Chapter 25

Vince turned around and found himself face to face with his former opponent.

“Michael, right?” Vince asked.

“Damn right,” Michael replied. Michael was a touch out of place, wardrobe-wise, having chosen to wear only a black tank top that drew attention to the impressive arms and shoulders his practice at boxing had wrought him. Combined with the steel-toed boots on his feet and the unpleasant sneer on his face, it made for an appearance that was anything but warm or friendly.

“You decided to come out tonight too, I guess,” Vince said.

We did indeed,” Michael corrected him. A quick glance behind Michael revealed two other males standing in proximity to him. One was tall with ink-black hair and the other was strikingly familiar. It only took Vince a moment to place him; after all, Coach George had been adamant about searing that face into his mind.

“You’re Chad, aren’t you?” Vince asked. Nick jerked visibly and Alice suddenly seemed uncomfortable. From the rumors that were floating around, Chad had dominated every opponent he went up against except the number two rank. Even then it hadn’t really been a close fight: just a minute or so longer than the others.

“I am,” Chad confirmed. “You’re Vince Reynolds, the girl to your side is Alice Adair, and the boy slowly edging his way behind you is Nicholas Campbell.”

“Wow,” Vince said. “That’s really impressive. How’d you do that?”

“Student directory and an eidetic memory,” Chad replied with a bored shrug.

“Awesome; well, it was cool running into you, Michael, but we’re sort of in the middle of something,” Vince said as he delicately tried to extricate his group from Michael’s and go back to keeping an eye on Roy.

“Hold up there, Silver,” Michael said, placing a hand firmly on Vince’s shoulder. “I owe you some payback for the cheap shot you pulled on me the other day.”

“You mean where I used my talent against yours in a perfectly acceptable and legal way during a recorded and observed fight? Is that how you define a cheap shot?” Vince asked.

“You lured me in thinking you couldn’t do anything but run, then you cracked me in the jaw. You tricked me,” Michael said, his hand tightening its grip.

“It’s called strategy, and I suggest you adapt to it quickly in this school. Isn’t this moot anyway, though? You won, you beat me, you proved you’re the better fighter between us,” Vince tried to pacify him.

“Maybe I feel like I deserve a little more payback for that crack across the jaw,” Michael replied, flexing his impressive arms.

“Okay,” Vince said simply. In a motion like flowing mercury, Vince snagged Michael’s arm carelessly exposed arm, gripped his shoulder, and applied pressure above and below the elbow. “If that’s the case, then maybe you should keep in mind that I’m a better than you when we take out any extraordinary advantages.”

“Gaah,” Michael grunted as Vince intensified the pressure. He was holding Michael close so that anyone that happened to glance over might think they were still merely talking. He had come here to observe Roy under the radar; the last thing he needed was the bouncers noticing what was going on.

“I’m going to have to ask you to release him,” Chad said as he moved slowly up to Michael’s side. “As you recall, those beneath the top five ranks may not challenge us formally or otherwise.”

“Wasn’t really looking for a challenge, I just wanted to come out with my friends. Michael here is the one who had a problem with mutual coexistence,” Vince replied.

“Noted, but you’re the one who took it from verbal to physical,” Chad countered. “It was a nice grab, by the way, but from the way his face is contorting, I’d say you have only a few more seconds to release it before Michael makes this situation worse and escalates things.”

Vince looked at Chad, and then felt the shaking in Michael’s muscles. If it had been anything else Vince might have been able to absorb Michael’s energy and keep him restrained. With cold, though, that just wasn’t an option. Making a snap decision, Vince released his hold and quickly took a step back.

Michael wheeled around, eyes wide and a long vein bulging noticeably on the top of this head. He shook off the arm that Vince had been holding and then curled the hand into a fist.

“If you do this, you know there will be severe consequences, right?” Chad asked in his same detached tone.

“Fuck ‘em,” Michael replied tersely. Vince shifted his footing slightly, readying himself to dodge Michael’s blows.

“You girls take all the fun out of being at a club, you know that?” The voice was Roy, who swaggered up to the tense zone that surrounded Vince and Michael. “I mean, really, you were doing good at staying covert for a while, but taking a fighting stance? Now everybody is paying attention to you shitheads instead of me.”

“Not your fight,” Michael grunted, his eyes never wavering from Vince’s waiting form.

“No, but it is my night. So now instead of drinking and playing with my girls, I had to take time out of it to come make sure you morons don’t go trashing the club,” Roy countered.

“I don’t need your help, Roy,” Vince said as he measured Michael’s breathing and line of sight.

“I didn’t come to help you. I came to help me. Now both of you calm your asses down so I can have fun or I’ll take you out back make sure neither of you can so much as move, let alone fight,” Roy said calmly.

“I’m ranked higher than you, dipshit,” Michael spat at him.

“Well then, here are two things to think about. First, you never fought me, so that ranking is arbitrary. Second, Hershel is the one on the admittance slip, so he’s the one who can’t be uncovered as a Super. As far as any regulations are concerned, I’m nothing more than a public persona,” Roy said, a big grin spreading across his face as he took a sip of his drink.

“Hold on,” Nick said, jumping in from the sidelines. “You’re saying that you could tear this club down around us and they couldn’t touch Hershel for exposing his identity?”

“You’re a touch smarter than those glasses make you look,” Roy answered. “So, girls, what do we do? Do you both of you walk away right now, or do I beat you both like red-headed stepchildren?”

“I don’t need to fight,” Vince said honestly.

Michael’s response took a touch longer. His eyes lingered on Vince a while longer, then glanced at Roy, and finally took in all of the people who were casting sidelong glances at him in the area around them. Vince was better than him without abilities, and if he used them, he’d be exposed. He took a long breath and lowered his arms.

“Another time, Vince,” Michael said, before turning and walking back in the direction of the entrance. The tall dark-haired boy accompanied him. Chad, however, lingered for a moment.

“Nice job, Roy,” Chad said. “It would have problematic to deal with the fallout from that. And as for you, Mr. Reynolds, it would be wise to remember your place at this school.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Vince asked, his voice still a hair on edge from the almost-confrontation.

“It means you are weak. You have no rights to things such as pride and aggression when dealing with those more powerful than you. You would be better served to bow your head and avoid conflict,” Chad explained.

“That’s not really my strong point,” Vince shot back.

“If it were, I wouldn’t have needed to tell you that, now would I? Think about it, because the next time Michael catches up to you, he will likely be smart enough to do it without a crowd present,” Chad said. He turned and moved to catch up with the other two, sliding easily through the crowd at an oddly brisk speed.

“What a cock,” Roy said simply. “Anyway, that was fun, but time to go tell my prospects of the night about how I stopped a bar fight. Later, bitches.”

“Wait,” Vince said. “Um... thank you. For keeping Michael and me out of trouble.”

“Don’t thank me,” Roy said in a more serious tone than he had shown all night. “I wasn’t lying; I only came over because your little show was distracting my girls. If it hadn’t had a direct impact on me, I would have watched him beat you right off your high horse and never lifted a finger. We share a dorm, but we’re not friends. Remember that.” Roy turned away from them and began heading back to the dance floor.

“I don’t know about you two,” Nick said as Roy walked further from them. “But personally, I’m seriously beginning to think that he might not be the best candidates for our bff for life club. Just me talking out loud, though; totally open to other opinions.”

“Shut up, Nick,” Vince and Alice said in unison.