The Best Defense
This story takes place on the second Tuesday of Year 5 of the Addergoole School; it was written by Elasmo, with some additions for Jamian's perspective by me.
Jamian was eating breakfast at his usual table when he sensed, more than heard, the distinct tone of unrest from the neighboring table. Glancing quickly in that direction, he noted the usual occupants: a young girl and boy of African and Polynesian descent, respectively, a slender blonde girl, and two slightly older students of more unusual appearance. The older girl appeared to have vines growing out of her hair, and the boy – to whom the quiet, angry voice Jamian registered but couldn’t quite make out belonged – had elongated earlobes and short, stubby bat wings, not to mention elaborate scarification covering his dark-skinned arms. His low, intense words were clearly directed at the young blonde, who was just as obviously rather upset by them, nearly in tears. She began to stand, but a quiet rebuke from the boy returned her to her seat. The other Fifth Cohorts at the table made their excuses and left, and Jamian, bereft of Ty for the meal, was considering leaving too, when he noticed someone else approaching the table.
Three someones, in fact. Jamian recognized the tall blond boy in the lead, although he didn’t know his name; he’d seen him at the dance, noting the contrast between his linebacker’s build and the petite redhead he was with, who even now followed behind him. The other girl accompanying them moved with the same purposeful stride as the Nordic boy; she was athletic and slender, like her friend, but a bit taller and more filled-out than the redhead, who had the slim build of a gymnast. A blue streak highlighted her raven hair, almost matching the long, whiplike blue tail protruding from the top of the boy’s jeans. As they approached, the gymnast glanced off to the side, and the voluptuous redhead with the green wings Jamian remembered from the dance began approaching from the side of the hall to join them.
The bat-winged boy didn’t see them coming until the much larger boy tapped him on the shoulder and spoke in a cold, quiet voice that nonetheless carried quite well. “You about done picking on the girl?”
He turned around and smirked as the blond’s arms folded across his chest. “I’d have to have started picking on her to be done with it.” He had a faint accent, hard to place, and as Jamian pondered it the two redheads exchanged low words he couldn’t make out.
Glancing at the girls nearly made him miss the tall boy’s strike, it happened so fast. One minute he was just standing there with his arms crossed, and the next his elbow was slashing across the seated boy’s forehead as he answered the retort, his tone unchanged. “I don’t think you understood me.”
The dark-skinned boy leapt to his feet, shoving his chair away as the redheads backed off, giving the guys room. “What the fuck, man?” The dark-haired girl continued to stand by the blond’s side, and the vine-haired one... had disappeared. Totally disappeared, although he hadn’t looked away that long.
“I said leave the girl alone.” The Nordic boy’s eyes flashed with a cold fury as he settled into what Jamian could only assume was a martial arts stance.
The darker boy began to... glow, actually glow with a faint golden light, in response. “Look, it’s a free country. If she wanted to leave, I’m sure she would.” The girl in question appeared to be trying to melt into her chair. Jamian didn’t blame her. Only a few feet from the fight, he was trying to become one with the furniture himself.
“If you were a real man, it’d never get that far. I don’t want to see you talking to her like that again, understood?”
“There’s no law nor Law against talking, but messing with other people’s business is just rude. If Renata has a problem with me, let her and me handle it.” The glow intensified, making it almost hard to look at him.
“I don’t think you understand at all,” the tall boy responded, emphasizing his point with a quick right jab to the jaw, rocking the scarred boy back.
“Fucker! I’ll sue you for that!”
The girl... Renata?... squeaked nervously, “Mark...” and the tall boy glanced at her for a brief moment.
“Say the word and I’ll back off. Don’t let anyone make you think they have a right to treat you like that though.”
“You have three girlfriends, you can’t very well be fighting for me.” Jamian, startled, took another look at the raven-haired girl and the redheads, none of whom seemed happy with the blonde’s assessment – although it could have simply been the tension in the air.
“I’ll defend anyone who needs it and deserves it. Besides, this worm isn’t exactly a fight.” The ‘worm’ in question was still holding his jaw, staring at them.
“But... he’s not that bad...” Renata whispered.
“You know what he was doing and you can say that? He nearly had you in tears a minute ago.”
“He doesn’t mean to, though. He’s only trying to help...”
At that, the attacker... defender?... Mark, turned back to his opponent, his voice full of righteous indignation. “The hell have you done to this girl?”
The other boy’s glow had intensified further, nearly blinding, but Jamian could make out his shrug as he responded smugly, “What she said. I’m only trying to help her fit in around here.”
Mark’s response was curious, and Jamian filed it away for future reference: “Yeah, I’m sure you’d like to see all the new blood bound and kept, like usual. It’s not going to happen this year, pal. Not to all of us, anyway.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just enjoy Renata’s company; she’s a sweet girl.”
“Do you know what I’m talking about?” Mark glanced in the blonde’s direction again. “Or has he done something to you?”
She flushed as she answered, “He keeps me safe. Protects me. Doesn’t he deserve something in return?” Jamian squirmed uncomfortably; he’d had thoughts like that of his own, recently.
“Not the right to abuse you! Plenty of people would protect you and still treat you with respect.”
“He doesn’t abuse me!” She flared with anger of her own, despite her quiet demeanor. “Don’t you think I’d walk away if he ever lifted a hand to me? I’m not a moron!”
“Oh, for...” The tall boy shook his head. “He’s screwing with your head and you can’t see it. Do you remember what we talked about yesterday?” So, he did know her at least, though the frustration creeping into his voice made Jamian wonder how much of this story he had missed. The girl nodded, and Mark continued. “And you remember the things you said he did?” Another nod. “And you still think he’s on your side?” He was clearly incredulous by this point.
“I...” The girl faltered. “He wants me, at least.”
“Well, of course he does... so would probably half the people in this room, given half a chance.”
“No-one else has even given me the time of day.”
“Because they see you wrapped around his finger and they don’t have the balls to stand up for you. And, hell, admittedly, half of them would be no better. Most people try to keep us in the dark. You don’t have to let them though! Assert yourself, and maybe you’ll find some real friends. Or hell, if you want to be someone’s pet that bad, at least find someone who isn’t just manipulating you.” Pet. The word sent uncomfortable shivers down Jamian’s spine, and he thought, unwillingly, of Shiva’s arm draped around Nikita’s shoulders.
The girl was clearly annoyed in turn by this point, and the glowing boy watched smugly as she spoke. “Should I take out a want ad?”
Mark sighed deeply, shaking his head. “You know, maybe you’re right. If you don’t want to be helped, fine. Just remember later that you had a chance.”
The other boy chose this moment to put his two cents back in. “I told you,” he said, his voice dripping with scorn, “She’s happy with me. You had no call to go swinging punches.”
“Ofir...” Renata began – now at least he had a name to put to all the players in this curious drama – and the boy so addressed turned to her, frowning.
“Don’t worry about this, honey, I’ll handle it.” It was his turn to be frowned at, and Mark’s turn to fold his arms and watch.
“Yeah,” she replied sarcastically, “I like the way you blocked that punch with your nose.”
Apparently she had been wrong before, because Ofir took a swing at her.
Before it connected, Mark’s left hand snaked out with lightning speed and grabbed Ofir’s wrist, twisting it to the left as the tall boy pivoted and slammed his right foot into Ofir’s chest. The faint pop from the arm was drowned out by the solid whoosh of air as the darker boy buckled around Mark’s foot, only to meet Mark’s rising left knee with his face.
The petite redhead moved to the blonde’s side, helping her out of her chair and pulling her away with. “Come over here, Renata,” she said quietly, and Renata, who appeared to be in a state of shock, complied with no resistance. The dark-haired girl interposed herself between the pair of them and the fighters. A crowd had begun to gather around, but a few of them started peeling off at this point, and looking for the source, Jamian spotted Luke and Doug closing in on the scene.
Mark wasn’t done yet, and he drove Ofir to his knees with an elbow to the shoulder before dancing back a step, his voice cold and harsh. “Don’t ever try to strike a girl again. Do you understand me?”
“You... can’t enforce that,” the injured boy gasped out. “And I’ll ruin you for this.”
Mark answered him with a boot to the face. “Swear you won’t try to hit a girl for the rest of the year and I’ll let you walk away.”
“I’ll... destroy you...”
“Wrong answer, asshole.” Mark stepped forward again, pulling Ofir’s arm up behind his back. Meanwhile, the slim redhead exchanged quiet, frenetic words with Renata. Ofir struggled, trying to get away, but Mark held him in place with a hand to the back of his head and twisted his arm sharply. The snap of the break echoed across the room, and the crowd fell silent. Many people, including Jamian, looked to Luke, wondering how far the administration would let this go. Luke stepped forward, to the edge of the circle, but didn’t intervene yet.
Mark fairly snarled at Ofir. “You’re making this harder than it had to be. Are you that dedicated to beating up girls?”
“I don’t fucking bow to bullies,” Ofir wheezed, and Luke’s calm voice echoed around them, a single word:
“Then why do you expect her to?” Mark pushed Ofir away with a disgusted scowl, but he stepped back, shaking his head.
“She’s a girl. It’s different. And I’m no bully.”
“Did you just say it’s okay to hit her because she’s a girl?” Mark glanced quickly between Ofir and Luke, who stepped forward another step, his posture warning.
“I. Never. Hit. Her,” Ofir snarled.
“Only because I got in the way. Try it again and I won’t go so easy on you.” Mark backed off, to the edge of the gathered circle, and Ofir pulled himself painfully to his feet, turning to face Renata.
She, in turn, looked between him, Mark, and the redhead, finally choosing this last to speak to softly. “I don’t know where to go.” The girl took her by the hand, motioning away from the crowd with one ear – ear?! She had fox ears, how had he not noticed before? – and took a step away from the others, Renata following gladly with someone to lead the way.
“Fucking cunt!” Ofir launched himself, in all his wobbly, broken wrath, at the redhead,
Mark glanced at Luke, getting a gesture of acquiescence and a low “Don’t kill him,” from the PE teacher, and leapt after him. He connected with a flying kick to the shoulder, and Ofir spun and went down, barely reaching the girls as he fell, his left hand flailing out and tearing the corner of the fox-girl’s shirt, knocking her off-balance and to the ground.
As the other girls helped her up, Mark fell on top of Ofir, grabbing the back of his head and slamming his face into the ground with a wet, unpleasant sound of crunching bone. He jumped up and away, but then slammed his boot down at the boy’s good arm, snapping it with another violent crunch as the glowing aura flickers and died.
He casually ripped a piece of Ofir’s shirt off, wiping the blood from his hands with it, and stood over him, shaking his head. Luke, Doug, and the dark-haired girl watched him from conspicuous points around the circle of onlookers, which he turned to regard with a weary voice. “Show’s over, folks.” Many of the bystanders turned to leave.
One person stepped forward instead. It was the vine-haired girl, having apparently reappeared at some point.
Mark cocked his head towards her questioningly, and she raised her hands, speaking softly, clearly trying to be as non-confrontational as possible. “I’m going to take him to the infirmary.” The Viking – Jamian was having difficulty seeing this giant, blond warrior as anything else, after that display – nodded to her and walked over to the dark-haired girl, his tail swishing. They exchanged quiet words, at this point unheard by any save Luke, who they both glanced at as they talked. After a moment, the boy kissed her on the forehead and they parted.
Jamian stayed in his seat, still and silent, as the vine-haired girl gathered up her maimed friend; her face, even her vines, seeming to droop. He watched her carry him out, wondering if he ought to offer to help, and stayed until not moving would have been conspicuous.
Walking to class, thinking of the Viking and his three girlfriends, even of Ofir and his vine-haired friend, Jamian – who had spent his entire childhood intentionally as isolated as humanly possible within a public school system - suddenly felt alone. He missed Ty. Lunch seemed a long way off as he trudged to his first class.
Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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