Wild Boys and Metal Horses

by Hunter Woods

Chapter 10

Honora In Primis

The summery days began marching by with the Fourth of July weekend fast approaching. Throughout it all we managed to stay clear of Carter's tormentors, which was easy enough for the most part despite the small town, by simply doing our own thing. Colton was over the moon with his new board, not really letting his buddies know about the significance of the new Hammer deck. Carter and I took some time snapping pictures one day of the eleven year old at the skate park and emailed them to Mr. Hammerstein who wrote back saying he posted them on his wall of fame behind the counter. Colton hung up the Danny Way on the wall in his room and some of his friends had noticed thinking it way cool while also commenting on Carter's trophy and medal displayed on a nearby shelf.

To my surprise Carter's parents managed to talk the thirteen year old into joining the Baylin's Mountain Biking Team. Evidently, Mason's dad was impressed calling up Carter's parents and talking to them before asking the thirteen year old boy to join the team. Their first race was this weekend with them having already taken off for the start of the first competition. Mr. Chasson was going along with Carter for the first part of the racing leg and would come home at the end of the weekend. The rest of the group would take the thirteen year old boy with them traveling for the rest of the week up through the Fourth of July weekend competition.

While Mr. Chasson took Carter with him, his wife stayed behind with Colton. The thirteen year old boy had been nervous about it, but I could tell he was also looking forward to doing something new and being able to spend some time with his dad for a couple of days before continuing along alone with the team which was a bonus.

With the Fourth of July coming up the following weekend, I had received a notice from my school indicating my presence was required for the rally and planning of the town's annual event. Evidently our school joined forces with our neighboring public school in running the small town's celebration. The two schools rotated on a yearly basis in regards to who hosted and every year staff and students from both would assemble the week before in the primary host's school gym to hold a rally. Evidently this year it was my school's turn so I had to get ready to go as I looked at the casual style school uniform laying spread out on the top of my bed.

During the summer months and warmer climate it was a white short sleeved button up shirt sporting the school's logo on the upper left chest along with khaki style shorts and tan colored casual shoes that weren't sneaks, but still comfortable. It didn't look all that bad and could have been way worse I suppose, but still it was just another thing I wasn't going to enjoy about going to a private school. Looking at the time I shrugged my shoulders figuring it was a good idea to get there early since I've never been to that school before and I wanted to have a look around first. So I finished dressing before slinging my pack stuffed with supplies over my shoulders, locking up, and hopping on my bike. I would have preferred going to the ceremony on base with my dad today since an award was being presented to him from his last tour, but he had insisted it was important for me to make a first impression at school.

It was hot outside and sticky like always, but I was getting used to it as I casually pedaled along deciding to cut through a park area. As a typical teenager I was enjoying the long lazy summer days and pedaled along casually as I took in some of the sights along the way. It was actually kind of quiet today with my thoughts flittering around nothing in particular. I was about to veer over and hop back on to a paved sidewalk when I heard some shouting and yelling forcing me to slow down.

It sounded like some older kids arguing or taunting one another, but something seemed kind of off when I heard another higher pitched sound that was more like a screech than anything else. I could tell right away it was the voice of a much younger kid mixed in with several older boys and something about it made me wander over. As I got closer the hair on the back of my neck suddenly stood up because the younger boy was now screaming at the top of his lungs and what was worse I recognized it. My heart instantly leaped into my throat as I tore across the grassy knoll, topping a rise aiming to plunge into a group of older kids that had Colton held down. The smaller boy was trying desperately to get away and was bawling his eyes out while the older kids teased and smacked him around.

They had stripped him naked with his clothes strewn all over the place indicating Colton had put up a pretty good fight even though he didn't stand a chance because we were talking about two sixteen year old teens and a fifteen year old one against a defenseless eleven year old boy.

"See, I told you, he's got a puny pecker just like his older brother." I heard one of the older boys scoff who I recognized as David and Carter's primary bully for all these years.

My blood was boiling now as my bike launched into the air as it topped the rise and I slammed right into Ricky, the boy I had confronted the first day I had met Carter. It sent the other boy flying several feet as he tumbled on to the grass. Once I slammed into the other boy I was sent over the handlebars of my bike and suddenly found myself rolling head over heels for several feet coming to a stop. My head was spinning and I felt some pain along my body where I had hit the ground a bit hard. I didn't have time to reflect on it though because I was hauled up on my feet as I tried to get my bearing.

"Hold him up." I heard a leering voice when my gut suddenly exploded in pain and I doubled over trying to gasp for air.

After that I felt several punches being landed all over me as I tried to scramble away. One of the boys grabbed at me, but that's when all hell broke loose because instinct suddenly took over. All I knew was that one moment someone was wrenching my wrist and the next moment I was free with someone yelping out in pain. It had to be Peter who I downed because from the corner of my eye I saw David fist just before it slammed into the side of my face. The force rocked me back several steps as he moved in and punched me in the gut yet again making me wheeze for air. I could hear him mocking me as he landed several more punches which made me stumble. I just about fell down as I held out my hand for stability pushing against the ground and somehow managing to keep myself up. I'm not sure how it happened, but when I straightened back up I was holding Colton's skateboard in my hand and swung it at David who was approaching me.

My swing barely missed, but it definitely scared the crap out of him because he paused and we squared off. I was trying to gasp for air, but my entire body ached and was about to give in. Instinct took over though and I knew I couldn't show any weakness or I'd be done in for sure as I straightened up stiffening my spine in resolve despite all my muscles protesting and held the skateboard back in the ready position. The other two boys joined David and all three of us stared at each other. I could tell Ricky was hurting from when I had slammed into him with my bike because he was limping while holding his arm and shoulder. Glancing towards Peter he was pretty much the same way as I realized I must have flipped him on his ass none too gently when he grabbed on to my wrist. I'm sure I had wrenched his arm pretty good because it was currently hanging slackly at his side.

"Shit…David…let's go before someone else shows up. We've done enough damage." Peter insisted, his buddy pausing for a second while eyeing me and the board before nodding his head.

"Yeah, this here prick got the message alright. Don't forget…," he pointed at me nodding his head to his buddies. "We will be gunning for you and we'll get you again sooner or later when you least expect it. You wanna hang out with that girly boy Carter, well you'll find out what we do to sissified peckerless faggots." He leered backing away as the other guys picked up some of their stuff scattered around from the scuffle while I stood tall never letting my eyes off them until they finally turned and ran off.

Without warning my legs gave out and I collapsed on to the grass feeling lightheaded realizing I hadn't been breathing. The wind had been knocked out of me and there was a fleeting thought I might just suffocate for sure when my chest abruptly seemed to loosen up and I began gasping for air taking in one huge lungful after another. My head began to clear up while pain took over slamming into my body. It was so intense all I wanted to do was lay down and curl up, but the gut wrenching sobs coming from Colton stopped me and I somehow managed to crawl over to the smaller boy.

He was all curled up in a fetal position his smooth tanned naked body shuddering in pain and fear. His skin had that smooth dark buttery like tone from head to toe with a stark pale patch of contrast around the middle where he wore his shorts indicating just how much time he spent outside in the open air shirtless. Even his feet and toes were tanned since he tended to get barefoot a lot unless he was actually skate boarding. There have been plenty of times when I spotted him removing his socks and shoes while he sat down and relaxed after a session on the plaza with his board.

Reaching out I touched him lightly on the shoulder feeling him flinch and cry out in fear. "P-please don't hurt me!" He yelped his high pitched voice piercing the quietness that had mysteriously settled around us.

"Shhhh, it-it's alright Colton. It's me…Pim. The other guys…they're gone now, it's just us." I tried to sooth him gently, seeing him stirring and noticing the blood along his mouth and nose making me realize they had not only stripped him naked but actually beat the snot out of him which made me furious.

When Colton realized it was me he immediately uncurled and pressed his soft warm naked body into my chest and stomach wrapping one arm around my neck and the other one just under my arm as we huddled together on the ground. Pain made me hiss, but I held him just as tightly hearing him begin to cry and sob unconcerned about his own naked state out here in the open. The contact of his bare skin on my own exposed chest and stomach made me realize for the first time that at some point my shirt had been torn off in the scuffle.

The smaller eleven year old boy was completely starkers, with even his shoes and socks having been ripped off of him making me a little worried someone would see us like this. At the moment what mattered most though was to let the smaller boy cry himself out so I let him get it all out for a couple of minutes while we held on to one another. After a minute or two his sniffles slowed and we separated from each other slightly his eyes gazing into my face and wincing noticing for the first time how I had gotten beaten up.

"D-did that h-happen because of me?" He hiccupped while I shook my head.

"No, because of them." I replied glancing down and seeing him truly naked for the very first time, his little one and a half inch pale flaccid tube jutting slightly outwards just above his small boy bag which oddly enough despite its size was actually hanging loosely between his wiry thighs.

The smaller boy still didn't seem to notice his naked state as I sighed looking back up into his soft brown eyes. "Um…I think it might be a good idea to put that little birdie back in its cage." I suggested seeing him furl up his eyes.

"Huh?" He asked questioningly while I chuckled and reached down giving his little boy twig a brief friendly grope to emphasize what I meant hearing him yelp in surprise and suddenly cover up with his hands trying to hide his nakedness.

"You know…cage up that skittish sandpiper before it gets away leaving its bare nest exposed for some vicious little beastie to sneak up and steal." I teased making a playful lunge not really intending to grope him but still hearing the other boy chirp and giggle at my playfulness allowing him to forget for a moment what had happened to him.

While he kept his princely treasure trove covered, blushing about fifty shades of red, I winced as I stood back up looking around for his clothes. I spotted his blue colored silky like gym shorts and polo shirt quickly retrieving them but not seeing his underwear. Sighing, I made my way back over and kneeled down while he stood up his hands sliding away from his boyhood when he lost his balance forcing him to hang on to my shoulders.

My eyes widened in surprise because his small one and a half inch soft candy cane and little ornaments jiggled around about six inches in front of my face. It's the first time I sort of got this kind of up close personal glimpse of his eleven year old boy goods as he steadied himself not bothering to cover up now since it was too late anyway. Like his older brother he had a really beautiful looking body with the same kind of medium build. His body was solid and tight with even some abs like muscles surprising me at first until I realized it really shouldn't considering how much exercise he got on a daily basis just by boarding. Without saying a word I held open his shorts helping him slip first on foot and then the other one making sure they were planted on firm ground before sliding the silky material up his legs, over his limp noodle and hanging brain, allowing the gummy material to snug up along his slim waistline. The smaller boy watched me attentively and then gave me another firm hug holding on and sniffling, a bit embarrassed about having to be dressed like a little three year old.

"It's alright Colton, we won't say anything about this part to anyone." I sighed hearing him sniffle and nod his head.

"I-I really don't care about you seeing me…um…you know…naked. I mean…maybe a little." He admitted blushing a bit about it now.

The little guy wasn't shy about his body like his older brother and I imagine in certain instances me seeing him naked probably wouldn't bother him so much, but this was a little different. In a way, this situation left him a little vulnerable and exposed. I suppose it was only natural to be a bit shy about your nakedness in this scenario.

"It-it's just…," he shrugged his shoulders, falling silent for a couple of seconds. "It just sucks what those guys did…you know." He sniffled while I nodded before he lent me a helping hand so I could stand up wincing in the process from the pain of the beat down.

We looked around finding his shoes and the rest of his stuff and at the last moment I spotted his underwear tossed over by a bush. I picked them up and walking over to my bike I bent over picking up my daypack and shoved his cartooned boy's bikini briefs inside before righting my bike. He was pretty shook up so I walked my bike while he stepped in line next to me putting his hand in mine as we made our way home.

Dropping Colton off I told his mom briefly what had happened since the younger boy was too embarrassed to say anything and I could tell she was really upset about it thanking me profusely for looking out after her son. She invited me inside, but I told her I had to get changed and make my way back over to school because of the rally going on in preparation for next week's celebration.

Mrs. Chasson thanked me again and I quickly stopped over at my house getting cleaned up with a damp rag as best as possible before getting changed into a new shirt. My dad had bought a slew of them figuring I'd be going through them rather quickly either from my funky body odor or simply due to being an active teenager. Changing into a new pair of shorts I locked up and since my bike was messed up a bit simply began to walk to school knowing it wouldn't take too long if I cut through some yards.

Being familiar with the area now, I began cutting through the houses popping out and crossing streets only to duck between more houses. It was on one of these occasions when I happened to cut through a yard spotting David all alone and chatting on his cell phone joking around about what happened. He didn't even hear me as he finished up and I stepped right up to him slamming my fist into his temple.

The sixteen year old boy's eyes glazed over, fluttering to the back of his head before he crumpled into a heap on the grass. I was so pissed for what he had done to Colton that I straddled over him and slapped his cheeks lightly to wake him up. The boy's eyes gradually fluttered open slowly coming into focus and widened in fear when he saw my fist just as it slammed into his mouth.

His head snapped back and he yelled out in pain with blood spurting from his split lip. My next punch landed right on his sensitive nose as pain suddenly exploded all over his features blood gushing out making a big mess. He managed to get his hands up trying to protect himself, but it was useless as I slammed my fist several more times into his face the jerk's cries of pain piercing the air. He was a blubbering little baby now, totally defeated and in a crumpled heap as I wrapped my hands around the front of his shirt pulling him closer to me all the while he kept blubbering and begging for mercy seeing none of it in my cold piercing blue eyes.

"Listen you fucking asshole, you think you and your buddies are gunning for me, well guess again. Let this be a lesson loud and clear. Somewhere at some point you will be alone and that is when I will be there to beat you within an inch of your life. Remember, there were three of you and I fought and held you off. I'm not easy prey to the likes of you three cowards and I will never back down. Whatever you guys dish out you will get back three times worse. Today it is you, tomorrow it will be one of them and just so they get the message." I spat, once again balling up my fist and this time socking him right in the eye.

I knew he would end up with a shiner for sure and it was something he wouldn't be able to hide. This would feed into the fear for his friends with them never knowing when they will be next. This was a method of conquer and divide because just like David they would now know if I ever caught them alone we were going to dance.

Standing up I left David curled up on the ground all alone and messed up royally as I looked down at myself. "Fucking asshole, now look at what you done made me do. This is the fucking third time I've got to change into a fresh shirt." I hissed as I gave him a swift hard kick right in his nuts making him squeak like a little girl as I smiled with a little satisfaction. "Now who's the little sissified girl?" I added just for the principle of the matter, knowing that making it clear to him how I was willing and able to go the distance would rapidly end any further issues.

Bullies always needed to learn the hard way that sometimes it doesn't pay to pick on certain people. They may win the battle, but they will also have to pay the price. This was simply a way of letting them know that they now also had skin in the game and I wasn't messing around folding like some sheep being sent to the fleecing house to be sheered naked. I wasn't exactly proud of what I had done, but I had to be strong as I once again made my way home to get changed.

This time when I stepped in front of the mirror I winced because my shirt was covered in splattered blood. Grimacing, I quickly removed my shirt suddenly feeling more than a little disgusted at my viciousness. My stomach began to do some flip flops which sent me over to the toilet bowl as the contents in my stomach heaved and I puked. Several more heaves wracked my body leaving me gasping for air because my stomach ached now both inside and out due to the contractions of throwing up and also from where I had been punched in the gut several times. Even my hands were covered in David's blood as I stood up and began washing up yet again.

By the time I finally made it to my new school I barely managed to slip into the assembly just as the ROTC cadets from our sister school began the opening ceremony. I found a spot towards the end of the row of seats standing next to other kids I didn't know yet and placed my hand over my heart as one of the uniformed ROTC cadets passed in front of the assembly with the American Flag. The cadets posted the flags they were carrying and marched in perfect cadence back to their seats among their fellow cadets in a section reserved just for them off to the side. An elderly uniformed man remained standing up front with some of the other staff members by the podium.

I watched as a lady stepped up to the microphone motioning for everyone to get seated and I sort of figured she must be the one who was our principal at school, or rather, that is to say headmistress. I've never been to a private school before so it was going to take some getting used to with the little nuances of differences in the mode of formal address; once again making me wonder why my folks would put me in such a pompous type of school. From what I've been able to find out it was a fairly typical snobbish type of school, mostly for the rich with a small percentage of students here on scholarships.

The headmistress introduced herself, addressing the assembled students. "I'm headmistress Francine Covington and I would like to…," she smiled almost spitefully as she gazed over towards the section where the uniformed teenagers were sitting, "thank the members of the ROTC honor core for being here and providing us with the opening ceremony." She started out while to me it sort of sounded like she wasn't truly thankful for their presence at all, which was almost immediately confirmed. "As you all well know we do not allow military uniforms on our esteemed academy, but once a year we welcome the cadets in the spirit of cooperation with our neighboring sister school."

Right from the get go I could tell she was also a person who had been raised in a more affluent setting because the flippant arrogance just exuded out of her by the way she seemed to speak down to all of the students. Her eyes wandered over everyone casually as she spouted out the typical dribble for such an occasion her gaze finally settling on to me as she wrapped things up with a leering grin appearing on her features.

There was a short pause after finishing her usual speech with her tone now shifting and becoming even more arrogant. "Students before we begin, it has become a tradition for our highly esteemed institution to address any ethical outstanding issues that may have come to our attention. As headmistress along with the staff here at the Vassar Highland Academy we have come to expect nothing but the highest moral behavior and standards from our students. We try to instill a sense of pride and honor in all of our students, but do provide every leniencies with new students until they can acclimate to our more rigorous expectations." She paused for effect as those from the school seemed to know by her tone what was coming as she once more spoke up.

"Yet, at times we cannot stand by when an egregious act goes so powerfully against our principles even coming from someone new to our esteemed institution. In light of what we have just found out it is extremely important we now address such an inappropriate behavior from a new student in the utmost haste; providing it due diligence and applying a suitable motivational behavioral changes which flies in the face of our principles." She addressed the assembled students from both schools while a sort of dread began to sink inside of me because this didn't sound good as it now got deathly quiet in the large assembly hall due to the heavy nature of her words.

"Mr. Pim Merckx would you be so kind as come to the front and face your fellow classmates so we can address your callous actions. It is important for all of our esteemed students to be a witness to proceedings and actions we are forced to take towards another student for such an egregious act against all the moral and standards we hold dear at our esteemed academy." She requested staring directly at me which was more of a command as two large men in security uniforms stepped forward placing their hands on my shoulders prompting me to do as told.

Swallowing the lump in my throat I gathered my composure and stood up keeping a straight back as I made my way up to the front. I was nervous as an alley cat and more than a little frightened, but I wasn't a coward despite knowing what was happening had to be totally wrong on so many levels. I suppose I wasn't the only one because I saw a man stepping up next to her with his back to the other students and in a soft tone spoke out.

"Francine this is extremely unorthodox and completely uncalled for here." He stated his voice carrying despite trying to be quiet about it.

"Don't be silly and need I remind you this is my school and we do things my way here." She insisted while he glanced over towards me and shook his head.

"I'm warning you Francine this isn't going to work out well at all." He insisted.

"Don't be so daft. It's not like he's one of the kids from a well to do family. He's here on scholarship." She insisted as if it made everything right while the man shook his head and started to say something.

"If you don't like it…leave." She insisted as he opened up his mouth and closed it staring at her sternly.

It was obvious he was tempted, but he glanced towards me and tried to give me a pleasant smile of support staying where he was, I suppose if nothing else to be there for me. I took my place a few paces off to headmistress Covington's side and faced the assembled students with a firm look on my features noticing how the two uniformed security guards maintained a firm grip on my shoulders daring me to try anything.

"Thank you for at least showing a bit of courage despite your cowardly act not more than thirty minutes earlier." She derided turning her attention back to the assembled student. "I'm sure many of you are wondering why…," she began when a strong tone boomed through the assembly hall cutting her off.

"That will be just about enough of this." The voice cut through her aloof speech, it now becoming deathly quiet because of the commanding tone coming from a man who meant business as he stood in the slight shadows of the entranceway into the grand hall.

It even caught the headmistress by surprise with her becoming speechless for several moments as she tried to recover. "Excuse me, this is highly unorthodox to say the least, and for your information we have a rule about military personal wearing uniforms on campus. It isn't allowed." She became haughty noticing the uniformed individual despite the man standing in the shadows

"Really…," the man replied sternly. "I didn't see it in any of the written rules and regulations, and believe me I read those very closely. It is not something I take lightly Ms. Covington." The man stated calmly.

"It's an unspoken rule and you will address me as Headmistress Covington…Mr.," She paused waiting for the man to respond who in turn cocked his head to the side for a moment and nodded responding back just as formerly.

"It's Command Sergeant Major Merckx." My dad stated firmly.

"Ah…I see. Well Mr. Merckx we have rules and policies regarding matters such as this and you would have been informed in due diligence as to the outcome of such proceedings that have a bearing on all of the students here at the academy. At the moment this is between young Pim here and the academy." She retorted dismissively.

"Well Ms. Covington…," my dad began using the informal address since she had done the same getting cut off as her voice rose a couple of notches higher.

"It's Headmistress Covington and you will show me all due courtesy and respect my position affords me." Her voice squeaked demandingly.

"Courtesy is a two way street and I showed good faith where you haven't. As for respect that is earned and as of yet you haven't presented yourself in a fashion worthy of said respect." My dad snapped back in a commanding tone that brooked no argument. "As I was saying…," he reverted smoothly. "I can respect rules and regulations from any fine establishment such as this so long as the people in power do not abuse their authority. You pretend to espouse honor and tradition yet will conduct a hearing without so much as an opportunity for a person to defend themselves. Being judge, jury, and executioner is very unbecoming and I'm sure not what the founders of this institution had in mind whether it be a person here on scholarship or not. If anything, that in and of itself shows a total disregard for the precepts of honor and respect." He insisted, stepping forward his dress shoes clacking firmly on the wooden floor as he approached with the entire room having gone completely silent making his powerful even cadence deafening.

My dad's features were firm and steady as he approached, and even though he wasn't a big man he looked very imposing decked out in his military formal dress uniform reminding me he probably had to leave his own special awards ceremony to be here. From the comment made by the headmistress it made me wonder how he had found out since she had indicated his presence wasn't requested. His chest was filled with a myriad of colored ribbons from various campaigns over the years which only a discerning military eye could probably truly decipher. The clacking sounds of his shoes on the hard wooden floor echoed dauntingly in the stuffy like assembly hall steeped in decades of pomp and ceremony as he approached.

Just before my dad came to a stop I heard the elderly man who was dressed in a uniform gasp for a split second before gathering his composure and abruptly snapping to attention presenting a crisp salute which he held. As soon as this happened, all the cadets who were seated off to the side immediately followed suit snapping to attention presenting my father with a salute. Even the man who had spoken up for me earlier and was dressed in a regular suit automatically came to attention giving my father a firm salute standing completely stiff and erect holding it in place.

"Just what on…," Headmistress Covington eyes darted around as she started to protest when my father's firm commanding tone cut through her yet again silencing the woman as he addressed the extremely large imposing men holding a firm grip on my shoulders.

"If you two overstuffed pincushions prefer to retain your limbs intact I would suggest you expeditiously unhand my son." My father's tone made very clear, but the two oversized baboons gave my dad a condescending smirk as they sized him up figuring they were relatively safe.

The man who had stood up for me was still standing at attention with his hand holding solid in the salute position, but from the corner of his mouth he hissed out in a none too quiet fashion. "Idiots, do as he says because those damn ribbons pinned to his chest isn't there to look pretty. Most of them indicate his years of combat experience, not to mention a few which have a much deeper meaning if you get my drift. If not, I leave you with this thought. Delta Special Forces; I'd advice you to think quickly if you want to be left with arms that still work here after a minute or two." He counseled, my father's determined hard gaze never leaving the other two men.

"Mr. Merckx, there's no…," Headmistress Covington began to speak up again with my dad cutting her off and none too politely this time as he snapped briskly.

"That's Command Sergeant Major to you if you please, and gentlemen I won't be asking you again." My dad finished his eyes flashing sharply at the imposing individuals who had a firm grip on my shoulders which they immediately released taking a step back evidently not wanting any of what my father had to offer.

With that my father returned the crisp salute turning his attention to the assembly. "My apologies for this…," he paused glancing at the headmistress before continuing, "impromptu interruption." He sounded sincere. "If you will excuse us I'm sure some of the other staff members can continue on without Headmistress Covington while we take this discussion into a more…appropriate setting." He smiled pleasantly his demeanor having immediately shifted as he started to step away before pausing and looking at the crowd again. "Oh…and of course we will require the presence of David Williamson to join us since you are also an integral player in this." My dad insisted looking around for several seconds and when the asshole didn't stand up my father simply turned towards the ROTC cadets of to the side. "I'm sure a couple of you can locate Mr. Williamson for me and escort him to Headmistress Covington's office." He asked with two senior ranking cadets immediately taking a step forward and pausing in a rigid stance.

"Yes Command Sergeant Major." The two uniformed teenagers replied in unison immediately making their way towards the plush seating sections with other students scrambling to move out of the way while my dad motioned for me to join him.

Draping his arm over my shoulder we walked towards the door leading into the hallway, my dad not even bothering to see who was following us as he glanced over at me. "When I left this morning and said it is important to make an impression this is not what I had in mind." He told me seriously shaking his head, but giving me a wink of support.

It was like a firestorm in the small office with Headmistress Covington going ballistic for several long moments, my dad remaining quiet and letting her plow ahead as she kept rambling on. I found out during some of the exchange that the man who had stuck up for me was Principle Moore from the other school next to ours. David had joined us and we both sat in a chair a couple of feet apart inside the room while the adults stood around grumbling. The other boy was wearing sunglasses trying to hide a nice shiner that was making its presence known. He looked pretty banged up and I knew I didn't look much better as he glowered at me looking as if he was going to spit fire at some slight or other.

"Command Sergeant Major Merckx," Headmistress Covington began after her tirade with my dad holding up his hand apologetically.

"Let's dispense with the formalities and call me Merck or Mr. Merckx, whichever you prefer. It's much easier don't you think?" He asserted with Ms. Covington nodding her head grudgingly agreeing it might just be for the best at this stage.

"Mr. Merckx, I must insist you not show up looking like…like that." She insisted, my dad furling up his eyes as she tried to clarify. "The uniform…we do not wish to promote that sort of confusion within our students. It's not something we advocate and it is against school policy." She insisted.

"What exactly is that?" My dad countered. "The confusion…that is to say. Is it so confusing to serve a higher cause which is a noble and honorable endeavor?" He asked point blank. "Are you trying to say you are perfectly fine with a parent who wears a uniform of a police officer, firefighter, ambulance worker, or even janitors yet oppose someone who puts on a military uniform to defend the rights of individuals such as yourself? Take a look out your window and tell me what you see?" He asked seeing her glancing out and furling her eyes. "See that American Flag, well without people like me you would perhaps be seeing a very different kind of flag flying out there so don't lecture me on what you say is school policy. My profession is no less important than any other parent's around here and there is no honor in lying. Attempting to say it is against the school's policy is perpetuating the lie. You might get away with it in regards to other military families at the school, but come the start of the school year you can be assured I plan of having that rectified immediately." My dad promised with Ms. Covington rolling her eyes at my dad while Mr. Moore pursed his lips, subtly making hand signs to her trying to reign her in a little with very little success.

"Yes, well we shall see. Perhaps in the interest of keeping the peace between us for now it might be a good idea we call upon your wife to see to these matters." She insisted with my dad looking at her and suddenly bellowing a full blown belly laugh shaking his head while she gawked at him confused and a bit miffed. "I do not see anything funny about this." She insisted while my dad held up his hand apologetically.

"I'm sorry it's just you don't know my wife and believe me if it is the peace you wish to keep you are better off with me. Usually my wife does see to these things since I've been gone most of the time, and she is a gentle good hearted woman, but believe me she is a Texan through and through brought up not in the city, but on the ranch working hard all her life with deep rooted pride and ethics. Let's just say if she would have caught you doing what you attempted today with Pim she would have simply decked you and beat you to a pulp; either that or peppered your pretty butt full of rock salt with her rifle. I suppose it would depend on how riled up you got her." He explained even catching me by surprise as Ms. Covington recoiled backwards in complete shock and horror.

In the meanwhile David seemed amused by the exchange and was flipping a coin in the air casually throughout the exchange looking a bit smug. Suddenly, my dad's hand flashed outwards snatching up the coin before David could catch it. The boy immediately stood up confronting my dad which I thought was a dumb ass move.

"Hey, give it back thief." He spat vehemently my father staring him down not in the least bit amused by the comment before taking a closer look at the coin.

"Interesting choice of words…David." My dad commented looking back over at the sixteen year old boy who had taken a step back, but remained defiant. "This is a very nice challenge coin and very rare if I'm not mistaken." He added with the boy nodding his head. "Where'd you get it?" He asked, the sixteen year old boy shrugging casually.

"Everyone around here knows I've been collecting them for years. I've got just about all of the ones from the units at Ft. Bragg already. I've had that one for a couple of years now." He looked at my dad sideways, but his mannerism didn't quite come off right as he tried to clarify. "I had to trade a few doubles I had to get it." He added my dad nodding.

"I see," my dad nodded. "I just thought your accusatory tone with me was interesting considering the slogan on the back written in Latin…'honora in primis.' Do you know what it means?" He asked, David nodding and shrugging.

"Yeah sure, something about honor." He smiled looking all smug.

"Yes, something like that and considering you've had it for a while now and it is such a prized challenge coin I would have figured you to have investigated further by now. It means 'honor first and foremost' which is something you have none of so I think perhaps I will return this where it belongs." He told the other teen firmly who immediately took a step forward making another accusation.

"Give it back that's mine you filthy stinking thief." He shouted before quickly back pedaling when my dad confronted his challenge by simply taking a threatening step forward and giving the boy a crooked grin.

"Mr. Merckx this is really…," Ms. Covington began with my dad swiveling around facing her square on making her take an involuntary step back as well before he looked over to the other man who had remained quiet the entire time not looking pleased with his counter part.

"Mr. Moore, I understand you are a Marine." My dad pointed out.

"Ex Marine," Ms. Covington smirked, my dad staring her down as he spoke softly.

"I'm truly surprised at you Ms. Covington. For a woman who is highly educated you seem to lack any knowledge of the young scholars who make up about ten percent of this student body. There is a reason why the military has coined the term 'Once A Marine Always A Marine.' Perhaps you could see fit to do your due diligence by the time we meet up again and put that so called brain of yours to good use." My dad criticized the woman as she cringed because she was being outwitted at every turn, something she wasn't used to or liked.

"Anyway," my dad focused his attention on the other man as I began to realize the two of them must have talked at some point in time, perhaps when my dad was checking out the schools around here. "What can you tell young David here about this particular Challenge coin and why I take offense to his accusations?" My dad stated handing over the coin to the other man as he took it and looked it over.

"Well, it's a Delta Special Forces coin, so kind of rare in that aspect and difficult to come by, but…" he pointed out shrugging his shoulders indicating that yes it was kind of rare and special but not necessarily as he flipped it over and then suddenly gasped. "I…I…oh…I'm sorry, here…," he held it out with shaking hands but my dad smiled and pulled a pad out of his pocket tossing it on the table. "Maybe this will help out even more." He added watching as Principle Moore picked it up and start flipping through the pages.

"Mr. Merckx," Ms. Covington started to speak up again, but this time it was Mr. Moore who cut her off.

"For Pete's sake Francine, just shut the hell up for once before you make the situation untenable and a worse ass out of yourself. You have no idea what David just tried to accuse Command Sergeant Major Merckx of, but this is really bad. There's no way David traded for this coin, certainly not a couple of years ago and the recipient of this challenge coin wouldn't give it up so lightly." He hissed, looking up nervously at my dad.

"That's a lie." David insisted with Mr. Moore staring at the boy sternly.

"Not another word out of you young man. Geeze, I can't believe the absolute mess you've created. This isn't yours because there are only a handful of these made. They are very personal ones made especially for Command Sergeant Merckx himself."

"That's a bunch of crap." David insisted. "These aren't personalized and are unit coin designs. That's how it works." He insisted.

"Well there are exceptions to the rule, and the Command Sergeant Major is one of those exceptions." Mr. Moore snapped back.

"Oh please, let's stop this idiocy right now. The boy collects these things so he would know." Ms. Covington insisted with Mr. Moore shaking his head.

"He doesn't know squat and neither do you. Both of you two are total idiots. You for not learning the first thing about a tenth of your students and this here boy who is an outright liar and the biggest piece of trash I've ever had the displeasure of knowing. You talk of honor, well do you want to know why all the cadets and retired military personnel saluted someone who is only a Sergeant?" He asked looking between Ms. Covington and David who both gazed back totally confused.

"Hell, you really don't have a clue. Francine you cozy up all buddy like with one of your student's fathers because he's a general. Well just for the record you put the General in the room with this here lonely Sergeant and it will be the general saluting, not the other way around. We salute the rank, not the man, but in this case we also salute the award, the highest one awarded in the military. Even officers will salute a lower ranking man if he is wearing the Medal of Honor or the ribbon on his chest. You are looking at a war hero of the highest caliber and as such he has the right to a personalized challenge coin he designs himself to hand out to people he thinks deserving. There are perhaps only a handful of them and he happens to keep track of who he hands them out to. See here." He plopped the pad on the table pointing out the number thirteen with Carter's name listed and then pointed to the number on the coin.

"Like I said, this is very unusual because the Sergeant actually keeps track of who he hands them out to and you David have just been caught in a lie, but what is worse you have tried to dishonor perhaps one of the most honorable men you will ever meet in your life. You disgust me." He finished off when we heard a new voice coming from a woman.

"I can't agree with you more." Mrs. Chasson's strong voice cut in catching Ms. Covington by surprise who was going to say something, but at the last moment clamped it shut while Colton's mom marched inside the room with the eleven year old banged up boy in tow.

When Colton saw me he immediately ran over crawling into my lap and holding on to me tightly as he sniffled. "I…I told mom everything." He let out a little sob.

"Faggots," David scoffed with a sneering smile which was suddenly wiped off his smug face when Mrs. Chasson slapped him none too lightly his whole body rocking backwards.

The teen yelped in pain and surprise holding his hand up to his cheek while Ms. Covington recovered and started to step forward. "You can't do something like that to a student." She gasped before once more stepping back when Mrs. Chasson rounded on her with a furious look on her features pointing a finger at the other woman.

"You keep out of this because I'm not in the mood." She stated firmly rounding back on the boy. "I want that phone you filthy bastard. Finding out what you did to Carter all those years back makes me furious, but what else Colton just told me makes me sick to my stomach. Either hand over the phone now or I swear to god I'll beat the living snot out of you right here right now and gladly go to prison for it. The phone…NOW!" She snapped the sixteen year old boy so shocked he simply handed it over.

She snatched it from his hands and looked at it suddenly not so sure what to do next. Looking over at my father she held it out to him. "I-I could you please search it for pictures or videos of-of…they filmed it Merck, they filmed beating up Colton and stripping him naked. I-I need to know he didn't send it out to anyone or post it online. It's not right what he did, but posting it for everyone to see would make me sick to my stomach." She began to sob catching all of us by surprise by the accusation.

"That's a lie," David insisted, but having lost all credibility as my dad took the smart phone with him to a corner of the room motioning for Mr. Moore to follow him. Ms. Covington began to follow along, but Colton suddenly sat up and squeaked in protest.

"N-no, oh god, please don't look at it." He begged my dad obviously embarrassed someone would see him naked like that. "I mean…I-I guess it is alright if you and Mr. Moore see it, but please, no one else." He pleaded glancing anxiously towards his mom and Ms. Covington when to my surprise David had the gall to speak making another snide remark.

"It's not as if anyone could actually see any of your girly parts…um…that is if anything really happened." He tried to backpedal too late from his statement since in essence it was pretty much a confession.

It was in his sadistic nature I suppose and he couldn't help it, but he paid for it when he was rocked backwards again when Mrs. Chasson slapped him hard across the mouth yet again. Even I winced, but in a way the sound was satisfying because I really began to loath the kid. He was sadistic and mean through and through, and I had the feeling no matter what happened here today this wasn't going to be over with between us.

It took about ten minutes with an uncomfortable nervousness settling over the room. My dad and Mr. Moore indicated there weren't any pictures but they did locate a video and started playing it. Even without seeing it what I heard was disgusting as the vicious taunts from David and the other two boys were relentless against Colton. You could hear the scuffle and the way the younger boy was thrashed around, not to mention him being stripped naked. Then there was another damning tidbit of evidence with David shouting in triumph when he found the Challenge Coin in Colton's pocket. The younger boy pleaded for him not to take it because it belonged to his older brother. This resulted in a whole new slew of obscenities in regard to Carter with the confession of what they had done to him a few years back. Then there was the moment when I had intervened and the fight that ensued afterwards until there was the standoff and the resultant retreat.

Even Ms. Covington looked sick to her stomach as she comforted Colton's mom, the first sign I've seen of a human side from the headmistress. All the while the eleven year old boy remained somber and lost in his thoughts wiping away tears as he cried softly because this was so horribly embarrassing. My dad and Mr. Moore messed around with David's phone some more before coming back over. It was Mr. Moore who spoke up.

"Mrs. Chasson what those boys did to Colton today and to Carter years ago is outrageous. From what we can tell he hasn't sent the video out to anyone yet or posted it anywhere. I'm going to confiscate it and will hand it over to the police so they can take a closer look at it to make sure it wasn't sent out anywhere." He told Colton's mom softly.

"What the fuck…no way, that's personal property. You have no right." David insisted with Mr. Moore shaking his head.

"You are wrong there David. As a school official I have to report these things to the authority. It's the law. You are the one that brought this whole situation to our attention and since you are a student over at my school the brunt of the responsibility falls to me. I will have to turn over the phone to the police for investigation."

It was Colton now who suddenly sat upright in my lap his eyes getting big and round. "N-nooooo, oh my god, nooooo, please don't hand it over. It will get out and everyone will tease me about it." Colton began to panic while David once again simply couldn't help it and seemed to snigger.

"Serves you right girly boy." He got out, but barely because it was Mr. Moore who grabbed David by the collar pulling back his fist and by sheer will somehow managed not to beat him to a pulp.

With a growl he hollered towards the door for the school's security guard who he knew was probably standing close by and within moments one of them stepped in looking around curiously. "Please take David over to my office and keep him there until I finish up over here. Keep a close eye on him and if he so much as moves a muscle belt him." He instructed getting a leering smile from the hulking man who eyed David critically as if daring the boy to do anything right away.

My dad looked at his watch and sighed shaking his head. "I can't stay and have to go." He stated with Ms. Covington looking a bit stern.

"Mr. Merckx I'm sure the awards ceremony will do just fine without you. We still have a lot of unresolved issues between us and I'm sure once I explain it to the General he won't hold it against you." She waved it off flippantly with my father raising his eyebrow.

"That may be how things work in the civilian world Ms. Covington, but not in the military life. Besides, I think the General would frown at the notion of me not showing up to my own award ceremony." My dad explained while Ms. Covington raised her eyebrow.

"As if you don't already have enough trinkets." She countered flippantly getting a hard stare from Mr. Moore as he tried to smooth it over.

"Oh, well yes of course by all means. I'm sure Francine and I can sort things out. Can I ask what they will be awarding you?" He wondered curiously, his eyes flashing towards the rows of ribbons on my dad's chest obviously recognizing most if not all that was on display.

My dad sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "The Distinguished Service Cross."

Mr. Moore smiled appreciatively while Ms. Covington rolled her eyes. "Impressive, how many does that make?" He asked looking at my dads ribbons noticing the one already there for one he was awarded at a previous time.

"I'll be receiving my first oak leaf cluster to put on the ribbon." My dad winced, not really one to enjoy this topic of conversation.

People always were impressed by his many accomplishments and even though my dad grudgingly accepted when he was awarded something he rarely felt he truly deserved them. He wasn't a braggart and always tried to be low key about these things as I heard Mr. Moore whistling appreciatively.

"My goodness, two Distinguished Service Cross in all not to mention I see a bronze star with three oak leaf clusters so four in all, and three purple hearts just to mention a few, very impressive indeed, not to mention the all important Medal of Honor. Command Sergeant Major thank you for your service and your time here today. Our apologies." He insisted shaking my father's hand.

My dad turned towards Mrs. Chasson and smiled. "Thank you for thinking about calling me. You were right about it perhaps morphing into something bigger. Will you see that Pim gets home safely?" He asked in a way that indicated he wanted an adult around to keep an eye out just in case while also answering a part of my earlier question regarding how he had found out as she smiled and nodded commenting quickly of how thankful she was that I was around to save Colton.

My dad turned his focus on to the younger boy. "You alright little man?" He asked with the boy nodding his head and looking at all the ribbons on my dad's chest not completely understanding what it was all about, but realizing it was something special that few men could ever achieve in their lifetimes. "Here, I'm sure you will want to give this back to your brother." My dad told the boy handing him back the special challenge coin.

"I-I didn't just take it. Carter said it would be alright for me to take it over to my friend's house so he could compare it. He was looking for this one on the internet trying to find out more about it since Carter says you and Pim didn't tell him much, only that it was special. I guess it sort of makes sense now because you designed it and there aren't that many out there. Carter told me all about how these are supposed to work." He admitted with my dad smiling and nodding his head.

"I wasn't worried if you had permission or not. That is something between you and your brother. I'm just glad we got it back so you can return it personally." My dad smiled ruffling the younger boy's hair before giving me a quick hug and heading out the door.

"Um…could you wait outside for a moment?" Ms. Covington asked me as I shrugged, stooping over to pick up my bag standing up feeling Colton's small hand sliding into mine as we walked out shutting the door behind us with Mrs. Chasson following us and taking a seat off to one side allowing Colton to sit with me on the other side of the door opening.

Colton cuddled up with me and sighed. "Luv you," he whispered softly giving me a quick kiss on the cheek as I glanced down and smiled at him affectionately my heart swelling with a profound sense of love.

It wasn't love as in a sexual kind of way, but a pure brotherly kind of way. "Luv you too buddy." I told him fondly while his mom watched and smiled affectionately at her youngest son.

Instinct had kicked in prompting her to react once she found out from her boy what had really happened. It was a good thing too because I had a feeling that the video after some creative editing, cutting out any evidence of wrong doing, would have found its way on to the internet for sure, not to mention all the kids in town. It could have been a total disaster for Colton while also making things worse for Carter.

Just then we heard voices drifting through the door which made me frown because what use was it to send us out if we could hear every word being discussed. "That man is simply infuriating. Please, as if he's really got to get back…for what…some trinket…and you fawning all over him like that. I mean, come-on, the Distinguished Service Cross. What does a guy have to do to earn something like that? Maybe doing some inventory or something and that whole honorary medal thing. Please I just don't understand everyone drooling over it." She quipped, the silence from Mr. Moore very palpable as it stretched for several long moments. "What?" I heard her asking flippantly.

"Oh my god, for real Francine, you really don't know?" He asked. "And it is called the Medal of Honor. And another thing, these 'things' aren't earned, they are awarded." He corrected pointing out key points.

"Whatever, I simply don't understand, but we…," she got into her drone mode.

"Francine…," Mr. Moore interjected softly and in my mind's eye I could visualize her waving her hand at him dismissively as she continued.

"…will have to…"


"…still punish Pim somehow if nothing at the very least for…,"

"Francine! Stop it…just stop it already…," He shouted his deep booming voice drifting through the door as I saw Colton's mom looking over at me nervously. "I think you have done enough damage for one day. You seriously don't get it. You think Pim is simply one of your scholarship kids, but he's not. His dad was offered a full scholarship for his son to attend Vassar Highland Academy, the board practically begged the man, but he turned it down telling the board members he would pay for his son's own way and that if it would be alright he would like to hand over the scholarship to two other candidates of his choice to offset the parent's cost." He informed Ms. Covington who snorted.

"Don't be silly he's only a Sergeant in the Army, how could he possibly afford something like that?" She chuckled as if that were some silly notion.

"Well, his wife works too and as of currently he does receive an extra one thousand two hundred and fifty nine dollars a month for being awarded the Medal of Honor and before you asked I looked it up the other day. When we were talking a while back I had told him I looked up his service record noting his Medal of Honor. He was shy about it and didn't want to talk much about what he did to deserve it, but indicated he is using the extra money to pay for Pim's education here. Seriously Francine, you better get with it. Your arrogance has landed you in some deep shit this time around. You've fucked around with the wrong man. The way you refer to his awards as so called 'trinkets' are a total insult to every man and woman who have served in defense of this fine country so you can sit back and be an airhead and worse." He snapped at her finally having just about enough of the privileged arrogance.

"Oh please, you make it sound like something so major." She retorted flippantly making him growl in frustration.

"Oh…you better believe your knickers it is and before this is all over with you will realize just how much of a 'major' deal this really is. Let me put it this way, that honorary medal thingy you refer to is the Medal of Honor and is awarded through an act of Congress and presented by the President of the United States himself. It's the highest award a person can receive in the military and about as big a deal as could be imagined. I wasn't kidding when I told you earlier even Generals snap to attention and salute when they see a man with a Medal of Honor no matter what rank." Mr. Moore tried to explain things to Ms. Covington trying to get her to understand how serious he thought this had become as he continued.

"The salute is a courtesy and sign of respect. I told you men salute the rank not the man, but with the Medal of Honor men not only salute the medal but the man wearing it. Just so you know…the Medal of Honor is awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. The award is so stringent that to date only a total of three thousand four hundred and sixty nine have been awarded in our military history with over sixty percent of those posthumously as in after they were killed during the performance of the heroic act. It means to receive such a medal is one of the most dangerous accomplishments anyone will ever do in their lifetime." He paused letting it sink in before once again continuing.

"Now as for the so called trinket he's being awarded today, The Distinguished Service Cross, his second one, well that is the second highest award in the military only below the Medal of Honor. It is awarded for extraordinary heroism not justifying the Medal of Honor; and the act or acts of heroism must be so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades." He told her as another short pause occurred.

"Yeah, exactly, by all means take a seat, but hold on I'm not through because I really want you to get the big picture. You see, he's Special Forces, part of the Delta Special Forces Unit. In other words he's one bad ass dude and those security guards of yours wouldn't have stood a chance against him. Don't think I didn't notice you starting to motion to them to try taking him out in the assembly hall. That would have been a big mistake of epic proportion. That's not all you have to worry about because ten percent of your students here have at least one parent in the military. That uniform ban you've imposed all on your own, well that's out the door. He will see to it." He told her.

"What?" She snapped. "He doesn't have the authority, even if he wanted to. I'll go to the General himself and explain how I expect our school to be zone free of all military uniforms." She seemed to insinuate she had some pull.

"Yeah good luck with that one. He's the Command Sergeant Major at Fort Bragg and as such he carries out policies and standards of the performance, training, appearance, and conduct of the enlisted personnel over there. He advises and initiates recommendations to the commander and staff in matters pertaining to the local NCO support channel. In other words even though he isn't an officer, at Fort Bragg when he speaks soldiers jump and do what they are told. If he wants the parents who are in the military to wear their uniforms on campus when they pick up their kids, go to student parent functions, any sports activities, student parent meetings, or anything else involving their presence they will all hop in line and begin wearing it just out of respect for his request, even officers. The General won't say 'no' to him out of respect even if you say something because as you've pointed out it is not an official written rule." He explained as things got really quiet again.

"Like I said your snobbish upbringing and arrogance is your downfall Francine. We've known each other since we were kids and I've always warned you about that side of you, but this time you have simply miscalculated. You may win some battles with him if you decide to spar, but you won't win the war. He didn't get where he is by being some flake or hack. He didn't have anyone pulling strings for him. Both men above and below him in rank trust his judgment because their lives depend on it. He's made command decisions in combat and he is no slouch. He's smart as a whip; he's already proven that to you just by how easily he decapitated you in your own house at the assembly hall. If you press him and take it out on his son, he will bury you…that is if his wife doesn't do it first." I heard Mr. Moore begin to chuckle.

"This isn't funny." She retorted.

"Yes it is and you deserve it, so you better make nice and let's just be thankful at least something came of this whole thing today. That David kid's been a real pain in the ass, but I never knew how truly sadistic he is. I'm sure his father will see to it he doesn't get into too much trouble, but he won't go easy on the kid either and I'll be keeping a close eye out on him and his buddies from now on. A lot of things that's happened the last several years is beginning to make sense." I heard him explain with another short pause before the door suddenly opened.

"Pim, come inside and let's chat." Ms. Covington smiled at me pleasantly as I patted Colton who was sitting on my lap dumbfounded by what he had heard about my dad.

After a second the smaller boy got off my lap and leaving my daypack sitting on the floor I followed Ms. Covington inside alone motioning for Mrs. Chasson to remain seated.

Closing the door behind me I took a seat on the other side of her desk as she sat down and sighed. Her voice remained very quiet almost subdued and I had a hard time hearing her.

"Anyway, Pim, perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. After discussing it with Mr. Moore we both agreed you getting in a fight on your way over to school today was unfortunate but unavoidable. In light of this the principles and standards of our academy have in no way been slighted; therefore, there is no need for any punishment." She told me softly while I sat there dumbfounded by how this came out as if she was doing me a favor.

"Well duh, you think?" I stated my own sarcastic statement catching even me by surprise while Mr. Moore tried to stifle a grin.

Ms. Covington grimaced though and shook her head. "Young man such behavior is unbecoming of you and students of our academy. I'm sure once we get done with you we will be able to show off a very upstanding young man with proper manners." She dripped with arrogance making me look at her for a second and begin to chuckle.

"Geeze Louise, my mom's been trying to gentrify me now for years and it simply won't take. I doubt very much you will fare any better, but you can try. My folks taught me to have a mind of my own and I plan on keeping it thank you very much. I suspect I will have some very…let's just say lively discussions with all the teachers and staff here at your…um…very esteemed institution. My dad was right, this is the place for me after all. Perhaps in return I will be able to teach a thing or two to others; including you." I sat back smugly with Mr. Moore suddenly busting a gut.

"Holy crap Francine, like father like son." He laughed shaking his head while she looked at the two of us sternly.

"Pim, let's make things right between us. I'm sure we can become friends and work things out. What do you say…friends?" She stood up extending her hands while I sat there for a second thinking on it and then stood up.

"No, I don't think it would be such a good idea." I admitted.

"Oh come-come Mr. Pim, what can it hurt. Besides, why wouldn't you wish to be friends so we can put all of this behind us and begin fresh?" She asked curiously thinking I was simply being a bit coy.

"Well if you haven't noticed I'm pretty selective with whom I choose to have as my friends. I mean, while the rest of the town has been looking away at all the bullying against Carter, I chose him instead of sticking by jerks like David. Thanks for the offer, but I really don't like you because you should be ashamed for what you've been doing not only to Carter but me today so it simply wouldn't work out. If you'll excuse me I've had a busy day." I told her and started to turn hearing her voice become stern.

"No, I don't think I will excuse you. We will both sit down and work this out. Despite what you may think…," She began firmly as the heat rose in my cheeks not from embarrassment, but a bit of anger now because she was trying to play games which I wasn't in the mood for as I cut her off.

"My apologies for not being more clear. When I asked to be excused it wasn't a request but out of politeness and you should be thankful for that little courtesy. We are done here and let's not kid ourselves, I don't like you and you don't like me. Stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours. I don't cause trouble, but I won't shy away from it either. All I want is to be left alone and if you will do that then we will get along just fine, if not I can be the biggest asshole around. Just ask David. You heard from the video. I got my ass kicked, but when I found him alone afterwards I returned the favor. I will give back as good if not better. I'm done and let's just hope by the end of summer both of us have cooled our jets a bit. Don't ever call me out in front like that again, I won't allow it a second time." I told her surprising even myself at how I had stood up to her realizing Mr. Moore was correct, 'like father, like son.'

I suppose a lot of it had to do with just how pissed I had become over everything today. I wanted to forget it all and leave it behind. This had been the crappiest day of all since I've arrived and it left a bad taste in my mouth as I turned to leave the room hearing Mr. Moore's soft voice stopping Ms. Covington from doing anything foolish.

"Leave it be Francine, the boy's right. Let it go and he will forget about it as well. You've pushed things too far and it is the price you have to pay." He told her firmly as I opened up the door hearing Colton's worried voice as I stooped over to pick up my bag slinging it over my shoulders.

"What happened…what did she want?" He asked me as I hugged him and ruffled his hair.

"Nothing happened. She wanted us to be friends." I informed him.

"That's weird, why would you want to be friends with an old lady?" He commented innocently while I barked out laughing because she wasn't like old-old and he hadn't meant it that way but rather more in like she's an adult and I'm a kid so it would be kind of weird. "What's so funny and what did you tell her?" He asked.

"I told her no." I responded.

"Oh…what she say to that?" He asked wondering now if it was because of the age thing.

"She wanted to know why?" I told him as he stepped back from my embrace and looked up into my eyes.

"And?" He wondered making me chuckle.

"I told her I'm very selective about whom I choose as a friend and that I didn't like her." I told him honestly seeing his eyes widen for a second before he began to giggle.

"Yeah, I don't like her much either." He answered back as he slipped his hand into mine and joined his mom who simply looked into the office and then over to me shaking her head.

"Let's go home. I need a proper shower." I sighed with Mrs. Chasson motioning for me to follow her to the car.

As I stepped outside with Colton holding on to my hand, the humid warm blast of air assaulted my body making me begin to sweat as I raised a hand across my brow shading my face from the bright sunshine while I squinted my eyes. Glancing down at the boy next to me I watched Colton doing the same thing as we made our way across the parking lot. The smaller guy seemed to stumble slightly as I removed my hand from his and draped my arm over his shoulder to help steady him, pulling the guy closer to me as we walked side by side in brotherly companionship.

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