Juliet felt a long, restful sigh leave her throat as her eyelashes fluttered open, sleep starting to loosen its grip on her mind. Since she was lying on her side, John, lying facing her, was directly in her line of vision. She felt a thrilling shiver run through her at the sight of him, the lingering aftermath of the storm of emotion that had brought them here, but it quickly faded with the onset of a brief jolt of shock. She couldn’t honestly say she regretted sleeping with him, not right now away, he had been far too good for that, but she couldn’t help but wonder at the painful way fate had intertwined them and how on Earth they had come be here this morning. She searched his face for answers, unconsciously holding her breath as she studied him. He was an undoubtedly handsome man, although the intense dark eyes she’d gotten lost in the night before were now hidden behind weighted eyelids, bruised purple with exhaustion. She was glad to see that his chiselled jaw had slackened in sleep, for the moment not clenched as it had been every other time she’d looked at him over the past two months as if trying to stop the grief within him from pouring out relentlessly. Still though, she could see the line of deep thought creasing the space between his brows, although faint for now, was ever present. She couldn’t help but relate the shell of a man beside her with the man she’d met, or more accurately confronted, more than a year before. That righteous earnestness she’d smirked at in amusement then, as she’d passively admired his boyishly attractive face, was gone now, she’d really have to strain to see a glimpse of it. He’d been troubled then, but hopeful. Last night he’d been desperate and hopeless, feelings she could more than empathise with…
She turned abruptly onto her back, suddenly not wanting to look at John anymore or even acknowledge he was there as her own demons roared back to life inside her. A sick, hollow feeling developed inside her as her eyes drifted from the ceiling into the full extent of the bedroom, as dark and unkempt as when she’d first seen it, could it really only be a week ago, and had dragged John out of this physical embodiment of the hole he was in. Her apartment had the same air about it, although she’d kept it manically clean instead, a distraction from thoughts of Lev, even for a few minutes at a time, was worth any amount of pointless physical labour. It was still neglected though, was a jail cell rather than a home, and her beloved husband would never be coming back to make it so. She knew John felt the same without Kimberly and their son. Sitting up in bed, letting the sheets fall away, John had seen all of her now anyway, she scanned the dusty floor for the clothes that had been ripped off and tossed aside the night before, slowly shrugging them on to keep out the cold she felt very aware of without the warmth of John’s body against hers. As she dragged her legs off the bed and onto the floor her eyes fell on the glitter of gold on the bedside table. Her wedding ring. She carefully gathered the silver chain on which it hung and slipped the makeshift necklace over her head, remembering how John had paused in his hot, hungry, kisses and watched in understanding as she’d reverently taken off the keepsake and laid it aside. If anything, that moment of silent understanding had heightened their ardour. Even before she’d been widowed, she’d had to wear it like this at Bach’s insistence. What good was a female agent to him if she refused to keep up the pretence that she was available to some of their more lecherous interviewees? She smiled to herself as she thought of the laughs Lev would’ve had in hearing the inventive ways she’d used to destroy these men’s hopes, rubbing the ring between her finger and thumb as if it were one of those holy relics her mother used to pray to in secret. The ring’s delicate inscription, in the Cyrillic alphabet of her mother tongue, was gradually being worn away although she’d memorised it long ago. Last night had been an emotional release from the wedding vows Lev’s death had legally broken and she felt a spasm of guilt to realise she was grateful for it. Her sleep had been simple and dreamless for the first time in months, she hadn’t been tortured by images of his death, or even worse, fantasises of him still being alive. She couldn’t help but recall at that moment, as she glanced fondly back at John, one particular dream in which she and John had been standing together, both screaming plaintively as Kim and Lev had walked off into the distance together, leaving the two of them behind. It had been like some sick swapping of lovers, the dead leaving the living behind to comfort each other. She shook her head, her tousled blonde hair flying briefly around her face. God, John had certainly been right when he referred to the two of them as the “walking wounded”! She just had to console herself with the fact that he had helped patch her up to face another day, she just had to hope she had done the same for him.
Another bolt of guilt struck her, although it rapidly turned into resignation. Kimberly had been her friend, as much as anyone could be friends within Majestic, and she was truly grieved that she was gone. Knowing John’s situation, she was grateful that Lev’s death, if not exactly clean, had been as human as all the men who’d died before him. Kim Sayers, on the other hand, was dead in soul and mind but not in body, the Hive aliens had taken her body for their own ends so she knew that John’s grief would not fade as long as he had to face Kim in battle. He’d accepted that she was dead, but their son was still an unknown and Juliet knew that last night she’d committed to helping him find that baby, whatever happened.
A heavy groan of wakefulness roused her from her thoughts and she realised that she’d robotically cleaning the apartment for who knew how long. The sheets rustled as John sat up in bed, watching her in drowsy amazement. “I never would’ve pegged you as a neat freak.” He commented.
Juliet met his gaze over her shoulder. “I never could leave well enough alone. If I think something needs done I always do it.”
John smiled wryly as he climbed out of bed, only bothering to tug on a pair of jeans, leaving the rest of his clothes discarded. They were beyond the point of false modesty; the mutual attraction between them was well-established by now. “Now that I did know about you.” He assured her with a dry chuckle.
Juliet shrugged nonchalantly, pausing in her tidying to perch on the arm of room’s sole, moth-eaten, chair. “What else do you need to know about your fellow Majestic agents really?” she muttered ruefully.
“That’s the problem.” John replied with a sigh, even though it certainly no longer rang completely true for them. When he looked at the stunning, enigmatic woman across from him, she was mysterious and intensely intimate at the same time. They didn’t know even basic facts about each other, yet she knew better than anyone else what he was suffering from, or was at least the only one who cared enough to offer a shred of real comfort. He didn’t regret their impulsive kiss, born of loneliness and frustration, that had developed into a storm of lust and need. He felt more alive now than he had in months, although in a way it was more painful to feel alive than numb. He didn’t even feel a more than a flicker of disloyalty to Kim; the events of yesterday had forced him to accept that the Kim he knew was gone.
“You know me well enough to trust this.” Juliet murmured, opening her hand to reveal a small roll of film before setting it down on the table beside her.
John inhaled sharply at the sight of that film, their debate over the future of which had ignited their passion so fiercely. “I do.” He answered honestly, taking the film in his own hand as he sat beside her on the chair. “I guess this answers the question of whether Bach set you up as a honey trap for me?”
Juliet took this in the hypothetical, non-accusatory way it was meant, her eyebrows shooting up as she responded lightly, “Really John? Do you think Frank Bach would give the two people he trusts only marginally more than the Hive, the whistleblower and the Russian, any more reason to be allies against him?”
John laughed bitterly, “You’re right, Frank thinks he’s far too smart for that.” He breathed a melancholy sigh before suddenly asking, “The name “Juliet Stuart” is an alias right?”
Juliet gave a slight start at the abrupt change of subject but true to her quick mind answered almost immediately, smirking at him. “There aren’t many Stuarts in Russia John, I’ll tell you that.” She sighed, her eyes softening, “Juliet is my real given name though.”
John was surprised, “Doesn’t sound very Russian to me.”
Juliet laughed. “I’ve been told that before. My mother was a romantic; she expressed her creativity calling me that. God knows my father didn’t give her enough of a romantic outlet.”
John smiled at the thought of Juliet’s mother crooning over her; she’d no doubt been a pretty baby. “You took your married name, Stonatsky?”
“Stonatskaya.” Juliet corrected, “I was Juliet Alexandrovna Stonatskaya before I came here.” She winked at him teasingly, “Far too big a mouthful for Americans.” Going back to his earlier comments, she added questioningly, “Why is there a stereotype that all Russian women are sluts?”
John grimaced at her bluntness, “Too many movies.” He replied, “And you are beautiful, any man would have you.”
Juliet gave him a soft smile at the compliment, even as she saw her own reflection in the window. Now that the healthy, post-sex glow was gone she looked pale, drawn and drained. She was surprised how overwhelmed with relief she felt at his confirmation that he didn’t regret their lovemaking, but she quickly tried to wipe the emotion from her face, worried by the impact of it. “Maybe.” She murmured, shifting uncomfortably, “But I was loyal to Lev.” She sighed, “I married him at nineteen and I still love him now.”
“Nineteen?” John echoed, shocked. He knew that Juliet had loved Lev dearly, but with her looks and direct manner, he’d always presumed she’d had plenty of lovers, which was seemingly not the case. “I met Kim when I was nineteen myself, at UCLA. We were pretty much together after that…” He trailed off with a sad smile and felt tears prickling at the backs of his eyes, noting as he glanced up at Juliet that her pale blue eyes were also glistening. “What are we supposed to do now Jules?” he asked brokenly, a pet name he’d never before thought of using sprouting spontaneously and naturally from his lips.
Juliet’s back straightened bravely as she supportively squeezed his shoulder, remaining silent for several minutes before trying to answer. “I don’t know John.” She admitted honestly, “But since we’re still alive we’d better keep on living, for them.”
She was surprised as John responded by kissing her, not in a heated, lustful way but with tenderness and affection that neither of them had consciously expressed before. Returning it came naturally to her.
A/n: PLEASE REVIEW! :D