When Jewelry Strikes

It all started with the bracelets.

The stupid things were innocent-looking enough; silver, oval, and plain. They weren't even interesting enough to catch Will's eye, so when Jensen chucked them at him, his best friend yelling a belated "Heads up!" they promptly smacked him in the side of the head and fell to the ground. Nothing remarkable. Just two, slightly tarnished bracelets tied together with a strip of ribbon. A stupid blue ribbon.

So it didn't bother him to scoop them back up and lob them at the back of Jensen's annoying blonde head. Unfortunately, they harmlessly bypassed his friend and instead tinked into the wall, sliding down to rest on the dusty, wooden floor. Waiting to be picked up and abused again.

The two boys had been rummaging through Will's attic, looking for anything interesting and potentially dangerous to play around with, but all they'd found so far were the bracelets and a pile of smelly junk that made Will's nose itch. He was about ready to give up and go get something edible, but Jensen would have nothing to do with that idea. Will watched, with one eyebrow lifted and his face scrunched up to raise said eyebrow, as Jensen snatched the bracelets up and held them close to his face to examine them.

"You know, these look kinda valuable…you know what these are? These are those old cuff things that used to be needed for marriages! How cool is that?"

Will shook his head slowly. How was old jewelry in any way entertaining? "I don't get it. They're just dumb bracelets."

"No, man, these are those things that our grandparents used to have to wear so that they'd love each other forever. Don't you remember hearing about that in history? " At Will's blank look, he continued, "A couple generations ago the population was diving so they had to think of a way to step it up. And they thought of these."

He waved the bracelets at Will, who continued being completely clueless. So he wasn't exactly attentive in history class. Who was?

Jensen continued, eager now, as if he already had a devious scheme thought up, "Men were given the bracelets and they had to have one of the pair handed out by the time they were thirty? The bracelets projected something…endorphins, I think, into whoever was wearing it's skin whenever they were near its pair and it made them not want to take it off? Any of this ringing a bell?"

"You seriously need to stop paying so much attention in class, Jensen, I think it's going to your head."

"I think that's kind of the point, Will. But it doesn't matter. I have an idea."

Great, Jensen, the master of horrid ideas, had an idea.

"I dare you, Will, to slap this onto the first girl you see."

Will rolled his eyes. "How is that going to be any fun at all? "

"It might not be, but then again, if it works…that will be a sight to see. Of course, I'll be the only one enjoying it, but who says that's a bad thing?"

"That's stupid, Jensen."

The other boy smirked challengingly, "Is that fear I see in your eyes? Need I remind you, that was a dare?"

Will's fists tightened. That was how he was going to play it? Well, Will had never turned down a dare ever, and he wasn't about to start now. No matter how dumb, risky, and potentially life-threatening. This was simple. What could possibly go wrong? The ancient bracelets probably didn't even work anyway.

Will straightened his back and held out his hands for the bracelets, meeting Jensen's eyes squarely. "Clarifications?"

"You have to be wearing one of them and you have to aim for a girl that's around our age, not some old cougar. That would just be weird to watch."

Will snorted, then shot a look at the bracelets before shoving them into his pocket.

This would be quick, easy, and relatively painless. He'd just grab the girl, clap the cuff around her wrist, then take it off once Jensen had had his laugh. Nothing to it.

At least that was what he had thought then.

- - - - 8888 - - - -

The girl strode down the street quickly, purposefully, staring straight ahead of her. She didn't notice the two boys sitting hidden in the bushes in front of her and if she had, she probably would have ignored them anyway. Will stared at her, horrified. Jensen was too busy half-smothering himself to keep from laughing and giving away their position.

"Come on, man, not her. She'll eat me alive," Will hissed, then punched Jensen's arm sharply as the other boy made a loud snorting noise.

He was looking at none other than Cora Raiden, the most fear-inducing figure in his short fifteen-year life. This girl was scary. It wasn't an obvious scary—she looked normal enough; blonde hair, sharp grey eyes—but if you ever spoke to her…you were just shaken. She was beyond intimidating. Every snarky comment, she had a witty reply to, every unfriendly look, she had an unaffected stare for. And she wasn't afraid to get physical. Not in the good sense of course; no, she used her fists more than the average teenage boy to solve an argument she couldn't win with her disturbingly quick tongue. She was as likely to sucker punch you as look at you.

No, targeting Cora would be asking for a slow, gruesome death.

When Jensen had calmed down enough to speak he whispered sagely, "Love is pain, man, love is pain."

"This is going to be more than pain, this is going to be instant castration," he glanced at the girl, who was nearing their little dugout in the bushes, "Come on, I'll just go for the next one." Please, please, Jensen, give in for once…

"No, this was the dare. Stick with it. Or are you gonna chicken out?"

There were consequences for chickening out. Consequences that were unpleasant…but did they compare to Cora Raiden? The question was: which horrible, unwanted outcome would be more degrading?

"Fine, Jensen. You'll get your slave labor entertainment," and before he could think about it too much and lose his nerve, Will flung himself out onto the sidewalk in front of the walking girl.

He stood, waiting for her to stop and acknowledge his presence with a death-glare, but she continued walking as if he hadn't just dived out of the shrubbery. She almost walked over him, as if she were waiting for him to get out of her way, then at the last second stepped to the side to go around. That's when he made his move.

Will clicked the already opened and prepared bracelet around her wrist, smiling in relief as the two halves of the silver chinked together. She stared at him. He stared at her. Then she looked down at her wrist and raised an eyebrow. She didn't have to squish up her face to do it right. This alone made Will feel inferior.

"What is that?" Her voice was the voice of pure evil and Will couldn't restrain a shiver.

He continued gazing in complete horror into her angular, intensely penetrating eyes. Eyes that made Will want to leap off of the closest bridge. "A…bracelet?"

"Thank you, I can see that. Would you mind telling me what you're doing harassing innocent bystanders?"

Innocent? A complete matter of opinion. Cora was probably responsible for half of the lost, angry souls in the deepest pits of hell. The devil himself probably had a personal vendetta against Cora Raiden. But, to the point; he still didn't have an answer for her, because one obvious and unbreakable rule of dare-dom was not telling anyone about the dare. She was starting to get that look; the look that said, 'if you don't tell me what's going on right now I will surely waste no time in removing your kidneys.'

Will clutched his side in terror and Cora took a hesitant step back. Like he was the one who summoned demons to smite his enemies. Well, maybe she didn't do that, but you could never be sure…

The silence stretched too long and Will shuffled his feet anxiously. "Um?" He said.

Suddenly, Cora stepped to the side, shoved her arm up to her elbow into the bushes, and dragged a terrified looking Jensen out onto the sidewalk. Will's blue eyes flicked from his best friend to the girl in front of him, contemplating. Should he uphold his brave, courageous nature and rescue his best friend from the clutches of Cora the Raider? Or should he flee for his life and hope Jensen made the best of his fatal situation?

He took a step back, "So Jensen…see you around, yeah?" He glanced behind him to make sure the coast was clear, then moved further away, but before he could turn tail and sprint for the corner a voice that cut to his bones halted him in his tracks.

"You. Stop."

That was all it took. Will froze as if she had a gun to his head. A really big, possibly automatic gun. Or a grenade launcher. A grenade launcher would explain the look on his face.

"Y-Yes?" he couldn't help but stutter.

She lifted an eyebrow again at his pathetic nervousness, then demanded, "Who are you?"

"Will T-Tucker?" He was afraid to state a fact in case she disagreed and decided to dismember him. Even his name might be a threat to his health.

She held his wrist out toward him and he flinched, "So, Will Tucker, what exactly is this?"

"A—" He was just going to repeat what he'd said earlier, but Jensen cut in.

"It's a bracelet that makes people fall in love with some fancy technology and we made a dare to slap it onto the first girl we saw and Will had to wear the other one!" Jensen spilled everything out in a high voice and kept glancing at Will as if pleading for him to please knock him unconscious so that he couldn't talk anymore. Will slapped his hand to his forehead and squinted his eyes shut, trying not to see his life flashing before his eyes.

Cora stared at them both, then sputtered, enraged, "You-you-you what?! Take it off!" Her wrist snapped out toward Will again and he held up his hands, sure that she had finally decided to disembowel him.

He could see the ghastly image of his mangled corpse and it was easy to imagine Cora standing over him with a bloody knife. Maybe laughing a little. No chuckling. He pulled himself back into the morbid daydream and saw her begin extricating his innards to create a noose…

"Please, don't strangle me with my intestines!" He shouted and everyone stopped to stare. So maybe she'd only been giving him her wrist so that he could take off the bracelet, but it didn't hurt to be prepared to beg for mercy.

Cora and Jensen spent another couple seconds looking at him like he was crazy before she turned her gaze back to the bracelet on her wrist. She fumbled with it for a couple seconds, then huffed angrily when she couldn't manage to get it off. The hand came back toward Will and he winced again, but managed to keep his imagination in check.

"Take it off, now." The last word was a full-blown growl and Will stumbled forward quickly. She held out her wrist and his hands drifted above her skin for a second, afraid to touch her, before she growled again under her breath and his hands sunk onto hers.

That's about when his bracelet collided with hers and something along the lines of hell freezing over took place.

The bracelets activated.

At least that must have been it, because he was suddenly feeling less than normal. Tingly even. He didn't like it. Or did he? Will shook his head and focused on removing the bracelet from her wrist and ending this awful situation. But he couldn't even find the seam where the two halves of the bracelet connected. He glanced up into her face and found her staring at him, so he quickly looked back down to his hands. Pulling the bracelet in two different directions didn't work and running his fingernail along the silver to catch it on the seam didn't work either. He was starting to get panicky.

If he couldn't get her bracelet off then he wouldn't be able to get his own off. If Cora even gave him time to attempt to get it off of himself. She'd probably mercilessly slaughter him before he even had the chance. Violently. Will shivered and struggled harder to get the demonic bracelet off of her wrist. No luck.

His eyes strayed to the curb and he contemplated pulling her over there to smash her wrist repeatedly against the concrete, but he doubted that would sit well with Cora the Raider. She'd probably replace her wrist with his face.

Cora could see by now that he wasn't able to get the bracelet off of her. She didn't look pleased. "So what, you idiots don't even know how to get this thing off? Just decided you jump the first person you saw and slap them into eternal bondage?"

Will was delivering a look similar to hers in Jensen's direction. His teeth were clenched. "Jensen?" This was all his fault. If someone hadn't been completely 'bored out of his mind' maybe they wouldn't have been forced to 'have a little fun' by 'finding something interesting in the attic'. Repeat: Jensen's fault. Dare: Jensen's fault. Cora's current death-glare: Jensen's fault.

"Yes, Will?" His bestest friend in the whole world was still laying on the sidewalk, stunned.

"How do I get this bracelet off?"

Jensen stood up slowly. Will didn't like the way he glanced around at all the possible escape routes. "Well, you see, about that…"

"Jensen…" Cora and Will said his name in the same vengeful tone at the exact same time. The other boy looked mildly frightened.

He cleared his throat and took a quick step away from both of them. "Idon'tthinkthereisawaytogetthemoff."

Will sent him a confused look and Cora's eyes narrowed, "Excuse me?"

"See you guys later, have fun with that!" Jensen took off at a speed that would rival an Olympic racer and rounded the corner in record time. Will and Cora stared after him, startled. Then they looked at each other.

Cora sent him a look that could have melted an iron skyscraper. To the ground. Into a puddle. "This is your fault."

That look…it made him fear for his well-being again. And his kidneys. There was only one reply fit for that statement. "Um?"

Then she exploded. It was kind of glorious, like a volcano erupting or a nuclear bomb devastating an entire city. Scary, but glorious. That conclusion alone made Will feel like he was sick in the head. She started flat out screaming. Alright, it was just scary.

He took a step back, like she might lash out at any moment and behead the closest living thing. When she was done, she just closed her mouth and put her expressionless expression back on again, completely unaffected by her sudden outburst. Will was close to cowering in the bushes.

Her eyes snapped to him and he flinched.

"What were you thinking? You think it's alright to just come up and imprison people because you find it entertaining?"

He shook his head. Will was afraid that if he spoke, he might get hurt. Obviously, she needed to vent.

"This is the twenty-first century. Men don't act like primitive beings anymore if you haven't noticed! You might as well have clubbed me and dragged me off to your cave!"

Horrifying. And embarrassing. But slightly amusing. Wait, where did that come from? If this was amusing, someone might as well strap him into a straight-jacket and cart him off to the white, happy room right now. He was about to die and he found it amusing?

He dropped his gaze to stare at his wrist. It was all the bracelet. The evil, conniving, demonic bracelet of doom. It was starting to control his mind. He frantically started pulling at it, digging into his skin with his fingernails in an attempt to rip it off of his arm. Cora seemed to calm down at the sight of him losing it, and said his name once.

"Will."

He clawed at the bracelet. The…thing…wouldn't…come…off.

"Will."

Evil, malicious, nasty, godforsaken, unbearable BRACELET.

"Will!"

"Whaaaat?" He wheezed, breathing hard. He was seated on the pavement, both feet somehow wedged onto the tiny bracelet with his hand flat on the pavement. This method didn't seem to be working either and it was extremely painful so he stopped and stared up into her eyes. Then he looked away. You couldn't look in their eyes, you never knew what effect they might have on your soul…

Cora stared at him for a few seconds while he kept his eyes on the ground before shaking her head a little and clearing her throat. "So, how do you plan on getting these off?"

Distracted from his morbid thoughts, Will cocked his head to one side, thinking.

He really had no idea.

"We can try breaking them."

Cora looked doubtful, "What if that doesn't work?"

"I guess we'll just have to find someone who knows how to take them off. That or spend the rest of eternity attached at the hip." He threw her what he believed was an endearing grin, but shrunk back when her eyes met with his again.

Cora was giving him a look that said quite clearly, 'If I have to spend eternity attached to you I will make sure that the next million years are very unpleasant.'

- - - - 8888 - - - -

They tried everything. Putting butter and other such lubricants on their wrists to try and slide the bracelets off, beating them against hard surfaces—with one attempt at Will's face—and even sawing at them with hack blades, but nothing worked. Will was going to attack his with a table saw, but Cora wouldn't let him. The stupid silver things stayed intact, slightly scratched, and smug, wrapped around their wrists, shooting little invisible endorphins into their skin.

Will knew the endorphins were working. That or he was going insane with the close proximity to Cora the Raider. When they were grinding away at the cuffs with the saws, taking turns working at each other's wrists, Cora was completely stoic and calm when he took the sharp object to her bracelet. She didn't even flinch when he started jerking her arm around with the movement, just told him to move faster.

And Will knew that something was wrong because he almost felt…respect…for her. He knew that if he was the one under his slightly incompetent hands he would probably be shaking in fear. Actually, he didn't feel too comfortable with her hacking at the thin strip of metal around his very fragile wrist, but he trusted her more than he trusted himself. After all she must have lots of experience with knives and such, seeing as she frequently flayed her victims. Or did she? Maybe that was all just some rumor that had been blown out of proportion. Cora seemed nice enough.

When they were smashing their wrists against a metal railing on some steps in the park, he new something wasn't just wrong, it was out of control. Because when she held up her wrist to show him the still perfectly elliptical shape of her bracelet he started pondering how pretty it looked around her thin wrist. After all, what was the point of destroying something so beautiful?

He quickly snapped back into reality of course. The point was, that was the point! He was supposed to break it so that they could leave and go their separate ways, so she could forget he'd ever deigned to harass her on her innocent walk down the pavement, so he could stop watching the sun catch each of the different highlights in her hair as she moved…see there it was again; the insanity! Will jolted back to his work and started bashing the bracelet with renewed intensity.

But the sun was starting to dip beneath the trees in the park and Will knew he was running out of time.

He shook his head. That last statement had been mildly over dramatic, but desperate times called for desperate measures, did they not? He glanced over at Cora to find her staring up at the setting sun with her eyebrows drawn together. It was a frightening expression, like she was trying to will the sun to stay still, and this had Will wondering why he found it slightly endearing. Could you like something that scared you out of your wits? He pondered this, thinking about horror movies as he slammed his wrist into the pole half-heartedly, then decided to stop thinking in general. It never seemed to get him anywhere anyway.

Cora spoke suddenly, startling him, "I have to go home soon. I'm not allowed out after dark."

Cora the Raider wasn't supposed to be outside at night? Wasn't that when she prowled the streets in search of her next victim? Apparently not. And it was impossible to prowl during the day without losing the intimidating qualities of that action so maybe Cora didn't prowl at all. She didn't seem so bad now that he'd been around her. Will was going to kill Jensen for telling him all those horrifying stories.

He shook himself out of his stupor and replied, "Me too. When are we going to meet back up again to figure this out?"

She scrunched up her face, "I don't know. I won't be able to get out of the house for an extended period of time until next weekend."

"Same here. So next weekend, same time, same place?" Will grinned, and Cora once again delivered a look that spoke volumes. Except this time the volume was thin and just said, 'Whatever'.

- - - - 8888 - - - -

The week passed slowly and Will found himself constantly edgy and completely aware of the cold silver bracelet around his wrist. He couldn't stop thinking about her. The Raider, the pain-bringer, the bane of his existence; Cora the girl he'd slapped a love cuff on without knowing that his action would send his life into a death spiral toward the ground. Every person he saw ended up being compared to her, everything took on qualities that she possessed. It was creepy. Like she was stalking him inside his own head.

Every time his bracelet clanked against his desk his mind reverted to the image of the sun on her hair. Then he would cringe as he took in the implications of his wandering thoughts and think frantically of anyone who might be able to get the bracelet off. But no one came to mind.

The addictiveness of the girl named Cora…would she have that effect on him until the bracelet was removed? Would he be stuck with this tarnished cuff around his wrist forever, eternally connected to someone he couldn't stop thinking about?

The answer? Maybe. Unless he worked up the courage to confront his mother about what he'd done.

And this was exactly where he could be found the next weekend, Cora at his side and a disapproving expression on his mother's face as she listened to his humiliating story.

"You just assaulted her with a bracelet? You're so rude, Will," his mother said, and he winced. Cora's face took on a vindicated expression and his wince turned into a prolonged grimace of agony.

"That's exactly what I said! Then he didn't know how to get them off…" She trailed off, gazing hopefully up into his mother's face as she twisted the bracelet between her fingers. Cora sent a look—accompanied by a small smile—in Will's direction that screamed, 'Ha! I told you so!'

"That's easy enough. When the bracelets were outlawed, special magnets were handed out that could open them. It's embedded in the ribbon that was wrapped around those two before Will decided to take them into his possession."

Will decided it was time to melt into the floor. He'd never really felt compelled to experience that cliché and humiliated escape before, but he did now. Being scolded by his mother in front of Cora, Raider or not? Mortifying.

"I left it in the attic. On the floor." How was he supposed to know that the stupid blue ribbon was important? The world was against him, obviously.

"I'll be back in a second to take those off. You and I, Will, are going to have a talk later." She spun around and headed up the stairs, mumbling insanely. No wonder he had so many conversations inside his own head. It must be genetic.

He turned to Cora to find her looking at him, smiling. If he hadn't known her, he might have suspected she was plotting his demise, but since she hadn't taken her chance when he'd armed her with a saw, obviously she wasn't going to harm him. Hopefully.

"That was easier than I thought it was going to be. Why didn't we just go to your mom in the first place?" She inquired, obviously not knowing his mother.

Will had simple answer to that, "Because I don't enjoy prolonged periods of time spent staring at my bedroom walls and listening to her ramble."

She nodded slowly, looking oddly enough like she understood. Then her eyes lit up and she asked, "So, now that I don't have to kill you in order to destroy the link to this bracelet…what were you thinking about exactly when you asked me not to use your intestines as rope?"

Hmm. Straight forward. Oddly refreshing. He shook himself internally when he realized he was staring, "Well, see I was—well…I was sort of daydreaming. And you were strangling me and laughing."

"Laughing? Like 'ha, ha' laughing?" She gave him a funny look.

"No it was more like—" he made a low pitched chuckling noise, but cut himself off when he realized how ridiculous the noise was. It sounded like he was hacking up a lung.

Cora also looked like she was choking, "That—that's what I sounded like?"

"Yeah, about."

"That's not very intimidating."

"Now that I think about it, no, it really isn't."

They stared at each other for a few more seconds before Cora bust out laughing. It was a nice sound, purely happy and unrestrained, and Will found himself joining in. Then they both quickly cut themselves off at the same moment as they realized what they were doing, surprised.

Weird. He had just laughed with Cora the Raider. It had felt kind of nice.

At that moment his mom thundered back down the stairs, only to find the two gazing at each other oddly. She looked back and forth between them before shrugging her shoulders and deciding to break the awkward silence.

"So, I found the ribbon and if you two will just hold out your wrists I'll have those bracelets off in no time." They both stretched out their arms, tense, waiting for something to go horribly wrong. Maybe the magical ribbon wouldn't work. Maybe it would have a negative effect and they would both explode! Will calmed himself down. That wouldn't happen…or would it? No, it wouldn't. He pinched himself inside his brain.

The bracelets dropped to the floor, looking as sickeningly innocent as they had when he'd found them. But oh, he knew about them now. They were much, much more dangerous than they appeared, these bracelets of so called 'love'. Will rubbed his wrist, looking at the slight bruising on his skin from beating it repeatedly. Evil bracelets.

Then he looked at Cora and found an unusual expression on her face; almost regret. Odd, he was feeling something similar stirring in the pit of his stomach. And he knew why. Without the bracelet he would never have another reason or excuse to associate with Cora ever again. They just didn't mix. He stared at her blue-grey eyes and made a quick decision, not quite sure what made him do it. It wasn't so bad; acting off his instincts. Sure it had gotten him into plenty of trouble before, but how could anything possibly go any worse than that?

"So, Cora…" He had to build up courage. This was life-changing, what he was about to do. This would send earthquakes and tsunamis halfway around the world. "You still want to go to the park?"

She gave him that peculiar look, then smiled brightly, "Sure."

All the while, Will's mother was looking on, seeing something quite different. This was something she could deal with, something other than punishing a boy who's sense of humor and sarcasm thwarted hers at every turn.

She cleared her throat and the two kids looked at her, "You two do know that neither of those bracelets actually worked? They were deactivated once they were outlawed."

Cora and Will looked at each other, and for a second Will feared the girl would claw out his eyes. Then the moment passed and she smiled again.

"Still on for the park?"


a/n - Well, this is the first short story I've ever written, so I hope you enjoyed it, even though I'm not sure if it's a short story or a one-shot or if there's even a difference. Review please!