Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Rivalries: Chapter Sixteen, Part Two

Notes: Hey. So. We got some snow this weekend. Like, a lot.


It ended up being a little over two feet once all was said and done. I know, Colorado is a snowy place, but much of that is centered on the high country, and we've been in a drought for years now. Getting two feet of snow feels AMAZING! Know what else feels amazing? Getting another part of Rivalries done even though daycare was cancelled and I had kiddo all day yesterday! WOOOOHOOOOOO!

Title: Rivalries: Chapter Sixteen, Part Two


Chapter Sixteen, Part Two


High school was the gossipiest place Johnny had ever worked.

Being in high school had been bad enough, but teaching at a high school? You had kid gossip, you had parent gossip, and you had faculty gossip, all of them vaguely intersecting and going around and around until you basically had to face the fact that you were swimming in a sea of gossip at all times, and at least ten percent of it was about you, Trying to rise above it was no good—there was no swimming out of a cesspool. He’d found that you just had to grab your floaties and do your best to keep your head above water.

That wasn’t to say he was completely above gossiping himself. He could admit, honestly, that he wasn’t. There were people he liked to chat with, people who always had interesting information to pass on—rarely very salacious, thankfully—and he was always tuned into the student gossip because really, that was part of his job. Right now, the students, parents, and faculty were all focused on one thing—Charlie and Debra’s club.

The kids, almost to a person, thought it was cool. All the kids who were part of it talked about it like the sessions were downright godly, which—yeah, they were great, but it was less that every session was phenomenal and more than they at least weren’t boring, which was more than the other dueling club could say. They got a lot of attention due to their membership, which made them even more interesting to their classmates, which made them want to talk about it even more…it was a vicious cycle, or maybe a virtuous one, because getting kids who’d never been interested in dueling but might benefit from it anyway to think about giving it a shot was a good thing.

Less of a good thing was the unexpected reaction it got from the Euryale parents. Word spread from privileged child to privileged adult that someone else was enjoying something that they weren’t allowed to, and they wanted to do it, and how was it fair that their child couldn’t partake in something being put on in their very own school?

That was where Principal Cross had to explain, much to her distaste Johnny imagined, that the club for Stheno children was specifically for them, that she had a very competent instructor for the Euryale students, that certainly, she’d be open to bringing on another instructor to add more depth to their program because yes, it was unfair that the Stheno kids got two teachers and Euryale students only got one, and she’d address that immediately.

Johnny was sure she wanted to shut the whole thing down, but she couldn’t. So her first act was to confront Debra and Charlie about it. He was actually semi-present for this—he’d just finished walking Roland out to meet his foster mom after dueling club ended, and got back to the gymnasium in time to hear Principal Cross snap like a dry branch, “What do you two think you’re doing?”

There was silence, then, “I beg your pardon?” from Charlie.

“The exhortations you’ve been encouraging your students to spread about their experiences here. Lying to get attention, really? Is that what you’re teaching them with the time you’ve been granted in our facilities?”

“Nobody’s lied about anything, as far as I know,” Debra said, sounding perfectly calm. Johnny wasn’t sure if she was using her knack or not—she generally sounded calm, especially when she had to talk to the principal. “We certainly haven’t asked our students to lie about anything.”

“Then you haven’t been pairing elementalists up against ornamentalists?” Principal Cross asked scathingly. “Mental knacks against physical ones? They need to be learning similar type against similar type, not—”

“That’s ridiculous,” Charlie interjected, sounding less calm than Debra, but Johnny could tell he was trying. “Ma’am. These kids need all the experience they can get, and setting them up to bash on each other with the same powers over and over again is a surefire recipe for boredom. They can all learn something from working against another type of knack.”

“You’re really doing this?” Now Principal Cross sounded satisfied. “Then it’s reckless endangerment. There aren’t proper teaching guidelines for this kind of situation. I’m going to have both of you removed from this club, immediately, and—”

“Ma’am,” Charlie interrupted again, his voice flat. “There are plenty of guidelines in place for these scenarios. They’re taught at every military academy out there.”

“These children need to be focusing on being children, not pretending to be soldiers!”

“Then none of them should have access to a dueling club,” Debra said. “If you’re going to be that way with us, you need to pass the word on to your own seniors and tell them they have to shut down too. I imagine their parents won’t be thrilled, but you’re a private academy. You can make these sorts of decisions if you want to take the heat for it.”

“You’re not teaching the same things, though!” It was the first time that Principal Cross started to lose control of her poise. “You’re teaching military techniques to high school students! That’s unacceptable, it’s—it’s not—”

“None of this information is proprietary,” Charlie pointed out. “Drill instructors post videos of this sort of thing on YouTube all the time. Anyone could research these techniques if they put a little effort into it. This isn’t the result of some sort of special government research testing in a secret knack lab or something—” and Johnny almost choked here, because he knew exactly who Charlie was referring to “—it’s basic cross-knack counters. Your other instructor is military, isn’t he? Bring him in to watch. He’ll verify what I’m saying is true.”

“Don’t invite scrutiny you can’t handle,” Principal Cross snapped, then turned and began to clip-clip-clip away.

Johnny let himself into the gym through the other door in time to see Debra and Charlie share a long-suffering look. “She’s not going to give this up,” Charlie muttered.

“She will once she realizes she’s got no other choice,” Debra said, then rolled her eyes. “Not that people like her ever realize when they’ve been backed into a corner. She’s got all the grace of a three-legged dog and none of the cuteness.”

“If that’s a polite way of calling her a bitch, I’m all about it,” Johnny said as he joined them. His fingers itched to touch Charlie, to just grab him by the shirt and haul him into a kiss, then take him home and show him exactly how much Johnny appreciated him standing up for the Stheno kids.

Some of his intent must have gotten through, because after a second Charlie grinned at him and extended his hand. The empty sleeve on the right side had come unpinned at some point and fallen down, but he didn’t even look like he noticed. “Want to go get dinner?” he asked as he drew Johnny in close.

“I want to eat something, yeah,” Johnny said.

“Aaand I’m done here,” Debra announced. “Enjoy your innuendo, guys, please have it with a side of putting the rest of the gear away. See you two tomorrow.” She grabbed her purse and jacket and walked out, and Johnny let himself get reeled in a little tighter.

It felt good. It felt way too good, and yeah, he was getting hard in the gym. Shit. It might have been embarrassing, if he hadn’t realized that Charlie was in exactly the same position.

“We can’t do anything here,” Charlie said, low and soft as he stroked his hand across Johnny’s lower back. “Especially not after I just told off the principal. She’s probably looking for any excuse to scream at me right now.”

“Then let’s get ho—back to your place,” Johnny corrected himself, wincing internally. Charlie didn’t seem to notice his gaffe. “And then I’ll show you exactly what I’ve got in mind.”

“Lead the way—no, wait.” Charlie pulled back and pointed at the remaining equipment. “Cleanup first.”

“Boy scout,” Johnny teased, but he grabbed the nearest gear bag and started loading it up.

It was all right. They had time for more later.



  1. Love them!! The relationship is progressing naturally.

    1. Thank you!!! That's what I'm best at, lol! I can't write instant love to save my soul.