"You dropped your bloody tissue..." I mumbled, staring at the guy in the nurse's office. I knew him from three of my classes, actually I knew him from having lived in the same neighborhood for more than ten years, not to mention we had shared no less than three classes together since first grade. He was leaning back in the hard plastic chair against the wall with a cold compress against his right eye, he turned a blank, slate blue gaze on me and I felt my cheeks flush.
"What?" he queried, I ducked my head and pointed at the twisted, bloody tissue on his lap. He scowled, then winced, at the tissue then grabbed it and threw it into the small waste basket. "Thanks, didn't feel it fall out."
I just bobbed my head, I didn't return his gaze, as I sat a few seats away. I hunched into my baggie sweater, wondering if he even knew who I was.
"Didn't you used to throw rocks at me in fifth grade?" he asked suddenly and my eyes snapped up to his one uncovered, my face burning as the blush shot up from beneath my neckline. "Yeah, I thought so ... you didn't talk much then either."
"Sorry..." I murmured, he chuckled and shook his head.
"No biggie, that was a long time ago." he replied with a shrug, then he dropped the cold compress and I winced when I saw his right eye, and most of his cheek and jaw, was near black with bruising. He looked at me again and I cringed a little, which might have surprised him but he probably knew how bad his face looked. "So what did I do that made you want to throw rocks at me?"
I opened my mouth, then shut it with a click, which made him arch his left eyebrow. I almost told him he terrifies me and always had, I didn't know why. He never raised his voice, no one had ever seen him anything but completely controlled - the girls he had gone out with all confirmed he was IMPOSSIBLE to tease - but there was something, some quality in his personality, his movements, his eyes that was enough to give me nightmares ... if it didn't also set every nerve ending to tingling and burning, making me want to run or throw myself at him. Like now.
"Do you like getting hurt?" I blurted rather than answer his question. He stared at me in surprise for a minute, then laughed somewhat painfully.
"No, can't say I much like pain." he chuckled, his slate blue eyes sparkling with merriment. "Why do you ask?"
"Well..." I hesitated, thinking I had already spoken more to him in ten minutes than I had in ten years. "Bill Tompkins and his cronies beat you up once a week, why don't you give them what they want so they'll stop?"
"Oh," he sighed as he stared off into space then he snorted in derision. "What Billyboy wants, I can't give him."
"What's he want?" he still terrified me and made me feel strange, but he didn't seem dangerous ... besides, we were in school, he couldn't do anything to me here.
"Heh." it was a strange half bark of laughter that made the hair on my neck prickle, but also sent a shiver through me. "Billyboy wants to be an Alpha wolf so bad he can taste it."
I frowned and cocked my head to the side, not understanding. He smiled and I saw teeth, my throat tried to close as I stared at his canines that were maybe only an eighth of an inch longer than the rest, but somehow seemed several feet longer to me. "High school isn't much different from a pack of wolves ... Alpha Male, Alpha Female, Beta Male, Beta Female and so on and so forth. Thing is, there are a bunch of packs all trying to coexist with limited territory. Punks, Thugs, Preps, Geeks, Jocks etc, each with their own Alphas and Betas. And most of the Alphas are clamoring to be THE Alpha of this massive, integrated pack called High school."
I stared at him wide eyed, especially since it was one of the better descriptions of going to school I had heard, and he gave a little wink with his good eye that ratcheted up my blush from tomato to painfully crimson. This time he titled his head and looked at me quizzically before shrugging and continuing to talk. "Billyboy has been declared the Preppies Alpha; the problem is he isn't dominant enough to actually keep the position without his even less dominant cronies to back him up."
"Why beat you up?" I asked, ducking my head to avoid eye contact.
"Because I scare the ever living shit out of him and I never back down." he answered with a happy laugh, I just sat there shaking in my baggie clothes.
"Me too..." I whispered to myself, he turned to ask me something but I cut him off with my next blurted question. "Why's he scared of you?"
"Two years ago he thought I was an easy punching bag, so I broke his nose and three of his front teeth." he was very nonchalant about it.
"You did that?!" I thought my eyes would pop out of my head. Two years ago he was barely 5'8" and couldn't have weighed over 140lbs, while Bill Tompkins had been well over 6' and close to 200lbs of personally trained and exercised rich boy muscle. While Bill hadn't changed much, the young man sitting next to me had, having gotten much closer to 6' tall and gaining at least 30 more pounds.
"Yep, and he's never forgotten it." he shrugged again, but he was still watching me and I tried to hunker farther into my sweater. "I know why Bill is scared of me, but why are you?"
I think my heart stopped. I think my lungs did too. It's hard to be sure since I know my brain froze in utter panic. I was saved from having to say anything as the school nurse, Mrs. Sumner, walked in with the principle, Ms. Walthour, who looked directly at the young man and shook her head. "What happened this time, Mr. Cloone?"
"Becca, I'm hurt!" he made a pained expression and clutched at his chest. "I thought we had moved beyond such formalities in our relationship?!"
Mrs. Sumner grinned at me while I stared in openmouthed shock at him and the smile quirking the corners of Ms.Walthour's mouth. She finally sighed. "Alright, Donovann, let's go to my office so you can give me another fake accident report ... light pole in the parking lot again?"
"Noooooooo that was two weeks ago," Donovann was saying as he stood to follow Ms. Walthour. "And probably won't happen again for at least three more weeks, besides..."
I stared after them as his voice trailed off, not sure what to make of what was going on, thankfully Mrs. Sumner was willing to fill me in. "The whole faculty knows that Tompkins boy is leading the beatings, but we never catch it and no witnesses ever come forward."
"Doesn't he tell what happened?" I asked, more than a little confused.
"No, sweetie, he never has and from hearing him talk about wolf packs and alpha dominance games I doubt he ever will." she laughed at my surprised expression. "Don has spent a lot of time with me and Ms. Walthour over the last two years, so we know him pretty well."
"Just tell me what really happened!" Rebecca was starting to get irate with me.
"Why?" I asked reasonably.
"So I can put a stop to this before they hurt you!" she almost shouted it, I could see the little red spots on her pale cheeks that showed up whenever she started getting angry.
"No, so you can pull them into the office and question them and have all five of them say I swung on Billyboy first and they jumped in to help him." I said in disgust, I knew that's what would happen, and so did she. "Be realistic Becca, you KNOW I'll get hung out to dry if you try to make an official issue out of it."
She sighed in frustration and slumped in her chair. "Why won't you ever back down?"
I grinned and winked at her, she knew the answer, had known it for more than a year in fact, so there was no real point in repeating it. "Why do you keep asking the same questions?"
She glared at me but there wasn't much heat to it, and the corners of her mouth twitching gave the lie away. "Because I actually like you, Donovann."
"Aww, shucks." my grin widened and I pretended to hide a blush. "I like you too, but you're a little young for me."
She laughed and it lit her face up, I just sat there grinning at her until she composed herself. "Do you want to go home, or your next class?"
"I get a choice now?!" I was kinda surprised; they had always sent me home before. She nodded, giving a little shrug.
"You have a black ey ... cheek, but otherwise you're okay."
"Well, hell..." I muttered, thinking it over. "I'll go to class, can't afford to flunk out, now can I?"
"You, flunk out?" Rebecca snorted in amusement. "I don't see that being a problem since you're intelligent enough to ace every class on the curriculum!"
"I don't like to brag..." I waggled my eyebrows. "But I was thinking more of flunk by way of missed days."
"We're covering that considering the situation." she gave me a little wink and I smiled, thinking how the first time I met her neither of us had cared much for the other. Of course that was just after sending Billyboy to the emergency room and the dentist, she considered me a thug and would have expelled me but he had thrown the first punch. As it was I got a two week in school suspension and a week after my suspension I was the one going to the emergency room with three broken ribs. I was found in the parking lot by some kids planning to skip, when she asked me what happened I smiled and said I tripped. A week later I was having Annie Sumner clean up a split in my chin when she burst into Annie's office demanding to know what happened; I shrugged and said I walked into an open locker.
Three months of weekly 'accidents' and Rebecca Walthour had grudgingly admitted that maybe I wasn't a bad kid after all, and now I considered her a friend. A real friend that would still be a friend ten years from now. She was kinda cute, too.
.... There is more of this story ...