Summary: Backstory ficlet. Helen meets Stephen, Stephen meets Helen – whichever way you want to look at it.
Spoilers: All of Season 1
A\N: Incredibly speedily betaread by fififolle and doylefan22 - both of you are fab betas! For the ARC Introductions challenge.
A smattering of people sat in the lecture theatre, a few flipping through a pamphlet and the rest scribbling notes diligently, occasionally glancing up at the projection screen each time the click of a slide changing was heard. On screen was a photograph of a slate slab featuring several strange disc shapes, headed by the title “Fossil 'UFOs' mystify the geologists”.
“...and this is one of the proclaimed mysteries of palaeontology today. They are largely ignored, glossed over as at best an insignificant anomaly in the fossil record, a scientific curiosity for sensationalist journalism or simply seen as outright but unproven hoaxes. Of course, there a number of examples of this, not that you are likely to have seen of any of them unless you're a particularly sharp student of the subject, willing to dig for the truth.”
The woman paused for a moment, leaning forward, her arms resting against the lectern. When she continued on her voice was lower, her tone almost conspiratorial and daring, her impassioned speech a challenge to the impressionable freshers listening across from her.
“If you are, then you have an advantage - the first essay of the year, due in a fortnight, will be on this topic. You'll find the question and specifications in the course handouts. So until next time try and... think differently – here, in my units, learning isn't about remembering facts. I want you to know them, yes, but I also demand that you examine the data for yourself, come to your own conclusions. Let's wrap it up there, shall we? I rather fancy an early lunch.” She finished with a wink to them, before gathering the few cue cards in front of her into a tatty old canvas bag and swinging it over her shoulder haphazardly.
Most of the students had scattered, filing out of the lecture hall as quickly as possible. She tended to have that effect on them at first, their little minds couldn't take it all in one go. They often thought she was asking more than they could manage. A good proportion tended to change units promptly, but she knew those who stuck it out would be loving it by the beginning of the second term. To her surprise, she found her exit to the bar blocked – a lanky brown haired boy standing in the gap between the first row and the raised stage.
He broke the silence. “I want to know more.”
For a request about learning, he unusually didn't ask her for names of authors, books or articles or any kind of reference – making her consider he'd not said what he'd meant, confusing curiosity with a different kind of desire. Wanted more of what exactly? she thought. He was looking at her intensely, blue eyes and expression full of enthusiasm. She couldn't help but notice he was rather good looking in a very wholesome and sweet way.
She baited him with a simple answer. “That doesn't surprise me.”
He said nothing more, patiently listening as if in turn for her to speak, to elaborate and explain. He was certainly a unique student. She'd had quiet ones before, but it tended to be because of a lack of confidence and that didn't appear to be a problem for him; he was staring directly at her. Staring her down? How stubborn and...animalistic of him. Or he could be submissive, actually simply waiting. Both possibilities intrigued her.
“How about we have a chat over a drink? It's wonderfully hot outside, would seem a waste of it to while away our time in my stuffy old office.”
Somehow she didn't feel guilty to admit internally to herself that the other reason was that she'd rather not run into Nick, whose office was right across from hers, and potentially spoil the suddenly sunny outlook for the afternoon. Yes, she could see this term was going to be extra interesting. What a wonderful bonus to her planned curriculum – unlike Nick, Helen always had loved a good surprise, not to mention a decent challenge.