Strange & Beautiful


Rating: PG

Summary: There is a thin line between love and hate.

"I've been thinking about those things you said

I've been thinking about those things we did

I've been thinking about those things you do

I've been thinking about those things you made me do to you..."

- Handsome Boys Modeling School

Earlier:

"Do you mind?"

The question was rhetorical. Seated beside her in chemistry lab, absent-mindedly doodling in his note book, he knew the question was rhetorical even without looking up at her green eyed scowl but for some reason, he still felt driven to oblige her with his own brand of sarcastic whit.

"Actually, I do."

As he spoke, he continued to doodle, but he knew his response had caused the desired effect when he spied her eyes narrowing dangerously out of the corner of his eye. Placing the beaker she held in her right hand down on the lab table, she stepped closer to him.

"What is your goddamn problem?" She whispered harshly. "You haven't done anything but doodle in your stupid notebook all period."

Turing to look directly at her for the first time today, he made sure he took the time to eye her slowly from head to toe; his traveling eyes revealing a hidden message. Judging by the furious blush that stained her cheeks after his appraisal, she didn't really appreciate his attention or his message. Unable to contain herself, she lashed out.

"You're such an asshole."

Shrugging indifferently, he turned back to his notebook just as Mr. Blair walked up behind her to evaluate their progress.

"Mr. Pratt, I hope that your lab assignment is as advanced as your vocabulary."

Surprised at being caught, Jake stood speechless and embarrassed and he couldn't help but snicker; unfortunately, drawing the ire of Mr. Blair.

"Ah, Mr. Forrest; always one to appreciate a good joke, I see. Say, have you heard the one about the kid who was forced to repeat chemistry? Apparently, he liked joking around, too."

Now it was Jake's turn to snicker. A fact that only made his scowl deepen more; not that Mr. Blair cared as the class bell sounded just as he finished talking. Gathering his books to leave, Ryder stood ready to leave with the rest of the class, but Mr. Blair blocked him from leaving.

"I better see you take a greater initiative in this class, Mr. Forrest, otherwise it won't just be a joke."

Shifting the books in his hands, he forced himself to focus on Mr. Blair.

"Whatever you say, teach'." He offered his best smile and attempted once again to sidestep Mr. Blair,his attempt still, unfortunately, unsuccessful.

"I am serious, Mr. Forrest. You need to get an 'A' on your next lab report and hand in all of your past due reports in order to pass this class and keep from having to retake it again next year."

Looking over Mr. Blair's shoulder, he could see Jake smiling smugly as she put away their lab instruments. His eyes narrowed momentarily in her direction before he shifted his entire demeanor.

"My sincerest apologies, Mr. Blair. I had no idea I'd gotten so far behind. I've been dealing with a lot of personal issues. You see, my girlfriend just left me for my best mate and I've just been a complete wreck about it."

Mr. Blair looked briefly taken back by his confession. It was clearly not what he was expecting. From her position at their lab table, Jake had turned from what she was doing to watch; disgust clearly written all over her face.

"Well, that's... that's a shame. I'm sorry to hear you're going through such a hard time. If you need to talk to anyone, I'm... here."

He nodded along solemnly while nervously biting his thumbnail.

"I appreciate that, Mr. Blair. I really do. But given what you just said, I'm actually more concerned about my grade. Given what you said, do you think you could I mean, if I was able to hand in all my past due lab reports as well as the currently lab assignment by tomorrow, would you be willing to give me a break?"

He watched as Mr. Blair took a moment to ponder his request, but he already knew what the outcome would be. Behind him Jake looked on, furiously.

"If you can get all your labs to me by tomorrow, I will overlook their lateness; but only if you get them all to me tomorrow, Mr. Forrest."

Moving to walk past Mr. Blair, he patted him a little harder than necessary on the shoulder and smiled genuinely.

"Thanks, Mr. B. I promise I won't let you down."

As he approached Jake, his smile faded and he offered Jake knowing a look. The meaning was clear. Without a word, she angrily turned away and finished cleaning up the lab equipment.

He relished the feeling.


"Diamonds, candy, pills, one million dollar bills

You can try, but you can't buy me..."

- Handsome Boys Modeling School

It was late. Way late.

But if he was surprised to see her angrily walk through his bedroom door hours later he hid it well. Smugly reclined on his bed cradling this month's copy of Penthouse Monthly he barely ventured a glance over his magazine as she stormed over to his desk with a stack of papers in her hand.

"9 lab reports double spaced, typed, and collated."

Dropping the magazine Ryder sat up to look at her. Dressed in a white tank top and baggy sweatpants he knew she was in one of her rare moods where she didn't care. If he ever cared to be honest, he would say he loved her most like this. Pretending to look over the papers he observed her from the corner of his eye as she waited for him to say something.

"Nice job Pratt. But you really didn't have to do all that."

Her eyes' narrowed dangerously.

"Ryder…."

Chuckling softly Ryder put the papers down and stepped toward her.

"Tut tut now love. Don't say anything I might regret. Who knows, I might end up saying something that you regret."

Her cheeks stained pink with righteous indignation and she looked like she was trying to swallow a scream that sat right on the tip of her tongue. The sight gave him pause.

"I just wasted my whole evening finishing your lab reports…trust me the last thing I want to do right now is talk; Especially to you."

Smiling smugly Ryder crossed his arms and leaned back on his bed.

"You know you can end this little arrangement of ours anytime you want. Just say the word."

In her eyes he saw a flash of something never saw: a quite look of defeat. It only flashed for a second before the look was replaced with sheer abstinence.

"You'd like that wouldn't you."

"I don't care either way. Just don't know why you keep up with the charade."

Signing in disgust, Jacqueline moved toward the door and opened it silently.

"Then that makes you dumber than I thought."


"I've been thinking bout, why you act so proud;

I've been thinking 'bout what's this shit about..."

-Handsome Boys Modeling School

Later:

It had been a long week.

Luckily, Gregory Lynch a townie who went to Edmund high decided that he would throw a party and invite the whole town. Normally, townie parties weren't his style, but this one had two things that he was desperately looking for: alcohol and easy chicks.

So far the evening had been going according to plan. Standing in the middle of Lynch's living room, he had a nice buzz going, compliments to the ice cold beer in his hand, a few drunken chicks talking his ear off and a distant recollection of whatever it was that brought him to this point. All around him, nameless faces talked and danced as music played in the background. For once, life was actually good and so was his mood.

Until she walked in, anyway.

Clad in her normal baggy jeans and layered T-shirt, he observed her as she casually sauntered in. Lifting his beer to his suddenly parched lips, he took a hearty sip as he watched her cautiously scan the room until her eyes came to rest on him. Her gaze lingered on him briefly, so briefly he almost missed it, before her 'lapdog' Hamilton stepped into the room behind her and pointed her in the direction of where Krudski and the blonde townie girl stood.

And he wanted to look away. But he couldn't.

Instead, he watched her as she made her way towards Krudski and the girl. Noting how she hugged the girl while Krudski patted Hamilton on the back. After a moment of conversing together, they were joined by another blond boy who handed a beer to Krudski before wrapping a possessive arm around the blonde girl, which the blonde happily sunk into. The group conversed for a few moments together before they were joined by a group of scantily clad females who made a show of fawning all over Hamilton; running their fingers through his hair and caressing his arm. From where he stood, all he could see of Jake was her back, but there was something in her posture that belied the ease with which she normally carried herself. It dawned on him that she was upset.

It should have made him happy to know this.

Turning his attention away from her, he forced himself to focus his senses on the redhead next to him; barely even noticing when Jake excused herself from her friends, and walked past him a few seconds later.


He found her on the back porch ten minutes later.

She was seated by herself on an outdoor chaise, staring up into the night sky. He watched her silently for a few seconds before he walked over to her, drink in hand.

"What do you want, Forrest?"

He didn't know whether or not he should be proud or annoyed that she knew it was him without even turning around. Taking a sip from his drink, he stepped into her line of sight and leaned against the porch railing.

"Hello to you too, Miss Pratt."

Normally, this type of greeting would have been enough to send her storming away in the opposite direction, but tonight she barely managed a shrug. It bothered him that this bothered him.

"Is there something you wanted? Or have you just resorted to stalking me?"

This time, she turned to look at him and he couldn't help but notice how the tip of her nose turned up just the tiniest bit. Shaking the thought out of his head, he said the first thing that came to mind.

"I have a load of whites that I need done by Sunday."

Averting her gaze, she managed a soft shrug and a sigh.

"Fine."

"I also got an extra take-home packet from Finn. I need that done by Monday morning."

This time, she just nodded her head absently.

"Sure..."

Slightly irked by her indifference, he put his drink down on the railing before busting out the big guns.

"Oh, and it's going to rain tomorrow, so if you could have my car washed and detailed before then, that would be great."

He couldn't help but smile when she finally turned to look at him angrily. He awaited the verbal tirade he had come to expect from her in instances like this, but none came. Instead, she stood and turned to leave. Before he even had a moment to analyze what he was doing, his arm shot out to block her escape; effectively trapping her between the railing and the wall. She looked down at the offending appendage with as much surprise as he did. Without turning to face him, she managed to speak through clenched teeth.

"Let me go."

"Don't forget to put on two coats of wax."

When she finally looked up to glare at him, he couldn't help but notice the flecks of amber that dotted her green eyes and the way her long eye lashes kissed the top of her cheeks. Obstinate as ever, she refused to show that his proximity had any effect on her. Instead, her eyes turned soft and her brows questioning.

"Why haven't you gone to the Dean?"

His answer came without pause.

"Because I like torturing you."

He moved in a little closer to her.

"Why haven't you told Hamilton that I know?"

She looked up at him indignantly and once again responds through clenched teeth.

"Because I don't want you torturing Hamilton."

He slides his arm up further up on the wall effectively closing the distance between them, and whispered into her ear.

"Who said this has anything to do with Hamilton?"


"Am I losing control, am I losing my soul

Just tell me am I losing you"

- Handsome Boys Modeling School

Earlier:

He can't remember when it started.

He supposed that he always had a mild fascination where she was concerned, but never fully recognized it until he learned her secret. Oh, she kept it well. After all, she had managed to keep up her boyish disguise and no one was the wiser of it; save for the idiot Dean's son, Krudski, Krudski's roommate, and perhaps the blonde townie girl.

...And now him.

Seated beside her in chemistry lab, he couldn't help but appraise her disguise in quiet reverence. A memory of wet bare skin flashed in his mind as he remembered the night he had caught her in the showers, alone. It had been late. Way late. He had been returning from a keg party hosted somewhere in the woods around Rawley. He had ventured in the bathroom to take a leak when he heard the showers running. Thinking someone had left the water running as a prank, he went to investigate. When he pulled back the curtain, he was treated to the site of Jake in all her feminine glory. For a few seconds, they stood there staring at each other in silence before he forced himself to look away and stumbled out of the bathroom to his dorm.

He was lying in bed questioning just how much he had drank when she angrily barged into his room a few minutes later, demanding to know whether or not he was going to go to the Dean. Having his suspicions confirmed, he chose to play it cool, neither confirming nor denying his intentions.

Which had ultimately lead to the current impasse.

Looking back on it, he should have gone straight to the Dean. He should have spilled his guts to anyone who would listen. But for the last three months, he'd been keeping this little secret to himself. Torturing himself and her, daily, with the knowledge of her most precious secret. He made her do his homework, his laundry, clean his room and even wash his car. For her part, she took it all in stride. Rarely letting her emotions get the best of her, or let him see her get worked up.

It made him wonder why she kept up the charade.

More than that, it made him wonder why he wanted her to.


"I've been thinking 'bout, I've been thinking about...losing you."

- Handsome Boys Modeling School

Fear, frustration and anger splashed across her features as she put her hand up on his chest and pushed back.

"What exactly do you think is happening here?"

He opened his mouth to reply, when he heard voices approaching. Grabbing her arm, he covered her mouth and quickly pulled her away from the door and toward a shadowed corner of the porch. She struggled and tried to wriggle herself out of his grasp when she finally heard the voices.

"I think I saw Jake walk out here."

The blonde girl who Jake had been talking to earlier walked into the line of sight and was followed by Hamilton. When Jake saw him, she could feel herself freeze.

"Jake! Jake? You out here?"

They waited in silence for a response while Jake raged silently against him. Glancing down at her from his position behind her, he momentarily observed her before boldly deciding to release her. The challenge is apparent.

Tell him.

She looked away. A few seconds later, he watched as Hamilton and the girl walk away; not caring to listen to whatever they were discussing. The moment Jake is sure they are out of sight and no longer within hearing distance, she turned on him.

"You are such an ASSHOLE!"

"Excuse me? I just saved your ass back there."

"Saved my ass! Saved my ass? You almost ruined the best thing I have going for me."

She growled her words and invaded his space while she talked before pointing her finger in his chest. "I swear, if you do anything like that ever again I'll-"

"You'll what? Hmm, tell boy wonder that I've seen you without your knickers on?"

He stepped closer to her as he called her bluff, enjoying the way she moved backwards while he advanced towards her.

"That every time you ditch out on him, you're with me? Or how about the way you've been lying to him just as much as you've been lying to everyone else?"

He waited for her reply as she stood there in silence. He thought he saw her eyes mist up a little before she forced herself to look away.

"That's what I thought."

Pulling a cigarette out of his pocket, he lit it and glanced at her before taking a drag.

"Now, be a dear and wash my car. That is, unless you think the Dean would like to weigh in on this?"

It's a stalemate of sorts; neither of them willing to give an inch. That is until Jake looked back in his direction, fury evident in her narrowed eyes.

"Don't bother. I'll tell him myself."

She spins on her heel and stalked toward the door. She doesn't make it further than three steps before he has her pinned against the wall. The lit cigarette he was previously puffing on is now lying discarded on the porch slowly burning down to the butt, as his lips crash down against hers. To say she's surprised would be an understatement. But he ignores her shock as he pulls her closer to him and his hands move to caress her face and neck then down her back. In truth, the kiss was softer than he imagined it would be.

It's softer than he meant it to be.

For her part, she tried ardently to push him away. But he wouldn't give up until she softened against him; yields to him, parts her lips and lets his tongue gently sweep in and over her teeth then back again. She's shakes in his arms, whether it's from frustration or passion he can't be sure but by the time he breaks the kiss, fresh tears stream her face. A pause; a moment of silent deliberation passes between them before he he makes a motion to wipe them. However the moment he pulls away from her, the moment he gives her an inch to work with, it's enough for her to gather her bearings and connect her knee to his groin.

In hindsight, he supposed that it was poetic justice that he would end up falling to his knees before her.

But as he laid there alone in quiet agony, he could only relish in one thought:

She kissed me back.