Pepper

A nightwatch goes to break up an argument between well known offenders, when her night goes from bad to worse in one quick move of a hand.

0

She sighed deep, watching the irritated man strove towards her. She had expected as much. Only minutes ago she had taken the Silence tour and had decided she wasn’t gonna knock on the door, behind which she had heard several people talking. They were rather quiet, so only mere whispering could be heard on the other end of the corridor, which in her book meant no intruding, but that hardly meant anything to him.

She despised him. Not to his face, but she really, really didn’t like him.

For one, he thought dormitories were supposed to be quiet. This one never was.There was always someone playing guitar, having a birthday party or preparing for a night out. That was ineluctable – it was 400 youth living under one roof!

For two, he complained. A lot. She was sure someone had to be worse, but that didn’t make them feel any easier when they yet again saw his tight up neck muscles fly to the front desk, expecting them to flinch at his every word.

For third, he just looked ugly. His huge overworked hands, large chest and thick neck gave him a look of palooka and she couldn’t understand any of her colleges, who ogled at him and thought of him appealing for a second taste.

She didn’t want a second taste. She promised herself she’ll puke if she had a second taste – others weren’t having problems with him, she was! She had solved his last problem, the problem before that and the problem before that… She stopped counting them after she heard from her supervisor the man wasn’t having any problems during the other watches. But she had to stare his ugly face at least twice a month. Like clockwork.

Now was another of those days.

“Good evening!” she started, trying to sound cheerful, but managed only a slight smile against his scowling.

What was it this time? Loud music? Cats? Aah – the talkers.

She wasn’t in accompanying mood and rose immediately behind the table, grabbing her keys. She was gonna do it simple and professionally, suggest them to call it a night and get back to her desk as fast as possible. She knew this wasn’t gonna be the end of it though – the suggestions usually provoked the young to do the quite opposite and she’d hear…

“Why can’t the youth of these days have a respect to older people?”

Her shoulder slump. They weren’t even out of the elevator yet and he had already started his rant.

Because you’re arrogant narcissistic pig and treat others as if you were the king, she thought sourly. She kept her tongue hidden behind her teeth though, it wasn’t the night to go against your survival instincts and get fired duo his complaint. It wasn’t worth it. How long was he to be learning anyway? Two years more? Four? She could survive the two, she tried to tell herself.

The room wasn’t very noisy now, but she still knocked and it was open by one very aggravated student. She had seen her come in earlier – little red cap with dark coat. Three more were sitting behind the kitchen table.

“You again!” she exclaimed and through that notion, she knew he hadn’t yet again followed any logic and had gone banging behind their door already, before coming to her.

“If he…” she started, but came to an abrupt stop seeing the two men rise. She pulled back a step and listened them bark insults at each other, before deciding it was getting too hot and tried to intervene. The students were only talking and that’s what they yelled at him, but he couldn’t let go of his right to get a good night sleep. Both were right she knew, but both also waited a jest that would make the other disappear.

“That’s it!” the man suddenly took a step towards the flat owner.

“Hey, stop it! He’s only whipping you up!” She grabbed his hand and literally pulled him aside, putting herself between them. Her scowl had surprisingly cooling effect on him and he, though gritting, relaxed his muscles, not daring to go around her.

She had saved his sorry ass several times from stupid fights and later, thinking back on those occasions, in his heart, he thanked her. He also realized pretty fast he had started choosing times to go on those menacing crusades against the younger generation when she was at work, just in case he’d happened to get the mood of striking someone again.

“Aah! He’s attacking us!” the black-haired girl screamed at the same time and she snapped around, ready to tell her to cool off too, but only gasped in surprise when she found herself in the middle of a thick gas cloud. She had pepper sprayed straight in her face and instead of pulling the man out of the fight, she clenched at his hand now, ready to faint right there.

He pulled her out fast, slamming in the corridor wall behind them, trying to keep her standing while all her instincts said she was gone in hell and ready to sell her soul to the first person willing to buy. She went blind in mere second and coughed hard, trying to keep herself from vomiting.

It grew eerily quiet for a moment that lasted forever, before the boys became alive again and started yelling over the of their girlfriend’s infinit stupidity. They immediately offered to call ambulance, but the man shook his head, ordering them and the girl, who tried to look confident, but still started whaling to shut up for the night and said he’ll deal with them later, right now he had to get her out of the spray filled corridor.

She didn’t recognize, what went on for another good ten minutes. She was too blind to see anything and was crying endlessly while coughing hard. She knew he sat her down in his kitchen though as she didn’t remember walking very far.

“Here,” she heard his voice somewhere far and felt cold wet towel on her hands. She wasn’t fast enough to move, so he grabbed it from her and started cleaning her face himself. She was still too stunned to understand and let him do it. But feeling his hands thoroughly scrubbing her face brought her back fast as it hurt worse than she imagined possible. She started to struggle and soon caught his hands, forcing them away.

She tried to order him to stop, but couldn’t form understandable words. He didn’t stop.

“Sit still!” he ordered, grabbed her wrists in his left hand and continued scrubbing with his right. “It will ease soon, I promise!”

She didn’t believe his promise, but having no other options open, she didn’t distrust him either.

He let go of her, left her alone while he took another towel, moistened it with cold milk and continued scrubbing her cheeks and temples. Then he repeated it with another water towel, sinking it in soap water.

“I can’t see!” her voice was hollow and distorted, but he didn’t care.

“I know, you’re eyes are irritated – it will take time for the swelling to pull back. You’ll… stop!” he ordered suddenly and grabbed her hands that moved upwards to her face.

“It itches!” She howled, but he didn’t let the hands go.

“Scratching won’t help!”

He took a deep breath. He was having hard time keeping himself from scratching as he also was all covered up with the stuff, but he got only a fracture of the amount she caught with her face. This made her the priority.

“Let it cool.” He softened his order. He insisted on it and after few minutes of fighting she relaxed, nodding. He slowly eased his grip, keeping his fingers only inches away as he was sure she’d give in to the urge and slam her fingers in her face the moment she didn’t feel handcuffed.

She didn’t. God she wished to do it, but she didn’t. Instead she cried, letting the gas forced tears mix with the hurting tears, embarrassing tears.

He watched her cry, fingers curled up in tight fists in front of her. He knew she was struggling and she would have cried even without the gas now, but he didn’t care. It didn’t stir him up as it usually did when he observed a wailing woman. She had a good reason to cry.

And all he wished for was a quiet night. The screaming at the next door continued though, twice as powerful as before. He would have gladly marched back there, bellowed them silent, but didn’t dare to leave her alone here.

“You’ll have to call someone to come take your place.” He said, when she showed signs of calming, offering her a glass of milk and washing her face with another cold watered towel. She refused, but he continued soothingly. “The symptoms will take hours to pass. You’ll have to call your supervisor and ask someone else to come.”

She nodded slowly and started searching for the phone, but he stopped her hands. He had cleaned them earlier, but he still didn’t wish to take any chances and asked her, where she kept the phone, already seeing it hanging it from the ribbon around her neck. He reached after it and stopped only an inch before grabbing it. It was close to her face, meaning it was covered with the spray, too. He funk, thinking he couldn’t let her touch it as it would have restarted the whole process of cleaning her. Still, if he touched it, he would get the same amount… He let out a low grunt and grabbed the machine.

“Mrs. Peprosivitch.” She pushed through her teeth. She expected him to dial the number and give the phone to her, but he rose instead, marched to the window, way out of her reach, and waited.

The almost drowsy ‘hello’ soon turned in one very aggravating sound he had no love for. He didn’t like the woman and the way she reacted, he pretty well knew, why. The moment she heard a stranger speak in the other end of the phone, she accused her of neglecting her post, demanding to speak with her, but he refused, saying she was in no condition to talk. He explained fast and said she’ll need to call in for a replacement, before hanging up, telling he’ll take care of her.

Then it was time to take care for himself he thought, undressed quickly, not bothering if she could see it or not. He knew that if he was to drag her through the house and to her home, his pepper smelling scent would only worsen it.

“I can’t go!” she yelped out the moment she heard him move around again.

“I know. We’ll wait until your replacement arrives and then I’ll take you home.” She was ready to protest to that, but he staid unaffected. She was in no condition to be left without supervision and he didn’t care if she wished it or not.

He helped her up and led her downstairs, keeping her still against his side, fearing she might fall the moment he let go. He wasn’t wrong – had he let her go even for a moment, she would have collapsed.

Mrs. Peprosivitch herself arrived almost instantly, which was easy as she lived in the next house, stared at them two sitting behind the counter, where he was holding her hands cuffed in his so she wouldn’t start scratching again as he had only moments ago seen her do and muttered mater-of-fact how she thought it to be sick joke of hers.

He rose so suddenly, he pushed his chair over, towering several inches over her. He couldn’t believe what he just heard. She thought of it to be a joke??

“I’ll stay here.” She admitted fast, already removing her coat and reached out to touch her, but he blocked her.

“She is still covered with it.” He explained and turned not a moment too soon to lock her hands again. “Don’t scratch!” He ordered and earned a nod.

“Promise me you won’t try again!” he demanded. Throughout these months he had learned one thing – the woman kept her promises and though he scarcely ever wished to use that knowledge over her, he saw no choice now. She’ll grit her teeth, he knew, but she’ll keep her hands off her face.

He repeated his demand and got a quiet ‘yes’.

“Why should I let her leave with you?” the older woman asked suddenly, drawing his attention back on her. He didn’t know what to make of it. His silence only fueled her anger. “After you called, I got a call from your neighbors – the girl wants to bring charges on you! She said you attacked them!”

“I did not attack them! They were talking so loud I couldn’t sleep; I only called them to order and when I called her to come and explain them the rules, the girl sprayed that gas in her face! It’s them I’m bringing charges on!” he bawled.

He heard her sobbing behind him and understood how little his angry statements helped. She was probably fearing loosing her job over this and his selfish arguments weren’t gonna help.

“Right now I don’t give a shit about the spoiled brats! I ‘m taking her home and that’s that!”

He turned and pulled her on her feet, soundlessly brushed her tears away before walking out to his car and helped her sit on the passenger’s seat.

She willingly told him, where to take her, hoping he’ll just leave her there and come back, but he had no such intentions. She was still too week, too blind to see her way and the way her face had purpled instead just gone red, he knew she had to be allergic to it. There had been only one time before that he had seen such purple and that man had gagged for his life for five days. But she looked better now.

He drove in silence, constantly checking on her turned away face and stiffened, shivering body. She was trying to keep the spasms under control, but there was little she could do about them.

She didn’t live far, only half an hour drive and by the time they got there, he could see she was more relaxed now and her eyes started looking around again, but he told her to keep them shut.

“The less you put them under stress, the faster the pain ceases.”

Before she could even try to get up herself she felt the door next to her open and felt his hand pulling her out, gently pushing her head down to keep it from pumping against the metal. She thought this couldn’t be the first time he had to do it, but that thought soon backed out a thudding headache that threatened to take over her whole head.

He helped her out and asked for the house keys. She said they were in her left pocket and he without any further warning, dig in there and took them, leaving her alone for a moment. Her hands like magic started rising towards her face, but she tried not to touch it. Just as she was to give up her fight, they were again chocked between his iron fists that slowly returned them near her waist.

“You promised!” he reminded her, hissing it to her ear and showed her the way to inside. She knew she had promised it, but what did the promise matter if the brain had left her helpless against her own body?

He let her in and followed, closing the door behind her. He turned on the lights, but she covered her eyes at once, only saying it hurt.

Still too tender, he thought vaguely, took a fast look around and saw a simple black silk scarf. He made her lower her hands and blind the eyes.

“There, this should help.” He said gruffly. He sounded tired to her now and she felt suddenly deep guilt for drawing him along. She became rigidly still.

Now, blindfolded, she didn’t see, but felt him turn her around and silently starting to unbutton her jacket.

“H-hey!” she tried to protest, but he continued.

“Stop!” he ordered after receiving rather painful hit to his chest. “We need to get you out of these clothes. The less contact you have with the spray, the better.” He explained.

“I can manage…” she started, hardly wishing to get naked before a stranger.

“I’m sure you can, but I ain’t leaving before I know you’re safe.” He said in a tone he knew no one before had argued with.

“B-but I am safe…” she tried to confront him, but instead he ripped the jacket off, stripping her to her summer top. Next one was her necklace to disappear and she listened him put it down on the living room table before gating off to kitchen.

She stood there for a minute, holding her breath while listening him fill a basin with water, closing the tap and strolling back in the living room, where he put the basin with the water on the table, before gently nudging her few steps back until she felt the soft daybed behind her and blundered on it. She listened him take the foot stool and place it in front of her.

He sighed sadly when he took his seat and started rubbing her bare skin with the towel again, at the same time diverting all her attempts to take the hurtful rag from his hand and hit him with it. He finished with her face and moved down her neck and over her chest, where it had been exposed to the poison.

His caressing finally started bringing life back in her. She grew painfully aware how close he was now, sensing the odd mixture of wood, sweat and pepper under his clean shirt. His breathing was quiet, even. She didn’t have to see him to know he wasn’t all happy with the situation he had been so harshly pushed into.

“You have it on you.” She whispered. It was hard to say anything as her throat wasn’t yet up to co-operation.

“What?” He wasn’t paying much attention on anything else but her skin right now, thoroughly rinsing it with warm water, dragging one hand after another in his lap and taking inch-to-inch approach of getting them cleaned.

“The spray, I can smell it on your skin.”

The towel stopped and she could feel him stiffen. A sudden fear of him taking his hands away made her launch her palms out and take them in her hand. They were firm, furrowed, and slightly cool from the water.

He didn’t pull them away, but let her explore his hands, getting to know them, staring the silk scarf that hid her eyes from him. He wished to see her eyes right now and jerked to reach for the scarf, but broke off the movement. It startled her and during a second she staid very still, but he didn’t move anymore, wondering it might be far more interesting this way. As nothing followed, she explored on, moving her fingers slowly upwards over his biceps, on his shoulder, then followed the clavicle to the centre, stopping on the collar button.

She felt something stir deep in her. For a man she despised he sure felt good to touch, slightly cornered, yet wonderfully soft. There was a deep scar on his right shoulder she felt under her fingertips, probably from falling off something, but she didn’t stop on it. The scar meant little to her, she felt more fascinated by the complexity his muscles worked in.

He let out a rapid breath, realizing there that he had actually held it in for so long as it took her to climb up on his chest. She must have known it, because her fingers flipped a little, but she didn’t pull them away.

One at a time the buttons opened and he had to preserve all his self control now in order not to move. The lower her hands got, the less control he felt to bosses, but she stopped before reaching too low, brushed up over his muscles and dragged the shirt down over his shoulders.

She still couldn’t see much, he decided from how ragged and fearful her movements were, but she used her senses to guide her and after little search she found the towel from his left hand, softly curling his fingers away from it.

The heat his body produced made the warm water feel almost cold and he thought it burned him when the towel touched his neck. She slowly moved the towel, carefully tracing the area with her fingers, like keeping track, where she had just been.

It was torment in full scale. The knot that had evolved in his abdomen nearly at the beginning of her hands touching him grew stronger with her every stroke and soon he thought he couldn’t bare it, making him clad she couldn’t see how he clenched his teeth, not to whimper from the odd pleasure it gave him.

She finished with the chest and moved on to his left hand, calmly claiming it with the towel, cleaning it just as thoroughly as he had just done with her skin.

She finished with bathing him mere half an hour later, driving him near mad. His breathing was out of control now – low, pulsing, maddening. His eyes were eager to feast and head full of ideas, what he would do with her if he wasn’t controlled man. She had to rest. He told it to himself over and over, hoping it would calm his spirit enough to leave without laying his hands on her.

“No.” he answered his own dilemma and dashed at her, capturing her mouth and slowly, very slowly kissed her, pushing her even further back on the couch, pressing her between him and the soft cushions. Her lips parted a little, letting him take a taste of the bitter pepper on her lips. He didn’t care, not anymore, the pain will vanish at some point he hoped and cut deeper, only to regret it as the pain didn’t go anywhere and he finally gave up to it, pulling himself free from her teasing curved mouth, tumbling on a thought how it must of hurt her. The venom was still in her system and touching anything contaminated with it was painful. Still, he was kissing her.

He drew back his own lust and himself and reached to his jacket. It was lying right there where he had put it and ran out in the cold early morning rain. It calmed enough to stand up straight and move to his car.

0

He was about to close his door, when he heard the corridor door bang and saw her come towards, playing with the rolled up keys in her hand. He watched her coming for a long silent second, before crunching his keys to make her know he was there. It worked, she slowed down.

“Your workday is over?” he asked when she reached him.

“Hi.” She reminded him the proper greeting, “Yes. Came to see a friend of mine.” She explained, slightly eerie from seeing him there.

He had moved out the house the next week, just when they had settled the little problem with the neighbors, avoiding her there the whole time, like there was suddenly a wall built between them with a huge forbidding sign not to clime over.

He had put it there, though not so willingly, but to “protect her” as he reminded himself. After leaving her there, he had long time to think it over and he decided the best thing to do was to move somewhere with less noise and as far away as possible of ever seeing her. It would’ve been gawky and either she left her job or he got out of the place that caused him constant turmoil in the first place.

Now it had been two weeks he hadn’t spoken to her. He had seen her sitting in the cafeteria in the town, having lunch with some girl.

He was literally speechless and just stared at her pear like shape hidden in grey skirt and grey trench coat. The next was neatly hidden in deep yellow scarf. His eyes traveled back in her eyes and his lips curved upwards – her eyes glinted in the dark. She hadn’t forgotten that kiss either, only he couldn’t see was she angry about it or expecting more.

“You live here now?” she asked, lowering her eyes and stared at the keys she was holding. They weren’t this house keys, but hers and as she didn’t live far from here, it hadn’t crossed her mind to put them away.

He stopped her flipping them up and down; he felt the knot in his stomach tighten and that was too distracting for an average looking girl. He immediately wondered how average would that look stay if dressed in something more revealing and decided such thoughts was too unkind to civilized man he considered himself to be.

It took him a moment to realize she was staring at her face and she was staring him. She had asked him something, he remembered, but couldn’t recall, what. She didn’t seem interested in the answer though.

He let go of her hand, sensing how it heated up his palm. The keys sting.

She answered with a slight smile, feeling like giving up and hid them in her pocket, before stepping aside and starting to her earlier destination. She was almost out of reach, when he finally came around the thought that he was old enough to act reckless. He reached back, grabbed her elbow, twirled her around fast and kissed her.

She lost her ground from the pulling and slammed back against the wall, him tightly after. She hadn’t bargained on that, thought about it, yes, but not expected it. The last one had been least than terrible experience and she wasn’t up to repeating it. The last kiss she had received from a boy hadn’t been anything great either and to have him now invading her mouth she expected to relive that nasty experience again.

But he didn’t taste like the last time – no pain and no vile pepper. He pulled away, taking in the fact that her cherry flavored lips staid closed.

He felt disappointed – he didn’t want to taste her outside, he wanted to know how she tasted from inside, the chocolate milk he had seen her zip, the coffee cake he had seen her taste. He stared in her surprised eyes for a good long minute, grinned to answer her silent question and dogged his hands around her hips, dragging her higher up on the wall as if the girl had no weight at all, before giving it another try, this time making sure, teasing her lips with his gave the result he wanted. He locked her between him and the wall and ran his hands higher.

She felt inapt to answer his call – while she reacted to his touch, her mouth seemed inexperienced, not so willing as her breathing betrayed. Though it seemed odd, he let it not faze his judgment, the woman probably hadn’t had many experience on kissing before.

He let his hand wonder downwards again, pulling her skirt higher. That move made her totally rigid for a thread of a moment, then she started squirming and the hands she had pulled his chin closer dropped in great speed and though she was powerless to stop his iron grip from exploring, the intensity she put in the move astonished him enough to pause and see her terrified eyes.

Her callowness in kissing picked up new look altogether. Though she seemed willing to play, the sudden horror her eyes mirrored made him suspect an alternative.

He slowly lift her higher, so he could easily move her skirt up, closed in so she wouldn’t be able to run even if she wanted to and slid his finger in her, inducing her flinch between his arms and hid a cry of pain.

He froze, staring in her inflamed face.

She was angry – not once in her life had she felt ashamed for being young, but she did regret it now, often hearing him attack the younger generation for being disrespectful and spoiled.

He slowly removed his hand, letting her back down, but not from his grip. He had read countless stories of men falling for teenagers, who had dressed older than their age, but he could have sworn, by how she regarded the problems she couldn’t be…

“How old are you?” he asked slowly, all the emotion gushing inside, from anger to despair and back.

Yup – keep it against me now, she thought bitterly before answering.

“Twenty two.”

He couldn’t keep himself to let out a gasp – she was about the same age as the students were! Yet her voice and posture were what you’d expect from an experienced woman.

“Five years working there does count for something.” She hindered his question and curt free, fast fixing her loose pony tale and reaching out for the nearby door.

He sensed her frustration, realizing what his past angry judgment had brought her to think and grid his teeth. He didn’t really give a damn about anybody’s age – he just fell in stereotyping when he felt insecure about something or felt he had nothing else to talk about.

“Hey,” he called, “I’ll see you again?”

She had raised her fingers to knock, but halted, gaping at him, even forgetting to breath. The door burst open and out gushing warm light enfolded her in itself.

He pulled back in his door’s bay, so the girls, who slam her hands around her shocked figure wouldn’t see her.

“I was about to come looking for you!” she yelped, jumping around her like a puppy.

“I’m here…” she whispered, still staring in the dark, where he had just stood and was pulled inside.

He didn’t get his answer that night. It didn’t bother him – he knew where to find her, but he thought leaving her some time to cope with the news would be good. Though experienced in the matters involving work, he got the feeling that wasn’t the case with love and for once in his life, he actually felt willing to be the guide.

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