Story by Stormdancer

Chapter 8

Carrie had planned to get there on time. Really, she had. She had written the time on her hand and everything, in her brightest sparkly purple pen, just so she would remember. Being late might annoy Dan (though only might, as it took calling him day and night to really upset him), and she really needed this whole tutoring thing to work out, if he could do what no teacher had ever been able to do and make math make sense. She had even set out for the library at 3:20, giving her a full ten minutes to get there even though it only took her five. So really, she should have been on time.

But then Nathan had to find her. Which did make her later, though she couldn't be mad, because, well, it was Nathan.

"Come on, Nathan!" she giggled, when his lips separated from hers to trail down her neck. "You're making me—oh!" He nipped that place where her neck met her shoulder, and her train of thought went all to melty mush.

"What, baby?" As usual, Nathan's voice sent shivers down her spine. His hands crawled down her back towards her butt.

"I—" kiss, "am going—" kiss, "to be—" kiss "late!" Screw it. She threw her arms around his head, fingers twining in the silkiness of his hair. It had been way too long since she had seen him, and Dan was good tempered, he could wait, and she was melting, melting in all the best ways, and "—why are you stopping?"

She pouted. She hated it when he did this, when he would just pull away and leave her wanting more! It felt like he did it every time, too.

He grinned at her, his usual satisfied, smoldering grin that seemed to set her on fire when he aimed it at her. "Don't you have someplace to be?"

"Yes—but—Nathan!" He chuckled and patted her on the cheek. She stomped her foot, ignoring the fact that there wasn't really enough room to do that in the janitor's closet.

Nathan caught the broom and set it upright. "I've got practice, babe, I've got to go." He edged around her, turning them so his back was to the door. "See you later?" He reached behind him and turned the knob. The door fell open; he stepped out of it backwards. He shot her that smile again, the one that made her forget everything, nodded, then stepped sideways out of sight.

Carrie sighed. "Of course!" she called after him, leaning against the door. Her breath was still coming hard. Her cheek rested on her hand, and her eyes were slightly glazed. She could still feel the heat of his lips on her skin. "Of course."

Her eyes half-lidded as they stared into the distance, towards where Nathan had disappeared, she let out a few long, slow exhales.

A door slammed, somewhere down the hall. She jumped, glanced around as if afraid someone had seen her, then pulled out her phone to check the time.

"Shoot!" She yelped, grabbed her bag from the floor, and dashed out of the closet.

It was 3:39 when Carrie made it to the library. It would have been 3:38, but she spent a minute trying to decide if she should make herself look less like a thoroughly kissed mess before going into public, and then deciding it was too late for that, but not before she had detoured to pass a bathroom. Still, then minutes late. Not too bad. And she had made sure to note the time, because Dan would have, and is he got mad she could just say that ten minutes didn't really count, right?

She paused in the door and scanned the library—oh, there he was, in a corner, his back to the wall, with a table in front of him and a chair. An already filled chair. Huh? Had she, like, missed her chance or something? That was just unfair! And rude!

Carrie marched over to Dan, intending to tell him just that, and sorry to anyone else in the library who didn't want to hear it. She was gathering a full head of steam as she went, so by the time she got to the corner she was about ready to explode.

Dan glanced up from his compute when he heard stomping coming his way. Oh, good. Carrie was here. "Dude," he said to Mike, who was busy glaring at his bio homework like it had declared a personal vendetta against him, full mafia style, "Scram."

"What?" Mike transferred his gaze to Dan.

"I've got tutoring."

"Oh, I see. You're kicking me out of our table for a girl." He held out the last word for two syllables, taunting and acidic. He had only just finished the 'l' when Carrie got to their table.

"Dan—" she began.

Dan interrupted her, though he spoke to Mike. "For a job. WOW tonight?"

"Yep." Mike stood, glanced at Carrie, who had stopped open-mouthed, her rant cut off when the impetus was revealed as false. "Have fun, man." Carrie was quite certain he didn't expect it to happen. Then he looked at her again, and a corner of his mouth twisted upwards. It wasn't a very nice smile. Carrie recoiled in an instinctive reaction to the scorn and dislike she could see plainly written across his face.

Mike sneered, then grabbed his books and left, though not before giving the area where he had sat an ostentatious wipe.

Dan either ignored his friend's blatant rudeness or, probably more likely given how he had just not understood the whole Dan and Maddie situation, didn't see it. "Hey," he said, not even looking at her as he closed the textbook in front of him and dropped it on the floor.

"Hiya." Carrie took Mike's vacated seat. Why had he looked so dislikingly at her? Was something wrong with her? Did she have something on her face—oh, she was totally breaking out, wasn't she? No no no! "Do I look alright?" she demanded of Dan, her voice quivering on the edge of panic.

He narrowed his eyes at her, considering. Was he supposed to see something different? Had she cut her hair? "You look the same as always," he answered slowly. That wasn't always the right answer, he knew, but it was the truth…

"Really?" Carrie leaned forward, forcing Dan to look closely at her face. "No breakouts or anything?"

Dan had no choice but to study her skin carefully. It was very smooth skin; it looked soft, all roses and cream with her lips a swollen spot of red against it. "I don't see any," he said, scooting his chair back to put some distance between them.

She wrinkled her nose at him. "You wouldn't." Boys. They were so useless.

"Probably not," he agreed matter-of-factly, "What did you need help with?"

Distracted from her previous face-blemish worry, Carrie gave a groan that made people all around the library turn and look at her. She flushed and dropped her head onto the table. "Everything!" she squeaked.

Dan waited for a second to see if anything more would be forthcoming, then decided to start anyway. "Well then," he said, "When you have three," he held up three fingers, "and three more," he held up three fingers on the other hand, "And we put them together—"

Carrie's head jerked up. "Not adding!" she moaned, but there was laughter hidden in her voice. "Just this year's stuff. I mean—radians. Why is pi not three or whatever?"

"It is, but you can't think of it that way," Dan shook his head. He grabbed Carrie's notebook, and flipped it open to the next blank page. "See, pi is 180 degrees—"

"But why?" Carrie whimpered, "Why isn't it three?"

"It's another angle system. You shouldn't think of pi like a number. See, if you have a circle—" he drew one on the paper, a surprisingly symmetrical one. "And then an angle on it…"

Half an hour later, Carrie grinned up at Dan. "I get it!" she announced triumphantly.

Dan gave her a suspicious look, though he capped the pen he had been using. She had said that before and not been there yet. "Really?"

"Yep. I totally understand it. You're a really great teacher, you know that? This is the first time I've ever gotten something in math this quickly."

Dan nodded, but didn't react to the compliment. "What's the sine of pi divided by two?"

"Um…" Carrie stared at the circles that polka dotted the page of her notebook. "Sine…SOH—opposite—ninety—one!" she almost shouted the last number. The few people left in the library glared at her. She looked back down at her notebook, her cheeks tinged red.

Dan's face was still impassive. "Cosine of pi over six?"

She bit her lip, stared at the circles, and traced one with her nails. "Square root of three divided by two?"

He started to nod, slowly. Was that a good sign or a bad one? Had she gotten it totally wrong and he was just seeing how badly she had failed?

"Cosine of four pi over 3?"

"Dan, that's a hard one!" Dan didn't react to her whining. Carrie pouted. "Fine. It'd be…give me that pen." She grabbed it out of his hand, and drew her own circle. "The line'd be more than 180…1/2!" Dan opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it. "No, wait— -1/2, right, 'cause the x thingy is on the left!"

Dan's face broke into a grin, a big one that took up his whole face and made it actually not that bad looking. "Great job. I give—you do get it."

Carrie grinned back at him. "See? I told you so." She shut her notebook with a decisive thump. "Why didn't Mr. Frame explain it like that?"

Dan shrugged. She probably hadn't been listening, as he had found Mr. Frame a fairly good teacher. It was always easier to learn one-on-one, though, and to Carrie's credit she had gotten it when he spelled it out for her. "So what's next?"

"Next?" Carrie's jaw dropped. Literally. "How can there be a next? I just got it!"

Dan raised his eyebrow, but answered evenly. "Because it only took half an hour, and you said you'd be here for an hour."

"Yeah, but…" Carrie trailed off, "I didn't realize how great a teacher you are. So now we're done and we can both go home!" She spoke her last argument with all the triumph of a Roman emperor entering his city.

"You can go home," Dan corrected, in the same even tone he had used when explaining math.

"Not you?" So she did pick up the emphasis.

"I'm here until Rachel's done with something."

"Rachel—that's you sister, right?" Carrie leaned forward, curious. Dan nodded. The things she remembered and the things she forgot were a total mystery—apparently, it was random. "What's she doing?"

Dan shrugged. He hadn't bothered to listen to that part of the discussion this morning.

Giggling at his ignorance, Carrie curled a strand of hair around her finger as she thought. "You wouldn't know. I wonder…what clubs are meeting now? I think there's a play, and Quizbowl, and lots of sports, and—"

"What else are you having problems with?" Dan interrupted her before she could start listing every single group of more than three people meeting at that time. How she knew them, as she obviously wasn't part of the clubs, escaped him.

"Can't we at least take a break?" Carrie shifted instantly from complaints to a piteous sort of expression that made her eyes look huge as a deer's. "For people not as smart as you, this makes my head hurt."

Dan paused a moment to parse that sentence, then decided that pointing out its incorrect grammar wasn't worth it. While he thought, Carrie gazed at him with her very best puppy-dog pout. It didn't work with Nathan, but Dan probably wasn't used to it…

At last, he sighed, and Carrie knew she had won. "Fine. Just for a few minutes."

"Yay!" Carrie bounced in her chair and clapped her hands. "Thank you!"

Dan blinked in reply, and leaned down to pull a book out of his bag. Carrie got a brief glimpse of bright colors and maybe a dragon before she spoke and stopped his motion. Did he actually expect her to sit here quietly? "So, Maddie and James are still arguing."

Dan sighed, but let his book fall back into his backpack. Did she expect him to talk? She certainly never would. Why were all girls so into gossip? "Really?" he replied on a long-suffering exhale.

"Yep." Carrie heaved a gusty sigh. "And I mean, I still think they should just get over it and get back together, but Maddie just laughed at me when I said that."

"Then why don't you say it again?"

Carrie tilted her head at him, obviously confused. Dan elucidated, "Why don't you show, or prove somehow, Maddie why that's right? It sounds reasonable to me."

Another beat of silence, then Carrie gave a laugh and shook her head. "Maddie doesn't listen to anyone, so it wouldn't work. Anyway," she waved a hand, dismissing that point, "What do I know? Their relationship is just so weird and antagonistic." Dan's eyebrow twitched. That was a much longer word than she usually used. "That's right, I know that word. Be amazed at my genius." Dan's eyebrow lowered. He hadn't said anything, had he? "But yeah, I don't get that kind of thing. I like my sort better, when it all just works out and Nathan's perfect and I don't have to worry."

"Sounds like the dream." Dan wasn't entirely sure if he was being sarcastic or not, but he probably was. It did, in fact, sound like a daydream. She was most likely constructing it wholesale, except for the presence of the guy.

"It is." Carrie apparently didn't get the sarcasm. Or she overlooked it. "So what about you?"

"Me?" Dan slumped so that his head could rest on the edge of the chair.

"Yeah, you. You said you'd gotten over Tessa, so what now?" She scooted her chair forward. Something filled her face that Dan could best describe as predatory, though she still grinned cheerfully. "Got a girlfriend? A boyfriend? An it's complicated?"

Dan answered almost before she had finished speaking. "No."

"Oh, come on, not even a crush? A dream? A lingering-feelings?" He shook his head decisively. Why was she pressing this? It's not like she cared, and he wasn't precisely in her gossip pool even if he had been interesting to talk about. Unless Tessa—but no. That would never happen. He knew that.

Something shifted in Carrie's face, into alarm and a touch of—pity, maybe? Dan wasn't quite sure. "You're not, like, asexual or something are you? You have had a girlfriend before, haven't you? Or, sorry, that's unfair, there's no reason why you have to have had a girlfriend—or boyfriend—but now, it's not like there're rules. But—"

Dan cut her off. He tilted his head back so he could look down his nose at her. "I have had a girlfriend."

"Ooh, really?" Carrie rested her chin on her intertwined fingers, her elbows propping up the rest of her, like a child waiting for a story. "Who is she? Do I know her? When was this? Why'd you break up? Was it about Tessa?"

Dan sighed. He couldn't see any way of getting out of answering these questions. "You don't know her. It was at camp."

Carrie pursed her lips together and pushed them to the side, her nose crinkling. It made her look uncannily like a kitten. "Is that like a girlfriend in Canada?"

Dan snorted. Once his face relaxed into a smile, Carrie laughed too. "So, tell me about her?"

He shrugged. "Her name was Elaine. We had a camp romance. It ended when we went home."

Carrie didn't reply for a moment. Dan stayed gazing steadily at her, but she remained in that story-listener's pose. Than, "And?"

"And what?"

"That's like the most boring love story I've ever heard!" Carrie threw herself backwards, her arms crossing across her chest. "Why'd you like her? How'd you make the first move? What was she wearing on your first date? How'd you ask her out? How'd you meet?"

"It wasn't a love story."

Carrie gave hi a broad, happy smile, one with no ulterior motive he could see. Her eyes sparkled, her face shone beatifically, like Mary looking down on her worshipers. Which was not a simile a good Jewish boy should make, but it was true. "Every time's a love story, Dan. It might not be The love story, your last, best one, but it's always a love story."

Dan stared at her. That sounded almost…deep. But it couldn't be. Carrie seemed one of the least thoughtful—as in thinking the least—people ever. And yet…

"I mean, it's like me and Nathan!" Carrie went on, her smile changing into something more bouncy. "It's a love story with an unlucky start 'case of that whole him losing my number thing, but it worked out anyway."

And there she was, the boy-obsessed popular Carrie. As expected. Totally ignoring the possibility that Nathan had not, in fact, lost her number.

Dan rolled his eyes a little, scooted up so he was sitting straight, and flipped open the textbook. "What else don't you get?"

Carrie stuck out her lower lip, but bent forward to look at the textbook. Break was over, she guessed; the teacher was back. Though he hadn't told her anything about this 'Elaine' character. She'd get it out of him on Friday. Even if boys were awful about the details of things like that. "Umm…identities, I guess?"

"Okay then." Dan craned his head to look at the book too.

From the door, Mike narrowed his eyes at the corner table, at the dark head and the light meeting over the book. Dan's hushed tones didn't quite make words he could head, though Carrie's shrill "I don't get it!" certainly made it through. Why the hell was Dan not done yet? Who care if a girl like her passed at all?

He spun on his heel and strode away, letting the door click shut behind him.