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A/N: Hiya! So, on FFN, I have a story posted called "Black, White, and Red". I ran out of ideas for that one, but instead of giving up on the idea entirely, I decided to re-write it again; just in a slightly different style. 

To all those whom haven't read the other version, then bienvenu! Bienvenido! Benvenuto! Bem-vindo! Welcome! An introduction in five different languages... Ah, the power of Google Translate.

Warning: This is AU, and a bit OOC, so.... Just needed to put that out there.

Disclaimer: I do not own Kickin' It, Disney XD, or Another Cinderella Story


:.:.:.:.:

"You just gotta be happy, but sometimes that's hard. So just remember to smile, smile, smile.

And that's a good enough start!"

- Smile by McFly

:.:.:.:.:

Players of the Game

:.:.:.:.:


. . . . .

There are several classifications and stereotypes in high school. Some not true, most vicious. It doesn't matter which way you choose to take it, and the phrase "turn the other cheek" hardly suffices in such a cannibalistic society where the cheek would be slapped, and quite rudely at that. So the best choice is just to smile, and pretend that maybe losing someone does not hurt as much as you'd thought that it would. Some are spared the drama and sail through unscathed, others are not as lucky. It depends, and the set of circumstances, unfortunately, are not always set to the status quo.

Useless contractions, gum, and most of all- lipgloss, all unnecessary yet seemingly needed in one of the most "identity-crisis" years of a human's life. To be profound and philosophical, to say the least, and what it would be. And as referenced in the common philosophy of Taoism, the concept of the un-carved block; simplicity, is perhaps the hardest to achieve when the mind runs faster than any other living thing on earth.

So, to put bluntly, this is not a love story; it is a story about love. The story of how two seemingly random players in the wide and vast world came to be. One blonde, the other brunet; both devastatingly gorgeous in a way not usually found. Both happy until the other. There are no monuments dedicated to them, and their legacy will soon be forgotten. The two of them never changed the course of history, and their names will never be inscribed in ancient hieroglyphics scrolls or printed in history textbooks. They are just two other players in the bigger game.

And maybe, just maybe, that is enough to set the scene.

. . . . .

In hindsight, signing up for Mr. Reeds's advanced placement science class was not the best idea. It did give him extra college credits though, so that was definitely a plus that he had looked in to. But he would have sooner chewed shards of thick fiber-glass, tear his left leg's ligament again, and listen to his cousin blubber about her newest break-up if he had known just who would be in his class at the time of application.

Especially when your classmate was the none-other-than Kim Crawford.

And so, sitting at his dusty plastic chair next to the rude and tempermental blonde, Jack Brewer looked back on the events that had lead there.

. . . . .

The blue-eyed redheaded siren Donna Tobin stepped into the main hall, one foot in front of the other in perfect etheral poise. Those who knew the minx worshipped her, those who didn't feared her. Infamous for golden legs that went all the way clear up to her eyes and trademark baby blues, she knew the effect she had on others, and used it to her ruthless disposal. Glossy red lips were tipped up in a half smirk, and three gold rings glittered on her right hand. The friends of hers were fiercely loyal, and required strict initiation before being able to so much as look at her.

Everything was exactly in they way she wanted it.

A pair of glossy black Jimmy Choo heels clicked down the hall, and she tossed her mane of bright red ringlets over her shoulders before throwing a heart-breaking smile to a senior standing in the corner before he all but melted into the dingy public school wall.

Kelsey Vargas, at first glance, looked seemingly girl-next-door bland if it wasn't for the heavy coating of makeup and high position next to Donna. Her hair was a rather boring brown, and over the years she had dyed it almost every generic single colour available before settling on a nice chestnut hue that complimented her skin-tone. The pretty smile did not hide too much; but she dressed conservatorily, which was much more than Donna would ever. The light gold filigree chains and shimmery white chiffon skirt showed a sense of both style and money. She flashed a grin, but the effect was not quite the same.

Grace West was the exact stereotype of a dancer; just a little aloof, cool, and exotically beautiful. Dark gray long lidded smoke eyes were artfully lined in black cat-liner, and her milky alabaster skin was offset by prominent cheekbones and a nude mouth. She dressed in all black, a common choice that accented her small yet sharp facial featutes. At barely five-feet tall, she held an intimidation masked by a thin veil of expensive perfume.

And then there was, at the certainly very highest other than Donna, Kimberly Crawford. The petite blonde with green-flecked hazel eyes had a doe-like innocence that the others lacked, and to some extent, envied. She too dressed appropriately, though not as conservatory as Kelsey or as daring as Grace. The aura of something just a little arrogant and sweet always surrounded her. Kim was not as fashionable as Kelsey, as stunning as Donna, or held herself quite like Grace, yet she was still accepted into the much coveted clique. She was notoriously known as Donna's right hand, and one of the most loyal of her troupe since middle school when she had made a complete one-eighty turnabout. Those who had known Kim Crawford before her grade-school transformation would have never recognized her.

No one dared to break the heavy silence. Everyone, that is, except for the four misfits still huddled in the corner.

The four were synonymously linked with the words loser, reject, and pity-case quite often, but it never seemed to faze them. Oblivious to the surrounding tension, Jerry proceeded to explain to the three about his latest pranks, excitedly going into detail about how stunned his math teacher looked when the toilet seat became glued to his butt. The latino prankster had a mile-wide grin on his face, and his nearly-black eyes shimmered from excitement.

Anyone would be able to tell that he radiated hyper-activity.

"And then the hot glue started activating! Yo, I'm telling you, Mr. Morrinson was running down that halls screaming, "Hot butt! Hot butt!" with a toilet seat on his... Uhh-hemm, you know what. And then-"

He was about to continue his explanation of his no doubt elaborate hoax when Milton interrupted, stopping him before he could even get a word out. The argyle and khaki clad ginger stood up taller and primly straightened his collar before checking his slim and economical rose gold watch. "You gotta stop getting into detention. If you keep it up, you'll end up in..." Milton lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "Maximum lockdown detention." The thin and pasty boy's eyes widened as his voice lowered, giving him a rather startling appearance.

The tall and muscular brunet to Milton's right chimed in, "Yeah dude. I heard they don't even let you out for bathroom breaks," rolling his eyes at the obscenity. Jerry simply scoffed in reply when the bell's shrill pierced the air, interrupting him yet again, signaling it was time to head to first period. Jerry muttered something in quick and rapid Spanish; a curse to the horrid timing of his explanations, before departing.

The four of them split up, each going to different classes. Jack's Vans squeaked across the waxed tiles of the floor as he headed towards the dreaded biology room, and before entering, took one last greedy gulp of uncontaminated air. He took his usual seat near the back of the small rectangular room just as the teacher, Mr. Reeds, entered the class, his over jelled combover shining greasily in the poor lighting of the room. The air stunk with the smell of formaldehyde and Pine air-freshener as students entered the class late, coughing slightly at the putrid smell, and Jack silently prayed for the purifier to start working again.

His pleas were left unanswered.

"Good morning class," the teacher said as he came, putting down his stack of thick paperwork on his desk along with a few scattered and multicolored pencils and pens. The A.P. biology teacher was unceremoniously known and duped for being scatterbrained, and several students used it to their advantage. There were a few muttered, "Good morning Mr. Reeds," scattered throughout the room in response to his loud greeting. Satisfied, Mr. Reeds took out a large sheet of white copy paper with numerous words printed across it and began talking. He began rambling, as per usual.

"Today we'll be working on different chemicals in class. Each of you will be paired up with someone else; you may not switch partners, however." He paused, eying each and every one of the students carefully. "At the end of class the both of you will have to complete a lab report together on your findings. I warn you that the lab report is quite lengthy, so I will let you take it home and work on it together after school. No copying off anyone not in your group," Mr. Reeds stated, and was greeted by the groans of roughly thirty students. After straightening his deskwork and adjusting his thick myopic glasses, Mr. Reeds pinned up the piece of paper in his hand on the board which held the names of everyone's partners and the specific interactions on their assignment.

Getting up slowly, Jack went to the front and quickly scanned for his name on the list, feeling slightly eager and apprehensive to find out whom his partner was. He was never one for school work, but bio labs were the only thing you couldn't screw up. Except for Jerry, that is. The latino had been trusted with a series of chemicals, and, within ten minutes, managed to effectively burn a hole though the roof of the science department.

But then again, Jerry was a special case.

Jack Brewer - Kim Crawford

Frowning slightly to himself, the karate prodigy scanned the room for Kim. They had gone to school together ever since grade school, but he doubted she would even know his name. Jack spotted her sitting a few rows away, wearing an eye catching glittery gold t-shirt and faded blue jeans. Kim was chatting to Donna; whom was busily snapping gum in her mouth, the two of them busily laughed and tittering over something that Donna had said.

And he could already feel the migraine building behind his eyes.

. . . . .

The brown-eyed blonde laughed along with Donna at her remark, leaning back slightly in her chair during the process, careful not to fall over. The latter noticed the redhead's sigh after a moment.

"What's the matter, Donna?"

Donna simply arched one of her perfectly shaped and waxed brows in response. "Hell, you don't remember? We still have to do Mr. Reeds project," Donna replied, and Kim winced slightly at the massacred sentence, a slight closure of the eye not noticed by the fiery ring-leader. Shaking it off, she got up from her chair and brushed off the ripped jeans, Donna and her heading to the front of the room together; elbow to elbow. The two, remarkably similar in jeans and staggering high-heels, clinked across the room in authority.

"Please let it be a cute guy, please let it be a cute guy, please let it be a cute guy!" Donna begged silently under her breath. Laughing, Kim searched the list for her name carefully, not eager to start the experiment, no matter who her partner was. Schoolwork was like eating vegetables; hard to choke down, yet unfortunately very neccessary to the human life. And try as she might, there was never going to be anything in school that interested her.

Jack Brewer - Kim Crawford

For a moment, Kim stood there in confusion. Jack Brewer? Turning around, she tapped Donna on the shoulder gently, and asked her, "Do you know who Jack Brewer is?" The redhead scanned the room quickly before her eyes settled down on someone across the cramped space. Kim pursed her lips together in a tight line before quickly re-arranging her facial feautures, remembring that the particular spaz face she had been making was un-attractive.

She scowled slightly, her glossy red lips turning down at the corners. Yet somehow the scowl still managed to look poised on the elegant face. "Its the dude who always hangs out with the rejects," Donna replied after a moment, and then scanned. She pointed at a guy who was halfway across the room that was looking at them, the guy that she assumed Jack was. She lowered her voice after a minute of inspection though, and said, "Look at that freak. Always saying that he's so much better. The guy who doesn't fit in. The guy who will always be forgotten in a crowd."

Cocking her head, Kim's eyes locked with a tall brunet on the other side of the bio room. He was admittably good looking, with dark shaggy brown hair that covered half his eyes and a nice looking physique. He was wearing slightly faded jeans and a white t-shirt with a blue plaid shirt thrown carelessly over. And even for a reject, it was hard to miss him.

Turning around, she asked Donna, "That guy? The one in the blue plaid shirt?"

Tobin nodded, smiling slightly to her. When the latter girl looked back across the room however, Jack wasn't there. She spun around in a full circle before realizing that the room was moving from diziness. Half swaying, a pair of strong hands steadied her before two people merged into one in her vision. Kim blinked once.

She looked up to be face to face with him. The Jack Brewer had quite a few inches on her, even with two inch heels, so she took a step back in order to see his face without peering up at him like an absolute dwarfed idiot compared to the massive guy. And if there was one thing she had to admit in that moment, it was that his eyes up close were absolutely amazing.

But she would never say that out loud, of course.

"You Jack?" Kim asked, tilting her head curiously while looking at him from head to toe. He looked slightly irritated, and the expression on his face tripled as soon as she had opened her mouth to speak. It was then that Kim noticed the small dimple near the corner of his mouth, and silently filed it away for later. How she would use it later though, it didn't occur. She was a sucker for dimples.

"Ding ding ding ding, you got it right! I'm surprised you even know the teacher's name, much less mine," he muttered sarcastically, and the socialette raised her light eyebrows at his attitude. She cocked her head to the left, making sure that she had heard him right the first time.

Kim could already feel her jaw locking in anger. "What is it to you, huh? I say two words and all of a sudden you go all hostile on me," she remarked, confused. She glared up angrily at him, her eyes narrowing into thin slights. The audacity of him left her stunned.

Jack gave the shorter girl a mocking look before saying, "Well I'm sorry, not everyone pampers little miss popular. And look, I didn't come over here for a fight, okay? We have to get started," he stated, turning away and heading towards a shiny black empty lab table. She found herself begrudgingly following him across the classroom like a forlorn little puppy. If being friends with Donna had taught her anything, it was that everyone had to like her. It was just a basic concept.

Sitting down next to Jack, she looked cluelessly at the vials set up. There were six multi colored vials in front of them, each containing 500 mL of a liquid.

Blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, red.

Picking up the pretty blue one, she was about to pour in into the flask and see what would happen when Jack's hand stopped her. Kim ignored the sudden heat that rushed up to my cheeks and glared at him.

"What's it to you now?" she asked, annoyed that he had stopped her. Jack rolled his eyes as if it was obvious, and pointed towards his large eye goggles and gloves. "Protection," he said simply in disbelief, setting the vial back down carefully and handing her a pair of small cotton gloves. She said nothing, because quite honestly she felt stupid for not remembering it sooner.

"Reject," Kim said under her breath quietly.

"Prissy pants."

And so Kim Crawford learned one very essential characteristic of others that day. The concept that the ones who did not like her did not understand her, and the ones who did not understand her were not like her. And of course, using the same logic, the ones that did not understand or fully comprehend her were considered rejects and social outcasts.

No one ever said that her theory was right, though. Because if you said that, well...

The same logic could be used to erase you.

. . . . .

And so, that was how Jack ended up sitting next to the infamous Kim Crawford, silently scrawling across a thirteen page lab-report in large print and occasionally glancing to the right of him to make sure that Kim was still doing her work as she was supposed to. The blonde eyed the vial accusingly, as if waiting for the answers to pop out of the cork. All Jack could do was try not to laugh at the hopeless girl.

It was like babysitting a dog.

An extremely pampered, obnoxious, prissy dog.

It was, as his sensei Rudy would have put it, so not ditch-the-wives.

. . . . .

An hour later the period ended, but unfortunately, they did not finish out lab report in time, much to both of their disdain. It was almost as if a silent pact had been made and unamiously signed, that they would not talk to eachother other than neccessary. So the two of them agreed to meet after school in the study hall; a long and open hallway with benches and tables set up for study, hence the name study hall. When the bell rang, he stood up hurriedly and left eager to leave the normally enjoyed class.

One person easily ruined everything.

The rest of the day danced by in a big blur, and before time could possibly be allowed to contemplate the seriousness of her after-school situation, Kim noticed herself walking down the hall to her last hour of school before the day ended. The freshly waxed linoleum floors were squeaking under her three-hundred dollar heels, but she chose to ignore the urge to cover her ears every time she took a step forwards.

Grace met up with her in the hallway as the two of them headed to the last class of the day, World History. And while it was a decidedly boring class, the best perk was that the teacher didn't care what the students did. Extreme to monotone.

"Did you hear the news?" Grace asked, giggling uncontrollably. Kim looked at the dark-haired dancer carefully. Never once had she heard the morose girl giggle, much less wear pink or light blue. The day had started to get odder and odder from that very moment as it happened.

"What?" she replied, wanting to know what had got her so excited. Whatever had gotten the almost gothic girl this hyped up must have been a big event. One did not simply see Grace West giggle any time of day. It was about as rare as a blue moon. Grace handed Kim a flyer that she was holding in her hand for her to read. The latter scanned over it quickly, still not fully comprehending.

~ Seaford High's First Annual Black and White Masquerade Ball ~

Friday, December 1 from 8:00 P.M. all the way until Midnight

We hope you come!

"They're holding a black and white ball?" Kim questioned, looking at Grace out of the corner of her eye. As the two of them walked in the halls, the slight blonde noticed several other people whispering excitedly to each other, all of them holding the same flyer that was currently in her small and pale hand. Grace nodded and then replied gaily, "Not just any ball, a masquerade! And it's tomorrow night! 'Cause of budget cuts, the school hasn't had a function like this in years. And now they're finally hosting a ball! How did we not know about this sooner?"

Kim was about to answer when she got jostled roughly, her books tumbling to the floor. The pages of "U.S. Advanced History" now lay woefully underturned on the floor, and the dust-cover jacket was laying half off, the plastic now useless. "Watch where you're going!" she snapped, picking up the plethora of books and binders that had fallen out of her arms during the encounter. Looking up, she saw the black pants and red jacket with the familiar curdling logo over thr right breast pocket. The same one that she had donned in what was just a few years ago. The same one that still occasionally haunted her for giving up. The same one that belonged to the Black Dragons.

She looked up further and saw the slight smirk on Frank's face, his lips peeling back to reveal yellowed teeth. "We still haven't forgiven you for ditching us. One of these days, you and your popular little crew are going to pay for leaving the Black Dragons!" Frank sneered, and with that, the Black Dragons stomped off, leaving Grace looking at her in shock. There was a silence of solace for a moment.

"What was that?" she asked, confused. "Nothing," Kim replied hurriedly, before further explaining, "I used to do karate with the Black Dragons until I became friends with you guys, but I quit because-"

"Hey girls!" a voice called out, interrupted her explanation to Grace. And at that moment, no matter what anyone else said, Kim could have sworn that that Donna was a godsend for saving her the long and rather treacherous ordeal of re-explaining her past before them, or the "post" and "previous" Kim. Donna caught up to Grace and Kim and starting walking along side them, since her math class was one door down from their World History class.

She too was clutching a piece of paper in her hand and paused to take a breath before saying, "I love masquerades. You can make out all night long with a bunch of cute and mysterious guys," Donna stated, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively as few guys wolf whistled because of the extremely short leather skirt that Donna was wearing. But it also could've been due to the fact that her bust was barely covered by a red crop top and her high heels looked impossible to walk in, although all in all she looked good. Donna turned her head and winked at a football player before turning back around and saying, "Can you imagine the loads of mysterious hunks that'll be there?"

"Y'know Donna, there's more to life than making out," Grace said from Kim's right, and Donna simply scoffed and flipped her head, her long red hair nearly slapping her in the face during the process. "Yeah, sure there is," she answered sarcastically. "So Kimmy, you coming?" she asked, looking at her slightly apprehensively. Even though she knew the answer already, it was nice for the courtesy of asking.

She thought about it for a minute. It was a great idea, Kim would get the chance to meet with new people and see if maybe anyone had an interesting topic for her History report. And, of course, there was the matter of the guys that would be there. "Yeah, I'm totes going," she replied in an uncharacteristicly high voice, smiling and giggling along with them.

"Great. I can't believe that the dance is tomorrow night. I mean, hello? That's not nearly enough time to get ready! This school is so... so..." Donna stuttered in mid-sentance, not knowing what word to say. One of her eyebrows, two shades darker than her mahogany hair, was raised in a look that would make most seem idiotic. Somehow it only made the girl look more sultry than before.

"Incompetent?" Grace answered for her with a questioning look.

Kim hesitated before piping up, "Actually, I saw those posters up about a week ago. They just didn't start handing out flyers until today, but we were notified beforehand. I thought you guys knew about this."

The redhead glared at her, shocked. "No, Kim, we didn't know about it. How could you not tell us earlier?"

The blonde stuttered, unsure about how to answer. Everything was precariously in the balance because she had just had to open her big trap and tell them that she had forgotten to inform the rest of the clique. "I'm sorry! I just, because... I though you guys would know because the posters have been around for a while and they made the announcement on the morning school news today during homeroom so I kinda though that-"

Donna lifted a hand and cut her off. "S'okay, Kimmybear! We all make mistakes. Just tell us next time if there are any major functions, capice?" Before Kim could answer, Donna went on. "Anyways, what'dya say about going to the mall after school? We could pick out shoes, dresses, masks, accessories," Donna said as she ticked each item off of her manicured fingers, the bangles on her arm jingling loudly.

"I'm in!" Kim squealed as they shook on it, completely forgetting that she had previously made plans for this afternoon. Donna re-applied a thin layer of Barbie pink lipgloss before checking her watch and rolling her eyes. "I gotta hop, don't wanna be late again. I'll text Kelsey the details later. Toodles!" she said, departing with a wave and the click of her Jimmy Choos.

The three of them reached their classes, two going into one and one into the other.

It was, in the view of an unknown person that was watching, truly symbolic of the personalities of the socialettes.

. . . . .

Jack walked out of his last period of the day; literature, and headed towards the study hall, annoyed that he had to meet up with Kim after school. Personally, Jack had never had anything big or major against the populars, as even though they were prissy and annoying, they didn't bother him too much and he mostly kept out of their way. But the fact that Kim didn't even know whom he was insulted and stung him more than a little bit, more than he cared to let on. After all, they had been going to the same high school and middle school for five years.

"Yo Jack!" the brunet heard behind him, and he turned around to see Eddie, Milton, and Jerry running up quickly behind. They closed the distance quickly, their book bags bouncing rather comically on their backs. The argyle-clad ginger was hacking heavily, yet he bravely persevered.

"What's up?" Jack asked, curious as to what had finally gotten them motivated enough to move more than they did in an entire year.. Milton was holding a piece of paper and trying to talk at the same time, but the only thing that came out were strained wheezes. Patting his back, he looked at his face, which was covered with a sheen layer of sweat from the two meter sprint.

Eddie grabbed the paper from Milton's hand and shoved it in his face for Jack to read. His scanned quickly over the small text as he read, taking into context the tiny gold scroll lettering that ebbed down the edges of the paper. After a moment, he spoke up. "A masquerade ball tomorrow night?" Jack asked, looking quizzically at them. Faintly annoyed, he brushed away a few locks of dark hair that had fallen irritably in front of his eyes. It finally became clear to him that as his mom had been bugging for the past few months; he needed a hair cut. Desperately.

"Yeah dude! Think about it, a bunch of chicks in masks!" Jerry exclaimed, letting out a long and loud "Whoo!" as he high fived with Eddie. Jack scoffed at their petty excitement, turning back around and looking at Milton, whom had finally recovered his breath enough to speak. His measly chest was still heaving rather heavily, but his wind had returned.

"Ignore those idiots. All they ever think about is getting into girls' pants," Milton stated truthfully, and Jack was forced to agree with him. Jerry's and Eddie's minds were dirtier than sewage gutters, and they weren't ashamed to admit it. It was one of the woeful things of human "developement".

That is, if you would call the moron apes getting hairier and stupider as developement.

Eddie snapped out of his stupor for a moment to look at the muscular brunet. "You coming tomorrow night to the bash, bro? We could use you. You know, zap up the chicks like magnets. Just like zzzttttt-, and they're attatched... Hey! That should be an invention... The 'babe magnet 5000'.. Everything sounds better with a number at the end!"

Jack shook his head rather amicably and shrugged. "Sorry dude, but I gotta... Take my turtle for a walk tomorrow evening. Yup, you should just see how he can go. Sorry man."

Jerry, however, was not won over. "Come on dude. Seriously. You can take your turtle out for a walk anyday! But there might only be once when you slap on a mask, maybe some hair gel, and go to a masquerade with a bunch of ladies just entering that glorious time when the globes and twins start coming on. Besides, you might get it on with some foxy mamas in tight black thon-"

"I think I get the point, Jerry! I'll go if you stop talking about it!"

There was a brief moment of silence followed by a victorious whoop, and soon after, a painful whelp.

"Anyways, you coming to karate practice today Jack?" Milton asked as they walked along, the two of them keeping a steady pace as Jerry and Eddie trailed behind them, already talking about which girls they were going to ask out.

He shook my head disappointedly, "I'd love to, but I have to finish a lab report with Kim," Jack replied sullenly, not excited about his after school activities as he usually was. Jerry's voice perked up at the mention of her name. "Kim? As in Kimberly Crawford? As in the best friend of Donna Tobin?" he spouted out, all of a sudden interested in Milton's conversation with him. He hit him lightly in the arm, jokingly, before replying, "Yeah, why?"

"Donna Tobin is the single most sexiest-"

"Cutest," Milton corrected him, not liking the sound of hearing any distantly vulgar words. He shuddered slightly, but still continued walking.

"-Sexiest girl in school!" Jerry continued, ignoring Milton's remark. "Dude, you think you could get Kim to hook me up with her?" Jerry asked, looking at me urgently. Jack laughed in response at his question, and it sent chills down all of their spines the way it was so cold from their normally warm and lively friend. "No way. I'm not talking to Kim anymore than I have to," he replied, re-adjusting the itchy straps of his book bag around his shoulders.

He sighed to himself as they reached the exit of the school, Eddie, Milton, and Jerry already heading out to go to karate practice at the dojo.

"Tell Rudy that I'm sorry I can't make it today. I gotta go, I don't want to keep 'the highness' waiting any longer," he hollered to the other three before turning around and heading deeper into the school.

Trudging over to the study hall, Jack sat down on one of the prepared tables and took out his lab report, getting all of the pencils and pens lined up in the process. Jack glanced at the clock and watched in strange fascination as the minute hand ticked slowly.

As each second went by in painful agony.

. . . . .

She laughed along with Donna, Grace, and Kelsey as they strolled through the mall. The four of them had met together first thing after school to go dress shopping for the masquerade ball. Personally, Kim couldn't wait for the ball to come tomorrow night; they would have a blast together. The clique, easily distinguishable with their lip gloss and glittering rings, walked arm in arm around the plaza.

"So anyways, I got paired with this nerd named Julie. Loser! But it was okay, since she finished the lab report for me!" Donna squealed as she told them about her day, a not-so-brief synopsis that they were very accusstomed to. Stirred up by the glimpse of the redhead's fascinating day, Kim remembered about Jack, and how they were supposed to meet each other after school at the study hall. Her eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as she glanced at her watch, and saw that she was already half an hour late. The sense of dread and guilt curled into a tight ball at the pit of her stomach, and she could feel the ball of tension rise to her throat. 

"Shit!" she exclaimed suddenly, startling Grace, Kelsey, and Donna out of their conversation. They looked at her with confused faces and simultaneously asked, "What?"

She shoved her shopping bags into their hands quickly, and the three of them looked at her as if I she grown a third boob. The same confused look was mirrored on all three of their faces as Kim began to run. She jerked into a fast sprint out of the mall, yelling to them on her way out, "I was supposed to meet Jack after school! I'll see you guys later!" leaving them looking at her retreating back, utterly befuddled at what had just happened in the past two seconds.

Panting hard, her light gold high heels kicked up dirt on the sidewalk as she ran, half on the freshly cut grass of the lawn and half on the cool grey asphalt. Kim headed towards the school, her legs nearly giving out under her as she continued to run. The blonde burst in, her already burdened lungs heaving, and spotted Jack in the corner, sulking next to a table, doodling idly in a notebook to pass the time. His hair was covering the majority of his face, so she could not read his expression.

"Jack! I'm here!" she yelled, running towards him. He looked up at her with a mixture of annoyance and anger, and she could hear both emotions clearly in his voice when he spoke. The furious expression on his face made it clear that he was in no mood at all to chat.

As soon as he had opened his mouth, she knew that she wasn't going to get a warm greeting out of him. His eyes slitted narrowly as he examined her. "Where were you? You're half an hour late, I already finished the lab report without you! Got caught up making out with your boyfriend again?" he asked, staying where he was. With his left hand, he shoved back the thick fall of hair that got into his eyes.

"No! I don't even have a boyfriend, everyone knows that! I was shopping with Donna and Grace and we-" his face contorted to an expression of disbelief. His eyes, slitted before, now were barely visible lines of dark brown. "Shopping?" he asked. "Shopping?" asked again, his head tilting to the right side as if to make sure the he had heard her correctly.

"Y'know what? I don't need to explain it. I, unlike some people, actually have friends. Not everyone is a pity-case or a reject," she shot back at him with as much vigor. At her statement, his eyes were ablaze. With one large sweeping motion, Jack stuffed everything into his bag and zipped it closed, swinging it over his shoulders, his eyes glittering like cold rocks.

"Reject? That's it, I'm outta here!" he scoffed, a low sound that emitted shivers down her spine before he left.

. . . . .

The next morning at school, Kim was at her locker when she spotted Jack out of the corner of her eye, laughing and talking to his friends, albeit about stupid things. She approached them warily, like a hunter stalking her prey; not sure about how to other half of the human sub-species acted like. She carefully adjusted her olive green jacket, did a quick two-second lipgloss check, and made her way over to them.

Lifting a small manicured finger delicately, she tapped him on the shoulder, and resisted the urge to jump back when he turned around to face her. The killer-watt smile that was perviously on his face was wiped off the second he caught sight of her, and he stuffed his hands inside his pockets in a move that spoke of pure irritation. "What? What do you need now?"

"Hey Jack, can I talk to you for a moment? In private?" she asked quietly, pitching her voice under the loud clammer of the ongoing hallway conversation.

He looked down, miffed at her question. "Why?" His tone was accusatory, his breath also pitched under the conversation. "You just met me yesterday. If you want to apologize, fine. I forgive you. Good?" Jack continued. Kim found herself unable to form any words, so she simply grasped him on the forearm and dragged him to a small hall nearby. There were a few students milling casually about, but it was relatively undisturbed.

"What? Look, I said it's fine!" Looking down, he noticed the small and manicured hand that was still clamped firmly to his bicep. "Now, would you please just let me go?"

She grabbed his wrist before he could leave, yanking him back to her with shocking strength that he was un-accustomed to from such a petite girl. "What!?" he asked yet again, and she was suddenly aware of the closeness and the proximity between them. The flush rose to her cheeks again, and Kim was thankful that he wasn't looking directly at her, rather, over her shoulder to a poster hanging nearby about the talent show. Pushing him away from her, the slight girl took a deep breath and said quietly, "I know we got off to a bad start-"

"Start? We've been going to school together for five years and you didn't even know my name. But if you just wanted to apologize, then fine. But I have better things to do than hand out with you in a dingy little hallway. Yes, I actually have friends, Crawford." His words stung more than a little, but she chose to brush it off as she spoke on.

"Please. I really need your help. I'm begging you to listen to me."

The brunet pressed his lips together in a firm line, his jaw firmly clenched together in a square shape. "You have one minute. Go." Resigned, Kim sorted out her thoughts for a few seconds before speaking. "Look, I'm really sorry for the way I treated you. Seriously. It's just that Donna was being a pain, and I guess that I sorta let that out on you. But I didn't mean to be late, I really didn't! Grace saw the ball poster and everything got all caught up between getting dresses with Donna not knowing about it and then getting briefly angry because I forgot to tell her I heard the announcements last week but I just can't fail bio, I can't! What I'm asking you is to just help me finish it. I tried yesterday night, but it's really hard. Please-"

He held up his hand, signaling for silence. The blonde peeked up through her eyelashes, and was relieved to see an amused expression on Jack's face, his lips tipped up in a half smile. "I'll help if you stop talking, by god. That was a lot of words. But I can't let you just copy my bio report. That's cheating, and I do have a moral code." He paused, and Kim could feel the rush of blood in shame come to her cheeks. "But I will help you on it. I'll try to explain some of the things to you, so it's easier to understand. Good?

"...Deal."

. . . . .

Fifteen minutes later, the pair of teens were seated comfortably at a brown mahogany table in the small public school library, and the petite girl was currently stuffing her report back into the hit pink Jansport book bag seated next to her.

"Thanks for the help today, Jack. My mom would have killed me if I ended the semester with a C in bio," she stated softly, tucking a stray strand behind her ear. In one quick movement, she zipped her backpack and swung it over her shoulders, re-adjusting the tightening straps. "Apparently, she was some kind of science whiz, so every time I don't get a C or higher on a bio quiz, I'm literally skinned alive."

The boy opposite to her laughed, a free and gaily sound that seemed to brighten the atmosphere of the rather morose library. "It's not problem, really. My friends need a lot of help with schoolwork, and Milton isn't that patient when it comes to tutoring others far more "academically inferior" than him. So it's usually me." Jack shrugged his shoulders, and he too stood up to put on his book bag.

Kim glanced down at her watch before wrinkling her nose in disdain. "I gotta go, homeroom starts in three minutes... But thanks."

He smiled simply at her, the faint dimples winking again.

"I'll walk you out."

. . . . .

"So, what's the 411 on you and Jack?"

Kim's spoon landed on her tray with a soft "plop". To her right, Kelsey gasped dramatically, her mouth forming a small and perfect "o" of shock, the glossy smirk now replaced with a look of absolute ambushed horror. Grace continued eating her cafeteria mush as usual, but anyone with a finely-tuned intuition such as Kim's could tell that her ears were all but pointed and perked up, eager to catch the conversations.

"What about Jack and I?" She asked, trying to play down Donna's question. She kept her eyes on her black styrofoam tray, not daring to look up. The blonde struggled to keep her heartbeat under control, although it was currently going haywire from the stress from the current dilemma. Kim could only be glad that she was not a boy at that particular moment in time, or else she was sure that the bobbing Adam's apple would have surely given something away. She could feel the three pairs of eyes on her, two brown, and one set of icy blue ones that pierced into the soul.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

"Ya know, the whole exiting out of the library together, giggling, talking, holding hands... Flirting." The redhead ringleader cocked her head to the left, a bemused smirk on her face. The fingers on her left hand were setting a staccato tapping rhythm against the cheap plastic veneer of the cafeteria lunch table. The sheen of glamour wasn't able to hide what was underneath in Donna at that moment. Raw, primal.

Ruining.

"It was nothing. He was just helping me with some bio stuff," Kim assured them, going back to cutting the stale mystery meat. Her plastic knife left indents on the black styrofoam, and her shoulders squared in preparation for the onslaught of questions and accusations that never came.

"Mmmhmmm," Donna replied, not sounding impressed or convinced. The smirk on her face remained, and her fingers started to drum to an even faster beat. Tap tap tap tap tap. Tap tap tap tap tap. Looking up, the blonde told all of three of them in a rather frank voice, "I've known the guy for all of like two days. Really, I just needed help with biology and the project," she said again. The tone made it clear that she would not divulge any more information.

"I had to finish my lab report yesterday, so I still need to find my dress. The dance is tonight and I still have nothing to wear," Kim stated dully, glad that the conversation could be changed now that she had an epiphany moment. "There's nothing in my closet that I could wear to a function like this, unless you want to count a third-grade plaid dress with green ribbons." All four of them cringed at the thought. "Anyone come with?"

"Sorry Kim, I have to get my hair done before the party tonight. Y'know, curls before girls!" Kelsey squealed, fluffing her light chestnut hair. Her usually high-pitched voice was even higher, to the point where the squeal could have probably penetrated glass.

She glanced hopefully at Donna, "Di, what about you?" She shook her head, tossing the bright red curls over one shoulder. "I'm sorry Kim, I really would! My mom has this business meeting tonight right before the party, so I have to set up with her. Maybe Grace could go with you? I'm sure you'll look fantastic though, you would wear a potato sack and still look gorgeous!" Donna gushed on.

Grace nodded as confirmation to her statement.

"I can help."

A/N: I guess that's it for now! Eventually, I will be deleting the old version of this story and replacing it with this, I just wanted to know what you guys thought of it before actually posting.

Like it? Good? Great? Meh? Should I continue this on FFN?

Please leave a comment below!

Lots of love!

- Alexi

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