A/N: Many thanks to mskathy for organizing this. Love you, bb. Thanks as well for helping me with the Scienceward prompt and for telling me I couldn't end it there. Though I'm not sure where I did end it is any better.
I looked at my watch. Seven fifty-seven. He would be arriving at any minute. At any second, he'd come through the door wearing his fitted kakis, his bronze hair still damp from the shower he took downstairs after biking to work.
I flipped through the papers on my desk. Culture fifteen needed to be inoculated again.
The door to the lab swung open.
Culture fifteen would have to wait.
He walked through the lab, nodding at his assistants, smiling when one showed him the results of some overnight test. He made it to his office and through the glass walls, I watched as he pushed his eyeglasses up and. . . . He looked toward me.
I dropped my eyes to the papers still in my hand.
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
Had he caught me watching him?
Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.
My heart pounded, but I needed to see him again. I looked back up.
He was walking to my office.
I took a deep breath.
My door was open, so he knocked once and slipped inside.
"Dr. Swan," he said.
"Dr. Cullen," I said. Quickly. Think of something to say. "I see from the printout, culture fifteen has to be restarted."
"Yes," he said, a smile playing on his lips as he nodded toward the assistant out in our shared laboratory. "I was just told." He raked a hand through his hair. "Will you have time to set it up today or should –"
"Oh, no," I said. "I'll take care of it."
His smile grew bigger.
Damn it. I hope that didn't come across as too eager.
"Thanks," he said.
"I mean." I twisted my watch. "I need to start on the sensitivities, but I should have time later this morning." I shrugged.
"Maybe this afternoon we can set aside some time and go over the findings from last week?" he asked.
"Sure, Dr. Cullen." I fluttered my eyelashes in a playful manner. "My place or yours?"
He looked endearingly confused for about three seconds. "Umm," he said, all flustered. "I can come here."
Why yes you can. Right here on my desk.
"Shall we say two?" I asked, like I wasn't picturing him taking me on one of the lab tables outside our office doors.
That would not be an OSHA approved activity, Dr. Swan.
His upper lip lifted at the corner.
"Two o'clock would be great," he said.
For eighteen months we had played this game. For five hundred and forty days we egged each other on with a subtle give and take. We tested the waters of the other's attraction, both too scared to dive in.
I knew his birthday, favorite lunch, and how he liked his coffee. I knew the way he crossed his slightly crooked t's and how his handwriting was a perplexing mix of both print and cursive. I knew he went home to an empty apartment and spent his weekends cycling.
But there was so much more I wanted to know and I didn't know what to do.
Would I ever be bold enough to make my move?
If I did, how would he react?
"See you later," I said.
He looked like he wanted to say something, but was interrupted by a knock on my door.
"Dr. Swan," my administrative assistant, Mrs. Cope, said from outside. "Jessica Stanley is here."
Right. I had a new lab assistant starting today. I peeked out through the glass wall. She was perky, trim, too damn attractive, and only had eyes for Edward.
Mrs. Cope introduced her to Edward before leaving her with me. He nodded, said he'd see me at two, and left. Whatever else he wanted to say would have to wait for later.
Jessica watched him leave and then turned toward me, looking me up and down as if in appraisal.
It was time to dive in and damn the consequences.
Game on, Jessica.
At five till two, I situated myself at the small conference table in the corner of my office. I placed last week's test results in a pile to my left and put a blank legal pad at my right. Somehow putting everything in its place helped calm my nerves.
This is crazy. You're been working with the man for eighteen months.
Exactly. So why did today feel different?
It just did and I needed a plan. If I didn't have a plan, Edward might fall for Jessica. I had watched her sly glances toward his office all day.
I tapped my pen on the legal pad.
Hello, Kettle. Nice to meet you.
"Dr. Swan," Edward said from the doorway.
I dropped the pen.
"Dr. Cullen," I said, as I scrambled under the table to retrieve my pen. "Come in." Always so formal. Dr. Cullen. Dr. Swan. Eighteen months and we hadn't progressed to first names? I bumped my head on the table. "Oww."
"Are you okay?" he asked, walking to me.
I rubbed my head and sat down. "I'm fine," I said. "Here, have a seat."
Goal for the day: call him Edward to his face.
He sat down across from me and we started sorting through printouts. We made notes, separated what needed to be repeated, and discussed what would be useful for a paper.
Twenty minutes into our talk, the most curious thing happened: his foot brushed against mine.
My eyes shot up, but his expression revealed nothing and he casually flipped to the next page in the pile before us.
Going crazy, Dr. Swan?
Yes. Quite possibly.
I turned back to my own stack of papers and tried to focus. With the information collected last week, we should be able to ask for a new grant. Maybe –
His foot nudged mine again.
I didn't look up this time. Once was an accident. Twice was . . . not.
I stepped out of my flats and placed my foot on top of his. I heard a faint intake of breath from the man across from me, but he didn't move his foot away.
Someone walked by my office door - Jessica, damn her ass. But it was a good reminder we weren't alone and anyone who looked toward us could see everything we did.
I moved my foot and crossed my ankles under my chair.
Grants. Grants. Grants. We need more grants.
I passed him the sheet I'd been looking at and, when he took it, our fingers touched. Electric. His eyes met mine and, completely of its own accord, my foot went back to his leg. Inched up a bit higher this time.
I imagined what his leg looked like. Long. Strong after years of cycling. Then my mind went further. His ass…I bet he had an awesome ass.
"What are your thoughts on this one?" he asked, pointing to an outlier. The culture details in question just happened to be half hidden by my finger, so when he pointed it out, our hands touched again.
My mind still pictured him naked.
"The cock was," I said and then stopped at his raised eyebrow. Damn it. "The cockcocktion. . ." Damn it all! "Concoction. New lot number," I mumbled, but he wasn't even paying attention anymore. He was watching my lips.
"Mmm," he said.
"New lot number," I repeated. My face felt flushed from my earlier slip and I knew he was probably trying to decide the quickest way out of my office.
"Is there any old left?" he asked and I realized my foot was still on his leg. I dropped it back to the ground.
"Everything old was discarded," I said.
I shook my head. "Not really. If we had more of the old lot, we could –"
"I wasn't talking about the reagent," he said, and softly added, "Bella."
"Well, Edward," My heart pounded and I didn't even care that I'd accomplished my goal. "What are you talking about?"
He leaned toward me. "Will you have dinner with me? Tonight?"
My body felt like I was on a rollercoaster headed up a hill so steep, the top couldn't be seen.
"Yes," I somehow managed to get out.
He smiled, eyes dancing. "You could come to my apartment and let me . . . concoct something for us."
Yes. Yes. Yes.
"Or, you know." He shrugged. "We could go out?"
Someone knocked on my door and we both looked up.
I wondered idly if I could fire her after her first day.
But when she opened the door, Edward spoke first. "Jessica," he said. "Dr. Swan and I are in the middle of something of the utmost importance. It would be very prudent on your part to not interrupt us again."
I tried not to smirk at her. She stammered out an apology and left.
"Now." He turned back to me. "What do you think? Out or in?"
"In," I said, running my foot back up his leg and not caring who saw. "Definitely in."