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Crossing Paths at the Crossroads

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326Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:50 pm

I grin sheepishly as I grab my bag from the floor, wiping at my cheeks again before I go for the door. 

"I'm going to go find the baths," I say quietly as I step past Jean's bed, glancing down at him as I pull the door open. "Meet for breakfast in half an hour?"

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327Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:24 pm

"See you there," I smile, and I'd swear she could see the butterflies fluttering in my belly in the faltering smile. If she does, though, she doesn't say anything as she shuts the door behind her. Letting out a shaking breath I hadn't known I was holding, I grab the clothes I'd laid out for the day with trembling hands.

After I'm dressed, I consider waking Jean up, but between the nerves and the semi-aroused state of my body, I'm not quite ready to face the man yet. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to care about all that as he groans his way into consciousness, an arm draping across his face as he rolls over and picks his head up to look around in the dim light of the room.

"Who was at the door?" he asks blearily, his voice thick with sleep.

"No one," I respond as I shove a few things in my bag. "Lju was just heading down to find the baths."

"Mmph," he replies groggily. "Did you tell her they're awful?"

"They're the same as what we have in our apartments," I say stiffly, pointedly ignoring the fact that they are awful, particularly when compared to the facilities at the Crossroads. But we're not thinking about the Crossroads today. "I think she'll be perfectly comfortable."

"Mm," he hums past a frown before rolling into an upright position with a yawn. "I need to take a look at her plumbing then. I never did fix the tub in her last place."

I pause as I cock my head back toward him, frowning thoughtfully. "Does that mean you intend to continue on with us?" I ask, a knot of conflicting emotions forming in the pit of my stomach as I try to remind myself that we need him... and more importantly, Lju needs him.

Jean doesn't seem ready to answer as he drags a hand across the scruff on his face, trying to coax himself awake as he yawns. Letting out a heavy sigh, he finally nods as he pulls his shoes toward him a bit grudgingly. "Yeah, I guess I am."

"Why?" I ask without even trying to mask the confusion and disapproval in my voice.

"Because," he responds, my tone pulling him fully awake as he scowls up at me. "She my friend, too. And because Maja would want me to... to look after Ljuba."

"Ljuba doesn't need you to look after her," I say seriously. "She has me."

"Do I really need to point out the flaw in that?" he asks dryly, his eyes rolling as he shoves his foot into his shoe. "Besides, it's not a competition-."

"Yes, it is," I snap firmly. "The consideration you gave to leaving last night made it one. And don't pretend like you weren't thinking about it," I say harshly as he opens his mouth to protest. "Ljuba knew as well as I did that the likelihood of you still being here this morning was slim. She'll be thrilled that you've chosen to stay, everything about having you back has thrilled her. But I won't forget, and neither will you: you were ready to leave her. That alone is enough for me to know that you're not good enough for her, so yes. It is a competition, for her sake, because I'll be damned if I'm ever so lax in my care for her as you are."

I can practically taste the bitterness of guilt on the man's tongue as he clamps his jaw stiffly. Grabbing my bag and my cane, I unfold it in one quick motion and head to the door, the cane clicking on the floor as I go. "Breakfast is in half an hour. Do try to warn me if you're going to run for it before then. It would be nice to have a car lined up if you do."

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328Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:52 pm

It takes me awhile - and at least two very helpful guests of the inn - to find the baths tucked in an odd corner of the hall opposite the stairs. They're an open concept, something that leaves me with a sick feeling in my gut that squashes the pleasant jitteriness I'd been left with from my encounter with Marnin just moments before. On no less than three occasions while I'm hurrying through my shower, hidden in the darkest corner of the room, people come in and meander through in the hunt for the best stall and peek in on me, leaving me feeling small and violated. 

Once I've hurried through my shower, and redressed in a clean set of clothes, I head back to the room to grab the last of my things so I can head down for breakfast. I'm surprised to find Jean adjusting his things as I step in, and I shut the door behind me slowly as I look him over. 

"Did you sleep good?" I ask as he glances up at me, dropping a pair of socks aimlessly on the bag so he can turn towards me. "Clear your head and all?"

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329Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:59 pm

"Yeah, yeah," I nod distractedly, my thoughts still mulling over the less than pleasant conversation I'd had with Marnin as I loosen the third tie I've tried on to take it off. Usually I find it relaxing, going through my morning routine, but today it feels forced and fake. 

"Well, you know," I shrug, trying to pull my attention back to the present as I smile weakly at Ljuba. "I cleared it as much as one can when getting ready to go on a potentially murderous quest... I'm not sure I packed enough socks for this, honestly."

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330Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:01 pm

"You're coming!?" I ask excitedly, grinning as I rise onto my toes before stepping forward to hug him tightly. "Oh, I'm so glad you're coming!"

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331Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:08 pm

Despite the little knot of guilt at Marnin's predicted response, I can't help but smile as I wrap my arms around her fondly. Any reservations I'd had about going feel small next to the happiness pouring off of Ljuba.

"Well, I couldn't very well leave you and the blind sap to wander into danger on your own, could I?" I smile more genuinely now. "And this beats the alternative of driving a bunch of scavengers around for the rest of the winter."

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332Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:22 pm

"I'm just so grateful you decided to do it," I say as I lean back to look up at him, squeezing his arms as I notice the wet spot my hair had left on his shoulder. I flush as I try to brush it off, apologizing lamely.

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333Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:25 pm

"It's fine," I laugh, tossing the tie I'd been holding back in my bag with a sigh. "I think I've given up on looking decent today anyway. Nothing looks right."

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334Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:26 pm

"Well how could it, you've lot your chubby cheeks and all your curls. You look like an adult now." I tease lightly, grinning as I step back and move to gather my things.

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335Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:37 pm

"I was an adult before," I laugh as I begin unbuttoning my shirt so I can change into a plain old green sweater with a high collar. It's a good compromise, something warm and decent without the effort of a suit. "Now I'm just a slightly older adult. And trust me, my hair is still ungodly curly. I've just tamed it after years of trial and error... and the realization that I looked bloody awful with blond hair."

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336Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:41 pm

"I sort of liked your awkward curls," I laugh, "made you seem less ridiculously out of our league. It was sort of nice being the cute ones."

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337Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:45 pm

"Fuck you," I laugh as I pull my shirt off and grab the sweater. "I'll have you know, my mother thought I was adorable."

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338Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:47 pm

"And she's probably the one who talked you into bleaching those curls!" I grin, hoisting my guitar onto my shoulder, "To keep the rest of us away from ya, I bet. She was sabotaging you, Jean!"

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339Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:52 pm

"If you're suggesting that my mother is one of those crazy women who tell their sons they'll never find anyone who loves them as much as mummy, you're dead wrong," I laugh as I pull the sweater on before neatly folding the other shirt away in the bag. "She was the one who said no one was good enough for her baby. It's totally different! 

"Thank god I had Nik to set me straight, eh?" I laugh as I pull out a spare coat from my bag that'll go with the sweater better. "You know she tried to knit me a sweater like this one? Scariest thing I ever saw."

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340Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:55 pm

"Charlie knits?" I laugh at the thought, shaking my head as I head for the door to wait for him. "I know I only met her a few times, but that just doesn't seem like it works in my head. Knitting is something feeble old people do, and Charlie has never come off as any of those things."

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341Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:57 pm

"Yeah, she got bored with it pretty quick," I scoff. "Not soon enough, if you ask me... she made some nice socks, though. I think she was going for a hat, though, so..."

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342Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:03 pm

"Socks from a hat?" I laugh, tugging the door open as Jean gathers his things to head out with me. "That's pretty classically Charlemagne. Maja used to tell me about how she'd just pull things out of the cabinets to cook dinner for you guys, and see where she wound up. Sometimes it was really good, like she made a chicken, rice, and like weird orange sauce casserole - but this other time she said that your mum made this weird soup with like three different meats and a jelly that soured the cream? Said your house smelled like vomit for three days."

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343Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:10 pm

"You know what's really sad?" I laugh as I catch up to her and bump into her side as we walk. "I inherited that trait. Seriously, I was seeing this girl for a few months a couple years ago, and I kid you not, she left me because my cooking was so horrendous."

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344Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:15 pm

"You date?" I ask, my smile faltering as I keep my pace to walk alongside him. "Of course, you date-" I nod, swallowing thickly as I glance up at him. "Did you ever manage to get lucky every once in awhile? Cook something palatable?"

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345Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:39 pm

"Yeah, every now and then," I nod, a twinge of guilt settling in my chest as I notice the way she had faltered. "Lju, you know it took some time... for me to start dating again, I mean. It was hard for a while there... I had a drinking problem; still do, really. But after some time had passed, I don't know. I just felt like she wouldn't want that for me, you know? I think she would have wanted us to keep living."

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346Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 10:55 pm

I nod slightly, hardly able to stop myself before I can even realize what I've said.

"That's the thing about the dead, though," I blurt, tensing as I catch myself. Keeping my head down, I quickly weigh the pros and cons of finishing my thought before shaking my head. "Nevermind."

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347Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 11:13 pm

"Lju," I frown, sighing heavily before I let the subject drop as I rub a hand across her back. "Let's get some breakfast, yeah? They've got some good eggs here."

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348Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 11:32 pm

"Yeah," I respond, stepping up ahead of him so we can pass down the stairs alongside someone coming up the other way. I can see Marnin tucked into a booth near the edge of the room, and his head is already cocked towards us as he awaits our approach. 

"I'm surprised you haven't got any food yet," I say towards him, tugging my bags off my shoulder so I can tuck them near the edge of the table as I slide into the booth beside him. "Figured you'd have a giant waffle by now, with all the fruit picked off."

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349Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 11:38 pm

"They're cooking it now," Marnin responds, a hint of smugness in his smile as he cocks his head toward me. "I figured I would wait to order until you two were about ready to eat. I got your usual, Lju, and some eggs and hashbrowns for you."

"Oh," my brow pinches a bit as I try to remember if I'd said anything about what I'd want for breakfast. "Thanks you. How did you know I wanted eggs and hashbrowns..?"

"She should be coming back with the coffee any minute now," Marnin says to Lju, completely ignoring my question as he puts an arm over the back of the booth behind Ljuba, his head cocking toward the kitchen. "Anyway, how was your bath? Do they at least have stall doors in the women's bath?"

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350Crossing Paths at the Crossroads - Page 14 Empty Re: Crossing Paths at the Crossroads on Sun Jan 24, 2016 11:40 pm

"There's a woman's bath?" I ask as I look at Marnin incredulously, "That couple sent me to the one on the second floor, I thought it was just... unisex?" I cringe a bit at the thought, sinking into my seat as I look at Jean.

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