The Challenge

Warnings/Info: I have no idea what this is, just go with the flow.

AN: Hello again! Thank you for the positive feedback, I really didn't know how this would be received. So I think this is going to have a few more chapters, of varying lengths. No pairing decided as of yet, but I think this will just be showing different kinds of friendships. (I probably write too many pairing fics anyway!) This chapter is pretty short, sorry, I'm super-busy right now! Don't let that stop you from dropping a review, though ;)

Throughout the next couple of days, Lisa found herself watching Darren at every available opportunity. She didn't know if she'd been expecting him to talk to her again, or for some kind of bond to form between them from that one conversation in the library- but she definitely hadn't been expecting things to simply carry on as normal. It completely infuriated her. It was a Saturday, so the students could come downstairs whenever they wanted. Lisa came down early- she couldn't abide lying in bed, awake for hours- how dull- and saw Spook grabbing some toast in the refectory. He nodded politely at her as she poured herself come orange juice.

"Where's your shadow?" Lisa couldn't help but ask.

"Excuse me?"

"Darren." She heard a tsk, and smiled.

"He's not my shadow," Spook smiled.

"Might as well be."

"What's your problem?" He sounded exasperated, and Lisa realised that he wasn't full of his usual venom. They looked at each-other for a few seconds, until Spook raised an eyebrow. "Well?"

"Oh, please," Lisa flicked her shiny blonde hair back in an attempt to look nonchalant. "I'm simply interested, that's all. Don't take it so personally."

"Sure," he scoffed. "Everyone's interested in Darren."

"Are you..." she smirked, suddenly realising something. "Jealous?"

"No! Worried." He took a bite of toast, chewed and swallowed, while avoiding Lisa's skeptical glare.

"You'll forgive me if I don't believe you."

"Why is everyone convinced that I'm such a bad friend? No, don't answer that," he ammended quickly, knowing that Lisa had a very long list of bad deeds to his name.

"You worry about him?" Lisa couldn't help but be a little pedantic. Spook was a git to everyone- though she had never seen him snap at Darren, no-one knew what happened behind closed doors. Spook seemed to read her mind.
"He's my best friend, Lisa." My only friend, she knew the unspoken words meant. "And he's-" Spook stopped himself.


"Don't worry about it."

"Tell me," she ordered. For a second it seemed that he would refuse, but then thought better of it. Every COLA knew that Lisa was scary when she got annoyed. Spook took another bite, and leant back properly against the counter.

"Darren doesn't trust easily, all right? I know you all think he's shy, but he's not. There's a different between being shy and being quiet. Then there's the issue of power- because let's face it, he's not as good as me. No," he held up a hand to silence her protests, "ask him yourself, he'll say the same thing. We're not unbalanced- he's well-liked, and better at football, and singing, and pulling me back into line when I've gone too far with something." He smiled ruefully, and Lisa remembered the famous hunting-dog incident of their second year, where Darren had refused to speak to his best friend until Spook had apologised to Dax. "But not in power. And now there's only ten of us-"

"Eleven," Lisa quickly cut in. Spook raised an eyebrow.

"Twelve, if you're going to be pedantic. Thirteen, if you include Clive. May I carry on? Good," he continued without waiting for an answer. "Now there's a limited number of COLA's left, it's harder for him to blend in than it used to be. You think we don't hear what you whisper about us when our backs are turned?"

Lisa bit her lip, because she knew exactly what everyone said, or thought, at least. She'd asked herself the same question that was on everybody's mind at least once. Did Darren really deserve a place in the "true eleven"? Like it was some sort of honour. She felt sick at herself. Spook didn't seem angry, which surprised her, taking into account his new-found protective instincts.

"So," he cleared his throat. "Have I satisfied your curiosity? Are you going to report back to Jonesy with your new enemy intelligence?"

"Don't be ridiculous," she snapped. "If you must know, I asked because I met Darren in the library the other day. He looked kind of upset, and I wanted to know if I could help."

"Oh. Well. That's," he struggled for a word. "Nice, of you. I guess."

"Whatever," she rolled her eyes. "Nothing more than a bizarre inferiority complex, then?"

"I didn't say that," he reprimanded her. "Don't twist my words around. He's probably just homesick again. He lives with his nan, and he worries about her being left alone. Always happens with the first few weeks of term," he shrugged. "Can I go now?"

Lisa rolled her eyes once more. "Yes, go ahead. I wasn't stopping you." Spook immediately turned on his heel and strode away, muttering something under his breath about "crazy women." Lisa downed the last of her orange juice and looked around to see Mia enter, yawning.

"You're up early," she noted. Mia nodded sleepily, and started to make tea.

"I couldn't sleep. Were you talking to Spook just then?"

"Mmm," Lisa responded non-committally.

"That's nice," Mia yawned again. "He's not so bad once you get to know him, really."

"Maybe not," Lisa agreed. "He might actually be a better person than I thought he was."