~ Life Lessons ~
by Shea K.

Disclaimer: Welcome to another original story by this lunatic. The story and the characters are mine. Do not use them without my permission. Also, any and all characters, events, and situations found in these stories are fictional. If there are any similarities between these things and real people, events, and situations, it is purely a coincidence.

I'm sure you know there will be a sexual relationship between two women, but if you don't know this is me warning you. There will be a sexual relationship between two women in this story (starting at the very beginning actually).

Contact the lunatic at: starving.lunatic@gmail.com and lemme know what you think of the story. Thanks and enjoy. You can also find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/SL-Kassidy/482097488469386

Many thanks to my beta - Rleef.

This story is going to be told in rather short chapters, snapshots showing Quinn's and Artie's growth together.


Life Lessons

1: Down

Quinn Matherson was doing her best not to moan, but it was so damned hard. It was hard not to scream and beg for more as Artie pounded into her from behind. Artie, whose last name she did not even know. Hell, whose real name she did not even know because she was certain "Artie" was a nickname. Something to fit with the masculine image that Artie liked to portray.

The masculine thing was actually one of the reasons Quinn was in her current position - being with Artie in general, not in the small dorm room, in Artie's bed, on her knees, eating a pillow, and gripping the bed for dear life as her body shook with rippling pleasure that she could feel on every inch of her entire being. She had been strictly into men, and still considered herself quite straight despite enjoying the rare feeling of Artie's breasts pressed against her back. She just did not have the best of luck, or any luck really, with men and that had started with her high school sweetheart, Thomas Aneja.

She and Thomas had been together since their sophomore year in high school. They had been every much teenagers in love. They went to prom together and they were each other's firsts. They had actually talked about getting married after graduating and living in a dorm together in the university they would both be attending. They had never gotten beyond talking, though.

Once they had gotten to Parker University, a rather prestigious school, Thomas started to realize how little they had experienced together and how much they could experience apart. It was not until spring term of their freshmen year that he finally spoke up. He made a rather impassioned speech about how they were young and needed to live more of life before they committed to each other. He feared that they would grow to resent each other and regret not doing more if they ended up jumping into marriage so young. He had been adamant that it would probably lead to a divorce.

Quinn had gone along with his logic because he might be right and he might just not want to be with her any more. She had no desire to trap him in a relationship that he did not want to be in. So, they were "on break" to sow their wild oats. They remained friends, sort of, and they would decide if they were going to be together at the end of their undergrad careers.

From that point, Quinn went out to "experience things apart." She had dated plenty and it never failed to end in disaster. She had asked Thomas on several occasions what he saw in her because he probably needed his head examined. He could rattle off a long list and sometimes he even got a wistful look in his eyes, as if he wanted to take her back at that very moment. If only. She would go back in a hot second, but he never said anything.

Making her even more frustrated beyond her dating life was her school life when fall semester of her sophomore year came around. She had to take a required math course and she discovered that a year without math had left her brain full of cobwebs instead of equations, and her brain preferred the cobwebs. A classmate had suggested Artie as a tutor and things could have remained that way if only her roommate had not opened her big mouth.

Morgan Carlton was her roommate, best friend, and possible devil on her shoulder if given the chance to speak. She told Morgan everything and Morgan did the same. Her bubbly blond roommate had put the bug in her ear that she needed to take her sexual experience a step further and do what ninety-five percent, Morgan's made up statistics, of all college girls do - sleep with another girl.

Quinn argued that she was straight, first and foremost, and that she did not know any girls that she would want to sleep with or that would want to sleep with her. It was then that she found out that she already knew the perfect woman - her math tutor. Apparently, Artie had no problem sleeping with curious girls.

Quinn still argued that she was straight and Morgan commented that sleeping with Artie just barely counted as sleeping with a woman. Artie carried herself like a man and dressed like a man, although Quinn usually only saw her in her dorm where she wore wife-beaters and basketball shorts, which Quinn did not think qualified as "dressing like a man." Artie could very well dress differently for class, going out, and things like that. Quinn would easily admit that she did not know Artie enough to comment on her being manly, but there was something to her. A swagger and it was the thing that made Quinn give in after the seed was planted.

She had awkwardly approached Artie with the idea and the way Artie had given in had almost sent Quinn running to the door. Artie caught her and pulled her to her powerful chest. Artie definitely worked out. She was stronger than Thomas. Quinn almost hyperventilated because she did not know why she was being pulled back at first and she feared the worst. But, Artie assured her that it was fine and sat her down, telling her that she just needed to set the rules if this was going to happen.

Quinn had been confused by the need for rules, but realized Artie wanted her to be comfortable with what they were about to do. She had come up with things that she feared might be insulting, but Artie took everything in stride. She only allowed Artie to fuck her from behind with a strap-on and there would be minimum touching involved. She figured that way, she would be able to forget that Artie was a woman and since she did not have to see her, she could imagine that Artie was a man. She just needed to keep it clear that she was straight, completely and totally straight despite the experimenting. She did not want Artie to be confused about her sexuality, not that Artie seemed to even think twice about what they were doing.

She did not want to admit, but she had not thought those rules all the way through and it was virtually impossible to think that Artie was a man, even with her expert handling of the dick moving inside of Quinn.

A sharp tug to her long, dark brown hair pulled her from her thoughts and that moan that she had been holding back escaped with a few purrs, too. Everything going on slammed back into her, the hot feel of the room and Artie engulfed her. The smell of her sweat and Artie's scent mixing was enough to make her push back, desiring more. She tried to turn her head, wanting to look at Artie, but her hair was pulled again and punctuated with a particularly powerful thrust. A loud, lusty cry escaped Quinn's throat as she pitched forward, almost falling over. She works those hard, fucking muscles of hers like a pro, Quinn managed the thought through the haze of ecstasy.

"Too rough?" Artie asked, leaning down and those damned, delicious plump nipples grazed Quinn's back. Her breath ghosted against the shell of Quinn's ear and her heart rate soared.

Quinn hissed and arched, pressing Artie into her just a little more. The feel of those taut gems made Quinn shiver with bliss and she let loose a low mew. The taller woman took that as her answer and pumped even harder. Quinn lost her grip on the bed and collapsed as pure ecstasy blazed through every inch of her body. She groaned into the mattress, pretty sure that she was about to blow apart. Her heart was pounding and all she could do beyond make noise was hope that Artie did not kill her with that damn dildo.

"You close?" Artie whispered, sounding so extremely close, almost as if she were inside Quinn in more ways than one.

Quinn shook that away. She managed to grunt out, "No talking."

It was a rule and Quinn did not have the brain power to commit to answering questions, anyway. She needed to focus all of her energy on climbing higher and higher as the blazing euphoria built, boiling her blood and burning her nerve endings. God, she's so fucking good at this!

Quinn began drooling as Artie took charge of her hips and pulled Quinn to her. She groaned into to mattress and screamed as the final thrust came, deeper than ever. Everything inside of her erupted in complete and total rapture, intense satisfaction took over every piece of her body. In the back of her mind, she heard the headboard slam into the wall and she moaned at the noise. She collapsed on the bed, panting and twitching from the wondrous pleasure coursing through her. She mewed and moaned, sounding disappointed as Artie eased out of her.

"Oh, god," Quinn moaned as she felt the bed move.

Artie had gotten up and was taking off the strap-on. Quinn had her eyes half open as Artie leaned over her and pulled a blanket over her. Quinn smiled and Artie smiled back. The sparkling, almost innocent look in those reddish brown eyes did not the image of a woman who had just fucked Quinn into a coma.

"I'm worn out," Quinn felt the need to state the obvious because her brain cells had been burnt out during that session.

"And this is why we study first. You can sleep here. I've got work to do and I'm not going anywhere," Artie replied. Quinn was asleep as soon as Artie finished talking.

-8-8-8-8-

2: Blaring

Art Brenner was rocking back and forth to the music pouring out of her iPod. It was loud metal that would probably have her neighbor banging on her door. She was all too aware that Michael, her next door neighbor, hated her with a passion. Between the wall-thumping music - metal and rap were her bread and butter - and the deafening "lesbian sex," he always liked to make sure she knew what type of sex she was having as if she was not there when it happened, she was certain that her very Catholic and small-town neighbor would eventually beat her with a chair to get some peace and quiet. She actually would not blame him if he did. Of course, she would not go down without a fight.

She was not trying to be inconsiderate and she had told Michael that on several occasions, the latest during a mediation session. She just needed loud angry music to think and push through schoolwork. It was hard for Michael to believe, which she could understand. Most people would not be able to hear themselves think with her music blaring.

Now, the loud sex she could not do anything about. Over half of the girls that she slept with were screamers and she loved making them scream. She wanted to make sure her bedmates had a good time when they were with her. She wanted to have a good time, too, and it was hard to do that by being quiet well, depending on the situation anyway. The saving grace for Michael was that she was usually busy during the week and only really let loose on Saturdays, when he tended to not be in his room.

Of course, there were times when business blended with pleasure and Michael tended to be home for these moments. Speaking of business and pleasure, she glanced at the clock on her desktop to see that she was behind.

"Dammit," she growled and ran a hand through her short, black hair. She needed to finish this paper. She rubbed her eyes, pushing her thin, black-framed glasses up a little bit. "Maybe Quinn will be late."

But, Quinn was never late and that day was no different. A knock at the door managed to cut through the metal music and she pulled off her glasses as she opened the door to reveal Quinn in all of her almost preppy glory. Quinn was cute in her black skirt, white shirt with a lilac sweater pulled over that. She dressed just how she looked like she should dress, Artie mused.

"Hey, can you just hang out for a second? I need to finish up a paper. It should only take ten minutes," Artie assured Quinn.

"Sure, no problem."

The long-haired brunette slid her messenger bag off of her shoulder and sat down. Her dark brown eyes scanned the room while Artie went back to her paper, not bothering to put her glasses back on. Art was willing to rush through the paper to get to Quinn as soon as humanly possible. She did not care about the paper; she was being paid to write it. She was also being paid to tutor Quinn and she preferred the latter to the former. After all, the paper did not have lightly freckled cheeks that silently begged for kisses. Not that she was allowed to do much kissing.

Artie watched Quinn from the corner of her eye to see her starting to move her head to the music for a moment before Artie turned her attention back to her work. She never would have guessed that Quinn liked metal music, but it was a pleasant surprise. Quinn intrigued her, which was one the main reasons that she had begun sleeping with her. She knew that she was just a good time for Quinn, but Quinn was also a good time for her.

Once she finished the paper and emailed it off, she turned her full attention to Quinn. The smaller woman was pulling out her textbook and notebook, all ready for tutoring. Artie smiled and got up from her seat.

"Come on, princess. On your throne," Artie remarked, patting the back of the chair.

Quinn blushed, the lovely red splashing under her tiny freckles, as she stood. "You shouldn't call me that," she objected in a low tone while sliding elegantly into the simple small office chair.

"Why? You move like a princess," Artie pointed out. She also liked it when Quinn blushed, but she could not say that because she was certain that it would freak Quinn out because Quinn was still very insistent that she was straight and she did not want Artie to fall for her, which were almost her exact words before she realized what she was saying. She did not handle it well when Artie reminded her that she was a lesbian, even when they were in bed and she was buried to the hilt inside of Quinn.

"I do not! I move regular!" Quinn argued. She also did not know how to take a compliment, even when it did not seem like it was something a lesbian would say.

"You move like a princess, princess. Sorry for being behind. Let me turn off the music and we can get started." Artie looked around for the remote to her iPod dock and could not find it. Being a product of her generation, she never would consider just going over to the iPod and turning it off manually, so she kept looking.

"What are you doing?" Quinn asked after watching Artie turn in a circle like a dog chasing her tail.

"Do you see the remote? I thought I left it on the desk, but I guess I was wrong," Artie answered, scratching the side of her head.

"How do you work with the music so loud, anyway? Although, it is interesting. I've never heard it before," Quinn said as she stood up and plucked the remote off of the shelf that held the iPod dock and tons of books.

Artie winced at the location while Quinn smiled at her. She handed Artie the remote. The taller woman hid her face in her broad shoulder as she turned off the music.

"If you like the song, I could put it on your flash drive for you," Artie said to regain some cool points.

"Only one song? It would clash with everything else on my iPod." A shy, slightly sheepish smile appeared on her face. It was as if she was embarrassed by liking only one song or the fact that her iPod probably had a bunch of pop music on it.

Artie laughed. "We can listen to some more after we finish and you might find more songs you like. You can call it your secret playlist. Now, onto your work. What do you have?"

Quinn eased into her seat and opened her notebook to her homework. Frustration immediately set in as Quinn's mahogany eyes settled on the math problems. She squinted and frowned at the paper while twirling her pencil in her fingers.

"It's like another language," Quinn grumbled. It was a typical complaint.

"You always say that, but you're doing well. Remember you were anxious about your quiz and then you came back on Tuesday with a ninety," Artie assured her.

Quinn's shoulders slumped. "Yeah, but that was probably a fluke. I don't get it. I tried to do this homework by myself before I came here and I just didn't get it."

"Hey," Artie practically cooed as she leaned down to rest her head on Quinn's delicate shoulder. Her brain was invaded by the sweet scent of peaches and honey that made her want to leave hickies all over Quinn's body, but that was against the rules. Art did not break the rules, unless absolutely necessary. She waited for the rules to change. "You need to have more faith in yourself and give yourself more credit. You're doing fine and your grades have shown that. Now, if you stop this negative talk, when we're done I'll put on some music and let you hear all the greats for you to pick what you want."

Quinn nodded, but she still did not look convinced. Artie knew that she had to dig deep if she wanted to bring her pupil out of her funk. She purred against Quinn's neck, feeling the younger woman shudder.

"We can have some fun when you're done. I'm free the whole night," Artie said in a whisper. She would have to wake up early and finish another paper. She nipped at Quinn's earlobe.

Quinn actually moaned. "I like fun."

"Then you have to like math and learn your lessons. So, let's get to it," Artie proclaimed with a grin. She did not know Quinn well since their time together consisted of mostly of math tutoring and fucking, but her self-esteem issues were glaring. She hated to see a girl with low self-esteem, so she tried to do something about that during her time with Quinn. Unfortunately, it did not seem to take.

Well, she was not being paid to raise self-esteem, which was good because she would feel guilty if she was. She was being paid to help Quinn pass math and she was doing a good job at that, considering the way Quinn was working through her homework problems. Quinn needed a little direction, but once she got started, she worked her way through the equations.

"And you act like this hard? If it gets easier, I'll be out of a job," Artie commented.

Quinn chuckled before coming to an equation that she could not work through. "Don't quit on me yet. How the hell do you do this?" Artie smiled slightly and jumped in head first.

-8-8-8-8-

3: Strength

Quinn frowned as she entered the campus gym. Artie had not really explained herself, just left Quinn a voicemail requesting that Quinn meet her at the gym instead of her dorm. The message made her stomach flip and she considered not going. She did not want the world to see her idiotic attempts to understand math, but she also did not want to fail math.

She was not surprised that the Parker University gym facilities looked like a top-class workout facility. There were many reasons why students from all around the country fought tooth and nail to get into the university, and the gym had to be one of them. Of course, she thought there were more impressive buildings, like the massive library. But, now she had to find Artie in the huge gym.

"That might take days," Quinn muttered to herself. It did not help that she had never been to the university's gym facilities.

"Hey, there cutie," a guy with no shirt and very nice abs said as he walked up to her. He smiled kindly, so she did not take any offense to his use of the term "cutie."

"Hi," she replied with a shy smile, tucking a loose strand of her wavy mocha hair behind her ear.

"I hope you're here to put on weight and not take it off," he remarked and now she was offended.

"I haven't gotten any complaints," she informed him. She was skinny, but she did not think it was a problem. She definitely could get men when she wanted them and Artie had not said anything to lead her believe that she could not get women if she felt like it, too. "I'm looking for Artie."

He scratched his shaved head and she hoped that he did not hurt himself trying to think. "Artie? You mean Art? Buff chick that dresses funny sometimes?"

Quinn shrugged; she had no idea how Artie dressed on the outside. Thankfully, he just gave her a smile and pointed her in the direction of the free weights. She thanked him and weaved her way through the jungle of treadmills, bicycles, ellipticals, and toned, sweaty bodies. She was beginning to feel a bit self-conscious about her looks by the time she got to the weights section.

Artie was standing in front of a mirror with some heavy looking dumbbells in each hand. Her muscles were thick and very defined as she lifted each weight and her olive skin seemed to be glowing, glistening from her sweat. A tattoo on Artie's left bicep that read "family first" in what she would define as medieval calligraphy shined like luminous obsidian. Her chest rose and fell in a deep rhythm as she pumped each weight.

Quinn felt her heart beat increase and her mouth water as she noticed the vein in Artie's right shoulder, traveling down her arm. It tended to pop up when Artie exerted herself - well, she guessed anyway. She only saw glimpses of it through passion glazed eyes and typically when it caught her attention, she plunged off the edge of pleasure. Right now, she wanted to run her tongue down the length of it, but she shook that thought away. I'm straight and it's only a bit of fun. I'm not really attracted to her.

"Hey, Quinn, glad you decided to come down. I didn't think you'd come," Artie said while continuing to lift her weights.

"I wasn't going to, but I truly need this tutoring," Quinn replied.

"I told you that you didn't need to come. You're fine with missing one session," Artie argued with a slight shrug. She had said as much in her message.

"I can't afford that, even if you think I can. I need all of the help I can get to make sure this class doesn't bring my GPA down. Why did you have to do this on our session time?" Quinn managed to control herself enough where the question did not come out in a huff, but she scowled to convey how upset she was.

"This was the only time I could do it. My schedule has been seriously fucked lately. You honestly don't need tutoring three times a week. You're doing fine."

"Because of you. I would fail if it weren't for you. You make the math make sense, so yes, I came down while you're at the gym, even though I think it'll be a waste of time because you're not going to be able to focus on me."

The muscle-bound female laughed. "You'd be surprised at how I can multi-task. If you're serious, we can do this here. Will you be able to concentrate?"

Not if that vein doesn't go back to where it belongs. Quinn nodded, not wanting to lie verbally. She liked to be as honest as she could, and had long ago decided that body movement did not count.

"Well, let's get started then," Artie declared with a grunt.

Quinn nodded again and sat down on a nearby bench. She pulled out her books and showed Artie the problems that they had gone over in class. Despite the fact that she was working out, Artie was just as effective in getting her to understand the math. The tutoring session ended before Artie's workout session did.

-8-8-8-8-

"Art, dude, was that chick with you?" Roger, one of Artie's workout buddies, commented as he stepped over.

"She's a tutoring client," Art replied, working on her reps.

He scoffed. "I never would've guessed that from the way she was checking you out. Her eyes were glued to you, man. I wouldn't have been surprised if she took you into the bathroom to work out her frustration."

"Nah, she just gets really attentive when we have a tutoring session," she stated. Of course, Art had noticed those beautiful deep brown eyes on her, burning with that sweet, almost innocent lust. Roger did not need to know they were fuck buddies, though.

"Tutoring? You tutor, too?" he asked incredulously. "Shit, are you rolling in the dough or what?"

Art scoffed. "I wish. Trust me, if I was rolling dough, I'd have a better damn schedule and could workout more than twice a week."

"You got me there, but you're looking good. I'd hate to have to arm wrestle you. You'd probably rip my damn arm off," he chuckled.

"I'd be able to do that without working out. Your arms look like wet noodles," she teased him and he laughed more.

She finished her workout at midnight, happy that the gym was opened twenty-four hours, and returned to her dorm. She fell into bed, knocking down several teddy bears that she had lined up on the bed. She made a mental note to offer Quinn a discount on her next tutoring session for being a trooper at the gym, even though the session was not much different than their usual ones. She also made a mental note to fuck Quinn's brains out because the way Quinn looked at her at the gym screamed, "I need you to fuck me now!"

She usually would have taken care of Quinn as soon as she saw that look, but she had seriously needed that workout. She had her stress levels down after dealing with a crazy week in her classes, papers that she needed to write, and family issues that required her to go home. The journey took two hours and she did not own a car. Between the trip and what she had to deal with when she was there was enough to make her want to live in the gym.

"I'm just thankful this week is fucking over. I'm sleeping through tomorrow," she mumbled into her pillow. She dreamed of the things she would do to Quinn for putting up with her quirks.

-8-8-8-8-

4: Flare

Art's cell phone rang and she glanced down at her desk to see it was her best friend calling her. She groaned as she ran her fingers through her cropped, damp, sable hair, slicking it back, and somewhat messing up the job that she just did with her brush. She wiped her hands on a towel over the back of her desk chair before answering her phone.

"Ay, you better not be fucking canceling on me," Art huffed.

"Uh " Vega Nasri stuttered, trying to think of a lie. Obviously, she was not very good at lying.

Artie groaned slightly and shook her head. "Can you at least think of the excuse before you call me?"

"Tell her you're sick," she heard Yvonne Ortega hiss. She expected a better lie from a philosophy major, something a little more enlightened or existential or at the very least believable.

"Sick as in her-head-is-in-between-your-legs sick or sick like she-partied-too-much-and-now-has-less-than-ten-seconds-to-write-a-paper sick?" Art inquired. Vega had been bad at planning her time since she had known her, which was damn near all their lives, so she suspected it was the latter one. It was also the only "sick" she would accept, although Vega occasionally would cancel on her for the former, also.

"The second one," Vega sighed.

"As always. How about one night you actually cancel on me and put your head where Tega wants it," Art suggested.

"Yes!" Yvonne cheered, utterly in favor of that plan.

"I don't have time for that! Midterms are coming up and I have papers due! Hell, she's got studying she's supposed to be doing, so she needs to get to it before we fail!" Vega panicked. Artie rubbed her forehead, wondering why her best friend continued to let things build up when she always acted like it was the end of the world when she finally got to it. But, then again, she felt like Vega did her best work under pressure, so there could always be that method to her madness.

"We could pay Art to do your papers," Yvonne proposed.

"Yeah, no," both Art and Vega replied in the same deadpan tone.

"Why not?" Yvonne asked with a pout in her voice.

"That's just not how we operate. Look, Art, I'm really sorry about this. I really wanted to go to the poetry slam. Hell, I told you about it!" Vega pointed out in a huff.

"Of course, you told me about that. I'm not seeking out a poetry slam on my own," Art scoffed. Honestly, she would find a poetry slam if she had the time. Usually, she did not have the time and relied on her friends to find events for them to hang out.

"Anyway, I'll bang this paper out and we'll hang out next weekend. We can celebrate the end of midterms," Vega offered.

"We'll see. I've got papers of my own to write. I had to force myself to take the night off," Art explained.

"Sorry, Art. I forgot all about all of this bullshit. Damn these mandatory classes! I'm a business major, why the hell do I need to take a fucking history class?"

"Calm down," Yvonne told her roommate.

"I'm sorry," Vega apologized again.

The tall female sighed. "Nah, it's all right. Good look with your paper. Good luck with studying, Yvonne." Yvonne had made it clear when they made the original plans that she had a midterm to study for and would not be able to hang with them.

"Thanks. You should still go to the poetry slam. I know you'll love it," Yvonne said.

Art smiled. "I'm sure I will. I'm gonna go. I need a break. I've been working my ass off. The twins made the softball team. You wouldn't believe what the fuck equipment goes along with that."

Yvonne laughed. "Congratulations. Send the kids my love."

"Me, too," Vega chimed in. "We'll have to go a game. Text me about how the poetry slam goes."

"Will do. Later." Artie disconnected the call and went back to preparing for a night out. She would enjoy the damned poetry slam even if it killed her because she deserved some relaxation and entertainment.

Once she was all set, she stepped into the cold autumn air. Her head was protected by a black fedora and she wore a full length black coat. Down the walkway, she was surprised to see Quinn. Quinn was with three other girls and waves were exchanged. Quinn's shoulders slumped as the others walked away, going up the walkway and back into the dorm building.

"Friends ditch you?" Artie inquired as she strolled up to the pale woman.

Quinn jumped and her head shot up. Surprised mahogany eyes stared through Artie. Once Quinn realized who it was, she calmed down and breathed a sigh of relief that could be seen in the cold night air.

"Yeah, they did. Everybody has something due. I don't see why they couldn't do it earlier because they knew that we were going out," Quinn grumbled.

Artie nodded. "Yeah, my best friend is like that. She ditched me because she's got a paper due, too. So, I'm on my own."

Quinn smiled. "Me, too. Want to be on our own together?"

Artie offered her arm. "I'd never let a beautiful woman go off of on her own."

That earned a giggle from Quinn. "You're too much. But, thank you. Just to be sure, this is just two friends hanging out, right?" She did not want to send out the wrong message since she was straight, after all. It tickled Artie when straight girls did that, even when they knew that she did not date in the first place.

"Of course, some of my best friends are women," Artie remarked with a teasing smile.

Quinn winced, realizing how ridiculous she sounded. She sputtered out an apology. Artie chuckled.

"It's no problem, Quinn. Let's go out and show our friends that we don't need them to have a good time! Where were you headed?"

"We were going to Flare." It was one of the many clubs that were just off campus, but might as well had been on campus because they were there just for the thousands of college students.

"Care to go to a poetry slam first?" Artie requested with hopeful smile and imploring glint in her eyes.

"Poetry slam?" Quinn said incredulously with a scrunched up a face and then immediately slapped her hand over her mouth. "Oh, my god! I'm so sorry! That was so rude!"

"It wasn't that bad, but I do enjoy poetry, plays, and strolls through museums. Want it to be a date now?" Artie teased with the hope that if would calm the smaller woman down.

Quinn gave her a shy smile. "I'm sorry anyway. I didn't expect you to be into poetry. You don't look like the type, even though I know you're exceptionally smart."

"I'm a pretty well rounded. So, poetry slam?"

"I'd love to go to one. I'm taking a poetry class this semester."

Artie raised an eyebrow. "Is that a requirement? Most people don't just take a poetry class."

"I'm an English major, focusing on both creative writing, but there's lit involved, too. I'm also a journalism major. Poetry is a requirement for the creative writing."

Artie nodded. "I always wondered what you majored in. Come on. Let's go before we freeze our asses off." She walked off, trying to lead Quinn to the bus stop.

"I have a car," Quinn pointed to parking lot, which was in the opposite direction.

"Oh." Artie followed the pale brunette to her car. It was a simple dark blue Toyota Corolla and appeared to be an older model. But, it had heat and ran, so that was more than good enough for her.

"So, where we going?" Quinn asked.

"To the Coffee Hut. You know the place?"

Quinn's creamy forehead wrinkled as she went through her mental map. "Is it over there by Circus Street?"

"Yeah, it's just past there."

Quinn pulled out of the lot and they were on their way. "So, what's your major, anyway? You're great with math, but I hear you actually tutor on a lot of different subjects."

"I'm a double major in psych and sociology. The scheduling is kicking my ass, but I'm hoping to graduate next year. I'll probably stay on for my masters."

"You're a junior?"

"Yup."

"And while we're on the subject of a 'million things I don't know about my math tutor,' what the hell is your last name?"

Artie laughed. "It's Brenner. Most people just know you mean me when you say Art or Artie in reference to certain things."

"Is Artie short for anything?"

"Yes, yes it is." Quinn glared at her when it was clear that she was not going to explain. "A girl has to have some mystery."

Quinn chuckled, but she did want to know Artie's real name. She decided not to press the issue, though. They spoke about poets that they enjoyed all the way to the poetry slam. Artie could tell that she surprised Quinn with many of her choices because her eyebrows disappeared under her bangs several times.

The poetry slam consisted of fellow college students and a few local high school students. It lasted almost two hours and Quinn had an absolutely awesome time with Artie. She bought them the rather cheap coffee and delightful sticky buns. They were able to discuss the poets and poetry, what they liked and disliked about them, and comparing them to more established poets. Quinn was grinning from ear to ear as she and Artie left the Coffee Hut.

"That was so great!" Quinn cheered, bouncing on her heels.

"It was. I'm guessing you don't go to many poetry slams," Artie grinned.

"No, it never really occurred to me. I know a variety of people with a number of interests, but we never think to do stuff like this. God, now I'm going to talk everyone to death about poetry and try to get them all to go to another slam with me," Quinn squealed, sounding horrified and euphoric at the same time.

Artie smiled. "Well, if they don't want to talk about it, you can find me. If I ever get sick of it, I'll introduce you to the friend I was supposed to go with tonight and you and her will never tire of each other from this one subject."

They chuckled and made their way to Flare, which was only a few blocks away. They entered the club with no problem. Quinn assumed it was because the doorman did not see what Artie was wearing thanks to her long coat. Of course, when they checked their coats, everyone could see that Artie was dressed like a 1920s newspaper boy with the chocolate knickerbockers, high socks, brown, button sweater vest, and even shoes that looked like she got them from a time travel trip.

"Artie, I'm disappointed. You're dressed as a newsy? Where's the gangster suit or the suave movie star outfit?" the coat check woman asked, batting her eyes at the tall woman.

"I didn't know I was coming here when I left the dorm. You know you like me as a newsy," Artie commented with a lighthearted smile.

"You're cute like that, but your suits are sexier." The coat check woman gave her a wink.

Artie smiled and winked back. She and Quinn proceeded to walk down stairs into the club. The loud music hit them and hummed through their bodies.

"You always dress like that?" Quinn inquired.

"I keep it vintage when I can, but not always. I think it's cool," Artie answered with a shrug.

A dark eyebrow arched. "It's cool?"

"It's a long story, but it deals with seeing pictures of people from early in the last century and thinking that their clothes were cool and I wanted to dress like that. I was a kid then and not really in control of what I wore. One day when I realized I had more control over what I wore, I dressed vintage just to see what it was like. I like it and it's fun."

"And you come here often for people to know that you dress like that and have other vintage outfits?"

She shrugged and offered a half-smile. "I'm memorable. Not too many 5'9" chicks dressed in 1920s or 1930s come through here or many other places really."

Quinn could only nod to that because it made sense. Girls certainly enjoyed it, flocking to Artie as soon as they noticed her. Quinn had her own flocking to do; the dance floor was calling. Quinn was a great dancer and watching her move made Artie think about how she was in bed, when she was not on her knees, eating a pillow, and trying her best not to move because she did not want to seem gay. She certainly did not seem gay while dancing with some big, hairy dude.

Artie shook her head and decided to focus on the ladies paying her attention. Every now and then, her eyes strayed to Quinn. She could not help thinking about what they could do in bed again. She sighed. I'll just have to do it in bed with a livelier candidate. There was more dancing, and a little drinking on Artie's part, but all too soon their time out was over. They returned to the car and Quinn drove back to the dorm.

"I had a great time," Quinn said with a smile.

"Me, too. I'll be sure to think of you for the next poetry slam. I could use the company for when Twiddle Dumb and Twiddle Dumber get started," Artie remarked and then realized that Quinn had no idea what she meant. "My best friend, Vega, and her roommate Yvonne. They're a pair."

Quinn smiled. "Must be nice to have a best friend."

"You don't have one?"

"My ex-boyfriend used to be. Once upon a time he knew me better than anyone else, but we broke up in February. Right now, my best friend is my roommate Morgan Carlton. She's great, but she doesn't know me the way Thomas did. He just doesn't have the time for me that he used to."

Artie scowled and anger ignited in her gaze. "Your boyfriend is an idiot for leaving you, to play the field, I bet."

"Yes, but he had a good reason. He probably would've resented me and broke up with me later on down the line if we kept seeing each other because he's clearly curious about things. He wanted to experience new things just to make sure we both didn't end up being upset with each other because we'd been together for so long. Besides, I want to experience new things, too," Quinn explained in a soothing tone. She reached out and caressed Artie's arm.

The taller woman managed a smile because she could not argue against that. She took Quinn's hand and squeezed. Quinn smiled and squeezed back.

-8-8-8-8-

5: Relax

Quinn knocked on Artie's door, but there was no answer. She could not hear any loud music or voices from another tutoring session. She knocked again with the same result. She checked her watch. She was early, but only by five minutes. She supposed that she could wait until Artie came back.

"She's in the lounge. They're watching a football game," one of Artie's neighbor's - she believed his name was Michael - informed her.

"Football?" Quinn echoed in a puzzled tone.

"Yeah, I just came from there. It's a great game. It started late, though, so she's probably going to be a few minutes late," he explained.

"Football?" she said again, as if she had no idea what it was.

He chuckled. "Come on, I'll take you there." He held out his hand and she nodded. They stepped off together. Michael was not a bad guy and he did not hate Artie, despite the fact that she was loud and he could sometimes hear her fornicating with women. She could be considerate in other ways, like always sharing pizza with him and his roommate. She was also like a walking reference book, which came in handy for papers.

Artie was in the lounge on that floor with several men and a few other women. The men were sitting on the floor while the woman had the sofa, but Art was down in the pits with the guys. She was hooting and hollering with the men folk. In fact, she was climbing over one of the guys.

"Oh, my god! Run, goddammit, run!" Art screamed, clutching the shoulder of the guy that she was practically sitting on.

"Run!" the guy hollered, grabbing Artie's hand with his big paw.

Suddenly, the room erupted into awed and loud cheers. The guy stood up with Art on his back as if she weighed nothing at all. She clung to his neck and probably made him deaf by screaming in his ear. He did not seem to notice as he grabbed someone else and hollered in his ear. Quinn could only guess that their team had done something good; probably ran.

"Art, your student's here, man!" Michael barked. The tutor did not turn, still hanging on the guy. "Art!"

"Art, Mike is calling you!" one of the women said, pulling at the edge of Art's wife-beater.

"What?" Art turned around to see Quinn standing with her neighbor. Suddenly her brandywine eyes went wide and she slid off of giant that she had been hanging off of. She straightened herself out and approached Quinn. "It's time already?" she asked incredulously. For the first time, Quinn thought Art looked almost like a kid, a kid that was being told that they had to leave a favorite park.

"You can stay and watch it you want," Quinn said because that face was so heartbreakingly cute. It did not help that despite her desire to look masculine, Artie had a very soft, oval face. "It's almost over, right?"

Art waved it off. "Yeah, but I have a prior engagement. It's fine. There'll be other football games. You have a midterm. I don't think you need the emergency session, but you do, so let's go." She motioned in the direction of her room.

"You sure? I mean, I don't want to take you from your game."

"No, come on. I've got other work to get to also," Artie insisted and put her hand around Quinn's waist to lead her to her room.

"Thank you for doing this emergency session. I really need to go over everything for tomorrow," Quinn said with a nervous laugh. She had her usual tutoring session two days ago, but she wanted to make sure that she had everything down for the midterm tomorrow. She needed to protect her GPA.

"It's okay and you'll be fine."

They went back to Art's room and began studying math because Quinn was certain that she would fail, even though she had yet to fail a quiz since coming to tutoring. Her hands were sweating and she tapped the pencil anxiously as she worked on the problem. Artie leaned over her and that only made her fidgeting increase.

"Calm down, you'll be fine. You know what you're doing," Art whispered into her ear, lightly running her fingers across Quinn's side.

Quinn scoffed. "I bet you say that to all the girls."

Art chuckled. "If only. You're one of my best students and I think it's your worrying that sets you apart. I've got people that just want to pass for the most part. A C is good enough for most of them, but you want an A. You won't be happy with less."

"I won't," Quinn stated in a hard tone.

"I know," Art purred into her neck.

Quin felt her stomach flip and it was not from anxiety that time. "Do you do this to relax all of your students?"

"Nope and I won't do it to you if you don't straighten up and stop fidgeting." Artie covered Quinn's hand that was tapping the pencil. She made the tapping cease. "Now, focus and stop thinking negatively. If you make if through these within the hour, who knows what I might do if to you, but I will make it worth it."

Quinn nodded and took a deep breath. She stilled her hand after Art let go and focused on the practice problems that her tutor designed for her. Art kept busy by writing a paper, but every couple of minutes checked on Quinn. There were moments when Quinn got stuck and Artie helped her through. When all of the problems were done, Art checked them over. She nodded.

"Very good. Everything looks good. And " Art checked her watch. " with fifteen whole minutes to spare. How was this?" She put the paper in front of Quinn.

"It was hard. So freaking hard!" Quinn whined.

Artie smiled and put the paper down. She then stared down into dark chocolate eyes, a beautiful brown all way through unlike her own. Quinn sank into her eyes. Artie ran her hand through Quinn's soft hair and leaned down to kiss her. Thank God, this isn't against the rules, Artie mentally cheered.

While there was not much touching allowed when they got in bed, but Quinn liked kissing as much as any other girl. She had soft, sweet lips that Artie would love to devour all night long if she had the opportunity. The pleasure of her mouth was enough to make Art come back for more every time. Women were such a dazzling wonder and she loved every bit of them. She wanted to delight in every inch of Quinn one day, just for Quinn to understand how truly magnificent women were. Okay, well, not just for Quinn.

All too soon the kissing was done and Art "suited up," as she tended to think of it. She could not get it on fast enough. She enjoyed her strap-on and enjoyed it even more because Quinn liked it. She loved how Quinn pressed back, silently begging her to go deeper, all the while trying to maintain control of herself and fight off the pleasure that Artie was giving her. Just the thought made Artie hot.

She turned her attention to Quinn, who was propped up on the bed, panting and dripping. Art growled at that perfect ass as it implored her to grab it, smack it, fuck it. She had to ignore those pleas, but she definitely answered the call of other parts of Quinn's lovely anatomy. Quinn moaned loudly as she eased into what she imagined was a very tight body. She moaned at the as she allowed the fantasy to play in her mind.

She was still until Quinn pushed back. The base of the toy pressed against her own slick, heated flesh made Artie shudder. She moved and Quinn made tender cooing noises that Artie adored. Art focused on her pale back as it flushed and she imagined raining down kisses on it, thinking about the purrs that Quinn would make if she did so. When they got deep into it, she doubted that Quinn would have cared, but she respected the rules. Maybe one day the rules would change.

She grabbed Quinn's hair, just using it to cover that captivating back and remove the temptation. The sounds coming from Quinn were another matter. She tried to focus on her movements, not think about anything else, but those mews and whimpers danced along her spine just as much as the ecstasy easing through her pleasure center. She wondered how Quinn would feel about a gag if the rules did not change. But, then again, she would hate to not hear those purrs.

The purrs became screams and Quinn tried hide in the pillow. She yanked Quinn's hair, needing to hear her go over the edge. The pale woman did not disappoint, crying out loudly. Quinn then collapsed onto the bed and Artie carefully slid out of her. She covered Quinn as usually as the English major drifted off to sleep.

She smiled. "Relaxed enough to ace a midterm tomorrow." She "disrobed" and then sat down at her computer to do some work.

-8-8-8-8-

6: Dark

Artie sat at her desk, pecking away at her keyboard and ignoring the chill along the wind howling just outside her window. She could hear the storm raging outside over her thumping music, but it did not bother her. Her cell phone rang, which did distract her. She recognized the ring tone immediately. She made sure to save her work before answering because her relic of a computer could be temperamental, crashing, freezing, and just shutting off for no reason more often than not. Thankfully, she was almost done.

"Hey, sweetheart," Art cooed into the phone, knowing just who called, even though it could be a number of people. "Is it raining there, too?" she asked in a pouty voice.

"Uh-huh," a low, sad childish voice reported. It broke Artie's heart.

"I'm sorry."

"Wish you were here "

"I wish I was there, too, sweetheart."

"I wanna hug you."

"Aw, I wanna hug you, too."

"When you coming back?"

Artie smiled. "Soon, baby, I promise." She heard thunder boom in the background followed by a startled yelp.

"I want you here now!"

"I know, Diana, I know, but I can't be there now. Go get in bed with one of the twins, okay?"

"But they don't have muscles." This was whispered as if it were a secret.

Artie chuckled. "I know they don't, but they can hold you tight. Now, go to bed. Don't make me have to talk to the twins."

"Okay. Miss you, love you."

"Love you, too."

Artie turned her attention back to her computer and was about to get back to her work when a thunderclap sounded outside. The lights flickered and then the room was swallowed by darkness. Her mouth practically fell into her lap.

"No, no, no! This can't be happening! I only had two pages left!" she wailed, tapping her bulky monitor on the side. "Come on, computer!" Of course, she knew the computer could not do anything until the power came back on. She waited a couple of minutes and the lights came back to life. Her computer did not. She cursed loudly before darkness engulfed the room once more.

"Shit! I need a laptop," she decided as she yanked her flash drive from her computer and thanked the gods that she backed up her work. Of course, her computer had taught her that lesson several painful times in high school.

Artie picked up her phone and went through her contacts, trying to remember who had a laptop. Everyone that she called was either out of their room or using their laptop because thanks to the blackout they did not have anything else to do. She growled, figuring that she was rather screwed. She got to Quinn's number and paused because she did not know what type of computer the freckled female had.

"Screw it," she called and she could ask. "Hey, Quinn, how are you?" she politely greeted.

"I'm fine. Is there a blackout on your floor, too?"

"This building and several others from what I tell from talking to people. I need a favor from you if you have a laptop. I need to finish a paper."

"I have a laptop and, yes, you may use it."

Artie sighed in relief. "Thank you so much. This is so huge for me. Uh what room are you in again?"

-8-8-8-8-

Artie found out that Quinn actually lived in the dorm next door, but the buildings were connected by a veranda going along an outside garden space. For some reason, they were still considered the same building, even though the layout was different. Art sprinted across the open corridor as the wind whipped her golden olive skin and the cold rain pelted her, stabbing her like a million pins. She had unwisely decided against a coat, having on a hooded sweatshirt instead. She also wore flip-flops to make the journey and her feet were freezing by the time she made it inside.

She ran up the stairs two at a time until she came to the third floor and found Quinn's room with no problem okay, maybe some problems because the building looked so different in the dark. Quinn asked who it was before opening the door, which Artie thought was a good idea because their peers seemed to be on the brink of having an improvised party. She hated to think what would happen after that.

"Artie, what the hell are you wearing?" Quinn gasped.

"Exactly what it looks like."

"Didn't you know it's raining?"

"Yeah, I know. I didn't think it was as bad as it is."

Quinn shook her head. "You are just like a guy," she muttered and then her eyes went wide. "I'm sorry. That was rude."

Art shrugged it off. "Not really. No reason to be sorry."

"Still, sorry. Here, this is my side of the room." Quinn motioned to the left side of the room. "Thankfully, the laptop was fully charged."

"You're a life saver." Artie smiled as she sat down at the desk. She noted that the room seemed cramped compared to her own, but she did not have a roommate or nearly as many possessions. She supposed it was enough space as long as the roommates got along, or were not in the room together very often.

"It's nice to help you for a change. What are you writing?" Quinn asked curiously as she sat down on her bed and focused on her guest.

"History paper. I waited until the last minute to get to it." The tall female plugged her flash drive in and opened her paper. She relaxed as she saw all of her work was saved.

"All right. I'll leave you to it."

Art nodded and Quinn sat silently, reading a book with the aid of a book light. Artie checked the time as she typed away and she was done barely a half hour later. She then hit another problem.

"Shit, no internet!" Artie slapped her palm against her forehead.

"What's wrong?" Quinn asked with concern.

"I need to send this out by midnight and there's no internet with the power out!"

"Calm down, Artie. My phone has wireless and is a mobile hot spot."

"Oh, my god, you are just heaven sent," Artie praised her. She had to resist the urge to hug and kiss Quinn at that very moment.

Quinn chuckled, but did not deny it. The shorter woman had to set everything up because while Artie knew a lot of things about a lot of things, technology could be her kryptonite. Artie was able to breathe a sigh of relief once the screen told her that her email had been "sent."

"That paper was really important, huh?" Quinn asked with a slight tilt of her head.

"Ten percent of my grade. Thank god I only have to do one more. I'm also happy my professor allows us email papers in up until midnight on the due date or I'd have really screwed this up."

"You seem like the type to organize better than this."

Artie shoot her head. "I try to be, but sometimes I fall short when I have too much going on. I got caught up in writing other people's papers instead of my own."

Quinn's forehead wrinkled. "You write papers? But, isn't that cheating?"

"You could look at it that way, but it's a good way to make a few hundred dollars without having to work full-time and lets me be a full-time student," Artie replied in a plain tone.

Quinn yelped. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be judgmental. I mean, you being a tutor, I figured you'd be all about academic honesty."

"I'm all for people trying to better themselves, but I have to eat, too. I also have to get going. I've got an early morning ahead of me. Thanks again for this. You saved my ass big time." Artie pocketed her flash drive and stood up.

"Any time," Quinn assured her with a smile.

"Next tutoring session is on me. Thank you so much. Now, also do me a favor and don't go out into the hall while the power's out. It might sound like fun, but this power outage thing leaves an idiot a chance to do something stupid."

Quinn nodded and then her eyebrows knitted close together. "Has this happened before?"

"I don't know. It hasn't happened while I've been here, but I do know that idiots rarely miss a chance to do something stupid." Artie paused. "You know what, maybe I'll just stay here with you until your roommate comes back."

"You don't have to."

"No, but I want to because I don't want anything to happen to you. So, we might as well start telling each other ghost stories now." She flopped back down at the desk.

Quinn grinned. "I know dozens."

"I figured you might, being an English major and all. Well, I'm all ears."

The smaller woman blinked, as if surprised by that, but then started telling her story, ancient folklore that she learned from a class over the summer. Art stared at her the whole time, literally on the edge of her seat. She had a lot of practice in playing the captive audience. By the end of the tale, she knew to beware of fairy folk and she was having trouble keeping her eyes open.

"I'm boring you, aren't I?" Quinn asked with a sorrowful pout.

Art blinked rapidly and sat up straight. "No, sorry, just way past my bed time. I'm usually in bed by midnight."

"What? Why?"

"Because I usually wake up at six."

Quinn's eyes went wide. "At six? What do you do at six in the morning? My favorite thing about college is sleeping late and staying up late! I never get out of bed before ten and even that's pushing it."

Artie chuckled. "I try to go to the gym, but I also do my work in the morning if I need to. I have morning classes, too. I get time to myself since most of my friends or associates are asleep. Whatever you do late at night, I probably do early in the morning."

Quinn shrugged; that sounded about right. "You can lie in my bed if you want to. I mean, everything should be fine. We're safe in the room and you'd definitely hear something before anything ever happened."

The taller woman yawned and rubbed her left eye. "Uh "

"Don't argue. You're tired. Go to sleep. I'll wake you up when my roommate comes in."

Artie yawned, which caused her to cave. She was exhausted, having had a full day. She collapsed onto Quinn's bed and was asleep within seconds.

-8-8-8-8-

Quinn envied how quickly Artie fell asleep as she flipped through her book. It did sound pretty wild out in the hallway, but she was far from curious as to what was happening. She liked a party as much as the next person, but not in total darkness when it would be easy for her to be lost in a dark corner and there was little chance of getting help in a timely fashion.

She read her book until she heard the door open. Artie jumped up immediately, eyes focused on the door as Morgan slid inside. There were flashes of light behind the giggly blond, probably from cell phones. The glimpse they got of the hallway seemed like things were even crazier than they sounded. Art was completely standing by the time Morgan shut the door.

"Artie, this is my roommate Morgan," Quinn quickly introduced them before Artie hit her roommate.

"Nice to meet you," Artie said, shaking the blond's hand. "So, I guess I can leave. You two make you don't open this door."

"You don't have to leave," Morgan insisted with an impish smile.

"No, I really do and you both really need to stay in here," Artie ordered in a very stern tone that made the roommates nod simultaneous. She was gone before they realized what they were doing.

Morgan smirked at Quinn. "I see you found a way to entertain yourself in the dark."

"It wasn't like that! She needed my computer to finish a paper."

Morgan continued smirking. "Uh-huh, that's why she's lying in your bed, half-nude? Damn, I wish the lights were on just so I could see what the fuss is about."

"There is no fuss," Quinn insisted.

"Sure there is. All you bi-curious chicks go to her for a reason. Maybe I'm a little curious myself."

A frown settled on Quinn's pale features, but she did not say anything. Morgan laughed while Quinn buried her nose back in her book. She refused to give Morgan more ammo to tease her. Thankfully, Morgan went to sleep almost immediately, having partied hard. Quinn was pleased with the silence and briefly wondered why anyone in her right mind would voluntarily wake up at six in the morning.

-8-8-8-8-

7: Left

Quinn sighed as she tried to remain sitting up straight during what was possibly the most boring date of her life. It was at least in the top five; top ten most definitely. She could learn to hate dating at this rate. It was never like this with Thomas.

Her date of the night was her current boyfriend Anthony Chanda and as far as she was concerned he was no Thomas, even though they had similar features. He was handsome with beautiful brown skin and deep chocolate eyes. He had a thin pencil mustache. She was trying to get used to it because Thomas had a mustache and trimmed beard. She was beginning to believe that she liked facial hair.

His black hair was cropped and gelled back almost exactly the way her former boyfriend did his hair. They shared similar body types and the shape of their faces were the same. If Anthony was from Guyana, she would have thought that he was related to Thomas.

After looks, all similarity to Thomas ended. They had been dating for a little more than a month, having met through mutual friends. They seemed to hit it off in a group. On their own, there was something to be desired.

"Anthony, do you think you can get off the phone for one second?" Quinn requested in a tense tone. He had been texting his friends with the frequency of a fourteen-year-old girl.

"Huh?" He glanced up, blinked, and then seemed to remember that she was there. "Oh, sorry. So, how have you been? I haven't seen much of you this week."

"Finals are coming up and I had to finish a paper. Have you been studying?"

He shrugged. "A little. I took a bunch of bullshit courses this term to get requirements out of the way. I'll start on real stuff next semester."

She nodded and the conversation between them died down. He went back to his phone and she stared at her plate briefly. They really had nothing in common beyond being college students. Even their course work was vastly different despite the fact that they had both taken mostly required courses.

She was pulled from her thoughts as Anthony let loose an excited gasp. Their eyes met and he looked eager and then anxious, like a child that was offered a chance to go to an amusement park in front of an upset parent. He offered her an apprehensive smile, almost in apology, but it was far from sincere. Guilt appeared in his byes briefly, but then something else took over, as if he was staring through her.

"What have you been texting about all night?" she finally demanded. It took all of her willpower not to hit the table with her palm.

"Uh well, it's the guys. Excuse me, for a second." He got up before she avid answer and rushed off toward the front.

Quinn sighed and doubted that it was a good thing that he had left after barely touching his food. After five minutes, she was embarrassingly aware that Anthony was probably not going to come back in. Making matters worse, he was her ride, so she was going to have to chase after him if she wanted to get back to her dorm.

"Hey, glad you got rid of him for me," Artie remarked with a wink as she sat down.

She gasped. "Artie?"

"Calm down, I'm not stalking you. I was at the movies next door with some friends and, when the movie let out, we walked by just in time for me to see your guy walk out." Artie pointed to the window to show that she had an excellent view from the outside.

Quinn sighed and shook her head. "Great, it was a show inside and out."

"Hey, we can salvage this. First, I'd like to point out that you're better off without the dick that walked out on you literally and then drove off."

Quinn's mouth dropped open. "Drove off? He left me?"

Art's brandy wine-colored eyes drift off to the right briefly. "I didn't come in until I was sure he wasn't coming back. I'm sorry."

The younger woman shook her head. "Don't be. You're not the sorry one. He is or maybe I am "

Art reached across the table and grabbed Quinn by the hand. Chocolate eyes snapped up and locked with intense reddish brown orbs. The atmosphere suddenly felt heavy, crushing, and Quinn was certain that her ribs were trying to strangle her rapidly beating heart.

"You're fine. Don't let some idiot dictate yourself esteem. He's an ass. They exist, but there are also great guys out there. Dump this one and go find one of the great ones. Hell, I know plenty of good guys if you want me to hook you up," Artie offered.

Quinn shook her head. "You don't know me. Anthony just ran out on me. Thomas wanted us to take a break, and there have been men in between that haven't been impressed."

"So? You're an idiot magnet. No reflection on you. I know a guy who's unfortunately a psycho magnet. He's a regular guy, smart, in shape, and almost every chick that approaches him is totally nuts. So, you're a smart, attractive girl that happens to attract idiots. It's unfortunate," Artie remarked with an exaggerated pout.

Quinn chuckled in spite of feeling depressed and her eyes went wide. "Are your friends waiting?"

"No, I sent them on ahead. I could use some dinner,'' Artie replied, waving the waiter over.

Quinn was dumbfounded as her tutor ordered a drink and meal. Artie was actually going to stay with her, which lessened the sting of being ditched. She exhaled and managed a smile. The smile was returned.

"So, what movie did you see?" Quinn inquired to make conversation.

Artie snorted. "That trashy horror movie about the poison dart frogs infesting a town. Hell, I don't even remember what it was called. Croaked? Something like that."

"I think it is Croaked. Was it cheesy? I didn't see it, not that I like those types of movies."

"It was so cheesy. They gave the frogs fangs and made them the size of German shepherds. The CGI is so bad, though. It would've been better if they were hand puppets or something. Don't waste your money on it. That was not ten bucks well spent."

Quinn laughed a little. "I'd never waste money on it. I need a plot to go with my special effects."

Artie chuckled. "I have to be in the mood to watch something mindless or senseless. I wasn't really in the mood, but I promised my friends I'd go out to celebrate once finals were over. I thought celebrating would involve drinking. I'm sure that would've made the movie better, actually."

There was another laugh from Quinn. "Drinks for you or the actors?"

"Drinks for me and unemployment for the actors."

Quinn laughed again, finding the fact Artie was totally serious even funnier. The waiter came around with Artie's drink and Quinn got a refill since now she felt like she would be there a while. She also ordered an appetizer to have something warm to eat while Artie had her meal.

"So, I noticed the waiter didn't recognize you, even though you're in you usual 20s gear. You don't come here often, do you?" Quinn inquired. The restaurant was typically very popular with the students of Parker University when they were trying to be romantic.

"No, can't say that I do."

"Then where do you take all of your dates?"

"I told you when we started that I don't date and I don't do anything with girls that don't understand that. I don't have time to date. I work so much that any free time is spent with my friends. Sometimes, they have to come save me from my room. They wish I had a roommate to get me out more often."

Quinn nodded. "A roommate would help with that. Morgan gets me to parties at least twice a week. She always drags me to some function, but she at least let's me finish my work first."

"I don't have time for that and I don't want people looming over me when I'm working. I have a lot to do and I need to get through it, so my friends don't bother me until the weekend. They'll usually only call me once to find out about my workload and then show up if they dub the workload 'light.' Usually, they're right."

Quinn's brow wrinkled. "So, you only get out like once a week?"

"Sometimes less."

"You're really not getting into the whole college experience, huh?"

Artie shrugged. "I'm not here for the partying. I did a lot of that in high school. I mean, I didn't come to one of the best schools in the country to party. Some people have. I'm here to get a degree. Some people have found an excellent balance."

"And you haven't?"

"My balance puts more weight on work. I have a lot of papers to do," she reminded Quinn.

"How many papers do you write and how much do you charge?" Quinn asked curiously.

"I write a lot of papers. You'd never believe how lazy college students can be. I've been doing this since high school to pick up money, so I have a lot of experience. I've tackled a lot of subjects, so sometimes I can just copy and paste old papers to look like new stuff. I charge fifteen dollars a page. I promise no less than a B, but usually get A's. I offer refunds if you get under a B."

"Do you make a lot of money?"

"More now since I know more college students. You'd probably make a lot of money. I'm sure your writing is better than mine considering your majors."

Quinn laughed and shook her head. "No, I have enough work writing my own papers and I'm not learned in a plethora of subjects either. How'd you get to know so many subjects to feel comfortable writing papers?"

Artie opened her mouth to answer, but the waiter showed up with their food. They made sure everything was to their liking as the waiter left. Artie took a bite of her chicken before answering.

"My grandparents are college professors. I've been reading since I was three. I spent a lot of time with them when I was younger." Artie suddenly chuckled. "I wasn't allowed to watch TV, only read when I with them. I grew to love it." She smiled.

"You're still close to them?"

Artie nodded. "Yeah, my granddad especially. This is his hat actually." She held up her fedora. "I've got a black bowler he gave me, too."

"That's cool. The most my parents gave me were hand-me-downs. Even my car is a hand-me-down. All my clothes were the same."

Artie smiled. "You must be the baby."

"Youngest of three. You?"

"Oldest of six."

"Whoa. Amazing."

Artie chuckled and began eating. Quinn started on her french fries, which were cold and her wing appetizers, which were warm. The conversation paused, but the silence was not uncomfortable. Quinn did not feel like Artie was plotting her escape like she felt with Anthony.

"Was this your one night a week out or do you go out more because school's over?" Quinn asked curiously.

"I'm going home now that school's done. What about you?"

The pale woman shook her head. "I'm staying on campus. I like life on campus over breaks."

"I've never checked it out. I don't really have the time."

"You should make time. Not a lot, but enough to see a show. The concerts they had this summer were amazing. You'd like it. They have metal bands. I've never bothered to see them, but I definitely will check out when I can now. I never knew metal was so cool."

Artie chuckled a bit and they discussed music as they ate. Eventually, the food was gone, but Artie ordered dessert. Quinn did the same. They spoke some more over dessert, but the night had to end. The wind seemed to blow through them as they stepped into the night air.

"It's so cold," Quinn shivered as she buried her face in her high collar coat and shoved her hands into her pockets.

"Yeah, hopefully the bus will have heat," Artie said, fixing her gloves.

"You know I've never been on the bus."

Artie chuckled. "You're not missing out."

They stood at the bus stop for ten freezing minutes before the bus came. It was full of college students; some drunk, some sleeping or on the verge of sleeping, and others normal. Quinn did not have exact change, as the fare called for, and Artie paid for her without her needing to ask. There were no free seats, so they had to stand. Artie stood between her and another group that was standing. Some of the guys stared at her for a moment and she tried to burrow deeper into her coat, but was still visible. Artie moved slightly to the left, blocking their view. There was some grumbling, but nothing more.

The ride was fifteen minutes long and thankfully had heat. Unfortunately, that made stepping off the bus a punishment, but it had to be done. Artie walked Quinn to her dorm room. The gesture warmed her enough for the five minute stroll. She stood at the door, facing Artie. She smiled at the taller woman.

"I had such a great time. You're wonderful to talk to. Thank you for salvaging my night," Quinn said.

"Any time. It's rare for me to have dinner a gorgeous, bright young woman. So, thank you for just sitting across from me."

Quinn blushed and decided not to spoil the moment by figuring out what to say. She kissed Artie on the cheek and disappeared into her room. She hoped she had not crossed the line, but she did not know a better way to express her gratitude. Artie had made her feel so good about herself. She doubted that she would ever be able to thank Artie enough for that.

-8-8-8-8-

8: Frosty

Winter break was bitterly cold and the days were short, as if just checking on what people were doing before allowing darkness to reign supreme. It had not seemed so bleak the first time Quinn spent winter break on campus. Of course, back then, she had Thomas to keep her warm and they had something to do when nighttime blanketed the campus. Now, she was busy going through a string of poor substitutes as she took in the abject darkness of the empty campus.

She had gone home for Christmas, like most of the students, and like a good little girl. Unlike most students, she returned to campus the day after Christmas with no cheer in her heart or presents in her car, except for two from each set of grandparents. There was no reason to stay home and that fact would only be made clear the longer she stayed there. So, it was back to some place a little less suffocating and less uncaring. Some place where if she said hello to even a complete stranger she was likely to get some type of greeting in return.

Quinn had gone on four dates in five days. They were not pretty dates, but each one wanted to spend New Year's Eve with her. She was not sure if she should spend the night with any of them because it might send the wrong message. She did not want to do anything beyond be friends with any of those guys and even that might be stretching things. None of them did anything for her and she had barely been able to keep a conversation going with them.

"Maybe I'll just ring in the New Year at home. No shame in that," she muttered to herself. If only she really believed that.

Quinn was in her dorm room, which was all packed up because she and Morgan were going to be moving to another dorm before spring semester started. She was thankful that students were allowed to still live on campus during breaks as long as they were registered for a class and put in a request for it on time. She picked up her cell phone and decided to call Morgan. She needed advice.

"Hey, Quinn, how are things going?" Morgan inquired.

Quinn sighed. "They're going weird. I've been dating and they're all been flops on my end, but each guy wants me to hang out with them on New Year's Eve. What should I do?"

"You have a lot of options. You can go out with the least offensive of the four. You can go find a cool New Year's Eve celebration on your own. Hell, you can use this as an excuse to call Thomas and find out if he's around. He might've stayed close to campus for you. This would be a great time to test it out and find out if he's thinking about you in some way."

A creamy forehead wrinkled as she rubbed her chin in thought. "You told me when this whole break started that I shouldn't be the one to make contact? He needs to see that I can live without him and he needs to come to me to realize that he made the mistake. I believe that's what you said, right?"

"Oh, yeah! I did say that and I agree. You shouldn't contact him. That does narrow down your choices. Go party alone. I'm sure there are a bunch of great places you can go. You might meet someone better than the four idiots you met."

Chocolate eyes rolled. "You're always so optimistic." While the campus was great during winter break, the town that it was in was not as great considering half of its popular were college students that were now mostly home. So, whatever "great places" Morgan was thinking about were probably much less sensational right now.

"Because things generally work out. I mean, even Thomas calling this break has worked out for you. While you haven't found a boyfriend to replace him, you better understand why he was the better mate for you and you're not likely to play the field on him if you two get back together. If you don't get back with him, you're still left with that understanding of what you want in a mate, so you don't have to go through all of the bullshit later on in life."

A frown settled on pink lips. "This doesn't help me with my New Year's Eve problem."

Morgan chuckled. "I suppose you're right. And, I suggest you go with the least offensive of the guys."

Quinn snorted. I don't think I have the stomach for that or the conversational skills. "How're things going with you?"

"I'm freezing my ass off is how things are going with me! If you think it's cold there, imagine a white Christmas with two feet of snow! At least you have four candidates to keep you warm!"

"You can have them all if you want."

"No, thank you. You and I have vastly different tastes in men. Including, the ones you don't like."

Quinn laughed a bit and the friends bid each other farewell. Quinn was still at a loss and was tempted to call Thomas. Surely, the man that claimed to love her less than a year ago would not let her spend her first New Year's Eve in four years alone. But, she did not want to chance it because they had drifted so far apart already. She would feel crushed if he left her in a mild flare of despair. It would also underscore that it was less likely they would ever be together again. She wanted to hold onto hope - hope in Thomas or hope in finding someone like him, someone that loved her.

She scrolled through her contact list and her thumb hovered over his name. She could not bring herself to do it, though. She flicked the screen and came to "Artie." Artie was smart and helped her better understand math. Artie also seemed to have a mastery of other subjects. Maybe Artie also gave out dating advice, even though she did not date. It seemed like it was worth a shot.

"Hey, Quinn," Artie answered and she could hear giggling in the background.

"Hey, Artie. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" she asked because of the high-pitched laughter. She imagined that Artie's break was probably filled with partying that she wanted to catch up on.

"No, it's fine," Artie grunted and the giggling increased. "Do you need something?"

"Well, I have a problem and I was hoping for some advice."

"Okay, tell me the problem and I'll do what I can."

Quinn sighed and went through the entire situation. She ignored the giggling and odd sounds from the other end. She was not sure what to make of the occasional swatting sounds or the fact that it sounded a whirlwind of activity on the other end. Artie apologized a couple of times because of the noise, but she did not offer an explanation for what was happening.

"I wouldn't go out with any of those guys if they don't do anything for you. You're sending them the wrong signal like you said and that could lead to more trouble. I also don't think you should go out alone. New Year's Eve is a wild time, even in small towns. None of your friends stayed behind? Someone from your winter session class that you could hang out with?"

"No, all my friends think I'm crazy for even doing winter session."

Artie was silent for a moment. "So, the only real problem is that you don't want to be alone on New Year's Eve?"

"Yeah, the idea just makes me feel so lonely."

"You can come here to Sutterford. It's a two-hour bus ride, so the drive with a car is probably a little over an hour from Leetown."

Chocolate eyes blinked and Quinn's mouth fell open. "You you're inviting me to your home?"

"Yeah. Me and my friends are going out. You can hang with us and then crash at my place. It'll be cramped, but fine," Artie explained.

Quinn was tempted by the act of kindness, but it also troubled her. Despite knowing Artie for three months, she felt like she did not really know Artie. Yes, they had shared some moments, but beyond that, she would not even say they were friends. She did not want to chance being uncomfortable, especially if Artie had plans to go to a lesbian bar to celebrate.

"I don't want to impose on you," Quinn said, which was also true. She imagined a family with six kids could not have a lot of space to spare.

"It wouldn't be imposing. I invited you. Like I said, it'd probably be cramped, though."

"No, I'll find something to do or someone to go with. Hell, maybe I actually need to spend some time alone. I'm always trying to find people to be around."

"Well, you can be introspective for the whole winter. You don't need to do it on New Year's Eve. Look my offer stands, even after the ball drops. Call me if you need my address. I have got a little egghead to put to bed. Bye," there was more laughter before Artie hung up without even waiting for Quinn to respond.

Quinn sighed. She thought on Artie's offer the entire day. As she was on her way to her car, she literally ran into someone in the hallway. Well, he ran into her while trying to keep from dropping a pile of books that he had in his arms. She fell back while the books fell to the floor.

"Sorry about that. I was I was trying to stop the inevitable it seemed," he remarked with a light laugh as he bent down to pick up his books.

She laughed, too. "It's all right." She glanced at his books. "Hey, I've read a few of these. They're really good. Are you reading them for a class?"

"Huh?" He glanced up and blue eyes locked on her. He seemed like her exact opposite with short, wavy blond hair and tanned skin despite the winter season. "I am reading a couple them for a class, but the others are just to see what they're about. I've finished this one." He held it up.

"Oh, that was really good."

He nodded in agreement and they began discussing the book. She learned that his name was Gavin and he was English lit major, which explained all of the books. They ended up moving their conversation to one of the dorm's lounges. Completely by accident, they spoke for the entire night, not realizing they wrung in the New Year talking about a book.

Quinn would not see Artie's text message of "Happy New Year" until the next day. She smiled as she texted back, "Yes, it is." If nothing else, she had made a new friend.

-8-8-8-8-

Next time: school's back in session and Artie's back in town.




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