Some time before
I looked down at the crumpled body at my feet. Just right. I crouched down and with two fingers pushed him onto his back. The boy whimpered.
'What's the lesson?' I asked, my voice soft and soothing, at odds with my blood soaked knuckles and taught muscles.
'Don't mess with Aaron, I got it, I got it, man!'
I gripped his lapels with both hands and hauled him into a sitting position. He was heavy; I was still fat and unfit, even at the end of high school. I used my weight to my advantage though, and had felled the older boy in seconds. He avoided my eye, hands half up and jaw trembling. I leaned in and hissed,
'Spread the word. Aaron isn't gay, and he's mine.'
He nodded franticly. The sound of a car engine had me up and moving away. My bloody hands stuffed deep in my pockets.
'Look Michael, you are being a right dick you know.'
'I don't care. Don't call him over.' Aaron and I faced off across the table at the universities mess hall. I had grown a lot since school. Where once Aaron's gangly thinness had towered over my stocky, almost fat child's body, a growth spurt and severe rugby training had given me an extra head of hight and double Aaron's width in muscle. Though he had not seemed to notice, I liked it better this way. It is easier to protect people who are smaller than you.
'Uh huh, and what if I say, I don't care and call him over anyway?' He narrowed his eyes and grinned in a clear challenge,
'I swear to God Aaron if you-'
He stood up and shouted, waving his arms above his head
'Jake! Over here!'
I jumped to my feet and grabbed both Aaron's wrists, pulling him roughly back into his seat. The boy he had called to turned from his tray of food and scanned the hall, then tuned away again, a rather pained look on his face.
'Michael you bastard!' Aaron made to yank his hands free from my firm grip but I pulled back, a grin spreading on my face,
He looked up, locked eyes with me and glared,
'Dullard.' He yanked hard, trying to free himself.
'Prick head.' I grinned harder and yanked back.
'Imbecile.' A smile traced his lips and he pulled hard enough to make my chair rock.
'Sock breath.'I pulled back and held tight, his face inches from mine.
'Carnivore.' He breathed, his eyes wide.
'You already said that one.'
'That's cause it's true.' And with that I let go of both wrists.
Aaron flew backwards into his seat with such force that it rocked back onto its hind legs. His eyes went wide, arms scrabbling in mid air, searching in vain for something to grab, as the chair teetered on its centre of gravity for a fraction of a second then toppled. The wrong way. Aaron looked set for a hard landing until a hand shot out of nowhere and grabbed the back of his chair, hauling it onto all fours with a snap.
Aaron gasped in relief and got out of the chair in a hurry,
'Oh my God, thank you! By Jesus... Michael you bastard!'
I didn't respond, I was too busy staring at the boy who had caught the chair, trying to wipe the smile off his face with the force of my expression alone. Aaron followed my gaze and a grin spread over his still young and boyish face,
'Jake! Hey, how are you?'
'What are you doing?' I stared at Aaron as he rifled through the drawers of the desk in my bedroom.
'I can't find my wallet so I'm looking for yours.'
I walked into the bedroom and took hold of his wrist, pulling him sharply away and situating myself between him and my desk. He hissed and yanked his arm from my grasp,
He glared at me and folded his arms,
'Where is my wallet?'
'Not in my room, certainly.'
He shuffled his feet, cheeks beginning to colour.
'What's in the locked drawer then?' He lifted his chin, defiance written all over his face.
I folded my own arms and planted my feet.
'Am I allowed no privacy?'
I cut him of, not willing to go through the same old argument, time and time again.
'It's my room, my business, my desk. If you've lost your wallet, it is not going to be in my room, and if you want to borrow my wallet, and by extension my money, tough luck.'
Defeat flooded his face, and he dropped his arms.
'I was going to by you a new cup...'
'You can't buy a gift for me with my own money Aaron.'
His eyes drifted to my trouser pockets and widened. He grinned.
'Don't you dare-'
Before I could stop him he had darted forward, whipped my wallet from my front pocket and ran from the room. My snatch went wide and he was halfway down the stares before I had a chance to right myself to begin pursuing him. What he lacked in weight and strength he made up for in shear speed.
I knew where he was going. He would be at this very moment making his way to the garage via the front porch to grab the key. Twice before now he had made it and driven off. It was not happening again.
I made a swift decision and, rather than follow him downstairs, I went to my bedroom window. The blasted thing had been painted shut, and was warped from rain and age. Luckily for me, I had kept up my strength since uni and with one hard yank I sent the window crashing upwards, paint and wood chippings flying everywhere. I forced my large frame through the gap and onto, as I had intended, the roof of the porch. I waisted no time and jumped clean from the shingles and onto the ground in front of the door, landing hard and jarring both ankles. I turned just in time to see Aaron fling the door open, keys in hand.
I felt a wave of relief and anger crash over me as I caught the door in one hand and charged through the doorway. I grabbed Aaron by the front of his shirt and pinned him to the wall.
'Give me my wallet and the keys.' I spoke calmly and slowly, even though I was breathing hard.
Aaron's grin had melted the instant his back had hit the wall. He handed them over without a sound.
'I'm sorry Michael.' He whispered.
'Never again.' I gave him a little push against the wall to emphasize my words. 'Never.'
He nodded hurriedly and I let him go.