My Heart Will Go On
Summary: For the love_bingo challenge, prompt "My Heart Will Go On". AU. Atropos is a librarian dealing with eccentric patrons. Balthazar is her neighbor who likes to play Celine Dion on high and a constant loop. Whirlwind romance ensues. Balthazar/Atropos.
Author's Note: …And this is one way to interpret the prompt. :D
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. It belongs to Eric Kripke/The CW.
"Neeear… Faaaar… Whereeeeeeever you aaaare…"
She was going to kill him. She was really, truly, honestly going to kill him.
The fact that Freely existed was painful in and of itself. The fact that he had to own the apartment next to hers was more or less a sign that she had done something damn awful in a previous life.
The librarian worked from nine in the morning to eight in the evening, nearly a twelve hour day. And so when she got home, she really liked to be able to have some quiet time to herself. That may sound odd given that, again, she worked in a library (which are generally pretty quiet institutions), but we also must bear in mind that this was New York City, and as such, the libraries had a certain kind of flavor to them.
The crazy kind of flavor.
Like that dark haired guy with the trench coat that came in every Thursday, who opened a Bible and started praying (loudly) for the salvation of mankind. Or those Ghost Hunters rip-offs that were convinced the library was haunted. Or the redheaded girl that had once climbed on top of one of the very high bookshelves and thrown herself off it (It had been a Thursday, actually, and she'd nearly landed on the trench coat guy).
Point being, work could become stressful.
And coming home to silence and solitude was apparently too much to ask for.
"Love, can touch us one tiiime, and last for, a liiiiiiiifetiiiiiiiime…"
Atropos pulled the pillow over her head and screamed into the mattress.
Freely had moved into his apartment in the morning, and at night that song was blasting. Loudly.
On a loop.
And Atropos had, to her credit, tolerated it for about two of those hours. But it had been a Thursday, and earlier on in the day an asshole businessman with a Scottish tint to his English accent had, just for the sake of escalating things, thrown himself onto the floor in prostration to God and given Trench Coat Guy a new praying buddy. Poor bastard had no idea that he was being mocked.
So the gauge that measured her tolerance for bullshit had hit 0.
Atropos had used the time-honored method of banging on the wall (no shouting involved, a few bangs was usually enough to convey the message) before stepping back and waiting for the music to stop.
Ten minutes later, she'd tried again.
Ten minutes later, again.
By that time it was nearly midnight, and Atropos had to wake up sometime around six-thirty to get ready and then from there a forty-five minute long commute around the city to get to the library, followed by an hour or so of general prep work to get it ready before it opened for the day. So the idea of spending all night serenaded by Celine Dion screaming through the walls was an extremely unpleasant thought.
So finally, as unappealing as instigating a conflict with a complete stranger was to her, Atropos gave up on the wall-knocking and decided to confront the problem directly: By pounding on his front door instead.
When Balthazar Freely answered the door, he was shirtless. She didn't know it then, but this would become a trend: Balthazar would very rarely answer the door with a shirt on. Not that he was unattractive (quite the opposite), but given that he had and would continue to grate on her nerves for many days to come, but she hadn't been paying too much attention to it.
Atropos shut her eyes, and then opened them again. "I'm your neighbor."
"Nice to meet you. Say, was that you banging?"
Atropos sucked in a deep breath. "Yes, that was me banging. Have you ever lived in an apartment before?"
"Then do you know what it means when someone's banging on your wall?" Freely's eyes rolled upward in what appeared to be serious thought.
"You were getting laid?"
Atropos went bright red. "No!"
"Mm. That doesn't surprise me." He responded swiftly, the corner of his lip quirking upward. "You're way too uptight to have just gotten any."
She shut her eyes, tried to breathe deeply so that she'd lose the ever-present desire to start screeching at him. "Commonly," She said through her teeth, "When a person bangs on the wall like that and you happen to be making a lot of noise, it's an indication that they want you to turn it down."
"Oh!" Balthazar's eyes popped. "Well, goodness me! I didn't realize! Deepest apologies!" His strangely innocent tone made warning bells go off in her head, but Atropos was too tired to listen to them.
"Thank you." She grumbled before stomping off back to her apartment. She climbed into bed, shut off the light and closed her eyes.
"NEEEEAR, FAAAAAR, WHERE-EEEEEEVER YOU AAAAAAARE-"
Twice as loud as before.
To make a long story short, Freely continued to blast the song whenever possible (probably only when he was certain that Atropos was home). Atropos had not bothered going back to confront him about that- specifically- because he'd made his opinion on the matter pretty damn clear right off the bat.
But he gave her plenty of other reasons to hate him as well.
The music was a big one (because that was with the direct intention of irritating her). But other habits, such as reading aloud sexually graphic literature or playing pornography on the TV or computer with the volume blasted, were even worse. At first it had mortified her; now, sadly enough, she was used to it. On a lesser scale was Freely's apparent cooking hobby, which produced smells more commonly found on other planets, as well as his evident inability to answer the front door with a shirt on.
The man's a sex-addict. I'm sure of it.
This was backed up by the last- and most horrifying- habit: Him having sex with (what sounded like) a new woman every other night. Sometimes a few women at once. Hell, she may have heard another man in there at one time or another. Point being, Atropos heard more in the months following Freely's arrival than she would ever care to hear again in her life.
After a few weeks of this, Atropos finally managed to seize the opportunity amongst a stretch of silence to call her sister.
"I'm about to commit a felony. Talk me out of it."
"Aggravated assault on a child, arson, computer trespass or murder?"
"Ah. Fill me in."
Atropos proceeded to go on a two hour long rant about Freely's behavior, throwing in many inventive and often shocking, descriptive expletives to describe what kind of man he was and what she was seriously considering doing to him. Lachesis listened patiently, knowing better than to throw in her two cents until her older sister had aired her rage as much as she could.
When Atropos was done, huffing and puffing, there was a pause on the other end of the line until Lachesis felt that she could word this right.
"Aisa," Lachesis said warily, "If I suggest something to you, would you please not yell at me?"
Atropos responded with equal wariness. "…What?"
"…It sounds to me like he's deliberately trying to get your attention."
"No kidding." Atropos snapped.
"Not simply for the sake of making you angry, Aisa, but… Kind of like a little kid on the playground who teases a girl because he likes her, but doesn't know how to say it."
Atropos cocked an eyebrow at that. "You think he likes me?"
"If he didn't, I don't know why he'd put so much effort into irritating you."
"He could just be a sadist."
"Possibly. But try… I don't want to say that you should kiss up to him-"
"Cold day in Hell, Lachesis."
"Right. But you might try… Talking him down. Tease him back, even."
At first, the idea was degrading. If Lachesis was wrong, Atropos would make a fool of herself. If she was right… Hell. She didn't know what she'd do if her sister was right. Freely's personality was insufferable to say the least (though his body wasn't exactly a negative-)
Atropos got into bed and mashed her face into the pillow.
And ten minutes later:
"Onnnnnnce mooore, you oooooopen the doooooor…"
I really think I'm going to kill him.
And as fate would have it, she had her chance the next day at work.
Because just as she was about to check in some books, she got a nasty surprise from behind.
Atropos jumped a mile at the sound of the voice, dropping the stapler she'd been holding onto the tabletop. She sent up a silent little prayer- Please, oh please, let it not be him- but when she turned around, lo and behold, Balthazar Freely was leaning on the desk, wicked grin plastered across his face.
"Oh God not you."
"Oh come now, neighbor," He said smoothly, smirk widening. "You'd think we weren't bosom-buddies by now."
"We're not." She hissed, reaching down and pulling some books from the return bin to hopefully to give him the impression that she wasn't half as interested in this conversation as he was.
"The fact that you can't appreciate a good song when you hear it isn't my problem." He said bluntly, crossing his arms and leaning forward on the smooth faux-wooden desktop. She shot him an ugly, burning look.
"I can appreciate a good song when it isn't being piped through the walls twenty-four hours a day!"
Freely shrugged. "Not being piped through now, is it?"
She didn't- couldn't- dignify that with a response. She took her aggression out on the books as she slammed the scanner down onto the barcodes to re-check them back into the library before dropping them unceremoniously onto the cart. Then something occurred to her. "How do you even know where I work?"
"Oh, that's the beauty of it: I didn't. I came down here to find a book, and instead I found you." He gave her a wink, and Atropos's eyes rolled shut.
"Lucky indeed." Freely studied her for a time as she tried to ignore him and do her job. She didn't look at him, but could feel him watching her, and damn it, it was starting to freak her out. Atropos felt her irritation and discomfort fluctuate, grow, burst-
"Weren't you going to look for a book?"
"Then why don't you go do that?" Her teeth were clenched.
"I'd need some help with it." Atropos had the sudden feeling that she was being set-up, but was desperate enough to acquiesce him. She drew in a deep breath, set the stack of checked-in books to the side and went to the computer, pulling up the library's book catalogue.
"What are you looking for?"
"A book on food."
Atropos had to shut her eyes and count to ten. "We have a lot of those. Specify."
"I don't know. What foods do you like to eat?"
Atropos's eyes popped open in surprise, and she kicked herself when he smirked, because that was probably precisely the reaction he'd been hoping to get. "I don't think that's any of your business." She managed to keep the frostiness in her voice to a minimum, shocking herself a little.
"It is if you wanted to come over to my apartment for dinner tonight."
Atropos gave up the ghost entirely and stared at him. She gestured briefly, limply with her hand and her mouth worked soundlessly as she tried to respond. But it wasn't working so well.
"I- I don't-" Freely leaned harder on the table, expression bored but eyes twinkling in a way she was sure he had used to charm many a woman in the past. "I… I don't get you. Seriously. I don't get you. You constantly- All you've done- I mean- I can't even-" Atropos really couldn't. If someone overheard her repeating some of the things she'd heard him doing in his apartment over the last few weeks, she'd be fired on the spot (or get catcalls).
"I've annoyed the ever-loving hell out of you, correct?" Freely said, nodding his understanding. "I'm well aware of that, dear." Atropos's expression grew stormy, and she opened her mouth to snap at him, but he cut her off. "I'm also aware that you haven't killed me yet, or at least you haven't tried to. Which is more than I can say for my previous neighbors."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Atropos muttered flatly. He chuckled.
"Mm, I suppose it wouldn't. My point being, if I can irritate you to such a magnificent degree and still be alive, you might be worth looking into as a romantic interest. Your tolerance for irritating situations is promising."
Atropos went stiff. "'Promising?'" She repeated. "'Promising?'" Without hesitation, she swung the door open on the desk, grabbed Freely by the arm and started pulling him towards the reading room, the ones with all the tables.
"We going somewhere, darling?"
"My tolerance for insane bullshit is more than just promising, Freely. Celine Dion on an ear-shattering loop for hours at a time is nothing-" Atropos pulled him into the room and jabbed a finger towards the scene now unfolding at one of the larger tables. "-compared to working in this library on a Thursday."
"Oh God! FORGIVE us for our SINS!" The businessman was putting an insane amount of passion into the sermon, and the trench coat man was watching in awe.
"Mr. Novak, would you give me a boost?" The red-head was climbing up the bookcase.
"Anna, Anna!" A library assistant by the name of Rachel was trying to pull the girl back down. "Come on, we've talked about this!"
"God will protect her." The trench coat man said.
"I think God would thank her not to force him to expend the energy in the first place!" Rachel argued back. "Now- Dean Winchester, what are you carving into the table?"
"IT'S SATANIC SCRIPT!" The businessman declared loudly, pointing to the odd little pentagram-like symbol the teenager had carved into the wood. At the same time, he looked dangerously close to bursting into laughter at his own antics.
"Dean, can we go?" Dean's little brother moaned. "You already got a chance to look up Miss Rachel's skirt-"
Atropos pressed her hands over her face and groaned.
Suddenly, she felt a pair of arms slip around her waist from behind, and the shiver that ran down her spine was more like a convulsion.
"You know, if you accept my dinner invitation, there would be alcohol involved."
"Is that a bribe?"
"A reward, actually. You weren't kidding."
"Fine. Just- Fine. But do me a favor and keep Celine on lockdown while I'm getting ready."
He indulged her that much.
When she got home that night, Atropos found that she had half an hour of dead silence as she straightened up before their (the phrase actually made her cringe) dinner date. At odd moments, she would swear that she could hear the song starting up. God, now I'm getting frickin' paranoid over it.
It only occurred to her after shutting the door behind her that if things ended badly that night, they would almost certainly be permanently awkward from that point onwards. Such was the danger of neighbors: By definition, you couldn't really escape them without a great deal of effort.
But then, things up until this point hadn't exactly been good, so she didn't see how things could get much worse.
Freely- to Atropos's immense and unending shock- was actually wearing a shirt when he opened the door to greet her (as well as the same smug smile he'd worn at the library earlier that day). "Atropos. Won't you come in?"
"Thanks." She muttered, because his congeniality still sounded… Not false, but slippery. He always sounded sarcastic. She wondered if he actually was always sarcastic or if maybe it was just the way he came off.
Then, without warning, from the bedroom-
"…I seeeeee you, I feeeeeeel you-"
…Atropos was guessing the former.
She twitched sharply. "I thought we said 'no Celine Dion'."
"One, you said that. Two, I promised you prep-time without the song, not dinner without it." Freely smirked wickedly at her, but then gave an over-done sigh and reduced the smirk to a smile. "Fine. I'll shut it off." He disappeared into the bedroom.
When Freely returned, he wordlessly led her to the table. There was pasta and what smelled like fish- So apparently he was capable of cooking things that didn't smell like dog food. Before, Atropos had assumed that he merely had strange eating habits, but now she had a sneaking suspicion that that had been part of his attempts to bother her.
He pulled out the chair for her, like a gentleman. Atropos hesitated before sitting down, because previous behavior from Freely indicated that he might be the kind to yank the chair out from beneath her for a good laugh. But she made contact with the chair, and the slight snicker from over her shoulder indicated that he had known exactly what had been running through her mind.
"That alcohol I promised you," Freely remarked, smirking as he pushed a pre-poured glass of wine over to her. "And once we drain the bottle, I have tequila." He sat down across from her, propped his elbows on the table and let his chin come to rest on his interlocked fingers. "So, tell me about your day. From the snippet I saw, it looked like a real hoot."
Atropos could tell that this was going to more or less be him taking amusement in her suffering, but honestly, she had alcohol and she needed to vent.
The rest of her day had been one giant crapshoot. She told him of how they'd been forced not only to ban Dean Winchester from the library, but also had to call his and Sam's parents to come down and have a chat regarding Dean's tendency towards delinquency and Sam's tendency to go along with it. Then she told him about how she had to send Rachel home for the day because she accidentally knocked over a bookcase, still in a rage over the older Winchester's actions.
The businessman and the trench coat man had been allowed to keep up with their activities for another hour or so before Atropos had shooed them out. The businessman had actually cracked up laughing at one point from his own hysterics, and when the trench coat man asked what was wrong, the businessman merely said that God was making him ever so joyful. Trench coat man had started to laugh too, and then it just turned into one big, loud mockery.
"And what about that girl who apparently thinks she can fly?" Freely- Balthazar inquired as he twirled a lonely strand of pasta around the tines of his fork. They'd already finished eating by this point, and now things were running purely on alcohol.
Atropos rolled her eyes heavenward (which made her a touch dizzy; recall, 'running purely on alcohol'). "We had to call the police to drag her out. I mean, she's not a bad kid, just a little… Off." She shrugged. "She's not dead yet, so I'm running on the assumption that she only does her swan dive act in the library."
"We can hope. Move to the living room?" He gestured to the living space behind her, and Atropos shrugged again. Getting up and out of the seat was momentarily problematic, because however much she denied it she'd had four glasses of wine already and she was a terrible lightweight. She swayed slightly on her feet, shook her head, and started towards the couch.
Balthazar eyed her with amusement. "You all right?"
He'd had almost as much wine as she had, and yet he didn't
"So, was that what you would call a typical day at the office?"
"A typical Thursday. Thursdays are the worst. The other days of the week are only slightly more bearable, but with their own unique flavor of insanity." Her tone was grim, dark, and she then remembered that she had work tomorrow as well. Then reduced hours on Saturday, then Sunday off. She sighed and rubbed her eyes.
"This is actually the most relaxed I've been all week." Atropos kicked herself for letting that slip. Another unfortunate issue of her with alcohol was that it made her lips loose, and she hadn't intended for Balthazar to have spoken proof that she had, in fact, calmed down and was enjoying the evening.
"Mm, but you still seem a bit uptight."
And without further ado, he ducked in for a kiss.
As Atropos's reaction time had been greatly numbed by the wine, he managed to get a good ten-second kiss out of her before she pulled back.
"This what you do on all of your dates? Wine 'em, dine 'em, get 'em into bed with you?" She inquired flatly.
"Not all of them. And not always in that order."
"Pfft." Atropos shook her head. "And why would you want to do that with me? You're not stupid. You've probably already guessed that I'm not nuts about you." Balthazar chuckled.
"And I thought I told you that I was already accustomed to that. You're pretty, you're smart, you can tolerate bullshit. I happen to find all three traits rather attractive." He leaned in and kissed her again, and this time, Atropos just went with it. Maybe it was the alcohol, but why not? It had been a long day. She didn't have enough force of will to power her pride, which would have told her to shove him off and leave.
It's been a while. It won't kill me.
Her pride, in the long run, was another matter.
If she couldn't get up from her seat at the table without stumbling, she should have figured that getting off the couch whilst attached at the lips would pose just as much of a challenge. Atropos clutched onto his shoulders, and Balthazar curled an arm around her waist, almost lifting her off of the couch and spinning her towards the bedroom.
"Full speed ahead, darling."
Atropos stumbled forward and into his room. It didn't even slightly surprise her to see that the light next to his bed was red-tinted (Sex addict, the little voice in her head sang). She bumped into and then sat on the bed, tugging at the buttons on her shirt. Balthazar was in the midst of ripping his own shirt off, and damn, had she ever really considered that 'answering the door without a shirt on' thing annoying?
When it was off, he gave her a grin that somehow seemed less conniving. He launched forward and pushed her onto the bed, her shirt only half-off, and reinitiated their kiss. Atropos sighed into it and laid back.
It was then that Balthazar fumbled with something off to the side, and she assumed that it was a light-switch or something until-
"…and my heart wiiiiiill go oooooooon aaaaaaand oooooooooooon-"
Maybe she did have just a little fire left in her, though.
Atropos grabbed him by the shoulders and flipped him so that she was straddling him on the bed. Lips pursed, she grabbed the remote control to the stereo and clicked the 'OFF' button.
"I never want to hear that song again."