At long last, chapter five is ready to be seen. It was ridiculously complicated to write in ways that it shouldn't have been, and then I got diverted into the Byzantine Empire against my will. But anyways.

Jane lifted her head to look at the alarm clock across the room- it read 5:50. She'd have to get up in ten minutes; her parents were very. . . . particular about proper punctuality. She had awoken from a very vivid dream at 3:31 and had been awake ever since. Because she frequently suffered from insomnia, and the pins and needles that had raced up and down her narrow frame had gotten her far too keyed up to have a hope of going back to sleep, she had stayed away. But she had lain in her bed, lights shut and eyes shut, not daring to make a sound or move lest her parents heard. She instead had reflected on the dream she'd just had.

It had been a rare dream, one not full of falling and broken mirrors, crucifixes and flames leaping higher. She had been tall and grown up, twenty years old, selling her first book. She'd been at a signing in a bookstore in Boston- or maybe it had been in New York? She hadn't been sure- and the line queued up all the way out the front door. Alec, her publisher and manager was sitting on her left behind the folding table, whispering interesting facts about each person who came up to get their book signed, each one more influential and important than the last. Scattered around the store were the faces of everyone who'd called her Witchy Jane or made fun of her hair or her clothes or her incessant writing, too embarrassed of their past actions to come ask her to sign their copies.

Suddenly, standing in front of her was Aro Vocisano, grown up too, but still looking young and strikingly handsome dressed in an expensive wool suit. He smiled mischievously as he handed her the book, and she cooed coquettishly, "Whom should I make it out to?" He pursed his lips as he thought about it. "Make it out to Aro Vocisano, my biggest fan," she scribbled it in obligingly, handing it to him once she finished. He then sat down in the chair reserved for him on her right, pressing a kiss to her cheek. "Sorry I'm late, darling, things got a little crazy at work," he explained, looking at her with unconditional love and devotion shining madly out of his eyes. "You're here now, that's all that matters," she had responded, squeezing his hand and smiling conspiratorially as she had reached for the next book.

That was where the dream had ended. Jane had spent the past two hours turning the images her subconscious had dredged up over and over in her mind. She felt quietly ashamed for having dreamed about the most beautiful girl in the school's boyfriend, but she couldn't forget the butterflies that had soared when he'd picked her up off the ground in the school hallway, looking so concerned. Like he cared about her- an unknown stranger, unlovable to all but her brother. Her shame mounting another notch, she resolved to ask Didyme about her brother later that day in biology class. She could hear Alec's alarm going off, and checked her own clock- she had turned off the alarm hours previously- which read six o'clock. She rose and began to go about her daily routine.

She stripped off her nightgown and folded it neatly under her white pillow, smoothing out the wrinkles in the pastel pink sheets and the white comforter. Her whole room, from the pale white floorboards and white desk to the pale pink walls and flower-butterfly details everywhere, was done in varying shades of pinks- a princess's pastel paradise. Jane, personally, had longed for a vivid maroon, or maybe a deep navy- or tourmaline green, like somebody's eyes, her subconscious now whispered- but her mother's glare had been so ferocious when she suggested this that she had immediately retracted the statement. She inspected her armoire for an outfit. Suddenly all of her clothes looked as childish as the rest of her room. There was nothing that screamed sophistication, intelligence, independence, or even coolness. There was just pastel, priss, prep and blah, the sort of person who belonged in the background. The kind of girl who'd be one of the thousands of extras doing coordinated dance moves down the street as the leading man and his lady twirled in the spotlight, amazing and extraordinary and so, so far from average. Not the kind of girl who belonged at the leading man's side. A permanent Princess Mary Tudor, never an Anne Boleyn.

A crimson shirt from H and M was the most vibrant color Jane owned. She complemented it with a pair of jeans from Delia's and boots from 9-West that made her look taller. The boots hurt her feet and were usually way too much work to walk all around school in, but- what did her mother always say? Beauty knows no pain. She also wore a khaki corduroy blazer- the early November weather made a jacket now necessary- and sank down on the pink pouf in front of her white vanity, the makeup that her mother encouraged her to wear arranged in clear plastic cases. She didn't know how to apply much more than lip-gloss, but she tried her hand at a shimmery eye shadow and black mascara. She didn't think the effect was half bad, and tossed the three cosmetics into her bag- the same flowered Vera Bradley she'd been carrying all year, because it was the perfect size for her current composition notebook and paperback, along with several pens, pencils, and sheets of paper. The bag didn't really go with the outfit, but she needed it. She didn't know how other girls went through the day with nothing but tiny clutch purses, or if she could go a whole day without writing. Now if only she could do something with her boring, stick-straight, hair, light brown without even the excuse of auburn or gold highlights. It wasn't heavy enough to merit combs, clips or pins and she usually just parted it to one side or the other and headed out. But ever since pre-k, Jane had held the dubious title of champion braider. She deftly wove a French braid and fastened it, pulling out a few wisps to frame her face. She smiled in what she hoped was an enchanting manner. Her hair pulled away from her face and the makeup adorning her features made her sit up straighter, adding a sparkle of confidence to her eyes. For once, the girl looking back at her from the mirror was not a timid, plain little thing that looked like a seventh grader, tops.

The door creaking open made Jane jump. It was Alec, who stepped into her room without knocking or announcing himself, because that was what they had always done. "Jane, hurry up! It's almost six twenty, and you know how Mother and Father hate it when we're late for breakfast-" he broke off as Jane stood, swaying a little in her boots, unused to the added three or four inches. "Wow, Janie," he said. "What are you dressed up for?" Jane hadn't realized she looked much different than the way she usually did and hadn't thought out an excuse. "Umm . . . . I just felt like dressing up for Friday," she responded lamely. Alec eyed her critically. "When you feel like telling me the real reason, let me know," he said, knowing that eventually his sister and other half would confide in him, her secret keeper and best friend. "Until then, you'd better think up a better line for Mother and Father," he continued, grabbing her by the hand and towing her out the door, turning off the light as they passed.

Both walked down the stairs sedately, fingers still interlaced. Before they reached the kitchen, Alec gave Jane an extra squeeze. He knew she'd need it. They both sat down in their respective chairs at the table- Jane across from their mother and Alec from their father. "Good morning, Father," said politely. "Good morning, Mother," Alec finished. Their father lowered his newspaper fractionally to acknowledge them with a stern blink of the same hazel eyes both of his children had inherited. They both reached for their boxes of cereal, poured them into their bowls- Jane's white china with a pattern of braided pink and lavender ribbons Alec's a white and navy stripe- and began to eat. Jane felt a familiar flush of heat surging into her cheeks- her mother was scrutinizing her hair and outfit, well-practiced eye picking out all the mistakes she'd made in putting on her makeup and probably a few more that Jane herself was unaware of. "So you're finally putting effort into looking like a girl, Jane. Did you use the mascara I bought you?" her mother asked. "Yes, ma'am," Jane responded, knowing that looking someone directly in the eyes communicated that you weren't afraid of them but being unable to make it past somewhere around her mother's chin. "And what eye shadow is that? It doesn't go with your shirt at all," she continued. "Oh," Jane responded, dropping her gaze to her slowly congealing bowl of cereal. "And why didn't you put that butterfly pin I got you in your silly little braid. It would have looked good," Celine De Chantraine continued. "I'm sorry- I didn't think about that," Jane said, trying not to mumble as her head drooped lower, suddenly feeling utterly ridiculous in her boots and makeup and the outfit she had, fifteen minutes previously, found to be pretty cool.

That had obviously been the right answer, because her mother had dropped the matter and continued to cut up an orange. She placed one of the wedges on Jane's plate, saying, "Eat it. You need the vitamin C. Your skin looks absolutely dreadful," And Jane had complied, the acidic burst of flavor that usually reminded her of sunshine and happier times tasting sharp and bitter. She and Alec finished their breakfasts and collected their backpacks- white with flowers and royal blue respectively- and bade their parents good bye. Surprisingly, their mother stood and attempted to envelope Jane in a hug- her mother's well-toned and angular body and little to nonexistent ability to nurture did not lend itself well to comfort. "You're finally starting to be my daughter," She had murmured, and Jane felt her mother's fingers at the side of her braid, affixing something. "Even though you look hideous in those boots. We'll have to go shoe shopping today after school and get you a nice pair of heels," her mother continued. Jane's face burned another shade of carmine.

Both twins walked from their nice, well-built, middle class house in their nice, well-built, middle class subdivision of suburbia to the nearby bus stop. AS they stood their, side by side and as alone as they always were when waiting for the bus in the morning, Jane stated, "That awful butterfly is in my hair, isn't it," Alec nodded, looking sympathetic. Jane tried not to feel humiliated, but she couldn't help it. Her mother always ended up making her feel inferior, stupid, and plain the point of homeliness. "So why are you dressed up?" Alec asked after a tactful moment of silence. "Promise you won't freak, okay?" Jane asked, extending her index finger, which Alec wrapped his own around, and they shook- their own private and unbreakable vow. "Yesterday in the fire drill, when we were all walking in the hallway, somebody bumped into me and knocked me down," Alec looked outraged and opened his mouth to say something, but Jane held up her hand. "No, wait, I'm not finished yet. He helped me up and he seemed like he was really, really worried that he had hurt me. And that's when I found out that he was didyme's older brother, Aro!" Alec now looked astonished. "The Didyme's older brother?" he asked. "Yes! And he said he'd see me around sometime!" said Jane, spirits lifting effervescently, the sting of previous hurt and humiliation at her mother's hands all but forgotten.

"Wow, Janie," her brother reiterated, running a hand through his brown hair. "But you know he's got a girlfriend, right?" he asked. Jane shot him a disparaging glance. "Alec. Of course I know he has a girlfriend. They've been dating since last December. Sulpicia Turati," Their conversation was ended as the bus screeched to a halt in front of them and they scrambled on, not wanting to provoke the ire of the notoriously short-fused bus driver, known only by the name of Paul. As they sat in their usual seat, Jane tried to quell the ebullient happiness and anticipation sparking in her chest- she might get to talk to Aro today!

{o.o}

Athenodora smirked to herself as she crept through the crowded hallway, her target within her sights. Caius was standing with his back to her at his locker, not expecting a thing. He thought she was waiting for him in literature class, little knowing that she had doubled back to follow him after he had given her the completely bogus excuse of having forgotten something in a previous class. He seemed to be very seriously looking at something in his locker, which in and of itself was a surprise because, to Athenodora's knowledge, Caius didn't use his locker as much other than a trash receptacle. Silently praising herself for having worn her broken-in black converse, she stole forward. She had planned to simply tap him on the shoulder, but a devilish thought occurred to her. She knew that Caius was very "sensitive" about his ribs- she and the rest of the civilized world called it ticklish, but Caius had gotten attitude problems about being called ticklish enough times that Athenodora had just let it go. She quickly snaked her hands under his jacket and seized his sides. He jumped about a foot and let out a short, startled cry, audible to only Athenodora in the noisy hallway.

"Athenodora!" he shouted, staggering around to face her. It did not quite escape her notice, beside herself with mirth though she was, that he very firmly planted himself between his locker and her. Caius swelled with indignation as Athenodora snickered, "That . . . . that was so completely not funny!" she sputtered. "No, you just didn't see the humor," she responded, continuing to giggle uproariously. "So what's in the locker?" she asked suddenly. She spent enough years with Caius that she knew all of his tells when he was trying to keep a secret- worrying at the hem of his shirt, compulsively shoving his hair away from his face and fleeting eye contact all of which he was currently exhibiting. "Nothing," he responded boldly. "Then let me look," She said. "NO!" Caius exploded vehemently, surprising even himself. "Uh, I mean, uh, no," he said. "If there really is nothing in your locker, prove it by letting me look," she responded, dodging from foot to foot in attempts to get a clear shot at the locker. Caius mirrored her movements, resulting in a strange and capering dance that earned them many funny looks. Caius eventually gave up and grabbed Athenodora's waist, pushing her to the side and slamming his locker door shut. She pouted, saying, "Awww, Cai, why are you so fussy?" Caius pinched the bridge of his nose. "Just let it go, Athena, it isn't important," he said, proffering his elbow to her. Because he had used his nickname for her, Athenodora took it she was forgiven for startling him. She linked her elbow in his and decided that she could pester him about his locker secret later.

As they began the slow promenade to the literature classroom, Athenodora debated about reaching down and taking his hand. But she decided not to, reminding herself as a wave of uncomfortable prickles surged up from her stomach that if Caius wanted to hold her hand, he was a big enough boy to do so. It was always Athenodora who hugged him or held his hand or in other ways instigated almost all forms of contact between them. "So this time," she thought, "I'll leave it up to him," Predictably, by the time they reached the classroom, their elbows were still the only things connected.

{o.o}

Sulpicia brushed a strand of hair away from her eyes as she surveyed her reflection critically in the mirror in her locker. The mascara she'd used that morning had been a little clumpy and she touched it up, wanting, as always, to look nice for literature class. "Sulpicia!" a voice sang out in the hallway. Sulpicia unscrewed her lip-gloss and daubed some on with the wand as she unconcernedly turned around. Didyme bounced up to her and hugged her airily. "Didyme!" Sulpicia exclaimed, returning the gesture. "I'm in a hurry to get to bio class, so can I make this really short?" she asked. "Of course," Sulpicia responded. She knew the furrows between Didymes' perfectly arched eyebrows- Aro got the same ones when he was worried about a test or an academic bowl. "I was wondering if, maybe later today, not until after school, you could ask Aro if he could take me to Barnes and Nobles, really quickly on Saturday, before you guys have your group project meeting?" she asked, eyes contracting as her voice winged up hopefully. "Sure thing," Sulpicia responded. "Wait," she said. "Why can't you ask him?" she asked. "I tried to," Didyme responded, rolling her eyes exaggeratedly. "But he's still mad at me for the barbecue thing on Wednesday," She adopted a look of innocence that Sulpicia had seen decorating the faces of her rivals in the ballet studio too many times to fully believe. "So I figure if you ask him, he can't really say no," She concluded. "Well, don't worry about it, I'll ask," Sulpicia responded. They embraced quickly once more and Didyme danced off, singing her thanks.

Sulpicia grabbed her books and slammed her locker, heading for literature class. If Didyme was anything like Aro, she had a hidden motive: there was some reason she wanted to get to Barnes and Nobles other than the one she had given, but it seemed a harmless enough request. She slid into her desk next to Aro in the classroom, leaning over to give him a hug. "Hello," he said, lightly stroking her hair. She smiled, pulled out her agenda and began writing down her assignments. "Sulpicia, are you busy tonight?" Aro asked. Heart racing for a few beats before she got herself back under control, she responded neutrally, "No, nothings up. Why?" Aro smiled at her, looking every bit as confident but still as sweet as the very first time he'd asked her out. "I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me tonight?" Sulpicia looked down and smiled. "Yes, I'd love to," she responded. "Great. Can I pick you up around six?" he asked. She nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear. Marcus, who had walked over around the time Sulpicia had taken out her agenda, heard what they were talking about and had tried to furtively sidle away without being noticed, took his desk, blushing bright red. Caius and Athenodora slouched in as the bell was ringing as usual. "Greetings, people of Earth," Athenodora said as they sat as well. Sulpicia pulled out her purple notebook- the notebook that she had been using since the beginning of the year to record her thoughts about both people and events and added a note to her page about Athenodora, commenting on her strange greetings.

"Well, as you all know, yesterday, I was, 'freaking out'," Aro started. You could plainly hear the quotation marks around his words. "But when I got home, after I read Marcus's script, and made a few of my own little edits, I came to the conclusion that we have nothing to worry about," he continued, pulling out unbent packets of white papers, perfectly stapled, and distributed one to each group member. "That's the script, complete with blocking and everything else. So as long as we all stick directly to the script, and everyone brings their items, we'll be doing really well," Everyone flipped through the script as Aro rummaged around in his backpack, extracting three pieces of paper with his address neatly printed on it. He handed those to Marcus, Caius and Athenodora. "Your house, twelve noon, Saturday?" Marcus confirmed. Aro nodded. Marcus opened his mouth to say more, but shut it again, looking somewhat reproachfully at something behind Aro. Aro turned to see what it was, and found Stefan, Vladimir and Amun approaching them.

"Hey, Aro," said Stefan with an air of exceptionally fake enthusiasm. Sulpicia rolled her eyes, feeling irritated on Aro's behalf. Was it really too much to ask for once class period of peace from those three? "So, how's' the newest history club coming along?" Stefan asked brightly. "Everything's coming along perfectly," Aro assured him smoothly. "When's your first meeting? I might want to sit in, make sure everything goes all right for you," Stefan said, a vaguely ominous threat evident in his tone. "Oh, no, I wouldn't want you to go to any extra trouble. I'm sure I'll be able to handle everything," Aro responded. "Oh, it'd be no trouble at all. I'd like to do everything I can to help a friend out," Stefan replied forcefully. "No, I really think it will be fine- you wouldn't want to waste your Saturday shmucking around with us," Aro responded, equally forcefully, still with a manic grin on his face. "Naw, it's cool, man. W don't have any plans anyway," Amun interjected. "Wow. I mean, I knew you guys were pathetic, but I didn't know to what extent," Caius said loudly. Aro turned slowly around in his chair to stare at Caius like he'd lost his mind. "We haven't decided where we'll be having it, but when we do, you'll be the first people we let know," Sulpicia said evenly, bestowing her most blinding smile on the trio, who then traipsed back to their desks, looking mollified and a bit dazzled.

"You just lied," said Marcus, eyes wide and tone reproving as he looked at Sulpicia. Sulpicia tried not to let him affect her and coolly replied, "well, it obviously would have been ideal if we could have gotten rid of them without having to prevaricate, but that wasn't in the cards," Caius nodded approvingly. "Didn't know you had it in you, princess," he said. Sulpicia snorted. "Oh, please. How do you think I wasn't blamed for Marcella's point shoes disappearing?" Aro chuckled appreciatively, probably remembering the time last year he had encouraged her to make her arch-nemesis Marcella believe her point shoes were some kind of good luck charm and then have them disappear. Sulpicia was disappointed in herself, but had been unable to steal them at the last moment. They had disappeared anyway (and she could tell from the smug look on his face that Aro had known how when he asked her about it) and they had questioned her, but she put on the usual sugar-sweet smile and was off the hook.

Now it occurred to Sulpicia that she might have said something different- the look on Marcus' face was clearly disapproving and she remembered Aro's words when they had discussed their other group members on the phone a few nights previously- "He's polite, very popular, but he seems a bit . . . . naïve," Surprisingly, his face morphed into a smile. "I feel really hard core now," he responded gleefully. Caius put his head down on the desk.

{o.o}

Didyme was having a marvelous time in biology class. Today was a dissection lab and Mr. Newton had to sit down from the faintness from all the fumes in the room. She had managed to persuade Alec to do all of the cutting and slicing, and Renata was actually talking with him about it, and Jane was on edge about something. She was constantly fidgeting and drawing deep breaths, and sometimes would catch didyme's gaze, something akin to resolve glinting in her eyes, but each time she would blush and look away. She was also dressed in a great departure from the norm, in boots and a bright crimson shirt, her hair pulled back and face- slightly clumsily- made up. Didyme wasn't probing her about it because she knew Jane would eventually say whatever it was she wanted to say.

The class period came and went, and still Jane had not spoken up. Didyme was just picking up her bag when Jane sidled over to her, looking strangely guilty. "Hey, ummm, Didyme. During our biology thing on Saturday . . . . . . Your brother won't be there, will he?" Jane was unable to keep a soft edge of hope from entering her voice. Masquerading a very strong feeling of confusion, Didyme responded fluidly, "He will, but he'll be busy with his own stuff and will leave us alone," Jane crossed her skinny arms over her narrow chest but not in a confrontational- in a manner that made Didyme think she was hugging herself for warmth. "Oh, okay, great," she responded, the smallest smile unfurling over her face.

{o.o}

Caius swallowed nervously. He resisted the urge to look out the window or at the clock for what had to have been the fifteenth time in a five-minute period. Athenodora would arrive when she arrived. Friday night movies had been a them thing since they were in elementary school. Caius always hosted because his mother was never home, and therefore they could watch whatever they wanted without awkward parental questions, and Athenodora always brought food, usually something salty for him and something sweet for herself. Caius smiled as he remembered the time when they had been in fifth grade and had freaked themselves out so badly by watching Stephen Kings' "It" that they had been too afraid to budge off the couch and go to Caius's room. Eventually, at three AM, Caius (having downed three bottles of Mountain Dew) made a mad dash for the bathroom, but neglected to turn on any lights, got his foot tangled in the shower curtain, and tripped into the tub. Both he and Athenodora had been too terrified to move until the sun rose later that morning, when Caius crawled out of the bathroom. They had met each other's eyes and laughed hysterically for five minutes, then swore off Stephen King for the next five years.

That had been an easier time, when Caius wasn't always finding himself thinking about what kissing Athenodora might be like, or what the strands of her hair between his fingers might feel like. Or whether their Movie Night Fridays (as Caius had so whimsically dubbed it- Athenodora had insisted that it needed a name, and had been all for the Excellent Cinematographic Adventure Night of the Dynamic Duo Athenodora and Her Trusty Sidekick Caius, which had, needless to say, been shot down with all haste) counted as dates. And wondering when this strange new tolerance of nerds (ruthless, ambition-driven nerds) and their girlfriends (prissy, liar girlfriend) had arisen. Before he wondered if what he was about to do was a good idea.

He heard the door bang open and Athenodora announced, "I'm home!" hitching on his usual smirk, Caius loped into the kitchen where Athenodora stood, tossing a bag of Spicy-Sweet Doritos, two king-sized Kitkat bars, and a Caramello on the counter, where two giant-sized bottles of Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew respectively waited. "Hello, Zuko here." Caius responded. "I'm not sure you even fully realize how fitting and appropriate that reference is for you," she quipped "Grab the loot," she instructed, waving dismissively at the junk food as she walked past him into the living room. "You know, it never fails to amaze me, how much effort you put into making this place look nice for me," she said, hands on hips as she smiled about the room. Caius paused in the doorway as it occurred to him that the living room truly was filthy- pillows strewn all over the place, the remote sticking out from between the two couch cushions like a watch tower, a fair coating of dust layering the gouged and battered coffee table, and food wrappers along with a few stains of questionable origins littering the floor. "Hey, the cockroach corpses in the corner add to the ambiance," he said defensively. "Oh, I know, I do the same thing in my room at home. But I just can't achieve that authentic, 'a grubby, slovenly man lives here' feel to it, you know?" She asked. "It's taken me seventeen years to achieve this hardcore level of slovenliness. Don't think you can just jump in now," Caius chastened, flinging himself down on the couch as Athenodora slid in whatever DVD she'd brought.

It was her week to pick and, as ever, Caius went into this with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. Athenodora's picks in the past had ranged from Van Helsing to Gladiator to Pride and Prejudice. There was no telling what it might be this time. Athenodora settled onto the couch with a kitkat in hand, leaning against Caius, so close he could smell her perfume. "I love this movie," she breathed, eyes fixed on the screen. Piano music started during the opening credits. The movie was called Howls Moving Castle, an animated and bizarre talk about a young girl aged into an old woman, a fat-necked and evil witch, a wizard who could turn into a bird and destroy airships, a dog that could fly, and a war. Caius was very confused by it all, but Athenodora was still sitting so close to him that it could be argued that she was sitting in his lap, and mouthing along to all the lines, so he wasn't really bothered. When that finished, they were about to put in their old stand by of Sweeney Todd, but as the opening credits began rolling, Caius, heart in his throat for no logical reason, Caius his the pause button.

"Ummmmmmm, Athena?" He said, turning to face her. She did the same, looking back at him attentively. "Yes?" she asked. Suddenly, looking into her eyes- which he really had never noticed, were the most astonishing shade of pale gray- he lost his bravery. "Uh, nothing. We'll talk about it after the movie," Caius postponed. Athenodora pressed play and leaned back, though Caius was pleased to note it was more against him than the couch. Throughout the entire movie, as Athenodora sang her way through her favorite bits, Caius was mustering up his nerve and scolding himself in equal measure. Why shouldn't he do as he planned? It wasn't like it was a big deal, or like it meant anything special or extravagant. The movie ended and Athenodora put it lovingly back in its box, and then sat back down, looking at Caius once more.

"Well, I, um . . . . . . so, we've been . . . . pretty much. . . . inseparable since . . . forever," Caius began, mentally cursing his scumbag brain for choosing this precise moment to give him a stutter. "And I just wanted you to know that, given the company we are currently being forced to keep in lit class, I find that I appreciate you more and more," As he had been speaking, trying to sound mature and sincere and not like some cheesy Hallmark card, which he strongly suspected he did, he had been digging around in the couch cushion behind him where he had stashed the little box. "So I, ummmmm . . . . I got you this," he said, thrusting it at her, trying not to feel like a kindergartener presenting his first crush with a wilted dandelion. While eyeing him quizzically, she opened the box. Inside was a bracelet, made with interlocking loops of something silvery and polished. A stone that Caius was well aware was dyed purple glass was fastened in place in the middle of the whole affair.

"Cai . . . . . . " Athenodora breathed, picking the trinket out of the box and holding it up to admire it. "Is this what you were trying to hide from me in your locker today?" she guessed shrewdly. Caius nodded. "You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble," she said, still looking at it like it was the most beautiful, expensive piece of jewelry that she'd ever seen. "Well, it cost me five bucks at the Family Dollar, so it didn't set me back too much," he responded gruffly. Athenodora smacked him on the shoulder, then held out her wrist. "Put it on!" she trilled, smiling. "If I'd known you were going to freak out this much over it, I might have broken the bank and gone for the seven dollar one," Caius remarked, fastening it around her wrist, which distracted him for the strangest reason,like Athenodora always managed to do. Her wrist was just so tiny- it looked so fragile and bony. "Shut up, I'm part magpie, we like shiny things," She responded, stroking it with her other hand. "I mean . . . . You're my best friend," he said, shrugging, hoping he didn't sound pathetic. "You stole that from Queen," she replied, attempting a scornful look and not quite being able to manage it. "So? It fit the moment," he said, smacking her lightly in return.

With no warning, Athenodora drew him into a tight, rib-cracking hug, the kind Caius could only remember receiving from her when she was either distraught of overjoyed about something. "Thanks, Caius," she whispered in his ear. Gentleman that he sometimes pretended to be, when they broke apart, Caius retreated to the floor so that she could have the couch. Her hand dangled over the side and Caius steeled himself, then reached out and caught it in his. They both feel asleep smiling.

D'Awwww, Caius and Athenodora! I love them. I'm sorry about the brevity of this chapter- I wanted to have a section about Aro and Sulpicia's date, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to and I had to get rid of it. Also, a note about names that I forgot to include in the last chapter. I tried to give everybody last names that sounded indicative of the cultures Mrs. Meyer says they came from in the Guide- for example, all the Ancients have Italian-sounding last names because they were from Greece/Rome. Jane and Alec's surname of De Chantraine is not Greek (which Mrs. Meyer says they are in the Guide and I don't agree with) and is a sneaky little historical reference- Anne De Chantraine was one of the first people to be recorded of being convicted of witchcraft and burned because of it. The other members of the guard should be coming into things in the next chapter or two, so stay posted for that mess. Hope everyone enjoyed!