I typed back, “That’s just for recon, right? If you’re talking just the two of us.”
It didn’t take long for Daniel to reply. “Recon first, but not just me and you.”
His next text said, “Haley and Izzy too. A good combination. Intelligence gathering. Muscle.”
I paused to think about it, looking up from the phone, aware of HQ again, and of my monitor—which still showed the words “Conference ended.”
Haley stood up from her chair. “Who are you texting?”
“Daniel,” I said, realizing that I had Vaughn’s attention too.
I felt a little weird about that. The moment Haley asked what we were talking about, I’d have to tell her, or lie. This wasn’t one of those things that I’d be able to hide though. Everybody would know when we were done anyway.
I didn’t want Vaughn to feel like we were keeping him out of it though. “Daniel’s thinking we should investigate the site near Chicago. Probably Haley because she’s good at sneaking around, Izzy because her sonic abilities let her see through walls, and me because of roachbots.”
A smile flickered around the corners of Vaughn’s mouth. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to be any good at stealth. Lee says my power’s best as heavy artillery, and manipulating the battlefield.”
I thought about it. “I can see that. We might need you anyway though, but more as one of the reserves if things go wrong.”
Vaughn stepped away from the table, pushing his chair in. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll go, but you’re not going to need me when you’ve got Guardian and the Midwest Defenders nearby.”
“You never know,” I said.
Vaughn nodded. “You don’t. Call me if you need help. In the meantime, I’ll keep thinking about how to get everybody together.”
Then Vaughn left, heading toward the League’s locker room.
When he was out of earshot, Haley said, “What was going on there? I missed something.”
“Vaughn felt left out. Since Cassie left, the only time we’ve been paying attention to him was practices.”
Turning her head toward where he’d disappeared, Haley said, “I didn’t know. I thought he’d seemed a little unhappy lately, but I thought he might have too much homework to do after practice.”
She frowned. “I should have noticed.”
Then she pointed toward my phone. “Daniel sent you another message.”
I must have missed it while we were talking. I picked it up off the table.
It said, “What do you think?”
I wrote, “It sounds like a double date.”
Leaning in to see the screen as I typed, Haley said, “They’re not dating, right?”
Almost at the same time, Daniel texted back, “We’re not dating.”
I wrote, “Why? You seem like you’re dating.”
No reply, and then my phone rang. The screen said, “Daniel Cohen.”
I took the call and held the phone to my ear.
“Nick, it felt weird to be texting about this, and way too slow.” Daniel’s voice had more intensity than his words suggested.
“It’s like this—we do like each other, but it’s complicated. She’s not Jewish, and if we did date, and it lasted, maybe we’d want to get married, and that’s where it falls apart.”
I kind of knew where this was going. Daniel was good looking. When we’d been hanging out in high school, and even middle school, it wasn’t uncommon for girls to find a way to talk to him, sometimes going as far as getting one of their friends to talk to me in order to get him alone.
He’d sometimes told them that his parents wouldn’t allow him to date non-Jews. Thing is, I was pretty sure he was lying, mostly because not everyone he’d dated in high school had been Jewish, and his parents hadn’t seemed bothered. Of course, that’s not the kind of argument you’d share much outside your family.
“Marriage is pretty far in the future,” I said. “Chances are you won’t marry anyone you date in college.”
Daniel said, “But I might. Nick, I’ve seen futures where we’re together—not in detail because I can’t control anything I see that’s that far ahead, but I’ve seen us together with kids.”
All I could manage was, “Wow.”
Then I said, “That’s not bad, right?”
He said, “No, but if we did that, I’d want her to convert, but I don’t want her to convert to something she doesn’t really care about. Like you said, that’s pretty far in the future, but if we get to that point where we’d be thinking about it, what if she didn’t want to? I don’t want that either. I’d rather avoid it, and just be friends. That way it’s simple.”
Something about his logic felt off to me—not totally wrong, but mostly it felt like being friends wouldn’t make it simple.
All I said was, “I understand a little better now.”
“Uh-huh,” he said. Even outside of his telepathic range, he knew me well enough to know that I wasn’t saying everything.
Something beeped on his end of the phone. “Oh,” he said, “that’s Izzy. Do you mind if I—”
We said good-bye and hung up.