|Mary Sue Fiction|
The next morning Priory Lowell was hung over when he went to teach his first class. That hadn't been a really rare occurance in his academic life, though he usually made at least a token effort to cover it up. His freshman students could have told him that the gum and mints didn't really work at covering up the scent of alcohol--not if a 'responsible' person knew what to expect. It wasn't just the fumes of beers gone by, though. Everything about Priory smelled stale or sour. It was pretty obvious that he hadn't bothered to bathe the night before, and either he was wearing the same clothes as yesterday, or he'd raided his laundry hamper, because there were unidentifiable stains on his shirt. Actually, it was the latter situation--no laundry had been done at his house since Bryant had ceased to function as laundry boy. Priory wasn't about to do it himself, and he was too cheap to take things to a cleaner. Despite all that had gone before, somewhere in the dim recesses of his mind he harbored a single, stubborn belief that Bryant would eventually see the error of his ways and come back, begging for forgiveness and mercy. Priory would have been disbelieving if anyone had dared to call him a dreamer.
The class was freshman American history. He entered class five minutes late, and snarled at a student in back who'd been standing up, his books in his arms. "Sit your ass back down--you're not getting a skip today. You brats think that just because I'm not standing in front of you the second the bell goes off you can just waltz away to pursue your own little whims." He dropped his messy stack of books and papers on the desk, and several notecards spilled off onto the floor. He ignored them. He'd had Bryant write up notes for each lesson at the beginning of the semester, but he scarcely used them. It was a lot easier to just have the students read the text book, then give them the same mimeographed multiple choice tests he'd been using since he'd begun teaching. Priory wasn't aware that there were a few former pupils that had been making some money by selling lists of answers--or that a few of his answers on recent history were no longer applicable, given the mercurial nature of politics.
He rubbed a hand over his face, feeling the slight rasp of stubble, and the graininess at the corners of his eyes. He was wishing that he'd put a little whiskey in his coffee, but he'd been out, he couldn't go to any of his neighbors to try to borrow some (not since Bryant had made that scene in front of the geezer next door), and the package stores wouldn't be open for hours. "Okay. The Tet Offensive. It was in 1958, and it was a sort of series of sneak attacks, done during their New Year. They celebrate it at the end of January instead of the first, like normal people. The Cong... What?"
The curt question was aimed at a boy in the front row, who'd tentatively raised his hand. "Sir, I think you meant 1968, and..."
"I said that, didn't I?"
"May-maybe I misheard. But Mister Lowell, our class schedule says that we're supposed to be studying the Korean War today, not the Vietnam War."
"Korea, Viet Nam, what the hell's the difference? They're all slant-eyes." A slender Vietnamese girl, almost vibrating with hurt and anger, stood up abruptly in the back of the class, gathering her books. As she hurried toward the door, Priory called, "You're gonna be marked absent. If you're gonna let your feelings get hurt by a simple lesson, then you might as well go back where you came from."
The boy who'd asked the question stood up, also gathering his materials. "You mean Texas? That's where she's from." He started for the door, too. "I'm reporting this to the administration, Mister Lowell. You've never been my idea of a good teacher, and this is just too much to..."
"Please, young man, don't go." Daniel Harkness stepped in from the hallway, followed by a young bearded man. "Alton, please go after Miss Ngyun, offer her the school's apologies, and ask her if she'd please come back to class?" He was staring at Priory. "She won't have any more trouble with Mister Lowell." As Alton hurried away, Harkness said, "Mister Lowell, I tried to call you at home, but I kept getting a busy signal."
"It's out of order." He didn't bother to explain that the phone had been damaged when he ripped it out of the wall and threw it when he became enraged about Bryant's defiance. "And yeah, I guess I spoke out of line. Get her back here and I'll apologize." He didn't sound contrite, or enthusiastic. It was clear what kind of apology it would be.
"You should apologize, but perhaps later. Right now I want to speak with you in my office."
Priory waved vaguely at the students, who were watching the exchange with great interest. "I have a class."
"Alton will take over."
"Will this be long? I have my main swim class right after this one."
"Don't worry about that."
"I have to. We have a meet coming up, and if I don't stay on their asses they'll slack off."
"Priory..." Lowell blinked at hearing his first name said in such a cold manner. "You don't need to worry about that. And Alton will take that class, too."
"Like hell he will! I want an explination of this."
"In my office."
"No: here and now." He folded his arms. "Or I don't go anywhere."
Harkness' jaw tightened. "I didn't want to do it like this. I was hoping to let you salvage some dignity, but it looks as if I'm too late for that. You want an explination, fine. You're being brought up on academic charges pertaining to your treatment of one of your students. You are going to be suspended till further notice, and any further action, or lack of action, will be decided by the board, and frankly, Lowell..." He gave the now stunned looking man a raking glance, "I don't think you're going to make much of an impression. I know that your attitude isn't. Now, come with me."
As they entered the hall, Alton was leading the girl back toward the class, talking to her quietly. When she saw Priory she lifted her head proudly and sailed past him into the classroom. Lowell, starting after Harkness, followed her with his eyes, and his glance was caught by someone at the far end of hall.
Bryant was leaning against the wall, arms folded, watching him. His expression was blank, but his eyes blazed. Priory took a step toward him, and Bryant pushed off from the wall. He didn't advance, but he stood ready, hands fisted at his side. Priory took another step, and Harkness, about to turn the corner toward the building's exit, said sharply, "Lowell! It's this way."
Priory silently pointed at Bryant, finger stabbing several times in an accusatory and threatening gesture. Bryant's fists uncurled, fingers spreading in fans, and he crooked them in a 'come on' gesture. Priory hesitated, then followed Harkness.
Trenton came around the corner behind Bryant, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder. "You shouldn't have done that. He might have come for you."
Bryant sighed. "I know, Trent. But I couldn't help it."
Trenton patted him. "Dom thing?"
Now Bryant smiled. "I don't know--maybe. Maybe it's just a Bryant thing. I haven't known myself long enough to be absolutely sure."
"So you're going to be in class in a couple of hours, and at practise this afternoon?"
"Harkness promised that Lowell wouldn't be there, so I will--sure." He cracked his knuckles. "I'm not going to let myself fall back, like Priory accused me of having done. I'm going to have a legitimate spot when we compete next week."
The Metropolis campus wasn't all that large, and gossip spread quickly--gossip, and speculation. The Board meeting was closed, of course, but word got around. Coach Lowell wasn't just on suspencion--his employment had been terminated, and he was banned from the campus. He wasn't going to be compensated for the unfulfilled portion of his current contract. This caused a lot of discussion. It was generally speculated as to what could have brought about such a severe penelty. Didn't Lowell have tenure? Didn't it take something actually criminal to boost someone out of that sort of cushy nest? Even more intriguing, were the hints that the administration might file some sort of criminal or civil charges against him. Whatever had brought this about, one thing was sure: Lowell's academic career was over. He wouldn't even get a job teaching in a Podunk junior high after a scandal like this. It was also rumored that when a stunned Lowell came out of the board meeting, he was served with a restraining order. He'd started to tear it up, and been advised against it by the server. "It shows a lack of willingness to co-operate, Mac," the man had said. "Judges don't like that. If there's any chance at all you're going to go in front of one eventually--I wouldn't do that."
Out from under Lowell's lowering presence, the swim team seemed to take on even greater vigor. The competition among the athletes now was eager, rather than anxious. Alton Tobias, who'd been junior coach to the girl's swim team (Priory had refused an assistant. It didn't mean that he worked any harder, it just meant that there were a few things that got neglected, since he didn't want to share power or glory), and he was well liked by the boys, easily drawing their best efforts. As promised by Harkness, Bryant had been fully reinstated, and he trained like a demon, determined give a good showing in his two events.
It was probably the most peaceful week of Bryant's life, and he felt almost serene. His life finally seemed to be on track. His classes were going smoothly, he was at his peak physically, and his swimming performance had never been better. He'd started putting his business training to use by helping Toddy with the books for Lavender's Green, and Toddy had upped his salary. He had regular customers who came by to flirt and shoot the breeze (and often leave tips) as much as to get a drink. Clive had introduced him to a young couple who occasionally attended Doms and Dommes Club gatherings (they hadn't settled into the lifestyle firmly enough to join). The young man and woman operated a custom jewelry store together, and they were trying to talk Bryant into having his ears--or better yet--his nipples pierced, because 'you'd make such a wonderful walking advertisement for our stuff.'
The swim meet was scheduled for that Saturday--an all day event. A half-dozen schools were competing, but it was generally acknowledged that Metropolis' main competition was going to come from Gotham University. At dinner the night before, Bryant said, "I'm not worried about the relay--I'm first on that, and I'm sure I can do better than hold my own, since I'll be fresh. It's the 50 meter freestyle that has me worried. That guy from Gotham is supposed to be greased lightening. I could be snotty and say that since he's rich he's been able to afford swim coaches all his life, but I understand that he's some sort of foster care kid like I was--he just landed in a lot better situation, and I don't mean financially."
Clive put down his fork. "This is beginning to have a familiar ring to it. What's the boy's name?"
"Dick..." He frowned. "Greystoke? No, that's Tarzan."
"Could it possibly be 'Greyson'?"
"Yeah, that's it. And why are you grinning all of a sudden?"
"I've met the boy, and you're right--he's fast, on many levels.**" Trenton was looking at him. "Just before I met you, lamb. He's Bruce Wayne's ward, but that IS sort of a fancy word for an orphan placed under someone else's care, and you're right about his situation. Mister Wayne is in no way, shape, or form anything like Priory Lowell, thank God. I wonder if Bruce is going to be at the meet?" His smile broadened. "I never got to know him as well as I'd have liked to. It would be... interesting. Trenton, precious, get the dishes done quickly and come to bed." He smiled. "Daddy will encourage you to supreme efforts tomorrow."
Trenton gulped down the last of his milk and stood, starting to gather dishes. "You're through with that, right, Bryant? You don't want those last two bites of peas..." Trenton was reaching for the plate, and Clive slapped him smartly on the wrist. Trenton wasn't upset. "Sorry. Are you? Through, I mean."
"I'm through," said Bryant, amused. He watched as Trenton gathered the rest of the dishes, then took them into the kitchen. "You know, Clive, Priory always used to insist that we not have sex before a meet."
Clive snorted. "Just like him to try to control the sex lives of everyone around him. Well, it goes to show how blind stupid he is, pet. If sexual activity was that draining, I'd have fucked Trenton to death long ago--" He leaned over and peeked through the archway into the kitchen. Trenton was filling the dish washer, and at that angle he presented a beautiful view of his ass. Clive's smile broadened, "And vice-versa."
The meet was being held at the Metropolis YMCA, and there was a good sized crowd. Many parents and students had traveled from the other schools to root for their athletes. Trenton and Bryant had their own cheering section: Clive, Lynette, Henderson (Lynette's steady man), Mrs. Havasnark (with Walter Bellows dancing attendance), and a good number of the crowd from Attitudes and Lavender's Green. Mrs. Havasnark had brought a picnic basket, and was handing out cookies frosted in the red-and-blue Metropolis colors.
Most of the home town rooters were situated about half-way up the bleachers, near the middle of the pool, on both sides. Clive wished Bryant and Trenton good luck, then made his way along the railing that seperated the raised bleachers from the pool area. He went to where the athletes dressed in the black-and-gold warm up suites of Gotham U were gathered. As he approached, a tall, blond boy*** watched him curiously, then happy recognition dawned on his face, and he hurried over to the rail. "Clive!"
Clive stopped, hands resting casually on the rail, and acknowledged him. "Dick."
The single syllable, and the wealth of implied meaning behind it, made Dick Greyson blush. "I was just thinking that it was a shame that we weren't going to be here long enough for me to look you up. You here to cheer on the home team?" His eyes twinkled. "My feelings won't be hurt."
"The home team in general, and one stunning swimmer in particular." He nodded toward the Metropolis group. "The tall one with the eyes like emeralds? He's mine." His smile softened. "And I'm his."
"Well, that's great--and damn."
Clive raised an eyebrow. "Dear, Trenton is the soul of understanding, and very secure. Now, do you see that handsome creature standing beside him--the one who has hair about the color as your own?"
Dick looked. "Hm. I sure do."
"His name is Bryant McAllister, and I think you two would like each other."
"What makes you think so?"
Clive's smile was sly. "Because he and I have a lot in common, if you catch my meaning."
"Really?" Dick looked at Bryant with renewed interest. "McAllister? Hey, I'm going up against him in the freestyle. It's going to be a shame to beat him."
Clive reached out and tapped his nose. "Don't be so cocky..." he mouthed the next word without sound, "Robin." Dick looked around quickly, and Clive raised his voice. "Don't worry, pet. The deaf studies group is at my back, so you don't have to worry about lip readers, and the only person who could hear that would be Superman..." He looked into the distance, "or this luscious character that Scribe has told me about called Jim Ellison, but that's neither here, nor there. In any case, one already knows, and the other is probably a fictional character."
"According to Scribe, you never can tell. If you can hang about for just a few minutes after the meet, I'll introduce you."
"It's a deal. I'd better get going. They're going to start the relay in a minute."
"Good luck. Bryant is in that one, too."
"Oh, heck. I hope we aren't in the same leg. I'd hate to beat him twice."
Clive shook his head as the boy hurried over to get into line at his team's place. He thought, *Confidence is a beautiful thing, but I believe THAT is bordering on vanity. If Bryant and Dick do get together, I think that Bryant may find himself needing to warm that tight little butt a time or two, just to make sure Dick doesn't completely run out of humbleness.*
Dick's worry was unfounded. Bryant was the lead swimmer for Metropolis and Dick was the anchor on his. Each leg was timed, and when they were posted, Bryant had beat Dick by almost two seconds, and neither Gotham nor Metropolis won the event. They were both out done by a small private college. After the race, though, Dick went over to the Metropolis team.
Clive had resumed his seat in the stands, next to Lynette and Henderson, with Havasnark a few rows below them. He was munching a cookie supplied by Havasnark. "You know," he said, dusting crumbs from his hands, "if they didn't have to worry about cramps, Snarky's cookies could be a secret weapon for our team. A couple of those and the sugar rush would propel them through the water like torpedos."
Trenton won his first event handily, and the lusty cheers of his private pep squad drew wry looks from the rest of the crowd. Then it was time for Bryant's 50 meter freestyle. ryant and Dick took their positions in adjacent lanes. The spectators probably didn't think the looks they gave each other were any more than athletes checking out the competition. Clive knew different, and Trenton suspected. But whatever budding interest there was wasn't going to be allowed to interfer with the boys' efforts. In fact, Clive knew that each of them were probably feeling a little keener edge, now that they had noticed someone they wouldn't mind impressing.
The starting buzzer went off, and the six competitors hit the water almost simultaneously, with scarcely a splash. The crowd was on their feet in excitement. This was a crucial event--the points awarded could mean the difference between victory and second place. The competition was heated, but there was never any doubt that it was going to come down to two athletes--Bryant McAllister and Richard Greyson. First one would be ahead by a half stroke, then the other. Finally Bryant gave an almost fierce kick, and his hand slapped the side of the pool literally a fraction of a second before Dick's. He thumped into the tile wall, cushioning himself with his arms to avoid injury, and turned to bob in the water, back against the wall as the times were put up on the score board. Treading water next to him, Dick said, gasping, "Good race, man. You ran my butt off."
Bryant smiled at him. "I wouldn't want to do that."
Dick's eyebrows lifted, but he returned the smile. "Yeah, you have a lot in common with Clive."
The times were put up on the scoreboard, and Bryant had won by six-tenths of a second. Bryant's hands shot up, fists clenched in victory as he whooped along with the rest of the Metropolis crowd. He hoisted himself up onto the pool rim, then gave Dick a hand and helped him up. They stood and, as they were surrounded by well wishers, shook hands. Talking over the hub-bub, Dick said, "Say, Bryant--planning on visiting Gotham any time in the near future?"
"I just might make an effort. I'll talk to you later. My friend's about to compete, and I promised I'd wait at the finish line, so to speak."
Bryant stood as close as they would allow to the pool, keeping about a yard between himself and the rim. He looked across to where Trenton was getting in position, adjusting his team swim cap. No, he wasn't going to go into the water without it, not even if some of the visiting students were giving him condescending looks. Bryant cupped his hands beside his mouth and called, "Do it to it, Trent! You're the best, no mercy on the rest." Trenton grinned at him, and there was a bright, fierce edge to the smile that would have surprised anyone who didn't know him very well. Trenton might be a submissive in all other things, but he didn't hold back in swimming. He was aggressive, and he was ready.
Priory Lowell had been drunk for most of the previous week. In fact, the only reason he'd approached sober at all was because he couldn't drink after he'd passed out. He'd started out on beer, but had quickly moved over into whiskey, and he was averaging more than a fifth a day. After the fourth day, the manager of the liquor store closest to his home had refused to sell him any more. "Why?" he'd answered Priory's surly challenge. "Because you're drunk right now. You were drunk the last three times you came in, all this week. Frankly, I could care less if you pickle your liver with onions, but if you go out and kill someone in an accident..." he'd eyed the man's hostile expression, "or on purpose, I could get sued for supplying you. Go home. Sober up. Join a twelve step program, or get in a drunk tank and dry out. You're not getting any more here."
"You're not the only store in town," Priory threatened, heading for the door. "I'll go somewhere else."
As he left, the manager had raised his voice, "Promise?"
"I'm never coming back here."
"You got that right, or you'll spend some time in jail for trespassing."
As Priory had said, that wasn't the only liquor store in town. He was considering going to a different one for each purchase after that, but he decided fuck it--he'd stock up. He bought a dozen bottles, telling the curious clerk that he was in charge of refreshments for a bachelor party. He left, hoping that the check he'd written wouldn't bounce before he could qualify for unemployment insurance.
The morning of the swim meet he found out that he wasn't going to qualify. The university was disputing his claim, because they'd fired him for cause. He could, of course, appeal. "In the meantime," said the snotty civil servant in charge of Priory's claim, "you can keep applying for positions. Just keep a record of applications filed, and should you win your appeal, the'll take the time into account, and your first check will reflect that."
Priory was itching to tell him that he hadn't been applying anywhere else. He knew damn good and well that he wasn't going to be able to get a job in his chosen profession--not with the abrupt dismissal on his record. The only other jobs he was really qualified for involved either minimum wage and a gaudy uniform, or manual labor. He felt that he was above either choice. So, here was more blame to lay at Bryant McAllister's feet. The ungrateful slut had really screwed Priory's life, but good.
The refusal of unemployment benefits was the last straw. He had to have it out with the punk, but he had no idea of his current address. He knew that Bryant was living with that hard-ass who'd been with him at Priory's place, but Priory had no idea of the address. Then he remembered the swim meet. Harkness had reinstated Bryant on the team, flouting Priory's decision, and Bryant wouldn't miss the chance to compete. He'd be at the YMCA. Priory hadn't dared go to the campus once he'd been banned--he knew that the security guards had been instructed to give him one chance to leave the first time he showed up, then detain him for the police if he persisted. But the YMCA--it was public, right? They couldn't keep him out.
He'd completely forgotten about the restraining order, saying that he was not to come within one hundred feet of Bryant McAllister, on pain of incarceration.
There were a few security guards at the Y. They weren't expecting the crowd to get rowdy--none of the schools attending had a reputation for being overy boistrous--but it never hurt to be prepared. The two talking near the door noticed when the dirty, unshaven, bad smelling man passed them. He was listing to one side, enough to make him bang his shoulder on the door frame on the way through. The first guard said, "Should we roust him?"
"That's an iffy proposition," said the second. "All he's guilty of right now is being unpleasant, unsightly, and fragrant in the worst possible way. I'll keep an eye on him, and if he tries to bother anyone, I'll give him the bum's rush." He followed Priory into the building, and was irritated to find that the man had already disappeared down one of the halls that led around the pool. He looked down both sides, but didn't see him. Figuring that he'd gone through one of the side exits, he entered from the front and started to move slowly down the side that had the highest concentration of visiting fans, scanning the crowd.
As soon as Priory had seen the security guards, he'd known they were going to make trouble. As soon as he got inside, he sped up, hustling down the left hand hallway to the pool entrance at the far end. That was where the races finished up, and Bryant McAllister would have to be there at some point in the proceedings.
An event was in progress as he came through the double doors, and he winced at the noise. The excited shouts of the crowd echoed back, multiplied as they bounced off the tiled floors and walls. There were several athletes standing a few yards away, encouraging the team mates who were striving in the water. From behind, even without his white-blond hair, Priory recognized Bryant easily. He was calling encouragement to Trenton Vittelli, the little bastard who'd defied Priory in class, and no doubt encouraged Bryant in his rebellion.
Priory had never had much self-restraint. The stress of his recent fall from whatever grace he'd had, plus his drinking, overode what little he had left, and he stalked toward Bryant. Bryant was caught up in the moment. He didn't hear Priory approaching from behind, didn't know he was there till a hand grabbed his arm hard enough to hurt. He looked around in surprise, and his expression went rigid with anger. Priory said, "I gotta talk to you--now."
Bryant leaned back, trying to get out of range of Priory's powerful body odor. "Christ, Pri, how drunk are you? Get out of here. You're violating my restraining order, and the one one set up by the school."
"I'm not at the school."
"You know damn good and well it included school sponsored events." Bryant jerked his arm, but Priory hung on grimly. "Let go of me."
"Not till we settle this." Some of the people nearby had realized that there was something going on. The security guard, still half-way up the pool, had spotted his quarry and was trying to make his way to them, but the sidelines were crowded. Priory tugged at Bryant, hard. "Come with me and we'll have this out."
Bryant strained back, fighting down the urge to just punch the older man's lights out. As much as he hated Priory, the guy was pretty pathetic right now. Bryant had won, but Priory still didn't realize it, and Bryant had never been inclined to kick someone while they were helpless. "Don't you get it? It's over!"
"You think I want you back?" Priory spat to the side. "Screw you, I wouldn't have you if you crawled to me on hands and knees. But you're going to make it right for me again. All this crap is your fault. You're going to square me with the school board. Tell 'em you're fucking mental and not responsible, tell 'em you lied because God told you to--I don't care. I just want my life back."
"Priory--jail. You're going to jail if they catch you. Hell, you're going to jail anyway, because you violated the order, and I can see Harkness talking to a security guard right now."
Priory squeezed hard, and near insanity was burning in his eyes. "You ruined me, you little shit."
Bryant's voice was low. "I didn't have to. You did a great job of it on your own. You're not going to like prison, Priory. You think you're hard? You're going to meet men in there who'll probably treat you as bad as you treated me. Well, maybe not quite as bad. If you're a good bitch your man will probably protect you. Now, let--me--go," Bryant's rage and pain welled up, and he finished, "you pitiful old man."
Priory gave a ragged cry and swung at him. Bryant couldn't entirely block the blow, but he deflected it so that it caught him high up on the forehead instead of full in the face. All around them the crowd became more agitated, and not from the pleasant excitement of watching the race. They milled, many getting out of their seats and beginning to hurry toward the altercation.
Trenton and Bryant's contingency wasn't any different. Most of them had already been on their feet. As Clive stood, he saw something that made his heart clench. Trenton had realized what was going on. Instead of making his turn and continuing back toward the other end of the pool, he grabbed the edge and almost vaulted up onto the floor. His face was white, his expression a mixture of apprehension and determination. He was going to help his friend. "Damn-nation!"
Clive bolted for the aisle, but it was already filling up with people. Before he could stop he ran full tilt into Mrs. Havasnark, who was also trying to make her way down to the pool. Clive grabbed the tiny woman instinctively as they both began to fall. He twisted almost acrobatically, so that he landed on his back with Havasnark safely on top of him instead of crushed underneath. He also slid down a couple of steps, bumping his head, before he came to a halt. He was feeling a tiny bit stunned, but he couldn't take even a moment to recuperate. Even if he'd wanted to, he wouldn't have been allowed. Havasnark was hauling him to his feet, crying, "Go save those poor gelibters.
" As if she needed to push him. Clive flew the rest of the way down the aisle, grabbed the rail as he came to it, and vaulted over. It was a miricle that he didn't slide on the slick tile and break something. He skidded a little, but recovered, and sprinted toward where Trenton was now struggling with Priory, trying to make him let go of Bryant. As he watched, Priory backhanded Trenton, knocking the boy aside. Trenton slipped and fell, but immediately started to get up. Clive shouted, "Stay down, Trent! Don't--you--dare!" Hearing the voice of command, Trenton reluctantly scooted out of the way of the two men staggering nearby.
It was a paradox. Priory was too drunk to really feel most of the blows he was receiving from Bryant, but somehow he still managed to stay on his feet as they grappled. He let go of Bryant's arm, lunged, and managed to get his hands around the younger man's throat. Bryant was younger and generally fitter, but Priory was bigger, and his unbalanced rage gave him an advantage. He just didn't care any more. He was going to hurt Bryant if it was the last thing he did.
He was succeeding. Bryant punched him in the gut and in the face. He tried to knee him in the crotch, but nothing was working. His air was cut off, and he was starting to get dizzy. *This isn't going to happen,* he thought dazedly. *I'm not going to be strangled in front of a crowd this size. At least Trent is out of the way.*
As he ran, Clive considered just mowing into the pair, but that brought the risk of hurting Bryant, too. But he didn't have much time to decide on a course of action. As he neared them, he could hear Bryant wheezing for air. Clive acted on instinct. As he came upon Priory, he gave a kick that would have landed him a spot on any professional football team. If he'd been aiming at a football it would have soared through the uprights, and probably bounced off the stands behind them. A policeman who wrote up the incident later read his statement back to him, concluding, "...so you went to kick him in the ass, and..."
"Oh, no," Clive had corrected him. "I hit exactly where I was aiming."
Priory had his legs slightly spread for balance while he strangled Bryant. Clive's steel toed boot had found its mark dead center between them.
The result was immediate. Priory gave a high pitched scream, reaching down to clutch at himself as his legs started to buckle. But he only reached down with one hand. The primitive part of his brain just wasn't going to give up on revenge, and it kept the other hand locked on Bryant's throat.
But Bryant managed to drag in enough air to clear his head. The instant after Clive's kick landed, Bryant clenched his hands together, jerked back as hard as he could, and swung up. He ripped loose from Priory's grip just as his fists caught the ex-coach under the jaw, snapping his head back. Priory's feet shot out from under him, and he fell straight backward. In a movie it would have been comic, it would have been a pratfall. But Priory was on hard tile. His head struck it with a sound like someone dropping a glass quart soda bottle from shoulder height. He rolled, a surprised look on his face, and splashed into the pool.
Clive went to Bryant immediately. The young man was bent over, clutching his throat, and gasping. "Bri, are you...?"
Bryant waved away the worry. His voice was a little hoarse, but strong. "I'm all right, no thanks to that shit. What about Trent?"
Clive looked over to where his young lover was just beginning to stand up. "Trent is fine." His eyes narrowed. "He's in trouble, but he's fine."
Trenton sat back down meekly, folding his hands in his lap. He knew why Clive was angry. Part of it was the adrenaline of the fight, but it was mostly because Trenton had put himself in danger, especially when he knew his Dom was right there, and would certainly respond to the incident. Trent just hoped that Clive would decide that his desire to help a friend who was being attacked was a mitigating circumstance.
Some of the others, athletes and concerned members of the crowd, had arrived, and were milling about. Someone who had Red Cross training was giving Bryant a quick check. When he was sure that Bryant could breathe on his own and wasn't likely to pass out, he looked around for Priory. His eyes fell on a slick red patch near the pool's rim. "Son of a bitch."
That got everyone's attention, and they looked at the pool. A faint pink thread could be seen lazily drifting across the water. "Fuck," said Bryant. "He hasn't surfaced." Before anyone else could move, he dived over the side, going right to the bottom. In a moment he broke water, dragging Priory Lowell with him. People moved to help, and Lowell, totally limp, was dragged out and laid on the floor.
The Red Cross practitioner tried to do artificial resperation on him, but he just couldn't get Lowell's chest to rise, not even after getting him to up chuck a good bit of water. By the time the paramedics arrived there was no pulse. Lowell was removed on a stretcher, an oxygen mask over his face and one of the medics valiantly pumping on his chest.
Mrs. Havasnark, followed by Mister Bellows and Lynette and Henderson, came over. While Lynette hugged Trenton and gave him the 'mother's quick once over' to be sure he wasn't hurt, Havasnark burbled, "Darling boys, are you both all right?"
"We're okay, Snarky," said Bryant. "Did I see you coming out of the stands with blood in your eye?"
She drew herself up proudly. The top of her head almost made it up to Clive's collarbone. "You bet your sweet tuchis. I was going to whack that SOB in the head with my purse."
Clive rolled his eyes. "Good thing you never got the chance. I've had to carry that monstrosity before. You might have ended up facing manslaughter charges."
"This time I'm not going to be such a lady." She turned her head and spat on the ground, then said, "Er zol kakn mit blit un mit ayter."
Clive shook his head. "Havasnark, you need to curb that vicious streak."
"What does it mean?" asked Bryant.
"I'll tell you later. It's disgusting, but very appropriate for Priory. However it's only going to come true if they have someone skilled in voodoo to resurrect him. That man is dead."
Bryant had taken a seat on a nearby bench. Trenton had wrapped a towel around him and now sat beside him, offering support. "I don't..." Bryant swallowed painfully. "I don't get it. He wasn't down all that long."
"In his condition it wouldn't take long," said Clive. "He was drunk, and probably semi-conscious after that crack he took. He probably inhaled water, though the fall might have killed him, or he could very well have had a stroke, given how he was carrying on. I expect that the autopsy will tell." Clive patted Bryant's shoulder. "He'd have died that much sooner if you hadn't gone in and pulled him out. A lot of people wouldn't have, you know."
Bryant shrugged. "I never really thought about not doing it."
Clive nodded. "And there's the main difference between you and Lowell." Clive bent down and whispered in his ear, "A true Dom protects the helpless, even if they're not very nice people. Even if they're utter shits, like Lowell." Clive stood up, and gave Trenton a stern look. "And a good submissive knows when to stay out of harm's way."
Trenton looked down, flushing, and said quietly, "Sometimes I have to be a friend first."
Clive blinked, then sighed, going over to him. "Trenton, tell me one thing: did you honestly think that I wasn't going to come over here and tend to the situation?"
Trenton looked up at him. "I didn't think anything except that Bryant was being hurt."
Clive nodded, and stroked his hair. "You're right, lamb. You had to be Trenton Vittelli instead of just a submissive, and Trenton Vittelli would never stand by and watch a friend being assaulted."