A/N: This one has been sitting on my hard drive for ages. It needs some polishing up, but I thought, what the heck; I'll put it up. It's based on the Brazil scenes from the Incredible Hulk 2008.
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters or settings in this story. It is an exercise in creativity only and is not to be used for profit in any way.
In the end, all she got was a kiss. It wasn't even a proper one; more of an afterthought than some show of great passion; a gesture meant to thank rather than profess love.
She still thought about it sometimes.
The life of a day laborer was dull at best and dangerous at worst. The din of the factory echoed in her ears even after she left, and the sickly sweet smell of corn syrup clung to her clothing. Still, a job was a job, and she suffered the indignities 6 days a week, scraping pennies to make ends meet. She ignored the low whistles, the blatant advances and even the inappropriate touches. But there was something about him she couldn't ignore.
He was an outsider. Everything from the color of his skin to his gait marked him as such. "Gringo" they called him. He kept his head down when he walked and only spoke when spoken to. The other men were content to ignore him and he was content to be ignored. If he noticed her gaze following him, he never mentioned it. She studied the flawless efficiency with which he worked, watched his foreign blue eyes crinkle at the corners when he concentrated on something. She marveled at his intelligence, the way he always seemed to be able to fix whatever had broken, the way his childish Portuguese improved each day. She wondered what brought a white man to Brazil alone and whether she might ever summon enough confidence to ask.
He lived above her. He never had friends over, no visitors. He trudged home from work everyday, climbed the uneven stone staircase and shut the door. Through the open window she could hear the sound of his one luxury, a television set. She would sit at the kitchen table, absentmindedly scrubbing her nails or peeling vegetables, and listen. He always watched children's programming. If she strained, she could sometimes detect the low sound of his voice repeating phrases. She imagined the shape of his mouth molding to accommodate the alien sounds of a language he did not know. The words were rough and chipped, an unpolished sound, like the noise a pushcart made over the cobblestones. She grew to love it, to long for it in the lonesome hours of the night after the television had been turned off and even the dogs were sleeping.
She debated for days whether to go up and knock on his door, but thought better of it. She settled instead for listening to him go through the routine of his night, realizing that he was a man who valued his solidarity. It occurred to her that he was a runaway of some sort. She detected skittishness when someone got too close, pried too much. He closed up like a turtle in its shell, pushing the other person away while pulling himself in. So she did not approach. For a few months they existed this way, sharing no more than a polite phrase or two, hands brushing against each other as they sorted bottles and she hid her blush.
The first time he spoke directly to her, she had stared for a moment in shock. It was a simple question, an inquiry as to how she was doing that day. It was the first time, to her knowledge, that he had taken a personal interest in anyone at the factory. Their chat was pleasant, if a tad bit strained, and she departed for home that night with a smile on her face. The next few weeks progressed similarly, conversations in Portuguese punctuated with the occasional English phrase. She liked to watch the expressions play across his tanned face as he spoke, his eyes still firmly fixed on his work. She found he had laugh lines when he smiled and she longed to trace her fingers down them, to draw his face towards hers, to show him what she couldn't find the words or courage to say.
Instead she kept her mouth shut, avoiding the unwanted affections of a group of men twice her age. It became some sort of game of cat and mouse. Her time at work was spent dodging harassment while trying to stay within eyeshot of him. She knew now that he watched her, or at least had noticed the attention she was receiving from some of the other men. Once or twice he seemed poised to step in, but he always changed his mind in the end. Her daydreams shifted to visions of him sweeping in and playing the part of her white knight.
He asked her to lunch one day, to save her the attentions of their coworkers. It nearly came to physical violence as her tormenter turned eyes on him instead. He had stood his ground, grabbed her hand and dragged her off to the first restaurant they came to. They shared a bowl Feijoada, and despite the fact that it was just after noon, drank Caipirinha. Both were new dishes to him and she delighted in spooning the first swallow into his waiting mouth. Under the table their feet brushed a few times, but he made no sign that he noticed. His spirits seemed higher today then she had ever seen them; she entertained the fancy that she was the reason. Slightly tipsy, he walked her home after work, gracing her with his smile and ignoring the glares of his jealous coworkers. The normally long walk was over entirely too quickly and by the time they reached their complex her face hurt from being stretched into so wide a smile. She hugged him on a whim before he traipsed up the stairs. To her delight he returned her embrace, wrapping her in the scent of his deodorant and shaving cream.
She walked about her apartment in delirium, singing to herself as she stood in the shower trying to cool the burning of her skin. The remainder of the evening was peaceful oblivion, driven by the remnants of rum in her system and the feel of his stubbled cheek on hers. She laid in her bed entertaining the possibilities before her now. Tomorrow, she would strike up more conversation, find out more about him. She would offer to help him with his Portuguese, invite him downstairs for dinner. Tomorrow, she would set about making him hers.
She never got the chance. He was kept busy at work, in an area far from her own, repairing machines for their boss. She looked for him every chance she got, occasionally glancing him from across the room. He would wave, but his smile seemed more strained. She realized that he was back tracking, pushing away. She resolved to take action, to visit him at his apartment. After work she stood in the shower, mentally preparing what she would say when he opened the door. Under the rush of water, she didn't notice the heavy footsteps of what sounded like a troupe of men.
She turned off the faucet and stepped into her bedroom to be greeted by the sound of a dog barking frantically. There were more booted steps and hurried whispers, then the dog was suddenly silenced. Curious, she pulled on an oversized t-shirt and hurried to the window.
He swung inside as she drew back the curtains, nearly knocking her over in his haste. His dark hair was hidden under a gray hat. Though it was the middle of the night, he was dressed and wearing a back-pack. Gun shots and shouts sounded upstairs and she felt herself begin to scream. A hand reached out to cover her mouth, another came to his lips and held up a solitary finger. His calloused palm was warm against her face. Despite her misgivings she stood silently, heart pounding, listening to what sounded like an army run around upstairs. Their footsteps thundered away and grew fainter. He looked relieved.
"Gracias," he thanked her quietly, already on the move to her door. She followed him, one hand on his arm, wanting to ask him what was going on, wanting to tell him to stay. He turned to look at her, his blue eyes trained on her hazel ones. Without preamble he leaned forward and kissed her on the corner of her mouth. His lips pressed hot to hers for the briefest of moments, and then he was gone.
She watched Bruce Banner hurtle out of her front door and down the street, a small smile playing on her burning lips.