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Soulless

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          Juni shivered in the cold that seemed to ignore the heavy coat she wore that evening, she moved quickly past the few desperate prostitutes hoping for a john to take them someplace warmer if only for a few hours. She admired their tenacity to continue to work despite the low temperatures. Desperation, that she understood, if I don't get that damn raise I'll probably be out there competing with them.

          That prickly feeling of being watched had returned again, Juni moved more into the light, it had been happening more frequently and she hated it. Ever since she pepper sprayed that one jackass that thought she was a streetwalker, jokes on me I'll end up on the streets again if my proposal gets rejected , she mused. Her raise and continued existence in that company depended on it. They'll give it to that bastard Frank. 

          She glanced about making sure she wasn't being followed by some creeper. For a brief moment, she thought she saw the outline of someone in the shadows but when she blinked the image was gone. Juni had been jumpy since the pepper spray incident, she couldn't afford to waste money on cabs and forget asking one of the sleazebags from work to give her a ride. Almost home repeating in her mind like a mantra.

           Home. Juni frowned when she entered the building the acrid scent of fresh vomit hitting her nostrils, lovely she skirted around the puddle of gross. I'll check my mail in the morning, she moved hastily up the three flights to her apartment. Oh, the police tape is gone from her dead neighbor's apartment, a shiver passed through her and she hurriedly unlocked her door. 

           Once inside Juni locked all the locks and put the chain on, resting against the door briefly the sound of a mousetrap snapping made her jump, "Shit!" Try as she might she never will get used to living in a rodent-infested apartment. "Who lives like this?" You do the thought echoed back in her mind. "Well, I hate it."

 


 

          They loved Juni's proposal. They loved it so damn much they gave the fucking promotion to Frank. The icing on the shit cake was that Juni was designated his assistant. No raise because they gave Frank twice what she was offered if her proposal was accepted. So Frank gets to reap the benefits of Juni's idea and she basically gets to fetch him coffee but hey, she's still employed.

         Juni carried her laundry basket down to the shared laundry room it should have been empty considering the few tenants that used it were working. She walked in and there was a man she'd never seen in the building before, Juni started to back out of the room but his eyes caught hers, "Hi." His tone was cheerful enough, it just didn't match his gaze, "Just waiting on the dryer to finish, the washer is free." 

          The thing she liked about the small laundry room was that there was no door, Juni knew that it would be harder to be trapped in there with the unknown man. Reluctantly, she stayed in the room placing her basket on the nearby table Juni began quickly throwing things in the washer, dropped in a laundry pod and got the load going. The man hopped up on the dryer to sit leaving the one chair in the room available for Juni. It was close enough to the door she could bolt.

          "I just moved in," The man volunteered when she settled into the chair warily. He's going to make me talk with him, she inwardly groaned.

          "How nice for you," why can't he just let her sit in peace and quiet?

          "Third floor." She just nodded and checked her watch, this is going to be a tedious wait… Shit, he said third floor, yet another person to avoid she thought to herself. 

           The man continued to talk to Juni, she kept checking her watch and mentally willed the dryer to dry his damn things faster. She was starting to think he was oblivious to her discomfort. I'd leave if I didn't know people steal laundry in this shithole. And then the dryer buzzed, oh thank God. Just fold your shit and leave. 

           He took his time folding his things, at least he had stopped talking to her. The washer hit its last spin cycle as her unwanted neighbor folded his last article of clothing. He gave her a smile and a friendly nod as he left. Juni immediately stood up the instant he was gone, the jackass didn't empty the lint trap and judging from how thick the lint in the trap was none of the other tenants had either. "These idiots are going to burn this dump to the ground one day." Maybe it would be best for all if it did burn down.

          Once the load was done Juni made her way back up the three flights to see her new neighbor leaning against the door frame of his apartment. Shit shit shit shit, Juni wanted to run back downstairs but he saw her and waved. "Hey, looks like we are close neighbors." 

          "Guess so, " Juni mumbled as she hurriedly unlocked her door and scrambled inside with her clothes basket. She locked the door quickly as she dropped the basket with a sigh, he seemed friendly enough but this city has taught her not to trust friendly faces. 

 


 

           Her new neighbor seemed to have a penchant for arriving and leaving fairly close to her own schedule, Juni was less than thrilled with that coincidence. It made avoiding him difficult.   Juni stood in front of the mailboxes flipping through the bills groaning when she heard that familiar voice behind her, "What's the 'J' stand for?"

            Locking her mailbox and hastily shoving her mail in her bag, "What?" The man was entirely too close for Juni's liking, she moved to the side to get more breathing room.

            He tapped the door on my mailbox, "It says 'J. Haley', what's the 'J' for?"

            "My first name." Duh. She was not keen on giving him her name at all, could he not take a hint? Thankfully, he moved to give her a clear escape route from him. 

            "Is it an embarrassing one?"

            "No."

            "So you just don't like it?"

            "I like my name," Why wouldn't he take the hint?

            "How many guesses do I get?"

            "Jesus…" Juni started moving past him desperate to get away but he just followed along behind her.

            "Never met a lady named that before…"

            "It's fucking Juniper! My name is Juniper! Can you leave me alone now?!"

            He kept pace with Juni as she jogged up the stairs, why does he have to be across the hall from me…  She practically slammed the door in his face panting from the exertion of trying to keep ahead of the jackass as she ran up 3 flights of stairs.

             A soft knock on the door and the sound of his voice saying her name had her flinging the door open angrily, "What!?"

              "I'm Victor." He smiled before turning about to unlock his own door.

Chapter Text

             "Juniper, honey, be a doll and pick up some coffee on your way into work today." Ugh, Juni reread the text message, the fact that she read it in his condescending voice irritated her even more. She considered ignoring it but she'd likely get told she needed to be a team player. "Better be compensating me for it." She's still in danger of losing her apartment… maybe she could get a second job, sleep is overrated anyhow.

             "Hey. You get your coffee here as well?" Oh, fantastic just what she needed, a cheerful neighbor.

             "Yeah, what an amazing coincidence…" The lack of enthusiasm in her tone wasn't lost on Victor.

             "Someone's cranky without her caffeine?"

             "I don't drink coffee, it's for Frank." She felt a pang of instant regret at giving him information even about her shithead co-worker… no, her new boss.

             "Oh." He sounded disappointed, "Nice that you get your boyfriend coffee."

             Oh God, if Frank was my boyfriend I would throw myself into traffic. "Not my boyfriend. My Boss."

            "Office romance? Should be careful of those…" Victor tsked. Juni started gagging at the thought of any intimacy with that douche. "You okay?"

            "You just put unwanted images of the asshole in my brain, so okay is the wrong word." 

            Victor chuckled, "Not a fan of Frank, then why buy his coffee?"

            Why is he so damn nosey? "Because I like having a job and because the shitbag sent a patronizing text requesting it." 

            "Spit in his coffee."

            Juni gave him a horrified look, "I can't do that!"

            He tilted his head to the side studying her reaction, "Why not? You seem to detest the man, why not spit in his coffee, he'd never know."

           "Because it's wrong. And gross." Yeah but it would be so horribly funny,  the thought popped in her head and she felt guilty.

           "All the more reason to, Juniper." Juni blinked at him, did he just purr my name? "I can do it for you if you like…"

           This was a departure from the nice guy image he had presented to her for days now. It was a bit unnerving like he was the little devil on her shoulder egging her on… She found herself popping the top off the coffee she had in hand, "Fine." Juni glanced away not wanting to watch the man spit.

            "All done," Victor announced cheerfully to her.

 


 

             "That coffee was great Juniper," Frank tossed his empty cup in the bin beside her desk plopping his useless ass on half of it, "Next time more foam, oh and a danish."

           "If I am going to be reimbursed for it then sure," Juni had already taken the receipt to Hellen who promptly informed her that Frank had to approve reimbursements. When told it was for Frank, Hellen just shrugged and proceeded to ignore Juni.

           "Such a kidder," He patted her shoulder then hopped off her desk, "Remember extra foam and better make that a cheese danish, thanks doll." The jackass did finger guns at her before walking away. Juni was so pissed that she imagined Frank's head imploding which only slightly improved her mood.

           The rest of the day dragged on as Juni was burdened with Frank's work on top of her own, lazy prick, she glared at him as he took an early lunch. Juni ended up missing her lunch break and Frank never came back from lunch. Hope he choked on his fucking meal.

 


 

            "How was the coffee?" She had skipped checking her mail just to avoid Victor, so of course, he poked his head out of his apartment as Juni was scrambling to unlock her door.

           "It was a hit. You should bottle your spit so assholes everywhere can taste it."

           "Seems like a hassle." Victor quipped back.

           "Probably." Juni sighed, "He already put in another order, guess he thinks I'm his coffee bitch now. You can spit in it tomorrow if you want." 

           "Once should have been enough really, any more would be overkill, besides the first one's free."

           "Your spit is in high demand is it?" What an odd man.

           "It's not so much the spit but the intent behind it."

           Juni considered the man in front of her, dark clothes that make his already pale skin practically glow at times, not a single hair on his scalp or face. The man has no eyebrows and it kind of works for him, "And what was the intent behind you spitting in a stranger's coffee, Victor?"

           "To make a friend, Juniper." It had been ages since she had an actual friend, "May I be your friend?"

           "I'll think about it." She slipped into her apartment locking the door behind her, a friend. Juni almost smiled at the thought before letting out a soft sigh, there has to be a catch somewhere...

            

Chapter Text

       Frank died. Juni went into work coffee and danish in hand, sans spit, just to find out Frank hadn't shown up for work. She handed the coffee off to one of the mail clerks that passed by her desk and ate the danish out of spite. Fuck that asshole, she thought as she went about her regular tasks.

          It wasn't until after she came back from lunch that she learned about Frank's demise. Some policemen had been around and by the end of the day, everyone in the building knew Frank was dead. 

         It was weird that the people that despised the man were suddenly so remorseful. Juni shook her head, that asshole dying didn't make him suddenly a cool dude. He was a piece of shit that died choking. That was probably the only part that evoked any real emotion for the man's death from Juni, she did feel a built guilty that she had literally wished for him to choke and die. 

        Logically she knew it wasn't her fault but would wishing for a horrible thing to happen send her to hell when she shuffles off this mortal coil?

 


 

       "No, shit. He died?" Victor looked a little too pleased about it, Juni felt like it should bother her. 

       "Yep. Apparently, he had a seizure behind the wheel," and with no one to stop the car he crashed it into a tree, hell, if Frank hadn't choked on his tongue he might have been able to walk away from it. "Is it wrong that I hope he's rotting in hell?" She hadn't meant to say that out loud 

        "No. Doubt he's rotting though..." 

        "Really?"

        Victor shrugged, "If you assume hell is all fire and brimstone, then he'd be burning not rotting. Odds are good if his soul isn't lost then he'll reincarnate as something more fitting to his shit personality."

        "You're kind of a weird guy, Victor."

        "Good weird or bad weird?" He asked with a serious face.

        "I haven't decided yet," Juni let out a small sigh.

        "But is it a deal breaker for friendship?" They'd been chatting as they climbed the stairs to their apartments.

        "Probably not." Juni didn't exactly have people clamoring to be her friend currently though that is likely due to her being a bit of a hermit when not working. "Why are you so anxious to be my friend, Victor?" What's the catch? She wondered.

        "Sometimes a person just wants a friend, Juniper. Even the weird bald guy who spits in coffee." Juni couldn't help the chuckle that escaped.

        "I sure hope you aren't a barista." That's a lot of coffee to spit in, Juni thought and the minute she thought it she doubled over laughing. Victor just grinned mischievously...

 


 

        The higher-ups had to scramble to replace Frank, they didn't look pleased about giving the job to Juniper at all. They were less than enthused when she demanded to be paid the same amount they offered Frank and not the shit amount they originally offered her. 

        She felt she earned it after they screwed her over by only following through on half the deal the first time. The alternative was hiring outside the company and they didn't have time to train someone new. Juni had them by the balls and they knew it.

        Her upfront bonus was enough to pay rent, hell it was enough to pay the remainder of her lease and put down a deposit on a new place to live. So she did.

        "So you are moving away from me already?" Victor looked like a kicked puppy.

        "I can't live in this shithole anymore, Victor." Juni shook her head, "I want to live somewhere that doesn't smell like vomit or rodents scattering when I walk in the door." She let out a tired sigh, "I am dying in this place."

        "I understand. You want better things. You deserve better things." Victor rested his back against the wall on her side of the hall as she wearily unlocked her door. "Do you need help with moving? I have a car." 

        Juni felt kind of bad, he just wants a friend and she is hightailing it out of dodge. "Yeah. I don't have much to move, so renting a truck I can't legally drive is kind of pointless."

        "So we are friends then?"

        "I mean it's not like you will stop pestering me to be your friend, Vic."

        "If you said no I would respect that, Juniper." She didn't fully believe that since he had ignored her previous efforts to make him go away.

         "You win we're friends."

         "Does my new friend want to celebrate her escape from this shithole?"

         "She will celebrate once she is living elsewhere."

         "I'll hold you to that." She swore that he purred that. 

         "I'll be packed in a day or two." Maybe sooner Juni thought as she looked about her apartment realizing that she had no real attachment to anything in her apartment.

Chapter Text

         She was ready to leave the same night, just one box of personal items, a small bag of clothes, a suitcase, and a stuffed one-eyed pink poodle that had seen better days. Juni half considered seeing if Victor was still awake she was desperate not to stay another night in the apartment. 

          It isn't that late she tells herself as she knocks on his door, "Victor?" 

         There was a loud thud some cursing before she heard his voice on the other side of the door. "Juniper?" His door creaks open enough to show his face, "What's wrong, sweetness?"

          Juniper quirked a brow at the endearment but chalked it up to him being sleepy, "I woke you up, sorry, go back to sleep it can wait till morning."

          She turned to go back to her apartment, the sound of a zipper behind her made Juni blush slightly at an image that crept into her brain. "It's fine, come inside." A hand on her shoulder to stop her progress, when she turned around she was relieved to see him in a zippered hoodie. Friends don't think about their friends being naked, even if they are curious about how hairless they are…

 


 

         Juni looked about Victor's apartment and was pleasantly surprised that it looked lived in. Do the rodents just like her apartment more?   "I've never seen the other apartments."

         "That doesn't surprise me," Victor stretched and yawned, "Most of the tenants are drug dealers and prostitutes. Not something a nice person should see."

         "You think I'm nice."

         "Duh." He gave her a warm smile which caused Juni to look away in discomfort at how much of a bitch she was to him in general, until recently. "What does my friend need this evening?"

         "You look tired I should have waited until tomorrow to bother you. I just finished packing and…"

         "You didn't want to wait to get out of here."

         "Yeah, sorry. I just couldn't have another night of listening to the snapping of mousetraps."

         "You can stay here tonight if you want. I can take the couch." He added the last part quickly when she glanced nervously towards the door.

         "I don't know."

         "The traps in here are less noisy, Juniper."

         "I feel weird about sleeping in someone else's bed, Victor."

         "Sheets are clean. And you can lock the door if you are worried."

         "Fine." Juniper decided that he won't pull anything shady on her. Hopefully.

 


 

           "Juni?" She opened her eyes reluctantly, "I know you don't drink coffee but I thought you might want to get breakfast after I get your things packed in the car." 

           "Not hungry." She tried to bury under the soft bedding, it's like his bed was a cloud. "Sleeping."

            "Thought you were in a hurry to move…"

            "After sleeping."

            "Okay, " the bed shifted and Juniper stiffened, "Just wake me up when you're ready to go."

             Juniper bolted up from the covers, "Okay, I'm up."

             "I give great cuddles."

             "I'm good. Breakfast sounds great." Juni quickly got out of bed and ran to the bathroom to freshen up.

 


 

            "Pretty spacious with no furniture." Victor looked about Junipers new home, "You need to crash at my place until you get a bed?"

            "No. I'll go bed shopping today. Where'd you get your bed? It was like sleeping on a cloud."

            "It is pretty comfy," Victor agreed, "I can take you to the bad place."

            "I've already imposed on your day enough, Victor."

            "Friends help each other out, Juniper." I could get used to having a friend… the problem was she kept waiting for the catch and it made her feel guilty for expecting the worst.

Chapter Text

            Juni looked around her newly sparsely decorated apartment, "It's less empty now," Victor was stretched out on the couch he'd helped her get a fantastic deal on. His eyes were closed, He must be tired, Juni thought to herself. Well, you woke him up, usurped his bed, and kept him out all day looking for furniture for your new fancy digs, she chastised herself. "We can do the celebration another time, Victor."

            His eyes opened as he turned to look at her, "Juniper, I think if we don't celebrate tonight you'll put it off indefinitely."

            Her face went slightly pink because it was probably true, she's never been big on partying, she'd gotten used to getting bad news and shit outcomes for so long now that celebrating anything has become a foreign concept to her. "I just thought you might be sick of me, I already took up most of your day with my nonsense." 

            "Don't talk like that. Getting furniture for your empty apartment is not nonsense and I never get sick of you, Juni." He sat up. "Ready to party when you are," Victor stood up from the couch and stretched.

            Juni let out a sigh, "Partytime." She said half-heartedly…

 


 

           "It's pretty loud in here." Juni hated it. She let Victor pick the club since she never bothered with learning where the 'fun' places were located. She sipped her drink wishing someone would adjust the bass properly, it was horrible the way it pounded. 

           Victor looked in his element, leaning in close, "We can leave, go someplace else." He looked like he was itching to get out on the dance floor.

           "No. Here's fine," Juni was pretty certain the other places will be just as loud as this one, "Go dance, I can tell you want to get out there."

           "Dance with me."

           "Not really my thing, Victor." She looked at the people down in the middle of the club flailing about like drunken idiots, "Go have fun."

           "Please," He held out his hand, "We are celebrating your promotion and moving, Juniper, come enjoy the night."

           "It's just I can't really dance."

           "Those people are too drunk to notice." 

          But you aren't, she thought to herself.

         


 

 

           Juni couldn't tell if it was her heart beating so hard or the ridiculous thumping of the bass but she was pretty sure being this close to Victor was causing a mild panic attack.

           She was just barely on the dance floor with Victor when the song switched over to something slower and the crowd of people thinned out as the remaining bodies joined together to dance at a less frenetic pace. His arm slid around her, keeping Juni close as he moved her about the dance floor.

           The last time she had been this close to another human had been a disaster and that memory was not helping her growing panic. Victor must have felt her tensing up, he started drawing light circles on her back, "Relax, sweetness. We can stop dancing if you want." He started moving them closer to the edge of the dance floor.

             "No." She closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest, "You need someone to dance with," better her than one of those drunk ladies she saw earlier grinding up against random guys. She decided she would not enjoy watching Victor dance with any of them. "So you're stuck with me."

 


 

             A few drinks later and they were back at her apartment, the walk had been pleasant enough, Victor seemed content holding her hand. "You shouldn't drive," It was decided he should stay overnight.

            "I'm fine to drive but your new couch is pretty comfy." The elevator ride up was quiet Juni was relieved he wasn't going to drive home, his drinks had been stronger than the ones she’d had, Victor had pointed out which drinks had little to no alcohol in them. 

             Once they were in the apartment she did something impulsive, she kissed him. Victor didn't pull back from her instead he leaned in to kiss her back eagerly, Juni pulled away in a panic but not because she didn't like it. She did.

            "That bad?"

            "What? No. I just shouldn't have done that," Juni moved away wringing her hands.

            "I'm not mad." 

            "I could tell." He did return the kiss after all.

            "Is kissing a deal-breaker to friendship?" He looked concerned about that thought.

            "No."

            "Friends can kiss can't they?"

            "Yeah, like maybe a peck on the cheek. There was an exchange of tongues in that kiss."

            Juni looked back at Victor who had a goofy grin, "Yes there was, it was very nice," her cheeks burned at his comment, "We should do more of that." Her eyes went wide as her blush deepened, "Maybe tomorrow, when we are sober." He kissed her cheek as he walked past to go lay on the couch to sleep.

Chapter Text

             Juni crept cautiously out of her room eyes going to where her sleeping friend should have been only to see the couch was empty. She went from being anxious, to relieved, to annoyed in one breath, how could he leave without saying goodbye.

             She nearly jumped when she felt arms slip around her waist, "Morning sweetness," A kiss to her cheek, "Sleep okay?"

            "Yes, I did," She may have had a few intrusive dreams, "Did you?"

            "Mmhm. Did you want to talk about it?"

             Juni knew he meant the kiss, "No." She felt talking about it would make things awkward and she didn't want to chase off her only friend. "It happened, I apologized, let's move on." 

            Victor still had his arms wrapped around Juni's waist and she wasn't sure if she should try to move away. Juni just stood there trying to figure out what to do with her arms settling on crossing them just above his arms. 

           Juni wanted to be annoyed with the invasion of her space. "Didn't like it, huh?"

           "I didn't say that."

           "So you did like it?"

           "I thought we were moving on from it." Why does he want to talk about the damn kiss so much? 

           "I just want to know if you liked it as well."

           "Why?" She decided to try moving away but Victor held her firmly in place, "Please drop it and let go of me, Victor." He released his hold and Juni put space between them.

             "I've upset you."

             "No. I just don't see the value of discussing something that we aren't going to repeat."

             "So you didn't like it." She just rolled her eyes at the bald idiot.

 


 

             Breakfast had been eaten and she was trying to think of a way to politely get him to leave. Juni sighed in resignation as Victor danced about to the radio's music, shouldn't have taken the extra day off, she bemoaned inwardly. 

             He kept wiggling his finger at her trying to get her to dance, "I don't want to dance, Victor."

             "One dance." His hand out to her just like the night before, "please?"

             Juni already knew she was going to cave, "Fine." Back in his arms dancing slowly, though the current song had a snappier beat, "This isn't a slow dancing song."

             "Every song is a slow dancing song." He moved them about the apartment, while Juni sighed into his chest, "Was it too much tongue? Or not enough?" Jesus, Juni gritted her teeth, damn his persistence.

             "Victor."

             "Not a fan of tongue in your kissing?"

             What is wrong with this man, "Please stop."

             "I just want to know what you didn't like about our kiss, Juniper."

             For fuck's sake, "Will you shut up about it if we kiss again?"

             Juni didn't have to ask Victor twice, he brushed his lips against hers which annoyed her enough to move into the kiss. And there was his tongue sliding against her own. This is not how friends interact, echoed in her brain.

 


 

             Juni told herself that she needed to put the brakes on their current situation, that is them on the couch kissing and grinding against each other like a bunch of horny teens. Well, they weren't teens but Juni couldn't deceive herself into thinking she was not starved for this kind of attention. 

            If asked how they ended up like that she would have to come clean about shoving a willing and quite eager Victor down onto her couch. She let out a yelp when Victor took control and flipped them over, "Did I hurt you?" He sounded concerned and even hesitated until Juni pulled him back down to her.

           Things came to an abrupt halt when Juni started trying to undo Victor's pants, "I don't have condoms." The words registered in her brain, pulling her hands away, "I'm sorry."

            "We should stop because--"

            "Because friends don't bone?"

            "Not generally." She felt her cheeks burning and hated it. Normally she'd leave the room but she was under a thoroughly aroused Victor and trying to refrain from making things awkward, it was hard. 

            "Do you think we should stop?"

            "Yes."

            "Do you want to stop?" Damn him for asking that, it was like he knew she didn't want to stop…

            "Is this more than friendship, Victor?"

            "Do you want it to be, Juniper?" His eyes peered into hers and she wanted to push him away but also to pull him closer.

            "Yes," She sighed and was relieved when he smiled and kissed her before rolling off the couch and hopping up to head for the door, "Where are you fucking going?"

            "Uh, to get the condoms."