Chapter 8: Ryan is Mine


Ryan Eldridge

Lindsay wouldn't quit bugging me. Today she wasn't running around the house screaming, 'Silly Ryan! Trix are for kids!' but that was almost as annoying as being attacked by the Spidey Water Squirter she got from our new box of Lucky Charms. You should've seen her face when she was harassing me, too. I mean, sheesh—was that my precious princess little sister laughing over me with cruelly gleaming eyes?!

No, I thought dramatically. That was a monster!

Fine, fine. You caught me. She didn't look that evil. It was just that…well—

I wanted the toy. Jerk.

We were a cereal family, if you hadn't guessed. Those glorious granules (of love and affection) made up one of my family's major food groups, much to my mother's ill-founded chagrin. I didn't know why she got so upset when we told her we wanted cereal for dinner, and not pasta or grilled chicken. Sure, the sugar content was high sometimes, but come on! Whole grain!

And I thought we were healthy enough kids. I mean, it wasn't like I took my sister under my wing and taught her how to devour the whole Albertsons dessert aisle in less than twenty-four hours, or how to eat two-bite powdered doughnuts in only one bite, or how to take in more than half a plate of Twizzler and chocolate sauce spaghetti without throwing up or anything like that.

…Wait. Umm. Crap. Poor mom.

But we had a bigger problem at hand. Lindsay was only squirting me with that stupid toy relentlessly because she really wanted to go to Ben's birthday party —and I promised her we would…just not an hour early. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for her. And my shirt was getting really wet. So a few minutes later, the two of us were seated in my truck, seatbelts strapped, and ready to partaay.

"You excited?" I asked, glancing briefly at my little sister as the traffic light turned red.

She nodded her head eagerly, blonde hair swishing all over the place. "Yes!" she lisped. "Ben's gonna have a jumping castle and his brothers are doing madger tricks!"

"Magic tricks," I corrected easily, inwardly snickering. Shell's brothers were magicians? Yeah right. And I was the Queen of England.

…I wasn't the Queen of England. She was a girl, stupid.


It was only a ten-minute drive, so when we got out of the Tacoma, we were still three quarters of an hour early for the main event. Yippee ki-yay.

I took Lindsay's hand in mine and the two of us walked up the path to the large, but quaint, peach-colored house. Setting Ben's present down (a Krabby Patty Station Grill —it made some freaking awesome sizzling noises), I bent my knees and lifted my little sister off the ground. She grinned at me brightly and reached her small hand out to ring the doorbell.

She really liked buttons. Kicking them, punching them, smacking them —or even, get this, pressing them.

Believe me, it sucked.

The door swung open a few seconds later, and I was met by the justifiably surprised and confused face of none other than…doggy?

Wait, never mind.

Joey lowered the small white and brown puppy from its place in front of his equally surprised and confused face, and looked down at his wrist.

"Stupid Vic," he muttered. "Always messing with my watch."

I smirked. "Yeah, Stupid Vic. What's wrong with that kid?" I asked, while at the same time, my little sister responded:

"No, your watch is still alive. We really are early."

I shook my head sadly as she blinked innocently. Amateur. Looks like I had to teach her a few more things.

"Oh," Joey said, scratching his head with a bewildered smile. "Cool." He told Lindsay that Ben was up in his room, and she immediately raced up the stairs. Before I could worry about them being in the same bedroom alone (cue horrified gasp) Joey let down the puppy (since when did they have a dog?) and clapped me on the back.


"Ryan—just the man I wanted to see!" he smirked, spreading his arms out wide.

I frowned, tilting my head up at the smooth white ceiling in despair, before meeting his gaze warily. "What do you want?"

He cocked a brow. "The better question, my friend, is do you want to play an honorable part in making this little soiree an even merrier affair for these rosy-cheeked, doe-eyed, charmingly innocent children of all ages, of countries far and wide, of all walks of life, of every shape, size, and color —all united by one common aspiration, that being having fun and —wait, two common aspirations —the other being taking pleasure in their fellow man's fellowship, each one having been summoned to this humble abode by Blues Clues invitations written in the outrageously sloppy handwriting of my very own brother, Benjamin Jude Watson, whom I hold dear to my beating heart? Do you, Ryan Eldridge, want to be an emissary of this noble and utterly sublime goal?"



"Victor helped you write that," I said simply after a dramatic moment, and he shrugged.

"Well do you?" Joey asked, still catching the breath he lost during his long-winded (pre-written!) speech.

"Depends," I said unsurely.

"Awesome!" he grinned brightly, and gestured for me to walk after him.

"I didn't exactly agree, man—"

"Details, details," he rolled his eyes, waving a hand around as I followed him…somewhere.

"Where are we going?" I questioned, raising an eyebrow suspiciously. You could never be too sure with those Watson kids.




"Don't you think you're old enough to go by yourself?" I asked, scratching my neck.

He smacked the back of my head. "That's where Michelle is. Here, take this," he said, handing me a Sharpie. "and tell her it's for The Magic Trick. The Magic Trick. She'll understand," he declared with exaggerated mysteriousness. "Depart!" he cried. "Oh," he paused, "by the way, you have to take off your shirt when you get in there."

I stared. He shrugged. "That's what happens when a mother puts her kids in charge of entertainment, buys them a five-dollar magic set that only comes with a deck of cards and a toothpick—I know, what the freak? A toothpick!—and tells them to be creative. And this trick is the result of overly creative kids who don't really want to use the toothpick." He paused for breath. "Now away with you, oh you of little faith!"

I decided not to comment, and got ready to barge through the white door in front of me. Yeah, guys didn't knock.

But then it opened by itself. Dude! A mind-reading door; freaking sweet!

Michelle bumped into me. Or maybe I bumped into her. Really, who would know? I looked down at her, and—

Oh…crap. My eyes widened on their own accord as I took in her outfit. Dude, she had some…

"Nice legs," I said, waggling my eyebrows to hide my surprise.

Her eyes grew big and disgusted; she blushed immediately, turning away in flustered embarrassment or indignation—I wasn't quite sure which.

Not a good move, by the way. Oh, naïve, unassuming little Michelle. If a guy compliments your legs, you don't turn around to give him a view of your backside, also. I mean, honestly, that's just stupid—

…Umm, Ew! Especially if you just peed in your pants!

"What the —did you pee in your pants?!" I asked, shocked, and a little amused. She was two years old!

Surprisingly, she grinned. The smile faltered in a second. What was she stari—oh. Yeah. I took off my shirt while she was turned around —I mean, if she was gonna show off her body, I could too, right? Exactly. Two can play at that game.

And guess what?! I was one of those two. BWAHAHAhahaapahahaahaHAHAHAAHHAHA!

She brought a hand to her face, no doubt intending to cover her eyes (my abs and pecs were rightfully insulted), but then thought better of it.

She kept her eyes trained on my face, staring at me like I was a weirdo. Whatever. At least I was potty-trained.

I shrugged and smiled, gave her the Sharpie and an annoyingly vague explanation as to why I was shirtless, and…she just stared.

And then she shrieked. "Put your shirt back on, you sicko!" Jeez, she didn't even check me out...how rude!

I smirked. "No can do, babe…"

"Is a gallant pig," she interrupted, narrowing her eyes. I bet she'd been waiting for the opportunity to say that her whole life —so esentially, I'd done her a favor by using that somewhat degrading nickname. She just wouldn't show me how grateful she really was. "Now do as I say, or….umm," she paused, biting her lip, "Say as I do!"

I scratched my head. That…

Was pathetically unthreatening.

"Feisty," I grinned. "I like it." She smacked her forehead, and I continued, "But Joey did tell me to. Something about The Magic Trick or something—"

Her eyes widened, and her body shot up from where it was leaning against a pale lavender wall. "What? I thought one of them would be doing it, not—ugh!"

She grabbed my hand thoughtlessly, opened the door, and rushed down the carpeted hallway into the den where all her brothers were engaged in separate wrestling matches.

That's thumb-wrestling, by the way.

"Joey!" she whined. "Why does Ryan get to be the car—"

Her brother's eyes widened, and he rushed up to cover her mouth with his hand. "Not another word, little girl," he warned. "And he doesn't know he's the You-know-what; it would be better if he didn't until everyone else did. And we—" he gestured to his still battling brothers, "thought it would be funnier if someone from the audience was the You-know-what, so…sorry, kiddo!" he ruffled her hair. "Get back in the bathroom, and do your magic!"

She bared her teeth at him, before her eyes brightened, and she said, "But Ryan will know he's the You-know-what if I'm drawing on him. I mean, honestly, you guys already know, so one of you should—"

"Blindfold him," Anthony piped up from his seat on the white leather couch, just finishing —and winning— the thumb war with Michael. Michael was making faces at him behind his back.

"With what?" Shell asked, staring at him warily. She knew she lost already.

"His shirt!" Victor said, grinning.

"Duh," Michael agreed with raised eyebrows, pulling his tongue back in and smoothing his face out as Anthony turned to look at him.

I snickered.

"See? Now off you go, my magical minions!" Joey, ever the friendly soldier (ha), dismissed us, smiling broadly.

And I had no idea what the freak was going on.

Shell huffed, glaring at her brothers. "I hope you don't get any piñata candy and that little kids force you out of the jumping castle," she sniffed, crossed her arms (she'd released my hand blushingly when we entered the room), and made a quick, petulant exit. Was she full of hate or what?

Yeah, not really.

Her brothers stared after her, grinning. Except for Victor.

"She doesn't mean that—tell me she doesn't mean that!" he sobbed into Michael's chest. The latter pushed him off without a second's hesitation, but it was easy to see he was just as amused as he was irritated.

I shrugged at them, saluted quickly, and exited the room to catch up with Michelle, "Aww, you know you like this," I smirked, puffing out my chest.

"Just get in there, you geekburger—with cheese," she muttered, shoving me into the bathroom and locking the door behind us.

For shame! Who would've thought I'd befriend a girl who got her insults from Full House?

Shell walked to the black granite sink counter, grabbed my dark green shirt off its perch, rolled it up, and approached me slowly.

"What're you gonna do with that? Spank me?" I asked, backing up fearfully. I mean, I knew I was being annoying and all, but—

She rubbed at her eyes, but I saw the tiny grin tugging her pink lips up. "It's the blindfold, you dolt. Weren't you listening?"

Um, kind of. But her legs were a little distracting.

…Did I say that? I meant…her carpet! It was so white and soft.

"Of course," I said smoothly, "Well?" I asked when I saw she was just standing in front of me, blinking stupidly.

"You're tall," she pointed out with a shrug. "I don't think I could successfully tie this thing without breaking my neck in the process."

I sighed long-sufferingly, and reached up to tie it myself.

"Okay!" she chirped brightly. "This will be fun!"

I rolled my eyes behind my makeshift blindfold. "Why were you complaining so much if you're so happy to do whatever it is you're going to do to me?"

I could practically feel the sheepish movement of her shrug. "Felt like it?"

A moment's pause.

And then many moments' pauses.

"Well?" I prompted again. "Work your magic."

She sighed reluctantly, taking a hesitant step forward. I felt her lay a hand gingerly on my bare chest, and I immediately tensed at the contact.

I smirked, hiding my uncharacteristic discomfort. "I'm blindfolded and half-naked. I hope you're not planning anything dirty, kiddo."

"Only Joey can call me that," she muttered; if I took the shirt off from over my eyes, I knew I'd see her blushing or narrowing her eyes in that un-scary glare of hers. I grinned at the thought.

She pulled her hand back. I frowned. "You know I was kidding."

"I know," she said indifferently, and then started muttering to herself —I picked up "circle" and "shot."

"What was that?" I asked, swallowing again as her hand resumed its comfortable spot on my (exposed!)right shoulder.

"Cootie shot," she mumbled, and I nodded, choking down a snort. And then I jumped in surprise when I felt short, cold strokes on my chest.

"What was that?" I asked again.





Boring silence.

"Do you, perhaps, have a shot that cures love pains, doctor of my heart? The girl I love tells me she doesn't return my affections, and always refuses to go out with me. I cry myself to sleep every night," I confessed, feigning anguish.


I brought a hand to my aching shins, still grinning.

"Um. IcyHot works well, too."



I was watching my little sister run around in the backyard since Michelle, that bumtart, ditched me for Rachelthe minute she jumped on her back. I know, what a sexist traitor. If I jumped on her back, she'd probably kill me. That is, if I didn't kill her first. She probably weighed nothing compared to me.

Anyways, I turned around after hearing the odd shout; the voice was a little too familiar for me to be comfortable with.


What the…no way.

"Gabe?" I asked, and my eyes widened in surprise.

"No, Toucan Sam," he rolled his own eyes and clapped me on the back. Mmm…Fruit Loops.

"What're you doing here?" I questioned, frowning. "These people aren't exactly within our age group," I said, gesturing to the little kids playing 'Duck, Duck, Goose.' Had he stooped so low?!

"I could say the same for you," he returned easily.

"Then…say it," I challenged stupidly.

"And if I don't want to?"

"Then you're a wiener."

"No, anything but that," he droned sarcastically.

"Wiener, wiener, pants on greener!" I taunted. And such was the conversation between best fr—people who hung out with each other a lot.

"Jeremiah," he told me, raising an eyebrow. Uhh…what? "My younger brother, remember? That's why I'm here. My dad said I had to stay and watch him."

He had a brother?

"Oh, right," I said coolly, even though I knew he knew I didn't know he had a younger sibling.

"So what are you doing here? Stalking me?" he asked with a grin, pushing my shoulder in jest.

"Yeah. My little sister came with me, too. So now you've got two stalkers," I shrugged.

"Six. Four girls at school are following me around, too. So Lindsay's here?"






"Okay, this is getting boring," a voice piped up from our side.

Gabe and I turned around to be met with the displeased faces of Rachel and Michelle. They raised their eyebrows at us, and we raised ours back. Take that!

"Rachel's right. Eavesdropping is only fun if the conversation is fun."

I stared at her, incredulous and amused. "You were eavesdropping?"

Her lips quirked slightly. "Boredom does weird things to people."

"I don't think we've met," Gabe said to Michelle, looking her up and down. I was suddenly glad she'd changed into jeans and a bright orange t-shirt. And a hat. Except her signature pinstriped cap was replaced by a cone-shaped Spongebob party hat. I know; sexy, huh?

NOT! But it was kind of…um, cute.

Which was kind of, um, not Gabe's type.

Which was why he should kind of, um, back off!

She blushed, ears reddening in embarrassment. "Nope."

Gabe smirked, amused. "Right."

Shell looked down. "Yup."

Rachel rolled her eyes at her friend. "I think he wants you to introduce yourself."

Gabe glanced over at the other girl, before staring at Michelle with raised eyebrows. "And I think that she thinks right."

Michelle didn't look up from her perusal of her scruffy shoes. "Me, too," she said simply, still nervous.

Gabe coughed, hiding a laugh. "I guess I'll go first," he shrugged, holding out his hand. "I'm Gabriel."

"Oh, cool," Shell said, not looking up to take the offered hand.

Rachel nudged her. Shell glared at her. Rachel pointed at Gabe's hand. Shell reluctantly slipped her hand in his.

"Michelle," she smiled nervously, practically hyperventilating as he leaned down to kiss her hand. Ew. What the heck was he pulling?

She pulled her hand back as soon as he loosened his grip, and, quite unsubtly, wiped the back of her hand on her jeans. That's my girl! Gabe snickered, not as offended as he was amused. "Cute," he muttered to me, smirking.

"And this is Rachel," Michelle chirped brightly, pointing to her best friend. She was happy to take herself out of the spotlight.

"I know," Gabe shrugged, sticking his hands in his pockets. "She's in my French class."

And then he and Rachel went on to talk, pretty darn close to fluently, in the aforementioned language.




Apparently, Michelle thought so, too. "O-kay. I'm just gonna go and get myself some Juicy Juice."

Rachel looked up. "And a Hi-C for me!" she grinned.

Gabe's head snapped up also. "Would you like me to come with you?" he asked, smirking.

She stuttered. "Uh—no, that…no—that wouldn't be necessary. Just tell me what you want."

He shrugged. "Umm…Caprisun?"

Shell nodded to herself, and I spoke up for the first time since…a long time ago. "Me, too!" I exclaimed, grinning. Caprisun was my favorite.

Her clear blue eyes stared at me mockingly, and she looked to Rachel, smirking. "I dunno, Rachel. Could my fetching a drink for Ryan be considered —oh, I dunno— a favor?"

Her friend tapped her chin in faux deliberation. "Now that's a thought," she muttered to herself.

I rolled my eyes. "Fine, I'll go with you," I growled darkly. I wasn't really that put out, though. Rachel and Gabe were freaking boring me in the first place. But still! I didn't feel like moving!

I ignored my friend's bewildered grin as I marched to the refreshments table with Michelle.

...Yay, Caprisun!


So Michelle was skipping to the bench with all the snackies; I was stomping, emitting infantile noises of displeasure every other second.

"Stop being such a baby," Shell snorted, raising her eyebrows. Finally! A reaction! "It's not like you understood what the heck they were saying, anyways."

I grinned. "I know. They were practically Frenching each other right then and there!"

Pun intended. It was a stupid pun, and pretty irrelevant, though. I thought it was funny.

But she rolled her eyes. "No they weren't. Rachel has a boyfriend—at another school, but whatever, and Gabe didn't look interested."

Because he's interested in you, I thought, grinding my teeth in annoyance.

"Yay! We're here!" Michelle smiled brightly, digging her hands into the cooler. She got everybody's drinks —well, except for mine— and we started back to our friends, arguing over what type of drinks had better slurpage —juice boxes or juice pouches. It was pretty obvious.

"No, no, no," I told her, shaking my head. "See, if you're drinking, say, a Caprisun juice pouch, when you're almost done, you can let go of it and the straw and drink will still stay in your mouth. It won't drop to the ground, and you won't have wasted anything; it's convenient and awesome. This same 'no hands' privilege is not granted with juice boxes. Believe me, I've tried. They always fall down and spill on your new shirt—"

"I agree with Ryan," Superman told us seriously. Wait, not Superman. But Anthony was wearing a cape. "Though I have to admit everything tastes better if it's in a box. What's up guys?" he asked us, nodding his head. He didn't give us time to respond. "Cool. Um. It's show time," he grinned, tapping his sister with his plastic (pink…ew) magic wand. "So you've got to come with us," he pointed to his brothers waving like idiots behind us, "And cheer me on if the kids hate the trick. And you—" he looked at me, "Can sit wherever you like in the audience, but when Ben picks you as our Magical Volunteer, just come on up," he nodded his approval as I agreed to do this. "Cool. Time to amuse hard-to-amuse kids. Honestly, they're a tough crowd. Just look at them," he said, pursing his lips as he stared at the dirty, restless children happily eating ice cream in their colorful seats.

He shook his head again and dragged Michelle away; she handed me the drinks she was holding. "I guess you'll give that to them," she shrugged, then smiled. "Jeez! This is so exciting!"

I returned her cheery grin with a smirk, and flicked her forehead. "Good luck," I lifted a shoulder nonchalantly.

"Not that I need it," she grinned again, and allowed herself to be dragged away by her older brother.


When I reached Gabe and Rachel, they were already walking to the chairs in the back labeled "Big Kids!" in Michelle's loopy, slanted, way-too-neat handwriting; there were some Rebel Kindergarteners sitting there, claiming they were big kids. Which was true, if the Huggies commercials were anything to believe.

Well, with the RKs sitting there, all the BK seats were occupied; the three of us settled for crouching on the grass, leaning against the big tree.

Anthony stepped up to the microphone on the pseudo-stage they'd set up. "What's up, guys?" he asked, and was met by the high-pitched squeals of little kiddies. "Well, as you know, it's Ben's birthday—"

There was a low rumbling, and then someone rode down the smooth path that separated the kiddy chairs from the Big Kid chairs; a little motorcyclist sped down the cement walkway in the middle of the green backyard.

"And there he is!" Anthony grinned. "Come on up, little bro."

Ben took off his black Power Ranger helmet, shook his messy, dark hair out, and walked up to his brother on stage. I snickered as I heard some little girls squealing.

"Little heartbreaker, isn't he?" Rachel smirked.

Gabe and I shrugged.

The birthday boy pointed to Anthony's hand, and his brother gave him the microphone in compliance.

"Guess what?" he cried. "We're gonna do a madger trick!"

The ground shook with stomping, cheers, and excited applause. Jeez, were those kids a riot or what? There had to be at least thirty of the midgets, not to mention Ben's very own siblings —they were the loudest.

Anthony cleared his throat. "Magic trick," he amended. "Now, Ben, pick a volunteer."

Victor, the only other person on stage with them, waggled his eyebrows and added, "You could even choose someone from the Big Kids group over there." He looked at me pointedly and then glanced over at the other faces in the crowd. Didn't want to seem suspicious.

Ben already knew he was supposed to pick me, but he looked troubled as literally every hand shot up at the word "volunteer." Even Gabe and Rachel joined in on the cries of "Me! Pick me!" And was that a grandma jumping up and down? Yep. And her dentures fell out. Poor old person. I was inventing a Never-Become-An-Old-(and poor)-Person potion before I turned thirty so I wouldn't grow up to be a poor old person.

Just to let you know.



Eventually, the little boy's features smoothed out into a grin. Yeah, he was still trying to choose a Magical Volunteer...I resisted the urge to look at my watch and groan loudly. "I'll pick the quietest person," he said smartly. And hey! That was me, as I was probably the only person who didn't ask to be called on. Ten bucks said he got that trick from his teacher.

"You," he said, pointing straight at me.

Anthony took the microphone from him. "Alright, come on down, Ryan!"

I smirked as I walked up to the stage, hearing Gabe jokingly mutter, "This trick is fixed." Yeah it was, but none of us were magicians, okay?!

I ruffled Ben's hair when I stepped onto the stage, and he grinned up at me. Anthony grinned, too. "Well, ladies and gentlemen…today, we're performing a card trick."

Victor grabbed the mic from him. "Yeah, a card trick," he repeated stupidly, waggling his eyebrows again. I heard Michelle laugh from the back corner of the stage.

Anthony rolled his eyes. "Soo…pick a card, any card," he said, subtly poking one out to be chosen.

"HMM," I deliberated. "I dunno," I grinned. "There are just so many!"

Anthony jutted the card I was supposed to pick even farther out, rolling his eyes. I took it with a smirk, and showed it to the crowd. Well, the first two rows, since they were probably the only ones who could see it. Three of Hearts.

"Alright," Victor said excitedly. "Put it back in!"

I did. Anthony shuffled the deck around for a few moments, before picking a card out with a smile. "Is it…this one?" he asked, raising a brow.

Umm…maybe I was supposed to lie. Nah. "Nope," I said, shrugging.

"This one?" he tried again with a confused frown.

…"Um, no."

"How 'bout this one?" he showed me the Four of Diamonds hopefully.

"Not really."

He tried a few more cards before the crowd started getting restless. Some of the Rebel Kindergarteners were actually booing, so Joey, Anthony, and Michelle waved their pompoms—yes, pompoms— cheering loudly. It was funny to watch the RKs challenge the grinning, undeterred Watson support group.

"Okay, okay," Anthony said in frustration. "It's pretty obvious the card disappeared." Or maybe he was a sucky magician! He scratched his neck. "Maybe…it's in my hat!" he took off his hat and turned it upside down. Nothing. "I mean, Victor's hat!" Victor did the same thing. Empty. Pathetic.

"Umm…maybe Ryan's hiding it under his shirt!"

Yeah, that made sense.

"I don't think so, man," Victor looked up at Anthony pityingly. "Just give it up."

"No!" some teeny-bopper chick yelled from the back. "Don't give it up! Lift it up!"

Well, that was corny.

Anthony shrugged at me apologetically. "You heard the girl."

Crap. I'd get him for that.

I pulled my shirt up past my belly button before pulling it down hastily. It was awkward and uncomfortable —stupid Watsons!

"Higher!" Gabe called from the back, smirking. Michael catcalled, waving his pompoms again. And some little girls covered their eyes, crying, "Gross!" Whatever. They knew they loved it.

"Yeah, higher!" Victor echoed, grinning. I rolled my eyes, grabbed the dark green hem, and pulled the shirt up as high as it would go.

There was a stunned silence.

Wow. I knew I was sexy, but…

I looked down curiously, took one glance, and tried my best not to laugh. Magical Volunteers didn't laugh at their Magician's tricks, so I just looked at the crowd indifferently, glancing down at myself every now and then.

There was one neat red heart drawn on each of my (sexy) pecs, and two were painted (okay, Sharpie'd) across my abdomen. Down the middle of my chest were three larger red hearts (complete with smiley-faces in the middle…what a Michelle), and four threes in their respective spots. I was the Three of Hearts.

And that's why she was drawing on me.

Stupid Watsons!

The crowd started laughing, and the kids with their hands covering their eyes took them down to see what was going on. They stared and laughed, too.

I pulled my shirt down, feeling my neck burn a little.

Looking to the Big Kids section, I saw Gabe smirking, Rachel doubling over in laughter, and Mrs. Watson shaking her head with a grin.

Victor stepped up to the mic. "Wow," he breathed. "I don't know about you guys, but I thought that was amazing."

More laughter and applause; we started to head off the stage. And then...

It started off slowly and quietly, before rising to a raucous, desperate chant: "ONE MORE TRICK! ONE MORE TRICK! ONE MORE TRICK!"

Anthony looked panicked. Victor froze, and then grinned. "Who wants caaaake?!" he sing-songed happily.

Nobody seemed to care about us anymore, and Mrs. Watson rushed inside to bring out the birthday cake. I didn't really want any, so I just stood around, hands in pockets, watching everyone eat. I got bored after a while, but I didn't feel like bugging anyone for entertainment. Weird, huh?

I looked up from my shoes, and...yay! My savior!

Michelle approached me cautiously, raising her eyebrows, as if to say "What in the heck are you doing here standing by yourself—and not bugging anyone?" I just grinned at her.

"Nice show," she snorted. "I think my fourteen-year-old neighbor fainted when she saw you lift up your shirt."

I smiled inwardly. I liked that she was going against her un-conversation-starting nature because she thought I wasn't having a good time by myself. I liked how selfless she was, and I liked how she went out of her way to ensure everyone's happiness. I liked to hang out with her because I knew I'd be able to learn something.

And she got to learn how sexy everyone thought I was!

I smirked. "What can I say?"

"Nothing," she retorted easily. And stupidly. "Why aren't you eating?" she asked, sticking her fork in her mouth.

"Not really in the mood for cake," I shrugged carelessly. Was that a crime? I think not.

Her eyes widened. "Not even ice-cream cake?"

I grinned. "Not even ice-cream cake."

She looked at me for a second, before shaking her head. "I don't even think I can talk to you anymore."

"Then don't," I said simply, hiding a smirk. As if she would just leave. I smiled to myself again.

"Well, fine the—"


"Aww, crap," I groaned. "Do something!"

Michelle wasn't paying me any attention, though. She was grinning and pointing at something over my shoulder. "Jumping castle!" she exclaimed, bouncing up and down.

The kids had seen it, too. Good. We'd manage to avoid the psycho crowd once again.

About ten kids rushed to the castle; the others were either eating or chasing each other around.

Michelle grabbed my hand again. I knew she liked touching me. "Come on!" she whined impatiently. "Help me find Rachel so we could go in!"

I cocked a brow insultingly. "I'm not going in there."

Her mouth dropped, and she pulled her hand back from mine fearfully. "Oh my g—you're an alien!"


"What?!" Well, that's what I was going to say, but someone beat me to it.

Michelle spun around; Rachel and Gabe were behind us. Based on the high pitch of the exclamation, I knew it was Rachel who said it.

"I had a feeling," Gabe said, smirking. I think he did that more than me. Weird, I know.

Rachel rolled her eyes. "Now don't go on making claims like that if you don't have any evidence to support them. You can really ruin people's reputations in that way, you know," Rachel admonished her friend seriously.

Shell spluttered indignantly. "I know that! I do have evidence!" Huh.

"And what would that be?" Gabe asked, amused.

Yeah, what would that be?

She shook her head. "I don't think you'd believe me."

"Oh, just spit it out, you drama queen," Rachel snorted.

"Okay," Shell twisted her lips unsurely. "Here we go…"

"Out with it!"

"HE DOESN'T WANT TO GO INSIDE THE JUMPING CASTLE!" she cried, before smacking her hand over her mouth. She turned to me. "Sorry, Ryan—was that loud? Do you think other people heard me and are on their way to finding out the truth?"

"Yes," I said, pursing my lips sadly. "And I feel so betrayed."

"Oh," she whispered, looking down. "I'm so sorry."

Dude. Was she serious?! "Do you honestly think I'm an alien?" I asked her, frowning.

"Not so loud!" she cried worriedly; I heard Gabe snicker. "You're gonna scare all the kids away!" Her eyes widened as I glared down at her. "No offense," she amended hastily, "but not many people understand the extra-terrestrial like I do, you know? Maybe my little brother should know about this—"

Ben chose that moment to approach his sister. "Hello, Spaghetti-o!" he grinned. Spaghetti-o? "Why aren't you playing in the jumping castle?"

Shell smiled down at her brother, picking him up affectionately. She whispered something in his ear, and he looked up at me, smiling toothily. "My sister said that you can be cured from your alien dis—disteamse? Dilease? Disease! My sister said that you can be cured from your alien disease if you go inside the jump house!"

Rachel laughed.

Ben blinked up at me innocently. I smirked. "Tell your sister I'm fine just the way I am and that it's insensitive of her to think I'd change just to fit in with her narrow-minded human way of life." I had a feeling I was gonna go in, though. I knew she just wanted me to have fun; it was amusing to me that someone like her was persuading me into a good time. Darn that peer pressure!

Ben looked confused and wary of having to communicate such a long message. He looked up at his sister, and she grinned, ruffling his hair. "That's okay, Ben. I heard him. You can go play now," she said. He high-fived her, and she let him down, watching him run off to join his friends.

"Fine," Shell glared, huffing slightly. "I don't like aliens anyway," she said, before perking up. "Wanna come with me, Rachel and Gabe? We'll find my brothers and go in when all the kids get out. Don't wanna squish 'em." How considerate.

Rachel latched onto her arm immediately. Gabe grinned, shaking his head. "I'll catch up with you guys later, alright?"

Shell shrugged, smiling back. "All right, my awesome human friend," she knocked fists with him, and went skipping away with Rachel.

"She's really nice, that kid. And she's warming up to me," Gabe waggled his eyebrows, smirking.

"Wonderful," I responded, shrugging indifferently. And I cared …why?

"Yeah," he grinned. "So coming to this party really wasn't all bad, huh?"

Yeah, I was having a good time, despite what Michelle thought. "I know," I answered, and then smirked. "And you got to ogle my hot body without looking gay."

He feigned swooning. "Oh, baby. You're—too sexy for your shirt. Too sexy for your p—"

"Woah, woah, woah," Victor walked up to us and interrupted, holding up his hands. "Ryan is mine."

Gabe looked shocked. "No way, loser. He told me he loved me. Go get your own man!"

"No, you go get your own man!"

I smirked. "Ladies, ladies," I interrupted smoothly. They looked up, glaring.

"He's cheating on us!" the two of them exclaimed at the same time.


Ahem. I needed a Caprisun to clear my head.

"Well, you could have him," Gabe sniffed, backing up.

"No, you take that good-for-nothing fraud."

. . . I was right there.

"No, you!"

Victor opened his mouth, and then paused. "Okay, I think I'm done. I was getting a little too into that."

Gabe agreed, shuddering. "Yeah, it was kind of disturbing."

"My middle name," Vic grinned. "Anyways, I came here to extend a cordial invitation to you guys."

I cocked a brow at him. "Blues Clues, remember? I think us coming to the party pretty much suggests we accepted the invitation already."

"No, stupid," the fifteen-year-old rolled his eyes. "I mean, to the jumping castle."

"Oh," Gabe said. "I'm coming; this loser's not."

"What the—" he started, before his eyes widened. "You're an alien!" he screeched, hiding behind Gabe.

I groaned. "What is it with you guys and aliens?"

Vic shrugged. "Smallville marathon a couple nights ago. You didn't catch it?"

Umm…no? I shook my head.

"Whatever. So if you're not an alien, then why aren't you going in?" he asked, frowning.

"Just don't feel li—"

"OOOhhh," Victor started, eyes widening in understanding. He grinned. "I know what this is about." Uhh, what? "You're afraid that somebody's gonna steal your girl shoes when you get in there! Don't worry about it; I'll have our new, awesome dog Rox guard 'em. And if they get wet, umm…that's not his pee. It's —sweat. Yeah. Sometimes sweat leaks out of the jumping castle and spills on people's sh—"

"Hold up, hold up," Gabe cut him off, grinning broadly. "Girl shoes?"

Victor laughed, nodding his head. "Dude. I know. Michelle noticed it first when we were out gift-shopping, and we couldn't believe it either. Sometimes I wonder about this guy," he finished solemnly, nodding at me.

"As do I," Gabe muttered, smirking. "It's okay, Ryan. If you lose that pair, I'm sure you'll find an exact replica at Lady Foot Locker. But if you've already become attached, then—"

Jeez! "Fine! I'll go in!" I finally shouted, annoyed. One tiny little mistake of buying shoes of the wrong gender, and I get a lifetime of mockery!

Victor smirked. "Too easy."

I glared at him, and he grinned. "Let's go!"


It took us all of two minutes to head over to the jumping castle. Laughing little kids were just getting out (to head inside where all their kiddy friends were), and Rachel, Michelle, and her brothers were taking off their shoes, preparing to get in. They looked really excited, and I thought none of them would notice that we were slipping off our shoes right next to them.

Then Michelle spotted us. Her eyes widened, and she smiled broadly at me. "Look who's decided he's not too cool to jump with us."

They all turned to me, and I grinned, shrugging. "I am too cool for this thing." I mean, DUH!

…Alright, so I didn't really think that, but darn it if it wasn't the truth.


She snorted. "Yeah right! You're not cool! You're, like—the opposite of cool. You're, like, umm—"

"Hot?" I asked, waggling my eyebrows. Yeah, she set herself up for that one.

"Yeah! You're like, h—WHAT?!" she blushed, spluttering. "Shut up, stupid dorkface!"

I turned to face our snickering company. "Aww, guys!" I smirked. "Michelle's finally admitted her attraction to me! What a beautiful day this has turned out to be."

Victor gasped, picked up his sister, and carried her shrieking form into the jumping castle.

We followed them in, and shook our heads at the scene.

Victor was boxing the air in front of his sister's face, screaming, "Ryan is mine!"


Author's Note. WOOHOOO BAYBEH! The chapter's finally done! I think this is it for the party chapter because I really have to move this thing along. Maybe there will be a couple flashbacks of the party in Michelle's POV; I haven't really decided yet. :P

Anyways. I don't really know about this chapter. It seemed kind of boring to me, and the parts that were supposed to be fun, I didn't know how to write. Arghies. Don't eat me! Oh, the magic trick so wasn't my idea. My friend and her brothers actually did that at our church on open mic night, and I thought it was hilarious. I don't know if I described that scene too well, even though I've been looking forward to writing that since last chapter. Sorry about that. (-cries in her pillow-)

Kay, I'm done.

CONGRATS TO SugoiTenshi519 WHO FOUND THE OFFICE QUOTE from last chapter! GO HER! I think I already gave you your cookie, but if I didn't...who cares?! I'm still eating the ones I just made! And you're not getting any! ...KAY, FINE! You could have the one I just dropped. Paha.

AND THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH FOR ALL THE REVIEWS! You people are seriously the best. As in, the best. Ya know what i meanz? i hope so, because i really can't even begin to tell you how much your feedback makes me smile. i'm like...so smiley and stuff!

cocaine girl, Teenage Survivor, SugoiTenshi519, Fan/Reader (dude, you have no idea how incredibly excited I was when I saw your name…I mean—fan?! I was like, zomg! This story has a fan! And yeah. Ahem. Thank you so, so much for your review…I hope this chapter didn't disappoint too much. -hides under a desk in nervousness-), Jayn, Stahlut, ., violet-eyez, Pieces of the sun, Inkless, . .deceiving, ihrtbks.

(no duh.)


P.S. 75 reviews is a dream come true. (-grins-)
P.P.S. This is the longest chapter I've ever written….again! Now you know you want to review…again!

(-skips away, licking a lollipop-)