There’s a teacher….I’ll take care of her.
The steps are old, a dirty gray to go along with dingy walls, but they’re surprisingly sturdy. Her hand trails along the worn smooth bannister as she heads up the stairs, her other hand clutching her purse strap. The people hiding in the shadows seem more frightened of her than she is of them though, and none of them seem to have glowing eyes or fangs.
She can hear voices from the end of the hallway and startles when the door opens in front of her.
“-heading to Scott’s,” the boy says. “I’ll crash there tonight if it gets too late.”
His face is turned away from her, but she recognizes the curly hair and the angle of his jaw.
“Don’t forget you have a history test tomorrow,” another voice says.
Behind Isaac in the giant sprawl of a room Derek walks into view, drying his hands on a dish towel. He slows to a stop when he sees her and Isaac goes still.
“I’ll just, uh-” Isaac slips around her and disappears like a ghost, shooting one last look at Derek that she can’t begin to parse.
“I’m sorry for just dropping in like this,” she says, “but I wanted to thank you.”
She shifts as Derek continues to watch her with an unblinking gaze and then steps inside without invitation. The furniture is sparse and worn, but it looks clean. The cabinets in the kitchen are cracked, but the coffee maker looks new and for some reason it makes her smile.
She holds out the package and waits as Derek glances from it and back to her, blinking slowly.
“How did you find me?”
She lowers her arm. “You own the building,” she says simply, even though it had taken her three days to discover that fact. Her conversation with the Sheriff after the attack had been…interesting.
When it doesn’t look like he’s going to move she walks past him to the table and sets the box down gently. “Does Isaac stay here?” she asks meeting his eyes again. When he doesn’t answer she straightens her shoulders. “You saved my life and I’m thankful for that, but Isaac is my student and I have a responsibility to him.”
He looks at her for a moment longer before turning away, folding the dish towel into a neat square before he sets it on the counter. “Isaac knows he’s welcome here if he needs a place.”
“A place with a hole in the wall and at least a dozen squatters downstairs,” she says, moving until she’s in front of him.
His shoulders tense, but he doesn’t look up. “They’re not a danger to him.”
“Are you?” she asks bluntly, and watches a muscle jump in his jaw.
He takes a breath and then another before he raises his eyes. They’re not as shattered as they were three nights ago, but they still look bleak. “I would never let anyone hurt him. Not if I could stop it.”
She studies him for a minute before she nods slowly. Years of teaching teenagers has given her a pretty good idea of when someone is lying to her. “Okay,” she says, shoulders loosening. “I hope it fits, I had to guess on the size.” Derek’s eyebrows draw together and she smiles a little and nods to the box on the table. “To replace the one you lost.”
At the door she turns back. The box is open and Derek is running a hand over the soft olive colored t-shirt like he’s not sure what to do with it. It makes her ache for him, just a little, but she forces herself to walk back to her car and type out a quick, I’m safe, text.
The response is immediate, So what was it like meeting Batman?
She looks back up at the building, at the way the sunlight glances against the edges, just enough to make the shadows deeper. Sad, she types out, and then starts her car for home.