"What are you doing here so early Andy?" Mr. Cardinal calls over to me. I glance up at him. He's smiling widely at me.
"Ummm... I-I'm h-hoping to t-take Arrow to m-my house today..." I mumble. He smiles brighter at me.
"Sounds like a good plan. Arrow's still sleeping, but you can run and wake her up if you'd like?" I nod and gulp down the rest of my coffee. I walk over and gently place it in the dirty dishwasher before offering the Cardinals a small smile and exit the kitchen.
Once up stairs, I examine the doors. In all my past visits here, after the first, I had managed to avoid going back to Arrow's room; The posters she has decorating the walls freak me out, and with the basement designated as the teenager zone it isn't hard to keep away from her space. But now I am struggling to remember which room she laid claim to.
After a moment of consideration, I go with my gut and turn to the right. I swing the door open and sneak in as quietly as possible. The room is pitch black despite the fact that the sun is already up, and I wrack my brain to try to remember what kind of curtains Arrow has in her room. I shrug it off and step further into the room. As I make my way towards the bed, I trip on a pair of shoes and fall straight into the bed-and the person who is fast asleep there.
The second my body hit theirs, I realize that I am in the wrong room. As I land on the person, a deep groan reaches my ears. I gasp and try to push up off of the bed, but two tree trunks wrap around my torso. From the dancing electricity everywhere we're connected, I figure it's Ryker who is now wrapped around me.
"S-s-s-s-sorry!" I stutter, tugging at the fingers of his left hand that are splayed across my back. He says nothing, just hauls in a deep breath.
I freeze when his arms tighten a little, my breathing completely stopping. So quickly that I miss the movement, he flips us around so that he now rests on top of me. My anxiety starts to build as we lay there, but somehow I manage to keep from outwardly freaking out.
He burrows into my chest and a soft sigh escapes him. I swallow nervously but when his eyes don't flick open I find myself relaxing slightly. The tingles where we're touching are electrifying my skin, and the warmth he's radiating is actually comforting. I study his face for a second. He's completely relaxed, a small content smile just tugging at the corners of his lips. The normal harshness around his eyes is gone, and I find myself struggling with the urge to trace my fingers over the soft skin of his face. His silky black hair is wrapped in a tight braid and the end of it is just brushing the crook of my left elbow.
Shaking myself out of it once I realize I'm staring, I say a silent thank you to whoever is looking down on me that he is still sleeping so soundly. I glance down our bodies to try to figure out an escape plan. My face flames when I realize he is dressed only in a pair of green boxers, and his taught back muscles are on full display. I mentally slap myself to get a grip and focus back on the task at hand - escaping without waking him up.
I shimmy myself a little, pressing my chest further into his face for a second to free my right arm from behind my back. He mumbles in his sleep and I freeze, but after a moment nothing else happens. I breathe a sigh of relief and glance down his back once again. He's wrapped one leg between both of mine, and his arms are still wound tightly around my waist. Plus, he's resting his head on my chest and while the weight of him isn't unpleasant, it will likely be the biggest challenge to getting out of here without notice.
I wiggle beneath him, small movements so as to not wake him up. His breathing stays even and I successfully withdraw my right leg.
"Andy?" His voice is dipped in sleep, rough in a way that sends my heart beating faster.
My eyes snap up from the wall I've been studying intently to keep my eyes off his back and collide with his swirling black irises. I gasp and start squirming more fervently, panic officially taking over rational thought.
In my jerky movements, we spin off the bed. As we fall, Ryker shifts so I land on him instead of the other way around. I freeze for a second, just staring down at him in shock. He opens his mouth to say something and I push off of him. When I pull back, my hands burn where they rested on his chest, indecent thoughts of tracing along his muscles inexplicably twisting through my mind. He frowns up at me and starts to push himself to standing.
Not giving him a chance to ask questions, I bolt back into the hall and yank his door closed behind me. I hear a deep growl from his room, but push it from my mind.
I rest my back against the wall beside his door and take a couple deep breaths to steady myself. Before I'm ready, Ryker's door whips open. He steps into the hall with a black t-shirt pulled over his chest. Part of me is disappointed. He frowns down at me, something sparkling in his eyes that I can't name. I break the contact and drop my gaze to the floor, embarrassment turning me red.
He crosses his arms against his chest and leans against the wall on the other side of his doorway. I bite my lip, reminding myself not to give into temptation and glance down at his arms.
"So, not that I minded, or anything, but... Why were you in my bed?" My face burns hotter and I refuse to look up at him.
After a second he takes a step closer. The air between us becomes thick, and without thinking I slide down the wall, away from him. He follows. We repeat this until I'm standing at the top of the stairs. He chuckles before finally taking a step back. I glance up at him. The light in his eyes is shining again, honey flecks spinning and turning his eyes more golden than brown. I gulp and he glances to my throat to follow the movement.
After a tense second, he clears his throat and backs up a little more. I follow with my eyes.
"Sorry, sorry." He sighs, "I guess you were looking for Arrow's room?" I bite my lip and nod. He smiles at me and points at the door across from his. I offer him a weak smile. He grins back at me, and my heart literally skips a beat. I shake my head.
"T-t-thanks..." I walk to her door but pause before opening it. I turn back to him to offer one more apology for rudely waking him up like I had.
"S-s-sorry for waking y-y-you up" I stutter. He smiles at me warmly, tracing his eyes down my form. I fight the shiver I can feel building at his gaze as he traces his way back up.
"No need to apologize. It was the best wake up call I've had in years." My face flames hotter again and I spin to swing open Arrow's bedroom door, hearing him chuckle behind me. I make sure to tug the door shut behind me. His eyes had left warm sparks along my skin, and I was struggling to not return the favour. The wooden door helps me regain control.
I glance around the room and sigh. Arrow's room isn't shrouded in darkness like Ryker's, and I can see her stretched out across the bed from where I stand. She has the blanket wrapped around her and her left leg is sticking out from it. She is fast asleep, completely ignorant to my presence.
Now that I am in the right room, I realize that I hadn't actually decided how I was going to get her up... I shrug after a moment, deciding that the best way to wake her up is blaring music.
I pull out my phone and turn the volume up full blast. I select Guns N Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" and creep over to her silently. I place the phone next to her right ear and hit play.
The song starts blaring at full volume, and Arrow's eyes flick open with a squeal. She spins to see what's happening, but her blankets tangle around her and I narrowly move out of the way as she falls onto the floor. I smile to myself and stop the music before shoving my phone back into my pocket.
Arrow blinks up at me, stunned. I smile down at her and sink onto her cushy mattress. She just keeps staring. I raise my eyebrow at her silence and she groans before rolling over on the floor. She stretches out alongside her bed and shifts so she can see me.
"Way to wake a person up" she grumbles. I smile and shrug. She mutters a few choice words that I choose to ignore.
"What are you even doing here?" She whines. I glance down at her to see she's twisting to see her clock. She groans again. "It's not even 9:00!" I roll my eyes at her and shift so I can lay down on her bed. It's much more comfortable than mine, so I snuggle in.
"I'm going back to sleep" she mumbles after I'm comfortable. "Wake me if something interesting happens." I haul in a deep breath and glance up at the ceiling, specifically ignoring the eyes I can feel boring down at me from her walls.
"Do y-y-you want t-to c-c-come over t-t-today?" My stutter is overwhelming, but Arrow understands me nonetheless. She shrieks and launches herself off of the floor. She crashes onto the bed beside me, and I flinch when her skin accidentally brushes mine. She pulls back but otherwise doesn't acknowledge my reaction to her touch. I smile gratefully at her.
"Seriously?!" She squeals after a second of staring at me. When I nod nervously she shrieks again and starts hopping around her room, ripping things from her closet and tossing them everywhere. The door flies open to show her brother and dad, wearing identical expressions of confusion.
"Everything alright, Air?" Arrow whirls on her father, beaming. The width of her smile has him glancing between the two of us, trepidation clear. I offer him a weak smile that he returns before focusing back on his daughter as she continues dancing around.
"I'm going to Andy's today!" She practically screams. Ryker turns to me and bursts out laughing.I bite my lip nervously. Arrow turns to glare at her brother, confusion rolling off her. He keeps laughing.
"I think" he guffaws, "if you don't settle down you might be spending the day here, little sister." Arrow suddenly stops jumping and whirls to look at me, horror on her face.
"I'm sorry!" She squeaks. "I just got over excited! I'll be good now, I swear. Please don't leave me with them all day! I want to go to your house! Tell me I'm still welcome to come! Please!" I stare at her with my eyes as wide as saucers. Her lips are pouted out and her eyes are all big, giving me the puppy dog look. She's kind of creeping me out, so I nod just to get her to stop looking at me. She squeals again, and turns back to her closet but at least she's not jumping around anymore. Her father seems to share my thoughts as I hear him mutter, "Thank the Lord" before he turns and heads back to wherever he had come from.
Ryker stays, though, and leans against the door jam. Arrow goes back to throwing things around the room; apparently she can't find anything appropriate to wear to my house. I try to ignore Ryker, following Arrow with my eyes as I stay seated on her bed, but I can feel him staring at me. Finally my will snaps and I turn and lock eyes with him once again. He smiles in amusement before slinking into the room and collapsing beside me.
"She's definitely a handful" He murmurs. I nod in agreement and he beams down at me.
"So do you have anything special for today planned or are you just going to hang out at your place?" He asks. I shrug, not quite sure what I planned to do. I hadn't really thought any further than 'show Arrow I actually want to be friends by showing her my house'. Ryker sighs beside me.
"OK, since you obviously didn't get my hidden question... Is this a girls only thing or am I allowed to come too?" I blink at him, surprised.
"Y-you want t-to see my house?" He grins at me and then nods enthusiastically.
"Yes please, as long as it's OK with you.... If not then I guess I'll have to see it another time... " he trails off.
I deliberate for a moment, glancing at Arrow. She's already smiling at me. I raise my eyebrow at her, wondering if she'd be alright with him joining us. She nods with a big smile. I glance back at her brother.
"Sure, I g-guess you can c-come too." He smiles wider at me, and then bolts off to his room to get ready.
I turn back to look at Arrow, who is staring after her brother. She smirks at me after a second.
"Hey, do you mind if I get him to invite Rowan?" She asks. I give her an incredulous look, confused as to why she is wanting to invite him when she hates him ninety percent of the time. She smiles innocently back at me, so after a moment of deliberation I shrug. What's one more? She beams at me and then screams into the hallway for her brother. He yells back a "What?" So she screams back to invite his best friend. As soon as she finishes the last word, the door to his room flies open and he stomps back in, fully dressed. He's swapped his black t-shirt out for a green hoodie, and he's wearing a pair of paint splattered jeans.
"Why?" He sounds suspicious, and I have to admit that that's what I am feeling as well. Arrow smiles innocently again, and then picks up her clothes and strolls into her walk in closet to put them on. Ryker turns to look at me after his sister is gone, questions in his eyes. I shrug in answer and head towards the hallway.
Ryker backs up to let me pass, and I smile brightly at him, heading for the stairs once again. He follows behind me silently. We've only made it halfway down the steps when the front door bursts open and in floats Rowan—who is wearing nothing but his birthday suit. I trip with a gasp, slamming my eyes shut and squealing in embarrassment. I am expecting to fall down the stairs, but Ryker's warm hands wrap around my waist and he tugs me back into his chest. Electricity dances between us.
"Oh geez, put on some pants!" Ryker seems to have noticed the cause of my fall. I throw him a grateful smile over my shoulder for saving me, and gently pull myself away. Dangerous thoughts always plague me whenever he touches me; thoughts I shouldn't be having. He lets me go reluctantly.
"Why bro? This is how mother nature intended us to be! Be free of the confines of—Oh hey Andy, how's it going?" Ryker growls at him, which is weird in itself, but what is weirder is the way it sounds more animal than human.
"Pants. Now." Rumbles Ryker. His arm wraps around my elbow as I hear Rowan starting to ascend the stairs. I move further into Ryker to avoid touching Rowan, and he squeezes my elbow lightly in understanding.
After a minute a door in the same hallway Ryker and Arrow's rooms are slams shut and Ryker whispers it's safe for me to open my eyes now. I do so slowly before smiling up at him. He returns the grin.
I step away from him and continue down the stairs. Once we get to the bottom, we hear Rowan yelling curses from upstairs. I frown and glance in that direction. Ryker starts laughing and I can hear Arrow giggling along from her room. She comes out a minute later, fully dressed.
"What did you do?" Ryker questions between laughs. Rowan is still cursing, and if I listen closely I can hear him slamming drawers and doors. She smirks as she descends the stairs.
"I switched all his clothes with his grandma's." She sounds smug. I roll my eyes at her.
"W-what happened t-to the toilet paper rolls?" She laughs and jumps the last two steps, landing in front of me.
"I couldn't find enough to fill his drawers." Ryker laughs again and I shake my head at her in amusement. Upstairs, Rowan slams open the door to his room. A second later he's walking down the stairs, a flowy dress the colour of snot draped around him. The funny part isn't that he's wearing a dress- it's the fact that it's at least five sizes too small. His neck is bursting out of the top seam, and the bottom of the dress hits the middle of his thighs. He's glowering at Arrow and she's snickering.
"Ok very funny. Now where's my stuff?" He growls. Arrow shrugs and turns towards the kitchen. He stops her with a hand on her elbow.
"No seriously. This underwear is riding up in the most uncomfortable way." He twists his hips around, a grimace on his face. Ryker and I snicker together and he narrows his eyes at us. Arrow laughs and tugs her arm out of his grip.
"You're actually wearing the underwear?" She cries, incredulous. Rowan glowers down at her. She skips into the kitchen and I follow behind her. As I pass behind Rowan I see his dress is wide open at the back, the fabric not wide enough to cover his obviously bigger body. I bite my lips to stop my laugh as I see two tiny pink strings coming over his hips and disappearing below the bottom panel of the dress.
"Come on. I'll lend you something that actually fits." Ryker sighs as he leads his friend back up the stairs. I enter the kitchen and smile at Mr. Cardinal who is holding out a plate of bacon. I grab a piece and walk over to where Arrow is sitting. Her dad is sitting in the same spot I left him this morning, a fresh cup of coffee in his hand.
"Where did you hide his clothes?" Mr. Cardinal questions. Arrow smiles at him and loads a bite of eggs onto her fork.
"They're in his shower at home." Mr. Cardinal rolls his eyes.
"Did you have to use Nana Whitelaw's stuff? She's going to have his hide for stretching that dress out."
"Hey, I didn't make him put her favourite one on. There's like ten other dresses up there he could have picked." Her fathers roll their eyes at her.
"That always was his favourite...." Mr. Cardinal pitches in thoughtfully from his spot at the counter.
"You know he's going to retaliate, right?" She shrugs at him and stuffs a bite of bacon in her mouth.
"Nothing I can't handle."
The boys come down the stairs a minute later, and this time Rowan is wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that fully covers him.
"So Ryker said we're going somewhere?" He snags a piece of Arrow's bacon who glares at him. He blows a kiss at her in return.
"M-my house" I stutter. Rowan smiles over at me. Ryker comes up behind me and sinks into the stool beside me.
"When are we going?" Rowan mumbles around his bacon.
"A-As soon as Arrow's f-finished." I smile at her. She stuffs a bite of toast in, eating faster.
"I vote we leave her" Rowan jokes. I roll my eyes at him, but before I can tell him there's no way we are going to do that, Arrow stands up from her seat. Her plate is empty now, and she smiles widely at me.
"OK, I'm ready. Let's go!" She squeals. She dashes out of the kitchen, yelling goodbyes to her parents. Ryker sighs at her and stands. We follow Rowan out of the kitchen, and I offer her parents a small grin as I walk past them.
Ryker holds the front door open for me. As I pass, I accidentally brush against his arm. He smiles at me and I shiver, nerves and excitement dancing in my chest.
As I walk to my car where the other two are pushing each other and jockeying for the front seat, I push aside the odd feeling that has exploded in my stomach at his touch.
I climb into the front seat, and watch in amusement as Ryker sneaks behind Arrow and swings open the passenger door without them noticing. He smiles at me as he sinks into the seat. I smile back, shaking my head. I honk the horn, drawing the dynamic duos attention to the car—and the man that has stolen their spot. Reluctantly they both climb into the back seat, complaining the entire time.
Smiling, I reverse out of my spot, and start heading towards my house. Nervous as I am to be showing them a little piece of who I am, I find that I am actually kind of excited as well. And nerves or not, I know that these three people are the people I want to know a little about me. I just hope that this won't come back to bite me in the ass later.
So, carefully I drive my car load of oddballs towards my house, shaking but sure.