India Riordan leaned her elbow heavily on her desk, her chin in her hand. She exhaled loudly through her nose, her eyes half-closing in her boredom and impatience. Only four more hours to go... ONLY. Right.

She let her eyes drift around her, restlessly taking in the others, confined to the Saturday detention along with her. This was her second time this year, and it was only September. She had a feeling that this setting, and a few of these faces, would look mind-numbingly familiar to her before the year was up.

It wasn't freaking fair- she hadn't done anything that should warrant spending four hours on a Saturday in a cold, confining classroom along with her school's jock idiots and juvenile delinquents, staring at the dour, bespectacled face of Mr. Leighton, her current history teacher. Not that he was paying much attention to them beyond making sure no one left the room- he looked nearly asleep, and he was deaf as a post. He had to be not to hear Tru and Kelly, the two girls across from her bedecked in American Eagle attire, whispering and giggling loudly before fixing pointed stares on specific selected fellow detention mates. India gritted her teeth- if they looked at her, she'd give them something to whisper about.

This was completely ridiculous that she had to be here. Her SCHOOL was ridiculous, controlling and communist- not allowing any room for individuality or intelligence, anything beyond mindless agreement and conformity. Challenge the arrogant statements of one conceited teacher, give him countering arguments that were so logical he couldn't defend himself, and where does that get you? Stuck in detention on a Saturday. It was outrageous, India told herself, still smoldering at the thought. And to be expected to do extra work on top of it all...

Well she wasn't. She wouldn't. She'd just sit in silence and stare at them pointedly until they all got uncomfortable and laughed it off, avoiding her- the usual reaction of her peers. The reaction she preferred. India was proud not to be part of any one high school clique- if having to deal or think about politics, she preferred the real ones in the real world to those of high school.

She caught the dark blue eyes of Caleb Nicanor, the junior boy sitting next to her, looking at her steadily, and she stared back at him somewhat defiantly, challenging- what the hell was he looking at? Caleb looked away quickly, dropping his eyes, and India felt a little ashamed as well as satisfied. Caleb wasn't like most of the high school drama kings and queens- he was one of the labeled "nerds", small and quiet, the intellectual kind most of the jerks in their classes called gay. India doubted this, but had he been, she couldn't have cared less- she often suspected, to her amusement, that the most homophobic people were the ones who doubted their own sexuality.

She wondered in spite of herself what Caleb had done to earn detention- could he possibly have a hidden rebellious streak? Caleb, the guy who read anime in class and still cared enough to get straight A's?

Caleb, after having looked away from India's stare, blushed despite his best efforts not to. He hated that about himself, how easily he was embarrassed, intimidated by others, but he couldn't help it, just like he couldn't help being small and skinny, or uninterested in sports. All of these were things that helped contribute to this social status of loser in high school. He was used to it by now- being sneered at by some, ignored entirely by most- but that didn't mean he didn't wish sometimes things were different.

He'd never done anything like this before- never bent a rule to the extent he was punished for it by an authority figure, at least one besides his mom. The thing was that it had been impulsive, another rare thing for Caleb- he ususally thought carefully about everything he did. Careful, cautious, Caleb- cowardly Caleb, as elementary school kids had once jeered at him after seeing The Wizard of Oz. He could almost believe that his entire social status, or lack of one, could be summed by that third grade name.

But back to his detention sentence. All he had done was realize walking to this last period class that he really dreaded going there- it consisted of one of those teachers who loved to give busywork and a class who was lazy, loud, and conceited. Without even thinking about it, Caleb had found himself walking out the front door with the seniors who had early dismissal. He didn't consider that he had no car- at age 16, his mother STILL picked him up at school- but as it turned out, it didnt' matter. As he began to walk down the sidewalk, trying unsuccessfully to look like a casual, carefree senior, he'd heard a voice calling his name. Hearing its ominous tones, he'd turned slowly, his skin going icy with dread. Mr. Foster, the school prinicipal, had been watching him.

So for the first time in his life, Caleb had wound up in detention. He'd never even had LUNCH detention before, and he found himself wondering uneasily if this was going to end up on his mysterious Permanent Record, if this could affect his chances of getting to a good college.

Cowardly Caleb, he scoffed at himself again. You're such a worrywart. It's only one detention. Does anyone else in here look worried about college?

But then, he thought as his eyes scanned the room quickly, none of them were exactly the serious student types.

Oh yeah? he tried to argue with himself. India's smart. She's got good grades. She's not worried.

But India Riordan, as far as Caleb could see, didn't worry about anything...

He wished she could infect him with a little of her attitude. Not enough to make him even more of a social pariah, but enough to give him personality, enough to make him blend even as he retained his intelligence- if such a thing was even possible.

He was supposed to be doing extra work from the class he'd tried to skip, but for once, he didn't feel like it. He wanted to just sit there, sit and think. He had four hours to do it anyway.

Caleb started to look around the classroom, not for very long at one given person, of course- he didn't want anyone to think he was watching them. He hated when they caught him- they shot him looks that belied their defiance and annoyance, as if angry at his daring to think he could look at them. He always tried to be subtle- he hated to be caught, to have to look away in embarrassment, flushed and cowed at their expressions.

He did that a lot- watch people, their mannerisms and behavior, what made them uniquely themselves. Sometimes, he thought that he spent more time watching others live their lives than living his own... it was safer that way, even if watching did carry its own dangers.

His eyes skipped quickly past India, not wanting to risk her look again. Instead he watched Kelly Clowett and Tru Atherton- two of the school's Popular and Accepted girls. They were pretty in a generic, TV-show way- Kelly was a skinny blonde, Tru a shapely yet slender brunette- and both were rather catty. Caleb knew this from personal experience- Kelly and Tru rarely insulted anyone to their face, but rather, their favorite method was the Whisper, Giggle, Stare. This three-step battle plan had successfully invoked paranoia, anger, and distress in countless people subjected to it, Caleb included.

It was funny, Caleb thought to himself, that it was Felicity they were targeting. Funny- but typical. Just a few days ago Felicity had been one of them, walking with them in the halls, eating (or not eating) with them in the cafeteria- but now, it seemed she was shunned. Caleb wondered what it was she had done to be on the outs with them.

He looked past them to Dennis Osley and Alden Hughes, two seniors in the chairs behind the girls. They were looking at the girls with not a trace of boredom in their eyes. Dennis and Alden were the kind of guys who, while not really cruel to Caleb or bullying, were dismissive, as though any guy younger and not interested in sports might as well not exist. As Tru noticed them looking over, she nudged Kelly, who giggled. nearly simultaneously, the girls gave them slow, seductive smiles.

Caleb moved to observe the other three students, having to turn his head, as two of them were in the back row. KC Sterling, another senior, sat near India and Tru, right behind Felicity. KC was known alternately around the school as a stud and a sleeze, depending on who was doing the talking. Both were equally true, depending on his treatment of you- or his treatment after a day, night, or even hour with you, Caleb had heard. Currently he was leaning back altogether too casually in his desk, a cocky grin aimed at the back of India's neck. His frosted hair was gelled up messily, purposely, as were his clothes, obviously selected with care to be sloppy-casual-cool. Caleb hoped India wouldn't catch KC watching her- India knew no limit with her sharp replies, and it would only give KC further pleasure.

In the back row sat two baggy, black-unclothed figures, with four chairs between them. Each was slumped back in his or her desk, eyes unreadable as they seemed isolated, lost in their own worlds- miles away from the others. This was junior Avery Stavros and sophomore Shade Sevillen.

Avery had always seemed tall to Caleb, taller than him anyway, as he was only 5-5- but no one really knew how tall she actually was since she wore huge, heavy-looking black boots with big heels. She was currently wearing them, Caleb could just make them out under her desk, along with baggy black pants covered in several pockets, zippers, and chains. She was also wearing one of her enormous black hoodies with "Jack off Jill" embossed across its front. It hung down nearly to her knees- it was a school mystery what Avery's body shape was, because it was always completely camouflaged in clothes three sizes too large for her. Her eyeshadow and lipstick were both an icy blue, perfectly matching her eyes and the streaks in her long black hair. As it was, her hair mostly covered her face and ears, and her hand, small and pale with the fingernails painted black, covered the rest, as though she were shielding herself from the world. Although Caleb couldn't see it, he was sur she was listening to her Ipod- she even played it in class. In fact, that was probably why she had detention. He wasn't about to tell on her though- although she was quiet, rarely spoke to anyone spontaneously, he knew that like India, she could have a sarcastic, biting tongue.

Four desks away, Shade Sevillen sat slightly forward, his shoulders hunched as if defensive. He was staring at something, or someone, his eyes unreadable. Not blank- Caleb saw something in them, some emotion very in control- but it was impossible for him to identify.

Shade was one of the kids that Caleb feared more out of instinct and his preceding legend than experience. Everything about him sent off warning alarms to stay away, even his name. Caleb knew that he had once been called Shane- he supposed that was his actual name. But somehow, perhaps because of his clothes, that like Avery's, were cheerless, black, and baggy, only his were paired with a black trenchcoat, or maybe his fierce, scowling persona, or perhaps his shady past and present doings, he had become known as Shade so commonly that even teachers used the name.

He sat very still now in his desk, his long brown hair touching the tops of his shoulders, blue eyes shadowed in his thin face. The strange necklaces around his neck and the serpent ring on his finger drew Caleb's eyes to it almost unwillingly, and he quickly looked away. Out of them all, he felt, it would be most dangerous for Shade to catch him watching him.

Caleb had heard a lot about Shade- that he was crazy, insane, on drugs- both for depression and the illegal kind- that he had killed people, raped girls, that he cut and scarred himself. None of this Caleb knew to be true, or even really thought it to be, but he was Cowardly Caleb, after all- he didn't want to risk it by talking to the guy. All he really knew about Shade from observing him was that he liked music and anime, and though he rarely spoke, he gave off an impression of controlled inner rage. None of this made anyone exactly eager to be around him- those that didn't avoid him mocked him, especially boys and girls like Kelly and Tru. Avery and Shade were two of the four similarly dressed kids in their small, conformist school- but Avery seemed to handle and even like her isolation better than Shade, at least from what Caleb had observed.

Caleb brought his eyes back up to the front, sighing softly. He sincerely doubted anyone else thought so much about people they associated with so little...

KC Sterling groaned inwardly. He couldn't take this anymore- and he'd only been here fifteen minutes. Wasting a Saturday afternoon in school- definitely a harsh punishment. There were about five thousand things he'd rather do- sleep,girls, and things involving both ranking high on his list.

He began to scan the room lazily, checking out the female population. Kelly Clowett and Tru Atherton- they were hot, all right, but Kelly hated him now since the last school dance, when he'd left her to hook up with a sophomore. He doubted Tru wold betray her social obligation to hate him with Kelly right beside her- but he could be wrong. If he got bored enough, maybe he'd try.

Avery Stavros- that was a definite out. Not only would she reject him, she might flip out and stab him or something if he touched her. The girl creeped him out with all her gloom and doom shit- she and Shade ought to get together.

That left Felicity and India. Both hot, at least in his eyes- Felicity more obviously than India, but hey- any girl who could look KC in the eyes and ask him casually how horribly he'd miss his balls should she take them from him was dead sexy to him. She was the one girl who seemed to get pleasure from insulting and rejecting him- which only made KC more fascinated, more determined to get her attention.

Felicity was probably the better conquest- but KC loved a challenge.

Leaning forward in his chair until his face nearly touched India's neck- her hair was up in some bun thing, held by chopsticks- he whispered in a sexy tone, his breath tickling the back of her neck.

" Why don't you... let your hair down. I can think of a better use for those chopsticks."

India turned slowly, deliberately, her dark blue eyes seeming nearly black suddenly.

" So can I. I think the'd look quite interesting jammed through one ear drum and protruding from the other- kind of a Scream 2 effect."

Caleb quickly looked down, suppressing a grin. He glanced at Felicity and saw she was smiling faintly as well. Tru and Kelly whispered, oblivious, but Alden and Dennis glanced at India and KC, their interest piqued.

Undaunted, KC remained in his position about four inches from India's face, not seeming to realize or at least care about her obvious distaste for him.

"Oh, so you're an S&M kind of girl," he grinned. "That's fine with me, Geisha Girl."

"Geishas are Japanese, not Indian, if you're trying to cut on my name," India said icily. "And if you don't know what the hell you're talking about, then you should be silent. It would greatly improve your small, small chances of impressing me. And by the way, if you call me a prostitute again you will be horribly embarrassed."

KC blinked, taken aback and not recovering nearly as quickly as he would have liked. Alden and Dennis grinned, delighting in his momentary speechlessness.

"Oooh, burn," Dennis said. "Those Indian burns suck, huh, KC?"

He and Alden cracked up. KC and India both glowered, India quite pointedly turning to the front again, KC glaring at the back of her neck. It was okay if he wanted to make himself look stupid, or if he was trying to, but it was a different story when it was other people.

Now Kelly looked over at Dennis and Alden, finally realizing that neither were paying any attention to her or Tru. Annoyed and slightly resentful at the attention they were giving India and not caring that all of it was unwanted, she muttered loudly enough for all to hear, "Bitch- she thinks she's such a wiseass. She's just a tease-"

India whipped her head around so quickly to fixate on Kelly that KC heard something in her neck pop. Caleb stared now, not bothering to hide it, his stomach knotting in dread. Her eyes glinted dangerously.

"Care to repeat that?" she said tautly. All heads of the detention gatherers turned their way, even Avery's- all, that is, except Mr. Leighton's and Shade's. Mr. Leighton was gazing down on his desktop, eyes closed, not really seeing or appearing to hear or notice what was going on, and Shade continued to stare straight ahead, his only movement slow blinking.

At everyone's eyes on her, the most prominent pair's very unfriendly, Kelly hesitated, uncertain, a bit intimidated. But then she seemed to gain confidence from their attention- after all, it was an audience, and she loved an audience. Straightening, she tossed her head self-importantly, taking her time before facing India squarely once more. In a loud, arrogant voice, she said, "I said you're a bitch, India Riordan. You sit here in your weird clothes and your little smirking grin like you're better than all the rest of us. You think you're such a genius, that you're some rocket scientist or something-"

"Psychiatrist," India said, her words icy. "I will be a PSYCHIATRIST."

Kelly didn't' stop, but rather seemed to be put off more by India's correction. " Psychiatrist, right, talk about the blind leading the blind! You're so sick, India. You hate people, so you go off to your stupid books and moan about how much everyone sucks and you're so much better. I bet your parents hate you, you're such a freak-"

At that, India stood up abruptly, squaring her shoulders tightly as she stared at Kelly, eyes somehow hot and yet cold, very cold, at the same moment. She was slender, but tall, 5'10", much taller than Kelly. At her stare and a quick glance at her balled- up fists, Kelly went silent. The room was hushed, watching the two girls' every move. Tru was obviously cowed, shooting Kelly anxious glances that begged her to shut up. In his seat in the back, KC grinned- cat fight! And between two very attractive females…

As India stared at Kelly hostilely, issuing a nonverbal challenge for her to either shut up or continue and face up to her, Kelly slowly stood up as well, visibly gathering her nerves, her pride. She shot a quick look around the room, as if to see how many were on her side, to see that yes, all were still watching, except, apparently, Shade. Unfortunately for her, or perhaps it was fortunate, when her eyes skipped to the nearly slumbering Mr. Leighton's desk, his eyes opened wide, and he straightened, looking around the room in suspicion and confusion.

"What's going on here?" he asked, his voice loud and gruff. "What is this? Miss Riordan, Miss Clowett, sit down at once."

"I was just telling India," Kelly said in a loud hissing whisper, loud enough for all but the hard-of-hearing Mr. Leighton to hear, "that she is a bitch. But then, she works at it."

"We can't all have a natural talent, Kelly," India said loudly.

"Girls!" Mr. Leighton said, struggling to his feet now, myopic eyes blinking rapidly behind his glasses. "Sit down now! This is detention, not a-"

He stopped, apparently not knowing where he was going with that sentence. KC smirked, thinking to himself, cat fight! To his astonishment, no sooner had he thought the words then he heard Avery mutter from several desks behind him, "The word you're looking for is cat fight."

KC, Dennis, Alden, and Felicity all turned to look at her, surprised she was even listening. She looked back at them with eyes that issued a challenge nearly identical to India's. She had not removed the headphones playing beneath her hair.

Kelly and India were still standing, both reluctant to be the first to back down- Kelly for her pride and fear to lose any backup she possessed, India because she refused to let Kelly off the hook without making it clear she would take no shit off of her. Mr. Leighton, having completely missed the entire scene in his dozing, was completely perplexed and angry at their seeming refusal to obey.

"Miss Clowett! Miss Riordan! If you don't want to earn yourself detention next Saturday as well, sit down NOW!"

With Kelly glaring, face flushed from anger and the beginnings of embarrassment, she slid into her seat slowly, giving a toss of her head to let India know what she thought about all this. She ignored everyone's stares and leering smiles (KC and Alden) and even Tru's half-anxious, half-admiring eyes beside her. It was not Tru's style to be confrontational- the whole exchange had made her uncomfortable, Caleb saw. Nor was it usually Kelly's- but something about India, or maybe having to be in detention rather than shopping or sleeping in as she'd normally do, must have set her off.

Only a few minutes after he thought this, Kelly proved him correct. India had sat down a few seconds after Kelly, as if to make clear that she had won- she'd gotten in the last word, and she had been last to look away, last to sit down. Irritated with the stupidity of girls like Kelly Clowett (and the teenaged population as a whole), and pleased with how the scenario had played out, she had sat down with great deliberateness, looking at her paper with pretend thought.

She could feel the eyes of the room flickering between her and Kelly now, somewhat stunned and fascinated- KC in particular was seeming to get a kick out of it, she thought in disgust. The two girls who hated him facing off- he probably had some sick fantasy going, the pervert. Felicity Alton, the preppy blonde who was on the shit list of Kelly and Tru for some reason or another, seemed to be enjoying the scene too. Even that strange Avery girl in the back was looking at her, although India couldn't tell from her expression what she was thinking. Of course, that Shade guy wasn't- but then, India hadn't heard him move since he'd come in. Maybe they ought to check his pulse, she thought cynically.

Mr. Leighton was no longer eyeing the girls, but he was alert now- at least as alert as an old, nearly deaf and blind teacher could get. The social hour would have to stop until he went back into a daze again, India thought- that was fine with her.