The emotional spike was minimal. She had prepared mentally. Frost smiled as friendly as he could.
“Hi Amber. Sorry. Do you mind if I come in?”
“Not as much,” she stepped back, expression unreadable, “as I would standing here to talk.”
“I’ll take it.”
He kept the smile on as he stepped inside and went to the now familiar couch. Amber stopped just behind him, standing for a long while. Sat down on the far end and spoke.
“What do you want?”
“Amber,” Frost reined in a reflex retort, “I don’t intend to attack you, accuse you or offend you. Not before,” he hoped she picked up his meaning, “and not now.”
Well, so much for having the conversation on script. Her words sent pain through his nerves. He wanted to hug her, knew why and was okay with that. He just hoped he also understood what she was asking.
“Not your fault. I thought not then, now I know it wasn’t.”
“You were. We were.”
She said it so softly that from three feet he almost didn’t hear her. Frost turned that one over in his brain. Thought back through Mr. Dawn’s explanation.
“You mean my slick tatt’?” Frost considered, but decided against lifting his shirt. Amber probably wouldn’t appreciate it. It would be interesting to feel what she felt at the view, but no.
She pulled her knees up, hugging herself. Frost inched ever so carefully closer on the couch.
“Yeah, I doubt…” Oh duh, Frost. “Your mom intended that bit huh?”
“Amber,” he kept his voice casual, “I asked to talk to you firstly because someone, something tried to kill me today. He kept saying ‘in the way, she says.’”
“You think if I knew how to deal with her,” Amber’s head came up and a wave of anger and frustration crashed over him, “I would have been there that night?”
“Amber,” he chanced inching a little closer as she dropped her head once more on her knees. “I’m not saying that. I’m not suggesting you wave a magic wand and fix my problem. Not that you can, not that you should. I was hoping for information. I was lucky, and got away. I’m not going to be able to every time.”
“It’s my fault,” Amber started thumping her head on her knees, “if I hadn’t… she wouldn’t have realized that you-“ she stopped herself. “She wouldn’t be after you.”
“Amber,” he sidled a half-inch closer. Okay, deep breath. “I don’t know, yet, if I’m glad you apparently stayed in school because of me. Nor do I know yet how I feel about being,” just say it man, “yours. But I am glad, or would be, for the chance to find out. And if it’s okay with you,” a smile crept onto his face, “I’d rather not die in the process.”
“Great Mother,” Amber pushed her face into her knees, “Frost you’re even more incredible than I thought.”
Wow. Okay. Not the admission he was prepared for. He felt warm and tingly all through. Wait a second, that wasn’t just emotion… Frost blinked. He had slid right up and wrapped his arms around Amber. He was hugging her before he noticed. It felt wonderful. Frost hugged a little tighter.
“What are you doing?” Fairy or not, Amber was every inch a teenage girl in that moment. A jumble across the whole range of feeling went with the words.
“I’m hugging you.” Award for most obvious, Frederick Winters. Thank you everyone. I’m here all week. If he didn’t die in the next few minutes anyway.
“Because,” The words spilled out on their own. “It feels right.”
“I didn’t ask you to touch me.” She didn’t push him away.
“Seemed like a good idea.”
“Amber,” her father’s voice came with the door opening. “I’m home.”
Amber shifted in his arms. She didn’t push and Frost found himself not willing to let go just yet.
“I- Hello Frost.”
He didn’t turn. Amber was squirming more insistently even as every feeling said to hold on.
“Good afternoon Mr. Dawn.”
“Amber,” Mr. Dawn continued, “are you all right?”
“I’ve been crying and I’ve got this idiot,” The insult lost a lot of weight knowing the feelings beneath the irritation, “wrapped around my shoulders. Fine thank you, dad.”
“Good. Frost, two things. Respect her, or I kill you. And are you prepared for the consequences?”
“Duly noted,” he squeezed tighter as he half turned to nod at her dad. “And I hope so.” He wasn’t sure just what consequences Mr. Dawn meant.
“Frost,” Amber’s voice was cool, “let go.”
Well, so much for that. Frost let go. Hers or his, the jarring loss could have been avoided if she had asked instead. Amber pushed him back to the far end of the couch with a conflicted expression. Which left Frost space to think.
It was policy that fathers hated their daughters’ boyfriends. Especially before college. His read on Mr. Dawn fit. Yet he hadn’t really objected finding them hugging on the couch. Seemed almost encouraging.
Regardless, Frost wasn’t getting anywhere. Time to try to get the conversation back on track, if he could. Amber was sitting sullen on her end of the couch, glaring at him from the corner of her eye.
“Okay,” he started. Wasn’t cut off so kept going. “Getting back to my question, what can I do about being attacked?”
“I don’t know! Fairies don’t have the limitations you do. All I can tell you for sure is that you have to beat them. They love games, making no distinction about lethality. You can’t kill one like you would a person. Don’t hesitate. They won’t. Don’t ever try to offer a better deal or bargain. Never plead.”
Well, that was depressing. Sort of helpful, not really. Frost grimaced.
“Helpful, I know. Don’t die, I-“ She caught herself, but he could guess now. “Just don’t.” Something crossed her face.
So. I have to beat them, can’t beat them, and not allowed to lose.
“I never knew the laws of thermodynamics would apply so personally.”
“A friend once explained them to me like this: you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game.”
“I didn’t mean to-“
“Amber,” Frost cut her off, “don’t blame yourself. Not how either of us wanted it to be, but it happened. I prefer going forward to back. Although,” no, stop! Frost, you were going good there. Shut up, don’t- “why did the tattoo thing happen?” Crap.
“You’re so smart,” her voice was bitter. Not directed at him. “Work it out.”
“Huh. Jess said much the same thing. I think maybe I have. Still not sure I believe it though.”
“Jess talked to you?” She studied his face, looked away again. Frost hoped he hadn’t just gotten his friend in trouble. “You talk about fairies like it’s nothing. What could be so much harder to believe?”
Frost, you’re an idiot. Her dad asked if you could take the consequences. Really asking to test yourself on that huh? “That you might like me. A lot.”
Amber’s head came up, eyes met. There was anger, betrayal even. Not fair, but there it was.
“You egotistical pig! You think you can just speak for-“
“Amber, think. I’m sure now that I have been sharing some of your emotions the last two months. What I don’t get is, why me? I’m nothing special.”
“Too observant by half, and obnoxious about it. Fine, what if I do. What do you plan to do with it?”
“I was hoping,” now he tried for delicacy. He’d put his foot in it. Don’t salt the wound man, “to get to know you. See where it goes.”
That stopped her cold. Lightning fast, Amber stood up, stepping in front of him and leaning down nose-to-nose, dripping disbelief.
“Is that so hard to believe?” He turned her own question back on her, even as he fought the desire to flee.
Amber turned away, wrapping her arms around herself. She spoke whisper soft, words strangled.
“You were raped.”
“But not,” he laid fingers on her elbow, looking up, “by you Amber.”
“No?” She whirled on him. “You don’t think that,” she jabbed his chest, “means anything?”
“I’d wondered about that,” he still looked at her calmly. “If fairies or whatever can just do that, why aren’t we all slaves?”
“That’s the point. They can’t. Charming a person momentarily is easy; to bind them like that they have to agree…”
Amber looked thunder-struck. Something she hadn’t considered? Or chose to ignore. Frost was both pleased, and very curious.
“I don’t remember that night clearly. I’m not sure how to deal with it all yet, so I don’t. But you just said I had to agree for this,” he tapped his chest, “to exist. Well it’s right there.”
“You couldn’t have known…”
“And you aren’t making it easy to learn. But I want to.” He stood slowly, putting hands loosely around her upper arms. “It’s there, it happened. Oh, this reminds me,” right. The other thing he wanted to talk about. Probably not a good time. Would there ever be one though?
“What?” The defeat in her voice made him wince.
“How would you feel,” Fine. Fine Frost, but you’re on your own. Let’s just drop the whole payload of explosives, eh? “About going steady, you and me?”
“Wha- Why- Wha-how- Wai- What?”
Amber blushed adorably. Of course she did. Unfortunately, she was still a blinding fast runner. Frost didn’t even hear steps as she flew upstairs. He did hear a door slam, presumably to her room.
“Frost,” Her dad appeared a moment later, spatula high in one hand. “What did you say?”
“Sorry, Mister Dawn. I should’ve asked you first - I asked how she felt about steady dating.”
“You know that’s not recommended at your age.” The spatula lowered fractionally. It was a canned statement, without feeling.
“We’re hardly in a typical situation.”
“Do I have your permission?”
“All right, Frost,” Mr. Dawn crossed his arms over his chest, “if she isn’t having a heart attack, I won’t say no.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t imagine you wanted this for your daughter.”
“At least she’s getting…”
He walked back into the kitchen without finishing the sentence. After a moment with no sign of Amber, Frost decided it best to see himself out. Paused before the stairs, couldn’t think what to say. Politely excused himself to Mr. Dawn on the way out the door. Waited until he was in the car before giving himself a thorough dressing down.
What were you thinking? You cannot go throwing emotional bombs around like candy. What are you playing at? You better not be hoping for something, dating the most attractive girl in the county. If she doesn’t kill you. Better not be hoping for that either, Frosty. Sometimes, I really wonder about myself.
He started the car and headed home. He’d wait for Amber’s response one way or the other before telling any of his own family. That one was going to be an altogether different can of worms, no sense tackling it until he had to.