|Eleanor Monarch-Sparke is the Black Canary (skree) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2012-07-15 16:19:00
|Entry tags:||arya stark, mal|
Who: Eleanor Monarch and Sebastian Vance-Price
What: Drunken reunions and bad ideas.
When: Right after this conversation.
Where: Sebastian’s room at the Bellagio
Warnings: Mild language. Drunkenness.
Phone clicked shut, Sebastian rose from the chair he had sunk down into while talking to Nell, dropping the phone on the table with little thought paid to it. It seemed a little surreal finding her again, the moment from his past that he thought was simply that: the past. Not that Sebastian ever could have forgotten about her, but some things had to be left behind, and Italy had provided a clean start in so many ways. A closed chapter, an end of a story. Until now.
Grabbing up the room key, Sebastian left his room for the hallway, letting the heavy door close behind him as he padded down the hallway to the bank of elevators some ways down. He gave little thought to how he was dressed, loose charcoal gray slacks, a crisp white button down that was left open, displaying the undershirt he wore beneath. It was hardly a professional look, caught between business and casual, but at that point, what he wore just didn’t matter. Arriving at the elevators before the doors opened, Sebastian looked towards the only one that was heading up, following its progress with the digital display above the door. Hands were clasped behind his back, and while he might have been a picture of ease and relaxation, his heart raced and he was filled with something akin to excitement. Sebastian might have said that he would have been fine never seeing her again, but here, on the precipice of doing exactly that, he couldn’t imagine not seeing her once more.
Nell tapped her foot impatiently as she leaned against the back bar, trying to will the elevator to move faster before she lost her nerve. Despite the haze cast by the alcohol, she knew she shouldn’t be doing this. She knew seeing Sebastian would only rip open a host of old wounds that had taken ages to scab over. And yet, she couldn’t walk away without seeing him. She was drunk, but not entirely gone, and she still knew that this might be the only time she’d work up the resolve to see him. She had to take advantage of it before sobriety struck.
The elevator slowed its precipitous climb, causing Nell to swallow hard. She had no idea how she looked, whether her black and tan dress was hanging straight, or if she smelled like a goddamn distillery. It was too late to back out now. The doors opened, and the yellow-green lights of a generic hotel hallway filtered into the elevator, casting the long shadow of a man she hadn’t seen in years. Nell stepped forward slowly, blinking away the fog, trying to focus on the face in front of her. He looked different. Older, obviously. His jaw looked even more defined than she remembered it, which a part of her knew shouldn’t be possible in the unflattering right. She took another step forward and out of the elevator, her balance tipping slightly as she crossed the threshold, but caught herself against the door of the elevator instinctively. Drunk or not, she was still Eleanor Monarch, former vigilante. And the man in front of her was still Sebastian Vance-Price, the heir apparent to a crime syndicate and the first man she’d ever loved.
“This is still a bad idea.”
“Just old friends meeting, nothing more,” Sebastian said as he stepped closer, unable to bring himself to say much beyond that with the many things that were going through his mind right then. She looked much as his memories had painted her, a little older, but just as beautiful as he had remembered. It was hard to see her here, now, with everything that had been going on, and Sebastian was surprised by the pull in his chest. “Come on,” he finally offered, extending a hand to her, fingers relaxed. “I’d rather not have a reunion in the hallway, if you don’t mind. Besides,” Sebastian started, taking note of her unsteadiness. “I would blame myself forever if you fell and hurt yourself out here.” Six years rolled away, slipsliding to where he didn’t have to think about them, and for a moment, it was as though they had never parted.
“We were never friends, Sebastian.” The alcohol had done much to loosen her tongue in addition to her sense of reason. “Never really had the chance.” She took the hand that was held out to her, if only to be able to let go of the elevator door. “You don’t need to worry about me. I’ve gotten really good at walking in heels in my old age.” Six years had brought with them change to every aspect of her life, from education to fashion. Nell Rex-Wood had been a cute, nerdy girl who wore her heart on her sleeve and had it ripped out of her chest. Eleanor Monarch, on the other hand, was heir to an industrial empire, paparazzi fodder, and renowned tabloid bad girl. Eleanor Monarch would have brushed an ex off her shoulder without second thought, but in that moment, she was nowhere to be found. The girl in the hallway clutching the boy’s hand was that scared, hurting eighteen year-old again, desperate not to lose everything she loved all over again.
Placing her free hand against the wall, Nell took a moment to stabilize herself. She had to keep it together. She had to. “Lead the way.”
His hand was warm and strong where it gripped hers securely, fingers twining together in a fit that was too good to be coincidence. “Maybe it’s time to find it in ourselves to be friends now,” Sebastian said as he pulled her down the hallway, mindful of balance, never moving too fast that it would cause either of them to fall. His room was halfway down the corridor, and with his keycard in hand, Sebastian soon had them within the privacy of his hotel room. The room was clean, most of his belongings still packed in the high-end black luggage laying on one of the beds. A suit coat lay over the back of one chair, a bag of toiletries by the sink, a laptop and journal laying on a table. Once within, Sebastian released her hand and turned to look towards her, his head canted to the side, and he couldn’t find any of the words he wanted to say right then. He had never expected to see her again, for their paths to cross once more, but some things, in life, just couldn’t be predicted. “Do... you want a drink?” he asked, feeling at a loss now that they were in private as to what to do.
Focusing on the walking had kept Nell occupied during the walk to the room, but now that they were there, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room not far from him, the standard hotel-room headboard lights casting long shadows against the far wall. Her hand suddenly felt too empty as Sebastian released his grip on it, and she rapped her fingers against her the hem of her dress for a lack of something to do. “Umm...? Yes.” Drunk as she was, Nell knew she didn’t really need another drink, but she sure as hell wanted one. Anything to make the silence stop ringing in her ears, to make some of the awkwardness enveloping them evaporate. She looked around the room as Sebastian headed over to the minibar to make drinks, not wanting to touch anything or sit anywhere just yet. It was strange, being in a room that despite having been occupied for a short time, had Sebastian written all over it. It made the base of her stomach tie into uncomfortable knows, making her even more twitchy and restless than she had been walking in. This was a bad idea. Why had she come up again? Nell was sure there was a reason she had thought this would work, but no longer had any clue what it was.
The mini bar was well-stocked, and the drink that he handed her moments later was weaker than she probably wanted, but he didn’t attempt to treat her like a child. A swallow later and Sebastian gestured to the bed that wasn’t filled with luggage, dropping down to sit at the foot of it himself, setting his drink down moments later and fiddling with the buttons on the cuffs of his shirt. “You don’t have to be so nervous around me, Nell. I’m not going to... I don’t know. Any of the things you’re worried that I’m going to do.” He gave her a look that was all Sebastian, and while he had changed in many ways since the teenager he was back in Seattle, at his core, he was still him. Boyish, charming, and all together too sweet for words at times.
Nell took a deep swallow of the colorless liquid, downing almost a third of what he had handed her. She remained standing as he sat at the foot of the bed, though she did move a step closer to him so that she could look at him while they talked about... well, whatever he had brought her up here to talk about. She made an incredulous face at the comment, a face that was all lowered brow, pinched mouth, scrunched nose, and all Nell. “What do you think I’m worried you’re going to do?” He couldn’t possibly farther off the mark. It wasn’t Sebastian Nell distrusted, it was herself. Even the booze couldn’t help with that. “Besides, I’m not the only one here twitchy.” In vino veritas, and Nell didn’t qualify as reserved even on a good day. She scrunched her free hand in her hair with nervous energy, the shoulder-length strands pulling free before she could do any real damage. “Congratulations,” she finally said. Someone had to get the inevitable conversation started, right?
At the mention of twitchiness, Sebastian stilled his hands, letting them come to rest on the edge of the mattress, fingers curling lightly around the edge. “I don’t know,” he responded honestly, giving a half-hearted shrug of his shoulder before he took his drink up again to take a long swallow from the tumbler, releasing a sigh as he looked back up towards her, just studying her for a long while. He had to resist reaching out to quell her fingers from fussing with her hair like that, just barely keeping his hands to himself when her next words came. Congratulations. The words didn’t sound right coming from her, and he looked down towards his drink before he shook his head, knocking the rest of it back. “Thanks.” It was hard to be excited about the upcoming wedding here, with Nell sharing the same space as him. It was her he had fought for, had fought to be with for that whirlwind of a romance so many years ago, and that struggle, the decisions he had to make, they still weighed heavy on him. “But I didn’t want to see you to talk about my wedding, Nell.” Polishing off the rest of his drink, Sebastian stood once more, approaching her and reaching up to brush some of the hair away from her face, putting the blond strands back in order with careful fingers. “I really don’t know why I asked you up here. Old habits dying hard? Something like that.”
Nell watched the stilling fingers with rapt fascination, having to shake her head to look away. She had always found Sebastian’s hands one of the most beautiful things about him, and seeing them now brought back memories of those Saturday afternoons spent on the couch in her old apartment, her twining and untwining her fingers through his for hours on end as they watched movies, never able to get enough. That sentiment pretty much described their entire relationship: not able to get enough. They had been teenagers, they had been stupid, they had been in love, and their insatiable need to be with one another had bordered on addiction. Remnants of those emotions floated up even now, but they were strange mysteries to her today, and not just because she was drunk. That heightened state of everything that had come with Sebastian was something she had never experienced since their parting, and she wasn’t sure she could even handle anything close to that caliber today. Watching him knock back the rest of his drink certainly helped her feel a little better, because like it or not, she could still read Sebastian the way she could six years ago, and it was good to see the inner turmoil wasn’t one sided. She watched as he pushed to his feet, not moving, not breathing as his fingers moved up to her hair where hers had just been. “That makes no sense,” she finally said, shaking her head, the blonde waves he had just fixed coming loose again. “You had to be thinking something when you asked.” He was Sebastian Vance-Price. Nell might not always agree with his reasons for doing things, but she knew there always was one.
“Yeah, I was thinking something,” Sebastian said without thinking too hard on what he was saying, fingers lighting on her shoulder, resting there with barely any weight at all. “I was thinking that I wanted to see you. Impulsive, I know, and inappropriate considering. But I couldn’t pretend that you didn’t exist when we haven’t shared the same postal code in years.” His fingers straightened her hair once more, tucking a bit back behind the shell of one ear, just ghosting over fair skin. It wasn’t good, being here, being so near her, reminded of everything that had happened, the words shared, the feelings that had existed. It reminded him of what he didn’t have. His fiancée was a lovely thing that he cared for deeply, and he had no doubts in his relationship with her, but that’s when it was left to stand on its own, not being compared to everything else that could be.
Unfortunately for Sebastian, mussing her hair up was something Nell did often now that her hair was short, and even now as they stood there, her looking up at him, his hand gentle on her shoulder, a free hand went straight to the top of her hair, flipping a large chunk of it over to one side. “Well, you weren’t the only one. I wanted to see you too even though I had the sense to know that it was probably a bad idea.” Not that she finger what exactly it was she was scared of either. “Anyway, I’m here now, and you can see me-” Nell swallowed the all you want she had been about to add to the end of the sentence, sense coming to her just fast enough to catch her tongue. She looked down the drink she was still holding in her hand, studying the watered down liquor for just a moment before tilting it back. It would do more good in her than in her hand, and there was no point denying it. “Do you think we need more of these?” Because she did. She really did, especially if was going to ask her any more of the questions he had asked on the journals.
Alcohol was a tempting escape, but not one that Sebastian indulged in often. Wine was something he drank often enough, something about the country itself lending to it being a drink served with many meals. But rarely to excess. “It really depends on how many bad decisions you want to make here,” Sebastian said gently. “And don’t go talking about bad ideas. You came up here. I never forced you into that elevator.” Because whatever happened, they were both at fault. One for initiating, the other for going along with it.
“We’re adults, Sebastian, not the idiot teenagers we used to be,” she replied, with a well-timed slur. “I think we can stop ourselves from making bad decisions if we want to.” Nell wasn’t entirely sure whether that was true, but she needed to believe it was as long as they were in the same room.” She laughed, the sound mostly gentle with just a touch of sardonicism. “You basically did. You said please. When have I ever been able to say no when you said please?” As far as she was concerned, Sebastian had known exactly what to say to get her up there and lo, there she was.
“You’re an adult,” Sebastian said, taking her words and turning them back towards her. “You can stop yourself from making bad decisions, like coming up to meet your estranged ex-boyfriend who disappeared halfway across the world.” As light as the words were, there was a certain tone to them that was hard to place, a hardness that was unlike him. It was a bad idea, he knew, but he moved back over towards the minibar and started making another drink for each of them, something stronger, a twist of citrus, and when he offered her the glass, he tilted his head towards the bed. “You need to sit, first. I’m scared to death you’re going to fall over where you stand.”
“I could, but in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a little drunk,” she said, her voice mimicking the hard tone, and even as she swayed a little. “And let’s not get too excited. I’ve been to Italy. It’s not that far away.” Her brows knit together in confusion as he suddenly turned away, realization that he was making another drink coming slowly to her. She caught herself staring at his hands once again - stupid, beautiful hands - and she had shake her head once again to break the stare. “I’m a lot better at walking in heels that I used to be,” she insisted, though she followed his gesture this time, coming down to perch on the edge of the bed. “It’s part of the job description now.” She swirled the drink in her hand before taking a sip, the volume of liquor becoming immediately apparent. “You really shouldn’t be worrying about me,” she added moments later, as an afterthought.
“And being drunk excuses you from responsibility? And Italy is far enough away. Enough that even first class doesn’t help lessen the stress of that long flight.” Sebastian found himself relaxing as she sat, a bit of the worry easing from his shoulders, and he didn’t presume to sit too close to her as well, instead pulling over a chair to plop down into, hands laced together between his knees. “And it’s a free country, last I checked,” Sebastian said, wondering why he had given her that second drink. He didn’t have the excuse of being drunk to play off his own bad decisions. “And I’m allowed to worry about you. What happened didn’t take that away, I don’t think.” But these were new rules he was testing, things he wasn’t entirely sure about. Relationships had been something he stayed away from in Italy, at least until he had met Serena. Her entrance into his life had been a gamechanger, something fresh and new to concentrate on, and he hadn’t looked back since.
Nell considered the question, looking from her glass to Sebastian and back again, before taking a swig of the strong concoction. “Yes. Yes it does.” Nell had tried to be responsible, to be normal, to fall in love and dream of happily ever after. She had done a good job of it too, until Maren Westerberg had opened her eyes to the giant fucking farce it had all been. Nell wasn’t built for fairytale weddings and happy endings, no matter how much she wanted to pretend. And close to a year later, she had been able to make her peace with that fact. So what if she couldn’t have the life little girls in pink dresses and pigtails dreamed of? She had her friends and her family and her booze and her friends with benefits, and that was enough. It had to be.
“Oh, come on, you big baby” she laughed, amused at the idea of a grouchy Sebastian terrorizing the flight attendants in first class. “Flights over the pacific are way longer.” She noticed his hands lacing together as he sat in the chair he pulled over, and her brows rose in silent inquiry as to whether he would be making her drink alone. “I don’t know what the freaking rules are,” she shrugged, sliding a little further back onto the bed so that she was no longer teetering on its edge, “but I’m pretty sure that’s not right. Either way, it would probably be for the best if you didn’t.”
At her look, Sebastian leaned back to snag the second drink he had made, lifting it in silent toast before taking a small sip of it, making the thing last. “They might be longer, but I’m not used to sitting in place for so long. We didn’t take many long trips after we moved, so I got used to not having to do that. Sue me.” There was amusement in his eyes then, something warm just for her, and as he took another sip, he watched as she slid further back onto the bed, making herself almost comfortable. “And since when did either of us play by the rules, Nell?” he asked, challenge in those words. Their entire relationship had been against the rules, but they hadn’t let them stop them then. Sure, there were new rules now, boundaries that needed to be observed, but that didn’t mean they had to play on the straight and narrow all the way.
“Whatever, you big baby,” she jested, perfectly aware of just how miserable those long flights could be. “Why did you fly back here after all these years anyway?” She closed her eyes as he challenged her declaration, opening them again only after she had taken another healthy swig from her glass. She had never told Sebastian just how many rules she had broken in her life, all those nights watching over the city against both law and reason. He was right, of course. Neither of them had seen a rule they hadn’t broken, especially at that particular point in their life. “Since it became expected of us,” she finally answered flatly, her right hand rising once again to muss her hair. “Do you think it might have been easier if we had played by the rules?” Nell knew that the booze was turning her into Debbie Downer, but the answer to that question had plagued her for the last six years, and now that Sebastian was once again in front of her, she simply had to know.
“Business,” came the answer, easy and clear and no hesitation. He paused after he said it then, swirling his drink and taking a sip before he slumped back in his chair, one shoulder shrugging up. “I’m trying to go legit. Show dad that success can come even if you play by the rules. I’m looking at buying in to one of the casinos out here.” Sebastian’s lips turned down in the slightest of frowns and he glanced down into his drink for a moment, rubbing the palm of his and against the thigh of his pants. “As for us. I don’t know. We broke rules even being together. It shouldn’t have even happened, and we both know that. It’s hard to say what would have happened if we had done what we were supposed to.” Another drink, something to wash away the bitter feelings that were creeping up. “Doesn’t mean I would change what happened, though. With you and me, that is.”
"But your family still does what it did?" What his family did had been the sticking point in their relationship, what with their perpetrating of crimes, and Nell and her fathers' fighting of it. Sebastian had never learned the extent of just how far the two of them were on opposite sides, but that had been for the best. As long as Sebastian helped his family do what they did, Nell would never be able to be with him, and both of them had known Sebastian couldn't abandon his family for a teenage love. Fat lot of good it did her, closure wise. Neither of them loved the other any less after the truth came out than they did before, and the sudden upheaval of their relationships left them with open wounds, which although scabbed over with time, were susceptible to rip back up again at the first sign of familiarity.
Nell fought the urge to flop backwards onto the bed with a dramatic groan, as she was still extremely aware of the fact that she was sitting on Sebastian's bed even as he sat across from her. "It happened because we didn't know... what we later found out. If I had to guess what would have happened had we followed the rules? A shitload less heartache? I probably wouldn't be drunk right now, and you probably would be talking to your girl back home instead of me. Not..." Nell paused, swallowing hard, "that I would change what happened either." Like it or not, her relationship with Sebastian had laid the formation for the rest of her romantic history, and pulling him out of the equation would have made her a different person entirely.
Sebastian nodded his head in answer to her question, getting up moments later and taking a seat beside her, one leg dragged up beneath his body so that he could sit sideways, facing her. “Family will always be involved, I think. But I’m taking steps to move away from that.” He paused, knocking back the rest of his drink and setting the glass aside with a grimace, wiping his lips on the back of his hand. “Do you remember that time back in Seattle. When I was kidnapped?” he asked a moment later. “I don’t want my family to have to deal with that. My children, if I ever have them. This kind of life... it isn’t safe. It isn’t secure. So I want to create something better.” The words were as honest as Sebastian could ever get, lacking any bravado, any amount of pride lacing through the words. “And what happened back when we were kids...” He laid a hand against her arm. “It made us who we are today. So even though it might have been easier, who knows where we would be now.”
Nell turned instinctively as Sebastian sat down next to her, tugging the hem of her dress straight, her legs crossing at the calves. She nodded in answer to his question, closing her eyes and giving her head a little shake. Did she remember when he had been kidnapped? The memory had haunted her long after he had left the country, despite the fact that they had already split up when it had happened. She still remembered the panicked feeling that had overtaken her when his family had contacted her about his whereabouts, and the overwhelming sense of uselessness that had threatened to crush her. "That's good," she said, her voice a low hoarse whisper that she cleared with another swig of the liquid, bringing her close to the bottom of her glass. "No parent should have to go through that." A smile touched the corner of her lips. "I'm glad you're going straight, Sebastian." She grew perplexed, and stared at her glass in puzzlement. "That's what it's called, right? Going straight?"
The alcohol had definitely taken over her senses at that point, because instead of ignoring the hand Sebastian placed on her arm, Nell followed it with her gaze. At least her reflexes were too dull at this point to let her jump at the contact, so that was a something. "We were such kids then, weren't we? Complete idiots."
He gave a nod of his head in response. “Yeah, going straight.” Telling Nell about this, after all that had happened, was somewhat bittersweet. He had broken up with her because he couldn’t leave the family, and here he was, years later, making that decision now, the same one he had refused to make before. “And we were kids. Hardly knew a thing about the world.” Sebastian let out a long sigh, letting his hand run along her arm. “Makes me wonder what stopped me from making that decision so many years ago.” Giving her arm a pat, Sebastian rose to his feet and moved back over to the mini-bar, going through the motions of making another drink, quiet after that exchange.
Nell tried to keep the bitterness out of her expression, but it was hard, and the exertion had her gripping her glass until her knuckles were right. She knew this wasn't about her. She knew that. Still, she couldn't help but feel hurt; Sebastian had stepped away from the family business six years after swearing up and down the road that he couldn't, and Nell couldn't help but feel as though it had something to do with her not being good enough. "You didn't have the right reason," she replied to his back, before forcing her eyes away and fiddling with the strap of her heel. "You just had to wait to find the right reason, right person to leave for." Fuck. So much for not sounding bitter.
The bottle of gin was put down harder than was likely necessary as Nell finished speaking, and he turned towards her, head canted to the side. “That’s not it at all,” he said, his words harsh, bitten down and sharp. “It had nothing to do with the ‘right’ person being the reason. So don’t start putting yourself down and thinking that you weren’t enough for me to make this decision.” Sebastian gave a shake of his head, turning back and dropping ice cubes in his drink, his movements jerky and rough. “I didn’t make this decision because of Serena, Nell. So don’t think that way.” He braced his hands against the edge of the bar, leaning against it with his head bowed.
Nell shook her head, still not moving her gaze away from her fiddling. “What I think doesn’t matter anymore, Sebastian. You found Serena and you’re stepping away from that world, and that’s the right thing to do.” Her strap finally secure, she turned her attention back to her glass, taking another swig before continuing. “I’m glad you’re going straight, no matter what your reasons, okay?”
Sebastian didn’t say anything for the longest moment, and it wasn’t for lack of things to say. It was simply because anything he said right then would be born out of frustration and anger and not what he really wanted to say. “Right,” he finally said, and there was a short laugh as he knocked back the new drink, hardly tasting it as it went down. Turning back to look at her, Sebastian said nothing, his eyes sweeping up and down before they settled upon her face. It looked as though he had more to say, but nothing came out the two times he tried. Finally, he simply shook his head and picked up the room key off the table, the door to his room slamming shut hard as he left, leaving her behind.
The door slamming shut made Nell jump, and had her drink been fuller, she would have sloshed it all over herself. She would not cry. She would not cry. What the hell did she care anyway? She threw back the last of her drink and dropped the empty glass on the footboard, before pushing herself to her feet. The world tilted dangerously for a second, sending her stumbling against the chair before she could right herself. Shit. She should not have had those drinks.
It took her a few moments to make her way to the door, the world gone hazy now that she didn’t have Sebastian to focus on, but she did finally make her way there. Nell pulled the door open a little too fast as she stepped out of the hotel room, trying desperately to remember what direction the elevators were in.
He was halfway down the hallway, no direction in mind, when he heard the door to his room open and stumbled steps come in its wake. Turning on one heel, he caught sight of Nell as she stepped out, obviously unsteady, and he had to quell the urge to simply rush to her side. “Nell, go back inside until you’re sober,” he said, his voice rough, tired, the anger that had caused him to rush out of the room as he did still something fresh and alive just under the surface. “You’re drunk and you’re just going to hurt yourself. Please. Go back inside.” Sebastian made no move to go to her side, not yet, not trusting himself with the emotions that were still raw, her words still echoing in his mind. You found Serena and you’re stepping away from that world, and that’s the right thing to do. He wasn’t doing this because of anyone. Did it make him a horrible person that he was doing this for his own safety? For the safety of whatever family he had, whether it was with Serena or Nell or someone else? The decisions he had made as a stupid eighteen year old were born on the heels of someone who wanted to make their family proud. The decisions that he made now, years later, were his and his alone. His family would love him regardless of what he did, and what he decided to do now would lay the base for the rest of his life. It wasn’t for some girl. It was for himself.
Like every person, Nell had flaws, and her stubbornness was her biggest one. It was that stubbornness that reared its ugly head in that hall, making her shake her head when Sebastian told her to go inside, even though the hallway was doing a rollercoaster wave under her feet. She leaned her shoulder against one wall, taking a deep breath to steady herself. “I shouldn’t even be here, Sebastian. I’m drunk and you’re upset and this --” she looked at her hand against the wall, blinking away the wet film threatening to take over, “I should go.” Nell tried to let go of the wall she had braced herself against, but the world simply wouldn’t right itself. She was stuck and she was frustrated and the feelings wracking her body made her just want to curl up and hide for days. All the blinking in the world couldn’t hold back the tears as they came, making Nell hate herself even as she did. She looked down at her feet quickly, not wanting Sebastian to see her being such an out of control mess, not when she had stupidly gone and upset him too. God damn it, god damn it, god damn it. What the hell was wrong with her. “I should go,” she said again, this time her voice barely louder than a whisper.
Sebastian’s feet were glued to the floor for several moments in the wake of her words, and he knew it was wrong to go to her, wrong to even consider it, but slowly, he moved, long strides that were only the slightest bit uneven bringing him to her side in a just a few moments, and without saying a word, he wound his arms around her, drawing her in against his chest. One arm circled her torso, the other came up to cup the back of her head, tucking her against him, beneath his chin. His heart pounded as furiously as a drum in his chest, his breath harsh, but he said nothing as he held her. Nothing could take away the feelings he had for her, not half the world, not six years of space. Nell was the first woman he had ever had any sort of feelings for, and even though he had tucked them away after crossing the Atlantic, they were still there, burning just as hot as they had been so long ago.
Nell resisted the embrace for just a second, but when Sebastian’s arms wrapped around her and pulled her close, she couldn’t pull away, her weight coming away from the wall and pressing into him. She swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand as they stood there, unable to keep in the short, surprised laugh bubbling in her throat. Everything about this situation was so completely out of control, the world still cartwheeling around them as he held her still. But being too drunk for her own good wasn’t something Nell was unaccustomed to. She had gone through a prolonged period of binge drinking and partying after her engagement had fallen apart, and even now, going out and forgetting herself was more common than she knew was healthy. It was being too drunk while every emotion, every nerve in her body was raw and exposed that had left her helpless, unable to do anything but give in.
And give in she did. Even as the tears continued to flow, Nell wrapped her arms around Sebastian’s back, holding tight as the rest of the world slipped away.
It was hard to tell how long they stood there before Sebastian gently ushered them to his door, managing to unlock it and get them inside without anyone falling. Once within, he turned them, letting the wall come against Nell’s back, and without thinking about what he was doing, the consequences thereof, long fingers tipped her chin up and he kissed her. He was teetering on the edge of something himself, something unsteady and crumbling beneath his feet, and right then, he simply did what he wanted, what felt best, thinking only of the now and not the later.
Nell barely registered the direction in which he took them, her feet simply following his as he balanced her against the wall. Her eyes fluttered shut as their lips met, tasting of alcohol and memories and something new, and she stopped fighting. Hands left his back to wrap around the base of his neck as she pulled him closer, her shoes helping bridge the gap in their heights. Nell knew that they were drunk and this was wrong, somewhere, deep down, she knew. But in that moment, maybe in large part thanks to the alcohol coursing through her veins next to her pulse, she simply did not care. Hot tears were still falling down her cheeks as she pulled away, and she took another swipe at them, willing them to stop, before looking up at Sebastian, uncertain and out of her element.
There were no words that could fill the space between them as she pulled back, and he didn’t even make an attempt to try. Instead, he reached up, wiping away the tears she missed with his own fingers, long past the worry about what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Instead, he took one of her hands in his own, and slowly, gently, he pulled her back towards the empty bed, drawing her onto the mattress along with him. Once they were both stretched out, Sebastian took hold of her once again, arms wound around her tight, lips dropping a singular kiss atop her head. He felt half here, half not, and even though this shouldn’t be happening, there was no discounting how right it felt. The way he had felt about Nell never did compare to how he felt for Serena, not by a long shot, but he had worked to put her out of his head, to accept what couldn’t be, and to be happy with what he had. And he knew that he could be happy with her. Was it perfection? Was it what he really wanted? Hardly. This was what he wanted, she was what he wanted.
Falling back against the bed next to Sebastian, Nell instinctively curled into Sebastian as he held her, her body melting against his just as it had all those years ago. As she lay there, her eyes gently falling shut, all the shoulds and should-nots fell away to nothingness, things to be dealt with in the morning. Despite the fact that her memories of Sebastian were entwined the worst of heartaches, there was something about his arms around her, holding her close, that made Nell feel safe in a way she hadn’t in ages, not since her world had fallen apart at the words of a young college student. She fell still as she lay there, head curled right beneath his chin, clutching to these precious few moment they would have together before morning, and with it responsibility, came.
Sometime during the night, the blankets had been tugged up around them, limbs still tangled together, Sebastian laying on his stomach with one arm wound possessively around her middle, turned in towards her. The sun started to peek through the open windows, half the morning already gone, and when the curtains shifted with the air from the air conditioning, Sebastian’s eyes cracked open with a groan. He tugged the blanket up around them further, hiding away from the light, his lips finding her cheek with a quiet, sleep-riddled kiss. “Morning,” he mumbled, voice thick with sleep, the full extent of what had happened, of how the night had ended, not dawning on him just yet. He was not a morning person in the slightest, preferring to sleep as late as he could, and this morning was no different as he sunk back into the mattress, his breathing evening back out.
The apocalypse could have happened as they lay there under the blankets, for all Nell would have noticed. Day, night, none of it made any difference, the alcohol having sunk her into a sleep thick and dreamless. She managed a groan as she felt the lips brush her cheek, burrowing deeper as awareness, slivers of light, and the pounding in her head came in quick succession. Nell still suffered from bouts of insomnia every so often, so when sleep did come, she insisted on staying in bed as late as possible to take full advantage. She knew she would have to get some water and painkillers before long, but until the headache became unbearable, she was staying right where she was, warm and comfortable.
He might have continued on like that had it not been for the shrill ringing from the phone laying on a table nearby, jolting him out of sleep with a jerk. “Fuck,” he muttered, sweeping the blankets back and rolling out of the bed, his shirt a wrinkled mess, his pants equally as bad, but everything still buttoned and fastened as they should have been. His steps were heavy as he padded across the room to where his phone lay, giving not a single glance to the caller ID as he picked it up, scrubbing a hand over his face. “Hello?” Voice still fogged with sleep, it took him some time to recognize the voice on the other end as his fiancee, but when he did, his eyes opened wider and that sleepy feeling fled him completely. “Serena,” Sebastian started, glancing towards the bed where Nell still slept, tangled up in the blankets, her hair mussed around her face. To his credit, his voice didn’t falter, and any strangeness in his tone could be blamed on the fact that he had just woken up. Continuing the conversation in Italian, Sebastian quietly slipped out of the room to the bathroom, the door closing and locking behind him for some privacy. It was partly to keep Nell from having to listen to him talk to her, and partially to keep her from his sight as he spoke to the woman he was betrothed to.
The shrill ring of the telephone jerked Nell awake again, and she groaned as she rolled onto her stomach, willing the phone to shut up. She felt the bed resettle as Sebastian climbed out, and was glad when he got to the phone and made the god forsaken thing shut up. Realization of who was on the phone hit her slowly, Sebastian already slipping into the bathroom for privacy by the time her mind absorbed the full implications of the name ‘Serena’. Nell pushed herself into a seated position with difficulty, trying her best to think straight around the throbbing at her temples. She was still wearing her dress, she was glad to notice, and as far as the kiss was concerned, that was something to be dealt with when everything hurt a little less. Her hair fell across her face as she cupped it with her arms, staying absolutely still until the muffled Italian in the bathroom came to a stop.
When Sebastian stepped out, he was tapping his phone against his temple, looking anywhere but at Nell even though nothing had really happened between them besides the one kiss. The water in the sink ran, two cups were filled, and before he moved back to the bed, he grabbed the bottle of aspirin from his toiletry bag, soon sinking back down to sit beside Nell. “Sorry if I woke you,” he said quietly, offering her the cup of water and the bottle of painkillers, his voice quiet even for him. He didn’t bother to tell her who had called because he was pretty sure she had put two and two together, so why rub her face in the obvious?
Nell looked up when he sat next to her, throwing back a few pills and the entire glass of water before letting herself speak. “The headache woke me, not you,” she said hoarsely, her throat still dry despite the water. “I’m not as young as I used to be.” Of course, it was a nonsensical statement coming from a twenty-four year old, but Nell was certain she had tempted fate too much with all her drinking over the years, and the hangover gods were exacting their revenge against her. As they sat there quietly, Nell went through the variations of questions she wanted to ask. What had Serena said? Had Sebastian told her anything? What had they come close to last night? Did they really almost do to Serena what had happened to Nell less than a year ago? Nell finally groaned, dropping her head back into her hands.”What are we doing, Sebastian?”
Sebastian sipped his own glass of water, chasing back two aspirin before he sat both items aside, hand reaching out to rub Nell’s back as she buried her head in her hands. Her question was a good one, and not one he had an easy answer to give to. “I’m not entirely sure,” he admitted, and there was something sad in his voice. “I wish I could tell you.” He let out a long sigh, and without thinking too hard on it, the hand on her back turned into an arm around her shoulders, and he pulled her in against his side, quiet and reflective, a feat made difficult by the way his own head ached from alcohol and dehydration.
Nell let herself be pulled back towards Sebastian, her balance shifting as she fell against his side. “We can’t do it,” she whispered, eyes closing against the morning light, her headache growing more fierce, whether because of the dehydration or the impending conversation. “You love her,” she continued, as though that was enough to explain her entire line of reasoning. Reaching out, Nell took one of his hands, sandwiching it between her own. “Go be happy, Sebastian. You deserve it.”
He swallowed hard, looking down at their joined hands before he curled his fingers around hers, bringing her fingers up to his mouth to press a kiss against them. “I was happy with you, Nell,” he said softly, and there were no words for how he felt right then. No matter what happened from this point forward, someone would be hurt by whatever decision he made, and that was the last thing he wanted.
They sat there, side by side, hands entwined for long minutes before Nell finally sighed and pulled away, getting to her feet. She grabbed the empty glass she had downed and took it with her to the bathroom, where she filled it several times in an attempt to put off the inevitable. But eventually her face was washed, her hair as fixed as it would get under the circumstances, and she knew she had to go back outside and do what needed doing. Slipping back into the room, Nell picked up her shoes from where she must have kicked them off at some point during the night, taking a moment to sit down and fasten them. “I should go,” she finally said, breaking the silence that was unbearable. “I’m sorry I -- we -- I’m sorry.”
Sebastian made no move to stop her or follow her, simply letting her do as she needed to at that moment. His eyes were on her the entire time she was visible to him, though, following as she sat back down to pull on her heels. “Don’t be sorry,” he finally said, and he rose then, moving over towards her, hands coming to her shoulders as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Just don’t, okay?” And then he was pulling away, his expression pained, and he glanced at the cell phone he had slipped into his pocket, thumb running over the screen before he made a face and put it back away. “And don’t be a stranger. I’ll be here for awhile. In Vegas, I mean. So.” He let the sentence end there, stepping back and giving her space that seemed too much for how he felt.
Nell closed her eyes against the kiss on the top of her head, allowing herself those last few moments of contact before he stepped away. Sebastian could ask her not to be sorry all he wanted, but she would feel what she felt, whether it be regret or something else. “Yeah, good luck with the casino thing, Sebastian. I’ll see you around.” Pulling her eyes from his face, Nell forced herself to turn around and walk out the door while she still could. There was going to be fallout from what had happened, and a thorough examination of every ounce of emotion she was feeling, but that would come with time. For now, she just needed to get away, to someplace where she wouldn’t be tempted to throw caution to the wind and follow her heart instead of her brain. That was a mistake she could never allow herself to make again.