The next day in class, Ajax threw himself into his usual chair, at the table closest to the corner. There was a literature discussion at the table next to his that he fully planned on ignoring. But shortly after he sat down, Elian and Rohan slid into chairs on the other side of the table.
“Hey, Ajax,” said Rohan easily.
Ajax kept his head down and pulled out his sketch notebook. “Go away.”
Rohan laughed. “No way. You helped me out, man, and now I’m going to help you out.”
Ajax snorted. “I don’t need your help.”
“Sure you do. Homework, man. You haven’t done any homework. We’ll help. We can have a study group at my place.”
Elian grinned. “We don’t actually study, we eat delicious food. But Rohan’s mom feeds us as long as we say we’re studying. It’s great.”
Quick as a snake, Rohan leaned over and tugged the sketch notebook out from under Ajax’s hand. “I’ve been wondering about this for a while. It looks like…” He got up and backed away as Ajax lunged at him. “Nice eyes. And that’s the Tower core, right?” A girl Ajax didn’t know snatched the book from Rohan’s hand and looked at it. Then she looked up at Ajax.
“Wow, you’re really good. Maybe you could teach a table?” she suggested. Ajax couldn’t stop his look of horror. She laughed and handed the book to Elian, who glanced at it.
“You’re asking to get the shit kicked out of you,” said Ajax, “Hand it over.”
“Hey, that was yesterday, bro,” said Elian, tossing the book to him and lifting his hands. “And you stopped it. Missed opportunity there.”
Rohan leaned on the table and caught Ajax’s eye. “Yo, Ajax, you said something kind of… relevant now to me yesterday.”
Ajax set his jaw and went back to his side of the table. “It’s not the same.” Elian followed him; the short kid was suddenly even more puppy-like than Jehane.
Rohan said, “No? Well, you can’t even manifest a stage 2 weapon, so you’re really not very scary.” He grinned around a fake yawn.
Elian pounded Ajax on the back. “Gotta work harder!”
“Can’t get rid of us until then.”
Ajax put his head in his hands. “I can’t believe I was such an idiot.”
“Yeah, that’s the lack of studying,” said Elian earnestly.
“It’s true,” said Seth, grabbing one of the empty chairs. “Pay attention in comparative lit and you learn all about what to do with kids like Elian.”
“What about him?” Ajax hooked a thumb at Rohan.
Seth gave Rohan a speculative look, then grinned maliciously at him. “Basic orientation, I think.”
Rohan flushed and went to join the literature discussion at the next table.
Mildly, Elian said, “Don’t make it harder for him. Especially not you.”
“Hey, if Ajax has to get used to you two, Rohan’s got to get used to his own… issues.”
Ajax said, “What the hell are you two talking about? Wait. I don’t care. Nevermind.”
Seth leaned back and put his feet on the table. “Don’t you worry about it, big guy. But good job yesterday. Did you care yesterday or do you just like throwing yourself in front of weapons?”
Ajax snapped, “I like to fight. Somebody else probably could have handled it. Natalie was right there.”
“Could be. Whatever helps you sleep at night.” Seth gave him a toothy smile. “Hey, Jehane, over here. Did you hear what Ajax said?”
Jehane sat down beside Seth, curling her feet under her. “Was it really just because you like to fight?” Her voice was small.
Ajax hesitated, then said, “Rohan was going to make a huge mistake. I knew I could stop it. So I did. That’s all.”
Jehane gave him with a tiny smile, and Ajax realized it was the first time he’d seen her smile since meeting her on the first day of class. He felt oddly rewarded; the moment lasted until he glanced over into Seth’s smirk.
His own almost-smile became a scowl. “Where’s Natalie?”
Seth put his hands behind his head. “She and the other active Nightlights are at a big Council meeting.”
Acidly, Ajax said, “Aren’t you an active Nightlight?”
“These meetings are always dull,” Seth said. “I came to class rather than go to one, if that tells you anything.
Jehane said, “Natalie said that this time, they’re going to talk about the Cambion.”
Seth shrugged, and almost overbalanced his tilted chair. As he caught himself, Ajax said, “What’s there to say?”
Jehane said, “Well… I think they finally know who made it, and where they are. Or were. So there’s that.”