In the middle of a nice wooded area sits a very old, very large tree. On the sturdiest part of the tree is a tree house. Nothing fancy, just a floor, a roof and four walls. Around the smallish house is a deck. One climbs the rope ladder and enters through the hole in the floor of the deck. The hole is placed just so, so that you wont fall though it. Hopefully.

The usual occupants of this quaint little tree house are six kids from a near by cul-de-sac. They're all sitting on the deck. The two youngest boys sit back to back while playing a game they call 'cross race'. It's a racing game were you try and salve a cross word puzzle before the other player does. The rules are simple, there are no rules. You can ask anyone else for help. For example, the blond boy just asked the black one for the answer to fourteen down. These games normally last two or three hours. This makes everyone else happy. They fight to much.

The oldest girl's sitting with her back against the mini house reading a book about scuba diving. Every once in a while she'll glance up to check on the youngest girl, who's drawing what resemble fish on the floor of the deck.

On the other side of the deck, away from the others, sit the two oldest boys. They swing their legs over the side, while sharing a cigarette stolen from the oldest's father.

"Greg?" The younger one asks, passing his friend the burning tobacco.

"Yeah?" Greg takes a long drag, like he's expecting the following conversation to being annoying as hell. His friend hates it when he does that. It makes him feel inferior to his year older comrade.

"What do you do when you want to dump a girl, but don't want her to get hurt?"

Greg snorts, passing him the more then half way smoked cigarette. "Fake your own death." He watches while the other boy takes a short drag. "Jimmy, there's an art to breaking up."

Jimmy looks up with expecting eyes. He flicks ashes to the ground.

"Just tell her that she got to fat." Greg says. His smoking buddy sighs and rolls his eyes.

"If anything, Julie's to skinny." Jimmy mumbles. He's been worried about his girlfriend for a while now. He would have told Lisa, but he was afraid she'd do something about it. Which would have been embarrassing.

Other then the five people a whispers distance away, Jimmy doesn't have any other friends. But he had known that was going to happen when he'd started hanging out with Greg five years ago. Greg had told him so. Nobody in the schools like him. He is one of those problem children even the best of teachers can't pin anything on. The other kids don't want that kind of reputation thrust upon them like that. Jimmy thinks it isn't that bad, only Greg mocks him for things he can't possibly know yet, having been raised in the stone age as a child.

"You think she's to thin?" Greg asks in disbelief. He sucks on the cigarette.

"Yeah, I can count all of her ribs." Jimmy says, blushing a little, remembering Julie without her shirt. His friend seems to read his mind. Greg grins and hands him the cigarette.

"I still need to break up with her." Jimmy mutters grimly. "Maybe I'll ask Lisa,"

Greg sighs a little. "No, just tell her you've met someone else. It works well enough." He pats Jimmy's arm quickly. Jimmy has a mini heart attack.

He blames it on the rush of smoking illegally.


Lisa knows they're smoking. She can smell it. She knows Alison, Eric and Bobby can smell it to.

Their parents are going to blame Greg for it again. Her own mother had banished her from seeing her friend twenty times in the last six months. And she knows Eric's mother is going to file some sort of complaint soon.

Of all the stupid things Greg has them helping him do, it's sort of funny that the smoking he keeps for only him and Jimmy is what's going to break this nice little arrangement up.

"Lisa?" She hears from beside her. She smiles down at little Alison. She has such a sweet face. Greg has her distract adults usually. Bobby's cute, but Ally's cuter.

"Yeah,"

"Do you like my fishes?" She asks, pointing to the fish crayoned onto the floor of the deck. Lisa sometimes forgets how young she is. Only nine.

"They're very pretty, Ally." She praises. The younger girl smiles.

"What's a two letter word for an Egyptian sun god?" Bobby asks, chewing on the end of his pencil. Something Greg constantly berates him about.

"Ra!" Lisa hears Greg's voice call out from around the corner.

"Thanks!" Bobby calls back as he and Eric scribble the answer in its proper place.

Lisa looks down at the younger girl. She's drawing a purple tree. "Lovely tree." She says offhandedly. Alison smiles.

"What're you reading about?" She asks, gesturing to Lisa's book with the royal purple crayon. It's worn down from use. Lisa notices that most of Ally's fish are purple.

"It's about scuba diving. You know, when you go under the water to look at the fish?" She says, patting the books cover.

Alison nods. "I watched a movie about it once, I think." Lisa hands the book over and Ally begins to flip through the pages, showing the other girl the pictures she likes.

Alison loves to read, but this book was written for adults. She doesn't even want to try.

"Look at this one!" Alison squeals, pointing to a picture of a baby whale. Lisa grins. It is very cool.

"What's a seven letter word for a nut commonly used in deserts?" Eric asks the world in general.

Lisa opens her mouth, but Jimmy beats her to it. "Almonds."

Eric gets a oh! right! sort of look on his face. "Thanks, man."

"No problem!"

Lisa thinks they must be done smoking by now. Usually they come right out when they're done. Maybe Jimmy's having girl problems again. That stupid boy can't keep his hands off them, it would seem. And despite his connection to Greg all the girls seem to want him to.

Lisa sighs and checks her watch. Nearly six. She's got to go. "I'm leaving!" She states loudly, standing up.

Alison hurriedly stands up too. She doesn't have a bike of her own and she doesn't like to ride with the boys. They all like to go to fast or make her fall off the handle bars on purpose. Only Jimmy doesn't. But he doesn't actually have a bike either. He rides with Greg or sometimes Lisa.

Alison shoves all of her crayons back into the smallish house. Lisa tells her to go wait out by her bike. She'll be there in a minute.

Lisa walks carefully around the corner, hoping to scare her friends. Only they aren't facing her. They're facing the trees.

Jimmy rubs the cigarette he and Greg had been sharing out on the wood. It's already been blackened by past cigarettes being snubbed out. Lisa's upper lip curls skyward.

"Cancer sticks." She scowls, glaring at Greg, even though she knows Jimmy contributes to their thing as much as Greg does.

Lisa knows Greg wont smoke with anyone else. Stacy told her so. Back when they were still together. Stacy had told Lisa, in all confidence, that sometimes she got a little jealous of Jimmy Wilson. Lisa could understand.

"Fuck off," Greg mumbles, picking at the wood of the deck. Jimmy elbows him. He glares at his friend.

"Tut, tut." Lisa scolds, flashing her finger in their faces. After she gets no replies Lisa rolls her eyes. "I'm leaving. I'll see the two of you tomorrow."

"Bye, Lisa." Jimmy says, smiling his winning smile at her.

Greg just sort of grunts.

Lisa, giving up on getting anything resembling a real good bye from her friend, turns to leave. Just before rounding the corner she hears Greg tell her to make Eric and Bobby go home.

"Will do!" She calls back.


"We should get going." Greg says quietly, reaching into his pocket for another cigarette. He always makes sure Lisa and the kids are gone before lighting a second.

"Why?" Jimmy asks, handing Greg his silver Zippo.

Lighting the cancer stick he shrugs. "It'll be dark in about twenty minutes. Your mother already hates me…" Greg lets the sentence hang while taking a drag off the cigarette.

Jimmy sort of half shrugs. "She doesn't hate you. She just doesn't get why you hang out with a fourteen year old girl when you could be hanging with girls your own age."

"I hang out with nine year olds. Who cares." Greg blows smoke out his nose. Handing it off to Jimmy he says, "I hang out with smart people. Only the smartest."

The younger boy flushes slightly. "My brother thinks you're okay. But only because he thinks I'm secretly screwing Lisa and you're the cover up story." Jimmy flicks ashes to the ground.

Greg smirks. "Lisa is a prude."

"Good thing Matt doesn't know that." Jimmy says. He passes off the cigarette.

"Probably." Greg agrees, taking a long drag. He blows smoke rings. Jimmy has always wished he could do that.

They sit in a comfortable silence until the cigarette is gone.

Greg gives one of his bitter little laughs. "Your mother is going to kill you."

Jimmy nods. "Yeah, probably." He drops the stub and watches as it falls down. Then groans. "Oh, god! I don't wanna go home!"

"No one ever does." Greg says sagely. Like he knows what he's talking about. Which Jimmy thinks he does. He gets bruises from adventures he doesn't go on. Jimmy knows because he goes right along with him on everyone. Usually Lisa or one or more of the kids is with them. Greg really likes using Eric. Black kid with shifty eyes always gets more attention then the tall teen actually doing something wrong.

"I wish I could just stay here tonight." Jimmy says wistfully, leaning back until he's laying down. He can feel Greg doing the same.

"Well, why don't we? If the parents really need us they'll know to ask Lisa or Bobby or someone." Greg exclaims, suddenly on his feet, hauling Jimmy up.

"I don't know…" Jimmy trails off after he sees Greg's eyes. Then he remembers the day before and how the older boy had to tell his father about his less then savory English grade. Jimmy nods his head. They're staying in the tree house tonight.

Julie's going to call him at eight.

He's got summer reading.

And his parents are going to kill him.

But Jimmy doesn't really care. Right now he's basking in the glow of being needed by his friend.

"Here," Greg says, thrusting a box of matches at Jimmy. "Find some candles."

"Candles?"

"Unless you want to be blinded by the night..." Jimmy sighs and begins to look for the orange candles he knows Lisa left behind last Halloween.

"Blinded by the light…" Jimmy mutters under his breath. He sees Greg shake his head.

After five minutes of relentless searching Jimmy finds the candles. There are only three of them, so Jimmy places them in places he believes will give him and Greg the most light.

When Jimmy turns around he sees his friend carrying a couple of old jackets and sweaters. He recognizes the one his great Aunt Margie made him that made him look like a marsh mellow.

"I don't think it'll be cold, so we'll use these as pillows or something." Greg says, throwing the misfit cloths on the floor.

Jimmy nods, kneeling down to organize their pillow arrangement. Then he lays down and closes his eyes. He crosses his feet at the ankles and rests his hands behind his head.

"You aren't really going to sleep are you?" Greg asks, voice lased with disgust. Jimmy waves a hand at Greg.

"No, just don't feel like sitting up." He says, opening one eye. "Sit your ass down." Jimmy orders, pulling on Greg's pant leg. He hears the other boy sigh in defeat. Next to Jimmy's body is Greg's.

They just sort of sit there like that. Together but not really talking.

In five minutes they're both fast asleep.


Jimmy's parent are out of their minds with worry when they knock on the Cuddys' front door. They stand there and do little dances to keep themselves from slipping into some sort of shock.

"Yes?" Lisa asks answering her door. She's surprised to see her friends mom and dad at her house so late. The only one who comes to her house this late is Greg, and he sneaks in through her bedroom window.

"Lisa, we hate to bother you but, have you seen James?" Jimmy's mom asks, eyes pleading.

"I think I know where he is." Lisa says. "Hold on." She runs back into the house calling out that she'll be back soon. Remembering the time she grabs a flashlight.

"Where do you think he is?" Mr. Wilson asks, following the young girl down her walk over to her bike.

"I can't tell you. But I know he's there. He was there when I left." Lisa reassures, smiling sweetly.

"But-"

"Really, Mrs. Wilson, I promise, he's there." Lisa allows herself a giggle. "There are only so many places two teenaged boys can go with only one bike."

Mr. Wilson looks slightly horrified. "Two boys?"

"Well, Greg! Jimmy's always with Greg." Lisa says tactfully. "And Matt's had Jimmy's bike the last few months, really. So Jimmy's had to ride on Greg's handle bars. Mine are all filled up and Bobby and Eric can't support Jimmy's weight." Lisa thinks that if she never has to explain that to anyone again she'll be a happy girl indeed.

Mrs. Wilson nods. "Just… go get him, please?"

Lisa mounts her bike and waves good bye to the Wilsons'.


Lisa is releved when she sees Greg's bright green bike still leaning against the tree. She breaths a sigh, then slides off her bike.

She climbs the rope ladder carefully, trying to make as little noise as possible. Lisa hopes they aren't doing any thing illegal. Jimmy doesn't seem the type. But he and Lisa are the only ones that stop Greg from doing anything that'll cost him more then five years.

When Lisa reaches the entrance to the tree house she sees candles. The ones she left here three years ago at Halloween. Then she sees her friends.

Asleep, even though it's only eleven and Greg says he never falls into dream world before one in the morning. Jimmy has his back to her, arm around Greg. The older boy has his hand on Jimmy's hip.

Lisa tries not to smile. She wishes she had a camera.

Shaking her head, Lisa squats down next to Jimmy. Waking him up seems to be the lesser of two evils. She tried waking Greg up one day not to long ago. She almost lost her fingers.

"Jiiiiimmy!" Lisa whispers, shaking his shoulder. "Waaaake up!" He groans a little, shifting closer to Greg. Lisa sighs in annoyance. "Jimmy! Wake up!"

Nothing.

"James Evan Wilson, get your ass up, now!" Lisa snaps, standing up. Jimmy shifts again. But Greg's right eye pops open.

"Who came looking for who first?" He asks, voice clogged with sleep. He looks down at his hand on Jimmy's hip, but doesn't move it.

"Mrs. Wilson is about to have a heart attack." Lisa replies, staring at Greg's hand on Jimmy's hip. "And Mr. Wilson wasn't. Until I mentioned the last person I saw him with was you." Lisa looks pointedly at Greg then at his hand.

Greg gives her a dirty look, but moves his hand. He glances from Lisa to Jimmy. "There's nothing going on."

"Yet." She says curtly. He glares at her.

"Ever," he says, removing Jimmy's arm from his waist, then standing up.

"Mmmm, never what?" Jimmy mumbles, rubbing his eyes. Greg glances at his friend, then back at Lisa. She reads his eyes as, don't say a word!

She nods. "Nothing, Jimmy." Lisa says, pulling him up. "Your parents are looking for you."

"Right. Thanks, Lisa." Jimmy reaches his arms to the ceiling, cracking his back. Greg looks at the melting candle wax.

"Well, come on! Let's go!" Lisa exclaims, walking to the rope ladder. She turns on the flashlight after she sees the candles go out.


Greg doesn't ride quite as fast as he usually would. Jimmy thinks it might be because it's dark. Or because he doesn't want to go home to his English grade.

Greg hit's a root and Jimmy almost goes flying. The older boy grabs him in time, then makes him lean in his chest.

Jimmy doesn't like what that's doing to his stomach.


When the trio rolls into Lisa's yard the Wilson's are still there. Greg pulls into a stop harder then he has to. Making Jimmy fall of the handle bars.

Lisa glares at Greg while she helps Jimmy up. Greg looks at the sky, hoping she wont make a deal out of it. He had his reasons.

"James!" Mrs. Wilson cries out, running to her son. "Where were you?!"

"Just," Jimmy is engulfed in a bone breaking hug. "Just hanging with Greg, mom."

Greg watches with false disinterest. He notices Mr. Wilson look at his son's neck intensely. The way Lisa's mother does when she stays out late with Greg.

"See ya, Jimmy." He calls out as Jimmy's herded back to his house. Jimmy turns and smiles at him before he's forced to turn front wards by his father.

Greg sighs. "Lisa?" He asks, picking up his bike.

"Yeah?" Lisa stares after Jimmy almost sadly.

"Can I stay with you tonight?" Greg thumbs some dirt off the handle bars. He remembers Jimmy leaning against him.

"My mom says no. Not after last time. You came out wearing my bra over your shirt." Lisa replies, frowning at Greg.

"Your window unlocked?" He asks nonchalantly. Staring at the sky pointedly. Lisa smiles.

"Yes."

"I'll see you there."


"Lisa," Eric walks out of the tree house and onto the deck. "Where are Bobby and Ally?"

Lisa smiles tightly at the boy. "They're stealing a change of cloths from Greg's house."

"Why?"

"Because Greg stayed at my house last night." Lisa admits, hoping the boy will drop it. Eric grins at her.

"Greg and Lisa sittin' in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" Eric sings, doing a strange dance.

Lisa sighs. "Really, must you do that?"

"Yes," He replies, walking back into the tree house. He walks back out a moment later with both his and Bobby's puzzle books.

"What're you doing?"

"Cheating." Eric says simply. Lisa thinks Greg might be a bad influence. "Where is Greg?" Eric asks, as if he had read her mind.

"Still asleep." Lisa watches him pick at a blob of dried wax on Bobby's puzzle book. The wax is yellow and Lisa wonders how orange candles produce yellow wax.

"Where's Jimmy?" Eric fills in sixteen across with Bobby's chewed up pencil. Lisa looks up at the blue, blue sky. Blue like Greg's eyes when he's actually happy.

"Probably grounded." At Eric's confused look Lisa elaborates. "He and Greg tried staying here last night."

Eric made an oh! right! sort of look. "That's why there were old jackets every where."

"Right."

Eric fills in three more words before working on Bobby's book. He only messes with two answers before putting both books back were he found them. The pencil to.


Greg wakes up to two kids holding his wardrobe. He growls at the light shining through Lisa's bed room window.

"What're you two doing here?" He asks gruffly, rolling around until he was back to the floor.

"Lisa told us to bring you some cloths." Bobby says, placing Greg's jeans on Lisa's neatly made bed. Alison added a pair of boxers and a shirt to the pile.

Greg stands, stretching until he hears a pop. "Thanks," He mumbles, pulling off his shirt. Alison blushes.

"We're gunna go," She says, pulling Bobby with her over to the window.

"Hey," Greg calls, putting on a clean blue shirt sporting a rude comment about bunnies. "Tell Lisa I'll be over at Jimmy's."

Bobby nods, shoving Alison forward. "Okay," He climbs out just as Greg steps out of his dirty pants.


Greg winces when he scrapes his knee against Jimmy's window frame. The fabric of his jeans rips open, revealing Greg's boney knee. He ignores the blood, slipping into his friends messy room.

Upon brief observation Greg sees that Jimmy is in fact, still asleep. He sighs and walks over to Jimmy's desk. It's piled high with books (The Princess Bride, The Taming of the Shrew), papers (old homework, summer homework lists) and assorted pens. Jimmy loves pens. Greg thinks his friend must have over three hundred stashed away in his room.

Moving a small stack of poetry volumes off Jimmy's desk chair, Greg sits in it. He decides he'll wait for him to wake up, hoping it'll be soon.

Greg fiddles with some of Jimmy's pens. Messing with them so that all the pieces are mixed up. That kills five minutes. Maybe six. The tall boy sighs and turns around in the chair. He looks at his friend.

Jimmy hadn't bothered to change his cloths or take off his shoes or get under the covers. Greg stares at Jimmy's chewed up Converse shoes. They're dark green and so holey Greg can hardly believe they haven't fallen apart yet. Greg himself had been present at the birth of almost every new hole. He smiles at the memory of the small hole on the left shoes heel.

Staring at Jimmy gives Greg a warm feeling he isn't to thrilled about. Scowling at himself he throws one of Jimmy's hard cover books at the sleeping boy. He had thrown blindly and he hopes he didn't hit Jimmy in the head. The last thing Greg needs to do is tell Jimmy's mom he gave her son a concussion or something.

Jimmy groans, rubbing his face. "Ass," he says harshly. He throws the book back at Greg, but misses. It hits the wall with a 'thump'.

"Love you to, buddy." Greg says sarcastically. He stands and walks over to the far wall. He leans against it.

Jimmy sits up in bed. Looking around he asks Greg what time it is.

"Dunno." Greg replies. Jimmy sighs, crawling out of bed. Greg pointedly looks at anything but his friend while he changes.

"So," Greg asks, "how bad was your punishment?"

"Nothin'. Just that they would like it if I cut my time with you down to a minimum." Jimmy mumbles, trying to put on his pants without taking off his shoes. Greg would laugh, except he can't seem to get over the fact that Jimmy has his pants around his ankles.

"You got off easy. Not like that time we stole all your dads liquor." Greg gives a half laugh. "That was fun."

Nodding, Jimmy says, "yeah, it was."

After Jimmy manages to get dressed in cloths that appear to be clean he and Greg climb out his window and into the nearby tree.


Mr. Wilson doesn't work on Thursday. He doesn't know why, he just doesn't. Mr. Wilson has the misfortune to look up from doing his breakfast dishes just in time to see his fifteen year old son riding on his friends handle bars in broad day light.

Mr. Wilson knows something's going on. He just knows it.

He told Mrs. Wilson the night before, but she told him he was paranoid and to leave them alone.

Mr. Wilson shakes his head, dropping the dish in the sink. He needs a drink.


On the way to the tree house, Jimmy notices the 'for sale' sign on the large house next to Bobby's has a large 'sold' sticker on it.


It's nearly noon before Lisa sees Greg's green bike roll up to her own red one. She hadn't expected them anytime before eleven, but noon was a bit late by Jimmy's standards, there for, Greg's.

"Hoooooney, I'm hoooome!" Greg sings out, climbing quickly up the rope ladder, Jimmy seconds behind.

Eric looks up from his puzzle book. He and Bobby had started a new game after Eric won the last one. Lisa hadn't said anything about the cheating, figuring Bobby does it when the other boy isn't looking. "Hey, Greg." He says. "What's a nine letter word for a color between blue and gr-"

"Turquoise."

Greg walks into the tree house without saying hello to anyone. Jimmy sits next to Lisa on the deck. She's reading a book about Georgia O'Keefe now. The pages filled with overly large flowers and perfect white bones.

"Jimmy." Lisa says, greeting him in her professional voice. Jimmy nods at her.

Alison is allowed to play cross race today because the boys are feeling nice. She'll ask everyday and most days they'll say no. Lisa suspects it's because Bobby likes her. And Eric hates everyone. Kind of like how Greg hates everyone.

Jimmy smiles at Lisa and asks if she had a nice night.

"It's hard to sleep with Greg's damn snoring." She says. Jimmy nods in agreement, then stops.

"What was he doing in your room?" He asks strangely. Lisa thinks it might be jealously. She knows it's not for her. Lisa had given him plenty opportunities to date her before Julie.

"Dunno. He seemed dead set on not going home. I had two of the kids get cloths from his house." She answers, opening up her book, therefore ending the conversation. Jimmy sighs and stands. He walks into the tree house.

Lisa closes the book. She doesn't have it in her to read. She just wants to think.

So think she does, staring at Alison's royal purple fishes from the day before.


Mrs. Cameron had formed the Mother's of the Cul-de-sac three years ago. Just when her Ally had started to follow around the then thirteen year old Greg House.

She told the other five mother the group was to make sure the area was safe for their children who all seem to run around like wild heathens. But in reality it was to be sure the other children weren't bad kids.

So far she only hates Greg House, the leader of all of their children.

That's why when she heard a family with a seventeen year old is moving into the area she prays to God that he'll take Greg's place.


Edward Voglar is unloading three boxes from inside the moving van when he first sees them.

Two boys around ten, one black, one white, riding on bikes. Closely followed by a teenaged girl caring a little girl on her handle bars. Then a tall teenaged boy with another teenaged boy on his handle bars.

They all stop in the middle of the circle to stare at Edward, his family and their new house. The little girl and the shorter teenaged boy slide off the handle bars.

Edward can't hear what's being said, but can tell the tallest teenaged boy is in charge.

He's telling the little kids to go home. Edward decides upon watching the littlest ones march back to their respective homes. The little white boy lives right next door to him.

The tall boy says something mean to the other girl. Edward can tell because the shorter boy flinches slightly, casting an apologetic look to the girl.

Edward watches the girl shake her head then head over to him.

"Hello," she smiles sweetly at him, extending a hand. "My name's Lisa Cuddy."

While Edward says his hello's he watches the two boys walk, the bike between them, back into the woods. He wonders why they're going back. It is after all, almost dark.


Greg's peddling slowly. He figures he doesn't have anywhere to be. Jimmy doesn't either.

"So, are you going to stay at my house tonight or are you going to visit your poor mom?" Jimmy asks. He likes Greg's mom. He thinks she's a nice person plagued with a genius for a son and an ass for a husband.

"I'll see her tonight while he's bowling." Greg mutters, going over a root extra hard. "Then I'll crawl through your window." He pokes Jimmy with one of his long fingers. "You still got extra room in your dresser? I might be there for a while."

Jimmy sighs, but he's smiling. "Yeah, there's room."


Sitting in the upper tree limbs Greg and Jimmy share a cigarette. Only one today because it's already twilight.

They're chatting about nothing and everything, the way friends do.

Just as Jimmy snubs out the cigarette Lisa and an unidentified person ride up to the tree house. Jimmy calls out hello while Greg does nothing.

"James?" The other person asks. Jimmy's face goes pale. Greg smirks at him, swinging down off of the tree branch.

"Hey, Julie." Jimmy says, following Greg onto the deck. Lisa and his girlfriend are already there.

Jimmy had brought Julie to the tree house only once before. She had complained that she never spent enough time with him, so he brought her along. Julie rode on Lisa's handle bars while Ally rode on Eric's.

Julie told Jimmy that spending all of his time in a tree house at his age was foolish. Jimmy pointed out that Greg did it to. Julie only said that she rested her case.

"James, have you been avoiding me?" Julie asks, jumping straight to the point. Jimmy opens his mouth, then shuts it. He is avoiding her. But he doesn't want her to know that. Jimmy shoves his hands into his pockets.

"Yeah, he is." Greg says, stepping in. Lisa sends him a look, but he ignores it. Julie glares at him.

"Is that so?"

"Yeah, he found someone else." Greg eyes her body pointedly. "Someone with a bit more meat on their bones."

Julie looks from Greg to Jimmy, who's staring at the deck.

"You are a little skinny," he admits quietly. Jimmy shifts his feet around. Greg smiles smugly at Julie.

She looks to Lisa for help. The younger girl makes it clear she doesn't want to be in this at all. Julie makes a strangled noise in her throat. She nods her head a few times, then tells James to fuck off.

"Ohhhh! You just lost your ride back in, missy!" Greg exclaims, gripping Lisa's shoulder.

Julie leaves in a huff.

Jimmy breaths a sigh. "Thanks, man." He says, rubbing the back of his neck.

Greg gives his friend a once over. Then sniffs. "You owe me big time." Lisa nods.

Jimmy smiles, "Yeah, I do."

The trio stand there in silence for a moment before Greg asks what time it is.

"6:53." Lisa says, checking her purple watch.

"Gotta go." Greg mutters, starting for the ladder.

Lisa stares after her tall friends. "Why?" She says to Jimmy. He shakes his head.

"Bowling," he replies vaguely, walking into the tree house. Lisa rolls her eyes to the darkening sky. She wonders why she puts up with them.

Lisa shakes her head, then follows Jimmy into the tree house.


Greg stashes his bike at Bobby's (his is the only mother besides Greg's own who doesn't hate him) house, next to the younger boy's black one.

Checking the circle for his father's car, he walks into it. Waiting a moment for a plane crash or something, he starts for his house.

Through the kitchen window he sees his mother washing dishes. Probably from dinner.

Greg squares his shoulders, then walks in through the front door. "Hey, mom." He greets quietly.

His mother almost drops the plate. "Oh, Greg!" She places the plate in the sink before walking over to her son and hugging him tightly. Greg smiles and hugs her back.

"Where have you been, honey?" Blythe House asks after they pull apart.

"Around." He answers distantly. Greg can feel his mothers hurt. "It isn't you." He reassures, hugging her again. "It's never you." Greg mumbles into her sweater.

Blythe insists on feeding him, which Greg praises the Lord for. All he's had to eat is what he got Ally to nick from her house.

Greg's mother makes him a ham sandwich. And while he eats she talks about this and that and everything in between. Greg eats slowly, hoping that time will slow to. He loves his mother. He really does. Greg's father and his belt are what Greg hates.

Flicking the last of his sandwich into his mouth, Greg looks at the clock. Ten minutes until his father gets home. Twenty minutes if he had a few drinks.

"Mom," Greg interrupts his mother, "I've got to get some things together." He stands up. His mother follows suit. She helps him stuff a few cloths into an old Shop n' Save bag.

When her back is turned Greg quickly grabs his cosmetics bag filled with stolen cigarettes, minor drugs and hotel bar sized alcohol bottles.

Even though he's almost out of time Greg hugs his mother goodbye.

"I'll be at Jimmy's." He whispers, holding his bags and his guitar. His mother nods as he walks out the door.

Greg takes the side way to Jimmy's house. The one where you can see the road, but the road can't see you. He freezes at the sight of his fathers car. But it just rolls on past him. He lets out a breath.

Half way to Jimmy's he sees a dark figure looming toward him. At first he thinks it's his father. Until he realizes he's much to large. Taller then Greg himself.

Greg recognizes him as the new kid. The black one. He sent Lisa to interrogate him first. Greg has no idea who he is or what he's like. He hopes the boy doesn't mind being blown off.

"Greg House," the new guy says, sticking out his hand. "I'm Edward Voglar."

Greg pointedly ignores the other boys hand and stares at a fixed point passed his head.

"Look, Ed, I got places to be, things to do, so if I could just," Greg says, sidestepping Edward. The older boy doesn't look amused.

"Edward."

"Yeah, whatever." Greg strides away quickly.


Edward stares after Greg as he continues to walk over to the other teenage boys house.

He doesn't like the way Greg House disrespected him. Doesn't like it one bit.


To make it up into Jimmy's room in one trip Greg slings his guitar over his shoulder, sticks the cosmetic bag into the plastic bag, then puts the guitars neck in through the handles in the plastic bag.

With a few grunts and an almost fall Greg makes it to Jimmy's bedroom window. His friends rushes over and opens the window. His hand brushes over the blood from earlier that day.

"Here," Greg rasps, thrusting his guitar with the bag attached at his younger friend. Jimmy takes it, sets it down, then helps Greg through the window.

When he's through Greg pushes Jimmy's hands away violently. He doesn't want them on him, because he knows he likes it to much.

Jimmy tries to act like the shove doesn't bother him. But Greg knows better. He's an ass and he knows it.

Clearing his throat Greg takes the cosmetics bag out of the plastic one. Shaking it slightly he grins. Jimmy smiles. He's old friends with this bag.

Greg slips the bag into his front pocket. Jimmy sends him a confused look. "It's only nine o'clock, we got time." Greg answers Jimmy's unasked question.

Moving the volumes of poetry that some how migrated back into Jimmy's desk chair, Greg sits down.

Jimmy hands him a roll rapped in a napkin. "Here."

Greg takes the roll, inspecting it for mold or poison. "Thanks," he says, looking up at his friend with blue eyes.

"No problem." Jimmy throws himself on his unmade bed. He turns himself so his legs rest against the wall. Jimmy's shoes make new marks near old ones. The taller boy has seen his friend in this position many times. He's thinking.

Greg smiles, mouth full of roll, at Jimmy's grubby green shoes.


Tossing around in his bed Edward sighs.

He can't sleep until he knows his stash is safe. He sits up, scanning his dark, empty room for a hiding place. He thinks the window sill might have a hole or something he can put it in. That's were his stash was back in his old house.

He stands from his new mattress and stumbles to his only bedroom window. Looking through the glass he thinks he sees a glowing red dot. Edward watches the dot until it disappears.

He's about to open his window when a tall body stumbles into the pool of light supplied by a nearby street lamp. One of the only two around the circle.

Edward squints and leans forward, nose hitting the glass. It's Greg House, laughing and pulling another body into the light.

It's the other boy. Matt's younger brother. He and Greg are falling all over each other until the taller boy leans against the lamp post. The Wilson boy and Greg smoke something together (Edward thinks it's a joint) silently.

Edward knows this is boring, but he can't help thinking something important is going to happen. So he watches.

He doesn't have to watch for long.

Greg says something funny, and the Wilson can't stop laughing. The shorter boy drags the other to the ground in his hysterics. They start a friendly wrestling match that ends with Greg sitting on Matt's brother.

Edward backs into his room after he sees them kissing.

He smiles evilly, plan already forming in his mind.


When the phone rang Mrs. Wilson had hurried over from the kitchen table to answer it.

"Hello?" She asks, placing her left hand on her hip. She turns to face her family, all eating their breakfasts.

"Hi, Mary, it's Blythe." Mrs. Wilson's eyes her middle son.

"Why, hello Blythe! What can I do you for?" She watches as her son freezes, spoon full of corn flakes dangling in mid-air. There's a dark spot under his ear. Mrs. Wilson doesn't want to think about it.

"Well, I don't know if it's true, but Greg said he was staying with you last night and I was just wondering if I could talk to him, please." Mrs. Wilson doesn't like the sound of Mrs. House's voice. She doesn't think the older woman is really telling her everything.

"Hold on just one moment, please." She says, cupping her hand around the mouth piece and lowering the phone from her face.

"James Wilson," she starts in her mom voice. Mrs. Wilson notices her oldest son drawing his finger a cross his throat. His long sleeved shirt hanging loosely from his bony arm. Mrs. Wilson tries not to think about it. "Is Greg House in this house?"

James lowers his spoon into his cereal bowl. "Yes."

Mr. Wilson gives his son the evil eye.

"Well, go get him. His mother's on the phone." Mrs. Wilson says pointedly, gesturing toward the door with the kitchen phone. James nods once, jumping out of his chair and up the stairs.

After a few loud crashing sounds James walks back into the room, Greg in tow.

Mrs. Wilson hands the phone over to her sons best friend, then sits back down to her cheerios.

Everyone is silent except Greg.

"Hi, Mom."

Mrs. Wilson looks from her son to the husband and back again. Mr. Wilson's red in the face.

"Yeah, I'm good."

Mrs. Wilson watches as Matt taps randomly on the table with the end of his spoon. David stares in wonder at everyone. Mrs. Wilson thinks he doesn't know what's doing on.

"When he cools down, sure… No, not this time."

Mrs. Wilson locks eyes with Mr. Wilson. She tries to tell him with her eyes not to bring this up. Please, don't. There are obviously bigger things going on then we know.

But he shakes her off.

"Sure, sure… Love you, too. Bye."

When Greg hangs up the phone Mr. Wilson is the first to speak.

"Son, you didn't even ask-"

"It's my fault." Greg interrupts, drumming his fingers against his pant leg. Mrs. Wilson recognizes the beat as a song by Meatloaf she can never remember the name of. Ken sings it when he doesn't want to do his choirs. I would do anything for love

"I showed up around one in the morning. I wouldn't let him kick me out." Mrs. Wilson looks into Greg's eyes and knows he's lying. Shifting her eyes she notices a dark spot just under his chin.

Before Mr. Wilson can start in again Mrs. Wilson tells Greg he might as well have some breakfast. "Then you can shower." She says pointing with her spoon at the teenager.

Matt smirks. "Yeah, man, you reek!"


After they're showered and fed Jimmy and Greg climb on Greg's green bike.

Riding into the woods Jimmy leans against Greg. The older boy smiles.


Lisa checks her watch, then smiles politely at Edward. She doesn't actually like the boy, but if he's friends with Greg, like he says he is, then she can't afford to piss him off.

Lisa looks around the deck, checking the kids. Ally's drawing orange hearts next to purple fish, while Bobby and Eric play a game of cross race.

Suddenly she can hear Greg's bike under the tree house.

"Look." she hears him say. "It doesn't have to be anything, if you don't want it to be."

"But I want it to be something." Lisa hears Jimmy respond. She can tell this is a personal conversation by the tone of their voices. She tries to get Edward's attention by pulling on his long sleeved shirt. He just ignores her.

"Then it's something." Greg is at the top of the ladder when the last syllable rolls off his tongue. Turning around he sees Edward.

They eye each other for a second before Edward breaks out into a large smile. "Greg, could we talk for a second?"

Greg looks from Edward to Lisa to the kids to Jimmy then back at Edward. "Whatever you have to say you can say it right here." Lisa knows this is a stand off. And also, that Greg trusts them all.

"I don't think you really want me to. With what happened last night and everything. Wouldn't want your little friends to know about that, now would you?" Alison looks up from her coloring.

"You're not being very nice to Greg, Edward." She points out. Lisa uses every ounce of self restraint to keep from nodding in agreement.

Edward glares at her. Greg glares at the larger teenager for glaring at his friend. Only Greg gets to torment the kids. That's one of the unspoken rules.

"Alright, I'll talk to you in privet." Greg says loudly, taking Edward's focus off Alison. He leads the older boy around the corner.

Jimmy sighs and takes a set next to Lisa on the deck with his back to the tree house.

"So," Lisa starts, not quite knowing how to ask her question.

"Later," Jimmy mumbles, glancing at Eric. Lisa nods once, then takes out her book.

After a few minutes, when Greg and Edward didn't return, Lisa sets her book back down. "Jimmy," she whispers, leaning closer to the boy. "what do you think they're talking about?"

"Later." Is all Jimmy will say.

"What's the most commonly dyed hair color among teenaged Americans?" Bobby asks, biting on the end of his pencil.

"Blonde." Greg calls out from around the corner. Bobby's eyebrows knit together.

"Tried that!"

"Did you add the 'E' at the end?"

Bobby does an oh! right! face before filling in the correct space. "Thanks!"

Lisa smiles at the boy before biting a fingernail.

"Well," Greg says when he rounds the corner, Edward only inches behind. "I'm going home."

Lisa takes in Greg's submissive posture and Edwards evil smile. She and Jimmy stand. Jimmy puts his hand on Greg's shoulder. They seem to be holding a silent conversation. Jimmy nods once and sits back down. Lisa takes that as her sign to as well. She sinks down next to her friend.

Greg says good bye, then starts down the ladder.

"Bye," Bobby says, not looking up from his puzzle book. He chews on his eraser.

"See ya, Biter."

After Greg's head disappears Bobby sighs. "Why does he always call me that?"

"Just the way he shows he cares." Jimmy says without thinking.

"I'm quite sure that's not the only way." Edward says maliciously, giving Jimmy a look. The younger boy goes pale.

Lisa asks him what's wrong, but he doesn't answer.


Blythe almost drops her glass of water on the floor when she hears the back door creek open.

"Hey, Mom." She hears Greg say from the doorway. Blythe turns around. He's standing in the kitchen with his guitar and a bag full of cloths.

"Greg!" She exclaims, setting her water on the counter. He smiles grimly at her and walks up the stairs.

Blythe just grins and hopes he's staying for good this time.


Lisa has to ride on her own handle bars. Greg took his bike when he left, leaving Jimmy without a ride. Lisa lets him peddle.

"So," Lisa starts casually. "What did Greg do last night?"

She can't see Jimmy's face, but she knows he's frowning. "He didn't do anything."

"That's bull and you know it." Lisa grips the handle bars tightly. Her knuckles turn white.

"It's none of your business." Jimmy mumbles, turning to look at the kids. They're riding only feet away. Ally on Eric's handle bars.

Lisa huffs and slumps forward.

They ride the rest of the way to Lisa's in silence.


Blythe jumps when she hears the front door slam open.

"Is the boy back yet?" John asks from the hallway. Blythe stares at her boiling pot on the stove.

"Yes." She nods.

"Good." John says firmly, walking up the stairs.

When she hears Greg's bedroom door open Blythe closes her eyes.

I'll make him the best dinner ever, she promises herself.


Sometimes, when the older kids ignore them, the younger kids will go over to Bobby's house to play.

Sitting on Bobby's floor it a tight circle they argue about the new kid.

"I don't like him." Ally says, crossing her arms over her flat chest.

"Only 'cause Greg doesn't." Eric sneers, looking to Bobby for back up. The younger boy just shrugs.

"It's not just that. I don't like they way he treats Jimmy. Like he's dirty." She says, hoping Bobby will agree. He just shrugs again.

"Maybe he just doesn't like him." Eric counters, picking at the carpet on Bobby's floor. Bobby looks surprised.

"When hasn't someone liked Jimmy?" He asks, Ally nodding in agreement.

"Look," Eric says, "obviously Greg is turning over his power to Edward. Otherwise he wouldn't have left this morning."

Alison glares at the boy while Bobby nods. "Seems true enough."

Ally stands and finds her way out of Bobby's house on her own.

"I'll never get girls," Bobby sighs mournfully. Eric chuckles, pulling out his puzzle book.


At nine o'clock Greg sneaks through his house. He hopes his fathers football game will be enough to distract him while Greg gets what he needs done.

He opens the back door, slipping out into the yard quickly.

Greg hurries into the circle, where Edward had told him to go. He wishes he could just make him go away. Only been there two days and he is already pissing people off.

Greg taps his foot against the concrete.

"You made it then," Edward says from behind him. Greg turns and tries to duck his head. The older boy sees his face anyway. "Oh, ho, ho! Someone must hate you as much as I do."

Greg glares daggers, but Edward shrugs them off. "Did you move back in with your folks?" He asks, crossing his arms. Greg notices his sleeves are long.

"Yeah," he answers distractedly. "Do you always wear long sleeved shirts? Or is today just to cold for you?"

Edward ignores his question and smiles evilly. "Tomorrow you will show up at my house, at seven thirty, ready to work. My mother needs her dining room painted."

Greg scoffs. "Is that all? You're blackmailing me for that?"

"No," Edward pulls a piece of paper from his jeans pocket. "This is a list of essays I need you to write for me."

Greg grabs the piece of paper from the taller boys hand and turns to walk away.

"Remember," Edward calls after him, "All I need to do is slip up once, and his life will never be the same."


For a week Greg ignores his friends. Most days, after hours of reading, one or more of his friends will knock on his door and his mother will tell them he's not feeling well.

But on one morning Jimmy over sleeps and sees his friend mowing Edward's yard. They share a look and Jimmy continues on his way.

"Lisa?" He asks just before she walks into her home.

"Yes?" Lisa leans against her front door, arms crossed. She doesn't like that Greg gave them up so quickly. Or that Jimmy's letting him do it.

"I think Greg's doing Edward's dirty work." Jimmy confesses, propping Lisa's bike against the house. Lisa gives him a confused look, eyebrows knitted together.

"Blackmail." Jimmy clarifies. Lisa nods.

"Makes sense. I knew he wouldn't just leave us."

Jimmy nods, smiles and turns to walk away.

"Wait!" Lisa calls out. "What are we going to do?"

Without turning around Jimmy says he'll take care of it.


"Hello?" Jimmy hears Mrs. Cameron say into the phones mouth piece.

"Hi, Mrs. Cameron? It's James. Could I talk to Alison please?" He asks as politely as he can. Jimmy hears the phone move hands.

"What's up, Jimmy?" Ally asks. Jimmy can hear the concern in her voice. He wonders how a girl so young can hold so much worry.

"Could you do me a favor?"

"Yeah, anything."

"Could you give Greg a message for me?" Jimmy can hear her sigh.

"What's the message?"

"Just," Jimmy stops to think. "Just tell him that whatever he's got to hide isn't going to drive his friends away."

Jimmy can hear the gears turning in her head. "What's he hiding?"

"I don't know, Ally. I don't."

"Alright, I'm going." Jimmy presses the off button when he hears the dial tone.


Greg presses lightly at the bruise on around his left eye. He smiles when he realizes it doesn't hurt as much as the day before.

Spinning in his desk chair Greg tries to think of ways Shakespeare has influenced modern literature. He thinks it's a lame essay for a senor in high school. He can do it in his sleep, but he needs to make it flawless. He wants to rip it to shreds.

Greg stops spinning when he hears the knock on his bedroom window. Turning, he sees it's Alison.

Opening the window he helps her from the ladder into his bedroom.

"What's up, Bally?" He asks, throwing himself into his desk chair. Ally smiles at the use of her nick name.

"Jimmy sent me with a message." She says importantly, clasping her hands behind her back.

"Yeah?"

"He says that whatever your hiding, we wont care." Ally sits gingerly at the end of Greg's bed.

"Did he say what I was hiding?"

"No." Greg visibly relaxes.

"So,"

"So, what?"

"So, are you coming back?" Ally looks up at Greg with big blue eyes. He sighs.

"No."

"What?" Ally asks aghast. "Why?"

"Well," Greg blows air from his lungs. "It's a pretty bad secret."

Greg moves to open his window, but Ally exclaims that Edward has a big secret to.

"Oh, really?" He thumps his thumbs against his jeans.

"Yes. He…" Alison looks from Greg to his bedroom door and back. "He wares long sleeves every day."

"And…"

"I don't know."

"Yes you do, come on."

Alison growls, throwing her hands in the air. "Jimmy's brother wears long sleeves every day."

"And?"

"I heard Eric's mother telling Mrs. Chase they were hiding treck marks or something."

"Track marks." Greg corrects. He grins with pride. Suddenly his smile falters. "Do you know anything about them?"

"No." Greg nods at Ally's answer. "So, what do we do?"

"Well, tomorrow you and Lisa are skipping fun hour with Dr. Evil."


"Be careful!" Lisa reminds her younger comrade. "Don't touch any needles." Ally shrugs and continues shifting through papers in a box marked, Ed - Bedroom.

Lisa lifts Edward's mattress and smiles evilly. "I found it!" She says, flipping the mattress over.

There lying in the middle of the box spring is a needle, heroin and all it's accessories. (1)

Ally stares at it in wonder. "Lisa, what is it?"

"It's bad is what it is." She replies, picking up her Polaroid camera and snapping a few pictures. "Here, help me with this." Lisa orders, picking up a corner of Edward's mattress.

After making sure everything is the way they'd found it, Lisa and Alison sneak back through the Voglars' home.


When Greg walks into his kitchen Lisa, Alison and his mother are sitting at the table.

"Morning Greg." His mother greets, smiling up at him. Greg rubs his eyes.

"Morning, mom." He says, voice thick with sleep. He walks over to the coffee maker and pours himself a cup of black coffee.

Leaning against the counter Greg lifts his eyebrows at his friends. Lisa pulls five pictures out of the front pocket of her shorts.

"The proof." She says solemnly, handing her handiwork to Greg.

Looking through them he smiles. "Nice." Greg hands the pictures to Lisa and takes a sip of his coffee. "You didn't touch anything, right?" He asks Ally.

She blushes, shaking her head no. Greg nods approvingly.

"Greg, honey, what's going on?" Mrs. House asks, hands folded neatly on the table.

"Nothing, mom." Greg responds reassuringly. He turns from his mother back to his friends. "Leave now. Do what you need to do." Downing the last of his coffee he says he needs to see a lawn mower about a cow.

The females share a look. Men.


Dear Mrs. and Mr. Voglar,

I regret to inform you that your son, Edward, is a heroin addict. I beg you to please, get him the help he needs.

In closed are pictures of your sons stash. If you believe them to be fake check under his mattress.

Edward has a bright future ahead of him, please don't let him waste it.


Ally and Lisa smile at the older girls handiwork. Licking the envelop closed Lisa tells Alison to run the letter over to the Voglars' mail box.

Giggling, Ally runs out of Lisa's house and over to the mail box a cross the circle. She sees Greg, but doesn't wave. She doesn't want him to mess up on Edwards lawn. Whatever his secret is must be pretty bad, for him to work like this.


The next morning, bright and early, everyone waits in the middle of the circle for Edward and his family.

Jimmy stands next to Greg. Not to close, but close enough. Their shoulders touch. Next to Jimmy, Bobby stands dancing in place. The older boy takes pity on his friend and pulls a green pen from his jeans pocket.

"Here," he says, holding the pen out. Bobby takes it with a smile, then puts the pen between his teeth.

Greg elbows Jimmy. "Don't support his filthy habits." He jokes while Jimmy rolls his eyes.

"Hey, guys," Eric says, pointing to Edward's house. Everyone turns to watch.

Mrs. Voglar eyes are red and Mr. Voglar looks like his head is going to explode. The kids wait for Edward to show.

They don't have to wait long.

Edward walks over to his parents mini van pointedly looking any were but at the people he screwed over.

Just before his father forces him into the car he looks at everyone, glaring.

Eric waves sarcastically while Greg rubes the back of Jimmy's neck.

They wait in silence as the Voglars' drive off into the distance.

"Well," Eric starts, picking his bike up off the ground. "Who's for the tree house?"


Greg and Jimmy share a cigarette quietly. They sit with their legs dangling over the edge of the deck, touching only when their fingers brush together.

"Why would you care if people knew you liked kissing guys?" Jimmy asks. He thinks that that must be Edward's blackmail.

"I wouldn't. You would." Greg replies, taking a drag on their cigarette.

Jimmy frowns. "You became his slave, because he was going to tell everyone I like kissing boys?"

"Yep." Greg hands Jimmy the tobacco, brushing his fingers along his friends hand.

"I… thanks." Jimmy says, snubbing out the cigarette on the blackened wood.

"No problem."

Jimmy smiles at his friend, turning to face him more efficiently. Before Greg can say anything Jimmy kisses the corner of his mouth.

When Jimmy pulls away Greg grins stupidly. He grabs the younger boys hand and traces his fingers.

"Desert men value what, not gold?" Eric calls out from around the corner.

"Water." Greg yells back, rubbing Jimmy's fingers. They smile at each other.


Lisa knows they're smoking, and this time she can't bring herself to mind. She knows something big is going on. Lisa also knows it's none of her business.

She looks around the deck over the top of her book. Ally is drawing blue people, while Bobby and Eric play a game of cross race.

All is well in their world.


A/N: I don't own House. Please review. This fic is my baby, it needs help to grow big and strong. I feed it reviews:D

(1) I don't know jack shit about heroin. Sorry if that bothered anyone.