Title: T'was the Night Before Homecoming
Fandom: Sky High
Disclaimer: Not Mine. Disney's
Characters: Warren/Layla (eventually - not in this story.)
Prompt: 022. Enemies
Word Count: 3328
Rating: PG for a few mild bad words.
Summary: "Dude, you're so stupid. She's totally into you."
Author's Note: Some missing scenes set around Will's party. Introducing a semi-OC character, Crystal March. (And I will confess that this one isn't my story, since it's about why Warren and Layla aren't together, and not about why they should be.)
T’was the Night Before Homecoming
Gwen and Penny had been giggling a lot to themselves lately. The Big Day was getting close now, and Gwen was enjoying every minute of it. All the pieces were falling into place, just exactly as Gwen had planned.
And it had all been unbelievably easy. Especially getting Will Stronghold to play his part. All Gwen had to do was make googley eyes a few times, and he was putty in her hands. She was sure that soon, the Pacifier would be in her hands too.
She had to laugh. And the only potential wrench in the plan, Stronghold’s little sidekick friends, especially that girl, Layla and her obvious crush, had taken care of themselves. And in a most unexpected way.
“Did you see them in the cafeteria yesterday?” One of the Pennies asked.
“Of course! Everybody did,” Gwen chuckled, putting her hand to her mouth so that the Penny could hear her over the loud music playing at Will Stronghold’s impromptu party.
“Guys… The floor!” Will was heard in the background trying to get some semblance of control to the unexpected chaos of the party raging around him.
Really though, it wasn’t Will’s party at all, even though it was at his house. This party had been engineered entirely by Gwen Grayson. Just a few calls to certain members of the Homecoming Committee, and almost every Sky High student had come running. (Heroes only need apply.)
“Lash told me that Speed said he’d heard that she was all over him last week at The Paper Lantern. And I saw them sitting arm in arm outside of school earlier today with my own eyes” Penny confided to Gwen.
“Yes, but I heard that she’s only going with him to get back at Will Stronghold because he’s with ME now,” Gwen laughed evilly.
“You think she’d actually do it just to get back at Stronghold? She seems a little too Polly Pureheart to me…” Penny sneered.
Gwen laughed and said, “I do have to admit, she does at least show good taste. Barron Battle’s son is almost as delicious as he was. Of course, Barron only had eyes for the girls in Hero Class, and didn’t have the time of day for sidekick girls.” Gwen remembered her mouth curling into an angry snarl.
Penny shook her head at that. “I keep forgetting that you’re, like, an old lady,” Penny mumbled.
“Yes, I do hope Warren Battle, or Peace or whatever name he is using does comes to Homecoming,” Gwen continued rubbing her hands together gleefully and ignoring Penny’s comment. “I shall enjoy molding Barron’s son into a magnificent Super Villain. Better by far even then Barron Battle himself was.” And Gwen’s voice began to rise dramatically.
Penny rolled her eyes and began to look around the room to see if she could find a way to excuse herself. When Gwen got into one of her Super Villain speeches, she tended to get more then a little over the top.
Fortunately for Penny, Gwen saw that Stronghold was getting upset about the party, and cut off her ramble before it got to its full potential, and excused herself to go placate him.
Confident that Gwen had things well in hand, Penny went over to the staircase to find one of her other selves and a blonde girl talking about the same subject. No, not Royal Pain’s plan, they were talking about Will Stronghold’s sidekick friend and Warren Peace.
The blonde’s name was Crystal March and she was a member, in good standing, of Sky High’s Homecoming Committee. She was a pretty, popular Junior, and a Hero, of course. No one was anybody at Sky High, unless they were in Hero class. And Crystal was definitely somebody.
She had the power to freeze anything. Including the hearts of most of the guys who tried to hit on her, of which there were many.
“Yes, of course I saw them in the cafeteria. Everyone has seen them there,” The other Penny was saying to Crystal.
“Everyone knows she has a crush on Will Stronghold. I’m sure it’s just an act to get Will jealous,” Crystal said shaking her head oddly with a funny look on her face.
“Oh, no,” The first Penny said, “Lash told me that Speed told him that he’d heard that she’s been all over him, every night at The Paper Lantern, you know, that Chinese Restaurant where he works.”
“No way!” Crystal and the second Penny said together.
“You’ll have to talk to Speed about it, I guess,” said the first Penny innocently.
Crystal had been feeling this distinct …unhappiness… with the topic of Warren Peace and the little green Sidekick, ever since the word got around that they were actually going to Homecoming together. Crystal had found her eyes drawn to their table during lunch almost against her will. And it was starting to upset her.
Despite her reputation, Crystal was not a mean girl. She certainly was however, the Queen Bee of the Junior class, and that status pleased her. She had worked hard for it. She had always made certain that she hung out with the right crowd, and that she was at the top of the list when people asked who the “right crowd” was. And if that meant looking down on Sidekicks, and leather-clad Super Villains in training, then so be it.
Last year when Warren Peace came to Sky High, Crystal’s parents signed the petitions, and wrote letters of protest to the school, to keep Warren out, just as most of the other parents had. And when Crystal asked them why, they recited a list of offences which, they said, made Warren Peace unsuitable to be in the company of future super heroes.
“If people had only observed the warning signs with the first Battle,” Crystal’s father lamented, “All that unpleasantness could have been avoided.”
Mr. March had gone on for several moments about Warren’s offenses. “This kid started so many school yard brawls after they locked Barron up, that they had to kick him out of the elementary school.”
“And of course,” said Mr. March shaking his head, “He nearly decapitated the Shaw kid at Little League practice with a fireball.”
“And worst of all, that damn kid set his own house on fire, before Laura Battle took him off someplace, gods knows where,” Mr. March stopped for a moment and looked suspiciously at his daughter.
“And why,” he asked her, “Don’t you remember all of this since you went to the same elementary school as he did before they kicked him out?”
After her father’s speech, Crystal could only mumble that she didn’t remember anything about it. But the thing was, Crystal did remember Warren from elementary school, very, very well.
Crystal March and Warren Battle had been in the same grade back then, and she remembered him completely differently from her father’s dire description. Warren had once been a happy, popular third grader, living a normal 3rd graders life. Warren had friends and gone to birthday parties and played Little League baseball.
Of course, even then he was a handsome little boy, with his red streaked hair, and coal black eyes that smoldered even as a child. Crystal probably would never admit it, (especially not to her parents,) but Warren Battle had been her first elementary school crush.
That’s why she remembered things differently then her father did regarding the events that followed after Barron Battle’s fall from grace.
She remembered that first Warren had disappeared from school for awhile, and that his Mom had been in the hospital. When he came back, Warren was uninvited from Billy Ballingford’s birthday party. And no one said a word about it. But that was just the beginning.
Suddenly no one would sit with Warren at lunch anymore, or talk to him during class, or play with him on the playground. Including, Crystal remembered saddly, herself. Crystal’s parents had told her to stay away from Warren Battle, and she obeyed them.
And although it bothered Crystal that Warren was shunned by his classmates, then as now, Crystal March followed the crowd.
So, yes, Crystal remembered Warren Battle. And when Warren Peace arrived at Sky High last year, she was shocked by how he had changed. He was tall, and mean, and a marked man.
But, Crystal had noticed, he still smoldered.
“I’m going to go find Gwen,” The second Penny said leaving Crystal and the first Penny.
Crystal was just thinking that she would excuse herself too and go find Speed to ask him first hand if all these rumors were true. She could see him standing in the door between the hallway and the living room not too far away, and she decided to head over in that direction.
Before she got there, however, one of the subjects of all this gossip slipped in the doorway of the Stronghold house. Crystal saw Layla immediately, and felt a stab of ice in her heart. Frozen where she stood, Crystal watched the uncertain redheaded girl make her way deeper into the party.
Crystal ducked to the back of a small crowd that had gathered so she could watch, what she assumed would be fireworks from a safe distance. And her expectations were soon met, with her usual impeccable timing, Gwen appeared from behind a doorway in the living room.
Gwen was feeling quite triumphant as she and Will emerged from behind the door, through which Will had unwittingly allowed her access to The Secret Sanctum… and to The Pacifier. Nothing could spoil her jubilation now. Her plan to take over Sky High was coming together perfectly.
So, when the two of them emerged from the secret room, and Gwen saw Layla standing in the hallway, the last thing she needed was for Will to be distracted by the site of his old friend.
Thinking quickly, Gwen sent Will to get her a diet caffeine free orange soda, and took charge of the situation herself.
At a sign from Gwen, two of the Pennies, acting as one, barred Layla from heading towards the kitchen, where Will was.
Then Gwen made her move, sidling up to confront Will’s best friend.
“Where’s Will?” Layla asked Gwen.
“Honestly,” Gwen lied with a sneer, “Avoiding you.”
“Look,” she continued maliciously. “Will knows you have a crush on him.”
“He does?” Layla asked horrified.
“Everyone does. Will’s just too nice a guy to tell you he’s not interested,” Gwen turned the knife. “Not that you can take a hint. I mean, HELLO, he’s going to Homecoming with ME.” And Gwen was off and running with her rant now, glorying in the thrill of first obtaining The Pacifier, and now, putting this quite, powerless girl in her place.
“He threw a party,” Gwen continued, “And he didn’t invite YOU. You’re just embarrassing him.” And the two Pennies cringed, fearing that if this went on for much longer, Gwen might get even more extremely over-the-top.
But thankfully, Gwen took a deep breath and concluded, “You’re just embarrassing yourself.”
“OK,” Layla said, on the verge of tears. “I understand. And when you see Will again, can you tell him that I never want to talk to him again?”
Gwen, Speed, and the Pennies all gave satisfied smirks to one another as Layla began to head for the door. In the back of the crowd, Crystal had watched these events with interest. Especially as they concerned Layla Williams, Will Stronghold, and Warren Peace. She was satisfied.
Will was smiling as he came back from the kitchen, diet caffeine free orange soda in hand. He was surprised, and pleased to see Layla standing next to Gwen. He smiled at her and said her name.
Layla’s reaction was not what Will expected. Layla was in tears, and upon seeing him, she turned her back and started walking away from him as fast as she could.
Not understanding, and still carrying the diet caffeine free orange soda, Will called her name repeatedly and followed her to the door. When he got there, she finally turned around, pain and anger etched on her face.
“Have fun with Gwen,” Layla told him with tears brimming in her eyes. “You two deserve each other.” Then she slammed the door in his face as she exited.
In all the years that Will had known Layla, never had he made her cry, or had she slammed a door between them.
It was like being hit by a firebolt. What could have caused this? Will wondered, dumbfounded. And Will realized in astonishment that, “it” was a “she”, and SHE was standing in his hallway having a laugh with two of the Pennies.
So Will walked back over to Gwen, who was acting like everything was perfectly all right with the world as she took the diet caffeine free orange soda from him.
“What did you say to Layla?” He demanded to know. He could not believe that any of this was happening.
“Nothing,” Gwen started off innocently. “I mean, I just told her the truth,” she continued. “You’re a Hero, she’s a Sidekick. She was just holding you back.” Gwen explained sanctimoniously.
“Why would you do that? Layla’s been my best friend since First Grade.” And it was really, actually starting to dawn on Will, that Gwen wasn’t his friend.
“Well, you have new friends now,” Gwen informed him, with a big, fake smile on her face. “And I think that you need to figure out if you want to hang out with us, or those losers,” And Gwen’s voice turned a bit sinister as she referred to Will’s Sidekick friends. Then she placed her hand possessively on Will’s shoulder, and said, “Come on, let’s go.”
The light bulb was now fully lit over Will’s head. And he started backing away from Gwen Grayson.
“I’m not going anywhere with you.” He declared. “Not now, or not to Homecoming.”
“You’re dumping me?” Gwen was aghast. There was no way anything was going to interfere with her plan! Especially not now that she had The Pacifier, and especially not little Layla Williams.
“Let’s get something straight,” she said pointing angrily at Will. “YOU do not dump ME. Not the night before the dance.”
But Will continued to back away from her. And, to emphasize the finality of his decision, Will started barking an order to everyone in hearing distance that it was time to get out of his house.
Fortunately for Will, things didn’t get any uglier because his parents returned home at just that moment and demanded that everyone leave. And when the Commander made an order, everyone obeyed, including Crystal, Speed, Lash, all the Pennies, and Gwen herself.
Soon, the Stronghold house was empty again, leaving a distressed young man and his angry and confused parents behind.
Will knew that he had screwed up. And he knew that what he wanted most in all the world at that moment was to talk to Layla and make everything all right with her again.
It was tortuous that Layla was not answering his calls. Not on her cell phone, and not at home, where her mother sounded less then pleased to hear from him, especially on the fourth, fifth and sixth calls. “I would stay away from Layla for a few days,” Layla’s mom finally told him flatly, implying that it would be a good idea for him to stay away from her as well.
Finally, not knowing what else to do Will headed to the one place Layla might be willing to meet him. The Paper Lantern. Will couldn’t help thinking that maybe things wouldn’t be so messed up now, if only he had met Layla at The Paper Lantern that night two weeks ago, instead of being caught in Gwen Grayson’s web.
And maybe if he’d kept those dinner plans, he could also have kept Layla from becoming involved in this weird friendship she had started with his archenemy, Warren Peace. He’d seen them together, every day, sitting at the lunch table, with his friends. And he didn’t like it at all.
And the thing that really bothered him the most was that he knew Layla well enough to recognize that the smile she gave Warren was a genuine one. Layla’s face didn’t lie. Whatever had happened between Warren and Layla two weeks ago, Will could see that she trusted him, regardless of the fact that Warren was the most likely student at Sky High to become a Super Villain. And to make things worse, she had obviously convinced Zach, Magenta and Ethan to trust his archenemy as well.
It was like the whole world was turned upside down.
Will knew that Warren worked at The Paper Lantern, but somehow, he still managed to be surprised to see Warren when he walked by the table with a tray full of glasses.
He would always remember what followed as the most surreal conversation of his life.
It began with Warren, sitting down uninvited at his table. This in and of itself, surprised Will, who until that moment had never shared a non-hostile word with Warren Peace. But Will quickly discovered for himself the same thing that Layla had learned two weeks earlier. There was more hidden behind Warren’s black hair then he usually let show at Sky High.
“We’re only going together to make you jealous,” Warren had broken it down and explained it to Will (since almost everyone else had already figured it out anyway).
“Huh?” Will said, confused. This was a twist that Will had not considered. He had never thought of Layla as anything more then a sister.
“Dude, you’re so stupid. She’s totally into you.” Warren informed him.
“Not after tonight,” Will lamented. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Layla or any of the other guys every want to talk to me again,” And at that moment, Will believed that to be the simple truth, so he was not afraid to say it, even to his former archenemy.
“Man, you must have been a real jerk,” Warren told him ironically. “Because no matter what I do, I can’t get them to STOP talking to me.” Then Warren got up and left the table, leaving Will to ponder his mistakes.
“She wanted to make me jealous?” Will thought scratching his head. He would have to think on that one.
No one slept soundly in Maxville that night, the night before Homecoming.
Gwen Grayson, who should have been triumphant over obtaining The Pacifier, stewed in anger that Will Stronghold had dared to dump her the night before the dance.
Crystal March tossed and turned, haunted by memories she couldn’t change and by jealously of a little red headed Sidekick of all people.
Layla spent the night crying, alone in her bed, pretending not to hear her cell phone buzz, over and over again.
Warren Peace didn’t know why he couldn’t sleep. It had felt good putting Stronghold in his place tonight. Better even then throwing fireballs at him. He felt a change blowing in the wind, and he wondered where it would take him.
Will Stronghold lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. “She likes me?” He kept asking himself, wondering how he felt about that. Tonight he felt like his world was teetering on the edge of a cliff. He could not imagine life without Layla’s friendship, which had been a part of his every day since first grade. How could he have screwed it up so badly that she wouldn’t even talk to him? How had she ended up hooking up with his archenemy to try and make him jealous? How, he wondered, could he have so much power, but couldn’t give comfort to his best friend?
“She likes me?” And the thought spun around and around his head as he tossed and turned alone in his bed.