If this fic is proof of anything, it's that I have a very strange sense of humor. AU/Crackfic, if you couldn't tell from the summary. :D

Note: Rated T for language and some crudeness. No sex or violence.


Welcome to the Schoolhouse

Part 1: Recess

·

·

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the birds were – actually, the birds weren't doing much at all. Neither was anything else. Apocalyptic wars tended to put a damper on most activities.

Most, but not all. Down the street, a dilapidated schoolhouse was filled with the shouts of tiny voices. Outside it, a sign had once read: Mrs. Honeysuckle's Preparatory School For Happy Little Girls, but some lettering had been crossed out and written in. It now read: Mr. Acker's Rehabilitative School for Ungrateful Little Brats Who Make My Life Hell. The last few words had to be squeezed in at the bottom.

Mr. Acker himself stood at the head of the class and observed his charges. Most of them being under four inches tall, they all fit on a single school desk, on which sat eight much tinier school desks, arranged in two rows. Only one of the little creatures was actually sitting in his place, quietly drawing on a scrap of paper. The rest of the cloth figures were tear-assing around their platform, screeching and carrying on like a bunch of children. Which they were. Sort of.

He cleared his throat and gave the call to order. Reluctantly, they all slouched over to their desks and sat, looking up at him. "Good Morning, class," he said.

"Good Morning, Mr. Acker," came the dutiful chorus. Their teacher was a giant, after all.

"I have some news for you all. First, we're just about finished building your adult bodies. The transfer should be taking place some time next week."

A ripple of excitement went through the class. Finally!

"Second, we have a new student with us today."

A new student? The little ragdolls looked around at one another. There were never any new students. There was never any new anybody. The doll in the second seat of the front row raised his hand.

"Yes, Two?"

"But aren't we all that's left of humanity? That's what that other guy said. The one with the funny hair."

"The Scientist," Mr. Acker corrected patiently. "And... that's the other thing. You won't be seeing him around much any more."

"What? Why not?"

"That's enough questions for today! Everyone, meet Nine." Mr. Acker plucked yet another little figure from his shirt pocket and set him on the desk.

At the end of the first row, two identical dolls shot out of their seats and made a beeline for their new classmate. All the others laughed as the twins poked and prodded at him, flashing the lights in their eyes as they recorded the new information. Nine yelped as one of them grossly violated his person.

"All right, all right," said Mr. Acker. "That's enough. Three, Four, take your seats." The pair scurried back to their places and folded their hands on their desks, the very picture of innocence.

Nine zipped his front back up and looked around at his classmates. They all stared back at him. A very pretty girl in the second row, who was sitting with her chair tilted on its back legs, raised her eyebrows. He shifted awkwardly. "Um, where do I sit?" he finally asked.

"Yeah... about that," came the teacher's voice from behind him. "We only had enough in the budget for a chair. You'll have to share a desk with someone."

Great. He sighed as seven pairs of aperture-lens eyes narrowed at him. One pair of eyes, however, did not narrow. Also, it wasn't actually a pair. The boy at the first desk of the second row raised his hand.

"Yes, Five?" said Mr. Acker.

"He can sit with me," the boy said, somewhat timidly.

"Thank you, Five! That's very nice of you. You get a gold star for sharing." Five smiled happily. He liked getting gold stars.

Mr. Acker peeled a shiny decal from a sheet and stuck it to a chart on the wall. Five's row was the longest by far. The one two places below it was completely empty. He then placed the tiny chair over by Five's desk and watched as Nine went and sat. The two deskmates smiled shyly at one another.

"All right, class," Mr. Acker said, in his best teacher voice. "We're continuing our lesson on alchemical symbols, and why you need to forget all about them if the movie is going to have a plot. Six, I want you to pay better attention, today." The ragdoll who had been drawing looked up, and after a moment, reluctantly stowed his paper away under his desk.

Nine looked at his deskmate for a minute. "Hey," he whispered as the teacher turned to write on the board, "can I ask you something?"

"Sure," Five whispered back. "As long as it's not about my eye."

"Oh. Sorry."

"Just kidding. I lost it in a tragic accident on the playground that gives me nightmares to this very day. But it's okay, 'cause now I get this wicked eye patch."

Nine nodded. The patch was pretty wicked. "Can I ask you something else?"

"Shoot."

"Who's that?" He pointed to the pretty girl two desks over, who had just put something in her mouth.

At that moment, Mr. Acker turned back around and looked right at them. "No talking," he said. Five flinched guiltily. The teacher's eyes moved past them, to their left.

"Seven, what did I tell you about chewing gum in class?"

She mumbled something.

"So we can all hear you?"

"That we don't have any teeth," she said in a loud, clear voice.

"Exactly. Now give it here. And sit up straight." Scowling, Seven thumped her chair back to the floor and spat the only slightly-mangled piece of gum into the teacher's giant hand. "I don't know where you even keep getting these," Mr. Acker muttered as he discarded it in the trash can by his desk.

The lesson continued. It was extremely boring, and what with it being his first day, Nine really didn't understand most of it. After a while he gave up and began looking around the classroom. It was huge. Twisting around in his seat, he saw rows of giant desks, like the one on which he and his class were sitting, along with giant chairs, arranged in several rows. On one desk toward the back was a white box with a screen on the front. It was hard to see from where he was, but it looked like some kind of creature was curled up in inside.

"Nine! Pay attention," came the teacher's voice. Nine turned back around and did his best to look studious until Mr. Acker went to write on the board again.

Over at the far left of the room, pushed right up against the windows, was a long table. He looked at it wistfully. Lots of fun-looking things were on it. There was a big round jungle gym, a swing set with two swings, a seesaw, and a sandbox. That must be the playground. How much longer until recess?

After the teacher caught him looking around again, Nine finally took to staring at the boy sitting in front of him. This boy had an oddly-shaped head with a funny little tuft at the top of it, and the number one painted on his back. He was sitting up very straight. Unable to resist, Nine slid down in his seat, reached out with his foot, and kicked.

"Hey!" One shouted. He stood up and whirled around, pointing at Nine. "Mr. Acker, the new kid just kicked my chair!"

"What are you talking about?" Nine said innocently, glancing over at Five, who looked like he would have rather been anywhere else.

"Quiet down, One," said Mr. Acker. "No standing up during the lesson. And you," he said, pointing to Nine, "had better stop goofing off, or you'll be writing lines during recess."

No! Not that! One smirked at him before he turned and sat back down. And over to the left, a snicker was coming from the very large boy at the end of the row, with the number eight painted on his arm. But when Nine turned to frown at Eight, he saw that the girl – Seven – was looking at him again, this time with an approving expression on her face. His cheeks prickled.

He forced himself to turn back to the board. He really didn't want to write lines.

Finally, after what felt like about a billion years, Mr. Acker put down his chalk and announced the beginning of recess. He picked up a tray with two handles and brought it over to the class. Everyone climbed onto it.

Everyone, that is, except for Seven, who took off, leaping from one giant desk to the next towards the long table. By the time Mr. Acker had carried the tray over and set it down at the playground, she was already perched at the very top of the jungle gym.

"Now play nice, all of you," Mr. Acker said. "I'll be in the teacher's lounge." With a pack of smokes and some Wild Turkey. At least the Scientist wouldn't be sneaking drinks out of his flask any more.

The twins had already taken the seesaw. Nine made for the swings, but Five stopped him. "Don't even bother. One and Eight always hog them." And sure enough, there they were, already seating themselves, Eight's swing creaking slightly under his weight.

"But that's not fair!" said Nine, eyeing them. One saw, and smirked again at him as he pushed off with his feet.

"You can play with us," Five said, gesturing to Two and Six, who were giving him friendly smiles. "In the sandbox."

That sounded pretty good. He liked Five a lot, and the others seemed nice as well. "Okay," he said, and followed them over to it.

It was better than good. The box was huge, as big as the tray they had ridden over on, and the sand was fine and damp enough to stick together. Nine grinned at his new friends, and they dug in with gusto. The boy called Two was especially clever. He knew exactly how to build the castle so that it would look nice and keep from falling over. And Six made some very cool designs in it with his sharp little fingers. All in all it was a lot of fun until, just when they had almost finished, a pair of feet came stomping into their midst, toppling and scattering all of their hard work.

By the time Nine realized what had happened, Eight was already back over at the swings, laughing and pointing along with One.

"Yeah, I forgot to tell you about that," said Five.

Nine scowled over at them. Eight was very large and scary-looking, but on the other hand, that was their castle! He got up and began stalking over to the swing set. Again, Five stopped him.

"Are you crazy?" said Five. "You can't fight him! He's like ten times bigger than you!"

"He is not!"

"Okay, twice as big as you. Believe me, it's enough."

"So what? You saw what he did! We can't just let him get away with it!"

Five was pretty sure he could. He watched Nine march off to confront One and Eight in their territory. Well, it had been nice knowing him.

One was standing up on his swing, looking disdainfully down at Nine as he approached. On his head was a triangular hat folded out of paper. "Begone from here, peasant!" he said, waving Nine away. "None may set foot in the Land of Swingset unless the King has granted them audience."

"Who's the King?"

One scowled. "I am."

"But that's a captain's hat."

"So what? I still outrank you."

"Do not!"

"Do, too! Go back and play in the dirt with the other serfs, or I shall have my faithful knight kick your overly padded behind."

Nine frowned and felt his behind. He didn't think it was overly padded. Five had more padding than he did. Still, that might mean it'd hurt less when he got knocked on it. "I'm not going anywhere. Not until you apologize."

Eight, who had been chuckling throughout all of this, was now guffawing. One just sneered. "And who's going to make us?" he said.

"I am," Nine shot back, bracing himself. This was really going to hurt, wasn't it? Even with all the padding.

"You and what army?"

"This one," came a voice from over Nine's shoulder. He turned around. There was Seven, her hands on her hips, glaring at One.

Over by the sandbox, Two, Five and Six looked at each other. The Queen of the Jungle Gym and the King of Swingset never got involved in each other's affairs. At least not since the Treaty of the Broken Slide last week.

Nine appreciated the help, he really did, but Seven wasn't any bigger than he was. And was a girl. But then he noticed that One and Eight had stopped laughing.

"What are you doing over here?" One said to her, sounding less sure of himself.

"Making sure it's a fair fight. Two against two. Now put 'em up," said Seven, raising her fists toward Eight in a fighting stance. He stared at her, not moving an inch.

"You can't do that," One protested. "We had a royal agreement."

"Yeah, but the new kid wasn't part of it. So apologize – or put up your dukes."

One scowled at her, and then at Nine. "Fine," he said. "We'll apologize. But only if he apologizes for kicking my chair."

Nine looked at Seven, who shrugged. "Uh, okay," he said, looking back up at One. "I'm sorry?"

One nodded regally, and then held up a hand, gesturing grandly, addressing everyone on the playground. "His Royal Majesty, One the First, High King Over the Land of Swingset and its Constituents, does hereby acknowledge the admittance of blame for a certain insult brought upon his royal person, and the expression of remorse immediately following. He does further proclaim his deepest regret regarding the most recent actions of Sir Eight, a servant of the Crown and Knight of the Highest Order, toward his most humble and unwashed subjects." Having said this, he hopped down off the swing and sat on it again. "Now go away. We're playing pirates."

Seven began walking back toward the jungle gym. Nine followed her. They passed the twins, who hadn't stopped playing on the seesaw the entire time. "Uh..." he said.

"What?" she asked, turning around.

Nine's insides did a flip-flop. He ducked his head and scuffed his foot against the floor. "Nothing. I mean, thanks. For your help over there."

"No problem. It was nice to see someone else standing up to them for a change."

He wanted to say something else to her, but couldn't think of anything. By the time he picked his head back up, she was already sprinting away. He watched as she leaped her way up the dome of the jungle gym, turned a somersault in midair, and landed squarely on top, the sunlight from the window shining dramatically on her (somewhat dirty) white fabric.

It was official. He was in love.