The Best Thing

It wasn't like him to feel this way about a baseline girl.

Her brother was a camp guard who'd caught the eye of one of the Sanguinem and it’d made her popular by association. They said her brother was different from other baselines, but Aidan had never met him.

Petite and brunette with warm brown eyes - there'd been no one else like her in all the places he'd been. She was different, and that month when she'd dyed her hair bright red, he'd been caught staring more than once. There was something about her, something he couldn't explain.

He didn't like it. He was here because of bad experiences with baselines. They were always all acceptance and sunshine at the beginning, but eventually someone would say something, or an accident would happen, and then everything would bubble up from under the surface and things would fall apart. And because winning those fights usually still meant losing them, he’d always had to move on anyway. The Aegis who'd helped found this place said things were different here, but he'd heard that promise before.

She’d been trying to break up an argument in a bar when it happened – It was something he'd seen her do many times before. Because of who she was, and because people generally liked her, it had always worked - but these baselines were new. They didn't know her, and they were already very drunk. One of them spat on the ground and called her a “fucking beige”.

And then the other one hit her.

And then Aidan broke every rule he’d ever made.

He'd never been made for hand-to-hand like the Ayin, but he was more than strong enough to break the rusted bolts securing his stool to the floor.

He hated that term - the derisive combination of baseline and Aegis. It was how they always made things worse. No one would ever stand up for them, because no one ever wanted to be a fucking beige.

But that's not what made him break his rules. They’d hit her. Ashley was the best thing about this place. These fuckers had no right.

The one who'd hit her never saw the stool before it downed him. When they'd made Aidan to fight their war, Hitting targets at range, is what they'd made him to do.

The other one looked up and got halfway through "motherf—" before catching sight of him. He was still sober enough to be able to know an unspoken threat when he saw one.

Then everyone else was in motion.

The one on the floor was pulled to his feet, and someone else grabbed the other. Baselines and Aegis together gave in to their anger and Aidan almost thought they wouldn’t survive being thrown out. It wasn’t what he’d expected to happen at all.

His hands hurt where the base of the stool had cut into him. He looked down at them, shocked since he hadn’t felt any of that when he’d pulled it out of the floor.

When he looked up again, her eyes met his.

Petite. Brunette. Warm, brown eyes.

Still too far away for him to hear, she mouthed just two words:

"Thank you."