A/N: Sorry this took so long to update! I'm making a resolve to pump these out faster than I have been. This story is laid back enough that I have an easy time writing it, but I get so indecisive about what I actually want to incorporate into the story and what I don't.

Anyway, thanks for being so patient! And also for the reviews and favorites/alert adds. C:

Noah is late. I am sitting outside my house on my front porch steps with my chin in my hands, waiting for him to finally arrive.

I wish I could say Noah pulled up my driveway in a flaming red Ferrari, revving the engine like a total badass. But no. Instead he putters up my driveway in a faded blue Volvo, honking the horn like an irritated bus driver.

Leaping down my front steps I sling my backpack around the passenger's seat of the car and slide in next to him.

"You're late," I say buckling myself in.

"We'll still be on time." He assures me.

I look up at him, squinting as he pulls out of my driveway. That's when I notice his bottom lip is swollen like hell on the left side and there's a cut, smack dab in the middle, still red with clotted blood. "What happened?" I ask, worry creeping into my tone.

"Hmm?" He subconsciously runs his tongue over the swollen part of his lip, and then seems to realize that's what I'm talking about. "Oh, uh. Yeah."

I wait for him to say something else but he doesn't. "Well I'm glad I know now," I say. "Thanks for being so descriptive."

He sighs. "I ran into a wall." He says casually, shrugging his shoulders as we come to a stop at the sign by the corner of my block.

"First of all, what? And second of all, if you had actually run into a wall and busted your lip that badly because of it, we both know you'd be too embarrassed to tell me because that is really a stupid thing to do, so you're obviously using it as an excuse."

He frowns at me but still doesn't elaborate.

"It wasn't your dad, was it?" I ask.

He sputters for a few seconds and then laughs. "Em, it's not my dad. But wow, way to jump to worst case scenario."

He is so casual about saying this I am almost instantly convinced, but I've known Noah long enough to know that he is smart enough to pretend to be a bad liar most of the time so when he really needs to lie about something and lie about it well, people will believe him. "So if it's not your dad what it is? Why are you being so secretive?"

He switches his blinker on and gravity enacts its curse upon humanity as we turn a corner and I am thrown against the passenger door.

"Why are you being so snoopy?" he counters. His voice is light and joking, but it carries just enough darkness to tell me that he is annoyed and on the verge of becoming angry.

"Noah, you can't just show up at my house with a busted lip and expect me to not be curious when you start lying about what happened."

"Maybe it's just something I want to deal with by myself." He says. "And besides, knight in shining armor is kind of my job, you know? You should stop worrying about stuff."

"What is that even supposed to mean? Are you going through some kind of male initiation process?" I ask squinting at him.

He rolls his eyes. "No. I'm just saying you don't need to know everything about my life. I mean, parts of it are private. Just because I don't want to talk about something with you doesn't automatically make it some huge scandal that you need to know about." By the time he finishes the irritation in his tone is clear.

I feel it is important to note that I distinctly do not like being lectured by Noah. Mostly because a lot of the time he plays the part of that kid who is kind of slow, but has mostly good intentions and is basically harmless. So when he starts spouting sense and logic at me like this it can be disturbing.

"Well, fine," I say. "But that doesn't stop me from worrying."

"It's not any of your business." He finally spits out. I notice his knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel. "Does that stop you from worrying?"

I don't know what to say to that. So I remain quiet for a long time and he continues driving.

I want him to look hurt after saying that, like he regrets it, but when we pull up to the school and neither of us has said another word, he just looks like he's relieved to have an excuse to run away from me. And he does, straight into a crowd of students gathered in the main atrium of the school.

I trudge in after him, ignoring his crowd of fans and collapse into one of the old purple 90's chairs they have scattered around. I can hear him telling them that he got into a fight with some crazy football player from our old school and that he kicked the guy's ass. He isn't even keeping his stories straight.

Someone's presence sits down next to me and I turn my head to see Dakota Young, who, if I was the sort of person to rank my friends, would likely come into second place after Noah. She's one of those people who is oddly good looking. Her eyes are unusually large, but they're also baby blue and always nicely decorated with a thin layer of shadow. Her face is impish and almost gaunt looking, but it's always perfectly framed by her hair. I've always been fascinated with people who are pretty in a non-classical sense. It's probably why I like her so much, honestly.

"What's with the sour face?" she says.

I sigh. "Nothing serious, Noah's just being a douche again."

She laughs. "Yeah what else is new, he's such a chach."

"He really is."

"What happened to his lip?" she asks.

I shrug. "He won't tell me."

"He's been saying he got into a fight with some football guy," an anonymous voice says from behind me.

I turn around to see Kyle Straight, observing Noah's cluster with mild interest. When thinking Kyle Straight, it is very difficult to not also think Adam Lambert, except thirteen years younger and with out the make up.

"Well he's totally lying. I mean, Noah couldn't even beat up a Chihuahua much less a football player." I say.

"Mm, truth," Kyle agrees. "That poor boy is so mixed up. Anyway, class starts in five, I'm going to grab some breakfast. You girls want to come along?"

Dakota nods exuberantly.

"Sure," I say and follow them down the hall and then stairs to the cafeteria where a short line of students are waiting for breakfast. I can already smell the wafting scents of burned French toast strips from the kitchen as we cut in behind a couple of seniors with new-senior superiority complexes.

"You guys seen the new freshmen?" Dakota asks.

Kyle nods. "I helped out on orientation day."

"So how are they?" I ask.

He shrugs. "They're alright. They're freshmen, Emily, there isn't a whole lot to them."

"That's ageism, Kyle." Dakota says, pointing a spindly finger at his chest.

He arches his shoulders blamelessly. "Also, it is true."

We don't have time to eat breakfast in the cafeteria so I say my goodbyes to Dakota and Kyle and head upstairs to my first block with a paper plate full of syrupy French toast and a plastic cup of milk.

Nothing interesting ever happens the first day of school. It is always the same. Teachers introduce themselves, and their subject even when everyone in the school – except maybe the freshmen – already know who they are and what they teach and how they teach it and where they live and what their favorite food is and you get the idea.

This day is no different.

The only class I have worth mentioning is music appreciation and it is only worth mentioning because it is the only class that I may have with Noah. We purposefully didn't compare schedules so that come first day it would be a surprise. I am fairly sure he won't be in my advanced algebra class or my world religions class and AP biology is unlikely. That only leaves music appreciation.

But it's my last class of the day, so before that I have to tackle lunch. The school is small enough that we don't have to break our lunches up, although we probably should since it takes nearly half the lunch period just to get through the line.

Last year Noah sat with me half the time and his posse the other half, I didn't really mind it since I always had Dakota and Kyle, but Kyle is in student government this year and that's going to take up a lot of his lunches. So I am a little nervous about lunches this year, even though I still have Dakota.

Kyle is, as I suspected, missing from our usual lunch table but I spot Dakota there instantly and she waves me over.

"Hey, have you seen Noah yet today?" she asks like it's been on her mind for hours.

"Why is everybody all up in arms about Noah? And no I haven't actually." I sit down and open my chocolate milk.

"Dude, he showed up first day of school with a busted lip in this small town? All the freshmen are going on about how he's the school's resident bad boy gangster who'd just as soon kill you than look at you."

I sigh and twirl up a forkful of watery pasta. "We'll have to do something about that." I jump slightly as a tray is dropped loudly next to me and look up to see Noah, staring at the table as he sits down, sucking on his lip. I am honestly surprised he's sitting with me today.

"Em," he says quietly. "Do you have any make up?"

"No," I said. "Kyle's more likely to have makeup than I am Noah, you know that."

"I have some," Dakota pipes up. "What do you need it for?"

"Do you think you could get it to cover up my lip?" he asks, looking up at her hesitantly.

She offers him a sad smile. "I uh… I don't think so hon. I mean, I could try but you'd probably just end up looking like a guy with a busted lip who tried to cover it up with make up."

"Why? I thought you were proud of beating up that football player," I say casually. I can sense him watching me with his guilty eyes but I do my best not to look at them.

"Well, yeah. But that was before the freshmen found out…" he says, glancing fearfully at a group of giggling ninth graders.

"I thought you liked being thronged with attention," Dakota says. "What's the deal?"

"Yeah, really," I mutter.

He sighs. "Em can you just drop it?" he is glaring at me now.

"Drop what?" I say, I am secretly surprised that he's brought this up in front of Dakota but I'm not about to play along with him.

He scoffs and stands up, placing his hands on the table and leaning over so that his face is right next to mine. "You know, if you're worried about me Em, being a bitchy little girl is not the way to show it." And with that he picks up his tray and stalks off before I have a chance to rage at him.

"Hey, ass wipe, you still have to drive me hope today!" I yell after him. Several heads turn and I am proud of myself for drawing further attention to him.

I watch him saunter across the cafeteria to dump his food in the garbage can – food that he didn't even touch, I might add. He turns to lock eyes with me glaring heatedly as he dangles his now foodless plastic tray above the can and then, as though taunting me, drops it in the trash as well.

I groan and burry my face in my hands. "Oh god he would do something like that…"

"What is up with you guys?" Dakota asks. "I mean I've seen you fight but that was super intense."

"Oh it's nothing," I say waving my hand in the air, "just the best friend drift. I've seen it coming for awhile now, pretty much since he got hot."

Dakota squints at me. "I… really don't think that's what it is, Emily. I mean he was super pissed at you. The best friend drift is different."

"How do you know?" I ask. "Have you ever had the best friend drift?"

She straightens up and suddenly looks proud of herself. "Matter of fact I have," she says. "It's really quiet. You just stop talking. And it's twice as awkward afterwards as the regular drift because you both know neither of you really had a reason to stop talking to the other."

"Mm that sounds like shit," I say.

"Total shit," she agrees.

After lunch I have but two classes to dredge through before I can finally go home. Although I am somewhat worried about the car ride with Noah, I am also hoping that I'll be able to use it to set some things straight with him because the boy is more crooked than a hanger.

AP Biology is a promising class as my lab partner turns out to be Stephanie Alberts. I'm not close friends with Steph, but she and I worked on a few school projects together last year and I would consider her one of my better school friends.

But soon enough the time came; last class of the day. The music appreciation classroom is dark. Black paper taped up over the windows keeps the sun at bay while a small candle on every desk provides dim light to the rest of the room. I am pretty sure that the candles violet the fire safety code of the school, but I'm not about to complain. The teacher, Mr. Reynolds, is well known for being into ambiance so this sort of thing was to be expected.

Several kids are already seated around the room, chatting with each other eagerly. The candles give off enough light for me to vaguely make out their faces and shapes but not enough for me to be able to fully recognize them.

I scan the room for anyone I know and, unfortunately, see Noah keeping to himself in the corner of the room. I think he is praying that no one will recognize him in the dark. I am honestly curious as to why the attention is suddenly bothering him when it never used to, but I'll probably have to save that question for until after we determine that neither of us hates the other.

"What's wrong with you?" I hiss at him, sitting down in the desk beside his.

He starts, obviously unaware of the fact that I had entered the room.

"What's wrong with you?" he counters.

I roll my eyes. "You first," I say.

"You're nosey," he spits. "That's what's wrong with me."

"I'm your my best friend." I say. "It's my job to be nosey, unless you've changed your mind about the status of our friendship in which case way to not tell me."

He wrinkles his nose at me, "stop being dramatic."

"Stop being an asshole." I say.

"What do you want me to do Em?"

"I want you to be honest with me and stop lying when I know you're lying. I get that there are things we should keep from each other, but this is obviously a big deal. I mean you are physically injured."

He frowns and whips his head around to the front of the class room where Mr. Reynolds is clearing his throat in preparation for the start of class.

"Don't think you're getting out of this." I say.

"You know, I may just leave with out you if you keep this up." He whispers.

I am half afraid he's not kidding but I don't have time to say anything else on the matter before class starts.

We essentially don't say a word to each other until Mr. Reynolds is finished going over the class layout and we are dismissed several minutes early. Noah grabs his bag quickly and tries to get away before I can catch him but he's a failure and I keep up with his fast pace easily.

I decide that bringing up our little scuffle before we make it to the car is a bad idea so I stay quiet until both passenger and driver doors are shut.

I'm surprised when he speaks before I can. "I don't think I've ever been this mad at you before," he says, starting the car.

"What do you even have to be mad at me about? All I want is for you to tell me what happened to your stupid lip, it's not like I'm asking you to marry me or something."

He chokes out a strangled noise and fumbles with the keys until the car's engine finally sputters to life.

"And by the way, I think in the grand scheme of this little fight, you are being the bigger dick."

"Of course I am, you don't even have a dick to be bigger than mine." He growls, brooding over the steering wheel and not backing out.

I frown. "You didn't have to make the conversation literal."

"You started it."

"What happened to your lip?" I demand.

He groans and buries his head in his arms.

"The more you-"

"You know how I asked dad if I could borrow the car?" Noah says suddenly, cutting me off.

"Yeah…" I turn in my seat to look at him, but he is leaning forward against the dashboard and his head is facing the other direction.

"Well he didn't want me to at first. You know how he's so sentimental about everything. He was like 'what if you crash it? What if you make out with girls in that car? What would your mother think?' and I kind of… told him that mom wouldn't think anything about it because she's six feet under and has other things on her mind and he should grow up and move on."

"Why… would you say that to him?" I say, gaping slightly.

Noah sighed and sat up, gripping the steering wheel tightly. "Because she's been dead for like five years! He needs to get over it and stop hoarding all of her shit."

"Yeah but, you could have been a little nicer. He hit you right? That's what happened to your lip?"

"Well yeah, obviously, he also locked me in my room for the rest of the weekend, which is why I couldn't come over, by the way."

"What did he do after he hit you?" I ask, fiddling with the strap on my backpack which is lying on the floor of the car in front of my seat.

"He freaked out. I think when he hit me it kind of got him to realize how unnecessarily sentimental he was being, so that's when he said I could use the car."

I frown. "So what, he just apologized by giving you the car?"

"Em he's not a bad guy, okay?" Noah looked at me for the first time in the conversation. "This is why I didn't want to tell you. I know you and your parents don't really think much of him as it is and this certainly isn't going to help."

I sigh. "I don't think your dad's a bad person, Noah. I just think… he needs help. Like therapy or something."

"Yeah well why don't you try telling him that because he hasn't been listening to me." Noah finally puts the car in reverse and starts backing out of the parking lot.

"Why does it bother you so much that he keeps all her stuff? I mean, I know it's not healthy, but I also feel like it would be kind of nice to have those mementos too, you know?"

Noah sighs. "There are a couple of reasons. One, I can't bring anybody but you over to my house because it's like a freaking shrine to my mother. And two, some memento's yeah, I like those too, but when everywhere you go in your own home is a constant reminder that your mom is dead, it's kind of hard to move on. And I am ready to move on, so I'm a little tired of being continually held back by his sentimentality."

I look down at my lap. "I guess I can understand that."

It's frighteningly silent for the rest of the ride. Even though Noah seems to be more

relaxed, I can still feel the tenseness in the way he's sitting and I'm afraid he might still be upset with me.

It's not unusual for him to hold short grudges, and often they're unjustified. I wouldn't be able to stand that he does that except he knows when he's out of line and at least has the decency to not harp on me when he's still mad even after I've apologized or the conflict has been resolved. I can generally tell when this is going on because he shuts up and goes stiff and he won't call or talk to me for about a day.

We eventually pull up into my driveway and I pick my backpack up off the floor of the passenger's seat and exit the car with out a word. He doesn't wait for me to get inside before he backs up and drives away.