I don't know why I bother to start stuff I know, nine times out of ten, I'm not going to bother to finish. It's such a freakin' dumb idea to start anything else up again. And yet, here I am once more, about to start another dead-end storyline. Crap.
The way I figure it, since everyone else has done something like this at some point, I might as well try, too. I can't guarantee it'll be any good, but here's to that.
I'm sick of picking up pieces
And second-guessing my reasons
Why you don't trust me- why must we do this to one another?
We are just passionate lovers, with trouble under the covers
Nothing worse when you know that it's over.
-"Little of Your Time," by Maroon 5
Asking Warren Peace to Homecoming had been a really, really bad idea.
It took her about 24 hours to figure out as much, and a few more to be stricken with paralyzing guilt. Never, for one single solitary second, did she ever consider that Warren might've wanted to take someone- as in, someone he was actually attracted to- to Homecoming. It was so selfish of her, and Layla was never selfish.
Even though, with every fiber of her being, Layla did not want to have to explain to Will why she wasn't going to Homecoming with Warren Peace, she had to back out. It was only right. This lie she was telling- it just wasn't right, and dragging Warren along for the ride wasn't fair. Under his brooding exterior, she knew he was a nice guy, and she never should've pushed him into this fake-relationship. It was only for the best that she break this off clean now, before the rumor mill really got into full swing.
School had just started, which meant she had approximately five minutes before homeroom started, but Mr. Boy was usually pretty nice about getting to class earlier, which probably gave her an extra two or three more minutes. That was more than enough time to talk to Warren and get this whole huge mess sorted out.
Warren was a sophomore and in a different grade than Layla, which meant his lockers were in a different hallway than hers, near Medulla's class and on the other side of the high school. It took a minute or two of maneuvering through the throngs of students before she could finally locate Warren, stuffing a textbook, a few notebooks, and a ratty and well-read paperback into his equally ratty and well-used messenger bag.
Most of the Sky High population avoided Warren, and it was twice as obvious as he stood in front of his locker. All around him, his classmates were giving him unusually wide berth, almost like there was an invisible five-foot barrier surrounding him. It made talking to him significantly easier.
"Warren?" she asked, her voice soft.
He didn't bother to turn around. "Whaddya want, hippie?" He slammed his locker door shut, and turned to face her, his face a mask of impatience and barely contained annoyance.
Layla took a deep breath, mentally preparing herself for the little speech she had rehearsed in her head the night before. "I'm sorry, Warren," she said, twisting her fingers in the fabric of her crocheted hemp sweater. "I never should have pressured you into going to Homecoming with me. And for kind of tackling you out on the steps, and calling you cutie… and just basically dragging you into this whole dramatic mess." She took a breath, well aware that her face was on fire and while she had worn her hair down this morning, her long red locks were doing a sorry job of hiding her blush.
She shut her eyes and screwed up her face, running her hands through her hair nervously- an old habit she had picked up from Will long ago- and continued, "Listen, the point is, I'm sorry I made you pretend to be my Homecoming date. That wasn't fair of me, especially if you were planning on taking someone else, and really? I should just be honest with Will, and with myself. There was no reason for me to take you along for the ride."
Warren stared at her, and for a millisecond, Layla considered turning on her heel and sprinting away. It wasn't that she was afraid of Warren, per se; she was afraid of his reaction to her. She was more confident two days ago, when she all but demanded that he go with her to Homecoming. Now, when she was trying to respectfully back out, she was terrified.
He only raised his eyebrows, unimpressed. "That it?" he asked, his voice deep- at least an octave and a half lower than Will's, whom she wondered sometimes, in fits of pique, if his voice had ever actually broke.
Even still, Warren's question threw her for a loop. He sounded so confident, almost bored- like he knew she was going to try something like that, and already had a response ready to go. She gnawed on her bottom lip, unsure. That was all she had planned to say. She figured Warren would just roll his eyes, tell her to stop talking to him, and admit to her he had never intended on actually showing up to Homecoming. She was prepared for that callous reaction. But this? This, she had never so much as considered.
He sighed, the noise low and gravelly and not entirely unpleasant to hear. "I figured you say as much at some point," he said, leaning against his locker and looking annoyed. "You're just too nice sometimes, you know that, hippie? You try too hard. That's why I assumed you'd come up to me at some point and try to back out of this cockamamie plan you thought up."
Layla couldn't say anything. For the life of her, she couldn't think up a single solitary thing to say in response. This was just… too Twilight Zone.
Warren broke eye contact for a split second, then looked back at her. "You still want to make Stronghold squirm, don't you?"
Well, it was a lot more complex than that. She didn't want to make him 'squirm' but, then again, she didn't particularly mind those looks of shock and betrayal mixed with (possible?) hints of jealousy he always sent her way whenever she talked to Warren. She just wanted her best friend to see her as something more than a best friend.
But Warren was waiting for a response, so she just sighed a little to herself and said, "Yeah, kind of."
He smirked. It was that same smirk- the one he'd flashed at the lunch table two days ago, a broad grin showing off perfect white teeth and with a smidge of challenge- that had made her stomach clench and her body tense. "Good," he said, looking at her with dark, almost black eyes. If possible, his voice was even lower than it had been moments before.
Layla opened her mouth to ask what he meant, but she realized he was looking over her shoulder again- at what, she wasn't sure. She was going to turn around to see when he stepped away from the lockers and towards her, reaching out and grabbing the back of her neck and pulling her to him.
It took a few seconds to sink in, but eventually Layla realized that this was a kiss. This was he first kiss, to be exact. Warren Peace was kissing her, and it could be safe to say she could feel it all the way down to her toes. If this was what all kisses felt like, she would die one happy woman.
His hand tangled in her hair, and involuntarily, she found herself moving her hands from where they had been glued to his shoulders, one tracing the lines of his strong jaw, and other bunching the fabric of his worn leather jacket.
She felt his hand- the one not permanently attached to the back of her skull (not that she was complaining)- slide down, settling at the small of her back, just inches from the tops of her jeans, a sensation that caused a shiver to run the length of her spine. She didn't even like Warren romantically, and yet, this felt really right.
But, like all good things, this one had to come to end, which it did. Warren removed his hand from her hair and stepped away, and she instantaneously regretted the loss of warmth.
Layla licked her lips, and tried not to notice how his gaze flickered down to her mouth before looking back up at her eyes. She also tried to compose herself by running her hand through her hair, no doubt making it look even more tousled than it had been moments before.
"Umm," she began, searching for the words- any words- that she might use to vocalize this latest catastrophe. "I- uhh- you- what were we talking about again?"
Warren smirked at her again, and this time, her stomach didn't just clench. It did a series of flip-flops and somersaults that would make any cheerleader green with envy. He looked over her shoulder one last time, and his smirk grew a little wider and a little cockier at what he saw.
Distantly, Layla recalled trying to see what Warren was staring at (and being rewarded with that mind-blowing kiss for her efforts), and finally turned around to see what was the matter.
Across the hall, Gwen was busily chatting with tons of other seniors, generally acting like the Queen of the Sky High Universe everyone knew her to be. Holding her hand was her adorable freshman boyfriend, Will Stronghold.
He had seen the whole thing unfold.
And he looked absolutely, 100-percent crushed.
Layla couldn't keep the look of surprise off her face, but knew better than to drop the charade now. Instead, she pulled together what she hoped was a sweet and completely oblivious to her best friend's inner torture smile, and waved. It was a shame they didn't give out Oscars to liars, because, at this point, she'd be a shoo-in.
Turning very slowly back to Warren, Layla regarded him with a new perspective. Smiling slightly, she tilted her head in the direction of Mr. Boy's class just as the bell rang and asked, "Mind walking a girl to class?"
He didn't respond, just walked in the direction she'd motioned. Layla smiled, knowing full-well that they had just passed the door to his class, and smiled a little wider when they passed Will. He still looked lost and confused, a little bit like a puppy that had just peed on the carpet but didn't understand why everyone was mad.
That wasn't a very romantic thing for Layla to think about Will. In fact, it was pretty damn unromantic. Which was out of character for her, but now wasn't time to dwell on it.
As she walked down the hallway with Warren, she couldn't help but notice the odd looks. Who would have ever put the Hippie and the Hothead together? She knew that the rumor mill was sure to be ablaze by the end of the day.
Layla was silent as they walked through the hallways, a small smile still on her face. When they reached the door to Mr. Boy's classroom, she made an instinctive move to keep on walking. Warren stayed in stride, even though he knew as well as she did that that was the Hero Support classroom.
She didn't know how long it took, but eventually the crowds of students thinned out to only a few trickles of very late students. Eventually, they were the only two students left in the hallways, still wandering around with no set destination.
Layla had never skipped a class before, so she more than slightly afraid that one of the teachers would stick her head out the door and demand that they get to class. When no teacher mysteriously appeared, Layla was able to relax and enjoy the stroll.
For a long time, neither person said a word. Layla was comfortable around Warren, something that she was surprised to acknowledge. She didn't want to break this comfortable moment they were sharing- it reminded her of that night at the Paper Lantern, when she spilled her guts out to him, just because he was willing to listen.
After several minutes, Layla glanced over at Warren. "Thank you," she said, dropping the smile. "For going through with this even though you're not all that crazy about me and this was really only another tactic to get under Will's skin. I really appreciate it, even though this is all one big lie."
Warren smirked, and she felt the same somersaults once more. "Don't be so hard on yourself, hippie," he said, staring out at the end of the hallway. Pretty soon, they were going to reach a dead end where the hallway met the gymnasium doors and they would have to turn around.
"I'm not trying to be self-deprecating, Warren," she said, tucking her hair behind her ears. Around Will, she never used words like 'self-deprecating,' because she was always met with a blank face. In fact, she dumbed down her language a lot when she was around Will. But with Warren, she knew he was well-read, and had no problem tossing around 'big' words, confident he would understand her.
"You're not that terrible of company," Warren said, and Layla smiled to herself. Sure, he had admitted it rather grudgingly, but the sentiment was there all the same. "You can be a bit of a pain sometimes, though."
She laughed. She didn't mean to, but he had that effect on her. "How's that?" she asked, staring at the gym doors. A few more feet, and they would have to stop.
Warren didn't answer. "Remind me again why you like Stronghold so much?"
He had never officially asked her why she had fallen for Will. The timing was suspicious, but she rolled with it. "I'm not sure," she admitted, finally looking over at him. "Will's just been a part of my life for so long I wasn't sure what I without him."
"Wasn't?" Warren repeated, stopping less than a foot for the door.
Layla stopped, too, but mostly in confusion. "Wasn't?" she asked. "I said, I'm not sure what I could do without him."
"No, you said, I wasn't," Warren replied, raising his dark eyebrows and smiling tauntingly. "As in, past tense?"
Layla blinked several times. She had said 'I'm' not 'wasn't,' she was almost sure of it. Looking up into Warren's dark, confident eyes, she wasn't so sure.
"I'm not sure what I meant," she finally admitted, her voice not much lower than a whisper. Internally, her brain was reminding her that this wasn't right. She shouldn't be standing in the middle of an empty hallway in the middle of class, with Warren Peace, thinking things she should not have been thinking about Warren Peace. Like how when he kissed her she felt this overwhelming urge to sigh, and when she looked into his eyes she felt he knees go weak, and when she saw that stupid smirk of his her stomach turned into a pile of knots, and when she heard his voice…
None of this made sense. Not that it really mattered, in the end. Because she was standing in an empty hallway with one smokin' hot (to excuse the pun) pyrokinetic and her thoughts were on anything but her best friend next door.
Maybe she wasn't as much of a nice girl as she'd thought.
There was a long moment of staring, and Layla knew she was leaning closer, even if he wasn't. But, he was, and she could feel his warm breath on her cheek and her eyes were just beginning to flutter close for the second time that day and-
"Whoa! Didn't realize I was interrupting something!"
In unison, Layla and Warren whipped their heads around in the direction of the voice. Zach was standing at the juncture between the two hallways, probably heading off to use the bathroom.
Layla stopped herself from thinking any more of those thoughts and waved slightly as Zach spun around, backtracking to the classroom, his face bright red.
There was one, two… exactly six moments of awkward silence that passed, until Layla gave up all her pretences and turned back to Warren. "Well, we should probably get to class now," she said, wishing she could have just five more minutes to see where that moment was going.
"That'd probably be a good idea," he said, and Layla tried to keep the disappointment from her expression.
They reached her classroom first, a slow trek that had been punctuated by one very long, uncomfortable silence. Before they reached the open door, Layla slowed to a halt and grabbed Warren's arm so he would do the same.
"Even though you did kind off kiss me in front of half the sophomore and junior classes, along with a dozen or so more seniors, I'm still giving you one last chance to back out," Layla said, whispering so Mr. Boy wouldn't hear her.
Warren smirked That Smirk. "What?" he asked. "And miss seeing that look on Stronghold's face one last time?"
For once in her life, Layla smirked back. She felt like she was keeping a big secret, and they were both coconspirators. In a way, that much was true. She just never expected to feel such a thrill when it happened.
Warren turned away, and without thinking, Layla pulled him back one last time and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. Feeling significantly more flirty than usual, Layla walked backwards towards the door. "Thanks, Hothead," she said, and winked.