Jack checks out for the rest of science class and barely hears his teacher pair him with August for the science fair project. When Jack finally comes back to earth after the bell rings, August is halfway out the door. Julian approaches Jack, smirks, and teases him about getting to work with his "best bud." Jack thinks he hates Julian and tells him to shut up. Julian asks their teacher if he and Jack can be partners. Their teacher starts to say that it's okay, but Jack tells her he's fine working with August and runs away. Julian races after him and reminds Jack that he doesn't have to be friends with "that freak." Jack punches Julian squarely in the mouth.
Though punching Julian is clearly an unkind thing to do, this also further complicates the novel's exploration of the nuance and difficulty of defining what is and isn't kind. Jack is trying to defend August, and given the social hierarchy that Julian fosters, nobody else is willing to challenge him. This shows that Jack is now in a unique spot where he can take on Julian, but he's only able to get to that point because he realizes he no longer cares about his own status.