"If I speak in the tongues of men and angles but have not love, I an only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal."
~1 Corinthians 13:1
Jonathan Crane was a very busy man.
Three days a week he was over at Gotham University, teaching graduate students because he wanted the use of University labs in which to conduct his research. The rest of the week, he was either at Arkham, working on his cases there and performing his duties as assistant director, or he was doing research and writing copious notes in his tiny, cramped scrawl. The only off day he had was Sunday. Growing up in the South, he had learned to respect the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, so he did no work on Sunday.
He slept all day to catch up on all the late nights of the pervious week and all the coming late nights to come. Coffee only took you so far.
Tonight he was teaching a class on psychopharmacology to grad students who didn't want to be there just as much as he did. The building's ancient AC unit had conked out on them, so all the windows were open and the fans were going full speed. Just what they needed on a hot Gotham summer evening.
Pushing his glasses up on his nose, he kept explaining a particular concept, writing important terms on the aged blackboard. The students winced each time the chalk screeched across the board but dutifully kept writing notes. Crane liked that. They showed they were committed; if they were committed, he wouldn't flunk them when the semester final rolled around.
Having shed his coat about half an hour ago, he stood there in rolled up shirtsleeves and a sweater vest, as well as navy blue pants. Most students wore t-shirts, shorts, and sandals, and they were STILL perspiring. Crane pushed his dark brown hair out of his blue eyes and off his forehead. He had grown up with this kind of heat in Georgia, but he still wasn't entirely immune to the sweltering temperature. He turned back to the class and defined some of the Latin words that had the grad students wearing identical confused expressions. A few minutes later the bell rang, and everyone sighed in relief. Even him.
"Read chapter 11 for homework and take notes," he called after them as they gathered up their books and scampered off to find somewhere cool.
The room emptied, and Jonathan brushed the chalk dust from his hands, packed his briefcase, and grabbed his coat.
"Dr. Crane," A female voice asked. "Do you have a moment?"
He looked up from the papers on his desk and up into the green eyes of a woman in a white lab coat. "I have five, actually," he said, straightening and checking his watch, "You may have as many as you like from that."
The woman, whose red hair was pulled back in a ponytail, smiled and extended a slim hand. "I don't suppose I'll need them all. I only wanted to introduce myself. I'm Dr. Pamela Isley. I was hired to teach Botany at the beginning of the semester."
He shook her hand and said politely, "Pleased to meet you."
"Likewise," she replied, her green eyes sparkling behind her smart glasses. "It's a requirement for new professors to go and listen to different lectures."
Oh, Lord, he remembered those days. Of course, then Dr. Arkham was still lecturing and he had to sit through hour after hour of his monotone voice, convinced he could present the subject matter better. "Yes, of course," was all he said, though.
"I enjoyed your talk," she began "But I think the students would get on better if things were put in simpler words rather than using all the Latin technical terms. That's just my personal opinion," she said hastily, "But it seems that they would get more out of the lecture that way."
"Dr. Isley, they are graduate students. It would expect them to be able to grasp Latin terms that are used in psychopharmacology constantly," he said, briskly, snapping his briefcase.
"Perhaps all their other teachers have assumed so also," Dr. Isley suggested, "and so they have never learned them."
"Then they should take the initiative and find out what Amanita muscaria means on their own," he replied, picking up his coat.
She seemed about to open her mouth again, but instead pursed her lips and composed herself. "I apologize," she said. "I was not inferring that your teaching skills were lacking, on the contrary, I was very impressed." She held up a slim notebook full of graceful rolling script. "I took notes. I just –I always struggled with Latin, and seeing their perplexity made me want to help." She smiled a bit. "I still do, actually. Rather stupid for someone of my major."
"Apology accepted," he said, a bit taken aback. It was not everyday that he met a woman who was strong-minded and humble. "What did you major in?" he asked, trying to be polite and conversational since she just apologized very nicely. They both walked out of the building together. Her heels clicked on the cobbles.
"I majored in Botany, with a minor in toxicology," she replied with a smile. "You see how silly it is? I much prefer a plant's common name instead of the Latin one. It's more familiar, and much easier on one's tongue to say Dandelion instead of Taraxacum officinale."
He said he supposed so.
Three days later, he looked up from his seat in the University coffee shop where he was grading papers to see Dr. Isley walk through the door with a pile of her own work. She ordered a latte and then walked over to him with a surprised smile on her face. "Hello Doctor Crane," she said. "I thought I was the only one who had the bright idea to grade papers here."
"I usually come later in the week to grade," he said, finally finding his tongue. "But I decided to do it earlier since I have a lot of work this week."
"And to think we might have passed each other on any number of occasions," she said, right before her order was called.
"Would you like to sit here?" he asked suddenly, indicating the other side of the table. "I can make room," he said, glancing at the stacks of paper that seemed to migrate in all directions when he was working.
"I would; thank you," she said, putting down her work and going up to the counter to retrieve her latte. Jonathan blinked as the light coming in the window lit up the copper highlights in her loose ponytail. He shook his head and tried to cut down on the clutter to give her some space.
She gracefully took a seat across from him and pushed her glasses up on the bridge of her nose before opening the folder and taking out a red grading pen. "I sometimes wonder what is harder," she remarked. "Being the student or the professor?"
"The professor," Jonathan replied with no hesitation.
Her laugh came again. It sounded like a bell chiming. "It certainly seems that way, doesn't it?"
For a long time there was only the sound of pens scratching on papers and coffee sipping.
Jonathan finally looked up from his papers to ask, "So why do you like to grade papers here?"
She pushed some of her hair behind her ear. "I get distracted at my house. There are always more interesting things to do than grade papers, like water my plants or sketch, or watch television. Here, I can concentrate, even if I do buy a couple lattes." She raised her green eyes to his. "What about you?"
His apartment was just a place where he kept his belongings and slept at night; a rather lonely way to live. Coming here was a way to find company. "I find it easy to shut out the bustle and work uninterrupted," was all he said, though.
Her eyes were bright and perceptive; her gaze was a little too direct. "I'm glad I ran into you, then. Sometimes interruption is good. Carpe Diem and all that."
"In this case, yes," he said, allowing a smile to slip over his face.
He moved to set a stack of graded papers to the side; she was reaching for still unmarked assignments. Her hand brushed his a millisecond after he had let go of his grip on the papers. Static shock flowed between them. Her lashes lowered demurely over her eyes as she acted like nothing had happened. Jonathan did the same, but inwardly he thought, her hand is so soft. He wanted to hold it and find out just how soft.