Disclaimers: Technically all the characters are mine, but they do resemble our two favorite heroines. Since there is a scene that could be interpreted as copyright infringement, I'll disclaimer myself and say that Xena, Gabrielle, and Argo are properties of MCA Universal and are borrowed solely for non-profit fanfic use.

Subtext alert: You betcha, and a little maintext too.

Violence: Yes indeed.

Additional note: The Student Council I portray is not how an actual high school Student Council is run. (Sounds more like our Congress! LOL) But I can verify the rest of the scenes here are based on potential real life high school scenes and scenarios.

All feedback is welcome; all flames are not. Feed the bard at warriorkat@onebox.com. And now for the show...

Agony in the Garden

by Warriorkat

Chapter 1

Well, he IS a nice boy, Julia sighed to herself, glancing across the table to her date, Lucas Garner. A tall, blonde haired lad, his handsome looks had nearly all the high school girls flinging themselves at him. His hair was cut rather close, his blue eyes darted back and forth across the restaurant, lively and full of humor.

She glanced at her hands, her fingers long and graceful, beguiling tremendous strength under her smooth palms. She fidgeted with her silver bracelet, stopping cold when Lucas's eyes met hers.

"We sure got an electic bunch in student council this year," he remarked. "Todd the faggot got elected president, Jessie fair and tall for vice president, Brendan the computer geek for treasurer and worse of all, Natasha the goth!"

Julia rolled her eyes. "Dressed all in black with that profane satanic jewelry."

Luke growled, "Of all the people at school, why did she have to be the secretary in Student Council?"

"I don't know, but she's the perpetual thorn in the school's side," Julia spat in disgust, a blue eye warily scanning the fast food joint as if she was about to come in any moment.

"Cassie told me she's into Tarot and Ouija boards," Lucas commented.

"You'd think the administration would ban the stuff she wears, wouldn't you think?" Julia said, drumming her fingers on the plastic laminated tabletop. "Especially those skirts of hers---one of these days her booty is going to pop out!"

Luke laughed, his chuckle a cruel and mocking laugh typical of adolescent boys. "Same would go for those tops of hers---think she could get the neck cut down a little further south?"

"Luke..." she warned him, "I know where you've been looking lately."

"No offense," he said, putting his hands up in defense, his twinkling blue eyes suddenly fearful.

"I was only kidding. Lighten up."

Luke shook his head. "She's a distraction. Flaunting so much skin is sin."

"Make a fuss," Julia suggested. "Most other schools in the area already banned that whore wear."

Luke wiggled in his seat. "Why not you?"

"Why me?" she demanded.

"I'll look like such a wuss in front of the guys. "Oh look, we can't look at any more ass because my girlfriend gets mad," he said in an annoying falsetto.

"Alright, Luke," she grumbled. "But you better back me up, I'm not looking like a fool in front of everyone else."

"Don't worry, sweetie, you are not going to look like a fool! Everyone else there dresses properly, save that shy girl with the short hair, but..."

"What's her name?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Haven't seen her that much."

"Me either."

Luke reiterated his point. "You are not going to look like a fool! Cassie has been harping on that bitch for ages, Audrie will back you up, everyone else looks like a decent, law abiding American--"

"I get the point," she said.

He smiled, his teeth pearly white and his grin infectious. Julia took a sip of diet cola, hearing the telltale whooshing sound that meant she finished her drink. She looked at the empty cardboard boxes and containers, testament to his tremendous teenage appetite. Letting her eyes wander to her own food, she looked in consternation to the half eaten cheeseburger she had gotten.

"C'mon, Julia, all I've seen you eat is salads," Lucas had protested when they ordered their food. Lucas had gotten a Big Mac, fries, and a drink, and super-sized it---his appetite not satiated, he had gone back and gotten a large milkshake.

And I ate that cheeseburger, Julia sighed to herself. I'm going to gain weight, unless.... "I got to go to the bathroom," and she abruptly left.

After ridding herself of the source of her guilt, she washed her hands and looked into the mirror. She never did see the beautiful tall girl with dark locks and amazing blue eyes---all she could hear was the taunts of an earlier age.

"Julia, you've gained weight again," her mother sighed. She was twelve, starting to go through puberty, and once again she had outgrown her clothes. "With that appetite of yours, you are going to eat me out of house and home." Not wanting to fail her mother, she learned the ropes of dieting. It worked---it kept the critics silent. Except for herself. She straightened the collar of her Hawaiian print blouse and left. "Ready?" Lucas asked, having cleared away the trash. "Ready," she replied. They walked outside to the car, Luke's white Volkswagen Beetle, and drove off to youth night at their local church.

She stood outside, alone and fuming, for Lucas had migrated to the basketball court to play basketball with his buddies. Pacing, she made her rounds about the facilities, to be abruptly interrupted when she nearly knocked a girl down.

"Oh, I am so sorry, I---" Julia apologized.

The girl was about a foot shorter than her, with golden locks the color of the fine hair of Apollo himself. "Is this your first time here?" she asked, unafraid.


The girl extended her hand. "I'm Shana."

Julia flashed one of her brilliant, disarming smiles. "I'm Julia."

Shana's eyes went wide. "You're Lucas's girlfriend, aren't you?" she exclaimed. "You're so quiet." Julia nodded but said nothing. "Well, you don't have to stand there all alone. Come with me." Walking back to the youth building, Shana probed a little more.

"What grade are you in?"


"Can you drive?"

"Not yet."

"Not sixteen?"

"I will be in late February." Julia took a breath, daring to ask a question in return. "And you?"

"Freshman. Any siblings?"

"One. He's off in college. You?"

"One sister. She's a junior."

"Who's your sister?"

"Kelsey. She's kind of quiet, like you."

Julia shook her head. "Never heard of her."

"I'm sure you've heard of her friends."

"Um...who are her friends?" Julia asked.

Shana rolled her eyes. "Jessie, Natasha---"

Julia returned a strange look. "THE Natasha?"

"Ouija board girl? Yep. I wish my sister wouldn't hang around her, she's a bad influence." Julia opened the door, and propped it open for Shana to walk through. "Thank you." Gravitating towards her friends, she quickly introduced her new friend. "This is Julia."

The responses were mixed, from enthusiastic welcomes to more reserved "hellos"---whether they were shy acceptance, indifference, or silent disapproval she couldn't tell in the dim light.

The youth pastor called in his flock. They walked into the main room, a large room painted white with a small stage up front, microphones and amplifiers set right before it. "Let's find a seat," he encouraged.

Pastor Mark was a young man, he blended in quite well with the youth. His hair was a sandy blonde, his skin darkened from his zest for the outdoors. He wore khaki cargo shorts with a Hawaiian print shirt. "Hey, guys, settle down," he said, tuning his guitar. The rowdy kids, from the childlike seventh graders to the childish seniors who kept chasing each other around the room like kindergartners, settled down a little. Pastor Mark tuned the last string, then turned to the makeshift band. "1, 2, 3..."

Shana was startled by the beautiful voice beside her. Unbelieving, she turned her head and craned her neck to look up at the tall girl. Yes, it was her voice. Amazing.

Eight-thirty came by too soon. "I have to go now," Shana said, with sadness in her voice.

"I'll come with you." It was quite a shock going from a well lighted room into the dark parking lot illuminated by dark lamps, but her eyes adjusted quickly. A girl in black leaned against the side of a small pickup, her hair black with red highlights. She had her arms crossed, rather impatient. The lamp directly overhead showed little of her face, but a trickle of light fell upon her cheek, outlining a sweet curve marred by the furrowing of her brows and clenching of her jaw.

"Kelsey, this is my new friend--"

The girl shot her an annoyed look. "We better get home soon or Mom will lock the house and leave us stranded," she growled.

Weird, Julia noted, but kept silent. I've seen you somewhere before.

"Bye." Shana sadly said, getting in the passenger door. Kelsey got her keys out and started the ancient, weatherbeaten yellow Datsun pickup, shifted into reverse, backed out, shifted into first, and drove away.

Julia just stood there, then sat down on the curb, resting her chin on her palm. What a rude girl, she thought of Shana's older sister, unable to stop wondering about her. I wonder what Shana meant by "Natasha is a bad influence on her." She laughed, shaking her head. I see the light now. But there was a certain mystery to the girl, like a closed book.

We better get home soon or Mom will lock the house and leave us stranded. Underneath the impatience was a tinge of...was that fear? Stranded, stranded, stranded... The last word kept echoing faster and faster, frantic and more frantic by the moment. Julia was about to leap off the curb and run back into the building when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

Before she could recognize the handsome stranger, she screamed.

Lucas jumped. "What the...." The frightened young man caught his breath, taking his hand away from her shoulder. "Julia, everything all right?"

She tried to assess what happened. Irrational, she thought, with a mocking internal laugh. "Don't know," she said, laughing.

Lucas quirked a blonde eyebrow. "Shana telling you ghost stories again?"

Play with it. "Yeah."

Lucas draped his muscular arm around her shoulders. "She's always talking about how her mother locks the house up every night to keep the ghost out."

"I know, her older sister was screaming at her to hurry up."

"So it's not just hogwash?"

Julia shrugged. "I guess her mother really believes it....or at least her sister does."

"Kelsey," he noted.

"Yeah, Kelsey."

Life at the Williams house was usually a circus. There were meetings to attend, banquets to preside over, church functions to race to, sports to go play, and honors to receive to boost the ego.

Julia's father Rhett Williams was a tall man, with graying hair combed to the side and his face clean shaven. He had just taken off his striped navy and maroon tie, his navy blazer properly hung up on the coat rack. His khaki trousers had a stain on them, it appeared he must have upset his glass of wine at the dinner he attended earlier that evening.

"Welcome home, Julia."

"Hi, Dad." Julia walked upstairs to check her email. The flame war on the email list was getting to very heated, and Julia secretly loved the drama.

The modem whined and carried on before logging her on. She opened the ICQ panel, saw none of her friends was online, then opened Internet Explorer and proceeded to read her mail.

"This is a redundant argument," Julia sighed to herself. "Gays can't be Christians. They've already been predestined for the lake of eternal fire." She double clicked on the next message. "The faggot shouldn't even be on the list. Where's the moderator when you need him?"

But she had vowed to keep out of the list war, the last thing she needed was someone to seek her out and strike back. Sleep on it, she told herself. And if the Holy Spirit speaks so, I shall privately email the moderator.

Mail read, and bed time encroaching, she disconnected, and wandered off to take her shower and go to bed.

Her bedroom was spacious, a welcome relief from the crammed room she had shared with her little sister in her childhood. She had been gone four years now---she was walking home with friends when a drunk driver veered off the road, killing her instantly. So badly mangled that they had to resort to witness testimony and dental records to identify the body. Watching the pictures from the crime scene at the trial must have been hard for her parents---they all loved little Renee dearly. Pictures of the giggling blonde girl were stuck in corners, inconspicuous enough to not remind them daily of the tragedy, but enough to keep the fire of memory kindled in their hearts.

Prayers were said, and she crawled in bed, falling asleep soon.

"Julia!" a frantic, distorted voice cried. "JULIA!"

She opened her eyes, to see a hand reaching out towards her, the figure but a silhouette against the swirling red mist threatening to engulf them both. "Julia!" the girl's voice cried out again. "Julia...."

"Come closer!" Julia rasped, rushing towards the girl.

"I can't," the strangled voice croaked. "I...can't..." the red whirlwind whisked her away faster than Julia could run, but she kept running, in hopes it would slow down and give her a chance.

The whirlwind left a coppery smell in the air, stirring up the white dust that ominously swirled into the distorted figure of a middle aged man with a scraggly mustache and angry disposition. And he bellowed, "KEEP OUT!!!" whisking the girl away and making Julia's vision turn red.



She slowly became away of her surroundings, her familiar bedroom, where the waxing moon peered back at her, with a rather impish grin.

"Ha, ha. Funny. Now I see where the term "lunacy" comes from," Julia hissed, rubbing her eyes. "That was a doozy."

She slipped out from beneath the covers and walked down the hall to the bathroom, getting a welcome sip of water. The nightlight cast a faint glow to her face, which reflected back in the mirror.

"I do look like I've seen a ghost," Julia said, looking at her complexion.

Chapter 2

Lucas parked the white Beetle, and his tall dark passenger got out, grabbing her light green backpack and slinging it over her shoulders. He fumbled with his keys, locking the door and escorting his lady.

"Hey, Luke, hey, Julia," one of their friends greeted. She was a brunette, spindly and of an average height. Freckles adorned her face, and her eyes glowed like steaming coals.

"Good morning, Cassie," Luke greeted.

"Good morning, Cassie," softly echoed Julia. "Good morning, Audrie." She tended to be a bit nervous during the first few minutes of school, but she usually calmed down after that. She turned to the side, to catch of glimpse of the ominous Natasha. Cassie followed her line of sight.

"My, my--isn't she scandalous today?" she said, faking a gasp for melodramatic effect.

"Why? She's wearing shorts?" Everyone laughed.

"Looks more like underwear to me," Luke snidely remarked. Julia smacked him lightly in the stomach with the back of her hand. "Sorry."

She kept following Natasha with her eyes, to see her stop and talk to a certain young girl with black hair with red highlights. Now where have I seen her before?

"What's so fascinating?" asked Cassie.

"Scoping out the enemy," Julia quietly purred.

"I smell conspiracy," the short, dark brunette Audrie said. "What's going on?"

"Natasha is turning the student council upside down and into the drain," Luke said.

The girl Natasha was speaking to laughed, leaning against the railing. She had a black T-shirt on, with black jeans and boots. She had a silver chain on (what was on it was indiscernible from a distance) and a look of "Don't mess with me" scrawled all over her face, her guard let down for the briefest of moments to laugh with Natasha. Her hair was a rather shaggy boy's cut, the overgrown strands of her bangs reaching to the tips of her ears.

Kelsey. She immediately put two and two together and realized the brooding girl was the girl she ran into last night in the church parking lot.

We better get home soon or Mom will lock the house and leave us stranded. She couldn't place a finger on why she kept hearing the voice. Stranded, stranded...

The voice from her dream screamed at her again. JULIA!!!!!

She stomped off in a huffy, leaving everyone bewildered. Run from your demons... She paced faster, to her first class. Demons? What? I've never said such a thing before in my life!

Demons... the voice suavely whispered. Demons following you, old as time... She was tempted to scream to drown them out, but it would make everyone suspicious. Image, no matter how false it was, must be kept up for all.

Brunch. Julia and her three fundamentalist friends watched the quad with eagle eyes, on the lookout for evil to prance upon and denounce. "Oh look," Cassie hissed, "here comes the whore of Babylon."

"Oh no," Audrie said, her mouth agape. "She's coming here."

"Showdown time," Luke said, flickering a glance towards Cassie, then paying his attentions back to his girlfriend, squeezing her hand.

The tall, dark haired girl felt each and every hair on the back of her neck stand on end. "Get out of here, you troublemaker," she growled, her icy blue eyes pinning the goth girl.

It only encouraged Natasha further. She approached Julia's group of friends, shaking her nearly bared derriere and shaking it in front of Luke's face. She approached Julia, and craned her head, staring into her eyes.

"What you have so carefully woven shall be shredded," she said, her voice hoarse and her hazel eyes a little unfocused. Julia quirked her eyebrows, not following her train of thought.

"What have you been smoking now?" Cassie hissed at her.

"Fuck you, I haven't smoked anything," Natasha spat back. She turned around, swishing her hips in a provocative manner.

"What was that?" Julia groaned.

Luke nervously laughed, his face becoming flushed. "I don't know," he said, shrugging.

Audrie and Cassie pinned him with their eyes. "Stop being such a lecherous creton!" Cassie smacked him. "Staring at that whore's ass like that!"

"Leave him alone! If I was a guy I probably couldn't help myself either!" Julia snapped in defense of her boyfriend.

"She's probably jealous of what she can't have," Audrie added, glancing at Luke.

"I mean, you saw how she shook her ass in front of Luke like that?" Cassie mentioned. Julia let a feral snarl surface, before hiding it and resuming her proper lady-like face.

Third period, student council. It was the crossroads of the Fundamentalist four versus Natasha and the other immoral infidels that polluted the school. Like Todd Wyatt, the student body president. Too open minded. He actually believed in gay rights, something the Fundamentalist Four opposed with a sickening fevor. Luke had resorted to refering to him as "that faggot" although him and his girlfriend were inseperable. Rumors circulated they were going to marry.

Jessie, the vice president, was a hard read. At six foot two, her height was the first thing noticeable about her; she was a star athlete on the varsity volleyball team. Although she looked like as harmless as the girl next door, the Fundamentalist Four's encounters with her were less than "ideal." If she smelled church motivation, the measure was dead. Cassie tried to bait her a few times, but Jessie wasn't the type to lose her temper.

Brendan the treasurer was a computer nerd. He was fond of cargo pants--the more pockets the better. For the last two periods of the day he was at the local junior college studying Visual Basic. For the most part he couldn't give a damn about the politics; he was good with numbers and that was all that mattered to him and the Council.

Natasha was the controversial secretary. Sometimes Julia felt her whole brash, rude, and promiscious attitude was only a facade covering problems, but as long as she was willing to play the game, she was a participant in the endless verbal jousting match.

She looked around the room. There were her friends, Luke, Audrie, and Cassie; then there was Thomas, best described as an "average Joe." He sat in the back of the room doodling on his steno spiral-bound pad. He had the youthful look of a boy, being the representative from the freshman class. Luke had bullied him once into voting in the Fundamentalist Four favor. Julia didn't doubt for a second he'd threaten to trashcan him again to bias his vote.

And there was the tenth and final member, a quiet figure that brooded in the back. Dressed in a black shirt, sage green pants, black boots, and hair dyed black with red highlights. She looks familiar.

Wait, is that a guy or girl? She watched the face flinch in annoyance as Natasha paced around the room. The goth stopped long enough for the person to say something to her, but Julia couldn't hear. Natasha pranced off, and the face grimaced, angry.

The goth girl walked up to Luke, shaking her hips, her shirt lowcut. She came to a stop where he was, putting him in a position where he couldn't help but notice her breasts. He turned and gave Julia a look of despair.

"I should give that slut a big kick in the ass for doing that," Cassie said, glancing towards Julia.

"We wouldn't want to deprive Julia of that pleasure, would we?" Audrie turned around to see Julia's attention elsewhere besides protecting her property. "Earth to Julia?"

She snapped out of her trance, and ferally smiled. "You better not." She let her eyes wander to Natasha, and narrowed her eyes to slits, like a cat before it pounces upon a mouse.

The frazzled teacher walked in the classroom, manila folders in hand. "Class, let's quiet down and get a seat." Julia shot one more angry look at the prancing Natasha before retreating to her camp where Luke, Cassie, and Audrie were stationed.

Mr. Eldon looked about the room, taking attendence, squinting to fill in the tiny bubbles. He walked over to the door, put the attendence sheet in for pickup, then walked back to his seat behind his podium, which he hid behind most of the time.

"It has been brought to my attention that we should do something else besides band music for half time shows," Todd announced. "Suggestions?"

"Cheerleaders," Audrie announced. Todd, chewing on his pencil, took it out of his mouth long enough to jot the suggestion down. "Any others?"

"Fireworks," said Cassie.

"Any others?" asked Todd. "Okay. All in favor of cheerleaders, raise your hand." Two hands. "All in favor of fireworks, raise your hand." Four hands. "All in favor of letting the band do the half-time shows, raise your hands." Four hands. "We have a tie. All in favor of fireworks, raise your hands." Four hands. "All in favor of band, raise your hands." Six. Barely a majority. "The band half-time shows will continue."

Cassie dropped her jaw. Surely fireworks had to be more fascinating than the band! It all must be Natasha's fault! All of it!

Lunch time. The table where they sat at was quite lively, with the popular students milling about, bragging about their latest feats. It was quite hard to get the least little bit of peace at their end of the table.

"She's been such a hardass," Cassie groaned, only to get smacked lightly by Julia. "Right. No cussing."

Julia nodded. "I can't believe she could be so rotten," she growled. "She managed to muster enough support to veto our action."

"So much for doing something more interesting than listening to our crappy band dance around the football field at halftime," Audrie sighed. "That is so gay."

"I swear, she exists solely to piss us off," Luke despaired. "Whatever we want to do, she manages to muster enough support from the oddballs like her to kill it."

"Yeah, like the voluntary school prayer," Audrie mentioned. "We had surveyed everyone asking whether they'd be offended if we held a prayer over the intercom, no one said they were offended, and then that heathen killed it."

"I bet you she's the only non-Christian at this school," Cassie added.

Luke shook his head in disagreement. "No, there's a few Buddhists and Muslims. I made sure to speak to them. They didn't seem offended at all."

"And if they were, they should have spoken up," Audrie added. "Right, Julia?"

The dark beauty was obviously in her own daydream, gazing at the ceiling with unfocused eyes. "Hello? Earth to Julia?"

She shook her dark bangs. Crisp blue eyes focused beneath. "Yes?"

Audrie shrugged. "Never mind."

Julia asked, "What's going on?"

"We're simply stewing over the veto in Student Council today," Cassie told her.

"I didn't expect Jessie to join her on the veto," Luke said.

Julia's eyes gleaming, as if a lightbulb went off in her head. "I think we can amend her vote."

Three heads turned to the tall, awkward dark brunette. "How?" they chimed. Only two more votes were needed and threatening to trashcan the freshman was easy enough...

"Jessie is angry about the fact that the rallies don't feature any other sports besides football."

"All the other sports suck," Luke grumbled.

"Including baseball?" retorted Cassie, with a knowing grin.

"No!" Luke hastily amended.

Julia cleared her throat, quieting the group. "See, if we can feature her sport, volleyball, alongside the football team during the Friday brunch rallies, she'll most likely drop her opposition."

Murmurs of uneasy agreement circled the group.

"She goes with the flow unless she's not really happy with something," Julia added.

More murmurs of agreement. "I think we should at least try that," Cassie said. "One less voice of dissent, the veto margin was only two people."

"Any others we could sway?" Luke asked.

Audrie shrugged. "We can always threaten to trashcan the freshman if worse comes to worse," she said, snorting.

"They usually aren't too loyal to Natasha," Julia said, the quiet girl ready and prompt with ammunition for the group to use. It was the main reason they cajoled her to do Student Council, her clear logic and tactics were an invaluable asset to the team to push the vote in their favor.

"I'll work out the bargain with Jessie after school," Audrie said.

Three heads nodded. Cassie said, "If you can't catch her before volleyball practice, try to get her early tomorrow morning, I fear brunch will be too late to influence her vote on the matters at hand tomorrow."

"What are we voting on tomorrow, anyways?" Luke asked, slouched against the picnic table, arms crossed and sweat dripping beneath the brim of his yellow cap.

"Next week's rally," Cassie said. "I'm real reluctant to give her a freebie."

"Wise, very wise," said Audrie.

Julia groaned quietly.

"What's wrong?" Audrie asked, a small, delicate hand on Julia's massive yet graceful wrist.

"We're doing the posters tomorrow."

Four groans circled about the table.

Audrie raced out of her last class of the day to catch Jessie and work out the deal. She managed to pick up in fifth period where Jessie's last class was; fear not, it was not too far away.

"Jessie, we need to speak," she told the tall, broad shouldered girl.

"Not now," she said, her volleyball gear in hand.

"Just a minute? It'll be real quick."

She rolled her eyes, impatient. "Okay. Real fast."

"You aren't happy about the fact that we've never showcased any of the other teams besides the football team, right?"

Jessie snorted. "Let's see. Our volleyball team is 5-0 in league and expected to clinch the league title. Our half-assed football team is 0-5 in league and expected to be last. I have no reason to be mad, do I?"

Julia snuck up behind Audrie, to quietly watch the action. She could feel the raw passionate anger underneath her words vibrate with every r in her words. Jessie was rather quiet---she simply let them walk all over her and would rather stew and pout than confront anyone about it. I had that figured out. Maybe I should be a psychology major.

Jessie noticed her presence though, and flicked her eyes to convey that. Audrie read the cue and glanced behind her. "I think we should congratulate the volleyball team at Friday's brunch."

"Tell that to the student council," Jessie said, quiet but not faint, every word was deliberate and willing to be proven should the need arise. The tall brunette volleyball player turned around and left, leaving them before they could edge another word in.

Audrie shrugged. "Hmm."

The relatively tall girl behind her turned around too. She was dwarfed compared to Jessie, but in contrast to the other girls with more normal stature, she was tall. Dressed in customary black and gray, the girl with the red streaked black hair turned around to follow her companion.

Who is that? I know that face, I know the name... Julia couldn't recall what the name was, but she did know she was supposed to know it.

Audrie looked at her, pleadingly. "I think I just figured out why she might be delaying the vote. And I don't think it aligns with your theory."

"Well, tell me."

"Jessie hangs around Kelsey, who we see with Natasha---"

Crystal clear in a flash, blinding. Julia gritted her teeth. "Then we'll lose her vote, no matter what."

"We shouldn't grant her the wish, then, since we know she won't hold up her end of the bargain, right?"


The Fundamentalist Four gathered at their table before school to discuss their strategy for today's student council meeting.

"Audrie, how did the negotiations go?" Cassie asked.

Audrie sighed---no, groaned. "I don't think she'll hold up her end of the agreement."

"Why not?" asked Luke. "It's not like her and Natasha are in a league of alliance--"

Julia interrupted him rashly. "I digress."

The two unenlightened sat there with their jaws hanging down. "What? You have to be kidding me! What led you to that conclusion? Did Madame Bitché shove her ugly butt into the matter?" Luke blurted. Julia lightly backhanded him in the stomach. "Oh, sorry. No cussing."

"No, she didn't directly show up. But she did drag along a friend that we know is Natasha's friend too," Audrie said.

"That doesn't mean anything! They never associate in class--" Luke retorted.

Julia quietly snorted to herself, knowing the truth. But the brief encounter yesterday in class hinted that Natasha wouldn't listen to her...

"Anyways, will it kill us to showcase the volleyball team for one brunch rally? If she doesn't hold up her end of the bargain we simply won't do it again."

"Goodbye, popularity. They'll do a recall election to kick us out!" Audrie despaired.

"Wouldn't that have happened anyways even if she agrees to the bargain?" Luke said.

"I figure that pushing the vote on half time shows will compensate it," Julia said. "We have little to lose. If Natasha keeps stalling us, we'll never get anything accomplished this year."

The bell noisily rang, each of them glancing at each other. "We better go."


Chapter 3

The Circle to the east end of the quad was where they staked their claim. Kelsey leaned against the tree trunk, the bark worn smooth by generations of rough and tumble schoolkids. Jessie leaned against the tree, next to her, as Natasha yammered about the latest tragedy.

"You know that they want to cut the band program out," Natasha rattled. She wasn't much better dressed than yesterday, save a little modesty and fishnet nylons.

Jessie groaned. "Yes, Natasha, we know the whole tragedy. Sit down, you're making me dizzy." Natasha stopped for a moment, and gave each of them a dirty look, then presumed to her pacing.

"Natasha," the voice growled, deep. "Stop it." Kelsey shut her eyes, trying to keep the glare of the mid morning sun out of her tender pupils.

"They're out to screw everyone over! This school! Corrupted! Ran by fascist bastards!"

Jessie turned to the side and gave Kelsey a look.

"She must have had one of her 'visions' again," Kelsey muttered.

"I told her to stop smoking so much weed," Jessie said, disgust in her voice. "I don't like what she's doing to herself."

Kelsey sighed, watching Natasha stomp off in the distance in her platform shoes.

"I never envisioned she'd turn out like this," Jessie sighed, sadly lamenting the rebellious turn her friend since second grade had taken. "Well, let's see what scheme the Fundamentalist Four have cooked up today."

Kelsey vaguely recalled the meeting (run-in would be more appropriate) yesterday. It smelled fishy, her gut instinct told her, as she hid in the back of the student council room, anxiously watching the Fundamentalist Four in the other corner.

The frazzled gray teacher called the minutes of the meeting. Audrie stood up and made her announcement. "We propose recognizing the volleyball team for their outstanding record this season."

Jessie was tempted to drop her jaw, but kept composed. She didn't seriously think Audrie would keep her word.

"All in favor raise your hands--" over half raised their hands-- "all in opposition raise your hands--" few raised their hands. "We have the majority in favor."

Kelsey glanced at Jessie, making a face. Jessie nodded back, resuming attention on the meeting.

After the meeting, Jessie couldn't help but pace, bewildered. "There is something fishy about it," she said, clenching her fists.

Kelsey nodded. "They all agreed. Something MUST be going on." She propped her black leather oxfords on the table, resting her head on her hands. "They're trying to get something out of us, I can smell it!"

"They were pretty incensed about us vetoing their half time show makeover," Jessie offered. "They'd love to watch the last remaining bit of our band shrivel away."

Kelsey shrugged. "True, they really aren't worth the money they're given---those half time shows are really painful to listen to. But after this year, they'll be free to obliterate the band program any sadistic way they want."

"Hopefully Nathan will get that music scholarship by then," said Jessie. "He has so much talent---it would be a dying shame to see it go to waste."

"His folks don't have the money for lessons."

"No scholarship and all that talent dies. We can't let that happen."

Kelsey laid on her bed, reading the novel she dragged home from the library. After a scary run-in with a pedophile, no one in the Sleven family was allowed to use the Internet.

Someone banged on the screen door. Kelsey immediately recognized it as Jessie. "Coming," she yelled, and was about to open the door when a mysterious hand grabbed and shook her.

The gnarled face of her mother peered at her. "Check before you open it," she growled. Kelsey looked through the viewfinder. "It's just Jessie."

Her mother peered out all the windows. "Okay, let her in."

"Hey," Jessie said.

"Hey," Kelsey said, walking back to the other side of the house, to her room, shutting the door after Jessie.

"Your mother is still convinced your dad is going to come back and kill her."

Kelsey solemnly nodded. "Yeah. He's been in prison ten years."

Jessie laid on the bed beside Kelsey. "I feel so bad for you guys. How many times have you had to move?"

"At first she kept moving us every month," Kelsey replied. "Finally, she realized that Shana and I weren't going to make friends at that rate, so she finally settled here."

"I thought she was going to finally get over her paranoia," Jessie said sadly.

"We got a note the other day from the feds that he had been released on parole."

"You're kidding me." She inquired with a look into her friend's eyes, to see only truth. "After what that animal did to her..."

"It's an unfair world, Jessie," Kelsey sighed. "Get used to it."

Jessie shut her eyes. "I don't know," she finally exhaled. "I don't know what this world is coming to when Justice herself is blatantly desecrated." She sighed, then opened her eyes. "What'cha reading?"

"Started the Grapes of Wrath," she said, marking her place in the thick book.

"Geez, how many pages is it?" Jessie asked, bug eyed.

"Oh, only six hundred."


"Tom Clancy nears one thousand with his novels." She looked at her book smugly, then diverted her eyes back to her friend. "What? It's not going to bite you, Jessie."

Jessie quirked a half smile. "I just don't have the attention span for it," she admitted.

"You always were the magazine peruser," Kelsey said, then flipping the book already. "The Joads seem so hopeful..."

Jessie snatched the book and flipped to the back, reading the last page. "Hope that is so misplaced..."

"Jessie!" her friend shrieked, taking the book and smacking her with it on the arm. "Don't spoil it for me!"

The brunette volleyball player giggled.

The grandfather clock in the living room chimed, vibrating the walls, noisily announcing it was half past the hour. Kelsey looked up at the clock on her wall. "It's 8:30."


A look of regret washed over her face. "My mom locks the house up now."

"Ah. I better go then. Mom wasn't anticipating me staying the night."

Kelsey gave her a sad grin, standing up and offering her a hand up, which Jessie gladly took. "Well, bud, take care, and see you tomorrow. And don't forget the Student Council Trip."

"Oh goddess....that's this weekend, isn't it?"

Friday. Most called it a blessing---a few called it a curse. They must be the socially deprived, unless one is a Student Council member---everyone silently knew that a hellish weekend was about to be cut loose.

It started a bit prematurely when the eccentric Natasha pranced onto campus with an upside down cross necklace, the charm conveniently falling between her breasts, surely augmented with a kleenex or other bra-stuffers.

Kelsey and Jessie could only sigh with disbelief when Natasha pranced right up to them.

"Well?" she asked, noting their despair.

"Nice diplomatic move," Jessie said, pointing to the jewelry's location.

"Why?" Natasha asked. "It's not my fault they're so fucking anal retentive."

Kelsey pulled her aside, Jessie close behind. "We have a long weekend ahead. Provoking the anal retentive is not the best way to start it off."

"Damn Fundamentalist Four and their fucking Christian morals!" Natasha hissed. "Seriously, what's wrong with this?"

Kelsey couldn't keep a straight face. Jessie calmly explained, "Well, for starters, you're going to create an accident in a parking lot," she said, pointing to her friend's blush.

"I'll be back," Kelsey said, disappearing behind the crowds of teenagers anxiously awaiting the morning bell to ring.

"See?" Jessie said. "You embarrassed her."

"I should be able to dress however I feel!"

Jessie shook her head. "Well, don't complain when the guys start making crude remarks."

Just then, a group of hoodlums whistled at her, one of them shouting, "Nice tits!!!"

Jessie rolled her eyes. "See?"

"Men are pigs."

"Funny a straight girl should say that," Jessie laughed.

"Sometimes I wish I wasn't straight, you know?" Natasha said.

Jessie quirked an eyebrow. "Well, go on," she said, voice wavering.

"I despise them with all my soul, but..." She pointed to a handsome young man, and continued, "I can't help it, drawn to them like magnetism, the way they make me moan when they kiss me..."

Jessie laughed. "Telling the dateless the joy of men. Are you trying to make me jealous or something?"

"No, no!" Natasha said, shaking her head. "Your problem is you're always seeking a relationship with them."

Jessie shook her head. "I'm not the Make-Out Queen, unlike someone I know here," she said, rolling her eyes as if in deep thought. Natasha swatted her on the arm.

"At least I'm more open minded than someone I know..."

"No, that's the Fundamentalist Four," Jessie corrected her.

"I never said it was you," Natasha countered.

"Uh huh. Whatever," Jessie retorted, almost knocking over a fuming Cassie. "Whoa!!!"

"What's this shit?" Cassie growled, Audrie hot on her heels, Luke and Julia behind a few feet. She grabbed the charm and jerked it forward, creating unpleasant tension on the necklace, forcing Natasha to bend her head forward.

"Get your fucking filthy hands off me, bitch!" Natasha growled, taking her right arm and slapping Cassie's forearm away from her, forcing her to drop the upside down cross.

"What did you call me?" Cassie snarled.

"No one calls Cassie that," Audrie howled, getting in Natasha's face like her friend.

"Well, I do now," Natasha sputtered, defiant.

Cassie was about to grab Natasha's clothing again when Jessie's strong forearm intercepted the hostile move. Angry eyes stared at Jessie, incensed.

"Don't," Jessie said, neutrally.

"Get your filthy hands off me too!" Cassie cried out. Luke and Julia were right behind their spitfire companions, eyes scolding.

"Then leave us alone," Jessie growled back.

"You're an embarrassment to this school," Audrie said, continuing her friend's tirade.

"You better not be going to the Retreat with that on," Julia said, a wild gleam surfacing in her eyes.

"Or?" Natasha dared. Julia reacted with narrowing her eyes to narrow slits, a look she gave only when she was truly angry.

Kelsey, we could use your negotiating skills right now thought Jessie. '

I wish these f**king bastards would go mind their own damn business, silently fumed Natasha.

Kelsey returned from the girl's bathroom, having witnessed the whole scene. "Hey, hey," she said, diving between the warring parties and pushing them aside. "Enough from all of you!"

"She started it!" Natasha said, jabbing a finger at Cassie, who stuck her tongue out, the piercing glimmering in the morning light.

"You dress like a total slut," Cassie countered.

"ENOUGH!" Kelsey said, an unusual air of authority permeating her voice. The distance cooled the tensions a little. "We can either start off this weekend hot-headed or a little more level. It's not like any of us are going to get out of our obligation, so we mine as well cooperate for once."

All six pairs of eyes disagreed with her. "Well, suit yourselves." With perfect time, the bell rang, forcing everyone to scatter to class, leaving Kelsey and Julia facing each other.

"Your butt was kicked and you know it," Julia said, near a whisper. "At least you know when to go lick your wounds."

Kelsey shook her head, then catching a glimpse of sapphire blue eyes. Oh shit. I think my archival is beautiful. Not good.

Julia almost regretted saying the hurtful words to the girl. She had no idea why she felt so bad saying those venomous words to her. After all, she was that slut's friend, right? Right?

She simply lacked the vocabulary to describe magnetic feeling she felt when she stared into those hazy green eyes.

[ Chapters 4-6 ]

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