Dear Paige
By Maggie the Cat
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Dear Paige,
I am writing to tell you how I feel since it is Valentine's Day and all. I know you probly--

"Probably. The word you're looking for, Angelo, is 'probably'."

Angelo snatched his letter to his chest with a yelp of surprise, glaring up at Monet. She simply regarded him calmly, sipping at her iced tea. "Private, M! You unnerstand the meaning of private?" he snapped, feeling hot color rise in his cheeks. "I don' come look at your coloring books, do I?!?"

Monet blinked, then tossed her perfect black hair, sticking her perfect nose up. "D'accord. If you think that an illiterate love letter will convince Paige that you are the man for her, then by all means, write 'probly'."

"Yeah, I will!!" Angelo yelled at her retreating back.

As soon as she rounded the corner, he hastily erased the offending word.

I know you probably already kinda know how I feel about you, and I figure that since you broke up with Jono like a month ago it should be fine for me to say this. You are all I think about. You're on my mind when I wake up and the sun shines through my window. You go to bed with me--

"What's this?"

Once again Angelo's thought process was rudely interrupted, this time in the form of a small brightly-clad dynamo by the name of Jubilee. She snatched the paper away from him and danced about the room, evading Angelo with no real effort. "Izzit a loooove letter, Ange? Betcha I know who it's for! Betcha I do!"

"Betcha I break your neck when I catch you, Jubilee!" he growled, thvipping his fingers out to catch the squealing girl and drag her struggling backwards across the sofa.

"'...through my go to bed with...!!' Holy cripes!" Jubilee flopped onto her stomach, staring up at Angelo with huge, rounded eyes, never minding that he pulled the paper irately from her fingers. "I was being romantic," he said through gritted teeth. "Not literal."

Jubilee snickered. "Ooooh, Ange, I didn't know you were a poet!" she giggled. "I gotta tell Ev about this!"

Angelo grinned slowly at her. "Sure, mijita. An' while you're at it, tell'im all about how it's your teddy bear wearin' the baseball shirt Ev...ahem...'lost'."

Her slanted eyes narrowed and she tightened her lips. "Fine. Not a word ta anyone."

Gathering his notepad and pencil, Angelo smiled. "Wouldn't dream of it."

Five minutes later, curled up in Artie's and Leech's treehouse, Angelo tried to regain his train of thought.

You go to bed with me and dance through my dreams. When I'm miserable, the thought of you takes some of the weight off my heart. Just those tiny, dumb things you do--even the things that drive me loco--every one of them makes me love you that much more. I know I'm not--

"Ange! You up there?"

Closing his eyes, Angelo thumped the back of his head against the wall a few times before answering.

"Yeah, Ev. Que pasa?"

"I left my cap with Artie yesterday. The blue one? Is it there?"

"Yeah. Jus' a sec."

Leaning over, Angelo snagged Everett's baseball cap from the branch it had been impaled on and tossed it down, smiling slightly and uncharitably when Everett's moans of despair came floating up.

"Look at it! Oh, jeez! They don't have anything else of mine up there, do they?"

Angelo sighed. "I dunno. I don't think so."

Silence from down below, and then creaking wood.

"I'd better check for myself," Everett muttered, looking up to see Angelo swinging down from the treehouse and disappearing off towards the campus.

It was cold, uncomfortable, and not very condusive to romantic thoughts, but the bathroom stall Angelo wedged himself into was definitely private.

Propping his feet up against the door, he braced the notepad against his legs and tapped the pencil's eraser on his nose, pondering.

I know I'm not all serious and deep like Jono, and hell, he's probably better-looking than me even with the face and all. But if you'd find it in your heart to give me a try, Country Mouse, maybe we could--

The door to the bathrooms swung open and Angelo froze as footsteps echoed.

Under the door of his stall, he could see black combat boots come in, stop, and turn...a grimace creased Angelo's face as the boots came to rest pointing unerringly towards his hiding place.

::Er...Ange?:: Jono sounded curious and slightly amused. ::Do I even want t'know what ye're doing in there?::

"I...uhhhh...well, I was jus' lookin' to...." Angelo stammered, floundering. "Uhh...what're you in here for?" he finished lamely.

There was a beat before the answer came, tinged with sarcasm. ::I wanted t'brush me teeth.::

"Ohh...ha! Haah ha!" Angelo gave a loud, fake laugh, flushing the toilet madly to cover the crackly noise while he stuffed the paper inside his shirt.

He sauntered out and clapped Jonothon's shoulder.

"Tha's funny, man," Angelo said, beaming widely. "Brush your teeth. Haaah." He could feel the paper slipping as he headed for the door, trying not to be too obvious about clutching it to his chest.

Jono watched, bemused. ::Heart problems, mate?::

"Wha-? Oh, oh yeah, hahh hah haa! Yeah, keep it up, man!"

The bathroom door shut behind Angelo and he cringed at the inanity of his remarks. Jono must think he was completely loony.

Oh, well.

The things you'd do for love.

Although ants kept marching across his paper and there were leaves and itty-bitty green caterpillars dropping from the trees, lying outside was still better for writing love-letters than the antiseptic bathroom.

Angelo chewed desperately at his pencil, hoping that it had absorbed his thoughts at last writing and would give them back to him now.

But if you'd find it in your heart to give me a try, Country Mouse, maybe we could find what we're both missing. This might not be true for you but I'm pretty lonely, and if I knew that I had you to hold me in your arms and run your fingers through my hair and soothe everything away then I think I could really be--

"What's this? The City Mouse doing a little slumming in the country?"

Paige's warm cornflower-blue eyes met Angelo's startled brown ones as he sat up against the tree trunk, staring at her, jaw hanging slightly agape.

He caught himself and managed a smile, although it was nervous at best.

"Hey, even us City Mice can do with a lil' tree-hugging once inna blue moon."

That was good. A throwaway line with the usual mocking tang to it. She shouldn't notice a thing.

Paige snorted, shoving her hands into the pockets of her favourite worn coveralls. "Whutever."

Angelo sighed in relief and Paige smiled, her attention focused now on the late morning view of the campus grounds.

"Ah love that fresh spring smell in the air," she mused, closing her eyes. "An' the sun, an' that gentle whisper of wind, just so ya don't feel too hot..."

She turned her rapturous face up to the warm fingers of sunlight and Angelo felt his heart hitch in his chest at the way her suddenly luminous hair framed her face, the way the sun flecked her smooth skin with gold.

He was still staring, transported, when Paige looked over at him and down at the notebook and grubby pencil he was clutching.

"What're ya writing?" she inquired, craning her neck to see.

Angelo shot to his feet, slamming the book against his chest. "Writing? Oh, nuthin'. Y'know, jus' that essay we're supposed t'write. The homework."

Paige was dubious. "Homework," she repeated. "That's...responsible of ya."

"You know me, chica. Responsiblilty's my middle name."

"Uh-huh." Paige folded her arms. "Well, ah can help ya with it. Read it to me."

Angelo twitched.

"C'mon, Ange! It can't be that bad!"

She was smiling. She was enjoying seeing him squirm.

Angelo felt a sudden rush of defiance that overwhelmed any awkward mushy feelings. Fine. She wanted him to read it, fine.

He cleared his throat and began.

"Dear Paige." Angelo snuck a glance at her and was satisfied to see a crease between those delicate blonde eyebrows. He continued with aplomb, almost savouring it.

"I am writing to tell you how I feel since it is Valentine's day and all."

The words caught in his dry throat, ringing hollowly in the silent air, and suddenly this didn't seem like such a good idea anymore. Angelo was starting to feel like a lovesick idiot, with Paige just standing there and not saying a thing or reacting in any way.

His voice cracked as he read on.

"I know you probably already kinda know..."

Trailing off, Angelo looked up from the paper at Paige, his eyes carrying the force of his emotions; he wanted her to know how he felt, despite how uncomfortable the telling was. Wanted to have something happen--one way or another.

And his message was obviously getting across. Her arms still folded, Paige was blinking profusely, a faint blush of color in her cheeks, her breathing rapid, biting a corner of her lip.

"Know what?" she whispered, her voice small.

" I feel about you...." Angelo murmured, taking a step closer.

Paige breathed his name, helpless, and closed her eyes when she felt his mouth claim hers.

The notebook fluttered from his hand and lay whiffling at their feet, touched by the same breeze that blew strands of Paige's bright hair against Angelo's face and streaked them both with gold.