After lunch, Ashton wandered into his chemistry class, taking a seat in the back. It wasn't that he didn't like the front, he was just less likely to be called on if he sat way in the back.
He pulled out his notebook, opening to a clean page and began writing down the homework. The class filled quickly once the waning bell rang, and Ashton jumped slightly when a body fell heavily into the desk beside his.
Looking up, he met a pair of light blue eyes a glimmer of amusement in them. Ashton looked down again quickly, which only earned him a slight laugh from the boy beside him.
“Do you make it a habit to stalk your underclassmen, or am I special?” Ashton asked sarcastically, looking through his hair to gauge his reaction. Luckily for Ashton the boy just smiled.
“Nope. Guess you're just special.” He said shrugging. The younger boy was just about to retort to that when the teacher walked in and jumped up onto one of the desks.
“Okay class, time to pick a partner! The science fair is coming up and I expect so pretty great entries from this class.” She said cheerfully, as if she hadn't just given us the most obnoxious assignment to date. “I want your ideas by tomorrow so you can start by Wednesday.” She clapped her hands together and signaled for everyone to start.
Ashton looked around the room curiously, trying to figure out his chances of getting a partner. They were currently very slim. At least, that's what he thought before he heard a throat clear next to him. He had to look up to look into the boys eyes.
“So, got a partner, or can I join you.” The blue eyed boy asked.
“I guess I'm free.” Ashton said, sighing in defeat. “However, I never did get your name earlier.” He said, looking expectantly at him.
“Oh! How rude of me. My name's Michael, Michael Cooke.” He gave an award wining smile. All of his teeth were a perfect off shade of white, sitting straight in his mouth.
“Well then, Michael, any ideas?” Ashton asked, already doubting he was going to get any. Michael gave Ashton a big smile, and an even bigger shake of his head. This lead to a large sigh on Ashton's part.
“Okay, I kinda saw this coming so I have a few things written down, you can take a look and tell me which of the sound the best.” He offered a smile, searching through his notebook for said list. “Ah, here it is. You can choose whichever one you like the most.” Michael took the list, glancing over it. He closed his eyes, stuck out a finger and pointed.
“Let's do this one.” He said, circling it with his pencil. “Crystal growing sounds fun!” He exclaimed, already off to tell the teacher. Ashton couldn't help but smile at this, something about the boy just seemed like such fun. Then, Ashton's eyes hardened as he remembered that he wasn't here to have fun, he was here to graduate and hopefully do something more with his life.
He needed to earn enough money to care for Jackson so that the boy would never have to go through what he had ever again. So that Ashton never had to deal with it again.
“Yo, Ashton, are you okay?” Ashton shook his head, hoping to clear it from the overwhelming thoughts clouding it. He looked up at Michael and nodded.
“I'm fine.” He assured, faking a smile.
“Okay...” Michael said, a look of disbelief on his face. “The teacher says she likes our idea and she has the ingredients, but she says that we have to write out a lab and process before she can give them to us.
“Okay, I can have a lab written up by tomorrow.” Ashton said, already writing it in his notebook as a reminder.
“Actually, I really need a good grade on the final and I have no idea what's going on, so do you think I could come over and we could study together?” Michael asked, throwing Ashton a bad case of puppy dog eyes.
“I guess so...” Ashton said, going through the dangers of having him over and not thinking of anything too life threatening.
“Great, I don't know where you live, so you wanna meet at the park and you can show me?” Michael suggested, his eyes gleaming in a strange kind of excitement that Ashton didn't quite understand so he just nodded.
“Yeah, I'll meet you there around six.” He said, gathering his stuff and packing to leave when the bell rang. The time seemed to have flown by when he was talking to Michael, and it was nearly time to go to homeroom already.
“Okay, six o' clock at the park. See you then.” Michael called, waving as he ran out the door when the bell rang.
Ashton found himself staring after him, a unknown smile on his face.
Michael was sure now after talking to Ashton that he was the boy he saved. Now the only question left to answer was what the hell he was there that night, why was he in that alleyway about to be killed? Michael hoped that he could get some answers that night when they studied.
“Michael!” Michael looked up as he heard Chloe whine. “Are you even listening to me?” She asked, tugging on his arm to get his attention. It was getting really annoying sticking with these girls everywhere.
“Listen, Chloe, I need you to let go of me, I have something important to do.” He explained, weaving his arm out of her tight grasp. He didn't really have anything to do other than get to class, but he assumed that anything was better than being stuck in the middle of this group of girls.
“Okay, call me tonight?” She asked, Michael rolled his eyes. How many times did he have to say no to this girl to get her to stop latching onto him and realize that he is not interested in going out with her. He didn't say anything, instead choosing to just walk away.
He sat in his homeroom, staring at the clock and thinking about that boy.
It was weird, why was he there? Why hadn't he ever noticed the boy before, her thought he knew everyone in his school. Had the kid moved at some time? He really hoped he was going to be able to tell him something later on that night. Finally, the bell rang, dismissing everyone to go home for the night.
Michael hopped into his truck, starting it and pulling out of the school parking lot.
When Michael was just leaving the school property he saw Ashton walking. His head was bowed and he was looking at his phone. The younger boy had his hood covering his auburn mop of hair, which fell into his dark green eyes.
Michael wondered when he had had the time to study and remember the boys features and settled that it was just something he did naturally.
He slowed his car, rolling down his window.
“Hey kid!” He called, wincing at how Ashton jumped at his voice. When he glanced up he could see a terrified look in his eyes. He was relived to see how it faded as recognition took over.
“Michael. What's up?” He asked, placing his phone in his pocket and walking closer to the truck.
“Hop in, I'll give you a ride home.” He said, unlocking the car door.
He watched as Ashton's eyes seemed to scan the area, and as a range of emotions crossed his face. Soon his eyes seemed to lighten and he gratefully accepted his invitation. He pulled the door open and tried to step in before noticing how high up the car was, so instead he found himself latching on to the seat and pulling himself into it.
“Also, this way I can just see where your house is and I won't have to meet you at the park.” Ashton nodded and told Michael to turn left at the same time.
As Ashton gave directions to his house, Michael kept trying to make conversation with him, asking him everything there was to ask about himself. Michael also noticed how Ashton avoided most of his questions with expert ease. He didn't give away much, other than that he was 16 and had lived Fairview for 4 years. When Michael asked where he lived before that. Ashton got defensive and went quiet.
When they finally arrived at Ashton's house, he thanked Michael for the ride and tumbled out of the truck.
“Hey, if you want we could both save some time and just get started now?” Ashton asked, somehow nervous of how Michael was going to answer.
The older boy barely thought it over before agreeing and putting the car and park and following the younger boy into the house.
“Henry! I'm home! Also, I brought company so don't be a nut!” Ashton called into the quiet house. Michael heard a small crash before he saw an older man, slightly shorter than him with graying hair and a pair of rounded glasses step out from the hall.
“Company, this is new Ashton.” He said, stepping out completely and offering his hand to Michael. “My name's Henry. It's nice to meet you...” Henry trailed off, leaving room for Michael to out his name in.
“Michael, Michael Cooke. It's nice to meet you too Henry. I hope you don't mind me intruding like this.” He said politely taking his hand and shaking it firmly.
“Not at all, how do you know Ashton?” He asked, moving the conversation to the living room.
“Ah, we met not that long ago, and we ended up with a chemistry project together. And then your son offered to help me study-”
“I'm not his son!” Ashton cut in, his voice slightly louder than his usual mumble.
“Oh, sorry, I just assumed...” Michael said, Henry waved it off.
“It's fine. Can I offer you something to eat or drink?” He asked, making his way into what Michael assumed was the kitchen.
“I'm fine, thanks.” He said, looking at Ashton who was setting down his coat.
“Hey, lets go and study in my room, it's got all my books.” Ashton said, clutching Michael's sleeve and dragging him up the stairs. He then dragged him into his room.
Glancing around, Michael couldn't believe that it belonged to a teenage boy. It was all very neat, which he guessed wasn't hard seeing as there was next to nothing in it. There was only a bed, dresser and coffee table with a few books scattered across it. Ashton set his backpack in the corner next to his bed, pulling out a few books and setting them on the coffee table.
“Okay, get out your notebook and we can get started.” Ashton instructed, flopping down onto the ground on the opposite side of the coffee table as Michael was on.
The older boy did as he was instructed and they got to work.
It didn't take Ashton long to figure out the ingredients and the procedure for what they needed to do, so within a half and hour they were already done preparing for the project.
“So, Ashton...” Michael drifted off, tons of questions circling his head but finding that none of them would be appropriate to ask this soon on.
“Yeah?” Ashton said, glancing up from his notebook.
“I was wondering what you meant when you said that Henry wasn't your-” He was cut off by a loud clang followed by a small yelp.
Ashton got up to make his way downstairs.
“You still alive down there?” Ashton asked from the top of the staircase.
“I'm fine, but I can't say as much for dinner.” Henry called. “How do you guys feel about ordering a pizza?” He asked, making his way to the bottom of the staircase and looking up at us.
“Actually, there's this new place that I'm dying to try, if you don't mind, want to check it out?” Michael spoke up. Ashton looked at Henry for permission, which Henry saw and gratefully approved.
“Tell you what, you kids go out and grab something to eat, I have to clean up here.” Henry said, waving them both off. “Have fun!” He called as they both left the house.