"Okay, seriously, what's going on?" I looked up from my report at Beth, her arms crossed and a frown on her face. "You're different."
"What? No I'm not."
"Yes you are. You're acting funny. You've not picked anyone up in weeks. You're not getting distracted by Aussie Mac, in fact you're basically ignoring her, and you've not made an eye at a woman for ages. What, are you going cold turkey on women?"
"Of course not. I'm just busy. There's a lot more to do than in Masters year you know?"
"See that's why I thought you'd need more 'stress relief'."
"Shut up. And this conversation is not helping. I'm trying to concentrate here."
"Fine." She glared at me. "But at some point you need to get your head out of your work and tell me what's going on, because me and Raph are worried."
I ignored her, and tried to focus again. But she was right. It had been seven weeks since Alex had shown me that she had some kind of feelings, whether she admitted it or not. Seven weeks since I realised that those feelings were returned.
"Damn it!" I smacked the table and gathered up my stuff. "I'm going to the library."
We'd ignored each other for the first few weeks. But I think, once she realised that I was serious, she felt easier about talking to me. She'd actually call on me in seminars again, and act... normal. But I couldn't act the way we had. It was a slippery slope from there.
"That looks hard going." I started. Being on the almost abandoned third floor of the library, I hadn't thought anyone was near me. Let alone...
"I'm getting through it." I replied, barely glancing at her.
"You didn't book an appointment to discuss it, like everyone else."
"I didn't feel like it was necessary."
I felt the chair next to me move, and then she was sitting there, trapping me in the corner. I'd have to literally climb over her to get away.
"Don't put your education at risk Helena. I get it; you won't chase after me." She put her hand over the book I was staring at, in an effort to avoid her eyes. I glanced at her again, but this time I couldn't look away. "You don't have to feel like I'll be uncomfortable. You don't have to worry."
"I'm not worried."
"Then come and see me. I want you to get the best marks you can."
"I can do that without you." I muttered, tearing my eyes away. Her hand hadn't moved. "Can you move your hand?"
"Look at me." She murmured gently. "What's wrong?"
"I'm a psychologist Helena. Try that again."
"I just want to concentrate on my work. It's my only evening off this week and I need to crack this okay?"
"Surely they'd let you take more time off? It's your PhD..."
"Have you finished lecturing me on how to live my life?"
There was a pause, and then a sigh as she moved her hand, finally.
"I'm sorry if any of this is my fault. Good luck." The chair shifted, and she was leaving. I bit my lip and shook my head. No. No.... Oh for goodness sake.
I abandoned my work to follow her in to the bookshelves.
"Why would it be your fault?" We were still whispering, but I made her jump all the same.
"Well I doubt that you are avoiding any other lecturer."
"Why would I be avoiding you?"
"I haven't worked that out yet. One second it was me doing it and then you did a complete one-eighty and disappeared."
"Well I'm not. I'm just... working hard."
"You were doing that before."
"I don't know why I even followed you."
"Curiosity? Guilt? Any number of reasons."
"So are you. Arrange a meeting."
"Fine." I hissed.
"Good." She grinned. "I'm free tomorrow at six."
"You're far too pleased with yourself."
"Getting you to do something you don't want to? I think that must be a rare thing. So yes. I am."
It was so easy to talk with her; so easy to fall back in to our usual banter. I had to stop.
"Call it a last request." Her smile faltered.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that it's the last time I'll do something I don't want to, for you."
I turned to go but she grabbed my arm.
"Alright, this cannot be about some missed chance at a one night stand. What the hell is going on with you?"
In my defence, it was the only way I could think of to shut her up.
There was barely a split second pause before her lips started to move against mine, responding. I could feel her hair under my fingertips from where I'd pulled her to me, and my other hand was now resting on her hip. Through the haze, I felt her sliding one hand across my waist, and the other up to my neck, caressing my skin gently with her thumb. I wanted to continue, but it was that thought that brought me to my senses. I stopped. There was a shuddering breath from her, and her hands pressed, as though to bring me back. My nose grazed hers gently as I tried to resist the urge.
"I can't do this." I murmured, forehead pressed against hers.
"Why...?" And her hand was pressing against the curve of my waist again, trying to bring me in. She opened her eyes and met mine as I pulled away. I knew she'd seen what I'd been hiding when her lips parted. "Oh."
"I have to go."