Time seemed to lose all meaning when Jeremie was kissing Aelita.
Somehow they ended up tangled together on the bed, and thinking about all the ways they touched was too overwhelming on top of the kissing, so Jeremie focused on the kissing. Her mouth was sweet, and every time her lips touched his it felt slightly different. He would never get tired of that or the pressure of her hips against his or the gentle movements of her hands along his back. Her chemistry book was poking him in the side, but really, he couldn't care less.
Then the door slammed open. Jeremie and Aelita jumped apart, but there was only so far apart you could go when your legs were tangled together and your arms were around each other.
"Well, jeeze," said Odd, who did not look at all abashed, "I thought you guys were supposed to be the nerdy ones."
He put his hands on his hips, but before he could announce his purpose, Aelita picked up one of Jeremie's pillows and chucked it at him. "Get out!" Fury transformed her voice into a squeak; her cheeks were bright pink, but Jeremie wasn't sure if it was from anger or surprise. It certainly wasn't embarrassment. He had enough of that for the both of them.
Odd ducked the pillow, so Aelita threw first her pencil case and then her chemistry book at him. The chemistry book went wild, but the pencil case hit his chest. Odd yelped, but he was also laughing. "Okay, okay! Fine! I'll come back later." He shut the door.
Aelita glared at the door, like she was daring Odd to open it again; Jeremie could only stare at her, in shock as much from the kissing as the interruption. Aelita blinked a few times, until she seemed sure Odd wasn't going to come back, and then she looked at Jeremie. Her blush deepened, but her eyes were steady on his face. "That's one of the bad things about being friends with Odd." Her voice was breathless.
"It is, isn't it?" said Jeremie. He was surprised he could still talk. He wanted to straighten up because his arms were starting to ache from trying to support himself, but his knee was between her thighs, and he didn't want to kick her.
Aelita traced her fingers along the side of his face, and then she scooted out from under him so she could sit properly. She was clearly embarrassed now, but she was smiling, and she kept shooting him little glances from the corner of her eye.
Jeremie swallowed and picked up the list of chemistry terms. "Um. Should we—should we get back to studying?" Aelita nodded, but the little smile on her face never quite went away, and neither did the taste of her mouth.
Now it was the last week before spring break. Despite the loads of extra homework (and the last-day tests, which all the teachers seemed to plan in conjunction to make sure no one got too excited), the whole school was in better spirits than usual. For example, Odd orchestrated a massive prank which involved filling the school pool with gelatin before swim team tryouts and a pair of hamsters set free in Principal Delmas's office. He got detention for two weeks (starting right after break) but he didn't seem to mind at all. Or, at least, it never stopped him from humming.
The rest of the school seemed to want to talk about nothing but what they were going to do over break. Some people were going abroad; some of them were going to the beach. Jeremie was just spending his time at home, like always. He liked getting to see his family for a bit, though time without schoolwork always left him at a bit of a loose end.
Because everyone else was so happy, it was very obvious that Aelita wasn't. Oh, she tried not to act like it, and she might have fooled their other friends, but Jeremie knew. She went quiet whenever Odd mentioned his trip to Venice; she looked away when Yumi said she was going to Japan, even when Ulrich just said he was excited to see his parents. For that reason, Jeremie never brought up his plans for the break. Whenever the subject came up, he tried to change it to something else or start a different conversation with Aelita.
He knew the reason she was sad, of course. He just wasn't sure how he could help, no matter how depressing the thought of her spending her break here at Kadic alone was (or, just as bad, with only Sissi to keep her company).
When the answer came to him, he felt stupid—but that was always how he felt when he solved a problem.
Three days before the break started, Jeremie caught Aelita after class. Her smile, as always, was dazzling; it was a little easier to think past it since he had a goal in mind. "So, Aelita—" He caught her hand and nodded at the courtyard, which wouldn't be too crowded right now since everyone wanted to hurry to dinner.
She glanced at him, pleased confusion in her eyes, and let him lead her over to a bench. "What is it, Jeremie?"
He bit his lip, because he couldn't help but remember the way she had responded to every other inquiry about her family before, but he had to ask this, and he could only hope it wouldn't be badly received. The words tumbled out, artless and weak. "I want you to come spend the break with my family."
Aelita looked at him in shock—not good shock or bad shock, just pure surprise. "Wh-what?" She blinked rapidly, as though she might cry; her hand was slack in his. Jeremie smiled at her, to try and keep her from panicking or whatever it was she was about to do. Slowly, her hand tightened around his again. Her eyes brightened, and the shock in her eyes shifted toward something more hopeful. Perhaps a bit fearful, but still hopeful. "Jeremie—I—" She looked down at their linked hands. "It's your time with your family. I—I shouldn't."
But he could hear in her voice how badly she wanted to be a part of a family—perhaps how badly she wanted to be a part of his family. He squeezed her hand and moved his face close to hers, so she couldn't look away. "They want you to come, Aelita. I've already asked them, and they'd really like to meet you." He paused. "I mean, if you don't like it, I'm sure you can always come back, and—"
She kissed him before he could say anything more, her arms tight around his neck like she was still surprised how happy she was. He hugged her back, but he broke the kiss a little sooner than he would have liked because there were other things on his mind. "So you'll come?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" He had never seen her so happy; it made his breath catch. He hugged her back, and the thought that he could feel like this more than once made him kiss her again without hesitation because he really couldn't do anything else in response.