Sinking In Quicksand © Midnight113

Synopsis: Todd had agreed to help his best friend, Elise, with her punishment of having to clean out the garage. The only problem is, he's acting strange around her and won't tell her why. Oneshot.

A warning to all potential thieves, this work is copyright 2011 Midnight113. Sinking In Quicksand is completely the work and property of Midnight113, to reproduce under any other name is theft!

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

Sinking In Quicksand

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

"Stupid Todd and his stupid moodiness." Elise spoke through clenched teeth while moving boxes in and out of the enclosed two car garage, currently home to all her family's junk. "Stupid pack rat parents that never throw anything away. They just let it accumulate in the garage so that they can have their only daughter clean it out for a tag sale when she gets grounded for staying out too late with said best friend." Elise continued ranting to herself and the squirrels currently residing on the second story of the garage. She picked up another box and proceeded carrying it outside to sort it later. On the way, she tripped and stumbled, almost falling face first on the pavement which resulted in a strand of cuss words to escape her mouth.

As she regained her balance, Elise sighed and simply dropped the box to the ground. Deciding to take a break, she plopped down next to it and crossed her legs, releasing a whoosh of air into the quiet night. It was slightly humid out so Elise didn't have to worry about zipping up her jacket to keep warm. She instead took the time to assess her surroundings. She was currently sitting at the end of her driveway, it was dark outside now and the only light illuminating her was coming from the inside of the garage that was attached to a two story colonial. She studied the blue siding and stared at the front porch light that had attracted several interesting looking moths and insects from the warm glow. Tilting her head, she looked out over the dead street. They lived on the very end of a cul-de-sac so there was never any traffic. Their yard was a huge field and the closest neighbor was far in the distance, hidden by lush trees and bushes; she could barely make out any lights. There was one streetlight on the road and all it did was flicker neon, so it did little to help Elise's vision.

She was bored, angry and confused. Today had been interesting to say the least. She leaned back on her hands and listened to the noisy crickets chirping, helping to relax her thoughts as a fresh breeze blew through her hair. The events of the day had surprised Elise and left her pissed off at her best friend, or she should say ex-best friend, Todd Jefferies.

Todd and Elise had know each other since she was eleven and he was twelve. The Jefferies family had just moved in down the street and Elise's parents felt it would be proper to introduce their family personally. So Elise and Todd found themselves in his backyard, putting up his new basketball hoop. This resulted in Todd trying to show Elise how to play the sport he loved so much. The game ended abruptly with both players laughing their heads off when Elise completely missed the hoop by four feet. Todd, being the teenage boy that he was, made fun of her and she just stuck her tongue out at him, using the fact that she was a girl as her defense.

Needless to say, they had been best friends ever since. As they got older, their bond only strengthened. Elise was now sixteen and since Todd was only a year older, they both attended the same school, North Hampton High. Todd would always pick her up and drive her to school, but today had been different. He had been different. They seldom ever fought so this was new territory for both of them. Elise was seething just remembering it.

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

"Gotta go, Todd's here."

"Alright sweetheart, have a good day at school!" Elise's mother, Elena Parkins, yelled from the kitchen as Elise skyrocketed out the door, barely replying in a quick monotone, 'I'll try'.

She raced down the sidewalk, towards the driveway where a beat up white truck was sitting idling. She could make out his appearance through the windshield and smiled at the baseball cap on his head, while his arm was in its usual spot hanging halfway out the window. Elise noticed he had a toothpick in his mouth and a contemplative look on his face. As she opened the door, she was greeted with the radio blasting and, of course, the stale smell of a locker room. Todd always kept his gym bag in the back seat equipped with deodorant, cologne and an extra set of workout clothes. She quickly settled in, throwing her school bag over her left shoulder and buckling up.

Once she was all set, she turned to her best friend with a bright smile and greeted him enthusiastically. "Hi Todd!"

Todd, on the other hand, did something she had never witnessed him do. He didn't look at her, simply nodded, and said very quietly, "Hey." Then, he reached forward to turn the dial to the radio, raising the volume higher, if that was even possible. Elise was shocked and just a little insulted. What kind of greeting was that? Did I do something to piss him off? She thought quietly to herself.

After a minute of just listening to the blaring music, Elise inhaled and flung her hand forward, successfully turning off the music. "HEY!" Todd yelled while moving to turn the dial back up. "Never touch a man's radio." Before his hand could reach the knob, she swatted it away.

After a few more attempts, he realized his actions were futile and finally focused on driving. They sat there in an awkward silence, ignoring the each other, until the silence became to much for Elise's nerves. They had never been this tense around each other before, so she decided to break it. "You okay?" "

Yup." Well that was helpful. Why are guys such pin heads sometimes? She wondered.

"What's up?"

"The sky." He continued in his monotone voice.

Elise scoffed at that, "Original Todd. Try again."

"Nothing, I'm fine," he replied in a dull tone. Elise shrugged it off, thinking he would tell her eventually, but she became curious despite herself when the ten minute ride became too uncomfortable for her.

"Todd what's wrong? You're never this quiet."

"I said it was nothing Elise, just drop it," came his stern voice as they pulled up to a traffic light. He never called her Elise. She couldn't count on one hand how many times he had. When they were younger he had complained about her name being too difficult to say, so he shortened it to Ellie, thus giving her a nickname she had grown very fond of. It was foreign for her to hear her name come from his lips instead of the one he had given her. She knew then that something major must have been bothering him.

"Todd, you know you can talk to me about whatever it is that's bothering you, right? I'm here to help. I'm your best friend, remember?" she gently reminded him.

"Yeah…" He got very quiet as he stepped on the gas pedal and barely whispered, "I remember." Elise was taken aback by his behavior and didn't try hiding the hurt that flashed across her face.

"Did I do something? Because I'm really confused right now, why are you acting like this, Ace?" She decided that maybe by using her nickname for him, he would respond to her properly without trying to avoid her.

Todd's hands visibly tightened on the steering wheel, the whiteness of his knuckles evident as he pulled into the school. He silently parked the car in the space closest to the door and inhaled a deep breath. Slowly, he exhaled and shook his head. "No," he began, "it's not you, Ellie. I'm sorry, I just had a bad weekend that's all."

Finally she was getting some answers. He was starting to act normal for once. "What happened, did you get into a fight with your dad again?"

"No, Brittany actually." He looked up out the window, still avoiding eye contact with her as he searched the crowd of kids running to make it into the building before the bell rang.

"That would have been my next guess." Elise smiled a little when she saw the corner of Todd's mouth lift up just a tad before it disappeared again. "So what was it about?" she started, trying to get a response out of him and hopefully an explanation for his weird behavior in the truck that morning.

"Nothing, it's no big deal, Ellie. I'll just talk to her later about it, no worries."

"Why won't you tell me what's wrong, maybe I can help?" She whispered the last part to him, pleading for him to confide in her like he always had. Why did it feel like their friendship had changed in the span of twelve hours?

"You can't. If I can't figure it out, you definitely can't. Just drop it, Ellie."

"But Todd, I've always helped you with your problems. If you would just tell me what was said, then we could go from there."

"This isn't something you can help me with, Elise, I have to figure this one out for my own. Just stop sticking your nose in other peoples' business, all right! Just drop it!" He slammed his fist against the dash board, breathing heavily as he cursed, having obviously hurt his hand from his actions. Elise was hurt, he had never yelled at her like that and he had used her full name twice in the span of five minutes. She felt small, weak and most of all, like she didn't know her best friend anymore.

Not being one to just sit and take cruel treatment, she opened the passenger door and reacted the only way she knew how when she was upset. By treating him just as badly. "Fine, jackass, be that way. I didn't want to help you and I hope you and Brittany never fix whatever the hell is going on between you. Just do me a favor and leave me the fuck alone, Todd Jefferies, for good." She slammed the door in his face once she had gathered up her belongings and didn't look back.

As she stomped across the parking lot, garnering the stares and whispers of her fellow classmates, she pretended to not hear the pained sound of her name that vibrated off of the stucco of the building. Opening the school door, she rushed inside. It wasn't until after the door slammed shut behind her, echoing throughout the crowded halls, that she felt the liquid in her eyes become more prominent, ultimately leaking slowly down her cheeks. Quickly, she turned and spotted a door to the ladies bathroom before disappearing from watchful eyes.

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

Feeling her break was over, Elise rose to her feet and turned back towards the garage. All the while dodging the pile of boxes and mix mash of items obstructing her path. She tried not to focus on her thoughts of Todd and his odd behavior earlier that day, but that wouldn't stop her from being pissed she was left to do all the work that he had promised to help with. After all, most of this junk didn't just belong to her family, but was in fact both Todd and Elise's.

While digging through a box on the floor, a object behind a container caught her eye. As she approached it, a smile tugged at her lips when she noticed what it was. A plastic sword. A memory was instantly triggered when she lifted the toy in her hand. Todd dressed as a pirate with an eye patch on his left eye and a musket in hand. Elise dressed in a similar costume purchased at a Halloween store as they battled each other to the death. She sighed at the memory of their innocent swashbuckling days and couldn't help the giggle that escaped her lips. She pondered whether or not to attempt to relive their childhood fantasy. What the heck. No harm to it, she thought. Lifting the plastic toy into the air, she swung it back and forth and then turned around to find a target. She set her eyes on an old bike and lunged forward at it. "Take that ye beastly varmint," she recited in perfect pirate tongue.

"Impressive sword skills you've got there, Ellie." Almost tripping on herself, Elise swirled on her feet to stare at the intruder who interrupted her fantasy. Her eyes widened at the sight before her. Todd Jefferies was leaning carelessly against the archway of the garage door with a smirk on his face. The little light provided from the garage accentuated his features perfectly.

Suddenly she felt like a fool, being caught red-handed acting like an idiot. She couldn't stop the tint of pink from rising to her cheeks and setting fire to her skin as the sword in her hand fell to her side. She watched warily as her best friend stepped forward into the garage and grabbed the other sword that was lying on the ground next to where Elise had found hers. He lifted it into the air and twirled it, almost making it look effortless. His cobalt blue eyes lifted to hers for the first time that day and she could see the sign of regret and sadness sitting deep beneath those pools of blue. She instantly felt a pang of guilt for what she had said to him earlier, but she wasn't going to let him off the hook so easily. "On guard," she shouted, immediately back into character.

He gave her an amused look and tilted his head to the side just barely as he lifted the sword, a bright smirk on his face. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into."

"Neither do you," Elise replied as she lunged and he parried.

"Don't you remember, I always won at this game." He smiled as they continued to dance around the confined space of the garage, being careful to avoid the boxes and loose junk scattered all around them.

"Well, now it's time for me to deflate your ego just a bit, wouldn't you say?" she countered.

"I like my ego right where it is, Ellie, but thanks for the offer." Their plastic swords clanked against each other as Todd miraculously pinned hers against a box, forcing her to drop it. Now she stood unarmed and literally out in the open. "Looks like it's over for you princess, there's no where to run. I win," he taunted in his sexy, husky voice as he took a step near her.

Never one for giving up so easily, Elise smiled at Todd and watched a confused look cross his face. She flung an old book past his head, causing a distraction as she sprinted behind a tower of boxes. It was dark and musty where she stood, a perfect hiding place. Peering between a crack to see where Todd had gone, she sighed in relief not noticing him anywhere. When she turned around, she let out a shriek as he cupped her mouth with his palm. He leaned forward and smiled at her as he spoke, "you cheated." Elise did the only thing she could do as his palm remained over her mouth, she stuck her tongue out and licked the surface, successfully getting him to remove it. "Aw, eww, foul!" Todd was caught off guard and wiped his hand on his low riding jeans while Elise made a run for it to the door of the garage. "Hey get back here." He ran around the box tower and scooped her up as she arrived at the door. Lifting her up in the air as she screamed and giggled, Todd softly planted her back on her feet and turned her around. "No licking," he scolded as he pointed in her face and wagged his finger.

"I had no choice, you cornered me. It was the only way to defend myself."

"Yeah well, now I have to punish you."

"Ooh, I'm so scared."

"Well you should be Prepare yourself, Princess Ellie." Todd stuck both his hands out slowly and then without giving her time to flee, grabbed her by the sides and tickled her. Elise shrieked in surprise, she hated being tickled. It was her one weakness that he had discovered when they were kids on the basketball court.

"Toodd! Stop…stop, you win!" She laughed harder as he persisted with the tickling and she grabbed his hands to stop him. "Enough, I'll do whatever you ask just please… you're killing me." Todd's hands immediately stopped their torment as he looked pensively at the ground.

"Anything?" he whispered as his eyes caught hers.

"Well, within reason, Ace."

"Will you forgive me?" he asked quietly, looking into her irises. Elise was silent for a moment, studying his face and realizing just how much he had changed over the years from the little, immature boy she once knew into this still immature young man.

She grinned at the thought of it and yet one thing had always remained constant, their friendship. "I'll think about it," she finally responded, "But only, if you tell me what happened between you and Brittany," she finished.

"You weren't going to make it easy were you?"

"Nope," she smiled and shook her head back and forth like a little kid. "I want my full fledged apology. Complete with sword fighting, garage cleaning, you pleading on your knees for forgiveness and an explanation for your actions.

Todd sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I never could say no to you."

"I was counting on that." She gave him a smirk and walked over to one of the boxes she had piled outside the garage. She began digging through it, pulling out little odds and ends. Different toys she use to play with and a pair of Hawaiian leis. "Ooh, pretty," she said while putting the colorful, plastic loop around her neck.

Finally she pulled out her princess hat, complete with streamers and a long, see-through veil. "Awesome, I've been looking everywhere for this." She laughed and placed it on her head, assuming the role of Princess Ellie. "And now, Sir Jefferies, bow before me and beg for your life."

"You're getting just a tad too into this, Ellie."

"I said bow!" she mockingly shouted for dramatic effect.

"Alright, alright yeesh." Todd bowed in front of her as gracefully as possible and then took up residency at her feet, kneeling. "This is the part where you say 'off with his head'," Todd spoke halfheartedly while rolling his eyes.

"Hush." Elise grabbed the fake shield in the box and handed it to her friend. "Here, hold this." Todd took the shield and raised and eyebrow at her. "What? It'll make it more believable for me," she explained while shrugging her shoulders and regained her composure. "Now, Sir Jefferies, explain yourself."

"Um… well you see this is what happened." Todd stopped himself and sighed again in defeat. "Okay so, I was over at Brittany's house last night and we were talking."

"Among other things I'm sure," Elise cut in with a hint of disgust coming from her voice.

"Do you want to hear this or not?" Todd looked up at her, his eyebrows furrowed.

"Sorry, continue." She waved her hand in the air like royalty and settled back on a pile of boxes as if they were her thrown.

"Okay so, we were talking and she asked me how my day was as usual. I told her about how you and I went to this awesome basketball game the other day, and I went on about how I wish she would do things like that with me. Instead of making me go with her to the mall so we can shop for clothes and I can watch her get a pedicure."

"That was a mistake, you shouldn't have said it like that, Todd," Elise chided.

"Yeah, well, I did... because it's true. What's wrong with her doing one thing for me when I go around and do all these things that she likes with her?"

"Go on…" Elise motioned with her hand again.

"So, I said, that I wished she was more like you."

"Oh, bad move," Elise playfully commented.

"Tell me about it, she went crazy after that. Brittany went into this big speech about me and you being best friends and how it's hard for her to compete with that and then she…" Todd stopped talking and stood up so he was now on his feet in front of his best friend.

"What? She what? Don't just leave me hanging like that, Jefferies, what did she say?" Elise demanded.

He sighed again and shifted on his feet. "She told me that if I was so in love with you, then I should be with you, not her," Todd finished quickly and kept his focus on his black vans. Elise was speechless. What the heck, in love with her? Why would Brittany believe that? She and Todd were only ever friends, nothing more.

Then, after a minute of silence between them, a snicker was heard. Todd looked up quickly at where the sound had emitted from. Elise was doing all she could to contain her laughter, but finally it had broken free. She gave out a hardy laugh and almost snorted, but the tears in her eyes from the pressure were clouding her vision. "That's the funniest thing I've ever heard!" she proclaimed loudly, "She thinks you love me? Wow, that's hilarious. I mean, I knew she had something wrong with her, come on no one wears that much white, but this really takes the cake." Todd was just silently staring at her the whole time she went through her laughing fit. "Come on Todd, why aren't you laughing about this?" As Elise began to calm down, she wiped a loose tear from her eye and smiled towards her friend.

"I, um, didn't think you'd find it so… amusing," Todd trailed off.

"Well what did you say to her, you told her we're just best friends, right?" Elise had stopped laughing now and was looking at Todd with a serious expression on her face. Why wasn't he laughing? "Todd?"

"Huh, oh yeah, yeah. I handled it. Don't worry about it." He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked out over the yard, ignoring Elise's presence once again, clearly deep in thought.

"Wait a minute here, Ace. I know you, there's something else bothering you. You're suppose to find this just as funny as I do and yet you're not laughing at all." Elise was piecing the puzzle together as quickly as she could. "So what's wrong, what's the real reason why you weren't talking to me today?" She waited patiently for him to respond, but he just continued to look past her shoulder, out at the street light that continued to ominously flicker in the night.

"Ellie, did you ever stop and consider that maybe she's right?" Elise's eyebrows shot up at his words. What was he talking about? Was Todd Jefferies admitting that what Brittany had said was true?

"What? Todd, what are you talking about? We're friends, best friends. It's always been that way, nothing's going to change."

"Did you ever think that maybe it could?" Todd's eyes shot to her chocolate ones, piercing with his gaze and searching for an answer to his question.

"I…" She was speechless. Sure she had a crush on the guy years ago, it was only natural to want something you can't have, but he would never look at her as a possible candidate for a girlfriend. He never had showed interest in her then, so what changed?

"Damn it, Elise, can't you just answer the question?"

"Todd, we're friends. You've never once-"

"I've always had a thing for you, whether or not you noticed it. You're my best friend Elise, no girl can come close to you." Todd was breathing heavily now and approaching her slowly. "That's why I broke up with Brittany this morning."

"You... what?" Elise stuttered. She was starting to feel the earthquake in her stomach, feelings she had once buried into the back of her mind and heart were opening up and resurfacing again. What was he doing to her? "Todd, you don't know what you're saying. You love Brittany, you guys are perfect for each other; you're the golden couple. Everyone loves you!" she exclaimed exasperated. Todd just chuckled at her."Todd I'm serious, what's gotten into you?" She backed up a little bit and hit the tower of boxes she had been leaning against.

Todd was directly in front of her, caging her in and smiling like a fool at her current predicament. "Looks like you're in a tight spot again, Ellie. What are you gonna do about it?" he mocked her as the shivers in her body intensified. He grabbed onto her wrists and pulled them over her head, his face moving closer to hers; his lips just inches from her own. "Trapped like a rat, I win… again." He smirked just as he dipped his head and nipped playfully at her neck, causing Elise to moan slightly by his actions. He looked up at her, the fringe from his hair falling into his eyes, but the smile was clearly visible on his face as he stared into her eyes.

"You are just full of yourself tonight aren't you, Ace?" Elise's pathetic attempt at a comeback fell short when Todd moved closer.

"Ugh, and you wonder why I can't continue to have platonic feelings for you," he whispered, leaning his head down to kiss her collar bone, trailing his lips along her searing skin.

"What, what did I say?" she barely got out as he pulled the edge of her blouse over and nipped her neck, then moving to press a gentle kiss to her shoulder blade.

"The things you do to me, Ellie," he trailed off, alternating between kissing her shoulder and sucking on her neck; happy that she hadn't pushed him away yet. "So are we friends again?" he asked her while continuing his ministrations.

"This looks like a lot more than friendship," she breathlessly joked. "Besides, I just said that to hurt you the same way you hurt me." She spoke with as much control as she could while getting the words past her lips.

"Hmm, it worked," he husked against her skin.

"Todd this is a bad idea…" she began as a moan slipped past her lips again when he hit a pleasurable spot on her neck.

"Humph, you're wrong, baby. Best idea I've had all day." Elise was momentarily shocked by his term of endearment. That was new, she thought, and then found herself admitting she liked hearing it.

"Todd, I'm serious. We're going to get in trouble."

"Live on the wild side for once, Ellie. I know you want to." He moved his head and wiggled his eyebrows twice to entice her.

"You're impossible, I can't believe we're doing this." She wrapped her arms around his neck and tangled her fingers through his rugged hair. She pushed against him a little to get his attention. When he detached his lips from her skin and looked down at her, he knew she was finally giving in.

"I can," he whispered, tilting his head closer and preparing to claim her lips once more.

"Well, well, well. What have we got here?" Todd and Elise suddenly sprang apart, the motion almost a complete blur. As they turned to look at the source of the voice, they blushed. Todd's best friend, Jim, was standing at the end of the driveway with his arms crossed over his chest, a wide smirk on his face. Elise's best friend, Miranda, was next to him laughing along with fellow friends, Rebecca, Martha, Hugh and Ken. "What did I tell you? I knew they liked each other as more than just friends. Hugh, you owe me twenty bucks man, pay up!" Jim shouted at his friend who begrudgingly handed over the cash.

"What are you talking about, we weren't doing anything. Just talking that's all." Elise was quick to deny it for hopes of saving any ounce of dignity she had left.

"Oh sure, Elise. Everyone talks with just their lips, but don't worry, we won't tell." Jim winked in her direction dramatically.

"What are you all doing here anyway?" Todd inquired with a raised eyebrow.

"What, El didn't tell you? I'm shocked, completely shocked and insulted- OW!"

"Shut up, Jim," Miranda scolded before smacking her friend in the gut and walking forward out of the group. "Elise called earlier saying you weren't talking to her and bailed on helping with garage detail. So we came to help," Miranda explained.

Todd looked over at Elise and she smiled brightly at the realization, "Oh yeah, I forgot. Sorry," she mumbled to Todd and then turned around, heading into the garage with the girls following her. "We've got to get the rest of this junk organized before eleven and it's already eight, guys."

"All right then, let's do this!" Jim pumped his fist in the air in hopes of getting everyone enthusiastic, but Ken and Hugh just snickered at him. Annoyed, Jim nudged them in the rib cage and scowled, "Hey shut up, I don't see you guys helping."

"Oh we'll help all right, when Miranda tells us what to do. Go ahead Miranda, you're the brains here." Ken threw in his two cents and ducked out of the way of Jim's hand that was about to collide with his stomach.

"Dude, chill out." Hugh laughed.

"Thank you Ken, the rest of you boys should learn from him." Miranda then began instructing each of the girls on what to do to make the cleaning process easier. She turned to the guys and got Hugh and Jim to begin moving and furniture in the garage out onto the driveway so they could get at the boxes in the back.

All the while Todd watched Elise, smiling and laughing with their friends, as she attempted to assist in moving the bookcase. "Hey Jefferies, stop making googly eyes at Parkins and get back to work." Todd scowled in the direction of his best friend, Jim, who fluttered his eyelashes for added effect.

"Piss off, man." Todd sent him one last glare as Jim gripped his chest in fake pain.

"Ouch, that burns right here, dude." Jim laughed and walked off to assist in moving another piece of furniture. Todd rolled his eyes and continued opening boxes and inspecting their contents.

When he got to the last box at the bottom, he was pleasantly surprised at what he found. Todd slowly looked up and found Elise sitting on a bike giving out orders playfully to Jim who continued to whine about what a pain in the ass she was being, making them move things back and forth. Todd couldn't contain his smirk as he looked back into the box.

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

"All right guys, a little to the left. No wait, stop. You're going to hit the boxes. Turn it more to the right. Yup, that's it." Elise made hand gestures as she tried to direct Jim and Hugh properly while they moved the bookcase past the boxes and out of the garage.

"Ellie, you're not helping," Jim barely grunted out, his tone clearly holding disdain.

"Silence Jim, never insult the princess," Elise mocked as Jim and Hugh barely tripped over another box that Miranda and Ken were in the process of going through. Jim grumbled something in reply, but was to quiet for Elise to hear. Hugh's teeth clenched as he regained his balance and hissed at the weight of the object in his hands. "What was that Jim?" Elise quirked an eyebrow and leaned forward so she could hear him better.

"I said, maybe the princess would like to do some of the work herself for once, instead of sitting around practicing her dictatorship skills."

"Oooh, big words Jim. I thought you slept during history?" Elise mocked her friend.

"You know what, I don't appreciate my intelligence being questioned. Just because I nod off sometimes doesn't mean I don't do the homework."

"Yeah right, you know you have Miranda help you with the homework, Jim." Elise laughed at the look on his face.

"All right, that's it." Jim carefully set his side of the bookcase down on the cement ground, leaving Hugh standing, still holding on to his side of the case.

"Uh oh." Elise's eyes popped out at Jim's approach. As quickly and gracefully as possible, Elise jumped off the bike she was sitting on and darted past Rebecca and Martha, hopping over the strew of old school work and books they had piled next to their box on the floor. Elise ran out of the garage in search of Todd who she had last seen out in the driveway looking through boxes. She stopped and looked around, but didn't see him anywhere. She gasped out loud as Jim's arms wrapped around her middle and lifted her into the air, causing her to lose her breath.

"Gotcha you little stinker, now apologize," Jim demanded.

"Never!" Elise squealed in protest. "I'm the princess, I don't have to do anything," she rationalized.

"Tell me I'm smart."

"You're not! You're a big dufus," Elise laughed.

"Oh, you are so dead." Jim placed her down and prepared to put her in a headlock so he could give her a noogie. But before he could execute the move, Todd jumped out of the bushes and pointed a laser gun at him.

"Unhand the princess you fowl demon!" Todd aimed his laser gun at Jim's chest and fired. The infrared beam produced a firing sound effect and did nothing else but glow in silence on Jim's black t-shirt. The three friends just stared and then burst out laughing.

"You idiot, it's not going to work unless I'm wearing one of the target straps," Jim pointed out as he unhanded Elise and moved forward. "Here, let me see." Jim grasped the laser gun and fired it at Todd's chest, successfully causing a loud beeping nose to emit from the little box Todd had strapped to his chest; signaling that the target had been hit.

Elise's face brightened when the device beeped and she jumped in the air clapping her hands together. "Ooh oh, I want to play laser tag! Pick me, pick me!" She waved her arm in the air like a child.

"Hold off, is there enough for three? Cause I want to play too. It's perfect out right now for this," Jim stated.

Todd walked over to the box he had found them in and pulled out three more guns and targeting straps. "Here, there's enough for four of us," he informed them while handing them each a gun and strap.

"Awesome, this is gonna be so cool." Elise didn't bother hiding her enthusiasm as she efficiently placed the targeting device around her waist and neck while adjusting and buckling it. "All right, I'm good." She looked up to see Jim having a little difficulty with adjusting his strap and she rolled her eyes while walking over to assist him. "Oh yeah, you're so smart," she commented playfully as he pouted.

"Hey now, it's not my fault these things were made for little waists like yours. Excuse me for being a growing boy." He pounded his chest proudly at that.

After Elise scoffed and fixed Jim's band, she looked over at Todd who now had a wide smile on his face. "Okay, we still have enough for one more player." At this statement, Hugh casually walked over to them from the garage, having watched the whole scene between Jim and Elise earlier after they abandoned him with the bookcase.

"You know, I should rat the three of you out for being out here playing games instead of working hard like the rest of us are doing. I bet Miranda wouldn't be too happy about that now would she?" Hugh commented playfully with a quirked eyebrow.

"Oh come on man, we didn't mean to leave everyone; it's just that we came out here and then Todd starting shooting at me and - OOF -" Jim was cut off by Elise's hand slapping him in the stomach. "What is it with you girls abusing me?" he whined.

Elise just rolled her eyes. "What Jim's trying to say is, Hugh would you like to play with us? We have a spare set." Elise didn't even have to finish her sentence as Hugh grabbed the gun and flung the strap over his head.

"Well, if you insist," he said nonchalantly while shrugging his shoulders.

"Okay," Todd was now in commander mode. "Listen up, these are the rules. Ellie, you and Jim are Team Losers. You're against Team Cool, that's us." Todd pointed at himself and Hugh for clarification purposes.

"Why can't we be Team Cool?" Elise questioned with anger as Jim folded his arms and nodded his head in affirmation.

"Because, you're already Team Loser." Todd explained his reasoning with a smirk and a grin.

"Humph. I'll let you get away with your insolence this time," she informed Todd.

"Of course you will Ellie. Now on the count of three, we split up into the yard and the person who's left standing at the end is the winning team. Got it?"

"Affirmative, sir." Jim saluted and the others nodded.

"All right, on the count of three. One… two… hey, wait!" Before he could finish, Jim and Elise bolted out of the driveway and through a bush, disappearing into the dark. "Cheaters!" Todd yelled after them as he faintly heard the reply of 'suck it' shouted back at him.

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

After about fifteen minutes of running around in the dark yard and shooting at each other, Elise now found herself crouched down behind the oak tree in her backyard. So far, there had been two casualties and one friendly fire which happened when Elise couldn't tell who she was shooting at and ended up giving away Jim's position near the mailbox. This resulted in Hugh shooting Jim out of the game and Elise shooting at Hugh. Now, it was just her and Todd left.

She was breathing heavily, constantly checking the dark yard for any movement. She heard rustling from behind and turned quickly, her gun at the ready. After a few seconds, she realized it was just the wind. Or a very large animal. She shivered slightly and peeked around the tree once more. She squinted her eyes trying to better improve her sight but it did nothing to help her.

A few minutes passed and Elise decided she had stayed in one spot too long. Taking one big breath, she stood from her crouched position and pushed off the tree, sprinting towards the side of the house. She moved swiftly and quietly, the only sound was her huffing for air. Then she caught sight of a red dot on the siding of the house in front of her. She had been spotted. She heard Todd fire the gun off but it had missed her as she went into commando mode and dived to the ground. She cursed that she was getting grass stains on her blouse, but this was more important that that. She had to beat him at his own game. So she crawled on her arms in route to the nearest bush as she continued to listen to him fire off the laser gun in her direction. "You'll never take me alive!" she yelled across the yard from her position on the ground.

"Way to be dramatic, Ellie!" Todd yelled back from somewhere behind her in the dark. She finally made her way to the bush and remained on her stomach while repositioning her gun so she could look for her target. Looking out over the yard, she waited for any sign of movement and then she saw it. A silhouette moving quickly against the side bushes. She took aim and steadied her gun, firing into the night. The infrared beam on her laser gun lit up Todd's chest as she fired and then a little smirk spread on her face as her beam hit it's intended target, lighting up Todd's chest in the dark and making an obnoxious sound.

"Boo-ya!" she shouted as she jumped up from the bushes and watched Todd's shoulders slump forward from his loss as he sauntered over to her. "I am awesome!"she informed him from the bushes as he stopped in front of her.

"Yeah, yeah. Lucky shot." He waved his hand around as they walked back to the driveway where they found Jim and Hugh sitting on a boxes looking worn out.

"So who won?" Jim asked as they approached. Elise's face beamed as she started doing a little dance in the middle of the driveway.

"I did," she proclaimed. "I smoked that bitch so bad cause I'm the princess and nobody beats me," she exclaimed happily.

"Yes, Team Losers won!" Jim yelled out and joined Elise in her little victory dance. "Uh huh, we did it, we did it!" He gave a high-five to his team mate and they both stuck their tongues out at Todd and Hugh, who were silently staring at them.

"So much for Team Cool. That's what you get for naming yourselves that." Elise mocked as she came over to stand in front of Todd with her hands on her hips.

"Oh please, the only reason you won was because of that weird stealthy commando crawl you were doing. Plus, I'm pretty sure I saw you do an army roll in the middle of the yard."

"Ha, what are you jealous?" Elise questioned him.

"Psh, no," Todd shook his head.

"I think you are, you hate losing don't you, Ace?" Todd remained silent and instead focused an intense stare on Elise.

"Hey, where have you guys all been?" Miranda asked as she walked out from the garage.

"Umm… well. You see-" Hugh started.

"We were just asking Elise here where she wanted the rest of the boxes." Jim smiled innocently as Hugh nodded in agreement.

"Oh, I bet you were." She approached Jim and grabbed him by the earlobe, causing him to howl in pain. "Now get your butts back in there and finish helping the rest of us." She shooed both boys into the garage while scolding them. "Honestly, you guys are worse than a bunch of three-year-olds." She shook her head disapprovingly while following them.

Todd and Elise stood alone in silence watching them disappear. "So… I guess we better finish up with the garage so your parents can have that tag sale, huh?" Todd casually stated while walking over to another box and lifting it.

"Yeah I guess," Elise replied quietly, deep in thought. "Hey Todd," she called out as he went to move into the garage.

"Yeah, Ellie." He looked back over his shoulder as she watched him from the end of the driveway.

"I want my prize," she told him while taking a step closer to his position.

What?" he asked with a curious expression.

"My prize for winning. Don't you remember? Whenever we played laser tag as kids, the winner always got a prize at the end," she reminded him while sauntering across the black asphalt in his direction.

"Uh, um, must have slipped my mind," he stuttered nervously while grinning.

"Sure it did, but since I won, I'm now going to claim said prize." Todd couldn't move, his feet were rooted to the ground as she stopped just short of him. Elise looked up into his eyes as she reached out to grab the box in his hands and gradually placed it on the ground.

Todd gulped as she moved closer to his face. "Well, what do you want?" His voice sounded weak and he cursed the affect she had on him.

"A kiss of course," she whispered. "I am a princess after all." She smiled as Todd's eyes bulged.

"Whatever you desire is yours, all you have to do is ask," he replied, playing along.

"Good, I was hoping you'd say that." She moved closer so that their noses brushed against each other. Todd began leaning down to kiss her cheek and was caught off guard as her lips brushed against the corner of his mouth, just missing his lips. "Thank you, Sir Jefferies, now get back to work. Those boxes won't organize themselves you know." She winked and walked off in the direction of the garage, swaying her hips just a little bit to entice him.

Todd just chuckled and ran after her. He nonchalantly cornered Elise behind some boxes and brushed his fingers across her face. "This isn't over yet, you know. We still have to talk about where things go from here," Todd whispered. Before she could reply, he had already stepped out of their corner and walked back over to the others. Every minute or two, Elise would notice Todd look over at her and every time he did, her heart would beat just a little faster. What did she get herself into?

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

It was almost midnight as Elise laid in bed, tired and worn out from the crazy day she had experienced. She had just changed into her comfortable pajamas which were made up of a flimsy tank top, since it was so hot in her bedroom, and a pair of black boy shorts. She was stretched out beneath her covers. The only light in the room was provided by the soft glow of moonlight coming in through her shades. The room was slightly humid, causing her sleep to be disturbed. So out of aggravation, she flung the covers off of her, nearly missing her sleeping puppy at the end of the bed. She walked to her balcony, unhinging the French doors and pushed them open as a gush of fresh air blew and tussled her hair.

Bandit, her six month old Basset Hound that was notorious for stealing her slippers, blinked up at the new change in the environment. "Sorry boy, I'm really hot and the breeze feels nice." She felt bad for waking the puppy but smiled as it blinked at her in a daze. Leaving the balcony doors open, she approached her bed again and scratched being the dog's long, silky ears. "I don't know what to do, Bandit, I'm so confused about everything that is Todd Jefferies." She sighed and leaned down to kiss the puppy's head and smiled as he attempted, in his tired state, to lick her face. "What do you think boy, you think he really is in love with me?" Bandit looked at her face as she tried to decipher his thoughts and feelings on the matter, but alas, he was only a dog. "I wish you could talk, then you could tell me what to do."

"You know, I could help." She jumped out of the bed and twirled around towards the voice, "I can talk too. Unlike that little guy over there that's only good for listening and giving wet, smelly kisses," Todd mocked as he climbed over the railing and onto the balcony.

"Todd what are you doing here, it's late. I thought you went home an hour ago."

"I did, but I came back. We need to talk, Elise. I can't just leave this alone, I need to know how you feel."

"Todd, can't this wait until tomorrow. I'm so tired and I'll have a clearer mind in the morning after I get some sleep."

"Nope." He stepped inside the room and walked over to her nightstand, switching on the purple lamp sitting there. "We're doing this right now," Todd stated determinedly as his eyes scanned her practically nude body and he smirked. "Nice pajamas."

"Ugh." Elise fell backwards onto her bed and covered her eyes with her arm, trying to block out the light. She felt the bed dip as Todd sat down next to her,

"Hey Bandit, how are ya pal?" Todd gave the puppy a pat on the head and a scratch behind one ear, which the pup gladly accepted. Bandit soon grew bored and began to crawl over the covers on the bed and then disappeared beneath them back to his slumber land. "Where you going buddy, come back here." Todd called out to the puppy as it burrowed underneath the covers.

"Bandit might be young, but he's smart enough to know that you're here keeping us awake. So it's only natural that he ignore you," Elise commented, now talking her arm away from her face to get a good look at her friend.

"I feel so used," Todd mocked as he looked over towards Elise. He then leaned back on his arms and studied the curves of her face, the glowing aura of her skin. He ran a finger up and down her bare arm as she sighed contently.

"Todd… you're confusing the hell out of me today."

"I thought I was pretty clear actually, I want you." He moved closer and leaned over her body, "I want you, and I want you to want me," he whispered huskily in her ear. Elise moaned again at the feelings that erupted inside of her, feelings he caused to bubble over inside her stomach and melt away at her heart. And the feeling only skyrocketed as his lips moved over her hot flesh, down the side of her neck to her shoulder and then back.

"I have a confession to make," Elise stuttered, as his lips slowly removed themselves from her body. "I had a crush on you for two years, but I never thought you felt differently towards me so I never did anything about it," she informed him with a small wince, afraid of how he would react now that he knew.

Todd frowned. "When was this?" he asked.

"When I was fourteen," she said quietly so that he would have to strain to hear her.

His eyes immediately widened. "Jeez Ellie, why didn't you say anything?"

"I told you, I didn't think you liked me like that so I didn't bother. I just flung my feelings aside and went on with life as your best friend." Todd raked a hand through his hair and stayed quiet, listening to her. "Then when Brittany latched onto you like a leech on an arm, I just figured-"

"You shouldn't have figured anything. You should have told me Elise. The only reason I dated her was so I wouldn't have to think about you."

"Oh that's nice, thanks for sharing," Elise replied sarcastically as she jumped off the bed and walked out onto the balcony. She leaned against the railing, her hands gripping the wood as she looked up at the night sky. She didn't even react when she felt a presence behind her.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her back into a chest. "You know what I mean," he whispered. "It was hard for me to be around you and not think of you differently, so I let Brittany take front and center, but she was always second. It wasn't fair to her or to you." He finished and kissed her shoulder tenderly. "Last night, when she made that comment about me loving you and that I should just be with you, I realized, she was absolutely right, even if she was just saying it to be dramatic." Elise listened intently, she leaned back more in his embrace and felt safe... happy. She smiled while he went on. "I know I've always loved you as my best friend, but I think, no I know, I love you even more than that, Ellie. I'm sorry I was such a jerk to you this morning. She just pissed me off so much because I had finally realized all the time I had wasted with her when I could have been with you."

Elise smiled at hearing his words and she tuned in his embrace and looked up into his eyes. "It's okay, Todd. Really." She caressed his cheek with her palm and smiled. "Just don't do it again. I don't like when we fight and I certainly don't like it when you don't tell me what's going on."

"I know, I promise to never intentionally ignore you again." He crossed his fingers together in front of her and gave a sheepish grin.

"You should get home, it's getting late," she said, pushing him away with a smile. "We've got school tomorrow and you have to pick me up." She turned to walk away and was pulled back by his arms circling around her waist. Catching her off guard, Todd smashed his lips against hers, inciting a groan from deep within to emanate from his throat. Elise, completely lost by the turn of events, wrapped her arms tightly around Todd's waist. His tongue pressed against hers, waiting for an invitation and when it came, he didn't hold back. They gripped each other in a passionate embrace, fighting for dominance until Todd finally won.

When they finally pulled back for breath, Todd nuzzled her nose and grinned."I've wanted to do that for a long time."

Elise's own grin appeared. "And was it as good as you imagined?" she asked.

"It was better, much better." He moved to kiss her lightly once more before letting her go. "Night Ellie, and tell Bandit I'm sorry for disturbing his sleep." Todd winked at her.

"Don't worry, I'll tell him it was worth it," she admitted.

"For you maybe, but for him, not so much."

Elise giggled and shoved Todd towards the railing, "Go on, get out of here."

"Yes, ma'am." Todd saluted her and turned to leave.

"Oh and Ace," Elise called after him.

Todd turned around a smiled at her, "Yeah."

"I always loved you too, even as more than a friend." Elise smiled when Todd just grinned at her words.

"I always hoped you did." He knew he sounded like a love-sick fool, but he couldn't help himself.

"You're crazy," she laughed.

"Only about you, Ellie." He grabbed a branch and hauled himself over the railing while blowing kisses in her direction.

"Goodnight Todd. I'll see you tomorrow." Elise shushed him as he belt out a love sonnet, listening to him while he tumbled down the tree. She watched him go and couldn't help the smile on her face at this new developing relationship between them. It was better than anything she could have imagined, and it was only the beginning.

"~*~"

"-"

'-'

A/N: This story was one of the first pieces I ever wrote for FF almost two years ago. It's also one of my favorites. I've decided to bring some of my original work over to this site in hopes of continuing to expand and improve as a writer. I've made some slight modifications and edits, but the story has remained mostly untouched. Please feel free to review and critique so that I can work on finding weak spots. My apologies for any errors, grammatical or otherwise.