Collection of Prompt-Fics

stranger danger

prompt 23: "great. i'm soaked."
characters: niall horan, mariah (ofc)

She should have known. Really, that gleam in her sister’s eyes absolutely, undeniably, one-hundred-and-ten-percent should have been a dead giveaway. But alas, Mariah was none the wiser to Lea’s plans and now she is paying the price.

Today started off so well, too! Mariah had been able to sleep in and eat as much Cap’n Crunch as she wanted without anyone judging her - silently or not so silently. She lounged around until noon, reading the harlequin romance novels that her sister loved to chastise her for owning, and then watched a few reruns of Jerry Springer. All in all, the morning had been fantastically, wonderfully amazing. Just what Mariah needed to unwind after a long week of living in the land of retail.

Then Lea had barged into the flat, and that was that. All of the peaceful laziness of the day was burst into a kaleidoscope of rapid rambling, being pushed to and fro, and dressed up and down like Lea’s own personal Barbie doll. Mariah had asked - of course she had, because why wouldn’t she? - but Lea hadn’t answered with anything more than “It’s a surprise, now shut up and put this on, no, wait, this one.”

Which is why Mariah is sat on a stool in front of a vanity, staring wide-eyed at her reflection, unable to protest as one woman does her makeup and another twists and pins her hair. A third woman stands off to the side, talking with Lea in a low voice, but even Mariah can see how unhappy she is. Lea doesn’t look affected at all. Which is typical of her. She’s like a duck. Things just roll right off her back as easily as water on feathers.

“So are we ready?” Lea asks as she bounces across the room to her sister’s side. “Oh, Mariah, you look amazing. Doesn’t she look amazing, Carrie?”

“She does.” Carrie smiles grimly. “Your sister tells me she gave you no warning for this, so if you want to back out now, trust me, I will completely understand.”

“I-I don’t even know what the Hell is going on,” Mariah manages to squeak out, and the hands in her hair still. She watches in the mirror as the hairdresser exchanges a horrified look with Carrie.

“Lee, you didn’t even tell her what this was?”

Lea shrugs and pushes a lock of hair from Mariah’s face. “If I told her, she’d have run.”

Carrie sighs and shakes her head, but she doesn’t argue with Lea. Instead, she turns to Mariah and explains that “this” is what’s called a stranger session. According to her, the plan is for Mariah and some strange guy - both of them single, or else the session wouldn’t work - to pose for photos as a couple would even though they know nothing of each other. Mariah jerks her head around to glare at Lea.


“Because you’ve not dated in, like, a bazillion years. Maybe this guy could be the one? And even if not,” Lea rushes before Mariah can fully argue, “at least you get some smokin’ pictures from it.”

“If you’re at all uncomfortable during the shoot, just let me know, okay? We’ll put an end to the session immediately, and I’ll even buy you a case of wine to help you drown out the memories.”

Mariah stares between her sister, Carrie, and the stylists for a long minute. Thoughts race in her mind, but she can’t grab hold of any of them - Lea may have a point in regards to Mariah’s lack of a romantic life, but Mariah has no problem with that! Really, she doesn’t. She’s happy for her friends in relationships, but she’s only twenty-two. She personally doesn’t really need to have a partner to be happy for herself.

It does get lonely sometimes.

With Lea staring at her with childlike hope and Carrie barely hiding her discomfort with the situation, who is Mariah to say no? Lea is a jerk, and she owes her little sister so much wine, but Mariah can’t deny that this entire situation might turn out to be a funny memory down the road. And Carrie’s team has done such a bang-up job already of glamming Mariah up without going overboard. It would be a shame for all their efforts to go to waste.

So she gives a succinct nod and settles more comfortably on the stool as the two women finish their tasks. Within minutes, she’s slipping a pair of sandals onto her feet and allowing Lea to brush out the slight wrinkles in her sundress. Mariah quickly tires of the fussing and swats at her sister’s hands. Lea grins unabashedly then turns toward the door. Mariah follows, though her stomach flips violently and her heart starts pounding.

The golden sunset spreads amber fingers over the field of wildflowers, painting thousands of dainty white petals a dusky orange-yellow. A man already stands there, facing the horizon where fire-sky meets green-sea. Carrie gestures for Mariah to wait then wades through the tall flowers until she’s little more than a dark silhouette. Lea squeezes Mariah’s hand, smiles what she clearly believes is a reassuring smile, and walks away. Mariah isn’t sure if her sister is really that oblivious to the fact that this is an uncomfortable situation, or if she just doesn’t care - as loving as she is, Lea tends to overrun things if she really wants something.

At Carrie’s wave, Mariah draws in a steadying breath. This is it. No turning back now. The first step takes an eternity, but then her sandals are pressing firmly into the softened earth. Nothing feels real as she carefully makes her way through the field, approaching the man with her heart in her throat. Her hand trembles, shaking enough that her body is at risk of melting, as she reaches out to touch his shoulder.

His eyes are absurdly clear and blue even in shadows when he turns to face her. Mariah’s breath hitches, her lips curving into a smile that matches his, and a small voice in the back of her mind says maybe Lea isn’t such a jerk after all.

“Niall,” he murmurs quietly, words slightly muddled by his Irish accent, as he laces their fingers together. “So how’d you get roped into this?”

“Mariah, and I’m only here because my sister was being overbearing. You?”

“I actually signed up for this, mostly for a laugh.”

“You’re not laughing now,” and who the Hell is speaking for her? Mariah never teases or flirts this easily, but here she is, teasing a stranger while another stranger snaps photos from twenty feet away.

“Don’t see anything funny about the situation now that I’m in it.”

Niall’s hands are warm in hers, on her back and shoulders and cradling her cheeks as he rests his forehead against hers. Gentle. Unfamiliar but achingly well-known at the same time. He tells Mariah about himself as they pose, cracks jokes whenever she hesitates to get closer, keeps her from getting lost in her thoughts. It’s the strangest home she’s ever found herself in, but damn if she doesn’t want to stay.

She tries to give him details about her own life, but the words don’t come easily. What can she possibly say, anyway? She’s a cashier at a supermarket who lives with her older sister and occasionally goes to the pub. Not very interesting, really. Not like Niall, with his job as an entertainer on a cruise ship during the summer months and a regular performer at a piano-bar in the winter. His family, friends, everyone that makes up the fabric of his life. Even without knowing him, Mariah can see the colours of the tapestry that make him him.

The sun is almost gone, leaving behind a haziness to the twilight, by the time Carrie announces the impending end of the photoshoot. She’s barely gotten the words out when the sky cracks, rain splattering down in a gentle rhythm out of nowhere. Mariah gasps out a laugh when Carrie’s friend barrels past her; the umbrella doesn’t want to open, but finally, it does, shielding the camera from the rain. Mariah stares up at the sky then meets Niall’s steady gaze.

“Great. I’m soaked.”

He bites his lower lip, shrugs jerkily. Then his hands are on her jaw, cupping her face as if she’s as delicate as the flowers dancing in the springtime rainstorm, bowing under the weight of the drops before springing back up. Even with little lighting, his eyes are impossibly bright, and her head swims as she gets lost in the blue. Mariah gets no warning before his lips are on hers, and everything goes upside down.

The entire world is in free-fall around them, but she’s stable here in Niall’s tender grip. Her arms loop around his waist, and she steps closer toward the solid line of warmth he provides. The camera clicks dozens of times in a row, the sound negligible in the taste and feel of Niall on her tongue.

Carrie clears her throat quietly, and her voice drowns in her stifled laughter as she announces the end of the photoshoot. Mariah slowly pulls back from Niall; heat envelops her skin, but she can’t tell if it’s from mortification or lust - or both. Twin pink splotches paint his cheeks, and he brushes a thumb under her eye, coming away stained with eyeliner. Lipstick smudges his lips, and she gives in to the urge to leave more of the pale berry tint there.

“Uh, so... can I call you?”

Mariah carefully steps through the wildflowers, fingers brushing along the petals as they make their way back to the building at the edge of the meadow. The refusal lingers on her tongue, but she doesn’t want to say no. She doesn’t want to let this go. She wasn’t looking for love, but she’s found something in Niall, something strange and enticing and comforting. Maybe Lea was right. So she says yes instead.

Even if this all goes so wrong, Mariah doesn’t think she’d ever regret it. She grew up hearing all about the risks of talking to people she doesn’t know, but no one ever warned her about potentially falling in love with a person she’s just met. Stranger danger indeed, she laughs to herself, even as she twines her fingers with Niall’s.