I ran into the classroom, knowing I was almost late, but the building was a maze of half floors and half stairwells. There was no professor in front of the class and I sighed in relief. The first day of class was always a toss-up, some profs were mean, some were nice, some were bitchy if you were late and others were late themselves. The first day set the tone for the class though, and being late was one of the easiest ways to 15 weeks of hell.
I edged behind the chairs into the only open seat in the front row. I had learned early that sitting in the front row forced me to pay attention, which allowed me to do less work outside of class. I set my bag on the ground and pulled out the notebook I had designated for Classical Mythology. It was a personal passion and I was really excited to study it, although I doubted we'd learn much more in this class than I already knew. This was an intro-level blow-off class and I'd studied mythology quite a bit on my own. Hopefully, though, it would still be some fun credits.
"What kind of building has stairwells that don't go to every floor?" I muttered to the tall boy—no, man—sitting next to me. At least there was one other upperclassman in this class. The people behind him were going to love staring at the back of his head.
"I think it's supposed to be an artistic layout," he replied, smiling, the barest hint of a Russian accent.
"Artistic or not, I was nearly late," I said bitterly, glaring at the analog clock in front of the room.
"You made it in time, we still have one more minute," he glanced at his watch, just to be sure.
"Rose," I said, and held out my hand to him, the reach across my body slightly awkward in the cramped space behind the table.
"Dimitri," He smirked and grasped my hand, his long arm folded awkwardly next to his body in order to do it. "But don't tell anyone else, I prefer to go by my last name, Belikov."
I smiled at him. If lesson number one was to sit in the front, lesson two was to make a friend. If I missed class, I needed a way to get the notes. "So which should I call you?"
"Whichever you prefer," he said as he stood up and winked.
I frowned, unsure why he was running away when we seemed to be getting along, too late I remembered the professor for this course. Belikov, D. I nearly groaned aloud, I had just gotten friendly with the professor. FLIRTED with the professor. I was so screwed, but at least the man was attractive.
"Welcome," he said to the class, and I noticed we started exactly on time by the clock. The room fell mostly quiet and some people paid attention. As usual there were the continued clicks of a mouse and the typing of keys as people played games and chatted online with friends. "I'm Professor Belikov. Much like in classical mythology, my TAs are scattered among you, the gods among the mortals," he grinned and caught my eye as the typing ceased and several people laughed. "Hopefully they will get to know you, and help answer your questions as friends. They will also tell me who's playing games during my class. I don't take attendance, but if you're here, you better be paying attention." There was a brief flurry of whispers before everyone remembered the TAs among us.
"Don't be scared, The TA's will be much like the gods in Greek or Roman mythology. They will have their favorites, as you will have your favorites, and you will ask for help and receive it in turn. I will also have office hours like a normal course. All other aspects of this course will be the same as any other at this school. If you perform well, your grade will reflect that, regardless of how my TAs feel about you personally. Mortals can succeed without the gods." He said it teasingly and the class answered with laughter.
"There are Syllabi next to the door that you should pick up on your way out, if you didn't yet take one. Now, I'm not going to make you all introduce yourself, I'm sure you've had enough of that and there are too many of you, unless you want to be here until next class." There were scattered giggles again. Despite announcing there were spies in our midst, the class liked him. "There's also a large family tree of the major and minor gods on the course website or copies outside my office. Pick it up or print it out and bring it to the next class. You can try to fill it out on your own but we'll go over it next time so that we're all working off the same background. You'll learn in the advanced classes that some of what I'll teach is disputed, but we're just doing the basics." He smiled and a few people laughed along with him. I smiled too, but raised an eyebrow at him. It was a skill I cherished, having practiced many nights in front of a mirror to get it right. My sarcastic personality needed the physical counterpoint.
Belikov knew he was attractive and charismatic and he was using it to win over the class, despite his ploy of keeping the TAs a secret. It was smart, drop the grenade first, spend the rest of the first class winning us back, and then let us go early to keep us happy. He saw my expression and grinned. "Ok, you're all free to go, don't forget to get a syllabus and bring the family tree to the next class!" He yelled the last bit as the class swarmed out of the large hall. I figured a third of them would never come to another class, but the two thirds that returned would be focused.
I slid my notebook back into my backpack and swung it up onto my shoulder. It was easier to walk around the front of the table than edge behind the chairs, so that's what I did. The path took me past where Dimitri—Belikov—was still standing. "What did you think?" he asked.
"Smart," I said, "You told us about the wolves in sheep's clothing at the beginning. Well, the beginning of class," He smirked, getting my meaning. "Then you managed to win over the entire room, spinning it like we're some heroes in the Illiad or Aeneid that may gain the favor of the gods."
He grinned. "You like classical mythology." It was a statement, not a question.
"Guilty pleasure," I agreed. I noticed his Russian accent was back, it had disappeared when he spoke to the class. I wondered if it was over the line to ask him about it. "Why do you have an accent?"
"Because I'm Russian," he laughed.
"Why didn't you have an accent when you spoke to the class?"
"Because a young professor with an accent is an incompetent professor."
I looked him over again, and knew it was even more than that. He was young and attractive, though he didn't dress to show off in slacks and a button-down shirt done up to his throat, only the top button open. Maybe 28 years old, tall, with long, dark hair and dark eyes and defined muscles, he didn't look like a typical professor. With an accent he would become a conquest, a foreign man to be easily influenced. He would have girls flirting for higher grades, threatening him with scandal, claiming they'd been with him. I'd seen it happen before with TAs, but a TA could withstand a hint of scandal, especially with a powerful professor to guard them. A young professor without tenure couldn't.
It took me half a second to figure out where things stood and my eyes widened with realization. "That's why you hid your TAs. You're keeping your students in line."
He smiled mysteriously but I knew I was right. I wondered how he learned that lesson. The hall had cleared and we made our way up the rows to the door at the back of the class. He picked up the stack of papers and handed one to me. "You never picked up a syllabus," he said.
"Are you keeping tabs on me, Dimitri?"
"I know you didn't have one when you sat down, and we just now came back to them."
"That's not an answer," I told him but he only grinned. "I hope you don't mind but I'm going to follow you out. The way I got to this room wasn't exactly efficient."
He smiled and indicated I should leave the room before him. "So why is mythology a guilty pleasure?" he asked and I blushed at the words. His accent turned the flip statement into a flirtatious comment.
"An FBI agent doesn't need to know mythology," I said, sheepishly. "It's just something I've always been interested in."
"An FBI agent?" he asked and I could feel him looking me over. I had dressed nicely for the first day of class, jeans, a loose, long sleeved peasant top, and low heeled boots I could walk around campus in comfortably. I knew I looked thin, probably small to him even though I stood 5'9 in my heels. I was used to that reaction.
"I've already submitted my application. I have a conditional acceptance if I pass all my background checks and graduate on time."
He stopped in surprise, blinking in the sunlight. "You really know what you want to do,"
I smiled. "It will take another year for all the paperwork to be done, but that will be just in time for graduation. I've always known what I want to do and I've gone after it. This is the first class I've taken that doesn't correspond to my degrees."
"So my class really is a guilty pleasure." He smiled at me. "You must really like mythology."
"I love it. Although I don't think your class will teach me much I don't know."
"You never know," His Russian accent made the statement even more mysterious. "You should probably come grab a copy of that family tree while you're here," he said and I looked up. We were standing outside the building that must house his office.
"Isn't this the languages building?" I asked, puzzled, as I walked inside the door he held open for me. "Thank you."
"Apparently the classics department isn't big enough for their own building, and a lot of us teach languages too, Greek, Latin, Hebrew,"
"Russian?" I teased.
"Russkiy" he agreed. His accent made it sound musical.
I cocked my head, wanting to hear him say more, "What's the Russian word for rose?"
"The flower? Rouz. But your name would be Roza." His voice was a caress and I liked the way my name rolled off his tongue.
"Roza," I repeated, trying to copy his accent, but it was just a word from my lips.
"Roza," he confirmed.
"I like the way you say it better," I informed him, then wanted to smack myself. No flirting with the professor, dammit.
He smiled cheekily, "The speaking the language helps. This is my office, Roza. Here are the papers you'll need." He pulled a stack of papers from the files beside the door, there looked to be about ten pages.
"Are there this many gods and goddesses, Dimitri?" I asked, flipping through the papers.
"Maybe you'll learn something after all, Roza. I'll see you on Wednesday."
"See you in class, Dimitri,"