It's not unusual for Spencer to get his ass kicked on the daily by upperclassmen in the hallway who fail to see how pathetic it is that the only person they can successfully target is a 5’3, 97 pound, scrawny little 13-year-old with glasses too big for his face and a bookbag that weighs more than he does. It's not unusual for him to slink into class a couple minutes after the bell rings with a bloody tissue stuffed in his nose or a brand new limp embellishing his stance.
It is , however, unusual for the three junior boys that always give him hell in the halls to pick on him while class is still in session.
Because high school bullies, Spencer has deftly observed, tend to lose all their pomp and menace the moment someone who’s in charge starts watching. He assumes it’s due to their stunning will to survive the all-seeing, all-knowing eyes of the school staff, despite all other counts of their lackluster-at-best self preservation skills.
(Or. Y’know. It’s cuz they’re all bitch-ass pussies.)
Not to mention, there’s also the fact that if they get caught once , they’ll have to stop forever , so.
Basic cost-benefit analysis.
But today, it seems that Spencer has done something so atrocious, so unforgivably nerdy and loser-ish, that he’s caused the leader of the pack to just straightup fucking snap .
Because today, Joshua WhatsHisFace--the six foot tall, two-hundred-something pound colossus of an eleventh grader who likes to shove Spencer into lockers because he’s just not creative enough to think of a form of torment that’s not overused by shitty highschool romcom tropes--just cannot wait until after class is dismissed to grab Spencer by his “faggy” hair and slam his face down, hard, against the edge of one of the desktops.
In spite of an allegedly prodigal I.Q, he never sees it coming.
There’s a hot flash of nauseating pain that sparks through the ridge of his nose all the way to the front of his skull, accompanied by a sick crack of cartilage as something snaps under the pressure of the impact, and Spencer barely has time to register the distinct, petrified yelp he only belatedly recognizes as his own before the teacher starts all but shrieking.
Through the dull throbbing ricocheting around his head like a bullet used as a ping pong ball and the blood he can all of a sudden taste on his lips, Spencer can only make out a few of the words from her enraged spiel. Something about fighting and unacceptable behavior and report to the principal immediately and detention. The rest is too fuzzy--or at least, he’s just too out-of-it right now--to make sense of.
From what he manages to piece together, though, it sounds like he and Joshua are in some pretty big trouble for fighting during class, and are now to report to the principal immediately on account of their unacceptable behavior.
(The doctors don’t call him a technical genius for nothing.)
Something tells him he ought to expect a healthy dose of detention after school as well, but right now, he really just needs to get to the nurse. He’d like to think of himself as pretty skilled in the art of makeshift post-beating self-care, but he doubts he can fix a broken nose.
...At least, he thinks it’s broken.
He gingerly lifts a hand to poke experimentally at the dislocated bridge of his bleeding extremity, and oH JESUS GOD, OW.
A sharp, angry protest in the form of a pulsating burning sensation right behind his nostrils that makes his vision fade out for a couple of seconds confirms it. His hand comes back doused in red.
His nose is definitely broken.
He weakly begins to stammer out a request to see the school nurse, trying to figure out a way to make his suddenly uncooperative tongue work well enough to form the right words, while his brain melts mercilessly into a mush of jello sloshing around within the confines of his pounding skull. His frustration piques as he continues to fail at his tragic attempts to make any comprehensible human noise, the sensation behind his busted nose numbing and flaring randomly into an experience he can only describe as the feeling you get when you think you have to sneeze but you just can’t fucking sneeze, multiplied tenfold.
So you can imagine his gratitude when the small blonde in the front of the room pipes up boldly,
“Ms. Finney, I think Spencer needs to see the nurse more than he needs to see the principal right now.”
If all of his energy wasn’t dedicated to keeping the tears threatening to spill from his eyes tucked stubbornly behind his lashes, he’d shoot her his most grateful smile right about now.
He recognizes her voice only vaguely; Spencer tends to keep his head down and his gaze averted when he’s in the belly of the beast--draws in the least unwanted attention. He thinks her name is Jessica--
-- or Jennifer. That would’ve been his next guess. Jennifer.
“Unless you would like to accompany Mr. Reid to Nurse Margie’s office and make up the lesson on your own time, I suggest you keep quiet.”
Ms. Finney looks wholly unimpressed with Jennifer’s interjection, and Spencer deflates a little. Oh well. At least she tried. It’s a nice feeling, having someone give enough of a shit about you to make some sort of attempt on your behalf. He’ll have to remember to thank her when he gets the chance--
Ms. Finney looks every bit as astounded, borderline scandalized, as Spencer feels, his confusion only augmented by the splintering pain still screaming through his skull. ‘ Okay’? What the hell does she mean, ‘Okay’???
“I said, okay,” Jennifer stands up, looking Ms. Finney dead in the eye, challenging her to make an attempt to stop her, “I’ll go with him.”
She’ll WHAT? Why would she do that?!
“Now why would you want to do that?” Ms. Finney takes a step towards the door, veiny, wrinkled hands resting tautly at her hips. The class has long since stopped taking notes on the video still playing listlessly on the projector, much more invested now in the strange turn of events that somehow has the prettiest girl in the grade standing up for a dweeb who’s not even technically old enough to be in the grade.
Jennifer doesn’t answer, walking confidently and unabashedly past the teacher and toward the doorframe. She casts Spencer a glance once she’s reached the door--it’s the first time he gets a good look at her face: soft, even features aglow with set determination and a radiating fearlessness that embodies her every movement--and raises an eyebrow.
He takes that as his cue to follow suit, stepping briskly toward the hallway, only to be stopped midway by--
(Ms. Finney’s fat fucking ass.)
--an arm thrust back by the teacher to keep him in his place. She narrows her eyes at Jennifer, distrusting. Jennifer doesn’t flinch.
(Several students in the class gasp; surnames are dangerous territory when it comes to senile old women that should’ve retired ages ago who are instead working with a bunch of stuck-up brats for a job that takes up too much time and pays too little.)
“You do not have a hall pass. If you leave the classroom, I will be forced to assign you after-school detention.”
Jennifer considers this, her hand hovering inches above the doorknob. Unbeknownstly, Spencer finds himself holding his breath. The pain appears to have put itself on hold, for even it recognizes the sheer direness of the situation at hand.
Jennifer inhales. Then exhales. Then inhales again. She shrugs.
“Fine by me,” she says simply, and a collective ripple ruptures the room. She reaches nimbly behind Ms. Finney and grabs Spencer’s bloody wrist, tugging him alongside her as she opens the door and exits the classroom without another word. It seems a moment worthy of applause, an event that ought to go down in history, that should be immortalized and idolized by every student to ever walk these wretched halls.
But unfortunately, some glories go unsung,
much like the infamous Battle of Schrute Farms, northernmost battle of the American Civil War.
Only now, stumbling to keep up with her purposeful stride, does Spencer get the chance to formally meet his savior.
She’s wearing short shorts and a baby blue cardigan--nothing all that remarkable--and her blonde hair is tied up in a high ponytail. Side bangs frame her face, elegant blue eyes alight and expression disgruntled, eyebrows furrowing in a way that makes her look both hot and badass at the same time.
“What a bitch,” she mutters, and Spencer wholeheartedly agrees. An astute judgment if ever there was one. She stops suddenly, such that he almost runs into her, and he blinks, about to mumble out an incoherent apology before she speaks up. “Are you okay?”
It takes him a moment (hardly one of his proudest ones) to realize she’s talking to him , which translates into a good few seconds of him just staring dumbfoundedly up at her--
(She’s only an inch or so taller than him, but her grace commands a respect that would make even jackasses like Joshua WhatsHisFace bow down in awe and reverence.)
--and saying nothing, dried blood crusting over his nose and upper lip and still dripping off of his chin.
When his senses finally decide to return to him, all his words explode in a cacophony of pain, anxiety, and veneration.
“Oh, uh, yeah, I’m alright, I uh-I think my nose might be broken, but it’s fine, it’s whatever. Which, umm, isn’t to say that it doesn’t, you know, hurt, because it does, but not like, I need to go to the hospital or anything, I’m pretty much used to this by now. The hurting, not the broken nose. They don’t usually break bones or anything like that. At least, not to me . They do other stuff to me--not bad stuff, but stuff, usually when no one else is looking, or, like, when the right people are looking. I don’t know why he went and got me during class today, though, he’s usually a lot more tactful than that. I probably did something to piss him off--I’m not sure what , but like, today is a lot worse than usual, so I’m sure--”
“Spencer, woah, ”
She stops him just before he can asphyxiate and die, which makes this the second time today that she’s saved his sorry ass. She looks down at him with an unreadable expression, which is odd, because Spencer is generally pretty good at reading expressions. He’ll chalk this rare instance of malfunction up to his pounding head. At least whatever’s on her face doesn’t look like pity; he gets enough of that from his mom as is.
“Look, Spence--can I call you Spence?”
He opens his mouth to answer, but she goes on before he can get a word in.
“Joshua’s a jerk. Like, a huge jerk. He called my friend a slut for not wanting to go out with him, which makes him not only a jerk, but also a dumbass. So, just, don’t let him get to you. You’re, like, unbelievably incredible, all kinds of smart, and it’s really admirable, and it’s gotta be tough enough just being a kid in such a shitty place, so,”
She breathes in and brushes her hair out of her face, and wow, she really is pretty.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is, if he keeps on giving you shit, just try and find me, okay? You seem really sweet, and you don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
She offers him a soft, reassuring smile, and something--maybe the endorphins his brain is desperately releasing in attempts to alleviate the pain--makes Spencer feel like he can trust her. Like this isn’t some sort of trick.
“Okay,” he says lamely, feeling stupid and small, yet somehow, an awful lot better than he was just a couple of minutes ago. Logically, he knows, she’s not his friend. She’s just offering him protection because she finds him miserable.
But. God. Even that makes him feel downright giddy.
She beams brightly at him, and her grin is enough to weed out a meek smile from the pained grimace painted across his bloodied face.
“My friends call me JJ,” she tells him, beginning to walk towards the nurse’s office again.
Spencer, unsure of how to respond to that, blurts out rather unceremoniously, “I don’t have any friends.”
Her smile falls for the briefest of seconds, which, way to go, asshole. The first person in this godforsaken shithole who’s been nice to you in two years and you manage to make them upset in less than a sentence.
She turns around to face him, and for a fleeting, irrational moment in which his fight-or-flight response commands control of his body, Spencer tenses up, certain she’s going to hit him.
Instead, she smiles again, even brighter than last time--if that’s even possible--and takes his hand in her own.
“Well,” she says gently, squeezing his palm as she chuckles, “now you do.”
Spencer blinks, then smiles too, mostly to himself.
Now he does.