Tumblr prompt: we're neighbours/live in the same flat? and it's raining and you've left your clothes out on the line and its CHUCKING it down.
"For fuck sake, not again!" Lily shouted and aimed a well-placed kick at her dryer, which decided to crap out for the fifth time this month, and promptly collapsed to the ground clutching at her throbbing foot which was probably broken now. It would be just her luck and it would perfectly top off the shittiest day imaginable.
It had even started off terribly, which most of her shitty days did not – usually it was the type of awful that crept up on you, the kind you didn't see coming, that hid behind a normal, every day morning, and then hit you quite suddenly and left you reeling. That was what had happened the day her parents had announced their divorce when she was fifteen. It was even how she had felt when her sister had sent her that nasty text telling her that she was no longer welcome in her wedding party because she had disagreed with Petunia's fiancé's political stance. Fucking Brexiters.
No, today had started out terribly. Today, Lily had woken up late for work for the first time ever, had arrived over an hour late without even being able to stop for coffee on her way in, and had to listen to her god-awful cow of an editor berate her for something which, admittedly, was actually her fault for once.
Usually, when Rita – Ms. Skeeter – went off on Lily, it was for something ridiculous and unavoidable like when the Prime Minister had refused to give a quote to the Daily Prophet during yet another disastrous press conference and Rita had decided it was Lily's fault even though Lily hadn't even been at the press conference.
To make matters worse, she had agreed to meet up with an old friend for lunch, apparently having forgotten that she had cut ties with Severus Snape three years ago for a reason. She had sat through forty-five minutes of him making thinly veiled racist remarks whilst brazenly praising Tom Riddle, a divisive politician about whom Lily had written numerous scathing articles in the past three months alone before she had made her excuses to leave.
She'd had a few minutes to spare before she had to be back at work since she had ditched Severus at the restaurant early and so had decided to stop for coffee. She had thought it would be a good pick-me-up, that it would turn her day around. It hadn't. The barista, a first year uni student by the looks of her, had made her order wrong twice before finally getting it right and once she finally had her cinnamon latte in hand, an impatient man crossing the road next to her had jostled her arm and made her spill her drink all down the front of her white dress.
It was at that point that Lily had pulled her cell phone out of her purse and sent a text to her editor telling her that she would be finishing her work from home for the day. It wasn't worth risking a phone call and having to listen to Rita say something that rubbed her the wrong way. Not today, when God only knew how much more Lily could take before reaching her breaking point.
So Lily had stopped at the shop on her way home, figuring that if a coffee hadn't improved her day, a glass of wine was her next best option. And if that didn't do the trick, then the whole bottle would have to do.
It was only one o'clock when she had gotten home, so she had decided to at least pretend to be a responsible adult and fold her laundry before getting drunk off wine in the middle of the day.
Now here she was, collapsed on the floor with a definitely broken foot in front of her broken dryer full of wet clothing, which was going to mildew if she didn't take care of it right away. Sighing, she heaved herself to standing, tested her weight on her injured foot and decided that, okay, it probably wasn't actually broken, and gathered the wet clothing from her useless dryer.
At least she still had the clothesline strung across her back garden, she thought as she limped out the back door. It didn't take her long to hang her laundry – it was a rather small load and her wardrobe mostly consisted of no-iron dresses. It was quiet work; her fit neighbour's equally fit friend wasn't staying with him this week – not that she paid either of them any attention, honestly – so she didn't have to listen to the friend calling her Red and telling her neighbour she was fit and he should make a move already. Even better, her clothes wouldn't reek of cigarette smoke after a few hours.
Honestly, how he put up with his friend – she had yet to learn either of their names yet as he had only moved in a couple months ago – was beyond her. The one who actually lived there didn't seem particularly happy with his friend whenever he made those comments that were clearly meant to be overheard, and she had never seen him smoking either. She had wondered at first if it was a friendship of convenience, if they had known each other for so long that not being friends was too frightening and foreign a concept for them to entertain. She had been there, once, after all, so she thought she could understand if that was the case. Then, one day, the friend had showed up in a bad way, bloody and bruised and clearly badly injured, and Lily had noticed but definitely not watched her neighbour practically nurse him back to health over the course of a couple of weeks. Clearly there was more there than convenience.
She pondered this as she poured herself a glass of wine. She had friends – there was Marlene, who she had drinks with every Saturday night, and Benjy from work, and Emmeline, with whom she had lunch every other Wednesday, and Dorcas, who had moved to America after uni and skyped in with her and Marlene and sometimes Emmeline once a month – but Lily didn't think there was anyone she was close enough with to have them move into her house for a few weeks, anyone she would be willing to nurse back to health after an accident. All of her friends had families, after all, who they would turn to first.
The worse realization was that she had no one who would willingly do for her what her neighbour had done for his friend. Obviously, her family and her friends wouldn't let her die if anything happened to her. They would certainly check in with her, make sure she was coping well, but she doubted they would so selflessly and willingly allow her to take up residence in their home.
She frowned as she nursed her wine and began to drift off there on her couch, thinking about her friends, whom she loved, truly, but also about her neighbour, whom she didn't actually know but now, half a bottle of wine in and unconsciousness overtaking her, could admit she wanted to.
Several hours later, she woke to the sound of rain pouring down outside. It was dark now, not because it was late – it was only about four o'clock, according to her iPhone – but because of the thunderstorm. She stretched, arms above her head, feet reaching towards the arm of the couch, and then rolled to her feet. Pulling the blanket off the back of the couch as she made her way towards the window overlooking her front garden, she wrapped herself up nice and cozy and smiled for the first time that day.
She loved the rain, always had. She loved how everything slowed down, all but stopped, outside when she sky opened up. She had always been fond of curling up in a window with a blanket, a book, and a steaming mug of tea and losing herself in a different sort of world. After the day she had endured, that seemed like the only fitting way to spend the afternoon now.
A dark figure caught her attention before she could turn away to fetch her kettle and she realized with a skittering heart that none other than her mysterious, fit neighbour was sprinting through her garden. She watched, stunned, as he leapt up onto her porch and stood there for a moment, arm outstretched, fist frozen above her door. She waited, hidden behind the blinds, as he fought some kind of internalized battle and finally rapped his knuckles against the door, a quick, firm, loud, confident sound. After a brief pause – she didn't want to betray the fact that she had watched him the entire time – she opened the door to peer up at him.
He wasn't wearing his glasses. That was the first thought that crossed her mind. They kept a fairly similar schedule, leaving for work around the same time every day, and he usually returned home about a half hour after her. On her days off, she usually still woke up early out of habit and took her coffee out on her front porch just in time to watch him leave his house for a run. She saw him every day, at least once a day and although they had never spoken, she had still noticed that he never left the house without his glasses on. Glasses were probably pretty useless in the rain, though, she rationalized.
"Hello?" she said softly when he merely looked at her. She ran her fingers through her hair, wondering why he looked almost dazed at the sight of her. She hadn't looked in the mirror before she had opened the door, but she probably should have; it wasn't as if she had a tendency to wake up looking flawless.
"Er – hi. Sorry," he shook himself off and Lily couldn't decide if he was shaking off the rain or the daze. Either way, it was a dizzying mixture of adorable and incredibly sexy. His normally messy hair was plastered to his head even though he could only have been in the rain for all of ten seconds. He suddenly thrust his hand towards her and Lily shook it with a bemused smile. "I'm your neighbour. James. Sorry, I'm wet."
"It's okay," Lily smiled when he pulled his hand back on an embarrassed smile. "I'm Lily. Pleasure to meet you."
"Yeah, you too. Did you realize it was raining?" When she raised her eyebrows because obviously, he dragged his hand through his dripping hair and shook his head, looking slightly embarrassed. "What I mean is, your clothes are still on the line and I don't think it's proper drying weather at the moment."
It took a moment for her to understand what he was saying. When she remembered her broken dryer and the clothesline out back, she swore heartily and turned to rush out the back door. It was rude, probably, leaving him standing there at the front door without saying a word, but she needed to save her clothes. There may not have been many clothes hanging, but she had definitely thrown her favorite bra and knickers in the wash last night before bed and she didn't fancy the idea of leaving them out in the rain for God knows how long.
She rushed out the back door and started ripping clothes from the line, not realizing that he had followed her until he already had half of the load in his arms and was ushering her back inside.
"Thanks. You didn't have to…" she trailed off, mortified, when she realized that at the very top of the pile of clothes in his arms sat her overpriced, but very beautiful and favored black-and-cream lacy bra and knickers.
He seemed to realize a moment later what had caught her attention. His eyes went wide and he thrust his arms forward, offering for her to take her unmentionables back. She hesitated, arms already full, and nowhere to put her sopping clothes, before gesturing for him to just drop the clothes on the kitchen table. He did, and she quickly dropped her half of the load on top hoping that the saying out of sight, out of mind might apply here. Judging by the redness creeping up his neck, though, that wasn't going to be the case.
"Why do you dry your clothes on the line?" he blurted out and it was so obviously word vomit that she wondered if the question had been niggling at the back of his mind since she had strung up the line or if he had simply said the first thing he had thought of in an attempt to clear the awkwardness.
"My dryer is a traitorous piece of shit," she told him. "Not only does it occasionally refuse to dry my clothing, it also attempted to break my foot today. When I kicked it, that is."
He laughed at that, rubbing the back of his neck as he studied her. "Well, you seem to be doing okay."
"Yeah, I'm a right trooper," she said.
They were quiet for a moment, only the sound of the rain outside filling the silence. This wasn't exactly how she had imagined their first meeting going. Not that she had fantasized about meeting him or snogging him or sleeping with him or anything. She definitely hadn't dreamt about it and woken up in the middle of the night panting and frustrated and wanting nothing more than his head between her thighs, his hips cradled between hers and having to make do with only her hand. Except that she definitely, absolutely, embarrassingly had. Just last night, in fact, which, in hindsight, may have had something to do with why she had overslept this morning.
"Did you want a cup of tea?" she offered, voice unusually high-pitched.
"Oh, actually, I can't right now. I'm sorry," he said, and he did actually sound regretful. "I've got to get home."
"Oh, no, that's fine. Of course you do!" she exclaimed, and led him back to the front door. "Thanks so much for reminding me about my laundry. You're a lifesaver."
"Of course. It's not a problem." He opened the door for himself and started to walk outside. He paused on the threshold, his hand still on the doorknob, and turned to look at her, the rain pouring down behind him and spoke in huge rush, as if he was afraid of missing his one shot at… something. It was charming, in a nervous, boyish sort of way.
"Did you maybe want to use mine? My dryer, I mean. It's not a traitor, in fact it's been quite loyal to me so far. Always gets the clothes dry, if not a bit wrinkled, but I think that might be my fault – I'm shit at folding." He stopped himself, took a deep breath, and ruffled his damp hair. "I have food, too, if you were hungry."
"What kind of food?" She asked, a smile playing on her lips.
"Beg pardon?" He was staring at her lips. She thought he realized it at the same time she did because he cleared his throat and immediately refocused his attention on her eyes.
"I mean, are you cooking food or do you have take away or is it frozen dinners or…?" She was only giving him a bit of a hard time. It wasn't like she had particularly high standards – she survived on a diet of frozen dinners and take away for the most part herself, and had already decided to go over to his house anyway for the use of the dryer, and the promise of dinner and maybe, if they were both lucky, something more.
"I'm cooking." When her eyebrows shot up, he grinned. It transformed him from awkward, uncertain, and adorable to full-blown sexgod. "I cook. Tonight I'm making Eggplant Parmigiana. That's actually why I have to get home. I've left the oven on."
"Oh my God, you're serious. You actually cook. Like Italian food." Not only was he fit and kind and caring and adorably awkward and sexy, he could cook. She almost asked him to marry her right then and there.
"Yeah." He nodded, that sexy, cocksure grin still playing at his lips. "It's actually ready to go in the oven already. I just need to cook the pasta and then…"
He trailed off when she turned away from him, marched over to the kitchen table, and scooped up her dripping clothes. The table was wooden, and it was soaked, and she should definitely be a responsible adult and dry it before it, too, was ruined, but she didn't. She turned and met him at the door, reveling in the way his expression changed from bewildered to elated when he realized that she was taking him up on his offer.
"Oh, wait." She hesitated, eyeing her keys on the table next to the door, and he took her laundry from her without being asked so she could lock the door and follow him next door.
His house was warm and brightly lit and surprisingly tidy when she walked in. She followed him through the foyer, past the living room and the dining room, through the kitchen, and into the laundry room, which was easily the messiest room she had seen so far. There were clothes piled on top of the washer and the dryer and at least three pairs of running shoes scattered around the floor. At least everything seemed to be clean judging by the fresh scent of the room.
"When you said you're shit at folding…?" She trailed off when he straightened up from loading her clothes into the dryer.
He looked around and cracked a shameless smile. "I guess I meant I just really don't do it often."
"It is the worst part of doing laundry," she said.
"Yeah, it is." He turned away from her for a moment to start the dryer and rummage through the piles on top of the appliances. When he turned back to her, he handed her a jumper and a pair of sweatpants. "Here. You might want to change into dry clothes. I promise they're clean."
She hesitated for a moment before she took the clothes – she would look ridiculous seeing as he was easily a foot taller than her, but she also really didn't want to sit through dinner in a wet dress.
"Thank you," she said softly when he led her to the guest bathroom so that she could change. She watched him disappear from view, heard the stairs creaking as he ran up them, and assumed he was going to change into something dry as well.
She leaned against the door for a moment after she closed it, taking several deep breaths before looking in the mirror and oh God, she was still wearing her coffee-stained white dress. For a moment, she could do nothing but stare in horror at her reflection. Then, she started laughing, deciding that other than crying it was the only acceptable option. After several seconds of self-deprecating laughter, she stripped out of her wet clothes and pulled on James's clothes. A glance in the mirror assured her that, no, she did not look any less ridiculous than before. She took a deep breath, rolled her eyes at her reflection, and turned to leave the room.
When she walked out of the bathroom swimming in his jumper and sweats, her sopping hair piled up on top of her head, he had already changed his clothes, started boiling water for the pasta, and was pouring two glasses of wine. He looked up when she walked into the kitchen, and froze, staring at her. She wasn't a naïve schoolgirl; she knew she was attractive and she knew what it meant when a man froze up like that at the sight of a woman in his clothes.
She watched as he carefully thought through his next move – they were both aware at this point that this night could very well set the tone for all of their future interactions. He finished pouring the wine and then walked over to her, handing her a glass. When she raised a questioning brow, he shrugged. "I saw the bottle in your living room. Figured you wouldn't mind another glass."
He smiled when she clinked her glass against his and took a sip. She smiled when she realized they apparently had the same taste in wine. "I love a good Chardonnay."
With one finger, he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, drawing to her attention the fact that he had put them on while she was getting changed.
"Me too. Technically, it's not the best wine to pair with a red sauce, but it's my favorite and I knew you liked it, so I…" he trailed off when she stepped closer, set her wine down on the counter next to him and then surged up on the tips of her toes to press her lips to his ever-so-briefly.
"Sorry," she said, blushing when he only stared at her. She backed away quickly, shaking her head with the sudden realization that that may have been wildly inappropriate. "Oh, God, I'm sorry. I just… I've wondered what it would be like, and… shit, I'm sorry. Do you have a girlfriend? Oh, God. I've just realized I don't know anything about you."
"No, no, no." He rushed toward her, his hands closing over her clasped hands. "I just didn't expect… You're beautiful and… Fuck it."
He leaned down towards her and kissed her, his lips lingering far longer than she had. When he pulled back, his glasses were slightly askew, but he didn't seem to care, choosing to cup her face in his hands instead of fix them. "I don't have a girlfriend, and I have been wondering what it would be like to kiss you as well, ever since I first saw you. You're just very attractive and I'm incredibly shit with women."
She smiled up at him, resting her hands on his hips. "Well, you seem to be doing okay."
In answer, he kissed her again, more enthusiastically this time, pushing her up against the counter. She wanted him to lift her up, set her on top of the counter, press himself against her. When he didn't lift her up, she pulled back, boosted herself up to sit on the counter, and drew him in between her legs. He groaned deeply and slipped both of his hands under the jumper he had given her.
When he cupped her breasts, her head fell back. There was a sudden violent hissing-popping noise that was definitely not coming from either of them.
He pulled away from her quickly, grabbed the pot of water on the stove, and moved it to a different burner. His chest was heaving and he was looking back and forth from her to the water with comically wide eyes.
She laughed and shook her head. "Let's put this on pause, yeah?"
When he looked like he wanted to protest, she jumped down from the counter and lifted her glass of wine. "I want to watch a man cook. It'll be like foreplay."
"It's pasta," he said, his voice much gruffer than before. "Not much cooking there."
"Hey, I am one of those people who can burn pasta," she told him, figuring it wouldn't really matter to him that she couldn't cook – a man who cooked when he didn't know he had anyone to impress was a man who enjoyed cooking and therefore did not need a woman who could cook. When he grinned at her, she knew she was right. "Give me this."
He studied her for a moment and then shrugged. "I am hungry."
Grinning, she watched over the rim of her glass as he moved purposefully through the kitchen. When he caught her gaze over his shoulder, she bit her lip. This could be the start of something really, really good.
Today was a good day! I asked for prompts on tumblr and actually got some! Lol.
I wrote this quite quickly. It kind of took on a life of its own and grew into something I did not expect. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading :)
Oh, if you want to follow me on tumblr and talk to me or anything, I'm jlyyall