Was asleep at the lakehouse. Was quiet. Cool inside. No light coming in from the darkened windows. Blinked groggily. Was on the minimalist couch. Was a surprisingly comfortable couch, and had fallen asleep there with a box of in-progress curation letters on the floor. The letter he'd been holding when he dozed off slipped from his chest to the ground as he sat up.
Was aware he was watching something that didn't belong to him. Had a sense of it. Wasn't aware the runes were going crazy with holy magic. Couldn't see them. Couldn't feel the crisp ozone scent in the air around him. But knew he had never felt like this kid, the one on his stomach and counting ants. Had never counted ants. Had never protected cats. Had never been beaten up by any kids. His own foster home had been a one-person dream. His trust paid well, and it kept him from ever becoming a kid who had to take licks from anyone.
But sat there and felt it. Had seen these faces on so many of his students. Materialized differently depending on the kid, but had seen the gamut. Sad kids. Too quiet kids. Angry kids. Too violent kids. Chips on shoulders. Front teeth jaggedly busted at an angle. Black eyes. Bloodied noses and split lips. Take their mugshot picture now; they weren't getting out of life alive.
Wanted to fight harder. Wanted to destroy the bullies, even while realizing he couldn't. But wanted to. Wanted that for the kid in the vision. Didn't doubt for a second that this was something that had actually happened somewhere, sometime, to someone. Could feel it. Tried to hit harder. When that failed, tried to run. Didn't work. Had always known it wouldn't work.
Was still slouched on that couch when it ended. Pinched the bridge of his nose. Rubbed the nape of his neck. Stood, letter uncharacteristically forgotten at his feet. Padded outside with his pack of cigarettes. Left the door wide open behind himself. Walked to the edge of the lake and lit up.