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Support Network

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Story Title: Support Network

Type of story: Long fic

Main Characters: Jai, Nicole, Annie, Ruby, Geoff, Miles, Xavier, Irene and probably a few others

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Drama/Romance

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Sexual content:Mild to moderate.Violence:None.Language:None.

Summary: When Jai and Nicole both suffer romantic disappointment, it's only the beginning of a series of trials they have to overcome.


“Mr.Bartlett!”Nicole hurried down the corridor after the school’s principal, wishing not for the first time that there was a chance she might hit 5’10” some time soon with the corresponding increase in the length of her stride.

Fortunately, Martin Bartlett heard her and stopped, favouring her with a benevolent if slightly distracted gaze.“Nicole.What can I do for you?”

Nicole thrust a set of papers into his hand.“Notes from the last school formal meeting.You’re still okay about letting us use the school hall?”

“It shouldn’t be a problem,”he confirmed,“You’ve sorted out the date and time?”

Nicole nodded.“Yep, just after the end of exams.I’ve spoken to Mrs.Roberts at the Diner, she’s agreed to do the catering so if you’re happy with that…”

“I’ll confirm it with her,”Martin agreed,“What about chaperones?”

“I’ve spoken to several of the teachers and they’ve agreed to keep an eye on things.”

“Excellent!And you’ll be leading the dancing, of course.”

Nicole stopped in her tracks.This was one aspect of the plans that they hadn’t discussed.“I’ll be what?”

“It’s traditional for the school captains and their partners to lead the first dance.”Martin was looking at her in a somewhat bemused manner.“You were aware of this?”

Nicole bit her lip.“Er…no.”

“Oh.Sorry.It’s not a problem, is it?”

Nicole forced a smile.“No, no, of course not.I’m a great dancer.”

“Excellent.”He held up the papers.“I’ll look through the rest of your ideas and then get back to you.”

Nicole stood there in the corridor as she watched him walk away, a sinking feeling in her stomach. Because there was a rather big problem.Sure, she was a good dancer.And she looked great in a formal dress.Which left only one thing missing.A rather big thing.A partner.

If anyone had told her that she was going to end Year 12 depressingly single, she wouldn’t have believed them.She was Nicole Franklin.She was fun, she was smart, she was gorgeous.She was depressingly single.

She wondered if maybe she should ask Geoff…but they’d gone to the previous year’s formal as a couple, that would be weird.She could ask Aden…but he’d gone with Belle the previous year, that would be even weirder.There were plenty of guys in her year that she could probably talk into going with her…but this was the Year 12 formal, the big end to her school life, something she was supposed to remember forever. Did she really want to spend it with some guy she hardly knew?

Which left her with the rather worrying mental image of her leading the first dance on her own.

Jai looked at the bunch of flowers in his hand.This was a dumb idea.The dumbest idea he’d had.Knock on her door with a bunch of flowers and ask her if she fancied going to a movie some time?He wasn’t that good at maths but the chances of her laughing in his face seemed pretty high.

He looked at the flowers for a few moments longer, trying to think of a better idea.None came to mind.He knocked on the door.

The speech he had planned stuck in his throat when Irene opened the door.She gave him a sympathetic look, one which suggested she thought this was a dumb idea as well.“Hi, love, what’s up?”

“Um…is Annie home?”Jai asked hopefully.

“No, I’m afraid she’s not here.”

“Any idea when she’ll be back?”

“I think they said Friday.”

Jai tried to think of an intelligent response to that.Unfortunately all he could come up with was “Huh?”

“The church arranged a camping trip for the holidays,”Irene explained,“She left right after school.”

“Oh.I…guess she forgot to mention it.”Jai realised he still had the flowers in his hand.He held them out. “Do you want these?”

Irene gave a smile of understanding and plucked the bunch from his grasp.“Thanks, love, I’ll put them in some water.”She looked back at him with sympathy.“She said she might phone tomorrow night.I can give her a message or ask her to phone you..?”

“I don’t think so.”He gestured back down the path.“I think I’m going to go now.”

“Okay, love, I’ll see you around.”Irene gently pushed the door shut.

Jai stood staring at it for a few seconds before turning and walking away from the house.Annie was away. She was away and she hadn’t even told him.He wasn’t even that important anymore.If there’d ever been a sign that he was wasting his time, it was that.

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Thanks for your comments, this story's going to go to a few...interesting places so hopefully you'll all stay with it.Hope you like this chapter.Warning: Slight spoiler for non-Aus viewers.


“What about Gary?”Ruby suggested.

“I’ve barely spoken two words to him in two years,”Nicole told her,“I don’t want the next two to be ‘formal date’.”

Ruby sighed.She crossed the name off the list, wondering why Nicole had come round asking for help if she was just going to reject all her suggestions.“Adam?”

“He’s got a girlfriend.”

“And that rules him out?”

Nicole rolled her eyes.“Yes, Ruby, that rules him out.I’m trying to lose this man-eater reputation and the first dance being interrupted by a jealous girlfriend starting a scrag fight isn’t going to help.”


“Derek’s a geek.”

“Yeah but he could still be a good dancer.”

“And then spend the rest of the night talking about Lord of the Rings.”

“There’s one thing for it then.You’ll have to ask Xavier.”

Nicole shot her a severe look.“How can I say this without causing offence?I’m not that desperate.”

“Well, you’re not having Geoff,”Ruby told her firmly,“I could go with you if you like.That’d certainly make it memorable.”

“I’ve had enough of that kind of memorable for this year, thanks.”Nicole sank back into her chair.“God, I’m pathetic.”

Ruby favoured her with a sympathetic smile.“Is this the point where I’m supposed to disagree with you and say that you’re a great girl who’s just going through a bit of a draught at the moment?”

“If you want to.”

Ruby took another look at the names she’d written down.Most of them now had big black lines through them.“We can broaden the list if you like.See if there’s any older guys who might be interested in taking you or someone from out of town that we know…”

“If there was a blindingly obvious choice out there, I think we’d have thought of it by now.”Nicole sighed. “I think I’m just going to have to accept that I’m going to be on my own.”

“I think I’m just going to have to accept that I’m going to be on my own,”Jai sighed.He noticed Ruby’s expression and looked at her, confused.“What?”

“Nothing,”Ruby replied, trying not to sound bored,“Just wondering if there’s an echo inside my head.” She’d finally escaped from Nicole’s dramas and headed to the Diner only to be greeted by the sight of Jai looking glum…and made the mistake of asking him what was wrong.Being a supportive friend was one thing but she suddenly seemed to be the sounding board for everyone else’s problems.

“Did you know Annie was going away?”Jai asked.

Ruby thought for a moment.“What’s the safest answer to that?”She noticed Jai’s crestfallen expression. “Look, Jai, you and Annie were great together but…maybe you’re going to have to accept that it’s not going to happen.”

He nodded glumly.“Hence the being on my own bit.”

“Well, not necessarily.I mean, there are loads of girls out there, I’m sure you’ll find someone else.”

“But I don’t want someone else,”he complained.

“If you’re expecting me to give you a list of every girl you know so you can tell me what’s wrong with them, I’ve already done that today.”She dismissed his bemused expression with a wave.“Long story.”

Jai sucked the remains of his milkshake through his straw before getting to his feet.“I guess I’d better be miserable somewhere else before Leah throws me out for upsetting the customers.”

Ruby felt her sympathy levels rising.“Look, Jai, I’m sure there’s someone else out there who’d love to be with you.It’ll probably happen when you least expect it.”

Miles stood for a few seconds, taking in the sight of Nicole and Jai slumped side by side on the sofa, staring at the movie showing on the television with very little interest or enjoyment.“Any good?”he asked.

“Couple of gorgeous people,”Nicole told him in a dull monotone.

“Madly in love with each other,”Jai added in the same tone of voice.

“Going to live happily ever after.”

“Their lives are perfect.”

“Right.”Miles gestured to the stairs.“I’m going to go to bed before your good mood sends me crazy.Don’t stay up too late.”

Nicole waited until Miles had left before turning to Jai.“How was your day?”

“The girl of my dreams doesn’t want to know me, my best friends are bored at me whining and I think I probably turned all the milk in the Diner off just by looking at it.You?”

“Considered asking out the whole of Summer Bay and realised I wouldn’t get on with any of them.So I’m facing public humiliation.”She sighed.“What’s wrong with us?We’re young, we’re good company, we’re fantastically good looking…well, I am, anyway.How come we’ve ended up on the shelf?”

“Apparently the person we’re meant to be with could be right in front of us and we just haven’t noticed them,”Jai told her.

“Yeah,”Nicole agreed,“We could be looking at them right now.”

They stopped and looked at each other.Then they kissed, intensely and passionately.

They broke apart and stared at each other.“That was weird,”Jai commented.

“Yeah,”Nicole agreed,“Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.”

They paused for a moment and then kissed again, the kiss lasting even longer, their hands roaming about each other’s bodies.

They stopped and looked at each other, neither of them quite believing what had happened.Nor could they quite believe it when she grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the stairs.

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Thank you so much for your comments, everyone, glad you seemed to like that twist...


The early morning sunlight shone through the window, striking Nicole in the face.She blinked at the light, covering her eyes as she surfaced back into wakefulness.As she became aware of her surroundings, one thought seemed to rise above all others.

What was she doing in Jai’s room?

She glanced cautiously to her side and winced.Yes, Jai was in bed next to her.She cast her mind back over the events of the previous night.She couldn’t possibly have…

Oh.Yes.She had.Worse, she’d been stone cold sober and could remember every detail.Her first thought was to get out of there as quickly and quietly as possible.The problem was all her clothes seemed to be scattered on the other side of the bed and retrieving them could result in an even more embarrassing incident.She dug Jai in the ribs.“Jai?Jai, wake up.”

It took three or four digs, each one less gentle than the last, before his eyes opened, looking at her in confusion as she pulled the covers tight around her.“Nicole, what are you doing in my room?”A moment later,“What are you doing in my bed?”

“It’ll come back to you in a moment.Could you pass me my clothes, please?”She gestured to the floor over on his side.

Jai made to get out of bed then stopped, pulling the covers even more tightly around him than Nicole was doing.“Um…I’m naked under here.”

“So am I.So can you please hand me those clothes and then…look the other way or something?”

Jai leaned halfway out of bed, making sure the lower half of his body remained covered.He paused halfway to the floor, looking back at her over his shoulder.“Have I really had sex?”

Nicole didn’t think she’d ever felt so uncomfortable in her life.“Yes, I guess you have…”

“Did you two enjoy yourselves last night?”

Jai and Nicole both froze in the doorway at Miles’ remark.Okay, coming downstairs together might not have been the best idea but Nicole had made sure she headed back to her room to grab a fresh set of clothes first, so as not to arouse suspicion.“Last night?”she repeated.

“That movie you were watching?”Miles reminded them.

“We weren’t enjoying it so we decided to go to bed,”Jai explained.Nicole shot him a look of horror.“To our rooms,”he amended hastily,“We went to bed in our own rooms.”

“Right.”Miles looked at them both reproachfully.“That would explain why the TV was still blaring when I first came down.”

“I guess we were in a bit too much of a hurry to get upstairs,”Jai admitted.

Nicole didn’t think she could stand it if the conversation went on any longer.“I’m going to go to the Diner for breakfast,”she announced before hurrying out the door.

Jai’s gaze drifted between the retreating Nicole and the quizzical Miles for a few seconds before he made the decision.“Me too.”

“Will you stop walking with me?”Nicole complained.

“We’re going to the same place,”Jai reminded her.

“Well, don’t get so close.People might notice something.”

“Oh, I’ll walk six paces behind you then.That won’t look at all suspicious.Or do we give off a ‘We’ve slept together’ vibe if I get too close to you?”

Nicole stopped, turned and glared at him.“Okay.If you don’t want to end up being fed to the sharks, you’re never going to say that again.”

“Sorry but I’m kinda new to this so if you want to give me a tutorial on How to Behave After a One-Night Stand…”

“You two any happier today?”a voice suddenly interrupted them.

They both turned round to see Ruby standing there and began mentally calculating whether she’d been close enough to hear any of their conversation.“Why should we be happier?”Nicole asked.

“No reason, it’s just yesterday you were both moaning about the fact that no-one seemed to be interested in you.”

“Well…we managed to cope with it somehow,”Jai told her.He noticed Nicole shooting him another warning look and sighed.“I’m going to go to the Diner on my own.”

Ruby watched him leave for a moment then turned back to Nicole excitedly.“Why did we miss it before? You can take him to the formal!”

“Jai?”Nicole asked.

“Right.He ticks all your boxes, you know him, he hasn’t got a girlfriend…”

“Ruby, we are so not compatible.”A few embarrassing but worryingly enjoyable memories sprang into Nicole’s head unbidden.“Well…not that compatible,”she felt compelled to add before hastily changing the subject.“I think I’m going to put the whole formal partner thing on hold for a while.”

A brief look of relief flashed across Ruby’s face before she managed to hide it.“Really?”

“Yeah.If you start looking too hard, you can end up in all sorts of trouble…”

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Thank you again for all your comments.


The week seemed to have dragged.Nicole had been avoiding him and, to make it easier for her, he’d been avoiding her, which meant he’d hardly been home.Instead he’d spent most of his time with either Xavier or Ruby and much as he liked them, the fact that he couldn’t tell them what was on his mind had limited conversation somewhat.

“Be good to have Annie back tomorrow,”Ruby remarked, breaking into his train of thought.

Jai made a non-committal noise.“Yeah, guess so.”

“Well, no need to sound so excited about it.”

In truth, Jai was looking forward to seeing her again.Well, mostly.The problem was she’d be just one more person that he’d have to hide things from and he was slightly scared that he wouldn’t be very good at it.Maybe Nicole was right and they gave off some sort of vibe that people would pick up on…especially if they knew him well.

“It’s not gonna make much difference,”he said at last.It wasn’t the reason but it was one that she’d believe.

“Except we get our friend back,”Ruby retorted,“And…maybe it’s time you started trying to be a friend to her.”

Jai could have done without the guilt trip.He was surprised when Ruby got up.“You going somewhere?”

“God, Jai, were you listening?Geoff’s team are playing this afternoon which mean I have to do my girlfriendly duty and show up early to get a good seat.”

Jai did remember the comment now she mentioned it.“Okay, well, maybe I’ll see you down there then.”

Jai was halfway between the Diner and the footie ground when he noticed Nicole sitting near the path.He hesitated for a moment then decided to keep his head down and walk past, keeping up the practice of avoiding her.

To his surprise, though, she got up and stepped out in front of him.“Jai, wait.”She took a deep breath.“I’m sorry.”

He looked at her cautiously.“What for?”

“For avoiding you.I know it’s not fair but…I was embarrassed.”

The conversation wasn’t doing much to put him at ease.“You really know how to make a guy feel good.”

“You think I’m embarrassed because it was you?We both know I’ve made a lot worse choices when it comes to sleeping with people.In fact, you’d probably be in the top three best choices.”

He had a feeling that was a slightly backhanded compliment but he accepted it nonetheless.“Okay, so what’s the problem?”

“The problem is that we were both lonely and vulnerable and we decided that sleeping together was the answer.And it’s not, I mean…I don’t want that to be the answer anymore.”

He smiled slightly.“It was kind of a nice answer though.”

“Well, yeah, goes without saying.”She sighed.“Look, can we just keep it between us and go back to being friends?”

He nodded.“Okay, I can live with that.”

“Where are you off to?”

“Footie match.”

She took his arm.“Perfect!I’ll go with you.”

As they headed off together, Jai was reminded of something else that had been bothering him.“Just so we’re clear…you are on the Pill, right?”

Nicole grimaced.“Yeah, that’s one mistake I have learned from.”

Their camaraderie didn’t last long once they were back in company.Nicole had quickly detached herself and gone to chat with Ruby.Jai stood awkwardly a few feet away, watching the players warm up and trying not to look conspicious.

A few of the boys from his year came over to him.One of them, Jackson, put his arm round Jai.“That Nicole Franklin’s a bit of a hottie, isn’t she?Wouldn’t mind living with her.”

Jai wasn’t entirely sure how to answer in the circumstances.“It’s okay, I guess,”he replied.

“You ever get lucky with her?”

Nicole had been pretending not to listen to the conversation but at that remark she tensed up, all her attention focused on what Jai said next.The whole school finding out that she’d bedded a sixteen-year-old because she was feeling down was only a few second away, depending on his answer.

Jai turned to Jackson, looking him square in the eye, his face expressionless.“Sure I have,”he replied and Nicole’s heart sank.“When Megan Fox isn’t too busy.”

Nicole smiled with relief and gratitude.Jackson stared at Jai, unsure if he was being made fun of or not. “Nice one, Fernandez,”he said at last before convincing his friends they needed to be somewhere else.

Jai looked at Nicole, a ghost of a smile on his face as he gave her a nod of acknowledgement.Thank you, she mouthed silently.

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Once again, thank you for all your comments, I am finding the response genuinely overwhelming.Hope you like this one.


Nicole wasn’t sure why she was surprised that Geoff answered the door.After all, he did live there.But it threw her for a few seconds before she managed to ask,“Is Ruby there?”

“No, she took Annie to the Diner to meet up with the boys.”

“Right.Yeah.Of course.She came back today, didn’t she?”Nicole hovered on the doorstep for a moment before deciding,“I’ll catch up with her later then.”

She’d started back down the path before Geoff asked,“Nic, do you want to come in for a minute?”

Nicole paused.She’d come there for company and Geoff seemed as good a choice as any.“Yeah, okay,” she agreed before heading into the house.

“Is there something on your mind?”he asked.

Nicole felt uncomfortable.“What do you mean?”

“It’s just…these last few days you’ve seemed a bit distracted, withdrawn.Ruby’s noticed it too.”

Nicole looked at him uncertainly.She’d told Jai they should keep it between them but that was easier said than done.She shook her head.“You’d just give me that disappointed look.”

“Well, I’ll try not to.”

She sighed.“I slept with Jai.”

“Nicole!”Geoff’s tone was unmistakably disapproving.“How could you?”

Nicole felt her hackles rising.“Gosh, Geoff, you’re right, what was I thinking?I mean, he’s sixteen, we live together, that’d be like…you sleeping with Ruby, wouldn’t it?”

The sarcasm caused Geoff to pause but not for very long.“Do you love him?”

“No, Geoff, I don’t,”Nicole admitted,“We didn’t plan it, it just…it just happened.We both needed someone and…he was there.”

“And you think that’s a good enough reason?Again?”

“What do you want me to say, Geoff?Yes, I’ve slept with a few guys in my time.Some I regret, some I don’t, this one’s…somewhere in the middle.And I was only ever in love with one of them, not that it did me much good.”She shot him a look.“And by the way, that’s the face.”

Geoff looked apologetic.“Sorry, guess I’m still working on that non-judgemental thing.”He sighed.“I just…I think you can do better.”

“Than Jai?”

“Than a pointless one-night stand.”

She nodded, forcing a smile.“Thanks.”Despite Geoff’s response, it had felt good to get it all off her chest. Like a burden had been lifted.

She was still keeping one secret, of course.But she didn’t feel ready to share that with anyone yet.

“Hey, guys, look who’s back!”

Jai and Xavier looked up at Ruby’s call and saw her with her arm round a beaming Annie.“Hey, long time no see,”Xavier greeted her with a grin.

“Yeah, hey,”Jai echoed with less enthusiasm.In truth he was pleased to see Annie, perhaps more so than he should be.But having her there meant having to lie to her and he was worried she’d be able to see through him.“Did you enjoy yourself?”he asked.

“I guess so,”Annie confirmed,“I mean, it was nice to go away and they let us do canoeing and stuff but…I guess I missed…people.”

Annie seemed to be looking at him in a strange way.Or rather in a familiar way, the way she used to look at him a couple of months ago.He must have been imagining it…

“So, what are you guys doing tomorrow afternoon?”Xavier asked, breaking the train of thought.

“Nothing much,”Ruby replied,“Why?”

“Well, I persuaded Hugo and Martha to throw a Back to School barbeque at our place.You fancy coming?”

“Could I bring Geoff?”Ruby asked.

For a moment Xavier looked uncomfortable then he nodded.“Yeah, sure.Hugo and Martha will probably invite some of their old friends along anyway.”

“Jai, do you want to bring Nicole?”

Ruby’s question caused Jai to start.What did she know?“Why would I do that?”

“I just thought she might want to come and, since you’re probably going to see her first…”

“Um, yeah, I’ll ask her,”Jai agreed, cursing himself for being so obvious.

“Guess I’ll just bring myself,”Annie commented.But the fact that the smile was still on her face suggested she didn’t really have a problem with that…

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Thanks for all your comments, hope you enjoy this one.


“Sausages are ready!”Hugo announced.

“Oh, finally,”Martha chided him,“What’s the matter, weren’t they burnt enough yet?”

“Don’t distract the guy,”Tony told her,“You’ve got the starving masses here waiting for him to dish out.” He glanced at Alf.“So, what were you saying about a fishing trip?”

“Yeah, well, a couple of old mates rang me up, asked me if I fancied spending a few days away with them…”

Nicole tuned the conversation out.Alf, Colleen, Miles, Tony, Rachel, Martha and Hugo had all congregated around the barbeque.She’d thought about joining them but she wasn’t quite ready to accept a place in the geriatric crowd yet.She glanced around the rest of the garden:Annie and Ruby were stood in a corner, giggling away, Jai and Xavier had somehow contrived to set up guard near the cake selection.

Geoff came over and handed her a glass of lemonade.“You look like you could use that.”

“Thanks.”She nodded over towards Annie and Ruby.“Shouldn’t you be over there?”

“Girls’ talk.I don’t think Annie wants her big brother hanging around.”He nodded towards Jai and Xavier. “Shouldn’t you be over there?”

She glared at him but realised she didn’t feel as angry as she should do.“Just don’t start, okay?”she told him gently before glancing at her watch.

“Do you need to be somewhere?”he asked.

“No, no,”she replied hastily,“I just thought I might duck out early.Get home and do some studying.”

Ruby broke up off the story of her holidays as Annie’s attention wandered across to the other side of the garden for about the tenth time that afternoon.“Okay, spill,”she demanded.

“Mmm?”Annie looked back at her innocently.“What?”

“The thing that’s so interesting over there.”She nodded towards the two boys.“Either I did you a big favour by breaking up with Xav or a certain ex of yours is back on your radar.”

“Am I being that obvious?”

“Only to a trained observer.”

Annie sighed.“When I went away, Jai was…was being really annoying, following me around and pulling crazy stunts.I just got sick of the sight of him.But while I was away, I just kept thinking about how cute he looks when he smiles and how he can be really kind to me sometimes…”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, huh?”Ruby asked.

Annie groaned.“Oh boy, I’ve got it bad.”

“Well, maybe you should tell him?”

“But…but what if he’s decided he’s over me now?”

“The guy was practically stalking you to make you get back with him.You’d probably make his day.”

Jai had noticed Annie was looking at him.He’d been looking at her a few times as well.For all his attempts to get over her, he still felt butterflies in his stomach when he looked at her.Of course, he’d been looking at Nicole a few times as well, remembering a few things and wondering how Annie would feel about him if certain facts got out.When did things get this complicated?

“So which do you prefer?”Xavier asked.

“Hmm?”Jai asked innocently.

“You’ve been looking at every girl here who’s under 20 for the past hour.And hey, I get they’re nicer to look at than I am but if you’re thinking of playing the field…”

Jai coughed.“No, I’m…definitely not doing that.”

“Hey, boys!”Hugo called over to them,“There’s a couple of bags of charcoal in the kitchen, can you go get them for us?”

“Sure thing!”Xavier called back, leading Jai towards the house.

Ruby dug Annie in the ribs.“Now’s your chance…”

“Here they are,”Xavier announced, picking up one of the bags and throwing the other one to Jai.

Jai turned for the door and almost bumped into Annie, who had come up unnoticed behind him.“Can we talk?”she asked.

Xavier took the bag off him.“Something tells me you’ve got your hands full, mate.I’ll leave you to it.”

Annie waited until they were alone before announcing,“I missed you.”

“Yeah, I missed you too…”

“No, I mean…”She floundered for a few minutes and then suddenly kissed him gently on the lips.“I missed that.”

He stared at her in astonishment.“Annie, I thought that…”

“I know…I know I said that I didn’t want us to go out anymore but…I think I still like you.”

He could feel his heart thumping in his chest.He pushed all thoughts of complications aside, focusing on those words he’d been wanting to hear for weeks.“You know I still like you.”

She looked at him shyly.“Well, then..?”

He hesitated only for a second before kissing her back, letting it linger.They smiled at each other and went over to the couch.They sat down and started kissing again.He held her gently, letting his arms travel down her back, and started pulling her top off…

He came to with a start.He was acting like he had with Nicole but…this was Annie, that wasn’t something she did.“Sorry,”he stammered,“I wasn’t thinking…”

“Do you want to?”She looked at him nervously.

Jai hesitated.If there was one thing Annie hated it was dishonesty and given that he was already hiding one rather big thing from her…“Yes,”he admitted.

She nodded.“Okay then.”

He looked at her in shock.“You mean..?”

She shrugged.“Why not?”

He started to kiss her again and felt her hands move underneath his top, touching his bare chest, starting to undress him, and realised she was really serious, this was really going to happen.He started doing the same to her as he slowly lowered her down onto the couch…

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Bit of a short one, I'm afraid, even after I padded it out...Hope you like it.


She wouldn’t even look at him.

They sat side by side on the couch, getting dressed in silence.Occasionally he’d shoot a glance in her direction but she’d always avoid meeting his gaze.A few minutes earlier, he’d felt closer to her than he’d ever felt to anyone, they’d…they’d made love, he refused to describe it any other way.And now she looked as though she couldn’t even bear to be in the same room as him.

“They’ll be wondering where we’ve got to,”he said at last.

She moved her head in his direction slightly, still not looking directly at him.“Can you tell Geoff and Ruby I’ve gone home?”

“Can’t you stay for a bit longer?”

“No, I…I’ve got…I’ve got to be somewhere else.”

“Annie, we need to…”

“Just…just tell them I felt sick.”Annie got to her feet, checking her shorts were back in place, and left the house, not looking back once.

Jai stared after her, a sinking feeling in his stomach.That was the second time in as many weeks that a girl had slept with him…and the second time that he’d been left with no idea what he was supposed to do next.

“Where’s Annie?”Xavier asked when he rejoined him outside.

Jai shrugged.“She said to tell Geoff and Ruby she had to go home.”

“So how did things go between you two?”

It was a question Jai had been asking himself.He wasn’t too happy about the answers he’d come up with. “It went okay at first but…I think I messed up.”

“Really?”Xavier looked at him, surprised.“I thought you two were all set to make up.”

“I guess she changed her mind.”

Ruby came over.“What have you done with Annie?”

Jai felt himself tense up at the question.“Done with her?”

“Yeah, the two of you were in the house for so long Geoff was talking about sending in a search party.I managed to talk him out of it, I wasn’t sure what he might be interrupting.”

“She said she had to go home,”Jai told her, wanting to give as little information as possible.

“Really?Maybe I should go after her.”

“No,”he replied hastily,“I think she just wants to be alone for a bit.”

“Okay,”Ruby answered, confused,“I guess I’d better let Geoff know.”

Relieved that the interrogation was over, Jai looked around the garden and noticed that the other object of his attention was missing as well.“Where’s Nicole?”

“She bailed just after I left you and Annie inside,”Xavier replied,“Said she had a lot of study to do apparently.You didn’t do anything to her, did you?”

She was surrounded by sick people.

It wasn’t surprising, she was in a hospital waiting room after all.But the idea made Nicole feel uncomfortable.It wasn’t as though she was sick herself, it wasn’t as though she had any reason to be there.It was all just a precaution, she told herself.Best to make sure.Once she saw the doctor and got her results, she’d be able to rest easily.

“Nicole Franklin?”The nurse at the reception desk favoured her with a smile that she probably thought was reassuring.“The doctor’s ready to see you now.”

Nicole adopted a smile that was about as convincing as the nurse’s.“Thanks, Gloria.”She headed on through.

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Thank you for all your comments, hope you like this.


“I mean, I realise it’s probably nothing and I’m wasting your time but it’s best to be certain, isn’t it?”Nicole was aware she was babbling but she didn’t seem to be able to help herself.“I mean, that’s what you always say, if you’re worried, get a test done, so that’s why I came here, I mean, after what happened to Belle, I just thought it was best to get it checked out…”

Doctor O’Donnell waited patiently for the words to run out before speaking quietly.“Nicole, we’ve had your biopsy results back and the conclusions are quite clear.The growth on your back is malignant.”

For someone who hadn’t been able to stop talking a few seconds ago, Nicole suddenly found herself at a loss as to what to say.“Malignant?”she repeated weakly.

“It’s skin cancer.”

That last word echoed around her head, threatening to drown out all others.She forced herself to concentrate on what O’Donnell was saying.

“The good news is that because you came in so quickly we’ve caught it at a very early stage.We’re confident that with a simple operation we can remove all the cancer.”

“Operation?”Nicole repeated,“You think…that’s what you need to do?”

“I know it sounds drastic but it is the best course of action.With your permission, I’d like to book you in for a slot Wednesday after next.”

“It’s that serious?”

“It’s best to get these things done as soon as possible.”

Nicole gave a slow nod of assent.It didn’t feel real, any of it, like she was detached from what was happening.She saw O’Donnell type the appointment into his computer and then give her a reassuring look.

“Is there anyone who can take you home?”

“I…I can call a cab.”

It obviously wasn’t the response he was hoping for.“Nicole, I really think you need to let someone know about this.”

“I will do,”she promised,“When…when I’m good and ready.”

“Annie, you home?”Ruby called out as she stepped in the back door.She quickly glanced around the living room but there was no-one in sight.She headed upstairs but stopped halfway.She could hear a quiet sobbing noise coming from Annie’s room.

She pushed the door open gently and saw Annie lying face down on the bed, sobs escaping from her body. “Ann?”she asked quietly.

Annie turned over swiftly, looking relieved to see that it was only Ruby.The tears started flowing again and Ruby hurried over and sat down next to her, putting her arm around Annie and letting her cry on her shoulder.

“Annie, what’s going on?Jai said you were sick.”

“I am.”Annie struggled to regain her composure.The tears still flowed but she sat up straight.“Why did it have to happen?”

“What happen?”Ruby felt a knot in her stomach.Surely not, not Jai…“Annie, he didn’t…do something to you, did he?”

“No, no, it was me.I…”A fresh batch of sobs escaped from her, nearly drowning the words out.“I had sex with Jai!”

Jai had only just got home when Ruby came storming through the door and shoved him hard, causing him to stagger back.“What did you do to her?”she demanded,“No, scratch that one, Annie already told me what you did.Why?No, forget that one as well, I get it, you’re a guy.How?How could you do that?”

Jai was shocked at her ferocity.“Do what?”

“How could you sleep with her, Jai?This is Annie we’re talking about, you know what she’s like.”

“I…I stopped,”Jai protested, wondering why he was sounding so defensive,“I told her we didn’t have to and she told me to carry on.”

“And what, you think that gave you a green light to do whatever you wanted, did you?”

“Ruby, I didn’t force her…”

“No, you just upset her.She’s back home, crying her eyes out, she probably thinks she’s going to hell because of what you two did.I thought you were one of the good guys, Jai, I thought you cared about her.”

“I do care about her,”Jai insisted.

“If you’d cared about her, you’d have thought about what she really wanted, not had sex with her the moment she showed an interest in getting back with you!”

Jai thought Ruby was overreacting but the news that Annie was upset did make him feel guilty.“Look, I’ll go round, I’ll explain to her…”

“You stay away from her, Jai,”Ruby insisted,“You stay away from both of us.”

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Huge thanks once again for all your comments.I thought people might think Nicole was pregnant so I decided to tease that one a bit.Hope you like this one.


The last few days had been hell.Jai had thought that things were bad between him and Annie before but now…now it was like she didn’t want to be anywhere near him.Every time he’d clapped eyes on her and Ruby, they’d headed in the opposite direction.Every time they had a lesson together, they’d made sure they sat as far away from him as possible.

He absentmindedly flipped through the morning mail as he ran over the events that had led his life to this in his head, checking the addresses to see who they were for.He glanced round as Nicole came in.“There’s one here for you.”

Nicole practically snatched the wad of envelopes from his hand, taking out the letter in question before throwing the rest onto the table.“What did you see?”she demanded.

Jai couldn’t understand her reaction.“Just that it was for you.”

“Not who it was from?”

“I wasn’t really looking.”

Nicole seemed to relax slightly but she still looked angry.“You had no right going through my mail.”

“Nic, I didn’t open it, I just looked who it was for.”He looked at her, puzzled and more than a little worried.“Nicole, if something’s wrong…”

“What, I can tell you?”There was a slightly scornful tone to Nicole’s voice.“Just because I was once desperate enough to have sex with you doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly start telling you my business.”

The words lit a fuse in Jai, making him as angry as her.“I know,”he retorted,“Seems it’s the same with every girl.Once they sleep with you, they don’t want to know you.”

“Oh, what, you expect us all to fall in love with you, to swoon in your arms?You’re not that good, Jai! Now just stay out of my way!”She stormed out of the house without another word.

Jai pushed his locker door closed and rested his head against it wearily.First he’d fallen out with Annie and Ruby, now with Nicole.It seemed as though without understanding how, he’d managed to alienate every girl in his life.

He sensed more than saw the movement over by the door and looked round to see Ruby coming into the school, Annie just behind her.Ruby looked at him with undisguised disdain, her expression making it clear that approaching her would be a bad idea.Annie…It was the first time she and Jai had looked straight at each other since they’d slept together.He’d expected the same hostility from her that he saw in Ruby but… it wasn’t there.She looked torn, conflicted, regretful…guilty.For a moment he actually thought she was going to come over.Then Ruby took her arm and pulled her off down the corridor.Neither of them looked back.

“You going to tell me why you’re getting the cold shoulder?”

Jai hadn’t even realised Xavier had come up behind him.He considered telling a lie, making up some excuse.But it wasn’t as if Annie had kept it a secret.He leaned back against the locker and sighed deeply.“I slept with Annie.”

Xavier grinned.“What, you mean, you’re not a..?”

“I’d already…Never mind.”That was one confession too many.“Ever since it happened, she won’t come near me.”

“Was it that bad?”

“No, it…”Jai considered giving a macho answer but instead found himself telling the truth.“It was perfect, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.I felt…really close to her.”

He looked back at Xavier, expecting him to make some joke about it.But instead his friend looked at him with understanding.“Yeah, I remember that feeling.”

“And now she can’t bear to look at me and Ruby’s acting like I’ve done something really bad.”

“They do that sometimes.Take you to the top of the world then drop you like a stone.”

Jai glared at him.“You’re lousy at reassuring people.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Geoff knew that the girls had come home from school when he saw Ruby come through into the kitchen and heard Annie’s footsteps heading upstairs.“Is she all right?”he asked,“She’s barely been out of her room these last three days, except to go to school.”

“She’s just processing a lot at the moment,”Ruby told him awkwardly.

Geoff picked up on the evasive answer.“Ruby, if there’s something going on that I should know about…”

“I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want me to tell you.”Ruby looked conflicted for a moment then sighed. “You need to promise me that you’re not going to tell her you know and that you’re not going to freak out.”

Geoff looked at her worriedly.“Why do I have a feeling I’m going to have a hard time keeping that promise?”

“Can you just…promise me?”

“Okay, okay, I promise.So..?”

“She slept with Jai.”

It was the last thing Geoff had been expecting.“Annie?She wouldn’t do that.”

“Have you taken a look at her lately, Geoffrey?”Ruby asked,“She’s growing up.”

“Then…why’s she upset?”Geoff felt a sudden knot in his stomach.“He didn’t…”

“No, no,”Ruby assured him quickly,“I think she did it to please him and now she wishes she hadn’t.”

“I can’t believe he slept with her after…”Geoff stopped quickly, remembering there were a few things Ruby didn’t know about.“After what he knows about what she believes.”

“Well, you’re a bit fluid on that one these days,”Ruby reminded him.

Geoff glanced up the stairs briefly.“So…what are we supposed to do about it?”

Ruby shrugged helplessly.“I think we just need to let her work through it on her own.”

“Have I missed something?”Miles asked when the two of them arrived home.

Jai looked at him uncomfortably, aware that there were at least two things he’d been keeping from him. “Like what?”

“Like the fact that there seem to be fewer people hanging about at this house lately.I haven’t seen you with Annie or Ruby for a while.”

Jai shrugged.“I guess we’ve kind of drifted apart a bit.”

“Oh.That’s sad.”

“Yeah but…”

“Shh.”Miles held up a finger, a puzzled look on his face.He led the way to the bottom of the stairs.“Did you hear something?”

“No, I…”Jai paused, listening.A faint sobbing noise floated down to them.

The pair exchanged a puzzled glance then Miles led the way upstairs.They followed the sound of sobbing to the door to Nicole’s room.Miles tapped on it lightly.“Nic, you all right?”He waited a few seconds then pushed the door open.

Nicole was sat cross-legged on the bed, tears rolling down her cheeks.In her lap they could see a scrunched up piece of paper, with words typed on it.For a moment she looked like she was going to hide it, then she held it out.“Seeing it in black and white…just made it seem real.”

Miles took the paper from her and sat down on the edge of the bed.Jai clambered onto the bed so he was sitting the other side of Nicole.He touched her hand awkwardly before looking at Miles.“What does it say?”

Miles looked up from the letter, the shock and concern evident on his fate.“It’s a confirmation of a hospital admission for next week.With an oncologist.”

“Oncologist?”Jai was sure he recognised the word but he wasn’t quite sure where from.

“Cancer,”Nicole explained quietly,“I have skin cancer.”She tried to look reassuring.“But they say they’ve caught it really early, they’re sure they can get it all out.”

“How long have you known about this?”Miles asked her.

“Since the weekend,”Nicole admitted,“I noticed a mole on my back and I thought, well, you’ll feel pretty stupid if it’s something serious, so I went and got it checked out.”

“That was cancer?”Jai asked.He saw Miles give him a quizzical look.“I noticed it when she was on the beach.”

Nicole gave him a small smile of gratitude, whether for the cover-up or for noticing he wasn’t sure.“I’m sorry I was mean to you,”she said, giving his hand a squeeze.

“I get that you were going through a lot.”

“I just…I didn’t want anyone else knowing, I thought if it was just me, I could pretend.”

“Hey.”Miles gripped her other hand.“Now, you’ve been very brave but you know you’ve got two people here you can count on, right?”

Nicole held both their hands tightly.“Thanks, guys.”

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Thank you for all your comments, I really wasn't expecting such a response for this story.Guess it's the advantage of there not being any new episodes at the moment...Hope you like this one.


“Are you sure you’re up to this exam?”Jai asked as he walked Nicole along the beach towards school, his arm around her shoulder.

“Jai, will you stop fussing?”she complained.But her tone was light.

“Miles said he could arrange to postpone it if you want…”

“Look, what happens next week is…next week.Sitting at home worrying myself isn’t going to help with anything.A good, strong dose of normality is exactly what I need right now.”

“Okay, just thought I’d bring it up.”

“I know and it’s sweet of you.”She stopped and turned to face him.“And thanks for walking me in, after the way I acted yesterday…”

“Hey, I get to have a cute older girl on my arm.You’re the one that’s making the sacrifice.”

She smiled slightly.“Oh, you’re not bad.”

“Am I interrupting something?”Geoff asked suddenly as he stepped up behind them.

The pair turned round, startled.“What would you be interrupting?”Jai asked in surprise.

“I just thought…”

“Geoff,”Nicole hissed warningly.

Jai looked from one of them to the other before turning to Nicole accusingly.“You told him?”

“It just kind of slipped out,”Nicole admitted guiltily.

“And then Ruby let slip about you and Annie,”Geoff asked.

“You and Annie?”Nicole repeated,“What..?”Her eyes widened.“No way.Annie?”

“It…got a bit intense,”Jai admitted.

“So I just thought, what with you two suddenly being so close,”Geoff continued.

“Geoff, we live together,”Jai insisted,“We’re friends.”

“That was more than friends.”

“Look, Geoff…”

“Jai, it’s okay.”Nicole turned to Geoff.“I’ve got cancer.I found out at the weekend, I told Jai and Miles last night.I’m going into hospital next week.”

To his credit, Geoff looked shocked.“Nic, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, but…now you know.That’s the only reason that Jai was being nice to me.”

Jai glanced at her.“Nic, do you mind..?”

“Secret men’s business?Okay.I’ll see you later.”

Jai waited until she was out of earshot before turning back to Geoff.“Look, I don’t know what Ruby’s told you but what happened between me and Annie…it wasn’t planned, I didn’t set out to hurt her, I thought it was what she wanted.”

“So it just happened?”Geoff asked disbelievingly.

“Yeah, it just happened.It happened because…I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.”Jai swallowed hard. Honesty was the best policy.After all, it had worked really well last time…“I love her, Geoff.”

Geoff gave him a searching look for a moment and then sighed.“I’m sorry, Jai, I know you wouldn’t hurt her deliberately but…given the way she’s feeling at the moment, maybe you should just stay away from her.”

“Given the way she’s feeling at the moment, that won’t be a problem.”

“Nicole!”Jai spotted her about to head into the exam and dashed down the corridor.

She smiled at him.“You really this desperate to be seen with me?”

“I just didn’t want you to go into your exam worried that Geoff had beaten me up.”

“Who said I’d have worried?”she asked lightly.

Jai smiled.“Good luck with the exam.”


He watched her go inside and was about to go to his first lesson when he heard a nervous voice ask,“Jai?”

He turned and found Annie standing there, alone for once.“Um, hi,”he greeted her.

She smiled awkwardly.“Look, about what happened…”

“I get it,”he sighed,“I messed up.It shouldn’t have happened like that.”

“No,”she agreed,“It shouldn’t have.But…”

“But we can’t take it back.”

She lowered her eyes, sadly.“No.”

“I wish things could have been different but…I guess I’ll stay away from you now.”

“But, Jai, we need to…”

“No.”He shook his head.“It’s better this way.”He turned away from her, hoping she wouldn’t realise how heavy his heart felt.And so he didn’t see the despairing way she looked after him.

It wasn’t until the end of the day that Ruby managed to track Annie down.She’d studiously managed to avoid everyone during every break period and it was pure chance that Ruby caught sight of her sat on the beach.“Hey, Ann, what’s been going on?”she asked as she hurried down to her.

Annie looked back at her nervously and swallowed hard.“I tried to talk to Jai earlier.”

“Tried to?”Ruby sat down next to her.“Why, what happened?”

“He didn’t want to know, he said we should stay away from each other.”

Ruby was confused.The way Annie had been acting…“That’s what you want, isn’t it?”

Annie shook her head.“I need to speak to him, I can’t do this without him.”

“Well, okay, if speaking with him is what you think you need to do to move on…”

“I can’t move on.I need his help.”Annie looked at her mournfully.“I think I’m pregnant.”

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