Sweet by planet p
Disclaimer I don't own the Pretender or any of its characters.
Author's Notes AU! Story Repost! Written in 2006. Originally Chapter Four of Yesterday, when we were young entitled Sweet Sixteen.
The reason I chose to repost this is because it's a relatively unused non-canon pairing, and that's it.
Margaret Cooper sighed, tucking a thicket of bulky red hair behind her ear. The attempt was unsuccessful; it always just fell back in her eyes. To make matters worse, it was wavy and near impossible to comb without ripping half her scalp off along with it. Maggie detested thick hair almost as much as the ridiculous nickname the other students chided her with day in day out.
The girl sitting next to her smiled politely and looked around at her best friend questioningly. "Calculus boring you already, Salem?" she teased.
Maggie rolled her hazel eyes witheringly. "Oh, yes, Cathy! Can't you tell? I'm bored stiff! Next I'll be a zombie and I'll gobble you all up-"
Catherine snorted, clapping a hand over her mouth.
"Or what ever zombies do…" Maggie finished lamely.
Catherine shook her head in an effort to clear the mental picture before it got out of hand. Margaret rolled her eyes again, much to the utter horror of her friend, who was at current practically rolling about in hysterics, only that – she was supposed to be learning calculus instead.
Maggie tossed her head and looked to the back of the class where the popular kids sat. Catherine tugged on her arm. "Forget it, Salem, they're not worth it."
Maggie sighed. "I know. But a girl can dream."
Catherine snorted. "I'd rather not."
"Gee, Cathy, you'd be great at a party. 'Here's some flowers. And here's the vase. Oh and the water. Sorry, did you want that want in the vase? Oops!'"
Her dark-haired friend rolled her baby blues. "Oh, come off it, Mags. You can do much better than that Darby Coulter any day."
Maggie shrugged, looking away from the girl. "Well maybe I don't wanna do better."
Catherine blinked slowly, a heavy frown creasing her forehead. She turned away from her textbook, placing her fountain pen down for once.
Maggie shook her head, holding her hand up before Catherine could question her. "Forget it, Catherine, you wouldn't understand."
Catherine snorted horribly, blushing. "Try me!"
Margaret simply continued to shake her head. "How can you? You've got everything. The looks, the brains, the guts-"
"That's not true!" Catherine protested. "Since when am I brave? That's you – not me! And you're just as pretty as me, if not more so. Me, I'm Plain Jane, Mary-Sue. You're Maggie, with damned frizzy hair and a funny laugh that makes you sound like a tomboy. Anyone can be pretty, but not everybody can be you. And if you think you ain't got brains girl, care to take a look at that last assignment of yours. Ninety-five percent, missy! And here's li'le ole me, stuck with a boring seventy-two. You, girl, should quit sulking."
Maggie sniffed, burying her head in her Biology textbook.
Catherine giggled suddenly. "My goodness, you're silly sometimes, Mag-a-bee!"
Maggie sniffed again, rubbing at her eyes.
Catherine pushed her in the arm, smirking.
Margaret turned to her friend to tell her off. She shook her head and laughed along with her friend before the pair were silenced by a stern look from their teacher.
"Ouuu!" Maggie rubbed the back of her head where a sharp stabbing pain had occurred not moments ago. Her large brown eyes fell on the aisle floor and the paper plane with the word "Salem" scribbled across the front.
Catherine was busy reading the designated chapter like a good little teacher's pet.
Maggie pretended to not her ruler to the floor whilst secretly retrieving the paper plane which she had nudged under her chair with her sandal.
She took a cursory glance around the room before unfolding the plane, taking quick glances to the front of the class every now and again in case the teacher noticed she wasn't doing as she was instructed.
"Sale, come out with me tonight? Meet at the basketball courts. After school. We can go for a soda and pizza. Coulter."
Maggie almost laughed for joy. She spun in her seat and mouthed a huge, "YES!" – grinning from ear to ear.
Margaret nervously paced the basketball courts, constantly fiddling with her hair in effort to keep it tucked behind her ear. It didn't seem to want to obey. Forcing herself to remain still, she began smoothing her tartan skirt.
She had thought about telling Catherine but then thought better of it. She didn't want Catherine skipping out on dancing classes to act as moral support. Catherine really liked dancing, besides, she wasn't half bad. Maggie thought she danced like an angel, although she had never been game enough to say so in case Catherine went all modest on her.
She took a deep breath and held it for four before letting it slowly out, by way of calming herself. She bit her lip incessantly, smoothing her skirt and hair. She began counting her fingers.
Maggie spun around at the mention of her nickname. A hot blush crept into her cheeks. Darby strutted across the gravel courtyard with the confidence of a superstar.
Maggie quickly looked to her feet to keep from staring. Staring was rude, after all. Her mother always said so.
Darby was close now.
Maggie took a tentative step towards him, hands clutched nervously behind her back, wringing her wrists. "It-it's M-mag-g-ieee…" she stuttered, blushing worse than ever.
Darby grinned. "Maggie? Of course."
Maggie's head snapped up from her feet, accidentally meeting the boy's blue eyes. She looked back to her sandals.
"So, um, you like pizza and soda, then?"
Maggie nodded to her shoes, gazing at the hand Darby was swinging about. "Uh-huh. At least I think so. I-I don't drink it much-ch… soda, I mean-n…"
Darby laughed. "I know what you mean. Me neither."
"R-really?" Maggie looked up from her shoes now.
Darby nodded, his eyes sparkling in the afternoon light. It took all of Maggie's willpower not to look away again. "Yeah," Darby confirmed enthusiastically. "Soda's great!" He held out his hand nervously, awaiting her approval.
Maggie blushed harder. Reaching out a shaking hand, she took his hand before she could debate on it. Her heart seemed to skip a little faster. She smiled, imprinting the sight of their linked hands on her memory forever.
Darby led her past the tennis courts.
Maggie sighed to herself. She could see the shelter sheds up ahead and a small smile came onto her lips. She was glad now she hadn't told Catherine. Catherine certainly would have objected to what Darby had planned.
Slowly, she closed her eyes and allowed Darby to lead her, feeling the cool breeze on her hot cheeks. The buzz and click of summer and insects. The smell of freshly cut grass and green blood.
Darby pulled away suddenly, slipping his hand from her own sweaty one easily. A frown briefly cross Margaret's face. She allowed her eyes to open slowly, somehow hoping things mightn't be as bad as they suddenly felt.
She was greeted with a face full of paint. Raucous laughter rang in her ears like church bells, deafening and singular. Disgustedly wiping the paint from her eyes, she watched as Darby took another girl's hand and they fell about the grass in fits of laughter, the rest of the popular gang following suits.
Maggie ran. She would never stop.
Liam killed the engine and leant back in his seat, windows wound right down in the summer heat. He chucked to himself. Disruptive influence? Those teachers hadn't seen nothing yet! They could give him detention all they liked. Like he gave a flying toss? Yeah, right!
Kicking the door open, he jumped out of the car and settled on the bonnet with his mechanics book.
The old railway bridge was his favourite place in the whole world. It was fallen down and rotting, its metal members rusting into the water, but it sure was pretty. It was special. Real quiet and all. Just the sound of slowly trickling water and clicking things that lived in the water, flitting about in the shadows cast by the brambles running wild along the west bank.
He gazed up at the blue sky and wondered about space and rockets. He smiled to himself, humming absently to a song playing over the radio in the car.
The sound of quiet sobbing brought him back to earth. He placed his mechanics book down on the bonnet and went around to turn the radio down, unsure of whether he was imagining things or not.
He frowned, closing his eyes.
There! There it was again. Now he was sure of it.
Careful not to trip or cause and sudden loud sounds, he slowly wandered off in the direction he thought the sound was coming from.
He blinked, wondering if he was seeing things now. But no. He scrunched up his nose, apologetic. That sure looked horrific. To make matters worse it was red paint. In her hair, in her clothes… He shook his head.
That was going to take some getting out. Petrol could work, but then again…
He took a step closer. The sound of a branch snapping made the sobbing girl look around. Liam winced. He gave a tiny wave, just so she wouldn't think him antisocial or anything. "Hi. Are you okay? I mean…"
The girl got to her feet unsteadily. She didn't even look as though she had the will to run.
"I, um…" he looked to the ground, wondering what it was with him and sticking his foot in it all the time. He wondered if it was genetic. This made him smile slightly.
The girl was just standing there, all red, all… painty.
"Is it very itchy?" he asked cautiously. "Cos, I mean, so people can get rashes… and things…"
The girl sniffed, scratching her arms. "Not very, but a little," she replied quietly.
Liam nodded. "You, um…"
"It won't come off."
Liam shook his head. "Nah. Not with just water. Prob'ly needs petrol or something that dissolves oil."
The girl sniffed again. "Mum's gonna kill me," she mumbled, more to herself than to the boy.
Liam strode up to the girl, stopping a good distance short in case she was uncomfortable in his presence. "I could, um…"
"Is that your car?" she asked suddenly.
Liam turned around and tossed his chin in the direction of his car. "That jalopy? Nah, I jus' nicked it." He laughed raucously, turning back to the girl. "Yeah, that thing's mine. 'Er name's Barbs. Barbara, you know…"
The girl smiled reluctantly.
Liam almost felt proud. At least she didn't look so miserable as though she had just lost the war.
The girl began itching her arms once more.
"If you can get it off your skin at least, that'll be better than nothing, I guess…"
The girl sniffed, agreeing. "I guess…" she replied morbidly, itchy her neck.
Maggie stood in her undies and singlet. She didn't care if the boy saw or not. She was really itchy and the paint wasn't coming off.
"We can't keep the petrol on long, 'kay? Else you'll get a rash from that too. S' jus' to get the paint off a bit so we can get the rest with water and a bit of scrubbing. Yeah?"
Maggie nodded. She felt a bit dizzy from all the paint. The petrol only made her dizzier.
Liam smiled, shaking his head. "You're gonna get high."
Maggie snorted. "I know." She began scratching at her arms.
Later, she washed the petrol off in the water. It didn't really come off, but at least most of the paint was gone. Her dress lay on the bank muddy, the front covered in red paint, a complete write off.
Liam knew better than to ask how the girl had gotten all that paint on her in the first, or why she had been hiding away sobbing her eyes out.
He traipsed back to the car and began rummaging around for some soap he thought he had left someplace. After three minutes of searching, he came up with a bar of yellow soap.
The girl looked up from her feet, brushing the hair from her eyes. "Mmmm?"
He waved the soap about a bit. "Soap!"
She grinned. "Chuck us it!"
Liam rolled his eyes.
He shrugged, and threw her the soap.
Miraculously, she caught it, only it slid out of her wet hands and flew into the water with a tiny plop.
Liam laughed, biting his lip.
The girl shook her head grumpy. She splashed some water in his direction, but he was too far to get wet.
Liam could only laugh harder.
He only noticed that the girl was out of the water when she grabbed his arm and dragged him over. Liam shook his head, trying to back away. The girl tugged this way, he tugged the other. "I can't find it!" she whined.
She gave a sudden scream and fell back, tripping over one of her half red, half black sandals, and pulled them both into the water.
Scrambling to her feet, she helped Liam up again, grinning, and ruffled his hair. "Oops!"
Liam shook his head and began splashing her.
She shrieked and splashed him back.
It took a good half an hour of searching before Maggie found the soap upon stepping on it and mistaking it for a catfish.
Liam killed himself laughing when she screamed and went to help her wash her hair.
Dusk was all about. Maggie sighed and watched as tiny bugs skimmed across the water easily. She had collected some smooth stones from the river bed she thought Catherine might like. The sand felt squishy between her toes. She smiled. She didn't dislike the feeling.
When she had finished soaping up her hair, she bobbed down and took a deep breath, plunging deep beneath the mild water, rinsing the soap out of her hair.
Liam wandered over from the car with a blanket. "Finished?"
She shook her hair out shaggily, spraying him with water. Scooping up her hair, she tossed it off her face and across her head, down her back. "Yup!"
Maggie laughed. "Duper!"
Liam shook his head, smiling. "Got you this."
"'S 'at for a dog, or the lovebug?"
"Something like that."
The girl rolled her eyes, taking the blanket offered and wrapping it tight about her chest. "Thanks."
Liam smiled, holding out his hands. "Tah. How 'bout you do your hair first. You don't wanna be getting nofing."
"No," she agreed, letting the blanket slip from her shoulders.
Liam leant across and took up the blankets, brushing her arm as he did.
Maggie smiled. "So!"
Liam looked up, nodding for her to lower her head so he could dry her hair, which she did.
"You got a girlfriend?"
She sighed. "Me neither."
Liam paused in his drying. A moment later he burst into hysterical laughter.
Maggie blushed, straightening up. "Not funny!" she protested.
Liam shook his head, unable to contain his amusement.
Maggie grumbled, placing her hands on his chest, she shoved him back. "Hah-bloody-hah!"
Liam stumbled back and came up against the bonnet. Placing his hands over his face, he dropped the blanket to the ground.
Maggie growled and grabbed his hands away from his face. "Not happy, mister!"
Liam shook his head, out for the count.
Maggie couldn't shut him up. It just made her so mad. She grabbed his chin and forced him to look into her eyes; brown locked with blue.
Liam bit his lip 'til it bled.
Maggie biffed him across the back of the head. "You idiot!"
She plastered her fingers across his lips, observing him closely. "Oh no, you don't, mister!"
He took deep breaths to calm himself, but only wanted to laugh harder at the stern look she was currently fixing him with.
Maggie brushed the damp straggly hair out of her eyes. She let her fingers slip from his bottom lip and leant forward, gently easing one of her legs in between his.
Maggie sat on the bonnet, her legs crossed. Her school dress was folded neatly and placed on the front seat. Liam had lent her one of his tee shirts to wear. She joked that she could just about wear it instead of her school dress. Liam promised to nick by his parents place and borrow some of his mum's things for her to wear home. He hardly thought her parent's would approve of her current state of dress. The word that sprung to mind was "hillbilly".
Maggie laughed raucously. Liam ran his hands through her hair carefully, teasing the stubborn knots loose. He took the elastic bands from his wrist and used them to do her hair in two low bunches.
"What you doing?" Maggie asked, turning her head to rest her chin on her shoulder.
Liam frowned, catching her eye. "Pigtails," he explained.
Maggie grinned. "I don't wear my hair up."
Liam smiled now. "But then, you see, it all gets in your eyes and we don't get to see how pretty they are."
She snorted, her grin flashing pretty little teeth.
Liam finished the pigtails and pulled her back so that her back was leant against his chest, his head on her shoulder. "Keep them. Please! Just for tonight?"
Maggie sighed, rolling her eyes. "I suppose I could keep them, just for tonight," she added quickly.
Liam grinned and kissed her shoulder. "Super!"
Catherine grinned at her friend's pigtails, flowery dress and red sandals. "You look… nice."
Maggie did a little 360 degree swirl. "You like?"
Maggie giggled, sweeping her best friend into a huge hug and swinging her about. Catherine squealed and the two girls gathered up their books from their lockers and headed off to class giggling.
"What, may I ask, have you done with my friend?" Catherine teased during Chemistry.
Maggie put on big eyes, waving her fingers eerily. "I waited by the apple tree last night and the aliens came and got me and sucked my brains out, now it's only hollow air and cotton candy up there!" Maggie joked.
The girls were soon paired off, putting an end to their little gossip session. Catherine clutched her books to her chest and swept up her long hair with the other. "This isn't over. We'll talk about this later."
Maggie grinned, shaking her head. She pointed to her friend, teasing. "That's a-what we gonna do!"
Catherine shook her head, rolling her eyes as she turned.
Maggie spun happily back to her desk and began arranging the various items she had collected from the front. She turned to the right and paused. "Thanks."
Liam smiled. "'S okay."
She took the conical flask and measuring glass. "Come on, let's get a Bunsen burner before all the good ones are taken."
Liam nodded, following after her. "Your hair looks pretty today."
Maggie grinned, turning back to him. He passed the matches. "Thanks. You think?"
He nodded. "Uh-huh."
Maggie shot him a pretty smile as he walked off to fetch the safety glasses. He sighed, thinking that the lab coat looked mighty pretty when it clashed with her hair like that.
Maggie laughed, attempting to explain Boyle's Law to a hopeless Liam. She looked back to the black board for next step of the instructions. Liam noticed where she was looking and rolled his eyes.
"So, William, what would you say to me and you and a little bit of tutoring?"
"Come on, boy, where's your spirit. I won't have no grumbling now."
"Like it's gonn-"
Maggie held her hand up, silencing him. "Uh! Like it is gonna matter. Cos me and you, mister, are gonna beat these suckers. Study, study, study! And maybe a little bit of good old fashioned pixie dust."
Liam shook his head, smiling to the linoleum floor. "Margaret."
"How 'bout you?"
Maggie grinned. "Shake on it."
Liam looked up, alarmed suddenly. "You're not gonna spit on your hand or nofing, are you?"
Maggie snorted. "You want me to?"
They shook hands.
Catherine frowned, gazing across at her friend with concern dark in her baby blues. Maggie sat as though dazed, her sandwich in her lap, uneaten. "You gonna eat something today, per chance?"
Maggie blinked. "Pardon?" she asked, turning to face her friend some twenty-three seconds later.
"You gonna eat that sandwich or what?" Catherine asked.
Maggie looked down to the sandwich in her lap. "No," she said flatly. She stood abruptly, the sandwich falling from her lap and landing amongst the grass. Maggie straightened slowly, stretching her arms out like a scarecrow.
Catherine blinked, about to open her mouth. Margaret traipsed off towards the toilets.
Catherine spun around at the sound of glass smashing and turned to see the shattered test-tube. Maggie growled, stomping up and down. She bent down to pick the glass up.
Catherine quickly stooped and stopped her. "Maggie? You'll cut yourself. Besides, that had chemical in it." She helped her friend to stand and led her towards the basin, not wanting to alarm her. "Let's go wash your hands shall we?"
The teacher turned a shade of chalk and hurried Maggie off to the sick bay. Catherine went with her.
Catherine sat on the bed beside her best friend. "Maggie?"
Maggie simply stared at the wall.
"Ewww! Here come the lesboes!" Bianca squealed.
Catherine rolled her eyes and ignored the other girls' chiding, pulling Maggie after her.
Maggie scowled, showing them her rude finger. "Girls are better than cucumbers!"
Bianca turned a horrible shade of white. Catherine spluttered. "Maggie!"
Maggie rounded on her friend and growled. Starting towards her, she shoved her back harshly. "You wanna fuck vegetables too! Go a-fucking-head! Be my guest!"
Catherine stumbled back. Bianca and her friends hastily backed away from Catherine.
Maggie grabbed her things and stormed out, slamming the door loudly on her way out of the changing rooms.
Catherine's eyes filled with tears. She braced the wall behind her for support and stood properly, snatching up her things and heading for the door also.
"You're a wicked bunch of girls!" she retorted angry. "Why don't you just leave her alone? You think you're so perfect but all you are is sickly!" She stopped at the door and turned back to face them. "No, you know what? Maggie's right. Go wank yourselves!"
Catherine dropped her things and took chase after her friend.
"Maggie – wait!" Maggie disappeared around a corner up ahead.
Catherine stopped, a horrible stitch in her side.
Catherine attempted to talk to her friend all afternoon. Maggie simply snobbed her, pushed herself harder in the gym.
Catherine sat down, elbows on her knees, head in her hands, a splitting headache raking her skull.
Bianca and her gaggle stood in their corner, spreading their horrid lies by way of whispers and passing notes in class, all the usual routes.
Catherine simply wanted to walk up to Bianca and rip her hair.
She honestly couldn't remember a time when Bianca hadn't taunted Margaret. It made Catherine sick in her stomach just thinking about it.
She didn't blame Maggie for letting it get to her, she just wished she would let her best friend help her. She almost wanted to grab Maggie and yell at her until it sunk in, 'You're NOT fat!'
The end of year social finally came. Catherine had been asked by a boy named Royce and had kindly taken up his offer. Margaret hadn't appeared to have any offers, still, Catherine was hoping she would come anyhow.
She stood by the snacks' table, nervously fidgeting with the bow in her hair, eyes on the door in case Maggie arrive.
Maggie stumbled over to the water's edge and stared back at her blurred reflection. A low clicking in th back of her throat announced her disgust. She lifted the bottle of scotch to her lips and took a good swig, spilling a fair amount down the front of her top.
She hit the wall and slid down. The bottle slipped from her trembling hands. She moaned and stared up at the stars through the rotting sleepers.
She wasn't scared of the blood anymore.
She was perfect again. She was just Maggie. The thing was gone for good. She was better.
Her vision blurred. She remembered the argument Liam and her had had not three weeks ago. She snorted, clutching at her stomach for the pain of laughing, but she couldn't stop. Tears leaked from her eyes, but she was ecstatically gleeful. Who did he think he was telling her how to live her life, what she should eat? Who the fuck did he think he was?
The pain was lessening now. She was slipping, slipping into darkness. The smile never left her lips. She would go free.
The world shifted oddly before her eyes. Colours changed hue. Shapes blurred in and out of focus. The room started to spin horribly. The constant sound of music and chatter faded to a dull buzz, annoying but negligible.
Catherine swayed dangerously. Overbalancing, she fell sideways. The floorboards drew near at an incredible speed. A loud smack and a sickening crack announced the termination of free fall.
Bianca frowned and stepped around the unconscious girl, followed promptly by her posse, each pausing in exactly the same manner to glare disgustedly.
Liam slammed the brakes on, enveloping the car in a veil of dust, and jumped out, leaving the motor running in his haste.
He found her exactly where he had first found her all those months ago, only now the red was not paint, but blood.
Liam fell hard on his knees and pulled the unconscious girl to his chest, concentrating on finding any signs of life. The blood made his stomach turn over, but he couldn't think about that now.
"Oh God, Maggie, why?"
He thought he felt a pulse but it was too much to hope, his mind could easily have been playing a game of smoke and mirrors with him, he was too close.
He leant his cheek in front of her face to feel for breath. Her eyes had gone glassy like the buttons on a rag doll, substituted for eyes.
That's just the night. Just the dark, he lied, wanting to believe. He couldn't let go, not yet.
There was no breath. Laying her carefully down, he took a deep breath and tried to remember to the correct timing of breaths to seconds.
Margaret never wore her hair up. She told her friend it was childish. Catherine smiled sadly and wondered that a little part of her friend had died that day.
Margaret met a young airman at a local dance and Catherine was happy for her. She applied to study genetics at a proper university and was still the top of her Chemistry class.
Margaret turned the gas off. The flame flickered and died; the shrill whistling that had filled the room along with it.
It was raining hard outside. Water streamed down the kitchen window, blurring the stars and street lamps alike.
She didn't hear the knocking at first. It was only when she was walking from the kitchen to the lounge, mug of chamomile tea clutched tightly in her hands, that she heard the faint patter.
Years of experience had taught her the brighter side of caution. She slipped the nine mill from between two towels in the linen cupboard and headed for the door.
Margaret blinked, disbelieving of what she was seeing. She contemplated simply slamming the door and going back to her hot mug of tea snuggled up in front of the telly, watching reruns of old soapies.
But the mug had slipped from her hands and smashed on the concrete steps.
The beseeching look in his eyes scared her more than she was willing to admit. "Please?"
Margaret almost slapped him. She didn't even spare him a second glance. Instead she focused her attention on her old friend.
William gave Catherine's shoulder a little shake. "Hey? It's raining. You're getting wet."
Catherine simply blinked tiredly, her head rested on his shoulder.
"It's cold, huh?" He shook his head. "Well, not inside it isn't. What say you go inside with the nice lady and she makes you a hot chocolate? You like hot chocolate, yes?"
Catherine blinked again. Slowly she lifted her head from his shoulder.
"There you go."
Margaret held out her hand for her friend to take. "Hot chocolate, did you say, honey? Well I think I can manage that. Maybe even a marshmallow. Hmm?"
Catherine took Margaret's hand and stepped inside. Margaret slammed the door and pulled her old friend close to her chest, hugging her tight.
She had heard that she had died. Every night she had prayed that the stories were just that, stories. But now she was certain. Her friend had died, only she wasn't dead.
P.S.: Bad! Bad! Bad shipper! Please don't hate me!
Additional P.S.: In reality, petrol is very hazardous and potentially seriously harmful when it comes into contact with skin, as it absorbs into the bloodstream, but I couldn't think of anything aside from turpentine to take the paint off, which I'm fairly certain is sometimes used in art class, but which is also highly volatile and vaporises easily as well as absorbing into the skin, which is why you wouldn't want to leave it on your hands, or any part of your body, for any length of time – aside from the fact that it'll probably leave your hands feeling uncomfortably papery, dry and crackly.
In other words, DO NOT try this at home, people!
As always, thank you for reading, and please consider leaving a review, whether it be constructive criticism or merely your thoughts or feelings, or even a question.