That morning, once they’d pulled into an available space in the school parking lot, Toby shuffled his backside along the seat to the door and squeezed out of his mom’s beat-up Nissan. He dragged his backpack out with him, and Simon followed.
“Okay, you two,” Grace said. “I have to get moving. See you this afternoon!”
The traffic had been lousy and he knew she’d really have to put her foot down to get over to Creek in time. Thankfully Toby had weaned her off the idea that she needed to give him a kiss goodbye years ago, and he waved as she pulled out onto the highway.
With Luke heading into the city to have his newly-remodeled wanger checked out after he smashed up whatever thing it was that had been attached to him, the lift arrangements had been complicated. He and SImon had been only ones in the back of the car, and now with time to kill, they walked slowly from the parking lot towards the main doors. He was surprised how many were streaming in at that time, too.
Hadn't they got better things to do than be at school?
They stopped to sit on a low wall, neither in any hurry to go inside, and he probed a bit.
“So Luke’s having that Klamp removed this morning?” He’d love to find out more about that, and had been at the Summers place the previous afternoon when it had gone pair-shaped. Simon had mentioned his brother’s operation before, but at least Toby officially knew about it now. He tried to sound offhand. “So…was his dick okay?”
Simon didn’t seem to be listening, and instead was searching the faces of those still arriving.
“Si?” Toby raised his voice a notch.
“Sorry,” Simon gave him a bit more attention at last. “What were you saying?”
“I was just asking if Luke was okay?” He lowered his voice. “You know, with his appointment ’n all.”
Simon blinked and seemed to be on another planet. “Oh…I guess so. He seemed okay at breakfast anyway. He’ll be back in later.” He went back to scanning the arrivals again. “Can you see Ryan?”
Toby rolled his eyes. If he’d been at the doctors after surgery, he definitely wouldn’t be hurrying just to get into class!
Not a chance!
But Ryan? Well that was another thing altogether, and he smirked. “Do you honestly think he’ll come in today?”
“Christ—you’re kidding! After what they did to him?” Toby pulled a face. “If it were me, I fucking wouldn’t!"
“Maybe…” Simon frowned as he watched the arrivals. "I guess he could just stay off like he was sick or something." It was obvious his mind was still elsewhere. "I got the idea Luke hoped to see him here, though, so they could talk."
“Talk?” Toby’s eyes strayed around them covertly. There were no staff in earshot, but he still kept his voice low. "I'd be surprised if he's talking to anyone…especially Luke right now!" He barked with laughter. "After what your brother did, that's fucking unlikely!"
Simon looked grim, but Toby could tell Simon knew he was right. Maybe Luke hadn’t been in the driving seat, but he hadn’t exactly stepped up to the plate for his friend. Maybe nobody did when it came to it—although one thing Toby felt sure of was that, if he was picked out for the ride, Simon would be there for him.
He’d do the same if the positions were reversed…wouldn’t he…?
"Come on.” He stood and swung his bag over his shoulder. “We might as well go in."
Following behind Simon as they entered the building, Toby grinned to himself. He’d been lucky to have been there in the restroom when it all kicked off, and getting an eyeful of the Hang on Alexis had been freaking awesome! He’d always wanted to know what was under those pants, and when Ryan had been coerced to jizz like he did, it had been all Toby could do not to cream himself right on the spot! Even now the images of those screeching hot red boxers and smoothly shaved junk kept him rock hard. And when they finally made him spurt... Fucking A—it had been one hell of a messy splooge!
He’d been keen to talk to Simon about it straight afterwards during lunch break, with the hope of going over it with him in minute detail, but Si hadn’t been interested. He’d even had a go at Toby about it; told him to stop being a prick—which was fucking unfair! Shit…it wasn’t HIS fault that Alexis got himself pulled up was it? And everyone else had been talking about it hadn't they?
Yet now Simon wouldn't let it go, and Toby wanted to get Simon’s attention back on himself! He’d just have to try harder, Toby decided as he followed Simon in, ambling along in the direction of their classroom.
"Can you come round later?" Toby asked, making plans in his head.
Again, Simon didn't seem to hear him. Instead, he murmured, “If Ryan comes in, that’ll be a good thing, won’t it?” Even now, he seemed a lot more interested in how Ryan was coping than talking about them.
Toby tried not to feel irritated by it all. You'd have thought Si had forgotten they were meant to be boyfriends the way he was going on!
The whole weekend had been amazing. Better than Toby could ever have imagined. But now he was feeling left out in the cold. He knew Si wasn't deliberately ignoring what they had together, but this whole business with Alexis was becoming a pain! The Hang pulled on him yesterday had been spectacular, but it was over.
Yesterday's news…so why did it continue to drag on? Even the previous afternoon, it had stretched on for far too long for someone who had much more important things in mind—like getting Simon home and getting his pants off! But, even though they both knew his mom would be going out, Simon had declined his plea to come in, whispering that he needed to get back to talk to Luke.
So, biting his tongue as he'd got out of the Summers’ van alone, Toby had gone in and huffed for half an hour before deciding he was being a stupid prick.
He'd quickly got on his bike and gone down the hill to see Simon, and he’d ended up staying for dinner. Up in Si's room they'd kissed a bit, but Simon had resisted any advances to do what Toby REALLY had in mind. And, even now, as they made their way into school, Simon's head seemed to be elsewhere! All in all, it was frigging frustrating!
They didn’t speak as they made their way through to homeroom, to find quite a few other early arrivals already there.
One was Jacko.
Simon waved his tennis racket. “Hey Jacko…are we still on for later?”
Toby scowled. Now he wants to talk about something else? Fucking great!
It was going to be one of the sports periods when options were left open as to what you did. He knew that the pair had made plans to play tennis, and Jacko lifted his bag from the floor, showing the grip of his own racket.
Why couldn’t Simon do something with him instead?
“Can I get a game, too?”
All three turned, as Mason Quince—Todd’s brother—came through the door and joined the conversation. Mason's white teeth came on show as he ambled up. “I brought my racquet. What about doubles?”
“Hi, Mase!" Both Simon and Jacko looked and sounded enthusiastic. "Sounds great—we just need to find someone else to play too. Maybe Gabe or Kai?"
Toby turned away and tried to appear uninterested in any of it. The problem was, he was crap at every sport, and offering to be part of a foursome was never going to work...even if they did think to ask him. Which he knew they wouldn’t.
“So, does anyone know how Ryan is?” Jacko asked, flicking his eyes briefly in Simon’s direction. “Does Luke know?”
Simon shook his head. To Toby, actually both of them looked cagey.
“Todd tried to call him last night,” Mason said, “but there was no answer. Maybe he was out?"
“No shit?” Danny Gillespie dropped his bag onto the desk with a thump and joined the exchange. “You really think Alexis is going to be talking to Todd much, anytime soon?”
“Todd wasn’t part of it!” Mason snarled back at the implied accusation. “He never did anything!”
“My point exactly!” Danny retorted.
Toby smirked. Oooh – fucking zinger! Spot on!
"It wasn't his fault,” Mason growled. “And anyway, Luke was there, too, I heard!" There were traces of discomfort in his tone and Toby was fascinated. It looked like Simon wasn't the only brother who felt uneasy.
He could see Simon stiffen, but Danny pushed on, unimpressed with any of it. “Looked like he dropped Ryan right in it to me—and I was there!” He smirked as he began to get some books out. “I gotta say though, that was some fucking impressive jizzing! What do you think Jacko?”
“Well, nobody’s fucking asking you, Danny!” interrupted Simon, glaring at Danny Gillespie.
“So is he here?” The Elf didn’t seem at all affronted.
“That’s what were just trying to find out!” Simon shook his head in exasperation. “I hope he’s alright.”
Gillespie burst out laughing. “Don’t be an asshole, Si! Of course he’s not going to be all right! Would you be?”
Toby knew Danny was spot on, and he saw Jacko pull a face that said it all. Feeling right as rain after that show? Not a fucking hope in hell!
Ten minutes later, they were all heading for Art: probably the only thing about school, other than hooking up with Simon Summers, that really made Toby happy. That day, though, his mood wasn’t getting any better as strolling along as a bunch it foiled any attempt to get back to what he and Simon would do later. He glowered at the floor as the others chatted easily.
“We might go up to Six Flags on Sunday,” Toby heard Jacko say to Simon. “Do you want to come?”
Toby ground his teeth. Six Flags was swimming, and he never went near the place, even though he wasn’t being invited. And Sunday was for him and Si…not for flaming Jacko Jackson!
“Really? I love Six Flags!” Simon seemed far too elated. “I’ll have to check with my mum and dad, but maybe!”
What about fucking checking with me first!
Toby’s train of thought got disrupted as, ahead of them, there were sounds of exuberance interspersed with whistles and a few jeering shouts. Waiting to enter a classroom themselves, Luke and Ryan’s class looked boisterous.
The center of attention was Ryan Alexis.
Holy crap—so Alexis had come in after all!
That had to be either incredibly brave, or totally fucking stupid. The way that Ryan stood in stony silence with his head titled to the floor as passing students spotted him and made noisy—and some pretty obscene—gestures, Toby would have plumped for the latter! He was also unsurprised to see Landon stirring things up. Him and Mitchell.
That guy was quite a bastard really!
However, it appeared that whatever they were hoping to get out of Ryan as they jostled and teased, it didn't seem to be working. While he didn’t look anything like remotely comfortable, he also wasn’t being drawn either by their goading or by the whistles of others passing them along the busy corridor. It was exactly what Toby had anticipated: yesterday's news.
Now could they just get back to normal?
As they neared, Ryan's eyes flicked out towards them. Unexpectedly, he seemed to flinch, quickly looking away again.
Landon picked up on it and turned to study the group as they approached, drilling down on Simon.
"So, where's Luke skiving off to this morning?" Landon demanded, full of himself.
They ignored him, so he stepped out of the group in front of them, blocking their path. His face darkened and he was looking for trouble. "I asked you a question, Summers! Where's that bitchy brother of yours today?"
Mason's older brother, Todd, reached out and, taking hold of Landon’s arm, wrenched him back into their disorderly line.
"Pack it up, Scott." Todd's tone was amiable, but the strong grip wasn’t, and he got his message across.
Mason smirked, but Landon took it badly as he was put in his place. "For God's sake, I was only asking!" He pulled his arm loose from Todd's grip, and turned away. The four of them skirted around the group and continued outside heading towards the Art block.
"So what's wrong with Luke?" Mason asked as they reached the entrance to the Art block. "Is he sick?" His question was reasonable enough and Toby wondered how Simon would reply.
"It's just a checkup, Mase. He'll be in soon."
It wasn’t a lie, but Toby noted Simon avoided saying exactly what kind of checkup. Simon paused, changing the subject. "Here's an idea. Maybe the six of us can get together to play a few games sometime soon. You and Todd, Ryan and Jacko, and us two."
Toby knew for certain that ‘us two’ didn't include him and he scowled again, guessing that Simon’s ‘plus one’ was Luke. Surprisingly, Jacko didn't seem that excited by the idea either.
Simon turned to include him at last. "What do you think Toby?"
What did he think about being left out again?
He'd had enough, and let his ill temper spill over."Whatever..." Fuming, he strode off, leaving the three of them staring after him.
He stayed in a bad mood all through a lesson that was normally one of the week's highlights. His temper didn't improve when Danny took up a place next to him as they lined up to use the pottery wheels. He watched as Toby made another attempt at creating a shaped bowl. Gillespie sniggered as the lump of clay—even in Toby's gifted hands—collapsed into a messy heap on the wheel! He didn't need to look up to sense Daniels close by, watching the disaster, too.
"Well, it’s not one of your better works, Toby," the Art teach grinned.
Toby glowered. It wasn’t helping his state of mind as he was reminded of the uncomfortable developments between Daniels and his mom. Maybe she thought it was meant to be a good thing, but as Daniels moved off, he took the clay and banged it down angrily on the wheel. What the hell was she thinking anyway? She was far too old to be dating, for God's sake! And a teacher!
As the wheel spun, the unrefined wet, grey dough rose…and fell over again.
"So is your mom actually dating Daniels?" Jacko seemed to be reading his mind. He'd seen them at the cinema after all. The smirk on Jacko’s face was easy to read. It was the last straw. He’d had it with all of them.
He turned and hissed. "Just piss off, Jackson!" Angrily, he threw the clay into the bucket. It drew frowns from those around him, and he pushed past them to go do something else.
At the end of the double period and well before the bell, everyone had finished and had started packing up. He was still fuming when Simon joined him to wait as he gathered his stuff in preparation for them to head into the brief morning recess.
At his desk, Daniels looked at his watch. "Okay, boys, you can be off." He seemed in a remarkably good mood that morning, and Toby hated to think it had anything to do with his mom.
"Just keep the noise down as you go," Daniels added.
Toby took his time, waiting for others to leave. If Simon wanted to walk with him, then he could wait.
Soon it was only the two of them and Daniels.
The teacher came out from behind his desk, gathering some of his own belongings. He stepped over to speak to them. "It was a great movie on Saturday, don't you think boys?"
"Yes, sir." Toby kept his voice formal, and even Simon seemed a little dumbstruck.
Daniels could probably sense his lack of enthusiasm, and all at once he looked less teacher-ish and grinned.
"Okay, I appreciate it was a bit weird having an old gorilla like me around, but thank you for having me for dinner anyway. I really appreciated it." He checked his watch again. "Now, I have a few calls to make. Do me a favor and pull the doors when you go."
"Yes, sir." It was short and sweet. Toby hoped Daniels got the message and went back to loading his backpack.
"I thought you liked him?" Simon said once Daniels had gone.
Toby continued to stuff paper and art materials into his backpack.
"What do you care?" He didn't even to look up, but his tone was cutting. "Whatever...think what you like!"
Simon rounded on him. "What the hell’s up with you?"
"Why would you be bothered? I mean do you even know I'm here?"
Simon blinked and looked surprised. "What the heck are you talking about?"
Toby couldn't hold back his anger. He glanced around the room, but it appeared to be empty. "I thought we were meant to be together," he hissed. He lifted his bag and slung it over his shoulder
"What the hell's wrong with you today?” Simon's eyes narrowed. He seemed confused at first, and then angry, too. “And why did you have to be so mean to Jacko? He didn't mean anything by it!"
"What the hell's wrong with ME?" Toby glared at Simon. "I mean did you even fucking hear ANYTHING I was saying when we first arrived this morning?"
Simon's eyes grew hard as he picked up his backpack and began to walk away. After a few steps he spun back.
"You asked me if I wanted to come round later," he growled. "I thought I did, but the way you're acting, I'm not sure anymore!" With that, he spun on his heels again, and stalked out.
Infuriated, Toby glared after him, unable to let go of his anger. At the same time, what Simon had just said unnerved him. Toby also knew it was mostly his own fault and he should go after Si and put it right, but something stopped him. Seething, he slumped back on his stool, pissed off with everything…but mostly with himself.
* * *
Simon was glad to get out into the sunshine and fresh air. Still fuming, he re-ran the recent conversation in his head, at a loss as to why everything had gone so spectacularly wrong between the two of them.
What the hell had brought THAT on?
The bell had just rung, and the field was filling with others who'd been let out early for the ten minute recess. Most, like himself, wanted to get outdoors. Some were chatting in pairs or small groups, others were more energetic—like those setting up for an impromptu soccer game, carefully spacing jackets to form the opposite goals.
Gradually, as he walked across the well-cut grass, he began to calm down.
He hated conflict and would have gone back to find Toby, but Jacko appeared at his side, eager to get over to the sports block and get changed for the game of tennis they had planned. It was recess, but there was nothing stopping them getting out onto the court as soon as they could.
"So what's with Toby today?" Jacko asked. They skirted the soccer game and Jacko didn’t bother hiding his irritation.
Simon didn't blame him, but shrugged, becoming a little defensive.
"I think he just has a lot going on, that’s all." Hardly true, and frankly Toby was being a stupid asshole however you looked at it! "He'll be all right."
At least he hoped he would be. Again, he was wondering about making some excuse and going back, when he spotted Ryan hurrying out onto the grass. On his heels was Todd.
“You know yesterday?” Simon murmured as he and Jacko stopped to watch. “Did you see it? Were you really there like Danny said?”
Jacko grimaced and looked awkward. “For a bit, I was. I…well I didn’t want to stay long. It was all a bit crap…”
“Come on—let’s go over.” Simon gestured towards Ryan and Todd.
“Why? To do what?”
“I dunno. I just want to go see Ryan." He wasn't sure what he would say, but it sure didn't help to deliberately avoid him.
"You go." Jacko pointed vaguely in the direction of the sports block. "I just need to see—" He set off walking again.
Ignoring him, Simon started to head towards his brother's classmates, studying them as he approached.
He’d seen a Hang once, and once had been enough to know he didn't want to get anywhere near one again. And from what people were saying, Ryan didn't get off lightly!
Even from a distance, the conversation between the two older teens looked difficult. Todd seemed to be doing all the speaking, and his expression and gestures were obviously trying to appease. In the middle of it, he reached out an arm, maybe to get Ryan to walk with him, but Ryan lashed out, wrenching himself away with angry force. He turned and strode away, leaving Todd shaking his head.
Simon stopped in his tracks. Much though he wanted to chase after Ryan himself, it didn't take much to guess what was behind the spat. And from what he'd just seen, he wondered if they would ever see Ryan round at their place again.
It made him sad. Screwing up his face, he turned once more and picked up the pace towards the sports block. Within a short few moments he slipped into the still-crowded locker rooms.
The middle school used the same facilities and the remains of a sixth grade class seemed in little hurry to change and get out. They were a boisterous bunch, and he began to chat with a couple of the kids that he knew slightly as he took off his jacket and began to undo his shoes in preparation to change into the regulation kit.
Jacko arrived and set up alongside him and began to change too.
"Where did you get to?" Simon asked. He had assumed Jacko would have already been changing by the time he got there.
A little evasive, Jacko shrugged. "I just needed to see someone. Did you talk to Ryan?"
Simon shook his head and relayed what he'd seen.
"Somebody should do something," Jacko growled, then changed the subject. “Did we find another player yet?”
“Mase was still looking," Simon said. "Kai decided on basketball. There must be someone with a racquet...not sure if he asked Gabe yet." He pulled off his shirt and reached into his bag. “We can still play until he gets here, but don’t forget, you’re meant to be helping me improve, not wiping the floor with me!”
Jacko grinned and his white teeth flashed against his milky brown skin. He sat to take off his shoes. “Come on, you’re not that bad!”
Everyone knew Jacko was a good player despite his small stature. He could move around the court well and had an eye for the ball that was unusual for a guy of his age. Still, if his dad was any measure of it, give him a few years and he’d soon gain some height. Simon didn’t play much tennis himself, but both Ryan and Luke were on the squad, and even they thought that Jacko would go on to great things.
He'd always liked Jacko, and the toffee-colored teen had been out on the boat a few times with him. He was ready first and, whilst he waited for Jacko to finish changing, Simon watched a number of ‘unclaimed’ shoes being thrown across the room by the cheerful sixth grade.
Still, he couldn't help but smile at the exuberant horseplay. Had he and Jacko and the others been any different at that age?
God—he was beginning to sound like his mother!
Then he frowned when one of them got hold of one of Jacko’s tennis shoes and it went flying across the room.
“Bring that back! NOW!” Jacko shouted, but all he got were jeers in return. Irritated, he stomped across the locker floor to retrieve it. Simon smirked quietly at the horseplay. When Jacko was a famous tennis pro, he'd be able to look back and 'name and shame' the assholes that stole his shoes in the school locker rooms!
His tormentors ignored the up-and-coming tennis star as he passed though the group to retrieve what had landed near the showers. The lively kids went onto something else, squealing and shouting at some other prank.
Simon tried to ignore them.
Having retrieved his footwear, Jacko pushed back through them. All at once, he became the center of attention again, and they made a grab for him—half a dozen wannabe jocks taking advantage of his small stature. A bunch of them wrenched at his tennis shorts, squealing as they tried to pants him.
Jacko hung onto his shorts, but was incensed and lashed out at them, swearing in discomfort as they grabbed at his underwear and it got stretched. By then, Simon had had enough and started laying into them.
"What the FUCK are you doing!" he hollered. He was greeted with shrieks of laughter as they avoided his swipes with ease.
It got a bit confused.
At one point, Simon felt hands grabbing down the back of his own shorts, searching for his waistband, too, and trying to pull a wedgie, but he twisted away and got out of trouble.
Then, in the swirling mêlée, after Jacko seemed to have successfully managed to extract himself from the stupid assholes, Simon stumbled and ended up on his knees. Bodies pressed around him, but before he could surge to his feet, he found his head clamped between a pair of legs. Legs that seemed older and stronger than what might belong to a sixth-grader. Legs with muscles that squeezed him so hard, they hurt his ears. He shouted and pulled at them to try to force them apart so he could get out and stand straight again, but they were locked solid.
Then came a familiar, disturbing voice. "Come on, girls, if you want to see a wedge done properly, it looks like we're gonna have to show you!"
Simon heard the voice of Scott Landon as it cackled unpleasantly. As he'd been doubled over, trying to stand, Landon had literally stepped over the top of him, trapping Simon’s head between his legs. Simon redoubled his struggles in an effort to squeeze out from the vice-like grip.
"Get off Landon, you're hurting me!" Around them, the sixth grade troublemakers were suddenly silent and backed away nervously.
"Fucking let him go, Landon!" Jacko was suddenly in front of them, pulling at the legs too.
"What's up with you, Jacko?" Landon' voice sneered. "You seemed to enjoy it yesterday well enough!"
Jacko didn't reply, but he also didn't stop trying to release Simon.
"For God's sake," laughed Landon. "Will someone protect me from these bloody kids!" Someone—it looked like Mitchell from the amount Simon could see—wrenched Jacko away.
Gripping Simon’s neck, Landon began to turn him around, maneuvering him so that his backside turned to face a bunch of boys, some of whose high spirits were returning, who were gathering around him. Caught standing, but bending over with his head trapped under Landon's crotch, Simon faced the opening to the showers where several kids, wrapped in towels, stared around the doorway with wary expressions on their faces
"Now I asked you a fairly simple question earlier, squirt." Landon's tone was genial. "Where's that asshole of a brother of yours?"
Simon glared into the space behind, agonizingly aware that his bent-over position made him look ludicrous, but he was completely trapped. His free hands battered Landon's legs, until the returning intense pressure made him stop and grunt in pain. "Piss off!"
"That's not nice!" Without warning and to immediate laughter, Simon squeaked loudly as Landon took a full handful of the back of his shorts and pulled enough to temporarily lift his backside in the air and his feet off the ground. Like a trapped rabbit, Landon shook him hard. "Hell—this little piglet can squeal"
From the increasing sounds behind Simon, it seemed a growing audience of sixth graders was gathering and, as quick as a flash, one of them shouted. "Pull its tale then!"
There were giggles and a scurry of activity behind Simon, and a pair of unknown hands grabbed at his shorts and yanked them down his legs. He yelped and frantically reached down to try to rescue them, to pull them back up again to cover himself up, but Landon squeezed his neck so painfully that he started clawing at them to relieve the pressure.
Simon grimaced at the sound of Cody Mitchell's voice. Mitchell sniggered. "Hey kiddo…it wasn't us!"
"So—" One of the sixth graders grew bold. "Are you going to Hang him?"
Simon froze as Landon chuckled in a way that didn't sound pleasant. "You're quite a little fucker, aren't you?"
The younger voice remained persistent. "Wasn't it you that did Alexis yesterday?"
"Could be." It was the voice of JJ Johnston this time. "What's it to you, dickhead? Grow some pubes first!"
"Oh that little dickhead was on the front row, JJ," snickered Landon. The voice became leering. "Did you manage to jerk yourself off before Alexis squirted, you little runt?" Giggles of laughter followed.
Simon couldn't see who it was and didn't recognize the voice, but the kid wasn't to be put off. "We benched Alex last week." The cheeky smirk in his expression was plain. "His dick came up well-stiff!"
"Piss off, Adams!" The retort from somewhere in the crowd shrilled over the top of peels of mean amusement. "It's your birthday soon. We'll see what you got!"
Despite his predicament, Simon's eyes widened. That voice he did recognize, and Alex, Matt Young's skinny little brother, sounded angry.
"They're a bunch of pervy little shits, aren't they!" Mitchell chuckled.
"Now, where were we?" The pressure from Landon's legs increased a little. "So kiddo, we just wanna know where your skunky brother is, then we'll let you up."
"Get lost, you prick!" Simon grunted from between Landon's legs. "It's nothing to do with you!"
"Come on—we're not going to hurt him."
The leery tone that followed from Mitchell was undisguised. "We just wanna give him chance to see if he can outdo Alexis."
"Really? The two of them in one week?" JJ started sniggering. "SWWEEEEET!"
"You bloody bastards!" Simon struggled and dug his fingers into Landon's legs. "You can't!"
Landon smacked him hard on his open backside, and retorted angrily. "Don't you curse at me, you little runt! I asked you a question!" The hand smacked him again, and Landon sounded ugly. "Where is he hiding?"
"Bastard!" Simon shouted his defiance, though the smack had really stung, and he fully expected another on his butt cheeks. Gritting his teeth as he waited for the blow, he heard a shout.
* * *
“LUKE! THANK GOD! THERE YOU ARE!!”
Outside the bathroom and back in the main corridor, Luke turned to the sound, a puzzled expression on his face. It was Jacko Jackson.
Jacko was breathing hard and looked upset as he hurried up. "COME ON. IT'S BAD! YOU HAVE TO HURRY!"
Luke frowned. "What the heck are you talking about?" At the same time, the look on Jacko's face was disturbing, and Luke felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
What the hell now? Had they somehow got Ryan again? Was he in trouble? It could only be that bastard Landon....
His legs started moving faster than his brain and he ran past Jacko hurrying in the direction from which he'd come.
"Quickly...where is he?" he muttered. "Where's Ryan?" As he picked up speed, he realized he had no idea where he was going. He slowed and twisted his head to find Jacko right behind him.
Jacko was still breathless. "No—not Ryan," he gasped. "Simon!"
Luke froze in his tracks and wheeled around. "What? What do you mean Simon?" A sick dread touched him.
Jacko was wide-eyed. "That's what I'm trying to tell you! They've got Si in the sports block…Landon and the others!"
Luke swallowed. It hit him like a sledgehammer. He lurched and went cold as he thought of all the pain and humiliation that Ryan had taken being pressed, even as they spoke, onto Simon. The mere idea of it made him feel sick.
He hissed. "Fuck...Si..."
Then a powerful hot anger exploded from the pit of his stomach. Without a word, he threw his backpack to one side, spun around and raced away. Behind him, Jacko shouted. "The sports block! HURRY!"
He flew like the wind, and more than one guy found himself tumbled to one side as he charged through numerous groups, screaming at them to get out of the way. If he'd have been on the track that day, the energy that drove his legs would have been unmatched.
He burst out of the doors into the sunshine and raced around the corner and onto the field. He passed Ryan, who looked surprised, but the thought of stopping for a conversation didn't even enter Luke’s head. All he could think about was Landon and his thugs. Flashes of the demeaning treatment Ryan had received arched across his memories, and with every stride, his sense of horror at what might be happening to his little brother grew.
By the time he finally burst through the heavy doors that marked the entrance to the locker rooms, he was frenzied with rage. By the number of people also pushing into the same area, all talking excitedly about what was going on inside, he knew he was in the right place.
And as he entered the back of the locker rooms, he could smell both the sweat and the intoxicating hysteria filling the space. Bodies were everywhere, and his heart froze as an all too familiar voice let loose a pained cry. Seeing his brother's bum bring trounced, Luke saw nothing but red.
He probably hurt quite a few as he smashed through the crowd of smaller teens, all of whom were avidly watching the unfolding spectacle in front of them. They were packed like sardines, and he sent numerous baseball uniforms and their owners hurtling to the floor as he waded through the scrum of bodies.
Frankly, he didn’t give a shit!
Reaching the front, he bellowed and then crashed into Landon, sending him reeling to one side.
Incoherent with rage he lashed out at the next nearest bastard who was rising up from where he'd just been knocked flying. He could see it was JJ, and the look of panic in his face didn't save him as he grabbed a handful of his hair and yanked hard. With his other hand he mauled the boy’s face with his hands, narrowly avoiding—probably for both their sakes—gouging into his eyes. He'd seen Mitchell too, and swung around to face him, but too late as Mitchell kicked out with his foot. It was badly aimed, but still manage to connected with Luke’s groin in a way that floored him.
More than just the damage of any kick to the nuts, Luke writhed in temporary agony as the foot had struck right onto the newly circumcised head and shaft, and sent tears to his eyes as the pain rolled over him. Stunned by the blow, he collapsed onto the ground. Through watering eyes, he looked up to see that Landon had regained his balance. His eyes held as much violence as Luke's probably had as he whirled around. Bearing over the top of him, Landon's face was suffused with anger and Luke tried to curl into a protective ball as Landon raised his foot. apparently ready to copy Mitchell and stamp where it would hurt the most.
Unfortunately for Landon, he was looking in completely the wrong direction as the fist that connected with his face could well have broken his nose. His head snapped back under the blow.
Strictly, it was probably unnecessary for Ryan to have landed a second blow as, from Luke's viewpoint, the first one pretty much incapacitated Landon, but Ryan moved like a savage storm. Coming out of nowhere, his eyes flashed with furious wrath and Landon reeled and his face reflected the agony of his damaged snout.
Landon’s hands flew up to the damage, but missed stopping Ryan's second blow which snapped off one of his front teeth. Actually it turned out to be a crown in the end, but the sound of fracture was just as satisfying as the fragment disappeared into Landon’s gaping and bloodied mouth.
In the middle of the fray, Mitchell attempted to scurry away, but ran straight into Todd and bounced off his shoulder to trip over a still sprawled JJ. The pair scrambled away and melted into the crowd.