Hopelessness filled Michael as he watched his partners barrel toward each other. All of his attempts to calm them down had failed miserably, as if he had tried to put out a fire with gasoline.
The two clashed against each other, shoulder crashing into shoulder. Alex let out a hearty groan and spun around before hitting the ground. Ben faced him, and Michael could swear he heard them growling in their throats.
Ben started towards Alex but he couldn’t reach him in time. Alex sprung up and flicked his knife out, smiling menacingly.
Ben wavered, and then hastily returned the smile. “Are you so pathetic that you have to bring a knife to a fistfight?”
“All’s fair in love and war.”
“Awww. You love me?”
Ben dived for Alex’s wrist, but Alex was too quick. He dropped the knife and grabbed Ben’s undefended neck. Ben, surprised, went rigid. Alex took the opportunity to punch him in the stomach. Ben tried to fold in on himself, but Alex held his neck tightly in place. Ben’s eyes widened, and the blood drained from his face. He looked up at Alex, fear in his eyes, and tried to say something.
It was so pathetic that Alex loosened his grip. He wasn’t actually a cruel, malevolent person; he was just angry. His face showed his confusion, and Ben kicked him in the shin. It wasn’t a hard kick, but it was enough. Alex let go, momentarily shocked. He quickly regained his composure and took a step back.
Michael, seeing the pause in the fighting, started to step between the two. Unfortunately, Ben chose that exact moment to lunge at Alex. Michael was flattened by an unwitting Ben, and they sat in a tangle at Alex’s feet.
“Give up, Ben.”
“Never,” gasped Ben, still on the ground next to Michael.
Alex kicked at Ben’s body, but Michael saw that Alex was fighting to stop Ben, not hurt him. Michael stood and looked Alex square in the face. “Please don’t do this. I know what you are doing, but there is no need for it, even if it is more lenient than expected.”
Ben snarled from the ground, rubbing his injured side. “Lenient? Are you going soft on me, Alex? I thought you were tougher than that.”
Alex kicked him again. Michael stared at him accusingly, and Alex shrugged. “He was asking for it. You’re not the boss of me.”
Michael kept this expression calm, but his voice revealed his agitation. “For the last time, I would prefer to keep this a civilized democracy, but if the need should arise, I am the leader. I get the final say. And I am telling you both to stop.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Oh. Well, when you put it that way, I just feel like throwing flowers and giving bear hugs!”
“Alex, I’m warning you.”
“Oh, trust me, I’m quivering from fear.”
Michael took a step forward him as Ben moaned softly. There were barely two inches between Alex and Michael. Alex, being the taller one, smiled down at Michael. “And just what are you going to do?”
Michael embedded his fist into Alex’s chest. He crumpled like a piece of paper. Michael kept his gaze steady, staring intently at Alex.
“That’s what I’ll do.”
Michael stood perfectly still, glaring at Alex, who was clutching his chest and rolling on the ground.
“Now, are we done here?” Michael glanced back to where Ben was lying just a moment ago. He inhaled sharply. Ben was gone. He searched their surroundings, throwing cursory glances every which way, but Ben was nowhere to be seen. Michael looked back at Alex, who was still on the ground with one hand on his chest, propped up on one elbow. Alex had an indignant but defeated look on his face. Michael reached his hand out to help him up. When Alex grasped his hand, he tightened his grip and pulled him up quickly so that Alex wouldn’t be able to pull him down.
“Did you see what way he went, Alex?”
“No, my vision was blurred.”
“Can’t imagine why,” Michael muttered.
So Alex and Michael set off to find Ben, but they kept their distance from each other. They were still unsettled by their argument and then the fight. A feeling of shame washed over Michael. How was he supposed to be a leader when he couldn’t even keep the three of them together for a couple hours?
Just as quickly as they had been united, the Trifecta had shattered. Would they ever be able to get over their pasts and each other’s shortcomings? Michael didn’t know if it was possible.
But he was determined to keep trying.
Stay tuned next year for the continuation of Sammy Goodwin’s fiction series. Coming soon to a website near you.