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i don't think i'm in love with you

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The last thing Ruby would want people to think is that she and Sex Kid – Otis – are friends. They’re not. Sure, they… hooked up once, but as far as she knows, only a few people know about it and she’d like to keep it that way.

And that doesn’t mean that they’re involved with each other now, either. The only perceptible change she’s noticed is that maybe, just maybe, he’ll spare her more than just a passing glance in the halls and she’ll give him a tiny smile. She can’t hate him. He did nothing wrong. 

That’s something that bothers her slightly. Sure, he’s a little awkward, but he technically did everything right. He was a bit more caring than the other guys she’s had sex with, if not a little awkward. He didn’t expect a change in their relationship. He came with her to get the morning-after pill and he didn’t make a huge deal out of it when she let it slip about her dad. 

Ruby remains adamant about the fact that they’re not friends. But it seems that nobody cares in the first place. Life goes on after that day. Her friends are still all overdramatic bitches, Olivia a little bit less so, which interests her but she tries to give off the impression that it really doesn’t.

Otis doesn’t go out of his way to talk to her. A small part of her that she usually doesn’t listen to wants him to. Like she said: she doesn’t listen to it.

Usually.

Almost a week after their afternoon of gallivanting about their piece-of-shit town and a bit too much opening-up for her liking, Ruby sees Otis at the end of the hall. She’s actually alone for once, as she makes her way to her English class. She has maybe five seconds to decide how she wants to go about it. 

Onetwothreefourfive

“Hi,” Ruby mumbles as she walks past, barely sparing him a glance. She’s content to keep strutting her stuff down the hallway but she hears Otis stop walking. Shit. This was a mistake, wasn’t it?

“What was that?” he asks, his voice cracking subtly on “what.” His eyebrows are furrowed and okay, he’s a bit cute, in that nerdy, dorky kind of way, with his hands shoved into his pants pockets but thumbs sticking out, and leaning forward to hear her better.

Ruby runs a hand through her hair and shoulders her purse. “I was just… saying hello… you know, to be polite.” This has been an utter trainwreck.

“Oh,” and his face lights up, settling into a warm smile. “Well, hello.” Ruby blinks. His smile falls. RBF kills, doesn’t it? She should probably work on not looking so pissed all the time. 

“Right,” she says, already turning on her heel down the hall. “See you around.”

“Um, see… you,” she hears him say, and she rolls her eyes at his awkwardness, allowing the smallest of smirks to warp her lips.

 

So it continues; a little greeting in the hall every time Ruby isn’t surrounded by her “friends.” One time she sees Otis approach her as she walks with Anwar and Olivia to lunch and she almost stops in her tracks but instead limits herself to widened eyes. 

Subtly, Ruby shakes her head at him and he pauses in his stride, but nods. She’s grateful for his understanding, but her icy heart thaws a bit at the kicked-puppy look he’s got going on.

She makes a point of saying goodbye to him on her way out at the end of the day, though, and he smiles and says the same. Her heart flutters and that’s when she nods and turns around, headed for the bus stop. 

“Oi!” Otis calls as she starts to descend the steps. She turns, shooting him an unimpressed eyebrow. Now that she’s looking at him again, she notices that he’s messing up his jet-black hair with his hand. Cute.

“Would you… like a ride home?” He asks. Ruby almost coos but she knows it would definitely sound condescending, and he doesn’t deserve that. 

“I can’t, sorry,” she says, adjusting her purse strap on her shoulder again. His smile is gone. God, she’s such a buzzkill. “Maybe another time,” she adds quickly, hoping she saves his feelings. (When has she ever cared about Otis’s feelings?)

Based on her prior experience on Otis’s bike, though, Ruby thinks she might not have a problem with another ride. He was quiet. Didn’t annoy her with small talk as she was focusing on not falling off the back of the seat. 

“I don’t think I’m in love with you.”

The funny part is, Ruby almost believes him. Otis is polite and he doesn’t seem to see her for more than what she really is. He’s the first boy she’s slept with that doesn’t worship her.

She almost wants him to, so that she doesn’t have to think any harder about him than she has the other boys, to make it easier on her mind, but wishes rarely come true.

“All right, then,” Otis says, and Ruby blinks rapidly a few times to escape her thoughts. “See you tomorrow.”

He hops on his bike and pushes along, barely giving Ruby a chance to say “See you” in response before he leaves her in the dust. She scoffs. A taste of her own medicine. So maybe she was wrong about Otis being a complete weirdo. He’s got some spunk. 

 

When Ruby approaches Otis in the library a few weeks later, she tells herself it’s for one reason and one reason only, and it even falls under his duties as the Sex Kid.

She says the name with mild distaste now, because although she kind of created it, she’s started thinking of the person behind it. He is a person, more than just someone who takes payment for giving sex advice. He’s a boy that asked if she was okay every ten seconds while they had sex, and it says even more about him when he admitted that he didn’t even remember anything about that night. 

Back to the point. See, she’s been casually hooking up with this guy – John? Clark? Who the fuck knows, he’s got a big dick and good stroke game – but he keeps asking her out on dates afterward. No matter how many times she says “no,” he asks again and again. She needs Otis to tell her that she doesn’t need to succumb to his persistence, that she’s strong enough for that. A small part of her doubts herself.

So, technically not a sex issue, and more actual therapy. Whatever. She trusts Otis more than she ever could a faceless person with a notebook and a condescending stare. 

He’s sitting on one of the sofas with Eric Effiong (better known to Ruby, and most, as Tromboner), laughing over something that’s probably dumb and nerdy. When she plops herself down next to him, they immediately stop laughing and stare at her like she’s from another planet. 

“Oi, Tromboner,” she says, shooting him a glare. “Scram. This is personal business.”

The boys share a look and Tromboner looks properly miffed. Otis looks apologetic enough and he promises, “Just give me a minute.” 

Tromboner scoffs out a breath and rushes to an unseen corner of the library. Otis shifts to the other side of the couch a bit now that they’re alone, and Ruby doesn’t wait for him to say anything. 

“I need your help.”

Otis laughs. Ruby cocks an eyebrow. What the hell’s so funny? She waits for him to explain.

“You owe Eric an apology,” he says, the look in his eye suddenly more serious than she’s ever seen. It actually makes her feel a twinge of regret.

Ruby sighs exasperatedly. “Fine. Just, please. Help me.”

Otis’s shoulders lower and he nods. “Shoot.”

And she explains the situation to Otis quickly, making a point of describing her personal feelings as sparingly as possible. When she finishes he cocks his head to the side in curiosity. 

“For some reason, I get the impression that you’re not as unbothered about this as you pretend to be,” he assumes, asking for confirmation.

“Look, whatever. I just want him to back off,” she reiterates, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back against the uncomfortable sofa. He nods, looking like a real therapist. It’s weird how seriously he takes this little job. 

He tells her what she wanted to hear, and even risks reaching out and taking her hand while doing so. She lets him. She kind of likes the feeling of his warm hand wrapped around hers, completely dwarfing it, but she can’t help but look at it like it’s alien.

Otis gets the message and lets go, but he smiles amicably at her as he finishes, “And if he doesn’t agree, then it’s your decision to make.”

“Thanks,” is all Ruby can manage. She reaches for his hand again and squeezes it. His mouth drops open a few centimeters and she reaches out with her other hand to close it. “I’ll see you.”

When she gets up and stalks off, she swears she hears Otis laugh in a kind of shocked, incredulous way.

As she’s just about to exit the library, she notices Tro–Eric pretending to peruse the stacks. He not-so-subtly peers at her from the corner of his eye. She takes a few rushed steps toward him and says, “I’m sorry for the way I talked to you.” Then she turns to leave as quickly as possible. Ruby can almost hear his jaw hit the floor as she turns the corner. 

 

As the hook-up of the week begins to find a rhythm within her, Ruby closes her eyes and focuses solely on the pleasure she’s getting out of this. It feels good, obviously – just boring. She knows it’s a means to an end, to fill some sort of void within her, or something equally as psychological as that sounds.

That thought consumes her as the boy starts to get a bit too rough, making her wince in pain. “Stop,” she says before she can catch herself.

He lifts up from where he was kissing her neck to frown at her. “What? What did I do?” 

Ruby sighs. “You’re being too rough,” she explains. “Slow down.”

“Oh,” he says dumbly. “Sorry.” He goes the littlest bit slower, which she gives him credit for. As Ruby closes her eyes again, she thinks, Otis was never that rough.

Her eyes shoot open almost immediately. Oh, no. She did not just compare this guy to fucking Otis. She did not just think about Otis Milburn while having sex with another guy.

Minutes later, though, she forgets him as her pleasure builds to a breaking point and she comes with a gasp, quaking slightly underneath the boy who finds his own release seconds later.

 

“Oi, Ruby!” A voice calls out to her in the hallway, which is empty because it’s the middle of third block. She turns around to discern who the speaker is. It’s Otis, jogging after her with a hall pass in his hands. Ruby has one of her own, stuffed into the back pocket of her designer jeans. She frowns.

“What, Otis?” She asks, actually partially feigning the annoyance in her voice and demeanor. “You want to finally admit that you’re in love with me?” It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, she realizes as she waits for him to speak over the spluttering he’s caught himself in.

“No,” he says, and he glances to the wall for a moment. “I wanted to ask how you were doing.”

“Mm, for some reason I don’t believe you,” she says, cocking a hip and an eyebrow. He rolls his eyes, biting his lip to suppress a smile.

“I’m serious,” and he definitely looks the part. Ruby is caught off-guard.

“Oh,” she says. “Well, yeah. I’m doing fine, I guess.” She thinks back to a few nights ago when her mind went to him in the middle of something that definitely should not have reminded her of him. She’s definitely not going to tell him about it, though.

“I’m glad,” he says, and the air suddenly becomes one of awkwardness. Ruby feels the need to fill the silence.

“I’m free for you to give me a ride home if you like,” she says quickly.

A surprised smile graces Otis’s features. It looks nice on him. He looks nice in general. Not the type of guy she would usually go for, like, ever. But she did end up naked on his bed, didn’t she? Drunk, she was drunk. If they hadn’t both gotten so goddamn drunk none of it would have ever happened, he would have never found out her dad is sick, something that nobody else outside her own family knows–

But it was all simply bad luck that he was there to listen. It wasn't his fault. And like she said, he never made a big deal about it.

“Oh, for sure!” Otis says enthusiastically. Ruby fixes him with a sarcastic smirk and his smile falls.

“Don’t go falling in love with me,” she reminds him.

He salutes her. “Don’t worry about it.”

Ruby can’t help it. She laughs openly, and he looks almost shocked, like a caveman who just discovered fire. “Contrary to popular belief, you know, I do have a sense of humor,” she says when she stops laughing. 

Otis scrunches his face, looking decently embarrassed. “Right, of course. I’m sorry.” 

Ruby smiles. “It’s okay, Otis.”

“Right,” he nods, turning the opposite direction from the one in which she was walking, “See you after school.” 

She offers him a royal wave in return and he chuckles.

 

For the rest of the day, Ruby thinks about why she agreed to let Otis give her a ride. She’s experiencing far more emotional turmoil over this than she has anything else, really, besides when she found out her dad was sick. 

She’s never had to attribute a conscience to her decisions because they were never harder than what pants or what color lipstick she should wear. But this is different. Like, the emotions of a human being are in the balance. Otis is such a kind guy – Ruby is sure no other boy at Moordale would ever consider dropping everything to provide for a hypothetical baby, with her no less – and she’s a shallow bitch. She would just end up hurting his feelings. 

As she exits the school building, Ruby silently prays that nothing goes off the script she’s already written in her mind. “Thanks for the ride.” “You’re welcome. See you at school tomorrow.” Nothing more, nothing less.

She spots Otis waiting silently for her at the bike stands. He even seems to understand her status – no matter how meaningless it is in the grand scheme of things. According to the rules of the high school hierarchy, a girl like Ruby wouldn’t be caught dead with a boy like Otis, much less sleep with him. And he honors it, and it makes her heart ache slightly. Fucking emotions.

When Ruby’s a few meters away, Otis asks, “You want the helmet again?” 

She squints against the sun. He’s got those silly little sunglasses on, the same ones he wore on that day. Ruby shakes the thought from her mind. “Sure,” she says. He hands it to her from the handlebars of his bike and she takes it, shoving it on over her perfectly-styled hair. The bike ride will definitely sweep it to hell. 

Oh, hair, nails, clothes. Tch. Is that all she’s ever cared about? Fuck. Her dad is going to die someday. Sooner than she would probably like to think. 

“You okay, Ruby?” Otis asks, and she catches herself staring into space a second too late. 

“Yeah, sorry,” she says, rushed. “Let’s get going.” 

Otis frowns at her for a second longer, but swings his leg over the bike and settles onto the seat, obviously waiting for her to find her position behind him. She does so, balancing on the axles and leaning onto Otis’s back. He starts to pedal and she gives the same little shriek of surprise she did when they did this last time… last time. 

She has to stop thinking so hard about everything that has to do with him. He’s a nobody. Just a kid who takes payment for giving sex advice. 

They’ve started to enter the woods beyond Moordale, and she knows a big hill is coming up. Oh, fuck. Sure enough, when she peeks over Otis’s shoulder, the dirt road is starting to disappear into oblivion. Before Ruby has time to mentally steel herself, they’re already descending.

Otis whoops like a football fan as they begin to pick up speed while Ruby digs her face into the crook of his shoulder and squeezes her eyes shut. If you can’t see it it’s not really happening. If you can’t see–

The ground bottoms out beneath them and just like that, it’s over. Ruby lifts her head up and laughs nervously. It becomes slightly maniacal and she knows it’s right in Otis’s ear. The wind rushes around them and screams in their ears.

“What’s so funny?” Otis shouts.

Still laughing, Ruby is able to yell back, “I thought I was gonna die!”

It takes a bit of strain to hear what he says next: “I wouldn’t let that happen.” 

Ruby stops laughing. Otis doesn’t notice; he’s occupied with not losing control of the bike and careening off into the woods. 

I wouldn’t let that happen.

Well, fuck. 

She rests her chin on his shoulder and watches the greenery whiz by in a blur as Otis pushes along with a squinty smile on his face. The rest of the ride is like that, their cheeks almost flush against each other. Ruby’s able to breathe the smell of him in. It’s nothing too offensive to her nose, like that awful Axe bodyspray. He smells like… citrus.

All too soon, the ride is over as Otis pulls up in front of her house. The squeal of his brakes against gravel is a rude awakening. Ruby stays pressed against him for a moment longer until it becomes slightly awkward and she swings her leg over the wheel and lands awkwardly on her feet. Otis reaches out to steady her but she pushes his hand away, hopefully not too roughly. 

His emotions are so easy to read, like a dog. That’s definitely his spirit animal, she thinks as he pouts, but tempers it after a second. They look silently at each other. She wants to say something, but she doesn’t know what, and he looks like he suffers the same problem.

“Thank you… for the ride,” she says haltingly. 

“No problem,” Otis replies. He’s frowning like that’s not what he expected her to say. What did he expect her to say? She kind of wants to know. She also kind of doesn’t. She says nothing for a moment.

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then…!” She says cheerily, wanting to escape this palpable tension.

“Wait, Ruby,” Otis calls, effectively stopping her in her tracks. She turns her head to look over her shoulder at him. Please don’t…

He gestures to his head, patting it twice. She looks at him quizzically.

“My helmet,” he elaborates. 

“Oh,” she says, laughing nervously, quickly unbuckling it and holding it out to him. He takes it. “Sorry."

“‘S quite all right,” he says, shoving it onto his own head. He lifts his foot over the pedal, about to push down and propel himself forward, when she says:

“Otis!”

He cuts his eyes to her, looking concerned. “Yeah?”

I’m sorry.

For what? He’d ask, and she isn’t strong enough to answer that question.

Ruby forces her feet to go flat against the ground. Her nerves are probably palpable.

“Never mind,” she dismisses. “See you tomorrow.”

Otis looks so confused and she feels for him. She’s an arsehole. “See you,” is all he says in return and like that, he’s off.

When she goes up to her room her eyes glisten and her breathing quickens for a moment, and then the emotions are gone and she wishes to forget how distraught he looked, because of the way she acted.

But as Ruby well knows, wishes rarely come true.