Nov. 26th, 2009 09:58 pm
backdrifter: I won NaNoWriMo 2009! (nanowrimo 2009)
[personal profile] backdrifter
It was lunch period when Respa approached him the next day. He'd been shooting Ryan narrow-eyed looks all homeroom that morning. Now he stood next to Ryan's seat at the end of the bench, folding his arms menacingly. Ryan looked up, tense and waiting.

"I don't like what you did yesterday," Respa said, low enough that only Ryan could hear him. "Following us and shit."

"I was just going to class," Ryan said, because that was the truth, and he raised his spork to spear a mushy tater tot, pretending to ignore Respa. Respa knocked the styrofoam tray off the table, sending it to fall, leadenly, face-down on the dirty cafeteria floor. Ryan's spork was still held aloft.

"Don't do it again."

"I thought you said this already," Ryan said, dropping his spork on the table in defeat. He wasn't going to be having lunch today, not that he was missing out on anything tasty. "Why did you knock down my lunch tray?"

Respa grabbed him by the wrist, and Ryan felt his brain roll out of his head at the touch. It made it all the easier for Respa to pull him up from the bench and toward the boys' bathroom door on the other side of the cafeteria. Ryan wanted to pull away, wanted to run back to his safe empty table where nobody sat but him because nobody talked to boring old Ryan, but Respa's long fingers sapped him of his strength and of his speech. When thy reached the door, Respa slammed into it shoulder-first, and they entered the bathroom Ryan had never seen fit to use. It was powder blue, the texture showing years and years of repainting, and there were vulgar drawings and scribblings on every stall door. Respa threw him against the wall, and Ryan could feel his heart thudding in his chest, almost painful.

"I don't like how much attention you've been paying me," Respa growled, and he grabbed handfuls of Ryan's t-shirt again, just like yesterday, which, Ryan noted in the back of his head, was a classic bully move.

"I, um... I don't know, I'm sorry," Ryan said lamely. "I'll stop?"

"Are you asking me?" He gave Ryan a quick shake, and Ryan could feel the heels of his Chucks coming off the filthy tiling.

"No. I'll stop, I swear."

"And what about Alex Steinbrenner?"

"What?" Ryan was completely lost, and for that, Respa rewarded him with a backhand across the left side of his face.

"Alex Steinbrenner. You're not gonna try to rat me out about that, right?"

"No, uh, no. No." He wished he had his full weight on the ground, he really did.

"It was just a thing, you know? I needed to borrow his keys." Respa wasn't letting go, either.

"You told him to give you ten dollars," Ryan blurted out. "That's not borrowing, that's—"

"Shut up!" Respa said, and this time the shake he gave Ryan cracked his head against the wall, leaving him with a sore spot on the back of his skull. "Keep your nose out of it, you got it, shorty?" He dropped Ryan at last, and Ryan rubbed the back of his head. In hindsight, he could already see how he could have gotten his footing back and knocked Respa into the trash can by the door; had Himura-san been here, he would have been disappointed in him for not defending himself. Himura-san always said karate was never for going on the attack, but he never maligned self-defense, considering that was what it was all about.

"Yeah, I'll do that, I guess." Ryan realized his bag was still in the cafeteria, and cursed under his breath.

"What?" Respa asked sharply, leaning in with his ear cocked toward Ryan. "Say that again. To my face."

"What? I didn't—I was just—my backpack's still in the cafeteria. Uh." He didn't know what to do. He wasn't even sure how he'd gotten into this particular mess.

"You stupid little faggot!" Respa shouted, and this time he aimed a punch at Ryan's face. Ryan ducked instinctively, and raced under Respa's arm to hit the door running. He staggered back; the door only swung one way, and it wasn't the way he needed right now. "What the fuck did you say about me!"

"Nothing, I promise," Ryan said, but Respa wasn't listening. Ryan darted back to the other wall, and Respa, with his long hands and longer arms, grabbed a fistful of Ryan's hair. Ryan had never regretted having jaw-length hair as much as he did right then. He almost fell back, steadied himself, and as he turned, his arm came up in a block to knock Respa's hand loose.

"Leave me alone, I didn't—I didn't say anything!" Ryan yelled, still flat against the wall. "I'm sorry for whatever you think you heard!" His brain had already rolled out, and now his spirit was trying to drop out of his body too; the disparity between Respa's attitude and his appearance was making his head swim.

"Fuck you!" Respa lunged forward again, and Ryan skittered to the side, where he launched himself off the wall and managed to work the door properly this time. He escaped into the cafeteria, breathing heavily, and with a glance to either side of him, he walked quickly back to his seat. Thankfully, nobody had taken his backpack, but when he checked it, he did notice his CD player was gone, along with the batteries and CD that had been in it, and the earbuds that had been plugged into it. Danny had let him borrow it, and now it was gone for good, probably to some stupid kid who would break it by tomorrow. It had been nice. It had also had Danny's favorite CD in it.

Ah, but Ryan's condition. He was guaranteed to be forgiven.

Just as he'd predicted, Danny sighed hard and pinched the bridge of his nose, but he didn't have anything to say to Ryan past, "Well, that's too bad, huh?" He looked like he desperately wanted to say more, to vent about how he fucking loved that band, how that album had been genius, and now he'd have to buy it all over again because Napster was in decline and Limewire was a virus nest.

Without music, Ryan's commute was even more boring, even longer, and somehow even smellier, as if overloading his hearing function had muted his other senses, coming in especially handy when he was pressed into someone's sweaty man-breasts on the 1 train. He shuddered just thinking about it. He also arrived at school feeling distracted, thinking nonstop about the music he could have been listening to, and so he was completely unprepared for Romy Laredo.

Romy Laredo was notorious school-wide for being so flamboyant some suspected he was faking. He actually wore mascara and lip gloss, and he liked to wear purple contacts. He was lithe and feminine in build, with wavy blond hair cut to the tops of his ears, and when he walked it seemed studied, his hips swaying from side to side. He was also known for seeking out the most masculine, most heterosexual male students and coming onto them, strong, only to be battered and tossed aside. And, it was said, he liked it. (Well, one would figure, considering how often he seemed to do it.)

"Well, hello there," Romy Laredo said, intercepting him on his way to homeroom. "My name is Romy Laredo." Stunned, Ryan didn't even try to pass him by, and Romy actually giggled. "What's yours?"

"I have to go to homeroom," Ryan mumbled. "'Scuse me."

"I'm the official head of the unofficial club for victims of Thomas 'Respa' Wilkins," Romy said, holding out a hand. "Pleased to meet you...?"

"Ryan," Ryan said, taking the hint. "I really do need to get to homeroom, it's when they take the daily attenda—"

"I know all about the attendance," Romy said, rolling his eyes and tossing his hand in the air as if he'd been holding confetti. "Believe me. I'm a senior."

"Oh. That's nice." Ryan felt so boring, so stupid. He looked around nervously; nobody was watching them. "You said you were the official what?"

"The official head," Romy repeated, as if speaking to a dumb child, "of the unofficial club for victims of Thomas 'Respa' Wilkins. That's what."

"I'm not a victim," Ryan said, waving a hand dismissively. "It's okay."

"I saw him drag you into the bathroom," Romy said, suddenly serious even as he stretched languidly. "And I saw you when you came out, you were breathing pretty hard. I'm fairly certain he didn't take you in there for sex—" Ryan blushed deeply, just at the word sex, and he felt even stupider, "—so I'm going to have to assume his purpose was to bully you." Romy reached a slender hand out, touching the very light bruise on Ryan's cheekbone. "Did he do that to you?"

"I'm fine," Ryan said, shaking his head. He wished he could snap, too. "Can I go to homeroom, please?"

"Catch you later," Romy said by way of saying yes, waving by twiddling his fingers at him, smirking. "Right after homeroom, maybe."

"Bye." Ryan hurried, slipping into the room just as the homeroom teacher called his name.

"Why, Mister Kamizaki, this is unlike you," the homeroom teacher said, giving him a dry look. "You're usually the first one in the door." He made a little mark on the attendance sheet that denoted Ryan as present, not late.

"Sorry," Ryan said, sliding into the only available desk. "Um, I got distracted, I guess."

"That's fine." For anyone else, it wouldn't have been fine, but his homeroom teacher was well-informed on Ryan's status. He was probably imagining Ryan as a narcoleptic. Ryan looked around him, with ten minutes still to go for homeroom, and he realized that he'd ended up right next to Respa, in the back. Today was one of his smellier days, a severely faded blue Fraggle Rock shirt that looked like it was meant for a ten year old restricting the movement of his shoulders. He kept rotating his ankles and wriggling his feet, as if the sneakers on them were uncomfortable.

"Don't sit next to me," Respa snarled, and Ryan shrugged helplessly. There were no other desks.

"There's nowhere else to sit," he said quietly, watching the teacher blow his hair out of his face in a clear display of ennui. "Sorry."

"Fucking right you're sorry," Respa muttered, looking out the window as he played with a stubby, bitten pencil in his hands. Ryan tried not to look at his hands.

When homeroom let out, Romy Laredo was waiting outside, just as he'd said he would be. Ryan tried to escape his notice, but Romy was quick, and within seconds Romy was strutting next to him. "Hey, short stuff. Was homeroom fun?"

"Leave me alone," Ryan groaned, but it was under his breath, so Romy couldn't hear him.

"So anyway, this club thing, I wanna talk to you about it."

"I really don't." Romy's loud voice in such close proximity to Respa and his crew, escorting Cassandra to class, made him grind his teeth together anxiously.

"Listen, the thing is—"

"He is right there." Ryan pointed, adamant that Romy not be a loud mouth. "Right there."

"Fine," Romy sighed, rolling his eyes again. "If you're gonna be such a wuss about it, we can go to the bathroom. Just you and me, huh?" he said, nudging Ryan with his elbow and giving him a flirtatious look.


"It's a joke," Romy snapped. "My god, you kids these days have no sense of humor. You're not even my type, whatever." And he sashayed toward the bathroom, leaving Ryan to trail him. Ryan didn't even know why he was following Romy, though he suspected part of it was just to get away from Respa and his posse.

The bathroom up here was the same powder blue, but twice the size, and a bit cleaner. Romy went immediately to the mirror, swinging his small backpack around to pull out a makeup bag the size of his entire hand laid flat. "God, I need a better mascara," Romy said as he pulled out the makeup item in question, uncapping it with the speed of someone used to doing this. He lifted the little brush to his eye, his mouth dropping into a fish-like O shape as he did. "This shit is so cheap, I need to keep reapplying it." He switched to the other eye. "Like, maybe I should go to the Macy's counter or something, those girls can be nice if you go about it the right way."

Ryan stood near the door, drumming his fingers on the straps of his bag as he looked around. No one else was here in the bathroom with them; he was as alone with Romy as had been promised. Romy capped the mascara and whipped out a small tube of pink lip gloss, which he proceeded to apply to his O of a mouth. "I love this shade, though," Romy remarked, voice distorted by the current shape of his lips. "It's so cute."

"Um, so what were you saying before, about Respa?" Ryan asked, looking at the ceiling. He couldn't quite tell what had been stuck up there, though it looked like gum had been involved in the process of getting it up on the large tiles.

"Oh, right. The club. Right right right," Romy said, flipping his hand around form the wrist. He rolled his eyes again, and it seemed like this was a habit of his. "Duh, right. Sorry. Anyway! Now that you've been, you know, brutalized—"

"He just slapped me, is all. He had me up against the wall, and he slapped me. It's really not a big deal, I don't think he's going to do it again. When I was in homeroom with him this morning, I ended up sitting next to him, actually because of you, and he didn't do anything to me. He told me to go sit somewhere else, but he didn't do anything." Ryan shrugged. "I'm telling you, I don't need to be part of this little 'club' thing you're talking about. I'm fine."

"Do you know what he does to kids?" Romy asked, putting the lip gloss away to lean against the edge of the sink. "Do you?"

"Um, yeah, I saw what he did to Alex Steinbrenner. That's why he came after me in the first place," Ryan said, shrugging again. "It wasn't nice, I guess."

"Wasn't nice? Honey, that wasn't just not nice, he pulls that sort of shit all the time." Romy flopped a hand for emphasis. "Let me tell you, that poor kid Alex, he's a wreck because of Respa Wilkins. When he got here he was just another nerd, not socially conscious or anything, but you know, looking forward to his lessons and crap. And then Respa decided he didn't like him anymore, and," Romy pushed his makeup bag back into his bookbag, and Ryan wondered what else was in it that it was so big, "that was it. Alex was never the same. I've never seen such a cringy kid."

"Why are you doing this, though? What are you, like, their guardian angel or something?" Ryan asked, leaning against the partition that shielded anyone going past the door from seeing into the bathroom.

"You could say that," Romy said, running a hand through his hair. "Also, he came after me a couple times, before he decided Alex was an easier target. My brimming confidence might have scared him off," Romy said with a smirk, tossing his head, before shaking it again. "No, really, though. God," he added, rocking back and forth from his hips, "he used to come after me with every name in the book for a homosexual like me," and Romy pronounced the first three syllables of the term separately. "He chased me a couple times, even though he never caught me—well, no, once he did." Romy looked uncomfortably at some distant point. "It wasn't pretty." He brushed at his cheek absently with his fingers, and then rolled his eyes to bring himself back to the present. "Anyway, now you see it's not just me being the selfless, good Samaritan I am. I have good reasons."

"Is Alex part of this club?" Ryan asked suspiciously.

"He doesn't know it, but he's the vice president." Romy laughed bitterly. "He just freaked out and said he didn't wanna make anyone mad when I asked him, but he's Respa's favorite punching bag. Probably because he just never even tries to fight back, or anything."

"Is anyone else in this little club?"

"A bunch of kids. All unofficially. But I keep track of them." Romy looked bemused as he leaned back again. "He's not exactly picky, you know? I mean like, he'll pick the kids who aren't going to fight back, or can't, but it's not like he's got a limit on how many kids he's going to go after." Romy glanced at his wrist, where a strangely masculine silver watch dwarfed the joint. "We have to get to class, babe, both of us." He looked up, and saluted Ryan with his first two fingers from the brow. "You stay away from Respa, alright? I'll see you later."
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