Renee leaned back in her car an sighed. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas break, and her various classes had agreed to let her come back. She had been out of school for a month and a half, and today was the first day that she would be in class.
Finally deciding that she was calm enough, she grabbed her bag and slipped out of the car. The day was cool, but no more or less so than Decembers usually are in Nevada, and a breeze toyed with her hair. Making her way into the courtyard of the school she allowed herself to blend into the crowd. She was halfway to the door of the history department’s building when Jade came running up to her.
“Renee!” Jade squeeled, hugging her tightly. “You’re back, finally!”
“I know!” Renee said, feeling like a horrible liar as she tried to inject just as much enthusiasm into her voice as what was in Jade’s. “I missed so much, and I’m a bit worried.”
“You’re not that bad off, actually,” Jade said with a shrug. “You don’t have that many classes, and the ones you do have aren’t too boring.”
“That’s not my point,” Renee said, laughing slightly. “I was more concerned about how much work I’ve missed. I highly doubt that i’ll be able to get caught up, so I’ll most likely have to retake the classes I missed.”
“I don’t know,” Jade said with a careless shrug. “I think that you’ll be able to get caught up. You’re smart and the work load was fairly light.”
“Well that’s reassuring,” Renee said sarcastically. “Makes me feel so much better.”
“It should,” Jade retorted coolly. “I mean, it could ahve been like Ms. Fairbanks’s class, with five page essays every other week, for all of your classes.” Renee shuddered as she remembered her geography teacher from her senior year.
“She thought I should have all the answers about Europe, just because I was born and lived in France for most of my life,” Renee commented, cringing as she remembered the class. “France may be in Europe, but it’s not all of Europe.”
“She was rather pushy, wasn’t she?” Jade said absent mindedly, leading the way into the classroom and taking her seat.
“Rather?” Renee asked incredulously, slipping in beside her.
“Incredibly,” a voice said from above Renee’s head. Both Jade and Renee looked up, surprised by Nito’s interuption into the conversation. Apparently he had been listening to the conversation as he followed them in, without either of them noticing.
“What are you doing here, saluad?” Jade asked him rudely.
“i’m in this class too, Jade,” he said, keeping his voice cool and controlled. “And I would like to talk to Renee, if you don’t mind.”
“I mind, alright,” Jade grumbled under her breath, but she turned away as she tucked her bag under her chair, after tugging out a couple of things.
“So how are you?” he asked, slipping into the seat on the other side of Renee.
“I’m good,” she said, feeling a bit shy. “No better or worse than I was the last time I talked to you.” He smiled and took her one hand.
“That’s good,” he said, lowering his voice. “I was wondering if you’d like to come to the end of semester dance with me?” Renee’s hand twitched inside of his, and Jade, who apparently was eavesdropping, stiffened noticebly.
“I generally don’t go to dances,” Renee said, her voice uncertain. “For a number of reasons.”
“And what might those reasons be?” he asked, his voice calm and reassuring.
“For one, I can’t dance,” she said bluntly, blushing slightly. “For another, no one’s ever asked me to one.”
“Well, i just changed that, didn’t I?” he asked, leaning in closer, so close that Renee could almost feel his breath on her face.
“Yes, you did, but you can’t exqctly help me solve my lack of dancing abilities,” she said, trying to match his calm. Her heart was racing and she could feel his body heat even though he was still several inches away. Or was that her own? She didn’t know.
“No one said that we needed to dance at the school dance,” he countered. Jade paled and seemed to be fighting the urge to hit Nito.
“No, but it’s sort of implied in the name,” Renee responded, trying not to think about what he might mean, and what she suspected that he meant. He laughed and shook his head slightly.
“Well, why don’t you think about it?” he said, releasing her hand and getting up. “You can let me know later. I gave you my number, so don’t hesitate to call.” Renee nodded and dropped her gazre to the desk top just as the professor walked into the room.
“Did he mean what i think he meant?” Renee asked Jade hallowly. Jade nodded sharply, and dabbed slightly at her eyes. “Jade, I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you-“
“Renee, stop. It’s not your fault. Just… can we not talk about this?” Renee nodded sadly and glanced toward the front of the classroom, where the proffessor had started to talk.
“-and its my joy to welcome Miss Carl back. As you all know, she has been unable to be here for the past couple of months. Now, if you’ll please turn to page 58 in your books, we will be discussing-” And this was how the rest of the class went for Renee.
“How was school?” Ryan asked Septi shortly as she walked into the hideout.
“You don’t even want to know,” she said, dropping her bag on a nearby chair. She strode into the kitchen, where she opened the fridge door and got out the water pitcher. Turning to grab a cup from the dishwasher, she bumped into Chaso, spilling some water down the front of his shirt.
“Watch where you’re goin’!” he exclaimed angrily, tugging at his shirt to examine the wet spot.
“Then you’d better not sneak up on people!” Septi retorted, her temper flairing slightly. “My gods, you’re acting like it was all my fault!”
“It was all your fault!” he responded, crossing his arms. “I wasn’t the one who walked into me and soaked me!”
“Well excuse me, but I didn’t know that you were standing right behind me!” The two of them stood glaring daggers at eachother for a couple of seconds, the the toaster started to speak in a perfect imitation of Septi’s voice.
“I didn’t know that you were behind me,” the toaster mimed. Septi started slightly, then glared at Chaos again.
“Impressive,” she snapped. “But must you?”
“You’re not scared, are you?” the fridge taunted, still in her voice.
“No, I am not,” she said vehemently. “I just fail to see why you must.”
“Coward,” the microwave said, finally in Chaos’s voice. “You’re not’in’ but a coward, Septee-fear-ee-ah.” He drew her name out, drawling it insolently.
“I am not,” she said indignantly.
“You are so,” the toaster said again. “Y’know that we ain’t done nothin’ since that fight.”
“And what does that have to do with anything?”
“Doesn’t the ‘V’ in VI4C stand for villains?” Chaos had his arms crossed still, and Septi had turned toward the sink to refill the water pitcher.
“It used to, yes. Although, why anyone might want to draw C.A.M.M’s eyes towards themselves in beyond me.”
“Coward,” he repeated, this time with his mouth. “You don’t want to take the risks to get power.”
“I don’t want to take un-necessary risks!” she yelled, turing to face him again. “I am in charge of every member’s life, and if they die, it’s my fault!”
“If they die, it’s their own fault,” Chuck said, entering the room.
“Chuck, how could you be so heartless?” Septi asked him, shocked at the possition he was taking in this arguement.
“Septi, it’s been a rule for as long as you’ve been in the organization, and maybe even longer, that if you get left behind or die on an assignment, your sacrifice will be honored, but you will be left behind.”
“That was Steppe’s rule,” Septi said icily. “Not mine. I am the commander now, am I not?”
“You are,” Chuck agreed. “But there are certain rules-“
“Rules that I am going to change,” Septi said, sticking the water pitcher back into the fridge and slamming the door shut, hard enough to cause a bag of chips to fall on top of her head. Chaos laughed as Septi threw the bag back on topd of the fridge and stormed out of the room.
“What’s got you all upset?” Raram asked Septi when Septi barged into the library.
“Stupid rules,” Septi said, yanking the folder with a copy of the VI4C’s terms, conditions, and rules. She thumbed through the pages and tugged out the page with the assignment rules and the code of battle conduct. “Read this,” she said, pointing to the paragraph that discussed leaving team members behind. Raram took it and read, then glanced back at Septi.
“Very survival-of-the-fittest,” she commented, handing it back.
“Yes, and Chuck and Chaos don’t seem to see anything wrong with that!” Septi said, barely able to control her anger.
“Ah,” Raram said, comprehension daning on her face. “And you don’t like it, do you?”
“No, I do not@” Septi exclaimed, jamming the paper back into the folder and reshelving it. “It is just so wrong!”
“You’re going to change it, right?” Raram asked, returning most of her attention to her algebra.
“Yes, I am,” Septi snapped, then her face softened slightly. “By the way, how are you doing?”
“So-so,” Raram said absentmindedly. “I hate algebra.”
“I completely understand that,” Septi said, cringing sympathetically.
“I guess it’s better than geometry, but that still doesn’t make it any fun,” Raram said matter-of-factly, and Septi shrugged.
“I think I prefered geometry,” Septi said with a slight laugh.
“To each their own,” Raram said with a shrug. “And how was your day?”
“An emotional roller coaster,” Septi said, running a hand through her hair, making the stray hairs fuzz up a bit. “Jade, Nito, all the catch up work I have to do, then this scenario when I got back here…”
“Yeah, I can see how that would stress you out,” Raram commented, stretching.
“Nito asked me to the school dance,” Septi said suddenly. Raram paused mid-stretch and stared at her.
“I didn’t know that you danced.”
“I don’t. That’s why I only gave him a maybe.”
“Go,” Raram said with a wicked smile. “Just for him.”
“Raram!” Septi protested. “I don’t want to hurt Jade in the process.”
“Ah,” Raram thought for a second. “So she likes him, too?”
“Yeah,” Septi said, leaning against the table.
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you, then.”
“The thing is, he doesn’t like her like she likes him, and she’s already upset with him because of something that happened years ago.”
“Great,” Raram’s voice trailed off. “Go part of the time for him, then leave early, for her.”
“Alright,” Septi said, straightening up. “Thanks.” She turned to leave the library.
“And Septi?” Raram called. Septi paused in the doorway. “Don’t tell Mes that you don’t know how to dance.”
“Because she’ll torture you until you leanr how to.” Septi smiled slightly at the tone of voice Raram used.
“Thanks for that peice of advice, Raram,” she said, then left the room.
“Pick up, pick up, please pick up,” Septi murmured into the phone as she paced the room.
“Hello?” Nito’s voice came in over the phone. Septi’s grip on the phone tightened for a second as she tried to relax.
“Hi, Nito? It’s Se-Renee,” she said, biting her lip as she mentally berated herself for almost slipping up and calling herself Septi.
“Renee? Awesome,” he said, not noticing her almost blunder. “So what’s going on?”
“Nothing much,” she said, feeling extremely jittery. “I just wanted to let you know that if you still wanted me to, I’ll come with you to the dance.”
“You will?” he asked, sounding a bit excited. “That’s fabulous.”
“I’m glad you think so,” she said with a smile. “Now can we please change the topic before I lose my nerve?” He laughed, and she let herself laugh with him.
“It’s nothing to be scared of, Renee. Really.”
“Keep telling me that, ‘cus I’m not sure tht I believe it.”
“Alright, Renee. If you’re sure,” he aid teasingly.
“I am,” she said firmly, with a slight smile. “So, how are you?”
“Great,” he said. “Much better now that you’ve called with that bit of good news.”
“Stop it,” Septi said. “You’re making me blush.”
“Make me,” he said. “You know that you like it.”
“I won’t, just because I don’t think that you’d like my methods of persuasion.”
“And what are your methods like?”
“Nothing that you’d ever want done to you,” she said firmly and seriously.
“Oh?” he said. “Were you threatening me?”
“No, i wasn’t,” Septi said indignantly. “Why ever would I want to do such a thing?” ‘If Jade is right,’ she thought, unnerved by the idea.
“I don’t know,” Nito responded. A silence fell for a couple of seconds. “Would you like to go out with me?”
“When and where?” Septi asked, toying with her hair.
“Maybe just to Panera for lunch tomorrow? Or supper?”
“Maybe supper,” she said. “Because I have a couple of classes tomorrow morning.”
“Alright,” he said. I’ll see you at six, alright?”
“That sounds great.”
It was just after midnight when a tap on the door of the library caused Septi to start, smearing a couple of letters in her notes.
“Come in,” she said irritably, examining the damage and deciding that it could stay that way. Ferinequell and Ryan entered the library, closely followed by Valencia, the weaponry caretaker and the only person who was Septi’s age. “What’s this about?” Septi added, knowing that it would be official VI4C business.
“Earlier today, you brought to my attention your displeasure with the current rules of the VI4C. We’ve discussed this, and have agreed that a change or more might be a good thing,” Ferinequell said. Septi caught Valencia’s eye and raised an eyebrow.
“Well, that’s good, as I would have changed the rules with or without your permission, Chuck,” Septi said coollly, returning her gaze to Ferinequell. “I assume you’re here to give me ‘advice’ on how I ought to change the rules?”
“Something like that,” Valencia said quietly. “That and there’s another rule about how one must go about changing the rules.”
“Excellant,” Septi said with a sigh. She stood up and crossed the room to the shelf with the rules folder, which she pulled free. Returning to the desk she added, “shall we begin?”
“Yes,” Ryan said, sitting down. Valencia and Ferinequell also sat down, one on either side of Septi, who turned her notebook to a blank page.
“So how should we do this? I’m no good at all with all those formalities,” Septi said, opening the folder and removing the papers. “The rules must be revised, and-“
“Calm down, Septi,” Valencia said, keeping her voice soft. “No one expects you to know everything.”
“Let’s start with the article that you have the biggest problem with,” Ferinequell said, taking the papers from Septi’s hand and spreading them out on the desk, over top of Septi’s homework. “What would you like to change it to, or would you rather just get rid of it.”
“Change it,” Septi said decisively. “Change it to team mates must help one another. No one should be left behind, and it will give the VI4C a little more secrecy.”
“Yes, but that would seriously weaken the teams and, by extension, the whole of the VI4C,” Valencia countered.
“Val, do you have a heart at all?” Septi asked. “We take care of our own, at any cost.”
“Even at the price of our own lives?” Val challenged.
“If C.A.M.M. finds us because someone we left behind tells, then we’ll all be in a much, much worse situation than if we don’t even leave that option.” Septi rose to her feet, glaring at Valencia.
“Septi, sit down,” Ferinequell said, a warning tone in is voice. “We’ll take a vote. Those who agree with Septi?” he raised his hand, as did Ryan. Valencia sat back in her chair angrilly, though she didn’t say a word. “Sorry, Val,” he added remorsefully.
“Fine, then,” she said. “Septi, you’ve won this one.”
“What’s that s’posed to mena?” Septi asked, trying to keep her temper under control and losing.
“That I think that the old rules, for the most par,t a sufficent,” Val said, calm and cool.
“Steppe’s murderous, traitorous rules!” Septi snapped. She took a deep breath and turned toward Chuck. “Back to business. Shall werevise the whole thing, or just leave it as is for now?”
“Let’s just get it over with,” Ferinequell said, looking somewhat annoyed by the girls’ bickering. Ryan nodded his agreement. “Now, as to the name regulations-“
“We can ditch that one,” Septi said, examining her nails. Valencia nodded.
“Alright,” Ferinequell’s eyes scanned the page. “Housing terms?”
“So long as they leave the public portions of the hideout clean, and don’t get into too many finghts, anyone can stay,” Septi said.
“And make sure that their weaponry remains in good condition, and they do chores on the rotation schedule,” Val added. Septi nodded her approval, watching as Ferinequell took notes in the margins of the old rules. He glanced up to meet her eye, and he nodded.
“And last but not least, secrecy terms?”
“They stay,” Septi, Val and Ryan all spoke together.
“Alright, then,” Ferinequell said, glancing down again. “I’ll draw up a new copy either tongiht or tomorrow. Is that all?”
“To my knowledge,” Septi said, glancing at the clock and sighing. “And I need to return to the wonderful land of homework.” Val glanced at her pityingly as she walked out the door.
Septi glanced at herself quickly in the rearveiw mirror as she slid into her, after her afternoon jaunt to the library. Letting out a cry of dismay, she hastily dug a brush out of the glove box and dragged it through her hair. Stuffing the brush back, she started the car and pulled out of the library parking lot.
It was a quarter to six, the time she was supposed to meet Nito at, and she was nervous. Thoughts were racing through her head, and most of them were doubts about how this date would go. As she pulled ihnto Panera’s parking lot, she glanced into the mirror again, double checking her appearance.
‘Why are you so nervous, Septi?’ she thought, grabbing her bag and climbing out of the car. ‘It’s only Nito.’
‘Nito who always looks better in person than how you remember him looking,’ she thought as she caught sight of him. ‘Nito with a great sense of humor. Nito who doesn’t know what you are-‘
‘That’s enough of that,’ she thought as she walked in. Her thoughts were cut off as Nito greeted her at the door.
“Hey, Renee,” he said with an intoxicating smile. “Why don’t we order, then go take a seat by the window?”
“Sounds good to me,” Septi said, trying to smile an equally friendly smile. Her heart was punding in her chest and she felt like a fool. ‘Get a grip, Septi,’ she thought, a bit mad at herself. Once they had gotten seated and settled, Nito smiled as he watched her prepre to eat. Septi raised an eyebrow, confused by aall this attention.
“What’s so interesting?” she asked.
“You,” he responded. “You’re so dignified, even when you’re getting ready to eat.” Septi blushed, and glanced down. Sure enough, she had set up her side of the table neatly, nd a tiny smile played on her lips.
“O.C.D?” she suggested with a slight laugh. He shrugged and laughed with her. “It’s just a habit, I guess.”
“I guess,” he said. “Fortunately for you, it’s a very attractive habit.” Septi blushed again at this comment. Peering at him through her bangs, she decided that teasing him would be the best route out of her embaressment.
“Fortunately for me?” she asked. “Do you really believe that?”
“Well, you’re obviously not repelled by me,” he said, his hand resting on the table. She laughed again.
“No, I am not,” she confessed, mirroring him and resting her hand on the table. His hand twtched a little closer, and she pretended not to notice.
“That’s good,” he said. “Because I’ve become extremely attatched to you.” His hand slipped a little closer, then covered her partially gloved hand. Her breath caught, and she felt like she was going to pass out from sheer delight. Then she pulled away.
“We shold probably eat while our food is still fresh,” she said, looking away from his mesmerising stare. He nodded and took a decently sized bite out of his sandwich while she started to eat her soup./