drinks on me tonight
"I guess we're both suckers." ––The Dark Knight Rises
Rose takes solace in the fact that office Christmas parties are far less awkward than family ones. She can put on the same face that she does on every weekday for eight hours straight, and no one will notice a thing.
"You look good," someone says from almost as if from far away, and she knows it's him without even looking. She wishes she could claim anticipating his presence, but for once she was fooled into assuming he would take his holidays in a time frame allowing him to miss this popular Friday night ordeal of co-workers forced into wearing formal wear and making small talk, if only for the free cocktails and dinner that awaits them courtesy of their boss.
"Thanks," she responds formally, not bothering to check on his appearance before adding, "You too."
Scorpius recognizes this reaction to be worse than a blunt insult. He feigns careful nonchalance. "Getting harsher and harsher, I see," he says, but doesn't mean it one bit.
Rose turns to him, finally. White shirt, black tie, grey trousers. Exactly the sort of color combination she would have set up for him to wear a couple of years ago. Let's dress smartly but also look casual. You can't overdo shades. Black and white is classic. I can pull off this grey dress just fine, don't you think? her own voice echoes in her head, and she can almost feel in her limbs right there and then the way she'd posed ridiculously for him, causing him to laugh.
She looks down for the first time to scrutinize her own appearance, having not looked in the mirror a single time while mindlessly getting dressed earlier that evening. She sees the same grey dress, but there's a lack of laughter that's heard following this revelation. No matter how much strain she puts on her ears to scope something out, she won't hear anything because no one's laughing now.
"Maybe you're looking into things too much," she responds blankly, "Maybe there's nothing to see at all."
"Don't be cryptic," he chides.
She seriously contemplates slapping him. He would welcome it, which is the sole reason why she doesn't. "Do you, by any wonderful chance, have someone else to torment? It's getting slightly stale on my end."
He ignores the jibe, taking three minutes less than usual to fall into his usual antics around her. "I've missed you, Rose – can't really say I've seen you a lot around the office lately. When was the last time you wrote something?" Paired together, that particular statement and question wouldn't make sense, but coming from him, somehow they do.
"Never," she tells him without skipping a beat, putting her at four minutes less than usual to initially open up to him like they're long lost friends and whatever else people used to call them. "There's a difference between pretending you're writing something real and actually writing something real."
"That's not true," he says, immediately shaking his head and wondering for a split second what he's gotten himself into, "That's not true and you and I both know it."
She scoffs, but retains a certain sense of calmness. "Don't be stupid. The theme here is that there is no theme. You just keep falling and falling and falling until you're nothing. That's what I am," she affirms, her tone ringing truer than she meant for it to, "I'm nothing."
"You're not nothing. You're just lying."
"I work a fucking typical nine to five office job, Scorpius," she answers coldly, "I have nothing to hide because I'm going to be working this nine to five office job for the rest of my life."
He remembers, now, years ago when they'd promised one another to never abandon the path to being extraordinary. He wants to shake her, remind her of it, but she's already resigned to something he can't put a name to. "You weren't supposed to," he says stupidly, and then, louder, "This isn't the way things were supposed to be."
She snorts. It's a bitter noise. "Surprise. Receiving all O's on your final examinations and graduating top of your class at Wizarding school doesn't mean anything in the real world. Who would've thought?"
"You're more than this," he snaps, proceeding to look thoughtful. "You could quit whenever you want, you know. The only problem is that you think everyone knows who you are. You've made up your mind that everyone thinks they know who you're going to be. But you're not that person in reality, are you?" A pause, perfectly orchestrated, as if he's been rehearsing this for weeks. "So show them, Rose. Let them find out what you can actually do."
"I'd rather not," she responds, expressionless, waiting for him to accuse her of being scared or something equally as cringe-worthy.
He stares at her, losing the willpower to argue against her overconfidence in her lack of confidence in herself. Instead, he inquires casually, "Where'd you get that dress?" when a random stranger on the street could tell that he would prefer to plaster a giant sign on his forehead that reads SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU'RE THE BEST WRITER THAT I'VE EVER MET, handwritten in one of those permanent black markers that stink so badly that he'd vaguely consider choking at the after stench.
"I don't know," she says, though the answer is obvious.
"Right," he nods, not bothering to interject yet about how it happens to be one of his birthday presents from ages ago.
She looks past his clothing and notices the drink in his hand, giving him a pointed look. "Are you going to get me one of those since you've wasted so much of my time already?"
"Maybe if you ask nicely," he retorts smoothly, and neither of them attest to how the drinks at the party don't cost a penny for them tonight anyway.
"Well, if you're going to be like that..." she trails off, maintaining a stoic expression as she snatches the glass right out of his grasp.
He barely flinches, even when she empties the cup all in one go. His eyes wander over to the open bar across the room where she easily could have walked to, and a little more than a bit of his resolve is lost out of nowhere. He clears his throat before speaking up in the best firm tone he can manage. "Rose."
"Why are we like this?"
"And?" he presses.
"I care about other people way more than they care about me," she admits.
"How is that a problem?"
"That's exactly it. It's not a problem."
He sighs. Ruffles his hair purposely. It's all old news, except not really. "I still –" he begins, but decides, in the end, to not finish that sentence. They lapse into an uncomfortable silence.
"Acknowledge your fate, Malfoy," she leaves him with, now empty glass still in her possession, "It'll be less complicated that way."
"Okay," he says, and that's all there is to it, perhaps until he sees her next on a Monday morning in early January and can convince her they don't need to wait twelve months to have this argument all over again.
A/N: Don't bother telling me how terrible my writing has gotten, because I've already figured that out.