Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: FOTD - Plotz; Fudge Ripple #10 - Fear
Topping: Whipped Cream (Alex is 14)
Word Count: 1,382
Summary: Alex's impromptu sparring session with Kennet goes a little awry, and he learns just how much Kennet really knows about him.
Notes: This got a little away from me.
Even after all this time, he couldn’t get used to the thrill of being able to go outside, whether to train, read or just spend five minutes sitting in the sunshine. It was beautiful and alien and he couldn’t help thinking how easily it could all be taken away from him.
He relished the soft squeak of damp spring grass under his feet as he shifted stances, the way it sank between his toes as he spun and brought one leg out in a graceful arc, settling it into his next position. Karate was never going to be his favourite martial art, but he could appreciate the simple joy of rolling up his shirt sleeves and working through the various kata on a warm day.
The gentle crunch of grass and a prickling across the back of his shoulders was the only warning he got. He turned seamlessly on one foot, arm already moving to deflect the foot directed at his torso. Kennet didn’t even lose his balance, slipping back into the shorter sparring stance with a broad grin. “Practicing are we, Alex? I’m sure you need all the practice you can get. You were always crap at aikido too.”
“If you hadn’t noticed,” he retorted, bringing his own legs closer together just in case Kennet tried anything again, “this is karate, not aikido. Still, I shouldn’t expect you to be able to tell the difference on first glance, should I?”
“I can tell the difference just fine. That’s why you’re not flat on your back on the floor now.” Kennet smirked, moving his weight from one foot to the other. “Want to spar?”
Alex remembered that karate was the style Kennet hadn’t learned growing up; he smiled humourlessly. “Sure.” And maybe if he got lucky he could give him the kicking he deserved too.
Returning the smile with just as much warmth, Kennet mirrored Alex’s perfunctory bow—some sparring habits were too ingrained for either to resist—and they began. It became quickly apparent that Kennet hadn’t spent the last two years slacking on his training: Alex wouldn’t say that Kennet was as good as him, but he was approaching it. The other thing that became apparent was that he was perfectly capable of exercising his mouth as well as his moves. “I haven’t had a chance to ask. How have you been?”
“Fine,” Alex grunted, easily blocking a front kick and dodging sideways from the follow-up punch, bringing his own arm round for it to be just as easily blocked. When had Kennet grown, that he was now bigger than him?
“No mishaps while I was gone?” He blocked another string of Alex’s attacks, using his last attack as an opening to throw a blow at Alex’s head.
He missed by inches; in retaliation Alex kicked at his knee and again was blocked. “None.” He had the vague sense that they were moving across the grass, that he was being manipulated somewhere... Stupid, there was nothing dangerous out here. The Academy preferred their danger to be inside the buildings.
“No swimming lessons?” Kennet smirked.
Alex paused, shocked, and almost received a fist to the face for his inattention. “What?”
“I assume everyone else has been having them.” He advanced on his opponent, each blocked attack driving Alex backwards. “And I assume you haven’t.”
“It’s none of your business,” he answered robotically, concentrating instead on ensuring Kennet didn’t land a blow.
“I had to look up what ‘hydrophobic’ meant.” Kennet’s grin widened. “When I saw it in your file, I mean. Did you know it also means ‘rabid’? Of course you did, it fits you to a tee, but it’s the literal meaning that I found most interesting.” He swept a roundhouse kick at Alex’s ribs.
Alex deflected it effortlessly enough, but the fist he threw out to take advantage of the opening was suddenly grabbed, twisted. The ground flew up in a blur of green to meet him. A cold, crushing pain blazed in a straight line across his shoulders; to his horror, the only thing his head came into contact with was water.
Kennet was straddling his chest before he could move, pinning his arms down with his legs. “You really should pay more attention to your surroundings. You forgot this pond was here?”
Alex craned his head up with every ounce of his being, trying hard, so hard, not to think about the fluid trickling down the back of his neck, about the wetness of his hair, about how he was trying so hard but couldn’t breathe— “Why?” The word hurt to speak.
Kennet leaned down and grinned at him. “Because you got me into trouble.” He sank his fingers into Alex’s thick hair and pressed his palm against his forehead, forcing his head backwards into the water.
Alex bucked and thrashed beneath him, struggling to free his hands, to jerk his head up as the water soaked his hair, his ears—
—he tried to shout, no sound came out, no air was sucked in under Kennet’s crushing weight—
—why did he weigh so much, why was he doing this, why, oh God—
He managed to scream only as Kennet lifted his weight and dragged Alex’s head backwards into the pond, completely submerging his face. Sour fluid flooded his mouth, burned his eyes. His howls bubbled out uselessly. His hands, suddenly free, moved by themselves to wrap around Kennet’s wrist, tugging, sinking short nails into flesh; no success. And he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t breathe, he scratched and scraped and flailed but he couldn’t breathe as the world turned dark.
The world was white and hurt his eyes like breathing hurt his throat. “Where am I?” He wished he hadn’t spoken the moment the words left his mouth.
The medic turned in his chair, eyeing him up. “You’re awake then.”
“Oh. It’s you.” Well, it answered his question, even if it left another five in its wake.
The man rose and moved over to the bed, leaning down to part Alex’s eyelids and shine a light straight into his eye without a word. “Do you feel like you’ve got brain damage?”
“Good.” He shoved a thermometer into Alex’s mouth with as much ceremony. “Someone said you’d been overexerting yourself again. Well,” he paused, squinted sideways at the gauge without removing it, then sat heavily on the edge of the bed. “Actually, they said that you’d been training too hard in the sun, exhausted yourself and passed out half-in the pond.” He pulled the thermometer from his mouth again and glared down at the reading like it had personally offended him. “I ran another MRI on you just in case.”
“All normal?” He thought he’d take the opportunity to ask before the thermometer made an unwelcome return.
“Yeah. You’ve still not managed to kill yourself yet. And neither has anyone else.”
Alex tensed beneath the sheets and looked away.
“You think I’m an idiot, kid?” The medic rose and walked back to his seat, leaning back in it and drumming his fingers on the armrests. “Three hours after you were brought in, another kid is sent in with scrapes all down one arm from a sparring accident.” He snorted. “And you’ve got a fucking great bruise on your forehead. Screw the rocks, it looks like someone’s hand to me.”
He sighed. The world looked better with his eyes closed. Much less complicated. “You’re not going to say anything, are you?”
“You don’t want me to?”
Alex shook his head, then winced; the gesture made the world spin and he almost lost the contents of his stomach. He didn’t think it’d go down well with the medic.
“Fine.” But the heavy inflection told him just how happy the man was about it. “Kill yourself, let someone else do it, it’s all the same to me. Just...” The word hung in the room for a moment, and Alex had no intention of turning to face it. “Just keep clear of ponds, okay kid? Particularly if you’re with someone you don’t much like. You get me?”
He nodded and turned over in the bed, bringing his knees up to his chest. Later, or tomorrow, he’d deal with the world, with Kennet. Right now he just wanted to lay still and forget.