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By the time Monday rolled around, it felt like an entire week had passed, not just the weekend. I hadn't spoken with the savage since the night he had come home all bloodied and haggard. I had sensed that he wanted to be alone - plus he had pretty much so - and frankly I hadn't felt a great desire to be in his company anyway. I was still pissed about the whole Paul situation. In fact, instead of cooling down over the weekend, it seemed like I had only gotten more upset.
Griff wasn't in school on Monday morning, but I hadn't expected to see him. I'd heard from Jake that when his parents had come back on Sunday night, the first thing they had done was take him back to the hospital. They arranged for him to see a specialist in oral-maxillofacial surgery immediately and he recommended taking Griff back into surgery right away.
They decided to do a revision of his maxillomandibular fixation, and instead do a more recently developed jaw immobilization procedure. According to Mr. Sutter, it would be better this way for Griff because it entailed having rigid fixations using small metal plates and screws rather than pins and wires to secure the jawbones.
The main benefit of the technique was that the jaws did not have to be wired shut, and that would allow the Griff to return to a more normal lifestyle sooner. I liked this because I hated the idea of Griff eating through a straw for the next six weeks.
The doctor had said that Griff would have to miss school for a week, so I volunteered to pick up all his assignments and homework for him. It was the least I could do, because I felt more than partially responsible for his injury. He had gotten hurt sticking up for me. It wasn't something I was likely to forget any time soon.
I was miserable. Without Griff in school and me being on the outs with the savage, I suddenly felt very alone. The weekend had done the exact opposite of its purpose. When we had organized the get-together, we had thought that it would be a good opportunity for everyone to forget about the tension of recent weeks and smooth things out. Instead, we had only succeeded in creating more stress and more than a few cuts and bruises.
I knew that today was going to be a long day; Mondays always were. The most I could hope for was for it to pass without incident, and I just wanted everything to go uneventfully. No sooner had I finished that thought, when I spotted Paul. I was walking down the hall, headed on my way to homeroom and stopped dead in my tracks in shock. He looked like someone had gone at him with a baseball bat. His entire face was a swollen mess. Everywhere I looked was black and blue.
For a brief moment I wondered if maybe Jake was responsible. He had looked mad enough to kill when Paul had hit Griff. But then I remembered the savage's mysterious disappearance for several hours on Saturday. I guess this explained it. I felt my chest swell: maybe the savage hadn't been taken into the dark side after all. If he was the one responsible for Paul's face looking like it was, then I had clearly underestimated him.
As Paul continued to approach me, I forced my feet to resume moving again. I couldn't tell if he was glaring at me with his black eye or not, but if he wanted trouble then I would give it to him. I didn't stop to consider how unfair an altercation would be between the two of us since I clearly had the upper hand. Paul looked like someone had beaten the shit out of him and that made my chances of winning even better.
When we got within ten feet of each other, I opened my mouth ready to issue a challenge, but before I could get the words out, the savage suddenly appeared and stepped between us. He looked marginally better than he had on Saturday, although he still had several bruises all over his face.
Paul froze when the savage appeared and the two boys stood glaring at one another in the hallway. They didn't speak to one another, they just stood there, each watching the other for any sudden moves.
Then Paul said, "I'm through with you. I want him."
He motioned to where I stood behind the savage with the jerk of his head.
"Too bad, cause you're not going to get him," the savage said, his challenging stance remaining.
I could see the wheels in Paul's head spinning as a look of intense irritation overcame his features. He obviously hadn't escaped their last encounter over the weekend unscathed, and he was debating whether he wanted to go through that again. The savage wasn't called the savage for nothing.
"Savage, just get out of the way," Paul said.
"No," the savage replied.
By now their little confrontation was attracting a crowd. Several students had gathered to watch the developing altercation unfold. Paul glanced around nervously before turning back to look at the savage whose expression hadn't changed. He still had the look of extreme determination.
I stood where I was, not moving. I didn't know what would happen next, but I was ready to take Paul if I had to. My anger over his treatment of Griff combined with my longtime hatred of his guts was giving me an adrenaline rush that would aid me should a physical confrontation ensue.
Fortunately, before things could escalate further Mr. Sullivan the vice principal emerged from the cluster ofstudents surrounding us. He immediately took in the bruises on both Paul and the savage's faces before promptly asking, "Do we have a problem here, gentlemen?"
There was a moment of tense silence and when neither boy answered the question, Mr. Sullivan was forced to repeat his question, this time raising him voice. Paul was the first to look away, his eyes breaking contact with the savage's challenging glare before he mumbled, "No sir."
The vice principal nodded before turning to the savage and asking, "What about you, Mr. McGraw? Is there a problem?"
The savage didn't answer immediately and I saw a muscle working in his jaw as he clenched his teeth. It was a nervous habit, one I knew meant that he was experiencing indecision. A hush fell over the small crowd as everyone waited to see what he would say.
After what felt like eons, he finally shook his head slowly and said, "No sir."
"Good," Mr. Sullivan said, nodding in satisfaction. He turned around to face the other students and said, "Okay, show's over. Everyone go to class."
The crowd was quick to disperse, leaving only Paul, the savage, Mr. Sullivan and I in the hall. With the other students gone,he faced the three of us, pinning us with his hard eyes.
"Okay, judging by the two of you," he said gesturing towards Paul and the savage, "I would guess that something is going on, but whatever it is will end right now. Am I understood?"
His tone brooked no argument and all three of us promptly nodded. He gave us all a pointed stare before turning and making his way slowly down the hall. Paul waited until he was out of earshot before turning to me and snarling, "This isn't over."
He made a move in my direction, but was quickly cut off by the savage who inserted his body swiftly between Paul's and my own. The two boys shared another charged look full of animosity before Paul broke the contact to shoot me another threatening glare and then walking off.
I watched as he reached the end of the hall and turned a corner before I dared to look at the savage. The two of us were now alone in the deserted hall, but neither of us had moved. I glanced at him out of the corner and glimpsed him uncurling the fingers he'd had clenched in anticipation of a fight. One look at his knuckles showed that his skin was raw and red.
I looked up from his hands and caught him looking at me. For some reason I flushed and looked down, away. I waited for him to say something, but he didn't. My mind was filled with questions. Why had he stood up for me? Why had he come to my defense? I wanted to voice what I was thinking, but I didn't. Instead, the two of us stood in silence and the awkward moment stretched.
I was about to say something when the savage finally broke the silence.
"Don't worry about Paul," he stated, "I'll take care of him."
That statement took me by surprise because I wasn't sure what he meant, but before I could ask he headed off to class, leaving me staring after him.
I delayed before going to my class. My thoughts were least on my academics. Too much had happened that morning. From wondering at Paul's face looking so messed up, to the near battle that had almost taken place in the halls. I still wasn't sure what the situation was between Paul and the savage, but I guess it was safe to say the romance was dead.
That thought filled me with unexpected pleasure. I told myself it was because Paul was a total fuckerthat I was happy he was no longer with the savage, but a secret part of me knew better. That part admitted that it had little to do with my feelings towards Paul and everything to do with my long lasting feelings for the savage, but I squashed them.
I wasn't ready to think about those things just yet. Everything was still too fresh. Griff was still laid up and as far as my relationship with the savage went, I had no idea where we stood at the moment. Only one thing was certain, I was no longer so mad at the savage. He had redeemed himself, a little, in my eyes.
During first period I realized how much I missed Griff. Being in school without him was strange to some degree. I was so used to seeing him first thing in the morning in math class, now he wasn't there. I knew it was only for two weeks, but I couldn't help feeling a strange sense of loss.
I didn't see the savage again for the rest of the day, but several people that had heard about the morning's excitement and the incident over the weekend approached me. Of course by the time theygot to ask me what really happened, the story had been greatly exaggerated and rumors were swirling out of control about Griff, Paul, the savage and I.
I didn't see the savage again that day. He hadn't been at our usual table at lunch and when Brad had approached me and asked me where the savage was, I could only stare back at him in silence. I had no idea if him sticking up for me earlier meant he and I were no longer on outs.
As the end of the day neared, I became increasingly anxious to get home and see if Griff was out of surgery. When the bell rang during last period, my heart leapt. I sped out of class and headed straight to my locker. I was almost done and ready to go when a hand suddenly appeared over my head and slammed the locker shut.
I didn't need to glance back to see who it was. I had been hoping to avoid another encounter, but it seemed that was not to be. I looked over my shoulder and saw Paul Hennessey standing behind me with a determined look on his face. I let out a resigned sigh. One look at his face confirmed my suspicions that he was looking for a fight.
I turned around and faced him squarely, the expression in my eyes daring him to do whatever he would. I saw a look of pure hostility enter his eyes right before his hand drew back in a fist, his gaze switching from anger to intent.
I knew what he was going to do and my instincts kicked in just in time for me to dodge the hit coming towards me. I ducked down and threw myself at Paul with all my might. He had almost fifty pounds on me, but I had the element of surprise on my side. This was finally my opportunity to show what a summer of working out had done for me.
I shoved him away, and before he had time to anticipate my next move, I lashed out, striking him across the face. I heard a crack on impact and it took me a second to realize that it was my hand that had made that horrible sound, right before Paul's nose began to bleed. Copious amounts of red fluid flowed from both of his nostrils, running down his chin and dripping on his shirt.
It took a moment for Paul to process the fact that I had hit him. He looked at me, stunned, and I felt something inside me snap. Before I could consider what I was doing, I lunged for him. My already busted hand connected with his face again, this time landing on his eye.
Paul's head snapped back with the force of the blow and he stumbled. I didn't stop to think, I just pulled back my fist and slammed into his face again and again. I lost count of how many times I did this or how long it went on. All I know is that when they finally pulled me off of him I was exhausted. Physically and emotionally drained. Paul lay on the ground, unmoving, and for a moment I was gripped with a fear that I had killed him, before he emitted a low, pitiful groan.
My hand was a mess. I look down at it and felt immense satisfaction, knowing that I had used it to fuck up Paul's pretty face. It took two guys to restrain me while others rushed forward to offer Paul assistance. He still hadn't moved from where I left him. Once I realized that the fight was over, I stopped struggling.
When the guys were sure I wasn't going to attack Paul again, they cautiously released me. I stood there for a moment massaging my hand. I felt like someone had crushed it with a hammer and I had a sneaking suspicion that I had broken it, but I didn't regret what I had done. I would willingly break my hand everyday for the rest of the semester if it meant reducing Paul to a bloody pile on the floor.
Two weeks passed slowly, but uneventfully. After that first day, I didn't have any more trouble with Paul. Mostly because he was out of school for the rest of the week and I was suspended. I didn't mind. I explained what happened, that it wasn't my fault, but I was still subjected to disciplinary action because of the violence I had committed.
When we both got back to school, he basically stayed out of my way and I did his. X-rays confirmed that I had been right about my hand, it was broken. Griff had his surgery and went into recovery. When I went to visit him in the recovery room I was wearing a cast. Thanks to the corrective surgery, he was now able to talk and could bitch and moan about how much pain he was in.
But the first thing he asked when he saw me was what happened to my hand. I told him about the fight, and I watched his eyes light up in satisfaction when he found out how I had kicked Paul's ass. I wished he could have seen me do it.
"So you really got Paul?"Griff asked in a slightly garbled manner.
"Dude, trust me, his face looks like a Picasso."
That earned me a chuckle and a lopsided smile. I was glad to see that Griff was feeling better and that caused me to smile as well. I glanced around his room taking the multitude of `get well' cards and flowers and balloons and such. My own `speedy recovery' present, an overweight turtle wearing a pair of boxing gloves, was lying on his bed by his feet.
A particularly grand floral arrangement by his bed caught my eye. It was a lot more voluminous and extravagant than all the others. I figured it was probably from his parents until I caught sight of a little white card tucked into the flowers. Without thinking I reached for it and plucked it out.
"No, don't," Griff said, but it was too late.
My eyebrows shot halfway up my forehead when I read who the card was from. Glancing up, I gave Griff a curious look and watched his face color a deep red. Without a word I replaced the card and waited for him to say something.
"It's ... it's not what you think," he finally said.
"Oh? And what am I thinking?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.
"Jake and I are just friends," he rushed out.
"Right," I said, but my tone suggested I thought they were much more than friends.
Griff shot me a mutinous glare and pursed his lips. I couldn't help it, I laughed at his churlish expression and after a moment he started laughing too. I didn't say anything more about whatever was going on between him and Jake, but I filed it away mentally for another opportunity.
I was secretly pleased that he and Jake were getting along despite Griff's protests. I knew Jake would be good to Griff as well as good for him. I hung out in his hospital room for about an hour and a half before a nurse showed up and told me public visiting hours were over. I said goodbye to Griff and promised to return that weekend.
After the visit, I was feeling in much better spirits. With Griff on the mend and Paul taken care of, everything was finally getting back to normal except my relationship with the savage. Despite the fact that he had come to my aid that morning in the hallway, the savage was still acting kinda messed up towards me.
When we got to gym the next day, I decided I had kept my silence long enough. I waited until everyone else left the locker room and I went up to him. I wanted to know why he was treating me like I had done something wrong. Everything was upside down. I was the one that was supposed to be mad, not the other way around.
I grabbed hold of the savage's arm but he pulled it away like I had stung him. Suddenly I felt stupid. I didn't know what was going on with the savage lately. It was like he blamed me for his break up with Paul. I decided to ask him about it. If he had beef with me then he should just come out and say it.
"Why are you so angry at me?" I questioned.
"What makes you think I'm angry?" he asked tightly.
"You seem like something's bothering you. Do you want to talk about it? Maybe I can help," I offered.
The savage scoffed at my suggestion before slamming his locker shut and turning to face me.
"Let's see ... I'm sore, my face makes me look like the elephant man is my dad, I've broken up with my boyfriend and I haven't had sex in over a month. How on earth could you possibly help?"
The savage was virtually growling by the time he finished, but I wasn't listening. My mind was reeling. Did he just say he hadn't had sex in a month? But he had only been broken up for two weeks. That meant that he hadn't had sex with Paul since I came back from the summer. I couldn't help it; I started smiling.
"Oh, you think it's funny?" he asked, taking a threatening step towards me.
I should have taken heed to the warning in this voice, but I was too caught up in his unintentional admission to pay much attention. Before I knew what was happening, the savage was pressed against me. He maneuvered me into a corner with his body squished tightly against my own. I could feel ever muscle in his body, including the increasingly hard one brushing up against my hip.
He had my arms behind my back, my body struggling against his as he forced me to the wall behind me. He moved quickly between my thighs, pressing his thick erection heatedly against the shorts covering my own hard on, tempting me past sanity. He stared into my shocked face while he pushed himself against me.
I was immobile for only a moment, before I began straining away. I didn't like the turn things had taken, trapped in the corner with the savage crowding me. I tried to escape his hold but he wouldn't let me. In fact, my struggles did nothing more than make him tighten his hold on me.
"I don't like it when you pull away when I try to touch you," the savage said in a low, gravelly voice.
"Don't touch me then," I retorted.
I was mad, but I was mostly mad because the savage was mad. And I was only mad at myself. Who else could I be mad at? I had created the situation. By insisting that I let him know my feelings. And now that everything was all fucked up, I had no one to blame but myself. I had liked the savage for years. I knew it, he knew it, and pretty much all of our friends knew it.
I don't know what it is I thought I would accomplish by talking about my feelings for him that day. I don't know what I was hoping to achieve. But the reality of the situation was that all I had succeeded in doing was tampering with our friendship, and making the savage realize how much he did not want to be in a relationship with me.
The night before I had been bored out of my mind. Griff was still on bed rest so I couldn't talk to him. The savage and I had been on outs with each other for quite a while so where ordinarily I would have called him up and asked him to help me with my boredom, I was left to find ways to amuse myself. Solo.
I ended up watching MTV on the couch cause there was really nothing better to do, that didn't require the use of some brain cells. There was a marathon of this show on about disaffected teens that were unhappy with their appearance. I thought I could relate so I decided to keep watching the show. It turned out that kids had decided to get plastic surgery to "improve" themselves and maybe end up looking like their favorite celebrity while they were at it.
There was one girl who came on the show talking about if she could just get enough surgery to look like her favorite singer, then the boy of her dreams and longtime crush would fall in love with her. I thought that was one of the dumbest things I'd ever heard. I immediately became judgmental, thinking to myself that the guy in question seemed pretty shallow if he couldn't see her for who she was and only cared about what she looked like.
Then I went a step further by thinking that the girl herself was a bit of a loser for going under the knife and changing herself just for some moron. I was able to sustain my feelings of superiority for all of five minutes before it hit me like a ton of bricks: who was I to talk?
I had essentially done the exact same thing that this girl had done in trying to make the savage notice me and like me. A part of me argued that spending all summer cleaning up and getting into shape was hardly the same as getting potentially dangerous and life altering surgery, but who's to say I wouldn't have done it if I had been given the opportunity? God knows I was so crazy and desperate back then that I would have tried anything in hopes of getting the savage's attention.
"You like the feel of my cock. Admit it," the savage continued, absolutely unaware of the conflict taking place in my head.
I shook my head. I needed to stop acting so immature. For the past several months I had been thinking solely with my emotions, and that obviously wasn't the best way to go about things. I suddenly wanted things to go back to the way they had always been. I wanted our old friendship back. I was going to make everything go back to the way they used to be, but this time things would be even better because there wouldn't be the added drama of my crush on him.
"Get off me, dude," I said in the sternest voice possible.
The savage didn't move immediately and I wondered if he would do what I asked. His eyes remained locked on mine and he pushed his hips forward experimentally.
"Don't," I whispered, my voice hitching.
The savage looked as though he was going to refuse, right before he sighed and shifted off of me. I immediately slumped when he released me. I watched as he brought his hands and roughly shoved them in his hair. His grip was tight and he turned away from me. It looked like he was trying to get himself under control. I watched him warily, to see what would happen next, but nothing did.
He simply gathered up the rest of his equipment and headed out of the lockers, leaving me slumped in the corner. When he had gone, I remained where I was wondering what I had just done.
The rest of the week was a blur and, as promised, I went back to see Griff on the weekend. I wasn't intending to spill my guts, but somehow that happened anyway. I told him about the times the savage had kissed me. He had a pretty good idea of the situation, having guessed most of it, so he wasn't really surprised at anything I had to say.
"Griff, the savage can be such a jerk," I said, finally letting my frustration out.
He laughed and said, "I could have told you the savage was a jerk."
That surprised me. "Huh? Why??"
Griff laughed again and said, "I thought you knew that was the kind of guy you were going for."
"Just because he doesn't return my feelings ... that doesn't necessarily make him a jerk. It's not his fault that he doesn't feel the same way. I mean, it's not as if you can make yourself like someone." I didn't know why I was defending the savage's actions.
"Be that as it may, he was totally fucking with you, Connor. He tells you that you have no chance, and then he kisses you. What the fuck do you call that?" Griff was no longer laughing.
I kept quiet cause he had me there. But in my mind I disagreed with his assertion. A part of me argued that the savage hadn't done that because he was a jerk.
"It seems to me he's trying to convince himself as much as you that you're just friends. The only problem is that he can't keep his hands off you, Connor," Griff continued.
"Well, if you know that, then why are you still calling him a jerk?" I asked, even though I knew I was deliberately being obtuse.
"It's the way he does things," Griff explained. "I mean, if he can't keep his hands off you, doesn't that mean that he does return your feelings?"
I opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out.
Griff forged on, "I don't know if he realizes it, but I'm pretty sure he's scared of what it means, or what it WILL mean, to your friendship. He's so used to seeing you as 'the best friend' I don't think he can see you as anything else. Not unless you show him."
I sat there, mute, and my heart began to thump. Could Griff be right?
"I - I've got to go," I said shakily, "I'll be back tomorrow."
"No problem, dude. Go do what you need to do."
I left his room and headed for the exit with a new purpose. On my way out, I spotted Jake, who smiled and then blushed like he had been caught doing something he wasn't supposed to. I gave a quick smile back but I didn't stop to chat, I couldn't. I was on a mission. I had to get home so that I could call the savage.
I made one of the shortest trips imaginable and I was in such a hurry that I almost didn't see the person waiting on my doorstep. I froze mid stride and watched as he rose from his position on the step. I wondered what he was doing at my house, which made me feel strange because not long ago it wouldn't have been out of the ordinary to see him here.
"Hi," I said, uttering the first thing that came to my mind.
"Can we talk?" he said, ignoring my greeting.
"Umm, sure," I said, making my way up the stairs and brushing past him to open the door.
We went inside and without any preamble the savage said, "It's over. Between me and Paul." And then almost as an afterthought to himself, he added, "I can't believe I was ever with him."
Something fell to the pit of my stomach. I didn't want to think about the savage and Paul together. I didn't want to think about what they had done with each other or about Paul touching the savage. I was lost in my thoughts when the savage suddenly exploded, "Dude, I'm so fucking sick of this shit. I can't take it anymore."
I didn't have time to contemplate what he meant when he suddenly grabbed me and slammed his lips onto my own.