My muse presented this story as a fully developed plot in shower this morning, and I was helpless not to write it. The story is based on the song "Fight for Me" from Heathers the Musical (Yes, yet another story inspired by a musical theatre song). It's also my first try at a High School AU.
Fight For Me
Stephanie Plum slid her tray onto the table, sank onto the bench seat and let out a resigned sigh as she flipped open her math textbook. She'd had every intention of doing her homework last night when she got home from her shift at the Tasty Pastry, but then Joe Morelli had walked in right on closing and sweet talked her out of more than just a left- over cannoli. There went her evening, and her virginity along with it.
It hadn't been the romantic and sensual experience she'd fantasized about for her first time, but she knew from the conversations she'd overheard between her Valerie's friends that this was normal. It never happened the way the books described. Especially for her, apparently. There'd been no whispered sweet nothings, no lingering touches. He'd been gone from the shop before she'd even managed to catch her breath, calling a nonchalant, "Thanks, Cupcake," over his shoulder as the door swung shut behind him. She was left with her panties still hanging off one ankle, her hair mussed and starting to frizz, cheeks flushed a deep pink as she pressed her back a little more firmly into the hard floor beneath her.
Had all the time she'd spent mooning over the town's bad-boy heart throb and hoping he'd cast his attention her way been worth the end result? Had she even orgasmed? She wasn't sure. But she certainly wasn't left with that euphoric sense of satisfaction she'd been led to expect.
Cleaning herself up as best she could in the employee bathroom, Stephanie pushed all the thoughts and feelings swirling through her head into that little box she kept in the shadowy corner at the back labelled Denial, finished closing up the shop, and walked home.
She did everything in her power to compose herself on the way, knowing that if she showed any sign of weakness her mother would sink her demon claws in and rip her open. She'd be made to reveal her transgressions. And no doubt, the woman would find a wat to make it all Stephanie's fault. Not only that, she'd skew the whole thing and make it about her instead. Helen Plum was well versed in playing the victim.
Thankfully, Helen had been distracted by whatever mild upset had occurred in Saint Valerie's perfect world when Stephanie had arrived home, so she'd been able to ghost by the kitchen torture-zone with nothing more than a called, "I'm home!" and the brief explanation that she was going to hit the shower then get stuck into her homework before bed.
More like cry her eyes out in the shower and then lay on her bed with tears tracking down her temples until she finally succumbed to sleep.
In the morning she felt a little better. Sore from the unfamiliar activity, haggard from the night spent crying, but mentally and emotionally, she'd be okay. The little denial box was padlocked shut and pushed half behind a bookcase full of useless information she kept on hand in case it happened to serve a purpose one day; things like the lyrics to Van Halen songs.
The only problem now was, her math homework still wasn't done, and it was due next period.
Peering around the cafeteria, she tried to spot her best friend in the crowd of teens. Mary Lou wasn't great at math either, but if she'd done the homework, Steph knew she'd let her copy it. Then all she'd need to do is scribble some stuff out along the way to make it look like she'd done the work herself and change some of the answers for authenticity. Piece of cake.
When Mary Lou finally arrived at the table, slightly winded, eyes glittering and lacking her own lunch tray, Steph was struck frozen with a tater tot half way to her mouth. The locked box in the back of mind rattled.
"Whaaaat?" she asked cautiously, drawing out the monosyllabic question. Had she somehow found out about what Steph had done last night?
"There's a fight in the courtyard!" Mary Lou said gleefully.
Relieved, Stephanie rolled her eyes, stuffed the tot in her mouth, and gave the denial box a quick kick to shove it back out of sight. "And?" she questioned. "There's a fight in the courtyard practically every day. It's nothing special. Do you have your math homework?" She held out her hand for the notebook she held, but her friend didn't seem to share her lack of interest in the typical display of teen violence occurring outside the lunchroom.
"The new kid attacked Joe Morelli, and now they're in a full-on fist fight," Mary Lou explained with that same level of excitement. She was always down for secondhand aggression. "It's super hot. We have to go watch."
And before Stephanie could protest further, she found herself hauled from the table, her delicious tots and neglected homework left behind as Mary Lou dragged her outside to the bear witness to yet another testosterone-fueled spectacle.
The sound engulfed her first. Guys shouting, "Holy shit!" and spurring the pair on, girls practically swooning as they commented on the level of abject hotness to the whole thing, all of it undercut by labored grunts and the sound flesh pounding on flesh. Then Mary Lou managed push through to the front of the crowd and what Stephanie saw in the centre of the tight ring that had formed gave her pause. All thoughts of math homework evaporated and time seemed to slow.
She'd heard about the new kid, of course. Who hadn't? A guy turns up at their vanilla, Pleastantville-esque high school, with skin a couple shades darker than everyone else and a slight accent and you can bet your bottom dollar the Burg gossip mill is gonna go crazy.
"He's a delinquent!" they said.
"I head he got expelled from his last school."
"Apparently he just got out of juvie."
Stephanie's own mother had warned her to keep her distance from 'that new foreign boy'. But what Stephanie couldn't understand now that she'd laid eyes on him, was why no one was talking about how god damn attractive he was. Even now, with dirt smudged over his uniform, sweat on his brow and a bruise blooming on his cheek, she couldn't deny that he was hot. Sure, he wasn't as well built as Joe Morelli, but maybe that was a point in his favour. There was something raw and enticing about the way he used his slight frame to his advantage.
"I should be watching this," Stephanie muttered, shaking her head and trying to back away even as her gaze hungrily ate up every detail of the rangy kid somehow not having his ass handed to him by the school' toughest senior. "If I'm caught at the scene of another fight Mom's gonna kill me."
Mary Lou snagged her arm in a tight hug, preventing any further escape attempts Stephanie might have made. "You'll be fine," she said. "It's not like you're the only witness this time. There's no way the teachers are gonna single you out in this crowd."
Stephanie highly doubted that. Trouble always had a way of finding her. She couldn't find the conviction to break free of her friend's hold, though. Sure, she'd get an earful from Helen about it later, but the new kid's energy seemed to call to her. She found herself wondering about him. What was his story? Where had he come from? Why was he here? Were any of the rumours true?
"Do we know what happened to cause this?" she asked out loud, eyes glued to the scene as the kid received yet another fist to the gut.
"He walked in on Joe bragging about his latest conquest in the bathroom," Eddie explained, appearing on her other side. "I guess he took offense and decked him. Carl said Morelli dragged the fight out here so everyone could see how weak the new kid is when he beats him."
The padlock on that box snapped open. Her stomach rolled, threatening to eject the tater tots she'd managed to scarf down before Mary Lou's interruption. It was her. She was the conquest Joe had been bragging about. She was the reason the new kid was getting his ass handed to him.
"I dunno," Mary Lou said, her voice light as her head tilted to the side. "He seems to be holding his own all right."
That he was, Stephanie silently agreed. But for how long? What kind of damage was this guy willing to endure to defend the honour of a girl he'd never met? And would he have done it in the first place if he knew her? Everyone knew she was a screw up and a trouble magnet. This was just the kind of debacle they expected from a girl like her.
Unbidden, images rose in her mind, as compelling as they were vivid. This tanned, brown-eyed stranger holding her hand, standing beside her as he stared down the crowds. In her vision, he didn't care what she had or hadn't done, or what the people around them told him to think of her. He was defiant, and proud, and supported her in a way no one else ever had. And when he'd given the crowd a piece of his mind, he carried her away to a place where their hateful words could no longer reach her.
She blinked, returning to reality, to the shit show unfolding before her. There was no way of knowing if he'd fight for her if he knew her story, but as she watched his muscles bunch, drawing back for another punch, Stephanie was sure of just one thing: she would fight the world for him. Something in the way he held himself, in the tightly controlled expression on his face, the clenched jaw, the tension around his eyes was familiar. She recognised it on a soul 'd experienced more than his fair share of bullying.
That part of her that always seemed to rebel against her mother's commands and the Burg expectations reared up inside her. She couldn't watch him take a beating for her a second longer. She had to put an end to it. She had to-
In the next moment, she was flat on her back on the cold, hard ground, staring up into Joe Morelli's face for the second time in twenty-four hours. "Watch where you're going, Cupcake," he said, and might have summoned enough decency to help her up if the new kid hadn't grabbed him by the back of the shirt and tossed him aside like a rag doll.
Her eyes went wide. Where the hell did this guy managed to pull that kind of strength from?
She didn't get a chance to contemplate the answer, though, because in the sudden silence that came with the arrival of school staff to break up the fight, she found herself caught in the soulful, melted dark chocolate gaze of the new kid, and her ability to think plopped down in the dirt beside her to stare up at him dazedly.
"Are you okay?" he asked offering her a hand even as the teacher commenced an angry lecture. "My heart stopped when you got hit. You shouldn't have stepped between us like that."
She wanted to tell him it was a good thing she knew CPR from her summer job as a lifeguard at the local pool, but before words had managed to find the right shuttle to take them to her her lips, he gripped her hand, pulling to help her up and bringing her attention to the fact that it hurt like a motherfucker. A pained cry escaped her before she could swallow it back, startling the guy into almost dropping her as he scrambled to adjust his grip to her shoulders instead.
"Why is it that whenever there's trouble brewing you always seem to be right in the thick of it, Ms Plum?" Mr Hawthorn, the English teacher questioned, looming over the pair. "I never had this kind of problem with your sister."
"It wasn't my fault," I bit out, cradling my wrist to my chest as it continued to throb.
"She was trying to stop us," the new kid added, but it was no use. Mr Hawthorn had made up his mind about me well over a year ago. I was bothersome, argumentative and antagonistic. Nothing some no-name kid who'd just transferred here said was going to change his opinion.
"You can go ahead and march yourselves over to the principal's office and explain it to him," Mr Hawthorn commanded with a dismissive wave of his had.
Mr. No-Name looked like he was going to protest some more, but Stephanie just shook her head and tugged him away. There was no point. Not in this town, not for her. She may as well accept her fate. She'd be grounded for at least a month when her mom found out. Denied her favourite desserts. Forced to endure endless, brow-beating lectures. But she couldn't find it in herself to be sad about it. At the end of the day she'd stopped the fight and prevented this kid from getting his lights knocked out. That was all that mattered. Helen could lock her in her room for the rest of her life and she'd be okay with it, because she'd managed tot return the favour this stranger had paid her by defending her against Morelli.
She felt a tug at her uninjured arm as they reached the final t-section in the corridors leading to the principal's office.
"That's the wrong way," she told Mr No-Name, tugging him back the other way. "Principal Jenkin's office is this way."
He raised an eyebrow at her and her stomach did a little flip. God, that was so hot. "The nurse's office is this way, " he countered pointedly, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and steering her back the way he'd tried to go in the first place. "You hurt your wrist; you need to get it checked out."
"IF a criminal is injured, they take him to the hospital to get patched up before they take him to jail," he said by way of explanation. "It's only fair that they afford an innocent teenage girl the same treatment."
Stephanie shook her head, wondering anew just how much of the rumours about him were true, but didn't protest as he led her down the hall to the nurse's office. He stayed with her while the nurse poked and prodded and twisted her wrist, causing her more pain before finally announcing that it was probably just a sprain and sending her on her way with an ice pack.
"You should join me and some of my cousins at Shorty's this weekend," Mr No-Name suggested casually, his arm once again tossed over her shoulder as they resumed marching themselves to the principal's office. "I'd like to buy you're a slice to say thanks for not letting me get killed by that Morelli asshole."
Her eyes grew wide as dinner plates. Was he asking her on a date? That vision of him standing up for her against the Burg flittered through her head again, all sparkling and alluring, but then her mind's eye zeroed in on one of the faces in the crowd and the bottom dropped out of her stomach. "I can't," she said firmly. "My mom would never approve, especially if she knew you were the one that started the fight."
He looked down at her with a curious expression. "You always do whatever your mom says?" he questioned.
"Of course!" she exclaimed adamantly. "Why is that even a question? She's my mom!"
"You don't agree with her opinions though, do you?" he said, eyeing her appraisingly. "You're like a caged tiger."
Stephanie scoffed. He well and truly didn't know her if he thought she was like a tiger. "You mean a caged canary," she countered.
He shook his head, halting abruptly and causing her to do the same, turning to face him. "Canaries don't leap into the middle of a fight between two alpha males, Babe," he said earnestly, holding her gaze even as the secretary called for him to proceed into the principal's office.
She couldn't have looked away even if she'd wanted to. No one had ever looked at her like that. No one had ever recognised the strength of her character as anything other than a flaw to be stamped out and swept under the rug. She wanted to melt against him, to thank him for seeing her, but all that came out of her mouth was, "Do tigers have alpha males?"
A soft chuckle escaped him and he tugged on one of her curls affectionately. "Babe," he said.
"Ricardo Carlos Manoso," the secretary's severe voice snapped, interrupting the moment the pair were sharing. "Leave Ms Plum alone and go see the Principal. He's waiting for you."
"It's just Carlos," he replied evenly, sending Stephanie a wink as he passed by the woman's desk. "Saturday, eleven o'clock, Babe." And with that, he disappeared into the office, leaving her reeling. She didn't care what her mother or anyone else though, she was going to fight for this Carlos kid.
Thanks for reading!