Sweet mother, I cannot weave –
slender Aphrodite has overcome me
with longing for a girl.
Sappho, from Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works tr. Diane Rayor
It’s not even fair really. She’s got a job lined up for when she’s gonna graduate and she had such an easy semester planned. Until her academic advisor fucked it up. Clarke can’t really blame her. Math is hard. Arithmetics should be something a university advisor knows, but forgetting to count 3 credit hours is probably a reasonable mistake to make. To err is to be human after all. But for her advisor to miscount a necessary math credit is almost unforgivable.
It feels like her own personal hell. She’s been looking forward to this lazy semester for so long, with only her Advanced Painting and Graphic Arts course left, it was meant to be easy and relaxing. But now she was stuck taking Basic Linear Algebra.
“You know I can help you out,” Raven says when Clarke breaks the news. Raven had laughed when she had come back to their shared apartment, Clarke in her pjs at 4pm watching some crappy sitcom on Netflix. “It’s not that bad.”
“It’s math, Rae,” Clarke replied. “Math. I haven’t taken math since high school. It’s not just that I don’t like it, it’s that I’ve probably forgotten everything.”
“You’ll do fine,” Raven promises.
She returns weeks later with a C on her first midterm and a strange sense of pride that she had proved Raven wrong even though she had put forward countless hours of studying.
“I told you so,” Clarke smirks. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m super disappointed and this is ruining my perfect GPA, but I told you so.”
Raven, ever the genius, does her best to help, but it’s frustrating.
“You know it’s not that hard,” Raven insists, but it’s futile. Raven’s a certified genius, doing her masters in mechanical engineering, and Clarke’s just trying to graduate so she can work at the graphic arts studio downtown. Plus Raven takes a break every few minutes to check her phone to text Octavia and it’s frustrating.
“Maybe I should ask Wells,” Clarke sighs. “He’d at least explain it like a human.”
“He’d explain it like a lawyer,” Raven retorts, “plus how could a lawyer help you with linear algebra?”
“He helped me in high school,” Clarke reminds her.
“More like he did your work for you,” Raven laughs and Clarke glares back at her.
“Fine,” Clarke says, packing up her stuff.
“Where are you going? We still have a few practice questions to go through,” Raven asks, watching Clarke throw her stuff in her room.
“I’m done for today,” Clarke sighs. “It’s Friday evening and I want to be free from this hell.”
“It’s Thursday afternoon,” Raven reminds her. “But I get you. Come on, we’ll get frappuccinos.”
And maybe Clarke regrets not taking Raven’s offered help when she’s struggling through class on Friday and she really regrets it at the end of class when they’ve started talking about matrix transformations and she’s even more lost. And with a great sigh, she ends up visiting the professor after class.
“I’ve got another class to teach,” Indra adds, looking unimpressed at Clarke’s countless questions, “you know, math help is available on the fourth floor of the Polis building, right?”
“No, I had no idea,” Clarke admits, starting to feel hopeful, even though Indra gives her a shake of the head and a roll of the eyes that tells Clarke that her prof thinks she’s terribly dumb.
“Now you can bother my grad students instead,” Indra says, and Clarke isn’t sure if it’s a joke or not. Regardless, it’s starting to sound like a lot more help than her ever distracted roommate and her grumpy prof, so Clarke decides it’s worth a shot.
Until Clarke decides it’s probably not.
Until Clarke sees the only grad student available to help her.
Until Clarke gets hit with the gay.
It’s cute. Lexa can’t help but think it. The blonde is ranting again and Lexa can’t help but smile as she nods through it, trying to listen as the girl explains her problem.
“I just don’t understand it,” the girl is saying, “how can a number be imaginary? Like, you know what’s imaginary? Narnia. Middle Earth. Hogwarts.”
“Clarke, you’re getting off topic here,” Lexa interrupts.
“Nah, you’re just offended I said Hogwarts wasn’t real,” Clarke replies, “though I’m honestly happy you stopped me there. I was running out of imaginary places.”
“And now you’re trying to change the topic again,” Lexa remarks.
“I can’t help it,” Clarke sighs, “my brain doesn’t want to be here.”
“Oh come on,” Lexa tries, “math isn’t so bad.”
“We can’t all be super smart math goddesses,” Clarke replies and catches the faint blush on Lexa’s cheek. And maybe it’s unfair to flirt with her tutor in hopes that it’ll distract them and she'll never have to learn the dastardly material, but it’s also unfair that her tutor is just this gorgeous and smart.
“A goddess? Really?” Lexa says, small smile forming.
“Like… Apollo. That was his name,” Clarke exclaims after having stared at Lexa, worrying her lip thinking back to the Greek Mythology course she had taken to fulfill her written requirement. “Actually, nevermind that. He wasn’t pretty at all. You’re more like Aphrodite.”
“Really?...You know, Pythagoras had a dictum for his school,” Lexa says after a moment, “‘ God is number’ or something like that.”
“Are you saying you’re a number?”
“No, though they did consider numbers to have characters and personalities and feelings.”
“Is that what they teach you in grad school?”
“Yes, Clarke,” Lexa sarcastically replies. “Every math student becomes a numerologist by third year undergrad. It’s true.”
“Ha. You’re cute, smart and funny. Real package deal there, Lex.”
And Lexa is about to reply, about to correct Clarke and tell her to call her Lexa and not Lex, but Lexa rethinks it. It would stop the fun and friendly banter they have going. But before Lexa can say anything at all, they’re rudely interrupted.
“Okay! That’s it! I’ve had enough of this!” Anya exclaims from across the room.
The math grad lounge was empty, tutoring hours long over, and though this was only Clarke’s third time at math help, she’d come back quickly after having met Lexa. Anya was the only other grad student Clarke had ever seen in the lounge, at least around math help hours, though usually Anya helped other students who all seemed terrified to get an answer wrong around her. Maybe that was the reason why she was such an effective tutor.
“This ends now,” Anya demands. “Math help hours are over. I’m tired of this gay ass shit. Lexa, you’ve become a terrible tutor in the past three days. And you, Clarke right?”
“Stop flirting with my best friend,” Anya asked. “It’s driving me insane. It’s driving Indra up the wall. You’re making her a useless lesbian and it’s honestly scaring and confusing the undergrads. Just stop being so damn gay. And do your math. Or you're going to fail.”
“Oh,” Clarke mutters.
“Just go,” Anya demands. “Come back on Friday. It’s late.”
And just like that Clarke walks off, packing her stuff up quickly. Lexa is stunned, staring up at her best friend in confusion. But before Lexa can say anything to her friend, Clarke pops her head back in with a smile, as if she hadn’t just been told off by the ever frightening grad student.
“By the way,” she says mirthfully, “I’m bi. Not gay. Just so you know.”
And with that the blonde is gone. And Lexa brings her glare back to her friend.
“Seriously, An? I was trying to help her.”
“Trying to help her with what?” Anya asks, her voice teasing, “I’m trying to help you too. You’ll never get laid like that. And she’ll never pass her first year math course.”
“You’re terrible,” Lexa replies, “and she’s probably not even into me. She’s just flirting with me to get out of doing math.”
“While the last part of that is probably true,” Anya says, “that girl is definitely into you. I’ve seen your little study sessions. You had to explain the concept of irrational numbers to her like five times while she was very rationally staring down your shirt.”
“Like I said, you’re terrible.”
“Ten bucks says she’s back here tomorrow for help ,” Anya offers, putting air quotes and emphasis on the word ‘help’.
“Tomorrow’s not even a math help day.”
“And?” Anya replies, eyebrow raised.
“Fine, but it’s your loss.”
In the end, Lexa’s not even sad or angry when she hands Anya, cocky and laughing, a ten dollar bill the next day.
Raven honestly knows Clarke isn’t good at math. It’s not that her friend is dumb. Not that at all. She’s just not very good at math. The subject doesn’t interest her, doesn’t captivate her, and she’s very, very talented. But in other areas. She’s artistically intuitive, and Raven knows that some of the art she makes follows the golden ratio and set sequences that are hidden, made to be appealing and kind and nice to the human eye, but Raven knows that Clarke is probably unaware of it all. It’s all subconscious decisions.
And Raven honestly knows that Clarke isn’t this helpless in math.
“This is your fourth afternoon going to math help,” Raven says. “Am I really that terrible of a tutor?”
“No, not at all,” Clarke replies. “I got one of the grad students to help me, and we’re kind of on a roll, honestly.”
“Really?” Raven asks. “That’s good then.”
With that being said, Clarke is out the door and heading towards wherever to do more math, and Raven is stunned and surprised to see Clarke so happy and ready to do her least favourite subject.
“On a roll my ass,” Raven mutters pulling out her phone and pulling up her contacts, bring her phone up to her ear. “Yeah, hey O. We’ve got some stalking to do. Clarke’s up to something.”
So it’s the following Monday that Raven and Octavia find themselves on the fourth floor of Polis, scoping out the math help area.
“This building is a mess,” Raven remarks and Octavia rolls her eyes.
“We can’t all have fancy engineering buildings with cool new labs,” Octavia replies. The PoliSci building that Octavia herself is used to is much worse than this, old and stuffy, though castle like on the outside, the old lecture style classrooms are terrible. At least this building is nicely ventilated and seems to have a window or two.
The posters around the floor lead them to an open door, and a decal beside it claims it to be the math grad student lounge.
“Math help,” Raven reads, “available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 2pm and 4pm. You know O, that’s very interesting.”
“Because, my dear friend,” Raven says with a smirk, “Clarke definitely said she was here last Thursday for math help. And thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure she hasn’t come home before at least 7.”
“You think she’s lying?” Octavia asks.
Raven glances inside the lounge quickly.
“Come on, O,” Raven says, making her way into the lounge.
“Raven, what the fuck are we doing?”
“It’s Wednesday, I think I could use some math help.”
With a great sigh, Octavia follows her. The lounge is empty and quiet, save for two girls, one lounging on the couch, phone in hand, the other at the table, slowly at work with a few textbooks around her.
“Which one do you think?” Raven asks, but before Octavia can give her input, Raven’s stalking forward.
“Hey there,” Raven greets the girl at the desk, sitting down across from her, and Octavia sits down with a sigh beside Raven. “I’m Raven. This is my friend Octavia. She’s a PoliSci major though, so just ignore her. I’m here for math help.”
“You’ve come to the right place,” the girl says, and carefully and neatly closes her notebook, placing a bookmark where she deems necessary and placing her own books aside to look up at Raven. “I’m Lexa. How can I help you?”
“Let’s start with some multivariable calculus,” Raven offers. “That’s some easy stuff right there.”
“Are you sure you need math help?” Lexa asks, “Usually this kind of help is for students that need help with basic calculus.”
Raven perks up instantly and Octavia groans, and across the room, Anya’s attention shifts to them instead as she tucks away her phone and comes over to sit with them.
“Let’s see these problems then,” Anya insists and Raven’s smile grows. “Anya, by the way.”
“I like these two already,” Raven says to Octavia with a smirk and Octavia groans again, pulling out her phone. It becomes some sort of pissing contest, as Raven makes her way through random sets of questions she had circled and written down, one’s that she had found hard, from topology and graph theory to proofs and number theory.
“This is much more applied than I’m used to,” Lexa admits when Raven finds a statics question.
“Too difficult then?” Raven asks as Anya eyes the question over her shoulder.
“No, just different,” Lexa says, tapping her pencil on the paper in thought. Before Lexa can even contemplate a solution, Clarke is in the lounge.
“Hey An, hey Lexa,” she greets, three starbucks cups in hand. And as Clarke makes her way into the lounge she spots her two friends.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Rae?” Clarke asks, handing one of the cups to Anya and then another to Lexa, keeping the third for herself.
“Just checking out what’s so fun about math help,” Raven replies smoothly. “I mean, you’re here more than you are at home so….”
“You’re the worst,” Clarke sighs, and eyes the growing pile of paper on the desk. She picks up one of the papers, frowning at it, recognizing the writing of her best friend and the writing of her favourite tutor. “This is what you’ve been up to?”
“I like her,” Raven decides, and shrugs, “she’s fun.”
“That’s a lie,” Octavia speaks up, “they’ve been doing math this whole time. I’ve been stuck here. For an hour. An hour Clarke. It’s terrible.”
“I’m sorry about my friends, Lexa,” Clarke apologises, but Lexa waves it off.
“It’s fine,” Lexa says, “we had fun.”
“Well I wanted to thank you,” Clarke says, and places a stapled bunch of paper in front of her.
“It’s a B+, Clarke,” Lexa remarks.
“It’s not as good as I hoped, honestly-”
“But with the amount of flirting they did instead of studying I’m not surprised,” Anya scoffs.
“Ahem, but I’m still grateful,” Clarke continues, “and as a thank you I’d like to buy you supper.”
“Oh, it’s not a problem Clarke. It’s what I’m paid for.”
“Dude, she’s asking you out,” Anya hisses and elbows her friend, who blushes instantly.
“Wow, gay,” Raven adds in.
“I’d love to Clarke,” Lexa replies, doing her best to ignore the idiots around them.
“Awesome. Is now good?” Clarke asks.
“Good, because I’d do anything to ditch these losers.” Clarke laughs, and offers her hand to the grad student with a smile. “I do have one question though,” Clarke says as they leave the lounge, “there aren’t any policies on tutor-tutee dating is there? Because I’m honestly probably still gonna need your help for my final.”