Chapter 37 – Knight in Shining Armour

POV: William

"Alright, I'll see you later," one of the guys in my Calc. set told me as I made my way out of the classroom, lifting a hand to him, agreeing to this vague leave-taking. I glanced at my watch as I pulled my bag up onto my shoulder, noting that I probably had time to fit in a quick trip to the water fountain just outside in the courtyard before I had to make it to English. I made my way over towards the English block, my strides steady but not rushed, knowing I had enough time to make it there, and my mind beginning to wander just as gradually as I walked.

I thought back over breakfast that morning, unable to help smiling as I pictured the sight of Jesse shoving pancakes hastily into her mouth in a way very few other girls at the school would ever dare to do; it had been both hilarious, and adorable. I could remember her beginning to talk with Bridget, about what I wasn't quite sure, as my view of her from the table I now occasionally sat at wasn't all too great, but I did definitely recall the turn of her face in my direction, almost as if she had known I was watching her, incapable of stopping myself. Apparently my Stay-Away,-Be-Cool will had been low that morning.

Then again, the giant smile she had ended up giving me had most certainly been worth the lapse in restraint; I could barely remember the last time I had seen her light up like that. It had made the back of my neck tingle.

The walk to Sociology had been uneventful—not that I needed anything to amuse me with a clear memory of Jess's face to occupy my drifting mind—and the lesson that followed had seemed short and bearable, a welcome contrast to the long-winded, drawn-out affairs I had suffered through recently. Our teacher hadn't bothered glowering at Jess at all during the period—or, at least, she hadn't done while I was looking—and I had continued to feel Jesse's gaze on the back of my neck throughout the lesson, but, somehow, it didn't register as feeling the same forlorn, downcast glance I had become used to her shooting furtively at my back.

Second and third periods had trickled by after that, maybe not skipping past as quickly as Sociology had, but not passing in a manner so slow that I could complain. Lunch hadn't been as torturous as it sometimes felt; some of the more vapid table-mates I had acquired were blissfully absent, and the few that did seem to have remained were busy talking about classes for once, rather than sports or the likes, which I couldn't always summon interest in.

Calculus, sometimes challenging, often not, had been pleasantly easy, sailing by at a speed of knots, and then it had ended, leaving me in my quest for a quick thirst quencher at the fountain, which I reached a minute earlier than predicted. I bent down over it, applying pressure to the small silver nozzle on the side of it with my thumb, and opened my mouth, tilting it down to cup the slow jet that sprung up in the air, the droplets that cleared my mouth landing down in the wet silver basin. Straightening, my thumb slid free of the switch, and my lips brushed, open, against the back of my hand, drying my mouth. I adjusted the strap of my bag and turned to direct myself towards the English block behind me, stopping as I came face to face with the girl that was so often on my mind.

She took a step back as I turned, preventing us from colliding, and looked up at me blankly for a moment before allowing her lips to part and her vocal chords to engage, a short but sweet, "Hey," passing up out of her throat.

Reminding myself I was supposed to be restraining myself, unlike that morning, I tried to offer a polite but impersonal smile before moving away, not forcing her to converse with me just because we had bumped into one another accidentally. My self-discipline seemed to be functionally as poorly as it had done earlier in the day, however, and instead of smiling simply the gracious way I had planned, I found my lips turned up in a far softer, uncontrollable manner, a word following them too; "Hi."

She smiled at me, at the fact that I had responded or at something else I wasn't sure, and brushed some of that chestnut hair out of her eyes, sweeping it off her forehead. "Finished your water, huh?" she asked friendlily, but because I had been so focused on the pure fact that we were actually talking, it took me a full five seconds to comprehend what she meant, or, at least, what I thought she meant; I presumed she was referring to the bottle I had taken with me from the refectory at breakfast and had sat on the corner of my table during first. I had finished it at some point between the end of first and the beginning of second.

"Oh…yeah." That's all I could say? God, I was so lame. I thought I was supposed to be collected? It really wasn't right that Jesse had managed to reduce me to the state of 'imbecile' by just standing there being Jesse. Then again, I should've suspected she might've had these powers by the teasing jibes Bridget had enjoying issuing me with a few nights before when she had stopped in to see how I was doing.

Jesse gave a quiet, slightly awkward laugh, awkward probably because all words appeared to have failed me, and pushed hair off her face again, looping it slowly behind her ear, her eyes shifting over my shoulder just briefly to break tension. She pressed her lips together lightly before she flicked her eyes back up to mine, and gave another, smaller, smile. Finally, I managed to beam back at it in the happy, easy way I usually could.

"Are you using that or just trying to get 'Moron of the fucking year' award?" someone demanded sharply from behind Jesse, and any spell of comfort that had been cast so briefly between us was instantly shattered. Jess, frowning around her eyebrows, turned to glance at the idiot who was glaring over her shoulder, and with one look she managed to silence any future protests he had been planning to make. Looked like she still had that deadly spark in her. It made me chuckle, glad.

"I'll leave you to it," I excused myself pleasantly, smiling slightly, resisting the urge to touch her elbow as I made my way past her, becoming aware only then that I might possibly be a little late for my next lesson.

"See ya," I heard her respond as I moved away, and I glanced over my shoulder back at her as she stepped up to the fountain and slipped her thumb onto the nozzle just as I had, dipping her head down, her free hand holding her hair out of her face as she drank.

I couldn't have been more than six yards away when the light buzz she had so quickly instilled in me just as swiftly evaporated. With another glance over my shoulder I had seen a familiar figure slide up to Jess at the fountain and close his fingers familiarly around the hand Jess was using to keep her hair out of the way. Jesse pulled up from the fountain, her profile suggesting she didn't appreciate the uninvited attention.

The frown on her face told me she didn't know who the guy accosting her was, but the frown on mine told others that I did; Elliot Burton, big bank account, big mouth, bigger ego. Big womaniser; or, as much of one as one could be when living in a boarding school. He found a way though, and I had seen enough of his attention-grabbing Look-At-Me-Picking-This-Chick-Up displays to know the little piece of paper he was holding up to the girl I more than liked wasn't a phone number.

At Hilton, co-eds didn't exchange phone numbers—they lived under the same roof after all; they exchanged room numbers.

Even the distance between me and the couple couldn't drown out the derisive snort I could hear pushing its way out of Jesse's lips. She rolled her eyes, twisted her hand free from Elliot's grasp, and moved round him, leaving the tiny piece of paper in his hand and walking on as if nothing had happened, only the familiar set of her jaw telling people around her that she was furious and disgusted.

"Fucking prude," Elliot called out unnecessarily after her. She turned, sticking her middle finger up at him, and continued on, ducking into the school to go to her Italian class.

I stayed stood on the same spot, watching Elliot snort back, too, and slip his room number back into his pocket as if he hadn't been that bothered by her anyway. He hovered in place, snarling a little, caught between pretending he didn't give a shit and being indignant as hell, until he finally caught sight of me standing just that little way away, watching him with a tight, angry glare. His hovering continued, his expression changing to one of deduction, and then to one of realisation. Once he had figured out I wouldn't be too opposed to wringing his puny, pathetic little neck he gave one final snort and began away, no doubt towards his next lesson, but not daring to narrow his eyes back at me in the way I was slitting mine at him.

Little fuck-hole.

Angry, but fully aware that I couldn't storm into English raging, I walked on, urging myself to calm down.

And, finally, with Jesse gone, I managed to curb my actions to my will.

I was glad when the final bell rang that afternoon, dismissing me from the school day that had taken a swift, downward turn after watching Jesse being demeaned between fourth and fifth period that afternoon. Every time I remembered what Burton had called her, I felt my blood quickly bubble to the boil, and the urge to do something impetuous sprung upon me stronger than I had ever felt it. As a person who usually managed to control and contain my emotions, as well as my impulses, this reoccurring desire to in some way teach Burton a lesson was therefore nearing the point of being overwhelming.

"But don't forget!" My sixth period teacher, Miss Furrows, called to us as we all shoved our books into our bags, "You'll need to finish the chapter for homework or else you won't be able to continue with the next class!" She warned. Forcing my mind away from Burton's smug face as I had seen it when his hand had closed over Jesse's, I resolved to remember this homework; if I went up to my room now and scribbled it down at my desk, I wouldn't forget.

The class filtered out quite quickly, as was understandable considering it was a Friday afternoon, and I followed at the back, no plans, or even vague suggestions of any, calling for me to be somewhere on time. Most of the girls in my class surged right towards the female dormitories when they emerged from the classroom, while the guys all swung left. I headed right though, wondering if taking an aimless walk around the school for a while might help me decide what I wanted to do for the evening, as well as cool down any still bubbling thoughts of that Burton ass.

I followed two brunettes—who were chattering about possibly heading in to Monster's Ball that night—though not really following them, as I began to think, my mind immediately flashing upon a mental image of Jesse's face before me, a look in her eyes that said she had a purpose, but a gentle part-smile touching the corners of her mouth, declaring said purpose was a pleasant one.

No, I realised a second later, blinking; not a mental image—the actual Jesse. There she was, walking towards me down the hall, taking the effort to sidestep a few people she would usually probably have pushed between the middle of, and slowing her steps as she approached me, making me do the same. She didn't talk until she was standing just two feet in front of me, face to face, and when she was still she hitched her bag up properly onto her shoulder, where it had slipped free, and let her eyes soften, the purposeful look easing out of them.

"Hi," she greeted me, a little awkwardly, and I just stared at her for a moment, my mind beginning to buzz with all thoughts and guesses as to why it was she could have not only been talking to me, but, apparently, seeking me out. Or, so I guessed; it did look that way, didn't it?

I smiled at her kindly, a little amused at the uneasy way her thumb was fidgeting around her bag's shoulder strap. "Hey."

I paused, wondering if I should say something predictable like 'how are you?' or 'what's up?', but I decided that if she had indeed come to find me, then it would make sense to let her take the lead, especially since I was supposed to be steering clear of her, giving her time to think.

"I need your help," she admitted, and the slightly tight tone of her voice made me guess worriedly at whether the issue she needed aid with was serious or whether she was just nervous to ask me.

"What with?"

"Oh…well, um," she chuckled a little, her cheeks actually doing something I couldn't remember them ever doing, and colouring slightly as if she were embarrassed by what she had to say, her lack of her usual over-confidence now highlighted to the extreme; "It's not a big deal or anything. But, I was hoping you could take me into town? Jon's busy, and I sort've wanted to get this thing I have to do…over…with."

She had been looking around a little, a figure of half put-on nonchalance, half unavoidable vulnerability, but by the time she had finished talking, almost trailing off, her eyes had found me again, and her lips were parted from the slow uncertain way she had ended her explanation. I was instinctively drawn to her mouth, recalling and feeling again that hot flash of response in my stomach I had always gotten when seeing her lips open in that delicate, soft way. I swallowed down, slipping one hand into my pocket, and forced my eyes back up to hers, perfectly aware that the first time she had come to me of her own accord since our argument was not the time to start daydreaming.

"That's fine, I'll take you in," I agreed, nodding, rubbing the tip of my nose for no real reason with my free hand.

"Thanks," she replied, and her shoulders visibly relaxed, letting me know she had been worried I would say no. I wondered, briefly, whether her anxiety was due to not wanting to miss whatever it was she had to be in town for, or due to not wanting me to brush her off. I wanted to know—quite badly, I realised—if she had come to me as a last resort, or through choice. It would have been obvious to anyone that I wanted the answers to both cases to be the latter.

Jess stood there for a moment, letting out a slightly shaky—nervous—breath as she brushed hair off her face, unsure apparently as to whether she had to say more before we left, but eventually she appeared to decide to continue talking. "Great, so, do you have anything you need to do first or can we just…?" She pointed over her shoulder in the general direction of the nearest exit: where the car lot was, where my car was.

"We can go when you're ready, yeah, I don't mind;" and I smiled, putting her at ease.

"Great," she repeated, and I find myself smiling wider, entertained by the struggling, polite version of the girl I liked standing in front of me, such a contrast to the self-assured brusque girl I knew her as.

I chuckled a little, incapable of stopping myself, and nodded over her shoulder, indicating we could go then when she was ready. She nodded back at me and turned so we were both facing in the right direction, towards which we began to walk. Her thumb stayed tucked inside her bag's strap for a while, curling round it then relaxing again every so often, until she spoke.

"So, how are you?" She turned her face to look at me properly as she asked this, and I turned my own face to look back at her, my lips turned up somewhat.

"I'm not so bad. Been busy with…not much, actually," I admitted, chuckling, and dropped my other hand into my pocket. "How're you?"

"Not so bad either, now." The slight grin she gave me let me know this hadn't been the case all week long.

I appreciated that in her own way she was letting me in on this fact, although I was already perfectly aware of it, thanks to some close-scrutiny of her demeanour and a couple of talks with her best friend. Did she know that, though? That Bridget and I had talked? I cared about whether she minded it.

"Had some stuff to deal with," she continued, her face not turned towards me, I realised, when I looked over at her. Unsurprised by that, knowing she was letting me in on some really big things for her, I was just glad she was talking.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," I offered, holding out the double doors in front of us for her to pass through first. She paused before them, meeting my eyes again, but smiled and ducked through them, waiting for me to move through as well.

"I even," she began, her tone more upbeat in a way that made her words sound playful and more attention-grabbing, "had a simply delightful conversation with Ms. Chase" She glanced over at me, grinning, and I tilted my head at her, fascinated already by how quickly her awkwardness seemed to be fading. I could only suppose that this conversation was something she had decided upon, and was determined to have. I wondered—realising, as I did so, that it was something she was certainly making me do a great deal of already; wondering—whether there was something specific she was focused in on, other than just getting a ride into town.

"It that right?" I responded, curious, and I allowed myself to linger on the way her hair shone as we broke out into the sunlight through the nearest exit.

"Mm hmm," she purred back through closed lips as once again she paused, waiting for me to join her after lowering the door back into its frame noiselessly before she continued walking, so that we stayed abreast. "She had lots of fun reminding me how very wrong we are for one another," Jess informed me, her eyes sparkling, I was pleased to see, with humour, rather than any of the bitterness or resentfulness I could've expected to see just a week or so before.

"Or, actually, should I say, how wrong I am for you," she corrected herself, her lips tilted up again, amused.

I chuckled, both at Darcy's gall and Jesse's quickly warming manner. "I hope you told her she could fu—"

"I told her," Jesse cut me off, with a quiet laugh that warmed my insides, stopping me from saying something harsh and unflattering like she usually would have done instead of me; it was as if our roles had been reversed. I chortled at this, while she carried on, "That I felt sorry for her, needing to crap all over other people to feel better." She shrugged.

"Right," I nodded, and I laughed again. 'Crap all over other people;' well, she wasn't all that different. Thankfully. I had liked her just fine even when she was cursing me out.

We were making our way down the path that hugged the hedge of the lot, and just like I had done when I had walked it a few days before with Jon, I reached out and pulled off a leaf, cutting little half-moons in it with my thumb nail as we continued. "I bet she really loved being told that."

"Oh yeah," Jesse responded, a trace of a scoff in her voice that was just as sarcastic as my comment had been, "Yeah, I'm sure she loves the idea that a poor little scholarship chippie like me pities her." And, surprising me further, the sourness I could have so easily expected was completely absent from her words as well as her voice, in its place entertainment only present in her tone. I marvelled at her, and my stomach warmed a little more, possibly, I thought, with pride for her.

"But that doesn't even matter. I've decided I can't be fucked to deal with Darcy Chase's pettiness anymore." Well, there's the first swearword, I thought, highly humoured; she was definitely getting comfortable. "I'm gonna pull a Patrick," she added, looking over at me with eyebrows that were slightly raised and a smile that was a little teasing.

I laughed, and we turned the corner into the lot, heading for my car, "A Patrick?"

"Uh huh."

"And what might that be?"

"That—" We had reached the car already, and she threw her school bag into the back of it, comfortable, "—is trying to deal with people with a little more grace."

I raised one eyebrow back at her, opening the driver's door; well, that definitely wasn't something one could have expected Jesse Chambers to say, was it? "More grace, huh?"

"Yep, yep." She opened her own door, sliding down onto the leather seat as if she had done so a million times before. I wished she had. "And I reckon I can do it," she told me confidently, closing the door behind her. I stuck my key into the ignition, one eyebrow still plucked up on my forehead a tad higher than it would naturally rest, watching her. She struggled visibly to contain a grin before she spoke again, "Yep. Just as soon as I stop enjoying the word 'fuck' so much."

Nodding a little, I laughed once more, and turned the engine on. I presented an expression of polite realisation, feigning that I had only just noticed her enjoyment of profanity, "Yeah, ya know…now that I think about it, I suppose you do like to swear."

Jesse smirked back at me, and then chuckled, looking over to her right to watch us reverse away from the car that had been parked in the spot beside us. "You don't fucking say," she grunted, including the cuss for blatant reasons. We both grinned at it, and chortled softly.

It wasn't until we reached the end of the school drive that I recognized that neither of us had said anything more after that, but I also realised that I didn't feel bothered by this. Our silence wasn't companionable—we appeared to be getting along, sure, but there was a lot both of us had to get off our chest's still, I knew—but it was quite comfortable nonetheless, and we were halfway into town before Jesse spoke again. All trace of humour and playfulness had vanished, but I wasn't alarmed by her words; on the contrary, I repeated what she said in my head again, and then glanced briefly over at her, a little taken aback, but interested.

"I want us to be friends," she told me, one arm propped up on the open window from where she had been turned to look out of it, but her face directed towards me in the driver's seat.

"Friends?" I echoed, returning my eyes to the road after allowing myself to quickly evaluate her expression. There wasn't anything grim about it that suggested she was telling me that friendship, she had decided, was all she wanted out of me now, and there wasn't anything nervous about it that hinted she was unsure of her pronouncement or my reaction to it.

"Yeah. If you think about it, we haven't actually known each other very long at all, and for as long as we have spent time together, let's face it, I was too busy trying to shut you out to really get to know you. I'd like it if you let us have a mellow time together, just to…settle."

She had been looking at my profile the whole time she had been explaining this to me, and that gesture told me she was sure in what she was saying, that she had probably thought enough about it to decide it was definitely the right move. Nothing she had said warned that we couldn't move beyond friendship at some point, which, obviously, was what I had been so clearly hoping for, and I liked the idea that I could spend some time with her without the pressure of stepping right into a ready-made boyfriend role straight from my previous supposed-enemy role; the two parts were very different.

"We can do that," I finally agreed, and I was happy to see Jesse beam brilliantly at me, absolutely no trace of containment evident.

"Fabuuulous," she drawled, in a voice that reminded be of Zsar Zsar Gabor. I kept her eyes for a second longer than I should have, given that I was driving, but discovered the risk was far worth it just to meet the intense, happy sparkle I found staring back at me. A jolt in my chest made me wonder if my heart skipped a beat.

"So where are we going, anyway?" I asked, just to draw my own attention away to something that would stop the little blissful daydreams already cropping up in my mind.

"I need to go see Connor, we're meeting up," she explained, and immediately at her words the fuzzy we're-making-progress buzz that had been lining my stomach began to fizzle away. Connor? Wasn't he the guy she had claimed was her new boyfriend? Who, although he obviously was not such, had kissed her that night in the club? The guy I was, therefore, automatically jealous of? My stomach clenched unpleasantly.

I knew, logically, she had never been with him—Bridget had confirmed my suspicions about that already. I even knew she had only ever kissed him because she had panicked about me, which was even a good thing, in a very weird, very complicated way that I didn't want to explain to myself over again. But, still, the fact of the matter was she had kissed him, and even if the kiss hadn't meant something to her, Bridget had admitted to me, grudgingly, that it was possible it had meant something to him.

And now I was the 'friend' who was taking her to see him? My tight stomach twisted painfully.

"Oh yeah?" was all I managed to croak out, my back tensing, despite my efforts of trying to keep my body relaxed. I struggled to quickly regain my calm. There would be an explanation, surely? A simple, easy, friendly explanation. Yeah.

"Yeah. I, um," Jess paused, shifting a little, and she looked from the window, to me, then back out of the window. "I have some things I need to sort out with him. Some complications." She bit her lip briefly, breathing deeply through her nose, and one of her hands closed around the seat belt strapped diagonally over her chest. "I didn't treat him like a friend should treat another friend, and I need to apologise for that," she clarified entirely, and all tenseness and unease seeped out of me, leaving me feeling stupid and incredibly aware of the vulnerable, almost-sadness evident in Jesse's voice.

"You'll patch things up," I reassured her gently, saying what felt right.

"Oh. Well, yeah, that'd be good," she gave the kind of quiet shaky laugh that people only offered when they were being brave, but felt that they weren't. "But, ya know, I haven't earned the right to stay friends with him, so…we'll see." She avoided my eyes when I looked over at her, gauging her expression and her body language. She looked a combination of things, a touch awkward, probably at saying these things to me, but mostly as if she was trying not to seem sad, probably because these things she was saying were true.

And, although something told me I shouldn't, I reached out and touched her, with just two fingers, brushing the tips down the back of her hand and squeezing her forefinger between mine and my thumb reassuringly.

I wanted to take her whole hand and hold it, just hold it, but I also wanted to curl her against me and brush her hair off her face, so I correctly assumed my urges weren't purely platonic, and I withdrew my hand and placed it back on the wheel.

I became immediately aware of the fact that she only moved the finger I had squeezed just slightly at first, but then she curled it into the palm of her hand and held it in her lap, rested on the dip between her thighs. For a second I pondered whether this was a bad sign, if it meant I had done the wrong thing, but then I realised she had turned her eyes towards my profile, and her voice sounded as if it had a kind smile in it.

"Thanks." And that was all she said for a while, our silence a bit more self-conscious than the silence up the school driveway had been, but somehow still comfortable all same, because the awkwardness had reason, and because the reason was something to be happy enough about in itself; Jesse Melissa Chambers had opened up to me about things she hadn't had to, and she had done it of her own accord.

It was some ten minutes later before I asked for directions to wherever it was she was meeting Connor. Brushing hair out her face, and gazing around the street as if I had brought her out of reverie, she pointed towards the next turning on the left.

"You can just turn in here and I'll get out. We're meeting in the town centre by the fountain, so I need to walk over anyway."

I nodded, making a noise that said that was ok, and pulled into the small residential side road, pulling up the side of it. I halted the car smoothly.

"Thanks for bringing me, I really appreciate it," she told me, unbuckling her belt, and looking like she meant it. I smiled easily.

"It's no problem. Where do you want me to pick you up?"

She was reaching down to pull her school bag up from where it had been sitting on the car floor at her feet, and she paused briefly before she pulled it up into her lap, looking over at me. "Oh, no, you don't need to wait. I was gonna try and find a bus back or walk or something."

I laughed gently, "Jess, the buses only go halfway back to school, if you'll be a while it'll be getting dark. I'd rather wait then have you walk home."

"But…" She brushed her hair away again. I had to remind myself it probably wouldn't be acceptable to do it for her, but God I wanted to. "But then you'd have to wait. I couldn't—besides, I might not even be that long. But thanks anyway, you're really just…" she laughed as she stepped out of the car, leaning in through the open door to finish her sentence, "too nice, actually." She grinned. "Most the time, anyway."

Knowing she was referring definitely to our argument of the previous Monday, and possibly my blow up of that following Tuesday, I chuckled and nodded back. "Most, yeah." I tapped my fingers on the wheel. "Well, look, I'm gonna wait around for you now anyway, I've got some things I can do in town 'til you're done. If you want, we can grab a coffee or something afterwards since we're here?" Her lips parted at this, and her expression become unreadable in a way that, weirdly enough, I actually found reassuring. "You know, since we're such best buds now and everything," I added, grinning.

Eventually Jesse's parted lips turned up into a grin too, and she nodded at me, glancing down the street then back again. "Alright, you're on. I don't have a cell though, you won't know when I'm done."

"It's ok, I'll find you," I shrugged, deciding it wouldn't be hard. The town centre wasn't exactly huge, and most of the surrounding area was residential, besides the strip on the south side with the pool hall, Monster's Ball, Widowed, and couple other establishments I had never bothered to pay attention to.

"How very mysterious of you," she teased, finally throwing her bag onto her back, still bent down to look at me through the open car door. She closed it, and looked at me through the open window.

"That's me," I played along, amused. She filled the air with one of her easy laughs again; I was quickly becoming used to them. I liked the melody of it.

"Alright, then I'll see you in a while, Patrick," she concluded, straightening, still grinning.

"You got it, Chambers. See ya then."

And with that I pulled away from the side of the road and did a three-point-turn, holding my hand out my window to wave vaguely at her as I passed her by. Grinning, looking playful and entertained, she stuck her tongue out back before laughing and letting the expression fall away while her hand lifted up into a wave.

I smiled to myself all the way to the parking lot.

A/N: Hooolllla chickadees! How be you? I am good Here we have (a quite long) chapter 37, that is, hopefully, to your taste, though I am quite beginning to doubt that whatever I write will be acceptable to some people now; or, at least, I presume to be the case because of the plummeting reviews-per-chapter numbers and the number of reviews out of those that I have been getting which are grumpy. Ah well, there's only one more chapter to go, and then I'm guessing I can start a fresh slate with my new fic which, yes, in answer to several peoples' questions, I will be writing. It's called Metamorphosis, and will be put up…I'm not sure how long after Hilton is finished. Could be a few weeks, could be one or two. I'll post some previews in the last Hilton chapter though, so if you're interested you can tag along to the new fic. Anyhow, thankies to all the people who're still taking the time to offer their support and w00tiness; it's much appreciated, and makes me smile a great deal. Mwa!

Want update notifications? Then email me (addy on profile) with 'Hilton Notifications' as the subject line. Want to be emailed when I post my new story? Then email me, similarly, with 'Metamorphosis Notifications' as the subject.

Thanks to my stunning, hilarious, wonderful, and adorable beta, Loki Blacktrick, for vacuuming the dust bunnies and cobwebs out of this chapter. She is a star! :)

Recommendation: "Insert Foot" by DemonRabbit231. It's hilarious, truly, and very well written. I envy Meesis Demon that. Go read, and, most importantly, go review! Because it's mean when people enjoy your work without at least saying hi. Now Shoo!

Thanks for reviewing:

Reina Lucille, Bananalogic, erikphantom, Kigono, TopazDragon, ve, Osunale, Bubbl3gum, lostwoods, inconsequential me, Kitson, Frances, Ashley, CryingIvy, Martini Kisses, Beautiful Poison, theGhost, littleboots, Perfect Bliss (Sweet Little Lies ROCKS!), Ti, jessdarkwater, Tina, Final Rose, crazyhelga, paradoxicalbanana, DuchessYappingDog, ghenne04 (love you too!), mistii, cbprice25, QuOtAtA, Otabee Mox, Mei1105, slowlydancingtothestars, CrystalDusk, lilsakura, Way smooth, AVision, Shaina, Kazahana, oN-bEnDed-kneE,

Miss-guppy: No, I don't know all the words to Rosie and Jim, oh please forgive me :P you smeghead. Lol. Now gimme the clip of you singing it! and go purchase me mookies, if you think your cooking might kill me. I'll share my waffles with you mwa!

Kace08: I'm so sorry to hear you've been caught up in all the horridness (light word, I know,) of Katrina. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like. You seem to be in relatively high spirits though, so good for you! You're a doll. Big mwasss! Take good care of yourself honey.

Bubbl3gum: Hola! Welcome to the story, meesis, I'm glad you're enjoying it. It's cool to see you figured out that Jesse's bitterness is a defence mechanism so early on; most people didn't grasp that 'til way later in the story. Soo, big cookies for you! Have fun (snigger) with all your work, lol! Mwa!

Southern: First of all, thanks for giving up so much of your time to sit and read through all the chapters; that's sweet of you. And, in which case, means I should welcome you to the story; so welcome! It's also cute you think my writing has improved as the story continues, even if my plot has dipped and dragged sometimes in your opinion; fair enough really. You're a cutie! Mwa!

city-gal7: Yes, in those moments where Jesse seems happy, she is genuinely so, and not just acting. Dw bout it, it's all good. Mwa!

Psychedelic mishap: The bit you got confused about where you thought Jesse was calling Jon 'short' was actually a little exchange about…his male endowment. lol! I'm sure if you re-read it with that in mind, it'd all make more sense. Hehe. Sorry I didn't quite make it explicit enough though. Mwa!

Lleaves: oh gosh, I failed again, just about. I got two faults that would have failed me automatically even if I had done just one of them on an otherwise perfect drive, but those were my only faults, annoyingly. Dammit! Obviously I'm just not cut out for this test crap, 'cause I'm fine in my lessons and when im out driving with ma mere :o ah well, 4th times a charm? Oh god, lol, how tragic is that? 4 times! Thanks for the interest tho, you're sweet (Shares the mookies.) mwa!

Galaxy's Guru: No, Bridget's not going to hook up with anyone. I might consider doing a spin-off with Bridge, if I hadn't already learnt my lesson about sequels; ie, that I'm crap at them and get bored. Sorry bumblebee. But hey, at least this way you can dream up some super-licious man candy in your head and hook Bridget up with him in there. It'll be fun, promise! Lol. mwa!

Jazzy Kitty: I LOVE people like you! Ie, people who 'get' that Jesse's transformation isn't something that can be summed up in just a chapter. And hurrah that you enjoyed the Darcy-truce-offering. I've always known I needed to include something like that in it concerning Darcy, but I wasn't sure I wrote it properly, whether it just seemed too abrupt or something, like it didn't fit with Jesse yet. But hey, if a writer as awesome as you (go update This Storm,) enjoyed it then I'm happy. Big maws!

Storywritergirl: Love you name, dahhhling. So cute! Lol, and anyway, in answer to your question, yes, I am…vaguely quick on my feet when it comes to comebacks. Quick enough that most guys of my acquaintance enjoy verbally sparring with me, and then going 'ooohhh' to one another when I win. Lol! It's fun. And I gave Jon your number. He says he'll call you tonight. Mwa!

NoMoreTears: Ah yes, all the geniuses were a little crazy; I suppose we should allow it of you also then. Lol! Hope you didn't get into trouble about those essays by the way. Gareth sounds like an idiot; tell him I said so. Give him what for! Lol. Mwa!