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How did I let Buck talk me into this, Josiah?
The older boy looked over at his roommate and shrugged. Personally he thought it was a very good thing that Chris was going on this double date with Buck. In fact, Josiah thought it had been extremely clever of Inez Recillos. The young girl had repeatedly refused Buck´s advances toward her until finally she told him that she would go out with him, but only if he found a date for her cousin, who had come to stay with her family. Now Inez got an opportunity to learn more about Buck without having to be alone with the boy whose reputation she surely heard a great deal about. And in the bargain she got a date for her cousin who was probably finding it difficult to adjust to her new surroundings. Yes, she was indeed a clever girl and Josiah thought it was time that Buck dated someone who was not only beautiful, but also smart. It would be a nice change of pace for the quarterback.
Josiah suddenly frowned as he looked back over at Chris, You know, I don´t know. How exactly did he talk you into it?
Chris shot him a glare, You´re not helping.
You look fine, Josiah reassured.
That´s not what I meant! Chris´ exasperation was quite clear in his voice. I´m not worried about how I look. Even as he said it, Chris could not help but shoot a look over at the full-length mirror on their closet door and run a hand through the locks of his golden blond hair.
His roommate grinned at him. You sure about that? I mean, it has been awhile since you went out on a date. Again he received a glare in response. Don´t give me that. I´m your roommate so I know better than anyone else how long it´s been.
Well this isn´t even a real date. Even to Chris´ own ears that protest sounded a bit weak.
Sometimes I believe it´s best to leave pronouncements such as that for after the date. After all you don´t know anything about the young lady you will be accompanying this evening. The two of you just might hit it off. Josiah rose from where he sat on his bed, brushed past Chris and reached into the closet pulling out a dark green shirt. Here you should wear this instead. It´ll bring out the color of your eyes.
The blond senior stared at Josiah with a most unimpressed look, but then proceeded to take the shirt from him and change into it. Josiah only grinned and returned to his seat on the bed. It was interesting to him to see Chris nervous. And that was the only word Josiah could find to describe his roommate. It was not a true, jittery kind of nervousness, but more of an anticipatory nervousness. Chris was looking forward to the date despite himself.
Knowing that he had to help his friend keep his mind off that very fact, Josiah asked, So how did Buck talk you into it? Or did he blackmail you into it?
Chris snorted as he continued to button up the new shirt. What could Buck possibly have on me to blackmail me with? Hell, not even Ezra could find something on me. No, I just got tired of hearing him beg all the time. Chris paused as he started to tuck in his shirt and looked over at Josiah. Plus, as much as I hate to think about it, you and I will be graduating soon. And we´re not going to be around to do these kinds of things with the guys. So I just figured He trailed off but Josiah´s nod told him that the other senior understood all too well.
Not looking forward to that myself, his roommate stated.
The two teenagers said nothing further until Chris turned and faced Josiah again. Alright, now tell me how I look.
You look fine. Just be yourself and have a good time.
Okay, Dad´, Chris teased.
Speaking of which, Josiah responded, does he know you´re going out tonight?
Actually he does. He´s on nights this week, but Buck and I were going to head on over to the house afterwards instead of coming back here.
Josiah nodded with a smile. Trying to delay having to come back to the interrogation of the youngsters?
I think that´s Buck´s plan anyway. Last I saw, J.D. and Vin were in his and Nathan´s room giving him a hard time about how long it took for him to get Inez to agree to go out with him. So, no, he didn´t want to come back here right after. Chris laughed and Josiah joined him.
Suddenly the dark haired senior stopped laughing. If Vin and J.D. are with Buck and Nathan, where is Ezra?
Chris shook his head with a smirk. You get to worry about the youngsters´ tonight, Josiah, not me. I´m supposed to be having a good time, remember?
Reluctantly Josiah nodded. Well if you´re going out on a date and I´m babysitting, how much am I getting paid?
A good deed should be its own reward, Chris tossed back as he opened their dorm room door. And watch it there. You´re starting to sound way too much like Ezra.
Why, Christopher, I must protest the black mark you are placing upon my good name, Josiah called after his roommate in a very bad, Southern accent.
The blond winced. I take it back, you sound nothing like Ezra.
+ + + + + + +
Maybe she´s on a dare, J.D. announced after a brief silence as he and Vin lounged on Buck´s bed as they watched the junior meticulously getting ready for his date.
More like she lost a bet, Vin grinned and both boys sniggered as Buck paused in his preening to protest.
Inez did not lose a bet, he retorted. And she is not on a dare, he added to J.D. She just can´t fight the Buck animal magnetism any longer!
Nathan snorted derisively from his desk in one corner of the room while the boys added choking and gagging sounds.
You´re just jealous, Buck replied confidently. Coz she can´t wait to get me alone.
So if she can´t wait to get you alone how come she´s bringing a friend along? J.D. pointed out.
You wouldn´t understand. It´s a girl thing and we all know how inexperienced you two are there, Buck replied.
Vin and J.D. looked at each other and shrugged. We sure don´t want to learn about girls from you, Vin told Buck.
That´s the smartest thing I´ve heard all night, Nathan chuckled as he swiveled in his seat with a full smile.
Buck gave an exaggerated sigh but it didn´t affect his mood. He was far too happy to get riled tonight. However, his intended satisfied smile suddenly turned to a frown.
Hey you´re lying on my jacket! he complained to Vin as he reached out and snatched the leather jacket clear.
So sorry, Vin drawled as he watched Buck brush imaginary specks off the jacket.
You ready? Chris called to Buck from the doorway and they all turned and looked as the senior stepped just inside the room.
You bet, Buck replied eagerly as he donned the jacket.
Whoa cowboy, Vin teased. And I thought Buck had too much aftershave on!
Chris tried to glare but it only turned into a smirk. Stay out of trouble! the senior replied to Vin ignoring the jibe. He nodded an unspoken greeting to Nathan.
Good luck, Nathan called out.
He doesn´t need luck, Buck joked. He´s with me!
Thanks, Nate, Chris replied after shaking his head at Buck.
Let´s go, Buck said shifting impatiently.
I´m waiting for you, Chris replied before he turned to the two younger boys. I mean it. Stay out of trouble.
Vin and J.D. exchanged their most innocent looks before farewells echoed around the room and Buck and Chris left.
Within a few minutes Vin and J.D. became a little bored and left Nathan working on his term paper deciding they would find Ezra.
As they walked along the hallway an idea came to Vin. He glanced at J.D. speculatively.
Wonder what Chris´ date looks like?
I don´t know. Buck hasn´t seen her either, J.D. replied.
Vin grabbed the younger boy and stopped.
Doncha wanna see? the Texan drawled, his eyes alight with mischief.
Yeah but how? J.D. responded eagerly.
We know we´re they´re going. We could sneak out, Vin replied.
Sneak out? J.D. repeated. There is no way out now remember. They reinforced that drain, he added referring to the route he had used during the hostage ordeal at the school.
Vin nodded thoughtfully. If there´s a way out Ezra will know it, he informed him.
You think so?
Yep, Vin replied as he continued walking.
Smiling conspiratorially J.D. followed.
+ + + + + + +
They found Ezra in the library at a table with several freshmen. Vin wondered what scam the sophomore was working this time. It was hard to believe that there were still freshmen, sophomores, and even some upper classmen who would fall for the southern boy´s conman skills. With a finger to his lips, Vin silenced J.D. before the freshman could give away their presence. But then the Texan could not help but interrupt upon hearing just a few minutes of Ezra´s spiel intended to get the freshmen to buy his study aids´ for history class.
Ezra, you didn´t even come to Regents last year. So you never had Mr. Gerchow for history, Vin pointed out as he and J.D. stepped into Ezra´s line of sight.
The southerner did not miss a beat as he smoothly continued, I am working for a third party who did indeed have Mr. Gerchow for history last year but would like to remain anonymous.
So if this fella is anonymous how do they know that he actually got a good grade in history? Vin pressed further.
Still Ezra remained unflappable as he kept his attention focused on the freshmen at the table. As I stated earlier, this comes with a money back guarantee. If you do not do better on Monday´s test than you have done on previous tests then you will get your money back. On an individual basis, of course.
Vin sighed but had to give a bit of grudging respect for Ezra having an answer for everything. J.D. nudged him in the side and whispered, I don´t think you should be trying to mess Ezra´s scheme up, seeing that we´re gonna need his help. The Texan nodded reluctantly and said nothing more as his roommate collected money from the freshmen and handed each several sheets of paper.
Remember, tell no one about this. And I will expect to have these papers back before first class on Monday morning, Ezra called after the freshmen as they began to leave the library.
Vin shook his head at his roommate, but Ezra rolled his eyes. Oh don´t look at me like that. I did not sell them copies of a test. In fact if any of them ever bothered to crack open their books they would see that what I just sold them looks suspiciously like the chapter reviews in their textbooks. I have it on good authority that Mr. Gerchow does take his test questions from that very source.
His roommate had to laugh then, but it was J.D. who responded. I don´t have Mr. Gerchow. I got Mrs. Chevalier for history. But I have heard that his tests are straight out of the book. The freshman frowned. I wish I had gotten him. Mrs. Chevalier´s tests are essay questions.
Still, I´m surprised you´re offering a money back guarantee there, Ez, Vin stated.
Dimples flashed as Ezra grinned. But you see, by making them return the papers to me before their class, I am insuring that they will have to take the time to study them, perhaps even memorize them. Their grades are deplorable simply because they do not study. With such easy tests, they are almost a sure thing to make better grades after using my study aid´.
And what if one of them realizes that you sold them something straight out of their textbook? Vin prodded.
The southerner laughed. I let them look over the papers before they bought them. None of them recognized them. So I believe that I am safe from that. I also believe I am safe if one of them chooses to copy what I gave them and takes it to the test to cheat off of. If they are caught with it, Mr. Gerchow will immediately recognize it from the textbook and believe that his student got it from there. Who would believe that someone would pay for what he could get for free? And I don´t believe that any of them would rat´ me out as that would require his freely displaying his own gullibility and stupidity.
And gullible and stupid are just the way you like them. Again Vin shook his head in admiration.
It is indeed. Which is exactly why I do enjoy my friendship with the six of you, Ezra said as he stepped past Vin and J.D. and moved into the hallway.
The two boys exchanged looks as they knew they were being insulted, but again J.D. reminded, We do need his help.
Alright. But I´m gonna remember that crack, Vin promised. Inwardly though, the Texan knew that there was a backward compliment in Ezra´s insult. It was one of the first times that his roommate had ever openly admitted that he considered the other six of them as his friends and that he enjoyed their comradeship. It was a step forward. Vin just wished it had not been shoed in a disparaging remark.
Hey, Ez, Vin called out as he and J.D. stepped out in the hallway after him. The southerner stopped and turned to face them, raising a questioning eyebrow as he waited for them to catch up. Do you know of a way to get off campus without getting caught? Vin asked without preamble.
You want to sneak off campus? Why? Ezra asked suspiciously.
Vin´s lopsided grin quickly evolved into a wide smile before he answered, Cause we figure Chris and Buck might need a little chaperoning on their date tonight.
Ezra´s grin matched Vin´s. In other words, you are most curious to see what type of girl Buck stuck Chris with on his blind date?
There´s that, the Texan agreed with a nod.
I must admit to a bit of curiosity in that department myself, Ezra responded. However, before I agree to this little excursion of yours, there was a slight emphasis on the last word as if Ezra were already establishing that he was not the initiator of their escapade, I must know if both of you have the money to fund it.
You´re gonna charge us? J.D. yelped in shock.
Vin, on the other hand, shook his head at his roommate as he had been expecting that from him. Come on, Ez, you can´t charge us. We´re your friends.
So let me see if I understand your reasoning, the southerner began in a tone that worried both J.D. and Vin, because you are my friends I should provide goods and services for free? If I follow your line of reasoning then if I should happen to find myself employed at a store of some type I should then allow you to walk out without paying for merchandise simply because you are my friends? I obviously must study up on the law. He shrugged easily. Well that and make more friends, most notably those who work in electronic or even jewelry stores.
This ain´t the same kind of thing, Ezra. Vin stated, frustration creeping into his Texas twang.
Sage green eyes, filled with amused smugness, met Vin´s blue eyes. And why is that?
´Cause you sellin´ how to sneak off campus ain´t the same as having an honest job! You ain´t supposed to be doing it no how so our not payin´ for it is kinda like having two wrongs make a right! The mounting frustration had Vin raising his voice. He knew it was probably the wrong tact to take with Ezra, he had seen how Chris´ frustration just seemed to goad the southerner into increasing his torment. So the Texan was completely confused when his roommate first smiled almost proudly at him and then began to laugh. Vin looked over at J.D. who could only show his own confusion with a shrug.
Your language skills may be lacking, Vincent, but I can not fault your logic, Ezra finally stated even as he still chuckled.
Does that mean you´ll show us how to get off campus? J.D. asked eagerly. Usually with Ezra there was a very small window of opportunity so they had all learned to seize any chance he gave them.
The southerner nodded his head, Oh yes, I will indeed show you the way off campus, if you show me that you can pay for the information.
But, Ezra J.D. trailed off as he realized that he had no clue as to how to continue to argue with the sophomore. It was not so much that he and Vin could not afford to pay Ezra, but the principle of the matter.
Vin stepped up to Ezra, not with a threatening posture but serious enough to get the southerner´s undivided attention. You´re gonna help us get off campus and you ain´t gonna charge us, Ezra.
The southerner´s shoulders squared up as his chin rose not only in defiance but also to meet the taller boy´s eyes. And just what makes you think I will be so generous?
When the roommates´ eyes met it was Vin´s blue ones that now held a touch of smugness. Because if you don´t, you´re gonna have to explain why you lost that Halloween Uno game on purpose to J.D. The Texan had to hand it to Ezra since the other teenager did not flinch or so much as bat an eye at the new development.
I have no idea what you are talking about, the southerner stated, his tone level. He even turned to J.D., raising his eyebrows and shrugging his shoulders at the younger boy, Do you have any idea what he´s talking about, J.D.?
The freshman froze like a deer in headlights. But Ezra had made certain that he blocked J.D. from Vin´s view. The sophomore´s green eyes flared warningly as the freshman squirmed
You don´t got to try and keep J.D. from telling me anything, Ez, I already know the whole deal. About how you got computer time for throwing the game. And no, J.D. didn´t rat on you. I knew something was up from the moment you lost that game, but I couldn´t figure out what was in it for you. So then I had to think what J.D. had that you might want. And his computer was all that I could think of. So I asked him if that´s what you were getting and you know J.D. can´t lie straight to someone´s face, Vin explained.
Ezra regarded a very sheepish and apologetic J.D. with a look of utter dismay. I am aware of J.D.´s failing, he said pointedly. I can only hope that in the due course of his time with me that he will perhaps learn one or two points of the fine art of fabrication.
Vin made a mental note right then to talk to J.D. about NOT picking up any of Ezra´s lessons. The Texan was surprised when his roommate turned to him with a look of grudging respect. I have to admit that I am somewhat impressed by the way you tricked J.D. into revealing the truth.
Aww Hell, slipped out of Vin´s mouth, I reckon you´re rubbing off on me!
The southerner shook his head. I would not say that exactly. After all I would have used such useful blackmail information when it still had some worth. His devilish grin was again smugly affixed on his face.
Vin´s eyes narrowed. What? he asked completely baffled.
It´s been almost four months since that particular incident, I´m sure that the others do not hold grudges that long. Plus, if you examine the events of that time closely, it was actually advantageous that we all dressed up in costume and spent Halloween night together. He gave a dramatic shudder, I hate to even consider what could have happened to Buck if we did not learn immediately that he had been abducted.
Vin released a loud sigh that bordered on an irritated growl. How the hell do you do that? he demanded.
Ezra´s first response was an innocent shrug followed by a question of his own, Do what?
Blue eyes rolled, You know what I mean! How do you turn everything around so that you come out on top?
I´ve learned a great many things from my mother in the past five years and there is no one who can twist something into her favor better than my mother. The brief glimmer of sadness that touched Ezra´s sage eyes told Vin that his words were a regrettable truth. The southerner shook himself slightly as if realizing that he was revealing a little something about himself. He smiled again, deciding to give a little in order to change the subject matter. Now then, since I have to admit to no small amount of curiosity regarding Christopher´s blind date, I will agree to lead the two of you secretly off campus and will allow both of you to pay me at a date to be determined later.
Gee, Ezra, don´t hurt yourself being so kind, J.D. groused sarcastically with a roll of his eyes.
But Ezra paid the sarcasm no mind. Oh believe me, J.D. I do avoid that at all costs.
Vin nudged J.D. with an elbow, silently reminding the younger boy that they did need Ezra´s assistance. The Texan did not want too much time to pass before they went after Chris and Buck. Alright then, let´s go before it gets too late.
Well then, gentlemen, allow me to lead the way. Ezra started to the dormitory staircase, and then paused as he opened the door leading to it. We´ll have to get our coats and hats. Do either of you know where Nathan and Josiah are?
Nate´s in his room working on his term paper already. I don´t know where Josiah is, J.D. said and Vin nodded his agreement.
We´ll have to risk it then, Ezra stated. There was no way he was going out in the Indiana winter without his coat. We´ll just have to deal with them if we run into them. He motioned for Vin and J.D. to precede him up the stairs. Oh, and I will expect y´all´s silence on this route I am about to reveal to you.
Why? How often do you use it? Vin questioned.
More often than you need to know, Ezra responded evasively as he followed them.
While they waited, and acted as lookouts, for J.D. to get his coat, Ezra looked away from Vin but asked very quietly, You really wouldn´t have told the others, would you?
No, Ez, the Texan reassured, I wouldn´t have. I told you from the beginning that I wasn´t a rat and I ain´t about to start being one. I was just looking for some leverage.
The southerner nodded, but still did not turn to face Vin. That´s good to know, he stated.
I could always change my mind, Vin warned with a laugh, not wanting Ezra to think he could get away with everything.
I´ll try to remember that, his roommate drawled. And thanks, Vin.
Yeah, I got your back, Ezra, the Texan asserted with a clap on his roommate´s back. Nothing further was said between the two boys as J.D. rejoined them and they moved back to the stairwell to the sophomore floor.
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