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I was laying in bed around eleven, eleven-thirty when the thought hit me. Maybe it was the caffeine, maybe it was the boredom, but I felt like something was missing, and it wasn’t Zoë. Hell, it wasn’t even Lola or...well, any of the girls that I should have been thinking about. And that was the screwed up part of it. I had to be out of my damned mind.

I wanted to know what Gary was up to.

I knew what he was up to—Happy Volts had a daily schedule, and it was pretty much ‘locked in a room, play some checkers, watch TV and eat somewhere in between that’. Oh, and take meds. I was sure that was a big part of Gary’s schedule.

That was different from knowing though. I had to look him in the eye and see what was going through that little fucked up head of his and see if anything was ticking. If he had plans—I mean, I knew he had plans. He was fucking Gary. He always had plans. I had to see if he had plans that could affect me or anyone else at Bullworth. And I wanted to know right now.

Once I decided that I wanted to see him, it took me all of fifteen minutes to get out the dorm. I pulled on my sneakers, shoved the orderly’s uniform I’d swiped a while ago into my backpack, and made sure that no one else was wandering the halls before I left. The campus was dead besides the prefects, and that felt like a bad sign. It was enough to make me consider not going—not because it was a bad idea to go see Gary (which it was), but because I should be at school in case anything happens.

That thought lasted about as long as it took me to grab my bicycle. By that point, hey, I was already moving, right? Anyway, Gary was going to be in a cage, so there shouldn’t be a problem. The guy was in a nuthouse, right?

...Well, maybe I should have been too, for doing this. I was halfway to the asylum before I started to think this through. I mean, this one stupid visit could screw with everything that I’d been doing to put the school back together. I tried imagining what would happen if I needed to remind the preps and nerds why they had stopped fighting, if they knew that I snuck out at night to see the guy that turned Bullworth to shit—

And I wasn’t that good at imagining, so all that got me was a headache. I was some kind of fuckin’ chump, all right.

It had to say something about me that I had a routine to breaking into Volts. I knew where to hide my bike, in this place between trees and some big boulders that gave me enough darkness to change into the uniform without worrying about getting busted. I could go straight to the big tree by the gate without searching for it.

I waited until the nurse in the nurse’s station had to take a piss before going in there and looking for room assignments. Gary was in a little back corner of the asylum. That was good, since that meant I didn’t have to worry so much about foot traffic. I grabbed a set of nurses’ keys from the wall. Five bucks said no one would notice that they were gone.

This place was too much of a fucking dump to keep Gary for long. Someone should have thought this through better. I bet Gary laughed his head off when he found out he was being taken to Happy Volts.

I ducked past a couple more orderlies. No point in making myself known, not when it was so easy to hide in here. I could hear patients, the real sick schizos ranting and raving in their little padded rooms. Gary didn’t exactly belong with these guys, but hey, it wasn’t up to me, unfortunately.

If it was up to me, he’d have been tied to a chair and I’dve had a baseball bat and twenty minutes.

It took me three or four keys before I found the right one, and even when I found the right one, my hands were fucking shaking from sudden adrenaline. I didn’t know whether I was going to punch the guy or smile when I finally got that door open, but this was better than the dead boredom that was Bullworth in the morning. If I thought that enough times, then maybe I’d convince myself that seeing this A-hole was a good idea and I shouldn’t be bothered. Hopefully.

I opened the door and slipped in quickly, closing the door before any orderlies noticed. Gary was lying in bed, same way I had been a little over an hour and a half ago. His arms were behind his head, and he was staring up at the ceiling. Or at least he was when I first opened the door. Like he didn’t care that an orderly was checking up on him. As soon as I closed the door, he raised himself up on his elbows. He looked shocked as hell, and I didn’t really blame him. I was shocked as hell too.

He was just laying there, in the gray drawstring pants and t-shirt of a mental patient. And he still looked like Gary. Don’t know why that bothered me.

Gary spoke first. “Well, well, looks like someone was sniffing glue.”

My face scrunched up in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Why else would you sneak out to come see me?” Gary managed to shrug lazily. “Visiting hours aren’t ‘til noon tomorrow, Jimmy-boy.” Slowly, he sat up, turning so that his feet were on the floor. He rested his elbows on his thighs and continued looking at me. Waiting for my move, most likely.

I didn’t have any moves, was the problem. I hadn’t thought past ‘seeing Gary’. After that, I was pretty much fucked for ideas. “Shut up, Gary.”

“Hey, you came to see me, now you’re telling me to shut up?” Gary shook his head. “You sure you’re not in the wrong uniform?” Something about Gary’s smug look—like he’d known I’d come see him—made my fists curl tightly at my sides. No, not something. Everything about it.

“Wanted to see how they were keeping you.” I could bluff like I didn’t give a fuck, so that’s what I was going to do.

“I’m getting my three square a day, and I’ve got a pile of dirty pink pills under the bed. Wanna see?” he drawled sarcastically. His hair was still in that fucking hairstyle. What the fuck—even in a padded cell, the freaking psycho looked like the friggin’ head boy.

I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “I oughta let a nurse know you’re not taking your pills-”

“Oh right, James, you’ll go up to the head nurse and say what? ‘While I snuck into your lovely establishment in order to talk to my old friend Gary, he happened to tell me that he didn’t take his medication.’“

“I’ll leave a note.”

“I flush my meds, you brick-headed hermaphrodite.”

“Can the crap, Gary, you’re in a cell.”

Gary snorted. “Do you take all your schoolboy dialect from ‘50s movies set in English boarding schools, Jimmy-boy?”

“Huh?”

“Of course.” Gary stood up. “Sorry, forgot you’ve probably never seen a map of England, let alone a movie that took place there.” He took a few steps closer to me, and I couldn’t figure out whether to move in closer or back the fuck up. So I stood there, lifting my chin to look him in the eye—I hadn’t realized he was that close until he tilted his head slightly to look down at me. Fucker was never good at respecting my space.

I spoke around a clenched jaw. “Back off, Gary.” The warning was still audible, I hoped. He didn’t move, just smiled at me in that fake happy way he did just to piss me off. “I’m serious, back the fuck off.”

Gary’s cat smile stretched a little bit further. He put a hand on my shoulder and I pushed it off. “Come now, James. Old friends can’t reach out and touch each other all of a sudden?”

“There’s only one place your fucking hands should be.” In a fucking grinder.

I didn’t even get a half a second to realize what I’d said before Gary’s eyebrow shot up. “Really now, Hopkins? I didn’t think you’d have it in you to ask and all, but-”

“Shut up,” I snapped, shoving him back. I pushed him hard enough that he landed on his ass, and Gary laughed at me. Guy in the fucking nuthouse laughed at me, which showed exactly how much he needed to be in there. If I was him, I’d be pissed as fuck. He was still laughing. I walked over to him, looking down as I raised my fist. “I’m serious. If you don’t shut the hell up-”

“You’ll hit me?” Gary sighed dramatically. “Jimmy, Jimmy, so predictable. What’ll that do for you? I mean, seriously, unless you get off on it, I can’t see you getting anything from it—unless you do get off on it.” He smirked again. “Are you a little sadist, Jimmy Hopkins?”

“What did you call me?” This guy seriously seemed to have a thing for saying my name. He just kept repeating it, and every time he said it, he made it sound like a fucking insult.

As if to prove my point, he responded with a slow, “Jim-my. I called you Jimmy. Are you deaf and dumb now?” I grabbed him by the collar and yanked him up partway, so that I was crouching and he was looking me in the eye. The squirmy little fucker had to shut his trap if my fist was an inch from his mouth, right? “Wait, so I put a hand on your shoulder and you get all uptight, but two seconds later, you’re practically straddling me? Oh, boy, you’ve got more issues than I do, pal. You should talk to someone about that.”

“Got any recommendations for me? I’m sure you know a few people,” I retorted. I moved back away from him, pushing him just enough to make him drop back to the floor.

“Ooo...we can have group therapy together and everything!” He sat up, brushing dust off his pants. “Invite the family—you, me, the kids Petey and Zoe and Russell—how is the little girl doing, anyway?”

I snorted. Couldn’t help it. “Petey’s better than when you were around.”

“Well, with his own personal guard dog, I imagine no one messes with him.” Gary picked another piece of dust off the cuff of his pants. “Do you slobber all over him when you see him, your...tail wagging whenever he gets home?” I rolled my eyes. I’d let him piss me off, and that was a chump move. Gary was the kind of sick fuck who thought that if I wanted to hit him, he must be doing something right. “I’m serious. Now, the thing about Petey is that you’ve got to remind him to leave water out for you, ‘cause he just gets so flustered about getting up in the morning that he forgets the little stuff.”

I blinked at him. “What the fuck are you going on about?”

He waved me off with a sigh. “Never mind. My genius is lost on you.” Meaning that the lack of good drugs was making him ramble on like an idiot. “So, Hopkins, old pal, why exactly are you here?”

“Didn’t I answer that already? Aren’t you supposed to be smart? Notice shit?”

“ ‘I want to be here’ isn’t a good enough reason, Jimmyboy,” He leaned back so that his back was against the bed.

It was a weird moment to realize that I was sitting on the floor with Gary like we were friends or something. On the floor in a mental hospital like I was friends with him. What kind of shit was this?

I scowled at him. “Well, that’s why I’m here. What more do you want?”

“I know this is difficult for a dunderhead like yourself to comprehend, but you’ve got to have a reason for wanting to see me. Especially when you go through the trouble of breaking and entering.” Gary paused, and then added, “Not that criminal activity is beneath you or anything.”

“You say that like you’re above criminal activity,” I pointed out.

Gary shrugged and smirked. “I’m a mastermind. You’re muscle.”

“I beat you.”

“In a fist fight.”

“You wanted a fist fight.”

“I just wanted to be close to you, James.”

“Fuck you.”

“Is that a request?”

“Were you always this much of a fag?”

Gary chuckled. “This homophobia’s a problem, Jimmy. You’re gonna break Petey’s little heart...and he doesn’t deal with heartache too well. He gets all whimpery and red-eyed. Trust me, it’s just a big mess.”

“What, you deal with Petey getting his heart broken before?” I couldn’t see Gary ‘dealing’ with anyone after a break-up. He’d roll his eyes, and maybe laugh, and walk away. Or he’d crack jokes about it or something. Then again, couldn’t imagine Petey having dated anyone either, so...

“Why, you want pointers?” Gary retorted.

I shook my head. “You’re still crazy as fuck.”

“You’re still dumb as a brick. Look, nothing’s changed...’cept now you’re seeking me out.”

I grimaced at him bringing that up again, and looked away from him. “I was bored, alright?” Shouldn’t have said that, but whatever, too late now. “I was bored and no one was awake, and I knew damned well that you didn’t have anything to do but sit around.”

“How sweet.” Gary stretched, and somehow that stretch ended up with his arm around my shoulder. “The troll missed its handler.”

“You’re not my handler.”

“But you don’t argue you’re a troll.” I glared at him, but he didn’t move his arm. “So, no one’s lighting your fire like I do, huh? Not even your little girlfriend...what’s her name?” He knew her name. “Um...Zora? Zena? Zoe...yeah, Zoe. She’s cute, real cute...so why not go wake her up instead?” I didn’t have an answer to that one besides ‘didn’t wanna’, so I didn’t answer. “So, I’m more exciting that your girl, James? Really? What does that say about you?”

My hands were fists again, but I wasn’t going to bash his face in. Gary made gay jokes, it’s what he did. “You know what Gary? You’ve got a real fascination with my sex life.”

“It took you this long to figure it out, Jimmy?” I didn’t jump because he made it sound like he was interested in my sex life. I didn’t jump because his arm was still around my shoulder. I didn’t jump because he was looking me dead in the eye.

I jumped because he practically purred that shit and it was creepy as fuck.

Gary cackled like a fucking hyena when I jumped. “Down, boy, down. I mean, I thought it was obvious—but then again, you and obvious aren’t exactly buddies now, are you?”

“What, you think this is fucking clever, Gary?” I looked at him, my disgust pretty clear. “You must have been locked up in here too long if you think that’s a great joke or something.” I shrugged his arm off of me, and was bothered that he hadn’t moved it when I reacted to his dumbass comment.

I stood up. I don’t know why I’d gotten so comfortable sitting next to him anyway. This was Gary, and Gary was not a guy you got comfortable with. The guy was a snake who said whatever he thought would most fuck with a person. Especially with me. For some sick reason, he’d picked me as his special target, and I was letting myself get wrapped in it.

“I’m serious, Jimmyboy. I clearly have to have some sort of interest in you and sexual activity, since I keep bringing it up.”

I was pacing. It occurred to me that Gary was in this little fucking room for most of the day. Hell, if I was in here, I’d try to fuck with the first person I saw. Still, Gary was being weird as hell and it was freaking me out. “Shut up, Gary.”

“Maybe I’m just a boy tugging at your pigtails...ever consider that?”

“I don’t have fucking-” I cut myself off. “That’d be fucking, fucking-”

“Crazy? Imagine that.”

“No, ‘cause you wanted to do what you did before I showed up.”

“True.” Gary was still sitting on the floor, looking relaxed as all hell. “And you were just the icing on the cake. The dumb, thickheaded, goblin-like icing, but still.” I threw another glare his way. “Look, so I annoyed you for a little while...you can’t get me out of your head either, clearly, so let’s skip this ‘stop being a weird fag’ step, alright?”

“You-you annoyed me?” I nearly shouted in disbelief. He raised an eyebrow at me and put a finger to his lips as if that was what was going to make me be quiet. “You didn’t annoy me, you harassed me. Made my life hell!”

He shrugged. “Technicality. My point still stands.”

“And what point is that, huh?”

“When you’re lying in bed at night, and you should be thinking about your girlfriend, it’s me you’ve got on the brain.”

I hauled him up by the collar of his shirt. He was still grinning like a fucking maniac. The slimy, creepy little freak was still smiling. “Say something like that again, I fucking dare you. I’ll bust your fucking lip open.”

“So now you’re thinking about my lips, huh?”

I clocked him. He stumbled back, the back of his hand going up to his mouth instantly. He stared at me, and at first I thought it was because it was going to be a fight, but then he just kept fucking staring at me. I wanted him to throw a punch back at me, because otherwise this staring shit was getting to me, making my skin crawl.

“That it, Jimmy?” He moved his hand. I had busted his lip, but that didn’t make me feel better. He was practically whispering, doing that weird purr shit again. I hit the guy and he makes a noise like a housecat getting petted. “Come on, don’t disappoint me now. We’re just getting started.”

“We’re not starting dick,” I snapped, pointing at him. “You’re still out of your fucking mind, and I can’t believe I fucking came here. I’m out of here.”

“Well shit,” Gary almost sounded disappointed, and dropped down to sit on his bed. “I thought you’d have more stamina, James.” I shivered at the pure sleaze that dripped off the guy. I went to the door. “At least I’ve got something to...think about while you’re gone.” I didn’t take the bait and turn around. “Don’t forget to return the keys...unless you plan on coming back to see me.”

Fuck him. I needed some air.


TBC

Chapter Text

 

The only good thing about gym was that dodgeball kept me from staring at the clock all period. Past that—well, Petey, was on my team today, and it took everything I had not to fucking clobber him for flailing around like an ass. At least I forgot, for an hour, how long it was until curfew and I could get the fuck out of Bullworth.

Of course, I couldn’t just get to my room and get to the city. That’d mean things were going smoothly, and shit hadn’t gone smoothly since I’d gotten here. I sighed loudly. “What is it now?”

Petey was standing in front of my door, still in his stupid little gym shorts, as if he’d been waiting for me for hours. I’d say he looked nervous, but that was just his regular facial expression. Jittery and nervous, and ready to scram. So why wasn't he doing that yet?

“Hey, Jimmy…”

That fucking tone…it was the tone that I heard when people were asking for something. From Petey, it just meant that he wanted company, but I was sick as hell of that tone.

“What is it, Petey?” If I sounded as annoyed as I was with him, maybe he’d go away.

It didn’t work. “What are you up to?” He moved out of the way of my door, at least, so I unlocked it and went inside. Petey came in behind me, still talking. “I meant to talk to you at lunch, but I realized I had a test to make up in biology…”

He trailed off, looking towards my bed. I glanced over; my backpack was there, where I’d left it, so that I could leave as soon as I got out of class. I turned back to him. “Yeah? And?” He wasn’t moving, so I went to my closet and grabbed another shirt. If I made like I was going to change my clothes, maybe he’d go away.

Petey shook himself out of whatever thoughts he was having. “Oh! Right, um…just seeing what was up, because I came by the other night to hang out, and you weren’t here.”

“Yeah, sorry, I went out,” I muttered. I wished I hadn’t taken a shower back at the gym, otherwise I could use that as an excuse. “What is it?”

Petey shrugged. “I don’t know…came by last night because you weren’t there two nights ago either.” I blinked at him. Seriously? He couldn’t be serious. Wait—I was talking about Petey. Petey didn’t know how to joke. And he kept looking at my backpack like he hadn’t seen it before.

“I’m here now, Petey,” I groaned. “What is it?”

Petey jumped. “Sorry, I just…” He turned as if to walk out, and Iet out a breath.

Too soon, of fucking course. “Hey, Jimmy?” He turned around like he’d forgotten something.

“Yeah?” I grunted.

“Are you going to the asylum?”

I blinked. “Why?”

He swallowed and fidgeted for a moment, twisting back and forth like a pinned down bug, before clomping over to the bed and lifting my backpack.

Which was opened.

Which was why the orderly uniform fell out.

Fuck me.

What was I supposed to say? No, I was loaning it to a friend? “Yeah, so?”

“Why would you need to go back to the asylum?” Petey questioned. “I mean, no one’s there now, ‘cept for—“ His eyes got wide and he dropped the backpack. “Oh my god, Jimmy, you went to see G--”

I quickly slammed my door closed and locked it, before Petey announced my personal business to the entire hallway. Fucking idiot didn’t know volume control for shit. “Shut up, Petey, Jesus, someone’s going to hear you!”

Everything was clicking into place in Petey’s head, and I could watch it happening. I suddenly felt real sick. “I knew something was up, I knew it when you weren’t here for like, three nights straight—” A week straight, but fortunately Petey had other things to do with himself the other four nights of the week, “—and then I waited late for you two nights ago, but you didn’t come back ‘til after four, because that’s when I went to bed, and then you were in such a bad mood the other morning, and—Jesus, have you gone and seen him for the past three nights--”

That was enough. I covered his mouth. His eyes were still wide, like he wanted to keep babbling—or like he thought that I was going to punch him, I don’t know. Well, I wasn’t going to hit him. After throwing that punch at Gary, the little creepo had me all paranoid and shit.

I moved my hand slowly, so that if Petey started again, I could put my hand back right away. “I swear to god, if you say anything to anyone, I’ll…” I took a deep breath. “It’s nothing. It doesn’t matter, okay?”

“Of course it fucking matters, Jimmy!” Since I’d just been covering his mouth, that meant he was screeching in my ear. I jumped back, cursing under my breath. He inhaled deeply, but not to calm down. It was just to start again. “Of course it matters! What if something happens and you’re not here! What if—what if someone plans a coup!” Petey kept forgetting that I didn’t straighten out the school to run it. That was Gary’s idea. I just wanted shit to calm down around me.

“Wait, so I can’t ever leave the campus now? Shit might happen?”

I stared at him, and he whimpered for a minute before saying, “It might, you know! And you’re all, I don’t know, doing who knows what with Gary—”

“—wait a minute,” I narrowed my eyes. “What the fuck do you mean, ‘who knows what with Gary’? I’m not doing anything with Gary.” I could practically hear Gary’s howl of laughter if he heard any of this nonsense. I shook my head.

“Well, then why do you only go at night?” Petey demanded hysterically.

I sat down on the bed, shaking my head. “Because that’s when I feel like going, Petey. It’s when I don’t have any class, or anybody coming to me with their problems with all the other cliques and shit like I’m the fucking godfather or something.” This wasn’t that difficult to get. Fuck, Russell could understand this.

“You are the godfather.” Petey sounded like he thought I should know this. “You’re the king, Jimmy.”

I made a face. “If I’m the king, why the hell are you getting on my case, then?” I snapped back at him.

“B—because!” Petey squeaked. “Because you can’t just go leaving your kingdom to deal with a-a-a,” he was stammering all over the place. “—a traitor like Gary!”

Petey lived in an alternate universe. He couldn’t live in this world. Tooo much time as Gary’s punching bag had melted his brain. That was the only explanation. “This isn’t G&G, Petey.” He stared at me. “Bullworth can handle if I do what I want at night.” Not everyone was a retarded goliath like Russell who needed constant attention. They just needed no Gary.

And, hey, Gary was fucking occupied right now, so they’d be fine.

“You really think so?” Petey yanked up the orderly uniform, waving it around like it was the flag at the beginning of a race or something. “You think if Bullworth knew you were sneaking off to see Gary Smith of all people, Bullworth could handle it?”

“This isn’t about Bullworth!” I stood up again, in Petey’s face. He pulled back slightly, shaking. Not everything in my life was about the goddamned school. I didn’t know what this was about for sure—it was about me, about Gary…but not everything about me was public information. Some shit was private. Gary, apparently, was private now. “And Bullworth ain’t gonna know about this.” I snatched the uniform away from Petey, shoving it back in my backpack.

Once my back was turned to him, he seemed to recover from cowering. “Yeah? Well you’re sure not being careful Jimmy!” He gulped, took a deep breath, and spoke again, this time slower. “This is totally fucking crazy.”

I didn’t even turn to look at him for that. I was being careful as hell. The only reason that Petey knew anything about what I was doing at night was because the kid stood outside my door and waited, and wouldn’t leave me alone. But it was crazy that I was seeing Gary.

Okay, so he was right about that. “Yeah, okay, crazy.” I zipped up my backpack. “That’s the story of my life at this point, tell me something that I don’t know.”

Petey walked over to my desk and sat down on the chair, looking like someone kicked his puppy. Or him. Maybe he was the puppy—okay, maybe I was spending too much time around Gary. “It’s over, all of it’s over.” He shook his head. “You wanna restart it again? I mean—Gary’s gone. What do you wanna do, bring him back?” His eyes went wide, and he looked like he was about to panic. “Oh my god—you do want him back!”

“I don’t want anything restarted—what the hell makes you think I want him back?” The idea of seeing Gary on campus again was enough to make me lose my lunch.

“The fact that you keep going to see him,” Petey snapped. I raised my eyebrow, and he looked down immediately.

“That doesn’t mean I want him here. Maybe I like seeing him in a cage.” And oh Jesus fuck, I hope he didn’t twist that like Gary would. Gary would eat me alive for fucking saying something like that.

Petey was quiet before saying, “That’s a little sick, Jimmy. That’s sick like him.”

I rolled my eyes. “He’s not a threat in there. But I want to keep an eye on him. That’s it. That’s all.” Nothing weird or creepy about that at all, so if Petey even made it sound worse than that, fuck my paranoia, I was going to beat the shit out of him.

“They’ve got people to keep eyes on him already,” he pointed out.

I sighed. “I don’t trust anyone else to do the job right.” I was the only person who hadn’t rolled and fallen all over Gary and his crap so far, so I wasn’t about to go relying on anyone else to make sure he wasn’t a danger.

Right.

That was it.

Petey didn’t look happy, but he looked less freaked. “I still say it’s better not to give him more chances to mess with you. Just leave it, man.”

I stared at my backpack for a minute. “Whatever. Don’t worry about it. Just keep your mouth shut, okay Petey?”

He actually pouted. The teenaged five year old fucking pouted at me. “Yeah, okay Jimmy.”

I shook my head and looked up at the ceiling. This was such a fucking joke. Now I wasn’t going to be able to walk around without Petey looking like a fucking mess until I distracted him. I hated this shit.

I exhaled, picking up my backpack and tossing it on the floor. Petey looked at me curiously. I dropped down to sit on my bed. “So what was it you wanted to talk about?”

It took about ten minutes before he seemed distracted.


TBC

Chapter Text

It took until about two in the morning before he shut the fuck up.

He was practically falling asleep as he talked, his head fucking dropping every few words while he held onto my pillow. Before there were any rumors about Petey sleeping over in my room—'cause that's the shit I needed right now in my life—I carefully pushed him out the door. Nearly forgot to grab my pillow back from him.

I waited until I was sure that he was in his room before leaving campus. I was betting on the fact that he was too tired to come back and 'check' if I was in my room. I got to the asylum by three. That gave me about three hours before the orderlies did their morning rounds, and I never stayed that long.

At least it was Saturday, so I could finally get some sleep when I got back in.

Gary was sitting up on his bed, his legs crossed Indian-style and his head back on the wall. His eyes were opening, slowly, but he'd definitely been asleep. Sitting up…Gary Smith had fallen asleep waiting for me.

I couldn't help it. I smirked. "Morning." Gary couldn't cover the fact that he'd been trying to wake up, there was no way in hell. Thanks to Petey, I'd caught Gary off guard. If I didn't want to kill Petey, I'd feel like thanking him right now.

"Long day at work, honey?" Of course Gary had a smart remark when he was half asleep. I wondered where he kept his group of writers. "Half expected to find out you were out with the boys, cheating on me. You weren't cheating on me, were you, Jimmyboy?"

I snorted. It's sick that, in about a week, I'd gotten used to his faggoty joking shit. I mean, it still creeped me the fuck out—especially when he felt like he had to get up close and personal about it—but I didn't need to beat the shit out of him because of it. Yet. "Petey busted me on the way out."

Gary fucking hooted. "Petey? My little Petey caught you coming to see me?" I'm sure that he was ecstatic." I stared. Gary sighed. "Ecstatic. Excited. Really, really happy."

I shook my head. "Whatever. He…"

"Freaked out? Had a conniption? Cried like a little bitch? Made high-pitched little noises that you could only hear because you're a fucking dog?" Gary stretched, yawning, and I couldn't remember ever seeing him do that for any other reason other than being bored. He stood up, running a hand through his hair.

"Something like that. He completely freaked, and now thinks I want to help you escape."

Gary fake-pouted. "What, you're not? Shit, there goes my dastardly little plan. And I was relying on the fact that one day you'd show signs of my ADD and hop over here on your bike in the middle of the night and come to visit me."

I glanced at him with a raised eyebrow. "And then what was the next part of your genius plan?"

"Clearly, your lust for my body would melt your reserve and you'd rush to my aid like my knight in shining armor. Come on, Hopkins, pay attention. I've been pretty clear about this from the beginning." I laughed with another shake of my head. Gary's smile grew. "Oh, so Jimmy Hopkins can laugh, I'm shocked and surprised, honestly."

"Fucking stuff it."

"Where?" I glared at him. He was not as clever as he thought he was. He raised his hands. "Hey, hey, just making conversation, no need to get angry…what else did femmeboy say? I'm curious."

Of course he was curious. Gary died whenever he didn't know how big a shit someone took in China. "He just talked." Well, he always liked fucking with my head. All I had to do to fuck with his was shut the hell up.

I walked past Gary, ignoring the expression on his face that said he was waiting for me to say anything more. I sat on the floor, taking off my sneakers and tossing them into the corner. Gary turned to face me, looking confused. I glanced up at him from my seat and shrugged. "What?"

"What did Petey say?"

"Like I fucking memorized what he said?" I shrugged.

"He kept you busy most of the night, so I want to know what he said." Gary crossed his arms over his chest impatiently. He was tapping his foot. There was a drop of giddy there. Fuck. That's what I needed to top off my day.

Dodgeball. Petey. Two in the fucking morning. Now Gary was starting to twitch.

Wonderful.

He continued. "Did he shit himself? Did he weep snotty tears all over your bedroom?" I didn't answer. "Jimmy, come on, I know you don't come over here to sit in silence. I assume you wanted to talk to me."

I rolled my eyes. "Bullworth will fall apart if I leave for a few hours."

Gary considered this, throwing me one of his weird looks. I wanted to say it looked jealous, because, I mean, the way Petey talked, I was exactly what Gary had wanted to be. And hell, when I thought about it, I knew that I was. I didn't want to be—king for a day was fun, but seriously? I couldn't breathe at that damned academy without someone trying to crawl up my ass and beg me for a favor.

I wasn't saying that Gary could have my place, fuck that. If it was a choice between me and him, I'd take the fucking crown. I just didn't think that there needed to be a king period.

"Oh, poor, poor Bullworth…" Gary fucking tsked, shaking his head disapprovingly. "So weak and fragile, can't even wobble on its own feet without the hand of James Hopkins guiding it—near-blindly—into the nearest wall."

"Better a wall than a fucking cliff," I pointed out snappishly.

Gary smirked. He didn't look sorry. "I had fun watching it drop."

"It didn't drop."

"Nope, its grunting monkeyboy came to its rescue." He sat down on his bed. "In a big fight to the death. How big did your head swell after that?"

"Nearly as big as yours."

Gary raised an eyebrow at me and gave me the same look he'd given me after I'd punched him. "Nothing on you that I've seen so far is as big as mine."

"You insult the way I saved Bullworth from your ass, then you call me a freaking monkey, and now you're making sex jokes." The guy couldn't make up his mind. Did he hate me? Want to be a fag about me? Kill me when he drugs me? Rape me when he drugs me?

"Good. You can remember how the conversation went, I'm so proud. The way things are going, you'll be able to count to twenty in no time, you smart little boy you." Gary started using his fists to pound out a little beat on his knees. "That's really pretty fucking exciting from you."

"No, which the fuck is it?"

"Which the fuck is which, Jimmy honey?"

"Do you hate me or what?"

Gary stared at me, like he couldn't believe what I'd just said. "Of course I hate you, James."

That wasn't what I expected, exactly. Don't know what I expected, but it wasn't…huh. I was speechless. And Gary noticed.

"What?" He laughed. "Of course I hate you, you lousy excuse for a functioning biped. Why wouldn't I hate you?"

He stood up, and started to pace. It jarred me enough that I stood back up. He was stalking around, in this half circle around me. "Every time I see you I considered homicide, but then I remember that the only thing you beat me in is sheer physicality. I fucking despise you, you stupid sack of shit. You're a brute, and that disgusts me on levels I can't even begin to describe. I hate you more than I hate Crabblesnitch, more than I hate the fucking preps, the nerds, those lunkhead Greasers—fuck, I hate you more than I hate all of Bullworth. If I had a choice between watching that place burn and putting your head on a pike, I'm not gonna lie to you right now, Hopkins, I don't know which one I'd pick."

He was too close to me, and my skin started crawling all over again. Now I was as twitchy as he was, except I was halfway certain that he was going to pull something. He stopped, staring down at me. I tensed, and took a deep breath. "So? Why say the shit you've been saying then?"

Gary chuckled. "What 'shit' are you referring to…Jimmy?" Just Jimmy. That bothered me more than any of the insults he'd been spewing.

"The-the- the sex shit. Acting like you wanted me to keep coming here."

"I just love the fact you keep showing up here, against your better judgment."

"So about the sex shit?"

Gary tilted his head. "So you're interested in the sex shit?"

"No!" I snapped. Not letting him get any fucking ideas like that. "I want to know why you keep fucking talking about it."

Gary licked his lips and looked way too similar to the way that he looked up on the roof when I kicked his ass. It wasn't any less unnerving now that I'd seen it before. "Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy…hating you is way more exciting than anything at Bullworth."

"Huh?"

"James Hopkins, you're fucking fascinating. You're this insipid little troll that just crawled under my skin like Petey under a bed during a thunderstorm. You invaded Bullworth—my Bullworth—and turned it all right side up, after I spent so much time fucking it all up! I thought that'd take skill, intelligence, brains, sex appeal—at least some fucking observational skills."

He was continuing to look me up and down, and I wanted to move, push him away. But he wasn't doing anything, and really, he was fucking caged in here all day, and I know he wasn't talking to any of the doctors in this place. Now that the chaos was done, and he was locked up, I wanted to know what the fuck went on in that black hole inside his head.

He stepped back, looking at me like he was studying me for biology. "Do you realize what that does to a person?"

"A person like you?" I replied. "Pisses you off. Drives you more off your fucking rocker than you already were."

Gary laughed, this head back, hyena fucking cackle. "Yeah, yeah, Jimmyboy, it pissed me off. Pissed me off and drove me fucking crazy." Too late for that, but whatever. "Do you realize how much of a thrill fucking with you was? Is?" He let this little exaggerated shiver go through his body. "God, it was better than sex."

"You sure about that?" Wouldn't that have meant Gary let someone near him, at some point?

Gary licked his lips a second time, running a hand through his hair. "Oh, I'm damned fucking sure. Watching you pissed and scrambling and putting things together while you tear my shit apart…fuck, Jimmy, watching you struggle with fighting Russell that time in the basement was like fucking poetry—you ever read any poetry, Jimmy?"

I shook my head. "Fuck off, Gary, get to the point."

"Hating you is better than sex, what else do I need to say?" Gary shrugged. "Could you imagine had you not fucking turned on me and started doing shit behind my back? Fucking piece of art that would have been." I didn't remember it like that, but whatever worked for him. He dropped back on the bed, leaning back like he was ready for a cigarette. Could half believe he was.

"You're not getting out of here anytime soon."

"Why would I want to?" Gary asked. "If I was out of this shithole, you'd run off and hide in a dark corner."

I grimaced. "I wouldn't fucking hide from anything, least of all you, you sick freak."

Gary grinned at me. "You're hiding this from everybody. Everybody but Petey, that is."

"I'm not hiding this, it's just none of their damned business."

"You're a shit liar. You couldn't even make something up to fool that little queenette Petey, and he's more gullible than Crabblesnitch." He propped himself up on one elbow so he could peer at the nails on his other hand lazily.

"Petey's worried you're trying to play me, and right now, I'm remembering why."

Gary snorted. "Please. Little Patricia's just jealous you're here instead of waiting at home for her. You consider that maybe Petey freaked because you're not paying enough attention to the wife—" Gary held up his hand as if to keep me from speaking. "Or, or, or wait—maybe you let him play husband. I can see it now—Petey, waiting in bed for you, cradling the pillow like it's your child, wondering when his beefy man midget is gonna drag himself out of the sludge and make it home."

"Shut up." I was sick of Gary's jokes about Petey, if only because they weren't really jokes. I fucking cracked jokes about Petey, everyone did, but Gary fucking dripped with the need to squash him. Like Gary needed to squash everyone.

Me especially, apparently.

"Did he start to sniffle when he got worried?" Gary said. "He was always a fucking sniffler. Boogers everywhere, it was a mess."

"Drop the Petey bit, Gary."

"Why, are you the only one that can say shit about him now? I mean, we were having a good laugh about him before. Are you acting jealous about him now?" Gary sighed. "Don't worry about it, Jimmy, my good friend, I'm done with him. He's not that great—but he knows enough to be interesting for a minute."

Wait.

What.

The.

Fuck.

Petey?

"You sick fuck. You're bullshitting." I moved in closer, because it felt weird as fuck to be on the other side of the cell when talking about Petey like this, even when the cell was so small.

"You don't think I call him the dorm mascot and femmeboy just because he's cute when he blushes, do you?" Gary laughed. "Fuck, Jimmy, you're idiocy never fails to astound me. He's the mascot because he's just chock full of school spirit. All. Day. Long." The last words were punctuated with hand movements stolen from a crazy conductor, sweeping across the air too dramatically.

I shook my head. "You're full of crap."

"I'm not full of anything."

"You say another word about Petey—"

"—and you'll what, exactly?" Gary looked unimpressed.

I realized how close I was to him. Close enough that when he grabbed me by my shirt and yanked me down I didn't see it coming. Close enough where I didn't have time to react when he flipped me over. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Gary Smith was hovering over me, straddling me. "Relax, Jimmy, I'm not gonna hurt you." He chuckled under his breath. "Yeah, you beat me in strength, but I will always be faster and smarter than you. You won once—big whoop, all that did for either of us is make it so we can't stop thinking about each other."

"Fuck you," I grunted, shoving him back. He didn't stumble, but he did stand up, letting me sit. "I oughta fuckin—"

"Again with the threats!" He threw his hands up. "You can talk talk talk all you want, but Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, what you don't seem to get, seem to comprehend, is that whether I'm locked in here or running things out there, I'm still irrevocably attached to you, burned in your brain. You know this nightly visit shit is fucked up and stupid, but you still keep coming here. I fucking own you."

I jumped up, ready to fight. "You don't own shit. You don't even own the fucking drawstring on your pjs, Gary."

"Oh really?" Gary looked doubtful. "Allow me to fucking demonstrate." Looked ready to fight. Fine, if he wanted to fight, I could do that.

He was supposed to swing at me. Supposed to headbutt me, do something that I could fucking defend against. Something that I could retaliate with. Fucking fight me, for Jesus fuck's sake. Not swoop the fuck in and fucking lay a-a-a-

A fucking kiss on me like I was a fucking fag or something. Gary Smith didn't kiss people, didn't touch them except to fucking poke and prod. He sure as fuck didn't kiss me.

It took me too long to figure out what the fuck was going on and push him away. "What the fuck is wrong with you, you motherfucking freak!"

Gary looked pleased. Didn't know if it was because he'd kissed me or because I was pissed. "That worked better than I thought it would. You kissed better than I thought you would, although word has it you've had a bit of practice. I'm impressed, Jimmyboy."

I don't hide, and I don't back down. Doesn't mean I didn't fucking feeling like running right then. I swallowed the lump in my throat. "This is the last time I'm fucking coming here."

"You've said that before."

"Fuck you."

"You've said that too. I don't see why you just won't deal with the fact that you're as fascinated with me as I am with you."

I wanted to fucking argue but every time I thought about arguing, I could see the response: why keep coming back? And the only answer was that I needed to. And look where that got me? Kissed by the psycho ex-headboy who may not have fucked my loser of a best friend who if he knew what I was doing right now would have an asthma attack—and he didn't even have asthma, as far as I knew.

I moved to get my sneakers, and put them on in a rush. Gary didn't say anything, but I could feel him staring at me. That was why I punched the wall, because I needed to punch something, and I wasn't risking moving towards him.

"Need someone to kiss it and make it better?" Gary mocked. "And don't tell me to fuck off or shut up, because really, you can learn to be more creative than that."

I clenched my jaw. "Fuck off and die you creep."

"Did I blow my chance at another date?" I pushed past him to head to the door, and I was surprised he didn't try to make another grab at me. Probably because he knew I was aware enough to punch him this time. "See you tomorrow night, friend."

Couldn't even stop my fucking mouth as I opened the cell door. "Yeah."

Chapter Text

Fuck Gary Smith.

I wanted to kill him, wanted to bash his head into a wall and break his nose. Break his jaw so he couldn't pull that shit again. I would have gone back and done it too, if it wasn't for the fact that he would have laughed in my face while I did it.

Fuck him and his weird gay shit, I didn't need to deal with it.

The problem was, what was I going to deal with instead? Classes were a joke, I was sick to death of doing favors for people, and I was avoiding Petey, in case he asked about what had happened on Saturday. Hanging with Russell didn't take any thought, and I felt weird as fuck with Zoë. So there were my options, and all of them sucked.

Gary, Gary, Gary. This was ridiculous.

"Hi Jimmy!" It was Beatrice. She came up beside me, her books and precious journal held over her chest. She was smiling. I had no idea why she was so happy today.

"What's up?" I kept looking forward to where I was walking. If I didn't look at her, I couldn't see if her cold sores were acting up. Or her face.

She blushed. Great. "Nothing. Haven't seen you for like a week—studying hard, huh?"

Yeah, that's me. I was too busy studying to be seen around school. "Yeah, something like that." It was lunchtime, and I just wanted to go into the cafeteria, grab something to eat, and leave. She followed me in.

"Wasn't that announcement from Crabblesnitch this morning crazy?" She laughed, like she'd made this great big joke.

I scanned the lunchroom to make sure Petey wasn't there before grabbing a tray and heading to the line. Beatrice grabbed herself a tray, putting her books on top of it and trailing behind me. It was kind of like Petey on an annoying day, but grosser. "What are you talking about?"

"You didn't hear?" I'd slept through most of first period, so no, I hadn't. It was the first real sleep I'd had since Gary fucking touched me. I shook my head. "Apparently, a bunch of parents filed a complaint with the school board, and now all the students have to have psych evaluations done this week to make sure that, well…the stuff that happened with Gary won't happen again."

Fucking Gary. Of course everything went back to him. "When?"

"People will be taken out of classes all this week to do it," Beatrice answered. "Isn't it exciting?"

"Yeah, exciting." About as exciting as anything was around here.

Beatrice sighed. "I mean, I've got doctor's appointments all this week, so I might have to reschedule my psychological examination." She seemed really into this whole 'doctors looking in your head' thing. She didn't get that going to Bullworth meant you were fucked already. "I might have to do it over the weekend, at Happy Volts. That place is so creepy, isn't it?"

"Okay…" I didn't know what that had to do with me, but Beatrice just liked to talk sometimes. If I let her ramble on for a while, she'd remember she had something to do and go off. Either that or Zoë would show up, and Beatrice usually avoided her.

On cue, Zoë cut the line in front of Beatrice. "Long time no see, Jimmy. Where've you been?" She grabbed a milk carton and an orange, ignoring the little gasp from Beatrice.

"In the city." I shrugged, moving forward as Edna dropped…something on my plate. It looked like meat. I was going to pretend I was sure. "Why, needed something?"

That wasn't exactly fair. Zoë didn't come and demand shit nearly as much as everyone else did. She just did her thing, and we hung out. Should have been with her on Saturday instead of Gary. I would still have gotten kissed, but at least not by a mental patient.

And it would have been by a female. Which, was, well, more than a plus.

Zoë shook her head no. "I'm good, just wondering where the hell you've been. I was in the city this weekend, we could have chilled." She sounded a little disappointed.

"I went to visit my parents—" Beatrice started, but when she realized neither of us were listening, she fell silent. She stared down at her lunch tray like she was embarrassed. When I first got to the school, I would have felt bad, and tried to talk to her, but at this point, I was sick of people coming up to me to talk.

I wanted to mumble something inaudible, but I knew Zoë wouldn't be satisfied with that sort of answer, and would press until I gave her a real one. "Just relaxing." I didn't want to lie, especially since I wasn't that good at it. "I wanted some down time."

Zoë considered my answer and shrugged. "Alright, whatever. You heard about the Halloween 'bash'?"

"No." Apparently, shit did happen at Bullworth without my noticing. That was more of a relief than I'd have thought. "What about it?"

We finished grabbing our food and headed towards a table. Before we made it a couple of feet, though, my fucking conscience got the better of me. I turned and looked at Beatrice. "You coming?"

She glowed, and grabbed her books and tray and followed with. Zoë threw me a look, but continued. "Apparently, Crabblesnitch wants to prevent any major pranks this year, so he's organizing this big party for all the students. It's not required but…" She rolled her eyes. "It's 'advised', whatever the hell that means."

"Fun," I deadpanned.

"I know, right?" Zoë made a face of disgust. "The only thing even remotely fun about it would be showing off costumes—you know what you're gonna be yet?"

I hadn't even thought about Halloween, had forgotten it was coming up. Honestly, the idea of dressing up and 'partying'—which at Bullworth would likely involve music about five years too old and the cliques awkwardly marking off their individual territories and standing with their backs to each other—sounded like about as much fun as waiting in front of the headmaster's office.

"I'm dressing up as Amelia Earhardt," Beatrice announced. "Or Helen of Troy." She giggled, looking proud of herself.

Zoë opened her carton of milk. "I'm thinking Robin Hood. Bows and arrows and everything. The G&G boys have a few props from their games, and I think I might jack some." She smiled. "So, if you feel like being my Maid Marion, Jimmy…"

I snorted. "Yeah, I'll get on that." I wondered why Petey hadn't mentioned the party to me earlier, but the answer to that was that I'd been avoiding him. And he might have said something about it when he was babbling until two in the morning. I'd only heard bits and pieces of that.

"You didn't say what you were dressing up as," Beatrice piped up.

Zoë kept throwing me little looks like she wanted to laugh, but luckily I was too tired to give into that. Didn't actually feel like making Beatrice upset right now. She hadn't done anything to me to deserve it.

Unlike Gary. That little slimeball deserved to be miserable. Miserable and confused and exhausted, so he could feel like me for a little while.

I shrugged. "I don't know. Haven't thought about it." I didn't really want to waste money on a costume. I still had my costume from last year, so I'd probably throw that shit on again and call it a day. Except that Gary had gotten me that costume. It hadn't occurred to me before that Gary had gone through the trouble of purchasing me a costume. It was another moment of realizing how bizarrely controlling the guy was.

At least he'd given me a cool costume. It was better than Petey had gotten, anyway.

"Well, let me know," Zoë told me.

I nodded, although I doubted I'd come up with anything, let alone anything interesting. I couldn't wear Gary's costume, that was for sure.

I was sitting next to Zoë and moping. This was ridiculous. "Hey, Zoë, I'm outta here, alright? I've got some shit to catch up on." Zoë looked annoyed. I shrugged, pasting on a grin. "Come on, I'll make it up to you later. Ice cream floats in town sound good?"

She narrowed her eyes. "When?"

"Tomorrow after class?"

She smiled reluctantly, shaking her head. "You better be there."

"Of course I'll be there," I said. I waved to Beatrice. "See you later, Beatrice."

"Bye…" Beatrice waved back. I started making my way out the lunchroom, but I was still in earshot when Beatrice awkwardly continued trying to speak. "So, um, Zoë…when did you guys start…dating?"

I rolled my eyes.

"Oh, sweetie, you missed me, didn't you?"

He stood up, crossing his arms. He looked fucking smug, ignoring the fact that I hadn't shown up in days. I knew that I had caved, that I shouldn't have shown up at all, but I didn't need that smug little facial expression to tell me that.

I kept my face as blank as possible. He could read my facial expression—actually no. If he wasn't having a stretch of paranoia, he could read my expression. Otherwise, he'd make up facial expressions that he insisted that I was wearing and we'd get into a fight about it.

I didn't answer right away, and so he moved in closer, leaning forward to get a better look at me. He narrowed his eyes at me suspiciously. Instead of letting him have his creepy little moment, I moved around him, not caring that I had to nearly shove him out of the way to do it. The room he was kept in was small, and it felt like it was getting smaller each and every time.

He straightened up and leaned against the door. I dropped my backpack on the floor at my side.

Silence and Gary didn't mix. Silence made a guy feel like Gary was just dripping with little things to say, like there was this ongoing commentary unfolding inside that asshole's head. And it wasn't just a feeling, either. I knew it was true, and Gary didn't do much to hide that he was quietly making jokes only he would find funny.

But that was okay. Because I could say shit in my head too. I could stand and stare at him and think about how much he'd been trying to play with my head the last couple of weeks. I could think about the fact that I should have had a great night with Zoë, my girlfriend. That I went out with her, and my mind should have been on me and her hiding in the back of the theatre and making out.

I could stare at Gary and not tell him about Zoë clearly wanting to do something in the back of that theatre, in the ice cream shop, and me barely noticing because every so often I'd get distracted at the thought that I hadn't seen Bully's ex-resident psycho in days. He could just stand there and not know that I could be back in my room right now with Zoë, doing the unspeakable shit that usually dominated my shower thoughts.

And I'd bet money that he couldn't figure out how recently, my shower thoughts were completely fucked up, and I was completely unable to have any sort of fun fantasies about my girlfriend.

I could look blank and without any cares while what I really wanted to do was beat the living shit out of Gary for still doing this to me. Not that he'd done this exactly the first time, but let's face it…this was just another way that Gary completely fucked with my head.

My life.

My sense of sanity.

No, Gary Smith could just look at me and wonder what the hell was going on in my head. And that was just fucking fine. Because he was probably being driven insane by the fact that he had no idea that instead of doing anything with Zoë, I'd dropped her back off at the girl's dorm—which had likely confused the hell out of her—and made my way to grab my bag and head up to Happy Volts for the first time in about a week. A week that was totally dominated by the fact that a complete psychotic had kissed me and no one knew—even though it felt like everyone had to know.

He moved himself off the wall, still grinning, smirking, whatever—looking like an evil little impish thing even though he had a good three inches of height on me at least. With his arms still crossed over his chest, he leaned in again, that shitty little light in his eyes growing. "You really did miss me, didn't you?" He sounded delighted.

I felt like cursing under my breath. Who was I fucking kidding? The second he had looked at me, he'd known exactly was I was thinking. I wasn't exactly a good liar, and I was a shitty as hell actor. And Gary's favorite hobby was apparently examining my face like he was Ms. Phillips grading a student's artwork.

He knew why I was there. And for some sick reason, it made him smile.

The problem with him being taller than me was that even when I tilted my head up to look him in the eyes, we still weren't eye level. Which left me staring at the very thing that had made my life so very fucked up the past week.

Well I was sick and tired of being one step behind the freak. Let him be thrown off for a minute. That was why I grabbed him.

That was why I told myself I kissed him.

Chapter Text

I could be a real fag about what kissing Gary was like. I could talk a whole lot of crap about the shape of his lips, and him melting into it, and me melting into it, and whether or not I tasted like chocolate ice cream to him.

could, but that’s not what it was like, because nothing in my life has ever resembled a chick flick.

There was something completely brain-numbing about making out with a guy I hated, and that thing wasn’t completely in my pants— especially not with Gary snaking his weasely little hands past the zipper. And apparently Gary could be described like any number of evil little animals.

Thinking about animals would most definitely fuck up this moment, and I didn’t think I had a lot of time before my brain came back to me.

Gary’s weight was starting to throw me off balance, and neither of us was going to do that weird shit girls do and wrap our legs around each other. I tried shoving him towards the wall, but apparently Gary was as off balance as I was because we both fell onto the bed instead. His back arched, not with pleasure, but with the impact of hitting the edge of the metal bed frame.

“Hey, pile of bricks,” he managed to mutter while taking a moment for air. “Mind getting off of me?”

I snorted and didn’t move. “Why, am I too heavy for you?”

Gary had undone my pants at that point, and was tugging on my shirt for me to remove it. He seemed too damned prepared for this, but again, I was going to let this ride until my senses came back to me. “Too dense. Too much weight in a miniature package, Hopkins. Move it.”

“Shut up, Gary, for once in your life.”

“Or what, James? You’ll try to suck on my tongue ‘til you rip it off?”

I stared at him in disgust. “No. You keep talking, and you’ll kill the mood.”

“There’s a mood?” Gary laughed, his hand sliding up my back. His fingers hit a nerve and I shivered for a moment, biting down any noise that could have been mistaken for a groan or a moan or anything. “What mood is that?”

“Both of us are turned on, and if you keep opening your damned mouth, I’m not gonna be turned on!” I snapped exasperatedly. Gary smirked smugly before pulling me in closer and…doing something to my neck that kept sparking other nerves. He chuckled into my collarbone. I must have made a noise. “Don’t fucking laugh at me.”

Gary barely lifted his head when he spoke, so his mouth kept brushing against my skin. I never thought I’d be glad that Gary had already opened my pants. “I’m not laughing at you, Jimmy. I’d never laugh at you.”

“You dick.” I snickered, and my head dropped down. Happened to fall on Gary’s chest. Which was still fully clothed.

I sat back, half-straddling Gary, half-sitting on the edge of the bed, and yanked off my shirt. Gary grinned at me, taking off his own shirt before propping himself up on his elbows. I leaned down and kissed him again, hard, because I was sick of feeling like he was about to laugh at me, or that he was laughing at me. He reached one arm up and slipped it behind my neck, pulling me in even closer. This time I couldn’t help moaning, but I heard the same sound from Gary.

My pants were starting to be more in the way than anything else, so I stood up to kick them off. I must have stepped on the bottom of my pants, since I stumbled backwards a couple of steps. Gary laughed, still resting back on the bed. “So smooth, Jimmyboy, so smooth.”

“What did I say about talking, asshole?” I grumbled, tossing my pants to the side.

He shrugged. “I don’t remember, I wasn’t paying attention to what you said.” He stood up, sauntering towards me with a delighted gleam in his eyes. He was maybe an inch away, licking his lips as he looked down at me. He grabbed the waistband of my boxers and yanked me in. “Remind me, Hopkins.”

His lips pressed hard against me, and we started making out again, that frantic, boner-so-hard-your-brain-doesn’t-work type of making out where we were trying so hard to fucking kiss each other we kept missing each other’s lips and kissing all over each other’s faces and necks. He turned us so that my back was to the bed. “Learn to aim, Cyclops.”

“One-” My words came out in little chunks during the trip my lips made from his neck to jawline to lips. “Don’t make a joke about aim unless you want me to fucking aim somewhere, idiot. Two—Cyclops?”

“The one eyed mythological creature, not from X-men,” Gary drawled, before shoving me down on the bed.

“Who the hell—” My head practically bounced against the wall. “Fuck!” I howled.

Shhh,” Gary scolded, straddling me. “Weren’t you just telling me to be quiet?” He leaned down and trailed his tongue along my neck. It wasn’t possible for my dick to jump anymore, if only because it couldn’t get much harder. I arched into him, and it took whatever remaining brain cells I had not to thrust against him. He looked down, and then glanced up at me with a smirk. “At least my talking won’t alert the orderlies, Mr. Hopkins.”

His hand reached down underneath my boxers, and yeah, apparently I could get harder. “Fuck…” This time the word was practically hissed. He looked pleased with himself.

Fine, if he was going to make this about breaking my brain, the least I could do was return the favor. I moved his hand just long enough to be able to flip us both over with injuring myself. He seemed a bit surprised…even more so when I reached down to his pants. “Off,” I grunted.

“No.” He was grinning.

“Off.”

No. I like having on more clothes than you.” Fucking freak. He said it like it was a power thing. Which, knowing him, it probably was. So I stopped everything that I was doing and just sat there, straddling him. He raised an eyebrow. “Please tell me you’re joking, James.”

I matched the eyebrow raise. “Do I look like I’m kidding, Gary?” He sat as much as he could and crushed his lips against mine. For some reason it reminded me of us up on the roof of the school, and that in itself shouldn’t have made this more interesting. I pulled away first, my hands going back down to the band of his pants. “Off. 

He looked displeased for a moment, but then that familiar little evil-but-thoughtful bullshit look showed up. He sat up completely, which, uncomfortably, left me practically sitting in his lap. He placed a hand on the small of my back, teasingly trailing his fingers up my spine and hitting every nerve he possibly could.

“Do me the favor of letting me keep my pants on, and I’ll do you a favor.”

“What kind of a favor?” I squinted my eyes at him suspiciously, moving back off of him. If I hadn’t been so horny, I probably would have been bothered by being in nothing but my boxers.

Gary smiled slowly. “Come sit down, and I’ll tell you.”

I was almost hesitant, but then I remembered that Gary was just as turned on as I was, and so not even he would be dumb enough to fuck this up for himself. I sat on the bed, and as soon as I did, Gary stood up.

And then dropped down.

And then…

Then Gary fucking Smith started blowing me.

Now, it wasn’t my first blowjob. It wasn’t even my second or third. But there’s getting blown, and then there’s having someone blow you whose only interest in life is wagging their fucking tongue. Now, maybe it was the fact that Gary made a daily practice of tonguing his meds, but he sure as hell knew how to wrap his tongue around, well, me. And he was doing it like he’d planned the assault on my dick for about as long as he’d planned his assault on Bullworth, and with the same attention to detail.

Did I mention that it got him to shut the fuck up?

I was thanking God that Gary’s bed wasn’t that big, so that I could slump back without looking like I’d lost my spinal cord—which I had—or that my brain could only form the words fuck, more, and Jesus FUCKING hell do that again—which was true—or that my pelvis hadn’t learned to move on its one—which it did. I think I was moaning, but my mind was pretty much wiped of all coherent workings.

Had Gary done this before? Who the fuck had it been? Did I care enough to distract myself?

No clue. Dunno. Not at fucking all.

It was the longest stretch of silence that I’d had in Gary’s presence since I’d met him. I knew he loved the sound of his own voice, I just hadn’t known the best way to get him to stop using it, and I wasn’t even going to risk any sort of ‘move this way’ type comments in case he caved into an urge to make a response and I killed the moment for myself.

And huh. Gary didn’t have a fucking gag reflex. Of course Gary didn’t have a gag reflex. That’d be embarrassing for him. That’d probably be more embarrassing for him than the whole institutionalized bit.

Well, he might not have gagged on it, but considering how fucking hard I was bucking into his mouth, he most definitely choked a couple of times. That didn’t seem to bother him all that much, since each time, he just paused to take a breath and went right back to sucking me off.

Really, this was how he should have tried to take over the school. Just line ‘em up and if he could keep up this pace up, he’d have most of them doing whatever he wanted. Honestly, I was surprised he didn’t stop to ask me for something, since I couldn’t really guarantee that’d my brain would be the one answering.

I came hard into his mouth, my entire fucking body shuddering from it. I nearly had to bite my tongue in order not to be so loud as to get the attention of the entire asylum. Gary didn’t move, he just took it.

And then spit it out.

And hit my fucking socks.

My socks.

“What the fuck, man!” I snapped at him. Gary would wreck this shit by spitting on me, wouldn’t he…I yanked my sock off and hurled it at him.

Gary grimaced, peeling the sock off his chest. “You didn’t think I was going to swallow, did you Jimmy?” He reached out for his shirt and used it to wipe off his chest. “You can’t be serious.”

Serious?” I pulled off my other sock, since there was no way in hell I was going to walk around with just one sock. “Are you serious? Gary, you spit cum on my foot.”

“It was yours,” He pointed out with a shrug. “And you got off, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about.”

I stared at him in disbelief for a long time. Maybe a whole minute. Then I started to laugh. Eventually, he joined in too.

And there we were, half naked, laughing in a mental hospital. It wasn’t as bad as I would have thought.

Chapter Text

In spite of myself, I felt a whole lot better after leaving Gary's room that night. I wasn't as tense as I had been, and even though I still didn't really know where I stood with him, it didn't feel like that was a problem anymore. And hey, how many people could say that they'd gotten a blowjob from the Bullworth psychopath. Not many, I figured, so that was actually a point in his favor. I wasn't delusional enough to believe that he was 'better', or that I would be anywhere near as comfortable with him if he were in Bullworth instead of Happy Volts. I knew exactly who Gary Smith was: a slimeball, a weasel. A psycho who tortured everyone around him.

Of course, depending on who you asked at school, Petey included, I was a psycho who liked beating up on people. And really, I couldn't deny that, because, well, fighting was fun as long as there was a good enough reason for it. Gary's half-assed plans had been sort of fun. I couldn't lie and pretend that I hadn't enjoyed sticking it to everybody. And, to be weirdly honest, I wouldn't have done most of it if not for Gary.

Dammit, I realized it had been a long time since I'd been in a good fight. Well, since every minute with Gary felt like a fight, that was another unfortunate check in the pro-Gary column.

I hadn't even know there iwas/i a pro-Gary column. Hooking up with a guy really changed my perspective on a guy, apparently.

Now I had a problem though. Psychological Evaluations.

How the fuck was I supposed to pass a psych eval while having oral sex with Gary Smith?

I could lie, yeah, but that wasn't going to work for two reasons. One, I'm a shit liar. I've never been good at it. I never had the energy to keep up with a lie, I guess, because I always end up contradicting myself, or sounding like a 'tard and going "…uh…" at some point and giving it all away. Two, I was pretty sure that nurses and doctors that do those tests could at least notice that something was clearly broken in my brain.

So I was wandering around the hallways outside of Crabblesnitch's office, waiting for my appointment with the shrink. Wondering what I would say: "Yeah, I don't need an evaluation. Why not? I'm fucking Gary Smith, that's why. So I'm definitely already crazy. Didn't need a test to tell me that."

Somebody else had already told me how crazy I was and that person was currently stepping out of Crabblesnitch's office.

"Hey, Jimmy." Petey waved at me, his head lowered as he made his way toward me. He looked like he didn't expect me to say hi back. I didn't think I'd ever been that petty with him.

"Yo." That sounded like I wasn't being an asshole that was giving him the silent treatment. Petey started to walk away, going down the steps, and I cursed under my breath. Petey had been a pretty decent friend, and this was a little more than lame. I turned, leaning over the railing. "Hey, wait a minute, Petey."

Petey stopped, looking up from the steps. "What's up?"

I didn't have anything to say, I realized. I just didn't want him to walk away feeling rejected. So we stood there awkwardly for a minute, while at least two people pushed past Petey. I sighed. "What are you doing right now?"

Petey shrugged. "Not much. Why?"

I was grasping at straws…what did I need to do that could be done with Petey? "Halloween costumes." Petey grimaced; I imagined that, having hung out with Gary, he hadn't had many fun Halloweens. "I need one. Zoë wants me to take her to the Halloween party, and she's going as Robin Hood. So I need something really cool. And you could look for something too."

Petey blinked, frowning. "And you want to go get one now?"

"Yeah. Why not?"

"…um, you're next up for the evaluations," Petey pointed out.

I looked over my shoulder into the office, where I could make out Ms. Danvers talking to Crabblesnitch. I shook my head. "Fuck 'em. Don't feel like getting shrunk right now. I'll go later." It hadn't taken me long after untying Crabblesnitch to realize that, while Danvers still didn't like me, Crabblesnitch would pretty much let me get away with anything I wanted. I was going to take advantage of it until he changed his mind.

Petey sighed, resigned. Then, while I walked down the steps to actually walk with him, he smiled slightly. "Okay, sounds like fun. We can take our bikes into town."

It didn't take very long for us to get to the costume shop. I wondered to myself if this was where Gary had gotten our costumes. I got my answer pretty quickly, when Petey pointed out a Dorothy costume and said, "Gary made me wear that two years ago."

I tried to imagine it. "So the bunny was an improvement?"

Petey nodded. "A huge one."

I glanced at the price tag for the costume, out of curiosity, and whistled. "Damn…so how long had he…dressed you?" I thought about what I just said, and laughed.

Petey chuckled too. It was weird. While he bashed Gary for what he did to the school, I don't think I'd ever heard him mope about the stuff that Gary did to him, personally. It was like he wasn't all that bothered by it or something. "Three years. When I was thirteen, he decided that I should be Raggedy Ann, 'cause of my curly hair. I was miserable."

"How'd he get you to do it? I would have killed him."

He looked at me as if I was insane. "I'm not you." That was for damned sure. He sighed, shrugging. "He just talked and pushed me around until I did it." There was a long awkward pause. "How…is…you know…"

I opened my mouth to answer. I had an answer to that that I'd planned on the bike ride over. Casually saying something along the lines of how he was alright, he didn't appear to be planning to escape, but he did seem pretty determined to perfect the art of deep-throating his sworn enemies. It was funny, funny enough where it might have masked the weirdness of the issue itself.

But then two things happened which I really wished I hadn't seen.

Two people walked out of the dressing rooms to look in the mirrors. From the women's dressing room, Beatrice walked out, dressed up in the costume I vaguely remembered her mentioning. There were few things more nauseating than Beatrice in a 'sexy' toga. I'd looked up Helen of Troy, after Lola had called herself that once and said that meant I should fight over her or something. Nothing about that particular sight said 'most beautiful woman of the second girl's dorm room from the door', let alone 'most beautiful woman in the world'. That wasn't what made me crack up hysterically, and it sure as hell wasn't the thing that made Petey choke.

"What. The. Hell?" It was the closest Petey had ever gotten to cursing, and if seeing Trent in a trashy go-go dress and long blonde wig couldn't make him curse, nothing would.

It sure made me curse. "What the fuck," I said at the same time as Petey spoke, laughing. I clutched my stomach, I was laughing so hard. Everyone knew Trent was a raging homo. He loved shocking people with it at every given opportunity. He liked laughing at his friends when they were made uncomfortable by the fact that he would pretty much make out with anyone with a dick and a mildly attractive face. The problem, though, was that Trent was no small guy, and there was nothing about him or the way the dress and wig fit him that said feminine. It all said train wreck, like Russell trying to write poetry.

Like me trying to write poetry, for that matter.

Beatrice 'eeped' and then went back in her dressing room like a scared rabbit. Trent's head turned when he saw us. "Like what you see?" he asked, eyebrow raised challengingly. Daring us to tell him what we actually thought about his dumbass get-up. I kind of wanted to. It wasn't that often that I got to tell Trent that purple wasn't his fucking color.

"Not in the slightest," I told him. Trent shrugged, as if somehow iI/i was missing out on something. Really, I was pretty sure that I wasn't. "Please tell me that's for the Halloween party."

"No, it's for my date with your mom tomorrow night," Trent retorted, rolling his eyes. "What do you think?" I glanced over at Petey, who shrugged. Trent snorted. "You guys are fucking lame. I look good. My date's gonna flip."

I frowned. "Who's your date?" I didn't know that Trent had a date. Or dated.

"Who do you think?"

I didn't know, but Petey seemed to. "But Kirby thinks he's in the closet." Kirby? Trent was dating Kirby? That would explain why Kirby ran whenever I got too close to standing near the pair.

Trent nodded with a grin. "I know."

"Is he coming out at the party?"

"He doesn't plan to." Trent took off the wig and scratched his head. That was worse than the costume without the wig. Infinitely worse. I felt queasy. "Not that I know about anyway."

Petey's eyebrows shot up. "Does he—does he know that you're his date?"

Trent's grin widened. "Not yet he doesn't. It's time that he owns up to his shit and deals with the fact that he likes it up the ass." Well, at least Trent knew what he wanted. That was the best I could say.

Then he frowned. "This costume's missing something. I've got the white boots at home-" I didn't want to know that they made white go-go boots in his size, "- and the bangles I stole from my mother." Great. Trent wore his mother's jewelry when he wanted to dress up. Things that would keep me up at night—not that I didn't have enough of those right now already.

"Stuffing the bra," I said automatically. Petey turned to me in horror for suggesting it, elbowing me. I snickered.

Trent shook his head. "Nah, I know that. I mean something else…"

"Make-up?" I suggested. Petey decided to bury his embarrassment by searching through the costume racks.

Trent nodded. "Maybe, maybe." He started going back into the dressing room. As soon as he closed the curtain, Beatrice fled out of the women's one, clutching her costume as if for dear life and hiding at the accessories' wall. "You think I could get Mandy to do it if I paid her?" He tossed the dress over the curtain bar of the dressing room.

I pulled out a prison costume, and then a priest costume. Held them both up for Petey to look at. "I don't know, probably," I answered, while Petey shook his head at both of costumes.

"A purse!" Trent suddenly said after a few minutes. "That's what I need. I'll steal my mom's."

"Okay…good for you," I glanced at Petey, rolling my eyes as I put the costumes back. "You do that." Trent left the changing room, costume in hand and heading towards the cashier. "Later." He nodded goodbye distractedly, intent on finishing his purchase.

As soon as he was gone, I snickered again, shaking my head. I think I felt horrified. Or ashamed. Or amused. I wasn't sure. At least Trent seemed happy with his shit. "Things that I--"

"—didn't need to see," Petey finished, nodding in agreement. Then he scowled. "I don't know how to do this."

"Buy a costume?" I stared at Petey. He turned red, and nodded. "Didn't you at least pick your costumes before Gary did?"

"My mom did." He took in my expression and added, defensively. "I was twelve." He frowned and looked down at his feet, fidgeting. "I wouldn't even be going if Crabblesnitch hadn't said that the Head Boy had to come." I felt a little bad. Petey didn't seem to enjoy the attention that being Head Boy got him nearly as much as I had thought he would.

I tried to cheer him up. "I could get you Trent's costume in pink." Petey made a disgusted face and shook his head no. "Look, you want me to find you something?" Petey looked hesitant, but then shrugged, moving out of the way of the rack so I could look at what he'd been looking at. "While I do this, look for something that would look cool with Robin Hood."

"Maid Marion?" Petey suggested.

I glared at him. "Zoë already suggested that, so thanks, but no." I grabbed a cop costume and a gangster costume, both in sizes small enough that I thought that Petey would be able to fit them. Tossed them both over to Petey, and, surprisingly enough, Petey was ready to toss me a ninja costume already. "You picked that one out quickly."

"I'm not cool enough to be a ninja. You are." I checked the costume. It was my size, but I wasn't really excited about being a ninja. Not when I could name at least two nerds who were probably going to do the same. "You want me to try these on?"

I nodded. "Sure, why not? See which one you like best."

Petey went into the dressing room. Unfortunately, as soon as he did, he brought up the same topic that Trent had distracted us from in the first place. "So, you didn't say how he was. Is he doing all right?"

I was quiet for a moment. Then I shrugged. Remembering he couldn't see it, I added, "Yeah. He's okay. Eating and everything."

"Still psycho?"

"Yup. But less hostile." I paused. "Most of the time. When he is, I think he likes being hostile. He's weird." Really, really weird. Trent levels of weird. Weirder than Trent. "Think he…he's attracted to me. In a homo sort of way."

An even longer pause, followed Petey sticking his head out of the dressing room, clutching the curtain closed. "What?"

I laid the ninja costume on top of the rack. I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to look as if this wasn't a big thing. As if that fact hadn't led to me feeling up on Gary in an insane asylum. Like this shit happened all the time. "Yeah."

"Gary?" he hissed. "But he wanted to kill you."

"Think he still wants to."

"Well." Petey considered this. "That does sound like Gary." Then he narrowed his eyes at me. "What did you say to him?"

"When? Which time? Unfortunately, we talk a lot."

"You talk a lot because you sneak in and see him, so you can't pretend like you don't sort of like it," Petey pointed out. I don't know why Petey was one of the few people in Bullworth with the balls to point out problems with my logic, but I could always count on him to do it. "I dunno, whenever he said he was interested. What, does he want to date you?"

I shook my head. "Don't think so. Didn't say anything about that. Just that, you know, he was kind of obsessed and hated me, and that was kind of like sex." Funny, how things sounded more reasonable when Gary said them. That was one of the many problems with life, in general.

One day, Gary would tell me dingoes ate the baby that he'd carried for nine months after Russell knocked him up, and someone would believe that shit.

Petey stared at me for a moment longer before his head popped back into the dressing room. "And what'd you say to that?" He sounded less shocked now, but something besides being in the curtain muffling his voice. He sounded a little upset, but I got that. He wasn't there, and so with the information that he had, I could see how this all sounded traumatic. Fuck, with the information I had, I could see how this all sounded traumatic.

"I left." I figured, for the sake of total disclosure, I should add, "After he kissed me."

Petey's head popped out of the dressing room again, this time moving so fast that the cop hat that he'd put on fell off his head. "He kissed you? On the lips?"

"Yeah." Again, just so that I was upfront about everything, "And then I went back." I bent down and picked up the hat, holding it out to Petey.

Petey didn't take it. He just stared at me, his mouth dropped open for a moment. I put the hat back on his head. That seemed to wake him up enough for him to say, "Why? When? What?"

"Dunno. Last weekend, after my date with Zoë."

"And what happened?"

Honesty was a bitch, because there was no good way to say what happened next. So I took a deep breath, and just gave him an answer. "I kissed him." Petey turned pale. "Then we made out." Paler. "Then he gave me a blowjob." Petey ducked back into the changing room. "Hello? You still there?"

"Yes…" he mumbled. I could hear him take his own deep breath. He stepped out of the room, dressed in the cop costume. "I don't like this one. Maybe the other one." I nodded. As soon as he stepped back inside, he spoke again. "And you stayed for all of that?"

"No, he gave me a blowjob after I left. It was a spiritual one." Petey didn't answer. He did toss the cop costume at me, harder than I thought he could. "Yeah, I stayed. Then we sat for a little while and then I came back to Bullworth."

"This is great," Petey groaned. "Just great. I knew something would happen. I just knew something—I didn't know that you'd go and have sex with him—"

"—we didn't have sex." This was an important part of the scenario. "There was no sex."

"You might as well have!" Petey argued. "It's Gary Smith—then again, he's the only person nearly half as crazy as you are—"

"—I am not crazier than—"

"—you are when you start having sex with—"

"—I am not having—"

Petey stepped out, in the gangster costume, holding his arms out and turning so that I can see it. I nodded, and he walked over to the mirror. "So, what, are you guys dating now? Are you going to go back? What's going to happen when Zoë finds out? And this one's better."

"No. Probably. If she does, she'll eat my balls for breakfast, so we don't let her know. Not yet, anyway. And you're right, this one's pretty cool. I think you should get it."

Petey damn near cringed at the word 'cool'. He shook his head. "Grab that prisoner costume for me, will you? It's more appropriate for Bullworth and my life." I snorted in amusement and went to get it while Petey went back into the changing room. "Why are you going back?"

"I don't know," I admitted while handing him the costume. He handed me the other two costumes, and I hung them back up. "I want to. I'm not…I still don't like him."

"But the sex is good."

"It's not sex."

" 'Kay, Bill."

"Bill?"

Petey stuck his head out again. "Clinton? Our old president. How do you not get that reference?"

"Um…I'm sixteen and don't care?" I answered. Petey rolled his eyes and went back inside. "But yeah. I mean…Bullworth gets boring…and as much as I hate to admit it—"

"—Gary's not boring," Petey finished for me. I grunted in response. "I know. Everyone knows that. I can see that, I just…" He trailed off, and finished changing into the costume. He stepped out. "What do you think?"

I shrugged. "It's all right. I like the other one better."

"Of course you do. The subtlety is lost on you," Petey grumbled. He trudged over to the mirror and looked at it. He adjusted the little prisoner hat. "It needs more shackles."

"Okay…" Didn't have any clue what he was going on about. "But I thought I should tell you. About the Gary stuff."

Petey sighed and turned to face me. He looked tired. "Look, it's not that you're talking to Gary. I kind of…sort of, a little bit, miss him. He was one of my only friends, you being the other one. And as shitty as he treated me, I liked him. The only reason I haven't gone to see him is because I know he could pretty much make me do anything if I sit with him long enough, and I didn't want to take that risk. But you…"

He shrugged. "You can probably hold your own with him. That's good. But Gary can't be trusted. I only survived being his friend so long because I assumed that. And even if he doesn't look like he's plotting, he is. And it just…it's weird, okay? You're you, and he's Gary—even if I could see the attraction between you two, and I sort of can—"

"Really?" I didn't.

"You're the only person who can keep up with him, and he's the only person who can screw with you," Petey replied, almost dismissing the point. "You're my friend. And I kind of like Bullworth calm. So sleeping with Gary? That's drama. And I don't like it."

He chuckled, but he didn't sound amused. He shook his head. "Not like I could get you to stop anything that you wanted to do, no matter how stupid it was." He pulled the hat off his head. "I'm getting this costume."

I wasn't sure what to say. So I said the only thing that came to mind. "I'll get it. It's a present."

He tried smiling. "Thanks."

Chapter Text

An Interlude: Petey

I hate Happy Volts. I really, really hate Happy Volts.

It was the first time I'd ever been there, and already it creeped me out. The grounds reminded me of a graveyard, and the inside looked like it was designed to make people crazy, not to help people get better. The thought that Gary spent all his time in this place made my stomach twist; this wasn't what he needed All he needed was his medication and some time away.

And to be far, far away from Jimmy, but now that wasn't going to happen, no matter how much it made sense for either of them. I knew that they didn't believe me, but I knew that they weren't necessarily good for each other. Gary indulged his craziness with Jimmy, and Jimmy got to act like a beast around Gary.

I like Jimmy, I do. He's got this thing where he's surprisingly charming, just usually seems to know the right thing to say to get someone to respect him, or befriend him. I'm a little jealous of it, actually, have been since I met him. But with Gary…Jimmy would always get quieter around Gary, just barking out the fact that he was annoyed with Gary or something before silently following Gary to the next prank or fight. All while Gary looked on with a smile.

I knew what Gary was getting out of him then. I didn't know what Gary was getting out of him now, and that was why I was here at all.

Visiting hours at Happy Volts were apparently depressing. There were a couple of visitors, all sort of floating aimlessly as they threw quick nervous looks at everyone, patient and nurse alike. As if they thought that the nurses were going to go crazy too. Which I understood, because I kind of got that feeling too.

I was sitting on a bench by the main desk, toying with the pack of gum that I'd brought for Gary. It had just felt as if I needed to bring him something, like an offering. I know that I was a bit over dramatic about this; he wasn't Lucky Luciano or some other powerful mafia boss in jail. He was a sixteen year old in a mental hospital.

A sixteen year old who had the power to completely turn everything, and everyone, around him just as insane as he was. I brought an offering with me because I was scared to see him without bringing him a gift, even if it was this pathetic pack of gum.

Which I knew was his favorite because he used to make me go into town to get it all the time. It was a present, but it at least looked like I hadn't put that much thought into it.

Yeah, I'd put that much thought into it.

"Hey Petey!" I jumped at the sound of Beatrice's voice so close to me. She was smiling widely—fortunately her cold sores weren't so bad right now—and she sat right down on the waiting room couch next to me. I quickly hide the gum in my fist, in case she noticed it. Not that she'd know what the hell it was for, but she might ask for some, and I couldn't give Gary an open pack of gum. "Are you taking your psych eval too?"

I blinked before nodding. "Oh, yeah. Psych Eval." No, I'm here to see Gary to demand to know—to ask pitiably about—why he needed to go and have sex with Jimmy. "That."

If Beatrice noticed that I was lying through my teeth, she didn't react. Instead, she continued smiling. She had her notebook with her, clutching it to her chest. She always had that thing. Not even I thought that I needed to carry my class work to a mental hospital. "I'm really intrigued by all of this. If I wasn't going to win the Nobel Peace Prize as a medical doctor, I'd want to study psychology—it's all so fascinating! Peering into people's minds and understanding it so well…"

"Yeah…" I'd lost my stomach for that sort of thing, if only because there was only one person I knew who understood how people's brains worked, and like I'd said before, he was a sixteen year old crazy person. "It's pretty nifty."

She giggled. "I know, right?"

I shook my head. I didn't say 'yeah' again, but only because I didn't want to encourage her talking to me right now. I was there at Volts and all, but I still wasn't mentally prepared to see Gary. After a few seconds, she seemed to notice that I wasn't really in a talkative mood, and she opened her notebook and began to study. It was perfect timing, because the nurse motioned for me to follow through the double doors into the visiting area.

Gary was already draped over a worn but comfy armchair near the corner of the room, tapping out a little beat on the arms of the chair. I nodded at the nurse and assured him that there wasn't any need to have a guard hovering over them. Gary had never really hurt me, just tossed me around once and awhile, and I doubted that Gary was going to start now.

Anyway, I really didn't want to get Jimmy in trouble when a nurse overheard that Gary had a guest every night. Jimmy hadn't hit him yet, but he wasn't going to give Jimmy a perfectly legitimate excuse to start.

Gary glanced up at me, and for half a second he looked surprised. Then he smiled at me. "Femme-boy, long time no see. I was starting to get worried that you'd gotten lost between the cushions in a couch somewhere."

I sat down across from him. The insult was his way of saying that he missed me. He used to spend the first three hours of the first day back at school insulting me. Ceaselessly. I used to cry about it, but then I realized that he liked when I cried. "Hey, Gary…how are you?"

Gary shrugged. "Pretty good. Having a pretty decent time recently."

"I know all about it," I stated. He raised his eyebrow. "Jimmy told me all about it."

Gary's smile grew by about a thousand watts. "Really, now? And what has little Hopkins said about me?" I resisted the urge to roll my eyes as Gary leaned forward, resting his elbows on his legs. "No, I'm serious. What do you think you know about me right now, Petey?"

"You know, I know you better than you think I do," I pointed out. Gary looked unimpressed. "I do! I've known you for years, and it's not like I haven't learned anything about you in all that time."

"Aside from how to give me the perfect bl—"

I flushed. I could feel the heat of embarrassment spreading across my face, and I cursed internally. That's what Gary was going for, and for some reason, I was really bad at giving Gary anything other than exactly what he wanted from me. "No! That's not what I'm talking about, and you know it! I'm talking about what you're doing with Jimmy!"

"Which," he drawled, "has a lot to do with giving the perfect blowjob."

I took a deep breath. "Why? Why Jimmy? What are you trying to pull, huh?"

Gary shook his head and laughed at me. "Patricia, are you trying to protect Hopkins? Because, let me tell you, he's actually quite the big boy." He paused, and then added, "It's fairly impressive, proportionately speaking."

"I'm not listening to that," I told him.

"You sure you don't want to? It might keep you busy on those long nights where clinging to your teddy bears isn't enough to satisfy you." He leaned in even closer. "Tell me, Petey, have you just been thinking about it since Jimmy told you? Has it been keeping you up at night, just like Jimmy's been keeping me-"

"Stop it!" I snapped. Gary blinked, taken aback for a moment. I inhaled deeply, calming down. "I'm serious, Gary. For once, just take me seriously, please. Jesus."

Gary tilted his head as he leaned back in the armchair, going back to looking like a king on his throne. Jimmy, Gary…I wondered if surrounding myself with their royalty made me the Fool. Probably. "Okay, I'll humor you for a second. What do you want to know?"

"I want to know why you're doing this with Jimmy. Why him? I thought you—I thought you hated him."

"And your point is…? You've never, ever, hated someone but wanted to fuck them?"

"No." I made a face.

"You sure about that, Petey, boy?" Gary lowered his voice to bedroom level, and it was enough to make my heart jump out of my chest. Out of worry and fear, though, and not for any of the reasons that Gary was trying to insinuate. I pressed my lips together in frustration. "Come on, princess, don't lose your sense of humor on me."

"You never thought I had a sense of humor," I pointed out.

Gary shrugged. "Besides the point." He started tapping the armchair again. "You want to know why Jimmy. Aside from the fact that he showed up."

"Yeah, I would." There was nothing on earth that would make me believe that Gary would have sex with Jimmy just because Jimmy was there. Gary was really particular about who and what got to touch him.

"He's fun as fuck. Dumb and strong and blunt as shit, but no matter how dumb he is, he's always got a smartass response."

"Maybe that's because he's not dumb," I suggested. I was still playing with the pack of gum, I realized. "Maybe that's because he beat you because he's smart, and clever and--"

"Get your mouth off his dick, Petey, there isn't room for the both of us," Gary groaned. "Jimmy's a dumb brick-headed maggot, but even dumb brick-headed maggots have their uses."

"What's he useful for now?"

"Entertainment."

"It's not just that…" I knew Gary, and this smelled wrong. Weird.

Gary sighed, looking to the side for a moment. He seemed annoyed. Good. I was irritating him. He deserved to be a little irritated. "Hopkins comes tumbling in like a boulder, and it's hard to keep the fact that there's a boulder in your path out of your head."

So Gary…couldn't stop thinking about Jimmy? "You're obsessed with him?"

"Not at the moment, no," Gary said. "Was obsessed with him last year. Then I had some time to breathe. Got over it."

I shook my head no. "Then why start hitting on him at all? It doesn't make any--"

"Are you jealous, Petey?" Gary interjected with a laugh. My eyes went wide and I shook my head quickly. His laugh grew louder. "You are, aren't you, you sick little thing, you."

"No, I'm not! I'm just worried because I don't trust you at all, Gary. You've got some sort of weird plan going on, and I want to know what it is!"

"You don't look good in green, Petey."

I opened my mouth to respond, and then clamped it shut, clenching my jaw. He was taking this the entirely wrong way. I didn't want either of them. I wanted my friends to be okay. And I'd completely and utterly given up on Gary ever being okay, so I'd settle for Jimmy not getting fucked over just because he wanted to get laid.

I took a moment before speaking. "I'm not jealous of you or him. I just want to make sure you don't play any games with him."

Gary slouched down in the chair lazily, cleaning the dirt under one of his nails. "You know why I never wanted anything from you Petey? At least not what I want from Jimmy, anyway."

I sighed deeply, ready for the verbal assault that I knew was coming. "No. Why?" He wasn't going to let me steer the conversation, so I'd let him rant until I could get what I was looking for.

"You're…you're like a fucking Chihuahua." Gary had always known just how to charm me. "A house pet. Already neutered and housetrained." He punctuated his words with flourishes of his hands. "Doing nothing but yipping in my ear all the time. It's annoying."

"I'm…sorry?" I wasn't. I hadn't done anything wrong. At least, I didn't think I did.

He stood up and started to walk back and forth. I didn't stand, but I followed him with my eyes. "Jimmy, though? Jimmy's a fucking rottie that's been in one too many street fights. That's fun. That's interesting. I mean, the best you do is shit on the floor if I lock you in a room for too long."

I told myself not to take it too seriously. Not to be just a little bit hurt, because I couldn't help but still consider Gary a friend of mine. I wouldn't let him twist the knife. I didn't come see him for that. "That's a lot of words. And you're still in here, in Happy Volts, so they don't really matter that much." I could convince myself of that, really I could.

He walked up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. I tensed as he leaned down to speak in my ear. "If I talk long enough, you'll be begging to be in here with me, old pal. And then I bet it'd matter a whole lot."

I pulled away, standing up. "You're sick. I'm not going to forget that. No one is." I wanted to tell him that I worried about him. All the time. That I worried about Jimmy. But, unlike Jimmy, I couldn't trust Gary with that sort of truth. I couldn't tell him that I missed him, or that I wish that the idea of him and Jimmy didn't scare me so much, because I'd love to be supportive and happy for them both.

"You sure about that? I could be out of here whenever I wanted, and you know that."

"Right," I snorted. "You're only in here because you want to be. That makes perfect sense." I crossed my arms over my chest, but only because the action made me feel like I could somehow protect myself from Gary's voice. "Yeah, you're not here 'cause Jimmy totally beat you or anything like that. It's all you."

Gary considered this for a long moment. "Jimmy's the one and only thing to surprise me in a long fucking time. He could get me in here, yeah, but I most definitely could get myself out…" He looked me up and down with a smirk. "Why so nervous looking, Petey? Like you said, I'm all trapped in here, right? No threat?"

I looked down at the floor, feeling defeated. He could always see right through me; hell, anyone could see straight through me. I held out the gum. "I got you gum." I vaguely remembered all the times that Gary had insisted that I go all the way into New Coventry for gum, even though he knew I'd get my ass kicked up there, because the markets in New Coventry sold the gum for ten cents cheaper than the market in Bullworth Vale.

Gary took the gum and unwrapped a piece, popping it into his mouth. "You're so sweet, Pete, thanks." I glared at the mocking tone in his voice. "No, really, I mean it. I haven't had gum in a little while."

"Why are you working him over like this?"

Gary snorted. "Working him over? What the hell are you talking about, Petey?"

"Shit, Gary," I said plaintively, "you say you could have everything in the world, and I pretty much believe you, even when you say you could get out of here whenever you wanted to." Gary grinned. "But you already worked him over once. Why do you have to do it again? Just leave him alone." I barely kept from begging him.

"Petey, Petey, Petey, maybe I just like the company."

"What, no one come and visit you?" I snapped it as an insult, but as soon as I did, I realized that might was an actual possibility. Gary's parents sure as hell wouldn't visit him; the shame would have meant they'd only show up if they thought he was about to leave Volts. Gary didn't hang out with anyone but me and Jimmy, and no one in school was about to come talk to him. So maybe…

Maybe Gary Smith was lonely. Weird.

"I like Jimmy's company." The answer was almost curt, and the smile dropped from his face. "He may not be a good conversationalist, but once you get him going…" The smile came back, "…he's a shitload of fun."

"But you don't need to rope him into coming back and seeing you."

"You're right, I don't. He does that all on his own." He shook his head again. "Petey, once I left, Jimmy got bored. Damn near as bored as I had been. You sure as hell aren't enough to keep his attention, and old Bullworth is on the straight and narrow without me…Give him a few months, and he'll be itching to turn that place as upside down as I did. Really, you should thank me, since I'm keeping him excited."

That was such complete bullshit. Jimmy wasn't Gary, and it was just wrong that Gary was talking about him like that. I saw the similarities, yeah, but I wasn't about to say that Jimmy would go off the deep end like Gary had. It wasn't possible. Jimmy was the anti-Gary, if anything.

"I'm not trying to keep his attention!"

"That's a good idea. It's pretty hard to fill my shoes." He sat on the edge of the armchair.

"I'm not trying to fill your--" I felt myself turning red again, swelling up with indignation. "Jesus, Gay, you're stuck here in a little gray box, and you have to stay here! You think you're special, that you're playing some great elaborate mind game with me right now, but you're not! You're just grasping at straws, while you're stuck here! I'm not, and Jimmy sure as hell isn't! He's not you, he'll never be you—he's better than you! Get a grip on reality! The most you're gonna get from him is a lay in your room, ever!" My voice was louder than I'd intended it, and I recoiled at its echo.

Gary was silent for a moment, and I worried that he was getting pissed at me. But then he started to clap slowly. "That—that was beautiful. A work of art, really. That must have been everything that you've been sitting on for quite some time, huh? Really, it was…wow. I'd even believe that you believed if it wasn't for two things, Petey."

"And what are they?" The loudness was gone, and replaced with shaky doubt.

"One, Jimmy comes here on his own, again and again, so I'd say I'm getting more than just sex. I'm getting his complete attention."

"And the second?" I couldn't argue that, and I didn't want to, if only because the thought bothered me so completely.

Gary held up the pack of gum. "You claim that I've got no power, but you still feel like you've got to get me presents."

I clenched my jaw again, balling my fists tightly. I didn't quite hate him, but I was getting to the point where I could learn to. "It was eighty-five cents!" I retorted. "It wasn't exactly outta my way, and besides, you're a prisoner. It's like I'm visiting the sick. Which I am, 'cause you're really sick. I meant everything I said. And I don't want you to make Jimmy sick too."

Gary waved this off dismissively. "The guy's a ticking time bomb. I don't need to make him sick, because he's already waiting to go off. And I know as well as you do that you spent a shitload of time thinking about what to get me. Probably wondered what would make you look too desperate too. Like a middle school girl wondering whether she should call after her first date."

"Jimmy's the best thing that ever happened to Bullworth," I answered stoutly. "And he's a hell of a lot better off in his head than you are. You're in here. We aren't. We won. You lost. So there. I guess I got the last laugh. Stupid little Petey got the last laugh."

"You're laughing?" Gary looked doubtful. "What exactly did you win, Petey? You're still little more than a girl with a little dick. You're stil crying to yourself because no one cares about little old Petey. You haven't won, and you sure as hell aren't laughing. The only thing that's changed is that you're trailing after Jimmy instead of me. And guess what? You're life is still revolving around me, because you're sitting around fretting like a housewife— 'oh, Jimmy, be careful'… 'oh, Jimmy, watch out!'… 'Garygarygarygary'."

Gary shook his head. "You say my name more than Jimmy does in bed."

I shook my head, trying not to cry. I had tried. I was still trying, but Gary wouldn't let me just talk to him like a normal person. Okay then, fine, he could have it his way. "I shouldn't have come to see you. I just…I felt bad for you. You lost everything, and all you've got now is the guy you hate the most, so I felt sorry for you and brought you some gum. You fucking suck."

I turned to go. Gary spoke. "Come now, Petey, don't cry on me…thought with these new balls you're pretending to grow, you'd be able to handle a bit of rough play."

I glanced at him over my shoulder. "Have fun in your little box." I grabbed the door handle. "Have fun in your straitjacket and with your medication. I'm glad you're gone." I was lying, but what else could I say?

"Wait a minute." I stopped. He couldn't be serious. I turned back to him, as he stood up. "Since you're here, you can do me a little favor."

"You're joking."

"No, I'm not." Gary pulled a folded piece of paper out of his shirt pocket. "I meant to give this little note to James before he left. Since you're here, you might as well drop it off for me."

I took the paper and opened it; he knew I'd read it, so I didn't feel weird about opening it in front of him. "What the hell is this?"

"It's my-"

"I know what it is," I snapped. I'd known him long enough to recognize what he'd written down. "I mean…why? Why does he need this?"

Gary raised an eyebrow. "Why do you think, moron?"

Right. Asshole. "Sure, I'll give it to him."

Gary petted me on the head. "Good boy."

I scowled at him. "Don't do that."

As I exited the room, I heard him say, "See you soon, buddy!"

Soon as the door was closed, I crumbled up the note and tossed it in the garbage. Fuck him.

Chapter Text

I'd forgotten how much Gary's personality filled a fucking room. I don't mean that in any sort of weird, romantic way or anything. I mean that he made a room shrink with the size of his ego and bullshit. That even a small room like the one I'd been visiting him in for the past month got even smaller when he was in it. That it fucking struggled to keep his whole personality in it at once.

A box in an asylum was even more claustrophobic when he was around, and I'd snuck in there for reasons other than visiting him.

Without Gary, an asylum cell stretched and grew. It didn't take all that many steps to pace from once side of the room to the other, but each of those steps felt like I was trying to walk the whole of New Coventry all of a sudden. If I spoke, I'd place money on my voice echoing now. Against the floor, against the walls, against the fucking sheets. Because now that Gary was missing from the room, there was too much space. It irritated me that he filled a room the way that he did, that he shaped a room around himself so fucking much. That now that he wasn't there, I could notice every fucking crack in the wall.

Gary Smith wasn't there. He was gone, he'd left, he'd been…

…released.

Gary Smith had been released from Happy Volts, and for some reason, no one had thought to tell me about it.

I mean, I wasn't a family member or anything, and I couldn't go up to the desk and say 'yeah, I'm currently fucking Gary Smith most nights of the week, you mind if you let me in on his every movement? Yeah, thanks.' I couldn't put a tracking thing on him like a tagged animal—something that I'd seen on one of Petey's Animal Planet watching nights.

But, I mean, I'd think…Crabblesnitch should have been alerted. Ms. Danvers. Petey. I should have been told, since he had a hard-on for…

…Okay, shitty, shitty pun. The point remained the same. If the guy who clearly was obsessed with me was let out of a mental hospital, shouldn't someone have told me? Shouldn't there have been a note in my mailbox, shouldn't I have been sent to Crabblesnitch's and informed?

No, apparently not. Apparently, not even Gary thought to let me know about something like that. And it didn't escape me that he'd probably known for weeks. That Gary may have known the entire time I'd been visiting him. That maybe he'd just been playing with my head before he got let loose on the world, all over again.

Not to queer out about this or anything, but I felt weird as hell. Fucked over. It was that disgusting feeling of being used, that feeling that I'd forgotten about when it came to Gary.

This was mainly my fault. I let myself get comfortable with Gary, with him being in a box. As if he couldn't talk his way out of it in the same way he talked his way out of everything in his life. Petey had warned me, I'd warned myself…

… Hell, from the beginning, Gary let me know he didn't give a fuck. So why had I fallen for all of that bullshit?

I knew he hadn't escaped, and that he'd been released. A quick sneak into the nurse's station had told me that much. The charts said that he'd been released in the morning.

I wonder what it had been like. Did he have to send an apology to the school? Did his parents show up to take him home?

Not like I knew shit about his parents. I didn't know anything about Gary Smith aside from the fact that he hated me, and that turned him on. Which should have been enough to tell me that I couldn't trust him. I'd even told myself that a million times over, but after awhile, I guess I'd forgotten what that meant.

I sat in his room for an hour, noticing how the bed was made. Neatly, but not with his usual military precision. I'd only noticed it for long enough to make fun of him. Gary clearly had to be bored, if that's what he was doing with his time.

I remembered saying that. His response had been to shove me off the bed, yank off the sheets, and show me how he could do it in record time.

He'd known then that he was going to be released, the little shit.

Slowly, I remembered what hating Gary felt like, and it took all my self-control not to punch the wall. Aside from hurting myself, I would have gotten the attention of the orderlies. And while that would have been the icing on the cake, in terms of how the evening was going, avoiding getting busted still made sense.

Bullworth was having a quiet night. A few prefects strolled the grounds. I settled down on the stairs outside of the boy's dorm, and threw a nod their way as they walked past. Crabblesnitch had essentially told them to give me a free pass, as long as I wasn't getting into trouble, and it was one of those nights that I was happy about that.

I really wished that I could sit there and drink, but even Crabblesnitch drew the line at that. All I had was a can of Beam Cola, and that didn't do shit except keep me up even longer than I needed to be.

Sitting there, I felt my stomach drop even lower than it already was. Who knew Gary wasn't in Volts anymore besides me? I really didn't want to be the one to share that piece of information with Petey. I felt retarded. Petey had told me to be careful, and I hadn't listened. I'd gotten comfortable with seeing Gary. With sleep with the sick bastard, and the whole time, he'd known he would be leaving any day now.

What could I do? I wasn't even supposed to know that he wasn't in Happy Volts anymore, so I couldn't pitch a fit without having to explain myself. And I was not in the mood to explain myself right now. To anyone. Not even to Petey—and if anyone deserved an explanation, it would be him.

I should have listened to the shrimp. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.

I was about to go inside and get some sleep when I saw Beatrice. I groaned. I didn't need her delusional ramblings about a romantic connection between the two of us, not at four in the morning. Especially not at four in the morning on one of the worst days of my life in recent memory.

She came over to me before I had a chance to get inside, holding her diary to her chest like it was something holy. If she didn't want it taken, she probably should have stopped taking it out of her room. As it stood, I wanted to take the thing and throw it off the pier.

If it wasn't for the fact that I was squarely against hitting girls, I would have wanted to throw it in her face.

"Hey, Beatrice." I couldn't even pretend to sound okay with life. I sounded exhausted, and I felt ridiculous. "Shouldn't you be sleeping or something?"

Beatrice stood at the bottom of the steps, looking excited as hell over something. I didn't want to even start thinking what there was to be excited about at four in the morning. "I saw you come in, and I wanted to talk to you. It's a matter of the utmost importance."

I sighed. "I'm not going to look for your class notes right now, Beatrice, I'm really not in the-"

"It's not about school work," she assured me. "But it is still something that is very, very important, and can inot/i wait until tomorrow." She paused. "Later today." She shook her head. "We have to talk about it right now."

I finished my Beam Cola and put the can down on the steps beside me. I glanced up at her. I wished, not for the first time, that not every girl in the damned school towered over me. Even stringy, awkward Beatrice stood above me, and it was uncomfortable as hell. Especially since I was already on edge, due to dumbfuck Gary Smith's disappearance.

"Okay. What's so important?" Unless she'd actually found the cure for cancer, today, I doubted I'd care all that much.

She sniffled, using one arm to wipe her nose. She always knew exactly what to do to make me want to barf in a bag. "It's about the Halloween Party this weekend. On Saturday." Like I didn't know when the party was. And I didn't see how this was at all important. "And I need an escort."

She was shitting me. She had to be shitting me. "And?"

"And you're going to take me." She was too damned sure of that for her own good.

I raised an eyebrow at her. I wasn't even thinking about the damned party right now. The party was the last thing on my mind, and here she was, acting like it was a life or death situation. And even if I cared about it, which I didn't, Beatrice was forgetting something important. "I'm going with Zoë."

Beatrice shook her head. "Oh, no…I mean, I can see how you could think that, I mean, that you and Zoë were going to be there together, but I have it on good authority that you'd much rather go with me instead."

I stood up, ready to turn and go back inside. "Why would you think that?"

I had my hand on the doorknob before she squeaked out her answer. "Because if you don't, I'll tell everyone where you go every night!"

What had I done to deserve any of this insanity? Right, I'd gotten a blowjob. Karma balanced itself out, right? I turned to face her, clenching the strap to my backpack tightly. I stared at her, at her look of complete smug satisfaction and pride, and I considered going back on my 'not hitting girls' rule. Instead, I walked down the steps to stand directly in front of her, and said the only thing I could.

"Say that again?"

She looked visibly shaken at the fact that I hadn't caved immediately, but I wanted to know exactly what she thought she knew before I flipped out over it. She took a deep breath before standing straighter. "If you don't go with me to the Halloween dance, I will be forced to tell everyone about how you go to Happy Volts every night, and, and…how you're having an illicit affair with Gary Smith."

I stared up into her eyes, ignoring the fact that I had to look at her cold sores on the way to her eyes. "And where the hell did you hear something like that, huh?"

Beatrice's hands damn near spasmed, she was holding her diary so tightly. "I have it on good authority-"

"Yeah, you said that," I dismissed. "What authority?"

Her eyes shot back and forth nervously. "If you could follow me, I would be happy to show you proof…"

Who the hell talked like that besides Beatrice? No one I knew. I grabbed her arm and dragged her behind the boys' dorm. She gasped, but I could care less about the shock factor right now. I dropped my bag on the ground and crossed my arms. "Okay, what's this fucking 'proof' that I'm doing something with Gary?"

"I overheard you and Peter Kowalski talking about Gary Smith while you were in the costume shop. Talking about explicit details." I must have twitched or paled or puked, because she looked like I gave something away in my reaction. "Very explicit. Quite--"

"—assuming you heard something, and I'm not saying you did," but she did, fucking hell, I'd forgotten she was in the store, fuck me fuck me fuck me, "Why would anyone believe any of this?"

She smiled proudly. I hated when she did that. "Because…I've got evidence, in Gary Smith's own handwriting, that you've been visiting him on a regular basis."

"No you don't."

"Yes I do!" She countered. "When I went to make up my psychological evaluation--"

"—how'd that go for you?" I interjected dryly.

She ignored me and continued, "—I overheard Peter Kowalski leaving a visit with Gary Smith." People had first and last names. She should have learned the difference a long time ago. And, also, when the fuck did Petey visit Gary? And why didn't he tell me? "And Peter Kowalski threw away a note that Gary Smith had intended to be delivered to you. I am currently in possession of said note, and if you do not escort me to the dance, I will make copies of it and hand it out to all of our fellow Bullworthians." She nodded, satisfied with this plan.

There was a note? Gary didn't write things down. If things were written down, he could be held to them. So I called her on it. "Bullshit."

"No! I'm quite serious. I could show you his signature," She started pulling something out of her diary. Of course she kept it in her diary. If only the security of that thing was as guaranteed as her virginity.

"No, no need," I assured her. As much as I wanted to doubt her, I didn't think that Beatrice was that devious and clever to think of something this ridiculous on her own. "So, what, I take you to this stupid dance, and you give me this note? How do I know you won't screw me over afterwards?"

She bristled at that. "You have my word!"

"The word of a blackmailer. Right."

"I swear! I double swear!" Beatrice looked fucking offended. Like I'd doubted her honor or something, when she was the one that was trying to fuck me over. "I will hand the note overat the dance. I will bring it with me, in a little purse attached to my costume…" Beatrice smiled shyly. "I'm going as Helen of Troy."

Bile rose as I remembered that costume. Great. Fucking great. Zoë was going as Robin Hood, at least. "And I get to see proof that you have it before we get to the dance."

She nodded excitedly. "Of course."

I willed myself to stop glaring at her. What choice did I have? Last thing I wanted was to have everyone find out that I was screwing around with Gary right after he'd been released. And I wanted to know what the hell she thought she was keeping from me.

Granted, the note probably said 'Ha, you dumb motherfucker, I got your ass', but I still needed to see it.

"Fine, okay, whatever," I spat out. "I'll go to the stupid event with you." She seemed delighted. How wonderful for her. "And then you give me the note, right?"

She nodded again. "Deal." I grimaced as I thought about my life for the rest of the week. Talking to Zoë, dealing with this Gary mess, talking to Petey…fuck. She squeezed her diary like it was a teddy bear. "Oh! This'll be so much fun, Jimmy! It'll be the best night ever!"

Was she fucking delusional? She was clearly just as insane as Gary. Maybe she should have been drugged up on his meds or something. "Yeah, of course, whatever. I've got to get some sleep."

"Night, Jimmy!" she trilled, turning on her heels to practically bounce back to the girls' dorm.

I stared at her before going back inside to my room.

Bitch.

Chapter Text

I thought that Zoë would at least have thrown something at my head, especially since I was telling her that I couldn't go to the dance with her the day of. Of course, then I remembered that wasn't her style. She prided herself on simply not giving a fuck, and so, when she didn't start cursing me out, I shouldn't have been so surprised.

All she did was sit up on my bed, moving my costume to the side, and start painting her toenails metallic blue. I'm serious. Zoë kicked her boots towards the door and started painting, while I sat at my desk, toying with a bag of snapper firecrackers. Nothing that would actually injure anybody, but they made enough of a noise for a laugh. If I'd been in more of a laughing mood.

"So, Beatrice fucking Trudeau, eh?" She looked up at me over her foot, which she'd propped up on a pillow. "Didn't know you were into infected nerds, but hey, if that's your thing now…"

I made a face at her, pulling one of the snappers out of the bag and throwing it on the ground. It made a loud popping noise that made Zoë jump a little. She glared at me, shaking her head. I was lucky I hadn't messed her up or made her spill her nail polish. "It's not my thing, Zo, you know that. I'm not interested in Beatrice." I paused, tossing another snapper towards my bookshelf. "She's a freak."

"I know that. Apparently she's not that freakish, since you're all up on the idea of taking her to the dance," Zoë retorted, not looking at me. She squinted her eyes as she worked on her little toe.

"No," I said, shaking my head. "She's that freakish. More freakish than you think." Zoë's face twisted in revulsion. I realized what she was thinking. "Oh, fuck that, no, I didn't…not with Beatrice. That's not what I meant." I examined one of the little snappers for a minute before flicking it towards the window. It popped on the frame.

Zoë finished one foot and looked up at me. "Then what did you mean, huh? Jesus fuck, you're making it sound as if she's blackmailing you or something."

I didn't respond, I just stared at her while she put the cap on her polish. She threw me a suspicious look, and then a doubtful one. Then she leaned back as she stared at me, as if she'd just smelled something disgusting. She crossed her arms.

"Oh jeez…you've gotta be kidding me!" Zoë let out a bark of laughter. "Beatrice Trudeau's got something on the big man, huh? What, she swear to tell everyone that you and her are dating?"

"Not exactly…" I mumbled. Zoë looked expectant. I sighed, putting the bag of snappers in my lap. "I really don't want to share, Zo, alright?"

She frowned at me. She hated when I didn't tell her shit. It was really the one annoying chick-thing that she did. She would ask what was going on, and if I didn't feel like talking, she got a bit pissy with me.

Funny, because Gary did that too. It was just as annoying when he did it.

"Fine," she said, starting to paint the toes on the other foot. "Whatever, have your little secrets."

I figured, with the majority of my life being an open-book for all of Bullworth, that having some secrets was okay. Even from Zoë. Hell, especially from Zoë, since she knew more about me than anyone else on campus, except maybe Petey. And I was justifying.

I could have told her then, maybe. I could have just sat her down and explained that Beatrice, through mishearing a whole lot of shit, was under the fucked up delusion that Gary and I were an item. Sure, that wasn't the truth, but it would have sounded a lot better than not telling her anything. I might have even gone through with saying that, if it wasn't for the fact that I didn't know what Gary wrote in the note. Gary was enough of a smartass to have written nothing more than "you owe me a blowjob" or some shit like that. And if Beatrice could show Zoë that, I was screwed, so I couldn't tell the truth.

If I told myself that enough times, shit, I might even believe it was that simple.

"So you're going as a ninja, huh?" Zoë sounded unimpressed. "That's so wild and crazy of you." She threw a look to her side, where my costume was still spread out. "You know that at least two fucking nerdlings are gonna come dressed in the same thing."

I rolled my eyes. "So? Since when do I care what anyone else is wearing?"

"You damn sure better care what I'm wearing," Zoë snorted.

"Of course I care what you're wearing. You're fabulous, amazing, precious-"

She laughed. "Shut up, you fucking homo!" Usually, when she flung that at me, it wasn't really all that funny. I wasn't offended, but it was a pretty boring insult, as far as that went. Today, though, with everything that was piling up on me, being called 'homo' was hysterically funny. She smiled at me, misunderstanding the source of my humor. "Weirdo."

"That's saying something, coming from you, Sir Robin of Locksley." She looked at me suspiciously. "Saw the movie Robin Hood once. Fell asleep halfway through it, since it was like three fucking hours long, but I got what the hell his name was."

"Double weirdo," she said decisively. She finished up her toes and glanced up at me. "You mind getting me a Beam from the vending machine?"

"No problem." Normally I'm at least a little aware of my surroundings. Or, at least, whatever's on me. For some reason, though, it slipped my mind that I had the pack of snappers still in my lap. When I stood up, though, I fucking remembered, since the thing fucking went off. Loud.

"Shit!" Both Zoë and I jumped. When Zoë jumped, though, she knocked over her bottle of nail polish.

Right onto my costume.

"Oh my god, Jimmy, I'm so fucking sorry!" She jumped up, immediately trying to clean up the mess. "It was just the fucking poppers—what the hell were you doing, letting that shit drop like that?"

All I could do was stare at the blue metallic puddle that was all over my costume. It figured. Of course this happened to me. "Fuck it, now I can tell Beatrice I can't go.

Zoë threw an incredulous look my way. "Please. You think that fucking stalker bitch will let you get away with that? Look, I'll find some way to clean this up, it'll be fine." She frowned. "Okay, maybe it won't, since my nail polish remover will wreck this fabric." She turned back to me. "We could head into town and get you another costume."

I shook my head. "There's no way in hell I'm spending more money on this party, Zoë. I don't think so. Not happening." I sat up on my desk. "I can't believe this. I don't fucking believe this!" I hit the top of my desk in frustration. I wasn't talking about the nail polish, not really. I was talking about Beatrice, I was talking about this party, but most importantly, I was talking about Gary Smith.

He always turned my life to shit, and I always let him do it. I was a fucking chump.

Zoë shook her head determinedly. "No, we'll just see what's in your closet, Jimmy. You've got some pretty butt-ugly clothes, we can scrounge you up something." Before I could comment, she had already flung open my wardrobe and was going through things. She pulled out an old Hawaiwan shirt, a baseball jersey, a bowling shirt, and then that ugly Christmas sweater from my mother. She paused for a long moment when she got to the back of my closet. "Uh, Jimmy?"

I jumped off the top of my desk and walked over. "Yeah, Zo?"

"Why don't you just wear this?" She pulled out a hanger from the very back of my closet, behind all my heavy winter gear. "This is perfect."

I stared at it. It had been a long time since I'd laid eyes on the skeleton costume that Gary had bought me last year. In the events of the past week, I'd forgotten that I even still had it. I just looked at it quietly for a minute. "I can't wear that."

"Why not?" she demanded. "It's a fucking awesome costume, and I'll do your makeup for it."

I shook my head. She hadn't been at Bullworth then, so she didn't realize that it was connected to the ridiculousness that was Smith. I tried to tell her that. "I don't have Halloween makeup." That wasn't what I meant to say.

"I do." Of course she did. I exhaled, shaking my head. She looked at me sternly, setting her jaw. "Look, unless you want Beatrice putting you on blast for whatever it is she's holding over your head, you need a costume for tonight. You've got one. Deal with it."

She had a point. A real fucking point. I shook my head again and took the hanger from her. "You're too good to me, Zoë."

Too fucking good.

***

Beatrice insisted on clinging to my arm when we entered the gymnasium. She was beaming, which managed to stretch her face into something even less pleasant to look at. She'd used make-up to cover her sores, but that didn't help all that much. Either she didn't wear make-up enough to know what the right shade was though, or she was trying to make herself look like she had a tan or something, because she sort of look burnt. That, plus the fact that her frizzy, greasy hair—how did she manage that—was out, instead of in its normal half up shit, made her look more like crap than usual.

I wished I could have worn the ninja getup, if only because then ritual suicide would have been in character. Instead, I just told myself that I was already dead, and this was hell.

Which meant that hell was a fuck of a lot more awkward than I would have imagined. Of course, cliques were off in their little corners. The Greasers were near the emergency exit, probably itching to pull the alarm. Russell and his boys were sitting on one end of the bleachers—although I didn't spot Trent and his costume just yet. Jocks were on the other end. The nerds were mostly hovering in a little corner being the mouth-breathers that they were, and the Preps had claimed the refreshments table. No one was dancing.

Probably because they were playing "The Monster Mash."

That pretty much cinched it for me. I was in Hell, I was already dead, and this was my punishment for letting Gary blow me. I'd wondered when I died. Maybe I'd been hit by a car on the way back from Happy Volts, and the devil, disguised as Beatrice, showed up to make me miserable. That scenario made about as much sense as everything else that was happening in my life.

She dragged me towards the nerd corner, trilling excitedly to everyone about how 'perfect' our date had been so far. And, of course, by perfect, she meant that I had shown up at her dorm, looking pissed, and she ignored it, reminding me that I had to show her a 'magnificent' time or else.

Really, I was starting to doubt that anything could be worse than this. I was at the point where everyone knowing that I was screwing around with Gary seemed like the more reasonable outcome.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Zoë walking in. Zoë had forced Petey to escort her, probably so they could stand on the side and mock me. Petey, dressed in his prisoner costume, looked over at me with a look of pity. He was at the dance with my girl, and he was still looking at me with pity.

"Did you see Pinky's costume?" Beatrice was saying. "She insists that it's an authentic costume from the set of My Fair Lady, but I doubt she would wear something like that to Bullworth. Anyway, she's nowhere near Audrey Hepburn's size. What do you think?"

"My Fair what?" I had no clue what she was talking about. She frowned at me. "What?" I glanced over to where Pinky stood, surgically attached to Derby's arm. She was dressed in this black and white high-necked dress, and she had a closed umbrella in her free hand. The costume didn't look comfortable, but, then again, the Preps never looked comfortable. More often than not, they looked constipated.

"You've never seen My Fair Lady?" Beatrice sounded scandalized. "It's only one of the best musicals ever!"

Musicals. Right. She was delusional enough to think that I watched musicals. "No." I didn't think that I needed to say much more. I slowly detached her arm from mine.

Her frown deepened, and she crossed arms. "Jimmy, this is supposed to be fun. If you're going to be miserable all night, I don't know how-"

"No, don't do that." Her delusion was only allowed to go so far. I lowered my voice so that only she could hear me. "That wasn't the deal. The deal was that I brought you here and stayed. That's it. Don't push it."

She looked hurt, but only for a moment. Then her hand went to the little pouch that she'd attached to the rope-belt of her costume. So that was where the note was, huh? Good to know, for when I got fed up, grabbed the thing, and ran. "The deal was for a date. If you're sulking and ignoring me, that's not a date."

"But I'm not interested in you, Beatrice," I hissed. "I can't pretend to be."

"I really think you should consider what you're saying a bit more carefully, Jimmy. I wanted a date." She bristled at my 'confession', as if it was the first time she was hearing it. If she didn't have dirt on me, I bet she would have been a whole lot less sure of herself.

Somewhere, under whatever dark and damp rock he'd surely crawled under, I knew Gary was laughing. Hell, maybe he'd managed to hand Beatrice the note himself. And that was a misery-inducing thought if I'd ever had one.

"I'm gonna get some punch," I announced suddenly. She blinked at the sudden change of topic. I just needed some air. Still, I wasn't stupid enough to just walk away. Through gritted teeth, I added, "You want something?"

Beatrice nodded approvingly. "Yes please."

Relieved to get away from her, I made my way towards the punch bowl. On the way, I caught Zoë's eye and motioned with my head for her to follow. Zoë elbowed Petey, and they both started moving towards the side of the refreshment table the Preps hadn't quite staked out. I started pouring myself a cup of punch while Zoë and Petey huddled in close.

"How's the party?" Zoë mocked with a raised eyebrow. I glared at her, and she chuckled, grabbing my punch cup and drinking it herself. "I'm sorry, it's just…she really thinks that this'll convince you to marry her, doesn't she?"

"I knew Beatrice had some problems, but…" Petey shook his head. The prisoner cap flopped a bit, and nearly fell off, but Zoë stuck a hand out and fixed it for him. "Thanks." He turned to me. "You didn't tell me what she had on you."

I hadn't had time to talk to Petey about it. I stared at him, eyes widening just enough to get him to think about what he'd just said. He opened his mouth to respond and then clamped it shut, paling. Yeah, he got it.

Zoë looked back and forth between the two of us. She rolled her eyes. "Oh, of course Petey knows. You boys and your fucking secrets are starting to get on my nerves." She definitely looked more pissed than she had been in the room. I cursed to myself, shaking my head at Petey. He had to ask just then, didn't he? I didn't drink that often—yet—but it was starting to look like a good way to deal with this shit.

"It's not about boys and their secrets," I argued, knowing damned well that was exactly what this crap was about. That was the only thing this was about, but the secret wasn't between me and Petey. "He found out. I didn't want him to." Petey looked down at the punch bowl, embarrassed.

Zoë shook her head. "Whatever. You do whatever you want, alright?"

"Zo--" I started.

She put her hand up to cut me off. I hated when she did that. "No. I don't want to hear a dumbass excuse." I poured Petey some punch and passed him the cup. He took it silently. "I hope the rest of your night with Beatrice is a fucking blast. I've gotta go to the bathroom." She put her half-empty cup on the refreshment table. "Petey, make sure none of these sleazes drug my drink."

She walked off. We stood in silence for a minute, before Petey spoke. "You know, she says that like she's hoping someone does it." I snorted in amusement, and drank the rest of her punch. Petey leaned in close to me, and asked, "How did she—Beatrice—find out? That doesn't make any sense."

"Heard us talking," I grunted, cup still in front of my mouth. "Costume shop."

Petey frowned and took off the prisoner hat. He twisted it with his hands nervously. "Jeez…I forgot she was even there. All I saw was Trent in that, that thing…" That was what happened with me. I couldn't really blame Petey. "Why didn't you just say that you'd tell everyone she was crazy?"

"She's got something that…" I grimaced, refilling the empy cup, "he wrote." Petey blanched. "Yeah, I know, exactly. I don't even know what the fuck was in the note, but she's got it and I'm screwed."

Petey swallowed. "Jesus Christ." His voice almost cracked.

"Tell me about it." I looked over where Beatrice stood, talking to Melvin. She looked at me expectantly. I pasted a bullshit smile on my face and waved. I hated her more than I hated Gary right now, and right now I was considering stringing Gary up by his toenails.

He picked at the top of his cup, looking as if he barely believed me. Which I got, because the more I said it out loud, the less believable it sounded. "Hey, Jimmy?"

"Yeah?" Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Derby and crew turn to look at the door. I turned to see what they were staring at.

"I've gotta tell you something-"

"Shhh…check this shit out."

I wanted to hear whatever Petey was going to say, but there was more important shit going on. Like Trent bursting in through the front door, in full drag, sporting a blonde wig and holding a purse. And heels. He was wearing fucking heels. "Oh boy," I whistled. Kirby was going to croak.

Especially after Trent hollered out, "Kirby, baby, where the fuck are you, you fucking queer?!"

Kirby, dressed in his football uniform, turned and turned bright fucking pink. I'd never seen a pink football player before, but watching Kirby brighten with color was fucking hysterical. So was watching Trent barrel through the gym, clearing a path of homosexuality that was bigger than the yellow brick road.

Everyone was either dead silent or laughing. I wasn't sure that Kirby thought it was all that funny, especially when Trent stopped in front of him, sticking a hip out and crossing his arms. "Well, sweet thing, why the fuck didn't you come and pick me up from the dorms?"

Petey nearly choked as he watched. I leaned back on the refreshment table and watched the newest train wreck to come through Bullworth.

Kirby started sputtering. "What the—Trent, you—what the fuck are you doing?"

No one was speaking up, but everyone was whispering to each other. Even Beatrice was done watching me suspiciously, her eyes trained on Kirby's nervousness.

"Doing here? You thought I was going to miss Halloween, baby? Are you out of your fucking mind?" Trent paused, then grinned. "Want to dance?"

"Dance?!" Kirby snapped back. "You fag, I oughta-"

Petey finally squeaked out a whisper to me. "Jimmy, I've gotta tell you something important. Now."

I didn't look away from Kirby and his girlfriend. "What is it, Petey? Jesus Christ. Can't it fucking wait?"

"No, it can't…" Petey insisted.

He didn't say anything more, so I elbowed him slightly. Kirby and Trent were still going back and forth—something about just how gay Kirby was, and that Trent wanted a date. Or something. "What is it Petey? Just spit that crap out." I wanted to get back to watching this shit with my full attention.

"I know where Beatrice got the note."

Okay, that distracted me completely. I turned to face Petey. "What? How the hell do you know that?"

Petey coughed, and then spent an awkward few seconds trying to clear his throat. "I went to see him. At the hospital."

"When the fuck did you do that? Why did you do that?"

"Because I wanted to know what he was getting at with you. I didn't understand, and so I went to visit him, and…" He trailed off, and I was getting sick of prodding. I glared at him. He flailed anxiously for a few seconds before finally speaking. "He handed me a note for you, Jimmy. And I got mad and tossed it out. Beatrice must have seen me, 'cause she was there for her psych eval--"

I couldn't help myself. I grabbed Petey by the front of his shirt. Nearly shook the tiny bastard. "You did what? On what fucking planet did that even make any sense, Pete?"

"I'm sorry!" Petey insisted. "I wasn't thinking. He got me so angry, and I just-"

I released him, taking a slow, deep breath. I was not going to hit Petey. I hadn't done it yet, and I certainly wasn't going to start right now. Even if this was shaping up to be the worst night of my life thus far. Even if it was worse than every time my mother swore she was getting married again to some rich or dumb asshole. Worse than every time Gary had screwed me over.

"Jimmy…"

"Not right fucking now, Pete." I was struggling just to breathe calmly. I felt nauseous and I was just trying to keep that damned punch down, let alone everything else that I'd eaten today. I started walking away.

"But what about Beatrice?" Petey called after me.

I stopped for a moment and considered it. "Fuck Beatrice. I don't care if she posts that shit on the walls right now. It's not like this shit could get worse."

I made a beeline towards the door, while Beatrice and everyone else was distracted by the spectacle of Kirby and Trent's almost existent love life. No one cared that I shoved half of the school out of my way in order to get out of the gym.

It was cold outside, but when I pushed open the doors, that didn't seem to matter so much. Everyone was inside, including most of the prefects, even though I passed a couple on the way from the gym. No one fucked with me, fortunately, because I felt so shitty, I might have punched a fucking prefect if he said anything to me right now.

All I could do in my frustration was kick the fountain. It didn't make me feel better, and it hurt, but fuck it all. I had been forced into ditching Zoë because Petey threw a fucking note that was meant for me in the trash can. Because Gary pissed him off. Probably because Gary made him cry or something dumb like that.

I couldn't believe Petey. It made me want to throw him in a fucking locker for a few days. That would probably feel better than kicking the fucking cement. I wanted to throttle the kid for being so stupid. For being so careless—

--but I'd been that careless too. I'd talked about Gary with Petey in public, and I had brought it up. I'd been that stupid when I let Gary speak to me in the first place. It was my idiocy that put me in this stupid situation, even if Beatrice's manipulation, Petey's stupidity, and Gary's Gary-ness had all contributed. I couldn't blame anyone.

Yeah, Gary'd kissed me, but I came back and kissed him a second time.

My rage deflated like that time I'd sat with Johnny, blowing up condoms and making noises with them. I dropped down to sit on the edge of the fountain. Bile was rising in my throat again. Beatrice had probably noticed I was gone by now. I wondered who she would tell first. Probably the other nerds. Maybe she'd just pass around the note. I didn't know, and as much as I tried not to care, it scared the shit out of me. And I couldn't even blame Gary.

It was both revolting and fascinating that he could turn my world so very upside down. This was twice that my life was pretty much determined by my connection with Gary. Even when I was sure things were cool, that asshole was always at the center of it falling apart. I didn't know how I'd gotten caught in it a second time.

There wasn't even anything I could do now, except maybe deny that I knew anything about what was going on. Gary was that fucked up, maybe I could get away with it, but Beatrice wasn't usually a liar, just crazy. And I wasn't a good liar anyway.

With an aggravated sigh, I stood up, ready to go back to the dorms. Maybe if I slept the night off, I'd be able to think of a solution in the morning. Or, if I was really lucky, I'd wake up from this nightmare. I didn't bank on shit like that, but the hope was a nice change.

Fortunately I got to the boy's dorm without running into any more prefects. I caught slow movement out of the corner of my eye as I passed under the archway. I didn't feel like talking. I made my way up the stairs.

"What's the problem? You worried about turning back into a troll at midnight?"

And I froze. Someone was fucking with me. God hated me. God was giving me a present. I couldn't tell which one it was. I didn't care. Slowly, I turned to face the bottom of the stairs. I tried to think of something smart to say, something clever and quick.

All that would come out, though, was, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't beat the ever-loving crap out of you."

I wasn't at all surprised when all Gary did was smirk.

Chapter Text

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't beat the ever-loving crap out of you."

Gary stood at the bottom of the steps, carrying a small duffel bag, looking as if he'd been watching me all night and laughing. Which, hell, maybe he had. Maybe he hadn't, and that was just the same smug expression he always wore. I couldn't tell anymore, because I was too busy figuring out whether I was relieved to see him, or if it was the last straw.

What I could process, though, was that Gary was dressed…normally. It was one of those strange moments where the least important thing was suddenly the only thing that I noticed. The fact that he was dressed in an oversized gray hooded sweatshirt and baggy, torn jeans was definitely the most bizarre thing to focus on, but it was safer than the complicated shit that was going through my head.

"Well?" I finally bit out, clenching my fists at my side.

"Well, well, aren't we in a pissy mood on this fine All Hallow's Eve," Gary taunted. He moseyed up the steps—yeah, he fucking moseyed—holding out his plastic bag for me to take. I didn't. "Now, I biked all the way from town to see you, Jimmy-boy, the least you can do is take my bags."

I stared at him, trying to read his facial expression. It was all smiles and smartassery, not telling me anything that I wanted or needed to, know. "Why are you here, Gary? And for once in your life, try not to feed me a load of crap."

Gary held out the bag for a few seconds longer before resting it on the top step. He sat down on the stone railing, crossing his arms over his chest. "Are you deaf, Hopkins? I could have sworn that I answered that one. I'm here to see you. You've visited me over a dozen times, I don't see why you're having a little girly fit when I come see you. I mean seriously, you're starting to sound like Pete or something."

Petey. The visit. "He went and saw you."

"Why, yes, I seem to recall something like that," Gary drawled sarcastically. "Yup, a skinny little twerp showed up during visiting hours. Sounds like him." I narrowed my eyes at him, taking a step forward. He raised his hands as if surrendering. "Calm down, Hopkins. Yeah, I saw Petey. Your point?"

"My point?" I exploded. "My point?"

Gary raised an eyebrow, looking unimpressed with the fact that I was sick of his bullshit. "Yes, your point. You do have one, I assume. You're not really prone to rambling on. You're not actually prone to any amount of extended conversation. You should learn better people skills, James." Again, like back at Volts, he said my name with this insulting quality to it. As if I should have been ashamed that my name was James.

"My point is that you should be back at Volts right now!" I snapped back at him. He didn't even flinch, the little fucker. Of course, the only person who didn't flinch when I yelled at them was the one person I wished would. Then again, hadn't I deluded myself into thinking that was the reason I enjoyed being around him? I had to learn to make up my mind when it came to Gary.

I'd get on that as soon as he stopped yanking me around.

"I fucking show up at Volts, and you've escaped-"

"I was released. Clean bill of health and a fresh bottle of pills."

Yeah, I knew that was the case, technically, but I knew as well as Gary did that he lied and manipulated his way out of there. "—and I'm standing there like a fucking ass. And it wasyour fault, just like everything else that's happening to me tonight!" I moved in and grabbed him by his sweatshirt, jerking him out of his seat slightly. I shook him. "I oughta fucking kill you!"

He was shaking now. Unfortunately, he started to shake because he was trying to hold in his laughter. Made me want to haul back and punch him in the mouth. "I made you look like an ass? Ever think you do that every time you wake up in the morning? And while I think it's sweet your life revolves around me, I do, I'd love to know exactly why you think it was my fault that your life's gone tits up?"

I yanked him up completely and shoved him against the door of the dormitory. He winced—finally, some reaction besides his goddamn smugness—when his back hit the door. "It's your fault that Zoë's pissed off at me. It's your fault that I'm probably going to end up killing Petey this week. It's your fucking fault that within twenty-four hours, the whole school is going to think that you and I are having some sort of dime story love affair, and it is your fault that I had to spend the night as Beatrice fucking Trudeau's date!"

Gary didn't even try to hold back his amusement then, slouching against the door as he cracked up. He held his stomach as he doubled over with laughter. "Beatrice Trudeau? Beatrice 'I think my chem notes are actually secretly coded messages from my true love' Trudeau? You went on a date with that freakette?"

"It's not fucking funny," I grumbled, taking a step back from him and turning away.

He kept chortling. "Wait, wait, wait, do you mean a real date, in person? Or, or did she make you act it out with her Barbie dolls? Little Ken doll Jimmy walking down the aisle with Skipper Trudeau, while Beatrice's precious teddy bear officiates."

"Shut up, Gary, it's not fucking funny." In spite of myself, the corners of my mouth twitched.

"No, I've got it." He walked over to where I stood, resting his hands on his thighs as he leaned forward to look at me at eye level. "She wrote you some hearts and flowers poetry, about chemical reactions and anatomy class, and after so much time at Happy Volts, you finally caved in and went completely batshit."

I clenched my jaw to keep from laughing, but I was still able to spit out another, "It's not funny."

Gary held his hands up to his heart. "Did you swoon when she told you about how she imagined adding electrons to your ion, Jimmy? Or was it all the talk about dissecting your sphincter?"

I couldn't help it. I bit my lip, but I was still laughing, shaking my head as I looked anywhere but at Gary. "You're a dick."

"And you're a mongoloid ginger dwarf," he quipped, standing up straight and fixing his sweatshirt. But his smirk was back, instead of the laughter. "Now, Jimmy, why exactly am I to blame for your killer date?" I was about to answer, when he raised a hand to stop me. "Actually, not yet. I've got the feeling that this is a story, and frankly, a good story needs refreshments and an interesting setting. And I've got just the place."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "And where's this place, huh?" If he said my bedroom, I was going to actually murder him.

Gary grinned. "It's a surprise."

"Oh, fuck that." I'd followed Gary without knowing where he was going before, and that ended up with me up against Russell. Never again. "You tell me where we're going, and then I'll consider it."

Gary had already picked up his duffel bag and started walking down the steps. "What, are you chickening out on me, Jimmy? After all we've been through?"

My legs started to move before my brain could tell them to stop. He was forgetting that everything we'd been through would be a perfectly legitimate excuse to ditch him. Then again, Gary had never let things like logic and reality hold him back. "I'm not chickening out. I just don't trust you."

"Ah, very good." Gary looked at me as I caught up and walked beside him. "Trusting me would be a ridiculously dimwitted endeavor, even for you." He looked me up and down. "Nice costume, by the way."

"It was a present."

"Whoever got it has excellent taste."

"At least I'm wearing a costume."

"Oh, but Jimmy-boy, I am wearing a costume."

I raised my eyebrow at him warily. "Who the fuck are you supposed to be?"

"I'm you, Hopkins. I tried looking for a suitable mask, but nothing was horrifying enough to work. So, I had to go as a more attractive you, but I can't really help that." He looked pretty pleased with himself. I thought he was just being fucking lazy with his costume.

He led us to the main building, hiding in the stairs to the basement when a prefect nearly busted us. Gary pushed us both against the wall. He was still and tense next to me, and we were close enough where I could feel heat off of his body, and I wasn't sure how I felt about Gary's hand across my chest. Where he could feel the fact that my heart was pounding excitedly underneath his palm.

If he noticed it, for once in his life, Gary didn't say a damned thing. He just motioned with his head for me to follow him to the side door of the building.

"You mind acting like the juvenile delinquent I know you are and opening the door for us?" Gary tapped on the doorframe.

"I can pick locker locks. I don't know how to pick this one," I told him. Was he serious? He was relying on me to get him into his 'secret'?

"Do I have to do everything by myself?" Gary shook his head with a sigh, reaching into his back pocket and pulling something small out. He crouched down by the lock, and started picking it. Jackass. "Why do I keep you around, Hopkins? It's not for your good looks-" He paused for a second before I heard the click of the lock opening. He glanced up at me. "Or your stunning personality." He turned the knob and pushed it open, standing up and letting me walk through.

I was surprised that no one was in the building. For someone reason, I'd been under the retarded assumption that someone would be watching to make sure no one broke in and pulled any pranks. Apparently, Crabblesnitch had actually thought that we'd all be fine at the party all night. I always forgot how much of an idiot he was.

"What's in the bag, Smith?" I asked him, following him up the stairs to the second floor. Even speaking low, my voice echoed slightly in the empty halls. "Firecrackers or something?"

"Beer, mostly," Gary answered, not looking at me as he checked out the hall before continuing to move. "A bag of chips."

Beer and chips with Gary, huh? Not something that I'd ever pictured, but Gary was never quite the way I pictured him being. I was almost sure that he kept a list of everything he ever did in public so that he could make sure never to do any of it more than once. A guy had to be organized to be as spontaneous as he was.

He seemed satisfied that no one was there, and so he grinned at me again. "So, what's the deal with you and your new girlfriend, Jimmy?"

At first, I was confused, because I was pretty sure that was the sort of joke that could be made about me and him. Then I realized who he was referring to, and made a face. "Beatrice isn't my fucking girl. That's not what happened."

"Do tell, James, do tell," Gary taunted. I glared at him. "Come on, don't pout. This is too damned funny for you to look so fucking glum."

Yeah, of course Gary thought that it was hysterical. "Whatever note you gave Petey? He tossed it out. Beatrice found it and was blackmailing me with it. Up until…about forty-five minutes ago."

Gary looked impressed. "Petey's balls finally dropped? I'm kind of proud of him, actually. I don't think he's ever stood up to me before."

"Yeah, well, he picked a pretty shitty time to do it," I mumbled. "It pretty much fucked me over, and now Zoë's pissed, and Beatrice is going to show that fucking note to everyone."

Gary chuckled. "Well, it's not exactly a declaration of love, Hopkins, I think you can relax about that one." I raised my eyebrow at him questioningly. He didn't respond, heading off down one of the hallways.

"What did it say, Gary?" He ignored me, and I grabbed him by the arm, jerking him around to face me. "What the hell have I been freaking out about here? Is it a fucking grocery list?"

He pulled his arm away from me quickly, bristling at the contact. "Of course not. I don't put shit down on paper that isn't necessary to put on paper." Right, okay. Crazy. I forgot.

"Then what did it say?"

It was only then that I realized that Gary seemed to be waiting for me to notice where we were standing. I blinked; we were at the door to the roof. I stared at the door, and then at him. "You're fucking kidding me," was all I could say.

Gary shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. You'll never know if you don't get your ass upstairs." He stepped forward and pushed open the door, holding it open for me. "You up for it?"

I took a deep breath. "What was in the note, Gary?"

He sighed, rolling his eyes. "My phone number, Jimmy." What? "To my house." What? "And my address." What? "You know, just in case you were wondering where the hell I'd disappeared to. I knew that calling you at school would have annoyed you, so I thought the Petey Express would have shipped it right off. I was wrong. Shit, I hate when I'm wrong. It's inconvenient."

I felt my face go slack with shock. "You sent me your address and phone number?" He wanted me to know where he was? He wasn't just fucking with my head, disappearing and reappearing until I had an aneurysm? My stomach felt weird again, but I didn't feel like throwing up. "Beatrice has a note where you tell me where you went after you were released?"

"Apparently." Gary looked impatient. "Are we going?"

"Why should I go to the roof with you?"

Gary looked up at the ceiling, pretending to be thinking really hard about the answer. Then he locked eyes with me. "One, I have beer. Two, you like beer. Three…you can't fucking help yourself. You're dying to be up there with me one more fucking time. Get your ass up these stairs so we can sit the fuck down."

I took a deep breath. Gary had given me his contact information. In case I wanted to…what? Keep visiting him once he was out? Keep an eye on him?

Where did Gary live anyway? Was he New Coventry, or the Vale? Or was he from further away? I didn't know. I kind of wanted to.

I entered the stairwell to the roof. Hell, maybe if he got tipsy, I could get him to tell me a little about himself for a change.

***

The construction scaffolds that had been on the roof less than a year ago were gone. Crabblesnitch had even had his skylight repaired over the summer, and when I leaned over the side of the bell tower, I cold peer into office. The large bells had yet to be replaced though, and the couple of bells that hadn't been destroyed during our fight were resting on the floor.

I hadn't been up here since Gary had been dragged away. And now here I was standing in the bell tower with Gary all over again, and all I could think was that if he'd gone through all this to try and push me off the roof again, then he was even more fundamentally fucked up than I'd thought he was.

He wasn't trying to kill me right now, though. Instead, he leaned over the side of the tower next to me. He didn't seem worried that I would do anything to him—not that that was my style or anything—and he didn't seemed concerned about the fact that he could do something to me right now, and I probably wouldn't have time to react to it.

"One of these days, someone's going to look down from here and catch 'Headmaster' Crabblesnitch whipping Ms. Danvers," he commented, staring down into the unlit office as if he could actually see something. "I kind of hope it's me. It'd be a great way to get myself back in this shithole."

"You want back in?" I asked as I turned to face him, a little surprised.

Gary snorted, shaking his head as he moved back from the edge. He crouched down next to one of the fallen bells, opening his bag and tossing something at me. After catching it, I realized it was a beer. He grabbed one for himself. "Of course not. I'd rather fuck Algie than be back here—don't look at me like that, it was an exaggeration." He opened his beer and drank some. "No, I'm finally out of this place, and I only came back here to visit your dumb ass, since you hadn't called yet."

"What, were you waiting for me to call?"

"No, I was busy with the new and shiny tutors that my parents have forced onto me," Gary said. He made a face of disgust. "Since I'm sane enough to come home, but not sane enough to be trusted around the innocent youth of America, I get homeschooled by a bunch of expensive tutors."

Gary, out of Happy Volts, without a flock of people to toy with. It didn't feel like it made any sense. Not that anything that had happened today made any sense. "Must be annoying, being at home all the time."

"It's absolutely maddening," he deadpanned. "You couldn't possibly imagine." He sighed, put his beer down, and clapped his hands together once, his momentary show of unhappiness forgotten. Which was good, because that side of Gary made me more uncomfortable than the side that I was sleeping with. "So, in about a half hour, your girlfriend and the entire student body will know that you're sleeping with the guy who drove them insane and led to the biggest riot in this school's history. What do you do with the last few minutes of your secret life?"

I blinked at him. His twisted little grin spread across his features again, but for some reason, I didn't feel like punching him. Instead, I shook my head. "Fuck if I know, Gary. "

"Might I give you a suggestion?"

"Sure, but it'll probably be a bad idea and I won't listen to you."

Gary pointed with his beer towards his duffel bag. "I've got several six-packs in that bag. My vote goes for you drinking as much of it as humanly possible and getting plastered."

I considered this. It seemed like the choice I would have made. There was one problem with that, though. "I don't trust you enough to get drunk around you."

Gary rolled his eyes and stood up, walking over to me. "I'm not going to rape you, Jimmy-boy, and even if I wanted to, might I point out that you could probably put a stop to that fairly quickly, and then I'd get thrown through the skylight again." He pressed his lips together in a thin line and shook his head no. "That's not exactly my idea of a Halloween well-spent."

"That's not the point. You wouldn't have to touch me to fuck with me." And, to be really fucking honest, I didn't trust myself around him drunk. I'd either kill him or fuck him, and fucking Gary at Bullworth was weird, even for us.

Great. Now there was an us that I willingly referred to.

Gary smiled at me. "That's sweet, really, and I do take that as a compliment, but you--" He tapped my forehead and I swatted him away. "—need to loosen up."

Gary took several steps backwards, so that he was standing in the center of the bell tower. His arms were spread wide. "I mean, come on, Hopkins! You're up here, the location of your greatest moment, your claim to fame, your epic battle against evil. You stood here and you won! Why are you still in such a shitty fucking mood?"

I let myself smirk a little, mainly to mask the fact that I kind of wanted to smile. "Why are you in such a good mood, then? Didn't you get your ass kicked?"

He shrugged, looking as if all of that was inconsequential. "I didn't lose up here during the fight, Jimmy. I lost when Crabblesnitch heard me talking. Had he not heard me, you would have been dragged out of here just like you dragged me."

His logic never made much sense to me, but okay, sure. "So…I won, but you didn't lose." Gary smirked at me with a troublesome grin. I finally opened my beer and started to drink. "Whatever you say."

"We should really have a moment of silence, you know," Gary commented loudly.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." He threw his arms out again, and a bit of beer splashed out of the top of his can. "Think of all the fallen lowerclassmen, the ones that laid down their lives so that…" He paused, pretending to be in deep thought. "…Well, so that the nerds didn't get beat up anymore. This drink, my friend, should go to them." He poured out some of his beer, and I laughed, shaking my head. Idiot. "Don't laugh, this is a solemn moment here, Hopkins."

Finally, I sat down on the ground, my legs out in front of me as I leaned back against a pillar. "I'm sorry, I forgot to mourn all the people who didn't die. I'll get on that." Gary sat down too, Indian-style. We were silent, drinking beer for several moments before either of us talked. I was a little surprised when I was the one that broke the silence. "You missed Trent in drag."

Gary glanced up from his drink and raised an eyebrow. "Really? Was it as terrible as the image my brain is conjuring up for me right now?" I nodded. "Wish I could have seen it."

"It was actually how I got away from Beatrice."

"What, you told her that Trent looked better in eye shadow than she did?"

"He did, but that wasn't why," I retorted. Gary snickered. "Everyone was busy watching Trent out Kirby."

"Well, aren't I lucky, then? I might have actually had to sneak into the party if he hadn't made an ass of himself and his little jockstrap honey." I couldn't help but imagine what Gary entering the party would have been like. Disastrous was the word that came to mind. Oddly funny. "I don't think I would have liked the crowd, anyway. They're all too stuck up."

"Zoë's not stuck up," I countered.

Gary shook his head, finishing his beer and digging into his bag for another. He pulled out both the can of beer and a bag of chips, tossing the chips over to me. "Especially Zoë." I waited for him to justify that statement, so I could decide whether or not it was worth it to be pissed. "She tries too fucking hard to impress you."

"Says the guy whose obsessed with me."

"I'd know trying too hard then, wouldn't I?" he snapped back, but not with the usual animosity I'd come to associate with him. "She's always super-chill, super-cool, nothing affects her, but she's completely head over heels for you." He smirked. "That's all right though, Jimmy-boy, but she doesn't seem to get that cool and collected isn't exactly what you need."

"Oh, this oughta be good." I opened the bag of chips and fished a few out. "I can't wait for Gary Smith to tell me what I need." His insights were always so interesting and flawed.

"Excitement," Gary replied. "Where the hell is the fun if you can't get any real reaction from the poor girl?"

I shook my head and looked down at the ground. "We fuck around. I don't need more excitement in my life. I've got enough with you there, anyway."

Gary's grin grew by leaps and bounds. "Bingo, Jimmy-boy." Wait…what? Had I missed something? I reviewed my words, and frowned. "Did you break something trying to think over there? Need a bandaid?"

"Fuck you." Still, something about his smile and reaction to my words rang strange. I bit my lip as I tried to figure it out. Gary actually let me sit and find the words that I wanted to use, for a change, choosing to watch my expression intently instead of speaking.

I could have sworn Gary just said that I didn't need Zoë because he was around. But that was the dumbest thing that I'd ever heard. Gary wasn't Zoë, and Zoë wasn't Gary, and when she broke up with me, I couldn't just replace her with the jerk sitting across from me. And I didn't want to date Gary anyway, and I was fairly certain that he didn't want to date me.

For about the millionth time since I met him, I just wanted to know what he was getting at. What trick he was trying to pull with this little meet-up? How did he expect me to react? What the hell was I doing right now?

The only answer I had was the obvious. I was sitting with Gary. The same way that I'd been sitting with him for—for what, over a month now? I'd lost track of the days.

Except this was different than in Happy Volts. I'd gotten accustomed to him in the small room, only a foot or two between us. While the bell tower wasn't the biggest space, there was a hell of a lot more room than there'd been at Volts, and there was actually air around us that hadn't circulated through the rooms of completely psychotic patients. I wasn't worried about a nurse walking in, but there were so many other things that I could be worried about right now.

Like Gary Smith, for one.

His patience ran out on him. "What's going on, pea-brain? You wanna share with the class?" He tilted his head to look at me more directly.

"Why show up?" I finally spat out. "Here. Why give me your number, or kiss me that first time, or any of this fucking shit? What do you want from me?" I must have asked him that question a hundred times at this point, but I still hadn't gotten a real answer. I didn't get any of it. Gary never made sense. Gary laughed, tossing his head back in that hyena cackle that I'd heard so many times. "What's so fucking funny?"

"You sound like a fucking chick."

"No I don't!"

"What do you want from me?" Gary kept laughing. "I mean, seriously, Jimmy, what do you expect? Is this where we have some deep heart to heart over the nature of our relationship?"

"Did I say that?" I snapped. "No. I just want to know why you're putting any effort into coming to see me." I wondered why he bothered to ask what I was thinking when he always thought that everything that came out of my mouth was completely retarded. I couldn't have been that amusing. At least, I didn't think that I was that funny.

Gary shook his head. "Effort? I'm bored as fuck, and I knew you'd coming running when I showed up."

"I didn't come running! You practically begged me to come with you!"

"Bullshit, Hopkins…" Gary tilted his head back and drained at least half of his beer. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "Bet you were sitting in the gym thinking about me the whole time."

Only because my night was shit because of him. I didn't sit around thinking about Gary all day. If I wanted to think about Gary, I went and saw him. End of story. I sure as fucking wouldn't sit around like some emotional idiot, wondering when the hell Gary Smith was going to waltz into the room and make everything…better.

I didn't want to say it, I couldn't say it, but seeing the warped little fuck had made the evening just that much more bearable. What had he said a few minutes ago? This was the last few minutes of my current life, right? And here I was, spending it with the guy who still made my skin crawl whenever I looked him in the eyes. What did that say about me?

What that said was that his psychosis had finally been transferred to me.

"You're sitting there," I spoke up, "talking about me and Zoë like you'd want to replace her as my girlfriend or something. You sneak in here like a creep with drinks, and you expect me to just think that you were bored?"

Gary stood up again, strolling over to look below the bell tower at the skylight again. I had to twist around in order to look up at him. "I'm not your girlfriend, Jimmy. Do I look like Petey?"

"Oh, ha, ha, ha." I rolled my eyes as I got up from my seat. I didn't like how it felt to have him standing over me. "So…what? You just wanna fuck or something? Because I don't have an issue with that."

"I know that. Everyone who has ever been to Bullworth knows you don't have a problem porking anything that breathes. I'm waiting for Eunice to have to tell you her period's late." I didn't even try to hide the disgust in my expression. "You've been dating girls too long, Jimmy."

I frowned in confusion. "What the hell does that mean?" Why did I spend so much time around Gary asking what the fuck was going on? Being around him made me feel as stupid as he kept saying I was.

"That's the only reason you'd be so fucking boring as to need to know 'the status' of our shit," he groaned, making a face. Then he leaned over the edge and smiled. I don't think I'd ever get used to his mood swings. It would probably be a bad thing if I did. "Hey, check this out." He poured the rest of his beer down the side of the bell tower, and we both watched as the beer splashed against skylight. Then he dropped the can, watching it roll to a stop off to the corner of the glass.

"You're trying to fucking distract me-"

"-and you're trying to get a fucking declaration of love from me, Hopkins, and it's just pathetic." I fell silent, feeling my jaw clench tightly. He noticed, and chuckled. "We've covered what I think. I'm obsessed, probably psychotically. I think there's something immensely sexy about pissing you off to the point where you want to kill me as badly as I want to kill you. I can't explain it any better than that."

I walked towards the center of the bell tower, to get some space between me and the craziness that Gary was spewing. "Jesus Christ, Gary, can't you do anything simply? You can't just fucking be attracted to someone like a normal human being?"

Gary exhaled deeply and turned around, wiping his hands on his pants. He cocked his head at me, raising his eyebrow. "Simple? Normal? Jimmy, you'd hate me even more if I were either of those two things. Why even ask for something so…fucking bland. You want boring and sweet and shy and cute? You're looking at the wrong Bullworth student. Might I suggest Petey? Puppies and baby seals bring tears to his eyes, and if you sleep with him…well…Nothing. Exciting. Will. Ever. Happen."

He took a few steps forward, looking at me with that same look that he'd given me when I'd punched him back at Happy Volts. That same dangerous, creeping glimmer of psychosis was all over his face, that same look that both revolted me and twisted my stomach.

"Hell," he continued, now pacing around me in a circle. "If you want normal, maybe you should settle down with your little Punk Princess. You two can have the most mediocre relationship ever, and you'll be bored out of your mind—but then again, maybe you want that." He stopped behind me, speaking into my ear. It made me freeze in place, my fists tightly balled up at my side. "You know damned well that there is nothing on this campus that suprises and interests you, except for me. So don't fucking act like my love of fucking with your head is a downside here."

I looked at him out of the corner of my eyes. "So I'm boring because I'd like to know that the guy I'm fucking won't screw me over?"

"Yeah, pretty much." He walked back around, directly in front of me. There were only inches between us. Funny, how the claustrophobic feeling was more of a comfort than when there was normal distance. It felt more like when Gary was in his cage, and I was in there with him. "I don't know why you keep expecting something different, Jimmy."

"I'm expecting something that makes sense."

"Well, there's your problem. You're forgetting who you're dealing with. Maybe you need a refresher course." How the hell could I? He reminded me whenever he got a chance. Whenever he made me feel comfortable—like only minutes before—he had to go and say something as weirdly bizarre as what he was saying now—

—Gary grabbed me by the front of my costume and kissed me, hard. For an absurd moment, I wondered if my costume make-up made the kiss taste funny to him, but the pressure of his lips against mine destroyed any attempts to form coherent thought. He had to lean down to kiss me, had to bear down on me in the same way he would if he tried to intimidate me or something. I kissed back automatically, my mouth opening enough so that we could properly kiss. His mouth tasted like beer, and it mixed with the taste of the chips I'd been eating. More than a minute passed, and I wondered if Gary had forgotten that he needed to breathe.

He practically pushed me away when he was done, wiping away the costume makeup, and I blinked, trying to reorient myself. He sighed. "I'm still me, Hopkins. I'm still going to forget my meds every so often and try to take over the world. I'm still going to hate every inch of you with every fiber of my being. I'm definitely going to keep talking on and on and on until you're begging me to shut up. I don't plan on changing any of that. You shouldn't expect any different."

I licked my lips and stared at him. Thanks to the kiss, it was taking me a moment to process his words.

Gary continued, though. "I mean, you don't see me bitching that you're still a fucking moron with delusions that you somehow rule this school, when in reality, you're everyone's fucking trained monkey, or that you hang out with the weepiest boy-child and most boring anarchy princess that-"

I pushed him, hard, and he tripped and hit the ground. Instead of getting pissed and cursing at me, he simply glanced up at me, his breathing speeding up. "Did I say something that bothered you?"

Yeah, everything he'd ever fucking uttered bothered me. I stood over him for a minute. "I'm not going to bend over for you, either."

"Never expected that," Gary said, his voice low as he continued to stare at me. "I've already dealt with what I want from you."

"And what's that?"

"Something interesting."

I clenched my jaw. He was going to make me grind my teeth away one of these days. I reached out my hand and helped him back up. "You're a douchebag." That didn't bother me as much as it should.

Just like the fact that I grabbed him and initiated another kiss should have bothered me. I should have been disgusted by the fact that I yanked him down to my level in order to shove my tongue down his throat, because it was the only way to shut him up and figure out what the hell I wanted from him.

I was in the bell tower making out with Gary Smith, and for some reason, this was the best part of my week.

He moved forward, trying to back me up against one of the fallen bells. I maneuvered around him, not letting myself get too far away from him. Gary ended up against the bell. He only stopped making out to yank off his sweatshirt, tossing it to the side. Underneath it was nothing but a gray wife beater. I only noticed the color because I found my hands under the shirt, trying to get that off of him too. He was too busy trying to take my top off to notice at first, until we both took a minute to yank our shirts off.

I had Gary Smith up against a fallen bell in the bell tower.

I had Gary rapidly losing his fucking clothes against a fallen bell in the bell tower.

There has never been a sexy way of taking off your own pants, but both of us managed to get rid of them quickly enough that this was only a passing thought, invading an otherwise thoughtless moment. While I was busy losing my pants, though, Gary managed to switch our positions again, making me nearly trip over my pants as I kicked them off.

He laughed at me. "You're a fucking klutz when you're horny, James."

"Shut up, idiot." I put my hand on the back of his neck and pulled him down for a hard kiss. One of Gary's hands was against the bell behind me, bracing him, and his other hand was on my waist, holding me pretty tightly. Every few seconds, he would end up grinding into me and moaning into the kiss, and I was probably doing the same.

Which is why I gave him a furious look when he pulled away for a minute. "What are you doing, Smith?" I growled at him.

"You owe me a blowjob, Hopkins."

He was joking. He had to be joking. "What?"

"You owe me from when I gave you head." That didn't sound right, but then again, my brain had ceased firing a good five, ten minutes ago. "You're not going to fucking hold out on me, are you?"

"What, we can't keep doing what we were-"

Gary lowered his mouth near my neck, and my dick nearly exploded when I felt his tongue, starting at my collarbone, trail up to behind my ear. Then, in a husky whisper, he said, "You blow me, we'll spend the last few minutes before your life falls apart doing the one thing you never thought I'd let you do."

He stepped back and stared at me. I narrowed my eyes at him. I wasn't sure if I believed him, but really…I knew exactly what he was offering. I couldn't just pass that up now, could I?

"Will you shut up while I fuck you?"

Gary snorted in amusement. "Don't push your fucking luck."

I grinned, kneeling down in front of him. It was only fucking fair, right?

Chapter Text

We snuck back out of the main building without incident, just a little before the party was supposed to be over. I didn't finish off the beer like Gary had suggested, but we'd both had finished a couple each. For the moment, I could believe that the night wasn't going to go completely down the shitter, that I could relax until the morning. If I thought about it, I knew that wasn't going to happen, though, so I made sure not to think too hard.

"So…you're back at home, huh?" It sounded like dumb conversation, but the silence gave me room to think.

"Didn't I tell you that already? Yes, Hopkins, I'm back at my house. Stop asking repeat questions. They make you sound actually mentally retarded." He had slung the duffel bag over his shoulder and was busy picking at a thread on the side of the bag.

I rolled my eyes. "Where's home? Coventry?"

He snorted. "Jesus Christ, no. My parents live in the Vale." So he was a rich kid. I always sort of knew that, could see it in the way he looked down on everyone without exactly being jealous of them, but having some solid information about him was nice.

"If Zoë or Beatrice tear up that note, I'm going to need that shit again."

"Who says I still want to give it to you?" He smirked at me, and I just stared. "You'll get it when I feel like giving it to you, Hopkins." Gary had mastered the art of talking about one thing and really talking about sex. It was almost impressive.

"Well, whenever you feel like it, let me know, all right? Don't be a smartass and say that you felt like giving it to me but I didn't ask or some shit."

"You're catching on to my methods," he deadpanned. "Hope I'm not getting predictable." He'd also mastered the art of sounding like an asshole.

"Shut up Gary," I snorted. "The day you get predictable is the day I kiss Petey, all right?"

Gary raised an eyebrow. "Really now? You promise?"

"No. Don't say another word." We stopped walking for a minute, and I leaned back on the stone wall, crossing my arms. Gary kept picking at the threads of his bag, acting as if he wasn't paying any attention to me. The only benefit of knowing he was obsessed with me was that I knew this shit was an act. Just like being King, it was a little bit of an ego trip. I doubted this one would get old, though. Tiring maybe, but never old.

"I mean, I guess Petey's cute," Gary said slowly, "if you like them weak and fragile…"

"Didn't you sleep with Petey?" I pointed out.

"I didn't sleep with the runt. We fooled around," Gary corrected me, sounding as if the last thing on earth he'd ever do was sleep with Petey. "He gave me a blowjob, and that was about it. I hadn't had one before, and he hadn't given one before. I decided to try a little experiment, that's all." Experiment, right. In Gary's world, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that every single one of us looked like lab rats.

I shook my head. "I don't get it."

"Get what?"

"You. Petey."

"Neither did I," Gary drawled. "That's why it didn't work, Hopkins." I chuckled under my breath. "He's so needy and clingy, it's annoying as hell. You can't get rid of him." The irony of Gary saying that to anyone, especially me, was hysterical, but I kept myself from laughing too hard.

Which was probably for the best, since Beatrice and Zoë were marching straight up to us from the Girls' Dormitory, and if Zoë had come over and we were laughing it up…

…she probably would have punched me harder than she did. Which was pretty damned hard.

Gary stepped backwards, giving us some room. I think I was more grateful for that than if he'd tried to interfere. This was between Zoë and me. And possibly Beatrice Trudeau's corpse, when I was finished talking to Zoë.

My hand went up to where she'd punched me. It was already tender. "Zo, fuck, did you have to punch me?" Yeah, it was the wrong thing to say. Yeah, I knew it. But I'd seen this coming all day, and at this point, I was just anxious to get it over with.

"Don't 'Zo' me, dickhead!" she snapped. "Is Beatrice telling me the fucking truth?"

Well, since Gary was standing next to me, I thought that was a dumb question, but I asked a lot of dumb questions when I was angry. I asked a lot of dumb questions when I wasn't angry, too.

"Depends what she said," I mumbled, trying to move my jaw as little as possible. That shit was going to hurt tomorrow and probably swell up. Even if I hadn't deserved it, I still couldn't hit her back, though. I couldn't even hit Beatrice, no matter how much I wanted to.

When Zoë got mad, her face turned colors. Her face became red enough to match her hair, and it was kind of unnerving. Well, Zoë mad was unnerving in and of itself. I almost wanted to throw this in Gary's face, after his 'nothing affects her' comment. But the last thing I was going to do was encourage him to enter the conversation. He was having enough fun just watching the train wreck.

Zoë waved a piece of paper in my face. The note from Gary. I snatched it out of her hand. Sure enough, it said his number and address, along with a little message: I may die of boredom, so if you're going to come by, make it sooner rather than later. I nearly laughed at it, but I clamped down on the smile.

"It's a note. From Gary," I answered, shoving it into my back pocket before Zoë could snatch it back. "I told you she had something of mine." I knew damned well that wasn't a good enough bullshit excuse, but I had to say something.

Beatrice piped up, sounding hyper and betrayed. "That's not all, and you know it! I heard you talking about Gary to Petey in the store and-"

Zoe turned and glared at her, but it was Gary who made her shut up. "Beatrice, how can I put this in a way that you'd understand? How about…no one wants you here, and no one gives a flying fuck what you have to say right now?"

"You stay out of this, Smith, you fucking creep," Zoë snarled at him.

Gary leveled a look of old-school Gary Smith-style boredom at her. "Or what, you'll screech at me?"

"Gary, I hissed at him. "Last thing I need right now." He didn't look sorry. Not that I was surprised or anything. I wasn't under the delusion that sex would make things run more smoothly with him. At least, I wasn't anymore.

He held his hands up with a shrug and took a couple of steps back. While he did that, I noticed a small crowd of students gathering to watch. They were whispering and staring at Gary and me. Which, you know, didn't feel like the first day of school all over again. Being stared at, probably with half of the student body wanting to take a swing at me.

At least, Zoë's fist felt like half of the student body had taken a swing at me.

I turned back to Zoë, taking a deep breath. "Zoë, baby-" The look on her face when I said 'baby' said that was the wrong strategy to employ. I quickly tried to cover it up, "Zoë, what do you want to hear from me?" If I could, I'd say whatever she wanted, but I wasn't going to lie or make up stories. That was more Gary's line of expertise.

Zoë looked like she wanted to spit at me. I even got ready to dodge it. "What do I-" She cut herself off, damn near laughing with disbelief. "-What I want? I wanted a boyfriend who wasn't a liar, for one. I wanted a boyfriend who wasn't screwing a freaking psycho behind my back! And don't even try to pretend like you weren't doing it behind my back, Jimmy."

"I wasn't going to," I countered.

"You're a fucking bastard, you know that?" Zoë turned and glared at Gary. "And you're even worse. I bet you got some sort of sick pleasure out of the fact that you had him lying to me, didn't you?"

Gary shrugged again, his arms crossed. "That was one of the many benefits of the situation. I assume you don't want to hear the rest of them, Zoë."

I would have killed him them, if Zoe hadn't launched herself at him first. She went for his balls, kneeing him hard enough that Gary doubled over. It took me a moment to go over and pull her away. Gary deserved the hit, anyway, so I couldn't feel bad for not preventing it.

I held her in place, even though she was alternating between trying to hit me, and trying to hit Gary. "Zoë, Zoë, stop it, come on, I'm sorry alright?"

She stopped wrestling with me for a minute, turning to look me in the eyes. She stared down at me, and even I could see that she was trying to keep her eyes from watering up. The calm that I'd had walking from the bell tower had curdled into a nauseating ball in my stomach.

"Don't fucking tell me how sorry you are, Jimmy," Zoë snapped, yanking herself away from me. "I don't want to hear it. I wasn't asking for some deep shit. Hell, I wasn't even asking for monogamy from you. I was asking for you not to be a totally sick prick." She swallowed a lump in her throat. "Well, I hope you and Gary have a great rest of the semester, douche bag. You can go fuck yourself. I mean, if Gary's not too busy doing it for you."

She shoved past me, kicking Gary once before marching through the small crowd towards the girls' dormitory. Everyone cleared a path for her, and then turned back to stare at me.

"What?" I shouted back at them, stepping forward with my arms wide. They all stepped back from "You got something to say to me? Go on, say it, I dare you!" No one spoke up. I could see some of them lean into each other, ready to start whispering. Others glared at me, with only slightly less disgust than Zoë had. "Fucking say something if you want to, come on!"

And then there was Beatrice. Fucking Beatrice, who actually had the nerve to take a few steps closer to me, still looking like she was furious with me too. "Jimmy, we had a deal, and you broke it, and so I had to tell her."

I stared at Beatrice, eyes wide. Was she really this fucking retarded, or was she really just as delusional as Gary was? "No. No. Fuck no. Beatrice? This isn't about you. There is nothing about this that is remotely about you, so back off, alright? I'm not in the mood."

"You ruined my evening!" Beatrice countered indignantly. "This was supposed to be the perfect date and-"

"Wouldn't the perfect date involve someone who was interested in you, Beatrice?" I shook my head at her. "I'm not attracted to you, I never was, and I never will be. So whatever lies or blackmail you wanna come up with to try to convince me that I do? Go ahead. I'm fucking done."

She looked like she was going to cry, and as much as I hated to watch a girl cry, I didn't feel any sympathy towards that mess. I turned from her, to where Gary hadn't gotten up from the ground yet. I held out an arm to help him up. He looked at me suspiciously for a minute before accepting the help.

"I can't believe you let her kick you in the balls," I said.

"Do I look like the type of masochist that just lets girls kick him in the nuts?" he retorted. He shook his head. "As lovely as all this excitement is, I'd say it's about time for me to head back before the maid notices I've gone missing."

When he left, I didn't have to worry about him butting into my arguments. But when he left, I had to deal with everyone else. So it sucked, either way. "All right. Try not to fucking destroy the world this week."

Gary rolled his eyes. "I'll try. Not sure if I'll manage."

He walked through the crowd, towards the exit. I had to laugh, just a little bit, as people moved out of his way. Crowds always fucking conformed to what Gary wanted, and in spite of the fact that I knew that was a bad thing, it was still funny as hell when I saw it happening.

And I needed to find some humor, in something, before I had a heart attack at sixteen.

"I'm going to fucking sleep," I announced to everyone else. "You wanna get on my case about everything? Do it tomorrow, or next week or something. I'm fucking exhausted." I shoved past most of the students, going as fast as I could without running so that I didn't have to listen to any of them talk shit.

I still managed to hear Trent mumble, "Jesus Christ, Beatrice is a bitch."

Chapter Text

After finding out that I was screwing Gary Smith, people stopped coming for favors as much for a while. It didn't stop completely, of course. Nerds still needed a strong arm, preps still needed someone to do their dirty work, and Johnny still needed someone to drag Lola back home. They knew that I got the job done. They might not have been up for sharing big secrets with me, but everything else was still my area of expertise.

Zoë had been avoiding me like the plague, even ignoring me in classes that we had together. I'd been avoiding Petey, because I kind of wanted to beat the crap out of him for tossing out the note with Gary's address on it. Crabblesnitch scolded and threatened me about having been caught on campus with Gary Smith. I had to swear to never 'let' Gary on campus again, which I hadn't done in the first place, or at least alert security, which I would never do. I didn't know who told him, but my bet was on Beatrice. Zoë would never be that underhanded. It just wasn't her style. I appreciated that, too, because she could have fucking wrecked the rest of my year had she done that.

There were some people who didn't care. Russell didn't understand what was going on, and just assumed that if I said it was okay, things were okay. Trent thought it was a fucking hoot, and that I had to have 'serious balls to pull something like that.' Algie had thought that I was crazy to begin with, so he didn't give me too much crap for, in his words, "dating a future axe-murderer."

I told him Gary would never kill someone with an axe, because he might stain his shirt. I nearly shoved Algie in a locker for saying that Gary and I were dating, but he took it back.

I only considered calling Gary in the first place because I couldn't think of anyone else to go and talk to. I had his number laying on a bunch of papers for history class, none of which had been touched since Halloween night.

I wasn't calling to talk. I fucking hate being on the phone, because I really don't ever have much to say. When people are on the phone, they try to make up shit to talk about, even when they should just shut up. And there was no way in hell that I was giving Gary an excuse to keep talking for an hour. All I wanted to know was when the hell he was free, and when he wasn't.

I grabbed my cellphone and sat at my desk. It took me a few minutes to dig through the handouts from class before I found his number. I looked at it for a moment, still weirded out by the fact that I had a note from Gary Smith. I had been sure that Gary didn't write notes, that even if he did, they'd probably self-destruct after a certain amount of time, like in old spy shows.

"…fucking ridiculous." I shook my head and took a breath. I imagined calling the phone number, and then it turning out to be the number of some old person's home, or a crematorium, or something.

The phone started to ring. I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted him to pick up the phone. What the hell would he say if he picked up? Probably that I was acting like a little bitch about calling him. I know that's what I'd tell him if he was doing this. I know that's what I would say to him if he was doing this.

If he didn't pick up, I wondered what his voicemail would sound like. Would it be something short? Long and rambling? Completely nonsensical, or only the most logical statement he could come up with? Did he change it with his moods or medications? All of these were retarded questions that probably came from, like Gary said, 'dating too many chicks.' I wasn't dealing with Zoë or Pinky or Mandy. Hell, I wasn't even dealing with Petey. Shit with Gary could get complicated, but it wasn't thiscomplicated.

Anyway, he didn't pick up, so I didn't have that much time to think about it. "You've reached Smith. I'm probably incarcerated at the moment, but if you don't mind waiting ten to twenty, leave a message. If I feel like you're mildly important, I'll get back to you."

Beep

A message…I was shit at leaving messages, and I didn't exactly want to…but the only other option was just hang up and end up seeming like a fucking punk. The recording had actually started, anyway. I had to say something.

What the fuck sort of message did you leave for Gary Smith?

"It's me. Call back."

***

Petey knocked on my door Friday afternoon. I don't know why he bothered to knock, since my door was opened, but he looked nervous…

…Right. He was knocking because there was a good chance I'd shove his face through the door when I saw him. Which was an entirely legitimate fear.

I'd been trying to actually finish up some of my math homework, so that I didn't have to think about it the rest of the weekend. After twenty minutes of staring at it, I was fairly certain that this was going to be another weekend where I didn't do my math.

The knocking sound gave me an excuse to push the math homework to the corner of the desk and pay attention to something else. I looked over my shoulder to where Petey was standing, head bowed anxiously. I motioned for him to come in.

Petey took a couple of steps into the room and hovered by the nightstand, his hand on it as if he was using it to support himself. I shook my head, standing up so that I could turn my seat to face him. As I sat down again, I spoke. "Have you done the calculus homework yet?"

Dumb conversation starter, yes, but it was less awkward than talking about the fact that he'd been a big part of everyone in Bullworth knowing about me and Gary. He blinked, looking thrown off by the question. "Um…yeah. Finished it during lunch. You need help?" I shrugged. He reconsidered his words. "I'll do it for you tonight, okay?"

"Thanks, man, you're a lifesaver."

"No problem, Jimmy," he replied. An awkward silence fell, with Petey fidgeted and shuffling his feet as he looked at the floor. "How are things?"

"Could be worse," I answered honestly. "Zoë's not actively hunting me down. She's sort of just throwing death glares every so often when we run into each other in the halls."

"Well, that's good, right?" He tried to smile, but kind of failed. Miserably. He started fidgeting with the alarm clock on my nightstand. "I mean, I'm sure you guys can make up, right?"

I exhaled heavily. "I don't know. She's pretty pissed, and even if we did 'make up', I doubt we'd ever be able to get back together or anything like that." His fidgeting was driving me insane. "And sit down, will you? I'm not gonna kill you or anything."

Petey looked like he wasn't sure whether to be relieved or not, but he quickly moved to sit on the mattress. He kicked his legs. Then, almost whispering, he asked, "Do you even want to? Get back with her, I mean."

"What kind of a question is that?" I asked.

Petey shrugged. "I mean, aren't you dating Gary now?" I glared at him. "That is what you're doing, right?"

"No, I'm not dating him, we're…fucking around. Or something." I grimaced. "Whatever it is doesn't matter." Petey looked confused. I didn't blame him. Sometimes I was still confused when I thought about it too hard. Fortunately, I usually remembered not to do that.

Petey chewed on his bottom lip for a moment. "So you aren't dating Gary, but you don't know if you want to get back with Zoë?" he asked. I nodded. He kicked his legs again. "I mean, okay, that's fine. It's not like you've…gotta make a choice now or anything." He hesitated, before adding, "She's really upset, you know, still."

I wasn't so big of an idiot that I needed to be told that. "What, you talked to her or something?"

"Kind of," Petey said. I stared at him blankly, and then he continued. "She feels weird talking to me, because I'm like, your friend or whatever, but she was talking to me a little bit. You should go talk to her."

Yeah, I probably should, but I didn't know what else to say to her. I didn't have more concrete answers for her now than I had before, and I couldn't phrase what was going on in a way that she'd... well, not be okay with, but be able to deal with. I knew she wasn't going to be okay with Gary Smith being any part of my day to day life—hell, I wasn't okay with that—but…okay, fuck it, I kind of missed her.

"I'll go see her later," I promised. It sounded weak, because I never went to do things 'later'. It was always now or not at all. But I meant this.

Before Petey could point out the weakness of what I'd said, my phone rang. I held up a hand to tell Petey to wait a minute, and checked the number. I glanced over at Petey while I picked up. "Gary, I called you yesterday." Petey's face turned bright red, and he got up to go. I shook my head no and motioned for him to sit back down. And then I put the phone on speaker so he could hear it, because I wasn't going to sit and listen to Petey going, "what did he say, what did he say?" over and over again.

"Well, sorry, Hopkins," Gary drawled. He chuckled. "Heaven forbid I have a life, or might be busy."

"You don't have a life, and you're not busy," I replied. "You haven't been out long enough." What had it been…two, three weeks at this point? Gary wasn't doing anything with himself except being bored as hell. This was a strange comfort to me.

Gary paused before speaking. "I wanted to let the suspense build, Jimmy."

I shook my head. Even Petey could barely keep himself from snorting at Gary's retarded answer. "You're a fucking freak. What's up?"

"What are you doing tomorrow?" Gary asked. That was officially the weirdest thing that I'd ever been asked by Gary. Nothing sounded more out of place coming from his mouth than actually asking what I was up to. I wouldn't have felt strange if he had just told me where he was going to be and what he was doing, without feeling the need to ask where I was going to be. That would have been normal, and that would sound like Gary Smith.

Gary must have been really, really bored.

"Nothing yet."

"My parents are going on a trip this weekend. I figure that the best way to deal with this is to have sex somewhere near the fine china. Or possibly in their bed. What do you say?" Petey goddamn near choked. "What was that, Hopkins?"

I laughed. "Petey's dying."

"Did I kill him?" Gary deadpanned, not seeming to be bothered with the fact that Petey was listening. Of course, though. Being bothered would have implied shame, and everyone knew Gary didn't have that.

"Yeah, definitely. It was all your fault."

"Good. I'd hate for someone else to do it. You planning on joining us, Petey? I'm sure my mother still has your dollhouse tucked away somewhere."

"I did not have a dollhouse," Petey was quick to assure me. I laughed again. "I'm serious, I didn't. He's making stuff up. As usual."

"Anyway," Gary continued, "are you coming or not, Jimmy? I've got to know whether I need to pick up Kibbles and Bits along with my pizza."

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, sure. Tomorrow. Two o'clock?"

"Sure, why not?" Gary answered. "Now, do I need to take you out for a walk after dinner, or-"

I hung up on him. "He's out of his damned mind."

"Um…duh?" Petey replied, still looking beyond damaged by what he'd heard. He shook his head as if he was trying to shake images out of it. I hoped he didn't have any images of me and Gary, because I didn't want to be floating around naked in Petey's head. That was weird.

"I'm out of my mind."

"Yup, probably," Petey agreed.

I let out a long sigh, tossing my phone from hand to hand. Petey was always honest with me, which was a nice change from, well, Gary. "Am I making a mistake, Pete?"

Petey thought about it awhile before he answered, staring down at his swinging feet. I wondered if he'd ever fucking get another growth spurt. He glanced over at me out the corner of his eyes, not lifting his head. "Yeah, probably."

"Big?"

"Probably the biggest mistake you've made so far."

I nodded, more to myself than to him. "That's what I thought."

"That's not gonna stop you though, is it?"

"Nope."

***

Gary's house was nearly as big as his ego. It wasn't like Tad's, with the big gates or anything, but it was…nice. A perfectly arranged lawn, trimmed and neat. Large, white, fucking beautiful house. It didn't look as if children had ever lived in the house. Of course, I sort of doubted the idea that Gary had ever been a child. He came out of the womb sixteen years old and already bitter as fuck.

I bet this was the sort of house where Gary and I weren't allowed to sit on the couch. If I walked into a room with a rug, I had to take off my sneakers.

I looked down at my sneakers. They were brownish-gray from use. They'd been white when I bought them. Fuck, even Gary's house made me feel small. It made me wonder whether or not his parents were like that too, whether they looked down their nose at everything that breathed. Fortunately, I wasn't going to find that out today.

That still meant that I was going to be alone in a house with Gary. I hadn't really dealt with what that meant, and I was still trying to avoid thinking about it. This wasn't an enclosed space like Happy Volts. It wasn't even familiar territory like Bullworth. This was his space, where I was completely lost.

A couple of months ago, the idea of seeing Gary would have been laughable. Now I was…well, if Zoë was speaking to me, she would have laughed and said I was having a sleepover with the guy. But that was gay. Really gay. So I was staying at his house. For the night. And that was it.

And maybe fucking in his bed.

Shit. I was going to know what color sheets Gary slept on. If he had a bookshelf filled with comics or novels or DVDs. It was slowly occurring to me that Gary had a life prior to his complete mental breakdown, and that I was about to step into it.

There was something a little exciting about Gary no longer being a black hole of mystery and annoyance. There was something a little depressing about it too. It was weird, but I was starting to feel as if having proof that Gary was human kind of…

…Sucked. Scared me. Or something.

I saw a curtain on the first floor flick open, and then closed. I smirked. So he'd been waiting for me, just like when he'd fallen asleep waiting for me at Happy Volts. It did things for a guy's ego when he realized that he could keep Gary Smith waiting.

I started up the stairs to his front door. He opened the door before I knocked. "You're looking a little impatient, Smith."

"You're twenty minutes late, Hopkins," he replied, crossing his arms. "What, too broke to afford a watch?"

Again, seeing Gary in normal clothes was jarring. I didn't think that I'd ever get used to seeing that. Fashionably faded black jeans, a blue t-shirt, and black boots. Somehow Gary Smith managed to make jeans and a t-shirt look the same as khakis and sweater vest set. The same arrogant wannabe-Head Boy no matter what. I was halfway certain that, if I actually ever took the time to notice, he probably still looked like that when he was stripped down to his underwear. Fortunately, I was always distracted by then.

I rolled my eyes. "Too rude to let me in the house?"

Gary closed the door behind him and crossed his arms. "Maybe I changed my mind, now that I'm looking at you. Maybe I don't want you fucking up my mother's rug."

I blinked at him. "You invited me over so that I could fuck up your mom's rug. " Gary didn't move or say anything. I groaned. "Come on, Gary, I didn't come over to stand at your door all day. I wanted to sit or something."

"You can sit on the steps," Gary deadpanned. He motioned near my feet. "I can even leave out a bowl for you if you're good." I rolled my eyes and resisted the urge to shove his dumb ass. I didn't trust him not to scream for the cops if I put my hands on him in public. I wouldn't say that he was a punk, exactly, but…I wouldn't put some 'gag' like that past him.

There wasn't much I'd put past him, honestly.

"Look, if you don't fucking want me here, that's fine," I said. He wanted me to play a game, but it was too fucking cold to stand outside and fuck around. I started turning away. "I've got shit I could be doing. Edna needed a favor, anyway."

He let me walk down the steps and get halfway down the lawn before he called out, "Are you a fucking moron, Jimmy, or do you just do a really good impression of one?" I stopped walking, but didn't turn around. "Hopkins, stop acting like an ass. I already ordered the pizza."

"You're the one that was blocking the door, Smith," I pointed out.

I heard the sound of the door being opened. "I'm not now."

I smiled, shaking my head as I turned to look at him. Gary was holding the door open, looking impatient. He didn't know what to do with himself when people didn't jump up to follow his commands. He really didn't know what to do when I didn't jump up and obey. Which was strange, considering that he'd had about a year to get used to it.

"Well?" Gary snapped. "I'm not holding this open all day. In or out?"

I considered saying no, I did. Just to fuck with his head. The fact that I thought about that at all meant I had spent too much time with Smith. He was starting to get to me. It wasn't healthy.

Of course, Gary didn't actually know how not to be a jackass. It was like reading an issue of X-Men, except his power was that he fucking oozed dickery. I reminded myself that I already knew that when Gary closed the door as soon as I was in entering distance. I reminded myself that as he smirked at me challengingly, his eyebrow raised.

"You have got to be shitting me, Gary. This is retarded. What are you, two?"

Gary shrugged. "I like the leash game."

"Leash game?" I echoed in confusion.

"You know, the one where I keep pulling you in, then letting you walk away, then yanking you back in," Gary explained. I wished he hadn't. I wondered if there would ever come a time where I didn't regret asking him to open his mouth.

Which was a dumb thing to think, because there was only one situation where I didn't regret that, and it had nothing to do with him talking. Not that I hadn't already been thinking about that, considering it was pretty much the only reason I'd agreed to come over in the first place.

I stared at him blankly. "I'm not a dog, or a fucking yoyo."

"You sure about that? I've been considering getting you a collar. Property of-"

Stopping that before that idea got too crazy. "You try that, I'll act like a dog and tear out your throat. Got it?"

Gary laughed, shaking his head. He might have actually been laughing at the joke, not at me…no, he was probably still laughing at me. "All right, Hopkins. No collar." He was quiet for a moment, before adding, "I've still got you like a yoyo, and you know it."

It wasn't worth arguing, I decided after a minute. "Am I in or out, dickface?"

Gary pretended to be surprised, or taken aback or something. "Dickface? Now isn't that mature, Jimmy." He said my name in the same way he always had, the insult thick as my name rolled off his tongue. The same tone that made my hands curl into fists and want to slam him into a wall and clobber him.

I realized something new this time. That tone, the way that Gary made my name sound the same as saying 'go fuck yourself'? Well, that would be the tone that his blowjob would have, if blowjobs had tones. It didn't lessen the desire to smash his face into a plate glass window, but it made me laugh a bit.

Well, now I had a legitimate reason not to punch him in the face. His jaw was useful.

"I didn't think your immaturity was quite so amusing to you," Gary commented, looking suspicious.

I snorted, shaking my head. I shoved him to the side, just hard enough to move him from in front of the door. I opened it and turned to look at him as I entered the house. "You wouldn't get the joke."

"I wouldn't get the joke?" Gary echoed in disbelief. He started falling me inside. "Somehow I doubt there's a funny joke that you would get that I wouldn't, Jimmy."

Hearing him say my name again just made me laugh again. "You'd be fucking surprised, Smith. You're missing out on a funny ass joke."

Gary closed the door behind us. "Enlighten me, James."

The End