smiled. "That's okay. Really."

. 29 days before the aliens

"Sign my cast."

Cade raised his head from his arms, and rubbed the back of his hands vigorously across his eyes. "What?" he said, blankly.

Gigi was standing in front of him, smiling brightly, holding out her left arm, covered in a cast. "Sign my cast."

"How'd you get in?" he asked, looking around his room. They had the day off, for teacher conferences or something, and he'd intended to sleep the day away, and hopefully never run into Gigi again, after his little realization.

"Your mother let me in as she was leaving," she said impatiently. "Here, you can use the Fire Engine Red," she added, thrusting the marker in question in Cade's face.

"Oh. Uh, hang on." Cade stood, walked to his bathroom, and quickly gargled with mouthwash. It seemed very important, for reasons his sleep-clogged brain couldn't process, that he not have morning breath. Gigi was sitting on his unmade bed, and her jeans looked as though they had been painted on her body, and the sun was setting her hair on fire, in this beautiful golden halo, and Cade had to shake his head really hard to start thinking like himself again. "Wait, shit– what happened to your arm?"

"Broke my wrist skiing this weekend," she said offhandedly, and once again offered him a marker. Sighing, he accepted it and she held out her left arm. Cade sat beside her, and examined her cast. Only a few signatures and get well messages so far, but she hadn't been to school yet. A Greenpeace sticker. She was the only person in the world who would put a Greenpeace sticker on the cast she got because she broke her wrist skiing.

Gigi was– she was full of contradictions and questions. Sometimes he thought she had told him everything about herself, then he would look at her (like now), and see the locket she wore around her neck every day, and wonder what was in it. He didn't know where her mother had gone, or if she was even still alive. He had never been to her house, and didn't know if she had a dog, too, or if she was a fish person, or–

"What are you staring at?" Gigi's voice cut through his thoughts, and Cade realized he had been staring at her locket.

"Nothing," he said, shortly.

"Okay," she said happily. She was always so happy. It annoyed the hell out of him.

He loved it.

poor ski slopes. hope you didn't break anyone else. -cade

When he finished signing, he looked over at Gigi again, who was examining his room.

"Why don't you have any pictures up?" She sounded so curious.

"'Cause."

"Oh." She caught sight of something, Cade didn't know what, and smiled, then looked back at him, open and trusting and intense (or was it intent? Intent on what?). "You won the spelling bee two–"

He cut her off by kissing her. She wasn't expecting it. He felt as hesitant as she had seemed the time she kissed him, the time she was high and she had kissed him. But she wasn't high now, and he could feel her smiling, pressing questions against his lips, and letting out some soft, little sound. He wanted to touch her hair, her face, her waist, but he couldn't seem to move his hands off her cast.

He didn't even notice when they pulled apart, but he felt her breath on his face, and she was giving him this look– confused and happy and heartbroken and terrified and excited all at once, and–

"I didn't," she said.

Cade blinked. "Huh?"

"I didn't break anyone else," she said, waving her cast in front of his face. Then she stood, and reached out a hand for a second, like she wanted to smooth back his hair as he sat on his bed, staring at her, knowing that all his thoughts were plain on his face, and she just offered up a sad smile. "Thanks for signing it. I have to... yeah."

And she left.

. 18 days before the aliens

"You can't do this."

Sigh. "Do what, Cade?"

"Freeze me out like this. It's fucking ridiculous."

"Is it really necessary to curse so much?"

"Yes, yes it fucking is."

"God, Cade, I'm not freezing you out."

"Oh, yeah? Haven't talked to me since–"

"Shut up!"

"So you do remember."

"Of course I remember, you idiot! But, Cade..."

"What."

"I can't just– I mean, if you like me, why didn't you just tell me?"

"Yeah, clearly that would have been a bright idea. Now why didn't I think of that?"

Rolls eyes. "You can be such an asshole."

"And you can be such a bitch."

"God, Cade, I have a boyfriend."

"Oh, is it that day of the week again?"

"Go to hell."

"Same to you, princess."

. 15 days before the aliens

"I'm sorry," she said, and she looked it. Penitent, or repentant, or some shit like that.

"Yeah," Cade said, "whatever."

Hopeful, now. Eyebrows raised and eyes very open, hint of a crooked smile curling her lips. "So, can we be friends, again?"

"Nope."

. 14 days before the aliens

It was raining for the third day. Nellie and Cade were leaning against the cold lockers, dripping wet (no parking spots close by, neither had umbrellas). Nellie was angrily complaining about the pretty blonde girls with long legs and shiny smiles and the handsome blonde boys with clear skin and husky laughs who had the best parking.

Cade wasn't really listening.

Nellie had noticed, and she wasn't happy about it, but Cade just shrugged and ignored her.

It wasn't long before a perfectly dry Gigi approached them, in a surprisingly summery outfit for the dismal, dreary weather. She looked all expectant again, and asked Cade if maybe– maybe he could, well–

Cade had said no.

Nellie was glad, and she made no show of hiding it.

. 13 days before the aliens

"No, Gigi," he said, and he sounded almost as disappointed as she looked. The looks she shot him over her shoulder were certainly enough to make him feel like shit.

Nellie watched Gigi curiously as she left.

"What was that about?" she wanted to know.

"Stupid shit," Cade muttered.

. 12 days before the aliens

The next day, still raining, still without umbrellas, Gigi was wet as well.

He could see her flowery bra through her white shirt.

Nellie looked disapproving. Cade didn't– he, he tried not– not to feel anything.

Gigi asked for forgiveness.

Cade shook his head, and Nellie stayed silent, and Gigi looked sad as she walked away.

. 11 days before the aliens

"Stop! Wait, just a second– we're going to the same class, idiot," Gigi huffed behind him.

Cade forced himself to slow, just a bit, just– well, just because, okay?

He was alone, and maybe he shouldn't have slowed, because Nellie wasn't there.

"What did you get for number five on the homework?" She asked, breathlessly.

Cade shrugged. "Didn't do the homework."

"Oh." They walked in silence, for a moment, before Gigi inhaled sharply, and said, "God, Cade, I'm sorry, okay? I was a bitch– I mean, you weren't exactly Mr. Personality, either, but, seriously– Can we be friends again?"

"Fuck off."

. 10 days before the aliens

"I don't understand something," Nellie said.

Cade looked at her. He was bored, and there was no point ignoring her if he was bored.

"What?"

"Gigi wants to make up. You seem like you're crazy about her, so..."

"None of your business."

Nellie glared at him, trying to take advantage of her position, leaning over him. "Yes, it is, Cade. We're friends. I care about you– I want you to be happy, you dick."

"You have no idea what you're talking about," he muttered, refusing to look her in the eye. Why did everyone keep saying that wanted him to be happy? He was happy. Well, okay, maybe he wasn't running around, pretending his life was one huge musical number, but, still– he wasn't some wannabe-emo kid, wailing about his life online and writing shitty poetry.

"Then tell me," she said, confidently, and he wanted to shake her, because she just didn't understand, couldn't understand–

"Fine. I can't be friends with her, because I fucking– I can't just be friends with her. I can't just fucking watch Nick fuck with her, and watch her take him back, and decide to hook up when she's– I dunno, bored or some shit. I can't–" He broke off. He could feel Nellie looking at him, sympathetically, and he didn't want it. "I just can't, okay?"

But all she said was, "She and Nick aren't fucking." And, "She doesn't kiss you because she's bored, you know."

. 6 days before the aliens

Tap, tap.

Cade groaned and rolled over. There was no light pressing against his eyes, demanding and forceful. It was definitely not morning.

Clatter.

He groaned, and sat up. And nearly jumped out of his skin.

Kneeling, on the slanted roof outside his window, was Gigi. She was in pink flannel pajamas, a thin scarf looped loosely around her neck, holding something large in her hands. As Cade stared at her, she waved and gestured at the window. He hurried over to open it, because it was cold outside, after all.

"You didn't answer your phone," Gigi said, as Cade helped her slip inside.

"I was sleeping."

She laughed. "I sort of got that."

The silence seemed very dense, for a moment. Tangible and unbreakable and they were a twin pair of unstoppable forces.

"What are you doing here, Gigi?" Cade asked, and his voice was tired in more ways than one.

She smiled, and held out the thing she was holding. It seemed to be a Tupperware container. He blinked, and wondered just how sleep-clogged his brain really was. "I made you muffins," she said.

Cade shook his head. "I don't want them," he said, lying through his teeth because she was standing there, in her pajamas, holding out a box of muffins and asking him to forgive her and he wanted– well, everything. He wanted it all.

She frowned. "Come, on," she said, pleading and cajoling and pouting, "I swear I'm an excellent muffin-maker. You will not get food poisoning from these."

"Gigi," he said, but it was more of a groan. And he turned and collapsed on his bed, trying not to look at her, wishing her closer and gone because this was so fucking hard.

"Cade, please." She sat down next to him, holding the container in her lap. She was looking at him very hard, and very focused, and she seemed like she might cry. "I'm sorry. Please, please, just be my friend again."

"No, Gigi–"

"Why?!"

"Because– Christ. Because you're an idiot. And you're shallow, and self-centered, and I want you out of my life."

There were lines across her forehead now, as she wrinkled her nose and gave him a shocked look. "Cade..."

Cade shook his head, and crossed to the window. "Go, Gigi."

"No! No– why'd you kiss me, you asshole? Why do you do these things to me?" Gigi was half-whispering, half-shouting. She walked over and stood very close to him.

He stood there silently, and with a last desperate look, she shoved the muffins in his hands and climbed out.

"You deserve better," he said, and, a little bit, he wanted her to hear. But if she did, she gave no indication of it.

The muffins, it turned out, were lemon-poppyseed (a flavor he hated), undercooked (when he liked things burnt to a crisp), and he ate every one, leaning out his window, blazing.

. 2 days before the aliens

It was two days before the aliens came, as Cade pulled to a stop and didn't bother to get out as Gigi leapt up, and ran over to his car, throwing open the door and collapsing inside.

"I broke up with Nick," she said.

Cade made a small noise of indeterminate meaning. He tried not to watch her as she practically bounced in her seat. Well, she didn't seem all broken up, now. Not like she was on the phone. It was hard not to start tapping his fingers anxiously against the steering wheel.

It was also hard not to lean over and kiss her, crashing be damned.

Finding reasons not to do so was getting harder as well. But... Gigi didn't really know him, Cade reminded himself. She was going places. Ivy league university type places. Outer space type places. He was just a slacker hoping that his mom would come home, deciding between a couple halfway decent state universities, collecting as many scholarships as he could. He was self-destructive and he would drag her down with him.

Cade sort of wondered if maybe he had some tiny altruistic streak that had been unconsciously keeping him from grabbing Gigi, pinning her against whatever surface happened to be nearest, and...

He really couldn't keep on this train of thought and drive straight.

Gigi was humming absently, staring out the window, as Cade asked, "So, where do you live?"

"Oh." She smiled dreamily at him. "Fifty-eight Peach."

"Right. Okay." She hadn't protested.

Cade made a right turn, blankly staring at the nearly-empty road ahead.

Hadn't asked to come to his place. She knew it was always empty, she knew it wouldn't matter.

He slowed to allow a sleek, silver hybrid to pass him.

Knew that even though he'd kicked her out a couple days ago, he'd come to the party to pick her up. And he just couldn't figure out what it meant. Had she given up? Had she finally given up? He felt... he felt sort of– disappointed? Maybe. Maybe not.

Cade pressed gently on the brake as they reached a stop sign. And almost jumped out of his skin when suddenly Gigi was partly out of her seat with one hand on his arm pressing her lips firmly to his and he couldn't breathe it was like she had literally sucked all the oxygen out of him and his cells would die and then she was gone. Back in her own seat.

Did that just happen? Cade snuck a glance at Gigi, then started driving again. She was sitting calmly in her seat, looking forward, hair unmussed, breathing even.

Definitely not. His imagination had finally gotten carried away, and he'd full on hallucinated. He was a menace on the road.

They stayed silent, both as still as possible, until Cade stopped at a streetlight. It was red. He was still surprised when she was there, again, practically in his lap, and pressing soft, slightly openmouthed kisses across his face, and he wasn't aware of taking his hands off the steering wheel, and her skin was so soft, and her hair– God, her hair, it was more than silk, and–

"Wha– uh–"

"The light's green." Gigi announced, pointing.

Cade stared at her, then turned back to the road. It was less than a minute before they arrived at a large, stately brick house with a nicely lined driveway and manicured lawn. Cade stopped, turned off the car, and took out the key.

"Uh, we're here," he said, and didn't dare to hope, but it was okay, because this time he was ready, ready and she was there, lips parting (finally), teeth accidentally grazing against his, but it was okay, because neither of them cared, and he didn't know what it was about her that made him unable to think, and he laughed as she slipped against the horn, and–

Christ, how did she do that? She was out the door, standing and looking perfectly sweet and respectable. Cade knew that what Gigi had just done was not respectable. Respect-worthy, perhaps, but not respectable.

"Walk me to my door," she said, and it wasn't a request.

Cade obediently followed her out, making sure to keep his face devoid of all emotions. In silence, the two walked up the path to her doorway. Cade was in his pajamas, and he hadn't shaved in two days (not that he yet needed to shave every day), and he felt like this was the longest twenty feet he'd ever walked. He didn't seem to be able to think. Beside him, Gigi was calm. There was no evidence on her face, in her stride, but this time Cade was fairly certain that they had, in fact, hooked up.

The two stopped in front of Gigi's door.

"Sweet dreams, Cade," said Gigi.

Cade leaned down slightly (she wasn't much shorter than he), and kissed Gigi on the cheek. When he leaned back, he could tell that she was blushing.

"Yeah," he said, and walked away, heart pounding, trying not to breathe.

. The day the aliens came

Cade wasn't expecting her that night, with school the next day, but he wasn't all that surprised. It was past two in the morning, and she was outside throwing pebbles, because she still didn't know that his mother might never come home (please let her come home) and thank God he was on the lunch plan at school.

Instead of coming inside when Cade gestured, Gigi just said, "Follow me if you want to live," in her best (and terrible) Arnold Schwarzennegar impression and gave him some sort of crazy smile. If they died in a car crash on their way to wherever, Cade hoped Gigi would be wearing that smile. He nodded, grabbed a sweatshirt because it was cold, outside, past two in the morning, and followed her to her father's blue-grey Miata.

They drove in silence, and at every stop sign and red light Cade tensed, waiting for Gigi to pounce on him. But she didn't. She just sat there, driving like a lunatic on empty, dark, rainwashed streets, nodding along to some song in her head. She looked... odd, Cade thought. In all black (something she would normally never be caught dead in), sunglasses perched in her hair, the one part of her outfit which didn't scream Super Spy.

Before too long passed, and the silence grew from that comfortably awkward sort to acute discomfort, Gigi pulled onto the shoulder of the road.

"Come on," she said, and climbed out, picking up a dark backpack.

Cade obediently followed her, suddenly worrying that he had misjudged her for the past six or seven months, and she was, in fact, a psychotic serial killer. Her mood swings were not in her favor.

But Cade realized, suddenly, blindingly, that he trusted her, so he followed her into the large, overgrown and unkempt field. He followed her as she frowned, looking around, and finally sat, crosslegged, as far away from the trees on two sides as was possible. He copied her as she moved aside rocks, and lay down in the grass.

But as they lay there, looking up at the endless sky, Cade finally said, "Uh, Gigi? What the fu– um, what's going on?"

"Sh. You'll see, Cade." Was all she would say.

And so they lay there, in the long grass, both trying not to think about the bugs that might be crawling on them or the dirt getting in their hair or how painful school would be in several hours. Cade wondered if he should hold her hand, even though he wasn't exactly a handholding kind of guy, and it wasn't like they were dating, and he didn't even know if she wanted to hold hands, and he wondered where his resolve had gone, and once again steeled himself to remember that she would be going off at the end of the summer to a bright new future, and he would not hold her back, and he was being sensible, and logical, and it wasn't exactly like Caden Evans was ever illogical or emotional, even when he was faced with someone like Georgette Wrightman.

Suddenly he started to sit up, but fell back as Gigi placed a hand on his shoulder, and said, "Was that a shooting star?"

He could feel Gigi's smile. "No, silly, it's a UFO. There's a whole bunch of them passing by tonight. Here," she added, and he accepted the binoculars she'd pulled out of her bag. He highly doubted that binoculars would help either of them at all, but Gigi had brought them, and he didn't honestly think there was any real harm in taking them.

"Gigi?" he had to ask, though, because he was Caden Evans, and despite all evidence that she might be Georgette Wrightman and have the prettiest hair he'd ever seen, he was still Caden Evans and would behave as such. "Christ, Gigi, what the fuck are we doing here?"

And he hoped she would understand that he didn't just mean here, in this field, past two in the morning.

"We're watching the UFOs," she said quietly. "And I was hoping, in your final moments, you might reconsider if the aliens really needed to take your brain because I kind of like you as you are."

Cade couldn't breathe. He remembered, and he had no idea that she had (though of course she had, probably no one else had ever turned her down before), and he chanced a glance at her. She had put down her binoculars, and turned her head onto the pillow her gloriously golden hair made, and he said, "You're not going to give up, are you." It wasn't a question.

"No," she said, and she was giving him that impossibly beautiful, serious look. No tears, no smiles, just her without her fronts and farces. He wondered if he looked like that, too.

"But you're– shit, you're Gigi, and you can do better. I just– no, listen– I just make you cry and shit, and I'm probably going to Boston U, and will work as a waiter or some equally fuck-awful job, and you can do better, see? You don't want me."

She gave him a tremulous smile. "Boston U isn't too far from Harvard, Cade, and I don't care because I want you. I can't do better, and I don't know what to say, and I don't know what all those girls in movies say when boys say that sort of thing to them, to convince them, because I have nothing else, 'kay? That's really, honestly it. You. And, um, me. You and me. That's it."

"Seriously?" Cade asked.

And, because she was Gigi, and that was why he was crazy about her, she didn't get angry. She didn't think he was joking or being contrary. She just said, "Seriously, Cade."

And Cade smiled, honestly and truly, and Gigi bit her lip to stop her smile from getting so big that it broke her entire face, and when he kissed her he felt every second and every square inch of skin and mouth and hair.

And, lying in a field at near three in the morning with stars falling so quickly that if they really were UFOs the world would surely be ending– that was when Caden Evans gave up trying not to fall in love with Georgette Wrightman.

...

...

Author's Note: So, that might have been the world's longest oneshot. Probably not, though. And I know that people are waiting for updates on Haptic Jungle and crack, coffee and soy, and I promise I will get to those next time I have time. This just... took over my brain and wouldn't die until it was finished.

Okay, please please please tell me what you think (about it, them, me, you, life) in a review!

(I return them)