TUESDAY 11TH APRIL, 2016. 1:25 PM

Xander blinked, and then found that he was standing in the locker hallway. Normally, this wouldn't have been a call for concern, but, he had no idea on how he had gotten there.

The last thing he remembered seeing was Randy dashing out of the girls' bathroom just a few minutes earlier, leaving a symphony of feminine shrieks in his wake. A math textbook had been thrown after the boy, but it missed by a large margin. He had actually taken to avoiding the boy- a task that proved particularly difficult due to the fact that Randy actually checked everywhere for him. Thus, he had to secretly follow him around to keep track of the places that were safe from his terror.

The irony was almost laughable.

Then, poof. Everything after that was a dark blur that hurt his head when he tried to recollect it. For a moment, he almost began to consider the validity of Randy's claims…

"Alex, right? Shouldn't you be at the cafeteria?"

Xander turned towards the voice.

Apparently, in the process of trying to remember what he had been doing, Xander had stumbled into the hallway leading to the Principal's office, and he found the one person he didn't expect to be in school that day, considering that he was the target of a rather cruel prank involving fireworks: Mr. Jameson.

Rumor had it that his eyebrows had been burned off. Xander squinted. They looked perfectly fine to him.

The teacher was just in the act of pushing the door to the office open when he stopped. Jameson turned to face Xander and, at that exact moment, the teenager realized that he had been staring instead of replying to his question.

"Uh… Yeah." He muttered, pulling the hood of his shirt off his head, turning to continue trudging down the hall. Mr. Jameson apparently had other plans for him.

"You are Alex, right?"

Xander grimaced, letting a silent groan escape his lips. He had his back mostly turned to the man, so the movement of his mouth went unseen.

"Yes …?"

There was no use bringing up the fact that he preferred to go by 'Xander'. It would either end up inciting a conversation that he desperately didn't want to get into, or he would end up just being ignored. That much was evidenced in his last conversation.

"Oh, good." Jameson slowly closed the door, "I actually wanted to talk to a student."

GREAT. Just my luck.

"Is it about the incident with the fireworks? Because I know next to nothing about what happened. I'll be more than happy to go call another student."

He wasn't really going to do that. The bell had gone off a while ago. Hopefully, he'd be able to quietly slink back to his classes, and eventually leave the school without any more hassle.

Jameson smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. Xander felt his muscles tense under the touch.

"There's no need for that, son. Yes, it is about the fireworks, but gossip spreads quick and fast in this school. I was wondering if you knew about who the culprit behind the firework fiasco is."

"I'm not interested in gossip."

"You don't have to be interested in something to know a bit about it."

Jameson was a built man. The leather jacket he had on fit perfectly, showing off his bulky frame. His towering figure, blond hair, and blue eyes that crinkled at the sides when he smiled must have made him a real hit with the ladies.

"I thought the school already punished the culprit?"

"Rake and I may have had our problems in the gym, but there was no way he was the one that did this. He didn't have it in him."

His tone seemed to imply that he believed Ethan was a saint, but Xander saw something in his eyes. Something that flashed for the briefest of seconds before vanishing. He held back the urge to wrinkle his nose at it.

"Then, why did the school suspend him?"

Wait, why did I just ask that?

The interaction was evolving at an incredible speed. Xander had to eject quickly.

"Too lure the actual culprit into a false sense of security." Jameson smirked. It seemed as though he was approaching this all as a detective would approach a murder mystery. He must have watched a lot of cop shows growing up. Maybe he still did.

Xander nodded once, and then turned to leave. Jameson's grip forced him back.

"You haven't answered the question, son."

I'm not your son, he said internally. Externally, nothing came out. Jameson sighed, reaching down to pull the teenager's wrist upwards.

"What's this?" he asked. What he was referring to was the faded, pink bracelet wrapped around his arm. Xander pulled his hand free.


It wasn't 'nothing'. It was something he had intended on handing over to Ashley. The bracelet had been purchased right after their date at the restaurant. He never got the chance to give it to her. He had left it right next to her tombstone, slightly buried under loose soil, where it stayed for a couple of weeks. Then, on a rather stormy night, he had dashed over to the cemetery, and saved it before it could be destroyed by the elements. Most of the glitter was gone, and it was a faded shade of pink, but he didn't really care. He never took it off.

Mr. Jameson took a look at Xander, and then smiled.

"My niece had one just like that."

The teenager remained silent, letting the sleeve of his hoodie drop to cover up the bracelet.

"Alright, son," Mr. Jameson said, holding his gaze, "I see that this is going to get me nowhere."

You think?

"The offer to get another student still stands."

The proposal was as insincere as the false smile he had curling the sides of his lips upwards.

"No," Mr. Jameson said, "that won't be necessary. We wouldn't want to go around dropping hints that I believe Ethan Rake is innocent, would we?"

Xander honestly didn't care.

"Mr. Jameson?"

"Uh, yes?

"I need to get to class."

As the words left his mouth, he realized that he should have employed their use ages ago. Jameson looked stunned for a second, and then he began to nod quickly.

"Right," A smirk tugged at the right corner of his lips. Xander could tell it was a fake. "Your education is certainly more important than this."

"That's what I've been taught, sir." Xander pressed his lips into a thin line, and then nodded once. He turned to leave, but Jameson caught him by the shoulder again.

"If you do hear anything, just-"

"Head straight to you." He said quickly. He wrenched himself free from the man's grip and made his way down the hallway, fingers moving to pull his hoodie over his head. He distanced himself from the teacher in record walking speed. Just in the middle of rounding the corner that would have lead him to his locker, he bumped into a certain pair of individuals he had also been hoping to avoid.

Cassidy gave something akin to a yelp as she stumbled a few steps backwards, pulling away from Daphne's arm. Xander simply braced himself with the edge of the locker beside him.

"Second time today," Cassidy chuckled, holding her forehead- which had bumped into his nose, "It's all just getting ridicul-"

The second she set her eyes on him, she gave him the same blank stare Daphne currently had on. He moved his eyes from Daphne back to her, and then back to Daphne, before shrugging and moving to squeeze between the both of them. No need going around if there was enough space.

He soon came to regret that train of thought.

A hand wrapped its fingers around his arm, trying to pull him back. He turned sharply, and came to face the owner: Daphne.

"What is your deal?" She asked.

"I'm not particularly interested in playing whatever game you people are trying to pull."

"There's no game."

"I'm still not interested."

"Some really weird stuff is going on here, Alex. Aren't you in the least bit curious to find out what's going on?"

He thought back to the blank in his memory.

"I already know what's going on: We're turning into the Justice League."

Daphne let out an exasperated sigh. He smiled.

"Am I free to go?"

"Would you get your head out of your butt for just one second?"

"Then, where am I going to stuff it?"

Cassidy stepped forward, apparently looking to diffuse the situation, "Have you seen Randy?"

Xander simply stared at her in reply. She basically slinked backward to her former position. Daphne punched him in the shoulder.

"Okay, really, what is your deal?"

"I just want to be left alone." He said, "How does this translate to me being in the wrong?"

"Okay, then. Screw you. Have you seen Randy?"

"If the rest of today goes the way I hope, I probably won't." He said, silently taking note of the fact that she still had him by the arm.

"I will hit you again." Daphne threatened.

"Oh, no. Not that."

"Al is one of us …" Cassidy piped up, basically having to pull Daphne backwards a bit.

This time, Xander replied.


"Alejandro." Daphne answered, glaring at him.

"That dude? Okay, first: There is no us."

Daphne sighed again, turning around in frustration to dramatize the effect. However, in order to have done that, she had let his arm go. Xander snatched the opportunity to escape with both hands. He took a hasty step backwards and spun on his heels…

… Only to nearly run into Randy.

"Seriously?" Xander said, irritation evident in his tone.

Randy didn't reply verbally. Instead he stared, his eyes lifeless.

Of course, it only seemed that way because Xander had grown accustomed to seeing that glint of tomfoolery ever-present behind the boy's blue optics. Now, it just looked empty. Along with his nearly-depressed look, he was nearly soaking in his own sweat and his chest swelled and deflated rapidly, as if he had just run a marathon.

Xander furrowed his eyebrows at that.

"Randy?" Daphne's voice came from behind him, "Are you doing alright?"

The teen took a heavy, unsteady breath, "I'll live, Daph."

"Really? You look like you just saw a ghost." That earned a chuckle out of Randy. Xander simply folded his arms.

"We're dealing with Ghosts now?"

A fist hit his shoulder blade. He didn't need to turn to know who threw the punch.

"No. But, you just said 'We', Alex. I knew you'd come around."

For a second, Xander saw that hint of mischief in the boy's eyes again. Then, it vanished. Cassidy pushed by him to walk up to Randy.

"What happened?" She asked.

"You guys are friends now?" Xander asked, pointing a finger in their direction. He was ignored.

"Nothing. I'm fine."

"You don't look like you're 'fine' to me."

Xander scoffed, circling around them to walk over to his locker. As he pulled out his textbook, he looked back to the trio, where he caught Daphne staring at him.

He shook his head, closed his locker and walked until he was sure she wasn't looking his way anymore.

Then, something hit him. Quite literally: A fly bounced off his forehead. He reacted appropriately, by violently flailing. When he was sure the bug was gone, he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, then looked at it.

Then, something hit him again. Not quite as literally as the fly had.

The look in Mr. Jameson's eye, it was the exact same look Daphne had given him when he pulled his book out of his locker. It was also the same look, he was sure, that he had given the back of his hand: A look of disgust.

A glare of revulsion.

Xander pulled his hood off his head and huffed.

"Rake and I may have had our problems in the gym, but there was no way he was the one that did this. He didn't have it in him."

Teachers didn't regard their saints with disgust.

Xander looked back. Daphne, Randy and Cassidy were still there. An idea began to blossom in his head, but he quickly tore it down. He didn't need to get involved in whatever was going on.

Pulling his hood back on, he walked off.