The first time I met Chris, I broke his collar-bone. Brennan loves the story, something to prove somehow that at least one time, he'd been the chosen McCallister Boy. The way he tells it, Brennan and I had been friends for all of four days when his older brother stomped into our game-no one remembers what the game was anymore-and somehow made Brennan cry. All chuffed up with youthful anger and protective instincts, I'd shoved Chris and he'd shoved me back until an all out wrestling match had begun. Somewhere in the tussle, I'd broken his collar-bone and afterward felt so horrible about it that I was the one to cry the whole time at the doctor's office.

There's a picture of the three of us, sitting in the doctor's office; me in the middle, holding both boys' hands and staring solemnly at the camera. All of us were still in that age where smiling at the camera is a concept too huge and bizarre to fully comprehend, so everything we felt is right there for the world to see. My favorite part of the story is right there, in that moment, holding their hands while we waited for Chris to be taken care of.

I cried for him and he pushed my hair out of my face for me and told me that it was the best damned thing to ever happen to him.

"I have the prettiest girl in school holding my hand," he winked, eight years old and already full of it.

"Shut up." I shoved him a little, smiling anyway. No one had ever called me pretty before, and even at five years old, I knew it wasn't quite true.

"I'm serious!" he laughed, despite the frown of discontent that pain had placed on his golden face. "And you can't be too sorry, cause here you are shoving me again."

"You deserve it."

He smiled, dimpling a little bit before frowning at me. "Are you really mad at me for what I said?"

"No one's allowed to make my friends cry." I nodded, solemnly.

"Well," he thought for a minute. "Would it be okay if I were your friend, too?"

"Only if you promise to never again let anything hurt me or Brennan." I nodded, after thinking about it for a little while. I thought it was an acceptable alternative to the looming chore of having to constantly beat on someone that I secretly already kind of liked.

It was at that moment that someone took our picture; Christopher beaming, Brennan frowning directly into the lens, as if he could see through it and into the future, knowing what would come. And I was in the middle, holding their hands and looking torn over which brother to choose if it were to ever come down to that.

I never did want to chose and they never made me. Through all of their fights, they at least always had the decency to keep me out of it. Of course, that was probably because they never lasted long enough to be considered serious fights. Brennan hero-worshipped Chris and couldn't bring himself to hold a grudge against him and Chris couldn't stay mad in the face of Brennan's easy acceptance and apologies.

Given that neither of them had ever come crying to me when they were pissed at each other, I felt that I owed it to Brennan to keep my new hatred for his brother to myself. So the day after the disastrous grunge or glam party, I woke up at five and tried to outrun my anger instead of crying about it to Brennan. Every careful bounce against the freshly salted pavement, however, brought a wave of fresh anger with the jangle of the bracelets that Christopher'd sent me over the summer and fall. He'd known how upset I was with my mother every time she found a new addiction. He knew how I felt about drugs, and how I felt like crying every time I thought about the people I loved getting involved in them.

Grunting in anger, I pushed harder off the pavement, speeding up through the third mile and trying to work through the betrayal I felt, asking myself why he would involve himself in selling the damned things at our school. Halfway through the fourth mile, I registered his presence and sighed, expecting him to catch up, to try to talk, to disturb my peace. His presence at my side would disturb the equilibrium that sweat and muscle endurance had gained me and I wasn't sure that I could be okay with that. He hung back though, and I smiled, concentrating again on the slight puff cloud my breath made catching the early morning air.

My legs ached, but I pushed on, going through back-alleys and side roads, all leading up to the ridiculously steep hill that could give even the heartiest athlete trouble. I forced myself up it every day at a run, but it never got easier, so I forced myself to forget about it until it was actually in front of me. By that point, I usually just wanted my run to be over as fast as humanly possible, and the hill was the most direct route back to campus. I continued to do it because the punishing pain, the screaming of my muscles and lungs satisfied that place inside of me that craved pain and addiction, hungered for blood and fears and desires. It was one of the only ways to calm that little piece of me enough to buy some time where I didn't behave like a complete psychopath.

"Christ, Kaylyn." Chris huffed, once I'd stopped on the front oval of our school, letting the frigid winter air and sparse snow flakes cool me down. He bent over next to me, trying to catch his breath, swallowing before shaking his head.

"Man up, Chris." I smirked back at him, stretching my calves out first and then my shoulders.

"That's suicide, Kay." he collapsed into the snow, spread eagled.

"Wuss." I rolled my eyes, forgetting for the moment that I hated him. "Why'd you hang back?" I asked after a second, unable not to. He could have caught me, easily.

"You needed to get some peace of mind, to outrun the anger." he shrugged easily. "I'd only have made you more pissed."

I don't know why it surprised me, but it touched me a little, too. It made me want to reach out and help him up, tell him any stupid little thing to make it all better. Terrified of that softness, the almost moment that any response from me would provoke, I decided not to say anything. I nodded instead and left him heaving for breath on the front lawn while I made my way back through the still abandoned pathways to our dorm to finish the rest of my work out. It was rare for people to so completely get me, disturbing when it happened. Chris understood me on a level that no one else ever had.

I turned a little to study him, spread across the lawn like some kind of fallen angel, and sighed. Touched still, however unwillingly, I sighed and waited for him to catch his breath. Understanding went both ways. I got that he hadn't wanted to let me go running alone, that the protective instinct ran too deep to allow that. That he'd wanted to be closer to me than he had let himself was a given. That he'd respected me enough to stay away surprised me.

Waiting wasn't something I'd ever been good at, so I was glad when it was only a minute more before he groaned and rolled to his feet again, limping in my direction. As soon as he was within easy reach again, I turned my back and headed for home.

Leaving the suite door wide open, I headed for the kitchen and snagged two water bottles. Chris was coming in the door on my way back from the kitchen to my bedroom, so I tossed the second bottle at his head and took a deep drink of mine. As much routine and habit as it was blatant inability to care, I was already slipping out of my sneakers and dropping my pants in the middle of the hallway. Chris or no, I was in the privacy of my own suite and overheated and sweaty.

His eyes lingered on my bare ass and I smirked a little, pleased. I turned while lifting the bottom of my top layer sports bra, tossing it in a pile on top of my shorts before raising an eyebrow at him.

"I'm going to take a shower. You need to be gone before I get out, cause I still hate you a lot right now and I don't know what you can do to make me stop."

It was as honest and as kind as I could have been, but he still paled a little and hung his head a little and I still felt like shit for saying it. We might have had our fights, but I'd never told him to leave before and I'd never, ever, said I hated him and meant it.

"Yeah, sure, Kay…" I heard him say quietly, as I shut the door in his face.

When I knew he was gone, I stripped out of the rest of my clothes and sank to the tile floor under the spray of my shower and cried. Too exhausted for anger, all that was left for me to feel was betrayed and horrified and sad, so I let it out in the shower, crying until the water ran cold and only then getting up and washing the sweat off my body.

I ran into my roomate for the first time wearing only my towel and misery, which would have been a bad enough foot to start off on, except that she was wearing a look of blatant disgust and was holding my running shorts in between two pinched fingers.

"Don't be so prissy, it's not diseased, just sweaty." I rolled my eyes, snatching the garment back from her and stomping into my room.

"I fully realize that you non-scholarship students feel, like, entitled and bored. But I think we should talk about our expectations from each other." She called through the door at me. "Basically, I'm counting down the days until you get caught with a stash and packed off to rehab again, so just lets agree that you'll keep the boyfriends out of here after midnight, okay?"

I rolled my eyes and threw on a bra and tank top, sliding my bracelets onto my wrists out of habit before sliding into boy short panties and opening the door to reply.

"Fine. Expectations. I have three of them: Stay out of my things, Stay out of my way, and don't mortally offend me. If you just don't talk to me, don't touch my stuff and try to play least in sight when I'm around, you'll be fine." And with that sneer, I shoved past her and into the little kitchenette where I'd stashed the caffeine supplier.

"Listen, I'm not about to spend my year pandering to an entitled little party bitch." she rolled her eyes at me.

I glared at the coffee dripping down into the pot, waiting for it to hurry up already before I said something really mean. I was too tired to get really mad, just irritated that she'd seen the tabloids and believed everything she'd seen without any questions. It was a good thing, I supposed, cause as shitty of a mother as I had, she was still my mother. If anyone found out that it was me packing her off to rehab all those times, I doubted if the state would care that she was the only family I had. Still, it never stopped hurting when people thought so little of me. Instead of replying, however, I shrugged at her and waited on my coffee. For the moment, I was mellow enough to not want to draw her blood and for the moment, I was good with letting her think she'd gotten the last word in. It was, by far, more important to me to figure out what I was going to do now. One thing was for sure, I had to man up and figure out why Brennan thought he needed me to get through highschool. Clearly, he was already doing well enough for himself that he'd fallen in with the pointless parties and casual sex crowd. While it wasn't what I'd have chosen for him, I didn't figure calling me back here had anything to do with a cry for help in getting away from them.