Charlie McGuinness hummed tunelessly to himself as he clicked away at his computer, cutting together scraps of What's Up Warthogs! footage for a montage Eric wanted to play on the show next week. He heard the sound of the studio door opening and closing again, and glanced over his shoulder to see who was there. He grinned as Laney strolled in behind him.
"Hey you," she greeted with a wave. "What're you working on?"
Charlie gestured at the computer screen. "Just some editing for Eric. Nothing exciting."
Laney leaned over his shoulder to peer at the screen. "I'll never get the hang of that stuff," she admitted, surveying all of the icons and menus open on Charlie's computer. "I have to say, I'm always pretty impressed with the stuff you manage to do on here."
Charlie waved a hand. "Aww, it's nothing really," he answered, looking flattered.
"Sure it is," Laney told him as she pulled away and headed toward the table, where she'd left her clipboard earlier. "Skills are skills, and always cool."
Charlie began to respond, but was cut off as the door opened again.
"Wow Eric, when did you start getting so concerned about me? Because frankly it's a little weird!" Victoria was saying, sounding annoyed. Eric came in behind her, looking insulted.
"Honestly, Victoria, I would be starting to worry about anyone in your current position. The way Teddy goes after you was funny for a while, but you have to admit that it's getting creepy!" Eric threw his hands into the air.
Victoria turned and glared at him. "Would you just lay off it?" she demanded.
Laney and Charlie glanced at each other knowingly and rolled their eyes. They'd both known a long time what this was really about, but everything Eric and Victoria did became a fight.
"It's fiiiiiive already," Charlie moaned, spinning his chair toward Laney.
She didn't look up from her microscope. "I know, I know. But you know we can't leave them alone here. They'll kill each other."
Charlie heaved a sigh and looked over his shoulder at Eric and Victoria, who'd been fighting for two hours now. Charlie had been hoping to go home right after school and eat the cantaloupe sitting in the fridge, but at this rate, he didn't know if he'd ever get to leave.
"Seriously, Victoria, we've been doing this show for a year now! You'd think you would've figured out by now that my plans make the best show!" Eric was shouting.
"It won't have been a year until next week!" Victoria yelled back. "And besides that, your shows are awful!"
Charlie sighed again and looked back at Laney. "What're you doing there?" he asked.
This time she leaned back from the microscope, grinning. "Checking out some mold I found in the cafeteria. Wanna see?" she asked with some excitement.
"Yeah I wanna see," Charlie answered, face brightening. Laney moved slightly out of the way and let Charlie peer through the lens.
"Isn't it neat?" Laney asked brightly.
A huge, open-mouthed grin was spreading across Charlie's face. "That's so cool!" he agreed, looking back up at her. "What is it?"
Laney looked delighted. "You really want me to explain it?"
"Yeah!" Charlie nodded.
"I have to say I kind of agree with Eric," Laney admitted quietly to Charlie, leaning across the cafeteria table toward him.
Charlie nodded, glancing over to the opposite end of the long table where Eric and Victoria were shouting at each other from either side. Charlie and Laney had slid as far away from the arguing pair as they could get, hoping to spare their ear drums. "You know what I figure?"
A smile tugged at the corner of Laney's lips. "What?"
Charlie looked at her seriously. "Teddy's actually an alien prince, and he's chosen Victoria to be his human queen. As soon as he captures her, he'll take her back to his planet, claim his throne, and impregnate her with his alien-human hybrid babies! Then he'll send them to Earth to begin the alien takeover!"
Laney was caught somewhere between a cough and a laugh. "Charlie, that is disgusting. But..." She bit her tongue as a smile spread across her face against her will. "I guess you can never be too sure."
Charlie raised his eyebrows. "Takeover by alien-human hybrids is no laughing matter, Laney." He looked at her very seriously for a moment, then broke into a happy smile. "I do like when you laugh, though."
She shook her head, chuckling. Her smile died, though, when she saw Teddy approaching Victoria. Charlie followed her gaze, and his expression sobered.
"Victoria, my dear," Teddy started loudly, interrupting the argument. Taken aback, Victoria and Eric both fell silent and looked up at him. Laney noticed Eric tensing, and out of the corner of her eye, she could see his feet sliding towards Victoria's under the table.
"Why do you sit with these hooligans at lunch every day?" Teddy implored, looking wounded. "I do wish you would join me. My daddy's limousine is waiting to take me to this lovely restaurant downtown, and I would absolutely adore your company. I could treat you to a simply stunning meal. And the ride, of course, is always very private…" he looked at Victoria meaningfully.
Victoria seemed to be doing her best not to look ill. "You know, Teddy, I've already finished most of my lunch, so I don't think I have room today. I'll have to decline."
Teddy looked deeply hurt. "My darling, I long so for your embrace. I don't know what I'll do if you keep me waiting like this for much longer. Why, I might simply-"
"OKAY, well, we have some stuff to work out for the show," Eric said loudly, grabbing Victoria by the wrist and dragging her to her feet. "Nice seeing you, Teddy, bye!" Eric pulled Victoria away, heading in the direction of the studio. As he hauled her past their end of the table, Laney and Charlie heard him mutter, "Just try to tell me that wasn't creepy."
Charlie kicked Laney's toes under the table. "My theory doesn't seem so crazy now, does it?" he asked.
Laney frowned. "I dunno, but…" She looked back at Charlie, making a face. "Teddy definitely is getting creepier."
Charlie lifted his eyebrows and nodded. "Definitely."
Charlie lifted his head off the keyboard. "I can't do this anymore," he said earnestly. "I need to get out of here. I don't care if Eric and Victoria strangle each other. If I have to listen to this much longer, I'll strangle them both myself."
Laney looked at him sympathetically. "It's getting pretty ridiculous," she confessed. "Is there anything I can do for you, Charlie?"
"Come with me to get ice cream down the street?" he asked hopefully. "I'll buy."
She smiled. "That's sweet of you," she said. "I guess I could come along. But we'll have to come back and check on them when we're done."
"Anything for a break," Charlie agreed. "Did you know this is how trolls are created? Suffering through this much noise?" He opened the studio door for her as they hurried out.
"Charlie, this is the fourth school day in a row we've gone for ice cream. I think we might be overdoing it," Laney said as they walked back toward the school, cones in hand.
"I'm afraid you're mistaken," Charlie corrected her. "No such thing as too much ice cream. Besides, it gets us away from Eric and Victoria's noise…"
"True," Laney admitted. "They've been getting worse and worse this last week or so."
"It's because the show's anniversary is on Thursday," Charlie reminded her. "They both want it to be really impressive, but they've got their own ideas…" He made a face.
"I guess so," Laney agreed. "It's only three days away. What do you think we should do for the big show?"
Charlie looked at her seriously. "That depends on whether or not I've become a troll by Thursday."
Laney giggled. Charlie broke into a broad grin as he watched her face. "Wow, you sure are cute when you laugh like that," he told her with a smile.
Laney looked up at him, surprised. "Really?"
"Would I say it if it wasn't true?" Charlie asked.
Laney smiled. "Aww, thank you, Charlie! When did you get so sweet?"
He returned her smile. "I dunno," he answered.
"Why am I even awake?" Charlie asked, rubbing his hands up and down his face.
Laney smiled. "Because today's the big day, and those two wanted us here early to make sure everything goes perfectly." With her pen, she pointed at Eric and Victoria, who sat at their news desk, silently staring at one another. Eric's chair creaked as he leaned back and crossed his arms.
Charlie watched them for a moment, raising his eyebrows. "I have a bad feeling about this," he said simply.
Laney shot him a concerned but hopeful smile. "It should go well. I sat them down and wrote out a big plan for an equal compromise, and I made them both sign it."
Charlie shook his head. "The things you can do amaze me, Laney."
She looked flattered. "You ought to stop all this nonsense. Besides, you're quite wonderful yourself, you know."
He smiled sheepishly. "Well thanks! But it's not nonsense, you know."
"And that… is what's up, warthogs." Eric and Victoria smiled brightly for the camera.
"Aaaand… we're done," Laney said brightly.
Eric jumped out of his chair and whooped. "That was the awesomest show we have ever done! Charlie, man, that video montage you did was great!"
Charlie grinned. "Well thank you! I'm pretty proud of it!"
"It was pretty awesome, I must admit!" Victoria was agreeing. "You guys all did a fantastic job. Even you, Eric!"
He turned to her with a triumphant grin. "Oh, it could've been better, if we'd done it my way, but you know… it wasn't half bad."
"The awesomest ever, I believe you said," she answered smugly.
"Well," Eric began, "my parts were, at least. You could've been a bit more polished, and a bit more interesting, but…"
"I could've been more polished?" Victoria demanded, sounding annoyed.
Charlie and Laney rolled their eyes and retreated to the far side of the room. They turned to each other and grinned.
"I am honestly amazed by your work, Laney," Charlie told her. "I think that show today was the longest Eric and Victoria have ever gotten along in one streak. And your science trivia segment was pretty awesome."
She looked almost embarrassed. "Well, it wouldn't have looked like much without your great editing. Actually, that goes for the whole show. And," she confessed, "honestly, I found your piece on local squirrel activity rather fascinating. You're a very thorough researcher." She smiled.
Charlie smiled broadly. "Aw, really?"
"Oh yes," she affirmed with a nod.
"Awww," he said again, flattered. "I love you, Laney."
She started. "You what?" she asked, adjusting her glasses as if she wasn't seeing him properly.
His smile began to disappear. "I love you, Laney?" he repeated, giving her a baffled look.
"What?" she repeated. "Since when?"
Charlie looked surprised. "I dunno, since a while ago…? I thought you knew," he said.
"How would I know?" she managed, completely taken aback.
He shrugged. "I thought you knew everything, I guess. I mean, you at least know me pretty well."
For a moment Laney was at a loss for words. Then she stammered, "But, but, I'm two years younger than you. Actually, almost three years younger than you, now that I think about it. Because, because your birthday is in February, and mine isn't until September, which I guess actually makes me-" She looked up into Charlie's broadening grin and trailed off, having lost her train of thought. "Um."
"You're cute," he commented simply.
She began to smile shyly. "So're you," she answered.
"Cool." Grinning widely, Charlie offered her his hand. Timidly, she took it.
They looked back up at Eric and Victoria, who were by this point yelling in each other's faces. Laney sighed, and she and Charlie went toward the fighting co-hosts.
"Guys, calm down. Jeez. I think we managed a pretty good compromise," Laney told them. "And you guys were great on camera. Didn't even argue."
Victoria and Eric turned their heads to look at her, both opening their mouths to respond. Before either could say a word, though, they noticed Charlie's and Laney's laced fingers. Frowning, they glanced back and forth between the two. Laney blushed, and Charlie just smiled obliviously.
"Hang on," Eric began, looking confused.
"When did this start?" Victoria asked, equally perplexed.
Laney smiled coyly. "While you guys were all wrapped up in each other, I guess," she answered. They exchanged a confused glance.
Laney began to pull Charlie towards the door. As he passed Eric and Victoria, he leaned toward them and hissed, "Did you guys notice how close your faces are?" He gave them a wide-eyed, serious look.
As Laney pulled Charlie out of the studio and the door swung shut behind them, Eric and Victoria looked up at each other again. There were only centimetres between them.
A/N: I've edited this to break up the scenes better. I think I've fixed it all. Sorry guys - I didn't know my original formatting had been lost in the document upload.