Author's Note: I recently re-discovered Ned's Declassified on Netflix and rewatched the entire series, giving me so many ideas for fanfiction that I had to get at least one out of my system. I might post more to this story, hopefully if there's a lot of interest in seeing it continued.
Note of warning: I write a lot of fanfiction for childrens' shows but I have a tendency to take them in dark directions. I like to think I maintain a bit of the spirit of the show, however. Therefore, this story earns a tentative "T" rating with the possibility of being bumped to "M" depending on how certain scenes play out. Ned and the gang are in high school now kiddies, and, while it starts freshman year it will carry on throughout the entirety of high school, and they will be facing some adult situations like alchohol, sex, and drugs.
Summary: High school brings big changes for Ned and the gang, some of which they aren't so sure they can survive, and the biggest of which might end Ned and Moze's fairytale romance forever.
Tip: High school changes everything, so be prepared for anything.
Moze rinsed her breakfast dish for the umpteenth time that morning before dumping more soap into the bright blue Scotch-brite sponge in her right hand and scrubbing it methodically once more. She looked entranced, watching the soap-suds build up on the glossy glass plate then drip into the sink, swirling down the drain with a rush of tap water thundering from the faucet. She barely registered her mother entering the kitchen and tentatively saying a 'good-morning, sweetheart'.
Only when her cellphone, sitting aside on the kitchen counter, vibrated and whistled a low-quality techno ringtone, did Moze finally put the dish down and shut off the water. She dried her hands on a hand towel draped from a hook over the sink, then flipped the phone open, smiling absently at the goofily grinning image of her caller on its LCD screen, and clicked 'answer'.
"Hey, Ned," she mumbled greeting.
"Morning, Moze," came the familiar chipper response.
Although there was an immediate comfort in hearing Ned's voice, Moze gave an involuntary inward flinch at his jubilance.
"Are you excited for today?" Ned asked.
Moze worried her bottom lip, flickered a quick glance at her mother pouring a bowel of bran flakes, and then quietly stammered, "Uh...sure…first day of high school. Totally amped."
There was a long pause on the other end of the line and Moze felt her heart seize. She closed her eyes and placed a hand on the counter for support. Ned knows something is wrong, she panicked as a pained expression flitted across her features, and now he's going to ask me about it and I have no idea how to tell him.
"Yeah…no…I mean, yes. First day of high school. Right. That was what I was talking about. That and…uh…nothing else," Ned fumbled response, and then chuckling nervously, he questioned, "So…um…I was calling because, well, the bus is going to be here in about three minutes and I'm at the stop and you're not and I was just wondering…where are you?"
"Oh, son of a snapping turtle," Moze cursed, jumping a glance up at the overhead wall clock, its face confirming Ned's words. She was late. She hurried Ned off the phone, hissing, "I'll be there in a few," and hung up before hearing his response. She winced and mentally vowed to make it up to Ned later.
Moze darted out of the kitchen, fumbling to pull her sneakers on, her backpack already waiting by the door. She heard her mother's footfalls trailing behind her but choose to concentrate on tying her shoe laces, not so much as looking at her mother entering the foyer.
Moze's mother cleared her throat and carefully began, "Jennifer, sweetheart, about what we discussed last night-"
"Don't have time for that now, mom, I'm about to miss the bus," Moze snapped. Her mother fell silent and Moze peeked up at her. She was leaning against the wall, a cup of tea balanced on a palm, fingers of the opposite hand laced around the cup's dainty handle. She looked tired, hair still in curlers, light evidence of bags beneath her doe-brown eyes.
"Maybe you should stay home today…" her mother suggested.
"It's the first day," Moze muttered, agitated.
"Yes…but…given circumstances…" her mother responded, distantly noting, "Jen, it doesn't really matter-"
"It matters to me," Moze finished lacing her shoes and stood abruptly, strutting to the door and swinging her bag over her shoulder.
"Well…wait…stay a moment. I'll drive you. There are some things I want to talk-"
Moze spun round on heel and locked dark eyes with her mother.
"There's nothing else to talk about after last night," she growled. She put a hand to the doorknob and gave it a hard twist, dropping her eyes to the floor and turning her head from her mother, "Now, if you don't mind," she could hear the quiver in her own voice, cracking slightly as she spoke his name, "Ned is waiting for me."
With that, Moze hastily exited the house and let the door click quietly shut behind her.
Moze barely reached the stop in time, catching the bus door before it swung fully shut. She clambered on and found Ned in the back saving her a seat with his backpack. She moved quickly down the aisle and he slipped his bag under the chair, sliding over so she could take a seat.
As soon as Moze's shimmering brown eyes found Ned's soft blue ones, and she felt the warmth of his shoulder pressed against her own, relief washed over Moze in droves and a smile easily replaced her morning's troubled expression.
"Hey," they greeted as one, causing their smiles to broaden. Their palms automatically slid together, fingers twining. Their faces inched towards one another, lips pining – lusting – for just one touch. Then, when they were close enough Moze could feel the heat of Ned's breath on her bottom lip, the bus kicked to life, slamming them both into the rock-hard, high back of their shared brown seat.
They laughed, their bodies jerking forward with less force when the bus driver settled into a steady speed, and rubbed the new sore spots, ears ringing, then Ned brushed a chaste kiss along Moze's jaw-line and all the blood instantly rushed to her head, making it feel light, so she lay it against his shoulder and sighed, reveling in the perfection of that one, simple moment.
Moze closed her eyes and lingered on happy thoughts. A year ago, if someone were to ask if she could see herself dating Ned Bigby, she would've laughed in their face. Ned had been her best friend since forever; they had been born and raised in houses that were right next to one another, they'd often shared a playpen as infants. They'd seen each other through every up and down, every trial and tribulation, from childhood to adulthood. They knew each other's secrets, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. A stronger friendship had never been forged, but that, as they'd both adamantly sworn time and again since hormones had started raging in the fourth grade, was all they were, 'just friends', and at the time, the idea of becoming anything more was enough to send them both running for the hills.
Ned readjusted himself slightly, settling against the back of their seat and Moze smiled, a smile of genuine content, when she felt the pressure of his head rest atop her own.
In first grade, Ned had been the first to call Moze, "Moze", in order to differentiate her from the other three Jennifers in their class. The endearing nickname was a play on her surname, Mosely, and it, standing out like a signal to the world that – at least to him – Jennifer Mosely was unique amongst all Jennifers, had stuck throughout the years. And even though a handful of others still referred to her as such, now whenever he spoke her nickname, it felt like it carried a different and deeper meaning: she wasn't just a Jennifer, she was his Jennifer.
"Hey, Moze?" Ned whispered, stirring Moze from her ruminations.
"Hm?" she hummed response.
"Why were you so late this morning?" he questioned, and then feeling her tense against him, hastily added, probably to keep from sounding like the anxious boyfriend, "I just thought we'd agreed to meet at the stop early and go over our 'New Semester Lists'."
Moze squeezed her eyes more tightly shut, feeling the happy thoughts she'd been sorting through moments before flickering like candle flames and snuffing out in streams of gray-black smoke. Briefly, she tightened her grip on Ned's hand, and then she released it, straightening out their fingers and lining up their hands, lifting them slightly as her eyes cracked open, staring at their hands juxtaposed against one another. It was amazing how many years could go by before a person noticed how naturally her hand fit inside that of her best and closest friend.
Sometimes Moze felt that in that small physical contact she could sense everything about Ned, his emotions, his thoughts, sizzling through her like electric signals jolting across nerve endings in their fingertips.
Moze slid her fingers through his once more, dropping their hands atop her thigh, liking the weight of it. She could feel Ned's eyes on her, studying her, reading her like a book written in a language only a best friend could understand.
"Dishes," she lied through clenched teeth, "I was doing dishes."
Ned said nothing. Moze lifted her head slightly, looking up at him through lashes and loose brown strands of hair that had slipped out from behind her shoulder and formed a veil over her face. He knew she was lying, she could tell by his expression, and he was obviously confused by it – they rarely lied to one another, it was too hard when the other person could always tell – but she hurried to a new subject before he could prod further.
"So…did you come up with any good tips for the first day of high school?"
In kindergarten, after an unfortunate accident found him in the girls' bathroom and humiliated for life, Ned began a School Survival Guide using his own experiences to formulate tips for his fellow classmates at navigating the complicated world of academia. Most of his time was spent working on new tips for the guide, or dispensing those same tips to classmates. Because the guide was so important to him, it was always a surefire way to steer him off course in any conversation, and exactly as Moze hoped, Ned relaxed, smirking and shrugging good-naturedly.
"A few," he answered, "Mostly, I think the tips from first day sixth grade can be reapplied to high school. It can't be much different, right?"
Moze bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling. Ned could already sense something amiss; she didn't need to give him confirmation.
"It's going to be a lot different," she mumbled. Ned snorted softly, bemused, and pulled Moze closer to him.
"Well, yeah, obviously it'll be different… for us," he remarked, "But we're ready for it. Remember?"
Ready for it.
Moze nodded distantly, recollecting on the summer spent as Ned Bigby's official girlfriend. Hanging out nearly every minute of every day, chatting on the phone long hours into the night…actually, aside from the making out, long embraces, and hand holding, it was nothing out of the ordinary from every other previous summer. But the making out, long embraces, and hand holding had made the entire summer extraordinary and Moze had looked forward to testing their newfound romantic relationship out in the stressful halls of school. Her heart fluttered, and without thought, she lay a hand across her breast, furrowing her brow at a sudden sting in her eyes.
"Come on, Moze," Ned suddenly exclaimed, "You're so quiet. It's freaking me out! Where's your aggressive passion that I love so much…"
The bus hit a pothole and they both bounced up and Moze fell against Ned on the way down. Their eyes met and at that moment his words seemed to register: that I love so much... His eyes widened, his face paled.
"I mean…what I meant was…not to say that I love yo – oh, uh…not that…I don't…or that I do…or…like, I meant I like-"
"Oh will you just shut up," Moze interrupted Ned's hopeless scramble for a needless explanation. She relaxed against his slender chest, wrapping her arms around him, and pressed a firm, hot kiss to his mouth. He immediately settled into it, slipping his arm round her waist, pulling her closer. They'd gotten quite a lot of experience with this over the summer yet, surprisingly, it never seemed to get old.
People around them were making comments, hooting and hollering, but it wasn't until the bus jerked to a halt and the door opened with a loud 'WHOOSH', fellow students stampeding down the aisle to exit, that Ned and Moze broke apart, still somewhat dazed, and gazing dreamily into one another's eyes.
"Yeah," Ned spoke up, grinning boyishly, and sounding breathless, "I'd say we're ready."
Moze was certain she'd heard her heart shatter; she could definitely feel the shards ripping through her chest. She jerked away from Ned, spinning out to the aisle so that her back was to him, so that he couldn't see the tears forming in her eyes. No, no, no, she mentally berated herself, not like this, not right now, do not do this here.
"I gotta go," Moze suddenly shouted, keeping her voice terse so Ned wouldn't catch it waver, "To…er…the bathroom, before class. Now. Right now."
Moze bolted out of her seat, practically climbing over the students in front of her to jump off the bus and raced full-speed towards the school building, leaving a dazed and somewhat confused Ned behind on the bus.
Ned watched Moze sprint into the high school entrance from out an oil-smudged bus window pane. He couldn't understand how she'd still be so spry after that kiss, his legs felt like jell-o. He scowled at a few upperclassmen walking by, mocking him with comments like, "get a room", or "what a babe, why's she with you," and there was even one, "watch your back, Bigby" but that was from an old middle school bully, Billy Loomer, and Ned, still on cloud nine, couldn't be bothered to put any stock in that jerk's age-old threats.
When the bus was empty, the driver Mr. Kwest spun round in his seat and leveled an even warning glare on Ned, thickly matted blond strands of hair falling into his wizened face.
Ned smiled sheepishly in return.
"I…probably should…keep the…uh…PDAs to…um…a minimum?" he surmised.
Kwest nodded agreement.
"Not to say that I'm not thrilled you and the loud brunette have finally figured out your love for each other, but rules are rules, Ned," the kindly teacher explained, gesturing to said rules pinned on a giant board overhead. 'No Public Displays of Affection' was listed at number four under 'No food and drink', 'No pushing, shoving, hitting, or spitting', and 'Absolutely No spring coils strapped on your butt to allow maximum bounciness over potholes', and just above 'No Foul Language'.
"Yeah, I understa-" Ned did a double-take, his mouth unhinged a moment, "Er…uh…did you say…ulp…lo…? No, me, her…we're not ready for…it's too soon for…not to say that I don't…er or that I do…but…like, we like each other…a lot."
Kwest raised a brow and Ned slumped, grabbing his pack out from under the seat and, standing, slung it over his shoulder. He took a few hesitant steps towards the bus front and paused a seat behind Kwest. Ned glanced out the window at the high school, William H. Taft written across its front archway in bold black letters; the giant, foreign building seemed to loom over the parking lot. He tilted his head to peek at his old middle school, James K. Polk, across the street; warm, safe, familiar. Ned had every tip in the world ready, written, and at his fingertips for surviving middle school, but not a one for high school. It was literally a blank slate.
"Scared?" Kwest hazarded a guess. Ned swallowed hard.
"Maybe a teensy-weensy bit. Moze and I were supposed to walk in together but…" Ned trailed off, grimacing at how pathetic that admission sounded. Little Ned Bigby couldn't brave the halls of high school without his big, strong girlfriend to hold his hand.
"I understand. The first day of high school is very scary and it can be helpful to have a good friend – even better, a good girlfriend – with you for support," Kwest commented.
Ned grinned, nodding, lost in a swirl of thoughts and emotions, each lighter and fluffier than the last. It was the first day of a new school, high school, which meant he was older and more responsible, closer to adulthood. Adulthood meant more freedoms; like driving, and getting a part-time job. And, even better, this year he was starting the new semester with a girlfriend…and not just any girlfriend. Moze.
Thinking of Moze brought Ned's thoughts happily skipping back to summer. It had been amazing, walking down the street holding hands, snuggling in the movie theater, and kissing, kissing, and more kissing. Ah…kissing.
Ned was aware he was grinning goofily, but it didn't even occur to him to care. The fireworks that went off in his head got bigger and brighter every time he locked lips with his best friend. He was at a point where he couldn't even imagine what Moze and his relationship was like before he'd fallen in…lov-er, like, in like, with her.
Yeah, life couldn't get sweeter if Mat Hoffman walked up and handed Ned an autographed bike helmet.
"Too bad your girlfriend took off without you," Kwest pointed out, bringing Ned crash-landing back to earth.
"Yeah," Ned replied. He furrowed his brow, and added, "I don't know why she did that."
"You know, Ned, after all my years of experience with girls I've come to this realization: I know nothing about girls," Kwest responded, stroking his chin thoughtfully as he spoke, "I do, however, know this: high school changes everything."
Ned's eyes widened and his stomach dropped a few inches.
"Aren't you supposed to tell me that high school is no big deal and it's pretty much the same as middle school?" he demanded.
"But it is a big deal and it's not the same. Things are going to be a lot different."
Ned frowned, gripping his backpack straps and narrowing his eyes on the gangly bus driver.
"That's what Moze said," Ned noted, worry lining his usually cheerful features.
"And she was right," Kwest conceded, "Think about it, Ned. Last year, you were eighth graders, top of the food chain, veterans to the mystifying annals of education. This year, you're freshman, bottom of the food chain, and nothing more than wide-eyed, innocent, unsuspecting children."
Ned brightened a little, remarking, "That's not so different from fifth to sixth grade."
"Actually, it is," Kwest returned, "In the fifth to sixth grade transition, the only thing separating you from the top of the food chain – eighth grade – is age. In high school, there's a much more definitive line which separates the boys from the men."
Kwest locked eyes with Ned then gazed out the bus windshield into the vast student parking lot beyond. Ned followed his gaze.
"The car," they said in unison.
"In middle school, getting a girl and keeping her is like storming a kobold stronghold with a level twenty-five swordsman compared to high school," Kwest went on, and though the reference flew right over Ned's head, the meaning was all too clear, "Now you're competing with guys that can drive."
Kwest's eyes glossed over. He looked off in the distance, sniffled loudly, and let out a great sigh.
"My girlfriend left me for a guy with a car," he confessed, and then turning back to Ned, "And if you're not careful, you could lose your girlfriend to a guy with a car too."
"Moze isn't going to leave me for a guy with a car," Ned argued, though his small stutter suggested he wasn't entirely convinced, "She doesn't care about that kind of thing. And you saw that kiss, she's still completely interested in me. We're going to be fine and next year when I do have a driver's license; it won't even be a problem. Me and Moze are perfect, nothing could break us apart."
With that said, Ned marched from the bus towards the highschool. Moze and I are perfect together, he told himself, and I can survive high school…I can survive anything with my two best friends by my side.
Speaking of his two best friends, Ned furrowed his brow, where was Cookie?