Title: Always Pay Attention
Fandom: In A Heartbeat
Prompt: Undeserved Reputation
Wordcount: 2131, roughly
Warnings: assault of a minor
Summary: One mistake and everyone in the school thought he was something he wasn't.
Author's note: You're actually reading that right. I ended up watching/listening to the episodes a lovely person put up online. I got inspired. Freaking bby Ashmore.
Everyone was waiting for the news on the large TV screen in the front. The Kingsport Cobras were about to be announced for the playoffs. Hank saw a movement around him and saw Val walk away from Tyler to get another drink from the table set up in the back. He then saw another girl saddle up to his side. Man, Andrea just doesn't give up. He hadn't even noticed the change in people, completely focused on playoff sets.
The announcer said, “Kingsport Cobras again Travilla Shepards.”
The crowd erupted in cheers as the team heard the news. Hank was among them, but he turned around to see Tyler plant a large one on Andrea. With Val watching from the back. “Oh no,” he muttered.
His friend seemed to have noticed something was wrong, finding that he had kissed the wrong woman. He was torn between confronting her and running toward Val. When she left, he chased after her. “Val, wait,” Tyler called out, “Please.”
Hank looked over at Andrea, who was immensely pleased over what she did. “Why did you do that?” he questioned. She didn't answer, instead just walking off with a large smile on her face. He shook his head, moving after them and hoping that nothing bad was happening.
Instead, he found Tyler standing in the middle of the parking lot, no Val in sight. “I tried explaining that I had no idea,” he kept repeating, “I had no idea she had moved. I didn't know that Andrea was there.”
“Man, I believe you,” he stopped, “Hopefully, Val reminds herself that Andrea's been going after you for some time and saw an opportunity when she moved.” He led his friend back inside so he could grab his things before leaving the party.
Things didn't let up the next day. Val didn't acknowledge him at all in between classes, and even passed along messages through Jamie and Hank that he wasn't to talk to her.
Not like Tyler would have had the chance. Several males from around the school commended him on the double action, calling him a player for what was pulled at the playoff announcements. No matter how many times he tried to explain that it was a mistake, an accident, they kept calling him on, winking and nodding at his protests as if they were for show. Then the girls would walk by, silently glaring and judging him.
Val walked out the door just as soon as they arrived at the station. Jamie, who had heard the situation from around, just glanced at Tyler before pulling out his homework and ignoring the two of them.
Their first call out was to an elderly woman suffering a heart attack. Thankfully, there wasn't an argument over her treatment, and they were able to make it through.
The second call out was not so lucky. There were two women that had been fighting over one's boyfriend. One started attacking the other with heavy objects, throwing and hitting them directly at her and the boyfriend. Val threw a meaningful glance at Tyler before going over to the owner with Jamie while Hank and he tended to the other woman. After the silent treatment, on the way back, Val commented, “She should have went after the boyfriend. Playing the both of them.”
Hank knew it was probably a good thing Jamie and Tyler switched places, but it didn't help as he saw his friend crumble while he tried hard to keep a calm facade up right beside him. He also saw Jamie agreeing with Val and shook his head. He barely had the vehicle pulled in before Tyler was running inside. The rest of them put things away and came in to Alex staring in confusion at the door. “Hey, what's going on between you guys?” he questioned.
“Nothing's going on,” Jamie answered.
Alex looked like he was going to question some more, but instead went with, “Whatever it is, deal with it. We can't have team disruptions.” He then walked out to find Brooke.
Hank turned to Val. “Do not cover for him,” she said angrily.
“You know as well as I do Andrea's been going after him since the two of you decided to announce you were a couple,” he reminded, “And she's tried plenty of tactics before in order to break the two of you up so she could get him.”
“And he should have known he would have pulled something like that,” she bit back.
“He was paying attention to the playoff announcement and didn't even realized you had moved. Usually, you give some sort of acknowledgment or even a sound that you're moving.”
“Oh, so this is on me?”
“I'm saying that Andrea used you leaving his side and him being inattentive to get what she wanted. Neither of you are at fault. It was her.”
Val was ignoring Tyler the next day. So was Jamie. Thankfully, he still had Hank to talk with. He was still being called a player by several of the popular guys of the school. The girls still gave him stink eyes when he walked by them. Several of the teachers looked disappointed in him when they passed back his papers. There were a couple that he knew were friends with his coach, and knew the true story as he had also seen the incident. They gave him small amounts of pity, but seemed to be as disappointed at him.
Andrea popped up before third period. He closed his locker, freshly scrubbed after someone wrote 'manslut' across it. He just saw her, jumping back a little when he did. “What you do want, Andrea?” he asked grumpily.
“Well, you and Val are separated,” she started pointing out.
“No, we're not,” he objected, “She has not told me that, and I haven't told her that. Look, I know I was nice to you on the science project awhile back, but that's it. Being polite and nice. I wasn't flirting with you. I'm with Val. Everyone knew that. So, please just stop.” He walked off to his next class.
He wasn't bugged the rest of the day. Practice wasn't horrible and he was walking back to his car. Hank was driving over to the station, but Tyler wasn't going to show up unless needed. Even though the little story got to Val, she wasn't completely ready to come forward and talk about anything yet. So, they were still staying away from each other. He got to his car when he heard someone walking up beside him. Turning around, the next thing he saw was a fist swinging at his head.
Tyler backed away so it didn't hit full force on the side of his head, but it still hit, causing him to drop. He looked up at who delivered the punch and discovered it to be Gary, Andrea's brother. “So you're too good for my sister?” he growled.
“What?” he exclaimed, feeling blood from a new cut in his mouth.
“Mister Quarterback doesn't want to be with my sister.” He dropped down, trapping Tyler on the ground. Gary started hitting wherever he could. Face, chest, arms. Tyler tried fighting back, but he was outmatched in size and weight.
“I have a girlfriend, and it was her that I thought I was kissing. I didn't know it was your sister,” he insisted, getting a good cut up to his chin to partially force him off. He was almost out of reach before Gary pulled him back, sitting on him to ensure he stayed there. He started just slamming his fists everywhere into him. It was either the third or fourth time his head hit the ground that he fell unconscious.
Val was calmer than she had been for the last day. Doing her homework led her to a somewhat peaceful place than thinking about how things were wrong. Hank was focused on finishing paperwork and Jamie had everything done so he was watching TV.
When the alarm went off, they quickly packed up and saw Brooke watching after them in trepidation. “What's that look for?” Jamie asked, getting in the back with Val.
“Not sure,” Hank answered, hurrying fast toward their destination.
Val relayed the information she was given, “We have an unconscious male, severely beaten in the parking lot of Kingsport High School.”
“And the guy that attacked the victim?” Jamie asked, freaking out over being called to their school.
“Under arrest and not there,” she stated. The three sat in horror until they made it to the parking lot.
Hank got out of the driver's seat and froze just as Val and Jamie had when they saw Tyler's body lying on the ground. “Okay, Val, if you can't....” he said.
She shook her head. “I can handle it,” she affirmed. They nodded between them and crouched down on the ground. They worked in silence, checking every inch for fractures and breaks. He didn't wake from their ministrations, and it was just as well. They got done quickly and loaded him in the back before rushing to the hospital. Hank led the conversation with the attending doctor. Left behind when the team went to the operating room, Val collapsed in one of the chairs nearby. None of them talked.
The school had been divided into three divisions. One believed that Tyler had gotten what he deserved. That seemed to be the largest amount still, about forty percent of the school. Thirty percent of the population seemed that it had gone too far, that Tyler was still wrong, but he didn't deserve to be beaten. Then the other thirty had heard the story of what Andrea did to Tyler at the announcement party. They were placing the blame on her and her brother.
Hank had always been in that section. Now, he was joined by Jamie, Val and Catie. Jamie and Catie's friends had been told the story by three football players, including Hank, about what happened that night. Several were thrown off by the actual turn of events, and displayed disgust at the girl's behavior. Once they got them, they started spreading the actual story to those around them. A lot of their friends weren't happy with her behavior either and joined in on the third, but slowly growing population.
Visiting every day, they met Mrs. Connell and his stepfather, as they had started staying almost every day. Tyler didn't wake up, which the doctor wasn't surprised by. He had sustained several blows to the head. There hadn't been any swelling, but they were still worried about a concussion keeping him out.
Val told them an idea she had, but she wanted to be alone for it. Convincing his parents to step out with them, Hank and Jamie took them down to the cafeteria. She stepped closer to the bed and took a hold of the hand that didn't have a port. She hated that it was lifeless. Bending down, she whispered, “I'm sorry, Tyler, I'm sorry that I didn't believe you. I'm sorry that I let Andrea almost manipulate you away. Please wake up so we can talk about this.”
There was no miracle awakening, no twitching of the eyelids or mumbles. She walked out just after they got back, heading to the bathroom to cry in peace. Emptied at the moment, she met Jamie and Hank back at the elevators and went with them back to work.
The end of the week came quickly for the three, and they were amazed that the group that blamed Tyler was getting smaller, or quieter. They arrived at the station to see Alex getting ready to leave. “Don't settle down. We're going to the hospital,” he directed.
Jamie asked, “Is Tyler awake?”
“That's what his parents are saying.”
The ride over was tense, and they almost rushed up to his hospital room. William and his wife were waiting outside. “Is everything okay?” Hank inquired.
“The doctor's just wanted to look over him without anyone else in the room,” she assured. “He woke up a few hours after your last visit. Asked where you were. It's been rocky the last few days. The longest times staying awake were today.”
The doctor and a nurse walked out and they walked away with the married couple to talk about the results. Val looked in and saw him with his eyes closed. The other three hung back. “Tyler?”
He opened his eyes and saw her standing a few feet away. “Val?” he whispered, moving his hand to reach out for her. She moved closer and carefully held it. He half-smiled, “Wasn't a dream. You're really here.”
Tyler's disbelief was heartbreaking to hear. “Yeah, I'm here,” she repeated.