A/N: I don't know about you, but whenever I have a dream that is filled with all kinds of epic, I just have to write the entire thing down right away. Even if I woke up extremely suddenly from getting shoved off the bed by my brother. (He was asleep at the time, as we sadly have to share a room every time we visit our grandparents.) Anyways, I had this dream...while I was asleep. Naturally. And the moment I woke up at about 4:36 AM, I hunted down my laptop in the dark and started writing the second I had the thing turned on. Took me two hours to get down, plus the days I spent afterwards rereading it, editing it, censoring out certain words that had been a part of the original dream but I figured could be replaced...

You get the idea.

So this starts right around the halfway point in my dream, the part where things go from psycho-weird (for example, my school-lunch spaghetti coming to life and telling me that it's just scandalous for me to sit with that one friend merely because I was wearing a black shirt, which would have clashed with her jeans, which is absurd because both black and denim are considered neutral) to normal-and-full-of-awesomeness. Hence the missing introduction. (Regardless, this entire thing was oodles of fun to write.)

Enjoy. And give feedback. Please?

I rounded on the guy that had spoken. Tall. Muscular. Upperclassman. Surrounded by a small gang of friends built in much the same way. Gel in his hair. Gross.

Conclusion: popular fellow that always needs to prove his macho.

"I mean, come on," he went on, laughing and pointing at me from three tables over, "that's why we all wear black socks, right? That's the loose difference between guys and girls. Wimps wear white."

Socks. He was trying to get something itching over socks.

I glared at him, lifting my foot from the ground and pointing with both hands. "What the hell do you think I'm wearing, you moron?" I shouted. (It was a rhetorical question, but the answer was 'white socks and lightweight running shoes'.) "I believe I've found a small flaw in your logic."

The cafeteria noise hadn't gone down much, but all those in the vicinity that could hear what we were saying immediately looked up from their lunches with interest in their expressions. Someone was fighting, that much they knew. And fights were the kind of entertainment gift that kept on giving, even once it was over. Someone was about to get into a whole load of trouble.

The guy raised his eyebrows and scoffed, looking amused and putting on his superior face. "Oh, I see," he said loudly, throwing a quick glance at his friends, "but do you know why it's only the weak ones that wear white?"

From his angle, he could just barely see my sneer. "Nah," I threw back, "but I know why it's only the douchebags that wear black."

Without a doubt, the greatest part of that statement was the fact that the guy risked a brief look down to see what color socks he was wearing. Way to start an argument where you don't know all the facts beforehand, idiot. A couple of daring souls had the gall to snicker at him.

In order to recover from the hesitation—which had been a little more than brief—he laughed loudly enough to carry across the entire cafeteria. "Good one!" he snagged onto the end of it, adding, "if you had the guts the back it up!" Everyone laughed at that even though I doubted a single one actually got the joke, as it had been a pretty poor comeback at best. Either way, though, he was pretty sure he had this thing in the bag, so long as he could keep the crowd on his side. Riling them up was probably a good way to do that, but he really ought to just have kept his mouth shut. "But why do the wimps wear white, eh?" he went on, standing up a tad in his seat and addressing the entire lunchroom. Since the insult was directed at me, he didn't have to worry about all the other white-sock-wearers that were listening. "I'll tell you why," he said right to me. "It's because they're so much more expensive, huh? Have to go with the nice ones in a pathetic attempt to make up for their patheticness?"

Patheticness? Was he even serious? First of all, that wasn't even a word. Second, that logic made about as much sense as everything else he'd said, which meant absolutely none. But because they'd already all decided to take his side, the school laughed right along, not wanting to be the only one that pointed out the idiocy of this guy's reasoning and get ganged up on. I stared at the guy incredulously.

"They're socks," I said slowly, emphatically. I couldn't believe he hadn't ever gotten this into his head. "They all cost the same. It doesn't matter what barking color they are." The guy didn't even have the dignity to wipe that smug smirk off of his face, clearly trying to tell the crowd, 'Can you believe this guy?' as though they weren't all thinking the exact same thing about him.

"Besides," I snapped, carrying on in an irritated temper, "if anything, it'd be the other way around. Bleach is cheaper than dye. Default cheaper than custom."

The upperclassman laughed again, not even bothering to stop before speaking this time. "Ha! You even hearing this? Bleach? Dye? What's that got to do with anything, huh?" he asked the crowd in his most skeptical voice, getting up now and wandering down the tables until he was almost in front of me. A couple of people dutifully laughed with him and nodded their heads. The sound coming from them was unbelievable, and yet they could all still hear us. "This dimwit doesn't even know what they're fighting about!"

Oh, boy. That was it. He'd just insulted me and isolated me from the argument in a single sentence. That was not. Cool. Call me as many names as you want, but if you want to start playing dirty politicians, I'll have to up it to a physical insult.

While he got the crowd to admire him and totally convince him that he'd won, I strutted up behind him and wrapped my hand around the side of his sunglasses. Stupid-looking things, too. Can't believe these fads nowadays. He turned to keep the other side from poking him in the eye and watched my face indignantly. Without breaking eye contact, I broke the glasses instead—into four pieces in two swift jerks that were honestly one fluid motion. Stunned silence permeated the room, enough that you could hear the pieces hit the ground when I dropped them from my hand.

I stood there with my arms hanging loosely at my side. My blank stare told the guy to make of it what he would. At last the light bulb goes off, I thought as soon as his expression hardened into a glare. I allowed time for one more rational thought before turning control over to impulse. Well, at least it's not about socks anymore. So undignified.

And I was the one that threw the first punch.

The guy dodged out of the way and the crowd starting making a whole lot more noise. It might have occurred to someone else that the guy was twice their height and most likely stronger, too, but I was faster. I ducked to the side. Took another experimental swipe at his chest. Only air.

No blocking yet. Just dodging.

He threw his first punch—a solid blow towards my face, the nearest thing to his hands. I ducked. Slid to his left and kicked him in the hip. Child's play.

Until he caught my foot on its descent and lifted...

Because that's when I flipped over backwards onto my stomach and wrapped a hand around each ankle. Used the tension from his grip to yank him down to the ground.

I had just enough core strength to do it, and he fell.

I spared the tiniest of grins when I heard the cafeteria start to back me up.

Now we were both on the ground, but he still hadn't let go of my foot. I kicked him in the face and made him. He returned the favor before I could get back to my feet. I spat. Tasted blood. Glanced up...his nose looked broken. I grinned grimly.


Both back on our feet. Both ready to start hurting. Neither yet losing our cool. Neither yet relinquishing control.

I jabbed at his gut. He swatted my hand away. Tried again. Another swat. One more time, with an extra left jab under his guard...contact.

He dropped a hand to his side. Perhaps in pain, perhaps in defense. Hardly mattered either way, because I was watching the other hand. The one that was arcing right at my face. Quick. Block. Leave an arm below to keep my guard up.

Irony. Arm down, guard up.

Not enough guard, apparently, as his other arm slammed into my diaphragm and knocked the air from my lungs. The hit I'd been expecting. The trick I hadn't.

I took two steps back. Tried to regain my breath. He swiped. I dodged. He kicked. I glanced it to the side off of my forearm.

Toying. That's what he was doing. He was certain he was going to win.

So why not let him? I thought vaguely. Not like it's that fun.

So I swung before I'd been able to get my breath back. Caught him under the jaw by surprise. I'd assumed he'd be the type to hit first and look later, and I wasn't disappointed.

His hit caught me lower sternum. I was thrown backwards, cracked my head against the wall. Saw stars.

I'm really bad at judging distances. I thought this thing was two feet back.

In a daze, I watched the guy wipe the blood from under his nose and look at his hand in disgust. In a daze, I heard the sound in the room get muted to an underwater rumble. That hit to the head must've been a little worse than I'd thought. Dizzy, I turned my head to the side, where it hurt less.

It took me two seconds to recognize him.

Blonde, blue-eyed. Definitely not a student. Too old. An adult. The school must have thought he was staff. A substitute teacher or an office assistant.

Long black pants. White shirt. Casual jacket that flew a bit open as he walked...open holster.


I scanned the room slowly, tried to get up. Failed. Another identical man sitting at one of the tables. Two more coming up the stairs. A fifth carefully reaching a hand to his belt on the other side of the room...


There were too many innocents here. I had to stop this fight before it could start.

Closing my eyes, I tried to focus in quiet. Isolate the pain. Use it like a prod to jolt myself back into an aware state of mind. A brisk state of mind. One in control. One ready for combat. Strong. Fast. Sharp. Clean. Efficient. Solid blows, all the way from the back to the shoulder down to the fingertips. Every square inch of muscle counts. Eyes ready, open to stimulus. Ears ready to listen to what the opponent is saying. Balanced legs, light stance. Open to movement and rapid reaction. Sturdy knees.


All this in less than a second.

I almost smiled, and jumped to my feet.

Five enemies. Dispersed. Armed. Fight them one by one. Quickly. Dispatch by any means necessary.

The first one I'd seen looked grim as he approached, taken aback by how quickly I'd recovered. From the corner of my eye, I could see the upperclassman staring at me in shock, raising his arms to defend himself before he realized he wasn't my target. The man stopped ten feet from me, even as I continued moving forward. He whipped out his gun.

Firearm. Too many bystanders. Can't let them get hurt. I ran faster, absorbing the most important details quickly.

Favors his right hand, fires one-armed. No stability. Send it out the window. I closed the gap between us in a short bound and deftly threw his aim off by knocking his gun arm towards the wall. The bullet shattered the window and made an extremely loud noise that would be enough to cause a panic. Quicker. Before the students get involved.

The man was recovering from the slight shock, but not soon enough. Surprised. Weaker grip. Get the weapon away from the opponent and then incapacitate. It didn't take much effort to wrest the gun from his hand—I didn't get much look to find the model—although the pinching of the pressure point probably helped. I tossed it out the window, and he made the mistake of watching it fall for a split second. I drove my knee into his gut twice, and he dropped like a rock. I gave myself a few seconds to look around.

Two more, one on either side. Pro: won't fire for fear of hitting the other. Con: surrounded. I thought for a moment. Take one at a time. Go quickly. At a run, I approached one of the men and dropped to the ground a split second before I reached him, sliding between his legs. A tad dramatic, perhaps, but effective.


I glanced up and rolled over into a standing position just before one of the stair fellows loosed a shot into the tile where I'd just been. Change of plan. Alternate. I caught the armed one in the face with a solid kick that bought me at least four seconds, which it turned out was just enough time. I turned to the other. Drawing gun. Focus in two places, distracted. Keep the bullets away and you've got him an open side. He'd been getting ready to raise it to his other hand to help him aim, but I caught the barrel and jerked it towards the wall. I felt one of his fingers pop. Unguarded. Now's your chance. I kicked him hard in the side of the leg, breaking his knee. He went down with a howl of pain, and I yanked the gun from his hand as he fell. I dropped to smash it against his head, and he was down for the count.

Out of time. The other's on you.

But I'd just seen the second of the pair that had come from either side.

Two at once. Both armed. Too close to return fire, no time to alter grip. Won't fall for the same trick again—opponent's objective to keep the advantage of surrounding. Wait for them to get close. Distract. Disarm. Dispatch. Distance.

They were on me now, and I leapt to my feet fast enough to startle at least one of them. Distract. I jabbed one in the side with the handle of the gun and drove my foot into the other's abdomen. No time for subtlety or finesse. Disarm. I elbowed one in the neck, hard, and he instinctively raised his arm as he fell backwards. Unfortunately, the one with the weapon that I was about to remove from his hand. Dispatch. One more elbow in the throat. He dropped. That ought to keep him down for a while. Distance. No time left. I spun around and jumped backwards before the second guy could do much more than blink. I had three feet of room. Too far to hit. He'd shoot you before you can get a kick on him. Only one thing for it. Improv time.

So if you were wondering why I threw both guns I was holding at his face and then tackled him the second they hit, that's why. I wasn't holding them right to shoot, I was too far off to hit him, so I did the next best thing. Bullets aren't the only flying projectiles that can really hurt.

We landed hard, my knees on his chest, which probably hurt a lot. I punched him one last time right in the nose for good measure, then pulled off sideways and leapt to my feet while I grabbed his gun from him. He was too much in shock at that moment to notice.

I'd seen the man on the other side of the room lift his gun as I was standing up, making myself a wide open target now that all of his teammates were on the ground.

A single shot was fired.

The man fell backwards, a bullet hole in the dead center of his forehead. I stood there with my gun arm outstretched. Silence filled the room.

Everyone along the shot path had ducked beneath the table, but not a single person had gotten up and run. I wondered vaguely why until the seconds caught up to me. Twenty-six seconds. That had to be a personal record or something.

Breathing heavily, I lowered the gun and turned to face the upperclassman, who was cowering under the lip of the table and staring at me like everyone else was.

"How about a Round Two, and this time I don't go easy on you?" I asked him in a fairly casual voice that only carried because the room was as silent as the grave.

He fainted.

I grinned.

And did the same.