Hello again! Here's the anticipated Chapter 4, in which we finally get to find out what's up with poor little Warren. Who's neither little or in any condition that could be considered poor, even if he's not looking too great at the moment.

I know, I know, it's taken freakin' forever to finish, and I (maybe) kinda forgot what, exactly, I was going to do with this chapter. But no worries! I did actually complete it! Eventually!

XD

(Okay, yeah, I suck. Majorly.)

$4$

And if I try to save him,
My whole world could cave in
It just ain't right.
No, it just ain't right.

- "Beautiful Disaster," by Kelly Clarkson


Present Time

"And the moral of this story is that you beat the stuffing out of one another to… prove a point?" Layla asked, effectively summarizing the ten-minute-long story into one sentence. She was still sitting on the coffee table, but Warren had moved and was now sitting up straight on the couch. He looked a little tired and worse for wear, but she'd seen him in worse condition. Like last week, for example.

Warren tried to glare at her, but it was a pretty weak glare, even for him. He was clearly in need of a nice long nap and a cup of tea. And possibly a few Tylenol. "It wasn't just to prove a point," he said, his voice low and gravelly from his apparent tiredness. "It was more complicated than that."

Layla arched a slender eyebrow. "You know, when Will and I were little," she said, picking at the hem of her towel, "Sometimes the boys in our grade would get into little scuffles. I was curious, and I would ask Will why they were fighting, and he would always say it was 'complicated.' As I got older, I eventually realized that 'complicated' was just a guy way of saying that they were fighting over a girl."

Snorting, he looked away from her and mumbled, "Yeah, not in this case."

This time, both her eyebrows rose significantly. "Really?" she asked, disbelief leaking into her voice. "Because I heard in the locker room that Eric has a thing for somebody, but no one knows who. I was wondering if that had something to do with this fight."

He grunted in response, and Layla added, "Personally, I kind of thought he had a crush on Magenta, but that's just me."

As she said this, she was gauging Warren's face for any kind of reaction. She was rewarded for her efforts to watch his head snap back and glare her down with enraged black eyes that had lost any hint of sleepiness.

"You think the person Eric might like is Magenta?" he said, tightening his hands into fists until his knuckles went white. After three years, Layla knew that was one big sign that meant Warren was about to start lighting things on fire. Or, at the very least, singeing the upholstery.

Layla sat up a few inches straighter and glared right back. "No," she said, "Of course not. I just knew it had to with a girl, and since you weren't even admitting that much, I needed some way of getting you to do so."

Warren's glare didn't lessen any, but his hands did eventually relax. He eyed her suspiciously and asked, "Since when did you get so crafty? I thought you were too nice to screw around with people's heads?"

She shifted uncomfortably and adjusted her towel once more. "I don't like doing it," she admitted, sounding slightly sheepish, "But I need to know what's going on with you and Eric. Yes, I'm aware you did tell me about the fight itself, but if there's some girl that you two are fighting over, she has just as much right to know about it, even if this doesn't pertain to what's been going on the past week."

"Who said we're fighting over her?" Warren asked. She didn't miss the defensive tone; clearly, he was hiding something. Again. "What if I'm just defending her honor?"

Layla snickered. "A guy only defends a girl's honor if he's her brother. Or, if he's in love with her and the other guy's badmouthing her. And if Eric likes this girl, I highly doubt he'll be insulting her." Arching an eyebrow, she pretended to regard Warren with mock suspicion. "Unless you were the badmouthing her, but then you wouldn't be defending her honor, he would be."

Warren just glared back stonily. "I wasn't badmouthing her," he said firmly. "And there was no her."

"Sure there wasn't."

Sighing, Warren finally broke eye contact with her, opting to stare pointedly at the coffee table. "I told you the damn story, hippie," he said, his voice gruff. He probably could've said it nicer to her, but she knew the grumpy 'tude was just his way of putting up walls.

"So that's it?" Layla asked, unable to keep the frustration out of her voice. "That's all you're going to tell me? You got into a fight with Eric? But I can't know why you got into this messy tussle?"

"I told you, it's complicated," he said, gingerly peeling off his beaten and torn leather jacket. "And if you want to know so bad, why don't you just go ask Eric? After all, you guys are so chummy anymore."

Layla's full lips automatically turned down into a deep frown, stung. She knew Warren to always be a little on the recalcitrant side, but there was no reason for him to be intentionally cruel. He knew good and well that she hardly thought of Eric as friend. He was actually kind of a nuisance, but he was helpful. And that was the only reason she chose to talk to him. Because he offered to help her.

Even if Warren was going to be a jerk, it didn't mean she had to put up with it. "Fine," she said, huffing as she stood up and walked around the couch. "If you're going to act like that, you patch yourself up."

"Fine then," Warren snapped, sitting up straight.

Rolling her eyes, Layla stalked up the stairs. Maybe it was better this way. She could get changed, and give him the time he obviously needed to cool off and stop acting like such a humongous ass.

She walked into her room, closing the door behind her and finally stripped out of the towel. Warren could act like a child all he wanted. She was still going to get her answer.

She pulled on clothes at random, a comfy pale yellow t-shirt with 'little miss sunshine' emblazoned on the front with a cute ball of sun-girl, and a pair of her favorite holey whitewashed jeans. She fixed her hair so it was more securely clipped back and sighed. Guys were so… insufferable. As long as she could remember, every guy she ever spoke to had some issue or another about just plain talking.

And was it really such a hard concept? Person A talks, Person B listens. Person B responds, Person A listens… It was something very basic.

She left her room, stopping in the guest room to grab an extra shirt and a pair of jeans for Warren. Even if he was being obstinate, she didn't want him bleeding all over her couch. Her mother wouldn't have too much of a cow when she saw that- whenever she got back home, that was.

Layla jogged down the stairs, trying to push down the anger that was bubbling up inside of her. It didn't help that she was still pretty pissed about the last week and a half- not to mention her still-fresh injuries- and the fact that Warren was kind of acting like a jerk was not helping his case.

"Listen, I still don't know what's going on," she said when she reached the couch. She was going to say more when she got distracted. Warren had got up and was in the process of removing his grimy t-shirt. Layla faltered, her brain hitting the brakes and her hormones kicked into overdrive. It just wasn't fair. He was all muscle- wide shoulders, melon-sized biceps, and killer washboard abs. She made it a very important point not to act like the rest of the flighty, flirty girls in her grade that drooled over every guy they met, but she still had to admit: she was a red-blooded 16-year-old female. And Warren? He was definitely a red-blooded male.

He just also happened to be a very good friend.

Warren turned around to face her, apparently unaware that it was entirely inappropriate for him to be just standing around like that, shirtless, covered in dirt stains and smudges of grease and who the hell knew what else, in her house. With no one else around.

"I told you what's going on, hippie!" Warren said, his jaw tightening. When he did that with his jaw, there was this neat little muscle that jumped in his strong neck. But there was no reason for her to be staring at his neck, and therefore no reason for her notice something like that. "Haven't you been listening?"

When his words sunk in, Layla was almost grateful. When he was being an ass she could forget that his was standing way too close to her, shirtless. "I've been listening just fine," she replied, her chocolate brown eyes sparking. "But what you're saying- why you did it- that I still don't get. Because you're not telling me."

"I'm telling you everything you need to know," he said, speaking slowly and clearly through his teeth. He took half a step closer to her, so they were practically touching chests, and act that seemed so much more intimate when he was shirtless. "That's it."

Layla's jaw dropped open, flabbergasted at his gall. "You- you are unbelievable right now," she said, her slim hands clenching into fists. "You cannot shut me out like this! Who is this girl that you can't even tell me about her?"

He shook his head and laughed, like he was the one that couldn't believe her. He eyed her, studying her reaction closely. Finally, he seemed to give up, muscular shoulders drooping with defeat. "Screw it," he grumbled, quickly reaching out and, in one smooth move, delved his hand into her wet mass of hair, knocking out the clip, and dragged her closer.

And kissed her.

$4$

Okay, it's ridonkulously short, but at least I finished it, amirite? I know I'm a damned tool, but I actually did like the way it turned out. And, really, what more could I possibly ask for? I know the 'Present' chapters were going to be short. I was just kinda hoping they were going to break at least 2,000 words each time. :\

But pleasing me isn't as important. I hope you guys are happy I FINALLY posted Chapter 4! And now we get to wait for Chapter 5!

(yaaaaaay…. DX)