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3,301 You Wish You Were Me

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About AusGlitterati

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    Manic Poster

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    Books, shows, games, movies, writing. I like to spend as much of my free time as I can in another universe.

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  1. But the snakes are alive from nothing! Do they know that their entire purpose in life is just to give the royal sorcerers the heebie jeebies?? Poor things! I've enjoyed all of ObicanDecko's stories, but Fairyfly is possibly my favourite of them. It was innovative, fun and highly enjoyable, imo a reflection of the author himself! I can't recommend it enough! Read it, adore it and leave some love for the talented author the spin-off/sequel story is every bit as fantastic and expands on an already terrific universe. Thanks for everything, friend! ❤️
  2. And FINALLY we are introduced to the best character in the story, Kit! ... and also his big brother, Tyler. Tyler's sincerity & love for his family is so heartwarming and sweet. I enjoyed reading about it a lot. Awww Tyler's performance anxiety when he was a baby hurts. He's a whole pecious. Those salamander names are LIT 😏 "Lovecraftfan4ever" On the other hand, Anchboi and AdmiralSteel can take a long stroll off a short pier, thanks. It's lovely to see that Stanson has love and support from elsewhere in his family if his parents have dropped the ball. I'd like to talk about Marcus, but I don't use profanity in the comments section, so we'll just skip over that <redacted> piece of <redacted.> Here's hoping Ash doesn't get a mouthful of venom from kissing a snake. 👀
  3. Truth or fire sounds like literally the most terrifying party game I've ever heard of. 0 It's a real shame that Ash is doing his darnedest to be genuine & real with his music but his label just isn't having it you conveyed his disappointment perfectly. Cliff Sanders sounds cool enough in the introduction - savvy & eccentric - but the disappointment is echoed when you realise he's a tool. Stanson continues to be a sassy sweetheart who forever makes me grin, but I hope he snatches the weave from the JUDAS!! 😠 But watch him make the most of it! For he is our Stanson!! "Keen as a bean." - pfft, who actually says that?? 🙄
  4. AusGlitterati

    Off the Rails

    Fem queen Stanson and his relationship with Anna always makes me smile! Out and about, doing whatever the hell he likes. On the other hand, Ash is a lot more reserved and subtle, but no less fun to read about. A shame his career dictates the way he lives, and Marcus definitely isn't helping things with that relentless jealousy. Your writing is intoxicating, as always! You set a scene to perfection and your characters spring to life off the webpage. I always get lost in what's going on Great introduction to a terrific story! ❤️
  5. Hehehe she did! Made a fool of herself & left empty handed I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you for being so supportive! x Thank you so much the studio played them, but with the money in their pockets, I don't think anyone minds... except maybe Casey 😏 Hehehe it's likely! She was pretty frustrating to write, so I don't have any sympathy for her. She's very lucky she didn't walk in front of a bus on her way out! 🙃 Thank you so much for reading, commenting & helping me out! ❤️ I appreciate it a lot! Good! Thank you for reading both versions! ❤️ hahaha he DID! But I wouldn't have a clue how to begin approaching them 😂 Thank you very much! I appreciate you taking the time read & comment!
  6. The Strongest Link True to her word, Ronda let the emotional teenager have a few moments alone before he returned to the green room, and it made a world of difference. It must have been all the pressure, stress and tension that came from being on the set. With some peace and quiet away from the Hostess and the others, Lance was able to find himself again. It was easy to get lost out there, trying to decipher friend from foe and answering the broadest range of questions at a rapid-fire pace. With his head firmly back on his shoulders, he managed to laugh about the things he'd said to the camera still facing him and nervously covered his mouth with his hand. That's not going to look good. Ronda wasn't in the hallway when he left the small room behind, but he figured she'd know where he was when she came back from wherever she'd gone. The dancer slowly made his way through the big double doors to see the six people who had taken the walk of shame before him. Jamie and Alyssa sat together on one couch. Grace, Eliza and Cian sat tightly packed on another, whereas Bugeyes - Paul, Lance reminded himself - distanced himself from the others. They were watching round eight together on the monitor - Nathan and Casey's final chance to win money before the Hostess pitted them against each other head-to-head. "Hey!" Eliza got to her feet to approach him when she saw him. "Are you alright? That was some BS." "Yeah, that sucks majorly, mate," Cian added. Lance smiled with appreciation and brushed his fluffy hair behind his ears. "I'll be okay. Though, I was probably the world's saltiest bitch in that interview." His admission drew laughs from all of his former rivals. "You and me both," Jamie piped up, cutely stretching his arms over his head. "No hard feelings, guys. Don't hate me when the episode airs." Called it. But he understood and made a silent vow not to let the revealing thoughts of stupid Jamie somehow sour their relationship when he watched them later. Alyssa beckoned to him. "Do you want to sit with us?" He exhaled and nodded. "That'd be great. Cheers." It felt strange to sit down on the other side of Alyssa and Jamie, the two people he'd successfully voted off during the game when he wasn't busy throwing wasted votes at Casey. He would have preferred to hang out with the other girls and the athlete - who still seemed unnaturally cheerful - but it was nice to be forgiven. He turned his eyes to the screen. Though he was feeling much better now, it still upset him that there didn't seem to be any way he could have made it to this part of the game. Those two were going to vote him off no matter what he did in the seventh round. He turned his attention to the monitor, where he could watch the studio live from the camera's position high up behind the Hostess. "Casey, in politics, what term starting with 'H' and meaning 'suspended' is used to describe a parliament in which no party has a viable majority?" "Halted?" The girl shrugged. "No, hung." Lance let out an immature giggle. "Nathan--" "Bank!" The Irishman still banked before every question without caring if there was money in the chain or not. He had no more confidence in himself. It was written all over his face. "In language, the name of which type of oven used to bake clay is an anagram of the word 'link?'" Kiln. Nathan's answer made Lance cringe. "Nilk?" Girl, you need to get a grip. Right now. Don't you dare let Casey win! "Kiln!" The Hostess nearly shouted the answer at him. "Casey, in aviation, what 'T' is the usual term for the violent and unsteady movement of air encountered during flights?" "Turbulence." "Correct. Nathan--" "Bank!" "In ornithology, all five species of swan native to the northern hemisphere have a plumage of primarily which colour?" "Black?" "No, white. Casey, in law and order, in a-- time is up, and I can't complete that question. You've banked six hundred and fifty pounds, which I will triple and add to the total. Tonight's bank is seventeen thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds - not only will the winner take home the prize money, but our studio will donate the same amount to the charity of their choosing. So, who will be crowned tonight's strongest link? Will it be Nathan, our charity founder who says he never forgets, or Casey, our critically important author who thinks she has a world of knowledge? Find out when we return on The Weakest Link." With the crew returning to shift the set between rounds, Jamie blurted out the question everyone was thinking. "How the hell did it come down to those two?" "Right? They're so stupid," scoffed Praying Mantis Paul, whose legacy would forever be the only person to never answer a question correctly and thus trudged down the walk of shame. "I should have made it," the actor insisted, pointing to the screen as crew members shifted podiums around to place Casey and Nathan in the middle. "Me and Grace. It should have been us. We'd get over 20K easy." Lance wasn't the only one who disagreed. Eliza, next to a coy, quiet Grace who kept her comments to herself, objected. "You? Why should it be you?" "He was the strongest link in the first two rounds," Alyssa reminded her. "Lance was the strongest link in three rounds," Cian had no trouble speaking over others with his booming voice. "That's why they voted him off. It should have been him and Grace. End of story." "Oh, little old me?" Lance acted surprised, though he was genuinely pleased someone else brought it up. "I was, wasn't I?" And no bitch will ever be allowed to forget it. "Yeah, because he voted me off! I wasn't doing that badly!" Jamie shifted his body to cut both Alyssa and Lance off from the others. "He was only the strongest link because I wasn't there!" "But you weren't. You lost," Grace finally spilt the tea from far over in her corner. "You lost as well!" Jamie snapped at her. "So just shut up. I'm not in the mood to hear it from you." Disagreements were to be expected, Lance supposed. To bring together nine successful teenagers and then crowd the seven who were voted out of the prize money, all frustrated and disappointed, into the green room together seemed like a recipe for disaster. Nobody here was used to losing - even Lance had been close to a public conniption when he saw Nathan and Casey's boards turn over with his name on them. Jamie, especially, mustn't have faced many defeats, having met so much success in his young life. He reminded Lance of his little sister - a spoiled, entitled little shit to the core. However, the way he spoke to Grace made the dancer's blood boil. "Oh, sorry, sweetie! How inconsiderate of us. We didn't stop to think about how big a kick in the balls it must be to be the only person who isn't happy about how the game went," Lance spoke coldly to the back of the boy's head. That got Jamie's attention, and the pretty face snapped to look at him with an ugly glare. The younger boy tried to do what he did best, but Lance cut off his relentless prattle by raising his voice. "Good thing we're all in the mood to hear you bitch and moan, though. It would be super awks if any of us had anything to complain about, especially since you don’t feel like hearing it." "Yeah, maybe you should shut up for a change," Paul echoed Lance's sentiment, something that surprised the dancer because he kept forgetting that the weedy programmer existed. "You came last. Who cares what you think?" Jamie snapped back. "Such a brat," Grace mentioned to Eliza, quietly enough to make it sound like a private comment but loud enough for everyone to hear. "Ugh, I can't even with him," Eliza put her hand up as a barrier to block any more spoiled, egocentric actors from getting under her skin. "Fine! I guess I won't say anything for the rest of the night, then!" Jamie cracked the shits and got up from the couch, moodily slumping over to another settee further away and dramatically throwing himself down in a huff. Way to threaten me with the best possible scenario. The dancer's eyes caught Paul, who still kept his distance from the rest of the group. Bugeyes and his miserable moustache had suffered a fairly bad night. Lance remembered the comments that Paul had made in this room some hours ago, but his pity spoke louder than the offense he'd taken. Surely there'd been enough pettiness and arguing between the teenage triumphs by now. The game was over - for them, at least. What more did they have to prove to each other? "Paulie, come and sit over here with us." Lance beckoned to the now vacant spot on the other side of the budding pop star Alyssa MacIntosh. Paul looked at him and to where he was pointing, then got up from his perch and did as he was invited. Jamie was sticking to his threat, not uttering a word as though the others were missing out somehow. It was sad to see someone he'd longed to meet act in this way. Would Lance ever again be able to relax in bed with an episode or two of Ember Seal on his ancient old laptop with less than a "terabyte" of space? Was Corey ruined for him? An irresistible, charismatic bad-boy image destroyed by the sulking, conceited lump on the couch. As Corey, he could have been eighteen years old. As Jamie, he could have been eight. "You know, I predicted Grace and Lance for the final two in my interview," Eliza revealed. "Really?" Lance beamed across the room at her. "I did. I said that if the others didn't break the two of you up, you'd take the game and run with it." "Funny. That's exactly what they did," Grace remarked from beside her, drawing out laughs. "You jinxed them!" Alyssa accused her. "Witch!" Cian shouted. "I'm so sorry!" Eliza laughed. Paul drummed his hands on his legs, covered in black pants much too big for him. "I thought Casey would go home after I did. I feel pretty dumb." "I said the same thing!" Alyssa, both plump and gorgeous, grasped Paul's shoulder with a well-manicured hand. "I said she wasn't going to make it." Cian laughed. "Me three!" "So what the hell happened?" Paul asked, blushing after physical contact from a pop singer. "None of you voted for her, you gooses," Lance pointed out. "Geese!" He fixed himself, almost expecting the Hostess' sharp voice to correct him. "I should have!" Grace lamented, cross-legged on the couch. "But I chose Nathan at the last second because... well, you can see why." Lance shifted and turned to her. "Nooo, I should have voted for Nathan in round six. That was my fault. We could have forced a tie and I would have saved you. Because I was the strongest link. Just saying!" He added cheekily, fluffing his hair with his right hand. "Who's going to win?" Cian asked. "Someone has to get a question right for that," Jamie piped up from far away, putting to rest his vow of silence the moment he saw an opportunity to tear someone else down. He's right, though. "I'd say Casey," Grace was the first to give her answer. "Nathan is way too rattled." "Legit," Cian agreed. "I don't want Casey to win, but there's not much I can do about it now," said Eliza. "Casey. Hands down," decided Paul. "Casey!" Alyssa echoed the others. Lance pursed his lips as the others grinned at his silence. "Nope! I will not accept that Casey wins tonight. Never!" "What would you have done with the prize money?" Alyssa asked the others. "I would have gone on holiday to Spain." That does sound good. "I need a car," Eliza stretched her long arms above her head. "A good one! With cup holders and power steering and that new car smell. Something that doesn't break down all the time." "I'd buy a thousand steaks!" Cian decided. Lance giggled. Such a beefcake. "Education, I suppose," Grace gave a predictably dull answer. "Same," Paul wasn't appealing either. "I'd put most of it away, but I'd like some clothes, shoes and cute dates with Bobby," said Lance, combing his hair with his long nails. He blushed at the thought of taking Bobby on a weekend in Wales and possibly seeing Eliza's show, then staying at a hotel with a hot tub and a great view of the Cardiff skyline. It was a beautiful fantasy, even if Mum and Dad would never let it happen until he was eighteen. Soon after, the set was ready for the final round. Nathan stood on the left and Casey on the right, and the Hostess stood back up to her screen to begin the final sequence of the evening. "Welcome back to the Teenage Triumphs edition of The Weakest Link. It's come down to Nathan Saunders, founder of the charity All About Autism, and Casey Adams, author of The Glass Kingdom and Obsidian Arrowhead. As you both know, only one of you can win tonight, leaving with seventeen thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds, and the other will leave with nothing. I will ask alternate questions, five each, and whoever answers the most correctly in the best of five will be our winner, however, if there is a tie, we will play Sudden Death until we do have a conclusive victor. Casey, as the strongest link of Round Eight, you have the choice of going first or second." "Nathan can go first," the novelist immediately chose. "Why am I not surprised?" Grace didn't seem at all impressed. "Why?" Cian asked her. "I don't get it," Alyssa said at the same time. "Seriously? He's about to piss himself," Jamie appeared behind the couch, putting his tantrum aside in his interest to see how the finals played out. Lance had to agree. "Mm, it's a power play. It doesn't actually change anything, but she's trying to psyche him out." She can't win clean, so she has to pull out every dirty trick. "Well, it's working," Paul observed. "Yeah. He's been nosediving since round six," Grace added, arms folded. It did look very much like Nathan was ready to pack it in, forfeit and go home. He looked sweaty and scared. Casey looked as though she'd won it already, retaining the satisfied smile she'd added to her stony face since she voted Lance off. "For seventeen thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds, let's play The Weakest Link," the Hostess moved on, and the fanfare sounded through the studio. "Nathan, in money, before decimalisation in the UK, which unit of currency was equal to two hundred and forty pence?" "A pound," Grace answered immediately, as though it were her competing for the prize money. "Spoilers!" Lance gasped at her. "A pound," Nathan gave his answer after a long few moments, awkwardly tapping his hands on the podium in front of him. "That answer is correct!" The Hostess paused while Nathan bowed in relief and moved to the girl next to him. "Casey, in nature, the three-spined and the nine or ten-spined are two species of which small fish commonly found in British streams and brackish waters?" Casey's smugness left her face. "I have no idea," Cian mumbled from his place beside Eliza. "Gracie?" Eliza nudged her friend. "Tell us the answer." "You think I go fishing?" Grace retorted to a chorus of laughs. "Well if Grace doesn’t know, then obviously the question is broken," Cian's jest made Lance grin. "Stickleback," Paul piped up, and the chuckles immediately stopped. People turned to look at him, and he shrugged. "I fish with my pop all the time." Bugger me. "Salmon?" Casey answered, clearly upset with the question she'd been asked. "Salmon?" Jamie repeated incredulously. "That's what she said," Alyssa raised her hand to the monitor, as though she hadn't messed up on two questions that seemed as though they were in her area of expertise. "I hate those pesky nine-spined salmon," said Cian. "The correct answer is stickleback," the Hostess replied. A few people, including Lance, cheered for Paul, and Alyssa gripped his arm once again. That was a nice turn of events! After the poor guy buckled under nerves in the first round and got both easy questions wrong, he proved that he did know things after all. Paul smiled wide. "I got something right! Yesss! Shame it's not on TV!" "Nathan, what is the usual name for the international agreement for the proper treatment of prisoners of war?" "Geneva Convention," Grace, Eliza and Jamie all said the words at once. Lance echoed it half a second later, but the others were quicker. "Geneva Convention?" Nathan narrowed his eyes. "That answer is correct. Casey, in racing, which South American country produced the Grand Prix champion driver Juan Fangio?" That's a Nicky or Dad question. "Argentina!" Alyssa shocked Lance by throwing out an answer before anyone else did. "Peru!" Casey shrugged on screen, now folding her arms across her chest. She was angry. "The correct answer is Argentina." "Was that like, a guess?" Paul asked. "She probably doesn't know any other South American countries," Jamie joked, offending the pop princess. "Juan Fangio won the world drivers' championship five times. I know he's from Argentina," Alyssa turned her head to scold him. "Maybe I'm not a brainiac, but I'm not an idiot." "Alright!" Jamie whined in an irritating, flippant tone, but nobody paid any attention to him. "Nathan, in literature, which late Swedish writer whose novels include The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was named in 2010 by The Bookseller magazine as Europe's best selling author?" "Stieg Larsson!" Grace, Jamie and Alyssa MacIntosh all knew the answer to that. "...Stieg Larsson!" Cian blurted out a second later, pointing at the screen with a grin. Lance laughed - the guy was funny. Were his heart not firmly attached to Bobby and Cian were not a total hetero, he would certainly be seeking out those digits. "I'll take your word for it," Eliza added. "Casey would have loved a literature question," Paul commented. "Then it sucks for her that she chose the other set of questions," Jamie seemed happy to watch Casey squirm, likely because she stuck a knife in his back and voted him off. Nathan, too, looked as though he were confident in his answer for the first time since round six. "Stieg Larsson!" "Woo!" Lance clapped loudly. It looked like the game was blowing up in Casey's face. Perfect. "That answer is correct!" The Hostess confirmed, and an excited buzz went through the audience in the back rows. "Casey! You need to answer this question correctly to remain in the game. So Casey, for seventeen thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds, in film quotations, 'the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist' is a line spoken by Kevin Spacey in which cult 1995 thriller?" "The Usual Suspects!" Lance, Eliza, Grace, Jamie, Paul, Cian and Alyssa all answered within the same two seconds, perched forward in anticipation of what Casey might reply with. The girl's cockiness returned. She obviously knew the answer to this question too and indicated as such with a smirk in Nathan's direction. "The Unusual Suspects." "HAHAHA!" Lance burst out laughing. Once others realised the girl's mistake, they joined him. "The correct answer is The Usual Suspects!" The music played and the lights flickered, signalling the end of the game. The audience applauded and cheered for Nathan, who turned to jelly with pale blue eyes moon-sized in his freckly face. He looked between Casey, who slammed her hands down on her podium in anger, and the crowd members behind him, some of whom were giving a standing ovation. "That means, Nathan, you are tonight's strongest link! You and your charity, All About Autism, will both receive prize money of seventeen thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds. Casey, you leave with nothing." Thunder crossed Casey's face and lightning stormed behind those furious eyes. She didn't congratulate her opponent - she didn't even look at him. He didn't feel at all bad for her. She scraped her way to the finals with tricks, double-crosses and dumb luck. She voted off those who could beat her and sought to destroy the weakest player in the end. She wasn't counting on the fact that without time limits and the pressure to maximise the pot, Nathan would be able to make a complete fool of her. With the game finished, the Hostess turned back around to the camera. "Join us again for The Weakest Link. Goodbye." It was about five minutes later that a tearful Nathan emerged through the double doors of the green room, likely having finished his post-game interview. Lance had forgotten his bitterness about the Irishman's strategic voting and whole-heartedly congratulated him. It was an impressive comeback. "Well played mate. You did it! Eep!" Lance extended a hand to shake, but an emotional Nathan pulled him into a brief but tight hug instead. "Hey listen," Nathan was so tall, almost half a head taller than Lance even though the dancer was wearing heels that added inches to his height. "Grace, can I say something?" He caught the very short girl's attention, and she turned to face him. Comically, she was almost two heads shorter than him. "I'm sorry I voted for you guys. I just-- I needed to win so badly tonight, and I didn't think I could beat either of you." I guess... but I needed to win too. "Oh, don't worry about it," Grace brushed him off. "I'll sleep well knowing that you would have won a lot more if you kept me on the team, but you didn't." "Hah!" Lance grinned down at her and back up at him. "True! I'll just be flattered that the thought of going up against me had you quivering in your ugly grandpa shoes." Nathan chuckled and hung his head in shame - real or pretend, Lance wasn't sure. "I totally deserved that. You guys were so scary. By the way, where's Casey? I don't see her around." "Hmm?" Grace stood on her toes and craned her neck. "I don't think I saw her come in." "She had her interview first. She should be here," Nathan frowned, turning around. "She seemed a bit heated. Reckon she stormed off?" Lance wouldn't have minded rubbing the girl's face in her humiliating defeat, but he favoured the idea of never having to see her again. "Who cares?" Eliza put in from three feet away. Ronda barged through the double doors and clapped her hands to get everyone's attention the same way she had before the game began. "Alright you lot, we've got an announcement for you." To Lance's joy, the Hostess, still dressed in black but having traded in her stilettos for much comfier looking slip-ons, sidled her way into the room. Was this the reason they had all been exiled to the green room rather than thrown out on the curb? "You all played terribly, as I'm sure you're aware," the older woman sniped at them. "But, I lied to you all earlier. Contrary to the rules of the game, nobody is going home empty-handed tonight. Tonight, BBC Scotland is making an exception. For the UK's up and coming teenagers, by which I assume they mean you lot, the studio will donate to each of you two thousand, five hundred pounds for your hard work and determination. In addition--" she had to shout over the excited chattering of the former contestants, "each of you will receive an added tip equal to the amount of money that you personally banked this evening. The charities you have chosen to represent will also receive the same tip." Maths had never been Lance's strong suit, but he knew offhand that he'd banked a substantial portion of the team's total tonight. In round three, he banked fifteen hundred pounds! In round six, he banked three thousand pounds!! He squeaked in joy. It wasn't the grand prize, but it was a minimum of seven thousand pounds! "What about Casey?" Nathan asked her. The Hostess shrugged. "If she can't follow simple instructions and find her way back here when the game's over, I suppose she doesn't get her bonus." Lance wasn't sure if the woman was being real or not - it was impossible to know - but he liked the idea of Casey missing out on a substantial bonus because she'd bailed in a huff. She never took the game seriously until she fucked it royally in the head-to-head, so why should she be rewarded? Oh well. I'm not going to dignify her by wasting thought on her. "Why didn't you tell us earlier that we would get money even if we lost?" Paul asked the Hostess. "Oh, that? Well, I may have stayed behind to record a message when you lot had left the room. If I told you, you wouldn't have been so desperate to win that way. I wanted you to squirm. It makes for better television, don't you think?" Lance turned his eyes to Grace, who seemed happy, but he felt a little guilty. She never banked anything. Throughout the game, she only ever answered questions correctly to increase money in the chain for Lance to bank. He touched her arm. "Hey, is your back sore?" "What? Why?" "Well, you carried my heavy arse from the first round. Do you want to split my bonus with me? I basically banked all the money you earned and I think it's only fair you get half," he offered her. She looked horrified. "No way! I can't take your money. You earned it. Plus, I didn't carry you at all! That was all you. In fact, you were so good I wanted to keep you until the end. I think we could have run up the bank to twenty-five thousand together. That's why I only banked when we were running out of time. You made good decisions. Even when you got some answers wrong, I knew the money was safe in your hands." He snorted. "Even though I don't know my oceans or fractions?" "You knew Kiss, didn't you?" "Honey, everyone knows Kiss." She shook her head. "Not me! I didn't know the answers to several of your questions actually, but you did. You're smart, even if you don't think you are. I've never known anybody to know so much about pop culture. I mean, I called Madonna a bimbo!" He laughed and managed to blush underneath his makeup. "Okay! You win. But when I'm in your neighbourhood or if you're in mine - may God have mercy on your soul if that's the case - I'll buy the coffee." "I don't drink coffee!" She smiled warmly at him. "But orange juice and maybe another waltz would be nice. A real one." Before Lance left BBC Scotland Quay with several thousand pounds to have his spine crushed by Dad's proud hug and his forehead assaulted by Mum's kisses until he ducked for cover, he'd added six new names to his social media accounts! Cian Millar, so he could admire the gorgeous athlete's endless supply of funny memes and gratuitous amount of selfies with his gorgeous athlete friends. Eliza Stacey Brooks, so he could create a long-distance but long-lasting friendship with her. Grace Ojomo, so she could get free ballroom dancing lessons and monster-sized juice cups for years to come. Nathan Saunders, so he could monitor All About Autism's progress, give donations and receive lengthy apologies for the "Round Seven Scandal Of 2012" until the end of time. Alyssa MacIntosh - her real account and not her fan account - so he could watch her get more fabulous by the year and listen to her music. Paul Russo, mostly because he didn't want to make him feel left out. He also lost a name from his account - he unliked and unfollowed Jamie Ceannaideach's official Facebook page on the car ride back to the hotel. Bobby's so much cuter anyway, and only half the drama. He decided to remain a part of Corey Channing's fan page, though. There might yet be redemption for him.
  7. AusGlitterati

    Round Seven

    HONEY I laughed out loud embarrassingly loud when I saw this! I wish I used that haha thank yooou! I can't have things nice & uncomplicated. Are they dumb or is the storywriting just poor? Find out when we return to The Weakest Link: Teenage Triumphs Edition! Heh yeah, so rarely do the strongest people actually make it to the final two Lance never stays down for long! And Casey? Maybe she'll get hit by a truck on the way home Thank you for the comments everyone! ❤️ Much appreciated. The final chapter will be up tomorrow morning (for me!)
  8. AusGlitterati

    Round Six

    He's doing very well! I suppose you'll have to find out! It does! The game is cruel and unfair. I know if I were in her position I would have dropped a few F & C bombs that would have to be edited out. 😅 Let's find out together! ❤️ Thanks everybody!
  9. Round Seven Mum and Dad had been so well behaved tonight. Lance was prone to embarrassment at their complete lack of shame, but they'd promised they wouldn't humiliate their son, and they had stuck to their word. No shouting, no swearing and no talking smack to the other contestants and their families. They'd sat there patiently and given their son nothing but support and praise from afar, and as he turned around and grinned at them, they gave him an animated wave. He turned back, and the empty place to his right brought him back to reality. Grace. It wasn't supposed to go this way. He doubted his ability to beat her in a one-on-one situation... yet, he remembered that it wasn't him who made two mistakes in the last round. She did. Maybe he could have beaten her... if he got lucky with his questions. He peered to his left at his final opponents. Nathan, also looking back to his loved ones - his tired-looking mum and gorgeous brother and sister, the girl wearing noise-cancelling headphones. The Irishman's momentum was dropping off fast. Then there was Casey, who hadn't ever interacted with anyone in the stands while he was observing her. She was painfully reckless, throwing out the first answer that came to mind. I can beat them. He sighed, feeling lonely. He wanted Grace, though. She'd been the strongest of them. The fantasy he'd recently concocted of a perfect finale was dead in the water. She was gone, but he didn't beat her, and that didn't sit well with him. I don't just want to win. I want to be the best. Casey's cold brown eyes locked with his as he spent the brief intermission between rounds working out what he wanted to do next. He didn't blink, nor did he flinch. His eyes burned at her through rose-gold tinted lenses. Nathan spun around and leaned over his podium, almost obscuring his view. When the red-haired fellow noticed Lance was looking over in his direction, he smiled, baring his crooked white teeth. It was impossible not to return it. Nathan wasn't Grace. Far from it. There was sincerity and generosity about him. Maybe Lance couldn't get the finale he dreamed of, but there was another one he'd happily accept. There would be joy in beating Casey head-to-head, but he didn't want to give her the satisfaction of making it there. There was still one more vote to go. Nathan clearly didn’t want her around either. The Irishman had voted for her on two different occasions, which filled Lance with hope. You and me. We finally take this bitch down. The Hostess soon stepped back up to her stage. "Round seven! Of a possible thirty thousand pounds, you have managed to bank fifteen thousand, six hundred and fifty pounds. Without Britain's youngest know-it-all, there are now only three of you left. Lance, who is too fashionable for general knowledge, Nathan, who says he never forgets, and last but not least, the critically important Casey who thinks she has a wealth of expertise. We're taking another ten seconds off the clock, so you now only have two minutes to reach your five thousand pound target. We'll start with the strongest link from the last round, and that's Lance. Apparently, lightning can strike twice." Lance's dazzling smile involuntarily parted his lips. "Let's play The Weakest Link. Start the clock. Lance, in cinema, in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the title character repeats his mother's catchphrase: 'Life is like a box of what?'" The boy's smile persisted. His best friend Jane's mum said it all the time. "Chocolates." "Correct. Nathan, in anatomy, how many teeth does an adult human have?" Nathan did the pufferfish face again, which wasn't a good sign. "Twenty... eight?" "No, thirty-two. Casey, in which year did the Titanic sink in the northern Atlantic?" Casey shrugged and rolled her eyes. "1932?" Lance didn't know the answers to either of those questions either, but it didn't feel good to be the only one to get his answer right in that rotation. "1912. Lance, in computer terminology, which is larger: a megabyte, a terabyte, a kilobyte or a gigabyte?" Lance's eyes widened. He was sure his brother would know the answer to this, but he was never big with computers. He used his slow, old laptop for Webflix, Myspace, MSN, Facebook, Youtube and maybe Wikipedia on the rare occasions he bothered to do his coursework while he was still at school. Not much else. Sometimes porn. "A terabyte?" He guessed. It was the one of the four he'd never heard of. He figured it must have been very big... or very small. Hopefully big. He hugged himself with his arms. The game was scary without Grace making him look strong. He had to rely on himself now, and he wasn't a genius. He was just a sodding dropout! "Correct," the Hostess took his answer, much to his relief. "Nathan--" "Bank!" "In the animal kingdom, pigs roll themselves in mud to cool down because they lack what glands?" "Adrenal? No-- sweat!" He blurted out. "I must accept your first answer. The correct answer is sweat glands. Casey, which author wrote the novels Misery, It and Needful Things?" "Stephen King," she answered. Lance hoped she was right. Novels were her chosen career, so she should have at least some knowledge in that area. "Correct. Lance," the dancer wearily scratched his eye. He'd been so focused for so long, and he was running out of stamina. "In the TV comedy series 'Keeping Up Appearances,' Patricia Routledge played which character?" Bum. That was one of Mum's shows. She often compared Lance to the main character played by Patricia Routledge, the woman whose last name was Bucket and insisted it was pronounced 'bouquet,' and Dad to that lazy slob brother-in-law Onslow. How can I know his name but not the main woman's?? It was infuriating! He guessed. "Heidi?" "Hyacinth." He slapped his hand on the podium. He knew that! Mum and Dad would relentlessly annoy by telling him how alike they were because he let himself be embarrassed by his family. Perhaps he would have paid more attention to the show if their teasing didn't make him determined to hate it. He wondered what Grace would be thinking if she were watching the three of them right now, unable to string together any correct answers without her to scale the chain for them. She'd be laughing, and rightfully so. We're a bunch of clowns. "Nathan--" "Bank!" Aww, honey. I answered wrong. There's not even any money to bank, you goose. "In which World War did Japan occupy the Philippines?" "Second!" Nathan was visibly relieved to get a question he could answer. "Correct. Casey, in farming, an Aberdeen Angus is a breed of which animal?" "Cattle." Casey, on the other hand, showed no anxiety or lack of endurance and never had since the game started. The Hostess grimaced a little. "I'll accept. Lance--" "Bank," Lance figured two hundred and fifty pounds was better than nothing, and there couldn't be much more time left. "In Ballet, there are only how many positions of the feet?" Lance recoiled briefly. He and Jane had been learning ballet since they were old enough to enrol. The answer depended on which type of ballet. Typically only five, but a sixth and seventh position existed in Serge Ligar's choreographies. He suspected the question had been written by someone with lesser knowledge in the field and decided to give the most likely answer. "Five." "Correct." "Nathan--" "Bank!" The Irishman was now banking every time, regardless of whether Lance had even answered correctly. He's cactus. Completely shook. "In the 1939 film 'The Wizard of Oz,' which character asks the Wizard for a heart?" "The straw man?" "No, the tin man." The terrified fellow looked as though he were ready to burst into tears, leaning down to rest his elbows on the stand in front of him and rubbing the back of his head with his hands. Lance had sympathy for him. The Irishman was doing the best he could, and he desperately wanted to win money for his organisation. Next to him, Casey had the nerve to roll her eyes in disgust at his repeated mistakes. What did she even need the money for? It was all just a game to her. Don't worry, lovely. We'll get her. Just hang in there. "Casey, in theatre, which Italian opera term literally means 'first lady?'" Primadonna. "Soprano?" Casey guessed wrong. Tsk. "No, primadonna. Lance, in astronomy, what planet is known as both the morning star and the evening star?" Ugh. I don't know. As the tired, frustrated boy prepared to guess Mars, the tones of defeat saved him from making a bigger fool of himself, and the round came to an end. That was a bloody disaster. "Time is up, and the answer to your question is 'Venus.'" The Hostess glared at her victims, black leather-clad arms tightly folded across her chest. "From a possible five thousand pounds, you banked a grand total of four-hundred and fifty pounds. I'd like to point out how terribly you played, but I'm afraid the three of you managed to take all the fun out of it! Now team, remember that in round eight, the money you and your opponent manage to bank will be tripled before the final round, so I urge you to think very carefully about who you send home. Who's going out with a whimper? Who surpassed expectations in the wrong way? Is it time to write Casey off? Has Nathan forgotten how to win? Will Lance be a very cross dresser?” Lance laughed, as did everyone behind him. It was a cheap shot, but it was well delivered. “It's time to vote off the weakest link." Casey. Casey. Casey. Casey. Casey. Casey. Casey. Lance didn't write her name down just once. He managed to fit it seven times on the oval-shaped board, once for this round and once for every other round she'd unjustly survived. "Okay, pens down. It's time to reveal who you think is the weakest link." "Casey," Lance flipped his board over. "Lance," Nathan's voice was tiny. "Lance!" Casey belted out victoriously. Then she laughed. The realisation struck Lance Lovecraft like a sledgehammer, and his jaw dropped. Behind him, the spectators rumbled loudly in surprise, and he could hear Dad loudly booing from the stands. The boy was stunned. Did that really just happen? No. He looked at the two boards with his name on them, just to make sure he hadn't heard it wrong. Lance. Lance. Is this a joke? The Hostess surveyed the votes with her cool, sharp eyes behind her glasses, and she turned to the horrid novelist first. "Casey. What's your reason for voting off the strongest link in that round?" I was the strongest link again. Three times. Heh. Pity that doesn't save me. She seemed only too pleased to rub it in. "Because Lance has had it in for me since the very first round, and this is my revenge." It took every ounce of professionalism and poise to stop Lance from throwing his board at her. He was livid at the injustice and pettiness of it all, but he would never let them see it. He stood still as a statue, eyes front and face blank, watching the Hostess. He wouldn't look at Casey. He would NOT! His composure depended on avoiding that smug grin. If he were the only person in the entire game who played with integrity and valour, then that would be his legacy. Not betrayal. Not underhanded tactics. "Are you sure that's all there is to it? It looks very much to me like you're afraid of him!" Casey shrugged again, to make sure everyone knew how little she took the game seriously. "It's the votes that count. I'll be competing for the prize money and Lance will be taking the walk of shame." Fuck you. The Hostess turned towards the Irishman next. "Nathan! You seem to have forgotten that the aim of the game is to make money." "I had a rotten round," Nathan replied. "Rotten is right! Tell me, what's your excuse for voting for Lance?" Unlike the girl next to him, Nathan had the guts to give an honest reply. "I'm not proud of it, but it's purely tactical. Lance is a very strong player, and I think I have a much better chance of beating Casey in the finals. That's why I voted for Lance. I don't think I'd be able to win against him." Lance, heartbroken by the betrayal he never saw coming, didn't want to validate the lily-livered loser any more than he did the conniving cockroach, but the traitor's next words mended some of the damage he'd done. "I'm really sorry, man." The dancer turned his head towards Nathan, who looked genuinely apologetic and remorseful. It wasn't personal. Lance knew that, even though his feelings were crushed. He expected a vote from Casey. She was no better than that. But Nathan? Lance had never sent a vote the red-haired fellow's way. Not a single one. Nor had Nathan voted for him, even in the two rounds he'd played poorly. The dancer would have taken him to the finals and battle it out with him fair and square. Clearly the Irishman didn't feel the same way. It sucked to know that Casey was probably going to win a large sum of money she didn't need and didn't earn, but it stung worse that the other boy sold him out. For the sake of the cameras recording his every movement, Lance forced a smile and gave Nathan a nod of understanding. "Lance!" The Hostess rotated to face him. "Will you miss me?" He brushed the hot pink from his eyes one last time, tucking it behind his pierced ear. "Indeed. Frankly, I don't want to go on now!" The old, lemon-faced tart managed to elicit a real grin from the furious teenager. "Well, what can I say? You have been voted off by two cowards. You were too much general knowledge and not enough fashion for Nathan and Casey. You were the strongest link three times, but with two votes, you are the weakest link. Goodbye!" He'd been watching The Weakest Link since he was four years old. He'd seen thousands of contestants lose the vote and take the walk of shame, including six other teenage triumphs this very night, but it still didn't prepare him for his own. The lights went dark and the death toll felt like it rattled his bones. They all clapped for him, though. Mum and Dad, and nearly everyone else hidden in the darkness behind him. He turned to blow one final kiss their way, and forced his most dazzling smile as he strutted briskly down the studio floor, his shoes clopping loudly with every step. It was humiliating. It was unfair. It was heartbreaking. But he didn't let them see. He made sure to hold his head high as he passed by the Hostess and the cameras watching him, and he pushed open the heavy door with both hands. Don't let them see they got to you. It's just a game, right? He pushed the heavy door open and let it close behind him, and once he was out of that tense, scary place and away from the backstabber and the luckiest girl in the world, Ronda was there to meet him. Rather than bury his face in his hands the way he wanted to, he made himself smile once again. But I wanted to win so badly. "Hey. You alright?" She asked him in a low voice, obnoxiously chewing something in the corner of her mouth. What was I supposed to do? I made mistakes and they voted for me. I got my questions right and they voted for me! Lance's eyes fell and he exhaled deeply. "I-I-yes. But... I might need a minute." Did I even stand a chance? "Yeah, that's completely fine," the woman seemed much less scary when it was just the two of them. Even sympathetic. "Come with me. We need to do a quick interview then I'll take you back to the green room with the others." Lance had almost forgotten that he still had one final part to play in the game. Following their elimination, the contestant would vent their frustrations to the camera and give their insight and possible predictions. He wondered what the others had said about him. Did Jamie complain that the talentless Lance had managed to beat him and steal his place as the fan favourite? Did Bugeyes tell everyone how ridiculous he looked? Did Grace correctly predict that he was doomed without her there to babysit him? He wouldn't know until he watched the episode play out on the television in a few weeks. When red light blinked on the camera facing him in the small room down the hall, he didn't hold back. "I'm absolutely gutted right now. It never occurred to me that those two had a brain big enough between them to see me as a threat, but clearly I underestimated them. I really thought Grace and I would end up as the final two. We were the strongest players and we could have won more money for our charities than I believe Nathan and Casey can. When I lost Grace from my side, I was shook all the way down to my toes! I should have known they would come for me after her. The writing was on the wall, but... I didn't see it. Still, I'm very proud of how well I did. As a high-school dropout I figured I'd be voted out much earlier, and I almost made it all the way to the end! Don't ever sell yourself short, because you never quite know what you're capable of, I suppose. Of the two, I hope Nathan wins the money tonight. I can see how much winning for his charity tonight means to him, and I think he's the better player. Casey should have been voted off right from the beginning - she had a terrible start and managed to scrape through the whole game like a cat with nine lives. If she wins tonight, at least she can afford extensions that don't look as though something ghastly's gone and nested on her head."
  10. Round Six Lance could definitely have used an extended intermission, yet between every round, he barely had enough time to regain his focus. Crew members spent a mere couple of minutes resetting cameras and taking away voting boards. He looked back at the faces almost hidden in the darkness and excitedly waved, getting attention from not just his own parents, but surrounding people as well. They grinned and waved back, people he'd never met in his life, and it made him feel fuzzy inside before he turned back to the front of the set. It was a little sobering, seeing so many vacant podiums where Paul, Alyssa, Cian, Eliza and Jamie once stood, all eager to win a big prize tonight. What if I won tonight? The thought had popped up once or twice in the beginning, but now, with five other contestants sent down the walk of shame, it was becoming a possibility. It wasn't just a string of potatoes that had been voted off - strong competitors had taken the walk of shame. Paul and Alyssa hadn't been impressive and their early elimination wasn't a surprise, but Cian, Jamie and especially Eliza had all seemed viable winners. He turned to look to the left. Nathan was certainly no fool, but he'd made some bad answers. Queen, not bishop. Runway, not catwalk. Casey, who had not once engaged with the audience between rounds, wasn't endgame material. She should never have been allowed to survive the early votes. Then Lance looked to his right. If it comes down to the two of us, could I ever beat her? Grace was yet to make a single mistake. She was untouchable... except, perhaps that didn't matter. In the final round, the two remaining contestants answered five questions head to head, and whoever provided more correct answers went home with the bank - all of it. No prize for second place. Lance bit the inside of his lip as he remembered the shady way Jamie and Casey had been strategically voting - until the novelist decided the actor was more trouble than he was worth and cut him loose. I could vote for Grace. It wasn't uncommon for tactics to outweigh the demand for the highest pot at this stage of the game. After all, wasn't it worth losing a few thousand quid in the long run if it meant he could increase his chances of winning it? If Lance were to luck his way into the finals, this was the perfect opportunity to decide who he would best like to go up against. Those who tended to underperform in the game - he side-eyed Casey - would be easier to beat. But she doesn't deserve to make it any further. He glanced again to Grace, chewing the inside of his lip as he thought about the possibilities. Would he be able to sleep tonight if he voted off the stiffest competition? He grimaced and shook his head slightly as if to rid himself of the thought. That wasn't who he was. I'm a proud sissy. I am not a coward. After a verbal note to the contestants that filming would resume, the Hostess stepped back up to her stage and gripped her screen. Once the light turned on, she spoke, as she had the previous five times. "Round six! With five alleged weakest links voted off, there are now only four of you left. Grace, Britain's youngest know-it-all, Lance, who is far too fashionable for general knowledge, Nathan, who thinks he never forgets and last but definitely not least, Casey, our VIP tonight who boasts a wealth of knowledge, or so she says." Lance beamed, happy that he hadn't been left out of her pre-round sniping this time. "We're taking another ten seconds off your time, so you will only have two minutes and ten seconds to reach your five thousand pound target. We'll start with the strongest player from the last round - that's you, Grace." Ooh. It's about time she got credit for all her hard work... and the spotlight. "Let's play The Weakest Link. Start the clock. Grace, in pop music, the name of American singer and songwriter Madonna's second studio album released in November of 1984 is 'Like a what?'" Virgin! Duh. It's what made her Madonna. But as obvious as that answer was to Lance, Grace didn't offer up that smile of omniscient knowledge. She faltered. He frowned. She knew about the island in Dr Shivamalago - or whatever it was - but she didn't know Madonna?? Grace shook her head after a few seconds and gave her best answer. "Bimbo?" Oh, honey! Blasphemy! The studio roared with laughter. Lance giggled but didn't let himself get carried away - he had to answer next. It was lovely to see, at long last, the person lurking behind the machine that had spat out correct answers. She was witty and funny. He supposed that if she were going to finally make an error and lose her invincibility, she might as well do it with style. Still, 'bimbo' was obviously wrong. Was 'virgin' that difficult to guess? "Virgin!" The Hostess couldn't keep the grin off her face, and she took an extra second to compose herself. "Lance, in shapes, how many sides does a septagon have?" Uhh... Lance sighed in frustration. It was another of those questions that he'd probably know the answer to if he paid attention in school before he left to pursue modelling and dancing full-time. The others probably thought he was so stupid. Maybe his defining breakout would be 'Like a Bimbo.' Septagon, like a stop sign? Maybe? "Eight?" "No, seven." Bollocks. The dancer didn't dare to look at his opponents. Would he see irritation? Disgust? There were only four of them now, and he couldn't afford to make mistakes! "Nathan, in the animal kingdom, what is the name for a collective of crows?" "A... murder," Nathan ran his hand through his fiery orange hair. He wore his nerves on his sleeve. "Correct. Casey, in astronomy, what 'T' is the name of Saturn's largest moon?" Casey briefly let the semblance of a frown cross her pale face. "Titan?" At least she bothered to think about it this time. "Correct. Grace, in history, which country fought the Americans in the American war of independence?" "England," the girl returned to form with that cute smile of hers. "Correct. Lance," Bank. "In psychology--" You idiot! You didn't say it out loud! "--arachnophobia is the term--" Don't fuck this up! "--used to describe a fear of what?" Arachnophobia? "Oh!" Lance, a severe arachnophobe, almost shuddered. "Spiders!" "Correct. Nathan, which word can mean a racquet sport or a variety of pumpkin?" Lance screwed up his nose. What? Tennis? Tennis pumpkins? Is that a thing? "Squash!" Nathan answered, pointing emphatically at the Hostess as he did so. Oh! The dancer was glad he didn't have the opportunity to give his foolish answer to that question. "Correct. Casey, in food, gouda is a popular cheese originating from which country?" "The Netherlands," Casey didn't bat a charcoal eyelid. "Correct. Grace, in the English Monarchy, who is next in line for the throne after the current Queen?" Grace cocked her head slightly, lips moving as she worked out the answer. "Prince Charles?" She didn't sound sure. "Correct. Lance--" "Bank!" The dancer blurted out, determined to actually verbalise it this time. By his count, Grace's question had been worth three thousand pounds, and his would have been four thousand. After getting railroaded by a simple shapes question, he didn't fancy gambling with stakes so high. "In human anatomy, where would you find the tibia bone?" "Leg!" "Correct. Nathan, in literature, the characters Queequeg, Ishmael and Captain Ahab feature in which classic novel?" Nathan blew out his cheeks like a pufferfish and let his head hand backwards. "I don't know." "Moby-Dick. Casey, in astronomy, what is the closest star in proximity to the Earth?" "Alpha Centauri," the girl gave an answer that made Lance's rose-gold tinted eyes squint in confusion. "The sun!" The Hostess corrected her harshly, and the girl audibly snorted. "Grace, in the French language, what is the translation of the phrase 'bonne nuit?'" Good night. "Goodbye," Grace replied confidently, with that smile again. Wait, what? "No, good night," the Hostess stressed, and Lance could see the fear spreading on the girl's face. She'd made two mistakes, both in the same crucial round. Gracie, you in danger, girl. "Lance, in the animal kingdom, wombats are native to which continent?" "Australia," he bit his lip as he answered. I think it's Australia. "Correct. Nathan--" "Bank." "In the game of Tiddlywinks, what is the official name of the discs that are flipped into the pot?" The colour had gone entirely from behind the plump boy's mass of freckles. "Coins?" "Winks! Casey, which British actor most recently played the role of James Bond in the movies Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace?" "Daniel Craig." "Correct. Grace--" "Bank!" "Which 'E' is the neurological disea--" The Hostess abruptly stopped as the noise of defeat thundered through the studio, and the lights flickered. "Time is up, and I can't complete the question. In that round, you banked a grand total of three thousand, one hundred pounds. An improvement from previous rounds, but still well short of your possible total. So, who doesn't have what it takes to make the big bucks? Who are you tired of carrying? Who is holding you back? It's time to vote off the weakest link." It was the hardest decision Lance had made all game long. In round one, he'd had to pick between Casey and Paul, both of whom answered none of their questions correctly. In round two, he had to vote to save his skin after making some mistakes, so he chose the weakest player - Alyssa. In round four, he had to choose between his friend, Eliza, and bitter rival, Jamie. It was Eliza who went home then, given the walk of shame by Casey, who had protected Jamie the way he'd protected her - only to send him home in the next round. The scene queen would never have gotten so far had the two of them not conspired together. She had pockets of knowledge, sure, but she was reckless and had no respect for the money she lost. But he wasn't about to forget Nathan, the Irishman with a big heart and an inconsistent pattern for answering questions. There was no denying that he'd done a lot for the team's progress in his own right, answering high-value questions for Casey to casually lose money on. He'd been a contributor all night long, but like so many others, he was beginning to struggle against the high pressure and challenge of the game. Lance liked him well enough, though. He seemed strong enough to make money in rounds seven and eight, but not as potent as Grace. I think I can beat him. Speaking of Grace... what about her? Even if she gave two wrong answers this round, she was still easily the most potent threat among the other contestants. Reliable, intelligent and she had a game plan. She was dangerous. Yet, Lance knew that it was her powerhouse performance that had given him a leg up throughout the night. He'd even been the strongest link in round three, banking the money that Grace had consistently provided. Had he been elsewhere and not looked good riding Grace's coattails, the others might have dogpiled him and sent him home much earlier. They'd already tried it once, way back in round two. He looked at her, as she repeatedly tapped the side of her marker against the raised part of her podium. I can't do it. Since the moment they'd met, she'd been sweet to him - shy, but sociable. He even taught her how to do her first box step! Besides, he wasn't arrogant enough to ignore the fact that she'd carried him through the game. It was his turn to do right by her. It was unlikely he'd ever manage to beat her, but he gave credit where it was due, and she deserved to make it to the end. It should be us in the finals together. Nathan was a potential finalist, Lance supposed, but the dancer's generosity only reached so far. He had to go too, which was regrettable. He liked the Irishman well enough and had a deep respect for what he'd managed to do for the autistic community before he'd even left school. It would be nice to keep him as well, but unfortunately, that wasn't the game the four of them had signed up for. Someone had to go home. And if he were choosing between Nathan and Casey... well, that was hardly a choice. How much bigger would the overall bank be had Casey not been there to screw it up? Thousands. For the third time that night, he wrote her name down on his voting board with a thick black marker, and he went to the trouble of underlining his decision with bold, angry rows. Jamie isn't here to save your neck this time. "Alright, pens down. It's time to reveal who you think is the weakest link." Grace's vote surprised Lance. "Nathan." He turned his board over when the camera shifted to him and the red light blinked. "Casey." "Grace," Nathan's voice was small, with a 'sorry' written under the girl's name. "Gra-ace," Casey sang obnoxiously, boiling Lance's blood. What?? Lance wasn't the only person offended or shocked by the way the votes went. A loud buzzing rumbled through the people sitting behind him, and the Hostess even raised her thin, orange eyebrows when the cameras weren't looking. He looked over to Grace in despair. He'd thought Casey was the obvious choice, but now he remembered what Grace said when she explained her vote for Jamie in the last round - that Jamie was weak now, whereas Casey had improved from the beginning. He should have thought about that. The younger girl voted for who she believed was costing them the most money, not trying to send home those whose mistakes lay in the past. He cursed himself. He let his dislike for Casey get the better of his judgment. "Casey. You've never heard of the sun?" "I know the sun," the pink and blue-haired girl replied defensively. "I figured if you meant the sun, you would have called it the sun. I gave you the right answer. It's not my fault the question was misleading." Lance didn't let his eyes roll where the cameras would see them, but he was very sick of Casey bloody Adams. He was now thinking perhaps he despised her more than stupid showoff Jamie. They were equally obnoxious, arrogant and disingenuous in different ways. Jamie's brand of wanker was loud, impulsive and domineering, whereas Casey's was cold, calculated and insidious. But Jamie received his comeuppance and took the walk of shame. She will too. "What's Grace done to offend you?" The Hostess rested a hand on her hip. "She's starting to slip up. She got some easy questions wrong," the girl gave her answer as bluntly as ever. "How convenient for you that those are the first questions she's got wrong all night," the Hostess reminded her coolly. "Did you think she was the weakest player?" "In that round, yes." "You'd be wrong!" What a surprise. Casey's wrong again. The woman turned to Nathan, who seemed to shrink before her. "Nathan! Do you know who the weakest player was?" "Um, I do," the boy replied meekly, his hair growing increasingly unkempt and messy the longer the game went on. "It was me. I know that. But I can't vote for myself, so I voted for the next weakest." "You never played Tiddlywinks?" Nathan ran his hand through his red curls again. "I have, which, erm, makes this so much worse. Heh." "I see. And you never read Moby-Dick?" "Nope." "Dear me. I would have thought that with all the money Mum saves with your haircuts, she might have bought you a book or two." When Nathan only laughed and offered nothing back to her, she moved on. "So why Grace?" "It's like Casey said. After me, she was the weakest player," he explained, looking guilty. "I had to vote for somebody. I'm sorry." "Grace! Not a French speaker?" "I'm afraid not. I learned Spanish." "That's a shame. Did you ever learn about Madonna?" The dark-skinned girl chuckled. "I did, but I don't know her music. She's a little... risque for my family." "Do you think she'll ever forgive Britain's Brightest Star for calling her a bimbo?" Grace laughed again, lowering her face in shame. "Madonna, if you ever happen to see this, I'm so, so sorry." Bless. "Well, you might well be Britain's youngest know-it-all, but Nathan who never forgets and important Casey who insists she knows a lot of things think they can do better! With two votes, you are the weakest link. Au revoir!" For the first time, Lance didn't feel a sense of victory as he watched Grace Ojomo, obviously disappointed, place her board down, step off the small platform that made her look taller and begin the walk of shame, audience applauding her performance. Lance felt the effect of her absence immediately. She'd been his companion all game long, and without her comforting presence next to him, everything was worse. He was painfully aware of how many lights had gone out from now-empty podiums, how loud the music was, how big the set was. She'd been the reason he'd done so well, the one person he trusted to have his back, but now, thanks to his clumsy, thoughtless vote, he was going to have to do it all himself. Grace had done so well for so long, and the very moment she slipped up, the vultures began to circle. Could the same happen to him next round? I'm so scared.
  11. AusGlitterati

    Round Five

    He is definitely doing better than he gave himself credit for! Does Grace recognise that? 😶 Thanks for commenting!
  12. AusGlitterati

    Round Five

    Yes! But did she vote him off because they were never plotting together or to cover herself when she was called out on it? The things Lance doesn't know will shock you! It's getting to the late, crucial stages of the game and it never hurts to have support from another player! Thanks guys! ❤️ Not long to go now!
  13. Round Five "Round five! Of a possible twenty thousand pounds, our teenage triumphs have managed to bank only ten thousand, nine hundred and fifty pounds." That's more than half! If they continued at that pace, averaging half of the total, that would mean Lance could potentially walk out of the studio with twenty-five thousand pounds. The possibilities flashed through his mind. It would certainly be the kick-starter he needed to take his career to the next level. He wouldn't have to count pennies to make it from project to photoshoot to recital to competition to appearance. Mum and Dad could also use a holiday, or some dosh to get the car back into proper order. Make-up, clothes and a little freedom to sightsee and be the one to pay when he and Bobby went on dates to cute restaurants and to see RomComs at the pictures. Then Stonewall would get the same amount, a significant boost to its finances to be there for the queer and trans boys and girls who needed their help. "There are now only five of you left, and we're taking another ten seconds from the clock. On a positive note, you still have the highly esteemed Casey with her apparent wealth of knowledge, Grace the baby know-it-all, Nathan who never, ever forgets and Jamie, whose two rounds as the strongest link absolve him of any wrongdoing.” Lance felt a little left out. The Hostess had a running joke with every other contestant at the start of the round, but not him. Was there a reason for that? Or was this game finally playing tricks with his mind and making him see things that weren’t there? The conspiracy of Grace Ojomo, not making an impression on the Hostess, an alliance between King and Queen Bellend? Mmm. I’m getting tired. He smiled to himself, though. But I’m still here. “We'll start with the strongest link from the last round, and that's Casey. Let's play the Weakest Link. Start the clock. Casey, in language, orthography is the study of what?" "Spelling." "Correct. Grace, in music, what 'P' is the name for the section of an orchestra whose instruments may include the tam-tam, the triangle and the marimba?" Good thing Alyssa isn't around to get this one wrong too. "Percussion," Grace smiled as she delivered yet another correct answer. "Correct. Lance, in geography," the Hostess began, and that horrible, despicable, bloody, buggery, bollocky word struck dread in the dancer's heart. "Which 'S' is the European territory once ruled by Slobodan Milošević?" "Oh! Heehee, Serbia!" Lance giggled before he answered with certainty. Boban 'Bobby' Petrović, Lance's long-term sweetheart, was from a Serbian City called Niš and had emigrated to Leeds, England with his wealthy family when he was very young. His family ran a successful chain of Serbian restaurants through several English cities! That was a lucky question indeed. "Correct. Jamie, in human biology, what word is both a job title in the medical profession and a term meaning to feed a baby with milk?" The question visibly perplexed the fifteen-year-old, who stumbled. "Bank. Um-- Pass!" "Nurse! Nathan, in sport, in September 2006, which former England rugby coach was appointed director of elite performance at the British Olympic Association?" Lance understood most of those words individually, but together they made absolutely no sense. Who could possibly know something like that? "Clive Woodward," Nathan answered quickly. He, like Cian, must have been a sports fan. "Correct. Casey, according to the lyrics of the classic Christmas song, what were Frosty the Snowman's eyes made of?" "Buttons." "No, coal," the Hostess corrected her, but Casey only shrugged lackadaisically, as if she weren't taking this seriously. And why should she? She already earned a small fortune with her action-thriller books. This was just a game to her, and she didn't care if she lost a hundred pounds here or fifteen hundred pounds there. "Grace, in which decade was the Cuban missile crisis?" For the first time, Grace didn't flutter that cute smile of hers that told the world she knew the answer to the question. She furrowed her brow and looked down, eyes creeping left and right as she racked her brain. A few seconds later, she looked up with resignation. She doesn't know! "1960s?" "Correct." Lance's jaw dropped in amazement. There was absolutely no stopping this girl! What a guess! "Lance, at the Vatican, when a new Pope is elected it is announced by a plume of what coloured smoke?" Oh! I know that! He throws the burning hat in the fireplace, and-- "White!" "Correct." He would be sure to kiss Nicky's cheek when he got home. How many times had the two of them watched their DVD of Eurotrip together? They could almost quote the bloody thing from start to end. I'm not stupid. I know things. Maybe not the same way the others do, but I know things. "Jamie--" "Bank." "In language, what 'I' is the literal opposite of 'extrovert?'" "Introvert," the actor replied in a smaller voice than usual. "Correct. Nathan, in geometry, what type of angle measures greater than ninety degrees and less than one hundred and eighty degrees?" "Obtuse." "Correct. Casey, in British history, what was the name of King Henry VIII's second wife and who was mother to Queen Elizabeth I?" Lance couldn't have answered that in a million years, but Casey surprised him. "Anne Boleyn." "Correct. Grace, in which children's book did a spider called Charlotte and a pig called Wilbur appear?" "Charlotte's Web." "Correct. Lance, what 'D' is used to describe a volcano that has not erupted in a long time but may erupt in the future?" Lance tapped his nail against his podium. Active. Extinct. Dormant? Dormant sounded right, but this question was for a lot of money. Fifteen hundred pounds, if he'd counted correctly. He didn't want to give Jamie and Casey an excuse to write his name down again. "Dormant?" He asked, wary of the time passing. "Correct. Jamie--" "Bank." "In horse racing, a furlong is what fraction of a mile?" Jamie seemed to have a minor tantrum, throwing his hands up in the air and giving his answer in a huff. "A quarter?" "No, an eighth. Nathan, what 'C' describes a platform walked on by fashion models?" Lance would have loved this question. Jamie, also a model, tutted in annoyance. "Runway?" That answer was so appalling that the pair of models, briefly forgetting their bad blood, looked at each other in shared dismay and audibly whimpered, drawing laughs from the crowd behind them. What part of 'C' do these people just not understand? Iguana? Runway?? "Catwalk!" The Hostess corrected him, and poor Nathan near collapsed, flopping with shame onto his podium. "Casey, the five Olympic rings are blue, yellow, black, red and which other colour?" "Green." "Correct. Grace, of the twelve astronauts that have walked on the moon, how many were women?" "None." "Correct. Lance--" "Bank!" Immediately, the lights flickered and moved, and the fanfare of defeat thundered through the studio. "Your bank was in time," the Hostess looked up at him, then her cold eyes pointed to the rest of the team one by one. "Once again team, you've managed to bank less than your previous total, with an unimpressive sixteen hundred pounds. In fact, you've managed to set a new low! So, whose night has peaked prematurely? Whose knowledge is only skin deep? I urge you to ditch the dimwit! It's time to vote off the weakest link." As Lance waited patiently for Freddy to deliver a voting board and a marker, he watched Jamie and Casey like a hawk. A pair of underperformers who had covered for each other in previous rounds. Jamie saved Casey, sending Paul home, and then Casey returned the favour, sending Eliza home. If they planned to make it to the end together, who would they vote for this time? He looked to the Irishman, whose silly error had clearly gotten under the Scottish actor's skin, then Grace, who was successfully flying under the radar. The girl's strategy and gameplan seemed as much a mystery as the rest of her. The two of them been very much on the same page so far, and he enjoyed having her beside him. She'd probably vote him off if he became a liability, but Lance knew he'd had a good round, so he was safe. The fellow to his other side, however... "Okay, pens down, it's time to reveal who you think is the weakest link." "Jamie," Grace voted for the actor, which only reinforced Lance's belief that they were simpatico... for now. "Jam--" Lance's fingers fumbled the board as he went to flip it over. He missed his grab, and it bounced off the podium, falling to the floor with a clatter. "Sod it." Everyone laughed at him. As he bent to pick it up, the Hostess predictably picked on him. "Goodness me. Not very graceful for a dancer, are you?" "I'm so sorry," Lance stood back up onto his platform and spun the board around, upside-down and back-to-front until he had it the right way up. "I think we'll do that one again. We're doing it again?" She turned and asked Freddy, who gave a curt nod. It was a nightmare not to know who the other three had voted for, and to wait to re-shoot the reveal. Jamie's lips had pursed into fat, pink worms on his face with two votes against him. Grace waited for the red light to blink, then she flipped over her board again. Lance clamped his fingers on his thin board tightly so he wouldn't make another mistake, then flipped it over to reveal Jamie's name. It was then Jamie's turn. "Nathan," Jamie shot daggers at his neighbour. "Casey," from Nathan. "Ja-mie," Casey finished off in a bratty sing-song voice. Wow! Bye Felicia! Murmurs of surprise echoed from behind them. Jamie's eyes popped open in alarm and shock, but Casey didn't so much as look at him, keeping her raccoon-like eyes on the Hostess in front of her. What happened there? She knifed him in the back! "Lance. What else can you do? Besides twerk?" The Hostess turned back to him. Lance let his head hang as he giggled. "Ballet, ballroom and tap are my specialities." "Do you sing?" He bit the inside of his lip. "No. That's something I've never been good at." "Not even for me?" The Hostess unfolded her arms. "I already twerked for you!" "You know you're my absolute favourite, don't you, and it would mean the world to me?" Lance grimaced. He wasn't sure if he could take making a fool of himself a second time. "Can I waltz with you instead?" "If you did, would you be the man or the woman?" Everyone laughed then, Lance perhaps giggling louder than most. "I would lead. Even in these shoes." "So you like to lead, do you?" Lance had long since abandoned his fears of being honest about his life in front of the others. If they were going to pick on him for being visibly queer, they would have done it by now. "When I dance with Jane - she's my usual partner and my absolute best friend in the world - I always lead. When I dance with my boyfriend though, he leads." The Hostess had half a grin on the left side of her face. "Alright. Put your board down. You too, Grace." The girl next to Lance did a double-take. "What? Me?" "Yes, you. You might have fun for a change," The Hostess insisted, mischief on her aged face. "Come on. I want to see the two of you waltz." "I-- I don't know how," Grace cowered, doubt on her pretty face. Lance stepped beyond his podium and extended a hand to Grace. "That's alright! I'll show you how. Nothing scary or difficult, I promise!" "Ohh, noo!" She protested, but anyone could see that her objection was half-hearted. She blushed, lowering the board with Jamie's name scrawled on it with the artlessness of a chicken that had stepped in some ink. "I'll look so silly!" "I won't let that happen," Lance reassured her, beckoning with his fingers. "You trust me to bank money, so I know you can trust me to teach you." Grace looked at him with round, black eyes, full of intrigue and apprehension. "Do it!" Nathan shouted from his spot, and the audience behind them buzzed with encouragement. Jamie and Casey, though, had little to no interest in what was happening. Grace gingerly placed her slat down and timidly approached, taking Lance's hand. She was slight in build, several inches shorter than the platinum-haired boy, whose shoes added four inches to his height. It wasn't his first time teaching someone the basics. How much of this quick tutorial would make it into the final cut of the episode was anyone's guess. Does it make me narcissistic to hope I get all the screen time? "We'll just do a box step, okay? It's very straightforward - it's like, the most basic foundation for pretty much everything more advanced in waltzing. There's nothing to it!" In his element, Lance almost forgot that he was in a studio full of people, with cameras, other contestants and the ever-scowling Hostess. "Three steps, okay? One, two, three. If you're waltzing and you're following rather than leading, you'll go like this." He stood a few paces in front of her, facing the majority of the cameras. "Right foot back, left foot side, right foot closes to meet the left. Left foot forward, right foot side, left foot closes to meet the right. Now, you try!" He gave her his most encouraging smile, repeating himself and leading by example as she studied him and copied his movements. "Right foot back, left foot side, right foot close. Good! Left foot forward, right food side, left foot close." "It's pretty easy. Anyone can do it," Jamie had gone a very long time without giving his opinion on something and must have felt cold without the constant spotlight keeping him warm. Lance ignored him. "Just like that!" The platinum-haired dancer brushed aside the one lock of hot pink as he encouraged the girl, her buckled shoes moving across the illuminated studio floor. "Step, side, close. Step, side, close. Oh, girl! You're a natural - wasted on school! We could turn you into a proper showgirl by the end of the night!" Scared she may well have been, but fourteen-year-old Grace Ojomo, the smartest girl in England, never stopped smiling as the much taller boy instructed her. The impromptu waltzing lesson definitely forced her to let up on her facade. She let her instructor place her hand on his shoulder and did not retreat at all when he set his fingers firmly between her shoulder blades. He then took her other hand and smiled down at her. "Ready?" "No!" She complained, grinning. "Yes." "Step," Lance lead the small-framed girl by stepping towards her. Though their timing was awkward, Grace remembered which foot moved first, and nobody stood on any toes. "Side. Close. Step. Side. Close." "Come on, Gracie!" A male shouted from the audience - Lance assumed a family member - and slowly, support mounted from the loved ones sitting in the dark area of the studio. Grace didn't waltz with confidence, but all she needed to do was remember the steps and let her partner lead her around the Hostess, who was watching with interest and awe as the teenagers circled her. They passed in front of Casey, who wasn't looking bored for a change, Nathan, still holding his board with the novelist’s name on it, and Jamie, whose indignant scowl could have curdled milk. When at last they finished in front of their empty podiums, the applause reached a crescendo, and Lance gave a little bow to the cameras, shooting the Hostess his most dazzling smile. "A reasonable exhibition, I suppose," the older woman folded her arms again and pushed her spectacles up her nose - a gesture that Jamie comically mimicked. "Pick your boards up. Why did you vote for Jamie?" Teaching Grace to waltz in minimal time had been so disruptive that Lance almost forgot he was sending off the boy who had, at one point, seemed so perfect and infallible. Someone whose very presence made him feel insignificant and inferior, and had overshadowed him at every opportunity. No wonder the actor had an expression like a cat's bum. "Jamie doesn't look like he's enjoying himself, so I thought I'd send him home," Lance explained, and the woman finally left him alone. "Grace. Did you have fun?" The Hostess asked her. "I-- I did! It was terrifying, but Lance is a great teacher," Grace's poised, modest facade had been successfully rocked by the Hostess' demands of her. Lance took a moment to appreciate the older woman's ploy, forcing Grace into the spotlight rather than letting her sneak by unnoticed. "Casey and Nathan also made mistakes. Why Jamie?" The girl looked at the two at the other end of the curve and back to the Hostess. "Casey has managed to pull herself together since her rocky start, and she was actually the strongest link in the last round. Nathan's been fairly consistent all game long. Jamie, though, has had two disastrous rounds in a row. He's become a burden, and we can do better without him." Yaaas, Grace! GET HIM GRACE!! The woman took her lengthy, savage answer and moved on. "Casey. Have you ever had a real job?" "Writing is a real job," the girl replied coldly. "I suppose you're lucky then! Do you think you'd ever get another job looking like that?" "I won't ever need to," Casey gave an easy shrug, biting at the ring through the left side of her bottom lip. Lance was hardly fond of Casey, but in this case, he was actually on her side. He was a fan of the Hostess, whose job was to make fun of the people in front of her, but who was she to tell anyone that writing wasn't a real job? How many times had people - even his own family and friends - told Lance that modelling and dancing weren't real jobs? That if he were going to leave school, he needed to find a trade or some minimum wage gig in a dank kitchen somewhere? Why weren't careers in entertainment and arts considered valid in that conversation? It felt especially rich coming from the Hostess, whose job had been to host a television game show for twelve years. "So you think you'll be a successful writer forever, then?" "Why not? I've sold more copies by sixteen than most authors sell in a lifetime," Casey flaunted her success, not that Lance blamed her when the Hostess had taken jabs at it all night long. "I'm good at it, and I love it. Why would I stop?" "You stopped voting the same way as Jamie, at least. In fact, you've voted him off! Care to tell us why, especially as it was you who saved him from elimination in the last round?" Yes, girl. Tell us more. Casey remained still and cold as a gargoyle. "He's the weakest player. He's gotta go. Not much more to it than that." Jamie audibly scoffed at her, but she, like Lance, pretended he wasn't there. "Jamie! You may be an expert at many things, but it's clear that general knowledge is not one of them. With three votes, you are the weakest link. Goodbye." Beating Paul, Alyssa, Cian and Eliza felt fantastic, no doubt, but victory over Jamie tasted sweeter than all the others combined. As he watched Jamie moodily drop his voting board with a clatter and storm off towards the studio doors, he remembered what the actor had said about him in the green room, and laughed to himself. “They need someone to go home first!"
  14. AusGlitterati

    Round Four

    🤔 Good question! Well she wasn't exactly under threat of elimination in this particular round, but she is certainly living on borrowed time! Do you think she and Jamie are voting tactically? Yes! Only three votes to go now! Fine, I'll just change the winner 😡 Thanks everybody!
  15. Round Four Lance gently brushed the one lock of hair that he'd dyed bright pink away from his face. With his clasp mirror safe in Mum's bag, all he could do was hope that his hair was behaving itself. The Hostess cleared her throat, then a few seconds later, she spoke. "Round four! You've eliminated three so-called weakest links, so we are left with just six players, and we're taking another ten seconds off the clock, so you have only two and a half minutes. But, before you despair, remember you still have the exceedingly important Casey, who boasts an alleged wealth of knowledge, Britain's brightest and youngest know-it-all Grace and of course, Nathan, who never forgets. We'll start with the strongest link from the last round, and that's Lance." Lance's bottom jaw nearly hit his podium, and he hid his mouth behind his hands in disbelief and giddy excitement. "Me? I was the strongest link?? Seriously??" Get knotted, every teacher who ever called me stupid! I can do anything! "Believe me when I say I'm just as surprised as you are!" The Hostess clapped back at the giggling dancer. "Alright. Start the clock. Lance, in maths, what is two-quarters of sixteen?" He'd been so busy being pleased with himself that he wasn't ready for her to shoot the question at him so quickly. "It's... nine--nono, it's um, six!" He screwed his eyes shut. He knew she had to accept his first answer, even if the second answer he gave was the right one. "It's eight!" The Hostess half-chuckled with amusement as she corrected his terribly stupid blunder. Oh, for fuck's sake! Lance could only laugh at himself as he covered his face with both hands and leaned down to smack the podium with his arms. The spectators roared with mirth at his expense, almost as loud as when he twerked for them. It was just his luck to make such an utter fool of himself right after earning some real credibility in the competition. "Jamie, the singer Sinead O'Conner hails from which UK country?" Jamie squinted slightly behind his trendy spectacles. "England." "Ireland!" The Hostess stressed the word in her correction, making Jamie scowl at her. "Nathan, which sport uses bats or paddles to hit a ball across a net on a table?" "Table tennis." "Correct. Casey, in computing, what 'B' is an error in programming that is also a common term for an insect?" "Bug," she answered immediately. "Correct. Eliza, in the human body, what 'A' is a thick-walled blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart?" "Aorta," Eliza was confident in her answer, which confused Lance. I thought it was an artery. "No, artery." Oh, I was right. "Grace, in the English language, what 'U' describes a final demand that, if rejected, would result in a breakdown of relations?" "Ultimatum," she smiled. "Correct! Lance, in pop music, how many members were there in the original lineup of the Spice Girls?" Yaaas! "Five!" He beamed. "Correct!" The Hostess made a show of sounding surprised. "Jamie, ascorbic acid is better known as which vitamin?" Jamie pushed his glasses back up his petite nose and frowned. "Vitamin A?" "No, Vitamin C." Lance noticed that while Jamie and Eliza started off so strong in the first couple of rounds, they were beginning to make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes on questions I would have gotten right. "Nathan, which Duchess founded the British organisation for children in crisis?" "Um... Duchess of... York?" Nathan answered uncertainly. He had no idea. Lance didn't either. "Correct!" The Irishman almost collapsed in his relief, breaking the tension in the room with some much-needed comedy. "Casey, in nature, a giant panda's main source of food is derived from which type of woody tropical grass?" "Bamboo." "Correct. Eliza, in baking, what flavour is Devil's Food Cake?" Eliza's mouth curled. "Chocolate." "Correct! Grace, in which country is the 1965 movie Dr Zhivago set?" Lance was positive that this question would be Grace's undoing. He found it very hard to believe that, genius or not, she could possibly be familiar with... he'd already forgotten the name of the movie. But, to his awe, she gave that answer-knowing smile he'd come to expect from her. "Russia." "Correct. Lance, with which sport would you associate Englishman Sir Stanley Matthews?" Bollocks. He tapped his reinforced nails loudly on the podium. There was no bloody way he could possibly know this, so rather than pass, he threw out his best guess. "Football?" "Correct." Oh, wow. Relief hit the sixteen-year-old so hard he could have fainted. If he got that question wrong, his brother would never forgive him, and it was likely that the other contestants would take out their frustration by writing his name on their board at the end of the round. "Jamie--" "Bank!" The teenager almost spat the word out. "The official residence of the President of the United States is known by what name?" "The White House," he delivered his answer coldly. Now that he'd been knocked off his pedestal, he certainly wasn't enjoying himself nearly as much. "Correct. Nathan, in children's literature, which fairy tale character leaves one of her glass slippers at a ball?" "Cinderella." "Correct. Casey, in politics, what 'S' is the name given to a government payment or concession granted to a state-owned or private company?" Is it me, or are these questions getting harder? "Sub... si... dy," Casey sounded out each syllable as though she wasn't sure if the word even existed. "Corr... ect! Eliza--" "Bank!" "Are there any snakes native to New Zealand?" The notes of defeat sounded out the end of the round as Eliza threw out an answer as fast as she could. "No!" "'No' was the correct answer, but you were out of time." That really sucks. Poor Eliza. The Hostess looked unimpressed, which seemed very par for the course. "Two thousand pounds? Is that all we can expect from the best and brightest of the United Kingdom? Well, that money will be added to your running total, but you will need to decide who is to blame for that pathetic effort. Who crumbles under pressure? Which teenage triumph is the teenage twit? It's time to vote off the weakest link." So, what happened in that round? Lance gently fanned himself as Freddy passed out the slats and markers. By this stage, he was beginning to conflate all the rounds into one long game, and it was hard to remember who messed up and who banked money this go around. The only thing he could count on was that Grace always answered correctly, so he couldn't even consider her for elimination. She was far too valuable a player. But Jamie wasn't doing well, and Eliza was beginning to struggle as well. His twerking butt wasn't safe, either. His teammates could very well have taken umbrage with his foolish maths mishap and have plans to oust him. The trend, he'd noticed, was to send votes at the players who underperformed in that round. Even though Casey's track record was horrible, she actually did well this time. It had to be either Eliza or Jamie. Like that's a hard choice. Lance hadn't quite finished decorating the area around Jamie's name with dozens of x's and o's before the Hostess stepped back up on stage. "Voting phase is over, time to reveal who you think is the weakest link." Grace's vote brought Lance much satisfaction. "Jamie." "Jamie," Lance agreed. "Eliza," Jamie glared at the actress. "Eliza," Nathan flipped his board. Uh oh. "Eliza," Casey confirmed Lance's fears with that annoying chant she'd begun doing when casting a vote. "Jamie," if Eliza was upset with the votes, she disguised it well. Lance supposed it was okay, though. Grace got all her questions right, so she was probably the strongest link. She could break the tie and send Jamie home - she'd voted for him, so he didn't see why she'd change her mind. He knew the clever girl liked Eliza and didn't think much of Jamie. The Hostess made eye contact with her victims one by one, but Lance felt less afraid of her than he'd been at the beginning. She'd roasted him for his clothes, makeup, inadequate knowledge and career choice - she'd even made him twerk! The memory made him both cringe and smile. What more could she do to him? It was Grace, though, who first enjoyed the imposing woman's ire. "So, Grace. Have you ever had fun before?" Grace seemed to shrink back a little bit. "Of course." "Has anyone ever thought of you as a fun person?" She let herself smile. "Well, I could ask you the same question." The Hostess ignored the laughs at her expense, but Lance was proud of his neighbour. There was definitely a cheeky side to the quiet Grace Ojomo... which made him think. He, like the Hostess interrogating her, was curious to know what she was like away from the cameras. She seemed... well, too pedestrian, as though she were trying to be forgettable - to avoid making any impressions. She was dressed in a plain outfit, donning a light beige waistcoat over a white blouse, a brown plaid skirt over black tights and conservative heeled black shoes with buckles. She wore no jewellery or accessories, save a white headband to keep her lovely black curls from her face. The more he thought about it, the more he convinced himself that her wallflower shtick was a facade. Was she hoping that in the motley crew of loud personalities, she might go unnoticed? Who by? The Hostess... or the other contestants? You know precisely what you're doing, don't you? Mm-mm, honey. I'm not buying what you're selling. You're a bloody player. "Why did you vote for Jamie?" The Hostess asked her, not bothering to recognise the girl's burn. Lance watched Grace look apologetically over to Jamie, but the actor was undoubtedly not going to forgive her, judging by the indignant look on his lovely face. With that insolent glare, any pity the allegedly sweet girl had for him seemed to die on the spot. "He's failing us. We have a chance to win a lot of money for charity, but we need our strongest players to do that, and Jamie just isn't cutting it anymore," she explained curtly. Oof. Cold. The dancer barely had a moment to enjoy the way Jamie looked down at the podium with his lovely face twisted in a scowl, unhappy with his lousy performance or Grace's brutally honest comments, because the Hostess rounded on him next. "So, Lance. Don't they teach you basic fractions at school these days?" He snickered, fluffing his platinum-dyed hair with one hand while his other gripped his voting board. "Fractions have fallen out of fashion. Geography too," he added before the vindictive woman could bring up the mistake he made back in round two. "Really? Quite a shock that you of all people would have an opinion on what is and is not fashion." "I told you earlier that I'd do your wardrobe for you! Makeup too," he put on his most dazzling smile. "I could take years off your face." She shifted her weight, hand on her hip. "People already tell me I don't look a day over thirty!" Her reply earned her some chuckles of appreciation, but Lance wasn't going to let her get the last word. "You could look twenty-five!" The Hostess failed to prevent herself from grinning, looking down to hide it from the cameras. "Why did you vote for Jamie?" The dancer didn't think of himself as an especially petty person, but it cut deep to have the talented actor, someone Lance previously adored, make nasty and unsolicited comments to him in the green room. The younger boy was a spoiled brat, with that holier-than-thou arrogance and perpetual sneering. Still, he didn't want to explain to the Hostess, the other contestants and everyone who would view this episode that his vote for Jamie was indeed personal in nature. "Jamie started off very strong in the first couple of rounds, but his game is going pear-shaped." "Right. Okay," the Hostess turned then to Nathan, who greeted her with the most nervous, terrified grin Lance had ever seen. "Nathan." "Hello?" His crooked, white teeth shone in his mouth. "Better at guessing the answers than remembering them, are you?" "Maybe in that round." "Definitely in that round! It's not that easy to pull the wool over my eyes, don't even try it!" She spoke over him as he spluttered and stammered, trying to defend himself. "Why did you vote for Eliza?" Nathan looked between Jamie, to his right, and back to Eliza, who was cut off from the rest of the group by Paul's empty podium. "She got a couple wrong." "Oh, she got a couple wrong, did she?" Suddenly he didn't look so sure. "I think so?" "She only got one question wrong!" The Hostess corrected him in a harsh voice. "What happened to never forgetting?" Whatever colour Nathan had behind his freckles drained from his pale face. "I must have remembered wrong." The Hostess scoffed and then turned back to Jamie. "Jamie! Not very good with the letter 'C', are you?" "What do you mean?" The beautiful actor pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Lizards and vitamins both," she explained, but Lance felt her joke was a little tenuous at best. "And you sing, don't you?" "Yes!" He sounded excited again like he had when things were going his way. "But you don't know Sinead O'Connor?" His beaming smile faltered. "I don't think anyone can know everybody." "So, what can you sing? Nothing by Sinead O'Connor, I'll assume." "I can sing a lot of different things. When I was young, I usually got the lead role in plays and musicals, before I grew up and moved on to television," the boy boasted. Lance's eyes met Eliza's, and the actress ever so subtly shook her head. It was no secret that the Scottish actor was taking a shot at her. "I also sang the opening theme for Ember Seal, actually," Jamie added, puffing out his chest with pride. "But since I play one of the show's primary villains, the producers decided to have Alison McGrath sing it instead. Although--" he spoke loudly over the Hostess, not taking the chance of her changing the subject before he was ready. He loved to talk, talk, talktalktalk. "They did play my version of the song during the closing credits of Season Two, Episode Nine." Lance enjoyed the long-running jabs the Hostess made about Casey's inflated sense of self-importance, but Jamie, in his opinion, would have fit the bill for that narrative even better. He was born as the physical embodiment of the word 'conceit.' "Why on that episode?" The older woman asked. Jamie began to speak, but this time, she was the one who talked over him. "Don't spoil the whole show for us!" Jamie paused and ran his tongue over his bottom lip. It was such a Corey mannerism - when he was thinking. Lance knew all of them. A smirk with a lower lip bite when he was being duplicitous. The quiet chuckle when his machiavellian string-pulling caused the drama he seemed to live on. Those heart-melting brown eyes widening complete with a pout when he was trying to charm someone. A half-shrug when he was playing dumb. The nose twitch when he was annoyed or upset. For the actor's faults, he was incredible in his craft. Corey's portrayal by the Scottish actor was just so delightfully multifaceted and genuine that Lance would have forgiven him anything - except, perhaps, to end up like Jamie. A lot of the dancer's love for the character budded from the episode in question - Season Two, Episode Nine: "The Hollow Heart." Jamie explained it very well. "It's an episode that delves into who Corey is underneath and why he is... well, the way he is. What he wants, how he deals with past trauma and what he's afraid of - the stuff he certainly wouldn't want you to see. It was probably the most difficult and most rewarding episode I ever starred in. Some of those tears were definitely real." Lance was among the several, possibly those who had seen the show, who clapped for him. The Hollow Heart wasn't easy to watch, and it was the first episode in the show to cast Corey in a sympathetic light and give background to his troubling behaviour. "Do you think you're a better singer than Alison McGrath?" "It depends on who you ask." "I'm not asking who is better, I'm asking if you think you're better," the Hostess brushed aside his attempt to dodge the question. "I do think I'm better. That's why I was the first choice before they changed their mind," Jamie decided. "Right! Well, here's your chance to back up your words. Put your board down. Just one verse." A proud smile replaced the actor’s pout as he placed his board down, created his own rhythm by tapping his hands on the podium in front of him, and he began to sing the opening Ember Seal lyrics that Lance knew so well. He didn't have quite the range of Alyssa MacIntosh nor the emotive vibrato of Eliza Stacey Brooks, but there was a poignant sweetness to his words. He was too beautiful. It was unfair. Never meet your heroes. They'll break your heart. He clapped in earnest as Jamie Ceannaideach - he'd already forgotten how to pronounce it - finished and took a small bow, a proud, beaming smile on his lips. "Thank you. Put your board up," the Hostess folded her arms again. "Why did you vote for Eliza?" "She only got one question right." "So did you, so why should you stay instead of her?" "I had a bad round, yes, but I was the strongest link twice at the start of the game. Eliza hasn't done nearly as well as I have." Lance disagreed, but it wasn't his place to say so. It was Jamie's position on the curve that had given him so much credit, not necessarily his performance. Lance may have been poorly educated, but he was no fool, and humble enough to recognise that much of his success stemmed from Grace and her perfect record. Being crowned the strongest link in a given round required more than merely answering questions correctly - it depended on how much money the questions were worth and how much money that person banked. Grace spouting correct answers all the time meant that Lance's questions were worth more than hers, and since Lance had done relatively well, Jamie's were worth more again. On the other hand, Eliza was after Casey and Paul, people who hadn't given her much money to play with. It was no coincidence that the strongest links so far - Lance and Jamie - were positioned directly after Grace. She's carrying us. Jamie's too far up himself to notice though, bless him. "Eliza! Are you unfamiliar with GCSEs?" "Not at all. I still go to school full-time," she explained, one of her fingers twirling in a long lock of black hair. "You could have fooled me! How long does it take you to become Ursula for the thirty or forty people in the audience?" "I'll have you know we manage to sell out more often than not, and the main auditorium sits four hundred and fifty-two! But for your question, between makeup, my costume and warming up, a little under three hours?" "So if you go to school full-time and spend the rest of the day getting ready to perform for a handful of people, when do you have time for anything else?" Eliza shrugged and suddenly looked very tired. "I don't. I do eight shows a week, and I have to spend my half-day on Sunday catching up on coursework." "So, no boyfriends then?" Eliza's red lips curled mischievously. "Who has time for boys?" "You don't seem to have time for Jamie, at least. Why should the team evict him rather than you?" "Yes, I did make a mistake, but it was in the delivery of my answer. Jamie might have been the strongest link twice, but he dropped the ball on easy questions in this round twice." There was no love between actor and actress. In the green room, Eliza had become frustrated with his tendency to talk over her as though she didn't exist. It was one of the things that she, Lance and Grace had quickly bonded over - a mutual dislike of Jamie Ceannaideach, professional actor, singer, model, dancer and dickhead. The Hostess paused before turning to the one person she hadn't yet interrogated - the other person in the game that was anathema to the platinum-haired dancer - Casey Adams. "Saved the most important for last again?" Casey asked the older woman before she had a chance to say something critical. "If you say so," the Hostess folded her arms. "Are you writing anything at the moment?" Casey nodded. "The third novel in my series." "How long does it take to write a novel?" "Around nine months." "So, how many words might you write every day?" "Between two and four thousand, usually. It depends on the day." "Why did you vote for Eliza?" The Hostess didn't seem very interested in bantering with Casey, not that Lance would blame her. The brightly coloured girl with the myriad of piercings wasn't giving her much to go with. "She gave a stupid answer and cost us money," Casey explained bluntly. That's pretty bloody rich coming from you! "Well, in the event of a tie, it's the strongest link who casts the deciding vote. And that's Casey," the Hostess revealed. Huh? No. Her? Really? Her? "Who would you like to get rid of? Jamie, who struggles with the letter 'C,' or Eliza, who doesn't know the circulatory system?" The phrasing of the question posed by the Hostess, in Lance's opinion, made it obvious who should go and who should stay. Casey's black-ringed eyes looked once to Eliza, and then back to Jamie. Both of them were staring at her expectantly. "I'll stick with my vote for Eliza because Jamie saved me from the tie in round one." Lance chewed the inside of his lip. It seemed as though Casey existed only to frustrate him! "Unsurprising, I'd say. After all, you and Jamie have voted the same way every single round so far," the Hostess reminded everybody, and the hair stood up on Lance's neck. It was true, he remembered now. First Paul, then himself - though luckily they didn’t get the majority that time, Cian third and now Eliza. A secret alliance, maybe? The Hostess turned back to the doomed actress. "Eliza, you may not have won, but would you please sing for me one more time before you go?" "Will you promise to come and watch me perform at the Sherman Theatre?" Eliza, though clearly disappointed, broke a big smile. "I'll think about it." Eliza placed her board down, and one last time, threw herself right into character and belted out the final verse of Poor Unfortunate Souls from the depths of her soul. She sounded so sweet yet so cruel, and Lance covered his mouth with his hands as she gave him goosebumps. The final note absolutely blew him away, raising her pitch four times as she held it with flawless vibrato, and she received a standing ovation before she'd even finished and given a deep bow, looking a little out of breath. Incredible! Total brilliance! Ahh! "That was fantastic! I look forward to seeing you on the Broadway stage!" the Hostess shouted above the cheers and the applause, forcing the show to go on. "Eliza, though Jamie was statistically the weakest player, Casey has decided to drop the curtain on your performance tonight. With three votes, you are the weakest link. Goodbye!" The studio erupted again with applause for Eliza Stacey Brooks, who had managed to charm everyone in her sadly short appearance tonight, including the stone-faced Hostess. She waved and blew a kiss in the direction of the audience, then she stepped down under the lights and commenced the walk of shame, strutting slightly as she owned the studio floor like the queen she was. As the theatre actress with the voice of an angel passed through the doors, Lance eyed his rivals to the left. Twats. Jamie and Casey both came across as much too self-centred to give a damn about each other, but they had voted for the same people every round and successfully covered for each other. Coincidence? A twisted type of honour, maybe? Or was there collusion after all? Did they plan to make it to the final round together by strategically voting all their rivals off, one by one? They'd already tried to get rid of him in the second round - would they try again? Where did Nathan fit in all this? He'd voted the same way as the people either side of him this round and the one before, but he'd also voted to eliminate Casey before that. Lance did feel safer with Grace next to him, but he wasn't going to let his eye off her either, lest he feel a knife in his back. She was playing her own game - he was certain of it - and he had no way of knowing if he was a part of it in the long run. Ugh. This is doing my head in. I need a hug.
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