Connor awoke to an effeminate shriek beside him that would have been more alarming if it hadn't been for the dense fog hindering his state of consciousness, followed immediately after by a hard thud and a "Shit shit shit shit shit!" that was quick to shake him out of his drowsiness. He calmly scanned his gaze over the disheveled sheets and comforter beside him, then over the shallow depression in the pillow next to his. He made a cucumber look like it was feeling the heat as his deep blue eyes idly wandered around the perimeter of the bedroom, piecing everything together with a cool nonchalance that was almost ill-fitting for the situation--in a sense, Connor McLaughlin was a changed man.
He then snapped out of his reverie and darted his gaze over to follow the motion of Julie shooting up to her full height to his left. Her barrette had fallen out, making for a waterfall of golden brown waves cascading around her angelic heart shaped face, which was partially covered up by the hands clasped over her mouth. Her emerald irises made dinner plates look diminutive, and her cheeks were glowing a brilliant crimson; whether it was induced by shock or embarrassment, Connor couldn't tell, but he had to will himself not to let his shoulders shake with laughter at her apparent disgruntledness. "What, did ye miss curfew or somethin'?" he asked mockingly, fighting to keep his voice level.
"Oh my god, Connor," Julie ground out through teeth clenched together under the force of her flustered state as she began frantically pacing back and forth, turning around abruptly each time. "I just unknowingly slept with you!"
Connor just looked at her boredly, his gaze distant, like she was a transparent pane of glass. "Yeah, ye do know yer clothes are still on, right? I may be a fookwitted pub hopper, but I still have respect fer the opposite gender," he said in a neutral tone of voice, as though attempting to assure his childhood friend, when his lips trembled again, threatening to release a stream of highly amused guffaws. "Unless ye're still too pissed up to notice."
"Ughhh, this isn't funny you horse's arse." Julie then ceased in her pacing to look at Connor and shrugged her shoulders questioningly. "Why didn't you kick me out once I overstayed my welcome?"
Connor rubbed one eye and then stretched his arms out and behind him, elongating his lanky, athletic frame. He relaxed his lean muscles and then held up his fingers as he began to tick off his reasons. "One, I'm kind an' hospitable when one is really fookin' smashed--"
"Really fucking smashed?"
"After two pints I was really fucking smashed?"
Connor shrugged helplessly. "Lass, ye were buzzed after the first sip of the first pint."
"Ye probably didn't even notice me laughin' at ya."
Julie's eyes quickly narrowed. "...You were laughing at me?"
Connor nodded once, with the air of a revered philosopher. "Further proof that ye need more Irish blood."
"Shut up, I'm Irish enough."
"Oh kiss my arse."
"You have no arse."
With eyebrows threatening to disappear under her hairline, Julie stuck her tongue in her cheek, her pupils behaving as portals that opened up a plot to slaughter the handsome young Irishman in front of her. "Connor?" she asked, feigning an eerie edge of calm.
Julie nodded her head, the slow, large movements solidifying the conviction in the words that were yet to be spoken. "I may not look like much, but I'm not about to think twice about twatting you so hard you'll go grey before your head's done spinning."
Connor snorted again, doubling over this time and lifting the back of his hand to his mouth in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress his amusement. He then straightened up and held up his hands in surrender. "Go ahead, ye probably still can't see straight, which means more time fer me to get out of the way--"
He was cut off when Julie deftly cuffed him upside the head, prompting him to chuckle disbelievingly. Julie was thin enough to be carried off in the slightest breeze, yet her slaps packed the force of a freight train. Perhaps a little brother with an affinity for sitting on photocopiers and curiously watching a green light pass under him had something to do with that. Her hands were on her hips, a vindictive flash in her eyes as a trace of a smirk flickered at one corner of her mouth. She shook her head. "You poor, poor shitweasel," she crooned, then tilted her head to the side curiously. "And you only refused to kick me out because you were considerate of the fact that I was drunk?"
An easy smile stretched across Connor's lips; his wrong assumption hadn't fazed him much, if at all. "No need to pity me." He then thought on her question and responded with, "No. I actually have a confession to make."
Hands still fimly planted on her hips, Julie tilted her head to the other side. "Oh? Do tell."
Connor ran a hand through his hair with a half smile hinting at one corner of his mouth. "I meself was feelin' a wee bit hammered last night."
Julie gasped in shock, her eyes widening for a moment before she subdued herself and transitioned into a look of pity again. "Awww, did partying with an English girl rub off on you and take your infinite alcohol tolerance down a peg or two?"
Connor sighed dejectedly and nodded with a morose edge. "I think so," he said in a mumble that covered up the sarcasm. "Ye just might be a detriment to me status as the rowdiest partier in County Clare."
"Tragic..." Julie drawled again, shaking her head slowly. Her eyes were soft, like she was feeling every ounce of his apparent pain, until she cleared her throat, straightening up in attention again. "So. They say the triangle is the strongest shape. And a good argument has three pieces of evidence to back it up." She raised her eyebrows insistently, really wanting to get into the nitty-gritty of his thought process.
Connor blinked, feeling as though the devil had prodded him with his trident when Julie began to stare him down. His mind immediately spun off on a tangent, thinking about the days when they childishly argued and then about last night, about the feelings that were running through his head when Julie's head was so tenderly placed on his shoulder in her slumber, even if it was just alcohol. Was one of those feelings love? It was a strange concept, falling for a childhood friend who used to be so easily affronted by his mannerisms. He ran a hand through his hair again, clearly stalling now, then smoothed over his scatterbrained state with a smile and replied with, "I wasn't exactly opposed to the idea of crashin' next to a hot lass--"
He was cut off when Julie seemed to choke on her spit. Her shoulders were hunched over as she brought the back of her hand to her mouth, and she blinked a few times in disbelief, then slowly straightened up. A short laugh escaped her lips, and she flushed slightly; just doing so made Connor ache. "I'm pretty sure you have shoddy taste then if you classify scrawny girls as hot."
"I tosh you not," Julie replied with a shake of the head, and then grinned as she coined an old exchange between them.
It was difficult for Connor not to see past Julie's frailty the instant his eyes fell upon her smile, which gleamed radiantly and ignited an irresistible twinkle in her eyes that made him weak. After a few seconds of hesitation, he simply shook his head. "I don't classify scrawny girls as 'hot'."
Julie then furrowed her eyebrows in confusion and bore a curious tilt in her head again. "I can count up my ribs just by looking in the mirror. Pretty sure that qualifies as scrawny."
I wish ye could look past yer health issues an' see what I see, Connor's inner voice went off longingly. He appeared lost in thought as he maintained eye contact with Julie, stroking his chin idly as he did before shrugging his shoulders again and honestly replying with, "Ye're different." He took a moment to absorb her blank expression and then slid a hand down his face, looking down and to the side in thought for a few seconds before meeting her eyes again with a shrug and shaking his head. "I don't think I'd drive meself insane fer four years over anyone else." He could've sworn he saw something soften in Julie as he uttered his words. Was she taking them to heart?
She turned away slightly, keeping her eyes down on the floor as she pensively rubbed a curl of her hair between her index finger and her thumb. "I'm pretty sure you've left me mentally unstable as well."
A slight, sheepish half smile pulled at one corner of Connor's mouth. "I figured as much--"
"It's not just when you say something that makes me want to throttle a baby," Julie replied quickly, and Connor watched her intently; he could tell by the way she cut him off and faced away from him that she was, ironically enough, in the process of exposing herself to him. She sighed and looked back up, holding her hands clasped over her stomach and twiddling her thumbs as she began to shift in her stance. "When we drift apart, even after you piss me off, I begin missing you like crazy right away and wondering what I could do to make sure you never sneak out of my life again. I spend sleepless nights fearing it'll be another four years between then and the next time I see you. We used to spend every waking hour of every day together, and now I'm desperate to make up for lost time. And when you use that cheeky smile of yours to manipulate me, it really does work, even though I like putting my foot down and saying it doesn't. You are one drop dead gorgeous bloke, inside and out, and the only reason why you've never been in a successful relationship before is because none of the girls even deserved you in the first place."
Connor remained rooted to his bed, stunned as Julie's sudden stream of consciousness froze him in place. His eyes picked up a blush in her cheeks that sent his thoughts off to the races. Did she just proclaim her love for him? Were the feelings mutual? They couldn't have been, she just smacked him not two minutes ago. At the same time, he was true to his word all those years ago when he said he couldn't forget her if he tried, and continued to have a knack for decoding her silent messages. A nagging voice in his head told him to go on and put her out of her misery, to begin seeing her as more than a friend, to envision them sealing their fate together at the altar. He smiled wryly and coursed a hand through his hair again, sheepishly replying with, "I actually have a different theory fer that," and prompting Julie to finally turn back around. He felt his heart take flight when he found himself looking into her sweet face again, even though it had only been a minute or so. Even then, he was contentedly busying his eyes with gazing at those silken tendrils that he so longed to lose his hands in. But now he had her eyes to look back into, those warm, captivating irises of emerald green that made it uncomfortable for him to do so little as think about looking away, those refined porcelain cheeks glowing with an uncanny radiance that he couldn't recall ever seeing, just when he thought he'd seen it all.
"And that is?" Julie asked.
Connor finally rolled out of bed and stood, stretching his arms high above his head and cracking his knuckles in the process. He let his muscles go lax with a quiet sigh and found himself looking back at Julie, then slipped his arms around her delicate waist and closed the distance between them, feeling a curious tingling sensation rush through him when she responded by looping her arms behind his neck. There was only a trace of a smile across his lips, but the warmth in his eyes was every bit sincere. It no longer mattered to him that he never knew what it was like to be in a relationship that was truly filled with potential; he wasn't as elated then as he was now, holding Julie in his arms, and her simple returning gesture filled him with infinite joy, enough to ensure that he would die a happy man, knowing that she felt the same way. "I think fate just had in store fer me a certain lass whose accent isn't screwed up any--"
He was silenced again when Julie suddenly reached up to kiss him--a most pleasant interruption--and then gently broke away. In that short moment of mind-numbing bliss, a train may as well have ripped through Connor's head, even more so than when she smacked him. No pint of Guinness, nor shot of Baileys, nor mug of Irish coffee could induce in him such a level of intoxication as Julie's kiss had, as a fog thicker than that covering all of London clogged up his senses. He took a moment to search her dazed eyes, to lose himself in the soft sound of her ragged breathing, to ache over the sight of her slap-happy smile; she didn't regret her impulsiveness one bit, and neither did he.
She bit back a quiet giggle, one that was sweet, coy, and every bit infectious as it brightened Connor's smile. "Do you feel as smashed as you look? You should totally see your face right now," she remarked, placing her head on his shoulder and gazing up at him adoringly.
Connor's inner jester was packed away for the time being. Normally he thrived on riling Julie until she swore her head off at him or smacked him or threw a shoe at him, but that kiss had rendered him completely brainwashed as he sat back and analyzed the situation. Beneath the tirades was a starry eyed girl who was completely in love with him, and the kiss, no matter how short it was, suggested nothing less. With a soft smile warming his features, he tucked a stray curl behind Julie's ear, his touch gentle and benevolent as he shook his head. "Yer face is all I need to see," he murmured quietly, and sealed the thought with a tender kiss of his own.