Seth knew better than to look up when he heard the thunk of something heavy falling into the seat across from him.
Unless it was Roman or Marek, nothing good ever came of anyone approaching him. He’d fallen for it the first few hundred times, the way he’d be easily, unknowingly goaded into a trick, a false agreement, or something else that ultimately resulted in his humiliation. Ever since he’d befriended Roman, the number of these occurrences had started to drop, but Roman wasn’t there at the moment to be visually threatening and come to Seth’s aid.
He was at football practice.
So Seth was in the library, reading a book, waiting for Roman to finish practice so he could give Seth a ride home.
But that left Seth vulnerable in moments like these.
So he chose to ignore the unexpected presence across from him, choosing instead to renew his focus on the well-worn book underneath his palms. But no matter how hard he tried to entirely ignore whoever had decided it would be a good idea to sit across from him, he just couldn’t get back into his book. It was as if one half of his brain was trained on the book, the other trained on the person across from him.
He didn’t do anything about it.
Until the person across from him slid their hand into his view, stopping just above the edge of his book, fingers hovering just over the top of the page and blocking a few of the words. The hand was stained with black streaks and grubby fingernails to match.
Seth scowled and looked up.
He wasn’t one for clichés, but he was fairly certain that his soul left his body when they made eye contact.
The boy sitting across from him had blue eyes that felt simultaneously piercing and warm and a face with traces of baby fat apparent. There were strands of brown hair falling into his eyes, but he pushed them away to tuck them behind his ear without ever breaking the silent battle of wills between the two of them.
“How come I’ve never seen you here before?” Seth asked before he could stop himself, and that was definitely not a sentence that was supposed to come out his mouth. He was supposed to silently glare at the guy until he left, maybe with a pointed ‘go away’ if his patented glare didn’t do the trick. But here he was, inviting him into a conversation.
The boy raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his chair, watching Seth with an odd sort of smile, one that seemed entirely inappropriate for the situation at hand. The smile poked a little dent into his cheeks, a little dimple on each side of his face, and Seth didn’t know until now that dimples could be so damn attractive on someone.
“How come I’ve never seen you here before?” the boy countered. “You seemed so far off in your book, maybe you don’t notice nothin’ around you.”
“I’m here twice a week, from four to six,” Seth said, as if that was some sort of an explanation.
“Mmm, really? Which days?”
“Tuesday and Thursday.”
The boy tapped his fingers on the tabletop, pursing his lips and looking off just beyond Seth’s head, as if deep in thought.
“I’m here four days a week, from four to six,” he finally said, drawing his hands up, balling them into fists, and then resting his chin on them, elbows pressed into the hard surface of the table, like a child listening to a storyteller.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.”
“Then how come I’ve never seen you here before?” Finally, they were back to where they started.
“I dunno. Maybe libraries have, like, magical memory-voiding powers or somethin’.”
Seth rolled his eyes, but the boy across from him just grinned.
“And you looked like you needed some company,” the boy continued, “and I aim to provide, and please, in the meantime. So what’s your name?”
Seth didn’t know why he continued the conversation, but he did.
“Seth. Seth Rollins.”
“’M name’s Dean Ambrose,” the boy—Dean—said, extending his grease-streaked hand out as an offering. Seth glanced from him to his hand and then back again, brows furrowed in question. “What, not gonna shake on it? ‘S polite, Sethie. Don’t be rude.”
With a roll of his eyes, Seth reached out and shook Dean’s hand, only briefly before he shoved it under the table in an attempt to wipe the filth off on his jeans. “It’s Seth, thank you.”
“’S whatever I want it to be.” Dean’s gaze flicked away for a moment, and Seth thought he saw a flicker of worry surface on Dean’s face before disappearing just as quickly as it had come. “Hey, d’you know what time it is?”
Seth stuck his bookmark back in his book and closed it before pulling his phone out of his pocket and tapping the screen. “Uh, it’s 5:30. Why?”
“Shit, I gotta go,” Dean said quickly, nearly tripping over himself in his hurry to get up and push his chair back into the table.
“I thought you said you were here until six,” Seth said, puzzled.
“I’m here as long as they need me to be,” Dean said. “Hey, you said you’re here Tuesdays, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” Seth said, still trying to process Dean’s mysterious statement, failing pretty miserably at it in the meantime.
“Then I’ll see you Tuesday,” Dean said, and not a moment later, he was gone, the library doors loudly banging shut behind him, earning a dirty look from the librarian.
What the actual fuck just happened?