Chapter 14: Beautiful and Interesting

Luis awoke in a gravity-defying position over the edge of the bed. He was pleased to note that while he had no space to sleep on, he had managed to hog all the covers. "Move over," he mumbled groggily. Averman obliged and Luis realised the only thing keeping him from plummeting to the floor was Averman. He took the covers with him when he fell.

"Cold! Cold! Cold!" Averman yelled, without even opening his eyes.

"You're cold?" Luis huffed. "I'm bruised."

"Banksie would never complain, he'd just give me the covers and nurse his bruises in silence."

"I resent that you're talking about other men while I'm in bed with you."

"You're not in bed with me," Averman replied, finally opening his eyes. "You're on the floor. And you're sulking about it."

"I'm not sulking about it," Luis pouted.

"Yes, you are. You're pouting."

"No." Luis got to his feet, draped in sheets and blankets. "I'm pouncing." He leapt on Averman and began to alternate tickling with kisses.

Before anything further could happen the door burst open and Fulton and Portman fell through it. Fulton gulped a couple of times, before letting out a strangled, "Oh."

"Um, are we interrupting anything?" Portman asked, then pulled a face, showing his embarrassment at asking such a stupid question.

"No, nothing. Just a little pouncing." Averman replied, glad of the break from the tickling, but resenting the end of the kisses.

"Nothing?" Luis repeated in mock outrage, while making a mental note to remember to lock the door in the future. "I'm pouncing and that's nothing?"

"Um…" Fulton muttered.

"Well, you're obviously not aware we're here, so we'll just go." Portman decided, dragging Fulton out of the room with him.

Luis grinned and resumed his pouncing.


"Annie won't talk to me!" Aisha wailed mournfully, before Averman even had time to greet her. She walked into the Shoebox and sank down on Luis' bed, her face in her hands, frizzy curls obscuring her face. Averman was panicked by her arrival, generally Luis was better at conversations with girls than him, and Annie was better still. However, Annie was the wounded party at the moment and Luis was in her room trying to cheer her up. He sat down on his own bed opposite her and mentally ran through all possible responses. "There, there" seemed patronising, "She'll get over it" seemed cold and "I'm sure things will get better" seemed unfeeling.

"I got her the best Christmas present." Aisha added. "I decided to give it to her early as some kind of making up gift and she threw it at me! It hit me on the head."

"Annie feels hurt at the moment." Averman winced at this mastery of understatement. "She feels that you were only her friend because you fancied Luis."

"Well that's just stupid!" Aisha replied. "First of all, I've known who Annie is since Freshman year, I've always wanted to get to know her, but she's so damned popular it's hard to get an in. Second of all, anyone with half a brain would notice that if someone wanted to be in Luis' circle of friends, they would have to stalk you!"

"So when Luis said that Annie was his best friend, it didn't cross your mind that talking to Annie would get you closer to him?" Averman asked bluntly.

"No, it was actually a relief to have another topic of conversation open to me. Sometimes I get stupid and giggly when I'm nervous, when Luis told me that, I thought yay, something to fall back on if my mind goes blank." She sighed. "She hates me."

"She doesn't hate you, she's just upset–"

"Upset? I'm bloody upset!" Aisha stood up to pace, but quickly sat down again as she realised the room was too small. "She never told me she was gay! Imagine, she didn't trust me with something like that! And then I made a huge fool of myself on that double date, I threw myself at a gay man, lost my best friend and I didn't even get to hear the 'why is the rum gone?' line!"

Averman opened his mouth to respond, but Aisha apparently wasn't done. "Why didn't she trust me, Averman? What did she think I'd do, run all over school screaming Annie James is gay! at the top of my lungs?"

"Well, you are a cheerleader, it might be workable as a pipe-opener. Give me a G! Give me an…" The look Aisha gave in response made Averman wish he'd never opened his mouth. He thought for a moment, then tried again. "Look, it wasn't that she didn't trust you. She was scared, I only came out to Luis last night. It's very scary saying something like that, you never really know how someone's going to react, especially someone you have a vested interest in. And to be honest, we all thought you knew. I thought cheerleaders gossiped."

"We do, but only behind each other's backs. If there's speculation about Annie, I wouldn't have heard it, as her best friend I wouldn't be trusted with something like that." She snorted then added pointedly, "by anyone."

"Aysh, you're just going to have to give her time," Averman said finally. "And if it helps, it won't be much time. Luis said that Annie can't hold a grudge to save her life."

"I know," she said softly, leaning back against the wall. "Do you have any chocolate?"

"No, but I have a plant. You can throw books at it if you want," he offered.

She gave him a smile. "That sounds very therapeutic."

"Well, everyone says plants are good for peace of mind."


"I hate her," Annie said venomously.

"No, you don't," Luis countered.

"No, I don't."

Luis floundered momentarily. He and Annie had been having the same conversation for approximately fifteen minutes, to hear Annie admit that she didn't hate Aisha was definite progress. However, it was unexpected progress. "Well, that's good."

"No it's not. It's horrible. I want to hate her. I do hate her."

"Annie, you're morally opposed to hating anyone who isn't The Bush Pig." Luis replied. When he first met Annie she had been involved with a horrible girl named Donna, who was now only ever referred to as The Bush Pig. She had screwed with Annie's feelings and constantly cheated, then she claimed to be dying when Annie finished with her, forcing Annie to stay, then when Annie found out the truth, she had finished with Donna once and for all. Donna retaliated by outing Annie to her parents, an act that forced Annie to stay at school during the holidays, and with her aunt and uncle during the summer. Despite all this, Annie didn't like the idea of hating anyone, and she and Luis had many a long conversation on the morality of hating someone, even Donna. Luis was now thankful for it, because it made arguing Aisha's case a little easier. "And Aisha is no Bush Pig." He paused and thought over his last sentence. "Well, you know what I mean, she isn't Donna. Although I don't mean that she isn't pretty too."

"Your arguments are better when they consist of no, you don't," Annie decided.

Luis sighed. "You can't hate her because she's straight. She has no control over it."

"I know," Annie replied moodily, flopping back on her bed. "I know it's not her fault. But I'm still never speaking to her again. I told her that when she came by earlier."

"She was here?"

"Yep. She had a present for me, but I threw it at her. It hit her on the head," she added with satisfaction.

Luis raised his eyebrows, Annie didn't do hate, she didn't do grudges, and she had never managed to ignore anyone for longer than ten minutes. He took a deep breath. "Annie, in all the years I've known you, I've never seen you like this. Just what exactly is your problem? Yes, I know Aisha is straight, I know it must have been mortifying for you last night, but I don't understand what she's done to unlock this vengeful side of you. Even Donna never did that."

Annie sat up, brushed her hair out of her eyes and opened her mouth. Then, apparently changing her mind, she closed it again.

"What? What's so different about Aisha?"

She mumbled something unintelligible.

"What?" Luis asked again.

"I love her, ok?" She snapped back, standing up. "I'm completely head-in-the-clouds, ass-over-tit in love with this girl and I can't have her. Is that a good enough answer? She's everything I want, she gets me, she understands my sense of humour, she believes in ghosts, she goes to psychic shows with me, she's a cheerleader so she knows it's a sport, not just tiny skirts and gossip, she's smart, she's beautiful, she's even got curly hair and understands how crap it is to wake up with an insane birds nest in the morning. She's absolutely perfect for me and I can't have her. Ok, Luis?" She flopped back on her bed, exhausted by the confession. "And it really hurts just seeing her, knowing how wonderful she is and that she'll never be mine." With that, the tears that she'd been holding back since the night before began to flow.


By the time Luis returned to the Shoebox, Aisha had gone back to her dorm. She and Averman had played Plant Death Match for awhile, but Aisha had dissolved into tears mid-game and scuttled back to her own room to lick her wounds. Averman lay zombie-like on his bed. "Is it raining?" he enquired, ignoring any greeting.

Luis shrugged. "It's Minnesota, it's probably snowing. If you opened the shades, you could look out the window and see for yourself. Why do you ask?"

"Because your shirt is soaked on the right shoulder. I'm hoping that it's rain and not Annie-tears," Averman replied, as Luis flumped down on the bed beside him.

"It's good to have hope, but sadly wrong," Luis replied. "She's not a happy girl. I've never seen her like this."

"Aisha is also distraught, she stopped by about five minutes after you went to see Annie. They had a confrontation."

"I know, did you hear that Annie threw Aisha's present back at her?"

"It hit her on the head."

They both sighed deeply.

"This morning," Luis began. "I had this awful feeling that it was really wrong to be so happy when our friends are so miserable."

"Luckily an hour with them has remedied that," Averman said. "Don't get me wrong, I feel bad for them, but I now need cheering up. Do you want to watch a movie or something?"

"What do you suggest?"

"You've still never seen The Never Ending Story, you heathen," Averman said. "I would hit you to punctuate how pathetic that makes you, but sadly you're squashing my arm."

"Quit your whinging."

"You know, Banksie would offer to hit himself if he was in this position."

"If Banksie was in this position with you, I'd be the one hitting him," Luis assured him.

"You're so manly when you're jealous."

"Oh, shut up and put the film on."

About ten minutes into the film, Luis realised something. "That book isn't anything like the one that we found in the shop. That one's leather-bound."

"I was thinking that." Averman said. "In the book it's described as being bound in copper silk, if that makes sense. I'd read the book more recently than I'd seen the film. Hence the confusion."

"Would you have preferred the movie version of the book?" Luis asked.

"The book version in the copper silk. I'd rather have the book that Michael Ende envisioned for his tale," Averman said thoughtfully. "Not that it matters, since I don't have a chance of laying my hands on either. That was a one in a million find. I went on ebay a few days ago and even there, nothing. And now I'm depressed again. Thank you."


20th December

Most students go home, leaving the Ducks, Annie, Terri and Aisha and quite a few unknowns from other grades mooching around the school.

Mr Stiles is one of the supervisors that has to stay at the school over the holidays. He catches Fulton and Portman stealing another plant, they try to convince him that they are simply moving it nearer to the window to catch a little more light, but they fail. They are given detention at nine a.m., something that bothers them greatly, having to get up early on their vacation. They later get revenge by moving all the potted plants outside his office door. A door that opens outward. Mr Stiles is trapped for four hours before anyone notices. And a further two hours before anyone notifies another teacher.

Luis and Averman spend the day in the Shoebox. Further details are best left to the imagination.

21st December

Aisha decides quits the cheerleading squad. She tells Annie, and thoughtfully gives her a book entitled Voodoo for Dummies. Annie smirks but says nothing. When Aisha leaves Annie's room, Annie bursts into tears.

Charlie and Adam have yet another fight, this time Adam is triumphant, managing to get a locksmith in to change the locks while Charlie and Terri are having dinner with Terri's father and Charlie's mother (one of the stipulations from the parental units due to their offspring staying at the dorms). Charlie and Terri are disturbed by how well their parents get along.

Charlie returns to find all of his possessions outside his room and a note on the door that reads AND STAY OUT! Charlie takes himself off to Terri's dorm, asking if he can move in, Annie vetoes it. Charlie, never really being able to differentiate between the fact and fiction of school rumours, asks Annie why she isn't staying with her girlfriend, Aisha. Annie slaps him and bursts into tears. Terri, in a rare show of roommate solidarity, kicks Charlie out.

Charlie heads towards the Shoebox, remembering that Luis and Averman had put Adam up last time. He is intercepted by Fulton and Portman on their way back from detention, who inform him that Luis and Averman are now officially a couple. Charlie decides they are pulling his leg, having heard this rumour many times. He walks into the Shoebox unannounced and is confronted with visual proof that it has ceased to be a rumour and is now fact. He makes a mental note to pay more attention to rumours in the future.

Eventually he finds Goldberg and asks if he can move in. Goldberg grudgingly agrees and they play The Sims. Charlie senses a new addiction coming on.

22nd December

Annie and Terri go on a Vodka Jell-O making frenzy. Terri because she likes vodka, Annie because if she doesn't keep busy she cries. They make far more than can fit in their fridge. Terri is sent to distract Ms Harper, their dorm supervisor, while Annie steals her master key, so they can utilise every fridge in the building. The plan is a raging success, though Terri is given detention for painting a Santa on the gym wall.

Annie tests a large amount of Vodka Jell-O and starts reading Voodoo for Dummies. Terri is alarmed.

Averman is sent out of the Shoebox while Luis wraps his Christmas present. He bumps into Connie, who suggests they guy-watch together. Averman is scandalised, pointing out that they both have boyfriends. Connie doesn't understand what the big deal is. Averman then adds that the only guys available for watching are the same guys they have grown up with, and any others are at least a year younger than them. Connie sees his point and decides that Averman can help her pick out a dress to wear for the Christmas party.

Averman suddenly wishes he was straight.

Charlie starts killing all of the Sims in Goldie's houses. He is enchanted by the little ghost Sims. Goldberg then shows him zombie Sims. Charlie is thrilled.

Adam realises that he's really rather bored without Charlie to fight with.

Luis enlists the Bash Brother's help to move his and Averman's beds together. Portman remarks that they will have all of two square feet of space once they're done. Luis smiles gleefully and points out that that's one extra square foot of space they didn't have before.

23rd December

Charlie makes eight Sims, all called Adam, and kills all of them in many creative ways. He realises that it's just not the same as rowing with Adam in person. He goes back to his own room and pounds on the door until Adam opens up. He barrels through and announces that he's moving back in. Adam joyfully calls him a "stupid asshat." Charlie retaliates. The spar verbally until the early hours of the morning.

Goldberg goes on a random wander around the campus, quite bored by himself. He finds Aisha crying, and tries to cheer her up, something he later regrets once she has spilled the whole tale. Before he can offer any sage advice, the Bash Brothers find them and excitedly announce they have found the perfect venue for the Christmas party. Aisha says she thought it would be held in the gym and wasn't it more of a dinner with tacky music? Portman clarifies that they're talking about the unofficial party. Aisha brightens when Goldberg mentions how much alcohol will be circulating and that Annie will be too drunk to hold a grudge tomorrow.

Luis and Averman spend the day with Annie, trying to pry Voodoo for Dummies out of her hands, after a terrified tip-off from Terri. Averman thoughtfully hides all the dolls in the room. He suspects Terri will hit the roof when she finds out, but really can't find the energy to care.

Terri actually doesn't care about her dolls. She is far too busy being mortified when her father calls to ask for Casey Conway's phone number. He claims that it's just so they can compare notes about being a single parent without their kids at home over Christmas, but Terri suspects other motives. She goes to Goldie's room to tell Charlie, and is momentarily distracted by The Sims, but then remembers her quest and moves on.

She finds Charlie and Adam engaged in a verbal war. Every single sin from the past seven years is being brought up. The boys are quite obviously having the time of their lives. She sits quietly for twenty minutes, waiting for an opening. Finally in desperation she screams "My dad fancies your mum!" Adam looks startled. "My mother?" he asks. Charlie thwacks him around the head, and says firmly, "Not you, moron." And off they go again. Terri leaves the room in disgust.

Christmas Eve

Charlie turns up at Terri's dorm at four a.m. to ask about Terri's screamed comment. Terri is in a huff and leaves Annie to deal with it. Annie is still in a vengeful mood, made no better by being woken up in the early hours of the morning. When Charlie asks how Terri knows Mr McDowell fancies his mother, Annie simply replies, "Well, your mother's screams of orgasmic bliss were audible to all and sundry when Terri called home."

Charlie is shell-shocked. He decides now is the time to start drinking. He goes back to his room and challenges Adam to match him shot for shot. Adam agrees after much insinuation that he's a "lightweight marshmallow."

Terri overhears Annie's comment and starts on the Vodka Jell-O.

Annie feels left out and helps Terri finish the rest of the Vodka Jell-O.

When Aisha turns up at Annie's room four hours later for a last-ditch effort at making up, she finds both Annie and Terri paralytic. Annie is in no mood to be vengeful. She greets Aisha with a big hug and bursts into tears. Aisha also bursts into tears. Terri scarpers.

Luis and Averman drag themselves out of bed at two o'clock. They had attempted getting up several times before, but failed. They decide to be sociable and head towards the noise. It leads them to the Bash Brothers' room where they find most of their friends drunk and giggly, except for Adam and Charlie, who are drunk and snippety. Terri is passed out on the floor. Fulton thoughtfully puts her in the recovery position. They are pleased to see that Aisha and Annie are sitting together with their arms around each other, talking quietly and excluding everyone else in the room.

Around six o'clock, Portman convinces everyone to go to the cafeteria and ingest some form of food to soak up the alcohol. Everyone grudgingly agrees. Even Terri, who has by this time woken up. Adam eats two mouthfuls of food before turning a vivid shade of green and bolting from the caff. Charlie also turns green, and mutters something about going to mock Adam before disappearing at the speed of light.

Portman tells everyone (including the people that they don't really know) that they've found a venue for the party and how to get there. Since it's quite far from the staff room, the party can start early, everyone should show up around ten. He repeats this information for Terri, who is the chosen one to tell Charlie and Adam, she looks a little dazed by the time he's finished. She still looks bewildered by the third explanation. Finally Fulton grabs a napkin and draws a map and writes the time on it and sticks it to her chest, then tells her to go find her boyfriend.

Everyone goes their separate ways to get ready for the party.


Luis and Averman decided to turn up a little late to the party, in order to exchange gifts. Naturally, they had been boy-wrapped, which meant there was far more sticky-tape than gift wrapping on the present and gift tags had been cheerfully ignored.

"So, who opens their gift first?" Averman asked.

"You, I want to see your face light up like a happy little Christmas elf," Luis replied, handing him a heavy rectangular present. "Light up, little elf. Light up!"

Averman raised his eyebrows. "I'm not going to ask how much Vodka Jell-O you've had today." He took the present and began tearing at the paper. Out slid the much coveted copy of The Never Ending Story with the copper silk binding and the Auryn on the front cover. Averman felt his jaw drop and shatter on the floor. He gulped several times, and finally found his voice, although it came out as a strangled squeak. "How…?"

Luis smiled smugly. "That's my little lit-up Christmas elf."

"You went back, when you claimed to have lost your wallet," Averman said.

"I did, and then I had it sent to Annie's room."

"I feel," Averman began, "like I've been horribly upstaged. Your present just isn't going to measure up now. And I don't think thank you is a big enough response."

"Don't be soft. You should really want to kill me. I've kept this book from you for two months, and put you through the emotional anguish of facing the evil book store owner alone."

"You're right," Averman agreed. "I think I will kill you. Quick, distract me by exclaiming excitedly over your present."

This present was also rectangular, though smaller and less heavy. Inside was a leather-bound journal.

"I had to, you'd have been disappointed if I hadn't," Averman explained, "but open it."

Luis opened the journal and two tickets slid out. "What's this?" Luis bent to pick up the fallen tickets.

"For the ice festival. I figured if I'm going to give you a journal, I'd better give you something to write about too. Fulton and Portman are always going on about the band that's playing that night."

"And I have two tickets. This means I can take the person of my choice."

"Obviously."

"I wonder if Adam's free? You're always telling me what a charming boy he is." Luis grinned.

"Bite me."


By the time Luis and Averman got to the party, it was in full swing. Fulton and Portman had found the perfect venue, an old unused attic room with low ceilings and a thick layer of dust on everything. It wasn't the most beautiful room in the world, but it was big, slightly odd and far away from the faculty room, so they could make as much noise as they liked. There were old couches and chairs scattered around, not to mention long-abandoned school equipment such as blackboards (naturally someone had drawn crude pictures on them, Luis suspected the Bash Brothers), and mouldy books, bloated with damp, and old gym equipment that was probably cutting edge back in the dark ages. It had been dressed up slightly with Christmas decorations that Luis knew had been stolen from the dining hall.

To one side a table held a vast array of snacks, drinks, mixers and the famed Vodka Jell-O, to the other was Fulton and Portman's stereo, which Fulton was guarding aggressively. When Terri bounced up and requested something by the Spice Girls, he asked Connie (the nearest girl) to bitch-slap Terri until she asked for something sensible.

Annie and Aisha were nowhere to be seen, though the room was quite large and, as Luis pointed out, there were several dark corners where people could hide. They did the rounds, saying hello to everyone. Averman lost Luis and found himself drawn into a huge discussion between Terri and the Bashes. She had requested something by Michael Jackson, they were morally opposed, but then she pointed out that Slash wrote the guitar part of Give in to Me, and they had reached a stalemate. One of the non-Ducks wandered into the discussion and proclaimed, "So what if he worked with Slash and Gilby? He's still a kiddie-fiddling freak!" And it all began to unravel quickly as Terri exploded in defence of her idol.

"Come with me," said Luis into his ear, appearing out of nowhere.

Averman thankfully took his hand and escaped from the madness. Luis led him to one of the darker corners of the room, where surprisingly there was a door. Averman though, given the dimensions of the room and the size of the school, that a door placed there would lead to a terrifying plummet to certain death, instead it lead to a small balcony overlooking the school field.

Averman shut the door behind him, and the sudden quiet seemed overwhelming. Snow was falling softly, in the blue-black moonlight the field looked like something off a Hallmark Christmas card, except for the two figures below. As the moon came out from behind a cloud, it became clear that the figures were Annie and Aisha.

"What do you think they're up to?" Luis asked.

"I have no idea, but I hope it's good things."

They stood in silence for awhile, wrapped in each other's arms. The moon slid behind a cloud once more, leaving them in darkness.

"I love you," Averman said suddenly.

There was a pause. It wasn't an awkward pause, it wasn't one in which Averman felt rejected, it was simply a surprised pause. Surprised and flattered. In years to come, he knew he'd remember that pause, it was good. He didn't want to hear an instant 'I love you', he didn't want it to be an obligated declaration of love and if Luis had responded instantly it may have gnawed at him that perhaps Luis didn't mean it.

"I love you too." In the half light, Averman could hear rather than see the smile on Luis' face.

In the dark, his lips found Luis', for a deep kiss that left them both breathless. When they broke apart, the moon had come out again, Annie had gone, leaving Aisha in the middle of the field, seemingly unaware that snow was falling on her bare arms, as she stood slightly dazed, touching her lips thoughtfully


Credits:

Voodoo for Dummies – from Bride of Chucky, if you haven't seen it, do so. Very funny film.

The venue for the party – lycanthrope's wonderful "Presidential Suite" from her Bash Brothers stories. If you haven't read them, do so. Very funny fic.

Much dialogue – boyfriend, scouseboy at livejournal. If you don't read him, do so. Very funny guy.

Much inspiration – Carla, best friend. If you don't read her stuff, do so. Very angsty, with bittersweet moments.

"Light up like a happy little Christmas Elf, light up little elf…" – Boy Meets World. I'm not going to defend myself for watching it.