She sat alone in her miserable little hide-out. It was a roof over her head, but it was still tiresome to fret over the sound of the ceiling caving in. True, a cave moulded out of dirt wasn’t the most secure place to take refuge, but for overnight it would do. Ruby was on the road, often was, and such conditions never really bothered her until the sheer dependence of her situation was brought out in the form of crumbling pillars and collapsing sticks. Such was her temporary home - and when they suffered, so did her livelihood. It was all well and good being adaptable, but even she got tired.
Suddenly, the redhead snapped alert. What once had been a bored, lazy stupor, arm leaning on her knee, hand cupping her chin as she stared into nothingness, was now a wooden-board-straight sit-up, little hands curling into very tight-looking fists, eyes narrowing to accommodate vision through the sheets of rain pouring outside.
She could have sworn she heard the tapping of something outside; the sound was much akin to footsteps, and Ruby knew that the last thing she needed - now or otherwise - was company. All she had to do was stakeout till morning, then she could move again.
There it was again, and this time she crouched down as if to avoid being seen. It should have been impossible, impossible to see through the dreary weather and the black blanket of darkness that she had so carefully sought refuge in, but the fear was there regardless. Sharp like a knife and cold like ice running rings through her veins. The girl sucked in a breath of air and held it, the silence pounding a maddening drumbeat into her ears as she stared ahead.
The breath she’d been holding was slowly released. Sounds of rushing air filled her ears and for a moment she hated herself for it because the exhalation was loud. But still, nothing of interest caught her eye. There was no reason to fear, there was no reason to panic, there was no reason to---
So why hadn’t the feeling faded?
In times like these, Ruby wished that the world would recognise that such a question was not a cue for something to happen. She didn’t want surprise visits from kind strangers, or a cute little animal scurrying across the floor in search of comfort - in this case, she didn’t want a young man to come stumbling forward into her vicinity, jeans caked in mud and a face that would actually have been quite agreeable if not for the nasty marks spread across it. She didn’t want dirt to be splattered across her front as he fell face-first into the murky puddles below, and she certainly didn’t want him to look up at her and give her a charming smile despite all this.
It was moments like these that all she could do was stare.
“Ah, damn it,” the stranger groaned. It was as if pain had been slow to catch him; as if he was only just feeling the repercussions of such a slip. Either way, her eyes didn’t lighten up at the sound of a chuckle leaving his mouth. “Ah, what? I dirty your coat? Sorry.”
He didn’t sound sorry.
“What are you doing here? Who are you?”
“You ask all the right questions, don’t you?” he murmured, pushing himself up with arms that looked thin enough to be matchsticks. However, such a shove betrayed their strength, a clean sweep of his legs picking him up off of the floor with no trouble at all. “Not a ‘are you hurt?’ or a “’are you okay?’ - you’re straight down to business. I like that.”
Ruby didn’t falter, though her brow pinched a little tighter as her glare hardened. She didn’t want this man to try and smooth-talk his way into making her share. When the stranger noticed that she wasn’t going to loosen up, he sighed a sigh so tired-sounding that it almost reminded her of the weight she carried on her own shoulders.
“Nick,” he answered, after a moment of silence. “Nick Hunter.” The name was spoken as if he detested being called such a thing. She couldn’t understand why - Nick sounded okay to her. Short and to the point, believable, human. She couldn’t fault it.
The silence carried out an unpleasant tune as Ruby looked him up and down, crimson eyes staring as if they could see straight through him. Nick didn’t look impressed.
“This is normally the part that someone tells the other their name in return.”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
This time, the sigh that passed his lips was hefty, “You sure know how to make somebody feel uncomfortable, you know that?”
The young man’s expression made her waver briefly. Getting a look at him in their new-found light - brought on by an uncomfortably close proximity and both pairs of eyes adjusting to the darkness their shadows cast over one another - he was certainly something she’d avoid. Dark hair, dark eyes, and the latest addition to such a set, a dark frown. Dark everything. Like a shadow. A shadow of his former self. Given her current predicament, that didn’t seem like too much of a leap. His jeans were a little ripped, though that was probably from the fall he’d suffered as he’d staggered into her oh-so comfortable haven for the night. His jacket, black as midnight, spoke volumes where his words did not.
“What’s your name?”
It wasn’t friendly this time. Much like a police officer demanding to know information - his face had said a firm goodbye to his playful expression, now he was serious. Seriousness was harder to meddle with and Ruby weakened.
“Not from around here?”
A curt laugh left Nick’s mouth, lips curling up into a satisfied smirk. There was something...off about her, and yet she was so quick to jump the gun. He continued to smirk, shaking his head and raising his shoulders in a half-hearted shrug.
The redhead’s face turned into one of minutes shock before falling to blankness once more. Standing up was easy, though she was shorter than him - only up to his chin in height - and it did nothing to help her case. Her eyes, sharp as daggers, met his in a dangerous clash of feeling.
“It wasn’t a request.”
The smirk only worsened and she felt her own temper flaring up, fighting against the cracks in her calculating façade. She didn’t want to fall behind this strange man, didn’t want him to feel he had any power over her. There was a lilt in his persona, a generally positive trait that anybody else would probably find somewhat empowering...but she didn’t like it one bit.
“You’d better file your complaints. I ain’t moving,” he replied, voice as smooth as silk. However, his face didn’t match the words- he was still amused, yes, that much was obvious, but it was still far too devious for her liking. She resisted the urge to stamp her foot on his, feeling her boot would go straight through if she succumbed to the urge. “What’s so bad about sharing with good ol’ Nick, eh?”
“I don’t know you for starters,” Ruby growled, daggers being thrown at him as she glared harshly. She didn’t know why she hadn’t kicked him out manually. She was sure she very well could;could beat him to his knees. But...would he fight back? He was a man, did that mean he would lash out? She couldn’t be sure, as she said, she didn’t know him. And she didn’t want to. “And I just generally find you annoying. Already. I’m not sharing with you.”
A more soft laugh left his mouth, the man rolling his eyes. His playfulness had come back in full swing and she was lost in the moment, raw emotion threatening to knock her off her feet. He was far too changeable, she couldn’t predict it.
“Relax,” Nick spoke up, finally. “I’m not going to try anything. I’ll even keep my dripping boots on the other side of this place.”
“Have a heart.”
“I’ve been constantly informed that I don’t have one.”
A scoff sounded, a large hand raising incredulously. “Hah! We both know that’s not true.”
And for the first time in quite a while, she wanted to believe it; because the sight of him dripping wet, a puddle around his feet, just made her want to let him stay. To send him out into that rain again... although something she would do, she didn’t want to. It was coming down hard now, pelting the ground mercilessly; she could only imagine how that would feel on one’s head, pounding away against their skull until it drove their thoughts in oblivion, their skin into numbness.
A long sigh was his reply. Though it was the sound of defeat, Nick wasn’t certain as to whether he liked it or not. Pride, victory and a sense of pity were all very different things, but when blurred together with such suddenness that was drawn out from one feeble sound in the dead of night, it was difficult to determine which one he truly felt.
“Just stay away from me,” Ruby finally conceded, moving back amongst the shadows, muddy coat fading into nothingness as she slid back to her previous spot and sat down once more. She should have said no, should have driven him out with her blade if she had to... she could’ve... or so she continued to tell herself.
The dark-haired man watched as she shuffled far back enough to meld with the dirt wall itself, a slight frown on his face as he wondered just who the hell he’d ended up with. She was difficult, that much he could tell already... but was it worth it? There was something she wasn’t telling him, something buried deep within her psyche that he couldn’t access through mere intimidation. Hell, with the way she refused him, especially when in such desperate need, he wouldn’t have been surprised if she was hiding several thing from him.
“All right.” And he wouldn’t be one to deny that. Nick moved his soaked body to the other end of the cave-like structure, taking himself as far into the opposite wall as possible, shedding his dripping coat and sodden boots, grimacing when his sock-clad feet touched less-than-pleasant earth, wet and grimy. It’d have to do - it’s have to, if he ever stood a chance of getting them somewhat dry overnight. “...thanks.”
Ruby didn’t reply. Nick figured she was simply being rude again. But looking over at her, she seemed to have been asleep for a couple of minutes now. She was still sat up, still perched with her knees to her chest and her head resting on them, arms locked around them and mucky coat still encasing her frame. Much like a bat, he mused with a slight smirk.
“Ruby, eh...,” he remarked quietly, lowering himself to the ground, grateful for the dry patch he had managed to salvage in his haste to get comfortable. He propped his head up with his hand, side meeting the cold floor with no protest. “...just who are you?”