Fire, Part I- The Kindling

A dingy, trashed mess of a place- the bar was its usual self. But, it had alcohol. Rupert liked that. He held up his fingers at the barman, who nodded and gave him a glass of blood-red wine, leaving the bottle on the bar while Rupert paid and twisted on his stool to survey the scene.

The music was blasting, leaving little room for even his genius mind to hear itself think. He narrowed his eyes at people who stared at him as they walked or stumbled past- his scars always had that effect on people. As a neurobiologist who knew quite a bit about psychology, he knew that often people had scars just as terrible as his on the inside. Rupert’s scars were on the outside, and he liked it that way. Wearing his flaws made it impossible for anyone to use them against him.

One person out of the thirty or so in that bar walked past without noticing or staring at him. Of course, he was instantly mesmerized. Her short, choppy hair swayed and her silver eyes sparkled with mirth as he watched her take a double shot of whiskey as if it was nothing. Her nails were painted as red as the wine that suddenly felt dry in his mouth as for once he was the one caught staring.

Making a move had never been his forte- he’d chosen to embrace his early diagnosis of antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder, but for her he decided to make an exception. She. Was. Beautiful.

Taking the bottle and his glass over, he took the stool next to where the angel sat. She smirked over at him and he felt small for the first time in his life- yet, there was a spark behind her drooping eyelids that reflected himself. He liked that.

“Drink?” She nodded and accepted a glass of wine from him.

“I’m not much of a wine person, but thanks.”

“Everyone is a red wine person when given the chance.” He tried to lower his voice and raise his gaze, but her breasts were borderline impossible to ignore.  Exquisite.

“You think so?” She chuckled, noticing his brief distraction.

“Of course. Red pumps through our veins. It infects everything we do and everything we see- even if we don’t see it, the red is there.”  Yes, Rupert. This is how you get a woman to love you- or at the very least not forget you.

“You must drink a lot of wine. Or you’re Jesus, if it’s pumping through your veins.” Rupert cracked a smile that would have scared most women, but Kingstone had seen worse. And she was drunk. And his strong jawline was sexy.

~

They talked for a long time, not realising the bar was closing until they were practically thrown out. By this time, both were blind drunk and seemingly well-acquainted, as they stumbled onto the street giggling and clinging to each other between kisses. Kingstone held onto her heels by their straps and they walked down the street, back to Rupert’s apartment.

“Y-you’re prreetttyyyy..” Slurred Rupert as he locked the door behind them and turned to Kingstone, who was clinging to his waist and surveying his every move though hooded eyes.

“You’re scary…” Drawled Kingstone as she nipped at his neck. “I like that.”

“Babay, I can dooooooooo scaryyyy.” Whispered Rupert as he held her against the wall and kissed her senseless and their tongues battled for dominance.

With Kingstones legs wrapped around his waist he took her to the bedroom while she kissed and underdressed his upper half, him wincing as her fingernails dragged over his well-healed scars. Soon, she was to discover, they spanned the length of his body; swirling over his skin in constellations.

They were a bit too drunk to be co-ordinated, or even to remember everything or anything come morning, but they were both there. Why not make a go of it?
~

The details of these kinds of evenings are often fuzzy, even to geniuses.

Tangled limbs. Tangled tongues. Blossoming bodies. Blooming lips.

Beautiful.

~

 

Kingstone woke up with bruised hips and a pleasant soreness between her legs as she sat up in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar and heavily scarred back turned to her. She saw clothes strewn around the room and recognised some of her own. Her bra was high up on one of the bedposts, nearly touching the ceiling. One of her ankles was tied to the other bedpost by her scarf with a clumsily tied knot that she found easy enough to undo- she had a splitting headache and didn’t remember how any of this had happened. She recognised the nail marks down either side of the scarred back as her own personal tokens of affection that she had left upon many a lover since her last break-up. Well, a modest amount of lovers- the socially acceptable amount, for a modern woman.

She got out of bed and picked up a white button-down shirt that had at first looked like hers, then came down to her mid-thigh – she decided it was hers until scar-back woke up… She would have to figure out his name pretty soon…

The notes on his fridge all said ‘Rue’ and so she decided that was his name. Rue. Ruuuuueeee. Well, she hoped it was right.

She made coffee and waited for him to wake up. It was about 20 minutes later when he came out of the bedroom looking very confused. He jumped when he saw her and she wondered how bad her bedhead looked in comparison to his bald one. “Hiya, Stranger.” She smirked at the bites on his neck and chest and… Well, everywhere. She concluded she couldn’t have been very co-ordinated last night and hoped he didn’t notice.

“Hey… Um, Stranger.” He smiled weakly and winced at the bitter black coffee as he sat across from her.

“It’s Kingstone.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Kingstone blinked- Rue seemed unfazed by waking up and having coffee with her, despite not knowing who she was. Before she could speak or even figure out how she was going to phrase what was on her mind, he spoke in a calm and almost monotone voice- it was kind of creepy; “No, you don’t have to get yourself checked out. We used a condom. I remember… That much…” He looked into her eyes and yet straight through them, as if she was of no consequence to what happened last night- and all he wanted was her memories. Her emotions.

“It’s Rue, right?” He straightened.

“Rupert. Nobody calls me Rue these days.”

“Does anyone even know you?” He didn’t answer. So she looked into her coffee, giving him a quick sideways glance as she spoke, “You go to that bar, you’ve not got a lot going on. Usually just a drinking habit.”

He smiled.

~

They continued to talk- more banter really, but it was new to have someone looking at his mind instead of the other way around. They wound up exchanging phone numbers and arranging to meet up at the bar in two weeks time, for reasons beyond Rupert’s understanding; not that he minded very much.

She was brilliant and he was bored; or he was brilliant and she ward bored. In such instances it is often difficult to tell who is who and who is lying. It is even more difficult when the relationship stops being a lie and starts being love- the most glorious lie of all, perhaps, for those like Rupert.

 SEVERAL MONTHS LATER:

The bar was empty. Well, not exactly empty; it just didn’t contain anyone that mattered. Rupert scoured every corner of the bar, wondering if she took after Juliet and enjoyed hide and seek- a game he had mastered from age three. If she was there, she was better at hiding than the man who had managed to hide everything, from everyone; ever since Juliet…
~
Kingstone hadn’t moved. She couldn’t move. She sat in the bathroom and stared at the stick in her hand. Two intersecting lines greeted her eye. Positive. How in the hell was anything supposed to be positive at a time like this? She’d been with one man in all these months, and he’d told her they’d used a condom. They had used condoms. He’d fucking lied about the first time. Tears threatened to spill over her eyes as she stared. She diverted her gaze for a moment to look at her watch. It was ten thirty. She’d arranged to meet him hours ago- would he still be there? She wasn’t sure she’d be any good in person as her hands shook. She wouldn’t want to get rid of it. That would have left scars on her body and mind. She had no time for one at work- she imagined it in the back seat with Sean, wailing away while she dodged a hail of bullets with Sebastian. No. So what other option would be left? Adoption? Also a no.

Suddenly she jolted up and dashed to her phone, dialing the only number that was fresh in her mind. “Are you still there?”

“I’ve been waiting for hours. What’s-”

“I’ll be there in five.”

She drove like a madman, not taking too many risks but hardly taking every precaution. She was distracted, and she knew it would be bad for her, her job, and the thing inside her.

Thing was a wrong word. It wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t a parasite. It was a baby.

His baby.

~

Someone yanked him off the stool by the back of his collar and he was instantly in a fighting mode, landing on his feet and rolling to the side. “Wha-?”

Kingstone smiled weakly, extending a hand to help him up. “Sorry, did I startle you?” She chose this point to push him out of the doorway of the bar and onto the quiet night street. “Because that’s exactly what I got after today’s round of morning sickness.”

“Your what now?” Her arms were crossed as he looked at her, his mind going slower than usual. At the grueling rate of a normal humans. “You’re-?”

“Fucking a liar? Yes.” She glowered at him. “You said we used a fucking condom, you bastard.”

“I saw it in the dustbin. It looked used.”

“OBVIOUSLY NOT USED ENOUGH!” Yelled Kingstone, suddenly tired of everything, absolutely everything, and collapsing into him.

Rupert, who had been prepared for a bitch slap, or a sucker punch, was not prepared for a hug. Kingstone was a solid woman- well-muscled in both body and mind, and yet she looked close to tears now as she bit her lip, leaving a smudge of red lipstick on her teeth and looking most undignified. He awkwardly wrapped his arms around her as she sobbed and he walked her towards his apartment, all his original hopes for the evening gone.

~

She was shaking and yet in a strange sense of deja vu she clung to his hips before they both sat at the kitchen table again.

“Are you sure you’re..” He couldn’t quite bring himself to say the word.

“I’m fucking pregnant. I took 10 tests. And 9 of those were positive.” She was breathing heavily.

“What do you want to do?” He studied her curiously, not wanting to form any opinions before he’d heard hers; at the end of the day he was a sociopath, not a father. He’d be good at manipulating after knowing her opinion. But which way did he want this to go?

“I haven’t got a fucking clue.” She wiped at her nose with the back of her hand and he gave her a tissue. “I was hoping you would.”

Rupert blinked. What would he want? He hardly knew this girl- they’d been dating for what, a month? Less? On the other hand, a child… He could teach it things. He could teach it hide and seek and the difference between the amygdala and the hippocampus. He could mold it into the perfect scientist- a creature that could understand him. Something with his mind. He looked back up at Kingstone. She was very attractive. Strong, too; she’d caught him off guard and hauled him into the street before he could so much as retaliate. Wide hips and a fighting weight, with large and disarming eyes. She would make a good mother. He supposed this was what made him reach his decision, in the end. The good factors. So, he came up with a plan of manipulation that he knew in his dark heart was sure to work on the beautiful woman in front of him.

“I… I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.”
~

With a final cry, it was done. Kingstone fell back onto the hospital bed, the fight gone from her body for the first time since Rupert had met her approximately 13 months ago. He grasped her hand as tightly as she grasped his and watched as they bathed his son and ran the necessary tests. His cries were strong and his bright hair sticking up from his head from all angles, resembling his mother’s bed head as he woke up for the first time.

It was Rupert who registered their child and made sure the name on the birth certificate was correct.

“Lewis.” He murmured, looking down at the sleeping child.

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