A/N: It's pretty obvious what pair this is about once you start reading. Oneshot, though I may upload a few followups depending on my muse. AU Post X2. No copyright infringement intended.
Faith Hill - Like We Never Loved at All
How can you just walk on by
Without one tear in your eye?
Don't you have the slightest feelings left for me?
Maybe that's just your way
Of dealing with the pain
Forgetting everything between our rise and fall
Like we never loved at all
Never Loved at All
The water glass slipped through my fingertips before I could react, hitting the floor and shattering upon impact.
I trembled as I ducked my head quickly, crouching over the shards of glass. I picked them up quickly, placing them on my empty tray even as a familiar pair of shoes appeared in front of me. Without glancing up, my shoulders sagged and I sighed heavily.
"I'm real awful sorry 'bout this."
"It's coming out of your check, Marie." Elisabeth sighed as she crouched to help pick up the last few large shards of glass. Her perfectly manicured fingers caught my eyes before I forced myself to meet her gaze. Those knowing blue eyes were warm with kindness, even if her glossed lips were twisted with a frown. "I'm sorry. I know as well as you how hard it is to make ends meet but –"
"It's fine," I interrupted, shaking my head. I knew better than to argue with Elisabeth about it; I never won. "Do you want to take the patio?"
She paused for a moment, lips pursed, and glanced out the plate glass windows at the half-full patio area. "Aren't you on it tonight? I guess I can ask Cherise or -"
"Never mind, it's fine." Grumbling a bit, I rose and dusted my hands off, ignorant of the fact that a small sliver of glass found its way into my palm. "Want me to get a broom and finish this up?"
"No need. Carlos is coming." The dark-haired man that spoke very little made his way to us and quickly disposed of the remaining glass and disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Elisabeth and I staring after him. "Better wash up. One of your order's is up. Want me to get 24's drink order for you?" she asked, referring to the couple that had just sat down on the patio.
I hesitated, but after a moment I realized that putting off the inevitable wasn't going to do anyone any favors. "I'll wash up and get their order. Want to take the appetizers out to 4 for me? Thanks," I gushed as I hurried to the prep kitchen to wash my hands.
It took longer than necessary, especially after I discovered the microscopic cut in the palm of my hand. I dried my hands carefully and applied a bandage and a clear seal that would ensure I wouldn't get any blood, though the wound wasn't bleeding, on anything.
But, it still took me three shaky minutes to gather the courage to grab two menus and scurry out to the patio.
"Welcome to Chance of Fate," I greeted affectionately, groaning inwardly at the underlying double-meaning of the restaurant's name. "I'm Marie and I'll be your server tonight."
His glasses hid his gaze from view, but he smiled politely and took the menus from my hands and handed one to his companion. But, he didn't even acknowledge me. "We were hoping to get a bottle of white wine. What would you suggest?"
My heart was thumping wildly as I gripped my thick order pad vainly, inhaling raggedly. "It would really depend on what entrees the two of you are planning on." Though I doubted the pretty blonde practically sitting on his lap would do more than pick at a salad. Skinny bitch, I thought to myself as I smiled blankly. "If you're going with someone general, I would heartily suggest our Chianti Classico Riserva."
"That sounds lovely, darling," his companion purred. "Could we get a bottle of that, please? Oh, and we'd also like some of that delectable bread."
I made a show of jotting down the requests on the order pad, even if I was mentally screaming. "Could I start you out with an appetizer? We're offering a sample tray that has a little bit of everything. Or would you like to hear our specials? I could -"
"We're fine for now. Work on the wine and the bread," the blonde urged, crossing her legs and leaning closer to him. "Perhaps we could share a meal, darling? I'm famished, but I simply cannot fathom completing a meal on my own."
I finished jotting down the small order and turned on my heel, but not before I heard a rumble of laughter. Playful laughter.
Grief struck me dead center in the chest, and I hurried inside and blindly walked through the prep kitchen into the anterior wine cellar. We stored the house wines and several dozen bottles there nightly, though ninety percent of the restaurant's wines resided below in an actual wine cellar. Thankful for the privacy, I rested my chin against a display case and fought the urge to smash my fist through something.
"I can do this. I can do this." But, the mantra was only a mantra - a series of words that had no real effect. "It's been two years. Two years. He's moved on, and so have you. You parted as friends, remember? Friends."
But, he hadn't even acknowledged me.
I felt the heartbreak all over again as I shakily retrieved a bottle and wandered out of the cellar and to the prep kitchen. Carlos nodded at me as I pushed open the swinging door and entered the hectic area known as the kitchen blearily. Prep chefs and line chefs all shouted at one another as the food flew from the busy kitchen, but the executive chef spotted me and grinned brilliantly.
"Marie! Cara!" He was fifty if he was a day, and despite his reputation, he acted like a gentleman toward me most of the time. He'd opened the restaurant with his wife fifteen years ago, and had been working furiously since she'd passed away three years before. "Come, let Drago see your order."
I obliged, carrying the wine bottle carefully as I pulled off one copy of the ticket and handed it over. His bushy eyebrows lifted at the meager appetizer order and he shook his head.
"I get food out to them. You no worry." His accent made his words a little heavier than normal, but I got the gist of it as he shouted orders, mostly in Italian, to the rest of the chefs. "Come back in six, Cara. We take good care of them. Capisce?"
I knew better than to argue, and simply nodded as I moved toward the prep station and put in my order for bread. The restaurant was semi-famous for it's handmade glazed Italian loaves and delectable garlic dipping sauce. So, it only took a minute before a platter was handed off to me. I readied a tray, balancing the platter, two wineglasses, and other necessities on it before stalking out of the kitchen.
And my breathing was almost under control by the time I made it out to the patio.
My heart swelled up inside of me at the sight of her hand cupping his cheek and their lips brushing against one another. He'd never been one for PDA, so it took me by surprise; after I nearly tripped over an elderly patron, I swiftly made my way to the table and began removing things from my tray.
"Here is your wine," I announced blandly, placing the bottle in the center of the table before depositing their glasses in front of them. "Would you like me to open it, or would you prefer the honors, Sco - sir?"
He seemed to notice me, after he'd pulled his lips away from his companion's. His brows dipped a bit as I picked up the bottle and opened it deftly, pouring them each a glass before placing the bottle in a straw holding basket. I wondered, briefly, if his eyes had met mine before I glanced at his companion and managed a smile.
"Your bread will be just a few minutes. Would you care to place any orders now, or would you like to spread your courses out?"
"We'll place our orders now, thank you."
I wrote them down diligently, frowning a bit when she ordered something with steamed mussels in it.
"Won't you share with me, darling?" she inquired after she'd placed her order.
I watched, irritated, as her breasts bounced in her low-cut white top; she leaned over and ran her manicured fingers over his arm as he placed his menu on the table.
"He's allergic to mussels," I murmured at the same time that he said, "No thanks."
She jerked in surprise and met my gaze thoughtfully - there was a faint tingle in the back of my mind before she smiled in a rather siren-like manner. "Of course, I'd simply forgotten." She lifted her wineglass and sipped like a queen, lips not smudging in the slightest. "Thank you, Mary."
"It's Marie," he corrected in a quiet whisper, handing the menus over. "Thank you." Before I could even articulate a response, he'd turned his attention to his companion. "You wanted to talk about the new schedules, Emma?"
Emma, I repeated in my head, smiling weakly as I gathered up the menus and bustled around the patio. My thoughts were floundering as I paused by every table, taking orders, presenting bills, and even sharing a joke with an elderly man about a very inappropriate type of Italian sausage. Once I'd ensured that my duties were taken care of, I slipped inside and hurried to the prep kitchen.
Orders were placed, plates were deposited for Carlos and the other dishwashers, and I promptly stalked into the small room that was used as a break room. The dull lighting reflected my mood perfectly, dropping down onto a dilapidated couch wearily.
And, without warning, the tears began to fall.
"No, no, no," I whispered to myself, sobbing. "Can't do this here. Can't do this now!"
But, I couldn't stop the floodgate once it had been opened. All of the old hurts and memories rushed to the forefront as I buried my face in my hands and rocked back and forth, aching for something I'd lost, missing something I'd never truly had.
I wasn't sure how much time had passed when I felt a comforting hand on my shoulder and glanced up to see Elisabeth staring down at me with a worried expression on her face.
"You okay, Marie?"
I took the cloth napkin she offered me and wiped off my cheeks and rubbed my nose, nodding weakly. "Fine. Allergies," I lied, wishing I could simply melt into the couch. "Sorry. I'm okay."
She looked thoughtful for a moment as I rose to my feet, but said nothing as she handed me an icepack and a small make-up bag. "You've got five minutes. I'll cover your tables." And with that, she hurried out of the room, leaving me staring after her with sobs shaking in my chest.
After a moment, I lifted the icepack to my face, hoping that it would take care of my puffy eyes and red nose. When a few minutes had passed, I diligently opened the makeup bag and used the compact to apply eyeliner, a bit of shadow, some blush, and gloss. Satisfied that I no longer looked like a train wreck, I tucked the bag into my bistro apron and shook out my limbs before rushing into the kitchen.
There wasn't time to feel sorry for myself as I loaded up several trays and made three trips out to the patio in under five minutes. But, when I grabbed the last order and found myself standing next to his table, my heart felt lodged in my chest.
"Your order," I announced softly, depositing the plates on the table as quickly as I could manage. "Can I get you anything else?"
"We're fine, thanks." He glanced up briefly, but his features betrayed nothing. "We may want another bottle of wine though."
My lips trembled, and I bit down on my lower lip to keep the sob from choking out. My forced smile wobbled as I bobbed my head and glanced at his companion, finally recognizing her from Jubilee's animated letters.
"I'll be back to check on the two of you in just a bit," I promised, loathing the way that she smiled at me as I picked up their empty bread platter jerkily. "And I'll bring you back some fresh bread."
And as I turned my back on him, the world around me spun in a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds.
All I could think when I wandered back into the kitchen was how unreal it all seemed.
Elisabeth stopped me in the prep kitchen and took the empty tray from me, her dark eyes narrowed in worry. "You okay?"
I shook my head violently, lips quivering and limbs shaking. But, after a moment, the words finally found their way out. "It's like he never loved me at all," I whispered, choking back a sob.
And that's what hurt the most - he didn't seem at all affected by my presence like I was by his.
Like we'd never loved at all.