Dr. Pollock wasted no time in making his appearance at Mal's office. She had sorted her make up and was sitting next to Di on the small sofa at the side of her desk when he arrived.
"Professor Moore, how are you?"
"I'll live." She replied dryly, standing up to greet him. "What is going to be done?"
"Well, discrimination is taken very seriously here. We will be removing the boys from your course. But it remains to be seen what further action might be taken."
"I can't say I'll be unhappy to see them gone from my classes. They were disruptive and never made any real effort even before this."
"Well that will be taken in to account."
"Thank you Dr. Pollock."
"You are, of course, aware that we have to take in to account their accusation, no matter how ridiculous it sounds."
"What accusation?" Diaval asked. "All I heard them say was that Mal likes women, and that's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Not that." Dr. Pollock looked nervous. "I mean their accusations regarding Miss Rose."
"Which are, specifically...?" Mal asked, not wanting to jump on the defensive.
"That you have an... inappropriate relationship with her."
"I teach her. She is my dissertation student. You assigned her to be my assistant. We are neighbours and knew each other briefly before I began my term here. That is the extent of our 'relationship'."
"You deny any inappropriate behaviour then?"
"As vague as 'inappropriate' is, I have not acted in any way which I would consider inappropriate. She knows me outside of University; but then I know her neighbours and her family. Her family are the reason I have settled so well in to my new home. I see nothing inappropriate in that, especially since I have explained to her that I must separate home and work life."
"And you don't feel that you will lose objectivity with her, despite a small amount of what sounds like friendship?"
"Of course not. All essays are double marked anyway; it would be obvious if I were favouring her."
"Very well. There will still have to be an investigation, but I will make sure that nothing is official unless it has to be. We will contain this as much as possible."
"Thank you, that would be comforting." Mal replied.
"Well then, I shall hear what Miss Rose has to say on the matter and it should be done. She's outside."
"Still?" Di asked.
"She did ask if Miss Moore was alright. Given the incident between herself and Mr. Smith I thought it would be best to speak to you first. Your neighbour status does rather explain her reaction."
"Yes. I'm sorry for not mentioning it before but I didn't feel it affected my ability to teach her. I only moved there a little while before term began; I didn't have much chance to learn anything about her, or vice versa."
"Good, good." Dr. Pollock replied, smiling. "Any more seminars today?"
"Then maybe you should go home? Take the rest of the day to yourself and come back tomorrow."
Mal would've refused but Diaval interrupted.
"I think that's a good idea Mal. You can relax and forget about all of this, and come back tomorrow refreshed."
"Okay." Mal smiled at him. "I will."
That was the night Mal had the dream. Those pitying blue eyes, staring at her, and those lips on hers. The next day she felt anything but calm and rested. Di found her in her office on her second cup of coffee for the morning, her head laid on the desk.
"Wow, so not the relaxing evening you hoped for?"
"It would've been fine apart from..." Mal suddenly realised she didn't want to tell him. Or shouldn't. She wasn't sure which.
"Your mum?" He asked, sitting across from her.
"Yeah." She lied. That had been part of it, she supposed. She'd spent the evening blasting loud music and drinking. Anything to forget her mother, the words she'd spoken.
"I thought so."
"We could throw darts at her picture?"
"That happened once, at University, and I burned all the pictures when you got me drunk enough for me to think I could fly."
"Hey I stopped you until you sobered up. Good job we were in a field or else you'd have been on the roof or something."
"Thanks. What a good friend." Mal put her head back on the desk.
"What do you have today?"
"Couple of seminars and a lecture."
"Anything with Rory?"
Mal paused for a second, remembering her dream.
"Just remember, pity is a natural human emotion that she can't help."
"Thank you for reminding me how to have human reactions."
"I just don't want you flying off the handle with her. She actually cares."
"I know." Mal sighed. "I promise I won't. I just... I hate it. You know I do."
"That's because you think being pitied makes you weak. It doesn't by the way."
"You've told me."
"And yet you never seem to take it in."
"I'm set in my ways."
"Clearly." He smirked. "But I love you for it."
"Can I get coffee delivered here or...?"
"Really? Because that would make me so happy."
"Suggest it to the cafeteria or something."
"Good plan." Mal groaned and stood up. "I have to get going."
"Good luck comrade."
"In to the breach." Mal chuckled dryly, and went to prepare her room for a second year seminar.