A small hand jabbed him in the ribs.
“What sort of manly response to saving a damsel in distress is that?” Beth asked.
“You’re okay, then?” Jack wheezed.
“Perfectly. Come on, get up.” Small, gloved hands wrapped around one of his and hauled.
Jack sat up, turning his head carefully, noticing only the slightest of twinges from the left side of his neck.
“You landed on your right, this time,” Beth said, brushing snow from his hair and shoulders. “Come on, up, up!” She tugged at his arm.
“What’s the rush?”
“We need to go see the principal. Now.”
“You know doing that never works,” Jack said, shivering as he shrugged his coat back into place and snow sifted down his neck. “It just—”
“It just starts a paper trail,” Beth said.
“I was thinking of going to do this before you showed up, but this made up my mind.”
“It was just a—”
“They crossed a line, Jack. The locker, I was willing to let go. Even this.” She waved her arm behind them. “But you almost got hurt again.”
“I’m fine, no harm, no—”
“They can do whatever they want to me. It’s fine, I’ve been through worse than this already. But by involving you, they make it personal.”
“I….” Jack didn’t know what else to say. He took her hand. It was trembling. At first he thought it was from excitement, but her breathing was slow, relaxed. Her eyes, wide as ever, were clear, cold, the gold shining fiercely through the deep green. Her hand was warm in his.
“Don’t misunderstand, Jack. This isn’t for me, or even for you. This is to protect them.”
Jack did not ever want her this angry at him.