Even in New York, the rain was merciless.
Alice left the TV Tower in her casual attire that evening: a red vest, yellow shirt, and that short, baggy, polka-dotted bottom. Her fluffy boots were immediately dampened from the sprinkles of water falling from the sky as soon as she stepped outside. Hopefully, she prayed to herself, this wasn't come kind of ominous warning.
But it was.
Alice made her way behind the crowds of people to stand under a shop's large canopy. She tucked her cold hands beneath her soaked vest as she pondered how she'd get back to her team's apartment. Luckily, a black umbrella was guided over her head, possessed by a familiar silver-haired bishounen.
"Zero!" Alice yelped in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"I was out for a walk," he replied plainly while gazing in an odd direction, "but when this rain started, I began to head home." His dark auburn irises scoldingly turned to Alice. "Where's your umbrella?"
She sighed. "At home."
He smirked. This was his opportunity to impress her without really trying. "Well, you can stand out here in the rain, or you come with me for a while." It was surprisingly hard to hide the smile on his face, but he knew that he would look suspicious when his expression was paired with his dark, naturally narrowed eyes.
"Umm," she muttered. Her eyes turned to the damp sidewalk and she refused to look at Zero. "That's really, um..."
He sighed. "Just an offer," he told her, though in a rather empty tone that held a slight feeling of disappointment. "See you."
"O-kay, I'll go with you," she said, instinctively.
He frowned, frustrated. "You don't sound so sure."
To convince herself and Zero, she thought aloud. "Well, if I told you to go home, I'd have to wait out here by myself, and I'll be in trouble if the rain keeps going. So um... if it's really okay with you, I'd like to go with you."
Zero grinned coolly again. "Then follow me."
He walked around her, keeping her under his umbrella. After they walked a few feet, he took note of her appearance. She didn't look comfortable at all. Instantly, he interpreted this as another opportunity.
"Hey, hold this for a moment," he requested, handing the umbrella to the shorter girl. She held it up high, more over his head than hers, as he slid his fur-lined rose-and-black colored jacket from his thin arms. He silently traded the coat for the umbrella without giving her a choice. Alice held onto it awkwardly until Zero spoke.
"Wear that," he told her. "I don't need it. It's only cold out here if you're wet." He had only assumed she wanted warmth; he never took into consideration that she was still shy around him.
She cooperatively draped the coat over her shoulders like a cape, too embarrassed to wear it. She appreciated the offer, though, and smiled a little.
"Thank you," she told him. But... why are you being so nice to me? She didn't ask that question directly, both in fear of offending him and in fear that he had some special liking for her.
They hadn't been far from Zero's house. When they reached his doorway, he shut the umbrella and glanced at his pockets... then at Alice, who still held onto the jacket that his keys were in. He reached gently into the right pocket, allowing her to keep her blanket a minute longer, and pulled out his ordinary silver keychain that two shiny keys dangled from. When he opened the door, he noticed Alice stood a few feet behind him, seemingly afraid of what was inside the new building, so led the way into his dark home.
After the lights were turned on and they removed their shoes (they both once resided in Japan, after all), Alice noted the contents of the first room. There were two couches, one pointing to a rather large television and another in a corner next to a bookshelf that seemed to be filled with complicated looking books. Next to it was a large tank containing a giant fish. The carpet was tan and the walls were a pale cream color.
After a few seconds, Alice realized she still possessed something of his. "Oh, here's your coat back," she rushed while delicately taking off the expensive jacket. "And um, thanks again."
Zero silently took it from her frail hands. She bowed quickly with gratitude, then turned to his face when there wasn't any reply. His expression indicated that he was thinking of something else, she noted. He looked in her eyes and then darted his vision to a random distraction.
"You could... borrow some spare clothes if you want," he suggested.
She blushed a bit and then turned away, so that her back faced him. "A-are you sure?"
"What are your other options?" he asked, almost playfully. "It's no problem for me. Just pick something in my closet that fits." Her head glanced in his direction and he motioned toward a room off to the left.
"And... just change into it? Here?"
"I'd expect you to choose another room."
She laughed nervously in reply.
He turned away respectfully. "I'm not going to try anything inappropriate. I'm not that kind of person."
She nodded, despite that he couldn't see it.
She hastily skipped into his room, although she felt that it was a violation of privacy. He didn't seem to have anything to hide, however, at least not at a glance. His room, though having a scary-looking poster or two, looked like any other bedroom, and it was kept clean. His closet was crowded with odd fashions and shirts, but she eventually found a dark orange shirt and some average-fitting black jeans (although Zero's pants were tall on her, so she had to fold the leg bottoms up). She hoped he wouldn't mind her borrowing a white belt as well. She gently stripped herself of her outfit, taking the time to fold each garment as she took it off. Zero's shirt was so long that it extended over her thighs. She was changing into the jeans when-
"You know," his deep voice started from the other side of the door. She nearly tripped over the second pant leg but balanced herself with a desk to her right. She feared that he would open the door while she was changing, but she had more faith in him than that and dismissed the thought as he continued monotonously.
"The rain is supposed to continue for hours. I wouldn't have a problem if you stayed here overnight."
She gulped. She didn't want to sound overconfident (as if she ever did), so with a voice more nervous than usual, she asked him: "Did you... want me to stay?"
Zero wasn't able to respond, as he wasn't even sure what the answer was. "Unless you'd rather go out in the storm," he countered, teasing her again.
Alice grew disappointed. This was the Zero that made her want to go home. The Zero that toyed with people; the Zero that never seemed to want anyone around. It seemed like everything he did for her consisted of insincere actions that men took to impress women for fun.
But Zero wasn't like that... he didn't want to impress anyone. Rather, he showed signs of making them all go away. So, why then, would he break this routine to take a girl out of the rain and have her stay a night in his own dwelling?
"I... don't know," Alice mumbled sadly. It was the truth. She sat down and leaned against the door, subconsciously to hold it shut.
Zero rested on the floor a few inches away from the door frame, leaning on the wall. He was about to bang his head on the surface, but he didn't want Alice to hear it. This was a stupid idea to begin with, and he hated himself for going through with bringing her home and not really knowing why or what would happen once she was here.
It was time for him to be more direct... at the very least, maybe she would feel better if he was finally honest... then perhaps, she would want to spend more time with him. He scoffed to himself, still wondering why he wanted her to spend more time with him. He just did, and it seemed she would only talk to a man like him if he showed some sincere interest in her. Keeping that in mind, Zero answered her earlier question.
"Yeah," he said, unable to find any emotion.
She blinked, a little confused. "Um... what?"
"I want you to stay here."
Alice clenched the white belt in her hands, trying to wring a reply from it. After realizing it was inanimate (and that it wasn't even her property), she loosened her grip, and then she stood up to slip it through the loops on the unfamiliar pants.
"I-it is pretty scary out there, especially if I were to go by myself," she said hesitantly. "So... I'd like to stay here, if I'm not imposing."
"Be honest," Zero commanded, almost bitterly. "And think about it. You don't have to decide at this instant. I don't want someone to stay here if they don't want to be here." He rose from his position and walked away.
Alice picked up her old outfit, now only a little damp, and held it to her chest while she thought. That admission... that toneless statement about wanting her to be here meant more than any overconfident act to flirt with her. At that point, Alice wanted to stay with him, and maybe if she did, she would see more of his honest side.
Alice creaked the door open, and peeked through the door's gap. Zero watched (or perhaps pretended to watch) the news on TV. Only when she stepped into that room after closing the door behind her did Zero turn to her. "Well?" he asked. "Have you decided?"
She nodded. "I wanna stay here," she confirmed. But it was almost shaky from the butterflies in her stomach... surely, he wouldn't believe her.
But he did. Through his bangs and eye makeup, he could see the sincerity in her sapphire eyes. He couldn't describe what she had done to him... perhaps she had made him a little happy.
He grinned slightly. "Then... make yourself at home."
His bed was definitely larger than normal. Two people could easily fit, but that quickly seemed out of the question...
"You could sleep there," Zero offered, now dressed in ordinary brown pants and a loose white t-shirt.
"No, I couldn't kick you out of your own bed," Alice protested.
He sighed. "I don't have any guest rooms," he commented, "so it's either here or one of the couches."
"They're really not bad to sleep on." She glanced around the bedroom. "That couch is almost bigger than me, so that'll be fine," she noted aloud, pointing to a brownish-red piece of furniture beneath a window.
He shrugged. "If you insist." He pulled one of the multiple large blankets from his bed as well as one of the pillows and handed them to Alice. She propped her pillow on one of the arm rests and rested on the couch, timidly hiding herself underneath the blanket.
"You're sure you want this one?" Zero asked. "And not the couch in the main room?"
"It's fine... I like it here." Her eyelids began to close. "Good night," she muttered.
Zero turned the off the lights in the room. The glowing city outside shined through the window just enough for Zero to find his way to his bed. After he stopped fidgeting with his blankets and attempted to sleep, he made one last look at her face.
She had nestled her head into the pillow. Her blue hair was scattered and a little tangled. Her white blanket was pulled over her chin, and he saw nothing more of her face than her peacefully closed eyelids. Does she always sleep like this, he wondered, or did she sleep better in her own home? Why was it that she decided to sleep in his room?
As he relaxed into his own bed with the sound of the rain softly falling outside, Zero concluded that the specifics of her intentions weren't important. She chose to be there with him, and that was all that mattered.