1: THE DYNAMIC DUO

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Walking into the library, it was easy for me to spot Mickey, in part because aside from the librarians, she was the only one in the room. Seeing her small frame leaning over a table as she scribbled furiously brought a small smile to my face, and I slowed my walk to survey her for a moment. It took me less than a minute to determine she was far off in whatever fantasy world she wrote of; the space between her brow was creased, the light in her eyes sharper than normal. It was a look I had grown accustomed to seeing as we aged -- one that would never leave my memory.

It was also the only time it could be deemed safe for me to sneak up on her. While Mickey was writing, she was dead to this world; accidentally surprising her would be more like waking someone from a deep slumber than causing her to jolt.

And if there was one thing I had learned growing up, it was not to make Mickey Davidson jolt.

When I reached the table, I gently took hold of her shoulder, purposefully bringing her focus to me. She turned away from her notebook slowly, amber eyes out of focus for a moment until she saw my face. A bright, crooked smile split her features. "You're done already?" Mickey asked, arching a brow.

I bit back a laugh. "It's almost six o'clock, Mick," I pointed out, releasing her and hefting my backpack further up my shoulder.

Mickey hummed absently at that, blowing stray, short hairs out of her line of sight. "Lost track of time," she said with a passive shrug, gathering her own things swiftly. I watched silently, making note of how she continued to brush her bangs out of her eyes, the rest of her hair short enough that it didn't cause a problem.

She didn't catch me staring -- she was too busy starting to talk. "So I saw Walski today," she said, a disgusted undertone to her words as she finally straightened and headed for the door.

I caught up with her easily. "What'd he do?" I asked, looking down at her with a furrowed brow.

"Nothing specific," Mickey said irritably, yet again shoving dark hair out of her line of sight. "Ugh, remind me to schedule another hair cut-- no, he just . . ." She scowled. "He's so annoying. Are you sure I can't judo flip him? He's very flippable."

"Mick," I sighed in exasperation, "if anyone is putting Walski on the floor, it'll be me. You've had detention too many times."

We were halfway out the building by now, and it was safe to say the school was empty. The rest of the football team cleared out from the gym and headed straight for the parking lot as soon as practice was over. Meanwhile, I'd venture off to receive Mickey, who -- despite almost three years of football season -- still stubbornly insisted on riding home from school with me.

"I haven't had detention since last year," Mickey scoffed, unfazed. "And I haven't ever had detention because of Walski."

"Ah yes," I said sarcastically, "your parents will absolutely accept that as good reasoning."

As we reached the front doors of the building, I pulled one open for her, allowing me to glimpse her rolling her eyes. "Whatever. Not the point. The point is that Walski is a pesky brat, and I really hope the real world chews him up and spits him out."

"Sometimes, Mick, your vengefulness concerns me," I said honestly. "But this time, I agree with you. Walski's a jerk, no doubt about it."

"But," Mickey sighed melodramatically, pausing as I unlocked the car, "that doesn't mean we should let him dominate our conversation. I mean, we have way better things to talk about." She flashed me a trademark crooked smile. "Such as, how was football practice?"

I waited to answer that until we were both seated in the car. "It was good," I nodded, starting the vehicle. It wasn't the newest ride to see this parking lot, but it wasn't the worst, either. Made in 2005, my Honda Civic definitely wasn't the worst car I could've ended up with.

I did like Mickey's old-school Charger better, though. But today had been my turn to drive.

"I'm feeling good about that game this Thursday," I continued. "It should be easy, I mean, Central has a terrible reputation for sports in general."

"They do," Mickey agreed with a nod. "It'll be an easy win. Speaking of Thursday, am I still driving you to the game early?"

"Mhmm," I hummed in agreement, my gaze remaining on the road even as I felt her eyes on me. "Mom needs to borrow my car, remember?"

"Oh, right," Mickey nodded eventually. I could practically hear the distance in her tone -- she'd forgotten. That was happening more often lately, and though I'd never verbalize it, I wondered if it was because she was stuck off in la la land. "Your van needs new tires," she said slowly.

"And Mom's got to drive Luke and Carter to a birthday party," I nodded patiently. "So yeah."

"Yeah," Mickey sighed, and for just a moment I heard her mutter under her breath, "I can't believe I forgot about that," before she was pressing on. "Anyway. Before we can even worry about Thursday, we've got those chemistry projects due tomorrow." I could see her arching her brows in my periphery, "You still planning on helping me with that?"

"I am," I agreed with an amused smile. "I didn't think it'd be nice to leave you floundering."

"And I appreciate that immensely," she smiled. "Mostly because you owe me after that English paper ordeal last week."

I snickered at that, shaking my head to myself. "Yeah, yeah. I said thank you, remember?"

"Thank you, my dear Jason, is not accepted as full payment for an ordeal so big as that," Mickey smirked. "I had to pull an all nighter with you. You literally tried to read Moby Dick in one night. Honestly, I think you owe me double for all the help I was."

I laughed at that, slowing as we approached our houses. "I thought I had it managed! But fine, you want double payment, I can manage that," I turned to her once the car was parked, a grin on my face. "I'll buy you coffee for a week."

Her features turned mock somber, a glimmer of joy sparkling in her eyes. "You've got yourself a deal. I want the good stuff though -- none of that gas station junk."

I suppressed laughter. "Deal. I'll start first thing tomorrow. For now, we've got chemistry to do."

Mickey groaned. "How about we start the coffee now . . . then not do the homework?"

"I'm sorry, who was it that needed to pass this class to finish high school?" I asked as I climbed out of the car and headed toward my house, knowing full well she'd follow.

"Last I checked, both of us," she called, before rushing after me.

I hummed at that. "Right. Well. Either way -- it must be done."

"Fine," Mickey sighed forlornly. "But not without coffee."

"Okay," I smiled as we entered my house, "not without coffee."

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