Elliot wished he wasn’t dangling by his fingertips on a window-ledge of a two-story building. He wished he wasn’t, but he was.
Of course, it was his own damn fault. He supposed this was karma coming back to bite him in the ass, saying Ha. That’s what you get for trying to rob someone.
And okay, yeah, that was true. But God, imminent death by concrete seemed like a tad too harsh a punishment, didn’t it?
He hadn’t really intended to rob anyone that night. It was one of those things that just sort of happened. Up until then he’d only shoplifted, though he was pretty good at it if he did say so himself. He’d probably racked up nearly a thousand dollars just by sneaking things away from their spot in the big ol’ consumerism machine. Some he sold, some he kept for himself. God knows he wouldn’t look as good as he did (well, more like halfway decent) if he had to rely on legally obtaining things like clothes. Or food. Or soap.
Anyway, stealing was fun for Elliot, and it was so easy, too. It felt nice outsmarting the poor store clerks over and over again. That night, after probably one too many drinks, Elliot had been walking home – which meant shitty abandoned building – when it came upon him to take his thievery to the next level. Breaking into a house? Why the hell not? The lowlifes he hung out with did it all the time, and some of them were dumb as rocks. Like that moron who called himself Mammoth. If he could do it, so could Elliot, who had always been light-footed and good at sinking into the dark. He could be even better. And besides, it would be fun.
In hindsight, Elliot realized he’d been slightly too tipsy to make that kind of decision, much less execute it well. But in the moment, the decision was made, and an apartment building was chosen. It looked like a nice enough building to have fairly respectable residents who owned things of worth, and not be full of meth addicts or people who wouldn’t hesitate to pump bullets into Elliot if he was caught. But it didn’t look nice enough to have a particularly advanced security system, if any security system at all. Perfect.
Elliot had prowled around the halls, looking for an apartment that just called to him for robbing. The adrenaline was beginning to clear away the alcohol clouds in his brain, not that the adrenaline made his judgement much better. He found himself on the second floor, standing in front of a door. No lights shone from the crack underneath. He pressed his ear to it. Dead silent. So either nobody was home, or somebody was and they were asleep. Well, he’d just have to be quiet.
He’d picked the lock with ease and slipped in, his eyes quickly adjusting to the darkness, so thick it looked like someone had very thoroughly coated the air with black paint. Only a bright rectangle of moon from the window cut through it. Elliot had been standing there, trying to figure out how to proceed, and the realization that he probably should’ve planned this out sinking into his more sober brain, when he heard a scuffle. His throat suddenly clogged with panic, he’d zipped over to the window, thrown it open, and climbed out quicker than he’d thought he could.
He didn’t know what he had expected; maybe he’d just assumed a fire escape would miraculously appear under him, but all of a sudden his feet were flailing over empty air, the tips of his fingers on brick the only thing protecting him.
Elliot sighed. He tried to ignore how sweaty his fingers were getting. Here he was, about to die over the stupidest robbery in history. It wasn’t like he could call for help. What would he say? “Excuse me, I know I was trying to rob you, but I colossally screwed up and now I’m hanging off your window ledge. A little help?” At the very least, the window only opened out to a dingy alley, so he wasn’t facing the street where anybody could see him and report him to the police. But that thought didn’t really help the fact that he was about to die and once he did, nobody in the world would even give half a damn.
The light turned on in the apartment and Elliot froze. He was about to be discovered. Oh, great. Absolutely fantastic. How do I get out of this one?
Cautious footsteps scuffed in Elliot’s direction, and he winced, heart ricocheting around his chest. Just then, a girl came into view, peering at him suspiciously.
The first thing Elliot noticed was her cropped chin-length hair, which was dyed a somewhat ridiculous purple. Her large, sleepy eyes were surrounded by smudged eyeliner, and she wore a black tank-top which dipped low enough to show a hint of cleavage. Elliot swallowed. The girl struck him, somehow. He wasn’t sure if he exactly considered her pretty, but he felt her stare in his chest. He very quickly decided that he liked looking at this girl, even if it happened to be from the edge of a window.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked, snapping him out of his wandering thoughts.
“Um, Elliot,” he answered, too nervous to come up with a fake name on the spot. “Hello. Um, I’m in a bit of a situation. As you can see.”
Her dark eyes looked him up and down. She crossed her arms, glaring. “Why are you hanging out of my window?”
“Well, there’s, uh – there’s a very logical reason for that actually.” Elliot stammered. His fingers were starting to slide and he tightened his grip.
“Were you trying to robme?” The girl scowled, still making no move to help him.
“What? No, no, of course not.” He answered quickly. “But, uh, how about you, y’know, save me from splatting onto the concrete and then I can explain what I’m doing here?”
She leaned out the window, and off her skin he caught a potent whiff of tea. ‘Hmm. I dunno.” She said. “It doesn’t look like that far a fall. You might break some bones, but you won’t die. Probably.” She looked down at him, gave a small smile. Unfortunately, it was sort of a nice smile, and it threw Elliot off even more. “I’d start talking if I were you.”
“Look, I wasn’t trying to rob you, okay?” He said desperation creeping into his voice. He did not want to fall, even if it wouldn’t kill him. “I was just – just –“
“If you aren’t a thief, why are you wearing all black?”
“Why are you?” He shot back. “Listen. Please, please, just help me up.”
Miraculously, mercy came into her eyes and she sighed in defeat. “Fine. But don’t think you’re off the hook just yet.”
She leaned forward and gripped his forearms, biting her lip as she hauled him up. The scent of tea enveloped him again, and he wondered what kind it was. He felt weak with relief, though a bit embarrassed. He was having to be rescued by the person he was trying to steal from. He was supposed to get in and get out, a creature of the night who left no trace. Yeah, right.
Once his elbows were past the windowsill he was able to crawl up with little of the girl’s help. The two stood, panting slightly from the effort of getting Elliot through the window.
As she stood there with her arms crossed, her body tense (Is she a little afraid? He thought, and the thought did not feel good) he considered that he really did like the way she looked. She was only wearing a black tank-top and black sweatpants –they weren’t the same black, though; as an avid wearer of black clothing he always knew when shades didn’t match up – but her face had an interesting look to it, like a vampire, or a star from one of those old silent horror movies or something. And even though unnatural hair colors weren’t normally his thing, the violet didn’t look bad on her. She looks good. He thought. She really does. An idea struck him suddenly, suddenly enough that it made him wonder if he wasn’t quite as sober as he thought, and the idea was that he would really rather make out with her than have to go through the conversation waiting on her pretty mouth.
“Okay,” she said, eyeing him like he might attack. Not that he could blame her. He had the feeling that she would deck him if he did anyway, or that she would at least make a very good effort. “If you’re not here to steal, what are you doing?”
Anxiousness descended on him as he realized he would literally have to make things up off the top of his head in what was quite the high-stakes situation. If he couldn’t convince Raven, he’d probably end up in jail, and nobody he knew had the money to bail him out. Not that anybody gives enough of a shit about me to do it, even if they could pay the bond.He thought darkly. Plus, for some reason he really, really didn’t want this girl to think he was a thieving loser. He could tell already that he wasn’t going to forget her in a hurry.
“Well…” he glanced around, as if looking for a clue. It became clear to him that he wouldn’t have had much to take, anyway. It was obvious that she wasn’t a rich girl, and that the apartment was probably a rental instead of a permanent home. The walls were a standard off-white, with no artwork or decoration hanging on them. A faded navy blue couch sat across from a small and slightly outdated TV. Clearly she wasn’t allowed to modify too many things in here, but there did seem to be a few personal touches. He noticed photographs of her with people about his and her age – a red-haired girl with a huge smile, an African-American boy who frequently appeared making goofy faces with a scrawny green-eyed kid, and a devilishly handsome boy with shiny black hair. He wondered for a second if that black-haired boy was her boyfriend, because he was certainly good-looking, and for some reason the thought of her with him made him feel prickly inside. He mostly noticed the books, though – there was a bookcase full of them, they were stacked on the end tables, and even on the floor. Dozens of them. He wanted to go pick one up and figure out what this girl was interested in; what she curled up in her bed with before she went to sleep.
He turned back to her. “Wait a second. I don’t even know your name, and you saved me. What is it?”
She hesitated, and it bothered him. Suddenly he wanted to know all about her. It was strange, but she was cute.
“Raven,” she said slowly. “My name’s Raven. And you’re…Elliot.”
A very awkward silence fell over them. She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Well, Elliot, you know my name now, but I still don’t know why I found you dangling out my window, and I’m not really inclined to trust you.”
He put a hand to his chest, maybe just trying to lighten the mood. “Raven, you hurt me, deeply. As for why I’m here now…” Okay, time to lie. “It’s my girlfriend’s fault.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You have a girlfriend?”
Was that disappointment in her voice? He noticed that her eyes had drifted to his bicep. Is she really checking me out as much as I’m checking her out? He certainly hoped so. He needed something good to happen to him for once, and boy, did she look like it.
“Well, my ex-girlfriend.” He found himself saying. “I don’t have one anymore. We’re over for sure. I am totally, one-hundred percent single.” You sound like a damn idiot, Elliot. He was seized by an unignorable need to know if she was, so before he could stop himself, he blurted out “Are you, by the way?”
Raven bit her very soft-looking bottom lip, and somehow that motion drove him crazy. She looked a mix of annoyed, cautious, amused, and something Elliot couldn’t quite place. But there was a shiver in the air between them that hadn’t been there earlier. Hey, was that a blush blooming on her cheeks…?
“Yeah, I’m single. And you know what else I am? Still waiting for your explanation.” She said, though she sounded less hostile than she had before. But maybe Elliot was just imagining it.
“Right,” he said. “Right. So you see, I had this girlfriend. And last week I broke up with her because it just wasn’t working out, you know? And she was crazy too. You ever had a partner who was, like, super possessive and flipped out over every little thing? Because that was her.”
“I’ve never had a boyfriend.” she said bluntly, like she was completely unembarrassed by this fact - but she averted her eyes slightly and he could tell she was bluffing. She was embarrassed.
“Well, that’s okay. But it does sort of surprise me.” he replied. This was not only a true statement, but, admittedly, a bit of a strategic one - hey, this wasn’t really a situation rife with opportunities to flirt. He had to jump on any chance he could to say something all cool-guy and suave.
She glanced back at him. “It surprises you?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, why wouldn’t a guy want to date you?”
Raven was definitely blushing now, her prickly attitude dissolving. “You don’t know me.”
“Well, no,” But I’d like to. “But I don’t really have to. You’re - well, you’re pretty good-looking.” He blushed a little now, too. He was not as suave as he’d hoped. “And you seem like an interesting girl -”
“There’s plenty of reasons why a guy wouldn’t want to date me, Elliot.” her eyes drifted up to a spot on the ceiling. “But...thanks for the compliment, I guess.” she muttered, her cheeks turning even rosier.
He smiled, a little embarrassed himself. “I’m just calling it like I see it. But, uh, yeah. So I broke up with this girl,” he decided to push forward, because he knew she’d get more annoyed at him if he didn’t. “She wasn’t really my type in the first place,” he added, just to procrastinate a little more.
Raven murmured something that Elliot didn’t quite catch. “Um, what was that?”
She crossed her arms and looked down at the floor. “Oh. I said ‘what is your type?’ but it’s not really important to me. At all. I don’t know why I asked. Just keep going.”
Elliot looked at her. He looked at her and he understood that no, he was not the only one feeling a very strange and sudden attraction tonight, and he understood that though Raven could be an exceptional badass, there was a streak of fragility in her too, like a hairline crack. Her denial that any boy would want to date her was not only wrong, but telling.
Boy, oh boy. The longer he stood here the more he wanted to figure her out. And the more making out with her seemed like a damn good idea.
“No,” he said slowly, grinning. “I’ll go ahead and tell you my type, since you want to know,” He elected to ignore her eye roll. It was fake. And no, that wasn’t just his cockiness talking. Elliot could tell, really tell, that she wanted to know. He waited a few moments, running his eyes over her, before saying “I like blue eyes. Dark blue eyes, mostly. And girls with short hair. And it’s nice if they wear a lot of black so we can have something in common.”
Raven stared at him. “I know what you’re doing.” she said in a low voice.
“So do I. I think I’m flirting with you.” he winked boldly. He was nervous as hell on the inside, but it seemed like a good moment to just go for it.
“I think you’re just trying to get out of the very, very suspicious situation you’ve found yourself in.”
“C’mon. For one thing, as I said, I have a very logical reason for why I’m in your apartment right now, and it’s not as suspicious as it looks. For another thing, you were the one who derailed me from continuing my explanation. Also, can’t you just trust people? I wouldn’t lie about whether or not I’m flirting with someone.”
“No,” she said flatly. “I can’t just trust people, especially when I find them hanging out my window in the middle of the damn night.”
“But you liked hearing it.” he said. Why couldn’t she just give up this cold front? You’re sort of into me, girl. You know it, I know it. There’s no need to keep running around in circles. “You wanted to know what my type was, and I told you, and you were glad that you happen to be my type.”
Raven didn’t answer right away. “Just...continue, alright? So I can decide whether or not I need to call the police on you.”
Elliot narrowed his eyes, disappointed. He could’ve sworn they’d made some progress. There had been mutual flirting! But I scared her off. Damn.
“Okay. Sure.” he answered slowly. “So, I broke up with this girl, because besides not really being my type, she was absolutely crazy. Like, crazy as in bitchy. The thing is she has these two brothers who are just as crazy as she is.” He was glad that this nonsense seemed to just be coming to him out of thin air, but he’d always been a decent liar. Elliot found that he felt a little bad lying to Raven, though, and that was definitely not something that normally happened to him. But girls like Raven weren’t something that normally happened to him, either. “So she’s mad as hell that I dumped her, and I guess she told her brothers about it, because tonight they walked into the bar I was at with every intention to beat me up.”
Raven eyed him, still looking skeptical, but her blush hadn’t quite faded. “And then...what?”
Elliot shifted awkwardly. The lie had fabricated in his head as he went along, and he knew this next part was going to make him look like a coward. But hey, better a coward than a thief, right? She doesn’t have to know that I’m both. “Well, I knew I didn’t stand a chance against these guys. For one thing, there were two of them. For another thing, although I am a fairly well-muscled young man…” He winked and lifted his right arm.
Raven’s eyes were once again drawn to his bicep, and they graced over his veiny hand and forearm as well. Her gaze flickered away, and then came back, and then flickered away again; flighty as a little bird. He liked her eyes on him. He liked it a lot. “Beside the point, Elliot,” she said. She sounded stern, but a little breathy. Elliot had a feeling he knew why.
“...I knew I couldn’t really stand up to those two. They’re, like, bodybuilder size.” He lowered his arm. “So I had to get out of there. It’s too far to my…” he faltered as he debated how to refer to where he lived for now. Home? He hadn’t had a real home for as long as he could remember. Did an abandoned, falling apart residence where countless teenage runaways came and went really count as a house? “...house,” he said, deciding it would for this conversation. “So I knew I’d have to hide out somewhere else. And this happened to be the place.”
The two of them stared at one another while Elliot’s heart thudded. He wondered if his little tale was good enough, though considering he’d made it up on the fly while slightly drunk and deeply distracted by the girl in front of him, he didn’t think he’d done too bad. But somehow, whether or not he was going to jail wasn’t his biggest priority anymore. He’d finished telling his story to Raven, but that meant his time with her was probably up, whether she believed him or not.
Her eyes met his steadily, and he swallowed up the look of them, how their color reminded him of the sky as it darkened from twilight to night-time, how they held trepidation and desire and they were so blue. They were so blue and he just really, really wanted to keep looking at them and it suddenly seemed so sad, so wrong that the two of them should part ways after this night. He didn’t want to leave her behind never knowing what it was like to feel her mouth against his. He liked her. He liked her hair and her skin and her ridiculous stacks of books and her boldness and her wit and the way she talked and the fragility, the hairline crack, because he had a hairline crack too, probably bigger than hers. But - he sucked in a breath - if anyone could fill it in, it would be someone like Raven.
Raven finally dropped her gaze and crossed her arms. “You know what I think?” she said. “I think you’re sorta fucked up.”
Elliot stared at her. Was he supposed to be insulted? She certainly wasn’t wrong
“But it’s okay,” she continued. “Because in all honesty, I’m a little fucked up too.” She turned her face towards the window, light from the outside painting her cheeks. “Elliot - a lot of things in your story don’t really add up. I mean, if you were just trying to hide and you ran into this apartment building, why would you waste time running up to the second floor? And why wouldn’t you have hidden somewhere closer to the bar, because as far as I know, the nearest bar is a couple of streets away?”
She smiled a bit at his panicked face. “But don’t worry. I won’t ask you to answer those questions. I probably shouldn’t let you get away with this, but something tells me you’re not a really bad guy. Just…” she trailed off, searching for a word.
“Lost?” he offered, his voice coming out a bit hoarse.
“Yeah,” she said quietly. “Yeah, I think that works.”
“So…” Elliot picked at a thread hanging off his shirt. “I’m not getting arrested tonight?”
“No, you’re not getting arrested.” Raven said. Her gaze was fixated on him.
Relief washed over Elliot. He almost wanted to drop down on his knees and thank her, but it would’ve ruined the charged atmosphere between them. She was waiting for something. They were both waiting for something.
“I don’t really...know you,” Elliot said hesitantly. “But, like...I feel like it would be really awesome to get to know you.” He gestured vaguely and tried to arrange his thoughts into something intelligent. “I can feel a lot of possibilities here. Right here, with you. And I think they’re all pretty good.” He met her gaze and took a step towards her. “I know I’m not getting arrested tonight, Raven, but I have one more question. Am I - getting kissed tonight?”
Instead of answering, she stepped towards him too until only a few inches separated them. She let her hand rest on one of his hipbones, quickly, as if she wanted to do it before she could change her mind. Elliot’s pulse was fast and thunderous in his ears.
“You know,” Raven said softly, her index finger running circles over his hip. “I’m normally a very, very sensible girl. I don’t tend to do things like this.”
“Well, I’m not a very sensible boy, but I don’t tend to things like this either.” Elliot smirked.
She raised herself up on her tiptoes, the scent of her enveloping him. “But for you…”
;“...I think I’ll make an exception.” he finished for her.
Raven kissed him then, and Elliot kissed her back and he felt a buzzing certainty that this - this was just the beginning.