Tanner gaped at his new school, seriously tempted to turn to the taxi driver and ask if this really was the right place. But before he could, the man dropped his suitcase unceremoniously onto the dirt road and was off like a shot, leaving Tanner to blink away the dust and try to pretend like he wasn't surprised in the least to be standing in front of a building that could double for a queen's palace. The pictures he'd seen had led him to expect a very fancy academy, but this was insane.

He fidgeted a little, feeling very out of place in the ancient brown suit that his mother had insisted he wear to make a good impression. Given the sidelong glance and quiet snicker he received from another boy getting out of a sleek black car that probably cost more than his life was worth, Tanner was quite sure that he was indeed making an impression. Whether that was a good impression or not was entirely another matter.

So much for pretending to fit in.

The pictures Tanner had seen did not do this place justice by any means and he suddenly felt a little like he did whenever he wandered into a fancy department store. The next thing he knew, some snooty saleslady was going to swoop down on him and glare at him until he fled with his tail between his legs. Emery Academy: home to the richest of the rich. And this place, this palace, was going to be his home for the next two years.

Heaven help him.

Other than the kid who had giggled at him and then vanished into the building with his driver bringing enormous suitcases after, Tanner had yet to see anyone. Granted, it was still early in the morning, and on the first day of arrival as well. The rest of the students were probably jetsetting to Paris or whatever it was rich kids did.

"Wish I had a slave," Tanner muttered to himself as he started dragging his suitcase toward the closest doors. Then again, he probably did not even have enough money to be a servant to the kind of people this school catered to, much less have one of his own, so he was left to struggle inside by himself.

Though Tanner was extremely overwhelmed and rather nervous (not that he would have admitted that to anyone else, of course), for the millionth time over the past couple of months he mentally thanked his mother for applying and getting him the scholarship to this place. He'd actually thrown the acceptance letter away without opening it, thinking it to be junk mail, only to have his mother fish it right back out of the trash later that night after work.

It had taken the better part of a week for what she had done for him to actually sink in. This was his big chance to get a chance to really study music instead of struggle along on his own, and it was his hope that it would lead to jobs in the future. Jobs meant money, and money meant paying off their debts and getting himself and his mother out of the hellhole they called home.

The teen managed to get his suitcase into the building without wrenching his arms off, but that was about as far as he got before he realized that he had no idea where to go. The map on the wall got him to the wing of the building that was the dorms, at least, but of course then he had to try to figure out where his room was and there didn't seem to be a handy map for that.

This meant that Tanner was forced to stop wandering and start digging around for the key and pamphlet that had been sent to him, which had somehow gotten moved from his messenger bag to the bottom of his suitcase of all places, which meant that Tanner had to stop in the middle of the hallway and pull almost everything out to get at the elusive manila envelope. By the time he shoved everything back into the bag he was scowling. Weren't fancy schools supposed to have butler that popped up out of the walls to show you around or something?

Of course, his room was at the opposite end of the wing, which he had passed a good ten minutes ago in his wanderings. "Figures," Tanner muttered. He knew he wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, but it shouldn't have been so hard to find a numbered room. This was turning into an Ordeal with a capital "O".

Tanner stood up from where he had been squatting to riffle through his things and bent over to grab his suitcase, only to have the handle rip half off the moment he picked it up. He took a deep breath and tried to remind himself that it would not be a good idea to start throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the hallway in his brand new private school. That did not, however, stop a loud curse from escaping from his lips.

Despite having a bad temper, he was normally pretty good at keeping calm unless things got too frustrating, which was rare; but being hungry and cranky from not having slept on the bus meant that all bets were off. Tanner had horrible luck, and that was just a fact of life. That did not, however, mean that he took it sitting down. Whoever had said, "if life hands you lemons, make lemonade" never realized that it was hard when you had lemons but no glass to put the lemonade into.

"My my, such language," a voice behind him said. "That's against the rules, you know."

Tanner froze halfway through kicking his old suitcase in retribution and awkwardly turned around. His glasses had slipped down toward the end of his nose and the person standing there was fuzzy. It would've been a student or an old man for all Tanner knew. Though that last was doubtful since there was a black splotch on the man's head that Tanner assumed was hair. Probably a student, then, since the voice didn't sound too old.

"I'll keep that in mind," Tanner said, making only a passing attempt at sounding polite. He wasn't here to make friends; all he wanted was to keep his head down, scrape by grade-wise, and pour his time and energy into studying music while he had the chance. Reminded once again of the fact that he looked absolutely ridiculous standing in the middle of a hallway in his suit and getting angry at an inanimate object, the teen grabbed his suitcase by the broken handle, fixed his glasses, and marched off down the hall without looking back.

Whoever it was that had chastised him was forgotten by the time Tanner found his dorm room. It seemed devoid of signs of life so far, which was nice. It was probably too much to hope that he would have a room to himself, but he couldn't help it. Living with his mother in their small apartment was one thing; living with a stranger was entirely another.

Not that this room could be called "small". Tanner was quite sure that it was the same size or larger than their apartment, and that had a kitchen and one bedroom. This was one main room and a bathroom, but there was plenty of space to move around between the fancy furnishings. The beds even had blankets emblazoned with the school's logo on them.

I am going to get spoiled as hell, Tanner mused to himself, looking around with a critical eye and shaking his head in disbelief. Of course, his first order of business was to immediately throw himself onto one of the beds to see how bouncy it was. He almost melted into its softness as he flopped backward and stared up at the ceiling. Crap, they're never gonna get me to leave at this rate! Screw graduation, I might have to repeat a couple of years just to stay on this bed. Definitely gonna need a crowbar. And a map of this stupid place.

After a few minutes he forced himself up with a sigh and began haphazardly tossing things into his closet. What few clothes he had were either hung up or shoved into a drawer, though he took great care in setting his battered music books on his desk.

Second order of business: find a piano. Tanner locked his door behind him and set off toward the opposite wing of the building, which contained classrooms. The few people he saw were going the opposite way like any sane student would, but the sooner he could find an instrument to practice on, the better. He hadn't even been gone from home for twenty-four hours and already he missed his piano dearly.

After a fair amount of wandering up and down hallways and just as much grumbling, he finally found the music rooms. Which, of course, were locked, as classes hadn't started yet. Tanner made an annoyed noise and jiggled at the handle again, just in case he was a complete retard and was turning it the wrong way. The day was just full of little problems.

"Those are locked for a reason, you know."

"Are you following me or something?" Tanner demanded, recognizing the voice from earlier. He turned around to add another comment, but the words died on his lips.

"Are you trying to get detention before school even begins?" the man responded smoothly, flicking an invisible bit of lint off his shoulder.

Two things became immediately clear to Tanner at that moment: first, that this dark-haired Adonis wannabe was definitely not a student; second, that having class with him would not be conducive to a passing grade.

Problems, indeed.