Sarah was oiling the last bit on her jerkin when a familiar voice made her head jerk up and a smile spread across her face.
“Sarah?” Jason looked at her a bit puzzled and then looked around himself. “What are you doing?”
“Oiling my armor because snotty Marcus has decided I should be the butt of all his pranks.”
Sarah shook out the jerkin and stepped from the shade of the Willow to hang it next to her pants on the fence. When she looked back there was no Jason. Puzzled herself, she looked around, shrugged and stepped back under the Willow tree, only to nearly run into him.
“You’re not really here are you?” she asked him, eyebrows raised.
“No,” he reached out and tried to touch her with a ghostly hand. “The Grove rules seem to apply if we both stand under a Willow.”
“Really?” Sarah sat down and leaned against the tree.
“Modified slightly.” Jason smiled at someone Sarah couldn’t see as he sat next to her. “Mathew is not sure what to think, but I have not disappeared, just faded.” He turned his smile towards her. “How is the training going?”
“Aside from Marcus trying to sabotage my every effort to do well? Not bad,” she grinned and continued before Jason could comment. “There’s so much more to scouting than fighting. In fact I’ve learned that fighting is a last resort, because your job as a scout is to learn and observe. And you have to understand when one must be sacrificed for many.”
Jason chuckled. “You seem to have taken our code to heart.”
“How can I not,” Sarah shrugged, noticing the all too familiar shape of Marcus heading toward her. “It’s close to how I feel, though I’m not sure about the whole sacrificing part.”
Sarah didn’t hear what Jason said next, as she slowly rose to her feet. Marcus was clambering over the fence into the practice yard. There was purpose to his steps and anger in his eyes. Stay calm, she told herself, hands clenched in readiness; he must throw the first punch.
“You okay?” Jason asked.
“Marcus,” she said out of the side of her mouth, not taking her eyes off her nemesis.
Marcus stopped, just under the shade of the Willow. “Trying to return home by Willow, Smith?” he sneered at her. “I would be if I were you, given the snitch you are.”
“Snitch?” His accusation took Sarah by surprise.
Marcus took a step forward. “Snitch, haven’t you learned anything about Scout code yet? A Class should stick together like a Troop.”
“Does that include putting up with stupid shenanigans from others in their Class?” Sarah responded. “Because I certainly have.”
“Liar!” Marcus nearly shouted at her. “Then how did Commander Josiah know everything that I had done?”
“Hell if I know.” Sarah stated as calmly as she could.
“Liar,” and this time Marcus threw a punch.
Sarah only dodged enough to turn it into a glancing blow. “I am not a liar. Nor would Reed, Aaron or Kirk tell on you when I’ve told them not to.”
“Now you are going to tell me you have been trying to keep Class solidarity?”
Marcus threw another punch. This time Sarah blocked it.
“I would, except you’ve already split it. God only knows why Commander Josiah let you lead it anyway.”
“God?” Marcus choked on rage. “God?” He froze for a moment. “Which one don’t you believe in?” He stepped toward Sarah, his fury causing her to take a step back. “The Great-Grand Moyther or the Great-Grand Fayther?” His hands whipped out and pinned Sarah’s shoulders to the Willow tree. “You dare to blaspheme them under their own Willow tree?”
“What are you?” Sarah asked, her head beginning to pound. Her eyes darted about looking for witnesses. Jason stood nearby looking helpless, while a crowd was gathering at the far fence. Returning her gaze to Marcus, whose flaring nostrils where inches from her face, she completed her thought. "A religious fanatic?"
Marcus pushed her harder against the tree, but this time Sarah ducked out of his hold.
“I am surprised Phoenix recommended you given his faith.” Marcus managed to grapple her and had her against the tree again. “Or did you hide your non-belief from him?”
“I hid nothing from Phoenix.” Sarah spat, done with being subservient. She had taken enough to prove her retaliation was provoked.
Ducking from his grasp, Sarah managed to swipe him off his feet. He didn’t stay down long and she was back up against the tree again. This time Marcus’s hands were on her chest. Given the expression on his face, he clearly felt something he hadn’t expected to be there. As his hands felt their way down her body, Sarah was reminded of the night of her attack. Angered by his touch and memories that she did not want to deal with right now, Sarah flipped him and pinned him to the ground.