Strange Paths

Carolina's life has been far from normal. A cross-dressing father, rich friends, a position as a personal manager in the 'elite' 1D studio...she couldn't believe life could get any weirder than this. Maybe she shouldn't have tempted fate.

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2. Just the way ΤΗΣΨ are!

''So, Caroly'' Zayn and Jayn murmured from the doorway as the twins walked into class the next morning, sauntering gracefully to stop beside her chair. Looking up from the paper she'd been putting the finishing touches on she smiled tiredly, not quite seeing the mischief flickering in their eyes.

''Yes?'' she asked. She expected some sort of wisecrack or joke. What she didn't expect, however, was the shock that rocketed through her as two hands brushed her neck, one on either side just below her jawline. She nearly jumped out of her hair.

''What the – stop that!'' she squeaked, the high pitch of her voice startling her and making her tormenters grin wildly.

''You look so tense, Caroly~'' Zayn murmured, leaning down so that she could feel his gentle breath against her earlobe as he spoke. On the other side Jayn traced a single finger down the length of her arm.

''We wanted to see if we could help you relax,''he whispered.She snorted, determined not to let them get to her.

''Not likely. Stop playing around, you two. Geez.'' Hearing the steel under her calm voice the two shared a glance and took their seats beside her.

''In all seriousness, Caroly'' Jayn began, his twin taking up the thread of the conversation as they handed it back and forth with their typical ease.

''Is everything okay?''

''The way you laid into Lou yesterday -''

''Which was awesome, we just wanted to say -''

''And then when you left before recording started -''

''Well, we just wanted to make sure everything was okay.''

''And to see if there was anything we could help with,'' they finished in unison. She looked up into her friends' mirror-image expressions of genuine caring. She felt a warmth spread through her at the concern her two friends felt for her and it made her smile.

''Really, guys, I'm okay. I've just...had a lot on my mind lately. It all just kind of boiled over with Louis yesterday. I really do need to apologize.''

''Why?'' they asked, honestly curious. She sighed.

''Because – well, because he's only so overprotective of me because he cares...''

''Too much,'' muttered Zayn, but only his twin heard him as She was still talking.

''...and even though it makes me mad, I do understand that he worries. I mean, it doesn't make the way he coddles me okay, not at all, but I do know why he does. And I did hurt his feelings yesterday.''

''But Caroly, didn't you mean everything you said?'' Jayn asked.

''Of course I did. I just – well, I don't want to apologize for what I said, but for the fact that it hurt him. Does that make sense?''

''Yeah.'' he nodded, not needing to look to know Zayn was agreeing as well. Just then the teacher entered the room and all conversation died down.

For once the Malik's were quiet through the class, not whispering or poking at her as was their usual habit. Far from being content with a quiet study time, though, to Carolina's shock she began to feel...well, bored. So it was with her typical emotionless exterior but a happy inner smile that she picked up a note tossed carelessly under her arm onto her lap when the teacher turned away.

~What are you doing for the break next weekend?~

Carolina debated on what to reply. On one hand, she knew that if she told them her plans they'd try to find some way to change her mind or invite themselves along. On the other hand they were her closest friends and would be hurt if she kept them in the dark. Sighing, she opted for the truth.

~I'm not sure, really. I'm thinking of taking a couple days to get away from everything. But nothing's set yet.~ The next time the instructor turned to face the board Carolina flicked the note back to Zayn. Not long after, it ended up in her lap again.

~Can we come?~ Predictable, so much so that she rolled her eyes, as was the wide-eyed, innocent expression on their faces when she glanced over.

~That kind of defeats the purpose of getting away from everything, doesn't it?~

~You want to get away from US?~ She chuckled at the fact that she could hear their voices in her head, the slightly panicked tone she imagined likely not far from accurate.

~Not you specifically, no. But I'd like to go somewhere alone, maybe a beach, sit on a big rock and watch the ocean and just think about things.~ When she managed to sneak the note back to them she saw them both lean over to read it. This time it was Jayn's writing in the reply she got.

~We know you want to be alone, but the group has plans to head to one of the Horan's private beaches. It's a large enough place that you could be alone with yourself whenever you want, but we'd all still be nearby in case you needed us.~ She read the note over twice, weighing it in her mind before scribbling a reply.

~I don't know. How would we keep Louis from finding out? He'd insist on hanging around and pulling me over with everyone, and that WOULD defeat the purpose of getting away.~

~We can handle that. We'll get Harry to help. But the decision is up to you – we just suggested it. It's not like we'll kidnap you or make you come at gunpoint or anything. Please, Carolina? We'll beg on our knees if you want. Let us help you.~ The bell rang then, ending the written conversation, and Carolina simply tucked the note in the folder with her assignment, placing the folder back in her bag.

''So you'll think about it, right Caroly?'' Jayn asked.

''Maybe,'' she replied noncommittally as they walked from the classroom, the three of them making quite a picture for the female fangirls behind them. Carolina, as usual, was oblivious, but the two walking on either side of her were not. With a wink over their shoulders at their adoring observers, they swung their arms around her waist, both of them leaning their heads on her shoulders.From behind them came the low thuds of heads hitting the floor as a good contingent of the watching girls fainted dead away. The sound drew Carolina back to the present and she growled at her companions.

''You two are impossible.'' The twins grinned at each other before leaning closer.

''Yes we are but -'' Jayn whispered in her ear, sending shivers through her that she hoped the stopped before they were noticed.

''- you love us this way,'' Zayn finished, flicking his tongue out lightly to catch her earlobe.

''Stop it!'' she groused, speeding up so that she was a little bit in front of them. Hopefully they didn't see how much they affected her. But they were right, she thought ruefully. She loved them just the way they were. With a sigh Carolina headed to her next class, unaware of the diabolical look her shadows traded as they followed.

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The day passed as it usually did, classes and work and annoyingly entertaining twins, and by the time Carolina had sorted through the majority of her thoughts about her upcoming apology (and, she knew, Louis' guaranteed overly enthusiastic behavior) she was walking into her last class of the day, her two ever-present tormenters right behind her. Opening her assignment folder to get her classwork out, she was startled as the younger Malik deftly snatched their note from the pile. He sat down next to her, Zayn on his other side, both of them grinning wickedly.

''Just in case we get bored,'' they said in tandem as Carolina rolled her eyes for the billionth time that day.

''If you get bored you could always try paying attention,'' she grumbled as she turned back to her work. Soon enough, she felt the familiar tap of folded paper on her lap. Waiting for a lull in the lecture she opened up the latest missive.

~You know, if you stayed in our cabin at the beach we could make sure you weren't disturbed.~ Her insides flopped alarmingly at the images that sentence evoked.

~What? Why would I do that?~ she wrote back, refusing to let them see how flustered she was.

~Well, we'd likely be out all day, and it's not like anyone would really risk coming into our room at night.~

~Why not? They disturb me regardless of the hour.~ She knew her friends could pick up her grumbling even through a written conversation. Sure enough she heard muted chuckles beside her.

~Think about it.~ Three simple words, but she looked up to find them both looking at her,dark provoking eyes half-lidded and smiles full of pure sin. Zayn's hand gently slid along his brother's jawline, causing Jayn to lean his head back and exhale softly. Carolina gasped as she caught on and immediately turned back to her notes and a lecture she couldn't hear over the pounding of her heart in her ears. She knew she was blushing like a rose but she refused to give them a satisfaction of a reply. Soon enough a slender hand snagged the note from her pile of papers, only to return it a few minutes later, Jayn's writing plain.

~You know we like teasing you,babe. You don't have to take my brother's cocked-up idea as gospel. Still, please say you'll think about coming with us. We'll make sure you're left alone whenever you want. We just like knowing you're close.~

The bell rang, saving her the need to write back, and once more the note was tucked away in her assignment folder. Gathering her things, she turned to face her friends.

''I'll think about it'' she said with a sigh. In the next instant she was engulfed in two pairs of warm, strong arms.

''This will be awesome!'' they exclaimed, for once the entire trio unaware of the gaping fangirls surrounding them. Carolina, trapped solidly between two of the most beautiful guys she knew, squirmed.

''Hey, I only said I'd think about it!'' she protested. She felt Zayn's head drop until his lips brushed her ear.

''You won't be sorry,'' he whispered. With a jerk she slid out of their grasp.

''Something tells me I shouldn't bank on that,'' she muttered, allowing them to each take one of her hands ans walking with them out of class and up to the studio.

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