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It was a cool, crisp day in mid-October that day. The sky was fresh blue, the air was nippy enough to require a light jacket and put a familiar sting in your nose and lungs but not so cool that your breath would escape through chattering teeth in wispy little puffs. The leaves were beginning to fall and clutter up the sidewalks so your presence was always known if you so rudely clomped through the crunchy leaves in a childish yet exceptionally thrilling sort of way. It was the sort of day that beckoned last chance bike rides or walks through the park before the light dance of winter first sprang itself upon the world. The sort of day that had children of all ages abandoning their school books to enjoy the biting breeze. The sort of day that just seemed to invite troublemakers to their doom.

“Jesus Christ!” Three teenage boys ran down an empty side-street that day, when they took the turn, they had been hoping to make a little more head-way, but they soon found running through a mass of leaves to be a lot more challenging when they were doing it to save their skin than it’d been when they were seven and doing it for fun. If they had known the people of Gypsy Way didn’t believe in rakes, they would have thought better of their decision to sprint down it. “Do these people not have rakes?! Should we all chip in and get them a bunch for Christmas so next year kids’ll be able to bolt down these sidewalks without incident?” One of the boys asked. This one had short, dark brown hair and sparkling hazel eyes. The boy in front of him also had short, dark brown hair, and green eyes to go with it, while the boy behind them had slightly longer black hair and dark brown eyes that were laughing despite his huffing difficulty with the leaves that seemed to get higher the further along they went.

“Trip, you’re not allowed to say informal things like “kids’ll” in the same sentence you say s*** like “without incident,” it just doesn’t work like that. Pick one, man. We’ve put up with it for years, but it drives everyone else insane.” The boy ahead sent back.

“You’re losing focus, Rafe; we don’t care about Trip’s dialect right now. We need to find somewhere to collect ourselves, get our story straight, you know? All our houses are out since that’s the first place the cops’ll look… Know anyone who lives on Gypsy Way? I’d like to have a chat with them about raking their leaves.” The boy in the back quipped. They were halfway down the street at this point whereas, in a perfect world, they would be halfway gone.

Trip pursed his lips as he thought for a second, he and his family were “British Imports,” as Rafe and Sirius liked to put it. They’d moved to the States when Trip was twelve so, even though he’d picked up on US slang and mannerisms over the last four years, he was still very British in most ways. Girls found it hot; his friends found it laughable.

“Hey, Ray, doesn’t Aurora live around here? Think she’d let us hide out at her place for an hour?” Rafe stopped briefly as his friends continued on, putting him at the back of the group. Aurora had been the object of Rafe’s affection for the last three years. Unfortunately, for him, however, she didn’t seem to return his feelings, as she made it no secret that she detested his smart-ass attitude and his knack for getting into trouble. Still, she was known for her kindness and helping others, so maybe she’d be able to push aside her detest for Rafe to at least allow his friends to hide out for a short time; he’d have to take his chances with the outside world and maybe hide out at the nearby park.

“It’s worth a shot.” he relented after a moment of thought. “Take a left at the corner, hers is the red brick one three houses up.” Trip and Sirius increased their pace, they knew all about the whole Aurora situation and, while they felt for their friend, they still weren’t above exploiting it for their own amusement. Rafe caught up to them as they rounded the corner onto Hooker Ave.. The leaf density on Hooker was lighter than on Gypsy, but running through it was still a challenge.

By the time they got to the red brick house Rafe had told them about, they were huffing and puffing almost endlessly, the nippy air making it hard to catch their breath.

“Ring… The bell… Ray…” Sirius wheezed out.

“Why… Me…?”

“Because… you’re… the one… who’s… in love… with her.” Trip grinned, pushing up off his knees to stand up straight. Rafe scowled at the pair and walked up to the door, ringing the bell before he had the time for any second thoughts. As he awaited an answer, he checked his hair in the glare of the autumn sun reflecting off the screen door, a move that didn’t go unnoticed by his friends who smirked at him, their cheeks rosy but their breath finally even. He scowled at them and tried brushing them off as he ran his fingers through his hair in an attempt to make it even messier than it currently was - he swore that the girls found that look sexy, but Sirius and Trip could never quite figure out which girls he was talking about…

When he heard movement behind the door, he shoved his hands inside his jacket pockets and ushered his friends forward, as the door swung open and a girl about their age with pale blue eyes and light brown hair stepped out onto the porch, pulling the door shut behind her.

“What are you guys doing here?” She asked suspiciously, eyeing them carefully. Wherever these three showed up, trouble usually followed and she was in no mood; Whatever they had up their sleeves wasn’t getting past her front door.

“Hey, A!” Rafe purred and shot her a smile laced with sparkles but quickly reeled himself in, Aurora was too smart for his flirting techniques and he knew it; if they wanted her help, they’d have to be straight with her.

Trip stepped forward and nudged Sirius along with him, if they left this up to Rafe, the cops would catch up with them before she even turned them away.

“We were wondering if we’d be able to hang out here with you for an hour or so…” Trip asked, smacking Rafe upside the head. He had it coming and he knew it, though, so he let it slide, vowing to embarrass Trip in front of Ashleey the next day at school instead.

“Why?” She glanced at Sirius as she asked this, aware that Rafe’s answers would be delayed and that Trip’s would be obscured by his accent. Hard to believe it, but the one among the three that seemed most normal at the moment was Sirius, the epitome of weird.

“Er… We got into some trouble having some harmless fun and we need to lay low and collect ourselves for an hour. Or so.” Aurora quirked an eyebrow at them, wondering how much “some trouble” was and how much harm their “harmless fun” had actually done. But if she asked that, it’d seem as though she were interested in what they did, and she was so not interested in anything those three did! Why would she be? It wasn’t as though she liked any of them or anything. Especially not Rafe! God, why would she like Rafe? Okay, so he had been pining after her since they were in Junior High and so he was funny and hott and loyal and so he had stunning green eyes that seemed to pierce your soul - so what? None of that meant she liked him! Didn’t even come close! Nope. So, instead of asking any sort of question that might lead them to think she had a thing for Rafe, she asked a question that was well warranted, considering…

“Why here? Why’d you guys come here? John lives right on the corner and you guys hang out with him often enough; why not go to him? Why come to my place?”

Rafe scowled at his two best friends, John lived around here and they hadn’t thought to mention that? Thus proving his so-called “best friends” lived to make his life hell. There was always the possibility that they’d forgotten, in the heat of the moment, all about John, but even so, they’d have to suffer as he always did when they did things to embarrass him in front of Aurora.

Trip smirked slightly and clapped Sirius and Rafe on their shoulders.

“Because we’re idiots and forgot all about John. But we’re already here, so… What do you say? Can we hide out here?” Aurora pursed her lips at the trio, her parents were home and they wouldn’t want three teenage boys hanging out there for an hour - at least! - otherwise she would have let them waltz into her living room and make themselves right at home. Even if she didn’t particularly like Rafe - shut up, she didn’t! - she still had a soft spot for those in a tough spot. And if the cops were after them-which she assumed they were - she couldn’t just turn them away, now could she? Finally, she let out a sigh, a clear indicator that she was relenting.

"Here's the deal," The three boys smiled triumphantly, they'd gotten in enough trouble in their years to know that when someone started a sentence like that, they were about to get exactly what they wanted.

"My parents... would not be too comfortable with you guys hiding from the cops in our basement, so... I'll distract them and you guys sneak upstairs to my room - you can't miss it, it's got my name on the door. I'll come up when I can, just... don't go through my underwear drawer, don't make too much noise, and don't pocket one of my bras to try and convince your buddies you got to second base with me. Rafe." Sirius and Trip snickered at the looks on both their faces; Aurora looked as though ready to set Rafe on fire just because he would have the opportunity to do something like that, and Rafe looked mortified, he did a lot of rotten things to a lot of rotten people that deserved it, but he'd never do something as humiliating as that to Aurora; she didn't deserve it and he would just feel terrible about himself if he even thought about doing something like that for even a nanosecond. Just terrible.

"We won't." T rip assured her.

"Cross our hearts," Sirius added, looking to Rafe to finish their three-person promise.

"And hope to die." he concluded quietly. They had made the same sort of promise a million times before, but this time it felt different. This time, their words almost weighed more than he could handle and, without asking, he knew Trip and Sirius had the same sort of feeling. Maybe, just maybe, going to Aurora's place hadn't been their best idea of the day. Or maybe it'd been the best idea of their lives. They just couldn't be sure which…

"Okay. Just one question: What did you guys do? You guys are so pale I'd swear you were ghosts if you weren't standing right in front of me holding a conversation."

"Right..." Sirius laughed as Trip and Rafe grinned slightly, they were hesitant in telling her the whole story because then she would be forced to testify against them, were it to get that far. But then again, she was going to hide them...

"We sort of..." Trip started, searching for the right word.

"Hot-wired," Rafe supplied.

"Right, hot-wired. We hot-wired Principal Rosedale’s shiny new Mercedes after he gave us detention for the next month."

"It was so unfair, A! All we did was supply the freshmen with the means to ensure their parents' satisfaction with their next progress reports after their next tests for a slight monetary gain for us in exchange." Rafe interrupted.

"So... You sold test answers to the freshmen and were busted? You're lucky you - “

"Didn't get expelled? Yeah, yeah, he told us that already." Sirius grimaced, if they had wanted the lecture, they would have listened to Rosedale the first time around...

"Anyway, we were cruising along, completely understanding why everyone calls it joy-riding, when this jerk in a truck sideswipes us and we ram into a building. We managed to get out without getting caught, but we want a little time to collect ourselves." Rafe concluded. Aurora gaped at them, never mind stealing a car, but being sideswiped by a truck and crashing into a building?! How had they walked away so… Intact? Not a single scratch between the three... It was a miracle.

"You guys are so dead when this catches up to you... But come in. Quietly." She opened the door and motioned them in. She turned towards the hallway as they went up the stairs, they would probably just watch some TV and try to calm down. Her bed would probably smell like Rafe, she realized with a small smile, turning towards the staircase instinctively to see them ascend the stairs. Her mouth fell open, however, as she realized they weren't walking up the stairs, but, instead, floating up the stairs and into her bedroom. She felt a chill go down her spine then as she fell to the ground with a light thud.





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