This is a story that used to be on an old geocities site that became defunct several years ago – I rediscovered it, did some minimal editing, and decided to re-post it onto .

Disclaimer: The Animorphs characters are the property of K.A. Applegate. I have no intention of selling this story for money and therefore am not committing copyright infringement. The character of Michael and the story idea itself are my own. Please accept this story in the spirit of which it was intended.

Spoilers: None
Warnings: None

"The Bully" An Animorphs Story
by MavnAlysse

*Crash!* Mall employees and patrons startled at the noise coming from one of the Food Court restaurants.

Tobias backed warily away from the taller boy who had just hit his tray out of his hands.

"Watch where you're going, retard."

Tobias said nothing, which annoyed the older boy. He reached a large hand out to grab Tobias' shirt and his eyes widened when the smaller boy easily ducked away, glaring fiercely at him.

'Punk's either gotten braver or stupider since we last tangled.'

Tobias stood quietly, obviously waiting for the bully to tire of his game and go home.

Michael was aware that he was attracting attention - the adult kind - and he cursed under his breath. "I'll get you later, retard."

There was no change in the younger boy's expression, but his gaze seemed to intensify, as if he was looking right through him.

Michael shivered, then turned away. He froze for a split second. Approaching were five, very determined looking kids. He recognized most of them from school. Jake led the way, a faint frown creasing his brow as he strode across the food court towards him. Marco followed, a smaller shadow. He murmured something that caused a brief smile to cross their faces.

Cassie walked behind the two boys, a worried expression on her face. She had one hand on Rachel's arm. Michael swallowed convulsively at the look in Rachel's eyes. She was definitely not amused.

The fifth kid was some boy Michael had never seen before, but as he stared into the odd colored eyes, he saw something that frightened him even more than Rachel's wrath did.

Cutting to the right, he raced out of the food court. He preferred victims that he could overpower. 'Five to one. I don't like the odds.'

The group reached Tobias who was picking up the dropped items. Cassie crouched down to help him. Irritably, Tobias threw away the now empty cups and swiped at the spill with the napkins someone handed him. "Sorry."

"Why are you sorry?" Ax asked, puzzled by the strange admission of guilt. "You were not the one at fault here."

Rachel chimed in. "Yeah, it was that goon who should apologize."

"Who was that, anyway?" Cassie looked in the direction the boy had left.

Tobias sighed, an unhappy sound. "Michael. He and I've had ... some run-ins before."

Ax watched in fascination as Tobias' cheeks flushed an angry red. Ax gently laid a hand on Tobias' shoulder. "Why do you hate him so much?"

Tobias blinked in surprise, looking vaguely owlish rather than the hawk he truly was. "Hate? Yeah, I guess I do hate him. It's hard to like someone who picks on you all the time."

They finished cleaning up before leaving, no one particularly hungry anymore.

They boarded the bus before continuing the conversation. "Dude, what'd he do?" Marco leaned over the back of his seat to face Tobias, his eyes alight with interest.

Rachel gave him a scathing glare. Cassie shook her head, a disappointed sigh escaping. Tobias merely rolled his eyes. "Take every prank you've ever heard of and chances are Michael pulled it on me."

Ax looked puzzled. "What are pranks? Pah, pranks. Rrrrranks. Pranks?"

"It's when you pull a joke on someone," Marco supplied.

"But they're almost never funny to the one it's pulled on." Tobias crossed his arms and stared steadily out the window.

Rachel lightly touched his arm, regaining his attention. "You're right. They aren't."

"If they aren't funny, then why are they considered jokes." Ax blinked, still puzzled.

Tobias gave him a wane smile. "Oh, they're funny, just as long as you're no the poor guy who goes through it. It depends on your point of view."

Ax nodded, he understood about different points of view.

Jake finally joined the conversation. "What'd you do to him?"

Tobias shrugged. "I was 'new kid on campus'. He decided I'd make a good target." Softly, so softly that had Ax not been listening closely he would have missed it, Tobias whispered. "He was right."

Jake shook his head. "No, I mean today. He looked kind of spooked even before he caught Rachel trying to burn him with her eyes." They grinned at her as she made a face.

Tobias shrugged. "I didn't do anything. I was just hoping he'd go away."

Cassie leaned over from across the aisle. "What'd you normally do when you saw him?"

If possible, Tobias blushed a deeper crimson. "Usually turned tail and ran." He gave a shaky laugh, trying to lighten the mood. "Coach saw me once and suggested I join the track team." He shrugged uncomfortably.

A gleam entered Cassie's eyes. "Why'd you run?"

Tobias stared at his clenched fists. "I was scared of him. He was always beating me up. My uncle either never noticed, or worse, didn't care and I didn't have any friends at school to turn to."

Cassie laid a gentle hand over his own. "Why didn't you run today?"

The question hung in the air for a moment. "Were you scared of him?"

Tobias blinked, the blush fading. "No," he replied slowly. "No, he felt more like an annoyance rather than a real threat."

She nodded. "And you aren't alone anymore, are you?"

Tobias gave the first genuine smile since the incident occurred as he looked his friends in the eye. "No, I'm not."

Michael had finally tracked Tobias down, it hadn't been easy. He didn't know where the younger boy lived and didn't want any adults getting suspicious, so he didn't ask. What he did was spend a lot of time at the mall, in the hopes that he'd see the kid again, then he followed him over to Cassie's house.

Something had changed, Tobias carried himself so much differently than he used to, he seemed more confident, more sure of himself. Michael didn't like it, and what he didn't like he tried to destroy - reduce it until he was bigger than it.

'Little snot thinks he's better than me. I'll show him.' He settled back against a tree, waiting until he could have a little one on one "talk" with Tobias.

Tobias was lounging around in the barn. The others were struggling with homework. Ax was playing with some of the animals that were almost well enough to be released.

Tobias perched up in the rafters, his excellent hearing and eyesight ensuring that no one could sneak up on them. Occasionally, he helped the others with a homework problem. You forgot to carry the one, Cass.

"Thanks, Tobias."

Marco looked up, mystified. "Hey, how come Bird-boy know this stuff so good when he doesn't even go to school anymore?"

Tobias sounded smug. Ax's been tutoring me.

Marco frowned, then a smile lit his face. "Hey, if Ax-man tutors me, can I quit going to school?"

Jake gave a snort. "Somehow, I don't think you'd be able to explain to your dad why you quit school."

"Yeah, you're right. He wouldn't agree that a large blue alien would be a good influence on me." Ax looked puzzled while the others laughed.

Tobias interrupted, We've got company, guys.

Books closed and pencils were dropped as everyone got to their feet. "Who is it?" Jake asked.

There was a mental sigh of resignation. It's Michael.

Rachel narrowed her eyes. "I say we pound the creep. He's got no business here."

Marco snorted. "Yeah, why not just walk down to the police station and turn ourselves in? Cause if we all gang up on him, that's where we'll end up."

Marco had a point, though she'd rather not admit it. "So what do we do, let him follow us around like a starving wolf? He doesn't belong here."

Cassie broke in, her face creased in consternation. "Uh, guys. Technically, he's not trespassing." Everyone turned to stare at her and she gave a shrug of apology. "I mean, we don't normally get visitors up here, but every now and then someone gets interested and ends up getting a guided tour."

"I'll give him a guided tour," Rachel muttered. "Guide him right over a cliff."

Jake put a restraining hand on her arm. "He hasn't done anything yet. We can't just go after everyone who _might_ be a threat. We should wait and see what he does. Okay?"

"Prince Jake, I believe that the situation is no longer in your hands," Ax stated.

"What do you mean?"

Ax pointed out the barn door at Tobias' retreating form.

While they had been discussing the "problem," no one noticed Tobias silently glide to the floor and begin morphing into a human. He pulled on the jeans and T-shirt that Rachel had thoughtfully supplied and padded barefoot out of the barn and towards the small grove of trees where Michael was hiding.

Jake started to go after him, but Ax stopped him, his eyes serious. "No, Prince Jake. Tobias must do this for himself."

Tobias walked steadily forward. He took a deep breath to calm himself when what he wanted to do was swoop down upon his hunter and give Michael a taste of his own medicine.

He was dimly aware of his friends eyes upon him and was grateful that they were not following.

Michael saw Tobias approach and he chuckled to himself. 'I'll show him who's in charge.'

As Tobias passed the tree, Michael reached around it, grabbed his shoulder and spun him about, pushing him up against a tree trunk. "Gotcha now, punk."

He stared into Tobias' eyes, eager to see the fear, but all he saw was anger and annoyance. "I'm gonna pound you!" he blustered.

Amusement entered the younger boy's eyes, though his expression never changed from a look of studied indifference.

"What's so funny?"

"You! Who do you think you are? Andre the Giant?" Michael was taken back by Tobias' response.

Michael leaned closer and sneered. "I'm your worst nightmare."

A short bark of bitter laughter backed him up. "Sorry Michael, but you don't even come close to what's in my nightmares."

Michael felt his face flush with anger and a fist balled up in response. "You won't talk so smart when I knock your teeth in."

Tobias drew himself up, his eyes once again staring at him with the intensity of a laser. "Yeah, you could beat me up. Probably hurt me real bad, too. Not much I can do about that, you're bigger and stronger than me." The younger boy leaned forward slightly, maintaining eye contact. "But you don't scare me anymore, Michael, and I'd appreciate it if you left me alone, but if not, I'll find a way to deal with it." Without another word, Tobias stepped around Michael and padded soundlessly back to the barn.

Michael turned to watch, feeling a bit of grudging admiration. 'He's got guts.' No longer willing to mess with Tobias, he headed home.

Tobias re-entered the barn and came face-to-face with the others. "Everything okay, Tobias?" Jake asked.

Tobias nodded, giving a small smile. "If nothing else, I've given him something to think about."

Ax stepped forward, "He is finished tormenting you?"

"Yeah, I think he is."

Marco slung an arm across Tobias' shoulders. "And if not, he's got to get through Rachel here first."

They laughed and Tobias' smile grew a bit wider. Rachel nodded though she rolled her eyes a bit.

Later, in the meadow that Ax and Tobias called home, Ax turned to his friend. Do you still hate Michael?

Tobias looked startled, or as startled as a red-tailed hawk could look. No. Not really.

What made you change your mind?

Well, Hating Michael was a waste of energy. He can't really hurt me, especially since I don't go to school anymore. There was a pause. I guess... the Yeerks are so much worse than Michael ever was, that he doesn't scare me anymore, so why hate him? Another pause. Does that make sense?

Ax stared intently at his friend, then nodded, a gesture he had picked up from the other humans. Yes, it makes sense.

The two shared a moment of complete understanding, then settled down for the night.

- The End -

-Jennifer D'Agostino copyright April 2, 1999