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PSY 153: Psychology and the Law

Chapter Text

For the past seven years, the same two professors in the Oxford psychology department had been consistently ranked the top two based on the student ratings each term. It was rarely consistent term to term; they’d toss the title of number one back and forth, with their average ratings never deviating more than a tenth of a point.

It was never really clear to any of the students if they actually knew each other. Occasionally after the ratings came out, they could be seen in the hallway giving a nod and a not-so-sincere “congratulations” to the other. But that was really all they ever seemed to do.

That didn’t stop teams from forming though. Each of them had their distinct fans. The students who adored Dr. Polastri despised Dr. Astankova and vice versa, and for good reason. They were vastly different in both their teaching styles and their experience. Dr. Polastri taught abnormal and clinical psychology classes, she liked to talk about the fringes of “normal” and what it meant to be or interact with someone on the fringe.

Dr. Astankova was the opposite; she was fixated with the idea of what “normal” meant. She opened every class she taught asking her students to define the word and it always truly seemed like she wanted to know their answers. She taught classes in social and personality psychology and was fascinated with how the average person acts in everyday situations and their reasons for doing so.

They both loved the world “normal”, they just cared about very different sides of it.

They also both taught a class on law and psychology, their only other real overlap. Despite being the same class, they taught it so differently that students could have practically taken them both and learned an entirely new set of material the second time around. Some students had.

Given that the two professors were huge favorites, the university had clearly allowed them to continue in their discrepant teaching for a while, but had seemed to ultimately decide that streamlining of some sort was necessary. At least, that was the only reasonable conclusion anyone could come to when it was announced that Dr. Polastri and Dr. Astankova would be co-teaching law and psychology in the upcoming quarter. It had to be the only explanation because certainly no one could think that they’d be a good teaching pair. It was bound to be an incredible and entertaining quarter though, so the seats filled up in the class within moments of registration opening.

————-

“This is going to be a disaster,” Eve grumbled to Oksana, “Half the class is going to be there for you and so they’ll hate me.”

“And the other half will be there for you and they’ll hate me!” Oksana finished chirpily. She was completely unperturbed. “This is going to be hilarious. We should write it up into a paper.”

“I am not writing a paper with you.”

“You say that now.”

“I am not writing a paper with you.”

“Whatever.” Oksana said, wandering over to the kitchen area. “There’s no more coffee!” she exclaimed, shocked and offended.

Eve sighed, dropping her head down onto the papers spread out across the table. “You didn’t make any more. And all of the other professors who usually make it left hours ago.”

Oksana hummed and pushed herself up to sit on the counter. “Yeah, I’ve never been in the faculty lounge this late. I’ve never been on campus this late. Why are we here? We finished the syllabus.”

“Because the class is way more than a syllabus! And you disagree with me on everything! And they have a really big table here for spreading out all this stuff so it’s a good place to work. And the wifi is really good here.”

“Yeah, but why are we still here? It’s eleven, I want to go home. We don’t need to have the entire course planned tonight. We can relax.”

Eve nervously twisted her wedding ring around her finger. “I know, you’re right. I’m just...stressing.”

Oksana got off the counter and came back over to Eve. She gave Eve a soft smile and ran a thumb across her cheek. “I know, babe, you worry too much.”

Eve relaxed into Oksana’s touch and reached up to take her hand. “Do you think people will finally notice we’re married?”

Oksana grinned. “No, we bicker too much,” she paused and leaned in close to Eve, “On the other hand, you spend way too much time gazing at me longingly, so maybe”

Eve blushed slightly and pretended to shove Oksana away. “Shut up. You’re the one who does that.”

“We both do that.”

“Yeah. Well. Behave yourself in class.”

“I’m very well behaved.”

“No, you’re not.”

“No, I’m not.”

Eve rolled her eyes and stood up, hooking her fingers through Oksana’s belt loops and pulling her close for a quick kiss. “You’re cute though. Let’s go home, we have to get up way too early tomorrow.”

Oksana squealed, “Oh, it’s going to be so exciting!”

 

Chapter Text

On the first day of class, the seats were all filled before the hour had even started, in spite of the fact that it was an 8am class. Expectations were high. Expectations of what, no one could really say but everyone knew Dr. Polastri and Dr. Astankova were sure to bring something exciting to the table.

The stark contrast between the two professors was immediate to everyone who walked in. Dr. Astankova was perched on the table at the front of the room, swinging her legs back and forth. She’d clearly dressed for the occasion in a well-fitting, bright pink suit and heels and seemed more that delighted to just watch all the students stream into her classroom.

Dr. Polastri, on the other hand, had yet to remove her overcoat and seemed to have just crashed into the chair behind the other professor as soon as she’d arrived in the room. Her focus was solely on the coffee in her hand, not that it seemed to be doing her much good. Dr. Astankova had coffee on the table next to her too, but she’d either already drank it - and several more cups - or she had absolutely no need for it.

————-

Eve looked up from her coffee and stared at Oksana’s back, trying to reconcile her mild annoyance at Oksana’s overly chipper attitude and slight unprofessionalism with the fact that she found her wife adorable and very attractive in her suit.

Oksana's hair was up in a bun, but a few blonde wisps had already started to escape down the back of her neck. Just barely peeking out from her collar was a small, fading bruise from a hickey a few nights prior. Eve bit back a grin when she noticed it and covered her mouth with the coffee cup.

When Oksana lept up from the table a few minutes later and clapped her hands together, Eve jumped. Living with Oksana for six years had still not prepared Eve for all of her outbursts.

“Hello!” Oksana cried, throwing her arms out in a grand gesture to the packed classroom, “Welcome Psychology and the Law! I’m Dr. Astankova, I’m sure you all know me! And this is my colleague...Dr. Polastri, who will be teaching the class along with me.” She waved her hand towards Eve, tone of voice changing to something suggesting very dramaticized resignation.  

Rolling her eyes and suppressing the childish desire to cover Oksana’s mouth with her hand, Eve got up and came to stand beside her. In a quick glance, their eyes met briefly and Eve saw that distinctive twinkle in Oksana’s eyes that was always just theirs.

“Thank you for that warm welcome, Dr. Astankova. I’m very glad to be here.”

“I’m kidding,” Oksana clapped a hand on Eve’s shoulder, “We’re both great and you’re all lucky to have us. It’s going to be a great term. Today, maybe not so much, because we have to spend an hour reading the syllabus to you like you’re children, but after that’ll we’ll start having fun.”

Eve tried to maintain a dignified expression, despite the fact that she knew Oksana was purposely quoting Eve from a previous conversation in which Eve had ranted about the purposelessness of syllabus day.

Eve grabbed the syllabus in question out of her bag and pressed it into Oksana’s hands. “We should probably move on from the chit chat. And you’ll probably need this.”

Oksana feigned wide-eyed fear to the class, “My boss is mad! Better get to work. Page one, course policies! Is there anyone in this class that can read that for us?”

————--

After the final student left the classroom, Eve let out a huge sigh and dropped her hands down on the front table, sagging her shoulders

“Oh my god that was so stressful.”

Oksana came over and started massaging her shoulders. “Babe, you seriously need to relax. I think it went really well. People love you and people love me. Just because they’re different people doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.”

“I know. Okay. Thinking about relaxing.”

“I can help you,” Oksana said suggestively, taking a step forward so Eve’s back was pressed up against her front.

Eve gave her a - fake - dirty look over her shoulder. Oksana chuckled and wrapped her arms around her wife’s waist, swaying the two of them from side.

Eve sighed and leaned her head back on Oksana’s shoulder. “We’re going home now. And putting our pajamas back on. And having a real breakfast.”

“And relaxing,” Oksana reminded her.

“Yes. Relaxing .”

Chapter Text

It was two and a half weeks into the quarter and the vast majority of the class was (1) highly entertained and (2) incredibly confused about expectations.

For the most part, the two professors traded off every other lecture. Dr. Astankova had set up a thread on the online discussion board for everyone to submit their favorite songs and on her lecture days she liked to play them during periodic breaks in the class. She had a tendency to dance along to them if she liked them (and had brought coffee with her that day) and often attempted to drag Dr. Polastri up to dance with her. Dr. Polastri generally appeared quite irritated by the whole thing.

Dr. Polastri was good about answering questions, she seemed to want to know her students were engaged. Dr. Astankova was...a little more unpredictable. She loved certain questions, if the particular question seemed to specifically intrigue her she could easily go off on a fast-paced, overly excited tangent. On the other hand, if it required her to repeat herself or she just didn’t particularly seem to care, it was clear on her face and in her voice.

They were both big fans of eating in class, though, which the students definitely appreciated. One day, Dr. Astankova brought donuts for the entire class and, not to be outdone, the next day Dr. Polastri brought everyone coffee. They did seem to agree on that: coffee was vital. But, then again, most everyone agreed on that.

-------

Eve wandered into their kitchen, looking for Oksana. “Babe?”

“Mmhmm?” Oksana was distracted, attempting to stir several pots on the stove at once.

“Did we decide what our late work policy is?”

Oksana groaned dramatically. “So this is a school discussion? I’m making you dinner , don’t ruin the romance!”

Eve stifled a laugh. “I see. What are you making, babe?”

“Well, it’s a new and creative take on Shepherd's pie.”

“Why is it in a pot? Is it a Shepherd's pie soup?”

“It wasn’t supposed to be.”

“It is it now?”

“Possibly.”

Eve laughed, coming up behind her wife to rest her hands on Oksana’s hips and kiss the back of her neck. “I’m sure it’ll be great, honey.”

“We may need takeout.”

“You’re trying. You made it further than I would have and you somehow always manage to pull things together at the last minute no matter what kind of disasters occurred up until that point.”

Oksana gave her a cheeky grin. “Did you need to talk about the class?”

Eve took a seat at the island. “Yeah. One of the students emailed me about that paper that’s due on Friday. She’s hoping she could turn it in late, her grandfather passed away and his funeral is that day. I told her it’s probably fine but I didn’t remember if we’d decided our policy so I needed to ask you.”

“Why couldn’t she just finish it early?”

“She’s grieving, Oksana.”

“I still think she could do it. I mean is she crying nonstop? I guess that might prevent her.”

“You really don’t understand the concept do you?”

“Not really. Did someone kill him? If she’s angry she probably should just find a way to get that out. You know, go for a run. Punching bag. Something like that. That’s what I did when my dad was killed.”

“I think it was cancer. Grief isn’t really about anger for most people. It’s just...emptiness.”

Oksana leaned back against the counter and bit her lip, staring at Eve with a mix of confusion and discomfort on her face.

“I still don’t see how that prevents her from doing the paper sometime in the next three days. But if you feel strongly about it, that’s fine.”

“Okay, I’ll let her know.”

There was a long silence, broken only by the bubbling of the pots on the stove. Oksana had shifted her gaze to the ground and was chewing on her lip and twisting a kitchen towel in her hands.

“Are you okay?” Eve asked her.

“I...feel like I’m cold. Or at least I worry that you think I am.”

Eve got up from the island and came over to her, pausing to turn off the stove, before she took the towel from Oksana’s hands and held them.

“I don’t think that.” Oksana didn’t respond. “Babe, look at me.” Oksana slowly lifted her gaze and Eve could the beginning of tears starting at the edges of her eyes. “I don’t think that,” she whispered, leaning her forehead against Oksana’s. “I think that you see some things differently than I do. I don’t think you’re as quick to consider the emotional aspects of a situation as other people might be. That doesn’t mean you never consider them at all. That doesn’t mean you don’t care. Oksana, I don’t think that you’re cold .”

Oksana looked away from Eve, but Eve could still see the tear that had slipped down her cheek.

“Honey, you’re literally crying about this while you make me dinner. You love me. You’re not cold.”

Oksana sniffed and nodded, pulling a hand from Eve’s to rub at her eye. Eve pulled her into a tight hug and Oksana wound her arms around Eve’s waist, face pressed into her neck. After a couple minutes she took a deep breath and pulled away, returning to the stove where she busied herself with spoons and spices.

“Oh, by the way, I gave someone else an extension on that other assignment from yesterday. Someone came to office hours today. Kaitlyn, I think?”

Oksana clearly no longer wanted to continue the conversation.

“Okay, what for?”

“Mm, well she said she got drunk and had a one night stand. It ran pretty late so she couldn’t make the midnight deadline. She’s going to email it in by tonight.”

“Oh my god, Oksana, what kind of excuse is that?”

Oksana shrugged. “I don’t think it’s an excuse, I think it actually happened.”

“I’m not arguing that it didn’t happen, I’m asking how you could have accepted that as a reason to give an extension.”

“I don’t know, it’s something I would have done in college.”

Eve sighed and close her eyes, planting her hands on the counter. “We have got to standardize our rules.”

Chapter Text

One of the biggest reasons Dr. Polastri and Dr. Astankova were both so well respected was the experience they brought to their jobs. Before coming to teach at the university, Dr. Polastri had worked in law enforcement doing criminal profiling, specifically focused on piecing together the work of serial killers as well as identifying the overarching character traits common amongst them. It was common knowledge that years before coming to the university, she had played a crucial role in the apprehension of a prolific female serial killer who had been haunting the streets of London for many years. She never talked about it, but when students searched her name, videos of old interviews came up and news articles written about how the successful investigation had launched her fledgling career straight into the higher ranks of MI6.

Dr. Astankova had worked for a major law firm that did big cases for huge companies and extremely wealthy individuals. She’d handled scientific jury selection, going out and surveying communities and putting together detailed statistics on how to pick the best jurors based on social and character traits in order to manipulate them into getting the desired verdict, regardless of the evidence. Her success rates had been remarkably high, far better than the standard for the field. She had never revealed what specific cases she had worked on, but it was suspected that she had been responsible for getting some potentially very bad people off the hook for major crimes.

They both had stories that were creepy and forced people to seriously question the darker side of human nature. It was two different perspectives, but ultimately they were two sides of the same coin and as time went on they began to meld together quite well and the class became a new and exciting experience every day.

When they had taught separately, those stories were what drew people to sign up for their classes; they were what kept people coming to class every day. And that was still true once they were sharing the class, but there started to be new reasons as well.

They were fun together. They spent a lot of time bickering like children on a playground, but they were smart and their comebacks weren’t just sassy, they were intelligent and people learned things from them. Once, it was Dr. Astankova’s lecture day and she was talking about the steps for manipulating emotions and empathy in a jury and suddenly her fellow lecturer stood up, stopped her in the middle of a sentence and flat ou told her she was wrong and there were seven reasons why. They fired back and forth until the next class started trickling in.

And no one minded. It was applicable, not just for the students who intended to go into careers in psychology or law, but for everyone, just in their everyday lives. And it was fun. People liked them and they especially liked them together.

———-

They always bickered when they put together their lectures.

“I will slap you if you put that picture in the slides.” Eve said.

“Okay then I’m definitely putting it in the slides,” Oksana replied, resizing the image.

Eve rolled her eyes. “Not helpful.”

Oksana chuckled and bumped her knee against Eve’s. “Will you slap me if I take it out?” Eve just groaned. Oksana’s finger hovered over the delete key, eyebrows raised, “Is that a yes?”

Eve sighed and leaned in to kiss Oksana’s neck before whispering in her ear, “Maybe, but we have to actually finish this first.”

Oksana deleted the image.

Chapter Text

There were rumors. Two rumors specifically. One started when a guy in the class insisted that the two professors were fucking. He was certain. He had been telling anyone who would listen that he’d gone to Dr. Astankova’s office hours only to find the door locked and unmistakable sounds from the other side. He claimed that he’d slipped away in embarrassment, but he apparently had no shame in spreading the story around.

Most people rolled their eyes at him, said he was imagining things at best and being creepy at worst. The professors could clearly barely stand each other, they couldn’t agree on a third of their lecture points, and even if they could their personalities were about as different as they could possibly be. It was ridiculous, it made no sense. Dr. Astankova might have had someone in her office, but there was no way it was Dr. Polastri.

Someone did argue that they might be prime candidates for the ultimate hate sex, which wasn’t entirely unreasonable. They had the banter, the quick thinking back-and-forth. Their personalities might have been universes apart but they did have their similarities. They had the intelligence, the sass, the feistiness, even at eight in the morning. Still, it was hard to imagine.

But at some point a slightly different rumor started to develop. People started to point out the signs that, maybe, they didn’t really hate each other. It was the littlest things. Their hands would brush each other as they passed a piece of chalk to the other. And not just that, they always seemed to be able to predict exactly when the other one needed a piece of chalk. Or to have a slide advanced. Or a forgotten word supplied.  Sometimes they'd compliment each other. It was always snarky and back-handed but ultimately they were compliments. The occasional compliments were certainly far offset by the quips and eye rolls, but once people started to look for them, they started to realize that they were there.

They argued constantly, of course, but there was also the perspective that it wasn’t really out of anger. A lot of people started seeing it as lighthearted, may even affectionate teasing.  Then again, a lot of the people making those arguments were also taking the relationship psychology class and were probably prone to seeing relationships everywhere, even if they were completely nonexistent.

Regardless, the rumors persisted.

——-

“How is possible that we’ve had sex in your office twice this week?” Eve asked. “We haven’t done that since...before we were married, I think.”

Oksana grinned and pressed Eve back against the wall before she could get a chance to put her shirt back on. “It’s because you find me utterly irresistible.”

“I think it’s because we’re here at the same times. And in the past our classes haven’t overlapped. And we haven’t needed to spend as much time on campus together. And-”

“And you find me irresistible.”

Eve gave in and her shirt slipped from her fingers as she wound them through Oksana’s hair, pulling her in for yet another kiss. “You know I do,” she agreed, lips brushing against her wife’s as she spoke.

“And I interrupt you in class and it pisses you off and you spend an hour telling me I’m wrong when all you really want to do is tear my clothes off.”

Eve huffed in response, as Oksana’s fingers found the button on her pants.

“I just put those back on, Oksana.”

Oksana laughed against Eve’s lips. “You probably shouldn’t have done that.”

“We cannot have sex again.”

“Why not?” Oksana murmured, kissing Eve’s neck.

“Someone is going to catch us.”

“No, they’re not.”

“We came way too close on Monday. Someone could have come to office hours.”

“They didn’t though.”

“You don’t know that. We could have missed their knock.”

“Oh well,” Oksana said. She didn’t seem even mildly concerned.

“Someone could find out. We could get in a lot of trouble.” Eve tried not to be distracted by Oksana’s lips still on her neck. She was making arguments but they were completely half-hearted and no part of her believed them.

“Ehhhh.”

Eve groaned. “Go away,” she said, shoving half-heartedly at Oksana’s chest. Oksana chuckled and took a step back. “We need to get dressed," Eve insisted. "We need to finish this at home. We need to leave now.”

Oksana grinned and swept her up in another deep kiss. “I told you, I’m irresistible.”

Chapter Text

It had become a joke. And then it became a game. And then someone started placing bets. The first few were stupid things. A bag of chips at the bottom of someone’s bag if Dr. Polastri did that thing where she gave Dr. Astankova a condescending look but a brief smile broke through at the end. Trading an aisle seat if they caught Dr. Astankova’s eyes flicker to Dr. Polastri’s ass as she came in the door.

And then it was more than that. A little bit of money exchanged hands if the door was locked during office hours. Or if the two of them left class right together. Or...the list went on.

Then there were a couple longer term ones that they were waiting on. If someone were to catch them kissing by the end of the term. If one of the two professors slipped and said “babe” or “honey”. If another faculty member confirmed it. A big payout if they were found to be sleeping with each other. And of course, the simplest one - if someone got the courage to actually ask them. Which everyone knew was probably the reasonable thing to do, but they were a couple of intimidating people to talk to, even if it was simply about classwork.

As vibrant as Dr. Astankova was, she was also striking and somewhat difficult to communicate with. She was gorgeous and tall, even before the high heels that she tended to wear most days. She towered over a lot of students, which was intimidating in and of itself, but she was also the type of person who just had the air of towering over people. Her accent was Russian, which for students who weren’t familiar with her made everything she said somewhat harsh. She had a tendency to break into brief spurts of Russian when she felt the need to make a particularly strong point and that was a bit overwhelming for even the most confident of the students. She was brusque when she was bored or didn’t like the subject matter and wasn’t always good about keeping with the idea of “there are no stupid questions”. On the other hand, she could get far too excited about things and she was sometimes hard to keep up with. She spoke too fast and her ideas didn’t always follow in a logical pattern. She wasn’t someone whose reactions were always entirely predictable.

Dr. Polastri was equally intimidating, but in her own way. She looked eternally exhausted and frazzled, like someone who didn’t have a moment of free time and could snap at any moment. Her past career was somewhat haunting, too. The idea of someone who could look cold blooded killers in the eye without blinking was a little bit terrifying. Supposedly, she’d refused police protection at the time, despite threats on her life, and the thought of coming to someone like that with such trivial problems as homework issues or relationship questions seemed a bit...frivolous. She’d glare. Or stare blankly as if their question wasn’t even worth a response. Because it probably wasn’t. It was juvenile foolishness.  

So no one asked. They just wondered and gossiped and tossed a bit of money back and forth.

——-

“Oh my god,” Oksana shouted from the bedroom, “They’re taking bets!”

“What are you talking about?” Eve asked, wandering in from the kitchen holding an apple. “Who is? Bets on what?”

Oksana was sitting on the bed with her laptop, looking like she was about to burst into laughter at any moment.

“The student! You know that discussion forum website? Not the school’s one, but the outside one that most of them use for trading notes and stuff.”

“Yeah,” Eve said, coming to sit next to Oksana and peer over her shoulder while she munched on her apple.

“I found the page for our class. And it’s mostly normal stuff, Could I get someone’s notes from Monday? What chapters does the quiz tomorrow cover?, whatever. But there’s this one thread where they’re just debating if we’re in a relationship.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Look.”

Oksana wasn’t even slightly exaggerating. “That’s ridiculous,” Eve said, setting the apple on the bedside table and reaching out to scroll through the comments.

“I know. Look at that one. They want us to kiss.”

“Why?”

Oksana grinned and kissed Eve’s cheek. “Because we’re an enchanting couple.”

“I know we are, but why do they care?”

“Who knows. They’re bored. Whatever.” Oksana shrugged. “But we need to get in on this, we could make some good money. I propose that we ‘get caught’ making out in the classroom before class starts as people start trickling in.”

“Don’t be a child.”

Oksana gave her a cheeky smile. “Come on, don’t you want a scandal?”

“Not really.”

“I want a scandal.”

Eve snorted. “You just like attention.”

“Yes. And I like you.”

Eve rolled her eyes and returned to the computer. “Okay, what in the world is this? One of these kids is claiming that they caught me run my hand down your back in class.”

“When did they see that?”

“They didn’t see that, that never happened. I genuinely have no idea what they’re talking about.”

“These kids need to get a life.”

Oksana was cackling. “Yeah, I don’t think they have lives. Look at this. I know I shouldn’t be this obsessed. But they remind me of this couple on TV that I just adore. And the show is on hiatus so I need something to distract me.”

Eve rested her chin on Oksana’s shoulder. “What show are they talking about?”

“I don’t know, but they’re right. We are a positively adorable couple. And you know what actress I think you look like.”

“Shut up.”

“She’s hot.”

“I know you think that.”

“But obviously you’re hotter.”

“Shut up.” Eve was blushing bright red and refused to look at Oksana. Oksana grinned and pulled her onto her lap. She looped an arm around Eve’s waist, holding her tight against her as she continued scrolling.

“Wait!”

Eve reached back to clap a hand over Oksana’s mouth. “Babe, you’re shouting in my ear.”

Oksana ignored her and continued talking through her fingers, “They’re talking about that psychopathic assassin show that’s supposed to be really gay. See, they think you look like her too. I told you we needed to watch that.”

“Netflix and chill?”

“I actually want to watch it.”

Eve laughed and closed the laptop, pushing it the side of the bed. She flopped back against the pillows and draped her legs across Oksana’s lap. Oksana began massaging slow circles on Eve’s legs while she mulled things over.

“Maybe we should tease them,” she suggested. “You could ‘accidentally’ call me babe in front of the class. And then look mortified and stumble over an explanation. Or maybe even better just act like you didn’t even notice it because you call me babe alllll the time. Because you lovvvve me.”

Eve gave her a look. “I am not calling you babe in front of an entire class of college students.”

“It would make me feel loved,” Oksana said with a cheeky grin.

“I already make you feel loved.”

“Yes, but it would make me feel even more loved.”

“Oksana, we have done our best to maintain a professional front for years.”

“Well, judging by this extensive forum we are no longer really succeeding.”

Eve sighed. “That doesn’t mean we need to flaunt our relationship. Decorum. Professionalism. Not that that’s something you’re necessarily familiar with.”

Oksana grinned and struck a pose. It was the first day of spring and she had decided to celebrate it by wearing the fluffiest, twirliest, brightest pink dress she could have ever possibly found in a size for a grown woman. And she’d been wearing it since class that morning. It was classic Oksana. Eve had worn a gray pantsuit, one of her many gray pantsuits.

Eve looked frustrated and slightly worn out. Oksana dropped her perkiness level down a few notches leaned in toward her, tightening her fingers around Eve’s hand. “I know, I’m mostly just teasing. I have a certain reputation for being a bit...out there and wild. And that’s not what you’re going for in your academic career and that’s okay. No one there really talks about relationships or personal lives or anything like that, most especially not in front of students and I have no issue breaking those wall but that’s not your thing. I get that. And it’s fine. I’m not pushing you. I’m happy with what we have.”

Eve seemed to relax and she finally smiled. “Thank you, Oksana.”

“Of course, baby.” Eve grabbed her chin and pulled her in for a kiss. “However, I am going to keep dressing in dramatic and fashionable ways and making occasional wild comments about my personal life. I just won’t involve you in any identifiable way.”

Eve laughed. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Chapter Text

Eve was in the early stages of drifting off to sleep when she felt a body land on top of her with a squeal and a giggle.

“Oh, Eve…” Oksana’s voice was sing-song as she pinned Eve her between her legs and bumped their noses together.

Eve sighed contentedly, her hands finding Oksana’s waist. “Hi there.” Oksana nuzzled her face into Eve’s neck, pressing a light kiss underneath her ear. “I thought you’d be up a lot later. You already finished grading those papers?”

Oksana hemmed and hawed in between kissing her way down Eve’s neck. “Well...not quite. It’s just that I swear my half of the papers were the longer ones. Your’s were like five pages and mine were all ten pages.”

“Mmm, I’m pretty sure you just have a tendency to be distractible.”

“I find you distracting.”

“Clearly,” Eve commented, as Oksana nuzzled at her neck.

“I had to come to bed before you fell asleep.”

Eve did her best not to be swayed by Oksana’s dopey, big eyed expression. “We’re giving them back tomorrow, they need to be done.”

“I’ll get up early and finish them. I really only have a couple left.” Eve attempted to give Oksana her best stern look, but Oksana just grinned. “You know you don’t want to fall asleep without me.”

Eve couldn’t argue with that.

“Fine. Just promise me you’ll wake up early enough to get them done. And I won’t have to help you at five in the morning.”

“I promise,” Oksana told her. “Look, I’m setting an alarm right now.” She sat back on Eve’s hips and grabbed her phone, setting the alarm and showing it to Eve.

“Okay,” Eve said. Satisfied, she looped her hands behind Oksana’s neck and pulled her down for a kiss. Oksana didn’t actually end up getting to sleep any earlier than she would have if she’d stayed up to do the papers, but it wasn’t like either of them had expected that to happen.

——--

The final exam for Dr. Polastri and Dr. Astankova’s class was optional, the students had the choice to taken it if they wanted to replace one of their lowest exam or paper grades.  Final papers had been due a week before the start of final exams and they were getting them back on the last day of class so they’d have a chance to decide if they wanted to take the exam two days after.

The students were anxiously awaiting the grades. For all the fun and games, it was a hard class, worth every minute and every bit of effort, but it was a hard class. Exam questions required real thought and there had yet to be a paper that could be done in a rush the night before. The comments on the discussion forums about the professors’ relationship had fell to the background in favor of more frenetic 3am questions clarifying important concepts the night before an exam. Long-term bets still stood, of course, but for the most part the students had more pressing concerns.

The day they were supposed to get the papers back was a weird one from the very start. The normal spring weather that had brought consistently bright blue skies and warm sunshine at the beginning of each morning was gone. It was gray and cool and people found themselves pulling jackets out of their closets for the first time in almost two months.

The weather set a very appropriate mood for the arrival of the two professors. It was a good ten minutes past the start of class and neither of them had arrived, a unique occurence. Dr. Polastri had been known to occasionally arrive late when she taught classes alone, but even then was generally fairly punctual and rarely more than a few minutes behind on the occasions she was late. Dr. Astankova had never been known to be late and it had seemed to rub off on her colleague once they were teaching together. They were always in the lecture hall already when the students arrived, Dr. Astankova bright and cheery, Dr. Polastri sipping coffee.

So, ten minutes was more than pushing it and when the doors finally slammed open, just about every person in the room jumped. The doors were oak, large and heavy, typical of the old buildings on campus. The force with which Dr. Polastri would have had to throw herself against them to achieve such a sound was impressive; the look on her face perfectly matching the crash of them hitting the wall. Dr. Astankova trailed in after her, dressed in nothing close to her usual extravagance. She looked guilty and exhausted and her shoulders sagged. She waited by the door her arms crossed over her chest, staring blankly at a trash can in the corner.

Dr. Polastri dropped her bag on the table with another loud thud and pressed her hands down on its surface with a huge sigh. She closed her eyes and waited like that for several long moments that ticked by with a silence that hung heavy over the room. Everyone had frozen the moment they’d heard the door slam. No one spoke. What could anyone possibly have said?

Finally, Dr. Polastri raised her head and clapped her hands together. Barely containing the exasperation in her voice, she informed them that the grading of the papers was not complete. Some of the papers were done, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to hand back some of them, if not everyone could get theirs back. She apologized for the inconvenience, especially given the final exam in two days and promised that some arrangements would be made to get the papers back as soon as possible. Her fingers clenched and unclenched as she spoke and every muscle in her face was tight.

There was something strange about the way she spoke, apart from the tension in her voice. It hadn’t been noticeable until it changed, but up until that point the two professors had talked almost exclusively in terms of “we” when discussing class business. “We want to remind you that the test is next week.” “We'll be posting a study guide on the class website.” “We’ll have your graded papers back by the end of the week.” Dr. Polastri hadn’t used “we” at all and every “I” that came out of her mouth was spat like it tasted foul on her tongue.

Dr. Astankova continued to stand by the door staring at the trashcan, shoulders slumped forward.

“Class is over.” Dr. Polastri announced, barely controlling the anger in her voice. She grabbed her bag and walked back toward Dr. Astankova, where she came to a halt and hissed in her ear. Clearly, it was only intended to be between the two of them, but her voice carried over the first several rows. “Meet me in my office. Now.”

———-

Eve whirled on Oksana as soon as the office door fell shut behind them and her face was flurry of emotion, anger topping the list.

“Explain to me how this happened. I wake up this morning, twenty minutes before class starts, not having set an alarm because I assumed you would have woken me up given that you were going to get up hours before me. But no! You’re still sprawled out asleep next to me.”

“I know,” Oksana whispered, looking at her feet.

“So I drag you out of bed and into the car because of course we’re already going to be late at that point. And I’m not really thinking because I’m half asleep and frazzled but eventually the thought of the papers gets through my head and I figure that you must have gone back to bed after you finished them.”

“I’m sorry,” Oksana mumbled, but Eve just carried on.

“But no! You never even got up! You hadn’t done any of them! What were you thinking, Oksana?”

“I...I wasn’t. I just heard the alarm go off and I was tired and I turned it off half asleep and...I don’t know...We got to sleep really late and...” Oksana stumbled over her words, twisting her fingers together.

“It’s not just that. That’s one thing. But you lied to me! You didn’t just have a couple left, you had dozens, Oksana! You lied!”

“I didn’t lie, I was just mistaken about how many!”

“You let me down. You let the students down. You made us both look incompetent.”

“It was a mistake! It’s not a big deal.”

“It’s always like this, though. You put things off, you don’t take things seriously. I can’t count on you.”

Oksana looked like she had been punched in the gut. She stared at Eve for several long moments with her mouth slightly open and her lips starting to tremble. Then she turned and walked out the door.

Late that night, Eve sat huddled in the recliner by the front door, waiting for Oksana to come home. The bright green numbers on the clock changed slowly, much slower than it seemed like they should. Eve’s head felt like it was full of cotton and there was a huge weight in the pit of her stomach.

She’d started several text messages to Oksana but had ultimately deleted them, never able to quite figure out what she wanted to say. So, she just left the phone on the arm of the chair, volume on high, and hoped Oksana would be able to find her words.

Around midnight Eve went and made herself a cup of tea. It felt wrong; Oksana usually made tea for her. Eve would put the water on to boil and set out the mugs and Oksana would measure out the exact right amount of tea into the little metal balls. Eve couldn’t even remember what they were called. Oksana was really particular about it, very specific about the exact amount of leaves compared to the amount of water and how long it steeped for. She’d pick different types for Eve based on how Eve was feeling or what kind of day she’d had or what she’d eaten most recently.

It didn’t feel right to make herself. It was bitter on her tongue and not just because she’d done a bad job making it. Eve dumped it down the sink in frustration and returned to the recliner, returned to staring at the clock.

At some point she fell asleep and in the early hours of the morning, she woke up to a quiet house. She stood up stiffly and made her way down to the bedroom, slipping in as quietly as she could.

The bed was cold and unslept in. She was alone.

Chapter Text

When Eve saw her the next morning outside of the faculty office building, Oksana looked like she had been crying. She was hurrying across the courtyard, head down, a pile of papers clutched tight to her chest. Eve ran to catch up with her, calling her name, but Oksana didn’t turn around until Eve put a hand on her elbow. Even then, she kept her eyes to the ground.

“Why didn’t you come home last night? Did you actually think I wouldn’t want you to?”

“No, I just...I thought it’d be better if I gave you some space.”

“Where did you sleep?”

“In my office. Well, I spent the night there. I didn’t really sleep. I finished grading the papers and I just kind of...stared at the wall.”

Eve felt sick.  “Oksana-”

“I sent out an email apologizing and letting them know that it was my fault, not yours. I’m going to be in my office all day with the papers so everyone should be able to come by and pick them up and to make up for everything I’m going to do an extra review session in half an hour.” Oksana’s words fell out of her mouth in a single rushed breath.

“I know, I saw the email,” Eve said, gently.

Oksana was still pointedly not looking at Eve and she hadn’t made eye contact once since they’d started talking. “They’ll probably start getting here soon. I was just making copies of some practice problems, but I should be getting back.”

She turned to go, but Eve pulled on her arm lightly. “Oksana. Please.” Oksana stopped but she still refused to look at Eve. “I’m sorry,” Eve whispered, slipping her fingers through her wife’s. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I was stressed and that’s no excuse, I’m just telling you so you know that it wasn’t about you.”

Oksana was biting her lip hard and Eve could see that her eyes were wet. “You were right, though. I let you down. I do that. I do that with everyone and most of the time I don’t care but it’s you, so I do care. I care a lot. I don’t want to let you down, Eve. I’m sorry. I really am.”

Eve brushed her thumb across Oksana’s cheek. “Please look at me.” Oksana took a shaky breath, but she finally raised her eyes to meet Eve’s. “Yes, I was frustrated. Yes, I would hope you plan ahead better on things like that in the future. But that’s a small thing, a stupid thing. You have a bad habit of procrastinating and we all have bad habits. I have plenty of my own. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”

“You said you can’t count on me,” Oksana whispered and Eve’s heart clenched tight in her chest.

She rested her forehead on Oksana's. “I didn’t mean it,” she murmured, hoping her words conveyed how much she truly regretted saying it. Oksana shook her head ever so slightly; she clearly didn’t believe Eve. Eve sucked in a shaky breath, she was starting to fight back tears herself, and nudged Oksana's chin with her hand, forcing her wife to look at her. “I didn’t mean it. Not in general. In that one moment, for that one thing, maybe, but not about you and us in the everyday, for the big things. You are the person I go to for everything. Whether I’m happy or sad or scared or tired or frustrated, whatever it is, I go to you. Whenever I have news, big or small, it’s you I want to tell and I always know you’ll be excited to hear it or support me if it’s bad. I know you’re there for me. More than anyone or anything has ever been. You’re my one constant, the thing I can trust more than anything. I count on you. Absolutely. Unquestionably.”

Oksana wasn’t responding. Her face was blank but her breathing was coming faster and faster and a single tear had escaped and started to slip down her cheek.

“Oksana, are you hearing me?”

———--

A group of students was clustered at the windows in the main hall of the faculty office buildings. The bank of windows looked out over the small courtyard that was tucked behind the building and the first few students who had been heading to Dr. Astankova’s office that morning had skidded to a halt when the glanced out them as they were walking by. A small crowd had soon formed.

Their two professors were standing in the middle of the courtyard with the sunlight that was just beginning to break through the clouds lighting up their faces for everyone to see. They were barely a couple inches apart, foreheads pressed together, Dr. Polastri’s hand on Dr. Astankova’s cheek. The sunlight picked up the glint of tears on her other cheek and if they looked close it was clear she wasn’t the only one crying.

They had clearly been in the middle of an intense conversation, but by the time the majority of people had gathered they were no longer speaking, just standing still as statues, close enough to kiss. Indeed, someone chanted under their breath, “Kiss, kiss, kiss.”

And then, as if she had heard them, Dr. Astankova dropped the stack of papers she had been holding and her hands hooked around the back of Dr. Polastri’s neck so she could pull her in, close the final few inches, and press their lips together. The papers spilled to the ground in a disorganized mess and a faint breeze that had been caught in the courtyard swirled them around the professors’ feet.

One of the girls grinned and held out her hand to the guy standing next to her. “Pay up. I told you it was a lovers quarrel.” He laughed, shook his head, and handed over the money without argument.

It was no little peck on the lips, nothing that any reasonable person could argue to be a friendly kiss, if there even was such a thing. Even from a little bit of a distance, the students could see their breaths had quickened by the time they broke apart. Dr. Astankova tucked her face into Dr. Polastri’s shoulder and Dr. Polastri wrapped her arms tight around her wife, pulling her close and burying her face in Dr. Astankova’s hair.

All the bets got paid up - lovers quarrel, kissing by the end of the term, sleeping together, in a relationship, in love, married. No argument. There was no argument.

———--

Oksana was floating, floating.

She opened her eyes, slowly coming out of the post-sex haze. Eve was on her back beside her, eyes still closed. One of her arms was stretched out just enough to bridge the distance between the two of them and brush Oksana’s side. Oksana smiled; Eve always had to keep in contact with her afterwards. Oksana liked it, too.

She ran her fingers up Eve’s arm, wrist to shoulder, with feather-light touch. Eve hummed in contentment.

“You know I think people saw us in the courtyard.” Oksana continued circling patterns on Eve’s skin as she spoke.

“Mm, it’s possible,” Eve said, eyes still closed. “Do you care?”

“You know I don't. Do you?”

“No. I’m proud of you.”

A big smile spread across Oksana’s face. “I’m proud of you too. I want people to know you’re mine.”

“Oh, is that so?” Eve replied teasingly, opening her eyes to catch Oksana’s expression, “I’m yours, am I?”

Oksana blushed hard and red, burying her face in the pillow. “I mean - if you want to be - because, well, I consider myself to be yours, well, you know, if you’ll have me-” The words tumbled out muffled by the pillow

Eve laughed and rolled over against her wife, wrapping an arm tight around her bare waist. She pressed a line of kisses down her neck and onto her shoulder where she paused and whispered to Oksana, “You’re too precious. You’re my wife. Yes, you’re mine and yes, I’m yours. And I love you. A whole lot, more than I can ever explain.”

Oksana lifted her head from the pillow so she could look at Eve. The flush had yet to fade from her cheeks and was still coloring them a brilliant red. “I love you, too. More than I can ever explain.”

Eve kissed her and Oksana could feel the grin on her lips as she did so. Oksana pulled away just enough that she could look at Eve, light dancing in her eyes. “Does this mean I get to buy you a bigger wedding ring?”

“No. It does not. I like my wedding ring.”

Oksana kissed her again, long and hard, the moment filled with all of the tension of the past twenty-four hours, finally released. After she broke away, she curled up against Eve’s side where traced her fingers across Eve’s skin and whispered, “Mine.”

Eve smiled, the weight in her stomach and chest finally gone and replaced with an all-encompassing warmth. “Yours. And mine.”

“Yours.”