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Take Off Your Pants

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It’s not that they’ve never been alone together; that’s not what’s making Beth agitated.

 

It’s just that any other time, she has been, generally speaking, in full control of herself. Additionally, her motor functions and physical ability have never been impaired. Now, they’re alone in this dark and dingy little basement office, her thigh is throbbing, and judging by the number of police lights she can still see bounce off the walls when the sirens wail past them outside, they’ve got some time before they can step outside, or at least to an upper floor where they can get reception.

 

She turns around very slowly, careful not to hurt her leg, to see Rio waving his phone around at the far end of the room.

 

“Anything?” She asks, and carefully leans back against an old oak desk that has seen better days.

 

Rio vaguely shakes his head and grumbles, “Nah.”

 

She should know by now to follow her gut feeling. She should have said no to joining him on this little business meeting like she originally planned on doing. But he had asked her if she wanted to come, not ordered her around like he tends to do, and something about that made the offer all the more appealing.

 

Normally she’d fight him on the idea of some clandestine meeting with a prospective “associate” she’s never even heard of, but the request held an appeal she couldn’t resist and she’d said yes. It beat staying home and playing nurse to a pouting, sulking Dean anyway.

 

And now here they are, hiding out after the so-called associate turned out to be a rat, hiding out in this broken down building outside the city; no electricity and very poor cellphone reception. They’re stranded too, as this mysterious guy drove off with Rio’s car, and to make matters worse, she’s pretty sure barreling through the door earlier and stumbling into a pile of old furniture actually broke skin and didn’t just bruise her like she originally suspected.

 

“What do we do?”

 

True to form, Rio just shrugs and slowly looks around the room before his eyes land upon her.

 

“We wait out the cops. My boys will circle the block and ge tus when it’s safe.”

 

She winces because whatever’s happening with her thigh, it’s beginning to sting. She glances down and feels her way because she can’t really see, but it hurts enough that she hisses and sinks further back against the desk. Rio is at her side before she can register him moving. How is he so fast?

 

“What happened?”

 

“Nothing. I must have cut myself or something when I bumped into all that junk.”

 

He’s watching her face so she tries to brush it off with what she hopes is a passing smirk but there’s definitely something digging into her and she flinches when an involuntary muscle flex sends a shooting pain down the side of her leg.

 

“You bleeding?” He asks and sinks to the floor, phone flashlight pointed at her thigh as he inspects her.

 

“I’m fine!”

 

“You’re bleeding .”

 

“I’m sure it’s nothing.”

 

“Mhmm.”

 

He’s up and rummaging around, opening and closing drawers.

 

“What are you looking for?”

 

“First aid kit.”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“You don’t have to act tough,” he says, spots something of interest in a drawer and brings it back with him. “I know you’re tough, but you don’t gotta pretend that doesn’t hurt.”

 

He smiles at her in this way she expects to be condescending, but it isn’t. His tone is just a fraction softer than usual. He puts his phone in her hand and for a second, Beth is taken aback by the brief graze of of their hands. Her thigh still stings though, and so the pain is enough to keep her focused.

 

“Hold that,” He tells her, then bends at the waist to briefly assess the damage.

 

He makes this low grunting sound and then he’s standing up straight, looking at her very seriously.

 

“You’re going to have to take off your pants.”

 

Beth laughs; more of a forced breath she has to exhale to remind herself to breathe because she isn’t sure she’s really just heard what she thinks she’s just heard.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You got little flakes of rust in your cut, I need you to take off your pants so I can clean it out.”

 

“I don’t think so.”

 

“You got two choices,” he starts, holding two fingers up. “You either take off your pants or you leave ‘em on and risk getting an infection and probably having your leg amputated.”

 

Beth takes a second to weigh her options. She either swallows her pride and lets the violent gang banger who still looks at her like he wants to shoot her sometimes see her underwear, or--how bad can an infection be anyway? With today’s medical advancements? If only she could recall what pair of underwear she has on--

 

“Elizabeth.”

 

She looks up at him, meets his stern stare and feels her heart race just a little bit.

 

“Take off your pants.”

 

She hates herself for so many reasons in that moment, but mostly, she hates herself for letting him get such a rise out of her in every single possible way because now, on top of being in pain, she’s so nervous about dropping trou that she’s beginning to sweat.

 

“I won’t look,” he assures her. “Promise.” Except it’s not all that reassuring because he’s got this mischievous faraway twinkle in his eye that Beth definitely loathes.

 

“Fine.” She rolls her eyes and drops both their phones on the desk before moving to undo her jeans.

 

She tries to shove them down quickly and get it over with, but sure enough, the second the denim shifts around her wound, she pauses briefly until the shooting pain dissipates.

 

Rio is watching her, she can feel it, though she refuses to point her eyes anywhere but at the ceiling fan above her head as she slowly pushes her pants all the way down to her knees and she hopes that’s low enough.

 

it’s cold in there and she feels the chill instantly. But at least her underwear isn’t a nightmare. They’re not anything special, but they’re black lace, and black lace is good enough to assuage the horror of a situation she’s in at the moment.

 

“I’m going to need the light,” he says, and Beth huffs and rolls her eyes again as she reaches blindly behind her for Rio’s phone, which she promptly then points at her thigh.

 

He drops down again and she can hear him searching around in the white metal box, hears the distinct sound of disinfectant wipes wrapping and a tear, and then Rio quietly clears his throat, and then--then beth can feel his breath on her bare thigh and my god, his face is so close.

 

“It’s not that bad,” she hears him say. “You won’t even need stitches.”

 

“Good.” She nods. Her voice is too high, and her free hand is gripping the edge of the desk too tightly--god, is that her heartbeat she’s hearing?

 

“I’m going to clean it, but uh, it’s gonna hurt like a bitch.”

 

She looks down at him then; he’s looking up at her, and suddenly it’s too real. He looks--different, and his eyes look impossibly darker. She thinks he maybe looks a little bit nervous.

 

Well, good. It’s about time he got a taste of his own medicine.

 

“I pushed four kids out of my body,” she says smugly. “I can handle it.”

 

This impresses him, she can tell by the way his eyebrow goes up and his mouth turns up into that crooked grin of his.

 

“Alright.”

 

And then he’s dabbing gently at her, and sure it stings a little bit it’s not as bad as she feared. He’s got a soft touch—it shocks her how gentle he is with her in fact. She wonders if he’s cleaned up his share of scraped knees or if that’s his son’s mother’s job.

 

“Do you only have the one?” She asks.

 

“‘Scuse me?”

 

He rips open a cotton pad and right, he’s not actually in her head and can’t actually hear what she’s thinking.

 

“Do you have more children or just the one?”

 

“Only one,” he replies curtly as he resumes cleaning her up. Then, surprising her, adds. “Feels like four sometimes though. I don’t know how you do it.”

 

“Alcohol.”

 

He chuckles, an honest-to-god chuckle that isn’t laced with deviance and Beth allows herself to take a little pride in that.

 

His fingers are surprisingly warm as he secures a bandage over her thigh.

 

Beth bites her cheek until he’s done. It takes her a second to snap to action, no longer than that, but just when she’s about to reach for her pants, Rio’s carefully pulling them up for her.

 

Beth holds her breath.

 

He’s not beside her anymore; he’s facing her as he very gently pulls her jeans past her cut and over her hips and then his face is right there, and his knuckles are grazing her stomach as he buttons her up. The look on his face is intense; it’s always intense because it’s Rio, but this is intense in a different way. This is intense like he could pounce any second, and Beth is sure no sex act has ever felt this intimate.

 

“You’re good,” he says gruffly.

 

“Thank you.”

 

And then, just to make sure she’s had her quota of surprises met for the month, he reaches up and runs his finger down her cheek, tracing her jawline before cradling the side of her neck, his thumb idly tracing her pulse point.

 

She’s breathing so hard and he’s moved so close their chests are almost touching. If she moves forward just a bit, they could--she could.

 

Yo !”

 

He steps back and they part ways at the sound of one of his guys upstairs.

 

We gotta go!

 

Rio’s still looking at her when he answers him. “Yeah, we’re coming!”

 

“We should take a look at that in better light,” he says, pointing at her leg.

 

He’s teasing her now, she can tell, but she can also tell he’s still got a shadow of unbalance from a minute ago and she decides she likes that.

 

Beth coyly smiles as she walks past him, and she thinks maybe he’s staring at her ass as he follows her out. This added layer is definitely going to make business just that much more interesting.