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The first time Wolfgang meets Kala, he is in the middle of raiding her mother’s drawer for a prized pair of knickers to show the boys back at the hideout.

Granted, he never stops to question what kind of teenage girl would wear silky beige bloomers in the twenty-first century. Only two things occupy his mind at the moment: one, that said teenage girl has got to be the most beautiful person he’s ever seen, with hair as wild and black as night and eyes big and bright and round in shock; and two, that he’s probably got fat chance of getting to the window faster than the girl can scream bloody murder.

“Wh-wh-what—” she sputters, making an impressive impersonation of a fish out of water as she stands frozen by the door. He slowly rises from his crouch on the ground and holds his hands up.

“I can explain,” he states calmly, trying to catch her eyes which are trained solely on his left hand. Belatedly, he notices that he’s holding something—the underwear’s shiny material is like a fucking beacon, how is that even possible?—and hastily drops it back into the drawer.

A beat passes, and then, “Okay, I can’t.”

His words jolt her out of her stupor, and she makes to shout for help, but he rushes forward and clamps a hand over her mouth.

“Easy now, cupcake,” he whispers, keeping a tight grip on her waist as he bumps the door with his hip. It closes with an inaudible click. “I don’t want any trouble.”

He maneuvers them so that he’s got her back pressed against the door. She squeaks at the contact but stops struggling then and shivers in his arms. Shit, she’s got some doe-eyed thing going on, her eyes comically wide in fear, and something tugs in his gut at the sight of them. Suddenly, he can’t find it in himself to look away as he becomes hyperaware of the soft, soft feel of curves through her pajama top and the smell of jasmine and spice in her hair and her lips, warm and trembling beneath his fingers—

“Shit!”

He releases the girl to cradle his hand to his chest, the flesh of his palm throbbing. ‘Did she seriously just bite me?’ he thinks incredulously.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing with my mother’s underwear, you—you perverted thief!” She shrieks in a heavy accent, furiously rubbing a hand over her mouth as if she’s contracted the plague.

“What? These… aren’t yours?” He asks before ducking to avoid a slipper. The projectile hits the wall behind him with a resounding smack, and he lets out a low whistle.

“Wow, you’ve got really good aim—okay, alright, I give, please, no more violence!” He pleads, backing away until he can grip the window sill just as the girl takes aim with her other slipper. She hesitates, shooting him a cautious look. He takes that as a good sign.

“Let’s do each other a favor now. You let me go quietly, and I swear I’ll never enter this house again, and we both can forget that this whole thing happened.”

She exhales loudly and lowers her throwing arm, although the tension doesn’t leave her shoulders. She shakes her head. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re here in the first place.”

Wolfgang rubs a hand behind his neck, looking at her guiltily. “Would you believe me if I said this was a dare?”

She narrows her eyes at him, and that’s the only warning he needs before he turns and slips out the window, tucking and rolling as he hits the ground. A slight pain shoots up his ankle, but he ignores it and takes off down the road in the next second, looking over his shoulder just in time to see her stick her head out the window, disbelief written across her pretty face.

The boy stumbles over a crack on the pavement but manages to regain his footing. His ankle throbs in protest when he picks up the pace and he lets out a weak chuckle, breath fogging in the chilly night air.

He forgets to pocket any underwear with him and Steiner and the gang give him shit for it, but Wolfgang can’t bring himself to care.

Later that night, he dreams of jasmine and hazel eyes and flying sequined slippers.


 The second time Wolfgang meets Kala, he is sitting in the middle of the library with a week’s worth of study guides and worksheets piled up in front of him.

Mr. Maliki, his eleventh grade Physics teacher, is adamant about whipping his students into shape, and Wolfgang Bogdanow is no exception. He thinks that if only Wolfgang would raise his attendance and actually apply himself, then he could easily ace his classes.

“You just need a bit of motivation, that’s all,” he states with a refined air as he claps a hand on the disgruntled boy’s back. Wolfgang resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“With all due respect, Mr. Maliki, you and I both know that with my track record, I’ll be out of a tutor and out of here before 6 o’clock rolls around.”

The British man guffaws in reply. “This one’s different; one of the most brilliant students in your grade and not easily swayed either, so I’d suspend judgment if I were you, Mr. Bogdanow.”

Begrudgingly, he admits that he can’t just ditch these sessions; Maliki would probably rat on him to his father, and the boy wants nothing to do with the man if he could help it. But the thing is, Maliki’s got no hold on the tutors should they decide that six hours a week with Wolfgang Bogdanow isn’t worth the extra credit. He’s already sent the first six volunteers running for the hills in one month. Seventh time must be the charm.

Wolfgang’s eyes dart to the clock near the entrance, watching the minute hand crawl at an agonizing pace. He jiggles his leg impatiently.

“For such a star student, he’s running a bit late, isn’t he?” He comments offhandedly. 

“He’s a she, actually,” Mr. Maliki says before standing abruptly, “and on the contrary, she’s right on time. Miss Dandekar, over here!”

Wolfgang tilts his head to have a better look at the newcomer when he meets startled doe eyes. The girl from last night eyes him warily as she approaches their table, a colorful binder clutched to her chest and her book bag bumping against her hip.

To his immense pleasure, he sees that she’s even more stunning in daylight, even if she is giving him the stink-eye.

When she reaches the table, Mr. Maliki ushers her forward, oblivious of the sudden tension in the room. “It’s good to have you, Miss Dandekar. This is Wolfgang Bogdanow,” he gestures to the boy, who wiggles his eyebrows, “Mister Bogdanow, this is Kala Dandekar, my top student in the physical science track. She will see to your revisions starting today.”

Wolfgang stands up and reaches a lazy hand out in greeting, which Kala takes hesitantly. He notes her grip, all firm and no-nonsense, and makes sure to linger on the handshake, thumb teasing circles onto the back of her hand until she hastily pulls away.

Mr. Maliki nods in approval and gathers his own belongings. “Well, I’ve got a faculty meeting to attend, so I leave it to you, Miss Dandekar.” He shoots them both a wide grin before turning on his heel.

Kala waits until the teacher is out of hearing distance when she spits, “YOU!”

A stray strand of hair whips across her face from the movement, making him chuckle. “Hello again,” he says, the corners of his lips already tipping upwards in amusement.

She slams her binder onto the table, earning more than a few reprimanding hushes from neighboring students. She ducks her head in embarrassment and sits down hard, glaring at him.

This time, she starts with a harsh whisper. “You… you broke and entered a private residence on a peaceful Sunday night for absolutely no good reason and,” she waves her hands in the air, “desecrated my mother’s undergarments, all for a stupid dare. And now you have the gall to show up at my school and end up in my grade and take up my tutoring hours?”

Wolfgang doesn’t really hear any of it, just watches the way her lips part and close in rapid succession and wonders how they’d feel to touch, and shrugs.

“Hey, listen. Maliki might just be standing guard outside in case I get it in my head to slip away, but you’ve got no obligation to stay if you don’t feel like it. You look like you’ve probably filled your extracurricular quota for the semester anyway.” He nods towards the exit before looking her in the eye. “The door’s open any time if you want out, Miss Dandekar.”

Another look of shock passes over her features at his sudden chattiness. He imagines the gears turning in her head as she contemplates his words, and for a second, it does seem that he will be out of here before six, when she simply clucks her tongue and mutters  “Help me, Ganesha,” under her breath.

“Kala. Call me Kala.”

Kala,” he tries the name out loud, likes how his tongue curls around the second syllable, and grins.

When she fixes him a pointed look, he tries to cover up his smile and breaks open a random textbook. “So, Kala, where do we start?”


 He sees her everywhere after that. Aside from their thrice-a-week tutoring sessions, he finds that he shares Classic Lit, Choir, and—hell, even his lunch period with the girl! A part of him doesn’t understand how he missed her before; her presence is glaringly obvious now.

They don’t really talk much outside of tutoring; not only does Kala rule her advanced placement classes with an iron fist, but she also divides her time for heading science meets, acting as secretary to the student council, and surprisingly, dancing, so there’s not much time for chitchat even if he wanted to.

Once, he chances upon her in the gym finishing a routine—an upbeat number that reminds him of a scene out of a Bollywood movie—but she’s got the biggest smile on her face as she moves, all smooth curves and angles, that his jaw just falls slack and a suspicious heat shoots through his body. He jumps into the nearest shower stall right after.

It doesn’t end there.

Most days, Wolfgang enters a room and it’s like his gaze just gravitates towards her like she is the sun, and he is eager to drink in her warmth. It sounds fucking cheesy to his own ears and he’s tried not to think about her too much, but he can’t really help it.

Other days though, while she’s busy commanding the room with her charisma and he’s pretending to look bored as he scratches a few choice words onto his desk, he thinks he sees her steal glances at him.

He always ends up wearing a shit-eating grin for the rest of the period.


 “I don’t get it.”

Kala looks up from her binder to see Wolfgang muddle over his worksheet which is riddled with scribbles and crossed out solutions. She tucks her pencil behind her ear and snaps her notes shut before scooting over to take a look at his work.

“Well, I can certainly see that you’re applying the correct equation to the problem, but memorizing scientific formulae is only the tip of the iceberg if you want to learn Physics.”

Wolfgang heaves a tired sigh and leans back on his chair. “I never said I wanted to learn Physics.”

She nudges him none too gently on the shoulder and rests her head on her palm. “Ah, but the faster you learn this material, the sooner you can go on another panty raid with your little friends.” She jokes, although he hears the clear warning in her tone.

“You’re never going to let that one go, are you?” He complains.

“I’m just trying to understand the machinations of the typical teenage male’s brain. I already have a theory in mind for one particular individual: ‘The ability of Wolfgang Bogdanow to scale houses and steal middle-aged women’s undergarments is inversely proportional to his attention span for appreciating the law of universal gravitation.’” She ends her statement with a big smile, which makes Wolfgang bite the inside of his cheek.

“That’s kind of harsh, don’t you think?”

Kala shrugs nonchalantly. “Then tell me, Mister Bogdanow, what were you doing with my mother’s intimates last Sunday?”

He contemplates lying to her for a second before he registers the look in her eyes; she’s staring at him like she can see right through him, and he’s pretty sure that theory’s not far off. The girl’s fucking clever, that’s what she is.

“Wolfgang.”

“What?” She says, confused.

“Wolfgang’s okay. Call me that.” He clarifies. “It really was a dare, but for good reason.” She gives him a look like she’s calling his bullshit, and he laughs. “Does the name Steiner Bogdanow ring any bells?”

Her forehead scrunches up as she tries to place a face to the name. “Isn’t he that senior who got suspended last week for starting a fight with the football team?”

Wolfgang cracks his knuckles absentmindedly. “The one and only.”

 “Okay. What about him?”

His face is that of thinly veiled revulsion as he states, “He’s my cousin.”

Kala doesn’t appear much thrown off. “I figured from the last name. And?”

“And I… might have accidentally—no, purposefully snitched his suspension to my uncle, and if you knew the motherfucker, then you definitely wouldn’t want to piss him off. Safe to say my cousin got his ass handed to him.” He notices the way Kala winces at his crude language and tries to reword his next statement. “Steiner knew it was me because who else would it be? So he found it fit to settle the score by forcing me on a late night raiding spree to satisfy his perversion for lingerie.”

The girl shudders at the revelation, muttering a quiet “good grief!” before shaking her head. “Really? After whatever unspeakable things his father did to him, that’s all he made you do?”

He smirks. “He was never the sharpest tool in the shed.”

She laughs at this, a cute lilting sound that makes him grin wider, and Wolfgang decides that he likes making her laugh.

“Still, that doesn’t really constitute to making your actions tolerable. Breaking and entering, and attempted theft? You’re lucky I didn’t call the cops on you.”

Wolfgang bites his lip and leans forward onto the table, holding her gaze. “I’m not quite sure about that. Karma’s a bitch, and I had something else stolen from me that night.”

“Wait, huh? What was it?” She prompts curiously. Innocently.

The boy merely shrugs further into his jacket and returns to his worksheet, ignoring how his face heats up and tiny knots form in the pit of his stomach.


 “You’re doing that thing again.”

Wolfgang blinks, and for a second, he forgets where he is. Then he spots the television screen where some macho man in a colorful tracksuit is lifting a small car with his bare hands to chuck at one of his many adversaries.

He’s at the Bernners'.

“What thing?” He addresses Felix idly, eyes never leaving the screen.

The lanky male rolls his eyes and mutes the television. “That thing where you stare off into space and you get little hearts in your eyes while you think of your little Indian tutor.”

Wolfgang elbows him roughly on the ribs. “Don’t be a dick, Felix. And she’s got a name.”

The other boy sits up in sudden interest. “You didn’t deny it. So you do like this girl!”

“Yeah, and so what if I do? She’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s…” He tries not to think of the way she bites her lip when she comes across a particularly complex problem in her homework, and fails, “fucking beautiful.” He ends lamely.

 “Fucking whipped. My boy’s fucking whipped!” Felix hoots and musses his hair playfully. Wolfgang shrugs him off. “Introduce us. Tomorrow. You guys have the same lunch block, right?”

The taller boy eyes him suspiciously. The kid’s literally bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I don’t know, bud. She’s not exactly fond of… troublemakers like us.” He tells him honestly. Felix just shrugs.

“Well, she likes you, doesn’t she?”

He doesn’t have an answer to that.


 Turns out, there is no need for awkward introductions. Felix, the little shit, just invites himself over to her lunch table, waving Wolfgang over when he enters the cafeteria.

“Wolfie, my boy! Come, sit! Sit!” He hollers from across the room. Wolfgang resists the urge to turn around and walk right back out before he resigns to a groan and drags his feet to their table. “I see you two have met,” he says through gritted teeth, staring accusingly at Felix.

“Indeed! I’m still wondering why you didn’t introduce us sooner. You’re a very lovely person, Miss Dandekar. You and your friends.” He declares merrily as he gesticulates to the table’s other occupants.

He nods to a few familiar faces; there’s Capheus, his sunny Chemistry lab partner, Lito Rodriguez and his boyfriend Hernando from History, a buff footballer named Will Gorski (he silently salutes him for gracing Steiner with his most recent shiner), and that girl, Sun Bak or something, whom he vaguely remembers sparring with once in the Dojang he went to as a kid. The rest are a blurb of curious strangers.

He catches Kala’s eye, and he sees her trying to stifle a giggle. “You’re a lovely person yourself, Felix. Hello, Wolfgang. Why don’t you sit down?” She says as she pats the space next to her.

He hesitates a moment before sliding in beside her, and she proceeds to introduce the rest of her friends.

“Guys, this is Wolfgang. Wolfgang, that’s Riley Blue, she’s a deejay,” she gestures to the girl with blue streaks in her peroxide blonde hair, “Nomi Marks and Amanita Freeman, our resident power couple,” she nods to the pair, who wink at him in greeting, “and Diego.”

“And Diego? That’s it? No fancy tagline or anything?” A boy with a buzz cut and olive skin complains. “Not cool, Kala. You’re off my friends list.” He jokes good-naturedly.

The whole table is all smiles and laughter as they welcome the newcomer into their circle, and Wolfgang finds that he fits easily with these people.

He feels Kala’s knee bump into his, and he nearly balks at their proximity. The girl is oblivious as she offers him some berries from a plastic container. He pops a couple into his mouth and murmurs his thanks.

“Your friends… they’re nice.” He admits awkwardly.

“You have a good friend too, Wolfgang,” she comments and pats him on the shoulder before gesturing to Felix, who chats animatedly with Capheus on the latest Van Damme movie. The boy looks to where Kala’s hand touches his sleeve, and chuckles.

“I know.”


 His grades improve tremendously.

One day, Mr. Maliki hands him back his midterm where a big ‘A’ is encircled on the upper right hand corner, and informs him that at the rate he’s going, he might just be free of afterschool tutoring in the near future.

Later that afternoon, he shows her his test paper and she all but tackles him in congratulations.


 He continues showing up at the library.


The week before his late mother’s birthday, the gang eats outside for lunch, enjoying the sun and discussing an upcoming get-together at Riley’s.

“My dad’ll be out for the weekend, but he has no qualms about a bunch of teenagers having a bit of fun on a Friday night.” Riley explains as she feeds Will a forkful of pasta. Sun, who doesn’t really talk much but apparently has a huge sense of humor, pretends to gag at the sight, and Wolfgang jeers in agreement.

Will wipes his mouth and kisses Riley quickly on the cheek. “So, who’s in?” He pipes up.

A wave of hands shoots into the air.

Save for Wolfgang’s.

“Come on, Wolfie! Loosen up, will you? It’s going to be fun!” Felix urges and makes none too subtle glances at Kala. The girl in question turns to him with a pleading look. “There’ll be dancing!” She says, as if the social activity is enough to entice him into going.

“I don’t know, I don’t really dance,” he starts, when Kala stands up and takes his hands, pulling him up after her. She’s not that strong, not really, but he’s kind of halfway in love and humors her.

“Well, I’ll just have to teach you!”

Then she starts swinging their hands about and yelling something about moving his stiff hips, when somebody decides it’s a good idea to pull out their iPod and blast 4 Non Blondes on loud speaker, and suddenly, everyone else joins in, dancing every which way.

Wolfgang sort of wants to sink into a hole when kids from neighboring picnic tables turn to stare at them, but then, Kala’s looking at him again, her hazel eyes laughing as he attempts to wiggle his hips, and then he is full out cackling as they all sing along to the chorus.

“Friday night after school, no tutoring, no excuses. You’re coming with us, you hear me?” His eardrum nearly bleeds from the volume of her voice, but he just nods and pulls her against him, and they belt out the bridge together, off-key voices and laughter ringing in his ears.

He feels this rush in his veins, something of a different brand from his usual petty crimes. He begins to look forward to Friday night.


 Except…

He never shows to the party.


 He misses a week of school.

The others ring him constantly, but he replies only to Felix and occasionally, Capheus to apologize for missed lab assignments, and even then, his texts are cryptic, one-word messages confirming that he’s still alive, but just barely.

Sometimes, he listens to the messages Kala leaves for him, even the ones where she nags him to come to school or at least do his homework. His favorite one has got to be that thirty-second rant in which she threatens to come over and drag him to school herself. He wishes she’d follow up on that threat.

Then again…

When the beep sounds, indicating the end of the message, he kind of feels like throwing his phone against the wall.


 On Sunday night, he stands in front of the bathroom mirror, squinting at the purple blotches around his left eye, and thinks about taking another day off.

Another day just eating, drinking, shitting, fucking… and fighting for more.

Well, that’s what his shit of a father is doing anyway.

Wolfgang runs the tap and splashes his face with water, wincing from its cold sting. He decides he never wants to be his father.


 He wakes up in the dead of night to hands around his throat.

The drunken bastard’s straddling him, his potbelly weight crushing his ribs, and he squeezes his neck tighter, and tighter still. Alarm bells go off in Wolfgang’s head as he wheezes, desperate for air, and tries to pry his fingers open. The man just laughs in his face.

“M’sorry, what’s that? Can’t breathe, can you?” Anton Bognadow releases his son’s neck, and the boy gasps for air, his breath fast and ragged. He tries to think, tries to find a way to fight him and escape, when the man strikes first. His fist connects with his face, and there’s an ugly crack in his ears. Pain like no other explodes through his nose, and all he can taste is blood, his blood, it’s gushing down his nose and in his mouth and running down his throat and he tries not to swallow but he can’t breathe again.

“What’cha gun’ do, boy? Cry for mummy?” he slurs. “Mummy’s dead, and cryin’s for little bitches. You a little bitch?”

Fuck you,’ the boy thinks hazily, even as his eyes start smarting and he chokes on blood, feels himself going under. An image of Kala flutters through his mind, of her burning eyes and the curve of her lips, and something snaps inside of him.

Somehow, he shimmies a leg free and sweeps his father’s legs out from under him, and he falls off the bed in a loud heap. Wolfgang rolls out of bed, spits out blood, and stands. The room fucking spins as he trudges to the man, who’s looking a bit dazed, and it sets off a whole round of kicks to the gut. Wolfgang gives him a couple of punches to the face for good measure, when suddenly, it’s not enough, god damn it’s never enough, and he lets the punches fly until his knuckles are raw and bleeding and the man’s out cold and all his energy has left him.

Wolfgang looks at the figure slumped on the floor, sees the mess that is his face painted red with Bogdanow blood, although in the dim light, it looks as black as oil. He spits at him in disgust and pulls himself up.

He’s got to get out of here, he doesn’t care where. Grabbing a jacket and his phone off the desk, he walks out the door and into the night.

He doesn’t look back once.


 He doesn’t know how he manages to navigate his way to her house in this state, only that he’s probably a few seconds from passing out. Luckily, it takes only three taps on the window to wake Kala from her slumber.

He watches her figure rummage around her covers before a hand flicks on the lamp at her bedside. Her curls are an unruly nest on her head and her pajamas are askew and wrinkled, but something squeezes in his chest when he sees her. She takes just one look at Wolfgang before the sleep springs out of her eyes.

“Wolfgang!”

She trips on her way to the window which kind of makes Wolfgang want to laugh, but he stops short at the slight shimmer of her tears. She pulls the window open and he clambers inside, albeit clumsily. She helps him limp towards her bed, but his legs give way too soon and he ends up slumped against her bedside.

“I’ll ruin your sheets,” he gasps.

“Forget the sheets,” she says. Already, her hands are on him, pulling and prodding at his bloodied clothes and grazing his face before he takes them in his own, notices how they tremble like the first time he met her.

“Hello,” he whispers, mindful of his nose as he leans in to touch their foreheads together. Kala sobs and tightens her grip on his hands.

“You… you’re hurt,” she mumbles, taking in the awkward slope of his nose and the dried remnants of blood on his face.

“This is nothing,” he rasps.

She bristles, but only for a moment, a soft look replacing the harsh lines on her face. She pulls away abruptly and pads silently into her bathroom. Wolfgang rests his head against the bed and takes a deep breath through his mouth, ignoring the sting on his ribs as he does so.

Kala returns holding a small bowl of water, a towel thrown over her shoulder. Kneeling before him, she sets her supplies down and takes his chin between her thumb and forefinger. “Stay with me, Wolfie,” she says fiercely.

He scoffs at the nickname. “Never call me that again,” he pauses before adding a quiet, “please.” She wrinkles her nose at that but shakes her head and gets to work, dipping the towel into the bowl and dabbing gently at his jaw. He tries to catch her eyes, but she’s dead focused on cleaning him up.

“You’re going to have to go to the hospital for that,” she comments softly as she pats the cloth around his nose. He hisses when her fingers accidentally brush against the broken bone. “Tomorrow,” he murmurs.

Everything is silent save for the sound of water being wrung out of a washcloth and Wolfgang’s slight wheezing. In the hazy lamplight, the boy watches clear bronze hands as they smooth the towel gently over his skin, her touch light and cold. He blinks, and her hands come away wet and red.

She’s just finished wiping the last traces of blood from his face when she says, “Take off your clothes.”

He raises an eyebrow at her bold command. “I don’t think I’m in the best condition to get rough right now, love.”

Her cheeks flush at his words, but she just huffs and tries to appear unfazed. “Come on, off with them.”

He sighs before shrugging out of his jacket. Before he can protest, Kala makes quick work of his buttons and peels his shirt from his shoulders. He’s about to comment on her eagerness when he takes a look at her face. He knows the exact moment she sees the bruises on his chest, feels his shirt crumple in her hands while her eyes start watering again.

“What’s going on, Wolfgang?” she pleads softly.

Wolfgang doesn’t reply, just untangles one of her hands from his shirt. He twines their fingers together, brings their joined hands to him until they’re resting on his chest, over the skin and bone protecting his heart. The organ races in response, beating so loudly that he swears she can hear it too.

A moment passes.

She sniffles twice as she comes to sit beside him. Without thinking, he throws his other arm over her shoulder while she leans her head against his like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He falters only for a second before pressing his lips to her temple.

They stay like that for a while, listening to the rise and fall of their breaths as the sky slowly shifts in color outside her window.

After a while, he begins to tell her how his was once a happy home until his mother passed, leaving him to fend for himself. He tells her of the infamous Bogdanow philosophy in life, beaten into him at the tender age of five.

He hears her gasp in disdain and stifle a sob or two, but she stays quiet and lets him speak until his throat runs dry and sleep lurks at the corners of his eyes.

Sometime before dawn, when he thinks that he’s a little more than half-asleep, he feels her pull a blanket over them before she presses a chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth.

He smiles ever so slightly and commits the warm feel of her lips to memory.


 “I thought you didn’t dance.”

He turns her words over in his mind, taking the time to pepper soft kisses onto the hollow of her throat, his lips burning a path along the sensitive skin. Kala sighs into his shoulder.

“Technically, this isn’t dancing. More like swaying to the music.”

She rolls her eyes at that. “Smart ass,” she mutters.

“Ooh, so eloquent, Miss Dandekar,” he teases, twirling her around once. “Since when did you acquire such a potty mouth?”

Kala lets out an uncharacteristic snort and flicks him on his—thankfully healed—nose. “I guess I’ve been hanging around you too much, Mister Bogdanow.”

“Oh, just get a room, you two!” Lito calls out from their table.

They turn their heads towards the gang in time to see Hernando, Nomi, and Amanita quickly hush the Mexican teen, but it’s all in good humor. Riley gives them two thumbs up, and beside her, Will raises his water bottle in toast. Felix and Diego whistle as they walk past with food trays in their hands, Capheus and Sun following closely behind, clapping enthusiastically.

Wolfgang flips them off in jest and dips Kala in his arms, feels her own wind around his neck as she laughs into his mouth. He hears ecstatic exclamations behind them, but nothing compares to the way she melts into him and how his heart just soars.

He finds that he’s more than happy to free fall deep, and then deeper into her gravity.