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Lessons in Chemistry

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Rapunzel was on a mission. (She liked to think of everything she had to do as a "mission." She could pretend she was a member of MI5 and it made doing scary things like talking to the professor or going to the bank much easier.) Her mission: to get the Chemistry TA to tutor her.

It was not an easy assignment. Everybody knew that Flynn Rider didn't tutor. He did the bare minimum necessary to keep his job as a teaching assistant and saved the rest of his time and energy for partying. He got away with this behavior for two reasons: he was actually really good at chemistry, and the entire chemistry department consisted of one overworked professor. Most of the students didn't really care. Nobody went to SD University to become a chemist; the course was simply required in order to maintain its classification as a liberal arts college. They figured that if they did poorly on the exams, it didn't matter because the professor would have to curve the grades.

But Rapunzel cared. She was the kind of person who appreciated knowledge simply for its own sake, and she truly wanted to understand chemistry. Perhaps more importantly, she had a scholarship that she needed to maintain at any and all costs.

She pushed her glasses up her nose -- she didn't actually need them to see, but she considered them part of her costume as "serious university student" -- and knocked on the door.


Hesitating, she knocked again. Still nothing. She doubled checked the list outside of the door. His office hours were now; he should be in. Slowly, she opened the door and peeked inside.

"Hello? Mr. Rider?"

Flynn Rider was indeed in his office. He sat with his feet on the desk, his chair precariously balanced on its back two legs, and a textbook covering his face.

"Mr. Rider?"

Sighing heavily, he lifted the textbook off of his face, just enough to glare at her with one eye.

"You know, when somebody doesn't answer when you knock, it either means they're not in or they don't want to talk to you."

He dropped the book back on his face, a clear dismissal. But Rapunzel reminded herself of her mission.

"I was hoping -- I mean, I need you to tutor me on the previous lesson."

"Blondie -- " His voice was muffled by the textbook. "We're two-thirds through the semester. You oughta know by now that I don't do tutoring."

"I really need your help!" Rapunzel pleaded. "I absolutely positively must get an A on the final exam."

"Have you tried, I don't know, studying?"

"I have, and it's not making any sense!" Rapunzel decided he'd have a much harder time kicking her out if she sat down, and so she sat down on the second chair, making sure not to displace the papers that were piled on top of it. "I need your help."

With another sigh, Flynn snapped the textbook off his face and sat up. "Look, Blondie --"

"Rapunzel. Rapunzel Gothel. I sit in the front row of your 8 AM chemistry lab."

"Yeah, you're memorable." Rapunzel self-consciously fingered her glittering blonde hair. "Look, Rapunzel, I'm really tired. I was out really late last night --"

"Partying." There wasn't any judgement in her voice. Not really. Okay, maybe a little, but only enough to gently twinge on his conscience (assuming he had one). Judging from the scowl on his face, he did.

"Whatever. Point is, I'm really tired. I need my sleep. We'll be reviewing all the lessons before the final exam. Just write down your questions and ask them then."

"But there will be too much material to cover!" Rapunzel protested. "Please. There are just a few concepts I need you to explain. It'll be so quick, you'll be back to dozing in no time. I brought muffins!"

She pulled out a container cranberry muffins, her attempt at a last-ditch bribe.

"They're homemade," she added.

Flynn really looked at her this time.

"You're an art history major, aren't you?" he asked. Rapunzel was surprised that he knew, and it must have shown. "Your majors are listed on the attendance roster. Point being, you don't need to do well in chemistry in order to graduate. All you have to do is not fail, and with your grades up to this point, you'll manage an easy C. Maybe even a B, considering how the Prof curves. Why do you care so much?"

"I have a scholarship," Rapunzel said.

"Scholarships only require a B average," said Flynn.

"Not the full ride scholarship," said Rapunzel. "I need to get straight A's to keep that." She could sense him faltering, but she needed to press her advantage. "I can't afford to go here on my own."

"Your parents won't chip in?" asked Flynn, and Rapunzel shook her head.

"I only have my mother, and she didn't want me to come here. She didn't want me going to school at all. She said school was for smart people, that I'd never be able to cut it. I need to keep this scholarship, Mr. Rider. I need to prove that I fit in here."

She locked gazes with him. She had laid all her cards on the table; the only thing left was to see how he'd react. She couldn't breathe even if she wanted to.

Flynn was the first to look away, so that he could grab a cranberry muffin.

"Right then," he said. "You get twenty minutes. What're your questions?"