Rupert and Krista remained in the kitchen, chatting over several cups of tea for nearly two hours, before Delta Rue finally stirred.
With a soft little groan, the child stretched herself out as she squeezed her eyes shut. Fighting back a yawn, she nearly slipped off of Roo's lap. Gasping a little, she clung to him for dear life as he braced his arm around her. He wasn't about to let her go anywhere, let alone fall off of his lap.
Once Delta Rue realized she was still in the man's lap, she looked up surprised. "You're still here!" her face lit up with a bright grin.
Roo was in the middle of a sentence when Delta Rue called him out. Pausing, he looked down at her and returned her beam. "I'm still here, Cookie."
"Are you staying for dinner?" she piped up eagerly as she squirmed and turned herself around in his lap. Delta Rue's eyes were full of hope while she waited for the response.
"Oh uh-"he was caught off guard, and it was already half seven. He really should be leaving soon, if only because he had to walk back to Café Rouge after which he had a thirty minute drive back to his flat in Westminster. He glanced to Krista, unsure of what to say or do at the moment. Time really had escaped him.
"Sweetie, it's getting late and Roo has to be getting home." Krista couldn't help but feel a little saddened by the realization of just how late it was. It was still light out, seeing as it was summer, but that didn't change the fact that she'd met Roo for a quick lunch date at 11:30 am, and it was now just about 7:30 pm. Besides, she already felt guilty about keeping him from going to his work that day, the very least she could do was let him get back to his own home and unwind before he had work the next morning.
Delta Rue looked up at her mother before looking back at the man who'd been holding her this whole time. "Do you really have to go already?" her puppy dog eyes pulled at his heartstrings.
"I'm afraid so Cookie. But I'll make you a deal, yeah?" he smiled and tapped the tip of the little girl's nose with his finger to drive his point home.
Delta Rue, dejected and unhappy, briefly crossed her eyes to look at his finger as he tapped her nose before looking back up into his face. "Okay…" she was a little wary of what he was going to suggest, while her mother simply watched in curiosity.
"I promise that, in order to make up for not staying for dinner tonight, we'll do something fun, a surprise, next time I see you; cross my heart." Roo trailed his index finger over his breast as he drew an 'x'.
The child's mood was lifted a few levels with the promise of fun to be had. "Like what?" thoughts of what it could possibly be swirled in her mind, and each one of them was more exciting than the last.
Roo clucked his tongue jokingly as he shook his head once with his brows raised. "I can't tell you that now!" the pitch of his voice raised a little as he baited the little girl. "Then it wouldn't be a surprise! And if it's not a surprise I'm breaking my promise to you! And then I'd have to start all over again."
"Oh!" Delta Rue's eyes widened and she nodded her head enthusiastically; she'd not thought of the situation in those terms. "Okay." Grinning, she hugged him firmly around is long neck. Roo returned the hug and squeezed her about as tightly as he could without causing harm to the child's small stature.
Krista watched the two of them with a slight smile; she was glad that the two of them were getting along so famously. Though, she supposed that it shouldn't surprise her; Roo was never the typical person, let alone the typical adult. She knew he had every ability to choose the proper, serious, paths in life (moving to America and marrying Mattie had been one of those choices), but moreover she remembered the youth he had been. Roo was a playful, incorrigible, child. Despite the adult body and the resoluteness to earn top grades, outside of school Roo had always been immature; it was a way of escaping, she now suspected, from the harsh realities of his existence. Still, she wouldn't have her best friend any other way. Roo knew when to draw the line; he knew when it was time to be serious and when the time was for play, there was never any question of him understanding this; one moment he had the ability to be the youth who was laughing his heart out with her, and the next moment the quiet, diligent, son who wanted to please his parents.
She was happy to see him this open and bright with her child; she imagined that both of them needed it; Roo was still getting over a divorce that had sent him back to England, likely against his will, and Delta Rue was unfortunately getting used to not seeing her father, Payton, very often. They needed each other; with Delta Rue Rupert could be the man he was, the man he'd hid for the eight years of his married life.
Mattie was fun, but she wasn't the girl that he thought she was; she wasn't like Krista who would dress in Victorian mourning wear to mourn the death of a pet fish; Mattie was intrinsically the socialite, born to money, and who wouldn't give in to "petty little games", even if they were to help her unwind. It was a miracle they had lasted ten years together, eight of which they had been married. But then again, "Roo" had ceased to exist at that time. The moment the two of them climbed into the taxi and left his parents' house, Roo died; in his wake was left "Rupert" the alternate version of the oldest child of the Alcott-Birdwhistles. "Rupert" in his turn would have been alien to Krista, and maybe it was a good thing she hadn't seen him in that time. Rupert was straitlaced, stodgy, and tedious, but not by his choice. Mattie, though she claimed to love him, had been worried about introducing him to her childhood friends with the way he was when he left England; he was too much of a fop and she believed that her friends would judge her for falling in love with a walking billboard of stereotypical homosexuality, straight from England. Even if they had judged him for it, her friends would have only been partially correct; Roo was neither properly English (he's parents moved back to England when he was six months old, but he and his siblings had been born in the Capital City of the small Polynesian country [which was itself a series of small islands and atolls] of Te'ilan and therefore Roo was first and foremost a citizen of Te'ilan first, and England second), nor gay. To be fully honest, Roo had been, and was still to this day, pansexual, but that was far from the reason as to why he was the vibrant person that he was. But, it didn't matter, because Mattie's friends never met Roo. They met Rupert; the quiet, studious, dusty, young man; a souvenir from her time in the United Kingdom. Like a trophy on a shelf.
Despite the fact that Roo was opening up himself once again to the way he used to be, he still wasn't the man he'd been before he went to the United States. Damages had been done to him, and it was impossible to say if he'd ever fully recover. Roo blamed himself for the collapse of his marriage, even though it had been a two-way street. Mattie had shoved the divorce papers under his nose one evening as he sat making up a lesson plan for his kindergarten class. Shocked, he looked them over, before asking her why she would do this after ten years of being together; she'd snippily responded that he'd had his head in the clouds for ten years. That he'd let her down as a husband, being neither totally emotionally invested with her, nor able to give her children. It had been rather cruel, and Roo had merely agreed with her no matter if it hurt him. Part of him had been happy; he knew he didn't love her like she deserved, but the years had bred familiarity, and he couldn't believe that she had felt this way for so long. His infertility had not been fresh news; they'd learned of it within three years of their wedding. Deep down he knew that he'd never loved her the way she had deserved; he always thought of Krista. He'd even sent her a letter shortly after the wedding, telling her that he wished she had been his bride. But Krista had never responded, and Roo had known then he'd made the right choice. Mattie, the student on her own in England, was a different beast entirely from the woman she was in her own country, and he knew the night he was handed the papers, that she'd never truly loved him either. They'd been locked in a state of attachment and keenness for years, but nothing more. Still, the day that the divorce was finalised, and Roo was preparing to return to England permanently, he blamed himself. He blamed himself for failing Krista first, and then Mattie. He'd drank himself into a stupor, and woke up with a worse case of self-loathing than he'd ever felt; there was no pity, only anger that he'd been so unable to make the women he loved happy. The hangover had been a second thought in comparison.
Payton on the other hand was another kettle of fish. Ten years older than Krista, she'd met the man when she was a student. By nature Payton was the opposite of Roo, and that fact had drawn Krista to him; it helped to sooth her repeatedly broken heart. She had a horrible track record with men for which she blamed herself, and not the men she dated.
Payton Scuttlebutt, who was not proud of his surname mind you, was thirty three when he met Krista. The two of them had had a good relationship, while it lasted. He undoubtedly cared for Krista, but like Mattie, he didn't find much of the playful nature to be endearing; he found it repetitive and tiring. There had been several arguments, mostly consisting of phrases such as 'Grow up! You're a grown woman! For God's sake act like it.' Peppered throughout their years together. In her heart Krista knew that Payton loved her, but it was never a boisterous love; he was not the sort of man who would stand on the roof of a building or in the middle of a crowded street and proclaim his love for her (though if that ever happened she didn't know how she would react- she'd likely be humiliated by the occurrence.) Payton wasn't a bad man, he wasn't abusive or all that demanding, he just expected a level of maturity to be upheld. It didn't help that he was Krista's senior by ten years. They had met in late 2008, or very early 2009; Krista was finishing her courses, and Payton was working with the Labour Party at the time. She'd met him by accident, but it didn't matter now.
Krista had had a year with Payton before their daughter, Delta Rue was born. He'd asked her to marry him just months into their first year, and their daughter was conceived shortly thereafter. Honestly, both of them had thought they were truly, properly, in love. It seemed like the next logical step to take, even though it was all happening so fast. Maybe Krista had seen in him an escape, a way out, to recover from previous hurts. Originally planning to try and marry before the birth, Krista was forced to push the wedding date back when a few family "emergencies" happened; Kanga had decided to live in Paris for six months and couldn't possibly attend the wedding during that time (Krista couldn't figure out why, it wasn't as though the two of them would be worlds apart), but more importantly, Noah had been diagnosed with Leukemia, and Krista couldn't accept her other brother whom she adored and who shared the face of her absent Roo, could possibly die. It had hit her hard, and Krista partially lost herself. Losing Noah, even if she had Kanga still, would be as though Roo was truly gone. Besides, she adored Noah as well; they had just never been as close as she and Roo. Dingo, Wallaby, Drop Bear… no he couldn't die while she flittered off on her new life with Payton. So, Krista had pushed the date of the wedding as far back as she could, and before she knew it, Kanga was returning from Paris, Noah had gone into remission, and she was eight months pregnant.
It had been a bit of a blessing in a way. After Delta Rue was born, there wasn't much time to plan a wedding, and before they knew it, the little girl was nearing three years old. The relationship fell apart, and Krista blamed herself. She'd not been as mature as he wanted her to be; she was too motherly, she doted too much attention and physical love upon her child; she demanded too much of her lover's attention. They had moved too fast as a couple in their first year. The list was endless. Her history with other men was poor, and surely Payton knew of it. He probably saw it as a way out; if she couldn't hold the other men down, even after a three year relationship, than there was no need for him to stay; it was just further proof that she wasn't as good with matters of the heart as she liked to think. It wasn't like he couldn't get visitation, or even custody of Delta Rue. Still, despite all of his failings, Payton wasn't that cruel. He loved Delta Rue, and he cared for Krista in some capacity, even after they separated. She was, after all, the mother of his child. He would never take Delta Rue from her, and most courts agreed that a child was better off with their mother when possible. God knows Krista hadn't had that chance herself. There'd been a lot of mistakes in their relationship, and despite much of it being regrettable; Krista would never take it back because from her union with Payton came Delta Rue.
Krista smiled to herself as she watched Roo and her daughter; her daughter had never known the family that raised Krista; the Alcott-Birdwhistles didn't have much contact with her after High School; Kanga checked in on her once in a while, and Noah called her every few weeks. But beyond that it was the occasional email and or Christmas letter and card; nothing spectacular. It warmed her heart to see the most precious thing in her world getting along with the other most precious thing. It warmed her heart to hear Roo call her daughter 'Cookie' as Payton had never really given out pet names.
Krista walked hand in hand with her daughter to the front door to see Roo on his way. She smiled to herself as he pulled his boots on and tightened the laces.
After a moment, the man looked himself over and patted himself up and down to make sure he had his wallet, Blackberry, and keys. Satisfied, he looked back up at his friend and her daughter with a gentle smile. "Well, I guess that's about it."
Krista's smile was a little forlorn as she looked him over, it was ridiculous and she knew it, but she couldn't help it. She didn't really want him to go, call her selfish, but she wished he'd stay, if only because she wanted everything to go back to the way it had been years before; when they were living under the same roof.
After a moment had passed, and Krista realised that she'd not responded to Rupert's words, she flushed a little. "Sorry… so um…" she worried her lip slightly as she lifted her eyes to look towards the handsome man who was currently standing on the outer section of her front step. "I'll see you…" her voice briefly trailed off before she pulled herself back together. "Soon?" she lamely finished, more than a little embarrassed.
Leaning against the outer frame of the front door, Roo gave her a sympathetic gaze while he smiled tenderly. Krista was clearly afraid, even if she wasn't completely aware of it, that he was going to renege; to leave her all over again. But, he didn't have it in his heart to renounce her this time, even if leaving her behind may be the courageous and appropriate thing for him to do. In the long run, leaving would be the best thing for her, he was convinced of that; there were things about him that Krista simply did not know; time had changed him. Parts of his history she would never, and should never, know dictated that his exodus from her life would be her saving grace in the end, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. No matter how much they had opened up and shared with one another, it was simply put, the best if some things remained hidden from Krista. It was a kindness, truly. Roo gave himself a mental shake to shift his thoughts back to the moment at hand; he continued to gaze at Krista and he could see that she was pulling back from him, because she assumed that he was doing the very same thing. If he wasn't the cause for her low self-confidence when it came to men, then he was going to find the man that was, and drive the point home. Oh, who was he kidding? He had the skill but not the heart to fight. But, for Krista, he suspected that he could do just about anything. He let the tense moment pass before he smiled a little broader, a little brighter, and finally spoke up. "Of course you will. Call me!" he laughed a little, but did not move from the doorway.
A grin spread clear across Krista's face swiftly; excitement flooded through her bones, but as fast as it had come, it ebbed back again. Her brows furrowed as she looked at him for a moment. "I don't have your number."
Roo stared at her for a moment, he hadn't really thought of that. Still, in Greenwich market she hadn't given him her phone number, and yet he managed to find her. Then again, sometimes it helped to work for the consulate of a nation whose Government was more than a little corrupt; he could find just about anyone and anything if the need arose. He straightened his posture, standing properly upright in her doorway and held his hand out towards her with the palm up. "Right. Phone."
Her brows furrowed a little, not quite catching on. She just wasn't really thinking. "Pardon?"
"Your phone; give it to me." He made a playfully impatient movement of his hand as he waited.
"Oh! Sorry!" flushed red, Krista picked her purse up off of the small table in the entry way and dug through. Eventually she found the iPhone and slapped it into his open palm. "There you go sir." She teased before sticking her tongue out at him.
Roo squeezed the phone and pulled his hand back as he returned the exposed tongue. "Nnyah!"
Delta Rue rolled her eyes a little as she watched the exchange between her mother and the man. Even at the tender age of five, she thought the display (at least when it was between grownups) to be a little pathetic. Or a lot pathetic. She hadn't quite decided which yet.
When Krista snorted a little, Roo smirked and immediately dropped his eyes to the phone in his hand. His fingers flew over the touch screen keypad as he programmed his contact info into her address book. With a smug grin, he handed the phone back to her. "And now you do."
Krista raised a brow in a mockingly curious manner as she took the phone. She opened up her contact list, and scrolled until she found one that she didn't recognise. Her eyes widened and she couldn't contain the unanticipated splutter that she released when she saw the new name; Romeo. Lifting her eyes to him once again, she sneered. "Bit presumptuous, isn't it?" she could barely ward off the smile that was tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"Oh, you know me. Never could resist a little bit of scandal." Roo easily returned the smirk as he retorted with his own playful banter.
"But really? This doesn't mean I'll die after sleeping with you does it?" Krista's eyes widened and she flared read the very second the words left her lips. Her free hand shot up and covered her mouth. Delta Rue looked up to her, but thankfully did not understand the true meaning behind the words.
The man stared at her for a moment, before the smile finally broke and he snorted loudly. All too quickly his laughter spilled forth and he had to put one arm over his belly as he cracked up. He struggled to breathe deep enough, which resulted in yet another snort and further laughter. "Oh, god you should see your face!"
"Oh shut up!" she laughed, "You're a jerk! I didn't mean to say that!"
"It sounds like you did!" Roo snickered, revelling in pushing her buttons.
"You're a jerk!" she reiterated and slapped his shoulder jokingly.
"You love it." He calmed his laughing and beamed back at her; the happy expression flooded into his rich hazel eyes and lit up the slowly dimming outside atmosphere.
Krista sighed exasperatedly and nodded, giving in. "Whatever you want to think, Romeo." She smiled as she looked at him. Delta Rue was no longer at her side, but was standing just a little behind her mother's legs. Krista had stepped forward to say goodbye.
"It's getting darker out, and I've got a thirty minute drive across the Thames." He smiled sadly as he jingled his car keys slightly.
"You should get going before traffic picks up again, and before it's too dark out." Krista returned the unhappy smile.
"I really should. But give me a call."
Her brows knit together and she watched him run a hand through his fringe; pushing the dark hair back out of his eyes for a moment. "Any specific time that it's best to call?"
"Nope. Any time will do, even if it's three in the morning."
Krista shook her head lightly, causing her dark blond hair to swirl around her face for a moment. "I would never call you at that hour; it's not fair when you clearly have work the next day."
"Krista, for you I'll always answer. Besides, if you're phoning me that late, it's likely something important. Trust me, don't say you won't call at that hour just yet, you never know what will happen."
"Mm. You're right I suppose." She smiled and tapped his nose in surrender. "You should really be going; every time you start to leave I hold you back." She laughed mirthlessly; she was all too aware that she was holding onto him too tightly, figuratively speaking.
Roo smiled but knew he had to get going, so he took the best option to say goodbye that he had. He laid his hand gently over her jaw so his fingers tangled into her hair and his thumb brushed over her lips. Krista seemed mildly surprised, but did not blench. Rupert leaned in and gently pressed his soft lips to hers. Krista lifted her arms, and wrapped one loosely around his neck while her other hand gripped the fabric over his heart. She returned the kiss for a moment.
"Yuuuucky." Delta Rue thrust her tongue from her mouth and screwed her tiny face up into a ball of disgust. She liked the man, and was glad that her mother was happy, but ew! Come on! That's how cooties were spread, didn't her Mum know that?
The two adults pulled back from each other and shared a knowing smile at Delta Rue's expense.
Roo turned to the little girl and crouched down with his keys in hand; the small metal objects jingled in protest to his movement. "Your turn Cookie!"
Delta Rue's eyes widened when she realized what he was implying. "No!" she laughed and tried to hide behind Krista once again, but, her mother sold her out by quickly stepping out of the way.
With a bright grin, Roo snatched the little girl up into his arms and pulled her close to himself; she struggled valiantly the whole way. But, it did her no favours as Roo laid a loud, smacking, kiss to her cheek. "Uck!" grimacing the little girl pushed him away and tried to wipe her cheek off. She liked Roo, and she didn't mind being kissed, but there was such a thing as being kissed too many times in one day. Still, she had to laugh as she tried to push him back off of her.
"WELL!" He huffed in exasperation; his voice completely full of joviality. "I know when I'm no longer wanted!" laughing, he released Delta Rue from his grasp and stood straight again. He brushed himself off, but no sooner than he had, then the child in question hugged him around his legs. Looking down, he beamed at her. "I'm just kidding Delta Rue. Cross my heart. Bye Cookie." He ruffled out her dark hair before turning his attention to the child's mother again. "Goodbye sweetheart." He smiled and kissed her forehead before finally turning and stepping off of the front step.
When Roo was off of their small postage-stamp sized property, and twenty feet up the pavement (he still had to return to Café Rouge to collect his car) he turned and waved to the two of them still standing in the doorway.
Mother and daughter returned his wave exuberantly. Krista waited until he was out of sight before she finally closed her front door and released a little contented exhale. It had been a good day.