Kiddo tried not to get expelled from another school. He really did.
Kiddo had just wanted to pee.
Yet he could already hear the echoes of voices coming from beyond the toilet block entrance. Typical adolescent, masculine voices. Filled with bravado and mockery. Hoots that rebounded off the concrete floors and old plaster walls.
And the sobs of their victim. Wet sobs, and then gulps for breath. Which really didn’t bode well.
Kid scowled. The warning bell had gone – the toilet block should have been clearing out, and he should have been able to make a quick trip in and out, slipping into class just in time.
He pushed open the door and rounded the extra wall screening off the urinals from view of the outside world – as if this was a place for pure gentleman to visit. But he saw nothing gentlemanly going on in the second stall.
A smaller boy gulped in air, his hands desperately gripping the toilet seat he’d been forced to kneel over, as he tried to keep from having his dripping, dirty face shoved back down into the water.
Ah man, had they not let the little guy flush before they’d started this?
Three larger, older idiots made up the rest of the scene.
One smug gorilla thug had his hand around the smaller boy’s neck, and he dunked again as Kiddo froze – this time flushing while the little guy gurgled in his own clearing filth.
The other two idiots were chortling and cheering – watching from over the top of the stall from a neighbouring toilet like loud spectating monkeys.
Kiddo thunked his heavy textbook down by a sink, probably rattling Pythagoras, Anne with all of her apples, Jimmy with his random measurements, and every decimal point, right off their pages.
The gorilla paused and the monkeys stopped chittering for a moment in fear.
“Oh it’s you, pretty boy,” a monkey sniggered in relief. “Did we wake you?”
To be fair, Kiddo did spend a whole lot of his time napping at his desk lately.
The upped meds might be toning him down a bit too much, now that he was actually making an effort to try to remember to take them for this new school.
“Take a piss and go back to sleep,” the second monkey cackled.
Good advice. He couldn’t get kicked out for sleeping…but maybe for the lashing out at teachers who always tried to startle him awake.
It meant most kids kept a safe distance from him; uncertain of this odd, rabid sloth. Hato was getting sick of the whiney phone calls, though. Warning that he’d find the strictest school possible if Kid got kicked out one more time.
“Hurry up, man. We don’t have beef with you,” Gorilla grinned, as if he kind of liked Kid’s loner, don’t touch me vibe.
Geeze. To be accepted by petty bullies. Morons who didn’t have an excuse for being assholes. Not really.
The little guy stared at Kiddo with miserable, pleading eyes. Toilet water ran down his cheeks with the tears.
Oh this was going to be a bad choice.
This was just his second school after Hato had taken him in. But Kiddo had a long record of other schools he’d pissed off in his foster days, so his options were limited.
If he didn’t go too far, like Flip had been telling him, he might not get expelled. He just couldn’t get carried away. He had to be smart. Not impulsive.
“Or you wanna watch the bath, pretty boy?” Gorilla’s eyes lit up, and he thrust the whimpering little guy’s face back toward the bowl. “This weasel stunk.”
Be smart … not impulsive. Don’t go too far …
“I’d stop that, if I were you,” Kiddo ground out quietly.
The monkeys blinked, surprised to find that It could speak.
Gorilla’s brows went down. Not happy to be challenged.
“Nah. Don’t think so.”
Kiddo felt his fists bunching. The heaviness in his body was being replaced by that familiar old heat.
“You do that again, your face will regret it,” Kiddo spoke some more, now that he was on a roll. “Ever again, and you’ll all regret it.”
Oh, Gorilla was angry now.
The monkeys laughed in disbelief, and Gorilla smirked as he pushed the little guy so fast back into the bowl that there was a splash and an audible clunk of a forehead hitting the porcelain.
Kiddo was there in a few strides.
In one violent shove, he slammed Gorilla’s face into the cistern. Teeth broke and blood spats showered like flecks of paint across the tank.
Kid yanked the spluttering little guy backward out of Gorilla’s slackening grip, sending him stumbling out of the stall while Gorilla’s eyes crossed and he slumped down against the cubicle wall.
That was going to need a lot of dental work to fix.
There were tooth stumps and gaping gums at the front. Some pearly whites had skittered across the floor.
That had been too far.
Monkey One and Monkey Two gaped for a moment as Kiddo retreated from the mess he’d made with a wince.
He’d just wanted to pee.
He heard the little guy skedaddling for the door as Monkey One and Two disappeared from their perch to burst out and lunge at Kiddo.
Kid wasn’t even thinking as he grabbed his heavy text book from the bench, and whacked it across Monkey One’s head.
Pythagoras, Anne and Jimmy were having quite the ride today, as the pages clunked into a thick skull so hard that Monkey One literally spun on the spot; out for the count.
Monkey Two was still charging with an oblivious roar, and Kid lifted his elbow to clip this one under the chin.
Monkey Two’s momentum suddenly reversed as his body followed the new backward trajectory of his head. He tripped on Monkey One, and went down clutching his jaw in agony.
Why had he damaged three faces, of all things?
Monkey One and Gorilla were KO’d, and Monkey Two was making very distressed sounds.
Clenching his teeth angrily rather than in triumph, Kid stepped over the Monkeys and went to the urinals, which was all he’d really wanted.
He would have to fetch the nurse and face the music.
“Hato will get why you did it,” Sparks was saying as Kiddo stared dully at the empty basketball courts.
His leg bounced, making the whole spectator bench rattle along the row.
The ambulances had cleared and the parents, or adoptive parents, had come. Monkey One and Two’s parents anyway. Gorilla’s would be at the ER.
“Hato’s whole motto is about keeping vulnerable people safe,” Sparks assured Kid.
“I beat up normal people,” Kiddo muttered, chewing his thumb.
Beat them to a pulp, in three damn hits. It had been so fast, but there was maximum damage done. And he’d actually been trying to keep on track. Not go too far. Be less impulsive.
He didn’t regret defending someone. As much as he preferred to be the wallflower, he wasn’t a bystander. He did regret the level of damage, and the blow he would take from Hato.
Never a physical blow from this one. None of this gang had ever lifted a hand to him unless they were intentionally roughhousing together, or to contain him when he’d been off the rails in those early dark, angry days.
No, Hato’s disappointment was always the heaviest blow Kid had ever had land on him. The big man could knock the wind right out of Kid’s sails.
“M’sorry Sparks,” Kiddo uttered around the quick of his thumb. “Hurts you too.”
She had left their last, closer school when he’d been kicked out too. He’d really messed up that time. Thrown a punch at the principal when he’d been accused of selling hard drugs on campus. After all the suffering it had taken to get clean.
And as hard as she’d worked to earn her place at that school, she’d left it so that he had someone to get up earlier with, to get on the dawn bus on time with, and to make the routine of going to the next school bearable. They weren’t even in any classes together, with her being a year ahead, but having her there with him among all the normal people had helped.
Sparks tentatively put a hand on his jumping knee, and his eyes refocused immediately on her as he stilled.
White shirt, and tartan school skirt. Black buckle shoes and black lined cat-eyes. Star studs at her ears, sharp layers of short hair tucked back.
“Kid,” she said softly, as good as waving a hand in front of his eyes.
He pulled his mind to attention.
“I won’t come with you this time.”
His knee started up again under her hand and he ran his fingers through his hair.
“That …” he managed. “That’s ok.”
“Kid,” Sparks repeated. “It’s not because of you.”
“S’alright,” he nodded quickly, biting his lip as his mind raced. It wasn’t fair to keep throwing her schooling off too. He was dragging her down.
“I’m going to drop out,” Sparks admitted then.
Kiddo gaped. “Huh?” then he groaned. “Ugh, you don’t need to shift Hato’s disappointment onto yourself. That’s what you’re planning? I can take it, Sparks.”
He rubbed his face. She was just trying to help him out.
“I was going to do it when I thought you were settled in enough here,” Sparks told him firmly. “I was going to do it anyway. This just happens to be the perfect time.”
He shook his head with a frown, scratching his scalp now.
“Why?” he asked in confusion. “You haven’t got that long to go.”
Shit. How would he pull himself together every morning? How would he deal with being him in a school full of normals?
He blinked as Sparks came to a decision, getting up and plonking herself across his knees so that he stilled and so that all he could see was her.
All he could smell was her.
She loved to soak in scented baths after long afternoons under cars or nights on patrol. She smelled of berries and flowers.
While her arms had looped easily around his neck, non-threatening and affectionate, his own arms had automatically moved to hold her where she sat. His body had gone stiff as he tried to keep still, to be comfortable beneath her, to be gentle with someone.
“You know I take my time seriously,” she explained, as if this was totally normal. “I have plans, and I can meet my goals better outside of normal school. It just so happens that if I tell Hato today, it’ll take some heat off you.”
Hato was going to blow his top. In that quiet, rumbling, looming way of his.
“If it makes you feel better, you can make it up to me,” Sparks quirked an eyebrow at him thoughtfully, a small smile quirking up her lips.
“How?” he breathed, overthinking his grip on her. Was it too tight? Her grip on him – purposefully casual and warm.
Still, he’d never seen her act like this with any of the others on a normal basis.
Of all people, she had a warm spot for the ever fierce Seethe, but not a lap-sitting kind of thing.
“A foot rub here and there, help in the garage, study sessions in the library,” she laughed. “I’ll still be studying. You’ll still have to spend time with me.”
He swallowed thickly. “Yes. Any time. Any … any time.”
Anything she wanted.
Shelley Cass is an Australian author.
She is the author of the LGBTQ+ romance action series, Raze Warfare. She is the mother of the epic fantasy trilogy, 'A Fairy's Tale', and has penned eroticas, dystopian futures ... and Sleep Sweet children's books.
For information on her novels, visit BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!