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baby, got your back

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“The kind of people you hang out with think I’m an asshole.” He was of course, referring to Tadashi and Karolina, who Harper seemed to rotate just as well through her social roster as everyone else. A little less, these days, Axel noticed. Something about grades, professions, and nasty models. She was, of course, referring to herself on all three. 

Axel can hear her mock him with ‘the kind of people’, but it gets lost in her next remark. “I mean you are an asshole, but I like it.”

That comment does get a smile out of him, and he nudges her in the shoulder for it. Dials up the charm to eleven, with how her whole attention suddenly focuses on him. “Aw, that’s so sweet.” 

“Oh, shut up, asshole.”

“You’re going to make me blush.”

Her turn to laugh, as she shoves him back. A pretty blush coloured her cheeks, as she turns to lean against him. Something on her mind, Axel could tell. Harper was not very good at hiding things from him, always showing it on her face. Honestly, the debate was quite hilarious to watch from time to time, with how animated she grew as if speaking from both sides. 

But he was going to cut this one short, leaning his head to rest on the top of hers. “What’s up in Harper-land?”

Axel gets a huff of something for his effort, and he could almost feel the eye roll. “Nothing. Just something they said.”

“Who said?” Poke and prod her for a response. He could do that. Sure, it was like pulling teeth, as this was clearly just a little bit personal for Harper, but it was bothering her. And he could tell — she had been drawing the same pattern over one of her mockup sheets for well over an hour now. Very un-Harper-like, because she could multitask like nobody’s business when it came to her department (everything else, not so much).

“Department stuff. Doesn’t matter. I’m over it.”

Well that was the biggest load of shit he’d heard out of her. And Axel tells her exactly that, as he sits up straighter, prompting her to do the same. With some manoeuvring, Axel does get her to look him straight in the face. Oh no, that was her angry face, and that meant that she was ready to turn to water at any moment. Which meant that he would probably cry too, being the stupid sympathy crier he was. 

But he was going to make her tell him, anyway, because he cared. And it was a Saturday evening with just the two of them on campus, pretty much. Best time (they could order in food later, and make it a real kind of night).

“Harper, tell me.”

She looks away, only because she was defiant and angry and annoyingly cute when she did that, that Axel struggled to smother the smile. Barely manages to hide it, as he leans over in the direction of her stare. “I will call you your nickname, don’t tempt me.”

That gets her, with how her face visibly twitches. Hah, she always regretted telling him her one true secret. Pops the bubble of frustration, with how she sighs loudly, and flops down on her side. Still covers her face, but she finally talks.

“Just people in the department. Saying how I’m using you to get famous quick. And, you know, other stuff…”

Oh. He’d heard a few rumours spread around, and Raquel had successfully squished most of them. Not fast enough, and perhaps the source was particular people he didn’t know, not just the common mishandling of information. There was no doubt in his mind that Neha and Karolina were safely removed from this particular conversation, considering the strange friendship Harper had developed with the both of them over the last year. 

“What other stuff?” he prompts, just because he knew it wasn’t the full story.

Harper lay still for a full minute, before her arm shifts and he catches her eye. No threat of tears on the horizon, but the internal debate was clearly still going. Eye shuts. Debate over. 

“That I only got in because I was dating you, even though we only met last year — I didn’t even know you, right? It’s just bullshit, Axel, don’t worry about it, I’m not.”

“You’re a fucking liar, Harper Kovac. Get over here.”

From the way she pouts, even as she drags herself up and into his waiting arms, Axel knew the conversation was far from over. Such as it was, with the end of school looming. Personalities were flaring, and people were starting to resort to any means possible to take down those above them. Clearly, this was flattering that Harper’s abilities threatened a great deal of her department, enough for them to start to spread lies. But the other side of Axel, the boyfriend side, cradled his girlfriend in his arms, and felt a sudden need to defend her honour. 

Later. On Monday. He’d source the names from Neha. A plan was already forming in his head. Until he realises something.

“You said you didn’t know me?” Now, apparently everyone tells this great story of the look on Harper’s face when she realised just who had escorted her to her first class, but naturally she always managed to cut it off just when Alistair and Raquel enacted it with complete exaggeration.

Harper mumbles, somewhere against his arm. “Not like that. I knew of you — duh, so does everyone— just not knew knew you.” A complete lie, if Axel said so himself. He would tease her about it later.

“Good thing I got a chance to introduce myself.” Very good thing indeed, that it happened to be her who woke him up that day. Axel wasn’t sure how things would’ve panned out, to this exact moment, if she hadn’t insisted on interrupting his nap.

It’s when she turns in his arms that he looks down. Harper pulls a very unimpressed face, and prods him in the arm with her finger. Very firmly, to make a point. “You asked if I wanted your autograph.”

Ah. He did, didn’t he? Axel can only respond to the accusation with a laugh, and a kiss to sign it off. “I’m sorry,” he says, deeply and truly, in between the press of lips against her cheeks, the tip of her nose, her forehead. She wriggles, laughing with him too now, trying to push him off. A claim of needing to do homework that had been long since abandoned, and something about dinner. It all just disappeared into the background, when her arms ended up around him, and he got lost in her smile.