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He finds her out on the roof, sitting cross-legged on the ledge and smoking a cigarette. His heart jumps into his throat just at the sight of her, but he forces himself to calm down and approach her slowly, lest he scare her right over the edge. At last, he stops a few feet away from her and anxiously drags his fingers through his already awry hair.
“Why do you do that?” he asks at last, letting his hands drop in defeat. He sees her body jerk for a moment, but then she relaxes and turns to smile at him through a haze of curling gray smoke.
“Why do I do what, dearest?” she asks, not quite cheerful but definitely amused, and her voice is hypnotic, smooth yet husky at the same time.
He gestures vaguely at her. “Do this. Disappear. Smoke. Sit in dangerous places.”
She just laughs and turns back around, taking another drag from her cigarette. The wind blows discarded trash across the rooftop, and her hair around her shoulders; the sound of traffic and the restless city fill the distance. When she speaks again, smoke streams from velvety lips, and her accent draws him in even more. “Don’t you find it alluring?”
He sighs and walks up to her, and the sight of the city street far below them makes his stomach drop and his head spin in protest. He sucks in a harsh breath and cautiously lowers himself onto the ledge, until he is sitting next to her, breathing in her smoke-and-vanilla scent. “I guess,” he admits. “Is that what you’re going for? ‘Alluring’?”
She glances sideways at him, and the angle from which she looks at him, coupled with her dark smoky eyes and her dark smoky voice, runs an indelible shiver up his spine. “Does it work?” she asked, a smirk playing along her lips. They are the color of cherries, he observes—not maraschino, but a dark sensuous red that shades into deep purple.
He looks at her for a long moment, letting all of the hidden meanings of her question sink into his skin; when he answers, he holds her gaze. “Yes.”
A chuckle breaks loose from her throat, and she turns her eyes away, out over the monotonous rise and fall of the city. Her accent seems to lend a teasing lilt to everything she says. “Did I make you fall in love with me, boy?”
The question is blunt, but the way she delivers it is not. The smoke blossoms from the end of her cigarette and dances around him, dances around her, until it becomes wispy gray threads, binding them together. Invisible lines, begging to be crossed. Luckily for him, he’s smart, and observant, and he’s known her for long enough that he’s learned how to handle himself around her (but he hasn’t yet learned how to handle her). He laughs lowly and responds, quietly, “Love? Not quite. But your sorrow is very appealing.”
By the slight widening of her eyes, he gathers that this has surprised her. He never surprises her. “You think that I…” She searches for the right words. “…have sorrow?”
He swallows the urge to laugh; somehow he knows that laughing would chase away the inquisitive expression on her face, and that look is too sweet and honest to lose. Instead, he settles on a small smile. “You’re full of it,” he says. “Filled up to the eyes. Smoke and sorrow. It’s what makes you…mysterious.” His smile grows, just a little. “Alluring.”
She breaks out into a laugh, a real laugh—not the sly little chuckles that she uses to brush up goosebumps along his skin, but a laugh that is rich and clear, with just a bit of husk around the edges. “I’m going to tell you a little secret of mine,” she says, “that I have never told anybody else before. Are you ready to hear it?”
He nods. He’s been ready to hear her secrets since the day she first turned her indelible dark eyes on him.
She presses the cigarette briefly to her lips and exhales a smoke dragon from her throat. “Years ago,” she begins, “I took up this habit—or rather, it was thrust upon me, but I never bothered to fight it off. I enjoyed it, in the beginning. I liked the feeling that it brought me—a sort of…euphoric and significant sadness. And besides, it made me romantic.” She quirks an eyebrow playfully at him. “Alluring.” The half-smile stays on her lips as she continues. “But I found this habit of mine rather…engrossing. I gave myself up to it, almost willingly, almost without looking back at all. And it—consumed me. And began to drive everyone else away.” Her voice is still light, but something in her eyes changes, becomes darker and brighter all at once. “Smoking and sorrow are alike in that way.” And she says it so simply that he almost misses the meaning.
For what seems like a small eternity, he watches her as she taps her cigarette against the side of the building, letting the molten ashes drift down to the street below. There is something inside him that strains against his skin, strains to kiss her, or save her, or both. But he doubts that he has what it takes to do either.
At last, he clears his throat and nods to her cigarette. “Smoking is a nasty habit,” he says, and he itches to reach out and coax the poisonous device from between her long, slender fingers. “It’ll kill you, someday.”
She tilts her head at him, and the smile that she gives him is terrible with understanding and as genuine as her laugh. “Oh, I know,” she whispers, and raises the cigarette to her lips. “But I’m afraid I’m addicted.”