It was the sound of her phone ringing that annoyed her more than anything that Wednesday morning. She’d been up editing some poor Chemistry major’s final write-up since he didn’t really grasp the basic conventions of writing. She reached out for it and mashed the screen, swiping her fingers across it until the voice on the other line came through.
“Elle? Elle, are you awake?”
She groaned in reply, pulling it closer to her and reading the name ICE-Mom.
“You were asleep weren’t you?”
“Yes,” she breathed through the haze of sleep. It was somewhere around nine in the morning and she didn’t have class until one o’clock after all.
“You really need to get up earlier. You can’t expect the world to wait for you to wake up.”
She rolled her eyes, “What’s up, Mom?”
“Yes, what’s up? I’m assuming you’re calling me for a reason since it’s nine in the morning.”
She immediately regretted pointing out the time and the fact that she’s told her mother several times about her schedule because she was only yelled at for it. Elle was beginning to think that her mother just liked to yell at her because she couldn’t deal with yelling at anyone else… It was also probably the fact that Elle was probably the only person spineless enough to not yell at her back. She watched the clock on her bedside table tick by slowly and wished that it would hurry up so she could hear–
“You’re going to make me late for work!” She accused somewhere in the middle.
Elle didn’t see the point in pointing out the fact that she was not the one to initiate the conversation. Her mother hung up with the promise to call her during her lunch hour and she didn’t bother telling her that she would be in class when she called and figured that her voice message system would take care of that problem on its own. So she got up and took a shower, made breakfast, and headed to campus for her class. When class was over, it was true that her mother had called her at about 12:30. She headed to Martel in order to check her mail only to find that there wasn’t anything for her there.
“Elle!” Someone called causing her to turn at the voice.
It was Meagan.
“Come eat lunch with us! Your favorite person is here~!” She teased.
She highly doubted that her favorite person was there…she didn’t really have one, but she followed Meagan to the servery anyway, she didn’t have to get to work until later anyway so it was okay. Entering the servery as Meagan pulled her along, she heard the sound of laughter and moving chairs, spotting the table Meagan steered her towards before its inhabitants spotted her.
“Meagan, you’re never going to let this go are you?”
“Never!” She declared with a silly grin before waving to Marina and earning her grin.
Dylan turned first with a smile as she greeted everyone and they promised to sneek her into the servery later on a guest pass or something. Light whirled to rest on her and the face smiled, earning a look a confusion.
“A westerner at North Servery?” She asked looking at him. “Did they switch the cooks around again?”
“No,” he replied. “I just came to have lunch with a friend.”
She didn’t particularly like the way Meagan squeezed her arm in place of squealing, the expression, nor the tone he was using. She especially didn’t appreciate that smirk on his face either. She walked with Meagan towards the servery instead of saying anything and his brother, Dylan, almost laughed, overhearing Elle’s swift turn around.
“And the beautiful English-Indian babies, I’m sure your ancestors are having somewhat of a fit right now…”
Meagan scoffed, blushed and told her she was insane.
Asar informed him of the developments, but he hadn’t expected that he would feel this good about the fact that Elle didn’t hate him and he was really working from below ground zero. He breathed out and supposed that it was just because he actually had a starting point after all.
They came back and Marina announced that she was leaving, followed by Meagan, Lex, and Gabriel until only Dylan was there with them.
“Did you just come from class?” He asked.
“Yep, Senior Thesis…I got my professor to tell me that I was on track. You two just came from class too huh?”
“I’ve been out for a while,” Dylan announced. “I’ve got to be heading out in a minute to get to my lab. I’ll see you two later.”
“Not going to monitor me on Meagan’s behalf?” Elle asked with a deadpanned tone.
Dylan grinned glancing at Asar and back to her, “Just don’t show up pregnant.”
She blinked and Asar laughed as Dylan sauntered off to go do his Computer Science lab and Elle cursed her friends in a spicy mix of Japanese, Chinese, and Italian before Asar had managed to stop laughing.
“I’m sorry you had to hear that.”
“Should I know why he said that?” He asked though he already knew.
He had to say, Meagan and Marina were very interesting people and after Meagan had managed to curse him all to hell for being a bastard, she had smiled at him and called him Elle’s favorite person.
“It’s a very long and stupid story that I’d rather not get into,” she replied with a sighed. “Pretend he didn’t say that out loud.”
Sometime in between changing the subject and talking about a very embarrassing story from Asar’s childhood refashioned to make sense on Earth, he realized that he was going to be late for his class.
“It’s been nice talking with you,” he said with a grin. “Maybe I’ll catch you at dinner?”
“I don’t think I’ll be eating at West.”
“I meant here…”
Her eyebrow lifted, “Of all the time in these 4 years, why come to North Servery if it’s not Saturday?”
He smirked a little, “Maybe the food’s better? The company?”
She rolled her eyes at that and took her plate in before leaving. He hopped on his bike and promised to see her before she left campus permanently and she wondered how he knew that she would actually be back on campus for dinner.
He did keep his promise by monopolizing her attention in the form of conversation in between pleading to taste whatever she’d made for herself for dinner. It wasn’t that anyone at the table minded, if she still lived on campus she would be taking a very long trip to Fondren to avoid their teasing, but it wasn’t as bad as it would have been, even after he’d stolen the bite of pasta from her fork, closing his lips around it and nodding approval of the flavor. She gawked at the audacity and Ja’Lisa almost died of laughter before hurrying to go get dessert. Meagan was having a silent field day until he asked what she had planned for the weekend and she came back to consciousness when Marina brought her another fork.
“That’s pretty bold of him,” Marina commented with a knowing smile that everyone at the table except for Asar could see.
She didn’t answer after a while and just when he was beginning to think that he was being too forward she told him, “Nothing.”
“Oh, we’re watching the ninth doctor tonight if you want to come in the Duncan green room.”
Her eyes widened. She grinned and asked in her best British accent, “Are we watching Tennant, then?”
“Yes, we’re watching Tennant,” he replied. “I’m understanding that you’re a fan.”
“He’s my favorite Doctor to date,” she told him. “How are we watching it? What time?”
“A friend has it on DVD, around eight o’clock Friday night. We were going to cook dinner first and then start the marathon.”
“Awesome,” she grinned. “Sounds awesome.”
Marina snickered a little bit at the smile Asar sported as Elle continued to finish her dinner with a grin, humming a little before bidding them goodbye and heading out. The mention of the Doctor had probably saved him from a good smack over the head, he thanked Thera for how easily distracted she was with British Television. Asar followed her out of the servery and hurried to catch up with her.
“You’re going home?” He asked.
“Yes,” she replied searching her pockets for her keys and pulling them out of her pocket and walking towards the bus stop, he stood and waited with her, talking about anything and everything he could to keep her attention and keep close to her. Sadly, the bus came much quicker than he was prepared for and she boarded in laughter and a wave. He watched the bus fly off into the darkness and sighed at the sinking feeling in his chest.
Friday came faster than he imagined and it was something new to see her so happy and using that accent while she watched the movie. Of course, no one else came and he did lie to her about the supposed appearance of anyone else, but that didn’t matter. She seemed to enjoy his company, even when he pretended not to know what was happening just so she would explain it to him. He enjoyed it much more than he should have when she began to doze off and fell asleep against his side, eyes still forward and muttering things about the Weeping Angels and a videotape. He let her sleep until the end of the next episode and woke her.
She shook herself awake and departed. He walked her to her car and waved her goodnight before returning back to his room with the feeling of her weight resting on his right side. After that night, he found himself wondering how much longer the month would be. It wasn’t longer than two weeks when his parents told them that they were reaching Pluto and getting closer. They would be there sometime in the middle of the party that Saturday night. He could only hope that the sins of the past years were at least lessened by the past month.
He was such an idiot.
The final Saturday on Earth came with an abruptness that was almost heart-stopping and gut-wrenching. All of Elle’s papers were written, no one was asking for her consulting time, and she was free to party. She couldn’t be happier. Her phone rang around six o’clock but she didn’t answer it, it was her mother after all. She hopped in the shower and turned up the music so that it went through her entire apartment with a steady techno beat. The drive to campus was short and she parked at North Lot, climbing out after a moment and making sure to lock her car and head towards the lights of West campus. She never understood why the North Lot wasn’t near the North colleges anyway.
Meagan yawned again and it was hard to hide his smirk as Dylan typed away on the computer and checked his watch. They had about three hours before the expected arrival time. The party happening across campus was probably just getting underway and he really hoped that his youngest brother wasn’t being stupid. She stretched her arms above her head while fiddling with some computation on her laptop.
“No, goddamnit! I need to stay awake!” She said shaking her head.
He was tempted to tell her that there was no choice in the matter. She would fall asleep before he even got up to get her tea and sleep soundly for the next five hours, in which time he would be successfully abducting her.
As expected, the party was very much underway. With Melaney being obsessive compulsive at the gym, Marina’s refusal to go, and Lex’s disdain for parties, Elle went with a few friends from West campus. She parked at North Lot and met with Valon, Kathia, and Sheri Ann at the benches in the McMurtry quad. They greeted her with the ding-dong of her phone in her pocket a text reading:
From: Asar Abdo
You are coming to the party, aren’t you?
She looked at the text a little confused and replied.
Yeah, as soon as people get downstairs.
From: Asar Abdo
I’ll see you there.
It wasn’t that it was particularly out of place that made her question the validity of this text message, but by the time she thought to reply everyone had assembled and it was time to go. The group marched across Rice towards South campus and Valon’s expression only went from happy to happier as they neared it. She was sure he was drunk and more than sure that it didn’t matter. If she actually liked the idea of being completely inebriated, she might have been drunk as well. Instead, the sound of the music pulsed through her as they entered the commons, flashing their IDs to the security and walking into the haze of flashing lights and darkness. She grinned moving to the music as they climbed their way onto the dance floor and all the stress broke loose.
Valon wasn’t all that surprised but played along. Considering the insanity of Elle’s life, she was allowed to act a damn fool on the dance floor. The D.J. seemed to want her to as he played songs that she absolutely loved and a few new ones that she would remember to find when the party was over. He spotted Asar before anyone else and smirked. Teasing his poor brother, he brought up the wager they made in their freshman year about the better dancer between the two of them and proceeded to play the game. Of course, he wasn’t serious, but his brother was as he glared at the man across the dance floor and made his way towards them just in time for Elle to pick up speed and drop to the floor with a silly grin on her face before winding back up.
“I win,” she proudly and sticking her tongue out at him. He huffed.
“You’re a girl, I hope you would win for the sheer fact that I wasn’t really thinking.”
She laughed, “You’re really drunk aren’t you?”
He shrugged as she turned to nearly run face first into the chest of another guy, looking up she realized it was Asar.
“It’s alright,” he replied with a smile as she stepped back to give herself some space. “What on Earth were you doing?”
“Releasing stress through dance,” she replied before the song changed again to something he faintly remembered as the song that played in her head for a good month before being replaced by something else.
By the time he returned to the present the words were coming from her mouth with her movements and he stood and stared, unable to move and paralyzed by her expression and movements through the darkness. Valon grinned and made some excuse to go find his Archi friends and somehow he got out of having to explain why he couldn’t do much more in terms of dancing other than inch a little closer to her as the crowd grew and she really couldn’t tell the difference.
You make me this, break me up, break me down, break it sweet—make me move like a freak, Mr. Saxobeat.
He checked his watch and allowed himself an hour before he had to start his act. In the meantime, he very much enjoyed watching her dance without the need to run from her sight. She wasn’t paying attention to him anyway, so lost in what she was doing that the surroundings didn’t matter.
Luckily for him, it was getting hotter, they were getting too close for her to keep dancing the way she really wanted and she was thirsty. She pushed past and through the crowd out of the center of the room towards the water and he decided that it was about time to get going.
Elle wasn’t one to pay attention very closely to her surroundings unless there was an express need to. She sort of flitted through life without regard to any danger that most would consider possible and wrote it off by saying, “It would never happen to me because of…” and use some reason that most would find ridiculous and only she could find logical. Unfortunately, this was the night that her favorite excuse wasn’t valid at all. In fact, it was so invalid she would have to cross another thing off her “This will never happen” list. He was taller than she was and obviously someone from another school that had been invited to the party because he looked so bewildered and drunk that there was no way that he’d been drunk on Rice campus before. His eyes found her form from across the dance floor before it had gotten too crowded, and now he found her again, leaning over to drink from the fountain.
He was obviously too drunk to recognize how bad of an idea it was to extend his hand and give her ass a firm squeeze of appreciation. His world was perfectly round, perfectly soft and toned, and grabbable– at least until she spun around and socked him in the face, effectively toppling him into the wall and possibly breaking a few knuckles. She didn’t feel that, only the racing of her heart and the flare of anger as he growled his displeasure and swore to make her know her place before leaping from off the wall to pin her against the opposite one. Her knee came up to meet his solar plexus, only she missed and reached his groin, jamming the tender flesh there hard against his pelvis, but he wouldn’t let her go. Instead, his hands curled around her throat angrily and he pinned her legs still by leaning against her body with a sneer.
“You’re going to pay for that in screams,” he promised her.
She spat in his face and twisted her body, grabbing his hands and forcing his arms to bend to release her and elbowing him in the face several times until he fell back onto the floor. Rubbing her neck, she choked on air, glad to have watched Enough so many times. He glared up and kicked her feet from under her before leaping to pin her to the floor. She wondered then why no one was trying to help her as he placed himself in the cradle of her thighs and proceeded to tell her exactly how she was going to pay in screams. Pinning her down with the hold of his hands and his weight until all she could do was flail her legs and kick him hard on the head with her shin. He grinned and she shuddered at the sickening feel of his tongue licking up the side of her neck. He apparently decided that it was a good idea to tell her that her skin tasted good in time with Asar’s emergence from the crowd and the extension of her leg high enough to hook around his throat and pull him off her as she pushed off from the ground with her other leg and threw him off. By the time, she registered the ease of breath, Asar was already at her side and an R.U.P.D. officer had arrived to handcuff the man and urge them to follow him to give a statement.
“But my car is parked in a different lot,” she said in as they got outside and she could finally be heard.
Asar looked at her as if she were insane.
“We’ll deal with it when we get to the station,” the officer to her and ushered her into the back of the R.U.P.D. SUV as the man was put in and handcuffed to a golf cart and they headed to the police department. She sighed sadly, her favorite song was about to start playing after all and now she had to deal with drunken crazy people and the police. She ended up filing charges on the man with both the R.U.P.D. and the Houston Police department before one o’clock. There would have been time to get back to the party if Asar hadn’t commented on the bruising on her hand and neck and E.M.S. decided to give her a once over.
“We could drive you back,” one of the officers said.
“No thank you…all I want to do is go home. I’m going to walk to my car and drive myself home. The last thing I need to get is a parking ticket.”
They had already told her that her car would be safe for at least another day, but she didn’t care and after bidding them goodnight and thanking them for their care, she headed out into the darkness of the night and walked towards her car. Asar grabbed the paperwork she’d forgotten for the charges she filed and followed her out before stopping her by cutting off her path.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go anywhere alone right now,” he said. “You were just attacked after all.”
She shrugged, “He was drunk out of his mind and probably thought I was someone else…at least he didn’t lick my ear.”
“Then I’d have to explain that to Marina and that’s the last thing I need to hear.”
“Elle, you were just attacked. There’s no telling when you’ll start reacting to it.”
She shrugged again, “Maybe I won’t. It wasn’t like he raped me.”
She started to walk but he stopped her again with a stern look on his face.
“What?” She asked.
“Don’t say it so flippantly,” he pleaded. “You could have been seriously hurt.”
“Am I supposed to be crying right now? He was drunk. It happens.”
“Don’t make it sound like it doesn’t matter either!”
She watched him and waited before crossing her arms and regarding him steadily. She really had no idea why he was so upset about the entire occurrence. She’d worked as a bartender for a summer and sometimes during the school year. She knew exactly how dangerous drunken men were and that there weren’t always police officers there to help. There was a reason why she was so calm about it, though it had never happened before.
“Elle, you’re not thinking very clearly—”
“I’m fine,” she replied with an even tone. “I just want to go to sleep. I’m tired.”
“Do me a favor then,” he said seeing that there was no hope for convincing her otherwise.
“At least stay here for the night and head out in the morning after breakfast. I’m sure someone is willing to put you up for the night. You could stay in one of the lounges or something. Hell, I’ll give you my bed if you want.”
She huffed, “You’re really serious about this aren’t you?”
“Deathly,” he replied.
She regarded him for some trick but there was none. He really wanted her to stay there, though it wasn’t for the same reason she was thinking. His family would be arriving soon, within a half hour actually. He could already feel the thrum of energy through the atmosphere from the crystal engines of the flagship of the armada.
“Fine,” she replied. “I’ll stay here for the night if it makes you feel better.”
“It will,” he said grinning, “I’m glad.”
“Don’t start grinning at me,” she said. “If it weren’t for your sudden friendship with Dylan and his relationship with Meagan and her relationship to rest of them, I would have left.”
“You’re afraid of your friends?”
“No, I just don’t like the drama. People fretting over nothing is definitely drama.”
He laughed as they headed down the back alley past Dell Butcher Hall towards the dimmed lights of Duncan. His watch beeped as they were passing Anderson labs and he hoped that they would reach Duncan before the ships became more visible than the stars blotting the sky. The last thing he needed was to have her not in a contained space when they came, there was no telling what harm would come to her in such a situation.
“Do you want some tea?”
“Yeah…that would be awesome…”
He got up and turned around to see her sliding across the wall behind his bed and falling onto the pillow. He smiled a little and pulled the blanket over her, removing the laptop from the bed. The door opened a moment later as he made a gesture for them to stay silent.
“Don’t wake her,” he told them as he wrapped her up in the comforter and scooped her off bed to follow his lieutenant. He nodded and radioed in that the eldest had been obtained. The descent would begin moments later beginning with the lights above campus.
She’d gone out for a walk half an hour earlier and something felt strange about the night. Like someone was following her, watching her, possibly about to jump out of the dark at her but she didn’t want to think about it. Instead, she headed back to Martel where she could at least count on the I.D. security of the Rotunda and the solid key to her room for privacy from prying eyes. Her entrance into the Rotunda warranted shock.
Melaney looked up in curiosity, “Marina! There you are. We were wondering where you went off to. Are you alright?”
She shook her head, as the feeling hadn’t quite disappeared yet. There was still something there, in the back of her mind like a warning or a soothing notion, she wasn’t sure which it was but she didn’t like it. It was just when the sound had reached a deafening level that the lights began to shine down over the Martel quad and Valon came through the door with a pointed look in her direction. It was all silence and confusion as he walked towards her and extended a hand. She had half a mind to run but there was something else. She was oddly calm about this man that she vaguely knew as a friend of Elle’s coming towards her with a tender expression and an outstretched hand.
She could hear the screaming and panic and see the men rushing in out of her periphery but it didn’t seem to register that maybe she should be leaving too. She felt frozen, held in place by some invisible force but completely free if she wanted to be, staring at him as he kept coming closer.
“Don’t worry,” he told her. “It’s okay. I promise.”
Somehow her arm extended to place a hand in his and allow him to grasp it tightly and pull her with him into the beam of light. For a while, everything was silent and shiftless until she realized she had been transported somewhere else and the trance broke.
He smiled a little at a sharp pressure against her back was realized and everything felt numb. The world turned on its side and moved past her as she floated down a corridor at his side? In his arms? Faces with glowing eyes and strange markings across the face passed by her but she didn’t have the mental state to scream or panic. Everything was calm and cool and bright around her as they arrived at a room, and she was placed in a bed beside the sleeping Meagan, wrapped up in something that looked oddly like Dylan’s comforter.
“Get some rest,” he told her and vanished into the hallway before the room was suffused in the dark.
With nothing to focus her attention, she closed her eyes and began to sleep unable to fight off the effect of the shot any longer.