by April Dawn
A tempermental young wrestler reacts adversely to foul play.
|Crowded stands, bright lights, sweating bodies, echoing buzzers... it was a sensory overload for even a normal person. People always came back from competitions exhausted, even those who did not compete. It was the social strain, the massive sensory intake, the emotional involvement, the excitement. Adrenaline, testosterone, and expectations built like a tangible force. David felt it like a growing energy. His head ached with the effort to block out the blinding lights, deafening sounds, and brimming hunger. Why did he do this? Every competition seemed to get harder and harder. He could just quit the team. Martial arts was far easier on his self-control. He didn't need to keep wrestling too.
He nearly stumbled forward as someone bodily launched into his back, bumping his shoulder in an overly enthusiastic friendly greeting, and he remembered what he came here for. Forcing the beast down like a bitter vegetable down the throat, David turned to face his closest and dearest friend, Mark.
"Hey, man," Mark said, a little nervousness hidden in his voice. David didn't say anything about it. It was a guy thing.
"Hey," David replied as they clasped hands in a hardy handshake. "You ready to kick some ass?"
"Yeah," Mark smiled, finding David's confidence contagious.
"Good," his friend smiled back. "Because you're up next."
"Yeah," Mark replied, nervousness returning. He looked across the mats at his opponent. Champion of their rival school. "What's your take on this guy?"
"He goes for the weight," David advised. "Doesn't have the speed. You can take him if you go low, but watch out. He likes to play tricky." David wasn't really so sure Mark could take the guy, but some encouragement wouldn't hurt. Besides, his chances weren't that bad. Mark was second only to David in class rank, and David felt as though he didn't really count, supernatural strength and speed making his spot as champion unfairly obtained. Mark was better than his opponent in skill, but the guy played dirty and Mark tended to be too trusting. He always played by the rules and expected others to do the same, so the dirty players always took him by surprise. "You can do this," he said, letting his voice brim with all the confidence he could muster.
"Yeah," Mark said, his steps coming a little bit lighter. "I can."
He gave David a slap on the shoulder as he was called into the ring, leaving his friend to watch from the sidelines. David assessed the pair with the cool, knowing eyes of a predator as the ref started match and the two started circling the mats.
As David had suggested, Mark rushed in for a low attack, catching his opponent at the waist, knocking him to the ground. He was already going for the pin and David readied himself for the cheer, when he caught a glimpse of the guy grabbing his friend by the belt with one hand and pinching the fingers of his other hand into his neck. It was too subtle and too fast for the ref to notice, but David saw it, and the cheap move allowed him to get a leg under Mark's and sweep him back to a thump on the ground next to him.
He rolled over before Mark could react, twisting him into a submission move- straddling him facing the feet and pulling up on his legs, bending his back so that there was no escape and he'd have to tap out to avoid a broken spine. Mark squirmed, but the hold was too good, and with a scream of pained defeat he raised a hand to tap out, but held it in the air, unwilling to give in.
Instead, Mark shoved both arms hard into the ground to give himself some lift and tried to yank one leg out of the hold. The maneuver worked, but rather than let go as he was supposed to, his opponent clung to the other leg and brought it down over his knee, snapping it.
The ref blew the whistle as Mark screamed and the entire crowd seemed to simultaneously gasp and fall silent. The ref started to move in to break the opponents up and get the medical team in to look Mark over, but David was already on the mats.
He was furious. He'd seen the cheat use an illegal grab to flip him over, and then unwilling to admit defeat he'd followed through with that blow to the knee. His cheap move hadn't won him the match, so he'd rather be disqualified than overtaken. That was something David just wouldn't allow. He'd hurt his friend, his mate, his pack.
Fury brought him onto the mat before the guy even let go of Mark's leg, and David gave his shoulder a swift jerk back, forcing his weight onto one leg, toppling him off balance, and then swept that leg out from under him, sending him flat on the mats on his back. He forgot to tuck his head, and there was a heavy thunk as he hit the ground, but David didn't pay him any heed.
He started laying into him. Easily pinning him down and driving one punch after another into his face, losing himself in his rage as the referee attempted to pull him off. He lost track of his surroundings. The sounds, the colors, the smells... everything blended together into red. He didn't even realize he'd tossed the ref aside, didn't even realize he'd shaken several of his teammates off, didn't even realize the number of eyes that were on him as he pulled the guy up just so he could punch him back down.
Finally, his coach knocked him over, and David looked up at him with a feral hunger, ready to lay into him next as he felt his teeth grow sharper, pricking his tongue, but then Mark's hand was resting on his arm and he looked down at his wounded friend.
Rage was replaced with sorrow, and he choked the beast back down like a forced drink, taking a few deep breaths to get everything back under control.
"Hey," Mark said breathlessly through the pain. "Chill man. It's alright. It's just a broken leg. I've had worse."
His senses came back to him and it was as though everything caved in on him at once. The gym was silent. Everyone was watching him. Some held hands over their mouths in shock. Some took a few steps back. All eyes were filled with fear, and he could smell it. The gym was rank with it. David gulped back the predatory hunger and shut his eyes, taking deep breaths again and bringing his mind to a blank, focusing on absolutely nothing. Clear. Controlled. Nothing.
"I don't think he'll be breaking anymore legs any time soon," Mark said with a forced smile, and David scoffed as he looked back at his friend.
"Yeah," he replied. "And I reckon I won't be in school any time soon."
His coach stood over him and placed an authoritative hand on his shoulder, seeking to take control of the situation and ease everyone's anxiety. David understood, and he didn't try to fight it as the man led him out of the gym.