The weather is changing. It's been hot, too hot for your tastes, and you're glad that it's finally starting to cool down again. You hate the summer and everything about it – the heat; the long, boring days without even school as a distraction; the isolation. Your brother would tease you for it; blame your hatred of heat on your Canadian blood, your boredom on your inability to make anything even remotely resembling a friend. You would go off on one of your infamous tirades about how you don't need friends, and he would just give you that small smile that made you want to hug him and punch him in the same moment.

Kyle understood those sorts of things. He's back out in California now. You probably won't see him again until Thanksgiving, or maybe even Christmas. He comes home less these days.

But at least now, you have the distraction of school to keep you centered, which isn't saying all that much because school is hardly a distraction at all. It never has been even despite the two grades you skipped, and you were hoping high school would prove more of a challenge, but so far you've been severely disappointed. You've come to accept that life is just a waiting game, though, and right now you're simply waiting for college, for a real challenge.

You spend English class doodling in the margins of your notes. Your notes are not actually notes, but rather snarky comments directed towards your teacher about the inaccuracies of his lesson, ones that you have to bite your tongue to hold back from saying aloud. Writing them down helps. As long as you can vent.

The bell rings for lunch and you quietly gather your things. Your teachers like to complain that you don't participate in class enough.

Trust me, you want to say. You don't want to hear the thoughts running through this brain right now. Trust me.

You're the last one out of the room, which is typical. You melt into the sea of your classmates, once again becoming invisible. You don't mind that, though. In fact, you kind of like that you're small enough to disappear in a crowd. You don't think you'd like the recognition. You don't know what you'd even do with it.

You mull this over as you walk, what it would be like to be "popular." Well-known amongst your classmates for something other than being "that genius kid." Positive attention, rather than negative. You can't reach a consensus before a feeling like you've just crashed into a brick wall interrupts your thoughts.

"Watch it, twerp," says the wall, who turns out to actually be a large human. One of the football players, you think, as you fix your glasses and tilt your head back to look up at him. His words sound like grunts.

You don't bother to apologize and he doesn't seem to care all that much anyways, just starts to push past you. The mumble slips out before you can stop yourself. "Douchebag."

An arm's pinned across your shoulders and your back is slammed into the lockers. His eyes narrow into tiny squints in his head and your fight-or-flight is kicking in something fierce. He's got a good five inches at least on you, and you really don't see any method of escape.

Goddamn, you have got to stop picking fights.

"You better watch your fucking mouth, you little faggot," he snarls, and if you could move your arms you swear you would deck him hard as you could. Instead you just continue to wriggle and protest, but you fall still as he draws a fist back. You wait for the first punch.

"Let him go."

Both of your heads snap towards the voice, cold and smooth. Everyone else in the hall is milling about, giving the commotion a wide berth, a few stragglers stopping to watch. But the one who spoke up is a guy, smaller than you even, glaring daggers at your attacker.

You don't know whether to be grateful or just plain bewildered that Georgie has taken it upon himself to come to your rescue. You decide on both.

The guy laughs. "Oh, yeah? And why the hell should I listen to you?"

Georgie just smirks, and it's kind of terrifying. You're suddenly very glad you're not on the other end of that look. He slinks closer – slinking is really the only right word for how he moves, easy and cat-like. Predatory. You can see there's something in his hand, and with a click he flicks it open, the fluorescent light of the hallway bouncing off the metal of his switchblade. "Because if you don't, I'll slit your fucking throat," he says, and the calm in his voice raises goose bumps on your skin.

The jock looks genuinely freaked for a minute, and you can't help but feel the slightest bit of satisfaction at the realization that he's not as tough as he pretends to be. But he regains his composure quickly, and clears his throat. "Whatever, psycho. S'not worth my time, anyways."

He shoves you into the lockers one last time and stalks off. You frown and roll your sore shoulders. That's gonna leave a bruise.

Georgie's hand shoots out and wraps around your wrist. The switchblade has disappeared. "Come on," he says, and starts dragging you behind him. You stumble, trying to keep up.

"What was that all about?" you ask.

He rolls his eyes. "The football players are all assholes. Can't stand them."

You don't know Georgie all that well, despite the fact that he's been in your grade for as long as you can remember. Granted, he doesn't actually go to class all that often, and seeing as you're in all advanced classes anyways you haven't actually had one with him in quite a while. Still, your town is small and your school is even smaller, and learning everyone's faces and names is kind of inevitable.

That isn't to say you haven't noticed him before. Which is kind of funny, you think, because he tries so hard to avoid that very thing. He spends most of his time lurking in the back of classrooms, or hiding out behind the school chain-smoking and scribbling away in his notebook.

Once, upon one of the few occasions that you actually attempted to go to a Real High School Party, he'd also decided to make an appearance. You were slightly tipsy and he seemed bored, which might explain why he brazenly approached you and offered to give you a blowjob. It could also have been the fact that he was tripping serious balls; however, you didn't find that out until later.

Regardless, you've never been able to look at him quite the same way after that, and you can't decide with what level you detest the tightness in your chest he causes.

It's a short trip through the hallways till he's guiding you through one of the doors that leads to the outside, and after that little display you find yourself nervous of what exactly he has in store for you. But you emerge by the service entrance, which you recognize as Georgie's usual haunt while he's skipping class and being a delinquent, and you're not alone.

Ruby Tucker sits on the ground, gazing out at the soccer field and smoking. You can tell right away from the smell that that sure as hell isn't a cigarette.

Ruby is a year above you and you've never really talked to her all that much before. You only really know her because she's friends with Karen McCormick, who is usually nice to you, though you suspect that may be partially due to the fact that her older brother was close friends with yours all growing up.

Georgie plops beside her with a scowl and she turns to face him. "I don't know why you insist on wearing that hideous thing," he quips, examining the varsity jacket she's got on.

She rolls her eyes. "Oh, fuck you. Clyde gave it to me. It was sweet." She hugs the jacket tighter around herself. You recognize it as one of the ones worn by the guys on the football team, but the design is slightly different. Maybe from a few years ago. One of the sleeves reads DONOVAN. "Besides, I mostly wear it to piss Craig off."

"You're disgusting. Give me your lighter."

"What happened to yours?"

"Dead, I've gotta get a new one."

"Douchebag. Don't say I never did anything for you." She hands the lighter off to Georgie, along with a joint.

You watch the exchange with wary eyes, tempted to just turn around and go back into the building. But Georgie glances up at you and jerks his head slightly in a gesture beckoning you to join them.

What the hell. It's not like you've got any better way to spend lunch hour. You take a seat across from Ruby and lean back against the pillar. She quirks an eyebrow at you and you mirror the gesture.

"Why'd you bring him out?" she asks, looking again to Georgie, who is in the process of lighting his joint.

Georgie takes a hit and holds it in his lungs for a few moments, then exhales the smoke in a careful stream. The way it passes through his lips is endlessly fascinating, but after a second you make yourself look away because you realize you're staring at his lips and that's really kind of weird. "Seemed like he needed to take a load off," he tells Ruby and shrugs one shoulder, but he's watching you out of the corner of thickly lined eyes.

"He looks like a miniature teacher," Ruby snorts.

You cross your arms over your chest. "Can we please stop talking about me like I'm not here? And excuse me for wanting to look presentable for school. At least I'm not wearing a shirt with a cartoon dick on it." You give Georgie, who is wearing a shirt with a cartoon dick on it, a pointed look.

Ruby lets out a surprised laugh. "Damn, Broflovski. You got bite. You'll fit in with us just fine."

You're not so sure if you're glad to hear that. But there is a part of you, a basic human part that defies the side that is determined to remain in isolation, that is incredibly happy to have Ruby's acceptance.

Georgie just shrugs and slouches a bit more. "This shirt got me kicked out of math class today so in my books it's damn lucky."

Ruby laughs again and you decide she has a nice laugh, kind of harsh but incredibly genuine. You crack a smile as well.

Georgie and Ruby go back to bickering over something pointless, and you just sit back and listen. You've always been more of an observer than an active participator when it comes to social situations, which Kyle tries to tell you is one of the main reasons you have difficulty making friends. He tells you that you need to participate more. But you like to observe, and you've recently picked up an interest in human psychology anyways, which only makes eavesdropping more fun.

What you learn is this:

Georgie is friends with Ruby, and they hang out a lot but they're not particularly close. Ruby has a tendency to laugh too loudly, but you're uncertain if that has to do with her being high, or if she's always like that. Georgie has nearly perfected his poker face and tries to keep his emotions under wraps, but you can see the subtle shifts just barely when you watch his eyes. The inflections in his speech change slightly as the weed kicks in, and you can see him visibly relax. However, one of his feet jiggles incessantly, and it doesn't seem like he notices. His voice is always soft and even, and you like listening to it.

He raises the joint to his lips once again and glances at you, eyes connecting directly with yours. One of his eyebrows lifts as he inhales and your heart leaps in your chest. He breaks the stare with a slight turn of his head, so he won't end up blowing smoke in your face, which you appreciate. You exhale as well. You hadn't realized you'd been holding your breath.

"Hey, Broflovski." Ruby's voice breaks the silence that's formed. She's holding out her half-spent joint to you. "You want to try?"

You've smoked before, once, at one of those Real High School Parties, before you decided they were stupid and stopped going. It was gross and made you cough and you didn't even feel any different afterwards.

"I've got a History exam next period."

Ruby rolls her eyes. "Yeah, like that's an excuse. You could probably be on your death bed and still get straight A's."

She has a point. You figure trying couldn't hurt anything. You have always been rather curious to experience firsthand the effects that drugs have on the human psyche.

God, your mom would fucking murder you if she knew what you were doing right now.

"Sure," you allow and take the lit joint from between her fingers. You examine it for a moment, then bring it to your lips and inhale.

It doesn't take much for you to burst into a violent fit of coughing.

Ruby laughs, and Georgie's got a kind of smug smirk on his face. You glare at them both and try to stop coughing. Finally you wind down and are able to breathe again, so you take another try, and only cough once or twice this time. It tastes disgusting and your throat burns and so far you really aren't seeing the appeal behind this.

But a few hits later you're sinking into a pretty happy place. Everything seems like it's kind of swimming around you. The world is softened, quieter. You decide you like it, even if your heart is racing in your chest and your mouth feels kind of dry.

Once Ruby's joint is spent, Georgie passes you his. As your lips close over the slightly damp end of the paper, you can't help but think about his mouth being in the same place just moments before. You tip your head back to exhale the smoke to the sky in a slow stream. You can see every air particle, every molecule, and the earth is buzzing around you, the tiny vibrations of matter that are usually too small to notice. You just stare and stare and it's the most incredible feeling. You are the earth and atoms joined together to create a body and everything is so complex and so simple.

"Ike." Hearing your name snaps you out of your reverie. Georgie's voice is light, like he's trying not to laugh, and it's quiet and loud at the same time. You go to look at him and realize that this is because he's moved closer to you. "How're you feeling?"

You giggle. You fucking giggle and it's quite possibly one of the dorkiest things you've ever done (which is saying something because you do a lot of dorky things) but you can't quite bring yourself to care. Georgie cracks a grin too, and you decide you like his real smile, not just that little smirk he usually does. "I feel good," you say, and you do. Everything is warm despite the crisp autumn breeze. "Happy."

"There you go." Georgie's voice comes out like a purr. The more you watch him, the more cat-like he seems to become, with his fluid movements and that predatory glint in his eyes. "See? I always knew you were cool. Everyone else writes you off cause you're younger and smart and shit. But you see things, I know you do. You see what it's really like out there."

He slips the joint from between your fingers and takes the last hit, drops the spent end to the cement next to him. His head rolls around to look at Ruby again, whose presence you'd all but forgotten.

"He's with us now," he says simply.

The way Ruby raises her eyebrow and smiles in return makes you feel like you're missing something in the exchange. Something they'd discussed previously, no doubt, and Georgie seems to pick up on it too because he flips her off. She gladly returns the gesture.

The bell rings, signaling the end of lunch period. You realize suddenly that you haven't even eaten and you're kind of starving. Wow that sandwich in your book bag sounds great right now. Maybe you'll be able to sneak a few bites once you get to History.

"Well, I'm off," Ruby says, gathering her things. She slings her bag over her shoulder and shoves her hands in the pockets of the varsity jacket, a look of disdain on her face. "Fucking Myers said if I'm late for class again he'll drop me a letter grade."

"Gross." Georgie wrinkles his nose a little.

"Yeah, whatever. See you tomorrow." With a wave of her hand and a flick of her orange ponytail, she's gone.

"I should go too. Got my history exam." You reach for your book bag, but a hand on your shoulder stops you. You look up, only to find yourself staring directly into Georgie's eyes, and for a second you kind of forget how to breathe.

"Come back tomorrow," he says. "We're almost always out here."

There's a softness to his voice that you hadn't expected, and for the first time it occurs to you that maybe he isn't so different from you. You remember the kids he used to hang out with, all older, all graduated now. They're probably gone just like your brother. And the look on his face, almost imploring, leads you to believe he's lonely, maybe just as lonely as you are, but definitely far too proud to admit it. Just like you are.

"Okay," you say. The corner of his mouth turns up just a little; it's barely noticeable, but there nonetheless.

The hand on your shoulder moves to your necktie. He uses it to pull you forward, until your lips are crushed to his. It's kind of clumsy and you don't really know how to kiss back properly and holy shit this is actually happening, but the way it makes your chest go tight is kind of nice.

It's nice.

It's only a second later that you separate but you really have no perception on what time is anymore. You open your eyes, not having realized you'd shut them in the first place, and just kind of look at him. And grin.

Silence persists until he breaks it with a short laugh and smacks you lightly upside the head. "Go take your test, idiot. I'll see you later."

"Yeah," you say. "Right. Test." You grab your bag and get up, and a glance at your wristwatch tells you that if you don't hurry the fuck up you're going to be late for class. "See you," you echo with a glance over your shoulder.




If you enjoyed this story, remember to check out the original artwork that inspired it!