Vaughn and I stood inside DePuit Hall’s lobby. Not much more than an entrance that opened into the TV room, it wasn’t as nice as anyplace I’d been for a Stapledon weekend. The dark carpet in the TV room had to be at least ten years old, and might have been pushing twenty for all I knew.
We’d happened to run into each other—almost but not quite literally.
I’d walked down to buy something at the pop machine while he happened to walk around the corner. Since the row of snack machines happened to be just around the corner, I leaned down to pick up the can of pop as he dodged me.
I stood up, and we looked at each other.
Vaughn said, “Hey, how’s it going?”
“Pretty much okay. I’m kind of surprised to see you here.”
Vaughn shrugged. “Just one of those thing, I guess.” He stopped. “Actually, it’s not really one of those things. I was hoping to find you.”
I leaned over to grab my can of pop for the second time, and said, “What’s up?”
Vaughn shook his head. “Nothing big, but we can’t talk about it here.”
“Okay. We could go up to my dorm room?”
“Works for me.”
We turned and took the nearest stairway. As we walked upstairs, it felt weird not to be talking, but we’d never spent much time together outside of super stuff, so I didn’t know where to go with small talk.
The parts of his life I knew about outside of super stuff were his struggles with drugs and problems with his parents—not the kind of thing you bring up on a stairway in the dorm.
Behind me, Vaughn said, “What classes are you taking this semester?”
“Mostly chemistry, engineering, and math classes, all of them at 300 level.”
“I can’t imagine. I’m taking pre-med courses and right now the 100 level courses are killing me.”
I looked back at him. “Pre-med? I knew your ACT scores were good, but I didn’t know you’d decided to do that.”
Vaughn sighed. “You know my dad’s a doctor, right?”
I couldn’t remember ever having been told that, but maybe I had? I said, “Kinda.”
“Well, when I got my ACT’s back, my dad said I could get into medical school if I managed to make my grades reflect my test scores. I wasn’t sure I wanted to, but as a kid I always had. So I decided to take a shot at it. I figure that if I can’t handle it, I’ll get a business major.”
We’d reached my floor, and started walking down the hall. Earlier I would have been thinking that we only had a couple minutes before we could talk about real things, but now I had an interesting question.
“Have you told Jaclyn?”
He shook his head. “No. You know how hard she’s worked? She’s been trying to get into the best university she could with the best scholarships so she can get into whatever med school she wants when she graduates? Well, I pretty much blew off high school. None of us need scholarships because we’re all getting a free ride. Plus, if I do well enough to get into med school, my family’s got major medical connections all over. If I do okay, I know I’ll get into someplace good.
“It’s embarrassing. I’ve been a gigantic screwup, but in some ways, I’ve got a better chance of becoming a doctor than she does.”
We were at my door. I ran my ID through the reader, and the door unlocked. We walked through, and I was relieved to find that Jeremy wasn’t there. Sure, he had a telepathic block preventing him from telling any League information to anyone outside the League, but that didn’t mean I wanted to give him anything but the bare minimum.
“With Jaclyn’s grades,” I said, stepping inside, “I doubt she’s got anything to worry about.”
Vaughn shut the door behind him. “You got me there. I just started getting back good grades this semester. She’s been at it forever.”
I nodded. “Pretty much. Hey, it looks like Jeremy’s out. So what were you trying to bring up?”
Vaughn’s eyes darted around the room—first toward Jeremy’s desk and bunk, and then back to me.
“A couple things. I wanted to let you know that I’m around, so if you do investigate who’s behind St. Louis, don’t forget me. I’m also here to talk about the last couple months. It feels like I’ve barely seen anyone on the team since Cassie left.”