"Crea thinks that I'm in love with you."
Alba blinked twice, startled by the abrupt comment, and then turned to stare at Ross. The other man wasn't even looking his way, eyes instead trained somewhere off on the far side of the small kitchen. The tiny house was unusually quite that day, what with Cecily out at the town's weekly market and Lake off with some companions from class. It was only Ross and Alba, the later having been invited over (though the invite was more a command) for something along a the lines of a warm meal. Ruki and Crea had been invited too, but both had had prior commitments and had promised to drop by another day.
Thinking about Crea, and about what Crea apparently thinks, Alba took a breath and nodded his head slowly. "Oh," he replied somewhat cautiously, uncertain. "He does?"
Ross snorted derisively. "Yeah, and he's pretty adamant about it too. Thinks he's some kind of detective or something, pointing out all these stupid little facts. According to him, it's clear as day that I love you." The words rolled of his tongue in drawn out syllables, voice so perfectly dismissive that Alba nearly played the entire thing off as a joke.
But instead of disregarding it, he merely nodded his head again and gave a short hum of acknowledgement. "Right," he said. "And um, why exactly are you telling me this?"
Ross looked his way, face schooled in a passively blank expression. "To see how you'd react."
Alba, for the life of him, couldn't figure out where altogether this conversation was supposed to be heading. "Oh, right, of course." The words were tinged with a slight sarcasm, masking his growing nervousness. He wondered if his reaction was satisfying Ross. "Um, why?"
"Why what, hero?" Ross' singular raised eyebrow lent him his typically unimpressed look, but behind it Alba could see attentive eyes.
"Why did you want to see how I would react?" Alba repeated his question.
Ross tilted his head ever so slightly, giving Alba a pointed stare. "Because I might."
Alba couldn't help but blink again at the words. His mind got a little fuzzy around the edges. "Oh," he said simply, voice sounding somewhat indistinct to his own ears. Something in the back of his head told him that he'd been saying that word a lot in the past few minutes. And then, because he couldn't help himself, he followed that word with, "I'm sorry, what?"
Ross scoffed, leaning back in his seat around the kitchen's table and nearly rolling his eyes. "I might love you," he repeated disdainfully, "not that your intelligence is doing much to win me over. Your reaction time is abnormally slow today." He then righted himself and brought his elbows up onto the wooden surface, gaze not quite meeting Alba's own wide-eyed stare. "So I'll repeat it a little slower for you, just in case you haven't processed it yet. I might love you. I at the very least like you. Crea has made some surprisingly good points with his deductions, not that I'd tell him. Thought I'd let you know."
Alba found himself experienced an odd sense of vertigo despite being firmly seated at the table. He wondered if he might fall off the small bench. Finally, after what seemed like far too long of a pause, he managed another, quiet, "oh."
Ross actually rolled his eyes. "Is that really all you have to say, hero?"
Alba opened his mouth, "Um... I...". It was, in fact, all he could really manage.
Ross' features seemed to darken at Alba's speechlessness, annoyance and anticipation mapped clear in the twist of his lips. Alba struggled to find something to say if only to prevent Ross' more violent tendencies from taking over.
"I, uh..." His mind whirred uselessly, mouth on autopilot. "I guess I might too, then."
The words were unexpected, even to him. He sat there in stunned silence for a moment, absolutely certain that Ross's surprised stare was mirrored on his own face.
He started speaking again in a stumble of words. "I... uh, I mean," he stuttered, a warm flush spreading from his neck to his cheeks and ears. "I don't know. Like maybe. I guess. Not th-that I've ever really thought about... it, or anything. I just... I could..." Ross was still staring at him, but the surprise was slowly turning into a perplexed kind of amusement.
Alba suddenly couldn't handle it. In a stutter of incoherent mortification, he pillowed his burning face in his arms, welcoming the slightly cooler temperature of the wooden table beneath him. A groan of embarrassment escaped his lips, which then turned into muffled words.
"What just happened?" he asked towards the table.
He heard Ross scoff. "I'm pretty sure we just confessed to each other, though yours was less than impressive." His voice was decidedly amused, and Alba didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Swallowing back another noise of distress, Alba said, "can we pretend I didn't?"
"Nope," Ross replied, strangely gleeful. "That would ruin all the fun."
Alba thought about complaining, about saying that it had all been a mistake -- because it had -- but now that the thought was there and the words out in the open, he realized it was probably the truth. The realization didn't rattle him nearly as much as he thought it would. He might love Ross. How strange. How entirely... predictable. Alba was a bit surprised that he didn't quite know what that may mean for the both of them.
Exhaling harshly though his nose, Alba propped himself up enough so that he could press the palms of his hands into his eyes. "Right," he said, voice sounding slightly strangled. "And what're we supposed to do now?" He kept his head down, refusing to show his face.
"Hmm, that is a good question," Ross replied, not entirely serious, but not fully joking either. Alba had to wonder how long Ross had been thinking on all this, because he was clearly taking it all in stride. "We could always go to Crea, he seemed to have a bunch of advice for me bef--"
"N-no!" Alba spluttered, "No, god. Can you imagine what he might say. I'm still..." Alba's hands dropped onto the table, gaze following them. "I'm still trying to, er, wrap my head around it, you know. Like..." He took a breath, glancing at Ross from beneath the fringe of his hair. "This isn't a joke, right? It's for real?"
"Well I was joking about going to Crea..." Ross said, and Alba shot him a petulant look. "But not this, no."
Alba nodded his head, letting out a shaky breath he hadn't known he had been holding. "Oh, okay. Good."
"Good," Ross echoed, having the gall to raise his eyebrow.
Alba ignored the way his stomach flipped strangely at the look. He blinked across the table at Ross, and then, decision having been made, stood up. He shuffled around the table, looked once more at Ross, and then sat down next to him. "Um, there," he said a little anticlimactically. "I wanted to... yeah."
Ross was silent for moment. "You wanted to sit next to me," he stated, voice sounding a bit odd.
Alba hummed in concession, staring across the able instead of at Ross.
"Any reason in particular?"
Alba thought about this for a moment, taking a moment to consider the warmth he could feel from Ross. "Well... because I might." He glanced down at his hands, which were piled on the table in front of him. "And even though this is all happening really fast... I um, I kind of want to know if I do."
There was another beat of silence before Alba heard a short intake of breath, which was followed by a soft, "oh."
Alba felt his uncertainty dissipate, and he strived to keep his blossoming smile hidden. Look who was speechless now, hm. Alba chanced a glance upwards at Ross, chest feeling light. Ross looked like someone had actually physically unbalanced him. Their eyes met, and Alba realized that Ross had quite soundly lost his earlier advantage. The aloof amusement was gone, Ross was just as uncertain as him, it just wasn't in his nature to show it.
Alba actually let his smile be seen this time. His lungs felt weightless, his gut heavy. Ross' expression was already closing in, brows furrowing, but Alba thought that that was okay. He knew.
"What about you," he found himself asking, and Ross quirked an eyebrow. "Are you fine with might, or..."
Ross glanced away. "Oh, that," he said, not quite as indifferent as he may have thought he sounded. "I... I think I've already figured that out." A light flush coloured the tops of his ears.
Alba blinked a few times, mind sorting through that statement. He then had to duck down to hide the grin that spread across his face. This wasn't going to be so bad, he thought. He could do this. Embarrassed Ross was something he could get used to seeing.
"Can I see your hand?" Alba asked, finding his mental footing. He wanted to see if he could get that blush to spread. "I want to try holding it."