Index > Ongoing Stories > Patience Returns to Bullen's Against Her Better Judgement - Part 1

Patience Returns to Bullen's Against Her Better Judgement - Part 1

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penelope_stout ((This is a collaboration between the players of Patience Sharrington and James Bullen. Kissing and implied sex are involved, but fade to black beforehand. Content warning: Mentions of past abuse.))

Patience knows she is making a mistake. She knows she should just leave it be. She told Mr. Bullen how she feels. She told him that she was done, and she should be. Instead, she is knocking on his door. Snow is falling steadily, illuminated only by the moonlight. She's angry, and she's not sure why, but she is pretty sure it has to be at him. Because he has been in her mind since she walked out of his house, and she is not sure what to make of it. And if it is not anger, then she is not sure what it is. She is not even sure what she might say if he should answer the door.

Bullen's work had ended early today as students made their way home for the holidays, Mrs. Hatch telling him he was welcome to return home. He is glad of it, the forced smile on his face having begun to hurt hours before. At home, the scowl he's worn since Patience walked out of his house is a much more suitable expression, though one would never recognize him with it. He isn't sure if he's angry with /her/ per se, or if he's just angry in general at the whole situation. The last thing he expects is to hear a knock at his door. He doesn't even bother replacing his scowl with his cheerful mask this time. It's late in the evening, it's cold, and he's tired, having slept little since the whole debacle with Patience. He is, therefore, quite surprised when he opens his door to find the woman in question standing there with the snow falling around her. He shakes off the immediate impulse to note how beautiful she is with the moonlight and the snow falling on her form. Instead, he simply gives her a confused frown and steps aside for her to come in.

He opens the door and says nothing. She walks inside and dusts the snow from her shoulders. She looks at him. There is a change on his face since she first met him. She knows she did that to him. There is no satisfaction in that thought. She finds the very look on his face has taken any words from her mind. What could she say? She had not fully thought of it to begin with, and now, seeing him, she is utterly bereft of any words. She finds she is scowling too. Her lips turned in a pout that she has practiced so many times, this time it is real. She turns to him, searching his face as if there might be an answer to what she should say to him--what she wants to say to him.

"I thought we were done." His voice is flat, no hint of anger or joy or any other particular emotion in it when he speaks. He holds out his hands for her outerwear to put it up before turning and leading her to the parlor. He almost doesn't, but he doesn't know where else they could talk, if that's what she wants to do. The parlor feels too tense now, since what happened there. When they've reached the room, he motions for her to sit, though he continues to stand, turning once to stoke the fireplace and then leaning against the mantle. "You said we were done." He repeats what she said again, as if to remind her of it.

She lets him lead her into the parlor, and she turns her back to him, contemplating sitting down. She is not sure she should. Instead she turns back to him. His words ringing out through the room. She did say that. And she /meant/ that. So why is she here? Why is she doing this? She opens her mouth to speak, but the words get caught in her throat, and she sinks down on the settee, her eyes still focused on him. "I know what I said."

He closes his eyes for a second and exhales a deep breath before looking at her again. "I am not trying to be unkind when I say this, but why are you here then? If you are so deadset against anything that might have happened between us, then why?" The anger, whomever it was aimed at, has been joined by confusion. Part of him wants to shout at her, chastise her as he did before. Instead, he waits, raising an eyebrow, unsure of what to anticipate from her. She is so mercurial, he has no idea what to expect, finding himself holding his breath as he awaits her answer.

"I do not know!" she says loudly, getting to her feet again. She has no idea why she is here. She starts pacing. She wishes she were home in London. She has friends there, or at least acquaintances which she might spend her time, take her mind off of whatever she is feeling. Instead she is stuck at home, thinking of nothing but how horrible she was, but how she was right in what she said. Patience looks down at the floor. "I do not know why I have come," she says quietly.

"Miss Sharrington." He says her name, but it feels /wrong/ for some reason. "/Patience/." He waits until she looks at him before he even thinks about what he might want to say. He opens and closes his mouth more than once as if to speak, but finally sighs. "There must have been something you intended to say to me, if you are here. For I cannot fathom that you have come back for any /other/ reason." The other reason makes him feel too warm, and he steps away from the fire which only brings him closer to her. This does not help, but he doesn't move away.

She looks up at him when he says her name. He is right. She knows she must say something. She could not leave it as it was, no matter how much she believes it to be the right thing. But he was so kind to her, so /different/. "I wanted to apologize," she starts. It sounds like a lie, but it isn't. She does want to apologize, for something at least, she cannot fathom for what.

"To apologize." He echoes her words, as if to make them make more sense, but they don't. Was she apologizing for going to bed with him or for what she said? His head tilts to one side, his understanding of what's happening lessening even more. Finally, he sighs. Should he tell her there is nothing to apologize for? Does he truly think that? A small muscle in his jaw moves as he clenches his teeth, one hand flexing absently at his side. "I'm afraid you will have to elaborate. Too much happened yesterday for me to know what you mean."

"I should not have," she pauses. She does not generally apologize, not sincerely, not about going to bed with someone she wanted--who wanted /her/. But that isn't why she is here, and that isn't why she is apologizing Finally she continues. "I should have explained myself better." She shook her head. She cannot keep looking at him. It is making everything all the harder to say.

When she says she should not have, though doesn't continue, he thinks he can guess what she means. He watches her carefully though as she goes on. Explained herself better? Was she referring to her refusal to ever see him again, at least in the way they had last night? He shakes his head, unsure of if he is telling her to think nothing of it or if he is saying he doesn't understand. His brow furrows and his eyes drop to the floor, searching the pattern on the rug for something, though he doesn't know what. "Are you referring to what you said... last night?" He had thought that he might think of it less with time, but her being here only makes it take back over his thoughts.

She hates herself, she hates how she is acting. She does not even recognize herself. Two months ago she would have left him without batting an eye--or maybe she wouldn't have. After all, she is not different, it is him that is making her feel different. "When I said that... when I said that we could not do this again, I meant it. But I did not have to be cruel to you. You do not deserve that."

He looks up at her, his eyes roving over her face looking for...what? A better answer? "You said you should have explained better." The room is too small for him to pace with both of them there. It would take him to close to her and he cannot do that, not when she has made it very clear that nothing more can happen between them. Had she not just made it clear again? His anger is rising again though, although he isn't sure why yet. He has to fight the urge to growl his next words. "Then explain. Explain /why/ we cannot do what we did again. /Why/ you were cruel. /Why/ you were near to crying before you left."

The room is too small and too hot. Her skin is still chilled from the snowy walk to his home. She does not feel that cold here. Not at all. His demands are valid. She owes him the truth. She owes him that after they had spent time speaking of what it meant to say what one means. "In part I was trying to spare you. I /can/ be cruel. I do not take into consideration much beyond my own wants at the moment. I can be fickle and devious and selfish."

"Just because you /can/ be cruel, or fickle, or selfish, does not mean you /have/ to be!" He realizes after a moment that he has shouted this in his frustration and his eyes widen, his hand coming up as if to reach out to her in apology, though he quickly drops it. Taking a breath, he forces himself to be calm before speaking further. "You choose who and what you want to be, how you behave. I cannot say I know you, not truly, but I /think/ I saw through your facade to who you are. And you are not what you think you must be." He pauses, considering how to proceed. "Any more than I am /only/ kind, though that is how I am most of the time. I am different with you and I do not know why, but perhaps you are different with me as well?"

She flinches at his words. She hates that what he says is right. It makes her want to lash out, tell him he is wrong, and that he does not know her. But she is different with him. With him she can talk about things, she does not have to flit her eyelashes and pout her lips and hope for attentions that will die out in a week. "Perhaps that is the problem," she adds onto his statement.

Without realizing it he takes a step toward her, his head tilting in confusion. "I fail to see why that would be a problem." Only after he says this does he notice how close he has gotten to her. He forces himself to step away again after a moment's hesitation. It would be too easy to reach out and touch her, and he knows without her saying it that she would not want him to. "It is not a bad thing to find other facets of oneself. To learn that you do not have to be what you always thought you were. To become /more/ than what you've always been. How is that a bad thing? Do you /like/ being cruel and fickle so very well?"

For a moment she /does/ want him to reach out to her. Though, she is not sure what she might do. Then he is stepping back and speaking. She looks back up at him, her brow furrowed in confusion, or frustration. His tone matches how she feels. Though she cannot justify that. "It is easy to be as such. I do not think I could change simply because you make me feel--" she stops and shakes her head. "Your kindness has confused me, and then you surprised me with--with your attentiveness."

His hands are clenched at his sides in an effort not to reach out to her as he wants to, the desire only growing as she speaks, especially when she mentions his 'attentiveness' as she calls it. He sighs and shakes his head. "Perhaps you may not /wish/ to change, but that does not mean the change will not come anyway. Until the very second you decided that you /must/ be cruel, you were quite the opposite. What have you been told that has made you believe this is who you are?"

She does not have an answer for him. At the very least, she does not have an answer she is willing to give. She has been the way she is for so long, even she does not remember how to keep it at bay. "You are asking too much of me, James. Nothing that I say will be to your liking." She is not going to give in. She meant it, she cannot do this again, not with him. Even if she hates the very notion of not reliving what they shared.

"It does not have to be to my liking." This time, he does reach out, his hand grazing her arm for the briefest of moments. "It only has to be true." He has only asked her what she was told to make her act so because he knows what it is like to be told you can only be one thing, rather than a whole spectrum, a fully realized person. In fact, until she made him so angry, he did not even remember how to /be/ angry. He was to be kind, intelligent, polite, proper. Sure, the warmth was natural, but the lack of temper, the refusal to do what made him feel alive, it was not truly him and he had forgotten an alternative to what he was expected to be even existed.

He reaches out and touches her for only a second. She digs her nails into the palms of her hands. She wants to reach out to him too. However, she knows she has to be stronger than that. Denial is not something she is used to, not from herself in the very least. She has to. None of this is fair to him, she has not been fair to him yet, but she cannot let herself take any more from him. What's more, she cannot answer him. She does not /want/ to answer him, because she does not want to speak of things she has easily forgotten. "Please do not make me."

It is not necessarily temper but frustration that makes him act next. The reminder he had just given himself that he need not /always/ be kind. As he had when her demeanor had so suddenly changed before, he grabs her by the wrist now, though a bit more gently than he had last night, pulling her closer to him. He wants to take her by the chin so she will be forced to look at him but he abstains. "It is necessary. If you are going to deny me..." He trails off for a moment before continuing. "Then you must tell me. The truth. Whatever it is you are so afraid of. Speak it into being so it stops haunting you."

She goes to him almost willingly as he pulls her closer, but she cannot look at him. She cannot face him. Patience raises her hand and balls her hand against his shirt, serving as both a barrier between them, and a way to make sure he stays close. She swallows the lump in her throat and shakes her head. "I will not deny you if you do not make me say it," she pleads, though she does not know what she is saying.

It is tempting, and he hates himself for being tempted. For being willing, for even a moment, to give up on finding out -- for her sake -- what it is that makes her act in such a way, if only he can have her again. It is selfish and he is ashamed of it. Instead, he shakes his head, his hand coming up to cup her cheek and make her look up at him. "Patience... I could not forgive myself if I were that selfish. No, I cannot let this go. You must say it, whatever /it/ is. I swear, I can feel that though you are afraid of it, part of you is dying to tell /someone/. And you can trust me, if there is anyone at all that you can trust."

When she meets his eyes, she knows that he means it, that she should be able to trust him. But she is not sure she can let herself. It would be easier if he would just take what she offers. She is good at the physical. She does not know if she can talk about anything else. "I am so tired," she says finally, her voice cracking with emotion as she looks at him.

"Then let /go/." He sounds almost frustrated as he says this, though he caresses her cheek with his thumb, his other hand releasing her wrist and running over her hair and down her neck. "You needn't hold onto this...this /secret/... as if it is the only thing keeping you alive. I promise you that it will go no further than us. It has to be exhausting clinging to something that makes you so unhappy."

His touches feel as if they are setting everything within her on fire. He is too understanding, he is too accommodating, and then here he is demanding this of her. She leans into his touch, bringing the hand not tangled in his clothes to the hand on her cheek. She has realized since she left, how lonely she is, how empty of companionship she has been. And he is offering it to her so willingly "James, I have been so long used for my looks and my body that I do not know how to be anything else. My father--" she stops herself, because it is too painful. "I learned my talents young, and I learned to enjoy them. Habits like mine do not break."

The scowl returns to his face at the mention of her father, at the mention of learning her 'talents' young. "What did your father do?" He practically snaps the words; they come out crisp and tinged with barely held back anger. "He did not..." He is afraid now of what she may tell him her father has done to cause her to be the way she is. "Habits like yours may not break, but new habits can be learned that slowly replace the old ones." The angry tone in his voice is nearly edged out by his concern, but he finds that he cannot stop feeling almost enraged at whatever her father may have done or said to make her think that she only has this, that she only /is/ this.

She takes a step back because she finds she cannot be so close to him and speak of such things as her past. She takes a shaky breath, pulling herself together as she walks away before turning to face him. "My father had a talent for business, and a talent for promising his colleagues very many things." She laughs. "I liked it, you know? They doted. Some even made me offers. Not that a marriage would have been a good investment for him." She does not feel like crying anymore. She feels almost nothing, actually, which should scare her. "And when he died he left me with nothing but the hope that my brother may not cast me out."

He is so stunned, he stands there for a long while staring at her in disbelief. How could a father do such a thing to his daughter? If the man weren't dead already, he would have it in his head to seek him out and make sure he ended up that way. He realizes it is literally the only time he has ever even thought about ending someone's life. "It was not right. Even if you did like it, Patience, it was not right. And I hate... I /hate/ that it has made you feel as if you must shield yourself with cruelty and flitting from one man to the next." He cannot stop the anger boiling inside him now, and he does not know what to do with it. He feels guilty in a way, for having bedded her. For being complicit in her behavior that is only a reaction to what not only her father but all of his business colleagues had done to her. Even if she did eventually become accustomed enough to it to believe she enjoyed it. She is so young, barely twenty he thinks, keeping himself from wondering just how /young/ she was when her father essentially /sold/ her for his business to be more successful. "You are stronger than you realize, I think."

She does not want to look at him but she forces herself. She has to see his reaction, she has to see what emotion casts itself over his features. She sees anger. It does not surprise her. It seems a natural response. His words, she thinks, are meant to reassure her, but she just shrugs, an unseemly gesture that she tries to avoid. "It happened. Right or not. And now I am this." And he is telling her she is strong. Patience is not certain he is right, but she does not have it in her to argue. "Now you know." She chews her lip and looks around. "I should take my leave."

He shakes his head angrily, wanting to shake her, to make her see sense. She thinks of herself as little more than an object to be used for pleasure. Had he abused that? Perhaps so, and it eats at him. If he had known, he never would have done it. Would he? Perhaps so, but not in the same cavalier way at the very least. "You do not /have/ to be this, Patience. Please believe that. I can see past that, and I wish you could too. You are smart, funny, and when you choose to be, kind. More than just pretty and yielding." Once more, he crosses to her, hesitating before pulling her to him again. "Don't feel as if you must leave just because you have told me what I asked." He is unsure of what reason he should give for her to stay, he only knows he does not wish for her to go.

"But I /am/ this way," she tells him. And while he is so easy to speak to, to tease and to talk of literature and poetry and history with, she is still who she is. She cannot believe she is able to change. She is stiff in his grip, if only because she is afraid of letting go, but he speaks, he says she can stay, and she wants to. She brings her arms up to clasp her hands around his neck as she looks up at him. "Why do you do this?"

When she does not relax against him, he sighs. She is so accustomed to being one way, she can think of nothing else. He supposes he can understand that, and does not push any harder against it. Maybe someday she will realize that she can change, should she desire it, but it is unlikely it will be today. And trying so hard to make her see it will only steel her heart against it, against him. Finally though, she wraps her arms around his neck and he smiles a little. "Do what?"

She searches his face and frowns, then shakes her head. "Even in your anger, and your frustration, you still have such resolution to kindness." She wants to be mean once more. She wants to berate him for being nice, for being kind and caring. "I standby what I said," she tells him.

"I suppose it was pounded into me by my parents, by my tutors. 'Be kind, James, even if it kills you.' 'Do not lose your temper, James, that is beneath us.' To be honest, it is exhausting, but it is all I know. Until... well until /then/ I do not think I had lost my temper since I was a child." He shrugs sheepishly. Surely it is nothing so hard as what she has lived through, but it still felt like a prison of sorts though he never would admit that aloud.

She finds herself smiling. There is something satisfying about knowing she has elicited an emotion from him which he has not seen since childhood. To be in such control, Patience is surprised how hard it sounds to her. How tired. But she needs him to say how much he wants her, to prove to her that she is not the only one affected by whatever is happening between them. She needs to hear that he is not all decency and that he /wanted/ her then. She pushes against him. She does not think he would want to hurt her, the thought does not even cross her mind. She wishes she could have seen his need to behave gentlemanly, to please her, fade away and be replaced with something purely physical. "Why did you not stop me and show me what I would be missing?" And why is she doing this to herself?

As she presses against him he inhales sharply, looking down at her with want in his eyes. "You did not want me. I would not force you to do something you made very clear you no longer desired. No matter how much I needed to have you, I could not take what you were unwilling to give." He shakes his head, his breaths shallow and labored as he holds himself together.

She crowds him when she knows she should step back. She should go. For her sake, and for his, because she knows that even if she has convinced herself it cannot happen again, she wants it to. "And what about now? You will be resigned to me leaving you?" She wants to see what he would do. She thinks he will just tell her to leave. Now she is a broken thing to him, now that he knows of what she is. That makes /her/ angry.

Frustration elicits a sound low in his throat, nearly a growl. What does she want from him? He knows, when he thinks about it, but he cannot align it with what she said before; that they cannot be together again, that she does not want /this/. "And if I am not? What then? Will you hate me, be cruel to me again? Or will you allow it, only to run again?" The words come out harsher than he means them too, but she is so close he can feel her chest rising and falling with her breath, the warmth of her seeping through their clothes, and he cannot help it.

In her mind she knows this is wrong. She does not understand why she is doing this to herself, to him. If He was anyone else she would have no come back. But he is not anyone else. And she is acting mad. "Maybe I will," she answers, her words honest, and she pulls away. She cannot do this to him. Not to him.

When she pulls away, he cannot stand it. Not now, not after this. Though it is against his better judgement, he drags her back to him. "No." It is a simple statement that could be taken a million ways, and even he isn't sure what he means. He only knows that he cannot just let her walk away this time. It is too much. "No," he says again, looking down at her with something in his eyes, something nearly dark. What is she doing to him? He lowers his mouth to hers, stopping just before their lips meet, holding himself back as best he can.

She hears him but does not understand what he means. No, he will not let her go? No, he will not let her run from him again? She looks up at him, an eyebrow arched as he leans in close, but still not taking. She leans up, though she does not kiss him. "Stop holding back," she says almost in his mouth, suddenly not caring what may happen if she allows herself this, if she allows both of them this.

It is like a dam bursting inside him. He kisses her this time in earnest. It is nearly as hard as before when she told him this would never happen again. The guilt is gone, only the frustration left. "This is not right..." He says it so low, against her mouth, her breath hot as it mingles with his. "Stay. I could not bear it if you ran again."

She gasps as he kisses her, hard, forceful. It feels as if it could not be wrong, despite what she said about it not happening. She wants this, and he needs this, she can tell. "It does not feel wrong," she manages to get out. This is not the tentative kissing of the last night. "I will stay." She may not be able to promise more than this, but she can give him this. Whatever she may have said, once more should not matter. It will not matter. She digs her fingers into his shoulders, holding him close, showing him she wants him to do this.

His hands move to her throat, her shoulders, down her body to her waist, as if trying to find a purchase not to be flung away from her. This is so far different from last night he may as well be an entirely different person. The thought only crosses his mind briefly. He pauses for a moment to catch his breath, pulling his face away long enough to look at her. "You're sure..." His voice comes out in a growl, barely a question.

Her breath hitches in her throat as she sees how hungry he is. He needs this. She needs this. "Yes." She is resolved. Watching him let go, allow himself to transcend his ingrained politeness, it makes her feel near drunk.

Posted 3 weeks ago

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