All HMR and Jesse Hawkes characters are property of A Shane Co and Sibling Rivalry. I don't own them. This is strictly for entertainment purposes only. I do, however, own any original characters that are created for this story. Reviews are always welcome and feed the muse.

Chapter 1

August 5th –

University of Nevada, Reno

First day of Fall Semester classes

Cody ran across the campus. How had he overslept? Damn, it's not like this was his first year of college. It was his third actually, his Junior year. His first class of the semester this year was Range and Forest Plants. Not that he needed it but it was part of the course requirements to get a minor in Range and Forest Management. He had only a handful of classes left to take for this minor but this particular class he couldn't take when it was offered in his freshmen year due to a scheduling conflict. He turned the corner of the Fleischmann Greenhouse and put on a little more speed. He could hopefully make it and only be fifteen minutes late. It did his ego some good as he entered the classroom building to see he wasn't the only one who was going to be late as other students scrambled into the building looking blurry-eyed. Unfortunately, he was apparently the only one late for his class.

He took a moment to brush his hair back with his fingers to make it look less wind blown as he caught his breath. He opened the door and stepped in, letting the door close quietly behind him.

"Nice to see you again Mr. Hawkes. I thought perhaps you'd lost your way." Mr. Falks looked up over his glasses to the back of the room where Cody stood.

Mr. Falks was a hard ass, but he was also the best teacher Cody had had. He challenged Cody like none of the other teachers had and though there was no true love lost between the two they had respect for one another. He'd won Mr. Falks appreciation towards him by being informed and asking in depth questions while everyone else seemed to want a 'bird course'. A 'bird course' was a class you 'flew' right through. However, Cody was a sponge for knowledge and information and thus, Mr. Falks came to look forward to Cody's attendance in his classes.

"Sorry," Cody said politely. "Won't happen again."

He had overslept because he'd arrived on campus only just last night, had to move what little gear he had into the dorm room, get his books and try to figure out which way was up with his schedule. He had even taken the time to read the first chapter of his books for his classes today before going to bed. Unfortunately, it didn't help that his roommate this year was a loudmouth and wouldn't shut up his constant yelling up and down the hall with his 'buddies' from last year until the wee hours of the morning. It had made for a short night.

"See that it doesn't," Mr. Falks said, closing the folder on his desk with a snap. "You've missed the introduction to the class. There are syllabuses on the back desk. We've already paired off with partners, so unfortunately you get last pick. I believe Ms Wagner doesn't have a partner yet," he said indicating the quiet woman sitting in the third row from the back of the room by herself.

Cody was familiar with Mr. Falks partnering system. You got a partner at the beginning of the semester and you stayed partners until the end of the term doing projects together, working on research and what not unless one dropped out. If one failed, both failed. Mr. Falks was a strong believer in teamwork. The room wasn't large, holding only twenty short tables, each big enough for two chairs and the class wasn't more than half full.

Cody nodded and moved over towards the available seat that had been indicated and sat down. The woman next to him had long brown hair that was braided down her back with short bangs in the front. She wore glasses but they were heavily tinted a brown color, going from dark at the top to lighter at the bottom. She had a pretty kind of face, sweet like you'd see on one of the romance novels Jim used to read and yet intelligent at the same time. She was slim but not stick-skinny like many of the girls on campus thought was fashionable. She looked like she probably worked out or did a bit of physical activity and had a healthy glow about her. Her clothes were nothing outstanding, looking more like an average student; jeans, short sleeved shirt and tennis shoes. She had no book, paper or pens in front of her, only a tape recorder that was obviously running to record what the teacher said.

"Hi," he whispered to her as he sat his backpack on the floor, flipping open the syllabus he'd picked up on his way to his seat.

"Hi," she said back quietly, smiling a little but not looking at him.

Cody thought it a little odd that she hadn't even glanced his way or introduced herself but perhaps she was just shy or focused on what Mr. Falk was talking about. It was probably best to introduce himself later when they had a break or at the end of the class. He turned his attention to the teacher and listened as he talked about the requirements of the course, what the expectations were and the University policies that had to be recited at each class in the beginning about sexual harassment and so forth. Cody had heard these things a hundred times already and his brain disengaged for a few minutes. Finally, Mr. Falk wrote out the upcoming assignment on the board.

Cody pulled out his notebook and pencil, opened it and began writing out what Mr. Falk was scribbling on the board. He listened as he explained about the first project and the chapters needed to be read by the next class on Wednesday. He also noted when the class trips would be to do identification of plants and trees and when the first project was due. Finally Mr. Falk gave the class time to introduce themselves to their partners and work out the logistics of accomplishing the first assignment as a team.

As he watched the other paired off partners turn to each other and begin talking, causing a low din to rise in the room, he shifted to look at his new partner. "I'm Cody Hawkes," he said politely.

She turned a little in her chair, her eyes looking in his direction from behind the tinted glasses. He couldn't make out their color but they looked light, maybe gray or blue.

"I'm Bella Wagner. It's nice to meet you Mr. Hawkes," she said, holding out a hand gracefully and speaking quietly with just a hint of a smile to her lips.

"Likewise. But call me Cody. Mr. Hawkes is my dad." He shook her hand gently. "So, how do we want to do this?" he asked, referring back to his notes.

The corner of her lips turned up slightly in a shy attempt at a smile. She tentatively pulled over the tape recorder closer as they worked out a time when they could meet at the library to begin researching the basics for the project.

The class bell rang signaling the end of the class and Cody picked up his backpack. He shoved his text book and notepad into it along with his pencil before standing up and pushing in his chair. He watched as Bella stood, put the tape recorder into a backpack that was empty of books and pushed in her chair. She turned towards him as she reached into her backpack and pulled out what looked like a bundle of white pencils from the front pocket on the pack.

"It was nice to meet you Cody. I look forward to working with you this semester." She slung the bag over her shoulder and let the bundle drop towards the ground, keeping a tight hold on the thicker end, wrapped in red tape.

Cody blinked as he realized what it symbolized and looked back up at her. She smiled as if reading his expression.

"Don't worry Cody, I won't let my 'handicap' impede our work together," she said in an almost joking manner and used her free hand to slide along the table behind her until she came to the end. She held the cane up off the floor, parallel with her body and trailed her fingers from one table to the next until she came to the last row. It was obvious to Cody that she had counted them as she went and knew exactly when she'd come to the end of the class room. It was only then that she used her cane to find the door and with a grace that belied her impediment, she opened it and walked out, leaving Cody to stare after her in surprise.