Ignore the rustling in the bushes. It's squirrels. It's raccoons. There's no way wolves live this far out in the middle of nowhere, even though it makes perfect sense. They're not solitary anyway -- they have packs, and so, Rose Lalonde has no reason to hold her cat with the slightest tense to her shoulders, the pronounced alertness in her amaranthine stare. The wind passes by, assuaging her fears, helping her convince herself and her companion that everything is all right.
Rose continues walking to the river to sit and read with Jaspers, and doesn't feel eyes on her back at all.
School was tedious.
Rose walked back drearily, happy to be out of the clumsy institution and heading home to a dark room full of majestic novels and yarn and non-policed internet. Her pleasant anticipation was short lived, however; while the sky was a perfect blue, cloudless, and cars streamed by her on the sidewalk, she became aware of an unanticipated second presence behind her as she adjusted her headband.
The warm wind seemed to have come with him, the quiet, cool male voice; she had to hold her hair out of her face to turn and see that it was none other than one Dave Strider. Her expression turned to a mixture of distaste and curiousity, which was natural, as she had heard little "good" about him.
"Mr. Strider," she greeted pointedly before looking straight ahead of her, ending the conversation. He took the hint, and thus, she succeeded. Sort of.
He walked with her for ten minutes in complete silence. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, silent, observing, thoughtful; he was something of a complete fucking weirdo, more or less. He perpetually wore a pair of aviators straight out of a shitty cop drama, along with typical skinny jeans, some witty and flattering t-shirt, his hay-coloured hair perfectly slicked and ruffled back. Rose Lalonde had next to no interest in this boy, as she had heard more than enough times of his oozing sarcasm, arrogance, and general disrespect for people, not to mention poor taste in music and women. Oh, there were plenty of tales of him stringing girls along. She'd heard of the potential "Destroy Dave Strider" coalition of exes with passing amusement.
She had spoken to him maybe once or twice in her life, though, and in the end, had better things to do with her time. So they walked silently. So she would push the oddity of him walking with her out of her mind the moment he left.
Rose Lalonde underestimated her curiousity.
"Is there a particular reason you're walking home with me today?" she queried blandly, looking straight ahead of her at a light pole.
His Converse shuffled just a little louder, like her voice had made him overstep a bit, but when she peeked, he was aloof as ever, hands buried in his pockets like he had a secret to keep.
"Missed the bus. Sorry I don't have the tariff money to pay you for gracing your export route with my presence, ma'am." His voice was pickle juice and his eyes were fixated on some point in the distance, all nonchalance, all relaxation and hammocks.
So she would admit that she was slightly impressed to hear such wit. She hadn't taken him to be clever, though she doubted it came with intelligence like her own, and was more of just a shallow brazen-ness.
"I'm afraid I can't let that slide."
"Sue me. I don't actually mean that, what I mean is rain check me."
"And how do you plan on repaying me?"
"Don't worry chica, I'll sign your backpack for you if you bring a Sharpie."
Rose rolled her eyes, and stopped on the boulevard to cross. Dave was facing the other intersection, though, and she found herself smiling, but that smile sinking away. He was going in a different direction. For a small moment, as they looked at each other seriously for the first time, she felt a tingle that seemed like she had met his gaze behind the atrament of his glasses.
But the light changed; he gave her a short, cocky salute, and she found herself silkily saying, "Good day, Strider," before crossing the street.
Odd, the warmth in her cheeks. Probably the heat. After all, summer was soon.
The doorbell rang, long, luminous, chiming, through every hall and room of Rose's lavish home. From far down the hall, she heard her mother call out, "Is it just Dave?" To which Rose replied back loudly, "Yes."
A minute later, the quietest footsteps were heard coming up the stairs, and the aforementioned blond was standing in her room.
"Glad that you're too busy to answer the goddamn door for me, Rosita," he drawled affectionately, sitting himself in her computer chair without asking. And then scrolling across her tabs without asking. Rose scoffed and put her knitting down, walking over to remove the mouse from his hand.
"Indeed. Now if you would kindly refrain from delighting in my wizard erotica without my consent..."
"Oh shit, that's delicious. No, no, no, let me look at this."
But the mouse was unplugged nay-instantaneously, and Rose smiled too sweetly at him.
"Real fuckin' cute."
"I appreciate the pseudo-compliment."
It took time for Rose to openly admit to herself, her affection for the boy. After the last several weeks of school, he conveniently missed the bus more and more, leading to several entertaining conversations that both parties enjoyed fondly as they walked home together, and reluctantly ended when they had to part ways. Eventually, Rose suggested that he come to her home and partake in the next natural stage of blooming friendship: "hanging out".
He found her delivery utterly hilarious, and made desert-dry cracks for the next several days. But yet, he came.
It was summer, now, and the introverts had no desire to go vacationing to any sort of beachside or amusement park. No, Dave and Rose, the unstoppable, spent day in and day out at her home, talking, bantering, debating, exchanging music and watching movies and Rose psychoanalyzing Dave's every sentence and Dave steadily picking on her every sentence filled with rich vernacular, and suddenly those days were growing late, and a quick phone call and a question later, Dave shrugged into a sleeping bag beside her bed and the quiet dark embraced them into whispering conversation.
"I'm surprised, to say the least, that my mother allowed you to remain, let alone in the same room. But then again, I'm not."
Rose's voice was soft and smiling. She was on her side, on the edge of her bed, searchingly looking into the dullness of the room to try and find Dave's figure. The dimmest rays of moonlight shone through the curtain, and as her eyes tried to adjust to the dark, she made the faintest glint of his light hair out.
A clinking sound came from his area, along with a few low curses, before he asked, "Fuck -- Can you see me? I need you to take my glasses and put them on your dumb nightstand so I don't fiesta in my sleep and send them to sunglass cemetery. Sunglasses cemetery. I don't fucking know. Here."
A hand groping in the dark found hers, which she had outstretched, and all he did was place the glasses in her hand. He had grabbed her wrist, her hand, with one, and used the other to press his shades into her palm. And Rose had never felt such shivers through her chest, through the very core, in her life. For that one second, her breath caught and her heart trembled as if it had been caught in the act, before jumbling to restart and beat properly. And automatonically, she placed the glasses on her nightstand.
"I'll guard them with my life," she attested, though her voice held none of its usual subtle teasing. Curiousity was replacing her sudden, uncalled for reaction to his touch -- his glasses were off. Rose had never, not once, seen Dave with his glasses off.
A small, feminine voice in her head, somewhat dreamy, wondered what he looked like.
But reality, logic, washed over her like cold water, and Rose snapped back to cool composition. She laid down again, snuggled into her down pillows, down comforter, and took a deep, steadying breath. She could analyze her behavior later, when Strider was not here.
After all, he was talking again.
"If those glasses bust, that's it. You're going downtown, lock and fucking key. Your ass will be grass. Your rectum will become the envy of all stained glass mosaics in the fucking Smithsonian, they will write letters pleading for you to send signed photos of the ruined glory that is your asshole."
"Charming. Tell me, is that a common occurrence in female prisons? If so, my interest has been thoroughly piqued, and I would be grateful to know how you came across such precious intelligence regarding the subject."
"Oh I bet you fucking do. Listen, tramp, those ladies throw themselves at my feet. My Chucks stay clean with the saliva of a thousand criminal lesbian prostitutes."
"Only a thousand?"
"The other thousands died with pleasure upon entering my orgasm-inducing aura. It's the shades. I've got that fuckin' mystique going on; hater-blockers are for pussies."
"I see. Then I am incredibly lucky to not have fallen to Hades yet."
"You bet your sweet ass you are."
And the conversation paused. The halt was not smooth; it was a slow thump, and they both knew that the other knew that the other knew. For the first second, Rose assumed his last words were a typical phrase, but at his thick silence, she realized that his cool cat demeanor had shifted into "oh shit did i say that" and the darkness in the room was suddenly electrically charged.
The quiet lulled, doing nothing to ease her racing heart, the lump in her throat. Neither knew what to say. There was the unspoken that hung heavy, dripping like perspiration off of her skin, but it remained as such, and nothing was done.
Nothing happened at all. Rose lay in bed, and nursed her strange, new want to touch his hand again.
Dave cleared his throat, trying extremely hard not to give evidence to his discomfort, and changed the subject.
"I'm gonna be gone for a week, next week, basically. Dunno if I told you about it yet." He hadn't.
Rose's heart dropped sullenly, and her mouth twisted into a frown, knowing he could not see it, replying, "Wherefore?"
"Romeo and I are taking a hot fucking date to St. Lucia where we plan on filming dozens of medieval homoerotic fantasy pornos. No. Bro wants to go camping or some bullshit."
Rose Lalonde was thankful for many of her characteristics, and in this moment, most of all, her intuitive ability to sense when someone was lying to her. Perhaps it was that she was naturally probing, and it probably helped that she'd studied a great deal of body language and the psychology behind it -- but nevertheless, that little bell went off in her head that warned her of dishonesty.
But what reason would he have to lie? Why about this?
For a passing moment, Rose fancied wild thoughts of him running a secret drug ring or doing something possibly embarrassing, perhaps visiting relatives, or going to a tutoring camp? Band camp? She supposed the relative one held the most water out of all of the theories, as Dave was extremely private about his personal life (he rarely really spoke about Bro, moreso only the things he'd done, and solidly refused to ever let her come over to his house even though he'd boasted of his incredible sound system and yadda yadda yadda). Furthermore, from what little he had said about Bro, he didn't seem to be the camping type. Though she'd picked up that he was definitely strange, the idea of the Strider duo camping... She secretly pressed the corner of her smile into the pillow, her lips pursed to restrain the laugh.
Even so; she could not make out his expression in the darkness, and thus, had no physical confirmation if he was really lying or not. It irritated her.
So she played along.
"Being entirely honest with you, I did not pin you or Broseph as the camping type, though I sense your disdain on the subject."
Dave snorted, and it sounded like he rolled over, away from her. Disconnection from the interrogator. Strike one. The idea of him lying became more probable.
"Apparently he did Boy Scouts or some shit when he was a wee lad, and once a month he gets jonesy for the great outdoors, the Smokey the Bear semen pool that is nature. It is horseshit."
Lack of contractions, and a notable oddness to his tone of voice, though it was incredibly hard to detect. If Dave Strider was a liar, he was a very good one. Strike two. Rose pressed.
"Probably the fuckload behind your house. They're pretty nice."
She dug in her heels, and aimed for a strike three.
"Would it be all right if I joined you? This is up to your brother's discretion, naturally, and if you're willing to endure my presence for an entire week..."
The word was hard, snapped far too fast, said barely a moment after the breath of her last word left her. There was no hesitance, there was no give. It was all finality. Strike three.
Dave Strider was hiding something from her that he very, very much did not want her to know. And it only made her curiousity burn harder.
The conversation lulled afterwards, however, much to Rose's dismay. Her musing had led to a too long gap to think of anything substantial to say, and she could do nothing but be bothered by the newfound chemistry that was slowly but surely permeating the air, feeling palpable against her thighs, her mouth. The shallow light of her alarm clock told her of the minutes ticking by, and she fidgeted, tumbling around in her covers, unable to find comfort.
"You still awake?"
Her heart jumped; they had been silent for nearly half an hour. "Yes."
"Look I'm not trying to be some faggoty hero or anything, but there's wolves in your woods. So be careful when you're outside playing Shakespeare by the waterhole."
The statement was so entirely out of left field, it took her a moment to find a response.
"Oh, yes. All right? Why are you deciding to turn your body into lupine kibble, then?"
Silence. Then, "Bro knows what he's doing."
And that was that.
For a long time, they listened to the other breathe, turn over in their sleeping area, rustle with pillows and blankets. They stared at the ceiling, they stared at the sliver of split curtain that displayed the window. And when they both ended up on their sides, eyes finally just barely adjusted to the darkness that encompassed her room, their eyes met (though they weren't sure, but they were sure,) and they gazed at each other for a long time, unspoken energy and words and feelings swelling and simmering.
Dave sighed volumelessly. Rose bit her lip softly.
Facing each other, fighting the pull to find some excuse to touch the other's hands again, to let their skin brush and see what happened, they fell into sleep.