Believe half of what you hear and you've believed too much.
The plot's another story. It's been long in coming and has gone through many revisions.
Lastly, please don't steal my characters.
~ ~ ~
She whirled on the spot. "Hi, Mel! Give me just a sec, okay?"
The computer-Growlithe released a Flamethrower attack and the opposing Weepinbell dropped out of sight.
Tina turned back around to Melanie as the computer announced the win. "What're you doing here? Aren't you usually still asleep this early?"
"Well, yeah, but the whole dorm was buzzing. You know I can't sleep when there's a story going 'round."
Tina pulled her student ID from the simulation machine. Once Melanie was talking, nothing less than full attention would suffice. "What kind of story?" she asked, tucking the card into her pocket.
"You mean you didn't hear?" Melanie's eyes lit up when Tina shook her head. "Then have I got some news for you!"
Melanie glanced this way and that, then down the row of simulators. Other students were busily pressing buttons and paying her no attention. Just the same, she grabbed Tina's arm and dragged her into the hall, then shut the door to the sim-lab.
"What're you doing?"
"Shh!" Melanie put a finger to Tina's lips. "Didn't you hear? Tyler's Houndour's going to be taken away! Apparently sometime last week he beat someone in a battle but good and then they went to Headmaster Bennet and whined about it."
"Yeah, I know! Isn't it ridiculous how low some people will go to win?"
Tina shook her head. "No, I mean I can't believe that's the story going around."
"Really?" A disbelieving smile crossed Melanie's face. "You make it sound like you know what really happened."
"Yeah, I do, actually."
Boxed in. How did she get herself into these messes? Either way, it would get out eventually so she might as well set the story straight.
Now it was Tina's turn to check for prying ears. "Do you promise you won't tell anyone?" Melanie nodded; Tina took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "It was me... I told Headmaster Bennet."
Melanie's grin spread farther than Tina thought her face could stretch. "You?"
"It was /you/."
"But, remember, you can't tell anyone."
Melanie waved a hand impatiently, "Yeah, I know, I know. So, what did the headmaster say? Did he get angry?"
"No, not really..."
And Tina told the whole story, interrupted every now and then by Melanie's questions. When she'd finished, Melanie just laughed, "So, why didn't you tell me all this before?"
Tina stopped. She really hadn't thought about it since that Saturday. Between signing up for the mentor program and training Kezme and getting Taja used to her team and chasing Rowan all the way to the upperclassmen's stadium, Tyler was the last thing on her mind.
"I forgot!" Tina and Melanie both had a good giggle at that.
Finally the clock in the hall chimed noon and Melanie stood, dusted herself off. "Well, I've got to finish that observation, Tina. See you in class on Monday?"
With a wave and toss of her hair, Melanie rounded the corner. Tina just shook her head and turned to go back into the simulations lab, only to find a line spewing out of the door.
One day, she decided as she joined the queue, she was going to donate a fortune to the school and hire real trainers to battle. Ones you didn't have to wait in line for.
~ ~ ~
The next morning, Tina got her breakfast and sat next to Elaine. "Good morning!"
Elaine wrinkled her nose and scooted away. "Good morning."
"Ready for the--wait, where're you going?"
After Elaine picked up her tray and moved to a different table, Tina smelled the collar of her uniform--same as always, clean cotton. Maybe her breath..? She breathed discreetly into her hand and checked it. No, not that, either.
It must've been the eggs--she thought they looked a little weird--and Tina pushed them away and nibbled on her toast. As she ate, she scanned the growing breakfast crowd. Penny, Melanie, Mitchell... They all started to approach the table, then seemed to think better of it and sat with Elaine.
Tina watched them for a moment, then carried her tray to the conveyor belt to be taken to the kitchens. She straightened her skirt and approached the table where everyone else sat. All at once, the talking stopped. Penny slung her backpack off of the table and onto the empty chair beside her; Mitchell propped his feet up on the one next to him.
The group exchanged a look and a few whispers before Elaine turned in her seat to face Tina. "We don't want you sitting here," she said simply, flipping her long blonde hair out of her eyes.
"But... Why not? I thought we were friends..."
Tina's gaze drifted over the others at the table, but none of them would meet her eyes. Penny and Mitchell resumed their whispers. Elaine disregarded the question completely and turned back to join them.
She bit her lip and looked between Tina and the group. 'Sorry,' she mouthed and turned back around, shutting Tina out of the circle completely.
Tina watched them for a few moments more before she turned and trudged back toward her own table. Another group of students that looked like they were in her year had already claimed it for themselves and there were no open seats.
She cast her gaze around for an empty seat, but didn't find any. Everywhere she turned more students were crowding around already-full tables and flinging bits of food at each other playfully. Just as Tina turned to leave, someone tapped her on the shoulder and she jumped.
"Sorry!" Steven reached out to steady her. "Are you okay? I didn't mean to scare you like that."
Tina regained her balance and forced a grin. "It's alright--I just wasn't expecting it."
She shifted her backpack and adjusted her skirt, giving herself an excuse to look anywhere else, but she couldn't avoid his eyes forever.
"Tina? You're acting a little weird... Are you sick or something?"
Biting her lip, Tina looked him in the eyes. "No," she said with a sigh, "I'm not sick, it's just..."
Tina took a breath and the story of the entire morning practically told itself. She sighed and shifted again. "I just don't get it."
Steven removed his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt before he spoke. "...It's because you tattled on Tyler. Well, that's what everyone's saying."
"That... can't be right." Tina looked over her shoulder at the table where her classmates sat. "I already told Melanie what really happened, and she promised not to tell..."
"And you believed her?"
Tina turned back to him. "Of course I did... She's my friend." She hesitated and then spared Melanie another quick glance. "I think."
"Yeah, she is." Steven rubbed the back of his neck and smiled sheepishly. "Or, at least she will be, as soon as this blows over."
The two of them turned their backs on the cafeteria and headed for the southern courtyard. "Do you really think it will?"
Steven shifted his backpack and smiled again. "They've done it to me before. It never lasts very long."
Tina threw herself around Steven's neck and hugged him. "Thank you..." When she pulled away, her friend was as pink as a Jigglypuff.
"Um..." He cleaned his glasses again. "You're welcome..."
~ ~ ~
Endnote: I've been working a lot with the candybar dollmaker at http://elouai.com/doll-makers/new-dollmaker.php and I've managed to make a number of dolls of the characters in the story. You can view them at http://s16.photobucket.com/albums/b21/vegasfe/Dolls/A%20Different%20Breed/. As with my story and characters, please don't steal my dolls.