The sidewalk was hot from the sun, but Five and Nine sat on it anyway. They didn't say anything for a long time, just watching the sun make its downward swing towards the horizon, slanting the shadows just slightly. A few people passed, but for the most part the park was empty except for them, the two of them. Drinking his Orange Julius, Five slumped lazily into Nine with a sigh and shucked his jacket. Nine appreciated the closeness, the comfort of his friend's lean body against his own, but didn't like the smell of pot in Five's hair, strong, recent, acrid.
"You aren't hot?" Five mumbled.
"Huh? Nah," Nine replied with an easy shrug. He didn't like to take off his hoodie even when it was hot; he felt lost when he couldn't zip and unzip the front, his favorite nervous habit. Presently, he was thirsty, wanted some of Five's Orange Julius, knew that Five would share when he asked, and yet he didn't ask. He squinted up into the sky.
"I ran into a teacher at the mall today… I forgot to tell you." Five smiled bashfully, tugged on Nine's hood as an indication of his embarrassment. "He was…"
Nine glanced at him, saw the look in that big hazel eye. He sat bolt upright. "You don't." Then, spotting an approaching figure in the distance and ignoring them for now, "Who was it?"
Smiling his timid smile, Five held up a little V-for-victory, and Nine shook his head in astonishment.
"Two? You're kidding." He shuddered at the thought of his friend mooning over him, of all people – it wasn't right. "But he's so… old."
Five lowered his gaze as if wounded, and then, sipping his drink, he mumbled, "No… he's… mature."
"M… Mature!" Nine laughed, and then cringed at the thought, feeling freshly ill. "Oh, God, Five… He's like, sixty! And, he's like… Jewish."
"He's more like fifty. And just because he wears a skull cap doesn't make him Jewish," said Five petulantly, fumbling with his drink cup.
"Does fuckin' too."
Realizing that he was being a little harsh, Nine offered an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry."
The figure Nine had seen coming was a girl, and she approached the bowl now and thrust down her skateboard, taking off. Nine considered skating now, as well, but at the same time, he was endlessly curious about what sort of exchange with Two of all people would get Five all flustered and twitterpated.
"What did he say to you, anyway?" Nine asked, scratching at some dirt on his shoe.
Five tugged uneasily at his eyepatch. It was probably getting uncomfortable in the heat. "Nothing, just that he was making this telescope… Oh, God, Nine, it's just the neatest thing. And he asked me to help. I'm so excited."
"You and your inventions," Nine muttered, but he couldn't stop himself smiling affectionately. "You know 'building a telescope' is just code for 'getting in your pants.'" He nudged Five playfully to show that there were no hard feelings, but Five had the presence to look mortified anyway.
"I'd bet he'd let you help, if you wanted to…" Five said, though from his tone it was clear that he secretly didn't want Nine around – not that it was a warning tone, or anything, more of an obligatory invitation, because Five did care about his friend, after all, and would give up some one-on-one with his crush to make Nine happy.
Appreciating the gesture and deciding to return the favor, Nine smiled. "No, it's all right, go ahead and have fun. Take pictures when you start making headway. And can I see the stars, when you're all done?"
"I'd like that," Five said, and smiled.
The girl on the skateboard wiped out, scraping up her elbows. She didn't cry at all, though, just stood back up and dusted herself off and got right back on her board. Nine looked her over thoughtfully – a curvy girl, really… not in the boob department (that was strictly B-cup material), but her hips were a mile wide. Her legs and arms were muscular and lean, scarred just about everywhere from various scrapes. Her skin was pale, her hair blond. Most of her shape was lost under a baggy tank top and an equally enormous pair of cargo shorts. A giant belt sat on the natural curve of her hips like an equator.
… She was probably a dyke.
Bored, Nine looked back to Five, who was frowning into the open mouth of his cup.
"All of the ice melted," he commented sadly.
Five just sighed. Glancing up, he saw the girl barreling towards them, let out one of his yelping screams and crowded close to Nine. She stopped just short of them, though, and cocked her head.
"Hey. What are you doing sitting around? You've got boards."
"Depth perception problems," Nine said, grinning and thumbing towards Five, who was hanging onto Nine's arm in a death-grip.
"Nice eye patch," the girl said. Her smile was benevolent. She had earrings that dangled and swung when she moved her head. Maybe she wasn't a dyke.
Sighing, she picked up her board and thrust it under her arm, sticking out a hand to shake. She had a black wristband with a rock band's logo stamped on it, and band-aids on three of her fingers. Her nails were unpainted and stubby, chewed down to the quick, like Nine's. "I'm Seven. Nice to meet you."
Nine shook immediately, smiling. "Nine. This is Five."
"I'm Five," Five echoed, and shook her hand, too. He sometimes forgot to introduce himself.
"Well, hi there, Nine and Five." She planted her hands on her hips and looked between them thoughtfully. "Just out of curiosity, are you two…?"
"Huh?" said Five.
"What!? God, no!" said Nine.
They looked at each other, and comprehension dawned with a tint of horror on Five's face.
"No! Oh, no! God, no!" Five blurted, and his face turned red.
Seven threw her head back and laughed. When she was done, she set down her skateboard and got up on it, looking down at them through her eyeliner-rimmed eyes. "Well, come on, you pansies, are you skating or what?"
She took off without them and Nine, not about to back down from a challenge, got up, pulling Five with him.
"Let's do it," he said.
"We're not," Five mumbled, still blushing furiously. He dropped his cup and some diluted orange liquid seeped onto the pavement. "We're not."
Five was handsome guy, really. He wasn't like, movie star handsome… just basic handsome. He had a strong jaw, a kind of blunt chin that made his face look rounder than it really was, full cheekbones, and a wide, sweeping, expressive mouth. His creamy cheeks were dusted with freckles, and he had a tendency to burn in the sun. His hair looked red most of the time, but was actually more brown than anything, and it was wavy and sometimes kind of crazy and when they spent the night at each other's houses, slumped over each other in a chair, falling asleep, Nine liked to run his hands through it.
He used to have two eyes, before he started smoking the joints. They were punctuated by two small, curved eyebrows, which usually registered "surprised" somehow – it was the wide-eyed curiosity that made it so, and their natural shape. Before the drugs, his hazel eyes used to be so bright and clear. Now, the one that remained had dark bags under it most of the time, and his gaze was usually more pensive, cloudy, downcast.
Five liked buttoned-down shirts. Presently they were shopping for them. Five kept stopping every two seconds to remember what he was saying. He was high off of his mind. Nine didn't care, so much. He was glad he could be with Five to keep him out of trouble.
"You got to tell Eight to stop selling you this stuff."
"I know, I guess I'm getting kind of stuck on it." Five threw Nine one of his shy little smiles, and a bit of him showed through the mask.
It was Wednesday, and even though it was summer, the mall was relatively quiet. Between shirts, Five would munch on a giant pretzel Nine had given him to get him to shut up about his munchies. Five wasn't a complainer in nature, no – but when he was doped up, he sometimes forgot he had said something, and would continue to say it over and over. Usually it was "I'm hungry" because this subject cropped up a lot. A lot.
It was a wonder he was so skinny, really. Not skinner than Nine, but close. He had too broad of shoulders to ever be quite as thin as Nine.
"Do you really need a new shirt?" Nine asked, feeling kind of bored of listening to Michael Jackson and Cher over the stereo system. He zipped and unzipped his hoodie. Zip, unzip.
"… We were looking for a shirt?" Five frowned. "Huh."
"What was that thing you needed for that camera you were building?" Nine asked, not quite losing his patience.
"Copper wire. Cheap stuff. We can get it at the hardware store. I'm hungry."
Nine gestured to the pretzel, which Five bit into, and then that wet, hurt expression came over his face.
"What would I do without you, Nine?" he said quietly, and Nine felt distinctly uncomfortable. "Why didn't you tell me I was…?"
"It's all right. Don't worry about it."
They tried to skate home, and Nine lost his balance, landed on his face and made his nose bleed. They didn't buy any shirts.
Around 10:00, Six called up Nine and Five and invited them over. He had parents, somewhere, but they were never home. Like, literally never. Sometimes there were signs that they had been there – empty food cups, bills lying around, a pair of his father's sneakers. He told stories about them, sometimes, but Nine had only seen them once at Six's birthday party, and now their faces just seemed blotchy, vague, blurry… unreal. They were shadow-people.
Maybe that explained why Six was so weird. Really, Five and Nine didn't mind him, but sometimes he even got a little funky even for them. He had written 666 on all of his shirts, which were all, weirdly, striped. Most of the things in his house were colorless or tinted blue. His drawings hung all over the walls.
When they got there, he smiled nervously and thrust soda into their hands. Nine tasted it and, finding it wasn't spiked, drank it willingly. Some screamo band was going in his bedroom, but he went and turned it off. The air smelled like cigarettes, but Nine never saw anybody smoking them. Maybe it was incense, or something.
"I got some movies," Six said in that soft voice of his. He fidgeted before he pushed them across the floor towards Nine and Five. He had chairs, but they almost never used them.
"Hey, cool," said Nine, smiling.
Their choices were typical of Six's parties. Super Zombie Bloodbath, Attack of the Shrieking Slug-Men, and, of course, their favorite, Ninjas Versus Vampires in Amityville III: Bloody Gut-Jitsu.
Nine couldn't remember what they had watched, after they watched it. Six and Five both fell asleep in his lap, and after his third soda, he really had to pee, but didn't have the heart to move them. He fell asleep soon after that.
He woke up when the twins texted him, when his phone blasted its designated ringtone, which Five had set to Barbie Girl as a practical joke. They did it at the same time, having coordinated it, because they got a kick out of waking Nine up at 5:00 in the morning.
Three said: WHATEVER FOUR SAYS IS A LIE!
Four said: THREE IS TELLING THE TRUTH!
They thought they were clever. Nine appreciated the humor anyway.
Five, being a heavy sleeper, was making a puddle of drool on Nine's crotch, and Nine still had to pee. Six was nowhere in sight.
-- to be continued?
Notes: I dunno, it was an idea that came to me. It's a lot harder to keep characters... well, in-character when they're in a different universe. Obviously, I've screwed with A LOT of stuff, so I'm not sure if that will make it undesirable to you guys. I did try to incorperate a few elements from the original universe to the story - if you notice, the settings are all lacking people, for example.
I don't know. It could be fun. I'll leave it up to your feedback to let me know if I should continue or not. This would NOT eclipse Water, but would rather be a side-project.