Higher Ground

Hello hello, it's me!

For those of you who follow my other Higher Ground story, I will still be continuing on with it. I've just missed the original cliffhangers so much that I thought, what the hell. For those of you who haven't read my other fiction before, it's called the High Life. Not that I'm promoting it in any way. Hehe!

Painted Black

Chapter 1… First Day Nerves

"Wake up, wake up", Shelby heard someone say faintly. Although she was half asleep she could only think of one person that sounded that chirpy in the morning.

"It's the first day of senior year guys", Juliet said in the same overly-happy voice. "Aren't you excited?"

While the other Cliffhangers had been happily lazing around their whole holidays, Juliet could not wait to get back into it.

"No. Why are you?" Shelby replied groggily.

"Oh, come on Shelby. Another year of paralyzing self doubt and mistrust," Daisy said in her bland but sarcastic voice. "I gotta tell you ladies. I can't wait".

"Then you more loopy than we all thought", Shelby told her pulling the covers of her bed back over her face.

"Shelby, you're just trying to be pessimistic about it", Juliet complained.

"What can I say? It works", Shelby realized she wasn't going to get anymore sleep with Juliet wining in her ear so she got up and headed to the bathroom.

"I wonder if we get any newbie's." Juliet thought aloud.

"Oh now wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake", Shelby was sarcastic as she poked her head out of the bathroom door.

"I wish she wouldn't be like that". Juliet told Daisy when Shelby had stepped into the shower and could no longer hear.

"Like what?" Daisy asked. "Shelby? You heard what she said. It works for her".

In the Cafeteria the topic of conversation wasn't very different.

"Isn't this great", Ezra beamed as he placed some bacon on his tray.

"What's great?" Auggie asked.

"A new year dawning upon us, all the clouds of uncertainty just disappearing", Ezra replied poetically as the guys sat down at there table.

"I don't know what world you're living in EZ. All my clouds just doubled", Scott adjusted his chair.

"Oh come on Jocko", David chimed in. "You were clueless from the start". Scott chose to ignore him.

"We'll be probably be getting a newbie too", Auggie realized. "Probably a girl".

"Why would it be a girl?" Ezra asked curiously.

"It wouldn't be a guy", Scott assumed. "There's way too much testosterone in the Cliffhangers already".

"Aw, and here I thought you liked it that way", David teased.

"Alright are you trying to start something?" Scott asked putting his knife and fork down exhausted from David's juvenile behavior.

"Arguments before breakfast?" a female voice said as the girls approached them from behind. "It must be senior year. Hello", Shelby sat next to Scott after giving him a peck on the cheek.

"Hey Shelb", Scott replied. Juliet also took her place next to Auggie.

"Ugh", Daisy groaned. "Young love. Makes me sick. Excuse me while I go barf", she got up and made her way to the food.

"So, does anybody know about the newbie?" Juliet asked.

"Nothin yet", Auggie answered. "But we think it'll be a girl cos Peter will try and even us out".

"Now there's something to look forward to", Shelby said sarcastically.

Scott hadn't been paying much attention to this conversation. He had been feeling a little sick over the last few days and he'd had a painful migraine.

"You ok Scott?" Juliet asked when she noticed him squinting.

"Huh? Oh I just got a bit of a headache", he answered.

"First day jitters Scotty boy?" David taunted him.

"Do you want me to give you the jitters, Ruxton?" Shelby bit back.

"Well, if you must," David quipped taking it the wrong way.

"Ugh, try your own species, Ruxton", Shelby told him tiredly.

Later on in the mess hall it was the Cliffhangers first Group meeting of the year. As they all took there seats on the couch Peter stood at the front of them with two unfamiliar faces.

"Guy's, Id like you to meet Anna Vasquez and Tom Jacobz," Peter announced. "Anna is from New York while Tom here, is from Boston. As always please make them welcome and don't make them do anything they don't want to do. Now, lets get on with it shall we. Stand in a circle. Jules, you can start, I am…"

"I am excited", Juliet said.

"Why?" Peter asked.

"Because we have two new people to get to know and we're starting senior year".

"Ok, Shelby?"

"I am…comfortable. For the first time in a while, I'm breathin' easy".

"Good, Scott?"

"I'm anxious. I barely pulled through last year, now I gotta do it all again".

"David?"

"I am… I'm having trouble grasping the concept that Scotty here is gay…"

"David", Peter warned.

"I know, I always suspected it but I never actually thought…"

"David!" Peter's tone was enough for him to stop.

As the rest of the group took turns saying how they felt Tom was dreading the part where Peter would make him speak. After all, he didn't know these people, why should he let them in on what he was feeling.

"Tom". Peter's voice stayed with Tom for a minute, before he finally worked up the courage to open his mouth.

"Uh…um…I don't, I don't want to do this", Tom hoped it would be easy to get Peter off his back, considering it was his first day.

"Ok, that's fine. I know how daunting this can be. Just bare in mind that you will have to do this sooner or later", Peter let him off. "Ok, what about you Anna?"

"Ah…ok, I am…worried", she said almost questioning Peter, asking if this was good enough.

"Why?"

"New place, new people", she trailed off.

"Ok, good. I'm going to give you all 15 minutes break, when I come back, we'll continue", Peter told them as he walked out.

Juliet was the first one to introduce herself to the new students.

"Hey, I'm Juliet. I'm your first week buddy", she told Anna.

"Hi", Anna replied a little overwhelmed. From what she could tell she was going to like Juliet, but she was still a little guarded.

"Hey", Auggie greeted Tom. "I'm your first week buddy. It basically means I gotta follow you around for seven days". Auggie could tell by the expression on Toms face that he was going to be a hard nut to crack. "Come on, I'll show you around".

To Anna, Horizon looked a lot like camp. Nothing like she pictured. There were no gates around the school or no bars on the windows. She was surprised by that and she wondered what would happen if anyone ever tried to run away. She figured it would be pretty easy considering there was nothing stopping anyone from breaking free.

"You're thinking about how much this place doesn't look like a jail, right?" Juliet walked beside her. "Yeah, that was my first impression too. We're pretty much free to do whatever we want here. I mean, as long as it's not against the rules. Peter likes us to be open so I guess he feels that… well, locking us up probably wouldn't make us trust him or want us to be open with him." Anna looked down to her feet as she walked along the dirt. She was beginning to think Juliet would never stop talking.

"Have you met Sophie yet?" Juliet asked.

"Uh yeah, she was in Peter's office when I came in this morning", Anna answered.

"So, everyone's pretty nice here, of course with a few exceptions like David and maybe Shelby. Although, I guess, Shelby has her good days. She's the blonde with the tall athletic guy", Juliet continued. "That's her boyfriend Scott. Then there's Daisy, she's a little dark, Ezra's like her side kick I guess, he's pretty cool and then there's Auggie, my boyfriend".

"Auggie? Is he the Mexican looking one?" Anna tried to sound at least a little bit interested.

"Yeah", Juliet answered and for the first time in about 10 minutes she stopped talking.

Tom wasn't sure what to think about Horizon. As he took in his surroundings he was happy to see that it wasn't like a prison, like he's father had told him. He looked around at the green cabins that the kid called Auggie had pointed out to him. The place looked like a Ski lodge or a resort.

"So Boston, huh?" Auggie said. "Yeah, I've been there once or twice, they got a good mall". Auggie was straining himself, trying to find something to talk about, but whatever he came up with, Tom didn't care. "Yeah, uh, so I guess you'll like it here, I mean, it feels weird now but soon it'll become like a second home. You leave someone special? Family? Friends? Girlfriend?"

"No", Tom said quickly.

Auggie seemed like a nice enough kid, but Tom wanted to be alone. He wasn't used to interacting with this many people even if there were only 8 that were in his group. He was the kid that always sat at the back of the class in the corner, the one that never raised his hand to ask a question because he was afraid the other kids would laugh, and the one that was so quiet he was barely even noticed. He only ever had one real friend. Jerri. She was his friend right from when they were eating paste. She was the one person that stuck beside him, no matter what happened. Even when they grew up to be teens and she started dating, she was always around. He guessed that's why he had fallen for her. It was the night of the junior prom, 2 years before, when he first realized that he liked her more than a friend. He wasn't going to go. Proms weren't exactly his thing, but Jerri had made him go with her. Looking back on it now he actually had a pretty good time up until all the drama. But he would never let her know that. It wasn't until the end of the night when Jerri had gotten drunk and was hanging off some random guy that Tom had realized his feelings for her. And when the guy was trying to drag Jerri out of the hall, that's when Tom began to get jealous. And angry. He could see that Jerri was struggling with the guy, trying to get away, but she was too intoxicated to fight. He knew he had to do something. And before he knew it, he was facing the guy. Jerri had stumbled to the couch watching in horror at the argument. Tom didn't remember how the rest happened but somehow in the next minute or two, the guy was down on the ground with a blood nose. Tom couldn't believe that he, of all people, had just hit a guy and was now the center of attention. He grabbed Jerri and the two left.

Tom often thought about that night and how it all happened. When he got to Jerri's house he asked her why she got so drunk. It wasn't like her. He knew she hated alcohol. She wouldn't say anything. She just sat there, in the car seat. Later on when he had brought her inside and laid her on her bed, she looked at him questioningly.

"Why did you help me tonight?" she asked him curiously.

Tom was surprised. "Well, you needed help; I couldn't just leave you there". He could never tell her that he was jealous.

"And that's it?"

"Well, yeah, what else would there be?" he was confused at why she was pressing this.

"Nothing, I guess", Jerri sat back down in her bed.

"Jerri, is everything alright", Tom asked.

"Yeah, I just…well I thought I saw something tonight", she told him.

"Something in me?"

"Well, yeah". Tom could have left it at that but he chose not to.

"I don't know, Jerri, you needed help, I helped you, there was nothing to it".

"Nothing at all?" she asked again hoping to get something out of him.

"What's this about?" he asked. "You get drunk and now you're questioning me?"

"I just don't get you sometimes", she told him.

"What's not to get, it's just me", he was at a loss.

"I just…all right, sometimes, I look at you and I'm just you're friend and then other times, It just feels like there's more to it than that", she said all in one breathe.

Tom was taken aback. He didn't know what to think. Was she trying to tell him something or was it just that she saw right through him and she knew somehow, that he had developed feelings for her before he even realized.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything", she sat back in her bed quietly after a minute of silence.

"No, I just, I don't know where this is coming from", Tom was holding off from telling her the truth.

"No where, look just forget about it", she covered up. He couldn't let this go. Not now when he was so close to telling her everything. Maybe if she gave him enough time to build up to it, it would all come out and she'd feel the same way.

"What would you say if I said you were right?" he asked her.

"That depends on whether this is a hypothetical or not", she answered carefully.

He hesitated. This was it. "Its not". She looked at him. There was no going back now. "The truth is, I was jealous of that guy tonight. I wanted it to be me, I mean besides the whole him dragging you and you resisting part," he started to mumble. "Look, I don't want this to effect our friendship, if you don't feel the same that's fine, we can go back to the way its always been, I don't care, I mean I do care but, you know, I'll get over it…"

Before he could finish rambling she reached up to him and kissed him. At first he was shocked. He would never in a million years have ever thought that she felt the same way. He was ecstatic. And that's how it all began. Jerri was with him till the very end, right up until his father had brought him to Horizon. He missed her already. He didnt kow how he was going to cope in this place without her.

In the mess hall, Shelby and Scott were playing a game of pool. This was the first downtime alone together they'd had all day.

"So, how was the visit home?" Shelby asked Scott. They hadn't yet discussed this even though he had been back for four days now.

"Oh, you know, I saw some old friends, got in a few fights with dad, but you know it was good to be home", Scott answered. "I tell ya what though, these headaches are killing me, I've had one everyday since I got there."

"Well, maybe you should check it out", Shelby suggested.

"Me and doctors, Shelb, we don't mix", Scott told her.

"Yeah but if you've had headaches everyday for almost two weeks, I think it might be worth it", she said. Scott looked at her and put his pool queue down. He walked over to her.

"Relax", he said simply while wrapping his arms around her. "You're paranoid". He then kissed her. "Don't worry about me ok, I'm fine".

Across the other side of the room, Tom was sitting by himself on the couch. When Anna came in, she sat down next to him.

"Hey", she greeted him. He still sat there in silence, staring at nothing in particular.

"All this is kinda strange, huh?" Still nothing. She wasn't going to give up. "The Cliffhangers are all pretty nice." He looked up at her and then down again staring at the same space as before. "Ok, well, if you need someone to talk to, you know, I'm kinda going through the same thing here so, well, I'm here", she stood there for a second waiting for a reaction. When she realized, finally that she wasn't going to get anything out of him, she left.

Later on outside, the Cliffhangers, minus the newbie's, had gathered around the picnic bench out by the field.

"Could this day be any slower?" Juliet complained. Shelby, who took the most joy out of crashing Juliet's spirits, was particularly happy to gloat about this statement.

"And still 7 long hours to go", Shelby teased.

"Hey, where are the newbie's?" David asked.

"Anna wanted to rest a bit, she's a little overwhelmed", Jules replied. "Hey, she's really nice, huh?"

Yeah, she seems cool", Auggie said.

"So where's the other weirdo", David asked.

"He's not weird, he's just different", Auggie chose his words carefully.

"Same thing", Shelby said.

"I don't know. Don't you remember when you guys came to Horizon? You were all just as quiet and probably scared as he is", Ezra told them.

"Ezra, are you sure you met us on that first day", Daisy said.

"What do you mean?" Ezra asked confused.

"Let's examine. Shelby: ass, Scott: arrogant ass, same with Auggie and David, the only people here that weren't acting like gods gift to man kind was Juliet", Daisy explained as Juliet smiled smugly.

"Well, excuse me but since you came after most of us here I don't think you have any right to comment. And as for me, I was an angel", Ezra smiled.

"And probably one of the only guys I know that doesn't quiver when being told that", Shelby quipped.

"Jealous are we?" Ezra laughed.

"Well, I still think that guy Tom, is weird", David said.

"He's just shy, give him a couple of days, he'll probably be like the rest of us", Auggie told him.

"Well, you know what they say, it's always the quiet ones", Daisy said blandly.

"Dais, you're just saying that for the point of arguing", Scott pointed out.

"Perceptive, Scott, very perceptive", Daisy teased.

"Tom", Auggie blurted out. Standing behind them all, was Tom and it looked as if he had heard everything. Without waiting another second, Tom walked off. Auggie followed. "Tom, wait. Listen, I'm sorry about that man, they're just curious, that's all, they didn't mean anything by it", Auggie told him.

"Whatever, I don't care". With that, Tom walked off leaving Auggie standing there. It was true. He didn't care. Why should he. He'd known these people for less than a day. They could make any kind of assumptions about him. They could think whatever. He didn't know these people well enough to even pretend to care.

That's it for today. Hope you like it. This chapter was a lot about Tom but don't worry this story is very much a Shelby and Scott fic. Thanx heaps. Please review.