A/N: Just finished this chapter and I love it. Please help me with minor mistakes in the writing, sometimes I end up writing so quickly I mess up words haha. Hope you guys enjoy and let me know what you think

Chapter Nine

The Encounter

Lunchtime arrived on the clock swiftly, the day had dragged and my head was swamped in my books. I figured it would be easier to keep a low profile and focus on my schoolwork. I could hear whisperings around me during English, a few girls secluded in the shadows in the back of the room laughing at my attempt to save the schools reject. I recognized one as Jessica Stanton, one of Devin's many girlfriends and someone Gina was now slowly becoming friends with. I didn't know how their friendship was blossoming; Gina was never one to fling herself into the popularity crowd. She was always very smart, which was maybe why they were hanging around her; using her intellect for their personal gain.

Either way I never said anything in retaliation to the girls laughing at my escapades. I didn't want the administration to notice me anymore than they already had.

The bell rang in my ears and I shuffled to lunch, picking food off the line and trying to tone down the roar of the crowds piling into the lunch room. I carried my tray and stood staring across the expanse of the room, tables upon tables filled with hungry people. You could pick the cliques out almost instantly, the cheerleaders next to the football guys, the soccer kids and Devin by the small amphitheater near the edge of the cafeteria. The band and drama kids sat closer to the doors which led out into the quad where the fight had taken place.

Green tile lined the floors and squeaked under hundreds of feet around me. I saw a hand jut out of the crowd of tables and wave in my direction. Looking up I spotted Kevin, Holly, and Gina seated at a table near the bathrooms. Finally finding where I would sit, I began to make my way towards my friends. The issues that had come up recently had furthered my distance from them, but maybe it was a feeling of my own making. Maybe they were the same as always and I was the one fabricating this supposed distance. It had been a while since Gina had sat with us, but it brought a smile to my face to see her back in the group. Holly was dressed in a tight short skirt and a low cut pink top, hand on Kevin's thigh as always. I still didn't know her well enough to call her a friend, but she seemed to make Kevin smile, so that's all I could do was hope he was happy.

I heard a screech of metal on tile, a blaring sound that for a split moment quieted down the crowds in the cafeteria. Looking around for the source, I noticed Devin and his group from yesterday advancing on something. I wasn't sure where they were headed, but I had a feeling.

"One second guys," I mumbled to my friends, setting down my tray of food and twisting my head to find where this action was.

No one else around me seemed to notice Devin and his cohorts posturing towards a table hidden behind other kids eating, but I did. My interaction with them had be on high alert to their presence I guess. One move by them and I could sense it.

I dodged a path around oncoming foot traffic and found to my dismay their target.

Marcus didn't seem to notice the coming onslaught, silently picking at his food. The pink fishnet shined under the florescent bulbs overhead, his pasty skin a white landscape waiting for my fingers to traverse. The thought brought the usual wave of excitement and disgust, but it also brought up another feeling. Panic slowly began to set in as I thought of the status of my project and the note I had placed in his locker a few days previous. Had he gotten it?

Devin was now picking up speed, his no named cohorts following close behind. I heard Kevin call my name out but I ignored it, jumping into a sprint. Arriving swiftly at Marcus' table, he looked up, mouth open in slight surprise. I nodded my head and shot a look in Devin's direction. His grey eyes connected with mine and he stopped, outstretching his arms to hold his friends back. I didn't let go of my gaze, keeping it deep and unwavering. I arched my left eyebrow and sat at the table. I could hear Marcus shuffling in his seat, obviously a bit nervous.

"What are you doing?" Marcus asked. I didn't let my gaze leave Devin as he stood, chest out and arms still a barricade for his friends.

"Preventing another mess," I replied.

"But why? Why me? Why now?"

"Because not all people at this school are assholes."

I began to relax as Devin turned to leave. He kept his eyes penetrating mine, but left with a wide stride. His lackeys didn't move as suddenly, both placing clenched fist in their pocket with a menacing scowl. I was surprised that my presence at Marcus' table prevented them of going any further. I suppose they were under some serious restrictions after my story was corroborated. And my presence only furthered their fear of screwing up their own futures. I didn't know what they wanted with Marcus again, they had already fucked him up and I couldn't imagine what kind of person would want to cause more harm. Whatever the reason was it was now on the back burner. Thanks to me. My savior complex was in overdrive now that Marcus was in my life. I am not sure if that was something good or something bad.

"How did you see them so quickly?" Marcus asked.

I finally let go of my stare and brought my eyes onto Marcus. The butterflies so well known to me now came prancing back, tickling my stomach. I swallowed hard to break them down, keeping them at bay. I didn't like these feelings and I definitely didn't want Marcus to see them. I wasn't sure if the rumors of him being gay were true, and even if they were I don't think I would care. But now that the school began to think I was his boyfriend or something after protecting him, twice now, I didn't want my actions to fuel the rumor fire.

"I'm not sure," I answered.

I had a nagging feeling my friends were eyeing the situation strangely, but I ignored them. I was hungry and my food sat at their table, but I didn't want to go back and answer questions. I was not in the mood for an interrogation. Gina loved drama and Kevin was never a fan of Marcus, and I didn't want to bring this newer part of my life into that section. Maybe it was to protect my friendships with them, or maybe it was because I felt like protecting Marcus from more rejection. There I went again, feeling the need to protect this reject.

"Where's your food?" Marcus asked. He took a strand of purple hair and placed it behind a heavily pierced ear. I connected with his forest eyes and found myself holding back a smile.

"I left it at another table." I replied.

"Do you want mine? I'm not hungry."

"No I'm okay, thanks though."

He continued to pick at the mashed potatoes on the plastic tray, silence finding its way back into the atmosphere.

"I got something weird in my locker the other day," Marcus said as he stood up to throw away the tray of uneaten food.

My stomach turned a few times, my eyes stinging suddenly from worry. So he had gotten it. I was going to have to play it cool. I had now become a pawn in my own game, a tool of my own making. Not only was I now in the choppy waters of this dangerous war between Marcus and Devin, I was becoming a friend to Marcus while sending him fake letters of infatuation from a nonexistent girl. Whether or not my sudden and strange feelings would translate into future notes would remain to be seen. I needed to keep this personal mess separate from my academics. I had started this project and I was going to finish it all while keeping the reality of it from Marcus and my friends. I took in a breath before replying. "Oh really? What?"

"A note from some girl saying she likes me." He said as he sat back down.

"Oh well that's good isn't it? Do you know who it is?" I laughed.

"I have no idea. No one ever likes me like that so it's probably Devin being a fucker. If it's not then I don't know what to think of it."

"Well why don't you show it to me after school. Maybe I can figure it out." I said, digging my hole so deep there was no climbing out.

This was turning out so messy no amount of cleaner could scrub it away.