Lucas tried to listen to Topanga’s advice. He truly, honestly did. And for a couple of days, it worked. Things returned back to normal briefly, and he was distracted by the increased school work load as the holidays and end of the quarter grew closer. Time also gave Lucas a bit of perspective and distance on the whole Riley/Maya situation, and how he was going to deal with it going forward. Contrary to his (and Maya’s) plans, he had not had the opportunity to see Riley or since New Year’s Eve-well, not for more than a couple of minutes, at most. She was actively avoiding him, taking different routes to class, keeping her books in her bag so that she wouldn’t have to stop by her locker. Disappearing until right before the bell so that she could slip into her seat next to Maya and in front of Farkle, all without more than a brief, if wan, smile of greeting towards him.
Well fine then. If she was going to be childish and pretend like New Year’s had never even happened, then he would try to be a good friend–brother–and accept her decision. He stopped trying to catch her in the hallways, or after school. He kept their chance encounters to small talk, and deliberately began seeking out Maya instead. The blonde rolled her eyes every time, but went along with it, even though they both knew it was a ploy to make her best friend jealous. If Riley wanted anything from him, she was going to have to come to him for once…
Of course, all of that became irrelevant when he heard that Riley had accepted an invitation from Gardner for a second date.
“Riley, we really need to talk.”
Lucas strode into the café and stopped directly in front of the brunette, whose eyes were wide with surprise – and guilt.
“Dammit, Friar!” Charlie Gardner cursed, stepping in between him and Riley. “Do you consciously time these little announcements just to piss me off, or are you just that dumb and unlucky?”
“Charlie!” Riley snapped.
Both boys ignored her as they squared off. They were both tall and lean, although Lucas had the advantage of at least two inches and about twenty pounds of muscle, all earned from playing baseball and working on his grandfather’s ranch.
Lucas deliberately let a taunting smile curl his lips. He felt Zay move up to stand just behind his shoulder, but didn’t take his eyes off of Gardner’s. “Actually, it’s a special talent, and I earn bonus points if I can get that vein in your forehead to throb.” He let his eyes deliberately travel over his face, and grimaced as it turned a dull red. “Yep, there it goes – oh, and it looks like it’s feeding right into the beginnings of a monster zit, too.” He shook his head and grimaced, mock sympathetic. “Bad luck, buddy. You should probably see a doctor about that. But hey, ten points for me.”
Gardner’s hand automatically flew up to his forehead in a panic, before his face darkened even more. “Dude, why can’t you just take a hint?” he snapped. “You had your chance. You didn’t take it. I’m here now.”
“Yeah, you are.” Lucas acknowledged softly, his eyes hard, lowering his tone so that Riley couldn’t hear. “But what you don’t get is that I was here long before you were, and I’ll be here long after you’re gone. Deal with it.”
Riley moved before the incensed boy could throw a punch. “Okay!” She snapped, shoving her way between them. Lucas yielded to her hand on his chest, although they both knew that if he really hadn’t wanted to move, she wouldn’t have been able to make him. “Charlie, I can’t go tonight – I have to stay here at the café for my mom until she gets here. That’s what I had called you about, if you had bothered to listen to the voicemail I left. You can stay or not stay, but not if you’re going to cause trouble.”
She turned away from him, just to catch Lucas smirking. “I’m on shift in fifteen minutes. Come on.” Grabbing him by the arm, she pulled him away, but not towards the public front entrance, instead leading him through the small kitchen and the adjoining apartment and straight out into a private courtyard.