James
by Maureen & Shadow Dragon

A/N: we cowrote this over AIM :)

Disclaimer: characters not ours, they belong to disney. this plot is ours. we aren't getting any money for this, we're in college, we have no money so don't sue. Song is James by Billy Joel and isn't ours either. And we don't have permission to use it, bwahahahah! Still no money being made though.

***

Futures we have never dreamed
- Spider Robinson

James...we were always friends,
From our childhood days
And we made our plans,
And we had to go our seperate ways.
I went on the road-
You pursued an education.

Isn't it funny how things work out? The rebel without a clue turned into a grad student who spends his evenings grading papers and watching the Simpsons. I don't think I will ever understand that. Then again, the older I've gotten the more I have begun to realize that there are a great many things I don't understand.

Life's like that, though, isn't it? The most popular girl in school, the one voted most likely to succeed the most in life, ends up as a lonely lowly corporate atache, trying to raise two kids via email and telephone. Yet, the kid at the back of the class starts his own business and soon becomes the leader in computer industry.

In our younger days, we have this preset notion that everything will not vary from the smooth, plastic phase it has fallen into. But things happen gradually or quickly, and alter views on the world. Each person has his or her own saga to tell from the conformist days of high school to the often depressing and disparaging peaks of adulthood, and each saga is filled with its own little quirks. It is not possible to look at the starting point of a person's life (i e: high school) and the ending point, and tell how they got there. Life throws each of us our own curveball, and the outcome depends on how we catch that curveball.

I admit, I didn't handle my curveballs as well as I probably could have, but then again, hindsight is always 20/20. My regrets are few and I think I've done okay.

James...do you like your life,
Can you find release,
And will you ever change-
Will you ever write your masterpiece.

It's still hard to imagine, Jamie Waite, EMT screw-up and slacker extraordinaire a university graduate and working on his doctorate. Have you decided on a thesis? I always pictured Catie writing a doctoral thesis on something or other. The next Upton Sinclair. And instead we have you.

I'm not complaining, don't misunderstand me. I just can't help but wonder why you are doing this. In the entire time I've known you, you have never been interested in academia. Throwing expired saline bags off buildings has always taken precedence. I know we have never been the closest friends, but you have to admit that 'why' is a valid question.

Does it shock you even now, Jamie? I'm sure you remember the pranks and the times spent at Kingsport as well as I do. You knew yourself better than I did; does this change shock you? Was it in you all along?

Are you still in school-
Living up to expectations...James
You were so relied upon, everybody knows how hard you tried-
Hey...just look at what a job you've done,
Carrying the weight of family pride.

Then again, maybe understanding why isn't so difficult after all. You have always lived in your brother's shadow, prefering to be seen as the slacker who never tries than to try and fail. Problem was, you succeeded as an EMT. And it was just a downward spiral from there. Perhaps the super squad rubbed off on you more than you would like to admit.

So what brought you out of the shadows and into the limelight? If I remember correctly you were begging everyone to save you from 'Attila the Tutor' back in high school. Brooke got you to know your history though. And you certainly applied physics well enough to Tyler's car. You passed French with flying colors and Catie almost always had you writing a protest letter against some cause or another.

You certainly never lacked potential.

James...you've been well behaved,
You've been working so hard
But will you always stay-
Someone else's dream of who you are.
Do what's good for you, or you're not good for anybody...James.

Does it shock you even now, Jamie? I'm sure you remember the pranks and the times spent in detention in Kingsport as well as I do. You knew yourself better than I did; does this change shock you? Was it in you all along?

We all drifted apart, the squad, Caitie, Brooke, you...me. And everybody changed in more ways than I could see with just my eyes. But I never saw you after we left. The timing was always off; we were too busy with catching our curveballs. I skipped town, but did you stay? You wanted freedom, I know, freedom from society and a small, backwater town in Virginia. We all did; I guess that's why I took this job as a personal assistant. Is that what your doctorate is, Jamie? Or is it something more, something deeper that I missed because I haven't seen you?

I went on the road-
You pursued an education...James
How you gonna know for sure-everything was so well organized.
Hey...now everything is so secure,
and everybody else is satisfied.

Of course, I could be missing the nose in front of my face. Catie never finished college, dropping out to get married. Are you doing this for her? To try to show that a so-called Bleacher Junkie can succeed? Catie was voted 'most likely to surprise everyone in 10 years' and I think she has. Everyone expected her to write the Great American Novel and she never finished college.

You weren't really expected to go to college in the first place. Which makes a masters even more impressive. You are the Bleacher Junkie to succeed. How does that feel?

James...do you like your life,
Can you find release
And will you ever change,
When will you write your masterpiece.
Do what's good for you, or you're not good for anybody...James

So now here I am, walking into the old gymnasium, my stomach full of butterflies. The DJ plays music that was popular when we were in school and the tables look nice with their glittering centerpieces. I find my nametag on the table that Melanie Chan is manning, talking animatedly on her cellphone. She looks important. Your nametag is missing.

I walk through the partition, wondering what will await me at this reunion.

Tyler couldn't make it, he's in Alaska working as an accountant for an oil company and Hank joined the Peace Corps and is somewhere in Africa. But where are you?

I skim the dimly lit room, trying to spot you. I see various cheerleaders, people I barely recognize now talking to each other, obviously tipsy. Many more people looking confused, as if they can't remember why they are here. But I can't see you.

I should have known. Once a Bleacher Junkie, always a Bleacher Junkie. With some trepidation, I head to the far back wall, where there are some chairs set up. You're sitting there with Catie.

She looks...tired. And old. It's hard to believe she's only 28 like us. Her dark hair is cut short in a style that would have been flattering on her had she not gained weight. Her clothes are plain and shapeless, simple black pants and a floral print shirt. She looks so different from ten years ago, I wouldn't have recognized her if it weren't for her eyes. Despite their saddness, I see the same inner strength she has always seemed to have.

"Val," she says softly, standing to give me a hug. "How are you?"

"Good," I tell her, sitting down with them. "Busy as always." Idle small talk as if we didn't know what to say to each other. No use in stating the obvious. We're lonely and miserable.

Jamie though, he looks good. He's still thin, but has filled out a bit more. His black hair is long now, in a pony tail and he has glasses. He looks good in his tailored black pants and red button-down shirt. I can see a metal chain stretching from his back pocket to his belt loop just like in high school.

"Jamie."

"Val," Jamie says quietly, before breaking into a huge grin. He hasn't aged a bit. "We're plotting Catie's escape. Want to join?"

He knew all about my unhappiness in everything. It makes sense he knew about Catie too. Email is a wonderful thing. I think I emailed him more than my own husband and children. They had never understood and he always had. Even in our worst fights in high school, he was the yin to my yang.

Shocking isn't it, how one event can suddenly turn your life upside down? And it usually even a shock at all.

***

Author's Note: more coming! next chapter (and hopefully final) Pina Colada!