show: Young and the Restless
central characters: Reed Hellstrom, Mathilda Ashby
summary: Guys and girls can be friends, right? / Or, in which Reed Hellstrom and Mathilda try to figure that out. Sort of. Slight romantic ReedMattie
notes: OMG. I am shocked at how much I loved their first scenes. They are surprisingly cute. And their parents all work together at Brash & Sassy, so that's another fun layer. I really do hope this teen romance stays. These characters are the offspring of legacy characters. So, they have that working for them. I had fun with it.
disclaimer: I own nothing except the plot. Reed Hellstrom and Mattie Ashby are not my characters. Basically, anything recognizable is mine. It is all property of Sony & CBS. There's no coins expected so hold the subpoena. I'm broke anyway. [shrugs] I don't own "Humble"

Mathilda Ashby is used to the storm of getting ready in the morning.

Her parents and her brother all run around the house in different sized, different speeding blurs. Her father yanks on his suit jacket, taking quick gulps of his coffee while looking for some folder. It apparently has some work reports in it and it's super important. Her mother fixes his tie and then the sound of her heels quicken as she looks for her tablet, hand deep in her tote bag and frantically moving things around. She says swears she puts it in there last night. It has her shooting schedule. Charlie runs around asking for his lacrosse stick. It's not in the closet.

She's the only one moving systematically and slowly. Mattie answers when spoken to, and doesn't know whether to roll her eyes or laugh at her family. Her glasses are on her face, curly hair braided in a side braid today, the clothes she wears clean and ironed and her book bag packed. Her calculus test is today at 9am. Mattie knows she's got it but can't help but turn the material over in her mind again and again to make it stick.

Mattie watches her family runs around with mild interest and the tiniest annoyance. This house would fall apart with her. She sets her book bag on the floor behind the couch and runs upstairs. Mattie wades through the dumpster that is Charlie's room, to find his lacrosse stick under his bed. She lets in lean against the hallway wall and walks to her parents' master bedroom. It's decorated in colours of beige, white with undertones of browns and oranges. It always reminds her of the fall season.

She walks right to the night table closest to the window. Mattie opens one drawer after the other. No tablet or important work folder. She goes to the night table closest to the door doing the action. Ah, she thinks, opening the middle drawer. Her mother's tablet in its dark purple case. Check. Mattie holds it and focuses on the open closet. She stands on her tip toes and lightly pats her hand along the length of the top shelf until she feels a flat surface. She furrows a brow in concentration, pulling the folder down. It's a white with Brash and Sassy emblazed in black, a woman's lip print in bright red.

"Thank you, Mattie," she mutters to herself for her family and puts that too in her arms, on top of her mother's tablet. Padding toward the carpeted staircase, Mattie grabs Charlie's lacrosse stick from its leaning position and goes quickly down the stairs. Charlie, Mom and Dad's voices still blend together until she yells, "Family! Stop!"

They all stare at her, blinking until they realize she's bearing the objects of their individual turned collective household searches. Mattie walks over to her brother, brandishing his lacrosse stick. She hands it over to him. She then hands her mom her tablet and her dad, his work folder.

Mom sighs in relief and hugs her. "Thank you, honey."

Dad kisses her head, "Ah, sweetheart – what would we do without you?"

"Can we test that out?" Charlie interjects, inspecting his lacrosse stick and makes the net is strong enough or whatever. It's a net with the sole purpose of holding a small ball. It's not complex.

However, this calculus test staring in the face won't write itself. After that, there's that student council meeting as Walnut Grove's Student Body President. Right after, Mattie has an appointment with Ms. Neilson to discuss prospective colleges. It's always good to explore some options early. After school, Mattie has to head over to work at Uncle Devon and Grandpa's new company, Hamilton-Winters. She's in the finance department. It's not that serious of a position but she likes being paid to crunch numbers and compiling data.

Mattie looks at her brother with a raised brow, "You really want to talk about tests?"

"You guys…" Mom starts to warn.

Mattie rolls her eyes. She doesn't have time for this. She glances out the window, the sky an ash gray, the sun barely visible behind the clouds. Pulling on her light purple spring jacket, she goes to grab her book bag and pulls it onto her shoulder. She walks over the door, placing her hand on the door knob to go.

"I have a test this morning and a whole bunch of meetings. I'm going to get to school early."

Mom beams. "Okay," she hugs her again. "Have a good day, Mattie."

"Thanks," Mattie replies, returning the hug. She looks over to see her dad. "I hope your work project comes out as a success, Dad."

He smiles and kisses her head. "Thank you. Have a nice day, baby."

Mattie glances at her brother. "I will unfortunately see you at school."

"I don't know you there, sis," Charlie says, with a shrug.

She shrugs back with the cool normal tone. "That's okay, bro. I can pretend not to know you either, especially considering you're failing American History with great big D+. I believe they call that…" she continues, in mock thought before grinning as Mom and Dad's reactions and snaps her fingers in false mocking recognition, "holding an L. Charlie Ashby who, right?"

"You're a lame snitch!"

"And you're functionally illiterate. If you used the time you use for chasing one girl after the next and being a general antagonizing idiot for studying, you wouldn't have that C- GPA hanging over you," Mattie answers, with a smirk. "Anyway, I'm leaving, Gotta run for my test and meetings."

Mattie turns the door to go, tossing another goodbye over her shoulder but discreetly pauses. Just for her own early morning amusement, she stands at the cracked door to hear Charlie rightfully get in trouble. Not her fault he's allergic to books and can't open one.

"Are you kidding me?"

Dad adds after Mom. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear what your GPA was, because I know you're not at a C-, Charlie…"

Mattie decides that she's reached her petty quotient for the day. She quietly closes the door, and walks away smiling while the first song from ANTI plays in her earbuds. Mattie glances up at the sky, adjusts her black glasses and absentmindedly sings Consideration during her walk to Crimson Lights to grab a muffin.

Reed Hellstrom is not used to waking up in the morning.

He's not a morning person. Never has been. That could be why Reed's quietly cursing to himself over and over because he oversleeps. This English essay on The Great Gatsby just about kills him—never mind the fact that he stays up all night editing it after Mom has torn it apart and edited it herself. You make a good argument here, but you have to sell it to the reader. It's like a business pitch, honey. If I don't buy your argument, no one else will. Find a little bit more supporting evidence, switch these two paragraphs so it flows smoother. It doesn't need much else. You could have an A+ paper on your hands here, she says with a yawn. Reed usually hates that Mom is so hard on him, but here, he thinks it's awesome of her to do this. It really helps, especially she reads the book lots of times and she reads the assignment requirements.

The fact that he has the whole paper with a disappearing bibliography frustrates him to the point to where he curses loud enough to make himself feel better but quiet enough because Johnny and Katie are little kids. Mom will rip his head off for that. He stays up all night into the early hours of this morning painfully putting together the last draft of this essay and re-doing the whole damn two page and a half long bibliography.

He grabs his English binder, math textbook, history binder and his leather covered music songwriting journal Grandma gets him for his birthday. Reed exhales, grabbing his mop of hair while scanning for his notes for his cover presentation notes for Ms. Murrillo's music class. Every though everyone calls her Annie and she's got really cool tattoos and a nose ring. She wears graphic tees and ripped jeans and has brown hair with black streaks in it. Where the hell are they?

"Shit…" Reed curses again, frustrated. "Shit. I'm so fucked."

Mom yells at him from downstairs, "Reed! Little ears are still in the house!"

How the hell does she –

"How did you even hear that?"

"Witch magic, Reed! And because I'm your mother!" Mom yells back, although he hears that she's sort of joking. In the back of his mind, Reed can't help but wonder if there is truly a flying broom and cauldron downstairs. Does Mom have magic though? He'll probably always wonder because Mom is weird that way.

It's his favourite and first one – thank God. It's not that he's not going to read these notes, but it's an assignment where Annie gives this really fun assignment performing a song not his musical type of song. So, that means, Reed, no Doors, no Metallica, no George Michael, Guns N' Roses, she says with a knowing glance and smile directed at him as he sits in the second row.

No Johnny Cash either? Reed questions, with a grin and laugh.

Especially no Cash, she smiles at him and winks.

He gets Rihanna's Higher. Reed wants to do an acoustic version of it. He's been listening to it just so he knows how to change it around and break it up, and it's not bad. It's a little short, though, so he may add another verse of his own to expand it a bit. That's why he needs those notes. Reed flips through papers so fast he's sure to get a papercut. A flash of red and black ink flash and he remembers. He does the notes in black pen and puts the red in the margins. Must have been put here underneath his previous essay drafts. He sighs in relief, walks around a sock, a black Ramones shirt and jeans he'll put in the hamper later to grab his phone and car keys. Grabbing his backpack by the door, he walks through it and slams it shut. Reed doesn't do it on purpose but hey, shit happens.

He goes down the stairs as fast as he can. When he gets there, Mom is running around in between yelling at Johnny and Katie to get ready and grab their things. While her head is down and putting a folder of Brash and Sassy stuff in her bag, she tells him to stop.

"First off, I'm late," Reed says, in a hurry. "Second of all, stop that. You're freaking me out, witch or no. What's up? I have to head early to Annie's a little early to do some late-minute stuff for my presentation. Traffic is about to be sh—"

Maybe she isn't kidding about having a sixth sense.

Mom glares at him in warning. Even with black frames, Reed can see her Ice Queen eyes.

"Sorry," he apologizes and then corrects, sighing. "Traffic is about to be really bad."

"Thank you. Better."

Mom is about to say something to him but turns to deal with Katie. She's asking for Cinnamon. Mom looks around and pulls the unicorn from the couch. She hands the stuffed unicorn to Katie. He rolls his eyes, not because he's annoyed – well, he is but that's not only feeling going through. He's sleep deprived, wondering if he even puts his essay in his binder but remembers that, yeah, it's in there. He needs coffee. Like, right now.

She looks up at him, as Johnny and Katie come running through the living room. Mom seems to be all in black today and looks nice. Especially with the glasses on her face. Looks different and all. Reed learns how to tell how her day at Brash and Sassy is going to go. If she's in light, sort of warm colours, it'll be a chill day – well, the Victoria Newman definition of it. All black means Mom is going to war. Most likely against Jabot.

"Okay. Here's Cinnamon. Go find your brother," Mom says, kissing her hair and she runs off. There's a crash of pots and pans dragging on the kitchen. She shouts, "Johnny Abbott, you better not be banging on those! We don't have time right now!"

She turns to him finally. Reed rubs his head, knowing he's about to get a new headache.

"Okay, yeah…what was I going to tell you?" Mom pauses, remembering and then she does. "I'm going to be at work a little later than usual. Brash and Sassy is a bit of a madhouse right now. I need you to run to the grocery store and grab some egg and milk on your way home."

"Fine," Reed replies. Eggs. Milk. Got it. "Can I leave now?"

"Yes," she sighs and breaks out into a smile, hugging him. "Have a good day at school, sweetheart."

Reed smiles back. "Thanks. The glasses look good on you," he adds, with a smirk and nudges her. "Make Jabot pay, General Newman."

"I intend to be merciless," she answers, with a playful salute and then touches his face. "I know you're tired. I'm really happy you're working so hard and we're in a good place. Come home from the store and take a nap immediately. Hannah will be with the kids when you get here. I'll leave money so you can order in for dinner."

"Okay," Reed says, and just because, give her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Gotta go."

"Alright," Mom nods, and he walks to the door. She shouts in the direction of the kitchen where there are sounds of pots and pans being banged around. That's partly his fault. Johnny and Katie see him play the drums at the GC High Art Showcase. Johnny wants to be a drummer like him and likes to think the pots and pans are his drum set. "Johnny, Katherine! Reed's leaving!"

The banging stops and Johnny and Katie instantly run to him. Honestly, Reed feels like total crap and like he's toured every city in the world, twice over. Johnny and Katie in the morning make it a little better. Seeing them anytime makes him better, honestly. He kneels to their level. Johnny bumps his fist like they do every morning before leaving the house. It's their bro thing.

"Dude. Clara G. still your girl?"

Mom crosses her arms, trying to hide her smile. "It's Clara D. now."

Clara G. is the little brunette girl. Clara D. is the little redhead with the freckles. He only knows because Reed picks him at school one time. Johnny holds hands with the brunette one, and draws a picture for the redheaded one and gets kissed by her, too. Five years old and his little brother is playing the playground field. Damn. He doesn't know whether to be amused that a little kid has girls all over him, or he should question what he's doing wrong at sixteen.

"Nice," Reed compliments, with another smile and another fist bump. "Crush it learning those rainbow colours. Sing the Rainbow Song if you get stuck, alright?"

Reed is learning that little kids will learn anything if they can sing it. It's liberating to sing anything period. Playing guitar and throwing chords around is like breathing to him. Writing songs and sometimes, poetry is the easy part. He writes some of the Rainbow Song at school when Mr. Sanchez continues to teach geography in the most boring way possible. Geography is about learning about different places. How can anyone make a concept like that so painful and coma-inducing? He might as well follow a damn tour schedule then.

Reed hears Lou curse and sigh. Bro, remember when I said I was going to risk it all to a build a treehouse and I fucked up my arm? How can Reed forget that? He's right there on that sunny day in third grade when he falls out of the tree. It's one of those times – YO! Sanchez! Hold up, I'mma let you finish boring us about them economical, carbon dioxide footsteps.

Reed remembers telling him. Lou, Lou shut the hell up—

Lou looks at him and smiles. When he smiles like that, he's about to do some stupid shit right now. Reed remembers that same smile before Lou climbs the tree. Reed, Reed, I got this. I'm about to save all of us from torture out here. Ayo, Sanchez. Take this in a minute. Feel me? I'mma just say it: we all low-key wildin' because your class is as dry as Tammy Carr's lips.

Tammy, a short blonde with a lisp turns around sharply, Shut up, Lou!

Girl, bye! My mama didn't raise me to lie! Invest in some Chapstick! Fix your lip and your lisp will follow. Your walls probably dusty too. Out here sounding like a busted motor engine. Thank me for telling you, Tammy Von CrackedMouth. You know what? Just get some lotion altogether. You look ashy.

Reed nearly spits out his coffee and slightly chokes on it. Not he's wrong or anything, but jeez. He doesn't know Lou Humphries. Never met him. Never heard of him. What is a Lou? He doesn't know.

Anyway, Lou continues and clears his throat. Move or this tea will bump your laps. We all tired out here, man. Davies over here reading the porn I slid him because I'm a charitable person and we can all appreciate the pussy. By the way, slide that shit back. Love yourself and get some ProActive, my dude.

Davies is a skinny kid with zits who glances at Lou and turns away.

Kendall over there taking pictures of those blessed breasts she won't let me touch because she plays too much. My boy, Reed here is writing shit for his baby bro because he cares about little man's education. Side note, my boy got blessed with a fine ass mama on some sexy librarian shit—

I will legit kill you if you talk about my mom like that again, dude. Like ever, Reed threatens with a glare. Seriously. Maybe if he glares hard enough, Lou will burst into flames or melt. He doesn't care. But he doesn't want to hear about his mom being a MILF. Yeah, Mom's beautiful in that Ice Queen, neurotic kind of way but it's creepy as hell hearing it from anyone else. Even his best friend since forever.

and frankly, I want you to beat my meat in front of you because I can't get head and be here at the same time. Gotta improvise and shit. So, that's it. Continue, Sanchez. But I'd rather you stop.

That results in detention for everyone. Lou gets suspended for three days but he says it's worth it. It sucks and he makes Lou walk home. Lou is never allowed to touch him with that hand or any hand, ever. On the upside, he gets to finish most of the Rainbow Song. Johnny helps him finish the rest at home and picks the words for each colour. Johnny even throws in a line about the sky and Mommy's eyes when they get to the colour blue.

Johnny nods, "Okay, Reed."

Although Johnny can't quite get the R sounds down yet so while he understands his little brother, his name comes out sounding like Weed.

Katie slaps his palm before they lock pinkies and kiss it. He has a secret handshake with her, too. It's kind of amazing how quickly she knows him and how quickly he loves her. He's mad protective of her and finds himself really watching those little two-year-old boys coming to play with her. It's stupid because they're just two-year-old little kids. Must the protective big brother instinct, as Mom calls it. Doesn't that little Toby kid with the overalls doesn't look suspect to him. Sometimes, Katie falls asleep in his bed before he does and lets her stay there or on Saturdays when Katie's foot is on his stomach or something when they sleep. Sometimes, Johnny hops in there too.

In the morning, Katie is the one to run into his room and jump on his back to wake him up with her weight and one of her sunshine smiles. Only she doesn't do it today. She's the one more into his music. Katie loves all music but she's obsessed with Billy Joel right now. She can sing Uptown Girl really well for a two-year-old. Well, at least, the chorus parts. That's when she dances around the most. Reed finds that she loves the Beatles and sits next to him quietly watching his hands as he plays a slower version of I Want to Hold Your Hand.

"You still my Uptown Girl, Katie?"

"Yes!" Katie says, as she always does and she throws her arms around him. He hugs her with a promise that they'll sing Uptown Girl together before bed. It would be cool to do it with her at Open Mic Night. That is if Mom is cool having a kid on a stage. At a bar. Where people drink. Uncle Nick probably has juice and graham crackers or something. If Grandma can surprise everyone with her piano skills, Katie singing her little kid version of Uptown Girl would be cool, right? Well, maybe at the next family dinner with Grandma on piano. Should be fun.

"Later, Uptown Girl," Reed says and his little sister beams. She reminds him of sunshine. He finishes writing a song about her for later Open Mic Night. Reed may perform it on another Open Mic Night. He isn't sure yet. Now, he really has to go.

Reed stands, grabs his backpack and glances up at that sky. Great. He's about to drive decaffeinated, in bad traffic and with incoming rain. Just fucking great.

Mattie almost runs into Crimson Lights as the rain comes at a drizzle. She enters the coffeehouse through the back patio and sets her book bag on a nearby chair. She takes off her glasses because she doesn't want to feel as though she needs portable window wipers attached to them. She takes off her glasses, everything with distance becomes blurry and blended together. Mattie hates her nearsighted but she hates having to wear her contact lenses. Or, any contact lenses. Mattie's not the time of the girl to be the nerdy ugly duckling only to be the undercover pretty swan later. Her glasses are not just something she wears on her face, they're part of her identity. And yeah, she's a nerd. She likes organization. Mattie finds colour coding soothing and enjoys making study notes for herself. Sometimes, other people too. Mattie will admit, however, that the only time she ever really wears her contact lenses is when she's dancing.

There's something about walking into an empty dance studio and being aware of how much space can expand so far, it seems that it has no number to put on it. There's no equation. No formula. Dancing just is. Mattie can't describe how she feels when she dances. Like some limits embedded in the math she loves, the math doesn't exist. Of course, there is a mathematical component to dance in that a person to count steps on a beat to understand choreography and do it. But Mattie is the granddaughter of a classically trained ballet dancer she never meets and she's the daughter of a woman of a model who moves gracefully under the lenses of a camera. Dancing is her secret. A little piece of her buried in the larger academic part of her. Academics is in her brain and dance is in her blood. School is in her head, engrained in her identity and dance is embedded in his heart.

Mattie squints her eyes to make sure the lenses were clear and free of any raindrops and slid them back on her face. There. All clear. Everything was normal and like a play button undoing the sensation of being on pause, Mattie's day goes on as she planned. She picks up her bag and walks up to the counter.

"Hey," the barista greets with a bright smile. She notes that her name is Mallory. Mattie appreciates that on a rainy day. Her glasses slip slightly to the bridge of her nose and she adjusts it so they're comfortable on her face with one finger. "What can I get you?"

She loves the blueberry muffins here and the white hot chocolate is really good, too.

"Can I get a blueberry muffin with a large hot chocolate to go?"

"Sure," Mallory replies with a nod. "There's a fresh batch of them almost done."

"Great. Thank you."

Mattie sits on a stool and waits for her order. She turns around and glances at the nearest window outside. She frowns because the rain isn't a drizzle anymore. At the time, Mattie prefers to walk because she – believe or not – likes walking on cloudy days because of the air. The air feels chillier even though the temperature isn't. The wind bites her bare skin and bends tree. It caresses her face and on the rare occasion she lets her hair down, Mattie loves feeling the wind blow through it.

Mattie is snapped out of her thoughts – ones that don't have calculus in them – by Mallory's raspy voice. She puts the white hot chocolate on the counter and hands Mattie her blueberry muffin in a Crimson Lights bag.

"Thank you."

Mattie smiles and puts a five on the counter. When she turns to leave – and she might as well pull up her hood and think about investing in mini windshield wipers – she is stopped short. Again, Mattie almost collides with him. Reed Hellstrom. She does this with him more than she can count, and it's something weirdly normal at this point.

"Is this our thing now?" Reed jokes, with a laugh. "Being human bumper cars?"

God, she's such a spaz. Seriously, she is.

"Holy crap," Mattie replies, embarrassed. "I'm so sorry, Reed. I have a test today and I should have watched where I was going—"

"Nah. It's cool. Traffic's terrible and I had a paper due today. Pulled an all-nighter," Reed shrugs and ruffles his hair. He looks around her to Mallory and placed his order. "Can I have a large coffee, Mallory?"

"Black as always, Reed. Got it."

"Thanks," he says, with a grin. Mattie raises an eyebrow in questioning but he beats her to it before she can verbally ask. It's not her business to pry but she's curious. She takes a good sip of her white hot chocolate. It's sweet with an undertone of vanilla bean and the tinge of peppermint. Reed is nonchalant. "Yeah, I'm in here at least twice a day. Three, sometimes. I have a caffeine addiction that's kinda out of control, but it works out."

"Ah… I see," Mattie nods, slowly. She looks around Reed to see the rain get worse. She groans and she almost feels stupid for not taking an umbrella. She's organized enough to remember all the essentials for the day, but doesn't think to remember an umbrella? Mattie groans and forces herself not to curse or lose her stream of calculus thought. "I'm sorry, Reed. Um, I really have to go. I'm going to try to make it to school before the rain gets worse."

Reed takes a sip of his coffee, goes into his pocket and pulls out his car keys.

Mattie blinks, confused. "What are you doing?"

He responds by silently questioning her this time before asking, "We're cool, right?"

Mattie likes to think that they're friends now. They text all the time even though she is busy and so is he. They follow each on Twitter, have each other on FacePlace. Besides, Reed is fun to talk to. Charlie tells her Reed is a lame clown, low-rent John Mayer. She tells him they're friends and he can be busy with Reed's ex-girlfriend. She also tells him to leave her alone and to focus on sounding out the big, scary words instead on the rare occasion that he decides to bother with literature. Mattie has been one-half of Charlie & Mattie her whole life. High school is the best thing to happen to her. Mattie is her own person there. Charlie and Reed may not like each other but that's not her problem. He finds her love for school interesting, and she finds his musical talents, to be honest, outstanding. What's surprising is that Reed listens to old rap because the stuff is deeper than the stuff they call rap now. Tupac. Biggie. Run DMC. All of Dr. Dre's old stuff. All of it. Reed listens to everything and can do the Alphabet rap. In turn, Mattie bites back a laugh of Reed's surprised face when she tells him she has Jimi Hendrix's entire collection and loves the Foo Fighters as much as he does. They both love Kendrick Lamar and can do the whole Damn album, too.

So, yes, Mattie thinks they make it the friend stage. They may even be buds.

"Yeah. We're friends. What's your point?"

"Friends don't let friends walk in the rain," Reed answers and twirls the keys on his index finger where a silver ring glints at her. He catches it easily. "Walnut Grove is in the same direction as GC High. It's not a problem."

Mattie ponders it, taking a final sip of her white hot chocolate. So good.

"And," Reed adds, and swallowing a mouthful of his black coffee, "because you're my friend, I will not allow you to lie about Biggie better being Tupac."

Mattie rolls her eyes and lightly shoves his shoulder as he steps aside to let her pass. She throws her cup in the trash as she walks in front of him.

"Good thing I'm on the debate team. I'm about to make your argument null and void," Mattie says proudly, as they walk out on the patio. She squints to see past the big, fat drops of rain that have the glass of the door streaked. She turns to him. "There's going to some running happening this morning, isn't there?"

Reed throws his coffee cup in the trash and offers her his hand with a smirk on his lips.

"Something like that," he replies and questions with an offered hand, looking at her. "Ready?"

Mattie pauses, looking at him and then glances at his hand. The rings on it seem to glow under in short bursts under Crimson Lights' coffee lights. The rain is loud enough, the drops hit the dark asphalt hard and fast. For no reason at all, her heart beats the same. It races fast and hard behind her sternum. Every beat must push blood around her body with the tiniest acceleration of speed.

She meets his blue eyes and a slow smile is on her face. Mattie appreciates the damp air after a rainy day and the grey clouds above her. Mattie slips her hand in Reed's hand. He opens the door to the patio. She can't see anything clearly except the flash of red. They run, Reed's hand unusually warm against hers. Mattie feels her footsteps create splashes under them. She can't be sure because the rain is so loud, but she swears Reed's laugh and her own.

Reed slides into his driver's seat as Maddie laughs, sliding into the passenger side. He can't breathe and it's probably the adrenaline is waking him up more than the coffee could. He combs his hand through his wet hair. Maddie takes her glasses off and Reed sees her eyes. The colour is a rich brown. Reed knows Mattie is a cool person. She's super easy to talk to and they have the same humour. He's heard her laugh before but for the first time, Reed sees her eyes and they're warm. She smiles at him, laughing and trying to catch her breath. Rain drops seem to shine and intertwine themselves in her hair.

"Oh, my God – you're insane! We're wet!"

"But you gotta admit that it was fun," Reed replies, turning to her. No worries, his hair should dry and bounce back by the end of second period. He guesses he'll do his cover of Higher like this. He leaves a little space between his thumb and index finger. "A little fun? Live a little!"

Maddie sighs, touching her hair and cleans the lens of her glasses before putting them back on her face. Reed finds it cool that she's fine with wearing her glasses instead of bitching about it. Her eyes are still kind of nice. Pretty. Not to say the rest of Mattie isn't pretty because it is—

"Okay, it was fun," Mattie admits. "I'm about to do my calculus test looking like a wet dog. I might leave during lunch when the rain stops to get a change of clothes."

Reed thinks he may do the same thing. Get going to the store for eggs and milk out of the way while he's at it. While it's fun running in the rain, wet jeans are a bitch.

He touches his hair again. It's starting to dry. Yep. It's already starting to do its thing and bounce back. Reed presses the start button to start the car, putting it in drive before they get out of Crimson Lights. Reed starts ahead at the road, hands comfortable on the steering wheel but from the side, he can see Maddie go through his playlist. He's got a lot of them. Different reasons. Different moods. Different vibes he's feeling.

He can see the beginnings of her smile as the beginnings of Humble fills the car. At a stop light, they go smoothly into a song they've done so many times but it's never boring. It's weird but it's a comfortable kind of weird. Even with the laughing in between, Reed makes it work with her while wondering why Mattie Ashby is so cool and ridiculously fun to hang out with. Reed could wonder how someone like her ends up being the twins of a dick like Charlie Ashby but genes are funny that way. It's kinda like how Victor Newman is this big, powerful scary dude but it's just Grandpa. Reed can't put the two together even yeah, it's true. He doesn't know either, but he likes hanging out with Mattie. A lot. Of course, he likes hanging out with her as friends. Friends, and nothing more.

Mattie looks over her calculus notes one more time on the smooth drive.

Reed's car is surprisingly comfy with decent lighting for her to read. She hears his chuckle in between the rhythmic swiping of his windshield wipers. The sound is helpful in that it helps her break apart the formulas and then synthesize them again. Nevertheless, Mattie feels Reed looking at her and can picture the amusement in his face in her head.

He slowly brakes at an amber light turning red. They stop as the rain lets up a bit and it goes back to being a drizzle.


"Seriously?" Reed says, shaking his head. He grins at her when he turns to look at her briefly. "Do you ever let your books breathe?"

Mattie looks back at him, playfully defiant and smirks.

"I don't know," she quips, with a shrug and tilts her head in the direction of the black guitar case in the back beside his backpack. "Sometimes, I wonder if your guitar begs for mercy when you play it forever into oblivion. Besides, it never hurts to be prepared. My nerd tendencies aren't new to you," she moves her eyes back to one more formula, scanning a graph but still smiles in that smart aleck way familiar to just them. "It's not like you're sane about your musical, tortured soul ones."

They're driving again, and if Mattie squints she can the sun even though it hides behind thick, grey clouds. The rain is finally slowing down and may be over by lunch. Weather willing and if the meteorologists can for once, be accurate and not too broad.

"I'm not a tortured soul," Reed protests, pulling a face as he drives. Mattie can see that from her peripheral vision. "I'm an artist that let the music run free from different parts of me. Sometimes, my head," she can see that face light up as it always does when he speaks about his music, "and sometimes, my heart. It's cool being in a quiet space creating something."

Mattie agrees and nods, "That's how it with school. I just love…learning about new things. Discovering. Being curious about everything life has to offer. I just know I want to be in a place where I can discover something of my own."

Creativity. That's another thing they have in common. Different methods. Different vehicles but Mattie can respect that he likes to build something from parts of him with his music. It's the same as Mattie using academics to build her life step by step. Life isn't linear, but Mattie will make hers close enough. Her ultimate goal is MIT, Yale, Cornell University and if Mattie can add one more extracurricular activity, one more volunteer activity with community service that counts to her applications, it may push her into Harvard.

Finally, Mattie arrives at Walnut Grove and good, she can run to Mr. Schaeffer's class and make time to review one last time quickly. She's not early, damn. But it's fine. She'll live.

"And," Reed stops in front of the school with other cars and student filing in, "here we are."

"Thank you, Reed."

Reed shrugs, hand still on the steering wheel and smiles, "We're buds, Mattie."

"Yeah," Mattie smiles back. "We're definitely are now."

Mattie places her books in her bag and moves to get out of his car and stops when Reed calls her name.

"I know, I know. You have to be awesome and runs this world before you rule the word, but," he says, and his blue eyes are earnest. They shine with too much honesty, but his face gets shy and he looks tentative, "I gotta tell you something. Quick."

"Okay…" Mattie says, slowly, a curious look on her face in return. "Tell me."

"I love hanging with you. You're a nerd and I appreciate that you don't change yourself to be anything you aren't. You study. You read. You're insane with homework and I will never understand why you want to do summer school. By choice. But that's just it. You kinda just do you. You're not Kendall. You're not Zoey. You're not any of those girls who try too hard and care what other people think or say," Reed starts, borderline rambling but he stops and takes a breath. "I guess, I'm saying thank you."

"For what?"

"For being so weird. It's insanely different and I respect it."

Mattie reads that blushing is caused by blood vessels in the face to redden increasing blow. This is triggering by strong emotional situations. She doesn't know how this type of emotional situation but it's one that she can be fine with because it's Reed. She can't possibly be blushing. There can't be this growing warmth in her face. She's gotten to know him and understand some facets of him. In turn, he's understood some parts of her and is respectful when she doesn't want to show other parts of herself to him. Later or ever.

Mattie laughs and pushes her glasses to the bridge of her nose when they fall slightly. A curl of her hair stays rebellious and won't stay down. It drives her nuts but Mattie will have to deal with it later. It's not important. For one reason or another centered around their friendship – that's how it is with Reed and she can't dwell on how attractive he is in that offbeat, hipster kind of way because it's Harvard or MIT now and dating later – Reed reaches out and pushes that stubborn curl back gently behind her ear. It stays.

"I like being friends with you, too. You're weird, too so I guess, that makes us compatible."

Reed raises an eyebrow, amused, "Even if it messes with your brother?"

"Charlie's a big boy," she says, dismissively with a roll of her eyes. "He can deal and he will deal. We're twins and yeah, I love him but he's not going to be my shadow. I can read people on my own. I have my own judgment and when I read you, I appreciate your quirks and weirdness as well. We're an anomaly in that we're proof a guy and a girl can be friends. Just friends."

Of course, guys and girls can be platonic. There are studies that prove it somewhere. Just because they haven't been found, that doesn't validate their non-existence. She just may conduct her own study and publish it in a reputable academic journal to prove it. Anything can be proven if it's pursued hard and thoroughly enough.

There's a pause in the car that feels too long but to form her hypothesis.

HYPOTHESIS: Mathilda Ashby & Reed Hellstrom can remain strictly platonic—

"Yeah, totally," he agrees in the silence and it feels like the sound of a beaker exploding on a Bunsen burner left too hot for too long. "Completely just friends."

Mattie swears she sees the blood vessels in his face expand too, making his face redden slightly just like hers but her glasses aren't that clear. She'll take care of it in class and ace her test. Platonic friends. Her and Reed. Of course, guys and girls can be friends and just stay there.

"I'm going to go write my test."

"Sure. Text you later?"

"You know I will," Mattie promises, sincerely. "Crimson Lights tonight?"

"Yep. Usual spot?"

"Yes. I'll be studying there."

Reed throws her a knowing smile, "Obviously. Nerd Tendencies."

Mattie raises an eyebrow and can't stop the smile pulling at her lips to match his, "Only to match your Tortured Soul ones."

She shares a gaze with Reed that has an easy, comfortable silence between them. It's friendship. It's nearly crashing into each other in coffeehouses with hot coffees and warm hot chocolates. It's sharing an eclectic mental catalogue of music that is surprising and an odd definition of normal. It's a car ride in a downpour. It's her explaining math and science to him while he rolls his eyes and goes into a frustration placated by coffee. It's him breaking down the emotional aspect of a monologue she has to memorize and perform for her drama elective, while terrified at the idea of encountering failure for the first time.

It's running through a cold downpour of rain, Reed's hand against hers and her adrenaline searing hot in her veins so fast she's headed to being physiologically delirious with endorphins.

It's Mattie's friendship with Reed and nothing more.