"'If there is no struggle, there is no progress.' Can any one of you tell me who said that?" Mr.Harlequin asked as he strode casually between the desks of his nervous students. I sighed and relaxed myself in my seat. I'd known this quote all too well. In fact, it was pretty much my family's motto. The air shifted as a student hesitantly raised his hand. In an instant, all eyes were on him.

"Uhm... Was it Einstein?" He asked with an unsure expression, brushing a strand of blond hair from his face. Mr.Harlequin stopped and stared in the boy's direction. He immediately froze and clutched his desk.

"Incorrect, Henry. Any other volunteers?" He paused to look around the room, making an expression of disappointment when he saw that none of his students had raised their hand.

"Well, since there aren't any willing participants, I guess I'll pick on the new kid." He stated, flashing me a sly grin. I sat upright in my seat as the attention shifted to me. He strode over to me, stopping in front of my desk. I could smell the thick scent of his Cologne as he approached. As he stood over me, the light above him shone beams through the stringy gray mop of hair on his head. He leaned down, slowly, probably afraid to pop any of the buttons on that hideous sweater vest he was wearing. "'If there is no struggle, there is no progress'. Who-"

"Frederick Douglass." I interrupted. He paused for a moment, giving me an icy cold glare. Then his expression softened.

"That's correct, Connor." He stood straight once again, but remained in front of my desk, keeping his emerald green eyes locked on me. He opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the bell.

"Class is dismissed. I hope you all have a wonderful day." Mr.Harlequin shouted as his class exited. Even though I wasn't facing his direction, I could still feel his cold glare freezing the back of my neck as I exited.

"Hey new kid, that was pretty hard core." There was a group of my classmates standing in the hallway outside the door, so I couldn't really identify who said it.

"Yeah, that was pretty cool dude. Gimme some!" A talk, lanky guy stepped from the group and held out his hand, which I gladly high fived. "Yeah man," Another guy wearing a leather jacket came up and put his arm on my shoulder. "You should totally sit with us at lunch, bro." I examined their group for a moment. There were four of them in total. One was that talk black haired guy, wearing a black, low hanging tank top and a pair of tight-fitting black pants. Another was a somewhat short boy who was tapping away at his phone. His hair was dyed a bright blue color and swept over his face, covering one of the lenses of his thick, black-rimmed glasses. He wore a red hoodie that was much too big for him and hung over his hands. He was wearing a pair of black ripped jeans, much like my own, and a pair of black combat boots. There was a girl leaned against a locker, looking over the shorter boy's shoulder at his phone. She had bright, red hair that came down past her shoulders. She wore a red and black plaid button-up shirt, leaving the top few buttons open and exposing most of her cleavage. She was wearing a pair of bleached blue jeans and a pair of faded black and red Adidas. And the one currently hanging from my shoulder was a little taller than me with light brown curly hair. Along with his leather jacket, he wore a pair of baggy black pants and some old black sneakers. Something, however stood out about him. He had the most appetizing pair of full, pink lips I'd ever seen. It took everything in my willpower not to lean in and kiss him right now. I figured that'd be a little odd.

"So will ya?" The tall guy asked. I shook my head free of thoughts.

"Oh Uhm... Sorry, I'm supposed to be meeting my friend Danielle for lunch." I stated. Everyone immediately gave me a look of disgust.

"I hope you don't mean Danielle McNair." The blue haired boy spoke in his soft voice.

"Oh. Uh. I don't know her last name."

"White chick. Black hair. Red streaks." The tall boy explained. I nodded. They all rolled their eyes.

"What's wrong with Danielle?"

"Well for one, she's a TOTAL slut." The red haired girl began.

"And she can't be trusted with ANYTHING." The bluenette added.

"Girl is just bad news, bro. I know this is your first day and all, but..." The taller kid started, but didn't finish.

"You should probably find new friends. That's why I propose that we hang out for lunch today." The kid leaning on me suggested. I didn't want to be rude and just blow them off after they kinda just briefed me... But they did just talk some mad shit about Danielle, and though I don't know her that well, I'm not gonna believe something I just heard. I'll hang out with them for now, but I'll still talk to Danielle later.

"Sure. I'll hang with you guys." I smiled.

"Yay!" The kid on my shoulder yelled, grabbing me around my waist and lifting me off the ground. I froze for a moment, slightly shocked. He could see it on my face. He put me down and took a step back. "Uh- Sorry." He blushed and turned away from me.

"Well, since we're gonna be hanging out now, we should introduce ourselves. My name's Russel." The tall guy started.

"I'm Connor."

"I'm Amber." The red haired girl said with a smile.

"Brandon." The blue haired boy said, still not looking up from his phone.

"And I'm Vincent. But most people call me Ven."

"No, most people call you dumbass." Brandon chuckled to himself. Vincent shot him an evil glare, then smiled as he realized I was looking.

"Well come on! I'm fuckin starving!" He shouted.

The courtyard had already begun to fill with students coming from their 4th period classes, either headed off campus or headed to the lunchroom or talking to their friends.

"Come on, Connor! Come see my car!" Ven exclaimed, yanking my arm and pulling me towards the student parking lot.

"Keep it in your pants, Vincent. We're all going to your car." Russel said, arms folded. Ven blushed again and released my arm.

"I'm just happy to have a new member to the Sin City Cruisers!"

"NO!" All three of them yelled in disagreement.

"For the 100th fucking time, Ven, we are not calling ourselves the 'Sin City Cruisers'!" Brandon exclaimed. I laughed. Russel came over and began walking close to me as we all continued to the parking lot.

"I don't know what his obsession is with that name." He chuckled as he spoke to me.

"It's a cool name, Russel, fuck off!" Ven defended, giving him the finger. Russel laughed again.

"And here we are!" Ven stated as we approached an all black '03 Dodge Durango. "Well, what do ya think, Connor?" He asked, obviously proud of his vehicle. I chuckled.

"I think it's pretty damn nice, Ven." I said, giving him a warm smile. His face flushed red.

"Hey, you should ride up front with me." He suggested, but before I could even answer, Amber cut me off.

"Oh no way, Casanova. You're not gonna make our new friend uncomfortable." She said with a glare as she opened the passenger door and got in. Ven mumbled something to himself before hopping into the driver's seat.

"If you're riding in the back, you're sitting in the middle." Brandon said as he hopped in the back on the left side.

"After you then, madame." Russel joked as he held the door open for me to get in. I rolled my eyes and settled my self next to Brandon, who was once again on his phone. I guess I'd overestimated the amount of room that was in Ven's car, because as soon as Russel got in and closed the door, all three of us were packed tightly together.

"Everyone in? Let's roll." Ven said as he began reversing out of the parking lot.

"Hey Amber, can you play some music?" Brandon asked. She nodded and grabbed the AUX cord that stemmed from Ven's car radio. She plugged it into her phone and loud rock blasted from his speakers.

"I Hope you guys like Sleeping With Sirens." She shrugged. I looked to my right for a moment and instantly met Russel's chilling blue eyes and warm smile. He propped one of his long arms up on the back of the seat.

"So what brings you to Boone?" He asked, lowering his voice a little.

"Just... Family stuff." I said, trying not to go into detail.

"Oh ok." He nodded. "Yeah I got expelled from my last school. Ended up having to come here.

"Expelled?" I asked, a little shocked.

"Got into too many fights. My school wasn't really.... The best..." He shrugged. He looked down for a moment, then looked back up and smiled at me.

"I didn't imagine you as much of a fighter."

"I know, I'm a little scrawny." He said with a laugh. I laughed with him.

"No, that's not what I meant. You seem like a person that's logical. I thought you were a person that was above fighting."

"Great. Now I'm stupid too." He joked. I laughed and elbowed him in his side. "Nah. Most of the fights I got into were over friends. But, eventually, those friends ended up fucking me over and I would've been better off without them." He sighed.

"Well, for what it's worth, I think that your friends have some serious mental issues to have lost a friend like you. I know I don't know you very well, but you seem like a pretty cool guy." I said, smiling. He put his arm around me and hugged me tight. "Thanks, Connor." He said, releasing me.

"Hey, I think you have something on your chest." I said, pointing to the area of skin left exposed by his low hanging shirt.

"No, that's just my tattoo. Wanna see?" He asked raising a brow.

"Sure, why not?" I answered. He grabbed his shirt at the hem and lifted it so that it rested perfectly on his slightly muscular pecs, revealing a large tattoo of a black widow. It was nice, although, I admired the body more than the tat. His slightly tanned abs seemed to glisten in the sunlight and he had a perfect, thin trail of black hair that slathered down his abdomen right to his-

"It's a little weird, I Know." He stated when I kept silent.

"No, no! It's pretty fucking cool man." I looked a little closer and saw that there was a name in one of the spiders fangs.

"Who's 'JJ'?" I asked.

"JJ is my nephew. Last year, he narrowly survived a violent seizure and I promised him my next tattoo would be any one he wanted." He said with a blank expression.

"Well that's sweet of you." I said. His expression lightened a little. "Wait, you said your next tattoo would be your nephew's choice. So you have another one?" I asked. And embarrassed smile crept over his face as he blushed bright pink.

"Well.... The other one is... A little low... But it's just on my thigh, hold on a sec." He reached down and began fumbling with his belt. I looked up to see Ven in the front seat adjusting his rear view mirror so it was set on the two of us.

"What are you kids doing back there?"

"Relax, Ven. I'm just showing him my tattoo." Russel rolled his eyes. Ven mumbled something before turning his attention back to the road. Russel zipped down his pants and slowly began sliding down his briefs. I could see his light patch of black pubic hair and about an inch or two of his shaft. I couldn't tell if he didn't notice or just didn't care. I swallowed hard and tried to focus on not focusing on what I really wanted to focus on and focus on the tattoo of a flaming purple skull on his upper right thigh.

"What do you think?" He asked with a hopeful glare.

"I- uh- it's pretty cool, Russel." I stuttered. I could hear my voice cracking towards the end of the sentence. God I hope he didn't notice.

"Yeah I know right." He said, zipping his pant back up and fixing himself.

"Where do you guys wanna go?" Ven asked from the front seat.

"I dont care. Just as long as we don't EVER go to that shitty barbecue place on 12th again." Brandon said as he rolled his eyes.

"Ew God. They had the worst ribs I've ever tasted!" Amber added with a sickened grimace.

"Yeah. How bout no." Russel laughed.

"What? You guys don't know good barbecue. I thought it was pretty good." Ven spoke from the driver's seat.

"Let's just go to Burger King. We've only got thirty minutes left for lunch anyway." Amber said from in front.

As we pulled back into the parking lot, I could see even more students hanging around various parts of the campus. One day, I'll just have to explore the entire school. Maybe I'll find something exciting?

"Here we are." Ven called as he parked his car and shut off the engine. "Exit carefully. And don't leave any fuckin trash in my car." Ven pouted as he hopped out. Brandon reached into his bag and pulled out a discarded cheeseburger wrapper, balling it up and throwing it on the floor.

"Dick." He mumbled as he hopped out. As Russel and I joined the others, we could see a large group forming in the center of the courtyard.

"What the fuck?" Ven exclaimed.

"I bet it's a fucking fight." Amber stated knowingly. Sure enough, the school's deputy and superintendent broke through the large crowd and yanked out two boys, both of whom were violently thrashing in the arms of the larger men.

"No way." Russel gasped. "Is that Bobby?"

"Holy fuckin' shit." Ven laughed. Amber let out an annoyed groan.

"Fuuuuuck! That means they're gonna ring the bell early again!" She sighed. And as if on queue, the loud ringing of the school bell echoed throughout the campus.

"Well, I gotta get to P.E. Ciao!" Brandon waved as he walked off. Amber began heading off as well.

"Russel, I need to talk to you after 5th period." She said, shooting him a knowing look. He nodded as she turned and walked off.

"So what's your next class?" Ven asked as he came and stood beside me. I reached into my pocket and retrieved my folded schedule.

"Uhm... Mr.Garrets for Writing." I said finally. Both of them had an open-mouthed surprised expression.

"Dude. You're so fucking lucky!" Russel said. "I've been trying to get that class ever since I've switched here!"

"Mr.Garrets is fucking awesome. And hot." Ven laughed. "It sucks that he only has one class period and only like ten students." He then walked over to me and looped his arm with mine. "Come on, I'll walk you." He flashed me a quick smile before turning and waving to Russel.

"Bye, you two." He called before heading to class.

Ven and I began walking in a direction that was more towards the back of the school.

"Are you sure it's back this way?" I asked, feeling a little nervous. He raised a brow at me.

"You don't really wanna go to class, do you? Come skip and hang out with me! I promise it'll be fun." He pleaded.

"What? Dude no way!" I protested, unlooping my arm from his. "It's my first day! I can't skip." He scoffed.

"That's all the more reason to skip. I know a place that's really chill. And plus," he paused, reaching into his jacket pocket and retrieving a large pill bottle filled with...

"Is that weed?" I asked, but already knew the answer, thanks to the unmistakable aroma.

"Shhhhh... Just follow me." He said, continuing to walk past the buildings. This is ridiculous. I need to go to class. It's my first day I can't skip... But I haven't smoked in at least 4 months now, and I could use it. Fuck.

"Fuck. Wait up..." I groaned, jogging a little to catch up with him. As we rounded a corner, I saw a long football field surrounded by a track, and in the far distance was a thick brush of trees. There were students running and doing various exercises.

"Come on. And blend in!" Ven said as he headed towards the track. I followed suit, walking almost behind him as we walked between the lanes of the track.

"Vincent!" A loud voice called from the bleachers. Ven froze and I walked into the back of him. A tall, familiar figure treaded down toward us.

"Oh, Graydon! It's just you. I thought you were Coach for a second." Ven sighed with relief, clutching his chest. Graydon shook his head and gave Ven the "You're an idiot" look. He turned and smiled at me.

"And just where are you two kiddos headed? And more importantly, what's that smell?" He gave us suspicious looks.

"We're going to 'The Spot', so shut your ass and come on if you're coming, and if you're not, then stop wasting our time." Ven quipped. Graydon grabbed the back of Ven's head, clutching a handful of his brown locks. Ven let out a loud whimper and reached both his hands up and attempted to pry Graydon's hand from his hair, but it was locked on like a vice.

"Don't forget who you're dealing with, Pussy." Graydon warned. He yanked Ven back so that his ear was right next to Graydon's lips.

"You remember what happened last time you challenged me, don't you?" He whispered, a coy, evil grin on his face. He released Ven and pushed him forward, so hard he almost fell.

"Aye, Diesel!" Graydon called to the top of the bleachers. There was a group of three boys at the top. One of them looked down to acknowledge Graydon, I'm guessing that's Diesel. He was built like a fucking tank! He was wearing a wrestling jacket that matched Graydon's, but his was much more filled. The material stretched as he stood and moved down the bleachers toward us, his massive weight thudding on every step. The moving mass of muscle reached the bottom and stood right in front of me. All I could do was stare.

"Hey, well if it isn't our little bitch-boy." Diesel's deep voice shook my entire frame. He reached forward and ruffled Ven's hair, his hand nearly engulfing Ven's head. He reached up and slapped Diesel's hand away. Diesel laughed and smirked at him. Then his attention turned to me.

"And who's this little cutie?" He grinned as he rubbed my chin with his thumb and index. I could feel the blush on my face as I tried to look away from him. Ven grabbed one of my belt loops and tugged me back.

"This is Connor. And we're leaving." Ven had an angry expression plastered on his face.

"I think you mean 'We're leaving'." Graydon said as he stepped forward.

"Well shit, since we're all leaving, guess I'm coming too." Diesel laughed.

"No!" Ven protested.

"Yes." Diesel said, grabbing Ven and carrying him over his shoulder.

"Hey! Put me down God dammit!" Ven shouted, flailing and kicking to get free. There was a loud "SMACK" as Diesel slapped Ven's plump, firm ass hard with one of his gargantuan hands. Ven let out a whimper and fell silent.

"Sit still and shut up, Pussy-boy." Diesel commanded, joining Graydon in a fit of laughter.... Did that seriously just give me a boner?

"Come on." Graydon smiled at me again as he held out his hand, which I took. The four of us continued towards the thick brush of trees. As we got closer, I could see that there was a long, metal fence that stretched around the school's perimeter.

"We gotta hop it." Graydon said, releasing my hand. I instantly felt cold. Graydon's hand felt so warm in mine, honestly, that was the first tender touch I've had in a while. The feeling was almost foreign to me.

"You don't mind that, do you?" Graydon asked in a warm tone. I shook my head. I don't think I would've been able to speak even if I tried. I looked over to see Diesel pushing a pouting Ven over the fence, he hit the ground with a loud thud.

"Whoops." Diesel said with a shrug and hopped effortlessly over the fence. Graydon stood in front of the fence hunched over, holding one hand on top of the other palm up.

"Come on, I'll give you a boost." He said. I walked over and placed my left foot in his hands and reached high to grab the top of the fence. I could feel him pushing me a little upward.

"Alright, Connor, I'm gonna push you over. This might feel a little weird."

"Why would it fe- SHIT!" I exclaimed as Graydon placed his hand on my ass and pushed me up and over the fence.

"Diesel, catch him!" Graydon yelled as I hurdled towards the ground. It felt like I hit a brick wall as Diesel's muscled form enveloped me. He looked my into eyes with his stunning gray spheres. God, I felt like I was gonna melt.

"You uh... You ok?" He asked. I could see him slightly biting the corner of his lip.

"Yeah... Uhm I'm fine." But even after I assured him I was alright, he kept hold of me. It wasn't until he heard the thudding of Graydon landing that he put me down, running a hand through his dark colored, buzz-cut hair.

"It's a little farther up ahead. We're almost there." Graydon said as he brushed himself off. Diesel grabbed Ven's shoulder and yanked him backwards.

"Go hang out with Gray for a bit." He said. He walked in front of me and stopped, kneeling down. "Hop on." I put my hands on his shoulders for balance, then jumped on his back. He hooked his arms underneath my legs and lifted me up a little more.

"There we go. Hold tight." He said as he started walking. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around his neck. "How long have you been going to this school?"

"Well actually, this is my first day." I chuckled. He scoffed.

"Well I'll tell you this much, you're already hangin' with the wrong crowd kiddo." He shook his head.

"Excuse me," I said, pulling his ear. "I think I'll be the judge of that."

"Hey! Cut it out! I'll drop you!" He warned.

"You may as well drop him anyway. We're here." Graydon said as he walked by, giving Diesel a slap on the shoulder. I felt his arms released my legs and I dropped to the ground. We'd reached a clearing. There was a large, grassy area surrounded by trees. A little farther down was a small lake that had a long, wooden bridge stretching across.

"Wow... Is this something the school made?" I asked.

"Well, yes and no. The afterschool woodshop club made this a couple years ago. Only a few people know about it. So keep quiet!" Graydon said as he poked me in the shoulder. "Yo, Diesel, you got your pipe?" Diesel reached into the side pocket of his black cargos and pulled out a long, blue and white glass pipe.

"Yep. Got my weed too. Sorry Ven, don't trust whatever the fuck you have." He laughed. Ven rolled his eyes.

"Let's go sit on the bridge." Graydon suggested.

We continued over the large wooden structure, sitting cross-legged in a circle once we reached the middle. Diesel reached down into another side pocket and retrieved a large plastic sack about as big as my hand.

"Well shit. Someone's prepared." Graydon joked. He clicked his phone and started blaring music loudly, a song I instantly recognized. Collard Greens by Schoolboy Q.
"You smoke a lot?" Diesel asked as he began packing a bowl. I shook my head.
"No. I used to, but I haven't in a couple months." I answered. He smirked at me, then at Graydon.
"Well you're about to be higher fucking Everest, kid." Diesel finished, and the two of them burst into laughter. Ven scooted closer to me and leaned in to me. "I'm sorry they had to come along and ruin this for us." He mumbled. I shook my head.
"I don't mind. I need new friends..." I smiled and he reluctantly returned it. I heard the spark of a lighter and turned to see Diesel taking a long hit from his pipe. He exhaled, closing his eyes for a moment.
"Boy I love the first hit..." He sighed, passing it to Graydon. Graydon rolled his eyes as he took a deep hit, exhaling into Diesel's face.
"The second one is much better." He joked, then passed it to me. Although I've done this countless times before, I can't help but feel a twinge of nervousness rush over me. I struck the lighter, holding it steadily over as I inhaled deeply. A little too deep. I quickly passed it to Ven and instantly went into a coughing fit. Even over my coughing, I could hear the three of them laughing at me.
"Shut up! I said it's been a while!"



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