She’s always been a light sleeper, so the dip and rise of the mattress, and the sudden loss of furry warmth against her back is enough to bring her halfway out of her slumber. The confused, half-whispered cursing that follows moments later pulls her fully into the waking world, and she sits up in her bed with a jolt. Vex closes her eyes and tried to slow her breathing enough to hear over her erratic heartbeat. There is little she knows for sure except for the fact that there is a voice coming from her living room, it is male, and it doesn’t belong to her brother.
She swings her feet over the side of the bed and into the unlaced boots she always keeps nearby- after all, you never know when there will be an earthquake, or a fire, or apparently a strange man in your apartment. Her fingers scrabble along the wall above her bed, closing around an ornate archery set which she pries from the mounting. It’s only a prop, a replica from her favourite movie, but the intruder doesn’t have to know that.
She creeps almost silently towards the door, back pressed against the wood paneled walls of her bedroom. It occurs to her that Trinket hasn’t made a sound, despite running ahead of her to greet their unwelcomed guest. She was already planning on giving the bastard a good scare and a few bruises, but if he’s hurt Trinket he’ll be in for a lot more than that, she thinks to herself venomously.
Fake arrow notched in her fake bow, she swings around the corner of the doorframe, doing her best impression of someone who knows how to actually use a bow. The front room of her apartment is lit with dim moonlight filtered through gauzy curtains, silhouetting a figure that seems to be half leaning on the arm of the couch, his arm extending towards Trinket who is braced in front of him.
“Who the fuck are you?” She growls out, secretly pleased with how menacing she manages to sound.
The figure spins around to face her, and she can’t quite keep the smirk off her face as he jumps back in shock, tripping over the couch as he does so, to land rather comically on his ass. She takes this moment to hit the lightswitch on the wall behind her with an elbow, blinking rapidly as the harsh light floods her vision, but never taking her eyes off the figure sprawled on her carpet.
What strikes her first is that he’s young. Well, around her age actually, but for some reason she’s always imagined intruders as pervy old men, so he’s young by comparison.
The second thing she notices is that he’s cute- in a lanky, dishevelled, needs-a-good-night’s-sleep kinda way. Which has absolutely no bearing on the fact that he broke into her house, of course, but at 3am the brain tends to mix up its priorities a little.
She also notes, with both relief and disappointment, that Trinket has proceeded to engulf the man in a wet, furry, slobbery embrace. So much for a guard dog, she thinks wryly to herself. But then again, Trinket is an excellent judge of character, so perhaps the man deserves a chance to explain himself.
She takes a couple steps toward the man, releasing the tension in the bowstring as she lowers her weapon. For his part, the man finally seems to have recovered from his dramatic tumble, sitting up and eyeing the arrow warily as she brings it down to her side. Before she can repeat her question, he looks up at her quizzically.
“Is that usually how you greet your guests?”
He flicks his gaze back down to the still-notched arrow, making his meaning clear. His voice is an odd juxtaposition of a drunken slur and the poised lilt of the overly educated.
Vex isn’t quite sure what to make of him, but his unflappable pompousness is surprisingly endearing. Still, she has the upperhand here and she’s determined to keep it.
“I don’t remember inviting a scrawny drunk man into my house,” she quips back coldly, a challenging glint to her eye as she strokes her thumb along the arc of her bow, “so I’d hardly consider you a guest.”
“Fair point,” he concedes, inclining his head to the victor, “but still, is that even legal?”
The nerve of this guy.
“You know what’s not legal,” she begins, irritation starting to creep into her voice, “is breaking into someone’s apartment at 3 in the fucking morning!”
Trinket seems to have finally clued on to the tension in the room, backing away from the man as Vex glowers at him.
Perhaps what this man needed all along was a firm hand, because the minute Vex begins to raise her voice, a look of contrition crosses his features.
“Right. Of course. I apologize,” he replies immediately, seemingly working hard to keep the slur out of his voice. “I thought this was my friend’s house. She lives in this building, she extends me the hospitality of her couch when I’m, uh, not able to make it home for whatever reason.”
He ducks his head in a way that makes Vex pretty the ‘reason’ is usually a similar state of inebriation. Her lips quirk up slightly at how the man manages to be so eloquent despite his current state.
“I must have gone to the wrong floor… or maybe just the wrong door, I’m not sure, it all looks the same. It wasn’t until I encountered this fellow-” he sticks his hand out and Trinket, the traitor, moves in for another head pat. “-that I figured I wasn’t quite in the right place.”
Now convinced that the man is more of a danger to himself than to her, Vex places her bow down on the coffee table beside her, taking a seat on the arm of the couch.
“It’s funny, actually,” the man continues, more at ease and quickly slipping back into his initial slurred speech, “you keep your spare key in the same place she does… and really, if you think about it, since I used a key I didn’t break in exactly-”
An unflattering, involuntary snort of laughter bursts from her mouth before she can stop herself. The man looks up at her, wide-eyed, obviously not expecting this reaction.
Vex just shakes her head and rolls her eyes. “You’d get on great with my brother,” she tells him dryly, “the two of you could debate the legality of breaking and entering from your jail cell.”
She pauses in thought for a second before she continues. “That’s if he didn’t kill you for breaking into our place first. You’re very lucky he’s out of town for the week.”
A tiny part of her winces internally at her stupidity for revealing this information to a total stranger. She may as well have put an ad in the paper saying ‘young lady, alone at home, seeks man to relieve her of a box of jewellry and a nice TV’.
But she can’t quite bring herself to be scared of this man, who has yet to move from his slumped position on her floor, and is currently petting her all-too-cooperative newfoundland.
“Has anyone ever told you your dog looks like a bear?” He asks, head tilted curiously to one side as he digs his fingers deep into Trinket’s fur.
“How do you know he’s not?” She jokes, deadpan.
The man furrows his brow. “Because sensible people don’t keep bears as pets,” he retorts, but he doesn’t sound entirely convinced of his own logic.
She smirks and shrugs in reply, not inclined to set the record straight.
A moment passes in silence between them and she knows she should ask him to leave, but Trinket so enjoys a good head scratch, it would be cruel to cut it short. At least that’s what she tells herself as her eyes travel over the strange man in her lounge.
His hair is shockingly white, his figure lean but muscled, his eyes red and surrounded by dark circles in a way that can’t be explained by a single night of heavy drinking. He wears expensive, well tailored clothing, but his shirt is creased and untucked carelessly. It’s difficult to get a read on this man, not a single moment since they met has gone they way she’d expect.
He turns to her suddenly, glazed but intelligent eyes meeting hers. “I’m Percy, by the way,” he introduces himself. “I have a much longer name but I can barely say that when I’m sober.”
“Vex’ahlia,” she replies with an amused grin.
The man- Percy- begins getting to his feet, trying and failing to stand with any grace whatsoever. “Well, Vex’ahlia,” he says, and she is surprised by the little thrill she gets as her name crosses his lips, “I should be going.”
He finally manages to haul himself into an upright position. “Once again, I’m very sorry for the intrusion, and I do appreciate you not shooting me on sight. Rest assured in the future I will check the apartment number thoroughly before entering.”
He takes barely two steps towards the door before his legs give way, and Vex dives to catch him, if for no other reason than to prevent him from knocking over a very expensive lamp.
Her hands grasp at his shoulders as she counterbalances his weight with her own, leaving her face to face with the handsome young man. She blinks twice, equally as startled by their proximity as he seems to be with his gaping mouth. Another tension-filled moment of silence passes as she gathers her wits and he gathers his equilibrium.
“You won’t get far like this,” she points out, stepping back but not releasing her hold on him.
“I only need to get down the hall… or maybe to the next floor,” he replies almost defensively, but he doesn’t technically disagree with her assertion.
She sighs and pushes his shoulders slightly, angling him so he falls back onto the couch to his left. “Just… stay here, I’ll get you some water.”
She glances at Trinket meaningfully before stepping towards the kitchen, returning moments later with a large glass of water.
Percy is exactly where she left him, sitting awkwardly on the couch, but now with Trinket’s head on his lap. She pauses for a moment, unnoticed, watching as he removes his glasses and rubs his eyes tiredly. She feels her own tiredness creep back in as she remembers the time. Making a split second decision, she turns back down the hall to her brother’s room, pulling the spare blanket from the foot of his bed.
She hands both the water and blanket to Percy, who looks startled and confused.
“I’m tired, and I don’t want to wait for you to sober up enough to leave,” she says, her tone less harsh than her words. “You can sleep here, one couch is as good as another.”
When he simply continues to stare at her, she rationalizes further. “Trinket likes you, and he’ll get all mopey if I just kick you out. Besides you’re scrawny, and I sleep with a bow. Just- just don’t steal my TV, okay?”
A grin works its way across his face as her words become less and less dignified, but she’s made her bed and she’ll lie in it.
His gentle chuckle as she finishes almost makes it all worth it. “Thank you, Vex’ahlia,” he says earnestly, eyes echoing his gratitude.
“Vex,” she corrects impulsively, and he smiles at the olive branch of familiarity.
“Vex,” he repeats, soft inflections in his voice that makes her stomach tingle.
Brushing off her sentimentality, she makes a show of grabbing her bow from the coffee table, giving him a final playfully warning look over her shoulder before she shuts the bedroom door behind her.