A/N: I've been attracted toward writing these drabbly little things with unconventional/unusual pairs of characters. Here's a sweet, sad look at a friendship and little insecurities I've imagined for Amber and Jerome. Thank you for choosing this story.

Amber's long blonde hair was tickling Jerome's bare arms in the breeze. The weighty warmth of her cheek pressed into Jerome's chest was reaching that borderline where comforting and safe started to turn into pain. Plus, the sun had dropped low enough in the sky that the light behind his eyelids was becoming irritating. All the same, he was reluctant to rouse the shallow girl from their revery.

He knew, even if she didn't, how wrong what they were doing was. He knew they couldn't go on using each other, manipulating each other for much longer. The other students of Anubis House had to be suspicious, especially that whip-smart roommate of Amber's, Nina Martin. Nothing got passed Nina. At least not for long.

But Amber was super paranoid, too. There was no way her reputation could live down the revelation of her arrangement with Jerome. Even at her ditsiest, in her most clueless moments, Amber would never give away their secret. Would she? No, she needs me, Jerome thought with bitter satisfaction.

Jerome squinted his eyes shut, dropped his head, and inhaled the fruity flavor of whatever hair-product Amber had used that morning. He unwrapped his arms from around the blonde's torso and pressed the palms of his hands against his eye sockets, letting an exaggerated yawn fill his lungs and jostle Amber where she lay against him.

"Are you uncomfortable?" Amber's quiet voice asked, though she had not shown any signs of stirring.

"Well, this tree is nothing like an overstuffed Italian leather sofa, that's for sure..."

Amber lifted her head, craning her neck to try to see into Jerome's face. His thin face was contorted into double chins as he too twisted to return her look. "If you weren't so atrocious, I'd compliment your good taste in upholstery," she quipped before leaning away, removing the rest of her weight from Jerome's body. His legs had been stretched straight out in front of them as the two had leaned together against an elm in the clearing, and he now pulled them up, flexing the stiff muscles. Amber made a fuss of stacking her homework and textbooks together, and Jerome knew she was waiting for him to stand first so there was no chance he could look up the skirt of her uniform. He smiled to himself and took his time, making a show of stretching.

For all the flaunting of confidence in her looks, Amber was possibly the most insecure girl in Anubis house. No, he corrected himself, that's probably Patricia. Jerome had a special distaste for Patricia and her "hardcore" exterior. All the same, he thought, you'd think Amber would have gotten over herself by now. In the past few weeks he'd come to know and understand Amber in ways he never would have expected. So why all the modesty now, when they were clearly alone? It wasn't like Jerome was desperate for a peek, anyway. It would have been hard for him to care less.

In the end it wasn't worth trying to wait Amber out just to annoy her. He stood and slung his satchel and blazer over a shoulder. Amber gathered her books under one arm and raised the other, hand outstretched, legs tucked primly. "Help a girl up?" Jerome rolled his eyes but lifted her by the elbow all the same.

They were standing close, and that uncomfortable heat radiated between them. Jerome's gaze drifted off over her shoulder. Amber's eyes fell to the ground between them. It was one thing to wrap his arms around her when she couldn't look into his face, to comfort her when they were alone, away from the group. But seeing all of her at once made it impossible for him to ignore the fact that they were using each other. Amber couldn't keep filling the growing gap in his emotional needs, and he couldn't keep "being there" for her when Alfie was too immature to support her.

"Thanks," she half whispered, attempting to inflect a nonchalance that clearly wasn't nonchalant.

"Amber, we-"

"You can't tell anyone," she cut him off.

-can't keep doing this." He finished anyway. Their eyes gravitated back toward each other.

"I know." There was some sort of earnest fire behind her eyes that made Jerome believe the girl. She clearly wasn't as featherbrained as she let people believe. There were heartbreak and honesty in her words and it pulled at him. Her fragility wrapped its fingers around his desire to be wanted, to be needed, and strangled him. He closed the gap between them, his arms looped around her, and she clung to his shirt. They clutched at each other because who else was there?

"I'm sorry," he breathed into the crown of her head. "I won't tell anyone."

"I know you won't. Neither will I."

They pulled apart. Amber brushed some bark and tree-stuff from Jerome's shirt, then turned and walked away. He stood, watching her go. She could be bitter with him. She could be cold and biting, because he was bitter too. He could be her rock who wouldn't fight back, who never made fun of her vulnerability. And she would let him silently pretend to protect her. There was some sick symbiosis there. He knew they couldn't go on using each other, manipulating each other for much longer, but for now he could hang on.

He pulled the note out of his pocket, its creases nearly worn through from multiple readings. The letters were neat and round, written in pink. He'd long ago committed the few words to memory. No one could find out. Jerome tore up the bit of paper, scattering the remnants into the evening breeze, and slowly retraced Amber's path back to the house.

I need your help.
Tell no one.

A/N: Kind of drabbly and awkward. Please write a review if you feel so inclined. I enjoy receiving any suggestions, concrit, or insights you may have about my writing. Thank you for taking the time. Sincerely, the Pufflehuff
Update 1/30/2012: Do to some interest shown, I am considering converting this to a multi-chap. It would probably continue to be brief, somewhat drabbly installations, just more of them, and all strung together. If you have strong feelings on this either way, please let me know via review or PM. Thank you.