Disclaimer: All of the characters belong not to me but to Rae Earl and E4. And come on: you know what song the title comes from.

Prompted by orangeisthenewblue on Tumblr and originally posted there.


He knew Chop was friendlier and Archie was cleverer, but he was (according to more than one girl) fitter than either of them, and that had to count for something, hadn't it? It was an accepted fact that he was mint. He was quiet and, apparently, mysterious, which was supposed to interest girls. It'd got him plenty of attention up 'til now. So why wasn't she interested?

She tried to hide it, but he heard the little gasp when Archie shifted to sit by her. Her eyes were bright and hopeful as she watched him, and she smiled quickly. It annoyed him, that smile, that light, that indrawn breath, and he didn't know why. She was allowed to fancy whoever she wanted. Archie was allowed to snog whoever he wanted. It was nothing to do with him. That thought stuck in his mind, grating, rubbing raw until he hitched his shoulders to try to make it stop.

She didn't make anything easy for him. He knew where he stood with other girls: they smiled coyly and flipped their hair, leaned in too close and whispered in flirtatious tones. They laughed at his terse attempts at humour and touched his arm and tried to draw his attention to their lips. Where other girls offered, willing and agreeable, she demanded. She stole his 20p and didn't even do him the favour of picking a crap song, didn't give him the opportunity to condescend. Sabotage felt like what she was doing to his life. She was impossible to ignore; it was impossible not to react to her.

The worst of it was the clawing in his gut when he saw Archie. They were friends—Chop was his best mate, but Archie was cool, for all that he was a bit of a swot. There was no good reason to be angry with Archie, or for the lurking feeling he refused to name; all he knew was that before she'd come round he'd never felt the urge to punch Archie in the face, to break his glasses and bloody his nose.

He knew that Chop didn't feel it. It was clear enough that Chop liked her, though he thought of her as a nothing more than a mate. Besides, he was so gone on Izzy that he was no threat. Threat to what? part of him asked, and he couldn't (wouldn't) answer. And yet he still felt the clawing when she joked with Chop.

He hoped the feeling tearing up his insides would go away. He hoped this was a fight he could win, that he could unclench his fists and go back to apathy. Because it got worse, much worse, scrabbling higher into his throat until he had to swallow it down with lungfuls of smoke or mouthfuls of ale, whenever she smiled at Archie, hugged him, laughed with him, asked after him, had important, private conversations with him. But it got better when he made her smile at his (entirely selfless and impartial) suggestion of violence against Archie; and when she tried to start a conversation with him the clawing loosened and uncoiled and became instead a more pleasant writhing, though he pushed it and her away all the same.

By the time he realised what it meant, him and his bruised knuckles and his empty arms, it was already too late.