'You're overthrown, but underworn,
I told you so...'
–Stingin' Belle, Biffy Clyro
He doesn't know how to fight beyond playing dirty, and taking on Lewis – the biggest jock in the school – is the worst idea he's ever had, but it's just his instinct to jump in and defend Erin.
The short, sharp crack across her face had sounded in his ears like a gunshot, and Romero, the dick, didn't even see if Erin was alright after knocking her down.
The hulking athlete lands a punch to Ian's back as the scrap turns into a brawl, and all Ian wants to do is teach the guy a lesson. Touching Erin is not okay, and hitting her will land Lewis a nasty shiner.
Ian manages to kick him in the stomach and collect a few punches himself before being hauled backwards. Erin's voice reaches him past the rollercoaster supervisor dragging him out of the fight.
He turns his head as much as he can to see her wide-eyed expression and her bleeding lip. He takes in a snarling breath, preparing to break free and beat the everloving shit out of Romero, when they're all pulled and herded off of the ride. Ian's practically thrown down the stairs, and Lewis storms off while Ian gets his breath back, half-sprawled on the bottom step.
A pair of black Chucks enter his field of vision.
"That was stupid," Erin says, wiping her lip and crouching in front of him.
He looks up at her. "But called for."
She shrugs, and he wonders if she'll ever stop being so blasé about getting knocked around.
"Come on," he groans, getting to his feet and wincing as he presses his hand to the place he hopes his kidney still is. "Let's blow."
They're halfway to the parking lot, circling the Ferris wheel, when she finally slips her hand into his.
He gives her a sideways glance, watching the red bulbs on the big wheel light up her pale face and turn her hair an even more vibrant shade of red. Her silvery eyes meet his.
His eyes go to the red mark across her jaw, dark even now against her pale skin.
Ian pulls her close, teeth gritted. "Lewis better have eyes in the back of his head for the next month," he tells her, and she rolls her eyes.
"It was a fucking accident."
"That's what you told me when your dad was doing the same thing."
Her glare is icy. "Yeah, well, he's dead now, isn't he?"
Ian lets out a sharp breath, stopping Erin as she makes to walk away. He presses his lips to her ear, slipping his arms around her waist as other students mill about, going from stall to stall and ride to ride.
"Come on," he mutters, holding her tight. "Don't do this."
She stops trying to get out of his hold and finally looks up. Her eyes are shinier than usual.
While the people moving around them might think they're hugging or enjoying a little PDA, Ian's really making sure Erin's alright. And he knows she's not.
"Did it hurt?" He asks her.
She goes to shake her head but can't seem to bring herself to do it. Erin ends up half-nodding and wiping her sore lip with her sleeve.
"Did it... Did you have a flashback?"
Erin glances up but says nothing. Her hands are shaking.
Ian pulls her close and leads her towards the parking lot. By the time they reach the van, Erin's feet are dragging and her nails are biting into the back of his hand.
Ian unlocks the doors and gets her inside. When he's behind the steering wheel, the doors locked once more, Erin lets loose a little.
"It's okay, Pip," he soothes, holding her close as she sobs breathlessly against his neck. "It's okay. Let's go home."
She gives him enough room to drive, but stays close, head on his shoulder, hiding her face from the bright headlights of the cars that pass them by. It doesn't take them long to get to Palm Close in the suburbs, and when they park up outside their neighbouring houses, Erin is still pale and shaking.
Ian restrains himself from turning the van around and finding Romero so he can turn the guy into pâté.
Erin climbs out of the van. Ian follows. She turns right, heading towards the back door of his house, and he can't blame her. Her mom would freak at the state of Erin's face and probably have a flashback or two herself.
They mind Ian's mom's empty, terracotta plant pots dotting the unlit back step, and Erin pulls out the key hidden behind the wisteria climbing the trellis to the left. She unlocks the door with an unsteady hand and they both edge into the dark house.
Ian makes sure to lock the door again. "D'you want something to drink?"
When he turns around, he sees she's already fixing herself a glass of tap water. He meets her at the sink as she gulps, pressing his palms to her hipbones.
"Let's go upstairs," he murmurs against her ear in the gloom.
They make their way through the unlit house, careful to not wake Ian's mom, and ensconce themselves in his room, Ian locking the door behind them.
He turns to see Erin is looking at the walls, lit by his bedside lamp, painted dark green and covered in posters and pictures of all the things they've done and bands they've seen. She grips the black bed covers between her fingers, and he meets her hands with his own as he takes a seat next to her on his bed. He loosens her hold and threads their fingers.
They're quiet for a minute or two, as Erin's eyes take in the stacks of books on his desk and beside his bed, the coffee cups and stray shoes, before she finally looks at him.
"Why did you dye your hair?" She asks, and her voice is relatively steady.
Ian glances at the nearest photo of him and Erin, pasted to the door of his closet beside his bed. They're two smiling toddlers, her with red curls and him with blonde.
His lip curls in a grin and he pulls her close, falling back on the soft bed and tugging her with him. "Another way to stick it to the man, I suppose."
"I never asked you before," Erin says. "You just showed up one day at my door like it. My dad went nuts."
Ian's smile falters. "Yeah."
He remembers that particular aftermath, hearing Erin's dad shouting next-door about how he didn't want his newly-teenage daughter seeing "Josie's freaky son."
"I got hit for defending you," she tells him, and he nods, turning to look at her, her eyes meeting his slowly. "You always get hit for defending me."
Her right hand pushes up his t-shirt over his stomach and her eyes drop to examine his burgeoning bruises. She sighs as she runs her tender fingers over them.
"Erin, you know I..." He stops, not quite knowing how to say what he wants to say.
"Yeah. I know. Me, too," is all she has for him in reply, before she kisses him.
Her fingers give him the good kind of chills, and her lips even more so. He's always loved kissing her. She's soft, warm, and the perfect fit against his body, and she grins against his lips as he moves to cocoon them in the duvet.
"Can I say it?" Ian asks her, quiet against her ear, their breaths hot between them under the covers.
He feels her nod.
"I love you."
Her smile, pressed to his ear, is soft and secret. He's never uttered those words before, not to anyone, let alone her, and she knows it.
"Love you, too, Zip."
Ian grins in the dark, kissing Erin until she sighs at his merest touch.
They sleep in their clothes, unaware of the tragedy that's befallen their classmates and blissfully ignorant of the shadow at their door.
Author's note: I know, right? How could I? But I re-watched the film (for the four-hundredth time) and finally noticed how Ian threw himself into that fight after Lewis hit Erin. I thought it could do with a little back-story of my own devising. Thanks for reading! Definitely more to come – I love these two (: