Hero Chapter 1
Knight in Shining Fur
``What's the matter bitch!?'' A large and imposing tiger stood over a poor and frightened little rabbit. ``Huh, Billy? What's the problem? What's the problem!?'' The tiger pushed Billy up against the lockers at his back. ``You forget who me and Jeff are!? Huh? DID YOU!?''
Jeff, an equally large black wolf, stepped up from behind the tiger and stared down, snickering at Billy as the tiger raised his arm and backhanded the already cringing rabbit.
Jeff just laughed. ``Yeah fagot! Who are you to talk to my boy like that?'' The tiger was in a rage, but there was something worse in Jeff. Jeff was nearly giddy watching the rabbit's pain.
The tiger raised his paw again and Billy cringed. As the rabbit spoke, his voice came out no more than a soft yelp, ``Keith don't. Please stop, Keith! I'm sorry...stop!''
``What's that? You taken to tellin' me what to do now?'' Keith raised his paw higher and clenched it into a fist, while Jeff stepped back a bit, laughing even harder.
Just before Keith could close-fisted backhand Billy though, a lightly-furred, brown fist connected with his jaw, and a well dressed otter followed behind it.
The otter landed on his feet just in front of Billy, and before Keith had even hit the ground, the otter took his backpack by its straps, in both paws, and doubles back, hitting Jeff in the side of his head with it, with all his force. By the time the otter was back on stable footing and had dropped his bag on the floor, he was staring down at Keith and Jeff, both lying on the floor of the school hallway.
Billy looked up at the otter standing in front of him. He knew him. His name was Jacob: Jacob Dubois. Everyone knew him pretty well; he wasn't popular or ``cool'' but he stood out nearly to the point of demanding attention. He had the longest headfur of any guy at the school, even more than a lot of the girls, and he always came to school wearing a dress shirt. Recently, he even joined the school's ``broadcast journalism'' program, which had him coming over the classroom TVs, most days, reading the daily announcements, or appearing in other various video projects. He was a senior, just like Keith and Jeff, but nowhere near their size. Thing was, he also had a reputation for not knowing when he was out of his league in a fight, which, depending on who you asked, was either a symptom of bravery, idiocy, or mental instability.
``Hey Billy, you ok?'' Billy, now setting on the floor, turned his head toward the voice, to see a brown wolf, about Jacob's size, kneeling beside him. ``Don't worry kid. Jacob's got this...a-and if not, he has reluctant back-up.'' The wolf smiled nervously.
``You little fuck!'' Keith quickly got back to his feet, followed a lot more slowly by Jeff. ``Who the fuck do you think you-'' Keith took a step forward, getting about an inch away from Jacob's nose and muzzle. But he was cut off in mid word as a teacher walked up beside them.
``Is there a problem here boys?'' The teacher put his paws on Keith and Jacob's shoulders, but Keith jerked away, ``Jacob?'' Jacob didn't even start to open his mouth, he just stared at Keith, right in the tiger's eyes, ``Keith?''
``No,'' Keith finally broke the stare, ``No problem at all!'' He turned around and walked away, grabbing Jeff by the arm. ``C'mon Jeff, we're going!''
``Good then.'' The teacher took his paw off Jacob's shoulder, ``You boys need to be getting on to class.'' He turned and left, but Jacob never took his eyes off Keith and Jeff, even continuing to stare after they were completely out of sight.
The kneeling wolf helped Billy back to his feet, ``Jacob! They're gone.'' He patted the otter on the back, to get his attention, ``And besides, we DO have classes to get to.''
``Yeah, Jack,'' Jacob lowered his gaze and shook his head, ``I know...'' Jacob turned around, today in his favorite outfit: his royal purple dress shirt unbuttoned three down, a pair of loose fitting blue jeans, and a silver cross necklace nestled in his brown chest fur. ``Billy? You ok? They didn't hurt you did they?''
``No...no. I'm used to it by now. H-how do you two know me?''
``Dude! I don't wanna' be late, I'll see you later Jay!'' Jack, the brown wolf, ran off to his class, leaving Jacob and Billy in the slowly emptying hallway.
``Hey kid, don't be that way on yourself.'' Jacob picked up his backpack, slung it over his shoulder, and threw his arm around Billy's neck to drag him along. ``You're not a complete nobody here at the school, you know. You're a sophomore. You've been here for a year. We've seen you around.''
``But you know my name...'' Billy looked at Jacob's hand on his shoulder, ``I'm surprised that people like you and Jack would even notice me, let alone learn my name.''
``People like me? I read the daily announcements and I'm a celebrity now?'' Jacob shook him a bit and laughed, ``Well, I DO know your name. First anyway; could use a last.''
``Billy Adell! There we go: now I know your name!'' Jacob smiled wide at the rabbit, but Billy didn't seem too happy, ``What's wrong?'' Jacob asked without cause; he already knew the answer. ``Hey, they're gone now. I'm here. They won't cause you any trouble; trust me.''
Billy didn't even try to hide his panic: ``But you can't be around all the time, and once they get to me...God, oh God...you've just pissed `em off!'' The rabbit's eyes dropped, ``They're gonna' do something a lot worse. Th-they're really gonna' hurt me!'' Billy pulled away from Jacob's arm, ``I wish you hadn't gotten involved.''
``Hey now!'' Jacob put his open paw on Billy's chest to stop him, and smirked, ``I can handle those two just fine. And if not, then my friends'll help. We've seen the way they treat you, and it's sickening.'' Jacob put his arm back around the little rabbit's shoulders, and they started to walk again, ``Believe me.'' Jacob smirked again, ``If I had gotten there just a few seconds later, that would have been Jack or Scott punching Keith in his fat orange face!''
``A Rottweiler I hang out with.''
Billy just nodded, looking down at his shoes.
``Hey kid, look at me.'' Jacob raised Billy's head up, bringing the rabbit's blue eyes right in line with his own, ``Everything'll be ok. Look, my classes are all pretty close to yours, all day, right?''
``Y...'' Billy shook his head to pull himself out of Jacob's maroon eyes, ``Yeah...you noticed that too, huh?''
``I did.'' Jacob dropped his arm back around Billy's shoulders yet again, ``Anyway, my point is, that they won't be able to do anything to you between classes, because I'll be there! See?''
``Yeah, I guess...''
``And you can sit with me and my friends at lunch...''
``Yeah! There's always an open seat for you! Whenever you want!'' Jacob smiled pretty wide, obviously confident in his plans, ``The only question is after school: how do you get home?''
``Uh-huh. That'd be a problem...'' Jacob stopped to think, as they came up beside their classes, ``How about this? You don't need to be walking home anyway, so how about I give you a ride?''
``You'd go out of your way like that for me?'' Billy looked up at Jacob with those big, glossy innocent blue eyes, one still a little teared up from getting slapped earlier, and Jacob almost melted inside.
Jacob covered up his real reaction with a laughs, ``Of course I would! It's no trouble.'' The two jump a bit as the bell rings, ``Oop! Looks like we're late. You head on to class, ok, Billy? And I'll see you after Second period's over...then after Third for lunch.''
Second and third periods rolled on by, without even a sight of Keith or Jeff, and then came lunch. Jacob and Billy got their food, looked around for, but luckily still couldn't see Keith or Jeff, and then sat down at Jacob's table with his friends.
Jacob patted Billy on the back to get his attention and stop him from eating for a second, ``Billy, these are three of my best friends in or outside of school. Jack...''
Jacob motioned toward the brown wolf that had been with them in the hall earlier. Jack smiled and offered a small wave.
Jacob then motioned toward a VERY large Clydesdale setting just across the table from Billy. Jonathan didn't even BEGIN to stop stuffing his face for the little introduction.
And last, Jacob pointed to a Rottweiler at the end of the table, beside the rabbit: the same one he'd mentioned before. Scott just nodded.
``Scott, John, Jack...this is Billy. He'll be sitting with us for a while. Cool?''
``We met this morning. Nice to know you've got a friendlier place to sit.'' Jack went back to eating, then looked back up, and elbowed Jonathan in the side, ``John, say something!''
``Mmph! Mm fuh'hin' truhn tuh'uhht! Nuff tuh meh oo!'' Jonathan, who still didn't care to stop eating, at least took the time to look up and smile around his stuffed cheeks.
``Hi kid! Glad you're here.'' Scott sat his food down and reached across to shake Billy's paw, ``You can stay here however long you want. Jacob and Jack seem to really like you, and besides...we'll do whatever we can to keep you away from Keith and Jeff.''
On the cue of Keith and Jeff being mentioned, Jack and Jacob each set about rolling their eyes and shaking their heads and John growled and muttered something through his mouth-full of food.
``We used to be able to stand them,'' Jacob was the first to speak up, as usual, ``But after seeing the way they treated you...'' the otter's jaw clenched for a moment, stopping him.
``Just because they're on the fuckin' football team they think that they can do what-the-fuck-ever they want! I'm not sure whether it's the popularity or the muscle mass, but it's sickening!'' Jack leaned back in his chair, ``Hell...Jay's temper: I'm surprised he kept out of a fight with them as long as he did!''
``And, if it hadn't been him, it would've been me or you, Jack. He just beat us to it.'' Scott, obviously the calmest of the group, just patted Billy on the shoulder while he talked, ``We didn't want to get involved before, because, y'know, we figured that it would just blow over soon enough and then they'd move on to pickin' on somebody else. They're always fuckin' with someone.'' Scott looked a little worried and leaned in on his elbows, ``And plus...I was a little afraid that we'd only make things worse if we did anything.''
Jonathan, having already finished his food, was finally able to speak, ``The one thing I don't get though,'' He wiped his mouth and continued, ``They mess with other people. I mean, I'm a damned Clydesdale, and they've even screwed with me -- verbally anyway. But what really got our attention, here, is...they really seem to focus in on you.'' Jonathan shook his head and looked across at Billy directly, ``Why is it that they have it out for you so much worse than they do anyone else? It just doesn't make any sense. I mean, they're not just picking on you because you're...little or something. They have an ENTIRE class full of freshman they could choose from if that was what they were after...''
``I...'' Billy looked ashamed, ``I uhhhmm...I dunno'. They...'' The rabbit's eyelids dropped, and his arms wrapped around his stomach.
``Ok, ok, ok.'' Jacob waved his paw, ``Enough of this.'' The otter put his paw on Billy's shoulder and looked across the table, at his friends, ``Let's talk about something else, ok?''
Shrugs, silence, and the sound of eating followed for a few moments, as Billy slowly looked back up.
``Uh...'' Billy looked at Jacob, opening his muzzle to speak, but just looked right back town at his tray with a huff, ``Never mind...''
``No-no. Go ahead.'' Jack tapped on the table in front of Billy, getting him to look back up, ``You don't have to be skittish here. Speak up! We're not Keith and his...posse of whatever?'' The brown wolf shrugged. ``Point is: there's no reason for you to feel uncomfortable here.''
``Well, I was just gonna' ask...'' Billy, still seemed a little embarrassed to even talk, ``I was just noticing that...well.'' He motioned around to everyone but Scott, ``Jacob...Jack...and John. Y-you're best friends and you're names all start with J's...'' The rabbit looked back down at his food, picking some of it back up to eat and feeling even less comfortable with his statement, suddenly feeling it was a stupid observation. ``I just thought that it was kinda' weird...''
``You think that's weird?'' Scott smiled wide, and snapped his fingers, getting the rabbit to look back up again. The rotty pointed to Jacob, ``Born on Christmas day,'' then to Jack, ``Christmas eve,'' and John, ``and the 26th!''
``Seriously? A-and all the same year too?''
``Same year,'' John downed the last of his drink, ``Same Hospital. And my and Jacob's mothers were even in the same room!''
``John and I,'' Jack chimed in, ``lived with our families in same apartment building, until me and my dad moved away when I was five.''
``And,'' Jacob finished, ``Jack's dad is my dad's boss down at the mill!''
``Yeah,'' Jack looked a bit less happy about the conversation, ``But that doesn't really count any more. Does it?''
``Eh -- it counts plenty. My home life isn't the subject of conversation here.'' Jacob finished off the last bit of his sandwich and pushed his tray back. ``Not something Billy cares about, I'm sure.
``I dunno'...'' Billy looked at Jacob, ``I might.''
``Really? You came to lunch with us, just to sit through me griping about my Dad?''
``Yeah. I wanna' know...'' Billy smiled softly, looking up at the otter with those big blue eyes, and Jacob noticed it was the first time he'd seen the rabbit look so comfortable being at the school.
John & Jack tried to stifle a laugh, but only Jack succeeded as the two left to put up their trays.
``Wh-what are they laughing about?'' Billy's ears laid back and he blushed as he watched them leave.
``Oh! Uhm...nothing.'' Scott just smiled reassuringly, ``It's nothing! Don't worry about it.''
``Oh...kay...'' Billy reluctantly turned back to Jacob, but once he had, his eyes lit right back up.
Scott couldn't hold back a huge, toothy grin as he leaned on his elbow to watch the two.
Jacob looked back down at the bunny, ``You sure, you want me to get into this, kid?''
``Would I've asked if I didn't wanna' know?''
``Well,'' Jacob started as Billy got back to work finishing his food, his eyes still on the otter, ``It was near the end of last year. Me and my parents...or mainly me and my dad...we got into a big fight. My mother was crying, my dad was threatening to disown me and kick me out...''
``My dad...he's one of those angry red-neck types, right? `My way or the highway' doesn't just mean what you DO; it also means what you think, how you feel. Even my opinions and emotions are an affront if they're not in line with his own. Wasn't the first fight like that. Just...this particular difference of opinion pissed him off a lot worse.''
Billy just nodded.
``Anyway, it only got worse and worse: every morning, every day after school, every night before they went to bed, we'd have the same fights over, and over, and over again. I ended up getting my best friend, Robert, to help me out.
``R-robert?'' Billy looked around, as if looking for him here.
Scott chimed in. ``He's been my and Jacob's best friend since we were pups, but he's a bit older than us. He was a senior LAST year, so he's already graduated.''
``Yeah,'' Jacob nodded, ``Since he had a car, I got him to start coming by my house early every day and take me to school...just so I could avoid the fights.''
``What were you fighting about?''
``Like I said - Dad can only accept his own little world view.''
``If you say so.'' Billy looked almost hurt, that Jacob wouldn't be more specific, but tried not to let on.
``Finally it just got to be too much. I even thought killing my dad once...and what's worse: myself.'' Jacob finally looked away from the rabbit, ``So one night, after they were already in bed, I packed up all of my things, and Robert came pick me up. You see: he had moved out on his own, earlier in the school year, and he was looking for a roomate anyway...both for company and bills...so I moved in with him.''
``And you got a job, too?''
``Yeah. Luckily for us, there's some sort of student discount thing at the complex, though, so I only need a part time job `til I graduate.''
``Anyway, the point is: I only see my mother every couple of months now, even though she's constantly calling me, and I don't even talk to my dad anymore.''
``Oh, I see...'' Billy looked slightly depressed by the story, ``I'm sorry.''
``No need!'' Jacob smiled, ``Way I see it: I get to live with my best friend now! How can that be so bad?''
By now Jack and John had already made it back to the table, and Scott had even had the time to put his tray up and then come back.
``Speaking of Robert,'' Jack threw himself into the conversation, ``Did Jacob tell you that Robert's how me and him met?''
``Whatta' ya' mean?''
``Well,'' Jacob took over the story, ``Even though we're in the same grade, and even our fathers work together, Jack and I hadn't met each other until last year.''
``I was over at Robert's family's place, a little while before the big fight with my folks, and I met Jack there. He's been going out with Robert's sister, Jennifer, for almost three years.''
``Yeah,'' Jack smiled, acknowledging the achievement. ``Our third anniversary is coming up in just a few weeks.''
``Really?'' Billy smiled weakly, ``That's really nice for the two of you. So...so is Robert like the a hub for you guys or something?''
``Hub?'' Jonathan's head tilted, ``Like...the center of the group?''
``Kind of.'' Scott nodded, ``He's not around as much, `cause he graduated, so it's really just the four of us now. But, without him, we might not even be friends. When we were cubs, for instance, Jacob and I were friends with Robert before we were friends with each other.''
Jack nodded, ``And I met Scott and Jonathan basically the same way I did Jacob.''
``And Robert met me at a party,'' Jonathan added, ``right after I moved to town. He only introduced me to Jacob & Scott after that.''
``What about you, Billy?'' Jack, sitting by Jacob now, smacked the otter in the arm, and motioned his head at the rabbit.
Jacob took over, ``Y-yeah! We didn't bring you over here just to listen to us talk about ourselves the whole lunch period. Tell us about yourself. Home life...any girlfriends...or...'' Jacob raised an eyebrow, ``...boyfriends even?'' The rest chuckled amid rolling eyes, ``We don't really know much about you.''
``I uhhm...'' Billy shrugged, ``I'm not really that interesting. I've been in a relationship, but...'' Billy seemed very uncomfortable with the subject and quickly changed it, ``In my free time I like to read usually, either that or jog...y'know, to get my mind off things.''
``What about at home? Where do you live? What do your parents do?''
``Well...I...'' Billy sighed and huffed, and almost seemed to be whimpering as he did.
Jacob frowned and Jacob patted the rabbit on the back again, ``H-hey...sorry. You don't have to say, if you don't want to. We weren't trying to pry or anything...don't worry about it, ok?''
Billy looked up with a smile, and his eyes connected with the otter's deep, comforting maroon. Jacob's paw was still on Billy's back, and the two shared a gentle smile as Jacob lost himself again in the rabbit's gentle blue irises.
``Ah shit!'' Scott barked, almost a yelp, ``Fuck! Lunch is almost over! Sorry Jacob. Sorry everyone. I'd really love to stay and watch this, but I've got shit I need to get done before class. See ya'll later.'' Scott dashed away from the cafeteria table and off to his class.
``Damn-it, he's right,'' Jacob stood up too, with Billy following suit, ``I need to get on to class too. Billy, you wanna' come with? Or do you wanna' stay here and talk to them `till lunch is over?''
``I...'' Billy was hesitant and blushed, ``I'd rather go with you...''
Jacob just smiled and motioned his head toward the exit, ``Come on, then.''
As the two left, Jonathan and Jack shared a silent glance before standing up as well.
School, as usual, dragged on by fairly uneventfully, through Jacob's English class, and then through his ever so tedious Economics class, before school, finally and graciously came to an end. He and Billy met up, just as planned, right outside of their adjacent classes, and made their way out to the parking lot.
Halfway across the lot, his arm once again around the shoulders of his overly skittish little friend, Jacob caught sight of Keith and Jeff near the front doors of the school...and they saw him.
Without letting Billy know, Jacob motioned back to the two of them, middle finger raised high and proud. Then he opened his mouth, ever so slowly. No sound came out, but he made it perfectly clear to Keith and Jeff, exactly what he was saying: ``Fagots.'' Of course, he of all people didn't agree with the word, but he knew it would get to them, and, in the end, that was really all he cared about.
``Here it is, Billy!'' Jacob took his paw off of Billy's shoulder, finally, to motion to a barely held together, brown, 1980, F100 pickup truck, ``Ain'she purdy?''
The otter flashed a great big smile at Billy, after mocking his truck, and then opened the passenger door, to let Billy hop in. He then jogged the short distance to other side of the truck, and pretended to be winded before finally getting into the driver's seat.
``I know she may not look like much,'' Jacob pulled the door closed and turned the ignition, ``But somehow, this little bitch, despite all its rattling and lack of any upkeep to speak of...she keeps together. Has yet to conk out on me yet.'' Jacob smirked a devilish, little grin, ``Even when I get'er goin' 125 miles an hour!!''
Billy shook his head as Jacob pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road, ``N-not with me in the car...ok?''
``Of course...'' Jacob nearly cooed at the rabbit, ``I don't wanna' do anything to make you uncomfortable, don't worry.''
Billy watched the otter's paw coming toward him; it was headed for his thigh, but changed course at the last second, and lit on his shoulder instead.
Billy couldn't restrain his blushing. Nervously looking around the truck, he glanced at the dashboard and saw, standing out from the horrible, pumpkin colored dash, a shiny new radio, ``Well, at least one thing in here is new!''
``Huh?'' Jacob glanced over as well and then back at the road, ``Oh yeah, that! Me and Scott put that in a few weeks ago: along with some really kick ass speakers behind our seat here. I don't have any of my CD's with me. But, if you want, you can turn it on and pick any radio station you like.''
Billy quickly switched on the radio, and began turning through the stations.
First, he paused to listen to some country station, and Jacob breathed a silent sigh of relief. He certainly could have chosen something worse. But, apparently, it wasn't one of Billy's favorite songs, and he quickly changed the station again.
This time, though, he knew right where he was going. A second later, he'd made his way on to the area's number one pop station. Jacob winced as some unintelligible rap song faded out, and Katy Perry's ``Firework'' took its place.
Luckily for the otter, though, who didn't want to have to make Billy change the station, the rabbit did so, on his own, and with a bit more searching than the times before, the radio rested on `The Edge.' At first it was just a station ID, but immediately following that, the DJ promised Mumford and Sons and Foo Fighters to come soon, before he put on a bit of old grunge, with the Stone Temple Pilots.
This just so happened to be Jacob's favorite station, but he and his new friend only enjoyed it for a short while before their ride came to an end. Billy lived only a few short blocks away from the school, in one of the apartments in a rather large, albeit ratty, apartment building, and they were there in no time.
Jacob slowed the rickety truck to a stop just out in front of the building, and turned the radio down. ``Here we go Billy.'' He shifted into park, ``You want me to come by and pick you up tomorrow morning, on my way?''
``No. Don't worry with that, I'll get there, ok.'' Billy opened his door and stepped out, onto the sidewalk, ``Thanks a lot for the r-''
``Hey! None of that!'' Jacob cut him off, ``I didn't do it to get thanks! What kind of friend would I have been, if I'd let you walk home when there was a chance that Keith or Jeff might hurt you along the way?''
``Exactly!'' Jacob smiled, ``Not a very good one. Now you head on inside, and I'll see you tomorrow at school, ok kid?''
Billy smiled back, ``I'll see you then.''
The rabbit turned around and walked on into his building, frowning now that Jacob couldn't see his face. As he closed the building's door behind him, he let out a soft huff and shook.
Jacob turned the radio back up, and drove on away from the building. Within only a few short minutes, he reached his own apartment, in a rather well kempt complex only a few more blocks removed.
He parked his truck, turned it off, and thanked god, or whoever was listening, that it got him home again, before getting out and locking the doors. Not that anyone would think to steal the old thing...
He made the short walk from the lot to his front door quick enough -- over the curb, down the walk, up the stairs -- and unlocked and opened the door to his and Robert's apartment. He closed and locked it behind him, un-tucking his shirt, and noting that Robert's things were lying by the couch. He must already be home.
Jacob stretched and unbuttoned the forth button down on his shirt, as he walked the few steps to their counter and their answering machine. There was only one message, and as usual, he figured it was from his mom. He pressed play while he fidgeted with taking his school ID off of his shirt.
``Hey Jacob,'' Sure enough, it was his mother's voice, ``I'm just calling to check in on you.'' A sudden silence broke into the recording, but only for a moment, ``Listen honey, me and your dad are just really worried about you. We just really don't want to see you go through with this......decision of yours. This isn't the type of lifestyle you want to be living honey. It...it's not in God's plans for you.'' Jacob huffed to himself and growled a bit at his mother's condescending tone, as he leaned on the counter, hearing a small sob and a sniffle come from the machine, ``Listen, I've given your address to Father Milner. He...he's gonna' come by and talk you through this...well...this problem of yours. I-''
Her voice was cut off as Jacob grabbed the machine. He ripped its cords out of the back of it, and threw it, as hard as he could, out of the small kitchen area and into the living room. It crashed into the floor and shattered, its pieces disappearing under the couch.
``Your parents?'' A deep but soft voice interrupted Jacob's rage. The otter looked to see Robert, a stout wolf and bear mix, standing in his work clothes, in the doorway to the apartment's only bedroom.
Jacob huffed and clenched his jaw, ``How'd you guess?''
``Heh...'' Robert walks over to look down at the scattered broken pieces of plastic, ``You know, maybe it's better if we just don't buy another answering machine this time.''