Rabbit brushed the dust off himself, but it seemed to be everywhere. It was seeping into his clothes and skin and made him feel the tiniest bit itchy.
“I hate allergies” he muttered to himself after sneezing for the third time.”
“You going to the bar with us?" Beltzer asked.
“Yeah,” he said, giving up on trying to get all the pollen and dust off of him.
“I invited Darcy and her team,” Sanders said. “Maybe tonight’s the night you finally grow some balls.”
Rabbit rolled his eyes. Darcy was his friend. And sure, he wanted to be a bit more than friends, but that didn’t change that they were only friends and he didn’t have a problem with that either. He’d hate to lose her friendship because she had no interest in him or what was in his pants.
The drive to the bar was short, but it felt like an eternity as he pondered just what Darcy would be wearing tonight. She had a habit of making him interested in the strangest things on her. He loved her ratty old Culver sweatshirt, her hilarious unicorn rain boots, and, one memorable night, her cat ear headband. She always seemed to dress however she wished, and he seemed to fall a little bit more every time he saw her. He was certain she could wear that pink bunny costume from A Christmas Story and he would still think she was the cutest thing he had ever seen.
The bar was loud when they arrived, but that wasn’t unusual. Sal, the owner, was a bit hard of hearing and refused to admit that all those concerts he had gone to in the 70s had messed with his ears a bit. He said that they just didn’t know a good time when they heard one and then turned it up even more. After that everyone knew better than to mention how loud the music was.
“Hey!” Darcy yelled, waving them all over. There were two pitchers of beer on the table, and both of them were only partially filled.
“How was the storm?” Jeanne asked. She was a new addition to Darcy’s team and didn’t fully understand what they were doing.
“It was great!” Jo said with a smile, reaching for a glass. “We were able to catch it near an open field and get the equipment out. We’re going to have some excellent data to look at come Monday.”
Everyone congratulated them on a good day of work, and Rabbit couldn’t help but itch the back of his neck. The damn pollen was still making him crazy.
“Help me get the next round?” Darcy said in his ear.
“I’d help you do anything,” he replied, startling himself. Why had he responded that way? It was true, of course, but he hadn’t meant for it to come out in that way.
She just laughed and he tried to shrug it off as he followed her to the bar with the empty pitchers.
“You okay?’ she asked, looking back at him once he had waved down Sal.
“You just always turn me on so much that my pants always become a bit uncomfortable,” he said. His words registered and his eyes went wide as he slapped a hand over his mouth.
Darcy, too, looked startled. “I’m sorry?” she finally said weakly.
“I never want you to be sorry. Though I’ve thought once or twice about you begging for forgiveness, but that was more naughty than anything else.”
What. The. Fuck. Why had he said that ? What was going on.
Darcy looked bewildered. “Are you okay Rabbit?”
“I’d be much better if you were kissing me.”
He wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
Sal came back with the pitchers and she took both of them, quickly making her way back to the table and away from him. He groaned and went to the bathroom. Well, there went that friendship.
He washed his hands and pulled them, still wet, over his face. He was feeling very warm now. Warmer than he normally felt at the bar. Maybe he was sick? It was a weak excuse, but maybe she would accept it?
“So what did you do to spook Darcy?” Bill asked, as he wandered into the restroom.
“I can’t stop telling her the inappropriate things that I’ve thought about her,” he said miserably.
Bill looked at him for a second. “Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know,” Rabbit said, throwing his hands up in frustration. I haven’t said anything about how I feel for her for the past two years! Why are the words practically tumbling out of me now?”
“I don’t know,” Bill said, "but you should go apologize to her. She seemed pretty upset.”
Rabbit took a deep breath and nodded. He knew he needed to. He Stepped back out into the bar and looked around for Darcy. She was tucked away in the corner, watching as their teams were mingling on the dance floor. He straightened his spine. He was no coward. He could do this.
She looked up at him as he approached and gave him a shy but cautious smile.
“Darcy, I just wanted to say that I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met and I want nothing more than to see your hair as a halo on my pillow.” He closed his eyes and wanted to cry.
He opened them back up to see her studying him.
“Why don’t you try again, but write it down this time?” she said, shoving a piece of paper at him.
He quickly grabbed it and pulled a pencil out of his pocket. I want to take you out to a field and have a picnic and then my way with you.
He balled the paper up as soon as he saw the words, but Darcy took it from him and looked at it.
“Right,” she said. “I’m going to go outside for some air. Try calling me and apologizing.”
He watched her head out the door and he waited ten seconds longer before dialing her number.
“I’ve imagined your body only lit by the stars.” He banged his head down on the sticky table top.
He couldn’t quite tell what noise she was making, but then she said, “Try texting me,” and the hung up.
He pulled out his phone and as he hit send, he realized it was just a string of eggplant emojis.
He looked crestfallen as she took her seat again and pulled out her phone.
“Right,” she said, putting it away. “Did you notice that you’ve got this golden pollen sort of all over you?”
He started to open his mouth to answer her, but she cut him off. “Just nod yes or no.”
He nodded yes.
“Okay. I think…I think I’ve seen something like this before. I’ll need to take a sample and run some tests on it, but just one more question. Did you actually read my dissertation?”
He nodded yes.
She narrowed her eyes. “Tell me what you thought of it.”
“It took me two weeks to read it all because I had to keep looking up terms, and even then I only understood a small portion of it, but what I could get was just,” he let out a breath, “brilliant. You’re an amazing scientist. I’m sure the parts I didn’t understand prove that too.”
Her lips curled into a smile. “By any chance did the tornado rip through a field that looked like bluebells?”
“I thought so. Those weren’t bluebells. They were, colloquially, truth bells. Basically they seep into your skin and make you hot. Then, if there’s something you’re hiding from another person, it makes you spit out those dark secrets to them. It’s like a compulsion. I don’t know what else you might spill if prodded by others, but I must say, your words tonight have been somewhat eye opening. I know you didn’t mean to share them, but I can’t unhear them.”
He nodded sadly. This was it. She was going to cut ties with him.
“So, here’s what I’m suggesting. Come back to my place. I have some sample vials. We can pull some pollen off you to test it and know for certain, then I can join you in the shower to make sure you get all of it off.”
It took him a moment before his head snapped up and his eyes were on hers.
“You heard me right,” she said with a small smile. “You interested?”
Her smile turned into a smirk. “If you think I’m not going to have fun with hearing all your dirty secrets until we get you all clean, you are mistaken. I like to know what kind of things you’re hoping will happen so we can make a list to check off.”
He was certain his eyes were comically wide now.
She stood up. “C’mon. Let’s get going.”
Well she didn’t have to tell him twice.