Beginning Announcement: Hey, guys! Sorry it's been forever since I last posted. I finally got my files from my old computer and can now start writing again where I left off. I currently have one more chapter finished from way before my computer crashed and as soon as I can I will start working on Chapter Twelve. I am just posting this chapter to let you know that I am finally back and will be working on my stories again once I am done with this week (aka Finals Week). Oh, and just to let you know, I have reread and edited all the other past chapters of this story if you care to go back and reread them to refresh your memory. Mainly just a lot of word changes and sentence structure fixing. Some whole sentences added here and there as I try to make this story better and better. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the chapter. Once I get around to writing and finishing Chapter Twelve, Chapter Eleven will be posted. I love you all and please remember to review when you're finished reading!

Chapter Ten

Frustrated and Challenged

X-Ray was not happy when dinner rolled around and he found out that Zigzag had decided to switch places with Nox.

X-Ray had gotten there first with Armpit. Magnet, Caveman, and Zero appeared next. Mace and Ash soon followed over, taking their usual seats like the rest. But the routine was quickly ruined the moment Zigzag came over and, instead of taking his usual seat at the end of the table, he sat down right next to X-Ray.

Moments later, Squid and Nox appeared and sat down at the end of the table; Squid in his usual seat while Nox took Zigzag's seat as if nothing had changed, by the casual look on her face, you'd think that's where she always sat.

So, now she doesn't even want to sit next to me!?

Technically, she didn't want to sit next to you in the first place, he suddenly remembered the girls' first day here. It was obvious from the look on her face that when Mace took the middle seat, she was not happy about having to sit next to X-Ray instead. But she had never said anything about it…

I guess she figured that if she didn't sit near me, she wouldn't have to talk to me.

Well, I'm not going to just let it go…

X-Ray watched as she sat down and greeted the two boys across from her, Caveman and Zero. This struck X-Ray as odd considering she had never spoken to the two before now.

"Hi?" Caveman greeted her, but it was obvious to X-Ray that he was just as surprised. "Why are you sitting here today? I thought you usually sat next to—"

"No reason," she quickly cut him off before he could say X-Ray's name. "Just needed a change of scenery."

Well, she certainly lies easily, without an ounce of hesitance.

X-Ray watched as the object of his desire and utter frustration continued to observe the boys across from her, looking closely at Zero and then Caveman.

"So, why does he only talk to you?" She questioned, sounding curious. X-Ray was surprised to see that instead of addressing Zero, she addressed Caveman.

Well, why wouldn't she address Caveman? It's not like Zero would answer her question himself.

Caveman shrugged as he also looked to Zero, "I don't know."

"Well, what was the first thing he said to you?" She asked, not willing to just stop there, apparently.

Why does she care anyway?

"Well, when I was telling the boys about how I stole Sweetfeet's shoes, Zero just randomly perked up and asked if they had red X's on them…" Caveman answered, automatically.

"And did they have red X's on them?"

Caveman nodded, "Yeah, they did."

"And how would he know that?" She continued her interrogation.

How did he know that? X-Ray wondered curiously. When it had actually taken place, no one ever even bothered to ask how Zero knew that. We were all too busy being shocked by Zero actually talking…

Caveman just shrugged though; apparently he wasn't as perturbed by this question as X-Ray or Nox. "It's a popular brand; all the best players where them. I don't see why Zero wouldn't have heard of them…"

He had a point there…

"So, how did you steal the shoes?"

She never stopped, did she?

"Well, you see, Clyde Livingston had donated his shoes to this orphanage, the same orphanage he grew up in, and they were to be auctioned off to help raise the money for the kids living there."

"You stole from orphans!?" She yelled out, appearing shocked.

X-Ray didn't like the fact that she was paying so much attention to Caveman and Zero. He quickly decided that it was time to put an end to this conversation…

"Yo, Nox," he called to her and she quickly turned to face him.

"Could you maybe talk a little more quietly?" He chided her for shouting at the dinner table. "And are you really going to tell off poor Caveman for stealing from orphans when you've done worse?"

"Excuse me?" I said, harshly.

Everyone around them suddenly flinched and turned to her in horror the moment those two words spilled out of her mouth.

X-Ray watched as Squid quickly whispered something to her.

"Don't say what?" She asked, looking confused.

"Don't say what you just said," he responded, louder now.

"You mean, 'excuse me?'"

"Stop saying that!" Squid hissed, annoyed.

"Why?"

"Just don't," he said seriously.

She looked at him for a moment, still confused, but she quickly returned her attention to X-Ray; glaring at him.

"What are you glaring at me for?" X-Ray asked. "You go yelling at Caveman for trying to make some money even if it means stealing from orphans. What right do you have to reprimand him when you've done worse? Murderer." He made sure to emphasize that last word accusingly.

X-Ray watched as her eyes widened in shock.

He could tell that he had really pissed her off this time.

"You know, X," she started. "You might want to check yourself before you start calling people names." Her voice and expression were both threatening but it didn't have an effect on him.

What can she do? It's not like she's got any names to call me, he thought, cheekily.

"And why's that?" He asked, smirking.

"Because, like you said, I am a murderer… I've killed twice already. What's to stop me from doing it again?"

Well, shit. He hadn't thought of that.

Then she quickly took her tray and dumped her uneaten food in the trash before exiting the Mess Hall.

She wouldn't…

Would she?

*

That bastard!

It was all I could think about as I lay on my back on my, staring up at the rafters.

What was wrong with him!?

You would think that by now he would have gotten the point; the point being to leave me alone.

But no!

He still felt the need to bother me every single time he was around.

Did he enjoy pissing me off?

"Probably," I muttered to myself, annoyed.

Why was it so hard for him to understand that I couldn't be with him and that it would be best for us to just stay away from each other? I was done believing we could just be friends; he obviously didn't want that and now I'm starting to think that he wouldn't be able to handle it anyway even if we did try to be friends.

He's too pressed on getting with me.

We could never just be 'cool' now. It was too late.

Murderer, the word flashed through my brain, making me angry all over again.

"Ugh, I just want to punch him in his fucking face!" I yelled, completely aggravated.

"Nox?" Mace called out my name; her and Ash just coming back from dinner. "Are you okay?"

"Do I look okay?" I snapped back.

"Nox… please don't be like that with us. We're you're friends, remember? And we're on your side," Mace explained, pleading for me to stop being so cruel.

"My side!? You two were the ones who were all 'I don't believe you, Nox.' 'There's nobody out there watching you, Nox.' 'You two would be perfect together, Nox.' Oh yeah, he's so perfect for me, guys. He's so fucking charming it just knocks my socks off!" I spoke sarcastically.

"Okay, okay, we're sorry we kept ragging on you about him…" Mace trailed off, fidgeting with the sleeves of her jumpsuit tied around her waist.

"We just thought you two would be a great couple," Ash quickly piqued up. "We didn't know he'd be a complete jerk."

I grinned at that. It was obvious that Ash was no longer happy with the boy in question.

"Well, if you remember, he is from the same cut as Bane, which is why I didn't want anything to do with him in the first place. He's just like Bane, a complete and total jerk who gets all bitchy when he can't get laid," I explained, annoyed with my horrible taste in guys.

"We're really sorry, Nox," Ash repeated. "We promise we'll listen to you from now on when it comes to guys…"

I smirked, sitting up, "Thanks, Ash. I'm glad you two have finally learned to see things my way."

They both nodded, looking like two little girls about to be punished.

I sighed knowingly, "Come here!"

They both grinned like four-year-olds and came running over to me, tackling me in a group hug.

*

"X?"

X-Ray lay on his bed, with a pillow over his head, trying to block out the world.

"X!" The person repeated, louder this time, while hitting his knee. "I know you're awake," the other boy said as he quickly pulled the pillow off his leader's face.

X-Ray growled, "What the fuck do you want?"

"I want you leave Nox alone from now on," the brown-eyed boy answered.

"Excuse me, but are you the leader of this tent? No! So who do you think you are telling me what to do!?" X-Ray yelled, standing up and getting into his tent mate's face.

"I'm Squid," he said simply. "And if you don't leave her alone then I will challenge your leadership, and I will take it away from you if I have to."

"Pfft," X-Ray spoke, disbelievingly. "You? Challenge me?"

Squid nodded.

"Boy, you might want to check yourself. If you challenge me, you will lose; and when you do, I will put you at the very end of the line."

"I'm not afraid of you," Squid stated matter-of-factly. "I've stood behind you for eight months without question because you've always been a fair leader, but ever since those girls got here all you ever do is stay to yourself and conspire on how to piss off Nox over and over again. Well, I've had enough of your bullshit and so has everyone else! You've been anything but a good leader these past few days and we won't stand for it anymore. Either you leave Nox alone, or I will challenge you and I will beat you!"

X-Ray looked at his tent mate in shock. He had never heard Squid say so many words in all his time here, at least not in one sitting. Not to mention, he sounded dead serious and as he looked into Squid's determined brown eyes, X-Ray knew the boy wasn't joking.

If X didn't shape up and start being their leader again, Squid really would challenge him.

And X-Ray feared that he would win.

"Why do you care so much about Nox anyway?" X-Ray asked, defensively.

Squid didn't even falter, "She's a nice girl, X. She's not refusing you to spite you; she's refusing you to save your life."

"What?" X-Ray asked; surprised that Squid, of all people, knew what Nox had told him.

"She doesn't want to risk your life by being with you, X. Why can't you just accept that and move on?"

X thought about this, but he didn't have an answer.

I don't want to move on, he thought to himself. But if the only reason she keeps pushing me away is because she doesn't want me to get entangled in her gang life… maybe it would be best if I did just leave her alone.

"Fine. You win, Squid. I'll leave the poor girl alone from now on."

Squid nodded, "Good." And then he left X-Ray alone, to his own thoughts, in the tent.

*

Soon after we parted from our group hug, another set of footsteps came into the tent.

We all looked up to see Squid standing in the doorway. "Am I interrupting something?" He asked, watching each of us carefully.

I quickly shook my head, answering cheerfully, "No, of course not."

He nodded, "Can I talk to you, Nox? Privately?"

He sounded a little nervous.

I wasn't sure why he needed to talk to me in private, but I had no problem with giving him what he wanted after he helped calm down Mace and Ash when I ran off. "Sure," I agreed, nodding. "How about we go for a walk?"

"Okay," he complied and I followed him back out into the hot sun, leaving Mace and Ash in the tent.

"So, what's up?" I asked, curiously, once we were about twenty feet away from camp.

He stopped walking and stood facing me, he appeared to be thinking over the words he wanted to say.

Finally, he spoke, "I just wanted to let you know that you don't have to worry about X-Ray; he won't be bothering you anymore."

Now I was really curious, "How do you know that?"

"I told him not to," he answered, matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, but is he actually going to listen to you? You said so yourself, he doesn't stop until he gets what he wants," I said, repeating his own words.

"I know I said that, but that was before I threatened him," he spoke, both nervous and honest.

I stared at him, wide-eyed. "You threatened him?"

This was the boy who was constantly sticking up for his tent leader every time I got angry with him.

He just nodded, "I threatened that I would publicly challenge his leadership if he didn't leave you alone."

I nodded, thoughtfully. "And it worked?" I asked, still skeptical.

He nodded, "I reminded him of the leader he used to be, before you girls came here, and I told him that if he couldn't start being that leader again then I would challenge his leadership and I would win. Apparently I was intimidating enough for him to realize it was best to take me seriously and do as I say."

"Wow," I commented, surprised. "I don't know what to say to that… Thank you."

"You're welcome," he nodded.

"Would you really have challenged him?" I asked, curious.

"Yes," he replied, looking away from me. "When the words came out of my mouth, it surprised even me… but I meant every word I said. I've never been the noble one, Nox… but it felt really good to stick up for something I believed in."

I grinned at him, "Well, I'm glad."

We began walking back to camp.

"Tell me, Squid…" I started, thoughtfully.

"Hmm?"

"Are you truly being noble, or are you only doing this to get into my good graces, so that you'll have my approval when you finally get up the courage to tell Ash how you feel about her?"

"What?" He asked, shocked.

I chuckled, "You think I didn't notice?"

"I don't even really know how I feel about her! I mean, sure, I like her but I like you, too!"

"But are you attracted to me?" I asked, trying to help him figure out his feelings. It was obvious that it was Ash he was hanging around for. He sat next to her at dinner, he asked her to play pool, not to mention he got this cute little grin on his face every time she paid him any sort of attention…

"No!" He exclaimed. "I mean, no offense, it's not that you're not attractive, but I just don't see you like that…"

I grinned, nodding. "I knew what you meant, Squid. But how do you feel about Ash?"

He stayed quiet for a minute, looking ahead thoughtfully. "I'm attracted to her, yes. I can't help but smile every time I see her smile or laugh. But I don't know. I've never really cared about girls before, I was always too busy caring about myself."

I nodded, "She has a boyfriend, you know?"

He stopped, staring at me in shock; sadness in his eyes. "She does?"

I nodded, solemnly. "His name's Liam."

"Why are you telling me this?" He asked, dejectedly.

Immediately I put my hands on his shoulders, even though he was taller than me, and looked up into his sad brown eyes. "Because, Squid, one day soon, Liam is going write Ash a letter and that letter is going to say something along the lines of, 'I'm sorry, babe, but this just isn't going to work out for me. You're not around and I want to see other people.' And when she gets that letter, she's going to be heartbroken."

"What does this have to do with me?" He asked, sounding upset.

"I don't think Mace and I are going to be enough to soothe her broken heart, she's going to need someone else, someone like you, who cares about her enough to make sure she gets through this and comes out whole. I want you to be that person, Squid." My voice was all seriousness. I was really starting to think he would probably be the only one to bring her out of her misery and remind her that she is a beautiful, smart, funny girl who doesn't deserve boys like Liam… just like I don't deserve boys like Bane.

Finally, he nodded, "Okay, Nox, I'll do my best."

I nodded, too, "I know you will."

And then we continued on our way back to camp. The sun was beginning to set and we only had a couple more hours before lights out.