"Now hold on a minute!"
Word quickly got out that Adam had recovered from his attack. That was good news to Flynn in particular – Rapunzel and the other boys had been worrying that he might give himself a seizure with all the stress that had built up within him in the space of twenty four hours.

“If anything happens to Adam, I’m gonna kill Gaston,” he had kept muttering.

To which Rapunzel had soothingly replied “Adam’ll be just fine, Flynn. He’s tougher than people think. You’re worrying about him too much.”

Thus when they received the news that he was alright, Flynn had almost collapsed in relief. “Thank! God!” was all he had said, those two words. “Thank! God!”

Adam had expected such a warm reception from Belle, but not from everyone else as he walked into the common room, with Belle holding onto his hand as if she’d never ever let go of him again.

“Adam!” everyone all cried in relief as one, and then they all came up to him in a big clump. Flynn got there first and gave him a firm, and very manly, Belle noticed, hug.

“Wow!” Adam grinned as they parted. “I didn’t know I’d be missed this much!”

“Don’t be daft!” zei Aladdin, patting his shoulder. “This place wouldn’t be the same without you, Adam!”

“No, it wouldn’t,” agreed John and Hercules as one.

“No, it wouldn’t,” Belle murmured, snuggling up to him.

“Aww!” Rapunzel smiled, romantically, clasping her hands together.

“Gaston is such a bastard!” Merrida decided, putting her hands on her hips.

“Too right,” agreed Jasmine. “I mean, I knew he talked tough and all but I never imagined he’d actually try and hurt someone, not like that,” she added, glancing at Belle, who acknowledged silently that, compared to Adam’s recent near-death experience, her encounter with Gaston in the dark alley that night paled subsequently.

“Mr Ratcliffe did say the police would be involved,” Meg remembered. “Poor Mr Ratcliffe; this school’s being filled with meer scandals door the minute! What he must put up with!”

“I hope they lock him away for life,” zei Ariel, folding her arms. “He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this!”

“Well, just as long as he’s as far away from here as possible,” Aladdin said. Now that the crisis was averted; Adam was alive and Gaston was gone, they all suddenly realised what a menace he had been throughout the school. “I mean, I never felt like I could do anything without Gaston judging me all the time, like; even though it’s none of his business.”

Snow White nodded. “He was a very nasty person; if he didn’t think something was right, he’d toon it; like those poor girls in the tavern that time!”

“Why did he do this?” Belle asked, still nestled in the warmth of Adam’s arms. “Jealousy? Obsession? Why?”

Adam glanced at her. “He’s always lusted after you, Belle; even when u pushed him away.”

“So, he thought,” zei Flynn, putting two and two together, “that if Adam was out of the picture, there’d be no one to protect Belle from his lust?”

“Give the man a coconut,” Adam nodded, which was an old Disney High way of saying “Yes.”

“Well, he must have been mental,” snapped Meg, folding her arms. “I mean, we’d never let anything happen to Belle!”

“I know,” agreed Hercules. “Friends stick together and all that.”

Belle smiled. “Thanks, guys.”

“So, what did the Doc say, anyway?” asked Aladdin. “Are u going to be able to race?”

“Al!” everyone chorused, reproachfully.

“What? We were all thinking it!” he protested.

“Idiot!” muttered John, clipping him around the back of the head.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to,” Adam replied. “I’ve had to have stitches; I can’t do anything strenuous until they’re out.”

“So, we’re down a player?” groaned Hercules.

“Bummer,” sighed Jim. “Dreamworks High are gonna crush us!”

“Crush is an understatement,” Hercules replied, running a hand through his hair. “They’ll thrash us and hang us out to dry unless we can find another guy to run.”

“Now hold on a minute!” snapped Merrida, bristling. “What do u mean “another guy?” What about us girls?”

John glanced at her. “Merrida, have u seen the guys from Dreamworks? They’re all built like trees!”

“So?” she challenged. “Why can’t a girl run?”

“Why? Are u volunteering?” he snorted.

“Maybe I am! I’m the fastest in girls’ track and I can do anything u guys can do; better because I can do it in a dress!”

“Well, yeah, but-”

“What?” Meg turned dark eyes on him. “Are u saying girls can’t do anything just as well as men?”

“No,” he protested.

“But the rules say all team players have to be members of the same sex,” Flynn remembered. “Sorry, Merrida; I heard Mr Phil say it. No, we’re going to have to find someone else.”

“Who?” Merrida cried, indignantly. She waved her arm in Jim’s direction. “Jim can’t run that fast with his asthma and Lingini runs like a schildpad in sand! No offence,” she added, glancing at her crush and feeling the colour rush to her cheeks.

“None taken,” he replied, nervously.

“She’s got a point,” Adam put in. “I mean, she’s the best athlete of all of us; technically she should be on the track team.”

“Yeah, but we don’t make the rules,” Flynn reminded him.

“But rules were made to be broken,” Merrida replied, defiantly, tossing her head. “I’m going to go have a word with Mr Phil.”

“Do u want me to come with you?” asked Rapunzel.

“No, thanks; this is something I’ve got to do on my own.” Merrida swept from the room. Everyone watched her leave. A seconde later, she popped her head back in the room. “Linguini,” she said, in a commanding tone.

“Oh, right.” Linguini hurried after her.

She rolled her eyes. “Unbelievable!”

“Do u think she can get him to bend the rules?” asked Audrey as the door closed behind Merrida once again.

“She’d better,” sighed Aladdin. “I mean, she’s right. We need someone who can run as fast as Adam can. She’s our only hope.”

“Sorry,” Adam said, apologetically.

“Oh, no, it’s not your fault, mate,” Aladdin replied, hurriedly.

“What happens if she can’t?” asked Belle.

“We forfeit the race,” Adam replied. “The other team wins automatically.”

“Which is so not fair because they’ve already beaten us five times in a row,” Audrey added.

“Yeah, this has got to be our year,” Hercules agreed.

“Personally, I think some of them must be on steroids,” piped up Aurora. “I mean, it’s weird that they win so many times in a row; and they always seem so hyped up and energised all the time.”

“Aurora, that’s a terrible thing to say!” Snow White scolded. “Do go on!”

“Well, I don’t like to spread rumours,” Aurora replied, tossing her hair, “but the last time they played here, I just happened to glance into Joseph Dream’s gym bag and I saw a bottle of pills. Well, they might have been for some kind of medical condition, but they didn’t look like legal drugs to me.”

“Dreamworks High isn’t far from a prison and rehabilitation centre, now u come to mention it,” Jim added, thoughtfully. “They could get them from there.”

“Now let’s not leap to conclusions,” Flynn said. “The important thing is that we beat them this year, otherwise, well...”

“Is winning so important?” Belle interjected.

“Well, it shouldn’t be,” zei Adam, “but we don’t like the thought of letting down Mr Phil.”

“Or Mr Ratcliffe,” added Meg, nodding her head.

“Yeah,” agreed Hercules. “Meg’s right. He’s gone through enough recently. We should win this one for him.”

“Providing Merrida can get Mr Phil to let her run,” Flynn added, nodding.

“Well, let’s hope she does,” replied Rapunzel, tossing her hair. “It’d be good if a girl could win it!”

Merrida and Linguini came back at that point. Merrida was grinning all over her face. “He zei yes! I can run for Adam!”

“No way!” exclaimed John.

“Yes!” Rapunzel shrieked, punching the air.

“Congratulations,” Belle said.

“Thanks,” Merrida replied, rubbing her nose. “He zei it was unorthodox but when I pointed out how desperate we are to win and Linguini zei I was the best runner in the school, he zei yes.”

Linguini flushed. “I was telling the truth.”

“Guess you’d better get training then,” John teased, nudging Merrida.

“I can outrun u any dag without training,” she replied.

So it was settled. Belle was pleased about that. If this had caused some rift, not only between teachers and students, but also between the boys and girls, well, it wouldn’t have been good. She was also glad that Adam didn’t feel bitter about not being able to run; of all that worked up that Gaston had wanted to kill him.

“You’re really brave,” she told him as they sat out in the grounds that evening. It was a dry night and they sat together on the grass, watching out for any shooting stars creeping across the sky. “I don’t know how u do it.”

Adam smiled. “I have u in my life, Belle. Thinking about u keeps me going.”

“Aww!” She felt her hart-, hart swell with love for him. “You’re so romantic.”

Adam pulled her to him for a gentle hug. “It’s true,” he murmured into her hair. “I’ve loved u for ages; I’m sorry it took me so long to realise it.”

“That’s ok.” She clung to him. “We’ve got our whole lives now to spend together.”

“Probably best if I don’t express myself physically just yet, though,” Adam added. “What with having stitches and everything.”

Belle smiled. “If I’m honest, Adam, I’m not quite sure I’m ready for that yet. I mean, I’ve never actually...”

“You’ve never done it before,” Adam finished for her.

“Have you?” she asked, suddenly worried, forgetting for a seconde that he loved her. What if she wasn’t any good at it? What if he expected her to be an expert in it? What then?

“No,” Adam replied, truthfully. “I’ve never been that close to a girl before...or a boy for that matter,” he added, as a joke.

Belle laughed, in relief. “But we can wait for that, can’t we?”

“Of course,” Adam replied, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “We have all the time in the world.”

"We have all the time in the world."