It's been over a year, and I am very deeply sorry. My muse for this fandom is all over the place. But I persevered and came out with a longer-than-usual chapter to try to make up for the wait! Thank you all for being patient and not murdering me!

Disclaimer: Bionicle doesn't belong to me, nor will it ever, I'm willing to bet. I DO own a couple characters in here though, such as Reha. Taryen belongs to AryaMetru.

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

The next few days were utter crap.

Any and all attempts at talking to Gali went horribly. I just couldn't do it. I'd open my mouth to say something, anything, and nothing came out. Or worse, something did come out, but it was something unbearably stupid.

Case in point, four days after the concert during lunch. I approached her, intending to congratulate her on her performance during the concert since I had been unable to say anything to her for the last few days and I knew she was slightly miffed about that.

"Um, Tahu? Why are you just standing there? Is everything OK?"

I struggled with myself for a minute before blurting out, "You look like a mermaid, I guess I can be a part of your world someday."

Immediately, all noise in our general vicinity stopped.

Oh my God.

Where in the hell had THAT come from?

Gali stared at me, mouth open and cheeks slightly flushed. Was that a good sign? Was it a good thing that she was looking like I had just socked her in the gut? Oh my God. What if it wasn't? What if she hated me now? What if she slapped me across the face and said she never wanted to see me again?

WHY THE HELL WAS I THINKING THESE UNHOLY THOUGHTS?

"Is...is he sick?" I heard Pohatu whisper. I pretended not to hear. I could feel my cheeks burning, and without further ado, I fled the scene at top speed.

Eight minutes later, Kopaka found me cowering behind the science building. He sat down next to me, making a weird facial expression. It took me a minute to realize that he was trying desperately not to burst out laughing, and when I did, I scowled at him.

"OK," he said, "what on Earth was that all about?"

I said nothing.

"I've heard better pickup lines out of a ten-year-old." He smirked at me. "You get points for creativity, but really, that one was horribly lame. Try again tomorrow."

"That wasn't a pickup line!" I cried, tugging at my hair indignantly. "I don't know where the hell it came from!"

He snorted. "Sure you don't."

"I don't!"

"Uh-huh...suuuuuure."

And then he left me sitting there, because he is a jerk and a horrible best friend, albeit one who lets me copy his notes after school every day. So I guess I forgive him for his snark. But only slightly.

That night, I received about a million texts from all my friends, and from some mere acquaintances too, all asking about my momentary fit of insanity earlier. Most were asking a few key questions: a) did I really ask Gali Sorrentino out, b) did this mean I was over my gay phase, or c) what kind of drugs was I on, and where did I get them.

It's nice to know my friends care about me so much.

(That was sarcasm, for those of you who have trouble with these things. Half the time, no one realizes I'm being sarcastic, not even my own dad. Seriously, I told him I hated him once, and he just about died. Remind me never to be sarcastic with my dad ever again.)

...

Had I seriously quoted Disney, of all things? Oh my God. I'd never be able to live this one down. I'd have to bow out of society in disgrace and hole myself up in a cave somewhere in the wilderness and never come out again until I was old and gray and had a long white beard down to my ankles, because hopefully by then no one would remember.


That same day after school, Pohatu was not helping.

Pohatu was not helping at all.

"I can open your thiiiiiiiiiiiighs...rock your body like thuuu-uunder-"

"OH MY GOD, WOULD YOU STOP?"

This, surprisingly, did not come from me. No, it was Reha who was yelling at him to stop butchering classic children's movies with his pervertedness. He rubbed at the spot where she'd smacked him and scoffed with mock offense.

"That's not what you were saying last-"

"Finish that sentence. I dare you."

"Um, no. I...I, uh, I think I'm good. Yeah."

Only a woman could make three monosyllable words sound so menacing. They really were terrifying creatures sometimes. I totally did not blame Pohatu for covering his nuts for a second.

"Seriously, though, Tahu," Pohatu went on, "that was pure gold. I don't think I've ever seen anyone's face get that red before, ever. You could've fried an egg on it."

"Well, gee, thanks," I snarled, feeling my cheeks begin to heat again from the reminder. "I'm so glad I have you as a friend, Pohatu, you know that? Who the hell else will let me know when I'm being an idiot?"

"Besides Kopaka? Tons of people, dude, I'm not the only one-"

"IT WAS SARCASM!" I yelled.

"Oh yeah? Well, you know what? Your face!"

"Your face!"

"Your face is so ugly Godzilla took one look at it and died of laughter!"

"Well, your face is so ugly, you could make the Alien scream for help!"

"You know what I have in common with a mirror? When we see your face, we both CRACK UP!"

"If you were to take pictures of your face and pass them out, you'd get arrested for passing out pictures of your ass!"

"ONE MORE WORD!" Reha roared, and we both cowered.


The gods took pity on me later that week in the form of having Nokama call me to help me out. She, as mentioned before, was Vakama's girlfriend, soon to be fiancée if everything went well (yes, over a year had passed since he had decided to marry her, and he still had yet to man up enough to pop the question. And people say that I'm lame), and was the kind of person who was able to laugh at something stupid that you did and not make you feel like a total idiot.

In short, perfect therapist material. Which I desperately needed right then.

I told her what had happened, and I heard a little snort, but other than that there was no indication that I had amused her in any way.

"If it makes you feel better," she said, her voice breaking up over the phone's static; shitty service does that, "I have that same habit of blurting out embarrassing things when I'm nervous. Once, I told Vakama that he had a very nice ass because he was mad at me over something and I was desperate to say anything at that point. He passed out."

I snorted. Why did that not surprise me? "OK..." I said slowly. "So how do I get it to stop? I can't afford more...outbursts like that."

"You need to get to the bottom of your problem first," she said. "My problem was that Vakama made me nervous and fluttery, and my mind went blank. It wasn't until I told him how I felt that it stopped."

"Um...OK...but I still don't see how that helps me...?"

"Who did you blurt that stuff out to?" Nokama asked patiently.

"Um, Gali, duh. Isn't that the reason you called in the first place?"

"Yes. She's the one you've been having these...problems with, so now what's the logical solution?"

My brain skidded to a halt. Images flew around it like some demented clown had just tried to juggle too many balls and ended up falling flat on his face, sending them everywhere - me holding Gali, me smiling at her, hugging her, kissing her. And more. Of a very scandalous nature that I cannot repeat in front of children for fear of being set upon by the Political Correctness Police.

Honestly, how the hell else do they think we got here? The stork? Seriously.

"Y-you want me to tell her that I l-like her?"

And no, my voice did not squeak. You must be hearing things.

"In short, yes," Nokama said, and I choked on my own oxygen. "Oh, come on, Tahu, it's only blatantly obvious. You two have been skirting around each other for years now. She's liked you for the longest time."

"She had a boyfriend before!"

"And it doesn't strike you as convenient that she hasn't had a single boyfriend since then?"

"I haven't had a single girlfriend since What's-Her-Bucket back in eighth grade!"

"Which is also convenient. You dumped her over something she said about Gali, right?"

Um, sort of...that was one of the reasons, yes, but there were other factors...

I shook my head violently. "Why am I having this conversation with you?"

She laughed. "It's awkward, isn't it? Don't worry, though - once you've gotten it off your chest, it'll all get easier. Just get it over with!"

Um, how about no?

"I still don't like her that way."

"Sure, whatever you say."

Oh, now it was ON.

"So, has Vakama proposed yet?"

"No, he hasn't- HEY, why are you asking that? Do you know something that I don't?" She sounded suspicious, and I resisted the urge to cackle - mission accomplished! Her attention was successfully distracted from me and my Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome!

Nokama and her gossip...she was unable to resist being in the know about absolutely everything that went on. Hell, she was better informed on the local drama at my high school than I was, and she hadn't been a student here for at least three years!

"Oh, well, you know...he's had the ring for like ever now, so I was just wondering if he'd grown a pair yet and actually asked you-"

"Igottagobye!" she said, and hung up.

I flipped my cell phone closed and smirked at it, then laid back on my bed. That was mean of me, yes, but damn if I was going to continue that conversation. And anyway, someone had to force Vakama to make a move already. God knew that at this rate we'd all be old and on our deathbeds before he ever got around to it...

All of this sparked a lot of thought in my head, and I rolled over onto my stomach with a frown. (Jokes about my level of thought are unwelcome, by the way.)

Why was I having these problems all of a sudden? I'd never had a problem talking to Gali before. She was one of my best friends. I wasn't supposed to have problems talking to her. All of a sudden being unable to was not a pleasant experience, but I couldn't help it.

It was like...like...like something inside me had seized up every time I looked at her. My heart would start pounding the way it did during soccer practice, except even worse. This was a completely different type of exhilaration; one I honestly couldn't say I disliked. Didn't know if I actually liked it either, though...

And then there were those thoughts. Those damn unholy thoughts! It was not a good sign when a guy starts mentally comparing a girl's eyes to the sun, not a good sign at all, I don't care what all those sappy romantic movies say. It was not something I was comfortable doing, either, because I hadn't known I was even capable of such a thing until I found myself doing it for the first time.

Lord, that was embarrassing.

I groaned and buried my face in my pillow. Sleep now. Sleep and forget about all this crap...


"You're so pretty..." I murmured.

She blushed, and I was struck by just how cute that made her. I had truly never noticed before just how amazing she was, had I? Well, I was changing that now.

"I...I have something to say," she said, leaning towards me, and this simple action left me on the edge of my seat.

"Oh?" I asked, smiling at her. Her blush deepened, and-

BEEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEE-

I bolted up in my bed, tangling magnificently with the sheets and sending my pillow flying. A moment of flailing to untangle myself later, and I was pounding the hell out of my alarm clock. Where was the damn hammer when I needed it?

Once the noise had died down, I rubbed my eyes. The damn thing had ruined my dream! My totally awesome and perfect dream!

Where I had told Gali she was pretty. And had flirted with her. Oh. Oh. Oh shit.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I screamed, tearing at my hair. This was even more serious than I had thought before! Not even my DREAMS were safe now! What the hell had that woman done to me to make me like this?

That was it. I'd have to get answers today. I'd kidnap her and force her under threat of...I dunno, death or a haircut or something to tell me the antidote to whatever the hell all of this was. Desperate times call for desperate measures! And holy hell was I desperate.

Desperate enough to start dreaming like a romance novel, apparently.

Taryen poked her head in, looking pale and with bags under her eyes. "Hey, stupid, mind keepin' it down? Some people aren't feeling too good over here and need to sleep." She sniffled, and I wrinkled my nose at the sound of how stuffed up her nose was.

"What, you sick or something?" I asked. I love how she just barges in here with total disregard for the fact that I'm in boxers...then again, it's not like Taryen exactly cares. As she explained to me the first time I freaked out about her barging in, it's not like I had anything to look at anyway so of course she didn't care. And neither would any other girls, she was so kind as to inform me.

Ladies and gentlemen: Taryen Fuego, bolstering my self-confidence for eleven years running now!

She sniffled again, rubbing at her nose and, I imagine, getting snot all over her hand in the process. Ewwww. "Yeah," she said tiredly. "Already puked this mornin', too."

"Don't you dare get me sick!" I warned, brandishing my pillow at her jokingly. She snorted and left without another word. I listened to her run into the wall outside her own room with a wince, then sighed as she grumbled to herself and managed to get back to bed without any other problems.

Poor kid. Being sick was up there with "disembowelment" and "listening to Kopaka bitch" on the Scale of Not Fun. That sounded like one hell of a cold, too. I'd have to stop by the store and get her something on my way home from school today.

I glanced at my alarm clock (which was miraculously not broken) and swore when I saw that I only had ten minutes in which to get ready. Moving quickly, I dressed, brushed my teeth, and flew down the stairs to where my mom was waiting to take me to school. I really had to get my license soon...only about a hundred more miles of driver's training to go!

After yet another lecture on getting up as soon as my alarm clock went off and a warning that I wasn't going to get another if this one was smashed like all the previous were, Mom shoved a slice of toast into my mouth and dragged me to the car while I was busy choking on the slightly burned bread.

It wasn't until I was climbing out of the car at school that I remembered my dream and felt my face go hot with the memory. Answers. I needed answers. Answers. Right. Answers, which I would likely only get by extortion. The threat of a haircut ought to do nicely; Gali was very touchy about her hair.

This...this...this brainwashing (for lack of a better word) was going to end TODAY!

And so, brimming with confidence, I strode (confidently) into the school building.


By fourth period, I had deflated considerably.

If I was alone with Gali, as my kidnapping plan detailed, I would be alone with her. Nobody else would be around. Just me and her, one on one. What if she used the opportunity to continue the brainwashing? What then? If there were other people there then she'd have to be careful, but if it was just me and her, she wouldn't have to be subtle.

Was that what had been going on for all these years? Subtle brainwashing? That finally was strong enough that it took effect?

Clearly I was dealing with a ninja or something. This might be even more serious that I had previously thought...yeah, she was probably a ninja. I mean, she had been adopted and all...so it stood to reason that she was probably a secretly-trained government-agent-ninja-woman-thing who was integrated into society at a young age to keep her identity unknown. She was probably just waiting for aliens to start invading to unleash the big guns. I bet there was a training facility in her basement.

One that taught how to brainwash unsuspecting dudes into dreaming like a romance novel. Among other ninja-ish things.

As expected, Kopaka was absolutely no help whatsoever. All he did when I told him my theories was tell me that I was in some serious denial if I was being this deluded. And then he told me to man up and just admit that I was in love already.

"It's only obvious, moron," he said, gingerly taking the beaker I handed him. Chemistry. Bloody confusing subject, if you ask me, but you didn't so I'll continue. "You've had a thing for her since elementary. Were it anyone else, they would have realized it already."

You know, it's a wonder my self-esteem isn't in the negative thousands by now, with friends like this.

I sighed. "And I've already told you, I am pretty freaking sure that I don't like her that way."

"Right," he snorted, much like Taryen had this morning but with a distinct lack of mucus dribbling out of his nose. Oh yeah, that reminded me, I needed to bring her something to cheer her up later... "You just think she's hot, and get jealous if she so much as talks to another guy, and make up bad pick-up lines on the spot for her. Right. Those are totally not the signs of a guy who's got it bad. My mistake."

I glared. "I do not like her," I snapped. "And I will prove it to you!"

He gave me a bored look. "Oh really?" he asked, filling the beaker with water and some other...chemical thing. I wasn't really paying attention to the assignment, in case you hadn't noticed. "How?"

I told him my plan. If anything, this only served to make him think I was even more of an idiot than before, but finally he sighed and told me to go ahead and do it if I was so desperate to make a fool of myself. Just don't go crying to him if I emerged from this encounter without my virginity intact.

At that, I sputtered and flailed, knocking over our beaker. It shattered on the floor, and the floor actually sizzled. Kopaka and I both jumped back as the teacher, some crazy guy named Mutran who looked and acted like he kept himself alive on a diet made up solely of caffeine, bellowed instructions for us to get towels from the cabinets and mop it up, but absolutely do NOT let that acid get on our hands or else.

Holy crap. Acid. That I had just knocked over with my flailing.

Maybe I'd have to start paying more attention in class from now on...

But it was Kopaka's fault! All of it! He shouldn't have distracted me with making cracks about sex! God, it nearly gave me a heart attack! When the hell had he gotten so vulgar?

And I refuse to comment on any and all mental images that may have come up because of what he said, and which may or may not have been the cause of said flailing.

I ADMIT NOTHING. NOTHING.


"I don't know anymore; are the neighbors watchin' me?" Pohatu sang into my ear for the fifth time. He did this every time I so much as glanced at Gali. This was officially the worst lunch period ever. "I always feel like somebody's watchin' meeeeeeeee!"

"Pohatu, shut UP!" I hissed angrily as Gali looked at us, looking concerned. He snickered, but I didn't relax until she had turned back to the book that was propped up in her lap.

I stared at her, biting my lip and remembering my plan. All of a sudden, my sandwich didn't seem so appetizing. I put it down, feeling queasy. Ugh. Not good.

"When I come home at night, I bolt the door real tight-"

"Pohatu."

"People call me on the phone; I'm tryin' to avoid-"

"Pohatu."

"Well, can the people on TV see me? Can they, can they?"

"Pohatu Cornell."

"OR AM I JUST PARANOID?"

Before I could open my mouth to start shouting, Reha set her sandwich down, reached over, and her balled fist hit him in the side of the head. He yowled and rubbed the spot, glaring at her.

"Woman, I'm filing for assault!"

"Shut up," she said, and went right on back to eating her sandwich. He grumbled but finally settled down, and, thankfully, did not start singing again.

"So, Tahu," Kopaka said, drawing my attention. He was smirking, which automatically set me on my guard. "Didn't you have something you wanted to do today? Concerning a certain someone? A certain girl?"

Pohatu cackled. Onua reached over and whacked him on the shoulder, but he was smirking too.

I have such wonderful friends.

I willed my cheeks to stay their normal temperature and color and glared at Kopaka while simultaneously peeking at Gali out of the corner of my eye. She was looking depressed for some reason. I wonder...? No, I didn't! I was not wondering why she was depressed, and I was most certainly not wanting to somehow make her happy again. My stomach churned nervously, and I just barely managed to keep from grimacing.

"Er, um, yeah," I said. I steeled myself for a minute, then continued. "Gali, if you wouldn't mind-"

"Of course!" she said, whipping her head up and scaring the hell out of me with the insane cheerfulness of her tone. Taking a glance at her hands saw them white-knuckled from how tightly she was clenching them. I gulped. What the hell...? "I'll help you find this girl, Tahu. What's her name? What class is she in?"

"No, I think you're misunderstanding me," I said uncomfortably, still eying her hands warily. "I need to talk to-"

"So come on already!" She was already up and was walking away - when had she gotten up? Ninja! You see? "Lunch is going to end in twenty minutes, so we need to hurry!"

Dear God, she was scaring me. And I was seriously going to be alone with this girl? I'd be lucky if I didn't die.

Did Kopaka have a copy of my will? He should, being that he was the main beneficiary and all, but...

"Gali!" I finally caught up with her outside of the building we had been eating lunch in, next to the ugly-as-sin bushes that the school gardeners seemed to think were so attractive, and after a split second of nervousness, managed to grab her shoulder. "Stop for a minute! The one I need to talk to is you!"

Her cheeks were red as she turned to face me, and I gulped. Pretty...

"A-about what?"

Did she just stutter? She had nothing to be nervous about! I was the nervous one here!

"Um, well..."

"Yes?"

"You see..."

Oh God, how did I word this without sounding completely retarded?

"Mhm?"

"I, uh..."

"Yes, Tahu?" She sounded expectant. Her eyes were shining, and she looked way more excited than she had a right to be. All normal thought processes went straight out of my head. And I blame that for what happened next.

"I KNOW YOUR SECRET!"

She looked nonplussed. "Y-you do?" The blush came back, but brighter this time. Goddammit, she was freaking adorable when she did that. My stomach was still fluttering badly. "A-a-and what do you think?"

I took a deep breath. "I just want to say that I am onto you. You can't fool me any longer."

Another stomach churn, one that was bad enough that I grabbed at it, practically doubling over. Dear God, that didn't feel good...

"Tahu! Are you OK?" Gali bent over me, face still flushed but now looking more concerned than excited. Damn. But still cute-

NO. NO, TAHU, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO THINK LIKE THAT. OTHERWISE KOPAKA AND NOKAMA WILL BE RIGHT, AND THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT THEY ARE RIGHT. NOT AT ALL. NO WAY IN HELL.

"Gyaaaah," I mumbled, clutching my stomach. Damn it, that friggin' hurt! "I just wanted to say-"

And without further ado, I shoved her away from me, and threw up on the bushes.

Smooth, Tahu. Very smooth.


The nurse proclaimed that I had a bit of a high temperature, and made me lie down for my next class, sending Gali along with a note to my teacher to let him know where I was. Meanwhile, I lay there on the bed in the nurse's office and contemplated ritual suicide.

I had just thrown up on the bushes. The vomit had done nothing for their already overwhelming ugliness, but I hadn't even gotten another word in edgeways with Gali, who had quite literally dragged my sorry ass to the nurse's office, not even giving me a chance to explain that I wasn't really sick - just very, overwhelmingly nervous.

Oh, wonderful. First Taryen, and now me. I guess I felt so bad she threw up, I had to start throwing up too! Or I'm just super competitive.

I'm totally going to beat you, Taryen.

Oi. I really had to stop having conversations with imaginary people in my head. No wonder Kopaka called me weird, that jackass...

After fifty-five minutes, the nurse finally proclaimed that I could be on my merry (read: sorry) way, and I slouched out the door to make a quick stop by my locker. When I opened it, a folded-up slip of notebook paper fell out to land at my feet.

I bent to pick it up, wincing when my stomach fluttered again (damn you, stop that already!), and unfolded it. A smile crept across my face when I did, despite my best efforts to the contrary.

"Feel better, OK? See you after school!"

No signature necessary. I knew exactly who the note was from, and my mood was considerably better for the rest of the school day.


King_of_Ice: Where are you?

PyroMANIAC721: locker room

King_of_Ice: You don't have PE this year, though.

PyroMANIAC721: doin research, dude

King_of_Ice: ...

PyroMANIAC721: your silent. does this mean i win?

King_of_Ice: Which locker room?

PyroMANIAC721: sorry, that information is classified

King_of_Ice: ...does this research have anything to do with cup sizes?

PyroMANIAC721: ...no

King_of_Ice: Liar.

PyroMANIAC721: sticks and stones may break my bones

King_of_Ice: But whips and chains excite me

PyroMANIAC721: holy SHIT dude, wtf?

King_of_Ice: FYI, that was NOT me

PyroMANIAC721: sure it wasn't

King_of_Ice: It wasn't!

PyroMANIAC721: it's ok if you dig me, KP. i dig me too

King_of_Ice: THAT WAS POHATU. NOT ME. I DO NOT DO STUPID PUNS AND PICK-UP LINES.

King_of_Ice: AND DON'T CALL ME "KP".

King_of_Ice: It makes me feel like a wannabe rap artist.

King_of_Ice: Or Kim Possible. Which is even worse.

PyroMANIAC721: ...ice ice baby

King_of_Ice: I will stab you.

PyroMANIAC721: hey, i need to break a dollar bill. can you give me a...50 cent piece?

King_of_Ice: I hate you. You have been walled.

PyroMANIAC721: you can't wall me! i INVENTED the wall!

King_of_Ice: Un-wall. Actually Steve Carrell did. You just plagiarized it. Now get back to class before I tell Roodaka about your "research". Re-wall.

PyroMANIAC721: you are an enemy to the scientific community.


Contrary to what I had told Kopaka, I was not watching girls changing in the locker room. The female gym teacher, Gorast, would have straight-up castrated and then murdered me had she caught me, and I liked my nuts. And also my state of being alive. And she scared me. Just slightly.

(Read: a lot.)

No, instead, I was watching the girls play volleyball for PE.

...dear God, these girls suck at volleyball.

Nice serve.

Spike it! Spike it! Spike- oh, hell, you lost it. It was right in front of you!

...where was I? Oh, right. Research. First, figure out why I was so obsessed, as Kopaka would put it, with Gali all of a sudden. She wasn't acting any differently than normal, so obviously the problem was with me. Clearly I had an issue that needed to get solved, like, now.

And - hey, there was Anika. Oh. Oh God. Quick, find a place to hide! If she finds me, she'll straight-up castrate me and then murder me, just like Gorast!

After concealing myself behind the nearest bush (in a very uncomfortable position, due to my recent growth spurt and its relative small-ness), I continued to watch the girls play.

God, Anika sucked at volleyball. And man, had she gotten fat. I felt bad for kind of hating her now. She had seriously let herself go since our breakup.

Anyway...

None of these girls made me feel anything beyond a vague sense of "oh hey, nice ass" and "she has a pretty smile, I guess". Very depressing, let me tell you. Ordinarily I had no trouble appreciating girls - and now wasn't really any different, I suppose, except that now I was mentally comparing them to one girl in particular.

Yeah, that girl over there had a nice ass, but it was too big, unlike hers, which was just fine. And yeah, that one who had totally failed to spike the ball had a nice smile, but nowhere near as nice as Gali's.

Oh dear Lord. Evil thoughts, begone!

I decided to take off before these thoughts could continue. And also before I was caught (and castrated and murdered) by Gorast and/or Anika. That wouldn't have been pretty. In fact, it would have been a perfect end to a shitty day. Wake up late, choke on toast, spill acid on floor, have creepy songs sung in my ear by loony jock, puke on a rosebush in front of girl who made me feel weird, and then get murdered by rabid Physical Education teacher. Yeah, um, no. Not happening.

God, I couldn't wait to go home.


Taryen wasn't feeling any better by the time I got home later that day. In fact, her fever seemed to have worsened, a fact which caused me no small amount of worry. Taryen never did well when sick. In fact, we'd almost lost her when she was a baby to pneumonia. Damn cold weather. I always knew it was up to no good. Hopefully it would get a little warmer soon and she would get better.

Kopaka had come home with me, as his dad was working late that night, and to my surprise, the first thing he did was go up to see how Taryen was doing. I had no reason to be suspicious, despite my earlier hijinks about him somehow hypnotizing her, so I let him. My best friend and my little sister?

Please. As if that would ever happen. Kopaka was asexual at best; the day he developed an interest in girls would be the day Pohatu took up ballet dancing.

Still, she was the only female besides Gali and Reha who he willingly interacted with. But that was because he looked at her as being his own little sister too. Had to be. He knew what I'd do if anyone tried anything on Taryen.

And then there was the issue of age. Kopaka was a year and a half younger than me, and Taryen was three and a half years younger than that, making her only eleven. So yeah, there was no way any of that was going to happen.

Seriously.

My mom, as expected, had a fit when she was informed of my episode with Gali and the rosebush, and would have sent me straight to bed had it not been for my dad informing her that I couldn't very well go to bed with Kopaka still here. "It's not good for a man's image, Nina," he informed her when she protested. "Makes him look like a mama's boy."

Mom was less than amused.

Smooth, Dad...I see smoothness runs in the family.

After he was done annoying Taryen into throwing the eight aspirin bottles my dad had given her at him, Kopaka dragged me into my room to do homework together. As usual, it started out with him expecting me to do it by myself and ended with him explaining that no, chemistry is NOT the same as cooking no matter what anyone says, and yes, attempting to make any sense out of why anyone in the history textbook did anything they did was an exercise in futility but that I was still expected to learn it regardless.

And so I did, however grudgingly.

By the time Terios finally arrived to pick Kopaka up and take him home, it was past eleven and I was officially bushed. I went to bed with the determination to not have another romance novel dream as long as I lived.


AN: For everyone who is facepalming, yes, Tahu is very much in denial and is futilely grasping at straws. Anything to keep from being forced to acknowledge the truth, and all that. He will be forced to do so soon, never fear (and by that, I mean either the next chapter or the one directly after it).

I personally have never gotten so nervous that I puked, but I have witnessed it happening to other people, specifically my best friend before her first job interview years ago. She almost missed the interview because of it. (And yet she still somehow got the job because some people just have all the luck, it seems.)

Reviews would be awesome, but are not strictly necessary!