10. Babysitter

I just got out of the shower and ran a towel through my hair, the new tank top already sticking to my skin from excess heat. At least the air conditioning was running but that meant that I didn't have an excuse to act pissy anymore. I mean, anyone would act pissy here but this time I would need a better reason than 'I hate this place and I want to go home'. Repetition gets tiring.

"You're late."

Ugh.

"For what?" I asked lazily, deliberately standing in front of the new A.C. unit vent to cool myself down. The shower water was hot despite every cell in my body protesting. I needed to wash this entire mess of a day off of myself.

"Dinner. C'mere I need to talk to you." Aunt Lou set a plate down in front of me as I sat down at the table.

Oh crap, what'd I do now?

"What's been going on with you?" …Really? Beating around the bush? I've never seen this side of Aunt Lou. I can tell she wants to ask something or get somewhere with me, but not once have I ever seen her ease herself into the question.

"What do you mean?" I asked scooping mashed potatoes onto my plate.

"Why were you so upset that you had to leave D-tent?"

I raised my eyebrows. "Because the A-tenters are assholes."

"Watch your mouth."

"Sorry."

There was a brief silence and Aunt Lou put her fork down.

"Look, Bells, I'm going to be blunt with you—"

There it is.

"—I don't really like what this camp is doing to you."

I stared blankly. "What?"

"I don't want you to get too friendly with anyone here."

"I'm not…"

"You've become too attached to D-tent," Aunt Lou said firmly. Well, yeah, that was true. I shrugged.

"They're just nice, that's all."

Aunt Lou sighed and pulled her red hair back up. "Bell, you're not listening," she said quietly.

"That's not true, I am listening. You're saying that you don't want me to get too involved with anyone. You can relax, Aunt Lou, I'm not planning on getting into anything."

I ate quickly and cleared my plate, taking a roll from the basket and heading back to the room.

"He's out in a few months."

What?

I turned around. "Who?"

"You know who."

Well that sounds extremely ominous. "I don't expect him to stay here forever," I murmured.

"He doesn't live far from you."

"Why are you reading so much into this?" I asked, backing up and sitting back at the table. "Don't you think that if anything was going to happen by now it would have?"

"I'm thinking that you don't know what you're getting yourself into," Aunt Lou said calmly, ignoring my scrunched up face. "You're 16. And he's…"

"He's what?" I snapped, earning a warning look.

"He's Squid," she continued, "He's a criminal, honey. And you're not going to change that."

I didn't even know what to do with that. Because to be honest, I don't want to change him. Criminal or not.

I opened my mouth and then closed it again, trying to figure out how to respond, twiddling with my thumbs a bit. My aunt looked at me expectantly and everything, but this entire conversation was just so random and so…important at the same time, I guess, that it deserved a thoughtful answer.

"He's Alan," I finally came up with, "He's my friend. And you're not going to change that."

Without another word, I walked outside with my still-wet hair scrunching into tight waves in the summer heat and my aunt in my wake, not even bothering to say anything.

I walked aimlessly around. I didn't even go in the direction of the camp, really. Well, I started out going that way, but I then decided that walking in the early night among the holes with no one around was the weirdest sort of peaceful that I could ever ask for in that moment.

I sat down at the edge of some random hole after checking for snakes and lizards and lay there with my legs dangling and my eyes on the stars.

"It's way too early in the summer for shit to be this complicated," I muttered to absolutely no one, throwing my arms behind my head and stretching out.

"You're telling me."

The voice made me jump, which was really, really awkward because since I was lying down, I looked like I had a shitty form of a seizure.

"Why're you doing that?"

"Doin' what?"

"That creepy crawly thing in the shadows," I muttered, a little bit pissed but more embarrassed than anything. I don't like looking ridiculous in front of people. And looking ridiculous in front of him pisses me off because I need to save face.

"I own this land, Spit-fire, I move with the dirt," X-ray said, sitting down next to me. "Why are you out so late?"

"Should be asking you the same thing," I said as he attempted to clean his glasses on his dirty orange jumpsuit. And it wasn't that late. For him it was because they normally go to bed early, but for me it wasn't. I should have probably been exhausted, though, after today. It's very tiring dealing with idiots.

X-ray laughed a deep, throaty laugh.

"Saw you heading out here. Where were you today?"

"I've been exiled," I muttered disdainfully. This was so unnecessary, I didn't feel like repeating it because it sucked enough just thinking about it.

"To where?" He sounded shocked, but really he had a right to be; there were only so many places you could be exiled to in this dump considering it was an exile within itself.

"To the wonderful stomping grounds of A-Tent," I spat. X-ray shuttered. I've never seen X-ray shutter.

"You scared of them?" I sniggered. He scowled and scoffed at the same time, because he was multifaceted like that. Didn't know this camp taught them talent.

"No. They're such a joke. No one here respects them."

"Ah, no street cred?"

"None," X-ray affirmed. "Don't say 'street cred'," he added as an afterthought.

"Duly noted."

"So…you think you're coming back?" X-ray asked slowly. I shrugged.

"Depends."

"On what?"

"On whether or not the escape is worth it," I said with a grin. He nudged me.

"You don't just bail on your tent mates. We gave you a nickname."

"Am I a dog with a collar now?" I asked. He laughed.

"Only if you want to be," he smiled. "C'mon girl, you're Spit-fire. You're a D-tenter. Putting you with A-tent isn't cool."

"Nothing's cool around here," I said sardonically. He shrugged.

"So what would make it worth it for you to come back?"

I looked at him with an expression that made him sigh because he knew that I was going to give him so much crap for that. "Awwww does wittle X-ray miss me?"

"I won't if you keep talkin' in that voice."

I pinched his cheeks. "Wittle X-ray's soooo tough, yes he is! Yes you are! You're a big tent leader, oh yes!"

He swatted my hand away. "I hate you so much."

"Oh did I make you angry? You'll still share the shovels with me, won't you X? I mean you can't take away my toys! I'll get the warden to put you in time out."

"Enough, I get it," he said frowning. "All I meant was that it was weird not having you annoy us today."

"It was one day, X." I was pointedly ignoring that 'annoying' comment. I don't annoy them. I make the tent interesting. He's such a bullshitter. "And I only have to dig one hole a week anyway."

"You dug way more with us," he said, a confused look on his face, which then turned into a smile. Not the kind that would be friendly and nice, more of the kind that Cruella De Ville would wear after…I dunno, burning puppies or something like that.

She was a sick fuck, wasn't she?

I mean not that she completely burned them, that'd just be messed up even for her, but the point was that she killed them, didn't she? I mean, she would have if those puppies weren't so damn smart (and by the way, it was pretty sad that they could out do her, don't you think?). And why Dalmatians anyway? They totally needed their fur, maybe more than the other dogs. Back when I was convinced that I was going to be a vet when I grew up, I actually read somewhere that they can't survive anyway in even semi-freezing weather because their fur is so short. What kind of messed up chick would do that to a bunch of cute puppies?

Didn't matter. I didn't get to finish the thought anyway because I found myself being pulled into the sweatiest form of a noogie. "Aw Spit-fire, I had no idea how much you cared! You were willing to dig more with us because you just loved us so much!" Ow, Ow, OW his knuckles hurt. Forget the smell, I want my skull in one piece, please.

I could totally feel the dirt embedding itself in the clean hair anyway. Great. Now I needed another shower when I got home. This place hates hygiene. At least this way I could stay away from Aunt Lou for a while.

"Get off!" I struggled, knowing that my efforts were no use because, let's face it, months of digging haven't been lost on him. I swear to God if I had to die out here because of suffocation due to smell and loss of blood due to the cruelest form of scalping I will come back as a ghost and haunt X-ray for the rest of his bloody life.

He laughed. No. He cackled as I tried to futilely move his arm. "I'ma girl!"

I was reserving that card for the time where I knew I had to be desperate, but there you go. He stuck it out for a good two minutes longer before finally releasing me.

"Oh my God," I breathed, cradling my neck and doing those yoga type moves where you roll it around and stuff. You know. To make sure that it wasn't broken or whatever. "So uncalled for."

"Was not," he said childishly.

"Was too."

Can you tell we're intelligent just by this conversation alone? I'm so brilliant with my wit overwhelming everybody around me. It's a gift, really.

"Anyway, did Donkey try to talk to you?" X asked. That reminded me…

"Okay everyone called him 'I.V.', what the hell is up with this whole thing?" What, one nickname isn't enough for these people, some of them have to be greedy little bitches and grab two?

"He's 'Donkey'. Trust me." X said wryly. "He's too much of an idiot to be anything else."

"So why not just call him Jackass?"

"Because we like to be cordial at Camp Green Lake," he said, grininng. I looked at him dryly for that comment.

"Kill yourself."

"Eh. Later. Too much to do now," he told me nonchalantly. I scoffed.

"You still didn't explain the 'I.V.' duel identity," I pointed out.

"He likes to call himself 'I.V.' because he claims that he sent a kid to the I.V. to get here." X-ray brushed it off.

"And he didn't?"

"No."

"How do you know?"

"I read his file."

I jumped about four thousand feet in the air. Actually that's an exaggeration. Not an exaggeration, really, more of a total lie. I didn't jump, I fell. Gracefully, or something I hope. But there I went. Right into a hole.

"Why do you people do that?" I was a little outraged and my knee hurt and I swear to God I thought that I heard something moving in the corner. Also it was pretty damn dark by now so I couldn't see and this whole thing was really bothering me and—

"Do what?"

"That! That creepy crawly thing in the shadows like that!" I said, practically throwing a tantrum. I hate boys. I hate D-tent boys. I hate A-tent boys more, but D-tent boys are irritating me at the moment.

I hate déjà vu the most, though. That was just mean.

Eh, maybe not. I don't hate déjà vu the most. I hate toothpicks the most.

"You had fair warning that I do that, you were with me the last time I did it." He threw the toothpick behind his ear (or at least I think he did—his silhouette made some sort of vague motion that indicated that sort of thing) and squatted down over the edge of the hole.

"The difference between creeping in the shadows to avoid getting shot by Mr. Sir while we key his car and creeping in the shadows just to see me fall into holes for your own amusement is very large."

"Stop complaining."

An awkward minute passed and he watched me and X watched him watch me and I watched X watch him watch me.

We did a round-robin thing. It's fun being coordinated.

For a vague second I wondered what a game of duck-duck-goose would be like with them.

"Um. No hand up?" I asked, wondering why he would just sort of sit there—squat there, actually—and look at me in the hole and seriously where the hell is that rustling noise coming from, I'm freaking out!

Squatting is a very awkward thing to do, don't you think? Like you don't ever want to squat for a really long period of time, it hurts your ankles. He's totally superhuman if he can just do that and allow it to feel comfortable.

He smirked. I looked at him and even through the semi-darkness I saw his lip curl. Ugh. What a brat.

I reached up and grabbed the neck of his t-shirt and pulled very hard, causing him to fall from his squatted position—NOT gracefully, I might add-and tumble into the hole with me.

"What the hell?"

"You smirked."

"Alright, I'll leave you two kids to it," X-ray said, kicking in dirt purposely as he went. I laughed openly because it all went in Squid's face and he did this thing like he had to sneeze but didn't really muster it up. I watched X walk away and Squid flicked my head because I guess he's an attention whore or something. I swatted at his hand and he laughed a little.

"So A-tent, huh?" I heard him ask, triggering a grumble from me. I crossed my arms across my chest and slid down against the hole, landing on the ground.

"How many times have you been hit on?"

"Too many to count." I'd rather not relive the moment, thanks.

He chuckled. Which was weird because I wasn't sure if I should crack a clown joke and make fun of him or be slightly offended that he laughed at my pain.

"Oh. Sure. Laugh it up now. But when my favorite boy totally takes advantage of me, you'll feel sorry for this entire situation right here," I warned. I have a feeling that he didn't take me seriously because his chuckle was up-ed a little bit in energy.

"C'mon Spit-fire, I'd never take advantage of you." He flashed me a grin and sat down beside me in the hole. I sighed.

"Think what you want, Squid," I said. "You are on the same level as anyone else around here."

"And Jackass is so much better than me?" he asked, totally disgruntled. I smiled because I liked that I got under his skin like that.

"I thought you boys at Camp Green Lake liked to be cordial," I mimicked. He shoved me which I hated because I had to put my arm out to steady myself.

"Feel free to shut up."

"I could do that but that would make the situation completely uncomfortable because it's difficult having a one-sided conversation with someone," I told him.

"I know. I live with Zero," he pointed out. I shrugged.

"Zero can talk when he wants to. You people just don't have anything interesting to say back."

He surveyed me. "You talked to him recently."

"Oh yeah. We're buddies." I smirked, but wasn't really willing to go too far into it considering what we actually talked about. I paused before continuing. "Hey, Squid?"

"Hmm?"

"You…don't have to worry about me, y'know."

He turned his head to look at me away from the wall that he was previously staring at, which I guess was extremely interesting.

"Yeah I do," he said, getting slowly to his feet, backing away with wide eyes.

I looked at him, my eyebrows lowered to indicate seriousness. Because at this point I didn't like being thought of as the damsel in distress, it was kind of annoying. Not only annoying, but it wasn't good. For him and me, really. It was one thing to try and lead him away from the thought that he always had to watch out for me. It was another thing to like it.

"No you don't," I told him, more force behind it. I began to shift around, attempting to get to my feet a bit clumsily because my legs were crossed beneath me. I was about to put my hand down but he grabbed my wrist and pulled me upwards so quickly that I swear my shoulder was pulled out of its socket.

"What're you--?" his arms were around my waist and he was lifting me up—which seemed ridiculously effortless for him—out of the hole where I landed unceremoniously on the ground in a mess of odd, spread-eagled limbs and 'oof'noises.

And that's when I heard an extremely loud hiss.

Oh shit.

He was out of there with lightening speed, taking my hand and running with only one glance back to make sure that I was keeping up.

He pulled me along until we were back at camp and when he thought it was safe, he let go of my hand and put his own on his knees, panting. I slumped down in exhaustion because, contrary to his belief, I don't have legs as long as his and they are most definitely not suited for running at warped speed.

"'The hell--?"

"Lizard," he got out, breathing heavily. "Yellow spots."

Oh.

There was more heavy breathing from the both of us and he put his arms on his head, walking around a bit.

"You—" breath. "don't think."

…I have to object to that, I think a lot.

"You—" pant. "don't just stay in holes in the middle of the night. Fall in, get out." Deep breath.

I was too tired to say something back, so he continued.

"I—"sigh. "Don't want you hurt. Or killed. That's all." He let his hands drop to his sides and looked utterly exhausted.

I stared at him and grabbed his hand, tugging him gently down with me. (See that, Squid? Gently).

"Thank you," I said quietly.

He nodded. "You don't need a babysitter," he said, staring forward at the lifeless camp. "I wasn't trying to be one."

I paused. "What were you trying to be?"

He looked at me. For a really long time. I didn't know why. And really? I don't think he knew either.

"Goodnight, Bella."

He got up and walked back towards D-tent and I watched him go the whole way. I did want an answer, but I didn't expect one. As predictable as I'd like to say that he is, he has a really extreme habit of surprising me.

I sat there for about ten more minutes, the light poles from the camp lighting up the ground so at least I could see what was going on, before dusting myself off and walking back towards the cabin.