"You're a bit awkward among lots of people, aren't you?" Joni points out. "So are you," he replies, "especially when things don't go your way."


"You're a bit awkward among lots of people, aren't you?" Joni points out.

Santiago raises an eyebrow. He doesn't really need to take this from Joni. After all, he's the one who usually bails her out. Of potentially dangerous and life-threatening situations, if they were being exact. There has never been a moment where she's had to bail him out… until now. And it wasn't even for some important, life-threatening occasion. It was just that a girl from his English class asked to dance with him during the Halloween Fest. He shook his head, thanked her, and stalked off to where Joni, Owen and Leslie were standing by the punch table. The girl – fine, she was a very pretty, popular girl – looked stricken and burst into tears. It was then that Joni (who'd dragged Leslie along – presumably for back-up, although the reason eluded Santiago) marched towards the girl and talked to her so that she quieted down in a minute, while Owen just raised an eyebrow at him, said, "Dude, that was just cruel."

That made no sense to Santiago, who was about to ask what Owen meant by that cryptic remark, when Joni strode back (Leslie still in tow), and said, "Okay Santiago, we need to talk," before dragging him off to a secluded corner of the gym hall, where the dance was being held. (Santiago was rather taken aback by the turn of events and so did not protest much).

And that led to this moment. The confused Santiago simply stared at the redhead in front of him. "So are you," he finally replies, "especially when things don't go your way."

Joni seems taken aback. "What do you mean, when things don't go my way? Things always go my way. Most of the time." Santiago continues to stare hard at Joni, who sighs. "Some of the time." A pause. "Oh, come on, Santiago, things usually work out for me, and you know it, and the times they didn't I still managed to make it work out in the end, so we were all fine."

"With Leslie and me helping you!" Santiago points out. His voice comes out a little louder than he expected, and he is half-expecting Joni to fight him on this.

Surprisingly, though, a small smile curves around Joni's lips. "Well, yeah. And Owen too."

"Owen was just as much trouble as you were, all emotions and expecting things to work out," Santiago mumbles.

"Oh, I didn't realize that we were so much of a burden," Joni rolls her eyes. "Accept my belated apologies, trust me. From now on, I will defer to your better judgment at all times."

"And now you're just making fun of me," Santiago says, somewhat annoyed.

"Are you pouting?" Before Santiago could deny anything, she approaches him, and looks closely at him (tiptoeing, since he is much taller than she is). "You are!" And Joni bursts into giggles, which is very unlike her, leaving Santiago momentarily confused.

"Seriously, Joni, giggling? Did aliens take over your body?" Santiago raises an eyebrow at her out-of-character moment, which shuts her up fairly quickly.

"Not funny, Santiago," Joni crosses her arms and frowns at him, and Santiago realizes she is probably remembering the times when the ClueFinders had gone up against the aliens back when they were still actively searching for adventures and whatnot. He gives her a sheepish smile and a shrug of his shoulders as a means of apology, and she nods. Apology accepted. "Anyway, you probably know what we're supposed to be talking about."

"I am?" Santiago cocks his head to the left in askance. "What are we supposed to talk about?"

Behind her framed glasses, an eyebrow rises incredulously. "Come on, Santiago, Lily Minamoto was really hurt by the way you blew her off."

"I wasn't rude to her at all, Joni," Santiago says patiently. He can't believe that he's being lectured about being rude by Joni, of all people. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

"Well, no, you weren't. But she was hurt anyway. You could have been gentler in your rejection, instead of turning away from her."

"I thanked her for asking me to dance with her. I didn't make fun of her."

Joni shrugs. "Lily is sweet and understanding, Santiago, but she's really sensitive."

"I'll go and apologize to her then," Santiago sighs. This is an awkward conversation for him, especially since he's always figured it should be the other way around, and says as much to Joni, who laughs.

"What makes you think I haven't made any of the guys cry yet?" She says, grinning.

Santiago raises an eyebrow. "Because none of them are?" and it sounds more like another question than an answer. "Unless… they are 'macho men' and don't cry in public. Say, Joni, how many people have asked you to dance so far? Since, you know, I got here last and missed out on everything that happened before this."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Santiago," she says, with an imperious tilt of her head. "All I know is that since I'm a girl, guys wouldn't dare cry in public."

"Oh yes, I'm sure they won't. But I'll bet they're just crying inside."

Joni shrugs and fiddles with the hem of her purple, knee-length dress. She's the only girl who's probably underdressed for this event, since she's wearing a knee-length purple dress, with a white cardigan and flats, and no accessories. Her hair's in a French braid. She pretty much looks the same as she always does, really. It's a while before he registers her answer. "Maybe they're afraid of me crying along with them. Who'd want pity tears?"

Santiago shoots her a dirty look. "So, you probably were worse and more stand-offish and yet you're giving me the lecture?" He exhales loudly. "You do know there's obviously a double standard here."

"Oh, come on, Santiago," Joni says, somewhat patronizingly as she takes his arm. "You're supposed to be a gentleman. Give a lady some prerogative, won't you?"

He raises an eyebrow. "Are you going to apologize for making all the guys who asked you to dance feel like they've hit rock bottom?"

"Must I? And I thought the coquette behaviour was in?" Joni inquires innocently, but he knows she's playing dumb.

"You're the farthest thing from a coquette, Joni, and you know it."

Joni groans. "I had to be cruel to be kind to myself, Santiago. I don't want to spend the rest of the dance being hassled by jerks trying to dance with me while copping a feel. I'd go all axe-crazy on them."

"Hey, if that happens, you totally have my blessing to karate chop their ass."

Joni raises an eyebrow. "Yeah, somehow I don't think that's appropriate behaviour for a Student Council president. Also, I really don't need your blessing, Santiago. I can make decisions for myself."

"And we all know how well your decisions turn out, don't we?" Santiago grins in a rare, mischievous moment, which earns him a nudge from Joni. (Both of them know that sometimes Joni jumps before she looks. Sometimes it turns out all right, but sometimes it does land them in a pickle.)

"In all seriousness, though, Joni," he continues, "if you keep on refusing to dance with the guys, you're the one who's probably missing out. Aren't high school dances typical times to hook up with someone you're interested in?"

Joni gives him a strange look, before her expression changes and a strange, unsettling smile (the one which tells him she knows something he doesn't and that something's happened but he's not sure what exactly but she's perfectly aware) plays on the corners of her lips. "Well, I think I can miss that for now. Que sera sera and all that. If it hasn't happened before, there's no reason why it should happen now, and no reason why it can't wait for another day. For now, let's just hang out with Owen and Leslie and chill."

Her answer is strange, in Santiago's opinion, but he follows along. As they make their way back, Joni revises her original statement. "I guess you're just awkward around girls who are interested in you, Santiago."

Not this again, he inwardly groans. "Maybe it's just when the wrong girls are around me," he blurts out, and then when he feels Joni stiffening on his arm, he realizes that he must have implied that Joni was interested in him, and that he wouldn't mind if she was. Well, this could be applied to Leslie as well, he supposed, but it wasn't Leslie whose arm was linked with his...

There was only a second of awkwardness, and Santiago was inwardly debating whether he should elucidate what he meant or just shut up before he made things more awkward, but thankfully Joni laughed and defused the situation. "No, Santiago, stick to your gadgets; they're probably easier for you to understand than human girls," she said, as she gave his hand a friendly squeeze with her free hand.

They were close to Leslie and Owen now, so they dropped the subject, but Santiago couldn't help feeling that something had changed. It is an imperceptible change, and he couldn't decide whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.

He is inclined to think it is a good thing, when Joni – who ended up dancing with Owen a bit later – smiles at him as she twirls on the dance floor, while Owen rocks the dance floor with some… interesting … dance moves, and he and Leslie just sway a bit to the sound of the music.


Don't know why I'm spamming the CF fanfic site with my fanfics. Please bear with me! XD