They broke all speed limits trying to get to the beach in the nick of time.
"There's King's bike!" Lioness said, and they hit the brakes, stopping their engines next to it. "I just hope we aren't too late."
The wall of the wooden house was broken as if something had crashed through it, and some distance away from it was…
"NO!" Axel rushed forward with the speed they didn't know he possessed, Lioness and Hawk struggling to keep up with him.
The dark figure anticipated his approach and rose to block his punch, taking his hands off the smaller figure's throat and leaving it to lie in the sand like a discarded toy. His arm was bent at an unnatural angle at the elbow and he didn't seem to be breathing.
"King! Stop!" Axel's voice sounded pleading. "I know you don't want to do this!"
Hawk's shaking fingers reached down to Shark's neck, attempting to feel for a pulse, and his heart dropped into his stomach.
On autopilot he fell into the rhythmic pattern of breathing out and compressing the unmoving chest. Lioness was there with him at first, but disappeared soon after. Dimly he was aware of the sounds of fighting nearby, but they didn't matter enough.
"Please, please, please…"
Strong arms grabbed him and pulled him back, pushed him into the sand as an unmoving weight settled across his back. He screamed and fought, trying to throw it off, and someone laughed.
Stingfly (when did he get there?) approached Shark at a casual pace and nudged him with his toe, getting no reaction. "Looks like one of you isn't getting up."
"Make that two of them," a voice off to his side said, and roaring laughter exploded in response.
Clawed fingers made it into his line of vision, dangerously close to his face. Firekat was crouching next to his head, her tail swinging back and forth. He stilled, waiting for her move.
She watched him, cat-like, then suddenly grinned. "Let's make it a little more interesting."
Fluidly, she rose to her feet, heading for the unresponsive body of his friend lying helpless just in front of him.
Cold terror settled in his stomach. "No, no, don't touch him! Don't you dare touch him!"
He struggled with all he had, clawing at the sand, thrashing, bucking his legs, trying to twist, to punch, to do anything. It was like trying to push against a solid stone wall, or a rhino sitting on him. It was getting hard to breathe, or was it simply the weight pressing down on his lungs?
This wasn't going to work. He needed something, something… "You know what, I'm not even surprised. You are all so weak you didn't manage to beat us in a fair fight even once. The only way you can do that is to gang up on someone who's unconscious. How about threatening to cut up someone who can scratch you back, huh, you scaredy cat?"
Firekat crouched next to Shark, placing a single claw right over his carotid artery. She twisted a bit to look at Hawk, as if to make sure he had the full view.
Despair welled up, drowning out all reason. He knew that he was giving them exactly the reaction they wanted, but couldn’t help it. "Please… don't…"
He was laughing. The bastard sitting on his back was laughing.
"Shall we see if one can bleed if his heart has stopped?"
He wasn't entirely sure what happened after that. Firekat and the weight from his back were gone, and there was a commotion nearby. Breathless, he was kneeling next to the body of his best friend, and there was a faint flutter against his fingertips pressed to Shark's (not bleeding, not bleeding) neck.
He wanted to cry. Maybe he was crying.
Lioness was there, asking him questions, then pulling him back and helping Axel fix the mangled arm the best they could.
Axel was there, shouting out orders in a sharper tone than usual, then rushing Shark's limp form into the car and driving off, Lioness jumping into the cabin with them.
King was there, grey and shaken. There was a reason for it, he remembered.
Hawk tugged at his arm, making the blue eyes snap to him, and nodded at King's bike and the car. "We have to go, or we will lose them."
King looked at his hands as if they were the scariest thing he saw in his life. Then he broke free from Hawk's grasp, stumbled a few steps to the side and fell to his knees, retching violently.
The pen glinted innocently from a few steps away. Hawk briefly considered picking it up to get it to Garret somehow, but thought better and crushed it under his boot instead. It was a small satisfaction to feel the plastic crack.
Unfortunately, there wasn't nearly enough leverage on the friable surface to destroy it completely. Hawk glared. With a few well-placed kicks he rolled the offender to the road, where he stomped on it viciously to his heart's content until what was left of it became unrecognizable.
He returned to King, whose retches dissolved into what sounded like quiet sobs, and put a hand on his shaking shoulder. The man jumped at the contact, his face snapping up.
"I took care of the pen," Hawk said just to have something to say. "It's not going to cause harm to anyone again." Then something else occurred to him, and he chuckled almost hysterically. "You know what, I don't remember a single thing Axel said to us before he drove away."
The man's head went down again at this.
Maybe he should have been angrier at King. Strangely, he wasn't angry with him at all. But then again, King was an unwilling puppet in all of it, so maybe it wasn't that strange. It could have been any of them.
From his position he could clearly see the hole in the wall of Shark's wooden house.
One thing was clear. King was in no state to drive. He probably needed a once-over by a doctor as well.
Hooking his arm under King's elbow, Hawk tried to pull him to his feet with a murmured "Come on, man, we have to go".
King didn't move. "I… I can't."
"Sure you can." Hawk crouched, readjusting himself into a proper supporting position. "Hawkster's here to help you up."
"No!" King pushed away from him, getting to his feet and taking a few steps back. "No… I mean…" He kept looking around wildly like a caged animal until his gaze fell on the gaping hole. "You go ahead. I'll stay around and fix this. Some of Shark's favorite boards are in there."
He wanted to go. He could live with Shark being upset about his boards if Shark lived to be upset about them.
King probably couldn't. He was going to feel guilty enough about what happened without adding insult to injury. Literally.
And could Hawk live with leaving King alone in this state?
Hawk sighed, resigning himself to his fate. Two could play that game.
"Okay. We'll stay and fix this, and then we are going to the hospital." King didn't look to happy about it. "It'll be quicker that way."
Apparently King found nothing he could reasonably object to. Silently, they went about fixing what was broken. Or rather, King was doing most of the fixing and Hawk was responsible for the hovering.
There were some instruments in the house, along with some spare materials they could use. It didn't take long for the hole to be covered, but it would always be obvious that it had been there.
Valiantly, Hawk tried not to think about it as a metaphor.
They finished their job, got to their vehicles and left.