Evening shifts were Liv's favourite, because all of the librarians and technicians and administrators and tutors and research assistants went home, leaving the running of the library to the work-study students.
On Thursdays there were four: Liv and Evil Angie running the Circulation desk, Geraldina Myers the librarian-in-training taking care of reference questions, and Roger Dong over at IT support. Liv liked to think of them as the Thursday Night Superstars, ready to leap into action to solve any problem that could crop up.
This particular Thursday evening, however, no one looked particularly Superstar-ish. Evil Angie had crossed her skeletal-skinny arms over her chest and was leaning back against the course reserves, scowling at the world. Geraldina was filing her nails and trying to make small talk with Roger, who didn't bother to look up from his game of Tetris to reply. So only Liv was attentively doing some preliminary book-sorting when Sawyer the Smart-Ass approached the desk.
"Hey, Liv. Can I get some help here?"
Liv glared at him. "Sorry, my job description doesn't include helping assholes."
"Liv, Liv, Liv." Sawyer the Smart-Ass shook his head at her in mock-disapproval. "You're not still mad at me about that whole grabby thing, are you? You know it wasn't personal."
The thing about Sawyer was that he was the kind of guy who always had a snappy comeback, who talked back to authority figures, and who just generally annoyed the hell out of slightly prudish Liv. So when she'd been walking back to her seat after her Psychology of Sexuality seminar presentation, and Sawyer had leaned over and grabbed her midsection, saying, "Sorry, Liv, Freudian slip!" he had earned her everlasting enmity.
On the other hand, Sawyer's hands had been warm and strong around her waist, and Liv wasn't entirely sure that her whole dislike of Sawyer wasn't based around the warm tingles that touch had given her...
Liv was just about to melt and give in when Sawyer (ever the Smart-Ass) added, "And anyway, your job description does include helping patrons. There are absolutely no specifications regarding the assholery of said patrons."
Hatred restored, Liv narrowed her eyes. "Just tell me what you want."
"I'm looking for this book and I can't find it." Sawyer slipped her a piece of paper with a title and call number.
Liv looked down at the paper. "The Biology of Human Female Sexuality?"
"For my presentation in SexPsych." Sawyer paused for a moment. "Of course, if I had a chance to study the biology of yoursexuality, I might not need the book."
"You're sick," Liv said shakily, trying to keep the disgust level up and the butterflies in her stomach down. "And anyway, I can't help you find this book, because it isn't in this library, it's in the Health and Science Library across campus. You should have checked the location before you went looking for it, dumbass."
Sawyer didn't seem to be too affected by her insults. "Aw, Liv, are you really going to make me walk to the other side of campus? It's cold outside! I still think my other option is more attractive."
"Oh, no." Hating her treacherous pulse for spiking, Liv crossed her arms and stared him down. "You're not making a fool out of me again. Now get out of here."
For a few moments, he didn't move. She thought at first that he was casting his eyes down in shame for having embarrassed her, but then he met her gaze and said, "You know, when you cross your arms like that, it really makes your boobs pop out. You should do it more often."
Liv couldn't contain her horrified gasp. She quickly dropped her arms to her sides. "I can't believe you just said that! Now if you keep sexually harassing me I'm going to have to call campus security on you."
She glanced down the desk for help, but none of the other Superstars seemed to be ready to rush to her aid anytime soon. Evil Angie rolled her eyes, Roger barely glanced up from his computer screen, and Geraldina just waved and said, "You can come sexually harass me anytime, gorgeous."
"Uh, thanks, I'll keep that in mind," said Sawyer, looking somewhat bemused. "Don't call security, Liv, I'm heading out. I really do have to get that book, since you're not going to help me out."
"I'm sure Geraldina would," Liv responded cuttingly, but Sawyer was already gone.
Liv pulled her sage green fall jacket tighter, and flipped the hood up. The October chill was just starting to nip at her nose, ears, and fingers. She didn't mind. Though the air was cool, it wasn't freezing, and she felt refreshed and invigorated. Walking home on Thursday nights in autumn, crunching through piles of leaves, revelling in the quiet and dark of evening, seeing her breath when she walked under a street light, feeling just the beginnings of a frost-it was, well, peaceful. Her other favourite part about Thursday nights at the library.
"Liv! Hey, Liv!"
…and there went the peacefulness.
She whirled angrily, this time making sure not to cross her arms. "What do you want? I'm kind of off shift right now."
"What?" Sawyer asked, jogging up next to her. "Is it a crime for a guy to say hi to his friends?"
"Since when are we friends?"
He shook his head. "Liv, Liv, Liv. It's a subtle thing, friendship. You don't just come out and say, 'Let's be friends!' That shit's for kindergarteners."
"Okay then. Which interactions between the two of us have led you to consider us to be friends?"
"We're friends on Facebook," said Sawyer. "And also we talk every SexPsych."
"I don't know if I consider you manhandling and humiliating me to be 'talking'."
Sawyer stopped. Liv didn't. After a moment, he jogged to catch up with her again. "Christ, Liv, that was just a stupid joke. Is it really bothering you that much?"
"There's nothing bothering me. I just don't know that I'd consider us friends."
It was a lie, of course, but she didn't want Sawyer to know she was having trouble getting over something apparently so inconsequential to him.
"Seriously. I'm sorry about that, Liv, I just wasn't-"
"This is my house," Liv interrupted him, climbing up her front steps and taking out her key. "Goodbye, Sawyer."
And then she went inside, slammed the door, and shot the deadbolt.
The next SexPsych, Sawyer plopped down in the seat next to her and immediately started barraging her with talk. "So, Liv, did you get your evaluation back from your presentation yet? How did you do? Pretty good, I bet, you're a smart cookie. Windy out today, eh? And it's starting to get pretty cold, too, it's gonna be a short fall colour season, the leaves are already practically off the trees. I heard we're supposed to get an early snowfall. I guess that means midterms are almost upon us, eh? And how 'bout them Leafs?"
Liv took advantage of the fact that he needed to pause to breathe. "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to be friendly. Because you said we're not friends, right? So I'm making us friends."
Suspicious, Liv inched her chair way from his. There was no way he didn't have some kind of ulterior motive here. Other than his lapse of judgment on Thursday, he'd never shown signs of wanting to be friends before…
"Well, you keep right on going having that conversation with yourself," she told him, and turned away to face the professor.
There was blessed silence for a moment, and then Sawyer whistled softly. "Girl, you are cold."
She briefly considered telling him not to call her "girl," but that would involve acknowledging his existence.
After a moment he began to hum a tune, and when that failed to elicit a response, poked her elbow. "Hey, do you know that song? It's called 'Cold Hard Bitch.' I thought it fit the context, no?"
Liv felt her jaw clench but focused on showing no outward sign of having heard him. After a moment, he poked her arm.
"God, what are you? Five years old?" she muttered, pulling her chair farther away.
"No, if I was five years old I would have gone for tickling instead," he said, shameless.
Then the prof started to talk and put all conversation to an end.
Liv spent the whole of SexPsych uncomfortably aware of the guy sitting next to her. Somehow, her attention was drawn to his every page flip and foot tap throughout the three hour seminar. By the end she was about ready to kill the guy.
"Hey, Liv! Wanna grab a coffee or something, talk about the essay coming up?"
"Nope," she said without looking at him.
"Are you going to come out to the pub and watch the game with us on Saturday?"
"Awesome, I'll Facebook you!" he called out as she rushed down the stairs.
And he did. Regularly. He posted a funny link on her wall every day, and sent her messages even more frequently. Just little things like "Hey, what are you up to? I'm watching the news on tv right now and there was a segment on increased library usage in the recession. It made me think of you. Have a nice night!" Or, one time, "So what kinds of topics are you thinking for the SexPsych essay? I know it's not due for a while, but I want to find a direction early on so I'm not rushed at the end. You know?"
Altogether, she was beginning to feel somewhat… stalked. And oddly flattered, but she was trying to ignore that feeling. What Sawyer was doing was creepy, she told herself. CREEPY. Not cute.
At the same time… she didn't block him. She didn't even delete his messages.
Needless to say, Liv's head was a mess by the time she got to the library on Thursday afternoon. She found the other Superstars in the lunch room eating supper-or what passed for supper, anyway. Roger was slouched over his iPhone shoving chips into his mouth. Evil Angie elf a half-eaten apple in one hand, watching in horrified transfixion as Geraldine inhaled a double bacon cheeseburger combo.
"Can I have an onion ring?"
Geraldina paused in her chewing. "Well, I amthe one who had the really horribly very bad day. But since you asked so nicely… why not?"
"Sweet!" Liv bit down on the crunchy, greasy, salty onion ring and moaned. This was good stuff. Evil Angie pushed the rest of her apple away, looking vaguely nauseated.
"My day was no great shakes either, you know," Liv said around the onion ring and Geraldina balled up the wrappers and tossed them towards the trash. "I have two assignments due next week, my printer is out of ink, and I think I'm being stalked by a really annoying boy."
"Ah, the woes of youth." Geraldina sighed dramatically and held the door so they could all troop out towards the circulation desk. "Let me tell you, honey, the real problems only start once you hit twenty-two."
"You're only twenty-four!"
"Yes, ergo I am four years older and wiser than you are. Don't question me. I'm in library school. Just assume that I know everything, it saves time. Oh, hey, there's your stalker, by the way."
Liv's head jerked up. Sure enough, there was Sawyer, standing by the Circ desk checking his phone. "How did you-"
"I toldyou, I'm in the process of becoming omniscient."
"Yeah, and omnivorous, apparently," muttered Evil Angie, stalking over to the book return bins and preparing to check in the material.
The changeover from the day staff to the Superstars was quick, and when Liv took up her usual post at the front of the desk Sawyer was still standing close by. As if sensing her gaze on him, he put down his phone and looked up. A slow smile spread across his face. Liv warned her insides not to get all glowy.
"Liv! Just the woman I wanted to see." He slapped a scrap of paper down on the desk. "I need this book and I can't seem to find it anywhere."
Grudgingly, she took the paper from him and checked the call number in the catalogue. This time, he was in the correct library, and the book was supposed to be checked in.
"Were you looking on the third floor?" she asked.
He nodded. "I know how to use the library. I'm pretty sure I was in the right section, I just couldn't find this particular book."
Damn. "Just give me a sec, I'll come up and help you look for it." Making a face, she turned to her co-worker. "Angie, I'm gonna head upstairs for a minute help a patron find a book, okay?"
"Sure you are." Evil Angie crossed her skinny arms and raised an eyebrow. Liv felt herself blush without really knowing why.
"Just over the desk, okay?" Without waiting for a response, she turned and led Sawyer towards the elevators, reciting as she went the procedure for finding lost books. First, she would look in the stacks, scan around the area where the book was supposed to be in case someone had misshelved it. Then she would check around the photocopiers and in the sorting areas, where books spent some time between being checked in and actually making it back onto the shelf. If she was unsuccessful, another staff member would go through the same process in two days time-in case someone was sitting in a study carrel reading the book when Liv searched, or her eyes missed something. If the book still hadn't turned up, they would launch a full-scale search, checking all the areas the book could have been mislaid through human error.
By this time they had arrived on the third floor, and Liv was careful to avoid eye contact as they stepped towards the stacks.
"Show me where you were looking."
Sawyer led her-predictably, she thought with a sigh-to the wrong stack.
"Okay, well actually-see, the way Library of Congress call numbers work is that the number after the letters is a wholenumber, not a decimal. So, the number you're looking for is BF692, and we're in the BF69's right now. It's probably going to be one or two stacks over. Does that make sense?"
Sawyer was looking at her with a strain expression on his face.
"What?" Liv asked impatiently.
"Nothing. Just, you know. It's pretty awesome how you know everything and aren't, you know, afraid to say it."
Liv blinked. "…It's my job?"
But Sawyer just shrugged, so she dropped the issue and took him to the BF692 section.
"I still don't see it anywhere," said Sawyer sulkily after a few moments of searching. "Are you sure this is where it's supposed to be?"
"Oh, hold on one second, will you?"
Sawyer leaned back against the shelf, looking frustrated. With experience and training in call numbers and shelving, Liv's quick eyes spotted the book in seconds, just above Sawyer's head.
"Oh, it's right there-" instinctively, she got up on her tiptoes to reach for it. Sawyer stiffened, and that's when she realized that she was completely pressed against him, his face inches from hers.
Neither moved for a moment. Liv could feel her heart pounding as warmth flooded her body. Slowly, she lowered herself down and took a step backward.
"Here's your book," she said shakily, holding it out to him.
Sawyer took the book, set it down on the edge of a shelf, and in one swift move had pinned Liv against the stack with his body. She could feel the spines of the books digging into her back as he slowly, torturously lowered his mouth to hers.
His kiss was deep and hot and seemed like it Meant Business. All the glowy, tingly feelings she's been trying not to have around him concentrated in the pit of her stomach, and she threw her arms around his neck to pull him closer. He growled approvingly.
Eventually he pulled away, eyes still closed, breathing heavy, hands on either side of her head.
"Wow," said Liv weakly.
A slow smile spread across Sawyer's face. "I've been wanting to do that for a long time."
Liv felt her heart skip a beat. "Really?" Maybe that explained the weird, stalkerish persistence, the immature poking and grabbing, the borderline inappropriate comments…
Suddenly, everything was different.
"Yeah. Are you going to be weird about this?" Sawyer looked her up and down. "You're going to be weird about this, aren't you." It wasn't a question.
"I have to get back to work," Liv said, pushing off the stacks and looking anywhere but at him. How could she? She didn't know what to think. She needed to sit alone someplace quiet and reassess every interaction they'd ever had.
"Liv." He grabbed her arm, halting her in her tracks. Still she refused to look at him. "I really like you, okay? I know I'm not exactly a smooth operator, but I just… I like you. A lot. And I thought you should know that."
"I have to get back to work," Liv said again, and this time he let her go.
Liv spent the weekend making half-hearted attempts at her homework, and then giving up when she couldn't bring herself to focus on anything other than Sawyer. That kiss. Her reaction to him.
What did it all mean?
She thought of his parting words, over and over again. I really like you… I thought you should know that. What the hell did that mean? Was it some kind of declaration? Was he asking her out? Or was he just saying, 'Hey, this is where I stand, the ball's in your court now'?
Men, she decided, were way too complicated and most definitely NOT worth it.
But every time she came to that decision, she remembered the delicious way her body had tightened when he pressed her up agains the books, and began to think maybe it was worth it after all…
Needless to say, it was enough to make the sanest girl throw up her hands in frustration.
One thing that remained constant was Liv's overwhelming nervousness as SexPsych approached. Sawyer hadn't tried to seek her out or sit by her the past few classes while he'd been sending her all those messages, but surely something would have changed by now? Besides being apprehensive of what he might do or say, there was the simple fact that it was the first time she was going to see him since The Kiss. And she wasn't at all certain she would be able to walk into that classroom without turning bright read and stuttering.
Basically, she was a mess.
She managed to dawdle outside of SexPsych by stopping to buy a poppy, and taking her time to ensure it was pinned on correctly. The bright red looked quite nice against the sage green of her jacket, she decided. But eventually, she could no longer stand there and admire her poppy pin. Class was scheduled to start in less than two minutes, and Liv was Never, Ever Late.
Thankfully, most of the seats were already taken. She slid into one near the door, glancing quickly around the room. Sawyer was sitting between two of his friends, looking down at his notes. Her heart flip-flopped unexpectedly.
Just at that moment, he glanced up and caught her eye. He gave her a small, tight, smile. Was he- could he possibly be-nervous? Or was he now regretting the kiss and trying to stave her off politely?
She was a wreck for the whole seminar, barely looking up from her notes, scribbling gibberish because she couldn't hear, couldn't think. In her mind she replayed the kiss, his words… What did they mean, oh God what the fuck did they MEAN?
The second the prof closed his book, Liv was on her feet and out of the classroom. She pushed open the heavy exterior doors and exhaled heavily when the chill wind hit her face.
She couldn't do this, she decided, walking down the steps and blending herself into the morass of students heading every which way across campus. She simply couldn't sit there and, and, and wonder, and-
She whirled around, heart hammering. Sawyer was dashing down the steps towards her, his coat flapping behind him a bit like a cape. Above his left breast pocket, a poppy stood out brightly against the stark black of his coat. Liv felt a sudden rush of affection.
Sawyer ground to a stop just in front of her and she smiled tentatively. He was quiet for a second, watching her smile, and then he cleared his throat. "Um, Liv, I was just wondering, um, if you want to… ahem. If you wanted to get coffee? With me? At some point, maybe?"
Liv's smile grew into a face-splitting grin. "I'd love that."
Liv couldn't do anything but smile. Sawyer smiled back, a goofy, loopy grin that lit up his entire face. Completely disregarding the fact that they were standing in the middle of the sidewalk, he leaned down to kiss her, softly, gently. Liv nearly melted.
"You know we're blocking traffic," she whispered against his lips.
"Your poppy is poking me."
"I'm sorry." But he didn't move back, instead resting his forehead against hers and looking into her eyes. "What are you doing this afternoon?"
Liv felt like there was something she had been planning to do, but she couldn't remember what for the life of her. "Nothing," she answered.
"How about we go get that cup of coffee right now?"
Liv smiled again, or more, if that was even possible. "I'm all yours."
A/N: Hallo, peeps! So... I know I said I was going to post the revision of Love & Animal Crackers in September.
the sad and sorry truth is that grad school is KICKING MY ASS.
That said... I hope to get the revisions done fairly soon (they're taking longer than I thought because the characters keep clamouring for more attention). In the meantime, if you folks would like to pop on over to my profile and take two and a half seconds to answer my poll, that would be awesome!
You know what else would be awesome? Reviews. Also, if you could tell me how you like the minor characters in this one-shot because if you do, they may appear in future one-shots!
LOVE YOU ALL.
P.S. This is in no way at all inspired by my time as a student worker in an academic library. But seriously. You would not believe how many people don't check WHICH campus library a book is in before they decide to go out and get it.