I left not long after that, finding another student waiting in the hallway outside her door. It was a guy I’d seen, but didn’t recognize–one of the freshmen.
“If you’re here for Ms. Hemming, I just finished.”
He muttered, “Thanks,” and then his eyes widened, recognizing me.
I smiled and started walking toward the labs. I probably could have introduced myself, but I didn’t want to make awkward conversation that amounted to “You’ve heard of my grandfather, and of me to some degree. Nice to meet you.”
Vaughn probably would have stayed and talked a little. He was good at that kind of thing.
After that I spent most of the rest of the day in the lab for one reason or another. I worked on the real version of my communication system—the one that would allow me to have roving drones ready to assist at a moment’s notice. I also let Izzy try on her new suit, talked to Amy because she came by to check the wards she’d put on my lab, talked to Haley because Haley dropped by while I was talking to Amy, and finally we were joined by Keon and Courtney who happened to be in their labs and wondered what was going on.
It would have frustrated me immensely any other night, but for the time being I was done.
I left the lab before midnight for a change, walking up to our rooms with Haley, and stopping at a corner that led to the first year dorm rooms. We’d been holding hands, and somehow that turned into a hug and kissing each other while leaning against a wall.
We were deeply into it when Haley whispered, “Someone’s coming.”
I pulled away from her, looking up and down the halls. They’d been dimmed at night, but weren’t out. I couldn’t see anybody. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she said, frowning as she looked up at me. “I got lipstick on you.”
She lifted her arm, and her hand turned from a grayish claw to pink and normal. After rubbing my face, she said, “That’s better.”
I looked down the hallways again. “You’re sure somebody’s coming?”
“Yes,” she said, lengthening the word into two syllables.
A not very rational part of my brain thought maybe we could get back to what we’d been doing, but then I heard footsteps.
Sean appeared in the distance, looking like the basketball player he had been—tall with curly blond hair. After a glance in our direction, he ignored us, walking past without a word.
“That went better than it could have.” I watched Sean as he disappeared around a corner. “Did you know it was him?”
I knew the answer before she answered. Of course she had. I didn’t know what the best thing we could have done was, but standing next to each other, making it quietly obvious he’d interrupted something had to be better than having him pass us while we were making out and barely aware of his presence.
All the same, I wondered how it happened that he was alone and walking around the compound at night. Even if he wasn’t obviously sad, he hadn’t looked happy.
“What do you think?” Haley asked, answering my question. Then she looked down and sighed, “Another pair of shoes?”
Her shoes looked like the Incredible Hulk’s might if he regularly wore women’s black flats. Her claws had poked holes in the front and her feet had widened, tearing the sides even further.
“I’m never going to be able to wear anything but sandals for the rest of my life,” she muttered.
“Sorry,” I said.
She waved away my apology with her hand. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been buying cheap shoes. You can get them for less than ten dollars in secondhand stores and Ebay.”
She slipped them off.
We hugged, and then walked down the halls to our respective rooms.
I stopped in front of my door, giving Daniel a mental poke by way of warning, and pausing long enough to reply before I opened the door. Only the lamp on the nightstand between our beds was on.
I found Daniel in bed reading a book. According to its cover, it was called “The Last of the Doughboys.”
“Hey,” he said, “I don’t think I’ve seen you since lunch. How’d your session go?”
I thought about it, walking over to my own bed. “I don’t know. Brutally efficient? I feel like I was barely there. I suppose she’s got um… seventy of us on her caseload.”
Daniel put down the book. “My counselor wasn’t bad. He’s on loan from the VA. I guess they’re taking the possibility of PTSD pretty seriously.”
“No kidding. Is that why your mom’s checking up on us? My counselor seemed to be surprised at how well I was doing.”
“I don’t know,” Daniel said. Mentally, he added, That touches on something we probably shouldn’t talk about where someone could hear it.
“Okay.” I took off my clothes, found my pajamas, and got in bed.
When I dreamed, I dreamed I was in front of Daniel’s house, and just about to knock on the door.