# I Love You to Death

## Just Friends

“Good morning Naomi.” Lukas smiles pleasantly at Nai as he slides into his seat.

“Morning Lukas.” She smiles back politely but makes no move to start a conversation. She studies the material instead. Lukas does the same, finally used to her anti-social tendencies after nearly a month of being subjected to them.

“Hey, how would I solve this equation? I know I use this formula, but I’m not exactly sure how to apply it to this problem.” He slides his notebook over and Nai leans over to look.

“Oh, this can be a little tricky. The key is to solve it like this first, and then you plug the result into the formula and that’s how you get the final answer. Would you like me to do it and you observe, or would you rather try it yourself first?”

“I think I’d like for you to demonstrate Naomi, and maybe you could instruct me as you go? You’re so amazing at explaining things, I retain more when you guide me along rather than attempting it on my own.”

Her cheeks fill with light color from his unexpected compliment. “I’m really not that amazing, but thanks.” She returns to the problem at hand. “So, let’s start here....” Nai proceeds to solve the problem, explaining each step carefully as she goes.

Lukas watches closely, genuinely wanting to understand the process. However, if he were to be honest with himself, he really enjoys hearing her voice the most. He loves the way her brows furrow when she’s thinking deeply, how she lightly bites her lip as she writes and the slight grin of satisfaction she displays once the problem has been successfully solved. If he were honest, he might just say that he loves her.

“Lukas?” He’s brought back to attention upon hearing her call his name. “Was there anything you didn’t understand?”

“Hay nada.” He smiles at her confused expression, knowing she doesn’t know a bit of Spanish. “There’s nothing I didn’t understand, as you explained it perfectly as always,” he elaborates further. “Thank you Naomi.”

“No problem, Lukas.” He returns to his studying, not taking any action to start a conversation as he would before. He seems to have finally learned that she’s not one for talking to people much and likes to keep to herself, but she wonders why she oddly feels a bit disappointed he didn’t.

“Alright everyone, turn to page three-fifteen!” Dr. Nicola enters the lecture room and gets right down to business without a moment of hesitation. Naomi returns her eyes to her own books, doing her best to focus on the lecture and not on Lukas, or how she secretly wished he’d look her. However, the lecture comes to an end and he doesn’t; not even once.

“I’ll see you at one for Dr. Willow’s class?” Lukas asks this of Naomi as he gathers his books. He’s also surveying Dr. Willow’s class, as he’ll be taking it alongside Dr. Nicola’s in three weeks once the summer session begins.

“Of course, I’d be crazy to skip one of Dr. Willow’s lectures. If she doesn’t kill me herself, her next exam certainly will, as she tests us on the things she discusses in class; not what we can read in the text or lecture slides. What are you going to do until then?”

“I’ll probably just study in the library. She likes to pick on me and I’d rather not embarrass myself as royally as I did on Wednesday. Our classmates must think I’m inept.”

“Oh please, you answer much more sensibly than ninety percent of our class. She picks on you because you attempt to think about things, rather than mindlessly searching the text for answers like most others. So don’t sweat it.”

“I guess you know her better than I do, so I’ll take your word for it Naomi.” He slides his bag up on one shoulder. “You have your social science and elective courses next right?”

“Yup. Ethics with Dr. Wilder at ten, History of Space Endeavors with Dr. Curran at eleven, lunch and Aerospace 2 with Dr. Willow at one. After that, my weekend officially begins.”

“Wow, that’s a pretty stacked day. How many credits are you taking this term?”

“Seventeen, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. I have these four classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour each, and a Research Seminar for an hour Tuesday and Thursday. It’s in the morning, so after I spend time working on my assignments and studying. Once I learned to pace myself and create a balance, it became easy to manage. You’ll get the hang of it too.”

“I hope so, but first I’ll need to make it through this summer session of hell. Please tell me you’ve agreed to tutor for at least one of the courses.” He practically pleads with her.

“I don’t know Lukas. I don’t mind helping you sometimes if you need it, but I’m not sure about becoming available to an entire class. I’m worried about the time commitment too. I would rather not lose too much of my free time.”

“Well, as much as I’d love to have you to myself, I think it’d be a disservice for everyone else if you were to focus on only me.” He can see her blush slightly. “Of course you should do only what you’re most comfortable with. If you can spare a day for me, I’d be grateful.”

Naomi tries to control herself, but she can tell her cheeks are growing warm. She wonders if he even realizes his flirtatious nature. He does it without even trying sometimes and she’s been more perceptive of it recently. However, she refuses to put too much thought into it, as they are absolutely nothing more than friends. With a smile she replies, “I’ll think about it.”

“That’s all anyone could ask for, thank you.” He shifts awkwardly, as though he was about to say something, but reconsidered at the last moment. “Well, I guess you’d better get to your next class.”

Nai looks at the clock, which reads three minutes to ten. “Crap! I didn’t realize we’d been talking so long. I don’t like being late. I’ll see you at one!” She grabs her bag and rushes to her next class. Lukas watches her go, his heart heavy with longing.

However, he doesn’t get much time to embrace it as his phone vibrates in his pocket. He pulls it out and it reads, <Waiting on your report.>. He sighs and stuffs the phone back in his pocket with annoyance. “Dios ayudame....” He exits the classroom, dreading every step he takes as he approaches his doom.

He soon reaches the outer limits of the campus, where a black, unmarked car sits isolated from the rest. Lukas gets inside and sits silently; waiting for an older man with graying hair and a mean mug to address him. “Well, did you find out anything?”

“No Sir, I need more time.” He answers softly.

“You’ve had nearly a month; how much longer will it take?”

“I need to make sure our friendship is secure before I start prodding around into her social life or it may jeopardize everything! Please Sir, I just need a bit more time. Let me finish the summer session and then I’ll do everything I can to protect her and bring an end to his terror.”

The man looks at Lukas hard. “Tell me something, are you in love with her? I know you have history, but if it’s something that’s going to compromise your work, then perhaps it was a mistake to trust you with this. You swore you’d remain professional.”

“I... I can do my job Sir, I assure you. I will secure the information that we need, and I will free her from his grasp as well as liberate the other victims. I won’t let our efforts be in vain. I’ll show you that it was not a mistake to give me this chance, Sir.”

He sighs. “You have until the end of the summer Lukas. More women are going missing every day that he remains at large. If you do care for her, then let that be your motivation.” He turns his head, effectively dismissing him.

“I won’t let you down Detective Mathis.” Lukas replies with a nod and exits the car. Before he shuts the door, he gets one more word of advice, that leaves Lukas reeling in silent despair.

“We’re all counting on you Detective Arias. Don’t disappoint us, or you’ll return to the nothing of which you came.”