Disclaimer: Not mine. Not at all.
Roger was in his element in the dark, dingy… well, shed was the only word for it. Feathers and blood covered his boots and the floor as he pulled, plucked, moved and manipulated the dead animals, all from the recent hunt, and he tried to make them as pretty as possible.
They had to be pretty, or the parties in the shoot wouldn't want to take them.
Two knocks on the door of the shed and Roger jolted out of his skin, almost dropping the ball of twine he was using to bind the legs of the poor pheasants that were hanging from the ceiling.
"Roger?" The soft voice filtered through the door, cracks in the wood and the frame making it clearer than it would have been, "Are you still in the dark?"
"S'easier." He muttered back, still disbelieving the voice that was echoing through his throat. Since the island, it had only been six months, but it felt like years. He had had a growth spurt, his voice had finally, terminally broken so that he didn't suddenly squawk mid-word, and his face... well, more than one girl in the small village had turned to look at him for a time that he didn't know what to make of.
"Easier?" Now she was opening the door and looking at him, peering from the bright summer sunshine into his dark, enclosed space.
"I don't have to look at them." A small smile graced his face and he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "Urgh." And he didn't think he'd eversay that about having blood on his face.
"Why do it?" She put her hand out to help him from the shed - though he didn't need it, he took it, feeling the small softness of her palm and smiling to himself as her lips curved upwards. "If you don't like it, why do it?"
"Money? Boredom? Repentence..." He whispered the latter, looking down at his feet, "Anything, really, it just gets me out of the house."
"You live with the Robertsons? I thought they were a good family?" She paused, "You know, very kind."
"They are," He blushed as he realised she had a basket on her forearm. "You brought lunch?"
"No, silly, I bought an empty basket to fool you!" Her sarcasm made him laugh. Very few girls around here dared to challenge him, and at least this one made him laugh. "Come on. Surely you'd like something to eat?"
"I need to wash..." He gestured at his face and hands, "I need to go back to the house-"
"Let's go down to the river? We can clean up there?" She laughed, pulling him by his filthy hands down to the banks of the tiny river that bordered the property.
"Ellie!" He tried pulling back, only succeeding in making her stumble and laugh even harder as she doubled her efforts to pull him across the grass. "Come on, Elinor! Don't be so rough!"
Rough. Pull. Wash in the water. In the streams, splash your faces away from the drinking water, boys. Don't dirty it. We need it clean to drink.
Still she pulled, but this time when Roger pulled back, he yanked hard enough to bring her to her knees, spinning her in a half circle as he gazed back at her and looked down into her eyes.
"I told you, didn't I?" He crouched, leaning on one knee and balancing his elbow on the other one, still staring at Elinor and baring his teeth in a semi-grin, semi-scowl. "Stop pulling me. I'll come on my own time." He couldn't understand why he was reacting this way, but he knew if Elinor didn't stop pulling at him, he was going to do something he would regret.
"You're..." She breathed out through her nose and bit her bottom lip so hard that Roger worried for a half second that she would draw blood. "You're holding me too tight." She didn't want to tell him she was in pain. She wondered if he would relish it, from the look in his eyes. The little shimmer in the darkness of his pupils, the way he seemed torn between grinning and growling... and that. The twitch of his fingers as he found her racing pulse in her wrist and let out a low rumble in his chest. Not quite a growl, but not a sigh, either.
"I-" Roger dropped his head and looked back up at her, all traces of the insane gone as soon as they had come. "I'm sorry," His grip relaxed, and he went to let go, but in turn she gripped his fingers again and dared to lace his fingers with hers. "I shouldn't hav-"
"It's okay." A murmur in the darkness, words Roger hadn't heard in far too long. "You didn't... it didn't hurt so bad." Her lips split into a smile and he squeezed her fingers just a little too tight. He looked away from her hand up to her face and was surprised to see a flash of pain in her eyes.
"Am I..." He looked down at their intertwined hands as he helped her to her feet, "Am I hurting you?"
"A little," She conceded after a moment, pulling her hand away and squeezing her fingers together in an attempt to regain the feeling in her fingers. "But... it's not so bad." He smiled at her again, offering his hand with the fingers together, so that their fingers clutched against each other's palms. "You're a little sticky." She said softly, a laugh colouring the tense air between them. "Shall we?" She left the question hanging in the air.
"Let's." He nodded blithely, allowing her to lead him across the damp grass towards the fast flowing water. She didn't pull this time, instead running her thumb across the back of his hands in what she thought was the most innocent of ways. His body stiffened as her lips parted in the hot air and she tugged him down to his knees at the banks of the creek. Setting the basket down, her hands dipped into the water, and she washed the sticky blood from her fingers, watching him to see if he would do the same.
"Roger?" He had frozen. She wasn't sure why, or how, but he hadn't moved an inch, and he was staring into the water as though he had seen a ghost. "Roger?" She nudged his shoulder with her own, and suddenly she was on her back in the grass, Roger's hands either side of her head and his face merely inches from hers. Without stopping to ask for permission, he took a deep breath and placed his lips against hers. Hard. She tensed at the sudden contact, but soon relaxed into the sensations of his lips against hers.
His hands dropped down her body faster than she could push him away, fingers pushing at the hem of her skirt and making her body tense under his hands. She whimpered at the intrusion and it was the sound that seemed to bring him back to reality.
"Back off!" She called, pushing at his shoulders and scrambling her body away from his. "I'll scream!"
"I-I..." He had nothing to say, couldn't work out the words. It was like his brain was no longer submitting the right messages to his mouth, instead throwing him all the wrong actions, making him do all the wrong things. He ran his hand over his face in exhaustion and took a deep breath. No blood, no painted faces. He was safe, at home."I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me... you just looked... it's no excuse." He stood up and began to walk away from her, his head hanging and his shoulders hunched.
Watching his retreating back, Elinor considered Roger's hunched form, the way that he seemingly refused to be part of the village community, even part of a friendship that, she would go as far as saying, was blossoming. She knew of what had happened to him - all of the children in the village had - and with them being the same age, her mother had warned her that the new boy might be bad news.
Part of her was afraid of him - the part of her that had come alive at the way he had pressed her into the floor and held her there with arms that had a strength she definitely feared - and part of her liked him. Really liked him. To the point that she had brought him to the small patch of grass by the river to have lunch. To the point that she had bought lunch with the ration stamps that her mother had been saving, and she would probably be in utter hell for it later.
And now he was walking away. Damnit. Though she desperately wanted to go after him, to reassure him that it was all right, half of her never wanted him near her again. She couldn't face him when she hadn't got a clue which side of his personality she was about to see.
"R-Roger?" The word stuck in her throat, but it was loud enough for him to turn around and look at her. A half smile flicked across his face, and she fought the smile that tried to rise up across her face. "Please... sit and eat?"
"No." He shook his head and refused to return to her, "I-I can't..." Another pause, "I don't want to hurt you," She pulled her hair back into one hand and squinted at him a little, "Ellie, I won't."
"B-but-" She pulled a face and watched him as he stood, "I'm not afraid, Roger."
"I am... and maybe you should be." His voice was soft, almost too quiet for her to hear his words.
"Why are you scared, Roger?"
Because I don't know who I am. Because I want you to know me, but I don't know myself. Because I want...
"I'm scared I'll..."
Can I be cheeky and ask for your thoughts?