Maybe A Weakling But Never A Coward: part 3
The rain finally let up, but the clouds still loitered moodily in the sky. Baljeet had been practically frogmarched to class by his friends to make sure they didn’t get separated, and the only time he saw Beef that day, Isabella had stared him down before he had a chance to get within twenty feet of the group. Not once was he knocked down, and his school supplies remained untouched. Baljeet felt a weight he hadn’t realized was there lift off his shoulders. Maybe that jerk will take the hint and give up on me!
His optimism was quickly smushed when Phineas approached him near the end of their last class, unhappily rubbing the back of his head. “Hey Baljeet, I have some bad news. Candace has to be somewhere, like, right after school. It’ll be hard enough for her to take us home, let alone you… And Isabella has a meeting with the girls today.”
Baljeet felt his heart sink. “O-oh. Well, that is okay. I will just find another way home. I can take a bus like anyone else.”
“You sure you’ll be okay?”
Baljeet looked into his friend’s concerned face and sighed. “Yes, I will. I had to go home by myself at some point, anyway.” He did look forward to being able to ride home with Buford again, though… yet another thing that would go back to normal when his friend finally came back.
The big lug’s absence had started to cause a dull ache in his chest. While it would be nice to have a ride home again, and not have to worry about people like Beef, and the frequent phone conversations were helping, at the end of the day Baljeet just really wanted Buford back as soon as possible.
Phineas and Ferb stood with him as long as they could, Ferb giving him a supportive pat on the shoulder before he and his brother had to run and practically dive into their sister’s car. He shuffled his feet, feeling anxiety start to knot in his stomach. Man up, Rai, it’s not as though you have never taken the bus before! True, he mentally responded, but back then I did not have a McDouchecanoe bothering me.
He sighed heavily, and made his way to the bus stop. It was just past the boundaries of the school, what could possibly-
Baljeet’s heart leapt into his throat, but at the same time, something inside him snapped. He ground his teeth together furiously, and whirled to face the jock. “WHAT?!”
Beef froze, eyes wide in shock.
“What is your problem?!Do you not have a single thing better to do with your time, you complete dumbass? There are hundreds of nerds at this school you could be occupying yourself with, what is your fixation on me, of all people?!”
The jock recovered from his shock and glared darkly. “You better watch your mouth, bitch.”
But Baljeet wasn’t listening, because a little light dawn inside his head, and suddenly he was laughing uncontrollably. He managed to pull himself together and speak, wiping tears from his eyes. “It is because Buford usually protects me, isn’t it? I guess what they say about men always wanting what they can not have is true.” He met Beef’s eyes, smirking with a sudden lack of humor. “Well, Buford will be back soon, and you can go back to obsessing from a distance. In the mean time, you should just stop bothering me. I am not interested in a new bully at this time, or ever.”
Smiling at Beef’s stunned, gaping face, Baljeet turned on his heel and continued towards the bus stop, feeling quite satisfied. Oh, he was probably going to pay for that, but it was worth it.
And then the world exploded into stars.
Buford likely broke several laws in his rush to get to school, and possibly several laws of physics, but he honestly didn’t care. Sitting at home by himself for over a week had been torture. He’d helped himself get through it by not deleting any of the messages his friends sent him, so he could look them over when he was feeling particularly miserable. Still, he had an ache settled into his chest and into his skin. He would get to school early, dammit, wait outside the doors for everyone, maybe give Baljeet a noogie, for the good old days, totally not as an excuse to touch his hair, nope.
He could practically hear the little twerp’s mixed laughter and protests, and, feeling his heart speed up a little, sped over a curb.
He took up station leaning against one of the pillars holding up the school gate, and waited. It was cold as hell out, but he was flushed with excitement over being back to school.
Heh. Me, excited to be at school? What a fucking concept.
He beamed as a familiar car pulled into the parking lot, and an even more family mop of curly black hair poked out, followed by a skinny mess of arms, legs, and nerd. His smile faded as he saw that Baljeet was walking with his head down, shoulders hunched. Defensive. That wasn’t like him at all.
He felt an icy trickle in his chest, and walked towards the Indian boy. “Hey, Baljeet,” he called.
Baljeet looked up like a panicked squirrel, freezing when he caught sight of Buford. Buford, who could now see the dark smudges on his face.
He frowned thunderously as he got close, stooping to get a better look at Baljeet’s face. Baljeet looked down and away, mumbling. “Welcome back, Buford.”
Buford gave a frustrated sigh, and caught hold of Baljeet’s chin, forcing him to look up at him. His jaw tightened as he took in the black eye and split lip, the dark bruise on his cheek, and looking down, the equally dark bruise on his collar bone. Whoever did this is a dead man, he thought. He tore his eyes away from the wounds and caught sight of Baljeet’s eyes, and the red that was descending over his own eyes promptly faded. Baljeet looked scared. He was pale, and his eyes were red-rimmed, and he was looking at Buford like he was afraid he was about to actually, literally explode.
Buford sighed, and removed his hand from Baljeet’s chin, gesturing towards the pillar he’d been standing by. “Come on, Jeet, sit with me.” Baljeet nodded faintly. After a moment’s thought, Buford placed an arm around Baljeet’s shoulders as well. The boy tensed in surprise for a moment, then leaned against him gently. It seemed right, somehow.
Baljeet could feel his eyes begin to burn with tears again, for reasons he couldn’t explain. Something about having Buford’s arm around him made his heart clench. He scrubbed angrily at his eyes. Buford is back, you idiot, what is there to cry over?
The two sank down by the pillar. “So, who did this to you?”
Baljeet gave him a wary look. “I do not want you to do anything that will get you into trouble, okay!”
“Alright, Jeet, you have a deal. Cross my heart and hope to die,” Buford said solemnly, crossing his heart with his thumb for emphasis.
Baljeet snorted. “Well okay then. It was-” He froze, mouth clicking shut. Oh shoot, I forgot his name again."Uh… it iiiis… oh, yes. Tyler."
Buford raised an eyebrow. “Tyler what?”
“I have absolutely no idea.” Baljeet said, quite sincerely.
Buford rolled his eyes. “You are the worst witness.”
Baljeet nudged him with his elbow. “Hey, now! I know he is on the football team and that he is horrible at History.”
“Oh, well, that… narrows it…” Buford squinted thoughtfully. “Wait, is he that ugly blonde guy? Got muscles for brains?”
“Sounds about right.”
“Well, then, it’s settled. He is not going to hurt you again. Ever.” Buford’s jaw was set tightly. Baljeet could see fires in his eyes, and bit his lip worriedly.
“What happened to not getting in trouble?”
“No one touches you, Baljeet.” Buford said simply, staring into the distance like he could see Tyler out there somewhere, and was giving him a psychic warning. “No one.”
Baljeet could feel an odd fluttering in his rib cage, and looked away before the intensity could give him the vapors. Or something. “Oh.”
They sat in silence a while longer, keeping each other warm as the sun peaked through the clouds. Finally, Buford gave Baljeet’s shoulder a squeeze. “I missed you, nerd.”
“I missed you too.”
No one asked any questions when Tyler hurried past the group of friends later that day sporting two black eyes and a broken nose. They were too busy pondering, in their own ways, the fact that Buford had barely taken his arm from around Baljeet’s shoulders all day.