"Have you seen her at all today?"
Dante shook his head, the briefest flicker of concern crossing his pale face. "Just the back of her head," he told Nisse, referring to the morning's incident between John and their missing friend. The pair of them were on the dining hall patio, talking over lunch.
"Hmm." Nisse's face darkened. "I wonder if she—" She broke off when Elizabeth Donnen came trotting up to them. She was carrying what looked like an oversized metal salad fork and had a sack full of lumpy objects over one shoulder.
"I don't suppose either of you knows where John Allerdyce is, do you?" she asked plaintively.
Two pairs of eyebrows shot up. "No," said Dante carefully. "Why?"
Elizabeth dropped the sack on the table between them and lifted out a small red potato. "I was going to ask if he'd roast a few of these for me," she said. "I just can't seem to get them to aim right when they're raw, and I wanted to find out if it's just the extra moisture in 'em or if it's the potatoes themselves."
"Um. Sparks?" Nisse said slowly. "Can I ask what exactly you're doing with those potatoes?"
Elizabeth beamed, stuck a fork into the potato, and touched one crackling finger to the metal; immediately the potato shot from the end of the fork, ricocheted off the wall, and landed with a crash on one of the terra cotta plant pots, which shattered. "Projectile potatoes!" she announced. "They don't go where they're s'posed to, though," she added mournfully.
Without missing a beat, Dante turned to his girlfriend. "You realize I'm going to have to kill you now," he said calmly.
Nisse, torn between total horror and a mad desire to laugh, choked on a giggle and fell out of her chair. "Sparks," she spluttered between coughs, "did it ever occur to you that maybe the problem is that the fork tines are curved?"
The girl blinked, stared at the salad fork for a moment, and then her face lit up. "Heeeey! Thanks!" she said brightly, and wandered away.
It was a few moments before Nisse noticed that Dante was looking very pointedly between his steel-toed boot and her rear end. "Eek! No!" she squeaked, rolling quickly out of range of his foot.
"Give me one good reason why not?" he demanded.
"Oh, come on. She looked so disappointed! I couldn't just leave her hanging, could I?"
"Yes," he said emphatically. "You could." But he was grinning; reaching out a hand, he helped her up off the floor.
Taking a deep breath, John stepped into the senior girls' dormitory and said, "Boo."
The girl jumped. She obviously hadn't heard the door open, and John's voice had sounded too loud in the silence of the empty dorm room. "Hi," she said guardedly, looking up at him from where she was sprawled on her bed.
"Can I come in?"
"Go for it." Rhiannon watched him warily as he crossed the room and sat down on the bed next to hers. They hadn't seen each other since their fight at breakfast and John was vaguely relieved that she had decided to speak to him again.
"So. Um. I didn't see you around today," he said, staring at his hands and feeling spectacularly awkward.
"I had some things to do."
"Right. Of course."
When he didn't say anything more, Rhiannon sat up. "Look, John, what's—"
He held up a hand, and she stopped. "Wait. I'm never gonna say this if I don't say it now, so give me a minute. I was really pissed this morning when you wouldn't tell me what was going on. And I'm not apologizing for that, because I shouldn't have to apologize to my girlfriend for caring about her. But I do apologize for being mad that you didn't trust me. At first I thought, well, I'm her boyfriend, of course she should trust me! But that isn't really fair because you're my girlfriend and I don't trust you." He held up a hand when she opened her mouth to say something. "No, it has nothing to do with you, I just… I haven't had a lot of reasons to trust people, so it doesn't come easy. What I'm trying to say is, I'm willing to try. I like you, Rhi, and I don't want this to be the end of us just because I'm a stubborn prick. I can start by trusting you to know that you can handle this, but I also need to be able to trust you to tell me if you can't."
A long, echoing silence greeted the end of his monologue; John let it stretch as far as he could before glancing up to meet Rhiannon's eyes. To his great surprise there were tears in them.
"Are you always this good with apologies?" she asked, a grin tugging at the corner of her mouth. "Because if you are, it's going to be bloody hard to stay mad at you."
Nervous tension forced itself out as laughter. "So are we okay, then?" He felt suddenly shy.
"And you'll try to trust me if I try to trust you?"
"Yeah," she said quietly, reaching a hand across the space between the beds.
He took it and then, on impulse, pulled her to her feet and kissed her. After a long, breathless moment, she smiled up at him. "Thanks," she murmured, slipping her arms around his neck. He smiled and leaned in to kiss her again
They both whipped around, guilty grins on their faces when they saw Rogue standing in the doorway. "As much as I hate to interrupt such a touching moment," she said sarcastically, "John's already been lectured by the Professor once today and I'd hate for him to, you know, get another detention or anything…"
John's grin widened. "Fuck off," he told his friend.
"When and where, sugar?" she retorted, and they all burst out laughing. "Come on, you miscreants," Rogue went on, dropping the banter. "Bobby and I were wondering if you wanted to go into town for dinner."
He glanced down at Rhiannon and, when she nodded, said, "Yeah. That sounds great." Hand in hand they followed Rogue out of the dorm.