Layla sat her tray down on the table in front of him and he raised his eyes to her in shock.
"Hi, Warren," she said as she seated herself across from him.
"Did I do or say anything last night to make you think this is okay?" he asked, trying to deter her away from him. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he watched her swish around the lettece in her salad.
"Ha ha, you're so funny, but seriously, you're never gonna believe what happened. I was just about to ask Will to Homecoming when, wouldn't you know it, I told him I was going with you, instead." His eyes narrowed and he leaned forward.
"I don't remember that being the plan."
Both teenagers were distracted from their conversation when Magenta sat down on Layla's right.
"Hey, Layla, you do the History homework?" she asked.
"What do you think you're doing?" Warren complained.
"It's called sitting," she replied.
"No one sits here, but me."
"Mm-hm." Magenta turned back to Layla. "What'd you get for number four? I wasn't sure if Tiger-Man was 'A' bitten by a radioactive tiger, or 'B' bitten by a regular tiger and then exposed to radiation." He leaned back in his seat, amazed neither of them had run off yet. A boy in an orange shirt that kind of reminded Warren of what his father had been wearing the last time he'd visited him in jail sat to his right.
"Hey. We're eating at Warren's table, now? I feel extremely dangerous."
"Woah. Woah," Warren started. He'd been able to deal with the two girls, mostly because they weren't interacting with him, but this?
"This guy bothering you, Magenta?" Warren turned to his other side and glared at the skinny kid next to him. He looked almost like an albino.
"Try the other way around," he snarled. "Does anyone else need a date for Homecoming?" He stared at the table in defeat. The orange kid raised his hand. Then, Layla started laughing hysterically. He looked up at her in shock. She was watching Stronghold pass their table with that preppy chick he'd seen around.
"Warren, you are cra-zy," she said, splitting the word into two. He shook his head as if to say 'what is wrong with you people'. "Please. I promise I'll make this as painless as possible." Stronghold turned to look at them. Warren smiled at him.
"So, you're not doing this just 'cause you like me or anything? You're doing this to get to Stronghold."
He smiled. "Then I'm in. But I'm not renting a tux." She nodded in agreement. He looked over her shoulder and noticed Will was still watching them from across the room. He smirked as he thought.
"Thank you," she said.
He stood up a little and leaned over the table towards Layla. She looked at him, questioning. "He's watching."
Before she had time to react or look behind her, Warren pressed his lips to hers in a quick, chaste kiss. It was over before Layla realized what had happened.
"See ya," he said, swinging his bag over his should and purposefully hitting Zach with it. She stared after him, confused. Zach rubbed his shoulder and rolled it around. Magenta turned to her.
"Did he just—"
"I—I think so."
Layla didn't see Warren for the rest of the day, which she thought was a good thing. She didn't know how to deal with him after what he'd done in the cafeteria. Had he kissed her just because Will was looking or was it because he felt he was obligated to, now that they were pretending to date. She thought about it as she walked around her block. Fresh air was supposed to be good and she always felt calmer when she was around trees in the open.
She turned a corner and suddenly ran into someone.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, removing herself from the other person.
"Layla?" a voice asked. She looked up into the brown eyes of Warren.
"Warren. Hi. What are you doing out here?" she asked. He gestured over his shoulder.
"I work here, remember?" She hadn't noticed she'd gone as far as the Paper Lantern.
"Yeah. Sorry. I'm just a little distracted."
"Yeah." They stood there awkwardly for a moment. "What are you doing out here?"
"Oh, I just wanted to take a walk. I always feel better after I do."
He grunted in understanding. "Do you want me to walk with you?"
"I don't mind," she said. They walked along in silence.
As they turned a corner, they could hear the obvious sounds of a loud party from further down the block. They glanced at each other and walked down the street, towards the noise. Immediately, Layla noticed the sounds were coming from Will's house. She stopped in front of it.
"What?" Warren asked.
"That's Will's house."
"Is it? I didn't think he would be the type to throw parties."
"He isn't. Or wasn't. His mom'll kill him. Most of the things in that house are more important to her than he is."
"Huh." They stood there for a minute. "Do you want to go in?"
"Can't hurt, can it?" He shrugged and made a noncommittal noise. They walked up the walk and slowly opened the front door. Both felt uncomfortable in the large crowd of heroes. They wandered around a little before Warren spotted Will and Gwen coming out of what looked like a closet. His nose wrinkled in disgust. Wait. He caught up with Layla and pulled her to him.
"Stronghold's just over there," he whispered in her ear. She turned to him and smiled.
He gave her time to pull away as he lowered his face towards hers, but her expression set into stern lines of concentration. When their mouths met this time, she was ready for it. But not ready enough, it seemed. His lips were so warm against hers. Probably from the fire, she thought. Her left hand reached down to grab his. He forced his hand to cup her jaw, seemingly in compassion, but, in reality, trying to keep her from pulling away. After a moment, she felt uncomfortable with the closeness and detached herself from him.
"I'm getting some water," she said, already backing away. He nodded. Gwen was making her way over to him.
While she was at the sink filling up her cup, Will came up behind her.
"Layla! You're here!"
"Yeah. Warren and I just got here. Aren't your parents going to be angry with you for this?" she asked.
"Probably, but I can get everyone out before they get home. Besides, it means I get to spend more time with Gwen. Just now, we were down in the—"
But Layla didn't wait to listen to anything more. She'd seen Gwen running her hand up and down Warren's arm, obviously trying to get his attention, but his eyes were on Layla. She could see Gwen's mouth moving quickly and she wondered what she was saying.
"Yeah, that's great, but I gotta go. I'll talk to you later." She practically shoved her way through the crowd to get back to Warren. She left her drink, forgotten, on the kitchen counter in her haste. When she got to the two of them, she tugged on Warren's arm, trying to pull him away.
"Can we leave? I don't like it here," she said.
"Sure." He allowed her to lead him, not even bothering to say goodbye to anyone on their way out. Once they were outside again, Layla let out a breath she hadn't known she was holding.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yes. No. I don't know. What was Gwen saying to you?"
"I don't really know. Something about how Will knows we're just pretending to go out and how he knows you like him. She might have said it was pretty pathetic, but I wasn't really paying attention."
"Did she really say that?" She froze on the sidewalk.
"Nah. I was joking. Just thought it'd be funny."
"Don't do that! I was really worried." She started walking away from him.
"Oh, come on, Flower Girl. I was only joking." He jogged to catch up with her.