A flash fiction bit about a school for those who train to fight monsters, and the one student who trains to fight the fighters. Which came from the thought, "What if useless sidekicks actually had ulterior motives and training?" ...and how much high school sucks.
Watchmen and Bullies
Blood pools, salting her lips before it falls to carpet the color of soggy oatmeal. Principal Shaw flinches, which makes Charlie smile. She finishes probing at a likely broken nose and flicks off another flutter of red snot.
"She bit me," Serena wails.
"My bad. Isn't that the kind of thing you're into?" Charlie wiggles a broken front tooth with her middle finger.
"Enough." The salt and pepper woman in front of them levels a hard gaze.
"But Principal! I was assaulted during training."
Serena is still smudged with blood, but Charlie can't find any bruises. No hissing flush, angry scratches in her creamy complexion. Disheveled blonde hair is already recompiled into effortless, balmy curls. Her hair pools into coils of light.
Heroes tend to mimic their prey. Serena's family hunts beautiful corpses. Cold and enchanting.
Which is what she's doing to the Principal. Shaw's dopey blue eyes fade gray beneath even dopier glasses. Charlie bangs her toe against the metal foot of the desk. Principal Shaw twitches and shakes her head.
"Charlotte, this is your third incident this week." A pivot and suddenly those eyes aren't so dopey. "Please explain yourself."
"Everyone was fighting monsters but me. I got bored." Charlie shrugs. "Serena was dinking around, playing with that stupid creeper, so I thought she might be bored too."
Bored and sadistic. Charlie remembers the crunchy sound the revenant's knuckles made under Serena's heel. Serena sniffs before she can taste bile in the back of her throat again.
"Maybe you should try attacking the monsters for a change. Oh. Wait. You can't."
Chin swivels like a canon. Fists tighten. Charlie narrows her eyes at the taller girl. "Say that again."
Serena smiles. "Sidekick."
"Dead weight. Damsel."
"Ladies." Shaw pats at her perm as if they, too, could be brought in line with more hairspray. “No matter what family history brought you here, you're both going to have to learn to work together. I suggest that you remember that everyone is here for training unique to their role. No more, no less."
"Some less than others," Serena mutters.
"One week after-hours service in the underworks for both of you. To be served together."
"I was the one attacked!" Serena's voice takes on a shrill note, which makes Charlie smile.
"And you were the one to turn your back on your duty to strike a fellow human," Shaw says.
"The rev was nearly dead. I had it under control."
"And that attitude will get you killed outside. Just ask your widowed aunt. Now go."
Charlie nearly makes it to the door before a low voice cuts her off. "A moment, Cooper."
Serena casts a razor-bright smile as she passes and Charlie waits for the door to close before she turns. Shaw rests her knuckles on the back of her desk. When she straightens, it's a transformation. Salt and pepper soccer mom hair seems suddenly darker, eyes sharper. Shabby mother figure is shrugged off like a cloak.
"You had an assignment, Charlie. Report please."
"Serena hits like a truck." Charlie tries to drop herself into the vacant chair but bounces back up as something in her torso protests. Broken rib. Maybe two. Add to that to the inventory. "Took getting personal before she even got a bruise. If that's half power, I don't wanna see her after her dad dies and she graduates."
"And what did you learn from that?"
"That her family is a bunch of snobby sadists? Wait, no. Already knew that." Dried blood cakes her sleeve and there's a tear through the Black Widow logo. Charlie grimaces and picks at the flakes as she thinks.
"She was reluctant to fight, but when she did, she favored her left hook. Likes to toy with her targets, especially undead. Gets distracted. Her family's thing is anything undead and human. Those are unique in that they can often talk, think. I think that's why she likes to hear them suffer. I...guess I could use that if necessary." The prospect leaves a sour taste in Charlie's mouth.
"That's a start. You can gather additional data during your punishment together. I expect a five-page report by the end of the week." Shaw gives a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "You're warming to the part of bully."
"To be a bully, I think you actually have to win a fight once in a while...I'm just the year's suicidal asshole." Charlie inspects the carpet and steps on another smear of blood. She lies fiercely. "Doesn't bother me."
"You will need to analyze each of your classmates and their families in order to graduate. Please keep the larger goal in mind, Charlotte. You are the safeguard.”
"Who watches the watchmen. I get it. You gave me the speech on week one."
"Power can be intoxicating. Everything needs its check and balance," Shaw starts on a familiar lecture.
"No one sees me as their 'check'. They see me as their loser sidekick." Charlie spits the word. The Coopers. The no power, no talent trailer trash with hero blood. Professional sidekicks. "And they're right."
"A counter measure is most effective if it's never needed. Second, if it's never expected. You are to keep your training private."
"Yay," Charlie mutters.
Shaw gives her a hard look. She's even less inclined to accept back-talk when she's in General Principal mode rather than Mom Principal mode. "You look sloppy, Cooper. Do you require a pass for the nurse?"
"Nawh." Charlie pauses to wiggle the broken tooth with her tongue again. "I can sleep it off. Only power I got, right?"
"As you say." Shaw's gravel eyes seem on the verge of sympathy, but they dart away. She turns to her tablet, already dismissing the bleeding girl in front of her. "Go pull yourself together. Next week's assignment is Miss Wolfgang. Here's her profile."
Charlie pales even as she catches the disk the principal tosses. "Wait, the girl in anime club? Specializes in dryads? I don't need a--She breathes lightning!"
"Indeed. Best you not miss lunch."