A/N: I'm a total sucker for friendship fics, and I especially love the dynamics between Charles and Metis. They make me want to go "OMG BFF!!!" and squeal a lot. That said, I should warn you guys that I headcanon Charles/May, and thus there will be UST later on. But really, it's just friendship, so nothing develops. Title of the series (or what will eventually be a series) is from this quote:

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.

Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.

Walk beside me and be my friend.

-Albert Camus


Hair and Heroes (in a Half Shell)

Metis was too happy to be emo. It was only his appearance that led some people to the wrong conclusion. Those who had known him before, however, had never seen the emo thing coming, except Charles, maybe.

Once upon a time, Metis had been the proud owner of a full head of not-emo hair. In the beginning of fifth grade, when he and Charles had first met, Metis' black mop had run rampant like some sort of weed, or perhaps it was more like the deformed love-child of a bird's nest and shag carpeting.

Charles, whose parents had hounded him until he was immaculately groomed for the first day of school, had been making his way through the narrow aisle between rows of desks, about to walk past the other boy on his way to his own seat. The blond had stopped in his tracks, quirked an eyebrow and stared down in amusement, only to have the strange messy-looking kid look up and beam a ridiculously cheesy grin at him.

Oh, it was such an exquisite mixture of cheerful, spunky stupidity and irreverent mockery. Such cheek! Such impudence! That smile could test the patience of a saint. Despite being rather cute on the boy's rounded face, it was, in fact, quite a horrible smile. Under the right circumstances, it would make any normal person want to punch the face that wore it.

Charles didn't quite qualify as a normal person. Charles liked it; he liked it a lot. They became friends. But it didn't change the fact that Metis had needed a haircut. Badly.

By the second time they met, Metis had managed to tame the overgrown Chia Pet known as his head. Charles had barely recognized him, partly because of the drastic change in appearances, and partly because Metis was trying to scowl and pout at the same time, which just made him look constipated.

He had a bowl cut.

It was the height of fashion in those days…or at least Metis' mom seemed to think so. Being the wonderful friend that he was, it was Charles' job to point and laugh. Metis didn't talk to him for the rest of the week, which was really only Friday and the weekend. Three days was pretty long for a fifth grade boy to hold a grudge, but Charles thought it was worth it.

Actually, Metis thought so, too, because it gave him an excuse to make paper ninjas and paper TMNTs killing paper Charles. (He was sort of going through a ninja phase at the time, having just gotten out of the Power Rangers phase and not quite into the Batman phase yet.)

When they saw each other on Monday, Metis offered to let Charles choose one of his homemade paper TMNTs as an apology. "But not Michelangelo 'cuz he's my favorite."

"That's okay. Can I have Leonardo?"

Charles offered him a fruit roll-up in exchange.

Their budding friendship saved, Metis turned his attention to daydreaming about how one day he would have totally awesome hair that would be the envy of the entire world.