My first Numb3rs fic, short but hopefully sweet. Please comment!

New Frontier

Professor Larry Fleinhardt entered the teacher's lounge quietly. Several heavy textbooks were tucked under his arm and with the other, he pulled the door shut softly. No one noticed him.

The moderately sized lounge held seven round tables and there were four or five teaching fellows at each table, all deeply involved in conversation over lunch. Larry glanced around the room and spotted an empty seat at a table with two other male teachers. After shifting the books under his arm, Larry moved quickly to take the seat in the corner.

"Hey guys," Larry greeted them as he sat the texts heavily on the wooden table. His brown paper lunch sack landed next to them. "How's the day been?"

The taller of the two men rolled his eyes. "It's been going," he sighed. "You hear about the new kid?"

Larry sank into the plastic chair and grabbed his lunch bag. "Yeah, I think I've heard some rumors echoing in the halls. This kid is smart?"

"No, not smart," the fellow professor replied with a raised hand and a sarcastic grin. "I hear this kid is a genius."

"A genius, huh," Larry replied, more interested in his sandwich than gossiping about a new student.

"Larry, this kid is a kid. A teenager. A teenager genius."

The shorter of the two men finally looked up from his open textbook. "I'd hate to be the unfortunate soul who has that kid in my class."

Larry shrugged, unable to agree. The poor kid hadn't even attended class and already he was being exiled. Larry bit into his sandwich and feigned interest in one of his books. He was very familiar with such a feeling of loneliness and could not bring that feeling upon anyone else. "What's wrong Ted, afraid he'll give you a run for your money?" Larry asked casually without looking up.

Ted snorted. "Not likely. I just don't want to get stuck tutoring this brat for the rest of the year. He'll slow the rest of the class down, and eat away at my free time."

"He had to take the same entrance exam as everyone else," Larry pointed out. "Are the parents rich?"

"Nope. No money, no connections. From what I hear, just an average Joe kinda family."

The more his colleague was ragging on this kid, the more Larry felt like defending him. He took another bite of his sandwich and wondered why he always seemed to root for the underdog. Perhaps because he himself felt like one more often than not?

The rest of the lunch break passed slowly and uneventfully. Although Ted and Dan had stopped talking about the new student, it seemed that every other teacher was. Larry held his tongue, never one to enjoy being the minority, and made his way back to his classroom. Although he thoroughly enjoyed teaching, Larry found himself in a sort of rut lately. His students this semester were all mediocre- average to high grades, minimal questions… nothing to really set one apart from the other. Larry smiled to himself as he grabbed the doorknob. Alright, his so maybe classes were boring to start with.

Larry re-balanced the books under his arm and pulled the door open. He knew who was standing before him before the Dean even opened his mouth.

In front of him, shifting nervously from one foot to the other, stood a young man who was dwarfed by the rather largely-built Dean. A mound of deep brown curls enhanced the student's youth even further, and his lithe frame certainly didn't add the years either. This kid was sure to be an outcast just from his youthful appearance alone.

After looking to the student at his side, the Dean lifted his gaze to meet Larry's. "Professor Fleinhardt, I'd like to introduce you to your newest student, Charles Eppes."

Larry found himself grinning as the younger man looked up, pinning him with a dark-eyed gaze that allowed Larry to peer straight into his lonely- but confident- soul. Larry felt something stir within him… paternal instinct, perhaps? He was well aware of the hardships this kid would soon be facing as the youngest- and maybe even smartest- student in this school. Finding a girlfriend would be next to impossible, he was too young to attend the parties where alcohol flowed freely… socially, this kid was doomed.

It was at that moment that Larry decided he would be the one to look out for this kid. Perhaps become more than a teacher to this gifted student. From what Larry could see, they were both in need of some companionship.

The Dean was glaring and Charles looked away dejectedly. Larry blinked, realizing the long stretch of silence that had grown uncomfortably, then stuck out his free hand. "Nice to meet you Charles," he said with sincere politeness. "I'm Professor Fleinhardt."