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Day One Hundred and Sixty.

I had a dream about Rainie.

In my dream, she wore some kind of Pocahontas-like garb (I know, right? Pocahontas is basically the sexiest animated character ever, so...). We were in a Pocahontas-like field and there were Pocahontas-like birds (this may have to do with the fact that I had watched Pocahontas with Frankie and Joe the previous morning). The grass was long, and I had to race to catch her, all the while making sure she stayed within my sight. She kept running away from me, and I couldn't figure out why.

Eventually, we came to cornstalks that extended for miles upon miles. I remember being really pissed off in my dream. It was a maze, and I couldn't keep track of her. All I wanted to do was touch her, but she kept shirking out of my grasp like butter. After a while, I got so frustrated that I decided to just leave the maze and wait outside. The problem was, (duh, it was a fucking maze), I couldn't find my way out. Curse my parents and their terrible genes - if I was like a foot taller, I would have been able to see over the goddamn corn.

I gave up like a pussy (I remember thinking this in my dream - fuck you, Nick, find a way out, you idiot), and just stood there, waiting for something to happen to me. Finally, when I thought that all hope was lost, she found me. She came towards me, and I was just about to open my arms to receive her when -

"AAAAAAAHHHH!"

I fell out of my bunk - yes, fell out of my top bunk onto the cold, hard floor of the bus - panicked at the sound of the scream. Swiftly, I stood up and crashed into the opposing wall (woops, wasn't quite awake yet), only to hear Joe's rousing laughter.

I turned around, stumbled, blinked, rubbed my eyes, blinked again, made my sheep-noise, and squinted in his direction. (I was squinting because the light was on and my eyes weren't accustomed to it).

"That," Joe chuckled, doubling over in laughter, "that was the funniest thing I've ever seen."

"Wuzzwrong?" I demanded groggily, surrendering my body to the movements of the bus and leaning my shoulder against the wall. "What happened?"

Still laughing hysterically, Joe (who was fully dressed), replied, "Dad told me to wake you up."

"Maaah," was my response. I swallowed, trying to comprehend his words (my brain functions slower than usual in the morning), and once my eyes were adjusted to the light, I opened them and asked clearly, "So you screamed in my face?"

"Well, I whispered your name first. Didn't work. I was scared; usually you're up long before me. If I screamed and you didn't wake up, then I'd know you were dead." Joe tried his best to act completely serious, but I could tell he was dying to break into laughter once more.

I exhaled, re-rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. "Fuck you, dillhole."

I pushed past him in the narrow hallway and emerged in the kitchen, where Kevin was happily prattling away to our father.

"Good morning, Nick," Dad said. (He completely interrupted Kevin. I don't blame him).

I managed a meagre wave as I grabbed a bowl and spoon and motioned for Kevin to hand me the box of cereal. Kevin continued his rambling as I simultaneously yawned and poured Cheerios into the bowl. (Side-note: I'm neutral about Cheerios; I just want to make that clear. Have you ever thought about how they're called ‘Cheerios'? I think it's an exaggeration. They rarely provide me with cheer).

"So we start filming again in September... hmm, maybe I should hold off on getting my hair-cut until then... what do you think? My hair's too long and it's so hot; I don't know if I can last for the rest of the summer..." (and so on, and so forth. Pointless, all of it).

"Milk," I said monotonously, loudly enough to overpower Kevin for a moment. It didn't matter; it didn't faze him at all. He acted as though I didn't exist. That was fine. If he wasn't trying to wear down my eardrums sixteen hours a day, I'd be able to pretend he didn't exist, either.

Dad purposely withheld the carton from me, eyeing me in displeasure. "Manners."

Ugh. I hate when my parents tell me to use manners. The way I see it, Kevin and Joe are rude as shit, but they never get called out. What's worse: asking someone to pass you the milk, or screaming in someone's face to wake them up? Asking someone to pass you the milk, or chattering incessantly and never giving anyone a fucking break even though no one cares?

I'm the most polite kid this family has ever seen, and they all take me for granted.

"Please," I said in a whiny voice, wiggling my fingers in anticipation.

Dad relented and slid the milk in my direction. I unscrewed the lid and tipped it over - there was barely enough milk left to cover the bottom of the bowl.

"Maybe I could just go for a trim now, and then get a big cut before we start filming-"

"Is there any more?" I demanded, scratching my head.

Dad shook his head. "No. It's our last day on the bus; we're getting rid of everything."

Fuck my life.

"So I have to eat dry Cheerios?!" I exclaimed. Now that effing cereal was really pissing me off. How dare they call themselves Cheerios?

"We have fruit punch," Joe offered, and I heard him reaching into the mini-fridge behind me to grab a pitcher. He placed it in front of me, and I glared at him as he came into sight. In his hand was a tall glass of milk, which he stared at in appreciation for a moment or two before gulping down.

I hate everyone. Worst day ever. Who the hell is the president of General Mills? I want to kill that guy for his shit-tastic Cheerios. From now on, I'm calling them Shitty Moodios... or something equally clever that reflects their Costco-sized pain in my ass.

"Why did you sleep so late, Nick? Usually you're up early," Dad remarked. Kevin's eyes narrowed in annoyance; he'd been interrupted yet again.

I didn't even know what time it was. "I had a nice dream," I mumbled.

"Ooh," Joe taunted. "A dream about a girl? A wet dream?"

I sighed. "A dream about sweet revenge. It involved you hanging by your ankle from a tree while panthers scratched up your carcass."

Joe snorted. "It was about a girl, wasn't it?"

I stared at the box of Cheerios-sorry, Craptacularios-for a moment before I surrendered and muttered, "Yes."

Just as I expected, Joe made a few weak jokes at my expense, and I ate my Cheerios with fruit punch. In case you're wondering, I don't recommend it.

My day went downhill from there. Oh, just you wait.

First of all, I fucking hate abbreviations. So many words in the English language are useless, and they're overused on a daily basis by morons. Why do people insist on shortening words that actually mean something? A sentence is like a piece of meat: trim away the fucking fat before you spit it out (or in the meat's case, before you eat it). And keep the stuff that matters. That's my philosophy.

Lately, Kevin has developed an obsession with abbreviations. It's because his close friend/on-again-off-again girlfriend, Danielle, uses them. She and her stupid blonde Californian girlfriends say things like watbot, p-tics, and libs. (Translation: water bottle, politics, library). And they think it's hilarious. Kevin, like the spineless little jellyfish he is, caught onto the dumb trend, and now I'm convinced that when he isn't talking, he's trying to come up with new ridiculous abbreviations in his mind (or, in Kevin's language, ‘abbrevs').

So when he started talking about our song, "Will Might", I just had to intervene in the conversation (and by conversation I mean Kevin was mostly talking to himself, with other people conveniently stationed in the same room).

"We don't have a song called Will Might," I informed him, throwing a t-shirt over my head. "Those two words don't even make sense next to each other."

"No," he shook his head. "One word. Willmight."

I looked around quickly to see if Dad was near, and when I guessed that the coast was clear, I replied with a shake of my head, "What the fuck is Willmight?"

"Eyes."

Eyes. WYLMITE. When You Look Me In The FUCKING Eyes, Kevin! Dammit, get it right!

He frowned in confusion. "Why are you looking at me like that? You look... murderous."

My phone vibrated in my pocket, and I wrestled with my words for another few seconds before shoving my arms through my t-shirt and giving him one last backwards glance as I stalked away, muttering, "You're an idiot."

That comment would have to do for now.

"Hello?" I asked, pressing my phone to my ear. Hopefully I sounded just as unimpressed as I felt. Often, I find it difficult to portray my feelings over the phone. They just don't translate as well as they do in person; and people are frequently confused.

"Heeeeey," drawled a familiar voice, and the vibration hurt my ears so much I had to tear my phone away and shudder.

"Miley," I replied, my voice void of expression. "It's... you."

Super.

"Sel told me we're having a threesome," she announced, and if I wasn't so frustrated I definitely would have smiled. Now there's a nice thought.

"Yeah. I guess I suggested it," I admitted grimly. (Side-note: why did I suggest it again?)

"Cool," she replied. "Okay, well here's the dealio. I'm off to Nashville for a few days, so we were thinking maybe we could do it late August."

I spread the tip of my index finger and thumb on my forehead, raising my eyebrows in annoyance. "Fine."

Maybe we should push it to September, Miley - it's possible that Joe and Camilla will have split by then and we'll have another addition to the infamous Jonas hate-club.

"Okay. So like August thirtieth or thirty-first? That works for you?"

"How about August nineteenth?" I suggested dryly.

"Mm..." she trailed off, and I heard the rustling of papers. She was probably flipping through some sort of agenda. Good grief. (Side-note: since when have all girls started saying ‘Mm'? That was Rainie's thing! Everyone else was ruining it). "Oh," she said disappointedly when she'd finally figured it out. "Nick, August nineteenth was three days ago."

I sighed. "Yeah," I agreed. I knew exactly when August nineteenth was.

"So... shit, that won't work," she muttered under her breath. I stifled a laugh. Really, Miles? "We could always do it in September when we're all back on set..." she suggested.

"August is fine," I told her. She was too accommodating; it was frustrating me.

"What day works better for you?"

I hate when people assume I've either memorized my entire schedule, or that I carry around a pocket calendar like an overworked, stressed businesswoman.

"Why don't you tell me what day works for you, and I'll get back to you later if I can't make it?" I proposed. Ha! Perfect. The ball was in my court, and I had a feeling that whichever day she suggested was going to be unfortunately busy for me.

"Mm... okay," she agreed. (Stop saying ‘mm', dammit). "I'll call Selena and ask her what works best."

"You do that."

"Talk to you later Nick!"

"Talk to you later Nick!" I mimicked sarcastically.

Silence.

Woops. Didn't mean to say that out loud. To be fair, I was having a horrible day, and Miley was just making it worse.

Speaking of horribleness, Joe must have caught on that I was speaking to Miley, because he shouted loudly, "Hey Nick, have you told her how you feel yet?"

More silence on the line.

Giving Joe nothing more than a bored glance, I cleared my throat and said to Miley, "Call me in a few days to let me know."

"Uh..." she trailed off, and it was clear that she was weirded out. "Yeah... okay, Nick. Later."

I put my phone into my pocket with a sigh. It wasn't fair that she was creeped out by me; I was supposed to be creeped out by her. Could I have made it more obvious that I wasn't interested?

Joe was chuckling to himself as he sat on the bench at the table, pretending to be immersed in The Goblet of Fire. I watched him for a few moments, shaking my head in disbelief.

"Laugh all you want, assmunch," I told him with a nod of my head. "You'll get yours."

Joe scoffed, tearing his eyes from the page to lock eyes with me. "You're all talk, Princess. You've been saying that for weeks."

I shrugged, the hint of a smirk on my face. I knew something he didn't.

I was kind of excited when we drove into Los Angeles. It seemed like it had been forever since we'd been home, and even though we still had a few more California shows to do, I was happy to get off the road for a while. Living in a bus and/or sharing a hotel room with your idiot brother(s) gets tiring after a while. At least when we're at home, we have our own friends to hang out with and we don't have to spend every minute of the day together.

I was also excited because Joe was in the other room on the phone after receiving an unexpected call, and I had a feeling I was about to get my revenge.

I sat at the kitchen table with my dad and Kevin. Kevin was talking about... well, he was talking, and I had asked Dad what was in our plans for the next few days, but I wasn't really listening to his response. We were cleaning out the fridge, and even though I'd just eaten half of a leftover wrap that probably hadn't been mine in the first place. I was contemplating polishing off the pitcher of fruit punch that sat in front of me. We started the day together in a bowl of Cheerios... it was only right that we should finish it together. Just me and the fruit punch, the way it should be. Me and the FP. The fpunch. The frunch. The fruit p. How the hell does Kevin make abbreviations work?! They're so damn hard.

"Now when was the last time we were home? June?" Dad asked to no one in particular. "Your mother said Elvis is excited to see you, Nick."

I was about to comment on how sad I was that I had missed my dog's first birthday when Joe stepped into view, his phone in one hand and his other fist clenched tightly. The pigment appeared to have drained from his face - he was white as a ghost, like he'd just seen the grim reaper or something. He walked like he had nowhere to go, like he didn't know what he was doing - but as soon as his wandering eyes found mine, he stopped.

I grinned as pleasantly as possible. I also offered him a wave.

"What's wrong?" Dad asked. "What happened?"

Joe only shook his head, refusing to comment. Apparently he had just had a traumatic experience.

I can't say I felt sorry for him. No, not at all. What happened was this: my phone call with Selena a couple of weeks ago had reminded me of that notorious Jonas hate-club. Joe seemed to be in close contact with my ex-girlfriends for reasons beyond my realm of understanding. It was then that I realized that I wasn't the only contributor to the hate-club: Joe definitely pitched in. In fact, Joe got around more than Kevin and I, so he probably had the majority of the hate-club.

Naturally, I called the best bet and told her that Joe and I had had long talks about their short and sweet relationship. Though they broke things off quickly, he still thought about her often and wondered if he'd made the right choice. He wished things hadn't ended badly and he desperately wanted to make amends, he just didn't know how. As a favour to my brother that I loved so dearly, I asked her to give him a call and tell him how she felt. That way, it might make it easier for him to reciprocate.

I make it sound so easy, but really, it took a lot of convincing to get Taylor to call Joe. After all, she avoided his calls for so long after they broke up, and I didn't think they'd spoken since then. A nice little ‘hello' and a handshake at award shows and whatnot, but that was the extent of it. She was obviously bitter, and it took a long time to explain to her why I was calling. She kept asking why I was talking to her now when I had never bothered to speak to her when she and Joe were dating.

Her point was completely valid, by the way. I did ignore her when she was dating Joe. The funny thing is that Joe and Taylor were kind of a match made in heaven. And by ‘heaven' I mean my version of hell. They both think they're hilarious, but the catch is that neither of them are. They have different senses of humour, and I guess they never complimented each other, but both of their jokes are complete flops most of the time. The only real difference between them is that Joe knows he's a tool, whereas Taylor has not yet reached that level of self-awareness.

Anyway, that's why I ignored her. She annoyed me just as Joe annoys me.

And apparently, I had just annoyed Joe, because his expression changed from gaunt and lifeless to deadly and furious in a matter of seconds. I knew he was itching to cuss me out and I'd get an earful later, but for now, with Dad in the room, it was impossible for him to say too much.

"I hate you," he said quietly.

I smacked my lips together and propped my head on my hands at the table. "So how'd it go?"

I heard Kevin ask what was wrong, but both Joe and I kept him out of it.

"Well, let's see," Joe said, clearly in no mood to play games. "After she told me, in detail, about how much I hurt her and how much she still loved me despite the pain, she asked me if I felt the same way. I replied that I did not, and she proceeded to yell at me. For five minutes straight. Do you know how long five minutes is?!"

"That's terrible, Joe," I answered with a concerned frown. "You should have been more considerate."

"At least when I call your ex-girlfriends, I don't tell them you're still harbouring feelings for them!" he exclaimed.

"What is going on?!" Dad asked loudly.

"Are you kidding?" I cried. "You tell them I'm lonely and I need them to cheer me up! Which is worse?"

"Do they make you feel like shit for five minutes? No, they do make you feel better!" Joe retorted.

"I have a triple date next week with Miley and Selena. Did I ever ask for that? I broke up with them for a reason, you chamhat!"

Dad was clearly upset that we were name-calling, but unfortunately for him, it was tough to get a word in edgewise.

"I was trying to help you out, you prat! I didn't do this to hurt you!"

I scoffed. "Yeah, okay."

"I didn't! And now Taylor's all fired up again and she's gonna go rat me out to the media about what a jerk I am!" Joe threw his arms up in the air, yelling, "Dad! Do something!"

Dad still had no idea what was happening.

I blinked. "So who would you like to hear from next? AJ, or that girl you met at Demi's birthday and dated for a week? What was her name again - Paige?"

"You're a dick," Joe spat at me.

"Joe," Dad said warningly.

Pursing his lips together, Joe picked up the pitcher of fruit punch. Before I knew what was happening, the ice-cold liquid was dripping off my hair, down my face and into my lap. I closed my eyes as it hit me, keeping my mouth shut to avoid choking on it.

And then Dad stood up and grabbed the pitcher from Joe, and Kevin laughed jovially like it was Christmas day, and Joe got sent out of the room.

Fuck that guy. Now I had to change out of my red birthday shirt, which I was wearing specifically because I knew I was seeing Pep. And I really wanted to drink the rest of that fruit punch.

When Pep flung her door open that night, I almost got tackled to the ground as she hurled herself at me. Pep alone isn't that hard to handle, but Elvis got really excited (I think he remembered her), and decided to join in on the tango.

I frowned as I hugged her; she was obviously sniffing my hair. Awkward.

She pulled away, commenting, "You smell like fruit juice."

Fucking Joe.

"Long Story," I mumbled.

"I got time," she grinned. "In fact, I - oh, Elvis! I missed you!" With that, she bent down and let Elvis smother her with kisses. She raised her chin and shut her eyes tightly, and I laughed. My dog was such a sap. He was like my complete opposite. Opposites attract, and that's why Elvis and I were best friends. Still, I did not condone his behaviour.

When Pep stood up again and insisted on giving me another hug, I realized that she had a scent, too. And it was oddly familiar.

"You smell like flowers," I said with a frown, pulling away slowly. "Rainie smells like flowers."

Did all girls smell like flowers, and I just never noticed it before?

Pep couldn't fight back a smile. Apparently she couldn't fight back a jab at me, either. "Ooh, do I? Does that mean you're in love with me, too?"

Pocket-sized bitch. "Not anymore," I grumbled, purposely distancing myself from her.

Eventually, I released Elvis in the backyard to frolic with Shep, and I followed Pep upstairs to her bedroom, happy to be back. I missed sitting on her roof and contemplating life. I climbed through the window first, crawling along the roof until I found a nice slanted spot where I could lie down comfortably.

Pep was close behind, and once I'd settled, I noticed that she had magically acquired a lollipop. She pulled another out of her pocket and offered it to me. "Want one?"

I shook my head. It's okay for girls to chew on lollipops. It's kind of erotic, actually. But guys? No. It's not okay.

"I thought you'd say that," she giggled. From the other pocket of her shorts, she produced a purple package.

My mouth dropped in shock and delight as I snatched the Mini Eggs from her hands. "Where did you find these?!"

"Leftover from Easter," she answered.

Easter was several months ago, so it was possible that the Mini Eggs were stale, but still... Mini Eggs!

"Oh, man," I groaned, almost drooling as I struggled to open the package, "I missed you so much."

"I missed you too!" she exclaimed.

I scoffed. "I was talking to the Mini Eggs, but okay."

She nudged me with a chuckle as I threw an egg into my mouth and shut my eyes, in complete bliss. "Wow, Nick. That looks like your orgasm face."

I opened my eyes immediately. "Don't even pretend you know what my orgasm face looks like."

"It looks like that," she said, a little too sure of herself. It kind of made me uneasy that she was so certain.

"I can't help it. How long ago was Easter?"

"April."

Popping another egg into my mouth, I shut my eyes again and said softly, "This is like the resurrection of Jesus... in a small chocolate egg. In my mouth."

When I opened my eyes again, Pep's eyebrows were raised in surprise.

"What?"

She laughed. "That was sort of blasphemous, don't you think?"

"What's blasphemous is that they only sell these things for one or two months a year."

Pep found a stick and started tracing the shingles on her roof. I ate a few more eggs in silence. This was happiness.

"Can you stop orgasming, please? I want to talk," she said in a whiny voice.

"One more," I insisted. This time, I let out a groan of pleasure, and Pep actually pushed me away from her.

"You're gross," she giggled.

"Whatever," I chuckled. "I hope Lance just walked into your room right now and thinks we're doing it up here. That'd be sweet revenge for what you did to me in front of Rainie."

Pep counted off her fingers. "First of all, I was helping you out there, so suck it. Second, Lance and I broke up. Third, if we were doing it, you'd be screaming."

"Ha! I highly doubt - you broke up?" I asked, cutting myself off.

She nodded. "Uh huh."

"How come? Wait, why didn't you tell me?"

She shrugged, hugging her knees to her chest. "I don't know. It wasn't important."

I arched a sceptical eyebrow. "Did he break up with you?"

"No. Other way around."

"I thought you were in love," I stated in confusion.

"I definitely never said that," she replied with a soft smile.

"I thought you liked him," I corrected myself.

"I did. I do. We're still friends."

"Did he cheat on you?" I questioned. "... with another guy?"

Oh, Lance. You would.

She elbowed me. "No. I just... wasn't all that interested anymore."

I nodded thoughtfully.

Pep glanced at me. "What?"

"Nothing."

"No. What are you thinking?"

"Do you have the attention span of a goldfish?"

Her nose scrunched until I could no longer see the freckles. "What?"

"How can you become bored with someone so quickly?"

"I wasn't bored with him. I just wasn't interested."

"The opposite of interest is boredom," I pointed out.

"I wasn't romantically interested in him anymore," she corrected herself.

"And again I ask: the attention span of a goldfish?"

I already knew the answer. Pep told me her parents had taken her to get tested for ADHD three times. The first when she was five, and they were puzzled when the results were negative. They took her again when she was ten. When the results were yet again negative, her parents wanted a second opinion. She just likes to jump around a lot, and I guess her brain jumps around a lot, too.

She shook her head with a shrug. "I just changed my mind, that's all."

That's lame. If a girl started dating me and told me she changed her mind three weeks later, I'd tell her to change it back. Girls are so picky and indecisive, even Pep. It drives me insane.

"How is your love life?" she asked. "Spoken to Rainie lately?"

"We're going to breakfast tomorrow."

A popping sound was made as Pep took the lollipop out of her mouth. Her tongue was red. "Breakfast was fine on the tour and all, but I think it's time you move to the next level. Lunch, maybe dinner."

I frowned as a thought hit me. "Speaking of lunch, you still haven't paid me back for that time we went to lunch a few months ago. Remember, when you made me stalk Rainie?"

Pep threw back her head with laughter. "Oh, yeah."

"I still have the receipt for that somewhere. It's like, ten bucks."

She stuck her red tongue out at me. "You're a hypocrite. I read an interview you guys gave over the summer, and you all said you liked to pay for girls when you took them out on dates."

"I say lots of shit in front of people I don't trust. Pay up, mushroom."

"I bet you'll pay for Rainie tomorrow, won't you?"

I paused for a moment, contemplating my response.

"You will!" she exclaimed, stamping her feet on the roof.

"Because we're going on a date," I explained.

It made sense to me, but of course Pep found an objection. "It couldn't be further from a date! She's got a boyfriend! At least when you and I went to lunch, we were both single!"

"That was not a date," I said slowly, pointing at her warningly.

And all of a sudden, she dissolved in smiles. I couldn't help but smile along. Sometimes Pep does things unexpectedly, like smile when we're in the middle of a serious discussion. Little proton.

"Sometimes you remind me of Jim," she commented.

"Who's Jim?"

"From The Office, obviously."

One of the things I'll never understand about people is their unwillingness to think before they speak. The English language would be much less clustered if people would stop being so fucking redundant and using words that don't matter, like ‘obviously'. If it was obvious, would I have asked for clarification?

(The answer is no).

"I don't watch The Office."

"You're crazy. You'd like it. You'd like Jim."

"Because we look alike?"

"You act alike. Sometimes I try to assign all the characters to people I know in real life. You would be Jim, and Joe would be Dwight, and Kevin would be Kelly-"

"Then who are you?"

"Obviously I'm Pam."

Again with the ‘obviously'. Ugh.

"How come?"

"Because Jim and Pam are best friends, and Jim doesn't really like anyone else."

She said it so sincerely, like it was so simple and evident, that I had to snort with laughter.

Sliding down the shingles, she chirped, "I have the first two seasons on DVD! You have to watch it!"

Before I could protest, she hopped inside her bedroom. I heard her rifling around on her shelves for the DVD box set. With a shake of my head, I observed the dogs for a moment or two. Elvis was all gung-ho to play, chewing on some sort of rope-toy and wagging it around in front of Shep's face, like he wanted him to play along. Shep, as the older and wiser of the two, was lying on the ground, nothing but his eyes shifting as he watched Elvis being a fool. That dog was getting old. He never ran anymore.

"Hey Nick!" Pep cried as she clambered out the window once more.

"Hey Pep!" I mimicked, drawing my eyes away from poor ol' Shep.

As she handed me seasons one and two of The Office, she asked casually, "What if Rainie and Jesse broke up?"

"The world would rejoice?" I phrased it as a question because I didn't quite understand where she was going with this. I stared at the pictures on the box.

"No, seriously."

I gave her a confused glance. "I don't get the question."

There are a lot of things that bother me about people. So many, in fact, that I've probably already mentioned this one. I hate when people aren't specific when asking questions. There's so much unnecessary confusion in the world. Finding a cure for diabetes is important and all, but I swear, the next organization I involve myself with will be devoted to teaching kids how to communicate properly with others. It's a lost art.

"What if they broke up? What would you do? Would you ask her out?"

I wouldn't need to ask her out. I was pretty confident that she would just know, and we would be together.

"Yeah," I lied.

"She's five years older than you."

Fuck. Even my best friend was bringing that up? Come on.

"Yeah," I repeated. Did I have to bring out the Hugh Hefner example again? Five years was nothing. Nothing. It's like, when I was born, Rainie was five. That's hardly a difference at all. Newborns are basically the same as five-year-olds. The age gap was probably apparent for a while afterwards, but then it evened out again. I'm a smart kid; I can hold my own against a twenty-one year-old woman. And when I'm twenty-one, she'd be twenty-six. What could be more perfect? She'd be emotionally mature enough for children, and my sperm would be in its prime.

The more I thought about it, the more the age gap made sense to me.

"What if your family doesn't like it?"

"Why wouldn't they like it? They'll probably be so happy that I actually have a girlfriend that they won't even notice the age difference." I growled in the back of my throat at the thought of Joe, who was always on my back for being ‘lonely' and ‘mopey'.

"They already know Rainie is dating Jesse... I think they have an idea of how old she is," Pep giggled. She was in the process of throwing on a thin hoodie, but somehow she had gotten her head stuck inside and her arms were flailing about. Psh. Leave it to Pep to get stuck in her own clothing.

"So what?"

"I bet your mom and dad won't be happy."

"Why not?" I was betting they'd be joyous. Rainie is amazing.

"Because my dad would kill me if I dated a twenty-one year-old guy," Pep said, her head finally free from the confines of her sweater.

I shook my head. "It's different for girls. Fathers don't want their pure, innocent daughters dating experienced men. They'll be corrupted and deflowered."

Pep guffawed. "It's the same for you, Mr. Purity Ring!"

I continued to shake my head. "It's not."

Pep raised a curious eyebrow. "Really?"

"Really," I repeated matter-of-factly.

She frowned, her scary blue eyes in concentration mode. "Is there something I don't know about you?" she inquired suspiciously.

I have no idea how she misinterpreted my words, but again... leave it to Pep. When I didn't reply, she questioned further, "How innocent are you?"

I was puzzled. Still, to appear nonchalant, I responded, "Not innocent."

Pep leaned back against the roof, her hands behind her to support her weight. She crossed her ankles, saying, "Just how far have you gone, Nick J?"

Oh, for the love of God. "Okay," I murmured, losing eye contact and searching in the twilight for the dogs again.

"Seriously. What have you done with a girl? With some guys you can just tell when they walk into a room, but you're a little harder to-"

"Great. Let's talk about something else," I interrupted. This was gross.

Pep laughed with glee, delighting in how uncomfortable she was making this conversation. "Come on! I'll tell you how far I've gone."

"I'm throwing up in my mouth," I told her firmly.

Why do girls always use that as leverage? Come on, I'll tell you who I like. Come on, I'll tell you how far I've gone. Come on, I already went down on you twice this week - woops, that one just slipped out.

Seriously though. Girls are sneaky that way. Even Pep.

"Well, with Jake, I-"

"Do you want me to throw up?" I exclaimed, overpowering her voice. I frowned as there was a hesitation between us, and then I said quietly, "No, you didn't do anything with Jake. You told me."

Pep and Jake were a couple over a year ago. If I had to locate that kid now and kick his ass, it was almost not worth it.

"I said we didn't have sex," Pep smirked. "But we-"

"Stop." I held my hand up to her face. "Don't talk to me about this stuff. I don't want to know. You're Pep; you're my little asexual hobbit-friend. Don't ruin that for me."

She laughed, twisting an elastic hair band around her fingers and aiming at me. I flinched, awaiting the blow.

"If your best friend was a guy, you wouldn't require him to be asexual," Pep pointed out.

"Yes, I would."

Maybe that wasn't entirely true. Nonetheless, it's weird to talk to girls about this kind of stuff, even if the girl you're talking to isn't really a girl at all. And as I'm sure I've already mentioned, I don't like discussing this stuff in general. Relationships are like a safe where you store all that stuff inside and don't let it escape because nobody else needs to know.

After a few moments of silence, Pep asked cheerily, "Are you thinking about sex?"

Through gritted teeth, I responded, "Yes."

She giggled. "You're difficult."

"You talk too much."

"You smell like Kool Aid."

"It took you a full minute to figure out how to put on your sweater."

"Your hair is curly."

"Yours is red."

"You suck."

I was about to respond with a similar remark when my phone vibrated. Instantly, I whipped it out of my pocket. Lately, I had become very attached to my cell. It was a part of me, because it could lead me to Rainie.

-----From-----
Rainie
367-5304
----Message----

Still on for breakfast
tomorrow, right?

I smiled as I punched in a response.

"Do you always smile like that when she talks to you?" Pep asked, and I was suddenly aware of her eyes on me.

"Who?"

"You know who. Rainie."

"How do you know it's her?"

"Because it's not me. Who else would it be?"

Pep had definitely been talking to Joe. Why else would she assume I had no other friends? I'll kill that guy. All the shit he's done to me... it warrants a murder, I'm almost positive.

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah. She makes me smile."

Pep nodded broodingly, a hint of a frown on her face.

"What?"

"If you really like her, then you should go for it," she encouraged me.

Wasn't she just telling me Rainie was too old for me a few seconds ago?

"Why the change of heart?" I asked, putting my phone back into my pocket after pressing ‘Send'.

She shrugged, allowing herself to smile. This time when she pointed her hair band towards me like a sling, she actually took aim and fired. It hit me in the forehead. I winced.

"'Cuz you're excited about her. And you don't get excited enough."

Nick Junior would beg to differ, but...

"Thank you." I picked up the orange hair band and fired it back towards her. She caught it and slid it around her wrist. Not that I needed anyone's approval to pursue Rainie, but it's always nice to have someone on your side.

Pep clapped her hands together and stood straight up on the roof. "Well, I gotta get to bed. I have a dentist appointment early tomorrow."

I frowned. "It's like 8:00, kid."

She grinned toothily. "Well, I don't want you to have to walk home in the dark. You're very delicate; I couldn't bear if anything happened to you."

I scoffed, but nonetheless, I made a move to follow her inside. Instead of crawling and scooting across the roof as usual, Pep decided it would be a good idea to attempt to walk the entire way.

I can't stress how bad this idea was.

Obviously, as anyone could have predicted, she lost her balance and went sliding down the roof until I sprang into action, leaping forward and grabbing onto her wrist.

"Jesus!" I exclaimed as she giggled and climbed back up, using my hand as leverage. "Could you try not to give me a heart attack?"

Pep was all-smiles, seemingly unaffected by her near-death experience. "Aw, did I scare you? Ow, you're hurting me."

I had her wrist in the grip of death.

Once she was balanced again, I let go of her hand and glared at her incredulously. "What the hell!"

Laughing, Pep responded, "I thought I could make it."

"Since when has it been a good idea to walk across a perfectly slanted roof?!" I demanded, following her a little more cautiously and breathing a sigh of relief as I jumped through the window and into her bedroom.

Giving me a knowing look, she returned, "I had faith that it would work out." I was about to tell her that was the stupidest thing I've ever heard until she slyly added, "Just like you and your Rainie."

I could have pulled out my hair. No, I could have pulled out Pep's hair. I hate when people try to teach me lessons in creative ways. In fact, I hate when people try to teach me lessons, period. It never works, and it's not like I've never heard their wise words before. I know what I'm doing. I'm sure I've already mentioned that I'm a calculated individual.

"You're a bitch," I said with a nod, curling my upper lip in distaste as she twirled around. "Never do that to me again."

She tricked me. She made me think she was on my side when all this time, she was planning that stupid, life-threatening stunt.

I waved The Office in front of her to let her know that I had it before striding out of her bedroom. When I was in her backyard, crouching down to leash up my dog, she stuck her head out of her bedroom window.

"Don't be mad, Princess Nick!" she exclaimed.

Knotting Elvis' leash around my wrist, I stood up and squinted to see her in the fading sunlight. "I think I'm taller than you, even when I stand a storey below you."

She smiled brightly and told me not to forget to watch The Office. Then I made my exit using the gate at the side of the house. Elvis traipsed along ahead of me, minding his own business, but always waiting for me to catch up.

You know, I really appreciate that dog. He's way better than almost all the humans I know.

This thought made me sad, and it solidified the fact that today just hadn't been my day. The world was conspiring against me, and I would simply have to wait it out and hope that the next day would be better. My best bet would be to just go home and go to bed right away to avoid any more un-pleasantries.

Sometimes life gets you down. It's inevitable. When I'm depressed, when I feel like the world is against me, when I feel like I can't do anything right, I remember this: I was the fastest sperm. Think about it. Out of hundreds of millions of little guys, I won the race. I beat out all those other bastards and came in first. And for that, I deserve some sort of award.

No matter how down I am, thinking about my victory always makes me feel a little better about myself.

Chapter End Notes:
My apologies for the wait! Usually I don't update so slowly, but man, terrible week. In the end I just gave up on life and came home three days early. The bad news is that I deliberately skipped a midterm and will probably have to drop that course and I don't know what I want to do with my life or where I'm going or why I made the choices I did, but the GOOD news is that this whole mess has inspired me greatly, and I have had many thoughts, and I would like to combine them in a story of sorts that I have been thinking of since December. Also, on the train ride home I reread The Alchemist, which was one of my favourite books to begin with and is now definitely bumped up to favourite. When I got home I re-watched Into The Wild, the most inspiring movie of my life. And I listened to my favourite songs. And really, I think I'm good to go. So I'll be working on that.
Also, you guys know that this is chapter fifteen, right? And some of you know about me and my chapter seventeens, so... I guess that's coming up soon. I'm thrilled.
A couple of weeks ago in the drug store I was casually flipping through a teen magazine (because I'm nineteen and I still get to legitimately do that kind of stuff without looking lame.. well okay, I guess I looked sort of dumb), and I read that Nick hates when people shorten "WYLMITE" to "Eyes". I thought I'd add that in. It kind of sounds like something my Nick would be annoyed with, doesn't it?
Oh, also, I stole the ‘fastest sperm' comment from a facebook group. I noticed that a couple of my friends had joined it and I checked it out and laughed. It really DOES make you feel a little better about yourself, though.
Furthermore, I'm sorry if you don't watch The Office and didn't understand the comparisons... it's okay, it's not really that important, and everything you need to know will be explained in a few chapters. However, for those of you who DO watch The Office, I think Pep was wrong - in this story, Joe is definitely Jim, and Nick is definitely Ryan (or Dwight, because Joe plays pranks on him - but no, Nick is definitely Ryan). Kevin, however, is probably pretty accurate as Kelly.
New chapter up in four days max, I promise. I think it's time to torture Nick a little more with some ex-girlfriend lovin' :) I'm mean to him, and I enjoy it thoroughly.
PS. I love Mini Eggs, and I bought some yesterday to cheer myself up. They are wonderful. Even if you don't celebrate Easter, you have to admit that these eggs are pieces of heaven.
PPS. Wow, my sincere apologies for the ridiculously long AN. Just one more note, though. If any of you were friends with me during the ffnet days, you may remember how I mentioned how excited I was that my sister was pregnant... well, I'M home for reading week and SHE has one week to go! She better pop this baby out soontimes, because I'm ready.
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