Coffee and Overrated Epic Poetry
by Aurette

"Hey, wanna get some coffee?"

She is so startled at the substitute's voice that she drops all of her books. The wannabe jock who sits behind her and kicks her chair chuckles.

"I don't drink coffee," she replies. She stoops down to gather her books before they get trampled by the students rushing out of the classroom. After a moment, she realizes he is stooping down as well. She hurries to snatch up her books before he can touch them.

"Oh, Milkshake then?"

"Right-o. Let's go down to the malt shop after school and listen to the Grease Soundtrack," she snaps sarcastically. She snatches her bound copy of the Fairie Queene from his grasp.

"Gotta admire a lady with sarcasm who is also reading Spenser outside of the reading list."

She shoves her books into her backpack and slings it over her shoulder with out any visible effort.

"I'm surprised a little thing like you can tote so much heavy reading. I saw that copy of the Count of Monte Cristo."

"Don't you have midterms to grade?" she asks, leveling the substitute professor with a glare.

"Yes, but I find you intriguing. A college freshman in a 300 level English class? Over achieving much?"

She scowls, and it only elicits something akin to a giggle from his mouth. She pushes past him. "Pardon me, I have to get to my World Civ class."

He calls after her. "Have a good class, Sans Joie."

Seriously now, Sans Joie was a man. Surely an English professor would know that, right? For the first time in her life, she feels a strong urge to hit a teacher.

****


They don't meet again until two weeks later. She still doesn't know what classes he normally teaches, but he's filling in for Professor Jones again. She has to admit he's a good teacher, making even the wannabe jock behind her get interested in Beowulf.

He has to make a Trogdor reference, but a teacher's gotta do what a teacher's gotta do.

He asks her out out again as she tries to run out of the class before he corners her. "Sans Joie!" he calls out. "Can I buy you that coffee today?"

"I have to get to Western Civ. Again. And I don't drink coffee," she replies, not bothering to hid her annoyance. He looks at the books in her arms.

"Still on the Fairie Queene, I see. But the Iliad? My, my, you like your ancient epic poems."

"Why do you keep bothering me?" she finally asks. "I'm a student. And you're.... not."

He winks at her behind black framed glasses. She realizes then that he looks kind of like the Tenth Doctor. Only not British. And more smarmy. "You read Spenser willingly, Sans Joie."

She leaves then, not wanting to think about how she feels about that.

****


The wannabe jock accuses her of sleeping with their sub to better her grades. She finds this ridiculous as the sub does not grade their papers, and takes it upon herself to teach him her own lesson.

He finds out there's more to the heft of Les Miserables than angsty filler. With his head.

The next class, he's sitting across the room with a beautiful black eye.


****

She's reading the Shining when they meet next.

"What happened to the Fairie Queene, Sans Joie?" he asks.

Once again she's so startled at his voice that she drops the book. He picks it up for her and she lets him. It's been a full year since he subbed. He looks the same. Messy black hair, black frames, tall in his too-loose suit.

"What are you doing here?" She nervously pats her curly hair, as if that would tame the strands.

"Do you often sit on benches in the middle of malls, reading? You could at least be in a coffee shop and look like you belong there."

She's about to retort, when her boyfriend walks out of the shoe store, bag in hand. He kisses the top of her head, and eyes the professor warily. He pulls her to her feet.

"I don't shop," she answers glumly. Her boyfriend slips an arm around her waist. She notices he's jealous. She turns to look at the professor. His hands are clenched, and the teasing look is gone from his face.

"See ya round," he says, not calling her by her nickname. He walks off.

She watches him, when her boyfriend asks who he was. She's about to answer when the professor walks into a pillar and curses loudly.

"No one," she says once he's gone.

****


She's hiding in the corner, hoping no one will ask her to dance. She pulls a book out of her purse, and starts reading.

"Dante's Inferno!"

She looks up, and nearly smiles before she remembers she's supposed to hate him.

"Why are you at my cousins wedding?" she asks. She notices that they ask each other 'why' a lot.

He sits down across from her and helps himself to some of the candy almonds. He obviously didn't know exactly what they were, judging by the amusing disgusted look on his face. He discreetly tries to spit them out in a napkin and coughs. "My brother is the DJ. Small world, huh? So, Sans Joie, you don't dance?"

The look on her face answers his question.

"You're almost a senior now. How's it feel?"

She sticks her nose back into an Italian's imagining of hell, thoroughly intent on ignoring him.

"If I ask you to dance, will your boyfriend get jealous?"

"I don't have one anymore."

"Well then."

She peers over the top of her book to see him fiddling with the weight holding down the balloons and staring at her. He doesn't say anything, so she snaps the book shut.

"Fine."

He leads her out to the dance floor, and the two of them prove literary types are hopeless at waltzing.

She can't get back to Dante's Inferno fast enough.

Amusingly, neither can he.

****


She walks into her Shakespeare class on Hamlet, when he's substituting again. Most surprisingly at that.

"Sans Joie!" he exclaims far too eagerly. "What are you doing here? I thought you graduated."

That's supposed to be her line. Especially since she has the same question.

"It's called grad school."

"Didn't think you'd be here to take me up on the coffee." He glances at the books in her arms, and grins wildly. "Okay, you have to marry me now. You're reading the Dresden Files."

She's so startled, she walks right back out of class and doesn't return until she knows Dr. Carlyle is back.

****


She hates being by herself in a new place. It isn't a new place, really, but a new perspective. Her job will be amazing, she tells herself. She knows very few people in the faculty. Few people she'll associate with, that is.

The man behind her is yelling at her to order. She has no idea why she walked into the campus coffee shop, when her first classes are still weeks away. But it seemed right.

She can't decide, and is about to tell the man to go first, when another voice says, "Two french vanilla cappuccinos."

It's him, of course. Her knees nearly go weak with with relief. He pays, and grabs the cup, handing her one.

"Care to start drinking coffee now, Sans Joie? If we're to be working together on the dual classes-"

"What are you talking about?" she asks.

"Dual classes. Two teachers with different backgrounds take up a class to bring new perspectives on stuff.. In my case, philology and the evolution of language, and yours, epic poetry. Didn't they tell you about it?"

"They didn't say who I'd be working with."

"Lucky you, Sans Joie." He smiles, and adjusts his black framed glasses. "Come on, let's sit and figure out how we want to introduce these disenfranchised youth to Una and the Red Crosse Knight."

She tucks away her copy of the Silmarillion and takes a sip of coffee. It's good, and she smiles at him.

Some things she thought she hated were pretty decent after all.


Author's Note: I wrote this a year and a half ago in a summer history class. I still like it very much. soli Deo gloria