Disclaimer: "Lost" is the property of ABC. This was written for the lj comm varietypack100, prompt #42: triangle.
Crossing That Road
They call it the Golden Triangle and Charlotte is pleased that she's at one of those prestigious points, but it's March and gloriously sunny in Oxford and she can't bear sitting in the stuffy postgraduate office while it's fifteen lovely degrees out and college is empty because it's the Easter holidays. So she grabs a sweater and starts walking with the vague idea that she'll sit outside the Ashmolean and contemplate the possibility of going in and being scholarly (when in fact she knows she'll do no such thing; the sun is far too heavenly).
When she goes to cross the street the man standing next to her takes a step and a horn blares, and without thinking she reaches out to grab his arm and pull him back onto the footpath. Then, it's not fair but because he looked the wrong way, she thinks American. Even though he just as well could have been European.
He looks at her and it's like he's waking up. "Look right, love," Charlotte says archly. It's the tone that caused her last boyfriend to call her a bitch for the final time and dump her, but this man just gives her an uncertain smile, so she returns it, feeling, she surprises herself by realising, a little guilty for the bite in her voice.
"Guess I'm not as used to that as I thought I was," he says sheepishly (she was right, he is American).
She finds herself biting back a more genuine smile as she replies, "Yeah, well, Churchill couldn't figure it out either, could he?"
Judging by his hair and his clothes, he's not just a tourist -- he dresses just like her introductory anthropology professor. Which is to say, he looks like he gets up every morning knowing he should dress for the prestigious posting he's got, but he's only got the imagination to come up with one combination of tie, button shirt, and pants. And now, having decided he's a teacher, she feels uncomfortable and disrespectful and is about to dart across the street without saying anything more, when he holds out a hand and says, "I'm Dan."
"Charlotte," she introduces herself, shaking his hand and noticing he doesn't flinch when her grip is as firm and strong as his (her friends all say she shakes hands like a man).
"Charlotte," he repeats, rather like he doesn't fully realise he's speaking aloud. "Thanks for..." and then he just motions towards the street, and she quickly says, "No problem...I'd hate for Oxford to have to hire a replacement for you because I didn't think quickly enough."
He looks a little surprised -- probably because she can tell he's a teacher and he never thought it was that obvious -- and asks, "Do you teach here?"
Flattering that he actually thinks she's old enough to do so. Or, more likely, he's no judge of age. "I'm a postgraduate. Anthropology." She hesitates. "It's my second year at it." Her parents are still upset at her for pursuing this degree. Computer science, her father insisted, that's where the money is. Engineering, if you must be difficult.
To be really difficult, she signed up for lithics.
A horrible thought flashes through her mind, that this dazed man is actually a bit cute, and wouldn't it horrify her parents if she dated an American academic? No no no, bad enough that she wants to live with Stone Age savages in Borneo, but that might just get her disowned.
"What do you do, Dan?" she asks, brushing that line of thinking away.
"Physics. I mean, I'm a physicist. Quantum, mostly."
She raises an eyebrow. "And you're brilliant, no doubt."
He laughs, uncomfortable but pleased, which is good because she actually means it. This Dan, he's not quite here, he's off with quarks and cosmological constants, or whatever it is that mostly-quantum physicists do.
Charlotte knows what happens next. He asks her if she wants to get a coffee with him. She does (oh yes she does, the force of the feeling shocks her). They are not right for each other but they give it a go anyway. She uses him to get some small revenge on her parents. He knows this, eventually, and resents it, along with the fact that she's gone so much of the year for research. She just resents the fact that he will always be more invested in his work than he'll be in her.
And it's too bad, because he seems sweet, and something about the fact that she actually had to stop him from stepping in front of oncoming traffic tugs at her, but she's not doing this again.
So when he asks her if she's busy, she makes an excuse, which in five minutes she will not even remember, and the day begins to feel grey despite the sun being out, so she goes back to the office and pulls out the books she needs to read.
The scrap of paper that Dan wrote his email address on goes in the bin.