Another "short and sweet". Once I get this on the roll, there'll be no stopping it.

...I hope. :P

"You okay?" Skylar asked when Jack came into Skylar's class towards the end of the lunch break. He was the only one in the room with Skylar, who was munching on another granola bar for her lunch. Jack, having eaten only a smidgen off his plate before sulking out of the café, was slumped on his desk, his head resting on his arm tiredly. The day had been a drag; he had zoned out during first block and had a feeling he'd need to come in to make up the lesson. He couldn't be alert in the morning, not after last night. He had to keep a front up for Jazz sometimes. He wouldn't be a big brother if he weren't a role model, if he weren't strong enough to handle his mother's harsh words.

"I'm fine," Jack said, lying through his teeth.

Jack had known Skylar for less than a week, but what he did know was that he hated seeing her frowning. She was, however, frowning now, the corners of her lips turned down slightly, her brows creased in concern. "Not looking so hot today, hot shot. What's eating you?"

"Life, I guess," Jack said, shrugging. "Sucks sometimes." Despite the frequency of Stephanie's screaming, Jack still detested them to the point where he would actually let her words get to him sometimes. He hated the feeling of his mother's words crawling under his skin but he couldn't help it. He really did want to do better, and she made him feel lower than dirt. It was the worst feeling in the world, not being supported by family, by your own mother.

"We have our days," Skylar replied sympathetically, smiling a little. It was a nice contrast to the high horse she had been perched atop the past few days Jack had known her. Despite the fact that her four words were utterly cliché, it did help Jack feel a little better to know that Skylar wasn't as catty as she pretended to be. Jack wasn't the only one pretending here. She laughed a little, the sound enough to lift Jack's spirits. "Not sure if it's much of a condolence, but you got everything correct on the worksheet I passed out last night."

"I'm a genius." Jack had done the worksheet in the parking lot before the tardy bell had rung.

She laughed again. "You were the only one in the class, I think. I also looked at the grades last night; you're at the top. I don't think the other kids will catch up to you, as long as you do all your work and stuff."

"Dammit," Jack said, feigning disappointment. "Now I can't pretend to be stupid and ask if you can tutor me, or give you a couple bribes – if you know what I mean – to give me all A's." Jack added a wink for effect, letting Skylar know that he was kidding.

Skylar scoffed, rolling her eyes playfully. "Wise-ass."

"Thanks," he said, pushing the thoughts of his mother to the dark corners of his mind. He realized he didn't like having feelings of animosity towards anything when he was around Skylar. "You know, Sky, since you're like, twenty-three, what are you doing as a teacher already?"

"Well, I graduated when I was a junior and went straight into college, so I graduated a little early from there, too. I've already had a little experience as teaching a couple years ago, so when Morton asked me to take over, I couldn't really say no. She was my Calculus teacher when I came to school here. She taught me a lot and I guess I kind of just wanted to do her a favour. It's not permanent or anything; just until she comes back."

"That'd be cool if you got a job here," Jack mused, nodding as though actually considering his daily life with a cute teacher like Skylar roaming around everyday for the next couple years. And then, Jack realized that he wasn't going to be in high school in about six months, and sighed quietly.

"I don't really know if I want to work here for the rest of my life," Skylar said, shrugging. "It's a possibility, I mean, in a few years, I could be a full-time teacher here, but it's not what I want to do forever."

"Why'd you get your teaching license then?"

"For shits and giggles?" Skylar shrugged, raising both her eyebrows. She and Jack shared a laugh. "I don't know. I thought I wanted to do it, so I majored in math and secondary teaching, but I don't know if that's what I want to do anymore," Skylar cursed quietly. "I should have majored in something else."

"We can go to school together," Jack suggested, leaning forward on his desk, excited. "College, I mean. Wouldn't that be great?"

Skylar scoffed playfully. "Not really," she teased. "And plus, I'd be like, the oldest freshman in your class. Wouldn't be too fun for me if every eighteen year old guy was hitting on me."

"It's 'cause you don't look twenty-three," Jack sighed, resting his cheek on his knuckles. It was eating him from the inside out how this girl was not at all interested in him romantically, even when the thought of seeing her was the comfort Jack required for falling asleep last night. He was counting couch fluff black sheep.

Skylar laughed, her tiny shoulders shaking with the movement. "I don't think I look that young, Jack. You're just being nice. It's okay to tease the old lady, you know. I don't bite much," Skylar added the last word playfully.

"I'm not just saying it," Jack said honestly, holding his hands up for effect as though to show that he wasn't crossing his fingers. "It's a good thing, though. I'd ask if you have a boyfriend fending off other eighteen-year-old guys, but you were with moi the other night, so I just have to assume that you're on the market."

The girl laughed and shook her head at Jack's awful attempt to flirt. "I don't have a boyfriend," she said. "But I'm not exactly looking either."

Jack shrugged nonchalantly, as if this news didn't faze him. Although inwardly, he was deciding if Skylar's words made him want to throw a party, or journey to a dark, dark place. She didn't have a boyfriend, but she wasn't looking for one either. Jack would have a party in a dark, dark place.

"Well, what about you? I saw you with that girl Rochelle the other day. I have her in my Trig class."

Jack made a face and stuck out his tongue as though disgusted. "Rochelle Cruz? She's my best friend. I've known her since we were in diapers. And besides, she has this boyfriend, Kevin DeGiovanni, of like, four years. I've hung out with them a couple of times and he comes over to Rochelle's house a lot, and I guess he's pretty cool. He's really nice to Rochelle, and that's what matters. Kevin's twin sister is sorta pretty, but every time I see her working at the Starbucks downtown, I see her brother and it trips me out."

"Maybe that's because they're twins," Skylar replied sarcastically.

"I guess," Jack said, not realizing that perhaps the fact that two people were basically identical made them look sort of alike. "It's just her eyes, though. She has the prettiest eyes, but I see Kevin so often that I'm used to seeing them in his face. It's a little disturbing and awkward."

Skylar laughed and shook her head. "You're so weird."

Jack was eager to keep the conversation up. "So, uh, you live here your whole life?"

"Yeah," Skylar said with a nod, nibbling at her granola. "What about you?"

There was a pause as Jack recovered. No matter how old they got, girls always took pleasure in talking about themselves. But for some reason, not Skylar. He realized that all attempts of starting conversation with her to talk about herself had been ricocheted back at him. Jack suddenly felt selfish; blabbering on about his life so much.

But regardless, he still found himself saying, "Yeah, I live with my mom and sister, Jazzlyn."

Skylar's face lit up. "Jazzlyn Rowe? No wonder she looks so familiar; you two look so much alike. I have her in my accelerated Geometry class; she's very smart. Jazzlyn is the only freshman in a class of juniors."

Jack scratched the back of his head sheepishly. Of course he knew that his sister was smart. He just wasn't used to people being at awe about it, especially since she didn't brag about it, and never really struggled with anything. And even if she did, she was humble about it, and always went in on her own time to ask for help. She was an ace student; Jack could only wish that he could be like her. "Jazz is a genius," was the only thing he could really say. Jack was going to try more conversation. "Do, uh, you have any siblings?"

The woman shrugged, seeming blasé. "Nah, it was always just me and my dad. I have always wanted an older brother, though."

Jack raised an eyebrow. That was definitely the first time he heard that one. "Why?"

"I don't know, I guess I've always just kind of wanted a role model. You know, someone to teach me how to skateboard and surf and spit loogeys."

Jack chuckled. "Great role model."

"I know it sounds ridiculous," Skylar said, laughing, "But I just kind of wish I had someone to watch over me. I mean, you watch over Jazzlyn, right? Kick the asses of all the guys that hurt her."

"My sister's fourteen, so hopefully I won't have to worry about that for another twenty years and then some," Jack said seriously, but Skylar took it as a joke and giggled appreciatively at Jack's brotherly nature. "But I guess I get what you're saying."

Skylar hummed in contemplation. "Being the only child is kind of lame sometimes."

"I should be grateful, then," Jack said, smiling slightly.

Skylar nodded in agreement as the bell chimed, announcing the end of lunch. She laughed and turned her eyes to Jack. "Sorry for all the chit chat. Did you actually come in for something?"

Jack remembered that he had zoned out during her lesson and would probably need to get a refresher on it. But the bell had rung and he had Psychology next, and God forbid he be late to that class. He just shook his head, shrugging his broad shoulders as he swept his stuff off the tile floors. "Nah. Just, uh, came in to talk, I guess," he lied.

"Oh," Skylar said, smiling slightly. "Well, thanks for the company." She sounded like she meant it.

"Uh, yeah, no problem. See you tomorrow?" Jack added as he slung his bag over his shoulder, walking backwards to the door to make a sprint for his next class as soon as he was out of Skylar's line of vision.

Skylar's lips thinned into a line as she pondered the idea. She seemed to take a thousand years to reach a conclusion for the simple 'yes' or 'no' question. When she finally opened her mouth as though to speak, Jack was out of time. He cut her off. "You know what? I'll just surprise you."

She nodded and giggled slightly. "Yeah, okay. Laters."

Jack flicked a quick parting salute before rounding the corner and running for his life.