I've been writing this thing for like 3 weeks, and I've been a bit of an emotional wreck over the course of these weeks. I've been up and down so many times I might as well have been in a lift. The idea came to me and simply would not leave me. This is without a doubt the longest one-shot you will ever see from me, ever. If you're put off by lengthy pieces then I'm sorry, but it did take on a life of its own. It's twice as long as I intended with a completely opposite ending. This is my first AU BBRae, and I've read very few of these myself so I'm overwhelmingly paranoid about this. But, yeah. What happens when Jodie listens to The Smiths while reading Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist whilst wearing her Fight Club t-shirt? This, apparently.
Take me out tonight,
Where there's music and there's people,
And they're young and alive.
Late evening had fallen and the suburbs where under the onslaught of sheeting rain. The darkness and the weather were nobody's friends. Marching aimlessly through them was a hooded figure, trudging without purpose or destination, braving the storm without fear of getting lost, or getting cold, or getting wet. The drenched clothing clung to the womanly curves, making the only visible distinction between male or female. She walked forward at a steady pace alongside the deserted road, the storm pelted down on her, unrelenting and merciless. She strode on un-phased; her face bent low and troubled-looking. Perhaps the weather and the night were the least of her worries.
She had nothing but the clothes on her back that were plastered thick and heavy to her skin, soaked from the downpour. How far she'd travelled was yet another question that presented itself upon the sight of her. As she passed dive-bars and service stations her eyes would harden and her head lift. She'd peer seemingly uninterested at the people who didn't register her presence, too absorbed were they in their own existences. She never stopped, however. She continued on.
The cars she saw were few and their headlights lit the path she travelled but all too soon she'd see tail lights, and then return to black. Her lips were tinted blue from the cold that she otherwise appeared to be oblivious to. The path ahead was thrown into precision with the light of an upcoming vehicle; she heard the screeching of breaks as it came to a stop, and the idle purring of the engine beside her. The window came down with a whir and caused her to turn toward the driver, determined to give them a none-too-polite rebuff.
"You need a ride?" Came a male voice.
There was no inflection on the speech, and she squinted through the torrential weather to make out a face. With an easy grin the boy beckoned for her to get in. He appeared to be around her age, late teens. His hair was a dirty-blonde, thick and messy and falling into impossibly green eyes. She was more than prepared to tell him to take a long walk off a short pier. Her eyes sparked and her lips tightened into a hard line, and in response his grin widened.
She'd ventured out into the night for many reasons, personal reasons. One of which had been an unquenchable thirst for a life beside her own, a reprieve from her torment, a glance at other possibilities. She tilted her head as she looked upon his unwavering smile and wordlessly she got into his vehicle. She was not motivated by stupidity, she was not gullible nor did she trust the boy. The simplest way of putting it would be to try and explain how little she cared, about anything. She'd long lost hope of ever finding anything or being anyone or going anywhere. Whatever happened from the second she stepped over the door-frame would be an improvement from whatever she'd left behind – emphasis on the whatever.
She shut the door behind her and promptly looked out the window, refusing to face him. He suggested she put on her seat-belt and waited patiently for her to do so. A tense silence fell for a moment in which she made no effort to put the belt around her. She stared stoically through the window. After it was made apparent that she was going to ignore both him and her safety, he put the car into drive.
Driving in your car,
I never, never want to go home,
Because I haven't got one anymore.
The road stretched on as they travelled at a swift and steady pace. Neither of them spoke a word for a long while, instead looking out into the night, on to the road. She'd always felt rather removed, as if she wasn't ever a part of the world around her, like she was always out of step with what was going on. She briefly glanced over to the seat beside her, and its occupant. The boy had the tiniest of smiles curving his lips, but he didn't seem to be smiling at anything in particular, it wouldn't be wrong to assume he simply never wore a frown. She gave a disbelieving huff at this thought, and out of the corner of his eye he looked her way. As the warmth of the car began to register against her previously numb skin, she truly realised how cold she must've been. Her body convulsed in an involuntary shiver and she clamped her jaw to stop her teeth from chattering. He turned the in-car heating up a notch.
"I'm Gar, by the way." He offered, but did not ask for her name in return.
"Gar?" she inquired.
It didn't go unnoticed that his name was the first word she'd spoken since their unconventional meeting. Her voice was slightly hoarse and she swallowed a time or two to clear out the dryness of her throat. He wondered how long it'd been since she'd uttered a word.
"Garfield, actually, Garfield Logan." He verified.
She gave an undignified snort and he threw a mock glare her way. She didn't meet his eye however; she resumed staring out into the night.
"Do you live around here?" he asked hesitantly, having no intention of fishing for information that wasn't readily given, but unable to contain his inquiry.
Her name was yet another mystery, one of the most minute yet one of the most crucial. He figured that since he'd picked her up, she would at least wish for him to know where she wished to be dropped off, even if she didn't feel like talking. She spoke not a word and did not turn his way. She made no inclination that she'd even heard his question. As he threw glances at her periodically, he thought that maybe she appeared slightly too tense. She was ram-rod straight, her lips pressed tight, her eyes wide but almost unseeing. He put this down to the fact he was a relative stranger. In actuality it was in response to his inquiry.
Take me out tonight,
Because I want to see people and I want to see life.
He cleared his throat after another stagnant silence and she peered slightly up at him from beneath the sodden veil of her hair. Though she was not quite meeting his eye, it was clear that she was acknowledging his attempt to gain her attention. The events that had led to her storming out into the equally stormy night were not things that she was willing to discuss, though she knew he was curious. She did not begrudge him this however, for she knew if their roles were reversed, she too would have questions. Though she harboured no ill will towards the boy, Garfield, she bade her time. Still unsure was she of what and how much she was going to confide in him.
It was perfectly obvious that she needed to tell him something. She'd gotten into the car with him and so far the only word she'd spoken had been his name, he deserved some form of explanation but she couldn't quite decide whether to give him the actual story, or the fabricated version. There was something about this boy that really made a part of her want to tell him everything, as if trusting him with that onslaught would be a beneficial thing. It had been her gut feeling that had swayed her into her late-night trek, and since she had no interest in the here nor there and had no intention of ever returning to the pit that she'd escaped from, maybe it truly made no difference anymore. Maybe telling him couldn't hurt, and she should just throw caution to the wind as she'd been doing all evening.
"Is there somewhere that you need to be?" He asked gently. She wordlessly shook her head. Feeling emboldened by this interaction he rephrased.
"Is there anywhere that you want to go?" he inquired this time. She once again gave her head a shake and he deflated noticeably.
"I can only tell you where I don't want to be." She finally spoke up, her voice still a little sticky from disuse, but gentle in the quiet dark. She tucked a strand of ebony hair behind her ear, her dripping tresses stuck to her neck. She gave him the briefest of smiles and her violet eyes twinkled in the dim. With confidence anew he broadened his grin and tipped his head in response to her statement.
"It's a start." he said enthusiastically.
With a deep sigh she fluttered her lids, her eyes falling shut as she steeled herself up for her coming confession. Though she was only prepared to give him a selective truth and an abridged version, she had not ever spoken to another about anything akin to what they were about to discuss.
"I don't want to go back. I was walking in a straight line because the only thing I knew was that turning around wasn't an option." She breathed finally and he quirked a curious brow, her words echoed within the recesses of his mind.
"What're you looking for?" he asked, in hope of some inclination of where he should be driving, and if he were to be honest with himself a great, illogical part of him wanted badly to aid her in her endeavour, though he didn't quite understand the weight of the situation.
She's wasn't particularly looking for anything, she had no great desire. The one constant in her life had been survival, and she'd fallen into the habit of underestimating circumstances simply because she thought that she'd made it through worse, so the present could not touch her. Leaving her past behind with a carefully closed door and a silent escape into the dark night had left her with a new inner strength, but at the same time she felt almost like a fugitive. She wondered if he'd hunt her down. Refusing to dwell on such thoughts she'd turned back to the boy beside her, Garfield she reminded herself, her conscience had developed a habit of referring to him as 'the boy', which was absurd in its implication that he were the only boy to exist.
"Show me how people live." She requested, for the first time feeling a sense of nervousness. She didn't know if he'd understand her odd command and wondered if what he showed her would help her in any way. She wanted to see something real; her life had been so sheltered and painful. She was like a caged bird. Under her father's watchful eye she had been controlled and beaten, threatened and attacked, life was not something that she ever considered herself of having. She wanted to see what other people thought of as a struggle, she wanted to watch the joy that they relished in. She wanted to live vicariously.
Driving in your car,
Oh, please don't drop me home.
Because it's not my home it's their home, and I'm welcome no more.
He sped up slightly, the full-beam of the cars headlights illuminating the path ahead, wordlessly he drove until they came to a break in the road, he took a left and they exited the motorway. He continued driving and she momentarily worried that they were doubling back on themselves. What she'd already seen she did not wish to witness again, and what she hadn't seen she relentlessly longed for. Before she could complain about the change in their course the vehicle slowed down considerably. She glanced around to discover that they were passing through a small town centre, they came to a stop as people spilled out of a local tavern, slurring profanities and stumbling over themselves, but the smiles upon their delirious faces were gargantuan. Though these people were not ones to idolize, for a moment she wished she could be them.
She turned towards her companion to find that he only had eyes for her; he watched her patiently waiting for her approval or dismissal of what she'd seen. He'd shown her something that was so imperfect that it shone because of its flaws and vices, something that made her long for a lifestyle that she'd always considered pointless and regrettable. Maybe it was her past experiences that had made her such a straight-edge, in the sense that she had never had any desire to experiment with any substances, alcohol included. But despite this philosophy she found that she wanted to try it, she wanted the world to spin in blurs of colour and to find humour in the world's most serious subjects. She wanted to be reckless in her fearlessness with a mind lacking in clarity. For the first time in her life she wanted to get drunk, for the simple reason that these strangers were laughing and smiling and it may have been fabricated and exaggerated and temporary but it was more happiness that she had ever felt.
"Show me more," she pleaded shamelessly, lost to the world he showed her, a world in which she could see beauty in almost anything, a world in which she understood that she only limited herself and that choices are choices and minds change. Time was a perception; it sped up and slowed down to keep pace with her thoughts. She could see that enthusiasm was a tangible thing, it warped and breathed and she had only to let it in. "Please" she near begged unabashedly.
He continued driving at a snail's pace allowing her to soak up the night with her new eyes, he kept sneaking glances her way and he wondered if she knew she was smiling. He tried desperately not to think about it, but she'd infiltrated his mind. He was now much more than a boy who'd offered her a ride. He was more than a boy who was vastly curious. He was now a boy who thought she was beautiful. Her jet black hair was thick and drenched and plastered to her neck and forehead, mostly concealed by the hood she had yet to remove. Her pale skin was luminous in the dim and her amethyst eyes were bottomless and captivating in the few times she'd allowed him to really see them. He gave a gentle sigh that she did not register and he wondered what he'd gotten himself into.
"Are you ever gonna tell me your name?" he wondered, his voice had taken on a teasing edge that managed to conceal his slight frustration. He was wasting time and gas to drive this strange but beautiful girl around this tiny town and he knew nothing about her except she had nowhere to be. He gave her an easy smile that he'd perfected long ago.
She looked at him then, he was unable to hold her gaze as he focused on the road but he could feel her eyes burning against the side of his face, and he clenched and unclenched his jaw in anxiety. Her brow quirked up an infinitesimal amount as she stared, her eyes flashing as they registered his angular nose and strong jaw, his impossibly green eyes were hardened in concentration and she found that she liked what she saw. She'd never been interested in boys, she'd never been interested in being close to anyone, period. Of course she was not blind and had seen men that were pleasing to the eye, but her ideal of romance had been shattered long ago, the first time her father had claimed her.
She was not naïve enough to believe that happiness was simply an absence of misery, but she found that by Gar's side, she was a lot closer to contentment than she ever thought herself possible of feeling. What was it about this boy that lured her in, that made her feel like giving up wasn't an option? Her brows drew together in befuddlement at this thought, before she realised she had yet to answer his question.
"Raven," she breathed.
"Raven," he echoed, finding a deep satisfaction in this development.
He couldn't help but silently revel in how her name flowed off his tongue. A smile spread easily across his face. He cleared his throat and glanced over at her to find that she was staring at her lap, though he thought that her cheek seemed slightly lifted, as if she were smiling too. She was the most frustrating of puzzles, and he was drawn to her. There was an almost magnetic pull between them, their brief and inconsequential interactions sparked in the space. Logically, it made sense for this lure to be a result of the mystery, that after he'd discovered her then he'd lose interest. But, he was never a logical thinker, he went with his heart and he wore it on his sleeve. He was gullible and predictable, but he was dedicated and loyal and the good in him outweighed the bad tenfold. He seemed to know beyond reasonable doubt that it wasn't the puzzle that had him enticed, it was the girl.
"So, how come you're out here tonight? I mean, aren't your family worried?" He spoke without thinking, something he was prone to doing. He saw her flinch and he knew he'd struck a nerve; he was overcome with great remorse almost immediately and mentally cursed himself.
"Oh, God, I'm so sorry. That's none of my business. Forget I said anything." He apologised.
"It's okay. And trust me; nobody's going to miss me, not in the way that they should." She answered in a monotone and he winced and the lack of inflection.
"I would…" he breathed almost incoherently and his cheeks flamed as he realised what he'd said, he cleared his throat and continued "I really am sorry, if you're around me enough you'll learn that my foot likes to live in my mouth." He explained.
He chuckled to himself as he saw her smile, her lips curled in amusement but she did not allow her laughter to escape. He wanted to hear what her laugh might sound like; he had always been a firm believer in 'laughter is the best medicine'.
And if a double-decker bus, crashes into us –
To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.
And if a ten-tonne truck kills the both of us –
To die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.
It wasn't long before they had left the small town and re-entered the freeway. And as the road stretched on Gar cursed, she didn't ask what was wrong; too consumed was she by her thoughts. She was caught in the recesses of her subconscious, endlessly curious as to why this boy seemed to bring out such changes in her. It wasn't long before they had to pull into the nearest service station, Gar's expletive a result of the cars dwindling fuel. Raven got out of the car with him, and leant against it as he filled the tank. She grabbed a hold of his hand, for a moment overwhelmed by his warm, calloused skin, before she wrapped his fingers around the twenty she wished to contribute to the price of the fuel.
Gar was for a second stunned by her first attempt at actual physical contact, she'd grasped his hand in hers just long enough to slip the money between his fingers before she retracted her arm. Her skin was cold and soft, raising goose-bumps on the back of his hand, he stared down at the crumpled note she'd given him. Though he knew that she did in fact owe him the price of the gas, and though he knew he had no obligations or loyalties to her whatsoever, allowing her to pay did not sit well with him. When they eventually parted ways she would need all the money she could get just to get by, and he found with great chagrin that he cared about her well-being much too much to let her throw her finances away on fuel. He had chosen to pick her up; he had chosen to drive her around without purpose or direction. He had chosen to pay.
He tucked the money into her jacket pocket, and she stared at him in bewilderment from beneath the shadow of her hood. He smiled at her, this one different from the others he'd given her, this one somehow tender. His eyes held a quiet sadness while his lips curved up. As he trudged toward the station his shoulders slumped and she tilted her head ever so slightly in incredulity.
When he returned his face was composed, his naturally occurring grin fixed in place. Raven had yet to return any of his smiles, she had never been one for smiling, and there had never been much cause for a smile. She found that the more she gazed at him the more uncomfortable she became, unsure of what to make of the strange stirrings she experienced in his presence. She looked beyond him and came across something that had previously eluded her, an elderly man was sat upon the cold ground, obviously using the station as shelter from the storm and had not yet been moved on. His beard was thick and grubby, his head balding, his eyes weighed down by crow's feet and his face sagging. He was huddled with his knees to his chest to reserve some heat and he pulled his tattered old camouflage jacket around him tightly, though it provided little warmth. Beside him a large, old, scruffy dog laid loyally, its heavy head resting upon its paws as its body convulsed with the cold.
An overwhelming surge of sadness struck Raven. Throughout her life Raven had never had much sympathy for anyone, and it wasn't because she was uncaring, it was simply because she was always dealing with something herself. She'd never paid much attention to the troubles that others faced because she'd been blinded by her own hopelessness. But now, with her past behind her and her future uncertain, stuck in the limbo of awakening she saw her previous hopelessness reflected in this homeless man. Their struggles could not have been more different, but that didn't change the fact that she had suffered, and he suffered still.
Gar noticed her preoccupation and looked over his shoulder to follow her gaze. His face fell at the sight of the poor man and his canine companion. Gar was a compassionate person by nature, always giving any spare change he had to any charity collectors, street performers or homeless people he would encounter. He was also a huge animal lover, becoming a vegetarian by the time he started school and a vegan as soon as he was old enough to fully understand what that meant. Gar had lived a carefree life, losing his parents was the biggest tragedy, but he'd been far too young to remember the event. His adoptive parents had been strict during his adolescence but they'd raised him as their own and loved him, supporting him in his choices. Seeing people in pain in turn pained him, because Gar cared. His adoptive father had always told him he was too sensitive, his adoptive mother had always said it was a good thing.
Glancing back at Raven he found that she seemed rather distant, her eyes were shimmering but no tears formed. His frown deepened as he looked at the torn expression she wore, caught between reality and her thoughts. He wanted more than anything to wipe that look from her face. He tentatively reached out and squeezed her fingers in reassurance. Snapping out of her trance she stared down at their hands before meeting his eye, he gave her an unsure smile before dropping his hold and turning away from her. Wordlessly Gar approached the old man, the dog's head lifting and tilting, assessing the potential threat before deducing that no harm was meant. Emptying his pockets of change, Garfield handed it to the old man, who gratefully stashed away the money. With a large, crinkly-eyed, toothy smile of thanks the man said goodnight, which Gar echoed back at him, before patting the grimy dog's head and retreating.
Raven stared incomprehensibly at Gar's act of selfless kindness. When she'd first made the decision to travel with him she'd simply not cared about what would happen, she had no real desire to continue with life and had thrown away all hope with reckless abandon. Having not thought of his intentions at the time, she thought of them now, and she realised that many other boys his age in his position would've tried to work some angle or take advantage. She saw now that he truly was gold hearted and pure in his intentions. He'd shown her more kindness that anyone else in the world, and he did so without obligation, just the same as he'd done for that old man.
Raven discovered quite abruptly that she relished his presence, and regardless of what might happen beyond this unconventional evening, this night would be immortal. This night could not end, for her self-discovery would forever be a part of who she would become, and he was linked directly to it. And with chagrin she made the realisation that there was no one else in the world she would want to spend this time with, there was only him. And for at least this moment, he truly was the only boy in the world. He was all she saw in that instant, and in that instant she wondered if he was all she'd ever see. She was okay with that, oddly.
Take me out tonight.
Take me anywhere, I don't care.
I don't care.
I don't care.
They sped down the deserted road, the tires flying as mile after mile disappeared behind them. They didn't speak, but in her peripheral Raven registered how Gar fidgeted. He was restless, not used to being so silent for so long. At the same time he was at a loss for what to say, at the risk of sounding stupid. After he'd aided that homeless man Raven had not only held his gaze for a significant length of time, but smiled while she did so. A part of him had wished she'd hadn't have done that. It wasn't until they'd reached the gas station that it truly registered with him that the night would be over soon. He would have to say goodbye, and though they'd spoken very little and he knew next to nothing about her, he found that the very concept of having her get out of the car and leave him behind was too much to think about. He refused to dwell on it. He'd always been an optimist, he'd never planned ahead. He'd always crossed each bridge as he'd come to it and been more than happy to do so, such was his philosophy.
Raven was consumed by her inner turmoil. She hadn't intended for this to happen. None of this made any sense to her, and she knew it was past midnight and the dawn was fast approaching and new days brought new promises. She was a different person from who she'd been mere hours ago and the drastic change in her had her second guessing everything she'd once been so sure of. She'd just wanted to escape. Then she'd just wanted to keep going. She wasn't looking for anything or anyone. He'd found her. She hadn't wanted to go anywhere, but he'd shown her things she'd needed to see. She'd had no interest in associating with anyone but now she couldn't think about him not being there. The sun would take him away. She wasn't ready.
Without discussion Gar pulled onto a slip road that led to a quaint 24-hour diner, when he'd parked the car he turned to Raven. He took a deep breath before his usual smile stretched his lips. He wanted to spend some time with her, in which his attention was not divided between her and the road. He wanted to really look at her and talk to her and answer any of her questions. He just wanted to be with her at this ungodly hour, in this ungodly storm, for some unknown reason. And frankly, he was hungry.
"You want something to eat?" he asked as he unbuckled his seat belt and opened the door, she followed suit without response.
The diner was predictably quiet, there was a single business man talking animatedly into his phone, the stench of his black coffee causing Raven's nose to twitch as she walked by. There were a few lorry drivers in the corner, chomping down bacon sandwiches, Gar cringed as he looked over and watched the grease drip down from the snack and onto the table. The two took their seats at a secluded window booth, sliding in opposite each other.
After briefly perusing the menu they placed their orders – a stack of waffles and a tea for Raven, and a veggie burger and Coca-Cola for Gar. Their food arrived in what seemed no time at all, neither of them speaking or even looking at each other, until their plates were before them. Gar hastily dug into his burger while Raven took a soothing sip of her tea, letting its calming fragrance rise with the steam into the air. He watched her as her eyes fluttered shut and she gave a soft sigh, he smiled at her but quickly downcast his gaze before she could catch him watching.
"Thank you," she said cryptically. He met her eye for a second his eyes flashing in confusion before he voiced his bewilderment.
"For?" He pressed.
"Tonight, I suppose, for helping me when I wasn't even sure I wanted you to, for showing me that not everything is as cut and dry as I thought it was. Thanks for showing me that people can surprise you." She took a deep breath, she didn't quite know how to phrase what she'd been feeling, and she didn't know how to tell him that he'd given her an entirely new outlook in their few short hours together. She doubted he'd understand anyway.
"You're very welcome," he told her, his voice dropping in volume and taking on an unintentional husk, his smile was less pronounced but still present and his eyes were glazed over and dreamy as he looked at her.
They ate in silence for what seemed an eternity, Gar's leg bounced impatiently beneath the table as he contemplated different ways to start conversation and different subjects to attempt to broach. Raven was equally curious about the boy who'd shown her that chivalry wasn't dead and good-natured people still existed. He had proven to her that there was no hopelessness; there were always people who cared. And she cared for him, too, more so than she ever intended, more so than she thought possible. He had no idea how much she was indebted to him. She wanted to know that his life was full, and he wasn't missing out on anything that he wanted, because he deserved a happiness that she could never know.
"So, veggie burger?" she inquired, having never been one for small talk she found the question felt stale on her tongue and almost instantly regretted speaking.
"Yeah, I'm a vegan, and a proud one at that." Gar shared with an easy smile, relieved that she'd spoken up. He'd worried that she hadn't wanted to converse with him, and it was this insecurity that had him biting his tongue.
"How's that? Upbringing? Personal believes?" she asked genuinely interested.
"I lost my parents when I was really young, like real young. And I guess I never wanted to be the reason why any child, even an animal had to be without its mother. I know that sounds stupid, but I was a kid. And when I got older I fell in love with animals, and there's a lot we can learn about them, y'know?" he tried to explain it all in a rush, as if he were afraid she'd interrupt or lose interest or ridicule him, he didn't know that she was utterly captivated "possessiveness, protectiveness, self-preservation, these are all primal urges that all animals feel, at least all mammals and as humans they can be distinguishing traits. I watched this show where this guy was saying how humans are the only species on a timeline; animals don't know what day it is, or what year. And because they can't tell time, they're free in a way that we can't be, they don't have the main fear that plagues man-kind: time running out." He looked at her expectantly as she processed what he'd said.
In actuality she was impressed, and he was smarter than she'd given him credit for. Though he was astoundingly compassionate, she'd also assumed that this made him naïve. But she realised that he'd lived his entire life the way he'd wanted to, and he wasn't quite the fool she'd thought him to be. And in all honesty there was a great deal of logic in what he'd said and she was afraid of not having time. Every day with her father she worried that it would be her last, maybe he'd go too far or maybe she'd put an end to it herself because though she didn't relish the thought of death, life hadn't appealed to her either. And even now in this cosy diner with a delicious stack of waffles and an equally delicious boy, time was working against her, for she only had a few hours more with him, then she'd have to let go.
"Also, many, many species are loyal beyond comprehension, they mate for life and spent the rest of their lives in solitude when they lose them. They don't move on. And it's sad, but it's kinda beautiful. And I guess I figured that if they could do that and feel that way, then they could feel most of what we feel too. They don't deserve to be eaten." He added after a moment of heavy silence.
"That actually made a lot of sense." Raven breathed, still stunned.
Her face crumpled as she truly comprehended the precarious nature of their situation. He had a home to go to, a family who cared for him. He had a separate life beyond this night, in which he could turn veganism into poetry and hopelessness into beauty. And in a painstaking moment, Raven realised that he was quite literally all she had. When the night had started she'd had no desire for anything at all. And now she wanted everything and grieved for the things she could never have, she did not want to say goodbye to this stranger who she felt like she knew, because there was nothing beyond him. She blinked rapidly to dispel the tears that began to well.
Garfield reached across the expanse of the table, bridging the gap between them; he rested his hand atop of hers. He brushed his fingertips in a soothing motion across her skin until she raised her eyes to meet his gaze. He gave her the smallest of smiles, intended to reassure, but he looked so concerned for her that it made her feel worse. The tears she refused to cry were building up, causing her eyes to become blood-shot around the edges, the red intensified the violet making them all the more breath-taking to the boy who continued to pierce her with his worried gaze.
"Raven? Are you okay? Did I do something?" he asked gently but urgently, terrified that he'd managed to hurt the girl who was becoming more and more beautiful to him with every passing second.
"No, no, you've been perfect. I'm sorry. I-I just…When I came out tonight I didn't want anything, I didn't feel anything…And now I realise that I don't have anything…and for the first time in a long time I wish I did." She managed to get out, embarrassed by how much her voice shook, though she continued to keep the tears at bay.
"You have me," he told her softly, hoping to ease her pain and hoping fervently that she knew how much he'd be willing to give up for her, even at this early stage.
Until sunrise… she thought grimly.
"Raven, tell me. What's going on? Why were you out walking in this weather? You can trust me." He pleaded, anxious to know what she could've experienced that would result in such a predicament, and how he could aid her.
Raven met his eye and he held her gaze, they stared each other down for a few long seconds, neither one of them wavering. For some reason Raven felt compelled to confide in him, despite the fact she'd never openly trusted anybody in her life. But, in all honesty, nobody had ever given her reason to. And then there was Garfield. So with a deep sigh and a dropped gaze she told her story. His hand tightened his hold on hers in comfort whenever something was particularly difficult to talk about. She would hear his sharp intakes of breath or his breathed curse words, but he never interrupted and she'd didn't look up to see his face. She told him of how her birth had caused her mother's death, and how her father who was nothing short of a monster had reminded her every day that it had been her fault. Between jagged breaths and supressed tears she formed into words all the ways in which her father had violated her, and used her for his own needs. She finally told him that she'd become so numb that she hadn't cared for anything, having no will to even live. She told Gar how he'd rectified that, and now she wanted to find what she was meant for, but had no means to do so. And finally, when her twisted tale came to an end, she told him that she was terrified to say goodbye, because if he were a memory, he would fade in time and this night had been far too important to leave behind.
When she finally gathered the courage to peer up at him through her damp strands of ebony she saw that his eyes shimmered with such intensity, and for once his lips did not smile. His mouth moved to form words he couldn't verbalise and within seconds he was sat beside her in the booth, and he'd wrapped his arms around her. She flinched at the physical contact, unaccustomed to it and her only previous memories of this closeness being of pain. She became ram-rod straight and immediately he realised his mistake. He pulled back at rapid speed.
"Sorry! I'm sorry! Sorry!" he said over and over, each time his voice getting quieter and thicker until he was nearly crying beside her.
In that moment he felt so much self-loathing it nearly consumed him, his guilt ate him away. He'd just wanted to wrap her up and protect her, such an odd urge to have considering how little they knew each other, but he couldn't seem to help it. Torturously slowly Raven raised her hand and entwined it in the hair at the nape of his neck, and then she raised the other to join it, her arms encircling his shoulders as she shimmied slightly closer. Tentatively he held her waist, his hands running gently over her back as her head found purchase in the crook of his neck. She smelt like damp and vanilla as he breathed her in, he felt her breath against his throat and he shivered, revelling in the closeness that felt so much more intimate than it was, because he knew how much of a step this was for her. Cocooned in his warmth Raven decided that she could do anything, go anywhere, as long as he was beside her.
And in the darkened underpass,
I thought "Oh God, my chance has come at last."
But then a strange fear gripped me, and I just couldn't ask.
They polished off their plates and paid their bill before silently retreating to the car, having not spoken since Raven's devastating story the air had become thick between them. Gar had known before that he cared a little too much for her, but now he didn't want her out of his sight. There was so much that he felt he should be saying, but he didn't understand these feelings and he had never been able to say anything quite right. So, in charged silence they buckled themselves into the vehicle and once again joined the empty main road. Raven wondered why she'd felt compelled to share herself with him, but she couldn't quite bring herself to regret it. She glanced over at him periodically as he drove, his blonde hair falling haphazardly into his eyes, damp from the rain and clinging to his forehead. She felt a foreign urge to run her hands through it, her fingers twitched in her lap and she clasped them together tightly.
She was perplexed by the unfolding of their relationship, these hours seemed impossibly long yet mercilessly short all at once. She couldn't quite comprehend how everything that had occurred could be condensed into minutes. Maybe on this night they had no timeline, like animals. The thought made her smile but it was a rather fitting analogy, everything she'd done had been instinctual and without analysis. She recalled how safe she'd felt as he'd held her, with the knowledge that she'd chosen to be there. She wanted to once again feel the heat pulsing from him as she breathed her doubts against his neck. There imminent separation weighed heavy on her conscience, how would it occur? Would he simply tell her he had prior obligations and ask her to get out? Would he take her to the nearest bus shelter, or motel, or airport? He was oblivious to her inner panic; preoccupied was he with his own mental dismay.
She stared stoically through the window; the weather was letting up ever so slightly the rain still falling was not as vicious as it had been. Raven saw the lights of a nearby town beyond the road side foliage, she could walk there in minutes. She wouldn't ask him to drive her there, she was already in too deep for her own good and another minute with him would only shatter her resolve. She opened her mouth to say that she was leaving him, that she wanted out of this car and this night and this untitled relationship. But as she looked up at him, his faced illuminated by the orange glow of the streetlamps, her mouth hung agape, her words no longer relevant. Though it was not prudent and would do her no good, she couldn't bear to leave just yet, it was still dark and she still had time with him in which to relish. She knew that the second she got out of the car without him, she'd never see him again. Her mind futilely rebelled against this fact. She feared that he felt nothing of what she did, and that her sudden, inexplicable dependence on him would eventually be her downfall.
Take me out tonight.
Oh, take me anywhere, I don't care.
I don't care.
I don't care!
"Y'know, I'm really glad I stopped to give you a ride…" Gar said suddenly, but the words came so easily that neither of them could doubt it was the truth.
"I'm really glad I took you up on it." Raven responded, in her peripheral she saw how he smiled at her.
He drummed his fingers against the wheel rhythmically and his knee bounced, but he didn't seem to be agitated. Raven frowned slightly, her eyebrows pulling together as she watched his fidgeted movements.
"Sorry about the lack of music, the stereo's bust. Shoulda got Vic to fix the damn thing when it broke," he apologised unnecessarily; inadvertently drawing Raven's attention to the fact they'd not once had the radio on.
"I don't mind…are you alright?" she asked a little concerned about his jittering, if she'd been paying more attention to his words and not his actions, she might've asked who 'Vic' was.
"What? Oh, yeah…I just gotta pee." He stated while blushing so furiously even the tips of his ears reddened.
Raven half-smiled at how adorable it seemed for him to be so embarrassed by something so trivial. Without another word he pulled off into a service station, abruptly parking the car and fleeing to the restroom. Raven watched him running and found with relief that the storm had finally passed. She unbuckled her seat belt and got out of the car. She walked around to the driver's side and took the keys out of the ignition before locking the vehicle. She wandered over to the large buildings entrance and met a relieved looking Garfield at the door.
"Hey…" he started hesitantly, haven't not expected to find her out of the car.
"I locked it for you," she stated as she handed him the car keys. He smiled gratefully as he took them.
"What's up?" he wondered, clearly interested in why they were not continuing in their drive.
"I felt like some fresh air, plus the rain finally stopped. But, it's still cold, so if you'd rather keep driving by all means say so." Raven explained.
She left him an out, just in case he wanted to leave her here and carry on with his life, but she had not made this obvious, because even though she'd given him an out, she didn't want him to take it. He studied her for a long moment, that same easy smile on his face. Wordlessly he slipped his hand into hers and she didn't object; he entwined their fingers before he spoke.
"I don't really feel the cold all that much. Let's walk." He suggested and leisurely they strolled hand in hand.
This was a surreal, dream-like experience for both of them, having never considered they would be in a position such as this. Raven's past had convinced her she could never want for a man's company. Gar was a charming boy, with an infectious humour and easy-going demeanour, but he had yet to find a girl that could truly captivate him. And yet, despite these things they found themselves joined by fingers and hands, temporarily entwining their lives as they walked around the large complex. Raven breathed in the harsh, cold air and revelled in the crisp night that she now appreciated with a new clarity. Her hand felt impossibly warm and she was sure she was grasping him so tight it may even have been painful, but he didn't flinch. She couldn't seem to really accept this. She glanced up at him and though she'd never believed that perfection was anything more than a concept, she couldn't imagine anything being better than this.
"Thank you," she whispered against his face as she hesitantly leaned up and over to kiss his cheek.
He squeezed her hand in response; he seemed to know that she was thanking him for nothing in particular and everything all at once. He wanted to thank her in return, but he doubted she'd comprehend what she'd done for him. This impromptu adventure had made him feel like an entirely different person. He now knew that there were people out there who were so desolate that they couldn't see past hopelessness, he knew now more than ever that those people were worth helping. He knew now that it was possible for him to be moved by another who only wished to be moved by him. Feeling her thin, cold lips against his cheek felt like an accomplishment, a treasure. They rounded the corner to the back of the station and were confronted with a deserted child's playground. Wordlessly, he tugged her forward.
Driving in your car,
I never, never want to go home,
Because I haven't got one.
No, I haven't got one.
Without complaint Raven sat upon the swing beside his. He chatted animatedly about his childhood, and his love for the playground, and the time he's broken his arm after a fall from the monkey-bars. Her smile broadened without consent at his tales and each time her lips stretched further, his eyes softened more. He began to swing and encouraged her to join him; his childish antics caused an unexpected giggle to pass her lips and she stared at him in amazement having never heard such a carefree sound escape herself. He smiled so wide it nearly broke his face as he continued to swing higher and higher.
Raven tried to catch up with him, but his legs were longer and more powerful than hers, but still it didn't take her long to gain some height. She increased her speed and as she did her hood lost its purchase on her head. Moving too fast and too high to rectify it, Raven left it down, for the first time letting him see her without its shadow. Gar couldn't help but stare, the hood had soaked through and her hair was indeed still damp, but a lot dryer that the few strands he'd seen plastered to her face. Now that he could see, he noticed her hair had the barest tint of purple to it, if only in the light. He was mesmerised by her; she seemed so alive as she flew back and forth beside him. His momentary distraction had given her the chance to catch up and they now swung high and fast and in sync.
"You wanna jump?" he asked excitedly. She stared down at the ground, uncertain.
"You'll be fine. I wouldn't let you get hurt, I promise." He said to ease her.
"Okay." She agreed, her previous apprehension wiped away by his soft words. It astounded her how easily she'd believed him.
He counted to three and they flung themselves forward, letting go of the chains and propelling their bodies out from their perch. They landed in a laughing, unceremonious heap in the mud. With their faces splattered and their clothing caked in thick muck, Gar decided that maybe the jump hadn't been a very good idea after all. He rolled over to face her, not realising how close she really was. He found himself now pressed against her in the wet earth, their faces mere inches apart. She was smiling, for which he was glad.
He tucked a stray hair behind her ear and her eyes followed his hand's movement as he did so. There was a moment of silence as they gazed at each other, their breaths mingling in the space between them, made visible by the cold. Without conscious thought he leaned in and with great caution, pressed his lips to hers. She'd didn't react, her eyes suddenly uncertain. She made no indication that she wanted him to stop though, so when he leaned in a second time he applied slightly more pressure. The warmth was unfamiliar to her, but in no way unpleasant. When he pecked her lips a third time, she responded, mirroring his action. He smiled softly before once again enveloping her lips with his own, this time allowing them to brush and part, she gave a gentle sigh.
He dealt with her like she was precious and oh, so fragile and that was because she was, at least to him. He kissed her so gently, afraid of scaring her, afraid of going too far. One of his hands curled around her hip while the other played with her hair. Her arms were pinned between them, against his chest, and she grabbed fistfuls of his shirt. He'd never felt so happy, and he was an optimist by nature. And for Raven, the cold, the mud, everything beyond him and this night, simply ceased to be.
"Gar," she whispered as they pulled back slightly.
"Yeah?" he asked gently, his voice thick with emotion he hadn't known himself able to contain.
"This mud's going to ruin your car…" she murmured, before resting her head against his shoulder.
He chuckled to himself as he wrapped his arms around her, having completely forgotten about the dilemma of their filthy states and his car's interior. She smiled against him, and she wondered if this was what happiness felt like. She was delirious, almost giddy with how simply positive she felt. He had done that. And for a split, fleeting second she thought that maybe, just maybe, she could love him. Garfield had known for hours that he cared for her, but in what capacity had been in question, but now he was sure, he was ready to admit it. He loved her, and their time together would not be limited to this night, there would be no days or months or passing, there would only be the time in which they wanted to be together. Why would he want to measure and condense something like that?
And if a double-decker bus crashes into us –
To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.
And if a ten-tonne truck kills the both of us –
To die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.
They lay there for a little longer than necessary, staring up at the sky that they now saw as considerably lighter, Raven frowned at the realisation that dawn was fast approaching. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she thought of letting him go now. His hand making gentle, rhythmic motions against her back only made her feel worse, knowing that this may well be the last comfort he could give her. It was best for her to simply go inside the service station and call a taxi, or book a motel; this was as good a place as any to drop her off. It had food and shelter and a lavatory. He could leave her here with the knowledge that she was safe, because surely he cared at least enough to wish her safety, she reasoned. For an infinitesimal moment she wished the world would end, or that a meteor would strike them, or that a great crevice would devour them from beneath. She wanted this one moment of peace to be her last moment.
For the first time that night, despite the vast amount of emotionally charged interactions, she cried. Her tears spilled over regardless of her attempts to stop them. Her sniffling caught his attention, and when he tilted her chin to get a better look at her, his smile crumpled. He wiped at her eyes, but the moisture just kept coming. She wondered how life could be so cruel, after everything she'd been through it handed her this perfect being, just to mercilessly snatch him back.
"Rae, shh, what's the matter? Was it me? I'm sorry, don't cry." He nearly begged, his voice so gentle that she cried harder, didn't he understand that the more affection he showed her the more it would hurt later?
"It wasn't you. It could never be you. I just…I don't want to have to say goodbye." She wailed, refusing to meet his eye after her confession.
"Goodbye?" he echoed, as if the word were not in his vocabulary. "Raven, I don't want that either. I never would've kissed you if I was just gonna leave you later. I'm sorry if I assumed wrong, but I thought that you might want to stay with me?" he responded, suddenly feeling very unsure of himself.
Raven was astonished, after everything she'd told him and after knowing how damaged she was, he actually wanted her. She was so overwhelmed by his implication that she felt that she had to kiss him, and so she did. He helped her out of the muck and they trudged back to the car, his arm securely around her the entire time. Their relationship remained untitled, but it was going in a direction that the found he liked very much. When they were buckled into their respective seats he placed a gentle hand on her thigh and when she looked up at him, he gave her a reassuring smile. Even caked in mud and dripping wet, even with her make-up smudged and her hair matted, she was still the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. And he would forever thank any lord that would take him, for the fact that he'd felt like going for a late night drive to clear his head.
Oh, there is a light and it never goes out.
There is a light and it never goes out.
They drove and drove and when Raven asked where they were going he'd simply stated 'home', she didn't argue because she trusted him. Sitting beside him without touching him was becoming torture, she just wanted to hold his hand, or caress his face, because if he wasn't solid and tangible, he might not be there at all. She watched him as he drove; his smile was still there but toned down, a look of serenity taking over his face.
Before long the sky had lightened to a misty blue, the sun soon to be peeking over the mountains and Raven no longer begrudged its arrival. Because this night could never end, because she'd long lost track of time, and had no great desire to go and find it. Time keeping was for those who had schedules and places to be. The sun made its presence known, blinding them as it did so. Hastily Raven pulled down Gar's sun visor, so his eyes could remain in shadow.
"Thanks, baby." He said easily, like it was the most casual statement to make.
Raven's stomach flipped and her heart fluttered. She hadn't anticipated it but she found that she rather liked the pet-name. Her smile grew as she realised that by giving her a term of endearment, he was in a way claiming her as his own. She looked over at him and glanced around the car, and down at herself. The mud had soaked in to the seats and splattered across the dashboard; it had dried to their skin and was peeling from their faces. She laughed a real, hearty laugh until she couldn't breathe, and he joined her. And it was with the rising of the sun that she accepted that she was in fact, irrevocably in love with him.
There is a light and it never goes out.
There is a light and it never goes out.
There is a light and it never goes out.
"On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero." – Fight Club.