DISCLAIMER - 'The Bill' characters depicted in this story are copyrighted to Thames Television/Pearson Corp. All other characters depicted in this story are copyrighted to the relevant author or creator.

A/N – The result of hints from Lightning Wolf and Steve – I aim to please and they did give me v. nice reviews! Does it work, have I got the teenagers right? Let me know!

BEST YEARS OF THEIR LIVES

CATCH-UP


What have the gang been up to since the end of their junior school years?

John Boulton wanted to hate senior school, but following his first PE lesson in rugby, became hooked on the sport. He became the star of the first year rugby team and has been captain of his year's team ever since. He is now Sports Captain of the third year. Don Beech is still his best mate and the two are rarely seen apart.

Don Beech arrived a wideboy and only became more of a player. He made his way through school by an intricate system of cheating and copying and continues to do the same. He was suspended twice for smoking and once for spiking the punch at a school disco with vodka. He became the first of the gang to lose their virginity and is very proud of it.

Mickey Webb quickly established himself as the clown of the year and at first managed to fool his teachers with his angelic features before they became wise to the innocent act. Liked by almost everyone, he thrives on his popularity and makes sure school is nothing but a laugh. He is still mooning over Kerry, but getting nowhere.

Rod Skase became a school heartthrob within days of his arrival and succeeded in making his uniform a fashion statement. Every style he dreamt up was immediately copied and he was rarely seen without an adoring gaggle of females trailing behind him. He is now often found in the company of older girls, enjoying every minute of it.

Claire Stanton and Kerry Holmes stuck together and their hard work put them in the top sets for lessons, away from most of their male friends. Claire was offered the chance to attend a top private school on a full scholarship for her academic abilities, but turned it down in preference of remaining with the others. The girls remain an integral part of the gang, despite their educational situation, and can still give as good as they get.

Danny Glaze, Duncan Lennox and Jim Carver kept their heads down and used their friendship with John, Don and Rod's group to gain status within the year. Danny, as a black kid in a predominantly white school, became something of an icon for his classmates. Duncan put on several additional stones in weight without a care in the world, protected from bullies by his association with the cool group. Jim simply got on with life and gained a reputation as a steady, reliable all-rounder.

Jack Meadows and Chris Deakin quickly grew apart from the others, more responsible and mature, and formed their own group of friends. They were both made Captains of their respective forms and Jack was nominated for the school council. The two rarely hang out with the others now.

X X X

The bell had just rung for the first lesson of the day and the corridors of the big, co-ed senior school were filled with the noise of boisterous teenagers. One large group of fourteen-year-old third years, mostly boys with just two girls in the midst, took most of the space and most of the attention. The boys pushed, mock-fought and shouted as the girls looked on in mock-contempt. They had been friends for years, all twelve of them, and even through the trials and tribulations of their teens, were inseparable.

They reached their destination, the art room, five minutes late because they'd all had to stop at the Coke machine. Four of the group were missing now, having slipped off for a quick cigarette. The art master gave them a stern look but didn't bother with a reprimand. The group took their usual table in the far corner and retrieved their attempts at Picasso-like art, but apart from that made no attempt to start work.

A few minutes later, they were re-joined by the smokers. In primary school, they had called themselves the Four Musketeers. Now they were too cool for a gang title, so they had altered their own names. Don had become Beechey. Michael had become Mikey. Rodney had become Skasey. And Jonny had simply become J, or J-man when he really wanted to be cool.

They set the styles for the rest of their year group and whilst widely copied, made sure they were never matched. They all refused to wear their blazers, hung their ties like nooses around their necks, untucked their shirts and lived in trainers and backwards baseball caps. J and Skasey had both had their ears pierced. Mikey claimed he had a tattoo but everyone knew he'd been too scared to even get an earring. Beechey really did have a tattoo – a dragon on his shoulder blade. They were the coolest kids in their year.

"You stink of fags," Claire told J. The pink paint she was applying to her artwork was the exact same colour as the new streaks dyed into her blond hair. She proved you could be a straight A student and still keep up with fashion.

J took his seat next to her and shrugged. He took a small bottle of aftershave from his bag and dabbed it liberally on his pulse points. "Better?"

"Would be if you bought nice aftershave."

He stuck two fingers up at her but grinned. He and Claire had been mates for years, closer than any other male/female friends in the group. They had been each other's first kiss on the last day of primary school and three weeks ago J had offered to be Claire's first boyfriend. She had accepted.

They all bustled around for a few minutes, some retrieving paint or work, others chatting to mates on the other side of the room. Eventually they were all settled at the table again. Mikey was glaring at Dan Glaze, the lanky boy whose great height had made him a basketball sensation. Dan was sitting next to Kez Holmes, letting the girl play with the new braids that had replaced his Afro.

"Oi, Glaze, do your own bloody hair," Mikey finally piped up.

Dan looked impassively at him. "Shut up, short arse."

Mikey was incensed, but didn't dare have a go back. You could never quite tell how Dan might react to confrontation – he could laugh in your face or knock you halfway across the classroom. Besides, he was nearly a foot taller than Mikey.

"J, 'ave you done your maths homework?" Mikey asked, deciding it would be safer to broach a new subject. As usual, it didn't occur to him to sit still and be quiet.

"Don't be a prat, 'course I ain't!"

"Aw, hell!" Mikey groaned. "Beech, 'ave you?"

"As if," Beechey retorted. "An' don't ask Skasey cos he was out on the pull wiv me last night, so he ain't either."

"Kez." Desperate now, Mikey looked to Kez Holmes, the object of his affections since the start of their primary school career. Eight years later, it was still unreciprocated. "Will you do it for me?"

"Do it yourself, you lazy git!" Kez, three class sets above Mikey and his mates, stuck out her recently pierced tongue. Mikey stared at it, fascinated, and wondered what it would be like to kiss someone with a tongue bar. Not that he was likely to find out.

"You can copy mine, Mikey," Jamie Carver said. He had continued to remain the quietest member of the group, a part of them but never quite a vital member like J or Beechey. He was still happy to be on the fringes and preferred the company of his best friend Frankie Burnside, who was now attending a rough East End comprehensive.

"Aw, cheers, Jamie!" Mikey often thought the boy was too boring to be part of the cool group, but when it came down to it, you could always rely on Jamie to help you out. Although they rarely voiced it, the other members of the gang appreciated him for this.

Whilst Mikey's problem was being sorted, Beechey and Skasey had started an argument over the tube of blue paint, both claiming dire need for it. Beechey wanted to paint his graffiti tag on the desk. Skasey wanted to fill in the stripes on his tie.

"Will you lot be quiet?" the teacher roared, storming over to the rowdy table. "John Boulton, put that girl down or you'll be in detention."

J, busy French kissing his girlfriend, was too wrapped up to pay any attention.

"BOULTON!" the teacher thundered. "That's it, you're in detention."

J reluctantly removed his lips from Claire's and shrugged. "I'm already in detention for throwin' a sheep's eye at Mikey in biology, sir."

"An' I got one for chuckin' it back, sir!" Mikey piped up. "How unfair's that?"

Kerry, having refused to take part in dissection in her own biology class, shuddered. "I'd never go out with anyone who'd hurt an innocent animal."

"I din't hurt it!" Mikey quickly changed his tune. "I din't cut my eye up!"

"Only coz Miss took your scalpel away when you started a sword fight with Beechey," Duncan 'Lenny' Lennox piped up.

Mikey flicked him a V-sign. "You got sent out for eating in class, Lenny! Don't make out you're teacher's pet."

Unperturbed as ever, Lenny retrieved a Mars Bar from his blazer pocket, broke off a piece each fro Claire and Kerry, then happily chomped the rest himself. He was very popular with the girls in his class. They loved his generosity and had labelled him the nicest bloke in the school. Lenny proved having movie star looks and a buff body wasn't everything.

"Just be quiet!" the teacher glared round at them all. "Why can't you be more like Jack and Christopher?"

They all immediately looked to the next table where Jacko Meadows and Deaky Deakin sat together, quietly getting on with their work.

"Swots!" John shouted.

"Two nights detention, Boulton," his teacher threatened.

"Why don't I just live 'ere?" J demanded. "I spend more time 'ere in detention than I do at 'ome."

"Maybe you should behave yourself, then."

"Yeah, right."

The teacher gave up and went back to his desk. The gang began a giant team game of noughts and crosses on the back of Mikey's artwork.

X X X

With art finally over, the gang crowded out into the yard for break. They had their own space that no one else ever occupied, unless they wanted to fight J. Few people wanted to fight J. The girls headed for the toilets to re-apply their copious makeup. The smokers lit up. Jacko and Deaky set off to the library to plan for the school council meeting at lunchtime. Lenny produced his usual huge bag of sugary food and offered it round.

"'Ave you seen how short Kez's skirt is today?" Mikey asked, blowing smoke rings like a pro. "I could see right up it in assembly!"

"Pervert," Dan muttered, leaning comfortably against the wall refusing to have a cigarette. He only ever spoke when he felt something needed saying. For some reasons all the others, including J, respected this.

"That's the nearest you'll ever get to Kez's knickers," J agreed, practicing holding his cigarette like he'd seen Mel Gibson do in Lethal Weapon. Apart from Dan, he was the tallest member of the group now, having hit his growth spurts well before the others. He stood at five feet eight, impressive for a young fourteen-year-old, and had grown broad-shouldered and muscular from rugby. He was the subject of unbridled adoration from many Lower School females, and he knew it.

Any other fourteen-year-old boy would have taken great advantage of the situation, but John had had his fun in second year, once going out with four girls at once, and was no longer interested. He only had eyes for Claire now.

"Kez'll go out with me one day!" Mikey protested.

"How many times have you asked her out now?" Skasey asked. He wasn't even looking at the group, more interested in preening his hair in the reflection of the Science block window. His new blond highlights looked great.

"Sixteen," Mikey said immediately.

"You sad prat," Beechey snorted.

"No I ain't!"

"Who thinks Mikey's sad?" J, acknowledged leader of the group, asked.

"Yeah!" the others all chorused, apart from Lenny and Jamie.

"Oi, Lenny!" J wasn't used to be being disagreed with.

Lenny hurriedly swallowed the doughnut he hadn't been able to choke down in time for the group response. "Yeah, definitely."

"Carver?"

Jamie shrugged. "Maybe he loves her. You shouldn't give up on people you love."

"You're the sad one!" Beechey crowed.

"Yeah, but I got a better report than any of you lot," Jamie said.

"I got a good report!" Lenny protested.

J laughed. "Not in PE, you din't. Mr Baxter said you was so unfit you couldn't even kick a football!"

"Anyone'd think you loved Mr Baxter the amount of time you spend wiv 'im!" Mikey piped up.

J scowled. "He's my rugby coach, you moron!" He grabbed Mikey by the front of his shirt and pinned him against the wall. "Say that again and I'll knock your teeth out!"

"All right, all right!"

"John, put him down." Claire had appeared round the corner with Kerry. "Can't you go one day without a fight?"

He glanced at her, eyes appreciative of her plentiful makeup, before releasing Mikey. He held out his arms to her instead. "Hey, how come your skirt isn't as short as Kez's?"

"Coz she's wearing a belt, not a bloody skirt."

J grinned, hands wandering under her blazer. "Nice bra, by the way. I can see it under your shirt."

"Maybe I'll show it to you later."

That caught the interest of every male in the group. J gave them all warning glares and they all quickly found fascinating things to look at on the floor.

"Want some of my Coke, Kez?" Mikey asked as J and Claire sidled away a few paces for a passionate embrace.

"No!" Kez was unimpressed. "It's got your germs on it!"

Everyone cracked up laughing. Mikey scowled and tried to think of a smart comeback, but was still racking his brains when the bell went and everyone lost interest.

"I'm going to the tuck shop before it closes," Lenny announced. He waved cheerfully and ambled away. He was immediately joined by another group of friends. He was never on his own.

"I need to get my basketball strip from PE." Dan left without another word of explanation, as he always did.

Jamie simply melted away, unnoticed. Jacko and Deaky walked past again, already heading to the next class to ensure there was no chance they would be late.

J, his arms still round Claire, looked round the remainder of the group. "Are you lot going to maths?" J asked.

"Yes!" Claire and Kerry said, as if it was perfectly obvious.

"No," all the boys said, as if it was perfectly obvious.

As usual, they separated and went their different ways, the girls to work, the boys to bunk off. Somehow, they all knew it would always be that way.