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Principal Lesley was displeased. 

While she always kept her air of cool impartiality, her expressions calculated and her judgements void of emotions as expected from a figurehead of an elite high school, Max could tell from the stiffness of her upper lip. 

"Explain. Yourselves," she said, emphasising both words. "Why are two of Ackerley's top athletes fighting like animals at a regional wrestling tournament?" 

Technically, Max wanted to say, the whole point of that tournament had been to fight like animals. You give us perks and special privileges to be beasts on the mat, and we fetch your school esteem and shiny new trophies to display in the hallway.

If only the fighting had stayed contained to the mat. Max wisely held his mouth shut, not only because talking still hurt due to that sucker punch in the jaw he'd had the pleasure of receiving. 

Principal Lesley's hands folded in front of her chest, waiting for a reply. The silence lingered, until the boy next to Max shifted and cleared his throat. 

"I'm sorry Principal Lesley. I don't know what came over me," the boy apologised. "I think it was the competitive environment and the stress. It won't happen again."

Max resisted the urge to roll his eyes, as Principal Lesley was watching them like a hawk. He did shoot the boy next to him a glare. Typical Axel Cortés response. He looked like the epitome of an innocent school Golden Boy, with his big brown eyes wide, and his brows furrowed with genuine regret™. Even his skin was an almost golden tinge of brown. 

Max knew better. Just like there were green and blue bruises on Axel's skin, souvenirs from their tournament fight hidden below his shirt, his Golden Boy act was rotten below the surface. He was a fake, always putting up a goodie-goodie show for Principal Lesley. Axel had seemed quite happy to fight him, not at all like it was a slip up caused by the environment or stress. 

Principal Lesley expelled a deep sigh. "What am I going to do with you two?" she asked. A rhetorical question. Max knew she was going to do nothing in the end. Nothing to take both himself and Axel out of the running at least, because they wouldn't be able to bring in the sparkling prizes.

Besides, their biggest offence was showing a lack of group cohesion. Even though Max and Axel were the captain of two different wrestling teams, they were still both from Ackerley high school, and were expected to show some semblance of sportsmanship and support to the other. Support that wasn't really there, and their Principal knew it. 

Max's eyes snapped to Axel when the latter suddenly extended a hand to him. "I'm sorry for overreacting."

Axel's acting was on point, with a regretful smile and eyebrows now raised so high they wrinkled his forehead. It made Max want to barf. But, if Max didn't shake his hand, he'd end up looking like the bad guy in this situation. Touché. Max gritted his teeth, grudgingly taking Axel's hand and giving it a firm shake. They needed to trick their Principal at least a little. Max was convinced there'd be no consequences, but if they pushed too far, she would be forced to do something. 

"I'm sorry too," Max murmured, eyes trained on Axel's hand. The words physically hurt to spit out. 

Principal Lesley sighed again, opening her cabinet and pulling out some sort of form. Clicking her pen open, she rapidly started jotting down words. "I'm sending you off with a warning. But if this happens again, I'll be forced to take action."

"I understand," Axel said. 

"Okay," Max added. 

Principal Lesley looked up from her paper. "Off you go then, gentlemen." 

She didn't need to say that twice. Both young men quickly stood and exited the stuffy office. 

Once they were out, Axel made his Beauty and the Beast transformation. Except, his was inverted. He went from a Prince to a Beast, his slanted eyebrows dropping into a glare, his face  contorting into a grimace. 

"This is not going to our parents," he told Max, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "I want to have a nice winter break." 

Max rolled his eyes. "Obviously. Idiot." 

At least Lesley didn't mention calling their parents either. Too terrified they'd be pulled from their respective wrestling team, and there would be a blemish on the school's name. Max knew his mom wouldn't pass up an opportunity to gossip, so he didn't blame Lesley. Hell, he didn't want to give her any more gossip material either. A shudder ran down Max's back at the memory of what happened last time he gave her gossip ammunition. As far as his parents knew, this thing between himself and Axel was just a heated, if not mostly friendly rivalry. 

"Obviously?" Axel snorted. "I figured your mom would be dying for another PR stunt right about now. 'My Son, the Brave Bisexual Wrestler!' Great tabloid heading." 

Axel put on a high voice, imitating Max's mom, "oh my son Max is so brave, coming out and being openly queer in such a hostile athletic environment and being the captain of his wrestling team." 

"The tabloid bought us dinner you'll never be able to afford. Unless when your deadbeat parents are mooching off of my parents," Max shot back, though his stomach shrank. 

Axel's face contorted into a glare. That hit a nerve. "Be grateful. Nobody could stand your ass without the mooching," he hissed. "Not even your wrestling team. All they care about is your mom's money." 

"That's right, my mom's money." Max stepped closer to Axel with a raised chin, purposely getting all up in the latter's face to provoke him. Axel mimicked the gesture, not backing down. 

Max pressed his hands against Axel's chest and shoved him. "You can't afford to react Golden Boy," he taunted Axel, before shoving him again. "You're already on thin ice with Lesley, and you're not worth shit without your wrestling scholarship." 

Despite his big words, Max darted a quick glance at the Principal's office door. He wasn't planning on actually starting a fight right outside the Principal's office in the hallway. Mostly because he wasn't interested in dealing with the punishment from his mom so close to the winter break. 

Axel's nostrils flared. There was barely concealed rage smouldering underneath his cool exterior,  but he managed to contain it. With a deep breath, he turned and started walking. 

"Good boy. Looks like you finally learned to control yourself," Max couldn't resist calling after Axel. "See you at dinner Friday!"

Max swung his bag over his shoulder, taking the opposite direction Golden Boy took. He already dreaded dinner, and having to fake nice in front of all the parents. 

If only his and Axel's mom weren't college friends. 

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