A/N: Yes, another Jane-focused chapter. Have to progress her plot a bit here before focusing on the other characters more. I also wanted to show more of day-to-day college life, I guess. Also. Profanity. That'll happen with Jane. Just want to comment that when I use profanity in excess it is intentional. Fact is, plenty of people in our society are lazy with their vocabulary and rely on such words to get their points across. =P
What I Learned at SRU
Chapter 24 - With a Little Help
- Sunday, October 24th, 2010 -
"Fuck," grunted Jane, hands dug deep in her wide cargo pants pockets. "Johnny, I don't wanna do this..." She shot a glare at her boyfriend that blended a plead with irritation, and he frowned back at her. "What?" she snapped, shrugging her shoulder. "That's your name."
Longshot huffed through his nose, arms folded across his chest.
"Fine," Jane sighed. "Longshot. Whatever. I don't wanna go in there," she insisted, thrusting her arm, out to the building they were standing beside on the corner of the street. "How many fuckin' times have I told you? I'm done with that bullshit."
Longshot shook his head disapprovingly at her.
"Gimme a break here, Longshot..." Jane closed the gap between them and squirmed her lanky arms around his waist, tugging him toward her. He resisted but not so much as to break the embrace. "I wish you'd just quit this crap," she mumbled, her chin on his shoulder.
"I don't run away from my responsibilities," Longshot darkly explained. His words punctured like a needle through Jane's mind with their implications. Jane wanted to punch something in that moment, but contained the rage. She bottled this feeling with the rest like them into the jar known as 'Smellerbee.'
"Yea," she grunted, releasing him from her grip.
What's my damned problem, thinking a fuckin' hug is gonna solve anything?
"Well..." She kicked a pebble down the sidewalk. "This shit ain't my responsibility anymore." Her eyes cautiously lifted to Longshot's, and she read it in his expression: it wasn't her responsibility because she'd abandoned it. "Whatever, let's get this over with..."
Longshot grabbed her shoulder as if try to stop her, but she brushed his hand off, blowing past him and storming into the sparsely populated bar - a thick clump of familiar faces were joined at the usual spot in the back corner of the Treetop Pub at the large, round table.
"The fuck's the problem here, Ladies?" Smellerbee growled, tossing her arms out in indignation at the group of young men, a couple of familiar females included.
"Hello to you, too," snapped a blond, pigtailed girl.
"Piss off, Cherry," Smellerbee huffed, not even glancing her way. "Why did you guys call me here? Whaddya want?"
Sneers, the bartender, was suddenly behind the bitter redhead, along with Longshot. She turned around to face them, intimidated by her boyfriend seeming to be on their side.
"Actually, yoos called us, Smelly," Sneers snipped. "Whudda hell nutjobs yoos runnin' wit' deze days?"
Jane's olive eyes rolled and she cocked her head back.
"Oh, my God," she dismissed incredulously. "My friend was bein' an asswipe and took my phone and made a prank call, all right? Big fuckin' deal."
"Yoos got da noive to ignore da Fighters, and ya go screwin' 'round wit whackjobs whats mockin' us?" He prodded her in the shoulder with a meaty finger, glowering down on her.
"So what if he's a whackjob?" she hissed in retaliation, poking back, her bony finger having a much slighter impact. "Who I roll with is my business, all right? Leave 'em outta this."
"Jet's dead, Smelly," Sneers seethed, pushing her back by the arms. "We had a chain o' command 'round here an' yoos blew it off."
"Makes no God damn difference to me what the hell you people do," decried Smellerbee. Her dreary, smoldering eyes drifted to Longshot. "I don't get what the issue is here!" Longshot's dim expression remained unchanged: disappointed.
"You know things, Smellerbee," quipped a cigar-smoking afro-adorned kid from the table. "If you ain't with us, you against us. Liability, n' all dat."
"Yojimbo, I ain't gonna screw anyone over," Smellerbee defended. "Why the fuck would I do that? I'd be getting myself into more trouble than most of you guys."
"Why would yoos do that?" Sneers retorted. "Why would yoos not tell us 'bout Jet's soicumstances? Why would yoos ditch da Fighters?"
"You haven't exactly been acting yourself, lately," Cherry pointed out, chewing on her tobacco as she often did. "We can't trust your judgment. You've cracked."
"I've-...?" Smellerbee glared at the blond with exasperation. "I've cracked? I decided to make my own fuckin' life, Cherry! Why do you people need me so damned much?"
"You were second in command," Yojimbo pointed out. "You know a lotta shit we don't, Bee. And our leader needs you, man."
"Wh-?" Smellerbee glared at Sneers and shrugged in frustration. "Why can't you handle things? You've been around longer than I have."
"Uhh, I ain't da leader, Smelly," Sneers muttered, pointing to his side. "Longshot is now."
Smellerbee's jaw dropped as she swung her head to face her lover, aghast that he had taken the position.
"Johnny?" she exploded, trying to claw away at his icy resolve with her words. "I told you not to take the job! What the hell, Johnny?"
Longshot's eyes, firm and cold, dropped down from Smellerbee's rage as he closed his eyelids in contemplation.
"I don't run away from my responsibilities," Longshot repeated his line from earlier, as much a statement to Smellerbee as to the group he now commanded.
Jane was flabbergasted. She couldn't remember the last time she had heard him speak aloud in public. He would talk with her, and her alone. Her stomach twisted with confusion, warped by the idea that she had been betrayed somehow. Smellerbee went to approach him, but Sneers clenched her shoulder and held her back, her eyes still glued to Longshot's dire face.
"How is this your fucking responsibility?" Jane demanded. Her voice had squeaked ever-so-slightly, and her dampened eyes steamed. Her hurt and confusion leaked through the fresh cracks of her 'Smellerbee' jar. Jane wanted to shed a tear, to break down and profess her desperation, her befuddled feeling of being deceived, but Smellerbee wouldn't allow Jane to do that here.
"Don't ya get it, ya retard?" Yojimbo lashed out, slamming the table. "You were Jet's right-hand. With him gone, someone had to take his place. Dat was supposed to be you. With you gone, someone had to take your place."
"So...Wh-..." Jane popped her shoulders up in disbelief, shaking her head. "I knew you were still working with these guys, Johnny, but...How could you not tell me this?"
"Stop da PMS train at da station, Smelly," Sneers objected. "Da decision was made yestaday while yoos was pissin' 'round witcha make-pretend band." In its own way, this lessened the blow a bit - Jane hadn't seen or talked with Johnny since Friday, and this was Sunday evening. She hadn't exactly allowed him the opportunity to explain this to her when she'd arrived at the pub, either, opting to blast right into things.
He didn't mean to do this behind my back. No. No-no. He's...just doing what's expected of him, and...I-I just gotta talk him out of it later. Yea.
"Fine," Smellerbee dropped the matter, viciously tearing herself from Sneers' grip, eyes planted on Longshot's solemn face, his eyes still closed. She bluffed to escape the situation. "Longshot can do whatever he wants." She stomped straight toward the pub's exit, shouting back at them as she went. "When Johnny wants to talk with his fucking girlfriend, Jane Fitzpatrick, she'll be waiting for him..."
By the time she had rushed outside, Jane's eyes were melting in anger, boiling water building within their wells. She whirled around the corner and pounded her fist into the brick side of the building, scraping her knuckles. She shook her wrist irritably, marching through the small pub's parking lot out back. She shoved herself into her car and slammed the door. Taking a deep breath in the driver's seat, she could feel herself overcome with dread and anger, but she suppressed it.
Not gonna fuckin' cry over this. Not worth it.
- Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 -
"Pick up the pace, Fitzpatrick..."
Jane's expression was unwavering in the face of her commanding officer. She felt too dead to even bother mustering a frown. She simply pushed her slender arms to work harder. ROTC training was often therapeutic to wake up to for her, waking her body up and expending any ill-will she may have carried over from teh day prior.
"That's more like it," her mentor confirmed dryly at her increase in speed.
Jane finished her push-ups behind the rest of team and scrambled to attention as quickly as she could, forcing her aching arm to salute.
"At ease," commanded the brusque man, his arms folded behind his back, chest puffed out - as usual. "That'll be all for today. You are dismissed." He spoke with a voice like cracked leather, his eyes determined and unwavering.
As everyone went to file out, Jane was discouraged when he called her name.
She gave pause, squinting her eyes and wrinkling her nose, back to him. She was really not in the mood to even be there that morning, much less be ostracized for her lack of performance as of late. She begrudgingly about-faced and saluted as he approached.
"Sergeant Zhao," she acknowledged.
"That was even more pathetic than yesterday," Zhao observed, circling her like a vulture. "I don't know what the issue is, Fitz, but you'd better fix it. Your performance this semester has been...something to be desired," he sighed. "Absenteeism, tardiness, falling behind..." He continued to circle her statued form. "You've been a sore sight to see given how well you did last year."
Jane swallowed her pride and refrained from spouting out the numerous excuses on the tip of her tongue.
"If you're going to make it here, I expect to see a drastic improvement, and soon."
"Don't let me down, Fitz."
"You, uh...You OK, Jane?"
"Wha-?" Jane's attention broke free from her phone. She'd been scavenging through her new messages, desperate for anything from Johnny, but her search bore no desired fruits. "What'd ya say, Aang?"
"I asked if you were all right," Aang repeated, his tone empathetically amused.
"Oh. Pff. Yea, yea."
"The fact that you're smiling that wide is a tell-tale sign you're lying, you know."
Jane's plastic smile evaporated as she rubbed her tired eyes.
"What's up?" Aang wondered with concern as they traveled across campus, heading up to Aero.
"Did you guys not work things out yet?"
"I don't...-" Jane shrugged in frustration, rolling her eyes. "No," she spat. "We didn't. Haven't heard from him since Sunday night. Haven't seen him, either."
"Maybe he feels guilty?"
"Maybe..." Jane rubbed her eyebrow indecisively. "Just wish he'd fuckin' talk to me..."
"Yea," Aang lamented, offering a gentle pat on the shoulder. "I think you're making the right decision, Jane. You're better than those guys. You don't need them. Johnny probably just needs some time to think things through."
"You'd better be right, Aang," grumbled Jane, rolling her head around in contemplation. "Or I'm going to need to go and kick his skinny bumpkin ass."
Aang observed the numbness in Jane's expression and dug into his bag as they walked, flipping through his sketchbook.
"Here," he presented, handing it to her. "I wanted to show you this."
Jane cocked her head at the illustration and Aang delighted at a shimmer of gratitude that sparked out.
"Hey," Jane muttered in recognition, "Wasn't this that picture you said you drew the first day of the semester?"
"Sure is," Aang replied. "Like the addition?"
Jane marveled at the image of herself - grouchy-faced and all, sitting at the end of a table in Appa's alongside the other four. Originally, she had not been present in the drawing, given that it had been initially sketched before she had hung out with him. Despite her downer attitude, Aang could tell he'd scraped the bottom of her emotional barrel and dredged up some relief.
"Yea, it's cool," Jane replied, handing the notebook back to him. "Thanks..."
"Things'll work out," Aang assured, slapping her gently on her back.
"Meh." The word slipped out rather pathetically.
"They will," Aang insisted, shoving her on the shoulder. She punched him back. "What's with you women and the hitting?" he joked, rubbing the point of impact. "So violent..."
"Violent is as violent does."
Jane burst out a laugh. "I dunno."
- Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 -
"Wow..." Sokka surveyed the blade in amazement, stroking its side with his finger. "This is...so bad-ass."
"I know," Jane casually acknowledged, leaning against the boys' dresser.
Sokka thumbed the pewter lioness head that formed the knife's hilt.
"You ever use it?" Sokka suddenly questioned with excited eyes. "Like...ya know..." He shrugged, leaning in, and whispered, "In your gang?"
Jane's eyes dulled for a moment as her mind reeled to the night Jet died.
"Y-yea," she sputtered. "Sure."
"You ever kill anybody with it?" Sokka questioned with suspicion, glaring at her with a dark humor.
"N-No," Jane protested, her face flashing red at the accusation. "Just 'cuz I was in a gang doesn't make me a fuckin' murderer, Sokka," she defended, arms crossed, tone sharp as the blade in Sokka's hand.
"Whoa, hey," Sokka eased, dropping his act. "I'm just playin'. Sorry."
"I'll kill you with that knife if you don't stop bein' an ass," Jane joked back with embellished bitterness - her way of trying to accept his apology.
"I'd better watch out, then," Sokka chuckled, continuing to admire the handiwork of the knife's sculpting.
"Right, 'cuz I'm such a threat to your safe little bubble here, right?" Jane theorized with a tint of disdain, her mood swinging back to doubt.
"Nah, you're all right, Freckle-Face."
"Yea, because everyone else gets along with me." Now she was just being negative because she felt like it.
Sokka rose from his seat at his desk and slipped Jane's knife back into its metal sheathe, savoring the sound as he set it on his bed.
"What's goin' on with you lately, Ginger?" he wondered with some concern, dropping any hint of comedy.
"Ya wanna know?" Jane growled back, wide eyed. "My ROTC Sergeant is givin' me shit, I'm fallin' behind in my classes, my fucking boyfriend won't talk to me, I-"
"But he never talks-"
"Shut up, Sokka," Jane groaned, rolling her eyes. "Fuckin' interrupting me..."
"OK, OK," Sokka rapidly receded his interjection, palms up. "I'm sorry." His pale blue eyes pleaded with olive eyes like coal. "Continue." Jane gave pause for a moment, as if waiting to ensure Sokka had nothing else left, before going on.
"I'm trying to stay sharp for the girls in the band and it's stressing me out...And I'm fuckin' PMS-ing on top of it. Happy? Asshole?"
"Ooookay," Sokka admitted defeat. "That...sounds like a lot all at once. Maybe you should calm d-"
"And ya know what? I'm sick of trying to impress you all the damned time, too."
"What are you talking about?"
Jane mashed her boot heel into the bottom drawer of the dresser she was leaning against.
"Ever since I started hanging out with you guys it's always felt like you've got your fuckin' eye on me, like I'm gonna do something horrible at any second."
"Hey, Freckle-Face. Listen." Sokka approached her, his arms now also crossed to match hers. "You and me? We're good now. I get where you're comin' from, and I get that you want a clean slate with us. You got it. You get an attitude like this, though, and it's gonna rub me the wrong way, and you're gonna get it right back." Jane listened, refusing to look him in the eyes as he spoke, for she knew he was right and she was just spazzing. She tapped her finger habitually on her arm. There was silence for a moment. Unnerved, she allowed herself to glance his way. He was standing right before her, arms out stretched.
"Keh-mon." He twitched his fingers, motioning her to hug. "Let's bring it in."
Jane glanced at his calm expression and raised a brow as an image from the weekend prior crossed her mind. "You gonna keep your clothes on this time?" she managed, barely containing a laugh.
"Beg your pardon?"
"Not sure I'm comfortable with physical contact with you, Sokka," she facetiously explained. "I mean, the way you were throwing yourself at me - I don't want to complicate things with you and Suki." By now a grin was across her face.
"Huh?" Sokka's arms sagged, his demeanor's sympathy giving way to disgruntled confusion.
"Ya know, for a guy who brags so much about what you've got going on?" Jane covered her face and snickered. "You don't got a lot goin' on..."
"Hey, I am slightly above average, thank you," Sokka protested. "Like you would know!"
"Oh, I know," Jane teased, shaking her head in disgust. "You paid me a visit Friday night while conducting an 'experiment.'" She used air quotes. "Apparently clothes weren't part of the equation you were running."
Sokka's eyes bulged wide and his jaw popped open, arms still sadly limp.
"Did I...-?" He pointed to himself in shock. "When I was juiced up...-?"
"You visited me to deliver my phone. That I'd left in the practice room we were using. You used it to try to call Jet and contact his spirit. Then you brought it to me. Learned more about you than I thought I ever would. More than I ever wanted." Jane's hands had crawled down to her stomach, suppressing her laughter.
Sokka slapped his hands against his cheeks in horror.
"You've seen my parts?" he squeaked in despair.
"I'm just happy to not have gone blind," Jane insisted, rolling her eyes.
"That's...Don't act like you weren't impressed!" Sokka whined, slamming a finger into her collarbone. Jane slapped it away.
"Get over yourself," Jane picked, entertained.
"That's what Aang's been holding over my head all week," Sokka realized, snapping his finger. "You guys are jerks."
"We're not psychotic streakers, though," came a dry-cut retort.
"I was...in a bad place that day," Sokka fumbled around for an excuse.
"What was the problem that was so bad you had to resort to intoxication by Red Bull?"
"I was...bored!" Sokka dramatically declared, flailing his arm around.
"Wow. You're like a child."
"I am most definitely a man, and you have seen the evidence!"
Rolling her eyes and taking a deep, calming breath, Jane opened up her arms, cocking her head to the side.
"C'mon, ya fuckin' baby. Hug it out."
Sokka reluctantly let her encircle him with her skinny arms, pouting all the while as he hugged her back.
"Don't get on my bad side or I'll upload the photos to Facebook," Jane threatened.
"Joking! God, you're so easy, no wonder Toph messes with you so much."
"We're bonding!" Sokka triumphantly cried with realization, crushing the redhead tight for a moment - she choked from the pressure, eventually worming her way out of his grip. "We shall prevail," he boldly announced, pumping his fist. "With my sarcasm!"
Jane followed suit, dusting her shoulders off. "And my axe."
Cutting into her dreary Calculus homework, Jane's cell rang out, playing the James Bond theme song. Before Toph, from her spot across the table, could utter a complete sentence, Jane desperately slammed her book shut and answered.
"Hey, isn't that J-"
"Johnny?" Jane popped up from the cushioned bench at Appa's and paced off from the moderately crowded restaurant, seeking a quiet spot in a stairwell as she spoke. "What's going on? What took you so long? Why haven't you been answering my calls?"
Toph sighed, groping for curly fries and sliding them into her mouth as Jane's words faded into the distance. By the time her friend had returned, she found her supply of food to be unfortunately lacking. Jane took her seat quietly, and Toph had difficulty getting a read on her through the silence.
"Sooo...How'd it go?"
"He...He said we're OK," Jane meekly grumbled with a sigh of relief. "He's been busy and...needed to think about things."
"Think about you, Janey?"
"Yea, yea. I kinda snapped on him, and...he needed some space." Jane cracked open her book and dropped the pencil that had been wedged between its pages onto her open notebook. "I was a bitch about it, so...maybe I deserved it..."
"Heh. Sometimes being a bitch backfires," noted Toph with some satisfaction, brushing hair from out of her eyelashes as she carefully grabbed her drink. "But that's good, right? You've been on edge lately. Like...more than usual."
"Yea..." Jane's finger ran across her greasy brow. "We're gonna meet up later, and...catch up and crap."
"And hardcore make out," Toph clarified.
"Pssh, yes," Jane agreed with some excitement.
"Fuck, I need to hardcore make out with my boyfriend some time..." Toph lamented, puckering out her lips with a huff. "All this schoolwork and practice has put a damper on our sex life."
"What's so funny?"
"Aang just doesn't strike me as the type to have a sex life."
"Oh, did I say sex? I meant dry humping." She said it with a smidgen of aggravation.
"Too much info, Taters."
"Aang's all...insecure and junk. Needs to take it slow."
"Yea...I know," Jane mumbled, punching numbers into her graphing calculator. "Some people are like that. Give him time. He's worth it, right?"
"Totally," Toph insisted, realizing her inconsiderate remarks - Jane seemed to be taking them personally. "Th-there's nothin' wrong with takin' it easy, Janey Jane."
"Just don't rush him," Jane advised in an odd moment of solemnity - the kind that came from personal experience.
"I know!" Toph defended, picking wax from her ear. "I'm not."
"Uh-huh." Toph's critic seemed unconvinced as she scribbled math results onto her notebook page.
"OK. You'd better."
Toph found the napkin container at the edge of the table and ripped one out, jamming her dislodged earwax into it.
"Let's make a plan," Toph decided.
Toph slapped her palm onto the table enthusiastically.
"Let's both promise each other we'll make out with our men before Saturday."
"'Cuz-'Cuz, like, then we'll get all the tension out before the show. You've been kinda stinkin' it up this week at practice and we need to be sharp out there. Bumi's countin' on us. Gotta be sharp enough to cut their faces with our awesome."
"Why do you keep saying...-?" Jane dropped the question at Toph's excited hopping in her seat. "Nevermind. But I still don't get what the big deal is..."
"He's the President of the school! And he specifically got us into the show! That's...it's fuckin' awesome. The man obviously knows his stuff."
"I can't promise that my boyfriend is gonna-"
"Promise." Toph extended her arm, palm facing up.
"OK, OK!" Jane took it and shook Toph's hand tightly. "Promise."
The girls, their discussion complete, went back to their comfortable state of cohabitation at the same table they always sat at in Appa's, while fellow students buzzed around, the aromas of burgers and pizza filling the air. A football game was playing on a TV in the corner of the restaurant, and occasionally the group watching it would burst into jubilation or degradation. Jane relished this gentle hum of activity as she worked on her homework, while Toph injected her iPod into her ears and peacefully appreciated her music. She was growing to find Appa's to be a comforting place, even more so than the Treetop Pub. Strangely, the ownership she had once experienced at the Treetop was proving to pale in comparison to the sense of wonder that came with being in a more public location - one never knew who would stop by and say 'hello.' On this particular day, no one really did...When Jane paused to consider that notion, she realized that this was because she and Toph shared something in common: they didn't really have many friends - if any - outside of their core group. Jane was having a hard time believing that any of the Freedom Fighters were her friends. They had never been friends with Jane, really - they'd been friends with Smellerbee. That left Jane with Johnny - or Longshot, whichever was the case - and...well, The Fearsome Fivesome. Insofar as she knew, Toph was essentially in the same boat.
But no matter what happened, she wanted to believe they'd always have each other's backs.
- Thursday, October 28th, 2010 -
"It was crap. Crap. Awful. Bleh. Aulgh."
"C'mon, Kat, calm the hell down. We sounded just fine."
Jane had to walk faster than she preferred to keep up with Katara's brisk pace - her friend had this habit of wandering around in circles while lost in thought, which, when actually traveling from one place to another, converted into an increase in speed of steps and speaking.
"You heard what Toph said: like a dead cat's nails against a chalkboard of ignorance."
"Uhhh..." Jane glowered against Katara's self-loathing. "Didja just hear the words that came outta your mouth? I'm pretty sure she was exaggerating."
"Yea...Yea, yea. OK." Katara nodded hurriedly, shuffling her SRU-labeled messenger bag around her shoulder for comfort.
"God, why are you gettin' so worked up, anyway?" Jane wondered, off-put by her friend's spike in nervousness. It was making her nervous, making her wonder if Katara knew something she didn't, as was sometimes the case when Katara got this way.
"I'm just worried I'm gonna let you all down," Katara sighed. "I'm the least experienced, but I'm the one who has to be singing, so if I mess up, it'll make the rest of you sound bad..."
"Yo, Kat." Jane punched her tenderly on the arm and she reacted by smiling bashfully. "That's part of being in a band, smart one. If any of us mess up it'll make the rest look bad. We succeed and fail as a team." She shrugged nonchalantly. "It's just like a gang," she pointed out, citing her experience with this type of situation.
"Right, just replace guns and knives with...with guitar picks and microphones," Katara humored the idea with a sheepish shrug.
"This whole...'getting all nervous' thing? It's gettin' old, Kat," Jane scolded. "You're stronger that this. Stop bein' a fuckin' pussy and just get shit done, huh? You'll be fine this weekend. We all will be." She pressed her knuckles into Katara's shoulder in what could be approximated to a punch.
"Oh, are you gonna start punching people you like, too?" Katara observed with an intrigued expression. "That would be the one thing you pick up from Toph, wouldn't it?"
"Heh, being allowed to punch people and get away with it? Why not? Girl's a genius for coming up with the idea." The two of them snickered at the idea before Katara took a deep breath and exhaled in a quick puff. "And ya know, Kat," Jane continued, "Toph's not the only one I've been pickin' stuff up from." She ruffled her bony hand through Katara's let-down hair, causing Katara to shrink a bit and smile.
"I know," Katara spoke with an embellished tone. "It's like you're learning how to be a nice person, or something..."
"Fff, I know, God. Sooooo annoying, who wants to be nice to their friends and shit?"
"So much work."
"Yea. For...foh shizzle."
Katara nearly choked on a laugh and Jane grinned at her success in cheering up her confidante.
"OK, Jane?" Katara shook her head. "Don't pick things up from Sokka anymore, OK? It's unbecoming of you."
"True dat," she declared with more intent this time, happy to receive a smack on the head from Katara.
"All right, Hun, so what have you learned from Aang, then, huh?"
Jane rolled her head around, cracking her neck, then rubbed her chin between her index and thumb as she contemplated.
"Guess I've learned that violence isn't the answer to everything," she carefully noted with an overly solemn tone. She nailed Katara in the hip with a sideswipe. "But sometimes, I still think it's the most fun answer."