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Jack and Jill

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Beth is bone tired. And more than a little drunk.

She’s been overworking herself, taking on more orders than she should and pushing herself to finish them all in record time, essentially running herself ragged.

She’d dropped a ton of orders off at the post office and then went to hang out with Ruby and Annie, staying out way longer than she had planned and drinking way more than she should have. She’d left right around the time they’d started insisting(again) that she start dating, naming off random guys they knew that they could set her up with. Most of the guys Ruby listed sound way too boring and all of the guys Annie listed sound way too young.

And honestly, that was at least part of the reason she’d been trying to keep herself so busy lately. She’s a little scared of the idea of dating again. And, if she’s being completely honest, she hasn’t exactly felt the urge to go out to a bar and hook up with some stranger or make a profile on one of those dating apps.

So now she’s back at her apartment building super late and she’s standing in the stairwell on the first floor, looking up at the many stairs stretched out before her. Not for the first time, she’s cursing herself for settling on an apartment on the third floor.

It didn’t seem like that big of a deal when she’d first come to tour the apartment. Three flights of steps? No biggie. It’s not like she’s totally out of shape. She’s young, she eats semi-healthy, she knows how to work a treadmill (not that she ever actually gets on one, but still).

She’d let herself fall in love with the hardwood floors and oversized windows and large open space. So, the staircase hadn’t even registered on her radar as a deal breaker.

But after the first few weeks, she was over it.

Going up and down the stairs multiple times a day to run errands got really old, really fast. Throw in groceries or boxes of Etsy orders or arts and crafts and she felt like she could legitimately have a heart attack in this stairwell one day.

Or fall down them and break her neck after a night of drinking.

Beth huffs out a sigh, plopping herself down on the bottom step, wondering how illogical it would be to just...go to sleep right here.

Then she thinks about texting Rio, demanding that he come down and carry her up. Knowing him, he’d probably sling her over his shoulder like a bag of potatoes and then just dump her on her doorstep.

She’s seriously thinking about texting him anyway.

She gets her phone out, shooting off a quick text to see if he's at least at home.

The stairwell door slams open and a pair of guys she recognizes from the 4th floor come stumbling in.

They’re loud and rambunctious, obviously just coming from a bar or club. She can smell the alcohol seeping from their pores.

Or maybe that’s her, she thinks, trying to inconspicuously sniff herself.

They pause when they finally notice her on the step and Beth pockets her phone, shifting a little, knowing she must look like a hot mess.

The taller of the two looks her over, very carefully avoiding lingering on her chest, before returning to her face, grinning.

“Hey! You’re from the 2nd floor right?” He asks, stepping closer and Beth has to tilt her head back fairly far to look up at him. God, is he really that tall or is she really that drunk?

She opens her mouth to correct him, but then decides she might not necessarily want him to know where she actually lives. “Uhm. Sure.” She goes with instead, smiling sweetly.

The other guy moves to the stairs, stepping past her and walking up a few before turning back to his friend, who is still watching Beth. “Bro, you coming?”

“Yeah, I’ll be up in a minute.”

His friend laughs, eyeing Beth, before turning and jogging up the steps, disappearing from view.

Beth feels a little frozen in place. Does this guy actually think she’s some other random chick he knows from the 2nd floor? This is about to get real awkward if so.

“I don’t think we’ve officially met. I’m Matt.” He holds his hand out and Beth hesitates for a second, causing him to falter a bit. It makes her feel bad, and a bit rude, so she sticks her hand out to awkwardly shake his.

He grins, holding her hand in his a little longer than necessary and Beth finally realizes he doesn’t think she’s someone else-- he’s flirting with her.

She’s not sure what to do with this newfound knowledge. She hasn’t flirted with anyone since before her fiancé, a million years ago. Does she even want this guy flirting with her? Is she supposed to flirt back? Does she even remember how? Thinking about it is starting to give her anxiety.

The one thing she is sure of is she’s feeling pretty tipsy and she should really be heading upstairs to her apartment to pass out.

Beth pulls her hand away from his and grabs the railing, pulling herself back up onto her feet. She’s feeling more than a little unsteady. “Nice to meet you. Sorry, but I have to get going.”

Matt steps closer, and Beth grips the railing tighter as she’s forced to tilt her head back again to look at him. He has to be freakishly tall; she cannot be that drunk. “You didn’t tell me your name.” He points out, a little sheepishly.

Oh.” She snorts out a nervous little laugh, waving her free hand out in front of her, “Sorry, it’s Beth.”

“Nice to meet you, Beth. Why are you hanging out in the stairwell by yourself at night anyway? Seems a little dangerous.”

Beth rolls her eyes, Rio’s voice immediately popping into her head, lecturing her. “You sound like my neighbor. Always warning me about murderers and robbers. Not to mention the vampires, ghosts and werewolves.” She mutters, voice loaded with sarcasm. She turns away, trying not to trip over her feet as she hangs onto the railing.

“Uh...well that sounds like a rightfully concerned neighbor. Must be nice having someone around trying to protect you from those phantom vampires.” Matt’s voice comes from behind her and she turns her head to see him trailing her up the stairs (and—right, he lives upstairs too), eyeing her cautiously as she wobbles up the first few steps.

Beth snorts at that, rolling her eyes so hard she almost gives herself a headache. “He’s ridiculously paranoid. And he doesn’t care about protecting me, just likes lecturing me when I mess up. The King of ‘I told you so’.”

“He, huh?”

Beth stops and turns around and Matt nearly runs into her before he realizes. He’s one step down from her and it makes her almost level with him, so at least she doesn’t have to tilt her head this time. Which is nice, she thinks, since her neck was starting to hurt.

“My ex fiancé cheated on me on our wedding day and he was the only serious relationship I've had my entire life. My neighbor should be the least of your worries.”

Matt looks unsure of himself for the first time since they started talking. Like maybe he’s starting to regret his decision to strike up a conversation with her and Beth nods her head at that. That makes more sense. She’s normally not this chatty with random guys in stairwells, but the alcohol from earlier has loosened her tongue nicely, and she feels the need to warn him before he starts forming his own ideas about her.

Beth turns back around, continuing her way up the steps until she reaches the first landing.

“On your wedding day? Sounds like a real douche.” Matt finally settles on, voice filled with sympathy.

Beth stops and faces him, squinting a little. “Yeah. Luckily it was before we actually made it down the aisle so-- no divorce. Yay.” She waves her hands in the air unenthusiastically and Matt laughs, apparently completely charmed by her now.

“We were together since I was like, fifteen. Trust me when I say, you do not want to be involved with this right now.” Beth waves her finger in a circle around her face, walking backward while she talks, because Matt’s got a pretty cute smile and she likes looking at it. However, she’s terrible at walking backward on her best day, let alone on drunken days. So, it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise when she trips over her feet, stumbling, as she reaches the second flight of stairs. Poor sweet Matt is immediately there trying to help her, but Beth is already going down, and one of her hands connects solidly with his face as it flails out and then she’s landing painfully on her elbow and back. At least it’s not a broken neck, she thinks, as she lets out a long groan.

Matt is groaning too, a few colorful curse words leaving his mouth as he cradles his nose.

“I am so sorry.” Beth grits out as she tries to straighten up, wincing at the pain those movements cause.

Matt pulls his hands away, tentatively touching under his nose, looking for blood. When he doesn’t find any, he reaches out to help her up. “It’s fine, Are you okay?”

Beth waves his hands away, carefully moving into a seated position. “I’ll do less damage if I just...sit here for a minute.”

“We’re almost to your floor, you sure you don’t want to keep moving? Get home and survey the damage?” Matt gestures up the flight of stairs behind her and Beth turns her head to look. She groans when she realizes he’s referring to the 2nd floor, because of course she had confirmed that’s where she lived earlier.

Beth brings her elbow up to survey the damage there, poking a little at the scrape and bruise now marking it. “Just leave me here to die.” She blinks back some tears as she shoots him a wobbly little smile.

Matt laughs at that, wincing a little as he touches his nose.

“This place should really invest in an elevator, it would make being drunk so much easier.” Beth mumbles.

Matt looks confused. “There is an elevator.”

Beth’s mouth falls open as she looks up at him incredulously. “What?!”

“Yeah, it’s kinda tucked away, but it’s there. It takes forever to get to each floor and it’s almost always being worked on, so no one really uses it.”

Beth groans again, running her hands through her hair, pulling on it a little. “I can’t believe I’ve been here for months now and I didn’t know there was an elevator.”

“Alright, c’mon, pity party over. I’m not leaving you here to die.” He reaches out again, and this time she takes his hand and lets him pull her up. He helps her up the next flight of stairs, where she sheepishly admits that she is actually located on the 3rd floor. He is super understanding about it and they exchange goodbyes on the 3rd floor landing, her hobbling to her apartment and him continuing on up to his floor.

Beth notes he doesn’t try to walk her to her door or get her number, and really, she doesn’t blame him. He probably had a very different idea of how that was going to go.

She unlocks her door and shoves it open, kicking at it halfheartedly to close it, heading straight to her room. She carefully peels her shirt off and turns to look herself over in her full length mirror.

Her fingers skim over the scrapes and the bruises already forming along her side and back. Nothings really bleeding though and there’s definitely nothing broken, thank god.

“Elizabeth?”

Beth closes her eyes as she hears Rio’s voice drifting down her hallway, hears the front door closing as he steps in. Guess she didn’t kick it all the way closed after all. Boy is she gonna hear about this.

She opens her eyes again and only has a split second to think about the fact that she’s not wearing a shirt, before Rio steps into view. She’s still facing the mirror, so she watches him through it, and clocks it--the moment he registers that her upper half is only covered with a bra.

"Got your text." His eyes connect with hers in the mirror, burning into her, as he cocks his head to the side, silently asking her permission. She gives a slight nod and he slowly steps forward.

She clocks it again, the shift in his expression as he gets closer and he finally sees the marks along her back and arm.

He frowns, concern etched throughout his features as he meets her eyes again in the mirror. “The hell happened?”

“I was talking to this guy in the stairwell--” His facial features cloud over, darken immediately, and Beth realizes that was the wrong way to start this. “--I drank a little too much tonight--” His expression doesn’t change, might actually become worse, and she feels like she’s digging herself into a pretty big hole here. So she tries to salvage this. “--I tripped over my own feet, this was entirely my fault.”

Rio doesn’t say anything, just turns her gently so he can get a better look at her side, and she moves her arm so it’s not in his way.

“Looks like it hurts.”

“Only a little now. But I was just thinking I could use some more alcohol to numb the emotional pain.” She’s only half joking, a drink right now sounds amazing after the generally humiliating night she’s had.

Rio nods, jaw clenching a little, his gaze still fixed on her side. “I’ll make you a drink. Give you a minute.” He turns to leave her room, then looks back over his shoulder, eyes scanning over her one more time, “Can leave your shirt off if ya want tho.”

Beth rolls her eyes, would throw something at him if she could, but settles for-- “Go away.”

He chuckles, pulling her door closed as he leaves and Beth is grateful that he recognizes her need for some privacy right now without her having to vocalize it.

She turns back to the mirror, looking herself over one more time before undoing her jeans and shoving them off, grabbing a set of pj’s out of her drawer and pulling them on. She winces a little at the discomfort that comes with putting the shirt on. It’s not as bad as when she first fell, has dulled quite a bit. She is never going to drink and attempt the stairs again. Or at least, not for the few months it’ll take her to forget this promise to herself.

Beth grabs a rubber band and then heads out of her room, pulling her hair up into a ponytail as she meets Rio in the kitchen. He’s got her drink ready and one for himself.

She picks hers up from the counter, taking a small sip. “Thank you.”

“So, wanna tell me what happened with this guy?”

Beth tries to refrain from rolling her eyes, she really does, but it’s happening before she can stop it. Rio looks annoyed that she’s annoyed and this is not going to end well.

“Nothing happened with him. I was prepping myself for the stairs and he came in and helped me.”

“He was helpin’ you but you still fell?”

Beth sets her glass down on the counter, a little harder than she intended, glaring at Rio. “Yes. He was actually very nice.”

“What’s his name? What floor he live on?”

Beth puts her hand up to stop him, “Oh, no. Absolutely not.” She grabs her drink off the counter, turns on her heel and stomps away.

Rio follows. “What you think woulda happened if this guy had decided to be a lil less helpful when he found you?”

Beth snorts as she whips around, ignoring the pain that causes and the liquid that almost sloshes out of her glass. “It was fine. Why do you have to twist every situation into something awful?”

“’Cause you got your head up in the clouds, darlin’. You out here livin’ by yourself, lookin’ the way you do, not thinkin’ shit through.”

Beth pauses, momentarily caught up in his comment about her looks. She takes a deep breath in, squeezing her eyes shut for the briefest moment, before letting it back out slowly. She keeps her eyes focused on the floor as she tries to organize her thoughts. “Okay, well lecturing me is not helping.”

It’s quiet for a moment and Beth shifts a little, wondering if she should say something else.

“No, you right. You don’t know how to listen.”

Beth’s eyes snap up to glare at him. He cocks an eyebrow, like he’s daring her to argue with him, but she’s not going to take the bait.

She’s not.

She stubbornly sets her mouth in a hard line and he shakes his head a little, amusement dancing in those gorgeous eyes of his.

“I’m gonna teach you.”

Beth’s eyebrows snap together, her mouth twisted up in confusion. “Teach me what?”

“You gonna come with me to my gym tomorrow. We gonna box. See how many rounds we can get outta you.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Beth shakes her head, trying to comprehend what he’s suggesting. “You can’t be serious.”

“Yeh, we doin’ this.” He nods his head assuredly, like its already said and done-- set in stone.

“That’s ridiculous. I don’t need to learn how to fight.”

“Oh, nah?” He cocks his head to the side, his face scrunching up in that way he does when he’s being a sarcastic ass. He sets his drink down on the coffee table and starts advancing on her and Beth immediately backs up.

She points her finger at him, walking backward as she does, and god, hasn’t she learned anything from her fall earlier? “Rio. No.” She turns and quickly laps the couch, putting the coffee table between them, and setting her drink down too.

He moves to the left and she quickly steps back behind the recliner, putting even more furniture between them. She can’t help the laughter that bubbles up out of her even as she keeps a wary eye on him. This is ridiculous. And she says as much when he prowls around the coffee table, like he’s stalking some sort of prey.

“C’mon, I wanna see what you got.” He’s mocking her, she knows it, and she almost lets him catch her just so she can smack him. But when he picks up his pace, she makes a break for it. She’s too clumsy and he’s anything but, so he pounces on her almost immediately, backing her all the way up to the wall and pushing her up against it. He grabs her wrists and presses them up above her head. Beth tries not to wince at the ache it causes in her already bruised body.

“This feels familiar.” He murmurs before pulling back slightly. The memory of them on the floor, his body on top of hers, flashes through her mind.

Beth’s breathing heavily, has to tilt her head up to even look at him, shivering a little at his proximity. Rio’s breathing is slow and steady, his face serious as he looks down at her, jaw clenching.

“C’mon. Show me.” His voice is low, gravelly, way too loaded. She shakes her head, trying to clear it, and yanks at her arms. He’s too strong-- they don’t even budge.

His mouth twitches a little, clearly amused by her effort, her lack of strength, at being proven right. Beth glares at him, scowling.

And okay fine, so she could use a little help in this department.

She won’t admit it though. Not to him.

So, she tries again-- with a different tactic this time. She pushes up at him with her body, trying to throw him off balance, maybe even succeed at pushing him off. She realizes, too late, what a terrible move this really is when Rio’s expression falters as her body rubs against his. He easily presses her back down, eyes dark, face close to hers, “What I tell you bout playin’ dirty, Ma.” Beth feels herself flush, wants to say that’s not what that was-- but maybe it was, just a little bit. Her brain can’t seem to form an actual sentence and push it out right now anyway.

Rio slowly brings her arms down to her sides and releases her wrists. Before she can react though, he slides his hands over her hips and down to her ass. Beth gasps as he pulls her even tighter against him. He’s nosing at her hair, pushing at it so his lips can graze against her neck, and Beth bites at her bottom lip, trying not to moan.

Then he’s whispering in her ear, “Tomorrow. 8 a.m. No hangover excuses.", and he’s letting her go, stepping back, leaving Beth to slump back against the wall, hot and more than a little dizzy from this latest bout of sexual whiplash.

Rio smirks as he turns, striding across the room to the front door, not slowing down or stopping as he calls back over his shoulder, “I’ll text you the address. Get some sleep, sweetheart.”

Beth curses him silently, trying to calm her racing heart. Why does he keep doing this to her? Does he just really enjoy messing with her? Admittedly, she maybe had also been messing with him. But still. She doesn’t know how much more of this she can handle. She’s not used to this...push and pull that she has with him. This tension. It was never like this with her ex. Is this back and forth between them normal? Do other people experience this? She’s really going to have to talk to Ruby and Annie about this. She’d told them the bare minimum about first meeting Rio, and almost nothing about him since. She’s not exactly sure why that is.

Maybe being in this new apartment, starting a new life without her ex—maybe she feels the need to keep him separate. To herself. At least for now.

Beth groans as Rio’s last words actually settle in her brain. 8 a.m.?! It’s a Saturday. Who goes boxing at 8 in the morning on a Saturday.

“Sadists, that’s who.” Beth says out loud to her empty apartment.

She pushes herself off the wall and makes her way back to her bedroom, flopping down face first on the bed and groaning into her pillow.

Rejected by and humiliated in front of two guys in one night. She’s really on a roll here.