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Even if The Rain Keeps Falling, We Are Not Alone

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The rain pounded against the window, lightening flashing fleetingly through the cracked curtains and a particularly loud clap of thunder made Andrew jump, his pencil ripping a hole in the essay he was currently struggling to write.

Steven Tyler’s voice crooning from the record player soothed his racing heart, grounding him back in the moment and he couldn't help but laugh at himself for being such a pansy. He looked back down at the sheet of paper and sighed at the huge gash that was now in the middle of his history essay. He threw his pencil down in frustration and rubbed at his eyes, wondering why he chose homework, of all the things to do, on a Saturday night. He entertained the idea of going to Stubby’s party earlier, when he was sitting at the dinner table toyed with his food and trying in vain to ignore his father, who, in between bites of meatloaf, was still lecturing him about putting his scholarship at risk just to ‘screw around’.

But his stomach twisted at the thought of going to another useless party, with the same people, talking about the same gossip, telling the same stories, laughing at the same jokes, just to fit in with the rest of the crowd. It was social suicide to miss parties like this, but after today, after her, Andy couldn't bring himself to care.

He was tired. Tired of trying to fit into the same mold his father was made of and living his life to please someone who only saw him as his ticket to rewrite the past and live the dreams he never got to fulfill because he knocked someone up and had to ‘make it right’.

“Not that I didn’t want you, Sport. But having you cost me a lot and it’s your job to make sure you don’t screw up like I did.”

How it was Andy’s fault that his dad knocked his mom up right out of high school and had to give up his wrestling scholarship to marry her and help raise him, he wasn't sure. But it didn’t surprise Andy that his dad would try to find a way to place the blame of Andy’s own existence on him. Nothing was ever his dad’s fault, after all.

He already knew, after today, that first thing Monday morning he was walking into coach Armstrong’s office to tell him he was done. With wrestling, the scouts, the team, all of it. That would be the easy part, telling his dad, however, Andy wasn't sure how to do that.

So for tonight, Andy let him talk about scouts and scholarships and he feigned fatigue as the reason he wasn't going out that night and barricaded himself in his room for the rest of the night.

He couldn't remember the last time he stayed home on a Saturday night, voluntarily at least. He wasn't really sure what to do with his new found freedom and he briefly entertained the idea of calling up Bender to see if he had any plans tonight, but he wasn't really sure how his parents felt about social calls or if they even cared enough to pay a phone bill. Based off of how little they cared for Bender, Andy was sure a working phone wasn't exactly on the top of their priority list. He thought about Brian next, but he knew he was in deep enough shit with his parents as it was, Andy calling at eight on a Saturday night to invite Brian to hangout wouldn't help him at all.

And thinking of Brian made him think of homework and while Andy wasn't a bad student, he could always improve and he knew if he quit the wrestling team, he would have to have some sort of financial back up plan to fund college, because his parents (his father) sure as hell wouldn't pay a dime towards his college education after they found out he gave up a free ride to college simply because he wasn't interested enough in wrestling to continue doing it for four more years.

Even if it meant costing his parents nothing, the personal cost was too high for Andy to pay. He was done and there was nothing else anyone could say to convince him otherwise.

If he was being honest with himself, Andy didn’t know who he was. He spent so much time trying to fit in—with his dad, his friends, the team—he didn’t know who he was without any of it. To everyone else, he was Andrew Clark, three time state champion in wrestling, varsity letterman and the most popular jock in their entire high school. He wore the letterman jacket like an armor, because even if he didn’t like who he was with it, at least he had an identity. And he clung to it for so long because at least he knew what was expected, how to act and where that road would lead him.

And Andy was too scared to see who he was underneath all of it. His worst fear wads that underneath it all, he was still that same person who taped Larry Lester’s butt together just to gain the approval from his peers. The person who can’t think for himself and would rather join in with the crowd than go against it. A blind follower, not a strong leader.

Look back down at his paper, his thoughts drifted to Allison. She gave him the courage to think and decide for himself, to stop worrying what people thought of him and to stop trying so damn hard to gain approval from someone who would never freely give it, not if it meant sacrificing his own identity in the process.

Allison didn’t give a damn about what people thought of her—the way she dressed, the way she acted, who she was friends with. She was just herself, unapologetically weird and intelligent and blunt and kind and quiet and observant and Andy admired her.

She was an enigma and Andy wasn't stupid, he knew she had her own insecurities and fears. But instead of hiding behind a shiny veneer to the rest of the world, like Andy or Claire did, she kept to herself and carried her baggage around in a shoulder bag that weighed her thin frame down, hoping someone, anyone, would notice.

And even though it took a Saturday detention to bring it to his attention, Andy noticed her. And he hasn't stopped.

A small smile formed on his lips as he began writing his paper again, shaking his head from his thoughts and tried to switch gears to World War II.

He was making decent headway into it when another loud clap of thunder followed by a harsh thud against his window made him jump in his desk chair and whip his head towards the noise, his heart in his throat.

Lightening flashed, highlighting a small figure in the tree outside his window. Squinting his eyes, he tried to make out the distorted figure and tried to ignore his heart beating harshly against his ribcage. Another flash of lightening revealed a messy head of black hair and a familiar shoulder bag slung across the person’s shoulder.

Andy scrambled out of his chair, tripping over a discarded sneaker as he darted over to his window, fumbling with the lock in his haste to open it, but eventually it gave and he was able to shove it open.

“About time Sporto,” Allison grumbled, ignoring his offered hand and climbing through the window with practiced ease and landing wet shoes first on beige carpet.

Flabbergasted beyond belief, all Andy could do was blink stupidly at her and then out the open window, where rain was still coming down in sheets and the tree she was perched on swayed precariously in the heavy wind.

“What the hell—how did you—“ Andy sputtered, unable to form a coherent thought as he stared at the tree, the same tree, that he once attempted to climb when he snuck out of the house to go to a party his Freshmen year and fell out of, his arm breaking his fall, much to the dismay of his mother and the anger of his father. He was benched for two weeks from matches because of it.

“Are you crazy? Climbing a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm? Do you have a death wish? And how did you know where I live?” Andy demanded all in one breath as he struggled to close the window. It finally gave and with a small snick, locked it firmly and closed the curtains.

He turned around just in time to see Allison smirk, blowing her wet bangs out of her eyes, “It wasn't just Brian’s wallet I stole during detention.”

Not offering anymore, he watched as she glanced around his room and Andy could feel the blush rising to his cheeks when her eyes landed on a pair of discarded boxers.

He scrambled off his window seat and picked them up, along with a pair of dirty socks and a rumpled t-shirt that had yet to make it to his hamper and hastily threw them in the general direction of his closet.

“Uh, yeah—sorry, I’ve been you know, busy and I wasn’t expecting company—“

Allison ignored him, thankfully, walking over to look at all of his trophies that his father displayed proudly on the top of his bookshelf that housed all of his records instead of books and few other miscellaneous kick knacks he collected over the years.

She picked up a random trophy, looking it over briefly before putting it back on the shelf, just to pick up another one, appraising it before setting it back where she found it.

He watched her, feeling self conscious suddenly at how many trophies he’d won over the years and just how little he cared about them.

“Why are you here?” He asked, curious at her sudden appearance in his room, in his house, which he never dreamed of inviting any of his new found friends to because he didn’t want his father’s scathing remarks to scare any of them away.

He wasn’t ashamed, not by any means, he just wanted one thing in his life that his father’s disapproval didn’t taint.

Allison’s shoulder’s tensed and she shot him a grim smile, “Because I find my home life unsatisfactory.”

Rather than elaborate further, she moved on to his record collection, caressing the spines of each one as if they were a treasure and despite her answer, Andy liked watching her study his records with the same amount of concentration she gave her drawings. When she found one she liked, she removed it gently from the sleeve and placed it in the record player, placing the Aerosmith record back in its place.

The soft notes of Here Come the Sun drifted through the speakers and she began humming along to it as she continued to flip through his records.

“It was my mom’s record,” He found himself admitting to her suddenly, “She used to play it around the house when I was a kid and this was her favorite song. She used to sing it to me every night before bed.”

She looked up from the Quiet Riot album in her hands at his admission, clucking her tongue in response before she looked back down, turning the record over in her hands.

Hey Jude was my dad’s favorite song and that’s what they named my little brother.” She said, placing the record back on the shelf.

Andy furrowed his eyebrows, “I didn’t know you had a younger brother.”

“I don’t.” She replied simply, grabbing a Led Zeppelin album and staring at the cover art intently.

“But you just said—“

“I never said I still had one.” She said, raising an eyebrow.

Confused, Andy decided to leave it alone for now, not sure if this was her bullshitting him or actually being honest. With Allison, it was always hard to decipher whether what was true and what was a lie. It was like playing a never ending game of verbal poker. You never knew what cards she was holding until she revealed them herself.

He noticed her shiver and immediately realized her clothes were soaked through from the rain.

“You’re shivering.” He said dumbly and she arched an eyebrow in response.

“Your clothes, um, they’re still wet, let me—“ He walked over to his dresser and pulled out a clean pair of grey sweats and a long sleeve shirt and just in case she was still cold, an old wrestling sweatshirt that didn’t fit him anymore.

Closing the drawer, he held out the clothes to her as an offering and after a considerate pause, she took them hesitantly.

“Thank you,” she said, setting her bag down on the carpet next to his bean bag chair. She stared at him with a raised brow and with a blush, he pointed to the bathroom, realizing she’d probably want some privacy.

“You can um, take a shower, if you want. You know,” he added at her continued raised eyebrows, “if you’re still cold, the warm water could, uh warm you up?” he finished lamely, rubbing the back of his neck.

She smiled, a quick quirk of her lips, “Thanks, Sporto.”

She walked into the bathroom without further comment and Andy sat down on his bed, dropping his head into his hands.

“You’re such an idiot, Clark.” He muttered to himself, shaking his head. He heard the shower start and he tried not to think about Allison, taking her clothes off and being naked in the shower a mere twenty feet away from him.

She walked here, in the pouring rain, climbed a tree and sat there for how long, trying to get your attention because she’d rather be here than at home, with parents that ignore her presence and you want to think about her naked? Andy thought to himself.

Shaking his head in disgust, he wandered over to his desk and started picking up his homework, shoving it in his bag and moved on to the dirty clothes that littered his floor and the pile of sneakers in the middle of the room that was a tripping hazard to anyone if they got up in the middle of the night for something.

With the Beatles still spinning on the record player, Andy continued to putter around in his room, trying to distract himself from thinking about Allison and a shower in the same train of thought.

His room was almost to the point of someone defining it as clean when he heard the shower turn off, some shuffling and then the door opened, revealing Allison with wet hair framing her makeup free face, drowning in his clothes that looked like they were at least two sizes too big for her and her hands clutching her wet clothes.

She padded out of the bathroom and to where she dropped her bag, dumping her clothes out on top of it, seeming uncaring that they wouldn't dry properly like that and then took up a residence on his bed, watching him with her unflinching brown eyes.

“Feel any better?” He asked her.

She nodded, but otherwise, said nothing.

Andy shifted awkwardly as silence descended over his room and he found himself unsure of what to say.

“My parents went out of town,” Allison said, breaking the silence, “they didn’t even ask if I wanted to go with them. And I don’t like being home alone, so I came here.”

Andy felt his heart squeeze. His parents were a lot of things, his dad mainly, but they would never just ignore him the way Allison’s parents ignored her.

“I wasn't expecting you to be home.” She added, almost accusatory. Her eyes narrowed and her gaze sharpened curiously on him, “Why are you home on a Saturday night?”

Andy shrugged, sitting down a few inches away from her on the bed, “I didn’t feel like going out to any of the parties and I wanted to catch up on some homework.”

Allison glanced at his desk, then back at him with a doubtful look.

“I’m tired of pretending that I fit in with them and I uh,” he cleared his throat, looking down at his sock clad feet, “I’m quitting the team on Monday.”

He was met with a surprised squeak from Allison and he couldn't help but laugh, “Yeah, I uh, I don’t know. I don’t want to keep putting myself through it. I never loved doing it and I just don’t want to keep living my life for someone else.”

Allison continued to stare at him, unflinchingly and then, the tiniest hint of her lopsided smile danced across the edges of her lips, “Are you sure you’re ready to give up the thrown of most popular boy in school?”

Andy sighed with a hint of frustration, “That never mattered to me. The parties, the popularity, none of it means enough to me to keep up the charade of being happy with myself when I’m not.”

He bit his lip, looking down at his carpeted floor and admitted quietly, “I’ve done so many stupid things in order to gain my old man’s approval. What happened with Larry..” he trailed off, his cheeks flushing in shame, “I keep thinking about what Brian told us in detention, the whole wanting to, you know, kill himself,” he flinched, “I just can’t imagine living with myself if what I did to Larry pushed him to do the same thing.”

Andy shook his head, “What kind of person even does that to someone who has never done anything to deserve it? Larry hasn't ever said a word to me or done anything to me, other than just be who he is and I took advantage of someone, just because I knew I could.” He scoffed, “What the hell does that say about me?”

The silence was heavy and Andy couldn't help but feel exposed under Allison’s assessing eyes.

A gentle hand was placed on his shoulder and he looked up into her eyes, that in the dim light of his room, were even a darker brown than they normally were.

“I think that you’re a complete shit head for what you did to Larry,” Allison said bluntly, her voice soft, “but I can understand your reasons for doing it, as crazy as that sounds. People do stupid things to get noticed, to fit in. It doesn't make what you did right, nothing justifies doing what you did to another person, but it also doesn't make you a horrible person either.”
Andy shook his head, “I don’t see how that doesn't make me a horrible person, like you said, there’s no excuse for what I did.”

Allison huffed, “The fact that you feel bad about what you did and you acknowledge that it was wrong, proves that you feel guilty and horrible people don’t feel guilty for what they've done. They only get upset because they got caught.”

Any nodded, not really agreeing, but he was smart enough to allow that she had a point.

“I saw you that day, you know.”

Andy lifted his head, confused, “What day?”

“When you were outside of Vernon’s office, waiting on your dad. I saw you and you didn’t look like someone who was proud of what you did. You looked ashamed and you looked disgusted when your dad patted you on the back, like he was proud of you,” Allison blew her bangs out of her face with a sigh, “that’s how I know you’re not a horrible person.”

Andy flinched involuntarily at the reminder of his dad’s behavior that day, when he stepped out of Vernon’s office. He was angry that he got caught, sure, but Allison was right, he clapped him on the back like he’d just won the championship and walked Andy out of the school with his arm around his shoulder and bragging about the things he did to the “dweebs” when he was in high school.

“Guys screw around, sport, but you just need to learn to not get caught. Next time just be a little bit more careful, okay pal? We don’t want any of this to go on your record, college’s don't give out scholarships to trouble makers.”

“Have you thought about apologizing?” Allison asked, breaking Andy out of his thoughts.

“What’s the point? I wouldn't forgive someone for doing that to me.” Andy said dejectedly.
Allison rolled her eyes, “No offense, Sporto, but it’s not really about forgiveness. That’s up to Larry to decide. But if it were me,” Allison shrugged, looking down at her lap, “I would like to know that at least someone is sorry for all the bad shit they’ve done to me. I wouldn't want anyone to just sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen.”

Andy winced, knowing that the people he hung around with, the girls especially, couldn't have made her high school life easy. Something tightened in his chest at the thought of someone being mean to her, for something as stupid as not fitting in and being herself. It was all so fucking stupid and Andy hated every second of it.

“Besides,” Allison, “I think it would make you feel better or at least be in the step in the right direction, if you’re serious about wanting to change.”

“Monday is gonna suck,” Andy muttered, but he couldn't deny the weight of everything felt a little lighter when he had someone sharing it with him.

Allison shrugged, “Maybe. But you know, you have me to help make it better,” she looked down her lap again, hiding behind the dark curtain of her hair, “you know, if you want to.”

Andy felt that familiar tightening sensation in his chest and without thinking, he brushed her hair from her face, marveling at the softness of it before he tucked it behind her ear, tilting her chin up so he could see her eyes.

“Hey, look at me,” He whispered, happy when she followed his request. Her dark eyes were unsure, but he could see a hardness in them, like she was ready to accept the fact that this was just a one off and wouldn't change come Monday. Like what Claire had all but promised would happen.

“I like you, a lot. And today made me realize that I can’t keep living my life the way I have been. And it’s mostly because of you,” He gave her a lopsided smile, “so I would be more than happy to have you by my side, with or without the makeover that Claire gave you today.”

Allison bit her lip, but Andy saw the brightness in her eyes, the way her shoulders relaxed and how she looked slightly relieved that she didn’t have to change who she was just to keep him interested.

“I like you, too.” She squeaked out and Andy smiled, something like relief and hope blooming in his chest.

He wanted to kiss her, but he didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable or pressured, since they were alone in his room and she was in his clothes and he tried really hard to ignore the fact that he notices a black bra among the clothes that she discarded when she came out of the shower. She came to him, for reasons that were still somewhat unclear and he wanted her to know that he respected her and saw her as more than just someone to get his rocks off with. Andy was a lot of things, most of them unflattering—the whole Larry Lester thing being one of them—but being untoward and disrespectful towards a woman wasn't one of them. He had his mother to thank for that.

And, looking at her, all soft and warm and vulnerable, something protective unfurled in his chest. He knew she could hold her own and didn’t need a knight in shining armor or some henchmen to keep her out of harms way. Or in this case, a group of mean high school girls and immature assholes. It was more than that. He wanted to be her confidant and someone she could trust. He knew she didn’t have many people in her corner and Allison saw something in him that he knew, she wanted that, too.

Allison caught him looking at her and she blushed, looking back down at her lap and began playing with a loose thread in his sweatpants.

She glanced out the window, where the rain was still falling in heavy sheets and she bit her lip, watching the lightening dance across the sky and Andy could feel the reluctance coming off of her in waves at the thought of going back out into that. And going home to an empty house, he was sure, didn’t really motivate her either.

“You can stay,” Andy said suddenly, blushing when she turned to look at him with a raised eyebrow, “You know, i-if you want.” He added lamely, his cheeks flushing.
She eyed him and he felt nervous under her intense stare, shifting on the bed as if he was guilty of something he didn’t do. All of a sudden, she leaned in close, so close Andy could feel the heat of her breath on his lips and smell his shampoo in her hair and whispered, “If you touch me without my permission, I will cut you from your throat to your dick,” she threatened dangerously, dark eyes glinting, “Got it, Sporto?”

Andy nodded, eyes wide, swallowing audibly and she gave him a lopsided grin in response.

He wasn't sure if she was kidding or being serious, he had a feeling it was a mixture of both, but either way, he was enamored by her and he found himself chuckling, shaking his head.

“I’ll sleep on the floor, you can have the bed.” He said, standing up from the bed and heading towards his closet where his mom kept extra pillows and blankets when he used to have sleepovers in middle school. He tossed them on the floor next to his bed, before nodding his head in the direction of the bathroom, “I have an extra toothbrush in the bathroom, if you need one.”

But she was already digging in her bag full of stuff, withdrawing a toothbrush and a travel size tube of toothpaste, “Always prepared, Sporto.” She said, brushing past him into his bathroom.

They brushed their teeth silently and when Andy finished, Allison was washing her face and he used her distraction to change into a tank top and shorts for bed. He usually slept in just his boxers, but he didn't want to make things awkward and he wasn't sure if that would come off as suggestive or not.

When she came out of the bathroom, she pulled the sheets back and settled in and once she was comfortable, Andy shut the lights off and laid down on his spot on the floor, pulling the blanket up to his chest, ignoring the musty smell from being shoved in a closet for years and tried to get comfortable on the itchy carpet.

They laid there in silence, staring up at the ceiling and watching his room light up occasionally from the flashes of lightening. He heard her steady breathing and wondered if she’d fallen asleep.

“My brother, Jude, died when I was eight,” Allison admitted, voice soft, somber, “We used to live on the other side of town, closer to the elementary school and my parents let us walk to school since we lived so close,”

Andy waited with bated breath as he heard her sharp inhale. He knew that inhale, it was the same one he heard not even ten hours ago in the library when she admitted, in the same soft voice, that her parents ignore her very existence.

“We were walking home from school one day and my brother was bouncing a ball he got the week prior for his fifth birthday. I was in a rush, trying to get home and try out my new paint set my grandma had gotten me and Jude was walking too slow for me, so I let go of his hand and started walking a head of him. The next thing I knew, I heard Jude shout for me to wait, because he’d bounced his ball too hard and it bounced into the middle of the street. Before I could yell at him to wait, not to cross the road without me, he ran out into the middle of the street and didn’t see a car coming. The driver didn’t see him either, he was messing with the radio and—“

She cut herself off and Andy didn’t need to hear the rest to know what happened.

“My parents were never the same after that. They sent me to live with my grandparents for a while, but then my grandma got sick and they couldn't take care of me anymore, so I had to go back to my parents, even though I know they didn’t want me. So they just…ignored my existence. I got the basics, clothes, food, but it was like I was a ghost and they never saw me anymore.”

She sighed and he heard the way her voice caught and the small sniffle and his throat tightened, “I think they blame me.”

Andy winced at the hurt in her voice and he knew, pathological liar or not, none of this was a lie.

“It’s not your fault,” Andy whispered fiercely, “you were still a kid, it shouldn’t of been your job to keep an eye on him. And had you been holding his hand, you would've been pulled out into the street with him or if you would've ran out after him, you would've been hit too. They could've lost both kids that day and rather than push you away, they should've held you closer.”

Andy raised himself up on his elbows and found her laying on her side, close to the edge of the bed and staring right back at him. She looked small and fragile, eyes wide and shining with unshed tears and he knew, no matter how hard things might be for himself come Monday, none of it compared to the weight she carried around on her shoulders and why she wanted to runaway. He would too, if his parents treated him that way.

She shrugged her shoulders, playing with the edge of the sheet, “It’s just, I lost him, too, you know? And I just hate being there. I just needed to get out for a while and I wasn't sure where to go and that’s why I came here. To get away for a while. Maybe that’s strange, considering I’ve only known you for a day, but. I can trust you.”

“Yeah,” Andy agreed, “you can.”

Allison smiled, but just as quick as it appeared, it smoothed into her usual unwavering stare, “Night, Sporto.” she murmured, rolling away and settling into the sheets.

Andy smiled, laying back down on his lumpy pillow and itchy carpet, “Night, Allison.”

He looked back up at the ceiling, listening again for her breathing to settle and the soft pitter patter of the light rain on the roof and he thought back to what Allison said, in detention, about how when you grow older, your heart dies. About how becoming your parents was inevitable part of life that you couldn't change.

And maybe she was right, maybe it was inevitable. But Andy knew, that no matter what happened come Monday, things had shifted, in his life. Allison’s life. Even Brian, Bender and Claire couldn't deny that they were all now responsible for making sure that didn’t happen to one another.

He knew, that maybe not on Monday, but some day, they’d look back on that day their worlds shifted and collided and realize that there was a reason they were all placed there on that Saturday in March and even if they didn’t stay friends past that day, they knew there were people in the world that saw them for who they were, not who the world wanted them to be.

And one day, with each others help, they would no longer just be seen as just a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.

They were within control of their own destiny and how the world saw them and how they reacted to the world around them. Andy knew he no longer wanted to be the person every wanted him to be. He wanted to be just Andy, who wasn't sure what he wanted after high school or who he was without his stereotype. He could be who he wanted to be.

And all that started with Monday.