Summary: In the second grade, I stole his juice box. And it didn't stop there. Who knew that one event would put everything into motion?

Juice Box
Faded Soulfire

It was twelve forty three.

I was three minutes late to lunch when I got to the cafeteria. All four lines were backed up to the point that I gave up on buying a lunch. Instead, I spanned the room, and smiled when I caught sight of Jesse. He was sitting at the far end of the cafeteria, at a small round table with a couple of his closest friends.

He was rooting through a small, brown paper bag, and neatly putting his lunch onto the table. I didn't need to be in view to know what his packed lunch consisted of. He always ate peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches, fruit cups, and a strawberry juice box.

From second grade up, he drank juice boxes—courtesy of his mom's excellent lunch packing skills. Strawberry had always been my favorite flavor. It was back when my favorite doll had been Strawberry Shortcake. Ever since that fateful day I started stealing Jesse's juice boxes, I couldn't stop.

It became a tradition and a challenge all rolled into one.

Two feet away, I snuck up on Jesse, snatching his juice box when he was scribbling in his notebook. He spent a lot of time drawing and even writing poetry. Jesse was also the quiet sort of boy who fit in well with the whole tortured/starving artist generation. Art was his life, and I was thankful that it was a distraction that worked like clockwork.

"That makes 451," I laughed, poking the straw in the juice box, and taking a large sip.

Jesse dropped his pencil when two of his friends threw straw wrappers at his head.

"Grace," he whined, his hair falling into his jade eyes, "what is it with you and stealing my juice?"

I grinned. Jesse and I weren't friends. Not really. We were pleasant when in the company of each other, but our friendship had never gone beyond strawberry juice boxes. If we had wanted to, I was positive we could've been friends, but neither of us had made that move.

"You make it so easy." I patted his mass of thick, brown hair. "Besides, strawberry is my favorite." He opened his mouth to say something else, but I cut him off. "And don't sound so disappointed, Jess. I know you stash an extra juice box in your locker."

His friend, Brian, cut in. "Dude, why are you still drinking juice boxes? You're almost eighteen."

I smirked when Jesse blushed. "It's my mom," he told everyone. "She knows I don't drink them anymore because a certain girl steals them from me. I think she packs it just for you, Grace." Jesse crossed his arms over his chest, and jutted out his lower lip. "I'm beginning to think she likes you more than me."

"I don't know," I teased. "She mustn't like me that much if I'm forced to steal juice boxes from you."

His friends burst into laughter—taking that as their perfect moment to leave. It was one thing his friends always did—leave. They had grown tired of our juice box banter—just like every other time—and I couldn't exactly blame them.

He took a large bite of his sandwich and looked at me curiously. "I'm not that bad, am I?"

I mock saluted him, and made sure to slurp the last drop out of the juice box before I slammed it back onto the table. "Thanks, Jess."

As I walked away, I swore I heard him faintly murmur, "You're welcome."

A high school boy with manners.

Yet, that wasn't what surprised me the most.

III

It was three-fifteen when I began the slow walk home. My mom had decided to work overtime, and the bus was far too embarrassing to take. I was a senior. Seniors drove their pretty, new cars to and from school. Except me. I was license less and out of shape.

Being out of shape made the quarter mile walk home miserable. I was usually winded within five minutes, and cursing my high sugar lunch. The vending machine didn't exactly scream 'healthy'. But after wasting fifteen minutes with Jesse, the lunch lines had closed, and I was forced to dip into the delicious vending machine treats.

At the time, three chocolate bars had sounded like a good idea, but under the hot, skin-melting September sun, I knew that it hadn't. My stomach rumbled, and I thought I was going to pass out.

Groaning, I threw my messenger bag over my shoulder, taking a slow walk down the sidewalk. I was concentrating hard on steady breathing that I didn't realize that five minutes had passed. But I couldn't mistake the sound of shoes scuffing the sidewalk, hard.

My heart sped up, and I instantly grew nervous.

"Grace!"

I took a deep breath and slowed down—surprised more than anything. Jesse was running towards me, his thick hair bouncing from his movement. He was wearing a black wife beater, a pair of black, baggie Dickies that was held up by a studded belt, and a pair of skateboarding shoes.

His classic HIM beanie was tucked into his front pocket, nearly following out. He held a stack of papers, and he ran awkwardly with his messenger bag behind his back, hitting his ass every time he moved forward. I giggled, watching in amusement as his face twisted in pain every time it hit him.

It was so like Jesse to have more books than he needed. He was a genuine nerd, a goodie-goodie when it came to studying and homework. But above all, I just stared, wondering what the hell he was up to.

Outside the cafeteria, Jesse and I never spoke.

Our conversations began and ended with strawberry juice boxes. It had been that way since we were eight and a half, and there was really no reason that things would suddenly change—despite the fact that we were both almost eighteen and seniors in high school.

I cleared my dry throat, squinting at Jesse through the sun. Jesse was the extremely tall, lanky type that looked like he was fragile and going to break in the wind. He ran track, wore silly glasses when he ran out of his contacts, and wore a mishmash of skater apparel—from shoes to beanies.

"Jesse," I acknowledged.

"Where's your mom?"

I shifted awkwardly. "Umm, overtime."

"Oh. No ride?"

"Nope."

He smiled. "How about some company while you walk home?"

"Okay."

He fell into step beside me, being just as quiet as I was. Small talk was easy, but it didn't mean anything. Talking seemed pretty useless if we didn't have anything worthwhile to say. Besides, talking about juice boxes only kept conversation going for a couple of minutes.

And I think he understood because he hardly said anything until we were a block from my house.

"Grace."

Jesse froze in place like he was stunned.

"Grace," he tried again.

Stubbornly, I kept moving. When I didn't stop, Jesse reached for my hand, lightly tugging on me to stop. Embarrassed, I kept my face trained on the sidewalk. My cheeks were flushed, my hair was a tangled, sweaty mess, and I was breathing heavily.

"You look thirsty," he tried again. His eyes, those emerald pools, were sparkling.

No reply. I couldn't stomach admitting that I was, in fact, very thirsty and tired and out of shape. I could imagine him making fun of me, and telling me that eating chocolate bars was bad for my health, but he didn't. Jesse, honestly, had done the very opposite.

"Here."

And before I could argue, a strawberry juice box was pushed into my left hand. I stared at it long and hard before I looked back up at Jesse. He had a weird look on his face, and I was too busy trying to decipher it to realize that our hands were still threaded together, and that I was happily sipping on my juice box.

"I guess this makes 452," I smiled, still winded.

"No," he interrupted. "I gave you this one."

I opened my mouth to say something in turn, but no words came as Jesse's lips crashed onto mine. The kiss was quick—almost needy as he mashed his lips harder against mine. His hand slipped to my face, cupping it delicately, and I swore my heart fluttered.

He moved closer to me—well until our chests were touching and our erratic, fast heartbeats were working in unison. And in that moment, we were just two people, kissing because we could.

But the kiss ended just as quickly as it came.

Breathless, Jesse pulled away, staring at me long and hard. The look in his emerald eyes made me shiver, and I knew right then that I had to know what was going on.

"What was that for?"

Jesse grinned, his lips widening into a contagious grin. "It was about time I stole something of yours."


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lighthearted fluff. That is all this is meant to be. And I really thinks it works. At least, it does for me. Heck, if this receives well, I just may very well do a follow up fic. So, let me know what you think, and who knows, there may be more fluff and happy ending one shots from me in the very near future.

SPECIAL NOTE: A lot of you have asked about the juice box count. The thing to keep in mind is that Jesse doesn't pack his lunch everyday. It was an every now and then thing, which is why the count didn't span into the thousands. And for anybody just reading this, a follow up idea is brewing in my head, it'll just take a little tweaking until then. (Believe me, it's coming.)

ABOUT THE STRAWBERRY JUICE BOX: Strawberry is my favorite flavor of practically everything. Ice cream. Juice. Strawberries. And my favorite band is Brand New. I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to use the name "Jesse". (He's the lead singer of Brand New.) Everything came together from there.

And the closest I've ever seen to a store selling a strawberry juice box, was strawberry banana. So, maybe, there just might be one out there. Somewhere.

Faded Soulfire