You guys are BEYOND awesome. Seriously, you've rocked my fanfic socks off :) Thanks so much for all the thoughtful reviews!

This is a bit of transitional chapter, but I spent a lot of time ironing out some personal issues between Alex and Justin. Hopefully you guys will enjoy it. Any constructive feedback is appreciated.

A/N: Oh, there seemed to be some confusion over the end of last chapter. The making out was a dream. Sorry to disappoint those who thought otherwise :(!

IMPORTANT: and I are fighting a battle of technical glitches here and so far I'm losing. For some reason this chapter has been refusing to show up. So if you notice anything weird, like a double posting momentarily, excuse the confusion.

***

Part 5

***

Alex spent her morning plotting ways to avoid Justin without actually looking like she was avoiding Justin. It wasn't that she didn't want to be around him—it wasn't that. It was what being around him was doing to her lately—intense, confusing emotions and tingles, and bad, bad dreams that she'd almost convinced herself she wasn't having. She needed some space from him; even if she didn't necessarily want it. (Ugh, being a girl was so complicated).

She'd finally settled on faking a coughing fit—which, yes, she knew was lame. But, it turned out it didn't matter, because Justin was already ignoring her.

"You two are quiet," Theresa said halfway through breakfast. She sent each teen a slow, questioning glance. "What? No bickering, teasing, hair pulling-?"

"Hey," Alex cried, "I only pulled his hair once. And, that was when I was like, what, four?"

"…teen; fourteen, Alex," Jerry interjected. Alex scrunched her face at him as her father leaned forward, "So what's going on with you two?"

"Nothing," Alex and Justin mumbled, gazes sliding away.

"Are you fighting again?" Theresa asked, as if unconvinced by this reply. "Because, I don't like it. But, I could get use to the quiet arguing."

"Yeah, you two are usually much nosier," Max said. "Unless…" His eyes lit with revelation, "You put silencing charms on each other?"

Alex sighed and stared blankly at him for a moment, before rubbing at her forehead. "Could we be answering you right now if we were under silencing charms?"

"…um, no?"

"Good boy," she deadpanned.

"Then what's going on?" Jerry asked. "It-it's not drugs, is it? Because we already had that talk: 'Just say no.'"

"Ugh, no, it's not drugs, daddy."

Alex groaned, because 1) seriously, couldn't Justin at least try to be helpful here? And 2) because, seriously, since when had her family turned into a detective agency? "Can't two normally combative, but, dear, dear siblings sit down for a quiet meal together?"

"No," Theresa, Jerry, and Max answered in unison.

Alex blinked. "Eh, I'm uh…having coughing fits," she said lamely, offering up a few half-hearted coughs.

Theresa still looked unconvinced, but just sighed and looked to Justin. "How about you, sweetie? You okay?'

He shrugged one shoulder. "Yeah, I'm just a little beat… trouble sleeping," he mumbled.

Alex frowned, finally allowing her eyes to settle on him for more than a moment, to really look at him. His head was ducked low, almost so it touched it plate. His shoulders were slumped, his eyes drooping and red, and there was a hint of stubble that he almost never allowed to paint his jaw.

Slowly, almost instinctively, her hand slipped under the table and over his thigh. She felt his warm hand slide over hers, felt her chest tighten—only to feel the opposite emotion when he instantly stripped her hand away from him his leg, shifting his chair a few inches to the side.

***

"Hey," she said, cornering him in the hallway, "Why are you ignoring me?"

(Honestly, the whole thing wasn't fun anymore.)

Justin stiffened, his back nearly hitting his locker. "Uhm, what?"

She huffed and tried again. "What's with the cold shoulder extravaganza?"

His eyebrows pinched, and, yes, she did realize how hypocritical it was to grill him about avoiding her when she'd spent the morning plotting how she'd avoid him. But, still, it was the principle, or whatever.

"I'm not giving you the cold shoulder," he grumbled.

Alex rolled her eyes, because he literally turned his back to her then, opening his locker.

"Right," she said sarcastically, sliding beside him, "And, this whole interaction's just making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside."

"I thought you needed space," he mumbled, head still in his locker.

"What do you do mean, 'space'?"

When he didn't answer right away, she grabbed at his elbow, then his sleeve, trying to turn him to her. Yet, Justin simply slipped from her grasp again and stepped back.

"Hey," she said, "If I needed space, I'd say 'yo, I need space,' okay? Don't solve problems I didn't ask to you to solve."

(Again, hypocritical. But she liked control, and she was frustrated, so what of it?)

Justin straightened, folding his arms across his chest. "Then why'd you leave my room last night?"

"Uhm, what?" it was her turn to ask.

"When I woke up last night…" His lips thinned. "…you were already gone."

There was a catch, a touch of something in his voice, but he was still so guarded she couldn't place it.

"Your bed's lumpy," she whispered, and it was lame, oh, so lame.

She could tell by his expression he agreed.

"Right, whatever."

He shut his locker and Alex huffed. "Justin, wait. It's not like that."

"Like what?" he asked sharply, "I didn't say it was 'like' anything."

She sighed, worrying her bottom lip, because it was damn frustrating trying to have a conversation about something without actually discussing or knowing whatever that something was. She ran a hand through her hair.

"It's not you; it was just your bed," she blurted, "And, I just—missed my own bed and my own room, and that's it. Everything's not so complicated and overdramatic, so stop analyzing it to death." When he just stood there, brooding, she sighed and threw her hands up. "Ugh, I'm sorry, okay?"

He rolled his eyes. "Don't say that. Don't say 'you're sorry' like that."

"Then what I am supposed to say; you're being all…Mopey Eyes right now, and it sucks."

"We're fine. It's nothing. So why overanalyze it, right?"

He shrugged, grabbed his messenger back and walked off, leaving an exasperated Alex behind him.

***

That night she turned off her brain, sneaked into his room while he was still brushing his teeth, and slipped into his bed so that she was waiting for him when he came in.

They didn't talk about it. But, when she woke up things seemed back to normal—whatever normal was anymore—so what of it?

***

"Alex, I need your help," Harper called breathlessly, finding her by the water fountain.

"Alright," she said slowly, "But, this isn't about the School Wide Spirit Quilt again, is it? Because, I already told you, I have that thing I gotta do instead."

Alex ran her hand through hair, head dipping away warily, until Harper piped, "Oh, oh, no, I totally understand you helping out the elderly indefinitely until my quilt project's over with. I think it's admirable."

"Heh, well, you know, that's me: trying to be a better person," Alex mumbled.

"This is about my outfit." Harper gestured to her Nike Jumpsuit. "I can't decide whether a black bandanna or a backwards baseball cap would be more appropriate. But, not too appropriate, because I don't want to be mistaken for a gang member. You know, there's all sorts of signs, and codes, and apparel that can-"

"Russo," Alex heard someone call behind her.

She sighed, turning quickly from her friend. Saved by the bell, much?

"Duncan!" Alex cried, "You don't know how awesome it is to see you right now."

Duncan smirked, straightening slightly as he stopped in front of the girls. "Thanks, Alex. It's good to see you, too. It's always good to see you."

He did this creepy wink thing and Alex grimaced, immediately trying to think of ways to slip away.

"Oh, wow, did anyone else hear the class bell?" Alex blurted.

"Um, no," Duncan and Harper said at once.

"Oh…" Alex frowned. "…just me, then. I should really take that hearing test again. You know, with those oversized headphones and—"

"Alex."

"Oh, thank god," she mumbled.

"Alex," Justin said again, now directly behind her. "We need to talk."

She scrunched her nose, all dramatic like. "Oh, no, really? Because I was totally enjoying my talk with these guys—welp, okay, let's jet—bye, gotta go!" She cried, grabbing Justin's hand and dragging him down the hallway.

"Phew," Alex gasped as they neared the janitor's closet (their unofficial meeting place at school), "I owe you like a gazillion cookies for that; you don't even know."

"Yeah, I really don't."

He squinted as he opened the door, and Alex slipped in before him as if he'd intended to hold it open for them—which they both knew wasn't the case. Justin rolled his eyes, but didn't comment as he closed the door behind him.

Instead he mumbled, "You guys seemed awfully 'chummy'."

Alex sent him an odd look as she set her bag down. "Um, well, yeah, me and Harper are sort of best friends. So it does help that we try to get along."

Justin sighed, exasperated, yet still wasn't looking directly at her. "Not Harper. Duncan."

"Oh," Alex said with a frown, "Him."

"Yeah, him," Justin said, finally staring back at her.

"It's nothing," she blurted. "Harper was being silly and he was just stopping by to say 'hey.'"

"I didn't say it was 'anything', I was just…observing."

"Well, then you were mis-observing."

"Fine."

"Fine."

He shrugged casually, but his frame was tense—and so was Alex's—as he unzipped his bag. If her and Justin's relationship was anything it was open and frank—sometimes probably too frank. But, now there seemed to be this constant, hovering cloud of 'unspoken' following them around everywhere.

Not to mention that stubborn part of her that resented being questioned about Duncan at all, that liked freedom and independence and could do (and frequently did do) whatever the hell she felt like. Even more frustrating was this other, growing part of her that felt some sense of obligation to him, like he actually deserved explanations for seemingly private, personal things.

"Let me guess," Alex grumbled as Justin pulled out another book, "The Book of Boring Things?"

"No, that would be your sketchbook."

She pulled a face at him.

"The medium gave me this," Justin said as Alex moved besides him.

Alex glanced over the pages with a mild level of interest, until something in particular caught her eye. "Wait a sec; a lot of the pages are blank." She snorted. "I wish they'd do that with our text books."

"Yeah, all the good stuff is missing." Justin sighed. "The medium said the words will appear when the 'time is fulfilled'."

He'd rolled his eyes as he'd said it. He'd always hated dramatic things like that.

"So we don't know when you'll be able to criss-cross?"

"Crossover," Justin corrected patiently, "And, no. It's all on their end. But, now that we have this," He lifted up the book, "Maybe we can pull out a few hints."

Alex's eyes slid away. "Well, as thrilling as that sounds, I sort of have this elderly people service thing I'm doing, so—"

"I'll do the research."

"Oh." Alex visibly perked. "Wanna grab some fro-yo then?"

***

"Ugh, are you done yet?" Alex whined.

She extended her leg, poking Justin's thigh with her toes as he read on the lair couch. Justin sighed and sent her a sideways glance. "Alex, I'm working here. And, what did we say about 'grownup time'?"

"That I have to be quiet and respectful, like an adult," she recited in a small, listless voice.

"Exactly."

She huffed. "Well, I'm not an adult; I'm sixteen. And, neither are you—although you like to act like you're sixty, or whatever."

She crossed her legs so that her feet were propped in his lap, forcing him to shift his book and lose his page. Justin rolled his eyes. "Are you like, allergic to productivity, or something?"

"Mildly, yes."

He sent her a stern look, but she caught his lips quirking slightly despite himself.

"If watching me read—while refusing to help—is so tedious for you, why don't you catch up with Harper?"

"Meh, she's starting up that whole Quilt club thing and I'm fake-volunteering with the elderly, so our schedules clash."

"Riight. I don't know how you manage with all these exhausting fake activities of yours."

She sighed dramatically. "It's the wearisome cross I bear."

Justin smirked, but then returned to his reading. So, Alex shrugged and slid across the couch until she was nested up beside him, her elbow resting lazily atop his shoulder, some of her hair trailing down his chest.

"What are you doing?" Justin mumbled.

"Fake reading with you."

(And, yeah, there was that part of her that preferred leaning against him to there being any significant amount of space between them—which, no, she didn't care to analyze. She hated analyzing things).

"Oh, okay."

His eyes flickered between her and the book for a few moments, shifting slightly as if distracted. But, he didn't push her away or tell her to move, so she stayed put.

Meanwhile, it was hard to fake-read without accidentally reading some things, and eventually one caught her eye. "Who are they?" she asked, pointing to a faded sketch of two people standing under a tree.

Justin hesitated for a moment. "They're bondmates. Like us."

"Hmm, what were their names?"

Her arm was cramped, and without thinking about it (too much), she slid her arm along the couch behind him.

"Danny and Rachel Davies," he answered quietly, "They lived in 18th century England. This is a sketch taken of them a few months before they died. In their 70s."

"Wow. Wasn't that like mucho old for people back then?"

"Yeah."

"And, they were, like, still with each other after all those years?"

"Yeah," Justin said again more softly.

"Wow, that sounds so..." She scrunched her nose. "…bondy."

"Heh, well, that'd sort of be the point."

She felt a nip of something anxious in her chest, but then shrugged it off. "Meh, well, I guess I'll probably still be stuck with you and Max when I'm that old, too. The joys of siblinghood, huh?"

She smirked at him, but his lips were a steady, even line. His brows pinched. "Uh, they weren't exactly siblings, Alex. They were…'together' together."

She stiffened and only moments later realized that her arm had slipped away from him. "Uhm, come again?"

He cleared his throat, shifting somewhat uncomfortably on the couch. "They were um, romantically involved. I-I think maybe…maybe a lot of bondmates are."

Alex's mouth literally dropped opened, a heavy silence taking the room.

"Uhm, come again?" she repeated blankly.

"Alex-"

But, she cut him off, her brain finally catching up. "So let get me this straight, this bunkmates thing-"

"Bondmates."

"Whatever. The point is it makes people get all…" She waved her hands about. "…shacky?"

"I don't think it makes people do anything," Justin said stiffly, "I just think maybe's there a strong a connection between the two."

"A strong connection?" Alex said, paling, "There's a possibility that we could get all 'shacky'—"

"Stop staying that."

"…And it just slipped your mind to share this with me?!"

"Alex," Justin admonished, shushing her, "Calm down."

"No, you need to calm up! And, yes, I know that didn't technically make any sense, but you know what I meant."

Justin sighed, running a shaky hand through his hair, his eyes straying from her. "Look, just—just forget it. Forget I said anything; it's just a theory, it could be wrong."

"Well, it's a gross theory. A yuck-tackular theory. A disgusting theory-"

"I get your point," Justin grumbled.

She stood abruptly, yanking the book from his lap. "…A bad, bad, bad theory, Justin!" she huffed, tossing it across the room.

"I. Get. Your Point," Justin said tightly, standing with her. "And, it's not like I was particularly perky about it—which again, was only a theory--or-or that I'd want to follow through on it or anything."

"And, what?" She crossed her arms, "I'm just totally unmackable now? Because you're not exactly Teen Charming, yourself."

Justin blinked, eyes widening, and suddenly she realized how ridiculous and defensive her statement had been.

"Ugh, just forget it," she muttered.

"It's already forgotten," he said stiffly.

"Fine."

"Fine."

They kept standing there then, stuck in this intense, confusing, frustrating stare until Alex finally huffed and kicked at the book on the ground—for good measure.

"It's stupid," she hissed, marching off.

"I got your point!"

***

Okay, so now they were officially fighting.

Which was pretty much 'par for the course' if you didn't count the heated glares, and heated cheeks, and how charged everything felt when they were in the same room all of a sudden.

***

Ignoring Justin and making it look like she was ignoring Justin was hard to do when Harper was being so dull (she couldn't wait until this dumb quilt thing was over with). So, how could she not keeping glancing over at Justin's locker?

And, no, the perky cheerleader who had inexplicably spent the last five minutes hanging all over him had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

Her eyes slid over to them for what had to have been the tenth time, and she felt that stupid burn of her cheeks again, a hot agitation in her chest. She had the sudden urge to march over there and—

She didn't know what. There was no rational reason to be bothered by this. Not that anything had been at all 'rational' about them these last few weeks.

She realized she'd been staring over there for entirely too long—thank goodness Harper was too wrapped up in her ecstatic monologue—when Justin's head suddenly jerked up, his eyes sprinting confusedly in her direction.

Instantly, she turned to Harper, her back facing him. "Oh, wow, that sounds super!" she cried.

Harper's eyes popped. "Really? You think? 'cause I thought a life size Justin mural might cross a line…?"

"…"

"Russo," came a voice from behind her.

She sighed, feeling immeasurably relieved again.

"Duncan," she cried, "You have uncanny timing." She scrunched her nose. "Although I don't understand why they call it 'uncanny', though. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly non-cannish about it."

"Um, right," Duncan said with a blank squint.

"Duncan," Harper asked firmly, "If a girl made a life-sized painting of you, would that creep you out, or flatter you?"

"Well, that would depend on the girl. And how hot she looked with a paintbrush," he drawled, eyes lifting suggestively towards Alex.

Alex felt a shudder take her shoulders.

Then, strangely, there was this pinch of longing in her chest, a brooding and a bite of anger—a wave of emotion not quite her own. Her eyes darted instinctively across the hall to Justin, saw all those emotions covering his features.

What the hell is going on?

"Yo, Alex, you still there?" Duncan asked.

His hand was on her shoulder, which she wasn't too fond of, but she felt a bit foggy, unbalanced for a moment.

Stop it, she heard not-quite-herself say.

No, you stop it, she growled back to not-quite-herself.

Her eyes flashed to Justin who was openly glaring now.

"Alex?" she heard Duncan call again.

She tore her gaze away from Justin, smiling up eagerly at Duncan. "Oh, yeah, sorry I was just zoning, I guess. You know how the post lunch lull can be?"

"Right, definitely. Especially on sloppy joe days."

He grinned, and Alex twisted her nose, watching the small round, sauce stain on his collar. Duncan seemed to mistake the disdainful look for a doting stare, because he smirked and pulled her closer against him.

There was another tug in her chest, then a feeling of raw possessiveness that kept distracting her and pulling her gaze back to Justin, nearly against her will.

The stubborn part of her flared back and, almost without thinking, she reached up and pressed an impulsive kiss to Duncan's cheek.

She grimaced and pulled back, because it just felt ugh—oh, no, wait, she was being pulled back. She squeaked at the feel of Justin's rough hand on her shoulder, gawking as he stepped between her and Duncan.

"Woah, mood killer, much?" Duncan griped.

"It's a family thing," Justin blurted, "You understand. We need to take care of it. Now."

He'd looked sharply at Alex on the word 'now' and she glowered at him as he yanked her away and down the hall.

"What the hell, Justin?" she cried as they turned the corner.

"What do you think you're doing?" he hissed back at her.

Another turn and she was ushered into the janitor's closet, the door slamming shut behind them.

"Um, I dunno, being a normal teenager girl," she said, arms crossed defensively across her chest, "And what do you think you're doing, Dr. Abducto?"

"I'm looking out for my little s—for you," he faltered, his face reddening. "How many times do I have to warn you about what a creep he is? I mean, how could you just…" He huffed, gesticulating in frustration, "Do that in front of me?"

"Well, if I really have to explain the biology of it to you, Justin, then maybe you and Dad need to have The Talk again."

She'd crossed the line, she knew that. And, it was written all over his face.

His jaw flexed. "I told you to stop it," he near-growled.

"Yeah, and about that; shouldn't your little mind-melding stunt be the real topic of conversation here, and not my dating habits? You can't just-just invade my mind like that."

"I couldn't do that unless you let me in," Justin said back hotly, "And, it's not like I can control it; it just happened."

She huffed.

"And, you started it, anyway."

Her eyebrows pinched. "What are you even talking about?"

"When I was in the hallway earlier, talking to Monica, you were…" He waved his hand about vaguely, "In my head, or whatever, all grouchy like."

"Ugh. I was so not."

"I think I'd know," Justin said dryly, "Considering it's my head and all. I just didn't put it all together until now."

"Well, un-put it together," Alex growled, "Because that's not even what was going on and I don't want you involved in my personal life. You can't tell me what to do, aloud or in my brain, or anywhere else for that matter.

"Pfft. Well, that's apparent."

"Good," she hissed.

She turned on her heel, poised to leave, when his hand wrapped around her bicep, turning her back to him. "Except with this," Justin said, "I don't want you with him."

"Ugh." She yanked away. "Didn't we just go over me doing whatever I want?"

"Alex," he said lowly.

"Justin," she mimicked back.

He wasn't laughing, not at all. And when he grasped her arm again, with authority, she smacked it away, with authority. He reached for her again, this time with both hands firmly around her biceps and again she smacked them away.

"Stop doing that," he grumbled.

"No, you 'stop doing that.' "

She knew that was childish, but, honestly, so was this whole thing between them. Their smacking squabble continued until she was nearly pressed up against the wall. She huffed and her hands crashed into his chest, meant to be a shove or a push, but ending up sort of stuck there as his arms locked around her. She pushed back a little, but not with much effort, and soon they were in this strange, almost wrestle like hold, struggling with each other, and yet forcing each other close at the same time.

"Stop it," she hissed again.

"You stop it first."

She felt this familiar jab of adrenaline, this feeling that reminded her of when her and Dean's fights used to get heated: how her cheeks would flush, and her skin would warm, and her body would tingle and prick with frustration, and more than a little attraction—all things she was instinctively starting to feel now…

His eyes flickered with intensity and she felt this own flicker inside of her before she finally pushed him back.

"Ugh, I just…hate you." (So not true)

Justin was still for a moment, almost statue like, before he blinked and looked back at up her. "Why'd you kiss him? Do you want to be with him?"

"No," she hissed instantly, "You know that."

And somehow, oddly, she felt like he really must have.

"Then why did you do it?'

"Because-because…all this bunkmates stuff is really freaking me out and I just wanted it to stop or something. I don't know." She huffed, and then it was almost like someone else was speaking when she said, "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have."

He made a small, grunt like sound, his body half turned from her. And like an idiot, and totally consistent with this rollercoaster of emotional of idiocy she was on, she walked towards him.

"Please forgive me, Justin," she whispered.

Her thumb was smoothing soft, gentle circles in his palm. She realized it was the first time they'd touch intimately in a while, and she could see his eyes warming instinctively, felt herself warming instinctively.

"S'okay," he mumbled, his fingers threading tenderly into hers and tugging her him towards him.

But, then his eyes flickered suddenly, and he jerked away. "No, stop that. You can't just—just do that and expect me to let everything go."

Well, it worked before, she thought dryly.

"Well, what do you want to me to do, Justin? Rub my tummy and pat my head until you feel better? I said I was sorry, and honestly, I shouldn't have even had to say it, but I did—for you."

She raised her chin, braced herself for another argument. But, it never came. Instead, he just stood there, watching her for a long moment, before giving a tired shrug.

"You're right," he said lowly.

She blinked. "I'm…right?"

"It's not my place to care about that."

Her stomach dropped, and she wasn't quite sure why.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled, his gaze dropping down, "I understand if you don't' want to do this with me."

She didn't need him to explain what "this" was. But, maybe she had needed him to put it out there plainly. To explain that doing "this" meant they would be having these conversations, and 'caring about that' and sorts of all other weird, bizarro things.

She was wordless for a moment, her fingers twisting together. "Do…do you want to do this?"

Her stomach knotted up just asking it.

His eyes flickered back towards her and his cheeks flushed slightly as they fell back away. "Yes."

More, heavier silence covered them, before finally he added on. "In time, of course, obviously. I mean, I know this is weird—beyond weird. You don't—we don't have to do anything," he stuttered. "We can ignore it."

She knew she should have responded then, and not left him hanging mercilessly on the edge. But, she was honestly dumbstruck. It was like her mouth couldn't move even if she'd had the words to fill it with.

"We don't have to do anything," he said again, voice shaky. "I-I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."

"Stop. Stop stuttering," she said breathlessly, "It's making you seem even dorkier usual."

He sighed, and when she still hadn't said anything, took a slow step towards her, swallowing. She could see his chest rising and falling.

"Do want to do this with me, Alex?"

Yes, she thought almost instinctively.

But, something about putting that into words, confessing aloud whatever this crazy, throbbing, thing was between them shut her up.

He stepped back. "Oh, okay. I understand; let's just forget it."

His head jerked away and he made a movement for the door when she blurted. "If I say it, we don't have do anything yet, right?"

"Right," Justin said instantly, firmly.

She swallowed, feeling a strange thrill at the pleasure on his face, something she couldn't quite name. "O-okay, then…everything you said, or whatever."

"So you want do this with me, too?"

"Ah, pfft, ya duh," Alex said, her eyes creeping to the ground and her hand rubbing her neck with fake coolness, "Do I have to spell it out for you?"

He fumbled, "No, right, okay."

A few long strides and the space was gone between him, his warm hands cupping her shoulders ,then rubbing up and down her arms, as if he was trying to calm her down, and maybe himself. "Good," he whispered.

It did feel good. Really good, and intimate and—she pulled back, unbalanced.

"Is that too much now?"

"I-I dunno. This is just really confusing and I don't know."

He stepped back from her and her hand reached instinctively between them, bunching his shirt, keeping him within arm's reach. "I…I don't know," she mumbled.

Justin stood awkwardly for a moment, his hands rising and falling repeatedly around her until finally she stepped into him, squeezing tightly at his torso, and feeling his own warm arms wrap around her.

"Okay, well, that's good enough," she chirped abruptly, pulling away.

Justin's eyes widened, stunned as she stepped back.

"Um, um, I should get to class, or something," Alex said, her eyes darting about the room, "Maybe later we can, um…"

She trailed off, at a rare loss for words.

"Debrief?" Justin guessed, eyes still wide.

"Heh." She let out a shaky laugh. "Only you'd use the word 'debrief' for something like this. Dork."

One last nervous laugh and the closet door shut behind her.

***