Filled with disturbance, I turned away from the mirror, from that bruised, beat up girl that wasn't me, and instead towards the sink. Suddenly, no part of me felt comfortable taking off all my clothes with my own captor in the same room. Underwear could dry fast enough, and it might actually be beneficial to get them clean while I'm at it. Who knew how long it'd be till I'd have another pair…
Dipping one foot in the water, I heard quiet, rhythmic humming coming from the shower, vibrating deep in my chest. I ignored it and sighed as the warm water melted off the ache and pain, and instantly plopped down onto the counter, both my legs now completely immersed in the bubbles. With a deep breath, I dipped myself in the hot soapy goodness, smiling as the water washed over my face and through my hair. Taking another deep breath, I flipped myself completely under the water, opening my eyes to the light blue water swirling in bubbles and wincing slightly at the sting. Memories of summer weather, diving into pools and swimming like a mermaid underneath the water with my sister from when I was ten. Cartwheels and flips in the deep end, Kyle bellyflopping into the pool and writhing in his own ridiculous pain, and feeling special because I could open my eyes under the water with ease...
I swam underneath the water, leaning against the smooth white edge of the sink and running my hands through my hair, watching satisfied as bits of dirt and grease slid off. If I focused enough, I could pretend like I was simply back home, swimming in the deep end of a pool during summer vacation. A very soapy pool.
Kicking my legs, I swam back up to the surface, flooded with relief as cool air filled my lungs once again. The top layer of the water was completely masked in bubbles, not able to see below the water through the masses of white. I scrubbed my face with my hands, cleaning the sweat and tears and everything that had happened in the last day clear from my skin. It was almost orgasmic.
One last time, I dove under the water, enjoying the felling of weightlessness and warm cleanliness, wiping the last bit of grim from my skin and hair. As I surfaced again, I heard a knob turn and I froze, stomach knotting. The shower stopped.
Instantly, I looked around the counter for a towel. Dread slowly began to suffocate my gut. Shit, how could I have forgotten to ask for a towel? I didn't want him to see me practically naked!
The shower curtain swung partly open and I stiffened, watching as an arm reached out from the curtain for a red towel, and snatched it up behind the curtain, taking a moment or two before a very damp Ashton appeared, towel wrapped around his waist. I swallowed, watching as he ran his fingers through his wet hair, curls falling behind his ears sloppily as he stepped out of the tub. Then he looked at me.
My breath caught in my throat as he smirked, beginning to take booming steps towards me. Before I knew it, his enormous, looming figure filled my vision, leaning over the sink, his bare chest glistening with droplets of water. The intense honey and lavender scent consumed me.
“Don't you look all squeaky clean? I can barely see you around all those bubbles.”
He chuckled, watching with amusement as I sputtered, too intimidated to move or say anything. He was just…so…huge.
When he realized I wasn't going to say anything, he reached out a hand over the sink, and my eyes widened, horror twisting my stomach.
“Alright, well if you're done let’s get you all dried off.”
The hand began to lower and I gasped in terror.
Was he really about to snatch me out of the water? I could be naked! I practically was! Nonononono-
“N-No!” I yelped, diving back into the water and swimming as fast as my legs could kick. I soon found myself at the bottom of the sink, pressing my back against the cool surface as I watched the surface in gut wrenching anticipation. What was he thinking? Did he really think I would let him just grab me out of the bath with his grimy hands and dry me off like some kind of plaything?
I heard a dull splash and my face drained of color, a hand diving slowly into the surface of the water, disturbing the crisp layers of bubbles. Its fingers wiggled and stretched, searching widely for me. Shit.
I pressed myself back as far as I could against the porcelain, squirming away as the hand lowered and lowered, till it was only mere inches away. Panicked, I darted away, pushing myself off against the sink and kicking for my life. I stiffened as my foot skimmed the edge of a fingertip.
The hand startled, flicking behind me as it quickly closed in, thumb pressing against my bare stomach the other fingers closed in around me. I instantly struggled against the grip, all air leaving my lungs in a flood of bubbles as I was whipped out of the water immediately. Cold air hit me like a ton of bricks and I coughed and sputtered, the hands unwrapping around me and leaving me wet and heaving in the pad of Ashton's giant palm.
Curling up into a ball, I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered, pressing my cheek against the rough skin to avoid looking at him. The humiliation of being sprawled out soaking wet in nothing but my underwear was unbearable. How did he think this was okay? I felt myself being raised to his face and I curled myself up tighter, wanting to be doing anything else but being half naked completely at the will of a giant monster.
After several moments of him not saying anything, I glanced up at his face, my own reddening instantly as I saw him look down on me wide eyed, eyes trailing over my purple spotted trembling frame. His cheeks flushed slightly pink as his hand slightly curled around me tighter. I just have looked so pathetic then, turned away damp and half naked, covered in bruises quivering like some scared animal in the palm of his hand. But as I looked closer at Ashton’s face, that's not what I saw. His blue eyes were still skimming over me carefully, absorbing every small detail with scrutiny, from the pads of my feet to my face, now completely turned towards him over my shoulder. He was searching me like he had never seen me before, like he hadn't taken me yesterday and spent the entire last 24 hours terrifying me. The pink on his cheeks deepened.
Before I could dwell on that too much, he shifted and I squeaked, taken off guard as he reached into a drawer and pulled out a fluffy white hand cloth, the size of a large comforter to me. Then without warning, he lowered the towel onto me, pushing and dipping the edges against my trembling frame and I gasped, turning and squirming away to try and escape his persistent touch.
“Shh, Rose, quit struggling. I'm just trying to dry you off.”
He walked us over to the toilet, settling down on the lid and leaning over me as he continued to press the towel against me, absorbing the water against my skin.
“I…I can do t-that myself!” I yelped up at him in between presses, fighting for air. Ashton paused for a moment, holding the towel above my frame. My chest heaved and my eyes pleaded with his, alarmed and slightly weirded out by his once again sudden calm demeanor. His eyebrows furrowed down at me.
“No. I need to take care of you. Just look at yourself.”
His eyes traveled over my bruises, looking back up from them to me. His voice quieted.
“I did that to you. I must have. I told you I wouldn't hurt you.”
My heart thrummed in my chest, taken back by his sudden remorse. I thought kidnappers weren't supposed to have feelings. It was odd, and put an uneasy feeling in my chest.
“I-it's not your fault.” I stuttered, barely believing the words that came out of my mouth. Basically, I was just willing to say anything if it meant he would stop looking at me like…that.
“I hurt myself because I fell last night. And yesterday. I'm clumsy, trust me.”
Ashton's blue eyes shot to mine, stunning me. I inched back further away from him.
“No, you wouldn't have gotten those if I hadn't scared you. Why else would you run? And look at you, you're still so afraid…”
Slight hurt sparked in his features for a quick second before dulling again, but I knew what i saw. He actually felt…badly for me.
How the hell could he feel badly for me? Of course it was his fault that I was hurt. Why did I even bother telling him otherwise? I wouldn't have fallen in the first place if he had just left me alone back there in the field yesterday. I'd still be home, safe and sound and a normal color. Anger bubbled up inside of my chest like a tidal wave, quickly replacing my previous semi-forgiveness.
“Of course I'm afraid!” I spat, all calmness and meekness from a second ago completely gone. A stunned expression overtook Ashton's face and he looked at me in alarm.
“I don't belong here! I'm human. You're a giant person, or who knows what. It's unnatural! I have a home and family and friends, I've told you that before. Why won't you listen?”
My voice choked up at the end, just barely squeezing out the last word over the river of tears that began streaming down my cheeks. So much for never crying in front of him.
I took deep, shaky breaths, rising up into a sitting position and wrapping my arms around my knees, looking up at him with ferocity. All he could do was simply look at me blankly, lip twitching at the end and eyes drowning in emotions I couldn't read. After a couple moments, he cleared his throat.
“I'm sorry that's the way you feel, but you've got to trust me. You're better off here. You're safe here. I'm gonna take care of you. I've got you, you're safe.”
More tears spilled down my face, my cheeks heated.
“No! I don't want you to take care of me. I'm 17, I can take care of myself just fine! I'm not your pet, or whatever twisted way you think about me.”
Ashton's eyes pleaded with mine, pulling me in closer to his face. I shivered, feeling more exposed than ever with my lack of clothes and crying.
“Just let me, Rose. Let me have you. I don't know much about you humans, but I want to know. I want to know all about you. I've waited so long...”
His eyes searched for mine and I looked up at him, filled with hurt and wondering why in the world this had to happen to me. I didn't have to say anything, he knew my answer.
He sighed and his bare shoulders loosened, carefully cupping me in his hand as his eyes wandered to the floor, flashes of unreadable emotions flicking across his irises. I took a deep, shaky breath, still curled up on my side and watching him through wet bangs, wiping the remainder of my tears from my cheeks with my knuckle. I stiffened as he suddenly looked back down at me, glancing one last time over my bruises before bringing me up closer to his face, eventually so close that I could practically feel his lips grazing my skin. My stomach lodged itself in my throat and I quickly buried my face in his palm to avoid looking at the incoming face, eyes wide, my heart racing and my mind spinning in confusion.
I felt his thumb graze over my half buried cheek and I dug my fingernails into the leathery surface of his hand and clenched my teeth shut, the seconds dragging on for years. Please don't hurt me…
He held me there for several moments, the heat of his short breaths washing over my bare skin and making me wince with every exhale, as if deciding what he should do next. I was wondering the same thing.
“I'm not going to let you get hurt again. Not ever. I'm gonna take care of you.”
I felt the hushed whisper sink into my skin, my eyes widening as he brought me back down from his face and back to his chest without another word, gathering me against it as he began to stand up. He spoke as if he had experienced hurt himself, his voice twinged with such heartbreak, the obvious, unknown memories had to be there. Who had he hurt…? I laid there silently, repeating his words in my head as I began to feel movements, steps specifically, walking out of the bathroom and back into his room without another word.
In one swift movement, I felt him crash back into his desk chair and bring me away from his chest, the cold air of the room instantly chilling my spine. He brought me down carefully onto the desk, tipping his palm to the side and letting me clumsily topple off onto the glass.
I quickly got to my feet and wrapped my arms around my practically exposed chest, looking up at him as he kept the hand close behind me, the twitches of his skin itching the neck of my scalp.
I stiffened as fingers began ever so lightly skimming my back, trailing up and the ends of my hair. And for some obscene reason, part of me missed the cynical, sarcastic side of Ashton that I was more used to. This part of him was human.
Words wouldn't form in my throat. And even if they did, what work they even be? I was far too taken back by the momentum of all of the giant movements and emotions booming around me, and I had no way to stop it. Overwhelming defeat. It felt as though I would simply crumble into tiny pieces between the creases of the going palm behind me.
Giant blue eyes glared deeply in to me, waiting for me to say something, anything. I would if I could. Everything was silent.
The hand retracted then, and I flicked my gaze up, holding my arms at my chest still bare and exposed from my bath, not to mention absolutely freezing. A small puddle of soapy water was pooling at my feet on the glass surface of the desk. Ashton looked up, well, down again then at me, eyes narrowing, then widening.
“Shit, you're freezing. Um, hold on I'll be right back.”
He stood up abruptly then, tossing the little white towel sloppily onto the desk and I gasped, the desk jolting as his knees bummed against the table before he rushed out the door, a muffled “Sorry!” fading down the hallway. I stood there for a moment, blinking before I quickly snatched up the white towel and heaved it over my shoulders, plopping onto the cold ground as I let the softness and the heat of the towel from Ashton's grip seep into my skin. Where the hell was he going now?
There was no use in running now. I wasn't quite that stupid, plus in complete honestly I was exhausted to tears. Sleep was not really a main factor of the wonderful night I’d had.
I just sat there, enveloped in the massive towel and watching the door carefully as I waited for the familiar rumble of the ground to echo through the halls. They came.
I heard Ashton rush back down the halls, not exactly sure why he was running but that was the least of my worries. The door flew open and I jumped anyway, watching as he fumbled into the room, the towel around his waist thankfully clinging on for dear life. He was holding something in his fist.
Collapsing back into the chair, he exhaled, regaining his breath from his pointless sprint through his own house. The playful fire in his eyes was back, and it put a twisty feeling in my stomach.
Stretching out his fist, he dropped a few things onto the table next to me, different color fabrics floating in layers on top of each other. I flipped over onto my knees to get a closer look. What…the…?
“I'm not sure if they'll fit, but it's some of what I've got. Again, my dad with the human things…”
He trailed off, the corner of his mouth turning up into a smirk as he watched me sift through the clothes, the human clothes.
First the snack sized bathroom stall and now this? How the hell did he, for better yet, did his freaking father get a hold of all these things? Every ounce in me pulsed with the urge to ask him, but getting clothed was currently my top priority. I shuffled through dresses, skirts, jeans, until my fingers felt the familiar, comfortable fabric of a sweater. I yanked it out of the pile, its soft pastel pink texture running over my hands. It looked a tad too big, but that made it all the better. I searched again for some kind of pants, and quickly thought about simply sliding on a skirt, but images of being whipped up into the air by a giant hand, exposing my bare ass for the world to see prevented me from doing so. Finding a pair of loose fitting jeans, I clutched them to my chest along with the sweater, scoring away from the pile to signal I was done.
Ashton chuckled, sliding the clothes to the other end of the table for later.
“Wow, it's almost like playing dress up. Would you like me to dress you?” He drawled out the last part, purring darkly as his eyes sunk into mine. My face flashed red and I vigorously shook my head even though I knew, or rather hoped, he wasn’t serious, clutching the towel closer to my body. He definitely wasn't the calm, remorseful self he was a few minutes ago. I wasn't sure which I even preferred at this point.
Ashton whipped his head back in light laughter, his damp curls tumbling haphazardly, revealing the metal glint of his cartilage piercing. I let out a nervous forced breathy laugh, sliding away from him slowly to distance myself more.
“Have it your way, then. Can't say I wouldn't want it differently.”
My face flushed deeper and I looked down, falling apart under his gaze. Did he really just go from begging for my forgiveness to some kind of weird, demented flirting?
Lord help me.
Ashton looked at me again then, as if waiting for me to do something. I stared at him blankly, sitting there unmoving and holding the clothes on my lap in front of the towel so they wouldn't get damp. He sighed with a smile on his face, crashing a giant elbow onto the desk and cradling his cheek in his hand so that he was leaned over me. Yelping, I crushed the fabric of the towel tighter around myself to keep from fleeing, craning my head at a nearly 90 degree angle to see him.
“Well, aren't you gonna get changed?”
My jaw dropped, staring up at him perplexed. Did he really think I'd just up and change in front of him like some reverse strip tease? I don't think so.
“Close your eyes.”
“But you're already wearing underwear-”
“Just close them!”
He cocked an eyebrow at me before sighing lazily and closing his eyes, leaning into his slightly bent over position.
Geez, the nerve.
Taking one careful glance at him to make sure he wasn't peeking, I turned around and dropped the towel from around my shoulders, letting it fall in a sloppy pile around me. I heard a light chuckle from behind me and whipped back around, relieved as I saw Ashton's eyes still closed.
“Don't worry, I won't peek.”
Huffing, I bit my cheek and turned back around, letting the jeans fall on my lap as I gripped the pastel sweater and slipped it over my head. My collar bone length waves tumbled out of the neck hole as the material completely enveloped me, the layers falling down my torso and slightly over my hands. I was right, it was a little too big. As I tugged it on, and overwhelmingly familiar scent flooded around me, and I paused. It wasn't Ashton's lavender and honey scent, this was something tangier. Almost like tart strawberries. I racked my brain for a source to the scent, but nothing came.
Everything here was so weird. It made me permanently uneasy.
Disregarding my brief scent epidemic, I stood up, the sweater falling just above halfway down my thigh.
“You should just wear it like that. That's baller.”
A voice suddenly boomed behind me and I jumped, shrieking and stumbling around to face an opened eyed Ashton. Jesus Christ.
“Close your freaking eyes!” I yelled, clutching the ends of my sweater in an attempt to pull it down further.
Grumbles of “Okay…okay…” rumbled through his lips as he stubbornly closed his eyes again, smushing his cheek with his palm further like a disobedient child.
He basically was one.
Without hesitation, I slipped the loose jean material up my legs and buttoned the top, the lack of a zipper making up for the row of buttons trailing up to the waist. Huh, mom jeans. Guess anything’ll do.
Running my fingers through my damp hair again, I looked back up at Ashton, satisfied to find his eyes still closed.
“You can open them now.”
Blue eyes flicked open, instantly landing on me almost as if they had already been trained on me even before they were even open. They trailed up and down my frame, starting at my bare feet up to my face, now clothed and clean to my utter relief. A small smile drizzled across his features and I stiffened, my ribs tightening under the heavy gaze.
“Looks like her stuff suits you.” Ashton said quietly, watching me with ease under the pad of his hand.
I paused immediately, letting his light words sink in.