I sat on the first floor of the library, a table to myself so that my ankle could be propped up. The crutches leaned against the chair on the other side of me and, since I can't do homework - especially physics - without background noise, the mp3 earbuds were in and Dave Matthews and I were crashing.
Physics and I have issues. Big issues. I flipped my pencil away in frustration and looked around with a sigh. And promptly looked back down to avoid the gaggle of football players and hangers-on not far enough away. And of course they - they meaning giggling stick-thin nitwits - started over. I fumbled for the mp3 player, couldn't find it, and settled on pulling out the earbuds instead.
What made the entire situation worse was that I couldn't, in all honesty, run away if I needed to. Scratch that - wanted to. And damn it, did I want to.
"Hi." I swallowed thickly and hoped that didn't come out too manly.
There was some hair flipping on their end and a thin smile on mine.
I like my nickname. I don't mind when it comes from Sasha or Murph or one of the girls. Hell, if it comes from a drunken Devan supported between Liam and Murph, it's still good. Coming from these girls it sounded like pond scum personified.
"Olivia." It was an automatic response. Knee-jerk almost. "My name is Olivia."
They stilled and the air tensed. So much for first impressions.
"Devan calls you Ollie," one of them said from the back of the group.
"Dev is my boyfriend's roommate." And that was automatic, too. Damn my filterless mouth.
Somebody rescue me, please. I don't much care who, but somebody come rescue me.
Saved by the grace of the temporarily buzzing telephone. Somebody must have actually been listening.
"'Scuse me," I muttered while flipping it open. Message from Liam. need help?
'Please!!!!!!' Closed it; set it on the table. "So..uh...how do you guys know Devan?" Grasping? You betcha.
"Lisa is pretty good friends with Megan, who knows Ray, who's Devan's lifting partner."
Huh. Call me a bad girlfriend then, but I didn't know who Murph's lifting partner was. Liam, maybe? My brain figured it would be his twin. "Nice."
Where the hell was Liam? Or Liam's rescue?
There was a rippled through one of the girls, some hair flipping, and they turned as a coordinated unit as one discreetly (not so much) pointed toward the library foyer doors. Who - and it had better not be Murph they were ogling - nope. Not Murph. Colby. They were staring like he was an over-dressed Chippendale man, parting like the Red Sea when he approached and looking notably disdainful when he sat next to me.
"Good, you already got started," he said to me before turning to the staring cluster of broads. "Would you girls mind going somewhere else? I'm here to give her physics help and need some quiet."
There were some disgruntled mutterings, annoyed sighs, and what sounded like cursing, but the swarm moved on. My chest loosened. "Thank you. How did you know?"
Colby pulled the physics book closer. "I got a text from Murphy who got a text from Liam who got a text from Dev saying you were surrounded by Cling-Ons."
To which, I honestly couldn't resist. "And me without my phaser."
"Phaser? Isn't a hypo more up your alley?"
"Hypo, phaser, gimme a reason to come running and I'll be there as quick as you can say, 'Damn it, Jim.'"
He chuckled. "You have got to be the biggest SciFi nut that I have ever met."
Colby had no idea. And if Murph had been looking when he'd been in my room he'd have seen that I have every season of Star Trek from TOS to Enterprise and every movie ever made, including the newest one. Which probably explains where my affections for slightly Southern accents sported by natural Kiwis came from - which is second to my affection (love) of Irish accents, including but not limited to two Murphy's and a Connor. And Murph's (my Murphy) accent only came through when he was speaking Gaelic.
Which is always nice to hear, trust me.
"That a problem?"
"Nope." He looked at the homework (that was only randomly rarely collected) and grimaced. "Actually knowing how to use vectors might be helpful."
I shrugged. "Probably."
"So, where is that boyfriend of yours?" He squinted, trying to make sense of my tidy ramblings.
"Last I knew he was in his room writing a paper. Part of the reason that Dev's here." Murph might have been cute and lovable when he wasn't on the field, but when he had to do some serious paper-writing he needed specific settings, included but not limited to absolute and utter silence while he muttered, cursed (in both languages) and ranted to an empty room. He got intensely frustrated and had a short temper during this time. All because of a paper.
I'd hate to be playing against when he has a paper due - all that extra aggression has to go somewhere.
"Still a grizzly when he uses Word, huh?" Colby rubbed his forehead. "Okay. What - Why did you do this with this formula?"
There was only one logical answer to that. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
He was less than impressed.
"So he's been at this for three hours, at least, he should be done by now."
I didn't say anything, crutching resolutely after Dev. He was still smarting from my refusal (and crutch to the shin)to have him carry me up the staircase. Murph I could handle (barely) but I had to draw a line somewhere. Dev was not thrilled.
"Theoretically," I agreed. There was only so much that I could predict about Murph. We were, in some regards, still getting to know each other. And since Dev had to live with him, he was more knowledgeable in the ways and wiles of Murphism.
Dev went in first for fairly obvious reasons, and the motioned for me, holding the door. Murph sat on his bed, red pen in one hand and a hard copy of his essay in the other, eyebrows drawn together almost painfully. They - and those hazel eyes - softened when they saw me.
"Hey. Heard you came under heavy fire in the library."
I crutched to the bed as he slid down. This was a practiced act, so those big hands on my waist were nothing new as he helped me up.
"Marie and her merry men," Dev supplied as he sat at his computer.
It took some finesse but I got my shoe off because I was sitting on Murph's comforter. "Didn't actually introduce herself." Which was all that needed to be said, so the topic switched incredibly. "How's the paper?"
"Ridiculous." He sat beside me, our backs to the wall that his pillows were on, said pillows bunched under my lower back. "And I'm short about fifty words."
"Ouch. Let me see?"
He handed the pen and paper over without a protest.
At first glance - Oy. Was English his first language or his fifth?
"Marie had you cornered?" Murph scooched down so he could rest his head comfortably on my shoulder. "That's a lot of red ink."
"Cosmetic damage," I said fluidly because this...this was, as he had put it, ridiculous. Not that I was going to tell him that. I liked this relationship. Not that I was truly concerned that telling him his paper was shit (punctuation wise, his sentence structure was fine, for the most part) was going to ruin us, but why rock the boat without due cause?
"I never actually met Marie," I said. "We more or less stared each other down. Talking about lifting partners."
"Noah," he said. "Guy by the name of Noah. You haven't met him yet. And Liam lifts with Colby." He wormed his way under my arm to situate his head on my chest. There was some grumblings as he literally curled around me. I looked at Dev over the top of his head, who mouthed, Late nights, early lifting, and practice.
Which meant that there was the distinct chance he was going to fall asleep on me.
His ear, along with the rest of his head, settled heavily on my chest, his breathing evening out in a way that I had heard before, arm slung across my waist. His knee nudged my left thigh and I waited a few minutes, finishing the paper, before carding my fingers through his hair. He was out and I was okay with this. Dev, bless him, was a lover of classical music and he put some on, he volume low while he worked on his econ spreadsheets. And I drifted, comfortable and content, not the least bit freaked out that this was normal for us.
At least, not yet.