Chapter 3

When Jesse finally returned to his room, he wasn't surprised to see Riley waiting with his medical box. He smiled weakly at the younger boy's attempt at helping him before wincing, knowing it would do him little good.

Large brown eyes magnified by the huge glasses lit up when they caught sight of him. Immediately, the jumpy boy was out of his seat and practically pulling him toward the chair at the desk. Riley's babble seemed to begin again, too. "Finally! You're back! I was starting to get worried after Jason and his band of hooligans followed you out of lunch, especially when you didn't show up to class! So where'd you go?"

Jesse winced as Riley unbuttoned his shirt for him, pulling it off and tossing it on the floor with his already discarded jacket. He didn't reply to the genius's question, but Riley didn't seem to mind as he poured disinfectant onto a cotton ball.

"And don't worry about your clothes. I can wash those with mine tomorrow since I'm doing a laundry run with Megs and Matt. I can grab your stuff, too." Riley continued, wiping a particularly nasty cut across his stomach. "If you want you can come with us. After all, it's a Saturday, so we don't have classes. Megan said that we can catch a movie, too. There's a really good one out that Matt wants to see. You might enjoy it." His voice sounded so hopeful that Jesse almost couldn't bare to refuse him, but he heaved a heavy sigh, giving Riley a sad smile instead.

"Thank you." Those were the only words he uttered, but Riley got the message. A disappointed look crossed his face before he smiled again.

"Well, maybe next time!" He stated, finishing up the cut by placing a couple band-aids on it and moving on to the next small cut, which was more like a nasty bruise hit just hard enough to draw some blood. Once again, the little medic began to disinfect the wound. "I know Megan said she wanted to go to the mall and get a dress for the dance coming up. She wants Matt and me to help her find one since she doesn't have many girlfriends or whatever to help her. It sounds like torture!"

Jesse actually chuckled at that, drawing a satisfied smile from his roommate.

"Or you could head out with Matt and me to pick up a couple tuxes. I know my old one doesn't fit anymore. Really! My granny thought it would be fine, but I tried it on, and it's too short! I've actually grown some!" Riley proudly puffed out his chest, a grin on his face as he finished up the cut. "Ooh! And there's a new gaming shop, too! Neither Matt or Megs want to go with me." He pouted, his proud look completely gone. "But they have these really cool new games that I don't have yet. Some of them are two-player games, too." Riley hinted obviously before prodding slightly at Jesse's ribs.

Jesse hissed in pain, but Riley only gave him an apologetic look. "It doesn't look like any are broken or cracked, just bruised." With those simple words, he pulled out a bottle of ointment and popped off the lid, beginning to squeeze it onto his hand and rub it onto Jesse's sadly bruised skin. "Anyways, it'd be fun if you came with me. I really don't like going out alone, and I'm technically not supposed to since I haven't reached my fifteenth birthday. Seriously, though, I promise I'll make it worth your while!"

The patient couldn't help the light smile that graced his lips as he shook his head. "Alright." After all, who could say no to this kid? Plus, Jesse didn't want him alone either. The kid was barely twelve. Jesse didn't want him on his own, especially with the dangers in the city or the cruelty of the older kids. He was the perfect target. In the very least, if Jesse was with him, then the bullies would choose to mess with him instead . . . .

"Really?" Riley exclaimed, eyes wide and a disbelieving look on his face. After a slight nod, he grinned. "Sweet! Thanks so much! I promise it'll be worth your while! Ooh, I just can't wait!" As the kid went on about games and how much fun they were going to have, his hands diligently cleaned up the older male.

Jesse sighed, licking his split lip as he looked out the window and noted the dark sky. Though he was tired and beaten, he knew that he would be given no rest that night. He had too much to think about.

Victoria and one of the rebels. He thought to himself, barely noting as Riley moved on to bandage the bruise just above his eyebrow that started bleeding halfway through his and the jumpy child's conversation. I have to hold on until then at least. He closed his eyes. For them. I can do it for them.

. . .

Jason Nape was abnormally solemn as he slowly opened the envelope with shaking hands. He seemed to move with a shaking slowness as if trying to put off seeing what was in the letter. He took a deep breath before finally unfolding the piece of paper and taking in the fancy script.

The blond didn't move at all, even after the piece of paper fell to the floor. He didn't cry, didn't sigh, didn't even breathe. He just sat there, deathly still. Despite his calm, unmoving demeanor, though, a war was raging in his pained mind.

The boy didn't want to believe it was true. He didn't want to believe it at all, but he knew that Dr. Andrews wouldn't send him a phony letter. No, his family doctor would never hurt him this way, even if Jason wished he would.

"Hey, Nape!" A rowdy voice called as his door opened. The dark male in the doorway held up a nice leather jacket. "You wanna go out tonight? Maybe hit up a few stores, catch a few babes?"

It seemed pointless to Jason, so it came as a surprise when words he didn't intend came from his mouth. "Sure, Jackson. Just give me a minute."

The other boy gave a grin before throwing his jacket at him and winking, turning to disappear out the door again. Jason sighed once the other boy was gone before standing. He threw on the jacket, pulled on a pair of shoes, and started for the door before he had to pause. He glanced back at the letter sitting on the floor.

Slowly, the blond turned back and picked it up. He pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit it, but the boy just couldn't bring the small flame to the letter. Finally, he sighed, putting the lighter back before folding up the letter carefully, putting it back into its envelope, and placing it into his jeans pocket.

He would soon find that he couldn't handle not having the cruel letter near him.

Life really was cruel.