Tuesday, December 8, Bio.

Michael would have liked to say he had no idea why Judith had draped her arm across the back of his chair during G&T, but as they worked on their project and her fingers continued to touch the line of his shoulder, he understood what she was all about.

The pantyhose, the smiles, everything – it was all for him, and he knew she didn't just want to go out ice-skating again. She had a boyfriend, and he knew she wasn't looking for a replacement.

Yeah, it made him nervous, and uncomfortable, and he certainly didn't understand why some guys got off on knowing they were wanted so intensely, so sexually, but a tiny part of him enjoyed the distraction from Mia and Lilly's conversation.

He still heard every thing they said.

"I apologise for not believing you about Kenny's phone call. I mean, it just didn't seem realistic that he would tell you he loves you so soon." He saw Lilly tap her chin. "He seemed to me to be a very restrained individual."

"Poor kid." Judith broke in at his side, visibly startling Mia. "I heard what he said to you in the hallway. I was in the Chem. lab. What was it again?" She asked unnecessarily. "'I don't care if you don't feel the same way, Mia, I will always love you,' or something like that?"

Michael glanced up from his laptop, catching Mia's glare aimed at the oblivious Judith. He wanted to smile.

She's still got it.

He loved that feisty streak to Mia. She was in no way a 'bad girl,' but, God, it was hot when she let loose a little bit.

"It's really sweet, if you think about it," Judith continued, as if Mia wasn't obviously picturing her in some amount of pain. "I mean, the guy's clearly got it bad for you."

"He's obviously very in touch with his emotions," Lilly added. "Unlike some people."

Michael didn't even have to glance up to know his sister was aiming those sharp, little words of hers directly at him. It was all hiding in the tone of her voice. She might have been talking to Mia, but she was also telling him that he was some maladaptive idiot who couldn't even outright tell the girl of his dreams that he loved her.

Well, screw her.

"Just because Mia doesn't go around shouting about how she feels in the third-floor hallway doesn't mean she isn't in touch with her emotions," burst out of his mouth.

He looked up to see Lilly's narrowed eyes on his. They both knew he wasn't talking about Mia.

"Yeah," the girl in question chipped in, smiling, surprising him out of his staring contest with his sister.

Lilly left Michael alone, turning to Mia with a displeased look. "Well, you could have said something back to him. Instead of just leaving him hanging there."

"And what should I have said to him?" Mia asked plainly.

"How about that you love him back?"

Michael tried to reacquaint himself with the work he was supposed to be doing, instead of masochistically waiting for Mia's rejoinder. He failed miserably.

"Look." When he glanced up, he saw Mia was bright red and embarrassed as hell. "I really and truly value Kenny's companionship."

Companionship? She wanted companionship? Christ, Michael could have done that with his eyes closed, it was so easy to be with Mia. So what did Showalter have that he didn't?

She continued. "But love. I mean, love. That is a very big thing. I'm not, I mean, I don't..."

Was she just too embarrassed to say she loved the guy, or – and he tried not to let himself get too far ahead – did she not love him at all?

The room was silent. Mia said nothing more, and just slipped down in her chair slightly, as if she was shrinking under the weight of every pair of eyes in the room.

Michael tried not to be too disappointed that she never finished her sentence.

Lilly broke the silence. "I see. Fear of commitment."

He wanted to roll his eyes. Mia had absolutely no fear of commitment and that was plainly obvious – she was just inexperienced, and probably nervous. She just needed an interested ear to hear what she had to say – unfortunately, that particular opportunity had gone to Kenny.

Michael forced himself to get back to work.

"Let's examine the situation, shall we?" Lilly said coolly, about the same time he managed to tune her out.

He, however, was unable to ignore Mia's aggravated tones, and so the loop began again. "There are lots of boys I–"

"Oh, yeah? Name one."

Mia blinked. "One what?"

"Name a boy that you could see yourself committing to for all eternity," Lilly challenged.

"What do you want – a list?"

"A list would be nice."

In the ensuing silence of Mia and his sister drawing up one of their infamous lists, Michael managed to get his head on straight and put everything but the Winter Carnival out of his mind.

Unfortunately, a few moments later he accidentally glanced at the piece of paper beneath Mia's hand and what he saw gave him the mother of all ideas. This idea was then quashed by Judith's fingertips roving his shoulder again.

Mia has a boyfriend, and she doesn't want me.

He told himself this for the rest of the period, letting it take hold as Judith talked him into skipping and invited herself over to his empty home.

Author's note: The interlude O/s between this chapter and the next is up now on my page – 'Long Time Comin',' and it's Michael/Judith, so it's obvious what happens (sad sigh.) Also, I don't make many of these notices in this fic, for writing/aesthetic purposes, so I'd just like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed this humble fanfic. There have been so many wonderful comments, and I'm so glad I seem to be doing this right! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!