It felt like any other day as Luke walked down the halls, bumping fists with his football buddies and dodging everyone else in an attempt to be on time. Girls giggled and watched him as he passed. Many of the guys called out greetings.
He’d almost reached his class when he heard a different kind of cry. Near the bathroom, Craig from his sixth period chemistry class was sprawled on the floor, books and papers spread around him in a large radius. Luke headed for him with a sigh, planning to help the klutzy nerd pick up his stuff. The class jerk, Warren, and a few of his friends started kicking Craig’s books, laughing at his pleas for them to stop.
Warren smirked. “Shouldn’t have tripped, loser.”
Genuinely angry now, Luke stalked toward the group.
Before he got there, another guy appeared between Warren and Craig. Everything about the newcomer screamed “emo” or “goth,” from the black hair hanging over his eyes to his black clothing. He was tall but skinny, about half Warren’s size, yet he stood in front of the bully, unmoving.
“Leave him alone.”
Mouth dropping open, Warren stared for a second. Then he laughed again. “Or what, fag?”
Tossing his head so his black bangs moved out of his eyes, the other guy gave Warren an even look. His eyes were blue. “I said, leave him alone.”
Sneer never fading, Warren moved into the other guy’s personal space, giving him a shove. “You gonna make me?”
The skinny kid didn’t move or speak. He just kept standing there, staring Warren down. Luke saw the way Warren’s fist clenched and started moving again, until he was standing next to the kid, shoulder to shoulder.
Crossing his arms, he added his own stare to the mix. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, Warren?”
“This isn’t your problem.”
“If it happens in this school, it’s my problem.” He added a subtle threat. “It’s the whole football team’s problem.”
“You better hope I don’t catch you alone, Anderson,” Warren snarled. He turned and stalked off.
Luke rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
The skinny guy looked at him, expressionless. “I had it under control, jock.”
His eyebrows shot up, but for some reason he didn’t get mad. There was something about those eyes. He smiled instead. “Okay. Next time I’ll let you handle it, dude.”
The kid smiled back, slowly, his whole face lighting. “It’s Del. And thanks.”
Luke kept smiling, trying to ignore the strange tightness in his chest. He bent down to help Craig gather up his stuff, and Del did the same. They both went for the last paper, hands brushing. Luke stilled, his hand tingling. Their eyes met. He couldn’t look away.
Then the bell rang. After giving Craig the paper, Del nodded and walked off. Craig muttered his thanks and left too.
Luke stared in the direction Del had gone, heart pounding, wanting more than anything to go after him. Instead, he went to class.