This is Issue #16 of DeathWatch, Book II: tentatively called Heart Of Ilona, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find DeathWatch, the first in the series, or start from the beginning of Book II!
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Sour-faced, irritable that the Legatus would take the side of the insistent her, in her head, Jules said, “I need a drink. Give me five minutes to clean up and — do you even have any clean clothes that would fit me?”
“They’re in your room,” he said, gesturing through the other doorway.
“My room?” Jules said, looking baffled.
“That’s what it’s called for now, yes. You’re living here, with me; that’s your room. Unless you wanted a different one?” His voice was mild; the question was sincere — he would move her, if she wanted to.
Frustrated, Jules sighed, “I don’t know how to act around you.”
Coryphaeus shrugged, saying, “Neither do I. I suppose we have a great deal to learn that we simply don’t know about, yet.”
He got up and left her to her own devices once more, and when she walked into the dining area, scrubbed clean and wearing fresh clothes, he was seated at a table bearing an array of food, re-dressed and reading a book, picking at things on his plate.
He smiled at her, tentatively, and Jules smiled in return, pained, but it grew warmer to see the way he rose from his chair to pull out one for her.
“Thank you,” she said, moving to sit down with him.
They began their meal in silence, but then Coryphaeus said, “Would you like to talk?”
“…about?” Jules wondered, cocking her head to the side. Small talk seemed a strange thing to engage in, but perhaps it would ease the awkward feeling of the situation.
“Perhaps about how you’re feeling? Your loss? You have gone through something terrible, and I–”
“No,” Jules whispered, shaking her head. “I don’t want to think about him right now. It’s too much. I don’t really want to be thinking about anything. I want to be numb for awhile.”
Coryphaeus nodded, rose from the table, and returned with a bottle of something silver blue and half-glowing. He opened the seal, poured some out, and set it in front of her. “This will get you numb. Fill your belly first, then have some.”
Jules, not one to ever be in the habit of listening, picked up the shot and tipped it entirely down her throat.
Eyes bulging, Coryphaeus took the glass from her and said, “Some, you fool! You’ll make yourself sick!”
“D’y’think I’ve never drunk before, y’irksome, mule-headded git?” Jules laughed ruefully. “I’m aiming for unconscious. I don’ want t’die yet. I know that much. But I need a little more help with living.”
Frustrated, Corypheus set the bottle aside and said, “Eat, please? More than the few bites you’ve had?”
“If you’ll drink,” Jules said, challenging. “For all your status as some monstrous rebel, Legatus, I have a feeling you live for rules, and love to follow them.”
“So what if I do?” His voice was indignant, higher than he’d spoken before, irritated. “We have rules for a reason.”
“To keep the beasts in line,” Jules said, her pale eyes flashing. “That’s all. Now drink with me. I’m fucking done with everything, and if you give half as much a shit about me as you say you do, you’ll take me at my word and stop trying to save me from myself, yeah?”
“Guardian preserve us,” Coryphaeus sighed, pouring himself a shot. He drank it, grimacing briefly, then coughed, and laughed when she thumped him on the back. “Enough. You don’t know how potent this is–”
“Stop,” Jules said, yanking the bottle from his hands. She put it directly to her lips, tipped her head back, and took four full swallows before he had enough thought to tip it down pull it away from her mouth. “See?” she laughed, blinking tears from her eyes. “It’s just aether whisky!”
He shook his head, disapproving, and opened his mouth to chastise her.
She pushed the bottle toward him. “Keep up, comrade. Come on, Legatus. Now you.”
Sighing, Coryphaeus looked at the bottle, looked at her, and shrugged. “Tomorrow, we will regret this.”
“Better to regret doing something than regret doing nothin,” Jules proclaimed.
Coryphaeus drank from the bottle, letting it sear a line of electric fire down his throat to his belly. He wheezed, shaking his head, and looked at her, expectant. “Better to live to regret, than not,” he quipped, once he finished swallowing.
“I’m fine. I’ll live,” Jules said, letting him keep the bottle as she got up and paced the room like an restless lioness. “I’ve got a tolerance ten times better than yours, I’m sure.”
“Is it the Krieg in you?” Coryphaeus wondered.
“More likely the Celd,” Julianna answered. “They’re a drunken lot,” she laughed. “But you — do you drink much?”
“Hardly any,” Coryphaeus sighed, shrugging. “But when I do, I’m not prone to excessive drunkenness, or–” He paused when Julianna chuckled, and turned to look at her. “What?”
“You’re talking with your eyes closed,” she said. “I think you’re probably headed toward excessively drunk right now. And… You’re not wrong. This is a fuck of a lot stronger than I’d imagined,” she murmured. “Gonna be an early night for you, I think.”
Blushing, Coryphaeus sighed, saying, “I’m not ready for bed just yet. You’re mocking me as though you’re not also about to simply fall over.”
“I’m doing no such thing,” Jules said, crossing her arms over her chest.
“You are!” the Legatus said, frowning and then laughing at the picture of Jules, angry, sulking even, with her wild red curls.
“You stop laughing at me right now,” Jules demanded.
Coryphaeus couldn’t help it; he wasn’t able to restrain the giggles at all. “Could you give your left foot a little stomp?” He teased. “It would complete the whole image for me–”
“Damn you!” Jules said, and did stomp her foot, right down against Coryphaeus’s instep.
He yowled, pained, and skittered back from her, gasping. “Commander!” Coryphaeus shouted, pulling his foot up, looking shocked.
And that is when Jules burst into laughter, drunken and giddy, clapping her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide over her fingers as she looked at Coryphaeus. “You should see your face!” she giggled, shaking her head. “I’ve never seen someone’s eyes get so wide! Commander!” Her voice mocked his; she pretended to push hers deeper, then hopped about on one foot, clutching the other in a dramatic display.
Her play acting was so ridiculous, Coryphaeus couldn’t help but laugh, but then he stood up and went to her, saying, “Stop hopping around like that — you’re drunk, Commander–”
“You’re drunk, Legatus,” Jules retorted, rolling her eyes.
“Jules,” he sighed, catching her as she fell into his arms, clumsy and still laughing.
“Don’t–” she whispered, shaking her head, and then she was looking up at him with those fierce, pale eyes.
He moved to let her go, his eyebrows raised, concern on his face, but as he pulled back, she pressed forward, and kissed him once more.
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