Number 97 – Safety First

It wasn't just the booze that had made them think building a small fire in Shelly's bedroom would be a good idea. She could barely even remember what, exactly, they had been on. But for some reason, both of them had got the impression that the room wasn't just a bedroom. They had decided they needed to be warm.

X X X

The party was in full swing. The flat was heaving with sweaty bodies, a few people attempting to dance in the living room. Music blasted out over Shelly's speakers, strategically set up around the place. Scarlet sat, cross legged, just in front of the arm chair. Dai sat behind her, knees either side. She tilted her head back, eyes half closed, and smiled at him.

He winked back.

Across the room, Jade was swinging her hips, eyes darting, every so often, towards Mel. Sapphire sat on the floor against the wall, knees pulled towards her chest, her head nodding along with the music.

Shelly appeared in the doorway, clutching a bottle of beer. She took a long swig, eyes slowly roaming around the room. Seeming satisfied, she walked forward and sat down beside Scarlet.

"Having fun?"

"Sure." Scarlet smiled, nodding slowly. "Great party, Shelly."

There was a squeal from the kitchen, and Shelly got to her feet. "Better check Gareth isn't being a prick," she said, rolling her eyes before sliding easily from the room.

People moved in and out, passing drinks and other things around. More than once, Scarlet found herself accepting a joint off some stranger, before handing it over her head to Dai. The drink was giving her a nice buzz, and the weed only added to it. Eventually, she grew bored of sitting and pulled herself to her feet.

Scarlet stumbled, falling back and landing on Dai's lap. Her boyfriend laughed, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her closer. He nuzzled her neck, kissing it gently before she felt him bite. Squealing, Scarlet wriggled, adjusting her position to half turn to look at him.

"Can't wait to get home," she whispered, leaning in to kiss him. She felt his lips form a grin, and pulled back.

"Me either, baby."

"Let's dance." She pulled his hands off her and got to her feet, pulling him up with her.

"Aw, come on, you know I can't."

"Your mates have arrived," she said, nodding her head to the door. The three stood awkwardly, glancing around. Wolf was the first to peel off, a huge grin on his face as he crossed the floor towards one of the girls sitting on her own, sipping at a drink. Robbie and Andy both waved at Scarlet, and forgetting the urge to dance, she let go of Dai's hands and skipped towards them.

"Hey!" she cried, throwing her arms around Andy's neck. "What took you guys so long?"

Andy peeled her hands off him, as Robbie held up a plastic bag. The cans and bottles inside rattled, and Scarlet's eyes widened as she grinned. "Booze!" She reached in, grabbed a can and yanked it out, scanning the side. "Ugh. Did you only get beer?"

Dai plucked the can out of her hand, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "It's called a beer run for a reason."

"You even old enough to drink, Robs?"

Robbie rolled his eyes. "Eighteen two months ago, Scarlet. Remember? You got wasted?"

"Maybe that's why I don't remember." The attempt at a whisper didn't work. If anything, her voice got louder. "Must have been a good night. Did you have fun?"

"Sure."

"Good. Good!"

"You tried to get Sapphire to sleep with me."

"I'm a good friend, aren't I?" She grinned, leaning into Dai. "Dai, baby, I feel like dancing."

Andy shook his head, smiling as he glanced around the room. He grabbed the bag from Robbie. "I'm going to make sure these find a good home. See you guys later."

"Bye!" Scarlet grabbed Dai's free hand, and pulled him into the middle of the room. She was laughing as she danced, pulling Dai towards her as she moved. She leant into him, kissing him just below his ear, before whispering, "Do you love me, baby?"

"More than anything, cariad."

The word sent shivers up her spine. She ran her hands down his chest, smiling as she tilted her head back. "Love you, too."

He grabbed her hand, kissed her quickly and began to pull her towards the door.

Scarlet laughed. "Dai! Where we going?"

He didn't say anything, just smiled as they came out into the hallway. He glanced at the different doors, before stumbling towards one and pushing it open.

They were in Shelly's bedroom, and they were not alone.

Gareth sat on his sister's bed, legs crossed. He glanced up and grinned at both of them, gesturing for them to join him. There were others in there, some gathered on the bed and others on the floor. All of them looked out of it, and one had a huge smile stretched across his face.

"Hey." Gareth nodded at them, before turning to one of the guys sitting with his legs stretched out on the floor. "Dude, give them some, too. Scarlet will love it."

Scarlet giggled, as Dai pulled her down onto the floor. "Love what?"

She sat on his lap, his arms around her waist, as the guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small packet. Scarlet leant forward, Dai squirming underneath her as her weight shifted.

In the packet were a few brightly coloured pills. Red, green, blue and white.

"They look like Smarties," she said, grinning as she held her palm out. The guy laughed, opened the pack and tipped two out. "You have the blue," she said, twisting herself and holding her hand to Dai. "I always have to have the red one." She said it the same way a child would say Santa was real. Full of conviction, like it was the most logical thing in the world.

Dai winked at her, before slamming the palm against his open mouth. He washed it down with his beer, and Scarlet copied his movement, downing her vodka and coke. Gareth climbed off the bed, bent down and grabbed her glass.

"I'll get you two some drinks," he explained, before leaving the room.

Scarlet shifted until she was comfortable, checking every few seconds with Dai to see how her weight on his lap was affecting him. When they had found a position both were happy in, he wrapped his arms around her waist.

Gareth returned, handing Dai a fresh, cold beer, and giving Scarlet back her glass, now full.

"Ta, darling," she said, stretching out the syllables as Gareth climbed out the maze of legs to sit back on the bed. "Gareth, when you playing next?"

"Next week. With you, remember?"

"Oh, yeah." She began giggling, falling into Dai and wriggling down so her head was in his shoulder. "You and the boys going to come watch, baby?"

"Always there, aren't I?" They kissed, and groans went up from the others. Scarlet laughed, sat up straight and twisted her body around, falling off Dai and onto the floor in the process.

"We should play a drinking game," she announced. She had kept hold of her drink during her slight fall, and somehow managed not to spill a drop. "How about…" She scrunched her face up. "Think while you drink! Band edition!"

"You guys are going to name a bunch of local ones, aren't you?" one of the girls, sat on the end of the bed, said. Scarlet grinned.

"Yeah! To my left." She jerked her head that way, grinning as she stared at the boy. "Minor Talent. Your go!"

The boy rolled his eyes. "Do we have to use the last letter?"

"Yep!"

"All right. Tenacious D."

"What about bands with 'the'?" the girl, due next, asked.

Scarlet glanced at Dai. "Forget it?"

He nodded. "Sure. We usually don't use 'the'."

"Okay. Yeah, so 'the' doesn't count, if it's t."

"Good." The girl grinned. "The Darkness."

"Silverchair."

"Rancid."

The next person lifted their drink, gulping it down as they struggled to think. Finally, with a grin, he brought the drink down and announced, "Def Leppard."

Gareth frowned, drinking from his can. It took him a while, but eventually he came up with, "The Damned."

"Jesus. Someone get us off d, already," Scarlet said, shaking her head.

The girl next to Gareth laughed. "I'll try, but I'm really shit with music."

"What are you doing here?" Gareth drawled, rolling his eyes.

"You invited me, dipshit," she replied, before drinking. Gareth leant towards her and whispered something in her ear. The girl frowned, drawing the drink away. "Err, Depeche Mode?"

"Eels," the next guy drawled, the guy who had given Scarlet and Dai the drugs. A large grin stretched across his face. "Too easy."

"Slayer."

"Err…aw, crap." The guy grabbed his beer, cupping his lips around the bottle. Scarlet laughed. He finished the drink, shook his head and got to his feet. "Fuck this. I'm out." He slid from the room, Scarlet booing as he was joined by a couple of others.

"Yeah, sorry, sounds like the living room is more exciting."

There were still a few of them left, and the game had jumped to Dai.

"Come on, baby," she whispered." Don't let me down."

"How could he not think of Ramones?"

"Sick String Crutch!" Scarlet said, punching the air and grinning as she winked at Gareth. He laughed.

The game continued, slowing down in most places as people struggled. They began to leave, one by one, heading in search of drinks or music.

"Gareth," the girl on the bed whined. "I want to dance."

"All right," he said, getting to his feet and helping her up. "See you guys later." He nodded to Scarlet and Dai, and soon they were the only ones in the bedroom.

Scarlet crawled across the floor, kneeling in front of Shelly's bookcase.

"That girl has way too many books." She ran her fingers down the spines, trying to think of the different places Shelly was taken to when she opened them up. She shivered and glanced at the window beside the bed. "Dai, baby, is the window open?"

Dai climbed to his feet and leant on the bed, towards the window. "Nope. You cold?"

"Yeah." She turned back to the books, eyes darting from one to the other. "She has everything," she whispered. She squealed when Dai's arms wrapped around her waist, picking her up easily and dropping her on the bed. Still laughing, she turned her head to look at him.

Frowning, Scarlet sat up, head turning right and left. "Dai…how the hell did we get here?"

He knelt on the bed, leaning over her as he began to kiss her neck. "How'd we get where?"

"Dai!" she groaned, closing her eyes as his lips trailed up her neck. "No, Dai, seriously, look!"

She gently pushed him back, her eyes wide open now as she looked into his face. His eyes were dull, a half-smile on his lips.

"Dai, why are we in a forest?"

He lifted his gaze, looking over her head, and frowned. "We're not. Scarlet, it's a desert."

Sand stretched away from on all sides, and in the distance he thought he could see pyramids. His mouth suddenly felt dry, and he titled his head back to see the sky was dark. He began shivering. "Scarlet…" he whimpered.

She leant forward, wrapping her arms around him. She rested her chin on his shoulder, staring out at the trees surrounding them, stretching far above them. The bed was in the middle of a clearing, the floor littered with leaves and branches.

"It's okay, baby," she said. "We'll get out. We'll find our way back."

He shook his head, clinging onto her. "You still cold, cariad?"

"Freezing."

Dai took a deep breath, pulling away from her. Scarlet instantly drew her knees up, resting her chin on them as he inched back. He looked around for a few seconds, before digging in his pocket.

Her eyes lit up as he pulled out his lighter.

"We need to get a fire going. We can get moving in the morning."

"Okay." Scarlet climbed off the bed, smiling as she scooped up a pile of twigs and branches, putting them in the middle of the floor. "Not near the bed!" she said, handing her hand out for the lighter. He passed it over, staring at the branches.

"Why the hell are there branches in the desert?"

Her head snapped around, looking at him like he was crazy. "Don't be stupid, Dai." She got to her knees, and flicked the lighter on. A grin lit up her face as the first branch flared. "Well, that was easy."

The others followed suit, the fire spreading rapidly.

She re-joined Dai on the bed, and he wrapped his arms around her as they watched the dancing flames.

"You are beautiful, cariad," he whispered. "See the stars?"

She tilted her head back, smiling as she stared up. The sky was pitch black, pinpricks of light staring down at them. "Yeah. They're lovely."

She yelped when the sharp ringing seemed to pierce her ear drum, clutching tighter onto Dai.

"Dai…" she whimpered. "That sounds like a fire alarm…"

"Aw, shit," he said, eyes fixing on the door as it swung open. The desert dissolved as Gareth stepped into the bedroom, eyes wide, Shelly right behind him.

Scarlet gaped at the fire on the floor. "I wondered why the wood lit so easily…"

"Those are my books," Shelly said, before screeching, "My fucking books! They lit my books on fucking fire!"

"I thought we were in a forest…" Scarlet muttered, feebly, as Gareth turned away from the bedroom. Others had gathered now, staring at the fire with wide eyes.

Dai began to laugh. Shelly shot him a glare, and Scarlet started, too, giggling as she clung onto Dai.

Robbie slid forward, ripped off his jacket and threw it over the books. "Aw, shit," he said, as the jacket caught on fire. Gareth shoved past the crowd, carrying a jug full of water. He threw it over the pile. It hissed and spluttered, and the flames disappeared. A few of the books still glowed, embers shining. He stepped forward, stamping on them, as Shelly began to cry.

Finally, the fire was out, and he turned to his sister, gathering Shelly in his arms.

"We'll pay it back." Dai was clearly trying to hold back his laughter. "Shelly, I promise we will pay you back for every single book and…"

"Get out," she growled, turning away from her brother's chest to stare at them. "Both of you. Just…get out!"

Scarlet scrambled off the bed. She swayed as she stood, glad when Dai appeared at her side to hold her up. Robbie and Andy stood with the rest, Sapphire and Jade just behind them. She kept her head lowered as she squeezed through the crowd and out into the corridor.

The guy who had given them the drugs leant against the wall near the door. Scarlet glared at him.

"What the hell did you give us?"

He shrugged. "Just some stuff to give your imagination free run. What did you see?" He grinned at them, and Scarlet resisted the urge to slap him. The laughter had gone from her. Dai held her as they made their way out of the flat. They were joined by the others, Wolf running to catch up with them as they got to the lift. Sapphire let out a low whistle.

"Well…don't think any of us are going to forget that."

Scarlet turned into Dai, grapping the bottom of his jacket. "Shelly hates us, doesn't she?"

Awkwardly, Jade patted her back, while Andy and Robbie shifted awkwardly where they stood. The lift doors pinged open and they climbed in.

"What the hell possessed you to set fire to her books?" Wolf asked, and when Scarlet turned to him, he was grinning. "Aw, come on. It was pretty funny."

Dai rolled his eyes, stroking Scarlet's hair back. "It'll be okay, cariad," he whispered. "Honest. No one was hurt, were they?"

"We could have been." Her head jerked towards him, eyes wide. "Jesus, Dai, how many times since we started going out have we almost got each other killed?"

"We're still standing, aren't we?"

"Just."

The lift stopped, and they climbed out. Together, they began to walk in the general direction of home. For Dai, that meant the dingy little flat he shared with Robbie. Andy and Wolf rented not far away, and the girls had their own, slightly nicer flat closer to the city. They'd need a taxi to get there, but more often than not, they'd stop at Dai's for a few and order one from there.

Scarlet clung to Dai's hand during the walk, all of them silent. It was still the middle of the night, the moon hanging overhead and the stars blinking down at them.

She ran her tongue around her mouth, cringing at how dry it felt. Wolf swigged from a bottle, but everyone else had their hands stuffed in their pockets.

"Aw, cheer up, guys," Wolf said, staggering from side to side. "Was a good night, wasn't it?"

No one answered him.

"Sapphire," Scarlet said, turning to look at her friend. "Mind calling a taxi? Phone's dead."

Sapphire nodded, not saying anything about the usual drinks-at-Dai's, and stepped away from the group as she dialled. Jade raised an eyebrow, as Scarlet went to move forward. Dai grabbed her wrist.

"Scar?"

The others glanced at them, and Scarlet waved them away. With a shrug, Wolf carried on walking, the others following close behind.

Her head was thumping as she turned to look at Dai. She could feel the pinpricks of tears in the bottom of her eyes, as she forced herself to look at him.

"Stay over?" he said, almost pleading. "Like you usually do. Stay over?"

"We're destroying each other, Dai," she whispered, pulling her wrist out of his grip and wrapping her arms around herself. "Every time we're together, it's drink this or take that or do this and…and…" Her voice was shaking as she stared hard at him. "I love you. And I love those guys like brothers. But how much longer can we keep doing this?"

He stepped forward, wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into him. He kissed the top of her head. "Forever, cariad. It's me and you. If we're not meant to be together…"

She planted her hands on his chest and pushed him back, stepping away from him and glancing down the road. The others were gathered outside the flat. She watched as Sapphire nodded, and drew the phone away from her ear.

The others seemed to be making a lot of effort to find something else to look at.

"It's…" She turned back to Dai. "We're going to end up killing each other."

"I love you," he said, as if the words could solve everything. "Scarlet, I love you. More than anything else."

"I know." She took another step back. "Dai, I know, but…if we keep this up…" She let the words hang in the air, as she watched him.

The sadness on his face turned quickly to anger. He turned and stormed off, arms swinging as the others moved out of his way. Wolf, Andy and Robbie glanced at the girls, who shrugged, and followed Dai inside. Scarlet fell against the wall behind her, hanging her head. She heard Jade and Sapphire, heard their footsteps on the pavement, and felt Jade's arm around her shoulder.

"What happened?" she asked, as Scarlet fell into her.

Scarlet didn't say anything. She let the tears come, and let Jade hold her, as she wondered what the hell she was supposed to do next.

A/N: Number 97 on the 100 Theme Challenge List! And yeah, this is a prequel of sorts to Minor Talent and Riding In Vans With Angels. Italics up top are from RIVWA. If you liked it, feel free to check out RIVWA. As always, reviews are very much appreciated, and are returned. And if you have a moment, there's a poll on my profile page that could really do with some votes. Ta very much, and hope you enjoyed it.

Oh, and a special message from Dai & Scarlet -

Don't do drugs, kids! Otherwise you might end up wondering where the hell you are and setting fire to a girl's well-loved book collection.