It had been two weeks since Emma broke into that yellow bug and met Neal Cassidy and it been both the shortest and longest two weeks of her life.
She didn't trust the man, as charming as he was. She reluctantly agreed to that drink with him and although she felt happier than she had in a long time as she sat at the bar with Neal, listening to him wise crack and try to win her over with witty charm, she never expected to see him again.
But they had spent hours at that bar, doing more talking than drinking and it was then she discovered that he was homeless to and he had stolen the car for the same reason she had.
Behind that charming and slightly smug smirk she could see the loneliness in his eyes. It was a look all abandoned children had and though Neal had to be a few years older than her at least, there was still that part of him that'd always be an abandoned child.
It was that that made her stay. Most of her was telling her to run, that she didn't know anything about this man and she could always break into another car.
There was something genuine in his eyes when they finally walked out of the bar and stood in front of their stolen stolen car and he had asked if she was going to stay.
She wanted to say no, she was planning on saying no but her heart spoke for her and said yes.
The first couple of days were awkward and Emma stayed at a distance. They bantered back and forth, often flirtatiously, and that came natural but at the end of the day, Emma didn't want to trust him.
He eventually offered a proposal: That they'd take care of each other, look after each other and Emma agreed light heartedly.
Eventually they got into a little scrap at a gas station store where Emma, still a little bit inexperienced, almost got caught and Neal swopped in to save her. However, even that didn't work and once the owner realized what was happening he pulled out a gun and without hesitating, Neal jumped in front of her and pushed her out the door then following quickly behind her.
Neal was laughing when they got back to the bug but Emma was in awe. This man, this thief, who she had only met several days ago was willing to jump in front of a gun for her. She knew from that moment on that their promise to each other had meant something and she could trust this man with her life.
She finally understood what the phrase "thick as thieves" meant and she was beginning to realize that maybe the car wasn't the only thing he stole that day.
They spent the next week and a half doing much the same, thieving, flirting and taking care of each other. Neal began to teach her some of the tricks he picked up and mastered and they managed to live a few days on items they stole.
As each day passed, her walls began to crumble and she noticed he even became more open around her and let his true heart show. She saw less of Neal Cassidy, the thief, and more of Neal Cassidy, the person.
It was a cool night, just over two weeks after they met that their relationship would change.
They managed to steal some baked goods from a bakery just before closing and drove to the other side of Portland, just on the outskirts where the city lights weren't so bright.
They pulled out a blanket and laid it on the ground near the bug and sat down.
The few pairs of clothes that Emma did have were not warm enough and as she sat on top of that breezy hill she found herself a little chilly but she'd never admit that to Neal.
Neal, however, was not an oblivious man and after a few arguments, his worn red leather jacket found itself around her shoulders.
Emma let a small smile cross her lips as she snuggled into the material. It was still warm from being on his body and it smelled like him and she knew that was going to be her new favorite smell.
They ate the cookies and laughed and talked until the sun set and once the stars came out, they both rested back and looked up at the sky.
"It's beautiful." Emma whispered in awe. She spent most of her time in cities where stars could never be seen and she hardly cared to look for them anyway. She never realized how beautiful, how peaceful it could be.
"Yeah." Neal murmured quietly and she could tell his mind was elsewhere. She turned her head to look at him. His eyes were focused intently on the stars and his lips were turned downward in slight frown.
He must have eventually felt her gaze on him because he let out a small huff, it almost sounded like laughter but there was a certain sadness to it as well and an accompanying smile crossed his lips.
"I used to do this all the time." He finally said, his voice wistful and soft. "With my dad."
Emma frowned, her eyes widening slightly. One of the first things they bonded over were their parents abandoning them. She told him how her parents abandoned her on the side of the freeway, not even a day old and he told her how his mother left when he was little and his father left when he was fourteen. It seemed too painful for him to go any further and she didn't want to push, knowing how painful a past could be. Since then, he hadn't mentioned anything about his family and it shocked her that he was talking about it now.
He glanced over to her quickly at her lack of response but once he saw her eyes intently focused on him, he returned his gaze to the stars, shaking his head slowly.
"We...lived in a village. A very small village so every night was a night like this..." He waved his hand through the air, motioning to the clear sky.
"And most nights, especially when it was just me and him, we'd go out to the field behind our house and just sit for hours." His face scrunched up and he swallowed thickly. "I'd count the stars until I fell asleep and somehow the next morning I'd always wake up in my bed."
Emma turned onto her side and just stared at him silently. She couldn't think of what to say. Neal was opening up about his past and from the look on his face she knew it had to be very had for him to do so and yet the words would not come.
"They never change, do they?" He whispered, staring painfully up at the sky. "No matter where you go, they're always there."
He turned his head as he felt Emma brush against his shoulder and suddenly she was at his side, smiling comfortingly. He smiled too and opened his arm to let her come in closer.
"So am I." She said, staring down at him and he pressed his brow together.
"We promised to take care of each other." She continued and looking at him now, so vulnerable, so lost in the memories of his past, she knew she'd stay with him forever. "I'm always going to be there."
There was a strange sort of twinkle in his eyes and his head tilted, as if he just realized something. A smile started to pull at his lips as he sat up and so did she.
With the way he was looking at her, she was grateful it was dark because she was most certainly blushing. He was closer than he ever had been before and that certainly was saying something given their living conditions.
In that moment all his pretenses faded and sitting in front of her was the completely real and true Neal.
He was staring at her like she was the best thing he'd ever seen and like he couldn't quite believe she was real and that stirred a fluttering in the pit of her stomach. She had never had anyone look at her that way before, so genuinely, full of such pure joy and wonder.
Her breath caught in her throat as his hand came to the side of her cheek and his fingers brushed over her cheek. And then he was gently guiding her to him, eyeing her hesitantly, giving her room to stop him. But she was not going to stop him. This was a moment she didn't know she had been waiting for.
That breath barely escaped her as Neal's lips softly brushed against hers. When she didn't pull away, his pinky slipped under her jaw to hold her better and her eyes fluttered closed as he once again pressed his lips to hers.
She reached her hand out to steady herself, resting it against Neal's thigh as she leaned into his kiss.
She smiled against his mouth as his other hand came to her other cheek and brought her in closer. They explored each other's mouths, sensually and slowly, neither of them daring to push the other past a point of no return.
She'd been denying to herself that she was starting to fall for Neal. The few guys she had dealt with in the past turned out to be jerks and she didn't want to go through any of that romance drama. She and Neal were just friends, fellow thieves taking care of each other. But she could no deny it any longer because kissing him felt right. And she never wanted it to end.
Finally, Emma felt him start to pull away and she brought him in for a second more before reluctantly releasing him.
For a minute they just sat there in silence, drinking in each other and the aftermath of their kiss.
Then he lifted his head and at the loss of contact, her eyes fluttered open and she was stolen by the way he looked at her.
His eyes shone against the light of the moon and stars and a happy grin marked his lips and a smile, equally as happy, pulled across hers.
She made this man happy, this man who had gotten under her skin and into her heart faster than any had before. And he made her happy too.
Eventually they settled back down onto the blanket, Emma resting her head comfortably on his shoulder as his arm came around her, holding her tight against him as they once again returned their attention to the stars.
They were both grinning like fools and neither one cared. For once in their life they felt like they truly belonged. They had found a home in each other's hearts and they knew they were not going to let that go.
After a few minutes of silence, Emma raised her hand and pointed up at the sky. Neal looked over at it quizzically until she started to speak quietly, that smile still on her face.
"One, two, three..."
Her smile grew as his did and his hand lightly squeezed her arm as his voice joined hers.
"...four, five, six..."