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It will continue through the morning

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Antigone isn't as bad with emotions as she used to be.

They do not make her as uncomfortable as they used to - she's gotten fairly far which is good and it's partially Chapman's doing which is very annoying. She's doing better than Rudyard, anyway. She understands people better, has a knack for reading them, despite what people think. That quiet girl, sort of strange, Rudyard's sister. It's all good. She could take an online psychology degree if she wanted and ace it.

To be fair and more correct - she isn't as bad with people as she used to be. Because, people - that is something to be learned and developed, this interpersonal relationship thing. Once she started leaving the mortuary for more than seventy minutes a day, it got easier, talking and coexisting and letting go of the shadows. But emotions are still tricky. They overwhelm her and confuse her and fill up her lungs and make her lose control in the moment, only to regain it later, in crystal clear lucidity and shame.

That's what happens Thursday night. Things build and build and build and crash, cataclysmic.

Antigone watches her movie, diner pour trois, no sound, no subtitles. She's on her way home, hands in her coat pockets and thoughts with Mrs. Collyhill's mottled skin and her make-up bag at home, when the doors to Chapman's open and out streams light and laughter, distant music from the bar. Antigone stands in the middle of the square, enveloped and embraced in shadows, clouds-on-a-rainy-day, English-channel kind of shadows, watching the yellow light like it's miles away - and in an apparent stroke of raging insanity, she starts walking towards it. Brisk, long strides and soon she's inside and it's too loud, oh no, too bright, too late -

"Antigone!"

Of course. Who else.

Antigone takes a breath and turns around to see Chapman approach her from the crowd. He's alone, in a dress shirt and slacks - effortlessly, infuriatingly handsome. Antigone's teeth grind together. He's grinning at her, holding out his arms. "I'm so happy to see you!" He says and it looks like he means it, all wide smile and warm eyes - but who's to say with men like him. Antigone's lips twitch up in what she thinks could look like a smile and argues with the nauseating flutter of nerves low in her stomach. Revolting.

She lets Chapman take her to the bar, not overly crowded, but crowded enough that Antigone feels herself warming up just from the shared body heat. She keeps her coat on -

Can I take your coat?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Right on.”

- and feels out of place, catastrophically so. She can tell Chapman doesn’t really know what to do with her here - he looks confused at times, and his hand keeps hovering like he wants to place it on her lower back, her upper arm, but doesn’t know how she’d react. (Antigone doesn’t know either) He’s confused but he tries, so hard, and he’s wonderful and kind, and his eyes are shining and attentive in the yellow light and Antigone can’t stand it.

And so she kisses him. Clumsy and close-mouthed, with one hand bunching up the fabric of his dress shirt. It lasts only a couple of seconds, and then Antigone hears quiet gasps to her left, wolf whistles, the beginnings of mumbled conversation and feels Chapman's shoulders move. Her blood freezes under her skin and she pushes herself away, hard - Christ, everything she does is awkward and uncoordinated. (The music's still playing. Did she think it would stop? Record-scratch stop, deafening, embarrassing silence?)

"No," she whispers, frantically, "no, I'm - I'm sorry. That wasn't -" Chapman looks windswept, for some reason, bleary-eyed and blushing and she almost can't bear to look at him, but looking away will mean meeting the faces of Piffling and she knows what she'll see in them - disgust, laughter, elitism, jealousy. Interest, as if wanting to see what happens next, see what other embarrassing situations that strange Antigone Funn will get herself into - and that won't do either. So she turns on her heel and stalks out of the bar.

Chapman stutters out her name but the shadows outside have already welcomed her.

-

She seeks refuge in her mortuary. Like she does. Cold air and flickering flames of the candle light - a deadly, comforting silence that feels enveloping and seems to quiet down her head. (you idiot you idiot god what were you thinking you idiot) She thinks of running away. She can get Georgie to make her a rowboat and just sail away from the island, let the Gulf stream lead her to the French coasts. She thinks of killing herself, of course - maybe she could combine that with the rowboat. She then thinks of killing Chapman, but at once there's a voice behind her.

"You're muttering. It's a little disconcerting."

She spins around and the lipstick she was applying to mrs. Collyhill falls to the floor and snaps in half. Chapman cringes and moves forwards as though to pick it up but Antigone holds out a hand, finger lifted. She means to say something conclusive, an explanation or apology, but the only thing she's got is -

"Why does no one ever knock ."

Chapman freezes. He's still flushed, as if the pink never left his cheeks, but now his face folds itself into something unpleasant. He looks angry.

"Fine." He snaps and leaves. Antigone feels, to her extreme irritation, regret, but once he's darted his way up the stairs and shut the door behind him, there is immediate knocking. "Antigone." He says, muffled one floor up and through a closed door. "May I come down?"

Antigone  swallows a lump in her throat and hopes her voice won't come out shaky. "Yes." She says, shakily.

Chapman enters the dimly lit mortuary again, still frowning, still blushing and Antigone is boundlessly annoyed by how beautiful she thinks he is. She scowls, picks up the broken lipstick and turns around to keep working on Mrs. Collyhill's makeup. It's as if she has too many thoughts, as if her brain is so loud that all she decides to focus on, is what's directly in front of her. In all her executive dysfunctional glory, Antigone twists the remainder of the lipstick further out and starts applying it again, with a focus that vaguely registers Chapman moving around the embalming table in a slow circle. He isn't saying anything, probably waiting for Antigone to go first and she wants to, she knows she should, but she might spontaneously combust if another thing goes wrong. So she lets herself finish this one job first - with Chapman a few meters away and Mrs. Collyhill in between them, and smears of lipstick on her gloves and her lips buzzing (stupidly) and her brain cells burning all archived files in screaming displays of anarchy. She breathes in, out. A draft through the house makes the candle lights flicker.

"You can't just - "

"I'm sorry."

Well. She sort of got there first.

Chapman nods and looks less angry than before. He snaps his mouth shut, opens it again - he’s hesitating, which is a precious look on him.

“Right.” He says. “I - go on.” Antigone puts down the lipstick - a peachy kind of pink, it looks nice against the sun-tan skin in Mrs. Collyhill’s face. She looks up at the ceiling.

“I am - sorry. That I kissed you. I shouldn’t have done it. It was a bad idea for both of us. It won’t happen again. So. Apologies.” When she looks back down, Chapman is looking at her in a strange, vulnerable sort of way that she does not care for at all, so she busies herself with the make-up bag to her right and wonders if nail polish would be overkill.

Chapman clears his throat. “It was a... bad idea?” Antigone fishes out a few bottles and holds a pale pink one up against Mrs. Collyhill’s hands. It’ll look nice - she can always remove it later, right now she just needs to do something.

“Yes, well - “ she begins, uncertain of where she’s going with it. “You know. All things considered. Our competition and - and my brother being who he is and - you have Lady Templar.” Lady Templar has been nice enough to her, civil at the very least, but she shudders to think what will happen, should she find out about this .

“So why did you kiss me, then?” Hearing him say that, kiss me , sends the worst kind of warm shivers up her spine so naturally, she covers that up by sighing, loud and abrasive and busies herself with Mrs. Collyhill’s nails.

“Christ alive , I thought you’d come over here to scold me.”

“Why would I scold you? Also, that’s kind of a weird word to use-”

“For - shut up - you know! In front of your guests, that’s embarrassing and - and I imagine that’s the worst possible scenario, isn’t it? Am I not the last person on the island you’d want to - to do that with.”

Chapman’s face changes and he looks into the middle distance.

“You know I actually think that would be Miss Scruple.”

It catches Antigone off guard enough to make her forget to be angry for just a moment. “Not Rudyard?” Chapman shrugs.

“Depends on the amount of alcohol.”

They stand in silence for a few seconds before Antigone snaps herself out of it and mutters angrily under her breath. She moves to the other side of Mrs. Collyhill to work on her right hand, which means turning her back to Chapman again and it feels like a bad choice - vulnerable position and all that. She’s doing a horrible job on the nails too, with her trembling hands and flickering eyes and distractions but she can fix that later, when she’s alone .

“Either way, I’m sorry.” She says again. “For - for kissing you. You can go back to your guests now, I’m certain they miss you.” Chapman laughs on an exhale and it sounds like defeat, like he’s given up. Antigone can’t imagine what he wants to gain from the conversation more than what she’s already given him, but when he stays quiet behind her she decides that she is not yet at that point of understanding in her coexistence with human emotion and focuses instead on Mrs. Collyhill’s right hand.

There is quiet shuffling behind her, like Chapman wants to move but isn’t sure where to go. Maybe he has gotten what he came for and is considering how to make his exit less awkward. That’s fine. That’s for the better. Antigone will take apathetic resignation over this hopeless grapple with social interaction any day.

(that’s a lie, but it’s what she tells herself)

When Chapman speaks again, his voice is soft.

“I don’t mind that you kissed me. Actually that was - that in itself was kind of nice.”

Antigone’s hallucinating. It’s the only probably explanation.

“I mind that you did it there . You Funns have an alarming lack of situational awareness.” He’s closer now, but off to her side, like he doesn’t want to invade her personal space. It feels a bit like someone rounding on a terrified animal, but Antigone appreciates the sentiment. She puts the nail polish down.

“Mine has - mine has gotten better, I think.”

Chapman laughs, says that’s true under his breath, as if it’s not really directed at Antigone. She looks up at him - he looks back. There’s no anger in his eyes anymore, but she doesn’t really know what replaced it. He’s all - open and unblinking. Soft eyebrows, soft smile. Antigone looks down again before she starts trembling out of her skin.

Her next words feel like a leap off a cliff. “What do you mean, you don’t mind it . What’s that - what does that mean?”

He waves a little in the air. “I thought it was obvious.”

“Well, it’s not .”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Just explain to me why - “

“I like you, Antigone - “

“But why ?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” He’s close now, close enough that Antigone can see the lines around his eyes, his mouth - smile wrinkles and sun blemishes. He doesn’t have a lot, but they’re there. “You’re - you know. I mean, you’re a little weird and you and brother are impossible. And you just refuse to let people be nice to you, which is infuriating and you can come off as a bit scary - “

“Did you mean to paraphrase Mr. Darcy or - “

“Right, no, my bad.” Their elbows bump against each other as he turns to face her. His hand is on the embalming table and he keeps ducking his head down to try and meet her eyes. She tries to meet his too. It’s difficult. “My point is, I don’t, I don’t like you despite a bunch of stuff, I just - I find you very interesting.”

Antigone’s face is burning. Interesting . What a word. She looks at his hand on the table and at how close it is to her own. Her breath caught in her throat, she stretches out her pinky and touches the side of Chapman’s ring finger and it makes her fingertips buzz, the skin of her wrist simmer and prickle. Horrible.

“Look up?” He whispers and she does - slowly, because when she does, their noses touch and she can feel his breath on her lips. “Can you please let me be nice to you?”

“If you must.”

And so he kisses her. Softly, slowly, and Antigone’s eyes flutter shut almost against her will. The hairs on the back of her neck stand up and her toes curl - Chapman isn’t even touching her. Antigone runs two fingers over the back of his hand and she can feel thin muscles twitch underneath the skin, but it seems that he is just as afraid as she is, that a sudden move might ruin the moment. Chapman, Eric , breathes out through his nose and it’s shaky - the thought that anything she does has that kind of effect on him makes something swell up, warm and bright in Antigone’s chest. She’s the one to end it. She kisses back harder for a second, parts her lips, and when she breaks away Chapman follows before pulling back.

Oh. Eye contact. Blimey.

Chapman takes her hand now, carefully. It gives her something else to look at - and she does. She looks their hands and the nail polish and Mrs. Collyhill, and then she’s laughing, quietly. She doesn’t give Chapman a chance to ask.

“This is your idea of situational awareness , is it, Chapman?” He looks confused for a second, and then mortified.

“I - well.”

“There’s a body here, Eric. How dare you speak ill of my timing.” He groans and his head falls to rest on her shoulder. Antigone can feel herself smiling, giddily, stupidly. She thinks the normal thing to do here would be to kiss him again or to move closer, something that includes varying levels of emotional and physical intimacy. But the thought makes her stomach twinge with anxiety, so she remains with her side towards Chapman, looking down at their clasped hands.

Maybe Chapman feels her tense up, or maybe he can read minds, because he straightens himself out. “I don’t expect anything to magically happen. What with us being competitors and not friends and all - “

“Me saying that was a defense mechanism - “

“I know.” Chapman is smiling at her, and he looks so soft . Antigone wants to roll her eyes into infinity. “I just meant that nothing has to happen if you don’t want it to.”

It’s nice to know. It calms her down. Antigone isn’t as bad at people as she used to be, but emotions are still tricky - they are fast and overpowering. But here, in the dark of her mortuary, Chapman, Eric, looks at her like there’s nothing to worry about. She nods and squeezes his hand. Then lets go.

“Yes. Well. Yes.” What now? Arguing and kissing and hand holding, eye contact, emotional vulnerability? What comes next?

Maybe Eric can feel her spiraling, or maybe he can read minds, because he picks up the nail polish and reaches for Mrs. Collyhill’s hands instead. “Do you want help, uh - salvaging this? No offense to your profession.”

She sputters in self-defense. “I am a mortician. Not a beauty guru.”

“Yes, well.” Chapman says, as he’s shaking the bottle. “Nobody’s perfect.” Antigone, in a feat of childish abandon, sticks out her tongue and the delighted laugh she gets in return makes the nerves from before flutter in her stomach - and she finds that it doesn’t feel quite as uncomfortable as it used to.