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She hates him before she even learns his name.

She’s working the first time she sees him. The boy with dark hair, sticking straight up—ruffled like he’s run his hands through it one too many times. The one with the big nose—crooked like he may have broken it at least once. The one with the lopsided grin that crinkles his eyes—too cocky for his own good. The one who catches her staring at the way his muscles ripple under his too tight white polo and smirks and quirks his eyebrows—making her turn a violent shade of pink and shrink in on herself. She hates him. She doesn’t know him—yet—but she knows she hates him.

It’s student happy hour at the bar—dollar beers that come in little 8oz plastic cups between the hours of nine and ten. She’s been on her feet for four hours, already having worked the dinner rush, and all she wants to do it clock out and go home. He and his friends are crammed into the corner booth, in her section. They are typical rowdy frat boys, fashioning napkin projectiles and hollering absurd requests at the band. She is tired and she instantly hates them all.

She brings over their third tray of little beers, balancing it precariously on one hand as she tries to navigate around the other tables. They’ve been here fifteen minutes, have pounded back four beers each and their table is already wet and sticky with sloshed alcohol. And they are loud. So loud in fact that she can hardly hear the live band over their hollering. There are six of them and three of them wink at her as she puts the tray down in the middle of the table. One of them moves to grab her ass and she narrowly avoids the contact. On second thought, hate maybe isn’t strong enough a word.

He is sitting in the middle of the booth staring at her. His piercing gaze follows her as she carefully takes the overflowing beers off her tray and places two in front of him and he simply watches her. It isn’t a leer, his eyes don’t rake over her tits and her ass like she’d expect, he just looks into her eyes like he is trying to see inside of her, like she is a puzzle that he wants to figure out. There is a warmth to his gaze that she doesn’t understand; she shivers under the heat of it, goosebumps prickle the skin of her arms. She feels naked and exposed. She honestly wishes he’d check her out like the rest of his friends—let his eyes travel the length of her body as if she were nothing but an image on a screen—and be done with it.

Instead she is caught up in his unwavering gaze, swimming in his strange coloured eyes. She can’t really discern what colour they are; they looked brown when she approached but now, even under the low light, they look brighter, almost green—like her own. This isn’t how she is used to being looked at and she doesn’t know what to think, can’t wrap her mind around what he’s thinking and she doesn’t like it.

“You just gonna stare at her Moir, or you gonna ask her to suck your dick,” one of the friends says and the rest erupt into laughter.

He finally breaks eye contact, looks her up and down and dramatically rolls his eyes, as if to say she isn’t worth his time. “Fuck off, Zach!” he says.

She hates him.

A few hours later once they’ve paid their tabs and are finally leaving, he puts his hand on her arm and says, “Your tip is on the table. Sorry about the mess and my friends.”

His touch is warm and soft and his voice wraps itself around her like an embrace. She thinks, for the briefest moment, maybe she was quick to judge, maybe he isn’t so bad. She thinks this until she gets to the table to find it soaking wet and littered in sodden napkins. There is a glass filled with water somehow flipped upside down on the table creating a vacuum, holding in the contents—there is a ten dollar bill floating inside.

Fuck you, she thinks.

 

**

The next time she sees him is the first day of the winter term. She has crammed her Mondays full so that she can have Fridays completely off—Thursday nights are student night at the bar and she’s always exhausted on Friday. She’s been at the school since 9am; it’s now 7pm and she is rushing from her dance class—on the west side of campus in the student athletic complex—to the far east side of campus for a three hour seminar on banned books. It’s a course she somehow managed to talk her way into because it is a fourth year level class and she is only in her second year—because she wanted to prove she could do it and because it fit her schedule.

She pushes the door to the seminar room open with a little too much force and stumbles over her feet, gusting into the small room like a tempest. As she manages to get the door pulled shut behind her she is met with silence, as all fifteen other faces in the room turn to look at her. Her face  is faced, her hair pulled messily into a bun on top of her head, her oversized sweater, which she pulled on over her bodysuit and tights, is sliding off her shoulder and down her arm exposing a deep red mark where her school bag rubbed against her skin as she ran. She smiles shyly as she scans the room for a seat.

She recognizes him immediately. Of course he is here, of fucking course. He is sitting next to the only free seat around the large rectangular table, already pulling the blue plastic chair out for her with a crooked grin. Of course he recognizes her. Of fucking course.

She takes a deep breath through her nose and exhales through her teeth, ducks her head and scurries over to the other side of the table where he is holding the chair out for her.

“Late on the first day,” he smiles. “Not a great way to make a first impression.”

“I had a dance class across campus,” she mumbles, still a little breathless, taking her notebook out of her shoulder bag and putting it on the table in front of her. She isn’t sure why she’s justifying herself to him, or why he is still smiling at her.

“Dancer, eh?” he asks.

“Something like that.” She used to be, used to dance until her feet bled and her legs gave out on her. She used to attend camps at the national ballet. Now, she takes a few advanced contemporary and hip hop classes and teaches an intermediate ballet for the university dance club—it’s all her traitorous legs can handle now. But he doesn’t need to know any of this. He doesn’t deserve to know her.

“You look like a dancer,” he says with a wink, leaning back in his chair, tipping it so the front legs lift from the floor.

Tessa rolls her eyes at him, as she straightens her pen out next to her notebook. She really hates him.

A throat clears at the front of the room and her head snaps up to find the professor sitting directly across the table from her. He adjusts his horn-rimmed glasses, his wiry grey hair sticking up every which way.

“Good evening everyone, I’m professor Lauzon but you all can call me Patrice, or Pat. Welcome to Banned Books.” His voice is low and raspy and cracks a bit on rise of words, he also has just the smallest hint of a lingering French accent.

The boy next to her, with his scruffy hair, big nose, and dumbass grin, leans in close and whispers in her ear, “He used to play hockey as a teenager, was hit in the throat with a puck. That’s why he sounds like that.”

She isn’t sure if she believes him, but she files the information away anyways.

“So,” Patrice begins again, “I trust everyone got the course reading list over break and read Ovid’s The Art Of Love , so let’s get through some quick introductions and then we’ll jump right in. Scott why don’t you start us off?”

The boy beside her tips his chair back down with a thunk. He must be Scott. God she hates his name too. Hates the harsh consonant sounds and how they sit on her tongue. Hates how he leans forward before he starts talking, hates how he looks right at her when he says, “Hi, I’m Scott.”

She hates how she can hardly pay attention to the fact that he is in fourth year Con-Ed, a physical education major, taking English as his second teachable, that he plays for the hockey team, and wants to coach. She hates that she can’t focus on his words because she is too busy watching how his jaw works as he talks, all sharp edges, and how his throat bobs when he swallows, and how he fiddles with his fingers as he tells the class about himself, and she notices the veins that bulge across the tops of his hands. God she hates him.

She realizes he has stopped talking when he turns to look at her expectantly. She realizes it’s her turn to speak.

“Uh, hi I’m Tessa, my friends call me Tess and I’m in second year English Lit,” she starts, not really knowing if she should add anything else. “And I, uh, I like to dance...I just finished teaching a ballet class actually,” she decided to tack on to the end.

When she is done speaking, Scott, leans back over to her, “Second year, eh? Are you sure you can handle this class?”

She huffs, as she goes to withdraw her copy of Ovid from her bag, the Christopher Marlowe translation, turning her notebook to the several pages of neatly prepared notes. She hears him scoff beside her. He takes out his own worn copy and tosses it on the table in front of him.

It’s the first class of the semester. Tessa, being in second year and having taken this fourth year class on recommendation from her academic advisor, has never had a three hour class before. It’s exhausting. She is already tired from being at school all day so for the most part she just sits and listens as her classmates and Patrice discuss the poet’s work on how men should seduce women. She takes notes, comparing her classmates’ thoughts to her own. Unsurprisingly, Scott talks a lot. And loves to argue. By the start of hour three she has started to keep a tally of the amount of times that he has said, “I hate to play devil's advocate here…” and she knows he is full of shit, she knows that he is loving it.

When class finally lets out she is half asleep and the three quarters hot chocolate, one quarter coffee that she got on break is long gone and is losing its effect. Her legs drag like lead and she shuffles her way through the halls, a familiar sting shooting up her calves. She barely makes it to the bus before the last one of the night leaves campus.

 

**

She’s flopped on the couch in her apartment, her legs elevated on a pillow, blue gel ice packs draped over her shins. She’s holding her book above her, a pack of brightly coloured sticky tabs next to her too, easily accessible, to mark passages she thinks might be useful when it comes to writing her next paper.

She can hear her roommate Kaitlyn and her boyfriend Andrew giggling from Kaitlyn’s bedroom and she is just about to put her iPod headphones in when the two of them walk hand in hand into the living room. Kaitlyn looks like she is radiating sunshine, a yellow glow reaching out beyond the ends of her platinum blonde hair. Andrew has the dopiest grin. Tessa rolls her eyes.

“Whatcha reading?”

Tessa flips the cover over to show them, “ We Have Always Lived in The Castle , it’s for Gothic Lit.”

“Is that the class you have with that really annoying guy? Scott?”

She shakes her head against the pillow, and she can feel the static she is creating pulling at her hair and sticking it to the cushion. “No that’s the fourth year class. Banned Books.”

Kaitlyn sits on the couch by Tessa’s feet, tossing a throw blanket over Tessa’s legs. She raises her eyebrows at her curiously.

“You look cold and it was making me cold,” she says.

Tessa tries to go back to reading her book as Andrew sinks down and folds himself into their small armchair.

“So, tell me more about Mr. Annoying...is he cute?”

“Scott,” Tessa corrects though she doesn’t really know why. “He is definitely not cute.” He is. “He talks too much, he’s always staring at me and he plays hockey.”

She sees Andrew’s eyebrows lift at that, “Scott Moir?”

“Uh, yeah.” How does he know that?

“I play with him, he’s not that bad once you get to know him. He’s just a passionate guy, tons of energy. So he comes on strong.”

Passionate . Sure.

 

**

It’s the fourth week of class and she still hasn’t managed to figure out how to make it from the student athletic complex after dance to class in the east block without rushing through the door right at seven. This means that for the past three weeks she has had to sit beside Scott. Everyone, it seems, takes the same seats each week, leaving her the chair directly to his right. It is infuriating.

And every week when she comes gusting into the classroom he smiles at her and pulls out her chair. Next week, she thinks, maybe she will leave dance early so that she can get to class before him and sit anywhere else.

“Saved your seat,” he says as he adjusts his baseball cap so that it sits backwards on his head. God, she fucking hates him.

They are discussing D.H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover this week and though she can’t say it was a book that she would find herself reading or even enjoying outside of an academic setting, she finds she has a lot to say about it.

For the first time since the course began she finds herself a full participant in the seminar discussion, and she can see the smile creep up on her professor’s face as she debates her points, hardly even needing to check her notes to make sure she is staying on track

“It seems our little Tess has found her voice,” he says pride evident in his voice as he smiles warmly at her.

Scott shakes his head beside her and she knows that he is going to argue against her point, she can see him gearing up in the way his knees bounce restlessly in his chair and he fiddles with his hands as his mouth opens and closes like he wants to interrupt her. But he waits until she is done talking.

“You don’t need to be in love to have an orgasm,” he says bluntly, as soon as she’s shut her mouth.

“That’s not what I meant! They hardly have any connection and she is all about the value of emotional and intellectual intimacy and then...and..and then he…” she is struggling to get the words out, and she can’t believe she is arguing about orgasms in a literature class—what would her mom think of her higher education now?

“He makes her come,” Scott finishes for her and she shoots him a furtive glance. “What, that’s what he does, isn’t it?”

She can feel her cheeks heating up as she nods, “Yeah...But the love should come first. It’s that love and emotional intimacy that leads to...not the other way around.”

“Why not? Why can’t sexual love come first and lead to the rest? Besides, you can definitely have an orgasm without being in love.” He's looking directly at her when he says, “It hasn’t ever been a problem for the girls I’ve been with.”

She’s blushing furiously now; her whole face is probably and unattractive shade of lobster. She swallows at the same time she inhales sharply, choking on her own spit. He pats her on the back.

“Tess, maybe you just don’t  have the experiences to fully understand the nuances of the text.” He raises his eyebrows at her playfully.

Tessa can feel more heat creeping up from her chest to her cheeks—it like she’s been baking in the sun—and she knows that her skin is being stained crimson. Her breath quickens and she knows that all sets of eyes are on her. She knows, logically, that he is calling out the fact that she is the youngest in the class—it’s not sexual experience he is talking about, at least not only that—but she can’t help but feel embarrassed. Logically, she also knows he is joking. He’s trying to rile her up.

But it doesn’t stop her from asking herself if her lack of experience is obvious. She didn’t think she came off as prudish when she talked about Chatterley and her lover. But now her heart is pounding and her chest and cheeks are flushed and if her relative lack of sexual experience wasn’t in question by her classmates before it certainly was now.

She hates him so, so much. She hates him so much that she can actually feel it manifesting as a physical ball in her chest, tight and heavy right above her heart. Fuck you, Scott Moir.  

“I don’t need experience to understand the literary merits of the work,” she stammers, thrown off her carefully calculated points. “And I definitely have enough to know I don’t agree with you.”

He doesn’t address her for the rest of the class, and she withdraws back in on herself, only sharing one or two more little points through the rest of the class. She hates him so much.

She is still reeling when she leaves class, gnawing at her bottom lip while she bundles up in her scarf and hat and pink mittens before heading out to catch the bus. She is so lost in thought, in what she should have said to him as a retort, that by the time she looks up the bus is pulling away from the school. She hates him for this too. For getting her so in her head that she missed the damn bus. The last fucking bus of the night.

Tessa is debating who she can call to give her a ride home, whether or not her roommate Kaitlyn’s boyfriend Andrew, who has a car, would mind terribly coming to get her. Or if maybe she wrapped her scarf up really tight and walked really quickly she could make the thirty minute walk home without freezing. She is deliberating all this when she feels a hand, firm but gentle on her shoulder, and an unfortunately familiar voice saying her name.

“Hey Tess.” she turns to see Scott, decked in a Canada toque and scarf standing behind her, looking uncharacteristically sheepish.

“It’s Tessa,” she says, through chattering teeth.

He shrugs, “Whatever you say, kiddo. Look, I’m really sorry about what I said earlier. It was out of line.”

“It’s fine,” she mumbles, trying to pull her scarf further around her face to keep off the biting February air.

“It’s not. Uh, do you want a ride home or something? It’s freezing out here.”

She wants to say no, she so badly wants to say fuck you and your apology and your offer to drive me home, but she is so cold already and she’s only been standing here maybe three minutes and if no one drives her she will never make it home.

“Maybe,” she says, after a few beats.

“I’ll buy you coffee? As an apology.”

“Make it mostly hot chocolate and you have yourself a deal.”

He chuckles and smiles at her and she notices how genuine it looks. The skin around his eyes creases so that he is almost squinting, but his eyes themselves light up.

 

Chapter Text

Scott roughly twists his key in the ignition of his old truck, the engine, slowly sputtering to life from the cold, has a few false starts. He looks over at Tessa beside him, carefully placing her bags by her feet. She rubs her mittened hands along her thighs—only clad in thin leggings—and he can see how her breath curls in the cold air of the truck cab as she exhales deeply. Her own eyes are focused forward, out the windshield, so he thinks she won’t notice if he stares for a minute too long.

She is so pretty, and that, he thinks, is the thing he dislikes most about her if he’s honest with himself. Too pretty. It was the first thing he noticed when he first caught a glimpse of her, she has a face he will never forget. She had smiled at him in line at Tim Horton’s and let him jump ahead of her in line as she continued to deliberate what she wanted. After that he caught sight of her everywhere. He kept meaning to talk to her, to introduce himself, until one day just before Christmas break he realized that though she had to be one of the most beautiful girls he’d ever seen, with her long chestnut hair and bright eyes, she was a bit of a brat, and therefore not worth his time.

It had been nearing Christmas break and he spotted two girls in the bus shelter—waiting—the darker hair one, Tessa, was sitting on the bench, rubbing at her shins, while her friend a tall blonde was standing next to her. An older woman approached the bench, arms weighed down with shopping bags. As he was getting into his own car he noticed the two young girls having what seemed to be an argument before Tessa finally got off the bench and let the woman have the seat. She then stood there until the bus arrived with a pained look on her face. Breathing through gritted teeth, she was clearly annoyed her friend had made her give up her seat.

The next time he saw her though, he still couldn’t take his eyes off her. He was already a bit on the wrong side of tipsy when he and his roommates had arrived at the bar where she works and he finally caught a good look at her eyes. And wow, those were something else--if he were a better writer he could fill pages upon pages with poems about those gorgeous green eyes. But he’s not, he picked English because he wants to be a high school phys- Ed teacher and needed a minor, he likes to read so it seemed like a good idea. But he is no wordsmith.

But she’s too pretty, too perfect, too damn uptight, and though every class she has seemed the embodiment of the saying sugar and spice and everything nice he can’t get the image out of his mind of her huffing about letting an older woman take her seat.  She sits every class with her spine perfectly straight, prim in her seat, listening intently to every other student in class, her notebook and pen always laid out before her just so. So, he of course is an ass.

He thinks though, that maybe he’s gotten her all wrong, and he really would like to find out.

Now, he has somehow convinced her to let him drive her home. He thinks that maybe it was less him and his sorry excuse of an apology and more the biting cold, but he’ll take what he can get. She has taken her mittens off now and is rubbing her hands together in front of the shotty heat vent in his old truck. Her nose and cheeks are still kissed pink from the winter air and it does nothing to help him out, only acts to make her look even prettier. She hasn’t said a word to him since they got to his car.

“I am really sorry, about earlier in class,” he says, breaking the silence as they pull out of the student parking lot.

She shrugs, but he can tell she is still bothered by it. He shoulders stay hunched up close to her ears and her lips are pulled into a tight line. He was such a monumental ass. He had barely even read half the book and he just had to go an argue with her over orgasms and whether or not they facilitate love and intimacy. He probably shouldn’t have insinuated that she wouldn’t know anything about that, either love or orgasms.

He knew he’d really fucked up when she didn’t talk for the rest of the class. It was their fourth class of the semester and she’d hardly said anything up until tonight. This had annoyed him to no end because he’d seen all her neatly printed notes on the texts. What bothered him the most about it was that her notes were always good. He’d glance over and read some of her thoughts and they were always so well formed, thorough, and intelligent, she just wouldn’t say them. Sometimes he’d catch something in her notes and steal it. Maybe that was why she chose today to finally speak up. And he had to go ruin that. He’d liked debating with her.  

“I’m sorry about the, uh, money in the water cup too,” he says as he puts on his blinker to turn left into the Tim Hortons parking lot. “My friends are assholes sometimes and we were all pretty drunk.”

She sighs and bites her bottom lip, “Yeah, that sucked.”

He pulls into the drive-thru and turns to her, she is still rubbing her hands together and he really wishes the cab of his truck would heat up faster for her, “So how do I order this hot chocolate with a little coffee?”

She smiles at him then, “I usually just ask for three-quarters hot chocolate, one-quarter coffee.”

He nods, “Can I get you a donut or anything?”

Her face scrunches up, her nose wrinkling and wiggling to the side as she thinks and he thinks it’s the most adorable thing he’s ever seen. “Maybe some chocolate timbits, if that’s okay?”

He claps his hands together and the noise is louder than he intended and makes her jump slightly in her seat, “Of course.”

From Tim Horton’s she gives him directions to her apartment and seems to warm up a bit to him, as the hot chocolate and coffee warms her. She is talking a bit more now, between sips and bites of timbit, and he finds he wants to hear more of her small, soft voice, and even more than that her loud infectious laugh--her laugh fills the whole truck and is so much bigger than the tiny, shy girl beside him--that pours out when he cracks a dumb joke.

They finally pull up to her apartment building and he is happy to see that it is only a few minutes away from the house he shares with a bunch of his hockey teammates. As she carefully opens the door, her drink and her timbits clasped in her re-mittened hands, he finds he is reluctant to have her go.

“Uh, thanks for the Tim’s,” she says, lightly, as she hops out of the truck.

“Anytime,” he says, the word cracking a little as he pushes it out over his tongue. “See you next week, Tess.”

She doesn’t correct him on her name this time, just smiles and waves her free hand, “See you next week, Scott.”

 

**

 

It only takes three days before he sees her again. He is walking past the big glass windows of the computer lab--affectionately named the fishbowl--and he spots her over by the printers looking more than a little frustrated. Her long hair is pulled back in a braid

He has a break between classes and was just about to head to the sub shop for lunch but thinks he can spare a few minutes to see if he can help.

She startles when he says her name, spinning quickly on her toes to face him, her hand over her heart.

“Oh, hi,” she says, swallowing, as she takes in his presence.

“Having trouble?” he asks, as she turns back to the printing station, hitting the refresh key on the printing cue over and over and over.

She breathes out heavily through her nose and nods, “I keep sending my paper to the printers but it isn’t showing up in the queue and it’s due in,” she looks at the clock across the room, “fifteen minutes.”

She is clearly flustered and frustrated and maybe, he thinks, on the verge of tears and he wants to wrap her up in his arms and tell her it’ll be fine. He doesn’t know why he suddenly has this protective urge over the annoyingly perfect girl from class, but he finds that he’d do anything to help her. Luckily in this case he is pretty certain he knows the solution and it’s an easy fix. He isn’t the most tech savvy guy, he barely texts, but he’s had this problem before.

“Were you using one of the Macs?” he asks.

She nods again, biting at her bottom lip. He sees her glance up at the clock again, and then back at him.

“That’s your problem, sometimes they can be finicky sending to the printer. You need to resave the file to your student account and make sure the program is closed and then send it through your student account instead of through word.”

She walks him over the the computer station she’d been working at and of course her books and notebook and pen are all neatly lined up next to the right side of the computer, brightly coloured sticky tabs marking important quotes and pages. There is a water bottle with two slices of lemon and a granola bar laid out on a napkin to the left. He rolls his eyes and thinks that this girl really needs to relax and let loose, just a bit. He walks her through the steps to properly send her paper to the printer and he can practically feel the anxiety radiating off her as she glances once more at the wall clock.

Once the document has been sent they walk back over to the printers to find her paper waiting in the queue and he can hear her sigh of relief and actually see some of the tension leave her body as her shoulders drop down from where they’ve been up by her ears.

Once the whirring of the giant printer next to them has started, she squeals and spins on her heels, her arms wrapping around his waist as she pulls him into a quick hug. She feels warm and her body molds perfectly into the contours of his. There is something that feels so natural about having her wrapped around his body and he finds that he wants to pull her into him and hold her and never let go. He tries not to think about that, instead, he puts a single arm around her and pats her back awkwardly.

She pulls away and looks up at him with a smile pulling at her lips, her eyes bright. “Thanks.”

He stands back and watches as she runs, essay in hand, back to her computer station and begins carefully (in what appears to be a practiced order) placing all her texts and notebooks back into her school bag. She then wipes her water bottle with a napkin and places it in the side pocket. God, she’s annoying. Adorable, but annoying.

 

**

It’s a Saturday and she is in the library. It’s a Saturday and it’s also Valentine’s day and she is in the library. Has been here for the past two hours already. With Scott. It’s not like she had any other pressing Valentine’s Day plans--maybe watch sappy movies and eat an entire carton of ice cream but that’s neither here nor there--but she certainly didn’t expect to be spending Valentine’s day alone in the library with Scott. Nope.

She decided, after he bought her Tim Horton’s and saved her from trekking in the freezing cold, that she no longer hates him. But she isn’t sure she likes him enough yet to be spending her Saturday--Valentine’s Day--with him. But here she is, sitting across from him on an overstuffed, vinyl covered, couch in the common area of the library.

“Have you given any more thought to the idea of a powerpoint?” she asks, peeking up at him over top of the screen of her MacBook.

“I don’t know. I still think it’s too structured, we should let the presentation flow naturally,” he smiles at her from behind his own laptop.

“Otherwise known as you want to wing it,” she sighs and puts down her computer, resting her head in her hands. They are getting nowhere.

Last class, five days ago, Patrice had announced that they’d be working on group projects, presenting on one of the texts and themes from the course. Of course he had paired her and Scott together, and they’d drawn the short straw of having to present next class. Today was the only day the two could meet. So, here she is, on Valentine's day arguing with Scott over the merits of power points.

“I don’t want to wing it,” he says, sitting up a little straighter on the couch, shuffling forward so that he is closer to her. “I just think we should keep the discussion organic and be a little more creative...I don’t know spice things up. We could bring in baked goods. That’ll get everyone’s attention.”

He is infuriating. “What do you want to do, bake cupcakes and ice them to look like a nipple. That’ll get the class talking for sure.”

Scott claps his hands together, much too loudly for the quiet space they are in and the noise reverberates through the open space. “Yes! That’s perfect!” he practically shouts.

She raises her eyebrows sharply, she really can’t believe him. His energy is boundless, and he excites so easily—she reminds him of an oversized golden retriever. “Shh, you’re going to get us kicked out!” she grits out through her teeth. “And we are not making nipple cupcakes.”

He pouts and makes a show of crossing his arms over his chest and she can’t suppress the giggle that bubbles out from deep in her chest.

“You’re no fun.” He says.

It’s her turn to pout, her bottom lip sticking out slightly as she sighs a little louder than she meant to. Because she knows it’s true, she’s not a lot of fun, she can be a bit high strung most of the time. She knows this.

“Hey, sorry,” he says, his legs are stretched out in front of him across the long couch and he nudges her thigh with his socked foot. She shoves it away from her in mock disgust (maybe a little bit of real disgust, because who takes their shoes off in the library?).

“It’s okay, I’m just tired and could probably use more caffeine.”

He talks her into going to Starbucks. She really would rather get this project out of the way and be done with it, with him, but there is something about him that persuades her. Maybe it’s the silly way his eyebrows lift up and down, first the right, then the left--making her laugh despite herself--like a wave, when he asks. Maybe it’s the way he grabs hold of her hand, that feels so natural like their fingers had grown apart only to be meant to weave together, pulls her up with an exaggerated grunt. Maybe it’s the gentle teasing in his voice, the way that he prods her that is only intended to get a laugh. Maybe it’s the way his face lights up, the greens in his eyes becoming more obvious, his tooth bearing smile, when she does laugh. Maybe it’s none of these things, maybe he is just right and some coffee and a change of scenery would be good for them.

They pack up their books and computers and head out of the library, following the enticing scent of  freshly brewed coffee to the campus Starbucks upstairs. The small coffee spot is of course tastefully decorated for the holiday--hearts, and cherubs, and roses in various shades of pinks and reds hang from the ceiling on fishing line, or are taped to the sides of tables and the till with scotch tape.

“It looks like cupid puked in here,” Tessa says as soon as they walk up to the counter.

“You aren’t a Valentine’s fan? Not feeling the love today, Tess?” he nudges her in the ribs with the point of his elbow.

She rolls her eyes, “Ah yes, I am irrationally mad at holiday decorations because I’m so happy to be at school doing homework on Valentine’s day...but come on you have to admit that this is over the top. Look, that chubby little baby Cupid has a penis,” she points to one of the red Cupid cutouts behind the till, where someone has clearly added some extra details with taped on red construction paper.

He laughs, it’s a deep rumble that starts from somewhere within his chest and fills the space around her with a warm blanket of sound that she wants to stay wrapped in for as long as she can. He throws his head back and his eyes close and she isn’t sure what she said was the funny, but his laugh fills her with giddiness all the same.

“How about you, am I keeping you away from a hot date?” She is going for light and teasing but even to her own surprise her words come out with a bit of a jealous bite to them.

He chuckles a little again and shakes his head like its a ridiculous question. “Nah. Not this year at least.”

They get their coffees, she insists on paying this time, showing him how overstuffed her wallet was with change from working at the bar Thursday. “What is this good for if not for buying coffee,” she says, paying the barista.

“So, do you only work Thursday nights?” he asks as they find a table to sit, three low hanging hearts dangle above their heads.

“Yeah,” she says quietly, her foot automatically going to run up and down her shin, her heel pushing into the tender muscle. “It’s all I can handle...with school and dance. I, uh, only work a few hours but it’s nice to have a bit of extra money.”

“Hopefully it’s worth putting up with jackasses like my roommates,” he says, taking off the lid of his black coffee and letting steam pour out and curl over the rim. “I’m still sorry about that.”

He sounds so genuinely concerned, his voice turning soft around the edges and curling around her like the steam from his drink.

“It’s really okay, I’m used to it,” she says with a shrug, because she is.

“I’m still sorry.”

She watches as the steam rises off the top of his coffee and swirls around in the air, catching dust and sunlight as is lifts towards the cardboard hearts above them, leaving condensation on their waxy surfaces. They sit in quiet for a moment and she thinks it should be awkward, she should want to fill the silence with something but she doesn’t, and it’s not.

Eventually, they pull out their computers and their books and get to work on their presentation. Though it takes a bunch more needling, he agrees to do a small powerpoint. So long as it’s just images that will prompt their talking points. When they finally wrap up, it’s close to six and her stomach is doing flips, loudly complaining about her lack of sustenance. She knows if she waits another half hour or so the feeling with go away and she won’t feel hungry anymore. It reminds her of being in ballet school and she feels a pang if guilt.

Her stomach growls again, though instead of a low rumble this time is lets out a beastly growl. She bites her lip and turns her head away from him as she packs her things back in her bag, embarrassed that he must have heard her body’s complaints.

“Do you have dinner plans?” he asks.

“No, but I better getting going before I’m too tired to feed myself.”

She can see him thinking. Watches how his eyes flick between her own and the floor. Can see the pull of the muscles in his jaw as he grinds his teeth together. Can see the slight furrow in his brow as he decides what he’s going to say next, his forehead creasing. He swallows and she watches the movement of his throat.   

“Want to go to Boston Pizza with me? We can share a heart shaped pizza and make fun of dorky couples.”

Chapter Text

Scott’s an idiot. It is 6:45pm on Valentine’s Day when they pull into the Boston Pizza and of course he doesn’t have a reservation, he hadn’t had a date until a half hour ago—even if it’s not really a date. He hadn’t thought through the fact that the restaurant would actually be busy on the busiest date night of the year. Idiot.

They end up on the end of a long high-top table next to the bar with three other couples seated next to them. There is simple tea light on the table between them flickering and illuminating Tessa’s eyes. He is watching how the reflection of the small flame dances in her eyes, darkening the greens in them, while she stirs her straw around in her diet coke--the sound of ice clinking around in her glass permeates the silence between them, that and the loud chatter from the couple next to them.

“Why did you decide to be a teacher?” Tessa asks, tilting her head a little to the side and focusing her gaze on him. He looks down at the table and starts fiddling a bit with his coaster as he talks.

“I’ve always really liked to coach. I coached hockey and a little figure skating back home. I started when I was in high school and, yeah...I’ve never been good enough at hockey to play at a higher level than the varsity team but I’ve always loved coaching it.”

When he looks back up at her, her eyes are still trained to him, completely and utterly focused. She is nodding a little bit as she follows along, her lips pulling ever so slightly into a smile as he starts to discuss the teams he’s coached. She has this way, he thinks, of making you feel like you are in only one in the room. The only one that matters. He knows that she is fully absorbed in listening to him, taking in every single word he is saying and caching it away.

“So, yeah...that’s why I thought teaching would be a good fit.”

She smiles brightly now, her cheeks dimpling and pushing up towards her eyes, “That is a great reason to want to be a teacher.” Her voice is so soft and sweet, dripping with honey. He wonders, briefly if her lips would taste as sweet, pressed up against his.

“What about you; why English Lit? Also, how the hell did you manage to get yourself into a fourth year seminar?”

She bites at her bottom lip to suppress a shy smile and then she breathes in sharply through her nose. “Well, I picked lit because I like to read...and well... honestly, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it. I didn’t know if I’d stay in University.”

“No?”

She shakes her head. “No, it was meant to be a placeholder but I really love learning, so I stayed.” He wants to question her, to ask what school was meant to be a placeholder for, but she doesn’t give him a chance before barreling on. “As for the seminar, I took some time off in the fall, for, uh, health reasons and did a bunch of correspondence classes and stuff and I doubled up a bit on the credits. When I went to the academic advisor just before Christmas she said I could take this one based on some of the other courses I’d managed on my own. It’s harder than I thought it’d be though.”

She has her hands folded on the table in front of her fidgeting with the rings on her left hand middle finger and he resists the urge to place one of his over top of hers to stil them. “You’re doing a pretty good job so far.”

He can see the blush forming in her cheeks, highlighting each one of her freckles. “Thanks.”

The waiter brings their food and the pizza really is shaped like a heart. It really is ridiculous and over the top and he loves it. He is a romantic at heart.

“This is so cheesy,” Tessa says on a laugh, arching her eyebrows and pulling out a slice for herself.  The cheese stretches and nearly slides off, before she carefully puts it on her plate.

He smiles at her, “I see what you did there.”

She smiles this little self satisfied smirk that is annoyingly endearing and so perfectly Tessa.

I am so fucked, he thinks.

 

**

I found my old copy of Frankenstein if you still haven’t bought it yet.

The texts comes in as she is leaving her Gothic Lit seminar, just about ready to stumble into the library and crash on the couches. She stayed up until 3 am finishing her We Have Always lived in The Castle paper. She is exhausted and wishes she never picked lit as a major.

Awesome, thanks. She types out a shorter than normal response as she weaves around the throng of people headed in and out of the row of lecture halls. She breathes in deep, counting to four before exhaling, trying to steady herself against the feelings of claustrophobia as she navigates the crowd.

Tired? He texts back, knowing she had stayed up late--having texted him at 2:52am tell him she finally finished the paper.

Dead. She feels the corners of her lips lifting in a small, sleepy smile as she responds.

It’s been like this since their Valentine’s Day date, that they never really classified as a date. They text all the time now. The messages usually start with something relating to school but their conversations always continue beyond that, seeping into their everyday lives.

She started it by texting him the day after Valentine’s Day. Sitting across from him at dinner she’d been awash with this strange sense of comfort—like the gentle ripple of the cool lake waves lapping over her feet at the cottage in the summer.  It was something she’d never felt with anyone before. It was just easy to be with him, even if he was a bit of an annoying prick. She thinks it was probably the way he looked at her, his eyes trained on hers while she spoke, never leaving her face until she finished speaking. Or the way his voice wraps around her name when he says it, like it was always meant to be on his tongue—along with his litany of nicknames he has for her. Or the way he smiles and it looks like it’s just for her. All she knows is she’s never found people easy and she’s always struggled with certain levels of comfort and openness around others, like she’s built up a fortress around herself and he’s managed to slip right through a crack she hadn’t even known existed.

So, the next morning while she sat alone in her room trying to focus on reading Middlemarch, finding herself doing little else but read the same three lines over and over and over, she thought of him. And the more she found herself thinking of him the more she had felt herself wanting to be back in the moment, to be back to the day before wrapped up in the cozy comfort of his presence. So she’d texted him:

Did you ever take Seeber’s Victorian Lit class?

The response had come right away, she’d barely had a chance to slide the keyboard of her phone closed when it was buzzing in her hand. God, yes. So dry. And seriously, why no Dickens? It’s Victorian Lit for Christ sake.

That little exchange had led to near daily conversations over the last month. And they meet for coffee, or to study on campus too. She’d never liked doing school work with someone else before, preferred the quiet of working alone but it’s different with him. She feels more relaxed just having him sit next to her. And sometimes she’ll look up at him, all focused on his work, his jaw set tight, his brow furrowed and his forehead creased, and it’s like he senses she’s looking at him and he’ll look up and smile at her, that smile that feels like it belongs only to her. All soft and quiet and pure happiness. And when she reads him something she is trying to write but just can’t make sense of he always knows exactly how to untangle her thoughts, no matter how jumbled and nonsensical they seem he always repeats what she wants to say back to her with perfect clarity—like he can see into her mind and solves her thoughts like they are a simple jigsaw puzzle. She even finds that she enjoys his near constant teasing, and their back and forth bickering.

She’s about to push open the library doors, her school bag laden with books already starting to dig painfully into her shoulder, when she gets another text from Scott.

Need a pick me up? Meet me at Starbucks, I already ordered your fav.

 

**

 

Scott’s hair is still damp from his shower as he adjusts his gym bag on his shoulder and heads toward the cafeteria to grab a post workout chocolate milk. He’s barely gone a few steps when he hears music drifting from the slightly ajar door of studio one. It’s classical music, something with a quick tempo, that sounds incredibly familiar but he just can’t place it. He walks over slowly, drawn in by the sounds and peeks through the small window in the door.

She’s there, dancing by herself in the middle of the room, lost to anything else around her. Tessa . She moves so beautifully to the music, like it’s instinct. Her arms float around her like wings caught in the melodic breeze of the song.

The music picks up, the sound of low, loud bells filling the space around her before the music picks up almost frantically and she bends her knees and lifts herself up on to the ball one foot and begins to spin, faster and faster, her free leg tucking into the crook of her knee. Every few rotations she extends her free leg to pull her body around, and around. and around.

It’s mesmerizing and he finds himself pushing the door open and stepping into the small studio. He is standing behind her at the back of the room and watches her in the floor to ceiling mirrors along the opposite wall. His head begins to swivel with the movement of her body and he finds himself getting dizzy just watching her, but he can’t bring himself to pull his eyes away. He stares at her reflection in the mirror and catches the look of fierce determination in her eyes. It looks like there is a storm brewing beneath their surface and her jaw is set in a way that looks like she could eat him alive. It leaves him nearly breathless.

If she noticed him come in she doesn’t let on, just continues her spinning until she gradually loses rhythm with the music and slows herself to a stop--flushed and breathless.

“Holy shit,” he sputters from behind her.

She startles as she looks up in the mirror, hand coming to rest over her crimson stained chest, and sees him staring back at her reflection.

“Uh, hi,” she murmurs, casting her eyes back down. They had come to some sort of silent mutual agreement to attempt a friendship after their Valentine’s Day date, but he still isn’t sure how she feels about him. She doesn’t hate him anymore, which is a step in the right direction—in fact he thinks she may like him, but steadfastly refuses to admit to it—but he feels like coming in unannounced and watching her dance might be overstepping some boundaries in their newly formed friendship.

They’ve been meeting for coffee twice a week since Valentine’s, and he’s been driving her home after their Monday classes. They’ve patched together a tentative friendship, based solely off the fact that they are in class together—well, that’s how she acts at least, he finds himself just wanting to get to know her more and more.

He has learned that she is brilliant and quick-witted, but shy and a little insecure. He has learned she comes from a big family—like himself—and is the baby. He’s learned that she bites at her bottom lip and fidgets with her rings, spinning them around and around her finger, when she is nervous. He has learned she has the best laugh, it’s loud and unfiltered, and when she really gets going she snorts—when she realizes this she always blushes the prettiest shade of pink. He wants to learn more. He can’t help but feel drawn to her, to feel compelled to spend more time with this enigma of a girl in front of him, and he hopes she feels the same.

“Sorry,” he starts. “I heard the music and came in. I probably shouldn’t have...but Jesus Christ, what was that you were doing? Those turns, they were incredible.”

He sees the beginnings of a shy smile form on her lips, her cheeks turning a darker shade of red. “The fouettés?” she asks.  

“Sure,” he says. “Whatever they’re called, wow. You should be at the National Ballet or something.”

Her smile falters then, she draws in a deep breath and tucks her bottom lip between her teeth, her eyes casting downward. She looks like she might cry. Shit, he screwed something up, so he hurries over to her side.

“I’m sorry, did I say something wrong?”

She shakes her head. “No, it’s not you. You wouldn’t have known. I, uh, I did used to dance seriously and was supposed to join the national ballet last year. But, uh, I hurt my legs… an overuse thing. So I came here, picked English as a major because I like to read… I thought I’d train still, but do school to take my mind off things and re audition for the ballet… but it got to the point where I couldn’t even walk without pain, so I had surgery this fall on my shins just to be able to walk and take a few dance classes a week. That’s why I had time off in the fall.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry T.” He finds he really is. He isn’t sure how he’d handle it if he was injured and couldn’t play hockey anymore, even just for the school team.

She shrugs. “It’s okay.”

Then something dawns on him. He thinks back to that time he watched her hesitate to give up her seat at the bus stop, and he’s maybe a giant idiot. “When was your surgery?”

“Um, in October. I had rehab back home, in London for a few weeks before coming back here...and honestly I probably should have waited. I could hardly walk when I came back. Was on crutches until mid November.”

He’s an ass.

“I’m sorry,” he says again.

She shrugs again, as if to say it’s okay, even though he knows it’s not. She moves over to where her bag is at the front of the room and he follows. They both sit down on the floor in front of the mirrors as she drinks from her water bottle, the same one from the computer lab, with lemon slices.

“Your dancing really is beautiful,” he says, his voice low, as he turns to face her. “Whatever you’re working on seems really, uh, intense though.”

She laughs lightly and the sound rings through the room, “It’s Carmen.”

She says it like it should mean something to him, like he should know exactly what she’s talking about. She studies his face and seems to realize that her revelation means nothing to him. She shakes her head, but she is still smiling.

“Carmen, the opera… it’s, uh, it is intense. Carmen basically drives Don Jose to insanity because he wants her so badly… he ends up killing her. It’s much better with a partner. But I love the music and I’m supposed to do a solo in our spring show.”

“Well, I love it. I’m sure it’ll be great.” She looks like she doesn’t quite believe him, but he means every word. And he totally understands how a man could get driven to insanity by a beautiful woman.

“I’ve always loved the music to Carmen, but I’ve never gotten to dance to it before. My teachers didn’t think I could handle it.”

“Why?”

She sigh and shakes her head, “Same reason you thought I couldn’t handle our class. Lack of experience, so to speak. Carmen is a temptress. You need to be able to bring a certain intensity and… um, sexuality to the part.”

You seem pretty tempting to me, Scott thinks as he swallows hard.

“I’m sure you can do it.”

She shakes her head again, her hair coming loose from her ponytail, framing her still red-flushed face. She looks at him then, taking him in, like she is trying to figure something out before she speaks.

“Maybe you could help me?” Her words are careful.

He swallows. “Help you how?”

“We’re friends now, right?”

He nods, any words he might be able to come up with getting lodged in his throat.

“Maybe… I don’t know,” she stops and starts a few more times, “maybe I’m being silly.”

“No idea you have could be silly, Tess.”

She draws in a deep steadying breath, trying to prepare herself for what she wants to ask, pushing her hair back from her face and looking into his eyes, her gaze strong and determined and filled with fire—similar to the look she sported while she was dancing.

“Teach me,” she says her voice lower and rougher than he’s ever heard it.

He draws one hand up to her cheek, rubbing his thumb against her bottom lip. “Teach you what, Tess?”

He has his back against the mirror, his legs stretched out in front of him. She pulls herself up, lifting one leg over his so that she’s straddling his lap. “I need to learn… to have some life experiences,” she says, “and you say you want to be a teacher, so, teach me.”

He tries to think of what he’s eaten today, did he have enough? Did he drink enough water? Because he’s pretty certain that he passed out at the gym and this is a hallucination. This can’t be real. Is she propositioning him? He isn’t really sure how to answer her because they just started becoming friends, she just stopped hating him, he isn’t sure he wants to ruin that, because he truly does like her company. But she is straddling his lap, and he swears he feels her roll her hips just a little and she is looking at him with her doey green eyes, that one second ago were scorching and now are vulnerable.

She wants him to teach her about sex. That’s how his mind has followed this conversation. How he is reading what she is saying and fuck, fuck, fuck. How is he supposed to say no to that?

So he doesn’t say anything at all, just draws his hand to the back of her neck and pulls her in toward him and presses his lips against hers. She tastes like summer, like lemon and everything warm and bright. She is a little slow to respond but when she does, when she finally moves her lips against his, he finds they fit so perfectly. He guides her head with his hand, cupping the back of it. She takes the hint, tilting her head slightly to grant him better access to the seam of her lips. He uses his tongue to part them and then slips it inside of her mouth. She follows his lead easily, moaning into his lips, the vibrations traveling the length of his body. He can feel all his blood rushing south along with them.

This time he is sure of it when he feels her hips roll into his, her entire body shifting forward to press against his. This time it’s him who lets out a strangled moan. You can have sex with a friend without it being awkward, right? Probably not in the dance studio at school, he thinks.

Reluctantly, he pulls away from her, breathless and panting. She rests her forehead against his, her own heavy breathing mixing with his. They are breathing in tandem, so that he is inhaling each of her exhales.

“You’re a good teacher and a good friend,” she says in between exaggerated breaths.

“You’re a good student,” he says, brushing back some strands of hair that have stuck to her wet, swollen lips.

She grins and it’s a little bit wicked. “I’ve always been a bit of a teachers pet.”

He is so, so fucked. “I bet.”

They stay there for a few moments, breathing each other in before she pulls herself up off his lap and he is immediately hit with the lack of contact, he feels the cool air of the studio rush over him.

“Want to watch a movie or something?” she asks as she pulls her sweater on over her bodysuit.

“Yeah.” A movie, like normal friends who didn’t just spend the last ten minutes making out. “Just gimme a minute.”

 

**

 

“We can’t just jump right into having sex, kiddo,” he kisses her on the nose, just a little peck right on the tip and the smile that tugs at his lips is filled with such genuine affection that she can’t help but smile back.

Though, ‘kiddo’ is definitely not the nickname she wants him to use while she straddles his hips, faced flushed, lips puffy and pink from kissing him, while trying to convince him that they should just have sex already. It’s been a week and a half since she asked him to be her teacher, a week and a half since they first kissed. Even though she knows he’s right, knows she’s not ready she can’t help but feel annoyed at his reluctance to just fuck her already—even if that reluctance is really for her own benefit. She pushes down the urge to pout and put her hands on her hips in protest.

“Why not?” she argues, and she does pout just a little.

He kisses her, nipping a little at her protruding bottom lip. “Tess, baby. Don’t look at me like that. t’s not that I don’t want to. Fuck, I do. But I’m not going to, you know… I just, I really want you to be ready. Besides, you have to master the basics before you move on to the tough stuff right? And I think you’ve really been enjoying the basics.”

He’s not wrong and she hates that just a bit. No matter how much she’s grown to like him, to crave being around him, how much she loves his hands all over her, longs for his fingers crooked inside her coaxing her to the edge, she still hates when he’s right. She rolls her hips, feeling him hard through his jeans, as she plants butterfly kisses down the column of his throat. She can feel his strangled moan vibrate through her lips.

“I am enjoying the basics,” she whispers against his skin. “But I’m a quick studier, I think we can move on to something harder.”

Her heart picks up and she surprises even herself with her boldness as she trails her lips lower and lower down his bare chest--his shirt already discarded somewhere around the halfway point  of the movie they pretended to be interested in watching. She pauses when she reaches the top of his jeans, the fumble of her fingers on his button betraying her nervousness.

Her voice doesn’t waver as she husks out, “Teach me what you like.”

She is fairly certain she feels him stop breathing for a solid twenty seconds when she palms him through his boxers, her mouth hovering right above the waistband.

 

**

 

He wants the first time to be special for her. He isn’t sure why he finds it so important, but he thinks it’s something she deserves. He wants her first time to be perfect (though she’ll tell him perfection doesn’t exist). First he thought of lighting candles and making her a nice dinner, maybe he could give her a massage, but that’s too romantic. They aren’t dating. He doesn’t know what they are, but they aren’t dating.

He plans it for Saturday night, when all his roommates are away. He thinks maybe they can go mini-putting and he’ll bring her home and make her dinner anyways—pasta and pull apart garlic bread, with her favourite chocolate brownie ice cream for dessert— and just forgo the candles. Then, he thinks, they can watch The Breakfast Club , because she says she’s never seen it. He’ll turn the lights down low, and she can snuggle into his chest while they watch. He buys a pack of condoms and puts them in his night stand—deciding to toss the couple buried in the bottom of his backpack from when he won condom poker during Frosh week. He plans to wash his sheets on Friday night and tidy his room and definitely clean the bathroom.

He has plans. Good plans. Woo-Tessa-plans. All his plans fly right out the window when it just happens on Wednesday.

They were meant to be working on their final papers for banned books but instead are sitting side by side on her couch watching jeopardy. Their books, notes and computers strewn on the coffee table in front of them. She has her legs tucked up underneath her, her hair piled messily on top of her head, clad in just a tank top and leggings—her Adidas hoodie discarded along the back of the couch.

“Protagonist!” Tessa shouts at the TV before Alex even finishes reading From the Greek for “first competitor” it’s your leading character.

He laughs, pulling her into his side, “You’re supposed to say ‘What is…’ before your answer kiddo. So, that doesn’t count.”

He can hear her huff as she snuggles into his chest further, before grumbling, “I was right, still counts.”

“Nope, you didn’t follow the rules. So what do you want to lose: the pants or the top?”

She pulls herself away from him then, just enough to look at him and arch an eyebrow. The blue from the TV screen reflecting in the greens of her eyes the flickering light making her irises look like rippling ocean waves. She is so beautiful, when she looks at him like she is deciding whether she should smack him or laugh at him. He meant it as a joke, really, because the last time she’d gotten a question wrong just so happened to be the moment she decided she was too warm and had shucked off her sweater.

He’s about to say he was just kidding, when she cocks her head and smiles at him. It’s a new smile, one filled with promise, dripping with molten want.

She shuffles away from him on the couch and leans back, her head resting on the arm of the couch.

“How ‘bout you take the pants?” She says, her voice quiet and raw, barely carrying over Alex’s voice from the TV.

He swallows and nods, unable to formulate words he instead runs his palms up the length of her legs, over her thin leggings. He can feel how she shivers under his touch as he reaches the waistband, dipping his fingers underneath. He looks up at her, scanning her face to make sure she is still okay with him undressing her, she nods and lifts her hips off the couch just enough for him to slide her pants down over her ass. And then she is laying there on her white couch, her dark hair having come loose from its tie haloed around her head, in nothing but a little black thong and tank top. He can see her nipples pebbling through the thin material and he’s already half hard. And then he’s on top of her, pressing into her, kissing her fiercely while she wraps her legs around his hips, pulling him in impossibly close.

He manages to maneuver his hand in between their bodies, pushing her thong off to the side before circling her clit a few times before pressing the pad of his thumb down on it. She moans into his mouth and the sound travels down his own throat. He moves his fingers lower to slide through her folds, feeling how wet she already is he slips a finger inside her, then another. He feels her clench around him as she grinds herself into the palm of his hand. He crooks his fingers inside her, rubbing circles against her inner walls while he presses the heel of his hand into her clit. He catches all the breathy little sounds she’s making with his lips.

With her lips pressed to his pulse point he can feel more than hear her whisper, “please,” against his skin. “Please Scott,” and the way her voice wraps around his name, pushing it out with her exhale all soft and breathy, he would give her anything she asked for. “I need you.”

“Condom?” he asks.

It takes her a moment to come back to herself before she reaches out her arm to pull her school bag from where it rested next to the coffee table, toward her. “I, uh, I put a few in here… just in case.”

It barely takes a moment for him to strip out of his jeans and t-shirt while she slides her underwear and tank top off.  Then he is hovering over her, both completely bare, condom slid over his hard cock and he hardly registers how he got here, but then she’s tugging him closer and canting her hips toward his and he realizes this is it. It is happening now.

“Do you want it like this?” he asks, “Or would you rather be on top?”

“Like this. It feels, uh, safer,” she says the last part so quietly he barely hears her over the TV.

“Tess, we don’t have to--”

She wraps her leg around his hips and presses her heel into his ass, “I want you, Scott. I’m ready.”

He takes it slow, as slowly as he can muster, feeling her tight heat wrapped around him is almost too much. She shifts a little underneath him, and he peppers her face with kisses, asking if she is alright. She nods and moves her hips experimentally, smiling a little when he groans. They move together, slowly, carefully, kissing each other and adjusting to the feeling of being together like this.

“Teach me what you like,” she says.

He shakes his head, “T, just this, being inside you this is enough for me. This is about you, let me find out what’s good for you.” He pulls out and then pushes back into her hitting a downward angle, and she bites back a moan.

“That seems to work,” she hums. So he does it again, and again, and again. Until he is moving faster and harder and the noises she makes are getting louder and more breathy and he feels her muscles flutter around him contracting and relaxing as she lets out a little sigh and it only takes three more pumps before he’s coming.

They lay together catching their breaths for a moment, and he shifts his weight so he’s not squishing her. Everything is quiet accept the sounds of their breathing and Alex Tribeck’s voice saying, “We are fools in Love” is a quote from this 19th century romance.

“What is Pride and Prejudice,” Tessa calls out from underneath him, her laugh lost to his lips pressed against hers.

He’s definitely a fool, and he just might be in love.

 

**

It’s much cooler now than when they went into the theatre and she shivers as soon as they step out into the open air of the parking lot. Scott runs his hands up and down her arms, in an attempt to warm them.

He wraps his arm around her shoulder, quickly kissing the top of her head before releasing her.

“Well kiddo, that movie was kinda weird.”

“I liked it.”

“It was basically Pocahontas, except blue.”

“Whatever,” she rolls her eyes at him, “you seemed pretty into it.”

“The CGI was pretty great, and I guess some of the 3D was cool,” he concedes.

They are halfway to his car when she looks up at the sky. The night is crisp and clear the full moon illuminates the space around it. She can feel her cheeks pinking under the cool spring breeze but finds she doesn’t want to stop looking at the sky just yet.

“It’s so beautiful out tonight,” she sighs as they reach the truck and he fumbles around in his pocket for the keys.

“Do you wanna go for a walk?” he watches her shiver as he asks and then smiles, “You can wear my sweater.”

She wants nothing more than to walk around the little neighbourhood with him, soaking in the smells of spring and the beauty of the night sky, feeling the warmth of his body next to her, walking in time.

“Won’t you be cold?”

He shrugs. “I have a long sleeve underneath, I’ll be fine.”

His sweater is warm when she puts it on, letting the sleeves hang over her hands, and it smells like him. She thinks wearing his clothes, right of his body, being wrapped up in his warmth and his scent, is the next best thing to being wrapped up in him.

They walk side by side, their strides in perfect sync. His hand keeps brushing up against the back of hers as they walk--nowhere in particular, just walk--until she untucks her fingers from inside the sleeve of his sweater and he takes her hand in his, their fingers slotting perfectly together, as if they’d been moulded that way.

She feels warm and light all over, like a hot air balloon ready to float away, his hand anchoring her to the ground. She knows her smile is just as light as she feels.

“Has anyone ever told you,” he says softly, squeezing her hand, “you have the prettiest smile.”

 

**

The diner is hot, the sun streaming through the big windows kisses her bare shoulders, her sweater discarded behind her on the booth, leaving her just in her tank top. Scott’s arm brushes against hers and she feels the prickle of her hairs standing up on end as goosebumps raise on her skin. It is curious the kind of reaction her body has, just to the simple brush of his arm against hers when he has touched her all over, when she has felt every inch of his flesh pressed against hers. The heat spreading through her body, from both the sun and his feather light touch distracting her from how gross she feels.

Kaitlyn and Andrew are sitting in the booth across from them, both groaning loudly over their hangovers as they pick at their eggs. Kaitlyn had the bright idea last night while they were out at the bar for their friend Kaetlyn’s nineteenth birthday, and had run into Scott and Andrew, that they should all meet for brunch this morning. It had been a good idea in theory.

“I wish they sold tacos here,” Tessa groans, resting her head on her folded arms. 

“Tacos? Really, T? That doesn’t seem at all appealing right now,” Scott leans his weight into her, nudging her over.

“It’s what they eat in Gilmore Girls for hangovers. I bet it works way better than these disgusting eggs.”

“Well, maybe if you didn’t get slimy poached eggs, getting goop all over your plate… and tacos definitely won’t cure your hangover. I told you you should get coffee, not chocolate milk.”

She takes a deep breath, but can’t help her slight smile. “Poached eggs are the best, you’ve just never had mine.”

Kaitlyn who had just stuffed a piece of buttered toasted into her mouth, wiping crumbs off her chin with the sleeve of her sweater looks up at the two of them with a knowing smile, holding her hand up for them to wait while she finishes chewing. “She’s right. Tessa makes the best poached eggs. Just about the only thing she can make, though.”

Scott pokes her in the ribs with his elbow. “I’ll believe it when I try it. Poached eggs are gross.”

“You’re gross,” she counters without thinking.

She sees the smile slowly creep up from Scott’s lips to his eyes, they look bright in the sun, a light green flecked with gold. She gets caught up in his gaze, thinking of when he was over her, in her, staring into into her eyes as he came unravelled. They are both lost in a moment, in a room that is not this sweaty diner, forgetting who they are with.

“I know for a fact that you do not find me gross, T.” He goes to kiss the side of her head before coming back to himself, realizing their friends are across the table from them.

Tessa’s breath quickens and she can feel her heartbeat pick up as blood rushes to her cheeks. She looks to Kaitlyn and her friend simply raises her eyebrows in response.

“So, Tess,” Kaitlyn starts, “have you thought more about Paris?”

“Paris?” Scott looks to her, eyes wide, brows raised.

“Uh, yeah. An old family friend, actually she was an exchange student who stayed with us when I was little, called my mom a few weeks ago to ask if maybe I wanted to go visit them in Paris for the summer. They’d give me spending money in exchange for tutoring their kids in English… kind of like an Au Pair.”

Scott studies her for a few moments and she knows that she should have told him sooner but she didn’t know how he’d react. She knows that he is staying in town until the end of June because he volunteers at an after school mentorship program (he says he does it because it will help him get a job once he is finished teachers college next year, but she knows that he really cares about the kids he is working with) and she is staying until the end of her spring Shakespeare class mid June and she’s been afraid of the after. They’ve been fooling around since mid March and it’s now the beginning of May and they haven’t ever discussed what they are to each other. She’s been afraid of what two months apart will do to them, will he even care?

“Tess,” he smiles and it’s her favourite smile, the one he seems to hold just for her--all soft and sweet. “I wish you’d told me. You love Paris, you told me you’ve always wanted to go.  I am so happy for you,” he places a hand over her and rubs little circles on her wrist with his thumb.

She looks at their hands on the table. Looks at how his completely engulfs hers, keeping it safe and warm underneath it. Looks at the veins that run down his arms and branch out of the tops of his hands, made more prominent with each small movement of his thumb. She can swear she sees them pulsing and wonders if his heart is beating as quickly as her own.

“Thank you,” she says, voice soft, getting lost along with the dust spinning in the beams of sunlight streaking through the window.

“I’m going to go pay,” Scott says, letting go of her hand.

“I should too,” she starts to get out after him, shuffling along the bench.

“No way, kiddo, it’s my treat.”

She watches Scott’s back as he walks, his black t-shirt pulling tightly against his shoulders, and smiles to herself.

“So, you and Scott!” Kaitlyn says, much too loudly, her voice bangs around in Tessa’s head.

“Kaitlyn! We aren’t dating or anything.”

“But you like him?” he eyebrows dance and her eyes widen, the and you’re sleeping with him goes unsaid.

I do like him. I really, really do. She thinks.

 

**

 

It happens on her twentieth birthday. He takes her to the lake where they walk around in the late spring breeze, fingers sticky from melting ice cream cones. They stroll hand in hand down the length of the pier, listening to the song made by waves thrashing against concrete and screeching seagulls. She tucks herself into his side when they reach the rocks at the end, it’s chillier out here and her light cardigan isn’t doing enough against the wind.

He smiles against her lips and he tastes like bubblegum ice cream.

“Happy birthday, Tess,” he says brushing her hair away from her face. He says it so tenderly that she wonders if it’s becoming more for him too. If his heart beats quicker when he touches her, too. If he thinks of her when they aren’t together like she thinks of him—feels like he is missing apart of himself like she feels the loss of him. If he wants more. More than just sex.

He brings her home, to her apartment, and Kaitlyn is staying with Andrew. So he kisses her long and slow, taking his time to explore her mouth with his own right there in the front hall as soon as soon as the door shuts behind them. And some more with her pressed against the door of her room, peppering kissing down her neck and along the length of her collarbone. She arches into him as he sucks a rose coloured mark into her skin.

He takes his time undressing her, carefully peeling off each layer, like he is unwrapping a precious gift. It might be her birthday, but he is treating her like she’s the best gift he’s ever received and he’s going to cherish her as long as he can. It’s different this time, than the times they’ve been together before. It feels like more, like they are building to something.

She is bolder now, more confident—before she would lay out underneath him feeling too exposed, and too in control to ride him. This time when he lies himself down next to after fitting himself with a condom, she doesn’t hesitate to lift one leg over him, to straddle his hips and sink down onto him, slowly as he fills her inch by inch. Once she’s taken him all the way in she leans down to kiss him, while his hands move to find purchase on her hips. She kisses him once, twice, three times, before drawing back up, so that he can take in all of her and she can look at him, her eyes traveling from where they are joined, watching him slip in and out of her before raking her gaze over the smooth plane of his stomach, her fingers delicately tracing the same path as her eyes over his chest.

With his hands on her hips, he guides her movements until she finds a rhythm of her own. He runs a hand up her waist, over the ridges of her ribs and around to cup her breast and run his thumb over her nipple. Her whole body shudders at the sensation and she leans back, bracing herself with her hands on his thighs and she moves her hips in a circular motion.

It’s different than it has been before because their movements are slow and deliberate. They are quiet except for the sounds of their laboured breathing and their bodies joining together.

She can feel the crest of her release building, her inner walls start to flutter and she waits for the ripple of the little wave to wash over her, but right before it does, right before she feels that little sigh of relief he pulls her back down to him, locking his lips to hers as he thrusts into her. And oh. The feeling keeps building. At this angle he is hitting just the right spot deep inside her, and her clit is rubbing against his pubic bone and it’s almost more than she can handle.

She can feel her muscles contracting as her pleasure builds higher than it ever has before, and he seems to realize, to know exactly what she needs as he reaches his hands back towards her hips, pushing them down as he thrusts up, guiding her up and over the tidal wave that crashes into her. All she can do while she rides out the wave is pant out his name along a string of expletives, her eyes rolling back and her breath caught up in her chest.

It’s his name breathed out against the soft skin of his neck that pushes him over the edge with her, coming with a low grunt.

“Fuck,” he breathes out, as she drapes herself over his body.

“Fuck is right,” she says her lips still brushing against his pulse point. “I didn’t know it could feel like that. That was… wow.”

He laughs, a low chuckle that shakes his body, and she can feel him move where he is still inside of her. She can feel his pulse thrumming through his softening cock, the beat of his heart matching hers.

“I told you I knew what I was doing, kiddo.”

She laughs and the movement pushes him out of her, and she feels a bit bereft at the loss.

“I love you.” The words bubble up and out of her, like a carbonated drink opened to fast and she can’t get the lid back on in time.

She knows she’s felt it for a while, but she wasn’t ready to say it. Now that she has, she feels more naked and exposed than she already is, her bare body still pressed against his.

She feels him still beneath her and she is about to get up, to jump in her shower and wash everything away. But then he brings a hand up to gently stroke her hair, kissing the top of her head.

“You’re so beautiful, Tess.”

 

**

 

He hasn’t seen her in two weeks. They’ve had sex twice since she told him she loved him and the words caught up in his mouth to big and too heavy to push out with his tongue.

They hung out a handful of times too, and each time he meant to say it back. To tell her she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever met, that she’s too perfect and she drives him crazy and he loves her so much that he hardly understands it. But the words never come out. And each time he saw her and didn’t say it, the further she seemed to retreat back into that shell of hers that he’d so painstakingly peeled away.

He doesn’t know why he hasn’t been able to say it back. He feels it. He really, really does. Maybe it’s because he thinks she shouldn’t love him. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go, and she’s not supposed to fall in love with the first guy she sleeps with, even if he loves her back and the thought of not having her in his life makes him feel lost and empty.

And then her Spring class had ended and she went back home to spend time with her mom and sister before jetting off to France for the rest of the summer. And it’s been two weeks since he’s seen her. His life feels kind of hollow. Like he’s just going through the motions. He misses her. It’s been two weeks and he misses her.

It’s when he texts her the day before she leaves that he realizes that he can’t let her go for two months without telling her how he feels.

Hey kiddo, ready for Paris? He’d asked.

Yeah. Is the only response he gets, an hour and a half later.  It nearly breaks him.

So, he spends the next hour playing an elaborate game of phone tag. First texting Andrew for Kaitlyn’s number and then Kaitlyn for Tessa’s sister, Jordan’s, number. He then spends two hours begging Jordan to help him, before she reluctantly agrees.

Hurt my sister and I will kill you, is the last message he gets from her.

Now, he’s at the Pearson International Airport, rushing through departures trying to find the Tim Hortons that’s outside of security. He’s so focused on finding the tell tell Tim’s logo that he almost runs her over.

“Scott?” he voice is so small, disbelieving, like if she spoke his name out loud he’d disappear.

“Hi, Tess.” He reaches out and brushes his fingers over her cheek, assuring her that yes he really is here.

“Why are you here?” she blinks at him, still trying to figure out if this is real.

“I had to see you before you left.” He runs his hand from her cheek, along her neck, down her arm to her hand, taking it in his.

“Scott, don’t—“ She is about to argue.

“Tess, kiddo, just listen, okay? God, you drive me crazy. So crazy. But I love you. I love you so much. And I couldn’t let you go without telling you that.”

There are tears clinging to her eyelashes, waiting to fall and she breathes in deep and tilts her head as if to ask, is this real?

“I love you too. So much.”

And then he’s kissing her, pulling her in tightly, as if he could join their bodies into one.

Someone clears their throat and he breaks away from her to find two women with the same green eyes staring at them.

Tessa smiles sheepishly and looks at him an unspoken question on her lips. He nods.

“Mom, Jo, this is Scott. My boyfriend.”