It's been two weeks, and not a word from Caleb. I suppose that's a good thing, considering it means that Kevin and his cronies haven't bothered him. Yet, there's still strange ache in my chest, right above my heart, that refuses to go away. It seems to be growing of late, too.

So today, I stand out in the courtyard, hands in my pockets, hood up and earphones in, determining to wait until the little chocolate-haired nerd and Haylie walk up. I'll just walk behind them as I go to Remedial History. Nothing big. Since I know this ache has to do with Caleb somehow, this should help. I nod to myself, leaning back against the wall.

I look up at the sound of a bark of laughter.

Kevin and his friend Fiasco, walking arm in arm with the little red headed girl from Haylie's group, and another girl. They're talking animatedly, chortling, not paying attention to where they're headed.

I hope they all walk into a tree. A fucking huge tree.

As they pass me by, I catch onto the way the red head's eyes fall over me. I meet her gaze, steeling myself against glaring at her. Instead, I continue staring until she looks away, nodding hesitantly at Kevin quickly, keeping up with their conversation. I know she understood. If she fucks with Haylie again, she'll be seeing me. And, a growl from my thoughts, if any of them hurt Caleb, I will make them all regret it.

These thoughts, they've become routine. I don't question them very much anymore. It probably just has to do with the nerd's inability to defend himself, since he's so frail. And Haylie just wants to be her own person. I'm all for that.

But there's to be no Caleb and Haylie this morning. I start for Remedial, shrugging to myself. I'll just stop by Professor Vesci's later. Maybe that will help.

York casts a sideways glance at me when I walk in the door. "Why the long face, Dante?" He asks, straightening papers on his desk. "You look like a child who lost their kitten."

I raise a brow. "I'm fine."

"Always the mysterious type," York smiles, turning to greet another student who enters.

Falling into my seat, sometime later, after York has begun his lecture, I fall asleep.

When I wake next, the bell cuts York's sentence off cleanly, and I stand to my feet to leave. The seat next to me is empty. My chest suddenly feels like lead. So Haylie and Caleb aren't here... Something ugly twists in my gut, but before I can even try to examine it, it's gone, leaving a simple bitterness.

Growling under my breath, I shove my hands into my pockets again, trudging out of the classroom. Maybe I should just leave. Today isn't going to work out. I can go back to the apartments, change into work clothes, and just relax until my shift rolls around. I'm about to turn to the entrance doors, when I spot Professor Vesci. He's an alright sort, if a bit eccentric. I can tolerate his easygoing, open manner. I glance at the exit, then change my direction to stroll toward him. He smiles when he sees me. "Ah, Dante. How are you? You look as sad as ever."

"Sad?" I scowl. "Professor York said that too. Are you busy?"

"Not at the moment, non. I do not have a class scheduled until tomorrow." He wilts slightly, "But there is much else I can do. Would you like to come in?" He waves a hand at the door to his classroom, and I nod. "I was serious, lupo mio. You do seem troubled."

I slink into his office after him, opening my mouth to respond--"Did you just call me a wolf?"

"Si," He grins, "It is fitting, is it not? The way you prowl after people, the way you carry yourself, how you move, even the way you consider things. Like a wolf deciding what prey it would like to eat."

I let a smile play at the edge of my lips. "If you say so. And no, I don't feel sad," I sit in one of his chairs, watching as he sifts through the canvas on his desk. "I'm fine."

"Your eyes betray your words," He says, his ivy gaze sliding to me, before going back down to his sketches. "You have the look of loneliness about you."

I snort. "Loneliness?"

"Everyone needs someone, Dante. You can try to be alone for as long as you like, but," He picks out a sketch from the pile. "sooner or later, you will want someone to be beside you, to share laughter and words. To hold, perhaps. Everyone has their counterpart. You are too young to be indulging silence and the cold by yourself."

He places the sketch in my lap, smiling. "And I believe there are one or two who would like to help you open."

I look down, and blink in surprise. "This is..."

"All from one moment he looked at you," Vesci turns away, back to his sketches, the smile audible in his voice. "Caleb spoke to me about you, how you offered to help him if Kevin and the brats hurt him again. I thank you for that, lupo mio."

"Anyone would do that," I say, still studying the sketch. Caleb drew this...me, staring forward off the paper, almost right at the beholder. He even drew in the scar under my jaw. All this, from one look? "I just didn't..." want him to get hurt again. The words stop in my throat. What am I thinking?

"You don't understand, Prof." I shake my head, "I'm not kind. I'm not a good person. That's why I stay away from people."

His gaze hardens on me, "Dante. Tell me you don't care for Caleb,"

I clench my jaw.

"You offered help because you care. Bad people don't care. You do. You may not be kind or very trusting, but you are not bad. There are no bad people--only bad choices and the thoughts that they make." He crosses his arms over his chest, as his gaze softens again. "You must know this, surely, as smart as you are."

I stand, mumbling about work and repair shops and my apartment, and take my leave.

The End

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