Hello friends! This is a rewrite of an old story I've had on my hard drive for YEARS. It's always been my baby, and I've decided it needs an upgrade. A few things have been changed, for any of you who might remember reading the old one. A few names have been changed, and hopefully this will be a smoother, more mature read (it's probably been about ten years since I wrote the first draft of this, after all).
Schools are safe. Public places in general are safe. That's the only reason Gabriel Stone relaxes when he steps across the threshold into Hollow Rock High School. It's Day One of his junior year, and also Day One at his new school. Hollow Rock is a small town, far different than what he's used to. He wishes they could've stayed in Los Angeles. But then, he wishes for a lot of things.
The first bell hasn't rung yet, so everyone's standing in the hallways, talking amongst themselves and enjoying their last few moments of freedom. Gabriel finds himself the object of many stares and shifts uncomfortably, one hand reaching down to palm his messenger bag, reassuring himself that its contents are safely hidden within.
He squares his shoulders and approaches the first person he makes eye contact with, a tall, fit guy wearing a letterman's jacket. He's got straight blonde hair and blue eyes, and he smiles invitingly.
"Front office?" He asks.
"Yes, please," Gabriel says, pasting on a smile.
"I'll take you there, come on." They fall into step together. "I'm Daniel, by the way. My friends call me Danny."
"Gabriel. My friends call me Gabriel. Or they would, if I had any friends." He didn't exactly leave things pleasantly with his friends in L.A., but there's no point in explaining that to this guy.
Danny laughs good-naturedly. "Hey, you've got a friend," he says, gesturing to himself.
"Just like that?"
"Well, I should probably vet you first." Danny frowns, looking thoughtful. "Where are you from?"
"Ooh, city boy. What brings you here?"
Gabriel can't contain his wince. "Mom thought the quiet would do me some good."
Danny nods knowingly. "Mischievous city boy. Got it. Parents?"
"Just my mom. She's a nurse over at the hospital in Redwood."
"That's a good hospital. My dad's a radiologist there. How'd she decide on Hollow Rock?"
"No idea. Drew it out of a hat, maybe? Closed her eyes and pointed at a map?"
Danny laughs. "Well, either way, we're glad to have you. Oh, one more, and answer wisely: what's your favorite sport?"
Gabriel looks him up and down. He's tall—about two inches on Gabriel's own five foot ten—but also broad-shouldered. "Football?" Gabriel tries.
Danny nods. "Yeah, we'll get along fine."
"Nice," Gabriel says agreeably.
Truth is, he doesn't plan on making any close friends here. He can't be the Necromancer and have friends. He learned that in L.A. People just get hurt when they spend too much time around him. He attracts evil things, and Danny will be better off kept at arm's length. But it would be weird for him to actively push away the proffered friendship of a popular jock, so he'll be nice during the day and field any attempts to hang out in the evening, should Danny ask. And eventually, the extended offers to hang out outside of school will stop.
It's better than getting someone else hurt.
"Here's the front office," Danny says, gesturing to the door, beside a set of big windows that allow them to see inside. There are a few teachers milling around, but no other students. "Find me at lunch, yeah? I'll introduce you to my other friends."
"Ooh, I'm intrigued," Gabriel quips as he opens the door.
"You should be. We're all very interesting people."
"I'm sure," Gabriel says with a sarcastic head-tip. The door falls shut behind him before Danny can retort.
The girl behind the front desk is sipping a coffee and already looking bored. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, I need to get my schedule. I'm new."
"You don't say," the girl, probably a senior, drawls and points to a line of chairs against the wall under the windows. "Name?"
The girl nods like she's expecting that. But then again, how many new kids could they possibly have? "Have a seat, and the principal will be with you in a minute."
"I have to get my schedule from the principal?"
"No, the principal wants a word before you get your schedule."
Fantastic, Gabriel thinks as he flops down in one of the cracked leather chairs. The bell rings loudly overhead, and he sighs. He's going to be late for his first class. He watches the clock above the desk tick for five minutes, and then the tardy bell rings.
A voice sounds over the intercom. "Good morning and welcome back to Hollow Rock High School for a brand new school year."
Gabriel tunes out the drone of lunch schedule changes and sports and band practices, bouncing his knee up and down. He's about to ask the girl if he can get some of the coveted coffee behind the desk when he hears a hiss.
One hand plunges into his messenger bag as he throws himself out of the chair and faces the wall. He doesn't pull the dagger from his bag, but it's a near thing. Adrenaline pulses through his veins, pinpointing his focus to the spot on the window above the chair. There's nothing there. Nothing behind the chair or in the hallway beyond the glass. But he's been doing this for two years. He knows better than to question his instincts.
Maybe this particular public place isn't as safe as he thought it would be.
He turns around and blanches when he sees the desk girl watching him like she's just witnessed the best gossip of the month.
He clears his throat self-consciously. "S—spider," he says weakly.
She nods indulgently, and Gabriel wonders if she'd take a bribe for her silence.
Before he can make up his mind, the door to the left opens and a dark-skinned man with short, salt-and-pepper hair steps out.
"Mister Stone?" The man asks.
"Yes, hi, hello, that's me," Gabriel says, eager to escape the gaze of the desk girl. Demons and poltergeists? No problem. High school girls? He'll tap out in a heartbeat.
He follows the man into his office and sits down in front of the desk. On the front of the desk is a nameplate that says Don Holland. The principal sits down and opens a file on his desk, which Gabriel leans in to try and see.
"Gabriel Stone, seventeen years old, eleventh grade student with a GPA of 2.8." Principal Holland reads.
"You began to have behavioral problems at your last school at the beginning of tenth grade. Fighting, fighting, tardy, absent, destruction of school property, threatening another student with bodily harm, more absences, more fighting… You get the idea."
"Yes, sir," Gabriel mumbles.
"Is that what I'll be dealing with here?" Holland asks, folding his hands atop the file.
"No, sir. Not at all. I promised my mom I'd do better. I got...mixed up with the wrong people." People being a rather subjective word there. "I won't cause any problems here. I just want to graduate, and—try to get my GPA up some."
Holland sighs, closing the file and lacing his fingers atop it. "Look, Gabriel, you seem like a bright kid. Your grades were solid As until your sophomore year. I believe you when you say something changed your sophomore year. Maybe it was the crowd you fell in with, maybe it was something else. Either way, I'm willing to give you a shot here. No cautionary treatment, no restrictions. You'll be just another student—unless you start causing trouble."
"There's a no tolerance fighting policy here. You fight, you're suspended three days minimum, no matter the circumstances. You start being late or absent from class, we'll have a meeting with your mother to determine your punishment."
Gabriel gulps. The less his mother knows about what he does when she's not around, the better, so this is probably the most effective threat Holland can make.
The principal's face softens, and he says, "But as long as you're willing to keep your nose clean and put in the work, I think you'll do just fine here."
Gabriel nods. "That's the plan, sir. I don't want to let my mom down again." Which is true, but also, Gabriel thinks, inevitable. It's not like he can just give up being the Necromancer. Not as long as he's alive, anyway.
"Good. Then I'll send you to our guidance counselor now, and she'll help you get your schedule set up. You'll be a little late to your first class, but that's okay today."
It's not difficult to get his schedule. He takes all the generic classes: English, History, Spanish, Biology. Lunch somewhere in the middle. It's fewer classes than he was used to, and each class would be about an hour and a half. It's different, but maybe he can learn to like it.
He stops by his assigned locker to stuff his jacket inside, and sighs. He misses L.A. He misses his old locker. His old school. His old friends, even if they want nothing to do with him now.
A locker behind him squeaks open, and Gabriel turns in confusion, because his senses are sharper than most and he didn't hear anyone approach.
The hallway's devoid of anyone else. Gabriel peers at the open locker across the hall, tongue pressing against his top teeth.
"If you're trying to scare me," he tells the air, "it's not going to work."
The rest of the lockers open slowly, each one creaking open all the way down the hall. He steps out into the middle of the hallway, spinning a slow circle to see them all.
They slam shut all at once, deafening in the silence. He's sure someone will have heard it, so he shakes his head and walks away. He'll deal with it later.
When he gets to English, he slinks in without the teacher forcing him to introduce himself, finds a seat in the back, and tries to make himself invisible. What's going on here, he wonders. The hissing in the office and the lockers opening and closing in the hallway suggests spiritual activity. Surely a place as populated as a high school wouldn't be haunted by a poltergeist?
Nothing else happens until lunch, which he's already dreading because of the impending human interaction.
Danny waves him over to a crowded table, and Gabriel trudges over reluctantly. Danny pulls his backpack out of the empty chair beside him, and Gabriel spares a moment to feel grateful for the boy thinking to save him a seat.
"Thanks," Gabriel says, sitting down and glancing around at the others.
There are two girls sitting across from him, one with a chin-length blonde bob and hazel eyes. Beside her, and directly across from Gabriel, sits a girl with long, wavy dark hair who watches Gabriel with bright blue eyes. On Gabriel's left, a Korean boy in a Misfits shirt smiles disarmingly.
"These are my friends," Danny says. He points at them in turn. "This is Jacob, Abby, and Camilla."
The blonde girl, Abby, waves, and Camilla smiles.
"Guys, this is the new guy I was telling you about, Gabriel."
"Nice to meet you," Abby says. "Have you gotten your class schedule?"
"Yeah, it's all right. I've got Spanish next."
"Hey, me too," she says. "Can I see your schedule?"
"Sure." He hands it over.
"You've got Chemistry with Cami," she says, patting the other girl on the shoulder.
"Oh, good," Camilla says, "they always like to do partnered assignments in Chemistry. It'll be nice to have a familiar face."
"So, tell us about yourself," Jacob says. "And don't tell us you like football, we know you lied about that this morning."
Gabriel opens his mouth indignantly, but Danny's offended gasp beats him to it.
"We bonded this morning, how dare you!" Danny jokes, throwing a half-eaten roll at Jacob. Gabriel just leans back to get out of the way.
"He was just saying that to get on your good side," Jacob insists.
"I refuse to believe that," Danny says. "Gabriel, you wouldn't do such a thing, would you?"
"No, of course not," Gabriel says seriously. "Quick question, though: is football the one with the innings?"
Danny shrieks, reaching up to clutch his chest. "That hurts, dude! How could you?"
"I'm kidding," Gabriel says. "Obviously, I know football has two or three sets per game—."
"That's tennis!" Danny interjects.
"And everybody wears a thing around their waist, and if you get the person's flag they're out—."
"That's flag football."
"And you have to kick it into the goal to score a point."
The others all laugh, and Danny rolls his eyes good-naturedly.
"Yeah," Jacob says, "you're going to fit right in."
"Why'd you move here, if you don't mind me asking?" Camilla asks.
"Eh, my mom thought the quiet town would suit us better," Gabriel says vaguely.
"Danny said you're from Los Angeles," Abby says. "That's a pretty big change. How's the small town life treating you so far?"
Gabriel thinks about lockers opening and closing on their own. "I think it's going to be more exciting than I originally thought."
"Did you ever meet a celebrity?" Jacob asks.
"I've seen a few. We try not to make it a big deal, since they live there."
"What's the shopping like?" Abby asks, looking dreamy-eyed.
"I wouldn't know," Gabriel says. "Not a big shopper."
"Tragic," Abby laments.
Gabriel shrugs helplessly.
"Well, what do you like to do in your free time?" Camilla asks.
Hunt demons, exorcise poltergeists, you know, regular extracurricular activities, Gabriel thinks. "I'm not a very complicated person," Gabriel says. "I like movies, sports, video games, food."
"Speaking of food," Danny says, "We should go to Elsie's after school."
Camilla shakes her head. "I've got martial arts after school."
"After that, then," Danny amends, and she nods.
"What's Elsie's?" Gabriel asks before he can stop himself. Damn it, he doesn't want to show interest, because he doesn't want to be invited.
"It's the local diner. Elsie makes a mean burger. We should all go; I can show you how to get there after school."
"Thanks, but I—I can't. Mom wants me home tonight. We still have a lot of unpacking to do." It's a bold-faced lie—they unpacked the last box two weeks ago—but they don't have to know that.
"Oh, okay. Maybe next time," Danny cedes easily.
Gabriel nods, glancing away. His eyes find Camilla, who's watching him with a slight frown. He unscrews the top on his water to give his hands something to do. Part of him wonders if she was able to pick up on his lie. The rest of him knows it doesn't matter. He's not planning to become close friends with these people. Who cares if one of them knows he's lying?
AN: All right, let me know what you thought? I have quite a bit of this written already, so updates should be FAIRLY regular, since all I have to do is revise the chapter before I put it up.