I've been working on this off and on for about eight months now, and I am SO glad it's almost finished. Damn. And it's long. Like...really long. I dunno why I didn't just binge and finish it in a decent time frame, but then again, that would require actual effort. So you're stuck with this being updated periodically with chapters that were written sometime around last December to April to now. Boo.

I apologize if I got any of the male emotions and age reactions and whatnot wrong, but keep in mind that I AM a girl, despite how much I hate being one at times. I DO have three brothers, however, and am basing Tahu's reactions to things on what they've told me about their own experiences. Hopefully I managed to do it right.

Disclaimer: Sorry, me no own. Just the circumstances and stuff. And a few characters, such as Reha. Who makes an appearance, like, twice in the whole story. Yeah.

Summary: It all started that day in second grade when the teacher made us do our first show and tell. And mine was totally awesome. Naturally, everyone started screaming when I opened the box. AU, TahuGali.

Firecracker
By: Saya Moonshadow

It all started that day in second grade when the teacher made us do our first show and tell. Seriously, show and tell. Show and tell was so first grade; we were second graders. Should we really have STILL been doing it? Who cares, the fact remains that we WERE doing it, and it happened.

And mine was totally awesome.

I was the kid who brought in my eccentric father's tarantula to school because I had nothing cool to bring in other than a humongous spider that my somewhat gutter-minded dad had named "Dirty Sanchez". And that I PROBABLY shouldn't have gone anywhere near in the first place, but I did anyway.

Naturally, everyone started screaming when I opened the box.

And running for the door while the teacher tried to restore order and glare at me for disturbing the peace at the same time. "Tahu," she yelled over the screams, "I want to see you outside!"

So, taking my tarantula with me, I went to go stand out in the hallway and waited until the screams and cries for Mommy had died down and the teacher threw the door open and went to meet me. She did not look happy, not in the least bit. What could I expect? I had just ruined show and tell.

Sort of.

One mishap wasn't TOO bad, right?

Turns out it was, because she wouldn't let me go out for recess that day, and I sat there for the whole fifteen minutes grumbling to myself about stupid tarantulas and the unfairness of teachers. By that time, Sanchez was hidden under my desk where no poor, unsuspecting seven-year-old's eye could lay upon him again. He didn't seem to mind, after all, tarantulas like the dark and cool, or so my dad had told me.

But I minded. I wanted to go outside and bask in the sunlight instead of being stuck in that stuffy classroom with my teacher glaring at me the whole while like she couldn't WAIT to write a note home to my parents about my inappropriate conduct. Harrumph.

Not to mention she took my hat (that had been given to me by a very special friend and almost-mentor of mine, and that I never went anywhere without) and gave me a lecture about the rules concerning headgear in class. Since it wasn't the first time I had broken the hat rule, I'd have to get one of my parents to come to the office to retrieve it for me.

Thankfully, I was allowed out at lunchtime, and raced outside with everybody else, yelling gratefully. My lunch was the usual; roast beef sandwich, juice, and chips. Not that I minded, but sometimes I wished my mom would pack something...you know, more imaginative. Then again, she was busy taking care of my baby sister at home, so I guess she could be forgiven for packing me the same lunch every day.

I tore into my sandwich while sitting next to a boy with pale blonde hair, who was named Kopaka. Kopaka was a cold sort of boy who rarely spoke and spent most of his time flipping through astronomy books. And he was so SMART, too. He rarely got a question wrong on ANYTHING.

I guess you could say I was a little jealous of him. I was a year older, but he had all the makings of a genius already, as in, smart enough to skip a grade and be in my class when he was only six (actually, he was still five, his birthday's in December and it was only late September). And he was so sarcastic, too, it just drove me nuts. But I had known him since daycare so I was used to his attitude.

Mostly.

Kopaka had never been too fond of sweets, which his hyperactive mother packed for him pretty much every day. I had often found he was only too willing to trade his chocolate bars or gummy worms or Skittles or whatever for half of my sandwich, and that day was no exception. So eager was he to get rid of his three packets of Reese's peanut butter cups that before I could even open my lunch bag, he had torn it open, grabbed half of the sandwich inside, and shoved the candy at me. I glared at him for touching my stuff without asking, then thanked him and ate my half while he nodded and did likewise.

And that's when SHE appeared.

Blue hair, long, tied at the very bottom with a plain hair tie. Yellow eyes that sparkled in the light. Pale skin. Wearing mostly blue, of varying pale and dark shades.

To put it plainly, I'd never seen a girl like her.

I stared, slackjawed, and the stuff I had been chewing would have fallen out if Kopaka hadn't taken the liberty of shutting my mouth for me before it could. He wrinkled his nose, glanced over to where I was staring, and then started to laugh. Needless to say, I snapped out of my trance and glared at him.

"What's so funny, snowcone?"

"Nothing." He closed his eyes and smirked. "Just that I've never seen you act that way before, except over food. I never thought you'd do it over a GIRL."

(That's another thing that had always bugged me about him, his oh-so-educated speech patterns - when he could be bothered to talk, anyway. His dad is a super scientist though, and taught him to read at the ripe old age of three, so I guess it's to be expected.)

"Yeah, so--" I stopped for a moment and stared at him. He raised an eyebrow.

"What?"

I blinked. "I think that's the most I've ever heard you say...do you have a fever?"

Kopaka rolled his eyes, looking annoyed. "No, idiot."

Now THAT was more like him. Simple, one word answers with an insult thrown in at the end for good measure.

He always was an ice cube...

I spent the rest of lunch scanning the cafeteria for the girl, but didn't see her, and it was with some dejection that I returned to my classroom with Kopaka when the bell rang later.

I had no idea what had clicked in me so strongly that I had taken an interest in that girl. Girls were gross. Girls had those dreadful things known as cooties that were the downfall of any self-respecting little boy. Several times when a girl had tried to talk to me, I had reacted by yelling that she had cooties and not to come near me, to the amusement and exasperation of Kopaka (who girls seemed to flock to for some odd reason). Something told me that whatever the heck cooties really were, this girl did not possess them.

Maybe it was the kind look in her eyes as she had gone from one end of the cafeteria to the next. No other girl I knew had that look. Most were, well, airheaded and way too hyper for me. Then again, I couldn't really talk, seeing as how I had some REALLY hyper friends myself.

And I was sort of hyper. Yeah.

That afternoon when class FINALLY ended, I gathered up my books, backpack, and Sanchez, making sure to hide his box carefully so no one could even get a glimpse of what was inside, and then dashed outside to walk home. My house lay within walking distance, and since both of my parents were lazy (not really, but that was my dad's excuse), I had to walk every day instead of getting picked up like everyone else.

Kopaka fell into stride next to me, nose already in one of his own dad's books again. I'll never get this kid. Instead of playing soccer or kickball or handball or tetherball or dodgeball during recess and lunch like the rest of us, he would sit on the sidelines and either read or just sit there looking bored. You'd think he would try to alleviate the boredom by joining in, but no. That would require lowering himself to play with the common rabble. Which I, his best friend, was a part of. Not even for the sake of our friendship could he be bothered to join in the games. I'm serious. I even threatened him with it once, but he just blinked at me and told me I was lying.

Which I was, of course, I'd never forsake a friend (especially not my BEST friend) just because he didn't want to play dodgeball with me, even though he's got great aim and we would have won by a landslide if he had played.

At the carpool lane, where all the parents came to pick up their kids, Kopaka was quickly spotted and accosted by his mother, one bright and bubbly lady with bright blue eyes like his own, by the name of Aruna. I'll never understand how Kopaka was born to her. As mentioned before, she was bright and bubbly. He was, well, not. He was serious, surly, dour, and only talked when it suited him. If it was anyone else but me, the teacher, his parents, or one of our other friends talking to him, he would just nod, shake his head, shrug, glare, roll his eyes, sigh, not even give a gesture, etcetera should anything be said to him.

So the conversation went something like this:

Aruna: Oh Kopaka sweetie, it's so good to see you! *grabs him in a death hold and squeezes him*

Kopaka: *flails slightly* Hello...Mother... *coughs*

Aruna: *lets him go* Soooooooo how was school today?

Kopaka: Good.

Aruna: That's great! How are your friends?

Kopaka: Good.

Aruna: Oh, hi, Tahu, how are you today?!

Kopaka: *cuts me off before I can answer* He's good too.

Aruna: That's so nice, say hi to your mom and dad for me, won't you, Tahu?

Kopaka: *cuts me off AGAIN* He will.

Aruna: Kopaka, did you eat your lunch today?

Kopaka: Yes.

Aruna: You better have, because you're looking so skinny these days! You and your father both, you don't eat enough, you'll waste away one of these days, mark my words! Are you marking them?

Kopaka: No.

Aruna: *not paying attention* Oh you're such a good boy! *grabs his hand and drags him off* Bye-bye, Tahu, we'll see you tomorrow!

And then they were gone before I could even respond. I laughed and turned to leave for my own house. Yeah, how she managed to have such a serious kid is beyond everyone else in the world.

As I walked, I caught a flash of bright blue, but by the time I whirled around to look at it, it was gone.


"Oh Tahu, you're home already?" my mother asked when I walked into my house about thirty minutes later. I smiled at her. My mom was nowhere near being like Aruna. She was calm, composed, and sweet. Aruna was sweet as well, but so hyper and high-strung. It was a little odd. The only one who could keep up with her was Lewa, another friend of mine, and that was only because he was just as hyper as she was. Possibly even more so.

"Be quiet going upstairs, your sister's asleep," Mom told me as I walked towards her, hugged her, and then went to go to my room. I nodded and went up the stairs, placing Sanchez's box on my desk when I got all the way up. My two-year-old sister, Taryen. Pain in the butt. No, seriously. All kids are pains, but she was the worst.

Anyway, Sanchez. You know, compared to some other pets I could name, he wasn't so bad. I mean, how cool is it to have a giant spider? The only thing cooler would be a scorpion, but Mom put her foot down at the tarantula. Even as it was, it took a lot of pleading on my dad's part to get her to let him get even that.

At least we didn't have a psychotic attack parrot like Kopaka did. Technically it was his mom's, but it only liked him and his mom. Hated his dad with a passion. And Kopaka would walk around his house with the thing on his shoulder. Should anyone not related to him piss him off (such as me), he would fling the bird at the poor unsuspecting soul, where it would latch onto one of their body parts (my ear, in my case), and not let go until they managed to bash it against the wall or something.

It pierced my ear. Not even joking. From the age of six onward, I had a hole in my left earlobe where stupid Lolita (the bird) had punctured it with her beak. According to my mom, she did a better job with her beak than most professionals did with a needle. But she still wouldn't let me get an earring. It was undignified, she said. Right. Undignified.

Unfortunately for me, my dad agreed with her, although he DID laugh so hard he almost peed when he heard what had happened.

Sometimes, I wondered if I'd been adopted.


AN: End chapter one.

Lol more later. I'm just so sick of this sitting on my hard drive that, like...I had to get it on here. Ugh, sorry, I know I have other crap to work on, but about nine chapters of this are already finished. They'll all be uploaded later, though.

Review, please!