He was sitting on her front steps when she got home that night.
It was an ordinary night. Quiet, with only her and a few other people working the way home. It rained all summer. It felt like they had been hit with hurricane after hurricane for the past few weeks, and when it wasn’t raining, wet and muggy nights were the norm.
She couldn’t remember the last time she saw the sun.
She wasn’t expecting him, but when she saw him slumped on the steps, she wasn’t surprised. He was the type to show up unannounced.
They often found her at the oddest times, Sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes in the middle of the street. She would be walking by, in her own world, and they would grab at her mid-stride and beg her for help.
They sensed her power. Or maybe they saw a kind face. Either way, she always helped.
Some of them knew who she was through rumors or word of mouth. Some knew where she lived. He was one of them. He found her every now and then. Sometimes to check in. Sometimes to lay low. But his visits were so few and far in between she sometimes forgot he even existed. She tried to believe he wasn’t real.
For as long as she’d known of him, rumor had it he could peel the skin straight off your bones with his tongue. It was like acid and sandpaper mixed together, and if you pissed him off bad enough he could peel your face right off and leave nothing but bubbling hot muscle and blood behind.
It wasn’t pretty. She had never seen it happen herself, but she knew it was true. He was always careful to protect her, even spoke to her at an angle so that she couldn’t smell the sulfur in his breath.
He was dangerous, and he cared enough to shield her.
She looked at him now. He was asleep. At least she thought he was, or at least half-dead, which explained the late night visit.
He wasn’t the type to ask for help. But he was the type to plant his dying corpse in her path to let her sort out the mess.
She looked up at the sky. There were no stars. There were only clouds and streetlights. She mourned the nights when she couldn’t see the stars, and it was one of those nights. It wasn’t a fantastical night. It was, in fact, completely ordinary and plain, another damp night after a long string of damp nights. But there was still some magic in the air. If she paid attention and really listened, she knew it was there when she needed it.
There was magic in the air, and he’d brought it with him.
She nudged him and realized immediately that it had been a mistake. He was injured. She couldn’t tell at first because of the way he was slumped, but she could see now that he was bleeding.
She looked around. There was no one out on the street but them. She was strong enough to carry him inside, but she was afraid to hurt him further. She also didn’t want to leave him lying there for very long, so she quickly she opted for a middle ground and began to treat him right then and there. Just enough so that she could get him inside safely.
He was hurt worse than she thought. She opened his jacket only to be met with blood and skin that was barely clinging onto his chest. If she didn’t know any better she would say he was mauled by a bear.
She got to work immediately. It was the upside of being a nurse. It was the downside of always being needed. She always had some supplies ready, carrying around band-aids and gauze alongside her makeup and tampons until they became a security blanket. She never left home without them, even if it meant carrying a purse that was better suited for a bowling ball.
Still, her supplies served their purpose, like now. She got the bleeding to stop somewhat, and draped his arm over her shoulder. Then, carefully, she picked him off the ground.
He groaned as she wrapped one arm around his torso. He was in pain and while she could do something about it once they made it inside, he was going to hurt regardless.There was nothing she could do about it at the moment.
It took time to get the door opened. He was heavy and her fingers were slick with blood. There was still no one out on the street to lend a hand. She could’ve used the help, but she also didn’t want to explain herself to a stranger, so it was just as well.
She finally got the door open. Thankfully she lived on the first floor and didn’t have far to go.
Oh, but he was heavy. He was barely conscious and managed, at least, to stay upright in her arms, but he was a good foot taller than her and outweighed her by forty pounds. She almost lost her grip on him once she got him inside her apartment, and while she had wanted to bring him to her bed, she barely made it to the couch. It was the best she could do.
She finally got a good look at him. The damage was not lethal, but it was still bad enough. He needed a blood transfusion and rest, but other than catching an infection or pneumonia, she was confident he would recover.
He might even prefer the couch once he woke. Beds meant she had been worried. Couch meant she had been confident enough to still be mean to him.
For three days he slept. She still had to go work, so for three days she brushed her teeth in the living room and combed her hair standing in the doorway, waiting for him to wake up. Everytime she left, she half expected him to be gone when she came back. But he was still there each time.
She did worry. By day three she was biting her nails, staring at him, waiting. But once he woke she put on an air of indifference for him. She walked around until he got his bearings, and poured herself a cup of coffee,and simply asked what happened without looking at him.
It took him a long time to respond. For a second she thought he didn’t hear the question, so she turned around to ask again, only to be met with a face that was having difficulty forming the words.
Then: “I fell in love,” he replied, in a soft voice full of awe and surprise.
“I fell in love.”