These days Newt couldn't move as easily as he used to, between the leg and his knees and all, but that confused, worried tone of voice always got him on his feet in seconds. A first block student, blonde and chubby in a painfully nostalgic way, was watching him from the doorway. Too young to be one of Newt's students, but he looked familiar...
Ah, yes. John Wright's boy.
Startled that he'd been recognized, and his worry approaching panic, Ernest stumbled over his words. "W-well, you see, I stayed late after History c-cause I wanted to ask Mr. Willard something, only somebody slammed a door real loud o-or somethin', cause there was this noise, a-a-and then M-Mr. Willard - "
Newt resisted the urge to sigh. Or cry. Another episode, this soon after the last? "Did he ask for me, or did someone else tell you to get me?"
Ernest blinked wide, scared eyes. "He asked."
"Good." If Jack was able to ask himself, he wasn't nearly as lost in it as he could be. Newt nearly left the room at that, but half-remembering something from another life stopped in front of Ernest. Bending down to meet the boy's eye, he gave him a firm pat on the shoulder. "That was very good of you, Ernest. Thank you."
The boy flushed, nodded, and then marched out of the room - intending to lead Newt to Jack, he realized with a huff of laughter. He hardly needed the guide, but why not take one when offered? Following Ernest's sedate pace at a hobbling dash, he turned his focus inward. Jack had gotten better control over his powers as he got older, but panic attacks and flashbacks could put him back at his baseline level of control. Newt was more than used to spotting Jack's influence on his own emotions after all these years, and it was a good indicator of how bad an episode would be.
It came as something of a surprise, then, when Newt reached Jack's classroom without detecting even the smallest change in his mood that he could contribute to Jack's powers.
Could it be possible that Jack had maintained control over his powers this time - or better yet, broken free of the episode all on his own? Chest tight with unexpected hope, Newt walked into the classroom. A pair of students jumped on Ernest, full of questions, but he paid them little heed; Jack was bent over his desk, trembling, and he needed Newt.
"Jack," Newt said cautiously, approaching slowly. Jack's head shot up, white curls breaking free of their pomade shell. His eyes were wide, wild, but he'd recognized Newt, and that was a good start. "Jack, do you know where you are?"
Jack looked around with slow-growing awareness. "...school?" he guessed, before leaning forward to rest his eyes in his hand. "But, Newt, coulda sworn I heard - "
"A door shutting?" Newt suggested gently.
"Gunshot," Jack said. "Screams."
"No guns on campus, outside the firing range. Only people screaming are children playing games. You aren't there, Jack. You're here, in your classroom, with me." Newt slowly took Jack's hand. When he tensed but didn't pull back, Newt rubbed gentle circles into the back of Jack's hand with his thumbs, repeating the words. After a long, breathless minute, Jack shuddered and relaxed. Newt sighed. "There you are."
Jack sat back, untangling his hand from Newt's, and smiled at him. It was weak, unconvincing, but any smile from Jack was a step in the right direction. "We gotta stop meeting like this," he joked, eyes flickering past Newt to land, alarmed, on - Newt turned to look - the three students still in the room.
They were very carefully trying not to be obvious about staring, and in the manner of all children were failing spectacularly. Jack's smile was gone when Newt turned back around. "I didn't... scare them off?" he asked. Newt understood his real question: I didn't make them panic with me?
He shrugged, and wished he had a better answer. "Somehow, no."
Jack sighed, leaned back to run a hand through his beard. "Well don't that beat all," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe the docs were right about it bein' just a matter of time."
Newt fought down a grimace. Sixty years was altogether too long a "matter of time", in his opinion. If he could make it faster, make it easier... well, he hadn't found a way to do that yet. But for the time being, Newt could at least eliminate one source of stress for Jack. He glanced up at the wall clock, estimating how long it had taken Ernest to lead him here. Double that, add a few minutes just in case, and -
"The door slammed around quarter of, by the way."
Newt blinked, pulled out of his calculations. "What?"
Jack snorted, smiling sincerely for the first time. "If you're gonna go back and undo this, y'might as well know how far back you're going."
Newt grinned bashfully, both embarrassed by how obvious he'd been and pleased Jack had noticed and approved. "I would've gotten there eventually," he protested, closing his eyes. Forty minutes, he decided, so he wouldn't have to run on his bad leg. A moment's concentration, and then...
"Just because you could've gotten there on your own doesn't mean I can't offer a helping hand," Jack said. Then, a moment later, confused, "There's no need to stay on my account, Newt."
"I'm not trying to." Newt frowned, then turned his attention to the only uncertainties present - the students. Upon closer inspection, he recognized them as even younger than he had estimated, barely in their first year of the first block. Ernest wasn't yet built like his father, but he was decidedly above-average in size. His power set was supposedly identical to John's, and Amira had identified her third son's abilities as related to healing some years back. Which left...
"Excuse me," he said to the third, a little twig of a girl. "My name's Mr. Davis. I'm a friend of Mr. Willard's, and I was hoping you might tell me if you did anything just now, when he wasn't feeling well." When she blinked at him, uncomprehending, he tapped against his wrist and said, "You know."
She looked down at his wrist, then at the hot pink band on her own. Comprehension lit up her eyes. "My power's passive," she explained, a practiced, recitational tone to her voice. "That means I can't do anything to stop it. Mami says people're supposed to tell me if they need their powers, so I can stay away." She clenched her hand into a fist. "Unless they're bad guys! Then I gotta stay close, and kick their butts while their powers don't work!"
"R-Rosario!" Ernest shouted, scandalized. "You can't say - " he lowered his voice to a whisper " - butts to a teacher!"
"Says who?" she responded - or perhaps it was Malek who continued the argument with Ernest, Newt wasn't paying attention. His mind was whirring, decades-old memories coming back to him as sharp as if they'd happened last week. This was what had been missing for so long. This was what he needed - who Jack needed. With one last look back at Jack, and one last thought to the years of friendship they'd had here, he said his goodbyes, got the girl's full name out of her, and got out of range of her abilities.
First, back to the war. Find a way to send Jack forward - not to here and now, but somewhere further down the line. Just before Rosario's third block would be ideal. Make sure they're matched up. And then... well.
Sixty years to wait for Jack to reappear - to make sure Newt was right, and this next try would be the best try. Sixty years was a lot of time to kill. Some if it he'd have to spend making sure Rosario would be there to meet Jack, but for the rest of it, who knew? Maybe he'd say yes when Aubrey asked this time.
Newt closed his eyes, smiling. A moment's concentration, and then...
He had to admit, it would be good to get back to work.