A school is an institution of knowledge. A place where one learns valuable skills that they will use in their lives, helping them power through the rest of their education or giving them the means to stand up for themselves after leaving it's hallowed halls. Math, Biology, and History are all important to learn in those hallowed halls, but one of the greatest skills of all to acquire is one that is not taught in any classroom: The art of gossiping, and lessons were in full swing as always. However, a new tidbit has entered the curriculum, one too juicy to let go.

Everywhere Jasmine went she could feel the eyes of her fellow students upon her, their boisterous talking turning to hushed whispers when her gaze fell upon them. It was disconcerting how much it bothered her, even though she knew this would likely occur. Daniel, who was fawned upon by the freshman class, and Jasmine, who had recently broken up with her sophomore boyfriend, were now together. It made her the envy of the rest of the girls of her grade, and along with it came their scorn. Hearing a particularly rough comment she looked sharply to the source, two dogs who immediately went silent when they realized she had heard. Jasmine shook her head and moved onwards, gritting her teeth as the two exploded into giggles, then were drowned out in the sea of voices of the hallway.

She reached her locker and sighed, turning the well memorized numbers on her combination lock. It didn't require thought and sadly that means she could think about what people had to say. It seems that it began after the two left Barnaby and his sharks. The group after them noticed their change in attitude toward one another and it spread after that. They told a friend and they told a friend, and come Monday it had spread to the school itself. Most of the rumors were inaccurate in a good way, but some made her blush at what they hinted that she and Daniel had done in the shark enclosure. She didn't think of Daniel in a way like that, but, well, she didn't know what to think of the situation and that was the most disconcerting thing of this all.

They spent that Saturday together when they could and she was surprised to find that there was more to Daniel than she originally assumed. It was not long ago that she had merely passed him off, thinking nothing of his advances but after the events with Paulo and the way he began to treat her… It seemed as if there was something deeper there that made her feel safe and secure in a way that Paulo did not. He understood that she had commitments where Paulo could not, and he was willing to be patient. More importantly he understood why she did what she did and had an insight and a willingness to help with a knowledge to back up his claims. He seemed to lack the impulsiveness and suave manner that Paulo exuded, but made up for it with his regal bearing and attitude. She felt she could do things in a way with him that she never could with Paulo, but at the same time she knew that he would never scare kids with plastic knives on Halloween. The two were polar opposites and she briefly wondered if that was why she forsook reason and bought into his corny speech that Friday, and yes, she did inform him that it was corny to which he merely replied, "It got us here didn't it?"

As if summoned by her thoughts, Jasmine felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned to see the smiling face of a familiar Siamese. "Hello beautiful."

She suppressed a small blush and half-heartedly smiled back. "Hey Daniel."

He cocked his head and looked at her, raising an eyebrow. "Is that the best you can do? 'Hey Daniel?' I was hoping for something more enthusiastic. Something more fitting to a boyfriend."

Jasmine sighed and closed her locker, finished with her business. "Sorry, it's just what everyone is saying about… well us. I guess I wasn't expecting just how much people would talk and it's a little embarrassing."

"I have heard their words as well, and they all just seem to be jealous, whether of you or myself. Does it really matter what they have to say though? You know they merely wish they were as fortunate as us."

"Yeah… I guess. I'd just like to not hear everyone's little misconceptions of what happened."

Daniel smirked slightly that that. "Yes, some of them were, ah, inventive weren't they?" He mock coughed then, in response to Jasmine giving him a deadpan stare, and the topic was quickly shifted. "Anyways, you have student council meeting after school correct? I was thinking afterwards…"

Jasmine sighed, cutting him off. "You know I have to work on that project for chemistry."

Daniel's eye twitched slightly. He quickly brought his hand up though and placed it to his forehead "Oh! I had forgotten, I apologize. I suppose I should be working on that as well, can't half-ass it. Don't worry I'm sure you'll be free soon and we can enjoy ourselves then. You know that I look forward to seeing you whenever I can."

Jasmine nodded, momentarily stunned at his response. She expected the usual recoil and disappointment that Paulo used to give, but her fears went unfounded with Daniel. As she thought, he was different, and perhaps not in the way she had originally thought.

"Shall I walk you to class?" Daniel asked, offering his hand.

Jasmine smiled and took his offer, falling in step with the Siamese cat. Suddenly the voices around her seemed quieter, as if insignificant next to what she had. Their words became nothing more than gnats, an annoyance. There was one voice that she did still hear however. It was that one voice in her head that kept bringing doubt about Daniel, but at least it had grown quieter, and soon, she'd drown it out completely.

Message in a Bottle

Paulo sat down at the usual lunch table, putting his feet on its plane. No one else had arrived yet and the gesture seemed fitting in order to make their already unspoken claim to the table more substantial. It had been a long, boring day of school and he wanted to take it easy and rest before going back into the maelstrom of "learning" which was to assault him. He forgot lunch today but so what, he'd get Mike to hand over some soda, sweet delicious soda. He hoped Mike never won that bike or his ticket on the gravy train, or perhaps Blasto train, would be up.

It was a few minutes before the rest of the gang trickled in, those who had braved the lunch line placing their food on the table in front of them. Chicken fingers, corn, mashed potatoes and Jell-O substitute was the course today and the smells wafted gently in the breeze. Paulo's stomach gurgled and he did his best to call attention away from it by coughing, which ironically made him far more noticeable.

Mike, who had a tray of food, rolled his eyes and pulled out a can of Blasto from his bag. "You better win that bike with this one Paulo. My parents are starting to wonder how I go through all this soda that they never see my drink."

Paulo, nursing the life-giving elixir held up a hand as it drained slowly down his throat, his taste buds tingling as the flavor washed through his mouth. When he finished he looked in the can and was confronted by a familiar sight that said, "BLAST OFF AGAIN. THIS CAN NOT A WINNER."

Paulo shrugged and threw the can at Mike who looked at it as well, his shoulders slumping as he got the message. He patted Mike on the shoulder. "There there, you'll find it someday, now if you don't happen to have another one of those…"

Mike handed Paulo another can and the process repeated itself. While he drank this one he became aware of the conversations around him. Mike was chatting with Abbey about something nerdy, with Daisy looking on, a smile on her face, although it was hard to tell who she was looking at exactly. David was harassing his sandwich, as was ritual for Monday, while Lucy sat there, quietly pushing her food around. Paulo felt a twinge of pain for the lonely girl, but his attention was yanked over when he heard what Sue was discussing with McCain.

"So apparently that Jasmine girl is all the rage right now, something about a new freshman and them dating. It's kind of silly really, I mean she's just a freshman with a new boyfriend, why is it so important that it's the hottest thing around right now?"

"I don't know why you are telling me this but I believe I sense lingering hostility towards Jasmine due to the events of the previous Student Council Election."

"Shut it McCain."

Paulo retracted the can of soda slowly, putting it on the table half finished. For some reason he didn't have the stomach to drink the rest of it and he didn't know why. It couldn't be because of what Sue said about Jasmine could it? That would be crazy, he was over, well, mostly over her by now.

Lucy rolled her head away from her meal to see Paulo staring down at the table and her expression turned concerned. "Hey, you okay there?"

Paulo didn't immediately respond, merely shook his head before picking himself up to look at Lucy. "Hmmm? Oh I'm fine, just had some bad Blasto, yeah, never know what they'll put in a can huh?"

Lucy was not convinced, but she kept quiet about it throughout the rest of the period, instead throwing jokes at him about how terrible he was in class and the like. When the bell rang to signify the return to the confines of the learning rooms, Lucy fell into step behind Paulo, grabbing his arm when she was sure that none of her other friends would notice.

"What happened there during lunch? And don't tell me it was bad Blasto, I know you drink worse than that all the time."

Paulo was caught off guard by her action and he desperately tried to think of some excuse when he realized that he didn't need to? What good would it do to hide something so trivial from Lucy? Just because it may have been connected to his… ex-girlfriend, didn't mean he had to keep it to himself, that would be silly.

"Yeah, you saw through me huh? I need to try harder next time." He sighed and looked to Lucy. "Sorry it was something Sue said about Jasmine and this new boyfriend of hers, I guess I just haven't gotten this all out of my system yet." He smiled then. "Sorry if it worried you."

Lucy let go on her grip on his arm and asked quietly. "So you aren't over her yet?"

Paulo blinked at her change of tone, confused at its cause. "I suppose not. There's always going to be a part of me I bet that never will, but I have to accept that there are some things I can't have and just move on."

Lucy's expression darkened and Paulo could sense a hint of pain in her eyes. It occurred to him that his words might have touched something in her that ought not be lingered upon and he held out his hand to her, putting on his trademarked smile, "Come on, we can't be late for class can we babe?"

Lucy blinked at looked at Paulo's hand before looking slowly up to his smiling face. She hesitated slightly before putting on a slight smile of her own and pushing his hand away, walking down the hallway and leaving a bewildered Paulo behind.

He stared after her, his mind wandering as his body sought to catch up through the crowd of people. What had just transpired between Lucy and himself and why did he suddenly feel much happier? He thought he had an answer, but that didn't address the other question in his head which was: Why did he also feel guilty?