Lovino wasn't there the next day either, and when it was almost the end of his last class Antonio had made his decision to go see him, no matter how many stairs he had to climb. He doodled a tomato on his notebook.
All senior students please report to the auditorium. All senior students please report to the auditorium.
Antonio looked up as the vice principal's voice came over the PA system. He knew it was only Gilbert's grandfather but he somehow always managed to sound god-like when emanating from the ceiling. Either way he stuffed his note-less notebook back in his bag and followed the horde to the south end of the building.
The room was alive with chatter when Antonio walked in. Most of it was pointless. Well, all of it was pointless. He headed in the direction of the loudest conversation and took a seat.
"I'm telling you the Gilbird can see through walls! Hey Antonio. Anyway I was in the shower and-"
Francis held up a hand, "Gilbert I humbly request that you finish this story another time, preferably when I have a set of ear plugs."
"Why you-!" Just as he was about to retort the lights dimmed, signaling that silence was required. With a muffled 'damn' Gilbert crossed his arms and looked at the stage. Antonio sighed and adjusted his sling so his arm was more comfortable. A few seconds later Mr. Beilshmidt walked to the podium, long hair tied back and his traditional 'no funny-business' look plastered to his face.
"Today," his voice boomed out across the room, effectively silencing any last conversations, "I stand before you as your principal."
A murmur swept through the room, "Mr. Vargas, a man who has served this school for eight years, has gone into early retirement," for a second he cleared his throat, then continued, "I'm sure all of you know the situation concerning Lovino Vargas a month ago," There was laughter. Antonio's fist tightened around the arm of his chair, "Can anyone tell me about Lovino Vargas?"
At first there was silence. No one really knew what to do with that kind of a request. Then one student called out, followed by another and another.
"He was violent!"
"He was a jerk!"
When their calls were not met with opposition they gradually got bolder.
"No one likes him!"
"He doesn't belong here!"
"He was a bulimic!"
"He should have fallen!"
"He almost killed Antonio!"
"Yeah, the little murderer!"
Antonio felt all the color drain out of his face as more cries echoed through the room, all along similar lines. Was… was that really what they thought? That Lovino was trying to kill him?
Once again the auditorium fell into a hush, "I will tolerate no further accusations of murder in this school," Mr. Beilshmidt stated, eyes scanning the crowd, "What Antonio Carriedo did that day was one of the bravest acts ever preformed on this campus. And anyone who stood in that crowd watching has no right to speak."
The silence was oppressive. It fell on Antonio like a lead weight.
Mr. Beilshmidt took out a paper from the pocket of his jacket, "Now that you have told me what you know about Lovino Vargas, I will tell you some things you may not have known.
"Everyday since the Vargas family moved to this district Lovino walked his brother to and from school. On more then one occasion he has protected his brother from robbers, and other individuals who would wish to do them both harm.
"Although not a diligent student Lovino took the senior finals when he was in ninth grade, and scored higher then fifty percent of our graduating students last year. Under a false name he entered a drawing in a regional contest this past fall. The image earned first place, and if he had not entered anonymously he would have gained a significant scholarship to the school of his choosing."
A small whisper went through the students. Behind him Antonio overhead a low exchange.
"Man, did you know that?"
"No way. Never would have seen it coming. You?"
Clearing his throat again the new principal continued, "Lovino Vargas has also been on anti-depressants for the last three years of his life."
Six lead weights, falling onto his shoulders. The room went hushed and Antonio's mouth fell open, the information swirling around in his mind like rainwater down a drain. Lovino…
"The main side effect of this drug was nausea, as well as occasionally dizziness and…"
Antonio couldn't hear the rest of what was being said. His mind was working harder then it ever had, everything finally fitting into place. The vomiting, the rattling in his bag that must've been pill bottles, his habit of never talking to anyone and crawling up to the roof to be alone, the endless gazing out at nothing, the drawings stuffed away in a folder. The desperate need for the constant variable of protecting Feliciano…
Lovino was depressed.
And loosing that constant pushed him over the edge.
He had to get out of there.
Thankfully, whatever powers that be seemed to be listening.
"…retired to home school him. I assume many of you got you're wished; Lovino Vargas will not be returning to this school. That is all. You are dismissed."
And Antonio walked out of the building, the auditorium still saturated with shock, and silence.
When Antonio walked into Lovino's apartment building he was fully prepared to climb however many stairs he needed to, only to find they had put in an elevator since his last visit. Grateful for its assistance he hurried in, jabbing at the right floor number and waiting impatiently as it rose.
When the doors opened he rushed to the Vargas's door and knocked before he even stopped running. Instead of opening a few seconds later like he was accustomed to, Mr. Vargas opened it a few minutes later, looking more tired and older then ever. But the eyes still smiled upon seeing him standing there.
"Alright then. Won't you come in?"
Like so many times before Antonio walked in and Remus closed the door behind him. He looked around, at the tables and chairs covered with books, papers, pencils…
Home schooled… "Is he in his room? Can I see him?"
Remus nodded, "Go on ahead. Might do him so good."
"Thanks," but as he stepped forward he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"Antonio…" Remus said, his voice quiet. The man looked at him, a kind of gratefulness set deep in his eyes, "Thank you for saving my grandson's life."
Antonio smiled, "Yes sir."
Walking forward, he hesitated a second before knocking. Would Lovino be different? Maybe he wouldn't even want to see him.
But he knocked anyway. Silence being the only response, he slowly turned the doorknob, swinging it open just as carefully.
The room had not changed much since he had been there last. The desk and the picture of the ocean still remained, the bed was still made. And Lovino was still sitting in the window seat. On the desk were bottles of pills and next to the picture hung a 'get well' card from Feliciano. Lovino's left leg was encased in white, and the blinds of the windows were closed. He looked exhausted, there was no color in his face and his eyes seemed dulled. But not much had changed.
Briefly Lovino looked in his direction then looked away, his face setting into a scowl. Antonio sat down next to him, contemplating what he would say.
"I… I see you got an elevator. Must've helped when you came back."
"My grandfather paid for it."
"Really? I didn't realize principals got paid that much."
"They don't. Its family money. He's never touched it. Until I showed up."
Silence commanded their space again. Antonio looked around. Then back at Lovino.
"Shut up and get out."
"I think I love you."
Reaching out he took Lovino's hand in his own, running his fingers over the pale knuckles, "I'm telling the truth."
"I don't believe you."
"Lovi…" Carefully he leaned forward, pressing a small kiss to Lovino's lips, "Talk to me."
Lovino didn't react to the brief contact, "Why should I talk to the bastard who broke my leg?"
"I saved your life."
"You stopped my free will."
"I really like you. I didn't want you to go."
Mechanically Lovino trained his gaze on Antonio. He looked… confused, "You didn't want me to go?" he repeated, "What the hell? How could I be something worth dying for, you idiot! I'm nothing!"
Antonio kissed him, with more force and meaning this time.
Antonio kissed him again, "But I don't think you're nothing, okay? So don't say that."
Startled Lovino looked away, "B-bastard. You shouldn't just kiss people out of the blue like its nothing."
"I've always been a very spontaneous person. And I don't kiss people like that. I kiss you like that."
"Not until you tell me yes~"
"Yes to what?"
"Will you go out with me?"
"I'm not even going to be in school anymore. Go find someone else."
"I don't want to find someone else. It's too much work."
"I just know what I want."
"What don't you understand about the phrase 'I'm going to be homeschooled'?"
"I understand that's an excuse for you to say no."
"You'd never see me again!"
"I could tutor you in math."
"I don't need a goddamn tutor!"
"I know. But I could tutor you in math."
Lovino stared at him. Antonio stared back, smiling like he'd just won Double Jeopardy, "Couldn't I?"
A tiny blush colored Lovino's cheeks. It looked good on him, or so Antonio thought. Without looking away Lovino opened his mouth to speak. Or yell, as was often his preference.
"Don't you know how screwed up I am? How insanely messed up I have been for the past god knows how many years? That wasn't the first time I've tried you know! How… why would you want to be near me at all!"
"Because, Lovi," slowly he reached up, pulling the drawstring attached to the blinds. The sunlight streamed in, illuminating their faces and the rest of the room. Lovino looked… beautiful somehow, "I don't care how badly you're 'screwed up' or why it happened to be that way. I don't care what happened to you either. I know that you're you. And that for almost five months I've been tutoring you in math. So all I'm asking is that I can still do that. Come on, please? I'll bring you tomatoes again~"
As a moth to a flame Lovino turned to look outside. The street was quiet, a couple they were both sure they'd seen before embracing under a blossoming fruit tree. A car rolled by lazily, and the couple kissed and walked away. It was sunny, the same old street it had always been, and that Antonio knew Lovino had always looked at in rain, sun, snow. It was exactly the same. But yet it was completely different.
"You stay around me and I'll ruin your life. I've ruined my own and everyone else's. So why the hell can't you just get out?"
"Because, my little Lovi tomato," He inched a bit closer and grinned, "You make me so happy and I don't even know why. And there's no way that something that makes me this full of joy could be bad. So therefore you're not bad, and you're not going to ruin my life! Right? Right."
Lovino continued to gaze out the window. Antonio kept grinning. He could tell Lovino was thinking and he didn't want to disturb him. They stayed like that for a long while.
"I guess you can… tutor me in math."
For a moment it was almost as if Antonio hadn't heard him, but then his face brightened like one hundred, no one thousand suns, "Really? Lovi, that's great! It's beyond great its wonderful, its-"
Before he really knew what was happening Lovino reached out, grabbing his shirt and pulling him down until their lips met. He placed a hand gently on the side of Lovino's face, moving it back so his fingers mixed with the other's auburn strands of hair. He smiled into the kiss, feeling Lovino's hand come to rest on his shoulder just a moment before the grip tightened to keep him there, as if he could be lost at any turn. Lovino was like a burst of cherry tomato in his mouth- a tiny package of raw emotion you could taste in just one bite. It was beautiful. The kiss deepened for a few seconds, Lovino's mouth opening up just a fraction until suddenly he broke off. Which was fine with Antonio considering that this he-him-them was so new. Lovino was scowling and looking into Antonio's eyes as usual. Blushing. Like a cute little tomato.
"Now get out of here before I smash your face into my window."
He smiled, "Not in a million years."