I sighed again as I pulled open the creaky iron gate in front of the schoolhouse. The sun was setting. It was nearly dusk now, I had spent my entire day painting walls and putting desks together and tutoring the few students we had so far, and here I was again. There really was paperwork that needed doing, just not necessarily urgently, but I was sure that Ana and the rest of the team would appreciate a respite from paperwork for a day. I just needed to not think about Monte Carlo for a few hours. Oh damn. Thought about it again. I just needed to not think about Theo, or leaving Theo, or lying to Theo, or wanting to fix everything and explain it all to Theo, and especially not kissing Theo. Crap. And I had been doing so well until he showed up here. Sort of.
Knowing it was going to be a long night, I poured myself a cup of cold coffee and settled myself at the table with a freshly sharpened pencil in the room we had dubbed "the office." Paperwork beckoned.
An hour and half in with the government teacher-approval forms, I let my tired eyes shut themselves for a moment, resting my head on the desk.
"Grace?" a familiar voice interrupted my dream.
"Grace," said the voice again and I felt someone shake my arm, "Grace, wake up."
Not wanting to open my eyes, I only groggily shifted away from the voice, trying to ignore it. I heard the screech of a chair being pulled, and the bothersome person sat beside me.
"You can't stay here all night," the voice said and the french accent identified the intruder as Theo. Great.
"Go away," I mumbled. Really, I did not want to deal with this right now. Or ever, even.
"Grace, you've got to get up. Honestly, you American women. What were you thinking, coming here alone at night?" He shook me harder. He sighed softly when I didn't respond. There seemed to be a lot of sighing going on lately. Our situation called for it, I supposed.
"Let me take you home, Grace."
I continued to ignore him, but he wasn't having it.
"Grace, if you don't get up right now, I'm going to pick you up and carry you home."
"No you won't," I muttered, squeezing my eyes shut even tighter. All the better not to see you with, Theo. All the better not to look into your mega-attractive face.
"I tell you I am completely serious," he said, and with that, he lifted me from my seat at the table, carrying me in his arms.
My eyes snapped open.
"Alright! Alright. I'll walk. Set me down." He did so, and I teetered for a moment on my still-drowsy legs. His arms came up to steady me, and I finally took a look at his handsome angular face. He was grinning at me and my sluggish state. I narrowed my eyes at him, trying to look angry, but probably failing to look anything but half-asleep.
"That wasn't necessary, you know. I would have gotten up soon on my own." He ignored that and took my arm, escorting me down the staircase, probably worried I'd tumble down the way things were going.
"Why are you here, Theo?" I asked as the thought occurred to me. We were all supposedly done for the day. There was no real reason to come back.
"I was looking for you," he told me. "Don't looked so shocked. I wanted to talk to you, so I went to your apartment and your roommate said you came here a couple hours ago." His eyes searched my face for an explanation, and I looked away.
"I needed to distract myself," I said, and left it at that though he was clearly asking for more.
We left the schoolhouse in silence. Theo was no longer supporting me as I had come to enough to handle myself. I glanced at him beside me, and he seemed to be searching for words. If I was in any other mood besides totally exhausted, I would have tried to make conversation, ease the tension between us. As it was though, I couldn't form enough coherent thought to even give it a proper try.
"Listen," Theo began as we walked, "This might not be the best time to talk, but I don't know when we're going to have another moment alone." He looked at me, gauging my response. "I was with you for one week, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about you for two months. You're different, Grace. You really are. And I like you. I know I hurt you when I left in the middle of your apology. I'm sorry I didn't come back in time to see you off. When I finally came to my senses and went looking for you, I found that you had left only five minutes earlier. I didn't even know your real name. I had to ask around until I found someone who had heard your friends call you Grace, which is a lovely name and fits you much better than Cordelia. You might have noticed how I'm saying it much more than a normal person would talking to you. I've been looking over my shoulder for weeks, hoping that I'll somehow run into you again, but then I did and you barely talk to me. Grace. Tell me how to fix this. I don't know what to do."
I was blown away by this, suddenly fully awake. We must have stopped walking sometime during his little speech. I now found myself facing him, searching his eyes. He was so incredibly frank and honest. I occasionally wondered if this had more to do with him being french, or him being Theo, but I was coming to believe it was more just him.
"Theo, it's not your fault. It's all my fault," I said as I put my hand on his arm to emphasize my point. "I wasn't saying much to you because I didn't think you could have forgiven me for lying, that's all."
Relief washed over his face. With his arms around my waist, he pulled me into a tight embrace and rested his head on my shoulder.
"And I was thinking that you hated me."
"Theo! I could never hate you. You're wonderful and fun and good and flawed and perfect."
"Dieu merci," he said and kissed me. It was a chaste and tender kiss, but the feel of his lips on mine still sent chills all over me. My hands found their ways up his back and into his dark curls. He broke off the kiss much too soon.
His hand finding its way into mine, he asked with a grin, "So what do you say to giving us a try?"