From the balcony of his office, Lu Meng looked out into the twilight on the canyons. It was cold- autumn had barely begun and winter was still far in the making, but a sudden burst of cold weather made him think longingly of candy canes and hot cocoa. With the way the temperature was dropping, he wondered if there would be frost on the windows tomorrow morning. Smiling to himself, he peeled back the wrapping on a nicotine patch and stuck the brown square onto his arm, pressing it down.
It wasn't just a truism. Quitting was hard. If anyone needed an expert opinion, they could ask him- he was pretty experienced in the process of quitting, having been doing it for the last five years. It was the only self-pity he allowed himself- the coughing, the shortness of the breath, the feeling of malease and stickiness-
Movement across knolls and shrubbery caught his eyes. Lu Meng frowned, polished his glasses, and looked again.
The darkness was difficult to see through, but Lu Meng could make out a familiar slender form. It was Sun Jian's little pop star, their swim team starlet, dashing through the bushes and grass- what the hell was he doing off campus and out of curfew? Ling Tong was pretty much a model student (well, except for that one time with Chen Qin, but no one talked about that…), but there he went, hurtling through at least ten school regulations.
Lu Meng was about to yell before he spotted, right behind Ling Tong, a slightly shorter figure.
He leaned over the railing carefully, squinting. The second figure wasn't any student from the academy- Lu Meng didn't recognize that full head of long blonde hair. It looked a bit familiar, though.
It was barely a minute before the two boys were directly underneath his balcony. Lu Meng held down a cough and watched carefully as the stranger caught Ling Tong by the shoulder to stop him.
He might have heard voices, thin and faint on the wind, but he wasn't sure. Lu Meng tapped his nicotine patch idly, curiously watching the proceedings.
The blonde stranger took off his own jacket, showing a shirtless form in the chilling weather, and hung it over Ling Tong's shoulders, who, Lu Meng noted, was not quite dressed for the cold either. He saw Ling Tong protest, trying to give it back, as the stranger shook his head and insisted.
How cute. That is absolutely cute. Lu Meng smiled to himself as the stranger draping the jacket over Ling Tong, despite his own shirtlessness in the cold. He must be a visiting friend or-
That train of thought was cut off as the boys dipped together, entwining their arms about each other in a long kiss. Finally, they let go of each other, looking rather reluctant, before the blonde boy nudged Ling Tong gently in the directly of the school again. They held hands for a moment, before they parted, Ling Tong ducking out of sight under the building and the strange blonde boy running back through the bushes, his arms clutched around himself against the cold.
Most people watching would have been quite intrigued or surprised. Lu Meng was only concerned for the stranger, who had run off in such cold weather without a shirt.
He stood back, watching the blonde boy until he was out of sight. He was just wondering whether to call after him, to offer him a jacket, when his mental gears clicked on where he had seen the boy before.
Cao Ren was not going to be happy.
Employee of the Year. He tweaked the glass object on his desk before setting his thermos down. Employee of the year- an award he received for his duty as the campus's peacekeeping constable of sorts. Cao Ren was just about to sit down take a sip when there was a hesitant knocking at the door. "Come in," he called, wondering who had any business with him today.
It was that freshman boy- Lu Meng's little favorite. Lu… Lu something. Cao Ren attempted to put a name to the face but only came up with memories of a sweet, mild-faced youth bobbing his head up and down agreeably. "I'm really sorry, but… Can I use the teacher's bathroom? I really need to go," the student asked weakly.
He looked at him in slight confusion and a bit of pity. "Why? What's wrong with the regular bathroom?"
Lu looked at the ground, twitching his feet. "Well… It's… Occupied. There's a lot of people in there and I think they might be taking a long time-"
"Here's the key. Put it back on my desk when you're done," he said, walking out before Lu could pipe up his thank-you. He had a rather good idea of what was going on, and who was behind it.
The boy was right. Cao Ren could see the door to the boy's bathroom stuck halfway open by somebody's shoulder. He yanked the door open and shoved his large frame right in.
"Okay, Jiang Wei, you're down for two, and Guan Suo- …Ten? Ten? Man, okay. I won't asked. Cao Pi-" a sharp, husky voice called from the middle of the crowd.
"Mr. Gan! Yes, you." Cao Ren strode forward, driving the crowd apart like a cargo ship through a school of fish. "You will not smoke marijuana in the restroom," he commanded. "You will not deal marijuana in the restroom. You don't even attend this school. Remove yourself from my jurisdiction before I take matters into my own hands." Before he had even finished speaking, a familiar tawny-haired boy stood up and crossed his arms.
"Hey, hey, I'm not doin' nothing!" he protested with the cheeky, indignant grin of someone who had just been caught but didn't want to think about it. The kid was looking a bit scruffier than last time, a greasy-haired creature in a new slick-looking jacket (either a knockoff or stolen) over Salvation Army cast-offs.
"I hope you don't think I am as foolish as you. The rest of you, shove off," he said gruffly, motioning for the assembled gaggle of boys to clear out. Cao Ren tapped his helmeted head and looked down at Gan Ning, who stared right back defiantly. "Go on. Give me that paper," he coaxed.
"Why do you want it?" Gan Ning barked, crumpling the post-it note in his hand.
"Quit your whining and hand it over," Cao Ren repeated, his nose crinkling from the smell of old weed. "If you have nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear."
"Don't feel like it," the boy said stubbornly.
Cao Ren sighed. He really was not in the mood to deal with the whiny little street kid. He wrinkled his nose again, smelling… Smoke?
"Here, you can have it now," Gan Ning said fiercely, shoving the little square of paper with a hole burnt through most of it. He flicked his lighter closed and shoved it back in his pocket, staring right back like an oddly sulky rebel.
Cao Ren scowled. "Why don't you go move yourself out of this academy now?"
"What if I don't wanna?" Gan Ning demanded boldly. "You can't-"
"I can," Cao Ren said gruffly, whipping out an arm and pinning the boy to his chest. "Come on, you are going right out," he said harshly, ignoring Gan Ning's increasingly high-pitched protests.
"Gan Ning showed up again today," Cao Ren complained, unbuckling his tool belt and letting drop onto the overstuffed couches of the staff lounge.
Across from him, someone chuckled. "Don't get so worked up over it. He's just a kid."
"A very, very annoying and persistent one," Cao Ren grumbled. "Seriously, if he'd just straighten out, go back to school, and get some discipline into that dumb blonde head of his, that would be a great boon for everyone. It's not like once you're a moron you stay a moron…"
"Heh, you'd know," Lu Meng chuckled, fixing his glasses.
Cao Ren only smiled.
"First time I saw you, you were right on the cover of the 'trouble kids' article of a parenting magazine." Lu Meng continued. "My uncle said, 'you hang out with bad, you be bad, you go bad, you end up like that kid' and pointed right to you… Just shows you how much people can change."
The burly man nodded.
"I think that kid can change too."
Cao Ren looked at Lu Meng without turning his head. The math teacher had the same hopeful, placid look on his face, causing Cao Ren to shake his head in annoyance. "Life's not a movie, Meng. You aren't some hero protagonist who can take the kid everyone's given up on and turn him into, I dunno, a star chess player or an Ivy League student or something. This is reality, you know."
Lu Meng looked just a bit offended. "Well, it really doesn't hurt to give him another chance, does it? I mean, it's not like Huang Zu was really known for his patience-"
"What you're saying is easier said than done. You think he's some grateful kid who'll bowl over just because 'he just needed some love' or something? I know his kind. Don't be a bleeding heart liberal."
"That's rich of you, calling me a bleeding heart liberal. Why haven't you just hauled him down to the police station, if he's so beyond help?" Lu Meng prodded.
"What's Juvie Hall going to do for him? You take him up and four years later he'll be back on the same street corner doing the same thing," Cao Ren said. "Besides, we get rid of Gan Ning, another kid'll show up, and frankly I'd rather be dealing with someone I'm used to."
"Well, I'm sure that with the right environment, he can settle down a bit…" Lu Meng pressed.
Cao Ren shook his head. "I've been seeing him around for the last three years- that boy doesn't care about anyone other than himself."
Lu Meng got an oddly distant look in his eyes, as if recalling a memory, while his fingers twirled an invisible cigarette. "No, I don't really think so… I don't think so…"
Thank you Rydain for the caption/lines that started this story:
"Mr. Gan! Yes, you.
You will not smoke marijuana in the restroom. You will not deal marijuana in the restroom. You don't even attend this school. Remove yourself from my jurisdiction before I take matters into my own hands."
Anyways, just felt like typing up something quickly. I hope you like it- tell me if you'd like me to continue- good day!