Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: FOTD - Counterfactual
Toppings: Whipped Cream (Alex is 14)
Word Count: 1,147
Summary: Alex finally gets his revenge.
Notes: I think what Alex said to Sarah may have been inaccurate...
The obstacle course did what weeks of quiet taunting and unsubtle hints could not.
He’d been dreading it anyway, with the announcement that it had recently been refitted, extended—a new water hazard fitted. His heart had sunk, but it had helped with his mission to deal with the stupidity that surrounded him; people stopped speaking to him entirely in the last week. It was easier than dealing with the inevitable rude or sarcastic answer.
He couldn’t say he missed their company.
Now, halfway through it, he was third from the front on its inaugural run, scrambling up to the top of the Jacob’s Ladder and dropping down the other side, up and along the left-hand balance beams like a cat until—
He came to a skidding halt. It was earlier in the course than he’d expected. And they expected him to throw himself willingly in, splash across the murky green water; his heart tried to crawl into his mouth, constricting his throat until he thought he’d pass out there and then.
A hand slammed into the small of his back. “Move!”
How he kept his balance he didn’t know. One moment the deep green waters threatened to introduce themselves to him whether he liked it or not, the next he was spinning on the ball of one foot to come face to face with Kennet smirking down at him. “There’s another set of beams. Use those.” He kept his voice tight and controlled; as much as he’d like to raise it, to shout, to scream at him to go away, he didn’t want to give in.
“I’m on this one now.” He shoved Alex’s chest, clearly hoping to overbalance him and crash him backwards into the hazard. “You move if you’re so concerned.”
“I was here first.”
Kennet snorted. “You think that matters?” He reached out, pushing at Alex again like a cat toying with its prey.
If he thought Alex had been idle in his aikido classes he was sorely mistaken, but the expression of surprise as Alex caught and twisted his wrist, using his other arm to exploit the momentum and pitch him off the beam entirely, was almost enough to make his would-be victim smile. It wouldn’t be a nice smile, full of savage victory, but it would be well deserved.
How he suppressed it he didn’t know. He leapt down from the beam, landing lightly on the damp grass beside Kennet as the other boy began to push himself to his feet again, glaring up at him. “You’ll regret that.”
This time Alex did smile, a narrow, humourless expression judging from the look on Kennet’s face. “Try it.”
Kennet had got used to his superior height in the intervening years. He pressed it like it was an advantage, like Alex wasn’t only one or two growth spurts away from equalling him; instead Alex took advantage of it, ducking under, around, dodging like his heart wasn’t going to pound out from his chest, deflecting each thrown blow like it was nothing.
If he didn’t dodge, if Kennet got hold of him, he knew what was coming and he didn’t dare think about it. So he danced out the way time and again, waiting for an opening and ignoring the clatter and splash as other students ran past.
He was starting to tire, afraid that his chance would never come and Kennet would grind him into the ground, when his opening came—a stray hand held out just a fraction too long—and he took it in a heartbeat. Kennet smacked into the damp earth with a surprised grunt. “How—”
Alex threw himself on top of him. In a flat-out weight contest he would lose every time but using Kennet’s shock against him he could maintain the advantage.
Alex balled his hand into a fist and punched Kennet in the face.
It felt good, better than last time—it felt great. He did it again, and again, grinning down and easily smacking the other boy’s hands away when he flailed and tried to push at him. “What’s wrong, Kennet? Aren’t you enjoying this?”
“What the hell—” The words were already thick with blood and pain. “Why—”
“Why?” He gripped Kennet’s neck hard enough that he knew he’d carry bruises as a reminder for a week. “Stupid question, don’t you think? Why do you think?” As a reminder, he hit him again.
“But you— You could have phased— If I’d known you didn’t—” Blood flecked Kennet’s mouth and trickled down the side of his face with every word he spoke.
Alex cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “If you’d known... what? Because you did know and you have no problem using it against me. So what were you going to say?”
Kennet shook his head and opened his mouth.
Alex smashed his fist into his face. “What you actually mean is, if you’d known I’d do this, right?” He smiled again.
Kennet recoiled from the expression; Alex took great pleasure in hitting him a few more times, until a voice called out from behind them, “Alex Jaska what the hell are you doing?”
He ignored it and carried on with what he was doing until hands gripped the back of his sweatshirt and tried to drag him upwards. The English teacher’s voice. He must have been supervising the course—or not; Kennet’s face wouldn’t look as much of a mess as it did if anyone had been paying attention. It was too much to hope that they’d just let Alex get on with it. He rose smoothly, gratified to notice that Kennet just lay there and watched, and turned to the man. “Is there a problem?”
The hand so recently on the back of his jersey gripped the front of it. “Just what are you doing?! God, you— When I get you back, you—”
He clearly never expected that one of his students might just hit him. It was funny really, Alex thought as the man dropped to the floor, that they were busy raising children to be the most dangerous they could be but didn’t equip the teachers to deal with them.
Cradling his bloody fist that was only just starting to hurt, he turned and walked away from the two on the floor. In the distance he could hear shouts, could see two teachers and one of the martial arts instructors running towards him. The next few hours would be difficult, most likely painful. Whatever Josh said, the unwritten rules obviously extended to not laying out your teachers. But it had felt good.
Grinning, he came to a stop with his hand held to his chest, staining his sweatshirt, and waited for the angry staff to catch up to him.
He might be in big trouble now, but he felt happy for the first time in years.