A/n: a two chapter One shot, please read and review and btw I do like Richard Vernon's character because when you write him you can either make him mean and horribly angry, cruel, rude, a hidden sweat guy, or just about anything else because they don't give you a lot of his back story in the movie but throw in just enough regretful faces it almost makes you wonder…. So that is why I do have so many stories where he is involved. Enjoy!
It was just passed midnight when Richard Vernon's doorbell rang, he had slept through it but his wife had woken him up.
"Richard, Richard honey some one just rang the door bell." She said groggily and confused.
He rolled over sleepily and sighed, "It's one in the morning, just go back to sleep I bet they have the wrong house." He snuggled into her silky nightgown on her breasts and tried to go back to sleep but the door bell rang again. Richard sighed and sat up, "Someone had better be dead, wait here sweetheart, I will be right back… the bull has to go kick someone's ass." He said, she smiled and shook her head; he always referred to his high school nick-name when he was pissed off. However, Richard "bull" Vernon was not that big of a threat now that his back was giving out and his knees were so sore all the time. But perhaps it just made him feel like he wasn't aging so fast.
Richard walked down his stairs in his blue robe and noticed for the first time it was pouring rain, he grabbed the baseball bat out of the cupboard under the stairs just in case and headed towards the door. The bell rang one more time and he grabbed the handle and swung the door open, there, before him on the porch stood a soaked and shivering John Bender.
"Bender, what the hell is this all about?" he said feeling the pissed off turning into rage. "I was asleep, you'd better be here to tell me your dropping out or I swear to god…."
"I need your help." He said, his breathing making a cloud before his dark face.
Richard stopped and looked at him, "What?" he asked in an annoyed voice making sure he had heard right, "I need your fucking help Dick." John said looking behind him up and down the street nervously. He tried to sound just as annoyed, as if coming to Vernon's house at one in the morning, and waking up Vernon was a hassle for HIM and not Richard.
The man stared the boy up and down and noticed he wasn't wearing anything but a white t-shirt and some jeans. He didn't even have shoes or the normal leather gloves on his hands. His hair clung to him and there was something on his face. Richard reached over and turned on his porch light, John flinched as the bright light hit his eyes and then looked back up at Richard.
The man's eyes grew slightly wider, blood was smeared across Bender's face from a gash that was on his forehead, his right eye was black and he was holding his shoulder, which looked, bruised and swollen. Suddenly there was a gasp from behind and Richard's wife Lilly rushed down the stairs and ushered the boy in. "Richard you old grouch, let the poor boy come in! He is hurt!" Vernon tried to say something, "But he, I mean I didn't mean to… but… but he is John B-"
"Go get me a towel." She cut off helping the limping boy into the kitchen. Richard Vernon realized he wasn't going to be getting back to sleep anytime soon.
John sat in the kitchen and watched as the woman in silk raced around grabbing towels and hot water and making tea and finding first aid supplies. She was like a one-woman army of working around the kitchen. She knew exactly where everything was and how to use it and what it was for. John thought about his mother, JOHN WHERE IS THE TEA POT JOHN WHERE ARE THE SPOONS JOHN WHERE ARE THE TOWLES! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THING FOR! It made him sad to realize maybe it really was just his mother who was really bad at being a woman.
"What happened to you sweetie?" The woman asked, her voice was sweet, like she had never smoked a day in her life. It was rich like butter and smooth as silk and John hung on every word. He noticed that despite the fact Richard Vernon was considered the enemy and plenty of the guys made fun of him. John was aware that the principles wife was exceedingly hot. He had to give Vernon a round of applause at snagging this beautiful and apparently very kindhearted woman.
"Don't worry about what happened Lilly, just fix him up so I can send him on his way." Richard said standing in the doorway and casually leaning against the doorframe. His hands rested in his pockets, the bat was leaning against his legs. Obviously Vernon had missed out on the kindhearted thing when God was deciding what to through into his chest.
"Richard, you can't just tell me to fix him up and send him off, its pouring out and plus… he doesn't have any where to go… do you?" the woman asked looking at him with question.
John thought a moment, he definitely couldn't go home, but Claire's was out of the question also and so was Andy, Brian and Allison. His dad was looking for him; he wouldn't take the chance of endangering them. He had weighed all his options and as disgusting and desperate as it was Richard Vernon was the only person John could think of that he knew had enough power to DO something about John's current predicament.
"I can't go home, but I don't have to stay here either… I just need to talk to Di…" he stopped himself since he was in the presence of this fine silk lady and said, "Mr. Vernon, I am one of his students you see… and he was the only adult I knew of that might consider helping me. I don't know if Mr. Vernon's told you but I am quit the trouble maker and not many of the teachers at Shermer care for me."
"That's an understatement." Richard said sneering at the kid. Lilly walked over to Dick and kissed him on the cheek, "You are so thoughtful honey, so brave and wonderful to offer your home and hand to your students." John smirked a little at that last comment and remembered one of the last things Dick had said to him, "I got a house and a family and I am not about piss it all away on a punk like you."
Dick made a false smile and as Lilly rushed off again to the other side of the kitchen he gave John a death stare. John looked away from the man and sighed. He was getting sick and tired of those stares. He was beginning to think he couldn't take any more looks like that tonight. Lilly rushed back to the boy and sat down across from him with the first aid supplies and started to work.
"Grab the tea, the cups and the water and sit down with us Rich honey. And for heavens sack put that silly bat away!"
The man hesitated but complied. Lilly started to work on John's forehead as the man said, "So how did you know where I lived?" He poured hot water into three cups and added tea bags to them and then set them before the three people around the table.
"I followed you a few weeks ago with an intent to egg your house but when I saw how nice it looked I felt bad and didn't." John lied with the sweetest mock voice he could. He knew Vernon would believe it though, at least the part about egging his house. John had actually followed him home after school earlier that day to try and talk to him about the same stuff he wanted to ask him now but he had chickened out like the gutless little shit he was. Or maybe it had been his pride, to come to Vernon for help was like suicide or bitter betrayal of his entire high school career.
"I see, well what did you want to talk to me about?" Richard asked adding some sugar to his tea and looking at the boy. John reached his good arm for the cup and smelled it. He gave it an interesting glance and then took a sip. He was surprised to find it was very good, "Whoa… this is so much better then beer." He said then looking at Vernon who had noticed the tone in his voice and raised an eyebrow. "I mean, you know, its better then beer since it's all you got."
"What do you want Bender." Vernon said his warning tone coming out. John grew nervous; he couldn't lose the man now. He didn't want to come clean though about how desperate he was so he decided to put it a way he knew he could ask with out getting them to suspicious.
"It's just a few hypothetical questions… nothing serious… it's just I have this issue and I need some help resolving it. My friends really can't help me because they got no power you know… and I am sure the cops will be looking for me soon anyway so… just… I need some advice on how to handle…"
"Get out." Richard said angrily.
"What?" Both John and Lilly asked looking at him shocked.
"I don't want any of that drug shit in this house or around me or my wife! What ever trouble you got in with the cops is your own problem… get the fuck out and don't come back here with that shit!" Vernon yelled standing.
"Calm down Mr. Vernon…" John said in his own warning tone, if he had to he would take the man on with a dislocated shoulder. "This ain't got anything to do with drugs… if you must know I gave that shit up about four weeks ago for my pretty princess of a girl friend who can't seem to get passed the fact I'd even consider dating her. She needed proof I really care about her so I gave up my drug ridden ways to prove I care… I'm quit sober and there for I am in quit a lot of pain."
"Will you please just sit down and stop jumping to conclusions." Lilly asked giving him a sweet face. He sat and crossed his arms across his chest, "This better be good."
"Like I said, this isn't about drugs…"
"Then why are the cops going to be after you…" Lilly asked.
"Cause of my old man… we got into it tonight and I took off… I am sure you are going to love this next comment V-man, but I can't lie… I was scared tonight… normally when my old man goes at me I can handle it, I light up some dope and ignore the pain. Wrap myself up and make it through. I ain't a baby I can handle the pain. But tonight it was just… it was something crazy… he thought I was trying to get mom to take off… with me. You know the whole run off on him thing. Well, I mean who wouldn't want to leave a drunk, sometimes-high ass whole who beats his wife and kid. Anyway… my point is I ran off because with this shoulder I really couldn't hold my own. I called the cops saying he was going at my ma, beating black and blue. But apparently when they got there…" John stopped a second and felt his anger rising, he felt the tears coming to his eyes so he stood and walked over to the sink with his back to them. He had to tell SOMEONE, he had to tell someone who could DO something about this.
"Shit, he told the cops that I was the one who attacked ma, said I was high and drunk and pissed she wouldn't give me more money for drugs… said I went at her with the car antenna and a knife! I don't even have my switch blade, Allison does!" John turned to Richard and looked at him, "Dude I need to know what to do… for once I am just plum out of ideas. I'd never touch my ma, I don't hit women its wrong and just awful shit right there. But man the cops ALWAYS believe my old man. Like I am the scum of the earth because I can't afford good clothes and I don't have a job. I mean I do have a job but it isn't a real job. Like fixing fucking cars is an awful job… MY DAD TOWS CARS!" John was getting really worked up now, "THE FUCKER TOWS CARS AND YOU KNOW WHAT I FUCKING AM THE ONE WHO PAYS FOR EVERYTHING! HOW SICK IS THAT! I PAY FOR THE FUCKING FOOD AND THE CABLE AND SHIT…. " John leaned against the fridge and slid to the floor, "V-man, I ain't gunna lie, I am so tired of this bull shit and I want out… I came here because I knew if anyone could make me worth anything besides a wife beating man's son, a burnout good for nothing shitless chicken maybe you could. I just need you to come WITH me to the cop station tomorrow and make sure they hear my side of the story. I have proof that my dad is the woman beater not me, but they ain't going to listen unless I got some power on my side, and I remember what you said, people won't believe me over you… but if you back me up… if you help me to tell them to see the truth I will… " John swallowed, "I swear on my dead dogs grave that I won't cause anymore trouble this year. I will be a good boy square who doesn't do anything but his homework and watch cartoons… I won't even smoke on school property! What do you say V-man?" John said looked over towards the man sitting on the far side of the table.
Richard sat back and John looked at him, the kid looked purely miserable, completely exhausted, tired, beaten and miserable. One time Richard would have paid money to see the kid suffer like this. But even he wasn't that awful of a human. He had wanted to help his students from the very beginning, but he had never been given a chance. Now he had one, he could help Bender and maybe the kid would be able to turn himself around, maybe he wouldn't be such a problem. Though he hated the idea of helping the biggest thorn in his side to ever exist he knew this could be his chance to do something right by these kids.
Richard glanced at his wife who gave him the go ahead face, Richard sighed and said, "You know what John, I think I can help you."
John stared at him in shock, as if some part of him hadn't believed that Vernon would even give a shit. That after that long pathetic rant Vernon wouldn't see where he was coming from he would send him back out into the rain. John felt hands take hold of him and he was taken back to the chair by the table, Lilly sat down again and started working on his forehead again.
Richard sat in silence and watched as the boy let Lilly fix him up. She had always had that tender side to her. The love of children of all ages, then again she just loves humanity as a whole. John closed his eyes as she gently pushed hair out of his face, John smirked, "You know, you should go and teach my ma how to touch like that… she never really had the ability to you know… to make me feel better." John said, he tried to make his voice out to be teasing her, maybe get her to blush but even Vernon could hear the sincerity.
Richard cleared his throat and said, "Okay well here is what I can do… as odd as it will be for you and me, crash here in the spare room for tonight, then in the morning I will go talk to some people and see what I can do about getting you out of this situation with your father… maybe we can find you a place to stay until the rest of the year is up too."
John breathed a sigh of relief that he was sure Vernon saw and said, "Your alright V-man, you know that? I mean I was sure that after our broom closet dispute you wouldn't even hear me out but man was I wrong. And for once I am glad I was wrong." John said with a smirk.
"Well that's really very kind of you smart ass." He said knowing full well what he had said to John that day.
"Richard!" Lilly snapped angrily.
"It's okay Mrs. Vernon, Dick here and I have a love hate relationship…" John smirked.
Vernon noted the change in John's demeanor now that he was sure he wouldn't be kicked out, tonight at least. "Okay you are all patched up…but about the shoulder…" Lilly asked softly, "I am a nurse… I can check to make sure it isn't dislocated."
"I am sure it is fine… say Mrs. Vernon…"
"Please call me Lilly."
"Pleasure," John said, "Lilly, I know your already putting me up and stuff but can I like bum a shower too?"
"Of course you can dear…here I will show you where it is." John smiled his thanks and as she rushed out of the room John lingered a second, "Yo V-man, I know I ain't exactly the house guest you'd want but… uh… Thanks…" John said as if saying that to him was an effort that took most of his strength. Vernon didn't respond so John walked out and up the stairs still holding his arm.
Vernon stood in his bedroom and looked out the window at the dark night and the rain that fell, it was almost 2:30 and he was no longer tired.
"Richard sweetheart, do me a favor, these are your old clothes, take them to the boy and give him your old PJ's too. He could use some nice clothes for tomorrow."
Richard sighed as he was pushed out of his bedroom with clothes in hand; he walked down to the bathroom and peeked his head in the door. John stood in the middle of the bathroom holding the shoulder of his right arm, Richard saw he had taken off his wet dirty shirt and was soaking it in the sink. Maybe the boy had more common sense then Vernon had given him credit for. Vernon also noticed that John's back looked odd. What was all over his back that looked so strange?
Suddenly John shoved against this shoulder and Richard heard a pop and John went down onto the floor as he fought against the urge to scream. He had just reset his shoulder. Richard pushed the door open and came in the rest of the way to see if John was okay. As the boy pushed himself up the light caught his back and Richard realized what covered his back. Just then Lilly came to stand next to him and asked, "Hey John would you like some warm milk…" she stopped before she could finish, she stared at his back too. John turned around and looked at them.
"You need something Dick?" John asked. His eye twitched a little and he looked very unhappy. He knew Richard had seen his back and had watched him reset his shoulder. He wasn't looking for pity; he just needed some sleep and an adult to be on his side. He didn't want them cooing all over him and the scars on his back from his dad were not something he liked people seeing. He was a tough guy, he wasn't a little kid, the only reason his father could land so many hits is because if John were to fight back, his dad could claim John had started it.
"Here are some clothes for tonight and tomorrow. They are older so I am sure you won't want to wear them to school but your going to anyway." He said dropping it on the floor and still staring at John as if he hadn't seen anything.
"Did you want some warm milk before bed?" Lilly asked trying to regain her composure.
"Oh, uh, no thanks, I try not to drink or eat before bed… bad dreams."
Lilly nodded and turned and headed back towards the bedroom full steam.
"Hope I didn't upset her." John said with out any tone in his voice at all. He was shut off now, there was no emotion in him because he was now weighing if he needed to run or not. "If you hadn't noticed my back is part of my evidence against my father…" John said trying to sound like it didn't bother him.
"We can talk some more tomorrow, don't try to leave either before I get up… between me and Lilly we will hear you go… the cops need to know what's really going."
John nodded and waited for Richard to leave, when the man shut the door John sat down on the toilet and put his face into his hands. "Fuck." He said.
Richard paced his room, "Did you see his back?" Lilly asked as tears silently flowed down her face.
"Course I did damn it." Richard said angrily to himself.
"How could any person do that to a child…" she started.
"Lilly don't even start that, you know plain as day that kids get abused every day. It isn't like John mother fucking Bender is the only kid in the world to get beat with his dads belt."
"Don't you take that tone with me Richard, and don't use those words! We have to help him damn it!"
"So much for not using those words." He said with a smile.
"Richard just stop, that boy may have been an awful burden to you but he doesn't deserve that. He sucked up his pride so he could tell you. It's obvious he doesn't ask for help often and the fact that he chose you to help him when it is VERY obvious he doesn't LIKE you then I think we should assume he is desperate beyond words. He really needs help."
"You don't think I don't know that? I heard his voice, I saw his face, but the kid is an unstable time bomb and I know for a fact that the girl he was talking about was Claire Standish."
Lilly looked up, "As in the Standish Company? The guy who buys and sells BUILDINGS?"
"The guy who could buy the fucking city of Chicago if he really wanted to get passed all the red tape. Yeah, he is sweet on the guy's daughter and she is more then sweet on him. I am sick to say that since they started dating John's grades have gone up and his detentions have gone down. He is doing a lot better in school then he was before her. And I bet you anything he loves the girl… at least as much as he can… I bet you anything he is worried about his dad hurting the girl so he wants to detach himself from him."
"Well that's very sweet, but if we call child services they would take him away, he'd never see her again."
"He is almost 18 Lilly, Child services could only take him for a few months before they let him go… which would be fine if he knew how to live. If I know anything about John Bender his unstable emotions are going to make it very hard for him to hold any real stable job. Having a family isn't going to happen either. He is on the road to be just like his dad because he doesn't know anything else. He has to be re-taught everything!"
"Your such a wonderful guy." Lilly said pulling him down to sit beside him.
"Not really, just a few months ago I wanted to watch the kid drown…. Wait why am I a wonderful guy?"
"And aren't you just wonderful for changing your mind." She said kissing his nose.
John sat outside their bedroom and wondered how the hell he was going to ask Richard for more help then he was willing to give. John got up and walked back to the guest room. He stared at it and leaned against the doorframe. A really nice room was all his for one night. He was going to make the best of it. He ran and jumped on the bed and let his head sink into the pillows. He was asleep with in five and hadn't even made it under the covers.
Lilly wondered in some time later and smiled at him. He wasn't wearing the pj shirt but he was wearing the pants and he was asleep on his side, legs pulled up just enough to give him that insecure look. She came and sat beside him and got a closer look at John's back. It didn't look like belt marks, it looked more like someone had taken a car antenna and whipped him with it. The marks were long and laid criss cross over his back. She noticed some of them were on his arms and neck and shoulders too. There was one other mark she noticed too, on his right arm near his elbow on the inside.
A burn mark, about the size of a… cigar….Lilly felt the tears coming again and stood slowly. She took the quilt from the end of the bed and put it over him and brushed his hair out of his face to see the look of worry that covered his brow. He was asleep yes, but subconsciously he was waiting, wondering if he was going to be woken up, that maybe this was all a dream. She also noticed the small clump of silver hair that was in his bangs. A sign of white hair on someone this young was not uncommon but Lilly was sure it was more from stress and anxiety then from heredity.
Finally Lilly left the room and turned off the light and closed the door. She wished she could have stayed longer but she didn't want Richard to worry. After all, it was John Bender that was staying with them and Lilly had heard all about him the past four years. She had finally gotten to meet the boy that had driven her husband so insane those long Saturday nights after his days with Bender in detention. She didn't think he was as bad as Richard had claimed but then again she had only met him for a few hours. Tomorrow and next week and however long this mess took to clean up would soon show her the true John Bender.
The next morning John woke up warm and cozy, sun shinning in on him and he raised his head groggily from the pillow. He was still exhausted but at least he had gotten a few hours. It hadn't been the light to wake him, it had been the smell, and he sat up and rubbed his eyes. Then grabbed a white shirt from the pile Vernon had given him. He put it on because he didn't want them to see his back again and he wondered down stairs. He stood in shock in the kitchen doorway because he was greeted by a stack of pancakes and sausage and milk and toast with jellies and freshly chopped fruit and eggs.
"Morning sugar! I didn't know what you liked so I just threw some stuff together." Across the table Vernon sat reading the paper in one of his usual suit. John approached and took hold of the seat and pulled it out to sit down. He sat slowly as if at any moment he was going to wake up from a dream. She sat down a place and a fork in front of him and then she sat down next to the boy and smiled, "Lets go! Richard put that paper down let's eat."
Richard complied and they started serving themselves, John watched as they took what they wanted and then started to eat. He was so hungry; he hadn't had food in a few days because he had had no money. He tried to avoid eating at home because his dad always made sure he started to eat first and then when he said they could him and his mother were allowed to eat. But that was to demeaning even for John so he chose to not eat to avoid that humility. Lilly stopped and looked at him, "Aren't you going to eat honey?" Richard looked at John who was staring at all the food.
"I… I am sorry, I am just not used to… its so much food…" he said still looking in disbelief.
"Well help yourself, have as much as you want." She said.
"Really?" he asked.
"Sure thing, I made it just for you." She said smiling.
John reached out and grabbed four pancakes, three links of sausage, took five spoons full of fruit and two slices of toast with strawberry jelly. He buttered the pancakes and added syrup. Then started to eat hunched over his food as quickly as he could. He knew they were not his father, he knew what he was doing was rude, but what if they decide to take it away. He wouldn't put it past them, he didn't know them that well and it wasn't like Vernon liked him that much. It was their food and they had a right to take it away so he ate as fast as he could until that is Lilly spoke up, "John sweetie slow down, no one is going to take it away. Take as much time as you need to eat. You don't want to get a stomach ach." John looked at her apologetically and nodded.
He slowed down and started to savor the taste, "Mmmm." He said eating the sausage and then blushed so bright red when Vernon looked at him that he swore he was going to die.
This entire situation was awkward for both him and Dick; he knew that, the only person who didn't feel that awkward moment was Lilly who didn't really know John that well. John didn't want Vernon to know how starved he was or how desperate he was for a warm bed or how secretly he would have loved to have a mother like Lilly. He secretly wished he had a normal family but at the same time he knew he wouldn't be who he was if he hadn't had the family he had had. And Claire liked him how he was now. And if going through his childhood like he had made him who Claire liked and wanted he would have gone through it a million times.
Lilly turned to him, "All done?" she asked. He nodded and looked down at his plate, "Want help cleaning up?" he asked, this surprised Vernon, he didn't expect the boy to have such manners, especially after eating so much and so fast. Obviously he was protective of his food, which means he often didn't get any.
"No it's alright dear, you and Richard will be late for school, hurry along and get going." John slowly looked at Vernon who stared at him out half open eyes, as if he thought this was all a dream and any minute he may wake up, he studied John and waited a few more seconds until he decided this nightmare was going to continue and stood.
"Meet me outside in a few minutes… I need to grab some stuff upstairs, my car better be there when I get out there or you will be toast."
"Actually I am good to walk…" John said trying to be polite.
"No you will not, I saw that limp last night…" Lilly started.
"No honestly I am good now, it don't hurt at all." John said standing and grabbing his coat from the chair where he had left it last night, he slipped it on and started heading towards the doors. "Thanks for everything… I mean really, the food and bed and the medical care and I will just talk to you at school Mr. Vernon." John said trying to sound as respectful as he could. Richard slowly watched as the boy walked out into the front of the house to get to the front door. He then looked at his wife who looked disappointed and he then grabbed his coffee and took a sip.
"You should have offered him a ride… or at least insisted" Lilly said.
"I can't make him do anything he doesn't want… trust me." Vernon said trying to hide a smirk.
Lilly sighed, "What if he was right about his dad sending the cops out after him. What if they are waiting at the school and try to pick him up and you aren't there?" Lilly asked looking worried.
Vernon thought about this and then sighed, "Shit." He couldn't help the kid if he was in jail. "You better make this worth my while." Lilly smiled and kissed his cheek. "Wait till tonight handsome." And just like that Vernon was out the door feeling like he was spending way to much time with this kid.
John walked down the streets he had come up to get to Vernon's. He thought about the night's events and couldn't help but smile. He was going to be cleared of all charges. He just knew that even though Vernon hated his guts there is no way the man would hang him out to dry if his wife was going to be such a pain about it. He might have a chance at a normal life for the last few months of high school. He could go back and live at home and him and his mother could get things straight. Clean up the house, maybe paint it and perhaps they could be happy for just a little bit together.
Suddenly John saw a cop car turn down the street he was on and he doubled back and started running the way he came. He could duck into Vernon's shed if…
Suddenly a familiar car came around the corner and John saw who was behind the wheel he locked eyes with the man and wondered if he had decided to follow him. Vernon hit the breaks and motioned for the boy to come over and get in. John nodded and crossed the street he hopped in the back seat not wanting to assume the front was okay and laid down.
"What are you doing?" Vernon asked.
John motioned towards the end of the street and Vernon looked to see a cop car turn the corner and he suddenly hit he gas and they went off as if he hadn't even been stopped. When the cop car went by Vernon motioned for John to stay down.
"When he get near the school I will let you out a few blocks away and we can come in our separate ways, that way no one is none the wiser you and I are on standing each other terms.
"Much appreciated." John said enjoying staring at the ceiling at the trees whipped by the window. When they arrived John sat up and started to get out.
"Before you go, after school meet me in my office, we will wait a bit and then take off down the police station. After that is all sorted out you will be out of my hair and I out of yours deal?"
"Done deal." John said with a smile on his face. He hoped out of the car and as he walked he did a little dance. He was going to be free; at last he was going to be free. Completely free and normal and no one charity case and how wonderful it would be to be free!
Vernon watched the boy dance away, he was almost afraid to ask what that was about. Perhaps the boy had lost his mind after being beaten to much. Vernon shrugged it off and he headed towards the school.