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alderwitch

Growing Up Claremont

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Alex burst into her dorm room, an entirely new load of books clutched in her arms along with what looked like a dvd case or two. As a girl who'd just had her sixteenth birthday, there was one very important class to add to her list. Namely, Driver's Ed. And being the thoughtful friend she was, she'd signed Erin up as well. With a beaming smile she walked over to Erin and dropped the stack of books. "I signed us up for a new class!"

The top book, 'Driving, the Law, and You' had a serious looking young man and a frantic parent inside a car on the cover. "Driver's Ed!"

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Erin, who'd been holed up in her bunk with a history textbook, raised an eyebrow at the stack of books. "I still don't know how you sleep eight hours a night and do all that," she told Alex dryly. Crawling out from her bunk and unfolding herself, she looked at the book. "Driver's ed?" she asked. "You signed us both up?" She looked over to the chart on her wall, wondering where she was going to wedge that in. "I already know how to drive a car." She opened the book and turned it sideways on a long list of road signs that opened out like a centerfold.

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"You know how to make a car go and stop in accordance with a post appocalyptic setting. I doubt that you're any more familiar with all of the traffic laws than I am. For example," She flopped down on her stomach and flipped open to the questions, "If two cars come to a stop sign at the same exact moment, who has right of way?"

Alex was wearing, appropriately if eyeblindingly, a yellow long sleeve shirt with black dashes down the arms with her pegged jeans today. Her hair was clipped back with sparkly pink barrets and she kicked her feet in the air idly as she flipped the pages in the book.

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Erin thought about that. "The one with a driver?" she suggested. She sighed and slid out of the bunk to sit on the floor next to her roommate. "It can't be that hard. Stupid people learn to drive all the time. I've seen them on the roads outside the school." She picked up her copy of the book and looked through it. "Huh. Guess that person should've worn a safety belt." Resting the book on her knees, she looked over to Alex. "Who's teaching it?

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"Headmaster Summers," Alex replied after a noticible pause, and she glanced up at Erin with a weak smile. "It won't be so bad. Oh, hey, street signs."

She burried her head in the book for a few long minutes before she spoke up again, "I don't imagine James will take it, he has his liscence. I didn't see any of the boys signed up either but I suppose there's still a week or so to opt in."

Alex fiddled with her pencil tip idly, tapping it in time with her swinging feet on the pages of the book.

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Erin blinked. "Did you say Summers is teaching the class? I didn't know he taught anything but seminars." She stared ahead and thought about that for a minute. "Jeez, can you imagine doing a driving unit with him? I don't know if we'd be going seventy miles an hour down back alleys, or spending five hours learning to parallel park. Could go either way." With a grimace, she paged through the book again. "Mark's already got his license, and I think Eddie does, too. Mike might take it, but I think we'd need a bigger car."

She turned a few more pages in the book. "I wonder how much of this stuff we have to know before we can actually get out on the road. Think James would let us borrow his car to practice with?"

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"He might if you ask him. He'd never let me borrow his car," Alex said with a grin and a twirl of her pencil as she looked up at Erin, "I think he's closest to you of anyone on the team. I'd give you fifty-fifty odds. Higher if you flirt with him."

She glanced back down at her book, looking at the diagrams of all the different turns.

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Erin laughed aloud at that idea. "Not unless you were sending it to Funniest Home Videos. Then we'd at least maybe win something. If anyone's going to do the flirting, it better be you. You've already got Mark chasing you and Mike... doing whatever it is Mike is doing. Maybe if you play Mark right, he'll win you a car in a lottery or something. It'd be better than getting flowers." She stretched out on the institutional carpet and paged through the book again. "Do they really think we don't know what stop signs look like?"

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Alex laughed and blushed slightly, "Mark's sweet. He really is, but I don't think he feels anything seriously for me but friendship, you know? And, Mike, well, he's complicated. Maybe a little confused."

She flipped over on her back away from the book for a moment and sent her pencil spiraling up in the air, controlled with telekinetic fingers. "I think I'd rather have the flowers."

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"Maybe, if by 'friendship' you mean 'kissing you until you fall down,'" Erin replied. "But having guys fighting over you is kind of cool. If you can get Mike more into the game, anyway. It'd be kinda like a movie." When Alex looked at her, Erin shrugged. "It's not like there's a lot going on here," she pointed out. "You have to take entertainment where you can get it." Time was ticking away in her history study period, but she'd make it up later that night. "But you know, you can't drive flowers. They don't do anything but sit there and die. Are your parents getting you a car?"

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"When I graduate, probably." Alex pointed her finger like a gun at the pencil and it popped up in the air, end over end before she 'caught' it again with her tk. She pillowed her head on the other arm, and turned to look at Erin, "Mike's not real likely to join in. He's a little emotionally, ah, stunted. He's not really sorted out what all he feels for me. A side-effect of the minimal socialization we had in the program. I anticpate him catching up in his early twenties."

Alex glanced back up at the ceiling and her zooming pencil. "I mean, Mark's probably interested in, like, physical stuff. He's a teenage boy after all, but I don't think he's really wrapped his head around me as a person yet. Boys can be a little... focused on the surface you know?"

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Erin shrugged at that. "He's cute," she pointed out. "You could always just call him practice." She watched the pencil's lazy movements in the air as they talked. "Besides, you can't always be planning ten years down the road. What if something happens tomorrow and it all goes to hell? Someone could die, or the school could get blown up, or the government could collapse. At least if you live in the moment a little, you'll have some good memories. And if he's already had a girlfriend," she added, switching gears smoothly, "he probably knows how to kiss."

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Alex let out a series of giggles at that until she was breathless and wiping tears from her eyes, and glanced up at Erin. "Call him 'practice'? He is cute, isn't he?"

As she took her attention off, the pencil dipped madly before she sent it aloft once more, "I dunno. I don't think I'll live up to the expectation, you know? I mean, Mark should date someone who's more his speed. More snappy come-backs and zipping around on rooftops. Not the bookworm."

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"If he's interested, why not take advantage of it?" Erin pointed out. "Maybe it'll be exciting. Don't you ever wonder what it'd be like? I mean, no offense to Mike or anything, but I don't see him getting a lot of romantic skills before you decide he's ready for you. One of you should have some experience, and is there going to be a better place and time to get it than when one of those snappy comeback, rooftop zipping types decides you're hot?"

She rolled back up to a sitting position, reflexively dodging the pencil as it sped by. "It's not like just because you kiss him you have to marry him and have ten kids. But if you and Mike aren't even going to be dating for years, it's not like it's cheating."

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Alex joined her in a sitting position and waved her hands in a flapping motion, "Oh, no, I agree. I don't think it counts worrying about Mike in relation to my activities. I don't really take it in to account. I mean, he isn't really even jealous at this point when I do things. I don't intend to just sit around waiting until he pays attention to me as something other than his best friend."

She pursed her lips thoughtfully, "I just don't want to end up hurt. I think I'm much more capable of getting emotionally involved with Mark than he is with me. I don't want anyone to end up hurt or anything. Maybe I am overthinking things. I do that sometimes.

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"Maybe he's got hidden depths," Erin said dubiously. "Or maybe he's just a good kisser. But you don't have to get emotionally involved to let him kiss you." She smirked. "Think of it as just another lesson. I know how you like those. And maybe the reason Mike isn't getting jealous is because you haven't done anything so far. It's the oldest story in the book. He's all comfortable with you, till he sees you going out with someone else, then he realizes that he's got to come up to standards if he doesn't want you going off with some preppy guy. Maybe it'll hurry up the ten year plan, at least."

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Alex laughed again and protested, "Its not really so much a plan as a probability."

She wrinkled her nose and fiddled with the hem of her shirt, "I just don't want it to be, like, we go on a date and make out or whatever, and then he comes back and moves on. No matter how emotionally uninvolved I am, that wouldn't feel good. Or, like, he gets attached and I'm just in it for the laughs."

Even to Alex, that sounded rediculous. "Okay, maybe not the last."

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Erin shrugged. "People say a lot of things about Edge, but even the Next-Gens say he's a nice guy. I don't really see him dropping you flat. But there's risk in everything, isn't there?" She gave Alex a look. "Unless the only reason you're really interested in Mike is because you don't believe there's any way he's ever going to hurt you or leave you. That's not much of a basis for spending your life with somebody," she offered challengingly.

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Alex didn't look offended, she gave Erin a smile, "While I do know that's true, it's more that I know Mike better than he knows himself. I mean, I've been in his head since we were tiny. I know every nook and cranny of his personality, flaws and strengths and all. He's a wonderful person and I seriously doubt that I could ever love someone the way I love Mike. He's not the most charasmatic, or the smartest, or even the strongest, but he is simply the finest person I know, hands down."

She flopped back on her back and let the pencil drop into her hand. "Unfortunately he's also dense as a rock most of the time."

Alex looked contemplative for a moment, "Risk taking isn't something I'm comfortable with most of the time but I wouldn't be learning if I wasn't pushing my comfort zone."

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Erin grimaced at Alex's description of her relationship with every nook and cranny of Mike's brain, but decided not to comment. That, she was entirely sure, was none of her business. "It's your choice what you want to do with Mark," she said, leaning against the bed. "I just figure it's something you shouldn't dismiss right away. Besides, it's fun to watch, especially with all the guys starting to get in on it. If I had any money, I'd bet you a dollar that if you go on a date with Mark, they'll try and do something about it."

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Alex's grin was mischevious, "That would be entertaining to watch for its own sake, much less the date with Mark benefits. You're going to make sure they don't get too outta hand right? Or at least take pictures?"

She pulled the text book onto her lap and frowned. Driving seemed an especially hard skill to learn from books. Probably would require some hands on experience at some point. "I'll confess, there's a part of me that's finding Mike's confusion downright hilarious. And I like Mark, I do. So what about you?"

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"I totally agree that it's hilarious," Erin replied, flipping to the appendices and practice tests at the back of the book. "And that Mark is cute. I'd be a big liar if I said it wasn't fun just to watch the guys around here, even when they're behaving like morons. I swear it's the only good part of those stupid uniforms they're putting us in. But if you go out with Mark, I'll try and babysit the others and keep things from getting out of hand."

She studied the book for a minute. "Ahem. 'It is important to slow down A: on narrow or winding roads, B: at intersections or railroad crossings, C: when the road is wet or slippery, or D: all of the above.' This might not be a test that takes a lot of studying for."

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"D: All of the above." Alex replied promptly and with a tiny grin, "Some of it is common sense, I would think. And no, I meant, are there any of the guys you're interested in? They're all cute in their own ways."

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Erin paused for a minute, still looking down at the book, then shook her head. "Not really, not for real, I mean. The last thing I need right now is getting close to anybody else and having to worry about them. You and all of them are already sneaking into bit parts in my dreams. Even if I had any time or energy for that stuff, I don't think I could do it. You've seen the inside of my brain, you know how messed up it is." She met Alex's eyes and smiled in a way that seemed just a little bit forced. "I'd much rather watch what happens with you and all the guys."

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Alex gave her one of those searching looks that always made one think she was trying to read their thoughts, if you didn't know how abhorrent she found that. In actuality, she was glancing over Erin's face and body language to guage her mood. "Well, you certainly shouldn't have to feel like you have to do anything, but you shouldn't hold back if you want to do something. I know it's scary to get attached after everything, but just like I can't plan for a rosy future, you can't give up on one, you know?"

She flipped a page in her book and broke eye contact, "'Sides, even if we talk about things, doesn't mean you have to do anything. Who do you think's the cutest of all the boys?"

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