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The middle of November is cold, but there is something about reading outside on his favorite bench that helps concentration. He will just have to wear something warm, that’s all. So he gets dressed, packs his books, and walks outside expecting no obstacles.

Only, someone is already sitting on his favorite bench.

She sits with her legs pulled up, in a sleeveless white top with intricate roses on it, her jacket covering the back of the bench instead of the dark skin of her bare shoulders, because that is just something Sun-Atts do in November, apparently. Her tight black curls frame her face, eyes glued to the book in her hand. It has a pink cover with a girl in light clothes on it - some kind of romance novel, Beckett guesses.

He clears his throat and opens his mouth to speak, but she beats him to it.

“Harrington, I mean no offense, but if you try to have a conversation with me right now I’m going to strangle you with my bare hands, and I would hate to get bodily fluids on this book.”

Beckett closes his mouth. In another situation he might be offended, but as he watches her clearly immersed in her book, he understands. For a second he considers turning around and leaving, but - he’d planned to sit on his favorite bench while he studies, and dammit, there’s enough space for two, isn’t there?

He remembers her threat and sits down without a single word, getting his own books out. When he glances up, he catches her looking at him with surprise, but as soon as their eyes meet she turns back to her book and pretends it didn’t happen. She clearly expected him to leave, but she has no right to the bench, and Beckett would tell her this if he wasn’t kind of maybe scared of her wrath, dare he interrupt her reading again.

It’s November and he dressed warmly, and yet there is a physical warmth radiating from Allison that makes him feel hot in his clothes before even a minute passes. No wonder she’s not cold at all - it’s like sitting here on the hottest summer day. He shrugs off his jacket and puts it over hers on the back of the bench.

He knows he would hate if anyone read over his shoulder, and yet he can’t resist glancing at the book she’s so focused on.

 It’s what happens when the illusion pales in comparison to the truth. I’m seeing her for the first time. Not Ava Garden Wilder, the rags-to-riches granddaughter of Clyde Jones. Not a tragic, romantic heroine.
 Just Ava.
 And I am utterly in love.

Beckett has no idea who Ava Garden Wilder or Clyde Jones are, but as he glances up and watches the quiet wonder on Allison’s face, the way her teeth silently bite into her lower lip, the way her face twists in annoyance when her dark curls fall in her face and break her concentration - he’s scared of how easily he can imagine what the narrator feels.

He shakes his head and turns back to his homework. She likes books - so what? A lot of people like books, Beckett being only one of them. A lot of people would understand the feeling you get when you immerse yourself in a really good one. Surely, a lot of people look beautiful with that look of wonder on their face. It shouldn’t be anything special.

A lot of people like books, but only one of them is Allison Earhart.

For the next hour or so, they sit in complete silence as Allison reads her book, and Beckett tries his damned best to concentrate on anything other than the warmth coming from her skin, or the way he can hear her quietly breathing, or the way there isn’t that much space on the bench and their knees sometimes touch and he might as well have touched a live wire.

After a little more than hour, Allison closes her book and hugs it to her chest as she lets out a deep sigh. Beckett smiles to himself but doesn’t look up, at least not until–

“Don’t you want to kiss me?” Allison whispers, and Beckett chokes on air. She’s said a lot of things since that day in the library that made him think that maybe he heard wrong, but this… there is no way she just…


Allison waves him off, and he notices she’s not looking at him. “Shh, I’m not back yet. Talk to me in five minutes.”

Oh. Must have been a quote from the book, then. He’s silly to have thought it was about him.

Only, Allison smirks and finally turns to face him. “Unless you wanted to, in which case, just say the word.”

She laughs as he tries to stammer out a response, and honestly, this is unfair. He’s supposed to be eloquent and clever, but then she does that and suddenly he forgets how to speak, or breathe properly.

“Good book?” he says finally, gesturing to the pink cover. Allison’s grin widens.

“It’s not a book, it’s a miracle.”

You’re a miracle, he wants to say, so he hums and turns away instead.

Allison puts the book away and moves closer to see what Beckett is reading, and he holds his breath when their arms touch. Most of the time, he thinks she has no idea what she’s doing to him, but sometimes, just sometimes he sees her breath catch or her face turn away quickly to hide her expression, and he wonders if she feels it too, after all.

She asks a question about the homework and he replies automatically, without thinking about it. They end up working on the assignment together, their knees bumping together every once in a while. And it’s everything.