A Bond Unbroken

Author's Note - I am updating something. Do you know what that may mean? It means that the apocalypse is coming. Prepare for the end.

Part Three - Does Chastity Mean Virtue?

The rest of the safety patrol watched, concerned, as Fillmore flopped into his same old seat, just like he did every day. If you didn't know him too well, you wouldn't be able to tell anything was wrong; most kids were constantly downtrodden as it was, having to waste their time at school. But Fillmore had a certain aura about him whenever he was upset. It was almost as if he were giving off some kind of frost - the air around him felt cold.

"Hey, Fillmore," Greeted Anza, as casually as he could muster, although his obvious uneasiness remained evident in his voice. "Vallejo's sending me down to the cafeteria to get us some donuts. Do you want any?"

Fillmore answered only with a negative shake of the head. It was clear he wasn't much in the mood for talking. Regardless, Joseph tried again, though knew he'd get the same response.

"You sure? It could help calm your nerves."

Fillmore took a deep, shaky breath. Can't blame them for trying. "No thanks, man."

Joseph heaved a dismissive sigh. If there was one thing the safety patrol had learned, it was that Fillmore just couldn't be swayed. Once he had his mind made up, it would take a miracle to make him think differently. "...'Kay." With one last, troubled glance, Anza sauntered out of the room.

With Joseph gone, a deathly silence loomed over HQ. Each of them silently longed to ask Fillmore the dreaded question, but they knew the guy was probably wavering on an unstable emotional teeter-totter, and the smallest of actions could trigger the greatest of effects… Although despite what he'd just been through, he looked calm as ever (of course, the glasses he always wore completely concealed his eyes), save for his complete lack of energy.

O'Farrell couldn't take the total quiet. He was the first to break the ice, the first to dare and ask that fateful question:

"So, Fillmore... How was Ingrid?"

Suddenly, everyone's eyes were on Cornelius. They looked towards him expectantly. Fillmore sighed tiredly, and merely shook his head.

"Bad, man."

It sounded pathetic, even to him. But he was sure that one word could get the message across just as well as if he'd given them an entire three-minute diagnosis of her condition.

"Don't stress too much. All we can do is hope for the best." Tehama put in, trying her best to be supportive. "And besides, the Ingrid I know won't give up without a fight."

"Well, then, maybe she's not the Ingrid you know..."

"Don't doubt her, Fillmore. If I know Ingrid half as well as you claim to-"

Karen stopped in mid-sentence as the door swung open with a WHAM. The Safety Patrollers all turned to the doorway, expecting to see Anza back with the donuts. To their dismay, it was actually Jr. Commissioner Vallejo, and his worried brows were arched in a way that signaled trouble.

"Fillmore! Third! We got a situation 'ere..." He turned towards the two officers' desks. ...Where's Third?  It took him a good four seconds to recall all of what had happened the previous day. He felt a pang of guilt override his anger, and it only got worse when he saw Fillmore visibly flinch after hearing his partner's name. D'oh.

"Oh... Right..." Vallejo used one arm to rub the back of his head awkwardly. "Anyway, we just got word about a couple of students that have been warring against each other the past few days. You know; raiding each other's lockers, distracting each other during sporting events, that kind of thing."

Fillmore shook his head. "Come on, Vallejo! We don't have time to deal with stuff like this! If two kids are fighting, we have to let them work it out among themselves."

"Case closed." Tehama added.

Vallejo's eyes only narrowed further. "It's gradually getting more and more serious. According to an anonymous source, the monthly pep rally is where one of them will strike next. They're two seventh-grade girls - Chastity Chandler and Faith Freeman. Faith is on the cheerleading squad, and as the posters hung around about X may be able to tell you, the squad is planning a big event for that particular occasion. We think Chastity is going to try and rig their stunt to get back at Faith."

"What do these two have against each other?" Fillmore asked.

Vallejo shrugged. "No one's really sure - for all we know, they just woke up one morning and decided to hate each other.  But whatever the reason, I want Chastity's rumored attack on the pep rally investigated." He sighed, and leaned against his desk for support. "Are you sure you're up to this, Fillmore? We can send Anza or Tehama with you. Or you could just sit this one out..."

"I'll check it out, Vallejo. But I'm doing it solo."

His commissioner rolled his eyes. Fillmore had always been quite a stubborn one. "Suit yourself."

-

Fillmore melted into the crowd as he walked down one of X's many hallways. He was in one of his undercover disguises… One of his least favorites, to be precise. His clothes were baggy and he wore a hat like a rapper would; not to mention that his jeans sported several small chains. He looked just like any other junior high punk who was trying to "fit in". He rehearsed the little introduction in his head, the one he would use if things turned bad: Safety patrol officer Cornelius Fillmore. I need to ask you a few questions, Chastity. Yeah, sounded good enough. He could cope without Ingrid. He had before she'd come along, and he could do it again.

He'd never met Chastity before, but he'd seen her around. Her pale blonde, almost white, hair was hard to forget. And every single day, she wore the same bright yellow blazer with baggy light gray jeans that stopped right before her ankles, like capris. She'd always been a total fashion flop. A member of absolutely squat-nada extracurricular clubs, miraculously, and the only way Fillmore knew her all was because she had once been the sole witness of a long-forgotten crime many months ago. He hadn't interrogated her, though; Joseph and Karen had. So they'd never really been properly introduced.

Chastity was, conveniently enough, situated at her locker, desperately trying to cram in a few large textbooks. A few stands of her hair sprung loose with every shove. Fillmore approached her, quietly, and leaned against a nearby locker as he watched her antics. The girl had finally gotten one of the textbooks in; but when she tried to fit in the other one, it fell back out again and fell atop her foot, making her flinch with pain. She cursed bitterly under her breath, and bent over to pick it up again.

Fillmore felt a small, almost amused smile start to form on the corners of his lips. "Need a little help?"

Chastity yelped; not knowing she had been watched. She turned to glance at Fillmore, and her eyes narrowed in irritation.

"I don't need your help." She stated, simply, and tried, again to no avail, to cram the last textbook in.

Fillmore shook his head. "Yes, you do. You're putting it in the wrong way. You'll never fit it in like that."

Chastity opened her mouth to object, then sighed, exasperated, and took a step away from her locker, handing Fillmore the textbook as she did. Fillmore took it from her and approached her locker in confidence. Without applying hardly any real effort, the safety patroller rearranged the books in such a manner that they'd all fit. The girl raised a brow, surprised, then giggled as Fillmore shot her a triumphant glance.

"Didn't need my help, eh?" He drawled slyly.

Chastity gave him a smug smirk to match his own, as she closed her locker door and picked her remaining textbook (the one she actually needed for her next class) up off the ground. "Oh, please. I could've managed without you." She shot a glance at the clock, then turned back to her company, as the smile on her face never once faltered. "I just got a schedule change. I've been promoted to Geometry - an eighth-grade math class - so I have more textbooks now than I'm used to. Unfortunately, I don't know where my new room is. It's number 171a. Might you happen to know?"

Of course Fillmore knew - he was a safety patroller, it was important for him to know his way around the building. But under-cover, he was a "different kid", a regular one with less know-how.

"Geometry? Sorry, haven't a clue… but I bet I could find it, if m'lady would let me escort her." Fillmore held out his arm. Chastity stared at it for a moment, baffled, but after a moment's thought she gratefully accepted his invitation, and clung to his arm playfully.

"All right, mister…?"

"Duncan. Mark Duncan."

"All right, mister Duncan, I'll accompany you. But you'd better get me to Geometry on time." She gave him a gentle shove on the shoulder, and without hesitance, trailed behind Fillmore as he led the way.

The most essential part of an under-cover mission was always to get to know the suspects, and hang around with them until they felt comfortable discussing (and revealing secrets about) crime-related matters. Girls were typically easier to woo into doing this. But Chastity didn't seem much like the "ruining a pep rally" type. A playful, prankful type, maybe, and an obvious social misfit, but not the kind of girl who'd go out and cause so much trouble. By the time Fillmore had led her to the Geometry room, they were talking like old friends.

"You know, I still don't know your name." Fillmore lied, as they stood in Geometry's doorway. He already felt guilty about fibbing to her, but he had to put up a believable performance so she'd feel comfortable talking with him.

"Oh… My name?" Chastity bit her lip nervously. "Uh… Well, you see…"

The bell rang, and before Fillmore had a chance to hear her reply, Chastity dashed madly into her seat, not wanting to be counted tardy. Fillmore's face fell as he gave her a discreet wave and, sighing, walked away.

-

Fillmore returned to HQ and the smell of fresh donuts. Joseph had long since returned, and the donut box was open and vacant. It looked like it might've been ripped apart at the seams. Only Danny's donut remained, for he took tiny nibbles of it in between bits of paperwork.

"Hey, Fillmore." Anza greeted casually, hoping that Cornelius was feeling a bit better. "I saved a donut for you. It's over on your desk. I thought maybe you'd change your mind."

Fillmore started to object… then stopped abruptly. He was really hungry. "Thanks, Anza." He marched over towards his desk and slumped down in his chair, picking the donut up off of the napkin it was wrapped in and looking it over as if checking for poison. After deciding it looked safe enough, he took a cautious bite, and after a moment of thoughtful chewing, took a few loose forms out of his desk. His paperwork was long overdue.

"Ingrid, come on over. I'm supposed to give Folsom a report on our last case. Do you remember Dale Etherbold's student records? I don't want to go digging for them."

Every other patroller's head snapped up in alarm. Karen and Joseph shot each other equally startled glances, Danny choked on the piece of donut he was chewing on, and Vallejo rose from his seat.

"Do you have your mind on something else?" Vallejo asked, quietly. "Focus, Fillmore, focus! Ingrid's not here right now."

Fillmore raised a brow. Was she on a bathroom break? Or… His eyes widened in remembrance. Snap, snap, snap! How could I have forgotten?!!? "Oh… dog." His eyes fell to the desk. "…You want the rest of my donut, Danny? I don't want it." He couldn't think of much else to say at the moment, other than that he'd suddenly lost his appetite.

I've got to go visit Ingrid again.