Chapter 103

Vince stepped back into his room after a long shower, only to find his phone vibrating aggressively across his desk as the screen flashed an unfamiliar number. He let it bounce around the wooden surface as he got dressed, not in a mood to talk to anyone, regardless of who was calling. Eventually the phone ceased its rattling, only to begin once more mere moments later. He let this call extinguish, too; however, when it began again he couldn’t take it any longer.

“Hello?” He tried to sound curt, but deep down he suspected he merely came off as tired.

“Hey. I’m outside your dorm’s front door. Come let me in already.”

Although the caller couldn’t see it, Vince’s face furrowed in uncertainty. He was pretty sure he recognized the voice, but he had no idea why that person would be calling on him so late. Ultimately, Vince wasn’t one to turn away someone in need, even if his own night had been a spectacular shitshow.

“I’ll be right out.” He closed the phone and headed out of his room. Both the boys’ lounge and the common room were empty, as he’d expected. No one else had been up for keeping the night going after the inadvertent showdown at the Karaoke Barn. Well, almost no one, anyway. He went down the entrance hall and pushed the front door open. While a finger print was required to get in, getting out was less secured. This was, allegedly, in case of an emergency that required immediate evacuation. A small figure trundled through the open door, arms heavy with several grocery bags that likely would not have been so cumbersome on a larger person.

“Is everything okay?” Vince asked.

“I’d say it’s far from it,” the figure responded. It set down a few of its burdens, revealing Camille’s delicate features and pale blonde hair. Vince obliged his male duties by scooping up the bags she let down, a quick peek showing him one was filled with junk food and the other various drinks in aluminum cans.

“If this is about the party, I’m really sor-”

Camille held up a now free hand to silence him. “First off, you threw yourself between me and life-threatening injury less than two hours ago, so even if I had been mad at you, we’d already be even. Secondly, what happened tonight was Chad’s fault, not yours. He flipped out and you were just trying to keep up. Lastly, I’m not here because anything is wrong with me. I’m here because things are pretty wrong with you.”

Vince blinked in surprise. He couldn’t remember the last time Camille said that many words in one go, let alone that many to him. She was holding herself taller than usual, too; not that it made much difference on her minimal height, but it was still noticeable. Had he been awake for her fight in the first team event, he would have recognized the tone and posture. As it was, he didn’t quite know what to think of it.

“I’m fine,” he said at last. “I mean, tonight was really weird and all, but I’ll be okay.”

“Merde,” Camille replied, moving her way past him and into the common room.

“What does that mean?”

“Roughly translated from French, it’s a very emphatic version of ‘bullshit.’ My mother was a second-generation American from Paris, if you couldn’t guess from my first name.” Camille made it to the coffee table and began depositing her remaining bags across its plentiful surface.

“Look, Camille, I appreciate your concern, but it is really late and I kind of want to-”

“Toss and turn? Lay awake until dawn and gaze at the ceiling? Maybe stare at your watch until you can barely even focus your eyes anymore? If you were going to say one of those, then go ahead, I’ll believe it. But don’t insult me with some lie about going to sleep. We both know that isn’t going to happen.”

Vince had no response at the ready; she’d nailed him flat to the wall. While his body was weary and he suspected nothing would feel better than dozing off, deep down he knew the minute he closed his eyes all the questions would come bubbling up. There was so much about Father that Vince didn’t know, and while he certainly couldn’t believe the man who raised him had been involved with someone like Globe, it did seem evident that there was more to the wanderer than one might have originally suspected. A part of him had always wondered, only now instead of a dulling curiosity, it was evolving into a burning ember of uncertainty.

“You’re not a big drinker, are you?” Camille’s question snapped Vince from the reverie he’d drifted into.

“Not since Thomas’s party, no. That was enough for me.”

“I figured as much, but I brought a six-pack anyway,” Camille said, setting down a carton of glass bottles that were already beginning to show condensation in the warmth of the dorm. While Vince had been musing she’d also unpacked sodas, chips, marshmallows, cards, board games, and a small stack of DVDs. The bags had been stuffed into one another, so now only a single bloated plastic container remained.

“What is all this?”

“Distractions. Things to keep us occupied. I figured you might want to talk about stuff, or you might want very emphatically to not talk about stuff. The first one is easy, the second one usually requires supplies, so I came prepared for either.”

“You didn’t need to do all this.” Vince sat down slowly on the couch, still absorbing the deviation his night had taken from the plan of sleep.

“I’m the healer of this team, and I take that job seriously,” Camille replied, pulling open one of the bags of chips. “But not all damage is physical, you know. Sometimes the wounds you get are in places not even a Super can see. Those scars still need tending, probably even more than the purely physical ones. If I couldn’t tell when one of my teammates was dealing with an old injury then I wouldn’t be much of a healer, would I?” Camille crunched through a corn-chip and gave him a smile. He gazed back at her with a gratitude far beyond his meager vocabulary’s ability to express.

Looking into his eyes still made her feel flustered, still made her want to blush and hush and hide until his attention had turned elsewhere. Camille was still trapped under the weight of her own feelings for him, but at times like this, she could bear it. When he needed her, when he needed protection and help, she was no longer quite crushed by the burden of loving him.

“This... this is really nice of you.”

“I already told you, we’re teammates. And even if we weren’t, you’re my friend.”

“Still, it means a lot. I think I’d like to not talk. At least, not at first.”

“I suspected as much.” Camille reached down and shifted through the stacks of DVDs. “I don’t know what you usually watch, but I brought action, comedy, sci-fi, horror-”

“Anything but horror,” Vince said immediately.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about Nick’s slasher marathons.”

“Then consider yourself extremely lucky,” Vince shot back, reaching out and grabbing a handful of chips himself. Camille popped in a comedy and settled into a recliner as the opening menu appeared on screen. Part of her wished she had the courage to sit with him on the couch, where they might accidentally touch or fall asleep next to one another. Even if she could have done it, she probably wouldn’t have. Tonight was about making Vince’s life feel less complicated, not more.

*    *    *

Nick was the first one up the next morning, passing through the common room on his way to the kitchen for coffee. As soon as he stepped through the door he saw Vince passed out on the couch, a bag of marshmallows spilling out of his hands and likely already attracting ants. Camille was asleep in the chair, a throw blanket pulled up tight over her small body. Although they were several pieces of furniture apart, he could see they were much closer than they had been when seated next to one another.

“About time,” Nick mumbled as he continued his trek to the kitchen. He’d deal with this new situation in whatever way he deemed best, but only after coffee.