HE SMELLED GOOD
I tucked a strand of my hair behind my ears and let my eyes drift down to the floor. They stayed there often, on the floor. It was the only thing worth looking at. It didn't change much, and when it did change, you could expect it. You knew what was coming. Perhaps a knothole here, a crack there, a strange grain pattern. It was easy. Easy was what I wanted right now. Easy was the last thing I was getting.
His loud laughter echoed. I winced to myself. It hurt. Hearing him hurt.
"Yeah, bro!" he cackled. He was very near. I made sure my eyes were nowhere near him. The floor was suddenly very hypnotic, and I couldn't tear my attention away. "You're so cool!"
There was more laughter. His wasn't a part of it. He was the one that had told the joke, and so the others laughed. That's how it went. Those were the rules. I could practically see his smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. It was swoon-worthy to be sure
Footsteps thundered. The rumble extended to my soles. They had to be at least three feet away now. My teeth sank into my lower lip.
"Hey, kiddo," he muttered. A large hand dove into my hair and ruffled it. Tendrils showered down into my face, and a smile exploded onto my lips as I swatted at the palm. The smile felt weird. It felt real. I wasn't used to smiling for real anymore.
The tiny shriek that fell from my tongue was girlish and cute. "Get out of here!"
"You don't brush your hair anyway," he joked. "I'm making it look better."
"You're not one to talk about hair," I turned to him. His bright blue eyes immediately seized my gaze, and I had to literally drag a breath through my mouth to get anywhere. "You're a ginger."
"Ooh, the ginger card!" he gasped and clutched at his chest. "I didn't think you could sink so low! Where has your dignity gone?"
"It flew out of my hair when you messed it up," came my answer as my fingers smoothed out the area that he had turned into a rat's nest. My insides cried as I did this. I wanted to glue it like that, keep it sealed like that forever. He had come in contact with me, and that was enough to set me on fire. I was so pathetic that I wanted to frame the strands he had touched.
"You love it," he said. Then, he slid four of his own fingers into the side of my tresses, where the roots met the scalp. He pushed it gently away from my skin. I could feel my eyes grow ten times their natural size as the side of his mouth pulled upward.
And then he turned back to himself.
"Holy shit, my hand is the size of your face!" he exclaimed. The touch disappeared, and my vision was eclipsed. I snapped back to reality to realize that he was measuring his appendage with the size of my face. My fingers wrapped around his thick forearm, and I yanked and pulled, trying to wrestle it away. I knew that if he left it there any longer, I'd have to test to see if my fingers fit as perfectly between his as I imagined they would.
"What the hell?" I giggled. When he relinquished, I tossed him a faux pout. "You're so abusive!"
"The only one that has to worry about abuse is my girlfriend," he smiled at me. "When I hit you or verbally torture you, that's known as being a jock. Just for your information. I've got to keep my bitches in line."
"Since when am I your bitch?" I folded my arms.
His grin grew wider. He loved to torment and tease me. "Since I said you were."
"Right," I grumbled. My mood was abruptly plummeting at the mention of his girlfriend. "How about you get out of here and go have your girlfriend make you a sandwich?"
"That's your job," he said with a shrug.
I smacked his arm. He jumped and clutched his bicep, but the grin didn't leave his face.
"Out," I pointed toward the door.
"What are you going to do if I don't leave?" he stuck his face right up to mine. Our noses were within millimeters of touching. As he spoke, I felt his breath strong against my lips. Everything was ripped from my mind.
"I…I…" Oh, come on, this wasn't fair. I was rendered helpless.
"Hmm," he pondered aloud. "Miss Short and Sassy has lost her wit it seems."
"Have not!" I protested like a five year old. With an angry grunt, I shoved at his broad chest with both of my hands and all my strength. He moved backward, out of my personal bubble, but his palms clapped over my hands and maneuvered them to clasp around his neck. Then, he wrapped his own arms around my waist and tugged me close to him.
"Comfy?" he asked. My eyelids fluttered strangely, erratically. I could feel the way my chest heaved randomly and crazily against his torso. There was really no comparison; he was miles taller than me. Looking up at his face was like looking up into the sun. I was nearly blinded by the shining perfection.
"Yeah…" I panted. That wasn't supposed to come out, and he seemed to realize this. His orange brow furrowed slightly as his icy eyes glinted oddly. But he didn't let go. I never wanted him to let go.
"Yo, dude, stop raping the poor girl," a voice said. Apparently his friends decided that we were interesting enough for their attention. "We've got other shit to be doing."
"Right," he mumbled. He didn't look away from me just yet. A gentle tug on his shoulder did the trick, though. His arms receded back to his sides, and he walked out of the room. My heart thundered in my chest, louder than the screams and howls of the football team outside, which was fantastically impressive. Air still seeped pathetically through my lungs. It was almost a conscious action now. The effort appeared to be more work than the reward. I returned my gaze to the floor. The shiny hardwood floor winked back at me in the bright lighting.
"No, Jesse, I don't want to," I complained. The tugs against his brute strength were doing absolutely nothing, but it wasn't as though I wanted them to. Warmth pulsated everywhere from where his hand had clamped down upon my forearm. Although it would've been ten times more enjoyable if he wasn't dragging me in his wake.
"I don't care," he said simply with a smile.
"I don't even want to go," I protested and gave another yank. His grip tightened. I threatened to swoon.
"I don't care," he said again.
"Please, Jesse, come on," I pleaded. I gave into him and just continued to rest my weight away from him, hoping to slow him down. My hope was wasted. He kept plowing on like a…well, like a plow.
"You're going, and that's final," he answered me. "I don't care if you want to or not. Even if you have a miserable time, you, little missy, are going."
"Jesse!" I whined. Another gentle tug. Again, nothing. "He doesn't even want to go with me!"
"Are you kidding?" he barked, throwing his head back in a strange, short cackle of sorts. "He's done nothing but talk about you! If you don't go with him, I may have to get him a cardboard cutout and send him running along with that."
"Then do that and leave me out of it."
"Mm, don't think so. That would defeat the purpose, my dear."
"What's the purpose, Oh Great Wondrous One?"
"For you to actually go. And because you're a girl, you wouldn't go without a date, am I correct?"
"Then we shall find you a date!" And he plucked on faster. "Do not fear!"
"But I don't want to go with him!"
"Then who do you want to go with?" he asked. I froze. My tongue grew thousands of pounds heavier in my mouth, and it was a struggle to even breathe. I wanted nothing more than to blurt out the truth. It would end this whole mess. But it would just start another one.
"That's none of your business," I snapped, planting my free hand upon my hip. He glanced over his shoulder at his little captive with a ponderous look.
"Jesus, mood swing?" he commented. "PMS much?"
"No," I scowled. "You're just nosy."
"You're right. Next time I plan on asking you a question, I should nail you to a chair and torture you until you answer me, is that right?"
"Well personal answers are none of your damn business anyway!" I said, a bit loudly I may add. He halted in his tracks. My body tensed, but there was a mischievous glint in his pretty blue eyes as he peered down at me.
"It seems as though I've displeased you," he announced. Then, he dramatically clapped his hands on either side of my waist. Shivers exploded through my body, and I nearly collapsed. I could've sworn his lips pursed slightly at the tremors that shook me lightly, but his face soon disappeared, as he swept me off my feet and tossed me over his broad, strong shoulder.
"Oh my God!" I shrieked. "Put me down, you big brute!"
"I don't think so, honey," he chuckled. "How else am I going to get you to Matt?"
"I have legs you know!" I wriggled beneath his iron-like arm that clamped me to him, but I got nothing out of it. "And I don't have Polio!"
"Well, you weren't making use of them a few seconds ago, so drastic times call for drastic measures."
"Let me go!" I squirmed again. He just laughed loudly.
"You're acting like I'm raping you!"
"You may as well be!" his laugh was getting to me. It was only a matter of time before the quivers in my tummy exploded into full out guffaws.
"Eh, I wouldn't mind that," his shoulders shrugged under me. "And it's not rape if you like it."
"Just put me down, Jesus Christ!"
"You're not religious. Shut up." And his fingers dove into my side, irritating my most ticklish spot. My legs began to flail at a million miles an hour.
"Stop it, you asshole!" I screamed. Laughter wasn't even a question; now I was wondering if he would stop before I burst into tears of hysteria. Over the roaring in my ears, I could hear him begin to cackle as well. He tickled me harder.
"I'm not delivering you to Matt in poor humor!" he called over my shrill cries. After a few moments of tears streaming down my cheeks, he pulled his hand away from my side and whipped me down from his shoulder. Instead, he cradled me to his broad, be-muscled chest. By far more favorable than the shoulder, but this still wasn't helping my situation. The way he shook against me with his own laughter felt incredible, and listening to him was like hearing a chorus of angels. I sighed in satisfaction, and my attempts to mask it were poor.
"Better?" he asked me.
"Yeah," I breathed. "Much."
"Good," he said. "Cause here comes Matt. Hey, Matt, hold up buddy!" And he started to jog. For a quick moment, I buried my nose into the fine crevice between his pecs, but I had to drag my face away. The scent of him was nearly overpowering me, and if I didn't get myself together, I would certainly throw my arms around him and kiss him with everything I had.
"What's up, Jesse?" a voice questioned. When we slowed to a stop, I peeked up from his hold. Before us stood Matt, a tall, lean basketball player that was both nice and nice-looking. Almost every girl fawned over that luscious brown hair and those jade-green eyes of his. I didn't. And he liked me. Kind of.
I was a little messed up.
"So remember how you were freaking out over wanting to get Kara to the prom?" he blathered. A sudden, shocking shade of red overcame the boy then, and his green eyes stood out even more against the color.
"Uh, well…er…" he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. "It wasn't exactly…"
"Oh, don't even bother," he interjected harshly. "Well, here she is, signed, sealed, and delivered. You going to ask her or what?"
"Err, sure…" again, he flushed beet red, but managed to fix his pretty eyes on me. "Kara, would you like to go to prom with me?"
Well, the kid definitely had balls; I had to give him that. And he was certainly sweet, so there was absolutely no harm in me saying yes. I wanted to go to prom, in all actuality. Exactly seven guys had asked me so far, and exactly seven guys had gotten rejected by me. They weren't the guy I wanted to ask me. But, as I stared into the adorably embarrassed face of Matt Sanchuck, I realized that the guy I wanted to ask me would never ask me. He would never ask me what I'd always wanted him to ask me. It was now or never.
"Sure," I grinned weakly. "Yeah, absolutely."
He beamed. "Really? Well I'll…I'll pick you up at seven, then!"
"Sounds great," I nodded once.
"Sweet," he turned a shade lighter, his mortification seeping away at my acceptance. "I'll see you then. Later Jesse, bye Kara!" And with that, he trotted down the hall, his basketball shorts flapping against his muscular thighs.
"See you then," I heard someone mock. My eyes drifted up to Jesse, and he had his striking blue orbs crossed and his delectable mouth twisted into a strange sneer. "God, he thinks he's such a bro."
"Okay, what??" I threw my hands over my head. One of them almost smacked him in the face, but I took care in avoiding damaging any part of that lovely asset. "You just offered me practically as a human sacrifice, and you don't even like him??"
"He's alright," he mumbled grudgingly. "He just really wanted to go with you. And you would go any other way."
"I may've gone alone."
He looked at me dubiously. "Kara. Come on."
"You know me disconcertingly well."
"Of course I do," it was his turn to beam down at me, and he held me tighter to his torso. "It's my job."
"Wow," Matt breathed when I opened the door. "Kara you…you look amazing…"
"Thanks," I giggled nervously. "You look good, too!" He really did. A classic black tux could never fail, but Matt seemed to work it better than anyone, matching with my icy blue dress. His tie glinted back at me like a glacier. Surprisingly enough, the color managed to bring his grassy eyes out even more, turning them into strange beacons of sorts. With a start, I realized that I should've chosen a green dress to match the very same eyes that I was looking into now. But upon realizing this, I also was aware of the reason that I chose this dress. It matched not Matt's eyes, but someone else's eyes, the eyes that I'd wanted it to match when I was looking for something to wear.
My parents snapped pictures wildly. After each endless photo, I complained softly, begging them to let me leave. They did it right there on my grand porch, using the black silk night as a background. Of course, with each click, they needed just one more. And then another. And another. After ten minutes, enough was enough.
"Okay, Mom," I said. "Dad. That's enough."
"Oh, but sweetie, just one more," Mom said for the third time.
"Mom." I stared her down, my eyes pleading with her to understand. A fog of comprehension graced her brow, and she nodded slowly.
"Alright," she conceded. "But back by midnight, you hear me?"
"Sure, sure," I grumbled, and sprinted with Matt right behind me to the limo. It took all my willpower not to dive into the vehicle. But as I slid into the black car and scooched next to the person I was destined to sit next to, I couldn't have been happier.
"Damn, girl," a voice whispered. "You're a stunner!" My head snapped back, and I saw the pair of gorgeous blue eyes gazing down at me. They matched my dress to perfection.
"Thanks, Jesse," I grinned, breathless. My hands shook as they smoothed out the skirt on my outfit. The twitches were mirrored in the fabric, causing it to tremble in time with my appendages.
"Well?" he prompted. I looked up at him again, confusion clear in my expression.
"Well what?" I asked innocently. He crossed his arms unhappily and let out a harrumph.
"You didn't comment on my outfit," he grumbled. I had to bite my lip to keep a smile from whipping across my mouth. But as I appraised his lovely black tuxedo, I was knocked breathless. The kid was usually in a sweatshirt and jeans, and whenever we hung out, the attire didn't change. Seeing him dressed to perfection was outright shocking. I could nearly see my reflection in the shine on his shoes.
"You look great, Jesse," I said quietly. Even he could hear the strange tone to my voice, and he peered down at me, his brow furrowed slightly. I gazed back at him with wide, clear eyes. Neither of us spoke for a few moments.
"Oh, c'mere you," he mumbled softly, and threw an arm around my shoulders and pulled me against him. My head fell happily against his own shoulder as a grin dawned on my lips. He smelled good. He always smelled good, but tonight he smelled really good. It took all my efforts not to pass out from giddiness.
"Hey, now," a voice interjected. "Don't be stealing my prom date, Jesse." It was meant to sound casual, a joke, but the subtle hostile ring didn't go unnoticed.
"Wouldn't dream of it, slick," he murmured in response to Matt. He didn't bother to try to hide his sarcasm. As I listened to the rumble in his chest as he spoke, I could almost see Matt's face. He would be slightly startled, not sure how to receive his clear challenge, but he wouldn't say anything. He would just sputter uselessly because he wouldn't want to anger the large and good-looking boy.
"I…I…uh…" came his stutter. Then, there was the sound of material brushing against material, and it was clear he had crossed his arms and settled rather angrily into the limo seat. The rest of the three couples in the vehicle burst into laughter and jeers.
"Sometimes I wonder about you two," a musical voice laughed. My gaze could just barely catch Jesse's girlfriend Melinda on his other side. Her smile was wide and pretty with her perfect teeth, and a delighted flush tinged her cheeks. She was having a great time, it was clear. Her dark blue eyes glittered in a way that made that painfully obvious. I couldn't understand why she was in such good humor, but it scared me. Here I was, locked in Jesse's embrace, stolen from my own prom date, and there wasn't a trace of worry in her expression. Was she that confident in their relationship that he would never, ever even dream of leaving her? The thought made my stomach pitch. I buried my face into his chest a little.
His large palm traced my bare upper arm comfortingly. I sighed.
This was getting really old, really fast. The prom was four hours long—something that should've been outlawed in the first place. We were already three hours into it. At first, it had been a blast. Our massive group of friends danced together, laughed together, joked together, the usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. But unfortunately, we had all come with each other, and after a while, a few minds decided to stray to their partner. We began to break off in twos, and the number plummeted down until it was just me, Matt, Jesse, and Melinda standing there. That was fine with me. I wouldn't have minded in the least if Matt and Melinda decided to depart with each other. But of course, that wasn't about to happen.
Then, Matt decided to get an idea.
"Hey, want to dance?" he asked me. I looked at him dumbly. There was the answer that I wanted to give—which was a big, fat no—and then there was the answer I had to give.
"Uh…" I mumbled, torn between the two.
"Let's give the lovebirds some privacy, Jesse," Melinda said to him. I was certain that the statement was meant to be between just the two of them, but the music was so loud that she had to yell to get him to hear her.
"I'm just fine right here," he answered. There was no look of defiance, only a look of innocence. I was about to smile adoringly at him, simply out of sheer impulse, but his girlfriend took care of that for me.
"Aww," she cooed. "Let's go, we'll have our own fun." And she successfully yanked him away from us. A string of curses volleyed from my mind over to her, but I highly doubt she heard any of them. Surely, she pulled him away for Matt and my benefit. She was that type of person. But for the time being, I decided to tuck that knowledge away and let my jealousy simmer for a bit.
But there was no opportunity for that. A pair of hands grabbed my hips.
"Finally, alone," Matt murmured.
"Yeah…" Sure, Matt. Sure.
FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER
I wasn't going to kill this kid, I wasn't going to kill this kid, I wasn't going to kill this kid. I had to remind myself that killing people was, in fact, illegal. There should've been some sort of an exception to that rule.
I really did not like Matt right now. It had been at least three songs, and we'd danced together for all of them. I was getting restless. I was getting restless and thoroughly unhappy. Frankly, he wasn't the one. I know, I know, call the cliché police, but I couldn't help it. It was weird to be with him. It didn't feel good. I was on the verge of being grossed out, actually. Where was he? Where was he hiding?
"'Scuze me, buddy," a deep voice said. "Can I cut in?"
I peeked over Matt's shoulder. Apparently, he wasn't hiding at all.
"Yo, bro, what the hell?" Matt complained. "You were the one who got me this date."
"With my best friend," he pointed out calmly, a tranquil smile on his face. "Now, if you don't mind?"
Matt stopped dancing with me and looked him full in the face. "And what if I do mind?"
"Wow," he laughed. "Wow, really? Come on, bud, just chill out. I wanted to grab some time with my bestie. You can go jam with Melinda, if ya want." He gestured over toward a girl standing in between two masses of people. Her hands were clasped delicately before her stunning red dress. She would've looked positively gorgeous if it wasn't for the look of disappointment and sadness on her lovely face. I almost thought it was the I-just-got-dumped expression, but I was certain that I was hoping for too much. But when the three of us looked to her, she forced a weak smile onto her shiny lips.
"You know," Matt thought aloud. "I may just need to take you up on that." He didn't stick around any longer. Before I could blink, he had the petite girl in his arms. And before I could take a breath, large hands took me by the waist. My eyes snapped up and clashed with the icy blue gaze of Jesse's orbs.
"Hey there," he chirped and pulled me against him. I just stared up at him, unsure what to do. But it seemed as though he was game for helping me out.
"This is what you're supposed to do," he assisted me. His fingers wrapped around my slim wrists and secured them around his large neck. I was immediately thrown back a month, the first time I let anything slip, the first time I accidentally hinted that being just friends was beginning to wear on me.
"Comfy?" he asked. It seemed as though he was right there with me, following me a month ago, joining me in the memory.
"Yeah…" I admitted again. A soft grin pulled across his face.
Abruptly, the song changed. A sluggish, melodic beat drifted through the speakers. It was a slow song. Some devil—or was it an angel?—had conspired against me, forcing us together in this hideously romantic moment, this moment that belonged in the movies. This moment that belonged in the very movies that I'd watched over and over again, that I watched as I begged and pleaded with God to let that scene manifest into reality, starring me and Jesse.
Jesse laughed loudly. "Well, if this isn't fate, then I don't know what is!" I looked away from him, feeling my skin begin to burst into flames.
"You're blushing…" he said quietly. Something was brushing against my cheek then, something that was attached to his palm. His fingers guided my face up to look at him, to look him full on. I couldn't guard my expression quickly enough. He wasn't looking at me anymore. He was looking inside me. I felt horribly exposed, horribly easy to read, ripped open for everyone to see.
But that wasn't any different from every day with him. He knew me better than anyone else. He could always read me with natural ease. I was always exposed with him. I was always ripped open for him to interpret at his leisure.
Then, without warning, he bolted down and shoved his lips against mine.
I didn't even have time to freeze. I didn't have time for anything. I didn't even have time to relish the feeling of him against me. He pulled away too quickly. We gaped at each other, eyes massively wide. It was like staring at the moon when I looked into his blue orbs. They were beautiful, radiant, life-giving. I blinked slowly, retardedly.
"Oh shit," he said. "I'm so sorry." He tried to yank away from me, but my arms held fast. For once, I was able to overcome his excessively Hulk-like strength. When I tugged forcefully against his efforts, he stopped and peered down at me, expression a mixture of embarrassment and shock. I extended myself onto my tiptoes and pulled a little at him, because I wasn't tall enough to fully reach him. He leaned down a bit, and I kissed him again. A quick, soft, unsure kiss.
When I returned to my normal height, he followed me down, unwilling to let me leave. One of his arms locked around my waist while he wound his fingers into my hair. Then, with a small smile on his face, he pressed our lips together again.
He was warm. He was strong. He tasted nice. He was knowledgeable. He knew what he was doing. He was in control for the most part, which was how he liked it. He was soft. He was gentle. He was experienced. He was careful. He was reckless. He was sure of himself. He was insecure. He was assertive. He was polite. He knew everything about me and knew everything I needed.
Oh, and he smelled good.
"We're still friends, right?" he hissed into me. I loosened the vice-like grip I had on his bright orange hair enough to release one hand. Instead, I used one finger to trace the contours of his strong face. We both broke out into grins.
"Best friends," I murmured. Then, he yanked us back together.
A/N: My horrific attempt at fluff. I know I haven't written in a while. I've been pretty busy. I wrote this to get back into the swing of things. Looking to tackle Step-Lover again while I'm here :D.