Summary: How Rachel and Allison first met
Notes: From a prompt by femme_slash_fan
When the office door opened and someone burst in, Rachel didn't even notice. She was busy checking the equations on a piece of paper in front of her, while absently tapping the end of her pencil against the desk. It was only when the door slammed shut that she looked up.
She recognised the woman facing the door, hand still on the handle, as one of the undergraduates. The physics department was short on women, so they tended to stand out, particularly the brightest students. Rachel struggled to remember this one's name as she recalled the lectures she'd seen the woman in. Last year Rachel had taken the second year course on electromagnetic theory after the usual lecturer had broken his leg skiing at Christmas. The woman had not only asked intelligent questions, she'd also pointed out Rachel's errors only a few minutes after she'd written them on the blackboard. Allison, that was her name.
Before Rachel could ask what was going on, Allison turned away from the door, her face red. "I'm sorry Professor. I didn't mean to burst in on you like that. I didn't think anyone would be here."
"Obviously not." Rachel leaned back in her chair. She didn't begrudge interesting distractions or mysteries and this was both at the moment. When Allison stayed silent she added, "Was there something you wanted?"
She shot a worried look in the direction of the door. "I'm hiding."
Rachel didn't ask the obvious question and waited for Allison to continue.
"From my boyfriend." She looked more embarrassed at that admission than she had at discovering she had company. "I think he's going to dump me and I want to dump him first."
Rachel somehow managed not to smile. Undergraduates had a habit of making small problems a matter of life and death, but Rachel decided to humour her. She'd once been an undergraduate herself, after all. "A very worthwhile reason," she said. "Always better to get rid of a man before he gets rid of you." She grinned.
Allison smiled and her shoulders relaxed.
"While you're here you might as well make yourself useful." Rachel passed her the piece of paper she'd been studying. "Tell me if there's anything wrong with those equations. I'm going blind trying to find the error."
Allison frowned as she looked over them. "What are they for?"
Rachel explained without simplification; wanting to see how much Allison understood on her own. She was pleased when Allison nodded, and only asked pertinent questions. Allison concentrated on it for a few minutes, seeming not to hear the footsteps passing in the corridor outside. Then she handed the paper back.
"You've forgotten the constant."
Rachel looked again and found that she had. It was obvious now that she knew where to look. She pencilled it in for now, she'd check its effect on the rest of the equation later. She'd had an idea and she might as well try it out while she had a captive audience. "Have you ever thought about doing a PhD?"
She clearly had, given that she didn't look surprised at Rachel's question. "I don't know." She gave an anxious glance in the direction of the door.
Now Rachel smiled. If the boyfriend was the only barrier she was sure Allison could be convinced by the end of the year. "Once you've lost that boyfriend of yours, of course."
"I'll think about it," she promised. "I think he's gone now, I'd better go."
As she watched Allison leave, Rachel made a mental note to find out who her tutor was so she could speak to him about it. The men in the department were not always good at encouraging women in science and Rachel rather looked forward to giving them a kick in that direction.