I don't own Harry Potter…if you sue, I'll give you my litter box-challenged cat. How's that for a fair trade? ^-^;; And thanks to Kymaera for the encouragement and the beta! And I have two phrases she wrote me in her comments that I just wanted to add here because they're cool. "A friend is someone who comes marching in when everyone else is running out" and "A friend is someone who knows all your faults, and loves you all the more" You rock, girl! ^-^
The POVs in this thing get incredibly wonky. But hopefully y'all can follow along. ^-^;;;
Anyway, suggestions, comments, chocolate covered Percys…I'm open to 'em all.
Everything to everyone
"Percy? Percy, what are you doing out here?"
"But it's pouring."
Oliver Wood stared down at the figure sitting so calmly out on the cobbled stone of the tower's roof. It wasn't his place really, to say anything. He hardly knew Percy. For all that they slept in the same room, ate at the same table, took the same classes; they'd never been what anyone might call close friends.
Not that he hadn't wanted to try. After all, Percy was his year mate. His only year mate in Gryffindor. The sorting hat had only chosen two male students among the prospective first years that year, and it seemed to Oliver that they should have been more than they were now just because of that auspicious beginning. But they weren't, and Oliver had long since given up trying to decipher the whys or why nots.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"You know, it's awfully damn cold out here."
"It's not so bad."
He felt Oliver's presence behind him long before the dark haired boy had spoken. He wanted to believe that it was because Oliver moved about so loudly, tromping along in typical jock fashion. He wanted to believe that.
But it wasn't the truth.
Oliver never tromped anywhere. He moved with a quiet athletic grace that people couldn't help but admire. When he entered a room, it was with a comfortable confidence and calm poise. Oliver was…
Well, wasn't that just at the crux of everything.
Oliver was his year mate. His only year mate in Gryffindor. But they would never be best friends. He wasn't even sure what Oliver was doing out here now, other than checking up on him out of some misguided sense of duty.
"I really am fine; you don't have to stay out here."
"Percy, I know something's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong. I just wanted some peace and quiet for once."
"Yeah, but you don't have to be out in the freezing rain to find it."
The silence stretched out, broken only by the sound of the rain plunking down on the stones around them.
"We graduate this spring."
"Do you know what you're going to do when you leave, Percy?"
"Get a job at the Ministry, of course."
"I've already gotten an offer. My…my Dad said he was proud to have a son who might follow in his footsteps."
"C'mon, let's go back inside."
Percy pushed sopping wet red strands back off his forehead, and gave a brisk nod to Oliver before walking past the taller boy and back into the building. And as the dark haired boy watched, the haughty posture snapped almost audibly back into place, dispelling whatever emotions he thought he might have seen just seconds before.
Oliver watched him go, even as he wanted to stop him. He wanted to grab those black robes and turn Percy around, demanding to know what the red head was thinking. He wanted to ask what Percy had been doing out here and, for once, get a straight answer. He wanted to know why Penelope had stopped walking with Percy to the classes that they shared. He wanted to know why his year mate was always so quiet and withdrawn, and he wanted to know what it was that Percy thought whenever he sat out here like this in the cold rain.
But most of all, he wanted to understand why it was that he couldn't just ask.
Two years later…
What was he doing out here? For that matter, what was he even doing out of his own flat? When Binx had suggested that they all go out for a round of drinks, Percy's initial response had been the same as it always was: no. No, never in a billion years and not for a million galleons. He hated going out. He hated open spaces. He hated being surrounded by people he didn't know.
So what was he doing here?
"Hey Weatherby! You gonna come in and get a drink or what?"
"I'll be there in a moment." He answered back automatically, not that the others seemed to care much since they had already turned their backs to walk into The Three Broomsticks. They were probably wondering what in the hell had possessed him to accept their invitation. They gave it every week, and seemed to find it delightfully funny when, each week he turned it down.
When he'd first started, he'd thought that working at the Ministry would be different from the way things had been at Hogwarts. He had had such hopes for his new job and his new life. Things were going to be different and better and he was going to be different and better. He'd let himself harbor that hope for at least the first three weeks.
But it wasn't any different for him at work than it had been at school. If anything, it was worse.
He took a step away from the pub and decided that his fellow assistants would never miss him. There were clouds rolling across the sky, and there was already a smattering of rain mixed with snow swirling lazily down to the ground. Standing on the sidewalk, he decided to just watch it. It was icy cold, and almost silent as it fell. And much to Percy's relief, it drove everyone off the streets and into the warm, dry establishments, leaving him alone to his own thoughts.
His father had told him when he'd first started work at the Ministry, that he was proud of Percy.
It was odd. He'd been waiting his entire life to hear words just like that come out of his father's mouth. And when Arthur Weasley had wrapped an arm around his third eldest son, Percy had felt his heart flutter at what he knew would come next. He'd worked so hard, tried so hard to be everything that a parent could want in a son. And at that moment, Percy was sure that everything he'd gone through would finally be worth it.
His father had said the words. They'd fallen quietly between the two of them, and Percy had turned to look his father in the eyes…
What had he expected? A hearty slap on the back? A bear hug? Respect shining brilliantly through his father's eyes?
Well, whatever he had been expecting had been blown too far out of proportion, he concluded, because the light pat on the arm had fallen woefully short. And the words had sounded so hollow to his ears.
What was it that he wanted? He had his parents' respect. They were proud of him. Why hadn't that been enough?
He had been determined, he remembered. He worked harder, worked longer, took on as much as he could. He'd vowed to himself that his parents would be more than proud of him. They'd be astonished by him, they'd be flabbergasted by what he had accomplished at such a young age.
It had been a nice delusion while it had lasted.
He knew they weren't proud of him any longer. How could they be?
The rain had turned completely to snow, and the flakes were landing lightly on his robes and his cloak, melting into the dark material. The door to the pub burst open, and Percy felt his body jerk in reflex. He refused to look over though, and instead kept his gaze steadily fastened on the falling snow. He was in control. He was always in control of himself.
Oliver gaped at his former school mate. The freckles stood out starkly on Percy's pale cheeks, and Oliver could see clearly that the red head was soaked through. He hadn't quite believed the group of rather sloshed Ministry assistants when they claimed that they'd brought their reclusive coworker "Weatherby" with them only to have the man stand outside, obviously believing that he was too 'good' for a mere country pub.
He'd heard more than once from Fred and George about Percy's nickname at the Ministry. And given the way that Percy had been at school…well, their description did seem to fit. But all the same, he hadn't been expecting to see Percy standing there on the sidewalk, watching the sky from behind those stodgy old glasses of his.
"Percy?" He tried again when his first response was met with silence. He waited as Percy slowly took his gaze from the sky and looked over in his direction.
"Percy, what are you doing out here? It's freezing."
"Have you ever just watched it snow?"
"Percy…are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine." *Sneeze*
"C'mon, let's go inside and get warm."
"I am not going in there."
"Be reasonable, you can't stay out here."
"I appreciate the concern, but it's not necessary." *Cough*
*mumble* "…so stubborn…"
"Then you realize that you're wasting your time."
"It's just The Three Brooms, Percy. It's not that dirty, the people are pleasant, and hardly anyone's that drunk. It's a nice enough place if you'll give it half a chance. For God's sake, don't you think this is taking things a bit far? Even for you? I mean, it's hardly the sort of place that the Queen might frequent, but it oughta be good enough for you and I, don't you think?"
Percy turned slowly to face him again, looking at Oliver over the edge of those hideous glasses he insisted on wearing. Oliver resisted the urge to cringe. He hated that particular look of Percy's. He knew that the redhead meant for it to be disdainful and reproaching, Oliver's own father gave him that look often enough for the dark haired boy to realize what it was supposed to look like.
But on Percy…it only made him seem vulnerable. Scared and cornered and desperate not to show it.
"What are you talking about, Oliver? Of course I don't belong in there." Percy gave a laugh, but to Oliver it sounded hollow and forced.
"Don't. Just…don't." *sneeze, unsteady stumble*
"Well if you aren't going to go in there, you ought to at least go somewhere and get out of this miserable weather."
"I'd much rather just stand right here, thank you very much."
"Argh! Why are you always so-so pigheaded?!"
"Fine. I give up. If you don't care, then I won't either. Just don't say I didn't try."
"I never asked you for help."
"No, no you didn't. You never ask for anything. It's clearly beneath you."
"If that's what you want to believe." *SNEEZE*
"You're making yourself sick."
"So? You don't care, remember?"
"Right then." Furious, Oliver turned to leave. Weasley could just stand and stare at the snow for the rest of the goddamn night if that was the redhead's wish. If Percy wanted to freeze his arse off, who was he to stop him? The stuck up prat. Nothing Oliver did or said ever made any difference to Percy. It was always the same.
Percy obviously wanted to have nothing to do with him. He hadn't cared in school that they'd been the only two Gryffindors in their year, why should he look at Oliver any friendlier now that they had graduated? Disgusted, Oliver walked into the pub without sparing Weasley a backward glance. If he wasn't good enough for Percy to simply talk to, than it wasn't worth the wasted breath to try.
Percy waited until the door shut firmly behind Oliver before he slid down to sit on the icy concrete. All the words had caught in his throat. He had wanted to tell the dark haired boy about why he was standing out there. He wanted to explain to Oliver why it was that they had never been friends. He wanted confess everything if just to get it in the open and out from festering in his heart.
But the words had refused to come, just like they always did. Instead he'd been snotty and condescending.
Was that how everyone—how Oliver—saw him when they looked at him?
Over the years he'd attempted a few quick sketches, just to see if he could maybe capture himself in a self portrait. And every effort had made his heart sick. All he knew was how he looked on the inside. Was it even possible for a person to see themselves from someone else's perspective? He knew how he saw himself, but what did everyone else think when they looked at the odd Weasley out?
His parents had said they were proud of him.
They were proud of him, but they had no idea of what to make of him. How could they when he didn't know himself? They said they were proud of him, but had they really meant it? He wasn't at all like his brothers and his sister. His siblings who were all so talented and athletic and confident.
Was he a changeling or something?
Oh but Oliver…Oliver would have fit in perfectly with his family. Athletic, determined, and out going. Oliver would have been able to live up to the expectations that came with being Bill and Charlie's younger brother. Oliver, who was beautiful and strong and capable, would have been a much better Weasley than Percy ever would be.
It didn't matter that Percy had done everything in his power to please them—his parents, his teachers, his classmates. It didn't matter how hard he tried to hide his inadequacies and adapt. It seemed to Percy that they always saw right through him. Even when they weren't looking. What was it that he was waiting for? For someone to sit back and take a deeper look? Why would they when he'd given them every reason not to?
Proud. A lot of people accused him of being a proud, pompous jackass. They did it behind his back of course, but he knew they said it all the same.
He stared down at fingers without really seeing them. The snow was swirling wildly around him now, but it was hard to even stop and make himself watch as the flakes fell silently to the ground and dissolved.
He didn't feel proud of anything he'd ever done. How could anyone else?
As the cold soaked into his robes and the clothes he was wearing underneath, he managed a smile. Maybe it was neurotic of him to sit out in the freezing cold while it snowed around him. And yes, maybe it wasn't one of the most intelligent things he'd ever done. Heaven only knew he caught so many colds for this very reason.
But being out here like this numbed his heart. It made all the thousands of thoughts and worries and doubts and delusions slow down and then finally come to a stop as his physical body started to protest. It was easier to push the guilt out of his head when his fingers and toes pricked painfully from the cold. It was easier to forget about how far he'd fallen when his eyes were watering and the breaths he drew were icy and uncomfortable.
Or maybe it just felt like atonement.
He dug his fingers through his hair, and cradled his head in his hands as a brisk wind blew snow in his face. Just make it all go numb…
Oliver stared out the window for the third time in less than five minutes and sighed in frustration. When he'd decided to join his teammates as usual after their game, he'd done it with the intention of unwinding and relaxing. In fact, he'd felt entitled to a nice evening of relaxation. His mother was on his case again, she'd owled him at least four letters this week alone.
He hadn't even bothered to open them, he knew what the basic message would be: Get a real job, Oliver. Quiditch is nice as a hobby, but it's time that you put your childhood behind you. Blah blah blah…
But instead of a fun night getting a little tipsy with teammates, he'd run into Percy.
Percy who was so perfect.
It seemed like fate had been against Oliver from his first day at Hogwarts. Well, that and he'd made the mistake of writing home about Percy his first year. It didn't seem to matter how he phrased it, Percy always ended up sounding like the perfect son, the perfect student…the perfect person, really.
Percy who had gotten perfect grades and twelve OWLS. Percy who had been a Prefect. Percy who had been Head Boy. Percy who had graduated and gotten a real job…
So of course, since Oliver had been hell bent on putting all thoughts of being perfect out of his head for the night, Percy showed up for the only time in his recollection at The Three Broomsticks.
He glanced out the window again, and just like every other time he'd looked, Percy was still there, sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of the swirling snow.
When they were younger, there had been times when Oliver had been incredibly jealous of Percy and how things always seem to fall right into place for the redhead. He'd never failed a test or came to class unprepared or got in trouble for breaking whatever rule it was that deserved to be broken.
Sometimes, he'd lain awake at night furious with Percy for being such a goody two shoes. All the older and younger Gryffindors got in to all kinds of adventures together. They laughed and horsed around and acted like the kids that they all were. But because Percy so 'mature', the redhead had always been above such things, and Oliver had been forced to find friends in other houses or other years. It just had never seemed very fair, he and Percy should have been friends, and they might have been if Percy hadn't been so damned perfect and unapproachable.
Of course, Oliver would wake up the next day to see Percy eating alone at the Gryffindor table, or he'd find the redhead sitting out in the rain or off beside the lake by himself…It was hard to feel jealous of Percy then. The way Oliver had come to see it at those moments, being perfect came with a price.
It was awfully damn lonely.
Not that Weasley had ever worked particularly hard to dispel his own solitude. Every time Oliver had made a gesture, or tried to be friendly, or had done anything more than say hello; Percy had made sure to give him a quick, and sometimes almost brutal, brush off. It had been difficult to feel sorry for the redhead when he was basically telling you to get lost because you weren't good enough to hang out with for even a few quick seconds.
But damn it anyway, Percy was still sitting out there in the snow and it had been an hour already.
Frustrated, Oliver stood up abruptly, grabbing his jacket and gaining a few odd looks from his teammates. He'd given Weasley ample opportunity to snap out of it and go somewhere else. And maybe Percy didn't want his help or his interference, but he couldn't just leave it alone. For all that Percy could be a right stuck up, arrogant bastard, even he didn't deserve to sit outside in the cold all alone like that.
He gave his quick goodbyes to his teammates and headed for the door. He'd try talking to Percy, but knowing the redhead, he wouldn't get very far. So he'd just apparate them both to the Burrow, leave Percy in the capable hands of his family, and let them deal with whatever problem Percy was obviously keeping so tightly bottled inside.
It sounded so simple and easy in theory.
"Percy?" He asked hesitantly as he crouched down beside the redhead. Percy's long fingers were burrowed into his dark red hair, and his hands were covering his face from view.
"Go away, Oliver. I don't want to talk."
"I can't just leave you out here."
"I just can't, okay? Even I'm not that cold a bastard."
Percy managed a wry grin at Oliver's words. Oh he knew he was pissing off the dark haired boy, the implication was there. So he was a cold hearted bastard, huh? Well why not. It fit. It was hard for Percy to imagine himself any other way sometimes. He felt all these things, but none of what he ever felt seemed to draw anyone else into his sphere.
Friends had always been something of a foreign concept. Even in grade school, he'd never quite known how to go about playing with the other kids. They'd all been so loud and rowdy. And him? He'd spent the first years of his life with scared adult voices telling him to be quiet for fear of being discovered. How was he supposed to have befriended any of those kids when everything they did terrified him and had him watching over his shoulder waiting for evil incarnate to descend on them?
And maybe he would have found a kindred spirit in his family, but that had never happened either. Bill and Charlie had been at Hogwarts the whole time with the exception of summer break. Fred, George, and later Ron, were all too young to have remembered the tiny dark rooms with the small windows. None of his other siblings had been old enough or around enough, it seemed to him, to remember living in constant fear of being found. In the earliest memories he had, there was no memory of his mother laughing or smiling, or even looking remotely happy. Her face had always been pinched and strained.
And his father? He remembered being in bed and wondering if he even had one for the longest time. Voldemort had been defeated by little Harry Potter when he was five. But it hadn't been until after he had just turned seven that they'd moved back to the Burrow, their real home, or so he'd been told at the time. With all the Death Eaters finally tried and convicted, it seemed that the world was supposed to be a safe place again. Percy had secretly had his doubts though, and he'd stayed up late at night sitting in front of his cracked door straining to hear his parents talk down the hallway, listening to the worry in their voices as it became obvious that not all the death eaters had been caught when the Longbottoms met with their fate.
It just seemed natural to him then, to keep everything at a distance. And as the Burrow grew boisterous and happy over the years, he found himself fitting in less and less with these loud, smiling people whom he didn't seem to understand at all.
"Let me just take you home, Percy."
"Which one? Not that it matters I suppose. I don't particularly feel like going to either one, and if you're done bothering me, I'd like to just sit here in peace if you don't mind."
"I can't do that."
"It's really very simple. You just get up, turn around and go back inside."
"Hey, you know, I'm just trying to help you out here."
"Oh really? Because you know, I don't recall having asked for your help. In fact, I think we covered this in our last discussion. It's beneath me to ask for your help."
"You're a pain in the ass, you know that?"
"You aren't the first to say so, but if it's all the same to you, I have better things to do with my time then be insulted, so why don't you do us both a favor and leave."
"Oh right, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that sitting in the snow and freezing to death was fun for you. God, why do I bother?"
"Because you're Oliver."
Oliver snapped his gaze to Percy at those softly spoken words. The hands were folded neatly in the redheads lap, and the dark haired boy could finally see his face as Percy avoided his eyes.
This was why. This was why he bothered. For all of Percy's posturing and nasty words, there always seemed to be a moment like this that made Oliver wonder if maybe he'd missed some large piece of the Percy puzzle he'd been trying to solve.
"Well, if you don't want to go to your home, why don't you just let me take you back to my flat." Oliver said, expecting to hear Percy shoot the idea down as fast as he offered. But this time the redhead surprised him. In fact, they sat there in silence for a long while, making Oliver wonder if Percy had even heard him.
"Okay." The voice was hesitant and small. "If you want."
Oliver contemplated the droopy-eyed redhead in front of him with a frown. To say that this was an unexpected turn of events for his evening would be something of an understatement. If he lived to be as old as Hogwarts, he was never going to understand Percy or what made Percy tick.
It didn't take a genius to see that Percy was miserable, though.
"Listen, Oliver," the redhead shifted uncomfortably on bare feet as he picked at the edge of the cuff of the long sleeved shirt Oliver had lent him. Percy had always been smaller than him, but his old pajamas seemed to swallow the redhead up as he avoided Oliver's gaze. "I'm sorry about earlier."
He waited for Percy to finish the thought, but after a few moments, it became obvious that the redhead didn't have anything more to add. Which in itself was perplexing. Oliver knew how to deal with the pompous, bigger than life, never wrong and always adult like Percy. But the Percy in front of him now?
The Percy in front of him now looked very much like a kid who had been caught red handed playing dress up with clothes he had no business being in. It was hard to reconcile the jackass who'd blown him off at every opportunity in school with the ill at ease kid in front of him.
Not that Percy was a kid. Oliver wasn't sure if Percy had ever been what anyone would term a 'kid'. But in the overly big pajamas, with the fabric pooling over his bare feet there as he stood uncertainly in the middle of the living room? He hardly reminded Oliver of the miniature adult Percy that had always seemed to thumb his nose at everything and everyone.
"Maybe this was a bad idea," Percy said abruptly, pulling Oliver out of his thoughts and making the dark haired boy realize that he'd been staring wordlessly for the last few seconds. "I'll just head on home, and we can both forget this ever happened."
And Oliver might have let him do just that if it hadn't been for the fact that those words had been punctuated by a sneeze and an unsteady lurch as Percy tried to keep his balance. Whatever was going on inside Percy's head, good or bad…the redhead was obviously exhausted.
"Hey, you're here, you're in pajamas, why not just stay the night?"
"I've imposed on you enough for one evening, Oliver."
"The bedroom's off down that hallway. Go to sleep, Percy. I'll get you up in enough time tomorrow so that you make it to work on time."
"I really think I should just go."
"You aren't going to win this discussion. It's my turn to win, now march your ass in there and go to sleep."
"Where are you going to sleep?"
"Out here on the couch."
"I really can't put you out of your own bed like that and I really think—"
"Percy, I'm counting to ten, and if you haven't resigned yourself to the fact that you're spending the night, I'll put a full body bind on you and make you."
Percy padded down the hallway Oliver had pointed, and quietly let himself into the bedroom. He wasn't at all sure what had possessed him to just cave in like that. He was tired, that much was true, but he'd been a lot worse off than this before. And he seriously doubted that Oliver would have actually put a body bind on him if he hadn't complied.
Shutting the bedroom door behind him, Percy gave a shuddering sigh. What was he doing here?
Oliver's room looked much like what Percy expected it to look like. Messy, but not entirely disorganized. From the disarray of blankets and sheets, it was obvious that Oliver hadn't changed the sheets. But then, why should he have? It wasn't as if the dark haired boy had woken up this morning knowing that he was going to have an unexpected house guest. Or that his house guest was going to be as unwelcome as Percy knew he was.
Making his way over to the edge of the bed, Percy gingerly sat down. Why Oliver? Why was italways Oliver who seemed to find him—see him—at his very worst?
Resigned, the redhead curled up into a ball on the bed, not bothering to pull the blankets up. The bed, just like the clothes Oliver had lent him, seemed to swallow him up. Surrounding him, and to a small extent, comforting him. And it smelled so very much like Oliver.
Percy almost felt like a traitor just lying there, inhaling the tangy scent.
Oliver, who had never offered him anything but friendliness and a helping hand. Oliver, who Percy had always pushed away as hard as he could.
He knew the dark haired boy wondered why it was that they weren't friends. But really, how was he supposed to tell the out going, popular Quidditch captain that the reason they weren't friends was because Percy couldn't—wouldn't—risk his heart like that when he already knew what the out come would be? Percy already knew he was a big enough disappointment to everyone who knew him without adding something like being gay into the equation. He was already trouble enough for the people around him without stirring up controversy on top of it all.
Squeezing his eyes shut tight, he curled his arms around Oliver's pillow and hugged it tightly in a futile effort not to shed the tears that were already so close to the surface. Why was it that no matter how hard he tried, it was never good enough? What did he have to do to get the things that came so easy to everyone else?
Because it seemed to him, that the harder he tried to make the people around him proud of him, impressed by him, happy for him; the more everything just seemed to fall apart and crumble. And to tell the truth? He was getting sick of trying to juggle everything that was expected of him. What was the point? No one noticed unless he bragged about it. No one cared in the least unless he was annoying about it.
What was it exactly that they wanted out of him? What did he have to do to just be accepted? He couldn't help it that he wasn't funny or mischievous like Fred or George. He couldn't change the fact that he wasn't at all adventurous or out going like Bill or Charlie. He couldn't help it that he wasn't like them or that things never seemed to fall into place for him as easily as they did for them.
Was it so wrong that every once in a while he wished that he could just be himself and have that be enough?
But then again, who was he kidding? It wasn't that simple at all. It wasn't as if they'd ever asked him out loud to be someone other than himself. They'd never said anything like that. They didn't have to. He knew from experience that he was nothing but trouble for them. He knew that he was a burden and that he didn't fit as he was now. Of course they wouldn't want him as he was. Who would?
It made him almost sick to his stomach to think about. The real Percy was shy and awkward and didn't ever really want to do more with his time than doodle and watch people live their lives. It was really pretty pathetic, he admitted. The Percy he was on the inside couldn't care less about ambition and ministry positions.
But doodles weren't going to make his parents happy with him. He'd spent his entire life being poor, and he knew his parents wanted a better life for him than the one they'd been able to provide for him and his siblings. And when it was put in that light, how could he possibly tell them that that wasn't at all what he wanted? That he didn't mind being poor? That he didn't have any plans of settling down with any girl and having a family?
He wanted to pull his parents both aside and yell at them. He wanted to scream that he hated his job, he hated the people he worked with, and he hated this farce of a life he led. He wanted to tell them that all he really ever wanted was to just be himself and be accepted for who he was. But at the same time, he knew he'd never be able to tell them any of that because he loved them. And if he told them those things…he couldn't handle it if they withdrew from him completely. His siblings already had. He hadn't ever made any friends to speak of in the last year working at the ministry, and he certainly hadn't had any hanging on from his last year at Hogwarts.
Maybe it was weak of him, and he supposed he already knew it was rather pathetic, but he couldn't risk pushing away the last two people who gave a damn about him. Even if it was suffocating the life out of him to try and be what they wanted him to be.
He needed to draw something. Anything. It was either that or go try and stand out in the rain again, and he knew if he did that, Oliver wouldn't be as patient with him as the dark haired boy had already been.
But he couldn't stay cooped up in this bedroom with nothing but his thoughts anymore. Not without going crazy at least. Or without thinking about Crouch…
Shuddering, he crawled out of Oliver's bed. He knew he'd left his bag somewhere in the living room. If he snuck real quietly, he was fairly certain he could get it—and thus get the sketchbook inside the bag—without waking Oliver up.
Percy pushed the door open, and frowned as he saw that the light was still on in the living room. Moving quietly, he walked towards the end of the hallway, and as the couch came into view, Percy could see plainly that Oliver was still awake and studying something rather intently.
"Oliver?" He asked quietly as the taller boy failed to notice his entrance into the room. The dark haired head snapped up, surprised, and if Percy was any judge, guiltily.
And that's when Percy saw his sketchbook sitting open and exposed, right there in Oliver's lap.
Oliver watched as Percy padded down the hallway and into his bedroom. He hoped the redhead didn't mind that he hadn't had time to change the sheets, although, if truth be told, Percy looked so exhausted that Oliver doubted he'd care. The door shut behind the redhead, and Oliver almost breathed a sigh of relief. The sleep would do Percy some good. Even if it didn't solve whatever was chewing at him from the inside, at least Percy could sleep off some of the dark rings around his eyes.
Not that Oliver had spent much time staring at those tired, beautiful, blue eyes.
With a snort of disgust, Oliver plopped down on the couch. He wasn't going to go into the 'why he wanted to be closer to Percy' abyss tonight. He'd been pretty sure that he'd given that up after he'd graduated, but apparently some things took a longer time to get over.
He shifted to get comfortable, which he knew was going to be difficult considering that this particular couch was a thrift store buy, and thus about as comfortable as a rock. Of course, he hadn't remembered it being quite this lumpy…or this wet…
He pulled out a soaking bag from behind him and couldn't help but grin. Percy's ministry bag. Did the redhead ever go anywhere without it?
Still, he doubted that Percy would appreciate it much if he woke up tomorrow morning to discover that all his important papers were soaked through. He undid the two simple buckles and flipped the bag open, feeling vaguely guilty as he did so. Although he didn't entirely understand why. It wasn't as if Percy was going to keep anything truly personal in there. It was his ministry bag, for god's sake. The most that was in there would probably be some all important paper on the regulation of house elf socks or some such nonsense. He was probably going to hear all about it over breakfast the next morning anyway.
He fished his hand in and pulled out the first thing his fingers touched. A medium sized, leather bound book. It was completely dry, which made Oliver wonder if maybe Percy hadn't put some sort of drying spell on the inside of the bag. Just to be sure, he felt inside and as his hands touched a conglomerate of other papers, it was obvious that that wasn't the case, the rest of the contents of the bag were soaked.
Flipping the book over in his hands, it was obvious to him that it was something that Percy used a lot, since the leather was worn and frayed in places, the corners were curled in from the wear and tear, and the binding was broken. It didn't seem like such a bad idea to open it, just to be sure that the water hadn't damaged any of the pages. He opened the cover.
It was a sketchbook.
What the hell was Percy doing with a sketchbook?! Oliver stared down at the cartoon drawn on the first page in disbelief. Percy? Drawing? Why was that so hard to wrap his mind around?
Still, it was fairly obvious that Percy had to have been the artist. His initials were at the bottom, and since it was a cartoon of a pompous looking Crouch sitting in a cauldron with Fred and George dancing around it dressed like pygmies…Oliver stifled a laugh as he read the caption. "Weatherby, I think this cauldron needs to be another eight of an inch thicker. You can never be too careful, you know."
The page wasn't at all wet, so Oliver assumed that Percy must have placed a charm or something on the book itself, but he was curious, so he turned the page.
The next picture stole his breath away.
It wasn't drawn at all like the one on the previous page. The one of the other page had been cartoony, quickly drawn, and for fun, Oliver was sure. But this one? It looked so realistic. It was obvious immediately that Percy had spent a great deal of time sketching and shading this one. Oliver hadn't even known wizards could draw like this, much less that Percy was capable of drawing like this. It was incredible.
And it was of him.
Oliver simply stared at the picture in awed disbelief for a few moments. He thought Percy hadn't ever given him more than a few moments of his time. The redhead had always brushed him off. Percy had never let him close or confided anything in him, or even ever really accepted any kind gesture from Oliver. There wasn't any reason for the redhead to have spent as much time as this had obviously taken to sketch someone that he barely talked to. But the proof was staring Oliver in the face.
Shaking his head to clear it, Oliver flipped to the next page, too intrigued to even consider putting down the book now.
There was a picture of Ginny on the next page similar in effort to the one on the previous page of him. The page after that had another cartoon, this time of Fred and George sporting devil horns and tails as they sabotaged one of Mr. Weasley's muggle contraptions and pinned the blame on Ron.
There were pictures from every aspect of Percy's life. A few pages in a row were cartoons of family. Percy seemed particularly fond of putting his twin brothers and his youngest brother in devil horns and tails. In one, Fred and George were even dressed as angels, halos and all as they stood with innocent expression before their mother, but both had demonic tails sticking out from under their robes as the caption said, "We didn't do it, Mum. Honest."
Other pictures were from the ministry. Oliver didn't recognize everyone, but the cartoons of Fudge and Crouch were particularly easy to pick out. And entertaining. From the way Percy had always talked, he'd assumed that the ministry was all but hallowed ground to the redhead. The sarcastic cartoons told another story entirely.
There were a few cartoons interspersed though that seemed to leap out at Oliver. The cartoon strip of the skeleton sitting at a desk with the name plate 'Weatherby' as ministry personnel walked by, not noticing, was disturbing. As was the drawing of all the Weasleys together with the exception of Percy, accentuated by the caption "The way it should have been". Then, there was the realistically drawn picture of a boy frantically trying to put out flames that licked at his robes…
There were quite a few drawings of him, though, he was surprised to see. In fact, as he flipped through the pages, it was odd to see that he'd been so much in Percy's thoughts. He had had no idea that the redhead had ever given him that much thought. They were all serious drawings, with the exception of one, which Oliver was staring at more than a little perplexed.
He stared uncomprehendingly at the cartoon. It was just of him, broom in hand, facing forward. But the caption read "Leave me alone, Percy! I'm straight, and you're not."
His head snapped up, to see Percy standing uncertainly in front of him, watching him intently.
"Percy…" He trailed off as he watched the blue eyes dart down to the book in his hands. And as he watched the redhead, those eyes widened in horror as his face paled. "Percy…" He tried again, but Percy was already backing away from him and frantically scanning the room for something. It didn't take long to figure out what that something was though as Percy's eyes landed on his wand and the red haired wizard dove for it.
He was going to run. Oliver could see it, and jumped off the couch to tackle the redhead before he could reach his wand. Damned if he was going to let Weasley just appartate out without explaining a few things!
Grabbing him from behind by the waist, Oliver threw his weight backward, and they both fell to the floor, Percy landing with a thud on top of him.
"Let me go, Oliver!"
"Percy, I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have looked but now that I have—"
Panicked, Percy elbowed the dark haired boy in the stomach as he tried to scramble out of the taller boy's grasp. He wasn't entirely sure how it had all come to be, but he knew Oliver had had more than a brief glance at his sketchbook.
His sketchbook that all but outlined all his thoughts. Right down to his biggest hopes and dreams, and his worst nightmares and memories.
"Oof, Percy, hold still."
Percy abruptly went rigid. It was just too much to handle. For some reason, as long as no one knew, it was okay not to show anything. If no one realized how screwed up on the inside he was, than it was okay to pretend like everything was fucking perfect.
But now Oliver knew things…things that Percy had never told anyone, that he'd kept inside because he hadn't wanted the attention. Because he hadn't wanted to cause problems. Because he didn't want to shame his family any more than he already had and because he didn't want to admit to all the weaknesses he knew he possessed.
He could hear his breaths start to come out in harsh, stunned imitations of the real thing. He tried to make them stop, but the more he tried, the worse they got and the more panicked he became.
No! No, he was not going to have a fucking panic attack in front of Oliver! He wasn't going to embarrass himself like that. But it was already too late to stop. The tears were already starting to stream down his face, and the gnawing demon that always seemed to sit in his chest was already pushing all the breath out of him. All those horrible, anxious, dreading thoughts were descending down on him so quickly, that it felt just like they were stealing the life right out of him.
But God it hurt to know that Oliver was right there beside him, watching as he crashed and burned. Oliver was seeing him as he already knew he was. A huge fucking failure. To be reduced to this because of a stupid sketchbook. To have Oliver know that he could fall apart so completely so quickly…
"Percy? Percy! Jesus, Percy, breathe…"
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry…"
Oliver had figured initially that the change in Percy's breathing had been triggered by his struggles to get Oliver to let go of him. Although the dark haired boy could have told him that it was a pretty futile effort. Not to say that Percy wasn't strong or anything, the redhead did have his own wiry type of strength. But the Percy hadn't been out playing Quidditch every day straight for the last year and a half. And that wasn't even taking into account that he was bigger than Percy.
But then when the redhead had stopped struggling altogether…Percy was all but hyperventilating, and tears were streaming down those pale cheeks.
Percy who always looked so cold and unapproachable. Percy who never gave any indication that things might not be as perfect as they appeared.
Oliver could only gape for a few minutes as he tried to reconcile the Percy in front of him with the Percy he'd always thought he'd known. And then, gradually, he realized that he'd always known something was amiss with the redhead. It wasn't really all that shocking considering how many times Oliver had dragged him in from sitting out in the pouring rain.
And it looked like he was now getting the chance to do what he'd always wanted to do in those instances. He curled his arms around the redhead, pulling him close up to his chest, cradling the trembling, sobbing body.
Maybe he'd been scared before, or maybe he'd sensed that before now Percy never would have let him this close…whatever it was, Oliver had never made any overture of any kind before. Just because he was comfortable in his own skin, and just because he knew what he wanted out life; it didn't follow that he wasn't just as scared of rejection as everyone else.
Particularly rejection from the boy in his hands. The redhead who had made it abundantly clear on so many occasions that he hadn't wanted Oliver or Oliver's friendship. Let alone anything more…
"Shh, it's okay, Percy. It'll be okay…"
"I'm so sorry."
"You don't need to apologize, Perce."
But he did, couldn't Oliver see that? He had to apologize for being so fucking weak all the time. For losing it so completely and for not being in control.
But just like any other crying jag or panic attack he'd ever had, his breathing slowly returned to normal, and the tears started to slow. Oliver was holding him against his broad chest, just the way Percy used to fantasize about when he'd still been in school. The arms were wrapped around him, a hand smoothing the bangs off his face…He could feel Oliver's breath against his temple as the taller boy whispered reassurances.
But this was reality, not some fevered waking dream he was having at three in the morning when sleep refused to come.
"Oliver. I'm fine now." He whispered quietly, hating the small shake in his voice as he did so.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." Percy made himself say, and as he dreaded, the arms withdrew and they both sat up. Of course, what had he been expecting? Oliver would never want him like that.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
No. No he didn't want to talk about it. But paradoxically, at the same time he wanted to talk about it all. What was wrong with him? Why couldn't he just get past all this bullshit and live his life the way everybody else lived theirs?
"I…I just lost it. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cry all over you like that. It's just that…I don't know. I'm just sorry." He trailed off uncertainly. What was he supposed to say? What was the right response in this instance? What was the correct thing to say that wouldn't make this worse than it already was? What did Oliver want him to say?
"You don't have anything to be sorry for." Oliver told him bluntly putting a finger to his chin and forcing him to look up and into those piercing dark brown eyes. "Was it because I looked at your sketchbook? I'm sorry that I pried. And I'm sorry that I did it without asking, but I'm not sorry that I saw."
"They're just stupid doodles." He mumbled. But they weren't. They weren't fucking doodles. They were his heart, his feelings, his thoughts drawn out on paper. Maybe doodles were all his mother and father had ever seen, but to him they were the only outlet that kept him from curling into a ball at the end of the day and slitting a wrist.
"How'd you start?" Oliver asked, bypassing Percy's comment altogether. He looked at the dark haired boy uncertainly. Oliver…Oliver couldn't possibly care, could he? He eyed the taller boy warily as if waiting for a twin-esque response of callous teasing for falling into the trap of believing that Oliver might care personally. All he got from the brown-eyed boy though was an encouraging nod.
"When I was little, it was the only thing that I could do when we were waiting in the safe houses. You couldn't be too noisy because the neighbors might get nosy and attract attention. And Mum couldn't play with me because she was always so busy taking care of the twins and Ron…Drawing just kept me out of trouble." Percy said slowly in a low voice, keeping a cautious eye on Oliver, ready to stop at any sign that the dark haired boy might be bored or uninterested.
"They're incredible, Perce." The redhead blinked, more than a little shocked by the admiration in Oliver's voice. "You could do this professionally if you wanted."
"They're just doodles," he insisted.
"Can I ask you a question about one of them?" Oliver looked so uncertain as he asked, that Percy didn't have the heart to tell him no. So he gave a stiff nod. The taller boy reached over to the couch easily and pulled the sketchbook down in front of them, and started to flip through the pages. Percy could feel his chest tightening in increments as he realized just how much of himself he'd placed in there, and just how much of him Oliver had seen…
"This one." Oliver said as he found the page. Percy's heart almost stopped in his chest. "Who is this, and why the fire?"
"It's Charlie." Percy heard himself say, almost as if in a dream. Of course Oliver would find that picture. That one nightmare of Percy's. The one that had kept him up for every night for a year when he was ten. The one that had started the shame rolling around inside him. "We were in a safe house in Oxford for the last summer of the war, and because they never kept kids at Hogwarts over the summer, not even during the war, I knew Charlie and Bill were going to come to stay for a while…" God, he was babbling, and he could seem to stop the flow of words…
"It was just so boring sometimes with only the twins and Ron to play with. All they did was drool on everything and cry. Bill and Charlie made things exciting and fun and they always told such great stories. I was so impatient to see them…Mum kept warning me to stay away from the windows and that they wouldn't be coming from outside anyway. But I just couldn't stop myself, you know? Looking at the fireplace was boring, and I wanted my older brothers there as soon as possible. I didn't think it would hurt to try and watch for them from the windows so I snuck out and did it when she wasn't watching."
"They found the safe house didn't they?" Oliver said quietly as Percy's flow of words came to an abrupt halt.
"We didn't use any magic to hide ourselves because there are spells to detect that sort of thing. But someone saw me staring out the window, and you know the red hair is something of a Weasley trademark…" He stopped as the words choked him for a second. "Bill and Charlie had only been home for a day before they set the house on fire. They waited until we were all asleep, and then just magicked the walls to burn ceaselessly. People died. Charlie almost died."
"Percy…" Oliver started, and the redhead could see the sympathy shining in the dark haired boy's eyes. Didn't Oliver get it? Couldn't he understand?!
"No! Maybe it wasn't completely my fault, Oliver, but those people died because of my carelessness. Because I was selfish and ignored the rules. And maybe it wouldn't be so bad, except I didn't seem to learn from that mistake…"
"Percy you couldn't have been more than what? Five? No one in their right mind is going to hold you responsible for that."
"You don't understand. I hold me responsible for it. I knew better. Just like I knew better with Crouch." Percy clamped his mouth shut as the admission slipped out.
"Crouch?" Oliver asked, looking confused. "What in the hell does he have to do with this?"
"Oh come on, Oliver. It was obvious to everyone. It was even obvious to me. There was something wrong with Crouch, with the way he was acting, the way he'd been sick, the way he'd let me, his barely trained assistant take over for him…Even Ron owled me asking. It was all right there in front of my face and I chose to ignore it. Why? Maybe because I wanted to believe that I was finally succeeding at something. That someone actually thought I was capable of doing something important." Percy drew a deep, shuddering breath.
"I was closest to him at the time, and I knew something was amiss. But instead of reporting it, or looking into it, or calling someone else's attention to it, I left it alone. I was careless, and maybe if I hadn't been so careless…"
"Percy, you were so incredibly busy…how were you supposed to find the time to look into that? Anyone else in your position probably would have ignored it too." Oliver tried to reassure him.
"That's just it. I wasn't busy." Percy stated flatly. Oliver blinked, and then looked taken aback for a moment.
"Three months after I started, Crouch asked me to write a report on the length of robes in Antarctica . Antarctica! After realizing that there were only five wizards living there and that it didn't matter what length their robes were because they were always wearing so many coats, I decided to take the twenty pages he'd asked me to write on robe lengths and write a diatribe on how pointless my job was instead. He didn't even read it. I knew he wouldn't."
"So what did you do with all your time?" Oliver was looking quite perplexed, and Percy couldn't blame him.
"You drew." Oliver restated looking at Percy as if he was seeing the redhead for the first time. Who knew, Percy thought with a mildly uncomfortable shrug, maybe he was. "Percy, no offense, but what are you doing at the Ministry?" Now that was a difficult question, one he wasn't sure he had an answer for. At least not a good answer.
"I have no idea." The words slipped out of his mouth before he could stop them. "I hate it! I hate my job and I hate the people I work with and I hate this life I'm living!" He yelled suddenly as Oliver's gaze began to unnerve him. He could feel his face flushing, and he blinked rapidly to keep the tears from filling in his eyes.
"So what are you doing there, Percy?" Oliver repeated, and Percy sucked in an angry breath. "Just quit." The dark haired boy added before Percy could retort with something he knew he would have regretted.
"Just quit…" The redhead repeated in disbelief. "I can't just quit. It's not that simple." He returned angrily.
How was it that when Oliver said it, the solution seemed so fucking easy?
"I just can't quit. My parents worked hard for me to get that job. My father pulled strings so that they'd let a wet-behind-the-ears kid into their ranks. What am I supposed to tell them? That I'd rather fucking draw all day? Do you know how disappointed they'd be in me? Do you have any idea how ashamed of me they'd be?"
"No, but I'm beginning to think I have a better idea than you do. Percy, they're your parents, and just because I know who they are and what they're like…I know they love you." How could Oliver say that? How could Oliver be so certain of that when Percy himself wasn't?
He'd wanted his parents to be proud of him. At least that's what he'd always told himself. But that wasn't the truth. The truth was he wanted his parents to look at him the same way they looked at all their other children. He just wanted them to love him. For who he was, and not for the person they wanted him to be.
"Look, I know you aren't going to believe me, and I doubt that I'm going to change your mind completely on this in one night, but despite the fact that they seem to think so, parents don't always know what's best. Trust me, they can be just as screwed up as we are. My Mum is still harping at me to give up Quidditch, and it should be apparent to her by now that I'm not going to. But just because I didn't take the path she wanted me to doesn't mean she loves me any less or that she's any less proud of me. Parents mean well, but sometimes they don't leave you any other option but rebellion. You have to be yourself Percy, that's what growing up is about, anyway, isn't it? If your idea of who you are doesn't match theirs…tough shit. They'll have to learn to live with that. But they will love you no matter what you choose."
Percy took in Oliver's words silently. The dark haired boy was right; it was going to take more than one night to convince him that that was the case. But maybe…who knew. Just the idea of walking into the Ministry and announcing his resignation gave him thrills. Frowning, his eyes wandered down to the picture he'd drawn of Charlie…yeah, some things a person just didn't get over in one night.
"Percy…" His head jerked back as he felt Oliver's fingers brush lightly on his cheek. The brown-eyed boy's face was flushed red, and Percy stared at him confused and more then a little apprehensive about the gesture. "Can I ask you a question about one more picture?"
"Er…Okay." He acquiesced cautiously. Oliver flipped a few pages.
"This one. What does this one mean, Perce?" The redhead shivered as Oliver whispered the words in that low voice of his. And then he looked down at the picture. The cartoon he'd drawn of Oliver in attempts to convince himself to ignore his budding feelings for the taller boy.
"Er…that's just…um…oh shit." He swore, mortified as Oliver chuckled. He stiffened at the sound and refused to look over at the taller boy. As if he hadn't bared enough of his soul tonight. What was it about Oliver that compelled him to be so disgustingly honest? Did he have to confess everything?!
"That's what I thought." Percy shifted to glance over at Oliver, but when he turned to look…Oliver's face was right there in front of him, inches from his. Stunned, Percy could only watch, wide-eyed as Oliver reached up, placing shy fingers on the back of his neck. Their lips touched, and almost of their own accord, Percy felt his arms slide around the dark haired boy as Oliver pulled him up against his chest again, holding him close.
After a few incredible moments in Percy's estimation, Oliver pulled back slightly, looking him right at him, brown eyes twinkling. "Perce, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I'm not straight."
"Hang convention, Percy." The dark haired boy whispered softly in his ear as he pulled the redhead onto his lap. "You don't have to be everything to everyone." Curious, hesitant fingers brushed his cheeks, the back of his neck. Oliver bowed his head, and this time Percy moved forward, licking those soft lips and kissing them gently.
It sounded nice...not having to be everything for everyone.
But it felt even better.
Ookay, now here's the point where I'm going to babble a lot because it's fun. If you just want to review, feel free to skip this. ^-^;;;
To anyone who's familiar with the Digimon fandom…isn't Percy ~so~ Jyou? OMG! I almost felt guilty writing this because parts of it sounded so much like my Yamajyou fic, "Bed of Lies". X_x;;; I tried to make this one a bit different, but it's hard to tell if I actually succeeded or not. *sigh* I babble way too much in these author's notes...X_x
Anyway, reviews, suggestions and what not are ~greatly~ appreciated! ^-^;;;
And thanks to everyone that's reviewed! *beams happily*
Gabrielle: I think you're the first person who has ever called me eloquent, but thanks for the nice review! #^-^# It really means a lot to me that other people can understand and empathize with Percy in this.
PJ Babington: Thanks for pointing out that first person POV change. I went back and fixed it. X_x And thanks for pointing out that the labels I was using for them were getting in the way. I'm not entirely sure how to fix that just yet, so I left it alone, but who knows? Maybe with a bit more practice at 3rd person, I'll have a better idea later on down the road. Thanks for the review! ^-^
Anon people: Thankies!
Plumeria: What does h/c stand for? I have been racking my brain for the last couple days and I still have no idea what that means. X_x And I've read both A'jes' Blue's P/O fics and Cairnsy's fics, so this fic was heavily influenced by both. Hmm...maybe I should have said something in the A/N...And I wish I could draw, I've watched a couple people do it, and it does look really soothing. I dunno, I think everybody has a hobby that they use to escape life or get some of their angsty feelings out in, writing's mine, but drawing was Percy's. Thank you so much for the nice review! ^-^
Akira Ichijouji: Whee! Thanks! #^-^# I love that I'm not the only one who's wandered from Digimon into HP...(I know I'm not the only one, but it's fun to see authors who I already know are awesome, writing HP.) Now write more on that Sugar High Seamus fic! ^-^;; Please?
Alvina: *glomps you* Thanks! Have you been thinking about writing HP too? *looks curious* I mean, after those Digimon fics, I'll be the first in line to read and review if you write anything HP...^-^
Rubicon: ##^-^## Thank you so much! You have no idea how good it made me feel to read that review. (Or how much I needed to hear that on that particular day...) Thanks! (Please write more on ING and SP...Please? *puppy eyes*)
Jen: Thankies! ^-^
Eternity: Hmm...sequel...I honestly have no idea if there'll be one or not. I wasn't planning on it, but who knows...Thanks for the review! ^-^
Dangermouse: I really like your name, it's fun to say. ^-^ And you're right, Percy is one of those characters that people seem to brush over. The poor boy deserves better! ^-^;;; And JOoC (just out of curiosity) What ~does~ IMHO stand for?
JS: Thanks! ^-^
ai_chan_no_hana: Thanks! #^-^# I like Percy/Neville too, and I've seen it very well written, I just think that the dynamics between Percy and Oliver work better, IMO. (See, I know what that stands for...it's the H that confuses me. X_x)
Gwen: *giggles* That amused me. ^-^
Pip Malloy: Thank you! Some days when I'm looking at the Just in list on FFN, I think it's hard to find good fiction period. But it's there. Most of the people who reviewed this are ~excellent~ writers. ^-^
Dia: Heehee! You have no idea how surprised I was that someone recognized where I'd gotten the title of this from. I ~love~ Everclear, and I've been listening to that particular CD of theirs more than is probably healthy for a person. But I ~love~ their songs. Thanks for the review!
Shaman Nameless One: That actually wasn't an idea of mine, I think I got that idea from a comment on Cairnsy's message board by Roccrose. The rest of this kind of morphed out from there. (I should have mentioned that in the A/N, huh? X_x) Anyway, thanks for the review! ^-^
Brandise: Hmm...It's a thought. I'll have to take some time at home this Christmas to mull that over and see if anything comes together. Thanks! ^-^
J: Thanks! #^-^#
Zipporah: You liked my Oliver! *glomps you* ^-^ Thanks! And I suppose I did leave a few things hanging, huh? Hmm...must think about that some more.
Thanks everybody! ^-^