Disclaimer: Blah blah blah I don't own any of these people.
Thanks to orangeisthenewblue on Tumblr for the prompt. And thanks to everyone there who answered my questions about British schools. I really appreciate it! And also thanks to everyone who's reviewed/followed/favorited these stories here.
The site won't accept the title as it should be, which is A*, an exam result equivalent to A+ in the US.
"All right, let's see it," Archie said when Rae sat down next to him. "What've you got?"
"You mean other than the paralysing anxiety and a sudden urge to vomit?" Rae clutched her knapsack on her lap like a shield.
"Yes, other than that. Come on, let's see your timetable." Archie wiggled his fingers and she shoved the schedule at him, eyes averted, as if not seeing it would deny its existence. He studied the paper for a moment, then said, "That's not bad. You'll want to watch out for Waugh—he doesn't stand for lateness, so be sure you arrive on time. And if Cutler offers you a bet, she's serious, and she'll pay up if she loses."
Rae stared at him like he'd grown a second head. "A bet about something related to the lesson, and not for money, obviously. She likes sweets," he added. Somehow that didn't help Rae feel better. She slumped forward and buried her head in her bag.
"I'm not goin'," she declared, though it was muffled enough that Archie hardly caught it. "I'm 16; I don't have to go. I could leave school."
"You could get a job at the chippy," he suggested, sarcasm not hidden by the brightness of his tone. "Or Argos." She groaned, loudly and melodramatically as always, so Archie decided to employ some tough love. He leaned forward until his head was nearly level with hers and said, "Listen, Rae. Do you want to live in Stamford for the rest of your life?"
In answer she turned her head and gave him a look that, though half hidden by her bag, could have peeled paint off a wall. "Please, tell me all about how important my education is," she growled. "I haven't heard that enough recently."
"Your mum?" he asked sympathetically as she heaved herself back into an upright position.
"And my therapist. I tried to get him to write me a note excusing me from the first month, but he wouldn't." She sounded slightly less disgusted now, which Archie took as a step in the right direction.
"I can't imagine why not."
Rae tipped her head onto his shoulder heavily. "Archie," she whined, "tell me it won't be terrible."
"It won't be terrible. You'll make loads of new friends, because you're brilliant, but even if you somehow don't, you'll have lessons with Chloe and Izzy, and Finn and I will see you in the common room. We'll have lunch together, and you and Finn will sneak away to snog and the rest of us will pretend not to notice how long you've been gone." Rae poked Archie in the ribs and he chuckled before going on. "Chloe will find a boyfriend within the first month—"
"First week," Rae muttered. It was Archie's turn to poke her, in the leg.
"First two weeks," he compromised, "and when they end it we'll all comfort her as best we can, but she'll want her oldest friend most especially. Boys will fall in love with Izzy but she won't notice until one of them actually tries it on with her, and she'll hate herself for thinking she led him on. Finn will spend lessons staring into space, like he always does, except this time I'll know it's not because he's bored to death of the lecture but because he's thinking of you." Rae turned her face into his shoulder, and even without looking Archie knew she had a pleased smile on her face. He rested his cheek against the top of her head briefly.
"We'll get in stupid fights; you and Chloe will scream at each other and not talk for days, but you'll make up eventually, every time. Chop will talk us into another sexy party. I'll stress over exams and applications for universities and I'll help you revise, and you'll listen when some bastard breaks my heart."
She lifted her head and said his name softly; he gave her a half-smile in return.
"It's just high school, Rae, not the end of the world. And even on the worst days it won't be unbearable, because we'll be together."
She looked at him for a moment and he stared back, watching her think, seeing his words settle in. She'd be fine. Even if she didn't believe it right now, she had to know that he believed it. "Thank you, Archie," she said.
"You're welcome," he answered gently. Then he straightened his glasses and added, "Besides, as Confucius said…"
He was cut off by her groan and a good thump to his arm. Ah, well. Full marks for effort at least.