What Are the Odds
Summary: Declan encounters a student who he believes can predict the future, but she just wants to be left alone.
Disclaimer: Lion's Gate owns all. If I get my birthday wish, I might end up owning Lion's Gate, but until then, I've got nothing...
Feedback: Pretty please? Feed me, feed me!!! It's my first MW fic, so, good, bad, or ugly, let me know what you think.
Chapter 1 -- String of Coincidences
"Papers due today!" Declan reminded the class as the daily exodus began.
He shook his head as half the class failed to turn around. The other half slowly straggled back towards the desk, fishing their papers out of their bags or folders. Smiling, he gathered the papers together and clipped them, then noticed that one student was still at her seat, searching her bag.
"I know I put it in here," she muttered, shaking her head.
Declan smiled. "Try looking right in front of you, Gabe."
Gabriella Watts looked up, startled and picked up the paper that she had placed on the table at the beginning of class. "Oh. Thank you." Shaking her head, she rose and handed the paper to him. "Sorry. Scatter-brained today..."
Declan smiled and nodded. "It's okay. I'm the same way sometimes. Bad day?"
"Always," she muttered, kneeling next to Mole. "Hey, fella," she said, scratching his ears.
Declan smiled and gathered the rest of the papers together. "You have lots of bad days?" he asked, looking at her curiously. She was smart, but incredibly quiet and reserved. She would occasionally provide answers in class, but only when it became obvious that no one else was going to. She was a lot like Miranda had been at first, needing to be drawn out.
She shrugged. "You know. Life..." She shook her head and moved her hand to the underside of Mole's muzzle, grinning as he started wagging his tale. "He's a big sweetie."
"Chick magnet, too," Declan bantered softly, trying to get a smile from her.
Because he was looking at her to gauge her response to the admittedly bad joke, he saw what happened to clearly to think that he was mistaken. Gabe jerked her hand away from Mole's face two seconds before he snapped at her. Startled and off-balance, she sprawled backwards, landing on her back with a grunt. Mole bristled and started barking.
"Jeez!" Declan muttered, circling quickly around the desk and helping her to her feet. "Mole!" he shouted over the dog's barking, staring at Gabe in amazement. "Are you okay?"
She nodded, still looking a little shaken. "Yeah."
"Mole! What is wrong with you?" Declan demanded.
"It's okay. Something must have startled him." Gabe knelt next to the dog and made soothing noises in the back of her throat. The barks soon subsided into whimpers. "Yeah, poor guy's spooked over something."
"He's never done anything like that before, I swear," Declan said, kneeling next to her. "Are you okay? Did he break the skin?"
She shook her head. "Didn't even connect."
"Good reflexes," Declan observed, recalling what he had seen. She had known that Mole was about to lunge.
She shrugged. "I kick-box. You learn to move fast."
"Yeah, sure." Declan nodded, glancing at her curiously. "What do you think spooked him?"
She shrugged. "Dogs are perceptive creatures. Could be anything. Change in the weather. Impending earthquake..." She shook her head. "Not important." She gave Mole one last scratch behind the ears and climbed to her feet.
Declan frowned thoughtfully. "He did predict an earthquake last year, but he didn't try to bite anyone."
"Maybe it's going to be a big one..." She shrugged and walked to her seat, loading her books into her backpack. "Have a nice weekend, Professor Dunn." She slung her backpack onto her shoulder, then paused. "Hey, you're speaking to Anth Club tomorrow, aren't you? Faith healings?"
He smiled and nodded. "Yeah. See you there?"
She nodded and reversed directions, following him out the other door. "You really believe in that all that stuff?"
"What, faith healings?" Declan asked he asked her. "Mole, coming?" he called when the dog did not move.
"All that stuff you study. Miracles and stuff."
"Don't you?" Declan asked, glancing at her.
She shook her head, looking dubious. "I really think... Mole, fella, what's wrong?" She turned to stare curiously at the dog who was standing in the center of the classroom, whimpering loudly.
To Declan's surprise, she wrapped a tight hand around his arm and all but pulled him back into the classroom. As he started to shrug out of her grasp, the first tremor hit.
"Jeez!" Declan gasped, grabbing her arm and half-pushing her towards a table. "Mole!"
The dog quickly joined them under the table. Gabe curled up on the floor with her head between her knees until the first tremor passed. She looked up cautiously.
"It's times like this that I miss Indiana and the bedrock it's built on," she muttered, looking around with wide eyes.
"You okay?" Declan asked, starting to climb out from under the table.
She grabbed his arm and pulled him towards her, back under the table. "Aren't there usually aftershocks or something?" she asked in response to his surprised expression.
On cue, another, stronger tremor rocked the classroom. Lights came lose from their brackets on the ceiling and crashed to the floor, shattering and exploding, leaving the room a mine-field of glass and sparking wires.
When it had passed, Declan pulled Gabe to her feet. "We should get outside."
She nodded shakily and followed him quickly from the building. "I thought... I thought that kind of thing only happened in California," she muttered, shaking her head. "I've never actually... been in one before."
"You okay?" Declan asked her gently.
"Little, um, shaken," she admitted. "I think I can kiss my Hummel collection goodbye."
Declan winced. "Ouch. Sorry."
She nodded. "No big deal. I'm still alive. This is... good."
"You going to be able to make it home okay?" he asked her.
She nodded again. "Yeah, thanks."
"You sure?" Declan asked. She looked really shaken.
Another nod, this one more confident. "Positive. Thanks, though. I'm good." Nodding, she turned and walked off.
Declan stared after her, frowning. "Mole, is it just me, or did she know that was going to happen?"
"Is it safe to go back in?" one student asked another nearby. "I've got class..."
"Consider it canceled," Declan told him with a sigh.
"Oh, jeez," Declan muttered, staring into his office and shaking his head.
"Miranda! You okay?" he asked, turning to face her.
She nodded. "Lab's history, but everyone got out okay. Are you okay?" She glanced around him into the shattered remains of the office. "Oh, my God! Declan, were you hurt?"
He shook his head quickly. "No, I'm fine. I wasn't in there. I was in the lecture-hall with a student when it hit."
"Don't you usually talk to students in your office?" she asked, frowning.
He nodded. "Yeah. She was... having trouble finding a paper." He frowned thoughtfully, going over the sequence of events in his mind.
"Declan?" Miranda asked, looking at him curiously.
"Um..." He shrugged. "No, I just... for a second, I was thinking that she knew it was going to happen." He shook his head. "Don't think so, though." He exhaled deeply, remembering the restraining hand on his arm, half-dragging him back into the classroom and out of the hallway. The hallway that had been absolutely demolished in the first quake... Then the hand pulling him back under the desk moments before the second quake hit, destroying the classroom.
"You think she predicted this?" Miranda asked.
"Dogs can. Why not people?"
Miranda frowned. "Declan..."
"She grabbed my arm and pulled me from the hall into the classroom moments before the first tremor."
"Really?" Miranda asked.
He nodded. "She was the only reason I was still in that classroom in the first place. Because she asked me something about Anthropology Club..." He rubbed his mouth thoughtfully. "Those are two huge coincidences, Miranda."
She nodded, admitting this. "Yeah, but... predicting an earthquake?"
"Mole tried to bite her! She predicted that, too."
Miranda frowned. "Mole doesn't bite."
"Right, he doesn't. But he tried to bite her. And she knew he was about to... Miranda, she has pet Mole every day this semester before and after class without incident. But she knew..."
"Okay, maybe she picked up on Mole's nervousness. Maybe it..."
"Made her decide that there was going to be an earthquake?" Declan shook his head. "I don't think so."
"Did you ask her?"
He shook her head. "She was a wreck from the quake. She's never been in one before."
"So, ask her at the Anthropology Club meeting tomorrow."
Declan nodded. "Good idea. I think I might just do that."
"What it all comes down to is this," Declan explained in response to the question. "You either believe in divine intervention in everyday life or you don't. Take yesterday's quake. My office was trashed. If I had been in there, I probably would not have survived..." He glanced at Gabe and saw her shift uncomfortably. "Now, the only reason that I wasn't in my office is because a student couldn't find a paper that was lying in plain sight. Now I'm not sure what to call that, except lucky." He smiled faintly. "But it got me thinking. Because everything that followed from that combined to keep me safe in that earthquake."
"Bit of a stretch to call that divine intervention, isn't it?" a student asked.
Declan shrugged. "Might be, James. But as my friends will tell you, I'm not above stretching a little bit sometimes. But, my friends will also tell you that, occasionally, things happen that just can't be explained away. Maybe I am biased. Or maybe I've just seen too much to close my eyes to the fact that there's a higher power out there."
"Where's free will fit into a world-view like that?" another student inquired.
"Well, Kelly," Declan began, launching into his pre-fabricated explanation of the distinction between divine intervention and divine control, the difference between fate and predestination, etc. The meeting ended up running over, a common occurrence when Declan spoke.
As soon as he finished, Gabe grabbed her bag and bolted for the hall. "Hey, Gabe!" Declan called, hurrying after her.
She paused, an almost trapped expression on her face. "Thanks for not mentioning names in there," she muttered, looking at her feet.
"I read your paper. It was well-written." He smiled at her. "You're not an anthropology student, are you?"
She shook her head. "Psychology Grad. Just... dabbling, really."
He nodded. "Cool. The two disciplines really ask a lot of the same questions, you know."
She nodded slowly. "I'd noticed."
"Want to discuss some of those questions over a cup of coffee?" Declan suggested casually.
"You're a professor, I'm a student."
"Which makes both of us curious Academics." He grinned reassuringly. "I don't bite."
"I don't know..." She hesitated, shaking her head. "I'm a psychology student. Might look bad if I start getting cozy with an Anthropology Prof..."
"I won't tell if you don't..."
She shook her head, looking faintly disgusted. "Okay, now... that level of adorableness should be illegal in adults."
Declan smiled uncertainty. "I don't speak cynic. Is that a yes?"
She rolled her eyes and nodded. "Yeah, whatever. Coffee, academia, harmless." She glanced thoughtfully at him and nodded. "Harmless," she repeated slowly.
"You know, they gave me a really funny look when I asked for a mocha with a double-shot of chocolate syrup, two extra shots of espresso, and an extra scoop of cocoa," Declan told Gabe with a smile, handing her the drink in question as he sat down across from her with his own cappuccino.
"Yeah, it's an acquired taste." Gabe shrugged. "Chocolate covers the coffee taste, though."
"If you don't like coffee, what's with the espresso shots?" Declan asked, laughing.
"I'm a grad-student." She shrugged as though the conclusion was obvious.
Declan smiled and nodded. It actually was fairly obvious. In his own grad-school days, students had been in the habit of washing down caffeine pills with coffee. No longer necessary now that espresso was popular. He had seen more self-destructive modes of caffeine-delivery in his time, though, and was not about to comment on a few extra espresso shots.
He regarded her in silence for a few moments as she sipped her drink, then without preamble, asked, "You knew that earthquake was going to happen, didn't you?"
She nearly dropped the cup in her hands, but managed to set it on the table without spilling too much. She reached for a handful of napkins, not looking at him as she cleaned up the mess. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I think you do," Declan pressed.
She looked up at him, frowning and rising. "And I think you are crazy," she announced, pointing at him. Shaking her head, she turned and stalked off.
Declan stared after her, stunned.
"Well, maybe you scared her?" Peggy suggested, shrugging. She sat down on her couch. "I mean, Declan, you accused the girl of being able to predict earthquakes. How did you expect her to react?"
"It's wasn't an accusation!" Declan protested. "It was a simple question. And I think that the fact that she overreacted like she did points to something."
Peggy closed her eyes, shrugging. "Declan, you can't keep hounding this girl."
"I am not hounding her. I've seen her once since the café, and that was in class. I just don't get this sudden change in her behavior, Peg."
"Declan, I honestly think you scared her. That's what it sounds like to me."
"But why should she be scared, Peggy?" Declan pressed. "Come on. At most, she should think I'm some kind of crackpot. Fear, though? That's just overreacting."
"Give it a little time. Maybe it'll pass."
"What if I'm right?" Declan asked.
"That she can predict earthquakes, Declan? It was a coincidence!"
"It was a string of like five coincidences, Peggy, and after two or three, they kind of stop being coincidences at all…"
"You want my advice, Declan? Just forget about it. I think it would be the best thing you could do for you and her."
Declan sighed and nodded, rising. "Consider it forgotten."
"Going so soon?" Peggy asked, frowning.
"We've been arguing for over an hour," Declan told her with a grin. "I have class."
Peggy stared at her clock, shaking her head. "Time flies."
"Sure does. See you later, Peg."
"Bye, Declan," she said, smiling and shaking her head.