I was thinking it's a sign that the freckles
in our eyes are mirror images and when
we kiss they're perfectly aligned
and I have to speculate that god himself
did make us into corresponding shapes like
puzzle pieces from the clay
and true, it may seem like a stretch, but
its thoughts like this that catch my troubled
head when you're away when I am missing
you to death
when you are out there on the road for
several weeks of shows and when you scan
the radio, I hope this song will guide you

they will see us waving from such great
heights, "come down now," they'll say
but everything looks perfect from far away,
"come down now," but we'll stay...

-The Postal Service "Such Great Heights"

Chapter Eighteen:

Lili's Gift

Lester was asleep in his breakfast. Tessa poked him for the fifth time that morning in order to wake him. Her efforts were with little conviction, however, for she was rather tired herself.

Manny hadn't shown that morning, and Zoe reasoned that she would need at least another hour of beauty sleep because of the racket Tessa created the night before. Therefore, the loser's table was, for the most part, this morning, empty.

Angus sat across from Tessa, shuffling his Zark cards and occasionally picking one out and showing it to Lester, who was, in response, gave him a deadly look. (When he was awake anyways)

Lili sat down with her breakfast and nodded at her friends lethargically. Tessa poked Lester again, allowing her nail to dig into his side this time.

"Ow, Tessa, I wasn't asleep that time!" She ignored him. Instead she smiled at Lili, who looked down at her eggs (Which were runny) and her pancakes (Which were mostly batter…hell, even rich schools have bad food) and silently began to eat them.

Angus had gone red and carefully put his cards away.

"Happy birthday Lili." He said quietly, his face going up another shade of red. Lili looked up from her food and for a moment she looked as if she were counting inside her head.

"Oh…right." She said and went back to eating. Angus looked at Tessa, who shrugged.

They sat in silence for a while, before Tessa cleared her throat lightly. Only Angus gave her his attention. Lili continued to eat, and Lester was snoring loudly.

"So Lili…" She said, perhaps a little too loudly. "What do you want to do for your birthday?" Lili paused for a moment, a piece of egg hovering (Not literally, she knows better then to hover eggs at breakfast) a few inches from her mouth. Finally, she shrugged.

"It doesn't matter."

"Well, we could sneak out to town or something…maybe there's a movie theatre nearby…or…"

"Don't worry about it." Lili interrupted.

"Relax, it's no trouble at all!" Angus said, while touching her shoulder. (He blushed deeply as he did it)

Lili, without any apparent thought, shrugged his hand off and kept eating. Tessa gave Angus a pointed look, which he missed as he started to eat his own meal.

"Will Lili Zanotto and…friends…please come to the West Wing Office?"

A voice from the intercom cut through the persistent babble of the cafeteria. A couple of kids snickered. Tessa, Lili and Angus shared a look.

"Wonder what they want." Tessa said, a tremor of wariness in her voice.

"It had better not have anything to do with you guys skipping classes…" Lili said sharply. Tessa pointed to Lester, who was muttering something in his sleep.

"What about him, is he your friend?" Lili shrugged and stood up, with Angus on her heels. (He stepped on one accidentally, causing her to almost trip) Tessa shoved Lester, who almost fell off of his seat, then followed her in a cloud of confusion as she followed Lili and Angus.


In the office a woman with blonde hair, plastered so thinly on her head that she almost looked bald was looking at a man and woman suspiciously. The man, tall, with broad shoulders had messy black hair and stubble that suggested that he hadn't shaved (or showered…Sasha had been on the brink of a breakthrough in his research) in a while. Plus, he wouldn't take off his sunglasses…even after she had pointed out that the room was very comfortably lit.

And the woman was dressed like a hippie.

They had come into the office requesting for Lili. They said that they were going to bring her home on her father's wishes. The woman had started to explain why this could not be done. If strangers could just come in and take kids out of school, who knows what travesties could occur? Yet, to her annoyance they had a note with Truman's complicated signature on it, proof that they worked for him, and the man, who, by this point had begun to grow testy, had offered to call Truman so she could speak to him personally. Finally, she had to give in and give them what they wanted.


When Lili reached the office and saw Sasha and Milla, her eyebrows raised. Of course, she had seen them briefly over the summer. (They hadn't taught because Milla was working on recruiting new agents and Sasha had been wrapped up in his research.) Milla saw her and smiled, while tossing her fabulous hair behind one shoulder. (The lady at the desk watched her do this jealously.)

"Lili darling, so nice to see you!" She leaned down and gave Lili a hug.

"Hello Ms. Zanotto." Sasha said. None of the muscles in his face moved.

"Hey." Lili said hesitantly. "What are you guys doing here?" Behind her, her friends shuffled into the office.

"We're here to collect you on your father's orders." Sasha said stoically.

"Are you a secret agent?" Angus said as he stood near Lili. He was watching Sasha with something like awe.

"No." Sasha said.

"You look like one, with those neat sunglasses…people who wear sunglasses inside are always secret agents in my comic books."

Sasha gave him a look that many people had given him over the years and carefully ignored him.

"He wants to bring you home for your birthday." Lili's eyes widened a little, then they narrowed again with suspicion.

"He's never brought me home for my birthday before." She said.

"That's why were here darling, because he wanted you to come home and have a nice birthday."

Lili cast a quick look at her friends. Angus was smiling. Tessa was also smiling, but looked mildly uncomfortable at the same time. Lester was asleep on one of the office chairs.

"Is he going to be there?"

"Yes, he couldn't pick you up himself because he had stuff to take care of at the house."

Lili looked back and forth between both of them before her face evened out into something like surprise.

"Are these all of your friends darling?" Milla asked as her eyes swept over the other children. Lili shook her head.

"No…uh." She turned and looked at Tessa who kicked Lester in the ankle hard.

"Wsfg?" Lester said as he sat up in confusion.

"Come on, get up!" She turned back to Lili. "Me and Lester'll get Manny and Zoe." She grabbed Lester by the shirt and practically pulled him out the door.

"Well then" Sasha said after they left, "Let's get loaded up." He gave Angus one last peculiar look and left the office with Milla behind him.

"I guess things worked out." Angus said with a smile. "Are you excited?" Lili blinked and her eyes met his. When they did he felt his stomach do a somersault.

"Surprised actually. I bet he's not there." She said as she left, but there was a queer look in her eyes, as though she were trying to figure something out. Angus followed behind her.

"That scary guy just said he was going to be there. I'm sure he will."

Lili shrugged.

Angus swallowed. They were alone, she didn't seem to be in too bad of a mood…it was now or never, and so he decided it was time to give her her birthday present.

"Uh…Lili…?" He asked a little shakily. "Can I…uh…I mean I want to…give you something." He stuttered. For a second he didn't think that she had heard him, or that she was paying attention. He almost ran into her, however when she halted and turned towards him.


"Y-your birthday present." He began to fumble through his pockets, but his hand was shaking, so when he finally found the tiny package he accidentally dropped it on the floor. He kneeled down and grabbed it quickly and handed it to her, blushing slightly.

Lili took the package from him, while smiling apathetically. She unwrapped it and held it up with that frozen look that come upon people who suddenly feel obligated to give praise for a gift that they are very unenthusiastic about.


"It's a friendship bracelet…because I ruined yours…I ordered it out of a catalogue a few days ago." He smiled broadly. Lili watched it spin lazily in her finger. It was much better crafted then the one Raz had given her…because…well…Raz had MADE the one he had given her. What kind of sad pathetic fool would order a friendship bracelet out of a magazine? It was pink…and there were little hearts on it…and secretly, Lili thought it was tacky…and the hearts made her uncomfortable.

"Uh…thanks…I'll um…put it on later." She pocketed it quickly and turned away from Angus who looked a little disappointed.

"Wait, Lili…I also…"

"Well, all taken care of!" Tessa interrupted loudly, as she had been nearby when Lili had opened the gift. "We can leave now. I got your bags, Lili…but…Angus, you'd better go get yours." Angus looked like he was about to say something, then, he closed his mouth and headed towards his room.

"So…your not going to set it on fire…are you?" Tessa asked slyly. Lili smiled a little.

"That was if Lester gave me a friendship bracelet…remember?" Tessa laughed and they headed off towards Milla's car.


When they were all together, and their bags were stuffed in the trunk, they began trying to come up with ways in which all eight of them were going to fit into the psychedelic car.

"This is ridiculous. Aren't you rich Lili? Couldn't you get a better car to carry us all in?" Zoe asked as she set one of her three bags down with a puff.

"Well…" Milla, who was much cooler about these things then Sasha was, spoke carefully. "I suppose four of you can fit in my car…excluding Sasha…if he wouldn't mind catching another ride. (Sasha gave her an annoyed look as she said this. She just smiled at him.) "But that still leaves two of you…"

"Don't you drive?" Angus asked Sasha, who's eyebrow twitched.

"I don't…currently own a car." Sasha replied dryly. "You can probably fit two of them in the front seat…and squeeze four in the back."

Milla looked at her car skeptically.

"Well…it's worth a try."

Just then, something caught Sasha's eye.

"Or…I could ride with you and three of them could ride in Mr. Zanotto's car." Sasha said as he pointed to a car that had just pulled up.

Milla turned to look at it and smiled.

"Excellent. Who will ride with me then?" She asked as one of Truman's drivers exited from the nice car now parked in front of the school.

In the end Lili decided to go with Sasha and Milla and Tessa and Angus came with her. It wasn't a difficult arrangement considering the luxury of Truman's car. Lili was more then ready to give up a seat in it, since she was used to it…and was also rather tired of it. Much to Angus's annoyance Tessa made sure she occupied the seat in between Lili and him. Soon both cars pulled out and they were on their way to Lili's house.


Several hours after they left the school, they managed to arrive at the Zanotto dwelling with little complication. Zoe, who had been stuck with Lester and Manny for the whole ride had complained quite a bit until Lester said something rather rude to her that shut her up. Manny had read the whole time.

In Milla's car things had gone a bit better, but this was only because no one was talking, except for Milla and occasionally Angus. When they arrived both Tessa and Angus leaned towards the window to get a look at Lili's house. Lili sat back in her chair, casting it only a quick glance before she grabbed her bag and opened the door the minute Milla stopped the car.

Tessa and Angus followed her excitedly.


Lili dragged her bag up to the front door of her rather large house and tried the knob only to find that the door was locked. She began to fumble through her possessions for her house key. Before she found it, however, the door opened. Lili looked up expecting a housekeeper, and instead found her father, who was smiling in a discomfiting way.

"Dad?" Her surprise was now unmasked. Part of her had been sure that he wouldn't be there. Well, there was still time for him to be called away on sudden, urgent business.

"Happy birthday Lili." Truman said. "These are your friends?" He nodded towards the other children, all of which had gathered behind her. For a moment Lili didn't say anything, then, she blinked and turned towards her companions.

"Uh, yeah. I…I thought you had work." Lili said as she turned back to her father who took her bag and beckoned her friends inside.

"Well…I do…but nothing so important as to miss my daughter's birthday." Lili gave him a strange look. "Well, better get this up to your room, Lili. There are two empty guest rooms for your friends. One of them is upstairs, third door to the left, past the bathroom. The other one is right over there." Truman pointed to an oak door, twenty feet in front of them. "When you guys are all settled in come on down for lunch. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to talk to Sasha and Milla before they get back to work." He swept out the door, leaving the children standing in the entrance.

"Two guest rooms?" Tessa asked. "So what? Me and Zoë to one and Manny, Lester and Angus to another? How many beds in each room?" Lili came out of her thoughts.

"Two…but we have three guest rooms. There's another one down here, right at the end of the hall. I'm going to unpack, I'll show you where it is after I do." Tessa shrugged.

"We can manage."

"I want the room next to the bathroom." Lester said and hurried up the stairs before anyone else could claim it. Lili rolled her eyes and followed after him, as her room was upstairs as well. Tessa sighed and motioned towards the hall.

"So, do you guys want this one, or the one further down?" Tessa assumed that no one would claim a room with Lester in it. She was right. Both Manny and Angus weren't in a hurry to bunk with the boorish pre teen. "Go ahead and take this one."

"Ugh…but I don't want to walk any further." Zoe said as Tessa started down the hallway, ignoring her. They walked by several doors before they got to the end.

"It's probably this one." She tried the knob, but it wouldn't twist. "Hmm…it's locked."

"You've got to be kidding." Zoe said as she let her bags drop to the floor.

"Maybe someone's using it." Tessa said. "He did say there were two empty rooms…"

"Well, we're Lili's guests. So they'll just have to find somewhere else to sleep." Tessa protested frantically as Zoe hammered on the door. "Hey, get out this is OUR room!"

"Zoe! You don't even know who's in there!" Just then the knob turned and the door opened. Both girls turned towards it. Raz stood in the doorway looking confused and wet, a he had just gotten out of the shower and had finished dressing when Zoe had hammered on the door. When he saw Tessa, however, he recognized her and smiled. Tessa in exchange wore an almost comical look of surprise.

"You! What…how in the hell did you get here?"

"Mr. Zanotto drove me." Raz replied.

"But how…how did you get a hold of him." Raz shrugged.

"It's a long story."

"Hey!" Zoe interrupted in frustration. "What's going on? Who is this?" Tessa, who was now beaming, ignored her.

"Well this is great! Lili'll be so happy to see you!"

"Hello." Zoe said, annoyed that she was being ignored.

"Hey, what's going on, did you find the room or…" Angus and Manny reached the door at the end of the Hallway and stopped. Angus raised his eyebrow at the sight of the new stranger.

"Um…the room's occupied actually." Tessa said quickly. "You guys are done unpacking?"

"Nah, we just dropped are stuff off. Who's this?" Angus replied. He tilted his head slightly with interest.

Tessa turned back towards Raz.

"This is Raz, Lili's…friend. Raz this is Angus…you've met Manny."

"Hey, how's it going?" Raz said brightly, while raising his hand slightly. "Isn't an angus like a cow?"

"Hi." Angus returned, a bit uneasily. "Uh…I guess." He was used to comments like this…only…generally made by larger boys who tried to work it in as some sort of insult. Fortunately for him he had been born with a fast metabolism. It was hard to make cow jokes about a kid who was as skinny as Angus was.

"Hey!" Zoe said loudly. "Hello, standing right here!" Tessa sighed wearily.

"Oh yeah. This is Zoe." Raz nodded at her with a smile.

"What's up…nice hat…very…poofy." He was referring to a ridiculous pink thing that sprouted from the girl's head like some crazy pink molting animal.


Angus examined Raz in the same way that a scientist would observe some new threatening disease. Lili's friend? He had thought at first…or perhaps hoped that they were related.

The boy was tall…about as tall as Angus himself, and almost as skinny, although, the awkwardness that flowed from Angus was absent in Raz's case. In fact, he seemed to be pretty confident. He was wearing a pair of brown slacks and a turtleneck, which would have been nice enough, if it had not been for the oversized green jacket that looked as though it had been dragged in the dirt a couple times. It had some faded stitching on it, advertising some old circus. Angus found this a bit odd.

Tessa was talking. Angus tore his eyes off of Raz and gave her his attention.

"Well…I guess someone'll have to room with Lester after all. We didn't know this room was occupied." She was grinning and it was clear that she already liked Raz quite a bit. Angus couldn't see why. Hadn't they just met? Unless…

"Oh…your that friend from the circus that Tessa was going to see." He said, out of the blue. "I guess I didn't expect someone so…(male) normal looking." He finished. Honestly, he hadn't really expected much of anything. That conversation with Tessa had been forgotten since the day before.

"Sorry to disappoint you. If you want I could go put my tights on." Raz joked. He was smiling good-naturedly and Angus felt a twinge of irritation, which seemed to come out of nowhere. "They kind of make me look like a girl."

Angus blinked. He hadn't said male out loud had he? No…he was sure he didn't. This must just be a coincidence.

"Don't trouble yourself." He said, a little heavily. "I guess…I'll room with Lester."

"That means Manny'll have to room with you…if it's alright." Tessa said, while looking at Raz.

"No problem." Raz said with a smile. "Need any help moving your stuff?" Manny shook his head shyly and started back towards the other guest room.

"Come on Zoe, let's go back to the other guest room. See you in a bit, Raz…oh and if you could, don't leave your room just yet."

"Huh why…oh…right…where is she?" Angus couldn't help but notice that the boys face colored a little as he asked. He felt a sudden burst of jealousy.

"Upstairs in her room…unpacking. Just stay in your room for now, okay?" Raz nodded and went back into the guest room as Tessa, Angus and Zoe headed back up the hall.


"Hey." Lili reached the bottom of the stairs shortly after Tessa and Zoe had finished unpacking. She had passed Angus on the way down. He had had a strange look about him.

"Hey Lili." Tessa said. She looked as if she were trying to suppress a smile.

"Did you guys find the guest room alright?" At this moment Lester headed down the stairs as well.


"Then why's Angus moving into my room." Lester asked darkly.

"Because. Did your dad say something about lunch?"

Lili nodded and started in the direction of the kitchen. Zoe followed. Tessa purposefully fell a step behind and grabbed Lester gruffly by the arm.

"Jeez, Tess…what the hell?"

"Raz is here."

"Who?" Tessa sighed.

"God your stupid. Raz…we saw him yesterday…at the circus."

"Oh yeah. What about him?"

"He's here!" Tessa said a bit loudly as she lost her temper. "Angus is rooming with you because he has the other guest room. Don't mention it or him again okay?"

"Fine…you don't need to shout. When are you gonna spring him on her?"

"I don't know…soon…I don't want to make him wait inside his room forever."

"So say you've got a surprise for her and do it now." When they reached the kitchen Lili and Zoe were already sitting. Truman was standing in the doorway with Sasha and Milla. When Lili and Zoe had entered, their conversation had dropped slightly. Now it stopped.

"These all your friends Lili?"

"No…Angus and Manny aren't here." Lili said.

"Well, we'll give them a few minutes. Would you like to stay for lunch Sasha…Milla?"

"Sure, why not."

"We're terribly busy." They answered at the same time. Sasha and Milla exchanged a look.

"I have some important tests to run." Sasha said sternly.

"Yes darling, but perhaps an evening not spent burning yourself would do you some good." Sasha started to protest.

"Now come on, Sasha…I'm sure it can wait." Truman said. Lili was looking at him strangely.

"Well…I suppose I could spare a few hours." Sasha said in the tones of someone who knew that even if he continued to protest he would lose in the end. Milla was his ride after all.

After they had all sat down and Truman gave the cook orders to lie out the food, they spent the next moment in an awkward silence.

"How old are you Lili, darling?" Milla asked, always eager to break up such moments.

"Twelve." Lili answered.

"Oh, you're getting so big, sweetheart." Milla said in sugary tones. Sasha lit a cigarette and was currently smoking it in silence.

"Yuck…that smell is awful." Zoe said, while exaggerating a cough. Sasha sighed and put the cigarette out.

Truman cleared his throat awkwardly.

"So…Lili…how are things at school?" Lili shrugged.

"Alright." She answered.

"Staying out of trouble, I assume?"

"I got detention for beating up the quarterback of our football team." She said impassively.

"You…" Truman started, taken aback. He was silent for a moment. "Not…you know." He touched his temple briefly.

"No…" Lili replied without looking at him.

"Oh…well…he's alright though?"

"Yeah he'll probably play football again in a month or so."

Tessa and Lester exchanged a perplexed look. That wasn't how it would have gone at their houses.

"You may want to see if your friends are lost, Lils."

"I've got it." Tessa said quickly and stood. "I'm sure their just still unpacking." She hurried out of the kitchen before Lili could leave her chair.

"So…" Lili said slowly, while turning towards her father. "How long am I staying?"

"I was thinking for a week, actually." Truman replied. Lili raised her eyebrows.

"Are you going to be here or…"

"I've already cleared my schedule."

"Really?" Lili asked, her voice uncertain.

"Yep…our guests can stay as well." Truman added quickly; "Of course Sasha and Milla probably have tons of work to do, so I won't keep them past lunch." Sasha relaxed.

"We're here." Tessa said as she re-entered a moment later. This time Angus and Manny were with her. Tessa made a quick decision.

"Be right back though

. I have to get your gift." Lili raised her brow as Tessa left the room again in a hurry. Angus took Tessa's seat beside Lili and cast Sasha and Milla a brief observational glance.

"If any of your friends have to return early, I'll understand. In fact, I would like all of you to call your parents so they know where you are…and ask them permission, if you intend to stay for the rest of the week."

"The whole week?" Angus asked, surprised.

"If you like." Truman replied.

"That'd be great." He squeaked, a little over excited at the thought of spending a week in Lili's house. "By the way," He said, deepening his voice slightly. "It's nice to meet you sir and I really appreciate your kindness."

Truman nodded and looked up at the door when Tessa reentered.

"Kay…back." She said. "Did I miss anything?"

"We get to stay a whole week." Angus said, with a smile. Lili had given him a few rather odd looks at this point, all of which he had missed.

"Of course…" Truman said, while casting a brief look in the direction of the kitchens. "I'm not sure how long our other guest can stay."

"Other guest?" Lili asked as someone put their hands over her eyes.


If it hadn't been for Lili's friends, Raz would have just gone invisible…instead; he snuck into the dining room through the kitchen, much to the cook's annoyance. Only Manny, Tessa, Truman and Sasha had noticed him, as everyone else had been facing the other direction.

Lili was hit by a brief moment of confusion, followed by a long period of annoyance.

"Who's doing that?" She asked contemptuously as she grabbed a hold of the gloved hands and pulled them off of her eyes. "If it's you Lester I swear to God…" She turned and stopped, still holding onto Raz's hands as she met his bright green eyes. Beside her, Angus was watching with mounting dismay.

"Your wrong, but I'll give you another guess because it's your birthday." Raz said as he scanned her face, as well as her mind, almost habitually.

"Raz…" Lili said breathlessly. For a moment she stared at him with wide eyes, then, suddenly she stood up and threw her arms around him, nearly knocking both her chair and him over in the process. "Oh my god!"

Raz laughed squeakily and returned her embrace, taking in her scent as he did. It had been so long! She was kind of cutting off his air…but he almost didn't mind. After nearly a year and a half spent on the road thinking about her, he was content at just standing and holding her…even if he couldn't breath as he was doing it. Still, since they were in company…and his head was starting to swim, Raz did eventually pull away.

"What are you doing here?" Lili asked, her eyes vivid with delight. Her face was also flushed and Raz couldn't help but notice that it made her look very pretty.

"Your friends came to visit me at the circus and said it was your birthday…then I caught a ride over here with your dad after he came to pick up these three guys I beat up…" Lili raised her eyebrow at Tessa, who gave her a childlike look of innocence in return.


Angus's face had gone red. His stomach felt sour as he watched Lili and Raz jealously. Finally, they stopped touching and Raz sat down next to Lili (she grabbed one of the empty chairs and squeezed it in between her and Angus…much to Angus's disappointment.)

"So what's it like living in a circus?" Lester asked after the cook put the food down and everyone had begun to eat. "Do you have to go to school?"

"Nah…I mean…I'm tutored…but we haven't ever stopped in any town long enough for me to go to school." Raz answered. Angus picked at his food and occasionally looked up at Lili, noting the way she kept looking at Raz…and the way he would occasionally look at her.

"I bet that's great." Lester said dreamily as he thought of what life would be like without school. Raz shrugged.

"Not really…you actually get really sick of it after a while."

"What do you do there?" Tessa asked. Angus met her eyes briefly. She looked a little anxious.

"Mostly trapeze stuff." Raz answered.

"Do you know how to juggle?" Lester asked. Raz's expression fell slightly.

"Yes." He answered in the manner of someone who hated the piano but knew that they would soon be asked to sit down and play a piece.

"Can you juggle these biscuits?" Lester said as stuffed one in his mouth and then extended three more out towards Raz who had his eyebrow raised. Tessa rolled her eyes.

"Lester, put the biscuits down." Lester lowered them reluctantly.

"So how was camp last summer?" Raz asked as he turned to Lili and gave her a warm smile.

"Dull without you." She replied.

"Sometimes that isn't a bad thing." Sasha commented from the other end of the table. "I think I had enough excitement that summer to last a lifetime." Milla giggled and they stopped talking about it due to present company.

"Maybe I can talk my dad into letting me drop by next summer." Lili's smile faltered a little.

"Yeah." She said quietly. Both of them fell silent, and Raz examined his hands. For a while both of them had forgotten that seeing each other was a brief occurrence. Summer was a long way away…and even then…his father still had to say yes.

Angus sat at the table with his jaw cradled in his palm. His chicken had been reduced to shreds as he picked it apart absently. He happened to look up at Tessa, only to find she was staring right at him. Quickly, to keep her from guessing his thoughts, he reached up towards the gravy bowl, trying to appear natural. Unfortunately, innate clumsiness got in the way and he accidentally grabbed a handful of tablecloth along with the pitcher. He pulled it back perhaps a bit too quickly.

Tessa watched in horror as her and Lester's glasses tipped over, splashing the white cloth with grape juice. On the other side, Raz and Lili almost got a lap full of juice themselves, but Raz managed to gather his senses quick enough to keep them from falling. He did not, however, manage to stop the gravy dish that dropped on the table and splattered his food and shirt as Angus tried to let go of the cloth embarrassedly and accidentally lost his grasp on the pitcher as well. When this happened Tessa buried her face in her hands.

"Oh my god…I'm so sorry." He directed the apologies mostly at Lili and Truman, who had stood.

"It's uh…alright. I'll get someone to clean it up." Truman said as he left the room. Tessa peaked out through her fingers at Raz and then up at Angus who was turning bright red.

"I'm so sorry." Angus said again. Raz laughed a little.

"No problem." He said as he picked a few pieces of glass from the gravy bowl out of his potatoes. "I like gravy." As he gathered the glass Angus noticed the friendship bracelet on his wrist and possibly, grew even redder as his embarrassment and horror was given an additional push.

Angus left the room wretchedly. After he was gone Lester started to laugh…that was, until Tessa punched him in the stomach and his laughter turned to wheezes. She then stood and followed Angus out.


Angus got halfway back to his room when Tessa caught up with him.

"Angus wait! I want to talk to you." She sounded strange, as though she were speaking in a manner somewhere in between sympathy and severity. Angus stopped and looked at her, his face still red. She stopped in front of him…and then looked as though she wasn't entirely sure what she wanted to say…but knew she needed to say something.

"Don't be upset…just because…I mean, it's her birthday and she's happy."

"What are you talking about?" Angus asked sharply.

"You know what I'm talking about." Tessa replied. "I'm talking about Lili and Raz. You can brood all you want but that wont change anything."

"It might. I don't like that guy!" He said, forgetting the need to conceal his feelings. "If he really cared about her he'd…he'd see her more often."

"Don't be stupid. He's twelve. He has as much power over where he goes as we do. If it was our choice we wouldn't be at Demure…but our parents make us go."

"I still don't like him." Angus whined. "He's too…and she's…you know what…I don't have to explain it to you." He said angrily.

"Look…I'm just trying to save you from embarrassing yourself…okay? If you want, you can go ask Lili why she likes him yourself…or you can just accept it and be a friend…it's not like you ever came forward with your feelings anyway." Angus was surprised into silence for a moment. After a moment, he regained his composer, and he had top know for sure.

"Are they really…?"


"But how!? She's never even talked about him."

"Tch, she's Lili…she never talks about anything that's really important to her. Maybe their relationship won't work out…they're twelve after all…but I saw the way you were looking at him…and I'm not saying the gravy wasn't an accident…but…"

"Okay!" He said, frustrated. "Fine…I get it." He said. His frustration then turned into a look of defeat. "I'm going to bed." He headed towards his room. Deep down he had known that nothing would ever happen between him and Lili…but at the same time…he had secretly hoped that it would also never happen between her and someone else either.


After they had finished dinner and Raz and Lili said goodbye to Sasha and Milla, they walked back towards their rooms in silence. It was Raz who finally broke it.

"I have a present for you." He said. "I have to warn you though…it's REALLY ugly." Lili smiled a little. "I'm pretty sure I left it in my suitcase, I was going to mail it to you…if I ever got your address, but I guess it's your birthday present now.

I have my birthday present. Lili thought as Raz took her hand and led her towards the guest room.

"Consider this an added bonus."

"You know, I'm going to develop a psychic shield in my mind made especially so that you can't read it." Lili said, only half joking. Raz smiled.

"I'll find my way around it." Lili rolled her eyes, but was too content to become angry with him. When they reached the room, he headed over to his bed and began searching through his suitcase, while Lili watched him affectionately.

"Ah." Raz pulled a small hand crafted box and handed it to her. "It's inside the box…although…I'm sure the box'd make a better present." Lili took it and opened it gently. Inside was the most ugly necklace she had ever seen.

"Wow." She said as she pulled it out and looked at it. A variety of small "charms" for lack of a better word were all strung on a rusty golden chain. "This is really ugly." Raz smiled. Lili took a folded up piece of paper out of the box, which had been underneath the horrible obstruction that was her birthday present and unfolded it. There were actually a few sheets, all covered with writing. She read a few lines, looking back and forth between the paper and the necklace, then, without a word she put both down, threw her arms around Raz and kissed him deeply on the lips. He returned her kiss eagerly, but pulled away much sooner then she would have liked.

"I've missed you a lot Lili." He said seriously. She felt a tingling sensation as he said it. "I know we don't get to see each other a lot…but I thought…maybe if you give me your address and your phone number…both for your house and your school…I could write you…or call you some time…and maybe when we're nearby we could visit for a day or something." Lili's eyelashes fluttered. "I mean…if that's not enough then…" Raz stopped then, suddenly looking dejected. Lili smiled, however and leaned forward to kiss him again.

When they parted she leaned against his shoulder and closed her eyes.

"It's not enough…but if that's the best we can do, I suppose it'll have to do." Raz smiled and put his arms around her.

"Happy birthday." He said.

Lili smiled and closed her eyes and pretended that the moment would last forever.

OO Wow…I finished…and it only took over a year to do so. God, I don't know how this matters any more but…I am sorry it took so long. I have good reasons and bad reasons why it has gone so slowly, but rather then coming up with excuses I'll just simply say "Sorry" once more and leave it at that.

This chapter has been difficult for me. I got through the first nine or ten pages by pure will power. At the start of this chapter I had no idea how it would end. I've had such terrible writers block since I started it, probably a month ago, that I've only managed to get a few words in whenever I've tried to sit and work on it. Fortunately, I'm off college for a month and that means I have time to write. So, I decided that before I'm pulled back into the artistically and mentally draining world of higher education I'm going to try to get through as many stories and chapters of my long neglected fics as humanly and artistically possible.

Unfortunately, this means working on more then just Psychonauts fics. Indeed I have others, stories that have been going on for more then one year and have rather, by this point, lost my interest. I'm afraid that even if they do get finished it will be with little enthusiasm…and when writing certain stories stops appealing to me…I either get blocks that I can't work around…or I wind up creating such crap that I'm surprised anyone even bothers to read it. (My TNBC stories are good examples of this)

My Psychonauts fics, I am glad to say, still remain at the top of my list of things I am eager to continue with. This is why I am hoping to have some updates on Cerebral Soldiers uploaded soon. It may take as much as a week before I can really get started on them, seeing as I start work this week, and I would really like to re read through the story to get the feel of it back, but I do NOT plan on wasting this month. I've really missed writing and reading your guy's wonderful reviews.

Ne ways…this has gone on long enough. Thank you very much for following this story…I hope it has not lost it's way too much and that you enjoyed the ending, despite the time it took to get here. I love you all and am very grateful for your patience. Happy Holidays!!!