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She was walking along the beach, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face and the faint breeze ruffling her hair, actually feeling happy for once when she saw it. Or rather heard it. Oh hell no. Ivan and his friends have gone too far this time. She ran towards the crowd as fast as she could, lugging her surfboard behind her. She pushed her way through the circle of laughing muscle-bound freaks and rapidly put herself between Adam and the sneering dude currently towering over him. She cast a worried glance behind her and saw way too much blood, but those familiar mournful eyes found hers and lightened a little, communicating that she shouldn’t worry about him. But she did and for good reason too.

Searching and finding Ivan and his steely gaze on her she yelled, “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?” while gesturing wildly and suddenly remembering she was still holding her surfboard.

Sneery dude noticed though, “Teaching him a lesson he ought to have learnt by now,” he said while backing away.

“Ought is a fancy word coming from a brainless flunkie,” she retorted and got what she wanted when sneery dude blended back into the circle and Ivan stepped forward.

“Typical Adam,” he sniggered, “having to be protected by tiny blonde girls,” Ivan exaggerated the last word, as if it was some horrible condition One suffered from.

“Hey, I am average height, not a ridiculous giant like some people,” she tried to interject into Ivan’s monologue to no avail.

“He’s only getting what he deserves, like every other time we stage an intervention.” INTERVENTION! Oh sure, it’s not just mindless violence! “He turned his back on his family and friends and has to pay for it and if he continues to resist, then I’ll keep paying him visits,” Ivan tried for a menacing smile there but just looked constipated to her.

She snorted, “Not joining a criminal gang with you isn’t turning his back on his family and he was never friends with this lot,” gesturing to the circle, who were all now glaring at her. Tough luck, I’m not backing down.

Ivan looked like he knew what she was thinking because at that point he made the stupid face he did when he was thinking, “We’re done with him now anyway, so you can take him back and play nurse until the next time.”

One felt her whole body fill with heat and anger and levelled her glare around the circle before going back to the ringleader. Taking a step forward, eyes blazing with fury, her voice trembling with anger, “There is not going to be a next time.” She spun and looked at everyone surrounding them slowly. “Do you understand me?” she threatened. She must have looked a sight, she reckoned as they all looked like they were going to shit themselves. Good. Maybe they’ll leave him alone.

She turned around and offered a hand to Adam, helping him up and putting an arm around him to help him walk away. Progress was slow but as soon as they were out of earshot Adam whispered to her, “Since when are you scarier than half the Mog gang?”

She smiled proudly, “Since always, I thought you would have noticed that by now.” Glancing sideways, she saw him staring at her with a smile she couldn’t identify on his face. When she shifted her arm around him slightly, he gave a hiss of pain and clamped his hand on her shoulder. “I’m going to kill him you know,” she promised, “but for now we’ll just get far enough away and treat your injuries.”

Adam let out a small chuckle, “I feel better already, don’t worry.” She raised her eyebrows sceptically. “I’m with you aren’t I? I promise I’m okay,” he continued smiling at her. Taken aback at his sweet confession, she blinked in shock and before she could reply, shouts started behind them.

Sighing at the predictable and overused insults aimed at them (well mainly her), the moment was ruined and they just trudged on in silence. But One noticed Adam was unusually tense. Well you don’t normally have your arm around him, so how would you notice? “What’s the matter? Am I hurting you?” she asked worriedly.

He just shook his head wearily and captured her eyes with his own, full of sorrow and anger, “If anyone is going to kill him, it’ll be me. You don’t deserve this kind of treatment.” Gasping at his admission, she realised Adam was so close to being broken by the gang. With the constant shouts of ‘Coward’ ‘Weak’ ‘Traitor’ he was actually starting to believe them, but instead he was worried about her and her honour.

She loosened his grip on her and when he gave her his “cute confused look” as she called it, all scrunched eyebrows and worried eyes, she gave him a look he immediately understood. He tried in vain to grab her wrist, but she was already turning and out of his reach. “Get ready,” she murmured to him before stalking off towards the group. The crows of “bitch” and “whore” increased as she got steadily nearer them, heading straight towards Ivan, who was so confident he had his arms crossed while he was smirking at her. He has no idea what’s coming. Good.

As soon as she was near enough, she brought her hands back and swung her surfboard and brought it back around with all her strength towards the hateful figure in front of her. He didn’t have time to react before he was on the ground, with all the wind taken out of him. She kicked sand in his eyes, so he would stay down for as long as possible, then she turned to face the music, or more accurately nine faceless tormentors. They either went down head first into the sand or ran away from her initial fury, but there were eventually too many recovering and on their feet. So, with a final headshot to Ivan, One turned tail and ran towards Adam who was staring at her in disbelief, pride and longing. Longing? Think later, run now.

Grabbing his hand and pulling him along with her she shouted back at him, “I told you to get ready, that meant getting as far away as possible, you know that!”

“What and miss that? Not for the world One!” he laughed breathlessly, regardless of the fact that he was probably in a lot of pain right now. She had to grin cheekily at him. This is what I live for.

Once they had outrun the gang, despite her surfboard and Adam’s injuries, she slowed down into a walk and led the way to their porch. Well mine really, but Adam as good as lives here. It was slow going with Adam now limping, but she kept his mind off it by recounting the satisfying ‘thwack’ noises the dummies heads had made against her surfboard and relaying her latest report back from school and Hilde’s less than amused reaction, that she hadn’t got round to telling him yet. All throughout it, even when he was laughing she noticed his glance kept sneaking back to their still linked hands and she couldn’t resist squeezing it every now and then. Just to reassure him. Nothing else. Great, now you’re telling lies to yourself.

When they reached the porch, she sat him down on the comfiest chair and ran inside to get the first aid kit, before coming outside again to see him sitting there looking out at the beach, with a small smile on his face. She smiled, despite herself and clicked her fingers before gesturing, “Shirt off. Now!” Adam rolled his eyes, but did as bid and she winced when she saw all the discoloured skin on his otherwise perfectly pale skin. Biting her lip as she tried to judge where else blood was coming from, “Probably gonna have to take off your trousers off too.”

“No way!” Adam immediately barked, “I’ll just roll them up.”

This time it was One’s time to roll her eyes but she muttered “Fine.”

She gave him a salve to put on the bruises and set herself to washing and bandaging/plastering the cuts depending on how bad they were. Hilde came out halfway through and hissed when she saw the extent of the damage, “I’m guessing you’ll be staying here tonight then?”

Adam nodded mournfully, “If you don’t mind.”

Hilde snorted, “Of course not. I’ll tell your mum, don’t worry.” Then after a tight smile at both of them, she re-entered the house where One could hear her banging about in the kitchen.

When One got to his face, she started finding herself distracted from Adam’s gaze on her while she was working. She met his eyes and saw they were full of thanks and affection, but still tinged with sadness. “Come on, tell me what you’re thinking,” she said softly while washing the congealing blood out of his already shaggy hair.

“You shouldn’t have to do this One. You deserve better than me as a friend and having to tangle with people like the Mogs,” he murmured. “It’s my fault you’re known among them and that you have hatred thrown at you at every turn.”

“Adam, I was in trouble way before you entered my life. But then, it was just because I was bored or wanted a thrill. I actually help people now when I get in a fight, whether it’s you or that poor girl with the books the other day,” she paused, waiting.

“Maggie,” he supplied.

“Yeah, my point is that you’ve been a hell of a good influence on my life. Why do you think Hilde likes you?” She smiled winningly.

He made a face and predictably argued back, “Just because I’m the only sensible friend you have, doesn’t mean I’m good for you. You wouldn’t mess with the Mogs without me, would you?”

One gave a loud sigh. “Why do you think I hate Ivan?” she asked, stopping patching his face up completely to look directly at Adam.

“Because of that time he ripped up all your homework, pushed you over and told you to stay away from me,” he answered.

She tilted her head to the side with eyebrows raised, conveying the message of an incredulous “Really?” Adam just looked as if he was trying to think of all the other horrible things carried out against her.

“I hate Ivan because of you Adam. Because of how he treats you and excludes you from your own family and hurts you in all ways possible. I don’t give a shit about what he says about me. I hate him because he’s hurting someone I love.”

At that confession, One felt lighter and waited for his reaction. The only reaction was his eyes widening, but she let him process what she’d just said until his face twitched and his mouth widened into the same smile she couldn’t place earlier. His eyes full of hope, Adam leant forward towards her. She grinned and met him halfway. My first kiss. And it was so Adam. It was gentle and sweet and slightly awkward… and just perfect. She opened her eyes and pulled herself back slightly to focus on his face, bashing her nose against his. Adam was gazing back at her, a look of absolute adoration spread across his handsome features. You’re mine, all mine. When he grinned smugly, she realised she must have said that out loud. “Oh shut up! You already were mine, just without this.”

So, she leaned over him again, put her arms around his neck and tilted her head before meeting his lips this time. She was in bliss, feeling his marginally rougher lips move against her own, smelling his familiar aftershave mingled with sweat from all the running and all she could hear was her own heartbeat thudding frantically in her chest. When she opened her mouth and tasted blood from his split lip, she worried she was hurting him, but then he opened his mouth as well and she forgot everything but the sensation of his tongue tentatively touching her own. The kiss seemed to last forever as their tongues moved at a languid and lazy pace, giving her the feeling of utter euphoria, her hands exploring his mane of untameable hair. When she gave a low moan in the back of her throat, Adam broke away blushing and she realised she was now sitting in his lap on the porch on the beach, while he was still shirtless.

While he was scanning the surroundings to check if anyone saw them, she took the time to run her hands over his chest, feeling the lean muscles and soft skin. “I don’t care if anyone saw us,” she said decidedly, “if anything the neighbours should give us a round of applause since it took so long.” He stopped to roll his eyes but then his pupils continued to dart around, so she sighed and got up. “Come on then, we’ll go inside,” she announced while offering him a hand up. He stopped to put his shirt back on to her disappointment, but then threaded his fingers through hers and they entered her low-slung, tiny beach house. It may not be the massive estate he lives in, but he looks more at home here than anywhere else. Because I’m here.

Hilde greeted them with her customary nod, “Table needs to be laid, dinner will be ready in 2 minutes.” She then smirked, “I didn’t want to disturb you two by warning you earlier.”

Adam stopped in his tracks looking absolutely mortified and way more scared than she’d ever seen looking when facing the Mogs. She just gave a satisfied smile and questioned, “And?”

“I can’t believe it finally happened. I’ve been living around denial so long, I was starting to wonder if I was secretly in love with someone too,” Hilde replied.

They all laughed, breaking the tension and when they sat down to eat, One finally identified Adam’s mysterious smile. Sitting there surrounded by her family, feeling the happiest One had ever been, she realised it was love.