There were no words exchanged when she first arrived--only a lengthened stare across those in black, an acknowledgment of the other.
His eyes were red-rimmed, not only from tears but from unrest. There was something hard in those cyan depths that hadn't been there before, some lesson he'd learned that had changed something important. She thought she'd caught a glimpse of it after his brother had died, and she could tell now that the darkness had grown. It was in the way he talked and held himself, how he moved--he was rougher where he had previously been gentle, more often quiet and observant when he might have been loud and forceful.
Somehow that quiet observance felt more loud and forceful, more persuasive than any words.
And there was something different about her--the way her eyes traveled across the collective grief, the way she walked, parting the crowd with her aura. The way she hadn't shed one tear and held that strong front and grave brow, even when Kitty broke down against her shoulder.
Julian knew what it was immediately, the moment their eyes locked over the sea of mingling black suits and modest dresses. He knew from a flash of emerald that she'd changed too, in her own way.
It was only when the wake was coming to an end did he approach her--she was finally alone and staring steadily at the closed empty casket in front of her, gloved hands folded at the front of her skirt.
His fingers rested lightly above her elbow, and when she turned he could see the building tears in her eyes, the salty water lining her dilating pupils. They were deep black abysses that pulled him in, the dark circles of her vision focusing.
Without a word he offered her a glass of wine and just as silently she accepted it. She brought it to her lips after a heavy moment and sipped the rich grapes, dragging her eyes to the front once again. "Thank you," she said simply.
"You're welcome," he replied.
She wet her tongue with more wine, lashes lowering. He watched as one tear splashed into the glass, her calm demeanor breaking long enough for just one.
He slid closer, close enough to feel the warmth exuding from her frame, a palm flattening against the base of her spine. "Let's go," he suggested, leaning to say the words carefully into her ear. He pulled back, eyes finding hers, searching for the answer before she could voice it.
Her actions answered even before her eyes did as she drained the rest of the wine glass, eyelids shutting back the tears. "Alright," she agreed softly as she lowered the glass from her lips.
He led them through the crowd, smiling gently at those who wished them hushed goodbyes. The weight of his hand stayed on her back, and it wasn't until they reached the cool night that he released her. The air seemed to wash some of the silence away, the tight control they'd held--or maybe that had been claustrophobia of shared grief.
They held each other's gazes for a moment and then Julian fished out his keys with a soft sigh, looking down to the ground. "I have a car."
She shifted uneasily, turning her face away to wipe at a few escaped tears. "Do you mind dropping me at my hotel? I don't... I can't stay here anymore. Not with all this."
He watched her strained movements, the keys jingling around his fingers. He quieted the sound in his fist, nodding. "Of course," he said gently, and slowed as he passed her, catching a glimpse of her glistening cheeks. He let a touch hover over her arm to prompt her to follow--ignoring the tightening in his gut, the desire to comfort her, to drop the awkward formality.
She followed, her heels clicking on the asphalt as they reached his silver Jaguar; with a click the lights flashed and the engine purred. He held the door open for her and she slipped into the seat, murmuring a thank you as she did. She stared out the window, barely even registering when the car started moving, pulling out of the parking space and moving on the open road.
"I'm sorry," she said, finally turning to look at him after a few minutes of silence, damp gloves coming up to wipe away those remaining tears. "I didn't mean to turn into such a mess on you. I know you must be hurting worse than me with all... this."
He looked over to her and then back to the road, thinning his lips momentarily. "There's nothing for you to be sorry about," he said, that same tenderness in his voice, this time laced with something firm. "I'm fine," he lied.
She raised an eyebrow at that, eyes studying his. "It's been awhile, but I know you better than that, sugah," she said mildly, eyes dropping back to her lap as she pulled off the wet gloves, bare hands unconsciously beginning to toy with one another.
He took a deep breath and rested a temple against one of his palms before releasing it, driving with one hand. "I'm not fine, I'm just, I--" He glanced over to her again. "I don't know what I am," he concluded darkly, turning his attention back to the road.
"Yeah," she said dryly, grasp tightening even more on her hands. "That makes two of us."
There was a silence, only the smooth drive and the nearly inaudible hum of the engine filling the quiet. "Where's your hotel?" He interrupted as they stopped at a light.
"It's the Ramada about five minutes or so from here," she replied, glad for an excuse to keep the silence broken.
He only nodded and despite the discomfort silence reigned and what should have felt like a short trip stretched into an eternity. Rogue kept her watering eyes in her lap, and Julian kept his on the road, and it was only when he'd maneuvered the car to a stop that the trance was broken.
She looked up to the majestic doors and back to the man beside her. "Here we are," he swallowed, hand gripping the parking brake.
"Thanks for the ride," she said softly, biting her lip for a moment before opening the car door and getting out, discarded gloves clutched tightly in one hand. She was almost to the entrance when the sound of her name being called made her stop and turn.
"Marie." He was halfway out of the car, brow furrowing as he shut the door without looking away from her. She sucked in breath as he walked towards her, stopping close, his troubled cyan eyes looking down into hers. A tongue licked his lips as if he wanted to speak, but instead his arms wrapped around her waist and he pulled her into a tight warm embrace.
Rogue returned it, head resting against his shoulder as she bit back another wave of tears. "Do you... do you want to go get a drink?" she asked hesitantly. "We... we shouldn't both be alone after... after that service."
He nodded against her hair, fingers weaving into the ends as they curled slightly into her shirt. For one moment, he didn't feel as if he needed to cry. "Yeah," he breathed. "I think that would be a good idea."
She nodded before slowly pulling away and turning to lead the way inside. "The hotel bar, okay with you?"
"Heh," a hint of a smirk nearly touched his lips, "as long as there's alcohol," he presumed, not following until he'd tossed his keys to the valet.
"It's a bar, Julian," she replied, using his name for the first time during the entire encounter and slipping through the doors and into the bar as they spoke. "Alcohol's a given." The bartender moved to stand before them. "I'll take a bourbon Manhattan; on the rocks, with bitters, and an extra cherry."
"Scotch on the rocks." He sat down next to her, shedding his jacket and placing it neatly on the adjacent seat. With a sigh his loosened his tie, the top two buttons coming undone with a telekinetic thought.
A few moments later, the bartender placed both of their drinks before them. Rogue took a long gulp from hers before setting down the much lighter glass beside the small clutch she'd set on the counter. Ice clinked as Julian lowered his, the glass devoid of any amber liquid. He pointed to the empty space, eyes on the bartender. The older man filled it to the top this time, walking away to another customer at Julian's muttered "thanks."
"How's England?" He asked after a long moment of fidgeting. He looked forward into the mirror, observing her expression before flicking his eyes to her direction.
"Good," she replied, toying with the glass as she set it down again, barely any liquid left in the glass anymore. "It's been... different but good." She paused for a moment, finishing the rest of her drink. "How's New York?"
"Same as always," he said with a sardonic, thin-lipped smile. He glanced up at her reflection again and then down into his glass. "I'm going to Columbia for business. I'm running James' hotels and another ten percent of what my parents gave me six months ago."
"Columbia?" she asked with surprise. "I guess we've both really moved on from Westchester then." He looked over to her again, their eyes catching in a warm sad smile, the connection broken when the bartender came to stand before them again. "Just give me some Jack Daniels on the rocks."
"More scotch," he intoned. "Moving up." He downed a large gulp as the bartender walked away, licking his lips clean of the alcohol.
An hour and large amounts of scotch and Jack Daniels later saw them seated in a corner booth, empty glasses littering the table. They were laughing; Julian was spread out and back on the cushions, his head lolling to the side. Besides him, Rogue was curled on the seat, her skirt neatly folded between her legs.
"I can't believe you did that," she said through giggles.
Julian shook his head, catching his breath. "Jono needed ta get laid," he slurred slightly. "It was a favor."
"Some favor," she muttered, sipping from the top of one of her countless drinks.
Julian scoffed and reached for his belt, unbuckling the leather and sliding it off. "He thanked me after," he argued, dropping the restricting fabric next to his coat.
She let out another giggle. "You're bloody insane," she said, shaking her head and leaning against the wall.
Alcohol numbed his throat, bleary eyes watching the liquid slosh as he brought the glass down. He glanced over to her, eyes focusing and blurring and focusing on her green orbs. "Well, what about you?" He drawled, eyebrows raising. He flopped his hand over, jabbing a finger near her stomach.
"What about me?" Confusion morphed her features.
"Got a boyfriend over there?" He asked, adding in a wiggle of his brows.
Her eyes narrowed, already heated cheeks flushing. "That's none of your business," she answered self-importantly, swatting at his hand. He pinched her side in answer, grinning as she squirmed. "Cut it out."
He let his arm rest over her lap and slid closer, finding it hard to be deterred by her small smile, the way her head was coyly bent to the side. "No boyfriend?" He teased, resting his head significantly closer, one temple on the top of the cushion. Cyan eyes looked up into hers. "I don't believe that."
"Don't exactly have time for a guy," she said, face completely serious but voice unable to hold back a giggle. "And most guys ain't too good with the look-don't-touch thing." She raised her glass in a mock toast before knocking it back. "What about you?"
"Don't exactly have time for a girl," he answered, eyes dropping somewhere to her right. Something stirred beneath his irises and for a moment only grief strangled his features. "Not seriously..." He studied the glass in his hand before finishing it, eyelids tight against his cheeks.
Her face softened at his sudden unexplicable pain. The laughter was gone, and the why they were together was back, thickening the air. Her heart tugged towards him and despite the alcohol blurring her vision, she could see the new wrinkles around his eyes, the unkind lines branching, reaching for his scalp. Without thinking she touched them, and he started, startled eyes flicking towards her. She tried to smile and pushed her fingers through his hair, rubbing circles into the silky locks.
He relaxed, turning his hand over in her lap to hold her thigh, thumb carressing back and forth. For a long moment they stilled, seeking silent comfort in the other's eyes. She rested her head next to his and played with the short hair underneath her fingertips--it felt okay to let her guard down, to do what he was asking without words, to quell the soft yearning for companionship pleading through his orbs. In truth she couldn't deny the look in his eyes, and she couldn't deny her own need.
"It's different," he said after a while, hand reaching to cup her elbow, "so different without you around."
"I bet you say that to all the girls," she murmured, eyes fluttering closed.
"What girls?" he muttered rhetorically, shifting closer, close enough the rest his forehead against hers.
"I dunno," she replied, pulling away just enough to grab one of the glasses that still had alcohol in it and proceeding to down it. "Just... all the... girls," she finished lamely, abandoning the glass as she rested her head against his chest.
"You're not just a girl," he sighed out.
"I think I kinda have been for awhile, sugah." Her answering laughter rumbled into his chest, the sound slightly high with nervousness. He found it hard to concentrate on the conversation when she was in his arms, soft and warm against his side. He smiled against her forehead and stroked the hand at his shoulder, from digits to elbow to shoulder and back again.
Her laugh quieted and her breath moistened his neck in shaky breaths, her small movements sending shocks throughout his whole body. "I'd be with you even if I couldn't touch you," he said softly, lips pressing against her temple with the words. "Just for the record," he swallowed nervously, wishing he could see her face, "those guys in England are idiots."
Her entire body tensed at those words, eyes snapping open. "Guess it's good I wasn't really interested in any of them if they're idiots then," she said as nonchalantly as a person could manage in a drunken state such as hers.
"As long as you know," he replied, more seriously than he'd meant to. Rethinking, he reached for his own glass and finished the contents to the last drop, trying to quell the thoughts and and grief and confusion running through his mind.
"Yeah, well..." she started, trying to hide her confusion as she slowly disentangled herself from him and tried to stand up, only to almost fall right back into the seat again. "Fuck." She placed both hands on the table, steadying herself until she regain at least a semblance of balance again. "Okay, I think I've had enough to drink for the next week."
"I think I'm in the same boat," he agreed, but successfully stood, leaning on the table and scooping up his things. He avoided looking towards her, exhaling as he reached into his wallet to throw down quite a few large bills on the table.
"I can pay for my own drinks, Julian," she protested, grabbing her purse from the table.
"Relax, sweetheart," he said, hand reaching over to stop her from opening the bag. "It's not like I don't have the cash."
She glanced up at him, ready to continue her protestations but stopping upon seeing his expression. "I... thanks, sugah."
He smiled thinly and pulled away, again keeping his gaze from her. "Come on; I'll walk you to your room," he said in that same sort of tone which forbid any argument.
The walk there was slow and quiet, and not to mention difficult considering the amount of alcohol inebriating them both. They made it however; Julian leaned precariously against the door frame as she searched blearily for the keycard in the depths of her bag. "It's in here somewhere," she muttered, swaying backwards slightly.
Julian tucked his hands in his pockets, finally bringing his eyes to her for more than a mere few seconds. "I'm sorry," he said suddenly, stomach twisting, his exhale only brewing the awkwardness and not soothing it.
"I thought I put it in the-- found it!" she exclaimed, holding up the little plastic card with a smile, trying to ignore his previous words.
"I'm sorry," he repeated, more firmly this time, jaw setting.
Biting her lip as she failed to get the key to work three times in rapid succession, she shook her head, not looking at him. "For what? It's fine, don't worry about it. We're just both drunk and... we're drunk."
He leaned in closer, brow furrowing and head shaking. "It's not fine, I- I'm sorry; I'm an idiot. I wasn't thinking."
"I told you, don't worry about it," she repeated anxiously, key card failing again before finally deciding to cooperate and she hastily shoved the door open before it could change its mind.
His arm came out to block her progress inside, and the movement forced her gaze to his. Whatever he wanted to say halted as their eyes locked, nothing but wavering breaths in place of his apologies and her frenzied searching.
"It was selfish," he finally said, swallowing.
"It's fi-- shit," Rogue muttered, balance in her heels vanishing and just managing to catch herself with a hand on his chest. She hurriedly removed the offending footwear, tossed it into her room, and flushed red. "Sorry."
"It's fine," he said softly, taking his hands from her waist when she'd steadied. She tried and failed to look away from his intense eyes, sighing. "Least I can do," he muttered, joking feebly with an incremental shrug and a tugging smile.
"I-- umm-- thanks," she said for a lack of anything else to say, anxiously biting on her lip as her fingers curled unconsciously around a bit of his shirt, still unable to look away.
His breath slowed and shallowed, eyes darkening.
"For the..." she continued, cut off abruptly when his hands came up to hold the sides of her jaw, lips pressing to hers. She pulled him closer to her, spine pressing against the door jamb as her free hand searched blindly for the lights. He didn't wait for her to find them, pushing them both inside, lips pressed and arms tightly interlocked. With a cyan swish the door closed and automatically locked behind them--they collided with the next flat surface, Julian hefting her legs up and around his waist.
He couldn't--didn't want to--remember why they shouldn't be doing this, not when she was desperately starting to work at the remaining buttons of his shirt, and he couldn't be sorry anymore when she was moaning into his mouth like that.
She finished with the buttons, hastily pushing his shirt off and letting her hands roam across his bare chest, his name coming from her lips as little more than a strangled sound as his lips left hers for a particularly sensitive spot at her pulse. He groaned gutturally as she arced against him, towards him, and he stumbled back only to fall onto the bed.
TBC in the less child friendly post by Crystal...