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.
"Mmm?" Arden sneezed and rolled over.
"Heater's broke in my car," Julian said. "I'm gonna borrow your jacket, okay?"
Julian hated leaving Arden while he was sick, but he'd already called around and no one could take his shift. Arden almost neevr got sick - this was a rare event. And of course, with the first cold snap of November, a terrible cold also started making the rounds. Leah had gotten it first, but she'd recovered fairly quickly. At least two of Julian's coworkers weren't so lucky and were still home being miserable and stuffy, hence no one to take his shift so he could stay with Arden.
"Thank you," Julian replied, leaning to kiss Arden's forehead. "Love you. There's soup you can microwave if you get hungry."
"You going out tonight?" Arden questioned. It wasn't an accusing tone, just curious.
"No," Julian said. "I already told Leah and Riley that you were sick and I needed to rush home and take care of you. Can't promise they won't pack me a care package, though."
"Thanks," Arden replied, trying to chuckle. He reached up to squeeze Julian's hand and promptly started wheezing, which turned into a coughing fit and very nearly made Julian late for his shift.
And then he was very nearly a liar.
Julian hadn't intended to even stop to Leah, but he wasn't going to ignore her, either.
"Gotta make it quick," Julian said as he ducked under the gate of Riley's store. "I promised Arden that I'd be right home after work, no pit-stops."
"It'll be super-quick," Leah replied as she bounced over to him and offered him a half-burned candle. "Good stuff, should clear Arden right up. And then maybe you can bring him out with us sometime, okay?"
Julian smiled. Some of Leah's remedies could be odd - but they worked. Getting Arden out with everyone, well, Arden had already said 'no' to that a half-dozen times. Besides, normally he was working anyway. His shifts seemed to be getting later and later, which left far less time for Julian to spend with Arden... Which was getting frustrating. At least with Arden's cold, they had some time together.
"Thanks," he said, moving to tuck it into the inside pocket of his -- well, Arden's -- thick warm SuperQwality jacket.
"Hey..." Leah reached to poke at his sleeve. "Where'd you get that jacket?"
"This? It's Arden's. It's from where we both used to work. I had one, but... Eh, doesn't matter. But this one's his. It's warm..." Julian gave her a little smile. "Why?"
"Mmmm..." Leah shook her head. "Saw someone wearing one just like it the other day. But there are probably hundreds of them out there, huh?"
"They were our holiday bonus one year," Julian explained. "Thought you might have seen Arden somewhere?"
Leah shook her head. "No," she replied. "I was just standing behind one at the store the other day, and it couldn't have been him. I just wondered if it was some new brand that I didn't know about..."
Julian chuckled. He'd had plenty of comments about the deliberate misspelling before, but he didn't think anyone had ever mistaken it for a designer brand. Probably should mention that to Aunt Cathy sometime. She'd probably get a good laugh out of it.
But it would be memorable - especially if someone was stuck behind one for any length of time. No wonder Leah had asked.
"Anyway, I shouldn't keep you," Leah continued, bouncing back a couple of steps. "Say 'hi' to Arden for me, okay? And that the candle will work even if he doesn't believe in it... I made it myself, so it's good."
Julian nodded. He wasn't sure quite how and where Leah got all of her knowledge, but the end results were always great.
"Have a good night," he said as he turned to duck back under the gate.
Once in the corridor, Julian turned quickly. "What?"
"There's a tear by the collar," Leah replied softly, almost too softly to hear. "Um... if you have time tomorrow, I can mend it for you. I'm good with repairs - I tear my clothing all the time."
"Okay," Julian replied. He hadn't noticed a tear on Arden's jacket, but he wasn't surprised. They were getting old, after all. He waved at Leah and she waved back.
It took three tries to get his car to turn over, but when it did, the heater actually managed to kick on for just a couple minutes - long enough to keep him toasty until he got home.
And Arden didn't even notice that he was a couple of minutes later than he should have been.
Arden hadn't even questioned the candle and the next day he was back to work, which left Julian sitting on the floor of Riley's shop, waiting for Moira and Leah to stop haggling over candles and deal with him. He'd brought his coat by to fix, and while he'd missed Riley yet again, Leah was there and she and Moira were attempting to set a price for the cold-be-gone candles that Leah had made.
Moira was trying to get Leah to take more money, which was rather amusing. But Leah just wanted people to not be sick but she thought maybe they'd have a better market in an actual candle shop. Apparently Moira had been gifted one at first sniffle and gotten instantly better as well, so...
Not that Julian was just sitting on the floor. He was actually carefully aligning rows of tiny carved stone animals that were probably just displayed too low to survive safely.
Finally, Moira was on her way even though Julian had missed the final resolution to their distribution dealings, and Leah crouched down beside him.
"Sorry, didn't expect that to take so long," Leah said with a little sigh. "I'd just be happy with being able to afford materials, y'know? I like making candles. You should come over and help me do it sometime."
"I don't know..."
"You should just..." she paused and frowned. "I guess I'd have to ask Mingan first, though. It's his house. But he likes you, so it shouldn't be a problem. You know, I don't think he's had company the entire I've lived there and I haven't had anyone over, but I don't know too many people in the area yet."
"I thought you were from around here," Julian said with an echoing frown. Riley had said he was, and of course he'd known Kevin, Julian's boss, from school...
"I lived with my mother for awhile," Leah admitted. "Sort of a really different place than here, so... anyone I did know, I really don't know anymore. But it's okay. It's fun to meet new people."
"Oh..." Julian felt bad for bringing it up, especially since she'd never mentioned anything of the sort when he'd been talking about his own family woes. With as close as Riley and Leah were, Julian had assumed they came from a happy and still-together family.
"Mmm?" Suddenly Leah smiled at him. "Don't get the wrong idea! Family stuff is all good. Mom's just a traveler and stuff. She's got a special pack that she runs with most of the time."
Julian echoed her smile. Must be nice...
"Anyway, coat-fixing time," she continued, reaching for Arden's coat, which was on the floor. "I hope I brought the right color thread. And if it's not quite right, well, it'll still be fixed."
"Do you make your own clothing, too?" Julian asked, following along as Leah stood and headed towards the back of the shop. The back room wasn't terribly large, but there was enough space that Leah had made a little lounge for herself with a threadbare and likely hauled in from the trash sofa. She flopped on it and grabbed for a small plastic box on a large cardboard box nearby.
"Learning to," she replied as she started fussing with needles and thread. "Really never needed to, but the more I fixed, the more I realized that I could probably do my own. But mostly I've made loose dresses to wear at home, not good stuff for going out every day."
Julian really couldn't imagine Leah in a loose dress at all. Not anything airy and flowing, at least. Not when her normal was miniskirts or occasional tight leggings.
"You'll get there?" Julian ventured. He assumed she would if she stuck with it, and honestly, he was rather curious about what she could come up with.
"Oh, I will," Leah replied. "I'll also need to make an investment in a good sewing machine and fabric and thread and everything else. Right now I'm just using a machine I got at a yard sale and sometimes it just won't work and other times it'll work but not right."
She sighed. "And while I could hand-stitch big stuff, it'd literally take days to do what a machine could do in ten minutes. At least for me."
"I just throw things out if they get bad enough," Julian admitted. "Now and then, I can get my Aunt Cathy to patch something bigger..."
"Mingan's about the same way," Leah interrupted with a chuckle. She didn't look up from her work, but Julian could see her smile. "I've been making some necessary changes to his household. Though... I think he's good with that. I think he was a little lonely."
"Really? He seems pretty social," Julian commented. He leaned back and gazed up at the ceiling.
"You think? I dunno..."
They were both silent for a long moment.
"Hmmm?" Julian glanced over at Leah, expecting some sort of soul-searched query.
"Once I get good at making clothing, I'll make an outfit for you, okay? And you have to wear it," she said, grinning wickedly before tying off the end of her string and snipping it.
"I don't have a choice, do I?" he questioned. He didn't think he did at all, which was a little scary and a little really scary... Considering the things she normally wore, anything she'd make for him would be so far from his normal style that it might as well be a costume.
"Nope," Leah admitted. She offered him his coat. The stitching was well-done, but visible. However, it no longer looked like the lining was tryng to escape and wouldn't get any worse.
"Thanks," Julian replied as he stood. "We should probably get going before we get locked in the mall. I like the place, but not enough to spend the night here."
Leah chuckled. "Yeah... probably not a good place to be overnight. No shower, and therefore nowhere to wash my hair easily. I'm sure there's an emergency shower somewhere and all, and I bet someone has a washtub... Oh, there's a hair place, but..."
Julian just sort of stared.
"Every day," Leah said as she tugged at her tails. "Can't help it. I just have to or they get icky and look icky and yeah.... no. I'm guessing yours isn't as much work?"
"More than it used to be," Julian said. He reached to run his fingers through his own hair. "But not every day."
"Luckily," Leah said as she grabbed her own coat from atop a pile of boxes. "Walk me to my car?"
"Of course," Julian replied.
He just kept imagining her in a sundress. But the more he thought about it, the more it became a skull print with flaming skulls and camoflage and rainbow flaming skulls and...
He definitely wondered what she'd want to make for him to wear. Perhaps it'd border on normal. But likely not.
When he got home, Arden was still gone and there was a message on the machine saying that he might be a little late because he was trying to catch up on what he'd missed. That alone made Julian frown - Arden mostly just took phone orders and whatnot, unless he'd gotten a promotion or more responsabilities. Maybe that was the cause of the extra hours...
Julian sighed. There'd always been pressure there, with Arden doing well and himself just stagnating in the bookstore. Though he had steady hours, it was still just part-time versus service awards and whatnot.
But Arden could have told him. He wouldn't be upset - it was good that Arden was doing well.
They'd have to celebrate...
Julian hung Arden's coat in the closet and went to fix himself dinner.
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