But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You
Title: But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You
Series: The Best Moves
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Characters/Pairings: Julian, Riley, Full-Cast.
Rating: MA overall.
Summary: Sometimes relationships end just because they do, and sometimes magical things happen just because they can. And sometimes starting over isn't the worst thing in the world.
"You're still here?" Julian questioned as he stuck his head under the half-closed gate of Riley's store. It was nearly a half-hour past close and Julian had already finished with all his duties in the bookstore.
A month had passed in the blink of an eye and Julian, who thought he'd never get the hang of the bookstore, had integrated without incident. He'd even learned where all the magazines went and how to yell at the teenagers giggling over the artist reference books.
He hadn't been venturing down to visit Riley as often as he could have - mostly because breaks were fleeting and Riley's store was rarely on his way anywhere, except for that exact moment, when he was heading to the discount store, which was open slightly later, because he needed toothpaste.
"Come on in," Riley replied from behind his counter. He looked up and smiled. Julian offered a slight wave.
"In a few?" Julian offered, nodding towards the discount store. "I need to go buy toothpaste first."
"Hurry back," Riley said, waving quickly and then glancing back down at his counter. Probably had the till out, Julian thought as he headed into the bright florescent lights of the discount store. At least Julian didn't have to count money - he was a bit relieved about that, not that he couldn't have done it. Most people used credit cards anyway.
Five minutes later, Julian emerged with his toothpaste, tucked into his jacket pocket with the receipt wrapped around the box. Riley's gate was still up, though Riley was nowhere in sight.
Julian checked for mall guards before ducking under. He didn't think he looked too suspicious, but he didn't want to deal with questions, either.
"Riley?" Julian called out, glancing around.
And then he heard voices. One was definitely Riley, while the other was female and not Leah. Not wanting to interrupt anything, Julian headed back towards the gate.
"Got your toothpaste?" Riley's voice cut through the silence of the store.
Julian turned to see Riley at the door to the back part of the store. Behind him was a slightly-older woman in a sweater and slacks.
"Yeah, but if..."
"Good timing," Riley interrupted with a smile. "I'm done here and Moira just finished up next door... Oh, Julian, have you met Moira? She owns the candle shop." He pointed off towards the wall and after a second Julian remembered that yes, there was a candle store. He'd never needed to buy candles, so he'd never gone in, but...
"I appreciate your kindness," Moira said with a soft smile. Julian's confusion must have been apparent in his face, because Moira quickly added a reason for her presence. "A woman was abducted from a mall parking lot about fifty miles away, at night, after close. I asked if Mr. Hart might walk me to my car."
Julian nodded. Riley definitely seemed the type to play the knight in shining armor.
"I was trying to convince Ms. Moira to come out and get a snack with us," Riley said with a chuckle. "Leah is going to meet us downtown at the twenty-four hour diner."
Julian frowned. He knew nothing of that plan - he hadn't even planned to see Riley.
Arden had teased him about not going out with coworkers at all...
"And I told you that some of us need to work in the morning," Moira said firmly, but not sharply.
"It's nine-thirty on a Friday night." Riley shrugged into a light jacket and started towards the gate. "You won't be out past curfew."
Moira sighed and nodded. "I suppose you're right. I'm just not used to handsome young men escorting me around."
"Us?" Riley questioned, laughing as he pushed the gate up enough so that Moira wouldn't have to duck. "Julian, perhaps, fits that criteria."
"Erm..." Julian assumed he blushing as he and Moira both stepped into the corridor. Riley turned the last of the lights off and pulled the gate down, locking it quickly.
They parked in a line at the diner, Julian and Riley on either side of Moira's late model sedan.
"Leah's already here," Riley remarked, pointing at a rusting black compact as they walked towards the door. Julian stuffed his hands in his pockets, thankful he'd remembered to take the toothpaste out and leave it on his passenger seat.
"That's her car?" Julian asked, eyeing it. Aside from the color, nothing about it looked particularly like Leah. He'd expected skulls and crossbones and band stickers to decorate it. People and their cars tended to look alike, to some degree. They always seemed to fit in some way or other. Leah did not seem like a rusting compact.
Riley chuckled. "Very perceptive," he commented. "Actually, it belongs to a very kind neighbor whose teenage son came home drunk and slammed into Leah's car last weekend."
"Oh my," Moira commented, shaking her head.
Julian felt instantly bad - he'd somehow managed to completely ignore both Riley and Leah for longer than he'd thought. It wasn't that he disliked either of them - he liked them immensely. They just... tested his emotions. Both brother and sister made him feel strangely alive and cycled him through moods and feelings that he thought had died within him.
"It just didn't look like her," Julian noted. "Hers will be fixed, though?"
"Of course," Riley said. They reached the door and he held it open for Moira and Julian.
Leah's voice cut through the din of the diner. She jumped up onto the seat of the booth she was in and waved. Riley laughed while Julian simply winced.
"Enthusiastic," Moira noted.
Leah had her hair down, an oddity in Julian's mind, however the rest of her outfit made up for that one normality. Though if anyone was going to pull off a purple vinyl dress and rainbow-striped stockings, he did assume it to be Leah.
"You were right about Julian," Leah looked at her brother and said with a smile as she slid down into the booth. She patted the spot beside her. "Julian, sit by me!"
Unsure what else to do, Julian complied. Moira and Riley slid in across from them.
"Order whatever you like," Riley said quickly. "This is all my treat - especially since I dragged two of you here with no warning."
"You don't have to do that," Moira fussed as she reached for one of the menus on the table. "I agreed to come."
"But I will do that," Riley replied. "You're not going to break me with three dollar sandwiches.
"He's got a point," Leah chimed in.
"As long as it doesn't end in my mother asking when I'm going to get remarried," Moira commented with a soft laugh. "Though I'm sure Mother would think you're perfect for me, Mr. Hart. You have a penis and you're breathing."
Julian was instantly thankful he wasn't drinking anything. He burst out laughing less at what Moira had said and more at that she'd said it at all.
Both Leah and Riley started laughing as well, while Moira just blushed.
"It's the truth," she said flatly.
"I wish I could sit with you guys," their waitress said as she walked up to the table. "You're obviously having more fun than I am."
"Not on purpose, I assure you." Riley shook his head.
"Well, can I get y'all something to drink to start you off?" she asked, flipping open her notepad.
Before Julian realized what had happened, it was well after midnight and he was still sitting beside Leah, talking and laughing and not even thinking about his usual nightly activities of puttering around the empty apartment and drinking until he felt sleepy.
Moira had excused herself after eating, but they'd been joined by their waitress once her shift had ended. She'd cozied right up to Riley, but Julian couldn't fault her - Riley had even bought her a chocolate milkshake and tugged at her ponytail until she'd let her hair down. Riley was just that sort of guy, Julian supposed. He knew how to have fun...
"I should go home and sleep," Leah commented from where she was resting her head on the table. "I'm opening tomorrow, right?"
"You are," Riley replied, glancing at his watch. "What about you, Julian?"
Only then did Julian truly notice the time.
"Shit," he swore. "Yeah, I probably shouldn't have been out this late without telling... my roommate."
Leah nodded and pushed at his shoulder. "Let's you and me take off then," she mumbled. "Mingan will take care of the check."
Julian was almost pulled out of the diner by Leah, though she backed off once they were outside. He hadn't even really had a chance to look back and see if Riley was moving to rise, and he certainly hadn't been able to thank him.
Sighing, Julian waved to Leah as she headed towards the rusty black compact. He sat in his own car for a minute, pretending to let it warm up even though it was only October. Riley did not appear.
And finally, stifling a yawn, Julian pulled ouf the parking lot and headed for home.
The local AM stations were all playing various public service babble - nothing entertaining - so Julian switched his radio off and started swearing. What Riley did was none of his concern after all. He figured he should be happy that Riley was probably going to go home with that girl. She'd seemed nice enough... what had her name been? Angie? Angel?
"Fuck," Julian said as he pulled into the apartment parking lot. "Fuck fuck fuck."
Arden was half-asleep on the sofa when Julian walked in. He froze - he hadn't expected Arden to still be awake.
"Where were you?" Arden asked, his voice mostly non-accusing.
"Out," Julian replied. "A couple co-workers asked me out to get milkshakes and sandwiches and... time just got away from us."
"Milkshakes?" Arden questioned. "Are your co-workers in junior high?"
"It was nice," Julian replied as he locked the door and kicked off his shoes. "I have the weekend off, somehow. We can go out to a bar tomorrow."
"No," Arden said quickly, frowning. "I didn't mean it like that. C'mere."
Julian walked wordlessly to the sofa and flopped down beside Arden, letting Arden put an arm over his shoulders to pull him close. Instantly, Julian felt stupid for even thinking about Riley and what Riley was doing.
"Bedroom?" Arden asked after a moment.
"Yes," Julian replied, not even bothering to think it through. "Yes."
"I have to pull overtime tomorrow," Arden said softly as he stood, stretching so that his shirt lifted up enough to show a bit of his stomach.
"It's okay," Julian said, trying not to be too disappointed. "Nothing new... Noon to eight, right?"
"Noon to eight," Arden replied.
The weather was miserable and grey the next day, prompting Julian to send Arden off in his thick SuperKwality jacket to keep warm. Julian had his own at one point as well, but it had either gotten lost or was in his trunk, which qualified as the same thing.
Happy to not need to go anywhere in the gloom, Julian nonetheless was bored half out of his mind. Even cleaning the apartment didn't take too terribly long - laundry was done before four, including hanging and folding everything.
Arden had gotten new shirts, Julian had noticed. Probably from Arden's mother, who tended to give him things at random and for little reason.
Julian sighed as he finished picking up the bedroom. He hadn't even heard from his own mother in the last year. He trusted that his aunt would pass on any news if something happened, but otherwise... Julian didn't think he had any business with his family anymore. They'd basically said that they didn't want him if he was going to be gay, and while he'd explained that he couldn't exactly make himself not gay, they hadn't had any part of it.
In truth, Julian didn't think he'd mind hearing from his younger brother or sister at some point but... after nearly five years, they'd be strangers to him.
At a lack of anything else to do with himself, Julian headed for the kitchen. Maybe his aunt would like some company. Maybe she needed something fixed...
Thankfully, she picked up on the second ring.
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