9:00 AM


"What're you working on?" he heard a soft female voice inquire.

With furrowed brows, he looked up from his desk at the blonde haired girl standing to his side, eyeing him questioningly.

He cleared his throat and peered around the classroom for the first time, noticing every other student paired up with a partner, working on their assignments.

"I didn't realize this was a group thing…" he muttered to himself, looking down and noticing that he'd practically completed the entire thing. "Uh…" he looked back up sheepishly. "I'm working on the character analysis for the novel we read. Did you read it?"

She nodded slowly. "So can I like, sit down and help you out?"

He nodded in kind. "Why are you just coming up to me now?"

"I came in late."

Cloud surveyed his surroundings once more, noticing various groups struggling to get anything down on paper, some simply socializing and laughing, others sitting together but working on their own, completely avoiding interaction with partners, and the rest simply pacing themselves, occasionally steering off topic with the random remark.

He felt the girl's eyes on him and turned to her inquisitive expression.

Shaking his head, he shrugged. "What?"

"You're pretty intense you know that?"

He looked at her in surprise. "Come again?"

She smiled in what appeared to take a massive amount of effort. "I mean that in a good way. You care. You're working alone and you're probably ahead of all these groups."

"Thanks?" He wasn't quite sure what else to respond with. She studied him a while longer, prompting him to smirk in wonder. "What's up?"

"How come you've never really talked to me before Cloud?"

His eyes rose further at the mention of his name. "You know me?"


His sharp green eyes peered up curiously at the chemistry teacher as he approached his station. Stopping several feet short of his bench, the teacher glanced around as other students went on with their labs. He looked back at Sephiroth questioningly.

"Any reason you haven't bothered with your apparatus or even made an attempt?"

Sephiroth shrugged and stared out the window wistfully, the beautiful rays of sunlight flooding the room with an abundance of brilliant light. "I'm not really feeling it…"

He heard the teacher inhale sharply and smirked unconsciously at the obvious displeasure he was causing the wiry looking, older man.

"It's not a matter of feeling it or choosing to conduct the experiment when you please. This lab is mandatory to passing this course. It's important that you do."

Sephiroth's smirk widened as he continued to stare out at the window, at the field as a soccer drill was taking place. He didn't need this. He didn't need any of this. Just a few more weeks and this would all be but a distant memory, fading far away in his rear view mirror as he drove away with his life towards far greater things than this simple high school teacher would ever accomplish.

"Whatever…" It was the most appropriate response given his state of mind. A mentality of indifference could only be matched with a phrase expressing that very thought.

His simple response seemed to prompt a certain agitation within his teacher as the older man's face struggled to contain the obvious displeasure coursing within. The skinny man appeared to battle with his emotions for several seconds before calming down.

He licked his lips, as his eyes narrowed. "Don't assume you don't need this Sephiroth."

Sephiroth glared at him in question. "I've got a scholarship to UNC. No disrespect sir, but I'm not really concerned with how this year ends."


"Quit it," she whispered, half giggling, half serious. "Seriously stop." She swatted his discreet hand away from her side for what appeared to be the millionth time. "We're gonna get kicked out Zack. Stop."

Flashing that infectious boyish smile of his that she'd come to know and love, he peered around for a moment. "Okay," he sighed, seemingly defeated. Then, without warning, he pinched her across the side again, eliciting a cry of surprise and delight once more.

"Zack!" she hissed. She knew she wasn't doing an amazing job at concealing the fact that she was enjoying this.

He chuckled, obviously taking pleasure in seeing her squirm as she resumed attempting to take notes. In the past five minutes, she had copied down exactly four lines and was falling behind.

From the corner of her eye, she could make out Zack's arm gliding towards her midsection again. Automatically, her lips curved up into a faint smile, bracing for it when…


The teacher's voice prompted his grin to immediately fade as he straightened up in his seat and looked ahead. "Ms. Scarlet?"

"Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Sorry. I was-"

"Getting back to your notes?" the older woman quipped.

He nodded quietly, face turning deathly serious. Aerith peered over at him smugly for a moment before resuming taking notes once more.

Several uneventful minutes passed before she looked up and surveyed her surroundings, noticing that all attention had resumed to the front once more. No one was watching.

For a second, she remained motionless as Zack's eyes focused up ahead at the overhead notes. Without warning, she brought a stealthy hand from under the desk and grabbed him in the groin area.

Zack literally jumped out of his seat, knocking his chair back against the wall and sending his desk sliding several inches ahead.

"Zack. Office now."


Cid stared up at the clock on the wall for what must have been the tenth time in the last two minutes. No matter how often he looked, time would not go any slower or faster.

He peered down uncomfortably at the math quiz, a sick empty feeling now present in his stomach as it churned, causing him agitation. His eyes instinctively looked up at all the other students, who appeared completely engrossed in their equations and problems, never once seeming to run into a roadblock.

Of course they'd have no problem, he thought. No one else struggled with this stupid course but himself. This was the third time he would be taking it and yet again, perfectly finding himself primed for failure as finals quickly approached a mere few weeks away.

Rubbing his brows furiously, he opened his eyes and attempted to massage his temples as he stared at this particular algebra problem. He couldn't, for the life of him, recall what to do despite having gone over it with Shera several nights ago.

Sensing his anger and frustration beginning to boil at his lack of competence, he didn't realize the immense pressure he had applied onto his pencil as he was brought out of his trance when the writing instrument snapped roughly, quickly stabbing him in the palm.

The quick sensation of sharp pain coursed throughout for a split second before dissipating as he looked at the broken pencil and up at several students close to him who stared in question.

With a look of defeat and resignation, he sighed once more and turned the test over, staring ahead at the floor dejectedly.


He was in a state of silent fascination. His calm but experienced eyes surveyed the still class for several seconds, before falling upon a familiar student.

The short, blonde haired male appeared to be agitated as he peered down at his math quiz. Barret continued watching on, silently hoping this time would be different than any of the others. Without realizing it, he held his breath as he mentally encouraged Cid to continue trying, praying that the repeating student wouldn't simply give in to his frustrations and give up.

With mild disappointment, his face fell as he witnessed that familiar look of impatience from his student, seconds before he snapped his pencil with one hand. He continued watching as Cid sighed in resignation and did what Barret had hoped he wouldn't: turn the test over and slump back in his chair, peering ahead defeated.

With a heavy breath, the older man stood up from his seat, drawing several quick stares towards his direction before several pairs of eyes returned to their sheets. He silently made his way through the aisle and stopped directly by Cid, kneeling down to his level.

Cid's virulent blue eyes softened instantly as he looked on ahead once more.

"Just try," Barret whispered encouragingly.

Cid was quiet for a moment before speaking. "I actually studied this time too…"

"Just try," he echoed a second time, grabbing the sheet and carefully turning it over. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a pen and handed it to him. "I know it doesn't erase as easily. Just scribble any mistakes."

The other man was hesitant for a moment. "There's gonna be a lot of scribbling."

"Don't worry about it. Write what you can." With that, he stood up and headed towards his desk once more.


The sound of machinery and the familiar buzzing of various table saws was not exactly the soothing type of music he often preferred in the early stages of the morning.

Walking past several stations, he stopped at his table and examined the several blocks of wood he had neatly carved, ready for assembly. Glancing around for some superglue, his hardened eyes fell upon the two familiar students from earlier that morning.

His intense blue eyes shifted instantly, going from indifferent to cold and uninviting. His body maintained its temperature as he stayed calm and collected.

He knew their type. Brash, overly aggressive, prone to violence and unforgiving when it came to anyone who tried to show them up. He knew quite well that was what he had done earlier with that other kid.

Judging by the way they continued glaring over at him, he was positive in his belief that they weren't the type who would let it slide and this could escalate a lot further, treading down a far more dangerous road if the necessary actions weren't promptly taken.

With a scowl, he glanced around and quickly strode over to them, approaching them with unmatched confidence. As expected, their hostile glares turned to ones of surprise for a brief few moments.

"What the fuck you want?" the pony tailed one asked with obvious disdain. The other seemed to stare on in interest, watching the scene unfold quietly.

"You wanna start something?" Genesis asked bitingly.

The question seemed to cause both men to slightly fall back in question, as if they hadn't been sure they'd heard correctly.

He saw the pony tailed one frown. "Why do you think you're so tough man?"

"You for real?" the straight haired one asked.

"Lunch. You know the smoke pit right behind the baseball diamond?" Genesis asked. "Show."


Sick and tired. That's what he was right now.

Sick and tired of how inconsiderate they were regarding the education being handed to them. Sick and tired at their obvious lack of effort. Sick and tired of all the indifference. Sick and tired of the school not taking the subject of science far more seriously, instead choosing to pool funds into ludicrous programs such as sports and theater.

Because that was where the majority of careers lay he mused sarcastically. His beady eyes squinted behind the spectacles as they narrowed in on a prime example of someone who preferred athletics over education.

With a hint of impatience, he made his way towards the silver haired student, who hadn't so much as attempted to even begin measuring the appropriate fluids for the experiment.

"Any reason you haven't bothered with your apparatus or even made an attempt?" he asked, very interested in hearing the response.

Shrugging, the younger man peered outside. "I'm not really feeling it…"

The students weren't even putting an effort behind their excuses anymore it seemed.

"It's not a matter of feeling it or choosing to conduct the experiment when you please. This lab is mandatory to passing this course. It's important that you do."


The blood in Hojo's body began to rise, the obvious disrespect being directed towards him not sitting well. "Don't assume you don't need this Sephiroth."

"I've got a scholarship to UNC. No disrespect sir, but I'm not really concerned with how this year ends."

Hojo didn't want to tread down a dark path, but his pride was being tested by someone he deemed completely ignorant to the harsh realities of life.

Clearing his throat, he spoke slowly and challengingly. "The year's not over yet. You should be concerned. Teachers like I have the final say in your grades. I'm sure if you don't meet a certain GPA requirement, you don't get in."

He watched with eager anticipation as Sephiroth's bright green eyes glazed over, turning harsh. Why had he said that to him? His comment could seriously be taken as a threat and his professional career could suddenly be in jeopardy.

"I'm gonna get in. No matter what."


The books were cruelly placed that high so she couldn't reach them with ease. Pushing herself up on her toes, she snagged the physics book she was looking for, but her fingers had only partially caught the spine so when she came back on her heels, the book collapsed to the floor.

"Stupid…" she muttered.

"Bring stilts," a familiar male voice quipped.

Looking up, she looked past the aisles of books towards the nearby clearing of desks, where a familiar blonde haired male gazed on with interest. She recognized him but wasn't entirely sure of his name.

Offering an understanding smile, she stood up with the book and approached him slowly. "Yeah no kidding." Shooting him an expectant look, she waited for him to carry on the conversation.

As if reading her thoughts, his expression lightened up even further. "Come on… Seriously? You don't know my name?" He feigned being offended. "Rufus."

She smiled and nodded immediately. "Right, right. Rufus. You're in a couple of my classes. I remember now. I'm guessing you know my name."

"In a completely non-stalkerish way of course."

She laughed, her face turning playfully serious. "Of course."

"What's the subject of interest today?"

She let out an exaggerated breath. "Physics…"

"My favorite subject too!"

"Don't you just wish you could take it the entire school day?"

"I'm sure physics majors get the privilege of doing that at college," he mused.

Again, she produced a harmonious laugh, which triggered a bright smile from him. Her eyelids fluttered softly and she looked up at several students peering over towards them, all of a sudden making her self-conscious.

"I gotta go, this is the subject I'm worst at." She turned and began to leave.

"Hey," she heard him call out, prompting her to turn around.

"I'm actually decent at this stuff. You're taking it with Heidegger right?"

She nodded. "Yeah."

"For real, if you wanna study before exams, we can do it here later."

Thinking for a moment, she finally nodded and produced a light smile. "Kay." With that, she turned and proceeded towards the counter to check her book out.


He smirked enjoyably at the predicament he was putting his girlfriend in.


Surprised at the voice calling out his name, he was jolted from his mischievous thoughts and peered ahead. "Ms. Scarlet?"

"Are you enjoying yourself?"

He felt a sudden uncomfortable blush creep up as his body heat rose. "Sorry. I was-"

"Getting back to your notes?"

"Yes," he whispered inaudibly, peering down in embarrassment.

With displeasure, he picked up his pen and began taking notes for what seemed like eternity before he felt a hand cop a feel in his private region.

The shock registered immediately, causing him to fly off his seat in panic before glancing over at Aerith in question. He didn't have much time to dwell on the fact as he was told to take his distractions to the office.

Complying begrudgingly, and shooting Aerith a minor look of annoyance to which she responded by mouthing an inaudible sorry, he left the room and began sauntering through the halls towards his least desirable destination.

Several more minutes passed as he edged towards the side of the hall, against the lockers and softly ran his fingers alongside them while continuing to march on.

From up ahead, he saw the men's bathroom door open and the familiar student from earlier that morning walking out, a hard, grim expression on his seemingly fatigued features.

Zack frowned and maintained eye contact, watching with curiosity as the other individual walked towards him, but on the opposite side of the halls. As he inched closer, the other student's eyes looked up from the floor and the two had a moment where they simply stared into each other as if sharing a million degrees of thoughts.

Just as quickly as the moment had come, it faded as the smaller, sharply dressed student walked by, not looking back. Zack glanced back at him for a moment before he stopped short of the main hall, the office now in view.


He ran his left thumb across his nose, a habit he'd had since childhood when he was deep in thought.

Calculus was a subject he often enjoyed but sometimes it was a bit much. Considering the early state of his academic life, he often felt the teachers could lighten the load just a little. After all, there was still college.

Still, this was advanced placement math he had insisted on taking for his final two years here. All the hard work had paid off hopefully, as he was on the fast track to Berkeley.

Looking up from his assignment, he stared at his surroundings, taking in the relatively empty study area, only a few students sparingly scattered about. His eyes traveled to the side, towards the aisle containing scientific books.

Without realizing it, his breath caught in his throat at the sight of the familiar Tifa Lockhart, appearing far more stunning than usual this morning as she was stretched up on her toes, desperately trying to cling onto a book on the top shelf.

Zoning out of his assignment and surroundings, he became enthralled by her curvaceous figure as he continued watching her struggle, stretching out further and further. There was a voice within that reprimanded him for glaring so lustfully but he couldn't help but give in to his desires, if only for a minute.

His sustained fascination ensued until she finally grabbed the spine and brought the book down to the floor. Watching her mutter to herself, he cracked a smile.

Biting his bottom lip, he glanced up at the clock on the wall and back at her, contemplating whether or not to go on about his assignment once more. He grabbed his pencil and looked down at his paper for a fraction of an instant before his eyes travelled back to her figure as she stood up.

He had never really talked to her before but it was never too late to start. Clearing his throat, he found his voice.

"Bring stilts."


"What're you looking at?" Vincent asked. Tseng's eyes remained locked on a figure across the woodworks shops. When he didn't answer, Vincent trailed his line of sight as he noticed it fell on Genesis. "What's up?"

Tseng glared back at Vincent. "I'm gonna fuck him up."

"With what, your fists?"

"Shut up bitch. I'm serious."

Vincent chuckled, finding amusement in just how worked up Tseng was over this. It was simply his nature to never be talked back to by anyone or anything, even if it involved a cop. "Never said you weren't."

Tseng pulled out a carefully crafted sharp wooden handle. "Right in the side." He made a quick stabbing motion. "Not strong enough to take him out for good, but he'll be gone a while. Teach him to keep his fuckin' mouth shut."

"When the hell did you make that?" Usually he was aware of all their projects in the class, one of the few they bothered showing up for from time to time. Reactively, he peered across at the teacher who was helping a student with the sander. "If we get caught with a weapon, you k-"

"We won't." Tseng was quiet for a moment. "Made it during all your extended bathroom breaks."

Vincent watched on as Genesis went to his station with several pieces of wood. "What're you thinkin'?"

"Get him after school. He usually heads to the gym to train. Just go in and give her." Again, Vincent watched his friend make a single mock stab to the side.

For all their extracurricular activities and brush-ins with authority, for the first time in his high school existence, he wasn't sure about this idea. Sure, he too wanted a chance at showing Genesis up for that male bravado act he'd pulled earlier, attempting to step on their alpha male status by coming to the defense of someone who didn't deserve it.

Still… as the end of the school year neared, and with a past couple of weeks of relative silence and peace, there was a shred of him that simply wished for it to all end so he could say goodbye to this forgetful chapter of his life.

But perhaps that wasn't entirely up to him as he noticed Genesis making his way over to them. "Shit dude, he's comin' over here."


"Shit dude, he's comin' over here." Tseng heard Vincent's surprised tone and looked up, startled himself at a fast approaching Genesis.

"What the fuck is he doing?" he muttered to his friend.

"No clue, just try not to stab him in the middle of class."

Tseng made a sarcastic amused facial expression and quickly hid the sharp piece of wood in between his lap. With eager breath, he waited several more seconds as the determined orange haired male stopped several feet ahead of them, a stern expression present.

Tseng frowned. "What the fuck you want?"

"You wanna start something?"

Slightly taken aback at his abruptness and obvious lack of fear and intimidation, Tseng was temporarily at a loss for words.

"Why do you think you're so tough man?"

"You for real?" Vincent asked from the side, obvious disbelief evident in his voice.

"Lunch. You know the smoke pit right behind the baseball diamond?" Tseng watched Vincent nod several times. "Show." Without so much as another word, Genesis turned sharply and headed back for his seat, leaving the two of them staring in thought.

"What do you think?" Tseng shot his friend a questioning glance.

"You still wanna stick him?"

Pondering the thought for a moment, Tseng rolled his tongue around inside his mouth as he eyed the piece in his lap before looking up ahead at Genesis once more. "We'll bring it as an insurance policy. You got my back right?"

"Always man. Always. Can't believe you even have to ask."

Tseng smirked, appreciating the unquestioning support from his closest friend, the only one who understood him in this hellhole. A hellhole he couldn't wait to leave in a few weeks' time.

Provided of course… he could evade certain distractions long enough for him to do so.


Biting the skin by his fingernails, he shot discreet looks at Rufus as he studied his facial features every now and then, before returning to write several sentences on his sheet.

His thoughts were put on disarray when the relative silence of the library was shattered at the sound of Rufus saying something to someone. His curious eyes looked up and he spotted Tifa walk out of the aisles, approaching Rufus with mild hesitation.

Taking note of her body language, he deduced she wasn't entirely familiar with him but was open to the possibility of getting to know him better.

Another thought popped into his head and again, he brought his head down quickly to jot a few lines.

Looking back up, he witnessed Tifa now having relaxed more, her body less timid and more at ease as she laughed at certain comments from Rufus. With eager fascination, his curious eyes drank in the scene as it unfolded, watching the unmistakable charm of male and female interaction and how naturally it appeared to come to some people like those two.

Rude remained passive and stoic in his demeanor as he watched quietly. He studied Rufus' ability to make Tifa feel more at ease in the matter of a few seconds, drawing several laughs from her with carefully crafted words.

That was a skill that had to be earned. It simply couldn't be taught. Not to the likes of someone as socially awkward as himself.

Again, another thought manifested and he scribbled down several more sentences.


She intentionally dragged her feet through the tiny rocks plastered around the asphalt, enjoying the scratching sound made and producing round after round of a continuous dust cloud that permeated around her while she slowly walked towards the baseball diamond. As the familiar sight approached, she looked to the side at the smoke pit, noticing a small group of people crowded around, socializing.

Some were probably on their spare block, others simply skipping class and not caring if they were caught on school premises doing so. This crowd in particular wasn't too concerned with image she had to remind herself.

She was about to turn away and seek another area of isolation when a lone, red haired figure perched up against a chain fence and smoking caught her attention.

Studying his reckless, youthful features, she was momentarily intrigued by his quiet, loner nature. Against her typical actions, she opted to saunter over.

As he came into clearer view, her face twisted into one of question at the several obvious marks, bruises and cuts across his forearms and face.

As if sensing someone's watchful eyes, his pale blue orbs shot up instantly, locking eyes with her. The intensity behind his callous expression caused Yuffie to lose all wind in her lungs, as she stopped within her tracks, some fifteen feet away from him.

Unsure of what to say or how to break the ice, she remained motionless, speechless, subjecting herself to potential ridicule no doubt.

He spoke however. "What's going on?"

"Um…" She wasn't certain what the most appropriate thing to say was but when he took another drag of his cigarette, a small smile surfaced. "Got a cigarette I could bum off you?" Of course she had her own pack, but he didn't know that.

Nodding slowly, he reached inside his pocket and pulled out his carton, extending an arm. Yuffie took that as the invite and went closer, reaching inside and grabbing a cigarette.



Reno looked up, sensing the presence of someone nearby, his eyes coming to focus on a petite and skinny asian female with short hair standing a distance away. He vaguely recognized her. To the outside observer, they would safely assume she was no older than fourteen or fifteen and a sophomore but he was well aware that she was a senior.

Her name escaped him at the moment though.

Noticing that she wasn't about to start a conversation anytime soon, he opted to kill the escalating awkwardness. "What's going on?"

"Um…" her voice screamed uncertainty and he quickly grunted to himself in amusement. "Got a cigarette I could bum off you?" He knew she smoked. He'd seen her do so before.

He grabbed his pack and extended it out to her as she accepted and strolled over slowly.

"Thanks. I'm Yuffie."

He nodded, taking another drag. "I've seen you around. You're a senior right?"

"Yeah," she nodded.


She chuckled, looking out across the field. "Something like that. You?"

"It's always a spare for me." This elicited an amused laugh from her, which to his surprise, he took satisfaction in hearing.

"You never told me your name."

His eyebrows rose momentarily. "Reno."

"So… Reno…" she placed heavy emphasis on his name as he saw her eyeing him quite thoroughly. "What happened to your face and arms?"

Pretty much the question any one would logically ask upon meeting him. "I had a fight with the stairs and lost."

"Was it strictly a two party affair or was an external outlier involved in introducing you to the stairs?"

Her carefully crafted question prompted him to stare in slight wonder for a moment. He never would have guessed someone of her appearance to display such acuity.

Another drag of his cigarette was taken as he carefully watched the smoke he exhaled dance around the air exotically before gradually dissipating. "What're your plans for next year?"

"Oh you know me. Given my stellar record. Harvard most likely. You?"

He nodded. "Same. Although I'm kinda at a crossroads. I just can't decide between that, Yale, Brown or Princeton. Too bad there's only one of me to go around."

She laughed at his remark and he smiled back in turn.


He stared at his reflection in the mirror for what seemed like ages when in actuality, he'd only been in the bathroom for five minutes.

Sighing, he wished he could remain here for the entirety of the day until the final bell rang, freeing himself from the constant ridicule enacted by certain parties that seemed to have a problem with him every single day, no matter just how inconspicuous he tried to be.

Taking out a small toy figurine, he ran his fingers over the smoothly coated texture and reminded himself that there was only a short distance left before the finish line.

Before he ever had to step foot back in this depraved cesspool of malcontents, sadists and morally apathetic scum.

People who didn't a give a shit about his existence and preferred to go on about their daily deeds, only concerned with their own well-being rather than extending a branch of support for a fellow peer. People he wished would suddenly wake up from their comas of isolated self-existence and notice that the world didn't simply just revolve around them.

After a long breath, he turned from the mirror and was about to proceed out the door when he caught a glance of the back of his hair in the reflection and noticed that he'd missed one.

With mixed frustration and fatigue, he carefully plucked away the small ball of paper covered in peanut butter, the sixth one he'd had thrown at him that morning in history while his completely aloof and oblivious teacher appeared to do everything in his power to turn a blind eye to the rampant misdeeds taking place.

Running the tap, he let the water run warm before splashing a few bits alongside the back of his hair, trying to clean away any traces of peanut butter that had stuck.

They said high school was often the best time of your life. More than anything, Reeve desired to find the person who'd said that and subject him to the same anguish he'd endured over the course of his stay here.


Twenty eight years.

A hell of a long time to remain married.

Completely distracted, the tired old principal turned away from his desk, turning his chair towards the window, his eyes automatically falling onto the portrait up along the wall of him, his wife and Rufus. Taken during a time when they were all blissfully happy and truly a family, it screamed of an instance that had become but a surreal memory, existing only within the realm of fiction.

Twenty eight years. Twenty eight long years and just like that, he was finding himself doing something he'd always viewed as being morally repugnant.

He was getting a divorce.

It was no ordinary divorce he conceded, being that him and his wife were parting on fairly amicable terms and not at each other's throats like many other broken couples often did.

Still, the notion of his once stable family, a pillar of the community and an everlasting symbol of powerful bonds, was now on the brink of dissolution, indicated to him that no one was immune from the overwhelming feeling of apathy.

Apathy at living a loveless marriage with a woman he could no longer truly feel the same things he once felt for her. Apathy at having to endure the daily grind only out of unconditional love for his son.

A son he would inform today of what their family was about to go through.


She approached the door to the class and quietly let herself in, expecting to be subjected to a sea of stares from preening eyes.

A sigh of quiet relief escaped her lips as the rest of the class went on about completely unaware of her entrance, engaged in discussion as students worked in groups.

She looked at the teacher, who came up to her questioningly. "Elena? Why are you late? Do you have a pass?" When her weak shrug indicated that she had nothing, he looked on disapprovingly. "Elena?"

"Sorry Mr. Palmer… I really can't say why I was late…" Her timid eyes looked down towards the floor.

She heard a sigh escape his lips. "We're working on the reading for the book. Did you read this week?"

She nodded. "Yeah." It was the truth. In fact, she'd completed the whole book. It was an escape from reality.

"Okay, well I've paired people up." His eyes scanned the class for a moment. "Go work with Cloud. Although knowing him, he probably doesn't need the help and is already done."

She smiled lightly at the obvious truth behind the comment and sauntered over towards the blonde haired male, who expectantly, was completely oblivious to her presence.

Watching him with mild fascination, she was suddenly intrigued by just how absorbed in his work he was, absolutely free from all the surrounding noise and turmoil. She was impressed at how he could completely lose himself in something.

"What're you working on?"

He stared up at her in surprise and glanced around for a moment.

"I didn't realize this was a group thing… Uh… I'm working on the character analysis for the novel we read. Did you read it?"

A slow nod on her part. "So can I like, sit down and help you out?"

"Why are you just coming up to me now?" An expected question from him.

"I came in late."

Her suddenly curious eyes remained positioned on him as he stared around further. Why had she never paid more attention to him before?

A/N: Watch me crumble.