Whoa, another chapter! Thanks to everyone for the wonderful reviews-the unanimous opinion was that I should continue this as a serious story, so here it is.

All you need to know: It's night, Duncan's in his trailer, and he's rather confused.


Chapter 2: The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

It must have been destiny. Karma? No—fate. The will of the almighty Lord above, or whoever it was who saw over the affairs of mal-doing delinquents and disgraceful teens. Duncan figured that was the only explanation for why he was still lying in his bunk as opposed to some dilapidated limousine on the way to the Aftermath show.

…Or so Owen had told him. Apparently, a talk show was waiting for them after the competition, but the idea of an Aftermath sounded far-fetched in Duncan's mind. Who would want to re-watch stuff that had already happened on television? He wasn't sure of exactly what was going on with the losers, wherever they were, but since Owen had come back, the lard had been acting weird, giving Duncan the feeling that he was no longer someone to be trusted completely. Call it his criminal instincts.

In any case, Duncan hoped Owen was lying about the Aftermath; the idea of not being able to head back to a Playa Des Losers-type place after the show ended was beyond depressing. What else was there to live for? Besides the million, of course—but that was obvious.

Fate must have been on his side. Why else would Lindsay have voted herself off? Duncan had known she was stupid, but not being able to tell the difference between her pretty face and Duncan's pierced one was a whole new brand of dumb. Oh well. Duncan wasn't going to ask questions, just so long as he'd made it through another Awards Ceremony.

It was a shame that Lindsay had gone home instead of Beth, though. Lindsay was better to look at, not to mention Duncan would have rather faced off against her in the finals. All he would've had to do to win against Barbie was tell her that the money was contaminated with ugly fumes, which would make her hideous if she spent the cash. She'd have been out of there quicker than Duncan at a crime scene! Piece of cake.

Beth, on the other hand, was a different matter entirely. Duncan got the feeling she wouldn't be tricked with stories of ugly fumes. And, Duncan thought, snickering to himself, she was already ugly, so why would it matter? Oh, so judgmental, the angel on his shoulder chastised while the devil spat back, Life is cruel, isn't it?

It was these thoughts of the other girls that lead him straight to thoughts of Courtney. Duncan didn't have a clue why; Beth, Lindsay, and Courtney were separate beings entirely, which should have been kept in independent spectrums of his mind. Unfortunately, nearly all trains of thought had been leading into the Station of Courtney lately, despite Duncan's best efforts at rerouting the tracks.

He pulled his arms out from under the blankets and folded them behind his head, trying to clear his mind of all thoughts. He'd heard it was a good technique for getting to sleep, emptying the brain. It was tough, and the mental silence generally didn't last for more than a few seconds before his mind spat something random and stupid at him, but at least it alerted him as to what was at the forefront of his thoughts.

…Courtney probably used that technique too, what with all the yogic jib-jab and meditative breathing she was always doing. She probably would have approved of—

Goddammit! Duncan cursed internally, cutting off the idea. So much for emptying my mind.

The thing was, Duncan was just so. Dang. Confused. While on the film lot, was he supposed to turn himself blue in the face going after this—this girl? Whoever lived upstairs definitely didn't intend for him to win the million dollars; that was the equivalent of unlimited bail money! He could get away with whatever he wanted with that kind of cash! No, that wasn't why he was there (probably. Who knew for sure?), and though he was all for fighting against the fates, he should have had some other goal too.

Probably.

God, was life complicated or was it extremely complicated? His job would've been ten times easier if Courtney hadn't gone berserk and lost all hints of appreciation for his felonious (yet loveable!) antics. However, she had completely and utterly lost interest, and every time Duncan tried to pull her back, she shut him down without a second glance, claiming the competition was "more important than any sort of relationship I might maintain with the likes of you."

Sure, this was true for both of them; Duncan was intent on winning too, but it wasn't like he was going to stab out his eyeballs if he didn't get invincibility every week! He was going to win—he was determined—but he was also bent on having at least a little fun along the way. Princess, though…she wasn't even a Princess anymore. The nickname just didn't fit after all that had gone down. She'd been acting more like an evil dictator than royalty.

Things were just different, no matter how much Duncan tried to trick himself into thinking they were the same. Maybe this all called for a new nickname entirely. Mussolini? Hitler? Stalin?

Still in bed, he moaned internally. He was sounding like such a girl! All stupid and contemplative and emotional and "oh, boo-hoo, what am I going to do with my life?" He was channeling sap like an oak tree; he could feel it melting him from the inside. Those evil, sugary, oak tree minions… If Courtney ever had a sappy guy, she'd pulverize him until he was nothing more than a gooey pile of syrupy crud. No! Duncan thought. There is no way I'm turning into a pile of syrupy crud. Not now, not ever.

At this, all his thoughts looped right back to where he'd started the night. Was it even worth it, trying to break through Courtney's shell of infinite evil, which she'd obviously created in an attempt at actually winning the season? (Ha! Fat chance. Duncan could only keep her out of trouble for so long.) Breaking such a shell sounded like a really difficult and possibly not-worth-the-trouble task, but his only other option was to duck out and cut his losses, accepting that the fun of last season was over, never to be found again.

Geoff and DJ were gone. Owen was being weird, to say the least. Even making fun of Harold was losing its original hilarity since there was no audience to appreciate Duncan's sense of humor. If he couldn't turn to Courtney, what would happen? He'd be forced to befriend Beth, that was what! And that idea was just plain gross.

God, all those thoughts were so lame! To Duncan's mind—he was wide awake, despite everything, as his best thinking was often done at night—cutting losses sounded a whole lot like giving up, which wasn't something that was going to fly. He needed some stunt to pull, a last-ditch attempt at hooking his girl before giving up on her entirely and turning his attention to, say, Heather.

He shuddered where he lay, shoving his arms back under the covers to get rid of his goosebumps. God, Heather. Wooing her did not sound like fun, but was there any other choice? A man not playing the field was a man without any game, and a man without any game was hardly a man at all. And Duncan? He was a man. A manly man. Not guitar-wielding-cliché Trent or thinks-he's-cool Cody.

Duncan was the real deal, and he knew it.

But, back to the topic of mass concern, judging by the conversation he'd had with Courtney earlier that day, there was nothing he could do for her while stranded on the film lot—nothing she wanted that she didn't already have, thanks to her lawyerly hook-up. After all, when it got down to it, all Duncan had on him was a lighter, a knife, and his very identity, none of which Courtney would want. Not a chance.

But suddenly, mulling over the words exchanged between them earlier, it struck him: She didn't want his lighter, nor his knife. But his identity? That was something he always had to offer…

Man. He really did get his best thinking done at night.

"Pssssssssst! Guys, wake up," Duncan hissed, leaning over the edge of his top bunk to face Owen, who was sleeping below. "Owen, wake up!"

"Whaaaaa?" the boy mumbled, peeling his eyes open one by one. "Time for the all-you-can-eat buffet already? But we haven't even finished the waffle eating contest…" After a moment of vague indecision, his eyes drifted shut once more, and he lapsed back into sleep.

Groaning, Duncan hopped down from his bunk and jabbed Owen in the shoulder with a bare toe, pulling on yesterday's shirt with his hands. "Snap out of it, Fatty!" he yelled, jerking Owen awake. "I have business that needs doing, at it involves the two of you… Kind of."

Owen snapped his eyes open wide, trying to make sense of the shadowy darkness surrounding him. "Ah! Duncan!" And then, looking around in disappointment, he added, "You're not a fudge sundae."

"No dip," Duncan muttered sarcastically. "Thanks for noticing." He turned to Harold's bed, on the opposite wall. "Harold? You awake?" Receiving no response, Duncan lathered up one finger with spit and proceeded to give the sleeping boy a Wet Willy.

Letting out a disgusted, choking sort of noise, Harold feebly swatted Duncan's hand away from his ear. A second later, he pulled his head up off his pillow and squinted into the darkness. "Well, I'm up now," he wheezed, reaching under the bed for his glasses. Upon finding them and shoving them onto his face, he turned to the wall-mounted clock. "Duncan, it's the middle of the night," he stated, wincing at the horrendous hour. "What's going on?"

Duncan fished through his duffel bag, producing a pair of rather unclean socks and shoving them over his freezing toes. "Does either of you have a Sharpie?" he asked his roommates, spinning around on the ground to face them.

"A Sharpie?" Owen repeated groggily, still recovering from the realization that his marvelous dream had been, once again, not real.

"Yeah, a Sharpie," Duncan shot back, hopping around on one foot in an attempt to put on his shoes in the dark. "You know, a marker. Like a pencil, but with ink?" Giving up, he plopped down onto the ground and tugged on the difficult Converses. Then again, it might have helped if he'd untied the shoelaces first…

Harold readjusted his glasses and rolled over in bed to face Duncan, who sat on the floor next to him. "What do you need a Sharpie for, anyway?" he asked, mildly intrigued, even in his sleep-deprived state.

"None of your business, nerd!" Duncan retorted, shoving Harold's curious face away with one hand. "Just get me a damn Sharpie and you can return to Dreamland."

Harold yawned, kicking off his covers and sitting on the edge of his mattress, skinny legs dangling off the side. "I can hardly imagine," he began grumpily, "that whatever you need a marker for is quite comparable to the benefits of a good night's slee—"

Duncan rolled his eyes and grabbed the red-head by the neck of his shirt, pulling him up and off the ground. "You don't want to finish that sentence," Duncan threatened, his narrowed eyes cutting through the darkness.

Harold yawned again and actually dared finish his sentence. "—sleep!" he squeaked out, his voice even more strangled than usual because of Duncan's hold on his shirt. Whether Harold had finished the sentence because his exhaustion had impaired his judgment or because he'd just happened to develop balls on that particular night, Duncan would never know.

Either way, such rebellion was unacceptable. Duncan knew, he was barely getting through the competition by riding on his fear-factor alone. If he didn't have that, it was over, and he realized it. "You're going to pay for that, dork," he threatened, throwing Harold to the ground. He towered over the boy, who instantly curled up into a self-defensive ball, but Duncan merely nudged him in the side with his foot. "But not tonight."

Harold visibly relaxed.

Giving up on his chicken-legged opponent for the time being, Duncan turned back to Owen (and released a loud "Dude, you're kidding me!"), who once again appeared to be asleep. "OWEN!" he yelled in his ear, effectively waking him up and scaring the poor boy half to death. "Bro, I need you to stay awake for me."

After a minute or so, Owen, breathing heavily but no longer on the brink of having a heart attack, pouted and gave Duncan a pleading look. "Whyyyyyyyyyy?" he whined. "I'm tired!"

"Agreed," Harold mumbled, pulling himself off the floor and collapsing back into his bunk.

"Guys, seriously," Duncan started, appealing to the pair in front of him. "I don't see what the big deal is. Tomorrow's not a challenge day," he explained. "Sleep in through breakfast and call it even. What's the issue?"

Owen's fell straight out of his bed, eyes widened in disbelief. "SLEEP THROUGH BREAKFAST?!" he questioned. "BLASPHEMY!" Fortunately for him, he'd been sleeping on a bottom bunk that night (on account of Chef's macaroni and cheese. He'd gone overboard with his evening food consumption, and getting himself into a top bunk had seemed literally impossible afterwards.) Therefore, the fall was more of a slight tumble than a plunge downward to the trailer floor, which had also happened before and left an Owen-shaped dent in the floor.

Duncan face-palmed, standing there for a moment before pulling his head back up. "Dear God." Running a hand through his Mohawk, he asked more forcefully, "Who has a Sharpie? One of you has to!"

Owen was still floundering around on the carpet, trying to get himself standing again, so Duncan turned to Harold and held out an open hand expectantly.

Harold faced him and, to Duncan's great annoyance, put nothing into his outstretched palm. "Sorry, Duncan, but I don't have one. Besides, even if I did, I don't think I'd give it to y—"

Duncan raised his fists, targeting Harold's nose. "Wanna bet?"

Harold ducked down hastily, covering his face. Thinking back on it, Duncan realized it had been a smart move on behalf of the ginger—Duncan surely would've punched him if it weren't for the slight inconvenience of the defensive position.

A few seconds later, sensing no violence, Harold straightened up. "I really don't have any markers, Duncan. I much prefer pencils. I find that when there isn't the pressure of not making an error for fear of being unable to erase, I perform my calculations to a much higher standard than if—"

Duncan held up a hand to stop him, rolling his eyes. "Owen?" he inquired, turning to the largest of the three boys.

He turned out his pockets for Duncan, revealing about a pound of candy wrappers but no markers. "Sorry, dude," Owen said, chuckling nervously.

Duncan groaned. "Man, you guys are useless!" Flipping the lights on full blast just to demonstrate his irritation, Duncan threw open the trailer door and busted out into the night. A second later, after the door had banged shut, he heard the sounds of a great collision inside, followed by the proclamation, "I'm fine, gosh! Just turn off the lights, Owen!" and then, in response, "Oh, Great Grandpa Eliezer, I'm blind! Ohhhhhh, I'm blind! I can't see!"

Duncan snickered. Sure, they hadn't gotten him a Sharpie, but at least he'd gotten his revenge quickly and easily.

Were there no writing utensils in that entire place? None at all? Maybe they were hidden somewhere secret, for staff use only. They probably were, because even Duncan, a mastermind when it came to finding things that weren't supposed to be found, wasn't having much luck locating a simple Sharpie. It was all pretty ridiculous.

He'd already raided his whole trailer and checked the Craft Services tent, neither yielding any results. Plus, the one eye he'd kept on the ground in hopes of finding a dropped pen had turned out useless as well. People were just too dang careful at that place, which Duncan found ironic considering the life-threatening situations he was thrown into just about daily.

So, fifteen minutes later, he found himself on his hands and knees in the washrooms, searching for something—anything—that would write. That wasn't a pencil. A pencil wouldn't work.

It was an emergency of sorts. Or, from his perspective it was. If you called feeling the overwhelming need to carry off a prank on Courtney an emergency, then it was an emergency.

Duncan knew that checking the washrooms for markers was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but he was determined to get his plan executed by the end of the night. Waiting another day would have lessened the impact, therefore decreasing the overall effect and making the whole ordeal more or less useless.

Still on his hands and knees, Duncan searched under the counter for eyeliner, or mascara, or whatever it was those girls used to make themselves attractive. Lindsay probably used a lot of make-up, and as scatterbrained as she was, Duncan figured something must have gotten left behind when she'd left. Stuck between the sink and the mirror, rolled off the counter… He didn't care what he found or where he found it just so long as it wrote on human skin. That was the only requirement.

It seemed, however, that the girls were more careful with their glitter and crap than Duncan had originally anticipated; absolutely nothing had been left on the floor! Well, there was a fair amount of mess on the floor, but Duncan found it nauseating, best left ignored. The filth was, in fact, so sickening that Duncan (who was no germaphobe, mind you) felt the uncontrollable desire to wash his hands fifty times and then bust out of there sprinting.

But, back to the whole point of his being there, nothing good was on the floor, and Duncan couldn't understand why not! Eyeliner was just a pencil, right? That was, like, 99 cents worth of wood. Couldn't Lindsay have just…left one behind? One? Girls kept hundreds, and besides, how hard was it to let a pencil roll away?

Momentarily stumped, Duncan peeled his hands off the floor and stood, grimacing at the sticky pop! the tile made upon separation from his skin. Disgusting.

He sighed. He'd already wasted about 15 minutes searching in there and figured it would be best to check out. After all, it wouldn't do for someone to catch him in the washrooms, in the middle of the night, dressed, on the search for make-up. No—what he was planning required the element of surprise. Compromising this by having to explain himself to anyone was totally out of the question.

It was for this very reason that the following words struck a slight sense of panic into his heart, even mumbled by Beth as they were:

"…Duncan? Is that you? What are you doing in here?"

CRAP! Duncan hadn't planned on meeting anyone. He was unprepared. It wasn't like he could explain everything away as your average, middle-of-the-night urges—one look at him and even Lindsay would have known he wasn't up for midnight pit-stop—but he couldn't just run straight out of there either, not without Beth figuring out that something was fishy.

The wheels in Duncan's brain started spinning on overdrive. If Beth found out what he was up to, she would go back and tell Courtney, and that would have been the death of an extremely clever idea. Duncan couldn't let that happen.

Trying to pick a course of action, he stood frozen by the sinks, staring at Beth and her more-sideways-than-usual ponytail. Explain or run? Explain or run? Explain or…convince her she was dreaming! She looked tired! It had to work, so it was going to. Simple.

Instantly breaking into a completely improvised, 100 percent retarded interpretive dance, Duncan bounced around Beth, chanting brightly, "This is only a dream… This is a dream, Beth… This is just a dream…" Casting another sideways glance in the baffled girl's direction, he executed a couple of high kicks before dropping to the ground and starting The Worm, repeating, "You are asleep… You are asleep…"

Beth blinked at him and rubbed her lenses-free eyes ferociously, trying to peer through her fuzzy vision and figure out what on Earth was going on. "Wait, Duncan," she said, nearly incoherently, stumbling over to a sink. "I'm not aslee…" But suddenly, comprehension dawned in her little eyes. "Oh my gosh. This really is a dream, isn't it?"

Duncan chuckled to himself, skipping around and waving his arms in the air like a young child. "You're sleeping… You're asleep… This is all a dream, Beth! A dream!" he called out in a wistfully mellow voice, doing his best not to start guffawing in the middle of the charade.

After about a minute of more sissy dancing and stupid chants, Duncan ran out the washrooms, fairly certain that he'd done a fine enough job of acting dream-like. Poking his head back through the door one last time, he whispered, "This never happened," before leaving Beth alone, confused, and thinking that she was unconscious.

Duncan was wandering away from the washrooms, pleased with himself and his acting skills, when he realized: he still didn't have anything to write with.


Oh, Duncan, you clever devil, you. Why, oh why, are you so bent on finding a marker?

Haha. I hope you all enjoyed that! It's a bit of a side-project for me, which I'm working on in my spare time. You know, The Art Of Pretending It Isn't Your Fault is taking top priority. At any rate, please review if you're interested to see where this story is going!

Thanks for reading!

~Rina