TITLE: Gradual

AUTHOR: freelance spice

RATING: PG13

PAIRING: Charlotte/Vanessa, Charlotte/Other, with all-encompassing Charlotte/Stacey

SUMMARY: Charlotte contemplates graduation.

NOTES: This follows The Kristy Thomas Guide to High School Romance and my other Angst!Charlotte fics.

The benefits of being that super-smart kid range from the license to be a goddamn know-it-all to Get Out of Jail Freebies like early graduation.

The benefits of fucking your best friend range from the ability to know what they're thinking to sleepovers that don't arouse suspicion because, hey, you're best friends.

Vanessa Pike was the best distraction I'd ever encountered. The problem? She was just that. A distraction. Not that I didn't, don't, love her. Hell, it's impossible not to. But she's In Love with me and my heart's wrapped up somewhere else. Fuck. Not even wrapped. Buried. Not for long, though. Diggin' time's getting closer and closer. Like that stupid time capsule. A bunch of random crap from years ago, waiting to be unearthed and remind the whole world of all the petty shit that was so fucking important to us back then. Like, not missing a new episode of Veronica Mars or caring what my mother thought or… Stacey McGill.

It's like I'm due for parole and I'm knee deep in some desperate attempt to not fuck this up. Well, sir, I've shown myself capable of holding down a steady relationship (see: Shandi; Vanessa). I've also shown interesting extra curriculars that could benefit—

Fuck all. Under all the snark and anger is good old-fashioned heartache. Don't tell the kids, but that bitch, Charlotte Johannsen, is a softie. She bleeds just like everyone else. Especially on the inside.

That means it hurts, right now, looking out there, at that sea of faces, and having my eyes land on her. Six rows back, between my parents and a third of the Pikes. At least she didn't bring the latest flunkie. I hate those pretentious faux artistic bastards she's been attracting this year. It's always a different version of the same stubbly skinny guy, thick rimmed and reeking of nag champa.

I suppose I'd feel just as bad if she hadn't shown up. I wonder if there's a way I can avoid talking to her at the reception. Probably not. It's in the banquet hall at the hotel, though. Maybe I can just book a room and sneak off with Vanessa like we did during the Christmas party. Only, this time, we'll set a couple ground rules about it just being sex to avoid any temptation to repeat the infamous "I love you" incident. Like I said, it's not that I don't have any return feelings, they're just not in the same league. Not for her, anyway.

I'll have to figure it out later, when I'm not thirty seconds away from the biggest speech of my life, thus far. Which is all just bullshit, really. I could belch the alphabet and it would have the same repercussions a decade from now. Graduation speeches are just another one of those things people make such a fuss about at the time but, after college and a couple years in the corporate pool, can't seem to recall any particular outstanding details about. Actually, the whole alphabet thing would probably be easier to rouse up in the memory. Too bad my mother would kill me.

The benefits of being Charlotte Johanssen are never terribly apparent. There's the smarts, sure, but they ultimately get me into more trouble than they're worth.