He opened his eyes to see sunlight filtering through a lush, green oak tree. Sitting up, he stretched, taking in the warmth of the sun and spring breeze. Turning his head, he caught the red-eyed gaze of his companion. Lanette looked different then. Her hair was shorter, and most of it hung down to her shoulder blades except for a few orange locks clipped to the back of her head by a barrette. Her clothing was neater. No rips, no tears, nothing out-of-place on either the crisp, white blouse, the lab coat, or the green pencil skirt. Most importantly, on her face was a sharp frown, yet Bill knew that a few seconds ago, the softness of her voice betrayed a completely different emotion.
"What on Earth are you doing out here?" she asked. "You have ten minutes until you speak in front of the most prominent researchers in the nation, and here you are, sleeping under a tree!"
Bill rubbed his eyes. "I was not sleeping. I was meditating."
"I thought you didn't like being outside."
"I don't like speaking in front of large groups of people, either."
"Too bad. It's in your job description."
"Right under writing theses, attending Symposium events, and the thousand other things you say you don't like to do. Why are you a researcher anyway, Bill?"
He stood and dusted himself off. After a moment of thought, he replied, "The spare moments I spend studying anything at all make it worth it. How do I look?"
Lanette eyed him carefully. Glancing at her in response to the silence, Bill noticed her press her lips together and fight off a smile. He looked down at himself and then back at Lanette. Then, with a tilt of his head, he gave her a glare.
"Come on, Lanette. I'm wearing the plainest outfit I own," he said.
"It's not that. You, uh…" She pointed at his head and lowered the volume of her voice. "You have leaves in your hair."
He shook his head vigorously and then ran his fingers through his curls. Sure enough, a rain of dead leaves and leaf debris rained down around him. Straightening his gaze, he pulled his bangs out of his eyes.
"How about now?" he asked.
Relaxing, Lanette let herself grin sympathetically as she reached up to pluck a twig out of her partner's hair.
"Better," she replied. "Now, come on. I promised Brigette I wouldn't be long, and I think poor Celio will give himself a heart-attack from waiting for you."
Bill ran his fingers through his hair one more time. "And Bebe?"
"If we don't get back soon, she'll think we… well, you know Bebe."
He sighed. "Indeed I do."
"Absolutely no refinement," Lanette added dryly. "Why on Earth would we do that kind of in the open anyway?"
Instantly, Bill shot her a wide-eyed look. His face grew bright red as he snapped, "Or at all, I should hope!"
She simply looked at him.
"Or I mean to say… you and I… we're, ah…" Bill hesitated. "I've gotten into a bit of a mess, haven't I?"
"Once again," Lanette said, "but I forgive you because you're you."
She turned to walk away. Bill stared at her back for several beats before straightening.
"Hey! What do you mean by that?!" he called.
Without even turning around, she answered, "You're a genius, Bill. Figure it out!"
He stood rooted to his spot as he watched the distance between the two of them grow larger. Then, he glanced towards the blue sky and clenched his teeth.
"Adam," he said, "get out of my head."