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Alice stood at the bottom of the stairs at the front entrance of the school. Her luggage, basically her only possessions, sat on the first step. Moving to Arcadia Bay was a big move for her. This school was definitely bigger than her last. She just wished her parents could be here to see her now. It was always the plan for them to move here after her older brother moved out. She smiled softly and let the last of the summer wind blow through her silvery hair. She was glad her parents let her express herself. She would do her best to make them proud. Her back pocket vibrated and she lifted it out to see her older brother's face glaring up at her, taking up the whole screen. She answered the call with a sigh.

"You jerk. When did you change your photo on my phone?" She snapped. Laughter flooded her ear so she pulled away a bit before hearing him speak.

"You make it too easy, bullet," Wesley's voice came through, "Leave it like that. Maybe if I call again, someone else will see and be intimidated."

Alice groaned, "No! Send me a nice photo or I'll change your photo to a naked mole rat again."

"Ah fine. So where are you now? Did you make it okay? Are you settled in? Do you have a boyfriend yet? Don't say yes or I'll fly over there to intimidate them in person." Wesley rambled. Alice rolled her eyes. No matter where she was, he was still watching over her. Even more so now that their parents were gone. Of course, she was glad to have him as a brother. He always made a point to make her feel like they were actually related. His birth was difficult and the doctors told her parents that a second child was not possible, so they opted for adoption. Even so, she couldn't help but think that they were meant to be her family in the end.

"I just got here Wes. Relax. I'm waiting for the principal. Don't even know where my room is, and tell you what, the minute I decide I like someone, I'll marry them without you and it won't matter if you try to scare them off."

"Fine fine. I'll back off. You'll be okay then?"

"I'm sure. I'll send you pictures once I'm settled in and I'll wander the town." She giggled.

"Great! So, I need a favour." He lowered his voice. "We have a bet going around on what gender the baby is. I know you know, so tell me!"

Alice groaned. "Wes, Jen's going to kill you if she finds out you're gambling on your child."

"It's not gambling if I already know the outcome. . . you just have to tell me what that is! Look, how about you tell me, and I give you my share of the winnings? Eh? Eh? What do you say, bullet?"

Alice paused for a moment, contemplating his answer. She would like the money just in case she needed it. She shook her head. Jen had only recently found out about Alice's ability and agreed with her that it was best not to take advantage of knowing the future. Jen also knew that the moment Alice had touched her belly, she knew by the excited look on her face. She had to beg Alice not to tell her or her husband. So as far as everyone knew, the only person who knew the gender was the doctor. Despite her temptation, she decided to respect Jen's wishes and kept the gender to herself. That said, her sister in law had no qualms about being told that the baby would be perfectly healthy.

"Jen will know if I tell you. Back off." She warned. Wesley groaned.

They line went silent for a few moments before he spoke again.

"Are you sure you're gonna be okay by yourself?"

Alice grinned. "Of course Wes, I'm a big girl."

Wesley didn't say anything.

"Wes?"

"You don't have to be alone. I can come-"

Alice laughed "Wes, I promise! I can do this. I'm not going to come crying to you the minute things get hard. We agreed that if this wasn't what it turns out to be, then I'd come live with you and Jen, but this was the original plan anyways! Besides, you can't just up and leave your job."

The line went quiet again and Wes sniffled.

"Well you can at least cry a little to me," He whimpered. Alice smiled and rolled her eyes again. As much as she loved him, he was a little overdramatic at times. "Okay, I definitely just heard you roll your eyes."

"You did not."

"I did! That's a thing, bullet!"

"Alright sure. It's your super power."

"Damn right it is. I know everything."

"Wes, you're 30. Grow up or I'm telling your very pregnant, very easy to anger, wife." Alice said simply. She could practically hear the gears turning in his head.

"That's not fair. You two gang up on me."

"Tough. Alright, I promise I'll call you later okay? Rub Jen's stomach for me and say hi to the baby!" Alice smirked. She could hear him grumbling before he finally let her go.

"Oh, and Alice?" She heard his voice, just before she hung up. She brought the phone back to her ear.

"We're all so proud of you." He stated.

"Yeah?" She said softly.

"I'm not just talking about me and Jen." She brought her other hand up to cradle the hand holding the phone, as if to hug Wesley through the phone. "You're doing this on your own. That's pretty big. If Mom and Dad could see you now. . ." His voice trailed off. "Alice, I should have listened to you when you told me to convince them not to leave."

"It's not your fault." Her voice barely rose above a whisper.

"You've told me before," Wesley said, his voice breaking. "I. . . I should have believed you Alice."

Alice became quiet. It wouldn't have helped.

"Please don't apologise for that again." Alice said sternly. She knew what he was about to say. She understood why he had said what he said. Yes, it hurt when he spoke those words and broke her heart, but she had forgiven him.

"I'll never forgive myself for it"

"Wesley please."

"I love you, Alice. With all my heart. You're my family."

"I know." She bit her lip, trying not to let the emotions overwhelm her. She smiled as he said goodbye.

She forgave him, but that day she would never forget.

It would have been so much easier with them here with me.

She thought about moving straight to their place, but with the timing and his wife about to give birth at any moment, she didn't want to impose despite both of their insistence. Instead Alice stayed alone in that house with Jen and Wes visiting every now and then to keep her company. Then eventually it was just Wes as Jen was getting too big to travel.

"Alice Thurner," A deep voice called out, startling her from her thoughts. She turned around to see a tall man with dark skin and no hair on his head. The afternoon sun was shining bright and reflected a bit off of his head. Alice couldn't help but giggle, but tried to contain it as a welcoming smile. "Good morning! I'm Raymond Wells, your new principal at this school. Welcome" He stuck out his hand and she shook it firmly.

"Thank you," She said timidly, "I hope I'm not being too much trouble, coming so early. I wanted to get settled and comfortable." He smiled and gestured to the door.

"Nonsense! I strive to make all our students feel comfortable here!" He boasted. Alice grimaced internally. Yeah right. I paid extra on top of my scholarship to get settled here. She scoffed. No doubt he wouldn't even consider letting her live in the dorms ahead of time let alone give her a tour. They walked up the steps and he opened the door and ushered her in.

She couldn't help but gawk at everything. The building was spacious, the class rooms were huge but the classes were small. It all seemed grand to her. She couldn't wait to start. She had heard that the school was paid for by some rich guy, but assumed that extended to the building alone. The equipment in the classrooms were fantastic. Alice almost didn't want to have to use them so she wouldn't sully anything with her unsophisticated hands. She didn't even want to think of what would happen if she dropped even the least expensive thing in this school.

As they walked through the halls back to front entrance, herself one step behind principal Wells, she could hear angry murmuring and almost slowed down as they got closer. Wells seem to have the same idea, but didn't show any signs of stopping. They turned the corner and came to face with a tall man and what Alice assumed to be his son. The latter did not look happy and was hunched over with his hands in his pockets, wrinkling his letterman jacket.

At the sounds of their footsteps, the older one turned around and greeted Wells.

"Ah, Ray! There you are!" The man said in a boisterous voice. They both shook hands and Wells gestured to her. She couldn't help but shrink back a little. Everything about this man screamed caution.

"Sean Prescott, this is Alice Thurner! One of the new scholarship students joining us this year." He clapped her on the back. Instantly, a flash of Wells drinking in his office, reading an email from Sean Prescott flashed through her head. She was caught off guard and stumbled forward. Hopefully not too noticeably. She caught herself and tried to make it look as if she was coming forward to shake his hand as well. "I was just coming back from showing her around the grounds. She'll be an excellent student. Just excellent!"

"Yes, yes. Glad you're here. I hope you'll be putting my money to good use miss Thurner! Ray made a fine choice! A fine choice indeed" He barked, making Alice jump a little. Her jaw almost dropped. She did not expect to meet the person paying for her scholarship. She couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable. Not just because of meeting him, but his laugh seemed insincere, especially with those words, but Alice smiled politely as they shook hands. The boy beside them scoffed and glared at her. Caught off guard, she smiled at him and he suddenly looked surprised for a second before going back to scowling.

"Can I leave now?" The boy bit out. Alice could feel the tension rise dramatically as he asked and as Sean Prescott turned to him, it seemed everyone in the room cowered a little.

"No manners today either, Nathan?"

Nathan met his glare with one of equal vehemence. Alice could feel the air suffocating her.

"Um, sir, would it be possible to take my things to my dorm now?" She squeaked.

"Ah, yes, p-pardon me," Principal Wells stuttered, "Mr. Prescott, if you'll wait a few minutes, I'll just bring Alice to get settled and we'll go into my office."

Both Prescott's turned to her for interrupting and she awkwardly picked up her bags from the bench nearby where she had left her things.

Sean spoke up just as she adjusted her bag over her shoulder and hoisted her box in her arms. "Actually, Wells, I need to speak to you about a few things now. I have to leave for the estates for a meeting soon so it needs to be now. My son will take her where she needs to go, won't you, Nathan." He gave Nathan a pointed look just as he started to protest.

The two adults disappeared into the office and shut the door, leaving Alice and Nathan in silence. Sure, this wasn't awkward at all. The son of the man paying for her to be here showing her the way to her room, who also didn't seem to like her all that much.

"Um," Alice started peeking her head out from behind the tall box she was holding. She could barely see above the box so sticking her head off to the side was her only option. Nathan shot her a glare.

"Whatthefuckever." He mumbled.

"Sorry?" She asked, but he was already walking towards the doors. She stayed rooted to the spot, unsure if she should just wait. She felt bad that he was being forced to escort her. She watched as he disappeared through the doors. She stood there awkwardly for a moment, wondering if she should follow so she wasn't stuck without a place to stay. She really just wanted to rest.

Just as she was about to set her box back down. Nathan swung open the front door again and yelled at her.

"Are you coming or what?!"

Alice jumped, "I- yes, sorry! I wasn't sure if-"

"Just fucking come on." He held the door open for her, which was a nice gesture at first, but he let it go a little early, knocking her to the side a little. She glared at his back as he was walking. He didn't need to be so rude. She barely made it through the second door without being smacked by it as Nathan was already down the steps and making his way down the path.

She slowly descended the few steps sideways, being careful not to trip. Nathan looked back and scoffed at her. He yanked the box away from her. Suddenly she could see him crying by while sitting by a totem pole. She scowled in her head. People in this town need to learn about personal space so I don't accidentally jump in their head.

"Wait! Careful! It's a little heavy!" She kept her grip on the lower part of it.

"I'm sure I can handle it, I'm a big boy." He retorted sarcastically. Shrugging she let go and the box dipped a little in his arms. "What the fuck do you have in here, cannonballs?"

"No, they're just books," Alice's face burned red as he complained, "they're not textbooks. Just a bit of light reading" She joked. Okay, a bad joke, she thought as she earned another glare. He continued walking and her meekly following behind until they got to the dorms.

Alice finally had everything unpacked. She snuggled her pillow, thoroughly content at the layout. She'd just take a small nap before going into town to see if she could find anything else she could make the room feel more like home.

Her thoughts wandered back to Nathan. She hoped she didn't make him too upset. It's not my fault he was in a bad mood. She turned to lay on her back and draped her arm across her eyes. She really hoped she just caught him at a bad time and didn't hold it against her. Teenagers could be so vindictive at times. Especially one whose father practically owns the school. She meant to thank him once he dropped her off to the dorms, but he had already stormed off as she opened the door, the box of books already at her feet. She wished she could ask what he'd be crying about in her vision, but he'd probably call her crazy and take away her scholarship.

Alice sighed and lifted her arm a bit to look at the clock. It was only one o'clock. A half hour would do just fine for a nap. She stretched, turned to her side and curled into herself. Just as she entered dreamland, she felt her phone buzz. It was Wesley. She tapped on the screen and a picture popped up of Jen's belly and him grinning and pointing at it. He held a sign with the words "I did this!"

She couldn't help but laugh at the thought of Wesley getting Jen to let him pose for that photo. She quickly changed his contact photo and closed her eyes again.


Nathan was hidden behind his truck as he stood filling up on gas. He noticed Alice inside. Was he going to keep running into her? She came out with a brown paper bag cradled in her arms. He scoffed as she reached into the paper bag and plucked out a sucker. What is she? 8? He thought snidely. As she was about to unwrap it, she paused and Nathan followed her gaze. A little boy had dropped his lollipop in the dirt. He began to cry as his mother pulled him away shaking her head. They stood at the crosswalk, the mother failing to console him. He was surprised to see Alice run up and hand him the lollipop before turning around. She waved back to the mother and son and started to walk in his direction. He ducked his head and focused on the nozzle hoping she wouldn't see him.

"Oh hello," Alice walked up to him shyly. "Nathan, right?" He ignored her. How could she not know who he was? She couldn't be that daft. The Prescott's owned the whole town. She stood for a moment, noting the awkward atmosphere. "Well, it was nice seeing-"

"Why'd you give your candy to that kid. Little shit deserved nothing after dropping his." Nathan interrupted. Alice smiled and shrugged, opening the bag and offering him one. "What the hell? Why do you have so many? And they're all orange!"

"Do you not like orange?"

"S'not as good as the blue ones. . ." He mumbled. He didn't grab one and instead replaced the nozzle into the holder before slamming the fuel door on his car closed. Alice shook the bag once, still holding it open. He snatched one and shoved it into his pocket before getting into his truck and driving off. As he got to the light, his phone buzzed in the cup holder and the screen lit up with a new message.

Who's the girl with the silver hair?

3:17pm

Nathan glowered. He didn't have to read the name to know who it was. Of course he happened to be in the area when he runs into her. He slammed his hands on his steering wheel and yelled out in frustration. I'm not your dog. He wanted to scream. He reached over and texted back with one hand. Fuck safety. He was starting not to care about anything anymore. He pulled hard onto the steering wheel, turned the car around to head to the junkyard, earning a few honks from the other traffic.

New chick

3:19pm

Nathan replied and chucked the phone to the floor in front of the passenger seat. It could break for all he cared.

Meanwhile, the same man leaned back in his seat as he sipped his coffee. He watched from the coffee shop across the street as the silver haired girl talked animatedly on her phone after her run in with Nathan. His phone vibrated with Nathan's reply and he smirked. Nathan was in another one of his mood's if he wasn't willing to hand out her name easily. No matter. Nathan could keep any information he wanted if it amused his little teenage brain. He would get it in the end anyways. Judging by her style, she had to be some sort of artsy student. He hoped she had applied for his class.

He pondered the thought of having a binder full of this one's photos. He couldn't wait to see her personality up close. There was only so much you could deduce from a first impression. After the last incident, he hoped that this time, things would go smoother.


Chapter Text

Mark had yet to see the girl. First day of classes and he was becoming antsy. He had gone through the school records, searching for the new students, but had yet to pinpoint who she was. He wanted to smack himself for not trying harder. Though he could also blame Nathan for being as stubborn as ever and refusing to answer his texts. He started his class trying not to let his irritation show. He did manage to pick out a few prospective students from the bunch that would match his criteria, but that did little to ease the frustration that wracked his mind.

He called names and noted that one student seemed to be missing.

“Tardy on the first day of class? That’s a gutsy move.” He joked to the class.

He handed the syllabus to the more than eager blonde with a pixie cut who made the effort to tell him that she’d never miss a class of his. He almost rolled his eyes at the way she eyed him and fluttered her eyelashes. Girls like her were a dime a dozen. He easily became bored of them early on in his career. It was rare to find ones like her who had actual layers to their personality instead of the same dull media driven crap you could find everywhere.

He walked back to his desk for a moment to grab something when he heard the door quietly open behind him. As he turned around to reprimand the student, who was failing comically hard at sneaking by him, he saw the girl. His lips quirked up in a smirk, trying to hide his uplifted mood at finally finding out her identity. He masked it with a stern lecture.

“Ah, how gracious of you to join us. I’m assuming,” He glanced at his class list, “Alice Thurner?”

Alice had her books clutched to her chest. She was in the midst of sneaking by, crouched a little, bent slightly at the knees, but shot up as she was caught.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry,” she stammered, “I got lost. Some guy told me the wrong way to go and I ended up on the other side of the building.”

A few students chuckled as her face glowed beet red. He smiled along with them.

“Don’t let it happen again.” He gestured to the desks and she zipped forward as she maneuvered between the desks, “There’s a free seat beside Maxine.”

Alice’s shoulders relaxed as she recognised the girl. As she practically threw herself into her seat, her mousy brown-haired neighbour muttered under her breath, exasperated.

“Sorry?” She whispered back. Max smiled at her.

“I said its Max, never Maxine.”

Alice went to speak up, but Jefferson addressed the class again, and instead shot her a smile and readied her notebook.

Alice Thurner. Jefferson thought smugly. Thank you for turning this dull teacher’s job into an interesting one.

 


 

“Want to go get tea with Kate and I? Since our rooms are so close to each other, we should get to know each other better and maybe go out for a photo session around town.” Max said as they both packed up their belongings. The class was fun so far. Everyone was able to compare their portfolios and see what kind of styles everyone one had.

“Yeah sure, that sounds great!” Alice said. Finally. Maybe she’d make friends that wanted to hang out just for the heck of it every now and then. Max texted Kate, who had left quickly to put up fliers around the school for the meals on wheels program.

As they headed for the door, Mr. Jefferson stopped her.

“Alice,” he called, “I’d actually like you to help me with a few things after class.”

Alice glanced at Max. So much for their tea time. Alice’s heart raced. She really wanted to start saying no to people for once.

“Um, actually sir, I –“

“Think of it as punishment for being late to my class.” He joked. Alice’s shoulders drooped slightly in defeat and Max rescheduled for another day. She placed her bag onto the nearest desk and began to sort through a few papers he had given her. He sat at his desk, going through their portfolios and making notes. A half hour later, Mr. Jefferson handed her a stack of books to organise on the shelves. She placed it on the desk and opened the glass sliding doors on the cabinets.

“Before you do that, I’ll get you to grab a few books from the library for me.” He handed her a list. “Meanwhile, I need to refill on coffee. Would you like one?”

“Tea would be fantastic, thank you sir.” They walked through the door, Jefferson letting her go first and then locking the door behind him.

“Ugh, sir. Please don’t call me that. Makes me feel old.” He chuckled.

“Yes sir-, I mean Mr. Jefferson” She stuttered.

“Well, it’s a start!” He said, amused, “Just meet me back in the class when you’re done.” He walked off to the teacher’s lounge, swinging his keys around his finger as he left.

Oh crap. I forgot to ask him which way the library is. So much for coming early and taking a tour. Can’t even remember where everything is still. Alice sighed. The halls were empty at this point and she decided to just wing it. She pulled a lollipop out and unwrapped it. She quickly walked down the hall and turned the corner. Except as she did, she knocked into someone else. Just as she was about to fall, hands stretched out and gripped her arms.

“Fucking hell. You better not be stalking me.” Nathan exclaimed, letting go of her as soon as he realised it was her.

Alice pulled the candy out of her mouth and spoke, “Well we do go to the same school, its kind of inevitable that we’d see each other again.” His attitude was beginning to annoy her. It’s not like she was trying to get in the way.

“Classes are over nerd. What are you still doing here?”

“I have to grab some books from the library. Though I’ve already forgotten where it is. . . I was late to my last class so I’m helping out.” She laughed nervously.

“Why? Got caught up blowing someone in the bathrooms?” He sneered. Her face heated up.

“For your information, some jerk told me the wrong information as to where Mr. Jefferson’s class is” She huffed. “and I’ve never done that.” She mumbled.

He looked taken aback for a moment, also noting the latter of what she said and mentally saved that piece of information.

 “You’re helping him out?” to which she nodded.

“Because you were late.” He stated. She nodded again.

 “Oh, for chrissake, do you not know how to say no? You don’t always have to please everyone.”

If only she knew.

“It’s not like I do it purposely!” She wagged her lollipop at him. “I’m trying. . .” She muttered.

“People pleaser!” He scoffed and snatched her candy just as they touched her lips. He began to walk away and stuck it in his mouth instead.

“H-Hey!”

“Library’s that way loser,” He yelled, jerking his thumb behind him as he walked away. “end of the hallway on your left.”

She seethed, crumbling the list in her hand in anger. What a jerk!

“T. . . Takes one to know one!” She called after him. His laughter filled the hallways.

“Oooh, burn!” he mocked. The entrance door slammed behind him.

 Alice stomped through the hallway and found the library. There was no one at the front. She slammed the piece of paper down onto the front desk and began to angrily smooth out the wrinkles.

“Stupid. Jerk. Taking my candy. Buy your own!” She muttered furiously.

“Oh dear, someone’s not in a good mood today.” The portly librarian walked up suddenly, making Alice jump. She spoke with an English accent. She looked kind, her curly hair bouncing as she walked. Her eyes wrinkled as she smiled softly. Her grey cardigan was pushed up at the sleeves.

“No, oh, I’m sorry. Someone just got on my nerves.” She said, practically tripping over her words. The librarian chuckled, telling her not to worry about it, and grabbed the list from her.

“Oh, these are for Mark. Wait just one moment, dear. I had them put aside.” She handed Alice the list and turned to the cart next to desk. “Ah, here they are.” She grabbed them and stacked them on top of each other. Alice ran behind the counter and held out her arms.

“Would you like a cart, love? They’re awfully heavy!” As she began to place them in Alice’s arms. She shook her head.

“No that’s okay! It’ll be a good work out for me!” Alice grinned. “Thank you!” She walked out, the librarian quickly shuffling to the door to hold it open for her.

Alice quickly made her way back, grateful that the door was slightly open so she wouldn’t have to use the knob.  She nudged it open with her foot and walked through, also nudging it closed again with her foot.

“I have the books Mr. Jefferson.” She called. He walked out from the door behind his desk, holding two cups. He gestured to his desk and she happily plopped them down. “Though I did run into a few . . . hindrances.”

“Oh? Like?” He asked. She opened her mouth to tell him about Nathan, but closed her mouth again. It might be better not to bad talk others.

“I forgot where the library was.” She said, embarrassment marked on her face. That and stupid jerk stealing my candy.

“I wasn’t sure if you took your tea with anything.” He set one down for her. She eagerly grabbed it and inhaled happily. He smiled and took a sip of his coffee.

“No, I prefer it black,” She took a sip, wincing as she burned her tongue. “I don’t like to take away from the taste.”

“Same here.” He chuckled. He took a sip from his mug. “Also, feel free to call me Mark when we’re not in class. I’m still not used to the Mr. and sir thing everyone keeps throwing at me.”

 “Mark,” She tested, before laughing. “I don’t think I could get used to that” She was glad he was so laid back. She thought for sure a famous Photographer turned teacher would make for a difficult class and almost dropped the class out of intimidation. She stared at him over the rim of her cup as he busied himself at his desk. She absentmindedly wondered if he was married. He was pretty good looking and wouldn’t be surprised if he had crowds of women lined up in hopes of him noticing them. She never actually knew what he looked like before now.

 When she had perused his work, she focused on his work, not even thinking about what the person behind the lens looked like. She thought the other students murmuring about his looks were just exaggerating as hormone driven teens tend to do.

She realised she was staring for too long when he glanced up to see her blatantly staring. She immediately got back to work, pretending that she wasn’t just ogling her teacher.

 


 

 

Mark watched from his desk as Alice stood on a stool and reorganised the shelves. He began to type her name into his laptop. Of course, he’d have to do a more intense research once he got home and used the better programs, but a simple internet search would satiate his curiosity for now.

Alice suddenly yawned and he smiled to himself.

“Long day?” He asked out loud.

“I guess the first day of classes can do that to you.” She stretched her limbs and went back to sorting. Yes, it could. Or a few drops of something else could tire you out as well. He didn’t put too much so she wouldn’t be suspicious.

The first link he found was of her social media account. He clicked on the link and his eyes wandered to Alice as the page loaded. She picked up 2 books and stepped onto the small stepladder. She placed the books on the top shelf and reached for the cameras on the same ledge. She struggled as she stretched and stood on the tip of her toes. Her skirt lifted slightly and Jefferson grew hard at the small glimpse he received. She was wearing tights, to his dismay, but they were slightly opaque making it all the more inviting.

The little minx has to be doing it on purpose. His eyes darted back to the screen in front of him. Alice’s main photo was of her and another man. The two were sitting in a restaurant, leaning into each other. His eyes narrowed in on the arm that snaked around her shoulders. The two had no similar features. A current boyfriend, perhaps? He clicked on the photo and the picture instantly became bigger. The photo wasn’t tagged, but someone had left a comment, “Wow, for once Wesley smiles in a photo.” And under that Alice replied “It was one of his birthday presents for me haha”

Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be anyone on her friend list named Wesley.

“I’m done!” Alice called. He quickly closed the window and smiled.

“Wonderful. Just one more thing to do and I’ll let you go.”

“Okay, I’ll just be right back.” Alice said, quickly jumping up. “Bathroom.”

He waited a few seconds after shutting the door then slipped a few more drops into her drink. He brought out a metal stand that held different coloured folders. Students would be able to hand in their homework and it would serve as a folder to build their portfolios. He carried it over to the closest cluster of desks. Alice came back and sat down in the opposite desk, grabbing her drink and downing the rest of it. He pulled the coloured folders out and handed Alice some labels to write down each name. Alice sat down to work, going down the class lists and giving each person their own folder. She set them all neatly in a pile as Mr. Jefferson would pick each one up and find said students already submitted work into it before placing them into the stand. He refilled her drink and they got to work.

It was quiet at first, just the sound of shuffling papers, the occasional sip of their hot beverages and the sound of Alice’s marker squeaking as she carefully wrote each name out neatly.

“Would you mind helping me out once a week?” Mark asked. “You’re here on scholarship, right? I could mark it as you working as a teaching assistant. Would look good on your record and I promise it won’t be as much work as today.”

“Sure, that’d be great!”

“Great. We’ll figure out the details next class. Maybe at the end of each week or something.” He said. Alice nodded and looked back down to focus on her writing. She took a big swig of her tea, savouring the taste. As they worked, Alice asked about his schooling and career, intrigued as to why he chose to go into teaching. 

Jefferson watched discreetly as Alice continued to work. She began to work slower, her movements becoming sluggish. She yawned once more, this time not holding back, forgetting that someone else was still in the room with her. She stretched out her limbs in an attempt to wake her self up, tilting her head from side to side. Proving to be fruitless, she began to use her right hand to prop up her head. Her writing began to slow.

She’s left-handed. Cute.

He continued speaking all while watching her struggle to stay awake. He felt a little bad. She must be feeling guilty, thinking that his words are putting her to sleep. As he spoke about how his interest in photography was solidified, moving his major from the sciences to art, her head finally dropped from its makeshift perch on her palm. Her left hand still held the pen, but stopped in the middle of the name, leaving a growing ink spot from the marker.

He gently called her name a few times and pulled the marker from her fingers, making sure that she was fully out. He stood and locked the door, pulling the blinds closed as he went. Thankfully as the window on the door was frosted and textured, there would be no chance of disturbances.

He reached into her bag and began sifting through her things. A few surreal art and photo books caught his eye as he rummaged. He found her wallet and opened it. Nothing of note except a photo of a couple. He assumed her parents. The photo well worn, judging by the multiple creases across the once stiff paper. He returned it to its place behind her school id and placed the wallet back in her bag.

She stirred, a small sigh coming from her lips. He smirked and lifted her head, gathering the loose strands and laying her hair over her shoulder. He adjusted her arms so that she lay her head comfortable on top of them.

I might just decide to keep you. He decided as he brushed a thumb across her cheek, pushing a stray hair out of the way. He grabbed the camera off his desk and quickly snapped a photo of her serene face.

There was something off about her. He would find out just what it was to satisfy his curiosity. Even if she didn’t turn out to be as interesting as he suspected, she could always have a place in his photos for him to remember her by.

 


 



He had just finished labeling all the folders and putting everything in their respectful place when Alice finally woke up. She groggily opened her eyes, yawned and sat up, staring off into space.

“Hello.” He called to her. She turned to him, her brain still slowly catching up, before her eyes snapped open wider and she began to apologise profusely. He laughed and told her it was okay.

“You should have just woken me up! I’m so embarrassed.” She covered her face with her hands.

“Really it’s okay. First day of classes, you must be exhausted with everything. You were only asleep for half an hour at best.”

She eyed the clock, sighed, and apologised again.

“I managed to finish everything, don’t worry. You can head back now.” He said. She nodded again and grabbed her things and made her way to the door.

“Sorry again, Mr. Jefferson.” She said sheepishly as she shut the door behind her.

Chapter Text

 

“I fucking get it already. Are we done?” Nathan chucked his phone into the bushes, not caring that he’d have to grab it later.

He lit a cigarette and leaned against the totem pole. Just to add to an already shitty day, his father had to call him and ruin it some more.

The phone hit his foot and he jumped, almost dropping the cigarette.

“What the fuck?”

Alice stood frozen in mid-toss form.

“Sorry, sorry. I should have just handed it to you.” She laughed nervously. “I saw you throw it, but I thought you might want it back anyways.”

He picked the phone up and placed it beside him.

“Was that your dad?” She asked slowly. Nathan scoffed and exhaled the smoke through his nose.

“Nosy bitch. Listening in on private conversations? It’s none of your goddamn fucking business.” He bit out. She stepped forward, issuing another apology, hesitating as she pulled the backpack strap off her shoulder.

“Would you mind if I-“

“What the fuck ever.” He lay leaned back. She threw her bag down to use as a seat and plopped down in front of him, her legs bent to the side. She smoothed out her skirt.

“No worries, I’ll be quick. I just wanted to draw the totem pole. Luke was telling me about it, but he didn’t know much other than that its called the tobugga-“

“Tobanga.”

“Right, and that some idiot tried to steal it once.”

His cheeks heated up as she laughed and he looked away, a little grateful that his name wasn’t mentioned. He remembered that night. He had gotten some good shit from his dealer and for some odd reason he thought it would be hilarious to take it and move it somewhere else. It was a great idea at the time. Not so great when he woke up the next morning and Victoria informed him with a grin that he had gotten caught, but she managed to convince the security guard to let him go. He was never going to live that down.

Nathan looked back at Alice who was now ignoring him in favour of sketching the Tobanga. Her pencil crayons stood upright beside her. The box they were in also doubled as a stand. He noted that she would put each back in their rightful place. His camera bag lay beside him. He reached into it and slowly extracted the one constant he had in his life. His camera was one of the only things to keep him sane. He could put his emotions and feelings into the photos he took.

He raised the camera for a moment, but realised she would probably disapprove of him taking her photo. So he held the camera awkwardly at chest level, making it face her, but pretending to inspect it by turning it and fiddling with the buttons. He snapped the photo and his eyes darted towards her to see if she had heard the shutter. She hadn’t, so he greedily took a couple more. He had no idea what came over him. Portraits weren’t really his thing in photographs but here he was, taking photos of her without her permission.

 Despite her focus, he couldn’t help but look away every time she glanced up to study the details of the Tobanga. When she looked back down his eyes would sneak back over to her face. Freckles covered her nose and cheeks and he had to resist the urge to reach out and wipe his fingers across them to see if they were real. Her lips were shiny, he assumed from her just putting on lip balm as he noticed the slight cracks and one small tear at the bottom corner. She began to bite her lip as her pencil wiggled across the paper.

Ah. That would explain the tear in her lip. At this point, he knew she was so engrossed in her work, he ended up bringing the camera up to his face and looking through the viewfinder. He zoomed in a little on her face. Her bottom lip was still grasped between her teeth, but was starting to slip. He pressed the shutter button, then placed the camera in his lap to peruse the photos.

He wondered briefly for a moment what her lips would feel like against his, but just as he began to imagine, he jumped at the sound of her voice. Some time must have passed as it looked like she was basically done.

“So. . . Wanna talk about it?” She asked. He opened his mouth for a moment, briefly thinking that she knew that it was him that tried to steal the pole, until he noticed the somber look on her face. He didn’t answer her.

She was done her initial sketch, closing the sketch book and laying it beside her.

They sat there for a few minutes before Alice spoke up again. “My parents abandoned me when I was born.” Alice quipped lightly, pulling at the grass by her feet.

 “Did I ask for your life story, bitch?” He kept his eyes closed, one hand behind his head as a makeshift pillow. She noted that he no longer held the cigarette too close to the grass, but rather rested his hand on lap. She scrunched her mouth, wanting to tell him that the ash was dangerously close to falling onto his pants.

“No, but I’m just talking. You don’t have to listen if you don’t want to.” She joked.

“Like I give a fuck. What’s your point?”

“My point is that just because you have the same blood, it doesn’t mean you are family. You and Victoria are close, aren’t you? Ah, I’m not being nosy, I promise. I just see you guys together all the time and well also the students here like to talk a lot.” Sort of a lie. One of her visions when they accidentally made contact was Victoria and Nathan just talking and letting their feelings out to each other. It was touching. She wished that she had that kind of relationship with a friend.

He didn’t respond, but looked up into the sky, her words weighing in his mind.

 “I was put through several foster homes, no one wanted to keep me,” She paused for a second trying to figure out how to give a vague explanation. “I kept uh, saying things that would freak people out.” She grimaced, remembering how she sat in the hall, hearing her current foster father yell about how she’s a jinx. The family had already been wary of her when they brought her home. She would say things in advance about things that would happen; the kitchen sink backing up, her foster sister tripping on her way home from school and scraping her knee. Then one day she had told their daughter not to go to soccer practice because they’d get into a car accident. She had scared the daughter enough, but the mother had brushed her off and they left. Sure enough, right after practice, they were on their way home and were hit by another car. Luckily, they only ended up with a few injuries, but that was the last straw for Mr. Nowak.

“Then right before I turned 7, I was adopted.” She could still remember how it felt when they hugged her the day she came home with them. She could see the grin on Wesley’s face when she entered the house, joking that he had asked for a brother.

“Why the fuck should I care that you have a great family to come home to?” He scoffed. “Big woop. Doesn’t make you better than me.”

“I never said I was.” She said quietly. The light breezed pushed a few stray strands across her face and she lifted her hand to brush them away “I uh. . . I only have my step brother left. My parents died a year and a half ago. We were supposed to move here together actually.”

He rested his elbows on his knees. “How the fuck was I supposed to know that.” He muttered under his breath.

“No, its okay!” She smiled lightly. “Look, I just want you to know that. . . blood doesn’t always mean everything. Family is what you choose to believe it is.”

Silence overcame them again. After a few moments, Nathan spoke up.

“When you uh, said that you hear things. People talking. . . um.”

“About you? Well of course that can’t be helped since your family is pretty big in this town. I didn’t even realise that the dormitory was named after your family” She giggled, but stopped at the look on his face.

“And?” He pressed further. Not that he cared what she thought of him, of course.

“And what?”

“You know.” He said. Alice noticed the sad tone in his voice mixed with anger.

“About you? Of course, I heard a few things.” Alice said. She noticed he deflated a little at her words.

“But that’s all they are. Words. Rumours.” Alice said simply smiling lightly at him as she packed her things. “It’s just talk. But I like to actually know things rather than base my assumptions off a few rumours. People are addicted to gossip.”

“Hmmph.”

Alice took that as her cue to leave, but not before reaching into her bag and tossing him a small bag.

In it were a few suckers as well as a piece of paper.

Have your own instead of taking mine.

Nathan smirked, unwrapping it and popping it in his mouth. He sighed, suddenly annoyed. She really needed to have other flavours.

 




Alice had just finished textiles class and was walking through the hall glumly. That teacher definitely hated her. So, she was a little behind everyone else. Two other people were at the same step as her, but the old biddy only ever picked on her. It had been a couple weeks since school started and Mrs. Connolly had set her eagle eye on her from day one.
They were in the middle of learning how to make pajama pants and she couldn’t get the waistband quite right. She had removed the seams for the 2nd time and was about to stick it underneath the sewing machine when the teacher snatched it out of her hands, clicked her tongue and announced to everyone her just how incompetent she was. After class she snuck her unfinished project into her bag, intending to finish it outside of class time.

Alice opened her locker and rested her forehead against the edge of the door, embarrassment creeping up on her face as she thought about it. Her face was heating up so the cool steel against her skin was a nice solution. She was still cringing.

She sighed and opened her locker fully. She grabbed her art books, stuffing them into her backpack one by one.

She jumped and gasped as a burly hand grasped at her bag. The teen instantly gripped onto the blue fabric patterned in cartoon whales.

“Hey!” She said helplessly. “Stop!”

“Look at this! How adorable!” He grinned. She stretched her arms out to grab her bag back. He held it away from her. “I just want to see!” Faster than she could comprehend, he yanked out the fabric. It caught the books it was underneath and everything fell to the floor.

Her eyes stung and flooded as she bent down to retrieve her belongings. Just as her fingers touched the cover of her textbook, she was yanked back up.

He was a football player, Alice deduced, by the images that flashed through her head.

“You’re just an adorable little thing. What’s your name, little kitty.” He grinned as he gripped her arm. Just a few feet away, the other jocks were grinning at her situation. She wanted to disappear.

“Please let go of my arm.” She said meekly, but leaning away from him. “Can I have that back?”

“So quiet! My name’s Logan, kitty. How about I take you out sometime?”

“No, thank you.” She reached for the pajama pants but he held it away from her.

“Oh come on.” He pouted.

“Logan, I think you’re scaring her.” One of the guys leaning against the locker called out. Hayden, if she recalled correctly. He was in her photography class. Logan told him to shut up. Alice felt a little hurt as Hayden held up his hands as a sign of backing off. The rest of them were still watching with anticipation.

“Please let go!” She yanked her arm out of his grasp and bent down to pick up her books. It barely registered in her mind when one of the boys leaning against the opposite lockers called her a spaz. His shoe came down on her book before she got to it. She looked up at him trying to muster up a glare even though her heart was racing.

“Aw man, kitty’s got claws.” He said as he noticed her glare. Hey now, I’m asking nicely, kitty.”

“Uh, no thanks.” She mumbled. She pulled at her text book and grabbed her sketch book and art book. She stood up and held out her hand for the pants.

“Here. Let’s trade.” Logan grinned. He snatched her art book out of her bag and threw the pants at her. She reached out quickly, but he had thrown the book into the group of boys who caught it and were now playing catch.

Oh no. They were going to make her work for it. She cursed providence for cursing her with such a useless power.

“Please.” Alice stated, standing her ground, forcing herself not to give in to their game of keep away.

“Relax, kitty. We’re just having a bit of fun.” He stood in front of her. Her back hit the lockers as he loomed over her. She cursed her biological parents for not making her taller. He grinned and placed an arm above her head. If he was trying to make her feel small, it was working.

She watched around him as the book sailed through the air and past the intended hands.

“Jesus, Rob. Butterfingers! How did you make it onto the team?” Logan hooted.

The book slid on the floor in front of a group of girls. One of them being Victoria. The black-haired girl beside her picked up the book.  Victoria glared and snatched it out of her hands, briefly looking at the contents before shutting it. She marched over to Alice who was still basically trapped by Logan.

“Keep your shit out of these idiot’s hands.” She bit out, shoving the book into Alice’s arms. Alice stared before nodding mutely. Victoria turned to Logan and threatened him, telling him she’s starting to regret letting him into the Vortex Club. “Learn how to read signals, you gorilla. She’s clearly not into you. Fucking idiots.” She muttered lowly as she stepped back to her friends.

“Ouch Vicky. Don’t say that.” Logan laughed and pleaded with the blonde as his friends laughed at him. Alice quickly snatched up her things and stuffed them into her backpack, leaving the vicinity now that the attention was off her and onto the other two arguing. She turned the corner as a certain light brown-haired boy watched from afar, who was regretting being too late to step in. He made his way over to his best friend who welcomed him with a smile.

“Eyy, Nathan.” Logan called as he had his arm around Victoria’s shoulder’s.

“Back off.” Nathan stated, glaring at the jock with a deep feeling of abject antipathy, suddenly wishing he could punch that smug smile off his face.

“You heard him,” Victoria quipped, “Go away now.”

Logan rolled his eyes and turned back to the other group.

“You look like you’re in a mood.” Victoria joked.

“Whatthefuckever, Vic.”

 


 

Max had just left Alice’s room. She had dropped off some coconut bites that her mother had sent over. Alice used to not be a big fan of the flavour, but it grew on her. She made a mental note to find out where Max’s mother bought the small bites of bliss.

She was about to take another bite of one when someone knocked on her door. The knocks were quiet but rushed. She stood up, assuming it was Max again.

“If you’re back to give me more, I’m more than happy to take them off your hands.” Alice called happily as she set the current bag of coconut bites down on her desk. “But if you regret giving me some, tough! I’ll fight you for them.”

“Oh,” It was Victoria, “Sorry, thought you were-“

“That twee hipster? Ugh. Please don’t insult me.” Victoria pushed into her room, shutting the door behind her.

“Uh. Come in, Victoria.” Victoria beelined straight to her desk, immediately picking up the books and looking through them. “Can I help you?” Alice laughed awkwardly.

“Where’s that book from earlier?” Victoria asked, though it was more of a demand in Alice’s opinion.

“Huh?”

“The book. You dolt. The one that was thrown around today.”

Alice blinked as her mind blanked and then it her.

“Oh.”

She rummaged through her bag and pulled it out. She held it out to Victoria, who then promptly sat in the desk chair and flipped it open.

Alice awkwardly stood in place before sitting at the edge of her bed.

“So,” Alice broke the silence between the sound of flipping pages. “do you like Camilla D’errico?”

“What?” Victoria glanced up.

“Uh. She’s the artist of that book. Femina & Fauna.”

“Oh.” Victoria flipped through a few more pages. She plucked a coconut bite off the desk.

“Hey!” Alice complained. “I just got those.”

“Mhmm. They’re good.”

They sat in silence, only the sound of pages turning and Victoria chewing Alice’s new favourite treat. Alice didn’t know what to say. The resident queen bee of the school was sitting in her room. She didn’t know whether to be honoured or worried. After a few minutes, Alice began to work on a few sketches.

As Victoria was occupying her desk, she used her lap as a desk and sat against her bed. This project she was using pastels. Emptying her mind, she began to drag the colours across the page, not having a goal in what she was drawing. It was the best way to relieve her stress. Especially after the incident with Logan in the hall. She was grateful she had run into Kate after who consoled a frantic Alice. She was glad Kate was just a good person. Alice was not one to be religious and made a point to avoid anyone associated in any religion lest she be labelled a witch and burned at the stake.

This year Alice made the split decision to befriend Kate anyways and she wasn’t regretting it.  Kate did not have a bad bone in her body.

She grabbed a grey pastel and pressed it into the paper.

She had been so into her work that she had already forgotten the pixie cut blonde sitting in her room until said girl stood up abruptly, announced that she was borrowing the book before stepping out, leaving a confused Alice.

Great. She would have to get that back soon.

She stood placed her drawing on the bed. Getting a good look at it, she realised she had drawn up a portrait of Kate and her little bunny who coincidentally had the same name as her. She wondered if Kate would appreciate it, then decided that it would make a nice “thanks for befriending me” gift. As she reached for another coconut bite, she realised her fingers were covered in colours.

She stepped out into the hall, glancing at Victoria’s door. Her book was basically stolen and being held hostage by someone Alice was slightly afraid of. Maybe she’d get another one, she thought to herself.

Two of Victoria’s friends were standing in the hall by the washrooms and Alice avoided eye contact.

“Oh my god. She looks like she blew a smurf.” The dark haired one said snidely. She made no effort to keep her words from Alice’s ears. They both snickered to themselves as she stepped past them.

She went to the sink at the farthest wall, feeling more comfortable farther she was from them. As she turned on the sink she looked up into the mirror and saw exactly what they were talking about. At some point during her drawing she must have scratched her cheek. There were blue smudges on her cheek and one streak of grey on the side of her forehead.

Wonderful.

Chapter Text

You're not a statue. Stop being so frozen!" Victoria said acerbically.

So Alice wasn't exactly sure how she got here.

"Tilt your head – no – other way. Chin up."

Seriously.

How did she get here?

"Victoria, I - " "No. Shush. Turn around. Stop being so rigid."

Alice's face heated up, but did as she was told, trying her best to relax her posture. Okay, so she did know what happened, but her mind was still grasping how exactly it did.

There it was again, the quiet, but hurried, knocking. Alice let out a small groan before getting out of bed to answer the door.

"Here."

Two books were shoved into Alice's chest. Still half asleep, she rubbed her eyes with one hand and looked down at the books then up again. There stood Victoria, a camera bag resting on her hip and a plastic bag overflowing with a white fabric in her hand.

"Uh Victoria? It's," Alice glanced at the clock on her wall and her jaw dropped. "4:30am?! Victoria. It's Saturday."

Alice looked down at the two books. One was the Femina & Fauna book Victoria had borrowed a week earlier and the other was a copy of Martin Stranka's "10 Years"

Alice had been wanting to buy this, but never had the extra money to do so. She was silent, mouth slightly open in awe.

"How did you know? He's one of my inspirations."

"Keep it."

"I couldn't." She opened the book anyways and ran her fingers across the pages.

"I'm giving it to you." Victoria tapped her foot and then pushed past Alice once again and closed the door. "Okay so now you owe me."

Alice blinked slowly.

"Huh?"

"Put this on." Victoria grabbed the books out of her hands and replaced them with the plastic bag. "Hurry. I want to catch the best lighting."

And that's how Alice ended up in the forest by the lighthouse, dressed in a creamy white lace dress. The front was cut uncomfortably short in the front and Alice had to fight the urge to cover legs. The top of the outfit was flush against her body before flowing out as a long skirt behind her almost to the floor. For some odd reason, she didn't protest (Alice blamed being half asleep) when Victoria made her change and then sat her down to do her hair and make up. According to Victoria, she was inspired by the art and designed the dress herself, contacting some designers to create it and send it over. Though how Victoria had her measurements, was beyond her. At the very least, she was thankful that the skirt also functioned as shorts.

On top of Alice's head was a pair of antlers. Her hair was mussed up and held the illusion of all the strands floating, courtesy of Victoria. The bossy blonde sprayed so much hair spray that Alice wouldn't be surprised if her room still smelled once they got back. She mentally kicked herself for not thinking to open a window before they left.

The grass held it's morning dew. How did she know? She was standing barefoot in an open area of the forest. It was probably 5:30 by now. She could have slept in today. The displeasure must have showed on her face as Victoria barked out her anger.

"Victoria, I'm not really a model type. Couldn't you have gotten someone else to do this?" She begged.

Victoria stopped to look through photos she had already taken.

"Nope. Like I could ask my friends to do this. They're super incompetent. Move your left foot forward. Relax, I'll buy you breakfast after this."

Alice resigned, deciding to just get through it. If anything, for the free food. They continued on for a few moments, with Victoria telling her how to pose every now and then. Alice decided to make small talk, a small part of her hoping she wouldn't regret it.

"So uh," She tested, her back facing the camera and she folded her hands behind her, "you play final fantasy?"

"Ish," Victoria sighed, once again not happy with the shot, "There are better RPG's and I just don't get why each game is called final fantasy when they make more every-" her eyes narrowed.

"What? No shame in it. I'm a big nerd for anime's and video games." Alice smiled. "Do you watch any?" Victoria held her face in uncertainty.

"Well I don't need you spouting it off to the whole school, but yeah. Happy?"

"Very! What are your favourite shows?"

"Look. My friends don't know and I'd like to keep it that way, okay? I have a reputation here."

"Victoria Chase. Secret nerd! Got it!"

Victoria rolled her eyes.

"I can ruin your life at school, Alice Thurner. Don't test me." She switched out the memory card for another.

"Your secret is safe with me!" Alice mock saluted before striking a dramatic pose. "Wait I was kidding, don't use that photo!" She said as she heard the shutter. Alice saw a small smile forming at the corner of Victoria's mouth. It was kind of a nice change from the sneer that usually adorned her face.

"Relax, I won't. As long as you don't tell anyone I like this stuff."


Alice opened the passenger door and stepped in, but the antler's stopped her. She took them off and smoothed down her hair as much as she sat in the seat.

"Listen Alice. You tell anyone my secret and I'll kill you."

"You don't need to keep threatening me Victoria... Or bribe me with things. If you want to be friends with me, just ask." Alice chuckled as Victoria started the car. "And just so you know, you shouldn't be embarrassed about what you like."

Victoria paused for a moment, deep in thought as she considered her words.

"Would you mind if we did this again?" She said earnestly, looking at Alice from the corner of her eye. "Like I guess you're not a complete freak."

"Gee thanks," Alice replied, ignoring the insult. "Do you mean like another photo shoot?" Alice said half-heartedly.

"Well, it doesn't have to be photography. I, uh - Courtney and Taylor would make fun of me if they saw my collection of figures at home. My parents must have accidentally put that game in my things when I moved back into the dorm. If those two saw – I'm just saying, it might be nice to have someone to talk about this stuff with and - "

"Alright alright, chill. Don't worry. I won't say anything. Hey, I have a few manga you can read if you like."

Victoria nodded and pulled out of the park parking lot.

"Seriously though, tell anyone and you die."

"Do you just like, not know how to be nice?" Alice joked.

The next morning, in true Victoria fashion, she was at her door with another outfit. Alice was then starting to regret her decision to try and be friends with the girl who, frankly, kind of scared her.

In the end, Alice agreed to Victoria's secret hobby as long as the photo's stayed private unless she approved.


"Man, that class was so boring today." Luke said as they walked out of history in art. "I was this close to begging to just go to math class instead."

Alice shared 3 classes with Luke. They both noticed the pattern after a couple of weeks and began seeking each other out to sit next to. Unfortunately, Logan also happened to share the same classes. It didn't help her situation when Logan took to hanging around her during the classes they happened to share together; sitting next to her in class and getting too close for comfort. Thankfully, feeling her discomfort, Luke made a point to get in Logan's way if the class called for partners or any reason that Logan could find to bug Alice.

The second time they sat together Luke had brushed hands with her while passing her a textbook. In that moment she knew despite her promise to herself, that she had to interfere. It was the right thing to do since he made the effort to protect her from Logan's attention. Right after class, she accompanied him to the cafeteria, casually guiding him away from one of the jocks looking to pick a fight.

Unfortunately, despite saving Luke from having his spaghetti decorate his chest, Alice inadvertently changed victims. Alice felt terrible as she watched the boy scrambled to cover his sketch book with his arms as the soda drenched his head. She knew she should have spoken up, but hesitated, remembering that she wanted to keep a low profile.

If it wasn't for Luke actively getting in the way of Logan to help Alice. He probably wouldn't have garnered attention either, but soon it became apparent that Logan was not only targeting the quiet boy from her art class, but would go out of his way to bully Luke as well.

She felt terrible.

"Oh, speaking of which, do you mind sharing notes with me from yesterday's class? I'm just not getting it." Alice sighed. "And if I go into class today, I just know I'm going to get picked on."

"Oh no problem. Math's easy for me." Luke grinned. He stooped down to his locker and began fiddling with the lock.

"Ugh please don't rub it in." Alice giggled.

"Don't worry," He handed her a binder. "I'll go over it with you." He closed his locker and stood up, grabbing the binder back from her hands.

"Are you sure? That'd be so great. I'm embarrassed at how bad I am at this."

"Nah, don't worry about it. It's easier than you think. You just need to approach it the right way to understand math."

"Okay," Alice laughed, "but don't hate me if you give up on teaching me."

"That's alright I like a challenge!"

She felt her shoulder hit the lockers before she realised what happened.

"Watch where you're going." Nathan spat as he walked past her.

"What the hell man, you walked into her on purpose." Luke spoke up. He took a step back as Nathan got in his face, his backpack sliding off his shoulder and hitting the floor.

"I don't think so."

Luke just glared. Alice looked between the two nervously. Not wanting to cause more of a scene she spoke.

"Luke, it's a nice day out, lets eat lunch and study outside." She suggested quickly. His eyes met hers and softened slightly.

"Right." He swung his backpack over his shoulder. Alice's eagerly turned, but as she did, Nathan's eyes narrowed in on her. With one last glare at her, he shoved Luke into the lockers before stalking away.

"Fuck what a prick." Luke said as they stepped outside. He turned to her. "You okay?"

Alice shrugged in return.

"Maybe he's having a bad day."

"Fuckin' rich kids. If I had a bad day and did that, I'd be out of here faster than it would take me to throw a punch back." He punched the air in front of him, gleefully imagining getting revenge on the bullies he's encountered. "But you know, you seem to be getting a lot of the bullshit as well."

Alice sighed. "Yup, that's me. Magnet for trouble."


She sat in the darkness by herself, annoyed at the current circumstance.

Just a moment ago she had been swinging from a cliff and had jumped from the swing into the water below. This was an interesting turn of events. Usually her dreams were controlled. Of course, she had no control as to where her mind first started, but she had plenty of practice to nudge her surroundings into what she wanted.

This would be the first time since her parents died that she could not lucid dream.

Despite the silence, the room seemed to echo to her so she stood up. As soon as she did, a flash went off and there lay Kate March in front of her. Her eyes were void of any spirit as she lay on her side. Her hands bent in front of her, palms lightly touching as if begging for Alice's help.

Alice took a step forward, but stopped as Kate's limbs began to move on their own. Except, it was off. It wasn't Kate moving herself. It was as if someone else was posing her. When Kate stopped moving, another flash went off, making Alice jump.

A voice that held no owner started to speak, but it was so low that Alice couldn't place it nor make out the words being said

Kate was moved to her back and her head turned to face Alice. Kate's eyes found hers and Alice felt her stomach drop.

"Help." She begged.

Alice leapt forward, stretching her arms out to help Kate. Another flash. Instead of Kate it was Max. Alice bent down and placed her hand on Max's arm. Instead of Max it was now Victoria.

She let go and jumped back in surprise. The flashes kept going off every few seconds and each one showed a Victoria, Kate or Max in a different pose.

Alice turned, not wanting to witness it anymore. The room went dark again.

Was that it?

The flash went off.

Alice turned back and a girl she didn't recognise sat glaring at the space in front of her. Alice felt the emotions radiating off the girl. She felt the dejection and fear, but what surprised Alice the most was the betrayal rolling off this girl's face.

Wait, no. She did look familiar.

The flash blinded her once more and Alice began to recognise the noise as a camera shutter.

This time instead of a white floor with darkness stretching everywhere, Alice stared into a pit of dirt. The same girl now lay beside Nathan, her head on his stomach. Both were unconscious.

Alice hesitated, but moved closer. Only then did she realise how pale the girl looked in comparison to Nathan. She backed away, willing herself to wake up. As she did, the dirt as well as the girl and Nathan began to melt into the darkness. Everything was dark again and Alice began to panic as she realised she still could not control anything.

"Don't trust him."

She turned.

Skin rotting and covered in dirt, the girl stood before her. Her face inches away from her own.

Alice screamed.


"What? Do you not like it? Can you just power through it and at least get to page 52? I promise it gets better."

Alice looked up to a pouty Victoria.

Alice sat on Victoria's bed while the blonde looked through the photo's she'd taken on her computer. Since the impromptu photo shoot, as well as the few after that, they had begun hanging out. Mostly just the two of them as it seemed that Victoria had an interest that she had no desire in sharing with her vortex club friends.

Alice was currently in the midst of reading a new manga series Victoria had been raving about, but her mind kept going back to the dream. Victoria must have noticed because she had not even made it past the 10th page and had to keep rereading the same page over and over again. Victoria was pouting at her from her spot in the corner.

"Sorry Victoria, it's good, really. I just have a lot on my mind. It's hard to explain."

"Like?" Victoria raised an eyebrow.

"Weird Dreams."

"About?" She pressed.

"Er, well. You were in one."

Victoria let her the camera fall into her lap as she grasped it, turning fully to Alice. She grinned and placed her hand on her chest mockingly.

"I'm flattered Alice Thurner, but before anything else, I have to tell you that you're not my type."

Alice glowered and rolled her eyes before taking the pillow she had set behind her back against the wall and chucked it at Victoria who cackled with glee. Alice stared at the wall while Victoria composed herself. Wiping away the tears of laughter from her face, Victoria threw the pillow back to Alice, who set it behind her again.

"So? The dream?"

"Ah," Alice was starting to regret mentioning it. How could she explain what she was afraid was another premonition? "Well it wasn't just you in it. There was Kate Marsh, Max, and. . ." She trailed off. "Do you know the girl from those missing posters?"

Victoria immediately turned up her nose. "Rachel Amber? Barely. Why the hell were you dreaming about her?"

"You didn't like her then? All those posters of her around campus… Do you think she's okay?"

"I mean, I didn't hate her. . . but yeah, everyone's saying that she skipped out on town to become a model. I heard she was fucking a bunch of different people, including a teacher. Maybe it caught up with her and she bailed."

"But wouldn't she at least tell her parents?"

"Who knows. So, what happened in your dream?"

"I uh, never mind. I don't really remember much." She lied, deciding not to ruin her budding relationship with Victoria. "I'll let you know if I remember anything, though."

The girl eyed her suspiciously, but dropped the subject and returned to editing her photos.


The bell rang and Mark dismissed his class. He had arranged with Alice that she would stay after school every Monday or so. Along with helping him with class work, he suggested helping her to use different techniques that would fit her style of photography and she had eagerly agreed.

As the last of the students trickled out, Nathan Prescott walked in and softly closed the door behind him. Far from the confident rude student that owned the school.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

"We'll start again. Soon."

Nathan looked up at him nervously and Mark narrowed his eyes.

"Objections?"

"Uh. No. I uh-"

The door clicked open and Alice walked in. She noticed the two and took a step backwards back into the hallway.

"I'm sorry, am I interrupting? I can come wait or-or comeback in a bit."

Mark waved her in and she stepped in hesitantly clearly feeling the energy of the room.

"We'll talk later Nathan."

"Hn." Was the only reply before he made his way past the door, making sure to shoulder check Alice on the way.

"Sorry about that Alice, please come in."

She smiled shyly at him and placed her bag onto the nearest table. Today they would be finishing developing some of the class photos by hand. They'd continue in class the next day with some more film, but he needed someone to guide the other students alongside him. He noticed she seemed a little withdrawn as they got to work. He had heard about one of the students taking special attention to her. One of the football players. He didn't blame the boy. Alice had an air about her that made even himself want to know more. But, Mark never enjoyed sharing. He would have to put a stop to it.

"So I heard you've been having a little trouble in classes." He spoke. She looked up in surprise.

"Uh, no. Well maybe just in math, but I've always hated math."

"I meant amongst your peers." He clarified.

"Oh," Alice blushed, "Yeah, Logan. It's not a big deal. I think he just enjoys annoying people and I'm just an easy target."

"Well, if it's affecting your studies, you should speak to a teacher." Or confide in him, perhaps.

"Er, no. It's really not a big deal. Plus, he's starting to kind of back off. I have a friend who shares the same classes so I just kinda stick to them instead."

"Good, but let me know if it continues. I can speak to the other teachers. Also, don't be afraid to come to me if there's anything bothering you."

She nodded, avoiding his gaze once again. He couldn't quite put his finger on it. There was something about her. Some kind of secret. He'd get to the bottom of it eventually.

Mark stood beside Alice and watched her pour the chemicals into a pan for developing the photos. He lamented the fact that they were in the darkroom of the school and not in his own space. Her hands were small, not even filling out the disposable gloves she donned. She would pull the gloves tighter onto her hands as they would keep slipping with every movement. He began to imagine how her hands would feel against him. His thoughts were interrupted as she murmured in awe at the photo showing up.

He turned away from her to ready another photo, restraining himself from pushing her up against the counter and taking her right then and there.

"I think its done, do I rinse it off now?"

"Yes, just for about 20 seconds and then you can put it in the fixer."

"For a minute?"

He nodded and moved over to her to see her progress. She dropped the photo in the water as he came up behind her.

"Ah- Sorry."

He chuckled reached around her. "It's okay Alice, you were going to put it in there anyways. You just need to move it around now." He now had both arms on either side of her, one hand holding the tray to lift the corner and move the water, and the other wrapped around her hand that was holding the tongs to move the photo. She stiffened visibly as he did so and smirking at her reaction. He found out very quickly through word of mouth that she actively avoided physical contact with anyone, but he couldn't help himself by pushing the boundary. In a bold move, he moved slightly forward, disguising it as moving the trays aside and putting the photo in the last tray with the fixer. He was tempted to press into her a bit more for good measure, but decided against it, letting her hand go so she could take the photo and hang it.

"That's great, we'll do a few more and see how they turn out. I'll let you demonstrate tomorrow in class."

"I-In front of e-e-everyone?" she spluttered, dropping the photo accidentally while trying to open the clip that would hold it to the string. She quickly caught it and secured it onto the string.

"You'll be fine Alice. I'll be right beside you to help." He smiled and patted her shoulder. She nodded and sighed with a resigned "I guess" and turned to place another photo in the developer.

God, how he wanted to hoist her onto the counter and kiss her.

He chastised himself and returned his thoughts to tomorrow's lesson. He didn't want to scare her off.


"How about this?"

Alice turned from her pastels and sat up on her knees, shuffling over to peer over Max's shoulder who was leaning against her bed.

"Max, I think you're overthinking it. Why don't you call Chloe instead and ask her to come out and see you?"

Max shook her head, deleting the draft on her phone for the 24th time.

"I don't think she'll want to see me." Max said quietly. Alice scoffed.

"Why not? You guys were best friends!" She exclaimed. "I would be ecstatic if an old friend wanted to reconnect with me!"

"Yeah, but she'll be mad."

"It's better late than never, Max. Stop kicking yourself. I'm sure she'll forgive you for the silence for the past. . ." Alice trailed off

"5 years."

"5 years?!"

"I'm terrible. I know." She tossed her phone onto the couch with a resigned sigh.

"Max just talk to her."

"Yeah," Max frowned, "I will. I just don't know what to say."

"She's going to be angry either way, but you guys will get over it and will catch up. You just gotta suck up dealing with the shitty part and look forward to being friends again. Plus she sounds super cool and I need more friends." Alice joked. "I'm seriously socially deprived."

Max nodded, only half listening. Alice smirked, a prank forming in her head. A lesson that one should listen to what wise Alice has to say.

"Hey Max, why do you have a purple mark on your face?"

"Huh? I do? Where?" Max ran her fingers down her face."

"Right here!" Alice shot her hand out and ran her purple pastel down Max's face.

Max blinked, the action registering in her mind before she reached up and touched the colour on her face. The girls began laughing, tears straining to leave the corners of their eyes.


He smiled down at her and took her face in his hands. Her body felt heavy, but her mind felt free. Like there were no consequences to her actions.

"You have no idea how beautiful you are, Alice."

She began crying, but couldn't make out what she was saying, her own voice muffled as if she was underwater.

Then he kissed her.

Alice opened her eyes.

Fantastic. Now she was dreaming about kissing her teacher. Alice groaned and flipped her pillow so it covered her face. Helping after class was going to become much more awkward.


Alice rushed into English, just as the second bell rang and she let out a sigh of relief. She put her things down on the last empty table in the corner. Her desk neighbour had his head buried in his arms, clearly sleeping. She herself had slept in and bolted out of the dormitories as soon as she realised that she was going to be late. Her dreams were starting to take toll on her and she'd wake up wondering how to interpret them.

She was losing control of her dreams and that worried her. They were almost so vivid and clear that she was starting to doubt that they were figments of her imagination. But a hot dream with her photography teacher? Definitely just a dream. She sighed and took off her sweater to hang it on the back of her chair.

"Your shirt is backwards. . . and inside out." The voice beside her murmured quietly. She looked, just realising it was Nathan who was sharing the desk. He had turned his head to look at her, but still lay his head on his arms.

Alice looked down to see the shirt tag poking up at her. She immediately pulled her sweater back on and zipped it all the way up to her neck. Nathan was smirking at her.

"I slept in." She said.

"I can tell."

"Good morning everyone," The teacher spoke. Alice straightened up and looked forward. She could feel Nathan's eyes still on her. "We will be partnering up today for group presentations. Let's just have each table as partners." The class groaned and Alice glanced back at Nathan, who was definitely blatantly staring at her.

There were several assignments that the class could choose from. Simple ones such as character explanations to an in-depth analysis of a character in a book. The classroom was filled with the students' murmurings of the project they were assigned. Alice turned to Nathan again pulling out her notebook, but realised he was back asleep.

"Uh," Alice looked around. Everyone was already discussing their plans. "Nathan?" She placed a hand on his shoulder to which he grunted in return. Alice looked to the teacher automatically, wondering if she should say something, but the teacher seemed to take one look at Nathan, shake their head and go back to their desk.

Whatever. She could do this by herself if he wanted to sleep instead of trying.

By the end of the class, he had finally woken up, not bothering to cover up his yawning.

"Nathan, are you going to help me on this assignment?" Alice asked nervously. "We have to present this together."

The bell rang and he ignored her, grabbing his unused notebook which he used as a pillow and walking past the desks. She packed her bag hurriedly and chased after him.

"Wait!" She grabbed his shoulder just as he entered an empty stairwell. He immediately turned on her and backed her into the door.

"What. The fuck. Do you want?" He said.

"I just – the assignment. I was thinking we could do a character analysis of Holden from Catcher in the Rye. We're partners." Alice stammered. She felt the door begin to open behind her, but Nathan pulled it back closed, pushing her aside slightly to raise his finger at the student through the window. The student huffed and turned around to look for another way.

"And?"

"Um, well did you want to work on it after class today?"

"Busy."

"Oh."

He was dangerously close to her and she wondered if he knew what personal boundaries were. As she contemplated his attitude, she didn't realise he had spoken again and began to ascend the staircase.

"Lunch time." He repeated exasperatedly.

"Oh! Okay yeah sure." Alice said. "Where do you want to meet?"

"I'll find you."

And with that, he left. A knocking sounded behind her and she remembered she was basically blocking the doorway. She opened the door to a frustrated student, mumbling an apology.

"Your shirt is inside out by the way." The girl said as Alice passed her. Alice looked down and the tag was sticking out above the zipper. Alice cursed to herself and bee lined for the nearest bathroom to fix her clothes.

Chapter Text

Alice entered the photography classroom and smiled as she saw Max fiddling with her Analog camera. If Alice was being honest with herself, she was a little intimidated by it. People like Max and Victoria were in this class to pursue a career in photography and here she was, just taking the class as a way to expand and inspire her art.

She snuck in behind Max just as Max raised the camera to her face. The camera let off the flash and Alice waited patiently as the photo developed. Max turned around as soon as she realised there was another face in the photo and Alice grinned widely at her.

"Oh, hey." Max smiled. She raised the photo. "Thanks this is perfect!" Alice laughed as she looked down at her own face, sneaking up on Max dramatically.

"So what's new with you today?" Alice said as she sat down. She gave a small wave to Victoria and Taylor who just walked in. The latter looking a bit somber, but returning a small smile. Victoria had mentioned that Taylor's mother was due for surgery within the next week or so and Taylor was having a hard time not being able to be there all the time while her mother was in constant pain.

"Nothing, but Mr. Jefferson said he's going to announce something. Any idea what it is?"

"Oooh, no I don't. He hasn't said anything other than stuff about class work. All I know is that we're developing photos today."

"Damn, well you're no use." Max joked.

"Hey, no one told me to get the inside scoop on surprises in this class." Alice raised a hand to her chest mockingly as if she was offended. "Speaking of announcements, have you announced your presence to Chloe?"

"That is a terrible segue into making me talk about Chloe." Max huffed.

"I know, but if I keep bugging you, maybe you'll finally call her." Alice folded her arms across her chest. She knew Max was starting to get irritated with her, but she hoped it was because of the guilt that was building on top of Max and using Alice as an outlet for her frustration

"Yeah. I will."

"Keep saying that if it makes you feel better, but we both know I'm right." Alice chided.

Max leaned forward, laying the upper half of her body on the desk. Her arms stuck out straight in front of her, her chin touching the cold wood. Forty-two drafts written and scrapped because she couldn't figure out how to say just how sorry she was. If she was being honest, she wouldn't forgive herself either.

"Ok, Sloth-Max. Don't mope." Alice pet Max's hair. Alice looked down at Max with a sad smile. Even if Max didn't know it yet, it was obvious she had feelings for her best friend.

"I'm not moping. mmtrying to melt into the desk." She buried her face in her arms, muffling her voice. Chloe's face stood out in her mind. What did she look like now? Was she taller? Did she have a boyfriend? That last question sent a pang through Max's heart. Chloe was definitely the popular kind of girl. She charmed everyone around her. Her confidence was what Max lacked and that's why they got along so well. Or at least they did.

It was already uncomfortably awkward that she had been here a little less than a month and she still hadn't contacted either Joyce or Chloe. Would Joyce be disappointed? Despite knowing karma would bite her in the ass for prolonging it, she still couldn't figure out what to say.

Her thoughts were brought to a halt as her photography idol stood at the front of the class. She would work on another draft later.

Alice froze as Mr. Jefferson glanced at her before addressing the whole class. Her thoughts immediately went back to the day before. He was so close to her. She could feel her heart starting to race faster like it did then. He held her hand in his when showing her how to develop photos. She was surprised her head didn't explode with visions.

Lately Alice was overcome with imagining what it would be like to be with him. She never thought she'd have a schoolgirl crush on a teacher. She'd have to snap out of it before she broke her own heart.

"Every day heroes." He announced. The class looked on in bewilderment. "It is the theme to a national photography contest that, I hope, all of you will be participating in."

The class began to buzz and he shushed them before continuing.

"The winner will be chosen by me. You will be flown to San Francisco to have a chance to represent Blackwell. The date is October eleven, so you'll have a couple weeks to find that perfect shot. Any questions?"

The class erupted in excited tones, hands shooting up eagerly. She turned away as his eyes met hers and she wanted to smack herself for being so obvious in staring.

Max turned to Alice as the class raised their hands eagerly. Victoria most of all.

"Are you gonna enter?"

Alice pursed her lips in thought. "I dunno. Maybe. I don't really want to. Photography isn't really my forte. What about you?" It also wouldn't feel right to enter when a career in photography wasn't an important goal in her life.

"Same. I'm not sure my photos would be worthy of a contest."

"I'm sure you'll think of something!" Alice smiled encouragingly.

"Don't bother, Maxine. It's just going to be embarrassing for you when I win." Victoria whispered haughtily next to them. Alice rolled her eyes. Max didn't say anything and Alice didn't blame her. It wouldn't be worth it for Max to take the bait and engage Victoria.

She nudged Max who was doing her best to pretend to read her textbook.

"Please enter and beat her cocky ass." Alice whispered. They turned their attention back to the front of the class.

"Now, it's not mandatory, but I expect an entry from each of you. So think hard about what an everyday hero is. Like I always say. If you see something that inspires you, always take the shot." This time Mr. Jefferson directed his smile at Alice. Victoria noticed and took the opportunity to speak up.

She raised her hand. "Mr. Jefferson, shouldn't only the students who are serious about photography as a career be allowed to enter?" She narrowed her eyes at Alice. Alice wanted to scoff. Sometimes Victoria's attitude just made her want to do the opposite of what she said.

"I want everyone to have a chance, Victoria. No one has their future set in stone. In fact, if my old teacher hadn't handed me a camera, I probably would be working in forensic psychology."

Victoria huffed and crossed her arms. Mr. Jefferson turned to answer another question, giving Alice the chance to give Victoria a cheeky grin. The pixie cut blond rolled her eyes.

Fine. If Victoria was going to be a baby about competition, then Alice would definitely try and actually give her a reason to be intimidated. She turned her back to the stuck up blonde. Max began to whisper to her.

"How can you stand her? She's so mean." Max grimaced.

"Don't mind her Max, she seems incredibly supercilious, but she's all talk." Alice smirked.

"She hates me." Max mumbled.

"I think you mean, she's intimidated by you."


She was starting to think that Nathan said he'd meet her just to shut her up. Alice sat on the bench by her locker, waiting for the crowd to die down, tucking her legs in as close as she could to avoid the anyone stepping on her feet. She bought a sandwich from the cafeteria right after class and rushed back to the hallways. Nathan could have at the very least told her to wait somewhere. Trying to avoid people was becoming annoying. People were starting to think she was stuck up. She never knew when her power would start and it was honestly exhausting whenever it happened. She wondered if there was such thing as a school to teach her how control her curse or supress it. Imagine, the X-Men real life. That got a laugh out of her. She imagined herself in a skin-tight suit. Except she wouldn't exactly be helpful in battle.

"Wow."

Whoops. She laughed out loud. Nathan stood to her left, staring at her.

"Oh hi."

"Is this why everyone avoids you? You laugh to yourself like a freak?" He stuck his hands in his pockets, tapping his foot. Alice briefly wondered if he had restless leg syndrome. She didn't answer his question and instead diverted the topic into homework.

"So, the homework," Alice started.

"Yeah what the fuck ever. Let's just get it done."

He began to walk the opposite way, prompting Alice to pick up her things and follow closely. She disappeared around the corner just as another figure watching them did as well.

They headed outside and sat down on a picnic bench under the shade behind the school. It was a warm day today, despite the slight autumn wind, and Alice found herself taking off her sweater and tying it around her waist. Alice placed her books down and flipped through them to the right pages.

"So like I said before, I was thinking we could do a character analysis for Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield."

"He's an asshole. What more can you analyse?" Nathan said.

"Is that all you think he is?"

"Well," Nathan said uncertainly, "Yeah. The whole book was pointless."

In that moment, Alice realised just how similar Nathan and Holden Caulfield were. His eyes scrunched as he turned the pages in Alice's copy of the book. He wasn't flunking exactly, but she could see the personality and attitudes match up.

"All he does is complain about shit." Nathan tossed the book onto the table. Alice paused for a moment before speaking.

"Do you remember when he was talking about the ducks with that cab driver?"

"I guess."

"Why do you think he cared so much about the ducks?"

Nathan looked taken aback at the question. "What?"

"The ducks. Why did he care so much about where they go during the winter?"

"Fuck if I know-he wanted to hunt them?" Nathan spluttered. Alice laughed and shook her head.

"He was comparing himself to them." Alice said. Nathan looked even more confused so she continued. "He was worried about them because he was scared. He just got kicked out of school and had nowhere to go, like the ducks. He had a shitty life yet he was worried about where ducks go during the winter. Don't you think so? He just wants someone to take care of him and worry about him like that."

Nathan looked to be going into deep thought and Alice wondered if he knew he practically wore his heart on his sleeve. So many emotions flashed across his face as he thought about her words.

Meanwhile, Alice unwrapped a lollipop and stuck it in her mouth.

"I hated the character too," Alice said, rolling the candy around her mouth, "but my brother asked me the same question when I read it the first time and it made me look at Holden in a whole new light. In a way, I think everyone can relate to him. He feels lost in a world he struggles to define as well as trying to define himself at the same time."

Nathan was at a loss for words. He never really thought of it that way. He picked up the book and skimmed the scenes to refresh his memory while Alice wrote took notes. She gave him the task of picking out the scenes that stood out to him and they'd analyse each one and put it all together. He wouldn't admit it out loud to her, but for once he was actually having fun doing homework.

He made a joke about one of the scenes and had Alice crying in laughter.

By the time they got to the end scene with the sister, Nathan found himself yearning for his older sister. How could she leave, knowing she'd be leaving him with a monster of a father? The least she could have done was take him with her.

His thoughts were interrupted by a loud ringtone. Alice's phone began to vibrate against the picnic table. He watched her glance at it before continuing writing. The screen showed a dark-haired man holding up a piece of paper. He couldn't make out what the words said.

"Aren't you going to answer it?" He asked.

"Nah, it's just my brother. He always bugs me at this time to make sure I'm not doing anything stupid."

The phone stopped ringing.

"You look nothing alike." Nathan stated. Alice let out a chuckle, raising her hand to let her cheek rest upon it.

"Adopted siblings rarely do."

Nathan felt his face flare up with heat. "Right. You said that before.."

The screen lit up again, grabbing both their attention.

Alice sighed and reached for it, but was surprised to see another hand grab it before her. Before she knew it, Nathan was answering her phone.

"What do you want?" He said, holding out his arm as Alice tried to grab the phone back. She couldn't hear what Wesley was saying, but it couldn't be good. "Yeah she's here. Me? I'm uh.."

Nathan looked back at Alice who was glaring daggers at him.

"Don't you dare." She mouthed slowly.

"I'm the father of the baby growing inside her."

Her mouth dropped. The few seconds of silence were all Alice needed to know that Wes was about to freak out.

"LISTEN HERE YOU LITTLE SHIT-" Wesley's voice broke through the tiny speaker on her phone.

"We bumped uglies when she moved into the dorms!" Nathan yelled as he held her away with one hand. Oh lord. Wesley was going to have a hernia from Nathan's words. She just knew it.

She rolled her fingers into a ball and punched Nathan in the gut making him double over with laughter. She snatched the phone from his hand and brought it up to her ear. She instantly pulled it away when she heard him yelling and cussing.

"Wes? Wes! Calm down." She said, but only heard swearing. "Wes! He was joking! He's just a classmate! Wes stop yelling. Oh my god. Nathan, I'm going to kill you." She directed her last words towards the other teen who began howling with laughter. She put the phone down on the table, still able to hear her step-brother's yelling. She gathered her things, making sure to smack Nathan with the smallest book.

He smirked at the look on her face.

"If he comes down here with a whole police force, I'm blaming you, Nathan Prescott." She stuck her fist out at his face and then picked up her phone again to face the wrath her brother was unleashing on her ears.

"Wesley! It's not even been a month, do you not understand how the human body - Don't make me hang up on you!" He heard Alice yell as she walked away. He couldn't help but smirk again at the misfortune he laid upon her.


He walked in to English the next day and found her hunched over their presentation notes. He sat down noisily, tossing his book onto the table and falling into his chair lazily all while watching her reaction. She glanced up once before going back to her notes, a slight scowl on her face.

"The fuck's your problem?"

She turned to him.

"Because of your hilarious joke," Alice said in a low, but fierce whisper so no one else could hear, "my brother is threatening to come here or pull me out of school."

He let out a bark of laughter, causing a few heads to turn. "Because he thinks we-"

She quickly shushed him, red in the face. He waited for the remaining faces to turn away before speaking again to match her volume.

"How about we really give him a reason?" He wiggled his eyebrows. "I'll make it worth it."

She scoffed and shoved him away. Why did he have to be such an ass?

"Ugh."

"God. Relax, you prude." He sneered. And with that, the teacher walked in and Alice ignored him until it was their turn to go to the front of the class.

She was definitely upset with him. Perhaps he shouldn't have teased her brother like that. But somehow Nathan found her reaction to be intriguing. For once in his life, someone was avoiding him for his own actions and not just because they had heard rumours. He had control.

How far could he push her buttons, he wondered.

Over the next few days Nathan found himself actively seeking out Alice in the hallways between classes. It never took long to spot her, her hair standing out from the rest. But once she noticed him lingering in the background thanks to that Luke kid with the stupid hat pointing it out to her, he realised that maybe his behaviour was starting to border on stalker-ish. With that in mind, he resigned himself to going straight to his classes as much as he hated it.

Nathan and Victoria were sitting on the girl's dormitory steps chatting. Well, she was. Thankfully Taylor and Courtney were busy so he could spend time with his best friend. Victoria was currently planning the next party for the vortex club, but Nathan was barely listening. He was fine with her planning everything, she loved being in charge.

"I'll get Courtney to be in charge of the list this time for guests." Victoria continued. He probably should pay attention to at least some things she was saying, but he was sure that if it was important or included him, she'd remind him later.

His eyes wandered from his feet, to the students walking around the corner, the girls kicking around a soccer ball then finally settled on a certain silver haired girl.

Alice was sitting on the grass using one of the concrete benches as a table for her to draw on.

"-and of course, we'll have to change the DJ this time. That last guy was horrendous."

"Mhmm." Nathan replied. He noticed the strands falling into her face and covering her drawing. Every now and then she would bunch up her hair and put it behind her, but every time she moved, the strands got in her way again.

Just tie your hair up. Idiot.

He was feeling aggravated. She had thoroughly ignored him even going so far as to make sure she'd be sitting with someone else during class.

" – to me?" Victoria nudged him lightly.

"Huh? Yeah. Dj, drinks. I'm on it." He said, his eyes still focused on her.

"You totally weren't listening." Victoria deadpanned.

"I was, Vic. I-" Just then Alice walked up the stairs, having finished with her work, giving Victoria a smile and a small wave as she stepped past them. She didn't even acknowledge his presence. Nathan stared dumbfoundedly, his eyes never leaving her until the door shut behind her.

"I see. . ." Victoria narrowed her eyes skeptically. Despite being Nathan's closest friend, he still made a point in keeping things from her. It was obvious that he was interested in Alice, but his nature stopped him from doing anything about it. Nathan turned back around to face the grass with a glower, resting his elbows on his knees.

"You know, she's not as mad as you think. Just apologize." Victoria said. Nathan looked up at her, surprised. "She told me, idiot. I laughed though, if that makes you feel any better."

"So. . . What do I do?"

"What are you, deaf? I just told you. Apologize."

He gave her a look of derision.

"Don't give me that. It's not as hard as you think." She flicked him on his forehead


He waited for that creepy janitor to disappear inside the maintenance closet before speed walking towards the entrance of the girl's dormitory. He tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for someone to open the door. He huffed as he began to become impatient. All this to apologize. It was starting to seem like it wasn't worth it. Prescott's do not apologize, as his father would say. He flinched, remembering those words being said as he was brutally forced to the ground by his father's hand.

He leaned against the railing, the contents of the brown paper bag in his hand clinking against the black metal. He was tempted to take one out for himself. It's not like she would know. Instead, he fiddled with the zipper on his jacket. The sound of laughter seeped through the wood, reaching his ears and he stood straight as the door opening, just in case it was her.

The door opened, and he opened his mouth to speak, but Juliet and Dana were the ones who emerged. Of course it wouldn't be her. He shut his mouth again.

"Oh hey, Nathan." Dana said as she held the door open with one arm, "Oh, uh, Victoria isn't in the dorms right now. I think she left to-"

"Not looking for her." He shot out, a little harsher than he meant to be. He pushed past, ducking his head under her arm and into the dorms, making them stagger to get out of his way. As the door was closing he could hear Dana asking what was wrong with him. He shook his head. Nothing new. No matter how hard he tried, everyone was always put off by him.

He reached the end of the hallway, pausing at Victoria's for a moment out of habit. He looked at the last door on the right. The board beside it had an incredibly detailed drawing of a pair of lips. He stepped closet to take a look and realised that it was a forest. The tops of the trees and the roots served as the details to make the top and bottom of the lips. Colour him impressed. She really was a good artist.

The entrance opened again and an Asian girl talking animatedly on the phone walked in. Nathan froze, wondering if he should hide, but realised there wasn't really a place to do that. He tried the door to Alice's room, but it was unsurprisingly locked. He let out a breath of relief when the girl didn't notice him, disappearing into her own room. Nathan let out the breath he didn't realise he was holding in.

He steeled himself, facing Alice's door again and bent down to lean the bag against the door. There. He had done it. He began to walk away.

Apologize. Victoria's voice popped into his head.

He grumbled in frustration before walking back to the door and grabbing the marker from the whiteboard. He patted himself down, looking for a scrap piece of paper to write on. Nothing. Fuck.


Alice entered the dormitories with Max and Kate in front of her. They had just returned from the local coffee shop, trying out the new tea flavours that were advertised. She liked the two girls. They held a certain calm about them and that comforted her. Max still seemed a little unsure about herself, but Alice knew that that attributed to her conflict about contacting her childhood friend. It was almost October. Max was treading on thin ice. She sighed. She couldn't push her anymore though. At one point, Alice was tempted to call Chloe herself, Max needed to do this on her own.

They reached the end of the hall and both Max and Kate entered their own rooms, leaving Alice alone in the hallway. As she approached her door. She noticed the paper bag leaning against the door frame and door. She picked it up delicately by the corner, hoping it wasn't some sort of prank and shook it for good measure. It didn't seem harmful so she unfolded the top. Inside were a bunch of lollipops, some orange, but mostly blue. She stuck her hand in and rummaged around the sugary treats. No note. Interesting.

She looked down the hallway to see if anyone else was there, wondering if someone had give her the gift. It was empty still. She pursed her lips and turned back to enter her room. As her hand touched the doorknob, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. She backed up and looked at her white board. Underneath her drawing was one word and a letter.

Sorry.

-NP

Alice smiled and entered her room, grabbing one of the sugary treats out of the bag to unwrap and savour.


"Don't fuck up this time."

Nathan nodded to his teacher. Invite Kate to the Vortex Party. Easy. Mark dismissed him and he grabbed his books from his desk. He needed a smoke. He'd ask Victoria to skip next class with him. As he exited the room into the busy hallway, he spotted Victoria talking to Taylor and Alice. Victoria noticed him first and waved him over.

"I was just telling Taylor and Alice about the next party. Alice is-"

"Skip with me." He stated, not even looking at the other two. Victoria's face shifted into concern.

"Uh, sure Nate."

"Yeah."

"Okay," She turned to the girls, "I'll see you in Mr. Jefferson's class." Both of them nodded. Victoria walked to her locker and shoved her things inside. Nathan followed.

"Bye Nathan," Taylor said in a sing-song voice. He grunted in return and glanced back at Alice. Alice held his gaze for a moment before sticking her tongue out. It was blue.

He looked away as he felt his face heat up.

"Sooo what's up with you and Thurner?" Victoria quipped. True to her word, she skipped with him to hang out and talk in his room. She listened to him rant about his father and the responsibilities he had on his shoulders, leaving out of course, his extra curricular activities with Jefferson. He wished he could talk about Rachel's disappearance or what he was about to do to Kate, but as much as he trusted Vic and she hated Rachel, he still couldn't risk ending up in jail. He doubted his family's money would get him out of that. Still, he was lucky to have Victoria as a friend. He'd never tell, but she was a good replacement for his sister while she was travelling. The only downside was that since they had plenty of classes together, it was like Victoria made it her mission to keep an eye on him.

"Nothing."

"Really?"

"Fuck off."

"Some have noticed you staring lately. You're not very subtle, especially when you're pfffff." She wiggled her eyebrows, pinching her thumb and forefinger in front of her lips. She sucked in a breath, pretending to inhale from an imaginary joint.

"Is watching her a new hobby of yours?" Victoria joked and took the blunt from him to actually take a hit. Nathan's face turned red and he scoffed. As of lately, Nathan was into very little. Other than drugs, photography and setting up the vortex parties, he had nothing for himself. He had a notion to force himself into something so Victoria wouldn't be so worried about what he did in his spare time. Nor would she be paying attention to everything he did, like right now.

"Yeah, like I'd waste my time on that freak." He grabbed the joint from her fingers, resulting in an angry swipe from his best friend.

"Hey!"

He held out his arm, just out of her reach and brought it to his lips as she gave up. He closed his eyes as he inhaled and slowly exhaled the smoke out his nose. What the fuck ever. Victoria could shove it. The only reason it seemed like he was always looking at her was because it seemed like she was always there wherever he looked. It wasn't his fault if she walked into his view.

Her face popped up in his head suddenly and all he could focus on was her smile. She had smiled at him while they were working on the project for English, but now it was like her smiles were reserved for everyone else, but him. Why the hell did she hang out with Caulfield? That selfie ho of Blackwell was a thorn in Victoria's side. Nosy bitch. And what the hell was so great about that wannabe, Luke? Always wearing that stupid cap. What did she see in him?

At that thought, Nathan started coughing violently. Since when did he care who she hung out with or smiled with? Victoria smirked and patted his back. She took the coughing fit as an opportunity to grab the joint from him. She lay back on his bed as he gained control of his lungs.

"Maybe you're right. Nothing interesting about her. She's always eating those strawberry lollipops. I bet they're laced."

"They're orange." Nathan said as he caught his breath. He lit up another joint rather than attempt to steal the other back. Victoria smirked. Aha. She sat up quickly and grinned. Nathan breathed out some smoke just as her face got close to his. "What?"

Her grin widened.

Ah fuck. He could feel his face heat up.

"What the fuck ever Vic," He stated and stood up, "Doesn't fucking prove anything."

She cackled at his mistake.

"Whatever you say," She shrugged, "She's not all that bad. Not as much of a freak as Maxine. You apologised, right? Want me to get a word in? Or I can get some information on her so you can cozy up together"

Nathan paused for a moment, seriously considering if he should take her up on that offer. He groaned at her determination to ruin his day and fell onto the couch, one leg hanging off and his other knee propped up. He didn't need the help. He would get over it. She was just a curiosity. Nothing more. It was enough that she compelled him to feel regret at his actions. He didn't need to drag her into his fucked-up life.

"So is that a yes?" Victoria said cheekily.

"Fuck off."

Chapter Text

Alice was just leaving the dorms when she saw Nathan with his hands shoved into his pockets. His hair was slightly mussed. It was kinda cute. She quickly ran up to him from behind.

"Nathan, hey." She ran in front of him to face him.

"What." He tensed up.

"I just wanted to say thank you for the candy. I overreacted. Sorry. My brother can just be big pain to deal with." She laughed nervously. "Are we cool?"

She smiled when he nodded.

"Morning." Victoria walked up, sipping from a metal travel mug. The steam lifted from it into the crisp morning air. She lifted her brows when Nathan took a step back from the silver haired girl.

Kate Marsh called from the dorm entrance and Alice waved to the both and ran back to greet Kate and a half-asleep Max.

"So, you apologised, right?" Victoria turned to her best friend. The laughs of the three girls behind them echoed over the grounds and Victoria sipped her coffee, annoyed. It was too early for this noise.

"Hn."

"See, that wasn't so hard now, was it?" Victoria handed him her mug. He took it and swung his head back as he chugged the rest, not caring about the burn cascading down his throat.


Alice arrived three minutes early to English class, unpacking her bag onto the table beside the window. The class was a little hot as the blinds were left open, leaving only the suns rays to heat up the class through the glass. She struggled to open the window, but managed to crack it open, sighing as the cool breeze hit her.

The class began to fill up quickly, a girl taking up residence beside Alice, but as the girl propped open her backpack, a voice cleared their throat. Both girls looked up to see Nathan, his binder tucked under his arm and his hands in his front pockets. Nathan looked down at the girl beside Alice and jerked his head to the side. The girl immediately jumped out of the seat and went onto the other side of the classroom, leaving Nathan to slide onto the chair casually.

"That wasn't nice." Alice murmured to him.

"It's my seat."

"You've literally never sat here since classes started." Alice shot back.

"Everyone else is too annoying to sit beside." He tossed his binder onto the table. It slid to the edge, almost falling off in the process, but Nathan slapped his hand down and pulled it back.

Alice smiled as he eyed her out of the corner of his eye, trying to play off the action as something he meant to do.


"Alice." Mark called out as she entered the classroom. She had just dropped off some files to another teacher. They were done for the day and he found the perfect opportunity to ease her into being more comfortable with him.

She approached him with a gentle smile.

"I have to travel to the next town over this weekend to drop off a few things as well as get some equipment for class. Would you be able to accompany me?"

"Oh," Alice said. She thought about it for a moment. She vaguely recalled Victoria finding another costume she wanted her to model.

"It won't take up your whole day. Promise."

Victoria probably wanted to do a morning shoot anyways, Alice concluded.

"Sure."

"Great. I have a few things to do first, but you can meet me in town at about 2:30pm and we'll head out."


Alice picked up the expensive camera with hesitation, stuffing it into the carrying case. Mr. Jefferson had encouraged her to use it, but it just didn't feel right to be using such a professional piece of equipment in her amateur hands. Regardless, he wouldn't take no for an answer so she left his office with it. She would try to implement the tricks he showed her outside of class, so she hoped she could produce at least something of worth to submit.

Alice rummaged through her bag to make sure she had the dorm key before slowly opening the door and peeking out. The hallway was dark and empty. She was just about to step out, but she heard the faint sound of a toilet flushing down the hall. She closed the door just leaving a small gap and pushed her ear into the empty space to listen for the footfalls. It was coming closer. She heard a small yawn before a door shut. It had either been Kate or Victoria, considering how close their doors were.

She took a quick peek into the hallway again before stepping out. She pulled the strap of her bag closer, feeling the dark shadows of the hall grabbing at her. It was stupid to be afraid of the dark, but she couldn't help but feel uneasy. She blamed her love of horror movies. She loved watching, but to be in one would be her worst nightmare.

She heard some indistinct sound coming from Juliet's room. Alice moved a little closer as she walked and realised the girl was watching a movie. She jumped as a scream emitted from the room and she could hear Juliet curse and turn the volume down. A loud angry thump came from the next room and Juliet called out a meek apology to Taylor, her neighbour.

Alice let her shoulders relax a little and she smiled as she passed the rooms. When she opened the door, she gave a quick scan of the grounds in case the security guard was wandering around at this time. When she didn't see anything, she closed the door softly behind her and stepped down the steps. It was a rather warm night, which was perfect for Alice.

She kicked a stone as she walked on the concrete path, passing the boys dormitory. She didn't notice the figure behind the banister facing her.

"Where are you going?"

A scream almost ripped out of her throat as she jumped at the voice. Nathan laughed at her, his elbows keeping his weight as he leaned forward on the railing. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and pressed it into the banister before flicking it into the bushes. He walked to the opening on the porch and leaned against the pole. Alice still held her chest with one hand, feeling her heart beat thud under her fingertips.

"Sorry," He smirked, "I couldn't resist."

She glared at him.

"Taking expensive equipment, I see." He gestured to the camera bag. She gripped the strap protectively against her chest.

"I-I have permission to use it." She shot back.

"At this time at night?" He raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. Alice looked back at the girls dormitory and back at him nervously.

"Are you going to rat me out?" Alice sighed. "I need to go now because the lighting will be perfect for what I need."

"Can I come?"

Alice was taken aback for a moment.

"Oh, yeah I guess. I don't know how long I'll be though. Don't you need to sleep?"

"Can't sleep." Nathan shrugged and came down the steps. Alice examined his face as he came closer. He had the beginnings of dark circles under his eyes. He didn't look as jittery though, just as if he was tired. She wondered if everything was okay with his family.

"Everything okay?" She asked, worry etching over her face. He shot her a look.

"None of your business. Are you gonna let me come with you or am I letting security catch you?"

Alice balked. Was he really threatening her?

"Ugh fine." She began to walk away. "You don't have to be such an asshole about it. Come on then."

She trudged past the gate, not bothering to wait for him. A slight breeze brushed past Alice as she walked. The only sounds came from their feet across the pavement. Nathan stalked after her, slightly hunched over. When she glanced back, she had half a mind to tell him to straighten up, but she had a feeling he wouldn't appreciate the comment.

As they passed the area behind the school, a rusty stool by the dumpster caught her eye. She caught Nathan off guard, immediately turning without warning to see it. He could hear him curse her out at the suddenness. Good. Payback for scaring her. She ignored him and immediately started feeling the stool and pressing down on it with her hands to see if it would hold her weight. An idea popped into her head and she lifted it into her hands turning just as Nathan came up behind her.

"The fuck are you planning to do with that?" He asked.

"You'll see! This is perfect!" She started to walk again towards the forested area. If she remembered correctly, there was a small pond nearby that would work for her photo. He shook his head and followed after her.

As they entered the trees, Alice felt a little shiver rush through her and she could hear the rustling of leaves through the branches. She had debated on wearing pants instead of shorts, but thought the weather was mild enough. She slowed down a bit, allowing Nathan to match her pace along the dirt path. They walked for a few minutes in silence until Nathan spoke up.

"So is this for that contest Jefferson mentioned?"

"Maybe. I'm not sure yet. I haven't decided if I want to enter yet. Have you entered?" She shifted the stool in her arms to carry it more comfortably. It was small but rather heavy as it was made of metal. "I've seen your photos. I really like your style. It suits you. You'll have to show me what you're submitting. Maybe I could learn a thing or two."

"The fuck's that supposed to mean?" He muttered. She smiled and lightly pushed her shoulder into his.

"It's a compliment. Learn how to accept one."

"Oh." A smile quirked at the corner of his mouth. Or at least that's what it looked like. It was hard to see in the moonlight coming through the trees.

They came to a clearing and Alice quickly set the equipment down on the ground and began setting up the tripod for the camera. Nathan sat against a large rock, watching her work. As he watched her, he wished he had his camera. She was right. The lighting was perfect at this time. The moon was at an optimum height for shots

The tripod clicked into place in a low position, facing the dark water. She turned the camera slightly and looked through the viewfinder, adjusting it until she was happy. She took the camera remote in one hand and began to take off her shoes and socks.

"Whoa, what are you doing?" Nathan stood up quickly.

"Relax, Nathan." She laughed. She placed her shoes beside the bag and lifted a towel out to place on the nearest rock.

"You're going in? It's freezing!"

"Well, not all the way in. That's what this is for!" She lifted the metal stool and began to step gingerly towards the water as he voiced some more complaints, telling her he wouldn't help if she fell in.

Alice toed the waterline, mud squelching under her feet. She slipped the remote between her lips to hold the stool better. She could already feel the cold water. She braced herself and slowly walked in, body instantly tensing up as the water bit at her feet. She squealed through her nose and she heard Nathan throw an "I told you so" her way.

She brought the stool down into the water, slowly lowering it until it the seat barely skimmed the surface. She pressed down to set it into the mud. The legs sunk into the mud and the top of the stool was just above the water, part of it sunken in due to the uneven terrain. The water was just above her knees.

She glanced back at Nathan who was giving her a look of haughty derision. She looked back to the stool and once again braced herself before sitting on it. She couldn't help but let out a small scream as the water hit her thighs, but she quickly pulled her legs up to sit cross-legged while balancing on the seat. She motioned to the towel at Nathan's feet and he promptly tossed it to her. She caught it and began wiping down her legs. She rolled the towel into a ball and threw it back; Nathan caught it, almost falling into the water as it hit his hands.

Alice laughed as Nathan glowered at her.

"Hey man, you wanted to come. Make yourself useful." Alice mocked. "Okay, okay. Get out of the shot. Can you check the camera? Am I centered? Can you see the chair?" She adjusted herself uncomfortably, the water sloshing and soaking her shorts. Nathan walked over and looked at the screen, nodding over to her.

Alice put the remote in her left hand and tucked it between her folded legs. She channeled what Victoria taught her (forced her to pose) while modeling the costumes. She tilted her head up slightly towards the night sky and shut her eyes, a slight smile brushing her face. She lay her right hand behind her, lightly laying her fingers and palm to the surface of the water. The water hugged her skin coolly.

As she pressed the button, she opened her eyes once more as she heard Nathan rummaging through the camera equipment. He began to pull something out and Alice continued taking several shots. As she took another shot, a flash went off and she realised Nathan had set up some lighting to help her. She smiled appreciatively at him. He shrugged and continued to adjust the settings. She was suddenly glad he joined her. The lighting equipment would have gone unused as she wasn't as comfortable using them yet.

After she was sure she got the shots she needed, Alice grimaced. This would be the unpleasant part again. She cursed herself for choosing a difficult subject to submit. Her legs once again dipped into the cold murky water and she let out a quiet squeal. She sat for a moment to collect her self before standing up, balancing herself on the stools horizontal bars. She held out her arms to aid her.

"Do you. . . do you need help?" Nathan asked as he disassembled. She grinned and shook her head, but as she stepped off the stool, she lost her balance and stumbled a little. Nathan swore, calling her clumsy.

"I'm fine, I'm fine!" Alice laughed. She took the stool and placed it close enough for Nathan to grab it from his position, but as he took it and placed it aside, his head shot back as he heard a splash. Alice was on her hands and knees in the shallow water.

"You fucking idiot." Nathan said. Alice laughed.

"Oh my god, it's so cold!" She half screamed.

"No fucking duh." He replied. He hesitated a moment before toeing the ponds edge and reaching out a hand. "Fuck. Hurry up."

Alice reached out and clasped her hand in his. She didn't know why she was surprised that it was warm. Her eyes met his as she pulled herself up. The moonlight highlighted the features of his face and Alice found herself stuck in his gaze. He had such a soft face when he wasn't scowling. How would he react if she kissed him?

"Your hands are fucking cold." Aaaaannndd moment ruined.

Alice pushed herself up, only using Nathan's hand as leverage, but as she stepped forward she slipped in the mud once again. Nathan panicked and tried to catch her, but fell with her instead. The dark cold water now gripped them both. Nathan swore. Alice strung several apologies together as they both scrambled out of the water.

Nathan stepped away shaking the sleeves of his jacket. Mud and water flicked off with each shake

"I'm so sorry, Nathan. I'll have it cleaned." She reasoned, starting to fear his pugnacious nature would now be turned on her tenfold.

"It's fine. It's just mud." He sighed. He turned back to her and grabbed the towel. He wrapped it around her shoulders. She apologised once more as she had only thought to bring the one towel. She began to wipe down whatever water she could. He ignored her and shrugged off his jacket to ring the water out.

Alice hauled the camera bag over her shoulder and wrapped the towel once more around herself. They began to walk back through the path. Alice noticed a shiver pass through him. He was wearing a black shirt so it was hard to tell what part of it was wet. He held his soaked jacket in one hand.

In a bold gesture, she shifted the bag to her other side and moved closer to Nathan to throw the towel over the both of them. He flinched at the unexpected action, but relaxed when she pressed herself into him, linking one arm into his.

"I'm going to feel doubly guilty if you catch a cold." Alice clarified.

As they reached the dorms, Alice grabbed his arm as he began walking towards his dorm.

"I have something you can change into. I'll clean your clothes." Alice said and dragged him with her. They entered the dorms, Alice peeking into the hallway to see if the coast was clear. Nathan followed silently behind her. She had already let go so he didn't really know what was stopping him from turning around to go back to his dorm.

They entered her room and Alice flicked on the lights and ushered him in. She put down the bag and began to rummage through her dresser. Nathan watched her as she tucked an article of clothing under her arm and pulled open another drawer.

"Aha!"

He watched as she pulled out a pair of pajama pants. He blinked as she handed it to him. He held it up. It was a light blue with cartoonish whales.

"Sorry, it should fit. The shirt is Wesley's and I made that in class. Stupid teacher gave me a C even though I got the stitching on the waistband right. It's too big for me. I was planning on giving it to my brothe-oh you're just going to-" Alice turned around as he began shedding his clothes. He had pulled off his shirt and she caught a glimpse of his toned stomach.

Don't be a pervert. Don't be a pervert.

She stood facing the corner as she heard the rustling of his clothes, turning around once he cleared his throat. His clothes lay in a heap beside him, his jacket lay on top. She picked the articles of clothing up, face heating up as she realised he had included his boxers.

Don't be a pervert Alice. Don't be a pervert. She reminded herself.

She draped them over the edge of her hamper and turned back to him.

"Uh yeah so thanks for helping me with my shots." She said. "I don't know if what I'm going for will be good enough, but I'm not expecting to win anyways."

"It looked good." Nathan said. Her heart swelled slightly at his words.

"Thanks! I hope it'll be better after I edit it a bit. I might have to ask for help from someone who's good with that kind of stuff. I think Luke is pretty good with editing software-" Nathan covered her mouth with his palm.

"You talk to much." His hand dropped. "I'll see you later then."

"Sorry. Yeah." Alice said dumbly.

"Don't fuck up washing my clothes. They're expensive." He added rudely. He didn't care, of course. He could just buy more. But she didn't know that. He smiled smugly to himself as he let himself out and returned to his dorm.


Victoria had snubbed Alice the next day, which served her just fine. She had cornered her with her two minions in the hallway between classes. When asked to join her, Courtney, and Taylor to the Bean Hip café in town, she politely declined, saying she had plans with Max after school.

Courtney had snorted, letting out a derisive comment about how Alice wasn't worthy enough to spend time with them anyways. Apparently, Mr. Jefferson was having a show of his work there and they were all going to go to show their support and awe over the photos. It irked Alice. Because of Courtney's comment, Victoria was treating her like a pariah during the day. She wondered if she should show up with Max just to piss the other girls off, but Max was one to try and keep off the radar of the snobby girls.

The worst was that Mr. Jefferson was walking by and joined in on the conversation. Victoria proudly announced that the she and the mini-Vics – as Alice now dubbed them – were attending, making sure to point out that Alice would not be.

If Alice had any other power, she wished she could phase through solid objects. That way she could sink into the ground and bury herself. The look of disappointment was clear on her teacher's face, but he played it off with a smile and asked her to come along for the next showing, to which Courtney, again, pushed Alice's ego down and snidely remarked that Alice probably did not have the capacity to appreciate his deep photography.

Thank goodness Mr. Jefferson's class had already passed. She wouldn't have to face him again until the next day.

Alice suggested to Max that they try the Two Whales diner after school, but Max seemed averse to the idea so she didn't push it. Kate would have joined them, but she was busy with her meals on wheels program.

Alice glanced at the photo she had taken the night before. She had spent half the night editing it, but it seemed both Max and her were having second thoughts on their photos. She laughed when Max said she was unsure of her own photo. Mr. Jefferson would always mention that Max had an eye for photography. She couldn't wait to see what kind of photo the talented Max Caulfield would hold feelings of trepidation over.

Alice was waiting outside sitting on the fountain's edge. She swiped through her phone, having transferred the various edits of her photo to look through. She couldn't decide which one to show Max.

"Hey Alice," Max's voice came from the side.

"Hi Max, how was your day?" Alice smiled. Mr. Jefferson's class was the only class they shared. Kate however shared art, science and photography. She was glad their rooms were next to each other or Alice would have felt they wouldn't be close enough to call each other a friend.

Max shrugged and sat down beside Alice.

"So, do you have a photo for the contest yet?" Alice asked. Max sighed and scratched her nose; a trait that the mousy girl did constantly when she was strapped for words.

"I have a few old photos that might be worth entering, but I think it would be better if I took one with the purpose of it being good enough to showcase what an every day hero is." Max took out a folder and handed Alice a few. Alice held them up, careful to hold them by the edges so she wouldn't smudge the photos. She was afraid to say it, but Max was right. She could do much better.

"See?" Max held up the other photo in her hand. "Mr. Jefferson wouldn't accept any of these." She held out the folder so Alice could slip them in.

"Well it's better than what I have so far. I don't think it will match the criteria they're looking for." She said truthfully.

"Your photos are pretty unconventional." Max joked. Alice nodded then sighed.

"Maybe I should just stick to drawing." She said.

"I hope I'm not hearing what I think I am."

Both girls straightened up and turned their heads in sync to see Mr. Jefferson. He held four enlarged framed photos under his arms. Two under each arm.

"Would you two mind helping me bring these to my car?" He gestured downwards, slighting lifting one arm. They both took one from each side. Alice examined the picture.

"Wowser." Max said as she did the same. "I haven't seen this one before. Is it new?"

Alice said nothing, embarrassed that she knew next to nothing about his work.

"Good eye, Max. As always." He said, flashing a smile. They began to walk to the parking lot. "Technically this is something I took before I came back to Oregon, but I haven't showed it yet. I'll be taking this to a café. They're doing a show tonight of some of my work."

"Wow," Alice said, "Sounds like we're the first to see this one, Max. We are not worthy." She joked in a cartoony voice.

They continued down the steps and Alice held the other two photos as he unlocked the car.

"I hope I'll be seeing you two at the café?"

"Oh uh-" Max started.

"We were actually going to work on finding inspiration for the contest today, Mr. Jefferson." Alice said quickly. He grabbed the frames one by one, carefully laying them across the back seat.

"My two hardest workers." Mr. Jefferson stated. Alice didn't know if he was being sarcastic, but Max shyly looked away and scratched the side of her nose. He turned to them. "I appreciate the effort! I look forward to seeing what you two have to offer."

Apprehension suddenly began to suffocate Alice and she had a nagging feeling that there was another meaning to those words. Damn future butting into her head.

"Now I know Victoria said you weren't coming and I don't mean to sound full of myself, but maybe you'll be inspired by some of my work? Don't make me beg now. If there's no one else to see my show, at least I'll have you two cheering me on."

Right. Like he would have no one. Alice could name three already that would be kissing his feet.

"Well, uh," Alice started slowly, looking to Max for her opinion. She had already told Victoria she wasn't coming, but she would if Max wanted to go. Max made no signal of disagreement. "Yeah that would be cool."

"Great. You guys can come with me then if you like. Save you the boring bus ride?" He gestured to the doors.

"Sweet," Alice said, her eyes darting to Max mischievously, "Shotgun."

Max laughed and agreed to hold the photos in the back so they wouldn't fall. The back door was already open so Max slipped in. Mark walked up to the passenger door and held it open for her.

"Oh thanks!" Alice squeaked out. He smiled and shut the door and walked around the front. Alice turned to Max. "Fair warning, Victoria and her minions will be there. Let's avoid them, yeah? I kinda told her that I didn't want to go with them and she's been holding a hissy fit all day."

"Good to know." Max laughed.

Mr. Jefferson stepped into the car, smiling at Alice before starting the car.


Max and Alice entered the café, following closely behind Mr. Jefferson. They both held the large prints up strategically blocking themselves from the patrons of the café just in case Victoria spotted them early and scratched their eyes out before they could sit down.

"Oh crap." Alice heard Max mutter.

"Huh?" Alice said, but looked past Max and Mr. Jefferson. Victoria had already spotted them, her perfectly applied mascara'd eyelashes fluttering in disbelief before catching herself to greet their teacher.

An employee took the photos from Max and Alice, leaving the two girls nothing to defend themselves with from the wrath of the queen bee. Mr. Jefferson followed said employee, telling the girls to have a seat. Victoria waited until he was out of earshot before turning on them.

"I should have known that you would be here sucking up to Mark." Victoria snapped out at Max.

"You're one to talk." Alice scoffed under her breath. Victoria either chose to ignore or didn't hear her words.

"Just because that's what you're doing, doesn't mean we are." Max folded her arms.

"What-the-fuck-ever, Maxine. This isn't a place for selfie-ho's like you."

"Oh my god. Victoria," Alice stepped forward. "You're just intimidated by Max."

Victoria spluttered as Alice took Max's hand and dragged her away to the other side of the shop.

"Let's just enjoy ourselves Max. Maybe we'll be inspired, like Mr. Jefferson said." Alice said changing her tone to a happier one. Max nodded in agreement, giving one last glance back at Victoria who was now talking to Taylor and Courtney, no doubt complaining.

They walked slowly along the wall examining the photos on display. Evan Harris was wandering around as well. They had politely waved before he turned back to talk to a group of people. Alice liked Evan. She almost felt that he was too cool to hang out with anyone from Blackwell. She could definitely see him making it far in a photography career even, dare she say it, do as well, if not better, as Mr. Jefferson. It looked like Evan had his portfolio on hand. It made sense. If there was any way to expose yourself more, it was best to do it in this type of setting where there are bound to be people with connections.

"Max did you want a drink?" Alice asked suddenly feeling parched herself. "Coffee? Tea? Hot Chocolate?"

"Tea would be nice. They have a new black tea that Kate and I have been meaning to try." Max smiled.

"Ooh. Good move. I'll get that too." She left Max to stare up at a particularly more famous shot, who asked for a shot of cream and two sugars. She pushed through the crowd and stood in line. She had passed Victoria with her mini-Vics who turned away when their eyes met. Nathan was standing beside Victoria, arms crossed. He didn't look at her at all. It was hard to tell if he was upset with her for the previous night.

As she was waiting, Mr. Jefferson walked passed her with a microphone. He spotted her and gave her a quick smile to which she immediately looked away awkwardly. She didn't want to seem like she was staring at him.

She got up to the front and began to order, just as the feedback for the Mic went off, silencing the crowd to let him speak. She wondered how many times he's had to go up in front of his fans to thank them for coming.

She asked the cashier how much she owed, but was informed that Mr. Jefferson had her order covered already. Well crap. Now she felt bad. If she had known, she wouldn't have ordered two cookies for her and Max. Alice began to insist on at least paying for the cookies, but the customer behind her had already begun their order. She went to the end to wait for her order and realised that the crowd had begun buzzing with conversation again.

The plate of cookies was pushed towards her and Alice resisted the temptation to eat both in one gulp. They smelled so good that they almost overpowered the smell of coffee beans in the air.

"Enjoying yourself, Alice?" A deep voice came from her side.

"Very much! Oh, and thank you for," she gestured to the plate, "and our drinks. I wouldn't have ordered the cookies if I had known you were paying."

"It's the least I could do for dragging you and Max here." He leaned against the counter casually. The barista slid the ordered tea towards her. Both sat on saucers. She called out a small thanks as they walked away and Alice realised how awkward it would be to carry the drinks and plate of cookies. She picked up Max's cookie and balanced it on the rim of the cup, then took her own and bit into it before placing it on the saucer of her own cup. Her senses exploded with happiness. She vowed to herself that if she could only ever eat one thing for the rest of her life, it would be this cookie.

Mr. Jefferson was handed his own coffee as Alice chewed. She turned to him and picked up both the drinks with a small smile.

"Taste good?" He smirked. She nodded her head with a slight sound of pleasure as she chewed. Then, unexpectedly, he was suddenly reaching towards her and she almost gaped at the action, watching him take the treat and take a bite of it himself. He placed it back on the saucer (or rather, what was left of it) and nodded. Alice blankly looked at her defiled cookie then back at him. He was lucky he was her teacher and had also paid for it. She pictured herself throwing the tea angrily onto his crisp suit, demanding that the cookie be replaced tenfold. Wesley certainly wouldn't get away with it. Most of their childhood fights started with stealing each others food.

"Mm, that is good," Mr. Jefferson nodded then took a swig of his coffee.

"You monster," Alice blurted out. "You didn't even savour it."

"You're right. I'm sorry. I couldn't resist."

"Is that how you got so far in your career? Taking what you want?" It was like word vomit. She hadn't meant to sound so rude, but instead of reprimanding her, he laughed then leaned closer to her. He spoke in a deep low voice that made Alice's tremble at the knees.

"Once you get to know me, you'll find that I always get what I want."

Alice shivered, not knowing what the words truly meant. Instead, she brushed off the words that held another meaning and smiled. It vaguely occurred to her that their saliva had indirectly touched, but she wasn't sure how she felt about it. Not that she was a germ freak. She wondered if the thought occurred to him as well. Of course it did, he wasn't stup-oh crap, she hadn't said anything in an unusual amount of seconds than normal in regular conversations. Did he realise she had a tendency to zone out? Was it as bad as how Max zoned out in class?

Okay, say words. Any words.

Oh my god. This is the longest that anyone has not talked. Ever.

There is nothing she could say to make this worse.

"You must be really selfish in relationships."

The corner of his mouth quirked up and Alice had no idea how to interpret it. Great now he thought she was stupid.

Yeah, she really shouldn't have said anything.

"I should get back to Max before this gets cold." She held up the steaming cups, hoping that he wouldn't dwell on her less than classy words. Victoria would take pleasure in watching her fall apart like this.

"Of course. Please, enjoy yourselves."

Alice quickly turned and sought out Max through the crowd as she walked. Feeling eyes on her, she briefly looked back at her teacher, who indeed was staring in her direction. She smiled and he returned the gesture before another person caught his attention. Fantastic. He most definitely was questioning her IQ.

She looked back down as she felt someone take something off her plate and watched as the rest of her poor cookie disappeared into Nathan's mouth.

"Oi." She said, annoyed.

"Sup?" Was all he said, still chewing.

She didn't grace him with her presence any longer, stepping away, making sure that he couldn't reach the other cookie. Prick.

Nathan swallowed the stolen cookie with a hint of regret flashing over his eyes. He didn't want to upset her, but he couldn't help himself after seeing that Jefferson had taken a bite right after she did. The thought of them sharing saliva had him reeling enough to disappear from Victoria's side just to make sure Alice didn't eat it.

 

Chapter Text

As the class dispersed, Alice slipped the folder out from her bag, giving a nervous glance at her teacher who was answering a question from Taylor. Alice had a free period in the morning so she used the opportunity to ask for advice. She was glad Victoria had left for her next class instead of hanging around. Victoria was more than critical when it came to comparing photos to her own.

As Taylor left, Alice slowly sidled up to the front. He was shuffling some papers around, but looked up and smiled warmly at her. Her heart fluttered for a second, remembering the moment between them at the café.

"Uh, Mr. Jefferson, I was wondering if you could take a look at my entry for the contest." She held the folder up to her chest, almost regretting coming up to him.

"Of course, I'd be happy to." He held his hand out and she placed the folder in it. She waited patiently, wringing her hands behind her back. He examined the photo in silence, nodding every now and then. The silence was chipping away at Alice's nerves.

"I know it's a little unconventional and maybe no one will understand what it has to do with the theme-" She rambled, but was cut off by his hand being held up. She bit her lip as he stayed quiet. She winced as she felt the first layer of skin break. She tucked her bottom lip into her mouth and the metallic taste of blood invaded her tastebuds.

He looked back up at her and she held her breath even as he smiled.

"This will do just fine Alice." He said. Alice let out a breath of relief. "I think you captured the theme perfectly, albeit in your own way."

"Thank you sir. I wasn't sure if it would come across like that." Alice said. "and using myself as the subject was a little out of my comfort zone." She scratched the back of her neck.

"Well you pulled it off wonderfully. It really speaks out about mental health issues." He pushed it to the side of his desk. "You should be proud of yourself."

"Thank you so much Mr. Jefferson!" Alice said happily. She took the now empty folder and slipped it into her bag. She was hesitant, but she knew someone of his caliber would understand the goal she had for her photo.

The room began to fill with the next class. Nathan passed Alice in the doorway, moving slightly as they maneuvered past each other.

Mark waved him over to his desk. Nathan tossed his books onto the table before making his way over to the front desk. He glanced back over his shoulder to see if any other students were paying attention then turned back to his teacher. He noticed Alice's photo on the desk.

It turned out hauntingly beautiful. She had doctored the photo to bring the reflection from the pond out more. Her hand was lightly touching the surface as if she was floating on top of the water. Alice had chosen to go with the photo where she wasn't smiling, but had a calm serene look on her face, as if deep in thought. The reflection was the opposite. There was anger and pain projecting from the face in the water.

He hadn't understood what she was going for at first, but it all made sense now. When she had made herself cry in front of him at the pond, he was taken aback and had no idea what to do or say.

"Alice's entry. Wonderful, right?" Mark smirked. Nathan nodded mutely. He watched as Mark placed the photo in the folders with the other entries. His entry seemed unworthy now. "Can I assume you have everything ready?"

"Yeah." Anger bubbled up inside his chest, but if the man sitting in front of him noticed, he made no comment which in turn made Nathan angrier. No one cared about how he felt. Mark Jefferson was no different.

"Good. No mistakes Nathan. I'm counting on you." And with that, he was dismissed and class was started as soon as the second bell rang.


 

"I think these ones would sell for a high price, Alice." Victoria said absentmindedly. She sat on a log staring at her camera screen as Alice came back from the nearby bathroom. She had just finished changing into her regular clothes. She didn't bother putting on her shoes, instead choosing to enjoy the feel of the sand between her toes. She wondered if she had enough time to go back to the dorms and wash the beach smell off her. Would Mr. Jefferson notice?

"Oh no. Are you seriously selling these?" Alice groaned.

"No," Victoria didn't look at her. Alice crossed her arms. Victoria looked up. "Okay, yes. But I only sold a couple photos. I just wanted to see if there was any interest. I'll share with you obviously. You can use the money to buy yourself some decent clothing. Though we could get more if we included more risqué photos." Victoria raised her eyebrows.

"Oh my god. No, Victoria." Alice said.

"Fine just the regular's." Victoria sighed, stood up and began to pack up her equipment. "You are such a prude, Alice."

"Whatever. You dress up in these then if you want to sell nudies." Alice laughed and kicked a small bit of sand at the grumpy blonde. Victoria shrieked and held her camera up in the air protectively. Alice rolled her eyes. The sand only reached her shins. The queen of Blackwell could be such a drama queen.

They walked across the beach; Victoria on the concrete, Alice still holding her shoes while she waded her feet through the grainy sand. The air was beginning to warm up, but as they were by the ocean it still had a bit of bite to it when the wind blew.

"Hey Vic, do you have a crush on anyone?"

"Huh? Not really. Why?"

"Really? Not even like Nathan?"

"Gross. He's basically family." Victoria crossed her arms. "Why? Do you?"

Alice swooped down and grabbed a rock to chuck into the water. Instead, it tumbled into the sand and landed a few inches away from the shore line.

"I don't know. I've never really had time to develop feelings for anyone." Alice said, turning back to Victoria who was once again glued to her phone, typing into it with one hand. Alice wiped off the excess sand on her feet and slipped on her shoes to jump over the divider. Victoria looked back up at her.

"Right. That's probably because you hate physical contact." Victoria drawled in a snide tone. "If anything, I'd say I have a sort of admiration for Mark- Mr. Jefferson, and I'd like to think he shares the same sentiment for moi. He has said I'm very talented."

Alice didn't miss the insertion of the French word in Victoria's sentence. The girl could really be a stuck up priss. They reached Victoria's car and Alice heard the familiar click of the vehicle unlocking.

"I'm starving," Victoria said as Alice threw the costume into the backseat. She looked at her phone. "Ugh, I have to go to a Vortex meeting soon. Did you want to grab some food before I go? I have till 2:45 so I have like 30 minutes to kill." Victoria tapped her fingers on her phone while she spoke.

Alice stilled. Crap, how did time move so fast. She had to meet Mr. Jefferson soon.

"Oh, actually, I have to go meet up with someone." She said, her eyes roaming up to meet the critical look in Victoria's.

"Who?" Victoria dropped her phone. Uh-oh. Her full attention was on her.

"Uh." Alice managed to say. Should she mention that she would be with their photography teacher? She knew Victoria would be extremely jealous.

"Oh you're fucking kidding me. Is it Luke Parker?" Victoria placed her hands on her hips. "I know you have shitty taste, but even you can do better than him."

"Uh . ." She spotted the bus coming down the road. "Can I tell you later? I can see the bus coming now and if I don't get on it, I'm gonna be late."

"Oh my god. It is. As if I could lose any more respect for you." Victoria slammed the trunk closed. "Go go. But I don't approve of this little tryst." She shooed Alice away with her hands before opening the car door. "You're coming to the next Vortex party. I'm not letting you ruin yourself for a loser like Luke."

She closed the door before Alice could answer. Alice ran to the side walk and signaled to the bus. As she stepped on, Victoria's car came out onto the street and she honked twice to say bye. Alice waved before turning to pay the fare.

A five-minute ride took Alice to the front of a restaurant called the Two Whales Diner. She hoped this was the right place he was going to pick her up at. She looked up at the diner. It looked like a typical 50's diner. The aroma of the diner wafted into her nose and Alice took a deep breath of satisfaction. She would definitely have to try this place out sometime with Max and Kate. Maybe even Victoria if she could convince her. Though she doubted Victoria would want to eat at a place like small diner. She would probably complain about it before they even stepped foot inside.

She walked towards the entrance, hoping they had a menu posted. A beat-up truck pulled recklessly into the parking lot. That truck certainly has seen better days, Alice thought. Alice stopped and raised her phone to take a picture of the sign to send to Kate and Max. As she put down her phone and pressed send, a girl with blue hair walked past her. As the girl stepped onto the stairs, one of the papers she was holding fell to the ground.

"Oh, excuse me!" Alice called out. She ran to pick up the paper. It was one of the missing person fliers she had seen around the school.

"Thanks." The blue haired teen said as Alice placed the paper on top of the other's in the girl's hands. The wind picked up and blew most of the papers out of her hands. "Ah fuck!"

They both jumped to grab the fliers, Alice scampering to catch the farthest one dancing across the ground. The blue haired girl stepped on a few to stop them before bending down to snatch them up. They managed to collect all the fliers and Alice handed them back once again.

The girl looked relieved and thanked her once again.

"Is she your friend?" Alice questioned as the girl adjusted the beanie on her head. The papers flapped in the air as she used both hands to fix her hat, but she kept her grip strong.

"Yeah," The girl said morosely, "No one seems to know anything. . It's like she just vanished." She waved her hands in the air. "Here. Keep one. If you hear anything, let me know." She handed Alice a flier and turned back around to enter the diner. Rachel Amber's face smiled up at her, a blue feather earring dangling from her ear. This was definitely the girl she saw in her dream. Alice had no idea what the dream meant. Nathan was with her. Did he have anything to do with her disappearance?

A car honked at her and she turned to see Mr. Jefferson's nice sleek car pull up beside her. She assumed it was nice anyways. She knew next to nothing about motor vehicles. Mr. Jefferson waved from inside. Alice smiled and opened the door. She sat down, and pulled on the seatbelt, the paper in her hand crumpling as she gripped both. It clicked and she and began to fold it to put in her pocket as the car began to move.

Mr. Jefferson eyed the paper in her hands. Without having to ask, Alice answered.

"A girl gave this to me. It's that missing girl, Rachel Amber." Alice said sadly. "I hope she's okay. Everyone at school seems to think she skipped out on town to become a model."

"I wouldn't doubt it." Mr. Jeffferson said with a sad smile. "Unfortunately, that's all we can hope for at this point."

His gaze hardened as he focused on the road, but he knew that the flyers were of no consequence to him. He had covered every trace of Nathan's mistake. There would be no finding Rachel Amber.


 

"Let's stop somewhere to eat. I know this great little place I think you'd like." He said, as he turned onto the highway.

They had spent a few hours at a studio. Alice was instructed to transfer the boxes from the car into the studio. There were only a few, so Alice carried the boxes by herself while Jefferson went inside and talked to what Alice assumed was a colleague during his photography days. Next he brought Alice to an art gallery where a few of his pieces were on display. Alice wandered the gallery to kill time while he spoke to the people in the back. She could definitely understand why his work was so famous.

When she had looked over everything (managing to go around twice), she stood by the entrance awkwardly until Jefferson came back to meet her, stringing along a boisterous man behind him. The man had grabbed both of Alice's hands in greeting and pulled her close. The vision that smacked her had her wanting to keel over from the sensation. This man would greet death constantly before succumbing if he kept dabbling in drugs, leaving his little 6-year-old girl to cry over his body.

As much as she told herself not to, when she was about to take her leave (thankfully) with her teacher, she turned back and softly told him she hoped he took better care of his health or his daughter would worry. That left the man gobsmacked and Mr. Jefferson laughed once they got outside, wondering what she had said to leave him speechless. Alice quickly fabricated a lie, saying she knew his daughter.

"Oh, that's really okay Mr. Jefferson. I didn't actually bring my wallet with me. I just have a few dollars in my pocket."

"Alice, I wouldn't ask if I wasn't offering to pay." He chuckled. "It'll be my treat."

"No, I couldn't. Really I-"Her stomach growled loudly.

"Well I think I have my answer. We eat. It's the least I can do for dragging you around to meet my boring colleagues of the art world."

She gave in and soon they were standing in front of what looked like a high-end restaurant.

He handed off his keys to the valet.

"I thought you said little." Alice gawked. From where she stood, she could still see through the darkened glass doors that the inside was extravagant looking.

"It is little." He laughed and lead her in, his hand resting on the small of her back. As his hand made contact, a flash of his face close to hers came into view. Suddenly she felt warm and to her horror, she also felt heat between her legs. She quickly jumped forward away from his hand hoping she passed as eager to eat rather than avoiding him.

Alice quickly deduced that it wasn't a glimpse into the future she was seeing, but her teenage hormone's in a daydream. She couldn't think of him that way. He was her teacher. She glanced up at him as he talked to the maître d'. Sure, he was handsome. Classy look. She would definitely look twice if he happened to be a stranger passing her on the street. She began to vaguely wonder how it would feel to kiss him. Would his beard tickle? Would his glasses be in the way?

She needed to stop thinking about it.

Several arguments ran through her head.

He's her teacher.

He's way out of her league.

He's so much older.

He wouldn't waste his time with a student.

She wanted to slap herself for daydreaming about being with Mr. Jefferson. If she paid any attention in her psych class as much as she thought, then this was just a result of spending so much time with him.

He placed his hand on her shoulder as he gestured to follow the waiter. Suddenly she was on the ground behind Nathan. He stood shakily in front of her a gun in his right hand. Alice tried to look around him, catching a quick glimpse of legs before she was brought back to the present.

What the hell was that?

They sat down in a corner, their waiter catching her off guard by pulling out her chair for her. She mumbled a small thank you and the waiter gave her a tight-lipped smile before listing off their specials and then asking what they'd like to drink.

She glanced down at the menu after he left and her jaw dropped.

"Do you always eat at places like this?' She asked after the waiter stopped by to drop off a glass of wine, and water for her.

"Of course! Only the best for a world-renowned artist like me!" She had to force her jaw not to drop at his words.

"You're kidding."

"The luxuries of being a famous photographer." He sighed contentedly. Alice must have had an awkward look on her face because he took one look at her and started laughing. "I'm joking, Alice. I have a gift certificate here that I've been meaning to use. Being a photographer isn't glamorous, but it does have its perks."

Her lips formed an O as she nodded. She looked back down at the menu.

"Not a fan of the rich life style?" He asked, noticing her eyes widen every time she saw the price of each meal.

"No, not at all." She said bluntly. He laughed. "It's just that. . .Okay yeah it would be nice to have money, I wouldn't complain, but I just don't understand how people can go to these kinds of places all the time."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, look at the price of the steaks on here. You could easily feed 50 people somewhere with that price. Or in the poorer countries for example. That could afford easier access to clean water."

"Well I would say let's leave, but I've had this card burning a hole in my pocket for more than a year now. So, let's just splurge since it's already been paid for"

Alice scrunched her nose, still looking for the cheapest item on the menu. Eventually she decided on what she hoped was the chicken. She smiled sheepishly at the waiter who thankfully did not correct her on her pronunciation of the French menu.

If she could get through the evening without embarrassing herself in front of the teacher she was starting to admire, she'd count it as success in life and she could die content.

As they waited for their food, Alice was glad that he was leading the conversation despite her occasional stutter and general lack of speech skills. Alice found herself wishing that instead of a look into the future, she had the ability to talk as confidently as Mr. Jefferson.

Somehow, they had gotten back to the subject of her disdain for rich folk. She pointed out that money or power didn't matter to her nor did she let it run how she made friends or viewed relationships. It seemed like that was a common theme at the Vortex Club Victoria was telling her about.

"Good point. So, people like Nathan Prescott don't catch your eye?"

"I, uh, well. I'm not one to judge." Alice was flustered. "He-He s-seems nice f-from what I've seen." God. She was beginning to stutter. "I did do an English presentation with him and he was somewhat amiable."

"Relax, I'm joking." He smirked.

Alice visibly relaxed and took a sip of her water.

"Though a good student like you should probably keep your distance." He said seriously. Before Alice had a chance to speak, as her mouth was full of water, the waiter had come back with their dinners. Alice stared in awe at her dinner. Everything was meticulously placed and looked delicious. Thank goodness, she was right about her choice. She was afraid she had ordered wrong and they'd place snails or an eel in front of her.

The waiter placed a glass of wine in front of her with a fixed smile and walked away. It was like the waiter wanted to be anywhere else.

"Oh, actually," She raised her hand, to wave him back down, but he had already disappeared as quick as he had come.

"There must have been a miscommunication and they brought us two." Mr. Jefferson said.

"What should I do?"

"Well it would be a shame to let it go to waste. Do you drink?" He smiled. Alice looked at him skeptically.

"Is this a sting?"

He laughed and shook his head.

"I promise its not."

"Well I mean I've drank before. My brother would go to parties and I'd crash because I had a crush on his friend. I never quite liked the taste of beer though. The drinking age is significantly lower in where I'm from, so it's not a big deal, but legally speaking, I turned of age this year over there."

"Well I won't tell, if you won't." He winked at her and she looked down at the glass of wine. A few sips couldn't hurt, right? Plus, she never tried wine before so it would be nice. But could she really drink in front of her teacher?

He was already eating. She cursed him in her head for looking so urbane. She bit the bullet and grabbed the glass, bringing it up to her lips. She took a sip. It was sweet, but had a bitter aftertaste.

"Good?"

"Mhmm. I definitely like it better than beer." She took another small sip and dug into her meal. She visibly deflated and sighed, prompting Mr. Jefferson to ask her what was wrong.

"Nothing," She said reluctantly, closing her eyes to savour the taste, "Agh, I just hate how good this is!" And took another bite. Damn expensive food.

He needed to say the right things to convince her that they were somewhat similar. That he had vulnerabilities just like she did. He told her stories about his time in college as they ate. Embarrassing stories, heartfelt stories, all to lower her guard around him and make her feel comfortable. Tweaks of the truth, of course. To make her think of him as someone of equal ground rather than a figure of authority.

Alice seemed to be more open to him in class and less shy so he hoped it was working. If anything, her mind would be more susceptible to his actions after tonight.

"So, what are your plans after graduation?"

Alice stopped lifting her fork to her mouth and paused to think. She was hoping she could figure it out by this year. Art was more her forte, but she was intrigued at the thought of mixing both passions together. Photography was an ever-growing prospect and had many branches she could wander onto, but she wasn't sure if she was cut out for it. She must have been silent for too long as Mr. Jefferson spoke again.

"Would you consider a career in photography? You have great potential. I've really enjoyed looking through your portfolio. The surrealism that you integrate into every shot is really something."

Alice shrugged. "I don't know if I want to make it into a job. I like writing too, but if I made that the basis of my career, I'd end up hating it. There would be too many restrictions and deadlines I'd have to meet. I don't think I want to do the same with photography. I only took your class to see if I could incorporate what I took and channel that into my drawings." She realised that she basically just insulted his class.

Mr. Jefferson looked somewhat offended, but seemed to understand and nodded his head.

"I'm so sorry. I don't know why I said that. I actually really love being in your class. I'm learning so much." Was it getting hot in here? It felt stuffy all of a sudden

"I get it, but I think it would be a shame for you to not share your talents. If you just work a little harder, I imagine you could go far."

Alice felt her face burn and she swallowed another bite of her food.

"I don't think I'd mind staying under the radar," She joked, immediately thinking of the stories she read from Victoria's graphic novels. Getting noticed while being some sort of anomaly did not appeal to her.

"May I ask why?"

Oh, you know, just the whole concept of being surrounded by people all the time and seeing the future every time she touched someone, no big deal.

"I like. . . quiet?" She answered lamely. He laughed. Alice wished she could shrink in her chair. She might as well have. The alcohol was getting to her head and she was starting to feel dizzy from practically insulting Mr. Jefferson.

"Well it certainly does fit your personality. By the way I've not seen any of your paintings or drawings, I'd love to take a look sometime."

"Thank you Mr- er. Sir."

"Please. We're not at Blackwell. You can call me Mark."

Alice felt her face burn and grabbed her drink and took a big gulp, not even bothering to savour the sweet tangy taste.


 

Alice stumbled out past the other tables, giggling to herself. She just felt so giddy towards the end of the meal, not having any idea what came over her. She stood by the door as her teacher thanked the host at the front, leaning from one foot to the other. Mr. Jeffe-Mark turned to her and she smiled at the host and nodded her head in farewell. The hosts face became neutral and quickly avoided eye contact. Maybe Wesley was right, she definitely could not handle liquor. But she didn't think she drank as much as she did when she would crash his parties. This wine was strong compared to the drinks college teenagers drank. She made a mental note to ask Victoria to sneak in some wine in the dorms so they could indulge during their anime series marathons.

Mark took her hand gently as he led her out the entrance and she blushed deeply at the intimate gesture. She wondered if it looked like they were a couple from onlooking strangers. He handed a tip to the valet, who eagerly pocketed it, before rushing off to grab the car. Mr. Jefferson's hand held the small of her back, keeping her steady. The two stood there in awkward silence, Alice suddenly aware of the implication.

This was practically a date. And Alice ruined it by indulging herself in the wine. Oh, but it tasted so good and they were having fun.

"Did you enjoy your meal, Alice?" He turned his head to her. She swayed slightly and smiled. Goodness, she felt so giddy.

"I did, thank you." She said, quickly finding his shoes with her eyes, trying to fixate them there instead of looking into his face. His smile was so pretty, she couldn't focus. Her mind wandered to Nathan. Why couldn't he smile more? He was a complete puzzle to Alice. He would tease her and bully her, but then would make her smile the next day.

"Are you feeling alright?" Why did his voice have to be so smooth? His fingers lifted her chin and she found herself looking into his eyes. Her ears began to ring and she felt like she could start floating away. The thought of Mr. Jefferson having to hold her down like a balloon had her snickering.

"Yeah, I'm just a little light-headed."

He said nothing and smiled at her. She couldn't help but smile back. He was so cool. Why did she have to be such a loser?

Mark turned her lightly to face him. She looked up at him, her lips parted.

"You have no idea how beautiful you are, Alice." He held her face in his hands and bent his head down closer to hers.

She froze as his lips pressed against her own. She pulled away.

"Oh man, wait, so it was a vision?" Alice muttered. "Ahh, I'm so confused."

"What's that, love?" Mr. Jefferson, he smiled, amused. A bitter tear rolled down her cheek and she laughed spitefully.

"Ahh. . . I just don't get it." She sniffed. "I tried so hard to stay away from everyone y'know? I didn't ask for this stupid curse. First the visions show my parents dying and I'm too stupid to stop it from happening." Alice waved her hands, inadvertently pushing his hands away. "then I see the teacher I have a crush on kissing me, but also Nathan. What's that about? The universe is definitely fucking with me." She began to giggle.

"What?" Was she hallucinating? Did he give her the wrong drug? "Alice, what are you saying?" He said concerned, holding her arms so she wouldn't topple over. With the momentum of pulling her towards him, Alice leaned into him.

She looked up at him, seemingly coherent with a sudden look of disparagement and said, as if it were the obvious answer, "Visions, Mr. Jefferson. Keep up with me." She snapped her fingers in his face. "I make any contact with someone and sometimes I see the into the future. It's why my real parents probably abandoned me, why all my foster families were creeped out by me. I mean, I wouldn't keep me around either. I should have kept my mouth shut about Sara getting bit, Mr. Kwon losing his job, Easton getting knocked out in hockey-"

He hugged her and shushed her.

"Alice, I think you're a little tired." He patted her head and she relished in the affection, burying her face in his chest.

"I think Wesley still resents me." She sniffled. "But I don't know what he wants from me. He was the one that didn't believe me! He blamed me for their death at first, then we agreed that I would try to block out what I see, but it's hard! Then he goes and asks me to tell him the gender of Jen's baby so he can win his stupid bet, but Jen got home from the doctors and made me promise that I wouldn't say anything until he was born!" Alice paused. "Well it doesn't matter if you know it's a boy. It's not like you talk to them."

She leaned into him and gripped the front of his shirt. Everything just seemed to be weighing in on her, fast. She couldn't stop the tears from breaking out at her next words.

"My parents. . . died. Because of me." Alice's voice cracked, despair evident in her voice. "What was the point of giving me this stupid power if I don't know how to use it properly!" Her voice rose in a crescendo, resulting in a wail.


Mark looked down at the sleeping girl next to him in the car as he drove back to Arcadia Bay. Her face was stained with tears and her chest shuddered with despair every few minutes before coming to a complete stop and her breathing became slow. The poor girl clearly had a panic attack. He wondered if it was a direct response to the drugs in her system. He had half a mind to strangle the dealer he had procured it from. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The original intention was that he would plant the idea of being with him in her mind. She wouldn’t remember, but the event would be implanted in the very dark crevices of her mind. It would help her be more open to the idea of being his. Her state of mind allowed her to be comfortable enough to begin using his first name and he hoped if anything that would trick her mind into believing that they were closer than they would be in class.

Now, with this hiccup in his plan, he wondered if she would end up remembering as a result. The surge of emotion she felt in that period might just be strong enough for her to slowly put the memories back together. She would realise she had been drugged. He slammed his fist against the steering wheel. He looked to his right double checking that she was still asleep. His outburst had not startled her in the slightest.

“I’m sorry Wes.” She breathed out.

Right. The step-brother.

He would have to look into exactly how close they were. How much did the brother actually care about his step-sister? Would he care if she was swept off her feet by him, an older man?

No. He decided. The brother’s opinion would not matter in the end. Alice belonged to him now.

His thoughts wandered back to her words. If she wasn’t lying, which he was sure she wasn’t as she had seemed to be pouring her heart out to him, then it had only confirmed his suspicions that she had something to hide. Pride welled up inside him, congratulating himself on finding her.

She was perfect. Having her by his side would prove to be advantageous. He would encourage her instead of trying to supress her talent like her idiot brother. The possibilities ran through his head and he couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

Blackwell came into view, it’s regal presence ever towering over the small town of Arcadia Bay. He began to slow down as the car reached the turn to enter the parking lot, but took one look at the girl beside him and pressed down on the gas pedal to continue. He didn’t want to let go of her just yet. This had been his once chance and it had been squashed by the unexpected reaction.

Besides, he wouldn’t be able to get her into the dorms safely. Asking Nathan wasn’t an option. The boy was becoming more unstable.

No, he would just have to take her to his house and come up with an explanation once the substance left her system.

 


 

He pulled into the dark driveway, the porchlight flicking on as it sensed the movement. He shut off the engine and turned to Alice. Her skirt had ridden up her thigh considerably with the weight of her hands stopping it from going any further. Her head had lolled towards him during the ride. Her lips were parted slightly. They were chapped, a sign that she had the habit of biting her lips constantly. He would have to fix that. Her lips were too soft to be exposed to such harsh treatment.

She let out a small sigh as he unbuckled himself and stepped out to reach her on the passenger side. As he opened the door and bent down to reach her, he paused as he noticed her eyes opening. Her doe eyes stared at the space in front of her before turning to meet his gaze.

She smiled and lazily laid her head back.

“How are you feeling?” He tested. He reached over to her left and pressed the buckle to release the strap.

“I’mssleepy, but not sleepy. Oh dear, that doesn’t make sense.” Alice tittered lightly. He smiled and caressed her cheek. She leaned into the touch happily. “You are such a cool teacher. I bet you look hotter with your glasses off.”

She reached up and plucked his glasses off his face.

“Bingo! No wonder Victoria crushes hard on you.” Alice laughed.

“Let’s get you inside so you can lay down then, alright?” He said gently. “Can you walk?”

Alice scoffed. “Can you?” She said challengingly. She took his hand and stepped out, but immediately buckled under her own weight. He caught her effortlessly. “Aha! You can’t!” She exclaimed excitedly. He bent down and reached under her legs to lift her up into his arms. Her arms automatically wrapped around his neck and she sighed into his shoulder.

He closed the metal door with his leg and carried her to the entrance. Once he got to the door, he propped up his right knee and dropped his arm to let her legs rest on it while he grabbed his keys. He entered, not bothering to turn on the lights and navigated through the home with Alice tucked into his arms.

He placed her on the chaise in his office knowing that she’d feel a little bit more comfortable sleeping there rather then waking up in his bed. They would come to that in time and Mark relished at the thought of having her wake up next to him, her bare skin touching his, every morning.

Her eyes were still hazy as she stared into the empty space in front of her, her eyes not focused on any one thing. He instructed her to stay put while he grabbed a spare pillow and blanket. She let out a small “mmhm” as agreement.

When he returned, he found her struggling to remove her jacket and he placed the items beside her to help her.

“It’s so hot in here.” She whined. He smiled and tugged her arms out of the sleeves.

He briefly debated whether to have her change out of her clothes completely and have her wear his shirt and pajama bottoms. The cliché of having a woman wear their clothing was a fantasy of all men, him included. He imagined she would drown in his clothes with her size. Instead he placed the pillow on the chaise and shook out the blanket, insisting to himself that he could be patient and it would be better to lull her into a sense of security with him.

He was about to tell her to lie down when he noticed she was already in the process of removing her top. He felt himself harden, but against his will, stopped her and tugged her shirt back down.

“You’ll feel better with it on, Alice.” He maintained when she let out a small noise of disapproval.

The pout on her face overwhelmed him and he gave into his primal urges. He sat down to tug her into his lap and bury his face in her neck. He slowly planted kisses down her neck, humming in approval at the faint gasps emitting from her. Her hands softly gripped the front of his dress shirt and he felt his pants tighten.

She squirmed in his lap when his hands began to roam and he groaned at the friction that came with the movement. He lifted her and adjusted her so she was straddling his lap. She had her hands on his chest still, suddenly finding her fingers interesting.

“You are testing my patience, you sweet thing.” He said huskily, squeezing her waist, earning him a squeak at the sudden pressure he applied. His teeth grazed her ear and her heart fluttered. She would be swaying if not for his hands keeping her in place.

“Sorry. . .” Alice mumbled. In her state of mind, she had no idea what she was apologizing for. She fingered the button on his collar. He grabbed her wrists yanked her forward to meet her lips with his. Her arms were trapped between his chest and hers. His tongue darted out and he lightly bit her bottom lip, begging for access. She began to wriggle and pull away, but he held her wrists in one hand while the other trailed up and down her back.

“I don’t know how to. . . I’ve never. . ” Alice mumbled, looking down when he pulled away briefly to take a breath. She touched her lips.

He thrusted his hips up, making her gasp. He would be her first for everything if he could make sure of it. He took the opportunity and invaded her mouth with his tongue.. She whimpered pathetically at the intrusion, but little energy or strength to free her hands from his grip.

“Mm-Mr.Je-Ah!” He bucked his hips into her again, interrupting her. He grunted at the friction, irritated that the layers of clothing were in the way. He pulled away for a brief moment to remind her to call him Mark before claiming her mouth again.

“Mmmark.” She cried against his mouth. He let out a groan, letting her wrists go to weave his fingers into her hair. “Wait ple-mmh.”

Alice gasped into his mouth again and pushed away.

He stood in the shadows, watching from a nearby vantage point. The two students thought they were alone, but he had slipped in through the emergency exit. Nathan Prescott backed Alice up against the table. The teen pressed into her and he gripped the table next to him in an effort not to show himself yet.

He let the scene in front of him unfold. Nathan pulled out his phone and played an audio recording. Alice looked horrified. The two began to argue, Nathan becoming angrier with every second.

Mark braced himself for the right moment to step forward.

Nathan punched the desk and Alice let out a small scream. The teen pressed into her more and began to fondle the crying girl. Mark made his move.

Just as Nathan reached down, Mark ripped Nathan off and threw him to the ground.

“What the fuck?!” Nathan scrambled back to his feet. His eyes widened. “Mr. Jefferson?”

Mark pulled the hysteric Alice off the desk who eagerly went into his arms. He pushed her behind him. Inside he was smirking. It was perfect.

“I suggest you leave, Nathan.” His voice stern and intimidating.

“No! I didn’t– Alice!”  Nathan turned to her.

Alice flinched and gripped his arm in fear of the teenager’s rage.

“Leave. Now.”

“But-“ “LEAVE.” Mark yelled. Alice gripped his jacket and peeked her head out beside his arm at Nathan.

The Prescott heir turned red at the sight of her frightened face and turned on his heel.

“Fuck you, you fucking whore!” He yelled.

Once the two were alone, Mark turned to Alice, placing his hands on her small shoulders. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes.

“Thank you.” She said quietly, her voice failing her.

“Are you alright?” He said softly, gently lifting up her chin to look at him. Her eyes welled up with tears once more and she threw herself forward, wrapping her arms around his neck. He hugged her and smiled.

Alice let go and stepped back, embarrassed.

“I’m so sorry. That was inappropriate.” She said, looking down, nervously wringing her wrists. He stepped forward and brought his face down to hers.

“I won’t let him hurt you again.”

He pressed his lips against hers and smiled internally as she hesitated, but started to kiss him back.

He blinked, slightly disoriented. Alice was still sitting on his lap, but had the tips of her fingers pressed up against the sides of her forehead. She was mumbling.

“What? Nathan? Why?” She said softly, her voice full of confusion.

Somehow, she had let him see the scene. He smirked. So he had been right in the end. She did have a secret. He didn’t believe it at first when she had that panic attack. She must have unconsciously channeled her power to him. But what did Nathan have to do with her? As far as he knew, the two never interacted.

He lifted her out of his lap and stood up with her. It seemed to register in her mind that he was still with her. Her head cocked to the side.

“Mr. Jefferson?” Her eyes were heavy-lidded and he knew she was probably exhausted. He lay her back down and her eyes shut as soon as her head hit the pillow. He lay a blanket over her and grabbed a water bottle from the kitchen to place beside her on the table for when she woke up. He also placed two aspirin pills beside the bottle, knowing she’d need it.

The possibilities of using her power were endless and he reveled in his discovery.

 

 

Chapter Text

She could hear birds chirping. Why did they have to be so loud in the morning? She groaned as the sounds of the twitters would decrease and increase. She shifted and turned over to grab the pillow she usually hugged when she slept, so she could place it over her head to block out the sound. Her hand met a cushiony wall. Weird. Her hand moved up until it hit the top and she pulled. It wouldn’t budge. She opened her eyes.

Her head shot up. She was on a couch type chair. It was weird. It looked like a couch but the back of it lowered at an angle and there was no arm rest on the other end. Modern furniture. She’d never understand it. She looked at her legs and quickly pulled at the edge of her skirt. It had ridden up while she was asleep and the blanket had slipped down.

Her feet touched the ground and she examined her surroundings. She was in an office type of room. The table next to her had a bottle and Alice eagerly twisted the cap open and chugged. She noticed the two pills and realised they were for the dull pain radiating from the deep crevices of her head. She swallowed those as well with a grimace. She never liked taking meds. She hated the brief second of bitter taste on her tongue.

She held her head for a moment trying to grasp how she ended up in a room she didn’t recognise. She looked towards the slightly open door and heard the hiss of food being cooked. The aroma filled her nose. Food never smelled so good before. Wracking her brain for another second, her heart dropped. She immediately looked around the room again and spotted the frame on the wall. She threw the blanket off her and staggered towards.

It was a Pulitzer award. That fact only increased the dread stirring up in Alice’s stomach. She read the name that only confirmed her nausea.

She was in the home of Mark Jefferson.

Crap.

Just as she made the realisation, the door opened and she froze, wide-eyed at the man standing before her. Please let the ground swallow her up whole.

“Oh, good morning. I was just about to wake you up. I made pancakes.” He paused at the door, his hand still on the doorknob. He was wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of dark grey sweatpants.

She said nothing. Shame and embarrassment filled her very core. He laughed at the look on her face.

“I hope you slept well.” He continued. At her stunned silence, he continued to answer the questions spinning through her head. “I apologise, I would have taken you back to your dorm, but I didn’t want to risk you passing out outside in the cold. Plus, I don’t think it would reflect well on me if someone saw me carrying you on school grounds.”

Her mouth flapped open and closed. Alice cursed herself for looking like such a dunce.

He motioned for her to follow him and she mutely obeyed, her feet padding across the hardwood floor. They entered the kitchen and he sat her down at the small table. He placed a stack of pancakes in front of her and sat down himself as well. He was being awfully casual about the situation.

“I’m. . .” Alice began to say. “Mr. Jefferson, I’m mortified. I’m so so so so sorry. I swear I’m not usually like this. I can usually handle my liquor!” She gestured wildly with her hands. “I must have acted like a complete idiot. I don’t remember what happened. Please please don’t kick me out of Blackwell.” Her hands slapped together.

“Relax,” He smiled. “I’m not judging you. I did promise I wouldn’t say anything, didn’t I? Have some breakfast. It’ll make you feel better.”

She sat back in relief, but she couldn’t shake the tension out of her shoulders. He pushed her plate towards her as well as a bottle of syrup. She slowly poured the viscous amber liquid and started to cut her food. The sweet morsel was heaven in her mouth.

“Mm. This is really good.” She mumbled, cutting herself another piece.

“I’m glad! I added a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to it. I have a bit of a sweet tooth sometimes.” He said with a smile. Alice nodded before darting her eyes towards him.

“I, uh, I didn’t throw up at all. . .did I?” She asked cautiously. Her shoulders relaxed as he shook his head. “Ugh. You must think I’m an idiot. I’m so embarrassed.” She sighed.

“Don’t worry about it. If I had known you were such a lightweight, I wouldn’t have let you drink.” He chuckled. “It was my fault.”

She still felt the shame piling up in her stomach. Or maybe it was the pancakes.

“I’m sorry, your wife must think I’m a total knob for invading your home.” Alice spoke, mouth full of pancakes. She wiped at the corner of her mouth as syrup escaped.

“Then you don’t have to worry.” He replied with a smile. “I’m not married.”

Alice choked as she swallowed. She eagerly grabbed the glass of water Mr. Jefferson pushed in front of her.

“What? But you’re so-“ Alice stopped herself and continued drinking her water.

“I’m so . . .?” He prodded.

“Er. . . no, I just meant, it seems like you’d be tied down at this point.”

“I never had time to find someone with my career, but coming back to my hometown has proved to be a fruitful endeavor.”

She nodded absentmindedly, now wondering who caught his eye. It was probably a teacher, but then again, she was sure he had an active social life outside of work.

They talked for a while before Mr. Jefferson noticed her constant staring.

“You look. . . so different when you’re not wearing a suit.” She said

“Well I am in the comfort of my own home.” He joked. “I don’t own just suits.”

Last night flashed through her head again and she cringed, wishing she could remember the stupid things she did after indulging in the wine.

“I really am sorry about yesterday, Mr. Jefferson. I can find someone else to help you if you want.” Alice wrung her hands. “I don’t remember how I acted, but it must have been just . . .so . . uncouth.” She finished.

“Alice, I would never think of you like that. You’re adorable.” He said with a smile. Alice felt herself flush at the compliment. He meant that in the strictest platonic sense, she told herself. She shouldn’t overthink it.

She didn’t want to show her face in class anymore.


 

“I knew it. You bitch.” A voice behind her said.

 Alice’s hand froze midway while turning the knob to her room. She had just gotten back from Mr. Jefferson’s house. He had dropped her off with her apologising for the 20th time for getting drunk before he brushed her off and drove away. She pulled out her phone and cringed at the amount of texts and missed calls from Victoria. Several from last night, but mostly from early morning. She snuck through the emergency exit closest to her room rather than use the main entrance to the dorm, hoping she wouldn’t run into the angry blonde.

She turned around to face the angry blonde who had her arms crossed over her chest. Her perfectly manicured nails drumming against her arm.

Shoot.

So close.

 “Ohh, morning Victoria. I was just-wha-hey!” Victoria pushed her backwards into her room. She pointed to Alice’s bed.

“Your bed isn’t messy!” Victoria hissed.

Alice sighed and tossed her jacket onto the chair behind her.

“Are you seriously scolding me for being clean?” Alice joked, knowing full well what Victoria meant. If anything, it only served to irritate the pixie hair cut blonde further.

“Don’t act smart with me. I’m not stupid. You’re wearing the same clothes.”

Oops. Right.

Her finger was now in Alice’s face. Alice rolled her eyes and swatted Victoria’s hand away. “Where were you?” She demanded.

“I got stuck in town and the busses stopped running.” Alice said lamely. Alice collapsed into her bed and grabbed the edge of the blanket, taking it with her as she rolled into the wall.

 “You could have called me.” Victoria now sat beside the burrito’d Alice.

“My phone died.”

Victoria stepped back over to the chair and reached into the jacket to shove Alice’s own phone into her face. The battery was at 46%. Whoops. Alice groaned and burrowed in the blanket as much as she could to hide her own head. There was a good fifteen seconds of silence before Victoria broke it.

“Were you with a guy?” Victoria poked.

“Idonwannatalkaboutitrightnowpleasegetoutthanksbye.” Alice’s voice was muffled. She let out an ‘oof’ as Victoria tossed her phone onto her stomach, still caught off guard even though she was protected by the layers of blanket wrapped over her.

A faint call of Victoria’s name came from the hallway.

“What the fuck ever. I have to go, but this isn’t over.”

Alice said nothing and waited till she heard the click of her own door. She waited another 2 minutes before unrolling herself and burying her face into her pillow to scream.

Her power really was useless.

 


 

Nathan didn’t know why he was here.

Victoria had been droning on and on for the past half hour as he sat with his head hanging over the back of the chair. He had made a game of finding patterns in the ceiling, but even that had lost his interest ten minutes ago.

He was going to lay in bed all day. It was a Sunday after all. He was just about to satisfy himself when Victoria had burst into his room and he forcibly fell to the floor to pull his pants back up, cursing her with every word he knew. She did not care any less and had him dragged out of his room 10 minutes later to be a part of the meeting.

The room cheered and he squeezed his eyes shut, the noise and the light now becoming overwhelming to his senses. He sat back up and began to follow the others out the door.

“Wait, Nathan.” Victoria grabbed his shoulder as he reached the door. He groaned. Nothing was ever over when it came to Victoria.

They headed outside and sat on top of a picnic table. The air was cold today. He noticed Victoria shiver slightly and he took off his jacket and laid it over her legs. She looked at him softly with a grateful smile. This was the side of Nathan that Victoria wanted everyone to know.  The boy that tried to do his best to please the people he cared about. She leaned against her best friend.

“You seem a little stressed. Your dad giving you shit again?” Victoria asked. He felt a deep sense of shame. Once again he was keeping things from the girl he considered his sister.

“Nah,” Nathan said. “Just worried about photography shit.” Well hey, it was technically half of the truth.

They began talking about the every day hero’s contest and what they were planning on submitting. He had half-assed his entry, picking one from his portfolio and handing it in. Victoria was excited about the opportunity. She talked about being able to spend some alone time with Mark Jefferson, causing Nathan to turn away so he could scowl.

That bastard was as bad as his father, if not worse. Both of them pretended to care about what was best for him, but in the end used him. Now, with Jefferson, he was in too deep. He wished he could warn his younger self about getting involved with that freak of a photography teacher. At least then he would just have to deal with disappointing his father. But there was nothing he could do. Who could he tell? Who would believe the known psychotic teen over a respected photography teacher.

He hated this. He hated himself.

He had nothing going for him in this stupid town. Fuck taking over the family business. Fuck Pan Estates. The Prescott name was a virus that was using up the town’s resources and Nathan was at the bottom of it all. Had he done something in a past life to deserve being shit on by everyone around him?

No one paid any attention to him unless he acted out or they wanted to use him. Everyone. Everyone wanted to use him. At times, he even doubted Victoria’s loyalty as a friend. That made him feel guilty. He wondered if he should go back to seeing a psychiatrist.

“Are you going to ask Alice to the Vortex Party?” She said turning her head up at him. She wished he was her brother instead of being a Prescott. He wouldn’t have so much stress.

“No.” Nathan sighed. “Why do you keep bugging me about her.”

She removed her head from his shoulder and glared.

“Really Nate? You think I don’t know you? Come on.”

He ignored her and watched a squirrel run up a tree. She nudged him.

“Nathan. Come on. At this rate, she’s going to end up going out with someone else.” She stuck out her bottom lip.

“Like I give a shit about who that whore fucks.”

Victoria glared daggers into his face and Nathan almost felt actual pricks on his cheek.

“Alright, I know you’re only saying that because you’re in a mood. Again.” She sighed. She took off his jacket and handed it back to him. She began to walk away. Nathan stayed where he was. He was beginning to feel the chill, but he didn’t want to put his jacket back on.

Victoria walked five steps before turning around and throwing her hands out in frustration.

“I just want you to be happy Nathan.” She said with a frown. “You deserve at least that much.”

He didn’t know why he didn’t answer her. He just stared blankly at her before she huffed and left.

She wouldn’t understand.

He was alone in this.

 


 

 

Alice fiddled with the cuffs of her sleeves nervously in front of the mirror. She was never a party person, but here she was, trying to figure out what to wear. The party was going to be this Friday and Victoria, ever so gracious, had decided that she would help with her wardrobe. Luckily, with the prospect of Alice attending a vortex party, Victoria had forgotten about the whole missing from her dorm room fiasco.

Class was no better. She was now overly aware of her photography teacher’s whereabouts in school, making sure to take longer routes between classes so she wouldn’t run into him. In class she would avoid eye contact despite the close contact she was now feeling around him.

The door slammed open just as Alice popped her head through the latest top, the fabric bunched over her breasts, caught on her bra. Alice quickly pulled her shirt down. Victoria rolled her eyes.

“Relax, you prude. We’ve both seen breasts before.”

Alice gestured to her outfit for her approval.

“No. Absolutely not.” Victoria moved forward. Alice instinctively moved back, but instantly felt bad at the irritated look on her face. It always irked Victoria that Alice hated any physical contact. Alice wished she could tell her the real reason, but Victoria made her own assumptions and boiled it down to Alice being a germaphobe. Or, in Taylor’s words, socially retarded. “God. I’m not going to touch you. I think I know better by now. . . But you’re not wearing that. Take it off.”

“What? Why? It’s cute.” Alice protested, holding out her arms and looking down at herself.  Victoria invaded her closet, throwing things and clicking her tongue every time she disapproved of something.

“You look like you’re about to go to a job interview. Take. It. Off. Here try this,” She threw a lacy top into Alice’s face. “I’m not letting you come to this party just so you can embarrass me with your lack of taste in decent clothing.”

When Alice did nothing, Victoria raised her eyebrow as if daring her to challenge her.

“That’s not fair. I dress just fine.” Victoria snorted at her words. Alice grumbled as she slipped off her shirt and pulled the other one over her head. Just as her arms came down, Victoria already had her taking it off.

“Its worse than the first one.”

“Would you rather I go nude?” Alice huffed.

“I’m sure no one would mind.”

“Victoria!”

“Just wear something of mine then.” Victoria said as they picked up the discarded clothes and put them in a pile. She headed toward the door, typing into her phone. “We’ll have to figure out jeans or something. Your butt won’t fit in my miniskirts. Its too fat.” She shut the door, but not before noticing the bowl of candy and grabbing one for herself. Alice quickly ripped it back open and yelled.

Your ass is FLAT!”

She turned back around and began to lift her shirt, but held back a scream as someone wriggled their way through her open window. He lifted his head just in time to get smacked in the face with a pillow.

“You creep, Nathan! Watching me change?!”

“Like you have anything to see.” He scoffed. “Oi fuck off!” He yelled as she grabbed another pillow and swung it at him. He fell to the floor and quickly raised his arms to protect himself. “You fucking crazy bitch!”

“What do you want?” Alice sighed.

“Nothing. That fucking FBI wannabe is scoping the area and I don’t have the energy to deal with him.”

“Yet you had the energy to crawl though my window.”

“Just let me chill here for a bit.” Nathan peeked out the window.

“Fine. Make yourself comfortable, I guess.” She sat down on the floor and began folding her clothes. She noticed a stray pair of underwear that managed to make it into the pile and snatched it before throwing it into the closet before Nathan could see.

He stuck his hands in his jean pockets and gazed about the room. He stepped over to her shelf and ran his fingers across the spines of the books. He smirked at some of the titles.

“You’re kind of a geek, hey?”

“If liking certain things is considered geeky, then yes, I am.” Alice lifted her nose and turned away from him.

“Relax. I know someone who’s into really geeky shit.” He muttered. He sat down at her desk and spun around on the chair. She glanced at him and went back to putting her clothes away. She smiled to herself. He was just like a little kid.

He stopped spinning and noticed a few giant folders in the corner sitting upright. He scooted the chair over and began to flip through them. There were a few large sketches, mostly random objects or areas around Arcadia bay, some portraits, but one particular drawing caught his eye. He instantly recognised the stupid baseball cap and was filled with an angry jealousy. He couldn’t help but feel an immense hatred for the teen in the drawing. But even so, he had to admit that it was a pretty detailed illustration.

He didn’t realise he had scoffed out loud until the drawing was ripped from his hands. Alice had looked over at the sound and immediately scrambled over to him.

“It’s not done!” Alice squeaked. She always felt uncomfortable when others saw her unfinished work. She shoved it behind her back and stood in front of the other pieces. “None of these are done.”

“Does he know about your undying love for him?” Nathan sneered.

“What?” Alice defensively, “I don’t like Luke.”

Nathan leaned back, lacing his fingers behind his head. “Really? Could have fooled me.”

“He’s not the only one I’ve drawn!” Alice said loudly.

“Show me then!” He challenged. She pursed her lips. Perhaps she had said too much.

“Uh,” She scratched her head. “No.”

He reached around her and pulled at the drawing.

“The fuck do you even like about this nerd.” He held it up with one hand and waved it. She reached out snatch it out of his hand again, but he kept his grip.

“I don’t! Give it back!” She tugged.

“You’re so friggin protective of his precious drawing!” He tugged back.

“I’m protective of all my works!” She pulled hard. “Oh!” The heartbreaking sound of the paper ripping filled the room. They now both held a piece of a paper Luke Parker. Nathan held the left shoulder and part of his ear and Alice held the rest of him.

Nathan let go when Alice slowly took the other half from him.

“Shit.” Was all he could say. She bit hard into her bottom lip to stop it from quivering.

“Why are you so mean to me! I don’t get it. You’re nice one second and then you do mean things like this.” Her voice wavered.

“Chill. I’ll just buy you more material. You can make another one.” Nathan shrugged. Alice stomped her foot angrily.

“Is that your answer to everything?! You can’t just buy things to make everything better, Nathan! I work really hard with my art! You just ruined 3 hours of work!” She pushed the ripped paper into his chest.

“Hey! You helped rip it!” The pieces fell to the floor and she brought her hands to her face, furiously rubbing at her eyes to stop the tears. A few bubbles of moments flew past her head out, stemming from her frustration. She hated whenever she lost control of her emotions because it was always disorienting to see so many things at once. She knew she was overreacting, but she couldn’t help but feel frustrated. Especially at the last thing that flew through her mind. Nathan stood up, shoving his hands in his pockets and headed towards her door. He needed a smoke.

He stopped as he heard her sniffle and pick up the picture again.

Fuck. He would never hear the end of it if Victoria heard he made her cry, so he turned back around and stepped towards her. He rubbed the back of his head and avoided eye contact.

“I’m sorry.” He said slowly. His eyes darted towards her for a moment, but went back down to the torn paper in her hands. She was looking at him with a look that he had no idea how to interpret. She sighed and placed the ruined picture on her desk.

“It’s fine. You’re right. I can always draw another one.” She habitually pushed the two pieces together so that it formed one again. “I’m oversensitive when it comes to my work.”

“I don’t know what to say when girls cry,” Nathan said awkwardly, “So could you stop?” She laughed and wiped the last tear from her eye. She sighed and slumped into the desk chair. He mimicked her and sat on the couch. He noticed that it was a lot comfier than the expensive one in his room.

“So,” He said after a while when her sniffles became more spaced out. “who else have you drawn?”

Alice looked at him dubiously.

“You’re just going to rip it if I show you.” She said spitefully, though he noted that her tone hinted that her words weren’t full of malice. Maybe a little snark though. She took a deep breath and turned to the giant folder on the other side of her desk. He assumed this one was full of her completed work and scolded his past self for not opening that one instead. “Okay, don’t make fun of me, but I’m actually pretty proud of this piece.”

She turned back around and faced the picture towards him. He recognised the Tobanaga’s fading colours instantly, but what was intriguing was the addition that wasn’t there when Nathan had first seen her draw it in front of him. Sitting in the grass was a likeness of him. He was sitting in front of the totem fiddling with his camera with a serene look on his face. She had made him look so real. It was almost like a photo.

He had been staring in awe that he didn’t hear what she was saying.

“What, do you not like it?” Alice’s lips tightened into the corner of her mouth.

“No, its,” He had no words to describe how he felt about it and instantly felt like an idiot. “How did you make it so lifelike?”

She brought it closer to him and sat beside him on the couch. There wasn’t much space so she was pushed right up against him. She was warm. He watched as she ran her finger across the paper and explained her process. He didn’t hear a word she said. He just watched her talk animatedly about her passion.

“It helps that you have so much expression in your face.” He caught one sentence as she rambled on. The guilt built up inside of him and he decided that he’d like to see her smile more at him. Like she had when they were working together on the English presentation.

He moved slightly and she paused to look up at him. They were almost touching noses.

“Are. . . Are you going to kiss me?” Alice asked softly. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

“How did you know?” He replied. She looked into his eyes. Were his eyes always so deeply blue?

“Just a feeling.”

“Do you not want me to?” His voice was low. He took the art from her lap and placed it out of the way without taking his eyes away from hers.

“N-no. I don’t mind.” Screw it. She was practically an adult and she had never kissed anyone.  Her mind briefly flashed to Mr. Jefferson’s face, confusing her for a moment, but she ignored it and focused on the present.

He leaned forward eyes closed and she felt her heartbeat all the way up to her ears.

Just as he was about press his lips against hers, she placed a hand on his chest. He opened his eyes to see her embarrassed face.

“Please don’t make fun of me if it’s not good.” Alice said looking up at him through her eyelashes. “I’m not exactly. . . experienced.”

He nodded and placed a hand beside her neck to guide her. Her hands were shaking. He must have noticed because he placed his left hand over hers to still them. She held her breath subconsciously as he leaned in once more and their lips touched.

He pulled away and she raised one hand to touch her lips. Kissing was a lot less dramatic than she thought it would be, but still. She felt the tingle, still feeling his lips on hers.

“I’m going to kiss you again.” Nathan said, his voice low and gutteral, initiating a heat between her legs.

“Okay.”

She counted backwards from 10 to calm her heart as he leaned in. She was going to enjoy this moment without being interrupted by the future.

His lips were on hers once more. This time he turned his body and leaned into her to push her backwards so she was leaning against the armrest. He sucked at her bottom lip and she instinctively opened her mouth to let him in. She had no idea what to do with her hands so they just lay in her lap, balled into fists that she tried so desperately to relax. Nathan’s hands crept up to cup her face and pulled her into the kiss more.

She was pleasantly surprised. She was expecting him to taste like smoke, but she couldn’t quite explain what he did taste like. An earthy type of taste. Or when you walk through a damp forest and can taste the moisture in the air.

She didn’t want this to stop and neither did he.

Alice’s hands touched his chest without her realising it. Nathan shifted so that he was practically over her, one knee dug into the couch as his other leg steadied himself to hover over her. She let out a content sigh as their lips disconnected and he latched himself onto her neck instead. He breathed her in deeply, a warm calm overcoming him before peppering a few kisses down to her collarbone. She smelled like a mix of vanilla and oil pastels and for some odd reason, couldn’t think of a more intoxicating combination that he liked more than that. Her soft gasps encouraged him to continue.

He lifted a hand from her face to roam down her body, but as soon as his hand left her skin, they both turned with wide eyes to the loud knocking at her door.

“I’m coming in whether you’re clothed or not.” Victoria called. The door opened and in walked Victoria, one arm draped in clothes as the other picked through them one by one. She didn’t notice the two, too busy examining the tops in her arms.

He didn’t feel the hard shove to his chest till he was already on the ground and was staring up at Victoria who had a bemused look on her face.

“Nathan?”

Alice immediately regretted pushing him off her. He had lost balance and fell to the floor, hard. She turned to face Victoria as well.

Without a word, Nathan got to his feet, his face aflame, and pushed past his puzzled best friend.

Luckily, Victoria’s curiosity was appeased as Alice explained that he had snuck into her room to avoid the security guard. Alice missed the small smile on the corner of Victoria’s mouth, not knowing that Victoria was celebrating in her head that Nathan had listened to her, albeit in the weirdest way. She did not expect to walk in on the two so fast. The two had clearly been kissing. She wasn’t that stupid to not notice.

As Alice took the articles of clothing from Victoria, the guilt began to build up in her conscience. Did he hate her now?

 


 

 

Against his own will, Nathan had tried not to think about Alice all day. He even managed to ignore her in English, immediately sitting next to another boy who looked terrified of him. After he had left the girls dormitory the day before, he made a beeline straight to the boys’ dormitory bathroom. He went straight into the showers and without even giving it a second thought, had turned the knob to blast cold water. He had stood there for a good eight minutes; six of which was spent willing for the protruding hardness in his lower regions to leave, and two making sure it didn’t come back.

He had stepped out and walked back to his room in a sulking fashion. He passed two incredulous students who he couldn’t bother to know the names of. He didn’t even care about the whispers that reached his ears. Everyone thought he was crazy anyways. Why prove them wrong?

He barely even registered when Victoria had come in an hour later to see him sitting on the floor beside his bed in a catatonic state, his hair and clothes completely soaked. The last thing he remembered was listening to whale songs as Victoria shut the door and the light from the hallway vanished. She must have managed to usher some sort of response out of him, at least enough to get him to change out of his wet clothes, as he woke up the next morning completely warm and tucked into bed.

He really didn’t deserve a friend like Victoria.

So what made him think he deserved someone like Alice?

She had tried to catch him right after English, but he lost her in the lunch crowd, quickly pushing his way through all the students.

Classes had ended so he wanted to get out of the building as fast as possible. He had almost made it until he spotted Mark Jefferson out of the corner of his eye. Out of stupid reflex, he automatically looked towards him, prompting Jefferson to wave him over.

Fuck. So close.

He didn’t have the energy for this shit.

He turned to follow and Jeffershit-son disappeared into the classroom. He had just reached the door when the stairwell doors near the classroom opened and Alice walked through. Her head perked up and she quickly ran over to him.

Fuck shit fuck.

“Nathan! Hi,” She said. “I’ve been looking for you all day.”

He looked around in panic, wondering if he had time to run into the classroom and close the door. He suddenly felt as if he would rather face Jefferson. He froze as she came right up to him.

“I, um, wanted to talk to you, but I had a feeling you’ve been avoiding me.” She said with a fixed smile.

He held his blank stare.

“Are. . . you mad at me?” She frowned. “I totally get if you are. . . I just wanted to apologise. I panicked.”

“Yeah . . .”

She began to bite her lip, seemingly unsatisfied with his answer. He had the sudden urge to kiss her again so she would stop biting her lips.

“I didn’t mean to push you off. I mean, I didn’t want to.”

“No, I understood why you pushed me off.” He rubbed the back of his neck. He probably would have too in her shoes.

“But you’re still upset with me.” She stated.

“No,” Fuck, what could he say. “It’s not that.”

“Oh.” Recognition filled her eyes, but it was out of sadness.

“I enjoyed it. Kissing you, I mean,” She said after a moment, looking down at her shoes, “but I guess it was bad for you then?”

Oh.

Fuck no. It was amazing. He couldn’t believe she thought he thought she was a horrible kisser.

“No, no, I-” “Alice. Nathan.” Mark Jefferson appeared in the doorway. Alice jumped and Nathan scowled at the timing. “I apologise, but I need to speak to Nathan if you don’t mind, Alice. You can take these in the mean time.”

She nodded profusely. “Of course, sir. No problem.”

Jefferson handed her a few papers and sent her away to have them copied, then nodded to Nathan for him to follow. He walked back to his desk and sat down, sorting papers until Nathan was standing in front of him.

“What?” Nathan snapped out acerbically when nothing was said. Jefferson raised an eyebrow. Nathan broke eye contact, angrily looking away. “I invited Kate. Like you asked.”

“Good.” Jefferson tapped the papers on the desk.

Nathan leaned from one leg to the other, his hands shoved into his pockets, waiting for the teacher he once looked up to, to say something else.

“I trust you won’t make any mistakes this time?”

“No.” He grit his teeth. Rage welled up inside Nathan at the man’s words.

“Alright.”

Nathan began to turn so he could leave, but was interrupted once again.

“I couldn’t help but overhear, seeing as you were in front of my classroom.” The teacher began to say. Nathan could feel the sneer slithering onto his back.

Nathan whirled around, his hands balled into fists at the obnoxious words.

“What! You don’t control who I talk to.” Nathan spat. Jefferson neutral expression turned into one of concern.

“I’m just looking out for you Nathan because I care about you.”

A small flame of yearning for approval flickered in Nathan’s heart, but he quickly extinguished it.

Liar. He was just like his everyone else. At first, Nathan thought Mr. Jefferson really did care about him more than his own father. He offered compassion and guidance and Nathan relished and savoured the affection. Not anymore. He knew how cold and heartless the man sitting before him could be.

Blue eyes clashed with the menacing stare of brown as the next words were said.

“Do you really want to scare her away like you did Rachel?”


 

Alice hummed as she walked through the hallway. Hopefully she would be able to catch Nathan again before he left. Her heart thrummed through her chest and she pressed a hand to try and quell it. She was so worried that Nathan hated the kiss they shared, but hearing him tell her that wasn’t the case – as brief as it was – lifted her spirits. She only wished Mr. Jefferson showed up a few seconds later, but the bad luck didn’t surprise her.

Whatever. She was on a high. She couldn’t be put in a bad mood.

She re-entered the hallway from the main lobby, pausing at the poster taped to the door. Scrawled across Rachel Amber’s face in red marker was the word “BITCH”. Anger coursed through Alice and she promptly ripped the poster down and crumpled it up. She threw it in the nearest bin.

She wondered if the blue haired girl attended Blackwell. She must if she was putting the posters all over the school, but they had never crossed paths until the diner. Her heart ached for the distraught teen. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to suddenly have your friend disappear. She never had close friends. With the rumours at her old schools, she was ostracized and avoided.

She knew what it felt like now to have a friend. She would be heartbroken if something were to happen to the friends she had now. She wasn’t exactly best buddies with anyone, but it was enough for her. Maybe one day she’d be comfortable enough to tell one of them her secret.

As Alice reached the door to the photography classroom, Nathan crashed into her, sending the papers in her arms to slip from her arms. His mouth flapped open and close, but Alice quickly told him it was okay and began to gather the fallen papers.

Alice bent down, but looked back up, wondering if Nathan was going to help her. The look on his face was confusing. She was about to open her mouth to ask what was wrong, but he glanced back into the classroom then back at her. His gaze hardened before he stalked off, leaving her baffled.

She picked up the last paper and gazed down the hallway before heading into the classroom.

Boys were so weird.


 

He was right.

Jeffer-fucking-shit-son was absolutely right. Nathan just didn’t want to admit it out loud.

He had to stay away from Alice or she would disappear just like Rachel did. Jefferson would send her away to make up for his mistakes.

It was better if he kept his distance.


 

Mark was smiling at Alice when she walked back into the classroom. She placed the stack of papers down onto the desk.

“Was he alright? He seemed a little spooked.”

“He’s just feeling a bit of stress with the contest.” Mark said. Alice nodded. Nathan seemed to really have a talent for photography, but from the things she heard from Victoria, he was facing a tremendous amount of pressure from his father to take over the family business. It must be difficult when everyone had expectations of who Nathan should be.

Maybe he was regretting kissing her. He had a prestigious background and she was barely anyone of note. That thought dampened her spirits. It seemed like there would be no place where she could belong in this world.

“I don’t mean to pry, but I couldn’t help but overhear your earlier conversation.” Mr. Jefferson spoke as he poured her some tea. Her face heated up and she had no idea what to say.

“Sugar?” he asked. Alice nodded her head eagerly. Anything to change the subject. He briefly mentioned to stir well as it was a foreign sugar procured from a distant country. She couldn’t help but feel in awe. He was so cultured.

She pushed the folders in front of her aside and pulled the cup towards her. She brought the cup up to her nose and inhaled deeply with a content sigh, then dipped the tea spoon in and stirred.

“I care about all of my students, Alice, I hope you know that. Nathan is no exception.” He said.

“Of course, sir.” She replied.

“But, I feel that I’ve grown particularly close to you, enough to tell you something that I hope will not mar your opinion of me.” He paused, gauging her reaction. “You are a bright student, Alice, as is Nathan, but he is. . . a bit unstable.”

Alice shifted in her chair, uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was going in. She brought her drink up to her lips and took a long sip. Within a few seconds she felt a little more relaxed.

“Mr. Jefferson, if I may,” she interrupted, “I know Nathan has a reputation, but he’s also under a lot of pressure from everyone just for having a big name.”

He smiled warmly at her and poured more tea into her cup. “I understand that’s what you believe. You only see the good in everyone. That’s why I admire you. However, don’t you think it’s a little naïve to believe that everyone can be helped?”

He could see a spark of anger light up in her face, but she stayed silent, sipping on her drink as she avoided eye contact.

“I know Nathan is the typical bad boy that girls fall for all the time, but I know you’re smarter than that.”

“That’s- That’s not what’s happening.” Alice clenched her hands around her cup. He could see her pupils begin to dilate so he stood up to move around the desk. She didn’t notice him silently move towards the door and lock it.

“I know you feel the need to help everyone around you.” He said softly as he stepped towards her. “But you should stay away from Nathan. He’ll ruin you.” His voice began to sound like it was in a box and Alice felt like gravity was beginning to fade.

She froze as she felt him come up close behind her. Her breath halted as she felt the heat of his body. How was she so dizzy right now? What was happening?

 “Sorry, I don’t think I feel right.” Alice pushed her chair back and stood up, swaying. “I should go lie down.” She turned, but came face to face with him. He loomed over her and her heart wavered in between arousal, confusion, and fear.

“You don’t need a boy like Nathan that you’ll be obligated to take care of when you can have someone who can take care of you. Someone who knows your potential and won’t drag you down.” He whispered in her ear backing her up into the desk.

“I – I don’t understand.” Alice stammered out.

“Everyone will take advantage of you if they know what you can do.” He stroked her cheek. “You don’t want that, do you?” He shook his head and she unconsciously mimicked his actions. Her vision was unfocused. As she stared up at him, he felt guilty for a moment for drugging her.

“Wesley wouldn’t let that happen. . .”

“He won’t always be there to protect you, will he? What if someone else gets their hands on you? You’ll be taken to the government and experimented on. They’ll torture you.”

Fear slowly trickled down Alice’s body. That was such a dark possibility that it didn’t even register in her mind. Something like that was only common in movies. She felt like she was suffocating as he continued to describe what would be done to her.

“I don’t want that.” She choked out, her voice breaking. Her hands covered her mouth, in an attempt to quell her cries.

Mr. Jefferson shushed her gently and wrapped his arms around her, whispering as he reassured her he wouldn’t let that happen.

He placed his hands on her waist and lifted her up, sitting her on the desk. Alice felt a strange sense of déjà vu as he brought his face down to hers. As their lips touched, Alice closed her eyes only to see Nathan next to her in bed with a cocky smirk on his face.

The vision faded just as quick as it showed and Alice was faced with an angered Mark.

“Show me more, you brazen little slut.” He shook her roughly. How dare she. How dare she let Nathan Prescott into her bed. Alice flinched and instinctively pulled away, but he held her in a vice-like grip.

 “How dare you.”  He spat. He took her face in one hand and squeezed. “I’m offering you more than that useless pile of shit could ever give you and you-” The terrified shocked look on her face made him stop.

He paused and released his grip on her cheeks.

“I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. You’re- ” He adjusted his glasses and ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. He lifted her chin up. “You can only trust me, you understand?”

She nodded mutely, eyes glossed over completely. What a nice teacher he was, worrying about her like that.

“You’ll stay away from Nathan Prescott. You belong to me.” He hissed.

“But. . . He. . .”

“He’s dangerous. His family is powerful. They’ll sell you to the government to make more money.” He gave her a stern look and she crumpled under his gaze.

“Yes, sir.” Her voice was soft and he could tell he was close to losing her.

“Good girl.” He kissed her forehead softly. He pulled her off the desk and gathered her things. “Let’s get you back to your dorm so you can rest and think about what I said. You’ve been avoiding me as well, Alice. I don’t appreciate that. You have nothing to be embarrassed about around me, alright?”

She nodded mutely and let him lead her out. He let go of her hand once they left the classroom, but still carried her bag for her as she followed close behind. The hallways were empty to which he was grateful. Of course, if someone were to run into them, he could always say that he was just escorting a sick student back to her dorm.

No one would be suspicious. The school loved him. They worshipped him. He had every idiot here wrapped around his finger. Even that stupid security guard couldn’t find anything against him, as much as he tried.

Alice wobbled by him as he held the exit door open. He smiled at how subdued she was. It was a small price to pay, but it would be worth it in the end.

Chapter Text

I forgot to describe what Alice looks like, so here's what I always pictured: Alice





It was the night of the party and Alice was excited to be going to a party she was invited to instead of crashing her brother's.

"Oh, Kate is here! I should say hi." Alice said excitedly as they stepped through the door, immediately spotting the signature bun. The girl in question was sitting beside another girl with a polite smile on her face. The music was uncomfortably loud, the bass practically shaking the floors. This was definitely not Kate's scene.

"Ugh, seriously? What is that Jesus freak doing here?" Victoria said.

"She's not a freak, Victoria." Alice snapped. Victoria rolled her eyes.

"Apparently Nathan invited her here." Juliet said as she walked up to the two, handing Alice a cup who sniffed it curiously. Juliet laughed and said it was just punch. . . with a little bit of vodka. Alice shrugged and took a sip.

She couldn't help but feel slightly jealous. Kate had mentioned that she'd been invited by Nathan, but seeing it confirmed just sent a dark feeling towards the sweet girl. Nathan had avoided her the whole week and she could not figure out why. She knew she had no right to feel jealous, but it still hurt.

"That can't be true. Nathan wouldn't." Victoria scoffed. "Where is he anyways?"

"The fuck is she doing here?" They turned to see Nathan, his arms crossed across his chest. Alice squared her shoulders and faced him.

"I was invited by Victoria, thank you very much." Alice stated, raising an eyebrow as if challenging him to say otherwise. He brushed past her.

"You're not welcome here. Leave."

Alice turned to give him a piece of her mind, but Victoria placed a hand on her arm to stop her. She gave Alice a look, telling her to stay put. Alice shrugged and turned to talk to Juliet who was interested in featuring one of Alice's pieces in the school newspaper. Screw him then. She had every right to be here.

Victoria followed after Nathan through the door, watching as he chucked his bottle at a tree angrily. It smashed, the broken glass falling into the bushes and the wasted beer dripped down the trunk. He startled a couple making out against wall who quickly scrambled to fix their clothes and rejoin the party.

He had to give Kate a drink soon. Alice being at the party was a problem. He knew the two were somewhat close so he would have to figure out a way to separate them before anything happened. Alice definitely wouldn't let Kate out of her sight.

"What the hell's your problem?" Victoria said. "I thought you'd be happy I invited her! The least you could do is talk to her. And why the hell did you invite Kate?"

He said nothing, so she continued.

"No, 'thank you Victoria'? You're being an ass. Just admit you like her! Nathan!" She gripped his shoulder, turning him towards her. The look on his face halted her anger. "Nathan?"

"She can't be here." He said. His face was contorted in a mixture of pain and fear.

"Why?"

"I don't want her here. Send her back home."

"What do you mean?! You clearly like her, just go for it!" She rolled her eyes with the next words. "Oh and please don't give me some bullshit excuse like you're scared or-" he rounded on her. She just had no idea what he's done. He couldn't tell his best friend the other reason that she couldn't be here. Why he had invited Kate Marsh and what he was about to do.

"I AM FUCKING SCARED, OKAY?"

"What? Why?" She asked. The look on Nathan's face was one Victoria was rightly familiar with, but it didn't make sense that it had anything to do with Alice. She only ever saw this look on his face when he had to meet his father.

"No, I mean – I. . . Look she just doesn't belong in this crowd, alright? I don't want her to see. . ."

Victoria's eye's softened. "Nathan. . . I don't think she's one to judge. She doesn't hate you."

"Yeah, but she will."

"No, she won't." She stated. Nathan looked defeated. "Nathan. You've been avoiding her all week. I know you two kissed. I'm not stupid."

"Just get her out of here." Nathan pleaded. "Please, Victoria."

Her gaze hardened. "Give me a good reason why you're doing this."

The silence between them was louder than the music thumping the walls from inside. Victoria stood with her arms crossed, tapping her finger against her arm until he answered.

"I can't."

"Then no. Do it yourself if you must, but I'm not going to help you sabotage yourself." She sighed and turned around to head back inside.


 

She had to admit. Vortex parties were almost kind of fun. It was almost tempting to be coerced into joining the cloud of smoke in the corner, but even a contact high was enough for Alice. Everyone was relaxed and even Kate danced a little with her. Speaking of said girl, she couldn't seem to spot. Alice scanned the crowd for the familiar blonde bun. The music bounced off the walls and invaded her ears, making it difficult to concentrate.

She made sure to stay in the crowd and avoid the corner where a few people were lighting up a bong. Hayden had waved her over, but she smiled and continued navigating past the groups of drunk teens.

"Wow who knew Ms. Jesus was such a party girl?" A girl near the door tittered to her friend. That caught her attention. They had to be talking about Kate. She really hoped she was wrong. She felt a foreboding sense overcome her. She walked past the two girls and gasped as she looked between the heads of the rowdy group in front of her.

The crowd was cheering and hooting at the scene. They sounded like hyenas.

Kate had her lips locked on some random boy while they sat on the couch. She was sitting on his lap as he wrapped his arms around her. He dipped her backwards. The hollers became louder.

"Kate?!" Alice yelled. Kate hopped off of the boy's lap and stumbled into another, who immediately encouraged the behaviour and stuck his tongue down her throat. No, this couldn't be Kate. She wouldn't be like this.

Alice had to stop this. She tried to push through the crowd, her heart racing, but in her panicked state, she kept seeing visions of each person she pushed. With each vision, time seemed to crawl for her. She saw too much and it was beginning to make her dizzy.

She pushed an arm aside and she was suddenly on a steep snowy path.

She shoved past a shoulder. She was looking down at a failed history test.

She tripped into someone. It was stormy and they were running through the town. There was a building on fire.

"Excuse me!" Alice squeaked. A girl she vaguely recognised was pushed into her and then she was looking down at a positive pregnancy test. Alice was disoriented as she felt each person's emotions. There were too many scenes. Where was she again?

She was lying next to Nathan on her bed. He was just staring at her as she slept. He reached out to touch her cheek.

"You need to leave!"

Nathan had yanked her back through the crowd and was dragging back through the door she had just come from.

"Wait, no! Kate! I need to get back to Kate!"

His grip was surprisingly tight on her wrist. She pried at his fingers with her left hand, but he squeezed harder, making her squeak in pain.

"Nathan! Stop!" Alice yelled. She could barely hear her own voice through the music. They stopped at the entrance.

"Aw, Nathan, leaving already?" The girl stationed at the front asked. She looked like the typical preppy school girl. Her perfectly manicured nails sparkled in the light.

"No, she is. Don't let her in again." He jerked his back towards her. Alice was still struggling to escape his grip. The girl smirked at her as they exited.

He kept walking with her trailing behind him. They got to a sidewalk and he stopped. His hand still held her wrist. She yanked her arm and backed away. A taxi rolled to a stop in front of them and Nathan opened the back door.

"Get in." He said.

"What? No. I have to go back. Something's wrong with Kate."

The window rolled down and Nathan ducked his head to speak to the driver. He handed him a wad of bills. Alice took this opportunity to start walking back to the party, but she made it about five feet before she was yanked back.

"Let go! I have to go back to Kate!" She screamed.

"Stop!" Nathan grabbed both her shoulders. "I'll take care of it, okay? I'll take her back to the dorms. I promise." He stressed the last word. "Please. Just go back." He looked her in the eyes, pleading.

"I – ok. You promise you'll bring her back safe?"

Nathan paused at his next words. Her eyes narrowed.

"As safe as I can." He said in a low voice. "Just go." He pushed her towards the taxi again, shoving her inside, but she noticed how gentle he tried to be. He made sure to place his hand between her head and the cars so she wouldn't hit her head.

"Wait," Her hand shot out to hold the door open. "Why have you been avoiding me? Did I do something wrong?"

"No." He said, but the look on her face was incredulous. "I can't. . . I'll talk to you later."

He shut the car door and backed away.

"Blackwell Academy, miss?" The gruff voice in front said. She noticed him counting the bills and her eyes widened at the amount. Nathan must have given him three times the amount it would have cost to get to Blackwell.

"Uh, yeah." The car engine roared to life and as the car started moving, her eyes stayed on Nathan. He avoided her gaze and sighed before turning back to the party as the car left. Alice kept her gaze until he was out of sight and the car was too far to see the building.

She was hit with a sudden jolt of regret. She should have stayed with Kate.

"Actually, you can take me back. I forgot something."

The driver scratched the back of his head. "Ah, I would, but your boyfriend paid me a great deal of money to get you home safe and I'm a man of my word."

"He's not my boyfriend." Alice leaned forward gripping the seat in front of her.

"Well, either way, I can't bring you back."

Alice sighed and leaned back, looking through the windows. She had a dark foreboding feeling that she would regret it.


 

Alice woke up to a sudden thud on her door. The sound of something sliding down the door confused her before it went silent. She reached over the nightstand beside her bed and tilted her phone towards her. She bright screen burned her eyes and she squinted to make out the time. It was two in the morning. She heard a voice sigh and mutter to themselves.

If this was a ghost, she was going to thoroughly freak out (and possibly wet herself. Perfect time to need to void one's bladder) if one walked through her door right now. She lifted the covers off her and pulled down on her shorts that had ridden up. She softly padded over to the door and slowly turned the knob. She was going to just peek through, but there was a weight on the door, making it open wider than she intended. The person who was leaning on her door fell backwards from their sitting position.

She jumped and a scream almost made it past her throat.

"Nathan?!" She hissed out. He righted himself and stood up as Alice peeked into the hallway to see if there was anyone else. When she didn't see any sign of movement, she pulled him in and shut the door. He was staring at her in an almost daze-like trance. She followed his eyes and realised the strap of her camisole had fallen. She pulled it back up onto her shoulder.

"What are you doing here?" She whispered. He didn't answer her. "Nathan?" She snapped her fingers in front of his face. That got a response out of him and she repeated her question.

"I brought Kate back." He said in a soft voice.

"Oh good! Thank you, Nathan!" Alice embraced him. He was taken aback, but raised his arms and wrapped his arms around her hesitantly. She must have taken a shower when she got back to the dorms. Her hair smelled like coconut. "Is she okay?" She pulled away slightly to look at him.

"I think so." He avoided her gaze. He didn't want to let go of her, slightly tightening his grip. He had meant to leave right away after getting Kate to her room, but he had stopped in front of Alice's door and suddenly he was looking up at her face.

Alice pulled away. "Stay here." She pushed him to sit on the edge of the bed and stepped out the door. She really did have to use the bathroom. The hallway was slightly cold and it sent a small shiver through Alice, raising goosebumps on her skin. The bathroom was no better and Alice rushed to finish, cursing the cold tap water. She waited till it warmed up a bit before sticking her hands underneath the running water.

She felt a warmth in her chest. Nathan had come to her room in the middle of the night. It didn't seem like he was planning on coming in, but she was glad she had heard him at the door. She felt a little rebellious that she was harbouring a boy in her dorm room.

She opened her door again and closed it softly. She turned expecting to see Nathan staring at her, but he was laying down on her bed, feet still touching the floor. His eyes were closed. She sat beside him, unsure of what to do next. He looked so troubled even while asleep. Like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Alice didn't know much about the Prescott's other than that they were prominent family in Arcadia Bay. Crap. Alice suddenly remembered the times she yelled at him. Could he have any sway over whether she kept her scholarship? Nothing had happened yet, so she was probably safe.

Alice felt bad. Everyone stepped around Nathan like he was a ticking time bomb. He must have faced this type of discrimination his whole life. The one time she had met his father didn't exactly leave her with a positive opinion of him. Maybe everyone expected him to be exactly like his father.

A weird feeling crept into Alice's head and she suddenly felt that she had to kick him out of her room and yell at him to stay away from her, but Alice shook her head and moved forward.

She lay down on her side facing him, pulling her legs up onto the bed. She examined him best she could, the only light coming from the moonlit window. His eyelashes were ridiculously long, she noticed. His chest rose and fell in slow intervals. Her eyes roamed down and finally noticed his hands. There were cuts along his hands, mostly on his knuckles, the skin seemingly scraped off from colliding with something. She shifted slightly, moving to get off the bed. She couldn't knowingly leave his wounds unattended. They could get infected. As her hand left the bed, Nathan grabbed her wrist, startling her.

Her head twisted back to see his blue eyes gazing up at her.

"Your hands are messed. . . Let me clean them." She gestured, waving her wrist that his hand still held. He let go to sit up and look down at his hands. She gestured for him to sit back and he complied, kicking off his shoes to lean against the wall beside her bed.

She reached under her desk and pulled out a first aid kit, flipping on the lamp by her bed when she came back. She noticed the dark circles growing under his closed eyes as he leaned his head against the wall.

She ripped open one of the alcohol wipes as she sat beside him on her knees and then took his hand gently in hers. He eyed the movement warily and flinched as he felt the alcohol sting. She tried to be as gentle as possible, wiping the blood away and dabbing at the cuts.

"Are you going to tell me how this happened?" Alice clicked her tongue. He shrugged, face stoic. He had flinched the first time, but he became used to the pain whenever she would clean another cut. She placed his palm on her knee and shifted to rummage through the kit to pull out some bandages. His hand radiated warmth as it stayed still. She lifted his hand again and began to wrap his hand. Once she secured the bandage in place, she ripped open another antiseptic packet and set to work on his other hand.

A few minutes passed, only the sound of their breathing and Alice some more gauze to wrap around his other hand. She was so concentrated on cleaning his hands that she didn't notice his eyelids droop down. She realised he was asleep as she secured the wrap around his hand and looked up. His head was tilted to his shoulder and he looked a little more at peace than before.

Slowly, she picked up the soiled wipes and threw them into the garbage bin, placing the kit back under the desk. When she turned around, he had already toppled over and was asleep.

A surge of irritation shot through Alice. This boy was messing with her. She couldn't believe the nerve he had to ignore her after they kissed and yet now he was here, sleeping in her bed without a care in the world. She couldn't get a read on him. He was unpredictable.

She looked to the couch, debating on sleeping there, but when she looked back to see if she could shimmy the blanket out from under him, she found him staring back at her.

"Are you just going to stand there?" He said, a slight smirk on his face. He slipped under the covers as he spoke then pat the empty space beside him.

"I can sleep on the couch if you're just going to take over my bed." Alice crossed her arms, plopping herself down defiantly. She lay down, but had to shift multiple times, trying to look for a more comfortable position on the short couch.

"For fuck's sake. Just come here. I won't touch you. Just go to sleep." He put one arm behind his head and lay on his back with the other hand on his stomach.

"Why don't you just go back to your room?" Alice huffed.

"It's too cold and dark. I'm scared." He said coolly. "I came all this way. Just let me stay here for the night."

"That's fine. I'll stay here." Alice lay on her back and stuck her legs over the armrest, reaching over the back of the couch to pull on the sweater laid over it.

"Suit yourself."

"Good night."

"Night."


Alice woke up to a heavy weight on her waist. She opened her eyes and reached over to her phone to check the time. It was a quarter past eight. She could afford to sleep in a little longer. She let out a content sigh, pulled the blanket up to her chin and turned over only to come face to face with the boy from last night.

Right. He had been sitting outside her door with bloody fists.

Wait.

She was supposed to be on the couch.

Nathan was still asleep, arm draped over her stomach. She reached down and lifted his arm so she could get up, but instead he pulled her closer and nuzzled her chest with his face. She pushed at his shoulders, thoroughly annoyed at this point.

"Stop moving." Nathan grumbled.

"Did you move me here?" Alice pushed at him, her arms wedged in between the two. Nathan mumbled 'dumb bitch' under his breath, eyes still closed.

"You crawled into bed with me." A ghost of a smirk was plastered on his face. "You also talk in your sleep."

Alice's cheeks burned. She didn't realise she still sleepwalked. She was 18 for goodness sake. She didn't bother asking what he heard. It was sure to be something embarrassing. She turned onto her back, a difficult feat as Nathan clutched onto her more. His hand gripped her waist, one finger lightly playing with the waistband of her shorts.

"We should get up now." Alice mumbled.

"No." Was the response she got.

They lay like that for a few more minutes and Alice wondered if he had fallen asleep. She turned her head to face him. He looked so serene compared to last night.

"I get that I'm incredibly good looking, but could you please stop checking me out?" He drawled. She shoved his chest.

"You're such a pig." Alice huffed. She pushed herself off the bed, ignoring Nathan's grabby hands. The air was slightly chilly in the room and Alice slightly regretted rejecting the space heater her brother had offered to send over. She did prefer the cold however. It was always easier to get warm than cool down in the heat. She reached into her closet and pulled out a sweater to throw on.

"Do you still have my clothes?" Nathan asked from the bed. Right. She still had them in the closet. She tossed them to him and he caught them easily. He noticed his hands as he did so.

"Your fists were all bloody last night. Do you not remember?" Alice raised an eyebrow. "I'd hate to see what the other guy looks like." She joked.

"Oh right." He went quiet. He then began to shed his clothes and switch them for the fresh ones. Alice blushed and went to sit at her desk to distract herself from looking. She voiced her opinion, wishing that he would stop changing in front of her, but he just laughed.

"I don't want to be caught here in the same clothes as last night. People might talk and I know how much of a prude you are." He smirked. Alice scoffed. She wasn't a prude. Though he did have a point. She wasn't exactly sure how she'd react if her classmates started rumours about her. He didn't really have a good reputation at Blackwell. His attitude more than proved that much.

She didn't want to admit it, but she had a rising attraction for the teen. Damn her hormones. Why was it so stereotypical to fall for the token bad boy? Wesley would be so disappointed.

And so would Mr. Jefferson.

Weird. Where had that thought come from?

Alice pulled out her phone, quickly typing in an apology for leaving the party early without saying goodbye to Kate.

"Uh, thanks for this, I guess." Nathan said, raising his bandaged fists. Alice shrugged. She knew if she hadn't cleaned him up, he would have left it.

She had no idea what compelled her to do it, but as he peeked his head out into the hallway to check if the coast was clear, she pulled him back.

"Wait, sorry," She stammered. "You said we'd talk."

Nathan closed the door again and avoided her eyes.

"Ah, yeah. Right."

Alice scratched her arm nervously before sitting on the edge of her bed. Moment of truth. Maybe it was a bad idea. Maybe he hated her.

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry."

They spoke at the same time, mouths snapping shut as they waited for the other to speak. Nathan leaned against the door and shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. He stayed quiet for a moment, trying to find the right words to say. He was going to try it Victoria's way. Screw whatever Jeffershit thought.

"I didn't mean to push you off." Alice started. "I panicked. I don't know why."

He said nothing, still thinking what to say.

"If you're mad, you can be honest with me. It was a shitty thing to do." At least this time she could hear the answer without being interrupted.

"Wanna go out?"

Alice froze.

"Out? Out like a date, out?"

He smirked at her sudden nervous demeanour, but nodded, holding his tongue from making a snarky remark.

"Yeah, I'd like that." Alice spoke softly. "Er, like now?"

He shrugged.

"Oh. Okay, yeah. I'll just get changed." They both were silent for a moment when Nathan realised what she was implying. He awkwardly reached behind him and opened the door to step out.

"I'll just uh, wait outside then."

Alice smiled until the door closed. Then the panic set in. She had never been on a date. Was she supposed to dress up? What was a casual date outfit? Should she be asking Victoria? She was his best friend. Would it be too weird?

She tore up her closet quickly before settling on a dark pair of jeans and a sweater. It would look good enough and at least not like she was trying too hard. She gathered her hair into her hands and repeatedly brought it up and down as she looked into the mirror.

She shook her head and opted to leave it down. She was way overthinking this.

Alice stepped out and closed her door. Turning, she noticed Kate's door was slightly ajar. The lights were off, but Alice knocked anyways.

"Kate?" She called out. No answer.

"Kate's in the washroom." A voice said beside her. Alice turned to see Max coming from down the hall. She had just finished taking a shower, her hair dampy and dripping onto the towel around her shoulders. "I don't think she's in a good mood. She's been in the shower for a while."

Alice's eyebrows furrowed in worry.

"Are you leaving?" Max asked. "I can let you know when she comes back."

"Thanks that'd be great. I think she might have had a little too much to drink last night." Alice shut Kate's door, but left the gap from before just in case Kate didn't have her key on her.

"Right. Vortex Party?"

Alice nodded. "Yeah." She left it at that, not wanting to make Max feel left out that she wasn't invited. Though Max didn't seem to be the jealous type, especially of frivolous parties.

"Maybe I'll ask her if she wants to grab breakfast. Want to join?"

"That's sweet of you, Max. But I think I have a date."

Max smiled. "You think?"

"Uh, well we'll see how it goes. I'll text you?"

"Please do." Max turned to go into her room and Alice headed for the entrance. She paused near the washroom, wondering if she should check in, but reconsidered. It would be weird to have a conversation while Kate was showering.

She took a deep breath as she reached the doors before pushing them open. Nathan stood against the railing. He was debating on lighting a cigarette, but put it away as she came out.

"Take long enough?" He scoffed half-heartedly.

"I just wanted to check in on Kate. Apparently she's not feeling well."

"She probably drank a lot." Nathan muttered. "Uh, ready to go?"

"Yeah, what did you have in mind?" They stepped down from the entrance and continued down the path towards the parking lot.

"We could grab breakfast. There's a place in town that I usually go to." He froze as they turned the corner to the courtyard. Mr Jefferson was speaking to Mr. Madsen by the fountain.

"Great, I'm starving." Alice said eagerly. She paused as she noticed his hesitance. "You alright?"

"Yeah uh," He straightened up and resolved to continue. "Sorry, let's go. We'll take my truck."

He walked a bit ahead of her before she quickened her steps to match his pace. He made sure to take the path farthest away from the pair.

In his peripheral, Nathan could tell as they passed that Jefferson had indeed noticed him and Alice. He could practically feel those eyes narrowing in on him from behind his glasses. The disapproval was almost enough to make him turn back and beg for forgiveness. No, he wasn't going to be told what to do anymore. He could prove himself worthy of having a relationship with someone. He would prove everyone wrong. He wasn't just some rich kid fuck up.

He faintly heard his name being called, but chose to continue on even as Alice tried to get his attention to draw it back to their teacher. Despite this, she still continued to walk, half giving Mr. Jefferson an apologetic shrug as she followed Nathan. It seemed that Mr. Jefferson was about to follow them, but it was clear that the security guard wasn't finished talking.

Nathan sped towards his truck, pressing the button on his key continuously as he neared to unlock it. He quickly jumped in, but cursed to himself as he realised Alice probably would have appreciated it if he had opened her side first.

She said nothing, but smiled as she opened the passenger side door and climbed in.

"Man, you're really hungry, hey?" Alice joked.

"Uh, yeah. Sorry." He revved up the engine and backed up the truck out of the space.

"Don't be! I've been told I get crazy when i'm hungry."

As the front of the truck touched the road, Nathan looked left for oncoming traffic. From the courtyard Nathan could see Mr. Jefferson heading towards the parking lot, but had paused on noticing that they were already leaving. The frown on the smug bastard's face was well worth it, Nathan concluded as he drove away.

Chapter Text

 

Kate sat on the shower floor with her arms wrapped around herself. The water was scalding when she had first entered, her skin registering the pain yet somehow it didn’t bother her. No, it wasn’t the burning  sensation that covered her body at first, nor was it the now freezing water thundering down on her. It wasn’t even the pounding headache that woke her up.

No.

Her faith in God was beginning to waver and if she could just begin to remember how her night went then maybe she wouldn’t be as perturbed by the sudden dark thoughts that God had left her when she lost her way.

The texts and missed calls from her parents she had woken up to on her phone were more than disturbing and if it weren’t for her name in the messages, she would have thought she had someone else’s phone.

Then the video. How humiliating.

The link was sent to her from various numbers. She only had to watch once, but despite recognizing her own face, she couldn’t help but deny that was her. It couldn’t be her. She would never do that.

How could this have happened?

It had to be a dream. It just had to. A nightmare of sorts.

But as she was about to leave her room, she could hear the voices outside her door, mocking her behaviour loudly for the whole dorm to hear. When the voices had finally faded, she peaked her head out only to notice that the whiteboard outside her door had been wiped and replaced with crude innuendos of her religious nature.

She quickly made her way into the shower, barely acknowledging Max. She didn’t want to see if Max was laughing at her too. And now, here she sat, hidden away from the judging eyes of her peers.

If God was watching, perhaps he was laughing at her too.

A choked sob erupted from deep within her chest and she quickly moved her hands over her mouth to stifle the sound.


 

The door hit the bell, signifying their entrance to the staff, Nathan immediately stalking towards the back corner of the diner. The blue haired girl exited the washrooms and took a seat on one of the stools at the counter. Alice would have waved, but the girl had not noticed her. She followed Nathan, quickly flashing a smile at the waitress behind the counter.

Nathan slid into a booth and Alice hesitated for a moment, wondering if she was supposed to sit next to him. She opted for the opposite seat.

“Soooooo. . . What’s good here?” Alice said as she looked over the menu. The silence was making her feel awkward.

“You can’t go wrong with the eggs and bacon, I guess.” Nathan said suddenly blushing. “Though I’ve never actually had anything else here to be honest.”

Alice laughed, making Nathan relax a little.

“If you like, I’ll order the waffles and you can try some.”

He nodded and closed his menu to lean back. He drummed his fingers nervously against the table, thankful when the waitress came by to take their order.

“Have you lived here your whole life?”

“Pretty much.” He shrugged. “My sister left though. Some peace corps thing or whatevathefuck.”

He wanted so bad to be mad at Kristine for leaving him, but couldn’t bring himself to actually talk to her about it. She had her chance to escape and took it. Could he blame her? She braved the world and stepped out from under their father’s shadow. Unfortunately that meant that the focus was now on Nathan.

“I’ve met your dad, but what about your mum? What does she do?”

If the mention of his dad bothered Nathan, it didn’t show. The same look of indifference held for his mother as well.

“She’s basically a trophy wife. She’s there to stand beside my dad to make him look good, but she’s not what I would call a ‘mother’. Kristine was closer to a mother than that woman will ever be.”

“I’m sorry. That must have been rough for you.”

He shrugged. He gave up on having any kind of relationship with his mother.

He remembered when she had talked about her parents, suddenly feeling like a jerk for acting the way he did when she told him. How was it that she agreed to a date? He had treated her like everyone else around him. Even he didn’t want to be around himself.

They were overtaken by silence and Alice took to staring out the window at the scenery. Arcadia Bay was such a nice little town. She could see herself settling down in a place like this. Close to the water, but plenty of wooded areas. The air just felt much more cleaner than the atmosphere of cities.

Nathan began to get jittery and his leg began to bounce. He cursed himself as he felt a buzz in his pocket and took out his phone to see a text from Victoria reminding him to take his meds. He fought the urge to send back a scathing retort. He wasn’t a child. He knew to take the fucking pills. Victoria meant well, but of all people she should know how much it hurt to be told what to do.

His eyes shot back to Alice who had a neutral look on her face as she gazed out the window. She was really pretty. Her silver hair was bright with the morning sun beaming down. He bet she would look just as pretty with her natural hair colour as well, which was showing a little bit at her roots.

He was tempted to ask what her heritage was, but that would be stupid and rude all things considering.

Mr. Jefferson’s angry disappointed face flashed through his mind. Nathan’s leg began to bounce once more and he clenched his fists.

Fuck.

He was definitely going to hear from this when they got back. He was genuinely surprised he hadn’t gotten a message already.

“You alright?”

Her voice brought him back to the present. He grunted back as an answer. His eyes darted back over to her for a moment and he could tell she was frowning.

“Wanna talk about it?”

Silence.

“Come on.”

What was he supposed to say?

“I don’t bite.”

He stayed silent.

Alice balled up the paper from her straw and flicked it at him. It hit right underneath his eye and they both jumped in surprise.

“What the fuck?”

Alice laughed and held up her hands in surrender.

“Sorry, sorry. My aim sucks.”

Nathan found himself forgetting about what awaited him at school in lieu of her presence.

“Oh hey, you can smile.” Alice jabbed lightly. He found himself fighting his own face muscles, suddenly embarrassed of his own smile. It felt weird. Was he even allowed to feel like this? He was sure his father would smack the smile right off his face if given the chance. In fact, he was certain that that was the case during one of his lectures.

“I’m not good with uh. relationship shit.”

Alice smirked. “Well no wonder your only friend is Victoria.”

He bristled at her comment.

“Victoria - “ He started.

“Is great. I’m just kidding. She’s rough around the edges, but I get it.” Alice finished. “I like hanging out with her. She can be rude and uptight sometimes, but I like that she’s not afraid to speak her mind.”

His mouth shut and he nodded in agreement.

“Vic’s my best friend.”

“Yes well, you’re both bitchy so it’s a perfect match.”

He opened his mouth to retort, but realised from the look on her face that she was joking. Somewhat anyways. He couldn’t deny Victoria being bitchy.

Their food arrived just as their stomachs began to complain. Nathan more so as he was still in the midst of a hangover and greasy bacon and eggs was just what he needed.

Alice wiped at the corner of her mouth as a small drop of drool escaped. She pulled her plate closer to her almost greedily and took a deep breath. Nathan was already digging into his food eagerly.

“Ohmmmm. . . This is so good.” Alice sighed happily before cutting a slice and offering him a piece. She held her fork up as it dripped with syrup, nudging it closer with a grin until he leaned forward hesitantly and took the bite.

He nodded his head as he chewed. Really good. Not something he would order for himself, but definitely could see himself sharing a bite or two should he take her here again. That is if she agreed to another date.




“You’re kidding me! I can’t believe it was you! What on earth were you thinking?” Alice laughed, reaching for a napkin to wipe the water that escaped from her mouth when she did.

“Fuck if I know.” Nathan’s face was flush with embarrassment, but he couldn’t help the smile that mimicked hers.

“You’d need heavy machinery to take the tobanga.”

“That uh, didn’t cross my mind at the time.” He scratched the back of his head. “Give me a break. You must have done some stupid shit too.”

“Well nothing that can beat that, for sure.” Alice smirked. Nathan scowled, but the smile overtook it.

She briefly hoped that she hadn’t continuously embarrassed him by feeding him her food, but her heart warmed as soon as he stopped chewing and looked up at her with a small smile.

They chatted for the next hour about anything they could think of. School, their mutual friendship with Victoria, thoughts on photography. Their conversation was only interrupted as the diner began to fill up with the lunch crowd. Nathan found himself bummed out that their date was getting cut short. He was actually enjoying himself without worrying about what anyone else was thinking.

Maybe that was dangerous territory, but he didn’t want to go back.

“Want the last bite of my waffles?” She held up the piece connected to a slice of strawberry. He gratefully took the offering, leaning forward once more, but catching himself as he eyed a couple of stares from his peripherals.

He reached up grabbed the fork instead from her hand, avoiding her stare.

“Thanks.” He muttered embarrassed. He enjoyed whenever she shared, but only now did he realise how childish it was that she was feeding him directly. Alice had traced back his line of vision to the onlookers, slowly understanding his change in demeanor, and smiled.

“Should we go?” Alice asked. “We should probably let someone else have the table.”

Nathan nodded reluctantly and reached for his wallet. He pushed Alice’s bag back into her lap as she took it out to grab money.

“I got it. Date. Remember?”

“Er. Right.” Alice said embarrassed. He placed the money on the table, then took one last sip of his coffee as Alice got out of the booth.

They got to the truck and Nathan had the good sense this time to open the door for Alice. She had reached for the door handle at the same time and they touched hands. Electricity shot up her spine at the point where his fingers touched and she became only half aware that he was holding the door ajar for her.

She quickly hopped in, discreetly rubbing at the unfamiliar sensation for it to leave her skin.

Nathan entered the truck a few seconds later and paused with his hands on the steering wheel. He didn’t want the date to end and hoped she felt the same. He still needed to prove to her that he wasn’t such an asshole everyone made him out to be. Maybe prove to himself even.

“So what else is interesting here?” Alice asked. His heart skipped and for a second he thought he might have a heart attack. She wanted to continue.

“I uh. . .”

“Unless you want to go back?”

“No! Uh, we could go to the beach?” He answered lamely.

“I don’t think either of us are dressed for the beach though.”

“Right.”

They sat in silence once more before Nathan sat up straight and jammed his key into the ignition.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”


 

Nathan felt light and free for once. No pressure to be someone around her. Just himself. Forget everyone who used him for his money. Everyone who looked down on him for who he was.

Watching her run up the last bit of the trail to see the view was enough to make up his mind.

Maybe he could never forgive himself for his past actions. Maybe he could never face his mistakes. But the excited smile on her face as she gestured for him to hurry was enough. He didn’t deserve anything good coming to him, but could he possibly deserve her?

“Wow this is kinda cool.” Alice breathed as the wind whipped her hair around her face. “Really fantastic.”

Nathan shrugged and Alice balked at his aloofness. “It's alright. Beats everything else in this hodunk excuse of a town.”

Her fingers drummed against the back of the bench as she looked up at the intimidating lighthouse. A picture flashed through her head of a boat flying through the air. She closed her eyes for a moment and slightly shook her head as if to shake the image out of her head. Weird. She hadn’t had a random vision since. . .

“You don’t mind do you?” Nathan slipped his camera out of his bag, eyeing her nervously.

She made a face. “I guess. Victoria always-” She paused, debating if Nathan was someone Victoria would tell about their photo shoots.

“Yeah. . . Actually“ Nathan scratched the back of his head. “She kinda showed me. Sorry.” To be fair, they were lighting up in her room and she had them displayed on her monitor. Being nosy, he had taken the opportunity to look while Victoria took her turn for a hit.

Alice’s face heated up. Cosplaying in front of Victoria was one thing, but some of those were embarrassingly. . . revealing.

“Oh god.” Alice hid her face and laughed. “Well please don't expect me to dress up for you too.”

Nathan shook his head vehemently. She continued to laugh nervously and he took the opportunity to take a photo. He looked down at the camera. The light was very good to her, he decided.

Always take the shot . His voice rang through his head. The blank look of Kate’s face stared up at him and he swallowed, trying to keep the bile that threatened to shove its way up his throat.

He froze as she came up beside him to peer over his shoulder.

“Let’s see, let’s see.” She said lightly. They were shoulder to shoulder now and she had her head almost pressed against his. Their skin never touched, but he could practically feel her on him. He breathed in unconsciously. She smelled good. The smell of oil pastels invaded his nose once again. Vanilla and was that. . .coconut again? He wondered what shampoo she was using.

His breath hitched as he realised he was smelling her hair like a creep.

“Wow this is fantastic. I look so. . .” Alice trailed off.

“beautiful.” Nathan finished out softly with an air of admiration. Alice’s heart skipped. How long had it been since someone had called her beautiful? Dad had said it once when she dressed as a grecian goddess for halloween, but that’s what fathers did. Today she realised, horrified, she wasn’t even dressed up or had any makeup on her face.

“It’s very different from your usual style, isn’t it?” Alice smiled. “Don’t you usually shoot in black and white?”

He nodded, a slight furrow in his brow. “I guess I didn’t want to take away from you. You look better in colour.” It was true. When he had first taken a photo of her as she was drawing, he had shot in monochrome, but it didn’t feel right. He took another in full colour and was surprised. He still had both shots on his computer, not able to delete either of her.

She really was pretty, Nathan realized as he observed the photo. Her features even and soft, speckled with freckles spanning across her cheeks and nose.

“You’re pretty versatile, hey?” She turned to look at him. They stared into each other’s eyes for a few seconds.

Mr. Jefferson’s angry face flashed before her eyes and she jolted back in surprise, suddenly feeling that she was doing something wrong by being this close to Nathan.

She faked a nervous cough and looked back out towards the water.

“I quite like it here.” Alice said brightly. She stepped towards the edge and peered over. The sea water below crashed against the rocks. She imagined the water hitting her face. She was almost tempted to jump, but it probably wasn’t a safe area for diving. Still, the air had a nice crisp fresh sea scent and it was relaxing.

Nathan scoffed. “You wouldn’t be saying that if you actually lived here your whole life. Fuckin blows.”

“Look on the bright side! I got to meet a lot of interesting people here.” She turned back to him and leaned against the back of the bench.

“There’s no one interesting here.” Nathan rolled his eyes. No one worth noting either. N one worth staying for. That is unless.. He looked at her through his peripherals.

“Of course there is! You can’t say Victoria is boring.”

He shrugged.

Alice huffed and crossed her arms haughtily. “Well you can be negative, but I’m glad I came here.” She lowered her voice. “I’m just glad I finally have people I can call friends.”

“Yeah. Like who? Luke Parker?” He barked out a laugh.

“Oh please. You don’t even know him.” It was her turn to roll her eyes. “At least he’s not afraid to be who he is.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He bristled and Alice held back a laugh at picturing him as an angry little puppy.

“Relax. That’s not a jab at you. I’m talking about in general.” She smiled, then hopped over the bench and patted the spot next to her. He grumpily followed her lead and sat down with a plop. “Take Victoria for example. She puts up this facade that she’s this prissy stuck up bitch when deep deep deep deeeeep down inside there’s a little nerd in her. I wish she would just be cool about it. It’s not embarrassing. Well unless you count being forced to wear the clothing and pose.”

“That’s Vic for ya.” Nathan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, slighting bouncing his legs restlessly.

Alice looked down at his legs and wondered if that was a trait of his or if it was a side effect of medicine. Not that she was assuming anything. He just seemed to be too jittery at times.

“For what it’s worth,” Nathan swallowed the rock that seemed to be stuck in his throat. “I think you look really cool. In the photos, I mean.”

“Aww.” Alice nudged him with her elbow. “Are you secretly a geek too?” She smirked.

“Pfft. As if.”

They both turned into grins.

“I like this side of you Nathan,” Alice said softly. “You’re fun to be with when you’re not being mean.”

“The fuck?” He said. “It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose. Everyone is just so fucking fake.” And he meant it. He didn't know who he could trust at all. Even Vic was unreliable at times and it scared him.

Alice pondered his words for a moment.

“I think you’re overthinking things.” When he looked at her incredulously, she continued. “I can’t speak for the adults around, but we’re all just teenagers. Everyone is easily manipulated by social standards and the media. Everyone wants to fit in so they try to be like others.”

He sneered. “I guess.” His face softened. “Yeah.”

“You know, I don’t even think the adults have it down pat either. My brother is married with a kid on the way and sometimes he freaks out about who he’s supposed to be. And he’s a cop. So you’d think he’d know who he is by now.”

Nathan leaned back into the bench and met her eyes. She smiled reassuringly.

“I guess so.” He sniffed. “People still suck though.”

Alice leaned back and nodded. She reached into her bag and pulled out a sucker, quickly unwrapping it. She stuffed the wrapper into her pocket. As she was about to indulge, a hand floated in front of her face, palm up.

Her eyes narrowed in on the boy next to her who sat patiently waiting as he started out into the ocean, a hint of a smile on his lips. She placed the candy in his hand and reached in her bag once more for herself.

Nathan made a face as he rolled the candy around his mouth.

“Blue is still better.”

That earned him a smack to which he laughed genuinely for the first time in a while.

“I bet even Mr. Jefferson has like a different side to him that no one knows about.” Alice said after a stretch of silence.

She had no idea, Nathan thought to himself.

“Another of his groupies, then?” Nathan said sarcastically. Alice shrugged and laughed.

“Not as much as Victoria, that’s for sure.”


 

Alice couldn’t help the goofy grin on her face as they talked on the way back to the dorms. When they got back to school, she was tempted to try holding hands with him, but her heart was beating so wildly, she wasn’t sure she could stop herself from having any visions.

So they walked back to the dorms in close comfort.

She wondered if this meant they were going out. No of course not. Not after just one make out session and one date.

Was she being foolish? Her heart was always a forgiving one, but maybe she was being naive to think that a boy with problems like Nathan could be good for her in any way.

Even then, Alice found herself wanting to spend more time with him anyways.

As they reached the entrance to the girls dorm, Alice turned to Nathan.

There was an excruciating moment of silence between them. Nathan took a step towards her and her heart fluttered. He raised a hand towards her face.

The door burst open and out came Juliet and and Dana, giggling with their arms linked.

“Oh, excuse us.” Juliet quipped with a smile.

“Hi Alice.” Dana said. Alice shyly waved back.

They walked between the two with a knowing smirk before walking off.  With one last glance back, they lowered their voices as they walked away. It was clear what the subject was.

“Uh. .” Nathan began.

“I had a good time today, Nathan.” Alice said. “You’re really fun to hang out with.”

She smiled and turned towards the steps when he didn’t say anything.

“Wait, I uh. . Can I. .“ Nathan started. Alice turned back, one foot on the steps. Nerves took over and he shoved his hands in his jacket pockets. “Fuck. Nothing never mind.” He said forcefully and turned to walk away. Alice stopped him as she moved.

She squeezed his arm lightly before leaning in quickly to place her lips on his. He froze, eyes widened and face burning. She pulled away with a smile before jumping up the steps.

“Bye! I’ll talk to you later!” She waved one last time as the door closed. He was still frozen in the spot. If Alice wasn’t so nervous she would have laughed, but she settled for the door closing so she could place her hands on her chest to calm herself.

She walked down the hall with her hands on her cheeks, willing them to cool down under her finger tips. She was so lost in her thoughts she hadn’t noticed Victoria coming out from the bathroom.

“Where did you go last night, Alice?” Victoria asked, her voice laced with the usual irk aimed at Alice when she disapproved. Alice spun around.

“Oh hey Victoria.” Alice smiled.

“You look happy.” Victoria said suspiciously. “So, where did you go? I was going to catch cab back, but ended up splitting with that stupid jock, Logan. Fucking prick was so drunk, he tried to feel me up on the ride back. As if.”

“Ah,” Alice blushed, “Nathan kicked me out.”

“What?!” She yelled, “Are you freaking kidding me? After I- Ugh.” She stomped towards her room.

“No, no! It’s okay!” Alice followed after her. “It’s fine actually!”

“The hell it is.” Victoria reached her room and swung the door open, not bothering to close it so Alice could enter. “I’m going to give that boy a piece of my mind.”

“Victoria.” Alice said.

“No! He may think he can do whatever the fuck he wants, but he’s not the only one in charge here.” Victoria picked up her cellphone and began typing furiously on it.

“Victoria!”

“He’s being such an ass-”

“We went on a date this morning.” Alice said, flinching slightly when Victoria’s apoplectic eyes shot towards her. She laughed nervously.

“Wait, what?” Victoria said for a moment, her hands slightly dropping, the angry text forgotten. She smirked. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Alice nodded, “Well see cause he came over last night after-”

“YOU SLEPT TOGETHER?” Victoria screeched. Alice’s eyes widened as she shook her head and she looked back at the door to make sure it was closed. Not that it would help. The dorm walls were paper thin.

“No!” She waved her hands comically to accentuate her point. She thought for a moment, remembering his arm around her waist as they lay in bed. “No! Well, I mean technically- but no! He just took over my bed and I-” Victoria’s grin grew. “I mean, he- stop looking at me like that.”

Victoria fell back onto her bed with a happy sigh. Alice pouted and grabbed a pillow to lean against the headboard.

“You’re not even listening to me.” Alice pouted.

“Little Alice is all grown up!” Victoria teased. Alice slammed the pillow down on her face. “Ah fuck, you crazy bitch!” She cackled. Alice snatched the pillow back and held it to her chest as she waited for Victoria to stop laughing. “Okay okay. I’m joking.”

She rolled over to face her, one arm propping her head up. “So? You had a sleepover and then what?”

“Well he came over and his fists were all bloody so I fixed him up.” Alice said. Victoria’s gaze hardened. Alice continued, answering Victoria’s questioning eyes. “I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me. Anyways, he fell asleep and I didn’t want to kick him out so he stayed. . . I slept on the couch, but apparently I slept walked back into my bed.” Alice buried her face into the pillow.

Victoria smiled softly, then crawled up to sit beside Alice. Alice explained their first kiss to which Victoria admitted to knowing about, much to Alice’s chagrin, and their morning date at the diner.

“Well that explains him ignoring my messages this morning.” Victoria rolled her eyes. “Well I’m glad he was with you then and not sulking in his room.”

She nudged Alice slightly with a small smile tugging at her lips. “So are you guys going out now?”

“I. . I don’t know. I did something that I’m not entirely sure he liked.” Alice said, bravely describing their interaction outside the dorm.

To her relief, Victoria laughed and explained that he was just caught off guard.

“I mean, he was probably expecting to kiss you first again, but chickened out. What a wimp. Oh, I would give anything to see the look on his face when you did it instead.”

Alice smiled as she listened to Victoria talk about Nathan and what kind of guy he was. It was nice to hear instead of all the rumours of what others thought of him. Alice slightly wished she had asked him to come back in to hang out so they could spend more time together.

“So,” Victoria said after a while with a soft smile on her face. “are you gonna go out with him again?”

“I think so.” Was Alice’s reply.

“Do you like him?” Victoria’s voice was confusingly tiny.

“Yeah. I think I do.” Alice nodded. Victoria nodded then turned her head away. Alice frowned. “It’s not awkward, is it?”

“No! No. . .” Victoria said turning back with a smile. She sighed softly and got off the bed to flick on the radio. “I mean I’m technically that one who set you two up. So you should be thanking me.” She said haughtily with a smirk.

“Oh thank you, oh great Victoria.” Alice said robotically. “Oh what shall I ever do to repay you?”

“Well.” Victoria turned towards her closet and began rummaging. Oh no. Alice was going to regret this. “How about another photoshoot?”

“Ahhh, I take it back! I take it back!” Alice screamed. She threw the pillow down and jumped off the bed, aiming for the door. She got no further than the door before Victoria yanked her back in to accept her fate.