Oliver winced as he found another cut on his bloody lip. Beside him, Jordan poked at a bruise that started to form around her elbow area.They both shared a glanced, and smiled. Him, with blood-stained teeth, and her, with her weird crooked corner pinch.

“WHAT HAPPENED?” Ezelena bellowed, rushing over. Kodie trailed along heaving, having had run all the way across the field to fetch her for help.

“We won, that’s what,” Oliver wiggled his head cockily. He held out a hand to Jordan, who high-fived it without looking.

“Kodie, what happened?” Ezelea turned to Kodie, who was leaning backwards, trying to catch his breath.

“Anton called Jordan a crack dustbin baby so Jordan told him his mom didn’t have enough money for an abortion,” Kodie spluttered. “He slammed her into Bo’s locker and the floor and Oliver tackled him into a submission and I don’t know the rest cuz I ran to get you,” he doubled back down, heaving in deep breaths.

“Thank you, Kodie,” Ezelena sighed. Kodie flashed a thumbs up, and collapsed next to Jordan, who patted his back.

“Are you alright, Jordanna?” Ezelena softened, seeing her elbow and knees. Jordan nodded, but pointed to Oliver, frowning.

“Oliver?” her hands flew to her hips.

“Yes, mother?” he tossed his head back, wincing at a strained chest muscle where Anton had elbowed him.

“You could have waited for me.”

Oliver snapped his head forward, taken aback by model student Ezelena’s disappointment. She folded her arms, sulking and staring at the roof drain pipe.

Jordan got up and hugged Ezelena silently, nuzzling into her like a child. Ezelena patted her head and relaxed.

“The principal wouldn’t tolerate you getting into any more fights. He hates your dad for ‘accidentally’ burning down his son-in-law’s pot farm as it is. He’ll be looking for any excuse to block your scholarship,” Kodie frowned. He looked more like a sad puppy, but his worry was real.

“I’m eligible for like three. Good luck with that,” she scoffed. Jordan returned to Oliver’s side, jabbing a finger into his ribs.

“OWWWW JORDIE,” he gritted his teeth, glaring at her. She squinted back, clutching her knees. Oliver faltered and averted his eyes. “Your glasses okay?” he turned back and reached out to her face.

Jordan adjusted her spectacles this way and that, nodding when she didn’t find anything out of place.

Kodie groaned his way to standing. “Come on. Let’s go get some shakes or something,” he waved.

“HEY SKIMS, THINK FAST!” shouted a voice, unmistakably droning and annoying to sound like anything other than Anton Joslin. Kodie yelped and dove out of the way of a fast-sailing football, crashing into a bush.

The pigskin went straight into Jordan’s face before Oliver or Ezelena had time to reach her, knocking her head back. But Oliver was fast enough to catch her glasses that were slammed off her head, and Ezelena caught the ball that bounced off her nose.

“THAT’S IT. YOU SKEEZY MOTHERFU-,” Ezelena charged at Anton. She got to within a foot away from punching him when a force from behind Anton tripped him backwards onto his butt.

“WHOA, sorry there, bub. Didn’t see ya,” Roy whistled by, swinging an umbrella. “Heyya munchkins!” he nonchalantly strutted over to the bike bars, swinging his umbrella handle to hook Kodie’s wrist and pulled him out.

Kodie yelped again as he was pulled upright by Roy, and had leaves and sticks from his hair ruffled out.

Ezelena glared at the groaning, floored Anton from the top of her nose and tossed the football into his gut. He moaned and doubled over, earning a curt huff from her. She made to kick him, which made him curl up even more and actually whimper. “Asswipe,” she scuffed her shoes on the pavement and left him.

Jordan pushed Oliver, who was cradling her head in an attempt to stop her nose from bleeding, away so suddenly he almost fell and ran to the nearby garden tap and sneezed what seemed like a whole pint of blood out.”GAAAAHHH,” she reared back. The group swore they’ve never heard her voice raised so loud before.

They stood shock still, unsure of what to do but then realised her funny flamingo head movements was her looking for something to plug her bleeding face with.

Roy rushed over, pulling out that scarf he carried around with him for whatever reason. “Hold still, cherrybomb,” he gave her nose a quick but firm once-over and gently pressed an end to her nose, tilting her head back.

“Lemme see,” Oliver made it to her, and gingerly touched her nose.”Well?” Roy and Ezelena hovered.

“It’s not broken, but it’s gonna be pretty sore for the next week,” Oliver sympathetically rubbed the side of her face.

“So, no milkshakes?” Kodie sighed.

“I’b wabba meekshake,” Jordie whispered to Oliver. He frowned at her, but smiled.

A while later, the funny five trudged into Hasephut’s Diner, the scarf still bunched up over Jordan and Oliver’s bleeding face. They packed themselves into their usual booth, letting the day seep into the aged red and white floor tiles. The place was still more on the empty side; most of the regulars were still on their 10 to 7 shift.

Malory, the sweet heavyweight waitress gasped when she saw them. “Honey, what happened?!”

“I picked a fight with some lockers,” Oliver grinned. “Football,” Jordan gestured to her face. “Mal, angelcakes, could you get us some ice?” Ezelena smiled politely. “And a cherry maple milkshake?” Kodie raised his hand.

“Sure thing, loves. Roy? Go get that first aid kit by the jukebox, yea?”she gently ruffled Jordan’s hair before hurrying off. Roy scooted off the edge of the booth seat and sauntered to the back of the bar.

“This thing with Anton has got to stop,” Ezelena drummed her fingers on the table. “Try telling him that,” Kodie sighed, resting his face on the heel of his palm. Jordan tried to put her glasses back on, but winced as it came into contact with her nose. Annoyed, she slipped them up onto her head instead. Even frowning seemed to start to hurt quite significantly, even for the usually passive-faced Jordan.

Oliver squeezed her fingers, shooting her a reassuring smile.”How do you get through this every time you’re done playing hockey?” she groaned.

“I have dead face,” Ezelena iterated, dead panned, but started to laugh. Jordan’s face pinched up, but then she started to moan again. “Oh garbles, it hurts to BLINK,” her face gingerly scrunched up in pain again. Oliver frowned, thoroughly angry.

“I-I’m sorry, Oliver. I shouldn’t have run away,” Kodie shrunk in his corner. Oliver sighed. “It’s alright. And why didn’t YOU run away?” he nudged Jordan. “I wanna see you LOSE,” she nudged back.

“FAT LUCK, JORDIE,” Oliver bellowed triumphantly, flashing the dried blood all over his face.

“Any song requests?” Roy called out, browsing through the jukebox list. “Surprise us,” Ezelena replied.

A few clicks and a whirring of the machine later, Under The Bridge wafted out as nicely as the smell of the kitchen’s griddle oil prepping for the dinner crowd later. “Why do you always pick songs Jordie likes?” Oliver reached out for the medicine kit.

“Cause she has great taste in music,” Roy shrugged like it was the most basic fact her best friend didn’t get. Pulling up a chair, he tenderly cupped Jordan’s chin and began dabbing a cleansing wipe at her cuts and dried blood.

“Sorry bout your scarf,” she meowed, her eyes scanning the purple and green bands for her blood. “It’s alright, sweet pea,” he absentmindedly mumbled. He felt her cheek perk up a little under the towel.

‘How come you’re not that sweet on me?” Malory chimed, setting down a few glasses of ice and Kodie’s milkshake. “Cause darlin, I am still not mature enough to love that much,” Roy grinned naughtily at her, earning a slap on the wrist from Ezelena and a pinch on the cheek from Malory. Even Jordan reached out to poke him.

“Cheeky boy. Oh, and, uh, Jordan, I’m so sorry to bring this up now but-” Malory bowed slightly.

Jordan predicted the end of her sentence straight away. “My dad’s behind on his tab again,” she muttered non-plussed. She heard a rustling behind her; Oliver pulling out his wallet.

Despite her near blindness without her glasses on, as swift as someone playing badminton she swatted it out of his hands, prompting Kodie to paw at it in the air like a cat trying to catch it. She shot a glare at a surprised Oliver and turned back to Malory.

“I’m sorry, Malory. I’ll swing by later and pay up, aite?” Jordan squinted, trying to see her without her glasses.

“Actually, honey, there’s something else you can do for me and we’ll call it even?” Malory dropped her voice low to avoid the kitchen hearing.

Jordan and everyone frowned listening to Malory’s proposal. “I’m pretty sure that’s not how legal debt works, but what do you need?” Kodie leaned forward. Jordan sucked in a deep breath and nodded. Roy was slightly taken aback, but listened to Malory anyway.

“Okay. You know my cousin who works down at the shelter, right? Kin?” Malory huddled them closer.

“Tall-ish guy, glasses, um, cheap blue trainers?” Kodie bit his lip in thought. Malory nodded.

“Well, he’s noticed some animals gradually going missing. Like, the number of animals there is really hard to keep track of; but he’s sure someone’s kidnapping the dogs there.”

The five looked among themselves. “Does anyone else share this suspicion?” Ezelena whispered.

“So far Gina, that vet that comes in every once in a while; but that’s pretty much it. Everyone else at the shelter are irregular volunteers.”

“Okay. We need a list of those volunteers, and if possible, the animals that have gone missing,” Oliver noted.

“First thing tomorrow?” Roy reached out to wipe at Jordan’s face again.

Malory stood up, smoothing down her uniform. “Yes, of course. You kids had a long day as it is. Thank you so much, loves,” she smiled sadly and made her way back to the till.

Jordan gently set Roy’s hand down and rushed after Malory, snapping her glasses back on. “Malory?”

The rest of their conversation was too soft to be heard by the rest, but from Malory’s insistent waving, it appeared that Jordan was trying to keep her dad’s tab and their case separate. Oliver clicked in dissatisfaction and looked away, nimbly retrieving his wallet from Kodie.

 

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