Chapter Two
In which some things happen but it's still not enough to call it a plot


She arrived at the class fifteen minutes late, an incident that had never occurred in all of her previous education. That obviously caused the whole class – Miss Janeth included – to stir with agitation, making it impossible for the girl to sneak in quietly and pretend that her lateness wasn't as much of a deal as it seemed to be in everyone else's eyes.

Before she'd come in, they all assumed she was either ill, or that she was excused from the lesson for some other valid reasons. When she stepped into the room, however, the group understood she was indeed late, and sadly, none of them bothered to hide the satisfaction they felt at the realization.

It was somehow nice to know that the Perfect Miss Nuñez wasn't so perfect after all.

Claire tried to ignore the curious looks everybody was giving her, and having mumbled an excuse, she almost ran to her place in the back. It took a lot of her good will not to turn on her heel and leave the wretched classroom for good – but she knew that she was still not rebellious enough to do that. Stealing the Killerhead Bridge, deceiving the Troll Tribunal, walking into the Darklands… those were the things she could do; playing the drama queen at school was an entirely different level of foolishness.

She silently put her purse her lap, took out the necessary books and almost threw it on the floor.

"Hey." She heard someone whisper a moment later. She glanced to her right, and noticed Jim, who was grinning at her shyly. "Nice of you to show up."

What a dork.

"Not now, Jim," she cut him off mercilessly, struggling to understand what their teacher, who finally decided to stop glaring at her, was talking about.

"Hey, easy," the boy answered, trying to think of a way in which he could ease her mind at least a little. "It's not like I can afford much talking, either. I still haven't covered those topics I missed and… well, she's just started another one. The fourth, I think?"

"The fifth," Claire corrected him.

"How did you even manage to cover so much so quickly? I was gone for two weeks, not a year."

"Honestly, I feel like you covered more in the last fifteen minutes," the girl mumbled, shifting her gaze from her notebook to the teacher and the other way round. "Besides, didn't you say you loved homework?"

"Oh, yeah, now that's funny."

"But seriously. This is insane."

"I know. Although, if that makes you feel any better, I for once have pretty good notes of my own, so I'll gladly share."

"Wait, you mean you were actually listening to her?"

"Yup. That is, I had been until TP started to share his opinions about Janeth being a Changeling – but then she just started reprimanding us and obviously stopped explaining anything."

Claire rolled her eyes but refrained from saying anything in response.

"Also, she spent about five minutes wondering on how it was possible for you not to show up in her class without any earlier information. She ended up asking each and every of us if we knew what had happened to you."

The girl jerked up her head in a reflex action and sent her interlocutor a shocked, anxious look.

"Now you're making this up," she pleaded quietly, hoping against hope that she had misunderstood his words.

"Just exaggerating." Jim's grin widened a little, while his glare was fixed on the notebook before him in a poor attempt of making himself look devoted to the lesson. "But she was surprised."

Claire groaned quietly.

"Why is it like this? You and Tobes come in late at least once a week and no one ever says a word. It happens to me once, and everyone is freaking out."

"That's the point. It's normal for us, and it's totally extraordinary for you."

"This is not how -"

"Guys! Quiet!" they were silenced by Toby, who suddenly decided to join – or better said, kill– the conversation that was going on between them. "The she-devil has already scolded us today, and she won't be any more understanding now! And you were supposed to be working, Jimbo!"

"Okay, okay," Jim waved his hand at his nervous friend and got back to scribbling, making an inward promise that he would not let himself lose his focus again. He was quite determined to do that, and seeing how dedicated to her own catching up Claire was, he believed the task would not be so difficult to fulfil after all.

Which obviously didn't mean he could help glancing at her every now and then, as if making sure she'd really made it to the lesson. Her absence had made him feel uncomfortable at least, especially with his acute imagination stubbornly suggesting the most pessimistic scenarios of her fate. Now she was there, right next to him, and he had to admit that the sight was simply relieving.

Claire peered sideways at him.

"Yes?" she asked innocently, making sure her voice would not be heard by anyone except them two. Her neighbour found himself blushing slightly when he realised his staring had been noticed, and that it was bad enough to make her respond with an actual question.

"Nothing," he muttered and fixed his sight on the whiteboard, and yet, the smile on his face didn't falter. "It's just good to know you're safe."

Claire raised both of her eyebrows at him, unable to understand why her friend would say such a thing. True, they were living a life of constant suspiciousness, ready to meet worst of enemies at every minute of their crazy, teenage existence, but she still couldn't find a reason why he'd assume that she was in any particular danger that day. Angor Rot was gone, the Killerhead Bridge was too, and unlike the Trollhunter, she was still pretty convinced that Gunmar had stayed in the Darklands and thus wasn't a threat for the group. So why would he be worried?

Except of course, she had been late.

She still hadn't got rid of the unpleasant feeling that had been accompanying her ever since that morning when she realised that this once, she would not make it on time. She knew she wouldn't get away with it, not with her reputation of the most punctual girl in Arcadia Oaks High School. And in all honesty, Claire didn't even care about her good name so much – but it was not her belatedness that was a problem. It was the fact that it truly was the very first time it happened.

Jim was right when he diagnosed the causes of the flurry between their classmates. Everyone loved novelties.

She knew it was a trifle, a little thing of no importance, and somehow, she still couldn't get over it.

'Like being late is the end of the world', she mused angrily, absently following Miss Janeth's movements as the latter was covering the whiteboard with more and more figures, blind to the fact that hardly anyone in class was paying attention to what she was trying to explain. 'Worse things happened. Besides, I shouldn't even be here in the first place -'

"Well, that's what I thought, too. Not that I'm not enjoying the company," Jim whispered unexpectedly, making her choke on her own saliva. She covered her mouth trying to calm down the cough that followed directly after. Jim frowned a little. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."

"What did you just say?" she hissed between the coughs.

"I said I don't understand why you're taking these classes. You passed algebra on the previous year, you weren't here during last semester, and... You know, I was just wondering why. I have been since the winter break, actually. Tobes even started to make bets."

"But why?"

"Because he's a nerd?"

"No, why would you talk about it all of the sudden? Are you mindreading now or what?"

The boy turned to her for the first time for almost a quarter and looked at her in disbelief.

'Mindreading?'

"Claire, you're mumbling."

"Mumbling?"

"Well, you know, speaking in a way that makes it impossible to understand and -"

"I know what mumbling is," his interlocutor bridled and tightened her grip on her pencil. "But I don't mumble."

"Well, the facts prove something else." Against his better judgement, Jim let a grin appear on his face once more. Little did he know that it would only make the girl less eager to agree; just like the words he was going to voice next. "Funny, though. Most people mumble because they turn their voice down. You do it because you turn your thoughts up loud."

Claire gave him the coldest glare she could muster, now plunging the pencil into the desk; it broke, and she quickly turned away too look at the damage she'd caused.

"Anything else you'd like to add?" she answered edgily. She didn't mean to snap at him like that, and she didn't understand why his little jokes were affecting her so much – but they were, and as much as she regretted it, there wasn't much she could do about it.

In the corner of her eye she saw Jim slouch a bit. He definitely was taken aback, and honestly, how could she blame him?

She sighed.

She just really wanted to go home.

"No," her friend muttered under his breath a moment later. She wanted to turn to him, tell him she was sorry, and that he shouldn't take her annoyance too seriously; he didn't give her the time to do it, though, deciding to share one more thought. "I just wanted to say that you shouldn't care about it so much. I promise you, in an hour they won't even remember that you were late."

"Won't they?" she asked.

"No. Don't get me wrong, but there are more exciting things to do in high school than wondering why one Claire Nuñez didn't arrive on time for an algebra class she doesn't even have to take."

He glanced at her, and to her surprise, gave her another warm, reassuring smile.

Before Claire had managed to return it, his smile turned into a mischievous grin as Jim leaned towards her a little, and in a conspiratorial whisper, he added, "besides, at least you don't have to worry about any formal consequences. Janeth adores you too much to even think of giving you a detention. But just imagine how much trouble Steve will be in when he meets her after missing her lesson like that."

She rolled her eyes and got back to work.


The rest of the class passed in a perfect order, as both Jim and Claire resolved to make the most of the time they had left, and finally carried out their plans of staying focused on what Miss Janeth was telling them. The rest of the class weren't too eager to cause any problems, either, so except a little chiding now and then, even Miss Janeth didn't need to say more than the syllabus required.

The bell rang eventually, making the half asleep teenagers leap on their seats before hastily gathering their belongings and leaving the class at the highest speed they could allow. Jim was watching them in amusement while packing his own books; he didn't feel the need to rush. Not when his pretty neighbour didn't seem to be hurrying anywhere herself.

He zipped his bag and turned towards her.

"So, do you think you'll need those notes after all?" he asked lightly.

"I think I'll copy them from Darci. I'm kinda used to the way she makes them, so it will be easier for me to learn from them."

"Oh, right."

"I'm still impressed you've made any." Claire laughed for the first time this morning, and nudged him playfully in the arm. "Wouldn't that be like the first time ever?"

"Not exactly, but you're close."

"You're hopeless."

"Pretty much."

She laughed again and slung her purse over her shoulder. She glanced at Toby, who was waiting for them near the exit. "You two should go. I need to talk to Miss Janeth about a few other things than being late, so it will take a while. I'll catch up with you later."

Jim wanted to protest, but she didn't give him a chance. As soon as she finished the last sentence, she set off towards the teacher's desk, leaving the slightly confused boy behind her. He followed her with his sight, smiling sheepishly, and if it hadn't been for Toby, he probably would have stayed there until Claire would leave, too.

She had a point. He was hopeless.

Only school didn't have much to do with that.

He felt a soft strike on his cheek when Toby, having lost his patience, threw a paper ball at him. He grabbed his back and made his way to the door, sending Claire one more smile she couldn't see. They still had a couple of classes coming, most of which all of them attended – and after that, they would all go to the Troll Market together, making their day as perfect as it could possibly be.

Why, if Claire knew that she wouldn't be going anywhere.


Author's note: And here comes the second chapter of this silly, unexpected story. Still not much is happening, but I hope it's enough to keep you interested.

I really didn't think I'd manage to share it so quickly, with the semester nearing to the end as much as #For the Glory of Fandom contest going on (if you haven't heard of it, just check the tag on tumblr!); but here it is, and it's not even particularly short.

I promise you there will be an actual plot in the next one.

Until next time, my friends!
Love you, Margaret