Chapter 3

Watchful

It is quite possible—albeit highly unheard of—to be popular in high school without the many stereotypical components related to such a status. Such was the case with Halo Spencer.

She had a total of two real friends, the outcast Nicodemus and the cheerleader Lacy. She was not the outspoken leader type and indeed rarely held conversations with anyone except her two friends and the occasional classmate or teacher. She was not involved in any extracurricular activities, had never been on a date, was of slightly above average academic intelligence, and though she was as elusive and quiet as a shadow, she was known to be very friendly and kind when it was warranted. Despite that, the general population knew little else.

Perhaps it was the shroud of elusiveness and mystery, perhaps it was a long forgotten incident, or perhaps it was just the natural effect she had on people, but she seemed to merit respect from everyone who knew her. They did not pry into her business. They did not attempt to challenge her. She was, for the most part, completely left alone, a being that existed on a realm far superior than those she was surrounded by.

Most could not even remember her as any other way, nor could they figure out why she was considered so popular and well known when they could not think of what had made her so. She was a mystery to all but herself and perhaps the awkward boy who never seemed to leave her side. It was how she operated best.

"Well, he's not that bad. What did you make of him, Nick?"

Nicodemus raised his head from the textbook he had been reading. He glanced at the girl where she sat perpendicular to him on the floor, leaning up against the lockers. She wasn't looking at him. Carefully, he followed her gaze. She was watching the demon they had met the other day. Danton, if he remembered the name correctly. The vampire.

The boy pursed his lips in consideration, choosing his words carefully. "He is very independent, but he has learned to be submissive and self-controlled in these matters. I doubt Seth will be able to get him angry enough to provoke an attack. Perhaps if he offends one of the other demons it might prove reason enough…"

"Oh, I don't think he'll get to that point," hummed Halo contently, closing her eyes and resting her head back against the lockers. Her voice was light and compelling, though it had a tint of hiding something that annoyed and irritated most people, but her friend had grown used to hearing it.

"You have a plan, then."

"Of sorts."

Her friend waited patiently for her to continue, and then realized that she was not going to bother to elaborate at the moment. He sighed, trying hard not to feel frustrated or disappointed; well, if she wasn't going to tell him now it was probably because he would disapprove of it or it was something that he could not be allowed to know. At least he knew that much about her idea.

"Hey Halo! Hey Nick!"

Nicodemus frowned slightly and turned back to reading. "Hello Lacy," he said bracingly.

"Good morning, Lacy," replied Halo serenely, her eyes still closed.

Lacy Roberts had been a friend of Halo's since before anyone could remember, a result of being next-door neighbors for the better part of their lives. While Halo was popular for no apparent or traditional reason, Lacy was the stereotype of popularity—she had numerous friends and was a co-captain on the high school's cheer squad. But it never went to her head. So, while her ditzy personality and overtly cheerful attitude may have annoyed Nicodemus to no end, she was as kind as she was popular, so her constant presence around Halo and her use of Nicodemus's nickname was received with good grace.

The cheerleader waved to a few of her squad friends, who shrugged and went off to their lockers, leaving her with the two most unusual people in the school. Dropping her backpack up against the lockers, Lacy plopped herself down on the ground next to the two, watching Nick curiously.

"Nick, how is that every time I've seen you since school started, you're reading a textbook?"

The boy said nothing in response, his face flushed slightly at the innocent comment.

"Let him read it if he wants to," said Halo calmly, stretching out one of her legs so that it rested against Nicodemus's knee. His eyes flickered towards her slightly and the defensive hunch in his shoulders loosened. "Now, how was cheerleading practice last night? Did you hear anything of interest?"

Tucking a stray strand of dirty blonde hair behind her ear, Lacy smiled at her childhood friend, even though the said friend could not see her. She would be able to hear the smile in her voice. "Practice was like the same as always. Totally cut and dry routine, you know? But like, I totally heard Chelsea and Cassie talking about the—you know—the demons, and about how Seth was totally planning to go hardcore mean guy or something. They've taken to wearing crosses and stuff anyway and they said something about notes? I think they're planning something about Professor Kelly too. But I didn't get to hear much else. Coach made us run through one of last year's routine for the new girls."

Halo said nothing, and in spite of his better interests, Nicodemus raised his head again to turn to look at her irritably. His green eyes watched her for a moment, as if trying to read her mind through her contently blank expression. Then after a moment, he glanced grudgingly over at Lacy.

"What exactly did they say about Professor Kelly?"

"Um, not a whole lot." Lacy's brow furrowed as she struggled to remember, hardly unfazed by Halo and Nicodemus's attitude. It was perfectly normal after all. "Oh, I think they said something about how they couldn't get rid of him like the kids. Or something. They sort of only mentioned it. They talked more about that one demon. Um, he's a vampire. I think his name is Dannon?"

"Danton?"

"Yeah, him!"

Nicodemus resisted a condescending laugh. Dannon? That was a yogurt company although they also owned several different bottled water brand names. She must have been watching too much television. Then he thought, maybe I am the one watching too much television.

The bell chose that moment to ring and a sudden barrage of closing lockers surrounded them. Halo opened her eyes, looking at her cheerleader friend with a small smile. "Thank you, Lacy. You've told me all I need to know."

"Hey, no problem, right? We'll see you at lunch then! Well, maybe. I don't think the girls would like it if I came to sit next to you guys, right? I mean, since you're going to be sitting over, you know, there?"

Halo nodded. "Yes, I believe it would be in your best interest if you kept away from us for a little while."

Lacy's smile turned down into a frown and she sighed heavily as she grabbed her backpack and stood up. "Okay, I understand. Just…just don't do anything too crazy?"

"Wouldn't dream of it."

Nicodemus watched the cheerleader bounce off to meet up with a few of her considerably more normal friends. The hallway was almost empty now. Even most of the demons and their guard had cleared out. Shutting his textbook with a snap, he tucked it inside his messenger bag and stood, pointedly picking up Halo's bag as well. She didn't move, her eyes roving around the hallway, focusing on anything and everything within her line of vision. He knew that look. She was thinking. Planning. But there was no time for that now. They had history to go to.

"Class, Halo."

The wandering blue gaze looked up and focused on him. She blinked and then jumped to her feet, skipping off towards their class without a word. Rolling his eyes, he hitched up both their bags onto his shoulder and started after her.

It was going to be a long day.

*****

Danton crumpled up the piece of lined paper he found on his seat in first period without reading it. Another note. How many did this make? Five? And the school day had barely started.

He didn't have to wonder who the originators of the cruel messages were. In his peripheral, he could see several of Seth's friends—Seth had a different first period class—swinging several small gold or silver pendants on a necklace chain in his direction. They had taken to wearing crosses, a sign of stupidity and nearsightedness that made Danton grind his teeth furiously. But again, he said nothing. He did nothing. What was there to do, to say anyway? Nothing. Always, inevitably, nothing. He was a sheep trapped in a lion's den.

By the time lunch arrived, he had found more than two dozen additional notes, crammed into his locker, slipped into his backpack, or placed carefully on his desk or seat. Each held a vindictive remark and message, calculated to drive him to lose control of his temper. He forced himself not to read them. No point giving them that satisfaction.

While the rest of his classmates made their way to the cafeteria, Danton hung back and made a detour to his math classroom.

"Please wait out here, I will only be a few minutes," he told his guard respectfully. The man looked at him warily and then grunted, taking his place by the door, watchful eyes surveying the rapidly emptying hallway uninterestedly.

Danton entered the classroom. It was empty, as he knew it would be. He made his way around a corner until he was at the teacher's office door. It was open. Professor Bran Kelly was sitting at his desk, staring at his computer. Seeing movement in the corner of his vision, he looked around, saw the fellow vampire standing in the doorway, and smiled in pleasant surprise.

"It's time for lunch, Danton, I should hardly think this is on the way to the cafeteria."

The younger vampire took a deep breath, ignoring formalities. "Professor Kelly, I wanted to talk to you about the guards."

The professor raised his eyebrows in surprise and curiosity. "Oh? What about them?"

Another deep breath. "Yesterday, you asked them to follow me around more closely, didn't you? Because of Seth?"

A small frown drew at the corners of Professor Kelly's mouth, more so because he couldn't quite figure out the purpose of the conversation than because he had been found out. "Yes, I did. I thought it to be in everyone's best interest, including yours, seeing as the young man you mention has apparently signaled you out as a target."

So, it was obvious even to his professor. Danton swallowed. "I understand, sir, but…but I would prefer they didn't. Please, sir, could you possibly tell the headmistress to inform the guards that they shouldn't be going out of their ways for me? I would rather they kept a closer eye on the others, especially the younger ones."

He could tell that his request was obviously a surprise to the older man, and that he was also extremely hesitant and uncertain for the cause of it. His brow furrowed thoughtfully. "An odd request, especially considering the circumstance. What is your reasoning?"

Danton shrugged woodenly. "The guards aren't going to be around forever. I may as well get used to living without them as soon as I can, right? Besides they—" he paused, his throat suddenly dry "—they remind me of, you know, the compounds."

At the mention of their former homes, Danton thought he saw a dark shadow pass across the professor's face. It was a cold shadow, edged with anger and hate. But he couldn't be entirely sure. The next moment, the professor was sighing wearily, his young appearance suddenly heavily lined with years of trials. "Very well, Danton. I understand. I will make the request. But," he added sharply, looking up at his young charge, "I will be watching. If it gets to be too much and you change your mind, let me know."

Nodding, Danton bowed slightly and turned to go, but he was stopped by one more carefully chosen remark.

"And while I am thinking on it, keep close to Kara. She does not have the same self control as you do."

Danton nodded again, a lump forming in his throat, and then he shakily waved good-bye and left his professor to dwell in anxiety on the unfortunate state of their lives.