It was a week before she saw him again. Inevitably, their paths would cross again and again, simply because of work. That frequent contact, due to their line of work, was what had started this problem in the first place. They were each soldiers of a different sort, charged with protecting the city in this time of turmoil. However, she had been fairly successful at avoiding him, ducking into a nearby room or turning on her heel and charging off in the other direction as if she'd never seen him. But he was everywhere. Sometimes, she really hated being the Avatar. It made it impossible to disappear.
Dusk settled upon Republic City as she waked a side street on her way home to her apartment. Naga was resting that day, struck with another monstrous cold. A large, furry, sneezing polar bear dog was not exactly welcome on the streets of Republic City. She was focused on kicking him out of her head when a strong arm yanked her into a dark alley. Before she could scream, a hand clapped over her mouth.
"You're not going to be difficult, are you?"
She wriggled from his grasp and turned to punch him in the arm - hard. "You're such a jerk sometimes!"
He smirked at her, attempting to wrap his arms around her waist. She slapped him away immediately. A confused expression settled on his face. "What's the matter?" he asked.
"What's the matter?" she hissed, peeking out into the street to make sure they weren't being watched. "Can't you take a hint? I've been ignoring you for a week!"
She really wanted to hit him again. It was entirely too tempting. "I'm glad you noticed!" she growled through a clenched jaw.
He smirked again. "I'm just teasing. Of course I noticed. And I missed you." He stepped forward to take her into his arms again, but once more she denied him. "Fine, I'll bite." He ran a hand down his face. "What did I do wrong?"
"Don't patronize me. I hate that."
"I'm not patronizing you."
"Yes, you are!" she insisted, crossing her arms in front of her defensively.
It did not have the desired effect. If anything, his smirk grew... smirkier. And he said very coyly, "You know, you're kinda cute when you pout."
"You're infuriating!" she seethed, struggling to keep her voice down.
"Are you seriously upset with me?"
"Why are you so freaking smug all the time?"she demanded, turning away from him. This was exactly why she needed to stay away from him. They were either all over each other or at each other's throats. Except this time, he wasn't fighting back. He was amused.
She didn't realize he had come closer until she felt his breath on her neck as he leaned in for a kiss. She hated it - hated it! - when he kissed the back of her neck. He knew it was her greatest weakness. She flinched but found herself frozen in place as he wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her closer to him.
"We shouldn't be doing this," she protested weakly.
"Does he make you shiver like this?" His lips caressed the sensitive skin beneath her ear, and though she fought it, she couldn't stop the shiver that ran down her spine. She knew he was grinning in satisfaction.
"But I love him." Her words sounded foreign to her own ears.
"I love you."
"You said that before."
"I meant it before."
"But you left."
He didn't answer her because she was right. Slowly, he withdrew his arms from around her waist, and she found herself missing his warmth immediately.
"You only want me because I'm getting married to another man, and that hurts your pride," she accused in a biting tone. She hated the way he made her feel, and she hated the way he made her question her engagement to a man who had done nothing but love her selflessly. This should be black and white, cut and dry. She shouldn't be anywhere near him.
"I've always wanted you," he said quietly. The conviction in his voice chilled her to the bone.
"You haven't always acted like it."
They stood in stony silence for a few minutes as she beat herself senselessly in her mind. She should never have encouraged him... she should never have allowed him to kiss her that night...
"We could go away..." he suggested uncertainly.
"You... me... we could get away from here. Just the two of us."
"What," she scoffed, "makes you think I would agree to go anywhere with you?"
He was quiet for a moment, but she didn't dare turn around to see what sort of expression his face held. "There was a time when you loved me."
She closed her eyes and allowed herself to remember, briefly, what it felt like to be young and in love. But it was so long ago...
"That time is gone," she intoned decisively, steeling herself. "You broke my heart."
"And he didn't?" he demanded, the frustration ringing in his words.
"That was different," she snapped sharply. "Our separation was mutual. We were just kids."
"And what were we?"
She huffed and kicked at a pebble near her foot. "Just a couple of animals."
"Stay away from me, okay? I mean it." With that, she stormed off into the street and towards home. She didn't allow herself to look back, and she didn't allow herself to consider, what if...?
Well you all complained I'm no good with clues - which is true, that's totally intentional - so I tossed a couple subtle clues in here, if you can pick them up. I lost my muse for all of November, and even writing this felt forced and unnatural, so if it's not up to normal Penny par, then I apologize. Just didn't want to leave everybody hanging. I promise, more clues to come in the next chapters. Just review with your love/hate. I love it all.