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Me Beside Myself

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Being an RA was a pain in the ass.

What most other RAs complained about was the way it hampered one’s social life; that all their friends were out having a good time, and they were stuck on call cleaning up other people’s vomit or calling the cops. Some of them complained about the hours; staying up all night wrecked one’s sleep schedule, after all.

Roderick didn’t mind any of that. He didn’t have any friends to be envious of or want to spend time with, and he didn’t even really mind cleaning up after people. He sometimes minded the lack of sleep, but he figured he’d signed up for it, and anyway, he had his own single room and he didn’t have to pay for housing, so there was a sort of trade off.

This particular night was fairly quiet--it was around three in the morning, and everyone had mostly returned from the bars, if they’d gone out at all. Weather didn’t stop the most determined of partiers, but the horrendous rainstorm had been enough to deter the less invested college kids from going out to begin with.

Being an RA was a pain in the ass not because of the hours or the mess or the inhibitions to his social life, but because sometimes he was thrust into situations that his countless hours of training still somehow did not prepare him for.

There was a girl crying on the stairwell.

She wasn’t one of his; he had been placed in the all-male computer-science major special interest floor--at the time, he’d just been glad that he wasn’t surrounded by college jocks, but after three months he’d learned that no matter how smart a nerd was, they could still be too stupid to put on deodorant.

She wasn’t one of his, but he was on duty, and he needed to determine whether or not she was hurt, whether or not she was intoxicated, whether or not--

“Go away,” she snapped at him, without looking up. Roderick blinked.

He was so not in the mood for a belligerent drunk girl tonight, but duty called.

“Is, uh--”

“I said--” the girl whirled to look at him, as best she could from her place on the stairs, and she looked very angry, and very angry at him even though he’d said about one and a half words total. “Go away !”

“Can’t,” Roderick managed. He did not go away - instead, he moved to join her on the steps. She looked affronted, offended, and past that a little surprised; it struck Roderick that she was probably used to getting her way. A freshman, maybe. Her dark hair was messy, like perhaps she’d just woken up--a theory supported by her...bunny-themed pajamas. Girls were so weird.

He didn’t say anything; he just plopped his feet on a lower step and rested his arms on his knees, folding his fingers together. He could feel her staring at him--perhaps working up the energy to yell at him again, or maybe gathering the strength to storm off. He hoped it wasn’t the latter; he’d just sat down.

“Why not? Is this some--some white knight thing where--”

“No,” Roderick interrupted easily. “I’m an RA. Doing rounds. You’re crying. Gotta make sure you’re okay.”

This earned a wet, wry laugh, and out of the corner of his eye he saw her wiping her eyes. “I’m fine .”

“Sure seems like it.”

The girl sniffled and wrapped her arms around her middle, staring abjectly downwards. Someone chattered on Roderick’s radio--he ignored it.

“Are you drunk?”

The girl shook her head. “I wish I was. But I’m only 19.”

Roderick opened his mouth to say that being 19 didn’t seem to stop a lot of their classmates, then thought better of it. No need to put that thought in her head.

“Is there someone I can call?”

Another wry laugh. “The only person I want to talk to isn’t speaking to me, so, no.” A pause. When she spoke again, her voice was a little quieter. “You really don’t have to stay here. I’m sure you have other stuff to do.”

Roderick shrugged. “Already here.” Interpersonal crap was never his favorite. He wasn’t especially good at it. “Who’s ignoring you?” Roderick wanted to guess boyfriend. Being 19 meant she was either a freshman or a sophomore, probably, and if it was a long distance relationship…

“My brother,” the girl said, voice so small Roderick had to strain to hear it. “He’s mad at me. Which is exactly what I need right now.”

“Oh.” Not a boyfriend. Still maybe long-distance. Roderick stayed quiet for a few moments, weighing his options. Was it too late to get up and leave, now that she was calmer? He couldn’t ask if she deserved it, or if she was mad at him too--not only did he not especially care, but she had only just stopped crying. Roderick hated people crying; it made him deeply uncomfortable.

The silence dragged on. It was the girl who broke it: “You’re bad at this. I don’t feel comforted at all. You should--you should be asking questions or telling me it’s not my fault or asking if I need water.”

Roderick turned to look at her, eyebrows raised. “What?”

“You just said ‘oh’. You can’t leave it at that. I’m distraught, here.”

“Clearly not so distraught,” Roderick returned, rolling his eyes. “Do you need water?”

The girl shook her head. “I have water in my room.”

“Which is where?”

She pointed above them. “Fifth floor.” Roderick knew her RA. Very into the crafts side of things. “I’m really fine, you know.” She did seem to be fine-er; the only evidence that she’d been bawling her eyes out mere moments before was the pink blotchiness on her cheeks and the thickness in her voice, which was otherwise level. He wondered if she was usually this acerbic or if it was special because he’d caught her in an emotional moment.

“I’ll walk you back.” Roderick decided, rising to his feet. He held out his hand to her, which she regarded for a moment, her green-gray-blue? eyes moving from it to his face.

“Why?”

Roderick shrugged. “It’s sorta my job. I guess.”

She stood, ignoring his hand, and wrapped her arms back around her middle. They were quiet until they reached the elevator; Roderick pressed the button. She seemed small. She was very short, and with her dark hair in disarray, it made her look less fine than she was claiming to be. If she noticed him looking at her, she didn’t say anything; her eyes were firmly fixed on her feet, which were bare. Roderick didn’t trust these floors that much.

“How come your brother’s not speaking to you?” Roderick asked as they entered the elevator and he pushed the 5 button. She huffed at him.

“Because he’s stupid .”

Roderick let out a soft chuckle. He had siblings, too. “Brothers usually are.” She gave him something approximating a shy little smile and nodded her agreement. “We hardly ever mean to be.”

She huffed at him again. Her posture shifted--it went from her holding herself together to her arms crossed over her chest. Defensive. “Maybe, as a brother--” it wasn’t a question, “you can tell me why you insist on dating people who are so wrong for you?”

Roderick blinked.

He wasn’t dating anyone, wrong right or in-between. His siblings had never really cared to change that, nor had they had an opinion on his brief forays into the dating world.

“Uh,” Roderick said, eyes flicking to the floor-reader of the elevator. “Maybe he likes--”

Of course he likes her! That doesn’t mean she’s good for him! Honestly, it’s like he learned nothing from Cheer Camp 2012!”

Roderick blinked again. The elevator doors opened and she was sniffling again. Anger to heartbreak in half a second flat. She stormed out and for a moment Roderick debated the merits of letting the doors close behind her, with his remaining on the elevator to finish his rounds.

He sighed. He couldn’t do that.

So he followed her. She lived halfway down the hall, and when he caught up to her--she was fumbling with her keys--he noticed the door decs. “Are you...uh, Madison or Kitty?”

She snorted. “Do I look like a Kitty?” Her lock clicked over, and Roderick didn’t know what a Kitty did or didn’t look like, but he was pretty sure that Kittys definitely wore bunny pajamas. He didn’t want to press his luck by saying so out loud.

“Drink some water,” Roderick said, shifting awkwardly. He could see a desk light on, but he didn’t notice any of the expected disarray that came from a college kid’s dorm. Maybe that was just boys. “And--as a brother? He’ll come around.”

The girl--Madison--nodded. She gave him a soft, hesitant smile, and when she spoke, her voice was soft. “Thanks, um....I didn’t get your name?”

Roderick held up his ID, which was affixed to a lanyard around his neck. “Roderick. I’m the RA on 8.” She nodded and her smile widened a little. “You sure you’re gonna be okay?”

Madison nodded again. “Yeah. I’m gonna--have some water and...go to bed. I’ll call Mason in the morning.” Objectively, Roderick had no reason to care about this last detail, save for the fact that he now had a name to go with the stupid idiot brother that was making this girl cry, but he could tell it did her some good to say it out loud.

“Good plan.” Roderick agreed. “Night, Madison.” He turned to go. He didn’t know how to do this.

“Wait,” Madison said quickly, taking a half-step out of her room. He was already a few paces away, but he waited, turning obediently. He really needed to get back to rounds. “Um. Thank you, Roderick.”

People didn’t normally thank him, and it was so unexpected he actually smiled. “No problem, Madison.” She smiled that same shy smile again and then disappeared into her room. He heard the lock turn back over, and then he realized he was still standing there like a dumbass. He went back to the elevator and pressed the down button.

He’d have to talk to Diane, her RA. That was just part of the job. Just to make sure that Diane could keep an eye on her, in case things got worse. She’d probably know more about the situation, anyway, if she could be bothered to look up from her glue gun on occasion…

Yeah. His wanting to follow up, wanting to make sure she didn’t spend any more time crying in stairwells, thinking about her shy little smile…

Totally just part of the job. Totally .