A/N: Beta'd chapter due to the generous Candice!
THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR KILLIN'
Not only did Quinn feel out of place, he felt like he was living a scene out of the Twilight Zone with the ironic twist at the end: a terrible accident that he had seen coming. But there were things he didn't see coming, such as Jace breaking out of his nerdy personality, him on the soccer team, in Quinn's old spot. He expected to move near Jace because he always did. Their fathers always got promoted at the same time, and with that came relocation. It had happened fourteen times before.
But this was different. The times before, Quinn had arrived first. He was always the one to set the scene, he was always there during sports tryouts, and he was always the better of the two. But now, Jace was first. And Quinn didn't show up until nearly a year after Jace. In this time, Jace had taken his place as the better half. He was on the soccer team. He had the girl, he had the audience. Quinn… he was in the background. Somewhere he was not familiar with.
His lack of understanding fueled by his anger and distrust painted an irritated look on his face. He didn't know what to believe anymore; he didn't know who to trust anymore.
His world wasn't his own anymore, he wasn't the ruler, and he no longer had absolute power. Here in this world… Jace did. Here, he was just another destroyed ship in Jace's stupid game of Battleship.
Quinn wasn't used to second-in-command; he wasn't used to competing with Jace for anything, yet here he was, watching Jace score another goal. Watching his friends rush to him, adoration plastered on their goofy faces. Watching Jace smile more freely than he had back home; watching him being lifted back to the center of the field. That used to be his place. He used to listen to the crowds shouting his name, the waves of school pride that he incited… but now his place was on the bleachers.
Quinn's fist tightened. His knuckles whitened and his anger grew. The resentment wasn't for his father following his job, but for the player on the field that he thought was his friend.
"Bullshit," he whispered under his breath.
"We just scored. That is a good thing." He turned to face a girl. Her hair was a deep black with the bottom half dyed blue. Her gray eyes were dull but her bright smile made up for it as she looked at him flirtatiously.
"Not to me." Leaning back, he turned off the anger, replacing it with flirtation. It was easier to let go of the pain of betrayal with a pretty girl talking in his ear.
"You go to our school right?" She stood from her seat above him, sitting next to him with no space in between. She smelt fresh, like soap and shampoo. She didn't have that overbearing scent of perfume like Kaylah Jay, nor did she give off the faux innocence of Mari. "I mean I've seen you in the hallways with Marcus and Kaylah Jay but it was usually after school—"
"I go here," he cut off the rambling that reminded him of Mari's.
"So that makes you new?" After a moment of hesitation, she moved to flip her hair out of her eyes.
"Well, it would appear so." Quickly pulling out of his funk, he focused on the brunette. Taking in the girl, he recognized her as a freshman. Though she had enough courage to strike up a conversation with a senior she had never seen before, Quinn could see her age in her thickly-lined eyes. She didn't have her own identity either; he could see each of her clothes on each of the girls that sat in front of him now. No trace of individuality other than the streak of blue and that was weak in its attempt. Her Uggs, the name brand jeans, snug solid v neck tee, they all complimented her body, but nothing of her character.
With Kaylah Jay, one knew what she was feeling by the way she dressed. Bright colours accompanied a bright smile, tight clothes followed a naughty smirk, and dark colours ended with freshmen crying by 4th period. She dressed from her emotions, while the girl dressed to impress.
"Where did you transfer from?" Tilting her head, she took him in. He didn't balk under the inspection if anything his chest puffed out subconsciously. She took in his dark jeans and light tee, his small studs in both ears and the thin bracelet that matched the one on Jace's desk. Boy scouts.
He knew she expected something good. Her kind always did. A sob story or a tale of his expulsion. Well, he'd give her something better.
"South Horizon, New York." He waited two beats before her mouth caught up with the awe in her eyes. Of course she was one of them. One of Jace's many groupies. They seemed to find him ever since the incident on the bus to the photo shoot with questions of the mystery that was Jace's past.
"That's where Jace went. Did you know him?" He knew him. He was tempted to tell her about how Jace pissed his pants until he was 12 when they moved to Sassing, Pennsylvania; about how he was the water boy in 6th grade during every recess in Makah, South Carolina; or about how he was picked last in every sport in 8th grade in Benison, Wyoming. The true stories of Jason Vance which only he knew of apparently.
"Yes." The crowd went wild as the home team scored yet another goal. Looking around he saw girls dressed in the school colour. Their clothes supported their team, but their cheers supported the star player.
When did Jace get good at soccer, Quinn questioned through the hoots and hollers. In middle school he had the worst aim and had no hand-eye coordination.
"Really? What was he like?" She moved closer, yet it only pissed him off more. There was no way that Jace was going to be his wingman. He wasn't even here and it was Jace for God's sake. He'd rather calculate than masturbate, and that, Quinn never understood.
"Different." He glanced at Mari with a group of her friends. He thought of the kiss that Jace and her shared. "Very different."
"Oh? Did you play soccer with him at his old school? You seem fit like him." Oh, this was going downhill. Quinn's flirting had never included the champion of the Science Olympia; he never needed Jace to get girls, it was always vice versa.
"No, I didn't. Listen…" He waited a beat before she caught on.
"Quinn." He tapped his chest quickly. "Gracie, I have to go, but I'll see you around." She may have been a Jace groupie, but she was still cute.
He hopped down the bleacher until he reached Mari's row. With a flick of her wrist, Kaylah Jay made room for him. "Have you stopped your brooding enough to sit with us now?"
"Actually, no." He couldn't help but respond to Kaylah Jay's arrogance with a smirk. "I need to speak with Mari."
Mari's dark head popped up, surprise written on her face. "Me?"
He couldn't help but smile at her squeak. "Do I need to ask Jace for permission to take his girlfriend for a walk?"
"Wha—I'm not his—" She shook her head as she thought for a moment. He lifted his hand to reach out for her. With an obvious struggle, Mari made her way through the jokes and comments of the PDA her and her not-boyfriend shared on her way to Quinn. She smiled at him when he took her arm and led the rest of the way down the bleachers.
"So… what do you wish to talk about?" She led him to the far perimeter of the field.
"How are you and Jace?" He wondered what brought him to ask her. But after the drunken speech Kaylah Jay had given him about Mari, he was more confused. It was about Jace's past and his mother, but Kaylah Jay's loyalty was stronger than the alcohol and he didn't get anything out of her.
He could ask Jace. Pry it out of him, he knew how but he wasn't ready for that confrontation just yet.
"We are fine. How are you and Jace?" Her pleasantries were genuine, and he was surprised at the truth that was in her eyes. She wasn't just asking because he had; she honestly wanted to know.
"Not so fine. We used to be close. I hated him, he hated me. Our fathers were business partners. Wherever I moved, he moved. We were stuck with each other." He saw her hesitation in her step. He head tilted back slightly to look at the field, to look for Jace. "What is it?"
"We talked about when he was young. He never mentioned you." The moment the words processed in his mind, he felt betrayed. "I mean it could be that he just didn't want to talk about you at the moment."
"No, it doesn't matter if we were on bad terms. Every memory we have that's worth mentioning involves the both of us." Every memory, he thought as his fist clenched.
"Tell me a memory then." With another look to the field, she led him to the baseball diamond.
"Your voice grabs me by the throat; I'd rather have you tell me one." He leaned closer and put an arm around her.
"Jace used that one already. Think of something new. Stop." She spoke when he prepared to do so.
"I'm good on my feet. Just give me a chance." He enjoyed her laugh and a friendly jealousy of Jace rose.
"You and him are so alike. Always evading, never confronting." She held her hands out and did a gesture to emphasize her words. "I'm not asking to hear a story about Jace as a kid. I would ask him if I did. But I want to know what memory you wish he would have told of you."
"It was probably of his mother ripping me a new asshole." He watched her choke and gave her an exaggerated pat on the back. "I was in on a prank with my friends against him. It got out of hand and he got hurt. I stayed behind when my friends booked it and had to face the wrath of his mother. Not something you want to do willingly."
"His biological mother?" Her eyes turned.
"Yes, she was an amazing woman. She suffocated him, but he never complained. She had this crazy red hair that matched this sauce she always made. It was nearly the same shade. I'm surprised that Jason has such dark hair. She always had Mr. Vance waltzing in the hallways or kissing in the corner. I think that's where PDA from earlier stems from.
"Anyway, I basically ridiculed her son in front of a dozen kids and she put me in my place. No yelling, no judging, no curse words which made it all stick. Not even a heartbeat later, she asked me if I'd eaten and fed me dinner."
"What prank was this?" She had a frown on her face as if she was trying to put him in a category.
"Jace is such a n—" he cut himself off not knowing how far their relationship with. He still understood loyalty.
"I've seen the awards. We've talked about it." He was surprised that Jace hid his intelligence. He used to be so proud of it. He seemed to not give a crap what anyone one said, but then again he had his mother supporting him.
"His stupid awards." His words didn't match the smile he gave. "Every school we were at, he'd get one, and his mother would stand and cry every time. After awhile, when Jason and I got close, she started to stand for my sports medals."
"She sounds amazing. I've seen her pictures. Jace takes after her." She turned at first base, skipping second, and heading to third. "Every school? I don't understand."
"Our fathers worked for the same company after they graduated from college. They weren't friends, but they shared an idea for a business. So when they got it off the ground they travelled opening up new places everywhere." He shrugged, cursing the dust marring his white sneakers.
"That's so amazing. The only thing I would miss if I left would be Ava. But you'd have your best friend travel wherever you go."
"He wasn't my best for awhile. He annoyed me, and I pissed him off. But after the first six moves, we made a truce. We wouldn't try to change each other." He laughed as Mari eyes filled with something so utterly feminine, sigh included.
"So, this isn't new for you? Why aren't you and Jace speaking?" She slowed down as they reached the soccer field. They missed halftime as the cheerleaders walked off the field. In all of the 23 schools, this was the only one that had a cheer squad for soccer.
"We had a fight. It wasn't a big one, but we never got a chance to fix it. His mother died, our fathers spilt the business in half. He moved and for the first time in our life, I didn't. So I never got to apologize for saying that… that he was never worth his mother's attention." His guilt came tenfold as he heard Mari's small gasp, watching her hand come to cover her mouth. It wasn't the full truth, but it was enough for her to understand his guilt. Their last conversation was about Jace's vengeance. Her head quickly shifted from him to the field, her pretty eyes searching out his old friend.
"I don't know what made me say it. I don't even remember what we were fighting about. But a couple days later, she died. He was my friend and I couldn't even be there for him because I fucked up." His eyes went the same route as Mari's.
"He'd probably talk to you know. I mean it's been a couple years right?" She moved closer to him. It wasn't the same as Gracie's. It was the move of a friend going to comfort. He didn't think of her the same way he did Kaylah Jay. Mari's was Jason's and knowing that, he placed his arm over her shoulder in the same context as her move towards him.
"I don't recognize who he is anymore. He hated anything that had to do with a ball. He was challenged in anything sports. Now he has a fucking fan base. Jason would have hated this kind of attention." Shaking his head, he nudged his hip against hers. "But I hear he has been giving you a bit of attention."
"Oh god," she squirmed, trying to get from under his arm. Trapping her to his side, he tightened his hold. The laughter in her eyes reminded him of Jace. A happiness that always exploded from Jace after solving one of those stupid equations he did.
"Don't think I don't see those stars in your eyes at McNerdy? I bet you write his name inside little hearts all over your diary along with Marilyn Vance in all caps." He watched her eyes squint as she pouted her lips. He could see defiance dripping from her bottom lip.
"Excuse you; I write my name as it is. Marilyn Steel. Two e's. And I see you drooling over Kaylah Jay. As if you could have a chance with her. She likes her guys with calculators not egos." Shaking off his hand, she rolled her eyes.
"Jason without an ego? Ask him how far he can get with pi; he'll go to at least a thousand just to show off." The nerd in question made a goal that ended the quarter. He was good. He'd polished the bicycle kick that Quinn tried to learn. He bet Jace concocted an equation for that.
"Talk to you later." She patted his chest and jogged away backwards toward the field where Jace was currently being carried from. "And Quinn, talk to him."
He watched her run off, her pace motivated and quick. There was something about her. Her innocence, the way that her eyes took in everything. It was genuine, but there had to be something else. He felt a connection to her that he wouldn't classify as an attraction. He felt protective of her and he only heard of her from what Ava said. But seconds into their walk she had him opening up. The only other person to do that was Jace's mother.
Jace had been different ever since his mother's death. He remembered his father telling him that Jace had began to cause trouble, accusing people of crimes that never happened. He didn't understand it at the time, so when Quinn's father asked him if he wanted to move here he was up for it.
Steel. The name was so familiar. Like a fog. He could see it but couldn't quite grasp the relation.
Letting the thought go he focused on Jace's victory. The crowd surrounded him, but he paid them no attention. His head looked for one thing. One person.
Quinn watched Jace's face as he found that person. Moving through the crowd, he bent to pick up the small girl that had just occupied his time. Quinn followed the lace of Mari's polka dot dress, the sway flowing in the wind that Jace's created as he twirled the two of them.
Looking at the two of them, he believed that Mari knew him. And she said he would talk to him, Quinn believed her.
He never believed in anyone, not even himself. The feeling of disappointment was an emotion he was too close with.
Catching Kaylah Jay's eye, she motioned him over. Making his way there, he noticed how different things were. Usually it would be him with the girl on his arm and his team at his back, but things were different. They were different.
"Quinn." Jace was the first to acknowledge him. He never lost that southern hospitality from their home in Domino, Texas when they were twelve.
"Jason." Why did he feel the need to shuffle his feet? "Sick kick. I still haven't been able to figure that out."
"It's all in the Physics." Quinn watched Jace take a quick double around him checking to see if he was safe.
Yes, things were different. In the past, Jace was never ashamed of his intelligence. It used to grind on Quinn's nerves, but after watching Jace do a double take to check his surrounding he realized that things changed more than he wanted to admit.
It was Mari's hand gripping his own that gave him the courage to speak to his old best friend. Without her, the hate would strike full force. But she saw him as someone else, and he wanted to keep up that charade. Yes, she knew of his true intelligence, but she didn't know the caliber of pain that was in his heart because of the boy that stood right in front of him.
She couldn't understand the urge inside of him that howled out to him to drill his fist into a face that reminded him of his past. The past that he was trying to get rid of, that he worked so hard to hide from everyone.
"Jace, man, I—" Quinn started but stopped the second his words came back to his own ears. Jace scratched the back of his neck while Quinn ran his hand over his face.
"Well then." Kaylah Jay pried Mari's hand out of Jace's tight grasp, shooting a look at Mari's protest. "I'm going to whore your girlfriend out while you boys talk."
Shaken out of the awkward moment, he focused on Kaylah Jay. "Take care of her."
"She is not a child, Jason," Quinn remarked with spite as the two girls walked away.
"Don't act as if—" Jace moved an inch closer to him, his fist clenched but stayed next to his side as it remembered the soft flesh that just occupied it.
"I am not the one that is acting, Bishop." Quinn stepped up to the face off, his nose seconds away from touching his opponent. "You've been acting the second I first got here. This fucking charade isn't going to fool anyone when they find out who the fuck you are and why you are hiding."
This wasn't about his high IQ anymore; it was about that monster inside of him that was looking for vengeance. Only he and Quinn had witnessed. Not even Kaylah Jay had seen this side.
"Shut up, Knight." They had reverted to old times, old nicknames. He wasn't Quinn to him anymore, he was Knight. He lost his identity of Jason and became Bishop.
When Jace first taught Quinn the game of chess it ended with Quinn having a lone king and Jace with his king along with his bishop and knight. It was one of the four basic checkmates and only happened once in every five hundred games. In at most 33 moves, checkmate could be forced no matter the starting position. Quinn didn't believe it so the game continued, Jace called checkmate in 13 moves. Still mesmerized, Quinn wanted a redo and placed his king on the board again. Quinn said he just needed to do was stay out of checkmate for 34 moves.
Jace remembered how they began to call themselves, Knight and Bishop because by the time they were 33 years old they would rule the world. Their parents and teachers thought it was cute and ambitious, while Quinn learned the dark side of politics and Jace pushed himself in the sciences.
But then Jace's mother died, and he refused to be called Bishop. He stopped striving toward their combined dream.
If I can't save my mother, then I can't do anything.
Their last conversation consisted of Jace telling Quinn he was going for his revenge. He had hacked into their father's mainframe and moved their next location to where he could find his mother's murderer.
Quinn was all for it until Jace told him that he only changed his location. Quinn was staying in New York.
"Jason, you know how hard I had to work to get here. I don't have those hacking skills, and I can't make someone's mind go to mush by talking in that Math shit you do. But I needed to get here before you do anything stupid." He ground his fist into Jace's shoulder.
"The only reason we were friends was because we were moved around so much that we only had each other. In every school, you were the king, and I was the right hand guy. You had girls any way you wanted, and I had them as lab partners. So don't act as if you care." He pushed away Quinn's fist and pushed him back.
"Look at you. The last time I saw you, you wore suspenders for Christ's sake. Now you have a school jersey on." Quinn walked back to his face. He wasn't backing down.
"You used to yank my suspenders in the hall, joking and laughing with your shit friends who all wore the school's jersey. You weren't my friends anymore then I was to you." He never cursed. His mother hated swearing and he knew enough vocabulary to refrain from using such vulgar and embarrassing words. But he couldn't seem to control himself now, or the emotion that raked through him.
"Fuck you if you think that. I told you everything: my father's affair, my mother's drinking, the beatings. I told my best friend everything. Don't act like you were nothing."
"I'm not anymore. You said that we were Knight and Bishop together. We were a team, but you always left me for—"
"You always wanted to be alone. You ignored me for equations, conventions—"
"You were the king at our school. And maybe you still are, but so am I now. I have my knight and my bishop, Kaylah Jay and Mari. But you are a lone king, Quinn. So checkmate."
By this time there was a small audience looking on, questioning, analyzing, and dissecting every word that passed into their ears. But no one in the audience would have expected their resident jokester and player slam his fist into the new kid's face.
"Jason." Quinn's voice changed as blood trickled from his eye. He knew that this was inside of Jace, underneath the nerd, underneath the jokester, there was the grief that was never dealt with.
"It's Jace," he spoke before Quinn's fist drilled into his kidney causing him to double over, but not before he brought Quinn down with him.
The tumble wasn't like all of the horsing around when they were kids. Back then, Quinn always won because he was the only one that did sports. This time they were equal. Quinn punched, Jace recoiled. Jace retaliated, Quinn blocked. It was battle of endurance between them. Locked up emotions fought their way up and fists were replaced with hateful memories.
"Boys! Boys! Jace, stop it!" Jace's coach reached in between the boys and yanking Quinn up first, his arms wrapped around the boy's shoulders.
Lucas, Jace's teammate, ran to slam Jace's back on the grassy ground before he could leap up and attack Quinn.
"Luke, get off of me," Jace spat in his face as Luke pressed his arm against Jace's neck.
"When you calm down, Captain." Maneuvering away from Jace's fists, he laughed. "Try to count as high as you can."
Jace's reaction was violent. It was an ongoing joke that he couldn't get past 50 because he wasn't smart enough. He usually let it go, but this time it made him see red.
"Jace?" It was a mix of desperation and fear. Mari.
Red turned to a deep set blue. Calm ran through Jace's body and he relaxed against the ground, his hands releasing the dirt and grass that his fist carried.
"God, Luke. Please move." All he could see were Mari's fingers wrapped around Lucas' biceps.
"Fall back, Luke. I'm good." His voice changed from anger to stern. The audience grew exponentially since the first punch but all he could was focus on Mari. Her eyes were wide and he knew that she was shocked by his behavior. He may have researched everything on her, but she knew nothing of him.
"Well, this was a bromance gone badly." Kaylah Jay walked to tap the coach off of Quinn. "What did you try to kiss him?"
"KJ." He couldn't help but laugh at her antics to lighten the situation, but the split in his lip caused him to wince.
His face was hot and the small of his back was sweating, but when Mari ran her hands over his face, he felt a light yellow streak run through him and he cooled.
"Oh, Jace, you're bleeding. And your hand." She made a feminine noise and he couldn't help but use his other hand to brush back her hair. "Quinn, what is wrong with you?"
"Me?" Incredulously, Quinn jerked away from the coach and Kaylah Jay. "You said he would talk to me not punch me in the face."
Quickly, Mari turned from Jace to Quinn and back again. Jace knew that she was trying to understand that it was he who threw the first punch and the yellow chill turned to an orange-tinted regret.
"Jace…" He could smell his own toothpaste on her tongue and he wish he could take everything back.
Without a word, Quinn turned around and walked through the crowd, away from Jace. He yelled a response to the coach about his punishment being discussed at a later date and continued on his path.
"Dammit." Pulling his hand from Mari's face, he ran his thumb over his split lip and lowered his head.
"It's okay." Wrapping her arms around him, Mari rested his head on her shoulder. He could feel his own heat radiating from him to her. Could feel her catching his disease. He tried to pull away, but she rested her hand on the back of his neck and rubbed. "Kaylah Jay, can you check on Quinn for Jace please?"
Jace could hear the pause in his best friend's voice, but he couldn't raise his head to reassure her. He couldn't control anything anymore. He made a miscalculation and that was something that he wasn't used to. In an equation, he would just erase his error; however, he couldn't heal the bruises on Quinn's face.
He just nodded into her shoulder and listened to Kaylah Jay's fast paced footsteps as she chased after Quinn.
"C'mon. I'll take you back to my house so that we get that lip and eye fixed." Sliding her hand from his neck to his face, she lifted it to give him a smile. He remembered a time when he wanted to wipe that smile from her face, but for now he couldn't remember the reason why.
Luke came behind him as they rose in case he fell. Giving him a fist bump, Jace faced his teammate. "Take the guys out to Farlow's. Put it on my tab. We played a great game, make sure they know that."
"Got it, Captain. Take care of your boyfriend, Mari. We need him for the game Tuesday." Both Luke and Jace chuckled as Mari's head dipped.
"Let's go." As Mari wrapped her arm around his waist, he couldn't help but smile at the fact that she was nearly half his size and she thought she could carry him. But in a way she was, not in the physical sense, but she was carrying him as he tried to figure out what he was going to do with her.
Running his hands over the soft, feminine ones that laid on his stomach, the shame came in tenfold. Before it lay dormant in the back of his head, but now it was as if it just jump from its home and drilled its way to his ear where he could hear her alarm at his violent actions. It pierced through his ear to trickle down his neck ignited her touch as she looked at him with such exposed concern.
The ignominy seeped into the skin of his neck and fell to the middle of his chest where his heart beat its guilty rhythm. It covered his heart, painting it in a dark coat and clamp down taking his breath away.
"Jace?" He heard her voice, but it sounded as if she were miles away. But she couldn't be, she needed to be right there with him. "Jace? My God, how hard did he hit you?"
"I hit him first." Even his voice sounded far away.
"You might have a concussion. It's alright; we're almost to my house." Jace turned his head and noticed that they were in his car, already halfway from the school. How….?
He closed his eyes and tried to forget the last half hour of his life. What was he doing? This plan… this plan wasn't going as he planned. He wasn't supposed to feel sorry, Quinn wasn't supposed to be here, his face wasn't supposed to feel as if it was lit on fire. Each thought interweaved into each other and it became one big knot that he couldn't untie.
"Don't go to sleep. You might have a concussion." The car began to slow down, and he realized that they were at the Steel household. The duplex was as his files depicted, well kept, and sturdy, even to the small garden that graced the walk out that was their patio.
By the time he finished his perusal of her home, she was at his door her face expectance and worried.
Her hand was stretched out and for a split second, she was his mother. Her hand was old and withered, but strong as she clasped his hand. Her lips were lined in a worried contour, and her eyes were so confused.
But quicker than it happened, Mari was the one shutting the door behind him. Mari was the one with his blood on her little polka dot dress. It was Mari's soft hand in his.
The headache that was fading came back in full force as she led him to her home where the front window's curtains were pulled back, a murderer's face staring back at him.
His hands curled into fist, the shame shattered into pieces around him, the sound was silence but echoed through his heart as pain and vengeance were reinstated.
"Ow, my hand," Mari's knuckled rubbed against each other as his hand tightened. "Jace?"
The front door opened. The creaking ran along Jace's spine and his anger rose. The first thing he saw was the boots, dark steel toe boots. His mother's murderer's boots.
A/N: Long time no post huh? Well, I am back and in action. The next update will be within the week.
Anyway, please review. This was Quinn's 15 minutes of fame and I like to know if he translated well over paper. I am not adverse to changing things, so shout out suggestions.
Again, thank you to Candice for her very needed services.
Thank you so much for those who reviewed , it really does help me as a writer.