Breed Book 3, Part 18

“I just wanted to say thanks, to all of you,” Irene said, folding her hands in her lap from her seat in the middle of the courtroom bench. “I know this trial is about all of us- and protecting all of us- but it still feels really nice you’re all here. Like you’re supporting me being here.”

“We’re supporting each other,” Mikaela said gently. They were seated on the side where the prosecutor’s table was. Students and faculty made up the bulk of that side of the room.

“Yeah,” Irene said. “I like that better. I may have to run things by you, to remove some of the narcissism.”

“Judge is coming back,” Tucker said, a moment before the judge pushed his way through a door behind his seat.

“All rise,” the bailiff said.

Irene was the first to stand, and the others followed suit, before they all abruptly sat back down with the rest of the gallery. Irene glanced nervously at Tucker, whose face was conspicuously expressionless. They locked eyes, and Tucker pantomimed locking his mouth, and tossed the imaginary key over his shoulder. “You know, don’t you?” Irene mouthed, and Tucker was surprised an instant later to hear the words clearly in his ear, like she’d whispered it while they were cheek to cheek.

Tucker nodded once, then nodded back in the direction of the judge. “Madame Foreperson, have you reached a verdict?” the judge asked.

She handed the bailiff a folded piece of paper. “We have, your honor.”

“And were the verdicts unanimous?” he asked, as the bailiff handed the paper to him.

“Yes, your honor.”

“Very well,” he said, and began unfolding the paper. The judge’s breath caught in his throat a moment, before he said, “I’ll end the suspense now. The defendants have been found guilty on all charges.” The gallery erupted, half in shock and horror, and the other half in celebration. The judge banged his gavel. “I’m going to need you all to remain quiet. I’ll read an enumerated list of the charges aloud, along with the verdict for each. Anybody who can’t hold it in, whatever your ‘it’ might be, is invited to take it outside into the hallway.” One of the defendants rose from the table, and started towards the door. “Nice try, Mr. Batts; take your seat.” He shrugged, and went back to his chair.

“Think I need to go,” Irene said, standing. Tucker followed her, and sat on a bench beside her just outside the courtroom.

“I told the others to stay,” he said. “I can still watch the verdict through Mikaela’s eyes. I can patch you in, if you want.”

“No,” Irene said, shivering. “I lived through it; I mean, we all did, but… I don’t need to hear the highlights now.”

“Understandable,” Tucker said.

“I tried reading all the charges, when they first asked me to testify. And it was… overwhelming. It was almost more than I could take, just what they did to me, but it was a literal army of bigots running roughshod over the campus. We all could have died that day, and what’s probably most terrifying is fully half of people would have celebrated it.”

“And the other half will celebrate what happened here today.”

“Right. How the hell do you handle that? I guess, we could feel lucky, that the world isn’t completely bigoted and homicidal- but I feel like that’s still way too much.”

“It’s a glass half full of watery diarrhea.”

“I’ve never liked that analogy. The glass, unless it’s in a vacuum, is always full. It’s just half-full of air as well as liquid. I don’t know if the liquid being diarrhea makes anything any clearer.”

“I’ve never seen it clear,” Tucker frowned, “I’m not sure if that’s a sign of clean, healthy living or something being truly wrong.”

“Just this moment I believe you and Iago are related by blood.”

“Everyone has one of those revelations eventually. I like to think it’s because there’s something unbelievably impressive about us.”

“I know you’re trying to distract me, and not just repulse me… but I think I’m going to be okay. It’s over. We won. Good triumphed. The bad guys will see honest, actual consequences. It’s not as good as there never being an armed insurgency at our school… but if this is normal? I could live with it, is what I’m saying.”

“That’s good, because my distractions were going to get a lot less subtle and a lot more graphic from this point forward.”

“Glad we didn’t do that, then,” Irene said. “And thanks. For driving me here to testify. For today. For just this second.” She pecked him on the cheek. “I don’t know how I would have gotten through all of this without you.” “It probably would have been Iago making diarrhea jokes. The kiss would have been more awkward, though. He’d have made sure of it.”

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