Runaway.

She had never been more relieved to see anyone in her entire life than at that moment. God, he looked good. And she knew she surely didn't. She wanted to beg him to save her, to keep her safe. But for now, she just fell against him and the silent hiccupping tears developed into an uncontrollable sobbing spree. Could he help her?

xXx

She's never been a runner. Well, at least not in the truest sense of the word that implies that she runs frequently; to be precise she did run away once. It didn't take, to no one's surprise. She isn't exactly street smart.

This time was different. This time she didn't decide hours before. This time she put a little bit of planning into it. She had to because she knew this time was different. She knew this time she would be alone.

He went with her without hesitation, without question last time.

But everything is different now.

He isn't hers any more and she isn't sure but she thinks she doesn't care as much as she ought to about that. Everyone knows he's completely torn up over it. He's barely spoken two words to anyone since the uncomfortable break up. He wouldn't stop glancing over at her and it drove her crazy. Couldn't he see that his imposing presence wasn't exactly encouraging the rest of the male population of Horizon to date her?

Everything's changed. Her first boy has left long ago. Well, long is relative. Long to her is any time span more than two weeks. He's been gone for a few months…an eternity. His girlfriend has been dealing as best she can.

And she doesn't know why but sometime recent she realized that she has no friends at the school. She has peers, and teachers, and exes. But they aren't friends. Most of them consider her a spoiled high maintenance, poor-little-rich-girl they were forced to baby sit. That was fine with her; she considered most of them white trash or blue collar scum.

She's perfectly aware that she's better than them. How dare they look at her condescendingly when realizing her problems? How dare they call her Twig because of her body? So she had an eating disorder, what rich teenage girl hasn't? So she cut herself, you would too if you had a mother like hers.

She doesn't have to explain herself to any one. She just got tired of their judgements, their assumptions. She didn't need them.

So a few days before her birthday came up, an old friend ran into her while her school participated in some sort of wilderness fundraiser. Her old friend knew of the stupid school restrictions she had so they made plans to meet up the day before her birthday.

This friend brought with them a hefty amount of gifts. They were expensive and came in the form of designer products, perfume, and jewelry, as can be expected from the tier of people she associated with.

She managed to keep the gifts from the administration's notice that night and that was all she had to do since she was planning to leave that night. She didn't even bother to leave a note. Only idiots left something behind that could be analyzed for clues.

She did however dance rather seductively with her ex one last time the night before she left. He had been affronted and fled angrily. Naturally, she followed him into the deserted area he had run to and teased him a bit, bitterly telling him that she knew he would miss her. After he was visibly affected, she flounced away.

And so now she had "run away". Far from lying in a gutter somewhere with her hair all matted and digging out of trash cans for food, she was living it up far better than Horizon provided her with. Auggie must have simply been really bad at the street thing, contrary to what he led others to believe. She was sitting on a very nice bed wearing a cashmere bath robe, giving herself a pedi, while occasionally nibbling from strawberries encircling a chocolate fountain. Oh yes, she was suffering so much from this runaway business.

All it took was a quick payphone call to hail a cab and before she knew it she had rolled up in front of the nicest hotel in the area. The best part was, it was obvious that they would all be spending their time searching rundown motels and looking in the woods and alleys because no one would expect her to be sitting in a posh hotel. Money can buy you anything.

There was some intellect behind her pretty face and she fully intended to leave after her second night, keeping the people on their toes looking for her. She knew she couldn't stay in any one place for too long but how hard would it be to rotate between hotels? She had thrown in most of her expensive gifts in her suitcase and part of it had been pawned off recently to give her the influx of cash. She had more than enough money. Grinning widely, the brunette thought happily of the shopping trip she would take the next day. She would show them she didn't need them.

Fifteen grand and three weeks later, she was really starting to become reassured that she was in fact invincible. She knew she spent more in the past three weeks than some people make in half a year and the idea made her feel stronger, more independent, than she had ever felt.

It wasn't until she had reached one of the last hotels in the area did she flip open a newspaper and realize they had a missing person ad for her inside. It wasn't until she glanced around for once did she notice the fliers. At her latest place to stay, she uncomfortably saw a police officer handing out papers with her name and face on it to the front desk. Maybe Peter wasn't so dumb after all. Could he really suspect that she was staying in hotels?

She left that hotel quickly but with a scared squirm in her stomach, she began seeing notices everywhere for her and there seemed to be so many more cop-like people out than she had ever paid attention to. It was time to move further.

It was her fourth trip to the pawn shop and the owner stared at her with deep suspicion. She needed money so she tried to ignore the look. Handing over her new watch, she expected upwards of eight grand. It wasn't nearly as nice as a rolex, but this was a rather nice watch that she had become fond of. She refused to sell her clothes or perfume. As long as you looked rich, nothing else mattered. And at the moment, she still was rich. The fact that she was on her last few accessories was a set back. The idea of her saving money or getting a job was laughable. Besides, how was she supposed to get a job when most people in the vicinity knew that anyone by her name was a runaway? Plus, she didn't exactly have a consistent address or means of contact. Aside from that, she didn't work. She just didn't. Things would work out.

The jerk of a pawnshop owner stared at her some more before offering her $3500 for it. Feeling a little indignant, she reprimanded him and threatened to take her business else where. That was when he held up the missing person ad with her face blown up on it. It was his turn to threaten. Either she accepted the mockingly low offer or he would call the authorities and tattle on her. She was about to accept when he casually mentioned that he expected another piece for that price as well as the watch.

Pouting, she threw down the cheapest thing she still owned, which was a bracelet she didn't expect more than $500 for on a good day. He pleasantly informed her that he would also not be doing business with her any longer. Jack ass. As if she would come back after that.

Ripping the money out of his hands, she stomped away. She had to get out of town, far far away. Deciding the safest option was to get her butt out of the state completely, she took a train to a larger city before booking a flight out of there. First class, of course. She still didn't believe that money would be an issue. Her destination was Montreal. If she was going to runaway, she might as well go visit some place she had always wanted to see any ways. It was either that or Florida, but Florida was so over done.

No one would ever find her in Canada.

Of course, she didn't have a passport. She realized this the second she tried to book the flight. In a panic, she felt suffocated and desperate to leave. What was close to Montreal? What was a good place to visit? Boston. Boston was supposed to have good pizza, right? Or was that Chicago? Why was she thinking about pizza?

She sat on the plane to Boston, trying to think things through. Every time she tried, she got scared. She was shocked that it had been almost a month now that she had run and they still hadn't found her. How was that even possible?

Curiosity had her wondering what they were all thinking. Did they notice? Were they relieved? Did Auggie miss her? Were they worried? Maybe they assumed she was dead. Or worse. Maybe they thought she pulled a Shelby and started whoring herself out for money. But no, she was so much smarter than Shelby. She had thought ahead. She had money.

It isn't hard to predict what happened next. Her careless spending depleted funds that could have ordinarily have lasted a person for a year, if not more. She was too arrogant about her situation. Now, she had one necklace, $30, and a suitcase full of clothes no one would buy from her.

She began to try to buy things with her clothes, barter style. It failed rather miserably. In two days, her $30 had disappeared as well. The squirming of fear had turned into a full blown panic.

Thrusting a blouse at a random tourist, she asked rather pleadingly for a chance to trade with them for anything: money, food, shelter, anything. She received a terrified look before the people fled. At least they left their meal behind.

The days passed slower than before and she did eventually have to resort to sleeping outside. It was spring so the weather wasn't bad. The worst part was only in the humiliation she felt.

Her clothes did finally garner her some food, some petty cash. But her looks weren't exactly prim any more. Three more days on the street without her precious money and she already looked like a hobo.

Whimpering on the street, she tried to calm herself. Some John tried to hook up with her, mistaking her for a prostitute, scaring her off so badly that she knew she had to get out of Boston.

Hitchhiking. Hitchhiking? Oh yeah, darling, that would be a good plan after what just happened. She was going to be raped and killed, wasn't she?

Walking. She started walking. Except that scared the crap out of her. She snuck onto the back of an old truck, like they do in the movies, and prayed for the best. It was New York bound.

She was caught, plainly, yelled at and kicked off. Luckily, this was when they had already reached New York City. The bubble of fear asking her what the hell she was going to do enlarged exponentially and a tiny voice wondered why she couldn't just have sucked it up and stayed at Horizon. The larger, dominant part of her boldly answered back that independence was a good and necessary step for the princess who no one thought could make it. This wasn't really making it, was it?

Sitting on the sidewalk with her face unwashed and her hair tangled, her clothes wrinkled and smelling like bananas for God knows why, she clenched her fists and tried not to hyperventilate. She needed help. She needed help or she would starve to death since she still had too much pride to go digging any where for food.

Her parents- God no!

Peter, Sophie? She was not going back to that school.

Any of her friends out of school? None of them would understand what the hell she was doing, they were all prim and proper and rich just like she had been.

Who was near? That was the most relevant question. Did anyone she know live in New York City?

Scott Barringer!

He did!

His family had moved there after he had left Horizon, the old house being way too full of painful memories for him to live in comfortably. They had relocated to a place in New York and… and she had packed away her address book on the chance that she would talk to some of her old friends again. Being who she was, she recorded every number and address of every person she knew. Flipping through it frantically, she found his name and address right where they were supposed to be and almost laughed out loud from relief.

At first, she tried stupidly to find the area by foot. She didn't know the city at all, despite having been down there a fair few times for shopping. She was incredibly useless at maps and she was scared to ask for directions. Giving up, she hailed a cab.

Almost an hour later (thank you, traffic) the car pulled up by the curb outside a decent looking house. Smaller than hers had been, of course, but still quite nice to look at. That wasn't on her mind at the moment. She quietly asked the cabbie to wait for her while she went to the door. She secretly knew full well that if no one was home that cabbie was going to beat her to death since she sure as hell didn't have any money to pay him with.

It was almost sunset, the dusk was settling in around her and derisively she hoped that she hadn't interrupted a late dinner. She wondered when he had dinner had his house… if it was early at 4 or late near 8 like she had been accustomed to. She tried to shut her brain off but she had to think about something while she knocked on the door. She pressed the door bell and shuffled her feet, trying hard not to concentrate on the fact that she had run away, had no money, and was now at the mercy of her ex boyfriend. After a beat, she worried that it would be his parents answering the door and he wouldn't be home and God- how would she ever explain that one? They would think she was worse than Shelby… she wasn't raised to be this way…

Her fears came true when the door slowly open and an older man looked at her with mild surprise. She vaguely recognized him but doubted he would remember her. She only recognized him because she knew who he was supposed to be. Her throat closed up at the prospect of explaining the whole dreadful situation to anyone but Scott.

She willed herself to say something, anything. The elder Barringer opened his mouth to ask her for an explanation when thank heavens, a very familiar and very very welcome voice asked with absolute incredulity, "Juliette?"

He had stopped halfway down the stairs, his jaw dropped as he stared at her from the staircase that ran centered back from the front door. Clad in baggy shorts, a towel half draped around his neck with his curls dripping and his hand paused in its action of wiping said hair, it was obvious he had just come from the shower. His dad looked back at him, surprised at the instant recognition, and moved aside as his son quickly ran down the rest of the stairs to stand in front of the door way.

"What are you doing here?"

He looked wigged but behind the surprise was a very definite note of concern for her. She was so comforted by that concern that she just stumbled against him and cried.

What could he do but catch her?

After a very embarrassed introduction and the humiliating request for him to pay for the cab, Scott invited her inside. As soon as the words 'I ran away' spilt from her lips, his dad reached sharply for the phone. But she would have none of that. Her crying increased and she begged in a very high pitched voice for him to not notify any one.

Scott calmed her hastily and promised that she could stay that night without any phone calls. Mr. Barringer insisted that he drive her back up to the school the very next morning. She looked completely panicked again so both the Barringers stopped insisting.

She still hadn't pulled away from the hug; her hands almost vice-like against Scott, so he made the very tactful comment of asking why she smelled like bananas.

Being not completely clueless, Scott ushered the girl into taking a shower before the two talked. She was immensely grateful for that. He handed her some of his own clothes for her to change into and then the two were sitting in his living room couch, with a hot chocolate in her hands and a hot blonde sitting beside her with his eyes intensely set on her.

"Everything's different now and I used up all my money and I didn't know where else to go. I remembered that you lived here and I know I have no right and we don't even talk or keep in touch but I was so scared and I just really hoped you were home. Because somehow I knew that if I found you, things would be okay. That you would know what to do. I'm such a mess and this is awful of me to do, but I just… I shouldn't have come, should I?" She rambled insecurely, staring at the cup and once more in a daze from all the stupidity she had managed to indulge in recently.

"We're Cliff hangers. We stick together." He half joked. She didn't look very happy so he sighed. "Yeah, Jules you can come to me. We are still friends, after all, aren't we?"

"God, I hope so." She whispered, leaning against him again.

Scott put his arm around her and hoped his dad wouldn't think he was completely nuts for having friends like this. Somehow, he knew that this would be a long night and the girl was definitely not going to want to go straight back to Horizon the next day.

"By the way, didn't you have a birthday a little while ago?"

She nodded, surprised he remembered.

He smiled. "Happy birthday, then, hey?" She tried to smile back but it faltered.

"It'll be okay." He offered, shivering a bit as the droplets from her wet hair dripped against his chest.

"Because you're here now. And you'll help me. Right? You're here now." Juliette swallowed.

Shelby was going to love this…

"Yeah… I guess I am."

The brunette looked up at him and it amazed him that any one would have that amount of trust in him, especially someone like her who he barely even knew. He hoped he could live up to that. She knew he would.

"Everything's going to work out." He soothed. She felt better just hearing his voice. With friends like him, her world didn't seem quite so alone. She leaned back on his chest and smiled genuinely as the constriction in her throat loosened up at long last. Things might be okay after all.

"You're not alone."

No, she wasn't. Not any more.


AN: Okay, so I really SHOULD be writing for Introspect. But, well, I got distracted. At least this time it was a Higher Ground related distraction, right? I'll try very hard not to get too sucked into Twilight that I abandon the fandom like I nearly did when I found Cruel Intentions. And yes, HG is not of my creation nor are Scott or Juliette. Thanks for reading. Mmm... I am slowly writing the next chapter for Introspect. Slowly. I'll try to have it up soon. Review if this fic pacified your J/S craving and maaaaybe the Introspect chapter will be up quicker haha ;)