Authors' Note: this is a joint project, shoutout to my co-author N7agentbartowski. No, Mad Love and Across The Way aren't done yet. We were just too excited about this project to wait to share it with you guys.
Name: Isley, Pamela Lillian
"—early workers focused their efforts on discovering and establishing the 'the principle of vegetation.'"
Alias: Poison Ivy
"Seeking to answer the question, 'Why, and by what method do plants grow and develop?'"
By what methods do plants grow and develop?... By what methods do plants grow and develop? Methods by which plants grow and develop:
Eye Color: Green
Hair Color: Red
"One of the initial theories, which aimed to explain the secret of plant growth, was advanced by a Belgian physician and alchemist by the name of Van Helmont, who worked throughout the late 16th and early 17th century."
Van Helmont. Belgian Physician 17th century.
Institution: Arkham Asylum
"He was among the first to introduce the use of 'the balance'—which we'll discuss at length next week— and to interpret data from a quantitative standpoint. It should be noted that water was one of the recognized chemical elements at the time of Van Helmont's work, but as a result of his studies, he concluded that water must be the "principle of vegetation," citing the following experiment as proof of his theory that water could be transformed into plant tissue."
Water='principle of vegetation'…. Water='principle of vegetation' Obviously.
Charges and Description: Unstable, volatile, violent tendencies. Symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder. Interact with caution. Incarcerated on charges of eco-terrorism, theft/larceny, and murder: first degree.
Pamela frowned down at her paper and then glanced back up at the chalk board on which Professor Woodrue was scribbling his own notes faster than she could keep up. She pushed her thick-rimmed glasses up the bridge of her nose and squinted at the messy letters. It was hard enough to read from this distance, and Woodrue's haphazard handwriting didn't help. Not that it mattered much. She did her own studying outside of class. In fact, most of the lectures she attended were relatively pointless.
But Professor Woodrue's lectures were special. Regardless of if she already knew the material, it was fascinating to watch him speak. He was so passionate, so eloquent, so brilliant. And he often caught her eye as he spoke, seeking her out, always offering her a knowing smile. It made her feel special. Like he knew how hard she worked, how much she wanted to learn. From him in particular.
She searched for his gaze again today, but he was so…intense, writing so fervently on his chalk board that he didn't even glance her way—not once. Ignoring the disappointment that stabbed at her, Pamela looked back down at her paper, scribbling a few more pertinent notes, her handwriting far more uniform than what was on the board.
It wasn't much later that Professor Woodrue dismissed them to work on their lab assignment. Pamela made a quick survey of the room, adjusting her glasses once more as she searched for a partner. It wasn't rare for her to end up working alone. The other students tended to give her wide berth. Being that she was the only woman in the majority of her classes, she'd just come to expect the isolation.
Not that she couldn't handle the work load alone. She was smarter and more efficient than most of her classmates anyway. Even still, the loneliness got to her sometimes. The feeling that nobody wanted her was pervasive…and utterly distracting.
Resigning herself to another solitary lab, Pamela opened her textbook and flipped through the pages until she found her place.
She leaned in to read the fine print, nearly jumping out of her skin when another book dropped onto the table beside her with a loud 'thwump'.
"This seat taken?"
Pamela whirled around, finding herself staring into pair of stunning blue eyes. The girl's face was split by a brilliant smile, and she tucked a stray strand of soft blonde hair behind her ear as she waited for Pamela's answer.
It took her a moment to find her voice. "Uh… N-no. It's not."
"Great." The girl took a seat, flipping her textbook open and readying her pencil. Pamela stared, stunned and a little impressed that the girl had forced her way into her little bubble without permission or preamble. She didn't recognize the girl—though she probably should have, given how rare they were in this field—but then again, she couldn't name half the students in her class anyway, having never taken the time to get to know them.
"I'm Linda, by the way." Pamela's eyes dropped to the hand the girl had extended, pale and slender... Carefully, she took it, noting how soft and warm her skin was.
"Oh, I know," Linda said, dropping into her chair. "Everybody knows who you are. You're Woodrue's favorite."
Pam flushed. It felt good to have Woodrue's inclination towards her validated. And yet, the way Linda said it felt a little condescending. Pamela had earned the professor's attention with hard work and endless hours spent poring over her textbooks. However the other students saw her—teacher's pet or otherwise—didn't matter. And neither did this young woman's opinion.
Linda seemed to sense the tension she'd injected into the atmosphere. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that in a disparaging sense. I respect your dedication. I've seen you walking around campus with your nose stuck in a book plenty of times while the rest of us are—well—acting like children, I suppose. Or our age, maybe."
Linda's compliments were uncomfortably backhanded, but at the same time, her constant smile belayed any offense Pamela might have taken otherwise.
Linda chuckled. "You're welcome."
"Is…that why you sat with me?" Pamela asked, the realization falling over her like a bucket of ice water.
"To get top marks? You bet." Linda grinned again, but it fell when Pamela didn't respond. "You're not very good at taking a joke, are you?"
Pamela remained silent, adjusting her glasses self-consciously. The wooden chair Linda sat in scraped across the linoleum floor as she scooted closer.
"In truth, I wanted to get to know you," she explained, propping her elbow on the desk and resting her cheek against her palm. "You always sit alone. Never talk to anyone. But every so often I see you smile, to yourself, usually...and I've always wondered if that was something I could help with. I make fantastic company, if you haven't heard."
Pamela nodded, a little too staggered by her random kindness to respond appropriately. But she did smile, wide enough to show her teeth for once.
"So," Linda continued quickly. "Ready to get started? Although, you're going to have to carry me through most of this. I still can't make heads or tails of the electrophoretic separation of proteins. Doesn't help that I can never read Woodrue's notes. That man was born to be a doctor—and a sloppy one at that."
Pamela giggled and the sound almost surprised her. Linda's lips quirked, clearly almost as surprised.
"I'll help you," she assured Linda. "Just let me take the lead."
"Yes, ma'am," Linda winked, and Pamela felt a tingle fly down her spine. Ignoring the sensation, Pamela returned her attention to the textbook, opening her mouth to explain the purpose of the lab, when Linda spoke again.
"So why biochemistry?"
She snapped her mouth shut, her green eyes flitting back to Linda's blue ones—blue eyes that were now studying her with a strange expression.
"I…" Why biochemistry? Pamela's mind had been wiped clean by Linda's gaze, her well-constructed, logical answers about effecting positive change escaping her. She shook her head, clearing her throat and gathering herself… electing to focus on the book instead of Linda's face. "I didn't have a lot of friends growing up."
"You're just full of surprises, aren't you?" Linda giggled at her own rhetorical question.
Pamela felt her cheeks begin to burn, and kept her eyes on the book in an attempt to hide it. "My mother and father weren't exactly a supportive presence in my life." I was lonely. "I spent most of my time in the garden." That my mother wanted and then never tended to. "The plants and flowers offered me a dependability, a haven, that my parents couldn't."
Linda nodded, her eyes still trained on Pamela's face. And Pamela wondered for a moment, why she felt so comfortable telling Linda about her dysfunctional childhood. It wasn't something she'd shared with anyone before. But there was something welcoming about Linda. Something that made Pamela feel she wouldn't be judged. That made her feel heard.
"Flowers were what I had instead of a happy childhood." Pamela summarized. "I was fascinated by them. By their maturation processes and intricacies, what they could do for humans and nature alike. They hold more power than people realize."
"And that brought you all the way here to Seattle University?"
Pamela nodded. "I came here for the Professor. He knows more about plant life than any human being has a right to."
Linda chuckled. "True enough."
"I'm working on my thesis," Pamela continued, unreservedly now. "Plant and animal hybridization."
"Impressive," Linda praised, propping her cheek on her palm again.
"And you? Why did you choose biochemistry?" Pamela asked and Linda gave a wry smile. "It's only fair."
"Well, unlike yourself, I can't say I chose plants over throwing sand at other children on the playground. But I have always been fascinated with plant biology. You're right, it's far more complex than most people realize or care to understand. I'm here with my fiancé." Pamela couldn't explain the disappointment that twisted in her gut. "He's working on a bio-restorative formula."
"To what end?" Pamela asked, cocking her head.
"He wants to solve the nation's food shortage problem," Linda explained. "Noble, right?"
Linda smiled. "But I won't be much use to his crusade if I can't pass Woodrue's class."
"You're smart enough."
"You don't even know me," Linda teased, tapping her pencil on the desk. "How can you be so sure?"
"Well… You were admitted. You made it this far, that's no small feat."
Linda laughed, the sound light and airy like a bell, and Pamela felt a flutter in her stomach.
"Sure, sure," she said. "Good point. Unimpeachable argument, Pamela."
Pamela liked the sound of her name rolling off Linda's tongue. The way she said it felt warm, oddly affectionate. Different than how her Mother said it, different than even Professor Woodrue. And then she glanced at the clock on the wall over Linda's shoulder. They'd been talking too long. And, rather surprisingly, Pamela found that she didn't care. It was nice… connecting with someone.
"We should probably get to work," Pamela suggested, gesturing vaguely to the clock.
Linda looked over her shoulder. "Oh, sorry. Didn't realize I'd been babbling so long. Distracting my classmates, that's my superpower."
"Not exactly a desirable power," Pamela tried, offering a nervous smile.
Linda snickered. "Maybe not for a hero. But I bet I'd make a good villain. I'm sure I could rattle off a bloated monologue or two."
"You're not a villain." Pamela almost felt offended on Linda's behalf.
"Joke, Pam," she teased, poking Pamela's shoulder with the eraser end of her pencil. "We'll work on it, don't worry."
Pam. I could be Pam.
Finally, Linda hunched over in her chair and peered at the textbook between them. "Fine, you've convinced me—let's get going."
Pamela watched her a moment more, entranced by the way her light blonde hair fell over her shoulder and curtained her face. She pushed it back behind her ear again—a habit Pamela already found endlessly endearing.
Linda glanced at her from the corner of her eye. "You okay?"
"Yes," Pamela answered quickly, looking away before Linda could see the blush coloring her cheeks. The soft smile that grew on Linda's pink lips told her she was unsuccessful.
"Come on," Linda said, gathering her books as the obnoxious brass bell signaled the end of class. "I'll introduce you to Alec." Pamela rose from her chair, following Linda without paying attention to the afterwork Woodrue was assigning as the crowd of students flooded out of the lecture hall doors.
"How long have you been engaged?" Pamela asked as they strode through the busy quad together, Linda's book swinging confidently at her side while Pamela kept hers pressed close to her chest.
"Just a few months. But we've known each other since we were both freshman. I thought he was an absolute jackass when we first met," Linda said with a laugh; Pamela hung onto the sound. "But he told me he was smitten the second he saw me. How could I not fall for that eventually?"
I can understand why he was. Pamela held her words inside and simply pursed her lips instead.
It didn't sound like the healthiest way to start a relationship, but who was she to judge? Her first and only relationship had ended the moment they'd shared their first kiss. Pamela could still feel the boy's saliva smeared all over her face, in her mouth...for a moment, she thought to spit.
Linda noticed the shudder than passed through her. "Disgusted?"
Pamela shook her head quickly. "Not by you."
"Comforting." Linda adjusted her book in her arms and turned sharply, taking them towards the library and Pamela nearly stumbled over her own feet in an attempt to keep up. They fell silent as they entered the quiet library together, Pamela following close behind as Linda led her to the back of the building.
A young man with blonde hair lighter than Linda's and dark intelligent eyes, sat at a round table hidden away in the corner, scribbling fiercely on a piece of paper already crowded with text. There were dozens of books spread out around him and he was so busy scouring them, he didn't notice Pamela and Linda approach until Linda slipped a hand over his eyes.
He jumped when she leaned down to peck him on the cheek. "Guess who?"
A slow grin crept onto his face and he turned to meet Linda's lips. Pamela looked away. It was hardly more than a chaste kiss, but somehow she felt like she was interrupting an extremely intimate moment.
"How was class?" Alec asked, once the two had separated.
"Easy as pie," Linda said, gesturing for Pamela to come closer. "I had a little help today. This is Pam."
Alec's piercing eyes flickered over Pamela. He rose and held out a hand, which Pamela took cautiously. His grip was firm, but the smile on his face was friendly.
"Good to meet you, Pam. I'm Alec." He released her hand and slipped an arm around Linda's waist. "Thanks for giving Linda a hand today. Woodrue's a bit of a candyass stiff, if you ask me. And not exactly easy to keep up with."
A brief heat rose in Pamela's cheeks, whether on her professor's behalf, or for the insinuation that she might lack the necessary intelligence, she wasn't sure. "For some," Pamela replied with a shrug.
Alec raised a single brow. "I admire your… confidence."
"She's Woodrue's favorite," Linda explained, untangling herself from Alec's grip and sinking into a chair at the table. "And absolutely deserves the attention."
"What's your thesis?" Alec asked, sitting next to Linda and gesturing for Pamela to do the same. Cautiously, she did, setting her books aside as she began to explain to Alec what she'd already told Linda. Her eyes flickered to their hands every now and again—Alec toyed with Linda's fingers constantly, running his own over her engagement ring. Pamela found it incredibly distracting and she couldn't ignore the strange ache forming in her belly.
Pamela fidgeted in front of the mirror as she fastened the buttons on her plaid overcoat, wrapping her green scarf around her neck—the one that matched the ribbon she'd tied into her hair.
Green…her Mother had always said that was her color. Green like her eyes, as rich and lively as the plants she studied.
She attempted a nervous smile and a small wave at her reflection and reminded herself for the 200th time that Linda had invited her for a drink. It was Linda's idea. Pamela wasn't imposing, she didn't make the woman uncomfortable. Linda liked her. Linda was her friend. She'd made a friend.
Pam's smile brightened to a grin at the thought, and in the next moment a car horn was honking outside her window.
With a deep breath, Pam grabbed her clutch off the counter and opened the front door. Immediately, she was hit with a cold gust of wind…and then an overwhelming heat that spread from her chest into her cheeks at the sight of Linda waving at her from the driver's seat of a pink convertible.
Pam couldn't believe she found something so ridiculous so thoroughly charming, but she smiled as she approached the car, tentatively taking the handle in her gloved hand to pull the door open.
"Well hey there," Linda smiled right back, her hands noticeably bare on the leather steering wheel, a thick woolen cap pulled down over her ears. "I didn't intend to be late, I promise."
"No, it's no trouble," Pamela excused her apology, shutting herself into the car and glancing confusedly at the empty back seat. "Is Alec not joining us?"
"Unfortunately, he's indisposed." Linda put the car in gear, creeping at a respectable speed down Pam's residential street. "Just us girls tonight, if that's alright with you."
"Oh, yes! Yes, that's fine," Pam said, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. She liked Alec, she really did. He was kind and intelligent and seemed to truly adore Linda—as far as she could tell. But Linda was her friend, Alec was simply an acquaintance, a colleague, maybe. She enjoyed his company, but didn't…miss him when he was gone or crave their next conversation the way she did with Linda.
Linda smirked subtly in Pam's direction. "He's working on a project with Woodrue, if you can believe it. Hasn't lifted his nose from the grindstone in almost a week."
Working…with Professor Woodrue? Pamela tried to ignore the pang of jealously in her gut. "He must be very grateful for the opportunity," she intoned, unable to keep all the sourness out of her voice.
Linda chuckled. "Well, he's not exactly the professor's biggest fan, that's no secret. Even so, I say let the boys be boys, and we'll have our own fun. How does that sound?"
In reality, Pam had very little idea as to what that meant, but still, the thought excited her.
It was a Friday night and a holiday, meaning the college bar that Linda and Pam's other classmates frequented was positively slammed. Linda was forced to park her car a few blocks away, and to hold onto Pam's hand for the walk over as she'd neglected to bring her own gloves. Pam, of course, had no qualms about holding Linda's hand. Linda was her friend. Friends helped each other. And providing warmth was a task she was certainly up for.
That's what she told herself anyway. Ignoring the voice that told her to lace their fingers together… to run her thumb over Linda's knuckles. Needless to say, she missed most of what Linda said as they walked to the bar together. The blonde didn't seem to mind though, chattering away animatedly while Pam's thoughts spun like a whirlwind in her head.
By the time they arrived, the bar was so crowded that Linda actually had to push their way inside. She gripped Pam's hand tightly in her own, which helped the redhead to feel secure surrounded by all these people.
People she tended to purposefully avoid.
Pam wasn't much of a drinker…every so often, at one of her parent's parties, she'd partake in a cocktail or two, but only really to appease the other guests and avoid questions about pregnancy. The answer was always no. Pam was fairly certain the answer would always be no. Not that she didn't like children, it was just…the idea of settling down with a man, of being called his wife, of pushing aside her own career and ambition to become her Mother's daughter was terrifying for a reason she couldn't quite explain. It made her feel trapped, just like her conversations with men made her feel corralled. Their broad shoulders and natural arrogance, their ridiculous bravado, the grease in their hair or the stubble on their cheeks…it was oppressive and overwhelming. Luckily, she didn't get much of their attention anyway. And that wasn't to say that Pamela wasn't attractive. No, she was, beneath her glasses, she knew she was. But she was also intimidating. A man didn't want to know less than their woman, and Pamela knew more than anyone.
Linda returned to their booth carrying a drink in each hand—manhattans. Pam recognized the amber coloring immediately. It was her Mother's drink. Pamela had become rather skilled at preparing them throughout her life. It was a service her Mother had required of her from a young age.
"M'lady…" Linda set one of the glasses down on the coaster in front of Pam, taking a seat on the other bench, a sip of the liquid already in her mouth.
"Thank you," Pam said, quietly, glancing down at her glass without reaching for it. "I can pay you back…"
Linda waved her off. "Oh, don't be silly. I didn't buy these anyway. Those gentleman…" she turned to point at two square-jawed men standing near the bar, "provided the beverages."
"I see," Pam gave a cordial nod in their direction, which was returned with a wink that Pam quickly averted her eyes from. "Did you…happen to get a look at next semester's syllabus? I hear the workload will increase significantly."
Laughing, Linda said: "Pamela Lillian Isley, it is New Year's Eve. How about we find something else to talk about besides Professor Woodrue and his apparent arousal at overworking his students."
Pam bit her lip to contain her smile, finally reaching for her drink. "If you insist."
"Yes, and please drink," Linda agreed. "Blitzed Pam is someone I'm very much looking forward to meeting."
Although a little hesitant at first, Pam quickly relaxed into the light-hearted conversation Linda initiated. Soon, she forgot about the loud and rowdy crowd around them. As she sipped—a little more slowly than Linda—the world seemed to shrink around them until there was nothing but Linda's blue eyes, and her blinding smile and her pale skin illuminated by the yellow bar lights.
Linda was laughing heartily by the time they'd finished their second drink. "You can't be serious."
"I am be serious," Pam assured her, before frowning at how her words had twisted on the journey from her brain to her mouth. "I've never worn pants and I have too many skirts," she waved her hands in a grand 'no' gesture. "So many skirts and dresses. But you're wearing pants. Is that nice?"
"It's very nice," Linda revealed. "My brother runs track, and in pants I can almost keep up with him."
Pam snorted at that. "I don't believe you.
Linda quirked an eyebrow amusedly. "I'd be happy to race you."
"But I'm in a skirt! Didn't you see?" Pam giggled.
"Yes…I did…" Linda smiled over the brim of her glass. "It's shorter than your other ones. I like it very much. Did you wear it for me?"
Pam blushed furiously, immediately dropping her gaze. "No, I just…it's a nice skirt. I bought it myself."
Linda's frown was puzzled as she leaned forward on the leather bench. "Do you have a personal shopper?"
"Oh, No, not that, it's…" Pam stared own at the maraschino cherry in her glass. "My Mother likes to buy clothes and send them to me. She…she doesn't think I'll make good decisions."
Giggling, Linda asked: "Does she think you'll buy pants?"
"Yes," Pam admitted with a laugh, finally brave enough to enter back into the blue tractor beam that pulled her in so quickly. "Or maybe that I'll forget to do my makeup, or something of the sort. Neglect my salon appointments, wear my glasses out at night, forget a bra…or wear flats, God forbid."
Linda tilted her head slightly, just to look at her…Pam could feel the woman's eyes searching her face, and watched as a warm smile crept onto her lips. "I like your glasses," she decided. "They suit you."
"Thank you," Pam mumbled, pushing said glasses up the bridge of her nose. "I like your no glasses—I mean your eyes!" she tried to recover her incredibly awkward sentence. "They're very blue and—I'm terribly sorry, I don't often drink."
"I am shocked and appalled," Linda teased. "But actually, I'd say you're handling it pretty well," she winked, and that, Pamela did not look away from.
Suddenly, they weren't alone. The men who'd bought them their first round were now standing uncomfortably close to their booth, the taller one leaning against it on Linda's side, looking down at her.
"Do either of you fine ladies have anyone to kiss at midnight?" he asked with an overconfident smile.
"Yes," Linda answered him, blatantly showing off her engagement ring. "He's at home, waiting for me."
"And what about you, Sweetheart?" the other one asked, leering at Pam. "If you can take our drinks I'm sure you can take our—,"
All at once, Pam shot up from the table, saying: "I have to go," before he even had time to finish his sentence. That predatory look in his eye…it made her skin crawl, and so she grabbed her jacket. "Linda, I need you to take me home."
"I can give you a ride if you want, Baby," the man assured her. "No need to interrupt your friend's evening, especially now, only two minutes before midnight. What's the point of celebrating New Year's Eve if you don't ring in the new year?"
"No," Linda said firmly, getting to her feet. "Pamela's right, we should be going. Late for a woman to be out without her husband anyway, especially on a holiday." She pushed past them, taking Pamela by the arm and fighting the crowd once more until they were hit with that familiar gust of cold, fresh air.
"I'm sorry," Pamela murmured as she walked arm-in-arm with Linda down the street. "I was enjoying myself, I didn't…you could have stayed longer, I suppose, I just…" she trailed off when Linda pulled her into an alley two buildings over.
"Don't apologize," said the blonde, facing her now. "You shouldn't have to do anything you don't want to, especially listen to some jackass who would just use you up and throw you away. That's not what you want."
"N—no, it's not," Pam agreed, shaking her head, backing up slowly as Linda moved towards her…until she felt the cold, wet bricks of the building on her back. "T—that's not what I want."
Linda's eyes flitted to Pam's lips as she flicked her tongue out to wet her own. "Can I guess what it is you do want?"
Pam swallowed—hard—her heart beating almost violently in her chest. "It's almost midnight," her voice sounded small, barely louder than a whisper, swallowed up by the whistling wind that they were only barely cocooned from in the ally.
That seemed to be enough of an answer for Linda, because she took Pam's hands in her own and pressed them back against the bricks, pinning her there.
Pam allowed her eyes to flutter closed, the warmth in her belly from the spirits nearly as hot as her blushed features as Linda moved forward, her kiss gentle.
The redhead welcomed it, everything she had wanted. This wasn't like with the boy in the car, this was…different. This was Linda and her soft pink lips, and it felt…right.
Linda unbuttoned Pam's jacket, slipping her arms inside and wrapping them around Pam's waist as Pam allowed the woman's questing tongue to slide against her bottom lip and into her mouth. Luckily, she was just buzzed enough not to be embarrassed by the moan she let slip.
The blonde smiled at that, pulling back just slightly, so they were still sharing the same air. "Would you still like me to take you home?"
Pam's eyes blinked open, her stomach fluttering, heart racing, and her wet lips cold in the absence of Linda's. "Yes, please."